Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Emulation of old PCs, PC hardware, or PC peripherals.

Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby MST » 2018-2-17 @ 23:27

ALchemy is a piece of software (wrapper) which allows starting from Windows Vista back to access sound card's DSP for DirectSound and DirectSound3D based games.
Without ALchemy no matter sound card you have all sound will be rendered in software with no advanced functionality such as EAX.
So, if you own DirectSound/DirectSound3D based game, OS later than Windows XP and you want to hear sound processed by your soundcard DSP (hardware or software emulated using X-Fi MB) you may use ALchemy.

Here you can read about it: http://support.creative.com/kb/showarticle.aspx?sid=28967

About list of games you mentioned. Somebody probably marked games which Creative tested or users confirmed as working with ALchemy. Look at games list from my link, it matches.

Games can use the DirectSound3D library in radically different ways, so not all of them may work with Creative ALchemy, so this is confirmed list of supported games by Creative, but of course not complete.

Nowadays CPU have enougth power to do DSP processing without dedicated unit shipped with soundcard, that's why software solutions like Sound Blaster X-Fi act as replacement running with any basic onboard audio hardware.

Currently there is Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3 available in store. There is next generation MB5 but it's not available to buy. It is preinstalled with some laptops like Alienware 13.
You can read about here: http://forums.creative.com/showthread.php?t=741761

You can download MB5 for example from Dell's Alienware 13 support page https://www.dell.com/support/home/en/en/pldhs1/drivers/driversdetails?driverId=RG2R1 but you cannot buy it. It won't work untill you have specified let's say MB5 enabled drivers and license. There are a few tutorials on YT how to make it working, but it seems not worth of trying, as long MB3 offers almost the same functionality.

MB3 can be downloaded from official store http://software.store.creative.com/p/software/sound-blaster-x-fi-mb3 or for example also from Dell support site, as long it also shipped with some hardware http://www.dell.com/support/home/en/en/pldhs1/drivers/driversdetails?driverId=89XKD

Advantage of MB3 is that it's working with any sound card / driver by default, but of course need license. MB5 is by default limited to specified hardware, and also need a license.

And finally does ALchemy wrapper sounds different than through DirectSound3D HAL in WinXP ? I suppose not, but I didn't checked it personally.
Base on knowledge that ALchemy is a key to access DSP which was directly avaliable by HAL in WinXP, there is the same DSP at the end in both cases, so it should sound similar on the same hardware or software based DSP.
Last edited by MST on 2018-2-17 @ 23:43, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby usernamed » 2018-2-17 @ 23:36

Thanks for the quick tip about DirectSound 3D.
$30 is a lot for MB3. Considering i already have EAX5 supported USB X-Fi (which i honestly don't want to use as a dac) which i paid almost $100 when i bought it years ago, i feel "cheated" buying some software component providing the same functionality AGAIN.

Is there any other way to re-enable Alchemy to actually support EAX in legacy games? Also does OpenAL work with every equipment? For example does OpenAL Soft provide the same (EFX) feature set as Creative's proprietary OpenAL? And if not, does Creative OpenAL require their soundcard (or, again, the same MB3)?

Edit: I actually mean whether there is a way to get necessary files only for Alchemy and allowing your dac to enable EAX in legacy titles? This Creative MB looks another convoluted bloat i really don't like to install.
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Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby MST » 2018-2-18 @ 00:15

OpenAL is API which have a few implementations, also by Creative. Wiki explains is clearly https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenAL also here https://www.gamedev.net/forums/topic/604248-openal-vs-openal-soft/
ALchemy is a kind of translator of DirectSound3D calls into OpenAL implemented by Creative in this case.
There are also other DirectSound3D wrappers dedicated to work with different OpenAL implementations, like Soft OpenAL, but functionality may be limited compared to Creative implementation.

Is X-Fi MB3 sounds better/worse than hardware based Creative card? I suppose that hardware based solutions should sound better, more stable, because you have dedicated DSP without processing interrupts like in case of general CPU usage, but again I did not compared for example MB3 with any other hardware based DSP.

I think you may try to check it by your own comparing your USB X-Fi with software X-Fi MB3 on some basic integrated audio chip. I suppose if your basic audio chip is shitty there is no software based solution to make it sound wonderfull, but I believe this software is able to add some features like surround, some filters which made final effect better than without it. But at the end sound quality is limited to your end device, that's why hardware based solutions should be better.
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Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby usernamed » 2018-2-18 @ 00:26

Okay. So let me put it this way:

Is there any way to remove Alchemy device check requirement? To enable it without the MB3/5 bundle?

Is there some necessary VST/DSP files only to get from the MB bundle to install without installing it all (so to make Alchemy work and generate dsound.dll)?
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Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby MST » 2018-2-18 @ 13:52

usernamed wrote:Is there any way to remove Alchemy device check requirement? To enable it without the MB3/5 bundle?

Yes

usernamed wrote:Is there some necessary VST/DSP files only to get from the MB bundle to install without installing it all (so to make Alchemy work and generate dsound.dll)?

No

MB3/5 includes ALchemy, but you can install ALchemy without rest of MB3/MB5 bundle.
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Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby usernamed » 2018-2-18 @ 15:10

And when you install Alchemy without MB, does it work (enable EAX for legacy games)? Or does MB feature the necessary DSP components for EAX to use?

Edit: Thank you for the PM. I can't yet send private messages (new member limitation).
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Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby usernamed » 2018-2-19 @ 18:00

Installed the latest Alchemy without Creative MB on my third party dac/amp, and EAX settings are all available in Thief 3, but i couldn't hear any difference whether they were checked or not. So i guess it's not working.
https://imgur.com/a/ciDHN
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Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby MST » 2018-2-19 @ 22:06

I guess that within ALchemy there is no EAX implementation at all. You need to have OpenAL device which implements EAX. If your thirdparty audio hardware does not support EAX at all, then you can use MB, which creates virtual OpenAL device with up to EAX 5 support. If not ALchemy only will "route" calls to your present thirdparty device, which may not be able to support EAX at all.
If you plug your USB X-Fi then ALchemy will be able "route" calls to it, and you should hear difference.
Basically ALchemy is only kind of translator/router of DirectSound3D calls. If destination OpenAL device is limited then will be no difference.
But without ALchemy, even if you have your USB X-Fi plugged in - then you won't be able to route EAX calls if game use DirectSound3D.

So to hear difference make sure your destination sound cards is EAX compatible, if not you can use MB as EAX compatible sound processor which give you additional effects.
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Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby usernamed » 2018-2-20 @ 11:59

Interesting. So Alchemy's job is to be the wrapper between DirectSound HAL layer and OpenAL? As in games that used to require DirectSound3D HAL layer, will use OpenAL through Alchemy? And necessary EAX4/5 DSP components are provided by the driver/soft like MB3? What about A3D? Do you need any wrapper for it (like A3D-Live)? Or does Creative MB already provide necessary functionality for A3D effects?

And IndirectSound just enables surround for legacy games that relied on DirectSound (HAL) but didn't utilize EAX?
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Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby lowenz » 2018-2-20 @ 18:33

Yes, actually IndirectSound is a solution for the positional audio only.
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Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby svfn » 2018-2-22 @ 05:50

usernamed wrote:Installed the latest Alchemy without Creative MB on my third party dac/amp, and EAX settings are all available in Thief 3, but i couldn't hear any difference whether they were checked or not. So i guess it's not working.
https://imgur.com/a/ciDHN


if your USB-X-Fi support up to EAX5, it should work. have you used Creative ALchemy 1.45.15, and added Thief 3 to the list of games? what is the output of your dsoundlog.txt?

i was able to play some EAX games like Dungeon Siege, Baldur's Gate 2, KotoR 2, Morrowind, Prey (2006) with X-Fi MB3 on realtek 1150. but Empire Total War sounded very bad with hardware sound on.

as for software solution vs hardware EAX on windows 10 (since you have to use ALchemy anyway), it depends greatly on the game itself, some games sounds similar and hard to tell the difference, while some sounds better on actual hardware (using windows XP without emulation).

here you can listen to comparison of Tomb Raider VI, hardware EAX (Windows XP) vs ALchemy emulation on Windows 7 with an Asus card. at 0:11 he also says he tried Realtek onboard with X-Fi HDUSB card and they sound the same because also emulated by software.

here are a few more Thief 3 with EAX emulated, so maybe if you have hardware EAX on win XP you can compare to hear if it's any discernible difference:
Creative Audigy Z audiocard on Windows 8.1: https://youtu.be/v9a42MPtiSE

Thief 3 Deadly Shadows EAX / without EAX
Last edited by svfn on 2018-2-22 @ 09:43, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby lowenz » 2018-2-22 @ 09:09

Thief DS and Deus Ex IW use an hardwired dsound device.....as OpenAL device. So no OpenAL Soft replacement is possible.
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Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby usernamed » 2018-2-22 @ 11:14

I didn't understand how Alchemy worked at first, so i just installed the latest Alchemy (45.15) with OpenAL 2.1 with my Monoprice USB DAC and added the game on the list (which created the necessary files in game directory). But now that i get it's just a wrapper, necessary soft needs to be provided (MB3) to load EAX. But i don't want to install MB3, because i want to keep my DAC clean of unnecessary Creative bloatware.

Also: How does Windows Sonic in Windows 10 affect everything regarding Alchemy, OpenAL and legacy games? Should Windows Sonic be disabled and Windows mixer set at 5.1 for stereo headphones or 2.1? Windows Sonic locks it down at 2.1 44.8 kHz (can't change it).

I guess the safest bet is to just install WinXP on my secondary machine and use my USB X-Fi there.

Edit2: Also reading the IndirectSound thread it's mentioned that if i already have Creative Alchemy with EAX enabled, then IndirectSound is redundant? Is this true? AFAIK EAX itself doesn't provide positional audio, it's only an audio extension library (to provide different effects). Does Alchemy also enable positional audio for games that support EAX?
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Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby svfn » 2018-2-22 @ 12:11

usernamed wrote:I didn't understand how Alchemy worked at first, so i just installed the latest Alchemy (45.15) with OpenAL 2.1 with my Monoprice USB DAC and added the game on the list (which created the necessary files in game directory). But now that i get it's just a wrapper, necessary soft needs to be provided (MB3) to load EAX. But i don't want to install MB3, because i want to keep my DAC clean of unnecessary Creative bloatware.

Also: How does Windows Sonic in Windows 10 affect everything regarding Alchemy, OpenAL and legacy games? Should Windows Sonic be disabled and Windows mixer set at 5.1 for stereo headphones or 2.1? Windows Sonic locks it down at 2.1 44.8 kHz (can't change it).

I guess the safest bet is to just install WinXP on my secondary machine and use my USB X-Fi there.

Edit2: Also reading the IndirectSound thread it's mentioned that if i already have Creative Alchemy with EAX enabled, then IndirectSound is redundant? Is this true? AFAIK EAX itself doesn't provide positional audio, it's only an audio extension library (to provide different effects). Does Alchemy also enable positional audio for games that support EAX?


if your USB X-Fi supported EAX then it would work with ALchemy on games that are supported. i don't see why you would need MB3 if your sound card supports it. also MB3 is not bloated, you can turn off all the enchancement effects and remove startup launch. i only use it to create virtual surround for my headphones, so games see it as a 5.1 device with my speakers in Windows set to 5.1. Windows Sonic seems to be some kind of virtual surround effect and not positional audio, i've never use it since mine is set to X-Fi as default device.

there's basically 3 options:
1. Windows XP with real PCI or PCIe X-Fi sound card that supports EAX.
2. later OS with a modern Sound Card, like Sound Blaster Z and use ALchemy emulation.
3. software solution using Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3 and ALchemy emulation that you can use even with onboard sound.

3D audio positioning is done by a sound library like DirectSound3D or OpenAL. due to the Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) for DirectSound and DirectSound3D were removed by Microsoft from Vista and above, ALchemy is used to translate DirectSound3D into OpenAL calls. so it is this HAL on Windows XP for instance that allows DirectSound3D games to do 3D audio positioning.
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Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby usernamed » 2018-2-22 @ 12:30

I understand. And thank you for your explanation. I mean why do i need IndirectSound if i already have Creative Alchemy with X-Fi? I understand IndirectSound also does the translation between DirectSound3D And Xaudio2. So if i have Alchemy enabled for an older game, is IndirectSound redundant or unnecessary? AND for games that don't support EAX at all, does IndirectSound restore positional audio there?
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Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby svfn » 2018-2-22 @ 12:50

yea it seems so, i have not used IndirectSound much personally, since ALchemy also uses that dsound.dll when you enable it for games. i looked at the official IndirectSound page and it does say if you already have a Sound Blaster and ALchemy working, you don't need IndirectSound. and i think it only emulates EAX up to 2.0 (i guess from the offcial site), and the focus was on 3D positional audio. then again i am not sure how it sounds compared to ALchemy.
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Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby usernamed » 2018-2-22 @ 18:05

I have this weird thought about connecting 2 USB DAC-s to the Win10 machine. I know it's possible, at least in head-fi people have multiple DAC-s connected. And then use your non-Creative DAC for everything else other than old games, and your EAX5-ready USB X-Fi for legacy games. Though i'm sure it could lead to some nice driver conflict eventually.
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Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby dongerdog » 2018-2-27 @ 23:24

A bit off-topic, but I feel it's unnecessary for a new topic and this one seems to be the most active when I search for EAX related stuff.

I'm having issues with my Audigy Rx and in this case specifically Splinter Cell Chaos Theory. I just can't get EAX to work in-game with ALchemy while I know others have had success with relative ease. Tried running the game as admin, different compatibility modes with every Buffers/Durations/Voice Count combo without any luck. dsoundlog.txt gives me the following error: "DllGetClassObject : Failed to initialize Creative ALchemy, falling back to dsound.dll"
Google searches doesn't show much informative advice either regarding the specific issue.
On a Win10 tincan. Steam release.
Any tech savvys that knows what's up? Thanks!
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Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby lowenz » 2018-2-28 @ 08:15

Splinter Cell series AND R6 series use "DARE Audio" tecnology, maybe the problem with ALchemy is related to that technology and not to Dsound (an interface for the device) EAX handling.
Try another Splinter Cell, can you?
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Re: Emulating EAX on any onboard sound hardware?

Postby MST » 2018-2-28 @ 20:10

"Failed to initialize Creative ALchemy, falling back to dsound.dll" means you do not have valid license. Does it work fine with any other game or not?
Maybe following post will help with your RX: http://forums.creative.com/showthread.php?t=741967&p=613093&viewfull=1#post613093
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