I know this is an ancient bump, but every time I searched to resolve this issue, this thread came up in the results. tikbalang had gotten results that I could not, but I couldn't replicate what he was doing to successfully have the DOS Drivers recognized. I kept at it and after a couple of hours of trial and error (and reboots), I got it!
Turns out it's simple, as long as you're booting into Win98/95.
Download the VXD Version of your ESS Driver.
Uninstall your old drivers, re-install with VXD and force them/choose your driver to use and point to the VXD one. If you get the option of 4 compatible items, choose the one that says "Device Manager" in the name version first, the others will auto detect after that.
You should get a ESSAUDIO.COM and ESSAUDIO.SYS in your C:\ Root. The driver will also update your AUTOEXEC.BAT and the CONFIG.SYS so you can use the driver in DOS Mode.
Boot into 95/98 DOS Mode or Real DOS. Once the driver initializes in DOS it will generate the "ESSAUDIO.INI" that has been missing!
Now you just need to save the three ESSAUDIO files and the lines from your CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT and you'll be good to do an install again anytime. I was working on this for a Gateway SOLO 5300 laptop and successfully am running my old DOS games without having to mess with windows or use PC Speaker. I may try to experiment with VXD driver to see if I can adjust any settings VIA Windows and if the INI Breaks or something,
I found VXD Drivers for my ESSAUDIO 1980 Maestro 3 here: