Ensoniq

Ensoniq started way back in 1983 as Peripheral Visions. In January 1998 the company was swallowed up by Creative and was merged with E-mu Systems who together made musical instruments.

Ensoniq Soundscape (S-2000, Elite and OPUS, *not* VIVO90) are supposed to have the best MPU-401 "Normal mode" / "Intelligent mode" emulation of all sounds cards. Absolutely NO sound cards fully supported intelligent/normal mode - they only ever supported UART mode, but the Soundscape could send an "ACK" (acknowledge command) after every MIDI normal mode command. This trickery would not be enough for all games, but certainly allowed the card to work on many that would otherwise have failed. Another sound card that also sent the ACK command was the Mediatrix Audiotrix Pro.

In 1997, Ensoniq introduced AudioPCI: a sound card that ran on the PCI bus but delivered decent DOS compatibility.

Their cards all have superb sound quality if the game natively supports it, otherwise it's just Sound Blaster 2.0 emulation (not so great).

Click here for the Soundscape-era Ensoniq FTP Archive (as was) content

 

Soundscape a.k.a. S-2000

Launched: 1994
FM synthesizer: YMF262-M (OPL3)
Chipset: ES688FC
DAC: Yamaha YAC512
Part #: 4001022851 (rev B)
ROM: 1350901601
Price when New: $150

IDE, Panasonic, Mitsumi and Sony CD-ROM connectors.

The original Soundscape was Ensoniq's first direct foray into the PC sound card market. It was a full-length ISA digital audio and 'wavetable' sample-based synthesis audio card, equipped with a 2MB Ensoniq-built ROM-based patch set.

Several variants of the S-2000 exist, with a combination of CD-ROM interfaces or none at all, and also either a 2 MB (Revision A) or 1 MB (Revision B) ROM for samples. You can tell if a card is 1 MB or 2 MB by checking the "MX" ROM chip on th left side of the board - it will have either "1M" or "2M" printed on it.

The card has a solid 2 MB patch set. It is an excellent Windows card. Game developers took a while to support it but came around.  SB/FM support is emulated but their emulator is one of the best. 7 out of 10 for FM and digital audio quality.

Rich Heimlich said this of the SoundScape: "Solid 2mb patch set. Excellent Windows card. Game developers are now supporting it in DOS games so past problems with support are becoming
a non-issue. SB/FM support is emulated but their emulator is one of the best now.
". He scored digital quality as 7 out of 10, and music quality as 7.5 out of 10.

User Benutzaravatar on site https://www.dosforum.de/ did some tests on this card as well as several other Ensoniq cards and the Spea V7 Media FX to verify that the card supports "fake intelligent mode" for MPU-401, and confirmed it worked! Certain games that do a more thorough handshake with a real MPU-401 interface will *not* work (this includes Gateway 1 and 2).

User Manual, Manual Addendum, DOS, NT, Windows 3.x, Windows 9x

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Soundscape Elite

Launched: March 1995
Synth chip: Ensoniq OTTO
Audio codec: Analog Devices AD1848KP
Part #: 4001027201 (Rev B)
FCC ID: LF7SS2016
ROM: 1351000601 2M
Price when New: $210

Compatibility: Ad Lib, Sound Blaster 2.0, Roland MT-32, General MIDI, Windows Sound System and MPC 1 & 2.
IDE, Panasonic, Mitsumi and Sony CD-ROM connectors.

The ELITE was Ensoniq's high-end ISA offering. It offered the highest MIDI quality of any PC sound card they ever made, including the newer AudioPCI. The Elite was based mostly around the S-2000, with some additional features that set it far apart from its progenitor.

It used Ensoniq's OTTO and Sequoia synthesizer chips alongside a Motorola 68000 CPU. OTTO provided 16-channel, 32-note polyphony with a 2 MB sample ROM. This was fully GM- and GS-compatible and consisted of the usual 128 GM instruments, 7 drumkits, 61 drum programs and MT-32 instruments. The card also had Ensoniq's ESP signal processor (effects) which allowed for multiple simultaneous effects including reverb and chorus.

Elite has arguably the best patch set and an effects processor out there (different to the patchset found on the S-2000), which defaults to some reverb+chorus (configurable by sysex and Windows toolkit). Low host overhead and no memory overhead because the board is essentially a little computer with CPU and RAM. No TSRs. No EMM386. Some have PnP, but rather rare.

Has hardware-based UART compliance. Possibly the best Windows 95 sound card ever.

Rich Heimlich rated the Elite, saying "Best 2mb patch set out. Improves on the original by adding an
effects processor including Reverb and Chorus enabled by default and major percussion improvements. However, those same drums are much louder than they should be. Could be THE Windows 95 card to have.
". He scored it 7.0 for digital quality and 8.0 for music quality out of 10.

User Benutzaravatar on site https://www.dosforum.de/ did some tests on this card as well as several other Ensoniq cards and the Spea V7 Media FX (a licensed version of the SS Elite) to verify that the card supports "fake intelligent mode" for MPU-401, and confirmed it worked! Certain games that do a more thorough handshake with a real MPU-401 interface will *not* work (this includes Gateway 1 and 2).

DOS, NT, Windows 3.x, Windows 9x, Original Disk Images, F/X Toolkit for Win 3.x/9x

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Soundscape OPUS

Launched: 1995
Chipset: Ensoniq OPUS (5530-0002-01)
Audio codec: Analog Devices AD1845JP
Part No.: 4001030001 (Rev A)
ROM: 1351000801 WP

This card was only sold as part of Gateway 2000 PCs. It was never sold to Ensoniq's customers directly. It was a Soundscape-like board, using the Ensoniq "OPUS" multimedia sound chip, a chip that was only used on these OEM boards.

The OPUS is a cheaper card similar to older Soundscapes. OPUS is more like older Soundscapes, but is PnP and uses different wave port so compatibility affected. Patch sets are 1 MB and not as good as 2MB cards.

The OPUS chipset was also used on a combination sound/modem expansion card by NEC called the Harmony.

The OPUS card(s) do not require any TSRs to be loaded.

User Benutzaravatar on site https://www.dosforum.de/ did some tests on this card as well as several other Ensoniq cards and the Spea V7 Media FX to verify that the card supports "fake intelligent mode" for MPU-401, and confirmed it worked! Certain games that do a more thorough handshake with a real MPU-401 interface will *not* work (this includes Gateway 1 and 2).

DOS

Soundscape VIVO90

Launched: 1996
Audio codec: Analog Devices AD1845JP
Part No.: 4001034701 / 4001024701? (Rev B)
ROM: 4001024701 (Rev B)
FCC ID: LF7S4016

Ensoniq Soundscape VIVO90 was Ensoniq's generational step forward from the Ensoniq Soundscape S-2000-based boards. It was first produced in 1996. VIVO90 had similar specifications to the older boards, but was built to cost less to manufacture.

Has software-based UART compliance. The Soundscape VIVO Windows installer does include a part that installs the DOS drivers into the C:\SNDSCAPE directory. The contents of this directory are slightly different from the SNDSCAPE directory for the other Soundscape models.

It supports General MIDI music with a 1MB patch set of middling quality. It has superior sound quality to SB Pro and SB 16 for games that support it. It requires EMM386, but the TSR is very small. Its MPU-401 port may support intelligent mode (I haven't tested).

Windows 3.x, Windows 9x