Ensoniq soundscape elite

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Ensoniq soundscape elite

Postby retro games 100 » 2008-11-26 @ 12:52

Does anyone on Vogons have one, and if so are they any good?

Because I haven't managed to acquire one (having spent 18 months looking!), I would like to search for something else to fill the lonely and empty ISA slot I had hoped to use for the elite card. :lol:

Can someone recommend an interesting ISA music card for DOS please? Please discount Roland, GUS, Creative as I have some of these cards -- they are all very good incidentally, I'm not being disrespectful about them.

Many thanks, from Robert.
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Re: Ensoniq soundscape elite

Postby Amigaz » 2008-11-26 @ 14:22

retro games 100 wrote:Does anyone on Vogons have one, and if so are they any good?

Because I haven't managed to acquire one (having spent 18 months looking!), I would like to search for something else to fill the lonely and empty ISA slot I had hoped to use for the elite card. :lol:

Can someone recommend an interesting ISA music card for DOS please? Please discount Roland, GUS, Creative as I have some of these cards -- they are all very good incidentally, I'm not being disrespectful about them.

Many thanks, from Robert.


Looking for one too, seems like it's easier finding a Game Blaster card :P

You can always look into the Terratec cards which offer superb FM and digital sound quality compared to the creative cards which imho suck in comparison
Look for Terratec Gold 16/96 or 32/96
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Re: Ensoniq soundscape elite

Postby retro games 100 » 2008-11-26 @ 14:33

Thanks Amigaz! Re: Terratec Gold, I'll keep my eyes peeled! :happy:

When an Elite card does eventually appear on ebay, I'll refrain from bidding because your advice has been so valuable since I've been a Vogons member.

Unless we share it by snapping it in half? No hang on a minute, that won't work... :lol:
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Re: Ensoniq soundscape elite

Postby swaaye » 2008-11-26 @ 18:57

I have just about the entire Ensoniq ISA line. Been "collecting" them since they originally came out.

They are good cards, especially the Elite, but they aren't flawless of course. An SCD-10 / SCC-1 has some advantages and disadvantages to the Elite. Elite has quite a few patches that sound higher fidelity, but it has disappointing very synthy choir voices vs the Roland's more realistic patches there. Whether one sounds better than the other is individual preference, of course. You're not missing much from your game soundtracks if you are running a Roland card though.

The Elite and non-Elite Soundscape full-length cards have much different patch sets. Elite has heavier percussion, for one. It has the DSP too so they probably reworked some things there because the other SS cards have no DSP effects. The smaller cards, like VIVO90 and that Gateway 2000 OEM with the Cow chip have 1MB patch sets that are definitely lower quality than the 2 MB sets of the other cards.

One very nice aspect to the Ensoniq cards is that they have a 16-bit, 48KHz digital section that is very clean. In games that support the card natively, you get superb quality. It is much, much better than any Creative SB16/AWE card. Unfortunately it's only SB 2.0 compatible if the game lacks Soundscape support, but lots of games from '94 onward support Soundscape directly.

I made some recordings in this thread:
viewtopic.php?t=9990&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=20 (scroll down a bit)

And you can look at my Soundscape thread in my sig.
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Re: Ensoniq soundscape elite

Postby ih8registrations » 2008-11-26 @ 19:58

Do you have any of the ensoniq es137x cards? ss elite emulation, though they're said to be use a poor patch set.
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Re: Ensoniq soundscape elite

Postby wildweasel » 2008-11-26 @ 21:00

ih8registrations wrote:Do you have any of the ensoniq es137x cards? ss elite emulation, though they're said to be use a poor patch set.

I've had some experience with at least one Ensoniq card, not sure if it's that one, but my time with it wasn't very good - turns out, these cards use the patch set for absolutely everything, even Adlib music, which makes games like Wolfenstein 3D sound absolutely horrible.
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Re: Ensoniq soundscape elite

Postby swaaye » 2008-11-26 @ 22:57

wildweasel wrote:I've had some experience with at least one Ensoniq card, not sure if it's that one, but my time with it wasn't very good - turns out, these cards use the patch set for absolutely everything, even Adlib music, which makes games like Wolfenstein 3D sound absolutely horrible.


ih8registrations wrote:Do you have any of the ensoniq es137x cards? ss elite emulation, though they're said to be use a poor patch set.


The ES137x cards are AudioPCI, SB PCI64/128, and some Sound Blaster 16 PCIs. The chip is almost entirely software-driven, even the synth and its effects. It emulates a Soundscape in DOS along with other cards like Adlib, SBPro (I think Pro), plain GMIDI, MT32... The Creative SBLive! uses the same DOS driver TSR but supports SB16 instead of Soundscape. It uses the same patch sets tho. Maybe the Creative variants using ES137x support SB16 too, not sure.

The patch sets are pretty bad. I think this is because the hardware is very limited and CPUs back then couldn't really do much more with a softsynth. Even the 8MB patch set sounds worse than the Soundscape's 2MB set.
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Re: Ensoniq soundscape elite

Postby Silent Loon » 2008-11-27 @ 01:24

Amigaz wrote:You can always look into the Terratec cards which offer superb FM and digital sound quality compared to the creative cards which imho suck in comparison
Look for Terratec Gold 16/96 or 32/96


Terratec cards of that time have similar names for sometimes very different products, as far as I know:
- Gold 16/95 is an ESS chip based card with Adlib and SBPro compability; no midi synth onboard but a wavetable header and UART MPU-401, no "true" Yamaha Opl3
- Maestro 16/96 - not sure what chipset this card uses - possibly with 1mb GM compatible midi synth?
- Soundsystem Gold 32 - see above - possibly with 1mb GM compatible midi synth?
- Maestro 32/96 - Crystal based CS4232 chipset - adlib and truely SBpro and WSS compatible. 4 Mbyte Rom midi synth onboard (DREAM based) GM, GS and somehow MT-32 compatible (but no true Yamaha Opl3 -its function is integrated in the crystal chip.); wavetable header. 2 Midi / MPU-401 connectors (one external, one internal) This card is not very known, despite of its great features, and so if you find one, it might not be very expensive.

You can find some kind of "retro review" here: http://www.alasir.com/reviews/soundbench/index.html

This comparison is not made for retro gaming, but covers some cards by Turtle Beach. Also it is not mentioned, the Turtle Beach "Tropez" series could be interesting, as it is one of the few cards that has a GM compatible midi synth onboard (ICS chipset) and a true Yamaha OPL3. This is at least true for the "Tropez Classic". The Tropez Classic has a Crystal CS4231 which claims to be fully SBpro compatible, but I'm not sure if it is. The Tropez Plus has the CS4232 onboard that should be 100% SBpro compatible. It's basically a PnP version of the Classic but maybe it lacks the Yamaha OPL (because the CS4232 could emulate it)? (p.s.: Has anyone this card and can tell us more?)

There is also the Terratec EWS64 series with superb sound quality and the possibility to add effects in dos, that go far beyond anything an AWE32 (if you need effects) can do. But it is not easy to configure and the XL version can still be expensive.

By the way: the SPEA V7 media fx card uses an ensoniq chipset with 2 mb sample ROM (no DSP), that should be similar if not the same as the Ensoniq soundscape 2000. Maybe the converters are not that good but it seems to be not as rare as a "real" Soundscape card.
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Re: Ensoniq soundscape elite

Postby tikbalang » 2008-11-27 @ 04:05

i recommend ESS Tech Audiodrive ISA/PCI soundcards for DOS use. the audio/midi output may not be excellent, but they are the least problematic to setup. the pci drivers either work or they don't, there is no need to tweak your DOS settings to find out. the ISA versions need no dos drivers, just set the correct BLASTER= environment in autoexec.bat or config.sys.
ESS PCI DOS Drivers
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Re: Ensoniq soundscape elite

Postby swaaye » 2008-11-27 @ 04:42

I should add that the ISA Soundscape cards don't use a TSR either. They have a config util that runs to upload firmware to the card and then it exits from RAM. Other than that you have the BLASTER and SNDSCAPE vars and that's it. The cards are half software/half jumper configured too (IRQs/DMAs in software, 2 port address and some other stuff jumpered.) And since they're not PnP usually (stay away from the COW), issues are kept to a minimum.

The card with the worst TSR nightmare has to be the AWE series. Or maybe the Ultrasounds.
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Re: Ensoniq soundscape elite

Postby retro games 100 » 2008-11-27 @ 08:51

Awesome information guys - thank you!
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