FMonster, the monster of sound synth

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

FMonster, the monster of sound synth

Postby Fagear » 2018-7-17 @ 20:31

This project was on my mind since I've joined the process of recreating SSI-2001 replica.
There were many variants of FM synth for PCs through 80s and 90s: Tandy 3-voice, Creative Music System (CMS), SSI-2001 (SID from C64 on PC), AdLib (Yamaha OPL2) and OPL3 variants.
If you want to try and experience all of the types you can use some emulators, but I'm not that type of guy, I want true hardware. And if you are the same... well, you have to source many ISA boards, some of them are rare and/or expencive. And that is not the end of the story. With that number of different boards (not including video card, I/O board, network, storage controllers...) it's difficult to put them together in one machine: you have to swap boards. Also there is one more fact not to forget: engineers who designed many of those 80s boards didn't always know how to do it properly, so routing was far from perfect sometimes, resulting in high hiss level, noise caused by fans, hard drives spinning, CPU working and so on. So while you can get a rare board it is not guaranteed that you'll get good and clear sound from it. :depressed:

I'm not the first one, who thought to combine all those synths on one board, but I still didn't see any progress, prototypes or something from anybody. Maybe I didn't research hard enough. :confused:
But I've decided to start my own project on that matter.
First, I had to determine what will be on the board and what will not. I decided to stick with FM synths only: no PCM capabilities, no wavetable synth.
So I have to collect all FM synths on one ISA board. ISA 8-bit is preferable.

Which FM synths I'm aware of:
- Tandy 3-voice synth (SN76489AN) link 1 link 2
- Creative Game Blaster (CMS) (SAA1099)
- Innovation SSI-2001 (MOS6581/8580) link 1
- AdLib (Yamaha YM3812 OPL2) link 1 link 2
- various cards with OPL3 (Yamaha YMF262-M OPL3) link 1

I've started to make single prototypes for each synth to debug each of them one by one on cheaply made boards (squeezing them into 100x100 mm) and I'm slowly composing those blocks into HUGE ISA 8-bit board.
Technologically it will be mostly SMD board (0805 passive, SOT-23 transistors and so on) with minimal TH components (connectors, capacitors) because the board will be big even with SMD.
2018-07-17 23.09.11.png
CMS prototype
2018-07-17 23.09.15.png
OPL2 prototype
2018-07-17 23.09.06.png
DuoSID (two SSI-2001 on one board)
2018-07-17 23.09.26.png
FMonster


I'm not sure yet will I put OPL2 AND OPL3 on the board, but I probably will, because those are compatible, but sound a little different (also OPL2 in AdLib variant is mono).

I don't know yet if I will put any existing mixer chip (software controlled) or I'll just stick with fixed mix or individual volume trimmers. I didn't research mixer chips yet.

Also I want to incorporate MPU-401 interface into this board with DB-15 connector and WaveTable header, so you can connect external WaveTable synths of your liking to the same board. Probably something like Music Quest PC MIDI (which I've also tried to help reverse engineer).

The name of the project (in the works) is FMonster. F(***)-monster, FM Monster, you know.
Last edited by Fagear on 2018-7-25 @ 19:52, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Fagear
Member
 
Posts: 276
Joined: 2014-7-10 @ 22:27
Location: Russia, Moscow

Re: FMonster, the monster of FM synth

Postby Beegle » 2018-7-17 @ 20:39

That thing will be a behemoth!
But the main advantage is that it will rule them all - and alleviate much of the need to add/remove cards constantly in my retro rig.
User avatar
Beegle
Member
 
Posts: 467
Joined: 2013-12-01 @ 02:15

Re: FMonster, the monster of FM synth

Postby Fagear » 2018-7-17 @ 20:46

Beegle wrote:That thing will be a behemoth!

I hope that it WILL BE at least...

Beegle wrote:But the main advantage is that it will rule them all - and alleviate much of the need to add/remove cards constantly in my retro rig.

That one of the goals.
It would be cool to have "all-in-one" FM Synth board with proper MPU-401 and clean sound, so you can plug in any Wavetable synth(s) into it. And add any "normal PCM (+wavetable synth) board" you like.
For example, GUS as a second board, MT-32, SoundCanvas on the DB15 in chain and Yamaha Synth on WaveBlaster header. Killer config with just two boards.
User avatar
Fagear
Member
 
Posts: 276
Joined: 2014-7-10 @ 22:27
Location: Russia, Moscow

Re: FMonster, the monster of FM synth

Postby keropi » 2018-7-17 @ 21:01

I approve of this. Maybe using a sop YM3812 will save some space , it would be great if this was not a 100% full-length card
User avatar
keropi
l33t++
 
Posts: 7317
Joined: 2003-9-08 @ 06:45
Location: Greece

Re: FMonster, the monster of FM synth

Postby Fagear » 2018-7-17 @ 21:13

keropi wrote:I approve of this. Maybe using a sop YM3812 will save some space , it would be great if this was not a 100% full-length card

By the way, what is the limit for "full-length card"? :sweatdrop:
User avatar
Fagear
Member
 
Posts: 276
Joined: 2014-7-10 @ 22:27
Location: Russia, Moscow

Re: FMonster, the monster of FM synth

Postby keropi » 2018-7-17 @ 21:33

^ I think something like ~31-32cm ?
I can measure one but not until Friday
User avatar
keropi
l33t++
 
Posts: 7317
Joined: 2003-9-08 @ 06:45
Location: Greece

Re: FMonster, the monster of FM synth

Postby Fagear » 2018-7-17 @ 21:53

keropi wrote:^ I think something like ~31-32cm ?

31 cm for PCI and 33,5 cm for ISA board as I found now. That is already a minor problem, but I'll try to squeeze layout into that size.
User avatar
Fagear
Member
 
Posts: 276
Joined: 2014-7-10 @ 22:27
Location: Russia, Moscow

Re: FMonster, the monster of FM synth

Postby Tree Wyrm » 2018-7-17 @ 22:07

Oh my. How many BungholioMarks(tm) will it score?
Obvious joke aside I kinda wonder about having both OPL2 and OPL3 on same board, unless some pins/switches to put them on different addresses.
User avatar
Tree Wyrm
Newbie
 
Posts: 41
Joined: 2006-2-16 @ 22:41

Re: FMonster, the monster of FM synth

Postby Fagear » 2018-7-17 @ 22:10

Tree Wyrm wrote:I kinda wonder about having both OPL2 and OPL3 on same board, unless some pins/switches to put them on different addresses.

One of those thing that have to be researched yet.
As I understand for now, default address for AdLib was 0x388. And for SB16-compatible OPL3 it was 0x220.
User avatar
Fagear
Member
 
Posts: 276
Joined: 2014-7-10 @ 22:27
Location: Russia, Moscow

Re: FMonster, the monster of FM synth

Postby NewRisingSun » 2018-7-18 @ 05:30

There were many variants of FM synth for PCs through 80s and 90s: Tandy 3-voice, Creative Music System (CMS), SSI-2001 (SID from C64 on PC), AdLib (Yamaha OPL2) and OPL3 variants.
The term "FM" only refers to the Yamaha OPx chips, at least on PCs. Tandy 3-voice, CMS and SID are not "FM".
NewRisingSun
Oldbie
 
Posts: 852
Joined: 2005-9-02 @ 02:26

Re: FMonster, the monster of FM synth

Postby Fagear » 2018-7-18 @ 08:06

NewRisingSun wrote:The term "FM" only refers to the Yamaha OPx chips, at least on PCs. Tandy 3-voice, CMS and SID are not "FM".

You are right, I've used incorrect terminology. Let me rephrase that. All of those are frequency synths with different types of modulations. Some have primitive amplitude modulation (for ADSR), some have ring modulation on top of that (SID), some have frequency modulation as well (OPLx).
Main idea: there are no pre-recorded samples or PCM sound. Only generators.
User avatar
Fagear
Member
 
Posts: 276
Joined: 2014-7-10 @ 22:27
Location: Russia, Moscow

Re: FMonster, the monster of FM synth

Postby matze79 » 2018-7-18 @ 08:35

What about disabling single card parts ?
Will you add switches add the backpanel ?

Maybe some are conflicting.. tandy 1000 may not work in every PC.
i have tested several systems now, and some will not even boot up to windows 9x with tandy card installed at 0c0h.
But otherwise working fine on MS-DOS.
https://dosreloaded.de - The German Retro DOS PC Community
https://www.retroianer.de
matze79
Oldbie
 
Posts: 1621
Joined: 2014-12-12 @ 14:25
Location: Germany, Frankonia

Re: FMonster, the monster of FM synth

Postby Scali » 2018-7-18 @ 08:41

Fagear wrote:Which FM synths I'm aware of:
- Tandy 3-voice synth (SN76489AN) link 1 link 2
- Creative Game Blaster (CMS) (SAA1099)
- Innovation SSI-2001 (MOS6581/8580) link 1
- AdLib (Yamaha YM3812 OPL2) link 1 link 2
- various cards with OPL3 (Yamaha YMF262-M OPL3) link 1


While I think this is an excellent idea and project... I do think I should point out that FM stands for Frequency Modulation, and is a very specific type of synthesis, which was exclusively used by Yamaha.
This means that only OPL2 and OPL3 are FM synthesizers. The SN76489, SAA1099 and 6581/8580 use a different methods of synthesis.
The SN76489 uses a very simple form of square wave generation, the SAA1099 uses a primitve pulse width modulation technique, and the 6581/8580 use subtractive synthesis.
Scali
l33t
 
Posts: 4540
Joined: 2014-12-13 @ 14:24

Re: FMonster, the monster of FM synth

Postby Fagear » 2018-7-18 @ 08:52

matze79 wrote:What about disabling single card parts ?
Will you add switches add the backpanel ?

That is easily accomplished by pulling off jumper that set address for each block. This effectively disables "Chip Select" line of corresonding block. Maybe I'll manage to put them all in a convinient place - it's too early to predict if it would be possible.

Scali wrote:This means that only OPL2 and OPL3 are FM synthesizers. The SN76489, SAA1099 and 6581/8580 use a different methods of synthesis.

I've already answered that above. "FMonster" isn't an official name of the project (yet). It's just a fun one.
User avatar
Fagear
Member
 
Posts: 276
Joined: 2014-7-10 @ 22:27
Location: Russia, Moscow

Re: FMonster, the monster of FM synth

Postby Scali » 2018-7-18 @ 09:05

Fagear wrote:One of those thing that have to be researched yet.
As I understand for now, default address for AdLib was 0x388. And for SB16-compatible OPL3 it was 0x220.


Yes, although there is a bit of a 'gray area' there.
The SB Pro 2 and later cards used the OPL3 as OPL2 as well, so the chip was available at both 0x220 and 0x388.
I did some preliminary testing on my SB Pro 2, and my early conclusions were that only the first of the two ports of the OPL3 was exposed to 0x388 (I'd have to test again to make sure though).
However, in DOSBox, the second port was exposed to 0x38A as well.
I suppose this is because certain OPL3 cards also do this. Question is: what do games do?

If there is software that assumes it can run OPL3 from the AdLib address range, then the card should be able to do this as well.
I guess the nicest solution would be a very simple 'switch' to swap the OPL2 for the OPL3 at address 0x388.
This could either be a jumper or a physical switch (at the backplate), or a simple software-controlled switch, so a simple DOS utility could select which mode the card should run in.
This would also allow you to choose between using the real OPL2 for AdLib sound, or using the OPL3 chip in OPL2-compatibility mode.
Scali
l33t
 
Posts: 4540
Joined: 2014-12-13 @ 14:24

Re: FMonster, the monster of FM synth

Postby j^aws » 2018-7-18 @ 18:40

Fagear wrote:I've started to make single prototypes for each synth to debug each of them one by one on cheaply made boards (squeezing them into 100x100 mm) and I'm slowly composing those blocks into HUGE ISA 8-bit board.
Technologically it will be mostly SMD board (0805 passive, SOT-23 transistors and so on) with minimal TH components (connectors, capacitors) because the board will be big even with SMD.

If there are concerns around such a large 8-bit ISA board (warping, cost, installation etc.), have you considered using a base board with multiple daughterboards?

Heat maybe an issue, but with good layout and ventilation, this can be avoided. For example, the Voyetra V24s 8-bit ISA card uses multiple daughterboards from a base board to provide such functionality.

You can add extra functionality whenever you want to expand with these daughterboards. The wavetable header may not be ideal, but external MIDI would still be accessible.
j^aws
Oldbie
 
Posts: 792
Joined: 2013-2-02 @ 19:39
Location: UK

Re: FMonster, the monster of FM synth

Postby Fagear » 2018-7-18 @ 19:14

j^aws wrote:If there are concerns around such a large 8-bit ISA board (warping, cost, installation etc.)

Warping - we'll see later. Cost - definitely will be BIG. Installation - it will fit almost any BabyAT case I think. And it will consume only one slot, so it would be easy to choose which one.

j^aws wrote:have you considered using a base board with multiple daughterboards?

This idea popped up numerous times.
"Base module" plus "additions" will cost more to produce, it will be harder to manage, connector might play a role in board warping.
Also WaveBlaster header is planned, so DB50XG or SCB-55 could cover up almost half of the board, so "sandwich" design is not a good idea. If "addition" will be plugged in at the end of the board - it will increase its mass and cause even more warping (more so for ISA 8-bit with short connector).
My idea for the moment is: all synth ICs (except OPL3 YMF262-M) will be socketed. So you can leave out some functionality and fill it later if needed. Other parts will be pretty standard and cheap.

For the moment I'll stick with "single long board with sockets" design. Only if it will be impossible to fit in the limits of ISA board - I'll seek out other possibilities.

Today I was working on rerouting some parts to shrink the board's length.
For example, rerouting clock generator module and SSI module I've gained 33 mm of board's length.
ISSI_2018-07-18_01.png
ISSI_2018-07-18_02.png


Work still in progress. CMS part is now the most "long" one, it needs some rerouting too.
User avatar
Fagear
Member
 
Posts: 276
Joined: 2014-7-10 @ 22:27
Location: Russia, Moscow

Re: FMonster, the monster of FM synth

Postby 640K!enough » 2018-7-18 @ 21:28

Scali wrote:Yes, although there is a bit of a 'gray area' there.
The SB Pro 2 and later cards used the OPL3 as OPL2 as well, so the chip was available at both 0x220 and 0x388.
I did some preliminary testing on my SB Pro 2, and my early conclusions were that only the first of the two ports of the OPL3 was exposed to 0x388 (I'd have to test again to make sure though).
However, in DOSBox, the second port was exposed to 0x38A as well.
I suppose this is because certain OPL3 cards also do this. Question is: what do games do?

If there is software that assumes it can run OPL3 from the AdLib address range, then the card should be able to do this as well.

The Ad Lib Gold, arguably the card that set the standard for OPL3, did exactly that: the OPL3 was at 388H through 38BH by default, with nothing at or near 220H. I expect the PAS16 did something similar, but have no experience with that card. I know of no software that made use of OPL3 that didn't work with the Gold, so it seems safe to assume that this is a necessary address range for a card claiming to provide such broad compatibility. Whether any software actually uses the chip via 220H exclusively is still a mystery, but I remember specifying 388H for OPL3, even after moving to a Sound Blaster 16.
640K!enough
Oldbie
 
Posts: 513
Joined: 2017-5-11 @ 17:52
Location: Canada

Re: FMonster, the monster of FM synth

Postby yawetaG » 2018-7-19 @ 05:54

Fagear wrote:
j^aws wrote:If there are concerns around such a large 8-bit ISA board (warping, cost, installation etc.)

Warping - we'll see later.


The better cases have an additional card guide at the front of the case just to prevent this problem. Sometimes you also find them in modern cases.
yawetaG
Oldbie
 
Posts: 1487
Joined: 2016-6-14 @ 14:36
Location: Netherlands

Re: FMonster, the monster of FM synth

Postby carlostex » 2018-7-19 @ 16:55

My 2 cents on this project:

I really don't see the need of including OPL2/OPL3 capability. Adlib/Sound Blaster/Sound Blaster Pro and clones are very common, so it would be easy to pair this multi sound card with another OPL2/OPL3 card. That would simplify the design and open space for something else.

I like the idea of having Tandy, CMS and Innovation (SID) on one card. In a nutshell you save some ISA slots for something else and give 3 rare Sound card capability on a single slot. Unfortunately Covox Sound Master is not finished yet, which i would actually prefer to be included as yet it provides another rare sound option to be added. I would also wouldn't mind to have Covox Speech Thing and Disney Sound Source capability as this would tackle another part of DOS gaming sound. I know that the focus is on synths, but this would very cool.

The only rare cards left to be cloned would be the AdLib Gold and the IBM Music Feature. If anything these 2 can be pretty much impossible to clone due to custom logic. At least for the AdLib Gold card for sure. The IBM Music feature is certainly complicated too, but maybe by getting rid of the MIDI interface and just focus on the cards YM2164 capability would be possible to make a simplified clone. All this talk of cloning an IBM Music Feature is all hypothetical of course, but assuming the Covox Sound Master will be finished and a clone of the IBM Music feature would be also possible and then we would have pretty much all of the rare sound cards cloned. :cool: :lol:

So yeah i would really like to see:
- SN 76486/96 (Tandy)
- 2x Phillips SAA 1099 (CMS)
- 1 or 2 6581 SID (innovation/ Duo SID)
- AY 8930 (Covox Sound Master)
- Speech Thing and DSS DAC

and on a single card you've tackled a lot of obscure sound! Pair it with a SB or a clone and you've got a lot of game sound support covered.

About CMS: i've noticed that you aren't supporting all of the CMS ports on the original CMS card. Reason is that i already have ALL games that support CMS patched to port 210h. Reason for port 210h being chosen is that it doesn't conflict with anything else. Port 200h will conflict with joysticks, so i wouldn't use that. Using port 220h will somewhat work, but a SB card will be producing horrible noise when using a CMS card and the other way around scenario is also true. I wouldn't recommend port 240h or 260h as these are used by GUS cards or another SB card like a SB16. Port 210h is the best port in my opinion for CMS, and in this thread i tried to explain this and push port 210h as the new standard for CMS as it is really unobtrusive. Plus, all the software has been patched already...

So anyway, i very much appreciate Fagear's work and this is truly awesome. If you manage to pull this project out that'll be amazing! Good luck man! :cool:
User avatar
carlostex
l33t
 
Posts: 2104
Joined: 2010-4-03 @ 21:39
Location: Portugal

Next

Return to Sound

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Tiido and 3 guests