Bought last month but arrived this week:
ESS AudioDrive ES1868
Wow, what a sound card! I was 90% happy with my previous sound card, an AWE64, but I am 99% happy with the ES1868.
The AWE64 was very nice but there were two things I didn't like about it. First, it causes sound effects to skip in Build engine games when using an external synth, unless you reduce the sfx quality to 11khz. Second, I didn't care for how it handled FM synth. The ES1868 doesn't exhibit the Build engine bug, and features FM synth very close to the classic SB OPL.
I expected these improvements (that's why I ordered the ES1868 in the first place), but am also happy with the much simpler configuration (no more Creative PNP driver!) and, to my ears anyway, much better sound quality overall.
Sadly, it still suffers from a few issues I was somehow hoping it would magically resolve:
- Might & Magic III and Might & Magic IV still insist on muting the sound card's LINE IN when they launch, which prevents Roland music from playing. I assume the only way to resolve this is to use a dedicated MIDI interface card. Until then, the workaround is to just plug my MT-32 into the LINE IN on my speakers.
- Xargon is WAY TOO LOUD. I thought this might be some weird AWE32/64 bug, but I verified that it goes an sets the mixer values for the sound card itself from 8 to 14. Really bizarre.
- Configuring MT32 music for Spirit of Excalibur and the other games that use its engine (Vengeance of Excalibur and Conan the Cimmerian) slows the game down massively, rendering it unplayable (ultimately freezing). I assume these games are some of the few that only work with a genuine MIDI interface rather than SoftMPU.
For the first two issues above, I wonder if it's possible to "lock" the mixer settings somehow to prevent games from fooling with them?
Anyway, I'm VERY pleased with this card!