MIDI-PAC2 without MIDI synth hardware

If you have your Windows PC next to your MSX setup this tip we got might be for you. There are ways to use your Windows PC as the MIDI playback device.

You need a few things. First of all, Microsoft removed support for extra midi mappers since Windows 8. You’ll need a midi mapper to install alternative playback devices for playing MIDI. There’s a default MIDI playback device installed in Windows, but the quality is low and it lacks a lot of professional features.

For Windows 8 and up, you need to install Coolsoft’s MIDI-Mapper.  It can be downloaded from https://coolsoft.altervista.org/en/forum/thread/427 after registering for that forum. Coolsoft Midi MapperThen there are several ways to install a better software synthesizer. Coolsoft’s has also made available the Virtual Midi Synth, that can be downloaded from Coolsoft’s forum and it will add a new MIDI playback device under Windows. It’s soundfont (sample based synthesis) based.

Another option is to install the S-YXG50 software synthesizersyxg50 This shareware synthesizer was released by Yamaha in 2003 and supports XG and Roland GS extensions. Basically it’s the software version of the MU-50 MIDI Sound Module. It’s wrapped in a vSTI (plug-in software standard for audio editing programs). To get it to work as a global MIDI device under Windows, you need to install a vSTI wrapper. The wrapper can be downloaded from here.

usb midiAn USB to MIDI cable can be ordered from different sites. Aliexpress sells them for around $5 including shipping. You’ll also need a 5 pin din midi coupler to connect the MIDI-PAC cable to the pc midi cable, that can be bought for about $2.5, also at Aliexpress.

Further reading, viewing and listening:

1.XG MIDI Files archive.
2. Soundfont MIDI Player as better alternative for playing MIDI files midi player
Youtube video with the MIDI Player and S-YXG50 together
sc-va_main

3. Roland Sound Canvas vSTI obtainable as test or buy for 115 euro. Video here 
4. The LoopMIDI driver to reroute programs that want to open hardware MIDI ports under Windows to your installed software synthesizers (e.g. for playing old dos games etc.)
5. There’s also a MT-32 emulator on Github (thanks Grauw). MT-32Please note that you first need to install the Coolsoft MIDI Mapper and create a loopback port with the LoopMIDI driver before you can use the emulator as the global MIDI playback instrument under Windows 8 and up. Also, the MT-32 emu comes default without the system roms like openMSX.
6. A collection of MT-32 MIDI files can be found here. Please note that the drum channel is different on a MT-32 so these MIDI files may sound off when using another MIDI-playback device.

Happy listening!

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News bits

With the MIDI-PAC out in the open and Tjeerd already busy with making a second batch, we can’t complain. Thank you for your support! For new customers: we’ve made a new Order page were you can select the products you want to order. We will then contact you with the payment details.

Also, the PlaySoniq boxes, sponsored by Sunrise are in. If you bought your PlaySoniq without box, please use the order form to get your PlaySoniq box. The box costs nothing, you only pay shipping. Shipping will be around 10 euro for most European countries. If you know other PlaySoniq users in your neighbourhood maybe you can order together to cut down shipping costs.

MsxKun informs us that he is busy with a program to control the MSX PSG and the SID on the PlaySoniq through a MIDI keyboard. For this you need a Philips Music Module to connect your MIDI controller. This is of course very exciting news. Because using the PlaySoniq as a MIDI controllable syntheziser is one of the idea’s we had when we were designing the PlaySoniq. MsxKun also has plans to build in support for the SEGA Audio chip and the SCC of the PlaySoniq. At the moment this project has a low priority but he is willing to put more time in it, if more people are interested. So please let us or him know! Read all about it on his Spanish blog here: PaxBlog.

Also new is the instruction manual how to mount the Toshiba HX-MU900 MSX Audio expander. If you have a Toshiba Music Module lying around and want some more functionality, this expander might be for you. But you need to have quite some soldering skills to install this upgrade (or know someone who does). Check it out at the Docs section. This product can also be ordered from the Order page.

A while ago we adjusted the Commodore Basic instruction manual (sound chapters) so it would reflect the SID mounted on the PlaySoniq. It also contains the Basic listing, adjusted for use in MSX Basic. You can now download this document from the Docs page, in the PlaySoniq section.

If you read the comments on this site, you can find out how to flash your MIDI-PAC with the FM-PAC basic. Please note that afterwards, you can not use the MIDI-PAC together with a FM-PAC anymore (unless you flash the original rom back). The WORP3 website has a new configuration file for MT-32 users. If you made your own configuration file, please consider sharing them so we can add them to the website for other users. This counts for other MIDI equipment or game specific configs (like playing Aleste with only pianos). The MIDI-PAC will also have support for configuring instruments outside the general midi bank on Roland modules soon. So stay tuned.

Happy MSX-ing!

MIDI-PAC on sale at Nijmegen!

In two weeks the MSX fair in Nijmegen (the Netherlands) will take place. Tjeerd of WORP3 has been working around the clock to get some MIDI-PAC’s  ready for the upcoming fair in Nijmegen. The MIDI-PAC will convert OPLL (MSX Music/ FM-PAC) data to MIDI data on the fly. This means that you can play all your favorite games  with your favorite MIDI equipment.  The first tools were programmed in MSX Basic. Luckely Tjeerd decided to reprogram them all for MSX-DOS. Tools for loading custom configuration files are ready.
The first release of the new configuration tool to adjust the musical instruments and all kind of other MIDI parameters is almost finished. We would like to thank Tjeerd’s wife for her patience 😉 and Manuel Pazos for arranging the product packaging. Hopefully we will have the product packaging too before Nijmegen. Tjeerd has made some recordings available for those of you who cannot wait until the Nijmegen fair. The recordings are made with a custom build Yamaha XG module based on a DB50 expansion pcb. And although the MIDI-PAC works on most General MIDI equipment, we recommend Yahama XG MIDI Modules if you are planning to buy a module and don’t want to spend a fortune. If you don’t want to spend money on MIDI modules at all: instructions for using a PC as a MIDI module will also be provided in the manual. Anyway, listen to our latest recordings and be amazed!

Aleste:
Compile soundbite
Aleste

Fire Hawk:
First level

Fray:

Song 1 (you can compare it with an old one we posted earlier to hear the advancements: Old song 1).
Song 2 (you can compare it with an old one we posted earlier to hear the advancements: Old song 2).
Song 3.

Tower of Gazzle:
Song 1

Princess maker
Song 1

PlaySoniq and MIDI-PAC together

Last Saturday, the monthly MSX Mariënberg meeting was held. We still had all the PlaySoniq, MIDI-PAC and MSX gear in boxes due to the Bonami retro fair that was held one week before. So we could easily also show a little demonstration in Mariënberg.

At the Bonami fair, people liked the PlaySoniq and the MIDI-PAC. For the PlaySoniq we had to convince people that it was actually a MSX that was playing Sega games. For the MIDI-PAC we’ve got questions about which CD’s we were playing (while we actually were demo-ing MSX games). This was also partly due to Tjeerd bringing his Yamaha XG wavetable MIDI module. Which actually blows away our simple Yamaha TG-300 tone generator.

Over the last weeks, we also managed to let the PlaySoniq work together with the MIDI-PAC.There are about 64 Sega Master System games with support for OPLL (the same chip as in the MSX Music standard or the FM-PAC has). Since the PlaySoniq can reroute that music and sound effects to the MSX, the MIDI-PAC can pick those up too and convert that to MIDI data on the fly. In short: with the PlaySoniq and the MIDI-PAC combined, you can also enjoy your SMS-FM games with your MIDI equipment. Try that with a Master System Console 😉

We recorded a little video at Mariënberg to show the MIDI-PAC and the PlaySoniq working together. A big thank you to Filip Slagter who was willing to demo YS2 FM and Scramble Spirits on the PlaySoniq and MIDI-PAC combined. And Firehawk with the MIDI-PAC. we hope you like this video. But keep in mind that this demo was recorded with a phone (and the TG-300). A lot of the lower frequencies in the bass and drums sounds are therefore missing in the sound output.

PlaySoniq tips

Some users report that their FM-PAC is not working with the PlaySoniq. Others report that the joysticks are not working. For FM-PAC support you first have to activate the FM-PAC. After typing CALL MUSIC (or add this enty in the sega.bas file) everything works. Albert Beevendorp wil release a tool with which you can activate the FM-PAC from MSX-DOS. We hope to make this available soon. For joystick support you also have to edit the sega.bas file. By default only the keyboard is active. To change this, change line 120 by entering ‘ 120 OV=4 ‘ and save “sega.bas” again. Please note there’s an overlay matrix in the manual were you can check which option best suits your needs, or the game you want to play. PCEFAN reports that overlay code 3 works best in most situations. Just try and check the results for your configuration.

If you experience soft SCC sound, there a few ways around this. First of all, there’s a volume adjuster on the PCB which you can adjust to balance the SCC mixing. Please check the manual for details. To get full control over the audio mixing, also for mixing OPLL sounds with PSG, MSX with PlaySoniq and our upcoming MIDI-PAC we bought a Behringer VMX-300 3-Channel audio mixer. These can be picked up for about 50 euros at local or webbased trade-in markets. New it’s about 120~150 euros. We got ours for 50.

You can see the VMX-300 and the MIDI-PAC prototype in action here: