Overview of Sound Cards

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The following is a high level overview of Sound Cards and how they function under OS/2. This document is not an endorsement of any particular sound card.

OS/2 terms:

Multi-instance: the ability for more than one application at once to open the sound card. This is important if you want to do any serious activity with multimedia. For instance, a multi-instance driver will allow you to open the digital audio editor and hear system sounds or open a MIDI application. Without this, you must close each application down before starting another (very inconvenient).

MediaVision (PAS 16) (Spectrum, Studio, and Basic).

The OS/2 drivers for this card have the most function of any sound card. They are multi-instance, support simultaneous MIDI and audio playback and are quite stable.

Mediavision offers an excellent os/2 mixer (called promix/2) which allows one to change volume, bass etc.**

Since the Mediavision card is also SoundBlaster compatible, you can load the SoundBlaster driver for Windows while simultaneously accessing the hardware with OS/2.

The differences between cards is that the Studio has improved signal/noise ratios (i.e. improved sound) and the BASIC does not have a SCSI port. The SCSI port on the PAS16 works with popular CD-ROMs like the Toshiba 3401B and Texel drives.*

  • Although the PAS-16 hardware interface supports ~600KBS, the OS/2

driver performs rather poorly and really achieves only between 200-300KBS. If you have a PAS16 and would like to see better SCSI drivers, please send me a note (Linden deCarmo 71726,12 or internet lad@vnet.ibm.com).

    • Mediavision recently started shipping a new pas16 card which has a mixer

chip that the OS/2 driver cannot recognize. MV is working on a fix for the card but you want want to ask your dealer which mixer chip is on the card

The PAS16 cards with the unsupported chip are have the following model number on the board:

    Model 650-0082-03

where the critical number is the "0082." In addition, if you look at the chips on the card, the suspect chip has the following part ID:


These cards are ISA only.

Creative Labs (Sound Blaster, Pro, 16 and 16 ASP)

The SB drivers that ship with 2.1 are all single instance and can only play one MIDI or WAVE file at a time. Creative Labs has newer drivers available on their BBS which support multi-instance. In addition, there is an MMPM/2 CSD available in os2user with nearly equivalent multi-instance drivers, and the upcoming OS/2 Service Pack for 2.1 will contain the multi-instance drivers.

Creative Labs also has beta drivers available for simultaneous playback of MIDI and PCM on the SB16 card.

An os/2-based mixer is available in os2user (sbmix) with similar functionality to the mediavision mixer.

You cannot access the card simultaneously under OS/2 and DOS.

The SB16 ASP does offer hardware compression and decompression which can ease the burden on the CPU.*

If you have an older SB card (i.e. pre-2.0) and receive a SYS1201 on boot up, you must upgrade the DSP module (available from Creative Labs).

The CD-ROM interface on this card is proprietary, however, it support many popular CD-ROM drives.

These cards are ISA only except for the Pro which is also Microchannel.

IBM Maudio card

The Maudio drivers are multi-instance.

There is no OS/2 mixer currently available.

It utilizes a DSP (digital signal processor) so advanced hardware compression and decompression is possible.

This card is not SoundBlaster compatible.

ISA and Microchannel versions are available.

Thinkpad 750c audio

The 750c drivers are multi-instance and offer simultaneous MIDI + PCM playback.

There is no OS/2 mixer currently available.

This card is not SoundBlaster compatible.

ISA only (since the 750C is ISA only).

Gravis Ultrasound.

Gravis has been working on drivers for a LONG time. However, there are no tangible results to announce. Fortunately, I've been working with an internet user and he's written a driver in a matter of weeks. The drivers should go beta soon, and when they do, I'll refresh this file on sites where it can be obtained. These drivers will be multi-instance.

ISA only.

Business Audio (Compaq, MS Sound System, Everex, Toshiba etc.)

Stay tuned. Something should be happening soon.

IBM Windsurfer

The Windsurfer is a 3-in-1 type of card. It offers telephony, fax and audio support via its powerful Mwave Digital Signal Processor. Previously, only windows drivers were available for the card, but due to demand, OS/2 drivers are gradually being released.

Right now, telephony only drivers are available from the pspbeta forum. Audio drivers will be available some time in the future.

Microchannel + ISA versions available.

Portable Audio Solutions

DSP Solutions

Drivers for the DSP Solutions Port-A-Sound parallel port device are available from the DSP BBS. Honestly, I don't know if these drivers are multi-instance or not.

I need to do some checking.

Arkay Technologies

Drivers for the Arkay Technologies parrallel port audio device are available from Arkay.