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What are the max audio sampling rates+polyphony of old gaming consoles, of retro 8-bit sounds [moved from Scientific Discussion]
post Apr 29 2013, 06:17
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Google didn't help me much on these.

Is there a way to know how much 'sampling rate' expressed in Hz and 'polyphony' did the old gaming consoles such as the NES and Gameboy support on their sound hardwares? This may or may not be a dumb question, as I'm not too much into this stuff, so please bear with me.

I've found on Wikipedia a fine chart showing examples of what kind of devices uses certain sampling rates, but in the list there's not what I'm searching for. Does anyone know?
I've also recently stumbled upon this strange thing called "polyphony" which I didn't fully understand. I have a program that has an option to change the maximum polyphony of it, with numbers that range from 32 to 512. Were 8-bit consoles even capable of playing multiple sounds at once in the first place?

I basically want to know how to make sounds as similar as possible to original retro gaming consoles.
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post Apr 29 2013, 13:11
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QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Apr 29 2013, 13:00) *
I'm under the impression that in the beginning, games only had analog synths. So, PCM concepts did not apply.

Is this impression based upon anything? I always pictured early computers/games as having primitive DCOs, probably coloured due to downstream processing, but nonetheless based upon an IC outputting a square/pulse wave in response to clocks/latches specified by an external input.

QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Apr 29 2013, 13:00) *
Wave tables are your friend.

I assume that by wavetables you’re following Creative’s ever-misleading logic of using that term to describe the sample-based synthesis (if that can really be called synthesis wink.gif) from ROM used by their Sound Blaster and its clones, rather than the original definition of wavetable synthesis as the method pioneered by the PPG and its descendents. Certainly the latter has not been involved in any consoles. As for the sample-based synthesis used by Creative et al., that’s characteristic of sound cards from the 90s for DOS- and early Windows-based computers, not standalone consoles.

In contrast, early gaming systems, which more typically define the term ‘retro’, used predominantly square/pulse waves only, numbering a small number of channels. As hardware advanced, then came a progression through additional types of oscillator, filters, FM, samples, and eventually direct playback of finished tracks from disk (compact or hard) in place of synthesis. Nowadays, as disk space and processing time are many orders of magnitude more plentiful, most systems seem to just play back pre-recorded songs.

As for the general character of the early oscillator-based synths, there isn’t really one. Whichever types and arrangements of components were used in whichever particular machine, all the way from the duty cycle to the analogue output, probably influenced the quality of the resulting sound. Going a bit further forward in time, just look at the YM2612 from the Mega Drive: ostensibly just another 4-operator FM synth, but implemented and connected in such a way that many models of the MD have particularly distinctive colourations (desirable or not, depending on taste) imparted to their sound. No doubt similar considerations apply to all system based on older and/or cost-cutting components.

Again, if you’re trying to emulate particular sounds, you can either settle for an approximation from a generic synth VSTi that probably outputs ‘excessively’ clean waveforms, or you can look for more specialised virtual instruments that claim to emulate particular characteristics of specific systems, or you can use the original hardware in combination with a tracker or suchlike. There’s no one-size-fits-all ‘retro sound’ and certainly no instrument that can accurately emulate all the old consoles with their various components and methods of synthesis.

Having said all that, if your target audience automatically associates any square/pulse wave, FM instrument, etc. with old consoles, you might be able to take the shortcut of using (insert generic synth of the chosen type) rather than hunting for someone else’s attempt at recreating any specific system. Then perhaps similarly generic downsampling and/or bit-reducing effects might get you a bit closer to the mythical ‘retro sound’, generally rather than faithfully to any one system.

This post has been edited by db1989: Apr 29 2013, 13:32
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