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ISA sound cards redux

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First post, by gmaslin

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Our senior center has recently been donated one dozen computers with Pentium 3s and ISA sound cards. I would like to build FX processor boxes from these but before I try, I would like some feedback on the limitations I might expect. All the cards are 48KHz, 16bit sampling rate capable and can do DMA. Do the modern linux distros prevent a DMA configuration and are these old cards with their APUs powerful enough to run reverb, phaser and chorus FX?

Reply 1 of 32, by Jorpho

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There are a lot of different ISA sound cards out there – from the original Ad Lib all the way to the AWE64. You're going to have to be a lot more specific.

Really, if you're going to do fancy audio work, you might as well just buy some proper hardware rather than spending hours trying to kludge something clumsy together.

Also, a "modern linux distro" has no business being run on a Pentium 3. (Of course, anything is possible in Linux if you're willing to submit yourself to the agony that is re-writing any of the code you're interested in using.)

Reply 4 of 32, by gmaslin

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Sorry guys, it took me a while to find my post after it was moved. A list of cards below:
Acer Magic S20
Anchor J98MF-009
AWE64 (CT4520)
Ensoniq VIVO90
I think all the cards are 16bit, 48KHz and DMA capable but I'm open to correction. I think they all have ALSA support too so I don't expect trouble from JACK but I am curious about how much processing is done on the card if it is used as an FX box.

Reply 5 of 32, by swaaye

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VIVO 90 can't do any effects. AWE64 has an effects DSP but I'm not sure how to get more than reverb and chorus from it.

As Jorpho says there are better options than trying to make 20 year old sound cards with iffy quality do what you want.

Reply 6 of 32, by gmaslin

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Oh hush, where is your pioneering spirit? 😀
Seriously, what is missing from the VIVO90 that will preclude its use? The Mark5 chip on it looks like it has the same functionality as the AWE64 chip to me but I don't know for sure so please provide an explanation if you can. Does any FX software on linux make use of the DSP on these cards.

Reply 7 of 32, by swaaye

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I have zero experience with MIDI effects in Linux...

Soundscape VIVO90's Mark5 + Otto chipset is similar to the Otto+Sequoia+68000 trio on older Soundscape cards but it does not have the ESP (effects DSP) chip integrated. The only Soundscape card with effects is the Soundscape Elite and the two ways to control its effects are the Windows 3.1-based FX Toolkit or MIDI sysex commands. Good luck finding an Elite. 😉
- http://web.archive.org/web/19971009062827/htt … vivo90_main.htm
- http://web.archive.org/web/19971009064421/htt … /html/elite.htm

The AWE cards all have an effects processor onboard.

Reply 8 of 32, by Jorpho

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gmaslin wrote:

Does any FX software on linux make use of the DSP on these cards.

Well, is there any FX software on Linux, period, that does anything like what you're thinking of doing? (I'm not even sure what that is.)

Even if the Mark5 has the same functionality as the AWE64 chip, it won't matter much if Ensoniq never released sufficient specs for someone to hammer out a driver for it (as it sounds a little too obscure for someone to bother going through the trouble of reverse-engineering). But I should probably stop speculating.

Reply 9 of 32, by pyrogx

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Soundscape Elite Effects are controlled via MIDI SysEx messages. The FX tool for windows can export the sysex code sent to the ESP to a file, which, in turn, could be sent to the Soundscape with other sequencer programs. However, the linux Soundscape driver only supports wave playback using the codec and MIDI playback using the OTTO synth. Wave playback via the synth is not possible in linux.
There are some some tools written for the AWE linux driver (ftp://ftp.suse.com/pub/people/tiwai/awesfx/) which can control the effects processor. There even was a small program that allowed for the wave playback on the EMU8k synth, but it seems to have vanished from the web.
However, this stuff is really, really ancient now and trying to use it for anything other than historic interest is a complete waste of time to my mind.

Reply 10 of 32, by gerwin

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gmaslin wrote:

I think all the cards are 16bit, 48KHz and DMA capable but I'm open to correction.

Acer Magic S20 (Opti + CS4231): Up to 48 KHz indeed through CS4231.
AWE64: User-selectable sample rates from 5 kHz to 44.1 kHz

--> ISA Soundcard Overview // Doom MBF 2.04 // SetMul

Reply 11 of 32, by gmaslin

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gerwin
Excellent snooping! I was really surprised to see 48KHZ missing from the AWE64 given the other features. Wonder why they didn't support it?

pyrogx
This is awesome information and I thank you for your input but I remember reading that using separate chip linux modules on the VIVO (ie: calling the AD1845JP and other chips individually) instead of the unified soundscape driver gets around this problem. Guitarix uses the MMX extensions on the CPU and only uses the analog functions on the sound card. Do you know if rakarrack works the same way? Must I use an older windows version to utilize the processing power on these old cards? How can the plugins be made to talk directly to the sound card processors? I realize the infeasibility of my enterprise but sometimes you just do stuff for the sake of doing it. I really don't know much about what I am doing but suspect I'll be learning quite a bit before I'm through 😀

Jorpho
I'm trying to make boxes that will take take an instrument input, add FX (ie: distortion, re-verb, etc.) and output sound. Essentially a software mega pedal controlled by midi. I mentioned two of the tools that do this in post above.

swaaye
Forgive me but I don't understand the distinction you are making. Are you saying the chips on the VIVO90 are incapable of processing FX or are not as adept as the chip on the AWE64? To me, the links read like the synth effects are on the Elite card as opposed to being on a drive. Does anyone know the MIPS differential between the two cards?

Reply 12 of 32, by Stiletto

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pyrogx wrote:

There even was a small program that allowed for the wave playback on the EMU8k synth, but it seems to have vanished from the web

Any more information about it - author, name, former whereabouts? 😀

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do the Fandango!" - Queen

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Reply 13 of 32, by bristlehog

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Why vanished? I know such a program that is a part of AWE32 Developer's Information Package (ADIP).

You can obtain ADIP here: http://www.phatcode.net/articles.php?id=244

Run \dos\demo\demo.exe.

Hardware comparisons and game system requirements: https://technical.city

Reply 14 of 32, by Stiletto

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bristlehog wrote:

Why vanished? I know such a program that is a part of AWE32 Developer's Information Package (ADIP).

You can obtain ADIP here: http://www.phatcode.net/articles.php?id=244

Run \dos\demo\demo.exe.

The question was about _Linux_ software... sorry, it's not obvious because I quoted out of context.

"I see a little silhouette-o of a man, Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you
do the Fandango!" - Queen

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Reply 15 of 32, by pyrogx

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Okay, I found it in the Internet archive: http://web.archive.org/web/20010304034627/htt … ma/awe/awe.html. But it might need the old AWE OSS driver and may not work with ALSA.

This is awesome information and I thank you for your input but I remember reading that using separate chip linux modules on the VIVO (ie: calling the AD1845JP and other chips individually) instead of the unified soundscape driver gets around this problem.

This is what the soundscape OSS and ALSA drivers do: they load the appropriate ISA codec driver, the mpu401 driver and load the microcode for booting the OBP on the card.
I never toyed around with Guitarix and Co. but I am pretty sure that there isn't any Linux sequencer or FX generator program that actually makes use of special sound hardware like DSPs or effect processors. If you want these programs to do so, you have to write the extensions/plugins by yourself. Which is, by all means, not a trivial task at all.

Reply 16 of 32, by Stiletto

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pyrogx wrote:

Okay, I found it in the Internet archive: http://web.archive.org/web/20010304034627/htt … ma/awe/awe.html. But it might need the old AWE OSS driver and may not work with ALSA.

Hah, okay, good enough, thanks. 😀

"I see a little silhouette-o of a man, Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you
do the Fandango!" - Queen

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Reply 17 of 32, by swaaye

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gmaslin wrote:

swaaye
Forgive me but I don't understand the distinction you are making. Are you saying the chips on the VIVO90 are incapable of processing FX or are not as adept as the chip on the AWE64? To me, the links read like the synth effects are on the Elite card as opposed to being on a drive. Does anyone know the MIPS differential between the two cards?

The Ensoniq ESP chip was a specialized DSP used on the Elite (and in Ensoniq musical instruments / pro-audio products) that performs the calculations for real-time MIDI effects processing. No other Ensoniq card has such hardware processing. The cards other than Elite come with patch sets with effects like reverb and chorus pre-processed into the sounds.

The AWE cards have an effects DSP onboard, similar to that ESP chip. So yes AWE cards are in fact more powerful than most Ensoniq cards. Back in their time, the AWE cards were also more expensive. $300 vs. $150-$200. Ironically the Ensoniq cards have superior analog signal output quality though. Creative cards are usually noisy and maybe have other nasty problems too.

Reply 18 of 32, by Stiletto

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Stiletto wrote:
pyrogx wrote:

Okay, I found it in the Internet archive: http://web.archive.org/web/20010304034627/htt … ma/awe/awe.html. But it might need the old AWE OSS driver and may not work with ALSA.

Hah, okay, good enough, thanks. 😀

Off-Topic:

This jogged my memory.

I have the binaries and source to two DOS utilities by Günther Klaming, who created a MIDI player for AWE32 cards called AWEPLAY... and AFAIK an unreleased soundfont loader based on AWEPLAY called SF2LOAD (no, not this SF2LOAD: http://www.hammersound.net/hs_software.html but identically named... unless ... hmmm... ) I was sent binaries and source to AWEPLAY 1.4 and SF2LOAD 1.1 ten years ago. Coulda sworn I shared it but I can't find the thread here?

[EDIT] References:
Re: AWE32 Soundfonts
Re: Can't find AWE banks loader for DOS :(
Re: Creative Wave Blaster...yuck?

[EDIT] More References:
Can't find AWE banks loader for DOS :(
Re: Can't find AWE banks loader for DOS :(
Re: AWE control panel / soundfont set up

[EDIT] Okay, it looks like Günther Klaming became Thomas Hammer of HammerSound.net? Confusing. Anyhow, I'll investigate if I can legit share this stuff.
http://www.hammersound.net/hs_software.html
BTW, anti-leech link to SF2LOAD is broken there, should be:
http://www.pvv.org/~thammer/localfiles/software/sf2lv21.zip
http://www.pvv.org/~thammer/localfiles/software/sf2ldv13.zip

BTW, it appears AWEPLAY 1.4 and SF2LOAD 1.1 may truly have been for DOS though I can't test anymore. (Paging gerwin...)

"I see a little silhouette-o of a man, Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you
do the Fandango!" - Queen

Stiletto

Reply 19 of 32, by gerwin

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Regarding SF2load, I cannot see how the functionality could have been implemented in DOS, unless it is a protected mode TSR, like Aweutil is. On my disk there seem to be three versions, the two you linked to and one sf2ld12b.zip (for windows). Also there is a similar windows tool SF-expressloader.zip by Fucik.

I sometimes use Aweplay v1.0 for DOS by Klaming 1999. Web Archive. That works fine. Don't know about any version 1.4.

--> ISA Soundcard Overview // Doom MBF 2.04 // SetMul