The Sound of the Future
So after chinny22 recommended installing a second sound card I tried to find may way through the jungle that is hardware accelerated 3D audio. Since this machine is trying to be a jack of all trades anyway I looked into Sensaura based cards which implement EAX as well as A3D at least up to a certain revision.
When I discovered the Terratec DMX Xfire 1024 with its huge list of features and its very low market price the decision was easy.
What was not so easy was making it play along nice with the SB16 on Windows 95. After my first foolish attempts, trying to install drivers from an image of the retail driver CD, I ended up with two sound cards not working.
For future reference here's what worked for me:
- starting point: both cards in their slot, but removed in Windows Hardware Manager, Xfire drivers not installed/uninstalled, skip installing new hardware after boot
- setting IRQ and DMAs for Soundblaster to reserved/legacy in BIOS
- unpacking drivers for Xfire from their website: http://terratec.ultron.info/Audio/DMXXfire/Up … .06.00.2885.exe (nice move to still have drivers available after 20 years)
- start hardware discovery via Control Panel -> Add Hardware and point to directory with unpacked drivers
- disable Xfire Game Device (that's the cards OPL/SB emulation) in Hardware Manager, manually set IRQ and DMA for Sound Blaster in Hardware Manager
After another reboot and with a patch cable running from the SB16 line out to the Xfire line in + unmuting the Xfire line in in the mixer I got the setup I was aiming for - at least in Win95.
I still need to check out how far DOS support goes. It would be nice to use it for mixing CD audio with the line in from the SB16, so there won't be any need for repatching audio when switching from Windows. It also has two connectors for CD audio, so there wouldn't be any need for an additional mixer when using multiple optical drives. Thinking of it, it also has digital audio connectors, have to try these out as well...
The Xfire also adds another Waveblaster header but it's known to not work under DOS, so I'm not sure what card I would add there...
EDIT: Oh, I almost forgot: The Xfire has internal headers for all external in and outs, which means more front panel action 🥳