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This video got me all nostalgic and thinking about the audio devices I’ve had over the years:

It’s hard to remember the order of all these but here’s what I can piece together:

  • PC Speaker on my 4/8mhz (turbo) LANPAR IBM PC – It was nearly intolerable to listen to but I still enjoyed it, I thought it was amazing and I found music like the Monkey Island theme (in the video above) and Leisure Suit Larry’s theme very catchy.
  • Covox Sound Master – This was only supported by a few games and was probably the first time I was burned by buying new hardware that wound up gaining no popular support.
  • CMS Game Blaster – I had this instead of an Adlib card. The Game Blaster had less support than the Adlib but technically sounded better. I wouldn’t say I got ‘burned’ but I definitely should have gotten an Adlib instead.
  • Sound BlasterThe Sound Blaster was supported by nearly all games, which was great. This was the my first “painless” experience with PC audio. (Not sure if this came before or after the Gravis Ultrasound.)
  • Gravis Ultrasound – I was into game development at the time and got a free one of these from Gravis’s developer program which was awesome. I seem to remember upgrading the onboard RAM but I have no idea why I would do that. The Gravis had OK support but wasn’t as universal as the Sound Blaster I believe. It could play MODs and S3Ms (could the Sound Blaster? I can’t remember), which was fantastic.
  • Sound Blaster AWE64I was trying to “get serious” about music production. I got a RAM upgrade for the AWE64 so it could load larger Soundfonts. I never really used Soundfonts much.
  • Various onboard sound devices – Computers became powerful enough I didn’t need specialized hardware for games and MOD/S3M trackers.
  • Echo Darla (20 bit) – this was my first “pro” sound card, with low latency drivers and so on. It was expensive and it was such a bastard. It conflicted with nearly everything in every system I ever put it into. When it worked it was great, when it didn’t I was in a world of IRQ conflicts and buffer sizes and beta ASIO drivers and random crashes and bullshit. I still have it in a box and when I look at it my eye twitches.
  • M-Audio Delta 66 – This is what I’m using now on my desktop/recording machine. I should have bought the Delta 44 instead since it was $50 cheaper and I never use the Digital I/O. But it’s been rock solid and I’ve had no problems. I think about upgrading sometimes but I can’t think of any reason to.

Also additional mobile devices:

  • Edirol UA-1EX – This is a little USB gizmo that works pretty good, low-latency ASIO performance to any device I’ve tried. I bought it thinking maybe I’d use it for live performance but it seemed a bit un-pro. Now I use it on my live synth computer plugged into a DI and it’s been working well.
  • M-Audio FireWire 410 – I bought this for live performance and it was way too erratic. It would click, crash and sometimes just not be recognized by the computer. I went through several different FireWire cards and eventually gave up.
  • MOTU Ultralite mk3 – More FireWire awfulness initially – had to buy a FireWire card for my laptop with a Texas Instruments chipset. Then a weird German adapter to keep the card from wiggling around in the slot. Now it’s been rock solid stable – as long as you keep the wifi on the laptop disabled or else it emits an intermittent high pitched sound.

Man, that list makes me frustrated just looking at it.

Posted on - May 20, 2010 [at] 7:20 pm by Brad
Tagged in - ,

3 Comments on this post

fluffy on My PC Audio History
May 20, 2010 at 8:18 pm

You could play MODs and S3Ms on anything that allowed PCM output (there were even things for doing it on the PC speaker and parallel-port resistor DACs), but it required a decent amount of CPU. The GUS was basically the first programmable wavetable sound card for PCs.

The funny thing is of course that everything old is new again, and now pretty much every platform has gone back to software-mixed audio instead of using hardware for that.

My first real soundcard (not counting a parallel-port resistor DAC) was a Pro Audio Spectrum 16, which was a great card which never got nearly enough love. It was way better than the SB16, but unfortunately its SoundBlaster compatibility left a bit to be desired (and it didn’t support SBPro or SB16 at all).

Brad on My PC Audio History
May 20, 2010 at 8:25 pm

That’s interesting — maybe it was more the CPU that was the bottleneck for my MOD/S3M stuff. I do seem to remember it picking up after I got my first 386.

Seems like a lot of the cards available at the time were better than Sound Blasters. Many friends of mine had Turtle Beach cards and were variably happy and disappointed with the support.

Ryan Hillier on My PC Audio History
June 8, 2010 at 2:15 am

My god, the Gravis Ultrasound. I had an awful time trying to configure that thing with some games.

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