Saturday, March 13, 2010

Video games music in format chip

Chip Music

Often we remember the video games retro tenderly for the abstractions that were doing in his design, and the fact is that the machines that were executing them had serious limitations in graphic questions, especially on having compared them with those of this generation. Nevertheless, the sound was usually even more basic than one saw on screen …: is there anything more repetitive than the foreigners of “Space Invaders“ moving for the screen? Fortunately, as it was advancing the technology, the discreet circuits that were joining initially to express basic sounds, they were passing to chips dedicated, that were managing to make us enjoy melodies that still remain in our heads.

The emulation has managed to recover this music, and at present we can listen to them without need to play the original qualifications. With the help of certain breeding animals and plugins, and a few formats that recreate the information that was coming to these sound chips - or that are straight a part of the code of the games - we can have a finished music library retro in less than it occupies an album in MP3. Next, I am going to give a revision to some of the most well-known systems, although if you look in the network, you can find information about less popular others.

Computers Atari 8 bits

Atari 800 XL

These computers created by the team led by Jay Miner, were using the chip multifunctionality POKEY to reproduce relatively complex sounds for the epoch, although it was quite simple if we compare it with other chips that came soon.

We can find hundreds of topics in format SAP in the Atari SAP Music Archive, and also we can use the searcher that they have created in Exotic.

Commodore 64

Commodore 64

This computer, which was on sale in 1982, was one of the first ones in having a sound chip in conditions. SID-Sound Interface Device, alias of the MOS Technology 6581 - was one of the best chips of the market for enough years, and the Commodore 64 they made to emphasize his particular sound to between other machines of the epoch.

Integrated East was created in five months by a team directed by Robert Yannes - that the company Ensoniq would found years later - and it had three channels with four different waveforms, several filters, … and many secrets for discovering, like the fourth virtual channel that it was allowing to reproduce samples of voice. Composers of the size of Ron Hubbard, Chris Hülsbeck, or Martin Galway made use of this chip to create melodies that still resound between the fans of these machines.

The principal format to reproduce music in this chip, as it could not be otherwise, is SID, and in High Voltage SID COLLECTION we have a file that overcomes at present 37.000 melodies …: almost not at all!

ZX Spectrum

ZX Spectrum

The first models of this computer were expressing a few whistles that were of everything less agreeable, but with the arrival of the model of 128K, was added the sound chip AY-3-8910 of General Instrument, who was allowing to do more curlicues … although not so many people like SID. Nevertheless, the people as Fruit Pastilles or Dave Rodgers - for putting a pair of examples - could create some unforgettable topics with this chip.

The melodies in format MOAN can be in Project MOAN, and on the page of Sergey Bulba.

Amstrad CPC

Amstrad CPC

This British computer was using the same sound chip as the Spectrum, and generally the musicians were taking advantage in the games that were going out in both platforms. We can find music in the webs indicated previously, and also in this compilation that Megachur threw last year.



The computers based on this standard also were using the integrated popular one of General Instrument del Spectrum and the Amstrad CPC. Nevertheless, the fans have extracted of the sleeve a slightly different format: the KSS, which also gives support other additional chips, like the SCC of Konami.

We have music for MSX in this file, in this other, and in the Zophar web.

Atari ST

Atari 520 ST

Although this computer was quite popular between the musicians of the epoch - and between current any - this did not owed to his sonorous capacities, but to his interface built-in MIDI of series. In fact, there lodges in his interior a clone of the AY-3-8910 made by Yamaha.

We can find music in format MOAN in SC68, and also in the Melcom file.



This computer advanced really for his epoch, since the chip Paula was stopping in nappies to what there was on the market, with his four channels stereo of 8 bits, and the possibility of reading straight of memory to leave to the CPU other heavier tasks. Thanks to the possibilities of this one integrated, and of the versatility of the trackers-secuenciadores of music with samples - the Friend's games were standing out especially for his sound.

There are many music formats-MOD, AHX, HVL, … - and some of them need a finished emulation of the Motorola 68000, doing that the reproduction has a quite intensive load in general. We can find multitude of topics in UnExotica, Friend Music Preservation, and also in the Malcom file. If we want something more comfortable, in AmigaMusic they have many of these ready topics in MP3, although the grace of the matter gets lost.



The world of the music in PC is so changed like his history: it started so basic as a Spectrum, and at present it has available the hardware most advanced for the professionals of this matter. The music formats for the games this system are almost innumerable, and there are even proper some of only one title.

We can find old topics in the Malcom file, and in Ad Lib Music Archive, although the best thing is to help us with Google to find the music of our favorite games.

Consoles Nintendo Entertainment System

Nintendo Entertainment System

The sound hardware of this console was quite limited, but that Super Mario Bros did not prevent geniuses as Koji Kondo or Hirokazu Tanaka from creating unforgettable melodies in qualifications like “.“, “The Legend of Zelda” or “Metroid“. On the other hand, although some games had chips additional to improve the sound, Famicom Disk System was incorporating certain characteristics that were doing that the Japanese versions on disc were sounding much better that the western ones in cartridge.

The format NSF allows to reproduce the music of this system of Nintendo, and we can find musical topics in enough places, as in the file of kingshriek, in Slick Productions, in Zophar, or in the web of Halley's Comet Software.

Master's degree System (and Game Gear)

Master's degree System

8 SEGA bits were using an integrated similar one to the AY-3-9810 of the computers of the epoch, talking each other in this case of the Texas Instruments SN76489. In case of the Master's degree Japanese System, some games were using also the Yamaha YM2413, which was allowing synthesis FM and, therefore, a better sound quality.

The formats VGM and KSS allow to reproduce the music of these consoles, and we can find these files in Zophar, in SMS Power!, and in the web of Halley's Comet Software, which will not be the last time that appears somewhere here

PC Engine / Turbografx


Although many people associate this console with NEC, the true thing is that it was Hudson Soft the one that developed the whole technology. With an architecture on horseback between the 8 and 16 bits, the PC Engine had the hardware of sound integrated to the CPU, but that was not meaning a decrease in this sense, since it was offering 6 independent channels with a quite acceptable quality. In fact, there is not any more that to listen to this one comparative between the domestic versions of “Street Fighter II“ to realize it.

THE format HES emulates the sound of this system, and we can find files of this type in the file of Kaminarimon, in Zophar, in the page of kingshriek, and in the omnipresent web of Halley's Comet Software.

Gentle Drive

Gentle Drive

Many people remember the sound of this console like a cicada, but the true thing is that composers as Yuzo Koshiro or Masato Nakamura could make use of enough good the potential that was offering the tandem of the Yamaha YM2612, and the Texas Instruments SN76489, governed in turn by the popular one Z80.

Although we have enough topics in Zophar, the definitive file is in Project 2612, which is provided at present with topics of more than six hundred games.

Super Nintendo

Super Nintendo

In general, it usually emphasize the big quality of the sound of this console, and it is not for less, since Ken Kutaragi - yes, the PlayStation "father" - designed a hardware of quite powerful audio for the system of 16 bits of Nintendo. It was composed by a co-processor similar to the used one by the NES, an independent memory from 64KB to store samples and melodies, and a DSP that was generating sound stereo of 16 bits with eight independent channels.

Although there are several places with music in SPC, the reference is SNES Music, with a collection that covers a big part of the games thrown for this system … that they were not small precisely



From this console a curious phenomenon takes place, since the support was allowing audio tracks of high quality, but many developers prefieron to exploit the audio chip to produce melodies to the “old custom“. SEGA used of an integrated powerful one of Yamaha that helped with a Motorola 68000, was capable of offering a big sound channels quantity with a comparable quality to the one that could offer a CD. Only it is necessary to listen to the topics of “Panzer Dragoon Saga” or “Radiant Silvergun“ to realize that the composers had at his disposal a small digital band inside this console.

We can unload music in format SSF in the kingshriek file, or in the web of Halley's Comet Software.



The first Sony console did not remain behind in sonorous quality, although less of sound was offering any channels that the SEGA system. Curiously, few qualifications of this console have the music in audio tracks, and most of the companies chose to include the music in compressed formats, but also others similar were used to the MIDI to store the melodies of some games.

Neil Cortlett designed the specification PSF to be able to reproduce this type of formats - really also it is used by light modifications for Saturn, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, and other consoles - and thanks to this development, we can unload multitude of topics from places like Zophar, the file of Thunder Zone, or the already mythical web of Halley's Comet Software.

Nintendo 64

Nintendo 64

This console does not have an architecture to the use, since the CPU and the graphic co-processor take charge also of the sound tasks, providing the programmer up to 64 sound channels of 16 bits. The theory is good, but in practice they were turning out to be limited by the support in cartridge, what was translated in samples of low quality, and a few melodies that in general were turning pale with those who could be listened in Saturn and PlayStation. Nevertheless, composers like Koji Kondo, Kazumi Totaka or Hajime Wakai, could extract profit of the possibilities of this system of Nintendo.

There are several topics repositories in USF, like Zophar, Oddigy Titanium, or Halley's Comet Software.



In the last SEGA console it was predominating over the music in format stream - some day I have to write on this type of formats - but also games exist with music secuenciada. This time, the programmers could make use of the powerful hardware of Yamaha that SEGA included in the architecture, which was even more powerful than the CPU of Game Boy Advance.

We can lower several DSF sets in the kingshriek file, and in the web of Halley's Comet Software.

PlayStation 2

PlayStation 2

Although the DVD did that more and more programmers were making use of music produced in professional studies, some of them made use of the kindness of the hardware of PlayStation 2 - that were not small precisely - to offer us small masterpieces. If we bear in mind that Nobuo Uematsu is an expert in this matter, I believe that it is already quite above mentioned.

Although small repositories exist along the web, we can lower most of the music in format PSF2 from Zophar.

Portable Game Boy

Game Boy

The Nintendo kidling did not have big services in any technical paragraph, and the sound was not an exception. Nevertheless, these limitations did that the composers were centring on offering sticky melodies using few sound channels of the console, a fashion that is still current nowadays … and if not, that should wonder it Cucumber and company

We can unload hundreds of topics in GBS in Zophar, in file of Kingshriek, and in the finished web of Halley's Comet Software.

Game Boy Advance

Game Boy Advance

The architecture of this one portable is quite curious, since it does not have a chip of dedicated sound. The handling of the audio is done by software, and is "feeding" to two converters GIVES - of digitalis to analogical - to produce sound stereo.

The format GSF emulates this functioning, and allows to reproduce the melodies of the games, although generally they listen to something “subdued“. We can lower these files in Central GSF, and in Halley's Comet Software.

Nintendo DS

Nintendo DS

This Nintendo console dedicates a processor to the sound works - in fact one just as that of Game Boy Advance, but working to the speed double - and that in practice of it is translated in a better quality, which even Virtual Surround allows in some qualifications.

The music of this console is emulated by the format 2SF, that it is possible to find in Zophar, and in Halley's Comet Software.



In the arcades we can think of everything, from chips that they were used in computers and consoles mentioned previously, up to others more peculiar that were used in qualifications produced by small companies. Also, we take proprietary technologies as QSound that desmarcaban of other more modest solutions … although all of them generally were remaining eclipsed inside the chaos that supposes a lounge arcade.

If we want to recover the sounds of these machines, the best thing is to use straight the code of the games, and the breeding animals created for R. Belmont and Elsemi, who make use of the roms of the MAME to recreate the original melodies.

Breeding animals

Breeding animal

The formats indicated previously would be quite useless without the appropriate software. Although there exist programs dedicated to reproducing some of them - like Festalon, or the finished Audio Overload - personally I prefer to use a good breeding animal and the necessary plugins in every case.

My favorite is Foobar2000, that it consumes very little memory, and it is quite flexible. If we install the complements foo_dumb, foo_gep, foo_psf, foo_sid, and some of those who exist in this FTP, we will be able to reproduce without problems most of the formats on that I have commented in this article.

I recommend to the Winamp fans to install ChipAmp, a set of plugins compiled by the team of OverClocked Remix - yes, the same ones from which I have stolen the image of the head - that covers the needs of any fan to “music chip“.

Finally, a "kidling" left to you compilation that I have raised to Dropbox, which includes the finished sound-track of “End Fantasy VII“, some topics of games like “Panzer Dragoon Saga“, “Dead or Alive 2” and “Shenmue“, and a selection of my favorite melodies of Super Nintendo, Gentle Drive, and other systems. In whole, several hours of music in less of 40MB

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