Turtle Beach Systems is a sound card and headset manufacturer and direct competitor with Creative Labs-branded Sound Blaster. In 1995, the company merged with Voyetra, a company that made custom software for sound cards, to form Voyetra Turtle Beach Inc which is headquartered in Valhalla, New York, USA.
Turtle Beach was founded in 1985 as "Turtle Beach Softworks" by co-founders Roy Smith and Robert Hoke. The company's first product was a graphical editing system that supported the breakthrough Ensoniq Mirage sampling keyboard. The Mirage was the first low cost sampling device that allowed musicians to play realistic choirs, pianos, horns, and other instruments in their performances. The software, called "Vision", connected the Mirage to a PC and used the PC's screen and graphics to make the programming and editing of sounds much easier. Ensoniq decided to resell Vision through their dealer network and Turtle Beach Softworks became a profitable company.
Over the following years, the company developed a few other programs that supported Ensoniq equipment but realized that they needed to develop more generalized products. They retooled their product into "SampleVision", which initially supported the Akai S900, but was designed with an extensible framework, allowing other samplers to be supported. The SampleVision series was among the first to offer a Macintosh-like user experience on the PC (which at that time did not have Microsoft Windows to provide its GUI).
In 1988, Turtle Beach began to work on developing its first hardware product, a hard disk based audio editing system. Among the first of its kind, the product was named the "56K digital recording system" and was released in 1990. It was based on a Motorola 56000 DSP chip, and offered non linear playlist editing of stereo audio files. The 56K system was popular among radio stations and mastering studios because it replayed exactly the same digital stream that it recorded.
In 1990, Turtle Beach began developing its first PC sound card. This card used high quality A/D and D/A, a high quality synthesizer from eMu, and an onboard DSP chip. This product was called "MultiSound." The MultiSound product competed with more established products of the day from Advanced Gravis (now defunct), Adlib (now defunct), Creative Labs, and Media Vision (now defunct).
Turtle Beach was then acquired by Integrated Circuit Systems, a maker of clock chips for the PC market. ICS wanted to broaden its market to include the new multimedia chips and peripherals, deciding to buy existing lines rather than build anew.
With the addition of ICS's resources, Turtle Beach offered a full line of PC peripherals, releasing 8 new products within the 18 months following the sale. The MultiSound Monterey, The Tahiti, Maui, Audio Advantage sound cards rounded out its hardware product line, with products at every price point. On the software side, the company released "Wave for Windows", a sound editing program that was ahead of its time, but also ahead of the hardware curve; "Quad", the first multitrack recording application for the PC; and several other software titles.
Seen often in corporate acquisitions, the original founders were soon no longer in the company. Martin Goldberg was brought in to run the company and after moving its operations to San Jose, ICS sold Turtle Beach to Voyetra Technologies, Inc. in 1996. Voyetra, founded by synthesizer pioneer Carmine Bonanno in 1975, had developed drivers and software for nearly every sound card manufacturer in the world during the early 1990s. The purchase of Turtle Beach allowed Voyetra to leverage its close ties with PC manufacturers by providing sound cards bundled with Voyetra software and drivers. After the purchase, the company changed its name to Voyetra Turtle Beach, Inc. and sold millions of sound cards to Dell Computer under the Turtle Beach brand.
In 2000, Voyetra Turtle Beach developed AudioTron, one of the first standalone Internet audio receivers. The device enjoyed tremendous success in the first year of its release, but was soon faced with tremendous competition from similar products. Turtle Beach opted out of the network audio market in 2004.
Recently, Turtle Beach has diversified its product line to include USB audio devices, video capture products and a wide variety of headphones, including the Ear Force line of multi-channel PC and gaming headphones.
56K - The 56K Digital Recording System was the first of the Turtle Beach audio systems for the IBM PC platform. It made use of the Motorola 56000 Digital Signal Processor for accelerating digital audio data transfers through the IBM PC's ISA bus. The 56K was designed to be connected to the AES-EBU or S/PDIF jacks on a professional DAT recorder. With the included SoundStage graphical audio editing software, a 56K system installed in a 286, 386 or 486 Intel PC running Windows 3.0 or 3.1 can be used as a complete post-production digital audio editing solution. The 56K system consisted of three major components:
- The 56K-PC Digital Signal Processor Card (a 16-bit digital audio processor on a full-length ISA board).
- The 56K-D Digital Interface Box, which allows your DAT machine to talk to the computer via AES/EBU or S/PDIF-compatible digital formats.
- The SoundStage digital audio editing software.
Audio Advantage - Popular line of USB sound cards, all of which have digital S/PDIF outputs. It comes in three models: Micro, Amigo, and Roadie.
Audio Advantage PCMCIA - old soundcard for notebooks, Hurricane architecture
Cancun FX - wavetable upgrade board for waveblaster connector
Riviera - affordable Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound without on board sound processing. Based on C-Media CMI8738 audio controller chipset.
Santa Cruz - Based on the Cirrus Logic SoundFusion (aka Crystal 4630) DSP. It featured four analog channel outputs, a line input and microphone input are included on the back panel. Also included is a connector TB dubbed the "VersaJack." The VersaJack has multiple functions selectable by software including digital SPDIF output, a second analog input, analog output or 5th and 6th speaker outputs. This card also supported an open source software based EAX. Dell Computer offered this card as an audio upgrade for some of its computers.
Tahiti - Multisound Classic derivative without the on-card synthesis. Motorola 56001 chipset.
Tropez 32 / TBS-2000 - cost reduced versions of Tropez+ without SIMM slots. Only 1MB or 2MB wavetable ROM.
Tropez Classic - non PnP ISA card from same era as original SoundBlaster AWE32 and Gravis Ultrasound MAX. ICS Wavefront wavetable chipset, OPTi 929, 2MB ROM, 3 SIMM slots for max 12MB wavetable RAM.
Tropez Plus - PnP version of Tropez Classic. CS4232, ICS Wavefront, 3 SIMM slots for RAM.
TBS-929, TBS-930, TBS-931 - OEM low-cost cards for CD-ROM upgrade kits all uses OPTi chipset. TBS-931 uses OPTi 82C931, older are similar as Monte Carlo line.
Catalina - 5.1, 6.1, 7.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound, EAX 2.0 with on board sound processing. Based on VIA Envy24HT-S audio chipset.
Daytona PCI - early PCI card introduced November 1997, S3 Sonic Vibes 86C617 Chipset, Downloadable Sounds (DLS), hardware wavetable, SRS 3D Audio Enhancement Part Number : TBS-0660-01V
EAR Force - Line of gaming headsets for most gaming platform such as; PC, Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii. Models available range from wired stereo headsets for PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii, to wireless models with Dolby Digital decoding for Xbox 360 and PS3. Features include Chat Boost (boosts chat level if soundtrack gets loud), mic monitoring, etc. All current models are as followed (Xbox 360) X41, DX11, X31, PX21, X11, X12, XLC, PX5, (PS3) X41/PBT, DPX21, PX21, P11, PBT, PX5, (Wii) W3, D2, (PC) HPA2, Z2, and Z1
Malibu Surround 64 - 4MB 64-Voice ISA bus Wavetable Sound Card introduced 1997. Uses Kurzweil hardware synthesis 64 voices including 32 hardware voices and 32 software voices, 4MB instrument samples compressed to 2MB ROM. Crystal CS4237B PnP chipset.
Maui - Maui was an inexpensive wavetable synthesizer add-on card. It used the ICS WaveFront synthesizer chip (as did the Monterey and the Rio) and offered optional RAM slots that would allow users to add up to 8 megabytes of their own .WAV format sounds (up to 16-bit 44.1kHz) to the wavetable playback. This process, called SampleStore, pre-dated the Creative/Microsoft "SoundFonts" concept by two years. This card was intended for Sound Blaster owners who wanted to improve their MIDI playback by adding wavetable synthesis. Because of SampleStore and WavePatch, a professional-grade sound programmer for all WaveFront-equipped cards, many music enthusiasts used the Maui as a cheap yet high-quality studio sampler.
Monte Carlo - Monte Carlo was the first Turtle Beach sound card that was not designed in-house. It was based on a Crystal semiconductor reference design for a "Sound Blaster Compatible" card.
Montego DDL - Dolby Digital Live-capable. 5.1, 6.1, 7.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound, EAX 2.0 with on board sound processing, based on the Aureal AU8820 (Vortex) chipset. Priced around $80 USD. See also: Montego DDL Control Panel
Montego A3DXstream - unrelated to the current Montego DDL in every way but the name.
Montego II Quadzilla - the Montego II was a family of cards that replaced the original Montego card. The card was based on the Aureal AU8830 (Vortex 2) chipset but differed from the reference Aureal design. The Quadzilla was the 4-channel version and achieved this via a separate daughtercard, whereas the other AU8830 cards such as Aureal Vortex SQ2500 and Diamond Monster Sound MX300 used a single card.
Monterey - Multisound Monterey was the first cost-reduced version of the MultiSound. In essence the synthesizer (the Emu Proteus) was replaced by the less expensive Rio card that was based on the ICS WaveFront chipset. The DSP and A/D was identical to the MultiSound, as the Monterey was a simple combination of the Rio mounted onto the Tahiti.
Multisound Classic - was a 430 USD full-length ISA sound card produced from 1992 to 1994. It contained an EMU Proteus 1/XR professional MIDI rack engine with 2 MB or 4 MB ROM sample pack and a Motorola 56001 / 68000 DSP chip pair for wave recording and playback. The card supported Windows 9x officially and can be used on Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 using Peter Hall's drivers. The sound quality and feature set offered by MultiSound Classic was truly revolutionary at the time, but Creative Labs acquired EMU in 1994 and the supply of XR chips stopped. The card had to be redesigned accordingly, creating the Tahiti. A detailed analysis of the MultiSound's hardware is here
Multisound Fiji - last real professional ISA cards from Multisound line. Motorola 56002 chipset, Audiophile quality 20-bit DAC/ADC, >97 dB Signal to Noise Ratio, DSP-based Hurricane Architecture, Optional Digital S/PDIF I/O (with daughterboard), MPU-401 compatible, WaveBlaster compatible header, Enhanced Full Duplex, Windows 95 Plug'n'Play compatible. Compatible with Windows 95, 98, 98se and Me in Plug'n'Play mode ; NT4, 2000 and XP (using the last NT4 non-Plug'n'Play driver and settings).
Multisound Pinnacle - same as Multisound Fiji but with additional specifications : full-length ISA card, Hardware Wavetable Synthesis (Kurzweil/HOMAC Synth Engine), 4 MB Patch Set (2 MB Wavetable ROM - using proprietary Kurzweil compression), User Expandable Sample Set (supports up to 48 MB of Sample RAM on board, using two 32 bits SIMM sockets for FPM RAM), EIDE CD-ROM Interface.
Quad - 4-track recording software for PC meant to somewhat mimic a 4-track cassette recorder.
Rio- The RIO was a daughtercard MIDI synthesizer that was compatible with the Sound Blaster daughtercard pinout. This product was intended for Sound Blaster owners who wanted to improve their MIDI playback by adding wavetable synthesis. The RIO offered one RAM slot that would allow users to add their own sounds to the wavetable playback, and was compatible with the WavePatch sound programmer. Unlike the Maui, however, the Rio used a SIPP slot for its expansion memory; compatible RAM was rather difficult and considerably more expensive to obtain.