Media Vision

Media Vision were perhaps most famous for their Pro Audio Spectrum cards, but they had numerous others over the Ad Lib and Sound Blaster era.

They did not have built-in support for Sound Blaster Pro or 16, but since most games of the mid 90's had direct support for the Pro Audio Spectrum (PAS) cards, this wasn't much of a problem.

For backward-compatibility, the 16-bit cards did have an Ad Lib-compatible OPL3 chip for FM synthesis, and the 8-bit cards had an Ad Lib-compatible OPL2 chip. Furthermore, the Pro Audio Spectrum Plus and Pro Audio Spectrum 16 did include the same chip they used on their Thunder Board in order to provide standard Sound Blaster 1.5/2.0 support.

Click here for a large archive of PAS-related stuff.

 

Thunder Board

Introduced: 1992
Type: 8-bit ISA
FM synthesizer: Yamaha YM3812 (OPL2).
Model #: 650-0007-03

An Ad Lib and Sound Blaster 1.5 (DSP v2.00) clone (no CMS).
11-voice, 8-bit 22 kHz mono recording and playback (better than SB 1.5 which could only do 12 kHz).
Joystick port is for joysticks only - no MIDI.

Since their original Pro Audio Spectrum was not compatible with the Sound Blaster digital audio standard they made this card to fill the void. The chip it uses was later used in the Pro Audio Spectrum Plus and the PAS-16.

As a Sound Blaster substitute its actually quite decent.
You have jumpers on the card to configure the address settings but otherwise this card is pretty much as plug & play as it gets.  I did not even need to install a driver in DOS. I just plugged that thing in. Without adding anything in the Config and Autoexec files, it just worked in all the games I tried. Now this ease-of-use level is not the most common thing you would have experienced back in the days. 

Sound wise it's good but I still prefer the original Sound Blasters 1.5 and 2.0 . The ThunderBoard sounds a little more boomy (no pun intended ) and I think the SB cards are a little more balanced. The compatibility is not perfect either, I did not get music in Comanche: Maximum Overkill nor Monkey Island (very messed up).

This being said, Monkey Island seems to never work properly with OPL2-based Sound Blaster clones.

The output is also a bit more noisy the the original Sound Blasters. It seems that it is coming from the digital audio engine. If I deactivate the sound effect in a game and leave only FM music, I notice the noise level is much lower.  Games like Wolfenstein 3D are most affected.

As a conclusion, the Thunderboard is a nice card and a very decent SB clone. You would not have felt left out using it back in the day, unless CMS was your thing, then you would have been jealous of your neighbour with his Sound Blaster 1.0.  Nowadays it's still a nice card to have from a collecting point of view. It's also a nice card to use in a retro PC if you do not have access to an original Sound Blaster but I dont see a reason to use it if you can use a real Sound Blaster instead. The real thing gets you better compatibility, slightly cleaner output and CMS compatibility as an option. 

Claims dynamic filtering for better output quality. Supposed to be reported as a Sound Blaster 2.0, presumably because it supports auto-init DMA as does a SB 1.5 with DSP v2.01. The Thunder Board can disable the FM via jumper to work alongside a Pro Audio Spectrum (PAS) and provide Sound Blaster compatibility to the PAS.

Do not use in a Tandy 1000 T/R/SL because the DMA channel cannot be changed or disabled. Interestingly, for a Sound Blaster clone it does not support MIDI output of any kind from the joystick port.

A full working copy of MicroProse's F-15 Strike Eagle II was supplied with the board, along with a complete 96-page user manual for the game. In addition, sampler editions of the following games were also provided: Nova 9 (the sequel to Stellar 7), Lemmings, LexiCross, Rex Nebular, and Gobliins.


Original Disk, DOS

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Pro Audio Spectrum

Introduced in May 1991.
Chipset: MVD101.
Model #: 650-0002-00
A 16-bit ISA card. 2 x OPL2 FM synthesizers to create stereo sound.
MIDI and Game port interface is NOT MPU-401-compatible.
Ad Lib compatible. NO Sound Blaster compatibility.
SCSI interface for CD-ROM.

The Pro Audio Spectrum was the first sound card to support stereo FM music (it has two OPL2 chips on-board - one for each channel Left and Right). Creative later did this on their Sound Blaster Pro, launched in November of the same year. The PAS is Ad Lib compatible, but in mono only. One unique feature is that it emulated the PC speaker - it did this via its onboard 8253 timer chip, listening on the bus for I/O writes. This differed from the Sound Blaster Pro and later cards that had a 2-pin header on the card to mix in PC speaker audio. The PAS PC speaker emulation can also apply a RealSound filter to make Realsound PWM-style audio sound less distorted. This is configurable via the mixer program.

One key benefit of the PAS was that it was well shielded from electrical interference - something the Creative cards were not.

The MVD101 chipset cannot properly support a daughterboard header (occasional hanging notes).

Requires loading MVSOUND.SYS in CONFIG.SYS for card to work. There are games from Sierra that support this card for stereo FM music that do not support the Sound Blaster Pro.

Original Disks, PAS Software v3.23

The following games titles were directly supported by the PAS:

  • 1990 Christmas Card - The Seasoned Professional
  • B-17 Flying Fortress
  • Castle of Dr. Brain
  • Conquests of the Longbow
  • David Leadbetter's Greens
  • DragonsSphere
  • EcoQuest: The Search for Cetus (patch)
  • F-15 Strike Eagle III
  • F-117A Nighthawk Stealth Fighter 2.0
  • Fleet Defender
  • Gunship 2000
  • Harrier Jump Jet
  • Hoyle's Official Book of Games Volume 3
  • Jones in the Fast Lane
  • King's Quest V (patch)
  • Leisure Suit Larry 5
  • Leisure Suit Larry 1 VGA
  • Lord of the Rings Volume 1
  • Lord of the Rings Volume 2
  • Mixed-up Fairy Tales
  • Mixed-Up Mother Goose (patch)
  • Pirates! Gold
  • Police Quest III
  • Quest for Glory II (patch)
  • Return of the Phantom
  • Sid Meier's Civilization
  • Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon Deluxe
  • Space Quest I VGA
  • Space Quest IV (patch)
  • Special Forces
  • Strike Commander

 

Pro Audio Spectrum Plus

Introduced in 1992.
FCC ID: IXW-MVIPAS2
A 16-bit ISA card.
MPU-401-compatible MIDI and Game port interface.
Also had ThunderBoard chipset for Sound Blaster compatibility.

20-voice stereo FM synthesis based on Yamaha YMF-262 (OPL3). Sampling rate up to 44.1 kHz in stereo. Onboard mixer.

The PAS Plus and PAS 16 are essentially the same cards for audio playback. They are both backwardly compatible with Ad Lib, Sound Blaster 1.5 and the original PAS.

Comparing the PAS Plus to the original PAS, the key difference is that the original PAS had two OPL2 chips - the PAS Plus combined these into a single OPL3 chip. This results in incorrect music when playing games designed specifically for the two OPL2 chips. An example of this is Sierra Online's SCI1-based games. From SCI1.1 games, Sierra launched both 8-bit and 16-bit drivers for the PAS range.

SCSI interface for CD-ROM.

DOS Drivers

 

Pro Audio Spectrum 16

Introduced in May 1992.
FCC ID: IXW-PAS16P.
FM synthesizer: Yamaha OPL3.
Chipset: MVD101.
Mixer Chip: MVA-508B.

Launched exactly 1 year after the original PAS, the PAS 16 incorporated a single Yamaha OPL3 FM synthesizer chip, MPU-401-compatible MIDI and Game port interface, SCSI interface, and it also had the ThunderBoard chipset for Sound Blaster 2.0 compatibility. Its best feature was its ability for 16-bit CD-quality recording and playback at 44.1 kHz. The card was almost completely jumperless which was pretty rare at the time - it can configure itself completely via software.

At its launch, it was ahead of Creative, who were yet to release the Sound Blaster 16, which would match the PAS 16's specs.

Because of the built in SCSI CDROM interface, the card would often be bundled with expensive multi-media packages which included a CDROM drive. The 16 bit PAS was price at the same point as Creative's 8 bit Sound Blaster Pro making it a popular choice for non-gamers.

If the main MVD101 chip is revision C or earlier, the MPU-401 interface supports only the proprietary MediaVision MIDI interface (not widely supported), whereas revision D and later also supported MPU-401 UART mode. Sadly this does suffer from the hanging note bug.

The card can be noisy in operation, so it is advised to use the mixer utility to swich off any unused inputs or outputs (set volume to 0). It is also advised to change jumper J16 to disable DMA sharing, which does not play well on the ISA bus.

Not backward-compatible with Pro Audio Spectrum, nor is it compatible with Sound Blaster Pro - only straight SB (mono).

A version of this card was also produced with a Philips CD-ROM interface. FCC ID was IXW-PAS16P, and it has a DIGBIE LMS chip in the lower left corner which is the "LMSI" interface.

DOS, Windows, PAS-16 Utilities

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Pro Audio Spectrum 16 Basic

Introduced: 1993
FM synthesizer: Yamaha OPL3.
Chipset: MVD101.
Mixer Chip: MVA-508.
Model #: 650-0053-52A
FCC ID: IXW-PAS16LL

This card was also sold as the Logitech SoundMan 16.
MPU-401-compatible MIDI and Game port interface.

This is the only MediaVision card that did NOT have a CD-ROM interface, hence the "Basic" moniker.

 

Pro Audio Studio 16

Mixer Chip: MVA-508B.
MPU-401-compatible MIDI and Game port interface.
SCSI interface for CD-ROM.

A Pro Audio Spectrum 16 card bundled with voice recognition s/w and microphone.

 

Pro Audio Studio 16XL

Mixer Chip: MVA-508B.
MPU-401-compatible MIDI and Game port interface.
SCSI interface for CD-ROM.

 

 

Prosonic 16 SCSI

Chipset: Jazz16 (MVD1216)
Mixer Chip: MVA-416
Model #: 650-0087-53
FCC ID: IXW-JAZZ16
Known Revisions: A

Combines the ThunderBoard chipset with the Jazz16 chipset (which is sort-of Sound Blaster 16 compatible). Not compatible with Pro Audio Spectrum line.
SCSI interface for CD-ROM.

According to the Microsoft Sidewinder 3D Pro documentation, the Pro Sonic is one of several boards that do not provide full game port functionality, i.e. the Sidewinder (as perhaps other peripherals) will not function on them.

 

Jazz16

Introduced in 1993
Real OPL3
Chipset: Jazz16 (MVD1216)
Mixer Chip: MVA-416
Wavetable header on some models.
Ad Lib, Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster Pro compatible.
*NOT* compatible with Pro Audio Spectrum line.
IDE CD-ROM interface.
Model #: 650-0066-06D or 650-0122-11 (OEM poss.)
FCC ID: IXW-JAZZ16

This board has hardware volume control via a dial on the backplate, like the early Sound Blasters.

MediaVision licenced their Jazz16 chipset to a number of OEMs, including Gateway 2000 and KTL (FCC IDs starting with KRN, e.g. KRN3261).

The Jazz chipset has a bug where the MIDI buffer is too small, so it would drop data once in a while resulting in a missed note or sometimes a stuck note. This made using either the MIDI port or the wavetable header next to useless.

A "3D Pro" version of the Jazz16 came bundled with a Korg wavetable daughterboard.

DOS driver incl. CD-ROM support

 

Jazz16S

Introduced in 1993
FM synthesizer: Yamaha YMF262-M (OPL3)
Chipset: Jazz16 (MVD1216)
Mixer Chip: MVA-416
No Wavetable header.
Ad Lib, Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster Pro compatible.
Not compatible with Pro Audio Spectrum line.
IDE CD-ROM interface.
Model #: 650-0087-54 or 650-0087-03
Known Revisions: A, C
FCC ID: IXW-JAZZ16S

This board has hardware volume control via a dial on the backplate, like the early Sound Blasters.

The Jazz chipset has a bug where the MIDI buffer is too small, so it would drop data once in a while resulting in a missed note or sometimes a stuck note.

Pro 3D / Premium 3D

Chipset: Jazz16 (MVD1216).
Wavetable header.
Ad Lib, Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster Pro compatible.
*NOT* compatible with Pro Audio Spectrum line.
Faster SCSI CD-ROM interface.
Mixer Chip: MVA-508B.
FCC ID: IXW-JAZZ16S

The Pro 3D and Premium 3D cards built upon the Pro Audio Spectrum 16 line by offering SRS surround sound technology, a "supported" Wave Blaster header, Sound Blaster 2.0 digital and FM compatibility, and support for VESA's VBE/AI sound standard initiative.

In DOS, the Pro 3D and Premium 3D do not support 16-bit digital playback outside of the VESA driver interfacing.

There was also a "Premium 3D Multi -CD" version of this card which replaced the SCSI header with Sony, Panasonic and Mitsumi CD-ROM headers.

Also sold as the Pro [Audio] 3D, which consisted of the Premium 3D card bundled with a Korg "Pro Wave" wavetable daughterboard.

According to the Microsoft Sidewinder 3D Pro documentation, the Premium 3D is one of several boards that do not provide full game port functionality, i.e. the Sidewinder (as perhaps other peripherals) will not function on them.

Rich Heimlich said this of the Pro 3D card: "One of the best single card solutions available. Includes nice creature comforts like built-in SRS and a basic effects processor. It's also SB-Pro compatible. My biggest problems are the lack of a supportable 16-bit mode and the need to use a 6k TSR. Should prove to be a nice Windows 95 card. The Premium 3-D is the same card without the Korg AI2-based daughterboard.". His scores were 7.5 for digital quality and 7.0 for music quality (out of 10).

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Deluxe

Chipset: Jazz16 (MVD1216).
Wavetable header.
Ad Lib, Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster Pro compatible.
*NOT* compatible with Pro Audio Spectrum line.
Faster SCSI CD-ROM interface.
Mixer Chip: MVA-514.

In the Deluxe which was a follow-up to the Premium 3D card, the mixer chip was changed to a less feature-rich one but it did add Sound Blaster Pro mixer compatibility. It dropped the SRS surround sound technology.