[Sticky] How To: Enable 3D Software Accelerated Sound in OpenAL Games
Preface: Games using the OpenAL (and former DirectSound3D) audio API generally have the ability to process most or all in-game sounds in virtual 3D space, using X, Y, and Z coordinates, and then they implement an advanced HRTF algorithm to map this 3D sound environment to your sound system.
Stereo/2.1 systems get a binaural sound simulation which is infinitely superior to traditional virtual surround like Razer Surround and Dolby Headphone and SB-X Surround, which only process 5 or 7 channels. Those with actual surround systems get a far more effective surround HRTF, thus much better positional audio. Other audio APIs cannot compare. True surround systems receive the strongest benefit from these effects, especially with hardware acceleration (more on this below), but the effects are hugely noticeable on all systems.
But these games do not do this by default. If you do not have a sound card or special software installed, then these games will default to using "Generic Software" as the audio device. Generic Software has none of these special abilities, so sound will be two dimensional and in many of these games you can't even get surround sound with Generic Software (which means no virtual surround either).
So the best way to take advantage of these features is to use an X-Fi sound card. X-Fi refers to a series of Creative sound processors used on many of their sound cards (as well as Auzentech sound cards), now discontinued in favor of Sound Core3D which cannot process OpenAL/DirectSound3D instructions via hardware, only software. But they will still get you the effects, although not as good or effective. The same for ASUS sound cards.
But if you don't have the money for a sound card, don't worry. You can still enable this advanced 3D sound processing with a free 100% software implementation called OpenAL Soft. This does not require a sound card.
So the procedure listed below is for people with no sound cards. None of this is necessary if you have a sound card. If you have a sound card, just select it as your output device and it'll process 3D sound itself, and better than OpenAL Soft.
1) Make sure your OpenAL is up to date by downloading the latest one here.
2) Download the latest version of OpenAL Soft at the bottom of this page (the zip file).
3) The downloaded zip file from step #2 has both Win32 and Win64 folders. For 32-bit Windows systems, take the soft_oal.dll file in the Win32 folder, rename it to OpenAL32.dll and then copy it into C:WindowsSystem32 overwriting the file that is already there. For 64-bit Windows systems, take the soft_oal.dll file in the Win64 folder, rename it to OpenAL32.dll and then copy it into C:WindowsSystem32 overwriting the file that is already there. But 64-bit systems require one other step, which is: take the soft_oal.dll file in the Win32 folder, rename it to OpenAL32.dll and then copy it into C:WindowsSysWOW64 overwriting the file that is already there.
4) Enable hidden folders in Windows.
5) Browse to %AppData%alsoft.ini. If the file is not there, then create it with a text editor like Notepad.
6) Inside alsoft.ini you just need to add this one line: hrtf = true
7) In OpenAL games that let you choose an output device (if not in the options then in an ini or other configuration file, or in the console), choose OpenAL Soft.
8) The 7 steps above will work for most but not all OpenAL games. If some OpenAL games still don't let you choose OpenAL Soft as the output device then you must do the following: determine whether that game's engine is 32-bit or 64-bit (Google search will help, and know that there were very few 64-bit games before 2013). If 32-bit, then take the soft_oal.dll file from OpenAL Soft's Win32 directory, rename it to OpenAL32.dll and then copy it into the game's directory where the executable file is, overwriting the file that is already there. For 64-bit games, do the same except use the soft_oal.dll file from the Win64 folder instead.
That'll do it. For a list of OpenAL games, see below although it is not a 100% complete list. Also ignore the claims of LFE not working on OpenAL games because I can confirm it does work in the vast majority of OpenAL games with my 5.1 setup. Perhaps it doesn't work with 7 channel surround setups, which he uses.
Keep in mind that an X-Fi sound card is still the better option, and that only the Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD has Windows 10 ready drivers. All X-Fi sound cards are long discontinued, so you'll have to buy used. This option is better than OpenAL Soft for several reasons; not only because the HRTF is more effective (resulting in better positional audio on all systems), but it also lets you enable EAX unlike OpenAL Soft (in games that have it), and with a Creative sound card you can use the Creative ALchemy software to convert DirectSound3D games to OpenAL, letting you use all of its advanced sound effects and process them via hardware (once again non X-Fi Creative sound cards process the instructions via software which doesn't sound quite as good). Whereas OpenAL Soft doesn't work with DirectSound3D because it's a different API (not OpenAL).
Almost all PC games from the late 1990s to around 2008 use DirectSound3D or OpenAL, but mostly DirectSound3D at that, so again obtaining an X-Fi sound card is highly recommended for serious gamers! Many of the greatest games ever made in most genres use either DirectSound3D or OpenAL, since the late 1990s to mid-late 2000s was simply a better time period for gaming.