OPL synth > General MIDI?

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OPL synth > General MIDI?

Postby Hisymak » Thu Feb 05, 2015 3:20 pm

Hi, I just wanted to know, how many of you prefer the classic Adlib/Sound Blaster OPL synthesis over the today's common (and tedious) General MIDI. Not talking only about Doom, but overally.
Yes, I played DOS games really lot in 90's and I pretty well got used to the music it played in them (it was, mostly, MIDIs played with Sound Blaster soundcard) and liked it. As the time went, more modern games used rather "wave" music (not MIDIs), but what was worse, new soundcards did not support the classic OPL synthesis, but instead, General MIDI or WaveBlaster or similar settings still worked and Windows ports supported it only.
But I personally did not like it at all. It sounded too much "artificially" or "synthetic" and there was just a static, limited set of instruments, which made all music sound stereotypically. On the other hand, OPL synthesizer was programmable and every game used a different "soundfont", so the music in various games sounded fairly originally. And some games have really outstanding soundtrack which sounds just perfectly with OPL synthesis (I can recall Hocus Pocus, Vinyl Goddess from Mars, Dune, Dune 2 and much more).
When I was looking for some Windows Doom port a couple years ago, I first used Doomsday engine because the graphics was pretty nice with modern effects like dynamic light and so on, but I really disliked the General MIDI music. After some time, I ran into ZDoom and tried it out, and when I was examining its settings menu, I just ran into an option which changed my life pretty well: "OPL Synth Emulation". I was mindblowed - I never realized that there could ever exist an emulation of the old good Sound Blaster music. I just switched to it and never changed back to General MIDI.
And after some time od using Zdoom (and also GZDoom), I actually discovered all the modern features (like ACS, Decorate and others) it offers.
So it's my story about ZDoom in short. What about you?
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Re: OPL synth > General MIDI?

Postby Blzut3 » Thu Feb 05, 2015 3:45 pm

I've always had and used a Sound Blaster Live! 5.1 (and still do to this day). So I don't really understand what people see in OPL. If you only experience with GM is the stock software synth in Windows, then maybe I could see it.
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Re: OPL synth > General MIDI?

Postby Hisymak » Thu Feb 05, 2015 3:55 pm

So I don't really understand what people see in OPL.


That's like what people see in "chiptunes" and NES/GameBoy style music. It's all about nostalgia and a "different" style of music, which can really sound nicely. OPL is something similar, but it uses sine wave instead of square, and is more adjustable and advanced and have more channels and so on.
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Re: OPL synth > General MIDI?

Postby wildweasel » Thu Feb 05, 2015 3:56 pm

OPL-style MIDI is just what I'm used to, honestly. It's the musical equivalent of the uncanny valley: at some point, the wavetable becomes realistic enough that it winds up sounding dumber than the OPL.
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Re: OPL synth > General MIDI?

Postby Gez » Thu Feb 05, 2015 4:47 pm

I like chiptunes that are meant to be chiptunes from the start. I don't like MIDI intended for the Roland Sound Canvas butchered by OPL.


In any case, arguing OPL or General MIDI is pointless because MT-32 was the best.
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Re: OPL synth > General MIDI?

Postby wildweasel » Thu Feb 05, 2015 7:08 pm

MT-32 is awesome, yes. Sadly, not everything sounds good on it, and that's just an unavoidable consequence of how its instruments were laid out.
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Re: OPL synth > General MIDI?

Postby Blzut3 » Thu Feb 05, 2015 11:03 pm

On the topic of programmable sample synths, the OPL4 chip sounds interesting from what I've read.
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Re: OPL synth > General MIDI?

Postby Hisymak » Sat Feb 07, 2015 3:17 pm

wildweasel wrote:MT-32 is awesome, yes. Sadly, not everything sounds good on it, and that's just an unavoidable consequence of how its instruments were laid out.


TBH, till a short time ago, I had absolutely no idea what MT-32 was. I just ran into some Youtube videos featuring soundtracks from my favourite DOS games, which were played by a MT-32 machine. I've never heard the music like this, it sounded differently, certainly much better than General MIDI (to be clear, yes, I'm meaning the standard stock Windows GS Wavetable soundfont).
When I was playing the DOS games then, I just remembered and knew that using "Adlib" or "Sound Blaster" option would always "work", and all other options (like Roland, Gravis Ultrasound, Sound Canvas, MT-32 and more of them), were just, ehm, options, which never worked (the games did not play any music or refused to start). Of course I heard there were other types of soundcards, but I had no idea what kind of sound they featured. Thus I was always convinced, that OPL synthesis was exactly how the music was meant and designed to sound and General MIDI being something like a bad replacement for it on modern soundcards.

Speaking again about MT-32, I think that it is definitely a high-quality music, exceeding General MIDI and also OPL synthesis, but, I think it's not always the best and for some games OPL still wins. The most clear example (at least for me) is Dune soundtrack. Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANvNQLb ... 88BB135F33 - I recommend listening to it, it's like a balsam for my ears <3.
On the other hand, I really liked Legend of Kyrandia soundtrack definitely better with MT-32 (especially the Emerald cave music): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqjBMELFdAM
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Re: OPL synth > General MIDI?

Postby Medicris » Sat Feb 07, 2015 3:56 pm

Doom music was composed on a Roland SC-55 module, so I just keep it as that (Patch93 made a nice soundfont that emulates one decently). Nothing wrong with OPL, it's what some people are most familiar with growing up with these games, but for Doom era music a Soundcanvas soundset just fits the most.

I'm fine with OPL for songs written for OPL. It's interesting to swap OPL instrument banks on different games to see how they sound.
Last edited by Medicris on Sat Feb 07, 2015 6:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: OPL synth > General MIDI?

Postby randi » Sat Feb 07, 2015 5:12 pm

Hisymak wrote:General MIDI

General MIDI is just a specification. It is not instrument data.
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Re: OPL synth > General MIDI?

Postby Hellser » Sun Feb 08, 2015 6:11 am

I use a 25mb SC-55 soundfont with the BASSMIDI driver.. It's not exactly perfect in some cases - but it sounds better than the WaveTable that Microsoft gives.
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Re: OPL synth > General MIDI?

Postby Graf Zahl » Sun Feb 08, 2015 7:23 am

Hellser wrote:I use a 25mb SC-55 soundfont with the BASSMIDI driver..


Do you have a link?

It's not exactly perfect in some cases - but it sounds better than the WaveTable that Microsoft gives.


Nearly anything does. The only advantage of GM.DLS is that it sounds very neutral, I've never heard a MIDI that got butchered by it, something I cannot say about any other sound font I tried. They all had their failure cases.

About OPL, If I could find something that actually sounds like Doom in 1994, it might be worth a nostalgia trip. But the emulation sounds so harsh and aggressive that everything I remember about original Doom music is lost - I prefer some high quality renderings I got several years ago which really do the tracks justice-
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Re: OPL synth > General MIDI?

Postby Hellser » Sun Feb 08, 2015 8:01 am

Graf Zahl wrote:Do you have a link?


That I do.

Again, it's not perfect.. but for my ears, it's good. I heard Patch93 is suppose to be good. But for some reason, it sounds unbalanced in some way.
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Re: OPL synth > General MIDI?

Postby leileilol » Sun Feb 08, 2015 9:17 am

IIRC the sc55 soundfont was made by a person who doesn't own a SC55 and just hound others on the internet to record theirs for samples and I think it's even based off another older uncredited soundfont. I would consider it as uncanonical misinformation, like taking The Ultimate Megadrive Soundfont and recording midis as '32x couldabeen's

Graf Zahl wrote:About OPL, If I could find something that actually sounds like Doom in 1994, it might be worth a nostalgia trip. But the emulation sounds so harsh and aggressive that everything I remember about original Doom music is lost - I prefer some high quality renderings I got several years ago which really do the tracks justice-

I think PCem implements a form of low-pass in its soundblaster emulation, that may be worth a shot
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Re: OPL synth > General MIDI?

Postby Medicris » Sun Feb 08, 2015 8:14 pm

For those curious, here's links to the latest Patch93 SC-55, an edit with the default reverb lowered, and a preview of the former.

It does a good enough job, imo. The reverb on some of the percussion can be a part of the imbalance, which is why I edited a version without it. The other/older SC-55 soundfonts sound way worse.
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