DreamBlaster X2: A Modern MIDI Synth for Your Sound Blaster Card

Back in the 90s, gamers loaded out their PCs with Creative’s Sound Blaster family of sound cards. Those who were really serious about audio could connect a daughterboard called the Creative Wave Blaster. This card used wavetable synthesis to provide more realistic instrument sounds than the Sound Blaster’s on board Yamaha FM synthesis chip.

The DreamBlaster X2 is a modern daughterboard for Sound Blaster sound cards. Using the connector on the sound card, it has stereo audio input and MIDI input and output. If you’re not using a Sound Blaster, a 3.5 mm jack and USB MIDI are provided. Since the MIDI uses TTL voltages, it can be directly connected to an Arduino or Raspberry Pi.

This card uses a Dream SAM5000 series DSP chip, which can perform wavetable synthesis with up to 81 polyphonic voices. It also performs reverb, chorus, and equalizer effects. This chip sends audio data to a 24 bit DAC, which outputs audio into the sound card or out the 3.5 mm jack.

The DreamBlaster X2 also comes with software to load wavetables, and wavetables to try out. We believe it will be the best upgrade for your 486 released in 2017. If you’re interested, you can order an assembled DreamBlaster. After the break, a review with audio demos.

22 thoughts on “DreamBlaster X2: A Modern MIDI Synth for Your Sound Blaster Card

  1. Hey, I still have a few music card stored somewhere in a box, a SoundBlaster a Gravis Ultrasound and also a Roland SCC-1 (this one was so good to play music of Sierra and Lucas adventure’s games, I bought it only for this purpose I remember I cost me an arm and a kidney !)

  2. I held on to my Yamaha DS-XG card specifically for the superior wavetable synthesis. It doesn’t work in my Skylake workstation obviously, but I have a few older PCI based systems I can stick it in to enjoy Final Fantasy VII in all of its DS-XG music glory!

      1. Thanks. That would work hardware wise, but Windows 10 doesn’t have drivers for the DS-XG cards, in fact I don’t recall having full driver support for my particular card in Windows 7 when I put it in a Core2 Quad system I have. I do have a PIII-500 with Windows 98 that I keep around for classic gaming and it works great in it.

    1. I love it. I think the project is in its second or third iteration, with lots of cards already made and sold, as if that is most important? Maybe he had more joy during the project than a lifetime of writing gloomy comments? :-)

  3. Creative labs used to bundle in a bare bones audio editing software tool. I’ve been wanting to play with it again but can’t track it down. Can anyone help me locate it?

    1. Creative never ever put their utils or software suites up for download, only bare drivers or patches to update utils/software, they were also hardass about anyone uploading their full disk contents anywhere. I think this was to encourage sales of boxed CL Soundblasters over the white box OEM ones that were like a quarter the price, but came with nothing.

  4. Is this actual wave table synthesis, or just sample playback? For some reasons in the 90s, sound card manufacturers (mainly Creative Labs as I recall) started marketing their sample-based cards as “wave table”, even though they’re completely different.

  5. Maybe once they get sf2 conversion working and I can load on my aging copy of Utopia Live. Until then VirtualMidiSynth is working quite nice and if I ever build a physical DOS box again I can find a CM series Sound Canvas on ebay for about that price.

  6. Anyone else find that in some older games the music programmers kinda took advantage of cheesy synth sounds and made them harmonise with each other well, then you get a wavetable or latter day high quality synth and the “real” violin or harpsichord or whatever just sounds really bad now. I guess also there were some timing bugs in the old GM implementations that were worked around, and you get strange slight pauses or notes sounding on top of each other, when they didn’t before.

    1. “Anyone else find that in some older games the music programmers kinda took advantage of cheesy synth sounds and made them harmonise with each other well, then you get a wavetable or latter day high quality synth and the “real” violin or harpsichord or whatever just sounds really bad now.”

      I dabbled a lot with this stuff back in the late 90s and early 2000s, and that rings true for several games.

      On the other hand, Final Fantasy VII (the PC version) was an interesting experiment; if you had a card with a basic FM synth you’d get passable music but nowhere near the quality of the PSX version. If you had a SoundBlaster with a wavetable synth you’d get some improvements but you’d also end up with some weird sounds and tones since wavetable ultimately was just basic sound samples on top of the same arrangements. Where the game’s audio truly shined was with a DS-XG card, which the PC game’s music was arranged for. The game shipped with a stripped down software synth loaded with the XG samples strictly for FFVII, but if you had XG hardware you got exactly what the composers intended, and it was simply amazing. Even the cheapest YMF724 based cards would outperform SB and software synths on that game.

      I don’t know of any other games from the era that took full advantage of DS-XG cards like that, but FFVII on DS-XG was a dream for any fan of the music itself.

  7. The first soundcard I had with hardware sample MIDI was one made by Aztech Labs. IIRC it had a larger sample ROM than the addon from Soundblaster. Aztech’s MIDI addon might even have been compatible with soundblasters.

  8. I remember one of the UK Amiga magazines doing this back in the ’90s, maybe even early 2000’s – adding an XG sound card to an Amiga and publishing all the details. Always wondered why people don’t use this method to make mad DIY synths as a $20 PCI card could do all the heavy lifting for you.

  9. I’d be curious to see if sounds can be arranged in layers and assigned to different partially overlapping velocities so that driving a sample bank entirely made of drum samples could make them sound a bit more real. I would then use it for a self made drum pad brain.

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