VOGONS


First post, by Joseph_Joestar

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Introduction

Hi there, long time lurker, first time poster here! A while ago, I came across Phil's Computer Lab youtube channel and it got me all fired up for some DOS retro gaming. So I dusted off my old PC and put DOS 6.22 on it, but soon realized that it came with an SB128 PCI card which has some truly awful FM synth emulation. After a quick search in my local classifieds, I found a couple of ISA sound cards that seemed perfect for my needs, one of which was this OPTi 82C930. I have been using this card for several months now and was quite impressed by what it had to offer.

IMG_0902.jpg
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IMG_0902.jpg
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OPTi 82C930
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Fair use/fair dealing exception

Pros

  • Good compatibility in SBPro mode
  • Delivers crystal clear 16-bit sound in Windows Sound System mode
  • Has a 1:1 pin-compatible OPL3 copy on board, providing excellent FM synthesis
  • Has ADPCM support, so games like Duke Nukem 2 work fine
  • Not plug and play (this actually makes configuring easier)
  • Has WSS compatible drivers for Windows 3.1
  • Has a dedicated Line Out port
  • Does not suffer from any bugs which are present on Creative cards

Cons

  • Somewhat noisy. It's not really perceptible while gaming, but you may notice it when recording gameplay audio
  • A couple of games needed patching/workarounds in order to get the highest quality sound
  • Windows 98 drivers are pretty bare bones, with very few options to select

From what I can tell, pretty much everything that Phil mentions in his excellent OPTi 82C929 video applies to the 82C930 as well. However, I did notice a few additional details that might be of interest to anyone who has one of these OPTi cards.

My test rig

  • Intel Celeron 466 MHz
  • Abit ZM6
  • 256 MB SDRAM
  • Voodoo 3 2000 AGP
  • OPTi 82C930
  • NEC 3.5" floppy drive
  • Quantum Fireball LCT20 hard disk
  • Hitachi 24x CD-ROM drive
  • Samsung SyncMaster 795MB CRT monitor

Card settings

I use A220 I7 D1 T4 when running this card in SBPro mode under DOS, as that seemed to give me the best compatibility. As for its Windows Sound System (WSS) mode, I found it best to use port 530 IRQ 7 and DMA 1 as that seemed to work fine with the vast majority of games that support WSS. I also found it helpful to mute any unused inputs (e.g. line in and mic) via SNDINIT.EXE in order to minimize noise. Setting the volume sliders to 80 or lower also helps with that. Lastly, be sure to use the Line Out port when connecting the card to a set of powered speakers.

FM synthesis

According to this website the DXP44Q chip is a 1:1 pin-compatible copy of the Yamaha YMF289B chip (OPL3-L). To my ears, it sounds the same as the real thing. Here are some music samples:

Note that there may be other versions of this card which use an actual OPL3 chip instead of the 1:1 copy that my card has. In any case, its FM synth sounds great to me and I would definitively rate it above alternatives like Creative's CQM.

Windows Sound System mode

The OPTi 82C930 can operate in 2 modes: Sound Blaster Pro (default) and Windows Sound System. When running in WSS mode, this card can provide crystal clear 16-bit sound (samples attached below). You can switch between the two modes at any time by running SNDINIT.EXE. There is no need to restart your computer after making the switch.

Contrary to popular belief, a decent number of DOS games do support Windows Sound System. Despite its name, WSS works just fine in pure DOS and you don't need to have any version of Windows installed to make use of it. Note that it's sometimes called "Microsoft Sound System" in setup options, but it works all the same.

Now, I realize that most DOS games used 8-bit sound samples, but I did notice increased clarity when using WSS instead of SBPro in some titles that were released during the last years of DOS. There are also a few edge cases where a game doesn't support SB16 but does support WSS, which theoretically means that using WSS mode is the only way to get 16-bit sound in that instance (e.g. Space Quest V). For reference, here are some of the games that I have personally tested on this card using its Windows Sound System mode.

Games with native WSS support that worked fine:

  • Aladdin
  • Command & Conquer
  • TES II: Daggerfall
  • Descent
  • Descent 2
  • Fatal Racing (a.k.a. Whiplash)
  • Heroes of Might and Magic 2
  • Lost Vikings 2
  • Police Quest IV
  • Red Alert
  • Settlers 2 Gold
  • Space Quest V
  • Tomb Raider
  • Turrican II
  • Tyrian
  • Witchaven

Games with native WSS support that didn't work:

  • Lion King (crashes on start in WSS mode, works fine in SBPro mode)
  • WarCraft 2 (occasionally freezes in WSS mode, works fine in SBPro mode)

Overall, my suggestion is to select WSS mode whenever a game supports it in setup, in order to get the clearest possible sound out of this card.

Transplanting WSS drivers

From reading various posts here, I have learned that you can transplant WSS drivers into some games which use the Miles sound system, even if they don't natively support WSS. Results will vary of course, but I had pretty good success so far. For reference, I used the WSS driver from Settlers 2 Gold as the source. By copying SNDSYS.DIG to other games, I was able to add WSS to the list of sound card options that are available during setup. Simply placing SNDSYS.DIG inside the folder where the rest of the .DIG files reside was enough to make WSS appear as a valid option. I did not have to overwrite any other files with it.

Games with transplanted WSS drivers that worked fine:

  • Ascendancy
  • Jagged Alliance (choose OEM driver, then select SNDSYS.DIG)
  • Master of Orion 2
  • Mortal Kombat 3
  • Privateer 2

I have gotten noticeably clearer sound in all of the above when using the WSS driver instead of the SBPro driver. Here are two examples where you can hear the difference in clarity:

Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)

Filename
OPTi_MK3_SBPro.mp3
File size
263.39 KiB
Downloads
18 downloads
File comment
Mortal Kombat 3 (SBPro)
File license
Fair use/fair dealing exception
Filename
OPTi_MK3_WSS.mp3
File size
254.21 KiB
Downloads
18 downloads
File comment
Mortal Kombat 3 (WSS)
File license
Fair use/fair dealing exception

Master of Orion 2 (1996)

Filename
OPTi_Orion2_SBPro.mp3
File size
239.92 KiB
Downloads
16 downloads
File comment
Master of Orion 2 (SBPro)
File license
Fair use/fair dealing exception
Filename
OPTi_Orion2_WSS.mp3
File size
239.92 KiB
Downloads
15 downloads
File comment
Master of Orion 2 (WSS)
File license
Fair use/fair dealing exception

As you can hear, using the card's SBPro mode may be suboptimal in some late-era DOS games. For more details, you might want to check this thread: A List of DOS Games with 16-Bit Sound

OPTi game fixes

I did encounter compatibility issues with a couple of games when using this card. It was mostly related to Epic Megagames releases (see below) which didn't want to recognize it as a proper SBPro. They still worked with the "Sound Blaster Clone" setup option, but that resulted in lower quality sound.

However, as I have been using the DOS drivers from this site I noticed a couple of extra zip files in that archive: EPICFIX.ZIP and HMIGAME.ZIP. Turns out these two files contain the sound fixes for the following games:

  • Epic Pinball 2.1
  • One Must Fall 2097
  • Jazz Jackrabbit
  • Any problematic games which use HMIDET.DRV, HMIDRV.DRV, HMIDET.386 or HMIDRV.386 (e.g. Descent)

Before applying these fixes, I was only able to select "Sound Blaster Clone" and "High Quality" in all of the Epic games mentioned above. After applying the fixes, I can now select "Sound Blaster Pro" and "Ultra High Quality" and all those Epic games work perfectly, providing much cleaner sound then before. Descent also works fine in SBPro mode with the HMIGAME.ZIP fixes applied, though I still prefer to run that game in WSS mode for even better audio quality.

Conclusion

Back in the day, I remember dismissing most clone cards and arguing with my friends that a genuine SB16 was the only way to go. I'm very glad to be proven wrong. The SBPro mode of this OPTi card is great for DOS games from the early 90s, when Creative's SBPro was king. For later games, WSS is the preferred option as you can get 16-bit sound, when it is supported. The FM synthesis on this card sounds great, and the drivers come with a nice GUI which makes it easy to configure everything in seconds. Overall, I'd say the OPTi 82C930 is a pretty solid, cheap solution for DOS retro gaming with some interesting extra features that make it stand out in a good way.

Last edited by Joseph_Joestar on 2020-11-01, 09:26. Edited 11 times in total.

Using Audigy drivers with a Sound Blaster Live
Installing DOS drivers on an Audigy2 ZS
OPL3 vs. ESFM vs. CQM vs. SBLive
OPTi 82C930 review

Reply 1 of 13, by Thermalwrong

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Thanks for the in-depth post on this, I've got an Opti 930 card with a wavetable on it (Silicom Wavemaster 32FGS) and I need to make better use of it, your information should really help with that 😀
I wasn't aware that game fixes like that existed for Opti cards.

Reply 2 of 13, by cyclone3d

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I never had a real Sound Blaster card back in the day.. but I did pick up an OPTi 930 based board with onboard wavetable at a local electronics store for like $5 used.

I used that card until I built a computer that didn't have any ISA slots.

I still have that card and have collected as many different OPTi based cards with onboard wavetable as I could find.

Compatibility from these OPTi based cards is top notch.

Yamaha YMF modified setupds and drivers
Yamaha XG resource repository - updated November 27, 2018
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AW744L II - YMF744 - AOpen Cobra Sound Card - Install SB-Link Header
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Reply 3 of 13, by Joseph_Joestar

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Cheers guys, I'm glad you found this useful!

Just in case the site I linked goes down, I'm going to attach the DOS/Win3.1 driver archive which contains the game fixes here. Maybe a mod can add it to the Vogons driver library. I'm also attaching the reference guide/user manual that I found elsewhere.

Attachments

  • Filename
    OPTi_82C930_Reference_Guide.pdf
    File size
    1.84 MiB
    Downloads
    68 downloads
    File comment
    OPTi 82C930 Reference Guide
    File license
    Fair use/fair dealing exception
  • Filename
    OPTi_82C930_DOS_WIN31_v105.zip
    File size
    909.62 KiB
    Downloads
    54 downloads
    File comment
    OPTi 82C930 DOS / Win3.1 driver (includes game fixes)
    File license
    Fair use/fair dealing exception

Using Audigy drivers with a Sound Blaster Live
Installing DOS drivers on an Audigy2 ZS
OPL3 vs. ESFM vs. CQM vs. SBLive
OPTi 82C930 review

Reply 4 of 13, by GigAHerZ

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I have 82C933 and i love it! It's OPL and everything is so close to sound blasters that you can't understand it's not.

And i'm kinda amazed that es1898 gets praised as a best alternative, while those opti cards are really the closest things you can get.

I have my 82C933 in my 486DX4-100 and it's working perfectly.

"640K ought to be enough for anybody." - And i intend to get every last bit out of it even after loading every damn driver!

Reply 5 of 13, by appiah4

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I have a 829A and a 831. 829A is an OPL3 card, the 831 however has Opti's own FM implementation. I find both to be noisy and OptiFM to be agreeable, but not preferrable. As a result, they rank way below my ESS Audiodrives in terms of preference.

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 6 of 13, by Stiletto

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Joseph_Joestar wrote:

Cheers guys, I'm glad you found this useful!

Just in case the site I linked goes down, I'm going to attach the DOS/Win3.1 driver archive which contains the game fixes here. Maybe a mod can add it to the Vogons driver library. I'm also attaching the reference guide/user manual that I found elsewhere.

OPTi 82C930 Integrated Sound Controller Reference Guide
http://www.vogonsdrivers.com/getfile.php?file … &menustate=36,0

OPTi 82C930 DOS/Win Utils and Driver v1.05 05/17/95
http://www.vogonsdrivers.com/getfile.php?file … &menustate=36,0

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Reply 7 of 13, by Joseph_Joestar

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appiah4 wrote:

I have a 829A and a 831. 829A is an OPL3 card, the 831 however has Opti's own FM implementation. I find both to be noisy and OptiFM to be agreeable, but not preferrable.

The 82C930 is a bit on the noisy side, but I'm guessing the noise level also depends on your audio setup. For example, I usually connect my Logitech S200 2.1 speakers straight to the line out port and play games at about 60% of the speakers' max volume. At those levels, I can't hear any noise, even in pure DOS with no games running. Only when I up the volume to 100% does the noise appear, and even then, it's very faint on those 5W speakers.

On the other hand, when I try to record gameplay audio on another computer with a line out > line in cable the noise increases drastically. Using headphones instead of speakers also seems to result in more noise for me.

Also, thanks for the upload Stiletto!

Using Audigy drivers with a Sound Blaster Live
Installing DOS drivers on an Audigy2 ZS
OPL3 vs. ESFM vs. CQM vs. SBLive
OPTi 82C930 review

Reply 8 of 13, by Grzyb

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Joseph_Joestar wrote:

[*]Good compatibility in SB Pro mode
[...]
[*]Some games need patching/workarounds in order for sound to work properly

If those games work properly on a real SB Pro, but need patches to work on the Opti, then the compatibility isn't good.

I'm currently playing with some Opti 930A card, and I'm rather disappointed...

In Pinball Fantasies, I hear some distorsions - I tried various mixer settings (SNDINIT.EXE /v), I tried switching from SPEAKER OUT to LINE OUT, but the distortions are still there, must be some strange compatibility problem.

Also, I tried running DIAGNOSE.EXE from the SB Pro software package - it does play sounds, but after playing digitized sound samples it fails to return to the menu, the message "Playing back 8-bit Digitized Sound" is shown indefinitely until I press ESC.

I don't recall such problems with other cheap 16-bit SB Pro compatibles, like ESS and Crystal.

Last edited by Grzyb on 2019-11-27, 17:29. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 9 of 13, by Joseph_Joestar

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Grzyb wrote:

If those games work properly on a real SB Pro, but need patches to work on the Opti, then the compatibility isn't good.

What I described was my own experience with the 82C930, e.g. it worked fine on the majority of games that I've listed in this thread. I never claimed that its compatibility was "Perfect", I said that it was "Good" based on the games that I've personally tried. As for the patches, they weren't necessary to get any of the games running, applying them just improved the sound quality further.

That said, it's nearly impossible to find a clone card which works perfectly on every single DOS game. Most SB clones will have issues with at least a couple of them, and it's always annoying if one of the games that you really like is affected. For example, Tyrian is one of my favorite DOS games, and it refuses to even start on my Yamaha YMF724 while working fine on my Opti card.

In Pinball Fantasies, I hear some distorsions - I tried various mixer settings (SNDINIT.EXE /v), I tried switching from SPEAKER OUT to LINE OUT, but the distortions are still there, must be some strange compatibility problem.

I've tried this game for the first time today, and the music appears to be playing too fast if I select Sound Blaster Pro in its setup. This is fixed if I select Sound Blaster 2 instead, but I suppose the sound quality is not the best it could be.

From what I can tell, Pinball Fantasies appears to be using custom drivers instead of a standardized set like Miles or Digipak. In my experience, clone cards sometimes have issues with those kind of games.

Using Audigy drivers with a Sound Blaster Live
Installing DOS drivers on an Audigy2 ZS
OPL3 vs. ESFM vs. CQM vs. SBLive
OPTi 82C930 review

Reply 10 of 13, by Grzyb

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I just had a closer look, and found that the card in the original post is just 930, while mine is 930A, so there may be some differences.
I don't have a 930, but I've found another 930A - and the problem is the same: distorsions in Pinball Fantasies, no matter if it's set up for SB1, SB2, or SB Pro.

Other games I tried sound OK, though.

Reply 11 of 13, by Joseph_Joestar

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Update: I have uploaded FM synth music samples recorded on this card to my SoundCloud account. Also, I made a few SBPro vs. WSS digital sound comparisons and attached them to the first post in this thread. IMHO, the difference between SBPro and WSS is particularly noticeable in Mortal Kombat 3 since that game uses a lot of voice samples.

In addition, I found that some issues that I had previously encountered (e.g. FMV stuttering, Tyrian not detecting WSS) while using this card on my VIA-based Abit KT7A motheboard no longer occur when I moved it to my Intel-based Abit ZM6 motherboard.

Lastly, a few games that I previously though didn't work on this card (notably X-Wing) actually failed because my CPU was too fast. With SETMUL and/or Throttle used for slowdown, X-Wing works just fine, including both digital sound and FM synth music.

Using Audigy drivers with a Sound Blaster Live
Installing DOS drivers on an Audigy2 ZS
OPL3 vs. ESFM vs. CQM vs. SBLive
OPTi 82C930 review

Reply 12 of 13, by mkarcher

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Grzyb wrote on 2019-11-27, 17:38:

I just had a closer look, and found that the card in the original post is just 930, while mine is 930A, so there may be some differences.
I don't have a 930, but I've found another 930A - and the problem is the same: distorsions in Pinball Fantasies, no matter if it's set up for SB1, SB2, or SB Pro.

IIRC pinball fantasies, as a couple of other games from that era, maxes out all volume controls on the SBPro mixer chip if you start the game. The SB1 and SB2 drivers shouldn't do that, because those cards don't have a mixer chip. It's quite plausible that maxed out volume settings can cause clipping if the PCM sound data are near to full scale. You could try going down to 60-80% volume and using the SB2 driver to test this theory. If you started the game once with the SBPro driver, the volume contols keep to be at the maximum level until another program pulls them down again.

Reply 13 of 13, by Grzyb

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mkarcher wrote on 2020-07-26, 14:06:

IIRC pinball fantasies, as a couple of other games from that era, maxes out all volume controls on the SBPro mixer chip if you start the game. The SB1 and SB2 drivers shouldn't do that, because those cards don't have a mixer chip. It's quite plausible that maxed out volume settings can cause clipping if the PCM sound data are near to full scale. You could try going down to 60-80% volume and using the SB2 driver to test this theory. If you started the game once with the SBPro driver, the volume contols keep to be at the maximum level until another program pulls them down again.

I have installed that 930A card in another machine - and can't reproduce the problem with Pinball Fantasies.
I've set both Master and Voice to maximum (99) in "sndinit /v", but can't hear any distorsions.
Perhaps the problem was due to the CPU being too fast?
Currently I'm testing it with a Cyrix 6x86-P150+, previosly - in some Slot 1 machine, much faster...