Please criticise my first retro rig.

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Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby retro games 100 » 2008-7-11 @ 18:05

I have nearly finished building my first retro gaming rig. :sweatdrop: Its intended purpose is to play games from the advent of the PC CD-ROM (circa '92), to the end of the Windows 95 era.

Mobo: Pentium III (500mhz, 100mhz FSB)

AGP - Matrox 450 (single DVI output)
PCI - Diamond Stealth 3D 2000 Pro (S3 chipset)
PCI - Diamond Monster 3D (Voodoo 1 chipset)
PCI - Ensoniq/Creative CT4740 (ES1373 chipset)
ISA - Roland SCC-1 (with Roland external CM-32L unit)
ISA - Gravis Ultrasound Classic (1MB RAM)
ISA - Creative AWE32 (CT2760, non-PnP & Yamaha DB50XG daughterboard)

I am worried that this rig may be much too fast for some DOS games released around the early 90s. If necessary, I could replace the PIII CPU with a slower PII CPU. I could also replace the PC100 RAM with slower PC66 RAM, and then set the mobo's FSB to 66 rather than 100.

Also for the AGP slot, I think that an older Matrox 200 might be more appropriate than a newer Matrox 450.

Good ideas or bad ones?

I would welcome any criticism about this rig. However, if you think I've got a few things right, that would be very nice to hear! :happy:

Thanks for any thoughts and suggestions.

Best regards, Robert.
Last edited by retro games 100 on 2008-7-11 @ 20:34, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby leileilol » 2008-7-11 @ 19:02

All those sound cards, and not ONE has a YMF262 chip!?
Voodoo2s aren't 100mhz stock
Geforce256 isn't released as a beta on New Years '99 under the Quadro brand
386DX vs SX isn't about a missing FPU
DOS gaming isn't a bilinear 320x200 16:10
DOS PCs aren't better than the Macintosh
Old PCs aren't 'aesthetic'
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Re: Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby retro games 100 » 2008-7-11 @ 19:12

Please can you list one or two cards with the YMF262 chip - I'm fairly new to retro gaming. Thank you.
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Re: Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby leileilol » 2008-7-11 @ 19:20

YMF262 is OPL3 - most non-Creative ISA cards had these. On the Creative side, only their SBPro 2.0 and early SB16/Awe32 has it. Creative opted for an awful sounding "Creative FM Synth" for subsequent models of Awe32, 16, and newer sound cards. This has some awful treble, saws, missing polyphony and just doesn't sound like OPL3.
Voodoo2s aren't 100mhz stock
Geforce256 isn't released as a beta on New Years '99 under the Quadro brand
386DX vs SX isn't about a missing FPU
DOS gaming isn't a bilinear 320x200 16:10
DOS PCs aren't better than the Macintosh
Old PCs aren't 'aesthetic'
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Re: Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby retro games 100 » 2008-7-11 @ 19:32

It's a pity about the (lack of) OPL3 support then. :sad: However, this is useful criticism and that's what I wanted from my post, so thanks for the input.

Hopefully the Yamaha DB50XG daughterboard attachment on the AWE32 CT2760 will help to make up for the missing OPL3 functionality in this rig.
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Re: Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby Cloudschatze » 2008-7-11 @ 23:50

Whoa there. The CT2760 (and several other SB16/32/AWE32 variants) has a licensed OPL3 core, integrated into the CT1747 chip.

The CT3990 was the first AWE32 to feature Creative's CQM synthesis.
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Re: Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby retro games 100 » 2008-7-12 @ 07:24

Cloudschatze wrote:Whoa there.The CT2760 (and several other SB16/32/AWE32 variants) has a licensed OPL3 core, integrated into the CT1747 chip.

The CT3990 was the first AWE32 to feature Creative's CQM synthesis.


Oh!..... :happyhappy: :happyhappy:

Re: CT3990 -I have the CT3980 & CT3990. I am using the CT3980 rather than the CT3990 because I think it is less likely to cause problems with "stuck/hanging notes" with daughterboards.
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Re: Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby leileilol » 2008-7-15 @ 05:57

Cloudschatze wrote:The CT3990 was the first AWE32 to feature Creative's CQM synthesis.


My CT-3600 has Creative FM too
Voodoo2s aren't 100mhz stock
Geforce256 isn't released as a beta on New Years '99 under the Quadro brand
386DX vs SX isn't about a missing FPU
DOS gaming isn't a bilinear 320x200 16:10
DOS PCs aren't better than the Macintosh
Old PCs aren't 'aesthetic'
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Re: Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby v0g0ns » 2008-7-17 @ 16:58

Where do you get all this great retro hardware? Dont tell me its all from ebay.
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Re: Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby retro games 100 » 2008-7-18 @ 07:13

I think if you are patient, you can acquire these items from ebay over a period of 1 or 2 months. Do you dislike ebay? I'm sure there are alternatives, such as computer fares, local paper classified adverts, amazon perhaps.

I'm finding some items almost impossible to find however - such as an affordable Roland LAPC-I, most soundcard daughterboards, good Ensoniq ISA soundcards, the list goes on! I feel like I've joined the retro party a bit too late, even though I have managed to build a few retro rigs already.
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Re: Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby swaaye » 2008-7-18 @ 20:09

I'd dump the Ensoniq AudioPCI (ES1373). They were cheap junk for the most part. If you want a nice Windows card for retro rigs, I suggest something with an Aureal Vortex 2 chip. The cards usually have a daughtercard header that works great even in DOS. The DOS driver doesn't need EMM386. And in Windows 9x, it is an awesome card for 3D audio in games.

Amazingly, I've found that the SBPro emulation of Vortex 2 sounds better than the "full" 16-bit sound of SB16. The analog circuitry is so much better on the Aureal cards. Well, just about any card is better than a SB16 in that way. :) You are still best off with something like an Ensoniq Soundscape's 16-bit digital audio output though. Excellent stuff there.

Biggest issue with them is that the DOS driver isn't very configurable. I can't see any way to disable the SB Pro emulation while still having the daughtercard header work, for example. So, it will be a compatibility nightmare if you want to use another ISA card alongside it and can't find spare IRQs/DMAs/Port addresses. I have managed to run a Ensoniq Soundscape with one though.

But really, you could just disable the DOS part completely and use it as the best Win9x gaming sound card there has ever been. AudioPCI is just the precursor of AC97 junk. It does everything in software and the MIDI quality isn't very good. Actually, ES1373 is a later revision of ES1370, and I think the revision was to make it fully AC97 compliant. It might be better for Win9x games than a ISA card simply because of the PCI interface though.
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Re: Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby retro games 100 » 2008-7-19 @ 15:02

I'd love an Ensoniq Soundscape ISA card! I think the Elite card was the top-of-the-range one. Do you know if it is worth getting any of the lesser ones, because I've never seen an Elite card for sale.

I have a VIVO card, but I didn't think a huge amount of it. I think it took up 2 IRQs, 1 being for the SB part which I didn't need as I have an AWE32 in this rig.

I'd be very keen to try a better Ensoniq ISA card though, but I fear that the Elite is just too rare to wait around for...

Regarding the Aureal Vortex 2 cards, yes I have one all lined up for another retro rig so that is the only reason why I decided on something different for this rig, ie the ES1373. I have an MX300 lined up for my other retro rig BTW.

I've heard good things about the AudioPCI card, so that was one reason why I went for this chipset (ESxxxx). I have a 1370, 1371, and 1373 cards. I decided on the 1373 in the end, because it used WDM? drivers which didn't have anything to do with legacy emulation - I really didn't need legacy devices in my Win9x set up as I have all that covered with the AWE32 ISA card. It seemed the logical ESxxxx card to go for.

However, testing this card does result in some occasional delayed/choppy sounds. Not sure what's wrong..

Thanks very much for your suggestions though - much appreciated.
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Re: Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby 5u3 » 2008-7-21 @ 13:32

retro games 100 wrote:Mobo: Pentium III (500mhz, 100mhz FSB)

AGP - Matrox 450 (single DVI output)
PCI - Diamond Stealth 3D 2000 Pro (S3 chipset)
PCI - Diamond Monster 3D (Voodoo 1 chipset)
PCI - Ensoniq/Creative CT4740 (ES1373 chipset)
ISA - Roland SCC-1 (with Roland external CM-32L unit)
ISA - Gravis Ultrasound Classic (1MB RAM)
ISA - Creative AWE32 (CT2760, non-PnP & Yamaha DB50XG daughterboard)

Very nice system you have there! This combination of video- and sound hardware should play any game of the era with optimal results.

retro games 100 wrote:I am worried that this rig may be much too fast for some DOS games released around the early 90s. If necessary, I could replace the PIII CPU with a slower PII CPU. I could also replace the PC100 RAM with slower PC66 RAM, and then set the mobo's FSB to 66 rather than 100.

You're right, the CPU speed will be too fast for a couple of games from the early nineties, but I'm afraid you can't do much about that on the hardware level. Most of the problematic games expect something like a 25 MHz 386/486. Even an early Katmai Pentium II with minimum multiplier and all caches turned off would be too fast for that.
BTW, you don't need to replace your memory modules when clocking down the FSB. PC100 and PC66 RAM will perform identical at a 66 MHz bus speed. Some PC100 modules will allow faster memory timings when run at a slower clock, but the difference is neglectable.
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Re: Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby retro games 100 » 2008-7-22 @ 08:45

5u3 wrote:You're right, the CPU speed will be too fast for a couple of games from the early nineties, but I'm afraid you can't do much about that on the hardware level. Most of the problematic games expect something like a 25 MHz 386/486. Even an early Katmai Pentium II with minimum multiplier and all caches turned off would be too fast for that.
BTW, you don't need to replace your memory modules when clocking down the FSB. PC100 and PC66 RAM will perform identical at a 66 MHz bus speed. Some PC100 modules will allow faster memory timings when run at a slower clock, but the difference is neglectable.


It's only now that I understand why knowledgeable retro gamers have 486s in their hardware collection!

I will replace my PIII CPU with a slow PII CPU, but I will understand that this won't "cure" speed problems associated with some old 386/486-dependant games. (It's great to know that I don't need to replace my PC-100 speed memory however!) Incidentally, do you know (very roughly) how many games will refuse to run on CPUs which are faster than a 486?

I would really like to get a 486-based motherboard. Do you have any buying advice you could offer please - for instance, which type of socket should I look out for?

Thanks very much, best regards, Robert.
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Re: Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby Amigaz » 2008-7-22 @ 10:56

retro games 100 wrote:
5u3 wrote:You're right, the CPU speed will be too fast for a couple of games from the early nineties, but I'm afraid you can't do much about that on the hardware level. Most of the problematic games expect something like a 25 MHz 386/486. Even an early Katmai Pentium II with minimum multiplier and all caches turned off would be too fast for that.
BTW, you don't need to replace your memory modules when clocking down the FSB. PC100 and PC66 RAM will perform identical at a 66 MHz bus speed. Some PC100 modules will allow faster memory timings when run at a slower clock, but the difference is neglectable.


It's only now that I understand why knowledgeable retro gamers have 486s in their hardware collection!

I will replace my PIII CPU with a slow PII CPU, but I will understand that this won't "cure" speed problems associated with some old 386/486-dependant games. (It's great to know that I don't need to replace my PC-100 speed memory however!) Incidentally, do you know (very roughly) how many games will refuse to run on CPUs which are faster than a 486?

I would really like to get a 486-based motherboard. Do you have any buying advice you could offer please - for instance, which type of socket should I look out for?

Thanks very much, best regards, Robert.


If you plan to get a 486 motherboard, they're socket 3 type motherboards I suggest you get your hands on an Elitegroup UM4980 motherboards since you then have the possibility to fall back to slower speeds in steps of 1/16 of the max speed when the turbo button is depressed.
I've managed to run difficult games as Ultima 6 & 7, Wing Commander 1 with this system
Here's the system: viewtopic.php?t=18607

The performance of this system isn't that great when you run it at full speed...so it's not the best system for demanding SVGA games for example
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Re: Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby retro games 100 » 2008-7-22 @ 12:26

Amigaz, your 486-based computer is amazing.

Unfortunately I think it may take quite some time to find a similar one for myself.

However, there is a good chance that I may be able to get a Pentium-133 system. Will this be nearly as good as getting a really cool 486 machine?
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Re: Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby Amigaz » 2008-7-22 @ 14:18

retro games 100 wrote:Amigaz, your 486-based computer is amazing.

Unfortunately I think it may take quite some time to find a similar one for myself.

However, there is a good chance that I may be able to get a Pentium-133 system. Will this be nearly as good as getting a really cool 486 machine?


You will suffer from speed problems of course with some games but you'll have more horsepower for the SVGA games and can add a Voodoo card so you can play some early GLide games :happyhappy:
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Re: Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby retro games 100 » 2008-7-22 @ 20:23

486 and early Pentium motherboards - what kind of case and PSU do you need? Are the cases and PSUs which are sold new online today compatible with these older motherboards? Thanks.
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Re: Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby 5u3 » 2008-7-22 @ 20:36

retro games 100 wrote:It's only now that I understand why knowledgeable retro gamers have 486s in their hardware collection!

Well, it's not only the speed issue, many gamers also like the fact that older machines offer plenty of ISA slots. :wink:
Apart from that, in case of problems with a game, it's always handy to have a second computer for troubleshooting. But I have to admit that DOSBox is even better for that purpose than any legacy machine.

retro games 100 wrote:Incidentally, do you know (very roughly) how many games will refuse to run on CPUs which are faster than a 486?

I'd say about 20 percent of early 90's games have speed related problems, ranging from really minor glitches up to timing-related unplayability.
Since PC games use a great variety of methods to keep everything in sync, there are many causes for trouble, not only raw CPU speed.

retro games 100 wrote:However, there is a good chance that I may be able to get a Pentium-133 system. Will this be nearly as good as getting a really cool 486 machine?

While a P133 would allow you to successfully run a few more old games than a downclocked Slot-1 system, it still would be too fast for the more problematic games. Personally I don't think it's worth the effort, unless the system you have in mind comes with special hardware slowdown features, like the 486 board Amigaz mentioned.

You can always use software slowdown programs on your current retro machine. There is one a special utility called "Throttle", which is supposed to give much better results than the usual slowdown programs. Unfortunately I could not try it out because it is incompatible with my Socket7 mainboard, but it might work just fine on your P3 machine.
Here is the link: The Throttle homepage on oldskool.org
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Re: Please criticise my first retro rig.

Postby leileilol » 2008-7-22 @ 20:39

retro games 100 wrote:what kind of case and PSU do you need?


Any AT mid tower with a 230W AT PSU does it for me. This is also a good combo for a fast K6-2 system too
Voodoo2s aren't 100mhz stock
Geforce256 isn't released as a beta on New Years '99 under the Quadro brand
386DX vs SX isn't about a missing FPU
DOS gaming isn't a bilinear 320x200 16:10
DOS PCs aren't better than the Macintosh
Old PCs aren't 'aesthetic'
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