Thursday, September 18, 2014

chipspeech Diary, Part 1

In case you haven't noticed, we take hardware research and emulation very seriously here at Plogue.

-We never take any information for granted, whether its from official datasheets, patents or third party research.

-We always double check and investigate what we do on hardware: creating custom tests suites for each and every chip, sending values and capturing the results digitally.

-We then create models and iteratively refine them as we add new tests, often for virtually every possible edge case there is.

You can imagine that this is a long, VERY long process. We sadly never know when our products will ship because simply knowing how an integrated circuit works in and out does not magically make it a product! (stating the obvious)

We started this project 8 years ago but it really started kicking into speed in the last 3. Back then there wasn't a single 'speech chip' plugin out there(at least I think). And there is now a handful of them, and STILL we are not ready to party with the rest of them.

We hope that this new blog series will help you wait a little bit longer for what we hope will be the one that sets the standard, like chipsounds did.

PART1:

It all began with gathering, or more like compulsive hoarding of nearly every vintage consumer device that talked. We set our start point to 1975,  the date where the first ever speech synthesizer IC reached the market, the TSI Speech+  up to the dawn of the 90's where essentially everything went boringly intelligible. 

How many devices are we talking about?
Quite a lot actually.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Plogue livenes

Is a Nintendo Entertainment System "homebrew" application that I've developed in order to improve the emulation of the RP2A03 for chipsounds 2.0, which is currently in development.

It allows you to change the values of the APU's memory mapped registers ($4000 to $4017) using nothing but the Nintendo d-pad.

A side effect is that it can also be used to generate live minimalistic 'music' on a NES by manually toggling a bit at a time, which is of course completely unintuitive!

Changing the pitch value for a specific channel on a musical scale implies changing multiple bits at once, something that is clearly impossible here.

As I like a challenge, I tried to see if I could make something remotely musical out of this incredible restriction set. The following piece was recorded live (not sequenced in any way) on a real NTSC NES:



Note:
A)The main DMC 'sample' that starts the piece is actually the application code and graphics being interpreted as Delta Modulation.
B)My NES is stereo mod-ed, so there is a slight touch of post mix and reverb, but that's it.

If you want to try it our for yourself you can download the latest .nes ROM here

Revision history:
1.1 Fixed the wrap around on the lower part of the screen
1.0 Initial version

How can you run this on a real NES and not just in an emulator?

1)Put it on a Powerpak
2)Make yourself a nice UNROM (Mapper 2) dev cartridge out of one of those carts
(mirroring is irrelevant). I won't get into the details of that, but here's what mine now looks like: