Sound chip

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A sound chip is an integrated circuit (i.e. "chip") designed to produce sound. It might do this through digital, analog or mixed-mode electronics. Sound chips normally contain things like oscillators, envelope controllers, samplers, filters and amplifiers. During the late 20th century, sound chips were widely used in arcade game system boards, video game consoles, home computers, and PC sound cards.

Integrated circuit electronic circuit manufactured by lithography; set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece (or "chip") of semiconductor material, normally silicon

An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit is a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece of semiconductor material that is normally silicon. The integration of large numbers of tiny transistors into a small chip results in circuits that are orders of magnitude smaller, cheaper, and faster than those constructed of discrete electronic components. The IC's mass production capability, reliability and building-block approach to circuit design has ensured the rapid adoption of standardized ICs in place of designs using discrete transistors. ICs are now used in virtually all electronic equipment and have revolutionized the world of electronics. Computers, mobile phones, and other digital home appliances are now inextricable parts of the structure of modern societies, made possible by the small size and low cost of ICs.

Sound mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing; pressure wave, generated by vibrating structure

In physics, sound is a vibration that typically propagates as an audible wave of pressure, through a transmission medium such as a gas, liquid or solid.

Digital data, in information theory and information systems, is the discrete, discontinuous representation of information or works. Numbers and letters are commonly used representations.


Programmable sound generators (PSG)


Video display controller type of integrated circuit

A video display controller or VDC is an integrated circuit which is the main component in a video signal generator, a device responsible for the production of a TV video signal in a computing or game system. Some VDCs also generate an audio signal, but that is not their main function.

Atari 2600 video game console

The Atari 2600, originally sold as the Atari Video Computer System or Atari VCS until November 1982, is a home video game console from Atari, Inc. Released on September 11, 1977, it is credited with popularizing the use of microprocessor-based hardware and games contained on ROM cartridges, a format first used with the Fairchild Channel F in 1976. This contrasts with the older model of having dedicated hardware that could play only those games that were physically built into the unit. The 2600 was bundled with two joystick controllers, a conjoined pair of paddle controllers, and a game cartridge: initially Combat, and later Pac-Man.

Atari 7800 video game console

The Atari 7800 ProSystem, or simply the Atari 7800, is a home video game console officially released by the Atari Corporation in 1986. It is almost fully backward-compatible with the Atari 2600, the first console to have backward compatibility without the use of additional modules. It was considered affordable at a price of US$140.

General Instrument

General Instrument AY-3-8910 General Instrument AY-3-8910

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.

DECO Cassette System

The DECO Cassette System was introduced in December 1980 by Data East. It was the first standardised arcade system that allowed arcade owners to change games.

Colour Genie home computer

The EACA EG2000 Colour Genie was a computer produced by Hong Kong-based manufacturer EACA and introduced in Germany in August 1982. It followed their earlier Video Genie I and II computers and was released around the same time as the business-oriented Video Genie III.


A resistor–capacitor circuit, or RC filter or RC network, is an electric circuit composed of resistors and capacitors driven by a voltage or current source. A first order RC circuit is composed of one resistor and one capacitor and is the simplest type of RC circuit.

<i>Gyruss</i> video game

Gyruss is a fixed shooter arcade game designed by Yoshiki Okamoto and released by Konami in 1983. Gyruss was initially licensed to Centuri in the United States for dedicated machines, before Konami released their own self-distributed conversion kits for the game. Parker Brothers released contemporary ports for home systems. An enhanced version for the Family Computer Disk System was released in 1988, which was released to the North American Nintendo Entertainment System in early 1989.

Nintendo Entertainment System 8-bit video game console produced by Nintendo in 1983

The Nintendo Entertainment System is an 8-bit home video game console developed and manufactured by Nintendo. It is a remodeled export version of the company's Family Computer (FC) platform in Japan, also known as the Famicom for short, which launched on July 15, 1983. The NES was launched through test markets in New York City and Los Angeles in 1985, before being given a wide release in the rest of North America and parts of Europe in 1986, followed by Australia and other European countries in 1987. Brazil saw only unlicensed clones until the official local release in 1993. In South Korea, it was packaged as the Hyundai Comboy and distributed by SK Hynix which then was known as Hyundai Electronics; the Comboy was released in 1989.

MOS Technology

MOS Technology VIC

The VIC , specifically known as the MOS Technology 6560 / 6561, is the integrated circuit chip responsible for generating video graphics and sound in the Commodore VIC-20 home computer. It was originally designed for applications such as low cost CRT terminals, biomedical monitors, control system displays and arcade or home video game consoles.

Commodore VIC-20 Home computer

The VIC-20 is an 8-bit home computer that was sold by Commodore Business Machines. The VIC-20 was announced in 1980, roughly three years after Commodore's first personal computer, the PET. The VIC-20 was the first computer of any description to sell one million units. The VIC-20 has been described as "one of the first anti-spectatorial, non-esoteric computers by longer relegated to hobbyist/enthusiasts or those with money, the computer Commodore developed was the computer of the future."



Philips SAA1099

The Philips SAA1099 sound generator was a 6-voice sound chip used by some 1980s devices, notably:

SAM Coupé home computer

The SAM Coupé is an 8-bit British home computer that was first released in late 1989. It was designed to have compatibility with and is commonly considered a clone of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer, since it features a compatible screen mode and emulated compatibility and was marketed as a logical upgrade from the Spectrum. It was originally manufactured by Miles Gordon Technology (MGT), based in Swansea in the United Kingdom.




Texas Instruments


Wavetable synthesis



Hudson Soft/Epson



Frequency modulation (FM) synthesis


ESS Technology



Pulse-code modulation (PCM, sample-based)


Crystal Semiconductor



MOS Technology


National SemiConductor






See also

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MAME emulation software that aims to recreate the hardware of many arcade game systems

MAME is a free and open source emulator designed to recreate the hardware of arcade game systems in software on modern personal computers and other platforms. The intention is to preserve gaming history by preventing vintage games from being lost or forgotten. The aim of MAME is to be a reference to the inner workings of the emulated arcade machines; the ability to actually play the games is considered "a nice side effect". Joystiq has listed MAME as an application that every Windows and Mac gamer should have.

MSX home computer

MSX is a standardized home computer architecture, announced by Microsoft on June 16, 1983. It was conceived and marketed by Kazuhiko Nishi, then vice-president at Microsoft Japan and director at ASCII Corporation. Nishi conceived the project as an attempt to create unified standards among various home computing system manufacturers of the period.

Yamaha YM2612

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.

Yamaha YM3812

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.

Sprite is a computer graphics term for a two-dimensional bitmap that is integrated into a larger scene.

Yamaha YM3526

The YM3526, a.k.a. OPL, is a sound chip developed by Yamaha as a low-cost nine channel, two operator FM synthesis chip. It was notably used in a Commodore 64 expansion, the Sound Expander, as well as several arcade games, such as Terra Cresta and Bubble Bobble.

Yamaha YM2413

The YM2413, a.k.a. OPLL, is a cost-reduced FM synthesis sound chip manufactured by Yamaha Corporation and based on their YM3812 (OPL2). To make the chip cheaper to manufacture, many of the internal registers were removed. The result of this is that the YM2413 can only play one user-defined instrument at a time; the other 15 instrument settings are hard-coded and cannot be altered by the user. There were other cost-cutting modifications: the number of waveforms was reduced to two, and the channels are not mixed using an adder; instead, the chip's DAC uses time-division multiplexing to play short segments of each channel in sequence, as also done in the YM2612.

1987 has seen many sequels and prequels in video games and several new titles such as The Legend of Zelda, Contra, Street Fighter and Metal Gear.

1986 has seen many sequels and prequels in video games and several new titles such as Metroid, Out Run and Bubble Bobble.

1985 saw many sequels and prequels in video games and several new titles such as Gradius, Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt.

1979 has seen many sequels and prequels in video games and several new titles such as Galaxian, Warrior and Asteroids.

The Namco Galaxian was an 8-bit arcade game system board, which was first used by Namco for Galaxian in 1979; it was the first board from the company to use the Zilog Z80 microprocessor. It used specialized graphics hardware supporting RGB color, multi-colored sprites and tilemap backgrounds. Its introduction of colorful tilemap graphics distinguished it from the Taito 8080 monochrome framebuffer system of Space Invaders. Namco Galaxian also introduced a sprite line buffer system, which was adopted by later systems such as the Namco Pac-Man, Midway's Tron hardware and Sega Z80.

The Namco Pac-Man was an 8-bit arcade game system board that was first used by Namco in 1980; the second and third games to run on it, Rally-X and New Rally-X, were modified to support a larger color palette and scrolling. Three unauthorized Pac-Man sequels were later developed by Bally Midway, Namco's old US distributor, on this board between 1981 and 1983 - and after Namco ended its partnership with Bally Midway after the release of Pac-Land in 1984, it developed Jump Shot and Shoot the Bull on it, in the following year.

The Namco Pole Position was an arcade system board, which was first used by Namco in 1982 for the Pole Position arcade games; it was one of the first system boards to utilize stereo and quadraphonic sound, and used NVRAM to save its high scores after a machine was turned off. It was also the first arcade system to use 16-bit microprocessors, with two Zilog Z8002 processors. It was the most powerful and expensive arcade system upon release, costing $4200. The hardware is capable of pseudo-3D, sprite-scaling.

Yamaha YM2151 eight-channel, four-operator sound chip

The Yamaha YM2151, also known as OPM is an eight-channel, four-operator sound chip. It was Yamaha's first single-chip FM synthesis implementation, being created originally for some of the Yamaha DX series of keyboards. Yamaha also used it in some of their budget-priced electric pianos, such as the YPR-7, -8, and -9.

The Taito B System is a 16-bit arcade system board released by Taito in 1988. It was used by various arcade video games from 1988 up until 1994. The hardware is similar to the Taito F2 System.

ROM cartridge removable enclosure containing read-only memory devices

A ROM cartridge, usually referred to simply as a cartridge or cart, is a removable memory card containing ROM designed to be connected to a consumer electronics device such as a home computer, video game console and to a lesser extent, electronic musical instruments. ROM cartridges can be used to load software such as video games or other application programs.

Atari System refers to two arcade system boards introduced in 1984 for use in various arcade games from Atari Games. Two versions of the board were released, Atari System 1 and Atari System 2.

The Yamaha YMF278B, also known as the OPL4, is a sound chip that incorporates both FM synthesis and sample-based synthesis.


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