VOGONS


First post, by cvgl

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I have a problem with some DOS games. E.g. in the game Pinball Dreams, PSYCHO Pinball, Magic Pockets, the sound is "noisy" and quiet. However, in some games the sound is good. The configuration in games and in DOS is correct. I wanted to ask which ISA music card is the most compatible/popular with DOS games. Some time ago I found in the network info that the most compatible card is Sound Blaster 16. Is it true? If so, what model exactly? I would like to have a good sound in games.

Last edited by cvgl on 2020-04-20, 08:46. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 1 of 27, by daikatana_

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I'd say you're right, Sound Blaster 16 should work almost everywhere. I don't reckon it matters what model you use, all of them are practically the same with slight differences, like missing ASP chip or CD ROM interface. The biggest difference between models, however, would be FM synthesis. Some use real Yamaha OPL3 chip, others don't. I'd get the model with Yamaha's OPL3. If you don't like FM and want better MIDI music, I'd go for Sound Blaster 32 or AWE32.

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Reply 2 of 27, by cvgl

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I have SoundBlaster AWE64 and it's noisy and too quiet in these games. Maybe it's because there is no this synthesis on the Yamaha system? I found a nice SoundBlaster 16 CT2910 card which has a Yamaha YMF289 chip. The Yamaha sounds nice, better than the "replacement" CTs. Would the sound be OK on this card?

Reply 3 of 27, by derSammler

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cvgl wrote on 2020-04-20, 08:30:

I have SoundBlaster AWE64 and it's noisy and too quiet in these games.

No sound card apart from a Gravis Ultrasound will change anything for these games. They use MOD tracker music, which relies on using hardware mixing. No GUS = no hardware mixing, and doing this in software when using any other sound card will be of low(er) volume and with noise, especually on slower systems.

Also, better get an SB Pro 2.0 instead of an SB16. 16-bit samples weren't really used by DOS games that often and the SB16 must be directly supported by a game to get Stereo sound. Otherwise you are stuck at Mono due to a hardware bug of the SB16.

Reply 4 of 27, by firage

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16-bit mixing is better than 8-bit mixing, 16-bit samples or no. The lack of SB Pro stereo in a SB16 isn't much of an issue, as stereo in SB Pro-only games is extremely rare. Certainly a rarer occurence than DOS games with 16-bit samples, for example. 😀

SB16's have other minor faults, though. The AWE64 is nearly free of those. I don't think switching an AWE64 for a different Sound Blaster is going to do much, unless it's defective or misconfigured in some way.

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Reply 5 of 27, by derSammler

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firage wrote on 2020-04-21, 02:36:

16-bit mixing is better than 8-bit mixing, 16-bit samples or no. The lack of SB Pro stereo in a SB16 isn't much of an issue, as stereo in SB Pro-only games is extremely rare. Certainly a rarer occurence than DOS games with 16-bit samples, for example. 😀

Mixing is defined by frequency, not resolution. No matter how many 8-bit samples you mix, the resulting values are still 8-bit only. To improve mixing quality, you need to use a higher frequency, like 44 KHz instead of 22 KHz. I know some games (again BUILD engine ones, no idea why they are so odd) have such a "16-bit mixing" option, but that refers to the samples used for mixing and is actually just a dumb way asking whether you have an SB16 or not, so it can use 16-bit samples if you do.

Also, it doesn't change my statement that you can only make use of it when the game has support for the SB16.

Only a few, very late DOS games use 16-bit samples at all. Not a single one that came on floppy, as saving space to reduce the number of floppy disks was the most important thing back then. And Stereo in games supporting the SB Pro is rare? Seriously? The SB Pro 2.0 was the first sound card I ever bought and I used it until about 1997. Almost every game I played had Stereo sound. The original release of X-Wing for example has no SB16 support and gives you Stereo SFX only with an SB Pro. The Mono-only bug in SB Pro-mode of the SB16 is the worst and most-often mentioned disadvantage of it.

Reply 6 of 27, by Tiido

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When you add two 8 bit numbers you get 9bit result, with 3 or 4 the result is 10bits, and it grows as more numbers get added together. Mixing samples is nothing but additions and things work the same way. Mix buffers are almost always with a bigger width than the inputs going in them so that you only have to clip the values once in the very end not after every addition you do, which saves a lot of CPU time.
Game can then choose what portion of the buffer gets output to the sound card, to gain best tradeoff between volume and noise level, with 8bit output favoring higher level and more clipping to reduce quantisation noise, while with 16bit output this would be much less of a concern.

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Reply 8 of 27, by derSammler

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When you add two 8 bit numbers you get 9bit result, with 3 or 4 the result is 10bits, and it grows as more numbers get added together. Mixing samples is nothing but additions and things work the same way.

Do you have a link where this is described in detail? Because it contradics with every MOD player I've ever used, incl. the well-known Inertia Player or the old Modplay for 286-class PCs. They all define mixing quality by frequency.

IP.PNG

But when did you buy it? SB16 came out in 1992.

Why is that important? Does Stereo support in games magically chance depending on when I bought my SB Pro?

Reply 9 of 27, by kolderman

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> Why is that important? Does Stereo support in games magically chance depending on when I bought my SB Pro?

It kind of does. The earlier you bought it the less likely they did stereo at all. And when games started to, the SB16 was already released and they supported that too.

Reply 10 of 27, by digistorm

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Tildo is right. That Inertia Player doesn't offer the option to choose 8 or 16 bit mixing doesn't mean that it matters in terms of quality. It's just plain math. Here, FastTracker offers the option:

Schermafbeelding 2020-04-21 om 10.43.47.png
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Schermafbeelding 2020-04-21 om 10.43.47.png
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Impulse Tracker offers it too:

Schermafbeelding 2020-04-21 om 10.44.41.png
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Schermafbeelding 2020-04-21 om 10.44.41.png
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137.04 KiB
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825 views
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In fact, most MOD engines mix in 16 bit or more anyway and truncate the result to match the output of the sound card. There is additional benefit with 16 bit mixing/output when playing MODs or games that attenuate the sound effects (like DOOM does when sounds play further away) because with 16 bits of headroom you can attenuate an 8 bit sample 256 times before you lose any audio resolution. Furthermore you would get rounding errors when mixing and scaling 8 bit samples in just 8 bits, the same goes for 16 bit samples. That is why all professional audio software uses 32 bit / float or even higher internal precision as not to create rounding errors when dealing with the audio data.
As a side note: Classic Amiga's had only an 8 bit sound chip, but they also had a analog volume control with 64 position (6 bits of precision). That is how later audio software was able to play in 14 bit resolution: 8 bits from a sample played at full volume and an additional 6 bits from a second sample played at 1/64th volume. Same goes for PC software: adding samples increases the final definition of the audio as long as there is resolution available in the mixing routine.

Reply 11 of 27, by Tiido

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Increased sample rate will increase frequency response (stuff will start sounding much more crips and clear) and also modifies how quantisation noise will play out. When the player or whatever scales samples in frequency domain it will stretch or squish the minimum steps, altering their contribution to final noise, especially when volume of the sample is altered, and also create aliasing artifacts that play a hige role in how things get perceived. Putting a 11KHz sample into 44KHz output creates 3 aliased images on top, which creates sort of metallic or robotic quality to the sound that some people cannot stand and prefer muffled sound over it that a lower sample rate would produce assuming (proper filtering on the final output), or others who prefer in as it adds perceived extra crispness to the sound.

As far as mixing goes, it is just simple math :
8bit number can only hold 2 ^ 8 = 256 values, when you add anything more to it the resulting value no longer fits into 8bits and you need to add another bit. With 9bits you get 2 ^ 9 = 512 states possible, and two 8bit samples will fit in there (256+256 = 512). 16bit number holds 2 ^ 16 = 65536 values, which is 256 times as much as an 8bit number and it starts to play a role especially when volume is changed when mixing is done. CPU will have one extra bit called carry bit that is used to detect when operation no longer fits into existing data size, when that bit is set you can do additional operation such as clipping or scaling back the result so it will fit in the chosen data size (i.e result is 512, which you divide by 2 so it will fit in 256 steps, losing precision in lowest bits as they get chopped off)). Doing this after every operation is much more expensive computationally than just to mix all your samples together into a wider buffer and in the very end determining what to do with it, and you only need to do it once.

When your output buffer is 8bit only you always truncate lowest bits when you do any scaling back of the values or applying volume (which a multilpication to boost the value or division equivalent to reduce it) which results in much higher distortion and noise (smaller numbers are more noisy, bug numbers taht don't fit must be clipped and thus sound more distorted) while with a 16bit buffer those bits all can remain intact and you don't suffer precision loss with successive operations (i.e additional channels getting mixed in) assuming the sample is shifted somewhere in the middle of the range not stuck at lowest bits. In the very end you choose a portion of the final buffer to send to the output.
The closer to MSB (top range) you use the less clipping there is but the worse quantisation noise is if output is 8bits, when you go more toward LSBs you increase clipping but you reduce quantisation noise. With 8bit output there's a great tradeoff between noise and volume as SNR is roughly ~48db (6 * 😎 and quantisation noise of final output will always be high and noise of source samples will add up in a complicated way. With 16bit output the SNR is way higher, at theoretical ~96db(9 * 16), essenitally inaudble in normal settings and only the noise contribution of original samples matters pretty much and it can be much lower.

Amiga has volume applied in analog domain so the infromation of the 8bit samples is always preserved, as with properly done 16bit mixing. Stuff like GUS and AWE32 work entirely digitally and have these sort of precision tradeoffs set down in their hardware as designers saw fit. Their internal data paths can and probably are greater than 16bit to minimize precision loss which is especially important for things like filters and effect units.

Frequency scaling (pitch shifting) in essentially skipping or repeating samples in its simplest form, pitch is determined by output sample rate and how many samples you need to skip/repeat as you travelse through it. Aliasing begins to play a great role now which more elaborate methods involving various interpolation methods try to reduce. Quantisation noise present in source samples gets altered with the pitch shift and relationship with chosen output sample rate, but I don't know any exact math at play here, I'm sure there are scientific articles about it but that's gonna involve math I do not comprehend.

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Reply 12 of 27, by chinny22

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I would say the AWE is more compatible then the SB16, as really it's just a SB16 with the added bonus of the EMU chip for supported games.

Note I said compatible Not most authentic, best, etc. that's a totally different question.

Reply 13 of 27, by cvgl

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Thank you for all the answers. Then what to do to make the sound in these games better? Change card or leave AWE64?

BTW, configuration:

AUTOEXEC.BAT:

LOADHIGH C:\DOS\SMARTDRV.EXE /X
LOADHIGH C:\AWE64DOS\CTCM.EXE
LOADHIGH C:\AWE64DOS\AWEUTIL.COM
MODE CON CODEPAGE PREPARE=((852) C:\DOS\EGA.CPI)
MODE CON CODEPAGE SELECT=852
LOADHIGH MOUSE

CONFIG.SYS:

DEVICE=C:\DOS\HIMEM.SYS
DOS=HIGH,UMB
DEVICE=C:\DOS\EMM386.EXE RAM
COUNTRY=048,,C:\DOS\COUNTRY.SYS
DEVICEHIGH=C:\DOS\DISPLAY.SYS CON=(EGA,,1)
DEVICEHIGH=C:\DOS\SETVER.EXE
FILES=30

CTPNP.CFG from C:\AWE64DOS directory:

[PNP]
Readport=277

[SB16]
Disable=0
Csn=1
LogDev=0
CardId=CTL00E4
Serial=127B61AA
LogId=CTL0045
Port0=220
Port1=300
Port2=388
Irq0=9
Dma0=3
Dma1=7

[AWE]
Disable=0
Csn=1
LogDev=2
CardId=CTL00E4
Serial=127B61AA
LogId=CTL0022
Port0=620
Port1=A20
Port2=E20

[GAMEPORT]
Csn=1
LogDev=1
CardId=CTL00e4
Serial=127b61aa
LogId=CTL7002
Port0=200

DOS 6.22 was reinstalled from original Microsoft floppies.

Last edited by cvgl on 2020-04-21, 11:06. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 14 of 27, by daikatana_

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cvgl wrote on 2020-04-20, 08:30:

I have SoundBlaster AWE64 and it's noisy and too quiet in these games. Maybe it's because there is no this synthesis on the Yamaha system? I found a nice SoundBlaster 16 CT2910 card which has a Yamaha YMF289 chip. The Yamaha sounds nice, better than the "replacement" CTs. Would the sound be OK on this card?

I just put my AWE64 (not Gold) CT4500 in and can't say it's noisy and not even quiet. I always use line out, which is without card's amp and it's plenty loud and I can't hear any noise. I even recorded just a silence and a part of Doom. I attached it to the post, check it out, if it's better than yours. I'd still recommend SB32 or AWE32, these are quite cheap and you can upgrade RAM quite easily to load better sound banks. RAM for AWE64 is almost impossible to find and thus you're stuck with the horrible default sound bank.

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Reply 15 of 27, by cvgl

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I have AWE64 CT4520, also "not gold" but already with colorful sockets:

8bdb7e24d65e8494med.jpg

To compare the sound from the game "DOOM" I would need to have files for this game. However, as for the noise, the sound is noisy not during silence but during music / sound. And as I wrote in some games, the sound is noisy and quiet but in others it is good.

I connect the amplifier cable to the green output on the card.

I recorded an part from the game Pinball Fantasies from the Beat Box table (I kept the original volume):

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Reply 16 of 27, by derSammler

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As for mixing, we are apparently not talking about the same thing here. The Impulse Tracker screenshot posted by digistorm shows that. That bit resolution is the precision used for the internal calculations. Of course mixing result is better when using 32-bit numbers and/or interpolation, at the cost of a much higher CPU load. You can still output that better result to the sound card as 8 bit PCM and it will sound better. But it won't sound better just because your SB16 does allow 16-bit PCM if you still only mix 8-bit samples, especially when you mix without interpolation. But anyway, I leave it at that.

kolderman wrote on 2020-04-21, 08:43:

It kind of does. The earlier you bought it the less likely they did stereo at all. And when games started to, the SB16 was already released and they supported that too.

Again, that's not relevant. Games existed no matter when I bought it. I already gave X-Wing as an example. Also, while the SB16 was released in mid-1992, games supporting it earlier than 1993 are almost non-existing. Many games list it as a sound card but have no special support for it - they rely on a generic SB driver instead. So there are even many games from 1993 that run in Mono even when SB16 is selected, as they drive it as an SB Pro. I wonder how many people missed great Stereo effects in games because of their SB16 without even knowing.

Reply 17 of 27, by firage

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Regarding X-Wing, the CD-ROM version should have stereo on SB16. The floppy version is SB/SB Pro only, but is it actually stereo? According to my test it's mono and in fact has no special support for SB Pro.
It'll be interesting to see more of these stereo titles listed, as people don't tend to have many such examples.

For a partial list of confirmed titles outputting a 16-bit mix: A List of DOS Games with 16-Bit Sound

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Reply 18 of 27, by cyclone3d

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cvgl wrote on 2020-04-21, 10:26:
I have AWE64 CT4520, also "not gold" but already with colorful sockets: […]
Show full quote

I have AWE64 CT4520, also "not gold" but already with colorful sockets:

8bdb7e24d65e8494med.jpg

To compare the sound from the game "DOOM" I would need to have files for this game. However, as for the noise, the sound is noisy not during silence but during music / sound. And as I wrote in some games, the sound is noisy and quiet but in others it is good.

I connect the amplifier cable to the green output on the card.

I recorded an part from the game Pinball Fantasies from the Beat Box table (I kept the original volume):

So use line out instead of the amplified output. That should clear it up quite a bit.

Yamaha YMF modified setupds and drivers
Yamaha XG resource repository - updated November 27, 2018
Yamaha YMF7x4 Guide
AW744L II - YMF744 - AOpen Cobra Sound Card - Install SB-Link Header

Reply 19 of 27, by daikatana_

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cyclone3d wrote on 2020-04-21, 15:35:
cvgl wrote on 2020-04-21, 10:26:
I have AWE64 CT4520, also "not gold" but already with colorful sockets: […]
Show full quote

I have AWE64 CT4520, also "not gold" but already with colorful sockets:

8bdb7e24d65e8494med.jpg

To compare the sound from the game "DOOM" I would need to have files for this game. However, as for the noise, the sound is noisy not during silence but during music / sound. And as I wrote in some games, the sound is noisy and quiet but in others it is good.

I connect the amplifier cable to the green output on the card.

I recorded an part from the game Pinball Fantasies from the Beat Box table (I kept the original volume):

So use line out instead of the amplified output. That should clear it up quite a bit.

The green output is line out, speaker out is the black one.

Game MIDI soundtracks

Retro games and HW reviews