Nintendo / SEGA

How would a SNES sound with a Sega Genesis sound chip?

The battle for 16-bit supremacy was era-defining. But what if the SNES had the Sega Genesis’s sound chip?

Both the SNES and Sega Genesis (or Megadrive for us in the UK) held places in our hearts in some way, shape, or form. If you weren’t on either side, you were lucky enough to own both. I wasn’t one of the charmed ones but I did play on both during the 90s and I enjoyed them immensely.

Part of their appeal, besides the awesome games and peripherals, was the iconic sound. The SNES had its dedicated S-SMP chip (designed and produced by Sony, funnily enough) and the Genesis had the Yamaha YM2612. But what if the SNES used the YM2612 instead?

Horus Curcino decided to try it by using a dump of the Yamaha chip and it sounds kinda weird but very interesting.

Here’s the tracklist if you want to skip to a particular track:

  • 00:00 – Sega logo fanfare
  • 00:03 – Top Gear – Track 1
  • 01:42 – Street Fighter 2 – Ken Stage
  • 02:36 – Final Fantasy V – Gilgamesh Theme
  • 03:06 – Super Mario World – Overworld
  • 03:46 – F-Zero – Mute City
  • 04:12 – Donkey Kong Country – Jungle Theme
  • 05:20 – Star Fox – Corneria stage

The Sega Genesis’s sound chip

The Yamaha YM2612 (also known as the OPN2) was used in a number of consoles and devices including the Sega Genesis/Megadrive, Fujitsu’s FM Towns computer series and some of Sega’s arcade systems like the System 18, System 32 and Mega-Play boards.

Tech specs of the Yamaha YM2612

According to the YM2612 manual, the sound chip featured:

  • Six FM voices
  • Four operators per channel
  • Two interval timers
  • A sine-wave LFO (low frequency oscillator)
  • Integrated stereo output DAC (digital-to-analog converter)
  • Per-channel programmable stereo sound
  • The ability to create dissonant harmonics

You can also emulate the sound of the Yamaha YM2612 with Nuked-OPN2, which would give a Sega emulator the most authentic sound quality possible.

3 projects using the Yamaha YM2612

The sound chip may have been officially used in Sega hardware and a Fujitsu computer series but that hasn’t stopped people using it in their own projects. Here are 3 examples:

The YM2151 Arcade Classic

The YM2151 Arcade Classic

The epitome of sound hardware, the YM2151 Arcade Classic is an “open source hardware player for Video Game Music (VGM) files”. The files are played on the chip as they would in a real arcade cabinet. To play the songs, the STM32 board, which powers the chip, loads the VGM files from an SD card, and then displays the songs’ metadata on a 128×32 OLED screen. You can also shuffle and mute songs with the provided switches.

The Genesynth

The Genesynth

Thea Flowers created the Genesynth out of the YM2612 chip, giving users some incredible 90s sounds and chunky basslines. Besides its capabilities to receive MIDI commands from DAWs (digital audio workstations), the Genesynth can also be controlled by music hardware like the Ableton Push, for example.

The MegaGRRL

The MegaGRRL

Imagine an iPod that used the Sega Genesis sound chip. Well, imagine no more as that’s exactly what the MegaGRRL is. The device plays back music files created for the YM2612 chip and comes with an amp and battery charger. The display is a paltry 240×320 pixels but it comes in full colour and there are seven buttons including the classic A, B, and C buttons.

Further analysis of the Yamaha YM2612 can be found on the Sega Retro website.

You can stream part 2 below.

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