Choosing the right sound card ?

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

Choosing the right sound card ?

Postby Intel486dx33 » 2019-3-02 @ 20:19

Which sound card has the best compatibility with DOS games and sounds the best ?
Is easy to install and setup and is reliable in sound quality ?

Here is what I have:
1) ESS 688, ISA
2) Sound blaster 16 vibra with Yamaha OPL3 chip. ( YMF-262 ) ISA
3) Sound blaster AWE64, ISA
4) Sound blaster live ( PCI )
5) Sound blaster live 5.1 ( PCI )
6) Yamaha Audician32, ISA
7) Turtle beach Monte Carlo, with Yamaha OPL YMF-262, ISA
8 ) ESS 689
9) Crystal audio, ISA
10) Advanced logic, ISA
11) Media Vision pro audio spectrum PAS16P , with Yamaha OPL YMF-262, ISA
12) Sound Blaster Pro 2.0 , with Yamaha OPL ( YMF-262 ) ISA
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Last edited by Intel486dx33 on 2019-3-06 @ 18:49, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Help me choose a sound card ?

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-3-02 @ 20:26

FM sound ranked from best to worst:

1) Real OPL3 (YMF-262 and variants), any Yamaha card, many SB16 cards
2) ESS FM synth, some Crystal synths
3) CQM synth (SB AWE64, Live, some Vibra cards)
4) Some Crystal cards have horrible OPL3 compatibility and sound like crap

DOS compatibility:

1) Real SB16 or SB Pro II, with jumper settings (non-PnP)
2) SB16 PnP, or Vibra PnP (these can be initialized without TSRs), many ESS or Crystal cards, Yamaha 719 etc.
3) SB AWE32/AWE64 (these only really shine in Win9x)
4) SB PCI or Live, or any other PCI card (PCI cards are all very bad for DOS compatibility, you need ISA for great compatibility no matter what)
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Re: Help me choose a sound card ?

Postby Intel486dx33 » 2019-3-03 @ 03:38

Okay, yes.
I have some Sound Blaster Pro 2.0 and Vibra 16x with Yamaha OPL ( YMF-262 ).
I should choose between these 2 right ?

Do I still need to use an Ablib card with these sound cards ?
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Re: Help me choose a sound card ?

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-3-03 @ 04:49

What system are you installing this in?
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Re: Help me choose a sound card ?

Postby Intel486dx33 » 2019-3-03 @ 05:02

486dx-66 with 16mb ram.
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Re: Help me choose a sound card ?

Postby oohms » 2019-3-03 @ 05:52

Are you using external midi or a midi daughterboard?
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Re: Help me choose a sound card ?

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-3-03 @ 06:11

For a DX-66 the genuine SB Pro II is the superior option.

No, of course you don’t need a separate Adlib card. That’s the point of owning a Sound Blaster.
Last edited by keenmaster486 on 2019-3-03 @ 06:12, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Help me choose a sound card ?

Postby Intel486dx33 » 2019-3-03 @ 06:11

What do I need to produce true MIDI sound coming from my computer ?
I want to hear the sound the creator of the MIDI file intended it to Sound like ?

What components do I need ?
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Re: Help me choose a sound card ?

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-3-03 @ 06:13

External MIDI box, and the SB MIDI cable. Note that the SB Pro II is not MPU-401 compatible - right? Can someone back me up on this?
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Re: Help me choose a sound card ?

Postby Intel486dx33 » 2019-3-03 @ 06:43

Which external MIDI device provides the most realistic sound as the game maker intended for the sound file ?
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Re: Help me choose a sound card ?

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-3-03 @ 06:58

None of the above, or all of them.
http://classictechnology.herokuapp.com
Main desktop: Pentium MMX/200 (Socket 7), SB16, 64MB RAM, S3 Trio64V2/DX, Windows 95 OSR2
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Re: Help me choose a sound card ?

Postby oohms » 2019-3-03 @ 08:11

Regarding midi, you really need to do some research on this. Depending on the age of the game, roland MT-32 or SC-55, but there are several others. You also need to do some of your own reading up on sound cards - most sound blasters, for example, have one issue or another when it comes to midi, opl3 , etc etc
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Re: Help me choose a sound card ?

Postby dr_st » 2019-3-03 @ 09:03

If you want a simple setup, choose between AWE64 and Audician32+Dreamblaster daughterboard. First gives you a no-frills SB16+AWE synth in DOS, and General MIDI in Windows. Second gives you SBPro compatibility + real Yamaha OPL + General MIDI.

If you have enough ISA slots, and can deal a bit of with IRQ hell, you can even include both in the same PC and maximize compatibility and supported features.
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Re: Help me choose a sound card ?

Postby zarkon » 2019-3-03 @ 14:24

Intel486dx33 wrote:Which external MIDI device provides the most realistic sound as the game maker intended for the sound file ?


So, it depends what you're doing. These are the main modules which people composed on:

MT-32 (old, no headphone port on back)
MT-32 (new, with headphone port)
CM-32L
CM-32P (L & P can be gotten combined as the CM-64)
SC-55
SC-88
Yamaha XG standard device (not sure which was used, I literally just got an MU2000EX for this purpose)

I think the only devs that used Yamaha XG afaik were Falcom and Squaresoft. So unless you're planning on playing some old YS windows rpgs or the original windows PC versions of FF7 & 8 (steam version had no midi support), then you don't need that. Likewise CM-32P and SC-88 were primarily used by Japanese developers for Japanese computers like the Sharp X68000 and PC98. I've not really come across DOS games that were made with the SC-88's extra capabilities in mind (it is a '94 device so that's not too surprising), but that doesn't mean they don't exist.
The CM-32L can do everything the MT-32 New can, and has extra capabilities that was taken advantage of in games like Lure of the Temptress.

So if your only concern is purely DOS, this can at this point probably be shortened down to:

MT-32 (old, no headphone port on back)
CM-32L
SC-55

MT-32 Old has bugs which musicians took into account in mind when they were composing, so they sound wrong on the newer devices without the bugs. I think I heard that you can work around them with a newer device with sysex patches, but that's a rabbit hole I've not been down.
SC-55 has quite a few models. The main ones are the mk1 and mk2. There are games composed for the MK1 which apparently don't sound right on the MK2 (I don't have both so can't say personally), and possibly vice-versa. If you get an MK1 the best one to get is one with a 1.20/1.21 rom, as earlier ones don't have breath noise and 2.00 screws up the drums mapping, there's at least one game that expects it to be where it was in the earlier roms, and you just get silence instead. 1.2X sc-55's will only have the GS symbol on the front AND must have a serial starting no earlier then BD and no later then DD (I guess it's possible very early BD's could be 1.10 and very late DD's may be 2.00 - I'd hope not though - best thing would be to email the seller and ask them to check the rom version).

The method to check SC-55 rom version is here:

https://www.rolandus.com/assets/press_m ... nGuide.pdf
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Re: Help me choose a sound card ?

Postby Intel486dx33 » 2019-3-03 @ 15:09

So what ROM version do you want to have on the SC-55 ?
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Re: Help me choose a sound card ?

Postby gdjacobs » 2019-3-03 @ 19:32

What do the ESS cards have for FM synth?
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Re: Help me choose a sound card ?

Postby Ozzuneoj » 2019-3-04 @ 20:58

zarkon wrote:
Intel486dx33 wrote:Which external MIDI device provides the most realistic sound as the game maker intended for the sound file ?


So, it depends what you're doing. These are the main modules which people composed on:

MT-32 (old, no headphone port on back)
MT-32 (new, with headphone port)
CM-32L
CM-32P (L & P can be gotten combined as the CM-64)
SC-55
SC-88
Yamaha XG standard device (not sure which was used, I literally just got an MU2000EX for this purpose)

I think the only devs that used Yamaha XG afaik were Falcom and Squaresoft. So unless you're planning on playing some old YS windows rpgs or the original windows PC versions of FF7 & 8 (steam version had no midi support), then you don't need that. Likewise CM-32P and SC-88 were primarily used by Japanese developers for Japanese computers like the Sharp X68000 and PC98. I've not really come across DOS games that were made with the SC-88's extra capabilities in mind (it is a '94 device so that's not too surprising), but that doesn't mean they don't exist.
The CM-32L can do everything the MT-32 New can, and has extra capabilities that was taken advantage of in games like Lure of the Temptress.

So if your only concern is purely DOS, this can at this point probably be shortened down to:

MT-32 (old, no headphone port on back)
CM-32L
SC-55



You basically said this, but I just wanted to reiterate... The CM-32P is a completely different kind of device and is not MT32 or General MIDI compatible, so it does nothing for games. The CM-32L is the one you'd want.
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Re: Help me choose a sound card ?

Postby gdjacobs » 2019-3-04 @ 22:23

The CM-32P is potentially useful if you want to mess around with Japanese market PCs.
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Re: Help me choose a sound card ?

Postby zarkon » 2019-3-06 @ 19:20

zarkon wrote:f you get an MK1 the best one to get is one with a 1.20/1.21 rom

Intel486dx33 wrote:So what ROM version do you want to have on the SC-55 ?


?

Ozzuneoj wrote:You basically said this, but I just wanted to reiterate... The CM-32P is a completely different kind of device and is not MT32 or General MIDI compatible, so it does nothing for games. The CM-32L is the one you'd want.

gdjacobs wrote:The CM-32P is potentially useful if you want to mess around with Japanese market PCs.


Yes. I have a CM-64 and the cm-32p functionality is used in x68000 games. Does raise the question of whether the 32P can be used as a solo device though for the same purpose though, as I don't have one. I can guarantee it works in the combined CM-64 unit, I specifically tried Gemini Wing which uses a couple of the PCM expansion cards.
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Re: Choosing the right sound card ?

Postby Ozzuneoj » 2019-3-07 @ 15:21

zarkon wrote:Yes. I have a CM-64 and the cm-32p functionality is used in x68000 games. Does raise the question of whether the 32P can be used as a solo device though for the same purpose though, as I don't have one. I can guarantee it works in the combined CM-64 unit, I specifically tried Gemini Wing which uses a couple of the PCM expansion cards.


How common are X68000 systems outside of Japan? Or other Japanese systems for that matter? I've basically stayed away from these systems because they're so insanely rare here, it'd be hopeless trying to build one and keep it going, let alone finding additional hardware to swap. I see X68000 games are selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay and there are no systems available to purchase at all. It also seems like the vast majority of the games are only available in Japanese, so unless you can read it, it'd be hard to get into them.

Some times it amazes me how vastly different the Western and Asian markets used to be with regard to computers and software. Even today, with the internet connecting everything together, the language and societal barriers almost make it seem like they're two different worlds with little casual (non-business related) interaction between them outside of specific websites. Like, there might be a Japanese forum somewhere with exactly the information I need about an old piece of hardware, but it will never come up in an internet search because it is probably called something completely different that doesn't use any western characters at all.
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