Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 30, 2016

Email: Audio terminology and MSU1

First, a quick thing about the MSU1 enhancement chip on the SNES, there is in fact a flash cart that implements support for the – the SD2SNES (video is not in English, but it does well to gets the point across – skip to just after the 11 minute mark):

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’d like to point out that there’s actually 4 variations of audio used in games rather than just “compressed” and “uncompressed”.

Tracked – MIDI, MOD, “chiptunes” like those used in NES & SNES (there are even modern Wii games that use tracked music)…closest image equivalent would be SVG

Lossy compressed – AAC, AC3, MP3, Opus, Vorbis, WMA…image equivalent is JPEG

Lossless compressed – ALAC, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, FLAC, WavPack, WMA Lossless…image equivalent is PNG

Uncompressed – AIFF, WAV…image equivalent is BMP

One thing that is worth noting about lossless is that decoding FLAC is light enough on the CPU that even the Nintendo DS’s secondary CPU (ARM7 @ 33MHz) can decode it in real-time, so it can make sense to at least use that for background music, but using uncompressed for sound effects can still make sense because decoding 10x FLAC streams at once can make a non-negligible dent in your CPU utilization.

However, at least on Nintendo systems (save for the N64 and DS), they actually have a dedicated sound processor (DSP) that have their own hardware-decodable format, so using such formats will have no impact on your CPU utilization.


The point was to show that gaming was going towards awesome audio. Then, it became ‘virtual reality’ and ‘omg 3d!’ for no apparent reason. We know there was no demand for virtual reality. There was demand for 3d when it worked well (especially for racing), but 2d kept selling too.

I think the obsession for virtual reality and ‘omg 3d’ is a distortion in the console evolution.

“What about the FMV fad?”

Yeah, that was definitely a distortion too. But you have to give FMV credit, it aged better than the early ‘omg 3d’ and ALL virtual reality crap. A movie can still be fun to look at after all these years. Low tech virtual reality? No. Early 3d? No.



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