Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

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Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby badmojo » 2013-6-26 @ 12:34

I picked up this ISA card off the local 'bays for a buck, because I thought the combination of a real OPL3, volume knob, creative CT2501 chipset, and wave table header looked interesting.

Does anyone know anything about these things?

It's a Vibra chipset, so I chucked it into a Pentium based machine which had a Vibra16S card in it. The 16S isn't quite plug and play, but rather uses the SET BLASTER line and a call to DIAGNOSE to initialize itself. This Acer however doesn't need the call to DIAGNOSE, just SET BLASTER. I don't get that - how would I go about changing the IRQ, etc? There's a bank of jumpers on the left under JB01, but the labels (from top to bottom) are:

BA0
BA1
CD0
CD1
MPUB
MPUA
JYEN

Nothing there regarding IRQ or DMA.

The card sounds pretty good but bizarrely, the left and right signals are reversed. What's with that? If I choose Sound Blaster Pro in Duke3d, the signals are correct, but the SB16 option switches them. They're reversed in DOOM too.

And finally the Wavetable header does work at address 330, but it has the hanging note bug, which is a shame.

All told it's a strange card and I can't seem to find any information on it, so I'm hoping someone here will know how it came to be.

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Re: Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby NJRoadfan » 2013-6-26 @ 13:52

badmofo wrote:Nothing there regarding IRQ or DMA.


Is the card detected as a PnP card in the BIOS or Windows 9x? Its likely the IRQ and DMA settings are stored in NVRAM. If running DOS, the old school Intel PnP ISA Configuration Utility should be able to detect and view all the PnP settings stored in the card. Creative likely recommended CTCM/CTCU for this task as well. Most PnP cards have a bunch of preset hardware configurations on an onboard ROM.
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Re: Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby gerwin » 2013-6-26 @ 15:49

This is the first SB16 Vibra chipset. Don't have any CT2501 bases card, as the CT2502 successor seemed more desirable.

Will check if the stereo switched messed up with that CT2502... it would not suprise me, as it is a known issue with the SBPro and the waveblaster connector in general.

Indeed it is strange that 'Diagnose /s' is no longer needed. Its the same for the SB16 CT2940 (CT2502) card, I noticed that just last week. Everything works fine without it, which saves me some bootup time. :)
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Re: Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby badmojo » 2013-6-26 @ 22:22

No, Windows 95 didn't detect it as a plug and play device, but I'd already had a "sound blaster AWE/16" device setup and so this card just worked.

Gerwin, could you explain a little more about the stereo switch being messed up - is it because I was using the wave table header? Or is it just broken? How could that possibly pass testing??

It's an interesting card but it looks like my Vibra16s (which has a real OPL) wins again as my SB16 of choice.
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Re: Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby gerwin » 2013-6-26 @ 23:17

Regarding the Sound Blaster Pro reversed stereo: crossfire-designs article
Also with this card, Creative Labs obviously was a little hasty. Maybe some remember the "reverse stereo" option of some games.
According to unconfirmed statements plain and simple the first two revisions of the card swallowed (maybe also all, nobody exactly knows it) the first data byte, therefore the left channel, and then happily started playing on the left side - but with the second byte, hence the right channel!
They recognized this defect and introduced an obscure code snippet in their program examples with the headline "enable stereo playback"...


Then regarding the waveblaster connector. It has a 26 pins, two of them for left and right analog out. For the midi music of course. But it is like half of the soundcards and daughterboards out there have them one way, whilst the other half has them reversed. old topic at vogons

With the CT2940 (Vibra CT2502) Duke Nukem 3D tests as follows:
- SB16/AWE32 selected: Stereo OK
- SBPro Old selected: Mono
- SBPro 2.0 New selected: Reversed stereo (but stereo!)

The Stereo thing is a bit like that common flatscreen TV situation: Customers debating the picture quality whilst failing to notice that things are squashed because the aspect ratio is not setup correctly. It just slips through I guess.
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Re: Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby badmojo » 2013-6-27 @ 04:43

Very interesting! Thanks for the info. The Acer seems to be behaving kinda the opposite to yours - reversed stereo when used as a SB16, but correct when used as a SB Pro. All very suspicious, into the shed it goes.

Since I was fiddling around with 16 bit sound cards anyway I decided to try this CT2230 I dug out of a pile of gubbish a while back, and it's great! I know these are referred to as 'noise blasters' but I'm no audiophile, and it sounds very nice to my ears. No hanging note bug on this one either based on the Hexen -warp 02 test, so that's a bonus.

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My Vibra16S (CT2800) might have finally met it's match.
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Re: Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby bjt » 2013-6-27 @ 08:40

@ Gerwin: CT2940 is PnP isn't it? I'm using ctcm with mine anyway... are you using diagnose?

Just so I understand correctly, after the first run of diagnose /s with a new config, you just SET BLASTER and everything works without diagnose?

Very interesting that you get stereo in SB Pro 2.0 mode too, as the consensus seems to be that SB16s are mono only in SB Pro modes. Is this common to all SB16s I wonder, or just the CT2940/Vibra Pro? I think I read somewhere that Vibra Pro contains some licensed Crystal tech.
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Re: Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby gerwin » 2013-6-27 @ 13:14

bjt wrote:@ Gerwin: CT2940 is PnP isn't it? I'm using ctcm with mine anyway... are you using diagnose?

***CT2940 is often referred to as Semi-PnP because it does have a jumper for the I/O port.*** edit: not true for CT2940, goes for the CT2800.
'CTCM /T' worked with it, but normally just 'diagnose /s' was present in my autoexec.bat.

Yes, currently everything works fine with just 'Set Blaster=...' , thus without running diagnose or CTCM.
The PnP BIOS displays the card at boot with the correct resources. What NJRoadfan wrote makes sense.

The Stereo SBPro output may just be Duke3D specific, and needs more testing before pulling conclusions. Like I read that Wolf3D uses a non-standard method to obtain stereo sound.
Last edited by gerwin on 2013-6-27 @ 19:26, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby elianda » 2013-6-27 @ 14:16

Actually you have to do a SET BLASTER before calling Diagnose /S or for full PnP cards you cal CTCM and it sets BLASTER itself.
I also think that with some additional hardware on the board a Semi-PnP card can be made PnP compatible. It just requires a proper Readback on a PnP-Port and a logic that maps the saved values to the chips hardware config setup.
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Re: Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby bjt » 2013-6-27 @ 16:44

Hmm, my CT2940 doesn't have an I/O port jumper.
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Re: Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby Pingaloka » 2013-6-27 @ 16:56

badmofo wrote:Very interesting! Thanks for the info. The Acer seems to be behaving kinda the opposite to yours - reversed stereo when used as a SB16, but correct when used as a SB Pro. All very suspicious, into the shed it goes.

Since I was fiddling around with 16 bit sound cards anyway I decided to try this CT2230 I dug out of a pile of gubbish a while back, and it's great! I know these are referred to as 'noise blasters' but I'm no audiophile, and it sounds very nice to my ears. No hanging note bug on this one either based on the Hexen -warp 02 test, so that's a bonus.

Image

My Vibra16S (CT2800) might have finally met it's match.


I too have a CT2230 card with a NEC XR385 + Roland MT-32 mofo, I think that this is a great combination. It is true, is a bit noise, but in overall it has good sound + no haging note bug.
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Re: Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby Pingaloka » 2013-6-27 @ 16:56

badmofo wrote:Very interesting! Thanks for the info. The Acer seems to be behaving kinda the opposite to yours - reversed stereo when used as a SB16, but correct when used as a SB Pro. All very suspicious, into the shed it goes.

Since I was fiddling around with 16 bit sound cards anyway I decided to try this CT2230 I dug out of a pile of gubbish a while back, and it's great! I know these are referred to as 'noise blasters' but I'm no audiophile, and it sounds very nice to my ears. No hanging note bug on this one either based on the Hexen -warp 02 test, so that's a bonus.

Image

My Vibra16S (CT2800) might have finally met it's match.


I too have a CT2230 card with a NEC XR385 + Roland MT-32 mofo, I think that this is a great combination. It is true, is a bit noise, but in overall it has good sound + no haging note bug.
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Re: Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby gerwin » 2013-6-27 @ 19:20

bjt wrote:Hmm, my CT2940 doesn't have an I/O port jumper.
My mistake, It isn't the CT2940 but the CT2800 (Vibra 16S) with the I/O address jumpers: IOS0 and IOS1.
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Re: Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby gerwin » 2013-7-01 @ 22:46

badmofo wrote:Very interesting! Thanks for the info. The Acer seems to be behaving kinda the opposite to yours - reversed stereo when used as a SB16, but correct when used as a SB Pro. All very suspicious, into the shed it goes.

Since I was fiddling around with 16 bit sound cards anyway I decided to try this CT2230 I dug out of a pile of gubbish a while back, and it's great! I know these are referred to as 'noise blasters' but I'm no audiophile, and it sounds very nice to my ears. No hanging note bug on this one either based on the Hexen -warp 02 test, so that's a bonus.

My Vibra16S (CT2800) might have finally met it's match.


My latest Midi daughterboard purchase came with a similar Sound Blaster 16 card as the CT2230, it is the CT2290. The cards share the same PCB, but differ in a few components. The CT2290 was already in the 'defective card'. box, but on a closer look it is just the left-speaker output that is defective, line-out is fine.

It was tried today, and works reasonably well. DSP V4.13, No hanging note issue, contrary to all my other SB16s. (Just the expected TIE Fighter midi slowdown.) It came with the ASP/CSP chip in a socket. The mixer chip reads 'CT1745A-S '94', which I am told is a plus for the signal quality.
Still, The CT2940/CT3600 based cards do sound a little clearer to me.
The card requires me to reserve an IRQ for legacy cards in the BIOS, and requires 'Diagnose /s' at every boot. CTCM does not detect it.

This card is a good match for my single ISA slot mainboards.
Just like the Yamaha YMF-719 OPL3-SAX card, and the Acer Magic S23 (Crystal CS4232+OPL3).
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Re: Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby badmojo » 2013-7-01 @ 23:54

gerwin wrote:My latest Midi daughterboard purchase came with a similar Sound Blaster 16 card as the CT2230, it is the CT2290. The cards share the same PCB, but differ in a few components. The CT2290 was already in the 'defective card'. box, but on a closer look it is just the left-speaker output that is defective, line-out is fine.

It was tried today, and works reasonably well. DSP V4.13, No hanging note issue, contrary to all my other SB16s. (Just the expected TIE Fighter midi slowdown.) It came with the ASP/CSP chip in a socket. The mixer chip reads 'CT1745A-S '94', which I am told is a plus for the signal quality.
Still, The CT2940/CT3600 based cards do sound a little clearer to me.
The card requires me to reserve an IRQ for legacy cards in the BIOS, and requires 'Diagnose /s' at every boot. CTCM does not detect it.

This card is a good match for my single ISA slot mainboards.
Just like the Yamaha YMF-719 OPL3-SAX card, and the Acer Magic S23 (Crystal CS4232+OPL3).


What was the daughter board?

Yes I've read about the virtues of the CT2290 and in fact I'm bidding on one as we speak (no ASP chip in that one though). I'm still using the CT2230 in my Pentium machine and am really digging on it; the DB output is a little too loud, but I assume that can be adjusted in the mixer.

What's the 'tie fighter slow down' you mentioned? I've noticed that when I use the CT2230's wavetable header for MIDI with this card in Duke3D, then the game seems to stutter a bit - is this the same issue? This machine also includes an SCC1 alongside the CT2230, and if I use that for MIDI, then the stutter disappears.
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Re: Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby gerwin » 2013-7-02 @ 15:42

badmofo wrote:What was the daughter board?

It was the mighty Roland SCB-55 / SCD-15 Sound Canvas.
Unfortunately it was not well packaged and 3 line filters had broken off. I bridged these contacts then it worked fine for about a month, but now it seems to have died again. :(
badmofo wrote:Yes I've read about the virtues of the CT2290 and in fact I'm bidding on one as we speak
That is a coincidence. Do you think you will like it better then your current CT2230?
badmofo wrote:What's the 'tie fighter slow down' you mentioned? I've noticed that when I use the CT2230's wavetable header for MIDI with this card in Duke3D, then the game seems to stutter a bit - is this the same issue? This machine also includes an SCC1 alongside the CT2230, and if I use that for MIDI, then the stutter disappears.

I had strange delays, up to like 5 seconds, when running TIE fighter with sound and midi music. they tend to occur when a midi track changes. This was the case with CT2800 Vibra 16S, and with the AWE64 Gold. To some degree I also noticed it with the CT2290, but I need more time for testing that one. However, since noticing it on the AWE64, I concluded that Creative Labs never figured out how to make a proper MPU-401 UART compatible interface, probably the midi data buffering is not up to spec. True, TIE fighter does a lot of track changes, which stresses the MPU interface, but all my SB clones handle it fine.
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Re: Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby badmojo » 2013-7-03 @ 01:21

gerwin wrote:It was the mighty Roland SCB-55 / SCD-15 Sound Canvas.
Unfortunately it was not well packaged and 3 line filters had broken off. I bridged these contacts then it worked fine for about a month, but now it seems to have died again. :(


What a shame! I had a similar experience recently with a seller slapping 3 quite bulky video cards together - with not even an anti static bag between them - and just wrapping them in thin plastic. The one I actually wanted lost a capacitor.

gerwin wrote:That is a coincidence. Do you think you will like it better then your current CT2230?


I'm assuming that they'll be exactly the same, but my CT2233 came from quite a rusty machine so the stereo jacks are somewhat unreliable, so I'd like to have a backup.
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Re: Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby gerwin » 2013-7-04 @ 15:54

badmofo wrote:What's the 'tie fighter slow down' you mentioned? I've noticed that when I use the CT2230's wavetable header for MIDI with this card in Duke3D, then the game seems to stutter a bit - is this the same issue? This machine also includes an SCC1 alongside the CT2230, and if I use that for MIDI, then the stutter disappears.

When testing this yesterday in Duke Nukem 3D: the stuttering is noticable :( . Lowering the game's mixing settings to 8-bit and 22kHz seems to reduce the problem. I suppose it is the same thing as the TIE fighter slowdown. The latter game is not enjoyable with Effects and Midi Music on any ISA soundblaster, including the AWE64 and apparently the CT2230/CT2290.

badmofo wrote:What a shame! I had a similar experience recently with a seller slapping 3 quite bulky video cards together - with not even an anti static bag between them - and just wrapping them in thin plastic. The one I actually wanted lost a capacitor.
Yes, I rarely see private sellers use anti-static packaging. fortunately most cards survive this.
At least for you the broken capacitor is easily spotted and relplaced. I don't know where to start on the SCD-15 and a broken SB Pro 2.
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Re: Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby badmojo » 2013-7-04 @ 22:41

gerwin wrote:When testing this yesterday in Duke Nukem 3D: the stuttering is noticable :(


According to this thread, all build engine games are effected:

viewtopic.php?t=32066

It doesn't make sense to me that such a prominent game, and such a prominent sound card would have an incompatibility that wasn't picked up in testing (of the game) or corrected with a patch.

It's more evidence that people using an additional GM device (i.e. not included on the card like a soundscape, etc) were in the minority.
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Re: Acer Magic S30 ISA sound card - what's with this thing?

Postby badmojo » 2013-7-15 @ 10:22

I'll just add that I now have a CT2290 and it works well, but bizarrely an NEC XR385 didn't fit on to it due to the female socket on the DB clashing with the CD audio in socket on the SB16! It was a close thing though, so I was able to make the DB fit by filing down the DB socket by ~2mm.

Strange.
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