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.

installing2

 

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 vST MIDI-driver. The vST MIDI-driver can be downloaded from ‘Mudlord’s Lair’.

usb midi

 

An 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:

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). Please 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.

MT-32a.png

To support legacy MIDI programs like MT-32 emulator you first need to create a virtual hardware port with loopMIDI. Then you can can select the new virtual MIDI port as the default Windows MIDI device with Coolsoft’s MIDI-Mapper.

Also, the MT-32 emu comes default without the system roms like openMSX.

MT-32b

After creating the hardware port with loopMIDI, you can assign it to the ‘Munt’ MT-32 emulator under the Tools menu of the MT-32 emulator (first option: ‘New midi port’). After assigning the port you can use normal Windows programs like Windows Media Player to play MT-32 files. With the Coolsoft’s MIDI-Mapper you can also easily switch between (Virtual) MIDI devices for default MIDI-Playback.

6. MT-32 files of XAK: The Tower of Gazzel and Illusion City can be found here
7. Another 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.
8. Some more MSX-themed general MIDI files at MSX Resource Center

MSX user ToughKidCST Kim made a movie with the Coolsoft MIDI mapper and Virtual Midi Synth implemented. See it in action below!

Happy listening!

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: