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  Sunday, 22 May 2022
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Jason,

Yes, I've noted your comment regarding the MT-32 and MT-32 midi files. I'll try to sort something out.

No, we don't want to hijack that thread, but the 'Private Message' system here DID work, but seems no longer to (as far as I can tell).

I've been back to the site regarding the Adventure Games (Sierra) and I have downloaded one of the files to try, as it sounds musically interesting as well as being MT-32 - the file regarding the Robin Hood game. BUT, the midi file is 539k, and this is too big for the usual system I use to play fide files. This file plays over 1 hour, and is ALL the music for the game, so the file size is not a big surprise. I have at least a couple of other older systems on that computer (it's a Pentium 75 which still had ISA slots so it will accept the Roland card - more modern machines do NOT have ISA slots) but they also might not take a file of that size. The file includes about 18k of SysEx code for the extra sounds, I'm working on extracting that code so it can be loaded separately, but even so things might be too tight. I've got an old DOS system called EZ Midi Pro which says it can take up to 16 Mb midi data, but this may well be dependant on memore installed and how it's configured so I'll need to check that out.

If these don't work, I have another option. I have a midi playback system that I wrote myself (still really a 'work in progress', but it works fine for normal files) and this is NOT RAM based, but loads the midi file into indexed database files (.DBF type) as that was the sort of thing I was using for my professional programming work. So this would have no problem with a midi file of this size, or even MUCH bigger? BUT, among the things not yet 'finished' would be anything to handle the SysEx data, so I'll need to sort this out to load separately.

See how this all goes.

Years ago when I was looking at that site before I did download a single file for one of the Police games, as the music for that was created by Jan Hammer. I remember that that worked fine, incl the 'special' sounds for the MT (or in my case, the LAPC-I card). Yes, definitely Jan Hammer music, I've got an old LP of his synth work somewhere. There are versions of 'Crockett' from one of the TV shows which is Jan Hammer about as well.

The MT-32 (and compatibles) was pretty much designed for this sort of thing, and the people who did the music were pretty good at using the facilities. The system comes with 128 sounds in ROM, and RAM space for a User Bank of 64 more. The 128 sounds available for use are accessed via a table in RAM, the default setup merely has sound 1 in the table point to sound 1 in the ROM, and so on. BUT, if you have new sounds loaded into the User RAM, you just alter the table so that certain normal sounds are replaced with a link to the User RAM area.

The MT-32 is NOT GM compatible. It has a more limited range of sounds. However, a number of the sounds come in different versions, some of which sound better than others, depending on the number of components ('partials') used. If you're creating a piece of music, and you need to use - say - a piano you can use a high quality version of the sound (using 4 partials) if this part will be prominent, or a much lower quality version (i.e. 1 partial) for a sound playing in the background.

I've got a User Bank for GM - this loads in 64 extra sounds to add the sounds not already there for GM compat, and adjusts the link table to suit. I have used this and it works fine, but I'd not bother now as I have my more recent units/modules that are fully GM compat by default, so no need to mess about.

I've got a number of midi files that are config for MT-32, most of these play fine right off, i.e. no need to load new sounds. These still sound pretty good. Way back, someone spend a lot of time adjusting the patches selected, volums levels, etc to get things to sound 'right' and if the sounds were converted to GM they might not be quite the same so I leave them as they are. There's a great version of the ELP song PIRATE, there's a very nice piece of Indian sounding music called 'PRINCESS' that I like a lot. Also worthy of mention is a piece I good way way back ( maybe even via Compuserve) called 'GATEWAY to EVERON' or something like that - simple start and build up gradually. I think I've also got a couple of JM Jarre tracks in old MT32 versions, still sound good even compared to much fancier GM or even XG versions.

Too much information??

Geoff
2 months ago
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#14681
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System Exclusive: variable-length quantity only in MIDI file raw bytes

The F0 at the front of each SysEx block is immed followed by a len of the data (variable length number as per Delta Time) which I've not seen before. The spec says this is OK, but I don't know if EZ knows about this.

When a System Exclusive message is stored in the raw bytes of a MIDI file, the F0 byte must always be followed by a variable-length quantity which stores the number of following bytes that are part of the message.

A System Exclusive message on a MIDI cable does not have this variable-length quantity -- the F0 byte must be followed by the Manufacturer ID (1 byte or 3 bytes). So when a System Exclusive message in a MIDI file is transmitted to a MIDI device, the variable-length quantity is not sent in the outgoing MIDI bytes.

In order to see the variable-length quantity bytes in a MIDI file you typically have to use something like a hex editor to look at the file. MIDI file software will usually show you the System Exclusive message as it would be transmitted. For example, Sekaiju shows the System Exclusive messages in ROBIN-MT.MID all begin with F0 41. (41 is the Manufacturer ID for Roland.)


Possible idea to reduce memory use: Try converting to a Format 0 MIDI file

ROBIN-MT.MID is a Format 1 MIDI file. When a MIDI file player loads a Format 1 MIDI file, it typically has to load all of the tracks into memory, then sort all of the events into playback order.

If you want to play this file from an older system, you might try first converting it to a Format 0 MIDI file on a modern system and see if that helps it preform better on the older system. Because a Format 0 MIDI file only has one track, all of the events are already in playback order in the file. Some MIDI file players take advantage of this property of Format 0 MIDI files by only loading a portion of the file into memory at a time. (At least I've read manuals for hardware MIDI file players that describe only supporting Format 0 MIDI files and describe only loading part of the file at a time. I wonder if there are any software MIDI file players for old systems that also do that.)
2 months ago
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#14679
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Well, I'll see what I can do when I get my 'old stuff' working properly. It's so long since I last did anything with it.

I've fired up the 'EZ Midi Pro' system, this should be better at using the RAM. Only problem here is that it's loaded onto the Pentium 75 which is somewhat faster than the system is was designed for, and it gets a bit iffy. Prog dates from 1991 by the way.

The prog insists on doing some memory set-up, and this takes a couple of minutes as this machine has quite a lot of RAM (assigned as EMS/XMS). So I wait.

Once this has finished, I load the full ROBIN-MT.MID file, this includes the SysEx stuff, in a slightly peculiar format that seems to be legitimate (as per the spec) but I wonder. The F0 at the front of each SysEx block is immed followed by a len of the data (variable length number as per Delta Time) which I've not seen before. The spec says this is OK, but I don't know if EZ knows about this.

Anyway, the file loads, and the first screen displays, all seems OK. That is something, the system has accepted the data.

I looked at a few screens, and things seemed OK.

I tried PLAY. Initially, made some strange noises, some stuttering, then settled into a quite OK music, hint of 'old times', but no clear indication that it's loaded the extra/special sounds. I suspect NOT. After a few minutes, I tried to use the prog to check some View screens (which should be OK) but the prog locked up. Same thing on a few more attempts. So the prog is not happy, but at least it IS trying.

I then tried another piece of software to test the patches, and this confirms that the special patches are NOT loaded.

So, I'll need to manipulate the SysEx block of data into a separate file and use another prog that will load this. Some of the other LONG MT-32 files on the website come with separate SysEx files (i.e. both separate data, or included in the .mid file, or both, but this game was the included version ONLY. I'll need to strip this extra data out, no big deal.

I'll try the EZ prog again, with the slightly smaller file, but then I'll go to be .DBF based system which I know will cope as this relies on the .DBF system for all data handling and so has a minimal memory footprint regardless of the size of the .MID file.

More later!

Geoff
2 months ago
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#14678
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While that is true, I enjoy the retro sounds as well. Some old games that I only ever heard in DOS/Windows 3.1 just don't have the same feel when played with newer stuff. I have an OPL soundfont to recreate those sounds, plus quite the assortment of other soundfonts, from 8-bit and retro chiptune up to as realistic as I can find. I think the biggest draw with MIDI for me is the fact that one single piece of music can be heard in so many different ways. I have a few files from my Win98 days that I will always want them to sound like the Yamaha SoftSynth. I record MIDIs to mp3 to put on my mp3 player, and I'll usually do a "classic" and a "modern" version of each.

I never had any dedicated MIDI cards or other hardware myself, and I'm always curious about what they could do and how they sounded.
2 months ago
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#14677
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Jason,

Just an initial comment. The SC-8850 OUGHT to sound a LOT better, it's a far more sophisticated device, partly because it's newer technology, prob uses better base samples with more refined modification of those sounds. If this is the issue, then aren't we wasting our time, as in N years time there will be so much better tech available that what we do now will be totally inferior again?

Geoff
2 months ago
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#14669
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Eddie posted this in the other thread:

I'd be curious to hear some of these MT-32 files


You can hear them converted to MP3 on sites like this one.


I checked it out. There's not a lot of music, per se, but what is there there's a lot of. ;) The owner has made comparative versions of game and other MIDI tracks over quite a large variety of hardware.

I'd be interested to hear at least one of the files that you find interesting. I find this kind of stuff fascinating. If it's one with a corresponding GM/GS/XG version, that's a great way to hear how much you can get out of the MT-32.

Through listening to a handful of files on that site (I just chose a few that I knew both the tune and the hardware), I have to say, the SC-8850 sounds pretty darn good.
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