Sunday, September 7, 2014

Non-PC Speaker Digitized Sound Part II : Sample Time

In a prior post, I discussed the ability of sound devices other than the PC Speaker to produce digitized sound.  In this entry, I will share some recordings I have made of these digitized samples.  Most of the samples will be voice, but there are some sound effects and even music.

First off, here is Touchdown Football for the IBM PCjr., with an 8088 CPU @ 4.77MHz and using the TI SN76496 :

Next, here is the same game in its Tandy version, running on a Tandy 1000 RL, which uses an 8086 running at 9.44MHz, using a PSSJ-based TI SN 76496 core :

This code is very speed-sensitive.  Even on an RL in the slow 4.77MHz mode, it still runs too fast.  I believe that the code was only meant for an 8088 running at 4.77MHz, not a V20, and not an 8086 (which is what the RL has).

Here is the same sample, but being run by a Tandy 1000 SX, which uses an 8088 CPU running at 7.16MHz and an NCR 8496 (clone of the TI SIN 76496) :

This time, the sample sounds much more appropriate than the chipmunk like rendering by the faster machine.  However, this game was released when the only Tandy 1000 on the market was the 4.77MHz only 8088 CPU of the original Tandy 1000.  A Tandy 1000 TX running at 4MHz sounds very similar.  Because the SX can also run at 4.77MHz, I have been able to record the sample at that speed, and here it is :

If you compare this sample to the PCjr. sample, it becomes clear that the same voice is being used for both software versions.  Therefore, in order to run this game at its intended speed, an 8088 running at 4.77MHz is necessary.

While Touchdown Football turned out not to be a PCjr. exclusive, the next sample clip is from The World's Greatest Baseball Game.  This game, as far as I know, only officially supported PCjr. for enhanced graphics and sound.  I have included the music and speech that play before you start a game :

The announcer does sound a bit more synthetic than the announcer for Touchdown Football, but the speech is easy enough to comprehend.

The next sample clip is a fairly long one, and it is my recording of the movement sounds and battle sounds from the original, 16-color version of Battle Chess.  In this case, Battle Chess is running on a Tandy 1000 TX, 8MHz 80286, using an NCR 8496 clone of the TI SN 76496 :

Roughly, the clips are in the following order:

Pawn Moves
Knight Moves
Bishop Moves
Knight Takes Bishop
Bishop Takes Pawn
King Takes Bishop
Knight Takes Knight
Queen Takes Pawn
Rook Moves (King and Queen move silently)
Queen Takes Knight
Queen Takes Pawn
Knight Takes Queen
Queen Takes Knight
Rook Takes Queen
Bishop Takes Knight

Battle Chess in its 16-color version only supports PC speaker and Tandy 3-voice sound.  The PC speaker version lacks movement sounds, and the sound quality is pretty awful compared to the Tandy sound.  It was too awful to record, play the game in DOSBox if you want to hear it.  Fortunately, the 256-color version supports a Sound Blaster and plays identically to the 16-color version.  Interplay could have done better, as we will see soon enough.

Before I continue, I would note that I am recording all the Tandy 3-voice and PC Speaker samples through the RCA audio out jack of the Tandy 1000 TX.  This jack provides line level output.  I decided to avoid using my Tandy 1000 TL because a game may inadvertently utilize the Tandy DAC, and that is not the point of these samples.  For the Adlib and Game Blaster and Sound Blaster samples, I recorded them off a Sound Blaster 1.5 with C/MS upgrade.  That card only has an amplified out, so those samples are comparatively louder in these recordings than the Tandy and PC Speaker samples.  I decided not to tamper with them.

The next three games support PC Speaker or Adlib for digitized sound.  Wizardry, Bane of the Cosmic Forge and Super Jeopardy also supports the Covox Sound Master, Voice Master and the Innovation SSI-2001, but I do not have access to any of the Covox boards.  [I will try to put up a recording from the SSi-2001 clone I purchased].  Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure sounds very impressive with the Adlib.  Additionally, both Wizardry and its sequel, Wizardry Crusaders of the Dark Savant uses the Adlib for digitized sound, even though they are quite aware of a Sound Blaster.  The digitized sound in the Wizardry Bane intro is not very long, so I did not bother to record a PC Speaker reference sample.

Finally, I will demonstrate Activisions "Omnimusic" driver from BattleTech : The Crescent Hawks' Revenge. This driver provides digitized sound through the PC Speaker, the Tandy 3-voice sound chip, the Adlib and Game Blaster chips, the Sound Blaster DSP, the IBM PS/1 Audio/Game Card, the Covox Sound Master and the Innovation SSI-2001.  It is a jack of all trades as far as sound devices of the late 80s and early 90s go.  However, not all things are equal, as you can judge for yourself.

As you can hear, the PC Speaker only does the digitized sound effects, and not very well at that.  The Game Blaster has a high pitched whine in its playback not heard with Tandy or Adlib, but the samples sound pretty decent  The Sound Blaster provides reference quality samples.

There are other PC games that support digitized sound through an Adlib card or clone.  These include Dungeon Master, Another World/Out of this World and Electro Man / ElectroBODY.  All these games support Sound Blaster and that is what anyone with a Sound Blaster should use.

If you want some more samples of what the Tandy chip can do when pushed to incorporate digital samples, then listen to some of these recordings from my friend Cloudschatze's channel :

688 Attack Sub :
One on One :
Kings of the Beach :
Skate or Die :

1 comment:

trixter said...

Is it me, or does the Battletech sample actually sound worse on Sound Blaster than on other "non-DAC" devices?