VOGONS


First post, by Burrito78

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https://custompc.raspberrypi.org/articles/the … d-blaster-story

Even the Snark Barker gets a mention in the interview! 😀

Archived initial version: https://web.archive.org/web/20200204202736/ht … d-blaster-story
Corrected version where MIDI isn't any longer confused with Adlib: https://web.archive.org/web/20200206093837/ht … d-blaster-story

Also check out the "counter article" of our member brassicGamer to get another perspective on the events and technologies mention in the original article:
https://web.archive.org/web/20200210142350/ht … -fairytale.html

Last edited by Burrito78 on 2020-02-11, 14:50. Edited 4 times in total.

Reply 1 of 104, by cyclone3d

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Thanks for the head sup. Just read the whole thing.

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Reply 2 of 104, by dionb

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Sort of interesting interview, but totally uncritical interviewer. AdLib is mentioned only in passing, the PAS (almost certainly the driver behind SBPro and SB16) not at all. Still, the 'our customers didn't give a shit about feature X so it wasn't a priority to us' rings depressingly true.

Reply 3 of 104, by Unknown_K

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They stay afloat today selling speakers with their names on it? Built in audio for a while now isn't that bad unless you are trying to record music for a real studio but for gaming it is fine.

I kept my SB16 + Wavetable setup until Aureal came out with their Vortex PCI chip.

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Reply 4 of 104, by SirNickity

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Unknown_K wrote on 2020-02-05, 01:38:

Built in audio for a while now isn't that bad unless you are trying to record music for a real studio

Yep, I never owned anything past the Live! until recently for this reason. Once you get into pro-audio territory, you can do a lot better than a modern Sound Blaster card. Those things turned into ridiculous case-modder trinkets that I just can't take seriously for any real audio work. Give me a Macbook with a Thunderbolt connection to a Metric Halo box any day.

Reply 5 of 104, by The Serpent Rider

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Built in audio for a while now isn't that bad unless you are trying to record music for a real studio but for gaming it is fine.

But they offered powerful DSPs with their cards.

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Reply 6 of 104, by cyclone3d

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Uggghhh.. built in audio is just "ok" if you don't really care about having good audio. There are still issues with mic inputs, sometimes you get interference and bus noise, etc.

Been running mostly Creative cards since the Sound Blaster PCI 64.

For all the flak they got with the popping/crackling issues during the Live! time period, I never had that problem. I think it may have popped up a single time and I moved my card to a different slot and it went away.
Neither the motherboard or chipset makers or Creative would take any responsibility for it.

The hardware acceleration for the audio from the Live! onwards was a great help as far as CPU usage went.

Yamaha YMF modified setupds and drivers
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Yamaha YMF7x4 Guide
AW744L II - YMF744 - AOpen Cobra Sound Card - Install SB-Link Header
Epstein didn't kill himself

Reply 7 of 104, by derSammler

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I was already out once I read the wrong use of the term "MIDI". People writing such articles should have knowledge of what they write about, which certainly isn't the case here. That's just embarrassing.

http://retro-net.de/blog.html

Reply 8 of 104, by keropi

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I don't know about other parts of the world (which were more advanced economically) but in 90s Greece noone gave a damn about midi interfaces or wavetable or similar technologies. I am talking about the SB audience (not studios/musicians) that didn't even knew what this was. People here learned about wavetable from AWE cards mainly - maybe also the SW20-PC.
So from a business point of view he is correct - it was also a business decision not to care that much about audio quality IMHO (but ofcourse he can't say that) - people forget that back in the day most computer speakers were passive cones in a box 🤣
It is easy to criticize them with 2010+ standards but people tend to forget they were gaming peripherals just like the bazillion crappy joysticks you could buy back in the day when "gaming" wasn't a term that would warrant double the prize.

I still like Creative and use their modern cards in all my systems , onboard audio is just an office solution for me. I also did not had issues with live! cards and tend to stick to at least proper x-fi cards for the systems that matter. But I must admit I care very little for the AWE series, their early EMU wavetable tech and the crappy SB16 vibra cards. 😁

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Reply 9 of 104, by derSammler

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No, he's not correct. I'm refering, among others, to these statements:

Quote #1:

If you wanted proper music in your games then you needed a MIDI card. Rather than playing back a music recording like current games, MIDI music is a bit like a Word document. [...] In the same way, with MIDI, you have the sounds stored on a synthesiser card, and a game’s music file just tells it which sounds to play when.

This started with basic FM synthesisers such as Yamaha’s OPL2, which modulated frequencies to simulate instruments, and then later went up to ‘wavetables’ of sampled instruments to create much more realistic sounding music.

He's saying here that all game music before the Sound Blaster was in MIDI format and even states that the OPL2 was a MIDI device with FM synthesis for playing MIDI music in games. Now that is certainly not correct. Nor that it started with the OPL2. Tandy 1000 and PCjr. are apparently nothing he ever heard about.

Quote #2:

In the days before we had very powerful CPUs and masses of storage space, this meant complicated musical scores could be performed in games using tiny files, without needing masses of processing power, or a massive hard drive to store a recording.

Another statement that shows any lack of research. The original Roland intelligent MPU-401 interface for example existed because the CPUs back then were too weak to handle MIDI directly! But since he uses the term "MIDI" where he should have used "FM synthesis", it doesn't matter anyway.

http://retro-net.de/blog.html

Reply 10 of 104, by Tree Wyrm

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I guess it also explains why MIDI support has always been non-priority in SB cards, at best just a bullet point for marketing blurbs. Given that very few cared about it back in the day as MIDI modules were very expensive. I was "lucky" to have WaveBlaster (first one) with SB16 back at the day, when I also thought it was games that had the bug and not the card.

Reply 11 of 104, by Joseph_Joestar

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I understand why some people here are irked by the misuse of the term "MIDI music" and a journalist who researches these things should certainly know better.

However, please note that a bunch of games from the 90s used the term "MIDI music" even when referring to FM synthesis. That doesn't make the usage correct mind you, but it did cause a bunch of people (including myself) to adopt the incorrect term back then, and for some of us it kinda stuck even to this day.

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Reply 12 of 104, by carlostex

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dionb wrote on 2020-02-04, 23:18:

Sort of interesting interview, but totally uncritical interviewer. AdLib is mentioned only in passing, the PAS (almost certainly the driver behind SBPro and SB16) not at all. Still, the 'our customers didn't give a shit about feature X so it wasn't a priority to us' rings depressingly true.

Well ironically, believe it or not, both AdLib and Media Vision's demise owe a lot to Sim Wong Hoo.

It is probably something he doesn't want to talk about openly.

Reply 13 of 104, by appiah4

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keropi wrote on 2020-02-05, 09:06:

I don't know about other parts of the world (which were more advanced economically) but in 90s Greece noone gave a damn about midi interfaces or wavetable or similar technologies. I am talking about the SB audience (not studios/musicians) that didn't even knew what this was. People here learned about wavetable from AWE cards mainly - maybe also the SW20-PC.

Same in Turkey. The only people who had MIDI gear for games were the disgustingly filthy rich. The AWE cards were the first and only MIDI hardware Synthesizers most people ever knew of. After Windows started shipping with its crappy Roland GS software synthesizer no one even gave a flying fuck. In the very early 2000s I actually owned a Terratec DMX XFire 1024 sound card and believe it or not I wasn't even aware that it had a Crystal soft-midi synth - I didn't play any games that used MIDI anymore.

I got into General MIDI for old games only after a year or so after I started getting into retro hardware and reading up on VOGONS.

I found the interview to be a very interesting and enjoyable read even though I don't have any particular love for Creative or their products (not that I don't covet and collect them, mind you 😁 )

I'm also really happy that they picked @root42 's SnarkBarker video to highlight the clone projects - he did an amazingly good video for that.

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Reply 14 of 104, by Benedikt

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derSammler wrote on 2020-02-05, 08:50:

I was already out once I read the wrong use of the term "MIDI". People writing such articles should have knowledge of what they write about, which certainly isn't the case here. That's just embarrassing.

Come on! Give them a break!
It's more like the sentence "We'll make your GIFs smaller by converting them to a different format.".
That's obviously not technically possible because they will no longer be GIFs, but in the absence of a visible intention to mislead people it is a forgivable inaccuracy.

Reply 15 of 104, by cyclone3d

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Do you all forget that earlier versions of Windows had a built in OPL midi driver? So really, OPL was able to be used as a MIDI device back then.

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Yamaha XG resource repository - updated November 27, 2018
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AW744L II - YMF744 - AOpen Cobra Sound Card - Install SB-Link Header
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Reply 16 of 104, by appiah4

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cyclone3d wrote on 2020-02-05, 13:51:

Do you all forget that earlier versions of Windows had a built in OPL midi driver? So really, OPL was able to be used as a MIDI device back then.

Even Windows 3.1 had this if you installed the Sound Blaster 1.5 drivers.

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Reply 17 of 104, by cyclone3d

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I think the problem is that people are also confusing "MIDI" with "General MIDI".

There were numerous MIDI devices before General MIDI became a thing.

Here is a decent overview of the history of MIDI:
https://www.musicradar.com/news/tech/30-years … -history-568009

Yamaha YMF modified setupds and drivers
Yamaha XG resource repository - updated November 27, 2018
Yamaha YMF7x4 Guide
AW744L II - YMF744 - AOpen Cobra Sound Card - Install SB-Link Header
Epstein didn't kill himself

Reply 18 of 104, by SirNickity

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I was also disappointed with the article in that regard.

OPL was not a MIDI device. It was a synthesizer. Whether Windows, or any given game, stored and played music via MIDI is irrelevant. You can use anything as a tone generator or synth, and you can use any back-end storage and sequencing method you want. The two don't have anything to do with each other, and I would expect a subject matter expert to be writing the article, and the head of a company whose career exists around PC audio to know and understand the difference.

I expect the author just isn't that technically astute, and Mr. Creative Labs has probably forgotten most of what he knows, having focused more on financial reports and business strategy since probably the SB16 days. The other tidbit that makes me believe this is the comment about sampling rate vs. word size. You don't need higher frequency sampling because 8-bit audio can't resolve that kind of detail above the noise? Not at all true, but OK.

The end bit is just marketing BS, as the company struggles to stay relevant despite the industry having moved well on since then. I don't know what 3D Surround Crystalizer Ultra-X is supposed to do, but I'll take faithful reproduction of a digital signal over any of that garbage, please. I also don't really buy the "modern motherboards are just so noisy" bit. I've had some motherboard audio that could be quieter, but most of it is pretty good. My Macbook's headphone out is quite adequate, and I can't recall ever hearing it think in the background. My modern PC passes its audio through the video card's HDMI out, so the quality and SNR of sound has nothing to do with the computer, and everything to do with the thing it's plugged into.

They did a good job of extending their life as long as possible. Wavetable was a huge thing for me, and I got tons of mileage out of the AWE and Live! as a hobbyist desktop musician. EAX made it compelling to try the Audigy series. After that, the game's sound engine has all the environmental processing baked in, leaving very little for the sound card to do but convert digital samples to analog audio. I'm sure the SB line is fine at doing that, but ... it's hardly mandatory anymore.

Reply 19 of 104, by brassicGamer

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Joseph_Joestar wrote on 2020-02-05, 10:30:

I understand why some people here are irked by the misuse of the term "MIDI music" and a journalist who researches these things should certainly know better.

One of the worst articles I've seen for a long time and I'm right in the middle of writing the definitive 'true story'. I need to finish it before it's no longer relevant or it'll be a bit pointless. So many untruths, inaccuracies and plot-holes I just couldn't let it go.

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