VOGONS


First post, by Brawndo

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member

I found a YouTube video comparing a bunch of different sound cards, mostly OPL chips, and he threw in a Terratec Maestro with the Crystal CS4232 chip and it sounds vastly different, but it does sound pretty good in most of the demos. I didn't care for it in Quake. Just curious if anybody has one they use for DOS and how it works in practice. They seem hard to find and pricey. Not sure if it's worth it just based on what I've heard so far.

Reply 1 of 15, by 1541

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member

Sold mine years ago as most of the Midi tracks often sounded very off/weird.

I went for a Terratec 16/96 Gold (ESS 1868F based) and mounted the X2GS daughterboard.
Way cheaper and sounds the way it's supposed to.

💾 Windows 9x resources (drivers, tools, NUSB,...) 💾

Reply 2 of 15, by Brawndo

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member
1541 wrote on 2022-06-30, 14:52:

Sold mine years ago as most of the Midi tracks often sounded very off/weird.

I went for a Terratec 16/96 Gold (ESS 1868F based) and mounted the X2GS daughterboard.
Way cheaper and sounds the way it's supposed to.

School me since I'm still learning about these older sound cards, what does the daughterboard do?

The same video also included an ESS 1868 card and it does sound really good.

Reply 4 of 15, by realnc

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie
Brawndo wrote on 2022-06-30, 14:02:

I found a YouTube video comparing a bunch of different sound cards, mostly OPL chips, and he threw in a Terratec Maestro with the Crystal CS4232 chip and it sounds vastly different, but it does sound pretty good in most of the demos. I didn't care for it in Quake. Just curious if anybody has one they use for DOS and how it works in practice. They seem hard to find and pricey. Not sure if it's worth it just based on what I've heard so far.

Is that the Maestro 32/96? If yes, then that's an excellent card. Best one I've ever owned in fact. The MIDI wavetable on it sounds excellent. It's a copy of the SC-55 ROM and sounds very close to a real SC-55.

The drawbacks are that it requires DOS games to support WSS ("Windows Sound System") for 16-bit audio. Its Sound Blaster compatibility is only SB Pro. The OPL clone they use also isn't very good. This is really a MIDI + digital audio card (pretty much what I wanted and it's absolutely great at it,) for OPL music you'd better stick to a Sound Blaster.

Reply 5 of 15, by gerwin

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t
Brawndo wrote on 2022-06-30, 14:02:

I found a YouTube video comparing a bunch of different sound cards, mostly OPL chips, and he threw in a Terratec Maestro with the Crystal CS4232 chip and it sounds vastly different, but it does sound pretty good in most of the demos. I didn't care for it in Quake. Just curious if anybody has one they use for DOS and how it works in practice. They seem hard to find and pricey. Not sure if it's worth it just based on what I've heard so far.

Know that the Terratec Maestro 32/96 does not use the CS4232 for OPL/FM. CS4232 does not even have FM circuitry. It uses the 8905 signal generator chip of the Dream wavetable to produce FM music. It is not that the 8905 is inferior to the OPL3, on the contrary, but it is quite different indeed.

Edit: CS9233.pdf indicates that the FM core is in the main 9233 chip instead.
"Capable of FM synthesis with AdLib register set emulation for DOS games compatibility"
As FGB is showing here:
http://www.amoretro.de/wp-content/uploads/m3296.jpg

Last edited by gerwin on 2022-07-03, 22:22. Edited 1 time in total.

--> ISA Soundcard Overview // Doom MBF 2.04 // SetMul

Reply 6 of 15, by dionb

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t

There are a lot of different Terratec Maestro cards, with different chips on them. The Maestro 32/96 is perhaps the most famous, with CS4232 and Dream 9233 synth with 4MB Roland GS ROM, but there's also the Maestro 16, with a relabeled OPTi 82C92x, the 16/96 with OPTi 82C924 and Dream 9233 (but smaller ROM and no 8905 signal generator), the 32 with OPTi 82C929 etc.

So a bunch of very different cards with different chips - where the 32/96 is the odd one out on multiple counts, even if it's the most famous (and yes, I have one and it's very nice too). Which one were you thinking of?

Reply 8 of 15, by gerwin

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t
dionb wrote on 2022-07-01, 00:52:

Which one were you thinking of?

The topic starter mentioned CS4232, Which AFAIK can only be the Maestro 32/96.

--> ISA Soundcard Overview // Doom MBF 2.04 // SetMul

Reply 9 of 15, by appiah4

User metadata
Rank l33t++
Rank
l33t++

Mestro 16/96 is an amazing card aside from Terratec's ommission of any kind of hardware FM synth on it; I mean, could they not afford to add at least a CS4289 even if not a real OLP3 chip on that? It wasn't a cheap card either.. I love Terratec and their cards but it really gets on my nerves how this card came so close to being the ultimate ISA sound card and missed the mark due to such a basic ommission..

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

Reply 10 of 15, by Brawndo

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member
dionb wrote on 2022-07-01, 00:52:

There are a lot of different Terratec Maestro cards, with different chips on them. The Maestro 32/96 is perhaps the most famous, with CS4232 and Dream 9233 synth with 4MB Roland GS ROM, but there's also the Maestro 16, with a relabeled OPTi 82C92x, the 16/96 with OPTi 82C924 and Dream 9233 (but smaller ROM and no 8905 signal generator), the 32 with OPTi 82C929 etc.

So a bunch of very different cards with different chips - where the 32/96 is the odd one out on multiple counts, even if it's the most famous (and yes, I have one and it's very nice too). Which one were you thinking of?

Yeah I was referencing the 32/96 card, my bad. I'm just now breaking the ice with older sound cards so I'm discovering all this for the first time. I first started getting into PCs in 1997 which is when I bought my first, a CTX AMD K6 200MHz system with whatever cheap sound card it had. The first sound card I bought for myself was the original Live! in 1998. I missed the whole DOS era so I'm just now going down the rabbit hole of learning about the older hardware. I've already procured a Sound Blaster 16 CT2940 with the real OPL chip and I'm making a mental list of other cards to be on the lookout for for 486/DOS games. ESS1868F, Opti 82C929, other Sound Blaster models, etc.

Since we're on the topic, how do the 16/96 models compare for sound quality in pure DOS?

Reply 11 of 15, by dionb

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t
Brawndo wrote on 2022-07-01, 19:41:

[...]

Yeah I was referencing the 32/96 card, my bad. I'm just now breaking the ice with older sound cards so I'm discovering all this for the first time. I first started getting into PCs in 1997 which is when I bought my first, a CTX AMD K6 200MHz system with whatever cheap sound card it had. The first sound card I bought for myself was the original Live! in 1998. I missed the whole DOS era so I'm just now going down the rabbit hole of learning about the older hardware.

Here I missed it for the opposite reason. Missed early cards because we had a PS/2 and MCA cards were even more hideously expensive than ISA ones, and then I went and bought my first PC in 1995 with a GUS Max, so my experience was that few things worked (somehow could never get SB emulation with SBOS to work back in the day 😦 ), but when it did, it was divine. Then moved up to Win98 and PCI audio and never really knew what I missed in terms of better compatibility and yet far worse sound - until I went down the same rabbit hole a few years back.

I've already procured a Sound Blaster 16 CT2940 with the real OPL chip and I'm making a mental list of other cards to be on the lookout for for 486/DOS games. ESS1868F, Opti 82C929, other Sound Blaster models, etc.

Since we're on the topic, how do the 16/96 models compare for sound quality in pure DOS?

There are two axes to measure "quality", plain SNR on the one - how 'clean' it sounds, and on the other how the sound itself is synthesized - which is more subjective, basically how close FM is to OPL (and what you feel about the delta) and if it supports wavetable, how close GM is to Roland (and what you feel about the delta). Potentially there's a third axis, the way the output is (or isn't) filtered, but that's a rabbit hole I'm not (yet) qualified to talk about.

The 32/96 is superlative in the SNR, comparable to an Audigy2 (see here), the wavetable sound set is basically the Roland 4MB one, so as good as it gets, only the FM is slightly 'off' as CSFM - but of the non-OPL FM synths, CSFM is generally one of the better regarded, in same league as ESFM and better than say CQM. Some even prefer it over geniune Yamaha OPL3.

The 16 has decent SNR. I'm intending to one day do some accurate measurements, but for now I can say it sounds less noisy than most cards, but not in same league as the 32/96. It doesn't have wavetable onboard, but does have a real OPL3. Basically your ideal SBPro2 + bug free MPU-401 UART + WSS card (only issue: you have to choose between SBPro and WSS modes at driver init time, or re-init, can't use both at once - common OPTi behaviour).

As for the 16/96 - I'm going by what other people say, but it seems to be similarly non-noisy, and it has the same synth as the 32/96, just inferior 1MB ROM. Same Roland samples, so it sounds correct, just way more compressed. The real mid-1990s budget experience 😉 As for FM, the 9233 does them and opinions are mixed but generally not positive, as with most other Wavetable-synths-that-try-FM - but there are far worse in that category.

Tbh, the only reason I'd want the 16/96 would be as an oddity. I sort of like cards that do something so 'different' it could be called horrendous. Usually that involves using a synth designed for one kind of operation for another.

Reply 12 of 15, by auron

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

the 32/96 supposedly suffers from a boot issue on faster systems that according to the manufacturer is fixable by changing a certain capacitor. so if someone can't do this mod, that might affect the desirability of that card.

as far as SC-55 knock-offs go, it's definitely the most balanced sounding one that i've personally heard, to the point where i'm wondering why they didn't seem to offer this exact 4MB soundset for the EWS64 successor card. well, one thing i never liked about the EWS64 is how it seems to ignore reverb/chrous levels set in MIDIs, instead just relying on whatever is set in the mixer, and i assume the 32/96 works in the same fashion (if not, perhaps an owner can correct me on that one).

Reply 13 of 15, by carlostex

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t

I own a Maestro 32/96 and it is a very nice card. A must card for Terratec card lovers and a one of the best options for people who don't care much about FM. You have th einternal MPU which is kind of like a Turtle Becah Cancun, same samples AFAIK, and you have the option to install a second wavetable board. Very well made card.

I don't use mine for a simple reasons, i love genuine Yamaha OPL and i have an Orpheus. I'll probably trade this card for something else i don't have.

Reply 14 of 15, by appiah4

User metadata
Rank l33t++
Rank
l33t++

Maestro 32/96 and EWS64 are the unicorns missing in myncollection 🙁 At least I have a Gold 16/96..

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

Reply 15 of 15, by dionb

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t
appiah4 wrote on 2022-07-02, 20:13:

Maestro 32/96 and EWS64 are the unicorns missing in myncollection 🙁 At least I have a Gold 16/96..

EWS64 is more like a grumpy rhinoceros. Back in the day a friend of mine who played keyboard in a band got one to help with MIDI stuff - and never managed to get it running properly. At the time I blamed the fact he insisted on using Win2k combined with less than stellar driver support. More recently I got my hands on an EWS64XL and decided to see what I could do in DOS and Win9x. I *could* get it running, but only after a lot of fuss and not in combination with other cards (GUS, AWE64 Gold). So I had to kick it out of my flagship late DOS system. Still, the external bay looks really good in one of my others 😉