VOGONS


First post, by aleksej

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Orla Micro Partner General MIDI sound module
Does anyone here know anything about that synth?
Found it here.

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Reply 2 of 11, by Ozzuneoj

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I just bought one of these cheaply, apparently tested and working, and comes with a power brick.

Anyone ever used one?

I figured it could be used either with games or for a compact MIDI synth for my keyboard. It'd be nice to be able to take my keyboard, this and a set of headphones somewhere without having to mess with a larger sound module (which is wired into my desk setup).

Now for some blitting from the back buffer.

Reply 3 of 11, by Ozzuneoj

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Okay, just going to keep adding to this thread since it is one of the few results that comes up in a Google search.

I got my Micro Partner and tried it out and it seems to work fine! I've never really done this before, but I'll try to record some samples of game music at some point, since there is so little information out there about this MIDI Module.

Here are pictures of the internals:

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A "dream" SAM9273M chip and a TDA7050 for the headphone amp.

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ELNA capacitors.

Very simple looking device.

I also found ONE archived blog post about this thing from 2002 with a bit of information:
http://shatteredstrategy.tripod.com/archives/ … ews_archive.htm

Monday, October 14, 2002

In case you didn't think I was geeky enough...

I bought a stack of musical equipment recently, including a mixing desk and a MIDI sound module by an italian company called ORLA. The sound module (a "MicroPartner") is quite small for what it does, about the size of a block of ground coffee. It's got one control - volume - and the rest of it is controlled is over a MIDI cable connected to a keyboard, computer, etc. MIDI is simply "performance information", not sound. Imagine sheet music: "play this note here, this loud. Now release it". So, here's the deal. I want to connect my computer to my MIDI stuff to generate sounds, and from there to the mixing desk. I have two sound sources - the new one, and an older drum machine. The drum machine has really good drum sounds, so I want to use it for drums, and the ORLA for other sounds, like piano, bass, etc. Simple - you send a MIDI signal to the MicroPartner to disable the drum track.

Aha. Here's the problem: The MicroPartner comes with NO manual. It comes in a dinky cardboard box, little bigger than it (i.e. smaller than the average Tom Clancy novel), with ONE SHEET of paper, Italian on one side, English on the other. The sheet says "Thanks for buying me, plug your keyboard here, your headphones here, your amplifier here, look on the top of me for the sounds, and tweak this knob to raise or lower the volume". And has a few pictures. Now, normally a MIDI device comes with a detailed MIDI specification, including what system exclusive (SysEx) messages it accepts, to (for example) disable certain MIDI channels. If I'm sending out MIDI stuff on a wire, and I want only the drum machine to make noise on channel 10, I'll disable that channel on the MicroPartner by sending a sysex message that says something like "Oy! SysEx here. Only listen to the following if you're made by ORLA. Only listen to the following if you're a MicroPartner. Now disable channel 10. End of SysEx" (note to other nerds: it ends up looking more like "F7 41 00 42 10 21 40 10 F0") The problem is that the whole thing about SysEx is that it's different for each manufacturer, and different for each model. So, I looked again at the sheet of paper. Nothing about SysEx. For something that's controlled almost entirely over the wire, that's pretty crappy. So I went to ORLA's website to see what I could find. They're an accordion and organ company. Eeek. With some additional things (like sound modules) for accordion and organ players. But nothing about the MicroPartner. Hmm. So began my voyage of discovery.

A google or two later, I was no better off - My search for "ORLA MicroPartner" returned a few things:

The shop I bought it (Thomann.de, a German place with good prices)
A German recording studio that obviously bought lots of other stuff from Thomann,
and some other German shop

By now it's quite possible that this page has made its way into Google.[Editor's note: as of 2003-06-24, we come top of the list.] Maybe someone will find it helpful - mail me if so :-)

I think you're starting to see where this is going. Apparently the thing doesn't exist. So I went to the newsgroups, using http://groups.google.com. When all else fails, Google. When that fails, go to the newsgroups. And lo and behold, there were one or two references to the MicroPartner, citing it as a cheapo MIDI sound source. Yay google, like I needed to spend hours to find that out.

I mailed ORLA, who replied two days later:


Dear Sir

we do not have our technician available for the next few days and we will be

able to give you areplay as soon as he is back.

Orla Italy

Nice man. Meanwhile, I'm getting more and more intrigued by this. It HAS to have SysEx! I've never come across a MIDI device with no SysEx! So I took it apart, hoping to find something inside that'd give me further information. A possibility was that ORLA bought in the boxes from some other manufacturer and just rebadged them and shipped them with no documentation on the cheap (note to readers - I have a little background in electronics, so I kinda know what I'm doing, a little). The board was just a board, without going into details, very simple really. But there was a big chip in the middle, with "Dream" written on in lovely musical writing, and a number "SAM9273M". Hmmm, I thought. Maybe Dream will have something.

http://www.dream.fr/ was what I was looking for, except they've since been bought out by ATMEL, some American company. So I go to http://www.atmel.com, do a search for the chip number, and come up with a blank. I did find some other Dream chips, including the SAM9773 (similar enough when you're desperate), so I downloaded a few PDFs that seemed to have what I was looking for, if for a completely different chip.

In the meantime I'd found a completely different device called a MIDI Brick, similar to (if a lot better and more expensive than) the MicroPartner. It also used a Dream chip, and had a downloadable User's Guide (also PDF). So I had a stack of PDFs with some MIDI information (including SysEx) for chips by the same manufacturer as mine, but all different part numbers. Sigh.

Also in parallel, I found that the manufacturer ID for Dream (the number that follows the SysEx heads-up in the MIDI message, i.e. the bit just after the F7) was allegedly 00 20 00. More on this later...

So in a fit of pique, I scanned through the PDFs, and noticed that the SysEx information to disable a channel was the same for the different models of chip. Hmm. Admittedly, they were all in the same family, all had numbers like SAM97xx, whereas mine was a SAM9273, probably older. Also, the manufacturer's ID in the SysEx messages was 41, which is Roland's ID (Roland are the most prolific manufacturers of synthesisers, you've possibly even heard of them). Intriguing. A short google later and I found that Dream are/were being sued by Roland. Nevermind.

So I tried that particular string of numbers, and it worked. First time. I was amazed. So now I'm going to try some of the other settings. Who knows, maybe my €90 heap of **** is actually not that bad after all? I might be able to get all sorts of sweepy wacka-wacka noises out of it...

On another note, I played a gig last night with my ex-band, and I might be rejoining them in a week or two. I miss it, and now that the academic year is over, I might have time again :-) Watch this space...







posted by Jeremy Smyth 18:27 |

Now for some blitting from the back buffer.

Reply 5 of 11, by Ozzuneoj

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hyoenmadan wrote:

More about this generation of Dream SAM92XX chipset "Sound Canvas" based synths here:
http://www.os2museum.com/wp/of-g-men-and-farmers/

Very interesting!

It'll be interesting to see how closely the sound of this Orla module matches my SC-55.

Now for some blitting from the back buffer.

Reply 7 of 11, by brostenen

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Early SAM-xxxx chips are awesomme and a special breed of sound chips.
The instruments might not be as natural as DreamBlaster-S1, yet they are more "warm" in the sound quality.
Personally I am quite interrested in the sound quality of that Orla module.

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Reply 8 of 11, by elianda

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Well if it is an integrated version from the 92xx series then the question would be, what ROM is integrated and does it also integrate the effects processor?
If yes a rough guess would be that it is a combination of DSP SAM9233, effect processor SAM8905 and maybe 1 MB ROM.

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Reply 10 of 11, by pc-sound-legacy

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Hello friends, I just bought an Orla MicroPartner module. (I will upload a video on my chanel soon) Have wrote an email to Dream and hope to get a datasheet or more technical information about the SAM9273M because there isn't anything to find. (Don't think they will give me the details but why not try it) The sound is similar to Roland SC to my ears so I also think it is one of the older Dream synths when they used to copy the Roland soundfont. The sound also is pretty dry so maybe there is no effect processor. Seems to be a cost optimized unit so I also expect it to be a small soundfont. As there is very limited informations on the web I assume there were not so many units sold by Orla. Did anyone else have one here?

Reply 11 of 11, by Ozzuneoj

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Sorry, life got a bit complicated in the nearly 3 1/2 years since this post, and I forgot to record samples of mine. I still have yet to do much sample recording and would have to figure out how to do it in a way that would be of sufficient quality to compare MIDI devices. If anyone has any tips for doing this (software, interface, settings, etc.) let me know. I currently have a Xonar DX in my main system (running Windows 10), so I have some different audio options, but I'm not that familiar with them since I rarely do any recording these days.

I have Goldwave and I am quite familiar with it (used it from time to time for over 20 years)... I just struggle with knowing how to handle the input and output volumes, how to minimize noise without losing data or clipping etc.

Now for some blitting from the back buffer.