ESS Solo-1 - pure PCI vs. SB-link

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ESS Solo-1 - pure PCI vs. SB-link

Postby Der Kuenringer » 2019-1-05 @ 20:18

I have a question about the ESS Solo-1, but I suppose it aplies more generally to PCI sound cards regarding DOS compatibility.
I've watched Phil's review of the Solo-1 and was impressed by it's near-perfect compatibility. But at the same time I was left wondering, since he utilized the SB-link:
Would I have to expect very different results in terms of compatibility, if I only connect it via PCI w/o SB-link? Does anyone have experience with that chip, when used in a board without SB-link/PC-PCI?

I've also seen his review of the Yamaha YMF-7x4 card. In this one he didn't use an SB-link, maybe it didn't have one, and compatibility was worse compared to Solo-1. I guess there would be many factors to consider, but how big of a difference does the SB-link make for compatibility?
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Re: ESS Solo-1 - pure PCI vs. SB-link

Postby Baoran » 2019-1-05 @ 20:53

As far as I know if there is no sb-link, the compatibility depends alot on what motherboard you have and what chipset the motherboard has.
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Re: ESS Solo-1 - pure PCI vs. SB-link

Postby gdjacobs » 2019-1-05 @ 21:41

Solo-1 cards perform best with VIA chipsets, either using chipset based DDMA or software based TDMA.
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Re: ESS Solo-1 - pure PCI vs. SB-link

Postby Revolter » 2019-1-08 @ 14:43

Der Kuenringer, Phil did not use SB-LINK in that video - he only mentioned it briefly, along with the footage of how it supposed to work. You can find this information in the video description as well as in the comment section.

When used with PC-PCI or a supported chipset (pre-ICH Intel motherboards, period and many later VIA motherboards), the compatibility is indeed best in class. On my Pentium 1 430VX system it completely replaced an SB ISA card for me, with literally not a single game encountered that refused to cooperate (which is unheard of for a PCI card). There probably are some incompatible games somewhere, but this was my experience.

On ICH-enabled Intel chipsets (i810 and up), the situation is worse, but you can get there by using a couple of tricks :) Here's my attempt on covering the ISA SBPro compatibility with this card as a single sound source on a Pentium III DOS gaming rig: viewtopic.php?f=62&t=24769&start=120#p692375

In short: out of 150+ tested games only 4 turned out to be unplayable with SFX no matter what I tried (Death Rally, Jazz Jackrabbit, Quarantine, Turrican 2). The same games work properly on compatible chipsets, however.

I should also mention that FM and GM synths work with no compatibility issues in all DOS games regardless of the chipset.
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Re: ESS Solo-1 - pure PCI vs. SB-link

Postby gdjacobs » 2019-1-08 @ 18:33

To clarify, I'm sure by GM synth you mean the MPU-401 interface including the WT header. Solo-1 cards don't have onboard GM sythesis.
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Re: ESS Solo-1 - pure PCI vs. SB-link

Postby Revolter » 2019-1-08 @ 19:46

gdjacobs wrote:To clarify, I'm sure by GM synth you mean the MPU-401 interface including the WT header. Solo-1 cards don't have onboard GM sythesis.


Yes, this is exactly what I meant, thanks. This happens when you re-arrange words in your sentences much before posting, so that they sound more English and less Russian :) It was probably going to be "FM synth and GM mode", but was merged with "FM and GM modes" or something :D

The onboard FM synth can, however, be used as a GM device, but this is outside of the topic.
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