Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Discussion about old sound cards, MIDI devices and sound related accessories.

Re: Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Postby Kahenraz » 2016-6-06 @ 19:14

I also noticed that my SC-55mkII sounded distinctly different compared to my Roland SC-7 when playing back midis from Warcraft II. I've been meaning to make a post about it but had to box them up and never got around to doing it.

It would be interesting it we all band together and put up recordings from out various Sound Canvases, noting their model and firmware versions. This will also help us to determine if there is any variance occurring among units which have identical firmware versions.

A lot of us pride ourselves on obtaining retro hardware for that authentic sound. But had we ever considered that what we're actually hearing, even on the proper hardware, STILL isn't the right because we're got the wrong firmware?? :blah:
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Re: Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Postby James-F » 2016-6-06 @ 19:28

SC-VA (SC-55 mode) and SC-55 MKII differ in sound on many instruments, most noticeable are the Strings, Choir and Wind instruments, basically all Warcraft 2 music consists of there 3 main instruments.
I have made a list of the sound difference between SC-VA (SC-55) and SC-55 MKII, and I will record and post these when I have time at the weekend.
The Cymbals on the Drums are also different between the real SC-55 and any other SC model in SC-55 Map.
A lot if the "Swishy" instruments on the SC-55 MKII sound different than the SC-VA in SC-55 Map Mode.

The SC-VA is basically SC-8820 in a plugin.
So the SC-55 Map on the SC-88Pro/SC-8820/SC-8850/SC-VA will sound close but different than the real SC-55.
Only the SC-88 will have exactly the same sounds as the SC-55 besides NRPN range.
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Re: Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Postby Kahenraz » 2016-6-06 @ 19:59

What do you mean by SC-VA? Is this a compatibility mode can enable on my mkII?
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Re: Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Postby James-F » 2016-6-06 @ 20:15

SC-VA is a VST plug-in for DAWs. The latest iteration to Virtual Sound Canvas.
This one is 99.9% close to the real deal including sysex messages and all.
viewtopic.php?f=46&t=46111

Close... but no cigar.
Just like the Hardware 8820 or 88Pro or the SC-VA plug-in, the SC-55 Map differ in various instruments compared to the real SC-55, like I've noted in my previous post.
I will do an audio comparison at the weekend.
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Re: Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Postby Cloudschatze » 2016-6-06 @ 21:00

Kahenraz wrote:But had we ever considered that what we're actually hearing, even on the proper hardware, STILL isn't the right because we're got the wrong firmware??

Some of us have. There are also hardware fixes to consider.

For the most part though, and given the few exceptions otherwise, minor-version firmware differences in most Roland products amount to bugfixes (some of which are extremely esoteric) that would not have been intentionally or unintentionally exploitable.

Just as an example, here's what the v2.05 code fixes for the 2.xx MT-32:

"WHEN A MT-32 IS PLAYING THE TUNE OF "ISM" LIBRARY "EL-106-1", THE MT-32 MAY STOP SOUNDING AT THE 10TH MEASURE OF THE TUNE WRONGLY. IN THIS CASE, YOU MUST TURN THE POWER OFF ONCE AND ON AGAIN TO RETURN TO THE NORMAL CONDITION."

As a best practice, I'd simply recommend trying to acquire the latest control ROM version for whatever level your product is, and call it a day.

In Roland-world, this would amount to:

1.xx MT-32: v1.07
2.xx MT-32: v2.07
CM-32L/CM-64(LA board)/LAPC-I: v1.02
1.20 SC-55: v1.21

Several of these have been dumped, and can be easily burned to a replacement EEPROM or EPROM.
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Re: Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Postby Kahenraz » 2016-6-06 @ 22:07

I always thought that I just had a newer version of the SC-55 with my SC-55mkII. Is there any reason not to trade this up for a SC-88? Any reason to get a SC-55 instead?

I thought I was done with Roland between my MT-32, CM-32L, SC-1, and SC-55mkII. :blah:

I wonder if my SC-7 is enough to fill the gap?
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Re: Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Postby James-F » 2016-6-07 @ 04:43

Kahenraz wrote:I always thought that I just had a newer version of the SC-55 with my SC-55mkII.

You do.

Kahenraz wrote:Is there any reason not to trade this up for a SC-88?

Definitely don't trade your SC-55 MKII for newer model.
No emulation sounds 100% like the SC-55, even the latest SC-VA or any previous hardware unit.
The biggest difference is how NRPN control changes the sounds, more sophisticated GS music for the SC-55 use that often.
To cover all sound canvas ground you really want to have the SC-55 MKII and SC-8820/8850/VA.

Kahenraz wrote:Any reason to get a SC-55 instead?

No reason.
The MKII has more variations, feature, and bug fixes than the first generation of SC-55, besides CTF.
All CTF related issues can be fixed easily using software and available game driver updates.
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Re: Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Postby Kahenraz » 2016-6-07 @ 06:41

Bought a SC-88VL since I've been meaning to add an SC-88 to my collection anyways. Nothing temping right now for SC-55. Is there any reason to pick up a non-GM SC-55? I was wondering what prompted the OP's purchase.

Also of note, I own a Yamaha MU50 and MU10.

I prefer the sound from the Yamaha synths but for comparison I've only had the SC-7 and my SC-55mkII which always sounded off.
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Re: Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Postby James-F » 2016-6-07 @ 10:17

Kahenraz wrote:SC-7 and my SC-55mkII which always sounded off.

My SC-55 MKII always sounds on. :cool:

Try this NRPN test by Cloudschatze:
viewtopic.php?f=46&t=46111&start=20#p466067
It will sound right ONLY on the SC-55, not even on the SC-88 with 55 Map and definitely not on the Yamaha.
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Re: Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Postby JackH » 2016-6-07 @ 16:04

Does this "GS-only" SC55 (DD61319), which has GM, have MT32-emulation mode?
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Re: Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Postby James-F » 2016-6-08 @ 15:37

Here is a nice experiment:

The attached Midi file "Seasons" is part of the Windows 95 test midis.
This little midi breaks the 28 sounds Polyphony capabilities of the SC-55 units and the last 3 instruments are cutting on and off.
The strange thing is that in this midi the main lead instruments are on channel 13-15.

I found that the default "Voice Reserve" settings on the SC-55 give 6 sounds to channel 1, and 2 sounds to channels 2-10, while channels 11-16 have 0 voice reserve.
28 simultaneous voices for the SC-55 MKII (24 for the MK1). *Page 56 in the SC-55 MKII manual is about Voice Reserve, p.98 for defaults.

I tried to find info about Voice Reserve in the SC-88 (64 sound polyphony), but there is none.
Roland completely removed this feature from SC-88 and on, apparently because 64 note polyphony was enough to remove the necessity of managing it.

Try to play it on your SC-55.
Basic as it may, it breaks the SC-55 polyphony limit. :happy:
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Re: Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Postby Great Hierophant » 2016-6-08 @ 16:13

Yes, the SC-88 has supports up to 32 parts, each one can be assigned an instrument. Each instrument uses only 1-2 voices, so the 64 voices that the SC-88 supports is always sufficient.

The SC-55 supports 16 parts and 24 voices, the SC-55mkII supports 16 parts and 28 voices. Each instrument can use 1-2 voices, so the voice reserve feature is included on these modules and compatibles.
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Re: Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Postby Cloudschatze » 2016-6-08 @ 17:20

There's a lot more stuff that exceeds the polyphony limits of the SC-55 and SC-55mkII than many people realize. For the most part though, the partial/voice reserve and priority schemes do an adequate job of minimizing the limitations, and even more-so where the composer has been mindful of their proper use.

You'll also encounter sequences that play "correctly" on an SC-55, but will have glaringly noticeable dropped notes on the SC-55mkII, despite its greater polyphony. I'd looked into this some time back, and came to the conclusion that the voice priority scheme wasn't being honored correctly in the SC-55, with the SC-55mkII providing the proper (but less acoustically pleasing) behavior.

Image

Various hardware options can be used to address the polyphony limitations though. Not to keep re-posting my lousy recent photo, but I'm currently running two SC-55s and CM-64s in a split-channel configuration (even/odd) with my "MIDI General" setup, effectively resulting in a:

48-voice SC-55
64-voice CM-32L
62-voice CM-32P

Yhey.
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Re: Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Postby Kahenraz » 2016-6-08 @ 17:28

Cloudschatze wrote:I'm currently running two SC-55s and CM-64s in a split-channel configuration (even/odd) with my "MIDI General" setup, effectively resulting in a:

48-voice SC-55
64-voice CM-32L
62-voice CM-32P

Yhey.


Are there any benefits to pairing two SC-55 modules other than musical composition?
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Re: Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Postby James-F » 2016-6-08 @ 17:53

Daeuuummm nice setup Cloudschatze.

Each instrument uses only 1-2 voices, so the 64 voices that the SC-88 supports is always sufficient.

You assume that a composition plays only 2 notes at a time in a part.
I can play 10 note chord with both hands and that's already 10 voices on one channel.
A midi file is not limited to 10 fingers, it can play 64 notes on one channel, maximizing the polyphony of any Sound Canvas in one part.

EDIT:
Furthermore, if I play 1 note fast with a slow tone I can exceed the polyphony, because the sound is still playing even after the note is released.
* After "Note Off" command some sounds continue playing like "Tubular Bells" (or simply using the Sustain control).
So polyphony is about simultaneous SOUNDS not notes or midi messages.

It's more complicated than that on the SC-55.

There's "Part Priority" and "Note Priority (voice reserve)".
Note Priority has priority over Part Priority when you reserve notes to that part even if it is the last part (16).
Part Priority will have priority if there is no Note Priority.
All in ascending order... so it's complicated.

Try to set as following Voice Reserve (Note Priority):
Channel 1-13 to 0.
Channel 14 to 8.
Channel 15 to 8.
Channel 16 to 12.

Now play the infamous Canyon.mid. :lol:

Even though there is priority to the parts in ascending order, all the note priority is distributed to the last parts.
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Re: Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Postby Cloudschatze » 2016-6-08 @ 17:55

Kahenraz wrote:Are there any benefits to pairing two SC-55 modules other than musical composition?

I use this configuration specifically for games, mind you. There is certainly the benefit of not experiencing the polyphony dropouts that you were likely never aware of, and probably never noticed anyhow. :)
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Re: Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Postby archsan » 2016-6-08 @ 18:23

Cloudschatze wrote:There is certainly the benefit of not experiencing the polyphony dropouts that you were likely never aware of, and probably never noticed anyhow. :)


Gosh, ignorance is bliss! I hope there is no YT video showing the difference to the world of the blind (or deaf)? (please don't) :lol:

I kinda like JamesF's "an SC-55MkII + SC-VA is all you need" suggestion here.
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Re: Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Postby James-F » 2016-6-11 @ 19:27

I have a CLEAR example where the polyphony (or rather the "Voice Reserve" distribution) of the SC-55 MKII (28) is not enough, on the MKI even more so.
It's from Warcraft 2! :exclamation:
It was composed on the SC-88 and the polyphony of the SC-55 is not enough for some of the tracks.
It's the most played midi game track next to Doom and Duke3D on the SC-55... the irony.

The SC-55 has low polyphony (28) and it uses something called "Voice Reserve" to distribute and prioritize the available polyphony across the channels.
BUT the default values (each reset) are totally wrong and reserve nothing for the 11-16 channels, making them cut off the sounds on many midi files if tracks 1-10 take all 28 available sounds.
The only way to change the Voice Reserve for each channel is by sysex or front panel.

Roland completely removed the "Voice Reserve" function from SC-88 and on, because 64 polyphony was enough not to bother with the distribution of it across the channels.

Here is the Warcraft 2 example on a real SC-55:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ndCckv-lww

You can hear in the first 10 second that the Bell cuts off (its on channel 13), but 10 seconds on it plays fine.
For 20 year nobody noticed! :lol:
*I attached the midi.

PS. I made the same post at the Falcosoft Midi Player, so it will have the option for a custom SYX reset sequence for the SC-55 for better "Voice Reserve" each reset.
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Re: Apparently not all GS-only sc-55s are the same, some are GM

Postby James-F » 2016-6-11 @ 20:53

I have written a sysex message for custom Voice Reserve to all channels as I think it would be ideal for the SC-55 MKII, and a GS reset right before that.
It works. :happy:

Basically I distributed the faulty default voice reserve settings across all channel more equally.
Why Roland chose to use only 24 reserved voices in the MKII and eliminate channels 11-16 completely is a mystery...
No channel left without at least 1 voice reserved, I used all 28 voices across all channels.
No more instrument cut offs in Warcraft 2 and in the previous midis I posted. :happy:

F0 41 10 42 12 40 00 7F 00 41 F7
F0 41 10 42 12 40 01 10 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 01 01 01 01 13 F7


Yellow is default, Green is my configuration.
SC-55 Voice Reserve.png
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