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First post, by JayAlien

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I’m a big fan of retro hardware and games, but I particularly like the sound aspect. Some games have great music, some great sound effects, or some just great sound design in general. I have a soft spot for the AWE32 and the MT-32, they’re of an era that just sounded so great, before developers started streaming audio directly off CD/DVD.

Some of my favourites are:

Descent (1,2 & 3, but particularly 1 and 2’s AWE32 option)– amazing techno soundtrack
Discworld Noir – some nice musical pieces, and sound effects
Kyrandia 1 and 2 - Great MT-32 music
Monkey Island 2 – both SoundBlaster and MT-32 sound great to my ears
Half-life 1 – great sound design

What game audio do you think stands out and on what sound device do you think it sounds best?
Thanks,
J

DOS: P75, SB32, Adlib, 8MB
DOS: P100, S3 Virge DX, AWE64, 32MB
98SE: P233MMX, Rage128Pro, AWE64, 128MB
98SE: P3-1Ghz, Voodoo3, SBLive, 256MB
98SE: Athlon3200+, X850pro, Audigy2ZS, 512MB
2K: P4 3.4G, 6800XT, Audigy2, 1GB
XP: i7-975, GTX570, X-Fi, 3GB

Reply 1 of 12, by mothergoose729

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I think half life has great sound design, but its of a completely different era. You have to consider the tools that were available to the developers at the time, IMO. MT32 was great for music but the sound effects were pretty bad. Not worse than adlib most of the time, but they definitely didn't sound great. By the time everything was digitally sampled wav files or similar the kind of sound card on the user's computer really didn't matter that much.

There is also a distinction that needs to be made between great music and great sound design, as they aren't the same IMO. The satisfying crunch and thud of the shotgun in Doom is great design. The opening theme in Monkey Island is great music. Conversations about the "best DOS music" have been done to death, IMO, but discussions about great sound design a little less so.

I'd nominate a few candidates.

Prince of Persia - The ratcheting of the gates, the thud/impact sound after a jump, the clashing of swords in fighting. The twangy jingle that would play at key points in the games progression also. Very basic but highly effective IMO.

Doom - I don't think you can find a better example of good sound design in any period of DOS IMO. The weapon sound, the wail of the imp and the groan of the zombie soldiers, the opening and shutting of doors, lowering of platforms, ect. All of it distinctive and on point. Doom is one of the best games every made IMO and the sound design is a big part of that.

Jazz Jack Rabbit - good, clean digital samples. Nothing revolutionary but competently executed. The visual aesthetic, music, and sound are all cohesive and technically well done.

Xenon 2 - It's hard to say anything good about PC speaker sound, but if any game does it "the best" Xenon 2 might be it. You can only modulate the PC speaker so fast, and Xenon 2 manages to do both music and sound effects "at the same time" (not really but still) which is pretty impressive IMO.

Reply 2 of 12, by chinny22

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Agree with the above.
DOS sound is hard BECAUSE its not a digital recording, ignoring the PC speaker
Adlib is the next audio device and while I think everyone will agree nothing tops a Yamaha OPL (or 100% clone) some clones can sound quite good in their own right.
Then came the MT32 which doesn't really have a alternative
Then General Midi and that's like asking someone what is the best band in the world. Depends on taste. SC55 and Yamaha are the standards but brands such as Korg have sounded nice as well. Depends just as much on the music style as it does the device itself. eg Descents Techno is well suited to the AWE but less so for other games.
Then you have the Gravis UltraSound which is in its own league but only for a small handful for games.

So for dos ideally you want
OPL3 for adlib
MT32 for Lucasfilm/Sierra games
As many General Midi devices as you can get a hold of (or SC55 and/or Yamaha XG device as a minimum)
AWE for the few games that prefer that
GUS for the few games that prefer that

and this is ignoring the whole Sound Blaster Pro/Pro 2.0/16 compatibility thing.

As for sound design, dos is pretty limited, good games like doom do exist but things get much better in Windows
For me Diablo 2 is high on my list if not #1. Music suited the atmosphere of the game so well and the fade as you changed locations was barely noticeable it was done so well, add the environmental things like hearing the rain really immersed you in the game.

Reply 3 of 12, by cyclone3d

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I like the Sierra games, Police Quest, King's Quest, and Space Quest series in particular.

There is also Detroit which was nice sounding though there are only a few different songs.

Transport Tycoon Deluxe has a very nice soundtrack. Apparently the author made customized music tracks for all the major players at the time.

I was also into the Apogee games. Major Stryker has un unforgettable soundtrack.

The sound and to a lesser extent the music was good in Galactix.

Dune 2 has pretty good/great music and sound effects as well.

The Wing Commander games also come to mind.

Back in the day I just had an Opti 930 based card with genuine OPL3 and onboard wavetable that I picked up used for like $5 at a local electronics store. Before that I had an Adlib clone.

Yamaha YMF modified setupds and drivers
Yamaha XG resource repository - updated November 27, 2018
Yamaha YMF7x4 Guide
AW744L II - YMF744 - AOpen Cobra Sound Card - Install SB-Link Header
Epstein didn't kill himself

Reply 4 of 12, by Fujoshi-hime

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JayAlien wrote on 2021-04-13, 15:10:

they’re of an era that just sounded so great, before developers started streaming audio directly off CD/DVD.

Half-life 1 – great sound design

But this is literally what Half-Life is. It's all PCM audio clips played with music provided in the form of Red Book CD audio. 😮

Reply 5 of 12, by JayAlien

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Fujoshi-hime wrote on 2021-04-13, 22:55:
JayAlien wrote on 2021-04-13, 15:10:

they’re of an era that just sounded so great, before developers started streaming audio directly off CD/DVD.

Half-life 1 – great sound design

But this is literally what Half-Life is. It's all PCM audio clips played with music provided in the form of Red Book CD audio. 😮

Fair Enough. Still great sound design.

DOS: P75, SB32, Adlib, 8MB
DOS: P100, S3 Virge DX, AWE64, 32MB
98SE: P233MMX, Rage128Pro, AWE64, 128MB
98SE: P3-1Ghz, Voodoo3, SBLive, 256MB
98SE: Athlon3200+, X850pro, Audigy2ZS, 512MB
2K: P4 3.4G, 6800XT, Audigy2, 1GB
XP: i7-975, GTX570, X-Fi, 3GB

Reply 6 of 12, by Joseph_Joestar

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For a list of games that sound great on AWE cards see this thread: AWEstruck...

My favorite DOS game with high quality sound is probably Heroes of Might and Magic 2. The orchestral soundtrack in CD audio format is simply amazing. Here's a sample.

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

Reply 7 of 12, by thepirategamerboy12

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All of Stéphane Picq's OPL2 work on the games Dune, KGB and Megarace is outstanding imo. Some of the best video game music ever made for sound cards with that chip. Dune and KGB also support MT-32, but the MT-32 versions sound nowhere near as good. He's probably one of my favorite video game music composers in general, as even his later pre-recorded/PCM music in games like Lost Eden and Atlantis the Lost Tales are also fantastic.

Reply 8 of 12, by Kreshna Aryaguna Nurzaman

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Laser Squad - great Adlib music.
MiG 29 Fulcrum - great FM music.

Never thought this thread would be that long, but now, for something different.....
Kreshna Aryaguna Nurzaman.

Reply 9 of 12, by Cyberdyne

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Well yes, I even play original MT-32 and different versions of Monkey Island 1 title music in my car, also DooM music, one Half-Life theme and few rearranged NES/Famicom titles Power Blade, Contra, Ironsword, Batman and few more.

Well I am that crazy person that even plays chiptunes in my card... especially Maktone. 😁

but yes, todays game music is unimpressive on nonexistent. PS. I liked Quake 4 few tracks.

I am aroused about any X86 motherboard that has full functional ISA slot. I think i have problem. Not really into that original (Turbo) XT,286,386 and CGA/EGA stuff. So just a DOS nut.

Reply 10 of 12, by Hezus

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I've recorded a bunch of my favourites on my YT channel:

https://youtube.com/channel/UCeWw3nEe359_gcnxnG0214Q

I try to record with the best possible audio device for that specific title. So I've got an MT32, SC88, AWE64 Gold and a Gravis Ultrasound installed in my PC 😄

Visit my YT Channel!

Reply 11 of 12, by jheronimus

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Here are some of my favorites from the top of my head:

Heart of the Hive (Icarus WAD for Doom) — GUS with Pro Patches Lite
Silpheed intro on OPL3
Can't Remove the Pain (Ultima 6) on OPL3
Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone (intro) on OPL3
Cannon Fodder (the song from the recruitment screen) OPL3
Epic Pinball — Pangaea song on GUS
Flashback — Main Theme on OPL3 (although Megadrive might be a bit better)
Crimewave — the intro (where they've ripped off Pink Floyd's "One Slip" and made it work on a PC Speaker)
Zak McKracken — the intro on Tandy

Funnily enough I can't think of any MT-32 tracks right now. Monkey Island intro would be an obvious choice, although I like the OPL3 version as well. I think I mostly like MT-32 simply for the contrast between very crude graphics of the 80s games and somewhat realistic orchestral music. I also think Wing Commander has an interesting approach to music where the songs change dynamically to tell you what's happening in the mission.

On General MIDI I naturally like Doom (obligatory E1M1, but also E1M3 and some other tracks), Descent (although I also like the CD music in Descent 2, maybe even better than MIDI, although they sound completely different) and Duke Nukem 3D (particularly the "The City Streets").

Pentium 166 MMX Overdrive, 32 MB RAM, Ark Logic ARK1000VL, Tekram DC-680C, Turtle Beach Tropez, Gravis Ultrasound Max
Pentium III 1000, 256 MB RAM, Matrox G400 MAX, Adaptec 19160, Yamaha YMF740B

Reply 12 of 12, by mothergoose729

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jheronimus wrote on 2021-04-14, 10:46:

Funnily enough I can't think of any MT-32 tracks right now. Monkey Island intro would be an obvious choice, although I like the OPL3 version as well. I think I mostly like MT-32 simply for the contrast between very crude graphics of the 80s games and somewhat realistic orchestral music. I also think Wing Commander has an interesting approach to music where the songs change dynamically to tell you what's happening in the mission.

My favorite MT32 tune is the intro for space quest III.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUF8XxSKRA8