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First post, by Muz

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Why is Gravis Ultrasound very expensive?

Reply 3 of 23, by davidrg

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I think probably because while a lot of people have hard of them they haven't experienced what its like to own one. I'd seen it as an option in some games setup menus for years and always been curious. Recently I found one in my box of expansion cards and now I know why they didn't sell very well back in the early 90s.

While I think its pretty neat and probably wouldn't sell mine I don't think they're worth what they appear to sell for. The card can be a real pain to get working (I almost gave up on it thinking it was dead) and in the end its only useful for the handful of games that specifically support it well, tracker music and 90s demoscene stuff. For everything else you really need a second SoundBlaster compatible card in your machine.

Reply 4 of 23, by Shreddoc

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davidrg wrote on 2022-05-11, 23:20:

I think probably because while a lot of people have hard of them they haven't experienced what its like to own one.

I agree that this is key. The element of mystery is a big part of the cachet. There are also other non-tangible elements such as exclusivity, and hype. These aren't bad things, they are just part of human nature and psychology.

I've never owned one, but if I did, then the hour-or-three (per year) I spend re-watching old PC demos, would be done with the ever-so-slightly-warmer feeling that I was doing so with "the best" soundcard option of the time. The real, practical, tangible experience however, would frankly be little changed.

A bit clearer, a bit cleaner. A few more demos runable with sound (ones which, inevitably, I couldn't run as a GUS-less young fella in the 90's, and therefore hold no nostalgia for me). Ironically, to me, a % of people will do so while running a tinny little pair of "also authentic for the time" 3W speakers. The fuss can seem a bit farcical at times.

But at the same time, I get it. We all chase our niches and love our chosen specialities.

Reply 6 of 23, by davidrg

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Errius wrote on 2022-05-12, 00:43:

Why did the demoscene choose this card over the others?

I wasn't around then (too young) but my understanding is a combination of historical reasons and hardware acceleration. If your demo is using tracker-type music you can load all the samples into the sound cards RAM and leave the GUS to do all the mixing letting you spend more CPU time doing fancy graphics. And I think a lot of demos used tracker-type music because a lot of the people came from Amiga and that's how things were done on that platform due to the sound hardware those machines had.

Reply 7 of 23, by Grzyb

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davidrg wrote on 2022-05-12, 00:52:

I wasn't around then (too young) but my understanding is a combination of historical reasons and hardware acceleration. If your demo is using tracker-type music you can load all the samples into the sound cards RAM and leave the GUS to do all the mixing letting you spend more CPU time doing fancy graphics. And I think a lot of demos used tracker-type music because a lot of the people came from Amiga and that's how things were done on that platform due to the sound hardware those machines had.

Exactly.
Also, the programmer's guide for GUS was easily available.
On the other hand, any detailed info on Sound Blaster AWE32 seemed unobtanium, I guess only available for big money - so no non-commercial demoscene stuff for the AWE, even though the hardware was superior...

Reply 8 of 23, by bloodem

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Muz wrote on 2022-05-11, 21:55:

Why is Gravis Ultrasound very expensive?

Same reason why all expensive things are expensive: supply and demand. 😀

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Reply 9 of 23, by Jo22

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bloodem wrote on 2022-05-12, 06:22:
Muz wrote on 2022-05-11, 21:55:

Why is Gravis Ultrasound very expensive?

Same reason why all expensive things are expensive: supply and demand. 😀

Or because of cult, sects.

Linux costs nothing, but has a sect-like community.
Same with A??le, but the other way round.

Or the Amiga/C64. Those were mass-produced, as much as the original Gameboy.

But unlike the Gameboy, these machines are traded for an insanely high price.

These are fancy prices, they're not necessarily based on demand/supply basis, I think.

Even if almost everyone had one of these sitting in the attic/cellar, vintage lovers would still trade them to high prices due to the emotional value.

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Reply 10 of 23, by bloodem

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Jo22 wrote on 2022-05-12, 07:15:

These are fancy prices, they're not necessarily based on demand/supply basis, I think.

Of course it is! It all boils down to supply and demand... always!
If people are willing to pay that amount of money for an item (no matter what the underlying reason is), then why would sellers decrease the price? 😀 If that specific item at that specific price is flying off the shelves, then not only will prices remain as they are, but they will actually continue to increase until a balance is reached.

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Reply 11 of 23, by digistorm

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Errius wrote on 2022-05-12, 00:43:

Why did the demoscene choose this card over the others?

Apart from the reasons other people already mentioned, there has long been a tradition in the demo scene to see what's possible with a very limited amount of storage. 64k intro's, 4k intro's etc. A lot of intro's started to use GUS because the mixing routines would be a little bit smaller. To even offer multiple sound card options meant that the "final" release of an intro (if there was any) would be much bigger, bigger than the rules of the competition allowed. And once you have a GUS anyway to compete in those competitions, why not use it everywhere else if it gives you "free" enhancement of sound quality (before software interpolation became a thing).

Reply 12 of 23, by AppleSauce

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Basically because its rare and niche, same reason the adlib gold fetches stupid amounts.
Once you delve into the less mainstream stuff that sold poorly but had some kind of killer feature of the time , which ironically didn't save it anyway , people naturally want to climb over each other to get it.
Eventually as supply shrinks it becomes a strange and mystical object and prices start to climb through the roof while people whisper to each other in the streets about this mysterious artifact from times forgotten.

Reply 14 of 23, by Grzyb

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digistorm wrote on 2022-05-12, 07:55:

Apart from the reasons other people already mentioned, there has long been a tradition in the demo scene to see what's possible with a very limited amount of storage. 64k intro's, 4k intro's etc. A lot of intro's started to use GUS because the mixing routines would be a little bit smaller. To even offer multiple sound card options meant that the "final" release of an intro (if there was any) would be much bigger, bigger than the rules of the competition allowed. And once you have a GUS anyway to compete in those competitions, why not use it everywhere else if it gives you "free" enhancement of sound quality (before software interpolation became a thing).

True, but there were exceptions...
The bigger stuff, like 64 KB+, featured samples-based music (MOD or similar), so a GUS-only player indeed allowed to save some bytes.
But in the tiniest stuff (historically usually 4 KB, in the modern times I've even seen a 256 Byte intro with music!), there's no room for samples, must use OPL, which pretty much excluded the GUS...

Reply 15 of 23, by Gmlb256

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Grzyb wrote on 2022-05-12, 06:18:

Also, the programmer's guide for GUS was easily available.

Initially it wasn't officially available and was reverse-engineered by both Tran and CyberStrike (see "Gravis Ultrasound Tech Specs: The Unofficial Dox").

On the other hand, any detailed info on Sound Blaster AWE32 seemed unobtanium, I guess only available for big money - so no non-commercial demoscene stuff for the AWE, even though the hardware was superior...

There isn't a reason why the EMU8K can't be reverse-engireered and some programming information did exist by both Creative and third parties (which are much better).

There is AWE Module Player by Lada Kopecky which was programmed that way.

Jo22 wrote on 2022-05-12, 07:15:

Or the Amiga/C64. Those were mass-produced, as much as the original Gameboy.

Both the C64 and Amiga had market success in some regions of the world. When the Internet got prevalent, the rest was able to know their interesting hardware capabilities. 😀

And like the GUS, they were (and still are) insanely popular with the demoscene.

Reply 16 of 23, by Jo22

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^Hi, the AWE seems to be fully emulated in PCem/86Box..
That's why I decided to keep an AWE card, for the sake of owning an original device with the 8K ROM font.
I even made my own dump, which was accepted by the emu.

However, it's been years since I ran PCem on powerful hardware..
I'm stuck with a Pi 4 since Win 7 went EOL, you know.
Couldn't decide on a new x86/x86_64 PC because all Windows systems I cared for are EOL now and because BIOS/CSM is no more, so the open future of the PC essentially has ended.
I also was hoping ARM/RISC-V would catch on more quickly, which it didn't.
Hm. Maybe the Macs with M2 are worth a look. But they're not out yet. But that's another story. 😅

Edit: Ultrasound.. Didn't Gravis send some GUS cards to demoscene groups as gifts at some point?
I vaguely remember reading something like that online many years ago.
Also, didn't AMD made the InterWave card, which is to some degree compatible with GF1 based cards? So there were datasheets?
That compatibility wasn't 100%, which was required for demos, but ok for trackers, drivers for Win95 or middle-wares like Miles Sound System? 🙂

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Reply 17 of 23, by Gmlb256

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Although AMD made the InterWave chip which was more capable than the GF1, the additional features were barely used even in the demoscene. The compatibility issue appears to be timing-related which doesn't match the GF1, but in most cases this was hardly noticeable.

More information about this in pouet.net:

The PnP has serious issues with native GUS support: after a peak burst it will emit a noise signal until you interrupt current going through it (i.e. reset/reboot your computer) and there's the infamous tempo bug:

The timing of the GUS Classic chips and the Interwave are not similar, either crappy drivers or just plain hardware leave a serious tempo bug in the replay of a GUS PnP using GUS Native mode. Most of the time, it's not noticeable... but most trackers (people, not software) who used GUS native trackers know that sample loops play properly on a classic and NOT on a PnP. For reference I defy all PnP users to play Mighty or run any loop-rich XM module in FT2. The PnP has upsides: the RAM modules are 30-pins SIMM (salvageable from any junkyard of 236/386/486 pile) and it doesn't have the 14+ channel limit the Classis has. IWSBOS does seem to take a lot off the tempo glitch, but not enough. I still curse the days when I composed with a PnP Pro and had to redo everything using a Classic so I'd be sure the rest of the world woul be able to enjoy a normal-sounding song.

Reply 19 of 23, by matze79

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Muz wrote on 2022-05-11, 21:55:

Why is Gravis Ultrasound very expensive?

Because it does not work in majority of games haha

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