DOSBox is capable of emulating various Sound Devices. By emulating the hardware the user can utilize whatever Audio Device they have installed (in whatever configuration), while the DOS Game or Application believes it is running on the emulated hardware. Most of the Sound Devices are capable of existing inside the same computer at the same time, so when configuring DOSBox Sound you need to think of it as separate devices that can be enabled or disabled. A game will likely only use a single device at a time, so you don't gain much in the way of performance by having only one device enabled. DOSBox also makes sure the appropriate environment variables are defined for each device so game audio device auto-detection usually works.
DOSBox can emulate
The Sound Blaster is widely considered the most popular audio device standard. In the DOS era of games, it came in a few editions. In most cases sb16 is the best option, though many older games that were produced before the SB16 was manufactured might have some issues with working with the otherwise backward compatible device. Here is a list of the different capabilities of the various Sound Blaster cards.
Soundblaster is considered the "standard" for special effects reproduction in many applications and games and is often coupled with a MIDI card for music emulation.
|none||Sound Blaster Emulation disabled||n/a||n/a|
|sb1||Sound Blaster ver. 1.0||8||no|
|sb2||Sound Blaster ver. 2.0||8||no|
|sbpro1||Sound Blaster Pro ver. 1.0||8||yes|
|sbpro2||Sound Blaster Pro ver. 2.0||8||yes|
|sb16||Sound Blaster 16||16||yes|
AdLib Music Synthesizer Card
Tandy Sound System
The Tandy 1000 was based upon the IBM PCjr, and was capable of playing back sound with 3 simultaneous voices. This made for much higher quality sound effects and music than the standard PC speaker. With the introduction of the Tandy 1000 TL and SL, an 8-bit DAC was added for realistic sound effects.
Disney Sound Source
The Disney Sound Source is an external audio device that connects to a PC via a Parallel Port (Printer Port). The device is surprisingly capable of producing polyphonic audio and voice. The sound quality is distinctive and tinny, though by no means high quality. One notable game that supported the device was Sierra's Kings Quest 6 which managed to provide an audio experience similar to the Sound Blaster audio card. There isn't much needed in the way of configuration because it connects to any available Parallel Port, but applications that utilize a printer might lock up if the device is enabled.
A Windows Driver exists that can let the device work as an audio device in Windows 3.11.
General MIDI isn't a specific piece of hardware so much as a standard that is supported through various sound cards (and other devices such as mixers, instruments, lighting control panels, etc...). DOSBox is able to emulate MIDI sounds in either regular or uart modes and output them via a number of sound engine methods.
General MIDI in DOSBox sounds exactly like any other program on your host computer that plays MIDI files because it is generating its output though the same device. You can think of the General MIDI as more a pass-though interface than a piece of emulated hardware.
Owners of Yamaha MIDI Synthesizers may find this guide useful.
Roland MT-32, MT-100, LAPC-I, CM-32L, CM-64
Not supported directly??? These choices are able to read General MIDI data?
The most ubiquitous Audio Device of all time. Built into every personal computer, the PC Speaker acts as diagnostic device during the initial booting up of a computer (to inform the user in a series of beeps, if there is any low level hardware issue). Early game developers utilized the PC Speaker to generate music and sound effects to good effect. Later some developers invented ways to generate complex audio through the PC Speaker, even reproducing voice. Very few games utilized the PC Speaker in this way (as the CPU requirements were high and the quality was severely limited), however a Windows Driver (similar to the Disney Sound System driver) allowed Windows games to utilize the PC Speaker. There is nothing to configure in the PC Speaker.