Tweaking the DreamBlaster S1

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Tweaking the DreamBlaster S1

Postby James-F » 2016-6-12 @ 11:53

Image
http://www.serdashop.com/waveblaster

As we all know the DreamBlaster S1 is one cool daughterboard that let us hear MIDI music without trying to find an original board from the 90s or an external synth like Sound Canvas.
Little did I know that the S1 using the General Midi SAM2195 microchip is EXTREMELY tweak-able and has tons of parameters to adjust using NRPN and SysEx messages from a midi file.
It's not just a midi playback device, it's a full synthesizer on a chip.

Have a look at the specifications sheet:
http://serdaco.com/files/SAM2195.pdf
DBS1 NRPN.png


There are a lot of NRPN and SysEX command the the SAM2195 can receive.

Some of the useful parameters are:
Effects On/Off , to maximize polyphony or to make the S1 dry without effects.
Reverb/Chorus, you can lower the effect of each if you feel it's too much.
4-Band Equalizer, yes we have this too.
Master Volume/Pan.
Clipping Mode Hard/Soft.

I attached a zip file which contains various tweaks to the S1 if you play the midi.
They are S1 hardware specific NRPNs, they will not change even if a reset command of any kind is received.

S1_ON.MID
S1_OFF.MID
EFCT_ON.MID
EFCT_OFF.MID
DLY_OFF.MID
CLIP_SFT.MID
CLIP_HRD.MID

You run these midi files using DOSMid (or any other dos midi player) to change the S1 behavior.
Code: Select all
dosmid.exe /sbmidi *.mid

* You can edit dosmid.cfg with /sbmidi so you'll not have to to type it each time.
It's already in dosmid.cfg if you download the attached "S1 Tweaks.zip".
Attachments
S1 Tweaks.zip
Including an already configured DOSMid to run the midi files.
(58.1 KiB) Downloaded 37 times
Last edited by James-F on 2016-6-22 @ 17:54, edited 13 times in total.
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Re: Tweaking the DreamBlaster S1

Postby PhilsComputerLab » 2016-6-12 @ 12:22

Very cool!

Setting reverb and chorus is always handy. The X1 does have a jumper which lets you choose between two modes, but this is great for S1 owners.

Now this will set the global reverb and chorus so to speak?

What does the post effects do?

Also when you run a game like Doom that will send a reset, does this cause issues or will the reverb / chorus setting you set via running a midi file prior remain being used?
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Re: Tweaking the DreamBlaster S1

Postby James-F » 2016-6-12 @ 12:35

Not only that, you can choose from 8 Reverb types and 8 Chorus types.

You can also tweak:
Chorus Delay.
Chorus Feedback.
Chorus Rate.
Chorus Depth.
Reverb Time.
Last edited by James-F on 2016-6-12 @ 12:49, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tweaking the DreamBlaster S1

Postby PhilsComputerLab » 2016-6-12 @ 12:43

Wow, very nice!
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Re: Tweaking the DreamBlaster S1

Postby stamasd » 2016-6-12 @ 12:44

Very useful, thank you! Bookmarked topic.
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Re: Tweaking the DreamBlaster S1

Postby James-F » 2016-6-12 @ 12:52

BTW, the latest version of DOSMid with fixes is here:
viewtopic.php?f=24&t=44947&p=504714#p504710

EDIT:
I confirm that all 8 Reverb and Choruses are indeed sound different, there is also Delay.
The DreamBlaster S1 (SAM2195) is very similar to the SC-55 in terms of tweakability, but lacking the variations, so only GM patches.

If you find something interesting in the spec sheet that you want to use in DOS, I'm willing to create a midi file for you.
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Re: Tweaking the DreamBlaster S1

Postby ik777 » 2016-6-12 @ 15:43

James-F wrote:Little did I know that the S1 using the General Midi SAM2195 microchip is EXTREMELY tweak-able and has tons of parameters to adjust using NRPN control and SysEx messages from a midi file.
It's not just a midi playback device, it's a full synthesizer on a chip.


This reminds me my old Oksori WS32 which can adjust SAM8905's effects by level(0~15).
I don't exactly know what this program actually do, but this can select two of 16 reverb and chorus for SAM8905.
and even SAM8905 did SAM9233's FM emulation's reverb control. (Terratec maestro never did like this.)

If there's an easy effect control of S1 like this, I also get it dauntlessly.
I cheer your efforts.
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Re: Tweaking the DreamBlaster S1

Postby Jepael » 2016-6-12 @ 16:59

Interesting, as the SAM2195 is the same chip that I noticed is in my guitar amp and I experimented with it a couple of years ago.

Imagine the look on my face when I noticed the SAM2195 has a MT-32 compatibility mode. Monkey Island did sound quite OK with it.
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Re: Tweaking the DreamBlaster S1

Postby James-F » 2016-6-12 @ 17:48

PhilsComputerLab wrote:Also when you run a game like Doom that will send a reset, does this cause issues or will the reverb / chorus setting you set via running a midi file prior remain being used?

No, just like the SC-55 (or any other synth) it will reset to default.
I believe the X1 has the reverb on a separate chip, not part of the main midi chip.

But the Effects-Off command is directly to hardware, so a reset will not change that.

Now this will set the global reverb and chorus so to speak?

Global. Per Channel. Whatever you like.
Both default global values are 64 (half), like the SC-55.

ik777 wrote:If there's an easy effect control of S1 like this, I also get it dauntlessly. I cheer your efforts.

I can make some batch files, but I lack the programming skills for a nice GUI.


Using Windows 98SE on my retro PC and Falcosoft Midi Player (yes it supports 9x), I can send commands straight to the DreamBlaster S1 and fully test its abilities.
I can also use my main i7 PC to send midi to the retro PC MPU midi Input using the gameport-midi cable to control the S1, very handy.
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Re: Tweaking the DreamBlaster S1

Postby James-F » 2016-6-22 @ 11:38

I edited the first post, added a few tweaks.

S1_ON.MID
S1_OFF.MID
EFCT_ON.MID
EFCT_OFF.MID
DLY_OFF.MID
CLIP_SFT.MID
CLIP_HRD.MID

I especially like the S1_OFF.MID because it allows me to use my SC-55 (external synth) while muting the S1 inside the case without having to remove it.
You can add it to autoexec.bat if you have an external synth permanently connected.
Very useful. ;)

All the above are S1 hardware specific NRPNs, they will not change even if a reset command of any kind is received.


Important EDIT:

I should point that DLY_OFF.MID is not created in vain.
The S1 is a GM only unit so no GS variations or effects, the only effects that are used in any case are Reverb and Chorus, all other effects can not be reached by the GM standard or the SC-55 for that matter, no Delay or EQ are present prior to the SC-88 and are not used in any game or GM music anyway.
The problem is the redundant Delay processing will greatly distort the S1 and have no effect whatsoever just distortion.
Disabling the Delay processing using DLY_OFF.MID actually makes the S1 sound crystal clear and distortion free.
I do not know why the S1 (SAM2195) enables the Delay processing by default or why it is distorted so much, but I think it should be disabled for normal use.

Here is a block diagram with the NRPN commands to disable the post processing that I used:
SFX.png


Recordings of Descent 2:

S1 Default.mp3
EFCT_ON.MID (Default).
The sound is greatly distorted.
(951.83 KiB) Downloaded 38 times

S1 Delay Off.mp3
DLY_OFF.MID
Only Reverb and Chorus, as it should be for a GM synth.
(951.83 KiB) Downloaded 36 times

S1 Dry.mp3
EFCT_OFF.MID
Reverb, Chorus, Delay and EQ are Off.
(951.83 KiB) Downloaded 33 times
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Re: Tweaking the DreamBlaster S1

Postby oerk » 2016-7-28 @ 08:00

Fascinating topic! Will definitely try it.

James-F wrote:The problem is the redundant Delay processing will greatly distort the S1 and have no effect whatsoever just distortion.
Disabling the Delay processing using DLY_OFF.MID actually makes the S1 sound crystal clear and distortion free.


Hm, I haven't noticed the distortion. Then again, I'm currently running it on pretty crappy speakers. Judging from your samples, the difference should be immediately apparent.

I'm really surprised by the S1 - sure, it isn't the most balanced sounding chip and the samples aren't that great, but for the price, it's surprisingly good! The synths are very nice and the guitars (emulating a guitar with MIDI is problematic at best) are decent.
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Re: Tweaking the DreamBlaster S1

Postby PhilsComputerLab » 2016-8-14 @ 23:36

James-F, in the datasheet it mentions a MT-32 map. Would you know how to activate this? Would be handy for games such as Monkey Island and others that use the default MT-32 instruments.
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Re: Tweaking the DreamBlaster S1

Postby James-F » 2016-8-21 @ 06:19

Sorry for the late reply.

I believe you simply activate this with the MT32Emulation midi file came with the SCC-1.
It should be no different than setting the SC-55 to MT-32 mode.

EDIT:
Tested.
Unfortunately they don't sound any different, so apparently the DB-S1 don't have a proper MT-32 mode. :depressed:
The DreamBlaster S1 is a General Midi ONLY device.
Attachments
MT32EMUL.zip
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Re: Tweaking the DreamBlaster S1

Postby PhilsComputerLab » 2016-8-21 @ 06:25

Cool!

Not sure when I get around to testing this out, maybe someone else?
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Re: Tweaking the DreamBlaster S1

Postby brostenen » 2016-12-22 @ 12:29

Sorry for bringing this old tread to life again. I just have two small question regarding this.

If I run the DosMID and play those tweaking files, will the S1 hold these tweaks untill I reset the computer?
Or will a game reset these tweaks, whenever it is loaded?

Is there a way to load these tweaks, through a program of some sort, during boot of MS-Dos 6.22?
(I am talking about setting a line in autoexec.bat)
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Re: Tweaking the DreamBlaster S1

Postby James-F » 2016-12-22 @ 15:09

brostenen wrote:If I run the DosMID and play those tweaking files, will the S1 hold these tweaks untill I reset the computer?

Yes, these tweaks are S1 specific and no program will reset them.

brostenen wrote:Is there a way to load these tweaks, through a program of some sort, during boot of MS-Dos 6.22?
(I am talking about setting a line in autoexec.bat)

I don't see why not.
You can create a playlist in DOSMid and run it at boot, but it will irritate you eventually so just make a batch file and run it whenever you need.
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Re: Tweaking the DreamBlaster S1

Postby brostenen » 2016-12-22 @ 15:12

Cool. Thanks. :-)
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