I've been putting together a retro-capable computer over the last year. When the parts are so much cheaper than their original retail price, it's a lot more difficult to decide on just one set of parts.
When I was growing up through the 90s, I only ever owned machines that had legitimate Sound Blaster cards in them. Thanks to the folks over at Vogons, it was revealed that there were many other kinds of compatible sound cards and clones that were as good, if not better, than their Creative counterparts.
In this post, I'll be covering cards from Aztech.
Note: This will be a constantly updated post as new information becomes available.
There isn't a whole lot of information about this company besides what's on their webpage. Throughout the 90's, they made a variety of modems, sound cards, and other internal multimedia devices. Packard Bell included Aztech combo modem+sound cards in some of their machines. Aztech also manufactured and retailed some of their own cards under the Sound Galaxy name.
What's interesting about cards that come from Aztech is they tend to replicate features from the Sound Blaster extremely well. Every sound card they manufactured that uses the ISA bus contains a legitimate OPL3 core. These cards also avoided the MIDI problems that plague most Sound Blaster 16 cards.
Most Aztech ISA sound cards will have a code that begins with I38-MMSN. Following that is usually a 3 digit number beginning with 8. It is not known if the sequence determines the chronological order that the cards were designed, but it's a safe assumption for our purposes. There are a few exceptions which will be detailed in the master list below.
Throughout the years, Aztech developed a number of different chipsets that implement various portions of the Sound Blaster protocol. All chipsets implement the AdLib and Windows Sound System. There are considerations for other chipsets:
- The AZTSSPT0592-U01 additionally implements the Covox Speech Thing and the Disney Sound Source. It lacks the UART MPU-401 interface all later models have.
- The AZT1605-U05 DSP version reports 2.x which causes software to detect only a Sound Blaster 2.0 and play back only mono digitized sound effects. This is because the DSP version of a SB Pro is at least 3.01.
- The AZT2320 chipset uses PnP for configuration, and thus requires a little extra work to get operational, but can also be configured entirely via software.
Some cards support wavetable cards via the Waveblaster header. Some of them also support the Aztech Sound Galaxy WaveTide, which is not a Waveblaster compatible daughterboard. The WaveTide requires both the Waveblaster and EXPCON headers to be present in the correct locations.
This list is derived from data available at FCCID.IO. Cards that were registered with the FCC but never seemingly manufactured are omitted.
- CDROM: 40-pin generic IDE CD-ROM header
- Mitsumi: 40-pin Mitsumi CD-ROM header
- Panasonic: 40-pin Panasonic CD-ROM header
- PCSPK: 2-pin PC Speaker header
- Philips: 16-pin Philips CM206 CD-ROM header
- RS: Stereo is reversed
- SCSI: 50-pin SCSI CD-ROM header
- Sony: 34-pin Sony CD-ROM header
- Volume: Volume wheel
- Wedge: Triangle shaped card
- None: No wavetable board support
- Expcon: Wavetable support via EXPCON header (WaveTide only)
- Onboard: Sample ROM included on the PCB
- Header: Waveblaster header present
|FCC ID||Description||Chipset||SB Support||Wavetable||Features|
|I38-MMSD801||Sound Galaxy NX II||AZTSSPT0592-U01||2.5||None||PCSPK, Mitsumi, Panasonic, Volume|
|I38-MMSD802||Sound Galaxy NX Pro||AZTSSPT0592-U01||Pro 2.0||None||PCSPK, Mitsumi, Panasonic, Volume|
|I38-MMSN803||Sound Galaxy NX Pro 16||AZTSSPT0592-U01||Pro 2.0||Header||PCSPK, Mitsumi, Panasonic|
|I38-MMSN808||Sound Galaxy Pro 16 L||AZTPR16||Pro 2.0||Header||PCSPK, Philips|
|I38-MMSN810||Sound Galaxy Basic 16||AZTSSPT0592-U01||Pro 2.0||Header||PCSPK, Mitsumi, Panasonic|
|I38-MMSN811||Sound Galaxy Nova 16 Extra, Reveal SC400 Rev.3, Packard Bell 030053||AZT1605-U05||Pro 2.0||Header||PCSPK, Mitsumi, Panasonic, Sony|
|I38-MMSN812||Sound Galaxy Pro 16 Extra, Reveal SC400 Rev.2||AZTPR16||Pro 2.0||Header||PCSPK, Mitsumi, Panasonic, RS|
|I38-MMSN813||Sound Galaxy Basic Audio 16||AZTSB0792-U07||Pro 2.0||None||PCSPK, Mitsumi, Panasonic|
|I38-MMSN816||Sound Galaxy Orion 16||AZT1605-U05||Pro 2.0||Header||PCSPK. Mitsumi, Panasonic|
|I38-MMSN822||Sound Galaxy Pro 16 II, 50-0037AZ-4S-2||AZT1605-U05||Pro 2.0||Header, Expcon||Sony (Some), Mitsumi (Some), Panasonic (Some)|
|I38-MMSN824||Sound Galaxy Pro 16 II, Sound Galaxy Washington 16, Packard Bell 030056||AZT2316A, AZT2316S||Pro 2.0||Header, Expcon||PCSPK (some), CDROM|
|I38-MMSN826||Sound Galaxy Waverider 32+, Trust Sound Expert DeLuxe Wave 32 (0501)||AZT2316A||Pro 2.0||Onboard||Mitsumi, Panasonic, Sony, CDROM|
|I38-MMSN830||Reveal SC400 Rev.4, Trust Sound Expert DeLuxe 16+ (0502)||AZT2316A||Pro 2.0||Header, Expcon||Mitsumi, Panasonic, Sony, CDROM (Some)|
|I38-MMSN834||Sound Galaxy Washington 16, Voyetra Sound144AM, Packard Bell 030083||AZT2316||Pro 2.0||None||Modem, CDROM|
|I38-MMSN835||Audio Telephony 2000||AZT2316A||Pro 2.0||Header||Modem, CDROM|
|I38-MMSN837||Packard Bell 030069||AZT2316A||Pro 2.0||Header||Modem, Mitsumi, Panasonic, Sony, CDROM|
|I38-MMSN841||Packard Bell 030084, Packard Bell 030094, Packard Bell 030099||AZT2316R||Pro 2.0||None||Modem|
|I38-MMSN842||Packard Bell 030101, Packard Bell 030111||AZT2316R||Pro 2.0||None||Modem|
|I38-MMSN843||Packard Bell 030106||AZT2316R||Pro 2.0||Onboard||Modem|
|I38-MMSN845||Sound Galaxy Pro 16 II||AZT2316R||Pro 2.0||Header, Expcon||CDROM|
|I38-MMSN846||Sound Galaxy Nova 16 Extra II-3D, Trust Sound Expert DeLuxe 16-3D (06300)||AZT2316R||Pro 2.0||Header||CDROM|
|I38-MMSN847||Sound Galaxy Waverider Pro 32-3D, Trust Sound Expert DeLuxe Wave 32-3D (06301)||AZT2316R||Pro 2.0||Onboard||CDROM|
|I38-MMSN850||Sound Galaxy Nova 16 Extra II||AZT2316S||Pro 2.0||Header||CDROM (Some)|
|I38-MMSN852||Sound Galaxy Waverider Pro 32-3D||AZT2316R||Pro 2.0||Onboard||CDROM|
|I38-MMSN853||Sound Galaxy Pro16 III-3D PnP||AZT2320||Pro 2.0||Header (some), Onboard (some)||CDROM (some)|
|I38-MMSN855||Packard Bell 030110, Packard Bell 030275||AZT2320||Pro 2.0||Header||Modem|
|I38-SGBX21||Sound Galaxy BX II||AZTSB0792-U07||2.0||None||Volume|
|I38-SGNX01||Sound Galaxy NX||AZTSSPT0192-U05||1.5||None||PCSPK|
|I38-SGNXPRO||Sound Galaxy NX Pro||AZTSSPT0592-U01||Pro 2.0||None||RS (Some)|
|I38-SN96103||Multimedia Pro 16 IIB-3D||AZT2316R||Pro 2.0||Header||CDROM|
|I38-SN96104||Multimedia Pro 16 IIIS+ PNP||AZT2320||Pro 2.0||None||Wedge|
|I38-SN96106||Audio Web AT3300, HP 5064-1826||AZT2320||Pro 2.0||Header||Modem|
|I38-SN96116||Multimedia Pro 16V-A, HP 5064-2620||AZT2320||Pro 2.0||None||Wedge|
Here are some guidelines if you're looking to obtain one of these fine cards yourself:
- There is a great deal of discussion at Vogons about these particular cards. Glean as much information from that thread as you can.
- All second, third and fourth generation cards support the Sound Blaster Pro 2.0 interface. None of them support Sound Blaster 16.
- First and second generation cards (those that are not AZT2316 or AZT2320) are said to be timing sensitive, so if you have a particularly fast machine (faster than a 486) then you might be better off getting a third generation card (AZT2316) instead.
- PnP cards based on the AZT2320 will be more difficult to configure. If you can, try to stick to other chipsets. The AZT2316 chipsets should work great if you're looking for the latest hardware without PnP configuration.
- The latest card without PnP is the I38-SN96103.
- The latest card without PnP and a Wavetable header is the I38-MMSN852.
- The 850 appears to be the highest model that does not use PnP and also has a Wave Blaster header.
- Only AZTSSPT0592-U01 cards support Disney Sound Source and Covox Speech Thing. These are all first generation cards.
Making It Work
For all cards, you'll want to grab the driver pack from Vogons Drivers. It contains a complete backup of the Aztech FTP.
For non-PnP cards, in order to make sure that your card can be used at all, run the command
DEMOFM.EXE 220 while in the driver folder and see if you get FM music. There may be a jumper on your board that allows you to select port 240 instead of 220- if you have it set to 240, then use that number instead. The reason this test should work is, it requires no assignment of IRQ or DMA- it's purely IO port access, the most basic form of communication between the card and the PC.
First Generation Cards (AZTSSPT0592-U01, AZTPR16, AZTSB0792-U07)
I lack information on setting these up. If you know, let me know!
Second Generation Cards (AZT1605-U02)
I lack information on setting these up. If you know, let me know!
Third Generation Cards (AZT2316)
These cards are configured by a combination of jumpers on the board and software settings.
CONFIG.EXE from the driver will allow you to configure each of the different features of the card. My I38-MMSN824 worked fine with the Voyager drivers, so if your version doesn't detect your card, keep looking! Eventually, you'll find a driver version that can initialize your card.
Once you've configured the card, congrats! The settings are saved to the EEPROM of the card so they'll be present whenever you boot your system - assuming the jumper on your board for configuration (JMPCFG) is set to access settings from the EEPROM. OEM cards came in the box this way, so it's pretty safe to assume this is the default.
Fourth Generation Cards (AZT2320)
These are PnP cards. I never personally got these working in a pure DOS environment, but according to online sources, you will need to load the
DWCFGMG.SYS driver. In order to do this, you need this line in your
config.sys, probably after all the other similar lines:
That's the Intel PnP configuration manager. Now, you should be able to run
DIAGNOSE.EXE. I could never get the card to be detected by any of the Aztech drivers, so please let me know if there is a different process! Once I find out a way to get the cards working in my machine, I will update this post.
Other Random Notes
Below, I've included some notes from when I experimented with these cards myself.
I tested the MMSN824 card using the Sound Galaxy Voyager drivers (SG Voyager Quad MMKit Version 2.12) on a couple Pentium 4 based boards. The boards I used were the QDI PlatiniX 7LI/C and an HT845ISA/1 from an unknown manufacturer. On both of these boards, every other non-Aztech ISA card I used had DMA incompatibility. However, the MMSN824 seemed to be able to handle everything I threw at it, plus the Dreamblaster X2 add-on card also worked.
The default settings for this card are:
- SB Address: 220
- SB IRQ: 5
- SB DMA: 1
- MPU401 IRQ: 2
The MPU401 interface was not detected by any games when it was configured using the default settings using
HWSET.EXE. So, I reserved IRQ 10 in the BIOS, told the card to use IRQ 10 for the MPU401 interface, and configured all my games to look for the MPU401 interface on IRQ 2. IRQ 2 is a cascaded interrupt, which is also dispatched by the IRQ range 8 through 15. A relic of the old IBM PC design, you see.
The final configuration I used was:
HWSET /SBIRQ:7 /MPUIRQ:10
If you have a really fast machine and are experiencing some issues with stuttering audio, try grabbing one of these cards.
Aztech made some decently compatible cards. If you are looking for a Sound Blaster Pro 2 compatible card without paying a similar price, the AZT2316 based cards aren't a bad buy. I suggest staying away from the PnP models though, unless you are primarily using Windows.