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Famicom/NES sound differences


Chlysm
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I've been checking out alot of the famicom versions of my favorite songs and I've been finding that the famicom version is usually better with Castlevania II OST being the only notable exception that I can think of. What's also weird is how the the different versions can sound nearly identical or drastically different as if they were played on a completely different sound chip altogether.

Like some of the sawtooth leads used in these tracks sound reminiscent of the C64 (which I think had a real analog chip onboard).

Castlevania III OST

NES (

)

Famicom (link)

Legend of Zelda Title Theme

NES (link)

Famicom

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Several games used sound extension hardware in Japan which added additional channels and oscillators, but the western NES hardware couldn't utilize them so they were gutted for the localized versions. In Japan there was also the Famicom Disk System which I believe had an extra wavetable channel.

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Technical Crap:

Two pins in the Famicom cartridge / cart slot pin out allow for Audio In/Out, allowing some chips to take the music from the Famicom and layer more sounds onto it before passing it back to the Famicom to go out to your TV.

Unfortunately for outside of Japan, the NES pinout was changed and these two pins were moved two the bottom of the machines Expansion port, and never used. NES games can NOT have upgraded sound. Famicom games will NOT run with upgraded sound on an NES even with an adapter, unless you do some heavy, heavy modifications to the board/pins.

Chip examples:

Default PSG Capability: 2 Square, 1 Triangle, 1 Noise, 1 DPCM (Samples) [All Mono]

The Famicom Disk System (its floppy disk add on) aka FDS has an extra channel built into its hardware that is kind of a really low-fi warbly wave table synth, something akin to the GameBoy (original) Wave channel. The FDS version of some games sound differently if they usually take advantage of it. (Zelda 1 & 2, Metroid, CastleVania 2, Kid Icarus, etc). Most apparent are Title Screens, Endings, & SFX, but CV2's music sounds really different.

Nintendo's official MMC5 chip in Japan added 2 extra Square Wave. (Just Breed)

CastleVania III (aka Akumajo Densetsu in Japan) has a VRC6 chip inside of it, which among other things adds some extra sound channels: 2 slightly improved Square Waves, and a Sawtooth Wave. The DPCM in the Famicom version sounds crisper too somehow. Several Konami games in Japan used this chip, and its a favorite among chiptuners. (Madara, Esper Dream II, etc) The music for Shovel Knight was written for this chip.

Namco's N163/N106/whatever adds 4-8 channels (most games just 4) of some sort of advanced PSG with multiple selectable wave type, not knowing the technical aspects of it I say this is somewhat like PC Engine / TG-16. (Megami Tensei II, King of Kings, etc).

Konami VRC7: is basically a YM2413 FM synth inside the cart. 6 channel 2 op modulation FM, pretty spiffy. Basically sounds like a mono Genesis. (Lagrange Point)

Sunsoft FME7: 3 extra Square channels, and Sunsoft games generally abuse the CRAP out of the DPCM in the NES/Famicom hardware to give it an FM like sound channel, but its not. Just a clever trick. (Gimmick!)

Edited by Crowbar Man
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Thanks for the breakdown, Crowbar Man! Now I'm going to spend way too much of the day listening to that stuff on Youtube..

edit: Wow, Lagrange Point sounds incredible. The FM sound is well used and the tone of the pieces is often incredibly melancholic.

Edited by evktalo
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Hmmm they both sounded like Chiptune music to me. I don't guess the sound difference is so large :<

Of course they both sound "like chiptune", they are by definition "Chiptunes"!

However, if you can't hear the difference between the default NES sound on CV3 and the improved VRC6 version, you should listen closer. Famicom/VRC6 version sounds so much better than the NES version, every track has a deeper richness to it awarded by the extra channels.

And if you can't hear the completely different new (warbly) instrument between the NES versionss of FDS version, you really aren't listening. That thing sounds weird, but sometimes makes things sound better... sometimes not really. Different for sure

edit: Wow, Lagrange Point sounds incredible. The FM sound is well used and the tone of the pieces is often incredibly melancholic

Yeah, Lagrange Point does NOT sound like an NES game at all. Pretty amazing feat that one. Some nice tunes as well!

Easily sounds like Genesis, or at the very least PC-98 / MSX2 with FM add ons.

Edited by Crowbar Man
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Technical Crap:

Unfortunately for outside of Japan, the NES pinout was changed and these two pins were moved two the bottom of the machines Expansion port, and never used. NES games can NOT have upgraded sound. Famicom games will NOT run with upgraded sound on an NES even with an adapter, unless you do some heavy, heavy modifications to the board/pins.

I wouldn't consider adding a single 47kohm resistor to the NES a heavy modification. Your explanation sounds greatly exaggerated.

Although you also need an extra wire on the Famicom to NES adapter as well, if you check out the instructions these are fairly trivial modifications to make. Someone with only a small amount of soldering experience should have no problem.

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I dunno, the moment you mention pulling out a soldering iron sounds like a heavy modification to me. There are several ways to accomplish getting the extra sound, such as modifying a Famicom->NES adapter, and running an audio cable out of the adapter and manually coupling it with the NES's RCA jack, bypassing the need to directly modify the NES itself altogether. The motherboard mod looked something like this: http://www.54.org/sage/condev/NESMods/NESMods_Sound_Input_On_Pin_18.jpg. This is on top of a FC->NES adapter modification. That is quite a heavy modification IMO. Either way, any method you choose requires extra tools and soldering, something your average person is usually not capable of at all.

My point was, a vanilla NES has no native capability of playing these extra sounds. A vanilla Famicom to NES adapter won't do the trick. You will need to do some solder work and a lot of work arounds to get the extra sound off real hardware

Thankfully most modern emulators support the extra memory mappers / sound chips, so you can run these games (maybe not 100% accurate) with their extra sound with a good emulator.

Edited by Crowbar Man
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