[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 DSOAL from here. This is currently the best OpenAL Soft implementation.
3) Place the included .dll and alsoft.ini files from DSOAL into the game's folder that contains the executable file.
4) For games that let you select an audio output device, be sure to select the right one. It might be called OpenAL Soft.
That'll do it. For a list of OpenAL and DirectSound3D 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.
On a related note, it is also possible to restore the effects of Aureal3D games using DSOAL or ALchemy. Details below:
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).
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.