VOGONS


Sound Canvas model selection

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First post, by tpowell.ca

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Hello everyone,
So you play DOS games from the early to mid 90s from Sierra, Lucas and Origin systems as well as Doom and Duke3D.
Lets say you had the choice between keeping one of the following, which would you chose (and you already have an MT-32)?

  • · SC-55 mkI ROM v2.00 <-- supports GM/GS
    · SC-88VL
    · SC-88 PRO
    · SC-8820

What if you could keep two of them? Which would they be and why?

Thanks

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Reply 1 of 27, by Spikey

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SC-55mkII would be my first choice, SC-8850 my second choice.

The former because that's what games were composed for, and the mkII has slightly better sound quality, more polyphony which is important in some games also.

The 8850 has very good sound quality, even in GM mode, plus a good level of backwards compatibility with earlier SC's. Plus it has a wonderful interface which is very editable, so you can tweak things as you play.

Reply 2 of 27, by derSammler

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If I could only keep one of those listed, I'd go for the SC-88 Pro. It can do all that the SC-55 does, looks cooler (imo at least) and has some nice additional features like an EQ and second MIDI IN. Also the preview function is nice. If I only had to keep a single GM module at all (from the ones I own), however, I'd opt for the Yamaha MU-80.

Reply 3 of 27, by Spikey

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People often talk about the 88Pro, but I don't see the benefits of it over the SC-8850 (aside from a marginally cheaper price). The 8850 has much better technology plus an 88Pro map, and the drumkits are far superior to the (IMO quite average) ones in the 88Pro. The GM map is overall quite a bit better as well. A lot better functionality and tweakability in the 8850's interface, also.

Having had more advanced XG modules than the MU80 (100 and 2000), I can safely say I would stick with the SC-8850 over any XG module any day, although that is just my preference and opinion.

Reply 4 of 27, by SuperDeadite

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The 8850 has severe compatibility issues with SC-88 and 88 Pro native MIDI files though. For SC-55 compatibility it's alright, but as someone who has a growing collection of 88 Pro native MIDI files, the 8850 is useless.

The OP's list of modules is a bit odd, if you are going to list the VL, why not the ST? But either case, from this list the 88 Pro is my choice.

Modules: CM-64, CM-500, SC-55MkII, SC-88 Pro, SY22, TG100, MU2000EX, PLG100-SG, PLG150-DR, PLG150-AN, SG01k, NS5R, GZ-50M, SN-U110-07, SN-U110-10, Pocket Studio 5, Dreamblaster X2

Reply 5 of 27, by tpowell.ca

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SuperDeadite wrote:

The 8850 has severe compatibility issues with SC-88 and 88 Pro native MIDI files though. For SC-55 compatibility it's alright, but as someone who has a growing collection of 88 Pro native MIDI files, the 8850 is useless.

The OP's list of modules is a bit odd, if you are going to list the VL, why not the ST? But either case, from this list the 88 Pro is my choice.

These are devices I actually have in-hand. And unfortunately I don't have the 8850, just the 8820.

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Reply 6 of 27, by keropi

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I'd keep the 8820, if you put it on the 55 map it will work like a sc-55mk2 - I have both and tested simultaneously with a real 55mk2 in games like DOOM/DN3D and I could not detect a difference. Plus it works as a usb midi interface as well.
I can't comment on the 88/88pro stuff, are there any games that support it at all?

For 2 modules I'd keep the 55 and 8820.

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Reply 7 of 27, by SuperDeadite

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keropi wrote:

I'd keep the 8820, if you put it on the 55 map it will work like a sc-55mk2 - I have both and tested simultaneously with a real 55mk2 in games like DOOM/DN3D and I could not detect a difference. Plus it works as a usb midi interface as well.
I can't comment on the 88/88pro stuff, are there any games that support it at all?

For 2 modules I'd keep the 55 and 8820.

There are Japanese doujin games that require an 88 and 88 Pro.

Modules: CM-64, CM-500, SC-55MkII, SC-88 Pro, SY22, TG100, MU2000EX, PLG100-SG, PLG150-DR, PLG150-AN, SG01k, NS5R, GZ-50M, SN-U110-07, SN-U110-10, Pocket Studio 5, Dreamblaster X2

Reply 8 of 27, by DX7_EP

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I recommend the SC-55 and SC-88Pro, myself. The 55 provides top-notch GM/GS compatibility (especially for those titles you mentioned), while the 88Pro will happily cover many titles with more complex MIDI tracks (usually Japanese titles) and offer more things (in particular the EFX insertion effects) to toy around with.

The SC-88 is superseded by the 88Pro in its entirety (shares synth engine, base 88 ROM samples), so it's really just a beefier SC-55 with new sounds and extra polyphony, albeit at the cost of 100% SC-55 compatibility (something shared with all following SC modules).
As for the 8820, it has reasonable compatibility with the 88Pro/88 and 55 - far moreso than the 8850 - but again, it isn't completely accurate. Additionally, while some like the module's smaller size, the lack of screen and front panel buttons makes it difficult to fiddle around with on-the-spot.

CM-64, FB-01, SC-55ST, SC-8850, SD-20

Reply 9 of 27, by tpowell.ca

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DX7_EP wrote:

As for the 8820...while some like the module's smaller size, the lack of screen and front panel buttons makes it difficult to fiddle around with on-the-spot.

And its ugly. 😵

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Reply 10 of 27, by tpowell.ca

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Seems like you all agree that the first to go would be the 88VL.
As for the 8820 vs 88pro, its more up to each person's taste.

When playing GM-specific material, and selecting the GM map, do the 88pro and 8820 default to the 55 map for instrument selection? or use their native instruments?

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Reply 11 of 27, by Falcosoft

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tpowell.ca wrote:

When playing GM-specific material, and selecting the GM map, do the 88pro and 8820 default to the 55 map for instrument selection? or use their native instruments?

GM is not a map. Maps are the special emulation modes like the SC-55 map on later SC devices. GM/GS reset messages do not change the selected map so 'GM-specific material' will simply use the capital tones of the selected map, or by default the native 'map' of the device.

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Reply 12 of 27, by tpowell.ca

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Falcosoft wrote:
tpowell.ca wrote:

When playing GM-specific material, and selecting the GM map, do the 88pro and 8820 default to the 55 map for instrument selection? or use their native instruments?

GM is not a map. Maps are the special emulation modes like the SC-55 map on later SC devices. GM/GS reset messages do not change the selected map so 'GM-specific material' will simply use the capital tones of the selected map, or by default the native 'map' of the device.

Interesting. What effect does selecting "GM" mode (or GM reset) have vs native GS on these devices?
I assume that a GM-mode shares the capital tones with whatever the native map the device employs, where the GM mode would sound different on an SC-55 vs SC-88 vs SC-8820...

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Reply 14 of 27, by BloodyCactus

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I have an 88VL, its perfectly fine for things needing GM or GS. I'm not aware of games needing the features that things like the 88pro provide.

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Reply 15 of 27, by Falcosoft

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tpowell.ca wrote:

Interesting. What effect does selecting "GM" mode (or GM reset) have vs native GS on these devices?

On later SC devices GM mode usually disables the receiving of Bank select messages thus preventing variation tones. The receiving of NRPN messages(non-registered parameters) is also disabled. Otherwise the initial state of the synth after a GM reset is roughly the same as after a GS reset.

tpowell.ca wrote:

I assume that a GM-mode shares the capital tones with whatever the native map the device employs, where the GM mode would sound different on an SC-55 vs SC-88 vs SC-8820...

On all the later SC models you can have GM mode on all maps. So e.g. on a SC-8820 you can test GM midis/games on all maps (SC-55/88/88Pro and native SC-8820). Each map (also in GM mode) may sound a little different since the capital tones differ.

Last edited by Falcosoft on 2018-03-21, 20:58. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 18 of 27, by Spikey

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Sorry for this small detour, but reading through these comments, what would be marks against the SC-88VL for this intended purpose? Just curious, have a similar consideration myself.

There's really no marks 'against' any Sound Canvas option between the SC-55 and SC-8850 timeline, however for recommending making a purchase between the 10 or so SC's that exist, IMO there is very little reason to buy any of the 88 variants versus modules higher on the list (or a SC-55mkII if you want good GM compatibility).

As for the 8820, it has reasonable compatibility with the 88Pro/88 and 55 - far moreso than the 8850 - but again, it isn't completely accurate. Additionally, while some like the module's smaller size, the lack of screen and front panel buttons makes it difficult to fiddle around with on-the-spot.

How can this be true? The 8820 and 50 are identical modules, with some minor revisions the 8850 had at the end being the main difference (other than digital output on the 8820, and screen on the 8850). The legacy maps should be identical between them.

There are Japanese doujin games that require an 88 and 88 Pro.
The 8850 has severe compatibility issues with SC-88 and 88 Pro native MIDI files though. For SC-55 compatibility it's alright, but as someone who has a growing collection of 88 Pro native MIDI files, the 8850 is useless.

While interesting, for most people these are probably not important selection factors. Also, I am curious- what are these severe issues? EFX? The patch maps otherwise are nearly identical and most of the 8850 tones ARE 88Pro tones, so there should be no problems there.

Reply 19 of 27, by DX7_EP

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How can this be true? The 8820 and 50 are identical modules, with some minor revisions the 8850 had at the end being the main difference (other than digital output on the 8820, and screen on the 8850). The legacy maps should be identical between them.

While interesting, for most people these are probably not important selection factors. Also, I am curious- what are these severe issues? EFX? The patch maps otherwise are nearly identical and most of the 8850 tones ARE 88Pro tones, so there should be no problems there.

The thing is, the 8820 and 8850 are not identical. The instrument maps are different between the two modules, most notably in their native maps - the 8850 has a number of stereo instruments such as the piano and strings that IIRC are not in the 8820 or its later incarnations (eg. iOS Sound Canvas, SC-VA VSTi). As far as the emulations of other SC modules on the 8850 are concerned, the SC-55 one is at least serviceable, but the 88 and 88Pro ones have a number of incorrect patches versus the native modules. However, I am not sure to what extent that caveat applies to the 8820.

But the bigger difference is that while the 8820 shares a similar synth engine to the SC-88/Pro (ergo helping compatibility somewhat), the 8850 instead uses an early verson of the Roland XV-line's synth engine - therefore, effects and parameters will process quite differently. As a result, MIDIs made for other SC modules will be quite incorrect when played back on the 8850 (though the SC-55 emulation is at least serviceable).

Ergo, for MIDI playback, the 8850 is honestly a poor option, but it is at least fun as a "sketchbook" module for composition work.

A good bit of info on many of the SC line synths can be found here, written as part of a SC-88Pro (as well as SD-90, 8850, and 55) recording project.

CM-64, FB-01, SC-55ST, SC-8850, SD-20