The Hard Stuff: The Roland MT-32 and SC-55mkII MIDI Modules

20 Year Old Me Could NEVER Afford These...
20 Year Old Me Could NEVER Afford These…

Back in the late 80s-early 90s, when sound cards were just coming into their own thing, Roland released external MIDI modules to be used not only by musicians, but high-end gamers who could afford them. The first of these, released in 1987, was the MT-32, which was so awesome it was officially supported by Sierra, and many of their games had native support for the device. After seeing Joe Mastroianni, the host of the amazing Upper Memory Block Podcast, use his MT-32 for Day of the Tentacle, I simply had to have one of my own. After scouring ebay, I was lucky enough to find a seller that had a great unit in stock, but would also sell be a USB MIDI interface that would allow me to work with the thing. You can see the video I used to get all the cables I needed and such here if you’d like.

After getting the unit and getting some help from Joe, I was finally able to get it running, as you can see here:

Neat, huh? I wasn’t done, though, because SOMEONE was silly enough to tell me that, while the MT-32 is pretty great, for games like TIE Fighter, General MIDI sounded better. I then remembered that when I first played TIE Fighter so many years ago, I had a Sound Blaster AWE32, which had its own MIDI support, and sounded pretty great compared to the basic Sound Blaster 16 support present in DOSBox (I had to look up videos to remember just how good). This gnawed at me until I realized, I wasn’t gonna be satisfied until I had a General MIDI module, so after doing a ton of research, I settled upon the SC-55mkII. After, again, scouring ebay, I was able to find not only a mint-condition unit, but one that had its battery replaced. Apparently old batteries can leak and cause all sorts of problems.

Well, it just arrived the other day, and the results were just spectacular.

Hilariously, since they’re chained together, the MT-32 and SC-55mkII run at the same time, and you can listen to them concurrently. In TIE Fighter, this leads to a pretty awesome orchestral effect, I think. You can hear some more of this here, which I recorded today:

So yeah. I’m kinda giddy about all of this, and will definitely be using this hardware in future reviews for games that support them. I didn’t get the SC-55mkII in time to use with Alien Legacy, sadly, but lemme tell ya, that game sounds faaaannnntastic. I hope y’all don’t mind me gushing about my new toys, but I wanted to share the joy. Thanks for reading/watching!

Also, if there’s a game you think I should try or, if it’s relevant, review based on its support for this hardware, please let me know. :)

 

2 comments on The Hard Stuff: The Roland MT-32 and SC-55mkII MIDI Modules

    1. Yeah, I’ve tried VMS and while I do indeed like it, there’s something about having the original units that’s just thrilling. Thanks for the MT-32 tip as well!

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