VOGONS


First post, by Intel486dx33

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The Gravis Ultrasound is rare and expensive for collectors.
But I just want a good sounding ISA sound card that has the clarity of the GUS.

Do you know of any ?

I have a Sound Blaster 2.0 right now but it’s not to clear in playing DOS games.

Reply 1 of 49, by appiah4

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Intel486dx33 wrote on 2020-02-14, 07:31:
The Gravis Ultrasound is rare and expensive for collectors. But I just want a good sounding ISA sound card that has the clarity […]
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The Gravis Ultrasound is rare and expensive for collectors.
But I just want a good sounding ISA sound card that has the clarity of the GUS.

Do you know of any ?

I have a Sound Blaster 2.0 right now but it’s not to clear in playing DOS games.

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Reply 3 of 49, by derSammler

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Intel486dx33 wrote on 2020-02-14, 07:31:

The Gravis Ultrasound is rare and expensive for collectors.
But I just want a good sounding ISA sound card that has the clarity of the GUS.

You are comparing two completely different things. The GUS works like an Amiga: it has many separate audio channels mixed in hardware. No other sound card does that, nor is any other sound card compatible with the GUS. If you want to play a game using the GUS sound settings, you need a GUS. If you have any other sound card, you have to select "Sound Blaster" or whatsoever and this will result in software mixing, which will never reach the clarity of hardware mixing. But I wouldn't care much, as the GUS is highly overrated for games.

If it's just for noise, get any of the later highly-integrated Soundblaster cards. Those based on the Vibra16 chip are very clear, for example.

http://retro-net.de/blog.html

Reply 4 of 49, by daikatana_

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To be honest, GUS is a bit controversial card. It's output is crystal clear, so if you're after signal-to-noise ratio, you're getting one of the best. If you're after MIDI, GUS has exceptionally good wavetable, however, since it's compatibility in games is, let's say, lacking and only handful of games support GUS in their sound setup, you need lots of patches. Some games work fine and sound great, but some games doesn't work at all or sound like a piece of toss. So if somebody's a masochist and wants to spend more time getting the game working, instead of playing it, it's his choice 😀

If you don't care about wavetable, do as derSammler says and get one of the later Sound Blasters, they are cheap. If you do, appiah4's list is good, however those cards' price is on a par with GUS.

Game MIDI soundtracks

Retro games and HW reviews

Reply 5 of 49, by BloodyCactus

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derSammler wrote on 2020-02-14, 09:13:

No other sound card does that

except the emu8000 cards (AWE32/AWE64/GOLDFINCH), and Turtle beach Maui, Tropez, Pinnacle with the ICS WaveFront chipset..

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Reply 6 of 49, by brostenen

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GUS are wonderfull. Great cards. However, there are a catch. Games support are not the strongest. It is mostly the best for circa 1992 games. (plus/minus some years)

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Reply 7 of 49, by gdjacobs

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BloodyCactus wrote on 2020-02-14, 13:23:
derSammler wrote on 2020-02-14, 09:13:

No other sound card does that

except the emu8000 cards (AWE32/AWE64/GOLDFINCH), and Turtle beach Maui, Tropez, Pinnacle with the ICS WaveFront chipset..

Those are MIDI engines that support custom sound fonts, but they don't really have great I/O performance.

GUS is designed to stream PCM data and mix the streams in hardware. As a result, the GUS MIDI drivers are a bit hacky.

All hail the Great Capacitor Brand Finder

Reply 8 of 49, by BloodyCactus

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gdjacobs wrote on 2020-02-14, 17:05:
BloodyCactus wrote on 2020-02-14, 13:23:
derSammler wrote on 2020-02-14, 09:13:

No other sound card does that

except the emu8000 cards (AWE32/AWE64/GOLDFINCH), and Turtle beach Maui, Tropez, Pinnacle with the ICS WaveFront chipset..

Those are MIDI engines that support custom sound fonts, but they don't really have great I/O performance.

GUS is designed to stream PCM data and mix the streams in hardware. As a result, the GUS MIDI drivers are a bit hacky.

uh.. emu8000 streams data and mixes in hardware.. it does the same thing as the GF1 + Interwave chips... ICS Wavefront on TB cards, SAME DEAL!

The midiness of the EMU + ICS chipsets just points to them having a ROM in the memory space that has the samples of GM instruments making it easier for playback.

GF1 is a wavetable chip - 14 voices at 44.1khz, then variable rates to 32 channels. - 1mb address space
AMD Interwave is a wavetable chip - 32 voices at 441.khz - 16mb address space
EMU8000 is a wavetable chip - 32 voices at 44.1khz - 32mb address space
ICS Wavefront is a wavetable chip. - 24 voices at 44.1khz and 32 voices at 33.8khz. 32mb rom/16mb ram address space

they all mix samples from live ram and output it.

Also, what is this "great I/O performance" you speak of the gus having? They are all hobbled by the ISA bus. Uploading sample data is no slower on my EM8000 than it is on my GUS PnP (I no longer have a classic to compare). When I wrote my mod player for gus+awe I dont remember classic being any faster or slower to get samples into its ram.

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Reply 9 of 49, by SirNickity

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Intel486dx33 wrote on 2020-02-14, 07:31:
The Gravis Ultrasound is rare and expensive for collectors. But I just want a good sounding ISA sound card that has the clarity […]
Show full quote

The Gravis Ultrasound is rare and expensive for collectors.
But I just want a good sounding ISA sound card that has the clarity of the GUS.

Do you know of any ?

I have a Sound Blaster 2.0 right now but it’s not to clear in playing DOS games.

Yeah, that's not what the GUS is about.

DOS games sound like crap, by design. You can run it through a Pro Tools rig and it would sound like crap. Floppy disks and BBS downloads did not afford the use of high quality samples.

The GUS, AWE, Turtle Beach, MT-32, Sound Canvas, and any other MIDI wavetable or ROMpler hardware -- they're all designed to improve music, as FM sounds like a deflating balloon and/or a fork stuck in a blender.

Some cards have better S/N ratio than others.

But PCM did, and always will, sound like garbage until around the Windows 98 era, when everyone for sure had a 16-bit sound card, a CD-ROM, at least 16MB of RAM, and a PCI bus.

Reply 10 of 49, by BinaryDemon

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BloodyCactus wrote on 2020-02-14, 17:41:
uh.. emu8000 streams data and mixes in hardware.. it does the same thing as the GF1 + Interwave chips... ICS Wavefront on TB car […]
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uh.. emu8000 streams data and mixes in hardware.. it does the same thing as the GF1 + Interwave chips... ICS Wavefront on TB cards, SAME DEAL!

The midiness of the EMU + ICS chipsets just points to them having a ROM in the memory space that has the samples of GM instruments making it easier for playback.

GF1 is a wavetable chip - 14 voices at 44.1khz, then variable rates to 32 channels. - 1mb address space
AMD Interwave is a wavetable chip - 32 voices at 441.khz - 16mb address space
EMU8000 is a wavetable chip - 32 voices at 44.1khz - 32mb address space
ICS Wavefront is a wavetable chip. - 24 voices at 44.1khz and 32 voices at 33.8khz. 32mb rom/16mb ram address space

they all mix samples from live ram and output it.

Also, what is this "great I/O performance" you speak of the gus having? They are all hobbled by the ISA bus. Uploading sample data is no slower on my EM8000 than it is on my GUS PnP (I no longer have a classic to compare). When I wrote my mod player for gus+awe I dont remember classic being any faster or slower to get samples into its ram.

Over the years I recall a bunch of stories about Gravis Ultrasound incurring significant performance hits.

Posts like this one: Benchmarking DOOM with sound cards

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Make your dos retrogaming experience portable!

Reply 11 of 49, by mpe

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When bashing the GUS and comparing GF1 with other chipsets it is important to put things to the right context.

GF1 is a 1992 chip. None of the other superior wavetable chipsets existed back then. The GUS was competing with OPL2/3 FM synthesis cards like SB Pro, SB16, etc and it was a night and day difference.

I was using GUS back then so I remember all the struggles I had with the various emulators. It wasn't a perfect experience, but when it worked it was superior.

So whilst the EMU8000 is superior to GF1 and perhaps even Interwave chips, the GUS is way more collectible and I'd happily swap 5 Sound Blaster AWE cards for a single GUS of any type 😀

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Reply 12 of 49, by Intel486dx33

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Easy guys !....I don’t want to bash any sound card. I just heard the clarity of the GUS on a LGR video and thought that it sounds good.

https://youtu.be/92olhbB3KKM

Nice and clear. As opposed to my Sound Blaster Pro 2.0 which often I hear static in games.
Maybe that the audio port is bad on my SB 2.0 ?
I don’t know.
But I am just asking what you guys think as to comparable sound cards that sound just as good as the Gus but are not so expensive.
And easy to find on the internet.

I do have the following ISA cards that I have not tried yet:
Sound Blaster AWE32
Sound Blaster AWE64
Sound Blaster Vibra 16s with Yamaha OPL3
OPTi sound cards
Crystal Sound cards
Turtle Beach Monte Carlo ( ISA )
Yamaha Audician 32
Edison Gold
ESS 688 sound cards
Sound Blaster 16 CT2950
Sound Blaster CT1770 with Yamaha OPL3

But I don’t have a GUS.

Reply 13 of 49, by jmarsh

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BinaryDemon wrote on 2020-02-14, 21:22:

Over the years I recall a bunch of stories about Gravis Ultrasound incurring significant performance hits.

Posts like this one: Benchmarking DOOM with sound cards

id didn't really use the GUS as intended. Instead of uploading all their samples and using multiple voices to mix them they did their own mixing in software, uploaded it to the card's memory then played it back as two separate voices set at double the base rate, with a one sample offset to account for stereo separation.
They did the same thing with quake but with even worse performance because they used polling instead of interrupts to know when the upload operation was complete.

Reply 14 of 49, by BloodyCactus

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mpe wrote on 2020-02-14, 21:58:

GF1 is a 1992 chip. None of the other superior wavetable chipsets existed back then.

just for the record, the EMU8000 chip existed in 1991, E-MU were putting them in all their synths before they made the wavetable card. The first version was 1988/1989 for the proteus/1.

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Reply 15 of 49, by Grzyb

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Intel486dx33 wrote on 2020-02-14, 22:57:
Easy guys !....I don’t want to bash any sound card. I just heard the clarity of the GUS on a LGR video and thought that it sound […]
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Easy guys !....I don’t want to bash any sound card. I just heard the clarity of the GUS on a LGR video and thought that it sounds good.

https://youtu.be/92olhbB3KKM

Nice and clear. As opposed to my Sound Blaster Pro 2.0 which often I hear static in games.
Maybe that the audio port is bad on my SB 2.0 ?
I don’t know.
But I am just asking what you guys think as to comparable sound cards that sound just as good as the Gus but are not so expensive.
And easy to find on the internet.

If what you want is good signal-to-noise ratio, then you don't really need a GUS, there's plenty of other nice cards...

What to avoid:
- SB 2.0 - yes, it's one of the worst cards, yours probably isn't broken
- other 8-bit cards - some of them may have decent SNR when playing FM, but 8-bit DAC is inevitably noisy
- early SB 16

What is worth trying:
- late SB 16, based on Vibra - single chip solution usually helps with SNR
- late SB AWE, especially SB AWE64 Gold
- PAS 16
- many late ISA single-chip cards, like Crystal 423x, ESS 186x, and others - they were cheap, but often surprisingly good
- anything Turtle Beach, but they were expensive professional stuff, which means they are rare and still expensive

Reply 16 of 49, by Jo22

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Grzyb wrote on 2020-02-15, 00:12:
What to avoid: - SB 2.0 - yes, it's one of the worst cards, yours probably isn't broken - other 8-bit cards - some of them may h […]
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What to avoid:
- SB 2.0 - yes, it's one of the worst cards, yours probably isn't broken
- other 8-bit cards - some of them may have decent SNR when playing FM, but 8-bit DAC is inevitably noisy
- early SB 16

What is worth trying:
- late SB 16, based on Vibra - single chip solution usually helps with SNR
- late SB AWE, especially SB AWE64 Gold
- PAS 16
- many late ISA single-chip cards, like Crystal 423x, ESS 186x, and others - they were cheap, but often surprisingly good
- anything Turtle Beach, but they were expensive professional stuff, which means they are rare and still expensive

Ironically, that's one of the reasons for me that I still tinker with the old hardware, but in reverse.
I grew up with a quality card, the PAS16, first and later found out about the early SB16s (CT17xx "noise blasters").
While noisy, they had a certain charme that I learned to like. Somehow, that "fat" sound with the low bass reminds me of the original MegaDrive (Sega Genesis).
So if it wasn't for that sound (and old Covox schematics), I perhaps wouldn't have started to learn about old sound cards in first place.
Don't get me wrong, I have fond memories of my PAS16 and still hold it in high regard, but if it's about high sound quality,
I'd rather stick to a modern PC running DOSBox and a high fidelity sound card with 112db snr, 24-Bit and 192KHz sampling rate.
Along with a quality headphones amp (tube based maybe, also high snr) and quality studio headphones.
Or electro static headphones w/ matching amps as such made by Stax. 😁
(While the old PC remains equipped with noisy, but otherwise authentic hardware).

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Reply 17 of 49, by Cloudschatze

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Grzyb wrote:

If what you want is good signal-to-noise ratio....
What to avoid:
- early SB 16

For what it's worth, an appropriately configured SB16, early or otherwise, can be respectably quiet. From my highly-disappointing thread that touched on this very subject:

TestComp.PNG

Reply 18 of 49, by fitzpatr

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Cloudschatze wrote on 2020-02-15, 01:49:
For what it's worth, an appropriately configured SB16, early or otherwise, can be respectably quiet. From my highly-disappointin […]
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Grzyb wrote:

If what you want is good signal-to-noise ratio....
What to avoid:
- early SB 16

For what it's worth, an appropriately configured SB16, early or otherwise, can be respectably quiet. From my highly-disappointing thread that touched on this very subject:

TestComp.PNG

I must have missed the thread. May I have a link to it, please, Cloudschatze?

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