VOGONS


First post, by xjas

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I was playing around with my Celeron 1GHz / Gigabyte GA-6VEML machine a bit after recapping it. This is a compact, highly-integrated Socket 370 board with onboard video & sound based on the VIA PLE133T chipset with the (unfairly??) hated 686B southbridge. This board has an ISA slot, but I suspected its onboard audio was the same system as the VIA thin client I had good luck with last year. Sure enough, it was.

I've found the onboard sound on these to be highly compatible with DOS stuff and very easy to set up. I have a sneaky suspicion it's doing PC/PCI (SB-Link) natively in the chipset, but I haven't tried to confirm this.

Here's how to get it going:

In the BIOS for one of these you generally see the following options, this is where the magic happens. Enable all these and set them up how you like.

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You can also change the PCI/ISA PnP settings to reserve your IRQ and DMA (5/1 in this case) but I haven't found that to be necessary (it doesn't hurt either.)

You can download the driver package straight from VIA, the zip file you want is 68MU220b.zip; the only files you really need are VIAUDIO.COM (and DOS4GW) in the DOS directory. (I don't even think you need the INSTALL.EXE but you can use it if you want.) You also need VIAFMTSR.COM which isn't in the package for some reason but I've attached it here:

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^^ everything needed to make it work.

The only thing you need to add in the AUTOEXEC.BAT is VIAUDIO.COM and VIAFMTSR.COM (in order), and then your SET BLASTER line:

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...and you're golden!

Unfortunately these take a fair bit of conventional memory (39kB) but I haven't played around with loading them high or optimizing at all. On my machine I still have 577kB free which is enough for most things.

The sound chip is compatible with Sound Blaster Pro drivers in most games including SB Pro stereo support. It seems to come across as a Pro 2 with an OPL3. The FM emulation actually isn't bad, it's certainly listenable if you're not too picky about "authenticity" and is significantly better than e.g. a Gravis Ultrasound's.

Everything I've tried so far generally "just works": Dark Forces, Quake, Hexen 2, FreeDoom, etc. Descent 2 crashes if configured for FM music, but I plugged a Roland Sound Canvas into the gameport and set it to general MIDI which worked instantly with no drama. (It runs fine with VIAFMTSR loaded but the game itself could not be configured to use FM.) Digi sound in D2 is no problem, again in SB Pro stereo.

I do have to run some games with DOS32A rather than DOS4GW but I think this is an incompatibility with FreeDOS's memory managers; I get the same thing on other systems.

It even plays sound in stuff it has no business getting sound out of:

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Fans of Surprise! Productions's Copper demo will appreciate how hard it is to see this screen on this notoriously picky prod. It doesn't even work on my 386DX with a REAL OPL3 sound card. It seems perfectly happy with the VIA FM emulation though.

Conclusion: if you have one of these boards or the numerous S370 appliances (thin clients, etc.) with a variant of this chipset, and you want sound in your DOS games, give the onboard sound a try. I suspect anything that has the Sound Blaster settings in the BIOS will work fine.

Last edited by xjas on 2017-09-22, 22:32. Edited 2 times in total.

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Reply 1 of 23, by xjas

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Here's both halves of the driver package straight from VIA's website, for future reference. See above for setup instructions. 😀

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viafmtsr.zip
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Last edited by xjas on 2017-10-27, 23:33. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 2 of 23, by Jo22

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Thanks a lot, man! 😀

xjas wrote:

Fans of Surprise! Productions's Copper demo will appreciate how hard it is to see this screen on this notoriously picky prod. It doesn't even work on my 386DX with a REAL OPL3 sound card. It seems perfectly happy with the VIA FM emulation though.

Ah, the good old copper demo! 😁 I used to entertain our family and
some acquaintances by running it on a 286-12 with a SB 2.0 and an ET-3000.

What I found to be kinda funny is that the "AdLib detected..." screen never showed an actual AdLib card
but some imaginary Sound Blaster model instead (that's not supposed to be something like a Sound Master II, is it ?)

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Reply 3 of 23, by weldum

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ohh that's really good, i have a mobo like yours, but instead it has a crappy via c3 at 800mhz that's very slow, and no isa slot, but really highly integrated.

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Reply 4 of 23, by boxpressed

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Interesting. I have a Soyo K7VTA Pro with the 686B Southbridge. I never messed around with the onboard audio because the board has an ISA slot.

Reply 5 of 23, by xjas

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Just for fun, I did some recordings of the FM emulation. It's ... not bad, honestly! I've heard far worse. I think Grabbag turned out especially well.

The chip does tend to make a click when the volume goes to zero, I edited around most of those. Not too much of an issue in general use though.

I want to do a few more, specifically these are all MIDI tracks recorded using the OPL3 GM driver in each game. I'll do some native OPL3 stuff (RAD Tracker, Edlib, etc.) when I get time.

Enjoy! (Or don't if you're a "I HATE EVERYTHING THAT'S NOT REAL OPL3!!1" type.)

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Reply 6 of 23, by betamax80

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These instructions are also 100% correct for an EPIA/-V early board with VT1512A Vinyl audio. I have some idea that the VXD version of Win9x driver is also needed for this to work as it uses "hooks" from it?

Reply 7 of 23, by ShovelKnight

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xjas wrote on 2017-09-27, 20:02:

The chip does tend to make a click when the volume goes to zero, I edited around most of those. Not too much of an issue in general use though.

I actually found it to be very annoying in some games, most notably Prehistorik 2 where it literally clicks every time at the end of certain sounds.

Reply 8 of 23, by punto2021

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Hi everybody!
So, I've a beauty Pentium 3 with VIA Apollo Pro 133A. It is very satisfing, it managed to get me back to the 90s when I was just a teenager, I'm in love.
But now let's go to the problem: the audio on DOS games. I'm tring to run Descent 2 and Super Street fighter 2 turbo.
I've folowed this guide, my autoexec.bat include both VIA commands.
If I run the setup on windows 98 I obtain the error in attachement "d2", for both games.
If I run the setup on dos (F8 on boot and than command prompt) it detect the sound card and also test works fine! BUT starting the game descent2 don't show the video (graphic card issue I think) and ssf2t show the "audio driver" issue in attachement ssf2t.jpg.

There is anything that I can do?

Thanks!

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Reply 9 of 23, by dr.zeissler

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hmm... the via audiodrivers are for dos, plain dos. win98 has a built in SB-Emulation perhaps this conflicts.

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Reply 10 of 23, by RetroPC_King

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I also got this to work on my Gigabyte GA-7DXE with the following game: The Cycles (1989) by Accolade.
With DOS4GW and VIAFMTSR.COM and VIAUDIO.COM, didn't forgot the SET BLASTER=A220 I5 D1 P330, also running these from a floppy disk.
At the stock parameters. It sounds good. Also I got ADLIB Emulation due to this.

Also I attached a sample MP3 recorded from Line-Out of that PC.

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Reply 11 of 23, by georgel

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RetroPC_King wrote on 2021-11-05, 15:12:
I also got this to work on my Gigabyte GA-7DXE with the following game: The Cycles (1989) by Accolade. With DOS4GW and VIAFMTSR. […]
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I also got this to work on my Gigabyte GA-7DXE with the following game: The Cycles (1989) by Accolade.
With DOS4GW and VIAFMTSR.COM and VIAUDIO.COM, didn't forgot the SET BLASTER=A220 I5 D1 P330, also running these from a floppy disk.
At the stock parameters. It sounds good. Also I got ADLIB Emulation due to this.

Also I attached a sample MP3 recorded from Line-Out of that PC.

If the software uses DOS4GW then you should use DOS32AWE instead of it to achieve perfect results.

DOS32AWE - DOS/4G compatible DOS Extender with Sound Blaster AWEUTIL MIDI synthesizer support for Protected mode,VIASB

Reply 12 of 23, by MN_Moody

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betamax80 wrote on 2020-04-03, 22:41:

These instructions are also 100% correct for an EPIA/-V early board with VT1512A Vinyl audio. I have some idea that the VXD version of Win9x driver is also needed for this to work as it uses "hooks" from it?

Wow, thanks for doing this legwork, I picked up a few of the EPIA boards in a lot of retro gear and was curious how they might play as DOS/early gaming machines.

Reply 13 of 23, by javispedro1

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Did anyone notice how terrible Monkey Island 2 sounds with VIAFMTSR ?

It sounds like if it was saturated or being clipped, even with everything set at the lowest volume. I'm unsure if this is a VIAFMTSR issue or something else in my setup (it's a T5710).

Reply 14 of 23, by Reticular

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javispedro1 wrote on 2022-02-10, 16:46:

Did anyone notice how terrible Monkey Island 2 sounds with VIAFMTSR ?

It sounds like if it was saturated or being clipped, even with everything set at the lowest volume. I'm unsure if this is a VIAFMTSR issue or something else in my setup (it's a T5710).

Give me a moment to pack my parachute..

Just found this forum, and i am digging deep, already looking up stuff to buy. I found this mobo fo 20$

..
But i have the actuall question, since you are describing the sound quality. Are these old motherboards good sounding?ANd by that i mean more analog, natural?Are old DAC-s any good?

->
I know the sound of SB Live, Audigy 2 ZS, Emu 1616m...that is my reference, but for some reason SB Live! sounds much better and natural installed in the old Asus TUSI-M s370 mobo that the s775 G31 P5K. The difference made me go wild on searching the reasons why...but now i see these AWE cards, this motherboard also having Sound Blaster integrated...i hear these samples sounding great. Can you please reference a newer soundards/motherboards with this motherboard or lets say Awe ones?

Also, OPL3 thing...i am a producer, this thing woke me up, sounding so falmiliar like my childhood and i would like to make some tracks with it.

Cheers

Reply 15 of 23, by AirIntake

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Turns out I have a Gigabyte motherboard with an Athlon 1000 using this 686B Southbridge. It needs a re-capping but it's nice to know it has built in DOS sound.

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Reply 16 of 23, by javispedro1

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Well, my issue with Monkey Island 2 and VIAFMTSR looks definitely software.

Since I didn't know if the crappy rendition was actually a VIAFMTSR issue or a T5710 issue (like yet another cap gone bad), I was trying the only game I own from the ones recorded by xjas above: DUKE3D.
But to my surprise I noticed that simply running DUKE3D fixes VIAFMTSR!

I mean, compare this recording of the MI2 intro done right after a fresh boot: (WARNING: horrible)

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With another recording of the same MI2 intro done after having run DUKE3D:

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I didn't change anything in-between, didn't touch the recording equipment, didn't touch volume/mixer controls, didn't restart VIAFMTSR, didn't reset the card using VIASBCFG.

if you look at the "bad" rendition's waveform, it's just strangely deformed. There has to be something going on in the tone generation / viafmtsr side, I don't think even you can cause this type of distortion with mixer settings.

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However reloading viafmtsr doesn't "break" it again.
Reloading viasbcfg does not break it again either, however a warm reboot (ctrl alt del) does.
Until I run duke3d again, that is. Which I guess I'm going to put on autoexec.bat 😀

No clue yet, but at least I'm happy it's not yet another hardware issue...

Reply 17 of 23, by javispedro1

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Okey I think I figured out the cause.
Looks like the problem is whether the virtual SBPro mixer is set to mono or stereo output.
When duke3d initializes it to stereo, viafmtsr sounds OK.
And viceversa: setting it to mono causes the horrible FM. (it is not enough to change the setting in the setup program ,you have to at least Test Sound FX to make it re-initialize the virtual SB Pro ).

I may write a test program that just sets the corresponding bit in the mixer to verify if that's enough.
Duh I forgot about debug.com .
Assuming blaster is at 0x220,

debug
-o 224 e
-o 225 33
-q

This enables stereo mode in the mixer and fixes the issue with MI2 FM.

Still , it's kind of a mystery. I don't think the hardware is supposed to be initialized to stereo by default like that, so why would viafmtsr _require_ it ?
Maybe on computers with proper SBPro emulation support in the BIOS (sans VIASBCFG) it is initialized to stereo mode ?

Reply 18 of 23, by Reticular

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@javispedro1

Man, check this out, right now i have modded Audigy2 ZS and SB Live 5.1 and i am exploring the "oldschool sound" for real music production. I got the audio interface too and stuff but i want to produce music with the old retro feel. Other than the tape and stuff i found your post and i like the sound you recorded.

I was wondering, would you be willing to record this track thru 686B?
https://www.mediafire.com/file/r2y18devw6668j … cotex1.mp3/file

I am on a lookout for exsact same motherboard btw.

Reply 19 of 23, by javispedro1

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Reticular wrote on 2022-04-14, 13:09:

I was wondering, would you be willing to record this track thru 686B?
https://www.mediafire.com/file/r2y18devw6668j … cotex1.mp3/file

Sorry... what? I am utterly confused, that is an mp3...

This thread is about FM synthesis (or rather the software emulation of FM synthesis in these VIA chipsets). We are not really comparing the quality of the PCM output.
But if you want my opinion, the cards you already have are miles better for PCM. They just lack FM synthesis.
But if good quality FM synthesis is what you want, this is not really the good thread either!
Better get a nice software synthesizer (e.g. NukedOPL) or another card with actual hardware FM synthesis (e.g. ISA SoundBlasters).