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Creative Labs X-Fi Xtreme Music
OpenAL wrapper allows X-Fi users to take advantage of 3D sound in Windows Vista

Creative Labs has opened up the doors to its ALchemy Project to enable hardware acceleration for DirectSound and EAX audio algorithms in Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Vista. The Alchemy Project is currently in its beta stages and intends to work around Microsoft’s audio limitations in Windows Vista due to the removal of the Hardware Abstraction Layer, or HAL.

Microsoft’s removal of the HAL removes the software layer required by digital signal processors to enable hardware acceleration for various 3D audio algorithms including DirectSound3D and EAX in pre-Vista games. Nevertheless, digital signal processors that support OpenAL can still take advantage of hardware audio acceleration.

The Alchemy Project intends to work around Windows Vista limitations by translating DirectSound calls into OpenAL – essentially an OpenAL wrapper. In order to take advantage of the ALchemy Project OpenAL wrapper the installer copies a few necessary files into each game directory.

The automated installer will install the necessary files into each game directory, if there is official support for the game. Officially supported games include:
  • Battle for Middle Earth 2
  • Call of Duty
  • Call of Duty 2
  • Diablo 2
  • Everquest 2
  • FEAR
  • Full Spectrum Warrior
  • Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers
  • Guild Wars
  • GTA: San Andreas
  • Hitman: Blood Money
  • Max Payne 2
  • Midieval 2: Total War
  • Neverwinter Nights
  • Neverwinter Nights 2
  • NOLF 2
  • Rome: Total War
If the installer does not officially support your game, Creative Labs provides a guide for advanced users to take advantage of the OpenAL wrapper. Manually adding game support requires the copying of two files – dsound.dll and dsound.ini. On occasion, the unsupported game will work with the default configuration settings. If the default settings do not work, the dsound.ini file is tweak able for better performance. Available settings in the dsound.ini include Buffer, Duration, DisableDirectMusic and MaxVoiceCount settings.

In its current beta stages, Creative Labs ALchemy project only supports Sound Blaster X-Fi based sound cards with OpenAL compatible drivers. Users of Creative Labs previous Audigy 2 and Audigy 4 will have to wait patiently for hardware accelerated DirectSound3D and EAX support in Windows Vista. Jessie Lawrence, developer relations for Creative Labs claims:
For the initial beta phase of Creative ALchemy, we made the decision to concentrate on products based on the X-Fi chip. Games developers have put a lot of effort into supporting the advanced features of this chip so we want to provide the best level of support that we can for our most recent hardware. Support for Audigy 2 and 4 class products will be determined as the current beta progresses and we are able to assess the quality of the beta and overall demand for Creative ALchemy.
Users fortunate enough to have an X-Fi based sound card can download the ALchemy Project installer from the Creative ALchemy Project download page.


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RE: No HAL in Vista
By jtesoro on 1/23/2007 9:49:49 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think a lot of users have the right equipment to appreciate the full effects of EAX. I'm guessing that most have 2.1 speakers of "normal" quality, and with this I won't be surprised if it all just sounds the same to them.


RE: No HAL in Vista
By TheDoc9 on 1/23/2007 10:43:48 AM , Rating: 2
I've got a 4.1 system myself and really notice very little in gameing although the difference is there. In fact I'd say the A3d was better than even present day EAX aside from the game glitches it caused.


RE: No HAL in Vista
By Bluestealth on 1/25/2007 12:55:22 AM , Rating: 2
Games that implement EAX correctly are very low imho, with the right setup and implementation the games simply sound amazing.
One game that I thought pulled it off well recently was Far Cry, another game to a lesser extend was fear. I have a feeling that A3D was much easier to use for developers and thus it sounded better, having heard EAX5 done correctly on a few games I have found it far superior to A3D, however done incorrectly to be worse.

A good 5.1 setup should be all you need, however a 7.1 setup fills in for side effects a lot, and IMHO is far more important for gaming then it is for movies.


RE: No HAL in Vista
By jtesoro on 1/27/2007 5:49:30 AM , Rating: 2
I'm actually playing Far Cry single player at this time. I was just using my 2.1 speakers but your comment got me to continue the game with my Turtle Beach 5.1 headset connected to the SB Audigy 2 in my PC. It sounds much better and now it's easier to isolate where the baddies are coming from using sound!


"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates











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