It was made clear some time ago that Windows Vista works differently to all previous Windows versions in terms of its new UAA (Universal Audio Architecture) audio stack. Though there's many longterm benefits to come with it, there's also one massive downside, at least for owners of Creative based soundcards.
Due to the way in which UAA handles hardware DSPs, it was found out that hardware acceleration for DirectSound 3D and EAX algorithms simply wouldnt work properly across Creative's range of cards. Knowing full well there would be much rage and commotion about this issue, Creative began work on the "ALchemy project" which was designed to translate DirectSound 3D and EAX calls into OpenAL (which still takes advantage of the DSP hardware).
A problem was still apparent however, as Creative were only focusing their attention toward X-Fi owners, not the many thousands of us who own an Audigy-series soundcard (including myself, having spent $450 AUD on an Audigy 2 ZS Platinum Pro only a couple yrs ago).
An update on ALchemy has been provided by the lads over at Dailytech in relation to this, bringing both good and bad news.
The good news is that due to very high demand, Creative will now work on supporting the Audigy 2 and 4-series products as well. The bad news? They expect us to PAY for the upgrade! Oh, the nerve!!!
Creative Labs left Sound Blaster Audigy owners in the dark, in regards to hardware-accelerated audio in Windows Vista. However, Creative Labs stated ALchemy support for Sound Blaster Audigy 2 and 4-class products are to be determined depending on demand. Due to demand, Creative Labs has begun ALchemy development for Sound Blaster Audigy-series sound cards.
Creative Labs expects to have ALchemy for Audigy sound cards later this year. It does not appear as if these sound cards will be free to current Audigy owners. Nevertheless, when the cards are ready, Creative Labs "hopes to offer this product as a low-cost upgrade to interested Audigy owners."