VOGONS


Wonders of 486 DX4, Treasures inside

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First post, by aitotat

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One of my retro systems is above all else. It is this 486 DX4 system.

In spring 2003 I decided I need a DOS computer. I think It was sometime in 2002 when I upgraded my Pentium 3 450 MHz to Athlon XP 1700+. The motherboard on the P3 system, Asus P3B-F, was good for DOS. It had two ISA slots so I could use a Sound Blaster and GUS ACE and CPU could be slowed down enough by disabling caches, although it wasn't very pleasant to go to BIOS setup to do so. But it was doable and later DOS games didn't need any slowdown at all anyway. Even though I used Windows 98, my system always booted to DOS by default. Perhaps only a short time before upgrading the system I changed the default boot menu selection to start Windows. But all the boot menu selections for DOS remained.

But the Athlon motherboard did not have any ISA slots at all, if I remember correctly, so that and fast CPU meant it was no longer for DOS gaming. I had Pentium 120 before the P3 system. I also had to go to BIOS setup to disable L1 since icd and ice (that I had used on my previous DX4 system) did not work with Pentium. And Pentium systems did not have turbo button so I thought it would be best to get a 486 and DX4 system would likely be best for widest range of games. (There are now command line utils to disable Pentium cache so now Pentium would be very good too for old DOS games).

It was a perfect time to get a retro computer. There just happened to be a 486 DX4 system on a computer store where I had many times bought used computer parts. And it was rare because they normally didn't even sell older than Pentium systems anymore. I was very lucky but luck did not stop there. There were, not just Intel but whole lot of treasures inside:

uc?export=download&id=1qSYPN1EDmrOdA308WJlMS4remJ_2Atm1
uc?export=download&id=1tcPw76n4MvdrmZRce8ONp1J6AIp2R0Rn
uc?export=download&id=1H4P66UEagsGmEYZxB7VHuFeKVXfuPGTY

And those it still has inside. It also had Panasonic 4x drive using the Panasonic interface on a Sound Blaster 16. I don't remember the model of the SB16 but it might have been CT2230 or CT2770. I no longer have either. The computer also came with 16 MB of RAM (one 36-bit 70ns SIMM) and a 1 GB Maxtor HDD. The BIOS supports drives up to 8 GB. I still have that HDD and SIMM but they are not in use. Unfortunately I do not have the CD-ROM drive anymore. I wish I had kept it, not for this system though.

This is how the computer looks today.
uc?export=download&id=1yLwz2U9EDYG9Jyl3-_D-2Jyn4T08qkOI

That is not the original case, however. The original case looks like this (Pinus with orange buttons). I still have the case, as you can see. It is the best AT-case I've had. No sharp edges and quite easy to work with even though it is small. But I didn't like orange and I wanted MHz display. 486 must have one of those.

But lately I've been thinking maybe I should put it back to original case. It is part of the story of this great system. It's been so long since I bought it that it now brings back memories. It cannot be seen on the photo but on the right side of the case there are two small dots without paint. When I bought the computer I carried it to home behind a bicycle and it was a 12 or 13 km ride. So much great memories about finding this DX4 system...

That motherboard is best 486 board ever. I also had PVI-486SP3 for a short while for testing with AMD 5x86-133 but it was not as good. It couldn't be slowed down enough (more on that later). It had 3 ISA, 1 VLB and 3 PCI slots. You would think that is quite good for a 486 but wrong. If you sacrifice VLB for one extra ISA (and believe me, even four ISA slots may not be enough), then you need to use PCI graphics card but those are slower than same controller on a VLB would be (yet, those boards are liked because you can use PCI graphics cards). For some uses the PVI-486SP3 can be great, perhaps even best 486 motherboard. But for me it just took away more than it gave back. It was easy and right choice to keep the Asus 486 VL/I-SV2GX4. I'm sure you agree when you see what is in it now.

Actually... I'll just post the benchmarks here and continue later. There will be much to tell.

uc?export=download&id=1zOOGp48mfGegDbywEuEwl-iwQinp1Rjg
uc?export=download&id=1Na0hAO1ABDQjXZklvpt5egnJFgOOtUgC

Reply 1 of 32, by aitotat

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As seen, this system performs above of what would be expected from 100 MHz 486 DX4. But why is that? Here is what the motherboard looks now. Doesn't look anything special. I've upgraded cache to 512kB by simply placing SRAM chips to free sockets and setting jumpers accordingly. This motherboard supports 1 MB cache so there is room for improvement. I would have to replace all SRAM chips with 128kB ones, TAG included so I would need total of nine 128kB SRAM chips. I haven't found any need to do so. The other reason is that to get them cheap, I would have to buy from some Chinese seller and who knows what I would get. I don't want to risk this motherboard.

So I have 512k cache. That boost performance from the stock 256k that the motherboard originally had. But cache alone does not help that much. Take a look at these:
uc?export=download&id=1ZIz5rRqYYoQiukteUfKKIXTy863aXRaD

Swiss made is printed on the SIMMs. And very well made I must add. Those are 16 MB SIMMs with parity. They are FPM SIMMs since this chipset does not support EDO. I have all four of them installed for total of 64MB RAM. That is actually too much since some DOS games do not work if there are over 32MB free memory available. That can be fixed by creating a ramdrive, although doing so will consume little conventional memory. So why use all four and not just two SIMMs? Because I have four of these great SIMMs and I don't want to separate them. And 64MB is good if I want to use Windows 9x.

Best thing about these SIMMs is that they work perfectly with all RAM timings set to maximum performance (I forgot to take a picture from BIOS settings. I'll do so later). And that definitely improves performance, even with 512k cache.

Still one thing worth mentioning about the SIMMs. Based on motherboard manual, maximum supported RAM is 64 MB and there are three different combinations to do so: four single-sided 16 MB SIMMs, two 16 MB single sided + one 32 MB double sided SIMM or two 32 MB double sided SIMMs. So these SIMMs that I have, with only parity chips on the other side, function as single sided SIMMs.

Here are couple of pictures from inside. Those are a bit outdated actually. I just had last desperate attempt to get real Creative Sound Blaster in it. It has been impossible to find perfect combination of sound cards but I think I finally succeeded. And that means no cards from Creative. More on that later.
uc?export=download&id=1m15FQ-kvvsGXg7Gy3Tpmmu2x00W4wT3C
uc?export=download&id=1EYfQX8EJar-duuWItmiPyB8gLtZPquSq

Reply 2 of 32, by aitotat

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Few things first before going to soundcards. Lets start with graphics card.

What I have is a #9 GXE 64 and it has S3 Vision864 chip on it and 2MB RAM. That is a fast performer on both DOS and Windows and it is 100% VGA compatible. S3VBE20 TSR can be used for Vesa 2.0 support. So all in all, a very ideal graphics card for DOS games. It is not a fastest graphics card for VLB but one of the fastest. But this #9 card is a very high quality card. Out of all ISA and VLB cards that I have tested, this one produced the best signal quality (second best was #9 GXE for ISA bus). So even if I happened to find a faster card, I would likely keep this one instead, for quality reasons and since it originally came with this system.

The multi I/O card is in no way anything special. It is a late model VLB multi I/O card with two IDE connectors and Vision QD6580 IDE controller chip. It is software programmable only (meaning you need drivers since PIO mode cannot be set with jumpers) and PIO 4 is supported. So it is fast and has proved to work stable but it does have one limitation. Master and slave drive share the same PIO parameters so it needs to be programmed according to the slower drive of the two. It is not a problem if you know it behaves like that. There are two IDE connectors so just make sure slow and fast device is not on the same cable.

As with all VLB IDE controllers (without BIOS) it only uses PIO mode 0 and 16-bit transfers by default just like any ISA multi I/O card would do. VLB IDE controllers must always be set to faster performance either with jumpers or with drivers (it is no coincidence that XTIDE Universal BIOS just happens to support Vision QD6580 so no drivers needed).

The CPU I have is Intel 486 DX4 100 MHz. For a long time I thought I had model with write-back cache but this has CPUID of 480h and that is a write-through model. So I have room for improvement here. Or do I? I've upgraded BIOS to the latest so this motherboard supports AMD and Cyrix 5x86 so all the best processors for socket 3. Expect more lengthy explanation later but 486 can be too fast and that is a bad thing if the purpose of the system is to cover as wide range of DOS games as possible. But I'll just skip a little bit ahead and say that I'm going to test AMD 5x86-133 and WB model of Intel DX4-100. I really wished I had Cyrix 5x86 but they are way too expensive so I hope I eventually have luck and find one with reasonable price.

I have CF slot at the front of computer. More info about it in this Copam thread. It is a CF-HDD drive I made. It has 60GB 1,8" HDD in it and it turned out to be silent but great performer bacause of unexpectedly good PIO performance.

This system originally came with 1GB Maxtor HDD. It was actually quite good drive so there was no need to replace it. But I did. Next one was one of those great slim Seagate drives. I can't remember the model number but it was 1,2 GB drive so not much larger but faster. Next drive was 10 GB Seagate from original XBOX. Maybe the quietest drive of its time and 8GB BIOS limit didn't matter much. Then it was time for XTIDE Universal BIOS and last drive I had was 160 GB Samsung right before this CF-HDD drive. So I lost 100GB but that doesn't matter at all. It is absolutely great to have CF slot in front of the computer!

So this computer originally had Panasonic made 4x CD-ROM drive for Panasonic interface and it had buttons to easily play audio CDs. The panasonic interface is 8-bit but that didn't matter with 4x drive. I don't know if it is the standard (=anyone can release a drive for it) IDE/ATAPI to blame but after that CD-ROM drives started to get cheaper, faster and quality dropped. The last of CD-ROM drives are the ones to avoid. They are just noisy. So I recommend to get old period correct CD-ROM drives or the very last IDE DVD-RW drives. The old are usually good quality and silent and look nice. The latter read just about any disc without problems. That is why I use DVD-RW drives. Before getting the CF slot in front it was usually easiest to burn DVD-RW disc and transfer stuff with it. I had DVD-RW drive on my 286 and it never felt right. I just recently replaced it with 2x Panasonic (in the picture with Pinus and Pomi, my 286 is below them). I also have older 1x drive. I should have put that in instead. It would have been more period correct since Sound Blaster Pro multimedia kit (or what ever it was called) had one of those and I just replaced CT3930 (I needed a Sound Blaster with IDE controller for the DVD-drive) with CT1330A.

Almost forgot one card. I have Lo-tech ISA CompactFlash Board but it is so small it is hard to see from the pictures. Especially since no drive is connected to it. It is there for XTIDE Universal BIOS and I need it to be flashable so network card won't do. I used to have 3Com NIC as well but I had no use for it so I took it away to give more room for the midi daughter card. Network would be great but it is not very practical solution for me. I have enough cables already but maybe someday.

Reply 3 of 32, by chinny22

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Think most people will agree VLB is always more desirable then PCI 486 even if PCI makes more sense for the majority.

If a video card is VLB then I'm not too concerned on it's performance. If your just chasing numbers then your better off with PCI or a Pentium anyway. Even average VLB cards have a certain class about them as long as they don't stop you playing your games.

I also run 64MB in my 486, just because I can. Yeh performance takes a slight hit but not enough to make or break a game been playable or not. Ram disk can be useful on these slower rigs at times as well. I use mine as a scratch disk mostly when unzipping files.

I'd probably put it back in its original case. This is why my childhood PC still has a DX2/66 and SB16 even though I've now got better hardware. It's become part of the systems soul.

Reply 4 of 32, by pshipkov

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chinny22 wrote on 2021-08-25, 12:30:

If a video card is VLB then I'm not too concerned on it's performance. If your just chasing numbers then your better off with PCI or a Pentium anyway. Even average VLB cards have a certain class about them as long as they don't stop you playing your games.

A small note. For DOS graphics VLB > PCI. Especially with this motherboard.

chinny22 wrote on 2021-08-25, 12:30:

I also run 64MB in my 486, just because I can. Yeh performance takes a slight hit but not enough to make or break a game been playable or not.

Good mobos handle small L2 cache size and big amount of system memory just fine.
Others - not so much. Performance degradation varies from mild to severe.
SV2GX4 is badass board, so none of this will be an issue anyway.

retro bits and bytes

Reply 6 of 32, by BitWrangler

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Though I used to hear it said back in the 386/486 days that having to read an extra address line incurs a timing penalty, so if adding RAM won't make your use case X much faster, then you just get Y much slower from crossing an address boundary. I think that was mainly said of minor RAM upgrades, like whether to use an additional leftover 1MB or 4MB when you'd got 16MB or something.

2017: Basement full of ancient PC stuff, starting to go through it. 2021: Still starting, heh, many setbacks. So what's this BitWrangler guy's deal ??? >>> Taming the pile, specs to target?

Reply 7 of 32, by Intel486dx33

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I have a Gigabyte VLB motherboard with an intel 486dx-100 CPU but it does not see the cache.
I hope to fix it some day and build a really good 486 computer.

For now my “Made in USA Micro Young” motherboard is working fine.
It has a 486dx4-100 Intel Overdrive CPU.

It performs very good right now.
It can play MP3’s and MovieCD’s and Video.
I am running DOS 6.22/Win3.11

That’s a nice solid steel frame case.

Reply 8 of 32, by aitotat

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Now to the sound cards. And I've tried many and there have always been something I'm not satisfied with. This is still not a perfect setup but it is pretty much as good as it gets.

Here are the cards:
uc?export=download&id=1aUhEsdn6UbwWa-EaSLybrOExjrcY67le
uc?export=download&id=1mM_3FjCm9cW5TdMWAn4la_QIIob_KNkD
uc?export=download&id=1KbjRidQRklf0kENF0KWLwfSt03sVDwkN

And I also have two midi daughter cards:
Dreamblaster X2GS is connected to the Labway and port 300h. McCake is connected to Roland MPU-401AT and port 330h and IRQ 2 since most MT-32 games are hard coded for that.

The best part of this setup is that there are no external modules and there is no need for external mixer. Roland MPU is connected to Labway line in and Labway is connected to GUS ACE line in. So only GUS needs to be connected to speakers. I have GUS ACE 1.0 and that means it has reversed stereo channels for GUS output but not for line-in. So to fix it, I need to reverse channels twice: I have made my own cable to reverse stereo when connecting Labway to GUS. So GUS then outputs both GUS and Labway channels reversed. The second reversion is made with 3,5 mm mini plug to RCA adapter and with RCA cable by simply connecting it wrong to the adapter. Labway also has reversed wavetable stereo but I've fixed that one as well. I haven't done the lowpass mod yet but it is on the todo list.

Why McCake? That is easy to answer. There is no other internal card to do all that. Original Roland LAPC-I would come close, of course, but the McCake can emulate old type MT-32 and the LAPC-I cannot do that. Also the McCake can do General Midi as well. That is very nice since some early General Midi games are hard coded to use port 330h, like most of the MT-32 games. So McCake is the only internal card that can do all that. And it does it very, very well. I highly recommend. I placed Roland MPU401AT + McCake combination to the first ISA slot. This way there is empty space above the card for cooling and that location is easiest to get power cable to. McCake is the third daughter board that I've used with MPU401AT on this system. First was Roland SCD-15/SCB-55 and second was Yamaha DB50XG. I would easily select McCake if I had to choose only one midi device but no need to do that.

Why Dreamblaster X2GS? That might be a good question since McCake can do General Midi. For genuine Roland sounds of course. McCake can sound very good in Fluidsynth mode but I want it to sound like real Roland. Now I can have both.

Why GUS? I wrote about GUS in the Copam thread so I won't repeat it here. I have tested GUS Classic, MAX, ACE, Extreme and PnP on this system. They are all great cards but some are a bit better than others.
GUS PNP would be the best if games would support it. But instead for games it is used in compatible mode so only 1 MB of RAM is used and there is no advantage over older GUS cards. Instead it has one small disadvantage: Epic games need to be patched or they won't work with GUS PnP. I have GUS PnP on my Super Socket 7 system.
GUS Extreme would be a great card but unfortunately I do not have one anymore. It is a GUS with ESS for SB Pro support. At that time I thought I can always pair some other GUS with real Sound Blaster for even better combination. How wrong I was. Real Sound Blaster is not better, it is (much) worse. And what about later systems with only one ISA slot?
GUS Max is the noisiest of them all, at least the revision I had (maybe 1.8 ). The MAX part is quite useless if you have some other sound card as well and since MAX do not support Sound Blaster (only emulation), you need the other sound card.
GUS ACE is great! Nothing extra and everything needed for pairing with other sound card. Rev1.0 does have the reversed stereo issue but it can be fixed with cables. Rev 1.1 should be perfect but I've never even seen one.
Gus Classic is also just great! Sounds good, no issues. Rev 3.4 might be the best of them. Later revision have mixer and it generates a little noise.

So I kept the Classic on this system for a long time. Now it is in the Copam. Perhaps better this way. I bought that ACE new so it is nice to have it on my favorite system.

Last about the Sound Blaster... It has been a pain find a good one. Due to certain issues I long time ago decided that I'm always going to use real Sound Blaster and never a clone again. I happened to find a good used CT3930 then and every new sound card I've bought since then has been a Sound Blaster (Live, Audigy 2, X-Fi) only to eventually found out how bad the ISA Sound Blaster actually were. There were even worse clones but much better ones also. Back then I've mainly had experiences about the bad ones.

This system came with Sound Blaster 16, maybe CT2230 or CT2770 but definitely a model with Panasonic CD interface. I right away replaced it with AWE32 CT2760 and used it a long time. Then I got the similar but better CT3900 and I've used it a long time as well. I've tested some cards but those are the ones I've kept in there after testing. But just like every SB 16/32/AWE32 model those are basically broken. If I would want to use a real non-broken Sound Blaster then I would have to use Pro 2 or AWE64 and nothing from between. They are not broken (=buggy) but have limitations. Pro 2 is noisier than the good SB16/32/AWE32 models and Pro 2 do not have wavetable header or MPU401 but at least it is actually Sound Blaster Pro compatible, unlike all the later Sound Blasters.

AWE64 has the bugs fixed but no wavetable header, no Sound Blaster Pro and no real OPL3. I have AWE64 gold but I'm not satisfied with it. I just recently tried it again in addition to all those other cards this system now has. I wanted SB16 support while the Labway would provide real OPL3 and SB Pro support. Unisound allows easily to disble CQM from the AWE64 so it will not conflict with Labway. From hardware perspective everything is fine: Labway at A220/I5/D1 and AWE64 at A240/I7/D3/H5.

It is not so easy with software. Some games require the SET BLASTER statement so it needs to be changed depending on card used. I had hoped that all games with SB16 support would allow everything to be configured manually but no. So a lot of work to create .bat files would be needed. And for what? Labway provides WSS support and there is also a GUS so is there even a need for SB16 support? No, it is not worth all the trouble. Genuine Creative Sound Blaster simply do not belong to this system. I even did a last testing with the CT2290 but no, the Labway is simply better. It just works and sounds great. CT2290 clicks, not much but it does and it also have the MPU401 bug.

I think the Labway will not be the last sound card for this system. When someone makes a new SB Pro and SB 16 compatible card it will be perfect. But for now the Labway is very good here. Orpheus might have been even better but I don't need second intelligent mode midi controller and the Labway sounds very good so no need for Orpheus.

Reply 9 of 32, by Joseph_Joestar

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aitotat wrote on 2021-08-26, 09:19:

AWE64 has the bugs fixed but no wavetable header, no Sound Blaster Pro and no real OPL3.

Not all the bugs are fixed on the AWE64. It still has the stuttering issue when high sample rates are combined with external MIDI, as described here. Wanna play Duke3D on your AWE64 with a Roland SC-55 connected to it? Welcome to stutter city.

BTW, the lack of a wavetable header is basically a non-issue now thanks to Serdaco's Chill adapters.

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 Trio64V+ / Voodoo1 / OPTi 82C930 / AWE64
PC#2: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 Gold / YMF744 / SC-155
PC#3: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
PC#4: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 10 of 32, by aitotat

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Yes, I'm sure Chill adapter would be great for AWE64 (but the stuttering you mentioned remains a problem) and OPL3LPT could be used to get real Yamaha OPL3 (but TSR driver is required) or if SB Pro support is not needed, any Yamaha OPL3 based card could be used with AWE64 just for the OPL3 so no drivers or extra setup needed.

But I think at that point it would be better to sell the AWE64 to some collector who is never going to use the card. Then just buy Orpheus with the money saved for not having to buy any adapters and with money from selling the AWE64.

Okay, maybe the AWE64 does have some strengths. I'm sure it is a good card for Windows. I don't want to use Windows 3.1 myself and for Windows 9x I would build a Pentium system with PCI and Sound Blaster Live.

Reply 11 of 32, by Joseph_Joestar

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aitotat wrote on 2021-08-27, 05:08:

Yes, I'm sure Chill adapter would be great for AWE64 (but the stuttering you mentioned remains a problem) and OPL3LPT could be used to get real Yamaha OPL3 (but TSR driver is required) or if SB Pro support is not needed, any Yamaha OPL3 based card could be used with AWE64 just for the OPL3 so no drivers or extra setup needed.

Yeah, that's the age old problem with DOS gaming: there is no single sound card that can do everything. While SB16 compatibility isn't super useful, there are a few DOS games which actually do use 16-bit samples, and others can sometimes benefit from 16-bit mixing.

For that reason, I kinda like pairing an AWE64 (Value models are fine too) with a secondary card that provides OPL3, SBPro, WSS and MPU-401 functionality. That combo covers pretty much everything except intelligent mode MPU-401 and the handful of games which sound best on a GUS.

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 Trio64V+ / Voodoo1 / OPTi 82C930 / AWE64
PC#2: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 Gold / YMF744 / SC-155
PC#3: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
PC#4: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 12 of 32, by aitotat

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Many of the games on that list support GUS (at least with update if not out of the box) so with it there is even less need for SB16. That is a good reason why the extra trouble with AWE64 and SBpro clone is not worth it. But once someone makes a new card with SB pro and SB16 support then I'm definitely going to get one.

Actually I do have one of the ALS100 based clone cards that can do SB Pro and SB16. It was so noisy that it was a no no. I'm going to try recapping it since it has helped for some. I just can't believe it would be better or even as good as this Labway that I now have.

Reply 13 of 32, by Joseph_Joestar

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aitotat wrote on 2021-08-27, 07:07:

Many of the games on that list support GUS (at least with update if not out of the box) so with it there is even less need for SB16. That is a good reason why the extra trouble with AWE64 and SBpro clone is not worth it. But once someone makes a new card with SB pro and SB16 support then I'm definitely going to get one.

Between the GUS and the WSS support of the secondary card, there is indeed very little need for a SB16 on your system. I was thinking more in general terms, as the aforementioned combo is a relatively affordable, well-rounded solution.

Actually I do have one of the ALS100 based clone cards that can do SB Pro and SB16. It was so noisy that it was a no no.

I have one of these as well, and I've had the exact same experience. In theory, it's a bug-free SB16, but the high level of self-noise is often too much to bear. Especially when using a pair of quality headphones.

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 Trio64V+ / Voodoo1 / OPTi 82C930 / AWE64
PC#2: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 Gold / YMF744 / SC-155
PC#3: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
PC#4: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 14 of 32, by chinny22

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The mini GUS review was interesting never owning one myself and with their prices doubt I ever will but I can dream.

In a way I'm glad a single card that can do all doesn't exist. Gives me an excuse to have more then 1 retro PC.
So in this case the 486 would be the PC to fire up for some GUS gaming.
Any game that's more suited to a Creative card then I just swap to another PC with said card.

I do the same in Win9x with most with a Live or better for EAX but do have one PC built around A3D 2.0

Reply 15 of 32, by BitWrangler

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Nobody converted a slide carousel or 6 disk changer to swap in soundcards automatically yet then? 🤣

(Though if you actually really wanted to do that, it would probably make more sense to make a custom ISA backplane where you electronically switched the IRQs and addresses to each slot on and off. )

2017: Basement full of ancient PC stuff, starting to go through it. 2021: Still starting, heh, many setbacks. So what's this BitWrangler guy's deal ??? >>> Taming the pile, specs to target?

Reply 16 of 32, by aitotat

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uc?export=download&id=1MridWANlezDi9CkGon1Bmz0xLSOvq2U-

Unexpected turn of events, especially so soon after saying that Creative does not belong to this system. So what changed?

Well every Sierra game supporting General Midi is hard coded to port 330h so I need to set McCake to fluidsynth mode. It is not a problem and McCake sound wonderful with the default GeneralUserGS soundfont and other soundfonts can be used of course. But I need to remember to change to fluidsynth mode.

I also took a look about list of MT-32 supported games and what should be used in old mode and what in new/cm-32l mode. I'm not going to remember those, that is for sure. So bat files need to be created for games to take best out of McCake (and I was hoping to avoid that). So if I need to start creating bat files, then why not just put the AWE64 back. Especially since I couldn't get Sierra WSS drivers to work at all and GUS is less supported that WSS. Labway of course works in sound blaster mode but only in 8-bit mode without SB16 support.

This time I'm not going to just change the set blaster statement. Instead I'll reinitialize both cards with unisound and change parameters so that the active card is always at A220 I7 D1. Obviously the set blaster statement changes also while doing that since unisound needs that. So I need to initialize the inactive card first and then the active card. Basically I have two bat files, the other puts sound blaster to SB PRO mode and other to SB 16/AWE mode.

How are the cards connected now?

  • CD-ROM drive is connected to Labway CD-input
  • Labway is connected to AWE64 CD-input (notice the cool adapter I made)
  • Roland MPU401AT/McCake is connected to GUS line in (channel reversed. It is easy because Roland has RCA connectors)
  • GUS to AWE64 line in (channels reversed with cable)

Here is picture from back of the computer. There needs to be some way to get the cable from Labway line out to AWE64 CD-IN so I use bracket from PS/2 mouse connector. It is a great feature that this motherboard has a PS/2 mouse connector (I can use optical mouse with USB to PS/2 adapter). The PS/2 connector is mounted to the case so bracket is no longer needed and I can use the hole to get cable in.

Reply 17 of 32, by Intel486dx33

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AWE32 install CD has DOS and Windows 95 drivers too.
I was able to get my 486 computer to work using just 3mb. out of my 16mb. installed.
I just loaded everything “HIGH” in config files.
I can play most games this way without “not enough memory issues”.
It only uses 3mb. In DOS mode and when I start Win3.11 it uses all 16mb. In Windows mode.

Reply 18 of 32, by Joseph_Joestar

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aitotat wrote on 2021-08-29, 17:50:

Especially since I couldn't get Sierra WSS drivers to work at all and GUS is less supported that WSS.

Sierra games seem to be picky about WSS. They work perfectly on my lowly OPTi 82C930 but need patching to run on the Orpheus.

My guess is that those drivers were coded with an Analog Devices chip in mind, so cards which use a (newer) Crystal chip (or something else) for WSS functionality might be problematic. You might want to try one of those patches from the Orpheus thread, just to see if it changes anything.

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 Trio64V+ / Voodoo1 / OPTi 82C930 / AWE64
PC#2: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 Gold / YMF744 / SC-155
PC#3: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
PC#4: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 19 of 32, by aitotat

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I found a fix for the non-working WSS support. The Sierra WSS drivers are hardcoded to IRQ7 and DMA1 but my problem was that I had the Sound Blaster DMA set to 1 but it was the WSS DMA that needed to be 1. With Unisound the Labway is initialized with SET BLASTER=A220 I7 D1 H0 (+some other parameters not needed here). The H0 is the WSS DMA and not high DMA as it is for SB16/AWE. Unfortunately D and H cannot both be 1 so again a bat file needs to be made to switch parameters for the Sierra game.

I did try the fixed drivers for Orpheus but they did not work at all (only noise). I guess they only work for the Crystal 423x chips. No matter since the default driver works fine as long as the IRQ and WSS DMA are correct. Of course now there is no need for WSS anymore because of the AWE64.

I made two bat files: SBPRO.BAT and SB16.BAT. I'll post them later. Few mixer adjustments are needed. SBPRO.BAT selects Labway and uses port 220h, IRQ 7 and DMA 1. SB16 selects AWE64 and uses same ports and high DMA 5. In both modes FM sounds from port 388h come from Labway since it has the real OPL3. But here is one thing to be careful of: a game do not necessarily use port 388h. Instead it might use FM synth from Sound Blaster ports. In this case when in SB16 mode CQM is heared. I noticed this with Jill of the jungle. I didn't have Labway connected to AWE64 but I could still hear the music.

By the way. The AWE64 does not have the clicking that I heared with SB16. So I would rather choose AWE64 with CQM than SB16 with OPL3. Fortunately there is no need to do such because the Labway is so good. Basically I want almost always use the SBPRO mode and SB16 only for games with 16-bit samples (and no GUS support) or games with ADPCM compression (not supported by YMF71x).

I'll keep the AWE64 for now but I still think Labway alone would be enough. It is definitely better card out of these two.