Genesis - SNES audio comparison

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

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tomaitheous
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Post by tomaitheous » Mon Jan 12, 2009 1:09 am

Christuserloeser wrote: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.
It might be that it's not emulating the system, but in fact reading the script/data from the rom itself. I've seen this done on other systems. If it's for Saturn, that it's almost 100% likely case.

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Post by TMorita » Mon Jan 12, 2009 10:36 pm

sheath wrote: ...
Had every game from 1988-1997 been in the 32 Megabit range, this would be an entirely different discussion. The fact that ROM was typically limited to 8-16 Megabits actually limited what both the Genesis and SNES could theoretically produce. The Genesis earned its reputation when the average ROM size was still 4Mb (512KB). Since the Genesis had no native digital audio compression system, and due to other more technical issues, most games demonstrate inferior digital audio to that of the SNES.
...
Yes, if you consider the context, e.g. the Genesis is a few years older than the SNES and therefore originally designed for smaller ROM sizes, then it makes a lot of sense that Sega chose an FM synthesis audio chip rather than one based on sampling.

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Post by Snake » Tue Jan 13, 2009 2:49 am

BIG-ASS POST ALERT
tomaitheous wrote:From the interview I read, he's never even coded a music driver for the SPC700
Well maybe he tried to port his driver and had trouble? It's certainly an oddball CPU.
tomaitheous wrote:<sigh>... I think fail to understand what wavetable and FM synth actually is
I think he had it pretty much spot on.
tomaitheous wrote:you're not as limited to the type of sound you can generate for an instrument.
Yes, you are, very, very much moreso, in fact. This is the misconception that everybody goes through. I did myself.

Look at the music industry. For a while, there were synths everywhere. Then when samplers became cheaper, everyone went crazy for them (me included). All the major synth manufacturers dumped their old tech and started making 'synths' that just played huge samples from ROM, or let you sample your own. They gave you programmable filters, modifiable envelopes, various ways of mixing multiple samples - wavetable 'synthesis' was born, and everybody thought it was the best thing, like, ever.

The fad didn't last long. People started to sit down to create new music, and realised they didn't have any interesting sounds to use, that they, or everybody else, hadn't used hundreds of times before.

Because you can't just create a sound from nothing. You have to have something to sample it from first. This is, in fact, EXTREMELY limiting, and not at all creative.

The solution? Sample an old synth. Except that won't ever sound as good as a real synth, for reasons others have already touched upon in this thread. It was at about this time where old synths were suddenly selling for insane amounts of money, much more than they would have cost brand new - because people realised they really needed them, and they were getting hard to find.

Sure, it's nice to have samples where it makes sense. Percussion is the obvious example. What's not so obvious is that most 'real instruments' don't sound great when sampled anyway. All expression is lost. Most notes played on a real instrument will never sound the same twice. You can try to simulate this, and some have done a good job of doing exactly that. But it's far from perfect.

These days, there are a lot of professional synths manufactured again, using old methods, or new methods trying to emulate the old ones.

Real synthesis is more important than sampled sounds.
TMorita wrote:1) there's no FIFO on the DAC
Yeah, that would have been nice, but you'd also then need some way of setting the playback rate.
TMorita wrote:2) it doesn't generate an interrupt when the DAC needs to be filled.
This one is kinda tricky. When the interrupt came in, you'd need to reprogram the chip so you could write to the DAC register. And that's going to break the code that's busy trying to write to another register.
sheath wrote:Had every game from 1988-1997 been in the 32 Megabit range, this would be an entirely different discussion.
I'm not entirely sure that is true. Space was not much of an issue to arcade games, or pretty much at all to the Neo Geo. Yet these systems use predominantly FM synthesised music, even though they had both the space, and the hardware, to play samples. And good job too :)
sheath wrote:These critics also assume that sampled audio was intrinsically superior to FM sound for all purposes
It's a shame. Give an FM chip to somebody who knows what he is doing, and he'll produce something way superior.
tomaitheous wrote:You're more than likely combining the two or three square channels to make a single 'instrument channel'
There's a whole ton of decent music on various PSG, or PSG-like, systems, that disagrees with you.
tomaitheous wrote:To be honest, I don't think 'arcade' FM was that great to begin with
You're listening to the wrong games :)
sheath wrote:I just don't think that the SNES could sound as good at this type of music
Correct.
Huge wrote:The scsp uses four channels to make one FM waveform
Well techically you can use anything from 2 to 32 channels to make an FM waveform. It's pretty powerful.
Huge wrote:The Saturns FM capabilities are completely different compared to any dedicated FM chip - mainly because the SCSP is NOT a dedicated FM chip
What makes you say that? It's just as much a 'dedicated FM chip' as anything else. It's just more flexible and allows you to set things up however you like. You could set it up the same way as a YM2612 and have it play genesis music fairly easily. I'm sure some of the genesis->saturn ports do exactly that.

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Post by tomaitheous » Tue Jan 13, 2009 6:45 am

Snake wrote:Well maybe he tried to port his driver and had trouble? It's certainly an oddball CPU.
What's odd about it? It's just a 65x variant with a different assembler syntax. Anyway from what he said in the interview, it was the main programmer that was in charge of SPC700 driver. And despite not having written the driver, his music for Super Adventure Island is fantastic. Definitely some hint of SOR in some of the tracks.

Yes, you are, very, very much moreso, in fact. This is the misconception that everybody goes through. I did myself.

Look at the music industry. For a while, there were synths everywhere. Then when samplers became cheaper, everyone went crazy for them (me included). All the major synth manufacturers dumped their old tech and started making 'synths' that just played huge samples from ROM, or let you sample your own. They gave you programmable filters, modifiable envelopes, various ways of mixing multiple samples - wavetable 'synthesis' was born, and everybody thought it was the best thing, like, ever.

The fad didn't last long. People started to sit down to create new music, and realised they didn't have any interesting sounds to use, that they, or everybody else, hadn't used hundreds of times before.

Because you can't just create a sound from nothing. You have to have something to sample it from first. This is, in fact, EXTREMELY limiting, and not at all creative.

The solution? Sample an old synth. Except that won't ever sound as good as a real synth, for reasons others have already touched upon in this thread. It was at about this time where old synths were suddenly selling for insane amounts of money, much more than they would have cost brand new - because people realised they really needed them, and they were getting hard to find.

Sure, it's nice to have samples where it makes sense. Percussion is the obvious example. What's not so obvious is that most 'real instruments' don't sound great when sampled anyway. All expression is lost. Most notes played on a real instrument will never sound the same twice. You can try to simulate this, and some have done a good job of doing exactly that. But it's far from perfect.

These days, there are a lot of professional synths manufactured again, using old methods, or new methods trying to emulate the old ones.

Real synthesis is more important than sampled sounds.
I do agree with you, but not in the context of this discussion. This is WS vs FM in the context of these two chips, not in general. The 2612 is not a professional grade FM chip, nor is the SPC700. I'm well aware of the limitations of WS in general. The 2612 has the flexibility of modifying an instrument on the fly that is inherent in most FM synths and that's one of its big strengths, but that doesn't not detract from the limited range of distinct type of instrument sounds the 2612 is capable of generating or something that doesn't distinctly scream 'old FM chip'. Not that I don't like this style of sound. In fact the early Megadrive titles are my favorite musics (TF3, Gaiares, El Viento, Target Earth, Revenge of Shinobi, PSII, Eswat, AirBuster, Valis III, etc). I just think the gaming industry was ready to move on. CD red book was the rage and WS brought it a few steps closer.

I also think it's a fallacy to think that just because the SPC700 can not create the exact sounds as an FM chip due to the FM chip having complete control over the process of creating the complex waveform, that it's inferior. The 2612 could not create the exact sounds of the NES APU that came before it, so does that make it inferior as well?

There's a whole ton of decent music on various PSG, or PSG-like, systems, that disagrees with you.
Sure, on the other side of the pond where arpeggio ruled the 8bit days ;) Most non Euro musicans tended to pair channels for chorus/chords than use arpeggio. Not that I don't love 8bit style chiptunes with over use of arpeggio, but hardly fitting for the 16bit generation. But that's just a matter of opinion, isn't it?

You're listening to the wrong games :)

Pure conjecture! :D Not all FM based arcade games, just mostly Capcom CPS1 games. Final Fight and 1941 come to mind. Whatever 'patches' must have been in the standard lib. It's a high frequency/thin/steel-y sound. Terrible. In comparison, the 2612 in games tend to have a warmer/softer sound. There's no denying the MD port of Vapor Trail music smokes the arcade version. And yes, I doubt the music would be as good on the SNES for this port . <goes and listens to more Vapor Trail music for hours on end>

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Post by Huge » Tue Jan 13, 2009 11:29 am

Snake wrote:What makes you say that? It's just as much a 'dedicated FM chip' as anything else. It's just more flexible and allows you to set things up however you like.
Not spending enough time on reading up exactly how the FM sound worked on the Saturn, and failing to find games that do take advantage of FM sound for more than just one or two effects. Gamebasic has the most FM on the Saturn that I know of, yet it's still at least half PCM.

And the whole concept of setting up the pcm channels to create FM.

I admit that I probably have some misconceptions about the Saturn FM capabilities, it's just that there are so few examples (none, really) to show how much power it really has.
You could set it up the same way as a YM2612 and have it play genesis music fairly easily. I'm sure some of the genesis->saturn ports do exactly that.
You'd be surprised if you knew how much they were all rewitten to use prerecorded effects.

edit: also, the syntax for long-ass post is "tl;dr" nowadays (too long; didn't read).

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Post by Christuserloeser » Tue Jan 13, 2009 11:41 am

Huge wrote:
You could set it up the same way as a YM2612 and have it play genesis music fairly easily. I'm sure some of the genesis->saturn ports do exactly that.
You'd be surprised if you knew how much they were all rewitten to use prerecorded effects.
That is true. None of the emulated games seems to use FM, but ADPCM and even CDDA (Thunder Force Gold Pack 1).

Still, this is an interesting idea and I would love to see it made into reality. Saturn has a M68k and there is a Z80 emulator in SH2 (and SH4) called FAZE. If the sound could be played via FM, all that's left to emulate would be the VDP.


I think the reason why these emulators did not use emulated FM is that it might sound different while the goal was to recreate the original.
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Post by TmEE co.(TM) » Tue Jan 13, 2009 12:03 pm

Sonic Jam uses streaming ADPCM recorded from a MD2... yes, MD2, the sound is horrible.
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Post by Huge » Tue Jan 13, 2009 12:03 pm

Christuserloeser wrote:That is true. None of the emulated games seems to use FM, but ADPCM and even CDDA (Thunder Force Gold Pack 1).

I think the reason why these emulators did not use emulated FM is that it might sound different while the goal was to recreate the original.
Which makes no sense considering how bad some of them sounded compared to the original version. Check Columns 1 on the Columns Sega Ages release. Sure it is supposed to be the arcade version, but it still sounds horrible.

Prerecorded tunes were just the quickest way to port them, appearantly.

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Post by Snake » Tue Jan 13, 2009 7:33 pm

tomaitheous wrote:What's odd about it? It's just a 65x variant with a different assembler syntax.
Hmm, I'd say it's more like the bastard child of a Z80 and a 6502 :)
tomaitheous wrote:Anyway from what he said in the interview, it was the main programmer that was in charge of SPC700 driver.
Yeah, what I meant was, just because he didn't write the driver, does not imply that he didn't have experience with the chip.
tomaitheous wrote:The 2612 is not a professional grade FM chip
It's actually quite a bit better than what was in the Yamaha DX21... But regardless, it all still applies.
tomaitheous wrote:I just think the gaming industry was ready to move on. CD red book was the rage and WS brought it a few steps closer.
But it shouldn't have. Do you honestly believe game audio is better these days, now that everything is just red book? Because I don't :(

Again, just because it seems cool, does not mean it is better.
tomaitheous wrote:I also think it's a fallacy to think that just because the SPC700 can not create the exact sounds as an FM chip due to the FM chip having complete control over the process of creating the complex waveform, that it's inferior
Well, if you were to ask me that question, clearly it is in some ways, clearly the opposite is true in other ways. I was pretty much agreeing with the original poster - they're both have their strengths and it's not really possible to say which is 'better'.
tomaitheous wrote:The 2612 could not create the exact sounds of the NES APU that came before it
I'm not aware of anything the NES could do that the Genesis can't?
tomaitheous wrote:Most non Euro musicans tended to pair channels for chorus/chords
Blame the workman, not the tools ;)
tomaitheous wrote:It's a high frequency/thin/steel-y sound. Terrible.
Again, yes, unfortunately there's a lot of this, from people who can't be bothered to tweak a few values and try to produce some new sounds. Most of the best instruments came from experimentation anyway.
Huge wrote:it's just that there are so few examples (none, really) to show how much power it really has.
I know, and it's sad, and it's what happens when you give people the ability to play samples. They automatically don't bother trying anymore.
Huge wrote:also, the syntax for long-ass post is "tl;dr" nowadays
I just like saying big-ass.

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Post by LocalH » Wed Jan 14, 2009 12:41 am

Huge wrote: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.
Minor nitpick - the SID is in no way FM. I agree, however, that limited sound hardware can generate very complex sounds when utilized to their fullest.

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Post by tomaitheous » Wed Jan 14, 2009 2:04 am

But it shouldn't have. Do you honestly believe game audio is better these days, now that everything is just red book? Because I don't :(


I don't. I love the compositions from games of the back then. Maybe it was an effect of limitations or maybe it was just that era. Music now is mostly forgettable. As the SNES started maturing, music composition started sound less like 'game music' and more like... well generic for the lack of a better word. Forgettable maybe? More so as time went on. But for red book, there are quite a bit of memorable CDDA tracks from the PC-Engine library with that game music feel, being one exception.

I'm not aware of anything the NES could do that the Genesis can't?
I meant the 2612 specifically (only having a sine waveform, lacking square+duty cycle waveform), not the whole system. Yeah, it wasn't the greatest of analogies :o But if one were to nitpick, with PSG unit it still lacks variable duty cycles for the square channels, lacks a triangle channel, and lacks self feeding 1bit DPCM channel....But I'm getting off topic.
Minor nitpick - the SID is in no way FM. I agree, however, that limited sound hardware can generate very complex sounds when utilized to their fullest.
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Post by Knurek » Wed Jan 14, 2009 6:16 pm

Snake wrote:Sure, it's nice to have samples where it makes sense. Percussion is the obvious example.
Just wanted to chirp in to say you should give a listen to X68000 game ChoRenSha 68k (there's a freeware Windows port available that still has the OPM music).

I literally couldn't believe for a while the drums aren't sampled and are in fact played with FM (Stage 2 music for instance).

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Post by mic_ » Thu Jan 15, 2009 12:24 pm

Just wanted to chirp in to say you should give a listen to X68000 game ChoRenSha 68k (there's a freeware Windows port available that still has the OPM music).
Yeah, the X68000 had some really good game soundtracks. The MDX of Gradius II stage 1-2(?) (the one where you fly among the suns with fire dragons coming out of them) is my favorite version of that track of all the ones I've heard, except maybe the remix from the LONGCATBELONG flash anim.. I don't know if the drums were made with the YM2151 or the OKI, but I like them either way.
The music in the X68000 version of Final Fantasy IV was also really good.

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Post by Knurek » Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:36 pm

mic_ wrote:Yeah, the X68000 had some really good game soundtracks. The MDX of Gradius II stage 1-2(?) (the one where you fly among the suns with fire dragons coming out of them) is my favorite version of that track of all the ones I've heard, except maybe the remix from the LONGCATBELONG flash anim.. I don't know if the drums were made with the YM2151 or the OKI, but I like them either way.
Let me check...
Drums are sampled in Gradius II.

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Post by SmartOne » Thu Jan 15, 2009 6:33 pm

mic_ wrote:The music in the X68000 version of Final Fantasy IV was also really good.
You sure that actually exists? :wink:

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