Gravis Utrasound review

Gravis Ultrasound (Classic)

This card utilizes GF1 chip, made by Gravis. Couple of revisions of this card came out. I know of five, this is the last one. There were some slight design and functionality differences. For example, this revision is the first ultrasound card, that has mixing abilities, earlier revisions didn’t include mixer chip. It also lacks the ability to record 16-bit audio, to do that, you need a 16-bit sampling daughterboard. On the other hand, it was one of the first sound cards, that could play 16-bit 44kHz sounds. There’s only 256kB of onboard memory for instrument patches, so if you don’t want your Gravis to sound like crap, upgrading memory to 1MB is a must.

What Gravis did extremely right is their system of instrument patches. Every instrument has its own file, which you can swap for your own. It’s extremely fast and easy way to replace instruments you don’t fancy. I tested everything with default instruments as they were provided by the installation program.

What Gravis did extremely wrong, however, is compatibility with Sound Blaster. It doesn’t support Sound Blaster natively, you need a software emulator. There are currently three emulators for Gravis out there. First one is sbos which is a pure Sound Blaster emulator, second one is Mega-Em which emulates Sound Blaster and General MIDI or Roland LAPC-I, SCC-1 and MT-32. And the last one is ultramid, it is kind of software DPS processor. Since Gravis doesn’t have DSP hardware processor, it depends on a software version, which is needed in some games or software. For each game I had to try all of the emulators, since almost every game works just with one them and the others are crashing computer.

And the conclusion? Well, if you’re a masochist, go for it. It has really good wavetable, better than for example Sound Blaster 32. But the horror with getting games working can put somebody off. In some games it’s a far cry from good. In the rest, on the other hand, it’s just brilliant. Output is super clean, considering its age. For retro gaming, I’d get Gravis and some other card, compatible with Sound Blaster. Gravis for games with native support and the other card for the rest.

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