Sound Blaster 16 Clones

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

Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby gerwin » 2009-6-25 @ 19:34

This week I received a Terratec Maestro 32 (2nd edition) ISA Sound Card. This card is also WSS compatible. But my favorite games don't support WSS, I am talking about Tie-Fighter / System Shock etc. I tried swapping System Shocks miles drivers with unreliable success. Normally I thought SB-Pro mode gives almost optimal sound in games, as the game samples are 8-bit anyways, but I do notice improvements when using WSS: When firing automatic guns in the game the sound is more fluent, as if there are more channels available?

This got me thinking of somehow getting SB-16 compatibility back. But I don't like my SB-16 Vibra CT2800 enough to give it my ISA slot, as it doesn't do SB-Pro and it gives hanging Midi notes.

I could put back in my old SB-128PCI or SB-Live for SB-16 sound, but I am not to fond of their Dos emulation.

Then there are some obscure cards by Avance Logic that do SB-16: the ALS100 ISA and the ALS4000 PCI and such. I got the feeling these are a bit crappy, but I don't have one to test.

Then to my actual question: There are also C-Media chipsets that do SB-16. I had two of these CMI-8338 PCI chipsets in the past, cannot really remember if they worked well for DOS. But there is also an ISA chipset; the CMI8330 Audio Excel. Some people on the net seem to like it for its S/PDIF output. But I don't know if that is any use for Dos. Anyone got an opinion on this card, should I get me one?

Edit: deleted the image, as there is now a better one below.
Edit2: "I tried swapping System Shocks miles drivers with unreliable success" -> Later managed to do this properly, it works well.
Last edited by gerwin on 2014-2-27 @ 22:58, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby dvwjr » 2009-6-25 @ 21:33

gerwin wrote:This got me thinking of somehow getting SB-16 compatibility back. But I don't like my SB-16 Vibra CT2800 enough to give it my ISA slot, as it doesn't do SB-Pro and it gives hanging Midi notes.


All of Creative's Sound Blaster 16 ISA audio adapters do not have Sound Blaster Pro (1 or 2) backwards compatibility. This was a flaw in the initial silicon and was never 'fixed'. You will discover that Creative never claimed anything but Sound Blaster 2.0 backwards compatibility for the Sound Blaster 16 and following SB/AWE/32/64 models.

The hanging MIDI notes affect all Sound Blaster 16/32/64 designs that do not have a DSP version of 4.05 or 4.16, which means only some of the original Sound Blaster 16s or the last ISA design - the AWE64. Trying to find an actual Creative Sound Blaster 16/32/64 (not a clone) that does not have the hanging MIDI and has SB Pro backwards compatibility plus an OPL3 is not going to be successful. The original DSP v4.05 Sound Blaster 16 can do 2 out of 3, but not the Sound Blaster Pro compatibility - however it is a bit noisy...


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Re: Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby gerwin » 2009-6-25 @ 22:48

Long time no see dvwjr :). I actually new most of that about the SB-16, except that they fixed the midi bug it in the v4.16 DSP. Although I am stuck with the Sound Blaster standards, because that is what games need, I for one am not impressed with the actual Sound Blaster hardware and gladly use other brands.

I just tried a PCI CMI8738 that I had stored, and in DOS it is odd and not that useful: SB16 works in half of the games, sometimes playing samples too fast. No audible noise in the output. I cannot set the legacy SB16 IRQ, it uses IRQ10... FM is detected properly, and adplay runs, but I cannot hear any FM output? I did not try out the MPU-401. The DOS utility has lots of options, including record and S/PDIF options, looks nice.

...Still I am not kept from wanting an ISA CMI8330 :) , as on an ISA bus it surely will behave better in Dos. Here is a manual of the thing, it has even more Dos tools: CMI8330 Manual I finally found the S/PDIF contacts on the CMI8330 picture.
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Re: Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby dvwjr » 2009-6-26 @ 06:13

The quest for the single card Sound Blaster solution for samples, OPL3 and MIDI does not look to be promising. Looks like a CT-2940 or CT-2800 combined with a Roland ISA MPU-401 implementation might be the only retro hardware solution. However, maybe a SB16 clone solution may be found to satisfy the single ISA card "triple threat" requirement. :shocked:


Best of luck,

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Re: Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby retro games 100 » 2009-6-26 @ 06:59

So the CT2940 doesn't have the daughterboard problem? Is it a Vibra-based PnP model?

The early CT17xx SB16s don't sound good and have buggy DSPs - I wish I hadn't bought them. But the CT2230 seemed OK. I briefly tested it with a daughterboard, and didn't notice any problems. I think its DSP was 4.11.

The CT2800 sounded good but again was let down by its wavetable header. Although the AWE32 PnP CT3980 has a buggy wavetable header, it seemed a lot more resilient to this problem.

Recently I posted a message about a Roland MPU 401-AT card. Strangely, it made a mess of playing some MIDI music in conjunction with a Yamaha or clone daughterboard.

All this talk of retro components, and last night I played Doom...on DOSBox! :lol:
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Re: Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby valnar » 2009-6-26 @ 09:54

I've been wanting to try this, but I don't have the skill.

Is it possible to cut out the v4.05 DSP from a CT1740 and solder it on a later model SB16?
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Re: Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby gerwin » 2009-7-02 @ 23:03

You guys just cannot resist bringing up Creative Labs hardware in my own Clone-Only topic. ;)
But now here comes something else to consider, because it seems the CMI8330 is for real!

I only just started testing the thing. But so far it does what I hoped it would:
-SB+SBPro compatible
-SB16 compatible
-WSS compatible (not tested yet)
-Working Waveblaster/Gameport MPU-401 (Muted by default)
-Agreeable FM
-Clean output, not noisy (Amplifier disabled)
-S/PDIF input+output (not tested yet, should work in Dos)
-Functional DOS software

SB16 and Midi works in everything I tested so far: Tyrian, System Shock, Tie Fighter, Dune2, Jill, Quarantine, GSPlay, Adplay... :)

I looked it up and it appears I actually had this sound chip before, but without the Waveblaster and S/PDIF connectors. It was part of the worst mainboard I ever owned, the PCChips M729.
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audio_excel.jpg
Audio Excel CMI8330 Soundcard
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Re: Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby valnar » 2009-7-02 @ 23:49

gerwin wrote:You guys just cannot resist bringing up Creative Labs hardware in my own Clone-Only topic. ;)
But now here comes something else to consider, because it seems the CMI8330 is for real!

I'm very interested in your further testing, especially if there is a "hanging" note problem on the WB header. But the big question is... why wouldn't this board have been brought up before on Vogons? Kinda makes me think something is fishy about it... or it just slipped through everyone's radar.

PS. Do you have the manual for it? Your link above no longer works.
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Re: Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby gerwin » 2009-7-03 @ 15:03

valnar wrote:I'm very interested in your further testing, especially if there is a "hanging" note problem on the WB header. But the big question is... why wouldn't this board have been brought up before on Vogons? Kinda makes me think something is fishy about it... or it just slipped through everyone's radar.
PS. Do you have the manual for it? Your link above no longer works.

There is no hanging note problem with the WB header. I would have noticed by now. What is a bit annoying is that the gameport flatcable connector is obstructing a full size daughterboard.

The card uses two IRQ's for WSS/SB16 and optionally a third one for the MPU-401 to work.

What is somewhat fishy is the poor English grammar in the documentation. The box in which the card is offered is a generic one, suitable for two different soundcards. really humble. Fortunately these are just minor remarks.

I attached a recompiled version of the manual, from the now dead link I posted earlier.
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cmi8330_manual_recompiled.zip
CMI8330 Manual Recompiled
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Re: Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby gerwin » 2009-7-10 @ 21:29

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+.

HARDWARE
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.

PURE DOS
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?).

WINDOWS 98
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.

SUMMARY
A very useful card for Dos gaming for sure. I need to use it longer before I can give a final verdict.

PRO's
- 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.
Attachments
Cminit.gif
DOS Initializer CMINIT.EXE
Cminit.gif (13.02 KiB) Viewed 25398 times
Cmmix.gif
Dos Mixer CMMIX.COM
Cmmix.gif (13.17 KiB) Viewed 25397 times
SPDIF.gif
S/PDIF comparison
SPDIF.gif (35.17 KiB) Viewed 25397 times
CMI.zip
CMI8330 Dos drivers
(269.78 KiB) Downloaded 875 times
Last edited by gerwin on 2014-3-03 @ 02:11, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby valnar » 2009-7-10 @ 22:11

gerwin. Awesome review. Thanks!

I have one coming myself that I bought on eBay. You probably eliminated a couple hours of testing for me with that review.

So I had a few questions.

1) Do you have pictures or instructions for the joystick mod?

2) Based on your experience so far, and especially considering that is has a working wavetable header, would you consider using this as your primary retro ISA sound card above a similarly equipped SB16?

3) In a combo Win98/DOS retro machine, would you consider using this in addition to, or instead of a Vortex2 board? (my current favorite)

4) Does it have Windows 3.1 drivers?

Thanks!
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Re: Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby gerwin » 2009-7-11 @ 13:12

valnar wrote:gerwin. Awesome review. Thanks!
I have one coming myself that I bought on eBay. You probably eliminated a couple hours of testing for me with that review.

Cool, I am curious as to how it will work for you.

valnar wrote: 1) Do you have pictures or instructions for the joystick mod?

The way I wrote it should make it quite easy already. the original SMD resistor designated 'R32' is a bridge between two contacts, and one has to solder the other resistor as an additional bridge besides/over it. See photo.

valnar wrote: 2) Based on your experience so far, and especially considering that is has a working wavetable header, would you consider using this as your primary retro ISA sound card above a similarly equipped SB16?

Above my SB16 CT2800; yes.
Above my other Terratec/crystal/yamaha soundcards; not sure yet, but not unlikely.

valnar wrote: 3) In a combo Win98/DOS retro machine, would you consider using this in addition to, or instead of a Vortex2 board? (my current favorite)

I prefer to use every ISA soundcard next to a Vortex-2 soundcard when possible. The vortex-2 has a quality 18-bit DAC. Most ISA cards have an inferior DAC or lag a bit when using Directsound accelerated games.

It is especially nice when I can make a S/PDIF connection to the vortex-2 S/PDIF 'breakout bracket' that I have. Attached a photograph of my setup, which probably raises more questions then it answers ;). If only the vortex-2 S/PDIF input was working in pure dos :sly: ...

valnar wrote:4) Does it have Windows 3.1 drivers?

Yes, but I have not tried them. It should also have Windows 2000/XP drivers.
Attachments
CMI8330mod_s.jpg
CMI8330 modifications.
CMI8330mod_s.jpg (121.55 KiB) Viewed 25597 times
soundcard_setup_s.jpg
PCI+ISA Soundcards and Midi Daughterboard setup.
soundcard_setup_s.jpg (105.27 KiB) Viewed 25597 times
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Re: Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby PowerPie5000 » 2009-7-11 @ 18:04

I actually do like the C-media chips.... I used to have a PCI Hercules Muse XL some time ago and i remember the Dos support being pretty good! It used the CMI8738 chipset. I might still have it somewhere.
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Re: Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby tikbalang » 2009-7-12 @ 06:04

cmi8x38 drivers from cmi website. there were about three variants but it think this was the latest and works for all.
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CMI8X38D DOS Drivers
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ESS PCI DOS Drivers
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Re: Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby valnar » 2009-7-14 @ 13:14

I received my CMI8330 ISA board a couple days ago and installed it in a DOS/Win3.1 Pentium 166. So far, I love it. It works great at everything I've thrown at it and has a high compatibility mark for me. The only thing I don't like is the (lack of) support for holding the wavetable board. And mounting a WT board also hits the gameport ribbon. Other than that, I have a new favorite DOS sound card.

Everything gerwin said is true. This has to be the easiest PnP ISA card I've ever used. No memory use at all and it just worked. My BIOS is PnP aware though - not sure how a 386 would fare.

Edit: The one thing I don't see is a way to enable the wavetable board in the midi mapper in Windows 3.1. It defaults to a FM mapping with no other option.
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Re: Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby Harekiet » 2009-7-14 @ 13:25

yeh i have one of those cmi8330 cards as well and it works pretty decently for most stuff. Although i think the specs say it has a 20 channel opl3 implementation instead of the regular 18. Wonder if there's any software that can actually use that :)
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Re: Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby archsan » 2009-7-14 @ 14:35

Quick question here, gerwin--or anyone using the ISA CMI8330: can the FM/OPL3 be disabled or not initialized (so as not to conflict with another card at 388h)? Thanks!
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Re: Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby bestemor » 2009-7-14 @ 20:34

@gerwin:
Attached a photograph of my setup, which probably raises more questions then it answers
heh :blush:

...could you narrate that bottom pic a little ?
(as I'm having some trouble figuring out whats in there)
You don't have to explain the setup or anything, only describe/name the item itself.

Bottom left seems to be the Cmedia isa card, on top of that is a Turtle beach Vortex 8820 (A3D?)... so far so good.

...but then I'm slightly confused with whatever is covering the TB card.
(looks like a soundcard, but not occupying any slots?)
I'm guessing that is the "official Vortex-2 I/O bracket" ?
Didn't know these budget cards even HAD such a thing (!)

And then theres that small 'thing' above that again, what looks like a 'usb' cable? from a pci slot or whatnot :confused:

I assume the bottom right is a Korg daugthercard, or ?
(on some weird converter contraption?)

Just curious.... :happyhappy:
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Re: Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby gerwin » 2009-7-15 @ 09:35

valnar wrote:I received my CMI8330 ISA board a couple days ago and installed it in a DOS/Win3.1 Pentium 166. So far, I love it. It works great at everything I've thrown at it and has a high compatibility mark for me. The only thing I don't like is the (lack of) support for holding the wavetable board. And mounting a WT board also hits the gameport ribbon. Other than that, I have a new favorite DOS sound card.

Good to hear it from someone else! Have you tried a joystick with or without the fix yet and which wavetable are you using with it?

archsan wrote:Quick question here, gerwin--or anyone using the ISA CMI8330: can the FM/OPL3 be disabled or not initialized (so as not to conflict with another card at 388h)? Thanks!

Not really, but you can put the soundblaster and adlib I/O to hex 240 and 398 instead of the default 220 and 388. Wasn't the soundblaster base address also an interface to the OPL3?

bestemor wrote: ...could you narrate that bottom pic a little ?

You got most of it right already!
you are looking at:
-a Soyo SY-6BA+III Mainboard (i440BX).
-PCI USB 2 adapter, with the internal fourth port cabled to the outside.
-Montego II Home Studio S/PDIF bracket (cabled to the Montego II, insulated with a piece of paper between them).
-PCI Turtle Beach Montego II soundcard (Vortex-2 AU8830)
-ISA CMI8330 soundcard with joystick fix and S/PDIF voltage adapter, connected to Montego II with both a S/PDIF wire and an analog jackplug wire.
-Waveblaster daughterboard home-made adapter, using PSU power.
-Topwave Korg Waveblaster daughterboard 4MB GM (with attached jackplug socket), midi input routed to both the CMI8330 and Montego II, analog output routed to Montego II.
-A small adapter cable (red/black) to route the mainboard's PC-Speaker signal to the Montego II Aux-in.

Here is another view of the Montego II package: Vogons: Vortex2 card under Win XP
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Re: Sound Blaster 16 Clones

Postby archsan » 2009-7-15 @ 12:03

gerwin wrote:
archsan wrote:Quick question here, gerwin--or anyone using the ISA CMI8330: can the FM/OPL3 be disabled or not initialized (so as not to conflict with another card at 388h)? Thanks!

Not really, but you can put the soundblaster and adlib I/O to hex 240 and 398 instead of the default 220 and 388. Wasn't the soundblaster base address also an interface to the OPL3?

Good to know--and no, AFAIK FM Synthesizer address on soundblasters (and maybe most cards with real OPL2/3 chip) is usually fixed at 388h, just like on the original AdLib card. I guess that's to maintain perfect compatibility with original AdLib-supporting games (with no option to change address). With this CMI8830, seems like one can pair it with a real-OPL2/3-equipped card to enjoy the "truer" AdLib/FM.

So, is it rare, this card? How did you find it? I didn't get any result on ggl products or ebay with keyword "CMI8330"...
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