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Sound Blaster: From best to worst

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Reply 60 of 127, by Der Kuenringer

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Anyone ever seen AWE32 models CT3940 (Value, PnP) or CT3960 (PnP) in the wild? According to several internet lists these versions apparently exist, but I couldn't find anything except for what I already mentioned about them. Would these still have the CT1747 chip /w OPL?

edit: There's another card with a more uncommon model number - CT3919 (Value, non-PnP). I have recently seen one for sale, so I'm assuming the other ones would exist as well?

Reply 61 of 127, by Burrito78

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Der Kuenringer wrote on 2020-09-13, 19:42:

Anyone ever seen AWE32 models CT3940 (Value, PnP) or CT3960 (PnP) in the wild? According to several internet lists these versions apparently exist, but I couldn't find anything except for what I already mentioned about them. Would these still have the CT1747 chip /w OPL?

edit: There's another card with a more uncommon model number - CT3919 (Value, non-PnP). I have recently seen one for sale, so I'm assuming the other ones would exist as well?

CT3919 seems to be a variant of CT3910, probably identical hardware.

I can't find anything about 3940 and 3960 cards. If you can find photos, we can guess the features and add these cards to the table.

Sound Blaster: From best to worst

Reply 63 of 127, by zoinknoise

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nice chart, though i would *personally* add one bit of info. it mentions how the entire AWE32 and SB32 series has that Duke3D slowdown weirdness with external MIDI music, inherited from the SB16 series. this is true, but remember that Duke3D *does* have native AWE32 support, and therefore it IS possible to get decent-quality music from an AWE32 without any unwanted side-effects. yes, the onboard EMU8000 sounds are not quite as good as what you get from an external module or wavetable board, but they are still quite acceptable IMO and certainly far better than resorting to FM music.

basically, the chart makes it seem like if you are trying to play Duke3D with an AWE32, you are screwed, which is a bit misleading IMO.

Reply 64 of 127, by Burrito78

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List updated to v8 to include AWE64 and AWE64 Gold, included workaround for slowdown/pauses bug, fixed typos, title updated

@zoinknoise: It's a nice hint that i gladly included down in the explanation of the Bug. According to Mobygamer Tie Fighter also supports AWE32 for music. Do you know if that is correct?

Sound Blaster: From best to worst

Reply 65 of 127, by Joseph_Joestar

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Burrito78 wrote on 2021-02-11, 10:20:

List updated to v8 to include AWE64 and AWE64 Gold, included workaround for slowdown/pauses bug, fixed typos, title updated

Since you are now including the AWE64 cards, I can confirm that the CT4520 suffers from the Vibra distortion bug.

Note that this model is different from other AWE64 cards, since it has a much more integrated PCB layout. Cost cutting at its finest.

Build #1: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 / YMF744 / SC-155
Build #2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
Build #3: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 66 of 127, by auron

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zoinknoise wrote on 2021-02-08, 05:56:

nice chart, though i would *personally* add one bit of info. it mentions how the entire AWE32 and SB32 series has that Duke3D slowdown weirdness with external MIDI music, inherited from the SB16 series. this is true, but remember that Duke3D *does* have native AWE32 support, and therefore it IS possible to get decent-quality music from an AWE32 without any unwanted side-effects. yes, the onboard EMU8000 sounds are not quite as good as what you get from an external module or wavetable board, but they are still quite acceptable IMO and certainly far better than resorting to FM music.

basically, the chart makes it seem like if you are trying to play Duke3D with an AWE32, you are screwed, which is a bit misleading IMO.

i recall that when running under 9x, on my ct4520 the awe32 option in duke was resulting in the music being garbled in a specific way though... not sure how related that is to the MIDI one with >8khz sample rates.

Reply 67 of 127, by zoinknoise

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Burrito78 wrote on 2021-02-11, 10:20:

@zoinknoise: It's a nice hint that i gladly included down in the explanation of the Bug. According to Mobygamer Tie Fighter also supports AWE32 for music. Do you know if that is correct?

hmmmmm not much experience with that game, but AWE32 support is definitely listed on the box: https://www.mobygames.com/game/dos/star-wars- … CoverId,348458/

i can't confirm personally, but that USUALLY means a game will support the EMU8000 for native music playback.

btw Burrito78, the PNG version of your latest chart seems to be just a thumbnail. (PDF version is fine)

another correction: CT2760 does not have a CT1703 chip, it's a CT1701. (at least it is on mine. there are a few silent revisions of the CT2760 out there) in spite of that, my card doesn't have an objectionable level of noise, at least not to me, but that's probably because i fully recapped it. (seriously guys, if you want to make an old sound card less noisy, replace the electrolytic caps, you will not BELIEVE how much quieter it gets. highly recommended for anyone with a CT1350 or similar. it will sound like a totally different card.)

auron wrote on 2021-02-11, 21:46:

i recall that when running under 9x, on my ct4520 the awe32 option in duke was resulting in the music being garbled in a specific way though... not sure how related that is to the MIDI one with >8khz sample rates.

did the problem persist in DOS mode? i personally never trust any DOS game's audio to work properly in Win9x, i always assume it WON'T unless it proves otherwise.

Reply 68 of 127, by auron

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no as far as i recall, which is why i see that as a seperate issue. btw, a "workaround" i had found for win9x is toggling mpu-401 emulation on in the driver and using the GM or SC mode... obviously that will sound different than the actual awe32 mode. can even load creative's GS soundfont even on a 512kb card to get those extra drumkits in some tracks.

the thing with any awe card is, they're overall more geared towards windows. aweutil's GM emulation is a joke, so unless one wants to strictly just run the awe32 option in games and never use any soundfonts, using 9x is pretty much a given.

Reply 69 of 127, by digistorm

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Joseph_Joestar wrote on 2021-02-11, 10:43:
Burrito78 wrote on 2021-02-11, 10:20:

List updated to v8 to include AWE64 and AWE64 Gold, included workaround for slowdown/pauses bug, fixed typos, title updated

Since you are now including the AWE64 cards, I can confirm that the CT4520 suffers from the Vibra distortion bug.

Note that this model is different from other AWE64 cards, since it has a much more integrated PCB layout. Cost cutting at its finest.

Interesting… it was not my experience with the CT4520. I had the time today to do a little check, and indeed I do not have what is described as the Vibra distortion bug, where the audio is distorted regardless of mixer settings because the DAC itself somehow distorts when the digital signal is too loud. Instead, my CT4520 distorts (gets into clipping) when the Voice channel of the mixer is set too high. So it is clipping in the mixer chip, not somewhere before. Why do I think that? Because if I nudge the Voice volume down 3 steps (the mixer of my CT4520 seems very coarse and 3 steps is the first real changing value) to the first audibly quieter setting, the distortion is gone. I set it up that way some time ago because I noticed the clipping in some games, and I don't need the output to be that loud anyway as the signal was already too hot for my mini hifi.

Reply 70 of 127, by Joseph_Joestar

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digistorm wrote on 2021-02-12, 08:39:

Interesting… it was not my experience with the CT4520. I had the time today to do a little check, and indeed I do not have what is described as the Vibra distortion bug, where the audio is distorted regardless of mixer settings because the DAC itself somehow distorts when the digital signal is too loud.

Did you try the Doom test? Basically, start Doom, go to Options > Sound Volume > and set SFX volume to the maximum while muting the music volume. Then, use the "idkfa" cheat to get all weapons. Next, select weapon 6 (plasma gun) and fire it continuously for 3-4 seconds.

My CT4520 distorts as long as the in-game SFX volume is above 50%. Adjusting the Creative mixer settings has no effect on this. James-F made some recordings of this behavior on a Vibra card.

Build #1: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 / YMF744 / SC-155
Build #2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
Build #3: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 71 of 127, by digistorm

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Joseph_Joestar wrote on 2021-02-12, 08:59:
digistorm wrote on 2021-02-12, 08:39:

Interesting… it was not my experience with the CT4520. I had the time today to do a little check, and indeed I do not have what is described as the Vibra distortion bug, where the audio is distorted regardless of mixer settings because the DAC itself somehow distorts when the digital signal is too loud.

Did you try the Doom test? Basically, start Doom, go to Options > Sound Volume > and set SFX volume to the maximum while muting the music volume. Then, use the "idkfa" cheat to get all weapons. Next, select weapon 6 (plasma gun) and fire it continuously for 3-4 seconds.

My CT4520 distorts as long as the in-game SFX volume is above 50%. Adjusting the Creative mixer settings has no effect on this. James-F made some recordings of this behavior on a Vibra card.

Yes. And indeed I hear a lot of distortion in Doom when sound fx is on the maximum level. But, this is what I don't understand: When I play a pure sinewave of 50 Hz at maximum possible amplitude, it doesn't distort at all until I set the mixer too high (like I described). You can clearly distinguish when it distorts because the sound of a sinewave changes immediately when it starts to clip. So how can this be explained? Would it be that it only distorts when using less than 44100 Hz samplerate or 8 bit output? (I don't know what output Doom uses exactly).
I always thought Doom clipped in it's software mixer because it does the same with my CT1740 model. And I had the sound FX at 50% anyway because otherwise the music is inaudible once you start fighting.

I did check again, and the CT1740 sounds like it also clips > 50%, but you may be right that the CT4520 does it worse, and maybe the reason is different. Just weird that the CT4520 doesn't seem to clip when playing a maxed out sample at 44100 Hz 16 bit.

edit: I compared my CT1740 SB16 with my CT4520 AWE64 with the AWE64 Voice level at 50%, and with Sound FX in Doom at max level the distortion sounds about the same, which led me to conclude in the past that Doom's software mixer will clip with too many loud sound effects playing at once, which let me reduce the overall sound FX level in the game to prevent that (and the music was too soft anyways).

Reply 72 of 127, by Joseph_Joestar

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digistorm wrote on 2021-02-12, 10:02:

edit: I compared my CT1740 SB16 with my CT4520 AWE64 with the AWE64 Voice level at 50%, and with Sound FX in Doom at max level the distortion sounds about the same, which led me to conclude in the past that Doom's software mixer will clip with too many loud sound effects playing at once, which let me reduce the overall sound FX level in the game to prevent that (and the music was too soft anyways).

It's interesting that the CT1740 exhibits the same behavior in Doom. Does it also distort in other games?

My CT4520 had audible distortion in Mortal Kombat 3, Command & Conquer and also Shadow Warrior. In all cases, the distortion went away when I set the in-game SFX volume below 50%. OTOH, tinkering with the Creative mixer settings didn't seem to affect this.

Build #1: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 / YMF744 / SC-155
Build #2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
Build #3: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 73 of 127, by digistorm

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Joseph_Joestar wrote on 2021-02-12, 10:23:

It's interesting that the CT1740 exhibits the same behavior in Doom. Does it also distort in other games?

No, not as far as I remember. But to be honest, clipping in the sound engine is to be expected. You can have up to 8 simultaneous sound effects in Doom, and they have to account for distant sounds that are quite soft and also users with 8 bit sound cards so they could not attenuate them too much. So they must have accepted a certain level of clipping in edge cases because otherwise the sound would be too quiet and lose definition with 8 bit cards.

However, it still is kind of a bug that the CT4520 card is able to distort when all inputs are maxed out. It is a design flaw, it should not be possible to saturate an amplification stage in the audio chain. To me it seems like the DAC’s signal is to high, because all games were way out of balance. That is why I had the mixer setup with the DAC at a lower volume, otherwise I had to change the balance in every game (and that is not even always possible). So I have a workable setup, but I like my CT1740 more (as a Sound Blaster) because it’s levels are even and it’s noise is uniform instead of the nasty squeals of the CT4520.

Reply 74 of 127, by Joseph_Joestar

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digistorm wrote on 2021-02-12, 11:58:

You can have up to 8 simultaneous sound effects in Doom, and they have to account for distant sounds that are quite soft and also users with 8 bit sound cards so they could not attenuate them too much. So they must have accepted a certain level of clipping in edge cases because otherwise the sound would be too quiet and lose definition with 8 bit cards.

I don't think this is purely a Doom engine issue because my ESS AudioDrive 1868F and my Avance Logic ALS100 exhibit no distortion using the same test parameters.

For reference, the ESS card is SBPro compatible while the ALS100 has full SB16 compatibility.

Build #1: Celeron 466 / Abit ZM6 / Voodoo3 / AWE64 / YMF744 / SC-155
Build #2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / GeForce4 / SBLive / ALS100
Build #3: Athlon64 3700+ / DFI LanParty / 9600GT / X-Fi Titanium

Reply 75 of 127, by Burrito78

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zoinknoise wrote on 2021-02-11, 22:19:

btw Burrito78, the PNG version of your latest chart seems to be just a thumbnail. (PDF version is fine)

I have to upload to Imgur for now because Vogons started to recompress PNG and JPG uploads.

And yes, the CT2760 uses the CT1701 DAC chip. I will change that with the next update.

Regarding the AWE clipping issue: I think the clipping/distortion is something else in this case. It can be prevented using the SB mixer application. Therefore it's certainly a heavy design flaw but not a dealbreaker like the Vibra clipping which can't be compensated for besides in-game volume controls (which aren't always available).

Sound Blaster: From best to worst

Reply 76 of 127, by zoinknoise

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Joseph_Joestar wrote on 2021-02-12, 12:16:

the ALS100 has full SB16 compatibility.

yes, and i went to the trouble of seeking one out for this reason, but the chipset is... flaky. be careful.

Day of the Tentacle gave me bizarre, completely wrong FM music. Jill of the Jungle does not even recognize the card at all. (i did not test with JILLUPD, to be fair)

on the other hand, Wolf3D is in stereo, Duke Nukem 2 has working sound effects, and Epic Pinball and Descent both recognize the ALS100 as a SB16. no other single ISA sound card chipset can do this, AFAIK.

overall, the ALS100 is impressive, but i was able to quickly find two games that broke it completely, which is a shame and discouraged me from testing further. YMMV of course.

Reply 77 of 127, by maxtherabbit

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zoinknoise wrote on 2021-02-13, 05:31:
yes, and i went to the trouble of seeking one out for this reason, but the chipset is... flaky. be careful. […]
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Joseph_Joestar wrote on 2021-02-12, 12:16:

the ALS100 has full SB16 compatibility.

yes, and i went to the trouble of seeking one out for this reason, but the chipset is... flaky. be careful.

Day of the Tentacle gave me bizarre, completely wrong FM music. Jill of the Jungle does not even recognize the card at all. (i did not test with JILLUPD, to be fair)

on the other hand, Wolf3D is in stereo, Duke Nukem 2 has working sound effects, and Epic Pinball and Descent both recognize the ALS100 as a SB16. no other single ISA sound card chipset can do this, AFAIK.

overall, the ALS100 is impressive, but i was able to quickly find two games that broke it completely, which is a shame and discouraged me from testing further. YMMV of course.

interesting, my ALS007 worked just fine with DOTT

Reply 78 of 127, by Oetker

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zoinknoise wrote on 2021-02-13, 05:31:

Day of the Tentacle gave me bizarre, completely wrong FM music. Jill of the Jungle does not even recognize the card at all. (i did not test with JILLUPD, to be fair)

MIght be issues with the genuine OPL3 and your system speed, slowing down the system might have helped.

Reply 79 of 127, by Eep386

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I think what fixes issues with OPL3, is to increase the number of 8-bit ISA wait states (sometimes called 'I/O Recovery Time') in BIOS. Some lame-ass BIOSes (typical of OEM systems) don't allow you to change the wait states, however. For those that do allow the option to be changed, I usually ramp em up all the way to 8 or so if the system's a 'fast' one (say, Pentium 200).

Also, I'm beginning to think that the DAC chip has less to do with self-noise, than whether or not the cards have floating op-amps. Creative's left a number of quad amps on their cards with one or more sections of certain amps floating, which is terrible for noise and power consumption. I have a first-revision CT2760 with a CT1701 DAC, that had *six* sections of op-amp floating. I tied the amps down and the hissing doesn't seem any worse than is typical for ISA sound cards, at least to me.

Creative ISA Sound Card Floating Op-Amps Running Log/List

Life isn't long enough to re-enable every hidden option in every BIOS on every board... 🙁