Electronic Speech Systems (ESS)

 

Electronic Speech Systems (ESS) are most famous for their AudioDrive chips, used in many sound cards. Most AudioDrive chips are Sound Blaster Pro-compatible. All cards post-ES688 got the very good sounding integrated FM synthesizer circuits called "ESFM". These were OPL3-compatible but developed in-house. Lots of games had specific support for ESS sound cards.

Some PCI-interface Audiodrives (namely the ES1938 Solo-1) also provided legacy DOS compatibility through Distributed DMA and the SB-Link interface.

Numerous games has explicit support for "ESS AudioDrive". Note that this usually refers to models ESS688 and ESS1688 only.

Here are some tools and drivers for ESS chips that are not necessarily model-specific:

The DOS utility ESSCFG.EXE is used to initialise the card and then it exits (it doesn't remain in memory which is good). ESSVOL.EXE can be used to set the volume levels including those for MIDI and CD Audio.

ESS488 AudioDrive

This was an 8-bit card and is Sound Blaster compatible (mono only). It creates all of the speech and sound of a Sound Blaster board, except music synthesis.

 

ESS688 AudioDrive

Introduced in 1996.
FM synthesizer: YMF262-M (OPL3) (no ESFM)
Chipset: ES688FC
Non-Plug & Play.
DAC: Yamaha YAC512
IDE, Panasonic, Mitsumi and Sony CD-ROM connectors.

Compatibility: Ad Lib, Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster Pro, Windows Sound System, Windows 95 DirectSound, MPC, and MPCII.

The MPU-401 (UART) interface is emulated in software, so a driver must be loaded to use a Wavetable daughterboard on these cards.

The ES688FC is a single, mixed signal VLSI chip found in various cards and also embedded on motherboards. It offers 16-bit 44.1KHz stereo recording and playback (half-duplex), a 5-channel mixer and ESPCM compression (as well as ADPCM). The software volume control has 64 steps.

The onboard power amplifier provides 2W per channel.

This card provides good sound in Windows, but the DOS drivers only allow for Sound Blaster Pro compatibility (8-bit stereo) and it has a lower sound quality than a real Sound Blaster Pro or the Pro Audio Spectrum.

ESS licenced its ES688FC chipset to numerous OEMs who produced their own cards, including:

Windows 3.1 driver disks 1 2, Windows 98SE

 

MS868

Windows 3.1

 

 

 

ESS1488 AudioDrive

Chipset: ?
16-bit ISA.

 

 

 

ESS1688 AudioDrive

Chipset: ES1688F and ES968F.
Interface: 16-bit ISA.
Half Duplex 16-bit Stereo 44.1kHz.
Non-Plug & Play.
Hardware MPU-401 UART interface.
Wavetable header (use SCB-55/DB50XG or any external General MIDI device)
Integrated OPL3 clone.
FCC ID: LWHA02150.

A minor upgrade from the ESS688, the ESS1688 got a 6-channel mixer (over the ESS688's 5 channels) and a true hardware MPU-401 UART MIDI interface. The card also supported Advanced Power Management (APM) so it had self-timed power down, auto wake up, and suspend/resume support.

Most crucially, the ES1688 was ESS' first card to include their excellent OPL-3-compatible FM implementation, called ESFM(TM).

Excellent Sound Blaster Pro compatibility, good ESFM (OPL3) quality. Runs at 44.1 kHz only when in AudioDrive mode (non-SB Pro compatibility mode).
Wavetable header does not suffer from any bugs like SB card hanging notes bug.

Here's a few more cards that use the ES1688F chip:

Sertek S521 Win31/9x, Other Win3.1 driver for 1688 and 1688F, Windows 95b (OSR2)

 

 

ESS1788 AudioDrive

Chipset: ?
16-bit ISA.

The ES1788 was the first ESS card to have dual game ports, and also the first to have a hardware volume control (thumb wheel). It offers 16-bit 44.1KHz stereo recording and playback (half-duplex)

ESS1868 AudioDrive

Released in 1997.
16-bit ISA.
Full Duplex 16-bit Stereo 44.1kHz
Sound Blaster / Sound Blaster Pro compatible
FM Synthesizer ESS ESFM (Yamaha OPL3 compatible) .
Built-in stereo amplifier LM1817.
Hardware MPU-401 UART interface.
Plug & Play.
WaveTable connector
IDE CD-ROM Interface
FCC ID: LWHA111860 or LWHA111A20

The ES1868 card is low-noise card that supports up to SB Pro 2.0 gaming, considered one of the best DOS gaming cards. It has an IDE header onboard as well as a wavetable header which does not suffer from any bugs like SB card hanging notes bug.

If used with a PnP BIOS, the command-line options for ESSCFG utility are ignored.

The IDE interface can be configured to run at I/O address 168h or 1E8h, and use IRQ 10, 11 or 12. It does require a separate device driver (see below in the DOS drivers ZIP file) to be added to CONFIG.SYS called ES1868.COM to enable the interface.

You can set the onboard jumpers to disable the onboard amplifier and you will get pretty decent output from this card. Suitable for 99% of DOS games. On some OEM cards, these jumpers may be present or not, and may be present but unlabelled.

The ESS1868 card supported an optional onboard ES938 chipset which could provide "3D Spatializing sound effect" (designed to provide wavetable-like sound quality). See below for "Binaura 3D".

Numerous OEMs produced their own cards based on ESS' 1868 chip, including:

Drivers: DOS, Windows 3.1, NT 3.51, NT 4.0, Windows 95, Windows 98, OS/2 Warp

*Note that despite the Compaq card having an additional 6 pins on the far left side of the edge connector, this card works 100% in any 16-bit ISA slot. It is believed these additional pins connected to the internal speaker in Compaq desktop PCs.

ESS1868 Binaura 3D

Released in 1997.
16-bit ISA.
Full Duplex 16-bit Stereo 44.1kHz
Sound Blaster / Sound Blaster Pro compatible
FM Synthesizer ESS ESFM (Yamaha OPL3 compatible) .
Hardware MPU-401 UART interface.
Plug & Play.
"BINAURA 3D" sound.
Built-in stereo amplifier LM1817.
WaveTable connector
IDE CD-ROM Interface

The ES1868 card is low-noise card that supports up to SB Pro 2.0 gaming, considered one of the best DOS gaming cards. It has an IDE header onboard as well as a wavetable header which does not suffer from any bugs like SB card hanging notes bug.

If used with a PnP BIOS, the command-line options for ESSCFG utility are ignored.

The IDE interface can be configured to run at I/O address 168h or 1E8h, and use IRQ 10, 11 or 12.

You can set the onboard jumpers to disable the onboard amplifier and you will get pretty decent output from this card. Suitable for 99% of DOS games.

Drivers: DOS Windows 3.1, NT 3.51, NT 4.0, Windows 95, Windows 98, OS/2 Warp

 

Here are some notes from ESS on their Spatializing technology: "3D SPATIALIZING TECHNOLOGY

Everyone knows what stereo sound is. But how the brain perceives it, is important in order to better understand 3D sound. For example, if a piano sound is played through just the left speaker then we will perceive the sound as coming from the left side. If the same sound (and same level, or volume, of sound) is also passed through the right speaker then it will create the effect of the piano sound coming from the center of the two speakers - in essence from a "phantom" speaker. By manipulating the levels of the audio signals to the left & right speakers, and then adding 'effects' to them, it is possible to create up to two extra "phantom" speakers - thus giving us 3D Sound. Further to this we must then understand two more '3D terminologies' - Sum and Difference...

Sum describes the information of each monophonic audio signal sent to the left & right speakers (in other words - the sound, and to which speaker). Difference is the information we have when we look at the left & right signals in terms of level, timing/delay and frequency. By subtracting the Difference of the right signal from the Difference of the left signal we come out with the all-important 'spatial' information which characterizes stereo program material - and it is this which can be manipulated to produce 3D sound. It is important to note that for the best 3D results you should not add any effect to the Sum signal because this would affect the tone of the sound and result in lost tonal quality, and poor audio quality. This is where other 3D technologies fail. Instead 3D Spatializer concentrates purely on the Difference signal. These Difference signals are passed through a psychoacoustically correct filter which performs three critical functions. First it boosts the portion of the audio spectrum which we rely on most for spatial localization cues. Secondly it adds just enough phase delay, and further delays different parts of the Difference signal so that the sense of "space" and size of the "sweet-spot" is dramatically increased. Finally it has a filter/delay block which will prevent acoustic cancellation at low frequencies, so avoiding a sense of weak bass response. Another area of improvement over its competitors is that 3D Spatializer monitors the incoming signals, and if it senses existing spatial information it will only process this to it's optimum performance level. This is because 3D technology is now often used in the recording and game industry, and as such there is a danger of "over-processing" which can result in poor spatial image and loss of tone. No other 3D technology can offer the user a "set-and-forget" feature like this.

Developed by Desper Products Inc, USA and widely used by the recording and entertainment industry (with credits such as Walt Disney's "The Lion King" movie/soundtrack) the 3D Spatializer technology has leaped from the consumer electronic markets of TV's and Hi-Fi's to the desktop computer, and is fast becoming the '3D' by which others follow.. "

 

ESS1868 Cost Saver 3D

Introduced in 1996.
Plug & Play.
Onboard "Binaura 3D" circuitry.
ES1868F chip.

Wavetable header does not suffer from any bugs like SB card hanging notes bug.
This card was also sold as the Pine Schubert 3D (PT-230X).

Windows 3.1, NT 4.0, Windows 95

 

ESS1869 AudioDrive

PnP. Interface: 16-bit ISA


OPL3 superset "ESFM" music synthesizer, IDE CD-ROM interface, dual joystick port, Hardware MPU-401 UART, "3D" spatial audio effects.
IDE interface for CD-ROM.

The ES1869 is a slightly upgraded version of the ES1868 chip. It supports the higher 48 kHz sample playback as well as 3D spatial audio.

You can set the onboard jumpers to disable the onboard amplifier and you will get pretty decent output from this card. Suitable for 99% of DOS games.

The card was also sold to OEMs such as:

Drivers: DOS, Windows 3.1

Datasheet

 

ESS1878 AudioDrive

PnP ISA sound card that uses the ESS ES1878S audio chip.

Windows 3.1

 

ESS1879 AudioDrive

Chipset: ?
Interface: 16-bit ISA.

Designed to be an embedded audio single-chip solution for Notebook computers. It supports ESS's ESFM OPL-3 compatible synthesis as well as Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster Pro and Windows Sound System.

It comes with an onboard ES938 3D effects processor from Spatializer, and allows connectivity to an ES689 or ES69x wavetable.

Datasheet

ESS1887 AudioDrive

Chipset: ?
16-bit ISA.

 

 

 

ESS1888 AudioDrive

Chipset: ?
16-bit ISA.

ESS1898 AudioDrive

Chipset: ?
16-bit ISA.

Audio PCI

ES1378 chip. Excellent DOS compatibility for a PCI card.

Windows 95

 

 

ESS1938 Solo 1

The Solo-1 was a PCI sound card made by ESS. At its heart was the SC1938 audio chip.

The card featured an SB-Link header for connectivity to a supporting motherboard for DOS backward compatibility.

Model #: MPB-000092

 

ES1946

Chipset: Solo 1E
Interface: PCI

The ES1946 was an embedded audio chip used on IBM Thinkpad laptops around 1997. It provided compatibility for Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster Pro, and Windows Sound System.

Datasheet

ESS1948 Maestro-1

Chipset: ?
Interface: PCI

ESS1968 Maestro-2

Chipset: ?
PCI.

 

ESS1948 Maestro-1

Chipset: ?
PCI.

ESS1970 Maestro-2E

Chipset: ?
PCI.

ESS1978 Maestro-2E

Chipset: ?
PCI.

ESS1980 Maestro-3

Chipset: ?
PCI.

ESS1988 Allegro

Chipset: ?
PCI.

ESS1989 Allegro/ES1930

Chipset: ?
Interface: PCI

Some cards with Allegro chips also get an SB-LINK header. The Diamond Sonic Impact S100 is one.

This chip was used on the following cards: