Glossary:Sound card

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Sound
Sound
Sound card
Surround sound
Audio card (chip if you have an integrated solution on your motherboard) is the component necessary to play or record sounds on your PC.
The major producers in this field are Realtek, ASUSTeK, Conexant, Creative, SigmaTel/IDT/Tempo, VIA.
AMD and Nvidia are also audio chip producers, since the arrival of HDMI outputs.

Related articles

Sound
Surround sound

Types of Sound Cards[edit]

There are two types of sound cards that are generally used in Gaming PC builds i.e. Internal Sound Cards and External Sound cards. The first one sits on the motherboard right inside your pc case while the latter can be connected using a USB interface. There are advantages and disadvantages of sound cards [1] (both variants) which completely depend on the gaming requirements.


Internal Sound Cards[edit]

Most preferred among Gamers are the internal sound cards as they are connected directly to the motherboard using PCI/PCIe port. It does not require any extra interface in between. Internal Sound cards come in both 5.1 and 7.1 channel output. As compared to external sound cards, these are less expensive and efficient. Manufacturers like Asus, Creative, etc. are the most popular internal sound card brands.


External Sound Cards[edit]

These sound cards are very simple plug and play devices and installation is very easy, unlike internal sound cards. They use a USB 2.0 interface to be connected to the PC. Both 5.1 and 7.1 channel options are available in external sound cards. The issue with an external sound card is that they have latency associated with them to an extent.


Set up OpenAL[edit]

ADI, Creative and nForce are already ready out of the box
Make sure to be running latest libraries. Deleting OpenAL32.dll and wrap_oal.dll in games shipping with ancient ones is recommended.
Default Windows output device name must match OAL device one for native implementations to work, DS3D based "Generic Hardware" fallback will be used otherwise (if available)[2]

Asus[edit]

Enable Game eXtensions
  1. Open the Asus control panel
  2. Tick "GX" mode
  3. In games configuration files, force native implementation name as reported by ALC_ENUMERATION_EXT in EnumerateWin32

Notes

Turning off GX mode after playing games is advised to avoid glitches in other applications
Recommend installing the latest drivers, found here.

Realtek[edit]

Set up native device
  1. Install 3D SoundBack
  2. Navigate to the installation folder and copy rtk_oal.dll in %WINDIR%\SysWOW64\
Recommend installing the latest drivers, found here.

Universal[edit]

OpenAL Soft
  1. Download OpenAL Soft
  2. Unzip folder and rename openal-soft-x.xx.x-bin inside as OpenAL.
  3. Move OpenAL folder to %APPDATA%.
  4. Copy \bin\Win32\soft_oal.dll in %WINDIR%\SysWOW64\ (optionally in 64 bit OS copy \Win64\soft_oal.dll in %WINDIR%\System32\)
Could be set to fully replace the official Creative OpenAL distribution by instead deleting the openal32.dlls in %WINDIR%\SysWOW64\ and %WINDIR%\System32\ naming the soft_oal.dlls in their place.
Supports binaural HRTF audio mixing for more accurate 3D sound. [3]

Rapture3D[edit]

Use Rapture3D

Custom quality wrapper for OpenAL games. Among various 3D techniques, provides also its own HRTF tables.

Free Game Edition bundled with Dirt 3 can be used with other games following these instructions or using extracted libraries near game exe (enabling OpenAL in game options may be required).

XAudio2 only allows stereo on Dolby Digital Live[edit]

If it doesn't work try the older patcher available here or do it manually.

Restore legacy audio effects on newer OS[edit]

DirectSound hardware path[edit]

Starting with Windows Vista and its new audio stack, DirectSound applications are rendered entirely in a user-mode software audio session[5]
Most games developed in the preceding decade will experience problems going from the simple lack of EAX effects to the complete demotion to stereophony[6]

Universal[edit]

IndirectSound[8]
  1. Download IndirectSound.
  2. Extract into <path-to-game> alongside the main game executable.

Notes

Translates DirectSound calls into XAudio2 [7]
No EAX effect is emulated, yet there is EAX 1/2 support emulation that is useful for some games that don't calculate 3D positional audio unless EAX is supported.
dsoal[10]
  1. Download dsoal v1.31a.
  2. Extract into <path-to-game> alongside the main game executable.

Notes

Translates DirectSound calls into OpenAL Soft (better positioning than IndirectSound which doesn't use HRTF and/or EAX [9]).
EAX effect is converted into EFX, with partial support for EAX 1.0, 3.0, and 4.0 and full support for EAX 2.0. [citation needed])
This version of dsoal is prepackaged with OpenAL Soft and HRTF tables. To use a native installation of OpenAL, delete dsoal-aldrv.dll and alsoft.ini (it may prevent some games from loading, then only delete alsoft.ini). To disable HRTF, change HRTF=true to HRTF=false in alsoft.ini.

Asus[edit]

Enable Game eXtensions
  1. Open the Asus control panel
  2. Tick "GX" mode

Notes

Your Xonar must be the default playback device
Turning off GX mode after playing games is advised to avoid glitches in other applications

Creative[edit]

Use Creative ALchemy[14]
  1. Download latest ALchemy version
  2. Open the Creative control panel and switch on Game mode (X-fi model only)
  3. Start the ALchemy installer and enable it for the interested games

Notes

Restores EAX completely (all version) and surround sound.
Could be made into a universal solution, just like IndirectSound or DSOAL, by using Creative ALchemy Universal (obsolete) or ALchemy Restriction Remover.
Setting Game mode in creative control panel is mandatory for some games, and in order to decrease performance overlay (if exists) and revive EAX 3 and higher.[11][citation needed]
For Creative card which are based on Host OpenAL (HOAL) drivers (all post X-Fi card), renaming the sens_oal.dll to ct_oal.dll in c:\windows\syswow64 (windows 64 bits) or c:\windows\system32 (on windows 32 bits) will force alchemy to use the Host OpenAl drivers instead of his internal library, this could give you better quality in games. When using this method, to switch back to the internal library, just have DisableNativeAL=true in the dsound.ini of your game folder. Although HOAL can be used with Alchemy only on post X-Fi card, it can be used on these cards in OpenAL games.[12] If sound is broken, get the SB X-Fi Series Support Pack 4.0, just don't install included drivers. Install XFTI_PCDRV_LB_2_17_0009.exe. The problem may exist on any driver past v2.17.[13]
Games with EAX.dll, beginning with 2.0 version, can be replaced by EAX.dll version 4, enhancing sound quality. Seldom audio artifacts can occur in some games (e.g. in music only - like in Far Cry 2).

Realtek[edit]

Use 3D SoundBack
  1. Download 3D SoundBack
  2. Open the program and add/enable the fix for selected games.

Notes

Your Realtek chip must be the default playback device.
Both the installer and the 3DSoundBack.exe configurator require Windows Vista compatibility mode to start
The end-quality of this method is very buggy with many errors in sound processing

A3D[edit]

Lists of Aureal 3-Dimensional enabled games can be found here and here.
A3D 1.0 is supported out of the box by C-Media based boards (via Xear3D[15]), X-Fi and older[16] Creative based devices and older VIA drivers.
Use DirectSound3D wrapper[18][19][20][21]
  1. Download latest A2D driver and install it
  2. Download a3dx5.dll (Creative's official wrapper) or QSound A3D in %WINDIR%\system\, or use A3D-Live
  3. if need Run the application with "Windows 98 / Windows Me" compatibility

Notes

Delete/move/rename any a3d related file shipped with the game
From Windows Vista onward DirectSound restoration is required (such as Alchemy and others).
This fix is unnecessary for Asus sound card users, as they have A3D 1.0 support through Asus' Game eXtensions.[17].


References