Greetings from Malvern

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ZX Soniq
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Joined: Sun Feb 03, 2019 4:51 pm

Greetings from Malvern

Post by ZX Soniq » Wed Feb 13, 2019 8:42 pm

Hi folks, I am David.
Very excited about this new Speccy. I was slightly too young to appreciate my original speccy back in the day. Just used it to play games (although I remember a few frustrating type-ins from various mags).
I recently rediscovered the Speccy thanks to the amazing Narvana engine which finally cured the infamous colour-clash.
Since then I've been hooked on the blessed old machine, in the form of emulators. Yea, I know they're not the same as the real hardware, but instant loading is nice and convenient. Great to see the Speccy community still so active and even better to discover that games still being made for this system. Modern games are impressive af too. Almost difficult to believe the humble speccy is capable of such full-colour wizardry.

I'm particularly interested in the new Speccy Next for it's musical capabilities, so you can imagine how my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I read the specs... 3 x AY chips and a built-in 80's drum-machine (Spec-drum)!!
WOW... Ultimate chip-tune synthesizer and it can even create it's own audio chips on the FPGA. Wanna SID? Yea sure buddy, I can summon one out of the FPGA. Damn, the possibilities are endless. I wonder if it's capable of summoning full-blown synthesizers from the FPGA? Imagine how great it'd be to have RE-BIRTH (2 x tb-303 synthesizers & 808 drum machine) running as real hardware inside a Speccy !
I understand it can shape-shift into arcade cabinets or a NES if you ask nicely ;] I expect there are limitations though?

Super-charged Z80, loads of RAM and a RPI too. Amazing :] Just... Wow :]

From what I've seen so far, this is already the greatest computer ever made, and it keeps getting better every time I check back. Can't wait to get my hands on one and put it inside my old 48k case. Love those warm/soft rubber buttons, it'll be a joy to use them again.

Yep, I haven't been this excited/inspired for years. Sinclair ZX Spectrum Next is an astonishing machine. You've done good folks - this is the start of something awesome :]

Hail Victory !

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varmfskii
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Re: Greetings from Malvern

Post by varmfskii » Wed Feb 13, 2019 9:55 pm

Great to see excitement!
Backer #2741 - TS2068, Byte, ZX Evolution

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SpectrumOldi
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Re: Greetings from Malvern

Post by SpectrumOldi » Thu Feb 14, 2019 2:31 pm

I think have read somewhere the SID chip is no longer part of the "hardware".
"Spectrum Oldie"

Ped7g
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Re: Greetings from Malvern

Post by Ped7g » Thu Feb 14, 2019 3:10 pm

It's not part of the "Next" FPGA core, which Malvern seems to understand, as he was writing about summoning SID into FPGA by ... magic probably... :) ... or more likely by writing your own core, which involves probably some VHDL coding and mixing together different open source firmwares from other people...

But if I understood core members correctly, they are not completely happy with "3x AY" being "original Next" sound system, so they are wildly discussing other possibilities and nothing is completely set in stone yet. Although SID is out of question due to licensing and gate-usage, it doesn't fit Next core in both ways, so if some advancement will happen, it will be probably more AY-like.

I unfortunately understand very little about sound programming, as in our demos we always simply used the default player from the tracker, calling it once per interrupt, and I never truly dug deep into the subtle nuances of that, nor I had to do sounds into any ZX game, so I have minimal idea what would really help and what is feasible.

I'm just pretty sure the Z80N even at 14MHz doesn't feel like one can easily add SW mixing of sound samples, even just playing sampled sounds seems as something quite demanding and non trivial (I mean, it's sort of easy with DMA or copper, if playing sample is all you want to do, but if you want to do that "along" some tricky game code, that's completely different level... :) ).

ZX Soniq
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Re: Greetings from Malvern

Post by ZX Soniq » Fri Feb 15, 2019 6:06 am

I'm still reading up on all the forum posts, etc. But as I understand it the SID was dropped primarily because it was too big for the FPGA. But that was before the specs were changed to the larger FPGA.
License restrictions suck, but they will only stop the folks who care about them - namely not me. I'm happy enough with un-official pirate core as long as it works okay.
So yea, I guess larger FPGA means the SID is back on the menu. albeit un-official or whatever.

Honestly I prefer the AY's anyway. Much brighter sound and the chip's limitations easily solved with clever coding.
I know there was some debate and contention early on about the Next's sound chips, but imo it was perfect choice for the team to go with AYs, anything else would have been weird.
I still can't quite get over that - THREE AY chips :]] Cool :]]
I was wondering though, does anyone here know how much PCM resolution can be coaxed from the AY chips now? Sampled speech was never exactly great on the Speccy, but that was due to limitations with the original hardware that no longer exist, right? The RPI makes anything possible now(?)
High resolution opens up endless possibilities - especially for sampling/synthesis, but also audio-books, music, communication, etc.

I'm just thinking: 3 x AY chips, built-in drum-machine (SpecDrum) AND the possibility of high-resolution sampling/playback/effects from the AY array....
Combine that with the FPGA ability to recreate vintage hardware (80's synthesizers) and the Speccy Next suddenly becomes the ultimate synthesizer/musical production machine. Literally nothing else quite like it.
Ultimate Micro-computer and ultimate Electronic Synthesizer too.

Oh man, the possibilities for this machine are absolutely staggering. Do you folks even know what you're about to unleash upon this world?

Serious question - what exactly are the limitations of FGPA? Can I for example "summon" an analog synthesizer from the FPGA and play it via a midi keyboard or sequencer? Can it create analog circuitry, such as those great VCF VCA chips from my favorite 80's synthesizers? How about digital/F.M. synths like the DX-7 ? It would require the FGPA creating an FM chip or few, but technically is this possible?
Obviously I don't know much about this technology, but I'm guessing that if it can "summon" a full-blown arcade cabinet then it should be able to "summon" vintage synthesizers and drum-machines the same way?

God damn, I'm almost salivating at the possibilities for this machine. Hail Speccy !

Ped7g
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Re: Greetings from Malvern

Post by Ped7g » Fri Feb 15, 2019 12:06 pm

ZX Soniq wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 6:06 am
I'm still reading up on all the forum posts, etc. But as I understand it the SID was dropped primarily because it was too big for the FPGA. But that was before the specs were changed to the larger FPGA.
No, the FPGA was bumped up as stretch goal during kickstarter, so it's known to be larger SPX16 for 2 years. And it's *full* of "next" core right now, so don't count on Next_core+SID firmware existence even as unlicensed one. For particular SW one could probably reasonably "easy" remove certain parts of next core and replace that with SID, i.e. prepare a game specifically for that combination, not using some things from Next, but there's no generic universal solution, at least not unless somebody figures out how to implement next and SID in considerably fewer gates and rewrites those cores.

About analog things... well, I really wonder, how this actually works, I would think the FPGA has only digital pins (i.e. the current at certain pin is either high or low), but then again the DAC used by next (video out, covox, etc..) are implemented in the fpga too, so the current level at certain pins can be modified in steps? These are still very likely discrete steps, which does clash immediately with "analog" devices (it's in their name), but probably with high enough digital resolution (10+ bit DAC) you could get very close to original analog signal.. but it will be never truly analog.

Then again I'm completely clueless about how HW operates, I need it to be turned into logical 0/1 on the SW side, then I can pick up... :)

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sol_hsa
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Re: Greetings from Malvern

Post by sol_hsa » Fri Feb 15, 2019 12:12 pm

Ped7g wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 12:06 pm
For particular SW one could probably reasonably "easy" remove certain parts of next core and replace that with SID, i.e. prepare a game specifically for that combination, not using some things from Next, but there's no generic universal solution, at least not unless somebody figures out how to implement next and SID in considerably fewer gates and rewrites those cores.
Far simpler solution would be to just run a SID emulator on the raspi. I mean, it's all digital logic anyway, the FPGA can't magically add the analog filters SID has..

ZX Soniq
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Re: Greetings from Malvern

Post by ZX Soniq » Sun Feb 17, 2019 1:48 am

Ahhhh... So no vintage analog synths from the FPGA then. I guess that was kinda asking a little too much. I guess emulation always an option. Nothing to get excited about but at least the option's there if/when needed.

Muh, whatever. A SID would be a nice bonus, but 3 x AY Chips & an 80's drum machine is still pretty damn respectable by anyone's standard, certainly enough to sell me on the Next as a musical instrument. Hopefully someone will develop codecs (or whatever) to coax high-res audio from the AY's and then access the endless possibility of sampling and effects too :]

Yup - still potentially greatest Chip-tune synthesizer ever. I'm certainly not complaining ;]

HEY, do any of you chaps have a hot-line to the development team?
There is one minor feature that would be useful/essential for serious music production - that feature is the ability to re-tune the audio from standard "A=440hz" to the correct "A=432hz" as used by for example London Philharmonic Orchestra and anyone else who's discovered the full-colour wonder of natural tuning.
Just a little global re-tuning option somewhere in the boot/bios menu would be great (also a massive selling point for other musicians).

If you good folks could pass on this request to the development team that it'd be awesome :D

Like I say, just a little option somewhere to switch from (standard) 440hz to (correct) 432hz ♫


Thanks folks ;)

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varmfskii
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Re: Greetings from Malvern

Post by varmfskii » Mon Feb 18, 2019 4:11 pm

The difference between equal tempered tuning and natural tuning go far beyond shifting the A above middle C from 440 Hz to 432 Hz.
Backer #2741 - TS2068, Byte, ZX Evolution

ZX Soniq
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Re: Greetings from Malvern

Post by ZX Soniq » Tue Mar 12, 2019 6:48 pm

God-fekkin-damn-it, how much longer do I need to wait to get my hands on one of these machines? This is excruciating - I had no idea this machine even existed until after the damn kickstarter had already finished, because YOU FOLKS did such a crappy job of promoting it. No body in the music tech industry even knows that this thing exists, despite the fact that it's potentially the greatest synthesizer since electricity was discovered (tell me I'm wrong [[I'm not]]).
Good greif, it's Clive Sinclair all over again.... It's not your fault obviously, as I suspect you've got literally no one working on marketing (?). So I guess I can't complain really.
Even so, seems wildly WRONG and UNJUST to be sitting here with PRECISELY ZERO SPECTRUM NEXT's.

Please find some way to get me one of these machines as quickly as possible. I don't care if it's another kickstarter, or an expensive shop, or even if you have to kill 500 men and eat a baby to do it. Just find some way to do it please - and quickly too. Preferably before I salivate myself to death while drooling over the audio specs.

You owe me grandad! I completed every single Dizzy game, and almost even completed the mega-drive version too.
I deserve a Spectrum Next!
CAN YOU HEAR ME? SHALL I SHOUT, IN CASE THE BATTERIES ARE FLAT INSIDE YOUR HEARING-AID?!!

Ffs it feels like I'm back in the early 90's when you actually had to WAIT for things that you wanted. Should I craft myself a big wooden club? You know, because we're apparently back in the stone-age now? Right? Is that what's happening?
Do I need to hunt a mammoth before I can get my new Speccy?

It is basically a war-crime that myself and the millions like me are LITERALLY held ransom by this lack of an essential resource that we all require for our entertainment. And YES - computer-games are totally a human-right.

How much longer will we tolerate this outrageous persecution of our folk?

IT'S TIME TO RISE-UP MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS!! TOGETHER WE CAN CHANGE THE FUNDAMENTAL LAWS OF TIME AND SPACE TO DECREASE PRODUCTION TIME AND ELIMINATE TRANSPORT DELAYS.

Seriously tho guys, let's do this thing [CLAP-CLAP] c'mon!! Get me a Speccy Next, ready - set - GO!!!

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