VOGONS


First post, by atom1kk

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Hi, which SB card would you suggest for the ISA slot.

I mean, i do not need the best one. i looking for a card with least issues in games. I saw some SB 16 isa cards here for around 20€. are they good are they worth it?

Thank You

Reply 2 of 59, by dionb

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Every SB16 has bugs, mainly but not exclusively around MIDI playback.

Question is what you will be doing with it. If you only intend to use the card for digital audio, the AWE64 DSP-based cards (AWE64 cards but also AWE32 CT4330 and SB32 CT3670) will be effectively bug-free. All the others have things like hissing/ringing (Vibra cards) or single-cycle DMA clicking (non-Vibra SB16/SB32/AWE32 not listed above).

If you want to use a MIDI device with the card, the AWE64-variants are also best as they only suffer from slowdowns when playing MIDI and 16b audio at the same time. The very oldest SB16(CT1730-1790) are similar, but are very noisy. The rest all have hanging notes issues of varying intensity.

How badly these issues will irritate you is completely subjective. I can't stand the hanging notes and MIDI slowdowns, but am only lightly bothered by Vibra hissing/ringing, and can't say I even notice the DMA clicks or bad noise levels of early cards unless I'm specifically listening for them. You might have different priorities.

If you really don't want any of this, you need a non-Creative card, see link Oetker posts (conclusion: the MK8330 is by far the best jack-of-all-trades currently available).

But... EUR 20 is very cheap for an SB16. At that price you may not be able to do better. Which cards are they exactly (give the CTxxxx model number)?

Reply 3 of 59, by imi

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dionb wrote on 2022-08-25, 14:39:

The very oldest SB16(CT1730-1790) are similar, but are very noisy.

I feel like this is a bit of an overblown issue, yes, they are technically noisy, but that doesn't really take away from how good they sound, personally I prefer the sound of the CT1740 cards to a lot of the "clean" sounding ones.

Reply 4 of 59, by TheMobRules

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imi wrote on 2022-08-25, 16:12:

I feel like this is a bit of an overblown issue, yes, they are technically noisy, but that doesn't really take away from how good they sound, personally I prefer the sound of the CT1740 cards to a lot of the "clean" sounding ones.

Especially if you disable the onboard amplifier (which there is no real reason to use these days).

Reply 5 of 59, by bloodem

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imi wrote on 2022-08-25, 16:12:

I feel like this is a bit of an overblown issue, yes, they are technically noisy, but that doesn't really take away from how good they sound, personally I prefer the sound of the CT1740 cards to a lot of the "clean" sounding ones.

Agreed. I have a lot of SB16 cards, including some that are considered "noisy" on Vogons, but they sound absolutely great.
And, no, I'm not even disabling the onboard amplifier, I don't see the point, since the cards have a full/rich sound and (what I consider) very low noise (especially with good quality Edifier speakers).
Even with headphones the noise levels are very acceptable (not by modern standards, but still very good).

To me, cards like the SB 2.0 and even the SB Pro 2 are what I would consider noisy (still passable, though), but that's actually part of their charm.

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Reply 6 of 59, by atom1kk

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I need it only for dos gaming. I have a P4 atm with a sound blaster live, but this one has some issuess at microprose games like topgun or Gp2 in the emulation. The plan is to get a p3 with isa slot.

I have an offer to ct4520 awe64( with missing green jack, only the round part, which i can hopefully repair) and a SB16 ct4170

Last edited by atom1kk on 2022-08-25, 19:22. Edited 2 times in total.

Reply 7 of 59, by dionb

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imi wrote on 2022-08-25, 16:12:
dionb wrote on 2022-08-25, 14:39:

The very oldest SB16(CT1730-1790) are similar, but are very noisy.

I feel like this is a bit of an overblown issue, yes, they are technically noisy, but that doesn't really take away from how good they sound, personally I prefer the sound of the CT1740 cards to a lot of the "clean" sounding ones.

I did say:

can't say I even notice the [...] bad noise levels of early cards unless I'm specifically listening for them

But it really is subjective. I know people who can't stand it (but wouldn't notice a MIDI slowdown if pushed it seconds out of sync). It doesn't bother me, in fact I sort of like the 'authentic' sound. But perfect it is not.

atom1kk wrote on 2022-08-25, 19:05:

I need it only for dos gaming. I have a P4 atm with a sound blaster live, but this one has dome isdues at microprose games like topgun or Gp2. The plan is to get a p3 with isa slot.

OK, but are you intending to add a MIDI device? That is the biggie with SB16 stuff.

I have an offer to ct4520 awe64( with missing green jack, only the round part, which i can hopefully repair)

Perfectly decent AWE64. Great if you don't want to use MIDI, not too bad if you do. If you can fix it.

and a SB16 ct4170

That's a Vibra, not a regular SB16. Probably the best of the Vibras though. You only suffer from Vibra hissing/ringing and MIDI slowdowns. No other bugs.

Reply 8 of 59, by atom1kk

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What are exactly midi devices?

Normally i would say no since i do not know what exactly it is. I want to use it for late era dos games and 90s windows. Like i said top gun gp2 etc..

What about ct4380? Could get it also for around 25

Is there an overview about all the ct cards?

Reply 9 of 59, by mkarcher

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atom1kk wrote on 2022-08-25, 19:50:

What are exactly midi devices?

We are talking about (likely wavetable-based) MIDI music synthesizers, either connected to the MIDI/game port or added to the waveblaster header (assuming your card has one). As long as you don't plan to add a separate MIDI synthesizer and want to use the SB16 to interface with it, the hanging note bug (all variants) is uninportant to your. The hanging note bug does neither apply to the OPL3-based FM synthesis (compatible with OPL2/Adlib) nor to the AWE integrated wavetable synthesizer.

A reason to add an external synthesizer to the AWE32 / AWE64 card that already has an on-board synthesizer is that the on-board synthesizer has no intelligence to understand MIDI notes. A game needs to specifically support the AWE synthersizer, or you need to use a software emulator (like AWEUTIL supplied with the AWE-series cards or the Windows DOS box) to emulate the hardware ("MPU401-compatible") MIDI interface and map it to the on-board synthesizer. Especially AWEUTIL has compatiblity problems with modern games, some of which can be worked around using DOS32AWE as DOS externder instead of DOS4GW (There is a VOGONS thread about it). This will improve the quality of background music that support "General MIDI" (aka GM) as music output, but not the AWE32 directly.

Reply 10 of 59, by dionb

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Oh yes, see here:
Sound Blaster: From best to worst

CT4380 is basically the same as the CT4520.

MIDI devices are things like external Roland SC-55 sound moudles, or internal waveblaster modules. Things that make good-sounding music in DOS games.

The thing to understand is that old sound cards have multiple ways of making sound, as pure digital audio sound samples (as is the norm today) were too big to use for more than simple effects, and there were different standards for that too.
- PCM digital audio (SoundBlaster, Soundblaster2, SB16, WSS)
- FM synthesis (Yamaha OPL2/OPL3 or clones/reimplementations of differing quality)
- Wavetable (sample-based) synthesis
The difference between cards/chips is frequently which standards are supported and how well they support them.

Wavetable synthesis generally worked with the MIDI protocol. Apart from some early ("intelligent mode") implementations, this boils down to a serial (MPU-401 UART) protocol to tell the wavetable device when to play which note on which instrument. A basic SB16 has no hardware to play this. "AWE" cards have slightly non-standard MIDI synthesizers onboard in their EMU-8000 chips, but all SB16 cards have an MPU-401 UART MIDI interface. Unfortunately it's generally bugged. Creative copied the same buggy design from Mediavision's PAS16. Most other implementations are bug-free.

Reply 11 of 59, by Joseph_Joestar

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dionb wrote on 2022-08-25, 19:21:

That's a Vibra, not a regular SB16. Probably the best of the Vibras though. You only suffer from Vibra hissing/ringing and MIDI slowdowns. No other bugs.

IIRC, Vibra XV models don't have High DMA support. AWE64 cards do, even the value versions.

This might matter for certain games like Duke3D which expect SB16 compatible cards to use High DMA.

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Reply 12 of 59, by atom1kk

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Thanks for all the explanation, but im not smarter at all after this:D. So what would be your suggestion than. The awe or rhe sb 16 card?

In all games i see the SB16 option to choose the sound, so i think this might be the better choice?

Reply 13 of 59, by mkarcher

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atom1kk wrote on 2022-08-25, 21:40:

Thanks for all the explanation, but im not smarter at all after this:D. So what would be your suggestion than. The awe or rhe sb 16 card?

In all games i see the SB16 option to choose the sound, so i think this might be the better choice?

Chose the AWE64. The AWE64 has better game compatibilty than the your candidate SB16, because that SB16 version doesn't support "high DMA", which is important for some games, like Duke 3D. This makes the AWE64 more compatible with the original Soundblaster 16 than the SB16 you got offered.

Reply 15 of 59, by mkarcher

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atom1kk wrote on 2022-08-28, 10:02:

one last question maybe, the most games in the setup say SB16/32AWE, will be AWE64 compatible with them?

Yes, perfectly compatible. There are two primary differences between the AWE32 and the AWE64: The AWE64 has newer, higher integrated chips that make it cheaper to produce, and it has a driver that adds 32 software voices ("WaveGuide") to the 32 voices[1] provided by the EMU8000 synthesizer chip (thus the name "64" instead of "32"). Both of these differences don't affect DOS gaming at all.

1: Actually, some of the 32 "voices" of the EMU8000 synthesizer are used for internal purposes, and only around 29 voices are actually available for music synthesis.

Reply 18 of 59, by mkarcher

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atom1kk wrote on 2022-08-28, 13:30:

I could get a ct4380 awe 64 for 30 incl. Shipping. Is the price and card ok?

The card exactly fits your purpose as I understand it (unless you want to avoid PnP stuff, but the old non-PnP cards are severely overpriced in my oppinion). The price is fair, too. Just get it if you need a SB16 compatible card. There are two reasons not to buy this card: It doesn't have the option to add an internal MIDI wavetable module ("WaveBlaster"), and it only has 512KB of wavetable RAM for the EMU8000 synthesizer chip. This limits the sound fonts you can use. You could upgrade the wavetable memory, but on AWE64 cards, you need special proprietary modules instead of standard SIMMs.

For typical DOS gaming, all you need is SB16 compatible digital sound, OPL3 music synthesis and for later games the builtin ROM MIDI samples. Wavetable RAM is mostly required if you require better instrument samples for MIDI music production.

Reply 19 of 59, by bloodem

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atom1kk wrote on 2022-08-28, 13:30:

I could get a ct4380 awe 64 for 30 incl. Shipping. Is the price and card ok?

It greatly depends on whom you ask. For me, personally, that price is too high for a card that has (what I consider to be) a vastly inferior FM synth (CQM) instead of OPL3 or ESFM.

But, on the other hand, I can acknowledge that this is not an important/differentiating factor for everyone. So if you have no problem with how CQM sounds (this will also depend on which games you play - CQM can sound pretty good in some games), then the AWE64 is otherwise a great and compatible card.

Now, having said that, "card for ISA slot" is pretty ambiguous. If this is a more modern PC (Pentium 3 or similar) which happens to have ISA slots, then the AWE64 (or any other Creative ISA card, for that matter) can suffer from specific issues (such as greater speed sensitivity). In this case I would actually recommend an ESS ES1688/1868 card, which will be more compatible on faster systems (but their build quality can vary greatly - which is a whole different discussion).

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