VOGONS


Sound Blaster 16 & AWE32: From best to worst

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Reply 20 of 60, by appiah4

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I have the CT2290 which is fairly similar to CT2230 and I can say it's my favorite SB16 among the two score SB16 cards I have. My CT3980 is better though. 😀

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 21 of 60, by dionb

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jesolo wrote:
dionb wrote:

Bumping again, just to get this one higher in the list - spent far too long finding it.

I recently got my hands on more Soundblasters than I know what to do with (CT2910, CT2950, CT3900 - and still eight more cases to open...) and want to figure out what to use, what to keep and what to sell/give away. Unfortunately reconfirmed that my ideal SB16 doesn't exist (no PnP, CQM, no Vibra artefacts and low own noise), although the CT2910 comes closest. Note that there seems to be an error in the diagram - the CT2910 is listed as PnP, but my 2910 is bristling with non-PnP jumpers.

CT2230 (one of the later revisions with the "less noisier" CT-1703 DAC). Here is a review of this particular model:
My Sound Blaster 16 CT2230 Review

Looks pretty decent - but has OPL3 just like the CT2910 - and I actually want CQM to compare with the Aztech SBPro-compatible card I have next to it 😉

Reply 22 of 60, by Burrito78

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dionb wrote:

Note that there seems to be an error in the diagram - the CT2910 is listed as PnP, but my 2910 is bristling with non-PnP jumpers.

You are right! It's been fixed. Thanks!

Last edited by Burrito78 on 2018-11-16, 21:59. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 23 of 60, by Burrito78

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jesolo wrote:

CT2230 (one of the later revisions with the "less noisier" CT-1703 DAC).

Thats what i also finally settled with. I too bought a lot of Sound Blaster cards (see my other post about how i arrived at the CT2230: My journey to a bearable Sound Blaster 16 model)
and the CT2230 - while being far from perfect - is the best compromise regarding SB16 models.

Last edited by Burrito78 on 2018-11-16, 21:58. Edited 2 times in total.

Reply 24 of 60, by doaks80

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CT3930? Vibra with discrete OPL3.

k6-3+ 400 / s3 virge DX+voodoo1 / awe32(32mb)
via c3 866 / s3 savage4+voodoo2 sli / audigy1+awe64(8mb)
athlon xp 3200+ / voodoo5 5500 / diamond mx300
pentium4 3400 / geforce fx5950U / audigy2 ZS
core2duo E8500 / radeon HD5850 / x-fi titanium

Reply 25 of 60, by Burrito78

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doaks80 wrote:

CT3930? Vibra with discrete OPL3.

This card is rare but it exists in the wild. Since this is a SB32 with a real OPL i caved in and added all the known SB32 to the list for the sake of completeness. Thanks!

Reply 26 of 60, by jesolo

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appiah4 wrote:

I have the CT2290 which is fairly similar to CT2230 and I can say it's my favorite SB16 among the two score SB16 cards I have. My CT3980 is better though. 😀

I also like the CT3980. Would have preferred if it was a non PnP card.
The only issue I've discovered with my CT3980 is that, whenever digital sounds are played back, there's a "crackling" sound in between. By disabling the high DMA channel (and only using the low DMA channel), the "crackling" sound disappears.
This happens under both DOS & Windows.

Reply 27 of 60, by anakin94

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Burrito78 wrote on 2018-05-07, 08:54:
Sorry for the clickbait title, it's not so easy. You have to decide for yourself by whats important for you. […]
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Sorry for the clickbait title, it's not so easy. You have to decide for yourself by whats important for you.

Therefore i made a list!

Sound Blaster 16 Bugs.v6.png
Sources:
http://www.amoretro.de/guides-workshops/creat … r-modellnummern
Sound Blaster 16 Bugs and Deficiencies Summary
http://nerdlypleasures.blogspot.de/2012/07/so … ibulations.html

Sound Blaster 16 Bugs.v6.pdf

I have a question to the table.
In the line "MPU-401 Hanging Notes bug*" are the first models yellow with the quote "Check DSP version".
Ok that i have understand, but what does it mean, "yes, playable" beginning at the CT2230?
Does the cards like CT2230, or CT2290 have that bug?
And what's the difference to "Yes" in red?

Enhanced for Matrox Mystique

Reply 28 of 60, by BinaryDemon

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I’m curious, how annoying would you say using the buggiest cards here are? I don’t recall which version of the SB16 I had in 1993, but I do think it had the hanging note bug. I recall exiting games and the last note playing would get stuck requiring a reboot. That didn’t bother me much rebooting dos was always fast, ready to game again in a few seconds. I don’t recall the slowdown issue but if things chugged in Duke3D, I may have chalked it up to being a fairly intensive game at the time.

Check out DOSBox Distro:

https://sites.google.com/site/dosboxdistro/ [*]

a lightweight Linux distro (tinycore) which boots off a usb flash drive and goes straight to DOSBox.

Make your dos retrogaming experience portable!

Reply 29 of 60, by bristlehog

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There are CT1780 and CT1790 versions of SB16, with Philips and Sony CD interfaces. Here's more detailed info: https://ilovepa.ws/2017/06/13/the-legendary-sound-blaster/

CT1780 is (or was) owned by Artex, Kahenraz, easyjohn. I know where to get one for ~$100 if need be.

Fagear has a CT1790 in his collection: http://hw.fagear.ru/creative-sound-blaster-16-asp-ct1790/ (his website is in Russian)

The CT1730 is a subvariant of CT1740 with small differences. Fagear has it too: http://hw.fagear.ru/creative-sound-blaster-16-ct1730/

Also he's got some other variants:
SB16:
CT2830: http://hw.fagear.ru/creative-sound-blaster-16-ide-ct2830/
CT2920: http://hw.fagear.ru/creative-sound-blaster-16-ct2920/
CT4100: http://hw.fagear.ru/creative-sound-blaster-vibra-16-ct4100/
AWE32:
CT4330: http://hw.fagear.ru/creative-sound-blaster-aw … 2-value-ct4330/

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Last edited by bristlehog on 2020-01-12, 18:00. Edited 6 times in total.

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

Reply 30 of 60, by dionb

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BinaryDemon wrote on 2020-01-12, 13:31:

I’m curious, how annoying would you say using the buggiest cards here are? I don’t recall which version of the SB16 I had in 1993, but I do think it had the hanging note bug. I recall exiting games and the last note playing would get stuck requiring a reboot. That didn’t bother me much rebooting dos was always fast, ready to game again in a few seconds. I don’t recall the slowdown issue but if things chugged in Duke3D, I may have chalked it up to being a fairly intensive game at the time.

Totally subjective question...

Worst-case would probably be a noisy early SB16 with DSP with bad hanging note bug and slowdowns, and SC-DMA clicking running a game that supports SBPro2 (so stereo mixed up) for digital audio and a GM soundtrack. Depending on how sensitive you are to it, it could be show-stoppingly awful, or you could be so engrossed in the game you don't even notice it.

Reply 31 of 60, by Burrito78

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anakin94 wrote on 2020-01-12, 12:45:
I have a question to the table. In the line "MPU-401 Hanging Notes bug*" are the first models yellow with the quote "Check DSP v […]
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I have a question to the table.
In the line "MPU-401 Hanging Notes bug*" are the first models yellow with the quote "Check DSP version".
Ok that i have understand, but what does it mean, "yes, playable" beginning at the CT2230?
Does the cards like CT2230, or CT2290 have that bug?
And what's the difference to "Yes" in red?

You are right, the table isn't very precise here. I have to update the list to make this more clear.

"Yes, playable" means the cards have a Type 2 hanging notes bug.
"Yes" means the cards have a Type 1 hanging notes bug.

This is related to the FM chip, if this is a CT1747 bus interface IC, then the cards always have a more behaved Type 2 HNB.
Type 2 means you will get an error eventually after a few hours of gaming. But of course this could happen right away, because its random.

You can find all the details here:
https://www.vogonswiki.com/index.php/Hanging_note_bug

Reply 32 of 60, by Burrito78

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bristlehog wrote on 2020-01-12, 14:00:
There are CT1780 and CT1790 versions of SB16, with Philips and Sony CD interfaces. Here's more detailed info: https://ilovepa.ws […]
Show full quote

There are CT1780 and CT1790 versions of SB16, with Philips and Sony CD interfaces. Here's more detailed info: https://ilovepa.ws/2017/06/13/the-legendary-sound-blaster/

CT1780 is (or was) owned by Artex, Kahenraz, easyjohn. I know where to get one for ~$100 if need be.

Fagear has a CT1790 in his collection: http://hw.fagear.ru/creative-sound-blaster-16-asp-ct1790/ (his website is in Russian)

The CT1730 is a subvariant of CT1740 with small differences. Fagear has it too: http://hw.fagear.ru/creative-sound-blaster-16-ct1730/

Also he's got some other variants:
SB16:
CT2830: http://hw.fagear.ru/creative-sound-blaster-16-ide-ct2830/
CT2920: http://hw.fagear.ru/creative-sound-blaster-16-ct2920/
CT4100: http://hw.fagear.ru/creative-sound-blaster-vibra-16-ct4100/
AWE32:
CT4330: http://hw.fagear.ru/creative-sound-blaster-aw … 2-value-ct4330/

Thanks for the links and especially the pictures! I will add the cards asap!

Reply 33 of 60, by Burrito78

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BinaryDemon wrote on 2020-01-12, 13:31:

I’m curious, how annoying would you say using the buggiest cards here are? I don’t recall which version of the SB16 I had in 1993, but I do think it had the hanging note bug. I recall exiting games and the last note playing would get stuck requiring a reboot. That didn’t bother me much rebooting dos was always fast, ready to game again in a few seconds. I don’t recall the slowdown issue but if things chugged in Duke3D, I may have chalked it up to being a fairly intensive game at the time.

I think back in the day we were so used to things going wrong that we just shrugged most of this off and just lived with it.
Most knowledge about the Sound Blaster cards was only collected when the internet (and Vogons) came along!

But today standards are higher and everyone tries to build their "perfect" retro computer. Therefore people get REALLY into details about 25 year old ISA soundcards. 😀

But really, try to understand the list and decide what is important for you. There is no "best" card with Sound Blasters.

Reply 34 of 60, by jheronimus

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Burrito78 wrote on 2020-01-12, 23:26:

But today standards are higher and everyone tries to build their "perfect" retro computer. Therefore people get REALLY into details about 25 year old ISA soundcards. 😀

Such a great point, and it applies to so many things in retro computing: performance, compatibility, bugs and so much more. Looking at the old hardware through the prism of modern computing standards can really drive you mad.

My Telegram blog about retro hardware (in Russian)

Pentium 133, 32 MB RAM, S3 Trio64V+, Crystal 4232, Dreamblaster X2 and Roland MT-32
Pentium III 1000, 512 MB RAM, Voodoo 5 5500 AGP, SB Live 5.1, SB32 CT3930, Gravis Ultrasound Max rev2.1

Reply 35 of 60, by kolderman

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Yeah how many people here lived with PC Speaker until near the mid 90s? I suspect a lot of people back then barely understood what a sound card was or what difference it made. I was reading a copy of PC Gamer from 1994 on the weekend and their *tech guy* was saying just that - he took his computer to get the sound card upgraded, and the answer was "you don't currently have a sound card sir". Now we are like what revision of the DSP of some old SoundBlaster avoids some rare midi bug seen in only 2 games in total. Not that there is anything wrong with that...but millions of people gamed through the 90s and probably didn't notice any of this.

Reply 36 of 60, by Burrito78

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Updated with first post with new info.

@bristlehog I added the cards that were missing, thanks again! Some card were already on the list because while the list is generally sorted by CT-Number, i also grouped Vibra/Non-Vibra cards together to make the list less chaotic.

Reply 38 of 60, by red_avatar

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Thank you very much for this list.

A few months back I dumped out my SB16 (and a second Aztech card just for MPU-401 output) and switched over to a Yamaha Audician 32 Plus. Sure, there's no MPU-401 bug, it's PnP, it's relatively low-noise (although I had a lot of trouble with system whine which I never had with a SB16 card) and the drivers don't use conventional memory BUT BUT BUT support is very iffy. Some high profile games won't accept ANY sound - Innocent Until Caught, Cannon Fodder 1&2, Pizza Tycoon, Pinball Illusions/Dreams 2, UFO Enemy Known/XCOM, etc. On top of this, because it's not SB16 compatible, a lot of later DOS games sound pretty meh because it drops its sample rate quite a bit. Oh and Windows software is crap and DOS mixer is wonky as hell

So yeah ... sure Sound Blasters have their issues but the software is solid, support is top notch and they're very well documented. I'll use your list to pick the one that annoys me the least 😉 Probably the CT2230.

Retro game fanatic.
IBM PS1 386SX25 - 4MB
IBM Aptiva 486SX33 - 8MB - 2GB CF - SB16
IBM PC350 P233MMX - 64MB - 32GB SSD - AWE64 - Voodoo2
PIII600 - 320MB - 480GB SSD - SB Live! - GF4 Ti 4200
i5-2500k - 3GB - SB Audigy 2 - HD 4870

Reply 39 of 60, by Velociraptor

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This is a really helpful chart as I'm trying to choose a card. What I'm struggling with is the meaning of the issues.

MPU-401 slowdown/pauses seems to be on every card so I shouldn't be choosing based on that. However it is fairly concerning that it happens since my intention would be to use the card for sound and for MIDI output. Given that it's on every card though I expect my solution would be to get a card and if it turns out to be insufferable get an additional card for MIDI output.

It seems very important to have an OPL3 since not every game will do MT32 etc, so only OPL3 cards suit me.

The hanging note bug I think I've heard before and it's not the end of the world.

I don't know what the Wavetable is. My vague memory has me guessing it's the ability to use MIDI softfonts and that's what the AWE etc ended up with?

Self noise is obviously best avoided if possible by confirming somehow if there's a CT1703 on there.

So digesting all of that leaves me with a bit of filtering to do.

Something I don't understand though is - what is PnP?