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Ultimate multi-sound card setup?

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First post, by cyclone3d

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I've been thinking about putting together a system with a bunch of different sound cards... or at least a few sound cards if I can cover pretty much all standards.

Speed sensitivity aside for some cards, what would be the best setup possible?

I already have pretty much everything except for a few that are unobtanium.

I can always put together multiple systems so I can make sure to be able to use speed sensitive cards as well.

Let's say I could also use the same model card in multiple systems.

For now, let's assume I would build 2-3 systems.

1. DOS only - for speed sensitive cards
2. DOS / Win98SE
3. ?

Note: cards do not need to be active at the same time for the most part.... Maybe not at all.

Last edited by cyclone3d on 2021-09-09, 22:52. Edited 1 time in total.

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 1 of 32, by BloodyCactus

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Well my SS7 box has an Midiman mm401 MPU, AWE32 (CT3980) with real OPL chip and a GUS PNP (with sb + midi + adlib disabled to reduce irq + io) and its nice, covers all my bases for the games + demos I run.

this is strictly DOS only.

--/\-[ Stu : Bloody Cactus :: http://kråketær.com :: http://mega-tokyo.com ]-/\--

Reply 2 of 32, by Gmlb256

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My Socket 7 computer has 3 sound cards on it which are the SB AWE64 CT4520 (for SB16, EMU8K and MPU-401 support), SB Pro2 CT1690 (for real OPL3 and SBPro compatibility on old games with low-pass filtering, I know this isn't a typical configuration) and GUS (for software that takes advantage of the GF1 hardware mixing) to cover all my needs on DOS, quite similar to BloodyCactus's SS7 computer except that I don't have a discrete MPU-401 card.

I also have Windows 98 SE installed on that computer, but it's mostly focused on DOS.

Another best setup could be combining a PCI and ISA sound card on the same computer, with the PCI (such as SB Live! or Aureal Vortex) being used for EAX or A3D on Windows and the ISA for better DOS compatibility.

Reply 3 of 32, by Joseph_Joestar

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I use an AWE64 for SB16 and AWE32 compatibility together with an OPTi 82C930 which handles SBPro, WSS, OPL3 and MPU-401 duties.

If you have a GUS, throw that into the mix and you've got pretty much everything covered. Concerning external MIDI devices, an MT-32 and a SC-55 would complete the setup.

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 Trio64V+ / Voodoo1 / OPTi 82C930 / AWE64 Gold / SC-155
PC#2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / Voodoo3 / SBLive / Vortex2
PC#3: Athlon64 3000+ / Asus K8V-MX / GeForce4 / Audigy1

Reply 4 of 32, by dionb

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All active at same time, or only initialized as needed?

Best I've been able to do with everything available at the same time is:
- GUS
- AWE32 *or* Aztech MMSN810 (SBPro2, Covox and DSS)
- PAS16
- Renovation SSI-2001
- Roland MPU-401AT

Some things were on pretty exotic DMA/IRQ settings, so a lot of games couldn't use them. Tbh I've left this path, instead making a few separate builds per time period. My '1991' system now has a Snark Barker SB 1.0 clone with CMS, Renovation SSI-2001, MusicQuest card and I'm working on my own Covox design. Then I have a '1995' system with GUS, AWE32 and Aztech MMSN855 (SBPro2, OPL3, WSS). Would have preferred to put my Terratec EWS64XL in there instead of the Aztech, but I just couldn't get that to play ball next to an SB16-variant.

Reply 6 of 32, by cyclone3d

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Cards will most likely not need to be active at the same time.

I know that the Yamaha YMF7x4 cards work fine with ISA sound cards installed in the same system.

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 7 of 32, by Pierre32

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I've tried to create the ultimate in DOS sound support on my 386.

Internal:

  • SB2.0 1350B with CMS chips
  • GUS Classic
  • PC MIDI card

External:

  • Covox clone
  • MT-32
  • TG100
  • FB-01

It loses "ultimate" points for:

  • Not having stereo FM
  • Not including a Sound Canvas module, as it's not the best era for it

Reply 8 of 32, by cyclone3d

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I could do something sorta like that for a 386 build... One 386 build I will be putting together is an industrial system with a 14 slot ISA backplane... I also have a 386 board that has VLB and I want to try that as well.

Sound card ideas:
Roland LAPC-I
Sound Blaster 1.5 with CMS or ATI Stereo FX with CMS
PAS 8-bit and/or SB Pro 1.0 for stereo FM
GUS classic.
Aztech card for Covox, etc.

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 9 of 32, by Namrok

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Nothing fancy. Just an AWE64 Value (CT4500) and an SBLive OEM (CT4780). I only initialize the AWE in DOS, and the SBLive in Windows. The only slightly creative thing I did was leave the AWE's joystick port turned on Windows, and the SBLive's turned off. That way the CH Flightstick Pro I leave plugged into the AWE works in DOS and Windows without issue.

Win95/DOS 7.1 - P233 MMX (@2.5 x 100 FSB), Diamond Viper V330 AGP, SB16 CT2800
Win98 - K6-2+ 500, GF2 MX, SB AWE 64 CT4500, SBLive CT4780
Win98 - Pentium III 1000, GF2 GTS, SBLive CT4760
WinXP - Athlon 64 3200+, GF 7800 GS, Audigy 2 ZS

Reply 10 of 32, by aitotat

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It has been a long road to find this combination but it is the best I've come up for my DX4 system:

Labway with Yamaha YMF71x for Sound Blaster Pro support + X2GS for Roland GM/GS (at port 320)
Sound Blaster AWE64 Gold for SB16 support (well mainly for PC speaker, actually)
Gravis Ultrasound ACE
Roland MPU401AT + McCake for MT-32 and CM-32L

This is not a perfect setup (nothing will ever be) since it has few limitations. I've made SBPRO.BAT and SB16.BAT so switch between Labway and AWE64. This is far better solution than to try using the two cards with different hardware resources. Basically I always use port 220, IRQ 5 and DMA 1 and configure games for those. Then I can choose with those two bat files the card I want to use. More details on my DX4 thread. But eventually I would like a single bug-free card to do both SB Pro and SB16.

Then there is another limitation as well. Most early General Midi games are hardcoded to port 330 and that is used by the Roland MPU401AT + McCake combo. So I have to use McCake for General Midi for some games. That is not a big problem since McCake is excellent for that as well but If you want the Roland GM/GS sounds then it is a problem. I should be able to fix it with software (port trapping) and I could also plug external Roland module to MPU401AT but I want this system to have everything internally.

Reply 11 of 32, by Boohyaka

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It's probably not a "universal ultimate" solution but that is what I went for and is pretty much ultimate for my use and the games I like to play:

- 486dx2-66 with Tndy3-sound, Orpheus and GUS (early-mid/late DOS, Win311)
- P233MMX with AWE32 non-PnP and a true MPU401 clone (late DOS, early Win9x)
- P3S-1.4 with Audigy 2 ZS and PC-MIDI (everything Win9x)
- All connected to a MIDI switch+external mixer and a nice collection of MIDI expanders (MT-32, CM32-L, SC55, SC50, MU80 and NS5R).

I used to have SBPro2.0 clones in the Pentium builds as well but ended up removing them. The era of games that I play on the P233 all support SB16 so the AWE32 is nice, and the P3 doesn't see ever see DOS so no need for an ISA card. Still it's connected to MIDI because I could and I like MIDI 😁 I probably have some "blind spots" or could be missing a few options, but all in all it really feels like I'm covering all my bases.

Reply 12 of 32, by Bancho

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I have a system which is pretty loaded on the sound front. (covers most stuff, but i really like midi)

Via C3 - Awe32 (28MB Ram, Trust Korg Sound Module), Turtle Beach Malibu, MPU401 With Dreamblaster X2 attached and a load of external modules (MT32, SC-55, MU50, MU10, TG100, NS5R (With Dreamblaster S2 in), Kawai LXC3), SB Live! Purely for Win9x (No Dos Drivers installed)

Everything works great, although really there isn't that much to configure.

Reply 13 of 32, by cyclone3d

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So nobody else is using some crazy setup. I'm gonna end up trying a bunch of different stuff.

Thanks for the ideas though. That does point me in a direction.

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 14 of 32, by Shreddoc

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It seems to me that the greatest challenge is when trying to cover both DOS and Windows in one machine, when in reality it's challenge enough just to broadly cover one operating system alone.

Here's my rough attempt (theoretical) :

Audigy 2(ZS or otherwise, doesn't make a great deal of difference IIRC) PCI, for Windows.
AU8830 (Aureal Vortex 2) PCI, for Windows. <^ can these co-exist??
Orpheus ISA, for DOS and MPU duties (or, cheap version: Yamaha 718/9 incl. OPL3 ISA, using SoftMPU if req'd.)
Roland and Yamaha external modules to cover LA, GM, GS and XG.
(editor: oops, forgot the GUS, to complete the basic DOS coverage)

In reality I find it too annoying to balance lots of different sound cards and drivers in one machine, certainly for Windows - it's a fragile house of cards just waiting for your next innocent driver or BIOS change to wreak 9x registry havoc. Since (like most of us here) I have multiple machines, I keep it simple and mostly separate. But there are for sure some "crazy" 5+ soundcard setups out there, which work for their owners!

Reply 15 of 32, by Gmlb256

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Shreddoc wrote on 2021-09-12, 01:48:

In reality I find it too annoying to balance lots of different sound cards and drivers in one machine, certainly for Windows - it's a fragile house of cards just waiting for your next innocent driver or BIOS change to wreak 9x registry havoc. Since (like most of us here) I have multiple machines, I keep it simple and mostly separate. But there are for sure some "crazy" 5+ soundcard setups out there, which work for their owners!

The problem when going with this route is dealing with the resources, especially with more than two sound cards and AdLib port. On Windows there is an option in Control Panel to select which sound card will be used for playback, but will affect the BLASTER environment variable (depending of the driver) unless you set a batch file prior on a PIF shortcut.

The GUS drivers for Windows 9x are useless and I prefer to use the DOS initialization for it on AUTOEXEC.BAT. I also have IRQ 9 free when SoftMPU is needed.

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Reply 16 of 32, by Joseph_Joestar

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Gmlb256 wrote on 2021-09-12, 02:33:

The problem when going with this route is dealing with the resources, especially with more than two sound cards and AdLib port.

Creative's PnP sound cards have the option to disable FM synth entirely, which leaves port 388 unused. This can be done either through Device Manager (in Win9x) or using CTCU (in DOS). Usually, it's enough to select "Basic Configuration 0003" or something similar and port 388 will be freed up.

This is nice if you want another card to take over FM synth duties, but it does disable whatever the Creative card has on-board, if you ever wanted to use that. AWE is unaffected by this, it just disables whatever uses port 388, which is usually CQM on Creative's later ISA cards.

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 Trio64V+ / Voodoo1 / OPTi 82C930 / AWE64 Gold / SC-155
PC#2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / Voodoo3 / SBLive / Vortex2
PC#3: Athlon64 3000+ / Asus K8V-MX / GeForce4 / Audigy1

Reply 17 of 32, by carlostex

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My multi Sound Card setup in a boring, long, almost 40 minute long video that no one should watch. You have been advised:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kk6nyrX4DK8

My DOS setup is currently comprised of the following cards:

- Ensoniq Soundscape (SPEA);
- Roland RAP-10;
- Orpheus 1 with TB60XG DB;
- MPU card with Turtle Beach Rio;
- Gravis Ultrasound PnP;
- Pro Audio Spectrum (Dual OPL2);
- AWE Upgrade CT1920;
- CMS/ GameBlaster CT1300;
- IBM Music Feature Card;
- TNDLPT;
- MT-32;
- CM-32L;

If you're wondering how i assigned IRQ and DMA resources i can tell you its doable. I'm also hoping for a future card that combines CMS/GameBlaster, Tandy 3 voice, Innovation SSI and CSM (AY-8930). Then maybe a parallel port dongle that supports both Covox Speech Thing and Disney Sound Source in one. FMonster seems that it will take a lot of time until release.

Also if your wondering about how i've got that many ISA slots: backplanes, a big case, lots of kynar wire, soldering and elbow grease.

My setup is far from being as nice looking and organized as the excellent MIDI General by our fellow member Cloudschatze.

Reply 18 of 32, by AppleSauce

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carlostex wrote on 2021-09-12, 18:53:
My multi Sound Card setup in a boring, long, almost 40 minute long video that no one should watch. You have been advised: […]
Show full quote

My multi Sound Card setup in a boring, long, almost 40 minute long video that no one should watch. You have been advised:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kk6nyrX4DK8

My DOS setup is currently comprised of the following cards:

- Ensoniq Soundscape (SPEA);
- Roland RAP-10;
- Orpheus 1 with TB60XG DB;
- MPU card with Turtle Beach Rio;
- Gravis Ultrasound PnP;
- Pro Audio Spectrum (Dual OPL2);
- AWE Upgrade CT1920;
- CMS/ GameBlaster CT1300;
- IBM Music Feature Card;
- TNDLPT;
- MT-32;
- CM-32L;

If you're wondering how i assigned IRQ and DMA resources i can tell you its doable. I'm also hoping for a future card that combines CMS/GameBlaster, Tandy 3 voice, Innovation SSI and CSM (AY-8930). Then maybe a parallel port dongle that supports both Covox Speech Thing and Disney Sound Source in one. FMonster seems that it will take a lot of time until release.

Also if your wondering about how i've got that many ISA slots: backplanes, a big case, lots of kynar wire, soldering and elbow grease.

My setup is far from being as nice looking and organized as the excellent MIDI General by our fellow member Cloudschatze.

Holy smokes nice setup , my jaw nearly hit the floor when I saw it.

I was going to post my build consisting of

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-MIF IPC B connected to a MPU 401
With the addition of an
-MT32 Old
-SC-55 MK1
-SC-55 MK2
-SC-88
and I've also got a CM-32L on the way.
(i'm planning on hooking them all up to an MPU 104 switchbox)

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Then the rest of the cards being :
-Tandy 3 sound.
-Sound blaster Pro 2 CT1600
-Primax Soundstrom M16C (Gravis Ultrasound Clone)

But you well and truly have me beat , it seems there's always a bigger fish as they say 🤣.

Speaking of all in one cards , I do recall someone posting on vogons about an fpga sound card project that would cover all the bases.
I believe the project is in limbo though unfortunately.

Reply 19 of 32, by dionb

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aitotat wrote on 2021-09-10, 04:40:

It has been a long road to find this combination but it is the best I've come up for my DX4 system:

[...]

Then there is another limitation as well. Most early General Midi games are hardcoded to port 330 and that is used by the Roland MPU401AT + McCake combo. So I have to use McCake for General Midi for some games. That is not a big problem since McCake is excellent for that as well but If you want the Roland GM/GS sounds then it is a problem. I should be able to fix it with software (port trapping) and I could also plug external Roland module to MPU401AT but I want this system to have everything internally.

Maybe you could put your wavetable module into an external MIDI enclosure (Chill or similar), then get a MIDI switcher/patchbay to choose which MIDI device gets its stuff from the MPU-401. WIth a real MPU-401, an MPU-105 would be the obvious (if hard to find) choice.