New lossless FLAC recordings of MIDI soundtracks

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Marten
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New lossless FLAC recordings of MIDI soundtracks

Post by Marten » Sun Aug 16, 2020 11:38 pm

Previously at The Quest Studios Archive... While I continue work on the MIDI archive files, I've also started trying my hand at recording them in FLAC format and tagging them up as nicely as I can. I'll be posting new recordings at http://alderem.noip.me/QuestStudios/LosslessRecordings

First up: Silpheed. This is a brand new recording from my MT-32, and I've taken the liberty to make a few improvements in file naming and such. I've re-used the album art from Ari's version. Hope folks enjoy.

Please let me know if you hear any pops or clicks in any of my recordings. The MT-32 is somewhat notorious for producing a crackling noise if the audio output exceeds a certain level.

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Re: New lossless FLAC recordings of MIDI soundtracks

Post by Marten » Mon Aug 17, 2020 1:26 pm

Anyone experienced with editing MIDI files who can either fix some things for me or teach me how to address it myself?

The easiest way for me to record soundtracks is to play the "Complete Soundtrack" versions. These sometimes have pieces included that Tom didn't provide separately. However, some of these recordings have a serious flaw in them - they unnecessarily override the master volume.

Here's a specific example. Let's say that I set the master volume of my MT-32 to 45%.
* When I play back cb_1.mid, the master volume stays at 45% throughout the piece.
* When I play back cbmt.mid, the master volume jumps back to 100% at multiple points... sometimes in the middle of a sequence! For example, there is a reset back to 100% in cbmt.mid about halfway through the track from cb_1.mid, occuring at the moment where (if you were playing the game) the dagger pounds into the desk for the game's title screen.

Edit I think I've found a simple solution.

While experimenting with MidiEditor, I noticed that while it shows SysEx data, it doesn't send it to the device. As long as I've pre-seeded my MT-32 with the necessary SysEx messages before I begin, I can use MidiEditor to play the MIDI file without having to edit it. All of the volume resets are omitted because they're in the SysEx messages.

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Re: New lossless FLAC recordings of MIDI soundtracks

Post by jaffa225man » Mon Aug 17, 2020 5:09 pm

Marten wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 1:26 pm
Anyone experienced with editing MIDI files who can either fix some things for me or teach me how to address it myself?

The easiest way for me to record soundtracks is to play the "Complete Soundtrack" versions. These sometimes have pieces included that Tom didn't provide separately. However, some of these recordings have a serious flaw in them - they unnecessarily override the master volume.

Here's a specific example. Let's say that I set the master volume of my MT-32 to 45%.
* When I play back cb_1.mid, the master volume stays at 45% throughout the piece.
* When I play back cbmt.mid, the master volume jumps back to 100% at multiple points... sometimes in the middle of a sequence! For example, there is a reset back to 100% in cbmt.mid about halfway through the track from cb_1.mid, occuring at the moment where (if you were playing the game) the dagger pounds into the desk for the game's title screen.

Edit I think I've found a simple solution.

While experimenting with MidiEditor, I noticed that while it shows SysEx data, it doesn't send it to the device. As long as I've pre-seeded my MT-32 with the necessary SysEx messages before I begin, I can use MidiEditor to play the MIDI file without having to edit it. All of the volume resets are omitted because they're in the SysEx messages.
That's a great find. I considered doing filtering of SysEx for that very soundtrack, but didn't want the possibility of cutting out any other in-sequence programming (not that I have proof of any, but I'm too lazy to check). Maybe someday I won't be able to ignore the urge to create a SysEx filtering mode for QMidiRoute (for GNU/Linux) that selects based on SysEx start byte patterns. Then it would be easy to just remove master volume messages. Multi-byte wrangling is not what QMidiRoute was designed for/around. My other changes have also had to hack that a bit, though.

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Re: New lossless FLAC recordings of MIDI soundtracks

Post by Marten » Mon Aug 17, 2020 5:11 pm

Topic: Determining which synth is best for a particular game - last updated 23-Aug-2020

I recall some discussions from Quest Studios about how Sierra went through a transition at some point, and began to compose soundtracks with General MIDI in mind. Once that happened, soundtracks would be back-ported for the MT-32, with varying degrees of success.

For this new Lossless FLAC recordings project, in order to succeed, I'll need a volunteer with a Sound Canvas (as I only have an MT-32). But before that, we need a common agreement on which soundtracks we think were intended for which synthesizers.

Sierra first began targeting MIDI devices in September 1988 with the release of King's Quest IV on Sierra's new SCI engine. Soundtracks for games using the SCI engine were composed primarily for the Roland MT-32 Multi-Timbre Sound Module which had been released by Roland Corporation the previous year. (Sierra continued to release a few stray titles on their previous engine, AGI, into the next year.)

Roland introduced the Roland/Edirol Sound Canvas (SC-55) in 1991, so that would be the first year that Sierra titles might conceivably have been composed with the Sound Canvas in mind and the MT-32 as an afterthought. My recollection is that the Quest Studios crowd was in general agreement with Tom that Sierra continued to target the MT-32 primarily that year, transitioning to Sound Canvas the following year.

Super Thanks to Spikey to providing information based on his and VOGONS' research.

The list below is based on List of Sierra Entertainment video games (Wikipedia) and may contain discrepancies with other sources, e.g. Spikey's list gives a 1992 release date for The Even More Incredible Machine, while Wikipedia indicates a 1993 release.

1991 titles:
  • --- Confirmed MT-32 ---
  • The Adventures of Willy Beamish
  • Castle of Dr. Brain
  • Conquests of the Longbow
  • EcoQuest
  • Gobliiins
  • Heart of China
  • Hoyle's Official Book of Games: Volume 3
  • Jones in the Fast Lane
  • Leisure Suit Larry (VGA SCI remake)
  • Mixed-Up Fairy Tales
  • Nova 9
  • Police Quest III
  • Mixed-Up Mother Goose (VGA SCI remake)
  • Space Quest IV - Supports GM but has no GM-specific resources, remaps MT-32 for GM
  • Space Quest (VGA SCI remake)
  • Stellar 7 - CD version uses mixed media
  • --- Confirmed CM-32L ---
  • Leisure Suit Larry 5
1992 titles:
  • --- Confirmed MT-32 ---
  • The Dagger of Amon Ra - Supports GM but has no GM-specific resources, remaps MT-32 for GM
  • Police Quest (VGA SCI remake) - Supports GM but has no GM-specific resources, remaps MT-32 for GM
  • Quest for Glory I (VGA SCI remake) - Supports GM but has no GM-specific resources, remaps MT-32 for GM
  • --- Suspected MT-32 ---
  • Shadow of Yserbius - this was an "offline port" of the 1991 TSN (The Sierra Network) version
  • --- Confirmed SC-55 ---
  • The Incredible Machine
  • The Island of Dr. Brain
  • King's Quest VI
  • Mega Math
  • Quarky & Quaysoo's Turbo Science
  • Quest for Glory III
  • Take a Break! Crosswords
  • --- Only AdLib ---
  • Gobliins 2
  • --- Unknown ---
  • Aces of the Pacific
  • Air Bucks
  • Caesar
  • Front Page Sports Football
  • WWII: 1946
Thoughts, differences of opinion?
Last edited by Marten on Sun Aug 23, 2020 3:15 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: New lossless FLAC recordings of MIDI soundtracks

Post by jaffa225man » Mon Aug 17, 2020 5:42 pm

Marten wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 5:11 pm
For this new Lossless FLAC recordings project, in order to succeed, I'll need a volunteer with a Sound Canvas (as I only have an MT-32). But before that, we need a common agreement on which soundtracks we think were intended for which synthesizers.
I have an SC-55mkII, and a custom MIDI device that I built (among other reasons) to fallback to the correct instruments used by the older SC-55 versions, so I'm pretty well positioned to help, but my Internet is slow for uploads. Hence my ogg uploads before. As far as those recordings go, I have the originals that I can export to FLAC for you, but my google drive would be easily overflowing. Also, don't forget that the recordings I already have done were to explain Overflow Assign and, later, the RWI MT-32's dedicated reverb outputs.

Sorry, I don't have any Sierra information that Tom didn't provide, but soundtracks like Longbow definitely seem like they were geared towards the MT-32 (or family).

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Re: New lossless FLAC recordings of MIDI soundtracks

Post by Marten » Mon Aug 17, 2020 6:58 pm

jaffa225man wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 5:09 pm

That's a great find.
Alas, it's great when it works. Not when it doesn't. MidiEditor crashes when trying to play the Conquests of the Longbow complete MT-32 MIDI.

I suppose I shall have to contact the developer on that one. :) At least I haven't seen any master volume controls in the Longbow MIDI (yet) so I don't think I'll be impeded.

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Re: New lossless FLAC recordings of MIDI soundtracks

Post by jaffa225man » Mon Aug 17, 2020 7:15 pm

Marten wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 6:58 pm
jaffa225man wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 5:09 pm

That's a great find.
Alas, it's great when it works. Not when it doesn't. MidiEditor crashes when trying to play the Conquests of the Longbow complete MT-32 MIDI.

I suppose I shall have to contact the developer on that one. :) At least I haven't seen any master volume controls in the Longbow MIDI (yet) so I don't think I'll be impeded.
That makes me really want to work on QMidiRoute again. Re-sequencing all the soundtracks without the Master Volume messages seems like another worthwhile preservation project. :)

Edit: It doesn't digital volume overflow, but the "Crackles" sound fooled me for a while:
jaffa225man wrote:
Tue Feb 04, 2020 8:05 pm
RobinMT-Soundtrack (MT-32->CM-64->CM-32L): An obvious choice as this one you can hear dropped notes on the guitar throughout. On my first recording attempt, I noticed the CM-* gunshot sound effect (along with some others), near the end. To mitigate it, I moved the MT-32 first, and played the LSL5 SysEx before this. Next, I played the initial SysEx for Robin's individual files, since the full soundtrack doesn't program them fully. Something of note about this file, is that it causes digital volume overflow, on the MT-32 itself, in a couple tracks! I didn't want to duck the volume for these reference recordings, though. - Edit 2/09/2020: Actually, on subsequent plays I realized it's just a purposeful "Crackles" sound that I mistook for the clicks heard when digital volume clipping.
The first sound module listed for each soundtrack there (viewtopic.php?p=18297#p18297) is what I think each game was designed for, but that's just my impression as I never kept a list of them, just minor intuition and mental notes.

Sorry for so many edits,

Lucas

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Re: New lossless FLAC recordings of MIDI soundtracks

Post by Marten » Mon Aug 17, 2020 10:05 pm

Thanks for the insights, Lucas! I hadn't looked at that thread (due to not owning an CM-64), and so didn't know all of the work you'd put into chaining together your devices and exploring the overflowing of partials on the MT-32.

I've added an "MT-32" tag next to Willy Beamish based on your impression. It holds with everything else observed (that 1992 seems to be the year Sierra switched to SC).

The recordings I'm making will use a single MT-32. I'm trying to record the "authentic experience", recreating what you'd have heard while playing the original game on a single target synth.

I want to acknowledge however that "authentic" is not necessarily the same as "what the composer wanted." I'm certain there are situations where the outcome was not what the composer had meant. I'd be happy to work with you on doing "enhanced soundtracks" in the vein of Tom's, as a later project based on your discovery of where partials are being lost, if you are inclined. Recovering those missing notes, it would be interesting to hear what the composer might have really intended.

When I've gotten my server back to full health (I'm having trouble with an external drive enclosure), I could set up a space for you to upload recordings if you are interested.

Side note: I'd never checked my MT-32 firmware before. It reports "1.07 10, Oct '87" and "Tks to Masa + Adrian". As far as I know it's an unmodified first generation. It definitely has the digital overflow problem, and lowering the master volume avoids the issue. I picked it up used at a Starving Musician store in Santa Clara, CA around 1996 or so.

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Re: New lossless FLAC recordings of MIDI soundtracks

Post by Spikey » Tue Aug 18, 2020 11:44 am

I made a list a while back on the VOGONS forums and Facebook for which game uses which synth. Your 1991 list is all MT-32, although Larry 5 was actually composed for the CM-32L, which is another story (not that it really benefits from those sound effects!).
Your 1992 list is as follows:

Aces of the Pacific - ???
Air Bucks - ???
Caesar - ???
The Dagger of Amon Ra - Sound Canvas (incorrect, MT-32)
The Incredible Machine - SC-55 (all TIM games are SC-55 for their MIDI versions)
Front Page Sports Football - ???
Gobliins 2 - Adlib, and redbook on CD (IIRC)
The Island of Dr. Brain - SC-55
King's Quest VI - SC-55 (although has some MT-32 pieces tweaked very carefully, eg the Guards)
Mega Math - ???
Police Quest (VGA SCI remake) - Sound Canvas (incorrect, MT-32)
Quarky & Quaysoo's Turbo Science - SC-55
Quest for Glory I (VGA SCI remake) - Sound Canvas (incorrect, MT-32)
Quest for Glory III - SC-55
Shadow of Yserbius - SC-55
Take a Break! Crosswords - ???
WWII: 1946 - ???

Everything 1993 and beyond was of course SC-55 or digital redbook, or a combination of the two.

Exceptions- KQ5 and Jones in the Fast Lane have General MIDI versions that were actually properly converted (PQ1VGA, Laura Bow 2 etc have a driver that remaps the MT-32 MIDI only, no extra resources exist).

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Re: New lossless FLAC recordings of MIDI soundtracks

Post by jaffa225man » Tue Aug 18, 2020 11:43 pm

Marten wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 10:05 pm
Thanks for the insights, Lucas! I hadn't looked at that thread (due to not owning an CM-64), and so didn't know all of the work you'd put into chaining together your devices and exploring the overflowing of partials on the MT-32.
You're welcome, although I'm glad Spikey chimed in with more authority. I thought that process had been ignored because it wasn't a single (or eventually standard) MT-32, so I'm glad it turned out that you just missed it due to not owning the CM-64. It was fun to explore, but really anyone with an MT-32 can just put it in Overflow Assign mode, play a soundtrack while sequencing midi coming from its OUT port, resend that sequence, and repeat it, each time capturing also the audio to finally mix all the audio into a recording with no dropped partials. That sounds like a lot more work though.
Marten wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 10:05 pm
I've added an "MT-32" tag next to Willy Beamish based on your impression. It holds with everything else observed (that 1992 seems to be the year Sierra switched to SC).
After taking another look at the thread, I noticed that I was a little lazy on some that I figured wouldn't make a difference, but again I'm glad Spikey knows which were designed for each module, and agreed with me on Willy Beamish.
Marten wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 10:05 pm
The recordings I'm making will use a single MT-32. I'm trying to record the "authentic experience", recreating what you'd have heard while playing the original game on a single target synth.

I want to acknowledge however that "authentic" is not necessarily the same as "what the composer wanted." I'm certain there are situations where the outcome was not what the composer had meant. I'd be happy to work with you on doing "enhanced soundtracks" in the vein of Tom's, as a later project based on your discovery of where partials are being lost, if you are inclined. Recovering those missing notes, it would be interesting to hear what the composer might have really intended.
A single MT-32 sounds like a good idea, as no one should feel obliged to get more as they're getting rare and expensive. My obsession need not be mimicked, but I wasn't the first. (I'm thinking of PhilsComputerLab's great Ultimate Tutorial, but likely there have been others :) : https://youtu.be/OLvsaJ4h-VY?list=PL5T8 ... rKtGTlbyY_) I do doubt game composers had extra modules for the purpose of playing back all partials because they shouldn't have expected gamers to have more than, let alone, one themselves. But they could have been unaware that partials were dropped, as it's a fairly difficult task to keep the partials at 32 maximum while keeping it fully utilized.
Marten wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 10:05 pm
When I've gotten my server back to full health (I'm having trouble with an external drive enclosure), I could set up a space for you to upload recordings if you are interested.
Ah, computers; repairs are what I do for a living. Sure, I wouldn't mind you hosting better quality versions, even though my ears haven't really been good enough to tell the difference.
Marten wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 10:05 pm
Side note: I'd never checked my MT-32 firmware before. It reports "1.07 10, Oct '87" and "Tks to Masa + Adrian". As far as I know it's an unmodified first generation. It definitely has the digital overflow problem, and lowering the master volume avoids the issue. I picked it up used at a Starving Musician store in Santa Clara, CA around 1996 or so.
Yeah, I was extremely happy when I found that my first MT-32 was 1.07 too, as (I understand) it's the last version for the MT-32 (old), so it's as least buggy as can be, while still being the MT-32 (old). That "Tks to Masa + Adrian" also adds to the mystique of 1.07. :)

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