Upgrading Audio in a 9600

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Joined: Sep 6 2005
Posts: 14

I'm looking to upgrade the stock audio on my 9600. Does anybody have any suggestions for a decent sound card? Thanks.

Specs:

Power Macintosh 9600
Sonnet 800MHz G4
Sonnet Tempo Trio
1.5 Gigs RAM
Radeon 9200 PCI
Super Drive
OSX Tiger / OS 9

... you get the idea.

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-iMac G5 20"/2.0 Ghz/1 Gb RAM/250 Gb HD/Tiger
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-Powermac 9600/200 Mhz/128 Mb RAM/60

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DrBunsen's picture
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It all depends on what you wa

It all depends on what you want to do and how much you want to spend. Are you looking for just better quality stereo output for listening, or better quality stereo input for recording? Or a whizbang pro quality multiple input and output card for multitrack recording? Are you OK with buying second hand, or do you want only something new in box with warranty? Do you have a USB card installed, or a spare slot for one? What OS are you running, or would be wiling to upgrade to? What audio gear are you plugging your Mac into?

For cheap, you could check out the USB Griffin iMic (new), or the PCI Creative Soundblaster Mac (discontinued/used, OS 9 only)

Most of the PCI Macs have reasonably decent onboard audio - not pro grade obviously, but not completely crap either. What are you noticing that you're not happy with?

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If your looking for top of th

If your looking for top of the line home/pro audio, I would check out M-audio.

robegian's picture
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Using a 9600 as a DAW

I'm actually using a bunch of pro and semipro audio hardware in my PM9600 (upgraded to G4/700, Mac OS 9.1): I slotted in a Yamaha DS2416 audio card, plus a Yamaha SW1000XG, plus a Yamaha XT16-AT and even a Yamaha AX44 (these units work neatly linked together as they were one device), toghether with a Korg OASYS PCI, all working rather well with Steinberg Cubase VST/32 5.2b.

The setup is rather dated, but effective nevertheless, and it gives professional results.

A couple of pictures:

Roberto Giannotta
Trieste, Italy

catmistake's picture
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Wow

I've had nothing but PCI bus problems in my 9600 with a G4... I could never figure it out... I was only using 2 cards... a graphics and a 10/100BaseT card... it was stable as long as I didn't try to transfer large files across the network... I tried different cards with no effect. What's your secret?

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Joined: Dec 20 2003
Posts: 354
Audiomedia III

If it were me, for something that old, I would use hardware contemporary with the 9600, both for compatibility as well as price. My recommendation is an Audiomedia III card, it has RCA plug analog stereo in/out as well as S/PDIF in/out. Excellent quality, it was professional grade in its day. Last I had checked on ebay (maybe a year or two ago), they go for very little money because of the age and resolution (it's not 24/96 like many modern cards). Because you have a pre-Blue & White machine, you don't have to worry about getting one with the later chip revision (QC and QE)- the QC and QE cards still have some value, but the earlier ones are practically given away, because they won't work with anything later than a beige G3.

edit: though I notice you have Tiger on there? I honestly have no idea if it would work or not in Tiger...

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RE: Audiomedia III

These were highly rated cards in the day...
I don't think they work with OS X, though (pretty sure, or they'd still be valuable).

They do, however, work seemlessly with OS 9 and Pro Tools FREE, that 8 track free version Digidesign released prior to porting their flagship software over to OS X.

I just checked, and it looks like Pro Tools Free v5.0.1 is still available for download. This software is actually quite awesome. Apple can push GarageBand all they want, but it will never come close to Pro Tools, even in simplicity of design, and Logic is a fscking nightmare compared to it. The argument goes that Pro Tools is better for actual audio while Logic is more geared toward MIDI setups. It's true that Logic probably has wider MIDI capabilites, but I don't think that's an excuse... it is just a bloody mess... you have to use it to appreciate that (the sound of Logic, however, I think, is comparable to Pro Tools, at least in 24-bit).

I've used Pro Tools Free, and I loved it... I think I may pick up one of those cards if I have a chance. I have an earlier version of Pro Tools that I got from a demonstration a while ago. Its Pro Tools 3.4, and it, I think, is the precursor to Pro Tools Free. When I got it, 7.5 or .6 was the latest OS, and 300 MHz was the fastest proc.... PT3.4 lets you have as many tracks as your processor can handle with that being the only limitation. My 8500 ran at 180 MHz, and I could get about 20 tracks out of it before it started sputtering. I used it for a while, but HD space was at a premium back then. Subsequently, I upgraded my proc to a G4/450, and got gobs more memory since the early days. One day I came across this 3.4 version, and I wondered how it would fare with the new processor. I created a zip boot disk for 7.5 (I believe it runs in OS 8, but for some reason I don't think it works in 9, and all I had was 9 or 7.5) and all the PT 3.4 software fit on that. When I checked to see how many tracks it could handle, I couldn't get a definite number because it just kept going up... I think I stopped the experiment when I reached 50 tracks recording! I only have 2 inputs, so its a silly excercise, but I could easy have as many tracks as I need, recording just 1 or 2 at a time... and now that HD space is so cheap....

What I need to do is figure out a way to get tracks from Pro Tools Free 5.0.1 into Pro Tools 3.4, because Pro Tools Free has all these really cool professional effects, allowing you to put (I think 4 or 6) nondestructive real time effects on your tracks, and, of course, 24-bit recording. I'd have to solidify the effects, and downsample, before somehow exporting them, but if I could get them into v3.4 I'd still have the ability to use (or not use) 2 more effects (I think eq was the only one worth using, but I could use 2 eq's) plus the ability to control levels before mixing down to 16-bit stereo.

Of course, with a crappy noise floor there are only so many tracks you can realistically use together... but the AudioMedia III had a very low floor IIRC.

What is this business about different AudioMedia III cards? Which ones are compatible with B&Ws?

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Jeeze!

you got a workstation I could only dream of. But then again, i would use it for video work instead of audio Tongue Wouldja Look at all those displays.... I bet that could keep the whole room lit up at night. How much did that setup cost? (Include the kick-a$$ speakers on the bench)

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davintosh's picture
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Thanks, Roberto...

... now I gotta wipe the drool off my trackpad! That is one sweet setup!

How many input channels can you handle, and much drive space has it got?

I'm always amazed when I go to concerts and see Macs at the mixer board and on stage with the keyboards. I shouldn't be, but I am.

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Until they start playing...

davintosh wrote:

I'm always amazed when I go to concerts and see Macs at the mixer board and on stage with the keyboards. I shouldn't be, but I am.

Amazed -- until the band starts playing, and they sound like crap. Then you start wondering if the Macs are even hooked up. Now you're wishing that the band had chosen to humiliate that other computing platform, instead of your beloved Macintosh. Suddenly, you realize that the beer is going down rather smoothly. And, oh yeah, you're beginning to get a bit of a buzz. And it's not because you're standing too close to the loud speakers. Then, almost as quickly as the thought came to you, it departs. You leave and forget all about the pile of money you wasted on a crappy concert.

Okay, so maybe your perspective is a little different than mine...

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Re: Wow

catmistake wrote:

I've had nothing but PCI bus problems in my 9600 with a G4... I could never figure it out... I was only using 2 cards... a graphics and a 10/100BaseT card... it was stable as long as I didn't try to transfer large files across the network... I tried different cards with no effect. What's your secret?

Actually, at first I had some troubles too: random freezes, until I swapped the video card which was residing in the first PCI slot with the Korg OASYS PCI residing in the third slot, reaching the actual configuration I'm still using now (from the first slot to the sixth: Korg OASYS, ATI Radeon, ATI Radeon 7000, Yamaha SW1000XG, Yamaha DS2416, Yamaha AX16-AT).

Also, for some reason OMS activated by default the option "Use Apple SerialDMA driver when available", and this was causing freezes when alot of MIDI data were streaming (pratically all the time!). At first I didn't know it was that to cause the freezes, and I was starting to think I overloaded the 9600. But when I deactivated that option, all went fine, and this DAW is still giving me plenty of satisfaction :->

It still crashes a couple of times a week, which is rather annoying when you are used to OS X (which never crashes)... but was pretty standard in pre-OS X times :-|

By the way: perhaps you could have fixed your problem with the 9600 by moving the Ethernet card in the fourth slot (keeping the video card in the first slot).

Indeed, I learnt that 9600's (and 9500's) PCI slots are managed by two Bandit chips: one manages three stlots (A1, B1, C1) and one the other three (D2, E2, F2).

Like a guy called Jeff Walther wrote during a discussion about these issues in the PCI Powermacs newsgroup:

"Cards should not care whether they are in the upper (Bandit 1; A1, B1, C1) slots or the lower slots (Bandit 2). In fact, the performance should be slightly better in the lower slots depending on your use.

It is true (sometimes) that the top slot on each bandit may be best performing. This is becasue of a software artifact either in the ROM or the OS by Apple and has to do with support for 32 byte cache line transfers. If your card doesn't need these transfers, it won't care whether it's in the top slot or not. This issue is documented in Apple's Tech Note TN_1008.pdf, "Understanding PCI Bus Performance":

===========================
As an example, if two cards (card x and card y) have addresses mapped into segment 8, one at 0x80800000 and another at 0x80801000, the first call to SetProcessorCacheMode from the driver of card x to make a cacheable address space in segment 8 will work. A second call, say from the driver of card y, to modify the cache setting in segment 8 will not work nor will it report an error. This scenario will most likely result in a lower than expected performance for card y, because card y address space is actually cache inhibited which disables PCI transactions of 32-byte cache lines. If the two cards are mapped into different segments, such as 8 and A, then they both can modify the cache settings withintheir perspective segments. This limitation will be relaxed in the future.
============================

To better understand the Bandit architecture it helps to visualize the overall machine architecture. Computers are built on hierarchies of busses. A bus is a collection of signals (wires) which are delivered to all the components on the bus. All the members of a bus share these signals. There are various schemes so that the members of the bus will know when to talk and when to listen on the bus and these schemes are called bus arbitration.

A chip which sits on two busses and translates between them is called a bridge. It bridges communications between the two busses.

The PM9500's top level bus is the CPU/memory bus. On this bus reside the CPU(s), the memory controllers, and the Bandit chips. The Bandit chips are on the CPU bus on one side and on the PCI bus on the other side. So the Bandit chips are CPU/PCI bridges.

Each Bandit chip has it's own PCI bus. So the 9500/9600 has two independent PCI busses each supported by its own PCI bridge. The PowerSurge architecture (the family to which the x500, x600 machines belong) can support up to four Bandits on the CPU bus, in theory.

Arbitration on the Power Surge PCI bus is provided by a separate chip from the Bandit. The Bandit chip can support up to 16 PCI slots on the PCI bus. The Arbitration chip has support for six PCI slots. Electrical limitations keep the total down to five slots or ten permanent devices. Of course, Apple didn't get close to these limitations in their implementation.

Bandit 1 actually supports four PCI devices. There are the three PCI slots, but there is also the Grand Central (343S1125) chip, which is a PCI device. Grand Central collects the I/O signals for the PM motherboard and sends them to the PCI bus. So all of the ethernet, sound in/out, floppy, SCSI, etc. signals go through Grand Central and end up on the PCI bus 1 supported by Bandit 1.

Bandit 2 just supports the bottom three PCI slots.

So you can see where there is actually more traffic through Bandit 1 than through Bandit 2 and that is why performance may be better on Bandit 2 than on Bandit 1.

There is one other factor though which may play a part. Bus arbitration on the CPU/memory bus, which decides when the CPU, memory controller or each bandit gets to use the bus, is mysterious (not documented) and a litttle screwy. The arbitration scheme should treat each Bandit just the same, in which case Bandit 2 would still be a better place to be performance-wise. But it is possible that Bandit 1 gets some type of preference or just comes first in the rotation.

The problem with G4 processors in the six slot machines, has at its root a bug in the CPU/memory bus arbitration scheme. The arbitration for the CPU/memory bus is handled by Hammerhead (343S1190).

So, in theory, the Bandit 2 slots should yield better performance. The top slot on each PCI bus may yield better performance because of the cach-line issue, but Apple claimed this would be addressed in a later OS release. And it is possible that Bandit 1 will actually be better than Bandit 2 depending on how the CPU bus arbitration actually plays out, but I don't think that is a factor in practice."

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Power Supply Drain?

I always knew too many optical/hard drives could overload your power supply, but do pci/agp cards and the like affect your power supply to any degree?

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Re: Jeeze!

coius wrote:

How much did that setup cost? (Include the kick-a$$ speakers on the bench)

Better I don't think about it! Not so long ago (in human terms - in computer terms it's eons ago;-) it was a top-notch setup, while now it looks definitely dated.

I bought only two of those three Apple LCDs new: I bought the third used on eBay for much less money, a couple of years ago.

Those audio monitors are not very expensive (as audio monitors): it's a pair of ESI Near 06, and they costed me 400€ - although they should cost less now (I bought them at about the same time when I bough the third LCD).

---
Roberto Giannotta
Trieste, Italy

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Re: Thanks, Roberto...

davintosh wrote:

How many input channels can you handle, and much drive space has it got?

Usually I don't need many audio tracks (I use mostly synthesizers, both hardware and software), so I don't know how many this setup can handle at its best. It handled about 20 without a glitch, anyway (never gone beyond that with this Mac).

The drive space is not that much either: just two 18GB SCSI drives.

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Roberto Giannotta
Trieste, Italy

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Re: Power Supply Drain?

MickelMac303 wrote:

I always knew too many optical/hard drives could overload your power supply, but do pci/agp cards and the like affect your power supply to any degree?

This 9600 has all its PCI slots and all its internal bays occupied and active, but the power supply luckily does its job with nary a glitch :->

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Roberto Giannotta
Trieste, Italy

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Re: Until they start playing...

vantage point wrote:
davintosh wrote:

I'm always amazed when I go to concerts and see Macs at the mixer board and on stage with the keyboards. I shouldn't be, but I am.

Amazed -- until the band starts playing, and they sound like crap.

Recently I saw at least two concerts almost PowerBook-based: David Sylvian's at Venice, and Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto at Udine, just some weeks ago - here's the link of the same concert at Modena:

http://www.viefestivalmodena.com/english/spettacolo.asp?T02_CidSpett=15

Luckily, both sounded great! Smile

---
Roberto Giannotta
Trieste, Italy

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Hey two of my favourite artis

Hey two of my favourite artists there Roberto. Must have been a blast to see them live (Sakamoto and Sylvian)

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