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Blastfrog

Your opinion on OPL (and other stuff)

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Personally, I never liked it that much. Sure, FM is cool and all, but I'm sorry, in all uses I can think of off hand, OPL generally sounded like garbage in most games. There was better FM out there, like the Genesis. (and when I speak of the Genesis FM, I'm talking about using it with good drivers like SMPS, not that GEMS shit that was on many games) Point being, something like Gunstar Heroes sounds so much better than Doom in OPL.

Hell, even the NES sounded better. Sure it was simpler, but it was just less tinny and crappy sounding. Add on a VRC6 chip and it's even better.

My personal favorite has to be tracked module music. It still manages to sound retro, but it actually sounds good, using decent sounding waveforms instead of tinny and screeching, or otherwise just plain ugly sounding generated tones.

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I've only heard OPL just recently, so it's not even nostalgic for me. It's interesting to hear music like it, but I wouldn't listen to it out of pure enjoyment. If I have heard OPL in my younger days, then I don't remember it.

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Well...it did sound better than IBM Sound Technology (PC Speaker) and so that did the trick for most people, I guess. Then there were a handful of games which had decent or even memorable FM Sound (Lemmings, Indianapolis 500 theme, Body Blows, and of course Doom).

Though I generally preferred tracked music, and envied the Amigas for having hardware support for it...grrrr...

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Xaser said:

I always have ZDoom set to OPL emulation. Not sure why, but I like the sound.

Seconded, Memento Mori's soundtrack sounds awesome with OPL emulation.

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FM synthesis itself is pretty dang awesome, but I think it's gotten a bad rap due to its use in PCs for so long. That's not to say the OPL stuff is bad, but I do believe the FM synthesis on it has either been misused, or it was just implemented in such a restrictive way that FM synthesis itself got a bad reputation. Of course, they probably did this to save money. FM synthesis itself is easy to implement in chips.

Also, go here if you want to understand what FM synthesis is. The same principles were used on all those OPL chips.

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yukib1t said:

FM synthesis itself is easy to implement in chips.


After reading a bunch of papers on how complex the various OPx chips actually were (DDS, lookup tables, companion external DACs etc.), I really wonder how the technology could even be cost-competitive with stuff like the Paula chip or even a generic 8-channel DAC, which would also sound undeniably better, with decent samples.

I guess they must have really made a one-off huge R&D effort and then spawned all the variants (OPL2, OPL3 plus the various OPN etc. used in consoles). And the only thing saving it was that it could generate quite complex sound with really little data, without being limited to squarewaves like e.g. the AY chips.

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Well, a guy named John Chowning came up with FM synthesis while he was at Standford in '67, then patented it in the mid 70s. He tried selling it to a few synth manufacturers, but none wanted to buy it because they all said it was too costly. Eventually Yamaha did, put out their DX-7, and changed everything. All their FM stuff then came from that, and as I mentioned in the Genesis thread a while back, the chip in the Genesis was patch-compatible with the DX-7. This is why.

The DX-7 was cheap because it didn't require analog hardware (except for the output, obviously). It was entirely digital, and a lot of FM synthesis was in the early days. Though it doesn't have to be. The Paula chip, from what I've read, seems geared more towards sample playback than full synthesis, though it did have some basic FM synthesis capabilities. It also had a 2-pole analog lowpass filter on it.

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I know nothing technical about audio, although I wish I did. Sound and music is of very high importance to me, particularly regarding games.

Years and years and years ago, before I owned the ultimate doom, I had a shitware cd with various shareware doom versions and a ton of wads I could not play, obviously. I played the different shareware versions and the one thing I noticed, aside from an an odd bug in one version where you could amass far more armor than you should've been able to, was one that each one had slightly different musical sound to it. But one version in particular played the track from e1m2 in such a beautiful way, I could not stand it. It's not my favorite track, but I loved it so. I haven't heard the e1m2 track properly since 1996 or so...

That's what I love and hate about MIDI synth. The sound can be amazing, but only under a certain sound card running on a certain configuration. under certain circumstances.

sigh...

And I'll never hear it again. /cry

With that said I do have OPL emulation on my zdoom. Not sure why though. I just like it better.

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Quast said:

That's what I love and hate about MIDI synth. The sound can be amazing, but only under a certain sound card running on a certain configuration. under certain circumstances.

With that said I do have OPL emulation on my zdoom. Not sure why though. I just like it better.

So MIDI itself is just a control protocol, and is technically not limited to music; I've seen where it's used to control lighting as well. This song, and all my other work (and probably most other artists), is driven by MIDI. There is no real "MIDI sound".

I have OPL emulation turned on in ZDoom as well, but only because I don't have my outboard synths with me. And also because getting MIDI to work can sometimes be, uhh... "interesting" under Linux. Otherwise I've always directed the music to an outboard synth, even back in the DOS days. But I will admit there's a certain bit of nostalgia when I have OPL emulation enabled.

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I wanted to post that! :p

Interesting music can happen with OPL chips. The crappy part is most game music is just bad no matter what generates its sounds. That didn't help the reputation of the medium.

The Dune game always felt more like a piece of art than a game. It's weird. It also has an interesting soundtrack CD. Makes me wonder if St├ęphane Picq was dissatisfied with what an average soundcard could do too:

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Well, the OPL sounds bad in Doom only because the sound patches are crap and not with OPL in mind. If used properly, the OPL sounds amazing. Don't you love the Commander Keen and Wolfenstein 3D soundtracks? They've been made with FM Synth in mind unlike the Doom soundtrack which was made with General MIDI in mind.

If you ain't satisfied with the default General MIDI soundset, then try Timidity with Chorium soundfont (Download for this soundfont). If you have enough RAM and CPU, that is. Zdoom and its forks can do it, and it sounds damn amazing.

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Maes said:

Well...it did sound better than IBM Sound Technology (PC Speaker)

I remember looking at the intro to Another World (aka Out of this World in the US) and being completely blown away by the short musical piece it played on the speaker. It was completely awesome. And by completely awesome, I mean "actually bearable, which for this hardware is absolutely stupendous and clearly the work of wizards".

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Gez said:

I remember looking at the intro to Another World (aka Out of this World in the US) and being completely blown away by the short musical piece it played on the speaker. It was completely awesome. And by completely awesome, I mean "actually bearable, which for this hardware is absolutely stupendous and clearly the work of wizards".


Another World belonged to that elite category of PC games that has a 100% tracked sound system (Amiga-like), and most of those games had an option of outputting to the PC Speaker (e.g. Pinball Dreams, Pinball Fantasies). The most disappointing sound from Another World was actually by using AdLib as an output device: sample playback on the OPL2 was possible but with meh quality, and too quiet.

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Mr. T said:

Maes forgot Dune 2 :ANGRYFACE

Man, I forgot that Dune II had a dynamic soundtrack like that. It picked up whenever there was a battle, and went to more ambient stuff when no combat was going on. I don't think any RTSs since then have done that. Probably because the modern RTS philosophy is to be fighting at all times.

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Danarchy said:

Man, I forgot that Dune II had a dynamic soundtrack like that. It picked up whenever there was a battle, and went to more ambient stuff when no combat was going on. I don't think any RTSs since then have done that. Probably because the modern RTS philosophy is to be fighting at all times.


Rise of Legends does something like that, not that anybody knows that game exists.

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The overwhelming majority of wavetable and sampled MIDI devices actually make MIDI-based music practically unlistenable to me - it's a sort of musical version of the Uncanny Valley, where the more it tries to sound like "real" music, the less I enjoy hearing it. The whole point of MIDI, to me, is that it's supposed to sound fake, so the less like real instrumentation, the better. For things like that, I tend to stick to OPL or other such "synthesized" sounds - I've got a number of soundfonts that are actually just collections of chip samples, like Regression FM and GXSCC.

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I have a YMF740 which I think does FM MIDI output. I cannot put it into my current desktop because it's a slimline, or modern motherboards have a different pintype or something.

I think it sounded like the YMF724 (same family?) - although perhaps I had the budget version, as it was 7 dollars on eBay at the time.

Some samples?

PINBALL.MID
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uqs0hfK6Tgo

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxZff9Yhtzo&feature=related

But I already remembered it had a muddy, kind of overly dirty sound for Doom, and I'm happy with both General Midi and OPL emulation sounds on ZDoom (though the OPL emulation seems better -- louder? -- in ZDoom than it does in Choco).


Would like to see more in the way of modern MIDI technology made for computers -- seems like a great idea that could be greatly improved upon with today's technology.

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Sorry, should have just posted his Doom Music:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HWeMoznAx4

Does that sound good?


I really got into Genesis and home-FM music in general some years ago, ripping soundtracks for Project2612 and listening to PC98 emulation in Hoot. There was so much great stuff, although I felt liek I got so hooked on Japan's sound that I overlooked the great work done in America and Europe, such as Jeremy Soule, Inon Zur, Glenn Stafford, Mark Morgan and others that work in the industry today.

Also hearing samples of the DX-7 and other professional synthesizers of the 80s and 70s reminds me of how great synthesized sound can really be. One wishes -- or at least I wish -- that a lot of that classic game music had been originally done on those formats, but the lo-fi sound of the 80s home tech has qualities and charms of its own.

Personally I think the "funny" sound of Bobby Prince's music -- the humor -- worked well with the early days of Id, with Tom Hall and John Romero. It's part of what made Doom great, all those competing influences.

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gamul312 said:

I have a YMF740 which I think does FM MIDI output.


You can't get "true FM output" out of these cards if they are used as MIDI devices -you need a sort of hardware direct access layer which allows some applications to directly access the OPL2 chip, otherwise you're just playing whatever random-ass "FM instruments" are hardcoded into the MIDI driver.

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Xeros612 said:

Sorry, does nothing to change my OPL hate. :)


You don't understand why the OPL-3 is better from a musician's standpoint.

It's fully customizable. try that with source samples. It's not about how OPL-3 sounds in doom (even though it wasn't opl3, it was opl2 with only four waveforms)

To diss OPL is to diss synths in general, especially the legendary DX series of synths, and as a musician, I really won't stand for it. ;)

So people here talking about how opl3 sounded bad, yes, it did, with midi music and awful patches, and most still playing in opl2 mode for the sake of compatibility.

For the record, the OPL-3s suck by themselves. With a ladder filter (easy to make if you know what you're doing), and some knowhow, you can have a very cheap synth for scrap.

And to address OP, to say the VRC7 sounds better, really shows the ignorance of what the OPL3 can do , which is pretty much every sound the NES chips, including the memory mapped ones, could crap out.

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