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ASP403 - The Neverending Project

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First post, by ZanQuance

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Update 02/18/2020:

The new DOS TSR is still not running as solid as Aureals original driver, though there are some improvements over the original, it isn't stable enough. Protected mode games sometimes crash or refuse to detect the TSR emulation, I'm working these issues out currently, this requires an INT21 hook which TP7 is having some issues with.

Real mode games are working and sound great.
There is now a sliding 2nd order butterworth lowpass filter implemented in hardware. Games like Quake sound much better than before. Turrican 2 has some latency issues, still refining the code to fix this.
Epic pinball sounds great along with many others.
Most dma issues are worked out, but there is still more to do.

For now the original drivers are better all around.

Last edited by ZanQuance on 2020-02-19, 04:58. Edited 39 times in total.

Reply 1 of 172, by raymangold

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There are a *lot* of OPL3 implementations / clones, but I am curious as to how well the Vortex2 emulates OPL3 (like all OPL3 clones, it will have inaccuracies with interpreting custom parameters such as vibrato and ADSR), but that's what makes clones interesting to me. I may hunt down a variant of a vortex 2 to study it.

The next question is how well the card's actual output is (which would depend on the variant used I suppose-- and the variance seems to be huge), the only OPL3 card that went out of its way to implement a professional grade output was the Adlib Gold. And it sounds quite different from everything else as a result.

In terms of usefulness for *modern* things, it makes very little sense to me. I would seriously recommend something like a Roland Quad capture over it (and even over Creative's X-FI and other sound cards since they are plagued with improper output designs, low quality capacitors and terrible drivers-- requiring lots of soldering to fix it all). Another problem is that many computers are abandoning the PCI interface.

Reply 2 of 172, by bristlehog

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Vortex2 OPL3 implementation is quite inaccurate. I have such a card and it sounds weird in some DOS games, like Codename: Iceman.

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

Reply 3 of 172, by ZanQuance

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I'm sure we'll discover if this is due to the hardware being the way it is, or simply a bad software implementation in which case it could be improved. Aureal didn't have much time to perfect it mind ya.
[edit]
The Vortex2 documentation states there should be some form of legacy hardware present:

Complete Legacy Support Patented Sound Blaster Pro emulation means that the AU8830 is a hassle-free solution that still supports […]
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Complete Legacy Support
Patented Sound Blaster Pro emulation means that the AU8830 is a hassle-free solution that still supports older games in
both Windows DOS boxes and real-mode DOS (without Windows). Unlike other PCI-based systems that merely claim
legacy support because they can run carefully selected games, Aureal’s integrated hardware support has been designed to
ensure complete legacy compatibility. Verified operation has been proven on over 300 DOS games. In addition, the
wavetable synthesizer is available for high-quality music in Windows DOS boxes.

[edit3]
After looking into the register set more closely, it mimics that of an OPL3 in hardware. Might be a real implementation but just used the software TSR emulation because it was already available on hand...

Last edited by ZanQuance on 2016-01-15, 00:43. Edited 6 times in total.

Reply 4 of 172, by PhilsComputerLab

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I prefer to leave Vortex to with Windows 98 era but that's just me 😀

There are talks that the final drivers introduce a few bugs with games. So maybe a modded / fixed driver release?

You also need to modify the INF file to achieve things such as installing the Windows driver without Sound Blaster Emulation (in case you have a real Sound Blaster). So maybe offer a range of drivers that do all these tasks?

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Reply 6 of 172, by PhilsComputerLab

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tgod wrote:

Wouldn't an A3D wrapper/emulator make more sense?

On a period correct machine not so much I guess. Many of these Windows 95 / 98 games are quite tricky to get going on modern PCs.

I believe for Unreal something like a wrapper exists to restore surround sound but I'm not very sure.

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Reply 7 of 172, by ZanQuance

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Perhaps to a certain extent, but I would rather bring updated drivers to the AU8830 like the KX project did for the EMU10K1/2 cards. [edit] Actually a wrapper was already made but is horribly inaccurate. see http://www.worknd.ru/

Were there any other chips which had "dedicated" hardware HRTF cells in them? Not speaking of DSPs or Software derived HRTF calculations, but real HRTF filters in the chip.

Reply 8 of 172, by PhilsComputerLab

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Not sure. But those Aureal demos are something to experience. In a lot of ways 3D audio has gone backwards 😒

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Reply 9 of 172, by ZanQuance

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philscomputerlab wrote:
tgod wrote:

Wouldn't an A3D wrapper/emulator make more sense?

On a period correct machine not so much I guess. Many of these Windows 95 / 98 games are quite tricky to get going on modern PCs.

Last year we got a bunch of Aureal videos uploaded of those games running under XP and it was hell getting them to go. I did this because before ours there were only a handful of A3D videos which are now no longer available.

My buddy Hira was able to record them in Win98 with a capture card:
A3D ROOMS [Headphones]
A3D ROOMS [Speakers]
A3D ROOMS [Monitor or Stereo Tablet Speakers]
Unreal mod Thievery running A3D

The best I was able to get:
Comparison of Descent3 running under Win98/ME with A3D and EAX under Win7 via Alchemy on my Razer Barracuda CMI8788 card
Descent3 EAX vs A3D
Audio clip of HL1 and A3D used to compare with the XP HL1 video I uploaded. Really shows how buggy the drivers sound under XP.

Last edited by ZanQuance on 2016-01-15, 00:49. Edited 2 times in total.

Reply 10 of 172, by PhilsComputerLab

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Hey I know most of these videos 😀

Never got around to doing my own but I'll add it to my never-ending list of little projects I'd like to do.

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Reply 11 of 172, by ZanQuance

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Was an AU8830 datasheet containing the chips pinout diagram ever released? I might try contacting Diamond and the like to see if they wouldn't mind sharing the old MX300 schematics with me. [edit] shot diamond and turtle beach an email asking for them.

Unrelated question, were there any Sensaura 3D videos floating around the web? I'd really like to hear them but I've not been able to locate any.
When I was doing the A3D videos, I tried 4 times to purchase a Turtle Beach Santa Cruz for comparison but each seller was unable to deliver the card for various reasons, so I gave up.

Reply 12 of 172, by Stiletto

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ZanQuance wrote:

Was an AU8830 datasheet containing the chips pinout diagram ever released?

Not as far as I know.
http://www.datasheetarchive.com/AU8830-datasheet.html

"I see a little silhouette-o of a man, Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you
do the Fandango!" - Queen

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Reply 13 of 172, by mockingbird

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My first recollection of Aureal was being blown away with the directional audio of A3D on a K6-2 machine.

Then EAX took over, and it was was vastly inferior to A3D in my opinion, as I never heard any difference at all with or without it enabled, thus Creative killed innovation and I've never really heard such well-implemented directional audio since then.

Just another example of the minions of orthodoxy adopting gimmick and ruining everything for everybody. Live! and everything that came after it were all terrible products that should have rightfully bankrupted Creative Labs, but instead filled their coffers with the coins of fools.

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Reply 14 of 172, by swaaye

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EAX 1/2 are only environmental reverb. It is literally a repurposing of the MIDI effects hardware. Positioning is definitely not interesting on a Live, unless you can run a 4 speaker surround setup.

EAX 3 and 4 however are much more interesting and I think you should play Doom3 or FEAR again, preferably with headphones. I also suggest using Windows XP and Creative drivers from that period instead of relying on Alchemy and newer drivers.

Another thing you'll see talked about with Audigy onward is the headphone mode combined with CMSS. Aureal cards have nothing like this. It does an amazing surround downmix for headphones.

Also, the cards that licensed Sensaura or Qsound tech might impress you as well in older games. I've been impressed a few times. These cards died off in the early 00s so they tend not to do well with newer games because drivers stopped being worked on.

Reply 15 of 172, by PhilsComputerLab

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Vortex 2 cards absolutely do surround over headphones! It's possible that CMSS-3D originated from A3D technology but I'm just guessing here.

But yes the Vortex 2 tech demos in headphone mode are something to be experienced. The YouTube Videos linked earlier demonstrate this with headphones.

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Reply 16 of 172, by swaaye

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Yeah I know Aureal cards have a headphone mode and do nice 3D audio that way. I've played a lot of games on Vortex 2 with headphones.

That's not really what I'm referring to though. On an Audigy or later, the speaker and headphone modes sound much different for all output (if CMSS is enabled). Even say just listening to music is different. I'm not sure how to describe it. It changes the sound stage to better fit headphones. It's more centered. It's less tiring on the brain. Of course it also mixes multichannel and 3D audio well.

There are some other technologies like this. Dolby Headphone for instance. Windows Vista and onward also have a headphone virtualization enhancement feature.

Reply 17 of 172, by PhilsComputerLab

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Oh that's what you meant I see 😀

I'm getting some 5.1 speakers today, a Creative set for my computerlab. A bit over headphones and all the mucking around and just want a 5.1 setup like in the living room but I don't game there.

But this is more for Audigy and later cards.

If you would pick a few games to really showcase Vortex 2 surround over headphones, what would you go for?

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Reply 18 of 172, by swaaye

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Almost any game with A3D support is good. Jedi Knight, Sin, Heretic II, Half Life, Elite Force, FAKK2, Unreal and KISS Psycho Circus come to mind. Even A3D 1.0 is great.

Apparently Daikatana was going to get A3D in a patch but of course they couldn't come through on anything they promised 🤣. The game uses Miles sound system and has the 3D plugins but it seems to only support straight up stereo.

Reply 19 of 172, by mockingbird

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swaaye wrote:

Also, the cards that licensed Sensaura or Qsound tech might impress you as well in older games. I've been impressed a few times. These cards died off in the early 00s so they tend not to do well with newer games because drivers stopped being worked on.

Excellent post, sir. I'll keep it in mind for if whenever I get my K6/2 system built (I've got here a bunch of Live/Audigy cards I've scavenged over the years). I'm familiar with Sensaura/Qsound. I was an early adopter of the Yamaha YMF744 platform for 4 speaker surround. I remember it worked pretty well in Windows 9x/ME, but once I actually managed to find a driver that enabled four speaker surround on XP. Was a decent card, but I often found myself enabling the speaker doubling on the ACS56 rather than the surround.

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