Wanted to write a small review on this card, but it seems to have gotten quite extensive, enjoy :).
Soundcard: Audio Excel CMI8330 (PCB-ID: AV310).
Origin: China/Taiwan around 1997.
Chipset: C-Media CMI8330/A.
Soundcard also sold as: Zoltrix Audio Plus 6400 3D PnP V.5.
Chipset also available on: Soundpro onboard audio ; Artisto Soundpro ; Soundpro HT1869V+.
It is a compact single chip ISA card. There is not even an oscillator, which is a bit questionable. It has a Gameport, Line out, Line in and a MIC in. There are also small connectors behind each jackplug socket. This is AFAIK the only card with this chipset with a waveblaster header. The gameport connector would obstruct a midi daughterboard somewhat. The card has an amplifier which can be disabled with jumpers, as it should. There are jumper-like connectors for S/PDIF in and out (44KHz). These are 5V TTL level, and need some form of simple converter to make them suitable for a 1V coax connection.
The DOS software is nice. You can load the PnP initializer and the mixer with a menu or with parameters. These programs are exitted when done (no TSR's). Next to that there are some extra tools that are a nice bonus, such as a wav player and a recording tool. SB/SBPro/SB16 compatibility is quite good, but not flawless. WSS compatibility has worked in all the software that supported WSS, but only when the DMA was set to 0. Adlib/OPL-3 is done in hardware, and sounds much like a genuine OPL-3. MPU-401 for external midi worked perfectly with a midi daughterboard attached to the card. The Signal to Noise ratio sounds fine, but I don't know how to measure it. I expect S/PDIF to output by default even in pure Dos.
The gameport behaved a bit odd, as it would only allow the joystick to be used for windows applications. I found that an Microsoft Gamepad FAQ listed this Soundcard as not giving enough current or voltage due to a certain resistor. I found this to be resistor R32 near the waveblaster header: IIRC it was 47 Ohm, and I put a 30 Ohm resistor parallel, practically lowering it to 18 Ohm. After that my joystick worked fine!
-DOS games working (28), SB16/SBPro/Adlib/WSS/MPU-401:
4D boxing, Alien Carnage, Assualt Rigs, Battle Isle 2, Black Thorne, Comanche, Doom MBF (Allegro port), Dune 2, Flash Back, Heroes of M&M 2, Jill, Keen, Psycho Pinball, Quarantine, Sango, Screamer, Super Street Fighter 2, Syndicate, System Shock, Terra Nova, The Incredible Machine, Thunder Hawk, TIE Fighter, Tomb Raider, Tyrian, Wacky Wheels, Warcraft, Wolfenstein 3D.
-Edit: DOS games now working properly on a slower system (3):
Chuck Yeager, Flash Back, Worms Plus.
-DOS games not working properly (2):
Chaos engine (SB not detected in setup), Mortal Kombat (not all speech seems to work?).
These six devices are installed:
-C-Media Softmidi Driver (No resources, very cheap, pure software because it works without the Soundcard)
-DOS Mode MPU-401 Emulator (allows for Dos midi to use the opl3 as general midi, uses one I/O only)
-External Midi (Mpu401) Device (Daughterboard or module, uses one I/O only)
-Joystick Device (Uses one I/O)
-SB16 Audio Device (One I/O, one Irq, two DMA's)
-Windows Sound System (WSS) Device (One I/O + one I/O for Adlib, one Irq, one DMA)
All of the above use C-Media drivers, I have not tried generic ones. Installation went fine. The windows drivers do not rely on Dos initialization. It is told that the CMI8330 practically contains two sound chipsets: one SB16 and one WSS. These are not full duplex on themselves, but can function as such when used as a pair.
I haven't really tried the windows stuff much. As I prefer to use a Vortex-2 PCI card as the main device in windows. So the CMI8330 was only used for Dos emulation and the Gameport. When in a Dos Box the WSS is occupied by one of the emulators or something, So I only used SB16. I had the faint idea that there was some noise level in the analog out in windows, more so then in pure Dos.
I connected the CMI8330 S/PDIF output to the Vortex-2 S/PDIF input using a self made 5V to 1V converter and the official Vortex-2 I/O bracket. That works very well, the ISA card is completely silent when not in use (because of the mixer settings), and outputs a flawless digital signal to the PCI card when used for SB16 emulation in a Windows Dos box.
A very useful card for Dos gaming for sure. I need to use it longer before I can give a final verdict.
- SB/SBPro/WSS/Adlib/MPU-401/Gameport and even SB16 compatible in hardware.
- Flawless S/PDIF out, even in Dos.
- A very practical driver and software package.
- Waveblaster header.
- Agreeable OPL-3 sound.
CON's (some are futile or fixable)
- Joystick resistor issue.
- The gameport connector would obstruct a midi daughterboard somewhat.
- Requires a converter for 1V coax S/PDIF.
- No oscillators, so ISA clock dependant (I have seen an oscillator modification on the net).
- Not 100% SB compatible, more like 95%.
- Doubtful DAC quality.
- OPL-3 is not genuine Yamaha.
- Poor English grammar in the Documentation.