Retro, The Sounds and The Music.

Discussion in 'Retro & Arcade' started by power, Jul 30, 2010.

  1. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Has anyone every done individual instrument / note waveform analysis?

    I mean, I like listening to cards and talking about "brightness", but I also like graphs and diagrams because I'm a nerd.
     
  2. JSmithDTV

    JSmithDTV Member

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    Not exactly what you're after, but thought I'd post it anyway in case it is of some interest in general;

    https://satsun.org/audio/



    JSmith
     
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  3. Pierre32

    Pierre32 Member

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    I'd actually be interested in analysing the cards I own with MDFourier or similar, if the process was straightforward (run program -> spit out nice graph). I'd kick off some threads on OCAU and Vogons and encourage others to do it too. I've just taken a look at the MDFourier site and it seems there are only tone generator tools for Sega & PC Engine hardware right now. Do we know if there is any comparable software aimed at PC hardware?
     
  4. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    I'm on both the 240p Test Suite and MDFourier discord channels. There is talk of a specific "DOS/PC/OPL" build that people are looking in to.

    The challenge is that just playing out a midi file isn't good enough, as MDFourier is all about VERY strict timings (you're talking KHz here, so sub-ms accuracy even within average human hearing range of 20Hz to 20KHz). A binary would have to be produced to instruct the sound card to test things to within very specific timings in order to get captures that can be compared.

    They're flush with volunteers to do the testing, but the big challenge is actually developing the tool to do it. It would require someone familiar with not only DOS realtime devlopment, but also someone who understands how to directly communicated with a variety of cards and the sea of zero-standards that is an open platform like PC hardware.

    Worth remembering too that MDFourier is best for comparing very similar things. If your ears can pick up clear and obvious differences in cards, MDFourier graphs are going to show massive swings. Where the software really shines is when you're comparing two very similar things - say a real MT32 and MUNT, or a real SC55 and Fluidsythn with matching soundfont, or a real OPL card and an OPL emulator. It's designed to really dig down into the areas where human sensitivity gets into that "qualitative but not quantitative" level (i.e.: you can tell there's a difference, but it's difficult to describe or document it with objective terms).

    So short answer is: the right people know it needs to be made, and are enthusiastic about it. Finding the developer talent will be tricky, however. Anyone who thinks they have the chops should contact Artemio on Twitter either by his direct account or the 240p Test Suite account.
     
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  5. Pierre32

    Pierre32 Member

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    Yep, I'm not surprised to read this. Even with an available tool, it's only going to provide useful data in a controlled environment and in expert hands.

    I'm sure there are a ton of waveform analysis type tools out there that I could use to compare cards, for fun and entertainment. But that would only deliver comparisons relevant to my local environment. Could still be a fun undertaking, just not really a useful contribution to the world.

    So PC sound card comparisons remain issues of personal taste for now. I had a good trawl of Vogons, but didn't find any efforts along these lines.
     
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  6. Vanne

    Vanne Member

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    How did you go? Did you score that mt-90? Saw it went for pretty darn cheap..
     
  7. Pierre32

    Pierre32 Member

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    I didn't end up bidding, tempted as I was. I have a couple of other sound related purchases in the works, so trying not to be too silly! Someone did well at $111.
     
  8. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    While true from the listener's point of view, I'd still love to see a database of what tools composers used on a per-game basis.

    Happy for people to listen to whatever the hell they want. For someone like myself who's (a) time poor and (b) far more interested in the history of these things, I'd like to play these titles once, using the same (or as similar as possible) kit the developers used back in the day as a way to see what they intended.
     
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  9. Vanne

    Vanne Member

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    That's where it is at for me too, experience it the way it was intended.
     
  10. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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  11. OP
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    power

    power Member

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    i also prefer my music on cassette :D I kid, yeah cleaned up and as it was intended isn't for everyone.
     
  12. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    I actually think some of the samples were chose for their end result, rather than the original. Obviously whoever composed it did the right thing and listened to it on the SNES output, rather than just in a studio on their sampler.

    The SNES had some low pass analogue filtering on it before the audio spat out of the console, so listening to the uncompressed and pure digital form of things, a lot of it sounds shrill and too high pitched.

    I dare say it's like SNES digital audio mods, were you'd want to put some sort of software equaliser or low-pass filter in to listen to it, rather than just the raw digital stream, which will be a bit harsh, especially on the high notes.
     
  13. OP
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    power

    power Member

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    yeah very true. i am reminded of some of the poor displays like the Lynx and apparently the developers worked on Amigas so the final result from the player wasn't ideal. but the audio example makes sense.
     
  14. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Same on the GBC and GBA. The non-backlit screen of the original models meant devs used garish colours to compensate, which looked fine until backlit models appeared later.

    Many emulators and FPGA simulators offer a variety of contrast and palette muting effects to try and make the resulting image look less terrible on modern bright IPS and OLED screens.

    On the audio front, the MegaDrive is similar to the SNES in that pure digital rips or emulated playback often sounds overly shrill compared to the real deal, again due to low pass filter analogue electronics. That is part of the reason MDFourier was invented - not just to try and gauge emulation accuracy at the digital level, but also at the analogue output level. So very important that we get that stuff right now, before all the original hardware dies and we're left with nothing to compare the emulators to.

    Video wise, I recently did some comparisons on a Sony PVM with a real NES via a colorimeter, and I think it upset some of the "retro gaming elite", which is pretty interesting. But whatever, this sort of comparison and objective comparisons need to constantly be made as long as we have access to real hardware.

    But anyways, all a bit by the by. The "uncompressed SNES" audio is still pretty interesting, and probably the only reason I'd ever want MSU-1 hacks of games (fan made music can bugger right off).
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2021
  15. OP
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    power

    power Member

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    it might be ok for those machines or preferred for reasons, but damn i really prefer the clean digital sound out of my modded consoles. I also like CRT's but it has to be crisp clear RGB because tbh that's what i grew up with, not hideous composite. I also ran my games through my hifi for the best dynamic range and stereo separation possible. but some people will have more nostalgia for the opposite.

    On the megadrive, i opened a mates eyes when we pushed the audio through his parents enormous stupidly expensive Technics system. mmmmm
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2021
  16. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Don't confuse "low pass filter" with "crap sound". Not the same thing.

    Crisp RGB versus composite is entirely different stuff. You're talking actual signal loss there. Low pass filters do a lot to remove the shrill, nasty ringing that can come in on some instruments, and can really improve the sound dramatically.

    Back in the day, I ran my SNES and MegaDrive through my parents' very high quality HiFi system with beautiful 3-way speakers - like you, looking for the best stereo separation and quality I could fine. It was utterly brilliant, and made me barf whenever I'd go around to a mate's place and we'd play through their god awful single cone TV speaker where half the dynamic range was missing, and it just sounded muddy and crap. And that's not even lamenting the loss of stereo yet (or the faux-surround some games like "Samurai Shodown" and "Fatal Fury" on SNES had, which was amazing audio, despite the games themselves being very crap ports).

    The SNES suffers this the most, I feel. Digital audio mods on the SNES really change the audio to something different. Compare and contrast to the MegaDrive, where mods like the "Crystal Clear Audio Mod" (a project that existed years before the "Triple Bypass") made massive improvements to the MegaDrive's poor noise floor, and terrible electrical routing.

    Digital mods aren't always a 100% guaranteed improvement to everything. Video - mostly yes, just for signal improvement reasons. Audio - again, if you're removing good quality capacitors and resistors out of the circuit and getting the unmodified digital signal, you might actually be hearing things that are worse - clipping or out of spec audio that was made to be filtered before it hit a speaker.

    Fast forward to modern consoles - literally anything 3D - and you're in a totally different world. Yes, digital mods on these are going to be your best bet, because literally these things were closer to modern computers in a box than anything where analogue circuitry played an integral part of their design. But across your 8 and 16 bit console era, it really is a case of analysing these things on a console by console basis, because modding them produces radically different results depending on the system. Some better, some worse.

    Back to the subject of people re-composing SNES games, I just found some more. This guy even documents the process he goes through of doing the reconstructions. This time there's some Donkey Kong Country and, my personal favourite game ever (and a big part of that is because I love the music so much), Super Metroid. Aww yissss...

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKaTWjXt6tJ9S6K0YFJVEfQ/videos

    Google Drive links to FLAC versions:
    https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1HDRgU08vpx4Rkl6Tt8pg1R2yJi5QBVn8

    And again, I think some of these suffer slightly. Crystal clear, yes. But instrument volumes are radically different, and the mix ends up putting emphasis on totally different parts of the composition. Really depends on the song and the instruments being used, but it's not always better, even if the individual samples are much cleaner.
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2021
  17. OP
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    power

    power Member

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    oh i get it, i use a real sound card with analogue output on my PC still in 2021 because i prefer the sound. audio is definitely a thing i kind of obsess about and love in my games (the precise reason i made this thread :D ).
     
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  18. Pierre32

    Pierre32 Member

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    Here's a demo of my Covox Speech Thing. Now tidied up with an audio output jack, and a little slot for the ribbon cable (which was previously just mashed between the case and base plate). And some rubber feet.

    upload_2021-3-7_15-8-34.png upload_2021-3-7_15-8-48.png

    The list of supported games on Mobygames is not as straightforward as it looks, with many of those actually supporting variants or relying on drivers, or just not working at all on the first attempt. Apparently if you fully dive into the various drivers out there including community made stuff, the game list tops 400 (8 Bit Guy has a great video on it - you can even use this for games with Tandy sound support). But for now I just picked through the Mobygames list for stuff that worked without further fiddling, with about a 30% success rate.

    In the vid:

    0:00 - Robbo (1989)
    1:37 - Pinball Fantasies (1992) Speed Devils table
    2:17 - Star Control 2 (1992) Earth base
    3:27 - Space Adventure (1992)



    My verdict? Of course it's going to sound "bad" compared to a real sound card. But hearing this output from a DAC that is nothing more than a birds nest of resistors hanging off LPT1? That's some black magic and I love it.
     
  19. baronbaldric

    baronbaldric Member

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    I knew SC2 would be on the list. They (Toys for Bob) also did digital audio via pc speaker.

    It really impressed me when I first heard it. I thought it was some sort of coding black magic!

    Very few games had it. Another example being Cannon Fodder with that reggae tune.
     
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  20. Pierre32

    Pierre32 Member

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    Yeah there's been some magic squeezed out of the PC speaker in the past. And I wasn't aware of any of it when I was a kid. I'll have to try it with SC2.

     

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