Was the GBA's sound worse than the 8-bit NES's sound?

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RetroGamerFan95645
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Was the GBA's sound worse than the 8-bit NES's sound?

Post by RetroGamerFan95645 » Sat Apr 10, 2021 8:11 am

The NES's sound quality is 7-bit samples. The GBA is 8-bit. It's not as big as the SNES's 16-bit samples.
However, look what the NES's 7-bit samples can do. The NES just like the GBA needed CPU power to load samples. It only had a 1.79 MHz CPU.
Look what they managed to do here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Deu3pdzDN1c
The GBA's CPU is according to Wikipedia:
ARM7TDMI @ 16.78 MHz, Sharp LR35902 (8080-derived) @ 8.388 or 4.194 MHz
That is A LOT bigger.
And the size is 4MB in the NES ROM.
The smallest size of GBA games is 4MB, a lot of later GBA games were a lot bigger. Also, GBA games only play short samples, not a 4 minute track like that NES demo.
Yet despite that, the GBA's sound was much lower quality.
Even the demos have a "scratchy" sound.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlACmhf3aqo
Notice how even in this demo, the sound is scratchy.
Yes, the demo has really complex 3D rendering, but as I said.
The 8-bit NES has only a 1.79 MHz CPU.
The GBA's CPU:
ARM7TDMI @ 16.78 MHz, Sharp LR35902 (8080-derived) @ 8.388 or 4.194 MHz
So why is the NES with 7-bit samples and a 1.79 MHz CPU sound better than the GBA with a MUCH better CPU, and 8-bit samples, and if the GBA could sound better, is there a example without the "scratchy" sound of the GBA?

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Bregalad
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Re: Was the GBA's sound worse than the 8-bit NES's sound?

Post by Bregalad » Sat Apr 10, 2021 9:49 am

RetroGamerFan95645 wrote:
Sat Apr 10, 2021 8:11 am
The NES's sound quality is 7-bit samples. The GBA is 8-bit. It's not as big as the SNES's 16-bit samples.
Wow, this is utter and complete nonsense. Where did you get your infomration from ? You're comparing incomparable things.
[---]
Even the demos have a "scratchy" sound.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlACmhf3aqo
Notice how even in this demo, the sound is scratchy.
[...]Yes, the demo has really complex 3D rendering, but as I said.
So basically you're comparing a particular GBA demo where the CPU has to spend all it's time on 3D rendering and has no time for sound rendering and this against a NES demo who spends all the CPU time on sound rendering. It's incomparable.
Useless, lumbering half-wits don't scare us.

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Re: Was the GBA's sound worse than the 8-bit NES's sound?

Post by lidnariq » Sat Apr 10, 2021 1:45 pm

RetroGamerFan95645 wrote:
Sat Apr 10, 2021 8:11 am
So why is the NES with 7-bit samples and a 1.79 MHz CPU sound better than the GBA with a MUCH better CPU, and 8-bit samples, and if the GBA could sound better, is there a example without the "scratchy" sound of the GBA?
Because bit depth means almost nothing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1-bit_DAC

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Re: Was the GBA's sound worse than the 8-bit NES's sound?

Post by rainwarrior » Sat Apr 10, 2021 8:25 pm

We have an old thread about it. Lidnariq's first reply does cover it pretty well I think:
http://forums.nesdev.com/viewtopic.php?t=19688

Bregalad had linked a few demonstrations in that thread but unfortunately the links no longer work. :(

I do think a lot of the common reason that GBA soundtracks have a poor quality sound is due to both low samplerate and low bit depth.

The hardware could do higher samplerates than it typically does, but because it's part of the CPU budget most games don't.

The 8-bit depth is pretty relevant here. I don't think it's fair to say that it means "almost nothing"? Yes you can use better mixing techniques to make 8-bit PCM sound a lot better than it does in the naive way (shaping, dithering, etc.), but on GBA soundtracks normally none of those techniques are being applied, mostly because it would cost more CPU to do so. A 12 or 16 bit output would have made a lot of difference for GBA through headphones, IMO, though through the built-in speakers it would have been a waste of hardware, and I think Nintendo felt that way too.

However the comparison OP is making isn't really comparing bit depth or samplerate. The characteristics of the NES or SNES sound aren't really about either of those factors in the way that they are for GBA soundtracks.

If GBA could be compared to anything... I think the Amiga had a pretty similar typical sound because of similar output constraints (though very different input constraints).
RetroGamerFan95645 wrote:
Sat Apr 10, 2021 8:11 am
So why is the NES with 7-bit samples and a 1.79 MHz CPU sound better than the GBA with a MUCH better CPU, and 8-bit samples, and if the GBA could sound better, is there a example without the "scratchy" sound of the GBA?
A GBA could do exactly what is being done in the NES ROM you linked and sound just as good, or better. Whether such a demo already exists... I don't know. Just because a thing could be done doesn't mean someone has thought it was worth doing yet. It absolutely could, though.

The way a GBA could sound, and the way a GBA game typically sounds are two very different things. You have to trade CPU time against quality in an actual game.

An NES game that plays PCM samples while also trying to be a game would actually have terrible sound quality. ...and this isn't just theoretical, listen to those PCM drums in Ultimate Stuntman and tell me whether you think this is anywhere near typical GBA game quality. (Can you even tell that it's supposed to be drums?)

Even Skate or Die 2 playing PCM music on its title screen with very little animation sounds far worse than anything I've ever heard coming out of a GBA.

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Re: Was the GBA's sound worse than the 8-bit NES's sound?

Post by TmEE » Sat Apr 10, 2021 8:56 pm

32X has the closest hardware to what GBA has, simple PWM DAC with same kind of limits that both hardware, storage and CPU impose on it. It does have a whole CPU to dedicate to sound, which is what most games did on it.

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Re: Was the GBA's sound worse than the 8-bit NES's sound?

Post by lidnariq » Sat Apr 10, 2021 9:11 pm

rainwarrior wrote:
Sat Apr 10, 2021 8:25 pm
The 8-bit depth is pretty relevant here. I don't think it's fair to say that it means "almost nothing"?
While I was definitely being flip, my point was more that focusing on a single bit of difference in bit depth is why it's misleading.

The GBA has the problem that its output DAC always resamples incoming audio to 32768 Hz (or much more rarely, 2x, 4x, or 8x that), and if the game isn't feeding its DAC channels with something that evenly divides into the chosen output sample rate, you get gross aliasing sounds.

In the OP, the NES video is just streaming audio to the 7 bit DAC at 40676 Hz, while the other one contains a random selection of highly-rated demos - see Pouët's most-liked GBA demos - and the demo Matt Current apparently used ADPCM at a sample rate of 223÷924 = 18157.16Hz with the resulting crunchy aliasing.

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Re: Was the GBA's sound worse than the 8-bit NES's sound?

Post by Bregalad » Sun Apr 11, 2021 12:59 pm

The GBA has the problem that its output DAC always resamples incoming audio to 32768 Hz (or much more rarely, 2x, 4x, or 8x that)
From what I've looked most games used 65536 Hz.
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Re: Was the GBA's sound worse than the 8-bit NES's sound?

Post by aa-dav » Sun Apr 11, 2021 11:40 pm

Sometime ago I made (unfinished) port of Contra Force Advance from NES to GBA.
All sounds are converted to 8-bit samples.
Frequency of sound DMA channel is 16384. Music is changed to modern cover.
So you can compare it from video: https://youtu.be/FwRUjuW54aE
I think sound of metal cover interestingly supress typical noice problem. But I hear it in another project with calm melody.
If someone is interested in ROM image and sources they can be donwloaded from here: https://disk.yandex.ru/d/djA-upj1-oc1hA

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