Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

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Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby thecrankyhermit » 2014-6-25 @ 03:51

Replaying Deus Ex in Windows 7 led me down this train of thought. I am using an onboard Realtek ALC888 chipset, and have 5.1 speakers connected via three analog stereo jacks. Presently, I can not get surround sound to work in Deus Ex. Virtually everything I have done only leads to the front left and right speakers doing anything. And even then, the stereo channel separation seems weak - I'm not even sure if it's doing anything at all.

I've tried ALchemy and ALchemy Universal, and they did nothing. I tried Realtek 3D Soundback, which did nothing (I had to launch it in compatibility mode - it did dump some dlls in the Deus Ex directory including a dummy DSOUND.dll, but this had no apparent effect on the sound). I tried this thing called "IndirectSound," which sort of works, but it seems buggy and incomplete; positional audio from objects in the environment work pretty well, but gunshots from my own hand come from behind me, and the docs say that EAX effects like reverb aren't implemented at all.

I haven't had Windows 7 very long, but I have heard that even some relatively recent games don't behave well with surround sound, like Half-Life 2.

I think I may have exhausted freely available solutions, and I am looking into ones that involve money. I stumbled upon this thing called "Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3" which looks promising. If I understand it right, it would emulate EAX and DirectSound through software, and output on my onboard. Is this basically it, and would it work for my purposes?

Or, what about buying an actual card? Any reason this would be preferable to the software (other than freeing up the CPU - I am assuming my dual core is more than enough to handle EAX emulation and Deus Ex at the same time), and if so, what card would be best for these gaming purposes?
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Re: Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby Mau1wurf1977 » 2014-6-25 @ 04:10

While Alchemy should do the job on a Creative card, I recommend using Windows XP and a X-Fi Titanium.

What happened was under XP you had hardware rendered 3D audio. This was disabled with Vista, so the best you get these days is something along the lines of Dolby Digital 5.1. Under XP it would render sound in three dimensions, so you could hear if something is above your or not.

A good comparison is BF2142 under XP with a X-Fi and Battlefield 4 under Windows 8 with a Z. BF4 sounds a lot worse in terms of 3D positional audio :blah:
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Re: Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby GL1zdA » 2014-6-25 @ 08:11

I have X-FI MB2 and it allowed me to use EAX in Bioshock (through Alchemy - this is how it works) in Windows 7. It was a pain to configure, but it worked. I can check whether I can get 5.1 from Deus Ex in Windows 8.1.
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Re: Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby BuckoA51 » 2014-6-26 @ 15:57

What happened was under XP you had hardware rendered 3D audio. This was disabled with Vista, so the best you get these days is something along the lines of Dolby Digital 5.1. Under XP it would render sound in three dimensions, so you could hear if something is above your or not.


That's definitely not right. I get full uncompressed LPCM surround sound from my modern PC and it sounds just as good if not better than my PS3. What Vista disabled was Directsound hardware accelerated audio. While a lot of older games relied on this, new games just use software techniques to do 3D audio. Modern CPUs can decode 100s of MP3s at once without breaking a sweat so there's simply no need for hardware accelerated audio any more. I think the BF4 thing is just that you don't like the surround sound mix as much as the BF2142 one.

I can get full 7.1 LPCM surround sound from my PC just through the graphics card and it sounds brilliant, no problem with positional audio whatsoever. Though I do usually use my Auzen Home Theatre card simply because it has ALchemy support for those older games.

I haven't had Windows 7 very long, but I have heard that even some relatively recent games don't behave well with surround sound, like Half-Life 2.


Half Life 2 and source engine games work great for me in surround sound on Windows 8.

Or, what about buying an actual card? Any reason this would be preferable to the software (other than freeing up the CPU - I am assuming my dual core is more than enough to handle EAX emulation and Deus Ex at the same time), and if so, what card would be best for these gaming purposes?


You might (depending on who you ask) get better analogue sound quality with a dedicated sound card. You can also get native EAX support of course, via ALchemy. Digital and/or HDMI sound will probably be just the same because, well, it's digital anyway.

As for ALchemy, since ALchemy is a wrapper it might not always sound the same, or as good, as it did under EAX native in XP. It may simply not work at all with this game. Killing Floor, for instance, appears to work under ALchemy but only actually has proper surround sound in XP with true EAX. Some games simply lock up when you try to run them with ALchemy. Luckily my rig still runs XP so I can simply boot into that when there's a non ALchemy EAX game I want to play.
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Re: Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby Mau1wurf1977 » 2014-6-27 @ 00:51

You are using speakers maybe that's the problem. With older, hardware rendered audio, you could tell if it sounds were above or below you. This isn't the case in modern games any more.

BF3 has a big DD / DTS logo when it starts. I doubt BF4 uses anything different.

Surround sound has taken a huge step backwards. Even A3D sounds does a better job compared what games offer these days on the PC.
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Re: Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby BuckoA51 » 2014-6-27 @ 09:30

We will have to agree to disagree I think. In my experience surround sound has got better especially now we can do it in crazy good quality over HDMI and not have 8 RCA cables running from the back of the PC.

The DD/DTS logo means nothing, modern PCs sound/graphics cards don't use that they just use pure uncompressed LPCM audio for each channel, which is better than DD/DTS. What determines how it sounds is down to the programmers and how they did the mix, positional audio is still entirely possible in software.

Of course, you mention Dolby Digital, many games are console ports which would mean in many cases the sound mix was done for the Xbox 360 which IS limited to DD and so in most cases for cross platform games at least they probably mix for the lowest common denominator without giving much thought to PS3 or PC users with better systems.

But! There is absolutely no reason why a modern PC couldn't do sound as well as some old PC with a EAX sound card.
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Re: Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby Mau1wurf1977 » 2014-6-27 @ 09:53

Yea my experience lies with headphones. The way surround audio was rendered under XP on a X-Fi Titanium was on another level compared what you get these days.

If you ever have the chance to try it, do it :) And A3D under Windows 98SE as well.
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Re: Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby DracoNihil » 2014-6-28 @ 12:44

The last time I tried to use Surround on real hardware on any Unreal engine game (i.e. all of UEngine 1.x), it never worked properly. Galaxy is very very wonky when it comes to 3D audio and surround sound and there was never EVER any major improvement to making it work properly either.

If there is a OpenAL for Deus Ex, that is literally the only way you're going to get proper surround sound mixing in that, with any AL capable sound blaster.
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Re: Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby ZellSF » 2014-7-01 @ 10:13

Have you tried using A3D? A Google search tells me Deus Ex supports it and there is a wrapper (http://www.worknd.ru/). Not sure how it compares to EAX in Unreal Engine games, just a thought.
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Re: Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby tgod » 2014-7-01 @ 10:48

ZellSF wrote:Have you tried using A3D? A Google search tells me Deus Ex supports it and there is a wrapper (http://www.worknd.ru/). Not sure how it compares to EAX in Unreal Engine games, just a thought.


That seems to wrap to directsound, so wouldnt you still need alchemy? The game also supports pro logic, but your speakers/receiver would need to support this.
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Re: Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby ZellSF » 2014-7-01 @ 12:47

tgod wrote:
ZellSF wrote:Have you tried using A3D? A Google search tells me Deus Ex supports it and there is a wrapper (http://www.worknd.ru/). Not sure how it compares to EAX in Unreal Engine games, just a thought.


That seems to wrap to directsound, so wouldnt you still need alchemy? The game also supports pro logic, but your speakers/receiver would need to support this.

Windows Vista+ supports DirectSound, it's hardware acceleration that doesn't work and with it all those proprietary systems (EAX etc). Multi channel DirectSound is fine.

I have tested that wrapper and it works on Windows 8 (I haven't tried Deus Ex, but it works with Outlaws).
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Re: Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby mdos401 » 2014-9-22 @ 01:21

I have not been able to get this wrapper to work. I am using a Soundblaster Audigy 2ZS and Creative Alchemy on Windows 7 64 bit. Was trying to get freespace 2 to work with it, it keeps freezing. Any help would be appreciated!!
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Re: Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby Davros » 2014-9-22 @ 07:25

you should be running freespace 2 open
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Re: Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby ZellSF » 2014-9-22 @ 10:26

mdos401 wrote:I have not been able to get this wrapper to work. I am using a Soundblaster Audigy 2ZS and Creative Alchemy on Windows 7 64 bit. Was trying to get freespace 2 to work with it, it keeps freezing. Any help would be appreciated!!

You're being confusing. Which wrapper are you trying to get to work with Freespace 2?

Create Alchemy? IndirectSound? A3D-Live?
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Re: Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby NamelessPlayer » 2014-9-24 @ 09:47

I think I need to straighten out some things here.

-It was DirectSound3D specifically that got removed from the Vista sound stack onward. OpenAL remains unaffected. This is why wrappers like ALchemy work in the first place.

-Considering the above point, there's no reason to waste your time using a wrapper on OpenAL-native games. That should cover just about every UnrealEngine2 release aside from Thief: Deadly Shadows, alongside the original Unreal and UT with the Old Unreal multimedia patches. There's an OpenAL renderer in the works for Deus Ex and I'm looking forward to it, but there are issues the developer's having with the speech files; they're encoded in MP3, which isn't exactly a royalty-free format.

-X-Fi MB3, all of Creative's USB audio devices, and their entire Sound Core3D card lineup (Recon3D, Z-series) use a software OpenAL device. Only X-Fi cards with CA20K1/20K2 have proper hardware OpenAL, and they're less likely to have ALchemy quirks than the software devices. The Dark Engine games (Thief 1 and 2, System Shock 2) were a big fat PITA because of this until the newdark patches suddenly showed up with native OpenAL, which is a lot less temperamental and is just as pinpoint in its positioning.

-Restoring EAX is nice and all, but the real boon for us headphone users is CMSS-3D Headphone, or SBX Pro Surround on later cards. Those with native DS3D or OAL = aural wallhack. I still favor CMSS-3D Headphone, though, as it's the only thing that even compares to Aureal A3D headphone mode to my ears.

-A3D seems to be its own separate API in addition to being the brand for Aureal's various sound technologies; that might've come about due to something stupid Microsoft had planned with DirectSound3D v3 that they later opened up with v5. They're arguably as bad as Creative when it comes to naming entirely different things similarly. Whatever the case, I've not heard of an A3D 2.0/3.0-to-OpenAL wrapper that preserves that glorious wavetracing.
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Re: Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby Davros » 2014-9-25 @ 21:45

NamelessPlayer wrote:-It was DirectSound3D specifically that got removed from the Vista sound stack onward. OpenAL remains unaffected. This is why wrappers like ALchemy work in the first place.


DirectSound3D IS STILL THERE its just no longer done in hardware, its done on the cpu
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Re: Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby NamelessPlayer » 2014-9-26 @ 07:43

Davros wrote:
NamelessPlayer wrote:-It was DirectSound3D specifically that got removed from the Vista sound stack onward. OpenAL remains unaffected. This is why wrappers like ALchemy work in the first place.

DirectSound3D IS STILL THERE its just no longer done in hardware, its done on the cpu

If it's still there, then why does every DirectSound3D application act like DS3D isn't there when you're not using a wrapper under Vista onward? Seriously, go run Everest/AIDA64 and tell me what they report for DirectSound3D when you haven't slipped a dsound.dll wrapper in its directory.

The basic DirectSound API's still there, but that's not what we're talking about. DirectSound3D, for our purposes under Windows Vista and later, is as dead as 3dfx Glide.

It's not about whether it's running on the CPU or a sound card DSP. DirectSound3D wrapped to OpenAL while utilizing a software OpenAL device like the one Creative offers on their USB devices and Sound Core3D products, OpenAL Soft or Rapture3D would technically be running on the CPU, yet still get you proper positional audio mixing and perhaps EAX in addition to the default OpenAL EFX.

The thing is, you still need that wrapper or you're completely unable to get proper audio out of those old games.
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Re: Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby PhilsComputerLab » 2014-10-05 @ 18:45

Question:

Is Alchemy still around? I checked the Creative site yesterday and couldn't find anything. Did they stop supporting it?
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Re: Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby filipetolhuizen » 2014-10-13 @ 01:16

You can get any modern SB, just stay away from the Recon3D. It sounds like sh*t. If it weren't for the front panel I can still use with the X-Fi, I would've regreted ever purchasing it.
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Re: Restoring surround sound to Deus Ex and other games - should I get Sound Blaster MB3?

Postby Davros » 2014-10-13 @ 05:03

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