Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

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

Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby Synoptic » 2017-11-06 @ 20:46

I could get a prototype, but I don't know if I can be much help.
What I have to offer :
- Soldering skills
- smd rework station
- oscilloscope (analog 40Mhz right now and DSO in the near future if needed)
- Mt32, SC88, GUSMAX and a P150 with an Intel board.
If you think I can do anything useful, let me know and I'll chip-in.
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Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby keropi » 2017-11-06 @ 23:33

shock__ wrote:Yup, InterWave will come presoldered, unless you absolutely insist on soldering it yourself.


nah I don't insist on that :lol: excellent then :lol:
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Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby derSammler » 2017-11-07 @ 08:13

I'd love to test a prototype card. I have soldering skills, I'm able to make sound recordings, and I could write a review for my website. (http://retro-net.de/blog.html)
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Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby wbc » 2017-11-07 @ 13:22

I am interested in testing and improving prototype also (more from software and hadware features side), though I'm somewhat limited in spare time; anyway, you can rely on me :)
Another question here - AFAIK ROM legal status is still unclear now, so prototypes will not be equipped with onboard ROM I guess, so does IWSBOS (or modified versions) work without original rom or it is still required for something? (lazy to read previous posts, sorry :dead: )
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Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby shock__ » 2017-11-07 @ 16:37

To my knowledge IWSBOS checks for the presence of the onboard ROM (as do various games, Duke Nukem 3D being an example).
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Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby 640K!enough » 2017-11-07 @ 19:28

wbc wrote:Another question here - AFAIK ROM legal status is still unclear now, so prototypes will not be equipped with onboard ROM I guess

The legal status of the official 1 MiB ROM is very much known. With no less than three companies having copyrights on the data in that ROM, it would be just about impossible for a small community project to obtain a license to use that exact ROM image. Even if they were willing to offer a license, we likely don't have the budget for it to be worth their time to even talk to us.

There could be some chance of being able to legally use the 4 MiB set from Eye & I, but when I mentioned it recently, nobody expressed any interest in that option or in even asking them again. So, as it stands, we cannot distribute any of those instrument banks.

Since this is a solder-it-yourself project, there will be no ROM or flash included at all. You get only the card and InterWave IC; what you put in the ROM footprint, and what data you program into it, is your business. Currently, any JEDEC-compliant 5V, 44-pin wide-body SOIC (a.k.a. SOP) parallel flash IC or mask ROM will do. These are almost always 2 MiB or less, when you can find them (Digi-Key does currently stock the SOIC 29F800).

wbc wrote:so does IWSBOS (or modified versions) work without original rom or it is still required for something? (lazy to read previous posts, sorry :dead: )

The officially-released versions of IWSBOS support two modes of operation; RAM and ROM. In ROM mode, an on-board ROM is required (as expected). The ROM must then contain a somewhat-valid SBOS chunk, or IWSBOS will abort. In RAM mode, the presence of the ROM is ignored, and a set of IWL files is used instead. These files can be generated from any FFF/DAT bank, but the data will be re-sampled so that it fits within files of a certain size. You will typically end up with inferior sound quality, compared to a complete ROM with SBOS chunk (that may not always be the case, but our testing up to this point supports that claim).
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Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby 640K!enough » 2017-11-08 @ 19:58

shock__ wrote:Currently there'd be 3 people interested in a prototype (that is including me) ... is interest seriously that low?

Up to this point, how many cards do you expect to need for the prototype run? Do you have a ballpark per-unit cost estimate yet?
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Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby shock__ » 2017-11-08 @ 21:38

In the end anything goes ... currently I'd say something along the lines of 40€ per Prototype is a safe bet.
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Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby gerwin » 2017-11-08 @ 23:18

640K!enough wrote:The legal status of the official 1 MiB ROM is very much known. With no less than three companies having copyrights on the data in that ROM, it would be just about impossible for a small community project to obtain a license to use that exact ROM image. Even if they were willing to offer a license, we likely don't have the budget for it to be worth their time to even talk to us.

There could be some chance of being able to legally use the 4 MiB set from Eye & I, but when I mentioned it recently, nobody expressed any interest in that option or in even asking them again. So, as it stands, we cannot distribute any of those instrument banks.

Sorry to hear that. Any chance owners of a real GUS PnP can personally flash the 1MB ROM image, just like using one's MT-32 ROM for MUNT? The 1MB ROM on my GUS PnP clone is very useful and sounds pretty good. It is probably because my GUS PnP clone has a 512kB limit on RAM, that the ROM is often more useful then the actual GUS synthesizer.
As for the 4MB Voice Crystal set: I cannot speak for the feasability, and I don't think multiple persons nagging Eye & I is constructive. But I can say that it is an excellent sound set for 90's midi tracks. They really tuned it very well, and it is my goto Soundfont whenever I use a Soundfont-based Synth.
Either way, thanks for your good efforts in investigating the ROM interfacing, and I like the ROM connector idea that you suggested earlier.
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Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby dogchainx » 2017-11-09 @ 00:02

(Hello everyone, I'm back from the dead!)

I called up Eye & I Productions a long time ago when this project started up, since I live in the states and its much easier to have a phone-conversation than email.

The guy was very excited about this project, and seemed to really enjoy that people still like his mixes (HE HAS A LOT OF INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED BACK THEN WITH AMD!) but on the other hand I'm not sure the logistics of the license. I can give him another call since this project alive and well, but I need to know specifically what we as a community project want from our end from a stream-lined "buy license, have permission to use ROM" usability standpoint. He seemed to think a ~$30 license fee, but I did mention that probably anything beyond $10 license fee would kill any idea of using it. This is an enthusiast-project and not a commercial license to create music (or is it? anyone creating content? lol).

Anyways, good to see this project growing. Let me know exactly what is needed on our end to use the Eye & I Productions (Voicecrystal.com) IP content.
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Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby shock__ » 2017-11-09 @ 04:46

gerwin wrote:Sorry to hear that. Any chance owners of a real GUS PnP can personally flash the 1MB ROM image, just like using one's MT-32 ROM for MUNT? The 1MB ROM on my GUS PnP clone is very useful and sounds pretty good.
Yup :) wbcbz7 has written a RAM/ROM dumper for InterWave cards, meaning one can get the ROM contents read from their InterWave based cards without the need to unsolder the IW78C21M1 chip.
There's a version in this thread somewhere dated 1.3.2016 which dumps the full 16MB RAM and ROM space and a more current (as of now unreleased) version which allows you to dump specific areas of the RAM/ROM (a full 32MB dump takes ~4 minutes on my DX2-66 which is my primary computer for testing).
I plan to include the dumper program along the rest of the documentation (which I just finished writing yesterday) as it's also a great tool for checking the integrity of the ROM circuit (remember the issues I had with too slow ROM chips a while ago? Checksumming the image used for burning and the one read from the card is a great way to ensure everything is working alright there).
I'm basically just waiting for approval from wbcbz7 to include his tool so I can release the documentation.

Intended contents of the documentation:
Code: Select all
/IW78C21M1
- IWDUMP.exe - InterWave RAM/ROM dump tool by wbcbz7
- md5sum.exe - a md5 checksum generator for DOS by eltree.org
- checksum.jpg - photo of the checksum of an original IW78C21M1 chip

/PNPMAP
- pnpmap.exe - PNPMAP tool by Gravis for reprogramming the EEPROM
- Gravnocd.rom - ROM file that will be written to the EEPROM
- readme - original Readme by Gravis

prototype2-bill_of_materials.txt - Bill of materials required for assembling the card ()
prototype2-changelog.txt - changelog describing the changes from Prototype #1 -> Prototype #2
prototype2-component_map.bmp - 600dpi image of the component map (might be useful when assembling the card)
prototype2-installation_notes.txt - short notes on initially installing the card under DOS
prototype2-schematic.pdf - Full schematic of Prototype #2 of the ARGUS project
readme.txt - this file
Last edited by shock__ on 2017-11-09 @ 06:50, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby 640K!enough » 2017-11-09 @ 05:09

gerwin wrote:Sorry to hear that. Any chance owners of a real GUS PnP can personally flash the 1MB ROM image, just like using one's MT-32 ROM for MUNT? The 1MB ROM on my GUS PnP clone is very useful and sounds pretty good. It is probably because my GUS PnP clone has a 512kB limit on RAM, that the ROM is often more useful then the actual GUS synthesizer.

I can't comment on the legality of that approach, but it is certainly possible, if that's what you've decided to do. There are various tools to read the data from the on-board ROM without de-soldering it from the existing board. In theory, one could then write the data to a flash IC and solder it onto the ARGUS.

gerwin wrote:As for the 4MB Voice Crystal set: I cannot speak for the feasability, and I don't think multiple persons nagging Eye & I is constructive. But I can say that it is an excellent sound set for 90's midi tracks. They really tuned it very well, and it is my goto Soundfont whenever I use a Soundfont-based Synth.

It is very likely that we would be able to produce a nearly full-featured ROM based on that set. The only thing stopping us from being able to do that for every card is the lack of an arrangement with the creators of the set. I am working on a few designs to test that theory, and hope to be able to demonstrate the results within a week or so.
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Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby 640K!enough » 2017-11-09 @ 05:37

dogchainx wrote:(Hello everyone, I'm back from the dead!)

I called up Eye & I Productions a long time ago when this project started up, since I live in the states and its much easier to have a phone-conversation than email.

The guy was very excited about this project, and seemed to really enjoy that people still like his mixes (HE HAS A LOT OF INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED BACK THEN WITH AMD!) but on the other hand I'm not sure the logistics of the license. I can give him another call since this project alive and well, but I need to know specifically what we as a community project want from our end from a stream-lined "buy license, have permission to use ROM" usability standpoint. He seemed to think a ~$30 license fee, but I did mention that probably anything beyond $10 license fee would kill any idea of using it. This is an enthusiast-project and not a commercial license to create music (or is it? anyone creating content? lol).

Anyways, good to see this project growing. Let me know exactly what is needed on our end to use the Eye & I Productions (Voicecrystal.com) IP content.

At the time, we were thinking in terms of licensing the existing ROM. Now, I think we can safely assume we'll be able to produce our own ROM image from a suitable instrument bank, which is likely required anyway, as Eye & I is not the sole entity holding a copyright on the contents of the ROM. We would likely end up with their version 3 or 4.1 4 MiB set, and generate our own ROM from that.

There are things I think we should settle before any attempted follow-up with Eye & I Productions:
  1. Do we still have an interest in obtaining permission to use their set?
  2. Are we looking for an arrangement where we collectively pay a fee and sell assembled, programmed ROM daughterboards with the kits, or would each person pay separately and program their own?

Given that they sell the set in SF2 format directly to end users for $14.95 on their Web site, $30 per copy does seem a little pricey. One option might be for anyone interested to buy the SF2 bank, convert it, then generate a ROM image from that. I have no legal qualifications, but their terms don't seem to forbid conversion or the generation of ROM images, as long as they are for the purchaser to use a single copy of the data; re-sale, distribution and multiple copies are a different matter. Of course, it would be easier if they just offered it in FFF/DAT format directly.
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Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby shock__ » 2017-11-09 @ 10:31

Some development progess visually summed up.

Various worksteps of the PCB layout (from quite early in reverse engineering to the planned Prototype #2): https://i.imgur.com/UGK7XyQ.gif
Development done with actual PCBs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TycJqXbQ2eo
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Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby j^aws » 2017-11-09 @ 17:31

shock__ wrote:Some development progess visually summed up.

Various worksteps of the PCB layout (from quite early in reverse engineering to the planned Prototype #2): https://i.imgur.com/UGK7XyQ.gif
Development done with actual PCBs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TycJqXbQ2eo


Looking fantastic - awesome work!
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Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby 640K!enough » 2017-11-09 @ 18:20

shock__ wrote:Yup :) wbcbz7 has written a RAM/ROM dumper for InterWave cards, meaning one can get the ROM contents read from their InterWave based cards without the need to unsolder the IW78C21M1 chip.
There's a version in this thread somewhere dated 1.3.2016 which dumps the full 16MB RAM and ROM space and a more current (as of now unreleased) version which allows you to dump specific areas of the RAM/ROM (a full 32MB dump takes ~4 minutes on my DX2-66 which is my primary computer for testing).

If he's willing to share his code or add a new feature, the tool can likely be enhanced to scan the ROM space and selectively dump only the useful parts to file.

shock__ wrote:Some development progess visually summed up.

Various worksteps of the PCB layout (from quite early in reverse engineering to the planned Prototype #2): https://i.imgur.com/UGK7XyQ.gif
Development done with actual PCBs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TycJqXbQ2eo

That shows the evolution quite well. I think it also proves that, more than just a reverse-engineered InterWave card, this is your card; the most powerful, flexible InterWave board yet known.
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Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby shock__ » 2017-11-09 @ 18:41

Documentation for Prototype #2
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Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby shock__ » 2017-11-09 @ 18:43

Current version of IWDUMP by wbcbz7 + source-code
Dated: 2.11.2017
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Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby hard1k » 2017-11-09 @ 19:45

Just saw that the current X3 infobox doesn't reflect the presence of !RAHLD on the X3 header.
Please have a look at my wishlist (hosted at Amibay)
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Re: Newly made Gravis Ultrasound compatible cards ... what's the degree of interest?

Postby shock__ » 2017-11-09 @ 19:51

hard1k wrote:Just saw that the current X3 infobox doesn't reflect the presence of !RAHLD on the X3 header.
Oh, you're right. Thanks.
EDIT: fixed
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