Announcing DSOAL-GW1: 3D Positional Audio and EAX Effects for Everyone!

  • DSOAL-GW1 is a fork a DSOAL that has been modified to work with Guild Wars 1.

    DSOAL is a DirectSound-to-OpenAL compatibility layer that is able to emulate DirectSound3D and EAX in software.

    Put simply, this makes it possible to activate GW’s “Use 3D Audio Hardware” and “Use EAX” options and to hear GW's sound effects as originally intended.

    Some history:

    When GW was released in 2005, the audio component of Microsoft’s DirectX API was something called DirectSound. DirectSound had a 3D audio component called DirectSound3D, or DS3D, that could pan and amplify/attenuate sound sources based on their position relative to the camera in the game’s 3D world. PC’s with a high-end Creative sound card also had access to EAX, an extension to DS3D with a suite of hardware DSP effects for occlusion, obstruction, reverb, echo, etc. Like most games of its era, GW’s audio system was designed around DirectSound and DS3D, and owners of high-end PCs could get the “definitive” audio experience with EAX.

    All that ended in 2007 with Windows Vista. Vista completely broke DS3D and EAX. Rather than fix it, Microsoft deprecated DirectSound and pushed developers to adopt its new XAudio2 API for future games. With DS3D and EAX broken, GW hasn’t sounded “right” in any version of Windows since XP.


    Source Code:


    • Copy dsound.dll into ONE of the following two locations:
      • (1) The Guild Wars installation directory where GW.exe resides.
        • On Windows 8 or 10, you may need to make changes to the registry for dsound.dll to be loaded from this location. See here: Try setting the reg entries for DirectSound, DirectSound8, DirectSoundCapture, DirectSoundCapture8, and DirectSoundFullDuplex.
        • At least some versions of Wine simply will not load dsound.dll from this location no matter what you do. Use the other location if you encounter this problem.
      • (2) The system directory for 32-bit .dll’s. On modern 64-bit Windows computers, this is C:\Windows\SysWOW64\. (Yes, that is correct.) On ancient 32-bit Windows computers (or 32-bit Wine prefixes), this is C:\Windows\System32\. If dsound.dll already exists in this location, then MAKE A BACKUP before replacing it.
    • Copy dsoal-aldrv.dll to the same location you put dsound.dll
      • Note: This file is just a renamed copy of soft_oal.dll from openal-soft. I’ve included version 1.21.0 because versions 1.21.1 has a crash bug with custom .ambdec files. If you want to keep an eye out for updates, here is openal-soft’s website:
    • Copy alsoft.ini to the Guild Wars installation directory where GW.exe resides.
    • Copy the hrtf_defs and presets folders to “C:\users\<your username>\Application Data\openal\”. [Edit: On newer version of Windows, "Application Data" has been replaced by AppData\Roaming. Use that instead.]
    • Create the directory “C:\users\<your username>\Application Data\openal\hrtf” and extract all of the .mhr files from into that directory. [Edit: On newer version of Windows, "Application Data" has been replaced by AppData\Roaming. Use that instead.]
    • Make the following edits to alsoft.ini:
      • (Note: Lines beginning with a # symbol are comments/examples that are ignored. If you want a setting to take effect, make sure there’s no # symbol.)
      • “sources” can be set to any power of two between 128 and 2048. Because of GW’s idiosyncratic approach to DirectSound buffers, only half of these will actually be used. Unless you’re trying to run GW on a toaster, leaving this at 2048 is recommended.
      • The choice of “resampler” is a matter of taste. Cubic has many fans. See this video for a comparison:
      • If you have four or more speakers, using an ambisonic decoder is highly recommended. See instructions below.
      • If you use headphones, using HRTF is highly recommended. Some people even describe it as “mind-blowing.” See instructions below.
    • On Windows, it may be necessary to add -dsound to GW’s command line.
    • On Wine, set the library override for dsound to “native, builtin.”
    • Launch GW, hit F11 to bring up the options menu, and it should now be possible to enable “Use 3D Audio Hardware” and “Use EAX” in the sound tab.

    Ambisonic Setup (recommended for systems with 4 or more speakers):

    • Disable any virtual surround software, equalizers, compressors, crystalizers, etc. on your PC.
    • Consult “C:\users\<your username>\Application Data\openal\presets\presets.txt” to determine which preset best matches your speaker layout.
    • Use a tape measure to measure the distance from each speaker to your listening position. Then edit the speaker distance values in the preset accordingly. The unit is meters.
    • Edit alasoft.ini as follows:
      • Set “channels” explicitly if your speaker setup isn’t automatically recognized.
      • Set “hq-mode= true”.
      • Set “distance-comp = true”.
      • Set the path to your preset for the appropriate speaker layout. For example: “surround51=C:/users/billybobobbubba/Application Data/openal/presets/itu5.1.ambdec”
        • Use forward slashes (/) instead of backslashes (\).
        • Quote marks aren’t necessary even if there’s a space in the pathname.

    HRTF Setup (recommended for headphones):

    • Wearing headphones, watch this video ( to determine which HRTF preset works best for you. (It varies according to head size and shape.)
      • Note: Plug in your headphones before you load the youtube webpage.
    • Disable any virtual surround software, equalizers, compressors, crystalizers, etc. on your PC. (See the above video for examples.)
    • Edit alasoft.ini as follows:
      • If your headphones aren’t automatically detected, explicitly set “channels = stereo” and “stereo-mode = headphones”.
      • Set “frequency = 44100” or “frequency = 48000” depending on the frequency needed for your chosen HRTF preset.
      • Set “hrtf = true”.
      • Set “hrtf-mode = full”.
      • Set “default.hrtf” to the name of your chosen preset, minus the “.mhr”. (For example: “default-hrtf = irc_1007_44100”)


    Set the following environment variables:

    • DSOAL_LOGFILE="C:\blah\blah\blah\DSOAL_log.txt"
    • ALSOFT_LOGFILE="C:\blah\blah\blah\ALSOFT_log.txt"

    (Use a real directory that exists, and you have write permissions for, rather than C:\blah\blah\blah\.)

    If a log file isn’t being created, then the corresponding .dll isn’t getting loaded. The .dll files may be in the wrong place, or you may need to fix the registry entries or add -dsound to GW’s command line. If all else fails, try installing to the system directory.

    The ALSoft log will show whether your .ini file and any presets for ambisonics or HRTF are getting found and loaded.


    The overwhelming majority of the credit for this belongs to Christopher Robinson (kcat) and the other openal-soft developers who have spent years working on open-alsoft and dsoal. They built a fricking transcontinental railroad; I just laid the last mile of track to hook up GW station.

    Comparison to Other Methods of Restoring DS3D+EAX:

    There are other options for restoring DS3D and EAX functionality, but DSOAL is generally superior.

    • Most listeners prefer the quality of DSOAL’s emulated EAX effects to that of Creative ALchemy.
    • You can’t legally obtain Creative ALchemy without buying an expensive sound card.
    • Wine Staging’s EAX emulation only implements features up through EAX 2.0.
    • IndirectSound implements DS3D, but not EAX.

    Using DSOAL-GW1 for Other Games:

    Will DSOAL-GW1 work for other games besides Guild Wars? It will probably work, but provide no benefits over mainline DSOAL, and possibly hurt performance a bit. DSOAL-GW1 is only useful if a game shares GW’s rather idiosyncratic approach to DirectSound buffers. This might be the case if you are experiencing missing sounds after a few minutes of gameplay when using mainline DSOAL and your log file is full of errors that say, “DSBuffer_SetLoc Out of software sources.” If you try DSOAL-GW1 and your log file is full of warnings that say, “Assigning a source for software buffer that was previously deferred as per Guild Wars hack,” then DSOAL-GW1 is probably not suitable for that game.

    - Chthon

    Edited once, last by Chthon: On newer version of Windows, "Application Data" has been replaced by AppData\Roaming. ().