Game Boy sound comparsion (better than Herbert Weixelbaum's version)

Page Version: 0.9.5

Written by Aquellex
Contributions from DEFENSE MECHANISM, Pain Perdu & odaxelagnia
Happy Hippo track by Stello Doussis

PREFACE

Due to the lack of up-to-date Game Boy sound comparison guides within the 2007-2015 timeframe, and with said guides showing outdated information that is still being used as a primary source by naïve chiptuners, this page intends to provide a more updated analysis of hardware recordings while contributing newer sound modifications and variables that are missing from said guides.

The title is by no means a malicious attack on Weixelbaum’s work (I got the “better than” phrase from a series of satirical Sonic ROM Hacks, so take it as cheeky banter)—what he has done so far for the chipmusic community has been an amazing starting point, but as time has passed over several years, newer discoveries have been unveiled such as the usage of capacitors, difference between major motherboard revisions etc.

It should also be noted that any documentation regarding sound comparsions (including this one) will never truly be completed, as advancements in technology will inevitably allow for newer discoveries to be made. Please view any guide you see on the Internet as reference, and be aware of sources that may not be up-to-date.

All waveform images provided within this document are recorded with the following configuration:

  • Envelope: A8
  • Wave: 50% (square)
  • Note: Lowest pulse note possible on PU1 (displays as C-3 on v4.9.5)

All spectrogram images provided within this document are when LSDJ is left running idle.

The units were played at their highest volumes and recorded peaking at -12dB. The recordings (and the waveforms) have all been normalised to -0.01dB with the exception of the sonogram images. No other further post-processing was done. Rendered in 44.1khz 16-bit, then exported to .ogg (Q10).

You will hear the following in SNDTEST.lsdsng: 6 bars of intro, 2 bars of the infamous ‘clicking’ side-effect when using volume/pan commands, 19 bars of a full track, then an isolation of a granular synthesis technique and other various waveforms (pulses, sine, saw, kits, sine kick, square kick, periodic noise), then at least 2 seconds of LSDJ running idle.

LSDJ 4.9.5 was used for all SNDTEST.lsdsng recordings since the project file uses the old logarithmic pitch bend table. Later versions of LSDJ can have positive impacts (e.g. 5.0.0: you can get away with an extra V command on the DMG | 5.1.9 makes P/L commands less CPU-intensive)

PORTABLE

DMG

Ahh, the good old staple of Game Boy music. Thick, bassy sound straight out of the box. Background noise is negligable during playback. A bit of virtually unnoticable hiss can be found at resonances 9.1-9.4khz and 18-18.7khz. Need I say more? Actually…

One major downside of DMG units is the processor speed. When a track gets too complicated, the unit will choke during playback. Ways to choke a DMG unit include:

  • Using two high-frequency vibrato commands simultaneously
  • Kit playback
  • Using the granular synthesis technique
  • Using a tempo setting greater than 220

Fortunately, LSDJ versions greater than 4.3.x are more optimised compared to the 3.x.x days.

Another shortcoming I might add is that the ‘clicking’ side-effect is very prominent (as demonstrated in the Happy Hippo example), but depending on the enjoyment of the composition of your tracks, it’s a nitpick at best.

That being said, this unit is still very accessible today, and the CPU-choking shortcoming ultimately depends on the complexity of your tracks. Great for beginners.

Image Variables Waveform & spectrogram Sound examples
dmg_1.jpg
  • CPU-06
  • Bivert backlight
  • wf_dmg.png
    sg_dmg.png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo

    DMG (prosound)

    Virtually the same as above, but with some major key differences:

    • The background noise is gone entirely
    • The hiss resonances can be still found between 9.1-9.4khz and 18-18.7khz (you can eliminate these in recording using surgical EQs)

    Highly recommended mod for those getting into scenarios where a line-out jack is involved (especially live performance and recording).

    Image Variables Waveform & spectrogram Sound examples
    dmgps_1.jpg
  • CPU-06
  • wf_dmg[ps].png
    sg_dmg[ps].png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo

    Pocket

    Use BGB or get yourself a throwaway DMG (or GBC/GBA/GBASP if you need the CPU firepower) instead. There are very little advantages to using a vanilla Pocket unit (except for when in a pinch):

    • The processor speed issue from the DMG is still present
    • Fuzzy sound
    • Hiss (9-9.4khz, 13.7-13.8khz, 18.2-18.7khz) and hum (0-262hz) are noticable during playback (though the hiss becomes less noticable when LSDJ is idle)

    If you really need to use one as a last resort, don’t forget to turn up the bass on the EQ + remove unwanted resonances when post-processing.

    On the other hand, the sound is more tolerable than a vanilla Color unit.

    Image Variables Waveform & spectrogram Sound examples
    placeholder.png
  • LCPU-02
  • wf_pocket.png
    sg_pocket.png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo

    Color

    Ahh yes, the infamous Game Boy Color that every chipscener loves to blindly dismiss as one of the noisiest Game Boys that are simply not worth your time at all. While it’s true it does suffer the same symptoms from the stock Pocket (only much worse), at least you can throw heavy-duty commands that would make a DMG choke to oblivion, and there’s always turning up the bass EQ and surgically removing the unwanted resonances in post-processing. Also, there’s noise-cancelling and bass mods available for the Color, but we’ll get to that soon.

    • Hiss resonances: 9-9.4khz, 13.7-13.9khz, 18.2-18.7khz
    • Hum resonances: 0-260hz, 1.1-1.3khz, 4.3-4.7khz

    There’s also a noise cancellation through stereo inversion technique here, discovered by EvilWezil. Useful for those in a pinch when recording.

    If you had to pick between a Color and the Advance series with no mods factored in, go for the Advance series instead (especially SP if you’re factoring in button ergonomics).

    Also, word of warning: avoid European CPU-02 motherboards, as they contain a fatal envelope bug that kills notes unexpectedly upon using pitch bends & vibrato commands.

    Image Variables Waveform & spectrogram Sound examples
    placeholder.png
  • CPU-03
  • wf_gbc.png
    sg_gbc.png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo
    placeholder.png
  • CPU-02
  • wf_cgb[02].png
    sg_cgb[02].png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo
    Pitch bend & vibrato test

    Color (prosound)

    An improvement that salvages the vanilla Color’s noisy environment. One thing to note that while the Color is tacet, it’s a pretty silent system with the hum/hiss resonances from the vanilla Color being inaudible, but during playback, the resonances become a lot more obvious. That can be rectified with a capacitor mod that we’ll get to immediately after this section.

    Don’t forget to turn up the bass on the EQ during a live performance, as the bass without any kind of EQ is pretty tame compared to the stock DMG.

    • Hiss resonances: Same as above
    • Hum resonances: Same as above
    Image Variables Waveform & spectrogram Sound examples
    placeholder.png
  • CPU-04
  • RCA
  • wf_gbc[ps].png
    sg_gbc[ps].png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo

    Color (pin3 mod)

    BennVenn’s pin3 mod that is also used for his GBC backlight mod. Kinda looks like a hybrid of a stock & prosound Color, but the hiss & hum resonances are less obnoxious compared to the stock GBC. Again, don’t forget to turn up the bass on the EQ during a live performance, as the bass without any kind of EQ is pretty tame compared to the stock DMG.

    • Hiss resonances: Same as above
    • Hum resonances: Same as above
    Image Variables Waveform & spectrogram Sound examples
    gbcpin3_1.jpg
  • CPU-05
  • BennVenn GBC Backlight
  • Pin3 Mod
  • wf_cgb[pin3].png
    sg_cgb[pin3].png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo
    Pitch bend & vibrato test

    Color (noise cancel + bass boost)

    Thanks to this wonderful modification pioneered by katsumbhong, the Color now gets a *major* upper hand against the DMG that is universally praised for its thick bass. This mod has thicker bass than the DMG, better sample playback than the DMG, your CPU-intensive tracks not choking your device in the middle of playback, virtually ZERO background noise (except for a virtually inaudible sub hum which you can see in the spectrogram), what have you not? The infamous ‘clicking’ side-effect when using too many volume envelopes and hardpans is still present, however.

    That being said, the mod is more involved than your typical prosound mod, given the extra capacitors required. But if you are able to execute the mod (or find somebody who can) correctly, it pays great dividends. Excellent for every scenario imaginable!

    Image Variables Waveform & spectrogram Sound examples
    gbcbbnc_1.jpg
  • RCA
  • CPU-05
  • AGS-001 frontlight
  • wf_gbc[nc+bb].png
    sg_gbc[nc+bb].png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo

    Advance

    Thank you DEFENSE MECHANISM for the recordings!

    Bassy sound straight out of the box, which is very nice, and a powerful CPU to boot. The Advance series are also best known for being the least clickiest Game Boys in the series, which is a big plus, especially with tracks like Happy Hippo.

    The hum and hisses are at their most noticable when LSDJ is idle, and become less noticable than the stock Pocket during playback.

    • Hiss resonances: 6.6-7khz, 9-9.4khz, 13.1-14.0khz, 20.2-20.6khz
    • Hum resonances: 0-260hz

    Sample playback is less satisfying than the pure GB models, even with the antispike patch introduced in v4.7.0, though it’s a negligible nitpick at best.

    Button ergonomics are awkward, though there are mods to reroute the Start/Select buttons to L/R respectively, if you’re willing to sacrifice those buttons solely for LSDJ.

    Image Variables Waveform & spectrogram Sound examples
    placeholder.png
  • ???
  • wf_gba.png
    sg_gba.png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo

    SP

    Thank you DEFENSE MECHANISM for the recordings!

    Background noise (hum & hiss) is negligable during playback for the AGS-001 used in the recording; hum is very noticable during playback for the AGS-101 used, unfortunately. Sample playback is still a negligable nitpick.

    There is a chance that resonance severity may vary from motherboard to motherboard, but we don’t have enough data for the time being.

    • Hiss resonances: 8.2-8.5khz, 9.9-10.4khz, 12.8-13.2khz, 17.3-17.7khz
    • Hum resonances: 0-265hz, 3.2-3.9khz

    Don’t forget this stereo inversion technique here.

    Image Variables Waveform & spectrogram Sound examples
    placeholder.png
  • AGS-001
  • wf_sp001.png
    sg_sp001.png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo
    placeholder.png
  • AGS-101
  • wf_sp101.png
    sg_sp101.png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo

    HOME

    Super Game Boy

    Thank you DEFENSE MECHANISM for the recordings!

    There is a high pitched hiss that can easily be heard in recordings.

    Word of caution: the Super Game Boy is faster than any other Game Boy hardware (about 2.4% faster; cheers My Life in Gaming!) and the tunings are off by a semitone higher for any game (as evident by the Happy Hippo recording). LSDJ corrects this tuning issue through software when in SGB mode, however.

    • Hiss resonances: 7.8-8.2khz, 9.2-9.6khz, 15-16.4k, 18.7-19khz
    • Hum resonances: 0-250hz, 1.1-1.3khz, 2.2-2.5khz, 3.4-3.7khz, 4.5-4.9khz, 5.8-6khz
    Image Variables Waveform & spectrogram Sound examples
    sgb_1.jpg
  • ???
  • wf_sgb.png
    sg_sgb.png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo

    Super Game Boy (prosound)

    Thank you DEFENSE MECHANISM for the recordings!

    What an interesting looking waveform compared to the non-prosound…

    See above for resonances, they’re still the same.

    Image Variables Waveform & spectrogram Sound examples
    sgbps_1.jpg
  • ???
  • wf_sgb[ps].png
    sg_sgb[ps].png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo

    Super Game Boy 2

    Thank you DEFENSE MECHANISM for the recordings!

    The Super Game Boy 2 corrects the speed issue from the original SGB. Alas, it was only released in Japan. An obnoxious hiss can be heard during recordings, and has a tendency to tack onto PCM samples.

    • Hiss resonances: 7.8-8.2khz, 9-9.4khz, 13.5-14khz, 15.4-16.1khz, 17.5-18khz, 18.3-18.5khz, 21.6-21.8khz
    • Hum resonances: 3.3-3.6khz, 5.8-6.1khz
    Image Variables Waveform & spectrogram Sound examples
    sgb2_1.jpg
  • ???
  • wf_sgb2.png
    sg_sgb2.png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo

    Super Game Boy 2 (prosound)

    Thank you DEFENSE MECHANISM for the recordings!

    The funky-looking waveform sideeffect still occurs from the SGB1!

    Image Variables Waveform & spectrogram Sound examples
    placeholder.png
  • ???
  • wf_sgb2[ps].png
    sg_sgb2[ps].png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo

    Game Boy Player

    Thank you DEFENSE MECHANISM for the US motherboard recordings!

    Uses the same authentic hardware as the original GBA! Background noise is somewhat negligible during normal playback.

    While the original GameCube controller lacks a SELECT button, you have a few good options:

    Image Variables Waveform & spectrogram Sound examples
    ngc_1.jpg
  • DOL-GBS-01 (JPN)
  • wf_gbp.png
    sg_gbp.png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo
    placeholder.png
  • DOL-GBS-20 (US)
  • wf_gbp.png
    sg_gbpus.png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo

    Game Boy Player (prosound)

    Thank you DEFENSE MECHANISM for the recordings!

    On par with, if not better than the Color noise cancel + bass boost, with the added edge of the ‘clicking’ side-effect being a lot more muted in akin to the GBA series as expected. The background noise is on par with, if not a couple more resonances than the stock DMG & GBAs, but during playback, it’s negligable at best, especially when compared with the pocket series.

    A magnificent companion for the Color/SP-seasoned composer.

    Quick note: using resistors and capacitors are necessary to avoid clipping.

    Image Variables Waveform & spectrogram Sound examples
    ngcps_1.jpg
  • RCA
  • DOL-GBS-01 (JPN)
  • LPF Resistor
  • LPF Capacitor
  • wf_gbp[ps+c].png
    sg_gbp[ps+c].png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo
    ngcps_2.jpg
  • RCA
  • DOL-GBS-20 (US)
  • 470 Ohm Resistor
  • .01uF Capacitor
  • wf_gbpus[ps+c].png
    sg_gbpus[ps+c].png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo

    EMULATED

    BGB (PC)

    Believe it or not, BGB’s emulator is better than the stock Color & Color w/ prosound (and yes, even the pocket series). There’s also virtually no background noise (there’s a bit of air that can be found within the spectrogram, but it’s virtually impossible to hear). Good for home use, and always excellent for beginners.

    Image Variables Waveform & spectrogram Sound examples
    pho_bgb.png
  • WAV output
  • GBC mode
  • wf_bgb.png
    sg_bgb1.png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo

    DS Lite

    Thank you odaxelagnia for the recordings!

    Poor PCM emulation.
    Lameboy should not be used for any serious LSDJ recording.

    Image Variables Waveform & spectrogram Sound examples
    dslite_1.png
  • Gameyob
  • wf_dsl_gameyob.png
    sg_dsl_gameyob.png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo
    dslite_2.png
  • Lameboy
  • wf_dsl_lameboy.png
    sg_dsl_lameboy.png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo

    PSP

    Can only use MasterBoy v2.10 for the time being.

    Excellent bass, but is ruined by poor PCM emulation. Periodic noise emulation is a bit finicky as well (you can hear it towards the ends of SNDTEST.lsdsng). Tempo is faster than standard recordings.

    Image Variables Waveform & spectrogram Sound examples
    placeholder.png
  • MasterBoy v2.10
  • TA-090v2
  • wf_psp.png
    sg_psp.png
    SNDTEST.lsdsng
    Happy Hippo

    NOTES

    If you would like to help contribute more sound data, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me via e-mail, Twitter, or join the discussion in The PSG Cabal Discord server in #technical for more details.

    If you would like to help contribute a more ergonomic design for this page, the website can be found on GitHub.

    TODO

    I’ll be requiring 44.1khz 16-bit stereo .flac files, and I’ll be crossing the second list out one-by-one once I’ve acquired + verified the recordings. NO FURTHER POST-PROCESSING IS TO BE DONE, PLEASE. MINIMUM OF -12.0dB.

    Further instructions are provided in the README.txt within the .zip file provided below.

    Source files required for hardware recordings

    • Analyse more CPU revisions (yes, they can make a difference)
    • Note down CPU revisions used from some of DEFENSE MECHANISM’s recordings
    • Lights on/off variables for GBASP series
    • DMG (bass boost) [CPU-06 recommended]
    • Pocket (prosound)
    • Light (stock, prosound)
    • Advance (prosound)
    • SP (both models) (prosound)
    • Kong Feng GB Boy Colour (carries the CGB-CPU-02 envelope bug)
    • VisualBoyAdvance (PC)
    • MasterBoy (Sony PSP)
    • Consider Nanoloop GBA?
    • Add pros/cons/verdict segments
    • Pinpoint more resonances

    DOCUMENT CHANGELOG

    • 0.9.0 - Initial release.
    • 0.9.1 - Added DS Lite recordings. Thanks odaxelagnia!
    • 0.9.1a - Added photos for DS Lite section. Thanks odaxelagnia! Also added .zip for sound recordings under todo.
    • 0.9.2 - Added Color (prosound). Also changed CPU-04 to CPU-03 in DEFENSE MECHANISM’s vanilla Color recording.
    • 0.9.3 - Added PSP-3000 (TA-090v2).
    • 0.9.4 - Added recordings CGB-CPU-02 Stock (along w/ pitch bend & vibrato test), CPU-CGB-05 w/ Pin3 Mod (along w/ pitch bend & vibrato test), and Game Boy Player (stock & prosound) using a US motherboard. Thanks Jack L. For lending the CGB-CPU-02! Thanks DEFENSE MECHANISM for more Game Boy Player recordings!
    • 0.9.4a - Replaced gbhwsoundrec.zip with SNDTEST compiled into a .gb file for greater convenience.
    • 0.9.5 - Finally got around to adding some photos and appended more text here and there. Thanks DEFENSE MECHANISM!

    Last Updated: 23/10/2018, 09:10:00 +0000