Sound cards - from best to worst

Discussion about old sound cards, MIDI devices and sound related accessories.

Re: Sound cards - from best to worst

Postby SavantStrike » 2011-5-05 @ 15:54

rfnagel wrote:
DonutKing wrote:Isn't that what they call a 'Gold Finch' board or am I confused with something else?


The GoldFinch connector was an audio connector (left out, right out, ground, etc..) that could be connected to the line/aux inputs of your sound card (or a matching GoldFinch connector, if your sound card had it).

(Edit) See attached pic.



Ah.

I had wondered what those wires were doing. So this expansion really doesn't use the waveblaster header on the sound card (and in fact doesn't need it)! One literally would have SB16 FM + MIDI for when they wanted it, and SB AWE MIDI or SB AWE MIDI + SB16 FM when they wanted that. It almost looks like you could use the goldfinch connectors on the AWE isa expansion card and hook them up to a SB Pro 1/2 with some custom cable making.

Seeing that makes me wish I hadn't gotten rid of my old SB16 compatible when the computer it was in died. I seem to recall it sounded pretty clean at the time (though it couldn't compete with the SB PCI 512 I had in my newer box). Either adding a board to the waveblaster connector (if it had one, I think it might have though) or adding one of those cards could have been awesome simply because it's so retro-chic.
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Re: Sound cards - from best to worst

Postby Tetrium » 2011-5-05 @ 16:21

O.k....so could anyone explain to this soundcard newb what exactly one can do with such a "goldfinch" card?
What does it do??
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Re: Sound cards - from best to worst

Postby rfnagel » 2011-5-05 @ 18:04

SavantStrike wrote:I had wondered what those wires were doing. So this expansion really doesn't use the waveblaster header on the sound card (and in fact doesn't need it)! One literally would have SB16 FM + MIDI for when they wanted it, and SB AWE MIDI or SB AWE MIDI + SB16 FM when they wanted that. It almost looks like you could use the goldfinch connectors on the AWE isa expansion card and hook them up to a SB Pro 1/2 with some custom cable making.


Yeah, the CT1920 is one of the AWE32 "Upgrade" cards... it doesn't require anything except an ISA slot, a stereo audio line-in on your sound card (to pipe sound thru your sound card and speakers), and optional RAM if you want to load larger SoundFonts.

With a little creative soldering/wiring, you can use it with any sound card (including an onboard motherboard sound chip), as long as you have a spare stereo audio line input to connect the GoldFinch connector to.

I had previously used one of mine in an old AMD500, that mobo had an onboard sound chip. I simply soldered up a cable that ran from the CT1920's GoldFinch connector, and passed thru that back of the PC's case that connected to the standard 1/8" audio line-in jack on the mobo's audio header on the back of the PC :)


Tetrium wrote:O.k....so could anyone explain to this soundcard newb what exactly one can do with such a "goldfinch" card?
What does it do??


The CT1920 (as well as the other AWE32 "Upgrade" cards) give you SoundFont compatible MIDI support (just like having the MIDI capabilities of a full-blown AWE32/AWE64/SBLive/etc...). If you add two 32-pin 16MB SIMMs in the RAM slots on the card, you can then load SoundFonts up to 28MB in size into the RAM, which greatly enhances your MIDI music playback.

What can you do with SoundFont synthesized MIDI music? Most anything that can be heard in the little ShockWave MP3 player thingie at the top of my web page here -> http://www.richnagel.net :)
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Re: Sound cards - from best to worst

Postby Tetrium » 2011-5-05 @ 22:02

Nice music lol, quite relaxing when browsing ;)
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Re: Sound cards - from best to worst

Postby SavantStrike » 2011-5-05 @ 22:20

rfnagel wrote:
SavantStrike wrote:I had wondered what those wires were doing. So this expansion really doesn't use the waveblaster header on the sound card (and in fact doesn't need it)! One literally would have SB16 FM + MIDI for when they wanted it, and SB AWE MIDI or SB AWE MIDI + SB16 FM when they wanted that. It almost looks like you could use the goldfinch connectors on the AWE isa expansion card and hook them up to a SB Pro 1/2 with some custom cable making.


Yeah, the CT1920 is one of the AWE32 "Upgrade" cards... it doesn't require anything except an ISA slot, a stereo audio line-in on your sound card (to pipe sound thru your sound card and speakers), and optional RAM if you want to load larger SoundFonts.

With a little creative soldering/wiring, you can use it with any sound card (including an onboard motherboard sound chip), as long as you have a spare stereo audio line input to connect the GoldFinch connector to.

I had previously used one of mine in an old AMD500, that mobo had an onboard sound chip. I simply soldered up a cable that ran from the CT1920's GoldFinch connector, and passed thru that back of the PC's case that connected to the standard 1/8" audio line-in jack on the mobo's audio header on the back of the PC :)


Tetrium wrote:O.k....so could anyone explain to this soundcard newb what exactly one can do with such a "goldfinch" card?
What does it do??


The CT1920 (as well as the other AWE32 "Upgrade" cards) give you SoundFont compatible MIDI support (just like having the MIDI capabilities of a full-blown AWE32/AWE64/SBLive/etc...). If you add two 32-pin 16MB SIMMs in the RAM slots on the card, you can then load SoundFonts up to 28MB in size into the RAM, which greatly enhances your MIDI music playback.

What can you do with SoundFont synthesized MIDI music? Most anything that can be heard in the little ShockWave MP3 player thingie at the top of my web page here -> http://www.richnagel.net :)


Dang!

Are those made with your 55mb soundfont bank? If so I'm going to have to either reinstall my Audigy 2 ZS in my main box or go with Timidity.
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Re: Sound cards - from best to worst

Postby Tetrium » 2011-5-05 @ 22:36

Uhm...whats timidity? :D

This is all kinda unchartered territory for me lol!
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Re: Sound cards - from best to worst

Postby SavantStrike » 2011-5-05 @ 23:09

Tetrium wrote:Uhm...whats timidity? :D

This is all kinda unchartered territory for me lol!


Open source software MIDI synth. You can use it with obnoxiously large sound fonts. The AWE cards are limited to 28MB (which in itself can sound absolutely freaking amazing). The Live and up are only limited by your system ram (just like Timidity, only they have hardware MIDI capabilities just no dedicated RAM).

Be careful when you dive head first into General Midi. You will find yourself scouring the internet for midi files to play. Games won't be enough! If I had an ear for it I'd be writing them. I liked MIDI back in the day and didn't even realize sound fonts existed to make it sound 100x better. [/i]
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Re: Sound cards - from best to worst

Postby rfnagel » 2011-5-06 @ 00:39

Tetrium wrote:Nice music lol, quite relaxing when browsing ;)


Many thanks, glad you liked it :) 'Tis only a small offering of my music... one of these days I'll get off of my arse and upload the rest <grin>.


SavantStrike wrote:Dang! Are those made with your 55mb soundfont bank? If so I'm going to have to either reinstall my Audigy 2 ZS in my main box


YesSirReeDeeDee! :) And of course, after installing your Audigy, this is a requirement <grin> -> viewtopic.php?t=28360 :)


SavantStrike wrote:or go with Timidity

Tetrium wrote:Uhm...whats timidity? :D


(to add to what SavantStrike replied)

*WAY* (overall) better (and sounding) than Timidity, and easier to install and configure as well -> viewtopic.php?t=27975 :)

Lots more info here:

http://www.cmoo.com/snor/weeds/SoundFon ... mididriver

http://www.cmoo.com/snor/weeds/SoundFon ... ration.htm

http://www.cmoo.com/snor/weeds/SoundFon ... _Chart.htm
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Re: Sound cards - from best to worst

Postby Tetrium » 2011-5-06 @ 02:01

So if I install a big soundfont, my games will sound better? (damn, rereading my last sentence make me really sound like a newb, LOL!).
Anyway, I'll go read some of those links tomorrow, after I had my 1st cup (bowl :P) of coffee :D
And track #20...downloaded and on repeat! :D
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Re: Sound cards - from best to worst

Postby Mau1wurf1977 » 2011-5-06 @ 05:24

Tetrium wrote:So if I install a big soundfont, my games will sound better?


They will sound different and because there are a ton of soundfonts out there, it's quite possible that you run into one you really like.

It's all very subjective of course, but the main thing is there is another choice!

Personally I can really recommend ChoriumRevA.SF2 in combination with DOSBox.
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Re: Sound cards - from best to worst

Postby Tetrium » 2011-5-06 @ 09:49

Guess it's time for me to spend countless hours hunting down sound fonts lol

Anyway, how does OPL3 fit into this soundfont thingy?
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Re: Sound cards - from best to worst

Postby DonutKing » 2011-5-06 @ 11:15

It doesn't really. Soundfont is wavetable/general MIDI, OPL3 is FM synth/adlib. Two different sound synthesis technologies. Some games only support FM/adlib/soundblaster, so OPL3 is preferable because many OPL3 'compatible' chipsets sound different to a real OPL3.
FM synth does sound artificial though, while soundfonts usually have samples of real isntruments, so if your game supports general MIDI it will sound much better using a good soundfont than OPL3.
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Re: Sound cards - from best to worst

Postby rfnagel » 2011-5-06 @ 13:54

Tetrium wrote:And track #20...downloaded and on repeat! :D


Glad you liked it :) That's one of my newer pieces, and one of my favs as well :)

As others have posted, SoundFonts will make any GM games sound considerably better (verses OPL synth). Hehe, in this page http://www.cmoo.com/snor/weeds/SoundFon ... ration.htm (among the other "alternative" SOundFont links) is an OPL FM synth SoundFont... although it really won't sound quite like true hardware OPL FM synthesis. Neat sounding nonetheless.

Anyhoo, on that page you can find the "Chorium Revision A" SoundFont that Mau1wurf1977 mentioned, as well as a slew of others (IMHO the better sounding ones) that can be used.
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Re: Sound cards - from best to worst

Postby Tetrium » 2011-5-06 @ 14:12

Cheers! I will look into it, but this weekend I'll be having a multi-day BBQ+LAN party at my place! :D

And when I have time, I need to start testing that big stack of hardware I have laying around.

Btw, wouldn't the soundfont thingy mean that a card with the largest amount of memory is the most desirable to have?
So far the only (ISA) sound cards I know that can be upgraded are some of the AWE32's. I think I have 1 or 2 of those laying around, but I know I don't have many (I'd be lucky to have 2, actually).
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Re: Sound cards - from best to worst

Postby rfnagel » 2011-5-06 @ 14:55

Tetrium wrote:Btw, wouldn't the soundfont thingy mean that a card with the largest amount of memory is the most desirable to have?


Eggsactly! :) Back before I got my SBLive (limited only by PC sustem RAM), I was using three AWE32s in the same PC. Each with 32MB of onboard RAM, and different SoundFonts loaded into each of the three AWE32s.

A real PITA though... only really functioned properly under W98 (not DOS), and I had to disable the digital portions of two of the three AWE32s (only using their E-mu MIDI capabilities); as well as piping all of their audio outputs to the 'main' AWE32.

Hehe, those days are gone, since I first got my SBLive! :)

Anyhow, yes, the more SoundFont RAM, the better (as you can prolly figure out by some of the sizes of some of the alternate SoundFonts listed on that web page that I likned to previously). Heh, even my WeedsGM3.sf2 (or the second version of that SoundFont, WeedsGM2.sf2) wouldn't load into any single one of my AWE32s... I had to "split" it up, loading portions into each of the three AWE32s; like I said, PITA.

Of course, the other alternative is using XMPlay and it's MIDI Plugin (for simply listening to MIDI files), or the BASSMIDI Driver for everything else (acts as a kernel mode Windows MIDI driver). Needless to say, software SoundFont synthesis will NEVER sound as good *real* E-mu hardware synthesis, but XMPlay (as well as the BASSMIDI Driver) are fairly close :)
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Re: Sound cards - from best to worst

Postby Tetrium » 2011-5-06 @ 15:43

So a Live! is actually making sense in any retro rig that's modern enough to use a PCI sound card?

Are there any other expandable PCI soundcards? How do the Vortex, Yamaha and ESS Solo1 (just to name a few) fit into these?
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Re: Sound cards - from best to worst

Postby sklawz » 2011-5-06 @ 16:13

hi

i'm sure that the TB santa cruz and terratec 6pack
both support DLS (downloadable sounds).
DLS is not very popular and both these cards use the
crystal sound chip. if this chip supported the
hostable waveblaster in DOS it would be useful to me
but i've not seen that being available so don't use
either of them. i don't think DLS can be used in DOS
either.

if you are looking for sf2 files then HAMMERSOUND
is a place to go, however, since this is very old
tech now a large number of it's links are down but
the filenames may still be useful. this has lots of
links to sound libraries for musicians.

it's worth mentioning that the Kx driver replacement
for the sblive! also supports soundfonts should you
care to try it. it has tons of other useful things when you
set up the DSP such as synthesizers, fx etc. this
has no use in DOS though.

bye
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Re: Sound cards - from best to worst

Postby SavantStrike » 2011-5-06 @ 16:58

rfnagel wrote:
Tetrium wrote:Btw, wouldn't the soundfont thingy mean that a card with the largest amount of memory is the most desirable to have?


Eggsactly! :) Back before I got my SBLive (limited only by PC sustem RAM), I was using three AWE32s in the same PC. Each with 32MB of onboard RAM, and different SoundFonts loaded into each of the three AWE32s.

A real PITA though... only really functioned properly under W98 (not DOS), and I had to disable the digital portions of two of the three AWE32s (only using their E-mu MIDI capabilities); as well as piping all of their audio outputs to the 'main' AWE32.

Hehe, those days are gone, since I first got my SBLive! :)

Anyhow, yes, the more SoundFont RAM, the better (as you can prolly figure out by some of the sizes of some of the alternate SoundFonts listed on that web page that I likned to previously). Heh, even my WeedsGM3.sf2 (or the second version of that SoundFont, WeedsGM2.sf2) wouldn't load into any single one of my AWE32s... I had to "split" it up, loading portions into each of the three AWE32s; like I said, PITA.

Of course, the other alternative is using XMPlay and it's MIDI Plugin (for simply listening to MIDI files), or the BASSMIDI Driver for everything else (acts as a kernel mode Windows MIDI driver). Needless to say, software SoundFont synthesis will NEVER sound as good *real* E-mu hardware synthesis, but XMPlay (as well as the BASSMIDI Driver) are fairly close :)


I'm going to regret asking this, but did that work at all under the Win9x version of DOS?

Twin soundcards with 28MB of ram each sounds pretty hot...
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Re: Sound cards - from best to worst

Postby rfnagel » 2011-5-06 @ 18:00

Tetrium wrote:So a Live! is actually making sense in any retro rig that's modern enough to use a PCI sound card?


In native DOS you'll be limited to using the Creative software synthesizer that comes with the SBLive. It doesn't use SoundFonts, but rather those Ensoniq "ECW" wavesets that you may know about... and there has only been three of those wavesets ever released (2MB/4MB/8MB versions).

The Creative Labs software synthesizer is not only limited by those three ECW wavesets, but it's extremely "dry" as well... no MIDI reverb or chorus support whatsoever.

On a powerful enough or modern PC, the SBLive or Audigy is a good choice, as you can use the SoundFont MIDI synthesis in Windows with DOSBox... that's exactly what I do now, I have Windows XP Pro SP3 installed, along with my SBLive, and all of my old DOS games I run under DOSBox; works like a champ :)

BTW, also, under W98SE almost all DOS games are fairly well behaved when run under a DOS shell. In that case you can shell to DOS and if the game is configured for General MIDI music output, the game will use the SBLive/Audigy with it's loaded SoundFont.


Tetrium wrote:Are there any other expandable PCI soundcards? How do the Vortex, Yamaha and ESS Solo1 (just to name a few) fit into these?


I know little about those cards, but AFAIK none of them support SoundFonts.


SavantStrike wrote:I'm going to regret asking this, but did that work at all under the Win9x version of DOS? Twin soundcards with 28MB of ram each sounds pretty hot...


I used to run a rig like that with Windows 98SE (I think it would work under W95 as well). It didn't work under a native DOS bootup though. Mostly what I used all three AWE32s for was recording my music to MP3s within Windows, with custon SoundFonts loaded into the AWE32s.

With most any MIDI sequencer (I *still* use the old Cakewalk Professional v3.01, you could select which MIDI track was piped to which MIDI device (which AWE32 card), providing a musician with 96 MIDI channels, and access to three sets of ~28MB SoundFonts :)

Anyhow, like I said, this was mostly all geared towards music composing (with a MIDI sequencer)... it was rather useless for games and such, as they can only access one MIDI device at a time (under DOS, Windows, or otherwise).
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