VOGONS


First post, by sepp

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Dear Vogons,

after trying out different emulations and after my failure with the Biostar Viotech Mainboard, I got hands on a very nice and sweet Pentium III system which I want to complete.
And sure, one of the major questions is: which will be my soundcard setup for this.
I am planning to setup Windows 98 SE following the pretty good guide from Phil (AFAIR he calls it DOS Super Mode).
But lets head to the question:
Looting old hardware out of various cellars and also buying things from the internet brought me the following hardware setups:
Creative Soundblaster CT2980. Regarding some retro websites this is a Soundblaster Vibra 16S - allthough its a Vibra it seems to be one of the "better" ones with real OPL3.
Creative AWE64 Gold. I also bought a DIY soldering kit of a clone of the original memory board with 28MB.
And I found this on my own stock pile:
An ESS SOLO-1. Sadly its a PCI Soundcard. But regarding Phils review it shouldnt be bad at all - even for DOS games.
And last but not least:
I bought a Dreamblaster X2 as an addon for one of these cards (in special: having the ESS or the Vibra in mind).

This will be the rest of the system:
Gigabyte Mainboard with VT82C694T, 128MB RAM, and a 1133Mhz Tualatin S. Mainboard was recaped by me, due to balooning caps.
Further on there will be a Geforce 2 MX400, a Voodoo2 (for the Glide stuff) and an USB PCI controller - for transfering some data to the machine.

Which kind of games I want to play?
Nothing very unusual or very special. Mostly adventures like the Guybrush games, the Indiana Jones games, loom, Simon and so on. Some 3D shooters like Doom, Quake 1, Duke....

Which setup shall I use for best quality and compability?
AWE64 only?
The Vibra with the X2?
The ESS with the X2?
The AWE64 with the X2 (yes i know, I need an adapter)?

Your opinion is welcome 😀

Last edited by sepp on 2021-03-31, 09:50. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 1 of 5, by dionb

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Basically you have three or maybe even four separate requirements here. Get them straight / prioritize them and your answer should be clear:

1) real OPL3 in old DOS games.
2) (16b) digital audio in DOS games.
3) AWE 'MIDI'
4) X2 MIDI

Now, real MPU-401 MIDI is something no Sound Blaster 16 is competent at. Even the best (that AWE64 Gold) have slowdowns when playing DA and MIDI at the same time. So for the X2, you want a different card. The ESS Solo-1 is the obvious choice here. Depending on the card (ESS Solo is the chipset, do you perhaps mean that the card is a Terratec Solo-1?) you might have a wavetable header already, you might have the holes for a header but no header (a <15 minute solder job) or no header at all - but worst-case you just need an external MIDI->WT adapter (such as Serdaco's Chill boards).

Then you are faced with a choice between real OPL3 (on the Vibra) and AWE (on the AWE64 Gold). That's a matter of personal choice. Or if you have two ISA slots: do both!

Your motherboard and CPU setup is a bit of a question mark though, you've made at least two errors in the description:

Asus Mainboard with VIA KT133A, 128MB RAM, and a 866Mhz Tualatin.

KT133A is an Athlon chipset, so cannot be paired with any P3, Tualatin or otherwise. And there is no 866MHz Tualatin. 866MHz P3 CPUs are Coppermine, Tualatins start at 1000MHz.

I suggest you re-check exactly what you have and give the exact model name of the Asus motherboard. I sort of expect it to be a CUV4X, as that has a Via ApolloPro133A (694X) and an ISA slot. It also supports 866MHz Coppermine P3 CPUs. The TUV4X (which does support Tualatins) doesn'thave an ISA slot, so that's less likely. But better than me speculating is you giving correct, accurate info.

Reply 2 of 5, by sepp

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dionb wrote on 2021-03-31, 08:59:

Now, real MPU-401 MIDI is something no Sound Blaster 16 is competent at. Even the best (that AWE64 Gold) have slowdowns when playing DA and MIDI at the same time. So for the X2, you want a different card. The ESS Solo-1 is the obvious choice here. Depending on the card (ESS Solo is the chipset, do you perhaps mean that the card is a Terratec Solo-1?)

Yes, it's the Terratec Promedia. Luckily it's fully populated. Only the header for the SB-Link is missing, but I would not need it anyway.

dionb wrote on 2021-03-31, 08:59:

Then you are faced with a choice between real OPL3 (on the Vibra) and AWE (on the AWE64 Gold). That's a matter of personal choice. Or if you have two ISA slots: do both!

Sadly I only got one ISA slot on my mainboard.

dionb wrote on 2021-03-31, 08:59:

Your motherboard and CPU setup is a bit of a question mark though, you've made at least two errors in the description:

Yes, you are right, I made some mistakes here. The Board is this one:
https://www.gigabyte.com/de/Motherboard/GA-6VTXE-rev-10#ov
And the CPU is a Pentium III-S wich runs at 1133MHz.
Sorry for messing up the values 😒

I guess I should use two sound cards for the best result?
Running the AWE64 and the SOLO (+X2)?

Reply 3 of 5, by dionb

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sepp wrote on 2021-03-31, 09:49:
[...] […]
Show full quote

[...]

The Board is this one:
https://www.gigabyte.com/de/Motherboard/GA-6VTXE-rev-10#ov
And the CPU is a Pentium III-S wich runs at 1133MHz.

Nice board. One of the nicest So370 options out there. Better than the Asus alternatives.

I guess I should use two sound cards for the best result?
Running the AWE64 and the SOLO (+X2)?

Yep, that's probably the best option. You really only need MIDI from the ESS, but the full list of what you get:

Creative AWE64:
- CQM FM synthesis
- SB16 DA
- AWE

Terratec Solo-1
- ESFM FM synthesis
- SBPro2 DA
- WSS DA
- Bug-free MPU-401 MIDI

I'd recommend putting one on the 'default' SB resource settings and the other on the 'alternative' ones. I'll arbitrarily suggest putting the Solo on default, but just swap address, IRQ and (low) DMA around if you want it the other way round. I would however recommend to keep the MPU-401 of the Solo on P330 I2/9 and the AWE MIDI on something else (P300). Note that IRQ3 requires the second serial port (COM2) to be disabled. Alternately you could disable the parallel port and use IRQ7.

So:
AWE64: A240 I3 D3 H5 P300 M620 T6
Solo-1: A220 I5 D1 P330 T4

Reply 5 of 5, by sepp

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Sorry, I have to come back here to ask some questions regarding the setup of the SOLO-1. Maybe I didn't understand the setup proceedure at all... 😉

I downloaded the ESS Solo-1 drivers from Phils website. I think this should be the most reliable source for this.

Until I get the SOLO working I pulled out the AWE64 (to eliminate sources of failure). The SOLO was stuck into PCI slot 5. It gets the following values atumatically:
220, DMA 1, IRQ 5, 330
Sounds not that bad?
Under windows I refused to run all the windows setup for the Win9x driver. I just selected the driver manually from Phils Win9x archive. WIndows installs me two devices:
ESS SOLO Windows Audio
and
ESS SOLO DOS emulation audio

But:
The DOS driver seems to emulate(?!) other values I couln't figure out how to adjust them:
240, DMA 1, IRQ 7, 300

How do I manage to change the DOS driver? The ESSOLO.INI seems to be a binary.