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POKEY vs. SID


BillyHW
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POKEY vs. SID  

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  1. 1. Which sound do you like better?



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Own both computer since 80s, Pokey is easy on par with Sid (Sid a bit squeakier, Pokey a bit warmer)

 

Pokey Gary Gilbertson stuff, or M.U.L.E., or arcades.

 

YT XL tunes: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=atari+xl+music

 

 

Sid: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UD7Ti5-X5Ww

Edited by high voltage
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As long as you stick with two channel music so you can configure the POKEY for 16-bit frequency ranges, I suppose it can sound alright. It is when you configure it for three or four channels, using 8-bit frequencies you get "video game" sound.

 

A comparison of frequency ranges, leaving out most other aspects of the sound generation:

VIC-I: Three channels of 7-bit frequencies, one octave inbetween each channel + one 7-bit noise channel

TED: Two channels of 10-bit frequencies (I think), of which one can be configured as a 8-bit noise register instead

POKEY: Either two channels of 16-bit frequencies, one channel of 16-bit + two of 8-bit frequencies, or four channels of 8-bit frequencies

SN76489: Three channels of 10-bit frequencies + one noise channel, or two channels of 10-bit + LFSR bass

AY-3-8910: Three channels of 12-bit frequencies + one noise channel, I'm not entirely sure about its full capacities

SID: Three channels of 16-bit frequencies, possible to choose different waveforms for each channel

 

The lack of frequency resolution tends to get worse the higher notes you play.

Edited by carlsson
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SID all the way. Although it isn't just about the chip specs. The SID had an unbelievable number of brilliant composers working on it: Rob Hubbard, Ben Daglish, Martin Galway, Matt Gray, Fred Grey, Maniacs of Noise, Reyn Ouwehand, Hagar, David Whittaker, Chris Huelsbeck, Steve Rowlands, the Follin brothers, Richard Joseph, Martin Walker... the list goes on! And I've not even delved into demo music writers.

 

 

 

 

Now if the POKEY had a similar roster, we might have seen more of what it could really do back in the day.

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To be honest, a couple of those composers also wrote music for POKEY and/or AY. Also there was not much or particularly advanced music on the SID chip until 1985, which means it took at least 2.5 - 3 years before it became a musical success. By then, the Atari 8-bit line was starting to dwindle in favor of the ST, which though has an YM chip closely related to the AY.

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Also there was not much or particularly advanced music on the SID chip until 1985, which means it took at least 2.5 - 3 years before it became a musical success.

 

Galway and Hubbard were the front runners. A lot of the classic SID composers are British. In the UK the C64 was fairly expensive (launching at 349 GBP, which was double what the Speccy launched at), and didn't come down to a reasonable price until the back end of 1984. I suspect price (and the existence of the Speccy) had something to do with the technology not falling into the hands of many talented people until early 1985 heh.

 

And then Hubbard said hello to the C64 world by producing these three tracks all within the space of a few months...

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbQoQFLM_1s

 

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SFX: Pokey

Music: SID

 

This.

 

There are too many classic arcade games where SID just sounds "off". Much prefer the regular good old fashioned chip type sounds for most of them.

 

Amiga's Paula does a much better job than SID in this regard, but always wished Paula had another channel dedicated to Pokey-like sound effects. That would have allowed more games to play SFX and music simultaneously. Or not. Some of these developers or publishers would have probably just skipped the extra feature in their pursuit of a quick and dirty translation job from an inferior platform anyway. sigh

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Pokey is awesome but the SID is a subtractive analog synth that even modern digital emulation can't match.

 

The unique sound is coveted by modern recording artists today via musical instruments like the Electron SID Station, and existing SID tunes have frequently been incorporated into top hits.

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Well, there is this 40 minute video with actual Hubbard music on the POKEY, put together by AtariAge member The_Laird:

 

If I understand correctly, Rob composed/programmed six tunes on the Atari:

 

The Extirpator = Sanxion

Jet Set Willy (used to be an Atari exclusive, now has been re-covered on the C64)

Ninja (which I also think is an Atari exclusive by Hubbard?)

The Last V8 (and this one sounds really lame on the POKEY)

Warhawk

International Karate

The video contains four more songs, which are modern Atari remakes of SID music, so it should be counted separately.

 

Chimera (POKEY SID emulation)

Commando (POKEY SID emulation)
Delta (re-tracked to POKEY by Radek Sterba)
From Bedrooms to Billions (POKEY SID emulation)
Edited by carlsson
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Loaded question. Lifetime Atari user, I love PoKey for arcade sounds. As far as any kind of music is concerned. SID by a country mile. It should be that way. PoKey was designed by the guy that later made USB. SID was designed by the guy that later founded Ensoniq. You do the math.

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As long as you stick with two channel music so you can configure the POKEY for 16-bit frequency ranges, I suppose it can sound alright. It is when you configure it for three or four channels, using 8-bit frequencies you get "video game" sound.

 

A comparison of frequency ranges, leaving out most other aspects of the sound generation:

VIC-I: Three channels of 7-bit frequencies, one octave inbetween each channel + one 7-bit noise channel

TED: Two channels of 10-bit frequencies (I think), of which one can be configured as a 8-bit noise register instead

POKEY: Either two channels of 16-bit frequencies, one channel of 16-bit + two of 8-bit frequencies, or four channels of 8-bit frequencies

SN76489: Three channels of 10-bit frequencies + one noise channel, or two channels of 10-bit + LFSR bass

AY-3-8910: Three channels of 12-bit frequencies + one noise channel, I'm not entirely sure about its full capacities

SID: Three channels of 16-bit frequencies, possible to choose different waveforms for each channel

 

The lack of frequency resolution tends to get worse the higher notes you play.

This is from memory so I'm not 100% sure...

The AY-3-8910 offers multiple selectable waveforms and ADSR envelope settings. Each channel can have a different waveform but they share the same envelope setting.

Volume is logarithmic instead of linear to match human hearing.

Since the 8910 sound isn't just square wave, it has a programmable envelope, and a wide frequency range, it has some definite advantages over most of the other chips.

Sounds like a repeating siren don't require constant manipulation of the chip registers. You can turn it on and it continues to run on it's own.

 

The AY8930 is backwards compatible with the 8910 software wise but adds an enhanced mode with several new features including enhanced frequency control, logic operations on the sound, and the ability to have a unique envelope for each channel. It was used by the Covox Sound Master PC sound card.

 

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Oh man...

 

I love POKEY for it's distinctive sound. I grew up with it, and the various clicks, beeps and other little bits of sound one could get out of an Apple ][. For abstract gaming type sounds, these are really great. POKEY is awesome. Another example is all the Williams sounds, very highly distinctive due to how they did their sound with a CPU and DAC.

 

For music, SID really shines. I've absolutely loved SID tunes. I've appreciated POKEY tunes. Good as it gets.

 

Honestly

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The AY-3-8910 offers multiple selectable waveforms and ADSR envelope settings. Each channel can have a different waveform but they share the same envelope setting.

Ok, I never tried to program one so I can't tell if we're discussing different characteristics, but based on the register set and brief documentation I read, it seems to have different envelopes and volume settings alright, but not so sure about waveforms or pulse width. Even the POKEY is said to have variable duty cycle on the square wave, which I think is baked into the noise register settings so you can get a different pulse width or white noise, but yet again that is something I've only read about.

 

Waveform to me is a timbre, like the SID that has triangle /\/\/\, sawtooth |\|\|\, variable pulse width |_|___|__, combinations of those and white noise. Envelope is a function of how volume changes over time, and usually contains an attack phase (fade in), a decay, a sustain level and a release level. Some more advanced synthesizers may have multiple attack, decay and sustain levels for the same note, and the envelopes on the AY seem to repeat an ADSR cycle multiple times without retriggering the note manually.

 

Btw, as part of the so-called Viznut Waveforms, a couple of years ago it was realized that you can synchronize the internal timers in the VIC-I chip too, and get kind of different pulse widths on the VIC-20. In the old days, people would notice that suddenly the sound got a different timbre and then back again without knowing exactly why or how it could be used, but this behavior was tamed and I think even VICE emulates it reasonably these days. There may be internal timers in other sound chips too that you can sync and cause different pulse widths, I don't know.

Edited by carlsson
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I rather like the Pokey over SID. Pokey sounds more arcade-like, while SID sounds too "demo-ee" for my tastes. Grew up with them both though.

 

Oh man...

 

I love POKEY for it's distinctive sound. I grew up with it, and the various clicks, beeps and other little bits of sound one could get out of an Apple ][. For abstract gaming type sounds, these are really great. POKEY is awesome. Another example is all the Williams sounds, very highly distinctive due to how they did their sound with a CPU and DAC.

 

Indeed. Williams' sounds are as artful as their games. And about the Apple II, it really sounds better than "good enough" if you hook it to a basic 5 or 10 watt stereo with speakers encased in wood.

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If I understand correctly, Rob composed/programmed six tunes on the Atari:

 

The Last V8 (and this one sounds really lame on the POKEY)

i think someone went delving around a while back and confirmed that it wasn't using Hubbard's music driver...? It's closer to the Amstrad CPC version than the C64 from memory.

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I found one of the other recent Atari Hubbard threads here on the forum and read more about what he did and did not do on the POKEY.

 

Anyway, all those vintage sound chips have more or less different properties, benefits and drawbacks so some things simply can't be implemented in the same way or with the same end result on a different chip. This of course holds true in all directions. Also this thread asks which sound you prefer, not music capabilities and as noted the POKEY is often preferred for arcade type sound effects, which can be as important for the total experience as great music.

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