To me, sound card rhymes with PC. I remember listening to the AdLib Music Synthesizer Card in 1987. It was magical! After Ad Lib introduced the first PC sound card, it was quickly overtaken by the iconic Sound Blaster product line. Sure, there were many other manufacturers – Gravis, Roland, Turtle Beach, etc. –, but Creative Labs is the one company that gave a voice to the personal computer. By the way, have you ever heard of the Windows Sound System? Microsoft attempted to bring multimedia capabilities to Windows 3.1 in 1992 with the WSS. I believe I still have one of these systems in its original package sleeping somewhere in the garage.

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Before the PC, other computers had more or less good audio capabilities. Many of them were way ahead of the curve, others less. The Apple 2 was nowhere. Indeed, its single and small speaker couldn’t compete, and the sound you really remember was the power on beep. But at the end of the day, it was a good choice. As always, gaps create opportunities, and several add-on sound cards were proposed over the years: Mockingboard by Sweet Micro Systems, the Music Cards (MC) by ALF, the Phasor by Applied Engineering, etc. Sure, you needed deep pockets, but “quand on aime, on ne compte pas”.

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By now, I am sure you guessed, I will pimp the anemic speaker of my Apple //e Platinum with a sound card. After all, pimping rhymes with audio, doesn’t it? But before getting into the details of my pick, a heads-up. Today’s pimping is only temporary, as the final sound card for my ride is still shipping. So, for now, I decided to go with the Mockingboard v2.2 from ReActiveMicro. This card takes up an expansion slot and connects to the speaker jumper on the motherboard (J18), which in turn can be retired. The card has a mini-jack female stereo connector.

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For today’s recordings and videos, I connected the board to my small LCD monitor, so the quality is not perfect. Later on, I will link the sound card to a receiver using a small Bluetooth audio transmitter. The Mockingboard is fully compatible with the eponym board from Sweet Micro Systems, which makes it recognized by all compatible games. I used one of them, Ultima III, for my audio illustrations.

If you want to pimp it up a notch, you can install two of these boards, and double the audio capabilities of your Apple 2. Ultima V is known to utilize the supernumerary board. One Mockingboard gives six sound voices in stereo. It uses two MOS 6522 Versatile Interface Adapter (VIA) and two General Instrument AY-3-8913 chips. If you are lucky and can find two Silicon Systems SSI 263A chips, you will be able to enjoy speech synthesis with capable games and applications. These chips can be labeled as SC-02, Arctic-02, SSI-263P, SSI-263AP, or 78A263A-P.

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There are several modern sound card solutions out there. My final pick, a MEGA Audio by (with some RGB puke – pimping obliges), is still shipping. Finally, note that If you own an Apple II GS, there are more options available to you. For example, the 2sonic and 4sonic boards by Manila Gear. These cards are using very capable audio chips by Ensoniq, the famous synthesizer manufacturer.

Note: Steve Wozniak photos are © by Roger Ressmeyer/Corbi