VOGONS


First post, by feipoa

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For me, one of the great disappointments of the AWE64Gold is the lack of a wavetable header. Thus the Chill & Phil midi adapter was born. This allows you to add the DreamBlaster X1, X2, S1, and S2 to the external game port of your sound card. What has always bothered me about this is that the DreamBlaster would stick out the back of the computer case. The larger the wavetable card, the further it sticks out. Shown here,

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If you are like me and always move cases in and out of the closet for testing, the DreamBlaster sticking out of the back was a general annoyance, so much so that I just left it unconnected and didn't bother to use it. With the low profile of the Chill & Phil and the S1/S2 midi cards, I thought it would be beneficial to rotate the adapter 90 degrees so that it doesn't stick out any more. So I picked up a normal orientation DB15.

Unfortunately, the pins were too short, so I had to add some extension headers to it. Unfortunately, the pin spacing of the DB15 isn't quite the same as the standard 2.54 mm of pin headers, so I had to cut my headers in two's and solder them as pairs. The results are attached.

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More ideal would be to make an alternate version of the Chill & Phil with the normal orientation DB15 connector on the flip side of the PCB, and to re-trace the PCB for this flipped orientation.

Plan your life wisely, you'll be dead before you know it.

Reply 1 of 14, by feipoa

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Here are the photos of the rotated Chill & Phil installed with an S2 card. The furthest point of the Chill & Phil sticks out no further than the parallel port connector on my case.

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Plan your life wisely, you'll be dead before you know it.

Reply 3 of 14, by feipoa

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I ended up flipping the stereo jack 180 degrees on the Chill 'n Phil so that the configuration doesn't consume the next two adjacent ISA slots. If you flip it around, it only consumes one adjacent slot. This allowed for the needed space to install a game port card, since the AWE64Gold's game port is consumed by the Chill 'n Phil. Note that I needed to epoxy the stereo jack once I turned it because the strain on just the centre solder leads will rip off the pads when you insert the stereo jack.

Notice the very close spacing between the stereo jack and the AWE64Gold's input port. It is tempting to want to cut the cable and solder it to remove the excess cable.

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Reply 4 of 14, by feipoa

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It just so happened that the 6" stereo cable fit into the hole on the slot covers, so it is nicely tucked away now.

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Show that the gamepad plugs can still fit into the slot just one space away from the rotated Chill 'n Phil.

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Reply 5 of 14, by feipoa

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Brief update here. I decided to add a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack to a slot panel for the AWE64Gold. This way I don't need to fiddle with the RCA-to-phono jack adapter each time I pull the system out.

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Also did this on another system whereby there was a free slot on the other side of the AWE64Gold.

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Plan your life wisely, you'll be dead before you know it.

Reply 6 of 14, by feipoa

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Small update to this work -

today I pulled the case out and the CHILL and PHIL unit is no longer working with my AWE64Gold. I'm not sure what is wrong with the setup. I put the CHILL & PHIL onto another system, and it works, so it is probably not my soldering. Put the CHILL & PHIL back onto my AWE64Gold and connected headphones to the CHILL and PHIL's line-out to ensure the issue wasn't the line-in on the AWE64G. Still no sound out on the CHILL and PHIL. Issue is likely related to my AWE64Gold or some system other compatibility/conflict. I don't think I changed any of the DOS drivers during the hiatus. I checked unisound and Creative drivers just to be sure.

I may have inserted a PCI DVD decoder card from the point I last tested the CHILL & PHIL and now.

Maybe the AWE64G doesn't like having an external game port card installed; something on the AWE64Gold broke? Has anyone else experienced this issue?

Plan your life wisely, you'll be dead before you know it.

Reply 7 of 14, by mkarcher

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feipoa wrote on 2023-03-16, 04:34:

today I pulled the case out and the CHILL and PHIL unit is no longer working with my AWE64Gold. [...] Issue is likely related to my AWE64Gold or some system other compatibility/conflict.

Is the CMOS battery flat in that system? If yes, you might have lost settings and activated the MIDI interface of the onboard sound (if present) at 330 which now conflicts with the ISA MIDI port of the AWE64 Gold.

Reply 8 of 14, by feipoa

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The CMOS battery is at 3.02 V on a 3V nominal CR2032, so it is OK.

Normally you just put J0 in the set blaster environment to disable the game port. This was set correctly.

I have another AWE64Gold in another system. I pulled it and put it into the system in question (Cyrix 5x86-133/4x + Voodoo3), and the CHILL & PHIL worked fine. Put the defective AWE64Gold back into the system, no midi. I did notice that unisound will incorrectly detect the amount of onboard soundfont RAM when run via autoexec.bat on the defective card. I can then run unisound again at the DOS prompt, and it will correctly detect the RAM quantity. This issue does NOT happen with my working AWE64Gold in the afflicted system.

Thus, I think there is something defective with the AWE64Gold. I don't know what to do at this point to troubleshoot the card, but the above error offers some clues. Whatever chip controls the MPU-401 aspect of this card would be the place to look. Does anyone know which ICs these are?

On a wild whim, I re-flowed the card's game port, two nearby resistor packs, and 4x 2.2 K-ohm SMDs connecting to the game port. Didn't help.

Without the use of the CHILL & PHIL, I find the whole AWE64 series pretty lousy for DOS game music. If I cannot fix this, I'll probably pull the card in favour of an OPL3 card with working waveheader. Still not clear to me if having the dual-port game port card messed anything up on the AWEGold card.

Plan your life wisely, you'll be dead before you know it.

Reply 9 of 14, by feipoa

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I decided to put the CHILL & PHIL into another computer which has an AWE64Gold. The CHILL & PHIL works in this other computer, so the unit is functional, and therefore, there must be something up with the MPU-401 control on my other AWE64Gold cards. On the new system, I went to play Duke3D using the CHILL & PHIL + Serdaco S2 midi card, but every 10-15 seconds the game has an ~1 second pause, then resumes. I recall this issue occurring on my other system w/CHILL & PHIL + S2 + AWE64Gold when it was working. Is this a common problem? Is there a solution?

Feeling discouraged, I pulled the CHILL & PHIL and stuck it into the drawer. I thought I might try the AWE64Gold's onboard emulation in DOS, e.g. by ensuring the MFBEN jumper is set and adding AWEUTIL /EM:GM /KEY- to my autoexec.bat. After ensuring that AWEUTIL could find SYNTHGM.SBK (I think that was the filename), I got some other error. I tried it on another computer, which didn't give an error, but displayed garbled text when trying to play midi. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong, but from what I understand, this feature is really poorly implemented.

After failing with the CHILL & PHIL, and DOS onboard general midi emulation, I decided to try some soundfont banks in Windows 95 and load Duke3D. I tried the following:

Chaos Bank V1.9 (12Mb)
Masterpiece
Unison
GeneralUser GS 1.35
4GMGSMT
8MBGMSFX
FINEGM
GM35REVC

but none of them sound as good as the Serdaco S2 w/Duke3D, not even the 30 MB Masterpiece, GeneralUser, or Unison. They have a sort of washed out sound them. The best fit would be Creative-included GM35REVC, at only 3.5 MB. Are there any free soundfonts which sound like the S2 for the AWE64Gold?

Alas, I am mystified why the AWE64Gold is held in such high regard. It seems to me that a cheap ESS 1868 or Yamaha OPL3 card with an innexpensive S2 wavetable card would be a simpler and better sounding approach.

Plan your life wisely, you'll be dead before you know it.

Reply 10 of 14, by Meatball

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Supreme effort, though.

I have one of the C&P adapters, share your sentiments, and It’s also ended up unused. I have the X2GS module, so it sticks out even further and more susceptible to damage, not to mention unsightly.

As for THE AWE64, I also can’t find a use for it.

Reply 11 of 14, by AppleSauce

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Meatball wrote on 2023-03-17, 11:46:

Supreme effort, though.

I have one of the C&P adapters, share your sentiments, and It’s also ended up unused. I have the X2GS module, so it sticks out even further and more susceptible to damage, not to mention unsightly.

As for THE AWE64, I also can’t find a use for it.

I think the awe64 is pretty much just a decent general purpose consolidated sound blaster with good win95 support and plug and play , its nothing that special but it works okay enough minus the no wavetable issue.

Reply 12 of 14, by feipoa

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Small update to this thread.

I continue to pull AWE64 Gold and Value cards out of my systems. Once I got used to proper midi playback, I could not go back to the mediocre sound of any Creative audio card in DOS. I've confirmed on a second system now that the AWE64G cannot use the Chil 'n Phil properly in Duke3D. There's intermittent stutters of video and audio during game play. I tried FixMPU, but it didn't help either. I think the AWE64 series is more useful in Windows 9x or within a DOS box, but only when using the built-in sound banks.

Thus, I've repurposed the Chil 'n Phil adaptors to systems for which I'm using a built-in sound card, like my dual Pentium Pro and a Dell slot 1 Celeron. I'm pleased that the Chil 'n Phil works fine in Duke3d on the Intel PR440FX with built-in Crystal CS4236.

I've assembled another unit, but did a cleaner solder job. I wish DB-15 connectors came with longer leads so I didn't have to extend them like this.

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Plan your life wisely, you'll be dead before you know it.

Reply 13 of 14, by feipoa

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Added a third rotated CHIL 'n PHIL to another case. This case contains an integrated game port on the venerable Intel PR440FX. It only sticks out about 5 mm from the chassis.

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It would be nice to have an S2 integrated onto a CHIL 'n PHIL adaptor, and with a rotated option. This would allow for very flush installations, without the hassle of extending a game port with offsets.

Plan your life wisely, you'll be dead before you know it.