Initially, this material was supposed to be only a small addition to the guide on activating EAX technology and restoring classic sound chips in modern Windows-based systems, but thanks to the controversy, it grew into something more. Today we will get acquainted with a universal method of returning high-quality sound, as well as, using a real example, we will compare EAX and virtual 7.1 channel sound in video games.
The guide is designed for a confident user and the author does not bear any responsibility if you break something. All performed actions are only on your conscience.
- Processor: Intel Pentium G4560 2/4 3.5 GHz
- Video card: Nvidia Geforce 1050 2Gb
- RAM: 2×4 2400
- Motherboard: H110M-DGS R3.0 Bios 7.50
- Storage: 2 Sata 3 SSD 128 and 256 GB
- Sound System: Realtek ALC887 (EAX 1.0 and 2.0)
Before you start
I would like to correct the mistake that I made in the previous material, because due to the non-universality of the previous method based on the use of the ALchemy utility, some users might have problems or not earn anything at all. The new way to activate EAX technology is based on the free and open source project Dsoal, which implements DirectSound interfaces, broadcasting calls to OpenAL, and tricking games into thinking that we have a hardware accelerated sound device with EAX support. To activate the technology, it is enough to follow a few steps.
- Download and install OpenAL
- Download Unlocker and Dsoal
- Use Unlocker to rename original dsound.dll в C:WindowsSysWOW64
- Drag and drop files dsoal-aldrv.dll and dsound.dll to C: Windows SysWOW64 with replacement or to the game folder
We get the opportunity on the latest operating systems to use not only the EAX technology with some chips, but also to transfer part of the calculations from the processor to the sound card chip, even if the sound device was not originally designed to use the technology, and the sound was specified for software processing. Dsoal itself will determine whether there is hardware support for the technology and what to use for playback and acceleration. Let’s perform a test run in Fallout: New Vegas with and without Dsoal.
The maximum FPS clearly signals that the processor is having a hard time processing high-quality reverberation with multiple sound sources in software, despite the increased power of modern CPUs. The thing is that the processor has to process commands different from the usual x86 code, because as modern video cards now cope with rendering better than processors, by the same principle, audio chips are more adapted to processing reverberation (calculation of reflection) of sound. This impact on performance has already been recognized by Microsoft and brought back support for DSP sound processing in Windows 8.1-10, as well as Sony, which has added a separate sound chip to its PlayStation 5 for processing 3D sound.
EAX vs virtual 7.1 comparison
Many would argue that modern software processing methods sound much better than the legacy EAX, which could use hardware features. Let’s compare this statement in practice, since my Realtek ALC887 is capable of accelerating EAX 1.0-2.0 at the hardware level.
The following games were chosen for the test: FEAR, The Witcher 1, STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl.
Despite the YouTube compression, perhaps the best demonstration of the difference, because I don’t know about you, but I can clearly hear all the pain of virtual sound 7.1 with my Bloody G528С. The moments of firefights, in comparison with the EAX, are heard very flat, and the assault rifles sound as if they are firing from a 100% copy of the same weapon. At the end of the shootout, the sound generally merges into a mess, which is painful to listen to. In general, virtual sound 7.1 turned everything into a mishmash, and EAX produced a very spacious sound (especially noticeable with boxes) and clear positioning, which is good news. 1: 0 in favor of EAX.
The Witcher 1
The EAX technology was rather added for show, because it is clear that the role-playing game is not a shooter, but in it you can notice some difference in sound. Basically, the effect of the EAX technology is noticeable in rainy weather and on various small animals. Although Virtual sound 7.1 did not mix everything into a monochromatic mess, the sound remained flat. 2: 0 in favor of EAX.
STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl
I take my words about the best demonstration in FEAR back. Just listen to how the shots sound, and what a juicy sound.
Of course, if in the bunker, when talking with Sidorovich, there is almost no difference, because we are standing right to the source of the sound, then when we come to the surface, we get a real living ZONE !!! Virtual sound 7.1 flat piece of wood …
3: 0 in favor of EAX.
As I wrote earlier, the sound engines of many new projects may have hidden support for EAX and are just waiting for you to activate it. If the game does not support the technology, then you can still notice a slight improvement in sound when using the Dsoal library, and the ability to remove unnecessary load from the processor will be a great bonus for lovers of competitive games.
I didn’t think that the expansion would grow into the whole material, but Dsoal is really great magic that allows you to return to the days of high-quality hardwood sound and enjoy what seemed to be gone forever. Use, have fun and don’t let companies get in the way of your gaming experience!