VOGONS


First post, by BeastOfSoda

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Hello,

I am finalizing a P3 retro PC for DOS and Win98 gaming; I am looking to roughly cover the time period between 1988 and late 90s. I am going for a dual ISA sound card setup, with the main one being a Sound Blaster 16 CT2230. the reason I chose it is because of the low noise output and for the FM synth timbre, which I really like.

In order to get around the dreaded hanging note bug, I am looking for a companion card on which to mount a wavetable daughterboard (that won't cost me an arm and a leg). After searching high and low, I have more questions than I started with, so it's time for me to turn to your collective expertise.

The most important thing for me is to have a clean output, but I'd also like it to have competent FM and PCM audio (so that it may substitute for the SB16 if something is incompatible). It doesn't necessarily need to have a real OPL3 synth, as long as it's serviceable.

My research so far has brought me to exclude a few contenders, but I am open to reconsidering them if my conclusions were hilariously misguided:

- Another SB16: while this is an option, owning two of the same thing would limit versatility in case of incompatible games, as stated above.
- AWE32: I found that the only viable models, due to noise concerns and actual presence of a WT header, seem to be the CT3900 and CT3980, which are way overpriced. Also, I am not really interested in AWE specific features, so that's a no go.
- YMF719: I have concerns about the stated incompatibilities with this card, which while expected might just be a few too many. Also, as I understand there are some PCM distortion issues, and the audio output is reversed?
- ESS 1688: while this looked almost perfect, I have read reports that the wavetable output is noisy, which has put me off. Maybe this also depends on the specific brand/model?
- Orpheus: good all rounder, but muffled PCM turned me away.

Thanks in advance!

Last edited by BeastOfSoda on 2021-05-20, 13:54. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 2 of 27, by BeastOfSoda

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mihai wrote on 2021-05-20, 12:23:

I have seen that one, however PCM sounded muffled to me (at least judging from LGR's review)

Reply 3 of 27, by Lazer42

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This is not exactly an answer to your question, but something else to consider: I've recently built a similar system and included a CT2230 and the biggest problem I have encountered with it is not the hanging note bug (actually I specifically chose the CT2230 because I thought it didn't have that bug) but is the single cycle DMA bug, which on some of the stuff I've tried to run has been really, really awful to the point of being unplayable.

Because of that I have tried running a dual setup with the SB16 and the ESS 1938s which is built into my motherboard and have had all sorts of problems getting the two cards not to have resource conflicts and such. It was a particular problem certain games which insisted on recognizing the "non-active" card over the "active one" no matter how I configured things, and with getting the ESS card to use the IRQ I have told it to (I've tried various things including the PCISET batch file for this stuff). That may have more to do with the fact that it's a built in card than any kind of trouble you'd actually have if you chose an actual plug-in ESS card.

In any event, my main point is that the CT2230 has in my experience required a "back up" card not just for MIDI, but for regular sound as well because of that DMA bug, so it's a good idea, as you're suggesting, to have in mind a second card which you can use for the regular audio off the card. I'd personally advise making the ability to use the second card for that a primary requirement, along with the low noise wavetable you're looking for, rather than a "nice to have" secondary option.

As for me, I currently have the system working "okay" by not loading any SB16 drivers and using it exclusively for the MPU401 out (I could not get the ESS MPU401 out to work) and using the ESS card for everything else. I couldn't get the two to play nicely enough together to swap back and forth between them. I've ordered an Aztech 2316R chipset card to try to replace the SB16 altogether and to use as a single sound card option.

Reply 4 of 27, by BeastOfSoda

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Lazer42 wrote on 2021-05-20, 12:40:
This is not exactly an answer to your question, but something else to consider: I've recently built a similar system and include […]
Show full quote

This is not exactly an answer to your question, but something else to consider: I've recently built a similar system and included a CT2230 and the biggest problem I have encountered with it is not the hanging note bug (actually I specifically chose the CT2230 because I thought it didn't have that bug) but is the single cycle DMA bug, which on some of the stuff I've tried to run has been really, really awful to the point of being unplayable.

Because of that I have tried running a dual setup with the SB16 and the ESS 1938s which is built into my motherboard and have had all sorts of problems getting the two cards not to have resource conflicts and such. It was a particular problem certain games which insisted on recognizing the "non-active" card over the "active one" no matter how I configured things, and with getting the ESS card to use the IRQ I have told it to (I've tried various things including the PCISET batch file for this stuff). That may have more to do with the fact that it's a built in card than any kind of trouble you'd actually have if you chose an actual plug-in ESS card.

In any event, my main point is that the CT2230 has in my experience required a "back up" card not just for MIDI, but for regular sound as well because of that DMA bug, so it's a good idea, as you're suggesting, to have in mind a second card which you can use for the regular audio off the card. I'd personally advise making the ability to use the second card for that a primary requirement, along with the low noise wavetable you're looking for, rather than a "nice to have" secondary option.

As for me, I currently have the system working "okay" by not loading any SB16 drivers and using it exclusively for the MPU401 out (I could not get the ESS MPU401 out to work) and using the ESS card for everything else. I couldn't get the two to play nicely enough together to swap back and forth between them. I've ordered an Aztech 2316R chipset card to try to replace the SB16 altogether and to use as a single sound card option.

Thanks for your considerations. Yes, I am also slightly concerned about the two of them playing along nicely, however I'd peg that down to your onboard model not being fully compatible with the drivers/being dependent on BIOS settings for resource configuration (I have a mainboard with onboard audio which lets me choose what to use from the BIOS rather than at runtime). About the DMA bug, if memory serves the problems tend to go away after disabling HDMA, but maybe you've run into cases where there are still issues after it's been turned off? (These are the kinds of experiences I'm interested in hearing about, so that I know what I'm getting into)

And yes, this is the whole reason I'm looking for a board that's capable of standing on its own in a pinch. I'd still try to run both separately for sound effects and music whenever possible (a big reason for wanting two is so that I can tweak sound levels using an outboard mixer, rather than faffing about with proprietary mixing software), but I definitely wish for an overall decent card as backup plan (hence why I excluded the Orpheus or the Yamaha).

Reply 5 of 27, by Lazer42

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BeastOfSoda wrote on 2021-05-20, 13:52:
Lazer42 wrote on 2021-05-20, 12:40:
This is not exactly an answer to your question, but something else to consider: I've recently built a similar system and include […]
Show full quote

This is not exactly an answer to your question, but something else to consider: I've recently built a similar system and included a CT2230 and the biggest problem I have encountered with it is not the hanging note bug (actually I specifically chose the CT2230 because I thought it didn't have that bug) but is the single cycle DMA bug, which on some of the stuff I've tried to run has been really, really awful to the point of being unplayable.

Because of that I have tried running a dual setup with the SB16 and the ESS 1938s which is built into my motherboard and have had all sorts of problems getting the two cards not to have resource conflicts and such. It was a particular problem certain games which insisted on recognizing the "non-active" card over the "active one" no matter how I configured things, and with getting the ESS card to use the IRQ I have told it to (I've tried various things including the PCISET batch file for this stuff). That may have more to do with the fact that it's a built in card than any kind of trouble you'd actually have if you chose an actual plug-in ESS card.

In any event, my main point is that the CT2230 has in my experience required a "back up" card not just for MIDI, but for regular sound as well because of that DMA bug, so it's a good idea, as you're suggesting, to have in mind a second card which you can use for the regular audio off the card. I'd personally advise making the ability to use the second card for that a primary requirement, along with the low noise wavetable you're looking for, rather than a "nice to have" secondary option.

As for me, I currently have the system working "okay" by not loading any SB16 drivers and using it exclusively for the MPU401 out (I could not get the ESS MPU401 out to work) and using the ESS card for everything else. I couldn't get the two to play nicely enough together to swap back and forth between them. I've ordered an Aztech 2316R chipset card to try to replace the SB16 altogether and to use as a single sound card option.

Thanks for your considerations. Yes, I am also slightly concerned about the two of them playing along nicely, however I'd peg that down to your onboard model not being fully compatible with the drivers/being dependent on BIOS settings for resource configuration (I have a mainboard with onboard audio which lets me choose what to use from the BIOS rather than at runtime). About the DMA bug, if memory serves the problems tend to go away after disabling HDMA, but maybe you've run into cases where there are still issues after it's been turned off? (These are the kinds of experiences I'm interested in hearing about, so that I know what I'm getting into)

And yes, this is the whole reason I'm looking for a board that's capable of standing on its own in a pinch. I'd still try to run both separately for sound effects and music whenever possible (a big reason for wanting two is so that I can tweak sound levels using an outboard mixer, rather than faffing about with proprietary mixing software), but I definitely wish for an overall decent card as backup plan (hence why I excluded the Orpheus or the Yamaha).

I haven't found anything that eliminates the DMA bug, but maybe I'm not aware of the correct procedure. By disabling HDMA, do you essentially mean setting the card to something like SET BLASTER=A220 I5 D1 H1 where H=D? (I believe that you also put the same "switches" on the end of the SB16 driver line in config.sys). Or, is there something else to it? I had thought I had tried configuring it so that H=D and it didn't make a difference, but if there is something else you're supposed to do I can try it.

Reply 6 of 27, by BeastOfSoda

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Lazer42 wrote on 2021-05-20, 14:10:
BeastOfSoda wrote on 2021-05-20, 13:52:
Lazer42 wrote on 2021-05-20, 12:40:
This is not exactly an answer to your question, but something else to consider: I've recently built a similar system and include […]
Show full quote

This is not exactly an answer to your question, but something else to consider: I've recently built a similar system and included a CT2230 and the biggest problem I have encountered with it is not the hanging note bug (actually I specifically chose the CT2230 because I thought it didn't have that bug) but is the single cycle DMA bug, which on some of the stuff I've tried to run has been really, really awful to the point of being unplayable.

Because of that I have tried running a dual setup with the SB16 and the ESS 1938s which is built into my motherboard and have had all sorts of problems getting the two cards not to have resource conflicts and such. It was a particular problem certain games which insisted on recognizing the "non-active" card over the "active one" no matter how I configured things, and with getting the ESS card to use the IRQ I have told it to (I've tried various things including the PCISET batch file for this stuff). That may have more to do with the fact that it's a built in card than any kind of trouble you'd actually have if you chose an actual plug-in ESS card.

In any event, my main point is that the CT2230 has in my experience required a "back up" card not just for MIDI, but for regular sound as well because of that DMA bug, so it's a good idea, as you're suggesting, to have in mind a second card which you can use for the regular audio off the card. I'd personally advise making the ability to use the second card for that a primary requirement, along with the low noise wavetable you're looking for, rather than a "nice to have" secondary option.

As for me, I currently have the system working "okay" by not loading any SB16 drivers and using it exclusively for the MPU401 out (I could not get the ESS MPU401 out to work) and using the ESS card for everything else. I couldn't get the two to play nicely enough together to swap back and forth between them. I've ordered an Aztech 2316R chipset card to try to replace the SB16 altogether and to use as a single sound card option.

Thanks for your considerations. Yes, I am also slightly concerned about the two of them playing along nicely, however I'd peg that down to your onboard model not being fully compatible with the drivers/being dependent on BIOS settings for resource configuration (I have a mainboard with onboard audio which lets me choose what to use from the BIOS rather than at runtime). About the DMA bug, if memory serves the problems tend to go away after disabling HDMA, but maybe you've run into cases where there are still issues after it's been turned off? (These are the kinds of experiences I'm interested in hearing about, so that I know what I'm getting into)

And yes, this is the whole reason I'm looking for a board that's capable of standing on its own in a pinch. I'd still try to run both separately for sound effects and music whenever possible (a big reason for wanting two is so that I can tweak sound levels using an outboard mixer, rather than faffing about with proprietary mixing software), but I definitely wish for an overall decent card as backup plan (hence why I excluded the Orpheus or the Yamaha).

I haven't found anything that eliminates the DMA bug, but maybe I'm not aware of the correct procedure. By disabling HDMA, do you essentially mean setting the card to something like SET BLASTER=A220 I5 D1 H1 where H=D? (I believe that you also put the same "switches" on the end of the SB16 driver line in config.sys). Or, is there something else to it? I had thought I had tried configuring it so that H=D and it didn't make a difference, but if there is something else you're supposed to do I can try it.

I have not tried this myself, so I'm not the most reliable source, but you should be able to use the CTCM program to apply the correct settings which will instruct the card to use the low DMA channel. Source: Re: Problems with SB16 sfx in some games

Reply 7 of 27, by Lazer42

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BeastOfSoda wrote on 2021-05-20, 15:10:
Lazer42 wrote on 2021-05-20, 14:10:
BeastOfSoda wrote on 2021-05-20, 13:52:

Thanks for your considerations. Yes, I am also slightly concerned about the two of them playing along nicely, however I'd peg that down to your onboard model not being fully compatible with the drivers/being dependent on BIOS settings for resource configuration (I have a mainboard with onboard audio which lets me choose what to use from the BIOS rather than at runtime). About the DMA bug, if memory serves the problems tend to go away after disabling HDMA, but maybe you've run into cases where there are still issues after it's been turned off? (These are the kinds of experiences I'm interested in hearing about, so that I know what I'm getting into)

And yes, this is the whole reason I'm looking for a board that's capable of standing on its own in a pinch. I'd still try to run both separately for sound effects and music whenever possible (a big reason for wanting two is so that I can tweak sound levels using an outboard mixer, rather than faffing about with proprietary mixing software), but I definitely wish for an overall decent card as backup plan (hence why I excluded the Orpheus or the Yamaha).

I haven't found anything that eliminates the DMA bug, but maybe I'm not aware of the correct procedure. By disabling HDMA, do you essentially mean setting the card to something like SET BLASTER=A220 I5 D1 H1 where H=D? (I believe that you also put the same "switches" on the end of the SB16 driver line in config.sys). Or, is there something else to it? I had thought I had tried configuring it so that H=D and it didn't make a difference, but if there is something else you're supposed to do I can try it.

I have not tried this myself, so I'm not the most reliable source, but you should be able to use the CTCM program to apply the correct settings which will instruct the card to use the low DMA channel. Source: Re: Problems with SB16 sfx in some games

I'm relatively confident that this is what I've already tried, but I will double check and report back.

Reply 8 of 27, by BeastOfSoda

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So, apparently the clicks and pops caused by high DMA are not the same as the ones originating from single cycle DMA, although the two problems compound each other. This was an interesting read, although the problem seems to be quite permanent: Sound Blaster 16 Bugs and Deficiencies Summary

Reply 9 of 27, by mothergoose729

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BeastOfSoda wrote on 2021-05-20, 12:37:
mihai wrote on 2021-05-20, 12:23:

I have seen that one, however PCM sounded muffled to me (at least judging from LGR's review)

PCM muffled? I haven't had that experience on my card.

My biggest complaint with the orpheus is that the line-in and CD music in are too quite. You can mostly fix that in the mixer software. I don't have a wavetable board because I use external midi, but I have only heard good things.

It ain't cheap though, and the wait time is very long. If I weren't using the orpheus, I would probably go for an ESS or an opti card. Some ESS E18XXXX have wavetable ports (and I think you can solder in a wavetable header sometimes if it doesn't have one). They are low cost and not that hard to find.

Reply 10 of 27, by Lazer42

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BeastOfSoda wrote on 2021-05-20, 15:43:

So, apparently the clicks and pops caused by high DMA are not the same as the ones originating from single cycle DMA, although the two problems compound each other. This was an interesting read, although the problem seems to be quite permanent: Sound Blaster 16 Bugs and Deficiencies Summary

Yeah, I didn't think changing the settings we were discussing had made a difference and you've confirmed it for me - or at least reminded me of the answer.

Actually, see my post near the (current) end of that thread to see an video example of how bad it is in at least one game on my CT2230: Re: Sound Blaster 16 Bugs and Deficiencies Summary

Now that's only that game. In some games, especially newer games like Doom for example, it works fine. That's expected, of course. In some other games, like Wolfenstein 3D, it's not nearly as bad as in that Mickey Mouse game and I'd consider it playable. I'm not sure if I necessarily would have noticed it in Wolf3d had I not started digging for info because of the Mickey game, which I was trying to get working for the kids. I haven't messed with it too much in Wolf3D, but as I recall it mainly just makes a small click at the end of some sounds like the door opening sound. Another game where it works very badly for me, but in a different way, is Epic Pinball. In that game I don't so much get the same kind of "oscillating" clicking that you hear in the Mickey game, but the whole thing just sounds like a staticy, garbled mess. I was able to determine that in the case of that game what's happening is that for whatever reason no matter what I have the SB16 mixer set at, the game boosts the master volume (and maybe some of the other volumes; I don't remember) to max on starting up, so at least a large part of what I am hearing in that game is just clipping. I don't know if the clicking would be there if it were the correct volume level. Either way, I know this is happening because after running Epic Pinball other games which normally sound okay also sound awful until I go back into the mixer and turn the master volume down and then the other games sound normal again. Maybe that's more a problem with Epic Pinball than with the card? I don't know, but either way I can't play that game with this card and presumably others which have a similar problem.

That's why, as I said, I have been basically not using my Sb16 for anything other than its MIDI port right now and I've ordered a new card to try to replace it. Still, when the Sb16 *does* work, I like it, so I would be happy with a more ideal option where I have it working alongside another card. When the new one arrives, I might try doing a dual setup with those with the mainboard sound jumpered off to see if I can get them to play nicely together.

Reply 11 of 27, by Tiido

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BeastOfSoda wrote on 2021-05-20, 12:18:

- YMF719: I have concerns about the stated incompatibilities with this card, which while expected might just be a few too many. Also, as I understand there are some PCM distortion issues, and the audio output is reversed?

There shouldn't be any sort of distortion issues unless there's a physical fault on the card and the most common Labway made card (Audician trademark) has reversed waveblaster input, but most other cards using the chips don't. There are about 20 cards using this chip, including one I made a while back. There are some games that don't work but there's no single card that works with all games unfortunately, you always trade some problem with another so ideally you probably want to have more than one sound card anyway.

T-04YBSC, a new YMF71x based sound card & Official VOGONS thread about it
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Reply 12 of 27, by Joseph_Joestar

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ESS cards usually have low self-noise and the wavetable header volume can be adjusted through the AuxB parameter. They also don't suffer from any SB16 related bugs. I can't speak for the reversed stereo on the wavetable header, but for an external MIDI device such as my SC-155, stereo does work correctly.

Be advised that not all ESS cards are made the same. For example, my 1868F is noise-free, but other cards using the same chip but with a different PCB layout can reportedly be noisy at times.

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 VirgeDX / Voodoo1 / OPTi 82C930 / AWE64
PC#2: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 / YMF744 / SC-155
PC#3: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
PC#4: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 13 of 27, by darry

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BeastOfSoda wrote on 2021-05-20, 12:37:
mihai wrote on 2021-05-20, 12:23:

I have seen that one, however PCM sounded muffled to me (at least judging from LGR's review)

If you don't like the analogue output for some reason, you can always use the digital (S/PDIF) output with the DAC of your choice . That is how I use my Orpheus and I am very happy with it (analogue out was fine as well to my ears, but I am on a quest to centralize DA conversion as much as possible in my setup).

As for the waveblaster support, IMHO, another good option is to house your wavetable board externally using one of these https://www.serdashop.com/CHiLL2 (unfortunately currently out of stock) along with a very nice /D printed enclosure. I have the previous model and, at least in my setup, housing the daughterboard externally rather than in the PC (which is typically a very RF noisy environment), subjectively reduced noise even more (I have not made any comparison measurements). Another advantage of this method is that you will never need to worry about reversed L-R channels with the wavetable card .

Reply 14 of 27, by BeastOfSoda

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You guys are awesome, thanks; it looks like I've made up my mind. I'll probably end up getting an ESS 1868, driving an externally mounted Waveblaster card. I really like that idea, plus I would end up with independent PCM and MIDI volumes from the ESS. I reckon I could even run with that notion to swap daughterboards easily in case I start having more than one (the original plan was to eventually mount a second one on the SB16, but with external adapters I should be able to hook up multiple ones to the same source).

As a follow-up about the ESS, what should I be looking for and what should I avoid? I'm seeing a lot of ES1868F listed, with slightly different layouts. I see that the Compaq ones lack the preamp jumpers, and also don't have a WT header (which would be moot anyway if I run the WT externally, but I still want that option in case I can't source a Chill adapter). Then there's the one reviewed by Phil's Computer Lab, the one with half of the PCB unpopulated:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/124546501137?hash=it … KcAAOSwvBRgEQRB

Which tends to cost more than other seemingly off-brand versions. Which ones are worthwhile, and which others are lemons?

EDIT: I've also seen the ES1869 ones, which according to Phil support 48KHz sampling rate and have a spatializer technology, whatever that means. I'm assuming that's useless to me for the purposes of DOS gaming; would there be any pros to purchasing this one otherwise?

EDIT 2: I have done some more study around the forums, so I'd like to leave what I learned for my future self or for someone else stumbling upon this in the future.

I now understand that there are many variations of the ESS boards, with little way of discerning the better ones (aside from knowing the model numbers from verified good units in advance, or going for pricier brand name models, like the Terratec 16/96 Gold). I have however a better idea of what to look for at first glance.

- Preamp jumpers: preamplification is a chief source of noise that I don't need, since I'll be running my audio through an active mixer, so I should be looking for a unit with onboard jumpers to disable it. Preamp is only really required in case of passive speakers connected directly to the sound card. In alternative, look for a model which has separate line out and speaker out, as I understand that the line out provides the signal before preamp.
- Discrete oscillator: many boards don't have one, and rely instead on the ISA clock. This tends not to be an issue, but for maximum fidelity I'm looking for a board with its own oscillator installed.
- Wavetable header: necessary since I don't know when or if I'll be able to get my hands on a Chill 2.
- Spatializer: don't really need one with it, as I'm not a fan of dodgy post processing technology.

Additionally, about the empty space on the PCB for many models, as I understand that's where the circuitry for integrated wavetable is supposed to go. This is rare to find, and only really necessary if the user is not planning to use a discrete wavetable. So the empty space should be of no concern to people wanting to use a daughterboard, nor to folks who only want FM music out of this card.

I also found out that the ES1869 supports in addition 48 KHz audio (which I won't really need or notice under DOS), built-in spatializer and full duplex audio (only relevant if I want to playback and record audio at the same time: again, it's something unnecessary for DOS gaming).

One last caveat is that the ES1868 is not compatible with all Audiodrive implementations, but that shouldn't be a problem since it's also got SBPRO compatibility, as well as an actual SB16 card alongside.

With that I should be covered, but by all means, feel free to inform me if I got something wrong. And thanks again!

Reply 15 of 27, by PC-Engineer

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You wrote that OPL3 doesn‘t matter. Then would be the Maestro 32/96 an option.

If you don‘t need the WTH, then the TB Tropez Plus would be your card: Crystal clear sound (one of the best of its time), OPL3 FM sound, best SB Pro comptatibility and very nice GM Wavetable sound . For me the best DOS Soundcard, but without WTH.

Both cards are rare and expensive, because of their versetality.

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Reply 16 of 27, by Joseph_Joestar

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BeastOfSoda wrote on 2021-05-20, 23:04:

One last caveat is that the ES1868 is not compatible with all Audiodrive implementations, but that shouldn't be a problem since it's also got SBPRO compatibility, as well as an actual SB16 card alongside.

For games that use the Miles sound system, you can often backport the newer driver. It's usually enough to copy AUDIODRV.DIG to the folder where the rest of the .DIG files reside and it will work fine. Not that it matters much in your case since you also have a SB16.

Here's my review of the 1868F that I'm using. There's a lot of other useful info in that thread as well, if you haven't checked it already. It should also be noted that ESS cards have a native ESFM mode, which can sound pretty interesting in supported games.

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 VirgeDX / Voodoo1 / OPTi 82C930 / AWE64
PC#2: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 / YMF744 / SC-155
PC#3: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
PC#4: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 17 of 27, by BeastOfSoda

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Joseph_Joestar wrote on 2021-05-22, 14:29:

Here's my review of the 1868F that I'm using. There's a lot of other useful info in that thread as well, if you haven't checked it already. It should also be noted that ESS cards have a native ESFM mode, which can sound pretty interesting in supported games.

Yes! Your thread has been an invaluable resource in learning about the quirks and various iterations of these amazing clone cards; most of what I know has been gleaned from there, I'm really grateful for that.

It's also great to know that I have options to work around the audio driver limitations, but you've gotten me even more curious to know more about this ESFM mode; I love the idea of having a different sound signature to choose from, and I'll definitely study up on that.

Reply 18 of 27, by cde

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I have bought many ES1868F-based cards and the ones with the lowest noise (including electrical noise from other PC components) are the Edison Gold 16 Plus/KWX-SC200 and KWX-SND21-W (MPB-000074 1.1) with UTC VFA33 LM386 preamps. Nonetheless even "noisy" cards still had acceptable noise levels.

Reply 19 of 27, by BeastOfSoda

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Sooo... After searching high and low, I'm considering this one. I really didn't find any with the LM386 amps as well as a dedicated oscillator, but the amp on this one is an UTC2025; I can't make out the past number clearly, but to me it looks like it reads 7M156. Also, it has the preamp jumpers, and the rest looks like standard PnP fare.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/324569630734?hash=it … 7IAAOSwkTFgdeZC

Any experience with that op amp?

Also, one more thing: what exactly causes these amps to be noisy? Is it because of ground loops, which might be resolved with a ground loop insulator, or are they just introducing noise as part of the amplification process (ie. by cranking the gain or similar)?