Best uses of the SNES's 64KB of audio ram

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Sumez
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Re: Best uses of the SNES's 64KB of audio ram

Post by Sumez » Sat Nov 18, 2017 11:04 am

I honestly think Donkey Kong Country 2 is the absolute finest soundtrack to come out of the SNES, when looking at a combination of compositions and technical feats. The sounds are crisp and clear, and you can tell that the music was crafted with the strengths and limitations of the system in mind (something you'd also see especially British developers do a lot in the 8 bit era, but was a very rare sight in any 16 bit game). It's a masterpiece, and I wouldn't let the popularity of Stickerbush Symphony overshadow how great everything else is. Here's a completely different track that showcases a very different style, and playing my SNES with the sound connected to my PA system, I love to crank it up on these stages. The bass is real: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5VYcjnCEuo

And in the same game we have something like this. I love how it plays with the low res audio samples to get a very specific atmosphere:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unSBD_4mDT4
This whole thing is so incredibly memorable.

I'm probably more of a fan of both Chrono Trigger and FF6's soundtracks overall, but I feel like these are the products of great composers to a bigger extend than great sound engineers (though CT's soundtrack seems to fit the SNES soundchip somewhat better)

psycopathicteen
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Re: Best uses of the SNES's 64KB of audio ram

Post by psycopathicteen » Sat Nov 18, 2017 10:18 pm

From what I can tell, it seems like most samples are about 8kB long.

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Fisher
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Re: Best uses of the SNES's 64KB of audio ram

Post by Fisher » Sun Nov 19, 2017 2:03 pm

Could you guys please share your toughts about Rock'n Roll Racing sound engineering?
Seems like the "composer" only needed to adapt the tracks for the SPC hardware.

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Bregalad
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Re: Best uses of the SNES's 64KB of audio ram

Post by Bregalad » Mon Nov 20, 2017 12:24 am

Sumez wrote: And of course, just like when you are mixing your tracks in "actual" music production, I'm sure you want to prevent the frequencies of multiple instruments to clash with eachother.
Sorry, but that sentence is absolutely meaningless.

As for the rest, the worst sounding SNES games (for sound quality - not music composition itself) are the ones which loads the entiere game soundtrack in RAM at the same time, such as Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda - A Link to the Past. Those who have voices loaded in all the time (hem hem... Street Fighter 2... hem hem) are also bound to sound poor.

The best sounding games are the ones which loads the minimum stuff in RAM and allows as much memory as possible to be used for sound. So the music engine has to be very small, use few RAM and the music and sound effect data has to be packed as tightly as possible, to leave RAM free for samples and echo buffer.

Personally I think Dragon Quest III, VI and Tactics Ogre sounds the best (they mostly sound the same) - they're close to a real orchestra sometimes. The PS1 version of Tactics Ogre sounds much worse than the SNES version ironically.
From what I can tell, it seems like most samples are about 8kB long.
Probably the real secret is to make short samples as short as possible so that there's more space available for long samples and they can fit with a better quality. For example, if drums are encoded at full 32kHz even if other samples are shitty the overal feel will be much better, as the percussion really is here, however if you have muffled drums this will be really noticeable.

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Re: Best uses of the SNES's 64KB of audio ram

Post by jmr » Mon Nov 20, 2017 9:11 am

Bregalad wrote:
Sumez wrote: And of course, just like when you are mixing your tracks in "actual" music production, I'm sure you want to prevent the frequencies of multiple instruments to clash with eachother.
Sorry, but that sentence is absolutely meaningless.
How so? What Sumez is talking about is called frequency slotting - it's a technique that results in individual instruments primarily occupying a given band of the audio frequency spectrum.

As an example, say you have a song with both lead vocals and an electric rhythm guitar with a distorted tone. Both normally would occupy the same frequency range, and if they were simply layered on top of another it might not sound great. To improve this, you could use EQ to boost the mid-range band on a vocal track while cutting the same range in the rhythm guitar track to make the vocals stand out more. Conveniently, this is what's demonstrated in the first google image search result for frequency slotting. :wink:
Of course I'm not talking using EQ to completely band-pass the given tracks - in most cases, that'd sound pretty awful. But by boosting and cutting EQ in specific bands, you can "slot" a given instrument into a mix.

This video demonstrates the technique. Or, at least, I think it does - I'm at work and watching with the sound off.
https://vimeo.com/12381399

And there's the part that's SNES-relevant: per-channel EQ isn't the only way to do this. Arrangement choices can achieve this effect - carefully choosing instrument patches and placing things in different octaves can mean the difference between a muddy, indistinct sound and a clear and balanced mix.

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Re: Best uses of the SNES's 64KB of audio ram

Post by psycopathicteen » Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:50 pm

How is the resampling sound quality of OpenMPT compared to an SNES? I can swear I hear a lot of aliasing noise on OpenMPT.

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Re: Best uses of the SNES's 64KB of audio ram

Post by rainwarrior » Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:59 pm

psycopathicteen wrote:How is the resampling sound quality of OpenMPT compared to an SNES? I can swear I hear a lot of aliasing noise on OpenMPT.
View > Setup > Mixer > Resampling

You can make it as good or bad as you like, there's several resampling options to choose from.

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Re: Best uses of the SNES's 64KB of audio ram

Post by Drew Sebastino » Tue Nov 21, 2017 7:02 pm

psycopathicteen wrote:From what I can tell, it seems like most samples are about 8kB long.
Wait, how is that even possible? There should be at minimum 8 samples/sound effects, and at that point, there's absolutely no room for SPC700 code. Or, I guess, the mode number of sample size could be 8KB, but the mean number is lower.

Just thought I'd ask this here, but is there any difference between sample rate and pitch? If not, does the DSP in the SNES just have one register for both?

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Re: Best uses of the SNES's 64KB of audio ram

Post by psycopathicteen » Tue Nov 21, 2017 7:13 pm

On the SNES they are the same thing. You can't change the pitch without changing the sample rate.

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Re: Best uses of the SNES's 64KB of audio ram

Post by Drew Sebastino » Tue Nov 21, 2017 7:24 pm

I guess it would be difficult to say what the typical sample rate is then... It's funny though, you can definitely hear a loss in sound quality on these games when there are low notes playing. Just thinking, you couldn't even have a perfect quality 32KHz low-pitched sound because you can't go higher than 32KHz.

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Re: Best uses of the SNES's 64KB of audio ram

Post by psycopathicteen » Tue Nov 21, 2017 8:00 pm

You can go up to 128kHz, it just blends 4 samples together.

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Re: Best uses of the SNES's 64KB of audio ram

Post by tepples » Tue Nov 21, 2017 8:03 pm

I guess you could estimate an instrument's sample rate as the sample rate for the pitch at the median of each instrument's tessitura (pitch range).

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Re: Best uses of the SNES's 64KB of audio ram

Post by psycopathicteen » Wed Nov 22, 2017 8:40 am

I think I remember hearing somewhere that some of the instruments in DKC 2 and 3 (not sure if the first DKC used it) were actually a mix of two channels with varying volumes.

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Re: Best uses of the SNES's 64KB of audio ram

Post by psycopathicteen » Wed Nov 22, 2017 10:46 am

I've been playing around with Milky Tracker, and I find Milky Tracker sounding better than OpenMPT and I don't know why. Every interpolation setting sounds better on Milky Tracker for some reason. Maybe it's a placebo effect.

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Re: Best uses of the SNES's 64KB of audio ram

Post by tepples » Wed Nov 22, 2017 11:45 am

It could be placebo effect, or it could be different output sample rates (44.1 kHz vs. 48 kHz vs. 96 kHz), or it could be peculiarities of the audio output API (waveOut vs. DirectSound vs. whatever). Do they sound noticeably different in wave export as well?

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