Cheapest Sound Blaster Compatible PCI Sound Card?

Discussion about old PC hardware.

Cheapest Sound Blaster Compatible PCI Sound Card?

Postby Totempole » 2012-9-13 @ 12:31

I've been looking around for some cheaper sound cards from China.

I haven't had very good experiences with the C-Media CMI8738, so it was
a rather pleasant surprise to find that they make (rather cheap looking)
ESS sound cards as well.

They appear to be Laptop/Onboard ESS solo chips, but claim to be 100%
Sound Blaster/Sound Blaster Pro, which means they should theoretically
be able play audio on most DOS games at the lower 8-bit quality.

At any rate, these cards only cost about $5.00, so I'm sure they're worth a
try, the only question now is which ones should I go for?

My options are:
1. ESS Solo ES1938S (Doesn't have CD-Audio Input)
2. ESS Solo ES1946S
3. ESS Maestro-3 ES1989S (Doesn't have CD-Audio Input or Midi Port)

Due to the fact that only the ES1946S has a CD-Audio Input, and also
happens to be the cheapest by a few cents, I think it's the best choice.

Any thoughts?

Or should I avoid these cards altogether?

Thanks.
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Re: Cheapest Sound Blaster Compatible PCI Sound Card?

Postby fillosaurus » 2012-9-14 @ 11:07

Avoid ESS? That's a big NONO.
IMHO, they are the best PCI soundcards if you consider DOS SbPro compatibility. I've yet to find a motherboard which is incompatible with them.
Excellent compatibility, good OPL3 sound (not perfect, though; you need a Yamaha 7x4 for this, and they are more "selective" about motherboard chipset).
I use an ESS Solo+Yamaha DB60XG clone and I never had any problems.
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Re: Cheapest Sound Blaster Compatible PCI Sound Card?

Postby batracio » 2012-9-18 @ 16:40

My vote goes for Yamaha YMF-7x4: true OPL3 FM synthesis, nice MIDI via XG synth, and 100% Sound Blaster compatible if you can attach a SB-LINK cable to a PC/PCI header.

Its only drawback would be the lack of a wavetable header, but internal MIDI synth and MPU-401 UART compatible gameport can compensate for it.
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Re: Cheapest Sound Blaster Compatible PCI Sound Card?

Postby eL_PuSHeR » 2012-9-19 @ 07:03

[Thread moved to Marvin Section]
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Re: Cheapest Sound Blaster Compatible PCI Sound Card?

Postby valnar » 2012-9-19 @ 13:29

Since all the options available are old these days, is there a particular reason you want the cheapest? Usually we tend to build the ideal retro system and go with the best, considering the difference in price is negligible.

Now, that being said my favorite PCI SB compatible card is the Aureal SQ2500 (Vortex), but those indeed might be hard to come by.
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Re: Cheapest Sound Blaster Compatible PCI Sound Card?

Postby bestemor » 2012-9-19 @ 17:21

Are there any particular/noteworthy differences between the actual Aureal card and others based on the same chip ?

And is revision B better than A, or sumtin... ?

This('top' right) is the card, correct ?
http://www.ebay.com/itm/320919446408
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Re: Cheapest Sound Blaster Compatible PCI Sound Card?

Postby swaaye » 2012-9-19 @ 18:09

AU8830B supposedly has lower CPU utilization than AU8830A2. I have a hard time seeing this being tangible in use though. It might even just be driver related. It may have only been used on the Aureal SQ2500.

AU8830A2 was used on lots of cards and was pretty common because the OEMs like Dell and Gateway used them.

Here's a $2 Turtle Beach Montego II. I have one of these and a Monster Sound MX300 and the sound quality of both are very good even for headphone use.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Turtle-Beach-Mo ... 27cb0f8ecc
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Re: Cheapest Sound Blaster Compatible PCI Sound Card?

Postby nforce4max » 2012-9-19 @ 20:11

How would a Turtle Beach Santa Cruz rank amongst pci sound cards? I vote for the Yamaha YMF 7X4 with SB link, a lot of pentium 2 and 3 era boards that used Intel chipsets support the use of SB link for isa functions for dos.
On a far away planet reading your posts in the year 10,191.
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Re: Cheapest Sound Blaster Compatible PCI Sound Card?

Postby batracio » 2012-9-19 @ 20:22

nforce4max wrote:How would a Turtle Beach Santa Cruz rank amongst pci sound cards?


It's arguably the best "modern" PCI sound card with a wavetable header.

Aureal Vortex2 might be a better all-around card, but its Win2K/XP support is poor.
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Re: Cheapest Sound Blaster Compatible PCI Sound Card?

Postby swaaye » 2012-9-19 @ 21:39

The key thing with Vortex 2 is it is the only chip with A3D 2.0 support. A3D 2.0 is definitely interesting audio tech and nice to try out. They and Vortex 1 are also the best cards for older games that use A3D 1.0. Some games don't have support for any other 3D audio tech.


But yeah on the other hand the drivers even for Win9x can be unstable and buggy. Just look through my Elite Force and Sin threads. ;) With XP and 2K they don't have A3D support. The drivers were never completed.
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Re: Cheapest Sound Blaster Compatible PCI Sound Card?

Postby fillosaurus » 2012-9-20 @ 17:58

I think the OP wanted to know about SB compatibility of ESS chips. I already answered that in my first post, and I have something more to add.
Solo, good, Maestro, bad. Run some tests (read DOS games) on a P III/440BX system with onboard ESS Maestro. Then deactivated the chip and inserted a PCI Solo card.
The Solo was perfect.
The Maestro...Well... SB DAC is ok, but noisier than Solo. The bad part is at FM synth. Very low volume, missing notes. It also appears that Maestro does not have ESFM anymore.
Supposedly has hardware MIDI acceleration in Windows... This is another story; I tried it, in Windows 98SE with vxd drivers.
One word: terrible. Tested it with Duke Nukem 3D, Heretic and Warcraft 2. All sounded weird; off key, off sync. I am not a musician, but I have a good ear, and many years ago I spent some time around recording studios.
So, Maestro is a MIDI and SB compatibility disaster. On the other hand, it sounds great in Unreal. Almost as good as a Vortex 1 or Philips PSC703 (I will open a separate thread about the Philips later).
Want SB compatibility and ESFM? Get a Solo.
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Re: Cheapest Sound Blaster Compatible PCI Sound Card?

Postby valnar » 2012-9-26 @ 12:02

I forgot to mention that although I think the Aureal/Vortex cards are the best (for my games), it's FM synth isn't that good. But it has a wavetable header and works flawlessly with the Roland DB without the "hung" note issue.
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Re: Cheapest Sound Blaster Compatible PCI Sound Card?

Postby Totempole » 2012-9-30 @ 21:04

Thanks for all the advice guys and a special thanks to filosaurus who seems to have a good insight on ESS cards. I bought a pair of ESS Solo 1946's a couple of weeks back, but I'm still waiting for them to arrive. Will keep you posted.
My Retro Gaming PC:
Pentium III 450MHz Katmai Slot 1
Transcend 256MB PC133
Gigabyte GA-6BXC
MSI Geforce 2 MX400 AGP
Ensoniq ES1371 PCI
Sound Blaster AWE64 ISA
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Re: Cheapest Sound Blaster Compatible PCI Sound Card?

Postby TheMAN » 2012-9-30 @ 21:08

if your motherboard has SB Link, the rare AWE64D works too
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Re: Cheapest Sound Blaster Compatible PCI Sound Card?

Postby dr.zeissler » 2018-7-28 @ 07:33

though it's an old thread, but where can I buy an ess1946 ?
I still need a cd-in pcspk-in. Ithink that is the right one but out of stock: https://www.dhgate.com/product/4-channe ... 40021.html
CPU: PII 133-333 MOBO: SNI-D981 RAM: 512- FDD: Dualfloppy 3,5"HD/5,25"HD - 3,5"HD - 5,25"DD ISA-Catweasel HDD: 2x40GB - DVD
ISA(3): Audician32-S2Dreamblaster - GusACE PCI(3): Monster3D- Intel NW AGP(1): 3dfx V3-3000
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Re: Cheapest Sound Blaster Compatible PCI Sound Card?

Postby dr.zeissler » 2018-7-28 @ 07:46

sorry ess1946 is not 100% right, it must be the "ES1946 Solo-1E" according to the datasheet.

Compatibility
• Supports PC games and applications for Sound BlasterTM and Sound BlasterTM Pro
Supports Microsoft® WindowsTM Sound System®


Any Idea, which pci-soundcard has that same chip?

Thx!
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CPU: PII 133-333 MOBO: SNI-D981 RAM: 512- FDD: Dualfloppy 3,5"HD/5,25"HD - 3,5"HD - 5,25"DD ISA-Catweasel HDD: 2x40GB - DVD
ISA(3): Audician32-S2Dreamblaster - GusACE PCI(3): Monster3D- Intel NW AGP(1): 3dfx V3-3000
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Re: Cheapest Sound Blaster Compatible PCI Sound Card?

Postby Intel486dx33 » 2018-7-29 @ 15:29

Sound blaster vibra 16 ( ISA )
Sound Blaster live 5.1 ( PCI )

These sell real cheap.
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