Keep DBs off (most) SB16s!!

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Keep DBs off (most) SB16s!!

Postby swaaye » 2007-4-08 @ 22:16

OMG.

I've spent about 12 hours now trying to figure out the best soundcard setup for a PPRO rig I have. I've discovered that the SB16s have one horrible MPU401 waveblaster header. Stuck notes, off key nonsense, and more. I tried 2 PnP SB16s and a AWE32! Nevermind that the sound quality is notably inferior to what I hear when I stick this SCD15 onto a Vortex-based PCI card.

I really wanted to have the option of 16-bit audio for DOS. But I'm done with SB16. Oh, and the AWE32s have the same problems! And those cards are damn near useless for DOS MIDI unless you can put a DB on them. Too bad nobody ever wrote a SF2 loader for DOS!

I also have a selection of Ensoniq boards at my disposal, but the Roland SCD15 just sounds so much better than even the Sounscape Elite. And the Soundscapes stutter in 9x.

So, right now, my recommended DOS sound card (if you need to use a DB) is the Diamond Monster Sound MX300! What's up with that ?! A Vortex 2 for DOS?! Heh. They sound great and they just work! They sound a lot better than Creative's ISA cards. Too bad about the digital audio being only SBPro compatible though. But 99% of DOS games aren't using 16-bit audio anyway.

I've only been testing with Wing Commander III and Dark Forces though. So I'm sure there are plenty of titles that will not like Vortex 2. Just because, of course.

Turtle Beach Montego A3D (Vortex 1) has a bum joystick port, btw. Too bad about that. Nice card otherwise.

Oh, and get this: if you want to use a SB16 w/ a DB and have a CH Products Flightstick, you will have to cut pin 12 off the joystick's plug! Otherwise if you plug in the joystick, the DB stops playing! Apparently it conflicts with the MIDI receive on the SB's joystick/midi out jack (it's dual purpose after all). Nice! It took me forever to figure that one out. Thanks Google Groups! But, still, don't use SB16 for DBs.

What a nightmare! Welcome back to DOS! :)
Last edited by swaaye on 2007-5-22 @ 21:02, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Keep DBs off SB16s!!

Postby swaaye » 2007-4-09 @ 05:58

Oh no.

Vortex 2's DOS digital audio doesn't play nice with Wing 3. Pops, crackles, missing sounds. Ick. So, I dropped in that Ensoniq Soundscape Elite after all. With some BIOS PNP tweaking I managed to clear up two IRQs and two DMA for the darned thing. Reserving ISA IRQs in there is the key to success.

So, basically, that Monster Sound MX300 is now my PCI version of the Roland MPU-401. It is a nice host for that SCD-15. And the Soundscape does the digital audio duties (it has some nice and clean 16-bit 48KHz support). If I really want to switch to the Soundscape MIDI, I configured it as port 320 while the SCD-15 is at 330.

Puters were so much more fun to set up back in the day! Heh.
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Re: Keep DBs off SB16s!!

Postby Great Hierophant » 2007-4-09 @ 13:52

Any card that claims SBPro compatibility that isn't an SBPro is likely only fully compatible with an SBPro 2.0 (which includes SB 1.5 and SB 2.0 compatibility.) It won't be compatible with a game that takes full advantage of an SBPro 1.0's FM capabilities.

AWE32s, PnP SB16, or SB16s without true OPL3 chips are fairly useless when it comes to midi. You may have some luck with a CT-1740, CT-1750 or CT-1770 with a DSP of 4.05.

Have you encounted any of those "Stuck notes, off key nonsense, and more?" with the MX300 + SCD-15 combo?
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Re: Keep DBs off SB16s!!

Postby pianoman72 » 2007-4-09 @ 15:13

I am using a CH Flightstick Pro in conjunction with the Yamaha DB-50XG daughterboard that is attached to my SB16 (CT-1740).

So far, I have had excellent results playing Descent 1 in pure DOS. However, playing Tie Fighter and Extreme Assault have been less than stellar. The whole game hangs for quite a few seconds in Tie Fighter, and Extreme Assault drops the Daughterboard sound altogether right when I start any mission. I can only hear the soundblaster digital sound as a result.

So, it's a mixed bag, I guess. That's why I try using my Roland SCC-1 in most games that require General Midi sound, but I'm glad that Descent works perfectly with my Yamaha DB, since I prefer its sound over the Roland's in that particular game.
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Re: Keep DBs off SB16s!!

Postby swaaye » 2007-4-09 @ 19:39

Great Hierophant wrote:Any card that claims SBPro compatibility that isn't an SBPro is likely only fully compatible with an SBPro 2.0 (which includes SB 1.5 and SB 2.0 compatibility.) It won't be compatible with a game that takes full advantage of an SBPro 1.0's FM capabilities.

AWE32s, PnP SB16, or SB16s without true OPL3 chips are fairly useless when it comes to midi. You may have some luck with a CT-1740, CT-1750 or CT-1770 with a DSP of 4.05.

Have you encounted any of those "Stuck notes, off key nonsense, and more?" with the MX300 + SCD-15 combo?


I'm not using FM. And I'm not ever going to use an AWE's built-in MIDI. Yes, apparently the very old SB16s work ok with DBs. But I already have 3 SB16s (2 w/ waveblaster header), an AWE32 (w/ waveblaster header), a SB32, and an AWE64 Gold. I don't plan on owning any more of that line.

I've actually read that the Creative cards pre-AWE64 are actually at best about 12-bit quality. Apparently a combination of the poor noise floor and preamps. I can't get over the amount of noise on the outputs of those cards. The Ensoniq cards are really a class ahead of that. And there's the poor signal response (which I noticed when I put the SCD15 on the MX300). The SCD15 on MX300 was just an eye-opening improvement which I noticed instantly through seriously better bass response and overall clarity. I can't believe Creative made SB16s and AWEs for years with what seems to be defective MPU-401 headers. Check the link in the post below.

The MX300+SCD-15 has been flawless for MIDI quality. I've played a few hours of Wing Commander 3 and Dark Forces and the problems that were there with the SB cards are gone. MX300's SBPRO digital audio support in DOS didn't work quite perfectly with Wing 3, so I put in the Soundscape Elite which works flawlessly and has excellent digital audio quality with with the games that support it natively (everything I play).

If a game doesn't support the Soundscape, I'll just fall back on the MX300 for its SBPRO support. And if that still doesn't work (you never know!), the Soundscape has a SB 2.0 emulation mode that I can enable.
Last edited by swaaye on 2007-4-09 @ 20:08, edited 10 times in total.
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Re: Keep DBs off SB16s!!

Postby swaaye » 2007-4-09 @ 19:44

pianoman72 wrote:I am using a CH Flightstick Pro in conjunction with the Yamaha DB-50XG daughterboard that is attached to my SB16 (CT-1740).

So far, I have had excellent results playing Descent 1 in pure DOS. However, playing Tie Fighter and Extreme Assault have been less than stellar. The whole game hangs for quite a few seconds in Tie Fighter, and Extreme Assault drops the Daughterboard sound altogether right when I start any mission. I can only hear the soundblaster digital sound as a result.

So, it's a mixed bag, I guess. That's why I try using my Roland SCC-1 in most games that require General Midi sound, but I'm glad that Descent works perfectly with my Yamaha DB, since I prefer its sound over the Roland's in that particular game.


If you do a Google Groups search for "stuck notes sb16" you'll find out just how bad the cards can be. You probably have a SB16 with one of the oldest DSP versions, which apparently do work ok.

http://groups.google.com/groups?q=stuck ... a=N&tab=wg
Convenient link for ya. In Dark Forces this is a major problem. Not only did I get stuck notes with all of my SB cards w/ waveblaster headers, but on one of the SB16s it actually was playing out of tune! And, the stuck notes tend to be screetchingly high pitched and stay stuck for like 5-10 mins.

Does your Flightstick Pro have a pin at pin 12 on its connector? That was the problem for me with my SB16. Pin 12 is MIDI receive and Flightstick (non pro) was using it as a ground. My Flightstick is the oldest component I still own (from like '92). It never caused me a problem until I stuck it on these Creative cards (and then only with a DB). Somebody messed up with the pin-out (probably CH).

I actually have a Flightstick Pro USB. Bought it a year ago or so. CH's lineup is just about the best I've used, IMO. Now if the game companies would just make me some new games to use them with.
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Re: Keep DBs off SB16s!!

Postby pianoman72 » 2007-4-09 @ 21:20

Yes, my Creative SB16 seems to be the first 16-bit Creative card that came on the market, and I can confirm Great Hierophant's statement that it does have the DSP version 4.05.

It functions very well for me in most games, even with the daughterboard that I mentioned, and I can add System Shock to the successful games as well. Except for the games that I mentioned in my previous post, this combo works well for me.

I checked my Flightstick Pro pin layout, and it seems that all 15 pins are in place on the connector. I use the SB16 gameport for the joystick, and I never had a problem so far with any flight simulators.

I'm sorry that you are having problems with your SB card, but if you can get the CT-1740 I think it will serve you well for the most part. I got mine for only $5 or so on Ebay a few months ago.
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Re: Keep DBs off SB16s!!

Postby swaaye » 2007-4-09 @ 22:18

Yup you got the right one.

The problem is if you'd bought anything newer (i.e. the majority of AWE32/SB16s), the DB wouldn't work right. So I think it is worth looking into just what is the best card for DBs and DOS games. SB16 is just not a reliable selection, and its sound quality is rather bad (on all 5 SB ISA cards I have).

The absolute best way to run a DB though is undoubtedly the Roland MPU-401AT card. But that thing is extraordinarily rare. Still, from what I've experienced so far, the Monster Sound MX300 or Turtle Beach Montego A3D (both Vortex cards, so prolly any Vortex board) are excellent hosts for a DB, even in DOS. And these cards have significantly higher fidelity audio circuitry onboard compared to an ISA SB. One quirk though is that Aureal's driver forces you to use the joystick port on the Aureal card. I can't figure out a way to reconfigure its address (although now that I think about I haven't tried manually adjusting it within 98). Even disabling it inside Windows (which also disables it in the DOS driver) doesn't let me use the joystick port on the Soundscape.

I've been wondering about the ESS Audiodrive cards. They have quite good SB compatibility and I think some of them have waveblaster headers. I also have a Philips Seismic Edge PCI card that has a waveblaster header that I will have to try out.

It's just shocking to me to find out that so many of the ISA SB cards have this issue with DBs. Until a few days ago I was pushing the opinion that SB16 + DB was a sure fire way to go. But it definitely is not if you get one of the SB16s or AWE32s with the bad DSPs.
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Re: Keep DBs off SB16s!!

Postby Great Hierophant » 2007-4-09 @ 22:28

I'm off daughtercards whenever possible. I have found a module replacement for my SCB-55 and am always on the lookout for the DB-50XG's replacement.

I agree that the Roland MPU-401AT is the best device for quality daughtercards like the ones described above. Crap daughtercards like the Waveblaster, produce distortion at their maximum volumes because the card does not have a built-in mixer like the SB16s do. Of course, anyone who connects a Waveblaster (I or II) to a Roland MPU-401AT for use (as opposed to just testing) does not deserve to own a Roland MPU-401AT.
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Re: Keep DBs off SB16s!!

Postby Cloudschatze » 2007-4-10 @ 23:18

Great Hierophant wrote:Crap daughtercards like the Waveblaster...


The Wave Blaster is actually one of the more interesting/capable daughterboards. It's equivalent to an E-MU SoundEngine (Proteus), and shares more than a few similarities with ye old MT-32. From a gaming perspective, you might look elsewhere, but otherwise, it's really rather neat. If the SCI0 Proteus driver/patches ever surface, it might even become more so.

Of course, anyone who connects a Waveblaster (I or II) to a Roland MPU-401AT for use (as opposed to just testing) does not deserve to own a Roland MPU-401AT.


It isn't reasonable to condemn the use of a WB (or any other DB) with an MPU-401AT.

Besides, I don't have daughterboards on two MPU-401ATs presently, so I suppose I'm infinitely undeserving. :dead:
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Re: Keep DBs off SB16s!!

Postby Great Hierophant » 2007-4-10 @ 23:59

The Wave Blaster is actually one of the more interesting/capable daughterboards. It's equivalent to an E-MU SoundEngine (Proteus), and shares more than a few similarities with ye old MT-32. From a gaming perspective, you might look elsewhere, but otherwise, it's really rather neat. If the SCI0 Proteus driver/patches ever surface, it might even become more so.


I have heard that there is an external version of the card, marketed by Creative and called the "Midi Blaster." However, are you referring to the Waveblaster or Waveblaster II? The latter includes the same EMU8000 processor as on the AWE32. Naturally, it has no particular value for gaming because the AWE32 can do the same thing.

It isn't reasonable to condemn the use of a WB (or any other DB) with an MPU-401AT.

Besides, I don't have daughterboards on two MPU-401ATs presently, so I suppose I'm infinitely undeserving


I believe that such an important and useful piece of hardware like the MPU-401AT should be put to better purpose, at least for gaming, than being paired with such a lousy sounding card as the Waveblaster. People who own and use such a device should keep it for the first (Roland SCB-55 & Yamaha DB-50XG) or second tier (Roland SCB-7 & Ensoniq Soundscape)Waveblaster cards.
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Re: Keep DBs off SB16s!!

Postby dirkmirk » 2007-5-22 @ 11:57

Hi, I just bought this "Roland MPU-401/MPU-IPC/MPU-IPC-T" card and breakout box, I put lazy bet on it and won it for $11 AUS (about $8) delivered, however im not sure what use it is, I can connect this to external sound modules? And would that be better than a soundblaster? And I assume it has no daughterboard connection?
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Re: Keep DBs off SB16s!!

Postby 5u3 » 2007-5-22 @ 13:16

dirkmirk wrote:Hi, I just bought this "Roland MPU-401/MPU-IPC/MPU-IPC-T" card and breakout box, I put lazy bet on it and won it for $11 AUS (about $8) delivered, however im not sure what use it is, I can connect this to external sound modules?

Congratulations on getting one so cheap :wink:
Yes, you can connect external modules to this card.

dirkmirk wrote:And would that be better than a soundblaster?

Yeah, the Roland MPU interfaces are the "original", they work perfectly with all games that support MT-32 or General MIDI. Certainly superior to a Soundblaster MIDI interface.

dirkmirk wrote:And I assume it has no daughterboard connection?

That depends on the model you got. A MPU-IPC(-T) does not have a wavetable daughterboard connector, while a MPU-401/AT has one.
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Re: Keep DBs off (most) SB16s!!

Postby dirkmirk » 2007-5-25 @ 13:33

COOL! ALL I need now is a SC-55 or an MT-32
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Re: Keep DBs off SB16s!!

Postby samudra » 2007-6-20 @ 00:09

swaaye wrote:I've been wondering about the ESS Audiodrive cards. They have quite good SB compatibility and I think some of them have waveblaster headers. I also have a Philips Seismic Edge PCI card that has a waveblaster header that I will have to try out.


I use a Terratec Gold 16/96 (ESS1868) with a Yamaha DB-60XG besides a GUS MAX, SB16 and LAPC-1 in one system.

Could you name any of the titles you use(d) to test? I'll check out the result as well.
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