VOGONS


Reply 40 of 56, by boxpressed

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Velociraptor wrote on 2020-05-23, 18:17:
This is a really helpful chart as I'm trying to choose a card. What I'm struggling with is the meaning of the issues. […]
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This is a really helpful chart as I'm trying to choose a card. What I'm struggling with is the meaning of the issues.

MPU-401 slowdown/pauses seems to be on every card so I shouldn't be choosing based on that. However it is fairly concerning that it happens since my intention would be to use the card for sound and for MIDI output. Given that it's on every card though I expect my solution would be to get a card and if it turns out to be insufferable get an additional card for MIDI output.

It seems very important to have an OPL3 since not every game will do MT32 etc, so only OPL3 cards suit me.

The hanging note bug I think I've heard before and it's not the end of the world.

I don't know what the Wavetable is. My vague memory has me guessing it's the ability to use MIDI softfonts and that's what the AWE etc ended up with?

Self noise is obviously best avoided if possible by confirming somehow if there's a CT1703 on there.

So digesting all of that leaves me with a bit of filtering to do.

Something I don't understand though is - what is PnP?

I think you should consider how much you want to spend and as well as whether you use DOS or Windows more for gaming. If you have that clear, it would be easier to recommend a few models.

Reply 41 of 56, by darry

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red_avatar wrote on 2020-03-14, 09:39:

Thank you very much for this list.

A few months back I dumped out my SB16 (and a second Aztech card just for MPU-401 output) and switched over to a Yamaha Audician 32 Plus. Sure, there's no MPU-401 bug, it's PnP, it's relatively low-noise (although I had a lot of trouble with system whine which I never had with a SB16 card) and the drivers don't use conventional memory BUT BUT BUT support is very iffy. Some high profile games won't accept ANY sound - Innocent Until Caught, Cannon Fodder 1&2, Pizza Tycoon, Pinball Illusions/Dreams 2, UFO Enemy Known/XCOM, etc. On top of this, because it's not SB16 compatible, a lot of later DOS games sound pretty meh because it drops its sample rate quite a bit. Oh and Windows software is crap and DOS mixer is wonky as hell

So yeah ... sure Sound Blasters have their issues but the software is solid, support is top notch and they're very well documented. I'll use your list to pick the one that annoys me the least 😉 Probably the CT2230.

I actually purchased Cannon Fodder 1 and 2 on GOG just to test that . I have the same results as you do . I also have an AWE64 in the system, but it's set to 280h , so Cannon Fodder cannot use it (tops off at 260h) .
I wonder if an Opti 929 card would do better ?

EDIT : Works fine on YMF715 with caches disabled .

Last edited by darry on 2020-05-23, 22:43. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 42 of 56, by darry

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darry wrote on 2020-05-23, 20:11:
red_avatar wrote on 2020-03-14, 09:39:

Thank you very much for this list.

A few months back I dumped out my SB16 (and a second Aztech card just for MPU-401 output) and switched over to a Yamaha Audician 32 Plus. Sure, there's no MPU-401 bug, it's PnP, it's relatively low-noise (although I had a lot of trouble with system whine which I never had with a SB16 card) and the drivers don't use conventional memory BUT BUT BUT support is very iffy. Some high profile games won't accept ANY sound - Innocent Until Caught, Cannon Fodder 1&2, Pizza Tycoon, Pinball Illusions/Dreams 2, UFO Enemy Known/XCOM, etc. On top of this, because it's not SB16 compatible, a lot of later DOS games sound pretty meh because it drops its sample rate quite a bit. Oh and Windows software is crap and DOS mixer is wonky as hell

So yeah ... sure Sound Blasters have their issues but the software is solid, support is top notch and they're very well documented. I'll use your list to pick the one that annoys me the least 😉 Probably the CT2230.

I actually purchased Cannon Fodder 1 and 2 on GOG just to test that . I have the same results as you do . I also have an AWE64 in the system, but it's set to 280h , so Cannon Fodder cannot use it (tops off at 260h) .
I wonder if an Opti 929 card would do better ?

Well, the PC version of Cannon Fodder is not for me . Even with caches disabled on my P3 1400 (basically 386 speed), it hard crashes with Roland selected as sound /music, whatever that means (manual does bother explaining). I have an SC-88 connected to my AWE64's MPU-401 . Maybe the game requires Intelligent mode ? Still, for a game from 1993 1994, that is not impressive .
EDIT: It does run in "Roland" mode with Softmpu .
EDIT2: It sounds better with my MT-32 . Good job calling that "Roland" in 1994 .
EDIT3: I tried it on a P3 750MHz (underclocked 1Ghz) with caches disabled, and it does not like an AWE64 as a sound blaster either . This might still be a "CPU is too fast" kind of issue, but it is not YMF71x specific .
EDIT4 : I got it to run fine on a YMF715 with caches disabled . I wasn't running SETMUL properly (type SETMUL /L1D /L2D instead of SETMUL L1D L2D )

It does run even with caches enabled with Adlib for sound/music or "Roland"

Last edited by darry on 2020-05-23, 22:42. Edited 3 times in total.

Reply 44 of 56, by Velociraptor

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boxpressed wrote on 2020-05-23, 18:50:

I think you should consider how much you want to spend and as well as whether you use DOS or Windows more for gaming. If you have that clear, it would be easier to recommend a few models.

I'd certainly welcome suggestions. The machine will probably be a P3 and will run Win98SE/DOS. I have a SB live that can go in, although I'm told that may cause a clash if installed at the same time as another SB card.

My plan is to have a P2/P3 board with a P2 or P3 (it doesn't seem to matter which since my Windows XP machine will cover the more demanding stuff) with a voodoo and a 3d card in it.

There will be an AGP slot, used, and PCI and ISA slots.

I think my priority has to be DOS. So I'd want dos sound effects and OPL3, as well as the ability to output MIDI to Roland/GM.

As to how much to spend? It's difficult to say. If you said a £30 card would probably be fine forever but a £150 card might be a tiny bit better I'd get the £30.

Reply 45 of 56, by dionb

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Velociraptor wrote on 2020-05-24, 08:25:

[...]

I'd certainly welcome suggestions. The machine will probably be a P3 and will run Win98SE/DOS. I have a SB live that can go in, although I'm told that may cause a clash if installed at the same time as another SB card.

Only if you set it up incorrectly. Trick is that Windows is a PnP OS and that many older cards are non-PnP, so you need to reserve whatever resources the non-PnP cards use in BIOS to ensure that they remain free. This has nothing to do with specific features of SBLive and SB16, and applies to any combo of PnP and non-PnP cards.

My plan is to have a P2/P3 board with a P2 or P3 (it doesn't seem to matter which since my Windows XP machine will cover the mor […]
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My plan is to have a P2/P3 board with a P2 or P3 (it doesn't seem to matter which since my Windows XP machine will cover the more demanding stuff) with a voodoo and a 3d card in it.

There will be an AGP slot, used, and PCI and ISA slots.

I think my priority has to be DOS. So I'd want dos sound effects and OPL3, as well as the ability to output MIDI to Roland/GM.

As to how much to spend? It's difficult to say. If you said a £30 card would probably be fine forever but a £150 card might be a tiny bit better I'd get the £30.

Unpopular opinion: "none of the above". With SB16 you can take any two of 'quiet', 'OPL3' and 'bug-free MIDI'. If you really want an SB16, I'd recommend an early CT1740/1750, which would give you OPL3 and bug-free MIDI, but they are noisy.

Non-SB16 alternatives entail various compromises:
- Aztech cards offer real OPL3, bug-free MIDI, nearly perfect HW compatibility with SBPro2, but no SB16 (although they do do WSS)
- Avance Logic ALS007 and 100 (non-plus) offer OPL3 (usually 1:1 clone) SBPro2 and SB16 plus bug-free MIDI, but their compatibility isn't perfect and cards can be really low-end
- CMI 8330 does the same, with slightly different compatibility issues.
- Later ESS are trouble-free SBPro2 cards with good MIDI, but ESFM instead of OPL3, earlier (ESS688) cards have real OPL3, but MIDI is hit&miss.
- Yamaha cards give superb OPL3, SBPro2 and MIDI, but no SB16 and cards tend to be undeservedly bad.

My recommendation would be to just go for two ISA cards for DOS:
1) a solid SBPro2 card with OPL3 and bug-free MIDI. I usually default to Aztech AZT2316-based cards for that. They are cheap, easy to find and offer better sound quality than most SB16s.
2) an SB16, or AWE32/64 for SB16. As you're not using it for MIDI or OPL3, those factors become irrelevant and you can go for one of the nice quiet later models, which can also be cheaper.

I'm constantly swapping round configs, as I've currently got two different DOS-only builds and messing with weird sound cards (whatever you do, avoid AD Echo-based cards 😉 ), but if I wanted one build as you are describing, I would use an Azetch 2316 (i.e. my Waverider32+ card with AZT2316A and onboard ICS wavetable) and either an AWE64 Gold or CT3670 ("Soundblaster 32" i.e. AWE64-lite with no RAM onboard but a nice 30p SIMM slot) next to it.

Reply 46 of 56, by Velociraptor

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Dionb that's super helpful thanks! I have no real desire to stick to a single soundcard, and secretly I quite like as many expansion slots, ports etc filled as I can so having more than one sounds great to me.

"Only if you set it up incorrectly. Trick is that Windows is a PnP OS and that many older cards are non-PnP, so you need to reserve whatever resources the non-PnP cards use in BIOS to ensure that they remain free. This has nothing to do with specific features of SBLive and SB16, and applies to any combo of PnP and non-PnP cards."

I still don't understand what PnP means for sound cards. I must have done 30 years ago but I don't recall. Does it simply mean that windows will negotiate which resources to use with the card directly, but non-PnP means I have to set the card and the machine to the same thing for it to work?

"If you really want an SB16"
I think I really want soundblaster digital sound. That's all really. The end result would hopefully be soundblaster digital sound, OPL3, and MIDI out.

"My recommendation would be to just go for two ISA cards for DOS:
1) a solid SBPro2 card with OPL3 and bug-free MIDI. I usually default to Aztech AZT2316-based cards for that. They are cheap, easy to find and offer better sound quality than most SB16s.
2) an SB16, or AWE32/64 for SB16. As you're not using it for MIDI or OPL3, those factors become irrelevant and you can go for one of the nice quiet later models, which can also be cheaper."

I'm fine with this - are you meaning in addition to the SB live for windows?

So card number one is going to be doing my OPL3 music in games, or where supported Roland output. Card number two is going to do only my digitised sound. That seems to cover all 3 bases for me.

"ut if I wanted one build as you are describing, I would use an Azetch 2316 (i.e. my Waverider32+ card with AZT2316A and onboard ICS wavetable) and either an AWE64 Gold or CT3670 ("Soundblaster 32" i.e. AWE64-lite with no RAM onboard but a nice 30p SIMM slot) next to it."

I've never owned a card with sound fonts (I think that's what the AWE and waveblaster are?) and when I've listened to comparisons with Rolands they've not sounded as good. Your final recommendations here don't match your 2 card suggestion was and I don't understand how each role is filled by it.

Again - thanks!

Reply 47 of 56, by dionb

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Velociraptor wrote on 2020-05-24, 12:11:

[...]

I still don't understand what PnP means for sound cards. I must have done 30 years ago but I don't recall. Does it simply mean that windows will negotiate which resources to use with the card directly, but non-PnP means I have to set the card and the machine to the same thing for it to work?

PnP means the same for sound cards as for any other cards:

1) at boot time, BIOS assigns available resources pretty arbitrarily if non-PnP OS is selected. It will not (er, should not - implementations weren't always bulletproof) assign resources set as "Legacy/ISA" in BIOS.
2) after boot, OS or tools can re-assign cards' resources to anything that's available.

In Windows exact resources assigned to hardware shouldn't matter, as software talks to APIs, not directly to the card. In DOS it does matter, both because software addresses the hardware directly and because by tradition only certain resources are selectable in most games.

So what a DOS PnP enabler does is assign desired, usable resources to PnP cards - and tells the cards to listen to those adresses. IMHO a complete, utter waste of time, effort and multiple places where something could go wrong, versus simply setting the card's resources directly without PnP. But as PnP works nicely with Windows 9x, cards released after 1994 will allmost inevitably be PnP.

[...]
I think I really want soundblaster digital sound. That's all really. The end result would hopefully be soundblaster digital sound, OPL3, and MIDI out.

Soundblaster as in original, 8b mono Soundblaster 1.x digital sound? Then just about anything will suffice. If you want stereo, you want SBPro2 or SB16. SB16 adds 16b resolution, which sounds much better - but is rarely used to full effect. WSS gives you very similar specs, unfortunately with even less support in DOS games (although it's impressive where supported, i.e. Descent).

[...]

I'm fine with this - are you meaning in addition to the SB live for windows?

Yes. SBLive is pretty awful in DOS, just don't bother with it. Conversely, there's nothing in Windows that you can't do with the SBLive. Using non-PnP ISA cards for DOS makes this very easy: Windows won't detect them, so no need to even install drivers (or get irritated by question marks in Device Manager). Not initializing the SBLive under DOS does the same: the card simply isn't there for DOS software. Note that this is in pure DOS. Things could get complicated in Windows DOS mode. I thoroughly recommend pure DOS to keep life simple.

So card number one is going to be doing my OPL3 music in games, or where supported Roland output. Card number two is going to do only my digitised sound. That seems to cover all 3 bases for me.

"ut if I wanted one build as you are describing, I would use an Azetch 2316 (i.e. my Waverider32+ card with AZT2316A and onboard ICS wavetable) and either an AWE64 Gold or CT3670 ("Soundblaster 32" i.e. AWE64-lite with no RAM onboard but a nice 30p SIMM slot) next to it."

I've never owned a card with sound fonts (I think that's what the AWE and waveblaster are?) and when I've listened to comparisons with Rolands they've not sounded as good. Your final recommendations here don't match your 2 card suggestion was and I don't understand how each role is filled by it.

These aren't recommendations, these are literally the cards I have here. But I'd also recommend them in the described roles:
- The AZT2316A card supplies OPL3, SBPro2, bug-free MPU-401 MIDI interface (it also has its own MIDI module onboard, but although it's not bad, it's not in the same league as the Rolands - Aztech Sound Galaxy Pro II MMSN824 would be the corresponding card without wavetable.
- The CT3670 or AWE64 supplies (late, noise-free) SB16, and add the novelty of the AWE stuff. I agree it's pretty underwhelming compared to Roland or similar synths, but it's more flexible, and better-supported than the similar Gravis Ultrasound. In the hands of a good programmer (i.e. somebody not just pretending he has a poor man's SC-55mk2) it can be nice. Additional advantage to these two: no single-cycle DMA click bug and no Vibra bugs either due to their very late DSP.

But I just have too many sound cards so my builds tend to have a high degree of overkill 😉 A simple MMSN824 and CT2950 SB16 would suffice for everything originally mentioned.

Reply 48 of 56, by Velociraptor

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dionb wrote on 2020-05-24, 18:57:

PnP means the same for sound cards as for any other cards:

So my ancient memory did finally come to the right conclusion. In that case I do not want PnP for cards I want to use in DOS and I do want PnP for cards I want to use in Windows.

That means the combination of cards I use for DOS mode would cover SB16 digital sound, OPL3 and MIDI out would not function in Windows, which isn't going to be an issue unless I want to use them in Windows. And I think that's likely to be rare to the point of not worrying if I have a config that works optimally for it.

Likewise inside Windows as you say no PnP means no Windows errors. What a wonderfully neat solution.

Soundblaster as in original, 8b mono Soundblaster 1.x digital sound? Then just about anything will suffice. If you want stereo, you want SBPro2 or SB16. SB16 adds 16b resolution, which sounds much better - but is rarely used to full effect. WSS gives you very similar specs, unfortunately with even less support in DOS games (although it's impressive where supported, i.e. Descent).

I'm sorry I've spoken carelessly here. I do mean SB16. I don't know what WSS is but as you've just said less support I don't think I should go to the effort of finding out! As far as I picked up from what you've previously said I should be able to get a SB16 with low noise and it will cover all my digital sound effects needs in DOS, so long as a Soundblaster of some type is supported. The only other thing I'd consider would be if there was a Soundblaster compatible digital sound card that I could install that had a better outcome.

Yes. SBLive is pretty awful in DOS, just don't bother with it. Conversely, there's nothing in Windows that you can't do with the SBLive. Using non-PnP ISA cards for DOS makes this very easy: Windows won't detect them, so no need to even install drivers (or get irritated by question marks in Device Manager). Not initializing the SBLive under DOS does the same: the card simply isn't there for DOS software. Note that this is in pure DOS. Things could get complicated in Windows DOS mode. I thoroughly recommend pure DOS to keep life simple.

That makes things quite clear about DOS and Windows. I know that 98SE is built on top of DOS so I believe I could boot to DOS and do my DOS gaming from that point, or go into Windows and do my Win98 gaming from there, and avoid conflicts that way. I'm aware the SBLive is rotten for DOS, that's not a secret 😀

The SBLive I have is a CT4760. Basic research from me shows it'll be fine for 98SE era, and despite a replacement being inexpensive I won't need to bother. Please do correct me here if I'm wrong.

A simple MMSN824 and CT2950 SB16 would suffice for everything originally mentioned.

Well that helps 😀 The MMSN824 is a Aztech Sound Galaxy Pro II. I have found one but looking at the PCB it's silkscreened as a MMSN822. Is that comparible?

And I can find a "Creative Sound Blaster Vibra 16 CT2950 ISA VINTAGE CT1749-DCQ" is that a suitable CT2950?

If so then I can buy both of those and aside from needing something to receive the MIDI I'll have my sound sorted. I do really appreciate the effort you're going to!

Reply 49 of 56, by Joseph_Joestar

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Velociraptor wrote on 2020-05-24, 20:42:

I don't know what WSS is but as you've just said less support I don't think I should go to the effort of finding out!

WSS stands for Windows Sound System. The specification was aimed at Windows 3.1 but a number of DOS games support it as well.

If a sound card has SB16 compatibility (rare for non-Creative cards) then WSS isn't super important. However, if the card only supports SBPro+WSS (common for non-Creative cards), then using WSS will give you 16-bit sound, which is noticeably cleaner in late-era DOS games.

Your next line is...

Reply 50 of 56, by Velociraptor

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I've been browsing and reading other places, and it does read as if the project to re-create the AWE64 might tick all of my boxes. Allowing soundfonts of sufficient complexity to mirror MT32 /GM output. Having an OPL3 and having digital output. Am I right in thinking if all I need to do is hope it turns out ok, and wait for it, and pay probably more than buying the legacy cards that it could be the option for me?

Reply 51 of 56, by gdjacobs

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A couple other notes:

Earlier Opti chipsets have good SB Pro/WSS compatibility with OPL3 support via a genuine Yamaha chip or 100% illegal clone (LS262, DSP24s, etc.). They're inexpensive and fairly common. I would rate them highly along with the later Aztech cards.

Crystal CS423x chips have the best PCM output quality (IMO) and superb SB Pro and WSS compatibility. Avoid the CS/CX4235 as FM is buggy. Most feature the CrystalFM OPL3 clone which I don't like as much as ESFM or genuine OPL3, although YMMV. A few generate FM via an onboard Crystal/Dream wavetable chipset. Some rare and expensive CS4232 based cards use a genuine OPL3 chip. If you can find one for a good price, you'll have the best sound card on the market short of the Orpheus or AWE64 Legacy projects.

All hail the Great Capacitor Brand Finder

Reply 52 of 56, by dionb

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Velociraptor wrote on 2020-05-24, 20:42:

[...]

I'm sorry I've spoken carelessly here. I do mean SB16. I don't know what WSS is but as you've just said less support I don't think I should go to the effort of finding out! As far as I picked up from what you've previously said I should be able to get a SB16 with low noise and it will cover all my digital sound effects needs in DOS, so long as a Soundblaster of some type is supported. The only other thing I'd consider would be if there was a Soundblaster compatible digital sound card that I could install that had a better outcome.

Slight problem is that SB16 isn't fully SBPro compatible. It's not terrible (messed-up stereo mostly), but that's the one thing preventing any SB16 to be a single-card-solution.

The SBLive I have is a CT4760. Basic research from me shows it'll be fine for 98SE era, and despite a replacement being inexpensive I won't need to bother. Please do correct me here if I'm wrong.

The differences between SBLive cards isn't my specialty, but if you can get it to run, it should be fine, with better SNR than even the AWE64.

Well that helps 😀 The MMSN824 is a Aztech Sound Galaxy Pro II. I have found one but looking at the PCB it's silkscreened as a MMSN822. Is that comparible?

No, that's second generation Aztech. They have quite a few issues. It's the third generation with AZT2316 that's bullet-proof non-PnP (and for PnP cards the fourth generation aren't too bad either). Here's a rundown of marketing names vs model numbers: https://ilovepa.ws/2017/06/08/aztech-sound-cards/

Avoid FCC IDs other than "MMSNxxx", whenever they pop up here, people have driver/config problems with them with the cards not being recognised. Some kind of OEM cards (although other OEMs, such as Packard Bell, used regular MMSNxxx cards that are fine).

And I can find a "Creative Sound Blaster Vibra 16 CT2950 ISA VINTAGE CT1749-DCQ" is that a suitable CT2950?

Depends what it is... the CT2950 isn't a Vibra but a 'full' SB16. Sounds like someone is mixing up their card names/numbers. However it's a PnP card, which given your setup is less than ideal, but perfectly manageable with CTCU/CTCM (Creative's PnP tools). Check the list in the first post of this thread for the various options. As you're going to use a different card for MPU-401 you can ignore those bugs, and you don't need OPL3 either, so look for non-PnP card with low self-noise.

Reply 53 of 56, by boxpressed

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Velociraptor wrote on 2020-05-24, 21:55:

I've been browsing and reading other places, and it does read as if the project to re-create the AWE64 might tick all of my boxes. Allowing soundfonts of sufficient complexity to mirror MT32 /GM output. Having an OPL3 and having digital output. Am I right in thinking if all I need to do is hope it turns out ok, and wait for it, and pay probably more than buying the legacy cards that it could be the option for me?

It sounds like you want to use your SB Live! in Windows. In that case, I would get a SB Pro 2 (CT1600), a non-PNP ISA card. This can co-exist with the Live!, and you don't even need to tell Windows it's there.

If you absolutely need Sound Blaster 16 sound, you can use the Live! emulation, which is okay. The Live!'s 8MB software wavetable is very good, in my opinion.

In DOS, just use the SB Pro 2.

Who knows when the AWE64 will be complete. You can always sell the SB Pro 2 for about what you paid for it, maybe more.

Reply 54 of 56, by Velociraptor

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It seems very difficult to eliminate all of the issued that I'd like to eliminate. The main reason for this search that I'm having is that I have decided I do want to have this, but I feel prices are only going upwards. If the new cards are going to arrive eventually then I'm happy to wait, and of course run the risk that they're flawed beyond reasonable use or that they never appear.

I'm fairly overwhelmed with options here and rather out of my depth. I'll come back to the thread and re-read everything and try to make notes and see if I can maybe create a spreadsheet with the advice given to see if I can make sense of it.

Reply 55 of 56, by appiah4

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Velociraptor wrote on 2020-05-25, 00:05:

It seems very difficult to eliminate all of the issued that I'd like to eliminate.

If you solve this issue you will have solved a retrogamer problem that has existed since the dawn of time.

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 56 of 56, by Velociraptor

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appiah4 wrote on 2020-05-25, 16:47:
Velociraptor wrote on 2020-05-25, 00:05:

It seems very difficult to eliminate all of the issued that I'd like to eliminate.

If you solve this issue you will have solved a retrogamer problem that has existed since the dawn of time.

Well I can only hope to solve if for myself, by choosing which drawbacks I can live with most easily.