VOGONS


First post, by RaiderOfLostVoodoo

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About a year ago I got inspired by Phil's Time Machine and decided to build my own.
Although it's in a somewhat functional state now, it's still more or less a construction site. I want to populate all the ISA slots with sound cards. I don't have much space in my apartment, so each of my rigs needs to be as flexible as possible.
Money is not an issue. I'll either safe money for the stuff I want or hunt down bargains.

Here are my criteria:

#1:
One of the cards has to be a Gravis Ultrasound. I'm aware that they cost like 300 bucks. I also know they're not as flexible as a Sound Blaster. But because it won't be the only card in the rig, this won't be an issue.
I'm not sure which GUS to get. I want it to be compatible with all the games which support Ultrasound. I'm tending towards the GUS PnP. Good choice?

#2:
One of the cards has to serve as an interface for external modules and therefore should have no hanging notes bug (both Type 1 and Type 2). I currently have a CT3670 (AWE64 disguised as an AWE32), which fits the bill. I'm considering to upgrade to AWE64 Gold, but I'm also open to other suggestions if it's compatible with the AWE32 sound standard. Output has to be crystal clear. I'm not planing to get a MIDI interface card and plan to use SoftMPU instead.

#3:
One of the cards has to have a real OPL3. Again with crystal clear output. Additional functionality very welcome.

#4:
If there's a card which fits both rule #2+#3, that would leave me with an open ISA slot. If this can be accomplished, I'd like to have access to some more obscure sound standards.

Reply 3 of 14, by Joseph_Joestar

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RaiderOfLostVoodoo wrote on 2022-04-30, 13:51:

One of the cards has to serve as an interface for external modules and therefore should have no hanging notes bug (both Type 1 and Type 2).

Note that AWE64 cards are not entirely free of MPU-401 bugs. There's an issue which makes external MIDI devices stutter in games which use higher sample rates for digitized audio, such as Duke3D. See here for more details: Sound Blaster 16 Bugs and Deficiencies Summary

The Orpheus would cover points #2 and #3 both. The only thing that it's missing is SB16 compatibility and ADPCM, if you care about that.

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 Trio64V+ / Voodoo1 / OPTi 82C930 / AWE64 Gold / SC-155
PC#2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / Voodoo3 / Audigy1 / Vortex2
PC#3: Athlon64 3400+ / Asus K8V-MX / 5900XT / Audigy1
PC#4: i5-3550P / MSI Z77A-G43 / GTX 650Ti / X-Fi

Reply 4 of 14, by Shponglefan

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RaiderOfLostVoodoo wrote on 2022-04-30, 13:51:

I'm not sure which GUS to get. I want it to be compatible with all the games which support Ultrasound. I'm tending towards the GUS PnP. Good choice?

This entirely depends on your use-case.

If all you want is using it for GUS supported games that use tracker music, I would probably just go for a GUS classic or other GUS card depending on what is available.

The reason I can see to get a GUS PnP is specifically for using more than 1 MB of RAM. The use case for that is larger tracker files (i.e. Impulse Tracker files) or loading custom sound fonts that are more than 1 MB in size.

Another option is something like a GUS Extreme which is basically a GUS classic with SoundBlaster compatibility by way of an ES1688 audio chip. But since you're planning multiple sound cards for SB support, that option probably doesn't matter as much.

Last edited by Shponglefan on 2022-04-30, 19:32. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 5 of 14, by Gmlb256

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  1. GF1 -based GUS if you value 100% compatibility, otherwise getting a GUS PnP isn't a bad idea since the incompatibilities are corner cases.
  2. All AWE64 cards are compatible with the "AWE32 sound standard" as they nearly use the same components but they are more integrated. The AWE64 Gold comes with SPDIF header for digital output and if going for it, get a SIMMCONN adapter if more than 4MB is needed for the EMU8K as the memory upgrade module is proprietary.
  3. YMF-71x based sound cards such as the Audician 32 mentioned by RandomStranger. Another option is the Orpheus sound card which has an option for MPU-401 with intelligent mode support bypassing the need of SoftMPU.
  4. Sound Blaster AWE32 with CT1747 bus chip, but they don't have the "cleanest" analog output and suffer from the type 2 hanging note (which happens way less frequently). Stay away from the "Value" variant which doesn't have any way to upgrade the amount of memory for the EMU8K without modding.
Joseph_Joestar wrote on 2022-04-30, 17:29:

Note that AWE64 cards are not entirely free of MPU-401 bugs. There's an issue which makes external MIDI devices stutter in games which use higher sample rates for digitized audio, such as Duke3D. See here for more details: Sound Blaster 16 Bugs and Deficiencies Summary

The stuttering bug only happens when the SB16 or AWE card is used at the same time for digitized sound and an a external MIDI device (or WaveBlaster) is connected to it and utilized. It won't happen if another sound card is used for digitized sound or vice versa.

Last edited by Gmlb256 on 2022-04-30, 19:34. Edited 2 times in total.

Reply 6 of 14, by Joseph_Joestar

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Gmlb256 wrote on 2022-04-30, 18:08:

The stuttering bug only happens when the SB16 or AWE card is used for digitized sound and MIDI music at the same time. It won't happen if another sound card is used for digitized sound or vice versa.

That is correct. I only mentioned this because OP had an AWE card slotted in for MPU-401 duties.

BTW, the SPDIF out on the AWE64 cards is of limited use. You always get AWE music and CQM synth via SPDIF, but digitized audio will only play if the source is encoded in 16-bit 44.1 kHz stereo format. Unfortunately, this excludes most DOS games and even many Win9x titles. I've done some testing on that here.

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 Trio64V+ / Voodoo1 / OPTi 82C930 / AWE64 Gold / SC-155
PC#2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / Voodoo3 / Audigy1 / Vortex2
PC#3: Athlon64 3400+ / Asus K8V-MX / 5900XT / Audigy1
PC#4: i5-3550P / MSI Z77A-G43 / GTX 650Ti / X-Fi

Reply 7 of 14, by Gmlb256

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Joseph_Joestar wrote on 2022-04-30, 18:27:

BTW, the SPDIF out on the AWE64 cards is of limited use. You always get AWE music and CQM synth via SPDIF, but digitized audio will only play if the source is encoded in 16-bit 44.1 kHz stereo format. Unfortunately, this excludes most DOS games and even many Win9x titles. I've done some testing on that here.

You're right, it has limitations.

I was assuming that the AWE was solely being used for EMU8K and MPU-401 support, the latter whose external MIDI device can be connected to another sound card line-in port. If SB16 compatibility is desired then it is a no-go.

Reply 8 of 14, by Cuttoon

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GUS, if that's the rabbit hole of your choice?

The HNB issue: mind you, afaik, for some silly reason, that will only occur if you do digital audio and midi over the same card.
Are you dead set on ISA only? Plenty of interesting, inexpensive PCI cards for MIDI out or WB header.

With external modules, sound quality will of course depend on that device and you'd need to feed it back to the card to mix it in, but you don't have to.
There are some fine SB16 around like the Vibra pro chip which are quite silent. But the one you have should be ok, if it's anything like an AWE64.
I have an AWE64 Gold somewhere on the heap because ten years ago I felt like bling bling one day. But, don't think you'll find one for 3 € top bid nowadays.

Other ISA cards, well, ESS... ALS100, Yamaha, so many choices, many of those with real physical OPL3, there's no end to it.

I like jumpers.

Reply 9 of 14, by Shponglefan

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Cuttoon wrote on 2022-04-30, 19:17:

With external modules, sound quality will of course depend on that device and you'd need to feed it back to the card to mix it in, but you don't have to.

I'd probably go external mixer for multiple sound cards & modules. That opens up the possibilities to have a lot of hardware (internal & external) wired up all at once.

Costs more but OP has said money is no object.

YouTube channel (retro game music)
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Reply 10 of 14, by MJay99

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RaiderOfLostVoodoo wrote on 2022-04-30, 13:51:

#4:
If there's a card which fits both rule #2+#3, that would leave me with an open ISA slot. If this can be accomplished, I'd like to have access to some more obscure sound standards.

Are you more about using original hardware, or would soldering a card fit the bill also?

Reply 11 of 14, by RaiderOfLostVoodoo

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Sorry for the late reply. Budget has been a bit tough lately due to the war and rising inflation.
The 100 bucks I used to spend on hardware each month are now required for food. 🙁
But I have finally started to sell some of my hoarded treasures to gain space.

I recently bought a lot which contains an AWE64 Gold among other sweet things.
I've also won an auction for a GUS PnP. Didn't expect to win.

RandomStranger wrote on 2022-04-30, 17:27:

Yamaha Audician 32 Plus

Interesting card. I've read it can also do WSS. Is that important?
Sadly they are not that common anymore. But I will keep an eye out for one.

Shponglefan wrote on 2022-04-30, 19:30:

I'd probably go external mixer for multiple sound cards & modules. That opens up the possibilities to have a lot of hardware (internal & external) wired up all at once.

That's the plan.

MJay99 wrote on 2022-04-30, 19:58:

Are you more about using original hardware, or would soldering a card fit the bill also?

No replicas. Only original 90s hardware.

Cuttoon wrote on 2022-04-30, 19:17:

Are you dead set on ISA only? Plenty of interesting, inexpensive PCI cards for MIDI out or WB header.

Good question.
Wouldn't that cause problems under DOS?
If not, 1 PCI + 3 ISA would also be an option.

I'm looking for a good OPL3 card now.
The CT3980 is interesting. Reverb effects on OPL3. Can other cards do this? I know the AWE64 can do it as well, but has a CQM instead of OPL. 😒
If I'd get a CT3980, I couldn't use the AWE64, as far I know.
What about these Terratec cards? I've heard some of them are really good and are WSS compatible. But they don't have real OPL. Are the good for using external modules?

Reply 12 of 14, by Joseph_Joestar

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RaiderOfLostVoodoo wrote on 2022-10-19, 16:47:
RandomStranger wrote on 2022-04-30, 17:27:

Yamaha Audician 32 Plus

Interesting card. I've read it can also do WSS. Is that important?

WSS gives you 16-bit audio in DOS games which support it.

Creative never licensed true SB16 compatibility, so its competitors used WSS instead. It works pretty well in games which support it. Notable examples include Command & Conquer, Tomb Raider, Descent, Aladdin, Tyrian, Heroes of Might and Magic 2, WarCraft 2 and some Sierra titles like Gabriel Knight and Space Quest V. According to Mobygames, around 200 DOS games support WSS.

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 Trio64V+ / Voodoo1 / OPTi 82C930 / AWE64 Gold / SC-155
PC#2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / Voodoo3 / Audigy1 / Vortex2
PC#3: Athlon64 3400+ / Asus K8V-MX / 5900XT / Audigy1
PC#4: i5-3550P / MSI Z77A-G43 / GTX 650Ti / X-Fi

Reply 13 of 14, by Sphere478

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Gonna ask this for my own information as I am anything but a sound card card expert, but I usually use audigy 2 zs cards in my ss7 builds, can they meet any of your requirements at all?

Btw, OP have you considered one or a combination of some of the replica sound cards out there?

The comprehensive list of all modern reproductions of vintage sound cards

Sphere's PCB projects.
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SUCCESSFUL K6-2+ to K6-3+ Full Cache Enable Mod
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Reply 14 of 14, by Bancho

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I have this setup in my time machine which seems to serve me well. Might give you an Idea. I don't have a gus (Although i do have an argus board ready to be built)

My First card is the Terratec EWS64XL. It has 2 midi interfaces on this card, Midi 1 is the onboard SAM 9407 and i have 16mb simm attached. the 2nd Midi hosts a Yamaha DB50XG. You could use MIDI2 for external modules and run SOFTMPU onto of that.

2nd card is AWE32 CT3980. OPL3 on this card with AWE Synth.

I feed both these cards into a PCI Audigy 1 card using the SPDIF outputs. I mute all the anologue outputs on the AWE32 except for WAVE, and feed this too into the Audigy Line in. Using the mixer tool PARAS released for DOS, the audigy acts as a mixer and all output is fed to my headphones from the Audigy.

This setup works really well from my usage and the sound is really clean.