So if nobody is supposed to know this has changed, unless something goes wrong, then I have to say; something is wrong. Right now I'm watching this video, while evaluating vista, arguably my weak point might be my beta creative xi-fi drivers. Regardless, the audio is very choppy. The last time I experienced this issue was on my IBM T23 laptop while listening to music through Winamp. Then, it was related to the processor having to deal with continually having to process the audio stream and do other tasks at the same time (A 1ghz PIII processor can only handle so much). At the time the reason I supposed this was the culprit was because playback quality would decrease when CPU usage went up. For the most part I remedied the situation by increasing the directsound buffer in Winamp.

Fast forward six years and I find myself in the same situation, I feel like I'm on my T23 again. Stuttering audio is coming out of my PC. My experience with the previous situation was what gave me the idea that I might have a problem with the buffer in this situation as well. I hope my processor is not the problem as I have an Opteron 170. I also have 2gb of pc400 dual channel ram. So what is the problem? Creative and the beta drivers? Possibly. Or could it be the fact that processes that were once hardware based are now being handled by software? If anything I see this as a step backwards. Sure individual volume control is a great idea, but my system is now stuttering and running into what I believe are buffer issues as a result.

I'm also led to believe this is a buffer based issue because under the advanced tab in 'Speakers Properties,' when I change the default format of the sample rate to anything above 16bit DVD Quality, I get a serious impact on the quality of the sound, in Winamp. It sounds exactly like the stuttering I ran into years before. Also, when I change the default format while Winamp is playing, I run into this:

Error creating the DirectSound buffer.
Error code: 88780096

When I do the same thing in Windows Media Player, I get this:

An audio device was disconnected or reconfigured. Verify that the audio device is connected, and then try to play the item again.

An interesting thing, however, is that WMP is not affected by the stuttering issue when I select any setting in the Studio Quality range. I love WMP 11, it is awesome in XP. But for some reason, in Vista, it does not want to recognize 99% of the music I have in my monitored folders. I have to drag the folder into the player for it to recognize all my music. This defeats the purpose of the monitored folder, but thats another issue. I prefer to use Winamp.

I suppose my final question is, if the original audio stack in Windows was so bad, that they required a rewrite, why remove directsound capability, when it was working so smoothly in XP and previous iterations of Windows? Why move something that was hardware-based off of the hardware that was intended for that very purpose? My CPU was not meant to directly process sound, that is what my sound card is for (right?). I know OpenAL (owned by Creative) is out there (it's doing its thing on my PC right now) but its capabilities are far behind anything Creative's EAX was capable of. Again, why take a step backwards (in some respects) by only supporting OpenAL? If anything it's like going from WindowsXP to Windows 3.1, in terms of the features and level of support both by the original manufacturer but more importantly, the community at large. More games and media players support directsound and EAX as opposed to OpenAL. I do not have any concrete numbers on the fact, but I would be very surprised if the case is otherwise. Yet in solving one problem, which is rather cool and laudable; another, much larger one, has been created. If given the option, I think users should be able to choose between the new software sound layer and the older directsound method. To my understanding, the new software layer is intended to address problems not related to game sound quality and music player output using directsound, right? To be honest I do not care about how loud my system notifications are in relationship to other sounds on my computer. I want my hardware to do what I bought it to do, and right now that is not the case.

N.B. Here's what happened in order for me to finish writing this post:
I paused the video while it was minimized on my taskbar, as the WMP toolbar, so I could finish writing the rest of the first and second paragraph. I was ~18:36 into the video when I decided to start it up again. After a few minutes of what I would consider normal buffering, the video started to play...without audio. At the time I also had winamp open, so I tried to play the song I was listening to before I started the video... no dice. Winamp refused to output sound. What happened next was what I can only describe as a "genuine windows experience." Firefox, probably through my use of the Foxytunes plugin, froze. By this time I realized that I had no sound comming out of my PC. I closed WMP, Winamp, and Firefox (I took a screen shot of what I had been writing). Upon trying to close Firefox, after it was busy for a few minutes, I received this error (I like the new error dialogs by the way):

Problem signature:
Problem Event Name: AppHangXProcB1
Application Name: firefox.exe
Application Version: 1.8.20061.20418
Application Timestamp: 4574e7e3
Hang Signature: 9047
Hang Type: 32
Waiting on Application Name: winamp.exe
Waiting on Application Version: 5.2.0.473
OS Version: 6.0.6000.2.0.0.256.1
Locale ID: 1033
Additional Hang Signature 1: 205baa1b39d9b98ad8f4095165e02e 11
Additional Hang Signature 2: fad6
Additional Hang Signature 3: dcb3d33a2b50e0211f39e701ce7e08 68
Additional Hang Signature 4: 9047
Additional Hang Signature 5: 205baa1b39d9b98ad8f4095165e02e 11
Additional Hang Signature 6: fad6
Additional Hang Signature 7: dcb3d33a2b50e0211f39e701ce7e08 68

Like it says it was waiting on Winamp, but Winamp was not playing music and neither was WMP so I closed them. Long story short I got sound back by clicking the 'Configure' button on the 'Sound' control panel and testing the stereo setup. On the plus side I didn't have to restart, but then again, how many end users will be that deductive to try all these steps in figuring out why their computer will not make any noise? I'm going to make this post and finish watching the video. If anything is further explained, I'll update my post as necessary.

Edit:

Spell checked and finished the video. Apparently I was only aroun 12mins into the movie. I like these video it makes the whole OS creation process seem more personable. Instead of "only supporting" I should correct myself in saying only allowing OpenAL and ASIO direct access to the hardware layer. On that note though, I cannot remember the last time my sound card caused my computer to crash as the result of kernel mode access. This is part of a larger initiative (right?), removing things from the kernel that do not need access to the kernel? I'm thinking about the antivirus companies here.

Thinking about per-app volume control (volume mixer) I doubt many of my peers will ever notice it. They just want their programs to work. If fidelity is such a strong belief, then why are S/PDIF and YPbPr disabled when "premium content" is played? That does not sound like much of a commitment to consumers who have invested in those technologies. But thats entirely another can of worms. Right now I'm using Winamp and its glitchy. I'm not happy. I'm concerned.

Edit 2:

24 hours to let it stew and think it over. I suppose it's a Xi-Fi problem, but more specifically it seems like it's a directsound plugin issue with Winamp. Still, when listening to music, CPU usage is higher than in XP, I suppose that's my main concern, as well as the overall change. I guess I'll get used to it but I really wish the change was seamless as opposed to me being able to notice a difference. Audiodg.exe is main source of my concern. I suppose this is the software doing its job? Usage decreases when I stay at standard quality as opposed to going into studio quality, but again... I guess I'm just trying to get my mind around it and I really wish there were drivers that were available now (I know, I know) that would make it work just the way it did in XP. And that's where I bark up Creative's tree (wish me luck on that one...). I'm also slightly anxious about all the content protection I've read thats been built into Vista. I want the same functionality, with an increase in quality, without having to replace perfectly good hardware because it does not handle encrypted signals. I guess I ask too much. Kudos to all your work, it is good, but right now I'm concerned because there are some big questions looming on the horizon about content protection and the costs and quality issues associated therein.