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NES music sounds horrible with headphones on

Posted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 3:40 pm
by Dwedit
Has anyone else ever noticed that NES music sounds terrible with headphones on?

Posted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 4:30 pm
by Jarhmander
Hmmm, except the absence of the natural damping of a room there's no great difference between speakers and headphones.

Posted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 4:44 pm
by 67726e
Granted I only listened to two games and I have some serious headphones, but I didn't hear any difference between my speakers and my headphones.

Posted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 5:17 pm
by Memblers
When I was writing music with Nerdtracker 2 I was using headphones some of the time. I do remember especially if you have a single channel doing something by itself it can be painful to listen to.

My old IBM PS/1 had a headphone jack for the PC speaker. Had a volume control, was pretty nice actually with a select few programs.

Posted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 8:59 pm
by Celius
I remember wearing headphones experimenting with the square waves, not really sure of what I was doing or how certain things would effect the sound... Yeah, not a good idea! I ended up with some obnoxious tones in my ear that actually made me feel weird to listen to. After a while, I concluded there were health risks involved if I didn't take off my headphones :).

But besides that, I have listened to NSFs with headphones, and I agree they sound pretty bad. One reason NES music might sound horrible on headphones is the complete lack of bass. It seems like all songs just have no power or meaning behind them, like there's a bunch of sound missing from what's heard. And I don't know, I just feel so awkwardly embraced by mathematics when I hear NES music on headphones; it just sounds so calculated and unnatural. If that makes any sense...

Posted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 11:18 pm
by Bregalad
I didn't notice any significant differences than with speakers... I don't think there is a total lack of bass either, but there is definitely a lot of harmonics in the square & noise waves.

I also used to use a lot headphones with the GBA, of which a lot of games makes heavy use of old GB PSG channels. But now I tend to hardly use headphones anymore because of health risks.

Posted: Tue Apr 13, 2010 2:42 am
by BMF54123
I found most video game music formats to be a LOT easier to listen to on my PSP (via GameMusicGear MX) after cranking up the bass and lowering the mid-range in the equalizer. Most early "bleepy" NES tunes are still pretty painful, though.

Posted: Tue Apr 13, 2010 2:53 am
by tokumaru
Bregalad wrote:health risks
?

Posted: Tue Apr 13, 2010 3:41 am
by blargg
Pulse wave music has lots of high frequency harmonics, which I suppose could cause hearing damage if listened to at high volume for long periods of time. I definitely notice a weird warbling effect if I listen to such music for a while, then stop and hear normal sounds.

Posted: Tue Apr 13, 2010 5:55 am
by Banshaku
I don't have any issues with listening to nes music with earphones. No problem with bass too. For nsf players, I always use a filter to make it sound more like a real nes. Without that, the sound is too crisp and feel less accurate to me.

The only nsf I had issue with is Crystalis because of the sample used always pop or something and was annoying for the ear.

I listen to nes music almost everyday and earphone was the only way. Maybe I'm just used to it. I'm using canal earphones with seems to have an emphasis on bass so maybe this is why it's sound ok.

Posted: Tue Apr 13, 2010 6:03 am
by tepples
Does music with a Sunsoft-style DPCM bass sound any better through headphones?

Posted: Tue Apr 13, 2010 10:34 am
by jbuonacc
i think the 2a03 is capable of good bass, especially from the Triangle waveform. though even with a straight Triangle wave on its own, there's still some odd high-frequency content in there somewhere that can really grate on your ears after a while. the other channels aren't any better in their regard to outputting high frequencies, and the DPCM channel can get pretty nasty due to sample aliasing. the problem is that there's no filtering capabilities in the 2a03, which always leaves the highs blasting.

there's not much of any way around it on the hardware, but it can be fine-tuned to some degree using external EQ. as for headphones, (i'm not sure what you have now, but) you try another set with a flatter frequency response or even bass-enhancement.

the Game Boy is similar, sometimes it just starts to hurt your ears after a while.

Posted: Tue Apr 13, 2010 2:17 pm
by tepples
jbuonacc wrote:the problem is that there's no filtering capabilities in the 2a03, which always leaves the highs blasting.
The way it's supposed to work is that the RF modulator filters the high frequencies, or (if you're on an AV Famicom or a frontloader) your cheap television set's cheap speakers filter the high frequencies.
the Game Boy is similar, sometimes it just starts to hurt your ears after a while.
Once, while trying to figure out why I couldn't hear bass in the music engine I was writing for TOD, I analyzed the frequency response of my GBA's speaker by playing a song that just turned on the noise channel. The internal speaker's response was close to a 3rd-order Butterworth band-pass filter with corners at about 800 Hz and 10000 Hz; headphones fared better.

Posted: Tue Apr 13, 2010 3:10 pm
by Celius
The problem with using the triangle wave as bass is that it's almost inaudible when you start playing low pitches. But I will agree, this is what you'd want to use for bass (I always have square melodies and triangular bass lines). I guess using the DCM for bass is also an option. I've heard some pretty good bass come out of that on Nerd Tracker...

Posted: Tue Apr 13, 2010 3:37 pm
by jbuonacc
tepples wrote:
jbuonacc wrote:the problem is that there's no filtering capabilities in the 2a03, which always leaves the highs blasting.
The way it's supposed to work is that the RF modulator filters the high frequencies, or (if you're on an AV Famicom or a frontloader) your cheap television set's cheap speakers filter the high frequencies.
well, i was talking more about a dedicated lo/band/hi-pass filter like found on the SID chip.