VOGONS


First post, by Boohyaka

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Hey guys,

I have access to a whole bunch of GFX and sound cards. By looking online and searching the forum here as well as vogonswiki I found a LOT of discussion and information, but as I am trying to evaluate the worthiness of these exact cards I could get I thought it was worthy of its own post 😀 I'd be happy to have more knowledgeable people look at the list in case I missed something. This is the soundcards list and here's the GFX cards thread.

- Sound Blaster Live! Value CT4670
- Sound Blaster VIBRA 128 CT4810
- Creative AudioPCI ES1371 (Ensoniq-rebranded Creative AudioPCI after purchase?)
- Avance Logic ALS100 (this one is maybe interesting as the PCB is different from the ones I find online, and includes an Crystal CS9233-CQ chip that is usually found on Wavetable daughterboards? See attached ALS100.png)
- Unidentified ISA sound card (see attached unidentified.png)
- Aztech Sound Galaxy NX Pro (I know some Aztech sound card are very good quality, is it one of those? See attached aztech.png)

Cheers! 😀

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Reply 1 of 8, by derSammler

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The ALS100 is quite nice, as it has a wavetable with dream soundfont on it. Can't see how large the ROM is, however. Could be only 512 kb.

The Aztech Sound Galaxy NX Pro is also nice. It supports many sound standards incl. Covox and even has SCSI for a CD-ROM.

The Sound Blaster Live! Value CT4670 is okay for newer systems, but nothing special.

The other cards are nothing to care about.

http://retro-net.de/blog.html

Reply 2 of 8, by Joseph_Joestar

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That ALS100 looks different from mine which doesn't have the Crystal chip on board, so take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt.

ALS100 is a SB16 compatible card with proper High DMA functionality. I have tested about 30 games with it and have yet to encounter one which didn't work. Games which support High DMA properly auto-detect it and offer to use it by default. In addition, it is compatible with the SBPro as well, which is nice for some older games that don't have SB16 support.

The main drawback of the ALS100 is noise. It's noticeable on my card even with just the speakers plugged directly into the Line Out port. With the speakers set to about 60% of their max volume, I start hearing noise. Below that it's usually fine. Using headphones instead of speakers seems to worsen the issue.

I can't see all the chip markings on your picture since it's a bit blurry, so I'm not sure what your card uses for FM synthesis. Mine has an FT6116-100 which is a perfect copy of the YMF262-M and sounds identical to a genuine OPL3 chip.

Your next line is...

Reply 3 of 8, by dionb

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Joseph_Joestar wrote on 2020-02-13, 16:47:
That ALS100 looks different from mine which doesn't have the Crystal chip on board, so take what I'm about to say with a grain o […]
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That ALS100 looks different from mine which doesn't have the Crystal chip on board, so take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt.

ALS100 is a SB16 compatible card with proper High DMA functionality. I have tested about 30 games with it and have yet to encounter one which didn't work. Games which support High DMA properly auto-detect it and offer to use it by default. In addition, it is compatible with the SBPro as well, which is nice for some older games that don't have SB16 support.

The main drawback of the ALS100 is noise. It's noticeable on my card even with just the speakers plugged directly into the Line Out port. With the speakers set to about 60% of their max volume, I start hearing noise. Below that it's usually fine. Using headphones instead of speakers seems to worsen the issue.

I can't see all the chip markings on your picture since it's a bit blurry, so I'm not sure what your card uses for FM synthesis. Mine has an FT6116-100 which is a perfect copy of the YMF262-M and sounds identical to a genuine OPL3 chip.

The noise isn't from the chip itself but from the frequently cheap/poor card designs they were commonly implemented on. OP, that means you might get lucky. ALS100 (non-plus) is one of the most flexible chips out there, with "real" OPL3 too. Can't read the markings either, but it's not Yamaha - however it is the 1:1 complete clone and not dodgy reimplementation, so FM should sound as if there was a 262 there.

That Dream wavetable is very nice - combined with the Crystal effects chip it's a bit of a frankenstein's card, but if it works and it isn't too noisy, this could be the one card to rule them all:
- real OPL3
- proper SBPro2 (unlike SB16 range)
- full SB16
- good wavetable onboard (assuming the sample set isn't crap)

As for the NXPro, it's a solid SBPro2 clone with real OPL3, WSS and - uniquely - Covox support too. It is however (unlike later Aztech designs) utterly unshielded. So it doesn't generate noise by itself, but any electrical noise on the ISA bus or in the vicinity of the card will come straight out of the line-out. Make sure you keep at least one slot free between this card and anything else, preferably more.

And the OPTi-chip card... it's a late, highly integrated OPTi 82c931 design, so dodgy OPTi OPL3 clone, decent SBPro2 compatibility and full WSS. Oh, and no MIDI bugs. Card itself looks cheap too... not highly recommended, but if you need something to run MIDI without hanging and with good WSS sound this could do the trick (not sure about ALS100 MIDI, could be bug-free too)

Reply 4 of 8, by Boohyaka

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Thanks dionb, great stuff! Yeah the ALS100 picture is crap, I will have to wait until I receive the card and will share more info if you're interested.
Some user called Rabanik wrote to me to ask for more details on the Dream chips markings, but it seems I'm still too much of a newbie to be allowed to reply or send PM's 😁 so Rabanik, if you see this I can't reply but will send you the details once I get the card 😀

Very interesting about the NXPro, particularly WSS and Covox as I have 0 experience with them. Looks like I will be having some fun testing stuff 😀

Many thanks, so there definitely were interesting things I would have missed! Glad I posted 😀 cheers

Reply 5 of 8, by GigAHerZ

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OPTi 82c933 and opl sounds completely original. Pretty amazed by that card. Easy to setup, no fuzz or anything around it. I like it.
OPTi 82c931 is probably very similar.

"640K ought to be enough for anybody." - And i intend to get every last bit out of it even after loading every damn driver!

Reply 6 of 8, by Joseph_Joestar

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Boohyaka wrote on 2020-02-14, 11:28:

Very interesting about the NXPro, particularly WSS and Covox as I have 0 experience with them. Looks like I will be having some fun testing stuff 😀

I find WSS fascinating because it allows for 16-bit sound sampling on cards that don't otherwise feature SB16 compatibility, provided that the game supports it. Sometimes, there's even a rare edge case where an older game doesn't specifically support SB16 in its setup but does support WSS, which technically makes that the top tier pick for the best sound quality.

In practice, you'll hardly ever notice a difference between SBPro and WSS/SB16 since most DOS games used 8-bit sound samples. However, there are some exceptions which is where SB16 and/or WSS compatibility comes into play. Games where I was able to hear a clear improvement when using SB16/WSS instead of SBPro are Crusader: No Remorse, Jagged Alliance and Master of Orion 2. I'm sure there are others too, but I've played those three a lot, so I can vouch for them.

Your next line is...

Reply 7 of 8, by gdjacobs

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dionb wrote on 2020-02-14, 10:07:

That Dream wavetable is very nice - combined with the Crystal effects chip it's a bit of a frankenstein's card, but if it works and it isn't too noisy, this could be the one card to rule them all:
- real OPL3

I don't see a Yamaha chip or one of the clones. They might have used the CS9233 for FM.

All hail the Great Capacitor Brand Finder

Reply 8 of 8, by dionb

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Boohyaka wrote on 2020-02-14, 11:28:

[...]

Very interesting about the NXPro, particularly WSS and Covox as I have 0 experience with them. Looks like I will be having some fun testing stuff 😀

Many thanks, so there definitely were interesting things I would have missed! Glad I posted 😀 cheers

Covox is pretty unique, just a resistor ladder design DAC that produces limited sound, but better than you'd expect based on the description.

WSS is far more common, MS' sound standard for Windows that was also quite widely supported under DOS. Basically it's 16b digital audio, so same general idea as SB16, just not Creative's implementation. A lot of later SBPro2 clones that didn't support SB16 did do WSS, and in the (not so common) cases samples are actually >8b you can hear the difference between it and 8b SBPro2 clearly. Can't say I've heard any difference between WSS and SB16, but that could just be my untrained ear.

gdjacobs wrote on 2020-02-14, 17:10:
dionb wrote on 2020-02-14, 10:07:

That Dream wavetable is very nice - combined with the Crystal effects chip it's a bit of a frankenstein's card, but if it works and it isn't too noisy, this could be the one card to rule them all:
- real OPL3

I don't see a Yamaha chip or one of the clones. They might have used the CS9233 for FM.

Drat, I sort of assumed the IC just next to the ALS100 was a fake OPL3 - but counting pins there's nothing with the characteristic 24p. And yes, the CS9233 supports FM, so makes sense that it's used. Oh well, then the NXPro is the only one there with OPL3.