Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Discussion about old PC hardware.

Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby hifidelitygaming » 2013-3-31 @ 02:57

[edit - found an error myself so rephrased my post] How many games support the SC-55 specifically giving some kind of enhanced audio vs just having an MT-32? Other than these two were there any other general midi style sound modules specifically supported or if you have both does it basically cover everything?

Are there any genuine alternatives to either either hardware or software - such as a software synthesizer using the exact patches both had or later sound modules of any sort that might be backwards compatible or loadable with those patches via whatever method if the primary goal is playing old DOS games with Roland sound quality?
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Re: Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby Mau1wurf1977 » 2013-3-31 @ 03:15

No, the SC-55 is NOT compatible with the MT-32.

You really need both. Each module covers different games / a different time period.

The main alternative to a real MT-32 is DOSBox in combination with MUNT. There are many alternatives to the SC-55 from Yamaha or Ensoniq and many other brands.

If you want to play DOS games with Roland sound quality, go buy Roland gear. There is no way around it.
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Re: Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby hifidelitygaming » 2013-3-31 @ 06:13

Mau1wurf1977 wrote:No, the SC-55 is NOT compatible with the MT-32.

You really need both. Each module covers different games / a different time period.

The main alternative to a real MT-32 is DOSBox in combination with MUNT. There are many alternatives to the SC-55 from Yamaha or Ensoniq and many other brands.

If you want to play DOS games with Roland sound quality, go buy Roland gear. There is no way around it.


Well it seemed to have emulation modes, but I wasn't sure how good they were. :-/

Does MUNT do the SC-55 or no, just the MT-32? How good is MUNT? Is it an alternative to buying an MT-32 or not really?

By alternatives to the SC-55 do you mean "things that sound every bit as good or even better" (since being general midi, I assume that if you loaded a sampled patch set of sc55 stuff it should sound as good? and one could potentially, on an on game basis, replace certain samples with better ones even?) or simply alternatives to also play general midi content but without sounding the same?


I don't mind buying roland gear if I have to, just want to be sure it's not wasted money/software wont do the same for less.
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Re: Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby Mau1wurf1977 » 2013-3-31 @ 06:45

The SC-55 can be put in MT-32 mode, which means it has the default MT-32 instruments. Some games use this (no custom sounds or re-arranging things) but most do.

The Secret of Monkey Island is an example of this. It will sound beautiful on a SC-55 in MT-32 mode.

MUNT is for MT-32 / CM-32L only. For General MIDI you can use BASSMIDI and a suitable soundfont.

MUNT in it's current form is very good. And they keep making it better.

Check out my comparison videos:

viewtopic.php?t=35014

Yes alternative General MIDI modules will sound different.
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Re: Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby d1stortion » 2013-3-31 @ 10:45

To put it very simply, games up until ~1992 supported the MT-32 and derivatives, then General MIDI kicked in (while some early games which support it don't necessarily sound the best with it, regardless of synth).

So for MT-32 you can check out the comparisons and see if the emulator is good enough for you. For General MIDI I think if you have the money you should buy the SC-88, because it sounds better in some games and for the games where it doesn't you can switch to the SC-55 map. Virtual Sound Canvas is another option, although I don't think it's 100% accurate. Even the much loathed GS Wavetable SW synth in Windows is basically a SC-55 emulator since its samples are simply lower quality versions, with no reverb/chorus and perhaps less polyphony.

Then of course there are so many other hardware and software choices for GM that there is no point in talking about every one... well, just one more: if you're low on money and have 2000/XP you can get a S-YXG50 softsynth for free which sounds almost identically to the Yamaha DB50XG family :happy: with some hassle it's also possible to make it work in 7, which I didn't try so far.
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Re: Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby robertmo » 2013-3-31 @ 15:16

munt for mt-32/cm-32l/lapc-i games (almost perfect but still in development)

virtual sound canvas vst + savihost for GM/SC (perfect, nothing else is better)

and BASSMIDI System Synth's configuration utility for switching between the two above

that's all you need.
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Re: Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby d1stortion » 2013-3-31 @ 15:37

robertmo wrote:(perfect, nothing else is better)

Typical troll post. But keep on living in your little dream world.
It is widely known that VSC can't acheive the quality of a real unit. Authentic hardware beats these emulations in 9 of 10 cases anyway.
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Re: Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby Mau1wurf1977 » 2013-3-31 @ 16:28

I'm happy to do a comparison one day :)

Not sure what savihost is, but I had VSC running once and it sounded damn fine to be honest.
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Re: Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby robertmo » 2013-3-31 @ 16:40

I just don't understand how people on this forum can recommend timidity/fluidsynth/bassmidi and soundfonts or yamaha xg or other soft synths while there is a huge difference even betweeen real mt-32 and real cm-32l.

munt and vsc is simply perfect compared to above


VSC no longer works in win vista/7/8 (or at least i couldn't make it run)
so you have to use VSC VST that needs VST host (for example savihost)
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Re: Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby d1stortion » 2013-3-31 @ 17:13

I recommend S-YXG50 because it's free and damn close to my XR385 in terms of samples and effects. The only reason why I don't consider it 100% dead on is that the quality seems to deteriorate quite a bit on higher volume levels, more so than on the real thing.

VSC on the other hand is not free and still goes for decent money on ebay.
And no need for a comparison video, because I found some mp3s: http://queststudios.com/2010/digital/midicompare/

If you listen to it with headphones on full volume the VSC3 sounds quite a bit rougher on the ears, especially the beginning part. So while it does indeed come close in terms of samples the overall sound quality is nothing that warrants "ITS TEH BEST THING EVAR" remarks. Instead the decision lies with the individual, but if I have to pay I'd rather get the real deal.
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Re: Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby robertmo » 2013-3-31 @ 17:29

The most important and obviously noticable difference when comparing different synths is the difference in samples volume. As a result depending on instruments used and the song you may not hear some instruments at all. A talk about samples quality is not even possible in that case.

And the adventage of soft synth when compared to hardware synth is that you can always try it before buying
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Re: Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby badmojo » 2013-4-01 @ 09:09

d1stortion wrote:
robertmo wrote:(perfect, nothing else is better)

Typical troll post. But keep on living in your little dream world


There's a difference between someone posting an opinion you don't agree with and trolling. Learn the difference, accept the implications, and you will be at one with the world.

Life advice provided free by badmofo for all who will listen.
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Re: Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby HunterZ » 2013-4-01 @ 14:40

If you're looking for accuracy, you need to buy an SC-55MkII (or SC-88, or SC-88Pro) and an MT-32 (or CM-32L, or CM-64). They are two entirely different MIDI standards that are not generally compatible with each other and do not share a meaningful amount of overlapping support in games (which are usually arranged best for one or the other).

Munt is really good at this point, though, so you might try using that with CM-32 ROMs instead of buying an MT-32 family synth.

There are various good Sound Canvas (VSC) and General MIDI (BASSMIDIDRV) software synthesizers out there as well, if you just want something that sounds really good (but not necessarily "accurate").
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Re: Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby hifidelitygaming » 2013-4-01 @ 17:50

Aaiiiee the whole thread has taken on a life of it's own of opinion! ^@_@^

Let me try to expand a little on what I was originally hoping to ask about. Especially since I finally stumbled across information better explaining what I was originally looking for when I posted but hadn't found yet on some sharp X68000 pages.

First off apparently it's not only the PC that supported these sound modules but other things - is there any way to get MUNT or the Virtual Sound Canvas to work with X68000 emulators, Amiga emulators Atari ST emulators and similar? I was surprised to find out the MT-32 wasn't only on the PC. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_MT ... uter_games Some games overlap and are probably identical like Ultima but others are unique to their platform and i'm a bit of a completionist. Wonderful as MUNT sounds I may still seek hardware.

For the MT-32 I was curious about the 'compatible models' - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_MT- ... ble_models specifically the CM-64 which is said to be the best of the era for use on the X68000 (and which sounds like it's not emulated by MUNT anyway). I'm wondering if any games on the PC side actually took advantage of the extra sounds and channels though. (some x68000 games apparently did making it preferable) So long as it would be 100% compatible with earlier MT-32 games that's probably going to be my target to get. From others comments it sounds as if there may be subtle differences between the MT-32 and CM-32 at least though despite being designed for the same use? Would there be a legit reason to have both MT-32 and CM-64 or is that redundant?

For the Roland SC-55 my understanding is that it's the support of "Roland GS" that is the important part, not the specific model? In short that anything supporting Roland GS that can interface to the computer will play on those games. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_GS Possibly better or possibly worse, in general newer wavetables sound alot better but I also accept that if it was mastered with the wavetables on the original SC-55 then it will be hit and miss whether something else will sound 'better'. But since i'm a musician I consider this to be dual use for the hobby, and i'm wondering if I could like use a Yamaha MU2000EX to play all Roland GS games anyway. For that matter it sounds like "general midi 2" is supposed to support the Roland GS extensions http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_MIDI_Level_2 but i'm not sure if this means that a newer 2000's era GM2 keyboard or sound module would be capable of playing a Roland GS supporting game.

That may simply come down to wiring too, i'm not sure if these sound modules can be plugged into any MIDI chain on your computer or if you HAVE to use what sounds like a serial to MIDI cable typically included with things - it may be even if the sound module supports, it doesn't wire up to the PC so it's irrelevant/not clear to me if the included cable was a convenience assuming most people didn't have a MIDI interface or a requirement and the only way to hook up. However boxes like the MU2000EX specifically do, probably the last in the line to support that cable that I can find evidence of, according to the X68000 guys.

For General MIDI in specific i'm aware that there's a whole world full of controllable keyboards and sound modules from all over the 90's and 2000's as well as softsynth options, but that complicates things.. did games that supported "general midi" ever have some standard reference of sound patches they looked to at the time? (My guess would be no but maybe someone knows more than me.) I'm pretty sure plugging that into my Kurzweil K2500 will be the best such games have ever sounded.
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Re: Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby d1stortion » 2013-4-01 @ 18:15

I think you got the GS part wrong, I doubt that any DOS game used this extension. In most games there are options for GM, Waveblaster and Sound Canvas, but from my testing so far they all sound the same and use only the basic 128 GM instruments. I mainly heard of differences in games like Descent where the music can sound differently if played ingame vs. as a standalone file. The only XG game that I know of is Final Fantasy VII. Also, XG devices will be generally able to play GS files with varying degrees of "success".

You can really use whatever high end devices you may have as long as they are GM compatible. I don't see what is supposed to be complicated here. Just don't expect it to sound great in every track/game because this is something that requires individual testing. Some tracks will sound great with the more realistic instruments, others mediocre and then some can get completely broken when something is standing out too much, etc...
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Re: Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby HunterZ » 2013-4-01 @ 19:42

hifidelitygaming wrote:First off apparently it's not only the PC that supported these sound modules but other things - is there any way to get MUNT or the Virtual Sound Canvas to work with X68000 emulators, Amiga emulators Atari ST emulators and similar?

Munt Reloaded, BASSMIDIDRV, VSC, etc. operate as MIDI drivers in Windows, and any other software (such as emulators) that can interface with host OS MIDI drivers will be able to use them.

For the MT-32 I was curious about the 'compatible models' - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_MT- ... ble_models specifically the CM-64 which is said to be the best of the era for use on the X68000 (and which sounds like it's not emulated by MUNT anyway).

Supposedly Munt Reloaded emulates the who family (MT-32, CM-32L, CM-64). I know it emulates the first two, provided you have the ROMs.

I'm wondering if any games on the PC side actually took advantage of the extra sounds and channels though. (some x68000 games apparently did making it preferable) So long as it would be 100% compatible with earlier MT-32 games that's probably going to be my target to get. From others comments it sounds as if there may be subtle differences between the MT-32 and CM-32 at least though despite being designed for the same use? Would there be a legit reason to have both MT-32 and CM-64 or is that redundant?

I don't know about CM-64, but there are games that take special advantage of features that the CM-32L has but the MT-32 doesn't.

This wikipedia article is a good example of the fact that some games even work better or worse with different MT-32 revisions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_M ... uter_games

For the Roland SC-55 my understanding is that it's the support of "Roland GS" that is the important part, not the specific model?

No. As far as PC games go, the model (generally SC-55MkII, with SC-88 and SC-88Pro having suitable SC-55MkII compatibility modes) is important. This is because game developers of the time were composing MIDI soundtracks on that exact synthesizer, so any quirks or deviations in other supposedly-compatible synthesizers will result in a reproduction that differs from the intention of the composer.

But since i'm a musician I consider this to be dual use for the hobby, and i'm wondering if I could like use a Yamaha MU2000EX to play all Roland GS games anyway.

You can generally use any General MIDI compatible synth with games that use GM/GS music (that's the point of having standards), but your experience may vary wildly depending on how closely your synth reproduces GM/GS compared to that used by the game's composer (usually SC-55MkII or similar).

Not many games used GS-specific features. I'm sure there are some out there, though. Most are probably backwards-compatible with General MIDI to some degree.

That may simply come down to wiring too, i'm not sure if these sound modules can be plugged into any MIDI chain on your computer or if you HAVE to use what sounds like a serial to MIDI cable typically included with things - it may be even if the sound module supports, it doesn't wire up to the PC so it's irrelevant/not clear to me if the included cable was a convenience assuming most people didn't have a MIDI interface or a requirement and the only way to hook up. However boxes like the MU2000EX specifically do, probably the last in the line to support that cable that I can find evidence of, according to the X68000 guys.

My setup is:
MIDI: PC USB -> USB-MIDI interface -> SC-88 -> MT-32
Audio: MT-32 -> SC-88 -> PC Line In

When I want to use MT-32, I turn both synths on and mute all channels on the SC-88. The SC-88 then acts as a passthrough in both directions (MIDI in and audio out).

The important thing is that you have a USB-MIDI interface cable that can properly pass SysEx, because many MT-32 games use SysEx to program custom sounds/behaviors into the MT-32. Unfortunately there's no way to know which cables work except by asking around. We probably ought to start a thread on VOGONS for this.

For General MIDI in specific i'm aware that there's a whole world full of controllable keyboards and sound modules from all over the 90's and 2000's as well as softsynth options, but that complicates things.. did games that supported "general midi" ever have some standard reference of sound patches they looked to at the time? (My guess would be no but maybe someone knows more than me.)

I think most major companies came up with their own sounds in order to avoid licensing fees and/or to be able to brag about their own stuff. Lots of stuff adheres to the GM standard, but will still give you wildly differing results.

I'm pretty sure plugging that into my Kurzweil K2500 will be the best such games have ever sounded.

You should make some recordings and share them with us!
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Re: Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby d1stortion » 2013-4-01 @ 20:09

Any sources for SC-55MkII being the supposed standard? It lacks capital tone fallback, a feature that some games such as World of Xeen depend on.
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Re: Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby HunterZ » 2013-4-01 @ 20:28

I thought Xeen was primarily composed for CM-32L or somesuch, not GM/GS?

There is no "standard" MIDI for DOS games. SC-55MkII is just thought to be the most widely used GM synth by DOS game composers. I'm pretty sure that Descent 1 was composed on something newer like SC-88, as it sounds much better on my SC-88 in native mode than in SC-55 mode.
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Re: Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby Mau1wurf1977 » 2013-4-01 @ 21:12

hifidelitygaming wrote:Aaiiiee the whole thread has taken on a life of it's own of opinion! ^@_@^


Watch my 3h! long MT-32 video in the signature. It covers most things...

In a nutshell, you're dealing with mostly analogue technology and so basically EVERY MIDI module will sound different to a certain extend.

The PCM part of the CM-64 doesn't get used in DOS games. As you found, there are Japanese computers that do though.

These extra sounds can cause issues in some games, requiring a hacked driver or sending a SySex file to mute the channels.

All in all it's a compromise and you need several modules and versions to be 100% authentic. With the LA synths before General MIDI you really need two: The MT-32 (Old) and CM32-L.

I haven't explored the topics of SC-55 vs SC-55MKII much although I do have both versions. From the forum posts that pop up in my mind I believe the SC-55 "just works" in all games, whereas with the MKII there are a few games that have issues. But again, I haven't looked more closely into this issue.
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Re: Roland MT-32 or SC-55?

Postby hifidelitygaming » 2013-4-02 @ 01:13

d1stortion wrote:I think you got the GS part wrong, I doubt that any DOS game used this extension.

You can really use whatever high end devices you may have as long as they are GM compatible. I don't see what is supposed to be complicated here.


My guess is that it would just call it sound canvas in game even if in reality it's using the GS extensions, similar to how some games would ask if you had a voodoo 2 card yet work with later cards, or say soundblaster 16 even if it works with the AWE32. This is a really specific question i'm aware, i'm hoping there's an SC-nut who has this info on here. What seems to be important is that the GS standard is designed to be backwards compatible with the SC55 triggering information - or this is how it is in the X68000 world anyways, the 'high end ticket' is a MU2000EX putting out tunes originally set up for the SC55, which is not the same as general midi. Here's an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsAQQzuSmpw

I know I can use 'high end devices', but that's more general midi. As to why this is just an exploration to understand it better... my 'thing' is extreme fidelity gaming, meaning best possible presentation, similar to how THX home theater setups are trying to create an optimum experience.


HunterZ wrote:
hifidelitygaming wrote:is there any way to get MUNT or the Virtual Sound Canvas to work with X68000 emulators and similar?

Munt Reloaded, BASSMIDIDRV, VSC, etc. operate as MIDI drivers in Windows, and any other software (such as emulators) that can interface with host OS MIDI drivers will be able to use them.


Okay, so that provides another option then, provided that whatever emulator I want to run can provide MIDI output. (I think one atari ST one will, not as sure on the others)

HunterZ wrote:
hifidelitygaming wrote:I'm wondering if any games on the PC side actually took advantage of the extra sounds and channels

I don't know about CM-64, but there are games that take special advantage of features that the CM-32L has but the MT-32 doesn't.


Yes that's an example, but could you give an example, esp if any are online to hear? I didn't see any remarks to that effect in the wikipedia list.


HunterZ wrote:
hifidelitygaming wrote:For the Roland SC-55 my understanding is that it's the support of "Roland GS" that is the important part

No. As far as PC games go, the model is important. This is because game developers of the time were composing MIDI soundtracks on that exact synthesizer, so any quirks or deviations in other supposedly-compatible synthesizers will result in a reproduction that differs from the intention of the composer.


I understand that part, i'm aware there would be a difference, what I meant was whether it should respond to the same triggers. Opposite to how the MT-32 features were NOT emulated in the SC-55, my understanding (based solely upon what I understand from the X68000 boards) is that it was merely a programming of Roland GS commands, along with the specific wavetables in the SC-55. Ie there weren't other "hidden and unemulated commands" like there seems with the MT-32 track playing on a SC-55 because it was not a complete implementation. It SHOULD be a complete implementation on any other Roland GS compatible unit - even if the wavetables differ. Whether those wavetables sound better or not i'm aware will be a matter of personal preference just like it will be with General MIDI, but my point is that there wasn't some unemulated pitch bend command for instance that, given the SC-55 samples, would still sound different.


HunterZ wrote:Not many games used GS-specific features. I'm sure there are some out there, though. Most are probably backwards-compatible with General MIDI to some degree.


But some did. (and i'd love a list of those that did just to test in the future and post my results) And at least on the X68000, the use of those features should work on any sound module with GS-support, not just an SC-55. I'm just trying to find out if there's a reason to believe that the PC or other computers should be different than that.

HunterZ wrote:My setup is:
MIDI: PC USB -> USB-MIDI interface -> SC-88 -> MT-32
Audio: MT-32 -> SC-88 -> PC Line In


I'm assuming that's under DOSBOX which i'd imagine could reroute, what i'm wondering is whether it will be the case under a real DOS PC. But since I remember fiddling around in config screens on old DOS games choosing IRQ's and memory addresses for MIDI configuration I would assume yes - the basic question i'm hoping to verify is on a real DOS PC, hooked to a real hardware MT-32, can I just use any MIDI interface and MIDI cable?

However i'm strongly guessing yes - if SysEx is how all the special programming occurs on the MT-32. (here's an odd thought, could a real DOS PC output MIDI, to a second PC running MUNT? :P)


HunterZ wrote:
I'm pretty sure plugging that into my Kurzweil K2500 will be the best such games have ever sounded.

You should make some recordings and share them with us!


I will! :) Just don't currently have the PC working in the studio room, once I get a chance to reinstall stuff to it I thought it'd be neat to do some really high quality renderings to see how they come out. (I have access to some other high end music hardware too but i'm guessing they wont have better general MIDI patches, it's all specialized things like Nord Leads, Moog micromodulars, and and yamaha formant synthesis stuff) Any requests for the soundtracks people would most want to hear? Those who helped me on stuff get first dibs of influence. :) (dont turn this into a giant request thread just send me a PM if you remember helping me on X project in any thread you've seen me do, when I eventually get those done i'll set up a requests thread if they turn out well)

Mau1wurf1977 wrote:
hifidelitygaming wrote:Aaiiiee the whole thread has taken on a life of it's own of opinion! ^@_@^


The PCM part of the CM-64 doesn't get used in DOS games. As you found, there are Japanese computers that do though.

These extra sounds can cause issues in some games, requiring a hacked driver or sending a SySex file to mute the channels.

All in all it's a compromise and you need several modules and versions to be 100% authentic. With the LA synths before General MIDI you really need two: The MT-32 (Old) and CM32-L.

I haven't explored the topics of SC-55 vs SC-55MKII much although I do have both versions. From the forum posts that pop up in my mind I believe the SC-55 "just works" in all games, whereas with the MKII there are a few games that have issues. But again, I haven't looked more closely into this issue.


So a CM-64 might actually cause problems then? Are 'hacked drivers' available for all games where this occurs or no? Does the CM-64 (except for the problems) do all the sounds of the CM32-L or would the pursuit for total perfection require a CM32-L for DOS? (even if I get a CM-64 for x68k)

Yes 100% authenticity is what i'm curious, even if it's overkill, i'm just wondering what would be required. Also curious about enhancements that work which is why i'm not against using a MU2000EX for instance. Are there sounds or options in the SC55 mk2 supported by games which dont exist in the first? If there's issues i'm curious why one would want an mk2 I mean.
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