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Aria Soundcard FAQ v1.20

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Archive-name: PCsoundcards/aria/faq
Submitted-by: Daniel R. Tauritz
Posting-Frequency: irregular
Last-modified: 13-February-1997
Version: 1.20

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
===                     THE ARIA FAQ VERSION 1.20                         ===
===                                                                       ===
===                 Copyright 1997 Daniel R. Tauritz                      ===
===                  Released on February 13th 1997                       ===

COPYRIGHT   Distribution of this document by individuals for
            non-commercial purposes is permitted.  Commercial use of the
            information contained requires the explicit permission of the
            author. Parts of this document may be included in other
            non-commercial works provided the author is acknowledged.

DISCLAIMER  In no way is the author liable for any damage resulting from the
            use of the information contained in this document.

 1.0 - Why this FAQ ?
 1.1 - Some things you should know...
 1.2 - What's new !
 2.0 - The Aria System
 2.1 - Product specific information: Features
 2.2 - Advocacy
 3.0 - Troubleshooting
 3.1 - Supported operating systems
 3.2 - General MIDI & DOS
 4.0 - Software Development Kits
 4.1 - Freely available programming materials
 4.2 - Commercial libraries
 5.0 - Software companies
 5.1 - Mytec Technologies (Greg Schmidt)
Appendix A: Aria FTP Departments
Appendix B: Aria Mailing List
Appendix C: Aria World Wide Web Site
Appendix D: How to contact Aria soundcard manufacturers

===                         1 - INTRODUCTION                              ===

1.0 - Why this FAQ ?
Aria is the name of a family of audio chipsets produced by Sierra
Semiconductor Corporation (further referred to as Sierra). In this document
soundcards based on one of the members of the Aria family will be called Aria
soundcards.  This document is aimed at everyone who already owns an Aria
soundcard, or wants to learn more about Aria soundcards in general. It focuses
on hardware related Aria information including developers information. See
Appendix A for other documents of interest. The Aria Support List, by the same
author, for example, focuses on software related Aria information.

1.1 - Some things you should know...
Some standard abbreviations:
* FTP - File Transfer Protocol (A method for retrieving data via the Internet)
* WWW - World Wide Web (A system for locating information on the Internet)
* SDK - Software Development Kit (Product specific programming information)

The Aria Internet Department presently consists of:
* The Aria FTP Departments (see appendix A)
* The Aria Mailing List (see appendix B)
* The Aria WWW Site (see appendix C)

1.2 - What's New !
Alas, Sierra seems to have ceased producing the Aria chipset. To my knowledge
all manufacturers of soundcards based on the Aria chipset have also
terminated production. If you can still find an Aria soundcard for sale you
can probably get it at a real bargain price...

Upon many a request I have added complete installation archives for 16-bit
Aria Windows drivers to the Aria FTP site (in the drivers directory). Thanks
to a number of people who supplied me with the zip files.

Info concerning the use of the Prometheus Aria 16se SCSI controller under
Win95 was added in this release thanks to Sharon Meigs.

===                       2 - ARIA SOUNDCARDS                             ===

2.0 - The Aria System
There exist two generations of the Aria audio system. The old system utilised
the SC18051/2/3/4 ROM chips and a discrete analog mixer. The new family
utilises the SC18056/7/8/9 ROM chips and an integrated SC18075 mixer chip.

Both generations offer the following features:
- 32 Simultaneous voices
- General MIDI compliant with all patches defined by the General MIDI
- AdLib and SoundBlaster compatibility is provided at the register level
- Joystick Port
- MPU-401 UART MIDI Port
- Full Duplex
- 16-bit DAC (distortion<0.1%, 92 dB typical signal-to-noise ratio)
- Mixer noise: -70 dB max
- DSP chip: A 42 MHz TMS320C25 (Texas Instruments)
- 32 MB RAM/ROM DSP address space

In addition the old system offered:
- 3 stereo inputs: DAC, auxiliary (CD-ROM) and external
- 8-bit linear level control on auxiliary and external inputs, independently
- DAC output level controlled by DSP
- external input is selectable for line level or microphone level
- 10 bit ADC (Except for the Sonic Sound made by Diamond which included a 16
              bit ADC)
- frequency response: 20 Hz to 16 kHz - 3 dB
- distortion        : 0.5% max

While the new system improved on that:
- 5 stereo inputs: DAC, auxiliary 1 (master output), auxiliary 2 (CD-ROM),
  external and microphone
- 6-bit logarithmic level control on all inputs, independently adjustable
- treble and bass tone controls
- 16 bit ADC
- frequence response: 20 Hz to 19 kHz - 3 dB
- distortion        : 0.2% max

The DSP can execute multiple DSP applications simultaneously if enough DSP
RAM is available and the load doesn't exceed its capabilities. Aria
soundcards of both generations come basically in two flavors. Those with and
those without speech recognition. The ones without speech recognition come
with 8 kWords DSP RAM, the ones with usually have 40 kWords DSP RAM aboard.
Also, the new Aria system generation offers reverb effects if enough DSP RAM
is in place. In practice this means that only the more expensive Aria
soundcards offering speech recognition also offer reverb effects, though the
cheaper cards could also offer reverb effects if they were outfitted with
more DSP RAM. To do this you'll need to fill the two empty DSP RAM sockets on
your Aria soundcard with two 32 KB 20 ns SRAM cache chips.

The Aria ROM chips offer the following features:

Basic features: Aria PCM Audio, Aria Synthesizer, Sound Blaster Emulation
Feature Table :
                 OLD ROM's                         NEW ROM's
    | SC18051 SC18052 SC18053 SC18054   SC18056 SC18057 SC18058 SC18059
RAM |------------------------------------------------------------------------
 8  |   0.5     1.0    0.5     1.0        0.5    1.0     0.5     1.0
40  |   0.5     1.0    0.5+L   1.0+L      0.5+R  1.0+R   0.5+R+L 1.0+R+L

Legend: 0.5=0.5 MB Samples,1.0=1.0 MB Samples,R=Reverb Effects,L=Listener

In addition there is a QSound DSP application available from the Aria FTP
Departments for use with all the ROM's and a Reverb DSP application for the
older ROM's.

2.1 - Product specific information: Features
Legend: AD=ADC resolution; J=JUMPERLESS
        TMC-950=Future Domain TMC-950 SCSI-2 chip memory-mapped
        A6960=Adaptec 6960 SCSI-2 chip (330 Kb/s)
Soundcard         |Manufacturer         |ROM|#MB|AD| SCSI  |J|
AltaPro/S         |AVM Technologies     |053|0.5|  |Adaptec|n|
AltaPro/S1        |AVM Technologies     |054|1.0|  |Adaptec|n|
AltaPro/SA        |AVM Technologies     |053|0.5|  |Adaptec|n|
AltaPro/S1A       |AVM Technologies     |054|1.0|  |Adaptec|n|
Aria 16           |Prometheus           |056|0.5|16|  no   |y|
Aria 16se         |Prometheus           |058|0.5|16|TM-9C50|y|
AudioBahn 16 Pro  |Genoa Systems        |054|1.0|10| 6960  | |
CyberAudio        |Alpha Systems        |   |   |  |       | |
Omnivox           |Kingston Technologies|   |   |  |       | |
Sound 2000        |Add Tech             |053|0.5|10|   ?   |n|
Sound Epitome Wave|DevitronicEngineering|051|0.5|10|  yes  |n|
Sound Pilot       |Cardinal Technologies|   |   |  |       | |
Sonic Sound Rev.A5|Diamond              |051|0.5|16|TMC-950|n|
        With upgrade kit:               |054|1.0|16|TMC-950|n|
Sonic Sound Rev.B2|Diamond              |056|0.5|16|TMC-950|y|
TESS              |Zoltrix              |   |   |  |       | |
ViVa Maestro 16   |Computer Peripherals |051|0.5|10|Adaptec|n|
ViVa Maestro 16 VR|Computer Peripherals |053|0.5|10|Adaptec|n|
VR                |Alpha Systems        |   |   |  |       | |

2.2 - Advocacy
When I would recommend Aria:
* If you are looking for a cheap wavetable synthesis soundcard with bullet
  proof SB emulation and digital recording and playback up to 16-bit 44.1kHz,
  try for example the Aria 16.
* If you are looking for a cheap wavetable synthesis soundcard with bullet
  proof SB emulation, digital recording and playback up to 16-bit 44.1kHz, a
  SCSI-2 interface, reverb effects and speaker-independent non-continuous
  speech recognition capabilities, try for example the Aria 16se.

===                      3 - VARIOUS TOPICS                               ===

3.0 - Troubleshooting
Aria soundcards, certainly the newer jumperless ones, are usually extremely
easy to install and configure. And if there is a problem the trouble
shooting sections in the operating manuals are pretty decent and often the
problem can be solved without much complications. However, there is one
undocumented feature of the jumperless cards which in rare cases can cause
problems. The configuration of IRQ's, DMA channels, etc. is done via a device
line which is executed first in the CONFIG.SYS and reads as follows:
  DEVICE=C:\ARIA\BIN\soundcfg.sys C:\ARIA\aria.cfg
Normally this should be sufficient, I had a case however where executing
ARIATEST resulted in "DSP not responding" or something similar. The trick is
to change the RBA port address, which is somehow used for the configuring of
the jumperless cards, to a non-conflicting port adress anywhere between 280
and 330 hexadecimal. Prometheus technical support informed me on this issue
and suggested using port address 298, which worked fine. The device line was:
  DEVICE=C:\ARIA\BIN\soundcfg.sys C:\ARIA\aria.cfg 298
Yes, it's that simple!

If you are experiencing problems using the SCSI adapter on your Aria
soundcard try disabling shadow RAM. If this solves your problem then enable
the various blocks of shadow RAM one by one until you spot the block causing
the trouble. Leaving this block disabled should solve the problem.

3.1 - Supported operating systems
* MS-DOS & MS-Windows 3.x (Native support, Adlib/SB compatibility mode)
* Windows 95 (Windows 3.x drivers & native SCSI support)
* OS/2 3.0 Warp (Native support)
* Linux (Adlib/SB compatibility mode???)

Windows 95
If you installed Win95 over Win3.x you may already have sound working,
if not, or you did a fresh install, these are the Aria installation
1. Go to "Control Panel", then "Add Hardware".
2. After the "Add Hardware Wizard" appears hit the "next" button.
3. Select "no" when asked if you want Win95 to search for installed hardware.
4. Select "Sound, video and game adapters" from the device list.
5. Hit the "have disk" button and then the "browse" button.
6. Select your Aria installation directory, then the subdirectory WIN.
   (For example, C:\SONIC\WIN)
7. The file "oemsetup.inf" should now be highlighted. Select "OK".
8. The "Add Hardware Wizard" should now be able to complete installing the
   Aria drivers in Win95 and restart the system with sound working.
If you've got an Aria 16se you can use Win95's native support for the
integrated SCSI controller. Just make sure all references to Aria's real
mode SCSI drivers in your config.sys & autoexec.bat are removed. If SCSI
support isn't automatically enabled you can do it manually by selecting the
Future Domain TMC-850/M/MER/MEX SCSI Host Adapter via the Control Panel. Auto
play works great!

HOW YOU CAN HELP: I suspect the SonicSound SCSI controller will also work fine
                  with the native TMC-850 driver. Can anyone confirm?

OS/2 3.0 Warp
Native OS/2 Warp Aria drivers are available from the Aria FTP department as:
These drivers were made for IBM's Aptiva systems employing Aria 16 soundcards
from Prometheus Products. For all those not in the possesion of an IBM Aptiva
just ignore the readme file included in and install as follows:
1. Open an OS/2 command line window
2. Switch (if necessary) to the partition from where you boot Warp
3. Execute the following command sequence:
   a. cd os2/boot
   b. attrib -r clock01.sys
   c. attrib -r clock02.sys
4. Unzip into a directory
5. Enter the OS/2 Multimedia Folder and execute Multimedia Application Install
6. Specify as source the directory where you just unzipped
7. Select Aria Audio System 16 in the features list and then double click
You may need to change some of the associations, but basically, this is all!

HOW YOU CAN HELP: If you have gotten sound out of your Aria soundcard under
                  Linux (for example in SB mode) then please contact me!

3.2 - General MIDI & DOS
This is probably the most frequently asked question I have received the last
few months: "Why can't I select General MIDI in a DOS game like DOOM?"
The answer is that Aria supports all the patches defined by the General MIDI
specification, but lacks a MIDI interpreter in hardware. The MIDI interpreter
must therefore be emulated in software and that is why under DOS you always
need Aria drivers to get General MIDI support. The issue of native Aria
support under MS-DOS is the focus of the Aria Support List.

===                 4 - ARIA PROGRAMMING MATERIALS                        ===

4.0 - Software Development Kits
Sierra has produced in the past the following three Aria SDKs:
* SSDK (Synthesizer Software Development Kit)
* LSDK (Listener Software Development Kit)
* LSDK Upgrade Kit (upgrades a SSDK to a LSDK)

These kits are however no longer being produced and, the stock having run
out, are not available from Sierra anymore. The newest version of the SSDK
can be downloaded from the Aria FTP Department, subdirectory
'programming/ssdk'. Here you'll find the newest versions of the manual (v2.2)
as well as the software (v2.5). Please read the accompanying text files prior
to downloading the zip files. There are no royalties involved and there are
no restrictions on the use of the materials included in the SDKs except that
you may not make them public and distribution of source code is only allowed
if a majority of the code is of your own creation, not simply copied from the
development kit. So, for example, it is perfectly legitimate to write an
audio driver for Aria using the SDK and distributing its source code as
Public Domain, Shareware, on a commercial basis or any other way you see fit.

Following are the descriptions of the basic kit (SSDK and part of LSDK),
the listener kit (rest of LSDK and LSDK Upgrade Kit), and some notes
concerning Aria Listener source code.

Contents: Manual (version 2.2) + 3.5" disk (version 2.5)

Disk contents:
 - DOS Applications Interface Library Source Code (see manual; chapter 6)
 - Interrupt handlers in assembly (Make files for Microsoft & Borland)
 - User function calls in C (Make files for Microsoft & Borland)
 - Synthesizer Patch Bank Editor

Manual contents:
 Chapter 1: Introduction
 Chapter 2: Installation
 Chapter 3: Communication Interface
            3.1 - Registers
                  3.1.1 DSP Registers
                  3.1.2 Sound Blaster Registers
                  3.1.3 MIDI Registers
                  3.1.4 Joystick Registers
            3.2 - Memory
                  3.2.1 System ROM Configurations
                  3.2.2 Memory Layout
            3.3 - Music Synthesis
                  3.3.1 Aria Synthesizer
                  3.3.2 Sound Blaster Emulation
            3.4 - Digital Audio
                  3.4.1 Data Transfer Procedure
                  3.4.2 Direct Input and Output
                  3.4.3 Direct Memory Access
            3.5 - DSP Commands
                  3.5.1 System Configuration Commands
                  3.5.2 Digital Audio Recording and Playback Commands
                  3.5.3 Aria Synthesizer Commands
                  3.5.4 Mixer Commands
                  3.5.5 Audio Effect Commands
 Chapter 4: Voyetra Sound Factory
 Chapter 5: Microsoft Windows Multimedia Extensions
            5.1 - Audio Driver Features
            5.2 - Driver Configuration
            5.3 - Waveform Output
            5.4 - Waveform Input
            5.5 - MIDI Output
            5.6 - MIDI Input
            5.7 - Auxiliary Audio
            5.8 - Extended Aria Control Interface
 Chapter 6: DOS Application Interface
 Chapter 7: Tools
            7.1 - Patch Editor
            7.2 - Patch Bank Utility
            7.3 - Play MIDI Utility
            7.4 - Echo MIDI Utility
            7.5 - Play Wave Utility
            7.6 - Record Wave Utility
            7.7 - Aria Board Test Utility
 Appendix A: Patch Bank Formats
 Appendix B: ROM Wave Libraries
 Appendix C: Specifications

Listener (LSDK/LSDK Upgrade Kit)
Contents: Manual (version 1.1) + six 3.5" disks (version 1.00)

Disk contents:
 Games API for DOS
 Speech Recognition API for Windows (SRAPI)
 Windows Developers Examples for SRAPI
 SRAPI Step Debugger
 Vocabulary Development System (2 disks)

Manual contents:
 Section   I: GoodListener Cookbook
 Section  II: Speech Recognition API Programmer's Guide
 Section III: Speech Recognition API Functional Specifications
 Section  IV: Aria Listener Game API Functional Specifications
 Section   V: Vocabulary Development System Manual Version 3.1

Aria Listener source code
Though the Aria Listener manual states that the source code for the Games API
is included, it isn't, nor can Sierra provide it. However, if you have a
legitimate reason requiring this code you can contact Dave Corley, director
of Customer Support at Voice Control Systems, Inc., and request a copy.
Contact information: E-mail address:
                     Phone number  : +1-214-386-0300
                     Address       : 14140 Midway Road
                                     Dallas, Texas 75244, USA

4.1 - Freely available programming materials
The Aria FTP Departments have a directory 'programming' with two
subdirectories. In 'sdk' you'll find the Aria SSDK, see paragraph 4.0,
and in 'contrib' you'll find:
* - initialization code replacing soundcfg.sys
* - digital audio playback programming example for DJGPP

The 'mother' of all programming FTP sites is:
where you can also find in the subdirectory 'mxlibs':
* - AIL, MIDPAK & DIGPAK driver libraries (Miles Design, Inc.)

4.2 - Commercial sound driver libraries
The DSMI (Digital Sound Music Interface) kit of Otto Chrons, author of DMP
(Dual Mod Player), includes a digital sound driver for Aria. DSMI is used in
such illustrious software as DMP and The Morgul Player. For more info see
the DSMI document included in which can be found at:

===                    5 - PROFESSIONAL USERS OF ARIA                     ===

5.0 - Software companies
Software based on the AIL and/or MIDPAK/DIGPAK libraries potentially supports
Aria in native mode. As does software based on the DSMI (=Digital Sound Music
Interface). The following companies have produced software specially
crafted to take advantage of the speech recognition capabilities of Aria
- Globalink (VoicePower)
- Impressions (When Two Worlds War)
- Interplay (Startrek 25th Anniversary Special Aria Edition)
See the Aria Support List for more info on them.

If YOU know a company offering software specially crafted to take advantage
of Aria Listener then please contact me so I can add it to the list.

The following sections are devoted to companies employing Aria themselves.
If YOU know of such a company which not has been included below, then please
contact me so I can add another paragraph.

5.1 - Mytec Technologies (Greg Schmidt)
Mytec Technologies is a Toronto, Ontario, Canada company developing a
fingerprint verification device.  Our president, George Tomko, requested that
the prototype device be capable of recognizing voice input, as a way of
adding some pizzazz to demonstrations (he envisioned the user stating his or
her name, but that would require separate vocabulary training for each user,
so we have settled on the user simply saying his or her PIN number, for
example "one two three").  As the software engineer, I was given the job of
getting this working, as well as a deadline of about three weeks to find an
appropriate product, order it, and implement the desired functionality.

I began by looking through several newsgroups, eventually discovering
comp.speech.  I posted a short description of my situation, and Daniel R.
Tauritz replied with a message about Aria. After an exchange of mail, I was
convinced that Aria could handle my problem.  I ordered the Aria 16SE from
Prometheus Products as well as the Aria LSDK from Sierra Semiconductor Corp.,
which arrived shortly.  I now had about a week to finish the implementation.

I ran into a bit of a problem, in that the provided library was only in
medium memory model, and I needed large.  Dave Corley at Voice Control
Systems was very helpful, and I managed to get all the requisite tools,
with one day to go.  The API was so easy to use that I finished in time.
(I feel like a commercial for laundry detergent!)  A vocabulary trained
by less than 20 utterances each of about twenty words (including four
different people) was capable of recognizing any of the words spoken by
anyone with a very high accuracy (it had problems with "eight", but more
training solved that).

We are unsure as to whether customers will want this functionality in the
product, but it is a possibility.  If they do, it is very easy to add a
couple of functions that allow speech recognition.

                                        Greg Schmidt (

===                        6 - CONTACT INFORMATION                        ===

If you know more about one of the problems mentioned in the various
paragraphs or can add insights not yet included in this document, then please
E-mail the information to:


and hopefully it will be included in the next update of this document!

Note: If you have a question not directly related to this document then please
      post it to the appropriate newsgroup or mailing list and do not send it
      to me.

Appendix A: Aria FTP Departments
The original Aria FTP Department is at:
it is also being mirrored at:
In the subdirectory 'docs' you'll always find the newest editions of the
Aria FAQ (presently aria1_12.faq), the Aria Support List (presently
aria2_09.lst) and the Mailing List Archives.

The Aria FAQ and the Aria Support List are also being archived in the Usenet
Newsgroup Archives at:
presently as 'Aria_Soundcard_Faq_v1.11' and 'Aria_Support_List_v2.09'.

Another FTP site of interest might be the FTP Soundcard Starting Point at:

Appendix B: Aria Mailing List
You can subscribe to the Aria Mailing List by sending E-mail as follows:
  To     :
  Subject: subscribe
Leave the rest of the message (the body) empty!
To unsubscribe follow the same procedure but then with:
  Subject: unsubscribe
To change your address simply unsubscribe from your old address and then
subscribe from your new address.

To post to the Aria Mailing List send E-mail to:
When you reply to a message from the list you reply as default to the list.

Appendix C: Aria World Wide Web Page
To access the Aria World Wide Web (WWW) page you'll need a WWW client such as
Lynx, Mosaic or Netscape. Alternatively you can remote login to a WWW client
via telnet. For example by telnetting to ''. The Aria WWW page
can be found at:

This will give you access to all the messages ever sent to the Aria Mailing
List. An automatic script adds new messages sent to the list within minutes
to this page. You can also view and retrieve files from the Aria Internet
Department such as the Aria FAQ & support list.

Appendix D: How to contact Aria soundcard manufacturers
Alpha Systems Lab Inc.

2361 McGaw Av.
Irvine, CA 92714, U.S.A.
(800) 998-3883
(714) 252-0117
(714) 252-0887
AVM Technologies Inc.

655 East 9800 South
Sandy, UT 84070, U.S.A.
(800) 880-0041
(801) 571-0967
Cardinal Technologies Inc.

1827 Freedom Rd.
Lancaster, PA 17601, U.S.A.
General: (717)293-3000
Customer service: (717)293-3049
FAX: (717)293-3055
BBS: (717)293-3043
Tech Support: (717)293-3124, 9-5 EST Mon.-Fri.
Computer Peripherals Inc.

67 Rancho Conejo
Newbury Park, CA 91320, U.S.A.
(800) 854-7600 (Sales Department)
(805) 499-5751
(805) 499-6021 (Technical Support)
Computer Peripherals BBS (+1 805 499 9646, FYI)
Devitronic Engineering Pte Ltd

605-B Macpherson Road
Citimac Industrial Complex
Singapore 1336
Tel   : (065)281-3533
Fax   : (065)281-1827
Telex : DEVICE RS 33250
Diamond Computer Systems, Inc.

1130 East Arques Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94086, U.S.A.
Phone: +1-408-325-7000
Fax  : +1-408-730-5750
WWW  :

Technical Support
 Phone         : +1-408-325-7100
 CompuServe    : 75300,3673
 America OnLine: GO DIAMOND
 Internet      :

Software Updates
 CompuServe : GO GRAPHBVEN
 Diamond BBS: +1-408-730-1100 (2400 Baud)
              +1-408-524-9301 (9600+ Baud)
 Diamond FTP:
Genoa Systems Corp.

75 East Trimble Rd.
San Jose, CA  95131, U.S.A.
(800) 934-3662
(408) 432-9090

Technical Support: (503) 692-9601
BBS              : (503) 691-5199
E-mail           : CompuServe      76004,527
                   America Online  Promethean

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