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These ICs were featured earlier in various popular electronics magazines around the world. For many years Creative tended to use off-the-shelf components and manufacturers' reference designs for their early products. The various integrated circuits had white or black paper stickers fully covering their top thus hiding their identity. On the C/MS board in particular, the Philips chips had white pieces of paper with a fantasy CMS-301 inscription on them: real Creative parts usually had consistent CT number references.
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A year later, in 1988, Creative marketed the C/MS via Radio Shack under the name Game Blaster. This card was identical in every way to the precursor C/MS hardware. Whereas the C/MS package came with five floppy disks full of utilities and song files, Creative supplied only a single floppy with the basic utilities and game patches to allow Sierra Online's games using the Sierra Creative Interpreter engine to play music with the card and it also included a later revision of the game Silpheed that added C/MS support.
In spite of these limitations, in less than a year, the Sound Blaster became the top-selling expansion card for the PC. It achieved this by providing a fully AdLib-compatible product, with additional features, for the same, and often a lower price. The inclusion of the game port, and its importance to its early success, is often forgotten or overlooked. PCs of this era did not include a game port. Game port cards were costly (around $50) and used one of the few expansion slots PCs had at the time. Given the choice between an AdLib card or a fully compatible Sound Blaster card that came with a game port, saved a slot, and included the "DSP" for not much more in price, many consumers opted for the Sound Blaster. In-game support for the digital portion of the card did not happen until after the Sound Blaster had gained dominance.
The final revision of the original Sound Blaster, the Sound Blaster 2.0 was released in October 1991, CT1350, added support for "auto-init" DMA, which assisted in producing a continuous loop of double-buffered sound output. Similar to version 1.0 and 1.5, it used a 1-channel 8-bit DAC. However, the maximum sampling rate was increased to 44kHz for playback, and 15kHz for record. The DSP's MIDI UART was upgraded to full-duplex and offered time stamping features, but was not yet compatible with the MPU-401 interface used by professional MIDI equipment. The Sound Blaster 2.0's PCB-layout used more highly integrated components, both shrinking the board's size and reducing manufacturing cost.
Owners of previous revision Sound Blaster boards could upgrade their board by purchasing the V2.00 DSP chip from Creative Labs, and swapping the older DSP V1.0x with the newer replacement. The upgraded board gained the auto-init DMA and new MIDI capabilities of the Sound Blaster 2.0 but not the expanded sampling rates. The upgrade was necessary for full compatibility with the Windows 3.0 Multimedia Extensions upgrade.
Model CT1330, announced in May 1991, was the first significant redesign of the card's core features, and complied with the Microsoft MPC standard.. The Sound Blaster Pro supported faster digital input and output sampling rates (up to 22.05kHz stereo or 44.1kHz mono), added a "mixer" to provide a crude master volume control (independent of the volume of sound sources feeding the mixer), and a crude high pass or low pass filter. The Sound Blaster Pro used a pair of YM3812 chips to provide stereo music-synthesis (one for each channel). The Sound Blaster Pro was fully backward compatible with the original Sound Blaster line, and by extension, the AdLib sound card. The Sound Blaster Pro was the first Creative sound card to have a built-in CD-ROM interface. Most Sound Blaster Pro cards featured a proprietary interface for a Panasonic (Matsushita MKE) drive. The Sound Blaster Pro cards are basically 8-bit ISA cards, they use only the lower 8 data bits of the ISA bus. While at first glance it appears to be a 16-bit ISA card, it does not have 'fingers' for data transfer on the higher "AT" portion of the bus connector. It uses the 16-bit extension to the ISA bus to provide the user with an additional choice for an IRQ (10) and DMA (0)m channel only found on the 16-bit portion of the edge connector.
Eventually this design proved so popular that Creative made a PCI version of this card. Creative's audio revenue grew from US$40 million per year to nearly US$1 billion following the launch of the Sound Blaster 16 and related products. Rich Sorkin was General Manager of the global business during this time, responsible for product planning, product management, marketing and OEM sales. Moving the card off the ISA bus, which was already approaching obsolescence, meant that no line for host-controlled ISA DMA was available, because the PCI slot offers no such line. Instead, the card used PCI bus mastering to transfer data from the main memory to the D/A converters. Since existing DOS programs expected to be able to initiate host-controlled ISA DMA for producing sound, backward compatibility with the older Sound Blaster cards for DOS programs required a software driver work-around; since this work-around necessarily depended on the virtual 8086 mode of the PC's CPU in order to catch and reroute accesses from the ISA DMA controller to the card itself, it failed for a number of DOS games that either were not fully compatible with this CPU mode or needed so much free conventional memory that they could not be loaded with the driver occupying part of this memory. In Microsoft Windows, there was no problem, as Creative's Windows driver software could handle both ISA and PCI cards correctly.
Released in March 1994, the Sound Blaster AWE32 (Advanced WavEffects) introduced an all new MIDI synthesizer section based on the EMU8000. The AWE32 consisted of two distinct audio sections; the Creative digital audio section (audio codec, optional CSP/ASP chip socket, Yamaha OPL3), and the E-mu MIDI synthesizer section. The synthesizer section consisted of the EMU8000 sampler and effects processor, an EMU8011 1MB sample ROM, and 512KB of sample RAM (expandable to 28MB). To fit the new hardware, the AWE32 was a full-length ISA card, measuring 14 in (360 mm).
In 1998, Creative acquired Ensoniq Corporation, manufacturer of the AudioPCI, a card popular with OEMs at the time. It was a full-featured solution with wavetable MIDI (sample-based synthesizer), 4-speaker DirectSound3D surround sound, A3D emulation, and DOS legacy support via a terminate-and-stay-resident program. It was cheap due to lack of hardware acceleration. It is full-duplex but at least in MS Windows cannot play back several sources at once.
The first model and flagship of the SB/Live family was the SB Live! Gold. Featuring gold tracings on all major analog traces and external sockets, an EMI-suppressing printed circuit board substrate and lacquer, the Gold came standard with a daughterboard that implemented a separate 4-channel alternative mini-DIN digital output to Creative-branded internal-DAC speaker sets, a S/P-DIF digital audio Input and Output with separate software mappings, and a fully decoded MIDI interface with separate Input and Output (along with on mini-DIN converter.) The Gold highlighted many features aimed at music composition; ease-of-use (plug-and-play for musicians), real-time loopback-recording of the MIDI-synthesizer (with full freedom of Soundfonts, and environmental effects such as reverb, etc.), and bundled MIDI-software.
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