VOGONS


First post, by mattrock1988

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Hey guys:

Help me out with this dilemma here. I am not sure what the big difference is between two Sound Blaster 16 cards, the CT2890 and the CT2940. Are they both PnP cards? Do they both have OPL3 chips? Is there any significant reason I should go for one over the other? Feel free to get technical, since I want to see the rationale for it all.

I have a CT2890 ISA arriving here in a few days and I was hoping not to have buyer's remorse by possibly getting an inferior chipset.

Incidentally, I am considering acquiring an AWE64 Gold. Are those even worth considering as an all around DOS gaming and digital audio card?

Thanks!

Matt

Reply 1 of 23, by gerwin

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CT2890: no jumpers, Vibra16S Chipset, Real OPL3. Vibra16S is quite a silent chipset, hardly any noise, but has this 'ringing' problem. Meaning if a digital effect is played a random ringing tone remains. hard to notice though.

CT2940: no jumpers. Vibra Pro chipset. Hardly any noise. This type of card usually comes with an undesirable FM chip, but sometimes it has the real OPL3-L mounted. In case of an OPL3-L it is about the best SB16 I know off.

About the AWE64, Maybe you should read this:
SB Vibra 16S / Vibra Pro / AWE64 output quality

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

Reply 4 of 23, by mattrock1988

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Thanks for your input gerwin. However, I now have two more questions...

How easy is it to find a CT2940 with the OPL3-L chip you described? eBay sellers tend to be inept with such fine details.

Also... Is the AWE64 Gold really as bad as you say as it is? From my understanding, it perfected what the SB16 and AWE32 set out to accomplish. I also remembering it sounding truer to SB16 than the AWE32.

Reply 5 of 23, by gerwin

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You can recognize the configuration of the CT2940 by looking at it. For example this one:
http://img7.imageshack.us/img7/6648/ct2940sb16oemac.jpg
You can see it has a Creative CT1978 Chip above the Big white stickered chip. So this card has poor FM. Preferably the card is empty on that spot, and has a small OPL3-L elsewhere.

What bad things did I say about the AWE64? It is just that mine has useless FM, and for me FM is also important, and there is no way to fully reroute the FM to another card with OPL3.

Then there are the classic issues with the Creative SB16/AWE hardware in general: Poor MPU-401, no SBPro compatibility. But one can add a second soundcard to resolve that.

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Reply 6 of 23, by mattrock1988

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Thanks for this pic! It should help me on my quest to finding the perfect Sound Blaster 16. 😀

Well I know you praised the digital audio quality, but you mentioned how the fact that it didn't have a real OPL chip that it was not good FM quality. It was disconcerting, because I do have a fondness for the AWE64 Gold I used to own back in the day.

Could it be a matter of one particular card having issues, or is it more widespread than that? Thanks. 😁

Matt

P.S. One important thing to note... I want to stick with PnP ISA cards for Windows NT/2k/XP compatibility reasons. That will shrink my possibilities for finding the perfect SB card.

Reply 7 of 23, by AdamP

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I think the FM quality also depends on what driver you're using. I've ripped midi files out of several DOS games. On my Win 98 system (with an AWE64 Gold), I have 4 FM drivers: Creative Music Synth, Voyetra Super Sapi, SB Pro 2, and Ad Lib (the latter 3 are in fact Win 3.1 drivers). They all sound different and none of them sound the same as they do in the actual game. It think people blast Creative's CQM chip because it's not the same as OPL3. I'm probably wrong about this, as I don't have a real OPL3 to compare it with, but in my experience, the AWE64 Gold (at least in some games) sounds closer to Dosbox's emulated OPL3 than another one I've tried, the ESS Audiodrive's FM synth.

Reply 8 of 23, by batracio

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@gerwin, @Everyone:

I do have a non working CT2890 with a real Yamaha OPL-3 on it, and a working CT2940 with an unknown FM chip. Do you think that desoldering the OPL-3 chip and resoldering it on the CT2940 would be worthwile?

Reply 9 of 23, by gerwin

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batracio wrote:

I do have a non working CT2890 with a real Yamaha OPL-3 on it, and a working CT2940 with an unknown FM chip. Do you think that desoldering the OPL-3 chip and resoldering it on the CT2940 would be worthwile?

Know that the CT2890 has a full size OPL3, and the CT2940 has solder spots for both a Creative CQM Chip and a small size OPL3-L. The OPL3-L has a different shape compared to a normal OPL3. So this is not gonna work unless you find an OPL3-L with DAC.

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

Reply 10 of 23, by batracio

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gerwin wrote:

Know that the CT2890 has a full size OPL3, and the CT2940 has solder spots for both a Creative CQM Chip and a small size OPL3-L. The OPL3-L has a different shape compared to a normal OPL3. So this is not gonna work unless you find an OPL3-L with DAC.

Thank you for the info, I don't have the cards here right know, but I checked the different chip shapes, pinouts and solder spots in these pictures:

http://mail.lipsia.de/~enigma/neu/pics/soundb … a16s_ct2890.jpg

http://mail.lipsia.de/~enigma/neu/pics/soundb … 6pnp_ct2940.jpg

It seems indeed that moving the OPL-3 from CT2890 to CT2940 won't work.

Reply 15 of 23, by James-F

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Since it has already been necroposted I shall continue the discussion unless the authorities strongly suggest otherwise.

gerwin wrote:

CT2890: no jumpers, Vibra16S Chipset, Real OPL3. Vibra16S is quite a silent chipset, hardly any noise, but has this 'ringing' problem. Meaning if a digital effect is played a random ringing tone remains. hard to notice though.

How it should compare to the CT2950 (CQM) in terms of this 'ringing' problem?
I certainly can hear a 'click' at the end of a sample playback in games like Prince of Persia and Supaplex which is absent in the YMF719 and ES1688 sounds cards.
Not all samples or games 'click', maybe it depends on the audio format/file?
Makes me wonder (till they arrive) if the CT2230 or the CT2890 also clicking.

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Reply 16 of 23, by gerwin

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James-F wrote:

How it should compare to the CT2950 (CQM) in terms of this 'ringing' problem?
I certainly can hear a 'click' at the end of a sample playback in games like Prince of Persia and Supaplex which is absent in the YMF719 and ES1688 sounds cards.

Sorry for quoting myself again 🤣 but so far I manage to remember te general subjects I have written about:
SB Vibra 16S / Vibra Pro / AWE64 output quality (page 3):

gerwin wrote:

CT2950 has the advantage of giving no 'ringing' at all on the digital effects channel in Tyrian setup.

Aftermath and disclaimer: In the months thereafter that I tended to prefer the clarity of the CT2940 above CT2950, but only just. The past years I switched entirely to my stack of CS4232 based cards and a GUS PnP clone. Note that I have no special equipment setup to make sound comparisons, I just use somewhat decent headphones. The graphs in your YMF71X / ESS-1688 comparison are preferable, of course.

James-F wrote:

Not all samples or games 'click', maybe it depends on the audio format/file? Makes me wonder (till they arrive) if the CT2230 or the CT2890 also clicking.

Interesting. I don't recall much of clicking. Maybe whenever I heard clicks I just blamed the game's sound driver instead of the card. AFAIK Old Sound Blaster drivers (pre SB 2.0) without auto-init DMA should give clicks when playing samples.
That ringing issue did not sound like it could be caused by a driver, so I still blame the hardware. It is a faint ringing noise that remains after playing a few samples, when the line should actually be silent. It is most audible in the setup program of the game Tyrian (with music off) on a Vibra16S based SB16. It is not a game-breaker, one can still use a Vibra16S based card and not really notice it.

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Reply 17 of 23, by James-F

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Thanks gerwin.
I cannot hear any ringing with the CT2950 or the YMF in Tyrian setup.
I'll post results when the CT2230 and CT2890 arrive including some SNR measurements.

Here's a quote from Ace on the sega-16 forum for future reference:

Ace wrote:

I've also noticed a rather annoying ringing noise on my SoundBlaster Vibra16 model CT2260. It seems to happen all the time when the sound card is first initialized, and sometimes also happens when digital sound stops playing or when the YMF262 outputs sound.


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Reply 18 of 23, by James-F

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The CT2890 is here.

No clicking noises in Prince of Persia.
Ringing in Tyrian, Descent, MPXPlay, all in SBPro Stereo (high-speed) mode.
Distortion in high volumes which can NOT be fixed with the mixer.
OPL3 sounds good.
Good balance between FM and PCM.
75 SNR (great).
Buggy MPU-401, hanging notes and stuttering Duke3D.

The ringing happens when the card is put in SBPRO Stereo (high-speed) mode, which we know SB16 don't do at all.
This can be also recreated in Descent setup choosing a SBPro and playing Test Digital Sound Card.
Tyrian apparently forces the card to SBPro high-speed mode.
Furthermore, when only the left or right channels play the oscillation is extremely severe.
This side effect resembles parasitic oscillation as it is called in electronics caused by incorrect feedback.

Distortion can be heard with especially loud games that cannot be lowered in the mixer, it was not so with the CT2950.
To test this: Doom, Sound max volume, idkfa, weapon 6, shoot straight ahead, you'll hear a crackling sound which can be fixed by lowering the VOICE mixer of the SB16 but not with this card.
Another quick test in Skyroads when the ship explodes.
Lowering the volumes in the mixer lowers the distortion along with the sound, whether on the CT2950 it eliminated the distortion completely.
So the distortion is generated before the mixer and cannot be removed.

EDIT:
After some further testing it appears that the CT2230 and CT2950 also oscillate in SBPro Stereo speed-mode not only the Vibra, so this problem is common to all the SB16 family.
The distortion occurs at the utter most loud games, not something that is noticeable with other more normal sound level games.

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Last edited by James-F on 2016-09-14, 04:35. Edited 2 times in total.


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Reply 19 of 23, by gerwin

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Thanks for testing. So you find the distortion a greater problem then the ringing. And you say the ringing is actually caused by the SB16s SBpro incompatibility, but only results in ringing on Vibra16(S) cards.
This last remark now collides with the statement I read before on vogons; "there are no SBPro stereo games without also supporting SB16 natively".
Though I do think I remember System Shock (Miles drivers, SB16) also giving the ringing problem? cannot remember exactly.
Well I guess it is both interesting and strange and discouraging.

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