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Ziggy587
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The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by Ziggy587 Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:49 am

Being that I was primarily a Nintendo kid during the consoles wars of the 90's, and giving the lack of presence the Master System had in North America, I never really gave this console much of a chance. But I've come to a realization. There are some great games on the consoles. There are games that play very well, and games that look very good (some even better than the NES). But almost every game sounds horrible! The Master System sound chip is closer to a Gameboy, and I just hate how shrill it is! The sounds that come out of this thing just seem to irritate me. Which is a shame because it seems like there's some awesome exclusives that are worth playing.

Yes, I know about the FM sound module.

For those that are unaware of the SMS FM sound...
The Sega Master System had an FM sound module that, as far as I know, was only available in Japan. It's pretty much a hardware sound expansion kit that adds MUCH better sounding audio capabilities to the console.

Comparison video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISECbbAoBlw

Tim Worthington (same dude that made the NESRGB kit) has made a FM sound module that can be added to a SMS console. Link also includes a list of games that support FM sound, as well links to a few games that hackers added FM sound to!

http://etim.net.au/smsfm/smsfm.html

Stone Age Gamer carries a product called the PowerBase Mini FM. Basically, it's an adapter that will allow you to play SMS carts on a Genesis with FM sound support. Link also includes a list of games that support FM sound.

https://stoneagegamer.com/powerbase-mini-fm.html

Another way to experience FM sound (without the legit hardware) is with a Mega Everdrive X7. This is a flash cart for the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive. It can play SMS games on a Genesis and supports FM sound.

https://krikzz.com/store/home/33-mega-everdrive-x7.html


The problem is that not all games support FM sound. There's some great games that you will just have to suffer with the horrible SMS sound chip if you want to play them. I just discovered Castle of Illusion Staring Mickey Mouse for the Sega Master System. It looks like a great 8-bit platformer. The problem is it sounds so horrible that I don't even want to play it!

Warning - horrible noises made here: https://youtu.be/BE-rFtBnvjY?t=344


There are some games that don't have FM sound and don't sound too bad at all. Another game I recently discovered is Master of Darkness, which is a sort of Castlevania clone. It doesn't sound bad at all.

SMS decent sounding game: https://youtu.be/CqcvVAsJG-A?t=188


As mentioned in the above spoiler tags, hackers have added FM sound support to some SMS games. For example, Sonic the Hedgehog.

Vanilla game (no FM sound): https://youtu.be/SQPvA0OvR24?t=448

Hack that adds FM sound: https://youtu.be/6WRwpcV9_30?t=397


Too bad we can't have FM sound support for every SMS game!
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Re: The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by marurun Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:54 am

The SMS's sound module (TI SN76489) is a very simple PSG unit. Same one that was in the TI-994 (it's first appearance). The chip is venerable, certainly, but limited. I'm not surprised Sega went with it because at the time they were focused on cheap and good enough. But it's so noticeably lacking in bass. The chip is just so shrill most of the time. There are some composers that managed to do some good stuff with it, but that's more on the artistry of the composers than any capabilities of the chip itself.
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Re: The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by prfsnl_gmr Mon Jan 13, 2020 11:17 am

+1

The Wonder Boy games have some catchy music, but otherwise, I agree that the SMS doesn’t sound too good.
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Re: The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by samsonlonghair Mon Jan 13, 2020 11:42 am

I'm as big a sega fanboy as any. Even I have to admit that the Sega Master System PSG music generally sounds bad. There are a few exceptions to that rule, sure, (Double Dragon comes to mind) but MOST of those PSG tunes just don't sound good to me. I tend to play SMS games on mute, and listen to some music that I like.

Those FM sound modifications seem interesting to me, but I haven't invested in any of them. Why not? Because they can only support the games that offer FM sound (and the handful of fan-made hacks). I just don't see the cost/benefit justification. I like playing the FM sound on emulators though.
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PresidentLeever
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Re: The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by PresidentLeever Mon Jan 13, 2020 1:03 pm

Yeah that would be the weakest aspect of the SMS compared to the NES for example. They probably should've gone for an AY-3 chip which is tuned lower and you can get some SCC-like sounds out of with some tricks, I don't think it was much more expensive. That or make it possible to combine the FM and PSG chips, like how it's done for the Japanese bios screen for the console.

It can still sound pretty good within the realm of 8-bit chips though - check out Alien 3, Road Rash or The Flash for example. The first uses the somewhat rarely used periodic noise for a saw-like bass sound.

https://minirevver.weebly.com/sn76489-s ... -1000.html

^I've documented and ranked most games on their sound design there. Personally I actually prefer PSG in some games, because the OPLL chip generally wasn't used to its fullest potential on SMS and the FM sfx tend to sound really grating. But it's also because PSG is what I grew up listening to. Now on the MSX they did combine this FM chip with PSG or a secondary FM chip for various games and that could sound great.

https://minirevver.weebly.com/ym2413opl ... c-msx.html

Scroll down a bit for the MSX section and you can compare the top ones for yourself.
Last edited by PresidentLeever on Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Ziggy587
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Re: The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by Ziggy587 Mon Jan 13, 2020 3:11 pm

samsonlonghair wrote:Those FM sound modifications seem interesting to me, but I haven't invested in any of them. Why not? Because they can only support the games that offer FM sound (and the handful of fan-made hacks). I just don't see the cost/benefit justification. I like playing the FM sound on emulators though.


I don't actually own any SMS hardware. My only means to play is an Everdrive on a Sega Genesis. That said, I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that the Mega Everdrive X7 supports FM sound!
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Re: The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by PresidentLeever Mon Jan 13, 2020 4:40 pm

Nice GG homebrew track by Super Jetspade (same thing as SMS but in stereo):
https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/ ... dition.ogg
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Ziggy587
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Re: The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by Ziggy587 Mon Jan 13, 2020 8:11 pm

marurun wrote:There are some composers that managed to do some good stuff with it, but that's more on the artistry of the composers than any capabilities of the chip itself.


So, I guess since everyone agrees, it might be fun to all make suggestions...

What are some good sounding (non-FM) Master System games?

Since I'm still very new to the console, I only know of one so far. Master of Darkness (as mentioned in the first post). But I'm very interested to learn of more.
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Re: The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by Jagosaurus Tue Jan 14, 2020 12:47 am

Came here to mention Master of Darkness my fellow well cultured racketeers 8)
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Re: The Sega Master System Sounds Horrible !

by PresidentLeever Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:36 am

Ziggy587 wrote:
marurun wrote:There are some composers that managed to do some good stuff with it, but that's more on the artistry of the composers than any capabilities of the chip itself.


So, I guess since everyone agrees, it might be fun to all make suggestions...

What are some good sounding (non-FM) Master System games?


See my post. :wink:
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