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Which sound card for a legacy-only DOS computer?

 
 
George Adams
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      12-05-2003, 04:34 AM
Sorry if this is a FAQ - if there's a document or something addressing this
issue already, I'll be grateful if someone can point me to it.

There's a lot of great games that I remember from my youth (Rocky's Boots,
Robot Odyssey, Star Flight I/II, Star Control 2, most Lucas Arts games, etc.
etc.) that I'd like to be able to play again, and also introduce to my
children. (hey, they're low-res but they're still fun! :-) )

Rather than tearing my hair out trying to get DOS and DOS sound emulation
working under WinXP, I think I'll just take my old P-166 and build a legacy
machine out of it. It'll probably run DOS 6.22 and maybe Win3.1. Might
even put a 5.25" drive in it just for kicks.

So I'm wondering, what soundcard would be the most compatible for old games
running in a pure DOS environment? Obviously I could get an old original
AdLib or Soundblaster for total compatibility, but I'd really like to get
the last, greatest DOS-based soundcard that was well-supported by games
before the Windows 95 era.

What would that be? Looking around on eBay, I see things like :

- SoundBlaster Pro (CT1600)
- A bunch of SoundBlaster 16 varieties (SB 16 Basic, SB 16 Pro, SB 16 Value,
SB 16 ASP)
- SoundBlaster 32 and AWE32
- SoundBlaster AWE64

etc. Obviously the quality improves as you go on through the history of
Creative's cards, but I don't want to get a card that sounds great under
game X but gives up downward compatibility such that game Y can't work with
it or can only work unreliably.

I hope that makes sense. Any help would be appreciated - thanks!




 
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daytripper
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Posts: n/a
 
      12-05-2003, 05:12 AM
On Thu, 4 Dec 2003 23:34:07 -0500, "George Adams"
<(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

>Sorry if this is a FAQ - if there's a document or something addressing this
>issue already, I'll be grateful if someone can point me to it.
>
>There's a lot of great games that I remember from my youth (Rocky's Boots,
>Robot Odyssey, Star Flight I/II, Star Control 2, most Lucas Arts games, etc.
>etc.) that I'd like to be able to play again, and also introduce to my
>children. (hey, they're low-res but they're still fun! :-) )
>
>Rather than tearing my hair out trying to get DOS and DOS sound emulation
>working under WinXP, I think I'll just take my old P-166 and build a legacy
>machine out of it. It'll probably run DOS 6.22 and maybe Win3.1. Might
>even put a 5.25" drive in it just for kicks.
>
>So I'm wondering, what soundcard would be the most compatible for old games
>running in a pure DOS environment? Obviously I could get an old original
>AdLib or Soundblaster for total compatibility, but I'd really like to get
>the last, greatest DOS-based soundcard that was well-supported by games
>before the Windows 95 era.
>
>What would that be? Looking around on eBay, I see things like :
>
>- SoundBlaster Pro (CT1600)
>- A bunch of SoundBlaster 16 varieties (SB 16 Basic, SB 16 Pro, SB 16 Value,
>SB 16 ASP)
>- SoundBlaster 32 and AWE32
>- SoundBlaster AWE64
>
>etc. Obviously the quality improves as you go on through the history of
>Creative's cards, but I don't want to get a card that sounds great under
>game X but gives up downward compatibility such that game Y can't work with
>it or can only work unreliably.
>
>I hope that makes sense. Any help would be appreciated - thanks!


Any flavor of SB16 will be as about as good as it gets wrt compatibility with
dusty dos code, compatibility with your old p166 pci/isa box, plus a decent
helping of extra functionality for more recent games that would actually have
used it "back in the day".

SB Pro was 8-bit only and dodgier (if such a thing can be fathomed) than the
SB16 series. And some of the dustier bits and chunks started dropping by the
wayside with the progression through SB/AWE 32 & 64, which could portend
compatibility issues.

How much does a fully functional SB16 card go for on eBay? I must have a few
of those laying about among the decaying carcasses, some of them are the
SCSI-2 versions and with the DSP installed...

/daytripper
 
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Rick
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      12-05-2003, 06:47 AM
MediaVision made a great card called the Pro Audio Spectrum 16,
or PAS16 as it was known. Fully DOS compatible, OPL3 synthesizer,
great audio quality etc. There's even an [undocumented] way to get it
working under Win2K and WinXP.

Another alternative is to ditch the separate system idea and use one of
the really wonderful free arcade emulators that are available nowadays.
I run MAME32, CCS64 and a few others. They handle all the original
game roms from the "good 'ol days" (playing Missile Command, Star
Wars, Tempest, Centipede etc etc under Win2K is a kick and a half)
and are fully DirectSound and input device compatible. If you're a fan
of the older, simpler and essentially more fun games then definitely give
these emulators a try.

Rick

"George Adams" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message news:(E-Mail Removed)...
> Sorry if this is a FAQ - if there's a document or something addressing this
> issue already, I'll be grateful if someone can point me to it.
>
> There's a lot of great games that I remember from my youth (Rocky's Boots,
> Robot Odyssey, Star Flight I/II, Star Control 2, most Lucas Arts games, etc.
> etc.) that I'd like to be able to play again, and also introduce to my
> children. (hey, they're low-res but they're still fun! :-) )
>
> Rather than tearing my hair out trying to get DOS and DOS sound emulation
> working under WinXP, I think I'll just take my old P-166 and build a legacy
> machine out of it. It'll probably run DOS 6.22 and maybe Win3.1. Might
> even put a 5.25" drive in it just for kicks.
>
> So I'm wondering, what soundcard would be the most compatible for old games
> running in a pure DOS environment? Obviously I could get an old original
> AdLib or Soundblaster for total compatibility, but I'd really like to get
> the last, greatest DOS-based soundcard that was well-supported by games
> before the Windows 95 era.
>
> What would that be? Looking around on eBay, I see things like :
>
> - SoundBlaster Pro (CT1600)
> - A bunch of SoundBlaster 16 varieties (SB 16 Basic, SB 16 Pro, SB 16 Value,
> SB 16 ASP)
> - SoundBlaster 32 and AWE32
> - SoundBlaster AWE64
>
> etc. Obviously the quality improves as you go on through the history of
> Creative's cards, but I don't want to get a card that sounds great under
> game X but gives up downward compatibility such that game Y can't work with
> it or can only work unreliably.
>
> I hope that makes sense. Any help would be appreciated - thanks!
>
>
>
>



 
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Bob Masta
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Posts: n/a
 
      12-05-2003, 01:20 PM
On Thu, 4 Dec 2003 23:34:07 -0500, "George Adams"
<(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

>Sorry if this is a FAQ - if there's a document or something addressing this
>issue already, I'll be grateful if someone can point me to it.
>
>There's a lot of great games that I remember from my youth (Rocky's Boots,
>Robot Odyssey, Star Flight I/II, Star Control 2, most Lucas Arts games, etc.
>etc.) that I'd like to be able to play again, and also introduce to my
>children. (hey, they're low-res but they're still fun! :-) )
>
>Rather than tearing my hair out trying to get DOS and DOS sound emulation
>working under WinXP, I think I'll just take my old P-166 and build a legacy
>machine out of it. It'll probably run DOS 6.22 and maybe Win3.1. Might
>even put a 5.25" drive in it just for kicks.
>
>So I'm wondering, what soundcard would be the most compatible for old games
>running in a pure DOS environment? Obviously I could get an old original
>AdLib or Soundblaster for total compatibility, but I'd really like to get
>the last, greatest DOS-based soundcard that was well-supported by games
>before the Windows 95 era.
>
>What would that be? Looking around on eBay, I see things like :
>
>- SoundBlaster Pro (CT1600)
>- A bunch of SoundBlaster 16 varieties (SB 16 Basic, SB 16 Pro, SB 16 Value,
>SB 16 ASP)
>- SoundBlaster 32 and AWE32
>- SoundBlaster AWE64
>
>etc. Obviously the quality improves as you go on through the history of
>Creative's cards, but I don't want to get a card that sounds great under
>game X but gives up downward compatibility such that game Y can't work with
>it or can only work unreliably.
>
>I hope that makes sense. Any help would be appreciated - thanks!
>

Get a genuine Creative Labs Sound Blaster, any model
*EXCEPT* the ViBRA series, which don't use DMA the
same way and I've heard can confound some games
that expect the "standard" Low/High DMA channels.
(ViBRA models do 16-bit sound over the 8-bit DMA channel
in 2 byte-sized transfers.)



Bob Masta
dqatechATdaqartaDOTcom

D A Q A R T A
Data AcQuisition And Real-Time Analysis
www.daqarta.com
 
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Prism
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Posts: n/a
 
      12-05-2003, 08:11 PM
George Adams wrote:

> So I'm wondering, what soundcard would be the most compatible for old games
> running in a pure DOS environment? Obviously I could get an old original
> AdLib or Soundblaster for total compatibility, but I'd really like to get
> the last, greatest DOS-based soundcard that was well-supported by games
> before the Windows 95 era.


You've got two good choices:

Sound Blaster AWE32 (NOT SB32)
or
Gravis Ultrasound MAX

(Or, alternatively, you could get an SB16 (preferably non-pnp) plus an
Ultrasound ACE.)

Both cards do good GM sounds, GUS' SB emulation is via software but
usually works wonders (MAXSBOS). Some games use multichannel digital
music (tracker stuff) and these always support GUS natively, and sound
wonderful.

 
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Zdark
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Posts: n/a
 
      12-07-2003, 05:06 PM
George Adams wrote:

> Sorry if this is a FAQ - if there's a document or something addressing this
> issue already, I'll be grateful if someone can point me to it.
>
> There's a lot of great games that I remember from my youth (Rocky's Boots,
> Robot Odyssey, Star Flight I/II, Star Control 2, most Lucas Arts games, etc.
> etc.) that I'd like to be able to play again, and also introduce to my
> children. (hey, they're low-res but they're still fun! :-) )
>
> Rather than tearing my hair out trying to get DOS and DOS sound emulation
> working under WinXP, I think I'll just take my old P-166 and build a legacy
> machine out of it. It'll probably run DOS 6.22 and maybe Win3.1. Might
> even put a 5.25" drive in it just for kicks.
>
> So I'm wondering, what soundcard would be the most compatible for old games
> running in a pure DOS environment? Obviously I could get an old original
> AdLib or Soundblaster for total compatibility, but I'd really like to get
> the last, greatest DOS-based soundcard that was well-supported by games
> before the Windows 95 era.
>
> What would that be? Looking around on eBay, I see things like :
>
> - SoundBlaster Pro (CT1600)
> - A bunch of SoundBlaster 16 varieties (SB 16 Basic, SB 16 Pro, SB 16 Value,
> SB 16 ASP)
> - SoundBlaster 32 and AWE32
> - SoundBlaster AWE64
>
> etc. Obviously the quality improves as you go on through the history of
> Creative's cards, but I don't want to get a card that sounds great under
> game X but gives up downward compatibility such that game Y can't work with
> it or can only work unreliably.
>
> I hope that makes sense. Any help would be appreciated - thanks!
>
>
>
>

I'd go for any of the Awe64's as they had loadable midi patches (called
sound fonts) which would improve the music playback in some of those DOS
games. I say some because some DOS games used FM synthesis to produce
music and some would actually use good midi sound.
Come to think of it, I think the Awe32 line had some midi support but
the midi patches were all in the card's rom.
 
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Prism
Guest
Posts: n/a
 
      12-07-2003, 06:16 PM
Zdark wrote:

> Come to think of it, I think the Awe32 line had some midi support but
> the midi patches were all in the card's rom.


That's not quite how it goes. An AWE64 is basically just an AWE32 with
the Creative Software Synth applet thrown in, and in PnP - which is not
actually a good thing if you want to run DOS games. The AWE32 had 512k
RAM as standard and could be expanded with SIMMs up to 8 megs.

The original non-PnP AWE32 was the best of the AWEs, IMO.

 
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mcheu
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Posts: n/a
 
      12-07-2003, 07:24 PM
On Thu, 4 Dec 2003 23:34:07 -0500, "George Adams"
<(E-Mail Removed)> wrote::

>Sorry if this is a FAQ - if there's a document or something addressing this
>issue already, I'll be grateful if someone can point me to it.
>
>There's a lot of great games that I remember from my youth (Rocky's Boots,
>Robot Odyssey, Star Flight I/II, Star Control 2, most Lucas Arts games, etc.
>etc.) that I'd like to be able to play again, and also introduce to my
>children. (hey, they're low-res but they're still fun! :-) )
>
>Rather than tearing my hair out trying to get DOS and DOS sound emulation
>working under WinXP, I think I'll just take my old P-166 and build a legacy
>machine out of it. It'll probably run DOS 6.22 and maybe Win3.1. Might
>even put a 5.25" drive in it just for kicks.
>
>So I'm wondering, what soundcard would be the most compatible for old games
>running in a pure DOS environment? Obviously I could get an old original
>AdLib or Soundblaster for total compatibility, but I'd really like to get
>the last, greatest DOS-based soundcard that was well-supported by games
>before the Windows 95 era.
>
>What would that be? Looking around on eBay, I see things like :
>
>- SoundBlaster Pro (CT1600)
>- A bunch of SoundBlaster 16 varieties (SB 16 Basic, SB 16 Pro, SB 16 Value,
>SB 16 ASP)
>- SoundBlaster 32 and AWE32
>- SoundBlaster AWE64
>


Sound Blaster 32/AWE32 and the AWE64 are practically identical in
terms of capabilities. Basically a SoundBlaster16 PNP with the
addition of hardware wavetable MIDI. As such, it's probably the best
choice for compatibility and sound quality. For gaming, it really
doesn't matter which of the AWE family you get. The WavSynth software
emulated an extra 32 wavetable voices but nobody ever used that for
games. Without the software, you've basically just got an AWE32 that
takes only proprietary memory.

Don't bother with the SBpro. it's just basically a stereo version of
the original Soundblaster, and while it's not too bad, the shipping is
likely to be more than the card's worth. You could probably get an
ISA SB16 for about the same amount.
----------------------------------------
Thanks,
MCheu
 
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mcheu
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      12-08-2003, 03:01 PM
On Sun, 07 Dec 2003 17:06:50 GMT, Zdark <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote::

>I'd go for any of the Awe64's as they had loadable midi patches (called
>sound fonts) which would improve the music playback in some of those DOS
>games. I say some because some DOS games used FM synthesis to produce
>music and some would actually use good midi sound.
>Come to think of it, I think the Awe32 line had some midi support but
>the midi patches were all in the card's rom.


You've might want to know that the AWE32 and the AWE64 were nearly
identical from a technical standpoint.

The big hardware difference being that the AWE32 was expandable via
30pin SIMMs, the AWE64 had to use proprietary modules (which were hard
to find even when the AWE64 was still produced). The biggest
difference for most people was the addition of a software wavetable
synth (called WaveSynth) that added an additional 32 wavetable voices
to midi playback (thus the 64 in the name). There were a few other
technical differences between them, but these aren't even really worth
mentioning from the point of view of the end user.

Both have onboard RAM and both can accept third party midi patches.
For gaming though, neither the midi patches nor WaveSynth are a
consideration, as no games ever used the extended WaveSynth voices
(many actually conflicted with it), and very few used any extended
midi patches.
----------------------------------------
Thanks,
MCheu
 
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Rob
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      12-08-2003, 03:12 PM
The best is an original non-PnP SB16. Not an AWE32 or 64.

But you have to pair it with a Roland SCD-10 or SCD-15 Soundcanvas for
excellent MIDI!



On Fri, 05 Dec 2003 22:11:26 +0200, Prism
<(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

>George Adams wrote:
>
>> So I'm wondering, what soundcard would be the most compatible for old games
>> running in a pure DOS environment? Obviously I could get an old original
>> AdLib or Soundblaster for total compatibility, but I'd really like to get
>> the last, greatest DOS-based soundcard that was well-supported by games
>> before the Windows 95 era.

>
>You've got two good choices:
>
>Sound Blaster AWE32 (NOT SB32)
>or
>Gravis Ultrasound MAX
>
>(Or, alternatively, you could get an SB16 (preferably non-pnp) plus an
>Ultrasound ACE.)
>
>Both cards do good GM sounds, GUS' SB emulation is via software but
>usually works wonders (MAXSBOS). Some games use multichannel digital
>music (tracker stuff) and these always support GUS natively, and sound
>wonderful.


 
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