As I m buying a computer without an onboard sound card, I m thinking about using my old Creative Sound card from 21 years ago and buying a pcie riser adapter instead of a modern sound card (I m interested in one with hardware fm synthesis support rather than one emulated through pcm and sampling).
Please note in that case that it s not only about hardware accelaration and is also about sound quality because of not using pcm sound at all.

I know that by 1995, Creative abonned fm synthesis and started to use a low quality compatible hardware alternative based on cqm synthesis in order to cut down costs in their pci version of Sound Blaster 16 cards. But as processing powered evolved, cost to include it again should have decreased which doesn t means later models like mine don t include it.

I also know Creative provided a tsr in order to let dos programs perform sound synthesis (I lost the driver CD).
But I fail to understand if it was for emulating everything or just reroute irq for accessing the hardware?

Also, if yes does they use fm synth or still use their low quality cqm based alternative?

Back in 2006, I was too young to pay attention about this in Windows 98se hardware settings and as Windows doesn t support hardware synthesis since Windows Vista and Linux never had support for such things with pci card, this is something I ve no idea on how to figure.

  • The only sign I m having is the organ sounded very different than in this video where it s emulated. Oct 8, 2020 at 17:13
  • Although Ross' answer is uniformly true as far as I know, there are lots of revisions of cards under a single Sound Blaster range name. Can you give us the CTxxxx or SBxxxx number given on your card?
    – knol
    Oct 8, 2020 at 19:32
  • @knol as I said it s the Value version. For the exact détails I left the card to the local repair shop in order to let them find an adapter. There are lot of pci to pcie adapters. But my computer won t have plain pcie hardware ports. Only riser pcie ports which is for plugging cables instead of cards. As I m failing to find a pcie riser to pci cable supportting dma I had to leave the card to someone more experienced at finding hardware. Oct 8, 2020 at 19:40

2 Answers 2


No, the Soundblaster Live! doesn't have any hardware support for FM synthesis. Soundblaster 16 emulation is provided by trapping accesses to the Soundblaster and AdLib ports and then emulating their functionality in software. There is no OPL or CQM chip, or even a Soundblaster PCM compatible chip.

Note that in the MS-DOS and Windows VxD drivers this emulation is based on generating PCI #SERR errors, which get turned into NMIs by the chipset. However this doesn't work on newer motherboards, basically Pentium 4 or newer because by the time the NMI has arrived at the CPU, the CPU has gone on to execute the next instruction causing that one to appear to have accessed the SoundBlaster or AdLib port.

  • Back in 2006 (the last time I used the card), I can definitely tell you that dos games running in Windows 98se that required opl3 worked with my 4.2Ghz Prescott cpu. Oct 8, 2020 at 17:50
  • 1
    @user2284570 That's because the Windows drivers included SB16 emulation. You might have been using the WDM drivers which have their own separate SB16 emulator, which didn't rely on #SERR and NMIs, instead using Virtual 8086 mode I/O trapping. What Creative should've done for their own emulator.
    – user722
    Oct 8, 2020 at 17:50
  • I didn t used the vxd driver so it couldn t affect dos. Oct 8, 2020 at 17:52
  • @user2284570 See my updated comment. Both the VxD and WDM drivers included SB16 software emulation.
    – user722
    Oct 8, 2020 at 17:53
  • Actually changing sound settings in the autoexec.bat did make this game silent youtube.com/watch?v=h7sDBa8bHos. If I recall correctly, wdm drivers only worked for nt based programs. Not dos. Oct 8, 2020 at 17:54

The SB Live series did not include any legacy hardware and support for these were made available with emulation only.

  • Source? Or did you try the tsr with a plain ac97 card? Oct 8, 2020 at 17:41
  • @user2284570 The TSR won't work with a plain AC97 card. It requires a Soundblaster Live! to work.
    – user722
    Oct 8, 2020 at 17:48
  • @RossRidge the tsr should had used pcm capabilities of the card. Anything compatible should work (maybe the emutek if not the ac97). Oct 8, 2020 at 17:59
  • 1
    Well, I have had a SB Live card at some point. And Wikipedia actually has the same info. Only a handful of PCI sound chips had real OPL hardware, such as Forte Media FM801 and some Yamaha PCI sound chips.
    – Justme
    Oct 8, 2020 at 18:06
  • 1
    @user2284570 I don't recall if I had the CD, but if I had, it went along with the card. But now you are talking about MIDI and PCM wavetables, that has nothing to do with OPL3, which basically uses a 256-entry log-sin waveform table that is well known by now, thanks to various reverse-engineering efforts including me.
    – Justme
    Oct 8, 2020 at 18:48

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