ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby ElementalChaos » 2016-11-14 @ 23:19

I figure it's okay to bring this up on this thread instead of making a new one.

Image

I've had a ESS card of my own for a little while; it's a Compaq Premier Sound "ES1869 Audio Feature Board" with a ES1869F. I was never able to get it to function on my Pentium rig, though; with the card inserted the machine halts at BIOS after checking for hard drive and CD-ROM. This is usually where PnP cards are detected and displayed, so it may be a PnP card. Hope not, because ISA PnP sucks donkey balls.

I also noticed that there are 6 extra pins in addition to the standard 16-bit ISA stuff, you can see them on the bottom left of the card, marked "P4". Was this for some kind of proprietary Compaq bus? Maybe explains why it's not working?
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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby Tetrium » 2016-11-14 @ 23:23

ElementalChaos wrote:I figure it's okay to bring this up on this thread instead of making a new one.

Image

I've had a ESS card of my own for a little while; it's a Compaq Premier Sound "ES1869 Audio Feature Board" with a ES1869F. I was never able to get it to function on my Pentium rig, though; with the card inserted the machine halts at BIOS after checking for hard drive and CD-ROM. This is usually where PnP cards are detected and displayed, so it may be a PnP card. Hope not, because ISA PnP sucks donkey balls.

I also noticed that there are 6 extra pins in addition to the standard 16-bit ISA stuff, you can see them on the bottom left of the card, marked "P4". Was this for some kind of proprietary Compaq bus? Maybe explains why it's not working?

I took one such card out of a Compaq, it's basically like a slightly longer ISA slow with extra pins for I think it was the onboard speaker (could be wrong though, dunno how many different such card were made).

I never tried it in another system, but I got it for free so I didn't bother tossing it as it looked interesting.
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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby zaphod77 » 2016-11-18 @ 05:30

Panties wrote:Since it have a Wavetable, does anyone know a good daughterboard that I can buy from Ebay? I'm aiming for.. Final Fantasy 7, and DOOM... so any recommendation?


For Final Fantasy 7 you want a db50XG. there is no substitute.

For doom you want an scb-55 (sound canvas on a wave blaster)

good luck finding them.
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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby ElBrunzy » 2016-11-18 @ 15:55

mockingbird wrote:IIRC, and FWIW I think the 1869 added full duplex support. Was a great card back in the day, excellent value and the compatibility was amazing.

Exactly ! I remember spending a day with my musician friend trying to do some recording with sonic foundry acid and we was never able to do full duplex even tho the spec sheet of the 1868 card mentioned "full duplex", I remember a guy in #irc mentioning it was a misprint and the ess was a null-duplex card :lol:
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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby dogchainx » 2016-11-18 @ 17:22

zaphod77 wrote:
Panties wrote:Since it have a Wavetable, does anyone know a good daughterboard that I can buy from Ebay? I'm aiming for.. Final Fantasy 7, and DOOM... so any recommendation?


For Final Fantasy 7 you want a db50XG. there is no substitute.

For doom you want an scb-55 (sound canvas on a wave blaster)

good luck finding them.


Definitely good luck on finding them. I took me about 4 years to find a good-priced sound canvas SCB-55. The DB50XG was a lot easier to find, because I found its "generic" version, the NEC XR385, a long time ago.

My heart sinks to think about how many of those daughter boards were effectively thrown away, or recycled, back when digitized wave-recorded music replaced MIDI/etc.
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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby PhilsComputerLab » 2016-11-27 @ 08:05

I think I have the same ESS as badmojo:

Image

Surprisingly mine is PnP. ESSCFG does initialise the card, but command line options are ignored. It gives you a message about this and that you need to use ICU software. Using Intel's ICU boot floppy I was able to change resources.

However it seems the card takes two DMAs, 1 and 0. The gameport and IDE interface can easily disabled with ICU.

I like the mixer tool, it works great and makes it easy to create a simple batch file to get the card going.

It sounds great. Stereo wavetable output is reversed, which is a bit of a bummer, but otherwise I haven't found anything negative.
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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby JLPedro » 2016-12-20 @ 12:50

badmojo wrote:I picked up this handsome card recently and it's the best AudioDrive I've found yet. It's using the ES1688F chipset, the specs of which can be found here:

http://alsa.cybermirror.org/manuals/ess/PB1688B.PDF

Unlike the other ES1688 card I've tried the wavetable header worked perfectly first time, so this card:

- has no nasty popping noise when the PC is booted
- is easy to configure
- is NOT a PnP card, yay
- provides solid, great sounding Sound Blaster Pro compatibility
- has a bug free wavetable header / MPU401
- allows you to select the 'AudioDrive' option in the games that support it natively (the ES1868 chipset didn't always register)
- is cheap as chips
- includes an OPL3 clone that sounds great to my ears (some of them include an actual OPL3)

In summary this card rocks, and everyone here should own one:

Image


This card as space for add a real ymf262 opl3 chip, would it be just solder the missing ship or also add other components/move jumpers ? Anyone tried it?
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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby Scali » 2016-12-20 @ 14:02

JLPedro wrote:This card as space for add a real ymf262 opl3 chip, would it be just solder the missing ship or also add other components/move jumpers ? Anyone tried it?


I would expect there to be a jumper (or some option in ESSCFG or such) to select whether to use the built-in OPL3 emulation, or the real chip.
If both chips would be active at the same time, I think there may be issues when reading data from the chips. Also, unless there are separate mixer channels for the real OPL3 and the built-in one, I would expect that you need to set some switch so that you hear the real OPL3 through the mixer instead of the built-in one.
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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby keropi » 2016-12-20 @ 14:21

One would also need to populate the YAC512 D/A converter, the MC3403 opamp and all these missing surface mount passives around it to complete the mixing circuit... if anyone could find this card with the OPL3 populated then it would be easier to copy it... at this state it's doable but would require too much work and knowledge to succesfully complete it
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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby gerwin » 2016-12-20 @ 18:29

I have never seen a soundcard that had an internal FM clone available, but that used a separate OPL3 regardless.
More likely this PCB was usuable for an ES688+OPL3 and an ES1688 without. Both ESS chips are 100-pin PQFP.

One could find out in the ES1688 datasheet wheter FM data can still be send outside of it, or not.
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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby sprcorreia » 2016-12-20 @ 18:31

gerwin wrote:I have never seen a soundcard that had an internal FM clone available, but that used a separate OPL3 regardless.
More likely this PCB was usuable for an ES688+OPL3 and an ES1688 without. Both ESS chips are 100-pin PQFP.

One could find out in the ES1688 datasheet wheter FM data can still be send outside of it, or not.


I agree with you. It's a kind of "One size fits all" situation.
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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby badmojo » 2016-12-20 @ 20:06

No I've never seen an ES1688 based card with a real OPL3 either and why would such a thing exist? It would have cost more to make for no gain to the manufacturer - or to the consumer I'd argue because ESFM is excellent.
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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby peklop » 2016-12-20 @ 20:49

Twenty years ago we hated ESS for one thing. I was happy user of SB16. Many my friends have cheap cards with ES1868 (or 1869?). Much games were produced with direct support for the ES1688 (or ES688?) cards and these games NOT playing sound. I don´t know why and maybe i´m wrong because it is two decades ago.
Are ES1868 and 1869 incompatible with older 1688 and 688?

(i know ESS cards has very good support in windows)
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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby PhilsComputerLab » 2016-12-20 @ 22:24

I used a 1868F recently, and in a lot of games I can select ESS option and it works fine.
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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby badmojo » 2016-12-20 @ 22:25

peklop wrote:Are ES1868 and 1869 incompatible with older 1688 and 688?


Yes this has been my experience, the 'ESS AudioDrive' option in most games I've tried will only work with a 1688 or 688 based card. I don't know what the advantage of using this option is though given the AudioDrive's excellent SB Pro emulation.

I ended up going with the older ES1688 based card picture above (over the ES1868 based card in the OP) because it's non-PnP and it doesn't 'pop' on startup like my ES1868, but otherwise the user experience has been the same. In saying that I'm only using this card for DOS, the more modern ES1868 might be better suited for Win9x.

One other mostly irrelevant observation is that my CT1920 (Goldfinch) will work alongside the ES1868, but the ES1688 conflicts somehow and the CT1920 won't initialise. I assume this is because one is PnP and the other isn't - possibly a solution exists but I didn't find it easily.
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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby PhilsComputerLab » 2016-12-20 @ 22:28

badmojo wrote:Yes this has been my experience, the 'ESS AudioDrive' option in most games I've tried will only work with a 1688 or 688 based card. I don't know what the advantage of using this option is though given the AudioDrive's excellent SB Pro emulation.

I ended up going with the older ES1688 based card picture above (over the ES1868 based card in the OP) because it's non-PnP and it doesn't 'pop' on startup like my ES1868, but otherwise the user experience has been the same. In saying that I'm only using this card for DOS, the more modern ES1868 might be better suited for Win9x.


What I found is that with the ESS option an output filter kicks in. Some call it "muffled", but it's just filtered. Whereas with the Sound Blaster Pro option is sounds very bright and clear. Tested in Descent I, or II, and Tomb Raider if my remember doesn't let me down.

The only issue I had was that I couldn't get an IDE CD-ROM drive to work on the on-board controller. But I haven't investigated this much further.
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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby peklop » 2016-12-20 @ 22:57

But SB Pro emulation play only 8bit sound, not 16bit.
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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby PhilsComputerLab » 2016-12-20 @ 22:58

peklop wrote:But SB Pro emulation play only 8bit sound, not 16bit.


Yes, and what's the problem with that?
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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby badmojo » 2016-12-20 @ 23:42

PhilsComputerLab wrote:Yes, and what's the problem with that?


No problem for DOS games and I wish I'd known that as a marketing susceptible teen - how I wish I could travel back in time, in a DeLorean I guess, and give myself one of these nice clones. "Forget 16 bit kid, I bought this in the future for 6 bucks and it's all you'll ever need".
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Re: ESS AudioDrive (ES1868) - a surprisingly good ISA sound card

Postby gdjacobs » 2016-12-21 @ 14:41

PhilsComputerLab wrote:
peklop wrote:But SB Pro emulation play only 8bit sound, not 16bit.


Yes, and what's the problem with that?


Pretty sure that's only an issue with MPXPLAY, DOSAMP, QV, and the like.
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