SoundBlaster clones used to flood the market, so how does this oddball compare?
Back in the early 90’s the world of sound cards was booming. You had the AdLib cards which were crazy popular and on the rise were Sound Blasters, and their compatible clones.
These clones are were the market fo sound cards shined. There were so, so many companies trying to stand out with different features and much more. In this case, we will take a look at a card from 1992, that isnt all that it seems.
The cards in question are TopTek Golden Sound cards. These clones appear to be built around 1992 and offer the following:
- OPL2 synthesizer, such as used in cards like the AdLib.
- A DSP of unknown quality for digital sound playback.
- Variable mic input volume, but via a potentiometer and not software.
Furthermore the card in question has a 16 bit ISA plug, but the 16 bit portion is not connected to anything. It still is by design an 8 bit only sound card. This means it will work in an XT or original IBM PC!
Of course being a clone card the onboard chips are often without any text or text that barely means anything nowadays.
Regardless here are the chips that stood out, which can also be used as keywords to indentify the card:
- MPOWER DSP401: Digital Sound Processor of some sorts
- TOPTEK TMC306: ???????
- LS-212: OPL3 Clone
- PMI-DAC08: Texas Intruments 8 Bit D/A Converter. DAC0800
Only the logic chips are mostly from a real brand. Say you were copying a card, would you want the original company after you? So just obscure the chips, and there is less chance of getting caught!
This card is probably the Golden Sound PRO II, which offers more CDROM interfaces and looking at pictures the board layout + chips seems way more similar then the Golden Sound 2.5.
Note: pin configuration for DMA goes from the top to the right, not top top bottom!
Clones of clones:
There seems to also be a clone of a clone, where the Terratec Sound Junior seems awfully similar to a Golden Sound 2.5, doesnt it?
Another possible clone of a clone is the Protac AV202P3 which looks like a Golden Sound 2.5 with big DSP chip and big Yamaha synthesizer. So many clones!
Thanks to Tombowolf / Wolfig.sys, we got the driver disks on archive.org in case anyone should ever need them.
You can download the driver disks for the PRO II and 2.5 versions of the Golden Sound here.
these also contain demo‘s and voice test files for testing stereo sound and more.
As for Compatibility with these clone cards you never know what For testing I used the installation disks for Sound Blaster 1.5 and Pro 2.0 plus the Golden Sound’s own software.
- For Sound Blaster 1.5 support, all tests except Creative’s own card tester worked. Text to speech, recording and synth all worked just fine.
- For Sound Blaster 2.0 support, I used MMDEMO. Which combines FM music, speech, PCM audio and more. Stupidly enough, these all worked just fine but I could not figure out if they were stereo.
Sound Blaster emulation only seemed to work with 1.0 and 1.5 support. 22Khz, Mono.
Sound Blaster 2 demos did work suggesting that a 44Khz sampling rate in mono might be supported.
No Sound Blaster Pro support should also explain why stereo programs need a driver, since programs that CAN take advantage of the card’s features talk directly to the card to enable stereo playback.
Otherwise, AdLib support is there as well, and with Space Quest III sounded really fun. Loud instruments had a ‘popping’ noise but thats all there is to complain.
But how does it sound?
Now of course you, the reader will probably want to know it sounds like, right?
Using an E-MU 0404 USB some recordings were planned but sadly did not work out.
There was constant distortion and noise in the signal i could not get rid of. Seems to be a ground issue with the PC and recorder interface. In the future once I CAN get clean recordings off of sound cards I will update this post with a link to the recordings.
So for the time being, the stereo 22Khz audio sounds clean and bright albeit all sound has a bit of noise due to sound cards of these ages not, or at least not often having filter circuitry.
Bass is ‘good’ and so are the high freqencies for the OPL2 but with fast instrument switching and fast paced playback it does click like many OPL3 chips and clones do. In my experience the clone card is not as clean as a real AdLib or SB but its only a very minor difference.
Otherwise if I had this card back in the day I really could not complain. It does what its supposed to do, supports what it mentions and has some extra features to boot!
The Golden Sound PRO II really is not all that bad for what you’re getting.
AdLib music and Sound Blaster 2 sound effects in PCM in what is actually an 8 bit cards means you can add music to any PC, even the original 5150 should you so desire.
Should you find a Golden Sound card, which will work without the drivers as well I don’t think you would be all that sad about it. Like I said it does what it should and sounds decent, even for its clone quality & age.
Do I recommend it? That depends. Say you cant afford an original AdLib and or Sound Blaster or otherwise a Golden Sound does make a decent alternative.
That said, I hope you enjoyed and can make use of whatever you may have found. Thanks a lot for reading!
Pictures by me and box photos by Tombowolf / Wolfig.sys.
You can vieuw all the pictures here.
Both cards have their own, demo’s… But they scream in 90’s, and yes some screenshot did not get the timing right.
Enjoy these screenshots of pure early 90’s computer graphics glory!