How's the AWE64?

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

Re: How's the AWE64?

Postby appiah4 » 2018-9-06 @ 10:12

The Serpent Rider wrote:
Why is the Yamaha OPL3 a thing and why should I give more than a Plank length about it?

You shouldn't. CQM is good enough. It's just sounds different in some cases, but not bad as some people may claim.


It's subjective. I feel CQM sounds just fine, but it is definitely not as good as OPL3. But then, OPL3 is not OPL3, it can vary wildly from card to card depending on what clockspeed it is run at and what kind of filtering it uses. For example, PAS OPL3 is vastly different from SB16 OPL3.

Personally, I find properly filtered ESFM to be the most pleasant among FM implementations that obviously try to mimic OPL3. As for variant OPL3s, I think Crystal's FM sounds very, very nice.

I have a pet project whereby I do an in depth comparison/analysis of OPl3/ESFM/Crystal/Aztech/FM801/Aureal synthesis for classic FM soundtracks like Dune and Dune2.. I will do this, some day.

As for the OP's question, AWE64 is a great card, I use it for 96-98 era Win9x builds as its MIDI capabilities are best suited for this OS. I think the CQM vs OPL3 thing is overblown, and the low noise level makes it a great choice for this period. Serdaco (http://www.serdashop.com) still make and sell SIMMCONN adapters for SIMM upgrade modules to this card, though pairing it with an SB Live! and routing its LO to Live!'s LI is usually a cheaper option.

I also have an AWE32 (OPL3 version) that I use or 93-95 era DOS builds. Its MT32 emulation and wavetable header make it a much more valuable card for such builds to me.
Last edited by appiah4 on 2018-9-06 @ 14:57, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How's the AWE64?

Postby 33oldnew » 2018-9-06 @ 13:35

appiah4 wrote:
The Serpent Rider wrote:
But then, OPL3 is not OPL3, it can vary wildly from card to card

I fully agree

IMO, a good YMF262 application will give the best sound. But maybe less then 5% of sound cards have it.
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Re: How's the AWE64?

Postby Intel486dx33 » 2018-9-07 @ 03:08

aries-mu wrote:Hey guys,

why do I get the feeling that the retrocomputing (DOS / Win 3.xx environments) experts don't really like the AWE64 and tend to prefer the AWE32 or earlier models?

Thanks!


MS-Windows 3x has built in vanilla Sound blaster 16 compatible drivers.
So any Sound Blaster ISA card will work with Win3x and NT351.
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Re: How's the AWE64?

Postby Azarien » 2018-9-07 @ 08:07

dr_st wrote:People who specifically value Sound Blaster Pro compatibility and/or genuine Yamaha OPL3 FM synthesis do not like the AWE64, because it has neither.


What's wrong with AWE64's SBPro compatibility and what is the impact of this in terms of game support?

aries-mu wrote:why do I get the feeling that the retrocomputing (DOS / Win 3.xx environments) experts don't really like the AWE64 and tend to prefer the AWE32 or earlier models?

AWE64 has a proprietary memory module connector and it's hard to get compatible memory or adapter. AWE32 has standard 30-pin SIMM slot which are/were much more common.
And there's this OPL3 vs CQM thing that I personally do not care much about.

Intel486dx33 wrote:MS-Windows 3x has built in vanilla Sound blaster 16 compatible drivers.
So any Sound Blaster ISA card will work with Win3x and NT351.


But AWE64 is a PnP card that needs to be initialized first. This could be done with ctcm /s in Win3x and a standard SB driver should work (but why not just use proper drivers then), but I think NT needs a driver dedicated for AWE64 because of this.
Last edited by Azarien on 2018-9-07 @ 08:15, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: How's the AWE64?

Postby leileilol » 2018-9-07 @ 08:08

Intel486dx33 wrote:MS-Windows 3x has built in vanilla Sound blaster 16 compatible drivers.
So any Sound Blaster ISA card will work with Win3x and NT351.


It's Win3.1 that ships with SB 2.0 drivers which doesn't provide full functionality for the AWE, 16 or even Pro.

AWE64 does have proper Win 3.1 drivers on disc. You'll find them in \Win31\

appiah4 wrote:It's subjective. I feel CQM sounds just fine, but it is definitely not as good as OPL3. But then, OPL3 is not OPL3, it can vary wildly from card to card depending on what clockspeed it is run at and what kind of filtering it uses. For example, PAS OPL3 is vastly different from SB16 OPL3.


"CQM is just fine" until Doom E2M2 is heard. I feel missing polyphony is a bigger deal than it sounding buzzy or differently filtered.
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Re: How's the AWE64?

Postby appiah4 » 2018-9-07 @ 08:56

leileilol wrote:"CQM is just fine" until Doom E2M2 is heard. I feel missing polyphony is a bigger deal than it sounding buzzy or differently filtered.


I just listened and yes, I can tell the difference (though 'butchered' sounds to me like an exaggeration) but the real question here is: why play Doom with FM music when you can play with AWE32 music? This criticism handwaves its greatest asset while focusing on an isolated case incompatibility. The thing is, for all older games that do not support AWE32/GM (which are incidentally mostly OPL2 modes with low polyphony anyway) CQM sounds simply less filtered and more metallic, and slightly higher pitch.
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Re: How's the AWE64?

Postby aries-mu » 2018-9-07 @ 19:02

Wow, this discussion is turning more and more interesting! Thanks for your contributions!
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Re: How's the AWE64?

Postby dr_st » 2018-9-08 @ 10:34

aries-mu wrote:Wow, this discussion is turning more and more interesting! Thanks for your contributions!
Told you that OPL vs non-OPL discussions always open cans of worms. ;)

leileilol wrote:"CQM is just fine" until Doom E2M2 is heard. I feel missing polyphony is a bigger deal than it sounding buzzy or differently filtered.
Is there a good OPL3 rendition of this tune on Youtube for comparison? The CQM version can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ddqb4U_dQoY

appiah4 wrote:I just listened and yes, I can tell the difference (though 'butchered' sounds to me like an exaggeration) but the real question here is: why play Doom with FM music when you can play with AWE32 music? This criticism handwaves its greatest asset while focusing on an isolated case incompatibility.
Precisely. That's usually how these discussions go. Built-in AWE synth compatibility is often ignored by CQM bashers, but I can understand this, if you look at a broader context: CQM is not present only on the AWE64, but on many SB16 variants as well; those SB16 variants have no redeeming features to offset the loss of genuine OPL3.
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Re: How's the AWE64?

Postby aries-mu » 2018-9-08 @ 13:56

dr_st wrote:Told you that OPL vs non-OPL discussions always open cans of worms. ;)


LOL! :-D

dr_st wrote:Precisely. That's usually how these discussions go. Built-in AWE synth compatibility is often ignored by CQM bashers, but I can understand this, if you look at a broader context: CQM is not present only on the AWE64, but on many SB16 variants as well; those SB16 variants have no redeeming features to offset the loss of genuine OPL3.


Right!

Thanks man
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Re: How's the AWE64?

Postby oeuvre » 2018-9-08 @ 16:27

i'm just waiting for OPL5
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Re: How's the AWE64?

Postby shamino » 2018-9-08 @ 17:27

appiah4 wrote:the real question here is: why play Doom with FM music when you can play with AWE32 music?

Doom with AWE32 instruments sounds weird and wrong to me. It's a novelty to play with but I don't really like it.
Maybe it's just because I started with an SBPro, but the music in the DOOM games doesn't sound like it was meant to be played that way. It starts with the title screen where it immediately sounds like something is broken.
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Re: How's the AWE64?

Postby dr_st » 2018-9-08 @ 18:40

shamino wrote:Doom with AWE32 instruments sounds weird and wrong to me. It's a novelty to play with but I don't really like it.
Maybe it's just because I started with an SBPro, but the music in the DOOM games doesn't sound like it was meant to be played that way. It starts with the title screen where it immediately sounds like something is broken.
I do understand you, and even agree. The AWE synth sounds "richer" than the FM (well, what do you expect?), but not necessarily nicer. I think it's in part because what you (and me) were used to (I also first played it with an SBPro, or more specifically, an SBPro-clone, ESS688). But also, I think that the MIDI tracks for DOOM were arranged on the SC55 or some similar Roland, no? That's what I would expect; no one would bother to readjust the instruments to sound "correct" on an AWE32. Heh, at least it's not as bad as playing it on a GUS.

For example, the track that sounds worst to me on the AWE is "Demons on the Prey" (E1M7 etc). The volume balance is so different, that the main theme is completely overshadowed by the drums. There is also some chirp in the middle of the track, which has got to be a bug - it's just so horrible. Even GUS sounds better in this one; but most of the DOOM tracks on AWE are not as bad.
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Re: How's the AWE64?

Postby The Serpent Rider » 2018-9-08 @ 19:30

You can always use better soundfont.
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Re: How's the AWE64?

Postby firage » 2018-9-08 @ 20:15

MIDI soundtracks just generally have lots of little problems with many/most GM implementations including SoundFonts. I mostly only trust in Roland and Yamaha.

Doom has an exceptional OPL soundtrack. It's about on par with GM to me despite being lower tech; can totally see how some would even prefer FM.
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Re: How's the AWE64?

Postby leileilol » 2018-9-08 @ 21:31

shamino wrote: It starts with the title screen where it immediately sounds like something is broken.

Doom's got a special adlib title screen track and you're hearing that.
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Re: How's the AWE64?

Postby dr_st » 2018-12-07 @ 20:22

dr_st wrote:For example, the track that sounds worst to me on the AWE is "Demons on the Prey" (E1M7 etc). The volume balance is so different, that the main theme is completely overshadowed by the drums. There is also some chirp in the middle of the track, which has got to be a bug - it's just so horrible. Even GUS sounds better in this one; but most of the DOOM tracks on AWE are not as bad.
Actually, having just listened to the song in the SC-55 music pack, I take this particular part back; that garbage is not an AWE glitch, it really is part of the track. :blah:
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