Which system had the best sound?

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Best sound from a non CD system was:

Amiga (Paula)
DOS PC (Sound Blaster, Rolland, Gravis Ultrasound, etc)
Commodore 64 (SID)
Super Nintendo (S-SMP)
Mega Drive (Yamaha YM2612 + TI SN76489)
NES (CPU integrated PSG and custom cartridge chips)
Master System (SN76489 + YM2413 in Japanese version)
No votes
ZX Spectrum/128 (beeper/AY-3-8910)
Atari 8-bit (POKEY)
Total votes: 48

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Which system had the best sound?

Post by outdated_gamer » Thu Aug 25, 2016 2:38 pm

Not talking about the CD-ROM based systems in the PS1 era and beyond as the question obviously doesn't matter anymore after that, this is about the older machines. I'm making a poll but you can also discuss it here. I'm not talking just technical specs but also own preference of sound as the pre CD systems tend to sound different.

I have to say it's a pretty hard question where I'm not fully sure which I prefer yet since all retro systems have their positive and negative sides when it comes to sound. I will say that the Amiga had pretty amazing sound for it's time that went unrivaled for quite a time, but the C=64 sound was also pretty unique. The NES had surprisingly catchy sounds, mostly thanks to clever sound programming as well as special audio chips which were in-built into some cartridges. The Master System didn't sound that good in the American and European versions, yet the Japanese one had pretty nice sound. The SNES had arguably the more advanced sound chip than Mega Drive, yet the Mega Drive still produced some very nice sounds in the right hands. Some feel the Mega Drive sound was closer to Arcade sound than SNES. The beeper sounds of the ZX Spectrum were not that interesting, yet still provided a nice atmosphere in several titles. The most interesting has to be DOS PC though, for most of the 80s it had the crappy (if nostalgic) integrated speaker sounds but in the late 80s and early 90s the sound card market exploded on it and there was a ton of different sound cards which produced quite different sound. There was also the Atari ST which didn't make it to the list and had worse sound in games than the Amiga yet it also had MIDI sound playback and was popular with musicians. Lastly, there's the unmentioned Neo-Geo which had "Arcade-perfect" sound, given that it was basically an Arcade board in a console case, but it had it's price which wasn't low.

Which system's sound did you or do you prefer and why?

Discuss. :wink:

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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by DPrinny » Thu Aug 25, 2016 2:44 pm

Atari 2600

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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by David » Thu Aug 25, 2016 3:04 pm

To me the NES is the perfect example of video game music

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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by necronom » Thu Aug 25, 2016 4:32 pm

The C64 was by far the best music of it's time, and even now it's my favourite sound on any computer. Modern game music is generally boring in comparison.
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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by Mayhem » Thu Aug 25, 2016 5:04 pm

In terms of spec vs what musicians got out of it, the SID wins hands down.

In terms of the actual music, then it's between the C64 and SNES for me, with the Mega Drive running a close third.
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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by Matt_B » Thu Aug 25, 2016 7:52 pm

I'll go for a PC with a Roland SCC-1. The sound card alone would cost more than most of the other systems on the poll, but you couldn't beat it for quality.

Basically, it was a professional synth, so you'd get MIDI music that sounded exactly as the composers would have intended it to as opposed to the closest approximation that the sound chip in the computer or console could manage. Indeed, a fair few modern games still use the same instrument sounds as they were licensed by Microsoft for use in the GS Wavetable Synth that's been part of DirectX for the past 20 years.

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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by markopoloman » Thu Aug 25, 2016 8:11 pm

It has to be the SID in the C64. I don't care what Atari 8-bit Pokey fans say - the sid produced the better music. The Amiga was also excellent but relied on samples too much rather than great chip tunes.
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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by theantmeister » Fri Aug 26, 2016 3:10 am

C64 followed by the 2600. C64 music is just great to listen to (I even have a SID player on my iPhone) and, like Prinny says, the 2600 just sounds like videogames :)

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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by Sephiroth81 » Fri Aug 26, 2016 6:33 am

I voted Amiga, but SNES would be a close second. Both for me have some of the best soundtracks of videogames I'd heard (and still rank up as some of my favourites now), and the sound effects on both, particularly the Amiga seemed clear and superb at the time.

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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by TheDude18 » Fri Aug 26, 2016 8:20 am

The SID chip (C64) no question.

While other chips have their high points, the SID has........character. You can recognize a C64 soundtrack instantly, just by its sound. It no doubt helped the C64 in becoming the best selling computer of its time (and of all time?) While the Spectrum had it's unique look coupled with high res colour clash, The C64 had it's sound, especially when it came to music. When I first saw Rambo loading on the machine (I was a C16 owner at the time) my jaw dropped. From the loading music to the game itself, it was a pleasure to listen to. Even the 'Ready?' screen sounded good!

As consoles and computers moved on the sound chips seemed to blend into a similar sound. Yes, the SNES chip would have been my second choice, even with its muffled, dullish sound and I appreciate some of the Megadrive's music (e.g. Streets of Rage 2) But the newer the consoles or computers became, the more the sound would become indistinguishable.

I still listen to C64 soundtracks to this day and shows like Back in Time Brighton are still keeping the SID chip alive.

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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by The Laird » Fri Aug 26, 2016 1:20 pm

I actually chose the Mega Drive and it's Yamaha FM chip, I love it's gritty unfiltered sound, especially on games like the SoR series.

But then after voting I changed my mind to the POKEY, not because I love the totally unique sound that it has, but mainly because it's simply staggering that it's a piece of 1979 technology producing it!

Just listen to the Atari 8-bit conversion of the iconic Tempest 2000 soundtrack for example, it just blows me away that a machine from the 70s can do that.

Other great examples of the mighty POKEY would be OutRun, Ballblazer and Jet Set Willy.

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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by stvd » Fri Aug 26, 2016 1:47 pm

The SNES has some outstanding game soundtracks.

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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by Hiro » Fri Aug 26, 2016 2:35 pm

Voted for Paula, since I expected the SID to win anyway :mrgreen: the SID was way ahead of everything else at its time, and best of a lot that came after. I just got the second book of the Commodore 64 Visual Commpendium and it's telling how every page of the book, every developer or person that has "lived" the C64 mentions the SID chip. Love its sound and I wouldn't stop listening to it to this day.

My vote is for Paula because it's an amazing, versatile sound chip that has given outstanding music thanks to several talented composers. Other "rival" sound chips (Megadrive and SNES) pale in comparison, with a sound that comes nowhere near it, generally more bland and flat.

Just fire up something by Chris Huelsbeck, Jochen Hippel, Dave Whittaker or Carsten Obarski on Paula and it'll just blow the competition out of the water.

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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by Greyfox » Fri Aug 26, 2016 5:55 pm

I'm with Hiro on this the Paula chip was so versatile in generate chip wave forms and in cases of 4- 6 - 8 - 12 channel sound routine via many exotic musical format allowed the chip to produce music it an itially it wasn't designed for , the reverse engineering of the chip was incredible . As mention in the hands of extremely talented musical engineers started working out solutions to create sound and music not though possible under standard conditions make this chip one of the best ever designed for a computer. So Paula for the win :)
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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by HalcyonDaze00 » Fri Aug 26, 2016 6:52 pm

C64, no question about that

Amiga the next best

none of the others come close

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