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The Secret of Monkey Island Shows Evolution of PC Audio

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the wow-this-is-a-rough-thursday dept.

Music 348

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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I think BSD acronym needs a change (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32280644)

Due to the ever dwindling usage of the BSDs and the ever increasing rabid foaming of the mouth of its users in response to this, I suggest we remake the BSD acronym from the Berkeley Software Distribution to the Butthurt Suckers Distribution. Anyone else in agreement?

They missed one... (4, Interesting)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281262)

As a child in 1993, the version that I had on my 486 had CD AUDIO. About 2% of the CD was game data, and the rest was music, the way that they had to do things before computers were powerful enough to do audio compression but when people were becoming tired of MIDI. You could listen to the audio tracks from the CD player if you started up Windows 3.1. All of the sound effects/music in Monkey Island were absolutely beautiful. Good luck finding actual CD-quality music in games today!

And by the way, the "1994-now" "CD quality" snippet is not the same game music that I had in 93. I kind of wonder which version he got it from and what format it came in.

Re:They missed one... (-1, Offtopic)

Disgruntled Goats (1635745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281342)

Mod parent down for posting under the FP to be at the top.

Mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32281512)

IIRC, that copy came out in 1992. But I know exactly what you mean. I also would like to know the answer to this!

Roland MT32 (3, Insightful)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280658)

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:Roland MT32 (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32280910)

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/

Re:Roland MT32 (1)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280930)

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.

Re:Roland MT32 (1)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281192)

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.

Re:Roland MT32 (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281118)

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.

Re:Roland MT32 (1)

VolciMaster (821873) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281454)

were you a kid in 2007? the 386 maxed-out at 40Mhz (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_80386)

Re:Roland MT32 (3, Funny)

archmcd (1789532) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281492)

I had a 386/66 when I was about 12

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

</nitpick>

Re:Roland MT32 (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281536)

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:Roland MT32 (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32281576)

I still have my MT-32. Got it hooked up to my Roland Fantom as part of my music studio. It's fun to throw some of those sounds into the mix once in a while. It actually still sounds pretty darn good for what it is.

And yeah, Leisure Suit Larry! Loved the music from those games.

I disagree! (3, Interesting)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280704)

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:I disagree! (2, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280982)

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! (3, Interesting)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281062)

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).

Re:I disagree! (2, Informative)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281216)

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, using MIDI
2. The 1997 CD re-release using CD tracks for music... but was basically the MIDI version recorded from a Roland device of some sort.
3. The 2009 remake, using digital audio... but it changes music between a version recorded from the original release on an Adlib card and one recorded by a live band when you switch between modern and classic modes.

The remake of the second game is coming later this year, most likely mid-June or mid-July.

Star Control 2 (2, Insightful)

naz404 (1282810) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281400)

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:Star Control 2 (2, Informative)

WeatherServo9 (1393327) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281596)

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 the idea a little further; instead of just playing back a sound clip it actually mixed samples together on the fly to create the music/sounds much like on the GUS version or an Amiga.

Re:I disagree! (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281628)

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 annoying, but the cut scene music was great for PC-speaker. Later, I got a SB card, and same as the X-wing comment above, was amazed at the improvement. not too long after I got a hold of the VGA version, and was floored again. That, and it was a great game I wanted to play through each of those new times.

Gravis Ultrasound -- the love and hate (1)

drewhk (1744562) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280732)

I had the PnP version. It was beautiful and horrible at the same time. Beautiful sound and horrible driver support.

Re:Gravis Ultrasound -- the love and hate (4, Funny)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280830)

I had the original GUS.

Getting a GUS and SB16 to coexist peacefully under Dos, windows 3.1, and Windows 95 is probably the apex triumph of my dos/win 9x hardware troubleshooting youth.

IRQs, DMAs, and win.ini/system.ini can rot in hell.

On the other hand, I suppose it prepared me for linux...

Re:Gravis Ultrasound -- the love and hate (1)

drewhk (1744562) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280872)

We also did a dual soundcard setup and used two instances of Winamp to mix music :)

GameBlaster (4, Insightful)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280736)

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.

Re:GameBlaster (1)

H0p313ss (811249) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280998)

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 (3, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281290)

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 (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281470)

Listening to the video the Roland does indeed bring out a whole other atmosphere/spacier/punchier to the sound.

Creative AWE64 Gold, how I miss thee (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280788)

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 :-)

Re:Creative AWE64 Gold, how I miss thee (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281032)

I still have the box ... and the card itself.

Re:Creative AWE64 Gold, how I miss thee (1)

dintech (998802) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281414)

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:Creative AWE64 Gold, how I miss thee (2, Interesting)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281064)

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 was the perfect "marriage" of our talents but she was so pissed that I didn't dare explain the hint until many years later.

Re:Creative AWE64 Gold, how I miss thee (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32281264)

Hope you didn't marry the coont. Sounds like you did, though. Sorry.

Re:Creative AWE64 Gold, how I miss thee (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32281688)

Women, amirite, guys?!?!?

Re:Creative AWE64 Gold, how I miss thee (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281110)

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 :/

The Roland MT32 is the best (4, Interesting)

macinnisrr (1103805) | more than 4 years ago | (#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

Re:The Roland MT32 is the best (1)

TibbonZero (571809) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280922)

Yea, Roland has had good instruments and samples for quite some time and when arranged properly they totally do the trick.

Re:The Roland MT32 is the best (2, Informative)

drewhk (1744562) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280950)

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.

That's because the person doing it did it wrong (3, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Roland cards (1)

Andy Smith (55346) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280818)

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 boring and lifeless.

Re:Roland cards (1)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281128)

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!

Re:Roland cards (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281448)

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 own. It is just a DSP that can do 128-voice sampling. You provide it with samples in Creative's SF2 format. Well, there's all sorts of Sound Fonts out there, most of them not very good. Put a bad sample set in it, get crap sound out. It could have sounded better had they loaded a better sample set.

Also there's the issue of reverb. Roland modules tended to have a fairly large amount of hall reverb by default, and many old games simply assumed this would be the case and didn't send commands to alter that. The X-Fi doesn't do much, if any, reverb on MIDI by default so you get a very dry sound which isn't as pleasing. The guy who recorded it should have told the X-Fi to add more reverb (it's easy to change) as well as used a better sample set.

Ugh..... (2, Informative)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Ugh..... (2, Informative)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280960)

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.

Re:Ugh..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32281466)

I agree completely, but for some reason I've yet to fully understand, the teeming masses all bought DOS machines... and now here we are.

Re:Ugh..... (3, Informative)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281698)

I agree completely, but for some reason I've yet to fully understand, the teeming masses all bought DOS machines... and now here we are.

According to Ars Technica, the top-selling computers purchased by "the masses" were the TRS-80, Commodore 64, and Amiga 500. The reason IBM PC/DOS/Windows came to dominate is because (1) Radio Shack and Commodore failed to innovate and upgrade the hardware, (2) cheap cloning of the IBM PC put them literally everywhere, and (3) businesses bought nothing but PCs.

1994-95 was the watershed year. Atari went bankrupt, Commodore went bankrupt, and Apple almost went bankrupt as well. Apple was saved by its dominance in the schools (first Apple IIs, then Macs), otherwise it too would probably be history.

Fun (4, Interesting)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280838)

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).

Re:Fun (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280896)

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...

Re:Fun (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281174)

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, not the sound chip which could have handled the load easily.

Re:Fun (2, Informative)

dintech (998802) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281490)

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 (3, Interesting)

mc6809e (214243) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Soundblaster had cd quality over 15 years ago (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32280844)

I hear they are almost ready to release a functional driver in a few years.

The Amiga (1)

Pallidrone (1423085) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280866)

I remember playing this on the Amiga 500. The Killing Game Show had pretty good graphics and a killer soundtrack when it first came out.

Re:The Amiga (1)

WarlockSquire (212901) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281236)

I always loved shadow of the beast by psygnosis, and it's sequel.
awesome graphics, awesome sound.

Old Man Heart (-1, Offtopic)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280878)

Fuck you, sonny. Back then (when I had a Gravis Ultrasound) the newly minted high school grads were already calling me grandpa. Not justified since my daughter was just being born, but whatever. 15 years later, most of the hair on my head is still brown (the salt is slowly starting to creep in, with good reason as any man with a teenage daughter can attest to), so "Old man" still grates slightly. What I've lost in twitch reflexes I've gained in wisdom, so bring it on, young boys. You might be able to kill more zombies than me, but I'm on a first-name basis with the Mayor and our State Representative. Whose mojo has more power in the real world? Hmm? When you're done with your childish little games, come talk to me ...

Re:Old Man Heart (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32280986)

Really step back and read your own post, if you sounded like you do now 15 years ago anyone would have identified you as an elderly curmudgeon.

Re:Old Man Heart (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281132)

Dude. I was already an elderly curmudgeon before I walked out of the high school doors for the last time. While my "friends" were out getting drunk, I was planning for the future. It's worked out well so far.

Re:Old Man Heart (1)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281334)

But how much fun have you had? And I don't mean "watch the game while drinking an ice cold beer straight out of the fridge", I mean "hitchhike to a festival 300 miles away with nothing but the clothes on your body and a couple of bottles of homemade wine...<Insert six days of madness>".

Re:Old Man Heart (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281326)

Anyone lost a grandpa?

The Disconnect between Artist and Gamer (1)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280888)

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.

Re:The Disconnect between Artist and Gamer (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280972)

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.

creative cards, what a waste of money (1)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280890)

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:creative cards, what a waste of money (2, Insightful)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281038)

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 surrounded by quality components instead of hype. I still use my E-MU 1212m card as the DAC for both of my computers.

Re:creative cards, what a waste of money (1)

AdamThor (995520) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281678)

Aureal was the bomb! Fight the power!

The real comparison is in music production (0, Offtopic)

macinnisrr (1103805) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280902)

I remember when I started programming basic on a 386. It had only the pc speaker. I had always been interested in music, so I had started programming with basic little beeps and such to play a melody I had written. At the time you needed to spend $50,000 to record a decent sounding professional album in a studio. Nowadays you can make a recording on par with the hits of the 90s (at least) on a $100 desktop with a $200 soundcard. And major record labels wonder why we're not convinced that the major pop acts are worth the money. The reason is they're not. The old days are gone, and anybody with the willingness to learn and a passion for music making can make just as good a product for a tiny fraction of the cost. One only needs to sell about a hundred albums at $10 each to break even nowadays (of course most mainstream pop artists don't have the first clue how to do any of this work, which is why they're so easily duped into a record contract).

DickMacInnis.com

Re:The real comparison is in music production (2, Insightful)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281214)

At the time you needed to spend $50,000 to record a decent sounding professional album in a studio. Nowadays you can make a recording on par with the hits of the 90s (at least) on a $100 desktop with a $200 soundcard. And major record labels wonder why we're not convinced that the major pop acts are worth the money.

Either this is one hell of a subtle troll, or you're smoking something crazy if you think a professional recording studio can be replaced with a few hundred bucks in computer equipment. Though I suppose you could use the computer as a microphone stand or a chair, and the packing material as budget sound baffling. And maybe you could find an audio engineer to work for free and bring along all his/her equipment and cabling. That aside, you're on crack.

Re:The real comparison is in music production (1)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281390)

Did you notice the word "hits"? A lot of the hits of the 90s can easily be emulated on any home computer these days, there's even software specifically tailored for non-musicians that easily creates generic-sounding popular music. Just add some random vocals about love, hate or some other common pop music theme, run the vocals through autotune and you're about done.

Re:The real comparison is in music production (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281580)

That might be true for a select few one-hit wonders. But perhaps I simply lack the imagination to think of U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Madonna, Nirvana, and other "hits of the 90s" bands crowding around a desktop PC to record their latest album. That recording method certainly would have imparted a much different feel to "The Joshua Tree", that's for sure.

You should get that looked at (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280928)

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

Xenon 2 on Amiga 500 (1)

fredrickleo (711335) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280936)

My favorite early computer music is still from the Amiga version of Xenon 2: Megablast

PC music didn't even come close to what was on the Amiga until like 10 years later!

Re:Xenon 2 on Amiga 500 (2, Informative)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281452)

Xenon 2 Original - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3n6BRUVAl0 [youtube.com]
Remix - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFkP6xzzTeI [youtube.com]

Not bad for a computer from 1985, eh? Notice the near-CD-quality sampling. And here's an overall compilation of Amiga music from the 80s and 90s:

Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTz5iwmtkrs [youtube.com]
Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5Eoc8VsV_M [youtube.com]
Part 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuXVy6qXyuI [youtube.com]
Part 4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1l6_mS_cnwQ [youtube.com]
Music Archive - http://www.paula8364.com/ [paula8364.com]

Remarkable evolution, and not just sound! (3, Interesting)

snarfies (115214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280954)

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.

Re:Remarkable evolution, and not just sound! (1)

Tjebbe (36955) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281144)

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

Re:Remarkable evolution, and not just sound! (1)

WeatherServo9 (1393327) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281280)

Which is odd, as the EGA adapter was released a year prior to the first Amiga!

Re:Remarkable evolution, and not just sound! (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281516)

>>>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.

Re:Remarkable evolution, and not just sound! (1)

ninjakoala (890584) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281574)

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.

Monkey Island is 1990, First "Sound Card" 1981? (1)

conner_bw (120497) | more than 4 years ago | (#32280984)

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.

Re:Monkey Island is 1990, First "Sound Card" 1981? (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281542)

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 games music in games with BSMT2000 is r (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281018)

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.

Half-Life with Aureal 3D sound (1)

Chirs (87576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281048)

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

Re:Half-Life with Aureal 3D sound (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32281194)

Yep. Haven't had a similar experience since.

Has nothing happened with sound since 1994? (1)

wrightrocket (1664871) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281116)

So, the last thing they show is CD quality sound from 1994 to present. I was at least expecting to see integrated sound on motherboards... maybe USB or Bluetooth devices, I don't know for sure, but there must be something interesting that has happened with PC Audio in the last sixteen years.

Re:Has nothing happened with sound since 1994? (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281562)

Monkey Island was made in 1990. It's possible the program gains No benefit from using later cards.

WaveBlaster? Urgh (1)

Wolfier (94144) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281136)

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.

SET BLASTER=A220 I5 D1 H5 P330 T6 (2, Interesting)

TonyXL (33244) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281146)

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!

OPL3 FTW (1)

david.given (6740) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281168)

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 version is cheating --- it's just a recording of real people playing real instruments, and what's the point of that? Not to mention that it's damned hard to do iMuse with PCM music.

So, give me those lovely warm FM tones any day, the way Michael Lands intended it to sound!

Obligatory (2, Interesting)

wynterwynd (265580) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Obligatory (1)

acohen1 (1454445) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281476)

Ahh yea, my first PC at home had a Pro Audio Spectrum 16. Also has a caddy-loading 3X CD-ROM running off the 16's 1 device SCSI controller. At the point I didn't have too much trouble getting it to work. Now I can't give 2 shits about the sound card, as long as it has digital out, I can just connect it to a surround receiver and let that do the heavy lifting. I guess the next step is to use a video card with audio on the hdmi and it really wont matter anymore.

So now do we get to hear from Audiophiles... (1)

sarkeizen (106737) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281218)

Telling us how technology X gives the music more "Transparency in the mid-range while maintaining the depth of the low-end"?

Re:So now do we get to hear from Audiophiles... (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281346)

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

Re:So now do we get to hear from Audiophiles... (1)

S-100 (1295224) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281684)

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.

Good old MIDI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32281338)

A long while back I got a Pentium 90 that came with some Turtle Beach card that used digital samples for MIDI (not certain if it was hardware or software, but it hardly matters). Then that card died. Not knowing any better, I got a SB16. How shocked was I when games started sounding awful? I didn't realize what had happened at the time (FM synthesis; grr), but eventually I learned the problem and bought a GUS ACE with its whopping 512K of RAM. Sounded great, though!

Years later I put together a system to play old DOS games, and of course my ACE went into it. Knowing it was upgradeable to 1MB of RAM, but not sure of what kind to get, I wrote Gravis asking them where I could purchase some. I got a reply that was along the lines of, "shoot, you're still using that old thing? Give us your address and we'll send you some for free!" I did, and they did. I already loved their hardware (and had a PnP for my newer machine), but this just made me appreciate the company more. I used that PnP well into the "you really should be getting a PCI card" days, and it was with sadness that I finally retired it.

Gravis, you should never have been outsold by Creative.

Oh, and their old black joystick with three red buttons (one on the stick, two on the side) was frequently used for games of Jetfighter and similar. Good old Gravis.

Audio? That's why I'm here (1)

JD-1027 (726234) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281438)

Oddly enough, I'm on slashdot right now because my XP PC laptop's audio isn't working and I didn't have time during my lunch break for the reboot that will most likely fix things. It was working fine earlier. I planned on watching some Colbert Report, but I don't read lips very well, so I came here.

What a long way we've come, indeed... ha!

Tandy Computers (1)

scottwilkins (1224922) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281450)

The first IBM compatible computer I ever owned was a Tandy. Tandy's were the only IBM type that had real sound abilities (that and 16 color ability). This was before Adlib cards and Game Blaster/Sound Blaster cards were available. Sierra Games ran great on Tandy computers, unlike any other IBM machine.

Gravis Ultrasound (1)

scottwilkins (1224922) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281532)

P.S. I miss my Gravis Ultrasound card. Still have it, but of course it's worthless due to no drivers or hardware support any more. I think it was the best sounding card I ever owned!

AC97? (1)

Tei (520358) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281462)

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

Can there be a moratorium on the phrase... (1)

blincoln (592401) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281554)

..."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!

Old audio. (2)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Wow I can hear the roar of silence. (0, Troll)

triceice (1046486) | more than 4 years ago | (#32281682)

"dripping with nostalgia" over sound cards? You old sentimental fool!! (emphasis on the fool part!)

Must be a slow day on /.

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