Tuesday, December 29, 2015

C64 SID shootout part 3.

Page has been updated with a nice music player, shouldn't any playback issue appear anymore \o/

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We used a music composed on 6581 SID for the previous test, so today we're gonna break the SID 6581 with a 8580 track. But first, let's start with a music that sounds kinda okayish on all SID.

Stellan 'Dane' Andersson - Break the Cycle. Played on a 8580 R5 first - as this supposed to be the SID revision the music was made on - then with 6581 revisions:

Clip 01. Dane - Break the Cycle - 8580 R5

It's a beautiful music, isn't it? Great instruments, nice melodies, a perfect track.

Clip 02. Dane - Break the Cycle - 6581 R2

Well, it obviously sounds different, especially the filter on the bass. Still, it's quite enjoyable.

Clip 03. Dane - Break the Cycle - 6581 R3

Thaaaaat background noise... 6581 R3 is definitely the worst SID version...

Clip 04. Dane - Break the Cycle - 6581 R4

Okayish, okayish, but...

Clip 05. Dane - Break the Cycle - 6581 R4AR

Better than R3 and R4 but not as good as R2 in my opinion.

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Let's go deeper and listen to another track, Jammer - Mr. Marvellous, composed on 8580 and broken on 6581.

Clip 01. Jammer - Mr. Marvellous - 8580 R5

Great, great track, awesome instruments and speech-a-like sounds. Jammer did a very good job with designing these sounds and pushing the SID into its limits.

Clip 02. Jammer - Mr. Marvellous - 6581 R2

Whoah... this is... like a completely different music. Poor 6581... Some instruments sound completely broken.

Clip 03. Jammer - Mr. Marvellous - 6581 R3

:( :( :( the intro is completely broken :( :( :( the instruments and melodies are broken :( :( :( and the background noise is ugly :( :( :(

Clip 04. Jammer - Mr. Marvellous - 6581 R4

Same as the previous but at least the bass in the middle part is beefy.

Clip 05. Jammer - Mr. Marvellous - 6581 R4AR

I can hear the intro part! At least a bit. The bass is nice, overall it sounds better than the other 6581's but it has nothing to do with the original 8580 version.

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Simon says let's go even deeper and break the cycle, I mean break the 6581! Jammer has some more awesome 8580 tracks, I'm curious how Club Style would sound.

Clip 01. Jammer - Club Style - 8580 R5

I just can't believe it how the SID is capable of doing these kind of sounds! Really awesome sound design, well done Jammer. The sidechain effect, the filter cutoff changes, the echoing lead. Just wow.

Clip 02. Jammer - Club Style - 6581 R2

Sounds like a completely different music. It's not a wonder, it's the difference between SID revisions. Jump to the next SID.

Clip 03. Jammer - Club Style - 6581 R3

I shall write something about this version but have no words to describe what I hear. Oh, did I mention the background noise of the R3?

Clip 04. Jammer - Club Style - 6581 R4

At least some of the instruments sound unique but the sidechain effect is still broken.

Clip 05. Jammer - Club Style - 6581 R4AR

Surprisingly, this version starts nice, keeps the okayish sounds and goes broken in the middle part. The distorted instruments at 2:00 sound kinda cool.

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It's time to go mad - if you are still reading and listening. The following tracks is by Jammer as well, called Club Stylier (no, it's not the same as the previous one). Have a listen to the original 8580 version then to the 6581's without further comments. Thank you for reading this looong long post, I hope you enjoyed it.
See you next time.

Clip 01. Jammer - Club Stylier - 8580 R5

Clip 02. Jammer - Club Stylier - 6581 R2

Clip 03. Jammer - Club Stylier - 6581 R3

Clip 04. Jammer - Club Stylier - 6581 R4

Clip 05. Jammer - Club Stylier - 6581 R4AR


  1. Very nice series of articles! Thank you so much for going through the trouble of recording all these clips and putting them up for easy comparison. These highlight very well that it’s e.g. pointless to argue whether old or new SID is better - it’s really up to what you listen as any SID music sounds the best with the kind of chip it’s made for. This also applies to the filter characteristics of different 6581s (regardless the revision).

    However, I think the R3 gets a bit of an un-deserved beating here. First the noise: From the pictures on the first shootout I can tell that your “Aussie” has older motherboard version than the “Breadbin”. I’m suspecting that the stronger background noise is more because of the older motherboard rather than the chip itself. The other 6581s were tested in “Breadbin” if I’m not mistaken? You could try and see what happens if you install the “R3” into “Breadbin”.

    Just like you, I also have my doubts that the “R2” might not be R2 after all. Like the text you quote from Wikipedia says, both R2s and early R3s have no revision markings. And also that R3s have been manufactured from at least mid ’83 onwards. I have one 6581 that is likely an R2, as its date markings are early ’83. And I gotta say, it doesn’t sound very nice at all. Of course I can’t say if all R2s are similar or is it just that one, it’s the only one I’ve listened to.

    Anyhow, what I want to say is that I think it’s likely that both your “R2” and “R3” are 6581R3 chips, and it just goes on to show that there are huge differences in 6581 SIDs, even between same revisions. It has become clear to me as a lucky HardSID 4U owner, after installing couple of 6581R3s in it and hearing how different they can be. Some better than others, and that even varies depending on who’s the musician and what kind of 6581 SID chip the musician has had while composing! :)


    P.S. It would be very interesting if you did something similar with the SwinSID Ultimate!

  2. Agreed with Ilesj. You simply don't know what you've got until you've tested it.
    My '85 SID chip (should be R3, right?) sounds like your R2, and my early '83 SID chip (could be an R2) sounds like your R3. Ish.
    I also have two 8580R5s which sound slightly different from each other.


  3. You should be aware that SID compositions could use unintended "features" of the chips, like clicks or some other "noises" generated on some register accesses. These noises have been exploited to generate quite a new range of sound possibilities on both 6581s and 8580s.
    Regular tracks play reasonably well on both revisions, but tracks that exploits these unintended features can only be played on the "original" chip family (either 6581 or 8580). If you check most of the recent (2014-2018) C64 demos you'll see that they must be played on either 6581 machines or 8580 ones for the correct sound results.

  4. Jammer's tracks for instance exploits some well known features of the 8580. Dane's track is more or less a regular SID tune.