Which "old-type" Roland MT-32 to get for DOS games?

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Which "old-type" Roland MT-32 to get for DOS games?

Postby SierraGamer » 2018-1-03 @ 23:02

UPDATE: I think I posted this in the wrong section. Should have been posted in hardware section. Sorry about that!

I have read that "old-type" Roland MT-32 units play old DOS games' Roland MT-32 music better than "new-type" Roland MT-32 units. But does it matter which "old-type" Roland MT-32 we get, if we are interested in playing old DOS games, including, but not limited to, Sierra On-Line games?

Wikipedia page says that there are two "old" types:
MT-32 with revision 0 PCB, used in units up to serial number 851399.

The PGA LA32 chip is later replaced with a 100-pin QFP type.

MT-32 with "old-type" revision 1 PCB, used in units with serial numbers 851400 - 950499.

source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_MT-32#MT-32_models

Do you guys know of any DOS games that sound better (or different at all) with an "old-type" revision 0 unit versus an "old-type" revision 1 unit?

I am considering purchasing a Roland MT-32 currently for sale online; it has serial number 911800 (see attached pictures), meaning it is "old-type" revision 1. Would it be better to wait and look for "old-type" revision 0, or do games sound exactly the same with both types of "old" Roland MT-32 units?


Thank you!

P.S.- I have heard that emulation sounds great, but I want the real Roland MT-32 external module sitting on my desk with its little light-up screen staring at me. It's those details that really matter to me. :blush:
Attachments
MT32-2.jpg
Roland MT-32 sound module with serial number 911800
MT32-1.jpg
Roland MT-32 serial number 911800
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Re: Which "old-type" Roland MT-32 to get for DOS games?

Postby 7retro2000 » 2018-2-10 @ 22:49

You are better with an MT-32 instead of none. Just get one and play with it.
People recommend the old one as a standard. Just a personal opinion - when you deal with sound, there is no perfect choice.
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Re: Which "old-type" Roland MT-32 to get for DOS games?

Postby gdjacobs » 2018-2-10 @ 23:44

There's a handful of games which only sound right with the glitches in original MT-32s. I understand the revised version (with the dedicated headphone jack) is kind-of the worst of both worlds wrt compatibility, as it's not the best for those titles which use glitches, and it doesn't support extensions like the CM-32L or LAPC-I do. I believe it's a little less noisy than the old version, though.

For a more thorough understanding of the Roland LA synth module lineup, probably just watch this video:
https://www.philscomputerlab.com/ultima ... orial.html
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Re: Which "old-type" Roland MT-32 to get for DOS games?

Postby Spikey » 2018-2-12 @ 06:21

I doubt anyone would notice unless they were aware of it. I like a second-gen unit to overcome polyphony issues with games such as Larry 5 and PQ3, many want the weird SFX in games like SQ1/4.

Apparently SQ3's intro piece has different vibrato, but with examples like that you can see how much of a non-issue it is. I would think the lower noise permanently would outweigh perfect accuracy in 0.1% of situations, but that seems to be a minority opinion.

Using the MUNT software seems to be a better choice, you can even go '3rd gen' which is beyond the hardware itself- for example, 1st gen with 32-bit output, or 2nd gen with 32-bit output. Very cool stuff. Not many reasons to own a module any more IMO (except for recording with one mixed with other synths).
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Re: Which "old-type" Roland MT-32 to get for DOS games?

Postby gdjacobs » 2018-2-12 @ 16:41

Yes, ideally you'd need a CM-32L/LAPC-I and an MT-32. Munt gives you both.
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Re: Which "old-type" Roland MT-32 to get for DOS games?

Postby sergm » 2018-2-13 @ 17:33

I'm afraid, munt will never sound identical to the real units, only better :)

Well, as for the subj, the answer really depends on the scope of the preferred games. If 100% compatibility with old Sierra titles is preferred, this unit is likely the one you need. Although beware, the serial ID does not guarantee the compatibility. In case the unit occasionally got to the service, the main PCB could be theoretically replaced with the new one (and with phone jack removed as explained in the service notes). So, only seeing the PCB (or playing those hacky patches) can actually confirm whether it is the old-gen unit.

As for the PCB-0 vs. PCB-1, I am not aware of any differences (from the consumer PoV) between the two. AFAICT, the LA32 chip design remained intact, only the package was changed. Besides this change, all ROMs were also replaced at the SN #851400 boundary but the contents kept the same.
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Re: Which "old-type" Roland MT-32 to get for DOS games?

Postby Cizkaro » 2018-3-08 @ 11:21

You could also look into a SC-55. It has limited MT-32 backwards compatibility and is a very good unit.
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Re: Which "old-type" Roland MT-32 to get for DOS games?

Postby Danfun64 » 2018-4-24 @ 17:53

Yeah it's limited... limited to only the default instruments with no support for custom instruments whatsoever. If you want to listen to MT-32 music, the SC-55 isn't the way to go...though if its any consolation, it's better than non Roland midi devices which claim mt-32 compatibility
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Re: Which "old-type" Roland MT-32 to get for DOS games?

Postby Jo22 » 2018-6-24 @ 04:10

This is an interesting thread. I'm an owner of an MT-32, too, although I started out with a CM64 (and a Casio MT-540 before that).
So please excuse my ignorance - There's something I always wondered :

Which game(s) had been composed especially with the (old) MT-32 in mind, but not the CM models ?
When I got into Roland music, I had always been thought that the LAPC-I was the reference.
I also heard the LAPC-I was no MT32, but rather more of a CM32L+MPU401 combination.

This confuses me. The oldest game's that I've got, namely some from MagneticScrolls, used the extra effects,
such as floating water when standing on a bridge.

This makes me wonder: Was the plain MT32 more seen like a less-expensive fallback for customers, a platform independent device (Atari ST, etc)
and -more importantly-as the main instrument used by musicans/composers who did write large parts of a games's musical score
(the MT32 could be directly driven by a keyboard, which made composing more convenient. Extra SFX could be added on a computer easily later on) ?

Or was the LAPC-I unique in certain aspects ?
Like a prototype of the CM32L that had the same sound as the early MT32s ?
Or the other way round, had it been a MT32 with extra effects "ported over" from the CM32L ?

Again please excuse this post, but this really interests me.
Originally, I didn't mean to post here since I feel like I begin to annoy people (I feel like I posted in
about ten other threads in the last few days. Way too much.). :sweatdrop:
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Re: Which "old-type" Roland MT-32 to get for DOS games?

Postby Kaminari » 2018-6-24 @ 15:30

It's quite simple in my opinion.

The MT-32 came first. It was a semi-pro synth that Sierra decided on a hunch to market as a deluxe device for video games. It was a big gamble since the MT-32 (a budget brother of the D-50) was still expensive and never primarily intended for that market. Nevertheless, its relative success urged Roland to come up with the CM-32, a simpler and more affordable module targeted at computer users.

The changes between the MT-32 and the CM-32 went largely unnoticed at the time, as we are still debating today about what actually changed. At any rate, the composers of the first MT-32 compatible games of course couldn't have forseen those changes. Likewise, most of the later post-1989 games were obviously composed for the CM-32, not because it had more special effects but simply because it was the most consumer-friendly offering by then.

I'd be surprised if any game released after 1989 would specifically require a MT-32 just because the composer prefered the way it sounded on it, or because he wanted to exploit some quirks that were not available on the CM-32. Economically speaking, that wouldn't have made any sense. Although it's perfectly possible that the composer was working on a MT-32 and ignoring that there were actual differences between the two synths.
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Re: Which "old-type" Roland MT-32 to get for DOS games?

Postby sergm » 2018-6-25 @ 11:27

Kaminari wrote:I'd be surprised if any game released after 1989 would specifically require a MT-32

At least one such a game comes to my mind: Dune 2.
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Re: Which "old-type" Roland MT-32 to get for DOS games?

Postby Spikey » 2018-7-15 @ 07:34

I'd be surprised if any game released after 1989 would specifically require a MT-32 just because the composer prefered the way it sounded on it, or because he wanted to exploit some quirks that were not available on the CM-32. Economically speaking, that wouldn't have made any sense. Although it's perfectly possible that the composer was working on a MT-32 and ignoring that there were actual differences between the two synths.

To paraphrase Rob Atesalp, who composed PQ1VGA in 1991, and tracks for SQ4 the same year- "What's a CM-32?" Most Sierra guys I've talked to have never heard of it, although Craig Safan seemed to have one. I would guess it was not that commonly used in American games. Was it even available commonly for American gamers to buy?
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Re: Which "old-type" Roland MT-32 to get for DOS games?

Postby madrobby » 2018-7-21 @ 23:07

I just got an “old” MT-32 and it’s awesome. There a bunch of games at it, and it sounds amazing. Very happy with it! Just a tip, I find that most that sell on eBay are overpriced, I just used an eBay watching app (BayWatch for iOS) and waited until one came up for a reasonable amount (I paid $80).
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