Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

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

Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby squareguy » 2016-9-16 @ 23:56

James-F

I am interested in hearing what you learn on these two cards. Can't wait to hear back.
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Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby James-F » 2016-9-17 @ 04:35

jesolo wrote:I38-MMSN850 - I have that specific model's drivers.

I think the Sound Galaxy Pro16II - using AZT-2316/R Chipset - FCC-ID:I38-MMSN845 drivers will do fine.
I just tested in dosbox running Install.exe and it created MMPRO16 directory, autoexec.bat, and config,sys.
I'll just copy the dir to my Pentium machine and edit the system files.

I downloaded the complete Aztech driver package from Vogons Drivers, if you have even more specific drivers I would love to have them.

jesolo wrote:The "CPS Sound Blaster PRO 4.0 Aztech Sound Galaxy NX PRO" is practically a Sound Blaster Pro II clone (with some minor differences)

Can you please share what you know about these minor differences?
I specifically wanted a SBPro2 because the SB16 is a horrible and buggy card (all of them) for DOS gaming.

As for the NX Pro, yeah I am aware the it does not support MPU-401. I though I'd pair it with the YMF719 before I also bought the Pro16II / Washington 16 / Multimedia 16 ABO (all the same).
These cards becoming quite rare so I though I should have them both before they disappear completely.

squareguy wrote:I am interested in hearing what you learn on these two cards. Can't wait to hear back.

I will do a comprehensive review just like I did with the ESS1688 and SB16 CT2230 cards.
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Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby James-F » 2016-9-26 @ 11:32

Small review of both Aztech cards I have received.

CPS Sound Blaster PRO 4.0 Aztech Sound Galaxy NX PRO
The Stereo mode and Lowpass filter work.
When the Lopass filter is enabled it affects both the OPL and the Voice outputs, unlike the SBPro or YMF71x which affects only the Voice.
When the Lowpass filter is enabled there is a loud high-pitched whine, when I blow air on the motherboard the pitch of the whine changes :neutral:, I'd say it is bad filtering due to old capacitors.
The volume wheel crackles and has poor balanced between left and right.
Obviously no MPU-401 or Wavetable header.
Noisy and the stereo is reversed to the original SBPro2 (maybe this where the myth comes from?).
Opinion: There are better and more functional SBPro clones out there.

Aztech Sound Galaxy Multimedia Pro 16 ABI I38-MMSN850
No lowpass filter, like the unmodified YMF71x cards.
Drivers were hard to find as they were not included in the Aztech package on Vogons Drivers or the official Aztech web page.
Includes MPU-401 and Wavetable, bug free and quiet.
Great mixer functionality, both TSR and Command Line variants.
Opinion: Very nice and quiet card overall, but lacks a Lowpass filter in SBPro mode which is a must (IMO).

The modified Yamaha 71x is still king of the SBPro clones for me (as of date of this post).


I attached the drivers for Aztech Sound Galaxy Multimedia Pro 16 ABI/ABO which are very hard to find.
These have the AZT2316-S chip along with the Crystal CS4231A-KL chip, usually I38-MMSN850.
Attachments
PRO16ABI.zip
Aztech Sound Galaxy Multimedia Pro 16 ABI
(738.46 KiB) Downloaded 122 times
PRO16ABO.ZIP
ABO variant.
(1.38 MiB) Downloaded 108 times
Last edited by James-F on 2017-4-18 @ 03:54, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby jesolo » 2016-9-26 @ 19:57

Thanks for the PRO16ABI drivers. I've been looking for those for some time.
I noticed that your PRO16ABO drivers is version 1.10. I have version 1.20, in case you're looking for the later version.
If you do come across the PRO16AB drivers (used for model FCC ID: I38-MMSN824), let me know. Unfortunately, the old Aztech FTP site (where all the OEM drivers were hosted), is now down.

I've read through your other posts, but can you perhaps just briefly explain the importance of having a lowpass filter?
I've also read something about "ADPCM compressed 8 to 3/2 bit audio". Do these two Aztech cards also lack this?
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Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby James-F » 2016-9-27 @ 14:40

SBPro 1/2 had a Lowpass filter and it is essential part for removing aliasing and having that familiar "meaty" sound.
When a clone card does not have a lowpass filter it sounds thin and trebly compared to the real SBPro.
The NX Pro has and option to turn on/off the lowpass filter just like the SBPro has, but not the 2316.
Filter Sound Samples: http://www.vogons.org/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=49990&start=100#p528256

"ADPCM compressed 8 to 3/2 bit audio" is something that Duke Nukem 2 uses for sound, both Aztechs play fine.
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Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby jesolo » 2016-9-27 @ 18:53

Indeed, very informative and useful.
Just as a matter of interest, on the Sound Galaxy NX Pro, how do you enable the lowpass filter? Via the mixer control utility (I recall there were command line switches as well). Mine is currently in storage.
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Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby James-F » 2016-9-27 @ 19:10

Yes, tsr or command line mixer.
The original sbpro mixer also works to enable/disable the filer of the nx pro.
But the NX PRO is stereo reversed, and lacks mpu-401.
IMO, not the best option for a sbpro clone.

AudioDrive ES1688 is much more "mature" sbpro2 clone and a very good choice.
But absolutely nothing tops the Yamaha YMF71x once modified.
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Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby jesolo » 2016-9-27 @ 21:56

James-F wrote:Yes, tsr or command line mixer.
The original sbpro mixer also works to enable/disable the filer of the nx pro.
But the NX PRO is very noisy by my book, stereo reversed sbpro1.0, and lacks mpu-401.
IMO, not the best option for a sbpro clone.

Just bear in mind that this card was released back in 1992, hence no UART mode MIDI interface.
Also, due to its age, a recap might improve sound quality.

But, I completely understand your standpoint and agree that there are better options available.
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Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby FGB » 2016-9-27 @ 22:09

James-F investigations take nothing away from the historic value of the NX Pro cards. Given the outstanding feature set and price back in the days the NX Pro was a really good card to have. I sold a lot of these cards to retro enthusiasts around the world when period correct hardware was a requirement. A great card for a fast 286 or 386 computer - no doubt.
www.AmoRetro.de Visit my huge hardware gallery with many historic items from 16MHz 286 to 1000MHz Slot A. Includes more than 80 soundcards and a growing Wavetable Recording section with more than 300 recordings.
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Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby Stretch » 2016-9-27 @ 22:38

I remember reading a long time ago you could place a metal sheet over the Aztech card in order to reduce interference.
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Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby jesolo » 2016-9-28 @ 07:51

FGB wrote:James-F investigations take nothing away from the historic value of the NX Pro cards. Given the outstanding feature set and price back in the days the NX Pro was a really good card to have. I sold a lot of these cards to retro enthusiasts around the world when period correct hardware was a requirement. A great card for a fast 286 or 386 computer - no doubt.

Cannot argue with that. I'm an avid fan of the Aztech cards myself and would not even hesitate to use it in a 486 based system.
Hence, why I've collected a few of these over the years.

Thinking back, I was actually trying to find a suitable Sound Blaster Pro compatible clone myself and I just got stuck on the Aztech cards.
In the end, I satisfied myself that the AZT-2316 chipset based cards (of the Aztech range) offered the best in terms of compatibility, relatively clear sound output and the ability of fit a standard size Wavetable daughterboard (or connect an external sound module) with no MIDI hanging note bugs. I think it covers practically everything that one is looking for in a DOS based sound card (with the two notable exceptions that it is not Sound Blaster 16 compatible, like many other clones, and doesn't have a lowpass filter).

But, as already stated in many threads, there is no such thing as the perfect sound card.
There is always something missing (like a feature) or some mod required to "fix" something that is wrong on the card.
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Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby James-F » 2016-9-28 @ 10:38

Don't get me wrong, both cards are great in their own accord.
If I did not find the fixes/mods in the Yamaha YMF71x card, I would definitely use the 2316 based card as it is even better than the stock YMF71x card (no reversed stereo wavetable and just as quiet).
It's just I've been spoiled by having it all in one card, so to speak.
As for the NX PRO, if it weren't the interference noises it would be a good basic SBPro card and faithful to the original.
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Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby gdjacobs » 2016-9-28 @ 12:38

A Pro 16 would be interesting for Covox/DSS emulation.
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Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby jesolo » 2016-10-01 @ 23:00

Still on the topic of the Aztech cards, I decided to try out the NX Pro (I38-SGNXPRO), my Basic 16 (I38-MMSN810) & the Multimedia Pro 16 IIB-3D (I38-SN96103). The latter has the AZT-2316/R chipset.
I used a couple of random applications, namely Inertia Player 1.22 (for MOD files), the Star Wars X-Wing setup menu & Future Crew's Unreal demo.
The first two cards were tested with an AMD 386DX-40 and the latter with an Intel 486DX-33.

The NX Pro's stereo panning effect is very "abrupt" (especially when playing back MOD files and the Unreal demo, where you frequently have left and right panning, but this can also be heard with the sound setup of X-wing). It "cuts" off the left channel and then pans to the right channel "too quickly".
With the Basic 16 and the MM Pro 16, the panning (from left to right and from right to left) is much "smoother".
Another thing I noticed (when playing back MOD files) is that the sound playback of the MM Pro 16 is slightly faster (higher tempo) than the other two cards.

Finally, as James-F has mentioned, the NX Pro does have a playback and record filter on/off selection in the mixer control tsr and this does definitely work (although, some applications automatically disables it - like Unreal, bringing out a more "trebly" effect).
Oddly enough, my Basic 16 does not have the filter on/off option in the mixer control tsr (although this card and the NX Pro are utilising the same chipset) - I guess this was limited to Aztech's 8-bit derivative cards and not their 16-bit derivatives (someone with an NX Pro 16 might be able to confirm this).
The MM Pro16 (as expected) also does not have this filter on/off selection.

However, oddly enough, when I playback samples with my Basic 16 it sounds as if there is a filter enabled (doesn't matter what application I use - the sounds are always "filtered").
If I push up the treble in the mixer tsr to max, then I start to get the same effect like the other two sound cards with their filters disabled.
Now, it's been years since I last used the sound card, but could this possibly be related to bad caps? In other words, can bad caps lead to more "filtered" (low treble) sound playback?
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Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby James-F » 2016-10-02 @ 05:59

What about the noise with NX PRO, do you hear a high pitched whine when enabling the Lowpass Filter?
The NX PRO stereo is non-reversed before the TSR or VOL software is launched, after these soft launch one time the Stereo reverses to typical SBP1, which is wrong.
This stereo reversal happens when the card initializes, including when games like Doom initialize/reset the mixer.
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Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby jesolo » 2016-10-02 @ 09:33

No, I cannot hear any high pitch sound when I enable the Lowpass filter in the mixer tsr.
The filter definitely does work when I use the Sound Galaxy's own diagnostics (SG2.EXE) and playback the "SB VOICE TESTING". There is no impact when I playback the Disney Sound Source or Covox Voice Testing.

What driver version are you using? I'm using version 2.41 from the Aztech FTP site (the one for the SG NXPRO Extra), but I haven't noticed any difference if I use version 2.11 (the one for the "standard" SG NXPRO).
I also have a version 2.3 that someone posted a while back, and this one's menu's (on the configuration - SGPFIG.EXE) has a different colour background (similar to my Basic 16's)
If you have the original CPS Sound Blaster Pro 4.0 disks, then perhaps I can test my card with those (my card looks very similar to this one - http://www.amoretro.de/2012/11/aztech-s ... rev=search.)

You could perhaps also try using a different IRQ (IRQ5) and see whether that doesn't perhaps solve your "high pitch" problem?. My NXPRO flatly refuses to use IRQ7, since it's conflicting with my parallel port. Only if I change the IRQ jumper on my interface card, will it use IRQ7. Strange enough, I don't have this problem with my Basic 16.

I think I need to get the proper drivers for this model number (being the CPS driver disks).
This card is not exactly the same as the original Aztech Sound Galaxy NX Pro - the Aztech model does not have a 16-bit extension, whereas this one does (at least, according to some pictures I've seen).
Also, my card has a jumper for an EEPROM setting, but done of the driver disks I have writes an entry into Config.sys for the EEPROM (like my Basic 16 does).

Don't quite follow your last post - How do you determine if the stereo is reversed or not, if the stereo reversal always happens when the card initializes?
I must admit, when I test the sound card's voice playback with "SB VOICE TESTING" using the Sound Galaxy's own diagnostic utility, then the stereo is not reversed (regardless whether the tsr is loaded or not).

I'm still a bit worried about my Basic 16's filtered output - might have to test in another PC before I perhaps consider a recap.
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Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby James-F » 2016-10-02 @ 11:56

jesolo wrote:How do you determine if the stereo is reversed or not, if the stereo reversal always happens when the card initializes?

You test it with a game like Doom.
Doom is actually stereo with a SBPro card and you should hear monsters, explosions, door, etc.. more from the speaker the sound comes from on screen.
Also, in Duke Nukem 3D setup you can do a sound test and hear if Left and Right are reversed.
It is reversed on the NX PRO, but correct on all other SBPro2.0 clones including the real SBPro2.0 CT1600.

perhaps solve your "high pitch" problem?

*See image.
When I put my finger on the smd caps which go to the KA3843 PWM oscillator chip, the whine changes in pitch.
When I blow air on this chip the whine changes in pitch.
The NX PRO is the only card that has this interaction with the motherboard, all other sound cards I have are absolutely silent.
I assume it has something to do with the voltage filtering Tantalum caps at the card +5V,+12V, -12V voltage pins from the ISA slot.
Finger Here.jpg
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Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby jesolo » 2016-10-02 @ 12:34

I just use the X-Wing sound setup test functionality (it has the sound of a Tie Fighter flying from left to right or, in the case of the NX Pro, from right to left), but Duke 3D experiences the same problem.

I don't seem to experience this "high pitch" problem with my NX Pro. But, then again, the NX Pro was designed at a time when your 486DX-33 was the fastest CPU around (I noticed that you're testing it in a Socket 7 motherboard).
I have, for example, experienced "sound problems" on my Basic 16 on "faster" motherboards as well (especially those with write back L1 cache). Maybe try to test the NX Pro in a slower motherboard? Maybe a 486?

Do you perhaps have the installation disks for the CPS Sound Blaster Pro 4.0?
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Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby James-F » 2016-10-02 @ 13:17

jesolo wrote:I just use the X-Wing sound setup test functionality (it has the sound of a Tie Fighter flying from left to right or, in the case of the NX Pro, from right to left), but Duke 3D experiences the same problem.

In Duke3D setup the stereo should be correct without engaging the Reverse Stereo switch, when SBPro is selected.
With the NX PRO, Doom stereo will be reversed and there is nothing we can do about it.
The NX PRO is the only SBPro clone I know of that is reversed.

jesolo wrote:Do you perhaps have the installation disks for the CPS Sound Blaster Pro 4.0?

Sorry, no.

don't seem to experience this "high pitch" problem with my NX Pro.

It seems my Socket 7 generates its CPU using a PWM controller which uses resistor and capacitor network set the PWM frequency.
The NX Pro I have for some reason interacts with that RC network and I can hear the frequency in the audible band (below 20kHz), though the PWM frequency should be tuned well above the audible range.
What strange is when I put my finger on the RC network near the PWM DIP (heat it up a little) I can hear it change in pitch.

The scary thing about it is that voltage generated by this PWM controller is the main CPU voltage controlled by the jumpers.
I definitely should not pole my fingers in there, and no sound cards should interact with that PWM chip one way or another.
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Re: Aztech Sound Galaxy cards

Postby jesolo » 2016-10-02 @ 16:44

James-F wrote:It seems my Socket 7 generates its CPU using a PWM controller which uses resistor and capacitor network set the PWM frequency.
The NX Pro I have for some reason interacts with that RC network and I can hear the frequency in the audible band (below 20kHz), though the PWM frequency should be tuned well above the audible range.
What strange is when I put my finger on the RC network near the PWM DIP (heat it up a little) I can hear it change in pitch.

The scary thing about it is that voltage generated by this PWM controller is the main CPU voltage controlled by the jumpers.
I definitely should not pole my fingers in there, and no sound cards should interact with that PWM chip one way or another.

The fact that the sound card is "picking" up the noise could simply be a case of the sound card not being "shielded" properly - I seem to recall other posts about older sound cards not being shielded properly.
There are some "workarounds".

Only way to tell is to test the NX Pro in another motherboard (preferably a 386 or 486).
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