The Gravis Ultrasound, sometimes refered to as gus, represents a giant leap in technology from previous soundcards such as soundblaster 16. It helped introduce and effectively ram on soundcards that the user could expand and use to their advantage. It is one of the most popular cards even years after its release and can still compete with the best soundcards. There is now a plug and play version available too.
It boasts many excellent features such as support for dolby surround sound, wavetable instruments, and crisp module playback.
However, some problems, like with the awe have arisen. The awe may have bad
playback with mods without the emu chip, but the gus can be at times worse.
The fm chip in gus is horrible. It behaves more like OPL2 than what gravis
claims to be OPL3 and gravis always compares their card to sb pro and not awe!
Likewise, creative labs used to often compare their sb16 to the original pro audio
spectrum instead of pas16.
GUS playback is limited by a maximum limit of active channels. GUS can play anywhere between 14 and 32 channels. Values under 14 are
increased to 14. The lower the number of channels, the higher
the playback quality. In other words, 32 channels will always be played at 19 kHz, yet
the specs say GUS can play all 32 at 44khz cd quality! Wrong!
Some games use 32 channels because it's easier to handle every
sound at a seperate channel, so this can present a problem quality wise.
Gus seems to be the ultimate mod production card, however several gus enthusiasts have found
the 16 bit sample size is 256K. 16 bit samples cannot cross a GUS RAM-segment border
AWE32 has no limit, yes people still insist on using GUS for mods.
Another problem with GUS is that it doesn't use its ram efficiently. It will only
really use 1mb for playback most of the time, yet many xm files exceed this limit big time.
To break all those stupid hardware limitations you just have to play your
S3M, XM, MID on the new GUS wav player device with Cubic Player 1.7 or run it as an sb16, but
you paid top dollar for a gus, not an old sb16, so you should get GUS quality!
So in the soundcard war, there is really no winner. I can tell you this, however,
that the mac cards come in last. Macs are ok tools for composing, but for the most part, especially
for games and voice playback, they are so awful. What happened to the glory days of apple?
Anyhow, the ultimate combination probably would be a card with parts of awe, gus, roland (all of their models),
and sb16, but unfortunatley, if anyone put such a beast together, they would
be prosecuted and sued to no end, not to mention face about 35 years in prison.
Too bad these companies can't work together. Until then, we'll just have to bare with
what we have.