Sound chip

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.

Programmable sound generators (PSG)


General Instrument


MOS Technology






Texas Instruments


Wavetable synthesis



  • Ensoniq 5503, used in the Apple IIgs computer.

Hudson Soft/Epson


  • Konami SCC, used in certain arcade boards and game carts for the MSX.


Frequency modulation (FM) synthesis


  • Jerry, used in the Atari Jaguar. Also supports single-cycle wavetable-lookup synthesis and PCM (sample-based synthesis).

ESS Technology

  • ESFM synthesizer, used in most ESS Tech sound chips, ES1868/69 being most common. Chip includes wavetable interface. Two modes, one "OPL2/3 compatible" and the other the native superset.



Pulse-code modulation (PCM, sample-based)


  • Jerry, used in the Atari Jaguar. Also supports FM and single-cycle wavetable-lookup synthesis.
  • SDMA, used in the Atari Falcon030.

Crystal Semiconductor



MOS Technology


National SemiConductor

  • LMC1992, used in the Atari STE and Atari TT030




  • VLM5030 Speech Synthesizer, a speech synthesis chip used in the arcade game Punch-Out!!



See also


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  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-09-29. Retrieved 2014-09-27.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
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  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-09-30. Retrieved 2014-09-27.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
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  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-04-02. Retrieved 2014-09-27.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
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  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-03-19. Retrieved 2008-05-28.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

External links

Ensoniq Soundscape OPUS

The Ensoniq Soundscape OPUS (SS-3016-NCD) is a Gateway 2000 OEM sound card, and possibly was used by other OEMs, but was never sold to Ensoniq's customers directly. It was a Soundscape-like board, using the Ensoniq "OPUS" multimedia sound chip that only was used on these OEM boards. It had a 1MB patch set ROM chip, resulting in a lesser MIDI quality compared to the Soundscape and Soundscape ELITE. The "OPUS" cards again carry the Motorola 68EC000 CPU. The variety of CD-ROM interfaces have been removed. Otherwise, however, the card is simply a cost-reduced Soundscape-compatible board with similar capabilities.

While Ensoniq always stated on their site that they did not support the card, the regular Soundscape's driver package functions on it. Ensoniq's support page referred to the boards as Soundscape OPUS. In a bit of humor, the board holds a chip labeled "COW". No doubt this is related to the card being a Gateway OEM board, a company known for their cow-related image.


The FM-7 ("Fujitsu Micro 7") is a home computer created by Fujitsu. It was first released in 1982 and was sold in Japan and Spain. It is a stripped down version of Fujitsu's earlier FM-8 computer, and during development it was referred to as the "FM-8 Jr.".

Although it was designed to be a cut-down version of the FM-8, most notably removing the (expensive) bubble memory technology, the FM-7 was given a more advanced AY-3-8910 sound chip capable of three voice sound synthesis, leading to a strong uptake among the hobbyist computer market in Japan and making it a more popular system than the FM-8.

The FM-7 primarily competed with the NEC PC-8801 and Sharp X1 series of computers in the early 1980s. It was succeeded by the FM-77 series of computers in 1984, which featured backwards compatibility with the FM-7. The FM-77 series was later succeeded by the 32-bit FM Towns in 1989.

The FM-7 is based around the 6809 chip, which was also used in home computers such as the TRS-80 Color Computer and Dragon 32/64, as well as several arcade games.

Namco System 86

The Namco System 86 is an 8-bit arcade system board which was first used by Namco in 1986; it was the first board from that company to use a Yamaha YM2151 FM sound chip, and was succeeded by the more powerful Namco System 1 (originally called Namco System 87) arcade system board when the company went 16-bit in 1987.

Programmable sound generator

A programmable sound generator, or PSG, is a sound chip that generates sound waves by synthesizing multiple basic waveforms, and often some kind of noise generator (all controlled by writing data to dedicated registers in the sound chip, hence the name) and combining and mixing these waveforms into a complex waveform, then shaping the amplitude envelope of the resulting waveform using attack, decay, sustain, and release time periods, so that the resulting waveform then mimics a certain kind of sound.

They were, and are, often used in arcade games, game consoles, and home computers.

Ricoh 2A03

The Ricoh 2A03 or RP2A03 (NTSC version) / Ricoh 2A07 or RP2A07 (PAL version) is an 8-bit microprocessor manufactured by Ricoh for the Nintendo Entertainment System video game console. It contained a second sourced MOS Technology 6502 core, modified to disable the 6502's binary-coded decimal mode, with 22 memory-mapped I/O registers that controlled an APU, rudimentary DMA, and game controller polling. It was also used as a sound chip and secondary CPU by Nintendo's arcade games Punch-Out!! and Donkey Kong 3.

VGM (file format)

VGM (Video Game Music) is an audio file format for multiple video game platforms, such as Sega Master System, Game Gear, Mega Drive/Genesis, MSX, Neo Geo, IBM PC AT (Adlib/SoundBlaster), and has expanded to a variety of arcade system boards since its release.

The standard filename extension is .vgm, but files can also be Gzip compressed into .vgz files. Technically, .vgz files should be named .vgm.gz, but because some popular operating systems' file managers cannot handle file name suffixes that themselves contain a period, .vgz is used in order to launch a VGM player, not a file archiver program such as WinZip or WinRAR.

The VGM format is different from formats like NSF or SID, which contain the game's music code. Instead, the instructions sent to the sound chip are logged.

On November 20, 2005, VGM 1.50 was officially announced, and a new version of the input plug-in released. The new version of the format supported PCM optimization for the Yamaha YM2612 sound chip, which significantly reduces the size of VGM files by avoiding redundancy. The first YM2612 VGM archive, Project 2612, optimized all of its packages soon after.

Yamaha Y8950

The Yamaha Y8950 is a sound chip, produced in 1984. Essentially a Yamaha YM3526 with an ADPCM encoder/decoder added on, it is also known as MSX-Audio as it was designed for inclusion in an expansion cartridge for the MSX personal computer.

This chip was introduced in three cartridge models:

Philips NMS-1205

Toshiba HX-MU900

Panasonic FS-CA1

Yamaha YM2151

The Yamaha YM2151, also known as OPM (FM Operator Type-M) 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 (DX21, DX27, and DX100). Yamaha also used it in some of their budget-priced electric pianos, such as the YPR-7, -8, and -9.

Yamaha YM2203

The YM2203, a.k.a. OPN (FM Operator Type-N), is a three-channel sound chip developed by Yamaha. It was the progenitor of Yamaha's OPN family of FM synthesis chips used in many videogame and computer systems throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. The YM2203 itself was used in a variety of NEC computers, along with various arcade game machines.

The YM2203 and the rest of the OPN synthesizer family generate sound via frequency-modulated digital sine waves. It included 12 operator "cells", each generating a 13-bit sine wave at a programmable frequency, the volume of which is controlled by a programmable ADSR envelope generator. The output of these cells could be either summed together by the mixer, or fed into the input of another cell, in 4-cell batches creating the final sound values or "channels". 4 operator cells per channel allowed a total of 8 different permutations of cell connections, known as "algorithms" or instrument patches.

The YM2203 has the following features:

Three concurrent FM channels (voices)

Four operators per channel

Two interval timers

Mono sound internal implementation of Yamaha's YM2149F SSG chipThe SSG module implemented the YM2149F's three SSG channels and dual GPIO ports

The YM2203 is used with a YM3014 external DAC companion chip.

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.

Yamaha YM2414

The YM2414, a.k.a. OPZ, is an eight-channel sound chip developed by Yamaha. It was used in many mid-market phase/frequency modulation-based synthesizers, including Yamaha's TX81Z (the first product to feature it, and was named after), DX11, YS200 family, the Korg Z3 guitar synthesizer, and many other devices. A successor was released as the upgraded OPZII/YM2424, used only in the Yamaha V50.

The OPZ has the following features:

Eight concurrent FM channels

Four operators per channel

Eight selectable waveforms

Fixed-frequency mode, which can go much lower in the OPZII, enabling 0 Hz carriers or low rates for native chorusing

Dual low frequency oscillators

Yamaha YM2608

YM2608, a.k.a. OPNA, is a sixteen-channel sound chip developed by Yamaha. It's a member of Yamaha's OPN family of FM synthesis chips, and the successor to the YM2203. It was notably used in NEC's PC-8801/PC-9801 series computers.

The YM2608 comprises four internal modules:

FM Sound Source, a six-channel FM synthesis sound system, based on the YM2203

SSG Sound Source, a complete internal implementation of the Yamaha YM2149/SSG, a variant of the popular AY-3-8910/PSG for producing three channels of square wave synthesis.

ADPCM Sound Source, a single channel for samples in 8-bit ADPCM format at a sampling rate between 2–16 kHz

Rhythm Sound Source, a six-channel ADPCM system, enabling playback of six percussion "rhythm tones" from a built-in ROMThe FM Sound Source module includes six concurrent FM channels (voices, twice as many as the Yamaha YM2203), four operators per channel, with dual interrupt timers and an LFO. It also includes eight possible operator interconnections, or algorithms, for producing different types of instrument sounds.

The SSG, or Software-controlled Sound Generator, is Yamaha's YM2149 programmable sound generator. The YM2608 includes the SSG's 3 sound channels and dual 8-bit GPIO ports.

The YM2608 is used with a YM3016 stereo DAC.

The YMF288, a.k.a. OPN3, is a development of the YM2608, used in later NEC PC-9801 computer soundcards. It removes the YM2608's GPIO ports, CSM-mode and the ADPCM Sound Source. It also reduces the wait times on register access, and adds a low-power standby mode. The YMF288 also came in a much smaller physical 28-pin SOP and 64-pin QFP packages.

Yamaha YM2610

YM2610, a.k.a. OPNB, is a fifteen-channel sound chip developed by Yamaha. It's a member of Yamaha's OPN family of FM synthesis chips, and related to the YM2608. It was most notably used in SNK's Neo Geo arcade and home game systems, along with other arcade game systems. The YM2610 was used in conjunction with a YM3016 stereo DAC.

The YM2610 has the following features:

Four concurrent FM channels (voices), four operators per channel, DAC compatible with YM3016

Three SSG channels: compatible with YM2149 (Atari ST)

One programmable noise channel

ADPCM-A: Six ADPCM channels, fixed pitch, 18.5 kHz sampling rate at 12-bit from 4-bit data

ADPCM-B: One ADPCM channel, variable pitch, 18.5–55.5 kHz sampling rate

Two interval timers

A low frequency oscillator (LFO)The YM2610B variant added two extra FM channels for a total of six, but was identical in every other feature. It was used in Taito's arcade boards, such as the Taito Z System, amongst others.

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 YM3526

The YM3526, a.k.a. OPL (FM Operator Type-L), 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.

A very closely related chip is the Y8950, or MSX-AUDIO, which was used as an MSX expansion. It is essentially a Y8950 with ADPCM recording and playback capability.

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.

Yamaha YMF262

The Yamaha YMF262, also known as the OPL3 (OPL is an acronym for FM Operator Type-L), is an FM synthesis sound chip released by Yamaha Corporation in early 1990s. It is an improved version of the Yamaha YM3812 (OPL2). It was used in a number IBM PC soundcards including Sound Blaster 16 and Pro AudioSpectrum (16bit).

Yamaha YMF278

The Yamaha YMF278B, also known as the OPL4 (OPL is an acronym for FM Operator Type-L), is a sound chip that incorporates both FM synthesis and sample-based synthesis (often incorrectly called "wavetable synthesis").

Yamaha YMZ280B

The Yamaha YMZ280B, also known as PCMD8 is a sound chip that was produced by the Yamaha Corporation. It is an eight-channel PCM/ADPCM sample-based synthesizer designed for use with gaming machines, packaged in a 64-pin QFP.

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