PC Gaming Surround Sound Round-up
Below is a list containing PC games, the programming API used for their audio processing, the final result of the audio output, and some [possibly opinionated] comments. You may notice that an API doesn't necessarily create a limitation but the exception to this is OpenAL, which completely lacks the ability to provide any type of discrete LFE output in games; all other APIs are fully capable of this but some developers fail to implement that functionality and also fail to implement support for anything over 5-channel output.
- LFE (low-frequency effect) - The LFE channel is designated as a channel that carries lower-frequency audio. While, according to Dolby, this channel isn't strictly for subwoofers, the LFE channel in a PC audio context is typically directed to the subwoofer. This is sometimes overlooked in development which results in games not delivering bass to the subwoofer. The LFE channel is 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.
- 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 in NT6 to restore proper audio functionality in games.
- 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. Most modern games don't require ALchemy while Valve's Source-based games still require ALchemy for their games to properly support 7-channel audio likely due to some shoddy coding. For Realtek devices, you'll use "3D SoundBack" and for ASUS cards you'll use DS3D GX.
- How do I know when a DirectSound game needs ALchemy? Ask these questions: Does the game have sound options for EAX, A3D, or hardware acceleration? Does the game seem to be missing surround sound? If you are unsure if a game will benefit from ALchemy because the game lacks the aforementioned sound options, add the game to ALchemy and test for changes in audio output. If no changes are heard, the game likely does not use hardware-based features of DirectSound and does not need to be added to ALchemy.
- 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 many DirectSound games function normally without ALchemy because they simply don't utilize any hardware-accelerated features.
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 taking input from 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.)
Gameplay Audio versus Audio in Pre-recorded Videos
In the comments I may mention the pre-recorded 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. The additional audio data required to make an FMV with 7.1 output would just increase the file size of the FMV and no one wants that.
The Games Tested
The games tested are games that I've had access to. Surround sound wasn't common in games before 2000 so I'll likely not test many games from the 1990s 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.
|Alan Wake||FMOD||NT6||7.1||LFE mixing is done very well|
|Alan Wake's American Nightmare||FMOD||NT6||7.1||LFE mixing is done very well|
|Alien Swarm||Miles||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output|
|Alien VS Predator (2010)||XAudio2||NT6||7.0|
|Alien VS Predator Classic 2000||DirectSound||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround|
|Amnesia: The Dark Descent||OpenAL||NT6||7.0|
|Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs||OpenAL||NT6||7.0||Fix for surround sound.|
|Among the Sleep||FMOD||NT6||2.0|
|ARMA: Cold War Assault||DirectSound||NT6||7.0||Hardware and EAX restored by ALchemy|
|Bastion||XACT||NT6||7.0||Not sure about the API|
|Battlefield 3||RwAudioCore||NT6||5.1||Audio environment sounds nice; too bad no 7.1|
|Batman: Arkham Asylum||FMOD||NT6||7.1|
|Batman: Arkham City||Wwise||NT6||5.1|
|Batman: Arkham Origins||Wwise||NT6||5.1|
|Beyond Good & Evil||DirectSound||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround|
|BioShock Infinite||Wwise||NT6||5.0||Center channel is missing most audio|
|Borderlands 2||Wwise||NT6||5.0||Center channel is missing most audio|
|Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons||XAudio2||NT6||7.0|
|Castlevania: Lords of Shadow||FMOD||NT6||7.1|
|Castlevania: Mirror of Fate HD||FMOD||NT6||7.1|
|Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2||FMOD||NT6||7.1|
|Cryostasis||FMOD||NT6||7.1||OpenAL in audio options but is using FMOD|
|Crysis 2||FMOD||NT6||7.1||Audio in this game was done very well.|
|The Darkness II||XAudio2||NT6||5.1|
|Dead Island||XAudio2||NT6||5.1||7.1 support is very flaky but might work for you|
|Dead Island Epidemic||FMOD||NT6||2.0|
|Dead Island Riptide||XAudio2||NT6||7.1||7.1 fixed in April 27, 2013 patch|
|Deadlight||XAudio2||NT6||7.0||Not sure on the LFE; game is quiet|
|Dead Rising 2 & Off The Record||XAudio2||NT6||5.1||Game will crash if you're set over 48kHz|
|Dead Rising 3||TBD||NT6||TBD|
|Dead Space||RwAudioCore||NT6||5.0||RwAudioCore is a proprietary EA audio engine|
|Dead Space 2||RwAudioCore||NT6||5.0||EA intro video is 5.1 but game is 5.0|
|Dead Space 3||RwAudioCore||NT6||5.1|
|Dear Esther||Miles||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output|
|Defense Grid||XAudio2||NT6||7.0||Noticeable in larger maps|
|Deus Ex||DirectSound||NT6||7.0||Use ALchemy to restore surround sound|
|Deus Ex: Human Revolution||FMOD||NT6||7.0||Too bad they left out the LFE in this game|
|Deus Ex: The Fall||Wwise||NT6||2.0||Must set your audio device to stereo for sound to work properly.|
|Devil May Cry 4||DirectSound||NT6||5.1|
|DmC Devil May Cry||Wwise||NT6||5.1|
|Dishonored||Wwise||NT6||5.1||Center channel works but only plays light audio.|
|DOOM 3||OpenAL||NT6||7.0||DirectSound 5.1 if you remove OpenAL and use ALchemy|
|DOOM 3 BFG Edition||XAudio2||NT6||7.1||Notice the update to XAudio2|
|Duke Nukem Forever||Miles||NT6||5.1||Requires ALchemy to restore surround|
|Enclave||DirectSound||NT6||7.0||Not mention of EAX, has 3D sound option.|
|Fallout 3||DirectSound||NT6||7.1||LFE very quiet.|
|Fallout: New Vegas||DirectSound||NT6||7.1||LFE very quiet.|
|FarCry||DirectSound||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround|
|FarCry 2||DirectSound||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround|
|FarCry 3 (and Blood Dragon)||XAudio2||NT6||5.1|
|F.E.A.R.||DirectSound||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround functionality|
|F.E.A.R. 2||XAudio2||NT6||5.1||So far I like the audio in this game|
|Gears of War||DirectSound||NT6||7.1|
|Grand Theft Auto||Miles||NT6||2.0|
|Grand Theft Auto 2||Miles||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround sound|
|Grand Theft Auto III||Miles||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround sound|
|Grand Theft Auto IV||DirectSound||NT6||5.0|
|Grand Theft Auto Vice City||Miles||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround sound|
|Grand Theft Auto San Andreas||DirectSound||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX|
|Half-Life 2 Series||Miles||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output|
|Halo 2||DirectSound||NT6||5.1||Requires ALchemy to restore surround sound|
|Halo Combat Evolved||DirectSound||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy to restore EAX and surround sound|
|Hotline Miami||OpenAL||NT6||7.0||Sound placement is odd in this game. Similar results in Linux|
|I Am Alive||Wwise||NT6||5.0|
|Just Cause 2||FMOD||NT6||7.0|
|Killing Floor||OpenAL||NT6||7.0||Very good EAX effects|
|King Kong (Peter Jackson's)||DirectSound||NT6||7.0||Would require ALchemy in NT6|
|Left 4 Dead||Miles||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output|
|Left 4 Dead 2||Miles||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output|
|Lost Planet 2||XAudio2||NT6||5.1|
|Lost Planet 3||Wwise||NT6||5.0|
|Mass Effect 3||Wwise||NT6||5.0|
|Max Payne 3||DirectSound||NT6||5.1|
|Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance||Wwise||NT6||5.0||FMVs 5.1, gameplay 5.0|
|Mirror's Edge||OpenAL||NT6||7.0||Buggy. Edit TdEngine.ini; Make DeviceName=<blank>|
|Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition||FMOD||NT6||7.1|
|Murdered: Soul Suspect||Wwise||NT6||7.0||Videos in 5.1|
|Need for Speed Carbon||DirectSound||NT6||5.1||Possibly RWAudioCore|
|Outlast||Wwise||NT6||7.0||30 April 2014 update, the game was updated to 7.0|
|OutRun 2006 Coast 2 Coast||DirectSound||NT6||2.0|
|Painkiller Hell & Damnation||XAudio2||NT6||7.0|
|Payday 2||Wwise||NT6||2.0||Surround broken from a recent update|
|Penumbra: Black Plague||OpenAL||NT6||7.0|
|Portal||Miles||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output|
|Portal 2||Miles||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output|
|Postal 2||OpenAL||NT6||7.0||Oddly requires ALchemy to restore surround sound|
|Psychonauts||OpenAL||NT6||7.0||Remove OPENAL32.DLL in game folder otherwise it's 2.0|
|RAGE||XAudio2||NT6||7.1||LFE mixing is done very well|
|Remember Me||Wwise||NT6||5.1||LFE rarely used. Center channel limited to some voice.|
|Resident Evil 4 (2014)||XAudio2||NT6||7.0||Very poorly implemented sound panning.|
|Resident Evil 5||DirectSound||NT6||5.1|
|Resident Evil 6||XAudio2||NT6||5.1||Unsure about API but probably XAudio2|
|Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City||Wwise||NT6||5.1|
|Resident Evil Revelations||XAudio2||NT6||5.1|
|Return to Castle Wolfenstein||DirectSound||NT6||2.0|
|Ridge Racer Driftopia||Wwise||NT6||5.1|
|Rise of the Triad (2013)||XAudio2||NT6||7.0|
|Saints Row 2||DirectSound||NT6||5.1||Mixes stereo across 5.1 speakers. Not discrete surround.|
|Saints Row: The Third||Wwise||NT6||5.1||Missing audio from center channel|
|Saints Row IV||Wwise||NT6||5.1||Missing audio from center channel|
|Serious Sam 3||XAudio2||NT6||7.1||XAudio2 is the default API. LFE is very loud|
|Shadow Warrior (2013)||FMOD||NT6||7.0|
|SimCity 4 Deluxe||DirectSound||NT6||7.0||X|
|Soldier of Fortune||DirectSound||NT6||7.0||ALchemy required to restore EAX and surround|
|Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed||XAudio2||NT6||5.0|
|South Park: The Stick of Truth||Wwise||NT6||5.0|
|Spec Ops: The Line||FMOD||NT6||7.1|
|STALKER: Call of Pripyat||OpenAL||NT6||7.0||EAX works through OpenAL. Do not use ALchemy.|
|STALKER: Clear Sky||OpenAL||NT6||7.0||EAX works through OpenAL. Do not use ALchemy.|
|STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl||OpenAL||NT6||7.0||EAX works through OpenAL. Do not use ALchemy.|
|The Stanley Parable||Miles||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy, console command snd_legacy_surround 1|
|Street Fighter 4||DirectSound||NT6||5.1||LFE rarely used|
|Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP||FMOD||NT6||7.1||Sound seemed important to developers.|
|SUPER Street Fighter 4 AE||XAudio2||NT6||5.1||LFE rarely used|
|Street Fighter X Tekken||XAudio2||NT6||5.0|
|System Shock 2||DirectSound||NT6||7.0||Use ALchemy to restore EAX and surround.|
|Team Fortress 2||Miles||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy to restore 7.0 output|
|Team Fortress 2||Miles||Linux||2.0||Work-in-progress here, I guess|
|Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: OOTS||XAudio2||NT6||7.0|
|TES4: Oblivion||DirectSound||NT6||7.1||LFE very quiet. I don't believe this game has EAX features.|
|TES5: Skyrim||XAudio2||NT6||5.1||LFE only used when a dragon lands|
|Thief Gold||DirectSound||NT6||7.0||Use ALchemy to restore EAX and surround.|
|Thief (2014)||Wwise||NT6||7.1||Center channel missing audio|
|TimeShift||FMOD||NT6||7.1||Options mention 5.1 but game outputs up to 7.1|
|Titanfall||Wwise||NT6||7.1||FMVs 5.1, game 7.1, no center channel (Wwise!)|
|Toki Tori 2+||XAudio2||NT6||7.0|
|Tomb Raider (2013)||FMOD||NT6||7.1|
|Unreal||DirectSound||NT6||7.0||Requires ALchemy to restore audio features|
|Unreal Tournament (1999)||DirectSound||NT6||7.0||Use ALchemy to restore EAX features.|
|Unreal Tournament 2003||OpenAL||NT6||7.0||Possible to use DirectSound. See notes below.|
|Unreal Tournament 2004||OpenAL||NT6||7.0||Possible to use DirectSound. See notes below.|
|Unreal Tournament 3||OpenAL||NT6||7.0|
|Viscera Cleanup Detail||XAudio2||NT6||7.0|
|Virtua Tennis 3||DirectSound||NT6||5.0|
|Watch Dogs||XAudio2||NT6||5.1||Wish Ubisoft would fix their stuff.|
|Witcher 2, The||FMOD||NT6||7.1|
|Wolfenstein (2009)||FMOD||NT6||5.1||Sound options has 7.1 but side surround doesn't work.|
|Wolfenstein: The New Order||XAudio2||NT6||7.0||Videos in 5.1, game up to 7.0 (no LFE output)|
- OpenAL doesn't appear to support in-game LFE mixing. OpenAL can send audio to the LFE if the audio file (WAV, OGG) specifies the channel but I've never played an OpenAL game that output audio to the LFE.
- Miles Sound System is used by Source (Valve) games and basically routes itself through other APIs. In Windows, or at least for Source games, it's 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 routes 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 (actually varies by receiver), HDMI connections may redirect the bass at the destination/receiver.
- 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. Any game developed with Wwise version 2013.2 that does not support 7.1 audio will be assumed to have been developed by INCOMPETENT SLACKERS.
- 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. Voices and sound effects won't be in the center, but you may hear light environmental effects (reverb). So far, this issue doesn't seem present in Outlast.
- "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.
- 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.
- Bethesda games such as Oblivion, Fallout 3, and Fallout New Vegas have always seemed to work properly for me as far as sound goes. I've read people talking about EAX with Oblivion or using ALchemy to fix sound issues with these games but I've never had to using ALchemy. They all have fully-functioning 7.1 output and I notice no change in audio functionality when using ALchemy. Oblivion.ini does have bDSoundHWAcceleration and bUseSoftwareAudio3D but I've been unable to hear any difference trying various combinations of these settings with and without ALchemy. Also, the manual makes no mention of the use of any proprietary audio hardware acceleration technologies.
- Crysis 2 has 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 dying due to the audio being overly compressed, it'll be loud but smooth. Whoever was responsible for the audio in this game deserves a medal.
- Dead Island likes to throw a fit when I have 7.1 enabled in Windows. It mostly has buggy sound but it occasionally works; I used to just close and restart the game until it worked but that rarely works. If I set Windows to 5.1 sound then I get no trouble from Dead Island.
- 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 added OpenAL 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 30 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 some user-created audio drivers out there, OpenAL and FMOD drivers. For the best audio experience, I recommend using the original Galaxy 3D Audio (DirectSound) driver combined with ALchemy for the best audio effects. Of course, if that doesn't work for you then try OpenAL and FMOD.
Using Bass Re-direction
If you really want the added effect of a subwoofer in games that don't automatically mix to the subwoofer, you're going to need to use bass re-direction. When enabling bass re-direction you're also likely going to need to adjust your subwoofer volume level so take into consideration that toggling bass re-direction may affect your subwoofer's output and you may need to adjust the subwoofer's volume level to balance its volume with the speakers. Games will vary when re-directing bass; some will sound fine with the sub at higher volumes and others will sound messy. For me, Dead Space 1 and 2 and Amnesia sounded fine with my initial setting but Borderlands 2 sounded messy until I lowered the volume more. While I would prefer to not have to use bass re-direction, I'd hate to miss out on the lower frequencies so I would recommend using bass re-direction for games that leave out the LFE channel.
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.
- 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" 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'.