This is a compilation of several posts on the UltraSound
mailing list reviewing the card.
Written By: Etienne Mayrand
Memoirs of an UltraSound owner
Table of contents
Sound Blaster compatibility
Windows 3.1 compatibility
For some months now, I had been following the internet
discussions on the subject of sound cards and had concluded that the
UltraSound was worth waiting for. Needless to say, when I learned it
had finally been released, I ran to my computer store to get one (this
was october 9, 1992). The price was only 199$ CAN (compared to 259$
for the Sound Blaster Pro and 299$ for the PAS-16) and the clerk even
gave me a pair of Koss SA/20. This was a special offer made by the
store's supplier, not by Gravis. Anyway, its always nice to get
something for free.
When I got home, I feverishly opened the box and, after
removing a lot of cardboard filling, I finally held the famous Gravis
UltraSound card in my hands! (I think that the size of the box is
dictated more by the amount of writing ON it than by the stuff IN it!
Of course, it is possible that Gravis will eventually fill the
available space with bigger manuals or optional daughterboards).
There's the ASIC chip, a lot of capacitors and resistors (probably for
the amplifier) and dip sockets for additional memory (it uses 256K
100ns chips). The 256K base configuration can be extended to 1 meg.
The advantage of having more memory is the fact that the card can play
a more complex soundtrack, with more simultaneous instruments and
digitized sound effects. Several weeks later, I upgraded my UltraSound
to 1 meg and, as expected, I could hear more instruments when playing
some MIDI files and some games. Needless to say, those files sounded a
lot more interesting when all the instruments they were composed for
There were also two small manuals and 6 diskettes (3.5",
low-density). One manual is for the UltraSound and the other is for
the UltraSound Studio 8 software. The UltraSound manual is very short
and simply describes the installation procedure and the bundled
software in a very superficial manner. I would have liked to learn
more about the technical aspects of the card. Fortunately, some
people have forwarded additional information on the Internet which can
be found on the Ultrasound mailserver.
To give you a better idea of what this card is all about, I
copied the information that is written on the box. Despite the hype,
it gives a good description of the product. I have added a few
comments at the end.
UltraSound - CD quality sound from your PC Now you can add
unheard of audio realism to your games and presentations. UltraSound
is the most advanced sound technology available, delivering 16 bit,
crystal clear sound to your IBM or compatible PC. True CD quality,
wave table synthesis and stereo recording make UltraSound the ultimate
CD quality sound
UltraSound delivers 16 bit - 44.1 kHz sound with 96 db of
dynamic range for true CD quality sound at an affordable price.
Supports 32 digital and/or synthesized voices for richer sound
effects and music quality.
UltraSound supports Windows Multimedia Extensions for added
sound impact in presentation and business programs. UltraSound
includes multi-source mixing capabilities and meets or exceeds MPC
Wave Table synthesis
Step beyond the limitations of FM synthesis. Wave table
synthesis is based on real sounds - it provides more realistic sound
reproduction and an infinite range of musical instruments.
"Compatibility" is your assurance that UltraSound will work
with existing games that support AdLib and Sound Blaster. "Plus" means
UltraSound will provide better quality sound from sound files and
games designed for other sound boards.
Recording / sampling
UltraSound features 8 bit digital recording with sample rates
from 2 to 44.1 kHz in either mono or stereo. Separate circuits allow
for simultaneous recording and playback.
Standard MIDI interface
Industry standard MIDI interface (UART 6850) supports MIDI in,
out and thru with an optional low cost cable adapter. Compatible with
most MIDI programs.
Many of today's most popular games require a speed
compensating game port when used on fast PCs. UltraSound's built-in
speed compensating game port supports PCs up to 50 MHz 486 and beyond.
Connect a second joystick with an optional Y cable.
Built-in 2 watts amplifier supports desktop speakers and
Installation software eliminates the confusion of jumpers and
technical jargon. UltraSound provides full 16 bit bus support and can
be installed in either an 8 or 16 bit expansion slot.
256K onboard memory
Upgradeable to 1 megabyte with standard DIP memory chips.
Optional add-on boards
- 16 bit stereo recording*
- CD ROM interface*
* Available soon
- IBM PC or compatible XT, AT, 286, 386 or 486
- DOS 3.0 or greater
- 286 or greater recommended
- hard disk recommended
There is also a chart that compares the features of the
UltraSound with AdLib, Sound Blaster, AdLib Gold and Sound Blaster
Pro. Here it goes:
CD quality soundyesnononono
Digital Audio voices320122
Stereo digital voices160011
Speed adjusted game portyesnononono
Stereo sample rate (kHz)2-44.1monomono1-44.14-22
MPC&Windows 3.1 comp.yesnonoyesyes
Recording res. (bits)8/16*-8128
CD ROM interface*nono*yes
Finally, there is a color picture of the card where the
following elements are highlighted:
256k Memory upgradeable to 1 megabyte
16 bit, 32 voice synthesizer
Optional CD ROM interface connector
Optional 16 bit Stereo recording connector
Stereo microphone IN
Audio line IN
Joystick and MIDI connector
Audio line OUT
- At this time, the UltraSound is compatible with the Sound
Blaster, not the Sound Blaster Pro. Gravis is working on a new
driver, but I don't know when it will be available.
- The Windows driver works in 386 enhanced mode only. It will
not work on an XT or AT computer.
- Don't even think of using the card without a hard disk. The
software takes up 5 megabytes.
- The 256K on-board memory was sufficient to play all the
demos, but more complex MIDI files were missing a few instruments when
I played them. More memory solved that problem.
- I haven't tried the card's recording capabilities yet. More
on that later, if I can find the time.
- My card doesn't look like the one pictured on the box. This
is probably a pre-production model that was photographed before the
design was completed. My card is longer and has more capacitors,
jumpers and chips on it.
Here is a brief description of the bundled software (taken
from the manual).
A driver that allows your UltraSound card to play games and
programs intended for SoundBlaster, AdLib and compatible sound boards.
A driver that allows UltraSound to work under Microsoft
A TSR driver that is used in conjunction with Playdigi for
playing digital audio sound files.
A DOS program for playing or recording digital audio sound
files used in conjunction with Audio.
A DOS program for playing or recording digital audio sound
files. Playfile does not require the Audio driver, but is less
flexible in its application than Playdigi.
Software that allows you to play back MIDI songs or sequences.
An application for synchronizing digitized sound files with
animations saved in a .FLI file format (ie. Autodesk Animator files),
allowing you to create multimedia presentations with sound and
Here's everything that the manual says about wavetable
"Wavetable Synthesis, which UltraSound uses, is unique, in
that it recreates the sound of an instrument by first recording that
instrument, then playing it back. The result of this process is an
accurate reproduction of real instruments using electronic means, far
more easily than was possible before. As well, Wavetable Synthesis
gives you the ability to create a literally unlimited number of sounds
with incredible accuracy."
There is also a 10 word glossary at the end of the manual.
Here's the definition of a Patch:
"A Patch is one Voice, typically an instrument or a digitital
sound, UltraSound can make. UltraSound can play up to 32 voices at
once. UltraSound comes with a number of Patches for playing the MIDI
songs, as well as separate patches for use in games with the Sound
Board Operating System (SBOS)."
To summarize, information about the card itself is very scarce
and I didn't learn a lot about the way it works or how to use it to
its full potential. I've been told that this should change when the
Developper's Kit will be made available. The next version should also
get better manuals with a lot more information in them.
But enough about the documentation, how does it sound?
First, here's the deal concerning my computer:
Clone 33 Mhz 486 DX ISA
8 meg ram
127 Meg Seagate hard disk
ISA bus set at 16 Mhz (too fast, as I later found out)
ATI Basic VGA
1 parallel port, 2 serial ports, 1 game port
By default, the UltraSound is configured this way:
Interrupt 5 was free on my computer, so I left it this way. I
disabled the game port on my computer.
I opened my computer and inserted the sound card. They say to
install it as far from possible from the video card so as to minimize
the risk of interference (no mention of a special shielding on the
soundcard). I connected the amplified output (2 watts) of the
soundcard to the Koss loudspeakers.
I inserted disk 1 and typed install. After the ubiquitous
question about the destination directory, the installation program
installed the compressed file on my hard disk. Then, it told me that
uncompressing the files would take up to 30 minutes. After 4 minutes,
it had finished (those 486s are really fast!). Then, a male voice
said: "Let's configure your UltraSound card". What!? A talking
installation program? Neat!! And the sound was good, too. As good as
the voices from the Rex Nebular intro that I heard in the store
earlier this day. I also got some cool sound effects when I selected
the options and they were as rich and sharp as the digitized
instruments of a Yamaha YS- 55 synthesizer that a friend demonstrated
to me last week (a 1000$ instrument). By the way, those Koss SA/20 are
pretty powerful for their size and the card's two watt amplifier is
plenty enough. It was even too loud at times.
The install program modified my autoexec.bat (it simply adds a
few environment variables) and the installation was completed.
At this point, I was pretty confident that everything was
fine. But this is not called the troubleshooting section for nothing.
The next logical step was to try the demos. So, I typed
mididemo.bat to hear the MIDI demos. The screen went blank, then
nothing. Even the three finger salute was ignored. Grumble, reset. I
checked everything twice, but still no go. Then, I remembered that I
had set the bus frequency to a very high 16 Mhz. Maybe the soundcard
was not able to keep up. I lowered the frequency to 4 Mhz (better be
safe), launched the demos for the nth time and got... ON BOARD MEMORY
PARITY ERROR, SYSTEM HALTED. Oh no...
Finally, after two wrenching hours of uncertainty and doubt
(is the card defective,...is the computer defective...,why me...), I
discovered a CMOS option that allowed me to disable memory parity
checking. It worked!! Later, I learned that I could get rid of the
problem by changing the card setting from DMA channel 7 (16 bits) to
DMA channel 3 (8 bits) without any loss in performance. Most computers
have no problems, but I am the unlucky owner of one which does have a
problem. So, for those who encounter the same glitch, either change
the DMA channel used by the card, or disable parity checking.
The 14 demo MIDI files that came with the card left me a
little dissatisfied. Granted, the sound was very clear, as it should
be, but the demos that came with the Yamaha synthesizer (6 operator
synthesis, 2 sets of digitized instruments) were far better. Now,
don't get me wrong, this is better than anything a SoundBlaster Pro
could do, but these demos are not what I would call "professionnal".
It seems that the folks at Gravis were in such a hurry to get the
product on the market that they did not have the time to produce demos
that really show off this card's potential.
In my opinion, this card can do incredible things. For
instance, it has 129 patches. Each patch corresponds to a digitized
instrument that can be loaded in the card's memory. These 129 files
weigh a whopping 2.5 megabytes. And I should receive more when I send
my registration card!! Now, ain't it a shame to use only ten percent
of these in the demos?
There are also a few demo .SND files, but they are not very
impressive. The biggest file (100K) is someone saying: "Hello, welcome
The most interesting demo is the one that shows how you can
link an FLI file from Autocad to one or more .SND files to create a
multimedia presentation. It has a lot of impact.
This is all very interesting, I thought, but what about games?
Time to try the SoundBlaster driver.
The card comes with a driver that emulates only the
SoundBlaster, not the SoundBlaster Pro. It is called SBOS (Sound Board
Operating System). Gravis is currently working on an updated driver
that will support the Pro. It should be available on ftp sites soon
after it is released, thanks to the effort of dedicated Internet
The SBOS driver, which is only 19K in size, can be loaded high
if you are using QEMM386 or DOS 5.0.
The SBOS driver accepts the following parameters:
sets the output volume
doesn't play the "SBOS installed" sound file (it gets annoying
after a while)
-o1, o2, o3, x2, x3
various options for games that do not work properly in the
default mode. o3, for instance, disables the music. You get
only digitized sounds. This is an indication that Gravis
really did their homeworks concerning Sound Blaster
unloads the driver from memory.
Here are a few games that are supposed to work correctly with
the UltraSound, and their setting (compiled from the readme file and
my own experiments):
Option #1 (-o1)
- Prince of Persia
- Where in the World is Carmen SanDiego?
- Leather Godesses of Phobos II
Option #2 (-o2)
- Any Ibis Software applications
- Castle Von Wolfenstein (Wolfenstein 3-D)
- Kings Quest 5 (CD-ROM & EMS versions)
- Earl Weaver Baseball II
Option #3 (-o3)
- F-15 Strike Eagle II
Option X2 (-x2)
- Links 386 (turn off background sounds)
- Quest for Glory III
- King's Quest VI
Option X3 (-x3)
I successfully ran Ultima Underworld, Wing Commander 1 and 2,
King's Quest 5 and Wolfenstein 3D with the SBOS driver. I got both
music AND speech. Wolfenstein is the one that makes the best use of
digitized sound effects and Wing Commander 2 has a good musical score,
but they all sound very FM. It's sad to have such a powerful sound
card in your system and only be able to use 10 percent of its
capabilities. I sure hope that game publishers will start supporting
the UltraSound very soon.
I haven't had any real problems using the SBOS driver, but I
do have a few comments:
- After loading the SBOS driver, playing with a game (say,
Wing Commander) and exiting, the sound will not play if I reenter the
game immediately. I've found that I have to unload the driver and
reload it each time I quit a game. The documentation confirms this
indirecty by stating thatb you should always load the driver before
launching a game. They evenb provide an utility to construct batch
files that will load the driverb automatically (with the options of
your choice) before lauching an application (this is a bonus sofware
that is not documented in the manual). Again, this shows Gravis'
commitment to compatibility.
- The driver uses special sound patches to emulate the Sound
Blaster. They seem to be digitized samples of an FM synthesizer.
Compared to the Sound Blaster Pro that I heard in the computer store
and my own appreciation of the musical scores, the emulation isn't
perfect. Some instruments don't sound right at all and it seems that
drums are sometimes replaced by static. Fortunately, there are no
background noises or hisses, nor is there any interference with the
computer or the hard disk (no clicks when the hard disk is being
accessed, even when I put my hear very close to the speaker).
Frankly, I think that the Sound Blaster emulation, although robust,
could be much better. Don't forget that, until game developers begin
to support the UltraSound, you will always rely on this emulator to
hear your favorite games.
- Gravis claims AdLib compatibility, but there is no special
option to select AdLib compability. In fact, there are no options at
all to select either SB or AdLib mode. It seems that the driver
defaults to SB mode. The best example of that is Wolfenstein, which
detects automatically if you have a sound card, and, if so, which
kind. When I boot my computer, load the driver and start Wolf, it
detects a SoundBlaster. It works perfectly: I get synthesized music,
digitized sound effects and synthesized sound effects. (By the way,
this is a great game, although a little simplistic. It is also free!
To get it, go the the Wuarchive site (184.108.40.206), access the
directory /mirrors2/msdos-games/Apogee, and copy 1wolf11.zip. Don't
forget to set the binary transfer mode). But this gets a little more
complicated. If I use Windows 3.1 before installing the SBOS driver
and lauching Wolf, Wolf detects the AdLib card! It seems that Windows
affects the way the driver works. Now, I may be the only one to have
this problem (I must be careful not to generalize anything), but I
wouldn't be surprised if there was some interaction. I have nothing
against AdLib compatibility, but I would like to have it only when I
select it. Wolf can detect the modification, but most games can't, so
I get no sound. This is not a major problem, but I wonder if others
have experienced it.
All in all, Sound Blaster compatibility works reasonably well.
But this is small potatos (is this spelled correctly, Dan?) compared
to what the GUS can really do. Many computer game reviews rave about
the sounds and music produced by the SB Pro. But when they hear this,
they will be blown out of their seats. I'm only beginning to
appreciate the potential of this product, but I tell you, it is
awesome. Think about it. Each game developper will be able to provide
its own sound patches (explosions, weird sounds, exotic instruments)
to taylor the sound atmosphere to its liking. And with 32 digital
and/or synthesized voices, the sound and music could get pretty
Windows 3.1 compatibility
The UltraSound is Windows 3.1 compatible. At first, I had a
problem with parity checking (again!). This time, each time I tried to
launch Windows, it crashed with a "memory parity error". Since I
thought I had solved that problem earlier by disabling parity checking
in hardware, I didn't know what to do. Finally, I decided to remove
any trace of the UltraSound driver from Windows and start over with a
clean slate. As I was browsing the SYSTEM.INI configuration file,
angrily deleting every reference to the UltraSound driver, I saw this
I commented it by adding a semi-colon at the beginning of the
line, like this:
Then, I installed the UltraSound driver and restarted Windows.
It worked! No more parity errors! (champaign, anyone?).
To my knowledge, I am the only one who had this problem. It
may be my memory chips, or a bug, or some mysterious conflict in
memory. In case someone else has a similar problem, here's the
recommended procedure for the installation of the UltraSound Windows
- Launch Windows.
- Install the UltraSound driver with the procedure described
in the UltraSound Manual, page 25.
- DO NOT RESTART WINDOWS!
- Edit your SYSTEM.INI file with notepad.exe or sysedit.exe.
Comment the line "device=*parity" in the [386enh] section by adding a
semi-colon at the beginning.
- Exit Windows
- Launch Windows.
- The sound capabilities of Windows 3.1 should be working
properly. Test them by lauching MPLAYER.EXE and loading canyon.mid in
your windows directory. Enjoy!
- Commenting the line "device=*parity" doesn't seem to cause
any problem to Windows programs.
- The UltraSound driver will work in Windows 3.1 enhanced mode
ONLY!. If you have a 286 or a 386 with less than 2 megs of ram, you
will not be able to use the sound card with Windows (This is a last
minute information that was not included in the manual. I found it in
a readme file).
- There is a lot of MIDI freeware and shareware for Windows
3.1 on the anonymous ftp site at cica.indiana.edu. Access the
directory /pub/pc/win3/sounds. Many .WAV files can also be found
there. Now, when I leave Windows, the Terminator says: "I'll be back".
I just love this stuff!! Also recommended is SoundTool v2.6
(sndtl26.zip), a neat playback utility that I use to convert .AU files
(Sun format) and .SND files (UltraSound format) to .WAV files (Windows
format). It also has editing capabilities (cut, paste, reverse,
reverb, filter, etc...). Unfortunately, it is not designed to work
with the UltraSound and all sounds are played through the speaker.
This document should give you a pretty good idea of what the
UltraSound card really is. Of course, there is a lot of stuff that I
haven't talked about, like recording and playback, but I'm sure that
some people with much more experience than me and a lot of hot
hardware (samplers, professional audio equipement, etc.) will post
results about the card's performance. With this article, I simply
wanted to give a first person's view of the product, hoping that it
would answer the many questions that some people have posted on the
As I have said, it sounds great (I couldn't detect any
interference or hissing) and it has an enormous potential (I hope that
game developpers will see that). It costs less than the SoundBlaster
Pro, AdLib Gold or PAS- 16 (expect their prices to drop soon) and it
offers a superior technology while still keeping Sound Blaster
compatibility (the quality of the emulation should get better in the
near future). It also has companies like Gravis and Logitech behind it
(the box says that Gravis is an affiliate of Logitech).
Personnally, I like it a lot. It works perfectly under Windows
and my games sound a lot better than before. My main concern is that
it gets support very soon from game developpers so that I can REALLY
October 25, 1992
Written by: [email protected] (Dion Francois)
Ok, i'll try to be as brief and simple as possible.
Card length: 3/4 (up to s/n 1234 at least)
Stereo mini-jack line in (high impedance ~1V )
Stereo mini-jack line out (high impedance - Had
problems adjusting the gain on my mixer to
match my 27Kohms ins)
Stereo mini-jack amplified out (2W/ch) Stereo
mini-jack microphone in (600 ohm or 10Kohm?
Dynamic mike only. Doesn't work with
condenser or electret mike without power like
on the Compaq or Macintosh)
DB15 female connector (a module can plug in that to
get 1 midi in 1 midi out and 1 midi thru plus
2 joystick ports. You can plug a joystick
directly. Gravis tells to use their Y cable
for 2 joysticks. Have not tried another.)
There is no connector at the top of the card like
pictured on the box or the fax or product litterature. This is
where the 16 bit board was supposed to go. Instead, it goes at
the bottom of the card, with the SCSI board. These pins are
connected to the bus, plus some lines are buffered (thru
74LS244 and 74LS245). The address is also decoded for the
daughterboard. (Probably with 74LS139. I forgot to note it,
and the card is in my computer). Last, there is a 4 pin CD IN.
Could be a serial digital in or could be an analog in. I will
investigate more on that tomorrow, as this is what i could
figure in the 5 minutes the card was not in the computer. In
the way they implemented all the pins, i think it's a digital
in that will serve for the 16 bit sampling, and could probably
be used also for a CDROM without DAC.
6 sockets empty (bank 1,2 and 3), 2 full (bank 0) with
44256 (4x256Kbit). I did populate my card to 1 Meg (all banks
full) with some 44256-7 i had. Cant say if it helped anything
(tried everything with and without, and didn't see any
Amplification for speakers (do not plus headphones in
that! Most headphones are in the 20 ohms range and 100mW max,
where here we should plug 8 ohms, and with 2W that's not
recommended, or you'll get too much current)is provided by 1
opamp LM317 on each channel (it's a nice opamp). Filtering
stage with some opamp, resistors and capacitors. Once again, i
only looked at the card for 5 min, so i can't be more precise
The asic (application specific IC) is made by ICS. Is
it based on the ensoniq DOC II? I dunno. One thing is that the
wave sampler, modifier, mixer is in this chip along with the
DAC. Some preamp is also done in it. The output to the
external filter/opamps is a short path, so since it's the only
place left where noise could get in (not counting the ground
or power supply of course) there are absolutely NO "data"
noise (HD, Video, Modem...). Tested on a full tower with 240
watts. See the end for the complete description of the
For now, i only know what's in the book. Base I/O
address and game port enabled/disabled. There are 4 other sets
of jumpers (17 jumpers) that i have no idea what are their
The card will work on a 16 Mhz bus, but that was
tested only on my 386-33. I don't know if it will work on a
486. Be sure that you don't have any IRQ, DMA or address
conflict. I had one and it took me 2 hours to figure why some
programs worked slowly or not at all, and under windows i
would get some noise at regular interval (several times a
second). If you don't want to take any chance, it will work as
fast (on my 386-33) in 8 Mhz bus.
With a quality sample, the sound is better than my mixer (it
has > 85dB S/N ratio) with the EQ off. So to test it in all aspects, i
tried four things. Electro-statics headphones in the line out (too
soft). Electro in a preamp. Big monitors in a pair of mono tube amps.
In the last combo, let me tell you that blues or rock from a CD really
screams. Techno is so so because the amp are not big enough. Anyway, i
did my testings accordingly. Last test was with my mixer, tube amps
and monitors. For this test i used my eq with a little bass bias...
Well, ok with +3 to +7 in the low frequencies 8). Just wanted to see
if my neighbours would complain 8) (their house is at least 15 meters
from mine, and i was in the basement 8) ).
Winmod didn't work in stereo, so i tested it at 22Khz mono,
with a 10Kb buffer. No sound interruption whatsoever. Nice sound
quality. I mean for a mod, of course! Winmod should support 12 bit
(add 4 8 bit channels, you need 12 bit), stereo and higher than 22Khz
playback, and we would have some nice sounding music in Windows. Of
course it would be even better if it supported directly the GUS but
that's more work. Sounds better than a SB and a JDAC.
Mediaplay with .wav files:
i didn't have any 16bit 44Khz samples so it's hard to say.
Pretty equivalent to the SB with the excep tion of very soft passages
where the GUS is dead silent! I mean, there is no background noise
like on a SB (or SBPro basic). The quantization noise is there (not a
big antialiasing made by the card) but the harmonic distortion or
background noises are absent. It makes 8 bit 22K tolerable.
Mediaplay with .mid files:
Now we're talking big sound. I had some drum files that really
came alive. On some patches, there is some noise caused by clipping (
they sampled too loud) and also there is an anoying effect on stacato
notes or notes played rapidly on the same channel. The effect is not
there on all patches. It is quite noticeable on piano and some string
of some sort. No problem at all on guitar, synths, calioppe, pipes,
flutes, organ percussions etc... The only problem is that mediaplay
wont get the .cfg file that comes with the gravis midi files. Also,
Mediaplay is the only midi program that worked properly. Winjammer,
kbmidi, mididrum, the drum, etc... didn't play unless i loaded first a
file in Mediaplay. And even then, i would have one or two instruments
only. There is a definite problem here.
Playmidi as all the other programs included all work very
well. The same sound quality as in windows. SBOS is the sound blaster
emulatort, and when using the proper switch, i have yet to find a
program that didn't work flawlessly, including all the mod players i
had (WT, MP, WOWII, DS15...). I even played Wolf3d on my TV with a VGA
to NTSC converter who has a TSR that is really nasty, with SBOS,
without any speed diff, between NO SOUND and Sound Blaster emulation +
VGA TSR. On all my games. (Falcon 3, Lemmings, Nova 9, Chessmaster,
Wolf3d, keen, jill and some others). I tried also with and without
smartdrive, stacker, EMM, SBOS lo/high. All the programs worked
flawlessly. The only thing is to make a batch file, so you don't have
to remember which setting worked.
sbos -o2 (sbos with switch for wolf)
sbos -f (remove sbos)
And also, some games are not as fast if you don't have
smartdrive (they probably don't have enough space).
USS8 is a piece of crap. It's ok for sampling and saving, but
is a nightmare for editing. Anybody can make a nice program like sound
edit on the Mac? Soundtool under windows is not that robust either but
i think it's better. Still, i wish i had sound edit on the ibm.
Playdigi, audio, playfile etc... all sort of programs to play audio
files in either raw (IBM/Mac/Atari) or 2's complement (Amiga, Dec).
Won't play .au files, but sox with convert them no problem. You can
also record with these. Demos (midi, fli and sounds) were really lame
compared to what the card can do. This card is what it eats. Give it
bad samples and you wish you were dead. Give it good samples and
you'll be in a state of joyfull bliss... nirvana... or whatever...
nevermind... a mosquito...an albino... oups, sorry! nirvana, not
the sound quality with good samples is better than better than
average audio equipment. It's even better than a "Pro" mixer. But of
course, you have to give it better things than what Gravis offers for
now. The 129 FREE patches when you send the registration will
definitely be a must. A corrected windows driver also. The SBOS seems
pretty indestructible for now and 8 bit audio is not lacking software
or samples on FTP sites. Now if i can build a midi connector to get
my EPS samples (or if i can do something with an Individual Instrument
File from an EPS16+, since i have succesfully extracted these from
disk images) i'll finally have all the patches i want. And i'm also
impatient to get the daughterboard for 16 bit sampling.
Someone asked me if it was quiet and of enough quality to be
used on air: it definitely is. Even 8 bit 44Khz is okay (if you don't
mind the slightly harsch highs that don't even get through FM stereo,
or at least not with our meager 10KW).
I think there is probably a lot more info that needs to get in
here (how exactly does this card works, patches format, how does it
sound compared to an real synth, how to build a midi thingy, how to
program the card, etc...) but i think it had to be done to demistify
some rumors. If any point is not clear enough, i'll clarify. If you
need some additionnal info, no problem, i'll continue. As for the
things this email lacks, i'm working on it (how to program, how to
build the midi etc...). Ah, i also forgot to put a section on the
installation of the software...
For the tests i used:
A 386-33 with 16 Mhz bus and 80387
Casing: full tower with 240 watts
Drives: 3.5, 5.25, CDROM (LMSI), 90 Meg CDC, 90 Meg Fujitsu
Seagate SCSI interface
8 Mb ram
Trident 9000 SVGA with 1Mb
Advanced Gravis Ultrasound with 1Mb (tried also with 256Kb
with no difference)
Logitech Bus mouse (PC-93-9MD)
1 2400 bps modem
2 serial, 1 parallel
1 VGA-NTSC converter
Parity checking on
Whew! That's all for now!
Written by: Scott Bringen
As I mentioned in my previous post, my wife called GRAVIS in
California(1-800-254-4525) on Tuesday to cancel my GUS order, only to
find that my board had been shipped that day. I promised to let you
all know when it arrived (to maybe give you an idea when your order
might arrive). I ordered mine about Aug 17th and payed extra for next
day delivery. I seem to remember 4 to 6 weeks for regular delivery!
Anyway, it arrived yesterday(Wednesday) about 10:00am! Yeah :)!
If your interested ... read on to hear my novice installation
Oh, you're still here, OK ... first a little background. I'm
new to PC sound boards and MIDI inplimentations. I bought my first PC
about a year ago(a 386DX/33 clone, 4 meg, DOS 5.0, and Windows 3.1).
The only hardware change I had made was to add a joy stick card, so
I'm basically new to the hardware game. I'm a 'sometimes' guitarist,
who thought it would be fun to compose music on the PC and maybe play
along with Band-In-A-Box(BIAB). BIAB is a program that takes chord
progressions as input and creates 4 part arrangements that you can
play along with ... if you have a sound card! So, after reading about
the GUS on this mail group and then when I heard about the $99 offer
while purchasing EA's Chuck Yeagar Combat, I jumped on it(I believe
the $99 offer ended on Sept 30th, call GRAVIS to confirm).
As I said, I received the shipment yesterday. Someone
previously posted about the size of the box that GUS comes in. It
looks like you are getting lots of stuff. As it turns out, the box is
larger than it has to be, but don't be disappointed with the contents.
You get the GUS board, 2 small spiral bound books(one on the GUS and
one on USS 8), a pamphlet on the joy stick port, and 6 3.5" disks with
all the software. The GUS manual is basic enough for a beginner like
me to understand, but I would like to see more details in future
The GUS board is much longer than the other boards in my PC.
It's about 11" long! The manual strongly advises installing it in a 16
bit bus(maybe for additional support?). If you attach speakers or
headphones to the board before installing the software, the setup
program will talk you through some steps. The ports for sound
input/output use stereo 1/8" jacks. To use the 2 watt amplified output
jack, I purchased a 'Y' shaped adapter to run 2 speakers into the
single stereo jack. The joy stick port is shared by the MIDI port. To
run MIDI, I will need to purchase an additional Ultrasound MIDI
adapter which will allow MIDI in/thru/out and joy stick connections
from the same adapter. When I bought Band-In-A-Box, I was hoping that
the GUS would support MPU401. It appears GUS supports UART only. It
would be nice to see MPU401 support in the future.
After reading the installation instructions, I started
installing the board. The GUS and the joy stick both need hardware
addresses so that the PC knows where to read and write to after
installation. The addresses can be modified to several different
values by rearranging some pins combinations on the board. I left the
factory defaults at 220(h?) for the GUS and 201h for the joy stick. I
removed the existing joy stick card in my PC, because the manual
warned that they may both be set to 201h and I didn't want to play
around with finding another unused address for the second joy stick.
I popped the top the PC and inserted the board into the 16 bit slot
furthest from the video board, as recommended in the manual. The fit
was *very* snug! I was a bit worried about damaging the mother board,
but the GUS finally went in. I slid the PC top on, connected the 'Y'
adapter to the amplified port. I finished connecting the other cables
to the PC and fired up the PC. I immediately heard a soft
whistle/whine/static sound coming from the speakers. "Hmmm ... I
thought this was supposed to be a quiet board" :(. I started to
install the software, dispite the steady noise coming from the
speakers. After the setup program copied the floppies to the hard
drive, it displayed an error message that it couldn't find the
Ultrasound. It asked me to install the board ;^(. I opened up the
PC, removed the board, checked the pin settings to confirm the
addresses, and moved it to the next slot(closer to the video board).
Once I got the PC back together and restarted it, the !#@%& noise was
still there! I continued, hoping that it would disappear after the
software configuration. I restarted the setup program and was greeted
by a voice speaking through the static, 'Welcome to the Gravis
installation program!' (or something to that affect). "Well ... at
least it knows where the board is" :). I finished the setup program
by defining the IRQs, etc.(I used the suggested default values given
in the program). I ran the MIDI demo program to showcase the samples
included with the software. They sounded ..OK.. coming through the
static. I wondered if I had damaged the board by forcing it into the
first slot. I turned off the PC and picked up the manual again. I
removed the 'Y' adapter and compared it to the one pictured in the
book. They were NOT the same! I had a mono plug! The manual said that
the mono plug could damage the amplifier! I scrambled to find my
walkman headphones and attached them to the amplified port. The manual
suggests using headphones with volume controls ... I found out why.
When I reran the MIDI demo, the board was so quiet I couldn't tell it
was on ... until the music started! Then it could have blown my ears
off! 8) Yeah, that's more like it!
Well, there you have it. I hope this story helps some of you.
Needless to say, I'll be picking up a stereo 1/8" jack tonight on the
way home. The board is *very* quiet, the demos are OK, but I suspect
that the GUS has alot more to show off. I'll be sending in my
registration for the additional patches. Hope you get yours soon!