MEGA Audio is a new audio card from a2heaven.com – developed by Plamen Vaysilov, for Apple II that holds inside several audio cards itself. It supports emulation of several different kinds of audio cards that were/are available for Apple II-computers, all-in-one:
2 x Mockingboard-cards (no support for SSI-263 speech chips emulation)
1 x A.L.F.-card
4 x S.A.M.-cards (4 x DAC)
MEGA Audio uses the internal speaker signal and routes it thru the emulated cards for output without connecting the cable from i.e. Mockingboard-card to motherboard connector. So you can hear the “beeb!” from better speakers now as well..
What it emulates?
Originally by Sweet Micro Systems with different versions.
The sound was generated through two AY-3-8910 chips for six audio channels and had two open sockets for optional SSI-263 speech chips (depending of the card model).
It worked in Apple II models with 48k RAM or more. Lots of software that had Mockingboard support, often needed 64k or 128k.
Support for Mockingboard-audio card on software/games was somehow limited. About 30 games/software supported the Mockingboard. Very few games even supported dual mockingboards like “Ultima V” as well some modern Apple II-demos as well.
The known games/software supporting the Mockingboard. The list might be incomplete or not 100% accurate as of some do require the SSI-263 speech chip installed on Mockingboard and MEGA Audio card does not have support for that.
Adventure Construction Set
Apple Cider Spider
Berzap! (A clone of the classic arcade game, Berzerk!)
Crimewave (Speech support)
Crypt of Medea (Speech support)
Cybernoid Music Disk
Guitar Master – Guitar tutoring
Lady Tut (Specific Mockingboard version)
Mockingboard software (Sweet Micro Systems)
Mockingboard Developers Kit
Mockingboard Speech Developers Kit (Speech support)
Music Construction Set
Music Star (Patched version)
Oid Zone (Michael Packard)
One on One (Opening sequence music only)
Rescue Raiders v1.3 – (Speech support)
Spy Strikes Back
Ultima V (Dual Mockingboard setup)
Zaxxon (Mockingboard version)
A.L.F. -card “Apple Music II / Music Card MC1”
The ALF uses 3x SN76489N chips, thus allowing nine simultaneous voices (similar to three MC16 cards). Rather than starting at the same pitch as the lowest note on a piano (A0, the A below the C three octaves below Middle C) like the MC16, the MC1 started 15 semitones higher, at C2 (the C two octaves below middle C; and rather than having an 8-octave (96 semitone) range, it had a 6-octave (72 semitone) range. The Music Card MC16’s software was modified to operate the MC1.
Software Automated Mouth-speech card (S.A.M.)
Is a versatile, 8-bit digital-to-analog converter, high-quality speech synthesizer card, created entirely on software and it does therefore have an built in timer module as Mockingboard-card does. It is easy to use and program with simple statements with BASIC or assembly-language. You can use the S.A.M. features directly from Applesoft or Assembler-language.
The card is now also supported by “Drum8 – 8-bit Apple II Drum Machine software” with 16 sounds, 8 simultanious, real time edit with mouse and 256-step pattern sequencer.
MEGA AUDIO HARDWARE:
MEGA Audio is based on Lattice small FPGA. Firmware (written by “Bulgarian Woz” Mr.Plamen Vaysilov) for the FPGA emulates chips of the audio cards supported by MEGA Audio: AY8910, VIA 6522, SN76489N and discrete logic using in these cards. The firmware is trying to be as close as possible to the original design of these cards hardware and emulate it. The card can route the internal speaker audio directly to external speakers without any extra cable.
The S.A.M.-card have one DAC assigned on address C0XH (X is 8+slot number and (Slot 1 = C090), H is a any address from 0..F, C0X0..C0XF). When you write value to address C0XH you set analog voltage on output and if you write fast on this port with some values you can make voltage shape of sound. So MEGA Audio have 4 DAC’s independendly assigned to C0X0..C0X3 therefore you can make 4 audio shapes in same time – 4 channels of S.A.M.
The supplied LED-equalizer unit comes with cable (50cm/19.5inch) – it is attached the connector on top of the MEGA Audio-card.
External LED-equalizer display:
Displays the activity of each channel in colored bar-formation. For example for the dual-Mockingboard setup the visuals would be:
-Mockingboard #1 Green Left channel
-Mockingboard #1 Yellow Right channel
-Mockingboard #2 Red Left channel
-Mockingboard #2 Blue Right channel
The led equalizer-bar-displays can be swapped to another style if desired. The type is: “10 Segment Bargraph Light”.
MEGA Audio-card leds:
When enabled and in use, the MEGA Audio-card’s led colors cycle thru rainbow colors, speed of cycling is dependent of frequency of the output of each channel.
MEGA Audio works in any slot (expect AUX in Apple //e). Depending of the emulated audio card you are using – they often need to be installed in certain slot, for example Mockingboard in #4, ALF in #2 and SAM in #4. Some games/software, allow you to setup the slot where the card is located, but not always. Some games that autodetect the Mockingboard and the slot & might have issues doing so if you are also having accelerator like FASTchip //e installed and running faster speeds then just 1MHz. Just slow it down and try again. This is not MEGA Audio problem.
For the audio we need either external active speakers attached or headphones (if those have audio level adjustment, the better).
My testing setup:
Apple //e platinum
SLOT / CARD
#7 CFFA 3000 & Smartport #7
#6 For Disk II-virtual slot (CFFA 3000)
#5 MEGA Audio : Mockingboard 1 / SAM (depending which one you are using)
#4 MEGA Audio : Mockingboard 2
#2 MEGA Audio : ALF
#1 FASTchip //e
#AUX RamWorks III+VGA add-on adapter
+ External active speakers
+ Attached external led-equalizer display module
ENTER THE MEGA AUDIO CONTROL PANEL:
You can access the MEGA Audio-card Control panel settings from monitor by typing:
]CALL -151 [ENTER] – to enter the monitor
*CX00 [ENTER] X = slot number where MEGA Audio is installed, for example C400 (Slot 4)
MEGA Audio Control panel:
Here you can change and save the configuration:
Slot # – what emulated audio card is using which slot. In this case the setup is as : #2 ALF (A), #3 Mockingboard 2 (m), #4 Mockingboard 1 (M) and #5 SAM (S).
Output – If you want the output being Stereo or Mono. Mixing all chanels with one (mono mode audio) for example SAM outputs only in right channel with this option.
Light – if you want to turn the led’s of the MEGA Audio-card itself, On/Off.
Speaker – for speaker audio level adjustment – that is output to the MEGA Audio and the speakers.
HOW IT SOUNDS?
-Mockingboard & Mockingboard dual:
I played around many different Mockingboard-supported games and they all worked fine and sounded as with any Mockingboard-card. It is so great to have the same quality audio when playing games that the other 8-bit computers had in the 80’s.. sadly the Mockingboard did not get more support than it did. I found new favorite game, Night Flight!
Tested also music disks like “Chiptunes” and “Not So Cheap Tunes” that did sound absolutely fantastic and i kept coming back to it and listening them as a backgroung music when i was doing other things. There’s also some demos that support Mockingboard, released by the great late French Touch. Also some modern games like Michael Packard’s “Oid Zone” supports the Mockingboard.
There’s only few known games with Dual Mockingboard-support, i.e. Ultima V that also have menu where you can listen the songs used in the game. Those are 12-channel tunes and they do sound fantastic, specially when you turn up the volume! Ultima IV says it would support dual Mockingboard but i could not get it working. I had Mockingboard’s configured to slots #4 and #5 – even you can also configure them at the menu as well to other slots. The reason for it is mostlikely bug in the Ultima IV’s code. There’s also music disk by French Touch that have dual Mockingboard support (12-channels) and wow, that did sound different and fantastic. It’s hard to believe it’s the same old Apple II with the “beeb” you’be used to listening!
Night Flight : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFnSj0-q0LY
Chiptunes (#2) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b75ZsO63SU8
French Touch 12ch music disk : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ug7TIpg2Vc
Ultima V (12ch) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tZNJyWEhek
Popeye – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBUjGqfAsTs
Ultima IV – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bv-TsecFaE
Skyfox – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IV3DnszTxJ0
Usually used in Slot 2 but is configurable with the software.
Played the ALF Album disk – series and they did sound just like the vintage, or the clone, ALF-card would have. I however did not try to compose any music of my own (due my limited musical limitations). But if you’re into composing your own vintage computer music, this is an another possibility for you. Sadly the ALF-card did not get more support, it was great audio card of it’s time!
ALF music player: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-GU4Lgns24
-S.A.M. / Software Automated Mouth:
Usually used in slot #4.
Played around the old SAM speech disks that demonstrate the synthesization capabilities of the card. It is always fun to hear computer to speak. And the possibility to use it with your own Applesoft programs makes it even more fun and opens more possiblities.
Drum8 (Slot 5) – Absolutely great drum machine software if you are into making your own music. It supports 16 sounds, 8 simultanious, real time edit with mouse or keyboard and 256-step pattern sequencer. The quality was nice, but i am not much of a musician (more or less blues/guitar picker) to get more out of it but i played around and i was able to create some sort of a background beat for a song! The editor is quite easy to use.
I suggest you to take a look of it if you have the beat with you: https://blog.juicylizard.com/drum8-apple-ii-8-bit-drum-machine/
SAM Speech (demo): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73X_zTTocZU
SAM Speech (#2) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCtahfcyvGY
Drum8 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVy0H9bxvjE
Drum8 “RockIt” : https://soundcloud.com/user-352744039/drum8-megaaudio-rockitwav
CONCLUSIONS AND THOUGHTS:
The card very handy and convinient by size, about the size of the FASTchip //e and supports many audio cards for Apple II -serie of computers. It’s reasonably priced card if you need to have several different types of audio cards in your Apple II. Having Mockingboard in optional dual-setup is already very interesting and possible deal-maker for some. We can hope more support in form of new games or demos, will appear after this kind of setup being so easily had (Michael are you paying attention..).
Accessing the Control panel menu thru monitor & commands is not difficult, but it would be more convinient if it could be done while booting the Apple II by pressing some key, like with FASTchip //e for example. The need to configure the slots within the MEGA Audio might not be something you need to do often however, depending your needs of course.
Audio quality, with my setups, was excellent. I had some humming when using old vintage 90’s PC-desktop active speakers but less, if any, with modern, quite new Lenovo desktop speakers. But then again, rarely those cheap active speakers are that high quality. With iPhone headphones the humming noise was clearly heard but not with better quality over-the-ear type. Routing the headphone-cable better away from the computer, might help if you have long enough cable to do so. The (dual) 12-channel Mockingboard sound was really awesome, rich and clear, sadly not much supported by software. The “regular” Mockingboad audio, i found myself listening Chiptunes and Not So Cheap Tunes -music disks as a background music when i was doing something else elsewhere. Those just sound that good!
The idea of having more than one audio card built-in is just plain genius! I wonder if Applied Engineering’s Phasor-card would have been added as well, even it’s basicly the same as two Mockingboads and why not then… bear with me, SID-chip? There is soundcards supporting SID for even BBC Micro called “beebSID”. So maybe we’ll see updaded MEGA Audio Pro someday?
If you don’t have Mockingboard card already, this is one way to get it and more, in one small package for the price of one.
Available soon at : https://www.a2heaven.com/webshop/
Estimated price for MEGA Audio is $85 + $20 for the Equalizer display (free shipping everywhere)
FinApple 2018 (c)
Apple II Forever.
NOTE : The FinApple is having issues with WordPress and hyperlinks can not be added correctly. The blog will be moved to another domain some time soon….