Putting Every Chiptune Ever In An FPGA

Finally one device combines the power of the Commodore 64 SID, Atari ST YM2149, and Amiga MOD audio into one awesome box. It’s called the RetroCade Synth, and there’s a Kickstarter that is perfect for starting your chiptune composing journey.

[Jack]’s RetroCade synth is connects directly to the Papilio One 500k FPGA. All the classic chiptune ICs can be emulated in this FPGA including the Commodore 64 SID chip, and an Amiga MOD player. Being a follow-up to [Jack]’s previous FPGA YM2149 project, he also threw that chip into the project for good measure. While the RetroCade doesn’t ship with every old chiptune IC – there isn’t support for NES, Atari, GameBoy, or SN76489-based chiptunes yet – that is something [Jack] will add once the Kickstarter is completed.

After the break you can see [Jack] jamming out on his RetroCade project playing a YM2149, SID, and Amiga MOD sounds simultaneously. For $100, it’s comparable to the venerable MIDIbox SID, but also allows anyone to play whatever genre of chiptunes they desire.


21 thoughts on “Putting Every Chiptune Ever In An FPGA

  1. Just wanted to point out that the $100 perk gets you a Papilio One 500k and a Retrocade board. If you get bored of chiptunes, you’ll still have a great FPGA development board.

    1. NICE!

      I always find it amazing that the same people that put together keygens are actually very musically astute. You know, whenever I bump into someone with a keygen open.. hah.

      1. Can this thing really sound close to a SID? The SID’s sound is largely due to it being analog-based. I’m yet to hear an emulation of the SID, on various chips or as computer software, that sounds enough like the real thing.

  2. First, Kevin Horton has made FPGA reimplementations of countless chiptune players, and he doesn’t have the hubris to ask $100 in a Kickstarter for them, either.

    Second, am I really going to be the first person to point out that even if he includes the planned chips, it’s nowhere near “every chiptune ever” and definitely not worth the $100 price point?

    Where’s the YM3812 for OPL-based tunes from PC games from the late 80’s / early 90’s? Where’s the YM2612 for the Sega Genesis? Where’s the YM2610 for Neo-Geo and associated coin-ops? Where’s the Sega AICA for playing back DSF (Dreamcast Sound Format) chiptunes? What about the Sega SCSP, for playing back SSF (Saturn Sound Format) tunes, as well as a bunch of coin-ops that ran on the Sega Model 2 and Sega Model 3 platform? I also don’t see anything about the various MSM or Oki sample chips (MSM5205, MSM5232, OKI 6295, and others) from the tons of other coin-ops that use them? Where’s the Atari POKEY for the various post-A2600 Atari consoles and Atari coin-op games? What about the YM2151 (note: not even remotely the same as the YM2149) that was used in countless other coin-op games? What about the YM3834 that was used in various Sega coin-op arcade games? What about the AY-3-8910, which was used in various Konami games like Gyruss, among many others from many other companies? What about the various Namco WSG chips that were used in the late 70’s / early 80’s games from Midway and Namco, like Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, and Dig-Dug?

    Son, I am disappoint.

    1. do you think that is a lot for a great FPGA board + retrocade synth megawing !!
      the Papilio One is for $69 and you can still get the retrocade for just $40 I think so this is a good deal I’m not disappointed at all :)

  3. (didn’t mean to reply earlier to that comment)
    Can this thing really sound close to a SID? The SID’s sound is largely due to it being analog-based. I’m yet to hear an emulation of the SID, on various chips or as computer software, that sounds enough like the real thing.

    1. Try ReSID-fp, e.g. in SIDPLAY for Mac OS X (enable best emulation in the prefs) or x64sc in the VICE suite (select ReSID-fp and one of the dated SID models in the SID settings).

  4. Texas Instruments SN76477, used in the TI-99/4 and TI-99/4A computers, the PC jr, most of the Tandy series of PC clones, some game consoles and many other things.

    The COVOX Speech Thing, pretty much the same deal as the Disney Sound Source, should be easy to implement in FPGA. Microsoft also sold the same thing in a LPT port dongle.


    Then there are the other audio features COVOX had on their Sound Master and Sound Master II 8 bit ISA cards. The SMII was one of the earliest instances of one audio device emulating another when drivers were released to make it pretend to be a Sound Blaster Pro.

    Another one to add would be the Creative Music System (CMS) chips from Creative Labs first sound card, and available as an option to plug into SoundBlaster cards for several years.

  5. I don’t get it. Those chips where analog digital hybrids. FPGA are digital only.

    The reason why software and DSP emulators are ‘not good enough’ for purists is because they are no true analog experience. (Records vs. CD argument I guess)

    I don’t see how a digital FPGA emulation should be better than a DSP/Software emulation.

    1. You’re right in some aspects – we lose the “characteristic” low-pass filters most analog devices have. However, being a “purist” for old 8-bit sound (or 14-bit) @ low samplerates just does not cut it. What we tried to do is to have a simple, hackable system which allows you to play with those HW devices (and it’s not emulation, but rather remakes, cause digitally they are indeed almost the same).

      Also note that the MOD player (compatible with Amiga SoundTrackerPRO files) was entirely written in software (adapted by me, actually, from an opensource project called PTplay). All this is fed to a few sigmadelta DAC runinng at 96MHz, so with a proper analog filter you can have a pretty good sound quality.


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