Best and worst sound cards you have ever owned?

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

Re: Best and worst sound cards you have ever owned?

Postby voodoo5_6k » 2018-1-03 @ 09:11

Realistically, the best soundcards I have are these two:

    - Sound Blaster ZxR (SB1510 & SB1510A)
    - Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD (SB1270)

I bought the SB1270 when it was new for the last upgrade of my socket 775 gaming rig back then and moved it over when I upgraded to socket 2011. When the SB1510 came out, it directly replaced my SB1270. The SB1510 is still my main rig's soundcard. There is nothing available that could convince me to replace it. The SB1270 unfortunately does not support XP anymore. Originally, that was no problem at all, my gaming rig was already using Win7 (after dual booting XP/Vista with an SB0466), but I had loved to use it in my Retro 4 system (which will again be dual booting XP/Vista).

From a nostalgia based point of view, I'd say that one of the best cards I have is the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 (SB0240) or Audigy 2 ZS (SB0350). EAX Advanced HD (EAX 4.0) sounded great. Playing Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, GTA 3 & Vice City, Doom 3 and others with said cards was a lot of fun and really stands out in my memory! I used both on my socket 478 system until it was replaced by the socket 775 and an SB0466. The SB0350 now works in my Retro 2 system.

Another mention here is my Sound Blaster Live! (CT4760). This one is a mixed one... When I originally used it, I had really bad desktop speakers from IBM (I had purchased an IBM Aptiva tower together with a monitor, speakers, keyboard etc. and the Live! was one of the later upgrades). These wouldn't really highlight good or bad sound... They would make matters worse... But I still fondly remember EAX! Using the CT4760 again nowadays, with way superior speakers in my Retro 1 system really highlighted the messed up primary channel... But redirecting the sound output to the rear channel makes this a totally different card! Overall, I'd say it is a very good card for Win9x gaming if used right (rear channel for output!).

The Sound Blaster AWE64 Gold (CT4390) has already been mentioned a few times. I like this card a lot, it has a very low level of background noise. As I don't play any games relying solely on FM synthesis, I don't care at all about this OPL vs. CQM debate. Unfortunately, I had a few issues with it under Win98SE/DOSBox. That's why I now use the CT4760 in my Retro 1 system.

The worst soundcard I remember was a Sound Boostar (or whatever its name was). It never worked right and it never really was fully SB16 compatible. It was quickly replaced with a real Sound Blaster.

My retro systems:
1: E4700 2.6|512MB|P5PE-VM|Voodoo5|SB0240|UM-1>UM-550>CM-32L+SC-55
2: P3-S 1.4|512MB|D815EEA2|Voodoo5+Voodoo5 6000|SB0350
3: P4 3.4EE|4GB|P4C800-E|FX 5900 Ultra+Ti4600|SB0466
4: X5470 3.33|8GB|P5Q-E|GTX 580 3G|SB0886
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Re: Best and worst sound cards you have ever owned?

Postby David_OSU » 2018-1-03 @ 16:43

Best soundcard: Philips Acoustic Edge
Worst soundcard: no soundcard (PC speaker)
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Re: Best and worst sound cards you have ever owned?

Postby andreja6 » 2018-1-03 @ 16:55

David_OSU wrote:Best soundcard: Philips Acoustic Edge
Worst soundcard: no soundcard (PC speaker)

Funny enough I kinda liked PC speaker. Probably a nostalgic thing since I never had a sound card until i got an XP PC.
There were crazy things some creators did with it though
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Re: Best and worst sound cards you have ever owned?

Postby badmojo » 2018-1-03 @ 19:30

andreja6 wrote:Funny enough I kinda liked PC speaker. Probably a nostalgic thing since I never had a sound card until i got an XP PC.
There were crazy things some creators did with it though

Me too! Sometimes I play DOOM with GM music and PC speaker for voice because it brings back some happy memories - defs a nostalgia thing for me but when done thoughtfully I think PC speaker was great.
If it's broke, then fix it!
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Re: Best and worst sound cards you have ever owned?

Postby SteveC » 2018-1-03 @ 19:49

I remember being blown away by Pinball Dreams on the PC Speaker
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Re: Best and worst sound cards you have ever owned?

Postby clueless1 » 2018-1-03 @ 19:57

I suppose if I look at it as best experience in the moment, then it was the Mockingboard on my Apple IIe. Even though not many games supported it, it was an Earth-moving experience when I first fired up Ultimas IV and V.
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Re: Best and worst sound cards you have ever owned?

Postby Eleanor1967 » 2018-1-03 @ 21:27

I guess the best soundcard I ever used is my Asus Xonar D2X I still use in my current Win 10 PC. The worst is probably some AC97 onboard chip I used at some point, but that would be a boring answer so lets talk about retro soundcards.

The best soundcard I used in my 486 class machine is the Ensoniq Soundscape (S-2000 for that matter because that's sadly the only one I have.). The card has in my opinion the best all around soundbank of any MIDI ISA card, certainly when you consider that it is only 2MB in size. I prefer the sound of the card in, e.g. the Settlers 2, to my SC-55, MT-32, GUS and Soundblaster any day of the week. Another great thing is the driver, it so simple and easy to use. You need just one environment variable and than you load its driver exe and thats it. The driver is one program, its mouse driven and there is every setting from addresses to the mixer to if the card should send its midi data to the internal synthesizer or over the gameport. Game support for its native Soundscape mode is also decent if not as good as a Soundblaster or the GUS. The card never gave me a headache like so many other cards did (Why the fuck does the GUS gets its line in muted when you start Doom?!?).

Another two cards I want to give an honorable mention to is the Terratec Maestro 32/96, because its 4MB MIDI Bank with Roland like sounds is a really good fit for a game like DOOM and gets impressively close to a real SC-55. Also I think its crystal FM is quite good, I think it defiantly can be mention in the same sentence with ESFM when you talk about good OPL clones. The other card is any the Aztech SB Pro clone card which have an integrated Covox/DSS, because that's a really neat feature to have. I'm testing a Sound Galaxy 16 Pro in my 486 right now and I'm quite impressed if I overlook that you can hear the machine “working”, especially when the CD drives is spinning up and down. Drivers are also good. The test programm SG3.exe has some funky music, too ;)

Might as well mention the Aureal Vortex cards, because A3D is cool.

I don't think I could pinpoint the worst card I have, but here are some mentions of cards which disappointed me in some way or another.

The Yamaha Audician 32 plus is a card I liked initially (even bought a second one when prices from that seller in the UK started to go up), but I grown to be annoyed by some of if quirks. The driver is honestly not that great. I do not find it very intuitive to navigate, also the volume of the soundeffects are a lot higher than the FM music which is something I find myself fiddling with way more than I like. Also I would like to be able to disable stuff like WSS. I also read about a bug where SB pro in stereo didn't work for some people if they do not set the Soundblaster volume to 1, but that isn't anything I ever had any problems with. Overall a good card, especially for the price you could get them new in box, but I think the hardware is let down my unexceptional software.

I'm also not very impressed/interested in anything Creative made. (Well I do would really like to have a CMS/Gameblaster to try out). I only used a CT2770 (SB16 Value) for any longer amount of time, but it is just noisy. Something I don't really understand is why people like the AWE32 so much, its a buggy card (talking about HNB), often has no real OPL (and CQM really is shitty) and doesn't do good MIDI either. Especially in DOOM I think the EMU stuff sounds horrible. I don't see why someone who does not have nostalgia for Creative cards would use one before the AWE64, given you have another card which can replace it, e.g an SB Pro clone and something which gives you MIDI.

You know whats also kinda crappy? The Asus SupremeFX X-FI that came with my Asus Maximus Extreme (X38). I was surprised how much better the sound is when using the digital outputs instead of the analog circuitry to drive my home theater.
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Re: Best and worst sound cards you have ever owned?

Postby Ace » 2018-1-04 @ 04:29

Best is a toss-up between the SoundBlaster Pro 2.0 CT1600 and the SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS. As someone who likes heavily-filtered FM synthesis, the SoundBlaster Pro 2.0 CT1600 has become my go-to sound card for DOS games and is the primary sound card in my main DOS PC and have a second one on standby in case the one I'm currently using craps out. As for the SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS, this has been my sound card of choice for audio sampling as I am VERY anal about capturing analog audio exactly as it comes from the final audio output of the source. Many sound cards and on-board audio I've come across invert the incoming waveform, but the Audigy 2 ZS's Line In doesn't seem to do that and with the Audigy Drive that goes at the front of a PC, it makes the card do so much more, and in my case, it takes in optical audio from my TV so I can listen to whatever audio is coming through with the headphones on my computer. I do not want to ditch this card and made it a point to get an AM4 motherboard with PCI slots for it (got the card plugged into an MSI B350 PC Mate right now).

As for the worst sound card... that one's a bit harder to really choose one absolutely terrible card. I've come across several different ones that I absolutely hated, but the ones that left the worst impression on me were the Ensoniq AudioPCI and any SoundBlaster cards derived from it. I simply cannot get over the pathetic attempt at simulating FM synthesis with MIDI. It just doesn't work and sounds really stupid. Sound cards based on the Analog Devices SoundPort chipsets make me cringe as well because of their AWFUL OPL3.
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Re: Best and worst sound cards you have ever owned?

Postby jheronimus » 2018-1-11 @ 23:54

Best is probably SB16 CT2230. Good sound quality, few hanging note bugs. That's the card that I tend to move from build to build. CT2940 also sounds awesome, but it does have issues with MIDI.

Worst is SB16 CT2700. It's easily the most beautiful soundcard I have, but it's incredibly noisy.

Honorable mentions: ESS AudioDrive (dead simple setup under DOS, nice sound quality) and Yamaha YMF-719 (its software MIDI was the best thing I had until I found dedicated MIDI hardware).
Pentium III 800, 256MB RAM, Voodoo 5 5500 AGP, MusicQuest /w MT-32, SoundBlaster 16 CT2230 /w SC-55
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Re: Best and worst sound cards you have ever owned?

Postby KT7AGuy » 2018-1-13 @ 04:48

It depends on the era, I suppose.

Best Sound Cards

Late DOS
SB16 with a wavetable (WaveBlaster / DreamBlaster / Etc) daughterboard.

Win9x ISA
AWE64 Value
Cheap and has user-friendly connectors.

Win9x PCI
SB Live! CT 4670
Good SB16 emulation along with EAX support.

Audigy 2 ZS
All-around great sound card for WinXP.
(Make sure it's not a Dell or other OEM variant.)

Worst Sound Cards

Sound Blaster Live!
The drivers and software are just a complete mess. Thank goodness for VOGONS, or the SB Live black magic would would be lost to time forever.
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Re: Best and worst sound cards you have ever owned?

Postby gdjacobs » 2018-1-13 @ 05:14

I like all my sound cards, although I suppose my AudioPCI cards are the ones I least prefer.
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Re: Best and worst sound cards you have ever owned?

Postby matze79 » 2018-1-13 @ 09:29

I have a AD1816 in my K6 :O Terratec Base 1. Using one of the weirdest amplifers i know..
The LM386 :O

OPL Emulation sounds really weird.
And i have a Dreamblaster S1 connected to it :)

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Re: Best and worst sound cards you have ever owned?

Postby Windows9566 » 2018-1-14 @ 05:00

Sound Blaster 16 - Decent ISA 16 bit sound card with good DOS support, I have a CT2830 Sb16 in my main Pentium 3 DOS/Win98 rig
Sound Blaster AWE64 - Decent ISA card for Windows 9x, has a wavetable synth and soundfont support, don't have a SB Awe64 but i have heard that they are good sound cards

Creative AudioPCI CT5803 - Crappy card that was with my gateway pc, sounds would cut off in Quake 3 Arena unless i set the acceleration to basic and also is choppy sometimes and has horrible dos support, the only good thing about it is the wavetable midi
Creative SoundBlaster Live! CT4780 Dell OEM - A pain to get working in Windows 98, the driver CDs are full of bloatware like Creative Playcenter and the toolbar on the top of the screen, has better DOS compatibility than the AudioPCI but the AudioPCI was at least easier to install the drivers than Live! CT4780. I don't have a choice for PCI cards for my Athlon XP Win98 rig then so it's either the audiopci or the dell oem CT4780
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Re: Best and worst sound cards you have ever owned?

Postby oeuvre » 2018-1-14 @ 15:10

Best for me was the AU8830... I liked pairing it with an SB16 or AWE64. Worst is that Opti 931 already mentioned.
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