OPL3 standalone box/device with MIDI IN/OUT?

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

OPL3 standalone box/device with MIDI IN/OUT?

Postby kirikl » 2019-1-09 @ 05:16

Hello! I finally connected KORG TR-Rack + Yamaha MU100 + ROLAND MT32 to a computer and keyboard to play some music :) Also can add Yamaha PSR-36 (FM). All instruments has different configuration and list of sounds.
Just thought about standalone box like those Sound modules I mentioned before but FM, yes 128 sounds + drums.

I don't like desktops like mine. I build desktop based on AMD K6-2+, but that creature generates a lot of sh*t out of sound card and I don't know what is the reason, is it sound card itself or the whole thing with all those cracking/tracking sounds. I packed that machine, loaded with all possible things, USB 2.0/Internal/external cards, two sound cards Sound Blaster 16 (with real OPL!) and Live!, but the whole thing is just too big and clumsy. Supposed to be my main entertainment and hobby machine with old games operating from MS-DOS 6/Win 3.1/Win NT 4/Win 98 SE/Win XP and it is like that crazy... I even bought ROLAND MT32 for that! but... I think I'm gonna pass on idea of having that desktop in the future. I'm pretty satisfied with Boxer application on Mac, it is emulating even MT-32 pretty accurate too. Ok enough with lyrics....

So the subject is STANDALONE OPL3 FM module with 128 sounds and drums on 10 channel. Not just random FM module which is on the market.
Any ideas?
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Re: OPL3 standalone box/device with MIDI IN/OUT?

Postby kode54 » 2019-1-09 @ 05:24

OPL3 doesn’t have MIDI support. You need a MIDI controller, and a set of FM instruments. That device, as expensive as it is, sounds like exactly that. But does it have any flexibility over which MIDI features you get, or which instruments you can use? Does it even detail what it does?
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Re: OPL3 standalone box/device with MIDI IN/OUT?

Postby Tiido » 2019-1-09 @ 05:37

Almost all the MIDI based FM chip stuff is useful for music making only, they don't do General MIDI or other standards. You typically have a load of parameters that get controlled over MIDI to make the sounds you want, how well you can achieve stuff depends very much on your music software. A game isn't gonna get much more than "fart" sounds out such a device lol.
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Re: OPL3 standalone box/device with MIDI IN/OUT?

Postby yawetaG » 2019-1-09 @ 06:25

kode54 wrote:OPL3 doesn’t have MIDI support. You need a MIDI controller, and a set of FM instruments. That device, as expensive as it is, sounds like exactly that. But does it have any flexibility over which MIDI features you get, or which instruments you can use? Does it even detail what it does?


At a quick glance it doesn't say it's General MIDI compatible.

Most professional FM instruments will do MIDI, but not General MIDI. Instead, they use their own MIDI implementation for the purpose of programming the FM synth concerned and making music.

The closest way to get what kiriki wants is to use a Yamaha-based soundcard and use Yamaha's General MIDI-to-FM Windows MIDI driver (if you can find it*). That will translate GM patches to data usable on a OPL3, but only on Win 9x AFAIK.

* It's installed on a system I got from Japan, but I don't know how to extract the driver from Windows 98...
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Re: OPL3 standalone box/device with MIDI IN/OUT?

Postby LunarG » 2019-1-09 @ 08:04

I honestly have to say that I don't understand the purpose of configuring an OPL synth as a GM device. Emulating "natural" instruments is what the OPL chip does worst. It can create wonderful synthesizer sounds, but trying to get it to make the sound of a french horn for example, is an exercise in futility.
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Re: OPL3 standalone box/device with MIDI IN/OUT?

Postby kirikl » 2019-1-10 @ 03:35

Thank you guys. The purpose is to make exactly what you can make with Desktop (any sound blaster with OPL) thru midi but just the device itself. I discovered my sound blaster 16 making as much as possible noise out of the output. It is just horrible.
So yes FM 128 sounds, exactly as it on Creative FM synth or ESS FM synth but the box of 3-5 inches. not dinosaur with tons of sh&t out of the cable.
Again, you probably never tried to use Laptops (which could be alternative) for playing keyboard with it. It is a pain, cause all of them at this point are slow. Laptop which is responsive to USB-MIDI (for playing and sending data = almost no latency) doesn't have FM already at all and it is P4 (almost all P3 laptops too) and above era.... Anything below P3 which could have FM in it is slow due the hardware-software connection and I know zero laptops with MIDI IN/OUT connections. Again, thank you, no desktops.
I think that link I found is the best bet for what I want.

P.S. I honestly don't understand what is the problem to make Midi IN -> Creative FM Synth. It works all the time on desktops. When I said General Midi I meant List of the sounds, not wavetable of any kind. Even MT-32 is wavetable but not GENERAL MIDI. Also all of modern FM is not what I want in this case for the same reason. Maybe I could create my own bank of 128 sounds hypothetically by just setting each sound to the bank, but it is too much and those are expensive. I'm not that fanatic to do that kind of job :) and those instruments are expensive, although that device I mentioned here is not cheap either :D
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Re: OPL3 standalone box/device with MIDI IN/OUT?

Postby yawetaG » 2019-1-10 @ 05:10

kirikl wrote:P.S. I honestly don't understand what is the problem to make Midi IN -> Creative FM Synth. It works all the time on desktops. When I said General Midi I meant List of the sounds, not wavetable of any kind. Even MT-32 is wavetable but not GENERAL MIDI. Also all of modern FM is not what I want in this case for the same reason. Maybe I could create my own bank of 128 sounds hypothetically by just setting each sound to the bank, but it is too much and those are expensive. I'm not that fanatic to do that kind of job :) and those instruments are expensive, although that device I mentioned here is not cheap either :D


FM MIDI implementations don't work that way. What you're looking for is a device with FM presets that are MIDI triggerable via the GM spec (128 patches + bank 10 for drums), which AFAIK doesn't exist. However, most FM synths have preset patches, even the really professional ones. They just don't follow the order defined in General MIDI, which is just a limited subset of the full MIDI specification. Most FM synths with MIDI are 4-operator or 6-operator (some 8 -operator), not OPL3 2-operator. The MIDI implementations (if present) are usually unique for a family of FM synths, e.g. DX7 and friends (6-op), TX-81Z and compatibles (4-op). Perhaps the easiest to do is drums on channel 10: Get a MIDI module with FM drums, set that module to react to channel 10.
But look at 1980s Yamaha PSR and PSS keyboards really; some have MIDI and use chips that were also used on SB cards, some also have FM drums. Also, they are cheap (secondhand, of course) - under 100 dollar usually. I'll PM you a list of models to avoid prices going through the roof.

Edit: If you don't mind 4-op, get a Yamaha FB-01.
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Re: OPL3 standalone box/device with MIDI IN/OUT?

Postby root42 » 2019-1-10 @ 10:36

There is a project which does roughly what you want:

http://www.ucapps.de/midibox_fm.html

This is basically a synth module with MIDI in/out and the YMF262 at its core. You can program different soundbanks into it and use it to play MIDI music.
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