First post, by Joseph_Joestar
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 from 2001 and slapped some DOS on it, but I soon realized that it came with an SB128 PCI card which has some truly awful FM synthesis emulation. After a quick search on my local eBay equivalent, I found a couple of used cards that seemed perfect for my needs, one of which was this OPTi 82C930. I have been using this card for a few months now and I'm quite impressed by what it has to offer.
- 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 accurate FM synthesis
- Has ADPCM support, so games like Duke Nukem 2 work fine
- Not plug and play (which actually makes configuring easier)
- Has WSS compatible drivers for Windows 3.1
- Has a dedicated Line Out port
- Somewhat noisy. It's not really perceptible while gaming, but you may notice it when recording game music via line out
- 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, most of the stuff that Phil mentioned in his excellent Opti 82C929 video applies to the 82C930 as well. However, I did notice a few additional things 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
I've used A220 I7 D1 T4 when using the SBPro mode of this card in DOS, as that seemed to give me the best compatibility. As for its Windows Sound System 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) using SNDINIT.EXE in order to minimize noise.
According to this website the DXP44Q chip is a 1:1 pin-compatible copy of the Yamaha YMF289B (OPL3-L). To my ears, this sounds the same as a genuine OPL3 chip. Here are some music samples:
Note that there may be other versions of this card that use a genuine Yamaha OPL3 chip instead of the 1:1 OPL3 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. You can switch between the two at any time by running SNDINIT.EXE. According to the manual, the card is capable of delivering 16-bit sound in WSS mode, and this does indeed work great and sounds excellent. Contrary to popular belief, a decent number of DOS games do support Windows Sound System. Note that sometimes it's called "Microsoft Sound System" in setup options, but it works all the same.
Now, I realize that the vast majority of DOS era games used 8-bit samples, but in some later games, I did notice slightly clearer sounds when using WSS mode instead of the default SBPro mode. There are also a few edge cases where a game doesn't support SB16 but does support WSS, which should theoretically mean that WSS mode is the only way to get 16-bit sound there. Space Quest V is one such example. For reference, here are some of the games that I have personally tested on this card using its WSS mode:
Games with native WSS support that worked fine:
- Command & Conquer
- TES II: Daggerfall
- 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
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 OPTi 82C930 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 may vary of course, but I've 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:
- 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)
Master of Orion 2 (1996)
As you can hear, using the 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 some 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 now work perfectly, providing much cleaner sound then before. Descent also works fine in SBPro mode with the HMIGAME.ZIP fixes applied, though I prefer to run that game in WSS mode for even better audio quality.
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 perfect for early DOS era games (pre 1994) when Creative's SBPro was king. For later games (1994 and up), WSS would probably be the preferred option for getting proper 16-bit sound, whenever 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 the card 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.