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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: Never understood the whole 3D thing
By miekedmr on 1/23/2007 11:33:28 AM , Rating: 2
All that is REALLY needed is one transducer per ear that is isolated to each ear (headphones,) and all the positioning can be emulated through phase, timing and proper modeling of reflections.

The difficulty of recreating an acoustic space with normal speakers is that you're doing it inside of an existing acoustic space. If you try to encode positional information into a signal played through a stereo it is very limited because your brain percieves interaction between the sound sources and the real environment. It's basically 1D reproduction, in a horizontal line passing through the sources, although the illusion of depth can be given to some extent.

By placing sound sources all around the room, (5.1, 7.1, whatever) there doesn't need to be so much 'emulation' of the environment, because it takes advantage of the actual environment to provide your brain with positional information.

Like you said, the speakers are all on the same plane though, so any sense of height would be part of the signal and just an illusion. It's really better described as 2D audio. Only A spherical array of sound sources would be able to produce real seamless 3d audio.

By guwd1 on 1/25/2007 7:41:28 AM , Rating: 2
You are correct, but most you seem to forget one very important fact: we have two ears, not 5.1 ears or anything, ALL our preception of positional 3D sound is effectivly an advanced "illusion". Our brain, in all it's facinating complexity and power, uses the stereo sound image information from our ears to try and guess the real 3D sound image. Ever wondered why our ears ain't symetrical for example?

Because of things like the shape of the ear, sounds comming from different directions around us is "distorted" differently. This gives the brain lots of clues to how the 2D stereo image we hear is to be interpreted into 3D (there are probaly lots of other reasons to the shape of ears too that I don't know about).

My point is that theoratically you will never ever need more than two speakers to give a perfect 3D sound image since our body can't percive more than two channels any way. 3D is all in our brain. The trick to it is all about simulating those subtle "distortions" that accur in our ear. But since not all ears are made equal, this isn't very viable though :P. Perfect audio setup imao? Headphones, connected to some REALLY advanced hardware/software for giving those "distortions" (non-existent today though afaik), supplemented with a sub, for that rumbling heavy-bass action :P.

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