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 Post subject: Buying Roland MT-32 Sound Module
PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2010 10:05 pm 
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I want to get a Roland MT32 sound module to be able to hear the cool music when playing old games. The real Roland MT32 sounds so much better than the emulations, and there are many examples of this on YouTube. I was wondering which Roland equipment was the best to get for playing these older games. Please help! :o

Different Roland modules are described here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_MT-32

Is it best to get the Roland MT32? Or the second generation Roland CM-32L? Or the CM-64? And do I need the Roland LAPC-I: ISA bus expansion card?

I am a little confused. :eek Will any one of these give the best sound on the older Sierra games? And if I buy one of those second generation modules (like the CM-32L or the CM-64), will they have full backwards compatibility with the original Roland MT32?


Last edited by pbpb33 on Sun May 02, 2010 1:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2010 2:02 pm 
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If you want to hear only MT-32 games or games out of the MT-32 only then get a 1st gen MT-32 (most popular ). You don't need anything else but a MIDI/Sound Blaster cable adapter. This plugs into the joystick port of your soundcard and the MIDI end "Out" goes into the MT-32. Or if you're using a modern operating system (XP and up) you can get a USB MIDI adapter instead. I believe you still need to get some separate MIDI cables for that though. But I don't know. Do some research on that maybe.

As far as Sierra games go (the older ones, SCI1.0 games and earlier) a first gen MT-32 is usually the best. I think the only exception is one of the LSL games which was written for the CM-32L and/or CM-64 but it's not that big of a deal. The first gen MT-32 sounds the best. First gen MT-32s have only 2 plugs in the back (for left and right audio). 2nd gen MT-32s also have a headphones jack.

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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2010 2:09 pm 
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I'm posting again because for some reason my PS3 is limiting the number of characters I type in a text box at once.

The LAPC-I is simply for convenience. It's an alternative to the external counterparts. It's basically just an internal version. I believe it shares its specs with the CM-32L.

Alternatively, if you want to hear ALL Sierra games the way they were meant to be heard you'd need an SC-55 Sound Canvas for all later games (SC1.1 and up). This is a General MIDI module and not meant for the earlier Sierra games (SCI1.0 and earlier) though there are fanmade drivers that allow you to play those games with the SC-55. But you miss out on a lot of instruments and sound effects and altogether general awesome MT-32-ness.

There is a box that will do both (MT-32 and SC-55) but it's very rare. The CM-500 contains a CM-64 (MT-32 counterpart) and a CM-300 (SC-55 counterpart). There's a switch in the back that lets you switch between CM-64 and CM-300 modes. Very handy. Like I said, rare and probably expensive.

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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 12:18 am 
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Wow, thank you so much for this great information!! You are like an encyclopedia!! Basically, now I'm determined to find the CM-500. I hope I can find it somewhere cheap! Is the best place to look for this stuff on ebay?

MusicallyInspired wrote:
I'm posting again because for some reason my PS3 is limiting the number of characters I type in a text box at once.

The LAPC-I is simply for convenience. It's an alternative to the external counterparts. It's basically just an internal version. I believe it shares its specs with the CM-32L.

Alternatively, if you want to hear ALL Sierra games the way they were meant to be heard you'd need an SC-55 Sound Canvas for all later games (SC1.1 and up). This is a General MIDI module and not meant for the earlier Sierra games (SCI1.0 and earlier) though there are fanmade drivers that allow you to play those games with the SC-55. But you miss out on a lot of instruments and sound effects and altogether general awesome MT-32-ness.

There is a box that will do both (MT-32 and SC-55) but it's very rare. The CM-500 contains a CM-64 (MT-32 counterpart) and a CM-300 (SC-55 counterpart). There's a switch in the back that lets you switch between CM-64 and CM-300 modes. Very handy. Like I said, rare and probably expensive.


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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 2:55 am 
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Yeah, eBay. But remember: the CM-500 is EXTREMELY rare. I don't know if that's because there weren't many made or just because people don't want to let go of them (I don't blame them). I was lucky enough to have one given to me by a friend. (VERY LUCKY!) So be prepared to fork over a few if you manage to find one because it's a hot item.

The Quest Studios forums has members with a lot more information and people even announce from time to time when there's a hot item up for bid on eBay that they've come across for people to snag.

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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 3:04 am 
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Ok, I am determined now. I must find one!!!! 8)) It's going to be a challenge.

Also, just to clarify:

1) If someone had both an MT-32 and a SC-55, then they would be able to hear all the games just as well as if they had one CM-500? Any exceptions? Is the big draw for the CM-500 just the convenience of having only one module, as opposed to two?

2) And is the first gen MT-32 better sounding than the CM-32L? Or is the only difference between the two that the 32L makes a couple games sound better, but otherwise is identical to the MT-32? Is the 32L in any way inferior to the first gen MT-32?

3) If we can't find a CM-500, would you recommend getting a MT-32+SC-55 combo, or a CM-32L+SC-55 combo?


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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 4:23 am 
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pbpb33 wrote:
Ok, I am determined now. I must find one!!!! 8)) It's going to be a challenge.

Also, just to clarify:

1) If someone had both an MT-32 and a SC-55, then they would be able to hear all the games just as well as if they had one CM-500? Any exceptions? Is the big draw for the CM-500 just the convenience of having only one module, as opposed to two?


a-Yes. The CM-300/SC-55 portion of the CM-500 is exactly the same as a standalone SC-55 (or CM-300). I've never heard a difference.

b-The only exception is that the CM-32L/CM-64 portion of the CM-500 sounds different from an MT-32. I'll get into the specifics in the next question.

c-Basically it's just the convenience of having both in one box (and the possible price differences). Except for the reason I'll explain below...

Quote:
2) And is the first gen MT-32 better sounding than the CM-32L? Or is the only difference between the two that the 32L makes a couple games sound better, but otherwise is identical to the MT-32? Is the 32L in any way inferior to the first gen MT-32?


The MT-32 and the CM-32L/CM-64 actually differ in some ways. Some consider the CM-series inferior to the original MT-32 and others prefer the opposite. Most prefer a first generation MT-32, though. I'm one of those people. The CM-series (and the LAPC-I as well, actually) were built slightly differently from the original MT-32 and as a result many sound effects and instruments may sound slightly different between each model because of the difference in the way each model produces its sound. It doesn't break the soundtrack or anything but there are small things that are noticeable. The vibrato chip on the CM-series models are not the same as the MT-32. The MT-32 has a more natural, slower vibrato (on instruments that use it) and the CM-series models have a much faster and a little more annoying vibrato. Some sound effects like birds chirping are also not produced the same resulting in a quieter and a bit more cut-off sound than as an MT-32 would produce the same sound. But more or less the soundtrack will remain the same. Other than the vibrato issue you probably won't notice a difference. Although again, there are one or two Sierra games (LSL series) that were composed on the CM-32L. But those are the only exceptions. Everything else was written for a first-gen MT-32 (except for the later Sierra games, SCI1.1 and up which were made for the SC-55).

A CM-64, by the way, is basically a CM-32L and a CM-32P in one. The CM-32P has PCM samples used for its instruments whereas the CM-32L's instruments are synthesized by the Linear Algorithm timbre procedure, which is what allows you to create your own instruments. The PCM samples of the CM-32P/CM-64 are different from the ones in the SC-55/CM-300 and CM-500. The CM-64 basically combines them. The CM-500 kind of cheats its CM-64 emulation by using the CM-300 samples instead of the actual CM-32P/CM-64 samples. None of this really concerns you and Sierra games, however. Just food for thought. Although I believe ONE Sierra game (again, I believe an LSL game) uses a specific sound effect sample or two from the CM-64 but it's not worth getting one over.

Quote:
3) If we can't find a CM-500, would you recommend getting a MT-32+SC-55 combo, or a CM-32L+SC-55 combo?


I would recommend getting an MT-32/SC-55 combo.

I'll see if I can find some examples of the differences between the MT and CM series models so you can hear the differences. I know there are some on the Quest Studios forums but I'm not sure exactly off-hand where. I'll look though and post again.

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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 9:42 pm 
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Thank you so much! I can't tell you how unbelievably helpful this all is. Another quick question: What are your thoughts on the SC-55ST vs. SC-55XT vs. SC-55-MKII? For the purpose of playing vintage games, would these SC-55 modules be interchangeable with one another? In other words, are there any differences in sound or compatibility issues between these models, particularly when it comes to playing older computer games? What is usually the cheapest SC-55 model (that you would recommend) that will produce the best quality sound when playing these games?


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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 2:22 am 
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Before I respond to your questions, here are a couple examples of the differences between the CM-32L+ modules and a regular first-gen MT-32:

Dune II - Credits (CM-32L)
Dune II Credits (MT-32)

I'm not sure of the pricing. I think the SC-55ST was just a more compact version of the SC-55 without a lot of the front panel controls (sort of like the CM-series modules). I do know that the MKII has more voice polyphony than the regular, though. The XT looks exactly the same as the ST so I'm not sure what the exact differences are without seeing the specs and features of each module. I've never heard of the XT before now. They might be exactly the same but one may just be a later model.

There are few games that actually take advantage of the extra polyphony on the MKII and if you were to play these games on a regular SC-55 then you would hear some missing instrument voices every now and again. All Sierra games don't require it, though.

But again, as far as pricing goes it varies nowadays, since the only way to get a hold of them is on eBay. Right now I see both an ST and an XT each for $1 bids right now.

So basically, it'd be nice to get a MKII so you wouldn't have to worry about any games taking advantage of the extra polyphony, but if you can't find/afford one you won't be sorry with a regular SC-55. Also, I believe the MKII is the only Roland GS module that has the extra polyphony voices (28 voices as opposed to 24 on the regular models). So any other Roland GS module (CM-300, CM-500, SC-55, SC-55ST/XT) only have the 24 voice polyphony.

Alternatively, there are other SC modules out there. There are the internal versions of the SC-55 called the SCC-1. I believe there were 3 revisions named the SCC-1, SCC-1A, and the SCC-1B. One (or two?) of them contain the extra polyphony of the SC-55MKII but I don't know which one(s) they/it are/is. The SC-88 module is fully backwards compatible with the SC-55 and in addition to extra instruments has 64-voice polyphony. The SC-880 also has 64-voice polyphony and is basically the simple version of the SC-88 (like the SC-55ST/XT/CM-300/CM-500 without front controls) and was cheaper. Also there is the SC-88pro which has 64-voice polyphony, even more instruments, the capability of adding insertion effects on instruments, and is also full backwards compatible with the SC-55. Then there's the big ones: the SC-8820 and SC-8850. These have 128-voice polyphony and have absolutely stunning sounds. I've been after one of these for years but have never had the money. You could say that the 8820 is a smaller-scale toned down version of the 8850 but there are some differences in the sound. I believe both are backwards compatible with the SC-55 as well, however. I can't wait to finally own the 8850.

But anyway, food for thought again. For your basic DOS gaming needs an SC-55MKII is the most you'll ever need. And you'll be very happy with a standard SC-55 model if you can't get one.

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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 10:15 am 
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thank you for this information!! my plan is to keep an eye out for a good deal on a first gen mt-32, a sc-55 MKII or a CM-500 (if I get lucky). I'll probably end up going with a combination mt-32+sc-55 MKII, as long as I find good deals on them.

I was wondering about something else too. Back in the 90's I had a Sound Blaster AWE32 (I believe), and I was able to get AWESOME music in Sierra games by selecting the "General Midi" option for music (and sound blaster for digital effects).... usually it only worked for games around the Laura Bow 2, LSL6 and onward era. Everything before that just had the option of roland (I usually remember seeing MT32, but maybe they also sometimes supported SC-55). Would the SC-55 MKII be able to give "general midi" quality music just as the AWE32 did, or would I use my computer's current sound card (modern one that came with my new "windows 7 ultimate" PC... don't know what kind it is) for those early-mid 90's games? When you play games using the SC-55 MKII, are you getting "general midi" quality music or something else? Finally, how do you think "MT32" compares to "General Midi" or are they even different?

I used to love the Sierra themes so much that I would record on cassettes the General Midi quality music to listen to in the car and on trips. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 4:25 pm 
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The SC-55 is General MIDI. It's actually a custom standard that Roland made called GS but it contains General MIDI. Whenever you see a Sierra game that supports General MIDI it means it was composed for the SC-55. As were most DOS games that support General MIDI/Sound Canvas. Any game that supports GEneral MIDI will always sound best on the SC-55 because it doesn't just mean it was composed specifically for the SC-55 and its particular instruments (playing on any other General MIDI compatible device such as an AWE32 might sound ok but it wasn't specifically meant to be played from it because the instruments are different), but it also means that you'll get some extra effects on your instruments. The SC-55 supported controls for Chorus and Reverb settings on MIDI channels. And Sierra's games took advantage of them. You won't get these settings from any other General MIDI device.

The MT-32 and SC-55 are vastly different. The MT-32 has a completely different instrumentation list from 0-127 (or 1-128) and the way it produced sounds was vastly different to how the SC-55 produced sounds. So different that you could program your own instruments and send them to the MT-32. This is how older Sierra games had some very interesting and amazing sound effects in their games. All purely in MIDI to the MT-32. The SC-55 in some ways is superior. It also has 128 instruments but they are all in a different order and most insturments aren't even the same. It uses PCM samples instead of procedurely generating them. For example, the piano patch on the SC-55 is remarkably superior to the MT-32's, but the MT-32 has much better synth sounds like Soundtrack and possibly even a few of the brass patches. The MT-32 also has unparalleled reverb that no other synth (even today) seems to match. Basically they're two completely different animals and both have their strengths and weaknesses.

You can't play an MT-32 only game through the SC-55 as the instrumentation list is completely different and Sierra's games also used their own instruments for their older MT-32 only games which means even if the MT-32 standard list was the same as General MIDI it would still be different because of the custom instruments used.

Basically, if a game has MT-32 only use the MT-32. My suggestion is to use MT-32 on all SCI0 games (LSL2, LSL3, SQ3, PQ2, QFG1, QFG2, Camelot, KQ4, LB1, etc text parser + mouse games in 16 colours) and SCI1.0 games (KQ5, Longbow, SQ1VGA, SQ4, PQ3, LSL5, LSL1VGA, etc VGA games with usually black and white cursours with maybe one or two exceptions). Use the SC-55 (General MIDI) for SCI1.1 games (QFG1VGA, QFG3, LSL6 lo-res, KQ6, LB2, PQ1VGA, SQ5, etc games with VGA and coloured cursours), and SCI32 and over games (SQ6, KQ7, LSL6 hi-res, PQ4, GK1, Eco Quest 2, etc games with high resolution graphics).

But games that support the SC-55 also support the MT-32. Though quality varies with each game. My suggestion is to try these games out on both modules to see what you like best. Sometimes they sound better on the MT-32. SQ4CD, QFG1VGA, GK1, LB2, KQ6, and SQ5 are some arguable examples. Some games spent more time on both versions of the soundtrack while others simply added MT-32 support as an afterthought. Moreover, some games were written natively with the MT-32 but had their scores converted over to the SC-55 in later releases with mixed results (SQ4CD and QFG1VGA are a couple examples). Generally I prefer the original MT-32 scores for SC-55 converted scores. But other than that most games that support it sound best on the SC-55. But again, try both out and see what you like.

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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 8:24 am 
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I'm having trouble telling the difference between the MT-32 and the CM-32L in those Dune II clips... both sound great, of course. Thanks for those links!! Yeah, it does seem like the MT-32 is the better choice for vintage gaming (pre-SCI1.1 era).

As for SCI1.1 and SCI32 games, do you think that there would be any advantage at all to going for a SCC-1 over a SC-55MKII? Or would they both play most DOS games' music equally well (I'm assuming in the "General Midi" standard)? Would one produce the game music sounds any better or have additional music sounds in the games?

Also, can you always get the modules to work properly when playing the games through DoSBox? And ever any trouble selecting a different piece of equipment for digital sound effects (with games that have them)? Would I just select "Sound Blaster" or something similar in the game's setup? I have a Windows 7-based PC. I keep reading here and there about having to install special drivers or patches for particular games when using DosBox. Is it generally pretty easy to get the games to work at their best and in all their audial and visual glory when using DosBox?

Here are a few Sierra and LucasArts clips of some MT-32 and Sound Canvas music, which you've probably heard before. I love it... awesome music. I want mine! 8)) By the way, I kind of like the LCD screens in front (and, is it just me, or does the MT-32 box just look cool in that black color and sleek design), so maybe not being able to find a CM-500 wouldn't be such a terrible thing, after all... since it appears to lack the screen in front.

QFG1EGA:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVZULGaOqpI

LSL3 (with a shot of this guy's MT-32 box that looks so shiny and in very good condition!):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgoCo4Un2e0

Tie Fighter:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyL86PcxOkI

Loom:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lRrE7ui8Hg


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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 3:45 pm 
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pbpb33 wrote:
I'm having trouble telling the difference between the MT-32 and the CM-32L in those Dune II clips... both sound great, of course. Thanks for those links!! Yeah, it does seem like the MT-32 is the better choice for vintage gaming (pre-SCI1.1 era).


In the CM-32L version one of the instruments is significantly quieter than the MT-32 version. It's honestly not the best example I was hoping for. Someone at one point showed differences in KQ5 which were much more illuminating.

Quote:
As for SCI1.1 and SCI32 games, do you think that there would be any advantage at all to going for a SCC-1 over a SC-55MKII? Or would they both play most DOS games' music equally well (I'm assuming in the "General Midi" standard)? Would one produce the game music sounds any better or have additional music sounds in the games?


No. Just personal preference. I'd suggest one of the external modules just for portability's sake. You can put it into any computer you wish. And the front displays are cool :).

Quote:
Also, can you always get the modules to work properly when playing the games through DoSBox? And ever any trouble selecting a different piece of equipment for digital sound effects (with games that have them)? Would I just select "Sound Blaster" or something similar in the game's setup? I have a Windows 7-based PC. I keep reading here and there about having to install special drivers or patches for particular games when using DosBox. Is it generally pretty easy to get the games to work at their best and in all their audial and visual glory when using DosBox?


Yes, that's what DOSBox was always meant to be. Play your games simply with no trouble at all. Always select Sound Blaster for digital audio. I don't know what these people are talking about. You don't need any extra drivers or anything. DOSBox is a virtual machine and has everything it needs to play games no matter what computer or operating system you're using or what physical media or hardware you have. Everything is emulated for your convenience. You may have to jump through a couple hoops to get your external devices working with DOSBox but it's nothing too crazy. And DOSBox was designed to work with whatever devices you may have.

Quote:
Here are a few Sierra and LucasArts clips of some MT-32 and Sound Canvas music, which you've probably heard before. I love it... awesome music. I want mine! 8)) By the way, I kind of like the LCD screens in front (and, is it just me, or does the MT-32 box just look cool in that black color and sleek design), so maybe not being able to find a CM-500 wouldn't be such a terrible thing, after all... since it appears to lack the screen in front.


Yes. And you also get the interesting LCD messages when launching and quitting games! Space Quest has some funny ones...

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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Fri Mar 26, 2010 3:11 pm 
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I've just learned that I was wrong about the CM-32L in one regard. Earlier I mentioned that the CM-32L had a different vibrato chip that sounded very shrill and annoying. I was wrong about that. Apparently it's only the CM-500 that has that. My bad.

Here are some links to some more information. One of them is a list of LA synth compatible games and which module sounds best for each. But still, with the CM-32L you don't get the front panel LCD screen with the cool messages sent from games.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_MT-32
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_MT-32-compatible_computer_games

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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 27, 2010 10:42 pm 
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It would be interesting to hear more examples of the differences between the MT-32 and the CM-32L, including how the CM-32L plays music in games written for the MT-32.

I was looking around at www.queststudios.com (WOW, what a great site), and found many downloadable soundtrack clips written for various sound devices. Example, here:
http://queststudios.com/Joomla/index.ph ... ut=default

But do you need the particular sound modules (MT-32 or Sound Canvas, for example) for the clips to sound right after you download them? Where do I go on that site to find examples of how the MT-32 might sound different from the Sound Canvas or CM-32L, if I have none of those sound devices now?

Thanks again for all the pointers!


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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 28, 2010 12:44 am 
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You won't find any comparisons on the main site. I was moreso referring to the forums.

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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 28, 2010 1:24 am 
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I see. Well, I'm currently watching Ebay and Craigslist for some deals on sound modules. Thus far it seems like MT-32 and SC-55 are the most commonly available devices of those previously discussed. I'm trying to find an MT-32 for under US$70.


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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 28, 2010 3:23 am 
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I got my MT-32 for $120 CAD. That's pretty average.

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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 28, 2010 3:28 am 
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Yeah, I may have to up my price a bit if I don't see anything for a while under that amount. Right now I think there are a couple on Ebay for buy-it-now $95+shipping, and on Craigslist (online classifieds) there was one for $40, but when I emailed about it they said it was already gone. It's good to know that these devices have good resale value (MT-32 is 23 years old!!). I think it's the vintage computer gamers that are a big part of the continuing demand for these older sound modules.


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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 28, 2010 4:25 am 
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Absolutely. Games are a big part of it. But the MT-32 does have a very distinct sound that no other module seems to match and when the right time calls for it, it's a musician/composer's best friend.

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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 29, 2010 12:43 pm 
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I sent you this question in a private message, but thought I might as well post it here, for the benefit of others. Can you tell from this picture whether this MT-32 is a first or second generation?

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 29, 2010 2:51 pm 
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Not really. An easy way is to check the back of the unti to see if it has 2 quarter-inch jacks or 3. If it has two (left/right) it's a first-gen. If it has 3 (left/right and headphones) then it's a second-gen. Also you can tell by the serial numbers. An MT-32 with a serial number 950500 and up is a second-gen according to the MT-32 wikipedia entry I linked to above.

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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 29, 2010 6:04 pm 
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MI doesn't know much about MT-32's, it seems.

:lol

Bt

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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 29, 2010 9:26 pm 
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:p

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 Post subject: Re: Buying Roland MT32 Sound Module?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 30, 2010 1:42 am 
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Thought this might be relevant to the topic. Check out this guy's setup. Note the five MT-32s.

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