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82-T/A

So... tell me about the Gravis Ultrasound?

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Back in the day... and I'm meaning the mid 1990s. I worked at CompUSA during the Summer and bought a bunch of cards.

 

I'd spend money on computer parts, and was always trying to improve my computer by upgrading to a better sound card. At one point I had a Gravis UltraSound MAX. It was a pretty neat card, played stuff in General Midi... and it also supported OPL2 / Yamaha and Sound Blaster stuff.

 

It was a pain in the ass, required a lot of drivers, and really... aside from the General Midi... the Sound Blaster side of it just totally sucked.

 

So I sold it and upgraded to a Sound Blaster 16, and then eventually bought a Roland SCC-1 (for $32 bucks from my friend who ended up majoring in music and didn't want it anymore).

 

 

I still liked some aspects of the Gravis Ultrasound, so I bought a Gravis Ultrasound ACE. The ACE was nice because I could still load patches, but it didn't try to do Sound Blaster emulation. This made it a great companion to the Sound Blaster 16. For a while, I had the Sound Blaster 16 ASP, a Roland SCC-1, and a Gravis UltraSound ACE.

 

I got tired of having literally three sound cards, so I got rid of the ACE.

 

 

 

Occasionally when I'm bored, I go looking on eBay, and the Gravis UltraSound cards always sell for INSANE prices... I mean totally insane. The crappiest one usually goes for $300 bucks... like... no one would ever even want it. There's a MAX for sale right now that's over $900 bucks.

 

The ACE, the last one I had, is probably so insanely rare that if it popped up on eBay, it would be over $1,000 bucks.

 

 

Other than Star Control 2, there was never a single game that I could find that ever used the Gravis Ultrasound natively. For those who have ever played Star Control 2, it's crystal clear with the Gravis Ultrasound, where as you get a constant fuzz from the Sound Blaster and every other card.

 

 

So aside from Star Control 2... what is the huge demand for that card? What am I missing that I'm not understanding? Why are they commanding such high prices?

 

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I love the GUS, but not for any practical reason. I still have my GUS ACE CIB, and Ill never sell it. I also have a couple of GUS Classics that are great too. They were really popular BITD for demo scene and tracker music as much as for games, probably more.

 

Today, a Roland or Yamaha GM card offers better fidelity, but the GUS has a unique sound. Its not technically GM because it doesnt meet the specifications, but its patch-based synthesis was worlds better than the Sound Blasters FM synthesis.

 

There are some DOS games made by Epic such as Epic Pinball and One Must Fall that are great with GUS, especially because they have no GM option.

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If youre interested in hearing the difference among wavetable sets, I created this thread on Vogons. It includes the GUS.

 

https://www.vogons.org/viewtopic.php?f=62&t=50552

 

Holy cow, that was a lot of work. Well done! Would you happen to have a MIDI of the Gods intro theme or was that recorded directly from the game?

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Holy cow, that was a lot of work. Well done! Would you happen to have a MIDI of the Gods intro theme or was that recorded directly from the game?

Thanks! I recorded directly from the game or from setup programs that allow you to test your sound card. It was the former for Gods, so no MIDI file. I used a Sound Blaster Pro BITD with Gods, and when I acquired an MT-32 several years ago I finally realized what all the fuss was about!

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Thanks! I recorded directly from the game or from setup programs that allow you to test your sound card. It was the former for Gods, so no MIDI file. I used a Sound Blaster Pro BITD with Gods, and when I acquired an MT-32 several years ago I finally realized what all the fuss was about!

 

Yes! I totally agree, that was amazing!!! That's a LOT of work!!!!

 

 

I guess you're right about the Ultrasound. I'm just amazed at the prices.

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Yes! I totally agree, that was amazing!!! That's a LOT of work!!!!

 

 

I guess you're right about the Ultrasound. I'm just amazed at the prices.

Id say that the BIN prices for the GUS right now are a bit ... aspirational. GUS usually goes for between $150-$300, depending on the model and whether it comes with the box, etc. Sometimes you can find a good old working GUS Classic for less than $100, and then Id say youre doing alright.

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The GUS is totally necessary if one is going to explore the MS-Dos demoscene, with native hardware anyway.

 

Again, "going native", the GUS is great fun in the dark world of DOS... Lots of games support it, and they often sound better then the SB. They at least sound different... Which makes it interesting

 

 

The GUS was very popular in the demoscene because it's essentially a programmable music microcontroller... In a way. It offloads all the sound processing, MIDI wavetable and music (tracking style at least) to a card so the game can take total use of the CPU and memory.

 

My favorite thing about the GUS tho is a little TSR program called CAPAMOD. It runs mod file in the background in DOS while you can do pretty much anything.

 

I used it to build a menu system GUI, and it plays music from a folder full of mod files, picked by a random number at bootup. Between that, batch scripts, and jpeg viewers I built my own little custom game menu system. The SB plays sound effects while the GUS handles the music.

 

So, yeah... Love the GUS. I wish someone would make a run of ACEs for us retro rig dudes.

 

My fav combo...

Sound Blaster AWE64 Gold

GUS Ace

Roland Scc-1

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The GUS is totally necessary if one is going to explore the MS-Dos demoscene, with native hardware anyway.

 

Again, "going native", the GUS is great fun in the dark world of DOS... Lots of games support it, and they often sound better then the SB. They at least sound different... Which makes it interesting

 

 

The GUS was very popular in the demoscene because it's essentially a programmable music microcontroller... In a way. It offloads all the sound processing, MIDI wavetable and music (tracking style at least) to a card so the game can take total use of the CPU and memory.

 

My favorite thing about the GUS tho is a little TSR program called CAPAMOD. It runs mod file in the background in DOS while you can do pretty much anything.

 

I used it to build a menu system GUI, and it plays music from a folder full of mod files, picked by a random number at bootup. Between that, batch scripts, and jpeg viewers I built my own little custom game menu system. The SB plays sound effects while the GUS handles the music.

 

So, yeah... Love the GUS. I wish someone would make a run of ACEs for us retro rig dudes.

 

My fav combo...

Sound Blaster AWE64 Gold

GUS Ace

Roland Scc-1

 

 

Yeah... if anyone here HAS a GUS.. check out Star Control 2. The "mod" files (remember those?) it plays throughout the game are done instead using native capability, rather than through the normal Sound Blaster.

 

I'm curious how you have three General Midi - compatible cards in your computer? If I'm not mistaken, there are only two address spaces that are typically reserved for General MIDI... it's like 300 or 330 or something?

 

I've got the Sound Blaster 16 ASP because it requires no drivers at all.... just the "SET BLASTER" comments in the AutoExec… I assume the AWE32 requires all the stuff to be loaded? How is the General MIDI on that card? (Guess I'll go to Vogons and listen to BoxPressed's recordings).

 

 

EDIT: wow... this is nuts... this guy was able to do it! hahah...

 

https://www.vogons.org/viewtopic.php?t=37996

Edited by 82-T/A
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I actually got all three to coexist. The MIDI didn't present much of a conflict. It was the Adlib that was a big hurdle. The SB and most GUS models monitor 288h memory location, which is where the Adlib interface is. The GUS won't play Adlib natively, but it still monitors that address (it needs it's crazy and buggy TSR program called SBOS to be running, which makes it emulate a Sound Blaster... And also an Adlib, but I never use SBOS because there's already an real SB on the motherboard).

 

Anyway, if I had two cards monitoring that address, neither of them would play Adlib music, which is used in a lot of early DOS games. That's why I love the ACE... It has a jumper on it to disable the Adlib monitoring on it.

 

Turned out all I really needed was a motherboard BIOs update and that fixed the Adlib thing, and the SB could play it fine. By the time I figured that out tho, I had already tried every model of GUS in my machine (except the Extreme, which is really rare).

 

The reason I'm telling you all of this is because I had to figure all this out myself. I spent hours researching this online when I was getting it set up and there was almost no information at the time. Maybe this will help you or someone else in the future.

 

The ACE is also cool because it's as simple as you can get for adding Ultrasound functionality (unless you count DosBox... Heh). There's no recording DMA or IRQ to set up (why would you want to, right?), And no crazy CD-rom interface or anything like that. Also demos, Dos and games like it better then the GUS plug and play, long story short. Also you can upgrade it to 1mb by finding another memory chip on an old graphics card and chopping it off with a razor blade and plucking it into the slot. This is another thing I figured out myself, but I doubt revealing it will set the world on fire.

 

There were two other things I wanted to respond on with your post...

 

Oh, the sound blaster AWE64 cards are great and the ones I recommend. Even tho they are plug-and-play, which was a Win95 thing, they still work great in DOS since Creative made a pretty good utility that lets you modify the settings, at least reasonably well. A lot of people like the SB16 since that's truly DOS native and has a better OPL (Adlib) chip, but the lack of onboard MIDI and the AWE features (which some games take advantage of and sound great and awesomely 90s cheesy) make the AWE my fav.

 

The budget AWE64 was mass produced and a lot easier to find then the AWE32... And it works almost the same way. Also it's a MUCH simpler board so it's less likely to break. The AWE64 Gold is a lot harder to find. It had more memory on it, but the only way to use it (unless you are a musician, as opposed to a retro gamer) is to load a different "sound-font" on it if you want to use it to play MIDI files. It's a nice novelty, but hard to justify unless you just want to show it off or geek out to MIDI music.

 

Oh Star Control 2.

 

My fav game.

 

That was the HARDEST game to get to work on the GUS in my system. I finally figured it out, so here's that exclusive bit of info...

 

You have to zero out your BLASTER= variable.

 

It took forever to discover this, but yeah... That magically worked. 95% of games work seamlessly sound-wise in my system with multiple sound cards (I even had a Diamond Monster pci sound card in it also at one point) just by picking the one you want in the game's setup and obviously the correct IRQs and such... but Star Control 2 would NOT run on the GUS.

 

... Until I erased the BLASTER environment variable. Then... voila!

 

So yeah... Oh, and here's my system IRQ/DMA/etc sound settings in case they are useful...

 

SB AWE 64

Base 220

Irq 5

Dma 1

High dma 5

Midi 300

AWE32 620

 

Roland Scc-1

Midi 330

Irq 3

 

Gus ACE

Base 260

Irq 7

Dma 6

Edited by CaptainBreakout
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I actually got all three to coexist. The MIDI didn't present much of a conflict. It was the Adlib that was a big hurdle. The SB and most GUS models monitor 288h memory location, which is where the Adlib interface is. The GUS won't play Adlib natively, but it still monitors that address (it needs it's crazy and buggy TSR program called SBOS to be running, which makes it emulate a Sound Blaster... And also an Adlib, but I never use SBOS because there's already an real SB on the motherboard).

 

Anyway, if I had two cards monitoring that address, neither of them would play Adlib music, which is used in a lot of early DOS games. That's why I love the ACE... It has a jumper on it to disable the Adlib monitoring on it.

 

Turned out all I really needed was a motherboard BIOs update and that fixed the Adlib thing, and the SB could play it fine. By the time I figured that out tho, I had already tried every model of GUS in my machine (except the Extreme, which is really rare).

 

The reason I'm telling you all of this is because I had to figure all this out myself. I spent hours researching this online when I was getting it set up and there was almost no information at the time. Maybe this will help you or someone else in the future.

 

The ACE is also cool because it's as simple as you can get for adding Ultrasound functionality (unless you count DosBox... Heh). There's no recording DMA or IRQ to set up (why would you want to, right?), And no crazy CD-rom interface or anything like that. Also demos, Dos and games like it better then the GUS plug and play, long story short. Also you can upgrade it to 1mb by finding another memory chip on an old graphics card and chopping it off with a razor blade and plucking it into the slot. This is another thing I figured out myself, but I doubt revealing it will set the world on fire.

 

There were two other things I wanted to respond on with your post...

 

Oh, the sound blaster AWE64 cards are great and the ones I recommend. Even tho they are plug-and-play, which was a Win95 thing, they still work great in DOS since Creative made a pretty good utility that lets you modify the settings, at least reasonably well. A lot of people like the SB16 since that's truly DOS native and has a better OPL (Adlib) chip, but the lack of onboard MIDI and the AWE features (which some games take advantage of and sound great and awesomely 90s cheesy) make the AWE my fav.

 

The budget AWE64 was mass produced and a lot easier to find then the AWE32... And it works almost the same way. Also it's a MUCH simpler board so it's less likely to break. The AWE64 Gold is a lot harder to find. It had more memory on it, but the only way to use it (unless you are a musician, as opposed to a retro gamer) is to load a different "sound-font" on it if you want to use it to play MIDI files. It's a nice novelty, but hard to justify unless you just want to show it off or geek out to MIDI music.

 

Oh Star Control 2.

 

My fav game.

 

That was the HARDEST game to get to work on the GUS in my system. I finally figured it out, so here's that exclusive bit of info...

 

You have to zero out your BLASTER= variable.

 

It took forever to discover this, but yeah... That magically worked. 95% of games work seamlessly sound-wise in my system with multiple sound cards (I even had a Diamond Monster pci sound card in it also at one point) just by picking the one you want in the game's setup and obviously the correct IRQs and such... but Star Control 2 would NOT run on the GUS.

 

... Until I erased the BLASTER environment variable. Then... voila!

 

So yeah... Oh, and here's my system IRQ/DMA/etc sound settings in case they are useful...

 

SB AWE 64

Base 220

Irq 5

Dma 1

High dma 5

Midi 300

AWE32 620

 

Roland Scc-1

Midi 330

Irq 3

 

Gus ACE

Base 260

Irq 7

Dma 6

 

 

That is a feat... for lack of a better word... I can remember just having to figure out how to get everything to sit comfortably together with multiple COMM ports and Parallel ports all conflicting with my Sound Blaster and whatever else I had in there... let alone having to deal with ~7 or whatever sound cards.

 

Yeah, I'm kind of wishing I had never gotten rid of my Gravis Ultrasound ACE. I liked the normal GUS that I had... and at the time I bought it, it allowed me to support General MIDI games without spending tons of money. Later on after I upgraded a few times, I ended up getting the ACE, and after a while, I found myself never using it so I sold it. It was a great card though!

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My favorite retro PC is an AMD K6-3+ that I can set to run from 133 MHz to 550 MHz with a couple of button presses and keystrokes. From there, disabling caches can get it to run at 486 speeds if need be without any TSRs.

 

Inside, I have an AWE32 CT2760 with 32MB RAM onboard. I usually keep a 4MB Diamond wavetable daughtercard on it (it has a Dream ROM that is Roland patches). Then a GUS ACE. So I have OPL3 FM, great GM from the hardware wavetable, and the ability to load some impressive patch sets into RAM, plus the GUS of course. No MT-32, but I can always hook up the external module if I need it.

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In my experience, the SB Live was... lacking... in compatibility with any game that came before it.

 

The SB-Live was a windows-in-mind card, with DOS as an after thought. I gave it a chance. Lots really. The SB AWE really tried to be backwards compatible, and I feel they succeeded, and gave the games a good wavetable platform to be in, plus SB native compatibility. The SB Live got too many steps away from native DOS and, well, if you want it to run DOS games, um... it's a struggle I'd say. As a card of it's time tho, the SB Live is great.

 

The GUS, however, really is it's own thing. It's sad that line of tech enthusiasm died (or got really marginalized or something... anyways I'm onboard the good ship GUS, riding proudly with the other ghosts.).

 

Still, it's a great card to play around with and can give you amazing audible results with the right vintage system and effort.

 

In my real world existence, I was on a crew to put up a party celebrating Creative's anniversary (about 8 years ago). I was putting flower centerpieces on tables in an expensive hotel for a Creative company party. I felt like a suppressed cultural representative, wishing I could go up to someone in charge and say... Do you have any idea who GRAVIS was?

 

History is written by the victorious.

 

hehe. little did they know.

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Comparing the GUS to the SB Live! is comparing apples to oranges. The original GUS was meant for DOS games and programs, while the Live! was barely in the Windows 98 era (more ME and XP). One was an ISA card, the other PCI. The Live! was interesting because it offered SB16 emulation (while most other PCI sound cards had SB Pro). I think the Live! has a pretty good software wavetable (better than that of the Aureal Vortex 2 but not as good as cards based on the Yamaha YMF724), but it is a really hard card to match drivers to unless you have the original install CD it came with.

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I love the GUS! I worked my butt off during the summer of 92 to save up to buy one for my 386. That one died at some point, but I am lucky enough to have a working one now, plus a spare. It's the only sound card that I have in my DOS gaming machine.

 

Probably my favorite game to play using it was X-Wing, because you could do Sound Blaster emulation for the sound effects/speech, plus Roland emulation for the music. Someone mentioned Epic Pinball, which I also played the crap out of back then. Pot o' Gold was my favorite table, probably just because I loved the music. Blackthorne was another cool game with native GUS support. I did play Star Control 2 back then (and it's one of my all time favorite games), but I don't remember having to do anything super-wonky to get it to work...

 

Fun fact - I actually own the website gravisultrasound.com. It's a crappy site as far as looks go, but I think it is the largest repository of GUS-related files anywhere on the web.

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Yes, after I stopped actively collecting for Intellivision and Colecovision, I turned most of attention to ISA sound cards, especially those with wavetables. Prices for Roland, Yamaha, and GUS are sky high now, even for relatively common Creative Labs cards like non-PNP SB16s.

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Man, I completely missed the boat on the more esoteric sound cards from the DOS era, like the GUS or the Roland MT-32. I grew up with a SB AWE32 and always felt it sounded great, so when I picked up a retro system (P1, 166mhz) a few years back, that's the card I went for. It still sounds like I remember, but now hearing samples from these other wavetable sound cards, I realize how lacking it is in comparison.

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Wow. That's all I have to say.

 

I hesitate to make a list of what I've got, considering that I might be tempted to sell out. I've got probably 2 dozen rare sound cards.

 

Sheesh. Who knew?

 

I told a friend at work today... "thirteen years ago I told anyone who was throwing out a PC... check the sound card... if it's not green, pull it! Keep it! It's probably worth something. ... and even if IS green, check it... the Roland cards were always green and you shouldn't toss those!"

Edited by CaptainBreakout
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Wow. That's all I have to say.

 

I hesitate to make a list of what I've got, considering that I might be tempted to sell out. I've got probably 2 dozen rare sound cards.

 

Sheesh. Who knew?

 

I told a friend at work today... "thirteen years ago I told anyone who was throwing out a PC... check the sound card... if it's not green, pull it! Keep it! It's probably worth something. ... and even if IS green, check it... the Roland cards were always green and you shouldn't toss those!"

 

Just to tempt you, here's my restaurant-review like legend for ISA (not PCI) sound card makes (with wavetable):

 

$$$$$ = Roland/Yamaha

$$$$ = Turtle Beach/Mediatrix/Advanced Gravis

$$$ = Ensoniq (not Opus or Vivo)/Guillemot

$$ = Creative Labs AWE32 (non-PNP) or AWE64 Gold

$ = "No name" Crystal/Admos/ESS-based cards

Edited by boxpressed

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Just to tempt you, here's my restaurant-review like legend for ISA (not PCI) sound card makes (with wavetable):

 

$$$$$ = Roland/Yamaha

$$$$ = Turtle Beach/Mediatrix/Advanced Gravis

$$$ = Ensoniq (not Opus or Vivo)/Guillemot

$$ = Creative Labs AWE32 (non-PNP) or AWE64 Gold

$ = "No name" Crystal/Admos/ESS-based cards

 

Hmm interesting!

 

It surprises me that Turtle Beach is right up there with Gravis. They weren't even on my radar.

 

What would you rate a pro audio spectrum, original Adlib/Adlib gold, or Diamond Monster Sound w/daughterboard (even tho that last one is a PCI). How about 1st Gen Sound Blaster?

 

GUS Extreme has to be 5x$. Only model I've never seen.

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I didn't include the FM-synth only cards, but some are extremely collectible too.

 

8-bit Pro Audio Spectrum = very rare / ultra rare (I can't remember the last time I saw one on eBay)

16-bit PAS = common / uncommon

 

Adlib = very rare

Adlib Gold = ultra rare / name your price (especially complete in box -- never seen one CIB for sale)

 

Diamond Monster Sound with 4MB daughterboard = rare (but expensive > $200). These also sell with 0.5MB and 2MB DBs. A Roland daughterboard just sold for around $400, I believe.

 

Original Sound Blaster 1.0 CT1320 = rare / very rare (I have a CT1300A, Creative's predecessor to the Sound Blaster)

 

Basically, any 8-bit sound card (Adlib, SB 1.0, PAS) will be rare. I sold a no-name 8-bit card a while back for $100.

Edited by boxpressed
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