When someone says, "That console has a great sound chip." What do they mean?

Discussion in 'Off Topic Discussion' started by ma777, Jan 17, 2019.

  1. ma777

    ma777 Peppy Member

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    Title.

    My guess is that back in cartridge days memory was at a premium. So instead of actually storing the audio files, the ROM contains commands to control the sound chip. Let's take the SNES and PS1 for example. The SNES largest cart size was around 6 MB and the Playstation had a 700 MB CD at its disposal. The SNES actually creates the music on the fly where the PS1 just plays back CD quality audio. So the PS1 just has a CD decoder and it can't actually create music? What would you call the SNES sound chip, a synthesizer? What software did SNES developers use to create music/sound?

    My interest stems from me wanting make music, beats, EDM etc... I've been thinking about doing it for years. Every time I look at the software they use like FL studio or Logic, I get overloaded. I want to start on something simple and be very close to the hardware. The SNES seems like a good place to start?
     
  2. speedyink

    speedyink Site Supporter 2016

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    The sound chip is the chip in the console itself that can generate music. SNES uses samples and stuff which the creator can adjust the pitch, and believe it or not the PS1 also has a similarish setup. Games like Final Fantasy VII? All generated with the sound chip, not actually CD audio. It can stream CD audio, but not all games use it, cause it uses lots of space.
    The cart just holds the custom sound samples and..let's call it the music sheet, and transfers it to the onboard sound chip in the console which generates it all.
     
  3. sp193

    sp193 Site Soldier

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    Didn't the SPU only have support for ADPCM (for voices, sound effects) and PCM? So that would mean that it didn't have a hardware synthesizer (which the SNES had), did it?
     
  4. PixelButts

    PixelButts Site Soldier

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    The Saturn's sound chips were better than the PS1's but the PS1 had the easier access and control over it so it was more favorable to audiophiles.
    Nothing has really changed, it's still a really damn good chip but it's by no means the best.
     
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  5. TriMesh

    TriMesh Site Supporter 2013-2017

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    The SNES doesn't have a hardware synthesizer - all the sounds come from either ADPCM samples or the noise channel. The PS is the same in this respect except it has more ADPCM channels (24 as opposed to 8), a higher maximum sample rate (44.1kHz rather than 22kHz) and more audio RAM (512KB rather than 64KB).
    The rest of the chips (echo, filtering and envelope control) are also very similar - which isn't that surprising since they were both designed by the same person.
    The PCM input on the SPU is not terribly interesting as far as making music goes - it's connected directly to the CD-ROM interface chip, and can be driven only from either CD-audio or ADPCM decoded from CD data - this is a separate ADPCM decoder to the one in the SPU chip.

    One advantage that the SNES has is that the sound subsystem has it's own dedicated CPU while in the PS the sound has to be managed by the R3K along with everything else.
     
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  6. jollyroger

    jollyroger Gutsy Member

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    Indeed, the Saturn SCSP has a very powerful 32-channel synthesizer with on-board fully programmable DSP, in addition to supporting PCM audio. The challenge was the rather limited memory for big audio samples, given that it didn't support ADPCM or any other form of compression.
    As PixelButts says, in the Saturn the sound processor had its own microcontroller (a Motorola 68000), which is interesting because the audio subsystem can function without any intervention from the main CPU, but it also means that one has to write all sound management libraries for a processor different from the main CPU...
     
  7. geluda

    geluda <B>Site Supporter 2012</B><BR><B>Site Supporter 20

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    Some sound chips were also synthesizers. In the SNES vs MD days it's undeniable that the SNES had the better sound chip as it could produce cleaner and more elegant sounds as well as having a wider range, but the Yamaha in the MD being a synth was capable of creating some absolutely amazing sounds at the cost of being extremely complicated to write music for.

    But you can't mock the MD for its quality sound despite being inferior to the SNES, you can only hand the credit to the people who were talented enough to use the synth to its full potential. It's stereo-out jack meant it could be hooked up to a hifi or high quality (for the time) headphones, and overall just sound amazing. So when I say that the MD has an amazing sound chip, I mean it's an amazing synthesizer cabalbe of creating amazing sounds in the hands of the right artist, sometimes being on par or surpassing that of the SNES in rare cases.

    I think the most commonly used example is Thunderforce IV which arguably had one of the best soundtracks on the MD. So here's an example of what people mean by "the MD had an amazing sound chip!" I don't care what anyone says, whether the SNES could play an orchestral or not, you do not get sounds as good as that on the SNES.

     
  8. geluda

    geluda <B>Site Supporter 2012</B><BR><B>Site Supporter 20

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    But to your original question, if you want to learn how to make music in Ableton, FL, whatever, just pick a DAW and learn how to use it. Backtracking to the days of the past won't making music production any easier, in fact a lack of general knowledge will probably make it harder to understand

    Maybe go back and look at the history of analogue and digital synths and learn the fundamentals of how they work, you can also download Roland Cloud for a free 30 day trial and get access to 4 synths of your choice, some of which are VSTs of some of the most popular synths of all time, to play and mess around with.

    Whatever it is you want to do just get out there and do it, going back to 30 odd year old hardware as a niche won't make it any easier.
     
  9. Shadowlayer

    Shadowlayer KEEPIN' I.T. REAL!!

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    They mean the sound chip was better than the rest? like the snes' sony sound chip was way better than the yamaha chip on the genesis.

    The saturn was such a disaster, and to think silicon graphics and sony offered their hardware designs (ultra64, PS) to sega first.
     

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