VOGONS


First post, by radiounix

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No, I'm serious. The PC speaker is inherently a limited, primitive means of reproducing audio. But much of the pain of PC speaker sound comes from the physical drivers used to reproduce the sound. In most laptops and in many newer desktops, the PC speaker is a literal piezo buzzer better suited to an alarm clock or smoke detector. They have a harsh, ear-piercing tone and very poor fidelity. Speech and other digital audio is barely intelligible when played through them. If you're lucky, and have an older desktop, it's still just a 2" paper cone speaker -- the cheap kind like used in old AM pocket transistor radios. These start rolling off around 500hz and often have a lot of distortion, resulting in a thin and harsh sound.

A modern laptop speaker is likely to fit in place of the piezo in even a cramped laptop. They make some really small ones, though the smallest will probably sound thin. For a desktop, options abound -- you could make the PC speaker quieter by choosing an inefficient speaker with a rubber surround -- which will also give you a deeper sound. If you play PC booters or CGA titles with no sound option, wire in a switch so you can mute the speaker at will.

This isn't just splitting hairs. I put a surplus laptop speaker in my 486 notebook and it's now able to play WAV files in Windows with fidelity approaching that of a basic Covox clone. Ditto for mod trackers with PC speaker output. Trash PC speaker sound still sounds primitive, but games like Jazz Jackrabbit actually sound okay with the effects on. Not like a Soundblaster, but good enough to leave on. And early CGA titles still sound obnoxious, but they're no longer like nails on a chalkboard harsh.

Reply 1 of 6, by Tiido

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I simply run the signal to PC-speaker input of a sound card when present, solves all the problems. Piezo drivers are awful though and upgrade may be worthwhile.

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Reply 2 of 6, by badmojo

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I have a nostalgic attachment to the PC speaker option for a lot of games but yes the implementation of them varies - older, more solid cases are better in my experience and one of my old flip tops in particular sounds amazing. They can be too loud though so it's worth splicing in a resistor or like you say try a different speaker.

So yes PC speaker doesn't get much love but can definitely be improved - using the sound card is an option (a PAS16 cleverly picks up the signal via the ISA bus by default!) but it never feels right to me, PC speaker sounds should come out of the case 😁

If it's broke, then fix it!

Reply 3 of 6, by radiounix

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If you can route it through to a sound card, consider yourself lucky. That's the best option! My machine is a laptop, so I do not have any slots or any inbuilt sound system aside from that buzzer. Ditto for people with IBM PS/2s who don't have trust funds and ninja sourcing skills.

The best PC Speaker I've heard was in the IBM PS/1. It used an oversized cone, mated to an amplifier. Volume control and headphone jack. I think it was set up as such primarily so the PC could support a very rare IBM sound card module.

Reply 5 of 6, by cyclone3d

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I have a little adapter to plug into the motherboard's PC Speaker output that has a 3.5mm jac on the other end and then I can plug that into the input on my main computer to do recordings.

Works really well though I am not convinced that all motherboards output the same sounds as the one game I was going to do recordings from was giving me fade-out effects and the other person that ended up doing the recording on their system was not getting these effects.

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