Sound Blaster 16

In June 1992, the Sound Blaster 16 was introduced as the successor to the Sound Blaster Pro. The first model was CT1740. This range provided for the first time CD-quality digital audio sampling and an MPU-401-compatible UART.

A 2nd-gen Sound Blaster 16 (model CT2940)

The Sound Blaster 16 also got a socket for the ASP (Advanced Signal Processor) or later, the CSP (Creative Signal Processor), plus an expansion header for the "Wave Blaster" (CT1910) which was a wavetable daughterboard. "Value" and OEM versions tend to not have these.

It retained the Yamaha OPL3 chip for FM music synthesis, so was still backward-compatible with the original Sound Blaster. Unfortunately, due to a flaw in the initial silicon, The SB16 range do not have proper Sound Blaster Pro compatibility (1 or 2) - when it ran in "Sound Blaster Pro compatibility mode" (i.e. for all DOS games), it could only support mono playback.

A PCI version of the Sound Blaster 16 was released, but this lost backward-compatibility with the Sound Blaster due to its lack of ISA DMA for producing sound, so a software driver workaround was provided, although this proved to be less than 100% compatible for many games. In Windows, however, the card worked well.

Many variants of the Sound Blaster 16 exist, listed below, along with a number of 3rd-party clones from companies such as Aztech.

CSP (Creative Signal Processor) / ASP (Advanced Signal Processor) Chip
The CSP (ASP) chip added some new features to the Sound Blaster line, such as hardware-assisted speech synthesis (through the TextAssist software), "QSound" audio spatialization technology for digital (PCM) wave playback, and PCM audio compression and decompression. Software needed to be written to leverage its unique abilities, yet the offered capabilities lacked compelling applications. As a result, this chip was generally ignored by the market.


The CT1748 Creative Signal Processor chip

Creative renamed ASP to CSP at some point, but they are identical. TFX is the only game known to support this chip. If your board has a CT1748 chip, either in a socket or soldered to the board, you have the CSP/ASP chip. The chip itself was an SGS-Thomson ST18932 DSP core with 16K of program RAM and 8K of data RAM built-in.

OPL 3 or CQM
The majority of Sound Blaster 16 cards feature either a discrete Yamaha YMF262 OPL-3 FM synthesizer, or a Creative CT1747 chip which has this synthesizer integrated. Some post-1995 cards (notably the CT2910) feature the fully compatible Yamaha YMF289 FM synthesis chip instead.

Starting in late 1995, Creative used a cost-reduced replacement for the OPL-3 FM support termed CQM synthesis, which largely emulated the features of the OPL-3 chip. However, its emulation of OPL-3 was far from perfect, producing considerable distortion in FM-synthesized music and sound effects. Click here for a YouTube video that plays the same track using CQM, then on an ESSFM-based card, then from an OPL3 card.

   
From left: Yamaha YMF262, Yamaha YMF289B, and Creative's CT1978 CQM

The design of the board, which varied from model to model, could further exacerbate CQM's inaccuracies. Despite its shortcomings, it was much more faithful-sounding than the sample-synthesis simulation that AudioPCI-based sound cards employ. Boards utilizing CQM synthesis feature a CT1978 chip, or they may have CQM integrated into another chip, e.g. ViBRA16C/X-based boards.

Hanging MIDI Notes Bug
Cards with DSP version 4.11, 4.12, or 4.13 suffer from hanging notes when digital sounds and MIDI are being played simultaneously. The best solution for this is to use a separate card for MIDI. Any card with the Creative CT1747 chip does not suffer from this bug, nor do those with DSP version 4.04, 4.05 or 4.16.


The CT1741 Digital Signal Processor version 4.13

You can check your DSP version by looking at the medium-sized CT1741 chip on the card. it will have a code after the text CT1741, for example "V405" - this would be DSP version 4.05.

Plug & Play or Not
The first generation Sound Blaster 16s came with the CT1746 bus interface chip - these cards were all non-PnP (configured by jumpers) and no software initialization was required. Second generation Sound Blaster 16s got the CT1747 bus interface chip which included an embedded Yamaha OPL3 chip. These required jumpers to set the I/O range (IOS0 & IOS1), joystick enable/disable (JYEN) and MIDI I/O Select 330/300 (MSEL). However, IRQ and DMA selection were done in software on startup - something Creative called "Auto Init". SBCONFIG.EXE or DIAGNOSE.EXE needed to be loaded in AUTOEXEC.BAT to tell the card which resources to use at boot. 

So, pros and cons of the Sound Blaster 16 range...

+ CD-quality digital audio, MPU-401 compatibility, and on some cards: a Wavetable connector for the CT1910 card, and OPL3 chip for best FM music quality
- "Hanging MIDI notes" bug on many cards, "noisy" audio.

The CT2230 and CT2290 seem to be the most loved SB16s.

First Generation (CT1xxx)

The CT1740 and CT1750 are the least hassle SB16s to buy. DSP versions 4.05 or lower don't have the hanging MIDI note bug, they output genuine FM, require no software initialisation, and don't take up any extra resources.

Unfortunately, some refer to these as "Noise Blaster", as everything will sound noisy on these cards. Most 8-bit digitized sound has an audible layer of hiss surrounding the sample playback.  This hiss is not observed when playing back FM music.  Mixing the audio from the Waveblaster connector sounds muffled.  When 8-bit digital samples play there are often pops and clicks in the audio output. 

CT1740

Launched: 1992
FM Synth: Yamaha YMF262 (OPL3) chip
Plug & Play: No
Wavetable Header: Yes
CSP/ASP Chip: Yes, soldered-in or socketed
FCC ID: IBACT-SB16
Known DSP Versions: 4.05 (no hanging note bug)
Known Board Revisions: 4

The first Sound Blaster 16 to be introduced. Some CT1740 board revisions come with a socket for the optional CSP/ASP chip. Either later revisions or those branded Sound Blaster 16 ASP came with this chip soldered directly on the board (I'm not sure which).

The CT1740 came with a Panasonic CD-ROM interface. Note that this is *not* a standard IDE interface.

The CT1740 got a thumbwheel volume control on the backplate, which is a nice touch and a nod to the original 8-bit Sound Blaster cards.

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CT1750 / CT1759

Launched: 1993
FM Synth: Yamaha YMF262 (OPL3) chip
Plug & Play: No
Wavetable Header: Yes
CSP/ASP Chip: Yes, soldered-in (CT1750) or socketed (CT1759)
FCC ID: IBACT-SB16MCD
Known DSP Versions: 4.05 (no hanging note bug), 4.11 (hanging note bug), 4.12 (hanging note)
Known Board Revisions: 4

Called the Sound Blaster 16 MCD (Multi CD), the CT1750 was a CT1740 but with better support for CD-ROM drives - it got Panasonic, Sony and Mitsumi CD-ROM interface headers.

The CT1759 was identical to the CT1750. The CT1750 is sometimes branded Sound Blaster 16 MCD CSP whereas the CT1759 is just Sound Blaster 16 MCD, so it is believed the model number change was nothing more than a marketing thing with the CT1759 being sold without the CSP chip. This is backed up by the fact that the default jumper setting for the CSP chip was set to 'Enabled' on the CT1750, and 'Disabled' on the CT1759.

Just like the CT1740, the CT1750/CT1759 also got the thumbwheel volume control on the backplate.

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CT1770 / CT1779

Launched: 1993
FM Synth: Yamaha YMF262 (OPL3) chip
Plug & Play: No
Wavetable Header: Yes
CSP/ASP Chip: Yes, soldered-in (CT1770) or socketed (CT1779)
FCC ID: IBACT-SB16SCSI
Known DSP Versions: 4.04, 4.05 (no hanging note), 4.11 or 4.12 (hanging note bug)
Known Board Revisions:

The CT1770, actual name Sound Blaster 16 SCSI, was the first Sound Blaster 16 card from Creative Labs to come with a SCSI-2 CD-ROM interface instead of IDE. To support this SCSI interface, the card has an Adaptec AIC-6360L controller chip, and you need to install an ASPI driver for this chipset from your CONFIG.SYS file followed by the usual MSCDEX in your AUTOEXEC.BAT.

The CT1779 was identical to the CT1770, except it came with an empty socket for the optional CSP/ASP chip, rather than being bundled with a CSP/ASP chip. Note that the boards themselves are the same - they all read "CT1770".

They made these same cards from 1993 through 1995, so DSP 4.05 through 4.13 were all used.

The CT1770 and CT1779 came bundled with an Adaptec EZ-SCSI install disk, though you can also grab the drivers from a Windows 9x startup floppy disk. The files you need are ASPI2DOS.SYS and ASPICD.SYS. Click here for a text file with example entries.

The Sound Blaster 16 SCSI-1 (SB 16 SCSI) game port is incompatible with the Microsoft SideWinder 3D Pro in both analog and digital modes. However, all other Sound Blaster game ports are compatible with SideWinder 3D Pro.

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CT1780

Launched: 1993
FM Synth: Yamaha YMF262 (OPL3) chip
Plug & Play: No
Wavetable Header: Yes
CSP/ASP Chip: Yes, soldered-in
FCC ID: IBACT-SB16LMSI
Known DSP Versions:
Known Board Revisions:

The CT1780 was the same as the CT1750 with the exception that the CD-ROM interface was for LMSI (Laser Magnetic Storage International) drives. LMSI was a subsidiary of Philips. The interface itself is a 16-pin header. The only other sound cards that came with an LMSI connector were the MediaVision Pro Audio Spectrum 16 LMSI (FCC ID: ICW-PAS16P) and MediaVision Fusion CD16 S/E LMSI.

 

CT1790

Launched: 1993
FM Synth: Yamaha YMF262 (OPL3) chip
Plug & Play: No
Wavetable Header: Yes
CSP/ASP Chip: Yes, soldered-in or socketed
FCC ID: IBACT-SB16SONY
Known DSP Versions: 4.11 (hanging note bug)
Known Board Revisions:

The CT1790, also called Sound Blaster 16 Sony is the same as the CT1740 but with a Sony CD-ROM interface.

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CT2700 / CT2709

Launched: 1993
FM Synth: Yamaha YMF262 (OPL3)
Plug & Play: No
Wavetable Header: Yes
CSP/ASP Chip: Yes soldered-in or socketed
FCC ID: IBACT-SB16MIT
Known DSP Versions: 4.11 and 4.13 (hanging note bug)
Known Board Revisions: 19334


Despite the model number, the CT2700 is a 1st-generation card, being almost identical to the CT1740 and CT1750 cards, except that it gets only a Mitsumi CD-ROM interface.

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Second Generation (CT2xxx)

Creative Labs introduced the 2nd generation of Sound Blaster 16 cards in 1994, starting with the CT2230. The key difference fromt the 1st generation is the Yamaha YMF262 is now gone as a discrete chip. Instead Creative Labs integrated the YMF262 into their own chip called CT1747. These chips get the official "OPL" logo, as they do contain the Yamaha circuitry. Also sadly gone was the hardware thumbwheel volume control.

The CT1745A mixer chip from 1992 got an upgrade during this 2nd generation to CT1745-S (1993) and later to CT1745A-S (1994), though the first CT2230 cards still came with the older CT1745A.

They all supported the following sound standards:

  • Ad Lib
  • Sound Blaster
  • Sound Blaster Pro (in mono only)
  • Sound Blaster 16

The MPU-401 interface on the 15-pin game/MIDI port continued to be non-standard (the pinouts differ from the Roland standard).

The noise, pops and clicks associated with the first generation were now fully gone when paired with the later CODEC of the second generation.  The IRQ and DMA selection is done by software settings on startup.  The settings requiring jumpers are the I/O address selection, the MPU-401 MIDI interface enable and address selection and the joystick enable, so I would say this is semi Plug & Play, though doesn't fully conform to the PnP standard.

The least-noisy of the Sound Blaster 16 second gen cards are the CT2940 and CT2980 with a Yamaha YMF chip. These have the CT2502 (ViBRA) chips and are ISA Plug & Play.

 

CT2230 / CT2239

Launched: 1994
FM Synth: CT1747 (integrated Yamaha YMF262 (OPL3))
Plug & Play: No
Wavetable Header: Yes
CSP/ASP Chip: Yes, soldered-in or socketed
FCC ID: IBACT-SB16L2M
Known DSP Versions: 4.11 and 4.13 (hanging note bug)
Known Board Revisions: 19413, 29417, 49432

The CT2230, full name Sound Blaster 16 MCD ASP (Multi-CD with ASP chip) was the first of the 2nd-generation Sound Blaster 16 cards. Like the 1st-gen CT1750 it got Panasonic, Sony and Mitsumi CD-ROM interface headers.

Board revision 29417 got either the old CT1745A mixer chip from the first generation, or the newer CT1745-S. Board revision 49432 got the even later CT1745A-S.

Some CT2230 cards (board revision 49432) do not get header pins on both the Sony and Mitsumi CD-ROM headers, leaving the Panasonic header as the only one you can use.

Different DAC chips were used on the CT2230, including CT1703-T, CT1703-TBS and CT1703-A. The first of these (which is the oldest variant) is rumoured to be the cause of noise on these cards, so if possible, check what variant of the CT1703 is on the card before you buy it. The CT1703-TBS is apparently decent for noise (low) and is also found on the CT2290, AWE32 and AWE64. The CT1703-A is the most recent and quietest, and is found on numerous later SB16 cards up to AWE64 Gold.

The CT2239 was identical to the CT2230 but was marketed without the CSP/ASP chip. Other variants of the CT2239 exist such as the CT2239S which replaced all the other CD-ROM interfaces with a single Sony CD-ROM interface, and CT2239M which came only with the Mitsumi CD-ROM interface.

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CT2260

Launched: 1994
FM Synth: Yamaha YMF262 (OPL3)
Plug & Play: No
Wavetable Header: Yes
CSP/ASP Chip: No
FCC ID: IBACT-SBV16MCD
Known DSP Versions: 4.13 (hanging note bug)
Known Board Revisions: 29438

The CT2260 was an OEM version of the CT2230, though with some major differences. The integrated CT1747 from the CT2230 was replaced with Creative's new ViBRA-16 chip - CT2501. This was Creative's answer for the OEM market for Sound Blaster 16 - a cheap and cheerful solution that integrated the bus controller interface, DSP, mixer and codec into a single chip. This same chip would go on to be used on Sound Blaster 32 and many more budget ("value edition") cards.

Since the ViBRA-16 chip did not have an FM synthesizer built-in, Creative also reverted back to using a discrete Yamaha YMF262 OPL3 chip, just like the 1st-generation Sound Blaster 16 cards.

Several versions of the CT2501 controller chip exist, including CT2501-TBQ, TCQ and TDQ.

Despite having the exact same model number and even board revision, some CT2260 cards have a Line Out socket in addition to the Speaker Out socket where others don't have a Line Out. For those that don't get the Line Out, as you would expect other components around the right side of the board are also missing.

It appeared to be pretty good compatibility wise, working well for every game I tried. It has a wavetable connector which I tried and it worked well with my NEC XR385 daughter board.

However I can confirm the presence of the Hanging note bug with this card.
This card has a pretty good output signal however I experienced terrible noise issues with my card. It should be verified with another card in case my card has a problem - it did not seem normal. The card had a rather loud background noise but moreover there seems to be some glitch that appears in some games at totally random times and it produces a severe high pitched hiss/ring . It is VERY disagreeable, Doom, Wolfenstein 3D and Descent all produce this terrible background noise at different degrees. I have not yet found a pattern to it be it is VERY audible. The issue is possibly due to my card being faulty or an incompatibility with my system, feedback from other users of this card would be appreciated.

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CT2290 / CT2291 / CT2299

Launched: 1994
FM Synth: CT1747 (integrated Yamaha YMF262 (OPL3))
Plug & Play: No
Wavetable Header: Yes
CSP/ASP Chip: Yes soldered-in or socketed (CT2290), No (CT2291)
FCC ID: IBACT-SB16IDE
Known DSP Versions: 4.13 (hanging note bug)
Known Board Revisions: 29445, 49513

The CT2290 is the same as CT2230 but with Panasonic and IDE CD-ROM interfaces.

The CT2299 was identical to the CT2290 but was marketed without the CSP/ASP chip (though still supported this option).

The CT2291 is the "Value Edition" version of the CT2290. These do not support having a CSP/ASP chip. These cards also only have an IDE connector - no 'Creative/Panasonic Drive' connector.

The CT2291 and CT2299 are still branded CT2290 on the front silkscreen. A sticker on the rear of the CT2291 will indicate it is a CT2291. All share the same FCC ID.

This card is highly rated for producing a very clean output on the 'Grand OPL3 Comparison Run' both for FM and digital audio.

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CT2740 / CT2749

Launched: 1993
FM Synth: CT1747 (integrated Yamaha YMF262 (OPL3))
Plug & Play: No
Wavetable Header: Yes
CSP/ASP Chip: Yes soldered-in or socketed
FCC ID: IBACT-SB16S
Known DSP Versions: 4.11 (hanging note bug)
Known Board Revisions: 29349, 39350, 49351, 59352

The CT2740 was a "Value Edition" card. It pre-dates the CT2230. Note the CT1747 chip doesn't yet have the "OPL" logo on it - this is most likely because Creative had not received permission to put it on there from Yamaha at the time this board was made.

Some board revisions came with the CT1703-T DAC while others got the CT1701-T DAC.

All board revisions lack a Line out on the backplate, instead getting the thumbwheel volume control that was more common on 1st-gen Sound Blaster 16 cards.

The CT2749 was identical to the CT2740 but was marketed without the CSP/ASP chip (though still supported this option).

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CT2750

Called the "Sound Blaster 16 Easy". Comes with the ASP/CSP chip and a parallel CD-ROM port and 1 audio out.

 

 

 

CT2770 / CT2770A / CT2771 / CT2772

Launched: 1994
FM Synth: CT1747 (integrated Yamaha YMF262 (OPL3))
Plug & Play: No
Wavetable Header: No
CSP/ASP Chip: No
FCC ID: IBACT-SB16VAL
Known DSP Versions: 4.11 (hanging note bug)
Known Board Revisions: 29409 (CT2770), 19423 and 39416 (CT2770A)


The CT2770, full name, Sound Blaster 16 Value, was launched in 1994. Being a value edition card, it was pared down to the minimum - no wavetable header and only a Panasonic CD-ROM interface.

Board revision 29409 was the original CT2770 and still had the other CD-ROM interface solder pads for Mitsumi and Sony drives, plus the CSP/ASP chip solder pads.

CT2770A then followed, removing these obsolete CD-ROM interface headers from the board as well as the CSP/ASP chip area.

Board revision 19423 got a Line Out socket, but this was removed in the final 39416 revision.

CT2771 is an odd card with no information anywhere on the web - let me know if you have any details of this card. Other Creative cards used the '1' suffix to indicate it was a "value" version of the "0"-suffixed card, so this is perhaps a "value" on top of a "value" card ;-) Either that, or it's some OEM variant.

CT2772 was the same as the CT2770A, but got FCC ID: IBACT-SB16NCDR, which I can only assume means "No CD-ROM", as it didn't come with a CD-ROM interface, but this card did come with a wavetable header.

Fun fact... user Imperious on the Vogons forum says he successfully ran a CT2770 on an 8088 XT (8-bit slots only). The 16-bit part of the card is used for the CD-ROM interface only! Imperious said it's great for running the PC speaker audio through the sound card and out of the speakers, though there's only a tiny amount of games that can use the card's abilities on a system that slow.

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CT2800

Launched: 1995
FM Synth: Yamaha YMF262 (OPL3)
Plug & Play: Yes?
Wavetable Header: Yes
CSP/ASP Chip: No
FCC ID: IBACT-SBV16S
Known DSP Versions: 4.13 (hanging notes bug)
Known Board Revisions: 29809, 49517

Following the success of the CT2260 and its first ViBRA-16 card, the CT2800, or Sound Blaster Vibra 16S, uses an updated chip - ViBRA 16S (CT2504). Early ViBRA 16S models still had the Yamaha OPL3 FM synthesizer chip onboard as this one does, whereas later ViBRA 16S, 16C and 16XV all have the CQM (Creative Quadrature Modulation) chips instead. These were Creative's own take on the Yamaha OPL and are generally considered to be sub-par compared to the Yamaha.

The CT2800 got an IDE CD-ROM interface and a wavetable connector.

At least one board revision removed the Line Out socket on the backplate as well as the IDE interface connector.

A later board revision, 49517, was found on Dell OEM versions of the CT2800. This removed the IDE interface connector but kept the Line Out socket.

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CT2810

Launched: 1994
FM Synth: Yamaha YMF262 (OPL3)
Plug & Play: Yes?
Wavetable Header: Yes
CSP/ASP Chip: No
FCC ID: IBACT-SBV16IDE
Known DSP Versions:
Known Board Revisions:

The CT2810 is another strange card in that it shares its FCC ID with the CT2290 range, but has the ViBRA-16 chip the same as the CT2260. But unlike the CT2260, the CT2810 gets an IDE CD-ROM interface.

It was produced for the OEM market.

 

CT2830 / CT2839

Launched: 1995
FM Synth: Yamaha YMF262 (OPL3)
Plug & Play: Yes?
Wavetable Header: Yes
CSP/ASP Chip: Yes, soldered-in or socketed
FCC ID: IBACT-SB16IDE46
Known DSP Versions: 4.12 and 4.13 (hanging note bug)
Known Board Revisions: 29508

CT2830 is similar to the CT2700 and even the original CT1740 Sound Blaster 16, in that it has a real Yamaha OPL3 chip, has the same DSP and even still supports a CSP/ASP chip. It comes with an IDE CD-ROM interface.

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CT2840

Value edition. OEM version of a CT2291.
No CD-ROM interface.

 

CT2860

Value edition. OEM version (HP Menuet) of a CT2291.
No CD-ROM interface.

 

CT2890

Value edition. Vibra 16S chipset. Real full-size OPL3 chip.
PnP. OEM version of a CT2959.

No clicking noises in Prince of Persia.
Ringing in Tyrian, Descent, MPXPlay, all in SBPro Stereo (high-speed) mode. Distortion in high volumes which can NOT be fixed with the mixer. OPL3 sounds good. Good balance between FM and PCM. 75 SNR (great). Buggy MPU-401, hanging notes and stuttering Duke3D.

Third Generation (CT29xx)

Most third generation cards come with the Creative CQM chip instead of true OPL3 Yamaha chip, but there are cases where a Yamaha chip is present. These cards are jumper-free and are fully ISA Plug & Play.

CT2910

SB 16 Pro

 

CT2911

SB16 Pro Value edition

 

CT2919

SB16 Pro

 

CT2929

Value edition.
PnP

 

CT2940

Released: 1994
Value edition.
Vibra Pro chipset.
PnP.
OEM version of a CT2959. Some have the real Yamaha YMF289-B OPL3 chip, but most have an undesirable FM chip instead (Creative's CQM). Check if it has a Creative CT1978 chip above the big white chip. If so, it has a bad FM chip. If this spot is empty, look for a small OPL3-L chip elsewhere.
IDE CD-ROM interface.
DSP usually v4.13.

 

CT2950

Usually DSP version 4.13.
PnP.
Wave Blaster header.

 

CT2959

Value edition.
PnP.

 

CT2960

Value edition.
PnP.
OEM version.

 

 

 

 

 

CT2961

Basic edition.
PnP.

 

CT2970

Value edition.
PnP.
OEM version.

 

CT2980

Value edition.
PnP.

 

CT4170

"Waveffects" edition. Has the Vibra-16XV chip.

The CT4170 was sold as a bundle with a pair of SBS10 speakers and a 32x CD-ROM drive, called the "Sound Blaster Value 16/32X".

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CT4181

Value edition.
PnP.

Drivers and Install Disks

Original Sound Blaster 16 DOS Installation disks
Sound Blaster 16 Drivers
Sound Blaster 16 Value Edition - Drivers and Application disks
Original and Basic Edition floppy disks for CT1730
CT1730 Windows 95 Drivers and Applications disks
CT1730 Creative CR-563 and IDE CD-ROM Drivers Disk for Windows 95 (UPG-W95-01-ENG)
CT1730 Sound Blaster 16/AWE32 Drivers Disk for Windows NT 3.5 (revision 1)
CT2260 ViBRA16 Driver
CT2770 SB16 Value Edition floppy disks
CT2940 Installation Program Loader for SB16/AWE32/AWE64

Init utility to get some Sound Blaster PnP cards running on an XT or 286