Guillemot Corporation

A French audio and video card manufacturer that started in 1984.

They bought Thrustmaster in 1999 and purchased the assets of Hercules Corporation in 2000 - two years after Hercules had been bought by ELSA and subsequently went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Today, Guillemot are still going strong and focus their Hercules brand on all digital audio solutions and the Thrustmaster brand for gaming accessories for PCs and consoles.

Sound Cards

MaxiSound 64 Home Studio SC8500

Introduced: 1994
Audio codec: Crystal CS4236-KQ
DSP: Dream SAM9407
Price when New: ?

IDE connector for CD-ROM drives.
Hardware volume control knob.

The MaxiSound 64 is compatible with Sound Blaster 2.0, Pro, Windows Sound System.

The SAM9407 DSP produces up to 64 channels with up to 8 reverb and chorus effects on each with a dynamic noise filter. It also offers surround sound which can be applied to MIDI, wave, CD, Line-In and Microphoner.

The card comes with 4 MB of ROM for sound fonts, which are close to those in the Roland Sound Canvas (Guillemot got a licence from Roland), and the card is both General MIDI and GS-compatible.

The SC8500 can be expanded with up to 16 MB of EDO RAM (60ns or faster) for custom samples.

For drivers for the Dream DSP you can use the reference drivers from Dream. Configuring the Crystal codec use CS4232C.EXE which reads/writes the config to a file called CWDAUDIO.INI or CS4232C.INI. The Dream wave chip defaults to port 330h but can be configured using file 94DINIT.EXE which loads the firmware, sets the soundfont and switches the chip to UART mode to receive MIDI notes. The default soundfont is called "4mg1".

MaxiSound 64 Home Studio Pro SC8600

Introduced: 1994
Audio codec: ESS AudioDrive ES1868F
DSP: Dream SAM9407
Price when New: ?

Via the ES1868F, these cards are compatible with Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster Pro, and Windows Sound System. With the Dream SAM9407 DSP chip, it adds GM and GS support. The output from the AudioDrive chip is routed via the DSP chip for mixing and effects.

The "Pro" version of the MaxiSound 64 Home Studio supports up to 20 MB of sample RAM but comes with no in-built 4 MB ROM (it is believed Guillemot were being sued by Roland at the time for unauthorised use of the Sound Canvas soundfonts, so this slightly later card had to forego an onboard ROM) - sound fonts are loaded into RAM via the init utility. It supports 'direct to disk' recording of up to 8 wave channels + 64 MIDI channels all via the onboard hardware (no CPU usage).

The card comes with gold-plated S/PDIF input and output sockets for transferring in CD audio quality to DAT tape.

3D Positional Audio capability over 4 speakers.

Signal-to-noise ratio is quoted at > -91dB.

A version of the Pro was introduced in 1995 (?) called "Game Theater 64". This was a cut-down version of the SC8600 with 4 MB RAM onboard, no S/PDIF daughterboard. It sold for $99. It did, however, come with 2 MB of onboard samples.

A further variant of the Pro was introduced called "Maxi Sound 64 Dynamic 3D". This supported 16 MB of RAM for custom soundfonts, and comes with 2 MB RAM onboard. It came bundled with a special version of the game POD that added Maxi Sound 64 support.

If you are struggling to get the maxinit.exe DOS utility to detect your card, disable PnP OS in your BIOS, then boot to pure DOS and maxinit should detect the card. The setting in the maxi64.ini file is called CNFPort - set it to 900.

Video Cards

Maxi Gamer 3D

Maxi Gamer 3D 2 PCI

Maxi Gamer Phoenix

Introduced: 1998
Bus: PCI or AGP 1x
Chipset: 3Dfx Banshee
Price when Launched: $109.99

The Guillemot Maxi Gamer Phoenix is essentially a 3Dfx Banshee - an integrated 2D and 3D card. Compared to the 3Dfx Voodoo 2 (a 3D-only card), Banshee only contains a single texture unit. The 3Dfx-branded Banshee comes in with a clock speed of 100 MHz which produces a fill rate of 100 millions pixels per second. While this is 10% faster than the Voodoo 2 (to try to make up for its single texture unit compared to V2's two texture units), it does use the AGP 1x bus which can only transfer at a maximum speed of 66 MHz. Furthermore, the standard 3Dfx Banshee doesn't support AGP side-banding so is slower than an equivalent PCI card.

Enter the Maxi Gamer Phoenix, which is available in both AGP 1x and PCI version of the 3Dfx card. This card is ideally suited to a lower-end gaming system of the era, such as a Pentium II 233-300 rather than a Pentium II 400 or 450. For these higher-end systems you're better off going for a Riva TNT-based card or an S3 Savage 3D. For the very best image quality of this era, go with a Matrox G200.

Where possible go for the PCI-based version of this card to avoid the poorer performance of AGP 1x.

It supports Direct3D, OpenGL and GLiDE.

Maxi Gamer Xentor 32

Introduced: 1999
Bus: AGP 2x
Chipset: nVidia RIVA TNT2 Ultra
Core Clock: 175 MHz
Memory Clock: 183 MHz
Price when Launched: $229.99

The Guillemot Maxi Gamer Xentor is their branded version of the nVidia RIVA TNT2 Ultra. They came bundled with a few games titles including Kingpin (Interplay) and Life of Crime - On the Street (UbiSoft).