EQUIPMENT


Panasonic FS-A1ST MSX turbo R computer




This unit has some extras:




Panasonic FS-A1WX MSX2+ computer



There are two units here which both have had their main RAM expanded to 256kB. One has a PC disk drive built in while the other doesn't have a disk drive due to a broken controller.




Panasonic FS-A1WSX MSX2+ computer


 

This unit has a PC disk drive




Sony HB-F1XDJ MSX2+ computer



This unit has some extras:




Tweety





One Chip MSX






MegaFlashROM SCC+ SD


 

This unit got enhanced by adding a audio out jack.




MegaFlashROM SCC 512


 

Recently the flashrom died, so it had to be replaced. For some reason they were shipped as a set of two pieces. Therefore F-1 Spirit got transformed into a MegaFlashROM SCC 512 as well. The switch is a bit more subtil than the one used by the builder of the other one.




Playsoniq





Padial PS/2 Keyboard interface






WORP3 MIDI-PAC


WORP3 designed a brilliant piece of hardware. This cartridge converts every MSX-Music (FM-PAC) signal to MIDI data and outputs that to any synthesizer in GM mode. It does have some limitations. It can support up to 16 (I believe) instruments which you can map to a driver. So every piano on your MSX-Music will be routed to just one piano sample on your synthesizer, every string on your MSX-Music will be routed to just one string on your synthesizer, and so on. So you've to map your instruments very carefully to get a driver which suits your synthesizer best. But then still, there will always be tunes which sound awful with this device. Due to its limitations I like it. It bumped quite some new life in old MSX games. You can write your own music for it using your old faithful tracker which supports MSX-Music. I'd pick Moonblaster 1.4. Check the Youtube menu. In the center column there is an ever growing list of tracks made in Moonblaster 1.4 in combination with MIDI-PAC.

When mixed well and if MIDI-PAC hasn't shut down your real MSX-Music (it does this with some software) you can listen to MIDI-PAC and MSX-Music at the same time. Both chips/synths complete each other quite well. You'll hear the sound you're used to with some modern real instruments added on top of that.

 

WORP3 made a second MIDI-PAC. This version not only supports more instruments, it can handle PSG as a source as well.




OPL4


In the mid nineties Sunrise developed and produced an OPL4 soundcard for MSX. As the tracker that came with it was written by Moonsoft, the name of the cartridge was Moonsound.

Mine is version 2.0 and has had its shares of dying moments. Just when I started to pick up my MSX activities again when the new millennium had just started, I found out that one side was mute. It turned out that a pre-amp had died. Sunrise replaced both left en right pre-amps for a higher quality version and added 512kB SRAM to its original 128kB. It worked some ten years until the OPL4's wave part totally died. Sunrise replaced the synthesizer and added even more SRAM to reach 1MB.

In the meantime I bought a Korean clone named Dal-So-Ri in case my Moonsound would die. I received it just before my Moonsound did die. What a coincidence.

The third OPL4 cartridge is the white FM Blaster by the French Repro Factory. The name is somewhat unlucky as FM is only a part of the cartridge and there is little to no support to the FM of the OPL4. It is a clone of Wozblaster. This cartridge is a rather silent OPL4 one compared to the other two I have. Just cranking up the volume of the amplifier is not the most satisfying solution as the noise gets amplified as well. Therefore there's a solution to this problem.

 

 

When Junsoft decided to make an update of Dal-So-Ri by adding several new modes, including some MSX-Audio features, I couldn't resist. Here's OPL4 compatible cartridge #4.




MSX Audio


I have three Philips NMS-1205 Music Modules.. The one in the middle has 256kB sampleRAM, is adapted to play normal at 7MHz and is amplified so it plays at the same volume as an MSX-Music. This comes in handy when playing music which supports both chips at the same time (the famous Moonblaster Stereo, which was very popular in the Netherlands in the nineties.

Next to these additions it also has some nice features out of the box. It has a line in, a mic in, two mono audio outputs (all four mentioned are cinch connectors), a built in microphone, a connector to connect the NMS-1160 keyboard, MIDI in, out and through.

Default the a Philips Music Module has firmware built in which is called Music Box. A terrible waste of space and time. Luckily this was put on a ROM which can be easily popped out.

The others are totally default, except that the Music Box ROM has been popped out. It is clearly visible that sunlight it bad for the color red.




MSX Music


The FM-PAC is an invention of Panasonic. It contains FM and PAC. PAC was a cartridge which has some S-RAM to save game states on. Only for games which support this feature. Later they came with the MSX Music format and put this together with the old PAC in one cartridge, hence FM-PAC in which PAC stands for Pana Amusement Cartridge.

Later Panasonic released MSX2+ and MSX turbo R computers in which they installed the MSX Music so they halted the release of their FM-PAC. A lot of clones without the S-RAM were manufactured by several hardware builders in the hobby scene.

Out of the box this cartridge does not have its own audio output. Mine has a custom cinch output on it so the audio can be separated from the audio coming from other cartridges.

Since I have a Panasonic MSX2+ computer with MSX Music built in and the fact that this computer switches off any external MSX Music, the cartridge is obsolete right now.

My FM-PAC has an RCA output which can be connected to an amplifier. This way the sound of the MSX-Music can be isolated from the rest of the MSX. On the picture below it's clearly visible that I had a Moonblaster Stereo environment set up.

Just recently I bought an FM-PAQ with a line out. I was totally done with the poor audio quality of the turbo R that I just had to. Now you might say that I already have this Panasonic unit and I'd answer with 'yes', but MSX machines with originally built in MSX-Music disable Panasonic FM-PACs so I just had to.

Luckily these FM-PAQs are still built and sold. I have no clue why, but a while later I bought a second unit.

Both FM-PAQ lites received an output decreasing resistor of 33K on R9 to avoid triggering the input trigger LED on my mixer. Eric Boez delivers them quite a bit too loud.

 




MSX Club Gouda 1 MegaByte external memory mapper


An external memory mapper of one megabyte by MSX Club Gouda. It doesn't work as expected on my Panasonic FS-A1WX and therefore it was obsolete until I received my MSX turbo R. It claims to work on that computer and so far it proves to do so.

I guess my FS-A1WX was too rare in the era when these cartridges were made and tested.

It claims to work on a turbo R. Well, it gets recognized on boot and in slot peek programs, but the turbo R does not use it since it only addresses internal RAM.




MSX Club Gouda Slotexpander 5.0


One of the nicest slot expanders around. The MSX Club Gouda slot expander 5.0. it does not need external power, so it is expected that the used MSX has a PSU strong enough to power the filled slot expander.

Below a picture of a situation which not every MSX can handle:






The audio rack


In this rack there are several different 19 inch units. From the bottom up the stack consists of the following machines:

  • Roland Fantom XR sythesizer with 512MB extra sampleRAM.
  • Roland JV-1080 with the SR-JV80-13 Vocal expansion board mounted.
  • Roland XV-5050.
  • Behringer RX-1602 mixer
  • M-Audio M-Track Eight audio interface.




The Rack Mixer


This Behringer RX1602RX mixer is filled with the following

  • Roland XV-5050
  • Roland JV-1080 with the SR-JV80-13 Vocal expansion board mounted
  • Roland Fantom XR
  • Korg X5D
  • PSG/SCC from MegaFlashROM SCC+ SD's custom jack out
  • MSX-Audio
  • MSX-Music
  • OPL4




Synthesizers


Then there's an old picture of my two Korg X5D synthesizers together. Why two? Well, at the time I just could. I wouldn't want two of them now, but I already have 'em. There are however extra features when having two of them. A Korg X5D is actually just an X5 with some extra samples. These extra samples are being stored in a separate sound bank. Switching between the two is quite a hassle because Korg wasn't really thinking as a user when they made this thing. So when having two, you just have to play the other if you want the other sound bank. Another is that when connecting both synths, you can play more notes simultaneously. One plays the even notes while the other plays the odd notes. Slowly decaying sounds won't be cut off this way.

I only use one of them as a master keyboard while the other is in storage.




Commodore Amiga 1200


The latest addition to the retro computers is this Commodore Amiga 1200. As may be expected, this machine is not in its default condition. Just recently all capacitors were replaced and a CF card serves as mass storage medium. To easily swap data from and to the pc there's a PCMCIA CF adapter. Then there's some other extra board installed inside it, but I have no clue what it is.

This machine was bought to find out how easy it would be to do some chip tunes on it. Well, it turned out that the built in sound chip called Paula is quite a limited and useless invention. It's just four channels which are hard panned to either left or right. There's no control on it. So if you want to play a note on both speakers, you have to use half of your channels. The audio quality is quite poor as well. Therefore I am very delighted I got a MIDI Master with which I can control my sythesizers. There might be a nice musical future for this computer.




The PC

The work PC on this desk is a self built machine which got some extras and upgrades since the basic machine was built. As the main board is an old Asus P8H67 there were some limits to what I could make of it. The board has been degrading through time. The onboard soundcard went bad and the onboard network card told me to stay offline as well. Both were replaced by external cards. The audio card even got its place outside the casing in the shape of the 19 inch M-Audio M-Track Eight USB audio interface. The casing, a Coolermaster Silencio 550 has a USB3 port on the front panel, but the mainboard lacks the connector, so in order to get it to work I had to fill up a PCI port with a USB3 cart. It works, but not very well. This time it's not the fault of the mainboard, but it's the casing.

As you can see the PC has had quite some patching. So you might ask me why I didn't change the mainboard. The answer is simple: laziness. Installing Windows and customizing it completely back to how it's now is just a hell of a job. And since this computer has been expanded to the maximum of what the mainboard can handle and it performance is higher than my needs, it's a good way for me to prevent me from buying things I don't need.

So what kind of PC is it in total?

  • Coolermaster Silencio 550 casing
  • An old Huntkey 400 Watt PSU
  • Asus P8H67 mainboard
  • Intel Core i7-3770 processor
  • Asus GTX650-DC video cart (I just needed a cart that can handle three screens at the same time)
  • 2x Kingston 8GB DDR3 1600 RAM
  • Samsung EVO 840 120GB SSD system drive
  • Seagate 3GB bulk drive
  • TP-Link 1GB network cart to replace the broken onboard RealTek network cart
  • USB3 cart to benefit the USB3 port on the front panel of the casing
  • M-Audio M-Track Eight audio interface to replace the broken onboard RealTek audiocart
  • An extra cart reader in the frontpanel to work with CF carts
  • An external cart reader in the vicinity of my MSX for easy access
  • 2x IIyama Prolite E2473HDS main screens connected by DVI
  • Samsung UE22ES5400 optional third screen connected by HDMI (shared with my MSX and a Linux PC)
  • Windows 7 64bit running tools which aren't too heavy, so in fact the computer is overkill to my needs

 

 




Work space


This is how the relax corner looks like right now.

Smoking is allowed in this work space.