We listen to SID music (Commodore 64) through OPL3 on modern PCs


    Probably not all lovers of chiptune music know that SID music can be heard through the OPL3 FM synthesizer. Someone might think that it will be something terrible, but if it turns out to be a simple mapper, you can get very good sound, as several developers did in the LLSID program back in 2007. There are two versions of this program 1.2 for DOS that plays music through a hardware OPL3 synthesizer and version 1.4 for Windows, but through its own YMF262 emulator (OPL3). The emulator does not sound like an iron OPL3 synthesizer, so I do not recommend version 1.4.

    In this case, we will consider sound cards on the PCI bus so that you can listen on modern PCs. You immediately need to decide which sound cards are suitable for this purpose - these are sound cards with a hardware FM synthesizer working in DOS, because LLSID only works in DOS. Such sound cards include ForteMedia on the FM801-AU chip, YAMAHA 724/744/740/754, C-Media CMI8738, Avance Logic ALS4000, ALS300 or ESS ES1938, ES1946, ES1969, Crystal CS4281, S3 Sonic Vibes, Aztech AZT3328, RACC010, as well as some VIA chips (you need to look at the datasheet). These cards can be quite easily found on sale and although some have drivers for Windows 98 no higher, this will not hinder listening to music on modern computers. The main thing is that your PC has a PCI slot or then take C-Media 8738 for the PCI-e slot.

    Next, I propose to familiarize yourself with how SID music sounds through ForteMedia FM801. I recorded through a simple smartphone, because I don’t have a video capture card, but in another way you won’t record a DOS screen or sound stream, so sorry for the poor video quality.

    When recording through a cheap microphone, the quality of the music is much worse than the real sound, but this is for reference only. But as you can imagine, it sounds ironic and I like this music even more than through SID emulators (MOS 6581). So FM synthesizers on cheap sound cards of the past are not a rudiment that is suitable only for playing midi. SID music is alive, new tracks for this chip are released every month. True, not all sound SIDs sound like this, for example, on YAMAHA 7xx some notes will disappear.

    For those who do not want to tinker with the DOS setup, I prepared a customized software for a flash drive. You only need to take any old flash drive with a capacity of more than 100 MB and format it in FAT32 with the transfer of MS-DOS system files. Next, transfer all the files from my archive to the root of the flash drive and reboot by downloading the PC from USB.
    Autoexec.bat and Config.sys are configured with different driver download options for different sound cards. The memory manager used is JEMM386. Norton Commander, Volkov Commander and Dos Navigator are already configured to listen to sid music files, as well as a2m, sat, dfm, hsc, xms, mid.

    One little life hack, on the eve of preparing this material on my YAMAHA 744B, a sound disappeared in one ear. On all sites where I was looking for information on this problem, I did not find the answer. Then I decided to solder large parts on my sound. It was a capacitor, a 78L05 stabilizer, and an op amp. The sound appeared after soldering the operational amplifier. At first I replaced it with the same as the JRC 4558 was - it sounds normal with bass. Then he put the OPA2134 more expensive - the bass became less, but the sound became cleaner. Maybe a person who knows here will tell you which of these op-amps is better to put on sound cards, so that it is good and not expensive, like the AD8620: JRC 4580 M-TE1, OPA2134 PA, LME 4960 NA, LM 4562.

    Download customized files for DOS

    And here is a video - comparing the sound of OPL3 in Dosbox and Yamaha 744 and Windows Wavetable. If you specify General Midi or Roland MT32 and port 330 in the setup of the sound settings in the game, then the midi device that is used by default in Windows will be used:

    The differences are clearly visible in the headphones. In the Duke Nukem 3D game, better stereo sound is heard, and in the Tekwar game the instruments even sound different, here is the difference between the emulator and the hardware ... And so in each game the differences between the emulator and the real card are heard.

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