Help me choose MIDI sound module.

Par Pentarou

Hero (523)

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24-11-2021, 23:29

I have the opportunity to buy a MIDI module for (old) computer use (mainly X68000, but also MSX), however I have to choose between 2 models and I don't know which one would be better...

If you had to choose between a Roland CM32 and a SC55 (lite version?) which one would you prefer?

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Par wolf_

Ambassador_ (10109)

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24-11-2021, 23:55

I'd pick the SC55, for it's newer and also based on a newer generation of things. The MT-32 (a CM 32 basically) was more or less the predecessor of the Sound Canvas, and its sounds were used in 80's keyboards and digital pianos (KR-500 among others). The SC-55 is a General MIDI device, so games 'n such should sound reasonably the same. Also, the SC-55 has the MT-32 sounds in its variations anyway. So, from a logical perspective: the SC-55 wins.

Question is: what would you prefer to do in combination with the MSX? Regardless of the fact that we had several MIDI-interfaces, MIDI never really too off.

Par Jorito

Mr. Ambassadors (1790)

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25-11-2021, 09:53

All the MSX games that support MIDI support the MT-32, so that's something to keep in mind. I don't think they really support the SoundCanvas. Also keep in mind that the SoundCanvas "emulation" of the MT-32 is pretty half baked (it just maps the built-in rompler sounds to the MT-32 order) and also doesn't allow for e.g. custom voices over Sysex (which at least many DOS games used).

Not sure about X86000 though, but I would suspect that those mostly support General MIDI, and then the SoundCanvas would be a better choice. A GM device would also be generally better supported across games anyway (like the aforementioned DOS games).

So yeah, if you'd only be using it on the MSX for like 5-10% of the time, probably makes more sense to go with the SoundCanvas.

Par Pac

Scribe (7007)

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25-11-2021, 10:49

Just let me add that I recently heard about the Roland SC-D70. It also includes the same sounds than SC-55/55mkII, SC-88, SC-88Pro and SC-8820. Maybe you want to consider this "6 in one" option.

Par wolf_

Ambassador_ (10109)

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25-11-2021, 11:20

I dunno, give me the FM+PSG version any day. The point is that FM and PSG are very snappy and bright, while small samples tend to miss those qualities. Partly because they're recordings of acoustic instruments which are way less snappy than synths, partly because a good synthetic tone is better than a bad sample (which usually features an uncanny valley for sound when it comes to acoustic simulations).

Personally I think this is exactly why MIDI never worked well for MSX. For serious sequencing (e.g. Cubase 'n such) the MSX wasn't powerful enough, and games just sounded lame with the sound modules from those days - and I dare to say: also with the sound modules of today.

Par Moniz

Champion (400)

Portrait de Moniz

25-11-2021, 14:07

I do have a Roland SC-155 (the same as a SC-55, but in tabletop version) and I love it above all else.. But now I recently got my hands on raspberry-pi based midi emulator.
It's easy to use and really small, it plays MT-32 and SC-55 but it's fairly easy to add other soundbanks from onther devices.

I'ts available in 2 versions: 1 with just the hat and case. (You'll need to buy or reuse your own raspberry Pi, 3 or up. but only the 3a+ fits it the case).
The other version is the same, but incudes a raspberry pi 3A+

Par Pentarou

Hero (523)

Portrait de Pentarou

25-11-2021, 18:06

Thanks to all of you for the infos!

@Wolf: Main use will be with an X68000, on that platform a lot of games support Midi.
For MSX is mainly a matter of curiosity, probably not far from what Jorito wrote.

@Pac: I have to choose between the 2 models I listed, so unfortunately no other option.

@Moniz: I've known about the emus for a while, but I'm not interested in them. Thanks anyway.

So it looks I'm going to choose the SC55, but the final parameter will be the price.
I'm going to pay a "friend" price for the module, so how much would be a fair offer for each
module (MT-32 & SC55 ST)?
Normally I would look at past Ebay auctions, but I can't find much info; I've seen a few Music auction sites, but it's either very old sales or crazy prices.
Thanks for your help!

Par sdsnatcher73

Prophet (3954)

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25-11-2021, 18:21

MT-32’s are expensive, minimum would be €150 up to €250. SC-55’s from €120 to €150.

I will be getting a SD-35 (which is essentially a SC-55 combined with a SB-55), it basically has a floppy drive to play general midi files with on top of the sound module functionality. I can sell that for €100, of course I will test it prior to selling it.

Par Pentarou

Hero (523)

Portrait de Pentarou

25-11-2021, 23:21

I thought the SC-55 ST would be FAR cheaper than the MT-32 as it's missing the display & face buttons.
Anyway, thanks for the info!