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Sound card recommendations for retro gaming build

codezer0

1 month ago

Working with a Win98se project build. Specs are as follows:

  • Athlon XP 3200+ Barton @ stock (11 * 200)

  • Abit KW7 motherboard (VIA KT880 + VT8237 southbridge)

  • 2 x 256MB Mushkin DDR 433 @ DDR400

  • XFX GeForce 6800XT 256MB

So far with Unofficial Service Pack 3, the usability is considerably better. And installing Q3A on the system and turning all the visual features as high as I can, and unlocking framerate via ini editing, I'm easily hitting 100+ FPS, so at least that part's working right.

The part that's falling flat on its face, is simply, the audio. Once again, Realtek trash basically letting me down, in the worst way possible. I've confirmed the onboard Realtek ALC658 works when testing the build with Windows 2000 and XP, but the intended use case is Windows 98SE, and despite finding a compatible driver for the chip in question? Nope, won't work. No matter how many times i run the installer, or go into the Device manager and manually point it to the extracted driver files, it acts like it installs, but it always fails to start it up, always complaining about missing files that are never copied.

Originally intended to use an Aureal Vortex 2, that I found among the wife's stash of older PC parts, because I was intrigued on what it could do. However, even though that one's installer goes through without issue, the moment I install the drivers, the system enters a catastrophic boot loop where I basically can never boot into the OS again; forcing me to wipe the boot drive and start all over.

So, long story short, I need a sound card that's compatible with this OS. That said, I would prefer to find something that supports surround sound proper (5.1 at least) and it would be a convenience boost, if I could also use the front panel audio somehow.

From my own research on the matter, I seem to be in a pretty narrow spread of possible sound cards:

  • SB 128 - Great DOS compatibility, but seems to be stereo only

  • SB Live! 5.1 - 5.1 sound, easy driver install, not sure if I can get front audio support going

  • SB Audigy (1st gen) - I used to have this back in the day. I remember it having excellent audio quality, but the original drivers did hate VIA chipsets pretty hard... at the time, I also remember having to basically reformat weekly. For a project build? I'd rather not go through with that. The caveat with this, is that it seems the updated drivers require you to install the original drivers first, which will make finding a compatible, complete setup tricky

  • Not sure, but I want to think the SB Audigy 2 also had Win9x drivers... I couldn't find any on Creative's site, but if so, this would seem like the winner, because then I could even use this same card in up to a Windows 10 build thanks to Daniel K's drivers. Just need to be clear if that is an option with this series.

  • Maybe something else non-Creative? Not ruling it out, as long as the drivers don't suck. Please detail why if choosing this option.

Comments

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

Price for it is a little inflated for my liking, but the vogons link you also shared also had some other links that were rather eye opening... not least of which, implying there is an ISO for an Audigy 2 that would have Win9x drivers. Which, if true, would be fantastic news IMO.

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

You were right about there being Audigy 2 drivers, but they’re for the ZS version, which is a slightly different card

If you want to buy this one, used ones go for around $20-30

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

Out of curiosity, I went and downloaded the apps/install CD for the base Audigy 2, and found that it does have drivers for Win98... that would seem to make it the no-brainer choice, presuming it works for this build. Even if it doesn't, I already have an XP build it could drop into, and at least another Windows 10 build I can use it in thanks to the Daniel K drivers having such a wide breadth of OS support. The only issue is if it somehow doesn't work on this VIA based board, I'd probably be back here later looking for another alternative.

Supposedly, with as famously fussy as VIA's chipsets are (gee, no wonder they're not really a thing in modern PC hardware...), one name that also came up to mind was the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz. Another card I used to have; not too bad... but the drivers basically stopped working once Half Life 2 released. Though safe to say I wouldn't be playing HL2 on a Windows 9x box anymore.

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

As I recall all my win98/xp and even win2K systems were soundblaster cards with no issues. I had a 4 speaker and sub setup that worked great for games. I recall having live and Audigy but can't say exactly what models they were. Lol, you are reaching back into the days of 'plug n play' PnP, IRQs, all that fun stuff.

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

True, but i also painfully remember how obnoxious it was to get a VIA based anything to accept anything. Back then i had a first gen Audigy and with that combo i was reinstalling weekly.

Only reason i went with VIA was because the most affordable nforce 2 motherboard at the time was 4x the asking price of this one, to support the xp 3200+.

As in, the cheapest listing for an Asus a7n8x (so not even a dfi lanparty) was $120 with nothing. This Abit kw7 was $37 with an extra cpu, ram and video card thrown in that i figured i could use to troubleshoot with or if i needed to update BIOS before it would accept such a (relatively) flagship cpu for the platform.

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

I still have a SIS745 had a Athlon 1600 and I upgraded it to something faster, it ran last time I powered it up. Not sure that had a card in it, the other one was a Iwill 333 and I OC'd it so long the cpu socket fried, broke off and cooler would not hook on. Got another board but never put it back together had an Athlon 64 by then, that Iwill had a SB card in it. Ill get it out some day too busy to mess with them and they are buried in storage room. They were win2K, in those giant antec alien looking full towers. Win2K ran every game I tossed at it. That stuff should be dirt cheap these days.

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

Some of it is unjustifiable in how much it appreciated in value.

Kind of needed a late era Socket A board to support the 400FSB Barton cores to begin with. And the nForce 2 Ultra 400 boards in particular are harshly expensive. As in, you could almost buy a new x470 motherboard for what some people want for the old platform; especially for one that has the 4pin cpu power connector. Which id crucial to get such a build to work with a modern power supply, since before that, AMD socket a drew most of its power through the 5v rail.

And for some graphics cards, the asking price for a working one now is just obscene. I don't even want to get into that.

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

Probably the best of the best then, my R6670 gpu is not worth much but worked like a charm back then. Bet my enermax 350w psu still works. I still have it, any time I get rid of that stuff I need it the next day lol.

[comment deleted]
  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

To be fair, it is cheap enough to be worth trying as a last resort... A very last resort, though.

Based on my limited knowledge of DOS, it's safe to say this flat out won't work if i have to go into DOS mode for any such period correct games. Not to mention, i doubt this would even be adequate for more than the most basic of Windows sounds.

[comment deleted]
  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

I did discover one thing asking around. That USB thing uses an ensoniq chip, and Ensoniq is also famously incompatible with VIA chipsets.

Already went through one hot episode of that kind of incompatibility with the Aureal. I'd really rather avoid going through that again.

[comment deleted]

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