PortaFM OPLL VST plugin

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By wolf_

Ambassador_ (9767)

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26-07-2018, 10:25

FM isn't that hard, it's just that the programming interface has traditionally been bad. The biggest obstacle in FM systems with 4 or 6 operators is the fixed algorithms (e.g. like the DX7). This is totally counter intuitive.

As for whether FM sounds plastic or thin:

No more or less than other systems with basic oscillators or waveforms. A few notes: halfway the 80's more 'n more analog synths got a chorus effect (e.g. like the Roland Juno) which does beef up the sound a lot. And the traditional strings machines already had chorus effects inside, it's the kind of strings sound you'll hear in much of Vangelis' 80's output.

The DX-range didn't have any effects, and apart from chorus it's mainly the reverb you'd be missing greatly. See, FM can be used to simulate acoustic sounds to a reasonable extend. A xylophone for instance. But in real life, such instruments are placed in a (concert) hall which has its own natural reverb. Hearing the same sound from a simple FM synth may sound dull, as you miss out on the reverb. Traditional analog synths had barely any waveform changes, other than filter/sync/pulsewidth envelopes. And a static waveform run through a reverb doesn't really add much greatness to it, unless it's first being vibrated. So, the traditional analog synths weren't really doing the acoustic simulations, rather they just did synthetic brass, pads and basses.

Anyway, I'll say that FM can be as big as you want it to be, but it could really use some external effects, like chorus, reverb and delay. Once you have that, FM runs circles around other synths. Examples here: www.youtube.com/mvsmsx ^_^

By Pencioner

Paladin (933)

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26-07-2018, 11:14

Great arrangements on last link! Can't believe it is only FM synthesis used on those Smile

By syn

Paragon (1920)

syn's picture

26-07-2018, 12:12

JohnHassink wrote:

Is it just me that I experienced the OPLL being called things like "cheesy" and "plastic" extremely demotivating to continue creating anything with it?
It instantly put me in a deep "what am I doing with my life" mode.
(Just when I was tackling my most complicated arrangement ever to fight the depression. Now I think I got better things to do)

IMHO you shouldn't pay attention to the "general public" thinking about the OPLL being cheap. I mean, you make music for MSX fans and general chiptune lovers right? People who are not bothered with music being cheesy or plastic. To us, it is a typical sound we grew up with and love. If you can make something great within those restrictions (sounds being cheap).

Besides, I think the plasticness is debatable, because:

JohnHassink wrote:

You did succeed in that. And so did people before us (Microcabin, anyone?).
It may sound naive, but it was just a revelation to me that apparently, people nowadays think that FM synthesis is a big joke. Do they?

I think most people associate FM with Cheap '80s~'90s keyboards and DOS game soundtracks. Like Wolf explained in his posts, this association comes from a typical sound lacking any effects. If you just take any other type of synth like subtractive/additive and disable all effects, it will presumably sound just as cheesy and plastic as FM.

And besides it is all just objective, I personally think lofi samples sound more plastic than fm. For most genres I prefer Sega megadrive music (yahama FM chip) over SNES (which uses a soundchip based on small samples and has a DSP unit but imho still sound hella plastic, though it works better for symphonic stuff like in Square RPGs). Also I don't really like the moonsound default sample kit much, I think that also sounds plasticy (mind you this is not regarding the actual compositions which may be brilliant on their own).

Pencioner wrote:

Great arrangements on last link! Can't believe it is only FM synthesis used on those :)

I think this was Wolfs_ point, one should not be surprised about FM. It just generates basic sounds like any other synthesis type, just add in enough effects and it will sound just as big as anything else. (not downplaying Wolf_'s efforts btw).

Anyway I just feel inspired to try something with an OPLL vst , to try to make it sound big :)

By Pencioner

Paladin (933)

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26-07-2018, 12:36

syn wrote:

Also I don't really like the moonsound default sample kit much, I think that also sounds plasticy (mind you this is not regarding the actual compositions which may be brilliant on their own)

I once tried to google for some soundfont to try to replace the Moonsound's YRW801 - because the ROM format is now known btw - but i failed to find a General MIDI soundfont with such small size. So i think Yamaha squeezed as much as possible from 2 Mbytes and it is just impossible to be better with that little Smile

By wolf_

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26-07-2018, 13:04

The crux is 'General MIDI'.

Why bother with General MIDI in the first place? Is anyone really playing MIDI-files on his MSX/Moonsound? If you could fill up 2 MB RAM with sounds, it'd be a lot more practical. That's not to say that a ROM is not useful, but let it be a ROM filled with sounds we can actually use without being frustrated by its lo-fi quality and the flair of a toy.

By Meits

Scribe (5488)

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26-07-2018, 14:40

Only a few souls master the techique required to make good use of external samples. Plus back in the day there was no way to get samples the easy way through the internet.
For MSX standards the rom inside the opl4 is good enough to make tunes, something any other home computer can only envy cuz they didn't have Henrik Gilvad in their scene, but not good enough to make professional music... Well, that's not what a 1994 music cartridge from a back then already dead system was designed for.
The biggest tracks on Dutch Moonsound Veterans do not use that much and you don't make (release) moonsound music (anymore). Imho the Moonsound is good as it is.

By Pencioner

Paladin (933)

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26-07-2018, 15:37

@wolf_ the DalSoRi R2 has an option to switch off ROM and use that address space as RAM. And another option to upload alternative ROM with special tool. I only experimented with latter very little to see how it works, so i just changed all the references to the sample data of all intruments in header to the same piano sample and tried playing tunes. And since some samples have a different base note, it made a great cacophony. But at least it works and you can make some use of that, having 4Mbyte samples in total for your own tunes

By Meits

Scribe (5488)

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26-07-2018, 17:47

If you use mbwave, you can change the base note. That way a visible A will sound like an A Smile

By Pencioner

Paladin (933)

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26-07-2018, 18:34

Honestly, i didn't try moonblaster yet though Smile Always something takes my time... Do you know if the mbwave format have the same internal structure as the YRW ROM? If so then it can be used to generate a new alternative ROM. I think that if you just cut a lot of unused instruments you can save enough to get much nicer samples for particular tunes btw.

By wolf_

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26-07-2018, 18:38

Meits wrote:

For MSX standards the rom inside the opl4 is good enough to make tunes

Not quite. Also, what are MSX standards? Are we talking 1983, or are we talking the days of the 90's with OPL4, 32768 colors, MegaSCSI, overclocked turbo R systems and other projects? By using extentions the MSX could get along quite well. Anyway, the ROM has this huge problem of the uncanny valley in sound. It's better to have a good synthetic sound than a fake acoustic sound. Also, there are instruments that have a reasonably long life, not easy to make short loops. Strings are a good example (a bowed strings ensemble that is), you can't have that looped in a few hundred bytes. So you can do two things: reduce the amount of samples (meaning larger distances between proper notes, which will make it sound nasty if you pitch too extreme), or reduce the sampling frequency (which makes it sound lo-fi). A synthetic sound doesn't really have much of these problems, because the primal waveforms don't have notable formants (the peaks in a sound that makes it go smurf if you pitch up too extreme). The SCC is a good example; just one short wave per channel, that can be used across the whole range. Try that with OPL4 strings and we'll see what sounds better. Wink

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