VOGONS


First post, by Da Playa

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Apart from my main rig, I always wanted to have a secondary all in one retro rig to run games, from DOS all to XP era. Over the years I was obtaining the components and testing them until I finally decided to complet the full rig. Now I run a dual boot with win98 for DOS and win3.1 and 98 games and XP for early 2000 era games.

But there is still one crucial component missing: Sound card.
So I went on the hunt for DOS compatible soundcard...what could possibly go wrong? And this is where trouble began...

Because I'm limited to PCI, I decided for PCI sound cards. The Sound Blaster Live cards were very famous so why not start there? immediately got burned, because I didn't know there were so many versions of it and the only version on my market was the infamous SB0220, which some claim to have a DOS support, but I didn't manage to make it work. Only the sound efects worked. Then I got some generic Genius sound card with Crystal cs4614a-cm ep chip, which didn't even work in windows yet alone in DOS. Probably the card was broken and the only drivers I found on the web were from VOGONS. Finally I managed to get a SB0100, which most reviewers use from SB LIVE models. The sound card performed well in my test PC, but it wasn't perfect (music worked but some sound effects didn't work, were very quiet or were even distort. In Prince of Persia I even had a SB music, but the sound effect were classsic PC speakers).

So I decided to put this card in my retro PC rig. I have uninstalled the drivers and installed the card. When PC booted I got a black screen and started to beep. So I replaced the card to other PCI slot. I managed to boot into windows and install the drivers and restart. But now windows says the video card is missing and defaultet to 256 colors??? There were also video artifacts so I decided to restart again. Now the PC again started to beep. I didn't even bother to listen to the beep pattern. It was 2 short beeps and 4-6 long beeps? I don't know.

TL:DR: I don't know what is wrong with all these sound card? I never had so much trouble with hardware upgrading. But here comes the best part: The worst sound card I have was the most stable and compatible one. Sound Blaster vibra 128 (CT4810) worked straight out of the box and worked almost in every game. But the sound quality of this card is horrible 😒
Do I even have the energy to persist on this project? Is there any point anymore? Before I quit I'm still waiting for shipment from China for generic 5$ sound card with cmi8738 chip and supposedly sound blaster support, I doubt it will work but why not at least try.

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32689878366.h … earchweb201603_

I also have an option to buy a Hercules Muse XL sound card with cmi8738 chip. Does anybody has any experience with this card? How well does it perform in DOS games?

I know I could play DOS games on real vintage hardware, but then it lost the point of being a AIO Retro PC. Yes I could buy better sound card, but I come from a small European country you probably haven't even heard of, and the used market here is very limited. And Ebay...well I'm not paying 20$+ only for shippment 😳
Yes I could play games straight out of DOS, but I was always running them from windows as a kid and worked. Yes I could use DOSBOX, but there is something with that smooth framerate on early 2000 P4 stlye PCs. I can't get that in DOSBOX and some games just run horrible, well at least the sound works there every time.

So any ideas what I can do?

Also specs for the end:

- Intel Celeron 2800MHz
- asrock p4i65g
- Ati 9600 pro
- 512 MB memory
- Sound blaster Live SB0100

Reply 1 of 34, by Oetker

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If you're running games from Win98, the card's actual DOS compatibility doesn't really matter. What does matter is using vxd drivers, not wdm drivers, and how well those drivers work. An SBLive would be a good choice in theory for a Win98 card.
What makes the sound quality of the Vibra so horrible?

Both cards will not be good for older DOS games that depend on a good OPL implementation. For old DOS games nothing beats pure DOS with an ISA sound card.

Reply 2 of 34, by Da Playa

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Oetker wrote on 2020-05-01, 07:16:

If you're running games from Win98, the card's actual DOS compatibility doesn't really matter. What does matter is using vxd drivers, not wdm drivers, and how well those drivers work. An SBLive would be a good choice in theory for a Win98 card.
What makes the sound quality of the Vibra so horrible?

Both cards will not be good for older DOS games that depend on a good OPL implementation. For old DOS games nothing beats pure DOS with an ISA sound card.

Yes, I'm using WXD drivers not WDM, forgot to mention that. Installed it from original CD.

What makes the sound quality of the Vibra so horrible?

See for yourself in this video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AZI07_qts8

I Thought it is a joke, but no, this card sounds like that and I tested it myself.

So I guess PCI sound cards are really not meant for DOS games and ISA cards are just the way to go?

Reply 4 of 34, by Oetker

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Da Playa wrote on 2020-05-01, 08:15:

See for yourself in this video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AZI07_qts8

Ok, so you mean the OPL emulation. The SBLive won't have great OPL emulation either, but I'm not sure if it'll be worse. I think that when I used a SBLive with Win98 I was mostly playing later DOS games that supported General Midi. And that made me suspect my assertion that you need to use VXD drivers was wrong - afaik VXD drivers don't have the GS Wavetable Synth, and I remember using it with DOS games in Win98. According to this thread How to get Sound Blaster Emulation in Win9X/ME via live!5.1 with newer-current mobo's (no nmi-ddma) it is possible to get DOS sound using WDM drivers on the SBLive.

You could try finding a YMF based PCI card or a Solo-1. Both can be made to work in pure DOS depending on your motherboard and the games you want to play. But again, playing in a Win98 DOS box is another thing entirely. In my experience ISA cards that work fine in pure DOS might not always work in a Win98 DOS box (perhaps due to sound blaster VS windows sound system mode being active), while the opposite is true for PCI cards.

Reply 5 of 34, by synrgy87

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PCI support for sound cards in DOS isn't great, can depends heavily on how each motherboard assigns resources and handles PCI , Would really recommend getting a board with an ISA slot for an ISA Sound card for DOS

I've had minimal luck with C-Media based cards (CMI chips like the 8738 etc) I have the muse 5.1 dvd which is the same chip as your Muse XL iirc

I've had limited success with the ForteMedia FM801, Soundblaster Live! and Audigy 1/2 and SB Audio 128/PCI but experience in general wasn't great especially in the older DOS games. There can be memory manager issues and also game detection problems.

Been tempted to try those cheap CMI based cards on amazon / aliexpress / ebay etc although I'd guess I'd run into the same problems.

I've not tried any crystal based PCI cards, but there's also the ESS cards may be worth trying. oh and the Yamaha based cards 😁

Reply 6 of 34, by dionb

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CMI8378 is a perfectly good Windows chip, indeed its drivers are far easier to work with than those SBLives. Sound quality depends on the card, the very best (Terratec designs in particular) come close to SBLive, the worst are awful. I'd expect Hercules to be among the better ones.

There are also DOS drivers, but don't expect too much:
https://www.philscomputerlab.com/c-media-cmi8738.html

As for what the best option would be... DOS is challenging on a chipset (i865) that not only lacks ISA, but also doesn't do DDMA or TDMA, the two commonest ISA/DOS DMA workarounds for PCI. I couldn't really recommend a card, although in general ESS Solo-1 is the least problematic PCI chip. Ruthan seems to recommend the Fortemedia FM801-AU for i865 or X58 chipsets. It's not as common as the SBLive or CMI8378, but it can be found and found cheaply, so something you could consider.

Edit:
Hadn't seen synrgy87 before clicking 'send'. Sounds like the FM801-AU isn't a magic bullet either.

Reply 7 of 34, by Da Playa

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Oetker wrote on 2020-05-01, 08:27:
Da Playa wrote on 2020-05-01, 08:15:

See for yourself in this video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AZI07_qts8

Ok, so you mean the OPL emulation.

Probably, I'm not really familiar with all the technicalities. Vintage DOS hardware is a total mystery to me.

I have managed to boot my PC into windows. It was a problem with my video card which I didn't expect. Somehow it lost contact and therefore, windows was complaining about videocard missing and bios beeping like a madman.

Tested some games, it's not great, but at least something. Don't know why prince of persia defaults to PC speacker (both music and sound effects), wolfenstein works better than on my test PC where I first tested the card (the sound effects didn't work and were just a loud noise). Commander Keen 4 still don't play all sound effects but only some.

Is there a way to fix this? Or is this just the fact that I'm using a modern PCI sound card?

Reply 8 of 34, by appiah4

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If you are limited to PCI get a ForteMedia FM801 card they are incredibly simple to set up and possibly the most compatible PCI DOS sound chip I know of.

ESS Solo-1 is a close second but that one is more picky about what motherboard you put it in; on some systems it really requires an SB-Link header.

Finally, there are the YMF724/744 cards but these in my experience are even worse than ESS Solo-1 and flat out won't work in DOS without the SB-Link header, although their FM Synth is genuine OPL3.

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

Reply 9 of 34, by Oetker

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Note that he is trying to play on Win98, not pure DOS.

Some of your sound issues might be speed related, your computer is quite fast and PoP and Keen are old games. I haven't tried the exact cards you have, but I have encountered opl/adlib music breaking on faster machines depening on the card and game.

Reply 10 of 34, by Joseph_Joestar

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appiah4 wrote on 2020-05-01, 12:06:

Finally, there are the YMF724/744 cards but these in my experience are even worse than ESS Solo-1 and flat out won't work in DOS without the SB-Link header, although their FM Synth is genuine OPL3.

The YMF 7x4 cards work fine in pure DOS if the motherboard supports either SB-Link or DDMA (might need modified drivers for the latter). Otherwise, they fall back on a TSR program which can cause issues with some games.

Most people never bother with DDMA or SB-Link and only ever experience the crappy TSR compatibility which is not indicative of what the card is capable of. I'm not 100% sure, but I think something similar to that TSR program is used under the Win98 DOS prompt, so compatibility there is pretty crappy as well.

Build #1: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 / YMF744 / SC-155
Build #2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
Build #3: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 11 of 34, by jesolo

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Based on your system specifications, I would have to say that your system is actually too "modern" for playing DOS games.
If you intend on playing DOS games, then a Pentium III or AMD K6-2 (with ISA slots) is probably a better option.

Alternatively, try perhaps looking at emulators. PCem, Dosbox & ScummVM are just a few.

Reply 13 of 34, by cyclone3d

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I'm not sure I would touch those cards from China. Let us know how it works when you get it.

Probably the best OPL3 you will get with that system is going to be with one of those Parallel port OPL3 adapters.
https://www.serdashop.com/OPL3LPT

You can also use a Yamaha YMF7x4 card for OPL3 and that part will work on any system as it only uses a memory address and not IRQ or DMA.
If you want digital sound from one with DOS on one of those with your system, you will need to use the DSDMA TSR which doesn't have near the compatibility that DDMA or SB-Link has.

For DOS through Windows 98, I would have to test as it has been quite a while and I don't remember exactly how the YMF7x4 cards do the DOS support through Windows.

Really though, any PCI card that installs a "legacy" audio device in Windows should work fine for the digital audio part in DOS through Windows though it will also depend on how it sets up the address, IRQ, and DMA portion of it.

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
Epstein didn't kill himself

Reply 14 of 34, by Da Playa

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Ok, I'm back and I tested some games.

After fixing all the video card nonsense I had (which I thought was sound card related), everything seemed to work fine. Sound now works in DOS games (under win 98) with sound blaster live SB0100.

It's not perfect and it doesn't run on all games, but I expected that I will have some issues with some games, since the PC is a little bit too modern for DOS.

The only issue I have now, that in some games I don't get SB sound effects and it automaticaly switches to PC speaker. Mostly I see this issue in Apogee games (cosmo cosmic, Major Stryker) and in Prince of persia and commander keen. The music works great, but the sound effects are in PC speakers.

What could be the problem? Is there a way to fix it? Is there a problem with configuration with my sound card?

Reply 15 of 34, by Oetker

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Da Playa wrote on 2020-05-04, 07:55:
Ok, I'm back and I tested some games. […]
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Ok, I'm back and I tested some games.

After fixing all the video card nonsense I had (which I thought was sound card related), everything seemed to work fine. Sound now works in DOS games (under win 98) with sound blaster live SB0100.

It's not perfect and it doesn't run on all games, but I expected that I will have some issues with some games, since the PC is a little bit too modern for DOS.

The only issue I have now, that in some games I don't get SB sound effects and it automaticaly switches to PC speaker. Mostly I see this issue in Apogee games (cosmo cosmic, Major Stryker) and in Prince of persia and commander keen. The music works great, but the sound effects are in PC speakers.

What could be the problem? Is there a way to fix it? Is there a problem with configuration with my sound card?

I don't think those games have digitized sound effects...

Reply 16 of 34, by cyclone3d

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Those games most certainly have digitized effects

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
Epstein didn't kill himself

Reply 18 of 34, by cyclone3d

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jmarsh wrote on 2020-05-05, 01:19:

Keen definitely does not, it's adlib only.

Yeah.. wrong term. The sound effects should be Adlib if Adlib is selected.

Music working and sound not working doesn't make sense.

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
Epstein didn't kill himself