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A programmable sound generator (PSG) is a sound chip that generates (or synthesizes) audio signals built from one or more basic waveforms, and often some kind of noise. PSGs use a relatively simple method of creating sound compared to other methods such as frequency modulation synthesis or pulse-code modulation.
PSGs are controlled by writing data to dedicated registers on the chip via an external CPU; hence the name programmable sound generator. One or more basic waveforms are generated (typically a square, triangle or saw-tooth wave) and often a noise signal. The waveforms' frequency and volume (and noise's tone and volume) are typically shaped using an envelope and or mixed before being sent to the audio output stage.
Many PSGs feature three tone channels and one noise channel including the AY-3-8910, SN76489 and MOS Technology 6581.
In the late 1970s, more electronic consumer devices began to be designed with audio features. PSG were partly developed as a way of incorporating relatively complex sounds at a low cost.PSGs were in many arcade games, game consoles, and home computers of the 1980s and 90s.
In 1978, General Instrument released the AY-3-8910, the design of which was later licensed by Yamaha Corporation for their YM2149. These chips were used as the standard for the MSX computer standards 1 and 2, respectively. The features of this chip were also incorporated into other Yamaha sound chips including the YM2203 and YM2608 chips, these were also capable of FM synthesis. In the same year Atari design the POKEY chip for its home computers and game systems, it incorporate a PSG.
In 1981, Texas Instruments SN76489 was produced for the TI-99/4 computer. This was also used in the Tandy 1000 and IBM PCjr.
In 1982, MOS Technology 6581 was produced for the Commodore 64.The main chip in the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Ricoh 2A03, included a PSG.
The MOS Technology 6581/8580 SID is the built-in programmable sound generator chip of Commodore's CBM-II, Commodore 64, Commodore 128 and Commodore MAX Machine home computers. It was one of the first sound chips of its kind to be included in a home computer prior to the digital sound revolution.
The YM2612, a.k.a. OPN2, is a sound chip developed by Yamaha. It belongs to Yamaha's OPN family of FM synthesis chips used in several game and computer systems.
The SN76489 Digital Complex Sound Generator (DCSG) is a TTL-compatible programmable sound generator chip from Texas Instruments. It contains:
The Yamaha YM3812, also known as the OPL2, is a sound chip created by Yamaha Corporation in 1985 and famous for its wide use in IBM PC-based sound cards such as the AdLib, Sound Blaster and Pro AudioSpectrum (8bit), as well as several arcade games by Nichibutsu, Toaplan and others.
The Yamaha YMF262, also known as the OPL3, is an FM synthesis sound chip released by Yamaha Corporation in the early 1990s. It is an improved version of the Yamaha YM3812 (OPL2). It was used in a number IBM PC soundcards including Sound Blaster 16 and Pro AudioSpectrum (16bit).
The Roland SH-101 is an analog synthesizer manufactured by the Roland Corporation between 1982 and 1986. Though it was a commercial failure, it became a staple of electronic music in the 1990s, particularly house music.
A rompler is an electronic music instrument that plays pre-fabricated sounds based on audio samples. In contrast to samplers, romplers do not record audio and have limited or no capability for generating original sounds. The term rompler is a portmanteau of the terms ROM and sampler. Both may have additional sound editing features, such as layering several waveforms and modulation with ADSR envelopes, filters and LFOs.
The Philips SAA1099 sound generator was a 6-voice sound chip used by some 1980s devices, notably:
The AY-3-8910 is a 3-voice programmable sound generator (PSG) designed by General Instrument in 1978, initially for use with their 16-bit CP1610 or one of the PIC1650 series of 8-bit microcomputers. The AY-3-8910 and its variants were used in many arcade games—Konami's Gyruss contains five—and pinball machines as well as being the sound chip in the Intellivision and Vectrex video game consoles, and the Amstrad CPC, Oric-1, Colour Genie, Elektor TV Games Computer, MSX, and later ZX Spectrum home computers. It was also used in the Mockingboard and Cricket sound cards for the Apple II and the Speech/Sound Cartridge for the TRS-80 Color Computer.
The ARP Omni was a polyphonic analog synthesizer manufactured by ARP Instruments, Inc.
A synthesizer or synthesiser is an electronic musical instrument that generates audio signals. Synthesizers generate audio through methods including subtractive synthesis, additive synthesis, and frequency modulation synthesis. These sounds may be shaped and modulated by components such as filters, envelopes, and low-frequency oscillators. Synthesizers are typically sequenced, controlled by software or instruments via MIDI, or played with keyboards or other controllers.
The Oberheim Xpander is an analog synthesizer launched by Oberheim in 1984 and discontinued in 1988. It is essentially a keyboardless, six-voice version of the Matrix-12. Utilizing Oberheim's Matrix Modulation technology, the Xpander combined analog audio generation with the flexibility of digital controls logic.
An MSX-ENGINE chip is a specially developed integrated circuit for home computers that are built according to the MSX specifications. Generally, such a chip combines the functions of many separate, older/simpler chips into one. This is done to reduce required circuit board space, power consumption, and production costs for complete systems.
SN76477 "complex sound generator" is a sound chip produced by Texas Instruments (TI). The chip came to market in 1978, and TI ceased production of the part. A 100% compatible version, identified as ICS76477, has been listed as 'in stock' by at least one US-based component stockist. The chip is typically used as a sound effects generator in arcade games and toys and for hobby projects. The use of the SN76477 in a musical context is limited by the fact that it was difficult to electronically control the pitch of the produced sound.
The YM2203, a.k.a. OPN, is a three-channel sound chip developed by Yamaha. It was the progenitor of Yamaha's OPN family of FM synthesis chips used in many videogame and computer systems throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. The YM2203 itself was used in a variety of NEC computers, along with various arcade game machines.
YM2608, a.k.a. OPNA, is a sixteen-channel sound chip developed by Yamaha. It's a member of Yamaha's OPN family of FM synthesis chips, and the successor to the YM2203. It was notably used in NEC's PC-8801/PC-9801 series computers.
The Yamaha YM2164 a.k.a.OPP, is an FM synthesis sound chip developed by Yamaha, an enhanced version of their YM2151 a.k.a. OPM. The OPP was used in various MIDI-based synthesizers by Yamaha - DX21, DX27, DX100, SFG-05, FB-01 - plus several licensed products: the IBM Music Feature Card and Korg's DS-8 and Korg 707.
The CZ series is a family of low-cost phase distortion synthesizers produced by Casio in the mid-1980s. Eight models of CZ synthesizers were released: the CZ-101, CZ-230S, CZ-1000, CZ-2000S, CZ-2600S, CZ-3000, CZ-5000, and the CZ-1. Additionally, the home-keyboard model CT-6500 used 48 phase distortion presets from the CZ line. The CZ synthesizers' price at the time of their introduction made programmable synthesizers affordable enough to be purchased by garage bands. Yamaha soon introduced their own low-cost digital synthesizers, including the DX-21 (1985) and Yamaha DX100, in light of the CZ series' success.
The Yamaha DX21 is a digital bi-timbral programmable algorithm synthesizer with a four operator synth voice generator which was released in 1985. It uses sine wave-based Frequency Modulation (FM) synthesis. It has two FM tone generators and a 32-voice Random Access Memory (RAM), 32 user voices and 128 Read Only Memory (ROM) factory preset sounds. As a programmable synth, it enables users to create their own unique synthesized tones and sound effects by using the algorithms and oscillators. The instrument weighs 8 kg (17.6 lbs). On its release, it sold for $795.