Genesis - SNES audio comparison

For anything related to sound (YM2612, PSG, Z80, PCM...)

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Post by tomaitheous » Sun Jan 11, 2009 5:29 pm

sheath wrote:Koshiro's view of flexibility is referring to being able to write his own engine to make whatever sounds the MD could generate. The Z80, PSG YM2612 and DAC allowed composers of Genesis music to invent musical instruments. The Genesis was also capable of more simultaneous instruments than the SNES was capable of.
Ahhhh ok. Then I wouldn't say that it's the 'z80' that is more flexible than the SCP700. It would be the YM2612+PSG that your are referring to as more flexible than the DSP (you could write a 68k FM driver and still be flexible). More flexible and yet more limited at the same time. It's not just realistic instruments. There are other synthetic created/sounding instruments the SPC unit can produce that the 2612 can not.

While the PSG is a nice complement for the FM chip, it's by no means a comparison addition for the 'VS DSP'. The PSG unit is pretty limited - 3 square tones with no changeable duty cycle and 1 limited noise channel. The channel's period system doesn't have a fine grade either. You're more than likely combining the two or three square channels to make a single 'instrument channel' or pairing the channels to a corresponding FM channel and thereby decreasing the number of channels. Like I said, it's nice addition for the Genesis but the 10 VS 8 thing is really misleading.

While I used to get really annoyed by the over use of the reverb on the SNES, it's still a nice option to have. The individual channels themselves are polyvoice in that respect.
Very few Genesis titles attempt to use simultaneous samples for musical instruments
Probably more to do with outputting samples themselves than mixing. Mixing multiple samples into a single DAC is easy. I think the samples played on the DAC were mostly drumkits because they are less forgiving for errors in sample playback and when played back at lower rate in general. Something more complex sounding would have shown signs of error artifacts and aliasing.

These critics also assume that sampled audio was intrinsically superior to FM sound for all purposes. Both Genesis and Arcade titles prove this assumption false.
Which critics are those? To be honest, I don't think 'arcade' FM was that great to begin with. Looks at CPS1, UN Squadron sounded much better on the SNES than the arcade. Even the Genesis music adaptations of the arcade versions sounded better (Vapor Trail, Mercs, etc) and that was on a 'lesser' FM chip. Matter of fact, a lot of CPS1 games had terrible sharp/thin/high frequency instruments - yuck.

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Post by sheath » Sun Jan 11, 2009 8:48 pm

Yeah, I think I've heard the SNES' sound referred to as more flexible because developers could choose their own instruments rather than having to generate them. This is in contrast to Koshiro and others' points of being able to custom code sound engines more easily for the Genesis. The end result seems to be different means to entirely different ends, rather than anything being definitively "better."

I have not heard that the SNES sound chip was designed to generate FM sound in addition to using samples. I would love to hear the SNES generate something like MUSHA or one of Yuzo Koshiro's Genesis titles, but I just haven't. That doesn't mean that I think SNES sound is worse, I just don't think that the SNES could sound as good at this type of music. Are you referring to something that was actually used in games, or just something that you know is possible?

In reference to your DAC statements, my observations are especially demonstrated in the Street Fighter Genesis games. Special Champion Edition very clearly attempts to play drums, secondary percussion instruments, sound effects and voice samples simultaneously. The result is that the voice samples, the longest of all the digital samples, are noticeably garbled. Super Street Fighter II uses just a drum kit, sound effects and voice to create a much "cleaner" sound quality. If both games used the exact same number of digital samples and SSFII had cleaner voice samples I would conclude that the issue with SCE was only the quality of the music engine. Since a digital instrument was dropped, however, I suspect that this was a major factor in the now legendary "sound problems" of the Genesis.

The critics, as I refer to them, are virtually all US game media aside from those edited or aided by Dave Halverson, and almost all of those who have engaged in forum and Usenet discussions with me on the topic in the past. It is very popular to simply dismiss the Genesis sound system as inferior to the SNES, but this is not demonstrable in actual games. Unless you eliminate analog sound and focus only on whether or not you hear pops in voice samples, this assertion cannot be supported factually.

http://www.gamepilgrimage.com/Soundfiles.htm

In regard to your Arcade game FM observations, I hope that you're not basing these on MAME. Up until the last couple of years, I have not even heard a Genesis emulator replicate the audio nearly perfectly. I seriously doubt that MAME has been doing so. If you happen to have access to all of these games in their original cabinets, I am very jealous.

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Post by TmEE co.(TM) » Sun Jan 11, 2009 9:22 pm

sheath wrote:In reference to your DAC statements, my observations are especially demonstrated in the Street Fighter Genesis games. Special Champion Edition very clearly attempts to play drums, secondary percussion instruments, sound effects and voice samples simultaneously. The result is that the voice samples, the longest of all the digital samples, are noticeably garbled. Super Street Fighter II uses just a drum kit, sound effects and voice to create a much "cleaner" sound quality. If both games used the exact same number of digital samples and SSFII had cleaner voice samples I would conclude that the issue with SCE was only the quality of the music engine. Since a digital instrument was dropped, however, I suspect that this was a major factor in the now legendary "sound problems" of the Genesis.
SSF2 problems are solely because of not so great code that plays samples... and 6KHz sample rate does not help too much either.
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Post by Huge » Sun Jan 11, 2009 9:44 pm

FM in general has a distinctive sound, and it can sound extremely impressive when used creatively. For example, check Edge of Disgrace on the C64, or Dune 1 by Cryo on the PC with an Adlib Gold soundcard (Dosbox does not emulate this, I think). They blow away everything.

PCM synth can be used for more "realistic" sound, but on early consoles (snes, saturn) it had some severe bottlenecks which handicapped its potential.

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Post by TmEE co.(TM) » Sun Jan 11, 2009 9:59 pm

Saturn has awesome FM possibilities... when you do sounds in FM manner, the 512K of RAM would not really become much of a limitation... 1x 32op FM channel that can have any waveform for the operators :P
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Post by Christuserloeser » Sun Jan 11, 2009 10:07 pm

Yeah, Panzer Dragoon Zwei has an absolutely fantastic score entirely FM based afaik. Saturn could also stream APDCM soundtracks, as seen in the Mega Drive emulators (Disney Collection, Sonic Jam, etc.pp.) - Does the Dreamcast have any FM capabilities ?
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Post by TmEE co.(TM) » Sun Jan 11, 2009 10:26 pm

Steve Snake said that DC has same sound chip like Saturn has, but no FM and 2x more channels, and some more features. DC's sound CPU has enough power, so a software FM synth would be possible.
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Post by Christuserloeser » Sun Jan 11, 2009 10:31 pm

TmEE co.(TM) wrote:Steve Snake said that DC has same sound chip like Saturn has, but no FM and 2x more channels, and some more features. DC's sound CPU has enough power, so a software FM synth would be possible.
That would be something! :shock:

- It would make perfect Mega Drive emulation possible 8)
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Post by TmEE co.(TM) » Sun Jan 11, 2009 10:35 pm

33MHz is not enough for MD emulation I think... some "made up" synth is certainly possible, and that is something I will do someday.
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Post by tomaitheous » Sun Jan 11, 2009 11:22 pm

TmEE co.(TM) wrote:Saturn has awesome FM possibilities... when you do sounds in FM manner, the 512K of RAM would not really become much of a limitation... 1x 32op FM channel that can have any waveform for the operators :P
IIRC, in FM mode though you reduce the number of channels to 8 - correct? Or is it per group of channels (4)?

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Post by TmEE co.(TM) » Sun Jan 11, 2009 11:34 pm

You can combine channels in any way you want... Wiki says that 8x 4op channels were generally used...
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Post by Huge » Mon Jan 12, 2009 12:02 am

TmEE co.(TM) wrote:Saturn has awesome FM possibilities... when you do sounds in FM manner, the 512K of RAM would not really become much of a limitation... 1x 32op FM channel that can have any waveform for the operators :P
The scsp uses four channels to make one FM waveform. 32 channels are there in total for use in PCM mode, which gives you max 8 channels of FM (you can freely combine fm/pcm though). Saturn games barely touched FM, by the way, only for minor effects (VF Kids attract demo uses FM for the pitch ramping effect, Fighters Megamix uses fm sounds in the main menu, etc).
One title I know to rely heavily on FM is the Gamebasic disc, but even that uses a lot of pcm next to it.

The Saturns FM capabilities are completely different compared to any dedicated FM chip - mainly because the SCSP is NOT a dedicated FM chip, it is a dedicated PCM chip that can also do FM. At least that is the impression it left on me. I need to reread a bit on this topic.
Christuserloeser wrote:Yeah, Panzer Dragoon Zwei has an absolutely fantastic score entirely FM based afaik. Saturn could also stream APDCM soundtracks, as seen in the Mega Drive emulators (Disney Collection, Sonic Jam, etc.pp.) - Does the Dreamcast have any FM capabilities ?
No Saturn game is entirely FM based. Panzer Dragoon Zwei uses a little FM but its mainly PCM based, like every other game. Gamebasic has a few sound test programs built in, which use a lot of FM but not exclusively FM either. It's the sound DSP that makes the Saturn have powerful sound - check Scorcher, it pushes the saturn sound chip to the max.

The Disney collections (Sega Ages series, I presume?) and Sonic Jam did not emulate anything, they had the games completely rewritten to the Saturn. I think the only actual emulated game pack on the saturn was the Konami MSX collection, but I'm not entirely sure about that either.

ADPCM on the Saturn was all software driven. The biggest disadvantage of the Saturn in terms of power was the small amount of memory (512k shared between program code, music patter data, and all samples), made worse by the lack of any kind of hardware compression support.
In the later life of the Saturn, AAA games were streaming adpcm audio from disc (perhaps using one of the spare cpus for decoding, Marvel/X-Men vs SF and Sexy Parodius did that), so they could fit higher quality samples in the limited ram.

The Dreamcast AICA was basically an SCSP with two times the channel number, FM capabilities replaced with hardware ADPCM, and driven by an ARM7 instead of a 68k. It had pretty much every shortcoming of the Saturn SCSP fixed when it came to pcm synth.

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Post by Christuserloeser » Mon Jan 12, 2009 12:08 am

Huge wrote:The Disney collections (Sega Ages series, I presume?) and Sonic Jam did not emulate anything, they had the games completely rewritten to the Saturn.
No, while it might be true for Sonic Jam, it seems it is not for the Disney Collection. The music is streamed ADPCM, but the games included are actually emulated. If you check the disc you'll find a file called 'micky.bin' in the same folder as the ADPCM soundtrack. This file is a standard Mega Drive ROM that can be run in any other emulator like Gens or Kega.
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Post by Huge » Mon Jan 12, 2009 12:25 am

Oh it does? I don't think I ever checked that specific game so it may be a fairly basic emulator. Sonic Jam is not an emulator for sure, though.

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Post by Christuserloeser » Mon Jan 12, 2009 12:57 am

It seems very customized though, I couldn't even replace the ROM with the English version without the emulator crashing after the Sega splash screen.
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