1992 - 16 bits, finally also from Creative Labs, SCC-1
Sound Blaster 16
SB 16 ASP - thx to Jörg Weske
Substantially later than its competition Creative Labs brought their first 16 bits sound card to the market - the SB 16. Equipped with a 16 bits DSP, an OPL3 for FM music playback, as well as in extended versions with an ASP ("Advanced Signal Processor" - for compression, language synthesis), and an interface for expansion boards, this card should sweep all other competitors from the market.
Full CD quality with 16 bits and 44,1 Khz was finally also possible with a Creative Labs card, and finally, they had also put effort to clean up the interface chaos of its predecessors. Unfortunately, they've done their job very thoroughly.
Generally, the consumer thinks that if a product carries the same brand, backwards compatibility is given. And by looking on the product packet, you also see there's a "Sound Blaster compatible" written on it. Therefore everything should be ok, shouldn't it? Yes, because the imprint didn't lie... the card is actually SB-compatible - nonetheless, however, not SB Pro compatible! Admittedly the card plays along without complaints if you use it as SB Pro compatible, and returns also everything with the correct frequency. However, there was a little point, that they forgot in the pre-delivery inspection - the card could not play stereo while being in SB Pro mode! This manifested itself in a very twisted (mono) playback of stereo samples, since samples are being sent interleaved to the card, alterning left and right.
Creative will officially probably never call this a bug. It is however already peculiar funny if the card processes the rest of the SB Pro commands, and only fails at this point....
They seemingly also cheated in some other aspects. Namely, the ADC (Analogue Digital Converter) could dissolve only 12 bits! Many users could prove this in their attempts, however this has never been officially confirmed. That is even more tragic, as exactly these 12 bits were seen as the disadvantage of the AdLib Gold compared to this card.
Sometimes, marketing is simply everything.
Nevertheless, this card found many buyers. After all old games could often work easily with the card, and upcoming games adapted this card very fast, thanks to Creative's support. So, also this card placed a quasi standard again, that could not be broken by anybody else. The integrated ASP of the more expensive models however was practically never used. Probably also, because they - contrary to the usual practice - never disclosed any direct programming guides. Developers should use the delivered drivers, which most users probably just uninstalled since it was taking up the precious lower 640KByte RAM.
Creative Labs Wave Blaster I
This card introduced the possibility of using an add-on card, for example to extend it by a wave table. Finally newer games could be played without the pathetic FM playback. While they didn't land a hit with their own "Wave Blaster I", many other companies offered such boards as well, and could easily pass the WB I.
It shouldn't take too long that competition offered this extension interface on their cards, too...
Another pure MIDI card of the house Roland was developed, this time based on the external Sound Canvas module SC-55. Also this one was primarily targeted at professional musicians, and represented the first PC card with Roland's expansion of the General MIDI standard, General Synthesizer (GS).
The card has got 24 channels, that were fed with 16 bits PCM samples from the 4 MB sized sample ROM, and were mixed with 44,1 Khz resolution. Also here is valid, as with the LAPC-1, that 24 channels doesn't mean 24 different instruments playing simultaneously. However it's not as extreme as with the LAPC-1, 16 Instruments could be played, 16 times multitimbral here. The ROM content was compressed and included 317 sounds in the first, 354 sounds in the second version of the card.
There was an MPU401 compatible interface on board as well, consequently it was supported by almost each side - the card was plugged in and did its work. No drivers, no unnecessary hurdles.
Additionally, the card offered chorus capability, in opposite to the LAPC-1 that only supported reverb/delay. The card could also be brought into MT-32 compatible mode, but no samples could be uploaded! Games doing this - and their amount was quite not little - didn't sound like on the original LAPC-1.
However you shouldn't go on the card this way, because it presumably represents until today the highest of the feelings when dealing with MIDI playback! It's valid also here: I shouldn't talk about it, you have to hear it!
As always, you buy good with Roland, but definitely not cheap. The card was prized at about $500 - approximately the same, as the LAPC-1, also still temporary sold parallel.
Trough this it is, as the LAPC-1, a rarity, and only hard vs. expensive to get in hands.
The RAP-10 should be mentioned as well, which approximately hit the market one year later. This was the first consumer card by Roland, which also mastered sampling on CD niveau. The MIDI part was with 128 instruments (based on the SC-7 module) in opposite to the SCC a bit shortened, but otherwise identical. Though this card was intended only for Windows use, it was supported by not a few games, either directly as RAP-10, but also indirectly (MPU401/SCC-1).