VOGONS


First post, by Joseph_Joestar

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Here's a side-by-side comparison between genuine OPL3, ESFM, CQM and SBLive emulated FM synth. Sound cards used: Yamaha YMF724F-V (OPL3), ESS AudioDrive ES1868F (ESFM), Sound Blaster AWE64 Value CT4520 (CQM) and Sound Blaster Live 5.1 SB0100 (emulated FM synth).

OPL3

ESFM

CQM

SBLive FM synth emulation

Tracks were recorded while in-game, not from setup menus or external music players and such. Digital sound effects were disabled to not interfere with music recording. For the AWE64, Chorus and Reverb were set to 0 and 3DSE was turned off. Line out was used on all four sound cards. Game versions used: Doom 1.9, Duke3D 1.3D, Tyrian 1.1, Transport Tycoon for DOS.

Last edited by Joseph_Joestar on 2020-08-14, 11:41. Edited 5 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 2 of 17, by The Serpent Rider

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Descent CQM sample is slower.

I guess nothing can summarize the comparison better:

Live! FM emulation is horrible, but CQM is just different, not necessarily bad.

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Reply 3 of 17, by Joseph_Joestar

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The Serpent Rider wrote on 2020-06-25, 12:49:

Descent CQM sample is slower.

I noticed that too, not sure why it happens.

It's only Descent that slows down and only on the AWE64. I tried running it under DOS 6.22 and Win98SE, no difference.

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 17, by Falcosoft

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The Serpent Rider wrote on 2020-06-25, 12:49:

Live! FM emulation is horrible, but CQM is just different, not necessarily bad.

Personally I do not like the weak, hissy, metallic, bass-less sound of CQM. In some situations (e.g. Duke Nukem 3D) I feel even SB Live!'s emulation does a better job ( at least it has some bass).

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Reply 5 of 17, by Joseph_Joestar

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Figured out the AWE64 Descent slowdown issue.

Turns out, when I run setup and select "SB Pro/16, PAS 16 (OPL3)" for music playback, the AWE64 slows down. But if I select "Sound Blaster FM (OPL2)" then the music plays at normal speed. I could record a new version using OPL2, but in the interest of fairness, I'm leaving it as is, since the other cards had no issues with the OPL3 setting.

Further research indicates that this problem may be specific to Descent and possibly also Descent 2. More info:
Anyone have a idea why the music tempo in Descent fluctuates so bad on OPL?
AdLib music slowdowns

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 6 of 17, by Joseph_Joestar

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Update: I have replaced Descent with Transport Tycoon.

After some more research, it turns out that Descent is prone to FM synth slowdowns on multiple sound cards, so it's not the best game for comparison purposes. The Transport Tycoon main menu track is also a bit more melodic which showcases the differences even better.

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 7 of 17, by Jo22

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This makes me wonder - can the registers of CQM be read back? Like on newer OPL3 cores (YMF289B etc, not YMF262) ?
Maybe that's the reason the OPL2 driver behaves different (no OPL2 can be read).
It's just a wild guess, though.

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Reply 8 of 17, by Joseph_Joestar

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Jo22 wrote on 2020-07-11, 21:11:

This makes me wonder - can the registers of CQM be read back? Like on newer OPL3 cores (YMF289B etc, not YMF262) ?

I'm curious about the cause as well, particularly since this only seems to happen in the Descent games.

Other than with CQM, I've also seen the slowdown occur on an Avance Logic ALS100, an Opti 82C930 and a Sound Blaster 16 CT1740. The first two cards have 1:1 copies of the YMF262-M and the YMF289B respectively, but the CT1740 has a genuine YMF262-M chip on board. So, it doesn't only happen on clone/copy chips as I had originally thought.

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 17, by Joseph_Joestar

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CesarDRK wrote on 2020-07-19, 04:44:

Strange, mine SB16 with CQM sounds almost like a real OPL3

Based on the song description, it looks like you have a CT2950. Apparently, these can either have CQM or OPL3 on board. Are you sure your card doesn't have OPL3?

Additionally, it looks like you recorded the music from the sound test menu, while mine was recorded in-game. Not sure if this makes any difference, but try firing up the game and see if the intro music sounds the same there. For reference, I chose "Sound Blaster" in setup for music playback, not "Adlib".

EDIT - it does make a difference, just tested this myself. Duke3D music in the setup menu doesn't sound the same as what you get in-game.

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 11 of 17, by Grumgi

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SB Live, isn't great, but the worst FM emulation is WIndows' on board synth. Ever heard it? It's atrocious. I didn't even know it existed until recently. Imagine any FM song. Now replace all the instruments with a low quality piano sample. Now crank up the reverb. What you're imagining is probably what it's like

Reply 12 of 17, by leileilol

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Windows didn't have an emulated FM synthesizer. Maybe you're being confused with another SBLive/AudioPCI-related thing about it interpreting OPL commands with its own ECW synth.

A good FM song to compare for this thread is Doom E2M2. CQM won't survive that one...

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Reply 13 of 17, by Joseph_Joestar

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leileilol wrote on 2020-07-28, 05:05:

AudioPCI-related thing about it interpreting OPL commands with its own ECW synth.

The SB128 PCI has the worst FM synth emulation that I have ever heard. I still have my CT4810 somewhere, so maybe when I'm feeling particularly bored with life, I'll record that atrocity as well. In the meantime, this video that someone else made will have to do.

A good FM song to compare for this thread is Doom E2M2. CQM won't survive that one...

I went with E1M1 since that's what everyone is familiar with. But I agree, there are other tracks which demonstrate the differences better, and E2M2 is definitively a good example.

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 14 of 17, by appiah4

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leileilol wrote on 2020-07-28, 05:05:

Windows didn't have an emulated FM synthesizer. Maybe you're being confused with another SBLive/AudioPCI-related thing about it interpreting OPL commands with its own ECW synth.

A good FM song to compare for this thread is Doom E2M2. CQM won't survive that one...

Windows 98 does have a built in SB emulation driver IIRC?

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Reply 17 of 17, by Joseph_Joestar

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I recently got an ESS AudioDrive ES1868F card, so ESFM recordings have been added as well.

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