Ensoniq Soundscape Elite - some questions

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

Re: Ensoniq Soundscape Elite - some questions

Postby 640K!enough » 2018-10-13 @ 21:22

swaaye wrote:On the other hand Ensoniq cut costs by not implementing RAM expansion for samples or using an OPL3 chip to shore up compatibility. Pick your preferred set of compromises.

That was a reasonable set of compromises, as far as I was concerned. Lack of real OPL3 could be partially compensated for using the (admittedly limited) MT-32 mode, and sample RAM was hardly ever used by developers, even on cards that supported it. The GUS was the originator of the RAM-based sample architecture on the PC, but outside of a few tracker-based games, nobody really produced custom samples or leveraged its multi-channel flexibility. The situation was similar with the AWE line (and many models also lacked real OPL3).

When InterWave cards were introduced, many developers used the ROM set exclusively, ignoring the RAM capabilities entirely. Luckily, its 1 MiB sample set wasn't as bad as the one Creative stuck on the AWE line.
swaaye wrote:I don't think it's hard to understand why Creative wouldn't go out of their way to support MPU-401. Roland was competition. It kept me from buying an AWE though. I could even see AWEUTIL's flakiness being intentional.

Not only was their MPU-401 software badly done, but the on-board samples were severely lacking, to put it mildly. Surely, Creative understood the concept of an industry standard, and for MIDI, they weren't it. That's what they get for sitting on their over-priced duffs for so long while others innovated. Surely, they could have produced a decent solution earlier, and perhaps even pre-empted the GUS, but they were too busy trying to keep making money on barely adequate solutions, and trying to squash any competitor who dared to innovate.

I considered an AWE 32 briefly when they were brand-new, but didn't like the price for what was offered. I also wasn't a great Creative Labs fan. It ultimately came down to a choice between the Audiotrix Pro and Soundscape Elite (couldn't afford Roland either), and my budget decided that one for me (a well-equipped Audiotrix Pro was nearly in Roland territory).

It was similar to the situation with Sound Blaster support in earlier software. New, different solutions like the GUS would require an additional set of assets, and additional development time to support well. The later AWE cards would have been yet another architecture to work on, and OPL4 with RAM another. Developers largely seem to have decided that it wasn't worth the additional effort, and supported the bare-minimum mandatory standards (and FM often quite poorly).
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Re: Ensoniq Soundscape Elite - some questions

Postby swaaye » 2018-10-13 @ 22:04

When I mention sample RAM, I'm talking about the flexibility for the end user to load up custom patch sets. Soundfonts were/are very popular. I think for me that might be the only interesting aspect to the AWE32!

I think it's interesting Ensoniq never built a card with that in mind. They were building keyboards and modules that could run custom samples. But not a PC card for some reason. I suppose it says they didn't believe there was a market for it.

I've seen a few people here say they like the AWE32's ROM sound. It has some kind of charm for them. Audio is usually a subjective topic anyway. These days I like to just go with FM synth most of the time.
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Re: Ensoniq Soundscape Elite - some questions

Postby 640K!enough » 2018-10-13 @ 22:22

Yes, but SoundFonts are a Creative brand name and technology. These things are best used when the developers produce their own instruments for the title they are working on, sort of like some used to do with the MT-32. Actual professional-quality, commercial banks were relatively rare; it was otherwise just a hobbyist fascination and, in some cases, users of Creative cards were forced to use the base ROM due to peculiarities of the software's support. There were no custom instruments, no specific tuning, and almost no titles that directly used SoundFonts. Even DLS failed to attract much attention, despite showing some promise.

Ensoniq's cards were already expensive to build, and their sample sets quite good. I don't see much point in adding more features (and cost) when they could see that it hadn't been standardised, and was used relatively infrequently.
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Re: Ensoniq Soundscape Elite - some questions

Postby swaaye » 2018-10-13 @ 22:29

640K!enough wrote:Yes, but SoundFonts are a Creative brand name and technology. These things are best used when the developers produce their own instruments for the title they are working on, sort of like some used to do with the MT-32. Actual professional-quality, commercial banks were relatively rare; it was otherwise just a hobbyist fascination, and in some cases, users of Creative cards were forced to use the base ROM due to peculiarities of the software's support. There were no custom instruments, no specific tuning, and almost no titles that directly used SoundFonts. Even DLS failed to attract much attention, despite showing some promise.

That's only looking at the gaming standpoint. It brought in some hobbyist musicians too. There are a few that stop by here.

I haven't looked into it in years, but there were websites with loads of SF2 instruments and collections to download. Seemed fairly popular.
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