In the last few days I had the chance to play around with a Windows Vista 32-bit laptop with a Realtek sound card and saw this problem. After some investigation, it looks like the actual issue might be with the non-Creative Labs sound cards rather than the OS. In any case, a solution has been found.
Anyone experiencing sound distortion and stutter with Oolite can try this fix as an alternative to installing the OpenAL32.dll linked in the first post. If this solution works for everyone the same way it worked for me I would prefer it. The reason is that OpenAL32.dll, just like every other support DLL Oolite uses, is built specifically for Oolite and quite a few times we apply fixes directly to the support DLLs in order to get them to do things the way they are meant to be for the game - or sometimes even improve them over the "standard" versions. Using an external DLL adds a barrier to proper game support in case of need.
So, the fix:
1. Start a command prompt and execute the below line to determine the actual location of %APPDATA% on your computer:
In my case, APPDATA was located at
2. Now navigate to that folder with Windows explorer and create a new empty text file (right click -> New => Text Document).
3. Open the empty text file in an editor and add this one line in it:
frequency = 16000
4. Now save this file as alsoft.ini
and make sure that no extensions like .txt or anything else gets added automatically by the OS.
You are done. Start up Oolite and hopefully enjoy non-distorted, beautiful positional sounds.