Ad Lib

The original Ad Lib card, or to give it its full name, Ad Lib Music Synthesizer Card, was released in 1987, and provided 8-bit mono FM synthesis via a Yamaha YM-3812 chip (aka "OPL2"). No 'digital' voice support, just music. Ad Lib ruled at the top of the early PC sound card market for 3 years with almost no competition.

Because it was such a step-up from the PC speaker, it became a hot seller - so much so, that for the next 10-15 years, many competing sound card manufacturers embedded full backward-compatibility with the Ad Lib standard, which meant the majority of games software companies also wrote in support for Ad Lib FM music synthesis into their games.

Technically, the Yamaha OPL2 chip could produce either 9 sound channels or 6 sound channels plus 5 hit instruments at the same time using Frequency Modulation (FM). It only had two frequency operators though, so getting it to produce realistic musical instrument sounds was quite impossible.

Sadly, due to Ad Lib's dependence on Yamaha who suffered long delays introducing their latest multimedia chipset, their new product, Ad Lib Gold PC-1000, was never to see the light of day under Ad Lib's management. Unable to remain solvent, Ad Lib closed their doors on 1st May 1992, having been bought by German company Binnenalster GmbH who promptly cut a large number of the staff we came from Ad Lib. Binnenalster rebranded the remaining organisation Ad Lib Multimedia, Inc. The new company did go on to ship the Gold PC-1000 plus a few later cards (MSC 16/32 and ASB 32/64), and even developed the "Gold Sound Standard".

AdLib Card

The original and probably most widely supported sound card across DOS games of the 80s, 90s and 00s.

Several modern-day clones of the Ad Lib sound card have been produced, including called OPL2LPT one that plugs into a 25-pin parallel port! This is especially ideal for laptops which don't have a built-in sound card. Unfortunately it does require a TSR (Terminate-and-Stay-Resident) driver called ADLiPT to be detectable by games as an Ad Lib card. This demands a 386 CPU as a minimum. For 8088/8086 and 80286 PCs, without this driver, OPL2LPT can still work with over 64 games but they must be patched. An updated version of OPL2LPT, called OPL3LPT ups the ante further with an onboard OPL3 chip, so it supports Sound Blaster too!



Rainbow Arts AdLib

The German software house, Rainbow Arts, produced their own card that was functionally the same as an Ad Lib (and fully compatible).




Adlib Gold

Introduced: 1991

Ad Lib returned to a crowded market in 1991, one that dominated by Creative Labs. Their new offering, the Gold was actually more functional than Creative's Sound Blaster Pro which was launched at the same time. Sadly, Ad Lib struggled to get games developers to support it.

An add-on board was also available for the Gold which provided it with virtual surround sound.



Ad Lib MSC 16 PNP V3SB

Introduced: 1996
Chip: Crystal CS4236 (1996) / Crystal CS4237B (1997)
Synth: AdMOS QS1000
FCC ID: M4CS0013


Ad Lib ASB 32/64

Introduced: 1997
Chip: Crystal CS4232 with Effects chip Crystal CS8905
Synth: Crystal CS9233

Drivers and Tools

Here are a few drivers and tools for the Ad Lib cards:

Original disk - v1.63

AdLib Sound Driver - The AdLib Sound Driver is a special sound engine written by Ad Lib to feed sound to their AdLib sound cards. The DOS program was run before the start of a game and ran hidden in the background. When a game developer wanted to play music or sound effects, they would issue a call to the program with the specified ROL music file and its necessary INS or BNK instruments. Songs could be started and stopped, and there were probably other features like fade-in and fade-out. Dozens of games, especially those that use ROL format music, utilized AdLib's sound driver.

The driver is called SOUND.COM and runs as a TSR (terminate and stay resident) program that can be called by the main program to play ROL files in the background. The program accepts at least one argument, which appears to be a memory address.


3rd party driver + software v0.9. Found on the cd.textfiles website. Using this 3rd party driver + music player, I could listen to .ROL music. Perhaps that's why the Microsoft [Windows 3.11] Media Player didn't work - it won't accept these .ROL files.

3rd party driver + software v1.0 - Even though this is a later version, it apparently causes a Stack Fault error when attempts are made to run its test diagnostic function.