Want to make a splash among the aficionados of digital sound? Releasing a software instrument emulating a broad collection of vintage digital synthesis chips from game and computer systems seems to do the trick. See my look at that software, and just as importantly, the chips that inspired it.

Within days of the release of Plogue’s Chipsounds, we have a couple of fair reviews of the new tool. Already got Chipsounds? Plogue’s David Viens has released screencasts showing you how to use it. Curious about other ways to explore vintage 8-bit sound? We’ve got that, too, in samples, hardware, and even SuperCollider code.

Reviews are in

Torley has an extensive video review – amazing stuff for something just days old – shown above. Gisle Martens Meyers has a review, too, on the blog Ugress. One complaint is that the plug-in is multi-timbral, rather than requiring different instances. In turn, automation is in the form of MIDI Control Changes, not parameters, since parameter automation really doesn’t deal with multi-timbral plug-ins. But all in all, you can get a lot from both reviews, plus a look at how the software works. There’s also a sense of where the software could go in future updates.

Plogue Chipsounds makes chiptune & video game sounds easy [Torley Lives]
Chipsounds Plugin Chip Sounds [Ugress]

The discussion of Chipsounds has also brought other efforts to resurrect vintage, 8-bit sounds.

Get Your Chip Fix

This is by no means comprehensive, but here are a few of the best goodies readers have pointed out in the last few days:

Free Samples: Little Scale, aka Sebastian Tomczak, has been busy. He’s added sample packs of his own, including a Friday release of the Commodore 64 SID. Add that to Sega Master System, Mega Drive, speech chip, and Atari POKEY and TIA. These are just samples, so rather than being a turn-key solution as Chipsounds is, they’re more of a construction set – though that could make them useful in other scenarios.

C64 SID Sample Pack [little-scale]

Go Hardware! And, in turn, if hardware fires you up more than software or samples, Sebastian has done some lovely work connecting the actual chips to MIDI interfaces.

And here’s the documentation on how to do it with the free and open hardware Arduino platform

Other hardware solutions:
A DIY TI SN76477N-based Voice Module, comprehensively documented (a heck of a lot fancier than the Arduino stuff I wanted to play around with)

SuperCollider Code: For SuperCollider fans, Fredrik Olofsson (aka RedFrik) has built emulations of vintage chips in the object-oriented sound coding language. That’s a doubly delicious thing: aside from allowing you to make 8-bit sounds in the free tool, looking at his emulations is a great way to discover more of what you can do with SuperCollider. You can continue in code the kind of elegant, minimal synthesis design work the early creators of the original chips did in hardware. (Thanks, Howard S and Morgan Packard for the tip!)

SC Code [and a lot of other great SC code there, too… bookmarked, downloaded.]

Video walkthroughs

I know quite a few readers did pick up Chipsounds, so you’ll be pleased to know – in case you missed this – that there are some video demos that walk you through how the tool works. This also gives a better idea of how the software itself functions, since I got distracted waxing rhapsodic about the chips!

As my piano teacher used to say to me, “that should keep you off the streets.”