VOGONS


First post, by Almoststew1990

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I had a look for a general PCI sound card thread (and I am sure there is one) but I couldn't find it sorry.

First off, I have an AWE32 and SB2.0 but I still want a PCI sound card for faffing around on a Windows 98 Pentium 4 system and I find them weirdly interesting. Secondly, I have a Sound Blaster Live! SB0100 and it's... well, it's Sound Blaster Live (I actually quite like them in DOS). I have a fairly early S478 board with a SIS chipset and the SBL works fine without DMA issues.

I'm after improved FM synthesis but want to have some Sound Blaster support (even if it is just SB Pro). My shortlist of replacement cards:

Fortmedia SP-801 with the 801-AU chip. Brilliant FM synthesis but I don't know if it is Sound Blaster compatible at all?
APAC Phantom 806 (another FM801-AU card)
Genica ASP003 (ALS4000 chip)
PCI ESS Allegro (ES1989S)
Yamaha 724 XG YMF724F-V. Real OPL but is this Sound Blaster compatible?
M-AUDIO REVO 5.1 with VIA Envy 24-GT (VT1722). Not sure about DOS support on this one.
Crystal CS481-CM "Software Emulation of Sound Blaster Pro in Windows Dos Box Environment" unless anyone knows any better?
VIA ICEnsemble Tremor VT1723 - can't find much on this card.
An unidentified Fortmedia card: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/FORTEMEDIA-PCI-Sou … rd/153493611173 Doesn't look like the chip says FM801-AU on it though.

What would you choose?

Ryzen 3700X | 16GB 3600MHz RAM | Nvidia GeForce 1070ti | 1Tb NVME SSD | Windows 10
Athlon 3200+ @ 3800+ (Venice) | Some Ram | Nvidia GeForce GTX645 / 7950GT
Slot 1 896MHz | 384Mb 112MHz RAM | Nvidia GeForce 3 ti200 | AWE32

Reply 1 of 10, by schlomoe99

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The biggest thing with PCI sound cards in DOS is that *MOST* of the time you'll need some kind of driver or TSR running to initialize it and provide the working environment that a DOS game would expect in order to run. Out of your shortlist I'm leaning on recommending the YMF724F-V. I have had excellent results with the Yamaha 7XX series of cards, and they have been well-covered by recent retro-gaming enthusiasts such as Phils's Computer Lab: https://www.philscomputerlab.com/yamaha-ymf74 … sound-card.html

If you don't have an SBLink header on your motherboard and the ability to connect the motherboard header pins to your sound card, you'll need to run a driver or TSR. The DSDMA.EXE program will emulate DMA access for your Yamaha sound card, and get you the results you want.

My other recommendation would be the excellent Monster Sound MX300, which also has A3D sound support in Windows, and also has the benefit of a Wavetable header. You would need to install the windows driver first to get the DOS driver installed as well, but that is a minor issue: Aureal Vortex 2 (Diamond Monster Sound Mx300)

Good luck!

Reply 2 of 10, by cyclone3d

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What exact motherboard do you have for your Pentium 4 system?

You say SIS chipset so it may support DDMA which means the YMF7x4 cards will work just fine with the modified SETUPDS program for the SIS chipsets. Otherwise you would need the DSDMA TSR which hampers compatibility with some DOS games.

Yes, it is SB Pro compatible with real OPL3. Plus you get HW assisted wavetable in Windows.

The ForteMedia 801 cards should be SB (pro ?) compatible as well.

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 3 of 10, by Stainlesscat

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Since i studied alot of pci legacy sound options, i can give a complete list of notes of the sound cards you mention. note some these legacy dma options for sound blaster sfx don't need a TSR program, but a chipset support at a bare minimum.

1.the Fortmedia SP-801 uses DDMA and a proprietary WSDMA mechanism (Write snooping the i8237 compatible DMAC, aka Write-snoop dma)

2.the Avance Logic als4000 uses DDMA, WBDMA "Write-back DMA" and a WSDMA mechanism (which i think the write snoop tech was plagiarized from ESS Tech from their legacy sound option because the datasheet registers are somewhat nearly identical.)

3.The ESS allegro line is similar to the ESS Solo-1 except it no longer has the ESFM and now has hardware software based FM emulation that sounds pretty bad, Like the Solo-1 chipset; It has access to SB-LINK, DDMA, 3 WBDMA modes and ESS Tech's proprietary write-snoop mechanism known as Transparent DMA "TDMA" which works well with pci chipsets that are well linked to the LPC bus. (Reason why early intel chipsets + all VIA chipsets work well with this tech)

4.Yamaha's 7x4 PCI audio chipset provides sound blaster support via SB-LINK, DDMA and a TSR that emulates DMA, though this sound card comes in different chip flavors which are similiar but function somewhat differently under Windows.

5.VIA's ice ensemble's "or ENVY 24 vt1712 audio chipset" when bridged with an ac97 codec from VIA, has DDMA support and software based FM emulation akin to early VIA chipsets with integrated sound blaster support. sadly this pci audio chipset can only work with aformention configuration when all the appropriate setup with audio chip is fully link to an external audio codec, which for some reason none of those stand alone sound cards don't provide them. (except those very rare SoC made from that taiwanese company that makes industrial computer boards had them integrated with an VIA ac97 audio codec chip)

6.Crystal CS481-CM from Cirrus Logic is an ac97 codec with no legacy features, so no sound blaster support with this one.

7.VIA's ice ensemble's Tremor VT1723 is the same with number 6 so no sound blaster support.

8.That sound card you listed last is the same as the first sound card you listed.

Out of all sound cards you listed, The allegro sound card is the most compatible out of technicality of being able to be used under real mode DOS instead of other card's relying on software emulation or rare and unreliable technologies like SB-LINK(Rare) or DDMA(has alot of issues on various chipset manufacturers that support this busmaster legacy function). Second most compatible is the Fortemedia audio chipsets but it has it's fare share of problems, which are listed in various other forum posts about this card.

Another card to add which also has great sound blaster compatibility without the need of an motherboard chipset dependent functionality is the aureal vortex cards which can be used in real mode DOS, be warned of it's FM implementation is something left to be desired. (sounds similar to the ESS Maestro and Allegro cards)

Last edited by Stainlesscat on 2020-10-25, 16:32. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 4 of 10, by darry

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Stainlesscat wrote on 2020-10-25, 04:15:
Since i studied alot of pci legacy sound options, i can give a complete list of notes of the sound cards you mention. note some […]
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Since i studied alot of pci legacy sound options, i can give a complete list of notes of the sound cards you mention. note some these legacy dma options for sound blaster sfx don't need a TSR program, but a chipset support at a bare minimum.

1.the Fortmedia SP-801 uses DDMA and a proprietary WSDMA mechanism (Write snooping the i8237 compatible DMAC, aka Write-snoop dma)

2.the Avance Logic als4000 uses DDMA, WBDMA "Write-back DMA" and a WSDMA mechanism (which i think the write snoop tech was plagiarized from ESS Tech from their legacy sound option because the datasheet registers are somewhat nearly identical.)

3.The ESS allegro line is similar to the ESS Solo-1 except it no longer has the ESFM and now has hardware software based FM emulation that sounds pretty bad, Like the Solo-1 chipset; It has access to SB-LINK, DDMA, 3 WBDMA modes and ESS Tech's proprietary write-snoop mechanism known as Transparent DMA "TDMA" which works well with pci chipsets that are well linked to the LPC bus. (Reason why early intel chipsets + all VIA chipsets work well with this tech)

4.Yamaha's 7x4 PCI audio chipset provides sound blaster support via SB-LINK, DDMA and a TSR that emulates DMA, though this sound card comes in different chip flavors which are similiar but function somewhat differently under Windows.

5.VIA's ice ensemble's "or ENVY 24 vt1712 audio chipset" when bridged with an ac97 codec from VIA, has DDMA support and software based FM emulation akin to early VIA chipsets with integrated sound blaster support. sadly this pci audio chipset can only work with aformention configuration when all the appropriate setup with audio chip is fully link to an external audio codec, which for some reason none of those stand alone sound cards don't provide them. (except those very rare SoC made from that taiwanese company that makes industrial computer boards had them integrated with an VIA ac97 audio codec chip)

6.Crystal CS481-CM from Cirrus Logic is an ac97 codec with no legacy features, so no sound blaster support with this one.

7.VIA's ice ensemble's Tremor VT1723 is the same with number 6 so no sound blaster support.

8.That sound card you listed last is the same as the first sound card you listed.

Out of all sound cards you listed, The allegro sound card is the most compatible out of technicality of being able to be used under real mode DOS instead of other card's relying on software emulation or rare and unreliable technologies like SB-LINK(Rare) or DDMA(has alot of issues on various chipset manufacturers that support this busmaster legacy function). Second most compatible is the Fortemedia audio chipsets but it has it's fare share of problems, which are listed in various other forum posts about this card.

Another card to add which also has great sound blaster compatibility without the need of an motherboard chipset dependent functionality is the aureal vortex cards which can be used in real mode DOS, be warned of it's FM implementation is something to be desired. (sounds similar to the ESS Maestro and Allegro cards)

I would like to add that

a) compatibility aside, the Yamaha YM7x4 chips have an authentic embedded OPL3 core and have the most accurate sounding FM

b) I can't speak for compatibility, but certain CMI CM8738 variants definitely have legacy DOS support and reputedly have decent FM sound . However, if memory serves, there are newer variants with either no legacy support or no FM core or possibly both (I forget which)

c) The CS4281 does have legacy DOS support according to its datasheet and to my memory . AFAICR, the FM is not great and I can't speak for compatibility .

Reply 5 of 10, by Shreddoc

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Hard to beat the Yamaha YMF7x4's imo, as a low priced jack of all trades. Maybe the cheapest way to get real Yamaha FM? + you get XG MIDI in Windows which is fun to play with. Won't be 100% compatibility across the board in DOS, but that's where ISA cards come in.

Reply 6 of 10, by Joseph_Joestar

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Shreddoc wrote on 2020-10-25, 07:24:

Won't be 100% compatibility across the board in DOS, but that's where ISA cards come in.

Unless you have a SB-Link connector on your motherboard, which is admittedly rare. In that case, compatibility is pretty much 100%.

It's also worth mentioning that YMF7x4 cards have Sensaura support, which makes them quite capable when it comes to A3D 1.0 games.

Using Audigy drivers with a Sound Blaster Live
Installing DOS drivers on an Audigy2 ZS
OPL3 vs. ESFM vs. CQM vs. SBLive
OPTi 82C930 review

Reply 7 of 10, by Almoststew1990

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Thanks for the suggestions. I have two P4 motherboards:

Gigabyte 8S648FXP-RZ (SIS 964 southbridge) but it does have a header than looks a lot like a SB Link except it is labelled SUR_CENTRE.
QDI Superb 4LE v2. Googling it brings up an ATX version but mine is MATX. The SBL! works fine on this board in pure DOS.

Ryzen 3700X | 16GB 3600MHz RAM | Nvidia GeForce 1070ti | 1Tb NVME SSD | Windows 10
Athlon 3200+ @ 3800+ (Venice) | Some Ram | Nvidia GeForce GTX645 / 7950GT
Slot 1 896MHz | 384Mb 112MHz RAM | Nvidia GeForce 3 ti200 | AWE32

Reply 8 of 10, by Stainlesscat

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i guess for best FM opl3 authenticity from a PCI sound card, Your best option is the Yamaha 7x4 line. Though if you find a game that for some reason is not compatible, there are other sound cards with near quality sounding FM and also provide ISA style sound blaster compatibility which don't rely unstable mechanisms or chipset dependability. (Ones that come off my mind is the ESS Solo-1 with esfm and the Fortemedia sound cards)

Reply 9 of 10, by cyclone3d

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Stainlesscat wrote on 2020-10-25, 15:44:

i guess for best FM opl3 authenticity from a PCI sound card, Your best option is the Yamaha 7x4 line. Though if you find a game that for some reason is not compatible, there are other sound cards with near quality sounding FM and also provide ISA style sound blaster compatibility which don't rely unstable mechanisms or chipset dependability. (Ones that come off my mind is the ESS Solo-1 with esfm and the Fortemedia sound cards)

The OPL3 part of the YMF7x4 cards will work regardless as it only uses an I/O address.

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 10 of 10, by Stainlesscat

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cyclone3d wrote on 2020-10-25, 17:51:
Stainlesscat wrote on 2020-10-25, 15:44:

i guess for best FM opl3 authenticity from a PCI sound card, Your best option is the Yamaha 7x4 line. Though if you find a game that for some reason is not compatible, there are other sound cards with near quality sounding FM and also provide ISA style sound blaster compatibility which don't rely unstable mechanisms or chipset dependability. (Ones that come off my mind is the ESS Solo-1 with esfm and the Fortemedia sound cards)

The OPL3 part of the YMF7x4 cards will work regardless as it only uses an I/O address.

Yup, i am able to compose music with adlib tracker 2 with working FM while using an platform that wasn't meant to be used with old legacy parts. My use of an x79 asus rampage iv + ati radeon x600 with conjunction pcie to pci adapters lets me make an frankenstein windows 98se machine for the sole purpose FM and midi music composing.

I love XG native midi music!, and my YMF754 card with optical S/PDIF provides me with everything i need. 😁