No question that many veterans remain of the OpenGL – DirectX wars. The two API’s battled for dominance, and for the most part, DirectX won out on the Windows front. But Microsoft didn’t rest on its laurels. from 9 to 10, and soon 11, each version brought with it vast improvements over the previous version. The 3D hardware stayed in stride, and multiplied in power each generation. At this moment, near photo-realistic environments being rendered in real time is being thoroughly explored.
But what about the audio in games? While OpenGL and DirectX locked horns, PC audio was in the midst of its own battle. A3D and EAX; both were promising realistic 3D audio. A3D fell early, leaving EAX the victor by default. With the PC Audio market in their hand, Creative began to release a new version of EAX but with one caveat: Creative hardware was needed to utilize anything over EAX 2.0. The company used this fact to dominate the sound card market for years.
On the hardware side, sound cards have improved over the years, but certainly not to the extent of graphics cards. Each generation brought higher sample rates, upsampling, and high end cards now support Dolby Digital and DTS real time encoding. The newer hardware sounds great, but is PC audio where it should be? On the consoles, Dolby Digital is pretty much standard in all games, and that is one of the problems in the PC realm: There are no standards. No standard API, no standard hardware support, No baseline that is set in stone like the graphic card market. For a graphics card to be DirectX compliant, it must have full support of the API. Lowly Intel integrated graphic chips are compliant, but your average Realtek HD Audio chip has no standard to conform to. Is this what PC audio needs? If not, is PC audio is fine as it is?