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.