The CQM is *different* than the OPL3. It's not better or worse.
It's definetely worse as you get wrong sound, not as composer wanted. Degree of issues may differ from a little wrong to disgustingly wrong elements. The better you have music taste, the more aversion you'll get from random variations CQM inputs into original music in case you'll compare with OPL3 sound. Also without such direct comparision it's hard to understand are lame elements in a track caused by lame composer or by lame CQM emulation. CQM is just wrong. [...]
How do *you* know what each and every composer intended? What makes you think professional musicians back then wouldn't have bought the higher-end sound card? Maybe they weren't using a Sound Blaster at all; maybe it was a Terratec or M-Audio or Pro Audio Spectrum. Maybe they were using external MIDI gear. Maybe they were writing tracker music and converting it. Maybe they were on a Mac.
Even back then musicians didn't just buy the cheapest "value edition" SB16 and pair of "computer speakers" they could find, and say, "yep, this is what the average gamer would have. I'm going to compose on that." Trust me on this when I say musicians LOVE high-end gear, and when you write your music with quality gear in mind it sounds better on the budget stuff too.
Don't forget that nobody waxed on about the 'purity' of the FM sound when these cards were around. Yes, it was revolutionary when the DX7 came out in the '80s but for PC audio in the mid-'90s it was seen as the most basic option and a stopgap at best. Everyone *wanted* the wavetable cards and that's what the composers put all their effort into writing for; FM conversions were often done after-the-fact.
I'm not going to spend an hour "debating" your whole-page reply of chuffed-up knowitallism, because it's useless to, but assuming you know the be-all-end-all way a given soundtrack is *supposed* to sound is ludicrous. Even if they were composing on a 'Genuine OPL' they sure as hell weren't using the same speakers, amplifier, equalizer, or whatever *you* have in your setup.
REGARDLESS OF ALL THIS, the OP is asking about a Pentium III from ~1998. Any DOS stuff that you would want to play on that would have AWE support (Descent, late 2.5D games like Eradicator, Powerslave, etc.), *if* it even used the onboard synth at all. By then CD audio and streaming formats (e.g. Command & Conquer) were far more common. You're trying to argue it's better for him to have a low-range soundcard from 1992 because *you* think it sounds "correct" in Commander Keen.
twitch.tv/oldskooljay - playing the obscure, forgotten & weird - most Tuesdays & Thursdays @ 6:30 PM PDT. Bonus streams elsewhen!