Media Vision

Founded in May 1990 by Paul Jain and Tim Bratton, Media Vision were a sound card manufacturer during the early 90s, competing directly against Creative Labs and Aztech Labs. They also produced a number of graphics cards.

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.

Sound Cards

Thunder Board

Introduced: July 1991
Type: 8-bit ISA
FM synthesizer: Yamaha YM3812 (OPL2).
Part #: 650-0007-03, IXW650-0007-01
Original Price: $129

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 Pro Audio Spectrum 16.

As a Sound Blaster substitute its actually quite decent.
You have jumpers on the card to configure the address settings (IRQ should be set to 7 for DOS, and 5 for Windows), 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. 

"If one is not into all the extra software that comes with the Soundblaster, MediaVision's Thunderboard is a lower-priced alternative, complete with optional MIDI interface, and claims 100% compatibility with products written for both the Ad Lib standard and the Soundblaster standard. It comes bundled with demos of three front-line software programs."     
Computer Gaming World, June 1992

 


Advert, June 1992

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.

There was also a battery-powered version of the Thunder Board, released in 1992 and called the Audioport (model #660-0016-01). It was sold for $199, and ran on four AAA batteries.

The Thunder Board was also licenced to several third parties. One such example was the Boom Board from Compudyne (see below for pics).


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.
Part #:
FCC ID: IXW-PAR
Original Price: $295

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:

"Although the PC's audio capabilities have historically been weak, Media Vision's Pro AudioSpectrum has broken through this limitation. The $389 add-on board conforms to the Multimedia PC (MPC) specification and transforms your computer into a high-fidelity audio workstation.

Never before have such sonic riches been within such easy reach of PC users. The Pro AudioSpectrum sports a 22-voice MIDI-compatible stereo synthesizer, as well as a sampler for recording and playing back high-quality digitized audio. You can connect a microphone and stereo sound source and run all output to a stereo amplifier. A SCSI interface even lets you hook up a CD-ROM drive to use as a CD player, while an optional MIDI connector supports MIDI keyboards.

With the software-controlled mixer, you can adjust the volumes of each sound source independently. Most impressive of all is that you can mix all sound sources and record them simultaneously as a digitized audio file. The on-board stereo sampler's 8-bit PCM (pulse code modulation) sampling at 44.1 kHz doesn't match the 16-bit sampling of studio equipment, but the final results are darn good.

The Pro AudioSpectrum also comes as part of Media Vision's $995 internal MPC upgrade kit, which includes a Sony CD-ROM drive with all necessary cables and drivers, Multimedia Extensions for Windows (free to present owners of Pro AudioSpectrum until December 31, 1991), and two free CD-ROM applications: Compton's Encyclopedia and Jones in the Fast Lane. Media Vision is also introducing a smartly designed $1,295 external MPC upgrade kit called the CDPC, which consists of an external case housing a CD-ROM drive and 100 watts of audio power delivered to small built-in high-fidelity speakers; the case unit is connected to the PC via a SCSI card. The CDPC also provides a joystick, extra speaker ports, full MIDI capability, and an analog mixer. It comes with the same free software as the internal kit.

Media Vision's product line and the Pro AudioSpectrum board in particular will help the PC finally overcome its long-standing reputation as something that should be seen but not heard.
"

PC Magazine, January 14, 1992

 

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 Thunder Board chipset for Sound Blaster compatibility
Part #: 650-0014

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 is essentially a mid-point between the original PAS and the PAS16. Like the PAS16, the Plus is backwardly compatible with Ad Lib, Sound Blaster 1.5 and the original PAS. Where it's different is that it lacks the 16-bit digital audio sampling (recording) capabilities of the PAS16, so 22 kHz is where the Plus tops out for recording, though like the PAS16, it can playback at the full 16-bit audio frequency of 44.1 kHz.

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.

As I understand it, the PAS Plus also needs to be configured for Sound Blaster mode - it is not enabled by default.

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
Part #: 650-0022, 650-0032, 650-0042, 650-0044,
650-0060, 650-0082, 650-0097
FCC ID: IXW-PAS16, ICW-PAS16NS

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.

There is a lot more information on the Pro Audio Spectrum 16 in my Retro Review from November 2021.

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
Price: $199 (1994)

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

"We are often visited by game developers who want to demo their game on one of our computers. Getting a computer configured correctly so that it runs fickle pre-release software can be a real bear. While changing crashing sound cards (like a pit mechanic changing tires at the Indy 500) during one demonstration, the Soundman 16 showed off its greatest strength: it can be quickly installed, configured and run with very little hassle.
This card is born to run games. It doesn't clutter itself with extra bundled software, CD-ROM interfaces, or thick manuals to wade through. The drawback is that it uses the Media Vision chipset, so if the reader dislikes these chipsets due to problems encountered with Sound Blaster compatibility, this may not be his of her card of choice. On the other hand, more and more companies are supporting the Media Vision chipset directly. Also, if one already has a CD-ROM host or SCSI drive, this card is easier to install (there are software configurable jumpers and no SCSI or proprietary CD-ROM hosts to conflict with existing hardware). Though the documentation is a bit sparse, it should get the average user up and running with a minimum of difficulties."
     Computer Gaming World, October 1993


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.
Part #: 650-0060-02, -03, -52, -53
Price: $349 (1994), £265 (Sep 1993)

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

"...Media Vision is looking to expand its penetration with the launch of a new sound card and two multimedia kits. The Pro Audio Studio 16 sound system is based on the Pro Audio Spectrum 16 and includes a 300 word voice recognition system with computer-mounted microphone.
In common with many sound cards, the midi port doubles as a joystick port, and the card also carries a scsi cd rom interface. Software supplied includes a quick start installation program and multimedia guided tour, ExecuVoice voice recognition software, Monologue for Windows, a text-to-speech package,
M IDIsoft Recording Session, a Windows based midi sequencer, and Sound Impressions, a professional digital audio editing package"
     PC Zone, September 1993

Pro Audio Studio 16XL

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

 

 

Pro Movie Spectrum 2.0

Launched: 1993
Interface: 16-bit ISA
Main Chip: MVV251A, MVV351B
FCC ID: IXW-PMS2.0

Not a sound card, the ProMovie Spectrum was a video capture card.

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Jazz16

Introduced in 1993
FM Synth: Real OPL3 (Yamaha YMF262-M)
Chipset: Jazz16 (MVD1216)
Mixer Chip: MVA-416
Wavetable Header: Some models
CD-ROM interface: IDE or Panasonic (IXW-JAZZ16), Sony/Panasonic/Mitsumi (KRN3261).
Model #: 650-0066-06D or 650-0122-11 (OEM poss.)
FCC ID: IXW-JAZZ16, KRN3261

The Jazz16 was an Ad Lib, Sound Blaster, and Sound Blaster Pro compatible. It was *NOT* compatible with the earlier Pro Audio Spectrum line.

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

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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.


Prosonic 16 SCSI

Chipset: Jazz16 (MVD1216)
Mixer Chip: MVA-416
Model #: 650-0087-53
FCC ID: IXW-JAZZ16S
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.

Pro 3D / Premium 3D

Introduced: 1994
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.
Part #: 650-0122-01 (Premium 3D SCSI or Premium 3D Multi CD)
FCC ID: IXW-JAZZ16S
Price: $199 (1994)

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 (part #650-0120-01).

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.
Part #: 650-0123-01

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.

The Wave Table header could also be used with the Korg Pro Wave, just like the Pro 3D and Premium 3D cards (see above).

 

Graphics Cards

Pro Graphics 1024

Introduced: 1993?
Type: VESA Local Bus
Chipset: Media Vision MVV452
Part #:
Original Price: -

The Pro Graphics 1024 was an early graphics accelerator.

Pro Graphics 1280

Introduced: 1994?
Type: VESA Local bus
Chipset: Media Vision MVV451
Part #: -
FCC ID: -
Original Price: $295

The Pro Graphics 1280 was an early graphics accelerator.

Pro Movie Studio

Introduced: 1995
Type: VESA Local Bus
FCC ID: -

The Pro Movie Studio graphics card was a Windows 95-compatible accelerator card.