Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Aztech Labs Sound Galaxy Nova Pro16 Extra

I found this card installed in a 386/486 vintage Packard Bell.  I took it as it looked interesting.

The card has had the DAC/ADC functionality of a Sound Blaster 2.0, a UART compatible MPU-401, a gameport, a Yamaha OPL3 chip and also is Microsoft Windows Sound System compatible.  It has a line in, a mic in, a line out and an amplified out (for headphones or unpowered speakers) and a gameport.

The card is set either via software or EEPROM, which is mostly jumper selectable.  All but one jumper has its function marked on the card, and there are four :

J1 - PC Speaker Amplification - Closed = High, Open = Low
JX1 - Microphone Type - 1-2 Closed = Condenser, 2-3 Closed = Carbon
JMPCFG - Configuration Type - 1-2 Closed = EEPROM setting, 2-3 Closed = Software setting
JMPBO - Base Address - 1-2 Closed = 220H, 2-3 Closed = 240H.

There are DOS configuration utilities buried in its Windows drivers.  They will be in the directory with the file, EASYSTAR.EXE, which functions as a gateway to the audio configuration and testing programs and the mixer application.  If you know the settings, no drivers need be loaded on bootup.  The HWSET utility can be used to set the IRQ and DMA values and should be used to set the mixer values, as the EEPROM will not store the mixer values, despite what the MIXTSR program says.

There are headers on the card for CD-in (4-pin white connector), Modem-in (4-pin blue connector), multimedia PC speaker (4-pin header) and a Waveblaster-compatible MIDI card.

The mixer functionality allows for 16 volume levels for the Master Volume, CD/Line In, FM/Wavetable, Sound Blaster Voice (DAC)  and Microphone.  All but the microphone can have the volume of the left and right channels independently selected.  

The UART MPU-401 uses a separate resource setting than the Sound Blaster or Windows Sound System.

The Sound Blaster and the MPU-401 can use either IRQ 2/9, 3, 5 or 7, but will not share an IRQ.  The card uses DMA 1 for the Sound Blaster and DMA 3 for the Microsoft Windows Sound System, and neither can be changed.  Like a real SB 2.0, it can be set to I/O 220 or 240 only.  Similarly, like the SB 16, the MPU-401 port can be set to I/O 330 or 300.

The Microsoft Windows Sound System can be set to I/O 530, 604, E80 & F40.  It can use IRQ 2, 7, 10 or 11 and DMA 0, 1 or 3. I believe it uses DMA 3 and IRQ 10.  The Galaxy drivers insert the following line in AUTOEXEC.BAT :

SET GALAXY=A220 I7 D1 K10 P530 T6

There are three proprietary CD-ROM interfaces on the card, Panasonic, Sony and Mitsumi.

The Microsoft Windows Sound System, MPU-401 and game port can be disabled.

The 16-bit portion of the card is used only for the extra IRQ and DMA signals for the CD-ROM interfaces.  They can use IRQ 11, 12 or 15 and DMA 0 or 3.  Otherwise the card should work in an 8-bit slot.

One warning about this card, when it grabs an IRQ, it does NOT like to play nice.  If you set its IRQ to the mouse's IRQ, for example, your mouse cursor will stop working.  There is a TSR in the DOS utilities to provide for some level of Sound Blaster Pro compatibility, but it will not provide stereo panning support for Wolfenstein 3D.  The headphone output is really noisy, with lots of hiss.   The game port is as speed sensitive as a real pre-16 Sound Blaster, so in a fast 386 or a 486 system you will probably want to use something else.

All-in-all, this a very good card.  The Sound Blaster hardware was licensed from Creative Labs and reports a 2.02 DSP.  The software resource setting is pre-PnP and quite easy to use.  It can also store the settings to an EEPROM, which eliminates the need to set resources every time the computer is booted, unlike an SB 16.  Its OPL3 is superior to the OPL2 of a real SB 2.0.  Its MPU-401 is better than a SB16's because it can use a separate IRQ from the SB (works with Soft-MPU).  It also supports a waveblaster and can record and playback 16-bit audio through the Windows Sound System.  The card is perfect for Windows 3.1

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have an aztech sound galaxy washington 16, it's like this but based on sound blaster pro 2 instead of sound blaster 2, it was my main sound card even long into the win98 era. I used it on a 386, a 486, a pentium, even when I got a k6-500 I still used it, even in the early 2000s.
it's a great card both for DOS and windows, good sound quality and great compatibility with everything, I never had a problem with it. nowadays I replaced it on my DOS/win98 pentium 1 machine with a sound blaster 16 isa just for the sake of not overworking the por card, hehehe, I don't want it to break. I love my aztech sound card!