PC Gaming Surround Sound Round-up (Last updated 12 May 2016)

Introduction

Below is a list containing PC games, the API or middleware used for their audio processing, the final result of the audio output, and comments. The information here is primarily in regards to the maximum number of speakers a game will output to (up to 7.1) and discovering trends as a side effect, trends like OpenAL games not having LFE output and current Ubisoft games being limited to 5.1 output (as of Watch Dogs).

Terms

  • LFE (low-frequency effect) - The LFE channel is designated as a channel that carries lower-frequency audio. While this channel isn't strictly for subwoofers, the LFE channel in a PC audio context is typically directed to the subwoofer output. Sending lower frequencies to the LFE channel is sometimes overlooked in development which results in games not delivering bass to the subwoofer. Since I'm discussing game audio here, the LFE channel will be represented by the ".1" when discussing "5.1" or "7.1". If I've listed a game as "5.0", that means that no LFE channel is present. In terms of home theater setups, the .1 or .2 often denotes the number of subwoofers that can be connected to an AV receiver.
  • NT6 denotes the versions of Windows that came after Windows XP. Windows XP was NT5. This is relevant because the way Windows handles audio was changed after NT5, requiring the use of software like ALchemy to restore proper audio functionality in games played on NT6.x operating systems.
  • ALchemy - ALchemy is an application that works with Creative sound cards to restore DirectSound 3D functionality in games designed to work with Windows XP's audio functionality but that no longer properly function in NT6 operating systems as a result of changes made to how Windows handles audio. Modern games typically don't require ALchemy with the exception being Valve's Source engine games requiring ALchemy to properly support 7-channel audio, likely due to changes made to the engine over the course of its life. For Realtek devices, you'll use "3D SoundBack" (run it in Vista compatibility mode!) and for ASUS cards you'll use DS3D GX.
    • How do I know when a DirectSound game needs ALchemy? I go through a process of checking three things: 1) Are there options for EAX or DirectSound3D hardware acceleration that are disabled? 2) Is surround sound working? 3) Given surround sound functions without ALchemy and there are no visible EAX or hardware options, if I add the game to ALchemy, is there a noticeable change in the audio?
    • Not ALL DirectSound games need ALchemy? In the list below I will note in the comments if a DirectSound game needs ALchemy to restore audio functionality. You'll notice that some DirectSound games function normally without ALchemy because they simply don't utilize any hardware-accelerated features. On the other hand, some games may have very subtle audio improvement when using ALchemy that you may not immediately notice. It may be best to add all DirectSound games to ALchemy; if you notice no benefit or experience negative side effects from using ALchemy then consider removing the game from ALchemy.

Testing Method

I'm using a Creative Labs X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty PCI-E card connected to an Onkyo TX-SR605 receiver via analog connection; 8-channel direct input into the receiver. I began compiling this list while on Windows 7 and am now on Windows 8.1.

To ensure no interference with the results, these steps were taken:

  • The audio receiver is using no surround matrixing or virtual surround. This feature is actually not available on the TX-SR605 while using the analog inputs and no bass redirection occurs via the receiver. Audio is output exactly as it is received from the sound card.
  • Sound card enhancements are disabled: CMSS-3D, Crystalizer - anything that changes the audio outside of the game's control.
  • Bass redirection is disabled via the Creative Console Launcher.
  • Speakers are set to 7.1 via the Creative Console Launcher.
  • Creative Console Launcher is set to Game Mode.
  • Speakers are set to 7.1 via Windows Sound setting (Control Panel).
  • Front and surround speakers are set to full-range via Windows Sound setting. (This disables any bass re-direction that could be done by Windows.)

*NOTE* I can only test UP TO 8 channels because that is currently all that can be discretely output from a common PC sound device. I see that some games may now support Dolby Atmos, but I don't currently have a receiver that supports Atmos and will likely not have one unless I can find one that has 8-channel analog inputs. I prefer to avoid running my monitor through HDMI because I prefer to be able to use the 144Hz feature that is only supported through DisplayPort.

Gameplay Audio versus Audio in Pre-recorded Videos

In the comments I may mention a game's pre-rendered videos (FMVs / full motion video) using different output. I mention this for the sake of information; I'm mostly concerned about what the actual output is during gameplay.

Most FMVs are going to be limited to 5.1 output. I've not yet experienced any FMVs with 7.1 audio. I think Bink supports it but it's likely not worth the effort.

The Games Tested

The games tested are games that I've had access to. Surround sound wasn't extremely common in games of the 1990s so I'll likely not test many games from that time period but don't be surprised if some make it to the list; I am interested in finding more early surround sound games so let me know of any I may not already have listed (check the Contact link).

Testing done in Windows NT 6.x operating systems (Vista/7/8) is marked "NT6". Testing in other operating systems will be marked accordingly.

Game Title API OS Out Comments Updated
Alan WakeFMOD
NT6
7.1
LFE mixing is done very well
0000-00-00
Alan Wake's American NightmareFMOD
NT6
7.1
LFE mixing is done very well
0000-00-00
Alien SwarmMiles
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output
0000-00-00
Alien VS Predator (2010)XAudio2
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Alien VS Predator Classic 2000DirectSound
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround
0000-00-00
Alien: IsolationWwise
NT6
7.1
2015-03-26
Amnesia: A Machine for PigsOpenAL
NT6
7.0
2.0 by default - Fix for surround sound
0000-00-00
Amnesia: The Dark DescentOpenAL
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Among the SleepFMOD
NT6
5.1
5.1 added in later update. Must select 5.1 from audio options.
0000-00-00
ARMA: Cold War AssaultDirectSound
NT6
7.0
Hardware and EAX restored by ALchemy
0000-00-00
Assassin's Creed SyndicateWwise
NT10
7.0
2015-12-01
Ball, TheOpenAL
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
BastionXACT
NT6
7.0
Not sure about the API
0000-00-00
Batman: Arkham AsylumFMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
Batman: Arkham CityWwise
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
Batman: Arkham OriginsWwise
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
BattlebornWwise
NT10
7.1
0000-00-00
Battlefield 3RwAudioCore
NT6
5.1
Audio environment sounds nice; too bad no 7.1
0000-00-00
Battlefield 4EAAudioCore
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
Battlestations: MidwayFMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
Beyond Good & EvilDirectSound
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround
0000-00-00
BioShockFMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
BioShock 2FMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
BioShock InfiniteWwise
NT6
5.0
Center channel is missing most audio
0000-00-00
BorderlandsFMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
Borderlands 2Wwise
NT6
5.0
Center channel is missing most audio
0000-00-00
Borderlands The Pre-SequelWwise
NT6
5.0
0000-00-00
Brothers - A Tale of Two SonsXAudio2
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Brutal LegendFMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
BulletstormXAudio2
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Castlevania: Lords of ShadowFMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2FMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
Castlevania: Mirror of Fate HDFMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
Chivalry: Medieval WarfareXAudio2
NT6
7.0
2014-11-29
Condemned: Criminal OriginsDirectSound
NT10
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore surround and EAX. Default 4/25 settings in ALchemy.
2016-01-18
Counter Strike 1.6Miles
NT10
2.0
2016-01-06
Counter Strike: SourceMiles
NT10
7.0
Will do 5.0 but requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 surround.
2016-01-06
Crazy TaxiDirectSound
NT10
3.0
Well, it is an older game.
2015-10-20
CryostasisFMOD
NT6
7.1
OpenAL in audio options but is using FMOD
0000-00-00
CrysisFMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
Crysis 2FMOD
NT6
7.1
Audio in this game was done very well
0000-00-00
Crysis 3FMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
Dark SoulsFMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First SinFMOD
NT10
7.1
2015-12-10
Dark VoidFMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
Darkness II, TheXAudio2
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
Dead IslandXAudio2
NT6
5.1
7.1 support is very flaky but might work for you
0000-00-00
Dead IslandOpenAL
LNX
2.0
Music stereo, SFX mono. Assuming OpenAL.
0000-00-00
Dead Island EpidemicFMOD
NT6
2.0
0000-00-00
Dead Island RiptideXAudio2
NT6
7.1
7.1 fixed in April 27 2013 patch
0000-00-00
Dead Rising 2 & Off The RecordXAudio2
NT6
5.1
Audio >48kHz crash fixed in 20 May 2015 patch.
2015-07-19
Dead Rising 3XAudio2
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
Dead SpaceRwAudioCore
NT6
5.0
RwAudioCore is a proprietary EA audio engine
0000-00-00
Dead Space 2RwAudioCore
NT6
5.0
EA intro video is 5.1 but game is 5.0
0000-00-00
Dead Space 3RwAudioCore
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
DeadlightXAudio2
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Dear EstherMiles
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output
0000-00-00
Defense GridXAudio2
NT6
7.0
Noticeable in larger maps
0000-00-00
Defense Grid 2Miles
NT6
5.1
Requires ALchemy to restore proper surround sound
2014-12-01
Deus ExDirectSound
NT6
7.0
Use ALchemy to restore surround sound
0000-00-00
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (and DC)FMOD
NT6
7.1
LFE channel is very quiet
2015-01-03
Deus Ex: Invisible WarOpenAL
NT6
7.0
Seems to also use DSound. Try with ALchemy
0000-00-00
Deus Ex: The FallWwise
NT6
2.0
1.0.1 patch corrected 5.1/7.1 bug. Still stereo
0000-00-00
Devil May Cry 4DirectSound
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
Devil May Cry 4 Special EditionXAudio2
NT6
7.1
2015-06-23
Diablo IIIFMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
DishonoredWwise
NT6
5.1
Center channel works but only plays light audio
0000-00-00
DmC Devil May CryWwise
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
DOOM (2016)Wwise
NT10
7.1
2016-04-01
DOOM 3OpenAL
NT6
7.0
DirectSound 5.1 if you remove OpenAL and use ALchemy
0000-00-00
DOOM 3 BFG EditionXAudio2
NT6
7.1
Notice the update to XAudio2
0000-00-00
Dota 2 (Source 2)Miles
NT10
7.1
Looks like a Miles upgrade happened. No DSound crutches necessary for 7.1 output.
2015-09-11
Dragon Age OriginFMOD
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
DreadOutFMOD
NT6
2.0
0000-00-00
Duke Nukem ForeverMiles
NT6
5.1
Requires ALchemy to restore surround
0000-00-00
Dungeon DefendersXAudio2
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
Dying LightFMOD
NT6
7.1
2015-01-28
EnclaveDirectSound
NT6
7.0
Not mention of EAX but has 3D sound option
0000-00-00
Enter The MatrixMiles
NT6
7.0
Use ALchemy to restore EAX
0000-00-00
Evil Within, TheXAudio2
NT6
7.1
LFE not very loud
0000-00-00
F.E.A.R.DirectSound
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround functionality
0000-00-00
F.E.A.R. 2XAudio2
NT6
5.1
So far I like the audio in this game
0000-00-00
F.E.A.R. 3FMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
F.E.A.R. OnlineXAudio2
NT6
5.0
0000-00-00
Fallout 3DirectSound
NT6
7.1
Use ALchemy to restore DirectSound3D
0000-00-00
Fallout 4XAudio2
NT10
7.0
Tested through intro area and out of the vault.
2015-11-10
Fallout: New VegasDirectSound
NT6
7.1
Use ALchemy to restore DirectSound3D
0000-00-00
Far Cry PrimalXAudio2
NT10
5.1
2016-03-10
FarCryDirectSound
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround
0000-00-00
FarCry 2DirectSound
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround
0000-00-00
FarCry 3 (and Blood Dragon)XAudio2
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
FarCry 4XAudio2
NT6
5.1
Not sure on API but likely same as FC3
2014-12-26
FINAL FANTASY X/X-2 HD RemasterFMOD
NT10
2.0
2016-05-12
FirewatchWwise
NT10
7.0
2016-02-09
Forest, TheFMOD
NT6
2.0
0000-00-00
Gears of WarDirectSound
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
Grand Theft AutoMiles
NT6
2.0
0000-00-00
Grand Theft Auto 2Miles
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround sound
0000-00-00
Grand Theft Auto IIIMiles
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround sound
0000-00-00
Grand Theft Auto IVDirectSound
NT6
5.0
0000-00-00
Grand Theft Auto San AndreasDirectSound
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore EAX
0000-00-00
Grand Theft Auto VXAudio2
NT6
5.0
2015-04-17
Grand Theft Auto Vice CityMiles
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround sound
0000-00-00
Half-LifeMiles
NT6
2.0
Audio features broken with Linux update
0000-00-00
Half-Life 2 SeriesMiles
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output
0000-00-00
Halo 2DirectSound
NT6
5.1
Requires ALchemy to restore surround sound
0000-00-00
Halo Combat EvolvedDirectSound
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround sound
0000-00-00
Hard ResetFMOD
NT6
7.1
LFE channel is very quiet
2015-01-03
HawkenXAudio2
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Hitman 2: Silent AssassinDirectSound
NT6
7.0
Use ALchemy to restore EAX
0000-00-00
Hitman AbsolutionFMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
Hitman: Blood MoneyN/A
NT6
7.1
Unable to determine API/engine
0000-00-00
Hitman: Codename 47DirectSound
NT6
7.0
Use ALchemy to restore EAX
0000-00-00
Hitman: ContractsDirectSound
NT6
7.0
Use ALchemy to restore EAX
0000-00-00
Hotline MiamiOpenAL
NT6
7.0
Sound placement is odd in this game. Similar results in Linux
0000-00-00
I Am AliveWwise
NT6
5.0
0000-00-00
Just CauseGameCODA
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
Just Cause 2FMOD
NT6
7.0
2015-10-24
Killer InstinctWWise
NT10
7.1
2016-03-31
Killer Is DeadXAudio2
NT6
7.0
2015-01-14
Killing FloorOpenAL
NT6
7.0
Very good EAX effects
0000-00-00
Killing Floor 2Wwise
NT6
7.0
Wwise/XAudio2?
2015-06-28
King Kong (Peter Jackson's)DirectSound
WXP
7.0
Would require ALchemy in NT6
0000-00-00
L.A. NoireFMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
Last Remnant, TheMiles
NT6
7.1
Use ALchemy to fix surround sound problem
0000-00-00
Left 4 DeadMiles
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output
0000-00-00
Left 4 Dead 2Miles
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output
0000-00-00
Lost Planet 2XAudio2
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
Lost Planet 3XAudio2
NT10
7.0
Comination of XAudio2 and Wwise
2015-10-25
Lost Planet Extreme ConditionDirectSound
NT10
5.1
2015-11-01
Mafia IIFMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
Magrunner: Dark PulseXAudio2
NT6
7.0
2015-07-25
Mass EffectOpenAL
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Mass Effect 3Wwise
NT6
5.0
0000-00-00
Matrix: Path of Neo, TheDirectSound
NT6
7.0
EAX option in INI. Use ALchemy
0000-00-00
Max Payne 3DirectSound
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
Metal Gear Rising: RevengeanceWwise
NT6
5.0
FMVs 5.1; gameplay 5.0
0000-00-00
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground ZeroesWwise
NT6
7.1
2014-12-19
Metro 2033XAudio2
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
Middle-earth: Shadow of MordorWwise
NT6
7.1
7.1 in-game, 5.1 FMVs. Seems to be Wwise+Xaudio2.
2014-11-13
MinecraftOpenAL
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Mini NinjasOpenAL
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Mirror's EdgeOpenAL
NT6
7.0
Buggy. Edit TdEngine.ini; Make DeviceName=<blank>
0000-00-00
Mortal Kombat Komplete EditionFMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
Mortal Kombat XFMOD
NT10
7.1
2015-12-23
Mount & Blade WarbandFMOD
NT10
7.1
2015-10-24
Murdered: Soul SuspectWwise
NT6
7.0
Videos in 5.1
0000-00-00
Need for Speed CarbonDirectSound
NT6
5.1
Possibly RWAudioCore
0000-00-00
Need for Speed Most Wanted (2005)DirectSound
NT6
2.0
0000-00-00
Need for Speed: Hot PursuitRwAudioCore
NT6
7.1
2014-12-25
Ori and the Blind ForestFMOD
NT6
5.0
Unity/FMOD
2015-06-18
OutlastWwise
NT6
7.0
30 April 2014 update; the game was updated to 7.0
0000-00-00
OutRun 2006 Coast 2 CoastDirectSound
NT6
2.0
0000-00-00
OverwatchWwise
NT10
7.0
2016-05-04
Painkiller Hell & DamnationXAudio2
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Payday 2Wwise
NT6
2.0
I'm no longer testing this game.
2015-02-14
Penumbra: Black PlagueOpenAL
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Penumbra: OvertureOpenAL
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
PortalMiles
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output
0000-00-00
Portal 2Miles
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output
0000-00-00
Postal 2OpenAL
NT6
7.0
Oddly requires ALchemy to restore surround sound
0000-00-00
PreyOpenAL
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Prince of Persia (2008)DirectSound
NT6
7.0
Use ALchemy to restore EAX
0000-00-00
Prince of Persia: Two ThronesDirectSound
NT6
7.0
Use ALchemy to restore EAX and surround
0000-00-00
Prince of Persia: Warrior WithinDirectSound
NT6
7.0
Use ALchemy to restore EAX and surround
0000-00-00
Project CARSFMOD
NT10
7.1
2015-11-29
PsychonautsOpenAL
NT6
7.0
Remove OPENAL32.DLL in game folder otherwise it's 2.0
0000-00-00
Quake 4OpenAL
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Quantum BreakWwise
NT10
7.1
2016-04-06
RAGEXAudio2
NT6
7.1
LFE mixing is done very well
0000-00-00
Remember MeWwise
NT6
5.1
LFE rarely used. Center channel limited to some voice
0000-00-00
Resident Evil 0 HD RemasterXAudio2
NT10
7.1
Subwoofer on/off and dynamic range options (TV, home theater, etc.)
2016-01-19
Resident Evil 4 (2014)XAudio2
NT6
7.0
Very poorly implemented sound panning
0000-00-00
Resident Evil 5DirectSound
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
Resident Evil 6XAudio2
NT6
5.1
Unsure about API but probably XAudio2
0000-00-00
Resident Evil HD REMASTERXAudio2
NT6
7.0
2015-01-20
Resident Evil RevelationsXAudio2
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
Resident Evil Revelations 2XAudio2
NT6
7.1
Variety of listening modes and option to toggle subwoofer.
2015-02-25
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon CityWwise
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
Return to Castle WolfensteinDirectSound
NT6
2.0
0000-00-00
Ridge Racer DriftopiaWwise
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
Rise of the Triad (2013)XAudio2
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Rocket LeagueWwise
NT10
7.1
2015-10-05
RYSE: Son of RomeFMOD
NT10
7.1
2015-12-23
Saints Row 2DirectSound
NT6
5.1
Mixes stereo across 5.1 speakers. Not discrete surround
0000-00-00
Saints Row IVWwise
NT6
5.1
Missing audio from center channel
0000-00-00
Saints Row: The ThirdWwise
NT6
5.1
Missing audio from center channel
0000-00-00
Scourge: OutbreakXAudio2
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Serious Sam 3XAudio2
NT6
7.1
XAudio2 is the default API. LFE is very loud
0000-00-00
Shadow Warrior (2013)FMOD
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Shoot Many RobotsFMOD
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Shovel KnightFMOD
NT20
2.0
Yap, sounds like an NES game. Gotta test! ;D
2015-11-29
Silent Hill 2DirectSound
NT6
7.0
Use ALchemy to restore hardware sound. Says 7.1 but no LFE
0000-00-00
SimCity 4 DeluxeDirectSound
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
SingularityXAudio2
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
Sleeping DogsWwise
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
Sleeping Dogs: Definitive EditionWwise
NT6
7.1
Notice this was upgraded from the earlier release.
2014-12-25
Soldier of FortuneDirectSound
NT6
7.0
ALchemy required to restore EAX and surround
0000-00-00
SOMAFMOD
NT10
7.1
2015-09-22
Sonic & All-Stars Racing TransformedXAudio2
NT6
5.0
0000-00-00
Sonic GenerationsDirectSound
NT6
5.0
0000-00-00
Sonic Lost WorldXAudio2
NT10
5.0
FMVs will do 5.1, but gameplay is in 5.0.
2016-01-21
South Park: The Stick of TruthWwise
NT6
5.0
0000-00-00
Spec Ops: The LineFMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
STALKER: Call of PripyatOpenAL
NT6
7.0
EAX works through OpenAL. Do not use ALchemy
0000-00-00
STALKER: Clear SkyOpenAL
NT6
7.0
EAX works through OpenAL. Do not use ALchemy
0000-00-00
STALKER: Shadow of ChernobylOpenAL
NT6
7.0
EAX works through OpenAL. Do not use ALchemy
0000-00-00
Stanley Parable, TheMiles
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy; console command snd_legacy_surround 1
0000-00-00
Star Wars BattlefrontEAAudioCore
NT10
7.1
Variety of options for audio output devices
2015-10-09
Street Fighter 4DirectSound
NT6
5.1
LFE rarely used
0000-00-00
Street Fighter VTBD
NT10
7.1
2016-02-16
Street Fighter X TekkenXAudio2
NT6
5.0
0000-00-00
StriderXAudio2
NT10
7.0
Uses Wwise as middleware, XAudio2 to output audio.
2015-11-29
SUPER Street Fighter 4 AEXAudio2
NT6
5.1
LFE rarely used
0000-00-00
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EPFMOD
NT6
7.1
Sound seemed important to developers
0000-00-00
Swapper, TheFMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
System Shock 2DirectSound
NT6
7.0
Use ALchemy to restore EAX and surround
0000-00-00
Team Fortress 2Miles
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output
0000-00-00
Team Fortress 2Miles
LNX
2.0
0000-00-00
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: OOTSXAudio2
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
TES4: OblivionDirectSound
NT6
7.1
Use ALchemy to restore DirectSound3D
0000-00-00
TES5: SkyrimXAudio2
NT6
5.1
LFE only used when a dragon lands
0000-00-00
The RoomFMOD
NT10
2.0
2016-02-06
The Talos PrincipleXAudio2
NT6
7.1
OpenAL is an option but only outputs stereo.
2015-03-07
Thief (2014)Wwise
NT6
7.1
Center channel missing audio
0000-00-00
Thief GoldDirectSound
NT6
7.0
Use ALchemy to restore EAX and surround
0000-00-00
TimeShiftFMOD
NT6
7.1
Options mention 5.1 but game outputs up to 7.1
0000-00-00
TitanfallWwise
NT6
7.1
FMVs 5.1; game 7.1; no center channel (Wwise!)
0000-00-00
Toki ToriXAudio2
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Toki Tori 2+XAudio2
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Tom Clancy's The DivisionTBD
NT10
7.1
Not yet sure on the API.
2016-01-29
Tomb Raider (2013)FMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
TRON 2.0DirectSound
NT10
7.0
Use ALchemy to restore surround/EAX. Buffers:4/Duration:15
2015-11-29
Turok: Dinosaur HunterOpenAL
NT10
7.0
Remove OpenAL32.dll from the game directory or replace with OpenAL32.dll from openal-soft.
2015-12-17
UnrealDirectSound
NT6
7.0
Requires ALchemy to restore audio features
0000-00-00
Unreal IIOpenAL
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Unreal Tournament (1999)DirectSound
NT6
7.0
Use ALchemy to restore EAX features
0000-00-00
Unreal Tournament (2014)XAudio2
NT6
7.0
Some sounds missing from side surround.
2015-07-25
Unreal Tournament 2003OpenAL
NT6
7.0
Possible to use DirectSound. See notes below
0000-00-00
Unreal Tournament 2004OpenAL
NT6
7.0
Possible to use DirectSound. See notes below
0000-00-00
Unreal Tournament 3OpenAL
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Vanishing of Ethan Carter, The (& Redux)XAudio2
NT6
7.0
2015-09-11
Virtua Tennis 3DirectSound
NT6
5.0
0000-00-00
Viscera Cleanup DetailXAudio2
NT6
7.0
0000-00-00
Watch DogsXAudio2
NT6
5.1
Wish Ubisoft would fix their stuff
0000-00-00
Witcher 2, TheFMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
Witcher 3, TheWwise
NT10
7.1
2015-12-04
Wolfenstein (2009)FMOD
NT6
5.1
Sound options has 7.1 but side surround doesn't work
0000-00-00
Wolfenstein: The New OrderXAudio2
NT6
7.0
Videos in 5.1/game up to 7.0 (no LFE output)
0000-00-00
Wolfenstein: The Old BloodXAudio2
NT6
7.0
2015-06-14
World of WarcraftFMOD
NT6
7.1
0000-00-00
XCOM DeclassifiedWwise
NT6
5.1
0000-00-00
YAIBA: NINJA GAIDEN ZXAudio2
NT6
7.0
2015-06-14

Miscellaneous Conclusions

  • OpenAL doesn't appear to support in-game LFE mixing. OpenAL can send audio to the LFE if it is being fed an audio file (WAV/OGG) with a discrete channel layout containing a design an LFE channel but I've never played an OpenAL game that output audio to the LFE. I've noticed that some APIs, such as Miles Sound System, appear to utilize OpenAL and have LFE output, but games that use a straight OpenAL implementation don't appear to use the LFE at all. I assume that Miles simply receives the audio from OpenAL and then uses their own resources to mix the audio to the appropriate channels.
  • Miles Sound System (often used in Valve's Source engine games) appears to sit on top of OpenAL or DirectSound. In Windows, or at least for Source games, it appears to be routing through DirectSound, so adding Source games to ALchemy gets your 7.0 functionality in Vista/7 where as you would only get 5.0 sound without ALchemy. In Linux, Miles appears to route through OpenAL. To get 7-channel surround in Windows Source engine games, first add the game to ALchemy, then run the game and open the console and type: "snd_legacy_surround 1" without the quotes and hit Enter to input the command. Restart the game and it should now be properly outputting to 7 speakers. For whatever reason, Source engine (Miles) 7.1 doesn't work properly without ALchemy.
  • Implementation of the LFE channel seems to be often overlooked which could be a result of how their test equipment is setup. While direct analog connections don't redirect bass unless the source says to do so (this varies by AV receiver), HDMI connections may redirect the bass at the destination/receiver. If a game is being tested through an HDMI-connected system, bass may be automatically directed to the subwoofer.
  • After discussing the issue with different people, I've found that lack of support for certain speaker configurations may be a result of programmers not thoroughly implementing the features and development studios only having 5.1 setups to test on.
  • Wwise initially only supported up to a 5.1 speaker configuration. As of 7 October 2013, Wwise supports 7.1 audio. Thief (2014) may have been the first Wwise game to support 7.1 output. Outlast was initially 5.0 and later updated to the newer version of Wwise and now supports 7.0 output.
  • After it having been brought to my attention that Dishonored seemed to be missing audio in the center channel, I've noticed a trend with Wwise-based games missing audio from the center channel. Most voices and sound effects will be absent from the center channel while something like the player's voice and sound effects may come through.
  • Games using Unreal Engine 3 and 4 combined with XAudio2 fail to output to the LFE channel when outputting to a 7.1 speaker configuration. I discovered this while testing the 2014/2015 Unreal Tournament pre-alpha and switching between speaker configurations to test a problem with the game's audio output. Curious, I switched to 5.1 output in Windows and tested a number of games that use UE3 and XAudio2 (Bulletstorm, Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Killer is Dead, Deadlight) and found that when Windows was set to 5.1, these games output to the subwoofer while they lack subwoofer output when speaker config is set to 7.1. I also tested other XAudio2 games that weren't using Unreal Engine and found that this didn't affect those games.

Extended Comments

  • "LFE mixing is done very well" If I made a positive comment about the LFE, it means I thought that it was well-balanced and used appropriately. I understand that volume adjustments on my end can make this judgement unreliable but I feel confident that my subwoofer volume is reasonably set. Some game just seem to have better mixing and it's recognizable; Alan Wake and Crysis 2 & 3 are good examples of games with kickin' audio.
  • ARMA: Cold War Assault has an OpenAL installer in its install directory but it appears to be a DirectSound game. It will do 7.0 surround without ALchemy but when you incorporate ALchemy you can then enable hardware and EAX features so it appears to still be fully DirectSound. If it were OpenAL, it wouldn't need ALchemy to enable hardware and EAX features. I should see if this game is a Miles game.
  • Crysis 2 and 3 have very impressive audio implementation. I'm not talking about the music composition or types of sound effects used, I'm talking about how well the sound effects and environmental effects were placed into the game world and how well the audio seems to have been mastered. Sound effects properly fade out when you move away from their origin (no sudden silence), the LFE channel is properly used and is just the right volume, and none of the audio is distorted or too loud (TOO COMPRESSED). You can crank the volume on this game and your speakers won't sound like they're in pain due to the audio being overly compressed, it'll be loud but smooth. Whoever was responsible for the audio in these games deserves a medal.
  • Dead Island has a bug that prevents the game from working properly with 7.1 configurations, the only solution is to change your speaker configuration to 5.1 or lower. You could also restart the game repeatedly until it works correctly. This issue was present in Riptide, but they corrected it.
  • *FIXED DURING GFWL->STEAMWORKS CONVERSION* Dead Rising 2 games have a bug that prevent them from starting if your audio device is set to operate at greater than 48kHz. Set your playback device to 48kHz or lower to get the game to run.
  • Dead Space games appear to use a proprietary audio engine developed by EA (or Phenomic?), RwAudioCore. This particular audio engine appears to have various features such as 7.1 (and LFE) but they weren't used. I'd say it's worth it to use bass re-direction for DS 1 and 2 because there are many sound effects that mix in good to the sub and add to the intensity of the audio. Looks like as of Battlefield 4 they're calling it "EAAudioCore".
  • Dishonored is technically 5.1, it outputs audio to all speakers in a 5.1 configuration, but it only outputs some low volume effects to the center channel. Character voices, gunfire, and footsteps that would be played in the center channel are played in the two front speakers, it's essentially a 4.1 game that plays auxiliary effects in the center speaker. This issue also appears present in the Xbox 360 version.
  • DOOM 3 was originally a DirectSound game but a later patch (version 1.3?) added OpenAL and EAX HD support. DOOM 3 defaults to OpenAL unless you don't have OpenAL installed on your system, then it falls back to using DirectSound.
  • Gears of War initially had some strange issues for me, such as the side surround speakers not working properly. WarEngine.ini seems to indicate that it's an OpenAL game, but if I use ALchemy, which puts its own DSOUND.DLL file in the game directory, the game won't load because it doesn't like the DSOUND.DLL file. While the game appears to be using OpenAL, I believe that in the end it's routing through DirectSound. I've removed any OpenAL-related files from the BINARIES directory and while the INI updates OpenAL parameters, it still wants to talk to DSOUND.DLL.
  • Hotline Miami was originally a DirectSound game with 2.0 output but was later migrated to OpenAL. The move to OpenAL was probably because they ported the game to other platforms (OSX, Linux, PS3, Vita) and OpenAL was the better choice for portability. While it does playback audio in 7-channel surround, there doesn't seem to be any particular method for sound placement. The music is in the front two speakers, certain sound effects play strictly in the side speakers and others play strictly in the rear speakers.
  • Mirror's Edge seems to be slightly buggy as far as hardware detection goes. In the game's audio options, select Hardware for the audio device. Exit the game and then navigate to the TdEngine.ini file located in Documents\EA Games\Mirror's Edge\TdGame\Config. You'll find "DeviceName=" under the ALAudio.ALAudioDevice section. Delete any text after "DeviceName=" and it should then properly output in 7-channel surround. This actually seems to be common with some Unreal Engine games that use OpenAL.
  • Outlast seems to have been updated to the latest Wwise release, likely with the 30 April 2014 update. I'm certain that it initially only output 5.0 but as of 5 May 2014 (when I last played with it) it outputs at least 7.0.
  • Resident Evil 4, the 2014 PC re-release, has very poorly-implemented surround sound. The 2014 PC release was based on the Xbox 360 HD release; the audio on the 360 and PS3 versions was broken, as in, all sound effects were mono. This carried over to the PC version, the community complained and Capcom(QLOC) attempted to fix it but they only did so much. Some sound effects will pan around but most are still mono.
  • Serious Sam 3 can be configured to use several different audio APIs in its configuration file; I'd recommend sticking with XAudio2. Also, the LFE volume in this game is disgustingly loud compared to anything else I've played.
  • Unreal Engine 2.5 games (Example: UT2004, Killing Floor) typically have an audio option to use the 'system driver'. If you uncheck this box, the game is supposed to use its own OpenAL driver which should be the most compatible solution; theoretically, it should be able to provide environmental effects and surround sound through OpenAL. I've found that if I check the 'system driver' box (and restart the game) that I lose surround sound and EAX effects, but if I then use ALchemy, surround sound and EAX are restored (with "H/W 3D + EAX" selected); this basically means that the game is then using DirectSound instead of OpenAL. As for UT2004, when using the game's OpenAL driver, there were some issues with sound effects not playing and the EAX effects were either very dull or weren't functioning. I felt like the audio experience was much better using 'system driver' and ALchemy together. Results may vary so test on your own system and find what works best for you. Also, if you have an X-Fi card that likes to BSOD with OpenAL games, using 'system driver' with ALchemy can resolve that problem; that's how I have to play Killing Floor.
  • Unreal Tournament '99 has community-created sound drivers that use OpenAL and FMOD. The OpenAL driver brings some modernization to UT99 in the form of HRTF for headphone users and can also emulate environmental reverb effects. Follow this link to find the latest version of the OpenAL driver. If you're content using the original Galaxy 3D Audio driver and have an EAX-compatible sound device (which will require ALchemy or the like on new OSes), I'd recommend installing the Creative EAX patches as they balance out some of the reverb used and add new effects.

Using Bass Re-direction

I disable bass re-direction solely for the purpose of properly detecting if a game discretely uses the LFE channel. If you have an all-in-on computer speaker setup then its control module likely already enforces bass management, but if you've built your speaker system from various components then you likely have more control over at least one crossover. For a consistent audio experience, I recommend enabling bass re-direction and then properly adjusting any crossovers and the subwoofer volume level so that your speakers and subwoofer blend with one another. I'll cover this briefly on my Audio Setup page.

Determing Audio API or Middleware

My process for finding which API is used typically begins with me looking in the game's directory for specific DLL files, looking for specific logos during the game's splash screens, opening the executable file in a text editor and searching specific terms, or browsing configuration files.

  • DirectSound games often have a reference to DSOUND.DLL in the game's executable. If the game supports something like EAX, there may also be EAX.DLL in the game's directory.
  • XAudio2 games often have references to various 'xaudio2' functions in the game's executable. In Unreal Engine games, you may find references to XAudio2 in the game's *engine.ini file.
  • FMOD games typically have fmod_event.dll or fmodex.dll files in the game directory. If those aren't present, I check configuration and log files and then go to the executable and search for 'fmod'. The FMOD logo may also be in splash screens.
  • Wwise games often have the Wwise logo in the splash screen. Wwise doesn't typically leave much evidence in the game's executable or in configuration files but may be found in logs and also check the file extensions on the sound and music banks to see if they're related to Wwise.
  • OpenAL games always seem to have OpenAL32.DLL in the game directory. Unreal Engine games may also reference OpenAL in the *engine.ini file.
  • Miles Sound System games sometimes have mss32.dll in the game directory. Sometimes they have no DLLs or indication in the game executable but may find "Miles Sound System" or RAD Game Tools references in splash screens or documentation.
  • I found the information for Electronic Arts' 'audio core' API by digging through EA game executables. If it's not obvious which API an EA game uses, I typically first search the executable for 'audiocore'.