Reply 40 of 60, by Eep386
Best card? I've seen quite a few that I like, probably a Sound Blaster Pro 2, lousy floating amps aside. It doesn't sound that bad, and it's hard to beat its compatibility.
I also very much like the sound of the original Ad Lib card.
I've also met a good number of rather great-sounding clone cards from ESS, OPTi (gotta be mindful of off-pitch sound under Joshua Jensen sound driver games though) and Yamaha (though these often need quite a lot of tweaking in the mixer to get rid of the evil hiss from the "Ymersion" nonsense, when they have it). But the clones all vary, seemingly from one card to another, and oftentimes the really cheap, cut-rate looking ones (almost always the ones without any pre-amp chips onboard) sound exactly as they look - cheap and cut-rate.
One pleasant surprise I got was from a random Media Vision Jazz16 card. Its Sound Blaster Pro compatibility is very good and the sound is crisp and clean.
An Ensoniq Opus also didn't sound bad at all, barring the lame FM "emulation", provided you don't run into some issues with the remapped ports. Just don't expect it to sound like a 2MB patchset SoundScape.
Worst? AdMOS QS3000, Ensoniq AudioPCI, and almost anything else Creative made past the original 8-bit compatible sound cards. (Some of the Sound Blaster 16s do fix up fairly nicely, but it's annoying to have to fix them in the first place. All the same, I do keep a number of ViBRAs on hand for compatibility's sake.)
Life isn't long enough to re-enable every hidden option in every BIOS on every board... 🙁