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About XG Sounds at PC PDF Print
Wednesday, 03 November 2004
Try this: Record a song on your keyboard with "Auto Accompaniment" and "Multi Pad" on FD and then play the song at the PC with the appropriate software (Media Player, Cakewalk,...) using the synthesizer of your soundcard. In most cases the sound will be strange. Sometimes you hear a strong disharmonic piano voice instead of a drum-kit, whereas the sound on the keyboard is O.K.. What is the matter?

The YAMAHA keyboards have synthesizers of high quality to play XG with excellent voices. The usual soundcards can play General MIDI (GM) only in best case. These soundcards ignore the "Change Voice Bank" controller events of the song and play the 128 GM-voices only. The soundcard ignores many other controller events and all the XG SysEx of the song too. For instance the instrument "Breath Tenor Sax" will get the GM voice "Tenor Sax".

GM only uses channel 10 for percussion, all other channels for melody voices. The accompaniment of the keyboard songs takes the channel 9 and 10 (Rhy1, Rhy2) for drum-kit instruments. On GM-soundcards channel 9 is a melody channel and you will hear a melody instrument instead of percussion. If the song uses Standard Kit 1 at channel 9 for instance, all percussion sounds are mapped to the piano "Acoustic Grand" of GM.

How can we overcome?

My method: I forget the MIDI synth of the soundcard. I connect the soundcard's MIDI OUT port with the MIDI IN of the keyboard by a MIDI cable. In "Windows Multimedia" I change the "soundcard synth" to "soundcard MIDI OUT"(sometimes named MPU-401). My songs played with sequencer-software use the keyboard synthesizer now. I get all my XG- and the panel-voices.

In some cases this may not be a good method. If we want to publish a song for users who only play at PC with a soundcard, we want to use the soundcard's synthesizer furtheron. In this case we should edit the song at the PC. For all tracks with drum kits change the used channel no. 9 to channel no. 10. You only use one drum-kit now, but this is no problem mostly. A problem may be the polyphony: the PSR-8000 can play upto 64 notes the same time (Tyros 128 !), whereas most soundcards allow only 24 notes. Therefore you should delete the notes of subordinate channels in some cases.

If you want to get a correct GM MIDI-file, you should change the used voice-banks to none and delete all SysEx, except the "Turn GM System On", all controller events no. 0 and no. 32 (Change Voice Bank) and all controller events unknown by GM. If you forget some, there will be no problem, because the GM-Synthesizers skip all these events. Often you have to adjust the volume of some channels, for example the accompaniment-channels between 9 and 16. Try and edit until you have got an acceptable sound.

Another method is to use one of YAMAHA's soft-synthesizers S-YG20, S-YXG50 and S-YXG100. This software plays XG without using the synthesizer of a soundcard. The audio-port of the soundcard is used only. Whith the S-YXG20 we get "XG Lite" with 360 XG-voices, 9 percussion- and 2 SFX-banks. The S-YXG50 and S-YXG100 have got a complete XG with the 480 voices and the three effect-blocks Reverb, Chorus and Variation with a lot of effects. Remember: The software evaluates XG only and not the panel voices of the beyboards with the voice-banks LSB = 112, 113. The polyphony of the S-YXG50 is upto 512 (!!). If you use 512 notes the same time, you should have a very quick PC, because all voices and effects are performed by the CPU!
The synthesizers can be buyed for little money. I have got the YAMAHA XG-Player and the S-YX50 together with a Hercules soundcard "Gamesurround MUSE XL" for about US$25. I have compared the sound with my PSR-8000 with the result, that I use the keyboard-synthesizer furtheron. The sounds are much better than those that a simple soundcard produces, but our keyboard has more voices and all of these with better quality. I have tried the S-YG20 and the SoundBlaster Live! too. The sound of the SB Live! is better, though there is GM only.

At last we might throw away our simple soundcard and buy a card which understands XG. The "YAMAHA Waveforce WF 192-XG" and the "Hoontech SoundTrack Digital XG" are the cheapest ones with best test results. Both have the same XG-synthesizer chip of YAMAHA. The price of the first is about 50 Euro in Germany (about US$40). A professional card is the YAMAHA SW1000XG for about $550. On the other side we can save your money, because we get an excellent sound using the synth of our keyboard.

What is GM? Look at the specifications at
http://www.midi.org/about-midi/gm/gm1_spec.shtml .
You will get some more interesting statements.

Look into the site of Clemens Kurtz (URL in my "Good Links"). He can say something about soundcards.