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Program FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ will hopefully sort out the most commonly asked questions about Adlib Tracker.

Q: So, what is Adlib Tracker II, or AT2 for short, anyway?

A: It is an 18-channel FM tracker for the OPL3-chip (or compatible) generally found on the older Soundblaster soundcards from Creative Labs. In other words - a tool for making music with FM-synthesis. You might ask 'WHY?'. Let's use the words of Jens-Christian Huus, which is one of the more wellknown people of C64- and Adlib programming, as well as the author of EdLib:

"People begun to actually hate FM sounds. The arrival of GUS and AWE32 made wavetable techniques very popular and indeed it sounds very good, but there are some things in the old FM standard that is unique. You can't fiddle with samples in the same way as you can with FM. I personally never quite liked sampling, I find it downright boring. With a FM chip it is like on a C64; you have a few parameters and everything you do has to be done within these parameters. These boundaries makes it funny to make music, to see how far you can actually push AdLib. To do sounds on FM requires expertice but if you're good at it, almost any instrument can be reproduced properly, except perhaps drums."

Adlib Tracker II highlights:

  • Supports 4-operator instruments, melodic and percussion instruments
  • Supports up to 255 instruments, 128 patterns, 128 order list entries, 89 effect commands, and 24 extended commands
  • Features 2 effect columns and instrument macro-definitions

Q: What fileformats does AT2 cover? Can I import the tunes I created with Amusic?

A: Sure you can! Actually, AT2 covers a lot of file formats and will import most classic Adlib-song formats, staying true to how the music sounded in the original programs (read the included manual for more info on this subject).

AT2 loads the following song formats:

  • A2M (AT2)
  • A2P (AT2) [pattern]
  • A2T (AT2) [tiny module]
  • AMD (Amusic)
  • CFF (BoomTracker 4.0)
  • DFM (Digital-FM)
  • FMK (FM-Kingtracker)
  • HSC (HSC AdLib Composer / HSC-Tracker)
  • MTK (MPU-401 trakker)
  • RAD (Reality AdLib Tracker) {ver.1}
  • S3M (Scream Tracker 3.x)
  • SAT (Surprise! AdLib Tracker) {ver.1,5,6}
  • SA2 (Surprise! AdLib Tracker 2.0) {ver.8,9}
  • XMS (XMS-Tracker)

Loads the following instrument formats:

  • A2I (AT2)
  • A2F (AT2) [w/fm-register macro]
  • CIF (BoomTracker 4.0)
  • FIN (FM-Kingtracker)
  • INS (HSC-Tracker/RAD-Tracker, SAdT, Amusic/AdLib instrument)
  • SBI (Creative Labs FM instrument)
  • SGI (Sound Generator 3.0)

Loads the following bank formats:

  • A2B (AT2)
  • A2W (AT2) [w/macros]
  • BNK (AdLib instrument bank) {ver.1.0}
  • FIB (FM-Kingtracker)
  • IBK (Creative Labs FM instrument bank)

Q: What computer and equipment do I need to run the DOS version of AT2?

A: Requirements for performance of the computer needed to run Adlib Tracker are very moderate. The main criteria is that the computer can handle ISA-cards to be able to use those Soundblaster cards that contain the OPL3-chip. Here is a preferred setup:

  • Pentium processor
  • SVGA PCI card
  • SVGA monitor (VESA DDC/2B compliant)
  • 400k free conventional memory
  • 8MB+ free extended memory
  • Sound Blaster 16/AWE32/AWE64
  • mouse driver installed
  • MS-DOS 6.20

Note: If you are having any problem with program startup, or you do encounter unexpected program crashes in pure MS-DOS environment, please try to run AT2 from within Windows 3.xx/9x/ME environment instead. This usually solves many of such problems.

Q: Which cards are compatible with AT2 and contain the OPL3-chip?

A: From the mid 90s and forward there have been many alternative soundcards (and built-in soundchips on motherboards) claiming to be "100% Soundblaster compatible". These claims don't always measure up with the reality, which amongst other problems can result in FM-music not sounding the way it is supposed to (Encore remembers one time when he made a song in Amusic using a built-in soundcard, where the instruments sounded completely different on the real deal). Also more recent Creative cards (like the Soundblaster Live!-series and possibly Audigy as well) will emulate the FM-synthesis by software in a much lower sample resolution. Therefore a list of compatible soundcards which are known to sound decent is needed.

These are cards that we know for sure are compatible and contain OPL3 (Yamaha YMF262)-chips:

  • AdLib Gold
  • Creative Labs Soundblaster Pro 2.0
  • Creative Labs Soundblaster 16
  • Creative Labs Soundblaster AWE32
  • Creative Labs Soundblaster AWE64 Value / Standard / Gold

Note: All these cards are ISA-cards. We have also been told by several visitors of this site that there are PCI-cards in existence (although we haven't tested any of these), for example:

Information from visitor Zbigniew: "Yes, fortunately they do; I'm happy owner of such card.
Take a look: (external link 1) (external link 2)

Although it's difficult to make it work as Soundblaster (under DOS) with more recent mobos, but - fortunately - its AdLib module works with no problems whatsoever. The nice addition is, that it works not just under DOS control (I'm using FreeDOS), but also with Windows XP, Linux, and FreeBSD. And not being that bad, it can still be used for today's needs (Skype etc.).

Under Windows XP however I can't see any AdLib/OPL3 drivers loaded. Linux loads ALSA's snd_opl3_lib, and under FreeBSD I'm using OSS 4Front drivers, which most probably doesn't contain AdLib driver - but such driver module is present in standard FreeBSD's driver's set (not tried it).

Drivers are still available for downloading (external link)"

Q: I don't have any old Sound Blaster-card or any computer with ISA-ports. Are there any other options left for me?

A: The big issue these days is that most new computers does not support the old ISA-standard and are therefore not compatible with the old Sound Blaster-soundcards. The following PCI-based soundcards from Creative (like the SB Live!-series, Audigy, etc.) do not contain any OPL3-chip, even though they've included software drivers simulating the OPL3-chip (for the Live!-series at least), but at a low frequency rate.

There are 3 other options left for you:

  • The first option is to get an old computer. Buying an older PC with an OPL3-based Sound Blaster-card is surely an option for the ol'skoolers and not a very expensive option either. People often throw these old machines away. This is also the best alternative if you're specific on that the FM-synthesis should sound 'just right', and as it did in the old days. However, we can understand that not everyone has the space for an old computer sitting around, exclusively for FM-tracking and other retro stuff (...or can't we?). ;-)

  • The second option is to use Adlib Tracker II SDL version of the program, which covers all the functionality of DOS version and features really decent software OPL3 emulation.

  • The third option is a DOS PC simulation. Using DOSBox resp. DOSBox Megabuild you can simulate a complete PC, including a Sound Blaster-soundcard or using real OPL3-equipped output device. For more information, please refer to 'Special program packages' in the Downloads section.

Q: Is there any way that I can play the songs I created with AT2 in Winamp and maybe share it with others more easily?

A:  Yes, there is input plugin for Winamp/XMplay (resp. other plugin-wise compatible players) which you can use for playing all those modules supported by tracker itself with some decent software OPL3 emulation. You can find it in the Downloads section.

Q: Is AT2 freeware?

A: Yes, it can be freely used, shared, spread, whatever - as much as you like, and as long as it makes you having a good time. :-)

Q: Can I get the source for AT2?

A: Yes, complete program sourcecode is available in the Downloads section.
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