The ISA-Bus

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Tag Archives: MT-32

I’m selling a Roland MT-32 on eBay

Years ago, I bought two Roland MT-32s. Now I’ve finally decided which one to keep and put the other one on eBay. It’s a first generation one, the serial number is 840068.

The metal parts of the case are somewhat scratched, the plastic part around the volume control a bit rubbed. This is not uncommon, these devices were often originally owned by musicians, not gamers, and may have been taken on tour. The rubber feet are missing and should be replaced, since the module now rests on some screws and will scratch any surface it sits on.

I’m selling it without a power supply, since I have only one of these. That shouldn’t be a problem. It seems that power supplies are mostly interchangeable between Roland devices, and are still sold. I found prices around $8 for the USA, £10 for the UK, €18 for continental Europe, all on eBay.

A first generation MT-32 is the best choice for most American games at least up to around 1992. Dune II still sounds better on it. For British games, an LAPC-I or CM-32L is usually the better choice.

I’m selling some other computer stuff as well and will sell more in the next time. You might want to keep an eye on it.

Post-auction update: It went up to €80.

Circuit’s Edge and the MT-32

Circuit’s Edge will not play its music correctly on Sound Canvas MT-32 emulation. It will, in fact, be horribly off: Instead of Fantasy and Synth the intro will use standard pianos.

The interesting thing is that there is no detectable activity before the music starts. Dune II, in comparison, takes its time to initialize the MT-32.

Chip’s Challenge and the MT-32

I just tried Chip’s Challenge with an MT-32, I wanted to see if it uploads any custom patches. It does not. There is absolutely no activity before the music actually starts.

Now I know from previous experience that Chip’s Challenge will work with a WaveBlaster connector. Unfortunately, there never was a full-featured MT-32 on a daughterboard. There is, however, a complete Sound Canvas on a daughterboard: The Roland SCD-15. And a game that does not upload patches will work well with the MT-32 emulation of the Sound Canvas.

As a footnote, the music isn’t the same as in the original Lynx version. It was written by David Whittaker, probably the most sought-after British game composer of the time. Except for the famous Windows version, all the ports were made by British outfit Images Software, and mostly to platforms popular in the UK. You can play Pipe Mania on a Mac or NES, but not Chip’s Challenge!

Dune II and the Roland MT-32

I have read in various places that Dune II will work only with a first generation MT-32. Not true. I just tried it with an original MT-32, a CM-32L, and even with the MT-32 emulation of the SCC-1. The emulation, of course, gets the sound effects wrong, but might even be a viable alternative if the multiple sound source patch is installed and Sound Blaster used for the sound effects. The first generation MT-32 may sound somewhat better, but all three setups basically work.

Actually I’m not sure if it is even possible to have a game that works only with a first generation synth. The other way round, yes. Ignoring the 40 ms delay between sysex commands may cause buffer overflows, broken sounds and even firmware lockups. But I think the worst that can happen when a game that exploits the first generation bugs is run on later hardware is that it sounds a bit odd in places.

Some Notes on the Roland MT-32

Roland had not, originally, intended the MT-32 to be used with a computer. They had a very specific setup in mind, that is explained in detail in the manual: A PR-100 sequencer and a Roland Piano.

The suggested setup in the MT-32 manual

A PR-100 and an MT-32 were later released as a single device, the MT-100. The Roland Piano was the main instrument, the one connected to the amplifier or headphone. The MT-32, therefore, had no need for a headphone jack. Its audio output was plugged into the piano. So far, I have not been able to track down this “Roland Piano”. The professional Roland synths are documented very well on the web, the low-end home products less so.

Then, in 1988, Roland released something they called the Musi-kun, a set to create and listen to music on a PC. It seems to have been available for NEC PC-98 only. Unfortunately, only tiny images can be found:

Musi-kun-1 Musi-kun-2

I suppose that it was on this occasion that the second generation of MT-32 was launched. One of the changes was the addition of a headphone jack. Now that the MT-32 was the main instrument, it needed one.