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Terrible soundquality in past 16-bit ports


Drunk Michael Myers
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The sound effects in all of the past ports of the 16-bit Sonic-games have always been terrible. The Mega Drive/Genesis collection for PS3 and 360 and same for PSP/PS2, Sonic Mega Collection, XBLA/Wii/PSN-ports, Steam...Why was this always a problem? I don't get it. Is the Genesis sound chip so hard do emulate? The only ones i never tried was the DS Sonic Collection and the 3DS ports, but i don't expect anything else.

The Taxman versions of 1/2/CD is perfect though. But hey, it's the Taxman. And sadly, only CD is available on console and 3 and Sonic & Knuckles i fear will never be ported by this genius.

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8 minutes ago, Drunk Michael Myers said:

I don't get it. Is the Genesis sound chip so hard do emulate?

In a word, yes.

 

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The only ones i never tried was the DS Sonic Collection and the 3DS ports, but i don't expect anything else.

Ironically, the DS Collection version has higher quality sound than the original games tended to; something akin to a CDX/X'Eye, if not a Model 2 modded to remove the sound filtering.

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The Taxman versions of 1/2/CD is perfect though. But hey, it's the Taxman.

Those are also actually ports.

:P

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I always thought they sounded fine, with the only exception being the options music in the Ultimate Genesis Collection version of Spinball.

I can't get my head around people's damage with these ports.

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Only glitch I've noticed on Steam is that certain elements of the track will disappear if another sound effect plays - losing rings removes the melody from Green Hill for a bit. But it doesn't bother me because, y'know, I need them rings. 

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The Mega Collection version having poor audio issues is news to me, I don't remember encountering audio glitches. That said, its been years since I last played them, so I'll take your word for them.

47 minutes ago, Tornado said:

Those are also actually ports.

:P

I'd say the Taxman/Stealth remasters actually skirt the line between remakes and ports. The game content and level data are directly sourced from the original games (which would make it a port), but the gameplay/physics engine they run on was re-coded from scratch (which would make it a remake).

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13 minutes ago, Hyp3hat said:

Only glitch I've noticed on Steam is that certain elements of the track will disappear if another sound effect plays - losing rings removes the melody from Green Hill for a bit. But it doesn't bother me because, y'know, I need them rings. 

Isn't that just because the ring sound effect takes up one of the channels of the Genesis soundchip? It only has 6 FM channels, and if all of them are being used, where does the ring sound effect go? it has to go in one of the channels that's already playing an instrument. That happens in almost every version of the classic games; the Taxman ports are the only exceptions AFAIK.

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2 minutes ago, Gabe said:

The Mega Collection version having poor audio issues is news to me, I don't remember encountering audio glitches. That said, its been years since I last played them, so I'll take your word for them

 I can attest to it, when I was playing Mega Collection (plus) on my PS2 and I wanted to play Sonic 1, when the Green Hill track started the audio freaked the FUCK out and sounded really gargly and a fucking mess for like a few seconds before returning to normal, I dont know what's the deal

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26 minutes ago, Dizcrybe said:

Isn't that just because the ring sound effect takes up one of the channels of the Genesis soundchip? It only has 6 FM channels, and if all of them are being used, where does the ring sound effect go? it has to go in one of the channels that's already playing an instrument. That happens in almost every version of the classic games; the Taxman ports are the only exceptions AFAIK.

Yeah, I figured, although I haven't seen a Megadrive in 20 years, so I wasn't 100% on it. To the uninitiated it could seem like a glitch, tbh. 

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1 hour ago, Gabe said:

The Mega Collection version having poor audio issues is news to me, I don't remember encountering audio glitches. That said, its been years since I last played them, so I'll take your word for them.

I'd say the Taxman/Stealth remasters actually skirt the line between remakes and ports. The game content and level data are directly sourced from the original games (which would make it a port), but the gameplay/physics engine they run on was re-coded from scratch (which would make it a remake).

That's true, and I agree, but my point was that those don't have emulation quality issues because thry aren't emulated.

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Emulating sound hardware is tricky because inaccuracies in the emulation are a lot more obvious there. If the speed of the virtual chip is slightly off, the sound will be pitch shifted, or you can have weird distortions if the chip is running at an unsteady clock speed for emulation reasons. 

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I bought 3D Sonic 2 yesterday on a whim. The sound quality is pretty bad; ring sound effects are off, and the Sega logo is garbled and gross-sounding. I recall 3D Sonic 1 having a couple of problems itself but don't recall what they are.

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To put it short, the Mega Drive sound chip (YM2612) has been hard to emulate for years when compared to say NES, Game Boy, Master System/Game Gear, SNES sound chips. It's pretty good now thanks to research done by Nemesis among others.

As for a more detailed answer on why:

While most Sonic games use a Sega of Japan sound engine so differences aren't as noticeable, Spinball and most US made Genesis games uses the GEMS sound engine so the sound quality is easier to tell if its emulated well or not. If it's bad, it can be a bit painful to listen and the chip has a bad enough reputation as it is. Also a few games such as Asterix and the Great Rescue uses a feature that was not recommended to use on the documentation. The SSG-EG. That game even sounds different between releases of Kega Fusion!

Much of the inaccuracies in the sound emulation was to do with documentation or the lack of it. For years Sega2.doc was used and there were some mistakes as well as unknowns that were in there, maybe a few tests here and there with the timings. It took until 2008 where something similar on a similar sound chip had documentation which was the start of the research and why it sounds pretty good now. The lack of docmentation is also why Xbox emulation hasn't been worked on much. Also to do accurate emulation, you need something powerful enough and for many years, computers weren't powerful enough to do it 100%. Even some devices now have problems due to lack of power. So that would explain the inaccurate emulation. Now a bit of history:

Sonic Jam didn't have emulated sound but rather recordings via a sound test on a Mega Drive Model 2 so it didn't sound clear and a bit muddy but it was from the source. Weirdly the 2 Player mode tracks can be played via WinAmp so you can listen to them.

On of the earliest official emulation based Mega Drive stuff was the Sega Smash Pack. Now there were two, one for the PC that was pretty much a licensed KGen that I'll mention more later and one for the Dreamcast that was apparently done by Yuki Enterprise for Sega in Japan (even though the compliation was done in the US or linked to by a hacking group). The latter sounded like this. Yeah.

I don't know about Mega Collection or Plus/Gems Collection in terms of sound but the former seemed okay from 14 year old memory. Two different companies did them, the former by a research company that I forgot its name and the later by Comolink.

With the Backbone games (the emulation collections that you get on the PS2/PSP/PS3/360), the sound emulation seems to be using an older version of Steve Snake's Kega/KGen. Now Steve Snake was one of the earlier Mega Drive emulation programmers (he also worked on a game for the console I believe) with KGen in the mid 90s, then Kega later on. KGen was considered the most accurate at the time and only got better afterwards. Kega Fusion had better sound then Gens and until GenesisPlusGX, Exodus and more recent emulators came along it was considered the best/most accurate of the lot. The PS2 and the PSP weren't powerful enough to do the sound chip accurate enough so there had to be some shortcuts to get it to work even if it isn't as accurate. M2 felt the same in some ways and why Galaxy Force II had streamed audio rather than being emulated however they did do a better job at emulation for the Mega Drive stuff. For the PS3/360, Backbone recycled this code even though they were more powerful, powerful enough to do better emulation.

As for the Steam one, I don't know but apparently Sega licensed jEnesis to be used for official emulation. At least on the Sega Europe side of things. jEnesis was originally done on Java and the timing is a bit off. Java can also take a bit of power. Similar thing to Unity now that I think about it since the recent hub is done via Unity (Unity has problems with PS4 games).

Some people even argue that the M2 sound emulation is a touch off and M2 is usually a very high bar when it comes to emulation, I haven't noticed it myself though however I don't have any of the 3D Genesis titles to know.

Even though I am tone deaf, I do agree that the AtGames portable console has bad sound.

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