Posted by: supersoniqs | June 20, 2010

SuperSoniqs announces ‘PlaySoniq’

After months of preparation we are now at a point that it is safe to announce our next product the PlaySoniq: This exiting new multi-expander for MSX compatible computers will open up a great deal of new possibilities. It’s main features are:

  • Sega 315-5246 Audio/Video chip (found in latest Sega Master System II game consoles)
  • PAL/NTSC Encoder (50/60Hz real-time software switchable)
  • MOS Technology 6581 or 8580 Sound Interface Device (SID), also found in the Commodore 64/128.
  • Up to 128 Megabit RAM (16MB) addressable memory
  • Memory switchable between MSX or Sega Master System mode
  • Spartan FPGA running at 80Mhz
  • SCC/SCC-I (in FPGA) + 512KB Konami mapper, compatible with romload, loadrom and others
  • JTAG Connector
  • PSG to SCC redirecting in FPGA hardware, software switchable
  • Real-time Joystick, Keyboard and OPLL to MSX remapping when in Sega Master System mode.
  • Support for +/- 400 Sega Master System, SC-1000 and SG-3000 games
  • Software switch for VDP addresses: MSX1 Mirror mode, SEGA (Franky) or Colecovision mode
  • Total of 13 extra sound-channels, SID filter controllable
  • Gold plated slot-connector for durability

At the moment the production of the PCB with the SMD components has started. Afterwards, we have to finalize the PCB’s and product packaging. Some final testing and programming also needs to be done. We hope to start shipping in August. We’ll do our utmost best to keep the final sale price between a Moonsound and a OPL4 shockwave ;-). We have published a little video about the manufacturing process for you. Enjoy! (If you get an error while playing, please select 480p resolution first.)

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Responses

  1. Wow!

  2. Looks very interesting. I wonder though, how does OPLL to MSX remapping work? MSX Addressbus is an Output, so a cartridge can’t write to I/O, right?!

  3. (Translated from Dutch) Damn what a nice piece of hardware! Lots of stuff on this PCB!

  4. You’re right, there is no way to access keyboard or FM-Pac for the cartridge. These are accessed by the Z80 itself by manipulating the game a bit.

    The game is loaded into the SDRAM but the FPGA is always in between the Z80 and SDRAM so it can manipulate the data. If the game accesses the Sega gamepad or Sega FM, the FPGA shows a small piece of code which copies the data to the right MSX I/O. This is only a few bytes in addition to some extra I/O addresses in the FPGA. After this small code we do a relative jump back to the address where the game was interrupted and the game goes on.

  5. Thanks for the explanation :) That’s an interesting method! Reminds me of console modchips.

    I suppose the FPGA monitors the Z80 M1 signal in order to not replace data that looks like Sega I/O?

    Another question, is SCC and Memory Mapper functionality supported at the same time? If so, does that mean this cartridge does not work in a slotexpander due to having subslots of its own?

  6. Yes indeed, M1 and MREQ to check for an I/O operation. Can’t use IORQ because the game will read &HDC for the gamepad but this address range is masked in the Turbo-R to avoid conflicts with KanjiROM… Typical issues when developing hardware.

    By default the cart is a slotexpander itself with 3*2Megabyte and 1*SCC. You can choose for 4*4Megabyte, SCC only or disabling the slotexpander by modifying bits 0-3 of register 31.

  7. This cartridge would be ideal for GEM v1.0, which will be released soon. GEM v1.0 supports an extra Memory Mapper and SCC.
    With PlaySoniq, people without a slotexpander can still use that configuration in combination with Harddisk or CF/SD.

    I would recommend having the default configuration to have 3*4MB and 1*SCC, because there’s really no reason to prefer 2MB over 4MB.

  8. There are programs which don’t support 4MB, so it is quite risky to set it to 4MB by default. We had an SD card reader which crashed at startup, then you can’t do anything. Also the WBASS2 assembler does not understand 4MB.

    On the other hand, I can imagine 4MB should be supported nowadays…

  9. I’ve been hearing the rumor of software not working on 4MB for a long time, but this is the first time someone actually mentioned any examples.

    I’m quite surprised something as recent as an SD card reader does not handle it properly. It’s a serious bug!
    Afterall, MSX-DOS2 kernel does not have problems with 4MB, what the hell is this interface doing with direct mapper access?!

    IMO, the amount of software not working with 4MB is too small to take into account. 99.999% of all programs will work fine.

    The MSX scene should stop looking at the lowest common denominator. Because if you don’t, every buggy and non-complying software will block future expansion.
    Imagine if the MSX slot-layout would’ve been fixed just to support all those buggy british Spectrum conversions.

  10. Great!! I guess that a more flexible configuration for the mapper will be great.

    For instance: select if a subslot will show RAM mapper or not (4 bits) and the amount of RAM for each mapper (4MB / 2MB). With 5 bits you’ll have more control.

    Just a small idea… :P

  11. Switching between 2MB and 4MB seemed important, switching to lower values or disabling the mapper in a subslot is not really necessary and the memory layout of the card is quite complex already.

    You can always ignore RAM in some subslots but it is important to be able to enable or disable the slotexpander. Besides care should be taken when changing the mapper on the fly, not all config changes are possible from basic or mc.

    For running e.g. Solid Snake in the SCC+ mappermode the slotexpander must be switched off, other megarom’s don’t have this problem. Some SCC playertools also needs a primary slot. If you want to use 16MB without slotexpander you can always use the extended mapperbits at &HF8-&HFB.

    The card has also a setting for Sega mappermode. The slotexpander is disabled automatically when it conflicts with the Sega system.

    The 4MB problem of the SD card seems to be fixed after a flash update. We’ll change the default setting to 4MB if testing works out ok.

  12. On-the-fly changing of memory mapper sizes indeed seems like a really bad idea :)

  13. Soldering SIDs to the board is a poor idea. They overheat easy, so soldering them could wreck them.
    Also, they tend to fail anyways at random and then need replacement. It’s easier to swap them if there’s a socket to pop them into.
    Plus theres going to be those SIDflids that go. I NEED TO HAVE THIS SPECIFIC REVISION FOR MAXIMUM ARPING.
    And I will want to swap it.

    • The problem is, that a socket would mean that the cartridge enclosure wouldn’t fit anymore. You are of course free to take the PCB out and then replace the SID with a SID and a socket.

  14. Depending of the SID used, there is a 78L09 in the PCB in case of the 8580 and 2*22nF when the 6581 is used.

    Switching between a 8580 or a 6581, includes removing (8580) or restoring (6581) a small trace. When replacing the 8580, the 22nF also needs to be removed.

    We take great care when soldering the SID. We know that a SID is very, very sensitive. Much more sensitive than the VDP for instance. That’s why there are also diodes to the supply on the audio-in pin and RESET (the pins to the outside world) to avoid damage.

    While this expander support both the 8580 and the 6581, we don’t recommend soldering or adjusting this PCB yourself (also because of any warranty issues when you end up with a broken expander).

    It’s better to inform us of any particular wishes when ordering starts. We don’t mind soldering a socket (if you don’t mind getting the bare boned pcb only) and we can look in our stock of sids to see if we have your particular wanted type (but as sids are difficult to obtain for reasonable prices we cannot guarantee the latter).

  15. Please tell me it’s possible to overlay the 315-5246 image over the MSX video image! :)

    The 315-5246 has the /Y1 (pin-31) for this, afterall.

  16. So
    when is this thingie available??

  17. Overlay requires a lot more than the Y signal only. The main problem is to synchronize the VDP’s.

    We considered this already for Franky but with overlay as a requirement you run into several problems because of all different types of MSX systems, video standards and room in the cartridge. Synchronizing the PlaySoniq could be done by adding two devices e.g. LM1881 to the FPGA, this is a small chip which makes digital pulses out of a composite video signal. In this case the FPGA could act like a PLL since it generates the masterclock of the Sega VDP. Unfortunately not all MSX systems do have a composite video output neighter all MSXes have a RGB output so both inputs should be mounted on this cartridge. Besides an overlay is only possible in the RGB path, otherwise the chrominance frequency must be exactly in phase also, this requires an extra switch and buffers three times, the Sega RGB signal is available inside the cart but an additional video decoder for the MSX signal is also needed and should also meet all video standards. Actually the main problem is, the cart is physically full, and also the power consumption is already at its limit.

  18. If i buy a franky.. is it better to wait for the playsoniq when released ?

    • Hi Edoz, that depends what you want to do with the card. If you want to play modified games, or make your own, Franky is good enough. If you want to also enjoy Sid sound, extra memory etc, the Playsoniq would be better. But will also come with a higher price.

  19. Is the Playsoniq compatible with 7 mhz? I mean like the moonsound, you don’t have to switch back?

    • We are currently in the process of testing the Playsoniq against a lot of different MSX machines. 7Mhz will be part of that. Sadly, some older and exotic MSX1 computers have internals that are so off spec that it’s safe so say that some functionality will probably not work on those machines. We will publish a list with our findings when we’re done testing.

  20. We didn’t have a 7MHz system ourselves. This evening I will modify a Philips NMS 8250 to 7MHz to do some tests regarding timing for memory and I/O.

    For the sound there is no need to switch back, because it has its own crystal.

  21. 7MHz works fine. I want to try some optimization because this won’t work in a slotexpander at 7MHz. Probably not an issue because the PlaySoniq will not work in most slotexpanders. I really don’t understand why slotexpanders don’t mask &HFFFF for it’s subslots. Now the system switches away it’s memory but it can’t switch back.

  22. Regarding the timing it work’s well now at 7MHz, even in a slot expander.

    But still, the Playsoniq is not meant for inserting it into a slotexpander. The main problem is, the Sega software will conflict as the Sega system uses the MSX slot expander register for mapping of the Sega megaroms.

    By default Playsoniq expands the slot for 3*4MByte RAM and one SCC+ in subslot 3. When it is inserted into a slotexpander which does not mask the slot expander register for the subslots, the MSX won’t start as the memory disappears while scanning the other subslots. This can’t be solved in cartridges, I guess it is a weird thing in the design of slot expanders.

  23. Hello :)

    Any news about this great piece of hardware? :D

    • Check our latest post ;-)

  24. [...] presentará Playsoniq, un novedoso hardware del que ya hemos hablado por aquí y que promete mucho en el campo del [...]


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