Windows – EAX sound effects and hardware acceleration of old games under Windows Vista and Windows 7

audiosound cardwindows 7windows-vista

I've read that Windows Vista and 7 stopped supporting hardware acceleration (which included support for EAX sound effects) of DirectSound/DirectX Audio. Many of the old games (most of them released in the 90's-early 2000's) that I used to play in Windows XP support hardware accelerated EAX 1 and/or 2 thru DirectSound.

I would like to know if Windows 7, with my sound card(s), can still do EAX sound effects (even without hardware acceleration) or if it can be configured to support EAX sound effects thru OpenAL in these old games.

My laptop's (old; bought ~2004) motherboard has an integrated SoundMAX sound card (SoundMAX Integrated Digital Audio) while my desktop PC (bought this year; 2011) has a 'VIA High Definition Audio' sound card. Is there any software/driver I can use to enable EAX 1 and 2 sound effects (with or without hardware acceleration) in Windows 7 with these sound cards? (With Windows XP, the SoundMAX sound card was able to support EAX 1 and 2.)

Background info on this: Sound hardware acceleration was disabled in Windows Vista and Windows 7. Because of this, EAX sound effects are also disabled (unless you have a Creative-branded soundcard and install a program that can pass or convert EAX sound effects of a game to OpenAL like Creative's Alchemy).

From the Creative Alchemy webpage –

In Windows Vista, Microsoft has
decided to remove the Hardware
Abstraction Layer (HAL) for
DirectSound and DirectSound3D. The HAL
is the software layer that in previous
Windows operating systems enabled an
audio accelerator such as the Sound
Blaster X-Fi to provide DirectSound3D
applications with hardware accelerated
audio. This enabled soundcards to
perform tasks such as sample-rate
conversion, mixing, 3D spatialization
using HRTFs, filtering, and effects
processing. Without the HAL,
DirectSound on Windows Vista will be
rendered in software with no advanced
functionality such as EAX.

The audio changes in Windows Vista do
not affect OpenAL however. For audio
cards that feature 'native' OpenAL
support, such as the SB X-Fi series of
cards, there is no need to worry!
Games that enable support for OpenAL
will continue to run just as they do
on Windows XP – with hardware
accelerated audio and effects. A
listing of OpenAL titles can be found

Although OpenAL has arguably replaced
DirectSound3D, particularly in many
modern PC Games (e.g. battlefield
2142, Doom3, Quake 4, Prey, etc.),
there are hundreds of older PC games
that support DirectSound3D and EAX
technology. All of these games will
sound empty and lifeless on Vista. As
most DS3D games only enable 3D Audio
and EAX if a hardware accelerator is
present, most of these games will be
reduced to a stereo output.

List of games that support EAX:
EAX, and its features on Wikipedia:

2010-11-11 Edit – Additional Notes:

None of the old games I play show the option to enable EAX 1 & 2 effects (even if they used to in Windows XP, on the same computer and soundcard). So it appears that in my current setup, there appears to be no support for EAX 1 & 2 (even though I was able to play games with EAX 1 and/or 2 activated on the same computer and soundcard when it had Windows XP installed).

As for my laptop's motherboard (ASUS), I believe they currently have no support for enabling EAX in integrated soundcards, and I'm not sure if they are planning on implementing support. I am looking for an option that will make EAX work through software because theoretically, like CJM said, EAX 1 & 2 are fairly simple, so modern processors should have no problem with them.

Many of the old games that I play support only EAX and not OpenAL so I am missing out a lot on the sound effects of these games. The game sounds have less "life" to them without EAX. Many of the old games that I play are in this list of videogames that support EAX.

Best Answer

you could always get an Audigy sound card to use Alchemy with. the earlier series of Audigys can probably be had fairly cheaply now. for example, on Amazon you can get a used Audigy 2 for $20. eBay would probably have similar deals.