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My Sound Cards

Just as I've done with graphics cards, I have acquired a small collection of sound cards since 1992 and currently have about 26 in all. This page catalogues these. Unlike the graphics cards, however, there is only one general rule when it comes to sound cards and being "period correct" for DOS - that they really need to be for the ISA bus.

This is because before Windows 95, all games interacted with the sound card via a specific I/O address, IRQ (interrupt request line) and DMA (direct memory access) channel. With the advent of the PCI bus, sound cards that sat on it were addressed in a different way, thus making DOS games unable to even 'see' the sound card. There are a few exceptions though.

I have also included external synthesizer modules here, of which I have 5.

This catalogue is listed by manufacturer or if it's a lesser-known clone card it will be listed under the originating manufacturer of the reference design.

Ad Lib

 
An Amstrad-branded Ad Lib clone card
From my Dad's Amstrad PC2286, bought around 1992

This was the first sound card we had in our family. It came with the Amstrad PC2286 that we bought from a computer auction (Southern Computer Auctions?) in 1992.

 
An Ad Lib MSC16 PnP (ca. 1996)
Bought in early 2021 for £21

This was from an online auction that came up where the card was not well described - just a part number. I noticed the Ad Lib musical note logo and did some background. I will do a more in-depth review at some point on this card, but in short it's a post Ad Lib Gold-era card based around the Crystal CS4236-KQ chip. This means it is compatible with Ad Lib, Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster Pro and Windows Sound System standards.


Avance Logic


ALS100
Bought for $11 in November 2020

The ALS100 supports Ad Lib, Sound Blaster, and Sound Blaster 16 standards. This one has a clone of the Yamaha YMF262 chip, called the LS262.

 

Aztech Labs

Aztech went down a similar route as Creative Labs - to saturate the market with many model variants, but at a cheaper price point. They were also very successful at striking up OEM deals to have their cards bundled with off-the-shelf computers. These days Aztech cards are fairly rare, but look out for OEM variants that are more common - a lot were Packard-Bell branded so look for a black and white sticker on the main chip and it's likely it is an Aztech card. I have these five in my collection:

 
Sound Galaxy NX Pro (ca. 1993)
Picked up for £30 in November 2017

I was pleased to find this late 1st-generation card from Aztech, as I wanted one of their curious cards that supported 5 sound standards (quantity over quality!). The I38-MMSD802 supports Ad Lib, Sound Blaster Pro, Covox Speech Thing, Disney Sound Source and Windows Sound System.

 
Sound Galaxy NX Pro Extra (ca. 1993)
Bought in November 2021 for $45

The I38-MMSD812 was one of the last 1st-generation cards released by Aztech Labs. My research indicates that this model dropped support for Covox Speech Thing and Disney Sound Source, so is only Ad Lib, Sound Blaster Pro and Windows Sound System-compatible.

 
Sound Galaxy Nova 16 Extra (ca. 1994)
Bought in October 2021 for £25

The Nova 16 Extra, model I38-MMSN811, is the only 2nd-generation Aztech card in my collection. It supports Ad Lib and Sound Blaster Pro standards. The first time I installed it for testing I got a loud bang and sparks - turns out a yellow bead capacitor at DC3 (lower-right) blew! No other damage, and after replacing the cap the card works just fine. I did a full review of this card in October 2021.

 
Sound Galaxy Multimedia Pro 16, ca. 1994
Bought in October 2021 for £15

The first 3rd-gen card I picked up was the Multimedia Pro 16, model I38-MMSD845. Supports Ad Lib, Sound Blaster Pro II, and Windows Sound System. The MIDI/game port is now fully MPU-401 compatible in UART mode only and the card suffers no 'hanging note' bug when this is used.

 
Sound Galaxy Nova 16 Extra II-3D, ca. 1994
Bought for £25 in November 2017

The second 3rd-generation card I bought was this Nova 16 Extra II-3D, model I38-MMSN846. Supports Ad Lib, Sound Blaster Pro II, and Windows Sound System. The MIDI/game port is now fully MPU-401 compatible in UART mode only and the card suffers no 'hanging note' bug when this is used.

Creative Labs

Whether you love them or hate them, you will likely have owned a Creative Labs card at some point. I have 9 cards in my collection, and am still looking for early 8-bit Sound Blaster cards for a reasonable price:

 
Sound Blaster 16 (CT2940), ca. 1995
Cannot recall where I got this card

This was the first Sound Blaster 16 they produced. It had an IDE interface for CD-ROM drives. Mine has a real Yamaha YMF289B, so is not one of the poorer CQM variants.

 
Sound Blaster 16 Value (CT2770), ca. 1995
Acquired in September 2019 in a bundle with an ABIT AB-BH6 motherboard

I did a full review of the CT2770 back in late 2021. It had a Creative/Panasonic interface for CD-ROM drives. This is Rev.A of the card which eliminated unused CD-ROM headers that were never used.


 
Sound Blaster AWE64 Value (CT4500), ca. 1997
Bought in December 2018 for £25

Supports Ad Lib, Sound Blaster/Pro/16/32 - for DOS gaming this is as good as an AWE32; better if you consider its much cleaner audio output.

 
Sound Blaster AWE64 Value (CT4500), ca. 1997
Acquired in September 2019 in a bundle with an ABIT AB-BH6 motherboard

Without knowing, I became the owner of a second AWE64 Value! This one I couldn't seem to get music out of, only sfx. Diagnose worked though and played music without any problem.

 
Sound Blaster Live! 5.1 (SB0100), ca. 2001
Unknown origin

The Live! 5.1 is based on the EMU-10K chip. This one, SB0100, is *not* the Dell OEM version of CT4830 (the SB0200 and SB0220) which is an inferior card with an EMU-10K1X (had a s/w DSP instead of a h/w one). Phil from Phil's Computer Lab rates the SB0100 highly, considering it his "go-to" sound card for Windows 98 (not as good as the Audigy2 ZS, but easier to install the drivers).

 
Sound Blaster Live! Value (CT4760), ca. 2000
Unknown origin

The Live! Value is another EMU-10K-based card. Being a PCI card it's only good for Windows gaming.

 
Sound Blaster Live! Value (CT4830), ca. 1999
Unknown origin

Where did I pick up all these SB Live! cards from? They are extremely common though, and not particularly collectible.

 
Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS (SB0350), ca. 2003
Bought in November 2020 for £10

Phil's Computer Lab recommends this card for Windows 98 retro gaming, though installation is a pain! Vogons Drivers website has the original CD.


Sound Blaster X-Fi (SB0880), ca. 2007
Unknown Origin

So far removed from the DOS gaming era, but I've included this PCI-e card in the collection as it's recommended by Phil's Computer Lab for Windows XP retro gaming.


Diamond Multimedia


Monster Sound (ca. 1998)
Unknown origin

The Diamond Monster Sound featured an Aureal Vortex 2 with its "A3D" surround sound support. It's a PCI card, so only good for Windows retro gaming, but it's nice to have something with the highly esteemed Aureal chipset on it.


Ensoniq

At present I have two cards from Ensoniq:

 

 
SoundScape VIVO (ca. 1996)
Bought in May 2022 for £35

Ensoniq's SoundScape range was well regarded in the mid 90s - of particular note was the high quality of its 2 MB onboard wavetable. This, coupled with full Ad Lib and Sound Blaster FM compatibility meant 1994's S-2000 was a great package to own for DOS gaming. The original SoundScape went through several cost reductions, starting with OPUS in 1995 and then VIVO in 1996, both of which came with a 1 MB wavetable. I have done a full Retro Review of this card.

 
AudioPCI ES1370 (ca. 1997)
Came bundled in a mini tower PC I picked up in May 2018

I was very happy to find this PCI sound card inside the mini tower I bought. The ES1370 one of the few PCI sound cards that has excellent compatibility with DOS. Read my dedicated AudioPCI page for details. It supports Ad Lib, Ad Lib Gold, Sound Blaster Pro, General MIDI, Roland MT-32, and Microsoft DirectSound3D 4-speaker playback.

ESS

Really a chipset manufacturer rather than a sound card manufacturer, ESS chips can be found on a myriad of cards during the mid-90s.

 
ESS1868F on a Compaq Audio Feature Card, ca. 1997
Bought in March 2021 for £0.99

 

Media Vision

PAS16s are getting quite rare (as as the original PAS cards), and when they do come up for sale they tend to be quite expensive so I was very pleased to pick this up for about £40. I did a full review of the Pro AudioSpectrum 16 when it arrived.

  
Pro AudioSpectrum 16 card, ca. 1993
Bought in November 2021 for
$65

This is a fantastic bit of kit, having a high signal-to-noise ratio and warranting its own sound standard which a good number of games titles supported. It supported Ad Lib via the onboard Thunder Board chip, but only supported Sound Blaster in emulation, though this was done to a high standard. My card seen above was the original version of the PAS16, whose only limitation is that the game/MIDI port is **not** MPU-401 UART-compatible (later model variants replaced the MVD101 chip with an MV201 that added this feature).

MediaTrix

A relatively short-lived Canadian manufacturer, MediaTrix produced some fantastic PC sound cards.

 
AudioTrix Pro
Bought for "a lot" around 2018

I have raved about this card quite a bit here a DOS Days. With its clean output, the combination of onboard wavetable coupled with Sound Blaster Pro 2.0 compatibility, it's a great single-card audio solution for DOS gaming. Couple it with an MT-32 and a Roland SC-55 or SC-88 and you have all bases covered.

Orchid

Like Diamond Multimedia, Orchid were always better known for their graphics cards but they dipped more than a toe into the sound card market also.

 
Sound Producer, ca. 199x
Bought around 1993 or 1994 as a birthday present for my Dad
to upgrade his Amstrad PC2286 to Sound Blaster standard

The Orchid Sound Producer was a simple Sound Blaster-compatible card, based off the reference design of the Aztech Sound Galaxy BX II.

 

Orpheus 1

Orpheus 1 was a project undertaken by two Vogons forum members. Its intent was to be the best DOS ISA gaming sound card for the modern era.

  
Orpheus 1 card with DreamBlaster X2GS daughterboard attached, ca. 2021
Bought in May 2022 for
£230


Roland


MT-100 External MIDI device
Bought in December 2018 for £68

The MT-100 above was the first external MIDI device I purchased, while on the hunt for an MT-32. The proprietary floppy drive doesn't work but that is only required to save and load sequences (something not required for DOS gaming) - the rest of it functions really well as an MT-32 "new".


SC-88 External MIDI device
Bought in November 2017 for £70 + £30 shipping from Japan

The SC-88 was bought while I was ideally hunting down an SC-55 Mk.1 or Mk.2. This came up at the right price, cheaper than any SC-55 at the time. Strangely it was a 110V unit, so I also bought a step-down transformer to allow it to function here in the UK.


MT-32 "Old"
Bought in December 2018 for £102

The MT-32 "old" is an absolute necessity for early Roland-supported games, as the MT-32 "new" and MT-100 do play some odd notes on these games due to the fact that Roland moved some instruments around between old and new model variants. I was quite happy to pick this one up for about £100, especially as it came in its original box with manual and power supply!


SC-55 Mk.1
Acquired in February 2021 for £FREE!

This SC-55 was bought in "Tested, Working" state but came with no PSU, and was dead on arrival. I offered to return it to the seller, but they weren't interested in receiving it back, so gave me a full refund! I opened it up and replaced a diode that had blown - it now works just great as my fifth external MIDI device.

 

Serdaco BVBA

Serge designs and builds numerous retro hardware goodies for the PC, and sells them via his online store Serdaco BVBA. I bought the parallel port sound card bundle.

      
CVX4 (Covox Speech Thing), OPL3LPT and ca. 2018
Bought in 2020 for
€90

Yamaha

 
Addonics A151-A00 card
Bought for £10 around 2017

This card is a rebranded Yamaha Audician 32 Pro, and supports Ad Lib and Sound Blaster Pro 2.0 standards.

 
ATC-6631 card
Bought for £16 in late 2021

I bought this card after believing my Addonics one was faulty, with strange sounds coming in when playing back some samples, but this card has identical output. More investigation needed! The ATC-6631 is another clone of the Yamaha Audician 32 Pro.

 


MU80 External MIDI unit
Bought for £96 in February 2021

The Yamaha MU80 is considered one of the best external MIDI synthesizers money could buy if you were a PC gamer. Having bought a Roland SC-88 several years earlier, I was keen to hear the differences that Yamaha units brought. The best way I can describe it (and I'm no audiophile) is that it's more 'rocky' and '80s synth music' than the Roland devices that are more 'classical' and 'clean'. I have made a number of recordings from games where you can compare the MU80 to other GM devices - have a look at my dedicated game pages for Descent, Duke Nukem 3D, Dune, and Gabriel Knight for some examples.