EAX - native vs alchemy

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EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby ynari » 2015-1-05 @ 12:37

I've been going through the list of EAX games, which includes several I want to play (RPGs and Star Wars games)

The question is - has anyone looked at which of those games EAX has a definite advantage in, and is alchemy is good enough on Vista onwards?

I do have an XP installation so can run native, but I've seen one instance of someone saying EAX via Alchemy leads to delays in Oblivion. Likewise, Bioshock 'supports EAX', but from the look of things it also supports OpenAL so there's no need for alchemy
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Re: EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby PhilsComputerLab » 2015-1-05 @ 12:47

Interesting topic!

A while ago I compared how F.E.A.R. sounds like on Windows 8.1 with a Recon 3D with and without Creative Alchemy:

http://youtu.be/yO4WWOJbGX8

So if you have this game you can compare it to your XP machine and listen for any differences.

Yes Bioshock and many newer games have environmental effects and surround sound in Vista+ without any issues.
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Re: EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby obobskivich » 2015-1-06 @ 02:18

I don't think Oblivion actually supports EAX out of the box - there's no options for it in any of the game's configuration settings, and from past experience it sounds no different on integrated audio versus an Audigy 2 ZS. It's software audio afaik. There apparently were some third-party mods to try and bring EAX to Oblivion, but I do not know much about them. See here for example: http://www.nexusmods.com/oblivion/mods/32128/?

From the few games I have that actually do EAX, there was no appreciable performance difference going from Windows XP to Windows 7 ("native" to ALchemy), just as enabling ALchemy on my Recon3D provides no appreciable performance hit. ALchemy "is" EAX in effect - it's an emulation layer that enables support under Vista+ as long as the computer has the appropriate hardware. IME it doesn't make anything better or worse than however the game behaved in XP, but do note that I have relatively few games that support EAX, and I almost never enable the feature.
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Re: EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby jonpol » 2015-1-06 @ 19:41

I haven't done any tests of native vs. ALchemy so I can't speak to that. I also haven't done much (if any) qualitative testing of EAX on/off to determine whether there is a "definite advantage", as you say.

I have, however, looked at the actual EAX API calls that various games make as I've been working on emulating it for IndirectSound. (The latest version actually outputs the first time a game queries for EAX support or gets/sets a value, so anyone could look at the log file if they were curious.)

As obobskivich stated, Oblivion doesn't use EAX.

F.E.A.R. actually has the "best" use of EAX I've seen in my somewhat small sample size, in terms of the developers actually using it as Creative intended.

Many other games seem to just set up some generic settings and leave them. (I say "seem" because in most of my tests so far I just play in a very small area for a small amount of time; my guess is that many games probably use it more effectively than my tests would imply.)
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Re: EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby mockingbird » 2015-1-06 @ 20:28

If you want to test a modern game on Vista/7+ with Alchemy, I recommend you try Battlefield 1942. The proof that Alchemy actually allows for acceleration is in the game options. When you add the executable to Alchemy, the "Enable Hardware Acceleration" box is no longer greyed out in the sound options. I've got it to work, but I'm still undecided on whether I hear any difference or not. I'll have to spend some more time with it.

One thing straight away that I don't like about Alchemy being the default audio device is that I like to enable Loudness Equalization on the Realtek audio, which acts as sort of a pre-amp. I use powered speakers, but I don't like turning them up that high because of Alchemy. Would be nice if they added that feature to it. I'm also not sure yet if the audio output of everything else sounds inferior with Alchemy as the default audio device or not. All-in-all, Alchemy may be more trouble than it's worth.
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Re: EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby PhilsComputerLab » 2015-1-06 @ 21:21

I use Loudness Equalization, well the equivalent with Creative cards, mostly for movies and TV shows. But in games I recommend disabling it because you lose that dynamic range.
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Re: EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby ynari » 2015-1-07 @ 09:44

Oblivion may support EAX out of the box - it's on the Alchemy supported games list, so I'm not sure why Creative list it and include it in Alchemy if it's not used. I'll have to look..
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Re: EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby obobskivich » 2015-1-07 @ 10:10

ynari wrote:Oblivion may support EAX out of the box


It does not. The Creative Support list does not mean all of those games support EAX, simply that they use DirectSound 3D and are supported under ALchemy (which is a DirectSound 3D wrapper; remember that EAX is not an API it's merely an extension library for DS3D).
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Re: EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby ynari » 2015-1-07 @ 11:41

Sure, but Directsound 3D is still present in Vista onwards, it's just that the accelerated extensions are missing. If Oblivion isn't using EAX, what is it using?
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Re: EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby obobskivich » 2015-1-07 @ 12:57

ynari wrote:Sure, but Directsound 3D is still present in Vista onwards, it's just that the accelerated extensions are missing. If Oblivion isn't using EAX, what is it using?



DirectSound. That doesn't mean it uses EAX extensions though. Oblivion will install and work perfectly well in Windows 7 without ALchemy even installed, and there are no EAX options to configure even on Windows XP with an X-Fi installed. ALchemy does more than "enable EAX on NT6.x" - it provides DirectSound 3D h/w for Sound Blaster cards. Oblivion is capable of using DS3D, although whether or not this is of any advantage is another discussion entirely (and I honestly don't remember it being very significant/important).

See here for more detail on ALchemy and various application support: http://satsun.org/audio/

Also, DirectSound 3D does *not* exist in Vista onwards; it died with Windows XP. DirectSound as part of DirectMedia does exist as an emulated session within WASAPI. However if whatever application requires 3D h/w (which includes EAX as subset) that will be broken, which is where ALchemy, DS3D GX, etc come into play.

See here for more information:
http://support.creative.com/kb/ShowArti ... ?sid=25937

Essentially, you can enable it in ALchemy if you'd like to try DS3D, and decide if whatever added effects are worthwhile for you. However the game does *not* have EAX extensions unless you download and install a modification to bring them in.
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Re: EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby PhilsComputerLab » 2015-1-07 @ 15:48

Testing an older game under a new OS on a surround system gives you a quick assessments. Older games with surround will just do Stereo on newer OS. ALchemy restores surround.

But I don't have Skyrim, I think. Was so cheap on Steam sales recently :)

Newer games do surround under new OS just fine.
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Re: EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby obobskivich » 2015-1-08 @ 09:15

Skyrim doesn't use DirectSound, it uses Xaudio, and shouldn't behave any different in XP than it does in Vista, 7, 8, etc. It does not need or use ALchemy.
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Re: EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby ynari » 2015-1-08 @ 14:11

Thanks, that makes sense.

I might as well run them under XP, especially if they were released in 2008 or earlier. Anything newer I'll run under 8.1
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Re: EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby PhilsComputerLab » 2015-1-08 @ 23:05

jonpol wrote:F.E.A.R. actually has the "best" use of EAX I've seen in my somewhat small sample size, in terms of the developers actually using it as Creative intended.


I'm got a Creative 1.5 speaker set yesterday and set it up in my lab with a XP machine and a PCIe Titanium and OMG does this game sound amazing. The atmosphere is just oozing out and it's so much fun.
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Re: EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby obobskivich » 2015-1-09 @ 00:50

ynari wrote:Thanks, that makes sense.

I might as well run them under XP, especially if they were released in 2008 or earlier. Anything newer I'll run under 8.1


Oblivion runs well under XP IME, just make sure you have a robust graphics card/overall system - I would say GeForce 7 with a fast Pentium 4/D or Athlon 64 is a reasonable minimum, depending on what resolution you want to play at. It can be a very demanding game, and if you want full max ultra with mods and so forth you should really be looking at a high-end Core 2 (or better) and DX10 graphics card. :blush:

That said, I've had no problems trying Oblivion in Windows 7x64 either, and if you have a Creative card with ALchemy you could try it out and see if the DirectSound 3D feature does anything for you (and like I said, I honestly do not remember if it mattered all that much - I don't have surround sound anymore so stereo is all I ever set these days). I don't know about 8.1, but I would make the guess that it should work since it works in 7x64.
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Re: EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby jonpol » 2015-1-09 @ 01:26

Oblivion runs with 3D sound in Windows 7 x64, regardless of what audio hardware you have; it creates so-called "deferred" DirectSound 3D buffers which will be run in software in Windows 7.

(I know this because I used the beginning of the game extensively when I was first developing IndirectSound. It was a really nice test case because 1) the scripted sequence was deterministic, 2) Oblivion lets you attach a debugger, and 3) since it works the same with or without hardware buffers I could easily turn IndirectSound on and off to test whether my implementation was behaving correctly or not.)
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Re: EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby mirh » 2015-1-10 @ 17:13

ynari wrote:I do have an XP installation so can run native, but I've seen one instance of someone saying EAX via Alchemy leads to delays in Oblivion. Likewise, Bioshock 'supports EAX', but from the look of things it also supports OpenAL so there's no need for alchemy

Bioshock is before all an OpenAL game. Then it has also a fallback mode to DS.
Speaking of delays and hiccups instead.. that may be even due to an old version of the library. Last one was released just 3 months ago

philscomputerlab wrote:A while ago I compared how F.E.A.R. sounds like on Windows 8.1 with a Recon 3D with and without Creative Alchemy:

http://youtu.be/yO4WWOJbGX8

If you were in the mood of 100% scientific comparison, check these ideas. There's nothing better than 8 channels PCM audio to measure things :p

jonpol wrote:Oblivion runs with 3D sound in Windows 7 x64, regardless of what audio hardware you have; it creates so-called "deferred" DirectSound 3D buffers which will be run in software in Windows 7.

(I know this because I used the beginning of the game extensively when I was first developing IndirectSound. It was a really nice test case because 1) the scripted sequence was deterministic, 2) Oblivion lets you attach a debugger, and 3) since it works the same with or without hardware buffers I could easily turn IndirectSound on and off to test whether my implementation was behaving correctly or not.)

Indeed, this also happen with Fallout 3, as I tested here (yes, it's a bit messed but tl;dr read last post)

This does not mean though that restored hardware path (with either ASUS's DSGX, Creative's ALchemy or Realtek's 3Dsoundback) hasn't still an advantage over plain software (bass were way louder and as expected with it in FO3)
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Re: EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby BuckoA51 » 2015-1-12 @ 22:51

Silent Hill 2 Directors Cut - Appears to work with ALchemy (allows you to turn on hardware audio) but only gives surround sound when played under XP. This one I have tested extensively, lucky I was able to find XP drivers for my newest build.
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Re: EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby mirh » 2015-1-13 @ 15:22

BuckoA51 wrote:Silent Hill 2 Directors Cut - Appears to work with ALchemy (allows you to turn on hardware audio) but only gives surround sound when played under XP. This one I have tested extensively, lucky I was able to find XP drivers for my newest build.

Wtf? If ALchemy works, even surround sound should.
Did you install openAL? Did you select 5.1/7.1 in the windows audio settings?
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Re: EAX - native vs alchemy

Postby BuckoA51 » 2015-1-15 @ 20:54

Yes, of course I did. I have ALchemy working in other games just fine.

I don't understand why you're so shocked by this, ALchemy is a wrapper after all, what wrapper ever worked 100%?

Killing Floor is another game that only works fully on real EAX too.
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