The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Discussion about old sound cards, MIDI devices and sound related accessories.

Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby MaxWar » 2012-7-24 @ 05:04

The story of the AMP enable Jumper.

Ok just a little post/story/update before its time for bed.

So I was revisiting the cards i had already recorded to get some Monkey island goodness and redo the Descent song to fix the potential L/R balance issue caused by the Normalize effect in my older audacity. When i suddenly hit that AV310 audioexcel.

For those not familiar with this card there is an excellent review of it done by none other than Gerwin on this very Forum.
http://www.vogons.org/viewtopic.php?t=22046

This card certainly has alot of qualities, but according to my first recording session, I found it had possibly the worst output quality of all the cards so far. Its somewhat noisy but not too bad, however everything sounds muffled and muddy compared to most other cards.

However i realized i had not deactivated the internal amp with the jumpers on the card! '' D'Oh!! " So i thought that maybe bypassing that amp would allow the pristine audio goodness to shine through and that suddenly it would sound good!

Well, lo and behold, It didn't change anything!! The card sounds just as bad as ever. I compared the two different recordings ( amp vs no amp ) and really its pretty much identical. So identical that I even wonder if it actually did something with the card. I guess ill have to compare the output level directly with each jumper setting to make sure.

Where i may be going with all this is that, while i would recommend the onboard amp always be deactivated if possible. It might just not be all that significant in most circumstances.

By contrast, the card I think has the best FM output so far is also the one with the strongest onboard Amp. The Amazing ATI stereo F/X with its 8 watt of maximum output and un-bypassable amp that can clip your recording input trough the ceiling if not watched.

All this being said I would still bypass onboard amps whenever possible.
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Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby SquallStrife » 2012-7-24 @ 05:09

Maybe you have a dud? My AV310 is nice and clear.
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Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby MaxWar » 2012-7-24 @ 05:24

Yes, i thought about my card being a bad one, its entirely possible.

But ive read some other people commenting about the poor output quality of this card also.

It would be really interesting to compare with recordings of your own av310. Maybe the AV310 had some bad batches. I had very hi hopes for this card and was somewhat disappointed with the output quality.

All of this being said, i gotta say its also quite subtle and really its possible to not notice anything unless you compare directly with other cards, but when i did that, the difference is quite noticeable, especially on my main listening post with the B3031A reference monitors.

By opposition, on my big retro sound system its often much harder to make up the differences between the cards.
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Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby SquallStrife » 2012-7-24 @ 05:28

Could also be that I also don't use digital or FM on my AV310 at all, it's purely used as a host for my Yamaha XG DB. I noticed it was quite noisy before I muted everything I wasn't using.
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Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby MaxWar » 2012-7-24 @ 05:35

I must add that i did not try the SPDIF digital output, a feature that is rather uncommon for cards of this generation but the AV310 has it. Gerwin sure seemed enthusiastic about this feature, maybe i should give it a try!

Maybe this card still has a surprise in store!
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Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby jwt27 » 2012-7-24 @ 15:49

Jepael wrote:
jwt27 wrote:Great idea, I can record some later today on an YMF-719. Supposedly that is a standard OPL3 with zero filtering.


At least the implementation is somewhat different from the original OPL3 implementation in YMF262, because they use different master clock speeds, so yes, it would be interesting.


Are you sure these use different clock frequencies? The sampling rate is the same for both, 49716Hz.
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Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby MaxWar » 2012-7-25 @ 05:24

UPDATE 1

Ok, here's the first official file update for the Grand OPL3 comparison run.
This update corrects some issues with my first round of recording and adds some content. The website is now Updated with this new content.

If you had downloaded the original 1.5 gb package, you can download a patch with the following link.
https://docs.google.com/open?id=0BzsnL20-4a37VFRzTFlQQ1JZaUE

Please extract the content into your "OPL3 Comparison Run" Directory. It will ask to overwrite some files, the older files should be discarded as they had potential flaws. Also note that a directory in the original package was wrongly named, PT-210 should be PT201

Patch Notes:
-All the stereo (opl3) descent-intro recordings have been remade in order to fix a potential imbalance in the stereo channels. As the cause of this problem has now been fixed, it is not expected to be an issue in the future.

-New version of OMF2097- intro for the CT2260, to correct stereo issues as above.

- All the ATI stereo F/X recordings have been redone. Due to the extremely powerful output of this card, it appears i had recorded with some level of limiting done by my recording interface. This actually made the recording sound fatter and richer but that is not what we want. The old files have been overwritten and the Intro of the Game TheDig has been recorded for this card.

-Monkey Island Intro has been recorded for several cards that did not have it.

-The recordings done for the Vibra16 CT2940 by CapnCrunch have been added to the collection

-The webpage has been updated with all the new files

-Some amount of descriptive text and feedback about my experience with the cards have been added to the webpage.
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Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby Mau1wurf1977 » 2012-7-25 @ 08:32

I'm super lazy today so I'm wondering if it's possible for you to zip all the shareware games and put them on your site for download? :)
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Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby Jepael » 2012-7-25 @ 11:26

jwt27 wrote:Are you sure these use different clock frequencies? The sampling rate is the same for both, 49716Hz.


No I am not 100% sure, that is why I asked. Do you have any information, like a link to a datasheet? I have not found a datasheet that would verify this, just some generic datasheets.

The original YMF-262 uses 14.318MHz master clock which divided by 288 is the sampling rate, hence 49716Hz. But YMF-719 does not use 14.318MHz at all, it uses both 24.576MHz (48kHz-based) and 33.8688MHz (44.1kHz-based). It might use one of these and divide that with some integer value to get near 49716Hz, but I think it will not match. Anyway the DAC is internal so only analog output comes out of the chip.

However I am 100% sure that OPL4 (YMF278B) uses only 33.8688MHz clock, and only digital output of 44.1kHz. Even the datasheet mentions that the OPL3-compatible timers run at slightly different speeds, and that FM-synth frequency calculations are based on sampling rate of 33.8688MHz/684, or 49516 Hz. Therefore I have a reason to believe that YMF-719 is more close to OPL4 than YMF-262. But not 100% sure.
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Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby jwt27 » 2012-7-25 @ 13:56

33.8688/684 like you said seems reasonable. I checked again and you're right, spectrum analysis shows aliasing starts at about 24760Hz. That would mean the sampling rate is ~49520Hz.
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Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby MaxWar » 2012-7-25 @ 15:53

Mau1wurf1977 wrote:I'm super lazy today so I'm wondering if it's possible for you to zip all the shareware games and put them on your site for download? :)

Good idea, i still had all the installers right here.
https://dl.dropbox.com/u/43851675/OPL3GameDemos.zip

I will also add the link the on the web site later.

All the games that are sharewares are here. So of course there is no monkey island, no Dune and no Xwing.

There used to be a non playable Demo of Dune back in the days, kind of a trailer for dos :p I seem to remember it had music. I could not for the life of me locate it on the internet. If someone can put his hands on that Demo, maybe it could be an option for those without the full game.

Edit: actually looks like THERE IS a shareware of monkey island. I own the original so i did not bother looking for a shareware i did not know exist.
I do not know how this shareware will behave but i added the file the the main zip
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Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby lolo799 » 2012-7-25 @ 19:31

Link to the Dune demo: http://forum.dune2k.com/topic/21585-dun ... aclachlan/

X-Wing non playable demo (it only shows the game intro):
ftp://ftp.lucasarts.com/demos/pc/Xwingdem.zip

There's also a playable Secret of Monkey Island, wich is not on Lucasart's ftp for some reason:
http://www.dosgamesarchive.com/download ... ey-island/

Edit:I noticed you did add the Monkey Island demo to your archive, don't mind me then.
I also attched the dunedemo to the post.
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Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby kool kitty89 » 2012-7-25 @ 22:51

Jepael wrote:So is this more about differences of the different FM synth chips (OPL2, OPL3, OPL3-SA3, OPL4, Yamaha OPL integrated into larger chips, OPL clones from other manufacturers), or differences in the analog portions after FM chips (DAC, reconstruction filters, op-amps, mixers, amplifiers, output stages)?

From my experience, and discussions with others (including Ace here on Vogons -also on Sega-16), I've gotten the impression that the real discrete OPL3s and Yamaha licensed/manufactured embedded/integrated IC variants are all equal or nearly equal (some of the ASIC variants may have slight improvements in quality and tweaks to certain bugs/quirks, but I'm not positive -this did happen with the licensed YM2612 derivative Sega used). Likewise, OPL2 support is similar.

However, post patent expiration (1995) clones not directly licensed from Yamaha like Creative's CQM are another story, with significant flaws/differences worse in some cases than others. (oddly, certain AWE64 and most Live! cards have really nasty OPL support, though some AWE64s have typical CQM)

Yamaha based cards (like the YMF-7xx) continued to have genuine OPL3 after others had switched to clone alternatives, and thus those Yamaha based cards still have real OPL3 compatibility. (some of them also have SB-Pro2 8-bit stereo compatibility, a rarity among post SB-16 cards)


However, having real OPL3s of equal/nearly equal quality/capabilities isn't the only factor. A huge issue comes into play with the external analog circuitry used (amps/mixers/etc) and will contribute to clarity/muffled or treble/bass sound as well as problems with distortion or noise if weak/poor quality amps are used (or poor PCB design introducing excess noise).
On another Sega-related note, analog amp circuitry is the sole problem with late/mid generation Sega Genesis/Megadrive models. (very late models corrected this with fairly decent amp circuits, though further modification is possible to achieve exceptional clarity -also possible on the crappy sounding models, though not on the early models using discrete YM2612 chips which already have good sound -but not as clean as is possible with a modified later model)

I haven't heard much about modding SB cards for better sound quality (aside from just replacing caps), but I do know there's quite a range in quality on the analog end. The most consistently clean/good quality Creative ones being some of the late model SB-16 and Vibra cards (prior to CQM), while some of the earlier SB-16s and the Pro2 tend to be clean but rather heavily filtered (same for some pre-CQM AWE32s).

The YMF7xx cards tend to have very clean output, as do some of the Opti clone cards (which also seem to manage real OPL3 quality/compatibility, unlike CQM). The YMF72x/74x cards are also the only PCI sound cards with good OPL compatibility AFIK.


I believe the Mediavision Pro Audio Spectrum cards have relatively good quality output too, but I'm not sure on the details.
I have one of the 16-bit models of PAS, but I haven't tried it out yet. (or rather, not since it was in use at home some 15+ years ago)



On the note of CQM/clone OPL chips, some tracks will not show noticeable differences from true OPL while others will be very noticeable. Dark Halls (E1M3) is one of the more obvious examples of the CQM's problems. (might be worth adding to the list, unless some of the current tracks have similarly obvious examples)
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Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby jwt27 » 2012-7-26 @ 01:35

kool kitty89 wrote:
Jepael wrote:So is this more about differences of the different FM synth chips (OPL2, OPL3, OPL3-SA3, OPL4, Yamaha OPL integrated into larger chips, OPL clones from other manufacturers), or differences in the analog portions after FM chips (DAC, reconstruction filters, op-amps, mixers, amplifiers, output stages)?

From my experience, and discussions with others (including Ace here on Vogons -also on Sega-16), I've gotten the impression that the real discrete OPL3s and Yamaha licensed/manufactured embedded/integrated IC variants are all equal or nearly equal (some of the ASIC variants may have slight improvements in quality and tweaks to certain bugs/quirks, but I'm not positive -this did happen with the licensed YM2612 derivative Sega used). Likewise, OPL2 support is similar.

However, post patent expiration (1995) clones not directly licensed from Yamaha like Creative's CQM are another story, with significant flaws/differences worse in some cases than others. (oddly, certain AWE64 and most Live! cards have really nasty OPL support, though some AWE64s have typical CQM)

Yamaha based cards (like the YMF-7xx) continued to have genuine OPL3 after others had switched to clone alternatives, and thus those Yamaha based cards still have real OPL3 compatibility. (some of them also have SB-Pro2 8-bit stereo compatibility, a rarity among post SB-16 cards)


However, having real OPL3s of equal/nearly equal quality/capabilities isn't the only factor. A huge issue comes into play with the external analog circuitry used (amps/mixers/etc) and will contribute to clarity/muffled or treble/bass sound as well as problems with distortion or noise if weak/poor quality amps are used (or poor PCB design introducing excess noise).
On another Sega-related note, analog amp circuitry is the sole problem with late/mid generation Sega Genesis/Megadrive models. (very late models corrected this with fairly decent amp circuits, though further modification is possible to achieve exceptional clarity -also possible on the crappy sounding models, though not on the early models using discrete YM2612 chips which already have good sound -but not as clean as is possible with a modified later model)

I haven't heard much about modding SB cards for better sound quality (aside from just replacing caps), but I do know there's quite a range in quality on the analog end. The most consistently clean/good quality Creative ones being some of the late model SB-16 and Vibra cards (prior to CQM), while some of the earlier SB-16s and the Pro2 tend to be clean but rather heavily filtered (same for some pre-CQM AWE32s).

The YMF7xx cards tend to have very clean output, as do some of the Opti clone cards (which also seem to manage real OPL3 quality/compatibility, unlike CQM). The YMF72x/74x cards are also the only PCI sound cards with good OPL compatibility AFIK.


I believe the Mediavision Pro Audio Spectrum cards have relatively good quality output too, but I'm not sure on the details.
I have one of the 16-bit models of PAS, but I haven't tried it out yet. (or rather, not since it was in use at home some 15+ years ago)



On the note of CQM/clone OPL chips, some tracks will not show noticeable differences from true OPL while others will be very noticeable. Dark Halls (E1M3) is one of the more obvious examples of the CQM's problems. (might be worth adding to the list, unless some of the current tracks have similarly obvious examples)

I believe all Yamaha YMF-7xx based sound cards offer SBPro2 stereo compatibility. So does about any other 90's sound card. The YMF's support, however, actually works. And the reason these cards sound very 'clean' is because they usually lack any sort of filtering on the SB/OPL output. 16-bit WSS output is filtered however (=cut off at 24KHz).

About Opti cards.. I believe I have some lying around with clone OPL3s. And they are BAD.

Now that you mention modding, I discovered something interesting about the YMF719 today. I'll post up a thread on it later when I get it to work.
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Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby Ace » 2012-7-26 @ 05:08

jwt27 wrote:About Opti cards.. I believe I have some lying around with clone OPL3s. And they are BAD.


Are these 82C925 or 82C931-based cards, by any chance (these have the OPL3 clone integrated within the chip itself)? If they are, then that explains the garbage OPL3; those use OPTiFM, which sounds REALLY weird. It's like OPTi couldn't get the volume levels at the right place and completely messed up certain FM notes. If you're talking about OPTi cards with discrete OPL3 clones, what the hell kind of chips do they use? May I see what those cards look like?
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Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby Mau1wurf1977 » 2012-7-26 @ 09:11

We should also mention that some cards have a setting for bass and treble. This will likely have a large impact. So maybe it is possible to tweak some cards to sound different?

Also a small detail about the Sound Blaster Pro 2. It has a selectable filter for the digital part!

I documented everything here:

http://queststudios.com/smf/index.php/topic,3241.0.html

I kinda like the unfiltered digital sound. Sounds a lot brighter and not as muffled.
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Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby jwt27 » 2012-7-26 @ 13:09

Ace wrote:
jwt27 wrote:About Opti cards.. I believe I have some lying around with clone OPL3s. And they are BAD.


Are these 82C925 or 82C931-based cards, by any chance (these have the OPL3 clone integrated within the chip itself)? If they are, then that explains the garbage OPL3; those use OPTiFM, which sounds REALLY weird. It's like OPTi couldn't get the volume levels at the right place and completely messed up certain FM notes. If you're talking about OPTi cards with discrete OPL3 clones, what the hell kind of chips do they use? May I see what those cards look like?


If only I could find them... :blah:
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Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby elianda » 2012-7-26 @ 16:50

Ace wrote:
jwt27 wrote:About Opti cards.. I believe I have some lying around with clone OPL3s. And they are BAD.


Are these 82C925 or 82C931-based cards, by any chance (these have the OPL3 clone integrated within the chip itself)? If they are, then that explains the garbage OPL3; those use OPTiFM, which sounds REALLY weird. It's like OPTi couldn't get the volume levels at the right place and completely messed up certain FM notes. If you're talking about OPTi cards with discrete OPL3 clones, what the hell kind of chips do they use? May I see what those cards look like?


Well miroSound PCM1 uses Opti 82C929A and OPL4 which has a OPL3 part.
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Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby Jepael » 2012-7-26 @ 19:09

kool kitty89 wrote:However, having real OPL3s of equal/nearly equal quality/capabilities isn't the only factor. A huge issue comes into play with the external analog circuitry used (amps/mixers/etc) and will contribute to clarity/muffled or treble/bass sound as well as problems with distortion or noise if weak/poor quality amps are used (or poor PCB design introducing excess noise).


kool kitty89 wrote:I haven't heard much about modding SB cards for better sound quality (aside from just replacing caps), but I do know there's quite a range in quality on the analog end. The most consistently clean/good quality Creative ones being some of the late model SB-16 and Vibra cards (prior to CQM), while some of the earlier SB-16s and the Pro2 tend to be clean but rather heavily filtered (same for some pre-CQM AWE32s).


I have never ran into modified SB cards, but one Aztech card with OPL3 was just so wrongly designed or manufactured, so I had to modify it.

The analog circuitry around the YAC-512 FM DAC had too large value capacitor on DAC output. I don't remember how much wrong it was, but mono FM sound was acceptable, I guess it could have filtered away the high frequencies. But since the chip has only one DAC output which is alternatively sent to left and right channels, having say 1kHz tone on left channel also caused 1kHz tone out from the right channel.

I had no mercy with that Aztech card! So to be sure I replaced all the components around YAC-512 with values suggested in datasheet. There is no low pass filtering between FM DAC and Aztech mixer chip, but every DAC should have a reconstruction filter after them, or the spectrum will have aliases. I am still debating with myself whether or not I should build a low-pass filter that matches the original Adlib card filter.

While modifying the circuitry around YAC-512 DAC, I also noticed that both FM DAC output and wavetable daughterboard connector audio was summed together in an inverting op-amp configuration, I decided to disconnect the connection to daughterboard audio, and change the inverting op-amp configuration to non-inverting so it matches YAC-512 datasheet. This improved the YAC-512 sample/hold circuitry, as non-inverting configuration has very large input impedance compared to the original inverting configuration that caused the held waveform to droop between samples. This also allowed me to remove DC bias blocking capacitors from the op-amp input, as the op-amp output again has DC bias blocking capacitors before the mixer.

I could build the DAC reconstruction filter and separate FM only line out for making high quality analog recordings, but I can already make perfect digital recordings from the audio bus between OPL3 and DAC with an USB logic analyser, so I have little need for any higher quality analog sound.

While this thread is for analog sound, I do have to ask would anyone be interested to hear fully digital OPL3 (YMF-262) recordings?
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Re: The Grand OPL3 Comparison Run!

Postby jmrydholm » 2012-7-26 @ 21:25

This is a very cool post. I am going to go home and listen to Midi on my headphones with an intent, serious expression on my face. I'll see what kind of reaction I get from the Mrs. ;)
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