The Dink Network

Dink Smallwood Midi OST - Roland MT-32

February 10th, 2024
Score : 6.7 fair
Peasant They/Them Australia
If you were an incredibly wealthy PC game-enjoyer around 30 years ago, you no doubt owned a Roland MPU-401 plugged into an MT-32 while scoffing from your ivory tower at those AdLib and Sound Blaster peasants who were forced to listen to their Yamaha FM farts while you enjoyed full eight channels of 32khz PCM sample (sort of) playback. The MT-32 used a form of synthesis called "LA Synthesis" inherited from the legendary D-50, which used very short audio samples followed by some conventional sine/saw/triangle waves tacked onto the end of the note to disguise the fact that ROM space was exceedingly expensive back then. It worked well as a stop-gap technology, with many titles receiving specially-composed soundtracks until PCM samples with General MIDI became the norm in the Sound Canvas line later on.

Opening the zip file reveals that the entirety of the MIDIs in the freeware release have been played through what the author claims is an MT-32, a claim which I somewhat doubt. Both due to the rarity of original units, along with the lack of apparent noise floor in the recordings. More likely it has been played through the MUNT synthesizer/emulator instead and recorded through there before being saved to disk. More curious, however, is that the MT-32 pre-dates the General MIDI specification with which all of Dink's MIDIs comply, meaning that if you play them straight through MUNT or a real MT-32, many of the instruments will sound wrong, or not play at all. No details are provided as to whether or not the instruments were hand-replaced along with channels moved or run through some sort of automated processor before being recorded, but if they were, it would have been nice to see the edited MIDIs included so people could run MUNT themselves to achieve the same effect. Overall, the included audio files do sound quite authentic to the era with at least one of them including the ubiquitous Fantasia preset.

Unfortunately, the author has decided to upload these as 128k MP3s like something straight out of the LimeWire era, which to me is equivalent to baking a pizza, throwing it in the mud and stomping on it a few times before cutting and serving it to your eagerly awaiting guests. If this was an attempt to cut down on the zip size, it is a rather odd choice, as all the MIDIs seem to have been indiscriminately converted including the numerous duplicates. If these duplicates were intended to be included for the sake of replacing the in-game MIDIs completely, there are no instructions included as to how to accomplish this, and nevertheless Ogg Vorbis is generally considered the codec of choice in the Dink world due to being patent-free with better audio quality at the same bitrate. Had a little more attention to detail been applied, this could have been far better than what it is. In its current state its use case is unclear other than to perhaps be listened to in an audio player separately such as Winamp for Windows 98 or a Creative Zen with 1GB or less of storage.