Sound Blaster

The original Sound Blaster v1.0 and v1.5 (CT1310, CT1320A/B) was released in 1989 as the successor to their Ad Lib-rival, the Game Blaster. This had an 11-voice FM synthesizer which made use of the Yamaha YM3812 chip, often referred to simply as the OPL2 chip - this was the same chip used in the Ad Lib card, so it was 100% Ad Lib compatible. This meant that all games which supported Ad Lib would produce similar audio output quality on the Sound Blaster.

But what made it different was the "DSP" (Digital Sound Processor), which is what Creative Labs called the "digital audio" part of the card. This was able to play back mono sampled sound at up to 22 kHz sampling frequency (about the same as FM radio quality, so quite poor by today's standards), and record at 12 kHz (which was similar to AM radio quality - even worse).

The CT1320B (Sound Blaster 1.5) was a cost-cutting measure, so got C/MS (Creative Music System/Game Blaster) chips in sockets rather than being soldered onto the PCB. All these cards also provided a game port, which at the time were quite expensive to buy separately.

In 1990, the CT1320C and CT1320U were launched which were also a Sound Blaster 1.5. This dropped the C/MS chips completely, and came with 2 empty sockets. Buyers could purchase the C/MS chips separately from Creative, otherwise the card was similar to the Sound Blaster 1.0.

In October 1991, Sound Blaster v2.0 (CT1350) was launched which added support for "auto-init" DMA which allowed the card to produce a continuous loop of double-buffered sound output. The sampling rate increased to 44 kHz (CD quality) for playback, and 22 kHz for recording. This new CT1350 used fewer, more tightly integrated components, as so was a physically shorter card than its predecessors. The changes from v1.5 to v2.0 were all in the DSP chip - existing owners of prior models could upgrade to v2.0 by purchasing the v2.0 DSP chip from Creative.

 

Sound Blaster 1.0/1.5 (CT1310 and CT1320)

8-bit mono 22 kHz playback, 13 kHz recording.
CMS chips soldered on board gave backward-compatibility to their Game Blaster.
Yamaha OPL2
FM synthesizer chip.
Game Port.

It was the first sound card on the market to have digital sample playback capability. The CT1310 is not known to actually exist as a model beyond Creative's literature. Its predecessor was the CT1300 which was the CMS/Game Blaster.

The CT1320 is sometimes called "Sound Blaster 1.5". CMS chips were now socketed in order to be more economical for Creative Labs. CMS chips optional.

Drivers:
Original SB 1.5 driver disks for CT1320C
Original DOS Drivers (15 Aug 1990)

DOS Drivers (2 Aug 1991)

Updated DOS Drivers (27 Jun 1994)

 

Sound Blaster 2.0 (CT1350)

Known as "Sound Blaster 2.0" or "Sound Blaster Deluxe". Better circuit board layout and dropped another old CMS chip from the board. DMA channel "auto-init" mode allowed the card to play continously without pauses or crackling (something suffered on v1.0 and v1.5 cards). Due to these changes in the DSP programming, some games companies had problems with 100% game compatibility with this card.

Drivers:
CT1350b drivers
Updated DOS Drivers (27 Jun 1994)
Windows 3.1 and DOS Driver updates (27 Jun 1994)

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Sound Blaster Pro

Model number CT1330 released in May 1991 was the first Creative card to comply with Microsoft's "MPC" standard. It added a mixer to provide a crude master volume control, high pass and low pass filter. It used a pair of Yamaha YM3812 chips to provide stereo music, although this was rarely used by games. It was fully Sound Blaster and AdLib compatible. The Pro also was the first to have a CD-ROM interface on-board. Most Pro cards support only the Panasonic (Matsushita/Panasonic) CD-ROM drives. The Pro is still an 8-bit ISA card, as all the previous Sound Blaster cards are, even though at first glance it looks like a 16-bit card because of the 'AT' section on the connector, but note that these are not wired to anything.

v2.0 of the Sound Blaster Pro, the CT1600, got an upgrade from the Yamaha YM3812 (OPL2) chips to a single new Yamaha YMF262 (OPL3), which was backward-compatible with OPL2 and played stereo with 20 voices across 4 FM operators. Also, the Pro's MIDI UART chip was upgraded to full-duplex and offered time-stamping features. At this point, it was still not Roland MPU-401 compatible which was a common standard used by a lot of professional MIDI equipment at the time (more on that later). As before, the CT1600 was fully Sound Blaster-compatible and Ad Lib compatible. A version of the Pro for the IBM PS/2's Micro Channel Architecture was released called the CT5330. There were also two OEM versions of the SB2.0 called CT1680 and CT1690.

Drivers
SoundBlaster Pro Windows 3.1 and DOS Driver Updates for CT-1330 only
SoundBlaster Pro II Windows 3.1 and DOS Driver Updates for CT-1600 only

For the above two sets of drivers, If you have not already installed SB Pro drivers into Windows 3.1 and DOS, you must first download and install the drivers from the files SBP2WU.EXE and SBP2DU.EXE.

 

CT1330

The first Sound Blaster Pro launched in 1991.
FM synthesizer: Early models got two Yamaha YM3812 OPL2 chips. Later models had these replaced with a single YMF262.
The CT1335 chip is the mixer.
Panasonic and Mitsumi CD-ROM connectors.

The following games titles support dual-OPL2 (SB Pro) only on a Sound Blaster Pro 1.0:

  • Formula One Grand Prix
  • F-15 Strike Eagle III
  • Hi-Octane (also Pro Audio Spectrum 16)
  • Ultima Underworld

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CT1600

This is the "Sound Blaster Pro II", introduced in 1991.
FM synthesizer: YMF262 (OPL3).
DAC: YAC512.
Panasonic and Mitsumi CD-ROM connectors.


A new single OPL3 chip replaces the old dual-OPL2 arrangement. Lower interference than CT1330 due to the new analogue low pass filter. Output quality is quite good, with low noise level, no audible distortion and packs a lot of power in the bass section. Perhaps a bit too bass'y compared to higher quality sound cards. In the mixer settings, the low pass filter is on by default. This can be deactivated with the SBP-SET utilities included in the drivers. This filter is supposed to be applied to digital audio, not FM.

The CT1336 chip is the bus interface chip.

 

CT1680

Introduced in 1992.
FM synthesizer: YMF262 (OPL3).
DAC: YAC512.
Panasonic and Mitsumi CD-ROM connectors.

The CT1680 is an OEM version of CT1600, sold to computer manufacturers for integration into their PCs.
The CT1336 chip is the bus interface chip.

CT1690

FM synthesizer: YMF262 (OPL3).
DAC: YAC512.

The CT1690 is basically a CT1600 but with a Sony CD-ROM interface.
The CT1336 chip is the bus interface chip.

CT5330

For IBM PS/2 Model 50 with MCA (Micro-Channel Architecture).
FM synthesizer: Creative CT1341.
DAC: YAC512.
The CT1336 chip is the bus interface chip.