VOGONS


First post, by Der Kuenringer

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I have a question about the ESS Solo-1, but I suppose it aplies more generally to PCI sound cards regarding DOS compatibility.
I've watched Phil's review of the Solo-1 and was impressed by it's near-perfect compatibility. But at the same time I was left wondering, since he utilized the SB-link:
Would I have to expect very different results in terms of compatibility, if I only connect it via PCI w/o SB-link? Does anyone have experience with that chip, when used in a board without SB-link/PC-PCI?

I've also seen his review of the Yamaha YMF-7x4 card. In this one he didn't use an SB-link, maybe it didn't have one, and compatibility was worse compared to Solo-1. I guess there would be many factors to consider, but how big of a difference does the SB-link make for compatibility?

Reply 2 of 12, by gdjacobs

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Solo-1 cards perform best with VIA chipsets, either using chipset based DDMA or software based TDMA.

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Reply 3 of 12, by Revolter

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Der Kuenringer, Phil did not use SB-LINK in that video - he only mentioned it briefly, along with the footage of how it supposed to work. You can find this information in the video description as well as in the comment section.

When used with PC-PCI or a supported chipset (pre-ICH Intel motherboards, period and many later VIA motherboards), the compatibility is indeed best in class. On my Pentium 1 430VX system it completely replaced an SB ISA card for me, with literally not a single game encountered that refused to cooperate (which is unheard of for a PCI card). There probably are some incompatible games somewhere, but this was my experience.

On ICH-enabled Intel chipsets (i810 and up), the situation is worse, but you can get there by using a couple of tricks 😀 Here's my attempt on covering the ISA SBPro compatibility with this card as a single sound source on a Pentium III DOS gaming rig: PCI sound cards and Chipsets from various manufacturers...

In short: out of 150+ tested games only 4 turned out to be unplayable with SFX no matter what I tried (Death Rally, Jazz Jackrabbit, Quarantine, Turrican 2). The same games work properly on compatible chipsets, however.

I should also mention that FM and GM synths work with no compatibility issues in all DOS games regardless of the chipset.

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Reply 4 of 12, by gdjacobs

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To clarify, I'm sure by GM synth you mean the MPU-401 interface including the WT header. Solo-1 cards don't have onboard GM sythesis.

All hail the Great Capacitor Brand Finder

Reply 5 of 12, by Revolter

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gdjacobs wrote:

To clarify, I'm sure by GM synth you mean the MPU-401 interface including the WT header. Solo-1 cards don't have onboard GM sythesis.

Yes, this is exactly what I meant, thanks. This happens when you re-arrange words in your sentences much before posting, so that they sound more English and less Russian 😀 It was probably going to be "FM synth and GM mode", but was merged with "FM and GM modes" or something 😁

The onboard FM synth can, however, be used as a GM device, but this is outside of the topic.

Celeron 800, 512MB, GeForce2 MX, ES1938S/DB S2, Windows ME/DOS 6.22

Reply 6 of 12, by Stainlesscat

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I hate to somewhat necro an thread but in effort to put some misinformation aside about this particular pci sound chipset. Revolter pretty much answered the main topic about phil's old video and how the card will work on those chipsets.
but here is some more info on the ess-solo1 and it's general compatibility.

First, ESS made the solo-1 compatible with chipsets that support SB-LINK or Distributed DMA (DDMA) and later revisions like the allegro and maestro cards retain this compatibility aside from having an hardware FM synthesizer like solo-1 did.

Second, All of the ESS pci cards have an fall backup legacy mode which uses an DMA Controller snooping mechanism which uses the pci bus to gain access. Using pci memory writes, it captures all SB DMA and directs to the Solo-1 without needing to require the computer's onboard DMAC doing DMA transfer job.
This snooping mechanism is known as Transparent DMA which is based on a hardware level and not a software solution like what creative did with the SBLIVE cards.

This tech does not use a TSR so this makes one of the few cards which can work in real mode dos without needing to rely on system memory or protected mode to perform SB functions in software. Although the ESS dos drivers like "ESSAUDIO.SYS/SOLO.SYS" are included to reroute PCI interrupt acknowledge "INTA IRQ" to desirable irqs "aka irq 5, 7 or 9" for the Sound blaster layer to function properly because the ESS audio codec need to be on the same pci irq number as the Sound blaster Mode.
T-DMA is NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH WRITE BACK DMA (WBDMA) as this was an common technique used in a lot of pci sound cards as an legacy fall back which the ESS family can also use. (This is known as snooping the DMAC and writing back to the DMAC which was unreliable on most sound chips)
T-DMA only works reliably on pci chipsets with compatible PCI to ISA Bridges and DMA Controllers / LPC buses which allow access to the ISA DMA Controller, which explains why most later intel and non intel chipsets either don't work or work unreliable cause the ISA DMA in some lpc aren't supported. See more info about LPC supporting ISA DMA and chipsets with DMAC that works with compatible LPC: ISA slot motherboards from AliExpress
VIA Chipsets work well cause they all have an native ISA bus and later chipsets like VIA VT8233 to VT8237R use external LPC buses which still have access to the DMAC inside the mentioned southbridges.
Oh did i mentioned that the LPC Bus works with conjunction with the PCI Bus, Thats because they work with the same specification other than that LPC is suppose to be a substitute for the ISA bus.

As a final note for reference after writing this needless long essay about this sound card; I REPEAT. THIS SOUND CARD DOES NOT NEED AN TSR PROGRAM TO ACTUALLY FUNCTION IN REAL MODE DOS.
This aside, All of this info is available on the wayback archive on ESS Tech's patents and technologies which i assume is expired i think so yeah...

Edit; It is known that some LPC bridge chips can act as an DMA controller for super I/O transactions like a parallel port or floppy controller but it's not fully confirmed if this is needed for legacy functions towards PCI devices that requires a real ISA DMAC .

Last edited by Stainlesscat on 2020-12-16, 20:56. Edited 4 times in total.

Reply 7 of 12, by digger

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Thanks for the detailed explanation between the different emulation methods offered by ESS-Solo-1 and other PCI sound cards, Stainlesscat.

So are any of these methods known to still work in more recent motherboards? And what expectations are there that their Sound Blaster emulation functionality will continue to work in the last generation of motherboards that include CSM (Legacy BIOS compatibility) in their UEFI BIOSes?

Reply 8 of 12, by The Serpent Rider

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So are any of these methods known to still work in more recent motherboards?

None. They don't have DMA ISA.

And what expectations

There's no expectations. PCI was dropped completely somewhere around Ivy Bridge. Even if you have one, it's a third party controller which operates with PCI-E bus.

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Reply 9 of 12, by Stainlesscat

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If assuming modern mainboards still retain the ISA bus or emulation via compatible LPC to an native ISA DMA controller, Then these SB DMA legacy emulation functions provided by various sound cards should still work provided if there is native PCI present which exposes needed pci I/O Ranges for the SB emulation to work.

Cards like YMF7x4 for example works on pci to pci express bridge on my x79 mainboard which lacks native pci but can only play digital sfx only when using Yamaha's TSR that captures and emulates DMA addressing in protected 32bit mode because the motherboard doesn't have an DMA connection like SB-LINK and a DMAC or at least one with legacy ISA addressing in the intel PCH controller. but it's shown that the lga2011 processors contain an DMAC via Intel I/OAT engine though i'm not sure if this functionally compatible for ISA DMA requests and it is the same issue for other modern various DMA Controllers found on other chipset vendors for use of other sound cards like the ESS-Solo-1.

Last edited by Stainlesscat on 2020-11-09, 03:24. Edited 2 times in total.

Reply 10 of 12, by Stainlesscat

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Also note that the Aureal vortex pci family sound cards are maybe the only cards that don't require a presence of an ISA bus of any kind for it's Sound blaster emulation to work, It just needs the PCI bus granted that's the only requirement anyway for a pci device to function at all so there is that to note.

edit; i was wrong about the vortex family not needing a the ISA bus in some form for their sound blaster emulation to function. i've tested in the past that the emulation will only work on motherboards with ISA or mostly when LPC is present.

Last edited by Stainlesscat on 2020-12-23, 12:38. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 11 of 12, by stealthjoe

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Revolter wrote on 2019-01-08, 14:43:

On ICH-enabled Intel chipsets (i810 and up), the situation is worse, but you can get there by using a couple of tricks 😀 Here's my attempt on covering the ISA SBPro compatibility with this card as a single sound source on a Pentium III DOS gaming rig: PCI sound cards and Chipsets from various manufacturers...

Hi Revolter! I have an ich4 chipset based mobo (845gebv2). Tried using ess solo-1 under dos with the required drivers, but in vain. Could not get fx or even the fm under any dos games. Could you please let me know how you got this card working in ich based motherboards? Thanks.

Reply 12 of 12, by Revolter

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stealthjoe wrote on 2020-12-13, 16:38:
Revolter wrote on 2019-01-08, 14:43:

On ICH-enabled Intel chipsets (i810 and up), the situation is worse, but you can get there by using a couple of tricks 😀 Here's my attempt on covering the ISA SBPro compatibility with this card as a single sound source on a Pentium III DOS gaming rig: PCI sound cards and Chipsets from various manufacturers...

Hi Revolter! I have an ich4 chipset based mobo (845gebv2). Tried using ess solo-1 under dos with the required drivers, but in vain. Could not get fx or even the fm under any dos games. Could you please let me know how you got this card working in ich based motherboards? Thanks.

Hi, stealthjoe!

Better late than never 😀

Sounds as if the driver (which is technically a separate multi-purpose utility for changing PCI registers directly) was not enabled. Does the card work fine in Windows? Did the real driver "essolo.com" work for you (at least for enabling the default TDMA mode)?

The only culprit I can think of at the moment is that the batch file could be looking for PCISET.EXE utility in a wrong folder (remember: you'll have to download & put it there manually first!).

For example, if mine looks like this:

C:\DRV\ESS\PCISET\PCISET.EXE 1969 125D 41 10111111 00010000 > NUL
C:\DRV\ESS\PCISET\PCISET.EXE 1969 125D 40 11111111 01111111 > NUL
C:\DRV\ESS\PCISET\PCISET.EXE 1969 125D 52 00000001 00000000 > NUL
C:\DRV\ESS\PCISET\PCISET.EXE 1969 125D 51 01100111 00000010 > NUL
C:\DRV\ESS\PCISET\PCISET.EXE 1969 125D 50 00011100 00000000 > NUL
C:\DRV\ESS\PCISET\PCISET.EXE 1969 125D 61 11111111 00000000 > NUL
C:\DRV\ESS\PCISET\PCISET.EXE 1969 125D 60 11110001 00000000 > NUL
SET BLASTER=A220 I5 D1 T4

...then the PCISET.EXE absolutely has to be situated at C:\DRV\ESS\PCISET.

Celeron 800, 512MB, GeForce2 MX, ES1938S/DB S2, Windows ME/DOS 6.22