Why The Gravis UltraSound Sucks
Have you ever noticed the extraordinary number of people that are in
art groups that support the Gravis UltraSound? Have you noticed that some BBS
systems mention it in the same breath as the omnipresent Sound Blaster... If
so, youve been lied to. Im an UNLUCKY soul who is stuck with one, and Ill
tell you why I describe this situation in this way.
First, I want to give some history. Im a part-time computer
technician at Gim Computers in downtown Atlanta. Im a fairly decent techie,
but due to time constraints and age problems, I dont get paid in cash, but in
computer hardware. One of my gifts was a Gravis UltraSound, and that was a
real mistake...
I was handed it as I went out the door, and tried to install it into
my 386 DX/40. I was suprised to find that this board had Wavetabe
Systhesis. I thought that this would be a great find, but I was mistaken.
I installed it to find that it wouldnt fit inside my fairly new and not
exactly non-standard Full Tower case! I managed to insert it after much
manuvering, pushing, and plain brute force. It went in the second from last
slot, several slots away from my video card, which, under normal
circumstances, shouldnt cause any problems. To my suprise, the Gravis was
affected by radiation coming off my video card. Ever unflappable, I moved the
card away, and restarted my machine. I was off. I installed the software
that came with the card, and found that it took 7 mb MINIMUM. This is unheard
of for what isnt exactly a presentation quality card. It turns out that it
copies patches to the drive, instead of the standard On-board ROM. This hogs
disk space and is slower than the standard way of compressing them onto the
card itself. At this point, I knew that I was in trouble.
The next day, I was dead tired. I had had customers yell at me all
day yesterday, and came home to a small disappointment. I was prepared to
face the worst, and I did. The Gravis was unsupported by most of the
softwares I had bought or gotten in less honorable ways. : I was stuck with
Sound Blaster support, commonly known to GUS users as SBOS Sound Board
Operating System I bet you expected something else and that made me even
more displeased. I had expected PAS, or even SBPro support, but, instead SB,
Mono, 8 bit support. I was livid, and called their BBS looking for
information. I found a BETA, Roland emulation, but still a beta. The Roland
fixed a music problem, but not the digital sounds and voice. I was stuck with
SB, no matter what.
I installed a game I had bought for only the purpose of installing
after I recieved my sound card, Hardball III. Not exactly top of the line,
but still a very servicable game. I installed all of the software correctly,
set it up for Roland Music, SB sound. It didnt work. The emulator managed to
lock the game. The digital voice managed to make the game lock-up at the
start of action. I had to turn off the Sound, and run only Music. Once
again, I was upset. I called Accolade the next day, and told them about my
problem. They said they knew nothing about it, and told me to call Gravis.
Unlikely, considering that theyre based in Western Canada. I had already run
up enough of an LD phone bill over this, and I decided to give up and live
with 8-bit Mono.
I came up with another idea. The GUS has 256k of DRAM on it, and I
figured that was hardly enough. I went into work, and got another 256k of
DRAMs... If you have ever seen a DRAM, you know youre in for a hard days
labor installing it. For those of you that dont, they look like 1 inch by
1/3 inch pieces of black ceramic, with little metal pins coming off the back.
This is where you connect the DRAM, by bending the pins and inserting them
CAREFULLY, into the slots. If not, you can 1. destroy the ram, 2. stick
yourself badly, or 3. have to re-bend the pins and start over. I took out the
card, once again with much difficulty, and began to install the 2 chips of
2x256k DRAMS. I missed, several times. The layout of the DRAMS was so
compact that it was nearly impossible. Very badly made and planned card. It
should have COME with 512k, as its nearly REQUIRED. I finished, and found
I had wasted time, energy, and some blood! All of the apps had run the same
and I even found that one of my MIDIs even stopped working.
I tried a different game, and got the same results. Once again,
another game that I had obtained, Ultima Underworld 2. Different
manufacturer, same result. The game started slowly, VERY slowly, and then
stopped at a point 2 screens through the game. I had reached my tolerance
limit. I began thinking of ways to get it to work. I tried the 32-bit AIL
drivers, which change digital drivers into ones that work with the Gravis.
Those didnt work. The games which did support Gravis, such as Doom, wouldnt
run under normal circumstances, or told me that the Gravis couldnt be found.
Overall, Id say that a Gravis UltraSound is a bad purchase. The
current lack of software compatability makes it a bad choice for users. The
card lacks a SCSI port, unlike most Creative Labs products, and the layout of
the card makes it almost impossible for the average user to use, service, and
do necessary upgrades. To all of the people who say the Gravis is a great
card, I say, buy one, and call me in the morning.