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Media Vision Pro

3D PC Sound Card
Published May 1995

PC sound cards often provide surprisingly sophisticated facilities, only to fall down on the quality of their synth sounds. Panicos Georghiades takes a look at a new contender that ups the ante with a little help from Korg...

Media Vision have been producing sound cards for over four years, and not so long ago were one of the top‑selling sound card manufacturers in the USA. The company's latest offering, the Pro 3‑D, attempts to satisfy almost everyone's needs, from games, to business, to music and multimedia, though the single thing that makes the 3‑D stand out for musicians is its excellent built‑in synthesizer. However, the card also offers digital audio at up to 48KHz, complies with many compatibility standards (including Sound Blaster, Adlib and Microsoft Sound System), has a MIDI interface, a SCSI‑2 CD‑ROM interface, and a good variety of software for music and business uses.

Ins & Outs

Connections to the Pro 3‑D include line and microphone inputs and a headphones/speaker output, all on mini‑jacks. Unfortunately, there's no separate line output. There is a games/MIDI D‑type connector, but you don't get MIDI adaptor cables for connecting to external equipment. In fact, very few sound cards supply these as standard (the required cables cost about £20). However, unlike other similar products, the Pro 3‑D's manual does include a diagram showing connection details, so you could wire one yourself if you don't mind making your own cables. Finally, as far as card connections go, there's a SCSI‑2 interface boasting a 2.5 MB/sec transfer rate for connecting CD‑ROM drives or other SCSI equipment.


And now to the synthesizer facilities. There are two synthesizers on board: a Yamaha OPL providing FM synthesis (mainly for compatibility with games software); and a wavetable synthesizer (on a daughter board). This is based on a Korg chipset that uses AI synthesis, first introduced on the M1 synthesiser, though AI synthesis has also been used on most Korg synthesizers since the M1, including the T‑series, the O1Ws, the I‑series and the X‑series.

The chip on the Media Vision Pro 3‑D is, in fact, very similar in specification to what can be found on the Korg AG101/102 modules for the PC and Mac — which cost around £399. In my view, no other sound card in this price range beats this Korg chip for modern synth sounds and drums. There are 128 GM sounds and four drum kits stored in 4Mb of ROM, and the chip offers 32‑note polyphony and 16‑part multitimbrality. It also has built‑in reverb and chorus effects.

Another impressive feature of this card is its 3D surround‑sound facility, called SRS (Sound Retrieval System), which, incidentally, is not limited to the synth section of the card. This works in a similar way to home entertainment equipment, providing a surround‑sound effect using only two speakers, and giving the impression that you are 'inside' the sound. Unlike other similar systems, SRS does not use delay, artificial phase correction, harmonics regeneration, echo or reverb, and does not require a restricted centred listening position — you don't have to sit mid‑way between the speakers. Furthermore, the speakers do not need to be widely spaced — two feet is what's recommended, so this system is ideal for use with computer speakers.


The card is controlled by MidiSoft's Sound Impression software — which is also bundled with some other sound cards on the market, including the Roland Rap10. The version bundled here includes the usual accessories: a sound mixer for controlling the various sound sources, and CD audio, MIDI and Digital Audio (WAV file) players, iconically represented as a hi‑fi rack system. The digital audio recording and editing facilities provided by Sound Impression range from adequate to ingenious. You can mix the various sound sources together and output the combined signal, or record any combination of Aux in, MIDI, and CD‑audio into a WAV file. Unfortunately, however, the version of the program bundled here is not the full product, which enables you to edit 16 sessions (files) simultaneously and mix any two into a stereo track, split a stereo track into two mono tracks, and carry out other similar operations. The bundled version does include a number of digital sound‑processing effects, though, including a pseudo de‑noise filter you won't find in any other program at this price. More effects for day‑to‑day use include gain change, which offers a compressor and a normalise feature (a function that increases the volume of the waveform until the highest peak just reaches distortion point); Reverse waveform; Add/Remove portions of silence; Fade In/Out; and chorus, flange and echo effects. There's no reverb, but you won't find this facility on many budget computer‑based digital audio editors anyway. However, unlike many other similar programs, you can apply certain edit functions to the left and right sound channels separately.

The quality of the digital audio is not the best around, but it is quite acceptable with its 80dB dynamic range, and there are bass and treble controls for filtering out interference noise if you have an electrically noisy PC.

Sound Impression registers as an OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) server. OLE is a Windows facility that enables you to embed data from one application into another. In this case you can insert sound, MIDI and CD‑audio clips from Sound Impression into other programs. Furthermore, you can keep sound mixer settings of the relative volumes of each sound source — useful for live work.

The bundled sequencer/notation program is MidiSoft's Recording Session. This has three views (or screens): score; mixer; and MIDI (event) list. Score displays sequences as standard music notation. You can, of course, add/delete notes and carry out other step‑time editing functions, and during playback, the relevant notes are highlighted. The MIDI mixer gives you real‑time control during playback over volume, panning, chorus and reverb, and has mute, solo and record buttons for each MIDI track. In addition, there's a master volume fader and controls for overall reverb and chorus. Clicking on the instrument label of a particular track brings up an instruments dialogue box, so that you can select which instrument you wish to assign to that track. The default list is in GM/GS format. The MIDI List view is as found on any other sequencer, and there's also comprehensive on‑line help.

The Pro 3‑D package includes two more pieces of software: Monologue and Talk‑To Plus. Monologue is a text‑to‑speech synthesis program. It speaks out any section of text that you select with the mouse and copy to the Windows clipboard. Although this is of no direct use for music making, it may have other uses — and you might find it's fun! Monologue has a comprehensive dictionary and also includes a user dictionary, so you can teach it to pronounce unusual words, such as your name!

Talk‑To Plus (from Dragon Systems), on the other hand, may be more useful, as it enables you to give commands to your Windows software using a supplied clip‑on microphone.

It is possible to run most of your sequencer's commands, such as record, play, pause and so on, by voice only. This means you can keep your hands free at all times to play your music keyboard instead. In any case, many Midisoft commands are assigned to computer function keys, which makes use of the program easier.

Talk‑To Plus is fun to use and can also be the object of a show‑off session with your PC. It comes with preset command vocabularies for Windows Accessories and other mainstream applications. Unfortunately it does not include a vocabulary for Midisoft Recording Session, so you have to construct one yourself. As with all other programs of this kind, you also need to train it to recognise your voice, but it can still be used by different users — one at a time, each one having his/her own recognition data files.


Though there are many PC sound cards on the market, not many have been designed with the serious musician in mind, and consequently the quality and realism of their sounds can fall short of ideal. Overall, the Pro 3‑D sound card offers what most other cards do in this price range in terms of facilities, but what really makes it desirable is its synthesizer capabilities.


  • Excellent sound quality GM synthesizer from Korg with reverb and chorus.
  • Useful and reasonably good 3D effect.
  • Good value for 4Mb of ROM.
  • Records at up to 48KHz.
  • SCSI‑2 interface.


  • There are other cards that provide higher than 80dB digital audio.
  • The version of Sound Impression bundled is not the full one, so there's no facility to mix two or more WAV files.


This card has a good range of facilities and bundled utilities, but what makes it really attractive to musicians is that high‑quality Korg GM synth.