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Audiofanzine FR 04/11/2008

HardSID 4U : Recensione di Audiofanzine FR (content in English)

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(Originally written by goonzy/translated from Audiofanzine FR)

Mini rack synthesizer based on the Commodore 64 and 128 "SID" chips (Xuchi you made a mistake: no SID was ever integrated in an Amiga although they were the first computers to emulate the sound of SID chips).

VSTi control, DLL library for C64 emulators, trackers (goattracker) and sid file players.

The VSTi plug-in is provided with some presets and new banks are available on the users forum.

USB connection (control) and 1/4" jack connectors (4 audio inputs and 4 audio outputs bundled per pair on TRS connectors plus one stereo "mix").

Sound style: "Advanced" chip sound.

Polyphony: 3 to 12 voices.

UTILIZATION

The original configuration requires a bit of work from the user. You must actually install the chips and it requires patience and meticulousness. You'll easily find some 6581 and 8580 on Ebay. The 6581 has a rawer and noisier sound and it is the favorite of game music fans. The 8580 has a cleaner filter, the envelops are tighter and it generates less noise. I chose a configuration with two of each, recycling the chips of my Commodore 64 and 128 (it wasn't easy to open their housing) and buying two additional on Ebay.

The sound editing is simple if you understand how the SID and the modulation table work. Compared to editing on classic trackers for C64, or Goattracker or Quadrasid, it's a wholly different world. Here you go from sound programming to real sound editing.

The user's manual is very clear with lots of illustrations of the gear and the VSTi. You can easily contact the developers and they react very fast to all questions. The user community is growing very fast.

SOUNDS

The SID is a synth on its own merit. Beside the classic video game music from composers like Martin Galway, Rob Hubbard or Chris H�k it also allows you to create stunning sounds. You get super-fat electro bass sounds and mind-blowing synthetic percussions but also the typical synthetic arpeggio sound of games from the 80's

It has a very strong character and it is ideal for several styles of electro music (synth pop, experimental), however it might be interesting only for people looking for very raw and synthetic sounds. The audio inputs allow you to process every signal at 8 bits.

OVERALL OPINION

I bought the Hardsid 4 U three months ago but I had to wait two months before actually having it, because of the small-series production... but they do warn you previously.

In my opinion, its only weakness are the audio connections, especially in the "Pro" version which should have separate mono 1/4" jacks for inputs and outputs. The other weak points come from the SID itself, especially the noise but a noise gate can easily solve the problem.

The SID is a tone generator that influenced so much its users that you'll find a plethora of commercial or DIY products trying to recycle or emulate it. I have personally tested several good SID VSTi emulations but I needed to have the hardware version. Of course you'll want to compare the HArdsid 4 U with a VSTi like Quadrasid, given that their performance is very similar (4 SIDs) but the tracker-like programming of Quadrasid is very different from the editing in the HS4U VSTi. On the other hand it seems to me that the Midibox SID DIY project offers a similarly advanced editing but requires thorough electronic knowledge and lots of time to assemble and test it.

Perhaps you'll find that the system is quite expensive but once you compare it to competitor products it has a reasonable price. Anyway it's a synth for people who know exactly what they are looking for. A standard VSTi ought to be more than enough for newcomers who want to experiment the SID sound.