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TheUltimateDoomer666

"Intended" Hexen Sound Canvas Music?

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It seems that no one has yet recorded an SC-55 music pack for Hexen.  "Hexen" is however listed in the upcoming music packs on MusicallyInspired's website, so I assume recordings will be made at some point.

Anyway, I think it is already known that Hexen's CD soundtrack does not contain all of the tracks (21 CD tracks vs 35 used of 37 MIDI tracks), but there are a number of oddities that make me wonder how such an SC-55 pack would be recorded for the most accuracy.  Basically, I have been listening to Hexen's CD soundtrack and comparing it with the MIDI soundtrack played with Sound Canvas VA in SC-55 mode.  So, below are some observations:

 

* Roland SC-88 and later models (including SCVA, which emulates an SC-8820) have an SC-55 mode.  However, the SC-55 mode in these later models does not sound exactly like the original SC-55; certain instruments such as the choir and strings sound different, as described below:

- Native SC-55 has a cheesy, obviously fake choir sound, that sort of goes "awwh".  Virtual Sound Canvas and Microsoft GS Wavetable synth, both of which contain very low quality versions of SC-55 samples, have a similar choir sound.  The "awwh" choir is the one that is heard in the CD tracks.

- The SC-55 mode of the SC-88 and later has a more realistic, human-like choir sound, particularly when playing lower notes.

- The Swamp track is good for comparing the choir.  In the CD recording, the choir is the unconvincing "awwh" (though it does sound kind of creepy, I guess).  When the MIDI is played with VSCA in SC-55 mode, the low choir notes are male "ahhhs" (realistic, but they lack the "ghostliness" of the native SC-55 choir).  This suggests that some original SC-55 model, and not an SC-88 or later, was used for the CD tracks' recordings.  I do not know if an SC-55 is the synth that Kevin Schilder actually used while writing the MIDIs.

 

* There are several differences between the CD's recordings and the game's actual MIDIs.  While the SC-8820/SCVA's SC-55 mode is not 100% identical to native SC-55, the differences are clearly in the music tracks themselves:
- In the intro theme's MIDI ("Hexen"), there is a soft choir lead--too quiet, as I can barely hear it.  In the intro theme's CD track on the other hand, the choir is very loud--too loud in my opinion, as it overwhelms the other instruments.
- Bones' MIDI key is different from the CD track's.

- Orb's drums in the CD track are panned towards the left.  The MIDI track's drums play centered.

- The left and right channels in the CD tracks seem to be reversed.

 

I'm not sure if the game's MIDIs or CD tracks are the "intended" sound of the music, or if Kevin Schilder simply re-balanced the MIDIs for the purpose of recording them.

Edited by TheUltimateDoomer666 : Typos and additional info

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I had no idea that the CD soundtrack was missing some files... I've been using the CD music when playing the game, but after reading this I'm reconsidering it.

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https://doomwiki.org/wiki/Hexen_music

If you look at the table, you'll notice some of the track numbers have an asterisk. Those means that the CD track does not correspond to the MUS song. For example, the "Caves of Circe" levels plays "Deep" in MIDI, but "Fooja" in CD.

 

If you're accustomed to the CD soundtrack, it can seem weird to hear the levels with a different and unfamiliar song.

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This is more Heretic related, but could also apply to Hexen as well:  Heretic's soundtrack was composed for a Sound Blaster card, not a Roland Sound Canvas or Ensoniq TS-10 as previously thought. @MusicallyInspired

To explain:  Some of Heretic's tracks play more notes than what an SC-55 or even an SC-55mkII is capable of playing (E1M4, for example).  The SC-55 and SC-55mkII have voices of 24 and 28, respectively, and both modules will suffer from note dropouts in Heretic (in the recordings I have heard, at least).  These dropouts were noted by MusicallyInspired, and are noticeable in SC-55 YouTube recordings of the soundtrack.

Kevin Schilder kindly shared some information about Heretic's polyphony.  Here is my message and his reply:
 

39874399_kevinschilderhereticpolyphonymessage1.png.7f573b7affd46d06abc61b1fafe7a00c.png

 

As for the Ensoniq TS-10, that's a professional workstation that was used to create the redbook audio soundtracks for Hexen II and Heretic II.  Hexen II, like Hexen: Beyond Heretic, also features a MIDI soundtrack in addition to its redbook soundtrack.  However, Hexen II's redbook audio does not use General MIDI-compatible instruments (i.e., the redbook tracks are not mere General MIDI recordings, but rather arrangements with their own dedicated workstation instrumentation).

 

Now the only question left is, exactly which Sound Blaster model did Kevin Schilder use to compose the Heretic soundtrack?  Well, I am going to assume it would not have been OPL2 or OPL3, because there was no "standard" set of General MIDI FM instruments for such cards (hence why DOOM, DOOM II, Raptor, etc. come with their own GENMIDI lumps).

I also do not think it could have been a later soundfont-compatible Sound Blaster card, as all the Creative soundfonts I have--the standard 2 MB, 3.5MB, 4 MB, 8 MB, and 28 MB ones--have copyright dates starting from 1995.  However, there is a card called the Sound Blaster AWE32 which Wikipedia states was introduced in March of 1994.  According to the Doom Wiki, Heretic was released on December 23, 1994.  The AWE32's General MIDI synthesizer apparently has 32-voice polyphony.  Anyone have other ideas on what card Kevin likely had?

Edited by TheUltimateDoomer666

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I think it was SB AWE32 and music was composed for OPL. I have listened to Heretic e1m9 track with 1mgm.sf2 and

didn't hear Horn. Choco Heretic OPL3 played it right, but when i loaded dmxopl.wad (genmidi) Horn was gone and whole track sounded weird.

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AWE32 rings a bell from the dim and distant past. And that would correlate with Kevin's assertion he likely had the latest SB.

 

You are doing god's work here, by the way.

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Really interesting info to digest! This is partially why I have been hesitant to record Heretic with the SC-55 for so long. That note about tweaks to get around too many notes triggering at once answers a lot of questions I had. Since this soundtrack wasn't composed specifically with the SC-55 I've already taken some liberties with loop points and putting notes back to triggering at the same time. I can record multiple tracks to get around the polyphony limit so that won't be a problem anymore. He's right, though. The tracks are rather sparse and it's hard to believe any notes would be silenced (barring those multiple note trigger tweaks he mentioned).

 

Also, for instance in e2m3, there's a guitar track that's so quiet you can't hear it at all from the SC-55. I took the liberty and raised the volume of that channel so you can hear it. As well, the synth strings patch used for that song has a very slow attack so I doubled it with regular strings that have a fast attack so that it doesn't sound like it's trying to keep up with the beat of the song and failing. It all sounds much more lively now. I'll be making changes like this for my music pack just to make it more listenable and closer to what he would have been working with on the Sound Blaster.

 

I did a first pass recording of every track. Now comes the task of going through it with a fine-tooth comb. Thanks so much for digging more into this!

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On 10/3/2018 at 5:34 AM, TheUltimateDoomer666 said:

 

* Roland SC-88 and later models (including SCVA, which emulates an SC-8820) have an SC-55 mode.  However, the SC-55 mode in these later models does not sound exactly like the original SC-55; certain instruments such as the choir and strings sound different, as described below:

 

 

Yeah, what you describe here seems to be about the closest thing I can find.

 

This guy (https://www.youtube.com/user/chrisretrogermany/videos) has uploaded a full music pack for Hexen using an SC-88 on SC-55 mode. You can download the whole soundtrack here: https://mega.nz/#F!VzB2kRIL!5F6T71bWOI-f_g935WyGyA

 

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I've encountered a desire for the original unmolested tracks. And since I can respect that need and desire, it only takes one to convince me! But where there's one there are others as well I'm sure. So I will be providing two music packs for at least Heretic. One of the original tracks and one rebalanced by myself with the changes I mentioned above.

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