Hey everybody,

To me, the history of FM stuff is as complex as the way it makes music.
It doesn't seem as simple as NES -> 2a03 or even the Amiga -> PAULA, for example.
I wanted to make this thread because I think it might be helpful to grasp this and I also feel a lil guilty bothering Carl all the time lol

So this is what I gathered so far and I'm prepared for it to be horribly wrong so hmu!
This is specifically talking about desktops, because most laptops just had very compatible clone alternatives I think

ok so...


>AdLib 1.0
Very popular add-on sound card early on
The AdLib sound card had a chip on it that uses FM, the Yamaha YM3812. This chip is also called "OPL-2."
The AdLib card could not do digital audio/PCM, instead it synthesized things like SFX using the FM from the YM3812/OPL-2.


>Sound Blaster 1.0
So Creative comes along and makes their first Sound Blaster card to compete with AdLib. The Sound Blaster sported the same Yamaha YM3812/OPL-2 FM chip too, but could now also do mono sampled sound in addition. Sound Blaster now becomes more popular than AdLib


>Sound Blaster Pro series introduced
Pro series has two YM3812/OPL-2s, one for each channel to create stereo images
Sound Blaster Pros evolved to use a single upgraded FM chip: the YMF262 (or OPL-3)
The YMF262/OPL-3 had twice the channels, extra waveforms, and simple LCR stereo so you didn't need two of them anymore

(*Apparently around here AdLib tried to compete with an YMF262/OPL-3 chip based card called AdLib Gold but it failed or something...? idk)


>Sound Blaster 16 series introduced
Still had the YMF262/OPL-3 chip from the Sound Blaster Pro days
Higher quality audio sampling
Had the ability to be connected to the Wave Blaster, a wavetable sample-based General MIDI compatible synth


>Sound Blaster AWE32 series introduced
Combines the previous Sound Blaster 16 specs plus a "MIDI Synthesizer" section from E-mu
The "MIDI Synth" includes an E-mu sampler and effects processor directly (making the Wave Blaster obsolete? I think???)
Still got dat YMF262/OPL-3 chip but combined with everything else this thing seems like a beast


After this generation of Sound Blaster 32, the sound cards ditched the actual OPL-3 hardware in favor of software emulation for FM synthesis instead and for the context of this thread, I don't think people here would be as interested anymore lolol. These cards include Sound Blaster Live! and Ensoniq AudioPCI cards -> These cards are actually the first tools I used to compose music seriously in high school, using General MIDI software sequencers to play the wavetable samples. It's actually funny because while growing up I noticed that my General MIDI songs would sound a lot lamer on newer computers and it's taken me over a decade to realize that it probably was because Ensoniq's wavetable synthesis got thrown out.

s/o to the two guys who might kinda read this

Last edited by an0va (Jul 2, 2014 8:28 pm)


neat thread thanks
there should be a thread somewhere that catalogues all the good threads and this one should be in it

Planet Zaxxon

Hey! You can bother me all you want! FM IS MY FAVORITE LIFESTYLE CHOICE.


lol thanks guys, and shoutout to you guys in fact being the exact two people in mind wink


so, what's the difference between say, a soundblaster or adlib, and a synth like the FB-01? or the FM chip in a sega?
is it the same sort of thing, or something different altogether..

I know a little bit of FM synthesis, but i was wondering if those cards had any advantage.

Gosford, Australia

neat! it'd be cool to see where the various genesis/mega drive chipsets come in on this timeline. also, is there a .dls for the E-mu MIDI synth patches? (assuming it was GM/GS compatible)

Adelaide, Australia
Timbob wrote:

what's the difference between say, a soundblaster or adlib, and a synth like the FB-01? or the FM chip in a sega?

Adlib: YM3812 | 2-OP | percussion mode | 4 waveforms | 9 voice polyphony
SoundBlaster 16: YMF262 | 4-OP | percussion mode | 8 waveforms | 18 voice polyphony
FB-01: YM2164 | 4-OP | noise gen, LFO | 1 waveform | 8 voice polyphony
Sega: YM2612 | 4-OP | built-in DAC | 1 waveform | 6 voice polyphony

Perhaps someone could try to make a graphical "family tree" of FM synth chips?

Also, you didn't mention the SoundBlaster 2.0 (CT1350B), but I guess it's pretty similar to the SoundBlaster 1.0 - it has a YM3812 and I think does 8-bit stereo playback/sampling at 22kHz.

Last edited by freezedream (Jul 8, 2014 8:56 am)

Tokyo, Japan

For all your fm needs.

Lazerbeat wrote:

For all your fm needs.

that's a lot of info big_smile

I might one day make a more graphical tree if people want, and if i have nothing better to do wink

Brunswick, GA USA

The comment about adlib gold is correct, I don't know anybody who had one. The wave blaster comment is mostly correct, the expansions remained available for a bit for people who could use them but it wasn't long before you could get AWE 64 cheaper than you could get SB 16 expanded. (Because of this, I never heard SB 16 + Wave in person.) Once the generation of sample-only cards took over, Gravis Ultrasound became the best at that sort of thing, I wanted one but never got around to it.

You may imagine, FM doesn't really have a straight family tree, if you take all the synthesizers, arcade cabinets, and home computers into account.

Tokyo, Japan

Well, if by tree you mean "european monarchy" then it kinda does!


I had Aztech Sound Galaxy Pro 2 starting out. Great card! They did integrate opl3 circuits into later chips and some ESS ones are mostly compatible, but don't have proper DOS support.

Philadelphia, PA

Looks like a job for to compile a reference list for FM sound cards. wink