First post, by Kahenraz
While doing some research on the EverQuest title track I learned about another polyphony related issue with the music from Warcraft 2. I was under assumption that an SC-55 with its 24-voice polyphony would be sufficient, but this is not entirely true.
There is definitely a disconnect between what we believe this music should sound like and what comes out of a synthesizer. These synthesizers are very good at compensating for a lack of polyphony and unless you know that something is wrong then you'll never know to miss it. But this creates a new problem where music we think is playing correctly actually contains errors. For example, if you're not familiar with a particular track and an instrument at some point doesn't play or a note is shorter than intended, how would you know? You wouldn't. This has resulted in recordings which end up butchering the composer's intent through our own lack of experience.
While the SC-55 is often more than adequate for game music of this era, even the SC-55mkII with its 28-voice polyphony struggles. James-F created a custom SysEx command to alter the voice reserve for the SC-55mkII to try and improve compatibility and, while it did make some improvement, is unable to correct all of the problems. What is most interesting is that the SC-55 with its reduced polyphony actually performs better than the SC-55mkII in my testing. Another observation is that the SC-55ST, which has the same clipping issue as the SC-55mkII, does not benefit at all from James-F's SysEx command.
I have isolated a few sequences from the first few seconds of the HUMAN1 track to demonstrate the issue with varying results between each synthesizer. Surprisingly, the SC-55 which is the oldest and least capable synthesizer on paper sounds better than the others, at least where bells are concerned.
SysEx command for SC-55mkII:
F0 41 10 42 12 40 00 7F 00 41 F7
F0 41 10 42 12 40 01 10 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 01 01 01 01 13 F7
MIDI playback was performed by Falcosoft's Midi Player 6.1 (64-bit).
Full 9 seconds from each synthesizer:
The same 9 seconds from the SC-55mkII but after the SysEx command has been applied.