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%% Confusion in the modules scene                      by Pauli Porkka %%
%%                                             paporkka@freenet.hut.fi %%
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Time has passed since there were only few different module formats
for Amiga and Amiga only. Users didn't have to care about anything else
than getting to play SoundTracker or in better case Protracker modules. 
Nowadays users not only have to watch out for dozens of different
module formats from Amiga world but also from PC world. Situation got
even more confused a few months ago when Finnish Amiga coder Jarno 
Paananen started developing new players for Amiga. First came S3M 
support and now there is support for MTM and 6 to 8 channel extended 
Protracker module format.

Comp.sys.amiga.audio news group was flooded with questions about S3M
and no one knew what to do. That is why I decided to write this article
although you can propably figure out that I am not used to writing 
any kind of articles. I just got bored answering same question all over 
again and I hope this helps to clear up the situation.

As I mentioned above Jarno Paananen is the guy to thank for all 
of this. He made the amiga version of S3M playing routine, that 
routine is used in all S3M players in Amiga. The thought that Amiga
is limited to 4 audio channels is true, but with mixing channels together
you can get as many channels as you want. Of course mixing always reduces
the sound quality, but with good routines the quality loss can be 
minimized. Paananen's routines make possible to mix for example 32 
channels (32 simultanious samples) to be played with Amiga 8-bit outputs.
This idea is not a new one, but until now those routines haven't been 
useful in Amiga mostly because lack of sufficient CPU power to make real 
time mixing possible. 

I am going to give you brief overview on currently supported PC module
formats.

S3M:

Scream Tracker III format. Supports 32 channels but only 16 digital sample
channels, other 16 channels are reserved for FM synth sounds created with
adlib and compatible (I am not sure about the compatibility issue, I do 
not own PC to try out with).
Basically this is just like normal PT format except different internal 
layout and with a new interesting panning option. 

MTM:

Multi Tracker Module format. Supports up to 32 digital channels. Effects
are same as in ProTracker format but the internal layout is totally 
different. I have found 1 MTM module this far that uses all 32 channels,
but my humble opionion is that if module author can't do good music
with 16 or less channels then the author should start learning to
make modules with a 4 channel tracker. Any modules using over 16 
channels makes me think,"Where are those channels used?" They don't sound 
any better than a 4 channel PT module with surround option.


6 or 8 channel (6CHN/8CHN):

This is exactly the same as normal PT format but with extended patterns
supporting an excess of 2 or 4 channels. Also called FTM modules after
Fast Tracker. 


Other formats:

There are such formats as .FAR (Farandole, max 16 channels) and 669,
but there isn't support for them on the Amiga (yet).


How to play these?

Now that I have made you curious about the possibilities of these
module formats you might start wondering: How can I play these?

First of all there is a program called PS3M (2.5 will be released any
day now) which is made by Jarno Paananen. PS3M is simple requester driven
program which can play all the above mentioned module formats.

D.A.S.MP was the second to have ability to play S3M modules and now
upcoming version 3.2 will have player libraries to play S3M, MTM, and 
6-8Ch modules. DASMP is MUI application and I am the author of this 
program so I can't praise it without this article coming advertisement :).

The third program to play these is HippoPlayer which works even with 
Kickstart 1.2, compared to other two which require 2.04 or higher.

All those players use basically the same mixing routine provided by
Jarno Paananen with little internal differences. For example DASMP uses 
only 16 kilobytes CHIP ram per channel instead of 65 kb taken by PS3M and 
supposedly by HippoPlayer. PS3M is requester driven, HippoPlayer has
normal intuition interface and D.A.S.MP has the MUI GUI which the 
appearance is almost completely under user control.


Well, how do these modules sound?

My first feeling when I heard the very first of my S3M modules was 
stunned. I almost dropped from my chair, I could never have dreamed
my A500+/28Mhz could produce so good sounding music. Of course there
are a lot of awful ones as well as good ones. The good ones are really
worth listening to. 

As with all music some of you will like them and some of you will loath 
them and you are of course entitled to your opinion. The quality of sound 
does drop when mixing 16 channels to two Amiga outputs but for that there 
is also cure coming. All new versions of three above mentioned programs 
will have 14 bit playmodes in their new versions, and believe me it really
makes even a 20 channel MTM module to sound good. 

Where to get these modules?

I uploaded about month or so ago several (about 30) S3M modules to Aminet
in aminet/mods/8voic. All S3M modules start with S3M_#?. I did the
modification to names to make it easier to user to find them.

I also uploaded few of MTM modules to Aminet in the same directory and 
these modules start with mtm_#?. Unfortunately my financial situation 
doesn't let me upload every S3M, MTM and FT (6-8ch) to Aminet because 
it costs me real money. If you can get hold of FTP access you can do 
the same as I did and start roaming the Internet world to find these 
modules.

You might want to start your search in following places.
ftp.luth.se/pub/msdos/demos/music/
ftp.luth.se/pub/msdos/ultrasound/sound/ (I am not sure about this, it may
also be /pub/ultrasound/..)
ftp.eng.ufl.edu/ (I don't remember the path, but you can propably see that
it is something self evident)

That's about all, so have a nice day and enjoy the music.