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  • Vista EAX hardware accelerated audio dropped

    I ran across some posts which indicated that MS is dropping the audio HAL (hardware abstraction layer) in Vista. No audio HAL means no hardware-accelerated positional audio a.k.a. EAX. From the OpenAL website:

    With Microsoft's decision to remove the audio hardware layer in Windows Vista, legacy DirectSound 3D games will no longer use hardware 3D algorithms for audio spatialization. Instead they will have to rely upon the new Microsoft software mixer that is built into Windows Vista. This new software mixer will give the users basic audio support for their old Direct Sound games but since it has no hardware layer, all EAX® effects will be lost, and no individual per-voice processing can be performed using dedicated hardware processing.

    EAX has become the de facto standard for real-time effects processing. It has been incorporated in hundreds of games and has become the method of choice for game developers wanting to add interactive environment effects to their titles. Some of the best selling games of all time use the EAX extensions to DirectSound 5.0 and beyond, including Warcraft3, Diablo2, World of Warcraft, Half Life, Ghost Recon, F.E.A.R. and many others. Under Windows Vista, these games will be losing the hardware support that came as standard under the previous Windows Operating Systems, and will no longer provide real-time interactive effects, making them sound empty and lifeless by comparison to the way they sound on Windows XP.

    In some cases, where a game specifically looks for a hardware audio path, it may even fall back to plain stereo output[...]
    But then, a few paragraphs down, I see this seemingly contradictory information:

    The good news for owners of advanced audio cards like SoundBlaster X-Fi is that the developer community has been preparing for this for over 3 years. Hardware audio will not be disappearing with the launch of Windows Vista. Games that support OpenAL today will continue to provide full hardware-enhanced 3D audio under Windows Vista. This includes games such as Battlefield 2, Doom3, Unreal Tournament2k4, Dungeon and Dragons Online, Prey, Quake 4, and many others (a full list can be found at http://www.openal.org/titles.html). These games have complete hardware-based HRTF support for multiple speaker and headphone setups as well as full support for all the different versions of EAX. Also, these games will be able to take advantage of the hardware-accelerated path on supporting hardware for performance and quality increases.
    WTF? Does Vista support hardware-accelerated audio or not? Will I still get EAX with my Audigy 2? My reading is that unless the game already supports OpenAL (and it seems that 99.99% of all games out there don't if the hundred or so titles listed on the AudioAL site is any indication) we are screwed.

    Anyone have some insight?
    Twisted Firestarter
    a.k.a |TG| Harkonian
    sigpic

  • #2
    Re: Vista EAX hardware accelerated audio dropped

    Microsoft is at it again...

    More game developers should write for Linux. No games are a popular reason for not switching to Linux, if big publishers like EA would get their developers to write Linux versions (I know, never going to happen), there would be a flood of new Linux users.

    Well, until Wine starts working really well with these games, and support the damn copy protection, we're stuck with Windows. I have the copy protection, BF2 is starting to work in Wine, but being forced to use no-cd cracks means I can't play on PB servers past a few minutes.

    [/pointlesslinuxrant]
    |TG| Lorian
    Member since 18th February 2006

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    • #3
      Re: Vista EAX hardware accelerated audio dropped

      Anything that uses OpenAL will have some support from Creative. They're working on Vista drivers but only for X-Fi. Audigy cards and older will not get EAX support. This is what I've heard from ExtremeTech Podcast.

      Check the bottom of the page of the OpenAL website about Vista support. Games like Battlefield, Unreal based games, Doom 3 based games, etc. will have hardware accelerated support from X-Fi cards.

      One can say that MS is at it again but if you really think about it, Creative has had a monopoly on game sound enhancements for years. EAX 2 was the last version to be used by non-Creative sound cards. With the Audigy series, Creative held a monopoly on EAX effects. No other sound card companies were allowed to use EAX HD. Some don't like Creative cards because of inferior recording quality or bad driver support. Dropping hardware support is just breaking up that monopoly a bit.

      - It's who you game with.

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      • #4
        Re: Vista EAX hardware accelerated audio dropped

        Breaking the monopoly is fine with me. Creative has had a notoriously crappy driver development team for years and years. But, having MS kill my sound card in order to break the monopoly does not make much sense to me. And in any case, what good alternatives to Creative are there? Turtle Beach used to have some good products, but I haven't heard anything about them in recent years.

        So, we are left with a huge step backwards for audio in Vista for the vast majority of users and the vast majority of games.
        Twisted Firestarter
        a.k.a |TG| Harkonian
        sigpic

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        • #5
          Re: Vista EAX hardware accelerated audio dropped

          I hear M-Audio is good, never used one of their cards though.
          |TG| Lorian
          Member since 18th February 2006

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          • #6
            Re: Vista EAX hardware accelerated audio dropped

            Originally posted by Twisted_Firestarter View Post
            Breaking the monopoly is fine with me. Creative has had a notoriously crappy driver development team for years and years. But, having MS kill my sound card in order to break the monopoly does not make much sense to me. And in any case, what good alternatives to Creative are there? Turtle Beach used to have some good products, but I haven't heard anything about them in recent years.

            So, we are left with a huge step backwards for audio in Vista for the vast majority of users and the vast majority of games.
            MS did that so the developers would develop directx not for vendor specific standart, this case creative labs.
            I feel your pain though, I got onboard sound.

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            • #7
              Re: Vista EAX hardware accelerated audio dropped

              I think there are some sound cards out there that provide good sound quality. However, there won't be any non-Creative cards that provide special gaming effects. Developers have been using Creative's EAX effects for a long time so most games cater to Creative hardware. This change will create a level playing field where the API will provide the capability for sound effects processing instead of the hardware.

              I don't think it's that big of a deal. Once I heard of the Vista support for X-Fi cards, I decided to pick one up. Besides, most users will be upgrading processors too when moving to Vista. That'll handle the move to software sound. If you're not using a Creative card, you're probably gaming with software sound anyway.

              - It's who you game with.

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              • #8
                Re: Vista EAX hardware accelerated audio dropped

                Here's a preview of Creative's solution to the hardware acceleration for DirectSound3D programs.

                Creative Alchemy will translate DirectSound3D calls into OpenAL calls thus providing hardware acceleration for DirectSound3D in Vista. Only works on X-Fi for now. Creative claims they will extend functionality to the rest of the soundblaster family once they get it working fully on X-Fi.

                http://preview.creativelabs.com/alchemy/default.aspx

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                • #9
                  Re: Vista EAX hardware accelerated audio dropped

                  Interesting. I'll give this a try this weekend with a couple of games.

                  - It's who you game with.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Vista EAX hardware accelerated audio dropped

                    HL2 doesn't use EAX and it sounds pretty darn good. I can't stand how creative has had this monopoly for so long. I've always had trouble with creatives drivers and getting EAX to work.
                    flux
                    [tg-c1]

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