Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

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

Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby Tiido » 2019-8-18 @ 01:15

appiah4 wrote:However, one small bug report: IRQ selections for Configurations A and B are reversed. Whatever I pick for A goes to B (MPU401) and whatever I pick for B goes to A (SB) and added to the SET BLASTER line.

I don't think I am seeing this happen. For debugging purposes I made the SET BLASTER variable visible on exit screen (and I'll keep it there from now on, not sure why I didn't think of it before). If I set IRQ A to 3 and IRQ B to 7 and choose B for SB, I properly get I7 in the SET BLASTER variable, if I choose A I'll get I3 instead, I was unable to get them reversed... but I did find a problem, 10 and 11 didn't get handled properly and that is fixed now. I also made the P value follow YMF71x MPU port rather than YMF704/721 port for cards that aren't mine. I have updated the program.
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Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby appiah4 » 2019-8-18 @ 20:06

Tiido wrote:
appiah4 wrote:However, one small bug report: IRQ selections for Configurations A and B are reversed. Whatever I pick for A goes to B (MPU401) and whatever I pick for B goes to A (SB) and added to the SET BLASTER line.

I don't think I am seeing this happen. For debugging purposes I made the SET BLASTER variable visible on exit screen (and I'll keep it there from now on, not sure why I didn't think of it before). If I set IRQ A to 3 and IRQ B to 7 and choose B for SB, I properly get I7 in the SET BLASTER variable, if I choose A I'll get I3 instead, I was unable to get them reversed... but I did find a problem, 10 and 11 didn't get handled properly and that is fixed now. I also made the P value follow YMF71x MPU port rather than YMF704/721 port for cards that aren't mine. I have updated the program.


It was my mistake, I did not realize A and B were assigned to IRQ and IO seperately :)

Now I have one more issue with this card.. Everything works perfectly in DOS but WSS just doesn't work. SETYMF WSS test results in garbage audio out, Yamaha's own driver can never set up WSS properly either (reports IO errors) and windows locks up when I load it..

Any pointers? I may have to go back to ES1868 if I can't resolve this.
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Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby Marmes » 2019-8-18 @ 20:52

I would try CS4232, because cs4289 is a rebranded opl3 chip with a nice crystal dac on the output. I know this because I have 2 CS4232 cards that I changed cs4289 for YMF289, (I ear no difference in audio) .When I look at cards, I tend to see which one has a better design, usually those with 4 layer boards show the care manufacturers put on its design so I go to those, and don't care much about chipset.
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Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby appiah4 » 2019-8-18 @ 23:02

Marmes wrote:I would try CS4232, because cs4289 is a rebranded opl3 chip with a nice crystal dac on the output. I know this because I have 2 CS4232 cards that I changed cs4289 for YMF289, (I ear no difference in audio) .When I look at cards, I tend to see which one has a better design, usually those with 4 layer boards show the care manufacturers put on its design so I go to those, and don't care much about chipset.


I really don't think the CS4289 is a rebranded OPL3, CS4232 can be accompanied by genuine OPL3 or clone OPL3 chips but CS4289 is actually a Crystal FM implementation that I don't mind but think is inferior to CS4236..
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Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby Tiido » 2019-8-19 @ 03:48

appiah4 wrote:Now I have one more issue with this card.. Everything works perfectly in DOS but WSS just doesn't work. SETYMF WSS test results in garbage audio out, Yamaha's own driver can never set up WSS properly either (reports IO errors) and windows locks up when I load it..

Any pointers? I may have to go back to ES1868 if I can't resolve this.

So that means something is getting in the way, what cards are there in the machine ? You can try to remove all the excess cards, and try different IO locations for WSS perhaps a different DMA channel. If things keep failing you can try to play with ISA bus speed and wait states settings if they are available. Are all volume controls working or some don't ?
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Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby gdjacobs » 2019-8-19 @ 05:49

dionb wrote:Eh? This is about the most trouble-free 'runs anything' card I have. For starters it does both SBPro2 and SB16, does both even in the more troublesome games I have and has an easily usable 'upside down' wavetable header. Not that it's the best match for what appiah4 is asking for, but that's because he doesn't want SB16 and probably could use a real OPL3 (although C-Media's FM isn't that bad).

It's outstanding for features. The CMI8330 is one of the few (only?) ISA sound chipsets to provide SPDIF output from the mixer. However, I don't believe it's compatibility matches up with the Yamaha or ESS cards which are probably the gold standards for SB/SB Pro support in clone cards.
As with the YMF719 cards, depends on the card. Driver-wise (or lack thereof) it's perfect, particularly the ES688 with non-PnP: just set the jumpers, add the corresponding SET BLASTER line and ready - SBPro2 with less bugs - and a real OPL3 as well. But some cards built with it are really shitty, with lots of hum and no high tones in output.

Of course how much noise is acceptable, what filtering (if any) is desirable, and whether OPL3 is the holy grail or other FM synthesis has merit are all subjective. Faced with this glut of choices I'd just try them out one by one and decide which sounds best for to me. I usually settle on an Aztech 2316 for SBPro2, but that's not one of these options...

Absolutely. Implementation of the analog signal path can make any chipset sound like crap. Ultimately your ear has to live with it, so you should definitely do some comparison testing.
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Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby appiah4 » 2019-8-19 @ 07:07

Tiido wrote:
appiah4 wrote:Now I have one more issue with this card.. Everything works perfectly in DOS but WSS just doesn't work. SETYMF WSS test results in garbage audio out, Yamaha's own driver can never set up WSS properly either (reports IO errors) and windows locks up when I load it..

Any pointers? I may have to go back to ES1868 if I can't resolve this.

So that means something is getting in the way, what cards are there in the machine ? You can try to remove all the excess cards, and try different IO locations for WSS perhaps a different DMA channel. If things keep failing you can try to play with ISA bus speed and wait states settings if they are available. Are all volume controls working or some don't ?


There is absolutely something wrong, I plugged in the ESS card and its PCM audio output is completely garbled in Windows (and only in windows - digital sound in DOS games is fine) as well. That's three in a row: 1) Loading programs into UMB causes Windows to hang at startup, 2) Two YMF cards caused Windows to hang at startup and WSS fails in setup (I have tried every Address/IRQ/DMA combination for the YMF card and WSS still wouldn't work.), 3) ESS Audiodrive card has garbled audio output in Windows.

Motherboard is an ECS 486UL-P101 with UMC UM82C491F/UM82C493F chipset and has 8 30-pin 1MB RAM sticks on it as well as 128K L2 cache:

Image

Cards in the system (aside from the sound card) are a Cirrus Logic CL-GD5428 2MB VLB and a -UMC UM82C863F/UM82C865F Multi-IO ISA:

Image Image

For sound I've tried YMF-719B, YMF-719E and ES1868F so far. Strangely enough, the Sound Blaster 16 CT2290 (and only this card so far) had worked just fine before.

Something's wrong with the motherboard methinks. The motherboard has a jumper for 0/1WS, I will set it to 1WS and retry tonight.

If all else fails I will go back to CT2290. I have a very decent SiS VLB motherboard I can probably use instead but I want to do a UMC only U5S build so I'm hoping I can make this work :(
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Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby derSammler » 2019-8-19 @ 07:23

I plugged in the ESS card and its PCM audio output is completely garbled in Windows (and only in windows - digital sound in DOS games is fine) as well.

Check the driver settings in the device manager (there should be an extra tab with options). I had this too in an 486 and had to tick an option there. I think it was called "Single DMA" or something. After that, sound in Windows was fine.
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Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby appiah4 » 2019-8-19 @ 07:45

It's Windows 3.1 - are you sure this setting exists or is it for 9x only? Do I go into Drivers and look at ESS driver's options?

Also, maybe I should try a different driver? I used the ESS driver bundle on Vogonsdrivers..
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Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby derSammler » 2019-8-19 @ 07:51

Sorry, thought you were using Win95 at least.

In Windows 3.1 however, you can just install the SB 1.5 driver that comes with it. At least to see if there's a problem with the hardware or just with the driver.
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Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby appiah4 » 2019-8-19 @ 07:52

derSammler wrote:Sorry, thought you were using Win95 at least.

In Windows 3.1 however, you can just install the SB 1.5 driver that comes with it. At least to see if there's a problem with the hardware or just with the driver.


Good idea, I will just install the DOS drivers and the SB 1.5 Win 3.1 driver and see if that works.. I have a hunch that it will work 100% fine. The ESS driver has nothing going on for Windows anyway, as long as I get CD Audio, FM Synth and MPU401 MIDI options in MIDI Mapper I don't care for more.

I forgot what a pain in the ass these earlier VLB boards are. I'm kind of amazed at how hassle free my DX33 VLB system from Microstar (MSI) in 1992 was. A high quality motherboard (in contrast with this cheap ECS/PCChips POS I am using now) does go a long way. I wish I had a quality UMC motherboard.
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Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby appiah4 » 2019-8-19 @ 10:02

Hold up, a new challenger has arrived!

Image

My notes indicate 82C929 is SB compatible but a lookup reveals its SB Pro compatible. How about this card then?
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Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby derSammler » 2019-8-19 @ 10:20

These OPTi cards are also rather good. The original drivers are a bit bloated, but there's a community driver for the 929 that is just awesome. It does SB Pro 2.0 in Stereo and WSS. Your card also has a disguised OPL3, so not bad at all.

I'm using a miro PCM12 in my P75 Plato build, which uses the same chips, apart from the OPL3 (it has an OPL4 with 2 MB wavetable ROM instead).

Find the community driver attached.
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Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby oeuvre » 2019-8-19 @ 12:42

I've never played too much with an Opti sound card but it might provide an optimum experience for your use case.
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Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby Tiido » 2019-8-19 @ 12:56

I have an UMC based board that acts strange too, though in form of general instability.
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Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby appiah4 » 2019-8-19 @ 13:04

Tiido wrote:I have an UMC based board that acts strange too, though in form of general instability.


I have a fair bit of that as well.. Yesterday it reset itself while in BIOS. The other day it refused to boot until I moved the soundcard to another slot despite working fine with it for a week before that. Quirky board. I may just say "Fuck It" and sell it off.
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Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby root42 » 2019-8-19 @ 13:18

derSammler wrote:These OPTi cards are also rather good. The original drivers are a bit bloated, but there's a community driver for the 929 that is just awesome. It does SB Pro 2.0 in Stereo and WSS. Your card also has a disguised OPL3, so not bad at all.


Are those LS chips actually relabeled OPL3 or are they some clones that might sound differently?
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Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby dionb » 2019-8-19 @ 13:25

appiah4 wrote:Hold up, a new challenger has arrived!

[...]

My notes indicate 82C929 is SB compatible but a lookup reveals its SB Pro compatible. How about this card then?

A few weeks back I got my hands on the ExpertMedia MED3240/41/90/91, which is the MED2000 plus onboard wavetable. It turned out to work pretty well in DOS as a basic SBPro2 clone. The Wavetable was er... not quite up to Roland/Yamaha standard... but not relevant for your MED2000. If you didn't already have the Yamaha and ESS cards I'd say worth a try, but unless the Yamaha's are all crap I wouldn't recommend it here.
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Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby derSammler » 2019-8-19 @ 13:26

Are those LS chips actually relabeled OPL3 or are they some clones that might sound differently?

That LS-212 is a real OPL3, but manufactured without a license from Yamaha.
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Re: Picking a sound card for a low-end 486

Postby appiah4 » 2019-8-19 @ 13:55

derSammler wrote:
Are those LS chips actually relabeled OPL3 or are they some clones that might sound differently?

That LS-212 is a real OPL3, but manufactured without a license from Yamaha.

Does anyone know the story of how these were made? If the OPL3 could be 100% copied in the 90s how come we don't have 100% accurate replicas or perfect emulation around today? Someone must have dumped and copied the chip, at some point?
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