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First post, by Shponglefan

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Updated: New desktop case
Updated: New motherboard! Rebuild in progress...
Updated: System died and will need fixing. 🙁

486 DX-33 Desktop Case.jpg
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486 DX-33 Desktop Case closeup.jpg
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CPU: i486DX-33
MB: Soyo 025L2 w/ 256k cache
RAM: 8 MB 72-pin
Disk Drives: 3.5" and 5.25" Floppy drives
CD Drive: Mitsumi 6x CD-ROM
Fixed Storage: 512 MB Sandisk CompactFlash + CF-IDE Adapter
Video Card: Tseng ET4000/WP32 VLB w/ 1 MB of RAM
Sound Cards: GoldLib, Primax Soundstorm, Yamaha Audician 32, AWE64, MPU401-AT + Yucatan FX wavetable
Controller Card: Data Technology DTC2278E VLB EIDE controller

This system went through a number of configurations before eventually settling on its current build.

It started as a 486DX2-66. In using it, I consistently either wanted a faster system for 3D shooters or a slower system for early 90s adventure games. Since I already have multiple Pentium systems that can handle the former, I decided to downgrade this system to a 486DX-33 with a focus on adventure, RPG, and strategy games from 1990 to 1994.

Given the time period my biggest focus was on sound options. I tested various dual and even triple sound card setups. Eventually decided went for a full 5 sound card setup, similar to my previous 386 DX-40 build. Everything was built around accommodating the Goldlib (Adlib Gold clone), which meant using PnP cards with configurable FM port addresses such as the Yamaha Audician 32 and AWE64. The AWE64 is probably overkill for a system focused on the early 90s, but some games that use SB16 or AWE32 can be played on this setup. Alternatively, I may try swapping it for a Pro Audio Spectrum in the future.

For games that use MT-32 music, I have both an external MT-32 and Roland CM-32L, the latter for any games that take advantage of the extra sounds in the CM modules.

Performance-wise, I find the 33 MHz quite good for a lot of games of the period. At 66MHz the DX2 processor was too fast for some games and caused issues. For example, Rise of the Dragon and The Adventures of Willy Beamish had MT-32 initialization and playback issues. But with the 33MHz chip they work perfectly. Warcraft also runs nicely at this speed.

Benchmarks are as follows:

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Based on how this system throttles it can achieve speeds approximating a 386 DX-33, 386 SX-25 or 286-8MHz.

Last edited by Shponglefan on 2023-11-21, 21:07. Edited 15 times in total.

Pentium 4 Multi-OS Build
486 DX4-100 with 6 sound cards
486 DX-33 with 5 sound cards

Reply 1 of 23, by Jo22

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Shponglefan wrote on 2023-07-08, 01:13:

For games that use MT-32 music, I have both an external MT-32 (v1.07) and Roland CM-64, the latter for any games that take advantage of the extra sounds in the CM modules.

Hey, that's cool. 😎👍
That's the exactly same combo I have gotten for MT-32 games!
Though I haven't them permanently set up and in use, sadly (space problem).
So I primarily use that couple for comparison with munt (I have it running on a dedicated Pi)..

Anyway, glad you use that combination.
If you're lucky, some DOS-based emulators for MSX or PC-98 can make use of them, too.
But that's another story. Just came to mind. 😅

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 3 of 23, by BitWrangler

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Prices were really starting to come down by 94 IIRC, probably $250ish for the board/CPU/RAM $50 for a case, $75 for VGA card, $150 for soundcard, $100 for CDROM though 2 or 4 speed. Base system probably about $1000 with no multimedia bits, but the rub was, multimedia was the buzzword so you paid through the nose for the full "multimedia" system and it might have been difficult to avoid getting a DX-2, since it was probably near $2000 for the multimedia enabled system with shovelware grolier encyclopedia and corel draw and a bunch of other CDs, with maybe only $20 discount for ordering it with a DX33. DX2 and DX4 parts and systems were at a premium still, but plain old DX was discounting. Not that there was a whole lot of advantage of getting a DX33 over an SX33, but at least you had less chance it was soldered to the board and not upgradeable.

By 95 though I was able to put that kind of system together out of mixed new and used parts from fairs for ~$100 though CD and sound were still hard to get cheap, maybe until following year where first gen "multimedia kits" with 16bit clone SB, CDROM, cheap speakers, began hitting the clearance houses at $50

edit: I was looking at low spec 486 in late 92, and then I think it was $1500 to dip a toe, with an sx25, base vga, ~100MB HDD, 1.44 floppy, i/o case, another $500 for a monitor on top, and that didn't even have sound which was GUS or Soundblaster full price being the only well known and safe choice right then. At that point I went for an Amiga 1200 for like a third the money even when I bought an RGB monitor and HDD ... in the 2 years following that, I figured out about the mix and match nature of standard PC parts, started playing with junk, enough to give me confidence to put my own together from then on.

Unicorn herding operations are proceeding, but all the totes of hens teeth and barrels of rocking horse poop give them plenty of hiding spots.

Reply 4 of 23, by Shponglefan

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This made me curious so I looked up some ads in old Computer Gaming World magazines. A Falcon Northwest DX2-66 gaming system was advertised at $2500 at the time. This included a 1MB VLB graphics card, 4 MB of RAM, 2x CD-ROM, SB Pro, and a 14" monitor.

Based on other list prices a Roland SCC-1 and Gravis Ultrasound would have added another $500 combined. Roland speakers about $200 for a pair. No idea what an MT-32 or CM-64 would have cost at that time.

Anachronistic hardware aside, I could see this system probably costing at least a few grand depending on specifics.

Last edited by Shponglefan on 2023-07-08, 03:25. Edited 1 time in total.

Pentium 4 Multi-OS Build
486 DX4-100 with 6 sound cards
486 DX-33 with 5 sound cards

Reply 5 of 23, by Shponglefan

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Jo22 wrote on 2023-07-08, 01:33:
Hey, that's cool. 😎👍 That's the exactly same combo I have gotten for MT-32 games! Though I haven't them permanently set up and i […]
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Hey, that's cool. 😎👍
That's the exactly same combo I have gotten for MT-32 games!
Though I haven't them permanently set up and in use, sadly (space problem).
So I primarily use that couple for comparison with munt (I have it running on a dedicated Pi)..

Thank you! I actually built the pictured monitor stand for the specific purpose of having somewhere to put those two sound modules. Trying to fit all that hardware onto a desk can be a challenge. 😀

Pentium 4 Multi-OS Build
486 DX4-100 with 6 sound cards
486 DX-33 with 5 sound cards

Reply 6 of 23, by Shponglefan

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Sadly, the system has died. 🙁

I was reworking the sound card setup to see if I could incorporate a GoldLib into it. After a bunch of hardware swapping, I landed on a setup with the GUS Extreme, Orpheus II LT and the GoldLib.

Unfortunately during testing, the system locked up and won't POST anymore.

Did some quick tests on the PSU; voltages seem good. Tried swapping out components (CPU, I/O cards, etc.), but that didn't fix anything.

At this point I figure something on the motherboard went. I'll need to troubleshoot it to see if it's repairable, or maybe just rebuild with a new MB.

edited to add:

Re-testing the board itself and the motherboard is still working. I suspect the issue may have been RAM, as the RAM used in this board failed to POST on another motherboard I tested it with.

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Last edited by Shponglefan on 2023-08-25, 13:44. Edited 1 time in total.

Pentium 4 Multi-OS Build
486 DX4-100 with 6 sound cards
486 DX-33 with 5 sound cards

Reply 7 of 23, by Jo22

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Shponglefan wrote on 2023-07-29, 14:34:

Sadly, the system has died. 🙁

Sad to hear. 🙁

Don't despair, though. I'm positive things can be fixed eventually.
Simply proceed step-by-step and don't rush things.
A multimeter and an PCI/ISA POST card may help at troubleshooting.
Maybe it's simply a short or a failed component, a dead battery etc.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 8 of 23, by mothergoose729

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I built an almost identical system in 86box for exactly the same reasons 😁

Also, a 386SX25 is basically the perfect speed for 1990-1992ish .

And yeah, a slower pentium covers everything else before the 3dfx era, with the 486dx2 being fun and nostalgic but not really having a clear place for a DOS collector.

Love the build! Thanks for sharing.

Reply 9 of 23, by Shponglefan

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Update on the progress of rebuilding this system.

I decided to try out a Soyo 025L2 motherboard as a replacement for the prior board. One thing I never liked about the prior board was the placement of the power connectors blocked the top expansion slot, whereas the Soyo board doesn't have that issue.

486 DX-33 Soyo 025L2 motherboard.jpg
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I did run into some issues getting it initially getting the board running. Turns out it's picky about which memory will work with it, which resulted in all sorts of strange POST issues including misidentified CPU types. It did work with a single 72-pin 8MB stick.

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Next up is to figure out the sound card options. At minimum I want a GoldLib and GUS in this build, so everything else is built around that.

One card I'm debating over is the AWE64. It would give SB16 and AWE32 support, but for the 486DX-33 era not sure if it's that necessary.

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Pentium 4 Multi-OS Build
486 DX4-100 with 6 sound cards
486 DX-33 with 5 sound cards

Reply 10 of 23, by Shponglefan

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Jo22 wrote on 2023-07-29, 15:46:
Sad to hear. :sad: […]
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Shponglefan wrote on 2023-07-29, 14:34:

Sadly, the system has died. 🙁

Sad to hear. 🙁

Don't despair, though. I'm positive things can be fixed eventually.
Simply proceed step-by-step and don't rush things.
A multimeter and an PCI/ISA POST card may help at troubleshooting.
Maybe it's simply a short or a failed component, a dead battery etc.

Just got a POST diagnostics card recently, so I'll start troubleshooting that faulty board soon. I am very curious to what caused it fail so spontaneously.

In the mean time, got a substitute board at least.

Pentium 4 Multi-OS Build
486 DX4-100 with 6 sound cards
486 DX-33 with 5 sound cards

Reply 11 of 23, by Shponglefan

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mothergoose729 wrote on 2023-07-29, 16:58:
I built an almost identical system in 86box for exactly the same reasons :D […]
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I built an almost identical system in 86box for exactly the same reasons 😁

Also, a 386SX25 is basically the perfect speed for 1990-1992ish .

And yeah, a slower pentium covers everything else before the 3dfx era, with the 486dx2 being fun and nostalgic but not really having a clear place for a DOS collector.

Love the build! Thanks for sharing.

Thank you!

In testing the new motherboard, it looks like the de-turbo / cache disabled speeds will be a bit different than the old one, possibly closer to a 386DX-33. But still hopefully good for that early 90s era of games.

Pentium 4 Multi-OS Build
486 DX4-100 with 6 sound cards
486 DX-33 with 5 sound cards

Reply 12 of 23, by Shponglefan

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Got all the sounds cards physically installed. Had to work around some limitations based on the physical board layout (CPU & heatsink) and ribbon cables.

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Swapped the SCC-1 for a Roland MPU-401AT in order to fit everything.

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Now it's just a matter of figuring out all the hardware settings to make all this work.

Last edited by Shponglefan on 2023-08-16, 13:38. Edited 1 time in total.

Pentium 4 Multi-OS Build
486 DX4-100 with 6 sound cards
486 DX-33 with 5 sound cards

Reply 13 of 23, by AppleSauce

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Shponglefan wrote on 2023-08-15, 23:04:
Update on the progress of rebuilding this system. […]
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Update on the progress of rebuilding this system.

I decided to try out a Soyo 025L2 motherboard as a replacement for the prior board. One thing I never liked about the prior board was the placement of the power connectors blocked the top expansion slot, whereas the Soyo board doesn't have that issue.

486 DX-33 Soyo 025L2 motherboard.jpg

I did run into some issues getting it initially getting the board running. Turns out it's picky about which memory will work with it, which resulted in all sorts of strange POST issues including misidentified CPU types. It did work with a single 72-pin 8MB stick.

486 DX-33 sysinfo.jpg

Next up is to figure out the sound card options. At minimum I want a GoldLib and GUS in this build, so everything else is built around that.

One card I'm debating over is the AWE64. It would give SB16 and AWE32 support, but for the 486DX-33 era not sure if it's that necessary.

486 DX-33 sound cards.jpg

Is that a Primax Soundstorm M16C version of the gravis ultrasound?

Reply 14 of 23, by Shponglefan

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AppleSauce wrote on 2023-08-16, 13:09:

Is that a Primax Soundstorm M16C version of the gravis ultrasound?

Yes, it is. 😀

Pentium 4 Multi-OS Build
486 DX4-100 with 6 sound cards
486 DX-33 with 5 sound cards

Reply 15 of 23, by AppleSauce

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Shponglefan wrote on 2023-08-16, 13:31:
AppleSauce wrote on 2023-08-16, 13:09:

Is that a Primax Soundstorm M16C version of the gravis ultrasound?

Yes, it is. 😀

Awesome I've got one as well , its a pretty nice card.

Reply 16 of 23, by Shponglefan

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AppleSauce wrote on 2023-08-16, 16:19:

Awesome I've got one as well , its a pretty nice card.

It is indeed. I'm really impressed it comes in a smaller size than a normal GUS, yet they were able to cram four different CD interface options on the same board. Not to mention installing the crystal with a proper ground plane underneath it. They really optimized the available board space!

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Pentium 4 Multi-OS Build
486 DX4-100 with 6 sound cards
486 DX-33 with 5 sound cards

Reply 17 of 23, by Shponglefan

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Couple updates on this build.

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First, the Goldlib stopped working. After a day of troubleshooting, it appears the EEPROM data was corrupted. The port address had been set to 80 and the system would no longer recognize the card. Fortunately, changing to dual port mode allowed it to be recognized and I was able to reset the settings.

After a bunch more testing, it seems to be working fine now. I'm still not sure what caused it, but with the number of other cards I'm got crammed into this system, I'm not surprised something went wrong.

486 DX-33 MPU401-AT Yucatan FX.jpg
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Also added a Yucutan FX daughterboard to the MPU401-AT. The limited physical clearance between cards has restricted my choice of wavetable daughterboards, but fortunately the Yucutan fits.

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Pentium 4 Multi-OS Build
486 DX4-100 with 6 sound cards
486 DX-33 with 5 sound cards

Reply 18 of 23, by Shponglefan

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Did some benchmarking of this system.

Based on 3D Bench specifically, I get the following scores:

Turbo ON, L1 cache enabled: 27.0
Turbo OFF, L cache enabled: 13.8
Turbo ON, L1 cache disabled: 7.7
Turbo OFF, L1 cache disabled: 2.4

This roughly corresponds with a 486DX-33, 386DX-33, 386SX-25 and 286-8.

For comparison, here are scores from some of my other systems:

386 DX-40: 15.8
386 SX-25: 6.8
286 8 MHz: 2.6

I also tried throttling it with L2 cache disabled. It reduces each score by approximately 5 to 10%. I suppose that could help fine-tune speeds depending on the game, but I think L1 cache disabling and the Turbo button is good enough for most cases.

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Pentium 4 Multi-OS Build
486 DX4-100 with 6 sound cards
486 DX-33 with 5 sound cards

Reply 19 of 23, by Shponglefan

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Transplanted this system from its original mini-tower case to a desktop case. Cable management is a bit of nightmare, but it's a 486DX-33 so not as concerned about overheating.

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Set it up on my retro desk with Yamaha YST-M10 speakers + MSW10 subwoofer, and a 17" Sony Trinitron monitor. For external modules, I'm using an MT-32 and CM-32L.

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Pentium 4 Multi-OS Build
486 DX4-100 with 6 sound cards
486 DX-33 with 5 sound cards