How to fail at retro sound SC-55 (mk II) and MT-32 (old)

Discussion in 'Retro & Arcade' started by okclock123, Jun 11, 2019.

  1. okclock123

    okclock123 Member

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    I set out to create an ultimate early 90s sound setup on my modern machine with both my Roland modules permanently connected to my main machine and on display so I could run Dosbox with any game I want on a whim and have total control over the sound output.

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    Problem 1: Space
    I have a spare 83 cm desk (Ikea Ivar 50cmx83cm shelving unit used as a desk) and pretty much the whole desk is now occupied by the main PC rig and the sound modules. I hated the idea of stacking them because of how different the sizes are and how messy they look when stacked.

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    Problem 2: Power delivery
    Both my modules come from either Japan or US with no original power sources. Plug adapters seem to work well but looks ugly as hell. I decied to dedicate a separate power strip for the modules with individual switch on each power plug, because switching modules on and off is more convenient from one centralised location + I thought I maybe will have to add more powered audio tools later.

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    Problem 3: Connectivity
    Both modules need to receive MIDI signal at any time so I daisy-chained them with a pass-through MIDI cable. They are connected to the PC via Roland UM-ONE MK II USB to MIDI cable and I am very happy with how it performs, no issues so far.

    Problem 4: Output
    SC-55 uses standard RCA stereo, but MT-32 uses a 2X mono 1.4" jacks for output. I set to use 3.5mm jacks for sound delivery so I bought a cheap RCA to 3.5mm which are very common and a 2X mono to 3.5mm which turned out to be rare and expensive.

    Problem 5: Switching between modules
    I found this Little Bear Audio switches and I thought they look very cool so I decided to give them a try to be able to switch between SC-55 and MT-32 and avoid buying a full-size mixer with features I don't need since a lot of them are targeted at working with microphones, and there are very few minimalistic ones and pretty much zero ideal ones. These mixers would look ugly and out of place when set together with the PC and the modules in my opinion.
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    Problem 6: Mixing module output with digital sound effects with precise volume control
    I spent a while looking for a decent solution for this. A lot of games use sound modules for music and digitised effects through soundcard for sfx, but there is no common standard with regards to volume on these so I really wanted to be able to control volume for the modules and the sfx independently and precisely. I found DJOCLATE Pepperdecks which I thought look amazing, minimalistic and exactly how I imagine this: a slider for module music and a slider for sound effects.
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    Problem 7: Output signal power, still unsolved
    With this absolutely awesome setup I found that the output signal is incredibly weak and with all sliders to the max I still have a very quiet output on my Logitech 2.1 speaker system. Unfortunately I will have to replace the Little Bear Switcher with a powered solution and I'm yet to find a small, minimalistic powered audio switcher with 3.5mm inputs and output. Or I could find one with RCA but I will have to rebuy cabling, or I could go with a "messy" route of pro audio mixer. But I think it's too much since I merely need to amplify signal at one point and the rest of the setup looks and works fine.
     
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  2. Grant

    Grant Member

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    I've had this problem with a bunch of small boxes each requiring 9v power. To save one power point, I hacked up a generic but high-power AC adapter with 2 barrel plugs (I think you can also get barrel plug Y splitters if that's not for you), just check the combined current draw (eg. mine was about 1.2A combined, and the adapter I used was 9v 3A one), and make sure you get the polarity right. I only did it for two devices that had exactly the same barrel plug size and polarity, just to be safe.

    I use cheap 1/4" mono to single RCA plugs and then the same cheap dual RCA->stereo 3.5mm cable as your SC-55 :)

    Do you have this problem with the PC audio? Or are you just talking about the signal path from the synthesizers? You could go with a standalone preamp for the synths, eg:
    http://www.smproaudio.com/index.php/en/products/preamps/xp200
     
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  3. mr camouflage

    mr camouflage Member

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    Having a paddle on your desk....

    5df3d942c0e9c5f8a5127c4993cebdcb.jpg
     
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  4. OP
    OP
    okclock123

    okclock123 Member

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    Thanks!

    Problem with the synth output only, this preamp looks like what I need. I know phono is mainly for vinyl output, so will probably research if that's appropriate, but should probably work fine.
     
  5. OP
    OP
    okclock123

    okclock123 Member

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    In Cronulla when it comes to paddling we hit it and we hit it hard.
     
  6. Jumpingmanjim

    Jumpingmanjim Member

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    How do you configure dosbox to do midi output?
     
  7. OP
    OP
    okclock123

    okclock123 Member

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    midiconfig=1

    Add this command to your dobox *.conf and all midi from DosBox will be routed to Roland UM-One USB-to-midi cable. Works great, even sends in-game messages to MT-32's mini display e.g. "Insert Buckazoid" when you launch Space Quest III.
     
  8. Jumpingmanjim

    Jumpingmanjim Member

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    Oh cool, how much do these old midi units cost?
     
  9. OP
    OP
    okclock123

    okclock123 Member

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    I bought an SC-55 for $80.00 USD and MT-32 for $140.00 USD back in 2016. Looks like they still can be found for about the same price on eBay USA and Japan.
     

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