/ Audio

Aztech ISA Sound Cards

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.

The Company

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.

The Cards

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.

Implementation

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.

Master List

This list is derived from data available at FCCID.IO. Cards that were registered with the FCC but never seemingly manufactured are omitted.

Feature key:

  • 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

Wavetable key:

  • 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 IDDescriptionChipsetSB SupportWavetableFeatures
I38-MMSD801Sound Galaxy NX IIAZTSSPT0592-U012.5NonePCSPK, Mitsumi, Panasonic, Volume
I38-MMSD802Sound Galaxy NX ProAZTSSPT0592-U01Pro 2.0NonePCSPK, Mitsumi, Panasonic, Volume
I38-MMSN803Sound Galaxy NX Pro 16AZTSSPT0592-U01Pro 2.0HeaderPCSPK, Mitsumi, Panasonic
I38-MMSN808Sound Galaxy Pro 16 LAZTPR16Pro 2.0HeaderPCSPK, Philips
I38-MMSN810Sound Galaxy Basic 16AZTSSPT0592-U01Pro 2.0HeaderPCSPK, Mitsumi, Panasonic
I38-MMSN811Sound Galaxy Nova 16 Extra, Reveal SC400 Rev.3, Packard Bell 030053AZT1605-U05Pro 2.0HeaderPCSPK, Mitsumi, Panasonic, Sony
I38-MMSN812Sound Galaxy Pro 16 Extra, Reveal SC400 Rev.2AZTPR16Pro 2.0HeaderPCSPK, Mitsumi, Panasonic, RS
I38-MMSN813Sound Galaxy Basic Audio 16AZTSB0792-U07Pro 2.0NonePCSPK, Mitsumi, Panasonic
I38-MMSN816Sound Galaxy Orion 16AZT1605-U05Pro 2.0HeaderPCSPK. Mitsumi, Panasonic
I38-MMSN822Sound Galaxy Pro 16 II, 50-0037AZ-4S-2AZT1605-U05Pro 2.0Header, ExpconSony (Some), Mitsumi (Some), Panasonic (Some)
I38-MMSN824Sound Galaxy Pro 16 II, Sound Galaxy Washington 16, Packard Bell 030056AZT2316A, AZT2316SPro 2.0Header, ExpconPCSPK (some), CDROM
I38-MMSN826Sound Galaxy Waverider 32+, Trust Sound Expert DeLuxe Wave 32 (0501)AZT2316APro 2.0OnboardMitsumi, Panasonic, Sony, CDROM
I38-MMSN830Reveal SC400 Rev.4, Trust Sound Expert DeLuxe 16+ (0502)AZT2316APro 2.0Header, ExpconMitsumi, Panasonic, Sony, CDROM (Some)
I38-MMSN834Sound Galaxy Washington 16, Voyetra Sound144AM, Packard Bell 030083AZT2316Pro 2.0NoneModem, CDROM
I38-MMSN835Audio Telephony 2000AZT2316APro 2.0HeaderModem, CDROM
I38-MMSN837Packard Bell 030069AZT2316APro 2.0HeaderModem, Mitsumi, Panasonic, Sony, CDROM
I38-MMSN841Packard Bell 030084, Packard Bell 030094, Packard Bell 030099AZT2316RPro 2.0NoneModem
I38-MMSN842Packard Bell 030101, Packard Bell 030111AZT2316RPro 2.0NoneModem
I38-MMSN843Packard Bell 030106AZT2316RPro 2.0OnboardModem
I38-MMSN845Sound Galaxy Pro 16 IIAZT2316RPro 2.0Header, ExpconCDROM
I38-MMSN846Sound Galaxy Nova 16 Extra II-3D, Trust Sound Expert DeLuxe 16-3D (06300)AZT2316RPro 2.0HeaderCDROM
I38-MMSN847Sound Galaxy Waverider Pro 32-3D, Trust Sound Expert DeLuxe Wave 32-3D (06301)AZT2316RPro 2.0OnboardCDROM
I38-MMSN850Sound Galaxy Nova 16 Extra IIAZT2316SPro 2.0HeaderCDROM (Some)
I38-MMSN852Sound Galaxy Waverider Pro 32-3DAZT2316RPro 2.0OnboardCDROM
I38-MMSN853Sound Galaxy Pro16 III-3D PnPAZT2320Pro 2.0Header (some), Onboard (some)CDROM (some)
I38-MMSN855Packard Bell 030110, Packard Bell 030275AZT2320Pro 2.0HeaderModem
I38-SGBX21Sound Galaxy BX IIAZTSB0792-U072.0NoneVolume
I38-SGNX01Sound Galaxy NXAZTSSPT0192-U051.5NonePCSPK
I38-SGNXPROSound Galaxy NX ProAZTSSPT0592-U01Pro 2.0NoneRS (Some)
I38-SN96102AT-3500AZT2320Pro 2.0HeaderModem
I38-SN96103Multimedia Pro 16 IIB-3DAZT2316RPro 2.0HeaderCDROM
I38-SN96104Multimedia Pro 16 IIIS+ PNPAZT2320Pro 2.0NoneWedge
I38-SN96106Audio Web AT3300, HP 5064-1826AZT2320Pro 2.0HeaderModem
I38-SN96116Multimedia Pro 16V-A, HP 5064-2620AZT2320Pro 2.0NoneWedge
I38-SN97125SC16-3DAZT2320Pro 2.0NoneWedge

Buying Guide

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.

Running 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:

DEVICE=C:\WhereEverTheDriverIs\DWCFGMG.SYS

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.

MMSN824

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.

Conclusion

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.