VOGONS


First post, by markot

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Last year I bought quite many old sound cards and would possibly like to buy some more. Here is a list. Is there anything recommended or something that should be avoided? I already have two of those ESS AudioDrive cards and they sound quite okay. But what about the others here?

- Mozart OTI601 BTC-1820 REV:A
- AZTECH AZT1605-UO5
- OPTi 82C931
- ESS AudioDrive ES1868F
- Avance Logic Inc. ALS120
- Terratec Promedia TT1816-S V1.0 Analog Devices AD18max10JS SOUNDPORT
- Labway LWHA151A00 A151-A00
- AZTech AZT2320
- Diamond Technologies DT-0197H

Reply 1 of 15, by tikoellner

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Well,

to be honest, all of these cards seem generic and not really interesting.

If I were you, I would consider picking up either:

AZTECH AZT1605-UO5 (true OPL3), pretty nice looking card with good SB compatibility;

ESS AudioDrive ES1868F (good SB compatibility)

I would avoid anything "Mozart" (OAK technology stuff). Terratec makes some very good cards, but this one seems very basic and uninteresting really.

Last edited by tikoellner on 2016-06-21, 08:51. Edited 3 times in total.

Reply 2 of 15, by jesolo

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The AZT-1605 & AZT-2320 were manufactured by Aztech Labs (most famous for their Sound Galaxy range of sound cards).
They offer very good Sound Blaster compatibility, has a real OPL3, with a game port & (from the 2nd generation of sound cards) UART mode MPU-401 MIDI interface (no MIDI hanging note bug). Most 16-bit derivatives also offers Windows Sound System compatibility.

The AZT-1605 is based on their 2nd generation of sound cards, but is only Sound Blaster 2.0 (mono) compatible for digital sound playback under DOS (the FM synthesis is stereo). These cards are not Plug 'n Play, but they run fine under Windows 95. Under Windows, it does offer full 16-bit stereo playback and recording.
Personally, I prefer the ones with the AZT-2316 A/R chipset, since they do offer Sound Blaster Pro II compatibility.

The AZT-2320 is based on the 4th generation of sound cards. Similar to the AZT-1605, but is Plug 'n Play and does also offer Sound Blaster Pro II compatibility under DOS.
HP had, at one point, a lot of cards with this chipset in their PCs (the cards all had the shape of a triangle).

The ALS-120 (together with the ALS-100) is one of few cards that I know of that offers Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster Pro II and Sound Blaster 16 compatibility under DOS. Something that not even Creative's own cards could offer. However, apart from that, there is nothing particularly special about this card (as I recall, it doesn't have a real OPL3 - simulated).

Reply 4 of 15, by chinny22

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The Labway card is a Yamaha YMF based card that everyone likes around here
http://www.vogonswiki.com/index.php/Yamaha#OPL3-SAx
Also a common card though

Reply 5 of 15, by Ace

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Actually, it seems the ALS100, or at least the ALS100+, uses a pure hardware clone of the YMF262, and a virtually 1:1 replica at that. I say "virtually" as the Stereo output is flipped compared to a SoundBlaster on my personal ALS100+ (PCM sound is fine). If I were to guess, though, I'd say all Avance Logic cards, including the PCI ALS4000, use the same YMF262 hardware clone.

The Labway card, as Chinny pointed out, is quite good, but if you have sensitive ears like I do, you will notice the OPL3 output is at a slightly lower sound pitch than it should be due to the Yamaha OPL3-SAx using a different OPL3 core inside based around the YMF289, a low-power variant of the YMF262. I've stopped using sound cards with Yamaha chipsets on them for this very reason because I am INCREDIBLY PICKY when it comes to things like this (I even ditched a planned mod on my SoundBlaster 32 PnP CT3600 to replace its CQM chip with a YMF289 and accompanying DAC because of this, in fact, I won't even use a card with a discrete YMF289 given the option).

Also, if I were to guess what sort of OPL3 core is in the AZT2320 (some chips actually have the OPL logo on them), I would assume it's the YMF289 judging by the crystals connected to the chip, which exactly match those used by the OPL3-SAx chipset.

That Mozart card looks to have a genuine YMF262 on it, but I don't know anything about its SoundBlaster support.

The 82C931 is not very good. It has SoundBlaster Pro support, but its OPL3 clone, dubbed OPTiFM, is wonky, with several incorrect notes and even volume spikes. Not recommended.

The ES1868F is a fairly good chipset sporting ESS' good but not 100% accurate ESFM "enhanced" OPL3 clone. My one problem with this thing is its overly muffled SoundBlaster ADPCM audio output.

Stay the hell away from that Terratec card! Analog Devices SoundPort chipsets like that have AWFUL OPL3 that practically sounds like shoddy software emulation at a low sample rate. Avoid.

The Diamond Multimedia card looks rather mysterious. I've never seen that chipset, though I would assume it's a rebranded chipset from another manufacturer. I have no idea what it is, though.

Creator of The Many Sounds of:, a collection of various DOS games played using different sound cards.

Reply 8 of 15, by James-F

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Ace wrote:

...in fact, I won't even use a card with a discrete YMF289 given the option.

Daummm... how do you sleep at night? 🤣

the OPL3 output is at a slightly lower sound pitch than it should be due to the Yamaha OPL3-SAx using a different OPL3 core inside based around the YMF289

If I record the OPL3-SAx from my retro PC and from DOSBox at 49716 Hz, will there be a difference in pitch? I don't think so.

As a matter of fact, I (and others) already tested this: How accurate is the OPL emulation in dosbox?
There is no audible pitch difference between DOSBox (49716Hz), OPL3 and OPL3-SAx, nor is there a measurable difference in the waveform duty cycle.


my important / useful posts are here

Reply 9 of 15, by Thomas_GER

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James-F wrote:

As a matter of fact, I (and others) already tested this: How accurate is the OPL emulation in dosbox?
There is no audible pitch difference between DOSBox (49716Hz), OPL3 and OPL3-SAx, nor is there a measurable difference in the waveform duty cycle.

According to it's Datasheet, YMF289B does indeed output sound at the slightly lower frequency of 44100kHz but I can't imagine it results in a lower pitch. The pitch of all the notes beeing played is far under 20000kHz or otherwise you could not hear them.
If there would be really a difference in pitch than rather due to a reduced operating frequency or some sort of internal algorythms that have slightly changed in comparison to YMF262 regarding the tone generation. At least I think so. I am not a FM sound technician.

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Reply 10 of 15, by appiah4

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- ESS AudioDrive ES1868F
- Labway LWHA151A00 A151-A00
- AZTech AZT2320

Are the only ones worth buying IMO.

Ace wrote:

Actually, it seems the ALS100, or at least the ALS100+, uses a pure hardware clone of the YMF262, and a virtually 1:1 replica at that. I say "virtually" as the Stereo output is flipped compared to a SoundBlaster on my personal ALS100+ (PCM sound is fine). If I were to guess, though, I'd say all Avance Logic cards, including the PCI ALS4000, use the same YMF262 hardware clone.

ALS100 has an internal YMF262 clone but ALS100+ and onwards (including ALS120) include an ALSFM implementation that is.. OK as far as I am concerned, but definitely not a true OPL3 clone.

Source: ftp://retronn.de/driver/AvanceLogic/ALS120/120UG2.PDF

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 11 of 15, by derSammler

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ALS100+ supports external OPL3, which most cards based on that chip use. I own three and all have an external OPL3 "clone". ALS120 was the first to my knowledge which can only use internal ALSFM.

Reply 12 of 15, by appiah4

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derSammler wrote:

ALS100+ supports external OPL3, which most cards based on that chip use. I own three and all have an external OPL3 "clone". ALS120 was the first to my knowledge which can only use internal ALSFM.

Well, the ALS100+ cards I have don't have external OPL3 chips. For example:

ASound-MA5-ASOUND-Gold.jpg

So be careful when buying the 100+.

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 14 of 15, by appiah4

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In my experience pretty much all ALS100+ ALS120 cards are late ISA cards, these are very integrated chipsets. ALS007 seems to be a more frequent find with genuine OPL3 on it, but the one sample of that chipset that I have has poor audio quality overall..

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 15 of 15, by dionb

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derSammler wrote:

ALS100+ supports external OPL3, which most cards based on that chip use. I own three and all have an external OPL3 "clone". ALS120 was the first to my knowledge which can only use internal ALSFM.

Sure you're not confusing ALS100 with ALS100+. The '+' stands for internal (OPL3-compatible, but not a straight clone) FM synth and DAC. ALS100 is the one that comes paired with OPL3 (and separate DAC), or - more commonly - rip-off clones.

Btw this whole thread is quite the necro, I suspect after 3 years OP has already decided what to buy and if not, that the opportunity is long gone anyway.