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First post, by Shreddoc

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Let me feast vicariously upon your experiences.

We've all seen the ads. The threads. The excitement.

But what comes after? When you finally have your card? Are you loving it? Is it everything you'd hoped for? What are you doing with it?

Tell me your GUS story. Here's mine (forewarning: 1. not particularly interesting, but if you're bored and want to read something..., and 2. I don't own a GUS) :

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It was 1994. I was a student in first year university. In my class was this John Carmack-like character, a unique programming prodigy. The rest of us were total nerds, but him, he was on another level. The rest of us Doomed each other over our modems. He had his whole share house LANned up. The rest of us played in Turbo Pascal. He wrote assembly code at the command line. We had Sound Blasters. He had a Gravis Ultrasound.

You would visit his house, and he would take you into his room and casually/proudly present his computer setup, this speaker-clad behemoth dominating his room with peripherals extending off every side. And would then, unasked, proceed to run a show-n-tell of his Ultrasound at high volume. Running classics of the demo scene, playing some MIDI tunes, and games. It was magical. 1994! The rest of us were like "woaahhh!! <hushed tone> Wavetable!".

I always thought he'd end up as some high-powered coder genius, running the back room. And I probably shouldn't end the story on a downer! But the truth is, after the 90's, the next time I saw his name was a couple of years ago, in the news as party to some kind of crypto weirdness. Can easily imagine how that could happen! All the smarts in the world and even a good heart, but would totally get wrapped up in the micro-technicals and gamesmanship, and lose all social context.

But hey. He had a GUS in 1994, and it's the only one I've ever seen or heard.

Reply 1 of 18, by Gmlb256

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Back in the day I didn't have the GUS when it was released so I can't tell the story from a proper perspective. It didn't interested me initially until I heard the advantages such as hardware-mixing support and the output quality from it, and finally got it in 2019.

I mainly enjoy it for hearing tracker music and watching demoscene stuff (they do some clever programming despite the lack of user interaction) where that sound card was loved too much for its capabilities.

Lacking real Sound Blaster support it wasn't that useful in games except for MIDI playback. However, there were some which properly took advantage of the GUS such as Jazz Jackrabbit and Zone 66 (which has a totally different music) where in slower machines it gave high sound quality without decreasing the performance.

Last edited by Gmlb256 on 2022-04-15, 22:20. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 2 of 18, by jheronimus

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I imagine that to fully appreciate a GUS, you have to look at it in the context of 1994 PC scene. Basically, one of the first somewhat affordable wavetable cards. I mean, at least at some point it was cheaper than even the SB16. No real software support, but hey, this card is bound to take over the market, right?

I never had any sound device on my DOS machine in those days, so a big part of retrocomputing for me is seeing what computers in mid-90s were actually capable of. So yeah, I have a CD3 (in a form of Primax Soundstorm M16), a Max and a PnP Pro.

I think the first thing I’ve tried on a GUS were demos, of course. I’m not a programmer, so I can’t even guess what kind of black magic went into these creations, but I do appreciate them for changing what was seemed possible on a 486. It’s also kind of a cool glimpse into old pop-culture. A lot of European dance music, “hackery” visual style (not to be confused with the Matrix aesthetic), references and weird jokes. Also definitely a big part of early online multimedia culture.

Gaming-wise, GUS is okay to me, but not too special. One area where I think it shines is Doom WAD music. Especially when the composer didn’t try to make rock music. I suppose someone like Team TNT were a lot more likely to have GUS cards rather than a Sound Canvas. Heart of the Hive from Icarus WAD played with ProPatches Lite is one of my favorite tracks in a retro videogame ever — it just doesn’t sound as awesome on an SC-55.

Somehow the Primax is my favorite card out of three — maybe because I prefer green cards 😀 But also because a lot my builds are somewhat mid-range (an AMD 5x86 system isn’t too high-end historically, for example), so a late rebranded clone often fits the build better than the Max somehow. I still do’t understand the PnP card and kind of dislike its setup — it probably was an upgrade for Windows home musicians, but for games/demos? I see no benefit, but I could be mistaken.

Reply 3 of 18, by Disruptor

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You won't believe but in 1996 I was asked to change my CPS "Sound Blaster" Pro 4.0 (Aztech SG NX Pro) against a GUS classic from a classmate. He has missed the Sound Blaster compatiblity of his GUS.
It included 256 kB of RAM and the old set of 3,5" disks in double density format.

Reply 4 of 18, by Shponglefan

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Never owned a GUS back in the day. While I was aware of it, I remember reviews being lukewarm due to lack of games compatibility. And already possessing a Sound Blaster 16, buying a GUS felt unnecessary.

Recently I did acquire a GUS Extreme. It proved to be a royal PITA to get working, but once working, it sounds fantastic. It does make me wish I owned one back in the 90's, although I suppose I'd invest in a lot of hardware differently knowing what I know now.

One thing I have noted is that the 1MB RAM is limiting for Impulse Tracker files (since a lot of them are >1 MB). Oddly enough this is even a limitation in the DOSBox emulation of the GUS.

I've ordered an ARGUS with the intent of using it with 16 MB of RAM strictly for tracker music.

Attachments

My YouTube channel (retro game music)

Reply 5 of 18, by Marmes

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Primax Altrasound (Soundblaster clone) was my first sound card, me back then couldn't afford a SB16 or a SBPRO2, a friend of mine was selling the Primax, really cheap, telling me it was SB compatible, so I got it.
I had some friend with SB16 and Doom was released, all of us played normally at home. But then one day, I went to my friends house who owned a SB16, I heard the sound and I was what??? This card is broken, sounds bad in Doom! He was like, nonsense! Not possible, then he went to my house, and was blown away with my cheap sound card! He stopped talking to me 😁 eheheh, kid's stuff.
So in the end, I had very good times with my primax with some games that supported gravis back then!

Reply 6 of 18, by davidrg

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My GUS experience is very recent. I was probably only 5 when it first came out so never knew anything about it when it was originally on the market but I remember seeing it in the setup menus for various DOS games in the late 90s/early 2000s and wondering about it.

A month or so back while digging in a big box of cards for Boot ROM equipped network cards to play around with network booting I found an antistatic bag labeled "Gravis UltraSound rev. 3.4". I would have printed that label and sealed the bag probably 10-15 years ago before I was really aware of the sound cards qualities and had since completely forgotten about it. At the time it would have just been another "not a sound blaster" sound card I got in a haul of obsolete computer "junk" and therefore not interesting but now I know better.

So over the last few weeks I've been building a 486DX4-100 (specs & pic here) for the card to live in. Initial experiences were frustrating. At one point I was wondering if the card even worked at all - at first the driver install program complained that every IRQ and DMA combination was unavailable. And regardless of what combination I chose the computer would lock up during the later testing stage. So I decided to try changing the I/O port. Then the installer couldn't even see the card and would suggest I move it to a different Port listing which ever one the card was currently set to as unavailable (and all the others as avaiable). Any previously available port would become unavailable when I put the card there - even the port the card was initially on when the installer had seen it (and crashed).

I was just about the give up and put the card away again when I decided to shuffle the other cards in the machine around and suddenly the installer could see the card, it didn't complain about IRQ or DMA conflicts, the test didn't crash the computer - it installed! So I went straight to Jazz Jackrabbit to try the card out and I was blown away. Not just by the great sound but by the volume too! Next challenge - turn the damn volume down. Even setting the game at its minimum volume was way too loud. I probably spent a few hours messing with the mixer but nothing I did seemed to work. So I gave up - I'm now feeding the UltraSounds line out (which doesn't seem a whole lot quieter than the speaker output) into the line in of a ViBRA 16 (a CT2810 with proper OPL chip) and using the Creative mixer to set the UltraSounds volume to about the same as games using the SoundBlaster.

Now I think I've got everything mostly setup and working. Games that support the card can see it and work with it fine, games that sound awful on the UltraSound or don't support it at all can use the SoundBlaster. I don't need to do anything to switch my speakers between cards - that all just works. The handful of demos I've tried work, one of the DOS trackers I've tried can't see the card and insists on using the SoundBlaster but the other works fine. Both cards are available in Windows 3.11 too - I've got the SoundBlaster set as the default but programs that support the GUS (like the free edition of Mod4win 2.3 plus the GUS utilities) work too. Mod4win uses a whole lot less CPU when using the GUS which actually means I can run other stuff at the same time which is nice. I've not attempted to turn on any of the GUS soundblaster compatibility stuff as I've heard it does a poor job there.

TL; DR: The card seems very noise free but its stuck at full volume and the setup experience was more painful than it should have been (perhaps my card is faulty though - I've absolutely no idea where it came from or if it was ever mistreated). It sounds great on the games that were built for it but everything sounds weird/bad. There are a few though were I can't quite decide - maybe Raptor sounds better on the GUS and I only prefer the SoundBlaster because the GUS is too different from what I remember. I've never played around with demos or tracker music in the past so its been fun learning about that stuff and its amazing what musicians achieve in such a tiny file size. Overall its a worthwhile addition to my 486 but I'm not sure the market value is reasonable given the few games that support it properly.

Reply 7 of 18, by Joseph_Joestar

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Shreddoc wrote on 2022-04-15, 21:20:

Let me feast vicariously upon your experiences.

For all the great things that a GUS can do, I rarely see people talking about its downsides.

High Treason has an interesting video which covers some of those.

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 Trio64V+ / Voodoo1 / OPTi 82C930 / AWE64 Gold / SC-155
PC#2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / Voodoo3 / SBLive / Vortex2
PC#3: Athlon64 3000+ / Asus K8V-MX / GeForce4 / Audigy1
PC#4: i5-3550P / MSI Z77A-G43 / GTX 650Ti / X-Fi

Reply 8 of 18, by Cuttoon

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AFAIK, the GUS is the Voodoo of sound cards. A bit of an Anna Kournikova - sexy, but with little special talent and getting a bit old for a pop culture reference.

If I were to own one, at current prices, that would feel...

hungry. 😜

I like jumpers.

Reply 9 of 18, by AppleSauce

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So here's my story , I got one (primax soundstorm M16C) for a surprisingly cheap price , about 120 aud which included shipping, from hong kong on a classifieds site , it sat there unsold for 2 or year 3 years surprisingly , I guess the guy didn't know what he had.

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It was apparently unused and complete in box , though he did open the box to check stuff was inside , the listing only had a picture of it in the anti static sleeve with the markings obscuring it so it was a bit of a gamble at the time since there wasn't a proper picture of the card and I could have been scammed. But it was so cheap so I said why not.

Took me nearly a month to negotiate the sale with the guy as he was pretty busy and didn't usually sell to people overseas.

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So I got the damn thing eventually and lo and behold there was the object of my desires until of course I used it.
I opened it all up and sure enough the driver cd was in there still shrink wrapped , manual , floppy for win 95 and the card.

I opened it up from its still fresh anti static bag and pulled it out , it was pretty much mint. I looked over the card and noticed it had a million jumpers , mainly for the various cd interfaces. had to spend a good while adjusting them , I installed it in my pc and then used the cd for the utilities. It didn't have any ram installed as it was new , but I managed to steal a chip of a s3 trio card I had lying about.

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Cue forward a while and I had spend a good chunk of time consulting on vogons asking for various things , like how to get the mixer utility to set the volume level , what addresses to use to avoid conflicts. dealing with the annoying setup utility that complains if dma 1 isn't free. Having the card freak out in certain games which would crash my pc and play a sound stuck in a loop whilst displaying a blue background.

I did eventually get it to mostly work , and I took that opportunity to try out things like epic pinball that really make good use of the card and sound amazing for the time , Turrican 2 is also really nice.

However in terms of actual usability the card really shines with tracker music , having mod files playing through tracker programs like iplay or watching demos like second reality with a proper gus is where its at.

While I do like the card and I do use it every so often , the fact is my boring sound blaster pro 2 gets far more use thanks to the amount of games it supports and the fact it basically works 99% of the time , which kinda mirrored historically what happened back in the day.

Reply 10 of 18, by darry

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I have had at least one GUS since at least 1995. I never sold old .

I was something of a fanboy demoscene/tracker amateur . I also have least at 2 GUS PnP cards and one Compaq Interwave one, in addition to a GUS Max that I have somewhere in storage . I have had all of these for at least the last 20 years .

My "heretic" opinion :
- GUS card are essential for some period demos (software mixing and interpolation can sound great, but often were too CPU intensive for the time and often only GUS was supported anyway).
- GUS card are nice but not indispensable for games (Jazz Jackrabbit and One Must Fall are some potential exceptions)

At the end of the day, GUS cards are, IMHO, a status more than anything else, whereas 3Dfx card, while also a status symbol, have more practical usefulness in a retro setup .

EDIT : I specified/corrected some details and typos (underlined).

Last edited by darry on 2022-04-16, 19:09. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 11 of 18, by digistorm

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I was a big demo scene fan back in the day, and even went to demo parties. I got a GUS when I could, because there were a lot of releases that I couldn’t run without a GUS, and when I visited friends with one, I heard the big difference back in the day (because software mixing was too heavy so it lacked interpolation and other things that we now take for granted). I already had a SB16, so I never had a problem with games. I was also perfectly able to configure them side by side. It was a win win situation for me.
MIDI for games was a bit lacking but a few years later I got a Korg NS5R module for music creation, and that also worked fine for games with MIDI music.

Reply 12 of 18, by Norton Commander

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I owned a GUS MAX when I had my 486DX 33.

In a nutshell:

If your game had GUS support it was awesome (very few titles I owned). If your game only had SB support GUS sucked (it's SB emulation was horrible). Mostly good for demos and trackers.

After about 6 months I replaced it with an SB AWE64 ISA. GUS was a novelty sound card.

Reply 13 of 18, by dank0

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please excuse my english 😉 I have short story about GUS. That time i was working in the bank in the Czech republic (not super good pay, weird i know 😀. The decent PC computer cost 6-9 months of pay - full pays not after food and other expenses spent. I had friend who was hacker/cracker and I always visited him to see the latest games. One day I visited him and he was very excited from a new game "Dark Forces" which was that time pretty amazing experience. But he told me - the game is really amazing but the sound!!! That time i had in my PC Sound Blaster 2.0. I was really proud of it because not many friends had decent sound in their machines and Dune 2 with the voice intro was something amazing. I was playing it to everyone who visited me. My PC was connected to my hi-fi set so it sounds cool and futuristic. So you can imagine my FM Synth experience with low sample rate audio FX. And that time i had no idea how Roland MT-32 or Roland Sound Canvas midi sounds like (it was unreachable for me financially)

But back to my friend. His PC was never in the computer case. It was motherboard with all cards and Hard-drives beside CRT monitor , so he have fast access to change any parts he needs. He proudly point on his PC nest and there it was... Beautiful red and very big card with many memory slots. It was so pretty. It was sooooo pretty that i just fall in love without even know how that sounds. It looks compare to my tiny SB like Goliath with super power. But i still didn't know how this card will destroy my imagination. So he started the Dark Forces game. I just lost my mind 😀 Only thing what was in my mind "I WANT IT, I NEED IT!"

I was driving home and calculating how i will get this card ASAP. The card cost again lot of money and i just move together with my lovely girlfriend who has still naive ideas about our family life 😀 She wants kids, saving money for house, every year good vacation on the beach, all this woman nonsense 😀 But me, I WANT. I cannot stop thinking about it. I had even dreams about it 😀 So when i get my paycheck. I spend it all. there was really no money left. I didn't care we need to eat or pay rent. I just follow the red evil. My Girlfriend was so pissed. She didn't talk to me almost month . But i didn't care because i had new red beauty in my computer case 😀 It gives me headache in the beginning, because the SB emulation (SBOS) was piece of s..t so i decided to keep SB and GUS together. Setting proper IRQs, DMAs for those two ladies (sound cards) to not fight with each other was fun (bad Bios option) and after make multiple Autoexec/Config menu option to boot drivers for one or the other in DOS was also hard-work. But the final experience was worth it. I have to say that GUS gives me really nice memories that i will never forget. Hard to say if people who are getting GUS today will appreciate the HW as we did that time. But in 1993-96 it was something really special and with releases of new games or demos it was amazing drive.

AMD K6-II 500, Nvidia TNT2 AGP, 256 MB RAM
Roland SCC-1, Gravis Ultrasound Classic, Turtle Beach Tropez, Roland MT-32

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••• WANTED: ROLAND SCP-55 •••
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Reply 14 of 18, by The Serpent Rider

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As a proud owner of GUS PnP, I can safely say that these cards are overhyped. Nice investment though.

Get up, come on get down with the sickness
Open up your hate, and let it flow into me

Reply 16 of 18, by Shponglefan

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FioGermi wrote on 2022-04-16, 21:52:

My GUS story is: Me seeing them go for $400-500 CAD online and cry.

That is basically it!

Could be worse. Have you seen prices for authentic Adlib cards lately?

My YouTube channel (retro game music)

Reply 17 of 18, by FioGermi

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Shponglefan wrote on 2022-04-16, 22:10:
FioGermi wrote on 2022-04-16, 21:52:

My GUS story is: Me seeing them go for $400-500 CAD online and cry.

That is basically it!

Could be worse. Have you seen prices for authentic Adlib cards lately?

I'm not sure if i want to know