Ensoniq Soundscape OPUS Mini Review
This is a cost reduced OEM version of the Ensoniq Soundscape used by Gateway. It is similar to the Soundscape S-2000, but with a smaller MIDI patch set (1 MB instead of 2 MB). A good quality picture is available here.
- This card works with Ensoniq's Soundscape drivers, although it is not officially supported. You can find them at the Vogons driver archive.
- The installers that Ensoniq released are intended for Windows systems. Installation was very straightforward through Windows 3.1.
- It is possible to copy the driver directory over manually and configure the card for DOS systems without a Windows installation. This thread has details.
- The card is plug and play. It is configured and initialized through a program called SSINIT.EXE. There is no TSR that remains loaded after the card is initialized.
- The Soundscape Opus is compatible with SoundBlaster 1.x, MT-32, and General MIDI.
- FM support is handled through emulation. The card maps FM back to MIDI instruments. Sometimes this works OK, sometimes it is very weird, especially if the game used FM based sound effects.
- MT-32 support is handled through a utility called MT32.EXE. This simply re-maps instruments to match up with MT-32 better. There is no support for custom instruments.
- General MIDI is works well. The sound quality is nowhere near as good as a high-end device such as a Roland Sound Canvas, but it does OK when compared to some of the other lower cost alternatives such as the AWE64 Value.
- The Opus uses different ports than an S-2000 or Elite. This can cause issues with games that have a native Soundscape support option. Sometimes you can edit configuration files manually to fix it if the game's installer won't configure it correctly. Even if this doesn't work, you can fall back on General Midi and Sound Blaster.
- Good sound quality. Nice, clean, output.
- Easy to configure. Supports a lot of options even if it doesn't do some of them well.
- Decent General MIDI implementation.
- High quality 16-bit sound for games that natively support Soundscape.
- No TSRs that need to stay loaded and consume memory.
- MT-32 emulation is hit or miss.
- FM support can be just plain terrible (specifically see Heretic below).
- You can do a lot better for General MIDI.
- SoundBlaster digital audio is only 1.x compatible. No stereo effects unless your game supports native Soundscape mode.
The OPUS is a good choice if you are looking for an inexpensive way to add some basic MIDI support to a system. It generally does not give good results however for older games that only support FM or MT-32 music. This card is best used in a secondary system, or combined with another card to handle FM. It works well with other cards, I installed it alongside a PAS16 with no issues.
I tried to capture all modes that are supported by both the Soundscape and the game. Leisure Suit Larry 7 is included because I wanted to include a digital only recording.
|Freddy Pharkas: Theme||FM||fpfp_theme_ssopus_fm.mp3|
|Freddy Pharkas: Theme||MT32||fpfp_theme_ssopus_mt32.mp3|
|Freddy Pharkas: Theme||GM||fpfp_theme_ssopus_gm.mp3|
|LSL6: Heath Spa||FM||lsl6_health_spa_ssopus_fm.mp3|
|LSL6: Heath Spa||MT32||lsl6_health_spa_ssopus_mt32.mp3|
|LSL6: Heath Spa||GM||lsl6_health_spa_ssopus_gm.mp3|
|Secret of Monkey Island: Theme||FM||secret_of_monkey_island_theme_ssopus_fm.mp3|
|Secret of Monkey Island: Theme||MT32||secret_of_monkey_island_theme_ssopus_mt32.mp3|