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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 Cincybeck on 1/23/2007 8:22:36 PM , Rating: 1
Supposedly the new X-Fi's do it out of the box. From my understanding it's more of a driver implentation or lack there of with the audigy cards. With a program called redocneXk you can have a realtime AC3(Dolby Digital) 5.1 signal encoded from the ASIO channels and sent threw your audigy card to your receiver threw the spdif connector. I've tried it and it works but, I was experiencing sound delay and a audible static. Although I was using the Creative drivers and it recommends using kX drivers from ttp://kxproject.lugosoft.com.


RE: No HAL in Vista
By guwd1 on 1/25/2007 7:09:45 AM , Rating: 2
I still can't se the point... by going from high quality multichannel PCM to DD you have effectively reduced the audio quality. It's the same thing as going from a cd to mp3: You get smaler file-size but the sound is compressed. Obviously there are major advantages with DD, just as in cd vs mp3. But I thought we were talking about soundquality here?


RE: No HAL in Vista
By Lakku on 1/26/2007 4:32:38 PM , Rating: 2
Who is using multichannel PCM in games (or in any game/computer program not related to music creation or professional audio) outside of the PS3? We are just talking about games on the PC and 3d sound APIs, but maybe I missed something.


RE: No HAL in Vista
By typo101 on 1/28/2007 10:11:54 AM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately my onboard sound does not encode DTS so I play my games in PCM over SPDIF. I never liked having all those stereo cable going from my computer to receiver, so I can deal with the loss of surround because I don't game much.

However, I'm not so sure these DTS encoding cards use PCM at any stage, but I dont know much about sound in games or DirectX.


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