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First post, by M0101

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Hello,

Which PCI sound card has native SB16 emulation/wrapper and can work almost out of the box on MSDOS/FreeDOS without hassles or instabilities?

I have the motherboard Asrock G41M-VS3 R2.0 which doesn't support ISA and has a built-in PCI Intel HD Audio card which won't work with DOS.

Can someone help me pick a model from the following site please?

https://www.electromyne.de/Sound-Cards.html

Reply 2 of 15, by paprika

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CT4760, for example, provides native SB emulation. See the relevant manual page https://www.manualslib.com/manual/1324152/Cre … ?page=45#manual

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Reply 4 of 15, by M0101

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What about the "Aztech MM PCI 338-A3D BP Audio Vortex AU8820B2"?? Does it have the same chipset as the Aurreal Vortex? Does it support the Aurreal Vortex's TSR?

And is the Vortex's support better than the CT4760 (SB LIVE!) in SB16 emulation?

Reply 5 of 15, by LightStruk

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On that motherboard, you won't be able to use PC/PCI or DDMA to route old PC IRQs and DMA channels to your PCI sound card. You'll have to use DSDMA, which is less compatible. Something to keep in mind.

As for which sound card is best, that depends mostly on whether you care about genuine OPL3 music. If you do, then get a Yamaha YMF724, YMF744, or YMF754 card. New-in-box YMF744 cards are still out there. The Aureal Vortex and Vortex 2's OPL3 emulation is flat. Like, literally, out of tune. The ESS Solo-1 and various SoundBlaster PCI options don't have true OPL3 hardware either, but their versions at least don't suck as badly as the Vortex.

If you would rather use wavetable MIDI music, the easiest realistic way to do that in DOS is with a card that has a wavetable header, since on-chip wavetable MIDI with these PCI sound cards doesn't usually work in pure DOS, just in Windows 9x. You can then use one of the many new wavetable boards coming out lately.

Reply 6 of 15, by M0101

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LightStruk wrote on 2021-04-06, 14:56:

On that motherboard, you won't be able to use PC/PCI or DDMA to route old PC IRQs and DMA channels to your PCI sound card. You'll have to use DSDMA, which is less compatible. Something to keep in mind.

As for which sound card is best, that depends mostly on whether you care about genuine OPL3 music. If you do, then get a Yamaha YMF724, YMF744, or YMF754 card. New-in-box YMF744 cards are still out there. The Aureal Vortex and Vortex 2's OPL3 emulation is flat. Like, literally, out of tune. The ESS Solo-1 and various SoundBlaster PCI options don't have true OPL3 hardware either, but their versions at least don't suck as badly as the Vortex.

If you would rather use wavetable MIDI music, the easiest realistic way to do that in DOS is with a card that has a wavetable header, since on-chip wavetable MIDI with these PCI sound cards doesn't usually work in pure DOS, just in Windows 9x. You can then use one of the many new wavetable boards coming out lately.

I want to use the card mainly for games and applications. I just want it to work on my motherboard without any external hardware and wouldn't affect compatibility with apps. I heard that PCI SB's TSR requires Protected Mode which breaks compatibility with Real Mode games/apps? While the Vortex doesn't require protected mode and wouldn't break compatibility.

What is wavetable? Does it require a special cable and speakers with special ports?

Excuse me, the oldest OS I worked on back in the days was Windows 98, and didn't really care about those things back then.

Reply 7 of 15, by Jorpho

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M0101 wrote on 2021-04-06, 15:48:

I want to use the card mainly for games and applications. I just want it to work on my motherboard without any external hardware and wouldn't affect compatibility with apps.

Do you have specific games and apps in mind?

I heard that PCI SB's TSR requires Protected Mode which breaks compatibility with Real Mode games/apps?

More specifically, it requires EMM386. If you have no interest in using games or applications that are incompatible with EMM386, then it is not worth thinking about.

What is wavetable? Does it require a special cable and speakers with special ports?

Some cards specifically allow for the attachment of a "daughterboard" like the Waveblaster or the modern Dreamblaster. These are completely internal.

External devices with special cables usually take the form of external MIDI synthesizers with MT-32 compatibility.

Reply 8 of 15, by M0101

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LightStruk wrote on 2021-04-06, 14:56:

On that motherboard, you won't be able to use PC/PCI or DDMA to route old PC IRQs and DMA channels to your PCI sound card. You'll have to use DSDMA, which is less compatible. Something to keep in mind.

Can you clarify more? What sound cards support DSDMA?

Reply 9 of 15, by GigAHerZ

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M0101 wrote on 2021-04-04, 08:52:

What about SoundBlaster Live!? What about SoundBlaster 128 PCI?

The Ensonic AudioPCI based card? Oh no, please don't!
I'm still seeing (hearing) nightmares on it's OPL and MIDI.

"640K ought to be enough for anybody." - And i intend to get every last bit out of it even after loading every damn driver!

Reply 10 of 15, by LightStruk

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M0101 wrote on 2021-04-07, 11:46:
LightStruk wrote on 2021-04-06, 14:56:

On that motherboard, you won't be able to use PC/PCI or DDMA to route old PC IRQs and DMA channels to your PCI sound card. You'll have to use DSDMA, which is less compatible. Something to keep in mind.

Can you clarify more? What sound cards support DSDMA?

Sure. Old DOS games and applications communicated directly with the sound card hardware without any sort of "driver" like a modern OS would. They used x86 IO to manage the card, ISA IRQs (interrupts) to listen for when the card needed attention (like "feed me more data"), and ISA DMA (direct memory access) to transfer audio back and forth. In other words, these DOS programs are written to talk to an ISA card.

PC/PCI, DDMA, and DSDMA are three different ways that PCI sound cards pretended to be ISA sound cards.

  1. PC/PCI (aka SBLink) uses additional wires to route a condensed version of the ISA IRQ and DMA lines to a PCI card. Only found on motherboards for a brief window of time in the very late 90s and early 2000s.
  2. DDMA (Distributed Direct Memory Access) is a motherboard chipset feature that enables PCI cards to talk to the old ISA (Intel 8237) DMA controller. This feature existed on a lot of chipsets in the late 90s and early 2000s, but Intel and others stopped including the feature by about 2005.
  3. DSDMA (Distributed pSeudo Direct Memory Access?) uses a feature of EMM386.exe to virtualize and intercept attempts by programs to access specified ISA IRQs and DMAs. A loadable driver can then reinterpret those attempts, in this case, by acting as the intermediary with the PCI sound card.

Any PCI sound card with DOS support offers a DSDMA driver. The issue isn't which cards can do it, it's whether you'll like the results. Not all DOS games work with the EMM386 memory manager, so if you play one of those games, you won't have any sound.

Reply 11 of 15, by M0101

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LightStruk wrote on 2021-04-07, 13:48:
Sure. Old DOS games and applications communicated directly with the sound card hardware without any sort of "driver" like a mode […]
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Sure. Old DOS games and applications communicated directly with the sound card hardware without any sort of "driver" like a modern OS would. They used x86 IO to manage the card, ISA IRQs (interrupts) to listen for when the card needed attention (like "feed me more data"), and ISA DMA (direct memory access) to transfer audio back and forth. In other words, these DOS programs are written to talk to an ISA card.

PC/PCI, DDMA, and DSDMA are three different ways that PCI sound cards pretended to be ISA sound cards.

  1. PC/PCI (aka SBLink) uses additional wires to route a condensed version of the ISA IRQ and DMA lines to a PCI card. Only found on motherboards for a brief window of time in the very late 90s and early 2000s.
  2. DDMA (Distributed Direct Memory Access) is a motherboard chipset feature that enables PCI cards to talk to the old ISA (Intel 8237) DMA controller. This feature existed on a lot of chipsets in the late 90s and early 2000s, but Intel and others stopped including the feature by about 2005.
  3. DSDMA (Distributed pSeudo Direct Memory Access?) uses a feature of EMM386.exe to virtualize and intercept attempts by programs to access specified ISA IRQs and DMAs. A loadable driver can then reinterpret those attempts, in this case, by acting as the intermediary with the PCI sound card.

Any PCI sound card with DOS support offers a DSDMA driver. The issue isn't which cards can do it, it's whether you'll like the results. Not all DOS games work with the EMM386 memory manager, so if you play one of those games, you won't have any sound.

Thank you very much for the explanation.

So the Aurreal Vortex (And cards with the same chipset) will not work in my case as it doesn't make use of EMM386?

So this limits the options to SB LIVE!/Audigy (And other PCI SB cards) and the Yamaha cards for a modern motherboard with a raw PCI slot?

I am forced to use a card with a TSR that uses EMM386, correct?

Reply 12 of 15, by LightStruk

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M0101 wrote on 2021-04-07, 13:58:

So the Aurreal Vortex (And cards with the same chipset) will not work in my case as it doesn't make use of EMM386?

So this limits the options to SB LIVE!/Audigy (And other PCI SB cards) and the Yamaha cards for a modern motherboard with a raw PCI slot?

I am forced to use a card with a TSR that uses EMM386, correct?

Yes, you are forced to use a card with a TSR, but I think the Vortex and Vortex 2 cards have that option. They just have a bad OPL3 emulator, which is why I don't like them for pure DOS gaming.

DSDMA always requires a TSR, and DDMA does not. Many cards support both, but your motherboard doesn't have DDMA or PC/PCI, which is why you have to use DSDMA.

Reply 13 of 15, by Jorpho

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LightStruk wrote on 2021-04-07, 15:05:

DSDMA always requires a TSR, and DDMA does not. Many cards support both, but your motherboard doesn't have DDMA or PC/PCI, which is why you have to use DSDMA.

I haven't seen it put this way before.

I thought all Creative PCI cards required a TSR and also wouldn't work on motherboards after around 2005. So would that make them DDMA or DSDMA?

Reply 14 of 15, by LightStruk

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Jorpho wrote on 2021-04-07, 15:26:
LightStruk wrote on 2021-04-07, 15:05:

DSDMA always requires a TSR, and DDMA does not. Many cards support both, but your motherboard doesn't have DDMA or PC/PCI, which is why you have to use DSDMA.

I haven't seen it put this way before.

I thought all Creative PCI cards required a TSR and also wouldn't work on motherboards after around 2005. So would that make them DDMA or DSDMA?

It might be that only some cards need no TSR when using DDMA. Remember, there's also a difference between a TSR and a config utility that doesn't stay resident. I have 3 PCI sound cards (YMF744, SB Audigy 2, Vortex 2) but honestly I don't always remember the exact idiosyncrasies.

As for DSDMA, I don't see why that would stop working on later motherboards, as it doesn't depend on any specific hardware support.

Here's the list of DDMA chipsets.

Reply 15 of 15, by Malik

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One of the sound cards that I have used in a Pentium 4 based machine with DOS installed in one of the partitions:

ALS-4000

Edit: Can't believe it's been 10 years since I posted that...

5476332566_7480a12517_t.jpgSB Dos Drivers