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Phonomenal!

1992 - 16 bits, finally also from Creative Labs, SCC-1

Sound Blaster 16

SB 16 ASP - thx to Jörg Weske
SB 16 ASP - thx to Jörg Weske
Essentially later than the competition Creative Labs came with their first 16 bits sound card to the market - the SB 16. Equipped with a 16 bits DSP, an OPL3 for the music rendering, 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 at Creative Labs, and finally, they had also put effort to clean up with the chaos of the interface of the predecessors. Unfortunately, they've done their job very thoroughly.
Generally, the consumer thinks if a product carries the same brand, backwards compatibility should be given, and on the product packet there's also a "Sound Blaster compatible". 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 data, since data is sent consecutively encapsulated 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 could dissolve only 12 bits! Many users could prove this doubt-freely 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.
Marketing is simply everything.

Nevertheless, this card found many buyers. After all also old games could often work easily with the card, and also 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.


Creative Labs Wave Blaster I
Creative Labs Wave Blaster I
Yamaha DB50XG
Yamaha DB50XG
An interesting way of expansion introduced by this card was the possibility for using an add-on card, 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...


Samples

Silpheed[OGG] [MP3]Silpheed in the version of Quest Studios on DB50XG
Rhizome[OGG] [MP3]DB50XG in its typical area - electronic music
Descent[OGG] [MP3]Descent I intro on the DB50XG - even better than SCC-1
Descent[OGG] [MP3]Descent I intro on the Wave Blaster I - lousy

Links

MobygamesGames supporting the Sound Blaster 16

Roland SCC-1

Roland SCC-1
Roland SCC-1
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.

Roland RAP-10
Roland RAP-10

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).


Samples

Monkey Island 1[OGG] [MP3]SCC-1 in MT-32 emulation mode
Silpheed[OGG] [MP3]To SCC-1 converted version by Quest Studios
Legend of Kyrandia[OGG] [MP3]This card brings sound to almost everything...
Legend of Kyrandia 2[OGG] [MP3]Closing Theme
Midi Test[OGG] [MP3]Descent I intro

Links

TMAudioInformation about the SCC-1 including links
MobygamesGames supporting MPU-401
MobygamesGames supporting the RAP-10


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