Thursday, April 12, 2018

SID 8580 vs. ArmSID vs. SwinSID Ultimate vs. SwinSID Nano - Audio Examples

As promised, here comes a few more "SIDbreaker" track to see and hear the difference between:
SID 8580 - SwinSID Nano- SwinSID Ultimate - ArmSID

Recording conditions:
  • C64 Assy 250469 Rev 4.
  • Direct audio output into an RME audio interface
  • No volume normalization, no post-processing, just pure audio output
  • Each chip operated in 8580 mode
  • Playback with 1541U2's built-in SIDplayer

I will add my comment after each music-group, spoiler alert: Darth Vader is Luke's father.

First track:
David Whittaker - Lazy Jones [SID 8580]
Listen to "David Whittaker - Lazy Jones main - 8580 [2288]" on Spreaker.

David Whittaker - Lazy Jones [SwinSID Nano]
Listen to "David Whittaker - Lazy Jones [SwinSID Nano]" on Spreaker.

David Whittaker - Lazy Jones [SwinSID Ultimate]
Listen to "David Whittaker - Lazy Jones [SwinSID Ultimate]" on Spreaker.

David Whittaker - Lazy Jones [ArmSID]
Listen to "David Whittaker - Lazy Jones [ArmSID]" on Spreaker.

8580: Perfect playback. Of course it is.
Nano: Broken. Looks like this Nano doesn't have Codekiller's "Lazy Fix" patch.
Ultimate: Sounds good, nice playback, maybe a bit darker than on the 8580.
ArmSID: Sounds good and bright, ArmSID successfully jumps through the first blockade.

Second track:
Fred Gray - Legend of Kage [8580]
Listen to "Fred Gray - Legend of Kage [SID 8580]" on Spreaker.

Fred Gray - Legend of Kage [SwinSID Nano]
Listen to "Fred Gray - Legend of Kage [SwinSID Nano]" on Spreaker.

Fred Gray - Legend of Kage [SwinSID Ultimate]
Listen to "Fred Gray - Legend of Kage [SwinSID Ultimate]" on Spreaker.

Fred Gray - Legend of Kage [ArmSID]
Listen to "Fred Gray - Legend of Kage [ArmSID]" on Spreaker.

8580: Perfect playback.
Nano: Broken. Wow, it's soo much broken the track is unrecognizable.
Ultimate: Waveforms are nice, sounds nice, but misses a few notes here and there.
ArmSID: Almost flawless. The flange effect sounds a bit strange where the instruments overlap.

*UPDATE: Legend of Kage playback issue and more has been fixed in the public release version of SwinSID Ultimate. As you can see from the photo, my Ultimate (blue) is a prototype, actually, an early version even.

Third track:
Jammer - Rocking Fossils [SID 8580]
Listen to "Jammer - Rocking Fossils [SID 8580]" on Spreaker.

Jammer - Rocking Fossils [SwinSID Nano]
Listen to "Jammer - Rocking Fossils [SwinSID Nano]" on Spreaker.

Jammer - Rocking Fossils [SwinSID Ultimate]
Listen to "Jammer - Rocking Fossils [SwinSID Ultimate]" on Spreaker.

Jammer - Rocking Fossils [ArmSID]
Listen to "Jammer - Rocking Fossils [ArmSID]" on Spreaker.

8580: Man, I'm in love with this track, perfect music for a great demo from X 2016 party. My only question is, Jammer, mate. How the hell did you manage to overdrive the 8580 this much? It clips!
Nano: Broken. Strange blips and blops, filter is way off, and even more strange cracks appear here and there.
Ultimate: Good playback, the filter is definitely off a bit and it sounds darker. But it still sounds good, especially with this track. I like the stronger wobbling at 0:50.
ArmSID: Good playback, waveform looks slightly compressed/clipped. It even cracks a bit at 0:50 and at the end part. Not bad tho, I like its crunchiness when it doesn't cracks.

Fourth track:
Mahoney - Music Run Stop [SID 8580]
Listen to "Mahoney - Music Run Stop [SID 8580]" on Spreaker.

Mahoney - Music Run Stop [SwinSID Nano]
Listen to "Mahoney - Music Run Stop [SwinSID Nano]" on Spreaker.

Mahoney - Music Run Stop [SwinSID Ultimate]
Listen to "Mahoney - Music Run Stop [SwinSID Ultimate]" on Spreaker.

Mahoney - Music Run Stop [ArmSID]
Listen to "Mahoney - Music Run Stop [ArmSID]" on Spreaker.

8580: Yay Mahoney digi, yay Kraftwerk with a twist. 8580's output is quieter now, but it's nice and the samples are well-defined.
Nano: Surprisingly good but it's noisy and inaccurate. It's crunchy, but it's lovely in a way.
Ultimate: Dynamic as hell but it missed the volume fade-in at the start. Clean and well-defined digi samples.
ArmSID: Quiet, crunchy and noisy a bit but it replicates the volume fade-in nicely. Somehow it's not that clean and defined as the 8580 and Ultimate.

Fifth track, the last one for today:
Swallow - Wonderland X part 1. [SID 8580]
Listen to "Swallow - Wonderland X part 1 [SID 8580]" on Spreaker.

Swallow - Wonderland X part 1. [SwinSID Nano]
Listen to "Swallow - Wonderland X part 1 [SwinSID Nano]" on Spreaker.

Swallow - Wonderland X part 1. [SwinSID Ultimate]
Listen to "Swallow - Wonderland X part 1 [SwinSID Ultimate]" on Spreaker.

Swallow - Wonderland X part 1. [ArmSID]
Listen to "Swallow - Wonderland X part 1 [ArmSID]" on Spreaker.

8580: Digi samples mixed with SID sounds, a bit lo-fi-ish, but dynamic and clean.
Nano: Loud carrier noise, but the sample playback is good. SID instrument emulation is a bit pure here.
Ultimate: Different but still loud carrier noise. Sounds a bit like an Amiga with filter enabled. In this case I'd say it's even makes the music more audible.
ArmSID: Carrier noise is still there but in unexpected places. Nice sample playback, has it's charm with the random noises.


  • Loudest output award goes to Jammer and SID 8580.
  • Most accurate emulation: well, I can't really choose between SSU and ArmSID. They both have strong and weak spots but overall they are great replacements.
  • I wouldn't recommend to get a Nano. It was good, it was the first one, but there are better options available now.
  • Digi samples are good overall
  • Old game soundtracks can break, depends on the player routine but the overall result is satisfying.
  • New demoscene tracks are the devil! Those b*****ds explore new territories in sound design and programming. One day no emulation can play those music back properly, only the original SID :)
  • Bucketlist: get an FPGASID and do a comparison with PC/Mac media players like SIDplay too.

Pseudo-SIDs are getting better and better. SwinSID appeared first, it's not actually a surprise that the Nano is not perfect. Ultimate is a totally different construction from different engineers, it just kept the SwinSID name. I didn't even know that ArmSID exists until I've seen an advertisement about it at Revision demoparty.

Despite their imperfection, they are really great replacements of the 6581 and 8580. One time we will run out of real SIDs. Then we will need something to put into the mainboard and these chips will be there. Hopefully, engineers and programmers can develop them further, the FPGASID is very promising and would love to give it a try.

Our taste can be very different and can argue about various emulations for hours, days, weeks, etc. I recommend to check out the available SID replacement, listen to the example audio and pick the one you like the most to replace your defective SID(s). There's no bad choice, and the market will be even more crowded soon and you'll have more to choose from.

Useful links:
SwinSID Ultimate
ArmSID (English version)
High Voltage SID Collection aka. HVSC
C64 Scene Database
Stone Oakvalley's Authentic SID Collection aka. SOASC

Thank you for reading and listening.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

SID 8580 vs. ArmSID vs. SwinSID Ultimate vs. SwinSID Nano

It was time for a new comparison post for more reasons.

I acquired an ArmSID on the weekend of this year's Revision demoparty and a SwinSID Nano from a friend (thanks, Joe!), so this is a good occasion to compare them while I'm waiting for the release of others like the FPGA SID.

First of all, I wanted to write one post only, but then I realized it's better to split it to two episodes. I'm going to show a detailed example with waveform screenshots and write about my personal opinion. The second part will be about audio examples, recorded with the 4 chips and you can compare them for yourselves and make conclusion.

Some notes before we start:
  • the example track composed with SID-Wizard 1.7 on a 8580
  • the audio examples are pure recordings, directly from C64's output
  • all chips were in 8580 mode
  • no volume normalization, no additional effects, just pure output
  • nope, no volume normalization, this way you can see/hear the real output of each chip
  • really, no volume normalization, you have a volume knob on your audio system, right? use it

So, let's see what we have here: \HVSC\MUSICIANS\V\Vincenzo\SIDrip_Arok_Invit_2017.sid

FYI, the proper title is "SIDrok" because it was composed for Arok Party 2017 invitation and released by SIDRIP Alliance. SID-rip, a-ROK, see? SIDrok. But whatever, this is a minor thingie

I cut pieces from the track to show remarkable differences between each chips. The order of playback is:
  • SID 8580
  • ArmSID
  • SwinSID Ultimate
  • SwinSID Nano

First audio example, heavy usage of ringmod and oscillator sync:

Listen to "Example 01 [SIDrok - vincenzo]" on Spreaker.

8580: It doesn't need any explanation.
ArmSID: Output is definitely quieter with a few dB's, and the tail of the sound has somekind of strange flanging effect and it's shorter than the original. Other than that, it sounds good.
SSU: The output is definitely quieter, however, the sound is very good, except that the tail is shorter than the 8580's tail. SSU doesn't have the flanger effect.
Nano: Wow, I didn't expect this to happen. The first half of the sound is okay-ish, the second half is... what? Out of tune. And sounds weird.

Let's hear the second clip, another part of the music:

Listen to "Example 02 [SIDrok - vincenzo]" on Spreaker.

8580: Raspy, beefy, nice filters, dynamic.
ArmSID: A bit muffled filters, however, it sounds beefy enough.
SSU: Wow, definitely different filter sound, it's muffled and the snare became darker.
Nano: Ouch... I mean... ouch.

Third example:

Listen to "Example 03 [SIDrok - vincenzo]" on Spreaker.

8580: Same as the previous clip.
ArmSID: Same as the previous clip.
SSU: Same as the previous clip.
Nano: I would rather not comment this.


Now the differences are not only audible but visible too. To my eyes, the waveform reproduction is good on both ArmSID and SSU, the Nano however is a bit far from perfect.
They are not perfect emulations. However, as replacement of a burned SID, well, they are good enough and I would be interested to do a blind A -B (C) comparison to test people and myself too. Okay, I can recognize the Nano for sure, but SSU and ArmSID are hard to tell.

Conclusion, before I post the complete tune 4 times:
  • Audio output is louder on 8580 than on the rest of the chips.
  • ArmSID's output is quiet, noiseless.
  • SSU's output has a very low, very quiet buzzing noise.
  • Nano's emulation is something. Different. But maybe it's the tune what's so special.
  • Hard to choose between ArmSID and SSU, they are both good even if we consider the darker filter output of the SSU.
See you in the next episode with more example tracks.

01. vincenzo - SIDrok [SID 8580]

Listen to "vincenzo - SIDrok [SID 8580]" on Spreaker.

02. vincenzo - SIDrok [ArmSID]

Listen to "vincenzo - SIDrok [ArmSID]" on Spreaker.

03. vincenzo - SIDrok [SwinSID Ultimate]

Listen to "vincenzo - SIDrok [SwinSID Ultimate]" on Spreaker.

04. vincenzo - SIDrok [SwinSID Nano]

Listen to "vincenzo - SIDrok [SwinSID Nano]" on Spreaker.