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Has Anyone Ever Seen/Heard of a DigiSpeech Plus?

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Reply 61 of 78, by digger

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Paralel wrote on 2019-05-26, 23:56:
tyukok wrote:

Man I wish someone could recreate this device (or at least it's board) with modern components. Both DS311 and DS301 are extremely rare, and that's unfortunate, because, unlike DS201, this is basically Sound Blaster on a parallel port. If you want sound on your old DOS laptop (or, perhaps, if you are playing DOS games on a modern computer), this is all you'll ever need.

Unfortunately, the GPS part is likely an ASIC, which is a completely custom setup, and the TI is a modification of a stock TI part, and there is no way to know what the modifications are. So, it's basically two parts that are not sourceable outside of the original hardware, especially the ASIC.

The company died not too long after the Digispeech Plus came out, so it's been ~22 years since they were in business. So, unfortunately, any source for the ASIC is probably long gone, and likely any information on the customizations to the TI.

Maybe we don't need the exact same ASIC to develop a clone or a compatible device. All we really need is to figure out the communication protocol going through the parallel port. A lot of stuff such as ADPCM (de)compression and FM synthesis is handled by the device internally in hardware, right?

So if someone here with the necessary skills and equipment, as well as an actual DigiSpeech Plus or Port*Able Sound Plus, could make a dump of the bitstreams between the device and the computer while doing basic stuff like playing back (AD)PCM audio, and playing back FM audio (either in DOS with the bundled SB emulation TSR or in Win3.1 with the supplied drivers), perhaps we could reverse-engineer this device in a "black box" fashion, so we could develop a device that would perhaps not be a complete reproduction, but would still be compatible with it at the hardware level.

Ideally, I would like to see something like an "ultimate" parallel port sound device that could be switched (through software) to run in a DigiSpeech Plus compatible mode, a Disney Sound Source compatible mode, an OPL3LPT compatible mode, a Covox/LPTDAC compatible mode and a stereo-on-one compatible mode. (Perhaps also a SoundJr compatible mode?) It could be made to be even better than an actual DigiSpeech Plus device (for instance with an OPL3 chip instead of just OPL2, better audio fidelity, S/PDIF or TOSlink digital output, etc).

If the LPT wire protocol of the DigiSpeech Plus were to be reverse-engineered, one could even implement a clone in software, which could run on something like a Raspberry Pi, interfacing with the parallel port of the host computer through the former's GPIO pins.

I do know who inside Digispeech wrote the documentation for the drivers, but you'd have to try and track the guy down, if he's still in the business/alive, and find out if he could put you in contact with any of the engineers.

That would surely help for a project like this. Just having the (low-level) parallel port programming specs for this thing would go along way towards developing a compatible device, even with different hardware under the hood.

Anybody interested in exploring this idea further? If so, I'll gladly open a dedicated topic for it. 🙂

Reply 62 of 78, by rasz_pl

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http://philipstorr.id.au/pcbook/book2/parallel.htm
does it require specific type of lpt port? does it work with normal SPP one?
how does its SB emulation work? does it require 386 cpu? How does it intercept port 220 writes?

Data communication part is pretty trivial as we got 8+4 pins to work with, enough for basic push 8 bits of data + 4 bit header. Its the Pc side software that might be difficult, as evidenced by other SB emulators spotty compatibility record.

Reply 63 of 78, by Benedikt

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My informed guess would be that it uses some kind of packet-oriented protocol.
What we don't really know is whether the OPL emulation is hardware-based, hardware-assisted or entirely software-based. The port interception itself is clearly V8086 based, i.e. requires a 386.
Any somewhat contemporary audio DSP or high-end microcontroller should be capable enough for the hardware part. I'd opt for an STM32 with either integrated or external ADC and DAC.

Reply 64 of 78, by digger

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rasz_pl wrote on 2021-05-09, 15:38:

http://philipstorr.id.au/pcbook/book2/parallel.htm
does it require specific type of lpt port? does it work with normal SPP one?
how does its SB emulation work? does it require 386 cpu? How does it intercept port 220 writes?

Yes, it requires a 386+ and it traps access to those ports. Ditto for DMA stuff. That's the only way how a Sound Blaster could be emulated with a parallel port device. And from what I gathered from LGR's Oddware video on the Digispeech Plus, the Sound Blaster emulator that came with the Digispeech Plus did a fairly reasonable job at emulating Sound Blaster cards, both FM synth and digital audio.

Data communication part is pretty trivial as we got 8+4 pins to work with, enough for basic push 8 bits of data + 4 bit header. Its the Pc side software that might be difficult, as evidenced by other SB emulators spotty compatibility record.

Yes, that's why I'm proposing we reverse-engineer the parallel port bitstreams to make it compatible at the parallel port level, so that such a hypothetical new device would work out of the box with the Sound Blaster emulator and Win3.x drivers that came with the Digispeech Plus, without requiring anybody to write any new software for it.

Reply 65 of 78, by rasz_pl

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digger wrote on 2021-05-09, 20:11:

Yes, it requires a 386+ and it traps access to those ports. Ditto for DMA stuff. That's the only way how a Sound Blaster could be emulated with a parallel port device. And from what I gathered from LGR's Oddware video on the Digispeech Plus, the Sound Blaster emulator that came with the Digispeech Plus did a fairly reasonable job at emulating Sound Blaster cards, both FM synth and digital audio.

what I saw in LGR's Oddware was struggling to play both digital sound and adlib at the same time under DOS.

digger wrote on 2021-05-09, 20:11:

Yes, that's why I'm proposing we reverse-engineer the parallel port bitstreams to make it compatible at the parallel port level, so that such a hypothetical new device would work out of the box with the Sound Blaster emulator and Win3.x drivers that came with the Digispeech Plus, without requiring anybody to write any new software for it.

The software side of Digispeech is already no bueno. It has exact same limitations as https://github.com/volkertb/temu-vsb and https://github.com/pdewacht/adlipt/tree/master/adlipt. Making hardware and own parallel protocol is not the difficult part, making it work with protected games in dos is.

Reply 66 of 78, by digger

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rasz_pl wrote on 2021-05-10, 01:37:

what I saw in LGR's Oddware was struggling to play both digital sound and adlib at the same time under DOS.

Yes, but two counterpoints to that:

  • Duke Nukem 2 is a finicky game to get working with emulators and even many sound cards that claim Sound Blaster compatibility in hardware, due to the game requiring ADPCM decompression support. So the fact that the Sound Blaster emulator of the Digispeech Plus works with the game at all shows that the compatibility is quite good.
  • In the same video, LGR eventually got digital sound and FM synthesis working at the same time without that problem, while running the Windows 3.1 version of Simcity 2000. Admittedly he had to change something in the driver settings for that to work, but it shows that this is not a hardware limitation of the Digispeech Plus.
digger wrote on 2021-05-09, 20:11:

The software side of Digispeech is already no bueno. It has exact same limitations as https://github.com/volkertb/temu-vsb and https://github.com/pdewacht/adlipt/tree/master/adlipt. Making hardware and own parallel protocol is not the difficult part, making it work with protected games in dos is.

I wouldn't call that "no bueno". Having a Sound Blaster software emulator that works with all Real Mode games, with high compatibility, reliability and sound quality, would still be a solid win, since the number of Real Mode DOS games is very long. (Aren't most DOS games Real Mode games?) I do agree that an emulation solution that would work with both real mode and protected mode games would be the Holy Grail of Sound Blaster emulation. But I'll take any incremental victory along the way. 🙂

Reply 67 of 78, by digger

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DSP Solutions offered quite a few interesting downloads for the various Digispeech devices, both the DS201A and the later Plus devices. Here is an Internet Archive snapshot of that downloads page:

https://web.archive.org/web/19980626124640/ht … cs/filelib.html

One of the more interesting downloads on that page (IMO) was the beta version of a Windows 3.1 driver for the Digispeech DS201A (the earlier serial port device).

Unfortunately, the actual files that were linked to weren't archived.

I've searched, but I haven't been able to find a copy of win201.zip anywhere on the Internet. Do any of you perhaps still have a copy, or even better, a backup of all the downloads of that page?

If not, those files might be lost forever. 😞

Paralel wrote on 2019-05-26, 23:56:

The company died not too long after the Digispeech Plus came out, so it's been ~22 years since they were in business. So, unfortunately, any source for the ASIC is probably long gone, and likely any information on the customizations to the TI. I do know who inside Digispeech wrote the documentation for the drivers, but you'd have to try and track the guy down, if he's still in the business/alive, and find out if he could put you in contact with any of the engineers.

You know the name of that Digispeech employee? If so, he might still have a copy of all or some of the files that were once offered as downloads on that page. Does he have a LinkedIn profile or something?

It would be fun to play with the DS201A on Windows 3.1, if the driver can be recovered somewhere. Ditto for all the other interesting stuff that didn't initially come on the disks that were shipped with these devices. 🙂

Reply 68 of 78, by cyclone3d

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I'll have to check and see what I have. I have both the 201A and the 311. I don't remember what, if anything I downloaded for the 201A.

Edit: Not seeing anything for the 201A at first glance. Pretty sure I have everything for the 311 though.

Somebody uploaded the original driver and the SDK to archive.org:
https://archive.org/details.php?identifier=ds201a&

Edit 2: I wonder if there was any Windows 3.1 software that supported the DS201/201A. If so, it may have come bundled with the driver for 3.1 since that was a somewhat common thing back then.

This is a tidbit of interesting information:
https://resources.oreilly.com/examples/978156 … IFF/MS_RIFF.TXT

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

Reply 69 of 78, by Paralel

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digger wrote on 2021-05-13, 13:56:
Paralel wrote on 2019-05-26, 23:56:

The company died not too long after the Digispeech Plus came out, so it's been ~22 years since they were in business. So, unfortunately, any source for the ASIC is probably long gone, and likely any information on the customizations to the TI. I do know who inside Digispeech wrote the documentation for the drivers, but you'd have to try and track the guy down, if he's still in the business/alive, and find out if he could put you in contact with any of the engineers.

You know the name of that Digispeech employee? If so, he might still have a copy of all or some of the files that were once offered as downloads on that page. Does he have a LinkedIn profile or something?

It would be fun to play with the DS201A on Windows 3.1, if the driver can be recovered somewhere. Ditto for all the other interesting stuff that didn't initially come on the disks that were shipped with these devices. 🙂

I will do my best to locate the information that I found at that time. I am sure I have it written down somewhere... I wish I kept my file backups in better order.

Reply 71 of 78, by Paralel

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digger wrote on 2021-05-13, 13:56:
DSP Solutions offered quite a few interesting downloads for the various Digispeech devices, both the DS201A and the later Plus d […]
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DSP Solutions offered quite a few interesting downloads for the various Digispeech devices, both the DS201A and the later Plus devices. Here is an Internet Archive snapshot of that downloads page:

https://web.archive.org/web/19980626124640/ht … cs/filelib.html

One of the more interesting downloads on that page (IMO) was the beta version of a Windows 3.1 driver for the Digispeech DS201A (the earlier serial port device).

Unfortunately, the actual files that were linked to weren't archived.

I've searched, but I haven't been able to find a copy of win201.zip anywhere on the Internet. Do any of you perhaps still have a copy, or even better, a backup of all the downloads of that page?

If not, those files might be lost forever. 😞

So far, in all my years on the web, I have never been thwarted in locating a driver for a piece of hardware, regardless of how old or obscure, until now. I knew the day would eventually come, but I am sad to see it happen. I was unable, despite 6+ hours of searching, to locate any remnant of the beta Windows 3.1 drivers for the 201/201a. I fear that this is one file that has been well and truly eaten by the internet, much to our collective dismay. If only the internet archive has been designed to deal with mirroring FTPs. (and I would like to say "crap on you" to the developers that have unilaterally decided to deprecate FTP support in their browsers. There are still many of us in the IT community that still have to plumb the depths of long forgotten FTPs that hold treasure troves of unique files).

We may want to try contacting the old CEO of Digispeech/DSP Solutions, Modie Katz. He actually knew the engineer that made the prototype of the DS201. He ran the company when the DS201/DS201a were their main products. If he doesn't have any of the files, he may know who does. You can read about him here: https://www.bizjournals.com/sacramento/storie … /18/focus7.html

His contact info is here: https://www.allianceofceos.com/about_director … tail/modie-katz

Reply 72 of 78, by Utafuinki

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I skimmed this thread through, but couldn't quite make out what kind of FM chip this thing has. Haven't watched the LGR video as of yet.

There is so much talk about 'emulation' in this thread, it's a bit confusing - does this mean emulation of OPL2, or does the hardware have an actual, real Yamaha OPL2 chip in it?

Didn't many Sound Blasters have OPL3 anyway?

It would be of course a great luxury to be able to replace OPL3LPT with a functional 'Sound Blaster' that also has a real OPL3 in it - but I don't know if this Digispeech thing would be the solution for that or not.

Emulated OPL2/3 chip is of course no good - if I want emulation, I might as well use DOSBox - acquiring actual hardware for a DOS PC would only be worth the effort, money and trouble, when it comes with an actual, real FM chip instead of emulated one(s).

I guess the only real solution is still to use an actual, real Sound Blaster on an old DOS PC that supports ISA cards and such (kind of hard to find, let alone get these days).

Reply 73 of 78, by Bondi

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Utafuinki wrote on 2021-08-16, 06:50:
I skimmed this thread through, but couldn't quite make out what kind of FM chip this thing has. Haven't watched the LGR video as […]
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I skimmed this thread through, but couldn't quite make out what kind of FM chip this thing has. Haven't watched the LGR video as of yet.

There is so much talk about 'emulation' in this thread, it's a bit confusing - does this mean emulation of OPL2, or does the hardware have an actual, real Yamaha OPL2 chip in it?

Didn't many Sound Blasters have OPL3 anyway?

It would be of course a great luxury to be able to replace OPL3LPT with a functional 'Sound Blaster' that also has a real OPL3 in it - but I don't know if this Digispeech thing would be the solution for that or not.

Emulated OPL2/3 chip is of course no good - if I want emulation, I might as well use DOSBox - acquiring actual hardware for a DOS PC would only be worth the effort, money and trouble, when it comes with an actual, real FM chip instead of emulated one(s).

I guess the only real solution is still to use an actual, real Sound Blaster on an old DOS PC that supports ISA cards and such (kind of hard to find, let alone get these days).

Digispeech does not have an OPL chip in it. It uses a custom Texas Instruments DS301 chip, that does all sound processing, including FM synthesys/OPL emulation (not sure which is entirely correct).

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Here is a sample recording that I made using Sony PRD155SB that uses same chip
Re: PCMCIA Sound Cards

PCMCIA Sound Cards chart

Reply 75 of 78, by Bondi

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Guys, is there anyone on the forum that has a PORTABLE SOUND DIGISPEECH DS301A or a Digispeech plus and wants to do some tesing with it?
ViTi95 is about to release FastDoom version that has a SB direct mode, which does not need DMA for digital sound. I've tested it and it It actually works on DSP Solutions PCMCIA sound card, which is very similar to Digisteech LPT device.
So if anyone has the DS311 or DS301A, and can do some basic testing, please reveal yourself.

PCMCIA Sound Cards chart

Reply 76 of 78, by cyclone3d

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Bondi wrote on 2021-09-15, 18:03:

Guys, is there anyone on the forum that has a PORTABLE SOUND DIGISPEECH DS301A or a Digispeech plus and wants to do some tesing with it?
ViTi95 is about to release FastDoom version that has a SB direct mode, which does not need DMA for digital sound. I've tested it and it It actually works on DSP Solutions PCMCIA sound card, which is very similar to Digisteech LPT device.
So if anyone has the DS311 or DS301A, and can do some basic testing, please reveal yourself.

I actually have both. I just recently bought the DS301A and have not even tested it yet. Wasn't a huge priority at the time as it was sold as untested.

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

Reply 77 of 78, by Bondi

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cyclone3d wrote on 2021-09-15, 18:49:
Bondi wrote on 2021-09-15, 18:03:

Guys, is there anyone on the forum that has a PORTABLE SOUND DIGISPEECH DS301A or a Digispeech plus and wants to do some tesing with it?
ViTi95 is about to release FastDoom version that has a SB direct mode, which does not need DMA for digital sound. I've tested it and it It actually works on DSP Solutions PCMCIA sound card, which is very similar to Digisteech LPT device.
So if anyone has the DS311 or DS301A, and can do some basic testing, please reveal yourself.

I actually have both. I just recently bought the DS301A and have not even tested it yet. Wasn't a huge priority at the time as it was sold as untested.

Is there anything that you don't have? 😁
Okay, I'll send you the precofigured FastDoom. A good reason to finally test it.

PCMCIA Sound Cards chart

Reply 78 of 78, by cyclone3d

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Bondi wrote on 2021-09-15, 18:58:
cyclone3d wrote on 2021-09-15, 18:49:
Bondi wrote on 2021-09-15, 18:03:

Guys, is there anyone on the forum that has a PORTABLE SOUND DIGISPEECH DS301A or a Digispeech plus and wants to do some tesing with it?
ViTi95 is about to release FastDoom version that has a SB direct mode, which does not need DMA for digital sound. I've tested it and it It actually works on DSP Solutions PCMCIA sound card, which is very similar to Digisteech LPT device.
So if anyone has the DS311 or DS301A, and can do some basic testing, please reveal yourself.

I actually have both. I just recently bought the DS301A and have not even tested it yet. Wasn't a huge priority at the time as it was sold as untested.

Is there anything that you don't have? 😁
Okay, I'll send you the precofigured FastDoom. A good reason to finally test it.

Ok, hopefully I'll be able to test within the next couple of days.

There are still some things I would like to have to play with but most of those are very hard to come by and/or very expensive to acquire. I try to only buy when things pop up for a good price though I have spent a bit more than normal on things that almost never show up.

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