VOGONS


First post, by Velociraptor

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I've been trying to get my head around sound for DOS, and as I'm sure you're all aware it's a rabbit hole.

However I think I have now sorted out what I need and when I get some time I'll get it all working and tested, but I thought it would be a good idea to ask here in case someone can identify an issue.

I have a BX400 board with a P3-600 on it.

I have a CT2230 SB16, connected to an MT100 (which is functionally identical to an MT-32) and an SC-88.

I have a fairly inexpensive 4 channel stereo/8 channel mono mixing thing.

As with all soundblasters there are problems with mine.

It should be a little noisier than is ideal, but I'm told that turning off some of the sliders can help.

I might get a hanging note bug but not the bad one.

I may get slowdowns/pauses.

I do not know how bad these will be in practice so my intention is to get a Hard MPU card if I can't tolerate it any more.

Also in the system will be an SB Live. This is for Windows 98SE use. I did consider using it for MIDI in DOS but I understand it's a bit driver problematic.

The purpose of the system is primarily for DOS games, I would also like it to do games up to Win98SE, especially games that won't run on another PC but the main focus for me is DOS era games. I understand there will be some moslo going on as a necessity, and it's possible I may end up buying a 386 or 486 and moving it all to that.

I also know that MT32 new isn't the same as MT32 old and lacks the extra stuff CM32 has. But there's always compromises 😀

But what I'd like to settle on is if I've made broadly correct choices, and if anyone spots something I've overlooked.

Reply 1 of 29, by Arvid

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In my experience the slowdown/pausing in Duke 3D and TIE fighter is so bad that it makes the games unplayable. I haven´t tested this extensively but I remember starting the games and going "this is unplayable in practice" and getting a dedicated MPU-401 card.

Reply 2 of 29, by darry

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Velociraptor wrote on 2020-09-13, 20:25:
I've been trying to get my head around sound for DOS, and as I'm sure you're all aware it's a rabbit hole. […]
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I've been trying to get my head around sound for DOS, and as I'm sure you're all aware it's a rabbit hole.

However I think I have now sorted out what I need and when I get some time I'll get it all working and tested, but I thought it would be a good idea to ask here in case someone can identify an issue.

I have a BX400 board with a P3-600 on it.

I have a CT2230 SB16, connected to an MT100 (which is functionally identical to an MT-32) and an SC-88.

I have a fairly inexpensive 4 channel stereo/8 channel mono mixing thing.

As with all soundblasters there are problems with mine.

It should be a little noisier than is ideal, but I'm told that turning off some of the sliders can help.

I might get a hanging note bug but not the bad one.

I may get slowdowns/pauses.

I do not know how bad these will be in practice so my intention is to get a Hard MPU card if I can't tolerate it any more.

Also in the system will be an SB Live. This is for Windows 98SE use. I did consider using it for MIDI in DOS but I understand it's a bit driver problematic.

The purpose of the system is primarily for DOS games, I would also like it to do games up to Win98SE, especially games that won't run on another PC but the main focus for me is DOS era games. I understand there will be some moslo going on as a necessity, and it's possible I may end up buying a 386 or 486 and moving it all to that.

I also know that MT32 new isn't the same as MT32 old and lacks the extra stuff CM32 has. But there's always compromises 😀

But what I'd like to settle on is if I've made broadly correct choices, and if anyone spots something I've overlooked.

I think that your setup looks quite nice on paper, so to speak, as your bases look solid . I do not see any cause for concerns at this point, but as always in this hobby, you will most likely discovery something not quite to your liking at some point . It is a rabbit hole, as you say .

I run a much faster system (1400MHz P3) and, so far, I have only needed to disable L1 and L2 caches to get the slowdown I needed (early 90s, mostly). A P3 at 600MHz may actually be too slow with L1 disabled (depending on what you want to run), but using slowdown utils should allow a more granular control over speed .

As for your CT2230, you have probably seen My Sound Blaster 16 CT2230 Review . It seems like a good all-round choice .

Reply 3 of 29, by darry

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Arvid wrote on 2020-09-13, 20:38:

In my experience the slowdown/pausing in Duke 3D and TIE fighter is so bad that it makes the games unplayable. I haven´t tested this extensively but I remember starting the games and going "this is unplayable in practice" and getting a dedicated MPU-401 card.

AFAIK, that is only present if you run wave audio at more than 11Kz . See Duke Nukem 3D slowdown whit sound canvas SC-55
If that bothers, as an alternative to getting a dedicated MPU-401, you can always add another ISA sound card for wave audio .

Reply 5 of 29, by Arvid

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darry wrote on 2020-09-13, 21:08:
Arvid wrote on 2020-09-13, 20:38:

In my experience the slowdown/pausing in Duke 3D and TIE fighter is so bad that it makes the games unplayable. I haven´t tested this extensively but I remember starting the games and going "this is unplayable in practice" and getting a dedicated MPU-401 card.

AFAIK, that is only present if you run wave audio at more than 11Kz . See Duke Nukem 3D slowdown whit sound canvas SC-55
If that bothers, as an alternative to getting a dedicated MPU-401, you can always add another ISA sound card for wave audio .

I know, but reducing settings like that is not in my nature😂

If you wanted to use 2 ISA cards like that would it be as easy as settings them to different ports? As in one at port 220 and the other at port 240 for example?

Reply 6 of 29, by Arvid

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Velociraptor wrote on 2020-09-13, 21:13:

Thanks folks. I wasn't aware of the 11 khz thing.

Is there a recommendation for an alternative card to add in for digital/MIDI other than the relatively expensive Hard MPU card?

The best choice for something that just works in my opinion would be this card http://www.pcmidi.eu/
Not the cheapest option but great results no matter what game. Don´t know how the price compares to Hard MPU.

Reply 7 of 29, by darry

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Velociraptor wrote on 2020-09-13, 21:13:

Thanks folks. I wasn't aware of the 11 khz thing.

Is there a recommendation for an alternative card to add in for digital/MIDI other than the relatively expensive Hard MPU card?

I would suggest an SB Pro compatible card with an MPU-401 compatible port . That way you

a) Get to keep SB16 16-bit 44.1KHz stereo audio in games that support it (main purpose)
b) Get a non-buggy MPU-401 compatible port (added bonus)
c) Gain SB Pro support when needed (extra perk), but possibly a caveat (see "Important considerations" below)

Some options, in no particular order :

a) A YMF71x ISA card
b) One of the Aztech Labs cards SB Pro compatible cards with an MPU-401
c) An OPTI 92x or 93x card
d) An ESS SB Pro compatible card
e) An Crystal Semiconductor SB Pro compatible card

Important considerations :
- A Hard MPU gives you an MPU-401 Intelligent mode compatible port. With practically any other sound card MPU-401, you will need to use SoftMPU for some games (not a big issue, IMH)
- Depending on how mixer control works on the card you chose (whether the main card mixer overrides the "emulated" SB Pro mixer), you may not be able to have SB Pro wave output while disabling the second card's OPL3 output . This only a consideration if the OPL3 chip on the second card is not to your liking for one of these reasons : bad clone (Crystal Semiconductor), not a true OPL3 clone (recent ESS chip cards) or bad implementation .

Reply 8 of 29, by Velociraptor

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Arvid wrote on 2020-09-13, 21:17:
Velociraptor wrote on 2020-09-13, 21:13:

Thanks folks. I wasn't aware of the 11 khz thing.

Is there a recommendation for an alternative card to add in for digital/MIDI other than the relatively expensive Hard MPU card?

The best choice for something that just works in my opinion would be this card http://www.pcmidi.eu/
Not the cheapest option but great results no matter what game. Don´t know how the price compares to Hard MPU.

That's actually what I meant by a hard MPU card. I just meant a modern made card with a hardware implementation that means I don't need to use soft MPU.

It's I think Plan B. I know it will work but it's expensive and will not add any other functionality. If I can find an alternative that adds another string to the bow then I might get the same thing cheaper, with extras.

Reply 9 of 29, by Velociraptor

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darry wrote on 2020-09-13, 21:31:
I would suggest an SB Pro compatible card with an MPU-401 compatible port . That way you […]
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Velociraptor wrote on 2020-09-13, 21:13:

Thanks folks. I wasn't aware of the 11 khz thing.

Is there a recommendation for an alternative card to add in for digital/MIDI other than the relatively expensive Hard MPU card?

I would suggest an SB Pro compatible card with an MPU-401 compatible port . That way you

a) Get to keep SB16 16-bit 44.1KHz stereo audio in games that support it (main purpose)
b) Get a non-buggy MPU-401 compatible port (added bonus)
c) Gain SB Pro support when needed (extra perk), but possibly a caveat (see "Important considerations" below)

Some options, in no particular order :

a) A YMF71x ISA card
b) One of the Aztech Labs cards SB Pro compatible cards with an MPU-401
c) An OPTI 92x or 93x card
d) An ESS SB Pro compatible card
e) An Crystal Semiconductor SB Pro compatible card

Important considerations :
- A Hard MPU gives you an MPU-401 Intelligent mode compatible port. With practically any other sound card MPU-401, you will need to use SoftMPU for some games (not a big issue, IMH)
- Depending on how mixer control works on the card you chose (whether the main card mixer overrides the "emulated" SB Pro mixer), you may not be able to have SB Pro wave output while disabling the second card's OPL3 output . This only a consideration if the OPL3 chip on the second card is not to your liking for one of these reasons : bad clone (Crystal Semiconductor), not a true OPL3 clone (recent ESS chip cards) or bad implementation .

Well that's exactly what I was hoping for! I had picked up somewhere else today that SB pro was not something SB16 did perfectly.

I might end up with 2 ISA sound cards, 2 graphics cards and a PCI sound card at this rate.....

That's a lot of information for me to look into thanks very much! 😀

Reply 10 of 29, by Velociraptor

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Arvid wrote on 2020-09-13, 21:14:
darry wrote on 2020-09-13, 21:08:
Arvid wrote on 2020-09-13, 20:38:

In my experience the slowdown/pausing in Duke 3D and TIE fighter is so bad that it makes the games unplayable. I haven´t tested this extensively but I remember starting the games and going "this is unplayable in practice" and getting a dedicated MPU-401 card.

AFAIK, that is only present if you run wave audio at more than 11Kz . See Duke Nukem 3D slowdown whit sound canvas SC-55
If that bothers, as an alternative to getting a dedicated MPU-401, you can always add another ISA sound card for wave audio .

I know, but reducing settings like that is not in my nature😂

If you wanted to use 2 ISA cards like that would it be as easy as settings them to different ports? As in one at port 220 and the other at port 240 for example?

By my understanding, yes it would. It does introduce potential problems where games are only interested in looking at default port rather than being able to specify. I have it in my head (from 30 years ago) that there might be a few.

Reply 11 of 29, by darry

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Velociraptor wrote on 2020-09-13, 21:58:
Arvid wrote on 2020-09-13, 21:14:
darry wrote on 2020-09-13, 21:08:

AFAIK, that is only present if you run wave audio at more than 11Kz . See Duke Nukem 3D slowdown whit sound canvas SC-55
If that bothers, as an alternative to getting a dedicated MPU-401, you can always add another ISA sound card for wave audio .

I know, but reducing settings like that is not in my nature😂

If you wanted to use 2 ISA cards like that would it be as easy as settings them to different ports? As in one at port 220 and the other at port 240 for example?

By my understanding, yes it would. It does introduce potential problems where games are only interested in looking at default port rather than being able to specify. I have it in my head (from 30 years ago) that there might be a few.

You are right on all points . Older games tended to have hard coded values or limited choices, so leaving the SB Pro compatible on default ports/IRQ/DMA makes to most sense . Newer explicitly SB16 compatible games are usually quite configurable .

You may not be able to change the default OPL2/3 port of 388h on most cards, but that usually causes no issues except FM music playing on both cards . That simultaneous playback will be a significant issue if the card whose wave out you want to use happens to have crappy FM and you can cannot mute it in the card's onboard mixer, as mentioned before .

Reply 12 of 29, by Velociraptor

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Oh hang on a minute - that Orpheus card seems to be something special. It has proper MIDI and an OPL3 and both SB and SBpro compatbility.

It has a wavetable header which I don't expect I'll use, but it's nice to know I could.

I thought the AWE64 legacy was the only game in town and I had been watching that.... but the Orpheus seems to be everything.

Am I missing something with it? Is there anything DOS-wise it can't do?

Reply 13 of 29, by darry

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Velociraptor wrote on 2020-09-13, 22:16:
Oh hang on a minute - that Orpheus card seems to be something special. It has proper MIDI and an OPL3 and both SB and SBpro comp […]
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Oh hang on a minute - that Orpheus card seems to be something special. It has proper MIDI and an OPL3 and both SB and SBpro compatbility.

It has a wavetable header which I don't expect I'll use, but it's nice to know I could.

I thought the AWE64 legacy was the only game in town and I had been watching that.... but the Orpheus seems to be everything.

Am I missing something with it? Is there anything DOS-wise it can't do?

SB16, AWE32/64 and GUS compatibility are the things the Orpheus can't do .

I ordered the Orpheus and am waiting for the AWE64 Legacy to be out to get that as well . I am lucky enough to already have a GUS .

Orpheus and AWE64 Legacy will make a killer (but rather expensive combo). You have to be rather committed to the hobby to take that path (and possibly at risk of being committed, but I digress 😉 ) .

Reply 14 of 29, by Velociraptor

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Are SB16 and AWE32 a big deal? And by that I mean I don't know when they would be used instead of SBpro and what difference they would make

GUS for me isn't too big a deal, I know it would be nice but I've decided no.

Reply 15 of 29, by darry

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Velociraptor wrote on 2020-09-13, 22:26:

Are SB16 and AWE32 a big deal? And by that I mean I don't know when they would be used instead of SBpro and what difference they would make

GUS for me isn't too big a deal, I know it would be nice but I've decided no.

AWE32/64 (EMU8000) are nice to have if you like playing with soundfonts (for that a RAM expansion is mandatory). Relatively few programs directly support it under DOS, many more are General Midi compatible . IMHO, if you have an SC-88 , you should be good to go, unless you are a completist .

SB16 is much more useful for late DOS games that support 16-bit audio .

Both SB Pro and SB16 have original SB compatibility .
SB16 does not have compatibility with SB Pro's 8-bit stereo mode that some games and demos used .
SB Pro cannot do 16-bit audio .
Beyond that, there is a deep rabbit hole about clicks and audio artifacts depending on how DMA is used by software and how it is implemented in hardware on newer cards . Unless you expect high fidelity out of software running in original sound blaster mode, I would not worry about that . If this interest you, there were some threads on the subject on Vogons . Here is one of them Sound Blaster 16 Bugs and Deficiencies Summary

GUS is unfortunately way too expensive on the market . You may still get lucky and find a cheap one, but TBH unless you are into early to mid 90s demo competition stuff, there are few compatible games that really take advantage of it anyway . I was a GUS user back in the day, so nostalgia taints my perception, but I would not recommend one for most use cases .

Reply 16 of 29, by Velociraptor

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So the only thing there I'm unsure of (and most of it confirms what I had thought) is 16 bit audio.

Am I likely to want 16 bit audio in DOS?

It's looking like the Orpheus and the SBlive at the moment.

Reply 17 of 29, by darry

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Velociraptor wrote on 2020-09-13, 22:51:

So the only thing there I'm unsure of (and most of it confirms what I had thought) is 16 bit audio.

Am I likely to want 16 bit audio in DOS?

It's looking like the Orpheus and the SBlive at the moment.

Here is a list of games that explicitly support the SB16 . I do not know how accurate that list is nor if all of them actually do 16-bit audio outpout.

https://www.mobygames.com/attribute/sheet/att … ibuteId,40/p,2/

Orpheus, SB16 and SBlive sounds like a nice combination .

P.S. Initial batch of Orpheus is sold out . If you are sure you want one, you should consider adding your name to the waiting list sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the longer you will have to wait to get one .

Reply 18 of 29, by Velociraptor

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I have already filled out the form for one. It became clear that even if it didn't do everything it does enough to be worth it.

I'm a bit sceptical about that list of games that support the SB16 because as I understand it a lot of them just put 8 bit audio through to it regardless - although I cannot remember where I remember that from! There's even a 1991 game in there which is before the SB16 came out.

I did come across this - A List of DOS Games with 16-Bit Sound which is a shorter list but seems very accurate.

Phil's got a page here - https://www.philscomputerlab.com/sound-blaster-live.html - that seems to show SBlive doing well at 16 bit in DOS. Although perhaps I'm going to have config issues.

I will have 2 different ways of trying to get SB16 sound into it then perhaps isn't an issue about buying something else other than the Orpheus, it would appear that since it covers everything I want apart from SB16 and I have 2 candidates already in the box I should do ok.

There's a point, and I'm probably there now, that I need to just get my hands dirty to find out what is what. I've been held back because of a water leak that means my computer room can't be set up yet, but it looks like I'll now be waiting on an Orpheus 😀

Reply 19 of 29, by darry

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Velociraptor wrote on 2020-09-13, 23:57:
I have already filled out the form for one. It became clear that even if it didn't do everything it does enough to be worth it. […]
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I have already filled out the form for one. It became clear that even if it didn't do everything it does enough to be worth it.

I'm a bit sceptical about that list of games that support the SB16 because as I understand it a lot of them just put 8 bit audio through to it regardless - although I cannot remember where I remember that from! There's even a 1991 game in there which is before the SB16 came out.

I did come across this - A List of DOS Games with 16-Bit Sound which is a shorter list but seems very accurate.

Phil's got a page here - https://www.philscomputerlab.com/sound-blaster-live.html - that seems to show SBlive doing well at 16 bit in DOS. Although perhaps I'm going to have config issues.

I will have 2 different ways of trying to get SB16 sound into it then perhaps isn't an issue about buying something else other than the Orpheus, it would appear that since it covers everything I want apart from SB16 and I have 2 candidates already in the box I should do ok.

There's a point, and I'm probably there now, that I need to just get my hands dirty to find out what is what. I've been held back because of a water leak that means my computer room can't be set up yet, but it looks like I'll now be waiting on an Orpheus 😀

Yeah, I wasn't expecting the mobygames list to be all that accurate, TBH .

The Orpheus and the AWE64 Legacy are probably as close to the perfect ISA sound card as is ever going to exist (especially when combined), so good choice on the Orpheus.

I believe that planning and practice need to be balanced: plan too much and you will likely buy stuff you won't need (just in case) or plan too little and you will buy stuff you should have skipped if you had given it more forethought . Anyway it's all about having fun along the journey, because there is no fixed destination . IMHO, no rig is ever perfect, no matter how much you end up polishing it and, often polish costs money .

Good luck with that water leak .