UltraSound Plug & Play


Advanced Gravis


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The "UltraSound Plug & Play" is the newest version of the "UltraSound" card from Advanced Gravis that we reviewed over a year ago. Designed specifically for the Windows 95 environment, this new sound card was supposed to make the inevitable configuration an ancient nightmare, but unfortunately, as you will see by reading this article, the reality is somehow different with several problems that may be harassing enough to lead you to another choice.

The first problem you will encounter, although it is really minor, will be during the installation. Instead of having a simple installation that asks you only once for the hardware you want to install, you will have to select three choices corresponding to the UltraSound Plug & Play itself, and the two emulations (AdLib & MPU-401). Besides, as it is stated in the 'Corrections to the Quick Start manual', you might get an error message during the process, which really gives the impression that the installation procedure isn't finished yet.

One additional word about the installation. If you had another sound card installed on your machine with Windows 3.x or Windows 95 drivers, make sure you erase the corresponding drivers before installing the new ones for the "UltraSound Plug & Play", if you don't want to get into serious trouble! During our test, we incidentally forgot to remove the "UltraSound Max" drivers for Windows 95 which had for effect to mess up the installation process!

Once the installation is finished, you shouldn't at fortiori have any difficulty running any DOS-program supporting the "UltraSound". At least, this is what I was naively thinking. In reality, you won't be able to play with a DOS game unless you add some RAM on the sound card, hence justifying the existence of the "UltraSound Plug & Play Pro", identical to the prior except for a microphone and 512Kb of RAM added on the board.

Without RAM on the card, you won't enjoy the "UltraSound"'s sound quality in any DOS game, and instead you will have to select the AdLib/Sound Blaster or General Midi emulation. As both are software emulations, you can expect the same unpleasant surprises than with the "UltraSound". It works with most games, but the quality of the emulation leaves much to be desired. Therefore, if you want a good sound quality for your DOS games, you must add RAM. As there are two 30-pins memory slots on the card, you can choose for either 2Mb or 8Mb of memory using 1Mb or 4Mb 30-pins SIMM's. You will then have the UltraSound compatibility and also the Interwave effects processing such as echo, reverb and chorus.

The next step will be to configure your card to work with DOS games, as most of them are still to be executed from the MS-DOS prompt. Before running the setup of the game, you will have to launch a program called 'Prepgame' to update the sound files of the game (HMI drivers and DOS extender). However when none of these files are present in the game, or if there is only the DOS extender, the 'prepgame' will tell you to choose the emulations as the game does not appear to use the UltraSound. This happened frequently with the various games we tried, even though they all supported the UltraSound!

Don't be afraid to try to select the UltraSound in the game's setup, as most of the time, it works perfectly! As usual however, you will find the unavoidable cases that will turn your hair white. Such cases will happen with games that don't support high IRQ's. Why? Because the "UltraSound Plug & Play" can't be configured with IRQ's lower than 10, which evidently poses a problem.

The other thing we noticed with the "UltraSound Plug & Play" was the static background we had while playing games. We first thought of the Microphone line input, but after we checked it, we came to the conclusion that the new AMD Interwave sound processor may not be as superior as the Forte Technologies's GFX-1 previously used in the "UltraSound" series.

The above lines resume the problems you can expect with the "UltraSound Plug & Play". After over two weeks of testing with several games, I qualified the card of "Plug & Pray", because each time before I tried a new game, I was wondering if it would work correctly which I'm sorry, is not my definition for a 100% compatibility!

Otherwise, for Windows 95 exclusively, the card works perfectly. This is after all, the least you could expect from a 'Plug & Play' device! The card is also fully compatible with the DirectSound applications which isn't the case for the "UltraSound", and is capable of full duplex to play and record simultaneously which is required for such applications as Internet Phone. With added RAM, you will enjoy the 5.6 Mb General MIDI patches stored on the hard disk for an unmatched quality compared to most other wave-table sound cards with only 2MB or less ROM. If you own a CD-ROM drive that is an ATAPI IDE, you can use the "UltraSound" to control your drive.

Several programs come with the card on a CD-ROM. You will find an Internet Star-Up kit from CompuServe including WinCIM, NetLauncher, Spry Mosaic, Real Audio to listen to the radio over the Internet and a demo of Internet Phone to make long distance calls at the price of a local call. For music aficionados, the CD-ROM features Cakewalk Express, Sound Forge XP and Power Chords Debut. There is also a collection of shareware games, demos and plenty of other utilities to discover the "UltraSound" possibilities.


If you plan to use Windows 95 exclusively and want an excellent sound card, the "UltraSound Plug & Play" will be a good choice. Otherwise, I wouldn't recommend it for any gamer as he or she will undeniably have problems with DOS games.

I, personally, prefer the "UltraSound Max" and although it doesn't support the DirectSound API for the moment, it is my best recommendation. Hopefully, Microsoft will soon release a new version of DirectX which should include the drivers for the "UltraSound"!


Overall: ***

Technical Information

AMD Interwave DDSP
32-voice wavetable synthesizer
32 digital channels
Recording and playback at 16-bit, 48Khz
Hardware mixing
Line In, Line Out, Mic In, ATAPI IDE CD-ROM interface, CD Audio and Joystick/MIDI adaptor connectors
20Hz to 20Khz +/- 3dB line output frequency response
<0.1% total harmonic distortion with an input of -10dBm
>80dB signal to noise ratio (line in to line out).

Limited 3-Year Warranty

Retail price:US N/A

Company's address:

Advanced Gravis Computer Technology Ltd.,
101-3750 North Fraser Way,
Burnaby, BC, Canada.

Technical Support: 604-431-1807
Fax Support: 604-451-9358
Internet Support: Advanced Gravis
Web site: Advanced Gravis


Advanced Gravis Computer Technology Ltd.,
1790 Midway Lane,
Bellingham, WA 98226.

In Europe

Advanced Gravis Europe B.V.
Antennestraat 70,
1322 AS, Almere,

Internet Support: Advanced Gravis Europe


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