Creative AlchemySo how much would you pay for a driver? No, I’m not talking about a screwdriver, this is about an update for a Creative sound card. I know, it sounds crazy, but this is the real deal. ZDNet’s Adrian Kingsley-Hughes dug up some information regarding Creative trying to charge $9.99 for Vista-compatible updates on the Audigy line of sound cards.

Here’s what the Creative site says about the software:

The audio changes in Windows Vista do not affect OpenAL however. For audio cards that feature ’native’ OpenAL support, such as the SB X-Fi series of cards, there is no need to worry! Games that enable support for OpenAL will continue to run just as they do on Windows XP – with hardware accelerated audio and effects. A listing of OpenAL titles can be found at

Although OpenAL has arguably replaced DirectSound3D, particularly in many modern PC Games (e.g. Battlefield 2142, Doom3, Quake 4, Prey, etc.), there are hundreds of older PC games that support DirectSound3D and EAX technology. All of these games will sound empty and lifeless on Vista. As most DS3D games only enable 3D Audio and EAX if a hardware accelerator is present, most of these games will be reduced to a stereo output.

In my opinion this is nothing short of ridiculous…Creative is limiting the capabilities of their sound cards unless people are willing to fork out additional money to get the EAX effects. Sure it is only the gamer audience who would really want this, but why should they have to pay more for it?

They do offer the driver at no cost, but from the sounds of it (no pun intended) this leaves your sound card in a state that makes it no better than the audio device integrated into your computer’s motherboard. Creative does claim that the Alchemy update is not a driver, and that you will still need to have the actual driver for your sound card installed. However, without the Alchemy software your sound card is limited in some sense so I see it as an add-on for the driver.

It is needless to say that this software will be floating around the Torrent networks in no time at all. So in my opinion Creative just shot themselves in the foot by charging for an update that almost no one will purchase, all while giving themselves a bad name in the eyes of gamers.