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  #1  
12-14-2017, 10:41 AM
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jwillis84 jwillis84 is offline
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I just pulled the trigger on acquiring two used Turtle Beach Santa Cruz Sound Cards.

A risky choice when there are lots of choices, not the least (why) its risky of which is buying used.

Here are my reasons:

I'm building a 7500 VE AIW (PCI) and 9600 AIW (AGP8x) capture system on two Intel D865GBF motherboards.

A (lucky) and (dangerous) combination.

Lucky because the same motherboard has both PCI 2.2 and AGP 8x slots and the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz card was a PCI 5 Volt only card. The PCI hardware standard was in major change in the late 1990's and these motherboards came out just after the year 2000.. (the Santa Cruz right on the cusp of these years) Intel tech specs erroneously published that the Intel D865 GBF motherboards were PCI 2.3 compliant.

PCI 2.3 (allowed the "insertion") but (denied power to 5 volt only PCI cards) a very frustrating state of affairs for old card owners. Fortunately the Intel 865 was the last of the Pentium line that "could" support PCI 2.2 which was still considered "Universal" and supported (BOTH) old 5 volt only and new 3.3 volt only cards. PCI was moving in the direction of supporting faster lower voltage CPUs and the Intel 9xx series motherboards would later only support PCI 2.3 and 3.3 volt PCI cards.. quite the escartment to escape. Be careful if you get an older PCI sound card, it may not work in PCI 2.3 or later motherboards.

But that's not the reason why I selected the TB Santa Cruz cards.

Pre-2000 Creative Labs Singapore, Sound Blaster and Turtle Beach were started by muscian or synthethsizer makers.. basically audiophiles (experts at "making" sound, not really capturing it).

The All In Wonders before the combined MPEG2 capture in hardware versions (Theater chip 550 and forward) merely decoded the TV Tuner RF signal into video and audio "signals" and passed the video signal into the Theater 200 chip for digitizing. And the "decoded" audio signal passed either though an optional internal audio cable to a local sound card, or through an external 3.5 mm jack (outbound) and jumpered into the Line Input jack on a sound card. -- so, you had to have a sound card "in addition to" your All In Wonder card.. it wasn't "exactly" (all) you needed.

Picking a sound card to "partner" with an All In Wonder is not easy, for the aforementioned historical mismatched compatibility reasons, and because the sound card "specs" typically focused on sound "making" not capture.. there is little in reviews about the actual Analog to Digital conversion chip used or the fidelity of the input circutry and noise filtering or rejection.

Knowing.. you wanted 48kHz sampling at 16 bit or better didn't really help, and 192 kHz sampling might be better sampling but overkill for a low resolution audio signal decoded from a reconstituted VHS video signal.. (up) sampling or transforming (does not) create richer new sound.

So pradaoxically, older well known and stable sound cards (at the time of the motherboard and operating system) are generally (considering all things you can consider) .. best.

A "living language" changes, a "dead language" does not

The Turtle Beach company was sold and bought by Voyetra around 2000, so the Santa Cruz sound card was the last in its series, there would be no follow up.. updates or changes, except improvements to its device driver to add XP support... which they did do until end of support in 2004.. a great year for the 7500 VE and 9600 All In Wonder cards.

The Santa Cruze was made using a well known Analog to Digital chip you can reference easily from many photographs of the card. Its analog circuitry for music making is generally regarded as "good" and so "good" that OEM maufacturers sourced it for years.

Sound Blaster remained a moving target and a large range of quality, the Audigy and Audigy 2 were released and changed multiple times design wise at exactly the time AIW was most popular.. so it was known to struggle with both new PCI compliance designs and with frequent device driver feature creep.

The Audigy are great cards for gamers and "chasing" features.. but were (well) "changing".. not good for stability. You might get lucky, or might not get lucky.

But for later motherboards after the Intel 865 Pentium designs, you have to go Sound Blaster (or something else).. and good luck finding the super special device driver version for the operating system of choice.

And then there is the great Electrolytic Capacitor event in the late 90's early 00's

A Turtle Beach Santa Cruz mostly sat that out.. because it left production.. it wasn't being made anymore.. OEM copies might have problems.. but the original was "frozen" in time. Which might be overthinking things since input circuitry is not usually capacitor heavy.. but its one more thing in its favor.

Be aware that both Turtle Beach and Sound Blaster's acquisition companies Voyetra and Creative Labs followed Microsoft recently (~ 2014 > ) by "purging" their Tech Support sites and device driver sites of "Legacy" drivers and helpful articles.. and most transitioned to database backed websites that archive.org could not back up.. places like "This" forum and Vogons specialty sites (might) offer some meager support.. but if you follow this path.. your on your own.

After the T200 chips were no longer used in All in Wonders, the T550 and later based All In Wonders generally digitized the TV tuner decoded audio signal on the same chip as the video signal so that it could be combined in the MPEG2 stream that would be output .. essentially "locking" the audio and video timesync together. You could decide to capture into AVI that was not MPEG2 based.. but you still had an audio digitizer on chip and no longer needed a sound card.

So effectively.. the Turtble Beach Santa Cruz.. for me.. was the last great steady dinosaur.. left on the playing field.

At least.. that's my reasoning

I didn't consider Sound Blaster "Legacy" cards mostly because of the high variability of production quality and device driver choices.. too numerous to figure out.. sometimes (Less) choice is better.. and a quality rating of (good) is better than a quality rating of (maybe) or (place your bets)

Do not forget > If the motherboard you have to use is made with chips "after" Intel 865 or for CPUs "after" the Pentium.. you cannot use the TB Santa Cruz.. and have to look elsewhere.. the PCI slots may or may not let you insert the card into the PCI slot (later ones prevent you from doing so) but there will be no 5 Volt power source in the PCI slot to power up the card.. at that point you might consider onboard sound card support from the motherboard.. or a USB sound card solution

Last edited by jwillis84; 12-14-2017 at 11:04 AM.
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  #2  
12-14-2017, 11:40 AM
NJRoadfan NJRoadfan is offline
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The Turtle Beach Santa Cruz works fine on newer motherboards. The 3.3v card thing is a non-issue because consumer motherboards exclusively shipped with 33Mhz 32-bit PCI slots keyed for 5v cards.... even to this day (albeit provided by an onboard PCIe-to-PCI bridge chip on the latest chipset boards). The longer 64-bit slots along with 66Mhz clock speed slots were pretty much confined to high end server and workstation boards (along with the Power Mac G4).

The only slots that were keyed for 3.3v cards were server boards that provided the higher bandwidth PCI-X bus, which mandated 3.3v cards. The only popular machine to completely lack 5v slots was the PCI-X based Power Mac G5, while server boards usually had 1 or 2 5v legacy PCI slots on them. Later PCI cards (the true PCI v2.3 compliant ones) were dual keyed to fit both 5v and 3.3v slots.

Regarding Creative.... their drivers have been a mess since they started making PCI sound cards. The kX Project drivers are a good alternate for EMU10k based (Live!, Audigy series) cards and focused on professional audio production. They have no "fluff" and usually work. Otherwise, the Daniel_K driver packs have worked fine for me.
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12-14-2017, 12:57 PM
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jwillis84 jwillis84 is offline
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Very interesting information NJRoadfan.

I came about the caution from a number of Dell support articles in which older 5 volt only professional audio cards suddenly would not work in post Intel 865 chip based motherboards back around 2003. Dell was quite defensive in saying it wasn't their fault and only offered that 5 Volt only cards could not be supported going forward.

But the idea of a parallel development of PCIe to PCI chips that might also support 5 volt only cards never occurred to me.. perhaps they found a work around because of a backlash? or it was a happy happenstance.. a side effect of something in the PCIe spec I'm not aware of.. that does still leave a period of time before the introduction of PCIe in which PCI 2.3 compliant motherboards (might) have had a problem supporting 5 volt only cards. Its not the physical insertion of the card.. the "key".. that works.. you (can) insert the card.. it was the removal of the 5 volt line.. or desupport of it.. from what I understand that precipitated the thrashing on support boards.. warning users that 5 volt only card vendors had been "warned to update designs to 3.3 volt or 3.3 volt and 5 volt dual support (for ten years)" wasn't much comfort to users.

If later PCIe to PCI bridge designs reintroduced support that would be good around the 5 volt donut hole when support was temporarily dropped.

Creative drivers alway seem to be pushing EAX features and services.. complexity kills.. I've heard of the stripped down, or reduced activity driver sets before.. I use some for my Asus Xonar.. wish someone just made a well documented good sound card that specialized in analog capture.. I don't know of any.. but it would be nice.
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12-14-2017, 02:00 PM
NJRoadfan NJRoadfan is offline
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The voltage refers to the bus signaling (TTL levels), not the actual power delivered to the slot. All PCI slots have 5v, 3.3v, -12v, and 12v delivered to them. The PCI SIG might have mandated 3.3v signaling in the v2.3 spec (looks like only for cards, not slots), but board makers weren't going to break backwards compatibility with 9 years worth of 5v cards. PCI 3.0 completely removed all 5v support (cards and slots) but was never implemented in practice.

A similar thing happened with the AGP specs. The last release (3.0) required 0.8v signalling, but in practice, everyone made cards compatible with 1.5v signalling since the slot keying didn't change.
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04-21-2019, 04:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jwillis84 View Post
The Turtle Beach company was sold and bought by Voyetra around 2000, so the Santa Cruz sound card was the last in its series, there would be no follow up.. updates or changes, except improvements to its device driver to add XP support... which they did do until end of support in 2004.. a great year for the 7500 VE and 9600 All In Wonder cards.n
You could still buy Turtle Beach Santa Cruz cards new at Fry's in 2003 for about $65. That's when I built my 2nd ATI AIW system. I built several more in 04-05, and I was still able to source the cards new online. Not Newegg, but other now-gone places like Geeks.com and the old Directron. At that point, it was probably NOS (new old stock), but still available.

Dell used a lot TBSC cards at one point, but you need to be careful, as some had varied chipsets. The cards were not necessarily 100% the same as the OEM retail boxed cards.

Vista drivers exist, though I'm not sure about the etymology of the drivers. I don't think they're official, but are fully functional with Vista/7/8/10. All drivers are available here: Drivers for Turtle Beach Santa Cruz Sound Cards [DOWNLOAD]

The problem with SoundBlaster/Creative cards is distortion. You can't always hear it on cheap PC speakers, but it becomes obvious on reference or near-reference grade speakers, as well as even moderately decent-sound TV, or fancy speaker setups for "home theatres". There is a tinny-ness to the sound, loss of dynamic range (understand VHS does have much DR to work with to begin with!), flat bass. I'm talking about the audio recording, not playback. This is not a nitpick, but obvious sound quality loss that a layman can usually hear.

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