VOGONS


First post, by Lobivopsis

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If you could have designed a soundcard back in the day, what would it have been like?

For me....

8 6 operator FM channels (6 operator FM sounds good, check out the DX7)

8 channel DAC.

Simple global reverb for DAC and FM channels (independant)

Last edited by Lobivopsis on 2003-09-28, 23:47. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 1 of 13, by HunterZ

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In my experience over the years, FM synthesis is a vastly inferior music hardware technology compared to the MT-32 and Sound Canvas that were available back then. The only exception to this (in my opinion) is Japanese games. Most consoles and arcade machines used FM synthesis chips, and somehow the Japanese got really good at making kick-ass soundtracks using them. Most PC games released in the United States were by American or European software companies, however, so their music sounded better on higher-end MIDI synthesizers.

I would say that a card with stereo 16-bit DAC, stereo FM syntesis, and some kind of high-quality (for the time) MT-32 and/or Sound Canvas-compatable MIDI synthesis hardware would be the best of all worlds.

Reply 2 of 13, by Lobivopsis

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HunterZ wrote:

In my experience over the years, FM synthesis is a vastly inferior music hardware technology compared to the MT-32 and Sound Canvas that were available back then. The only exception to this (in my opinion) is Japanese games. Most consoles and arcade machines used FM synthesis chips, and somehow the Japanese got really good at making kick-ass soundtracks using them. Most PC games released in the United States were by American or European software companies, however, so their music sounded better on higher-end MIDI synthesizers.

DX200 6 operators:
http://www.yamahasynth.com/pro/dx200/

FS1R 8 operators:
http://archive.keyboardonline.com/demos/fs1r/fs1r.shtml

Not what I would call "vastly inferior"

6 operator FM has been available since 1983 in the DX-7 (it was the first FM synthesizer Yamaha sold)

The OPL3 in 4 op mode can actually make some pretty good sounds (synthy sounding of course), nobody ever actually used in in 4 operator mode in a game as far as I know. They'd just use it as an OPL2 with more channels. The ym2151 was very popular in arcade games and could also do some good synth sounds. Yamaha based a few DX series keyboards on the 2151.

I wonder if they were using those to do the soundtracks for ym2151 based arcade games?

In my opinion GM was a bad, bad BAD idea, the use of ROM sounds is where PC audio went horribly wrong. The GUS is what the SB-16 should have been (but maybe on a lesser scale, e.g. 8 channel ADPCM to avoid the need for memory on the card)

Last edited by Lobivopsis on 2003-09-29, 15:42. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 4 of 13, by oneirotekt

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Lobivopsis wrote:

In my opinion GM was a bad, bad BAD idea, the use of ROM sounds is where PC audio went horribly wrong. The GUS is what the SB-16 should have been (but maybe on a lesser scale, e.g. 8 channel ADPCM to avoid the need for memory on the card)

I'm no audio expert (I just know what sounds good to my own ears) but I've always felt that using samples of real instruments to approximate real, studio-recorded music is a very unhappy compromise. The best FM synthesis music takes advantage of the unique palette of sounds available to the hardware - almost all C64 SID stuff does a good job with this - instead of coming up with a little bleepy tone that sounds "kind of like a trumpet" or a violin or whatnot.

It might be considered sacrilege around here, but I think the Roland MT-32 does NOT always sound all that great for that very reason... samples of real world instruments, even really good ones with reverb and other filters thrown on top, suck compared to the real thing.

Synth music should just be allowed to be synthetic. Either give me stuff written for Adlib (Dune1 soundtrack) or studio recorded music (Outlaws soundtrack), in between you don't get the best qualities of either.

Reply 6 of 13, by Lobivopsis

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FM got a bad reputation with the public thanks to low end multimedia chips. What people don't realize is that they've been listening to FM synthesis in studio recorded music for years. It was used by virtually every pop group in the mid to late 80's. It started to fall out of favor in the 90's as sample based synths became the current fad, but has been making a comeback along with other forms of "real" synthesis as people finally started to realize the limitations of sample playback.

Listen to the original Terminator theme (not the T2 theme), it was done with mostly FM sounds.

In reality, sample playback cannot do everything that real synthesis can, and synthesis cannot do everything than sample playback can. You need both.

Reply 7 of 13, by oneirotekt

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Kaminari wrote:

I don't agree at all (eg. SCC+, FM Pac, PC Engine), but it's a matter of taste I guess.

Yeah, I don't want to come off as dissing an entire realm of electronic music, as there is quite a lot of great music in tracked formats (MOD, S3M, etc) and a lot of really good MT-32 / wavetable-based music... like Lobivopsis I just don't think that one is inherently superior to the other.

Reply 8 of 13, by HunterZ

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Don't get me wrong - I'm not knocking FM synthesis at all, and especially not synthesized music in general (I _love_ synth sounds and music!). All I'm saying is that it turned out to be an inferior form of MIDI synth used in American and European PC games back in the day, only because that's the role it was given. Used properly (as I mentioned the Japanese did in many console games), it can really kick some ass.

Anyone remember the arcade game Gyruss? I'm pretty sure it uses 4 FM synth chips to make some nice stereo music and effects.

Reply 9 of 13, by Lobivopsis

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Originally posted by HunterZ 't get me wrong - I'm not knocking FM synthesis at all, and especially not synthesized music in general (I _love_ synth sounds and music!). All I'm saying is that it turned out to be an inferior form of MIDI synth used in American and European PC games back in the day, only because that's the role it was given. Used properly (as I mentioned the Japanese did in many console games), it can really kick some ass.



What I'm talking about would have been a whole different animal. FM synths like the DX-7 are far superior to the cheap multimedia chips most people are used to.


What I'm thinking of is a 6 operator DX-7 FM chip cut down to 8 channels. What you'd have is a baby 8 channel DX-7 along with 8 ADPCM channels for drums (though a DX-7 can do certain types of percussion very well), sound effects, and real world instrument sounds. Developers wouldn't have had to develop their own FM sounds, they could have just used what was already available on the DX-7 (which is a lot)

Anyone remember the arcade game Gyruss? I'm pretty sure it uses 4 FM synth chips to make some nice stereo music and effects.



Gyruss used a Z80 for the game code, and a second slave Z-80 to control the sound hardware. The music was generated by 5 AY-3-8910's and a DAC (for the drum sounds). The AY-3-8910 isn't an FM chip, it generates amplitude modulated square waves and has three channels. Many arcade games used several and would stack channels to make a "fatter" sound (which is why Gyruss uses 5 of them)

Talking about Gyruss has made me want to play it (thank goodness for emulation) 😁

Last edited by Lobivopsis on 2003-10-01, 02:54. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 10 of 13, by Cyberdyne

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FM problem is not that it is bad, it just underused, in reality even a 4op OPL3 can make some real magic. Game developers just used MIDI to OPL converters, that were not verry good.

I am aroused about any X86 motherboard that has full functional ISA slot. I think i have problem. Not really into that original (Turbo) XT,286,386 and CGA/EGA stuff. So just a DOS nut.

Reply 12 of 13, by Cyberdyne

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Sorry, did not look at the dates, i was looking for something else...

I am aroused about any X86 motherboard that has full functional ISA slot. I think i have problem. Not really into that original (Turbo) XT,286,386 and CGA/EGA stuff. So just a DOS nut.

Reply 13 of 13, by gerry

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collector wrote on 2020-09-03, 13:06:

Necroposting a ~17 year old thread?

if one of those posters when out that same day and bought a new PC, it would now be a retro PC... vogons forum longevity is itself impressive