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The Secret of Monkey Island Shows Evolution of PC Audio 348

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the wow-this-is-a-rough-thursday dept.
Normally I don't have much interest in stuff like this, but this history of PC audio is dripping with nostalgia. From the bleeps and bloops of the PC Jr to the Gravis Ultrasound I lusted after while stuck with an Adlib ... it warms the cockles of my old-man heart. Not sure that Monkey Island was the right demo choice, but hey.

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The Secret of Monkey Island Shows Evolution of PC Audio

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  • Roland MT32 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nacturation (646836) * <nacturation@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Thursday May 20, 2010 @12:08PM (#32280658) Journal

    I had one of those... shelled out quite a few bucks for it too. Any Sierra game sounded absolutely amazing in it, particularly Leisure Suit Larry. Anyone else remember the elevator music? "... da dum da da dum dum dum dum, wah wah wah wah wah..."

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I picked up MT-32's expanded cousin CM-32L for 7 euros at the local auction site a few years ago. For the less fortunate (those who don't own the device), there's the Munt MT-32 emulator at http://sourceforge.net/projects/munt/

    • by Krneki (1192201)
      I bought my first Sound Blaster for Ultima Underworld II, the experience was so good I was scared to play at first. :)

      Of course I enjoyed good sound during my Amiga 500 experience, but the PC era was quiet for a moment.
      • I had a similar experience: My brother and I both started laughing hysterically when during the intro to the original XWing the imperial soldiers started talking! I had no idea that my computer could produce speech, much less properly lip-synced. It took a few days before I could watch the intro again.

    • I had a 386/66 when I was about 12 and I remember playing games using the internal speaker for sound. There was one note that when it played, would resonate with the PC case and make an awful sound. You'd be listening to the bleeps and blorps when the note would sound and kinda wreck the effect. After a while you would get used to it and if just became part of the song.
      • were you a kid in 2007? the 386 maxed-out at 40Mhz (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_80386)
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by archmcd (1789532)

        I had a 386/66 when I was about 12

        Really? A 386/66? Well I have a 5G iPhone.

        </nitpick>

      • by jank1887 (815982)

        yep, mine too. my friend and I would, erm, 'share' games, and his smaller case would resonate at different notes than my larger case. We used to laugh about it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by IorDMUX (870522)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by theaveng (1243528)

      And here's the SID chip (released 1982). Not bad eh? Certainly beats anything IBM PC or Apple could do in 1982:

      Here's Monkey Island on the Paula sound chip (released 1985). Again..... beats anything IBM PC or Apple could do in 1985 or even 1990:

      SID - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXizZ7kx_VE [youtube.com]
      Paula - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DL6HYGwEwM [youtube.com]

  • I disagree! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @12:10PM (#32280704) Journal

    Not sure that Monkey Island was the right demo choice, but hey.

    I remember playing The first 2 when they first came out, with all their beeps. Then I remember playing them in '99 for kicks on a laptop. And I remember playing them a couple years ago for the nostalgia.

    Each and every time the audio was different (though only slightly for the most recent attempt). Its crazy how hardware changes could make such a profound difference, since I assume its all the same audio code just getting executed differently. It's funny, because in '99, I thought I had mixed something up with the audio setup because it didn't sound right. No that was just how it was SUPPOSED to sound on a good audio card.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lumpy (12016)

      most of the time it was the quality of the samples in the midi instrument table.

      soundcard tech has not changed much from the first days.... the midi audio sample tables on the other hand....

      Honestly, current soundcards utterly suck compared to the better ones from a decade ago.

      • Re:I disagree! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by VGPowerlord (621254) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @12:33PM (#32281062) Homepage

        Honestly, current soundcards utterly suck compared to the better ones from a decade ago.

        Most soundcards don't bother to include a MIDI wavetable or even an FM synth any more. On Linux you need something like TiMidity. On Windows, you have the MS software synth (I forget its name).

        • But they sucked. (Score:3, Informative)

          by antdude (79039)

          But most of those MIDI sucked unless you had high quality. I remember using Yamaha SoftSynthesizer that made a big difference in MIDI! Do those high quality MIDI softwares exist today? I still have some OLD *.mid files I would like to listen under XP, 64-bit Windows 7, Linux/Debian, and Mac OS X. :(

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by VGPowerlord (621254)

      Each and every time the audio was different (though only slightly for the most recent attempt). Its crazy how hardware changes could make such a profound difference, since I assume its all the same audio code just getting executed differently. It's funny, because in '99, I thought I had mixed something up with the audio setup because it didn't sound right. No that was just how it was SUPPOSED to sound on a good audio card.

      Secret of Monkey Island also has 3 different PC versions.
      1. The original version, usin

    • Star Control 2 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by naz404 (1282810)
      Star Control 2 [wikipedia.org] was amazing - it could to speech & digitized music on the PC speaker without soundcards! For those who haven't played it, it's been open-sourced and you can download it here [sourceforge.net] complete with new remixed soundtracks.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        The idea of digitized sound through the PC Speaker was around long before Star Control 2 (1992); the earliest game I know of to do this is Czorian Siege [mobygames.com] in 1983. Of course, it was just a few short clips and was far more limited than what SC2 accomplished but it's an impressive trick and would have been surprising to hear at the time! Access Software used the trick extensively in the late 80's; I think most if not all of their later games supported this. What was interesting about SC2 though was that it took
    • by jank1887 (815982)

      It's a great demo choice. It's a game that came out at the start of the PC gaming generation. Started with CGA/pc-speaker, and has been upgraded several times with the technology over the period when PC hardware was making some of the biggest changes.

      I also remember playing it through first as CGA/speaker at a friend's house. then I got my PC (was C-128 before that) and was able to drool over the ega version. But I remember actually being impressed with the pc speaker music. the sound effects were just anno

    • by DrYak (748999) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @02:13PM (#32282690) Homepage

      Not sure that Monkey Island was the right demo choice, but hey.

      I disagree

      There's a technical problem in this demo :
      Monkey Island was designed at a time when *General* MIDI didn't exist yet and MT-32 was considered the nec plus ultra.

      As such its music was composed with that plat-from in mind and make extensive use of its capabilities and special features (uploads a lot of instrument patches, etc)

      So it's a good demo for MT-32/LAPC-1 (because that's what the music was composed for).
      And it's a good demo for everything that came before (because during production the musicians and programmer spent a great deal of time making sure that the music plays well in reduced quality. Note for example the emulation of polyphony by using arpeggios in sound cards lacking enough channels, like PC-Speaker's Mono and PCjr's 4 voices).

      But it's a BAD EXAMPLE for everything that came after-ward :
      Monkey Island simply saw a quick General MIDI patch, which enabled it to play on general midi synths by mapping the MT-32 soundtrack's (custom) instruments to their (stock) GM equivalent.
      So NONE of the cards shown afterward are used at their full potential, although using better synth technology (Wavetable synthesis for most of them) they simply play the GM approximation of the soundtrack.
      The over-all quality is so-so : stock instruments of recent card with wavetable sound better than the linear arith. synthesis of MT-32, but the General MIDI sound track lacks the customisation uploaded to the MT-32 by SysEx commands. (It would have been better if the GM enabled version did upload its own samples bank into the wavetable. Saddly not possible using strictly GM commands).
      (With perhaps the exemption of Orchid sound cards which feature full MT32 emulation instead of instrument remapping as in other "MT32 modes")

      For a *real* progression of quality, the demo should have featured the Amiga version of the game (4 sound channels only, but sample based synthesis, so indeed an improvement of quality),
      and the later VGA enhanced talkie version of the games (uses a CD soundtrack).

  • GameBlaster (Score:5, Insightful)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @12:13PM (#32280736) Homepage Journal

    I LOVED by GameBlaster. Such a major upgrade from the PC speaker. My (rich) friend got the Roland and I was jealous.

    Then years later I upgraded to the AudioBlaster and loved it. My (rich) friend got the newer Roland and I was jealous.

    Owning a computer is like owning a boat. You're always jealous of the guy in the next slip who has one just a little bit better.

    • by H0p313ss (811249)

      You're always jealous of the guy in the next slip who has one just a little bit better.

      Ain't that the truth. As a software professional I can afford and appreciate a truly sweet gaming rig, however I'm also the parent of a teenage boy so I have to defend my gaming rig from his friends and clean up the drool every time they leave.

      I'd tell them to stay off the lawn too but sometimes they actually cut it for me.

      • Re:GameBlaster (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Wrexs0ul (515885) <mmeier.racknine@com> on Thursday May 20, 2010 @01:16PM (#32281746) Homepage

        ...and 20 years from now you'll retire and he'll be the one with the PS8 :)

        The circle of life. I remember my mom upgrading her home PC (lawyer + WordPerfect = revolutionary then) back when I was scrounging family member's office throw-aways. Now she's got a 4 year old dell laptop compared to a dozen racks of 2U's.

        For all the complaining I'm glad she didn't just buy me a system though, I'd never have learned the insides (and the programming using them) without her.

        -Matt

    • Re:GameBlaster (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Kjella (173770) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @12:48PM (#32281290) Homepage

      Owning a computer is like owning a boat. You're always jealous of the guy in the next slip who has one just a little bit better.

      No, the problem with computers and the way they evolved was that you were always jealous of the guy with the fat yacht. And just when you thought you had bought a yacht, it lasted three seconds before it was a skiff. For a long time there, every computer was a big WOW. Sure, you're not running the hottest computer if you have one from 2005 but at least you don't feel like you belong in a technical museum anymore.

    • Re:GameBlaster (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmail. c o m> on Thursday May 20, 2010 @01:20PM (#32281842) Homepage

      Owning a computer is like owning a boat. You're always jealous of the guy in the next slip who has one just a little bit better.

      For the kind of person who rates his own value in terms of whether his material possessions are equal to or better than someone else's. Sure.

  • I remember how amazing the AWE64 Gold was...worth every penny I spent on it way back in the day. I still have the glossy cover that came on the front of the box, it's hanging up in my gaming room :-)

    • by c0d3g33k (102699)
      I still have the box ... and the card itself.
      • by dintech (998802)

        I have the box too. It was the perfect width for storing cassettes in, which is what I use it for to this day. It's been pretty much unopened in 10 years.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ArcherB (796902)

      I remember how amazing the AWE64 Gold was...worth every penny I spent on it way back in the day. I still have the glossy cover that came on the front of the box, it's hanging up in my gaming room :-)

      When we were dating, I bought my wife an AWE64 for her birthday with a MIDI capable keyboard w/ cables and some MIDI software. She was pissed. She saw it as me buying her computer equipment, much like Homer buying Marge a bowling ball. It wasn't until years later that I explained that it was the best gift I had ever given anyone. She was a music major and I was a computer geek. This hardware would have allowed her to create her own symphonies if she so desired, right there from my living room.

      The gift

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by arth1 (260657)

        Anyone who gets pissed when receiving presents is someone seriously spoiled and best avoided.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by danieltdp (1287734)

          Clearly you don't understand how women mind works... Women are crazy. You never know for sure how they will react. This case seems obvious because the guy told you the story, but you will never guess her reaction before hand.

          Its part of the burden men has to carry in order to have a significant other of the opposite sex

    • by JamesP (688957)

      I think these (AWE32/AWE64) were the last good Creative cards

      After that onboard audio took over and Creative jumped the shark

      With the exception of really crappy onboard cards or professional audio, 'offboard' sound cards ceased to matter

      Too bad my AWE32 (ISA!) died :/

      • by Guspaz (556486)

        I don't know, their successor, the SBLive, was pretty nice. It still did MIDI synthesis in hardware with the EMU10K1 chip, but it could stream the data out of system RAM rather than relying on onboard RAM. The advantage there was that suddenly you could have massive soundfonts that weren't restricted to the limited memory space of the AWE32/64. Polyphony also shot up.

        And the big kicker was, hardware reverb, which made MIDI sound pretty awesome.

  • by macinnisrr (1103805) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @12:17PM (#32280804)
    IMHO, listening to these side by side, that Roland MT32 is better sounding than even the cd-quality digital audio. How about that sweet marimba lead line? DickMacInnis.com
    • Yea, Roland has had good instruments and samples for quite some time and when arranged properly they totally do the trick.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by drewhk (1744562)

      I think the MIDI bank is what makes the difference here. If the composer did his work on soundcard X then it may sound badly on card Y -- because the MIDI banks use different sounds.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @12:47PM (#32281276)

      The last one is not "CD quality digital audio," other than that is was probably rendered at 48kHz, 16-bit (which would actually be DVD or DAT, not CD). It was just rendered with a soundfont on a SoundBlaster X-Fi, and not a particularly good one. The quality you get out of a sampler is only as good as the samples you put in.

      So it isn't as though this was played by a live orchestra and recorded to CD. It is the same technology as the AWE32/64 stuff, just a larger sample set, but probably not professionally done (there are lots of shitty free soundfonts online).

      What would be interesting to hear is how it would sound if given the full treatment of high quality modern professional samples. You find that you can get very realistic, high quality sample sets these days. I'm talking multiple gigabytes for a single instrument. While it still doesn't sound 100% real, you can get some really good expressiveness and realism from it.

      If I were at home I'd post a quick demo using some of the samples I have but oh well.

      At any rate, it isn't that the MT-32 was the be-all, end-all or anything, it is that the person doing the demo didn't understand what they were doing. Also I suspect the original track was composed for the MT-32. A lot of games in that era were composed for the MT-32, and then arranged for other popular devices like the Adlib.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by am 2k (217885)

        What would be interesting to hear is how it would sound if given the full treatment of high quality modern professional samples.

        Not quite what you meant, but pretty close: PPOT - Monkey Island [youtube.com].

        Real instruments and stuff like that (how quaint).

  • What struck me while WTFV (watching the f-ing video) is that the music from the Roland LAPC-1/MT-32 and Roland SCC 1 MIDI sounded best to me. From those two cards the music had a 'real' quality to it, as if it was being played by real people rather than a programmed sound card. Of course a lot of that can be credited to the musician(s) who wrote the music for those two cards, but I thought I'd share my observation anyway, moot as it may be :-)

    Least impressive music, I'd say, was the modern score. I found it

    • Roland is a pretty big name in the world of synthesizers, it wouldn't surprise me at all if the artist had been composing on a Roland keyboard, the music really does sound great.

      I wish I'd had one of those sound cards back in the day!

    • The music was likely composed for an MT-32, and the GM arrangement was probably arranged on an SC-55 (same thing as the SCC-1). That's part of it. The other part is that Roland units have very good samples. It is one thing they have always been good at, and still are. Despite having a library of samples over 100GB, I still use my SD-20 (current incarnation of the Roland Sound Canvas) for things.

      The modern score sounds like crap because they loaded a crappy Sound Font. The X-Fi doesn't have samples of its ow

  • Ugh..... (Score:3, Informative)

    by theaveng (1243528) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @12:18PM (#32280828)

    That's pretty much my "nostalgia" when it relates to 1980s and early 90s PC Audio. "Ugh". Or "ick". Or "I'm glad I bought a multimedia computer".

    I remember debating online with IBM PC fans, and how they kept insisting that the PC had better sound (and graphics) than an Atari 800, Commodore 64, or Amiga/ST. Well I guess they were "invested" and had to defend their PCs, but it wasn't even a close race. Check it out for yourself. A lot of these PC sound effects don't sound much better than my old 1977 Atari console:

    Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cETl8PhUy_E [youtube.com]
    Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_e4uwzNkUVE [youtube.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by theaveng (1243528)

      P.S.

      The Ataris, Commodores, and Amigas not only had better sound/graphics, but also had the advantage of being much cheaper to buy ($500 or less), and you didn't have the headache of non-functional software drivers. They were as easy to use as consoles - just plug'n'play. They were the computers of choice for 80s/early 90s gamers.

  • Fun (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheSpoom (715771) <{ten.00mrebu} {ta} {todhsals}> on Thursday May 20, 2010 @12:19PM (#32280838) Homepage Journal

    It's interesting; the evolution of PC audio was mostly bottlenecked by storage. We had the ability to playback full waveform sound back in the day, but we didn't have the storage capacity for it until larger hard drives and CD-ROMs came about.

    The reason that cards like Adlib were popular and in widespread use is because storing the notes of a song and using whatever music banks were available on the user's card was cheaper (storage-wise) for game developers than storing a full waveform audio track and playing it. We had waveform sound effects, of course, because they're short and thus small (though some early soundcard-using games even simulated that through the card's music banks).

    • by TheSpoom (715771)

      As a side note, I'm going to have the Monkey Island theme stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

      Doo doo, dee do do do, doo...

    • by theaveng (1243528)

      The same was true with my 1985 Amiga. It had the ability to record near-CD quality sound from any source, but the 256 kilobytes of RAM simply wasn't enough to record more than a few seconds. So the music of the day mostly consisted of on-the-fly music punctuated with voice samples from the original artist.

      As time went-on the programmers learned to use compression, and thereby squeeze the soundtrack (and video) of Dragon's Lair on 3 floppies, but it was still very limited. Limited storage was the problem,

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dintech (998802)

        But of course, the Amiga was where the .mod format was popularised. For those who are too young to remember, it was a happy combination of samples and note sequences to trigger them. This was used for the best and most varied game music at the time as well as a staple of the demo scene.

    • Re:Fun (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mc6809e (214243) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @01:03PM (#32281540)

      It's interesting; the evolution of PC audio was mostly bottlenecked by storage.

      That's not it at all. An Amiga in 1985 with 512k could run Deluxe Music Construction Set using digitized instruments. If you wanted to know what Bach's little Fugue in G-minor with a banjo sounds like, you'd just change instruments and a sampled banjo would be used to play the music.

      With just 512k the key obviously wasn't memory.

      The key for the Amiga was to have multiple DMA channels, one for each instrument, all fetching audio samples from memory at the same time and each driving a DAC at a variable rate depending on a programmable divisor and combining the results. By playing with the divisor for each DMA channel, you could change the pitch and produce many notes from one sample stored in memory. And with multiple DMA channels available, polyphonic sound was possible. Oh, and because it was DMA driven, very little CPU time was consumed.

      The real reason PC audio suffered early on because the PC wasn't meant to play much more than "beep". And early sound cards simply followed the tradition of using synthesis instead of digitization to construct noises.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      The reason that cards like Adlib were popular and in widespread use is because storing the notes of a song and using whatever music banks were available on the user's card was cheaper (storage-wise) for game developers than storing a full waveform audio track and playing it.

      You apparently weren't here when we went through this process. I was; my first PC was an IBM PC-1. The only way you could play PCM audio on a machine like that, without a Sound Blaster or similar, was to bit-bang the PC speaker from the CPU. The classic mod player 'mp' offered this as an output driver in addition to SoundBlaster and GUS support. Actually loading and converting a sample even in uncompressed format like 8-bit WAV was too much work to do this gracefully on a 4.77 MHz XT, though. A 6 MHz 286 wo

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheSpoom (715771)

        Sure, but there was a time where it was technically possible to do full digitized audio while developers continued to use synthesized audio. I'm not saying that fully digitized cards were always around, but about halfway through that video the CD quality sound starts to become possible but not done because of limitations in storage at the time.

  • During the 90s one problem I had consistently was crappy audio cards with small or otherwise inadequate wavetables, the artist would do their best to make some kickin' sounds and I'd end up hearing semi-controlled garble a lot of the time.

    I'm sad to say that because of this most of the time I just disabled sound and played the game with other music playing.

    It was only weird when some music synced up to what I was playing, purely by chance.

    • by Pojut (1027544)

      It was only weird when some music synced up to what I was playing, purely by chance.

      The SNES version of Lemmings and Tool...specifically the Ænima album. "Die Eir von Satan" matches up scarily perfect...I know it's a song about a brownie recipe, but the droning beat and the angry German, combined with the marching of the Lemmings and the waving flags...seriously, just try it for yourself. The whole album works, but ESPECIALLY that track.

  • used to buy them for $200 a pop. then i bought a cheapo hercules or whatever and never noticed a difference. built a PC with a soundmax or whatever was onboard and never noticed a difference either. since i don't sorround myself with speakers i don't care

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Skarecrow77 (1714214)

      That's because Creative is the Bose of the computer world. The bulk of the "premium" cost of creative products goes into advertising and packaging (and frivilous litigation! anybody remember Aureal?) trying to convince you that they're the best, and that's why you're paying that premium.

      After I learned this the hard way (ouch wallet), I did purchase a few $15 OEM SBlive cards at computer shows over the years, but never any of their premium packaged BS.

      The sad thing is, the EMU10K chip CAN be awesome when su

  • I had cockles [wikipedia.org]: in my heart, too, but once daily Valtrex cleared that right up.

  • by snarfies (115214) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @12:27PM (#32280954) Homepage

    I was a Commodore guy in the 80s. One of my friends had an IBM PC, and I would laugh at how primitive it was - CGA graphics and that horrible blatting from the speaker! But what REALLY got me was that he had to insert a DOS disk to load another program! I mean, just imagine - the Commodore you just turned on and it was ready to roll into action. It wasn't until many years later when I saw a system with VGA graphics and a Soundblaster - and I was still on my Commodore 128. Ooof. How theonce mighty fell.

    • by Tjebbe (36955)

      Hehe, I remember the first reviews of EGA cards, 'PC graphics now look as good as those on Amiga and MSX!'.

    • by theaveng (1243528)

      >>>I saw a system with VGA graphics and a Soundblaster - and I was still on my Commodore 128. Ooof.

      You should have upgraded to a Commodore Amiga 500 or 3000. The first had 4000 colors and the second had ~250,000 colors, plus near-CD-quality sound, plus preemptive multitasking (something not on PCs until 98). No IBM PC could keep-up with what an Amiga was doing in 1985, or 1990, respectively.

    • It's well worth noticing that the Amiga was born with the chipset that played the audio in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DL6HYGwEwM [youtube.com] - so we're talking 1985 tech in that video.

      While the Amiga version had only 32 colours, the sound was pretty rockin' for the time. Personally I only like the Roland version better in terms of sound - purely based on audio taste and not technicalities.

  • I guess those are reinterpretations of the theme or did they back port Monkey Island?

    For all practical purposes, they could have picked "Beyonce - Put a Ring On It" as the song to demo. Monkey Island is the nerd factor? I don't get it.

    • by Nimey (114278)

      It was common for games back then to fallback to the PC Speaker if there was no sound card available. It was also usual to support several types of sound hardware, such as the Adlib, Tandy, GUS, Roland MT-32, and Sound Blaster.

      Yes, I was around back then.

  • For arcade /pinball games the music in games with BSMT2000 is real good.

    The battletoads arcade has much better sound then the console vers of it.

  • With a surround-sound setup and a Vortex 2 card, Half-Life was awesome!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anaerin (905998)

      It amazes me that Aureal A3D still is more detailed and acoustically correct than the latest revision of EAX. Proper occlusion and reflection on 3D-positioned sounds in A3D Vs. varying levels of reverb in EAX. Why did Creative win that particular battle?

  • It sounded aweful in most anything compared with the Roland SCC-1, which IMHO bests the CD quality audio. The maker of that video seemed to be fooled by its slightly newer age.

  • My first card was the Sound Blaster 16 (non-ASP). Bought over the Pro Audio Spectrum 16. Later I got the Roland Sound Canvass Daughterboard, an obscure card that plugged right into the SB16 and greatly improved the MIDI quality. Creative offered the WaveBlaster which was similar.

    Came with a ton of software including:

    DR. SBAITSO!

  • To me, the FM synth version sounds the best.

    I think it's an uncanny valley issue. The MIDI versions are trying to sound realistic without being realistic enough, resulting in that classic and very distinctive GM effect. (Not to mention the traditional problem with any form of GM music in that patch sets are so dissimilar that anything that sounds good on one device will suck on another. Consider that all the MIDI synths in that video are likely to be playing the same piece of music.) And the CD audio vers

    • by dintech (998802)

      I couldn't agree more. The burbling Adlib version of the Largo Le Grande theme is one of my most favourite pieces of computer game music ever. The general midi version just doesn't have the same atmosphere.

  • Obligatory (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wynterwynd (265580) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @12:40PM (#32281172)

    That's the second oldest monkey theme I've ever heard!

    My Pro Audio Spectrum 16 sounded great, when I could get it to sound at all. Half the time I had to use SB/Adlib compatibility modes. Had a bitch of a time trying to get it to work on later games, eventually traded up to a SB.

    These days I barely even think about sound cards, I suppose because they're now basically just fancier and fancier amplifiers and mixers. I suppose the home sound studio and audiophiles will always want the next new shiny, but there's only so much innovation you can do with audio data before you have to modify the output devices. You have to wonder how Creative stays in business, I can't think of a significant advance in sound hardware in many years that wasn't fully dependent on your speaker setup.

  • Telling us how technology X gives the music more "Transparency in the mid-range while maintaining the depth of the low-end"?
    • by Pojut (1027544)

      No, but they will tell you how the mid-range is full-sounding while the high range has just a flutter of harshness ;-)

    • by S-100 (1295224)
      Well, the article doesn't describe "PC audio" as much as it described "PC game audio". There were many high fidelity audio I/O systems for PCs long before they showed up as boards for gamers. Back in the mid-80's Ariel Corp had a true 16-bit stereo I/O board for the PC, and they even developed a dedicated SCSI disk I/O system that would allow for real-time recording and playback of uncompressed 16-bit stereo audio. Sure it cost more than the PC itself most of the time, but it was cutting edge at the time
  • by Tei (520358)

    I would have loved to be a bit of a joke. Finishing the video showing a mothercard with a red circle around a tiny chip. A good end after the really giganteous cards show in the video.

    Oh, let me add that Bad Company 2 process all his video in the CPU, because is faster that way.

    It seems, that the future for audio will be one of the 64 cores of the CPU dedicated to audio.. or something like that :-P

  • ..."bleeps and bloops"? Seriously, I know I'm getting a bit old, but I've been seeing that exact same phrase used in articles about videogame sound and music literally for decades now. Most people who play games today probably don't even remember when the sound was that primitive, because they weren't born yet. At least come up with a different way of describing it!

  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @01:09PM (#32281634)

    I have fond memories of the PCjr's 3-channel audio. Not only did it produce a unique sound, but it allowed for simultaneous sound effects and music. What was really interesting was that about when consumer-level sound cards really began entering the market a few game developers were getting digitized audio out of PC speakers. The audio was very grainy, but it was nonetheless impressive.

    The early versions of that music still appeal to me more than the later, higher quality variations. I think they had more character, kind of like the difference between 2D sprites and polished 3D graphics. The later versions sound more generic to me. And I feel like the melody is buried under the percussion in the later versions.

  • by cecom (698048) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @01:15PM (#32281726) Homepage Journal
    I remember there were games which managed to generate very impressive sounds from the good old PC speaker using pulse-width modulation. It was pretty impressive when you suddenly heard _real_ sound from your PC speaker for the first time. I was like "what the hell is going on??"
  • by shippo (166521) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @03:28PM (#32283718)

    I bought a good number of sound cards over that period.

    I started with a cheap Soundblaster clone called the Thunderboard. It offered Adlib compatibility, which was enough for games music. The card was somewhat noisy when playing audio and not always compatible. It did, however, have native drivers with Windows 3.1 when that finally appeared.

    The next card was an early wavetable card from Orchid. I wanted a Roland but couldn't afford one, so went for this thing instead. The card supported the GM sound set, but also roughly emulated a Roland device. It also emulated Adlib playback, but had severe compatibility issues when it came to playing back wave audio.

    A few months later I acquired a Soundblaster PRO. Finally I had stereo PCM, but also updated the FM synthesis to OPL3. Finding games that supported OPL3 was tricky, but when they did appear the sound was phenomenal, with big 'farty' bass sounds.

    Eventually my old PC became obsolete so I upgraded to something new. That came fitted with it's own adequate Soundblaster 16 clone from Opti, but went back to OPL2 for FM. It lacked any wavetable facilities onboard, but had a slot for a daughter-board that offered the feature. Unfortunately I could never find anything to fit that slot.

    Then I picked up a Yamaha XG wavetable board that was probably the last in wavetable technology. The XG soundset added many more instruments to GM, together with a whole other set of parameters that could be tweaked. By then, of course, most games were abandoning external music sources, so it was only really used for other projects. I've still got this card at home, but lack anything with an ISA slot to fit it to.

    I'm pretty sure I also picked up another cheap Soundblaster clone around this time too, as the card originally fitted into the PC wasn't compatible with the latest version of DirectX requited by one game. Again

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