VOGONS


Reply 20 of 43, by Geddon

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Got the sc155 up and running today. I’m playing back a midi file to sc88 and the sc155 and the sc88 is bad. The sc155 sounds almost identical to the mt32. So I’m not sure what is going on. Is the sc155 basically a mt32 also? The sc155 says gs/gm and the sc88 also is gs/gm. I’m just wondering what is actually happening. Can I switch what mode the sc88 is using?

Reply 21 of 43, by Schule04

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Roland CM32L/CM64: contain additional sound effects used by some games, otherwise like a revision 2 MT-32 without the screen

Roland D110: a complex 80s LA synth, sounds a bit like the MT-32 but NOT compatible.

The MT32 and D110 both have patches to make them somewhat compatible with GM and they can sound nice with simple MIDI files that don't use more than 10 channels.

SC55: Rolands first synth designed for the home computer market, has MT32 backwards compatibility which works well if the game does not use custom samples, origin of the early GS standard and GM

SC50: Basically an SC55 without the MT32 compatibility

SC88: Big case, more GS sounds and same low quality sounds replaced by higher quality ones, backwards compatible with SC55 and MT32

SC88 Pro: Even more sounds than the SC88, retains backwards compatibility

SC880: an SC88Pro in a rack case, has a different GUI and more advanced programmability, can often be found for a lot less money than SC88 and Sc88Pro

JV1080/JV1010: professional synths that are also GM compatible (but not GS!). Seem to use samples from the SC series for the GM compatibility but the overall sound quality is better than any SC synth

Yamaha TG100: Complex GM synth with dubious audio quality. Has no battery backup so your custom parameters will be lost if you unplug the power.

Yamaha TG300: Complex GM/GS synth with much better sound quality than the TG100 and a high resolution screen. Yamaha really put an effort into the unofficial GS compatibility, they even implemented the custom pixel art that a few SC55 midis display on the screen. Also has an MT32 emulation mode similar to the SC55.

Yamaha MU50 and MU80: These basically sound like the XG softsynth. Share some sound with the TG300 and are also unofficially GS and MT32 compatible

Kawai GMega: a programmable synth, contains a GM bank but also custom instruments. The reverb effect sounds metallic and not great imo. Also has an MT32 emulation option called "Sound Palette" but it does not sound as good as the implementation of Yamaha and Roland.

Kawai GMega LX: Similar to the GMega but strictly GM only. Does not have a custom bank of instruments and without MT32 compatibility

Korg X5DR: a complex programmable synth, has many unique samples. Compatible with GM but not with GS or MT32. Will sound broken with GS midis unless you disable bank switching in its unintuitive menus.Often overpriced on ebay.

Casio GZ50M: a small, low cost GM module. Sounds are hit-and-miss, some samples are nice but many sound like total garbage. No GS or MT32 compatibility. The built in effects processor can be tweaked a bit using sysex (see the service manual) but this will not be saved if you unplug the power. Also released as even cheaper synths without the effects processor.

Hammond GM1000/Hammond Suzuki Sound Saurus: Sounds a bit like the SC55, features unofficial GS compatibility. Very uncommon and mostly sold in the Netherlands, most likely less than 1000 units of these were produced.

Reply 22 of 43, by Schule04

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Geddon wrote on 2021-11-03, 17:54:

Got the sc155 up and running today. I’m playing back a midi file to sc88 and the sc155 and the sc88 is bad. The sc155 sounds almost identical to the mt32. So I’m not sure what is going on. Is the sc155 basically a mt32 also? The sc155 says gs/gm and the sc88 also is gs/gm. I’m just wondering what is actually happening. Can I switch what mode the sc88 is using?

Make sure that the switch at the back is set to MIDI.

Reply 23 of 43, by Geddon

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Schule04 wrote on 2021-11-03, 18:10:
Geddon wrote on 2021-11-03, 17:54:

Got the sc155 up and running today. I’m playing back a midi file to sc88 and the sc155 and the sc88 is bad. The sc155 sounds almost identical to the mt32. So I’m not sure what is going on. Is the sc155 basically a mt32 also? The sc155 says gs/gm and the sc88 also is gs/gm. I’m just wondering what is actually happening. Can I switch what mode the sc88 is using?

Make sure that the switch at the back is set to MIDI.

Yep, it is

Reply 24 of 43, by Joseph_Joestar

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The SC-155 might be in MT-32 mode. You may want to fully re-initialize the device if you haven't already done so.

The manual with all the relevant info can still be found on Roland's website:
http://cdn.roland.com/assets/media/pdf/SC-155_OM.pdf

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 Trio64V+ / Voodoo1 / OPTi 82C930 / AWE64 Gold / SC-155
PC#2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / Voodoo3 / SBLive / Vortex2
PC#3: Athlon64 3000+ / Asus K8V-MX / GeForce4 / Audigy1
PC#4: i5-3550P / MSI Z77A-G43 / GTX 650Ti / X-Fi

Reply 25 of 43, by MN_Moody

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Pairing a classic/old Roland MT-32 with a standard SC-55 is going to cover most of your bases, if you have to pick just one I'd select based on the era of gaming in which you want to focus, 80-early 90's (486/dx2-66 or slower) I'd go MT-32, anything later an SC-55. My third pick would be a Yamaha MU-50/80 followed by a Serdaco X3MB unit (assuming we're connecting this all via 6-pin MIDI DIN).

Reply 26 of 43, by AppleSauce

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The yamaha fb-01 is technically another option , its a desk module equivalent to the ibm music feature card but I dont think its 100% compatible.

Even then it should play most ibmmfc games.

There aren't that many games supported by either device so keep that in mind.

Reply 27 of 43, by Geddon

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I definitely don’t care about compatible. Ordered a fb-01. I think at this point I’m venturing into the obscure and I’m curious about anything relatively cheap and interesting that I don’t have.

Didn’t see any eBay listings for serdaco

Reply 28 of 43, by Geddon

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I also will say if my sc155 is in mt32 mode, it sounds better than my mt32. They are very close but the sc155 puts out a cleaner signal. Maybe expected since it is a newer unit. Close enough where most peope wouldn’t care but I preferred the sc155. I can try more tracks. It’s also cool having the sliders and I paid less for the sc155 than I did for the mt32. So it might be the better unit if you had to choose.

Reply 29 of 43, by SScorpio

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Geddon wrote on 2021-11-05, 04:28:

Didn’t see any eBay listings for serdaco

It's not a vintage unit. https://www.serdaco.com/products/midi-devices … amblaster-x3mb/

The DreamBlaster stuff is interesting, but if you are into real modules, I'm not sure it matches your goals. He does create cool devices, and I really like my MP32 McCake I bought from him. WP32 McCake : MT32 compatible waveblaster board

Reply 31 of 43, by MN_Moody

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appiah4 wrote on 2021-11-05, 12:40:

Ever since I built my MT32-Pi I use nothing else.

I think this is one of the more underappreciated solutions for retro MIDI audio, once you obtain the proper ROM and control files you can set which MT-32 variant you want to emulate, including "old", MT-32 "new" and the CM-32L all from one bit of hardware. Cost-wise it's about half of what a real MT-32 would cost for the hat, PI, case, power supply and SD card.

The Serdaco version includes a much better DAC than the original hardware, so they are less noisy when compared side by side. You can switch between MT-32 modes via software/sysex as part of a game startup .BAT file or hardware buttons. You can also load .SF2 soundfonts to emulate various other MIDI hardware devices including the Roland Sound Canvas and Yamaha XG series modules, plus the classic soundfont driven Gravis Ultrasound and the Creative/EMU AWE32/64/Live! and Audigy cards

Reply 32 of 43, by fxgogo

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Really interesting thread this. I have a newbie question.
Other than the MT32 and SC55, how many of these were specifically aimed at the games market? Once the GM standard came about, I guess you could use any module, but they were designed as music making instruments first right?

Reply 33 of 43, by Schule04

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The main market almost always were semi professional musicians. The one exception are the Roland CM series where Roland bothered to add some extra sound effects for games. And many of the modules not made by Roland or Yamaha were basically keyboards that were also released in a small rack case in an attempt to compete with the Soundcanvas.

Reply 34 of 43, by Spikey

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Other computer music MIDI modules not mentioned:
Roland SD-50
Roland Sonic Cell
Edirol SD-20/80/90

And just for fun, the pro Roland INTEGRA-7 from 2012 has a SC-55 map inside (undocumented).

Reply 35 of 43, by darry

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Spikey wrote on 2021-11-08, 03:44:

And just for fun, the pro Roland INTEGRA-7 from 2012 has a SC-55 map inside (undocumented).

That would be fun, but rather expensive fun . 😉
Though, AFAIU, GS is not supported .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUeF5VXq2sI&t=3s

On a more affordable note, +1 to the SC-D70 .

Reply 36 of 43, by Bancho

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I picked this up on a whim as it was reasonablly priced (£45) and looked interesting. Its a Miditech Pianobox USB. I've not tried it yet but it powers on. I opened it up and it has a Dream SAM2635 Synth and a 64Mb Flash Chip. I wonder if this possibly has the Cleanwave 8MB Soundbank on it?

yKVqf8nl.jpg

Edit...

I got some recordings of the module this evening. It sounds quite good, id say the bass instruments maybe being slightly weak.

Took recordings of DOOM E1M1 and Descent. These are straight off the module, no processing or anything.

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Reply 37 of 43, by MN_Moody

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fxgogo wrote on 2021-11-05, 13:42:

Really interesting thread this. I have a newbie question.
Other than the MT32 and SC55, how many of these were specifically aimed at the games market? Once the GM standard came about, I guess you could use any module, but they were designed as music making instruments first right?

These were aimed at musicians first though, and adopted for use with games second.

Technically the Yamaha MU50/80 support General MIDI, limited MT-32 backward compatibility for games like Monkey Island that use the default instrument map AND they bring Yamaha XG support that Roland doesn't have, so it's probably the most versatile of the classic MIDI sound modules for retro gaming. The MU-50 in particular is also very affordable compared to most others which is also a big plus. Even if you end up buying a Roland MT-32 and SC-55 down the road it's going to have a place in your MIDI module rotation for games that support Yamaha XG and as a nice alternative sound for General MIDI titles compared to the Sound Canvas.

Reply 38 of 43, by Agent of the BSoD

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If you want to only listen to songs and you want to stick with Roland (as they're pretty much the de facto) and want real hardware, the way I see it is you ideally want between 2 to 4 modules, maybe 5 if you're picky or concerned about playback issues.

MT-32 (old, without headphone jack): This module is ideal for games that exploit errors with the MT-32 which will not sound correct on the newer unit.

CM-32L: This is the newer (with headphone jack) MT-32 with extra sound effects that some games utilize, you just miss the front panel screen and buttons. Ideally you want ROM 1.02 to avoid a clicking bug with earlier ROM versions. CM-64 is another mention but you'd need to mute the CM-32P part before playback to reduce noise and extra notes playing that shouldn't be, though useful if you want to listen to some Japanese game music that utilizes both parts. CM-64 is 100% compatible with CM-32L.

SC-55: This one gets tricky depending on what you want, as there are several iterations with noticeable differences. The most "compatible" that people have decided on is one with ROM 1.20 or 1.21. Other versions may produce issues with some build engine games, though these problems seem to arise from the composers not programming their MIDIs correctly or the game itself not sending the correct messages to the unit. The units using ROM 1.00 and 1.10 do have one patch mapped differently on instrument 122, being "Fl.Key Click" instead of "Breath Noise", so maybe try to avoid those units if you're concerned. For the most part though, whichever one you get should be fine, regardless of ROM version, as the MIDIs that break are extremely few.

SC-55mkII: An upgrade of the SC-55, featuring more sounds and higher polyphony (more notes can play at once), and a slightly higher quality DAC. This one is basically interchangeable with the SC-55 and comes down to preference again. My personal preference is this unit over the original.

SC-88 / SC-88 Pro: These units are significant upgrades over the SC-55 / mkII, featuring more and higher quality patches and even greater polyphony, though a lot of people prefer the sound from the SC-55 over these units. The SC-88Pro is a direct upgrade over the SC-88 and is 100% compatible with it in SC-88 mode because of the same hardware. A lot of Japanese MIDIs were designed specifically for the SC-88Pro. These units are not 100% compatible with SC-55 modes but are fairly close, due to differences in internal hardware.

Other mentions: The SC-8820 has maps for the SC-55, SC-88, SC-88Pro, and it's own map, but it is not 100% compatible with any of them (except for it's own map, obviously). This is because the hardware is significantly different and the DAC is even higher quality. The earlier Sound Canvas units are known for their somewhat muddy sound stage, and composers (mostly Japanese ones) that tried to compensate for that will have their MIDIs sound too off on this unit. The SC-8850 is best avoided as it can't play back any MIDIs accurately at all unless they were designed specifically for it. The SC-D70 is a digital output version of the SC-8820 and features the same incompatibilities, except for an even higher quality DAC. The CM-500 is not recommended either due to the vibrato being noticeably faster (sounds really weird).

tl;dr: Considering everything I mentioned above, my idea of the "cover the most ground" with Roland units would be:
MT-32 (old)
CM-32L / CM-64
SC-55 and / or SC-55mkII
SC-88 / SC-88Pro

For a cheaper and more simplified setup (but not covering as much ground), I would suggest:
MT-32 (old or new)
SC-55 / SC-55mkII

Of course, there are cheaper versions of these units as well that basically remove the front panel screen and buttons but still sound exactly the same as their respective modules. If you don't care about any of the front panel stuff, you can save some money here. There are also rackmount versions of these units if that's your thing.

My setup, which I'm very happy with, uses an MT-32 (old), SC-55mkII, and SC-88Pro, though I would like to add a CM-32L / CM-64 but those units are incredibly expensive for the few that are listed as auctions. I do also have an SC-8820 (my first unit), but I don't really use it anymore.

Pentium MMX 233 | 64MB | FIC PA-2013 | Matrox Mystique 220 | SB Pro 2 | Music Quest MPU Clone | Windows 98SE
MT-32 | SC-55mkII, 88Pro, 8820 | SB16 CT2230
3DFX Voodoo 1&2 | S3 ViRGE GX2 | PowerVR PCX1&2 | Rendition Vérité V1000 | ATI 3D Rage Pro

Reply 39 of 43, by Geddon

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so many variables. I didn't know the mt32 had two versions. I have the old one, so I guess that is good. Just today I added a mu1000 to my setup. I was not sure if it was an EX but when I turn it on it says MU1000 EX, so that's cool. I think I'm close to everything I want, the midi pi project looks cool so even though I have a bunch of modules I might look into it too. I definitely don't care about practicality and this old hardware stuff is just a lot of fun. So here is my current setup:

MT-32 (old)
SC-155
SC-88
Alesis Nanosynth
Yamaha MU15
Yamaha MU1000

I'm eating 12 channels on my mixer (i have 38 channels so I have some to spare) so I can play midi through all these things and bring it in stereo. My mixer is the generation before it became common to have digital labels so I make these magnet labels. The mixer is so awesome though, probably my favorite piece of audio equipment I have ever owned. allen & heath qu32. Now that I'm pretty competent using it, it is a breeze setting setting everything and having an awesome eq, gate, and compression available on every channel along with lots of output processing has spoiled me. I'm having a lot of fun playing midi and comparing modules.

I actually have more modules but I'm letting my brother use them since he also seems interested in comparing modules and having a few around all the time. I found a pretty sweet cheap rack mixer since he doesn't really need anything as fancy as I have. The mixer is Behringer RX1602 V2. it has 8 stereo channels which will be plenty for him. Also mute buttons for each channel is nice for comparing modules easily. So his setup will be:

MT-32(old)
SC-55 GS Standard
SC-55 mk2
Akai SG01k

Oh I'm also interested in connecting a Mister FPGA to this setup. I got a roland um one mk2 cable which seems to be what most people use for this. My main midi routing box is a Roland A880 which I think is awesome, easily my favorite midi
patching rack unit that I've tried. I had a lot of trouble with MOTU stuff so I avoid it. I will say the digital music corp mx-8 is also a decent straight forward unit. I also use some of the little midi solutions boxes like the quadra thru and the merger and those work well if whatever you are connecting them to provides power over midi. If anyone is curious about my other midi stuff I have some elektron boxes, octatrack mk2, digitakt, digitone. Also an OB-6 synth and a modular setup I never use. Tr-8 drum machine and I run midi through a strymon big sky and timeline effect pedals. Midi is nice for those because the software editor is nice to have. I don't like controlling them from the units themselves. I also have a keyboard I like a lot 61SLmk2. The midi features on that are really nice, so I'll probably get into playing some of the sounds on the modules with using the keyboard. I'm more of a guitarist though.

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