I was happily enjoying my new(ish) ESS AudioDrive ES1868F when I decided to play an old favorite of mine, Xargon. I was immediately startled by how damned loud the music was! I quickly turned the speakers down and shock turned to despair when I realized how distorted the audio was... did I just blow out my speakers???
I did some testing and found to my relief that the speakers were fine (they are pretty nice speakers). To make a long story short, I figured since the card does not have a separate "speaker" and "line out" output, it must have some builtin amp—and a way to enable or disable it. Some research showed that the two jumpers (JP1 and JP2) needed to both be set to positions 2-3 to disable the amp... and sure enough, I had mine set to the factory default (positions 1-2; amp enabled). Switching the jumpers fixed the issue, and now it sounds glorious indeed, even when playing XARGON!
I really like this card! The FM synth is not 100% accurate to the OPL2/3, but it's pretty close and it sounds very clean. I definitely prefer it to the CQM synth of the AWE32/64 (my previous card), which I actually didn't mind too much.