al-che-my [al-kuh-mee] ~ any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value. - Dictionary.com
In Windows Vista, Microsoft has decided to remove the Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) for DirectSound and DirectSound3D. The HAL is the software layer that in previous Windows operating systems enabled an audio accelerator such as the Sound Blaster X-Fi to provide DirectSound3D applications with hardware accelerated audio. This enabled soundcards to perform tasks such as sample-rate conversion, mixing, 3D spatialization using HRTFs, filtering, and effects processing. Without the HAL, DirectSound on Windows Vista will be rendered in software with no advanced functionality such as EAX.
The audio changes in Windows Vista do not affect OpenAL however. For audio cards that feature 'native' OpenAL support, such as the SB X-Fi series of cards, there is no need to worry! Games that enable support for OpenAL will continue to run just as they do on Windows XP - with hardware accelerated audio and effects. A listing of OpenAL titles can be found at http://www.openal.org/titles.html.
Although OpenAL has arguably replaced DirectSound3D, particularly in many modern PC Games (e.g. Battlefield 2142, Doom3, Quake 4, Prey, etc.), there are hundreds of older PC games that support DirectSound3D and EAX technology. All of these games will sound empty and lifeless on Vista. As most DS3D games only enable 3D Audio and EAX if a hardware accelerator is present, most of these games will be reduced to a stereo output.
The good news is that the Creative ALchemy Project allows you to run your favorite DirectSound3D games on Windows Vista as the developers intended - with full hardware accelerated 3D Audio and EAX support! This is done by translating the legacy DirectSound calls into OpenAL. In order for this to happen, a couple of files need to be installed into each game directory. This is handled automatically by the ALchemy installer - but can also be performed manually by advanced users.
The Creative ALchemy Project is still in development and the ALchemy installer only supports a limited number of PC games. However, with your help, we would like to add more titles to the DirectSound3D Games list so please download the ALchemy installer, run it, and enjoy 3D Audio with EAX effects in your favorite games. Please share your experiences with ALchemy in our discussion board.
ALchemy vs Drivers
ALchemy is a software application that translates audio calls from one API to another. ALchemy is NOT a hardware driver, and will require that you have an appropriate driver installed and functioning properly first. You can download the latest Sound Blaster drivers for Windows Vista from http://us.creative.com/support/downloads.
Please link to this page and not to files directly, as they are subject to update without notice. Thank you.
ALchemy for Audigy
ALchemy for X-Fi