Audio quality with directsound

I’m having problems with Winamp and directsound output.
When I select directsound, I lose spatial definition and treble.
When I select waveoutput, everything is fine!
Also the volume jumps dramatically with waveoutput.

I have a Dell Latitude C600 laptop; PIII@750, with 512M RAM and 20G HD. I’m running Win2k SP3, latest DirectX from Microsoft (8.1b), Winamp 2.81.
My soundcard is an ESS Maestro; driver version, driver supplied by Microsoft - may not be the same as the one from Dell. I use highest acceleration and conversion quality.
I use a good set of AKG headphones for listening.

I used to think it was my hardware until I tried waveout and got such a dramatic improvement.

So … any ideas anyone?

Or is my suspicion that Directsound sucks big-time correct?