Which system had the best sound?

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Best sound from a non CD system was:

Amiga (Paula)
15
31%
DOS PC (Sound Blaster, Rolland, Gravis Ultrasound, etc)
1
2%
Commodore 64 (SID)
14
29%
Super Nintendo (S-SMP)
5
10%
Mega Drive (Yamaha YM2612 + TI SN76489)
6
13%
NES (CPU integrated PSG and custom cartridge chips)
1
2%
Master System (SN76489 + YM2413 in Japanese version)
0
No votes
ZX Spectrum/128 (beeper/AY-3-8910)
2
4%
Atari 8-bit (POKEY)
2
4%
Other
2
4%
 
Total votes: 48

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outdated_gamer
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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by outdated_gamer » Sat Aug 27, 2016 8:38 pm

General Opulence wrote:@outdatedgamer - the Amiga Vs PC dos, as you say the Roland mt-32 was specialised hardware (rrp $700 in 1987) add on compared to a computer setup costing less, hardly fair comparison, more fair to compare the most common soundcard for the period, whatever that was.
That would be comparing the integrated PC speaker and Amiga would win this with it's arms tied. :wink:

You're right that Roland was expensive and a very small minority had them, it would be more interesting to compare Sound Blaster which became more wide-spread getting into the 90s, but I haven't found any good vids comparing the two.

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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by Matt_B » Sun Aug 28, 2016 12:58 am

If it's a money-no-object comparison, you've surely got to count the Roland sound modules. They might not have been owned by many but were very well supported by PC developers and comfortably made the best quality music throughout the 1987-1996 period, until CD soundtracks became ubiquitous. There are also some Atari ST games that supported the MT-32 via the machine's MIDI ports, and even the Amiga if you'd added a MIDI interface to it, although support for it was never nearly as big as on the PC.

On the other hand, if it's a price/performance one, I think we would do well to remember that the Amiga cost a lot more than most of its competitors, while the Spectrum comes into play as the cheapest of the bunch while still having had some memorable music made for it.

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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by paranoid marvin » Sun Aug 28, 2016 4:03 am

Hiro wrote:
paranoid marvin wrote:Amiga music is overrated imho. Yeah, it did some great sampled stuff (Blood Money was awesome) , but it's trying to sound like something it isn't. ST music (like C64) is distinctive and iconic - Amiga isn't.
I disagree but fair enough :) I really don't perceive ST music as iconic, I mostly find it bland and light years behind the Amiga. The SID or the Pokey chip have a very distinctive sound, Paula in some way, ST (or SNES for example) not so much IMO.

Still it's interesting to see how much not only for myself videogame music being distinctive and being "videogame music" is so crucial, from when it has become "normal music", videogame music has lost a lot of appeal to me.
I remember a couple of years ago when I first played Child of Light and loved Aurora's Theme being astonished by how much time it had been since a videogame piece of music had caught my ear.

Fair enough. :D

Listen to a Speccy, C64 , A8 , VCS or ST tune today, and you can usually tell which machine it was from. Listen to an Amiga soundtrack and it could be from a PC, Megadrive etc. That's what I mean by iconic.

Perhaps what I should have said is that I prefer the sounds from ST than Amiga, not that it is technically better.
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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by outdated_gamer » Sun Aug 28, 2016 2:40 pm

Matt_B wrote:If it's a money-no-object comparison, you've surely got to count the Roland sound modules. They might not have been owned by many but were very well supported by PC developers and comfortably made the best quality music throughout the 1987-1996 period, until CD soundtracks became ubiquitous. There are also some Atari ST games that supported the MT-32 via the machine's MIDI ports, and even the Amiga if you'd added a MIDI interface to it, although support for it was never nearly as big as on the PC.

On the other hand, if it's a price/performance one, I think we would do well to remember that the Amiga cost a lot more than most of its competitors, while the Spectrum comes into play as the cheapest of the bunch while still having had some memorable music made for it.
He has a point though, very few had the Roland, mostly game devs themselves and a handful of sound enthusiasts. The large majority had the beeper sound which was worse even from ZX sound. This was a general problem of the PC back then, the tech was there but adoptation was slow, it wasn't untill well into the 90s that sound cards like the Sound Blaster finally became mainstream (and of course later on integrated sound chips).

Interesting poll lead of Commodore machines I must say. Not that I disagree with it. :wink:

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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by Hiro » Sun Aug 28, 2016 3:38 pm

paranoid marvin wrote: Fair enough. :D

Listen to a Speccy, C64 , A8 , VCS or ST tune today, and you can usually tell which machine it was from. Listen to an Amiga soundtrack and it could be from a PC, Megadrive etc. That's what I mean by iconic.

Perhaps what I should have said is that I prefer the sounds from ST than Amiga, not that it is technically better.
I totally see your point :) I agree to a certain point to the Amiga sound being less iconic than others, I personally wouldn't call the ST sound "distinctive" (it sounds very Yamaha-ish, Spectrum 128-ish and even MSX-ish to me) but I guess it's something in the field of subjectivity, I would probably always tell the Amiga sound from the Megadrive, since I've been listening to Paula for 27 years, while it'd be harder to tell the sound of different chips I know less about from one another.

The only chip that probably pretty much everyone would recognise is the SID, I think it falls in the "iconic" category better than any other. But hey, I'm a SID fetishist, I even like to compare and listen to C64 music on different revisions of the SID chip, with the 6581R4A4 being my favourite :mrgreen:
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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by Antiriad2097 » Sun Aug 28, 2016 4:03 pm

ST audio, much like the 128k Spectrums, is awful. I was gutted when I started playing my first games on my shiny new STFM and was confronted by that awful screech. I'd ordered an Amiga and accepted the ST as it was available and cheap, but I was under no illusion which was the better gaming system pretty quickly. That its so well respected in the music industry as a tool for creating quality music is almost rubbing it in. When I used that audio system on my first computer a decade earlier it was respectable enough, but to still think you could get away with it on the 16 bit systems was a joke. The old AYs are undoubtedly a classic chiptune sound, but they're far from 'best' in any respect.
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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by Matt_B » Mon Aug 29, 2016 12:00 am

outdated_gamer wrote:He has a point though, very few had the Roland, mostly game devs themselves and a handful of sound enthusiasts. The large majority had the beeper sound which was worse even from ZX sound. This was a general problem of the PC back then, the tech was there but adoptation was slow, it wasn't untill well into the 90s that sound cards like the Sound Blaster finally became mainstream (and of course later on integrated sound chips).
The Roland sound modules might not have been that common but they weren't that rare either. Pretty much every high end gaming PC build from 1992-1996 would have incorporated an SCC-1 or something that could have managed a passable emulation of it, and from 1996 every Windows PC capable of running DirectX had the Roland sounds via the aformentioned GS Wavetable Synth. To my mind, it's thoroughly mainstream.

The MT-32 was less common, but the serial numbers suggest total sales in the high six figures. Quite how many of them were used by PC gamers as opposed to going into home recording studios would be tricky to determine, but given that all but a handful of the most popular synthesizers wouldn't sell more than ten thousand units, I'd be pretty sure it was most of them. And it was very well supported too.

Anyway, pricey though they might have been, thanks to DOSBox you can emulate both of them very well for free these days and I'd thoroughly recommend it.
Interesting poll lead of Commodore machines I must say. Not that I disagree with it. :wink:
Yeah, Commodore machines usually had better sound hardware than their immediate rivals and developers did a good job of getting that bit more out of it. They just rather missed out on the FM synthesis and General MIDI eras of music, which is a bit of a shame. I'd think you could bet that if there'd been an attractively priced Commodore machine that had featured either, it'd be very well placed in the poll too.

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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by outdated_gamer » Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:30 pm

Matt_B wrote:
outdated_gamer wrote:He has a point though, very few had the Roland, mostly game devs themselves and a handful of sound enthusiasts. The large majority had the beeper sound which was worse even from ZX sound. This was a general problem of the PC back then, the tech was there but adoptation was slow, it wasn't untill well into the 90s that sound cards like the Sound Blaster finally became mainstream (and of course later on integrated sound chips).
The Roland sound modules might not have been that common but they weren't that rare either. Pretty much every high end gaming PC build from 1992-1996 would have incorporated an SCC-1 or something that could have managed a passable emulation of it, and from 1996 every Windows PC capable of running DirectX had the Roland sounds via the aformentioned GS Wavetable Synth. To my mind, it's thoroughly mainstream.

The MT-32 was less common, but the serial numbers suggest total sales in the high six figures. Quite how many of them were used by PC gamers as opposed to going into home recording studios would be tricky to determine, but given that all but a handful of the most popular synthesizers wouldn't sell more than ten thousand units, I'd be pretty sure it was most of them. And it was very well supported too.

Anyway, pricey though they might have been, thanks to DOSBox you can emulate both of them very well for free these days and I'd thoroughly recommend it.
Amiga came out in 1985 though, at that time the most common DOS PC was a XT or clone system with monochrome or CGA graphics and beeper sound. Infact those remained popular well past their time which gave some people a distorted view of what the PC was actually capable of.

Sure, a high-end 386 or 486 coupled with a VGA card and a good sound card would beat the Amiga, but we have to consider how many actually had that in those times. It wasn't well into the 90s that those kind of systems actually became more mainstream and at that time the Amiga was also starting to lose ground to the PC.

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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by paranoid marvin » Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:47 pm

It's a shame the A8 was at the end of t's life when the C64 was really getting going, as we never saw it;s potential reached (commercially at least). Most people will probably remember the machine for the crap arcade ports and budget software it got, but look further back to the likes of English Software and earlier Lucasfilm/US Gold games, and there are some classics that easily rival - even surpass - the C64.

How good could Atari music have been? Warhawk by Rob Hubbard is an indication. In my opinion it far exceeds the C version (And also doesn't have those horrible 'synthy' bits in it .
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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by STranger81 » Mon Aug 29, 2016 4:11 pm

For me it's SNES all the way. The 2600 brings many nostalgic goosebumps but I just love the SNES sound.
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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by paranoid marvin » Mon Aug 29, 2016 4:17 pm

Did Hubbard/Galway or Whittaker ever do a soundtrack to a SNES/MD game I wonder?
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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by Matt_B » Mon Aug 29, 2016 6:38 pm

outdated_gamer wrote:Amiga came out in 1985 though, at that time the most common DOS PC was a XT or clone system with monochrome or CGA graphics and beeper sound. Infact those remained popular well past their time which gave some people a distorted view of what the PC was actually capable of.
I'd give the Amiga a couple of clear years at the top between the A1000 coming out in 1985 and the MT-32's arrival in 1987, although it has to be said that there were few great games in that period. Mostly though, we're looking at a good 7-8 more years before CD soundtracks became the norm, and for most of that period the PC had something better to offer if you could afford it.
Sure, a high-end 386 or 486 coupled with a VGA card and a good sound card would beat the Amiga, but we have to consider how many actually had that in those times. It wasn't well into the 90s that those kind of systems actually became more mainstream and at that time the Amiga was also starting to lose ground to the PC.
Yes, it might seem unfair to compare a high-end PC with a low-end Amiga, but that's just the nature of the systems. With the PC, the experience you got with most games scaled with the hardware and you'd get faster gameplay, prettier graphics and better sound if you spent the money. With the Amiga, the low-end machines were always the best ones for games and the high-end ones were geared more towards professional users. As such, if you're going to look at the best they can offer, that's where comparisons are inevitably going to lead.

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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by Mayhem » Tue Aug 30, 2016 6:16 am

paranoid marvin wrote:Did Hubbard/Galway or Whittaker ever do a soundtrack to a SNES/MD game I wonder?
Hubbard did, he moved to the US to work for EA, so some of his work ended up on MD and SNES. Well, not soundtrack really, as many were sports games, but Wiki says he did tunes for Road Rash for example. Galway went to Origin, but I think that was all Amiga/PC stuff. Whitaker went to EA as well, but I'm not sure what he worked on there. He's currently at TT in England, so he's involved with all the Lego titles.
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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by RodimusPrime » Tue Aug 30, 2016 11:05 am

Impossible for me to choose.

The NES had Double dragon, megaman, and castlevania etc with loads of brilliant music.

Megadrive had streets of rage, Golden axe, Sonic, and magical sound shower from outrun.

Amiga had lemmings, I would try to get to each level just to hear the music for that level.

Snes had Marioworld, Castlevania 4, and a strange one as its something I personally love but no-one else mentions. Topgear.

So yeah, impossible to choose.

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Re: Which system had the best sound?

Post by English Invader » Tue Aug 30, 2016 11:18 am


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