Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

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Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby TimMer1981 » 2017-12-04 @ 03:49

Does anybody know of hardware General MIDI modules that support SF2 soundfont files, probably a rackmount device? Preferably with a decent amount of memory for big soundfonts (100MB and up) and maybe some effects (reverb for instance)?

I've been searching all over the internet, but it seems this seems to be an impossible question. Mostly returns results consisting of ripped samples of existing synths made into SF2 files and very experimental RPi solutions with MUNT. I'm looking for a dedicated hardware solution, to replace my laptop running MUNT alongside my DOS PC. :)
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Re: Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby jheronimus » 2017-12-04 @ 12:15

SoundBlasters come to mind. AWE32/AWE64 can load sf2 into their memory (but will need SIMM modules and proprietary Creative RAM module, respectively), while later PCI versions (like Live!) can use system RAM for that. But of course that will only work under Windows.
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Re: Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby derSammler » 2017-12-04 @ 12:32

But he's asking for a GM module, not a sound card.
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Re: Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby yawetaG » 2017-12-04 @ 13:01

I've never seen an external MIDI module that supported sound fonts. Perhaps some later EMU products could, after they were bought by Creative Labs (and before they were destroyed by Creative Labs)?
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Re: Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby jheronimus » 2017-12-04 @ 13:28

derSammler wrote:But he's asking for a GM module, not a sound card.


Oh, my bad. I assumed that "hardware module" excludes only things like bassmidi and other software engines.
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Re: Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby cyclone3d » 2017-12-04 @ 14:35

I don't know of any dedicated hardware units either.

I think the easiest would be to set up a dedicated system with a Sound Blaster X-Fi in it and the use that as the dedicated hardware setup.

I mean, it is still hardware. The soundfont size will only be limited by how much RAM you have in the system.

It is not like ANY "hardware" solution is not going to have some sort of software running the backend anyway.

Super easy setup, parts are easily available and for cheap, and is it easily maintainable.
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Re: Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby TimMer1981 » 2017-12-04 @ 23:22

Only problem with running yet another PC is the size and power consumption; that's why I want to replace the laptop with something small. BASSMIDI is fine, but is just for Windows, so no possibility of a tiny Raspberry Pi just doing its thing in the background. It's for pure mode MS-DOS 6.22 on a dedicated machine by the way, real retro gaming. :)

I've already got a AWE32 (without SIMMS installed, way too expensive and very limited, just 28MB max). I do have a DreamBlaster X2 attached to it, but that can only use it's proprietary soundfonts, not SF2 files. I know some Korg units like the Kronos can use SF2 files, but they're very expensive (around 3000 bucks!), not rack mounted and way overkill for this, relatively simple, task. I'm particularly interested in using the Arachno soundfont, which is roughly 140MB in size, so a big boy. ;)

Wondering how everybody else does this? Using dedicated laptops or PCs doesn't seem like a very efficient solution; the only reason why I'm doing it is because a better solution has yet to present itself. :)
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Re: Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby Super_Relay » 2017-12-05 @ 05:21

no bassmidi but you can happily install fluidsynth on a Pi though and run it as a server, its in the default repositories and so is as easy as "sudo apt-get install fluidsynth" at the command line

also with the new audio driver the default analog audio out of the pi is muuuuuuch better than it used to be. (https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/view ... p?t=195178)
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Re: Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby cyclone3d » 2017-12-05 @ 05:36

TimMer1981 wrote:Only problem with running yet another PC is the size and power consumption; that's why I want to replace the laptop with something small. BASSMIDI is fine, but is just for Windows, so no possibility of a tiny Raspberry Pi just doing its thing in the background. It's for pure mode MS-DOS 6.22 on a dedicated machine by the way, real retro gaming. :)

I've already got a AWE32 (without SIMMS installed, way too expensive and very limited, just 28MB max). I do have a DreamBlaster X2 attached to it, but that can only use it's proprietary soundfonts, not SF2 files. I know some Korg units like the Kronos can use SF2 files, but they're very expensive (around 3000 bucks!), not rack mounted and way overkill for this, relatively simple, task. I'm particularly interested in using the Arachno soundfont, which is roughly 140MB in size, so a big boy. ;)

Wondering how everybody else does this? Using dedicated laptops or PCs doesn't seem like a very efficient solution; the only reason why I'm doing it is because a better solution has yet to present itself. :)


Laptop with an Audigy 2 ZS PCMCIA card and a USB Midi interface.

It really should only pull about 30-40w max (probably way less) when running something simple like that. I used to use a laptop for a router/firewall and after it booted up and finished loading everything, it was pulling about 17w from the wall. This was on a Latitude E6500 with the fastest C2D CPU that was available for it.

Just have to set it up, and then set the power settings to not turn off the laptop when the screen is closed.

So running a dedicated laptop is probably the best/cheapest and least power hungry option if you want large SF2 support.

You MIGHT be able to find some thin client that has a PCI or PCMCIA slot and can run Windows on it.. see here:
https://doogielabs.com/car-computer-carputer-from-old-thin-client/
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Re: Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby derSammler » 2017-12-05 @ 07:48

If BASSMIDI would be fine for you and the only problem is "Windows only", why not get one of those really cheap Windows 10 tablets? With 2 GB RAM and 32 GB flash storage, you get them for way under 100 bucks.
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Re: Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby TimMer1981 » 2017-12-05 @ 18:33

Super_Relay wrote:no bassmidi but you can happily install fluidsynth on a Pi though and run it as a server, its in the default repositories and so is as easy as "sudo apt-get install fluidsynth" at the command line

also with the new audio driver the default analog audio out of the pi is muuuuuuch better than it used to be. (https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/view ... p?t=195178)

Definitely looks like an interesting option and experiment, thanks! :)

cyclone3d wrote:Laptop with an Audigy 2 ZS PCMCIA card and a USB Midi interface.

It really should only pull about 30-40w max (probably way less) when running something simple like that. I used to use a laptop for a router/firewall and after it booted up and finished loading everything, it was pulling about 17w from the wall. This was on a Latitude E6500 with the fastest C2D CPU that was available for it.

Just have to set it up, and then set the power settings to not turn off the laptop when the screen is closed.

So running a dedicated laptop is probably the best/cheapest and least power hungry option if you want large SF2 support.

You MIGHT be able to find some thin client that has a PCI or PCMCIA slot and can run Windows on it.. see here:
https://doogielabs.com/car-computer-carputer-from-old-thin-client/

You've convinced me on the power draw of the laptop; I'll see if I can find a cheap power draw meter, can always come in handy anyway, and do a measurement of my laptop, hopefully the results will be about the same. The size of the laptop still will remain an issue (17", so it's a big one), but it does offer a >lot< of flexibility on the other hand, with BASSMIDI and the ability to run MUNT (until I get my hands on a real MT-32). :)

derSammler wrote:If BASSMIDI would be fine for you and the only problem is "Windows only", why not get one of those really cheap Windows 10 tablets? With 2 GB RAM and 32 GB flash storage, you get them for way under 100 bucks.

I do have a cheap Windows tablet, but the audio interface is just horrible: buzzing, squeeking, etc. Fine tablet, just not for audio. And there's the issue with power, as the builtin battery wears way faster with continuous use. Also, you'll need an OTG-hub with charging functionality, as you'll also need to connect a MIDI to USB interface to it at the same time.
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Re: Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby gdjacobs » 2017-12-05 @ 18:46

TimMer1981 wrote:Definitely looks like an interesting option and experiment, thanks! :)


Hey, try my flash image.
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Re: Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby Kamerat » 2017-12-05 @ 18:48

What about using your main PC if you got it powered on at all time (like me)? You don't need a separate computer to run Bassmidi.
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Re: Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby cyclone3d » 2017-12-05 @ 18:57

TimMer1981 wrote:You've convinced me on the power draw of the laptop; I'll see if I can find a cheap power draw meter, can always come in handy anyway, and do a measurement of my laptop, hopefully the results will be about the same. The size of the laptop still will remain an issue (17", so it's a big one), but it does offer a >lot< of flexibility on the other hand, with BASSMIDI and the ability to run MUNT (until I get my hands on a real MT-32). :)


Keep an eye out for an MT-100. It is a sequencer with MT-32 built in.

They usually go for way less than a regular MT-32.
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Re: Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby TimMer1981 » 2017-12-05 @ 21:49

cyclone3d wrote:Keep an eye out for an MT-100. It is a sequencer with MT-32 built in.

They usually go for way less than a regular MT-32.

Thanks for the tip, but I already knew of the MT-100. The MT-100 is built around the "new" PCB of the MT-32, which has compatibility issues with games designed for the "old" version. Also it doesn't have the MT-32 display.

About it being cheaper: there's one for sale now, from Germany, for 300 euros...
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Re: Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby TimMer1981 » 2017-12-06 @ 00:51

Kamerat wrote:What about using your main PC if you got it powered on at all time (like me)? You don't need a separate computer to run Bassmidi.

That was the way I started. It's not always, I'll also do a power draw measurement of it, see if it's acceptable. :)
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Re: Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby yawetaG » 2017-12-06 @ 07:09

TimMer1981 wrote:About it being cheaper: there's one for sale now, from Germany, for 300 euros...


For sale ≠ sells for.
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Re: Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby TimMer1981 » 2017-12-06 @ 16:40

yawetaG wrote:
TimMer1981 wrote:About it being cheaper: there's one for sale now, from Germany, for 300 euros...


For sale ≠ sells for.

I know, but just saying, it's the only one for sale right now (which drives up the prices), so they're not so easy to find.
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Re: Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby cyclone3d » 2017-12-06 @ 17:42

TimMer1981 wrote:
yawetaG wrote:
TimMer1981 wrote:About it being cheaper: there's one for sale now, from Germany, for 300 euros...


For sale ≠ sells for.

I know, but just saying, it's the only one for sale right now (which drives up the prices), so they're not so easy to find.


There is one for sale on the US eBay right now as well. $139.

That being said, maybe I just caught everything at the right time. Or maybe I just refuse to pay a stupid amount for things and waited until I got one for really cheap.

I've been seeing them for around $50-75 lately. Maybe the supply finally dried up.
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Re: Hardware MIDI module with SF2 support?

Postby TimMer1981 » 2017-12-06 @ 22:45

cyclone3d wrote:There is one for sale on the US eBay right now as well. $139.

Not everyone ships to Europe, so they're not visible to me. ;)

Also there's the problem of 120V vs 240V. :)
That being said, maybe I just caught everything at the right time. Or maybe I just refuse to pay a stupid amount for things and waited until I got one for really cheap.

I've been seeing them for around $50-75 lately. Maybe the supply finally dried up.

Same here, I'll wait for one at a decent price. :)
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