PC Gaming Surround Sound Round-up (Last updated 13 October 2016)
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).
- 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.
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.
|A Story About My Uncle||XAudio2|
|Alan Wake||FMOD||LFE mixing is done very well|
|Alan Wake's American Nightmare||FMOD||LFE mixing is done very well|
|Alien Swarm||Miles||Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output|
|Alien VS Predator (2010)||XAudio2|
|Alien VS Predator Classic 2000||DirectSound||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround|
|Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs||OpenAL||2.0 by default - Fix for surround sound|
|Amnesia: The Dark Descent||OpenAL|
|Among the Sleep||FMOD||Surround added v1.3.2, surround broken in 2.0.0.|
|ARMA: Cold War Assault||DirectSound||Hardware and EAX restored by ALchemy. Can use -openal command line to use OpenAL.|
|Assassin's Creed Syndicate||Wwise|
|Bastion||XACT||Not sure about the API|
|Batman: Arkham Asylum||FMOD|
|Batman: Arkham City||Wwise|
|Batman: Arkham Origins||Wwise|
|Battlefield 3||RwAudioCore||Audio environment sounds nice; too bad no 7.1|
|Beyond Good & Evil||DirectSound||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround|
|BioShock 2 Remastered||FMOD|
|BioShock Infinite||Wwise||Center channel is missing most audio|
|BioShock Remastered||FMOD||Speaker selector fixed in 6-Oct-2016 update|
|Borderlands 2||Wwise||Center channel is missing most audio|
|Borderlands The Pre-Sequel||Wwise|
|Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons||XAudio2|
|Bully: Scholarship Edition||XACT||If speaker config is set to 7.1, surround won't work and all SFX are very loud. Set device to 5.1 for proper function.|
|Castle of Illusion||FMOD|
|Castlevania: Lords of Shadow||FMOD|
|Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2||FMOD|
|Castlevania: Mirror of Fate HD||FMOD|
|Chivalry: Medieval Warfare||XAudio2|
|Condemned: Criminal Origins||DirectSound||Requires ALchemy to restore surround and EAX. Default 4/25 settings in ALchemy.|
|Counter Strike 1.6||Miles|
|Counter Strike: Source||Miles||Will do 5.0 but requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 surround.|
|Crazy Taxi||DirectSound||Well, it is an older game.|
|Cryostasis||FMOD||OpenAL in audio options but is using FMOD|
|Crysis 2||FMOD||Audio in this game was done very well|
|Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin||FMOD|
|Darkness II, The||XAudio2|
|Dead Island||XAudio2||7.1 support is very flaky but might work for you|
|Dead Island||OpenAL||Music stereo, SFX mono. Assuming OpenAL.|
|Dead Island Definitive Edition||FMOD||The 7.1 bug from the original version is fixed. Appears to use FMOD now.|
|Dead Island Epidemic||FMOD|
|Dead Island Riptide||XAudio2||7.1 fixed in April 27 2013 patch|
|Dead Rising 2 & Off The Record||XAudio2||Audio >48kHz crash fixed in 20 May 2015 patch.|
|Dead Rising 3||XAudio2|
|Dead Space||RwAudioCore||RwAudioCore is a proprietary EA audio engine|
|Dead Space 2||RwAudioCore||EA intro video is 5.1 but game is 5.0|
|Dead Space 3||RwAudioCore|
|Dear Esther||Miles||Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output|
|Defense Grid||XAudio2||Noticeable in larger maps|
|Defense Grid 2||Miles||Requires ALchemy to restore proper surround sound|
|Descent 3||DirectSound||Will require ALchemy or DS3D software to restore surround sound. Also supports Aureal.|
|Deus Ex||DirectSound||Use ALchemy to restore surround sound|
|Deus Ex: Human Revolution (and DC)||FMOD||LFE channel is very quiet|
|Deus Ex: Invisible War||OpenAL||Seems to also use DSound. Try with ALchemy|
|Deus Ex: Mankind Divided||FMOD|
|Deus Ex: The Fall||Wwise||1.0.1 patch corrected 5.1/7.1 bug. Still stereo|
|Devil May Cry 4||DirectSound|
|Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition||XAudio2|
|Dishonored||Wwise||Center channel works but only plays light audio|
|DmC Devil May Cry||Wwise|
|DOOM 3||OpenAL||DirectSound 5.1 if you remove OpenAL and use ALchemy|
|DOOM 3 BFG Edition||XAudio2||Notice the update to XAudio2|
|Dota 2 (Source 2)||Miles||Looks like a Miles upgrade happened. No DSound crutches necessary for 7.1 output.|
|Dragon Age Origin||FMOD|
|Duke Nukem Forever||Miles||Requires ALchemy to restore surround|
|Enclave||DirectSound||Not mention of EAX but has 3D sound option|
|Enter The Matrix||Miles||Use ALchemy to restore EAX|
|Evil Within, The||XAudio2||LFE not very loud|
|F.E.A.R.||DirectSound||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround functionality|
|F.E.A.R. 2||XAudio2||So far I like the audio in this game|
|Fallout 3||DirectSound||Use ALchemy to restore DirectSound3D|
|Fallout 4||XAudio2||Tested through intro area and out of the vault.|
|Fallout: New Vegas||DirectSound||Use ALchemy to restore DirectSound3D|
|Far Cry Primal||XAudio2|
|FarCry||DirectSound||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround|
|FarCry 2||DirectSound||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround|
|FarCry 3 (and Blood Dragon)||XAudio2|
|FarCry 4||XAudio2||Not sure on API but likely same as FC3|
|FINAL FANTASY X/X-2 HD Remaster||FMOD|
|Gears of War||DirectSound|
|Grand Theft Auto||Miles|
|Grand Theft Auto 2||Miles||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround sound|
|Grand Theft Auto III||Miles||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround sound|
|Grand Theft Auto IV||DirectSound|
|Grand Theft Auto San Andreas||DirectSound||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX|
|Grand Theft Auto V||XAudio2|
|Grand Theft Auto Vice City||Miles||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround sound|
|Half-Life||Miles||Audio features broken with Linux update|
|Half-Life 2 Series||Miles||Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output|
|Halo 2||DirectSound||Requires ALchemy to restore surround sound|
|Halo Combat Evolved||DirectSound||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround sound|
|Hard Reset||FMOD||LFE channel is very quiet|
|Hitman 2: Silent Assassin||DirectSound||Use ALchemy to restore EAX|
|Hitman: Blood Money||N/A||Unable to determine API/engine|
|Hitman: Codename 47||DirectSound||Use ALchemy to restore EAX|
|Hitman: Contracts||DirectSound||Use ALchemy to restore EAX|
|Hotline Miami||OpenAL||Sound placement is odd in this game. Similar results in Linux|
|I Am Alive||Wwise|
|Just Cause 2||FMOD|
|Killer Is Dead||XAudio2|
|Killing Floor||OpenAL||Very good EAX effects|
|Killing Floor 2||Wwise||Wwise/XAudio2?|
|King Kong (Peter Jackson's)||DirectSound||Would require ALchemy in NT6|
|Last Remnant, The||Miles||Use ALchemy to fix surround sound problem|
|Left 4 Dead||Miles||Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output|
|Left 4 Dead 2||Miles||Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output|
|Life is Strange||Wwise|
|Lost Planet 2||XAudio2|
|Lost Planet 3||XAudio2||Comination of XAudio2 and Wwise|
|Lost Planet Extreme Condition||DirectSound|
|Magrunner: Dark Pulse||XAudio2|
|Mass Effect 3||Wwise|
|Matrix: Path of Neo, The||DirectSound||EAX option in INI. Use ALchemy|
|Max Payne 3||DirectSound|
|Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance||Wwise||FMVs 5.1; gameplay 5.0|
|Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes||Wwise|
|Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor||Wwise||7.1 in-game, 5.1 FMVs. Seems to be Wwise+Xaudio2.|
|Mirror's Edge||OpenAL||Buggy. Edit TdEngine.ini; Make DeviceName=<blank>|
|Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition||FMOD|
|Mortal Kombat X||FMOD|
|Mount & Blade Warband||FMOD|
|Murdered: Soul Suspect||Wwise||Videos in 5.1|
|Need for Speed Carbon||DirectSound||Possibly RWAudioCore|
|Need for Speed Most Wanted (2005)||DirectSound|
|Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit||RwAudioCore|
|Ori and the Blind Forest||FMOD||Unity/FMOD|
|Outlast||Wwise||30 April 2014 update; the game was updated to 7.0|
|Outlast 2 (demo)||Wwise|
|OutRun 2006 Coast 2 Coast||DirectSound|
|Painkiller Hell & Damnation||XAudio2|
|Payday 2||Wwise||I'm no longer testing this game.|
|Penumbra: Black Plague||OpenAL|
|Portal||Miles||Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output|
|Portal 2||Miles||Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output|
|Postal 2||OpenAL||Oddly requires ALchemy to restore surround sound|
|Prince of Persia (2008)||DirectSound||Use ALchemy to restore EAX|
|Prince of Persia: Two Thrones||DirectSound||Use ALchemy to restore EAX and surround|
|Prince of Persia: Warrior Within||DirectSound||Use ALchemy to restore EAX and surround|
|Psychonauts||OpenAL||Remove OPENAL32.DLL in game folder otherwise it's 2.0|
|RAGE||XAudio2||LFE mixing is done very well|
|Remember Me||Wwise||LFE rarely used. Center channel limited to some voice|
|Resident Evil 0 HD Remaster||XAudio2||Subwoofer on/off and dynamic range options (TV, home theater, etc.)|
|Resident Evil 4 (2014)||XAudio2||Very poorly implemented sound panning|
|Resident Evil 5||DirectSound|
|Resident Evil 6||XAudio2||Unsure about API but probably XAudio2|
|Resident Evil HD REMASTER||XAudio2|
|Resident Evil Revelations||XAudio2|
|Resident Evil Revelations 2||XAudio2||Variety of listening modes and option to toggle subwoofer.|
|Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City||Wwise|
|Return to Castle Wolfenstein||DirectSound|
|Ridge Racer Driftopia||Wwise|
|Rise of the Triad (2013)||XAudio2|
|RYSE: Son of Rome||FMOD|
|Saints Row 2||DirectSound||Mixes stereo across 5.1 speakers. Not discrete surround|
|Saints Row IV||Wwise||Missing audio from center channel|
|Saints Row: The Third||Wwise||Missing audio from center channel|
|Serious Sam 3||XAudio2||XAudio2 is the default API. LFE is very loud|
|Shadow Warrior (2013)||FMOD|
|Shadow Warrior 2||FMOD|
|Shoot Many Robots||FMOD|
|Shovel Knight||FMOD||Yap, sounds like an NES game. Gotta test! ;D|
|Silent Hill 2||DirectSound||Use ALchemy to restore hardware sound. Says 7.1 but no LFE|
|SimCity 4 Deluxe||DirectSound|
|Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition||Wwise||Notice this was upgraded from the earlier release.|
|Soldier of Fortune||DirectSound||ALchemy required to restore EAX and surround|
|Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed||XAudio2|
|Sonic Lost World||XAudio2||FMVs will do 5.1, but gameplay is in 5.0.|
|South Park: The Stick of Truth||Wwise|
|Spec Ops: The Line||FMOD|
|STALKER: Call of Pripyat||OpenAL||EAX works through OpenAL. Do not use ALchemy|
|STALKER: Clear Sky||OpenAL||EAX works through OpenAL. Do not use ALchemy|
|STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl||OpenAL||EAX works through OpenAL. Do not use ALchemy|
|Stanley Parable, The||Miles||Requires ALchemy; console command snd_legacy_surround 1|
|Star Wars Battlefront||EAAudioCore||Variety of options for audio output devices|
|Street Fighter 4||DirectSound||LFE rarely used|
|Street Fighter V||TBD|
|Street Fighter X Tekken||XAudio2|
|Strider||XAudio2||Uses Wwise as middleware, XAudio2 to output audio.|
|SUPER Street Fighter 4 AE||XAudio2||LFE rarely used|
|Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP||FMOD||Sound seemed important to developers|
|System Shock 2||DirectSound||Use ALchemy to restore EAX and surround|
|Team Fortress 2||Miles||Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output|
|Team Fortress 2||Miles|
|Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: OOTS||XAudio2|
|TES4: Oblivion||DirectSound||Use ALchemy to restore DirectSound3D|
|TES5: Skyrim||XAudio2||LFE only used when a dragon lands|
|TES5: Skyrim Special Edition||TBD|
|The Talos Principle||XAudio2||OpenAL is an option but only outputs stereo.|
|Thief (2014)||Wwise||Center channel missing audio|
|Thief Gold||DirectSound||Use ALchemy to restore EAX and surround|
|TimeShift||FMOD||Options mention 5.1 but game outputs up to 7.1|
|Titanfall||Wwise||FMVs 5.1; game 7.1; no center channel (Wwise!)|
|Toki Tori 2+||XAudio2|
|Tom Clancy's The Division||TBD||Not yet sure on the API.|
|Tomb Raider (2013)||FMOD|
|TRON 2.0||DirectSound||Use ALchemy to restore surround/EAX. Buffers:4/Duration:15|
|Turok: Dinosaur Hunter||OpenAL||Remove OpenAL32.dll from the game directory or replace with OpenAL32.dll from openal-soft.|
|Unreal||DirectSound||Requires ALchemy to restore audio features|
|Unreal Tournament (1999)||DirectSound||Use ALchemy to restore EAX features|
|Unreal Tournament (2014)||XAudio2||Some sounds missing from side surround.|
|Unreal Tournament 2003||OpenAL||Possible to use DirectSound. See notes below|
|Unreal Tournament 2004||OpenAL||Possible to use DirectSound. See notes below|
|Unreal Tournament 3||OpenAL|
|Vanishing of Ethan Carter, The (& Redux)||XAudio2|
|Virtua Tennis 3||DirectSound|
|Viscera Cleanup Detail||XAudio2|
|Watch Dogs||XAudio2||Wish Ubisoft would fix their stuff|
|Witcher 2, The||FMOD|
|Witcher 3, The||Wwise|
|Wolfenstein (2009)||FMOD||Sound options has 7.1 but side surround doesn't work|
|Wolfenstein: The New Order||XAudio2||Videos in 5.1/game up to 7.0 (no LFE output)|
|Wolfenstein: The Old Blood||XAudio2|
|World of Warcraft||FMOD|
|YAIBA: NINJA GAIDEN Z||XAudio2|
- 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.
- "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.
- 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'.