VOGONS


Pros and cons of sound cards

Topic actions

First post, by haker120

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

Hello again, guys, could someone help me to choose? I have a lot of sound cards, mainly for DOS till WinME games but I dunno which one to choose, I mean I have some of ISA cards and some of PCI cards and depends on setup I can choose:

for ISA compatible mobos:
AWE64 GOLD, AWE64 Value x2 and AWE32 CT3670 with 32MB of RAM attached

for PCI only mobos:
Aureal Vortex 2 one with dream blaster S2, Yamaha YMF724, YMF744, YMF754, CMedia CMI8738, Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS SB0350 and SB Live! (0100 and 0200)

MIDI Devices:
Rolands MT-32 new, SC-55mk2, SC-88VL, Yamaha MU90 and KORG X5DR

My point is, which one will be the best? Maybe I should buy something else? I need to max out compatibility for DOS games and Windows games.

This is not a show off, I hope to get help because I heard AWEs have some issues (certain models), PCI cards aren't that great for DOS (but I don't have a problem with this as long as it plays). I'm planning to buy OPL3LPT for PCI only setup because none of my cards will play sound/music for all games (for example MOKTAR, for some reason only PC Speaker plays) or some have issues (like Duke Nukem 2). Also prices, I don't really need something 'ultra', I just want to have something not problematic unless this retro requires a lot of money then I'll gladly consider any advices. 😁

Reply 1 of 21, by Hezus

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member

Seems you already have most of the holy grails when it comes to retro sound cards and modules. That AWE64 Gold is great for later DOS games (1994-1998) especially paired with those midi modules.

For earlier DOS titles you should try to get your hands on a Soundblaster Pro or a compatible card (like an ESS 1868f or Aztech Sound Galaxy 16).

The audigy 2 zs is great for everything in Windows from 1998 til 2000-something.

If you really want to get crazy, get your hands on a Gravis Ultrasound. The games that support it really sound awesome.

Visit my YT Channel!

Reply 2 of 21, by haker120

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

Thanks @Hezus, this is answer I was really looking for. 😁 But I must admit, I didn't think about anything from regular SoundBlaster Pro, maybe Pro 2? And I never heard about ESS and Sound Galaxy. 😀 I saw Gravis as LGR reviewed tho.

Reply 3 of 21, by bloodem

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie
haker120 wrote on 2021-04-06, 15:34:

[...]for example MOKTAR, for some reason only PC Speaker plays) or some have issues (like Duke Nukem 2).

Moktar (Titus the Fox) is speed sensitive when it comes to sound initialization. It works and runs best with a CPU speed between 386DX-40 and a 486DX-33 (so ~ 20 - 25 FPS in 3DBench 1.0c). Also, depending on the system, even when CPU speed is optimal, sometimes you might still need to restart the game 2 or 3 times until FM sound is activated.

Duke Nukem 2 is one of the few games that use the ADPCM sound format. It works great with a cheap sound card like the ESS ES1868

Out of all the cards you listed, the Yamaha YMF724/744 is my favorite. It’s not perfect, but when used on the right platform it can come pretty close to perfect.
The AWE64 Gold is a very nice card... but the CQM FM sound is a major downside in my book.

4 x Socket 3 / 4 x Socket 7 / 6 x Super Socket 7 / 5 x Slot 1 / 3 x Slot A / 5 x Socket 370
3 x Socket A / 1 x Socket 478 / 2 x Socket 754 / 3 x Socket 939 / 4 x LGA775 / 1 x LGA1155
Current rig: AM4 - Ryzen 5 3600X
Backup rig: LGA1151 - Core i7 7700k

Reply 4 of 21, by kolderman

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

The best thing about Midi modules is there is no *best* - it varies from game to game. The Korg is great for DOOM, the Yamaha is great in Descent. Playing around with different modules for different games is one of the great joys of retro gaming.

> AWE64 GOLD, AWE64 Value x2 and AWE32 CT3670 with 32MB of RAM attached

None of these have genuine OPL, so fixing that would be an improvement. Maybe get an AWE32 2670/3900 or a good SB16, and also a HardMPU/MusicQuest clone for intelligent MPU support.

There are a number of rarer sound cards from Yamaha, Terratec, Aztech, Roland, etc that might be better in DOS for certain games - bearing in mind you can't really use AWE synth under DOS with SoundFonts so they are of limited value.

It's a rabbit hole...

Reply 5 of 21, by Hezus

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member
haker120 wrote on 2021-04-06, 19:09:

Thanks @Hezus, this is answer I was really looking for. 😁 But I must admit, I didn't think about anything from regular SoundBlaster Pro, maybe Pro 2? And I never heard about ESS and Sound Galaxy. 😀 I saw Gravis as LGR reviewed tho.

Here is a review of the ESS Audiodrive 1868f:
https://youtu.be/fWOdIuRO5fI

There are a bunch of other variants of the ESS which have great sound blaster Pro compatibility too.

Visit my YT Channel!

Reply 6 of 21, by Warlord

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

🤣 some of the best sound cards are ones that no one cares about. Holy grail is finding one that doesn't have any of the drawbacks of the ones that everyone does. I have a lot of the cards on your lest and none of them are holy grail to me. All of them have some kinda draw back. I'm currently looking for some SB16 clone or a clone of a sb16 clone with a good dac and a real opl3 with a WTH that doesn't have bugs. Probably the most generic card in the world but will also be the best one 🤣

Reply 8 of 21, by elfoam

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

In the late 90s I ran a Gravis Ultrasound primarily but I also had a sound blaster or awe clone (can't really remember which card it was) in the machine for those times couldn't use the gravis. I was happy with that setup. I was into the demoscene so the gravis was the most important component in the machine for me. The LGR guy was drunk when he reviewed the Gravis or doesn't understand the use of the card.. I'm not sure. But it's a much more important thing in PC history than he realises.

Reply 9 of 21, by Oetker

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member
haker120 wrote on 2021-04-07, 07:39:

Oh wow, I didn't expect so many messages. I'll try to buy SB Pro 1 or two and maybe SB16 and ESS, thaks for this! 😁

There's no need to get a genuine (overpriced) SBPro, try to find an ESS card or Aztech. There's a lot of topics on ISA soundcards on this forum.
If your PC has two ISA slots I would use an Aztech card for music (genuine OPL3, bug-free MIDI) plus one of the AWE cards for audio (as they are SB16 compatible, which most clones are not).
For DOS stick with ISA, for Windows games the PCI sound cards are nice.
As mentioned, some DOS games are speed sensitive, this can affect all cards. I think Duke2 should work fine on a Creative ISA card, though.

Reply 10 of 21, by haker120

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

I forgot to mention I own older version of PCMIDI card so legit MPU401 is not a problem. 😀 Just sometimes I have to force unlock resources in BIOS as sometimes it collides with detection by driver. And AWEs don't support OPL? Not even OPL2?

Reply 11 of 21, by paprika

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

AWE64 does support OPL3, but it is not via the original Yamaha's OPL chip, but via CQM chip. People say it sounds different. On AWE32 from what I know it is mixed, some have the original Yamaha chip, some CQM.

--
Beauty Shots of Retro Machines
Computers and stuff at my YouTube Channel

Reply 12 of 21, by kolderman

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie
haker120 wrote on 2021-04-07, 09:29:

I forgot to mention I own older version of PCMIDI card so legit MPU401 is not a problem. 😀 Just sometimes I have to force unlock resources in BIOS as sometimes it collides with detection by driver. And AWEs don't support OPL? Not even OPL2?

Some do. Search nerdlys awe32 for info.

Reply 13 of 21, by haker120

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

What about OPL2/3LPT? Will it do or better to buy real sound card? I think about Sound Blasters: 16, Pro or Pro 2 or Aztech/ESS. 😀

Last edited by haker120 on 2021-04-07, 17:51. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 14 of 21, by Oetker

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member
haker120 wrote on 2021-04-07, 16:23:

What about OPL2/3LPT? Will it do or better to buy real soubd card? I think about Sound Blasters: 16, Pro or Pro 2 or Aztech/ESS. 😀

It's meant for computers that have no alternative, it takes effort to get games to use the printer port's address instead of a sound card's.

Reply 15 of 21, by haker120

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

So, for my needs, should I get one or two of these?
Sound Blaster 16,
Sound Blaster Pro,
Sound Blaster Pro 2,
Aztech SC400,
ESS Audiodrive 1868f,
Or something else? I'm gonna admit, I'd prefer to pay more for SB Pro 2, because it seems the best. 😀

Reply 16 of 21, by dionb

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t

It's the most original and will (probably/hopefully) have best compatibility. Apart from that it's noisy and lacks features, so "best" overall is a stretch. Still, pretty foolproof if very expensive.

Reply 17 of 21, by bloodem

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie
haker120 wrote on 2021-04-08, 11:57:
So, for my needs, should I get one or two of these? Sound Blaster 16, Sound Blaster Pro, Sound Blaster Pro 2, Aztech SC400, ESS […]
Show full quote

So, for my needs, should I get one or two of these?
Sound Blaster 16,
Sound Blaster Pro,
Sound Blaster Pro 2,
Aztech SC400,
ESS Audiodrive 1868f,
Or something else? I'm gonna admit, I'd prefer to pay more for SB Pro 2, because it seems the best. 😀

I think you should start with ESS Audiodrive 1868f and go from there 😀
For most people, this is probably the only sound card they will ever need.
FYI, I have a SB Pro 2. It has been sitting on a shelf, in an antistatic bag for a few years now. 'nuff said 😀
I think the SB Pro 2 is a very 'cool' card, just like the SB16 is also a 'cool' card (but they're not necessarily cool because of their audio quality & features). I would use a SB Pro 2 in a 386 system, and a SB16 in a 486 system (in fact, I already have). But then again, I usually play DOS games on an Athlon XP with a Yamaha YMF724, or on a Super Socket 7 with YMF718 / AudioDrive ES1688/1868 😀

4 x Socket 3 / 4 x Socket 7 / 6 x Super Socket 7 / 5 x Slot 1 / 3 x Slot A / 5 x Socket 370
3 x Socket A / 1 x Socket 478 / 2 x Socket 754 / 3 x Socket 939 / 4 x LGA775 / 1 x LGA1155
Current rig: AM4 - Ryzen 5 3600X
Backup rig: LGA1151 - Core i7 7700k

Reply 19 of 21, by bloodem

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

Not gonna judge 😁 Enjoy it! Just be careful, this 'searching for the best sound card' rabbit hole is deep 😀

4 x Socket 3 / 4 x Socket 7 / 6 x Super Socket 7 / 5 x Slot 1 / 3 x Slot A / 5 x Socket 370
3 x Socket A / 1 x Socket 478 / 2 x Socket 754 / 3 x Socket 939 / 4 x LGA775 / 1 x LGA1155
Current rig: AM4 - Ryzen 5 3600X
Backup rig: LGA1151 - Core i7 7700k