Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

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

Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby Mau1wurf1977 » 2010-10-13 @ 06:50

Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Image

What is interesting about this card?

Firstly this card used PCI. Yes there are plenty of PCI cards around, however how many of these work well with DOS Games und real DOS (Not DOS window in Windows)

Ensoniq was known for high end MIDI cards. Best example is the Ensoniq Soundscape Elite aka “THE BEAST” which you can read up in this thread:

viewtopic.php?t=26238

This card is huge, similar to the Roland LAPC-I. Ensoniq tried something new with the AudioPCI which was going after the value market! It is a highly integrated card.

As you can see on the image, there aren't many components on this card at all...

The AudioPCI is Sound Blaster compatible in regards to the digital part (Speech and Sound Effects). It also features wavetable / soundfont technology however using the

PCs system RAM instead of RAM on the sound card. This was a smart cost saving measure!

This card is compatible to General Midi and thus a great card for games that support General Midi for music and Sound Blaster for speech / sound effects.

DOS compatibility was better than Creatives own PCI cards, and that's why Creative bought Ensoniq and resold these AudioPCI cards under various model numbers (PCI64 /

PCI128 and others)

There is one huge drawback however. This card doesn't have a Yamaha OPL chip. It doesn't have a clone chip either. FM synth is emulated through wavetable / soundfont

and sounds horrible.

As an example check out how horrible Monkey Island 2 in Adlib mode sounds on the AudioPCI: http://www.mediafire.com/?3ssfllr8ukypguk

Drivers:

Now because Ensoniq was purchased by Creative, there are two drivers floating around!

1. Ensoniq Driver which will give you Soundblaster Pro, General Midi and Ensoniq Soundscape compatibility

2. Creatives Driver which will give you Soundblaster 16 and General Midi compatibility

Many games had native support for Ensoniq Soundscape. So with these games just select Soundscape. E.g. Descent, Descent2, Dark Forces and Duke Nukem 3D are all

examples of games that have native support for the Ensoniq Soundscape.

I have tested and upladed both drivers. So you are guaranteed that these drivers will work if you have a card that looks like the one in the picture above.

Ensoniq Driver:

http://www.mediafire.com/?h1me42ylqydgonh

The driver is easy to use and I have included instructions. In a nutshell copy the AUDIOPCI folder to your root directory of your C drive, then copy paste 4 lines from

the supplied AUTOEXEC.BAT into your own AUTOEXEC.BAT.

Done it's as easy as that!

I have made 4 recordings with this driver (Descent, Descent 2, Doom and Duke3D) with the 8MB soundfont. You can download them here: http://www.mediafire.com/?fuf3met15ixpqer


Creative Driver:

Note that this driver will give you SB16 and General Midi compatibility, but Soundscape support doesn't work!

http://www.mediafire.com/?s1yi2mb6ddht0n7

I have uploaded the DOS drivers and the 2, 4 and 8MB soundfont files. In order to switch soundfonts just edit SBPCI.CFG and edit this line:

SynthFile=C:\DOSDRV\eapci2m.ecw

Replace the 2 with a 4 or 8 and reboot the machine. mem/c should show you the memory being used.

I highly recommend the 8MB soundfont. It sounds quite good considering how cheap these cards are!

I did two recordings. Each was done with 2, 4 and 8MB soundfont. The Games are Doom the first level (E1M1) and the Dark Forces (The Intro).

It's a big ZIP file with all the recordings: http://www.mediafire.com/?b1z1vta58ec8m88


In a nutshell

This is a really cheap card. Very useful if you have a machine without any ISA slots and would like to play old DOS games. It's ideal for Games that support General

Midi for music and Sound Blaster for speech / sound effects...[/b]
Last edited by Mau1wurf1977 on 2010-12-14 @ 14:25, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby retro games 100 » 2010-10-13 @ 10:03

I think changing the soundfonts can be done inside System -> Control Panel -> Multimedia. Also, this card has an interesting history. The first cards were called AudioPCI, and had Ensoniq written on the main chip. I think the chip was labelled ES1370. When Creative got involved, they upgraded the chip a couple of times, and renamed the chip to ES1371 and then ES1373. The following Wikipedia webpage has quite a lot of info about it -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ensoniq_AudioPCI
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Re: Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby Mau1wurf1977 » 2010-10-13 @ 10:06

I'm DOS only. No Windows...

I should install W95 it seems. I have so many folders it's getting hard to navigate in DOS :-)
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Re: Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby buckrogers » 2010-10-13 @ 10:13

Thanks for a very useful summary. I would also add that another drawback is the need for EMM386 to be loaded in order for the sound card to work in DOS, which prevents some older games from running (e.g., Ultima 7, Turrican 2, just to name a couple).

With many (though not all) gravitating to external midi devices (e.g., MT-32, CM-32L, SC-55, etc.), to be used via dosbox and/or a real DOS install, I was wondering whether such a card (or perhaps an Aureal Vortex based card instead), when used to provide just SB pro/16 digital effects, and midi out via gameport, but not midi music (or OPL for that matter), negates the need for a mobo with an ISA slot?

That is, is the quality of the SB pro/16 digital effects (but not music), and general DOS compatibility, good enough, that one could feel content without an ISA-based sound card installed?
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Re: Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby retro games 100 » 2010-10-13 @ 10:21

Good point. If you look at this thread, you can even have wavetable tunes in DOS, and no ISA slot in sight!
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Re: Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby Mau1wurf1977 » 2010-10-13 @ 10:47

Hehe now I can just run to my Retro corner and try all this stuff out instead of wondering about it LOL

Yes good point regarding EMM386. And indeed it doesn't start :-(

I also tried hooking up a Roland through the joystick port, no luck. The sound still comes out though the speaker out port on the AudioPCI. I checked the SBPCI.CFG file but couldn't see an option to use the external midi port.

Maybe the W95 driver support this?
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Re: Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby Davros » 2010-10-13 @ 10:48

Mau1wurf1977 wrote: I have so many folders it's getting hard to navigate in DOS :-)


norton commander or a clone
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Re: Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby Mau1wurf1977 » 2010-10-13 @ 11:11

Hmm the more I test the more games I find that crash with Sound Blaster sound.

General Midi however works fine. Space Quest 4 and 5 sound really good!

In SQ4 I updated the Sound Blaster driver (patch for faster cpu) but after a while the speech will just loop. Space Quest 5 doesn't start with Sound Blaster enabled. Midi only works well however.

Back to Square One LOL
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Re: Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby Mau1wurf1977 » 2010-10-13 @ 12:54

Hmm so I installed W98SE. All good. Loaded Intel chipset driver (for 440BX), Nvidia Video driver (for TNT2) and Creative driver (for PCI128 which is a AudioPCI). Everything works I can hear sound.

But there is not even a Creative control panel or any software allowing me to change anything at all :-(

I miss MS-DOS allready LOL

I think I will load 6.22 again tomorrow
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Re: Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby retro games 100 » 2010-10-13 @ 13:22

Have you tried looking in Control Panel -> System -> relevant device
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Re: Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby Mau1wurf1977 » 2010-10-13 @ 13:40

Will check it out tomorrow!

I also have 2 Voodoo cards I quickly want to test.

Any Game demos I can use to test these while I still have W98SE installed? But there should also be DOS games that work with the Voodoo 2 right?
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Re: Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby retro games 100 » 2010-10-13 @ 14:18

How about Unreal and/or Unreal tournament?
Not sure about DOS V2 demos...perhaps check out falconfly.de? They may have a demos section.
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Re: Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby rfnagel » 2010-10-13 @ 15:09

FWIW those "ECW" files are _not_ soundfonts, but rather "Ensoniq Concert Wavesets". The Ensoniq sound card isn't soundfont compatable at all, and can only use those three wavesets for it's DOS and Windows MIDI music playback.

BTW, the Creative Labs' Sound Blaster Live and Audigy cards use those same wavesets (and similar, if not the exact same) DOS drivers for their DOS MIDI music playback. Also, in Windows, the Live and Audigy's "SBLive Software Synthesizer" uses those same wavesets (along with soundfont support for their "Synth A" and "Synth B" Windows MIDI devices).

In a nutchell, IMHO, the best bet for a sound card that does similar things and has similar features would be an old Sound Blaster Live "Value" edition... as in addition to the DOS ECW MIDI drivers, it also supports true soundfonts within Windows; and can be had for as little as US$12 bucks :)

Just my 2 cents...


(edit) P.S.

Here's a dir listing of the DOS drivers for my SBLive:

Code: Select all
01/01/2009  12:00 AM               350 CTSYN.INI
01/01/1999  03:00 AM         2,259,070 EAPCI2M.ECW
01/01/1997  03:00 AM         4,986,999 EAPCI4M.ECW
01/01/1999  05:00 AM         8,292,462 EAPCI8M.ECW
04/08/1999  01:01 AM            10,811 PSBEG.BIN
06/23/1999  03:00 AM               839 SBECFG.CFG
07/06/2001  04:00 AM            31,133 SBECFG.EXE
07/06/2001  03:01 AM           272,064 SBECORE.BIN
03/27/2001  03:00 AM           200,900 SBEGO.EXE
07/06/2001  05:00 AM             5,853 SBEINIT.COM
07/06/2001  04:00 AM            16,995 SBELOAD.EXE
11/24/1999  01:04 AM            60,496 SBEMIXER.EXE
11/04/1998  01:02 AM            34,187 SBESET.EXE
09/17/1998  01:00 AM             6,064 SBESET.TXT


...and the contents of my "CTSYN.INI" file:

Code: Select all
[CTSyn.drv]
SBEnable=True
JoyEnable=True
Waveset=C:\SBLIVE\EAPCI8M.ECW
PCIPort=E400
PCIIRQ=12
OPLPort=388
MPUPort=330
SBPort=220
SBIRQ=5
SBDMALO=1
SBDMAHI=5
JoyPort=200

[SBEMixer]
MasterVolL=192
MasterVolR=192
WaveVolL=192
WaveVolR=192
CDVolL=192
CDVolR=192
SynthVolL=192
SynthVolR=192
MT32=False
DigitalSpeakerEnable=False
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Re: Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby swaaye » 2010-10-13 @ 18:08

Yup, Creative bought Ensoniq and made use of their DOS hardware virtualization/emulation tech. They added SB16 support in DOS (dropped Soundscape support). The driver is used all the way up to Audigy 2, I think. It definitely has issues with some games and EMM386 is a nasty caveat.

Aureal has a very usable DOS driver too. A neat thing about it is that the Aureal cards have a wavetable header and it does work in DOS. It is SBPro-capable for digital sound but has no 16-bit choice. It does not need EMM386 but it is still not 100% compatible.

I don't really like AudioPCI that much. It's too barebones and it has PCI issues sometimes. It seems to suffer from PCI bus contention more than a Live or Vortex card. Also, AudioPCI has zero hardware acceleration for 3D sound and it has no hardware MIDI synth at all so in Windows it is nothing compared to a Live! or even a Vortex. Live has an awesome MIDI synth that gets overlooked too much I think.

The ES1370 isn't able to play all sample rates properly. 48 KHz, for example, plays slightly higher pitched I think. I found this out a year ago or so. I think it's designed for 11.025, 22.05 and 44.1 KHz. It is the only member of the family that can play without resampling and this is both a plus and a caveat depending on what you want to play. Playing movies that are all 48 KHz gets you out of pitch audio.

BTW, that Wikipedia article was mostly written by me lol. I was an Ensoniq nut starting in 1994 and followed AudioPCI from the first rumors in 1996 and bought one in 1997. It was nice to have a PCI sound card but I was disappointed that my giant Soundscape card could sound better in MIDI. Way better before the 8MB patch set showed up. And I had lots of pops and static because my Voodoo1 and the AudioPCI didnt get along well (bus contention thing). Then I got a Live! and never looked back.

There are a few different AudioPCI cards apparently, using the various ES137x chips. These were just rebranded by Creative for the 4-5 cards they sold based on these chips.
http://www.yjfy.com/Museum/sound/Ensoniq.htm
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Re: Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby retro games 100 » 2010-10-13 @ 18:52

Great posts people.
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Re: Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby ux-3 » 2010-10-13 @ 18:54

Mau1wurf1977 wrote:Yes there are plenty of PCI cards around, however how many of these work well with DOS Games und real DOS (Not DOS window in Windows)



I haven't read the thread, but when it comes to SB pro FM compatibility under DOS, ESS Solo1 has been my choice. I have not yet heard a card, that sounds more like the real thing than the Solo1 (mind you: PCI)
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Re: Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby swaaye » 2010-10-13 @ 19:22

ESS had an interesting "ESFM" synth that they claimed was a superset of OPL3. I just ordered myself a ES1869 ISA card to play with.
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Re: Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby rfnagel » 2010-10-13 @ 19:37

swaaye wrote:Live has an awesome MIDI synth that gets overlooked too much I think.


Hehe, (if ya know me) not by me <grin> :)


swaaye wrote:A neat thing about it is that the Aureal cards have a wavetable header and it does work in DOS.


Hmmm... that may be a solution for me so's I can install my old Wave Blaster (1) in my current rig (in conjunction with my Live) :)


(edit) Well DUH! I just remembered that I have a Diamond Multimedia sound card (IIRC a "MonsterSound MX300") laying around somewhere... which is based on the Aureal chipset, and has the wavetable daughterboard connector on it :)

Heh, now I'll have to go digging through all of my old crapola <grin>...
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Re: Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby swaaye » 2010-10-13 @ 20:56

The 2MB AudioPCI guitar sounds like the Soundscape Elite's. But the bigger patch sets change the guitar out and it sounds much better. Interesting. The older Soundscape has a better guitar too actually.

There doesn't seem to be any effects on AudioPCI output in DOS. Makes it sound very dry, like the regular Soundscape card. Elite has some reverb and chorus enabled by default and you can tweak it with sysex commands.

AudioPCI MIDI definitely appears to be 22 KHz audio. The 11 KHz cutoff is easily seen on a graphic equalizer (Winamp Ozone plugin here). This would explain why the Soundscape cards sound much crisper/fuller/wider. They seem to operate at 44.1 KHz or so.

The 8MB patch set is hardly an improvement over the 4MB. They must have been limited by the hardware.
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Re: Ensoniq / Creative AudioPCI

Postby MrKsoft » 2010-10-13 @ 21:37

My PII/450 that I used for several years had an integrated AudioPCI on the motherboard. I'm actually quite attached to the MIDI sound of it... it has this extremely "clear" quality to it, especially the percussion, that other MIDI sample sets seem to lack. (Although this might be an Ensoniq thing, as my Soundscape VIVO comes close as well) Still brings me back a little rush of nostalgia when I hear it.

I notice however you guys are talking about it topping off at 22Khz which is strange to me because it certainly seems like my AudioPCI was clearer and probably at a full 44Khz (it sounds closer to the linked Soundscape Elite recordings thread). Listening to the Doom recordings from the first post, I can hear the loss in quality compared to what I remember. It's definitely noticable in the percussion where I don't feel they have as much definition. I'd like to check this out in more detail, as perhaps Ensoniq improved the playback quality in later revisions (or there is a difference because mine is integrated). It'll take a bit though since I need to reinstall Windows on that thing.
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