With the 3D DirectSound HAL disappearing with the up and coming release of Vista, many have been fearful about how useful standalone soundcards will become. Especially that surround systems are a dime a dozen and quite common on anyone doing home theater or playing games, concerns over sound quality have led manufacturers down a new path. Creative is announcing the launch of ALchemy, a free software component that restores this latent functionality, giving you back the stolen EAX and multi-channel functionality.
Currently, the software is only in beta, and can be dependent upon the game in particular that is running. Creative is also soliciting people using the software for feedback on what games should be supported in future releases. Of course, it requires you have a Creative sound card. In particular, you'll need both the Sound Blaster X-Fi and updated Vista drivers for the ALchemy package. As a note, any software using OpenAL rather than the 3D DirectSound HAL isn't affected by the change in Vista. Most modern games rely on OpenAL, and therefore the package is primarily intended for older games.