First post, by Fagear
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. 😢
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. 😕
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.
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.