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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA

Pesky MT-32/Soundblaster Conflict

by Shot97 Sun Apr 22, 2018 10:35 am

DSCN5225_edited.jpg
Spent the last several hours diagnosing my Roland MT-32. I recently reformated the hard drives and installed Windows ME for a special review on the operating system, having the full intention of reverting back to my multi-boot DOS 6.22/Win3/Win98 setup afterward. With this in mind I made backups of the DOS/Win3 side of things and sent them back when I got rid of WinME. I made backups of Win98 too, but for whatever reason I always install everything fresh again with that... Windows can always use a fresh install, bloatware runs its best that way, where as DOS will always run the same... fast...

So I'm just getting everything back to where I want it, and I drop into DOS, and the MT-32 was having issues. Games with intelligent UART mode froze, and the other games had the instruments way off to what they should have been... You've never heard a more confusing Monkey Island theme...

I hadn't changed anything, so all I could figure was that something was dirty or dead... Started taking things apart, cleaning away... And oh wow was the MPU-401 unit dirty as could be... Contacts were pure black... Cleaned them, same issues...

Started thinking maybe the ISA slot was dirty... Nothing I did was helping.. Started searching for conflicts at this point (should have done this first - But I hadn't changed anything)... Going into the BIOS settings, messing around there... Finally I paused the screen as DOS was starting up and noticed my Sound Blaster AWE card was reporting to be on port 330... Grrrrrr

That would be the same port the MT-32 is configured to. At this point I knew what had to be done, but I still don't get it... The MT-32 has its port settings configured via jumper on the card itself, it's physical. I never touched them because quite a few games didn't let you configure those settings, so its best to leave them on default. I have, however, messed with the Soundblaster card before because of this very issue (although I don't remember ever getting music out of it the last time I went through this, when I first got the thing). The soundblaster card does not have jumpers on it, so it's done in software, and also by pointing the autoexec file to the right settings. The autoexec did have the correct setting for that card, which was 300, but somehow, I guess when I transfered everything back, the program that does the internal switch for the thing reverted back to 330, causing my issues.

When I first got the thing it was fun figuring out all that stuff, getting it to work... Had me scared this time because I was thinking there was something wrong with the thing... and that's an expensive thing I can tell you... This is precisely why I always make complete backups of the DOS drives, because I"ve done so much stuff over the years, added so many tweaks to settings, there's just no way starting fresh would ever be fun at this point... Anyway, a picture of the event... With my MPU-IPC-T torn apart because I was cleaning it.
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

Re: Pesky MT-32/Soundblaster Conflict

by intric8 Sun Apr 22, 2018 3:38 pm

Hardware explorations like that can be so nerve rattling. But man - I know just how it feels when you figure it out! Both a blend of massive relief and satisfaction with a mild sense of anger (or something like it) at the original root cause. This happened to me once by simply flipping a switch that I didn't know I'd flipped, and then spent over 2 hours troubleshooting a machine that appeared dead for all intents and purposes.

Congrats on figuring it out!
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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA

Re: Pesky MT-32/Soundblaster Conflict

by Shot97 Sun Apr 22, 2018 5:04 pm

I view this particular device in an even more nerve racking way. With most hardware explorations, it's some kind of add on that may make life better, or over powered, but they rarely turn into integral must haves for the users, especially when hardware itself is a prime motivating factor for the person messing with it.

It's about adding something new, getting something brand spanking new just made and shipped last week to work on a 30 year old computer, or getting some old (but new to the person) hardware working as if it were still 1987.

What's one piece of hardware in a sea of many? I'm fascinated by hardware but am super practical and principled in my choices. I view my MT-32 as a can't live without device. There's no single piece of hardware for any machine I cherish more. With the Amiga I ended up getting a hardrive and ram expansion, which makes life nicer... but could I live without it? I lived without it from day one until nearly 18 years later... So yes, I'd do fine without it... But I chose it because for a good year or more I was becoming increasingly worried about all these floppies I was accumulating. I'd never want to get rid of them all, but I could feel it burning inside of me for a long time that I could get so much out of a hard drive for the Amiga. So it sat there and festered, I looked up tons and tons of hardware, debated myself on what I should choose... Waited... Waited... Looked some more... Got a GVP hard drive... I use it all the time, I love it to death, fantastic choice that I can fully recommend any 500 user get. But... It's not required... Even having as much stuff as I have on that hard drive, there's nothing there I couldn't....Scratch that, there's nothing there I wouldn't do without a hard drive.

That's what guides my hardware adventures. They are few and far between because I'd never seek out anything just to have it, just because I ran into it or read about it, I have to have longed for it. That's the MT-32 for me. Do you know Sierra actually supported the MT-32 on the Amiga? There's a handful of Sierra games that will indeed work if you connect the MT-32 to the Amiga... and maybe one day I'll explore that (cause I know I'd have the only video showing that music at the proper speed), since I already have the thing, but it would only be because I already have it, not because it's a thing that works for the Amiga. Never buy an MT-32 for your Amiga... The Amiga sounds good on its own. I think at times it sounds better than the MT-32. The Amiga's sound is incredible.

DOS? There was the PC speaker... There was Adlib/Soundblaster FM synthesis... Personally I'd say the PC speaker is the best of those choices... I can't stand Adlib music. It brings down any game that uses it. I'd rather play Wing Commander on a slow Amiga 500 than play it faster in DOS with adlib music. I hate it. Sometimes I can dig the FM stuff, the Genesis can do some good stuff... Soundblaster "could" do better with the OPL3 chip, but few games supported that chip... Even after the Adlib card would be removed from the list of sound cards to choose from, soundblaster support in games was still using Adlib.

I got a Soundblaster AWE so add wavetable synthesis, sounds great for the games that support it... But those are the later games... Does not work for Wing Commander... I even used special programs for the FM games that would send that sound through the wavetable card and give it some reverb in order to enhance the awful monotone sound. I tried to emulate the MT-32 with that card with some success, but it still didn't work with enough games.

So I studied the MT-32... Which requires studying because it's not a sound card, it's a genuine 80's synthesizer that you can also hook up to your DOS computer with other added parts. There's lots of options, different revisions, different models all together... It was this slow and nagging feeling that my whole experience is being brought down by the most popular music format for DOS computers. So I got what I needed, hooked it all up, figured out how to make it work... and it's like I already knew before I even bought it that I would love this thing... That's my view with hardware, know that you'll love it long before you ever get it.

With most hardware looks, I couldn't care if I mess the thing up... I just fixed my Amiga's speaker system by spraying automotive brake clean onto the contacts. I knew it would work, but wouldn't have cared if it didn't... I'd just buy a new speaker system. With the MT-32, there was true pain/panic/anger/sadness in there messing around with it... Because I knew if that thing was dead there would be no other choice than to get another one... And that won't be cheap. And I'd do it again... Because I don't ever want to go back to adlib music again.

Anyone have a piece of hardware they view in a similar way? Not just that your life is much better/easier with it, but that you might even consider not using the machine itself if not for that piece of hardware.
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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

Re: Pesky MT-32/Soundblaster Conflict

by intric8 Sun Apr 22, 2018 5:17 pm

Anyone have a piece of hardware they view in a similar way? Not just that your life is much better/easier with it, but that you might even consider not using the machine itself if not for that piece of hardware.


Well, in my previous example, it was the entire Phoenix motherboard. I thought it was busted, right after I'd freaking gotten it to work. I was out of my mind. So few of them out there, for a while there I really thought the thing was toast. And the chance of me ever finding one again? Pretty much nil, to be honest. It wasn't like I felt like I could go find another. It's sort of like having a Leonardo Da Vinci painting: feels irreplaceable.

As for other pieces of hardware where I'd not use the machine... that's a tough one. If I pretended that I didn't have other machines to replace a dead one, I'm having a hard time thinking of just one single thing that would stop me from using them. Barebones stock can still do a lot. I do love my hard drives, but my stock 1000's don't have them (yet). And I love playing 1-2 disk-based games on them. It's perfect. Well, most games and softwares are, anyway.
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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA

Re: Pesky MT-32/Soundblaster Conflict

by Shot97 Sun Apr 22, 2018 5:59 pm

I think that's why I always give you a hard time about accelerators. It's not that I don't understand some games are slow and could benefit from increased speed... It's that I've experienced those very games back in the day and never thought they were slow then, and I'd still choose slow stock Amiga Wing Commander over most other versions because of the Amiga's music. I've yet to have an Amiga game break my patience in terms of gameplay speed.

That's also a principled choice for me because I feel that even if 90% of Amiga YouTubers have an accelerator card, that's not the people who are watching those videos. Which is also why I choose the 500. Hardware can become a drug, and before you know it people have lost all passion for the machine that now bears little resemblance to its original self.

I was always sucked into your Phenoix reads. Now I can see the comparison for that particular computer, as the Phoenix was what it was all about. But in terms of the 1000 model I wouldn't imagine you'd get rid of your 1000's because you can't imagine using one without the Phoenix.

That's probably the most difficult question for any person even a little bit into hardware to answer. I've got the MIDI musical keyboard to Amiga hardware thing, which brought me more joy than the MT-32... It caused me to express my own unique creativity on a machine I loved. To put out to the world my own art. I suppose Deluxe Paint had a similar feeling to many, even if it was not hardware but software... But I can't draw, so I could only ever play with DPaint. Making music on the Amiga was something special and for anyone that can mess with a keyboard a little, I'd recommend that one.. But I tend to have my serial port hooked up to a null modem cable more than that music thing, so even with me that's not a must have.

Of course not everyone would view the MT-32 as a must have. There's plenty (bad word, vocal minority) of people with ears that do not hear what I hear who think Adlib is more impressive than anything made then or since... The MT-32 was an uncommon device that received an astonishing amount of support because the designers themselves used it... I imagine that's what got so many American Amiga games to support hard drives... Because even American's were largely in the floppy only arena, but the designers had them, so they supported them. For some people I could see an accelerator being something that makes life much more special... But I'd genuinely love to hear their thoughts on if it's useful enough to throw out the computer without the thing.

I'd put the toaster there for some people, because so many Amiga's were sold only because of that hardware being included. I think it's because of that aspect of the toaster which causes me to be so fascinated by it. I eat up everything toaster for the Amiga, I just would never have a use for one myself, but I can see how for some people that one piece of hardware WAS the Amiga, and it was worthless without it. Maybe a digitizer for photographers?

Purely imagining this scenario: The Amiga 500 could be turned into a 2000 via a device I vaguely recall being called the Botany Bay (or I just watched Star Trek II and messed that name up completely). It literally made the thing look like a 2000 and added all of its expansion cards to the 500. What if someone who bought the 500 for their own uses suddenly got into a wedding photography business and were the first to make wedding tapes a little more special with added text and stuff added to the video? To do that, he made his 500 into a 2000, which was now the essential piece of hardware that he might not even have use for anymore without it.

Love reading about those types of hardware projects, even if I'd never use for them. It's all about personality... On YouTube I say that you come first for the games, you stay for the personality. With the writings it's the same... You come and read because you have a personal connection with the topic, be it a game, application, computer, or hardware... You stay and read the next article that has no personal connection to you because of the personality. I've seen some YouTubers do nothing but hardware week after week... I'd have figured they would have run out by now, but I do fear that they have run out of personality, because there's nothing about their looks into most hardware that give off that impression of personal want and passion. There's no why in their coverage, it's because they can... Which can even make a piece of hardware you might be interested in not worth watching, because you're pretty sure some of these people just go onto Ebay and resell the thing right after the video is done.

The phoenix story was pure personality driven. Made me want to root for your victory, but also be fascinated with the failures. Not the machine itself, which I wouldn't have personal interest in, but it was your passion that made it worth going on the journey with you. That's the key... The key to getting a handful of people to love you, and 95% of everyone else to take one look at the word count and skip right by! The key... To obscurity.... Alright so it's not exactly glamorizing, but I can vouch for being in good company. :D
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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA

Re: Pesky MT-32/Soundblaster Conflict

by Shot97 Sun Apr 22, 2018 6:23 pm

I might add on the often overlooked (just came to my mind) backdoor 512k expansion RAM for the 500. While there are no shortages of 512k games out there, I can't imagine my life back in the day without the 1mb RAM games. It's so rare that developers are willing to go all out and require a user meet a spec that is not built into the computer... But I know very few American Amiga games after 1989 that didn't require 1mb of RAM... So that one right there is a piece of hardware where the machine itself could truly be looked at by some as not being worth it without that extra hardware.
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BloodyCactus
Lexington VA

Re: Pesky MT-32/Soundblaster Conflict

by BloodyCactus Sun Apr 22, 2018 6:25 pm

you didnt say what motherboard, but what happened is easy to understand. Your AWE32 sounds like its Plug n Play, it does not know anything about the MPU401 card, so it takes the address. You need to reserve the address + irq's in the BIOS and use the dos AWE32 config software.

be advised too that most MPU401 software will only work on IRQ2, on later motherboards, IRQ2 is cacaded to IRQ9 as a slave and will cause problems.

(my supersocket 7 has mt32/sc88vl/emu sound engine, AWE32, midiman 401 mpu).

there are very few intelligent mode mt32 games, most are dumb uart mode.
--/\-[ Bloody Cactus :: http://kråketær.com :: http://mega-tokyo.com ]-/\--
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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA

Re: Pesky MT-32/Soundblaster Conflict

by Shot97 Sun Apr 22, 2018 6:39 pm

There was more than enough intelligent mode games to make me get the MT-32 in the first place, as I was previously emulating the MT-32 through the AWE card. It was coming across the intelligent mode games (as well as dumb mode games that were simply running in DOS protected mode, which the emulators on the cards did not support either) often enough to where I HAD to have the MT-32, which at the time also required the MPU-401 box as well as the card that goes into the computer. I guess everyone these days has figured out how to get around that with the SoftMPU program, which can emulate intelligent mode. Didn't exist when I put mine together.

Yes, quite easy to understand once I went through all of the settings again, as I had said I had previously gone through this when I first got the Mt-32. What was confusing to me was how I had completely backed up my hard drives, so I would have thought my previous configurations for the AWE card to use port 300 rather than 330 would have been saved, but apparently it had not been. When your mind is viewing the situation from the start as something that couldn't be wrong in your own configurations because you already had all the settings correct, that's where the drama comes into play (because it was my fault).

And yeah, I slapped my forehead once I saw the AWE card coming up with a 330 address, and at that point I knew exactly how to fix it, but from my point of view that was not obvious because the thing had had worked for the last 8 years. Yeah, this is not a first timer needing help with the MT-32, I'm well versed in it's story both with computers as well as separately as a synthesizer for musicians.
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BloodyCactus
Lexington VA

Re: Pesky MT-32/Soundblaster Conflict

by BloodyCactus Sun Apr 22, 2018 7:10 pm

yeah the awe32 is my fav card. its 'emulation' of mt32 is useless (its the same as all other card brands emulations, it has a preset bank that matches the mt32 bank list, but it cant emulate that the mt32 has ram you can upload into, anything doing that will never sound the same on a non mt32). I'd trade my mt32 for a cm32l anyday, to get those sound effects the mt32 didnt have.. sooo expensive! :/ for anything non-mt32 I prefer my emu sound engine, it sounds so nice.

many things had mpu support (c64 etc).. I dont remember the Amiga getting any mpu support for the breakoutbox. It would be pretty simple. I guess with munt these days its of little consequence.
--/\-[ Bloody Cactus :: http://kråketær.com :: http://mega-tokyo.com ]-/\--
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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA

Re: Pesky MT-32/Soundblaster Conflict

by Shot97 Sun Apr 22, 2018 7:36 pm

The Amiga did not support Roland's breakout box. I did hook it up to the Amiga once just to see if it could do anything. That required an adapter to match the serial port up correctly, and I tried connecting a music keyboard through it to the Amiga, but could only ever get my built in metronome to do anything. I guess the breakout boxes require a separate interface card, and Roland never made one for Amiga models. Not sure if that's a wiring issue or genuine hardware issue.

The MT-32 itself could be hooked up to the Amiga if you had a separate MIDI box. I do have one of these to play music on the Amiga through a keyboard, but I've yet to try out the MT-32 on it. That will only work for games if the game itself has its own driver for the MT-32, and only a handful of Sierra games ever wrote a driver for the Amiga. So it would just be for the kicks of it to hook the MT-32 up to the Amiga... Might be kind of fun to do since I already have all that I need for that.

I love the MT-32 for those early DOS games. Anything that supports it, I'm using it. Not a fan of Adlib at all and I always made it my mission to do everything and anything I could to make Adlib sound better, which led to the MT-32 eventually. I love the AWE for the later DOS/Windows games that support it. Would love to play around with making music on that card as well with all of its available fonts. I think the MT-32 for the early games that support it along with the AWE for the later games as well as adding atmosphere to the Adlib only stuff is my perfect setup, The only thing I'm lacking on are the rare games made after General MIDI became a thing (where they didn't even bother to remap the MT-32 to General MIDI) and before the AWE was around... Because unfortunately the AWE can only emulate general MIDI, which because of protected mode is awful. I guess a RAP-5 or something would be great for those games. Oh well, I do have a program that will remap and upload general MIDI instruments to the MT-32 for those games, which is usually enough for me.

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