Apple II sound cards

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The Apple II had limited inherent sound capabilities until the Apple //gs shipped in 1986. Many third-party manufacturers made sound cards to enable richer sound output.


Music Cards[edit]

Music cards consist primarily of circuit boards plugged into the expansion slots of the Apple computer. There is generally no method to directly play the cards as a musical instrument. Instead, music is programmed into the computer, typically using the computer's keyboard and pointing devices (such as the Apple's game controls or using an add-on light pen). The computer then plays the music back using the music cards to produce the sound, generally through a standard audio system.

ALF Music Card MC16[edit]

Main article: Music Card MC16

The first hardware music accessory for the Apple II[1] was ALF's "Apple Music Synthesizer", later renamed "Music Card MC16". It was demonstrated late in 1978 and began shipping in volume June 1979. It featured graphical music entry, a first for any personal computer.[2] Each card produced three voices, and two or three cards could be used for six or nine voices.

ALF Music Card MC1[edit]

Main article: Music Card MC1

Using much the same software as the ALF Music Card MC16, ALF introduced a new hardware design as the "Apple Music II", later renamed "Music Card MC1". It had nine voices on a single card, although the range, tuning accuracy, and envelope/volume control was reduced compared to the Music Card MC16. The card used three TI SN76489N chips.

Applied Engineering Phasor[edit]

Phasor is a stereo music, sound and speech synthesizer created by Applied Engineering for the Apple II family of computers.


Main article: Mockingboard

The Mockingboard provided multiple voices of sound output, and was the closest thing to a standard sound card available for the Apple series. It utilized the AY-3-8910 sound generator chip.

Mountain Computer Music System[edit]

The Mountain Computer Music System was a two-board set that provided audio output with 8-bit resolution. A light pen was also available with the system.

Music Systems[edit]

Music systems generally include all the features of music cards, but add a method of playing the instrument directly (usually a piano-style keyboard). This allows music to be played "live", and the notes can also be captured by the computer for subsequent playback or editing and playback.

Alpha Syntauri[edit]

The Alpha Syntauri was a music system designed around the expansion capabilities of the Apple ][. The hardware consisted of an external piano-style keyboard and cards that plugged into the Apple ][ (a keyboard interface card and music synthesizer cards). Originally the music synthesizer was ALF's Apple Music Synthesizer, and later the two-board Mountain Computer Music System was used.[3] Software was designed to support music composition and performance. Herbie Hancock and Keith Emerson were notable early adopters of the Syntauri system. [4][5]

Passport Designs Soundchaser[edit]

Main article: Passport Designs

The Passport Designs Soundchaser Computer Music System provided similar capabilities, but the software emphasized composition over real-time performance. The Soundchaser included a 49-key keyboard, keyboard interface card, and a choice of sound cards depending on whether the digital or analog option was chosen. The digital option included the Mountain Computer Music System cards.[6]

Speech cards[edit]

Echo II[edit]

Main article: Echo 2

The Echo II card was a speech synthesis card utilizing linear predictive coding technology, as embodied by the TMS 5220 speech chip.

Sampler cards[edit]

The Sonic Blaster by Applied Engineering were introduced at least by 1988 using an Apple IIGS bus slot. It's capable of 8-bit at a sample rate of 15 184 Hz in stereo and 30 368 Hz for mono.[7]


  1. ^ ALF Products advertisement, "Apple Music", Creative Computing, Vol. 6 No. 2, Feb. 1980 pg. 103. Retrieved 2013-04-11.
  2. ^ North, Steve, "ALF/Apple Music Synthesizer", Creative Computing, Vol. 5 No. 6, June 1979 pg. 102. Retrieved 2013-04-11.
  3. ^ "AlphaSyntauri". 2012-04-28. Retrieved 2016-06-27. 
  4. ^ Jigour, Robin; Kellner, Charlie; Lapham, Ellen. "The alphaSyntauri Instrument: A Modular and Software Programmable Digital Synthesizer System". Philadelphia: IEEE Computer Society, 1981.
  5. ^ Vail, Mark. Vintage Synthesizers, p. 91-92. San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books, 2000
  6. ^ Hogan, Thom (1981-07-27). "Two keyboard synthesizers for Apple". InfoWorld. 
  7. ^ [1][dead link]

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