Sega Genesis Chiptunes Player Uses Original Chips

If you were a child of the late 1980s or early 1990s, the chances are you’ll be in either the Super Nintendo or the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive camp. Other 16-bit games consoles existed, but these were the ones that mattered! The extra power of the Nintendo’s souped-up 16-bit 6502 derivative or the Sega’s 68000 delivered a gaming experience that, while it might not have been quite what you’d have found in arcades of the day, was at least close enough that you could pretend it was.

The distinctive sound of consoles from that era has gained a significant following in the chiptunes community, with an active scene composing fresh pieces, and creating projects working with them. One such project is [jarek319]’s Sega Genesis native hardware chiptune synthesiser, in which music stored as VGM files on a MicroSD card are parsed by an ATSAMD21G18 processor and sent to a YM2612 and an SN76489 as you’d have found in the original console. The audio output matches the original circuit to replicate the classic sound as closely as possible, and there is even some talk about adding MIDI functionality for this hardware.

The software is provided, though he admits there is still a little way to go on some functions. The MIDI support is not yet present, though he’s prepared to work on it if there was enough interest. You really should hare this in action, there is a video which we’ve placed below the break.

If you are interested in older sound chips, make sure to look at this round-up of a host of them hooked up to a Teensy. Meanwhile if the Genesis or Mega Drive was your youthful downfall, drool over this portable version.

16 thoughts on “Sega Genesis Chiptunes Player Uses Original Chips

  1. Shame they did not do a SNES tune player, as that is hardest to emulate.

    Also worth noting only the original megadrive had quality sound as the later generations and (certainly the recent ones) are garbage.

    1. I did indeed complete a SNES version based on this design:

      However I read the pinout wrong and ended up releasing the audio module’s magic smoke when I plugged the module in ( what turned out to be ) backwards :(

      the fixed version of the board is on its way from OSHpark and I’ll write the project up on IO when it’s done :D probably here:

  2. “Chiptune” was a term made up for Amiga mod music files that used very short samples and thus sounded a bit like older, simpler synth chips. They were often used in cracktros and similar places where space was at a premium. Therefore, paradoxically, music produced using actual synthesizer circuits aren’t really chiptunes at all.

  3. is it meant to sound this bad? crackling like old turntable? I dont remember my Genesis crackling
    Pretty cool project for the purists, personally I would be more excited about emulating both of those chips on something like $2 STM32 board, or $12 cyclone 4 ones.

    1. the raw output from the chips is fed right into an op amp and then directly into my line-in sound card, so it doesn’t soften the sound as much as the analog signal chain in tv sets did. this track also had a lot of PCM drum samples :P

    2. These chips just sound terrible – compared to what our ears are used to now.
      Back in the 80s at my Atari ST or a friend’s Amiga it felt like the deepest Hi-Fi experience ever – obviously we were wrong, just some square waves modulating…
      Still I love chiptunes. Ahhhh memories…

  4. I am doing something very similar with an AY-3-8912A sound chip and a SPO256 voice chip.

    The sound chip was used in many of the early home computers.

    I am just going to make some Arduino Uno shields.

    1. There still kicking around ebay. I don’t think anyone is still manufacturing them unless China is cloning them now.

      Other Chips like this are the AY-3-8910 AT-3-8912

      Some of them can be made in FPGA/CPLD with Verilog / VHDL but the ones that have more complex analogue are either non-existent or emulated with a fast micro-controller.

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