Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

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

Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

Postby Paralel » 2018-9-06 @ 16:11

I came across the description for an interesting item recently, a Digispeech Plus (Model Number: DS311 or DS311A):

Image

(Yes, this is literally the best image I could find of it anywhere)

Anyone ever seen/heard of this item before? It has interesting specifications:

"Easy installation: just plug into a parallel printer port and install the software on your network or hard drive."

"...SoundblasterTM and AdlibTM compatible."

"Simultaneous synthesized music and digital audio playback"

Playback:

Stereo PCM Playback.
8/16 bits linear per channel: 11.025kHz, 22.05kHz, 44.1kHz
8 bits u-law per channel: 11.025kHz, 22.05kHz, 44.1kHz

Mono PCM playback:
8 bit linear: 4kHz to 44.1kHz
8 bit u-law:4kHz to 44.1kHz
8 bit a-law:4kHz to 44.1kHz
16 bit linear 4kHz to 44.1kHz

Mono Adaptive PCM decompression (ADPCM) and playback:
DVI 4 bits per sample(BPS): 4kHz to 44.1kHz
OKI(TM) 4 BPS:4kHz to 44.1kHz
Soundblaster 4 BPS:4kHz to 44.1kHz
Soundblaster 2.6 BPS:4kHz to 44.1kHz
Soundblaster 2 BPS:4kHz to 44.1kHz
CVSD 1 BPS:4kHz to 44.1kHz

Voice decompression:
CELP 1.1 b/s: 8kHz
RELP 1.65 b/s:8kHz

Synthesized voice:
LPC: ~300 bytes/second

Synthesized music:
Mode 1: 9 melodic voices
Mode 2: 7 melodic, 4 percussive voices
Mode 3 (speech/music): 9 melodic voices, ulaw/Linear PCM @ 4kHz to 11.025kHz
Mode 4 (speech/music): 7 melodic, 4 percussive voices, ulaw/Linear PCM @ 4kHz to 11.025kHz

One thing that confuses me though, wasn't even the original Sound Blaster capable of 8-bit per channel audio?

The Digispeech Plus is not to be confused with Digispeech, the company that makes the product (the company was later known as DSP Solutions), nor the predecessor to this product which was known as the Digispeech (no Plus) and was model number DS201 or DS201A and used a serial connection.
Last edited by Paralel on 2018-9-06 @ 18:57, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

Postby Paralel » 2018-9-06 @ 18:50

Unfortunately, 3 of your links are for the Portable Sound Plus, which was made by the company Digispeech (later called DSP Solutions), not the Digispeech Plus (you can see from the image in my first post that they look nothing alike) which is a product of the company, and the other one is about the Digispeech DS201A and has blue text saying "Digispeech" on the top front and has a serial connection (compared to the Digispeech Plus which has the name written in red on the top front and uses a parallel connection), which is the predecessor to the Digispeech Plus that is model number DS311 or DS311A.

I appreciate the effort though.
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Re: Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

Postby cyclone3d » 2018-9-06 @ 19:59

Ok.. I was thinking it was the same thing. I can't see the picture where I am at because it is blocked.

If you attach/inline the picture directly to the forum, everybody that can access the forum will be able to see it.

Edit: Here is a link to the patent, which mentions that it was made by Digispeech and distributed in the USA by DSP Solutions.
http://www.freepatentsonline.com/5766015.html
http://www.freepatentsonline.com/5766015.pdf
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Re: Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

Postby Paralel » 2018-9-06 @ 20:55

Thank you. I'm mainly looking to find if anyone has actually seen and/or used one.
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Re: Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

Postby cyclone3d » 2018-9-06 @ 22:37

YW, just trying to see if I can track down any information on it.

Found a site that lists the distributors who sold it:
Elek-Tek, En Point Technologies, Ingram Micro, M & A Technologies, Nexus Unlimited

https://docstore.mik.ua/press/skpress/RESELLRA/13/17.htm

Did you find that one pic on the internet archive of the DSP Solutions web page?
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Re: Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

Postby Paralel » 2018-9-07 @ 04:17

Yep, that's where the pic came from. As far as I can tell, it's currently the only pic that exists.
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Re: Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

Postby cyclone3d » 2019-5-21 @ 15:45

Somebody posted some of the Digispeech Plus DS311 units (new in box) on eBay a couple days ago. I ended up buying one and am waiting for it to arrive.

Here are the seller's pics:
Digispeech Plus DS311 with disks.jpg

Digispeech Plus DS311 in box.jpg

Digispeech Plus DS311 box.jpg

Digispeech Plus DS311 box label.jpg
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Re: Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

Postby Paralel » 2019-5-22 @ 17:06

Huge props to cyclone3d!

Due to his heads up, I was able to get one as well. I can't wait to open it up! I suspect it contains the same/similar hardware as the DS301/DS301A.

I owe you one!
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Re: Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

Postby Paralel » 2019-5-25 @ 23:02

Mine arrived, and of course, I immediately cracked it open to see what was inside. Lo and behold:

Image

Image

It's the guts of a Digispeech Port-Able Sound Plus, interfaced to a mainboard, using its native parallel pinout!

The TI chip even says "DS301", which was the product identifier of the Digispeech Port-Able Sound Plus!

All they did was hook up a Digispeech Port-Able Sound Plus to a another board, with support circuitry for the speaker and parallel cable.

I have never seen such a janky effort before by a real company before. The literally did the minimum to adapt the Digispeech Port-Able Sound Plus to a the same shell used by their Digispeech DS201A hardware from a previous generation.

Congrats to anyone that got one, you basically got a Digispeech Port-Able Sound Plus in a single shell.
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Re: Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

Postby cyclone3d » 2019-5-26 @ 04:05

Oh that's cool. I haven't even had the chance to test mine out yet although I did image the disks and scan the manual and upload them to vogonsdrivers... in case you haven't seen my post in the vogons drivers library thread.

Thanks for the 4.05 driver set BTW.
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Re: Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

Postby tyukok » 2019-5-26 @ 14:11

Man I wish someone could recreate this device (or at least it's board) with modern components. Both DS311 and DS301 are extremely rare, and that's unfortunate, because, unlike DS201, this is basically Sound Blaster on a parallel port. If you want sound on your old DOS laptop (or, perhaps, if you are playing DOS games on a modern computer), this is all you'll ever need.
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Re: Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

Postby lolo799 » 2019-5-26 @ 20:16

That's a nice find!
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Re: Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

Postby Paralel » 2019-5-26 @ 23:56

tyukok wrote:Man I wish someone could recreate this device (or at least it's board) with modern components. Both DS311 and DS301 are extremely rare, and that's unfortunate, because, unlike DS201, this is basically Sound Blaster on a parallel port. If you want sound on your old DOS laptop (or, perhaps, if you are playing DOS games on a modern computer), this is all you'll ever need.

Unfortunately, the GPS part is likely an ASIC, which is a completely custom setup, and the TI is a modification of a stock TI part, and there is no way to know what the modifications are. So, it's basically two parts that are not sourceable outside of the original hardware, especially the ASIC.

The company died not too long after the Digispeech Plus came out, so it's been ~22 years since they were in business. So, unfortunately, any source for the ASIC is probably long gone, and likely any information on the customizations to the TI. I do know who inside Digispeech wrote the documentation for the drivers, but you'd have to try and track the guy down, if he's still in the business/alive, and find out if he could put you in contact with any of the engineers.
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Re: Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

Postby tyukok » 2019-5-28 @ 00:07

Paralel wrote:Unfortunately, the GPS part is likely an ASIC, which is a completely custom setup, and the TI is a modification of a stock TI part, and there is no way to know what the modifications are. So, it's basically two parts that are not sourceable outside of the original hardware, especially the ASIC.

Yeah, that's why it probably wouldn't be possible to replicate it - too many custom parts and too little is known about how they work to try to make an FPGA replica.
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Re: Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

Postby cyclone3d » 2019-5-28 @ 04:07

I don't see how the hardware is the hard part. The software is what is going to be capturing the DMA and the Sound Blaster and Adlib I/O addresses and then just sending those commands to the device on the parallel port.

The DOS part was what the Backpack CD-ROM drives with the built in 16-bit sound had an issue with. They were based on an ESS setup... and the programmers apparently were never able to get it working properly in DOS.
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Re: Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

Postby Paralel » 2019-5-28 @ 04:41

cyclone3d wrote:I don't see how the hardware is the hard part. The software is what is going to be capturing the DMA and the Sound Blaster and Adlib I/O addresses and then just sending those commands to the device on the parallel port.

The DOS part was what the Backpack CD-ROM drives with the built in 16-bit sound had an issue with. They were based on an ESS setup... and the programmers apparently were never able to get it working properly in DOS.

Ah, so that's the ESS based system I heard about. It was Windows 3.1/9x only, right? Never did have DOS drivers, if I am remembering correctly.

I'd love to get my hands on a Port Blaster and see how Creative managed to get it to function as a Sound Blaster Pro, that would essentially be the best one to have, but, as far as I can tell, very few are still out there. Even Creative didn't have any information at all on it on their archived webpages from the 90's. They had information on the Sound Blaster 1.0, and drivers for it though. But it's like the Port Blaster never existed. You'd think the Port Blaster would have been more successful than any of the others since it was the most advanced of the bunch, and was at approximately the same price point. I'd be happy to just be able to look at the drivers for the Port Blaster to get an idea of how it worked, but they are literally nowhere to be found on the internet. If the device didn't come with its floppy, it would be useless. I can't even find a picture of it, except one tiny press image in a PC magazine that was given to them by Creative. I have seen pics and videos of many exceptionally rare 1-of-a-kind prototypes and machines, entire write-ups about such things on the internet, but not the Port Blaster. This thing is like a ghost. I sometimes wonder if it was ever out for retail purchase. Even in contemporary PC magazines of the time, it appeared once, and then you never saw more about it again.

I do find it interesting that Digispeech was the only one to ever produce a parallel port device that was capable of DOS SoundBlaster compatibility, and with a set of chips that are literally nothing like what Creative used on their actual hardware. I looked through the drivers for the other two out there, the Media Vision Audio Port, and the Street Sound Parallel Sound Card, and neither one of them offered SoundBlaster compatibility in DOS. The Audio Port did offer SB compatibility in Windows.
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Re: Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

Postby cyclone3d » 2019-5-28 @ 05:29

Paralel wrote:
cyclone3d wrote:I don't see how the hardware is the hard part. The software is what is going to be capturing the DMA and the Sound Blaster and Adlib I/O addresses and then just sending those commands to the device on the parallel port.

The DOS part was what the Backpack CD-ROM drives with the built in 16-bit sound had an issue with. They were based on an ESS setup... and the programmers apparently were never able to get it working properly in DOS.

Ah, so that's the ESS based system I heard about. It was Windows 3.1/9x only, right? Never did have DOS drivers, if I am remembering correctly.

I'd love to get my hands on a Port Blaster and see how Creative managed to get it to function as a Sound Blaster Pro, that would essentially be the best one to have, but, as far as I can tell, very few are still out there. Even Creative didn't have any information at all on it on their archived webpages from the 90's. They had information on the Sound Blaster 1.0, and drivers for it though. But it's like the Port Blaster never existed. You'd think the Port Blaster would have been more successful than any of the others since it was the most advanced of the bunch, and was at approximately the same price point. I'd be happy to just be able to look at the drivers for the Port Blaster to get an idea of how it worked, but they are literally nowhere to be found on the internet. If the device didn't come with its floppy, it would be useless. I can't even find a picture of it, except one tiny press image in a PC magazine that was given to them by Creative. I have seen pics and videos of many exceptionally rare 1-of-a-kind prototypes and machines, entire write-ups about such things on the internet, but not the Port Blaster. This thing is like a ghost. I sometimes wonder if it was ever out for retail purchase. Even in contemporary PC magazines of the time, it appeared once, and then you never saw more about it again.

I do find it interesting that Digispeech was the only one to ever produce a parallel port device that was capable of DOS SoundBlaster compatibility, and with a set of chips that are literally nothing like what Creative used on their actual hardware. I looked through the drivers for the other two out there, the Media Vision Audio Port, and the Street Sound Parallel Sound Card, and neither one of them offered SoundBlaster compatibility in DOS. The Audio Port did offer SB compatibility in Windows.


Yes, they never had any DOS drivers... at one point they said they were working on a solution but it apparently never came about.

I had heard the Port Blaster name before but never looked into it. It apparently really did exist as I see it on some price lists in magazines of the time. It also only mentions Windows 3.x compatibility in the short articles/descriptions of it. Also only says "Sound Blaster Pro emulation".

https://books.google.com/books?id=IuaYd-eFaFoC&pg=PA61&lpg=PA61&dq=creative+labs+%22port+blaster%22+parallel&source=bl&ots=kfiiCOLSZn&sig=ACfU3U1ZS-olULk7TUbNpPUf34dyCTMcmA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi4w8advL3iAhUIQ60KHepqCCwQ6AEwBHoECAQQAQ#v=onepage&q=creative%20labs%20%22port%20blaster%22%20parallel&f=false

https://books.google.com/books?id=7k7q-wS0t00C&pg=RA1-PA529&lpg=RA1-PA529&dq=creative+labs+%22port+blaster%22+parallel&source=bl&ots=ioHwee5zTY&sig=ACfU3U1Y9jRIIsAUJCMs9CKc03uYdnCc1Q&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi4w8advL3iAhUIQ60KHepqCCwQ6AEwDnoECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=creative%20labs%20%22port%20blaster%22%20parallel&f=false

https://archive.org/details/Game_Players_PC_Entertainment_Volume_5_Issue_7_Holiday_1992/page/n27

https://books.google.com/books?id=blEEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA17&lpg=PA17&dq=creative+labs+port+blaster+parallel&source=bl&ots=C1H-YltS3X&sig=ACfU3U3lqwYAbYWJpKHbFhJKLvEqWR8j3Q&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiru4DSu73iAhULWq0KHWYgAcsQ6AEwCnoECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=creative%20labs%20port%20blaster%20parallel&f=false
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Re: Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

Postby Paralel » 2019-5-28 @ 06:00

The problem is, many places in those old magazines will list an item for sale, with a price, before they ever receive it from the company. So, when you would call, they'd say "Oh yeah, it's coming in on so and so, do you want me to put you down for one? I'll call you as soon as they come in" and they never do. It was not uncommon. You can find more than one ad from that time period where they will talk about some software or hardware that seemed absolutely certain to come out, but at the very last minute, was never released, and you will be able to find ads around that time that list it, then it will disappear as soon as they are sure it will never come in.

I found a couple of old books that apparently have some information in them. I'm trying to find some cheap copies to see what they say. One is called "The Ultimate Sound Blaster Book", 1993, by Moore, and the Port Blaster is mentioned on page 48. There is also apparently some info in "Crank it up!", 1993. by Aleshire, on pages 127 and 128. There appears to be a small amount of information in "Multimedia Madness!, 1992, by Wodaski, on page 204. Apparently that's it for info outside of magazines.
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Re: Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

Postby tyukok » 2019-5-28 @ 12:17

Paralel wrote:I looked through the drivers for the other two out there, the Media Vision Audio Port, and the Street Sound Parallel Sound Card, and neither one of them offered SoundBlaster compatibility in DOS.

Can confirm, I own a StreetSound Parallel Sound Card, it's Win3.1/9x only. Also it doesn't have any MIDI functionality at all.

On topic of the Port Blaster - it might never have existed for all we know. Aside from a couple of entries in old magazines and one picture (given, apparently, by Creative themselves) there is literally NOTHING out there. Hell, even Digispeech Portable Sound had some info about it and multiple pictures from the owners (and at least one video showing it in action).
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