Synth for 8/16 bit sounds.

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Synth for 8/16 bit sounds.

Postby Music Bird » Tue Aug 09, 2016 7:01 pm

Now I think I have a different genre. I want to make songs with 8/16-bit game based leads, chords, and basses.
What kind of cheap keyboard or synth would be good for that? I was thinking Yamaha PS(S) or Casio CT (or vintage SA because they have SNES sounds). I already have a Casio SK1. I am working on a different music project now.
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Re: Synth for 8/16 bit sounds.

Postby commodorejohn » Tue Aug 09, 2016 7:23 pm

What exactly do you mean by "8/16-bit" here? In terms of game consoles and home computers that encompasses everything from the Atari 2600 through the SNES, including such different approaches as the NES's bare pulse/triangle/lo-fi DPCM, the C64's digital-oscillators-with-analog-filtering, the Sega Genesis's Yamaha FM + PSG, or the Amiga's 8-bit PCM channels. I guess from your specific reference to the SNES you're looking for something in that neighborhood? Because that's just specially compressed sample playback plus a primitive reverb effect; beyond that it's entirely up to the game what sounds are loaded in.
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Re: Synth for 8/16 bit sounds.

Postby Jabberwalky » Tue Aug 09, 2016 9:40 pm

^ Everything John said.

For snes sounds:
https://www.plogue.com/sforzando-free-sfz-player/
ensoniq eps, eps16, mirage

For genesis:
Yamaha Dx21, Dx27, Tx81z, Dx9 etc etc
or Deflemask

For NES:
Famitracker
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Re: Synth for 8/16 bit sounds.

Postby madtheory » Tue Aug 09, 2016 11:06 pm

Even better- Plogue Chipcrusher. Emulates a wide range of console sound chips, 8 bit, 16 bit and everything in between :)
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Re: Synth for 8/16 bit sounds.

Postby Music Bird » Tue Aug 09, 2016 11:41 pm

It has to have a keyboard, and I want to imitate FM, sampling, and analog. And price range $600 or less.
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Re: Synth for 8/16 bit sounds.

Postby Music Bird » Tue Aug 09, 2016 11:44 pm

Music Bird wrote:It has to have a keyboard, and I want to imitate FM, sampling, and analog. And price range $600 or less.

So I might want an old keyboard, but it doesn't matter if it has mini keys or not or if it is a Portasound or Casiotone keyboard, because then it would sort of be like Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. And it has to be polyphonic.
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Re: Synth for 8/16 bit sounds.

Postby Ashe37 » Tue Aug 09, 2016 11:45 pm

for that, specifically, you're going to need multiple synths.
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Re: Synth for 8/16 bit sounds.

Postby commodorejohn » Tue Aug 09, 2016 11:55 pm

Yup. If your aim is to use discrete synthesizers and not virtual instruments on a computer, there's no way you're getting all those in one bundle for that price. The Yamaha SY series will give you sampled sounds and FM in one package (though you're stuck with the samples in the ROM) - the SY22 in particular has a more lo-fi grit to its samples (but you'll need an external editor on a PC to roll your own FM sounds - the onboard editing only allows you to select from presets.) You could also get sampling plus analog filtering with an Ensoniq Mirage or an original Emax. (Or a Korg DSS-1, though you will weep, wail, and gnash teeth unless you get one of the rare-ish mods that add faster storage than the achingly, glacially slow floppy drive interface on the stock model.)

If you're going to try for a combination, my recommendation would be an Emax or Mirage plus one of the 4-operator FM synths (which are very close in architecture to the FM chip in the Genesis.) If you're lucky, you can get both for not too much more than your stated price range (though you'll probably want an SD card-to-floppy or SCSI adapter for the Emax or Mirage.)

Though if you're fine with virtual analog, that opens up a few more options - you could get your FM and sampled sounds on an SY series, then throw in something like a MicroKORG for another $150-200 and get your quasi-analog on, or use one of a few different samplers with resonant digital filters you can use for analog-like sounds and then throw a pure FM synth on top of that.
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Re: Synth for 8/16 bit sounds.

Postby madtheory » Wed Aug 10, 2016 11:10 am

If you can find one, the Alesis Fusion can do all those synthesis methods and the sampling and the sequencing. It's actually a great machine, will take some effort to make it "lo fi" but IIRC it has the Alesis bit crusher which is great. These machines got a bad rep when they came out because the OS was initially buggy but that got fixed. The final version worked great IME.
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Re: Synth for 8/16 bit sounds.

Postby ninja6485 » Wed Aug 10, 2016 5:28 pm

The fusion looks cool, but as an alternative, what if you got a keyboard sampler and just made analog and FM patches with your software? You should be able to pick up an ASR10 or something for around 600, and others for cheaper. There are tons of analog and FM sounds floating around that can give you decent patches, or you can make whatever you want on your computer and from scratch. No need for a lo fi plugin, just use the sampler to reduce the quality. You get bitchin aliasing too.

Obviously I agree with everyone that if you want to do all 3 forms well, you need discrete units, but if I had to pick one style: analog, FM, or sampling; that had to do all 3, I would pick sampling in a heartbeat... Simply because you can just sample the other two styles and carry on. The other danger with finding a synth that tries to do every type of synthesis on a budget is you run into the car/boat scenario. Have you ever seen a car that's also a boat? It's not a very good car, and it's not a very good boat.
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Re: Synth for 8/16 bit sounds.

Postby madtheory » Wed Aug 10, 2016 6:46 pm

Just had a quick look at the manual for Fusion. It has several decimators (bit reduction effects) and also allows you not drop the bit depth of a sample, or even part of a sample, which is pretty cool. I had forgotten that it does brass and reed modelling as well. A friend had one for a while and I was really into it. He was not a synth guy but found it easy to import Akai format samples onto it. He sold it on because he got into photography instead.
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Re: Synth for 8/16 bit sounds.

Postby V301H » Thu Aug 11, 2016 5:50 pm

The Yamaha SY99 along with it's Advanced FM capabilities will allow you to load samples in Sample Dump Standard or TX16W format. It can do Analog-style Synthesis using emulated filters which can also be applied to FM and Sampled sounds. The SY99 typically sells for a few hundred dollars.
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Re: Synth for 8/16 bit sounds.

Postby Music Bird » Sat Aug 13, 2016 5:26 pm

Hmm, so the Genesis sounds are like a TX81z/DX11/DX21/DX100.
SNES is like a sample based synth.
NES/C64 is like any analog synth with pulse or triangle waves or saw waves.
Is getting a really cheap "thrift store keyboard" sometimes the best option? I heard demos of the synths you are talking about and I want some old low end keyboard (especially one with built in beats in it) but I do not want something monophonic except for basslines and some leads).
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Re: Synth for 8/16 bit sounds.

Postby madtheory » Sat Aug 13, 2016 5:45 pm

You already have a good selection of that sort of keyboard, and it doesn't seem to be working for you. What about a vintage tracker setup, like an Amiga? And I'm pretty sure there exists a MIDI SNES kit. There's also various SIDchip synths. I think you're just gonna have to bite the bullet and spend more, or go with the Plogue.
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Re: Synth for 8/16 bit sounds.

Postby commodorejohn » Sat Aug 13, 2016 6:12 pm

Music Bird wrote:Is getting a really cheap "thrift store keyboard" sometimes the best option? I heard demos of the synths you are talking about and I want some old low end keyboard (especially one with built in beats in it) but I do not want something monophonic except for basslines and some leads).

I'm never one to tell people they shouldn't get what they want, but as madtheory pointed out, you already have a number of keyboards in that range and they're not giving you what you want.

That said, if you were gonna go that route, a lot of the early Yamaha PSR series were FM with a built-in rhythm/accompaniment mode (frequently using one of the OPL series chips, which were also featured in old PC sound cards and a variety of arcade machines.) The main downsides are that most of the early ones have no MIDI input, so you can't sequence them, and almost none of them feature any voice editing, so you're stuck with the default sounds. (The PSR-36 has a set of crude editing controls, but this feature causes it to go for significantly more than the pocket change most of the rest fetch.)

Otherwise, one I'd suggest is the Yamaha V50 - it's basically two TX81Zs in a keyboard plus an el-cheapo sampled drum machine and sequencer. You'll almost definitely need to solder in a new battery (protip: buy a holder for two AA batteries in a 3V series arrangement, so you can just do an easy swap in the future, then get some sticky-back Velcro and secure it inside the case,) but it's otherwise a pretty good keyboard and doesn't fetch crazy prices. You won't get SNES-style sample sounds or anything much like C64 simple waveforms + filtering, though.
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