Mega Blaster 2

$159.99$189.99

A Sega Genesis/Megadrive Video Game Music player using the REAL sound chips! Play any Megadrive soundtrack on-demand with stellar sound quality.

Firmware Updates

Instruction Manual

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Description

Here it is: the definitive version of my Mega Blaster Video Game Music Player, amp’d up and ready to rock harder than ever before! Ever wanted to hear your favorite tracks on-demand from the Sega Genesis/Megadrive, Sega Master System and more on the authentic sound chips with crystal-clear sound quality? Bet you do now.

There is absolutely no emulation here: these sound chips are the real deal. Select a video game music file from the on-device file browser and listen in awe as the chips roar to life in their authentic, gritty FM glory. Both the YM2612 (or YM3438) and the SN76489 PSG chips are on board.

Features

  • Your choice of the original YM2612 (OPN2) or YM3438 (OPN2c) sound chip with the ability to swap on-the-fly using the DIP switches on the side of the board. Or, if you already have the sound chips, you can just order the board without any chips for a discount.
  • A custom analog stage based on the Kunoichi Labs design on a four-layer PCB for flawless sound quality and stellar amplification.
  • No additional power supply required, only a single USB connection.
  • Support for file folders to organize your sound tracks.
  • On-device file browser.
  • Native VGM and VGZ support on-device, no decompression required.
  • Brand-new VGM engine written from the ground up allows for accurate playback speeds for even the most computationally intensive sound tracks.
  • Huge 64Mbit SPI RAM IC allows for giant PCM samples, allowing sample-heavy homebrew soundtracks to play with ease.
  • Automatic YM chip authenticator. If your YM2612/YM3438 is damaged or not authentic, the Mega Blaster 2 will detect this at startup and alert you to it.
  • All sound chips included with the Mega Blaster 2 bought from this site are verified to work correctly.
  • DAC Stream support for homebrew soundtracks.
  • 4 play modes: Loop, In-order, Shuffle ALL tracks, and Shuffle just a single directory.
  • Custom looping options.
  • An OLED display that’s grounded directly to the power input for zero analog interference.
  • An adjustment potentiometer for the SN76489’s volume.
  • A custom boost->linear power supply design for optimal audio performance.
  • On-board class-AB headphone amplifier IC (TPA6111A2)
  • Extremely easy firmware updates that require no external tools other than a computer. Just drag-and-drop an update file to the device as if it were a flash drive. That’s it.

How Does it Work?

Place a few Video Game Music (VGM) files on a FAT32-formatted SD card, select the track you want to play, and enjoy the tunes. VGM files are essentially just data logs from the real consoles that were captured and placed in a file. The Mega Blaster 2 will parse these VGM files and send the exact same commands over to the real sound chips just as the original console would have. The result is 1:1 audio of the original sound track played on the real chips, but on the Mega Blaster 2, the amplification circuitry is vastly superior to the original (and truthfully, flawed!) Sega designs.

Take a listen for yourself using the audio samples recorded from the Mega Blaster 2 below and you’ll likely notice the drastic improvement in audio quality versus an emulator or even the original console hardware:

Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Data Select Theme, YM2612:

ThunderForce IV, Don’t Go Off, YM2612:

DAC Stream Support

For all of you homebrew fans, the Mega Blaster 2 natively supports DAC Stream samples and homebrew VGM tracks. This feature allows you to directly play large audio samples through the YM2612/YM3438’s DAC, resulting in some extremely impressive sounding tracks given the limitations of these chips.

future2612, And Death will Come, YM2612 (Short snippet for tech demo purposes only, PLEASE check out the BandCamp page for this incredible project):

Yep, those voice samples are coming from a real, unmodified YM2612 on the Mega Blaster 2.

On-board File Browser

The Mega Blaster 2 features an on-board menu system that allows you to browse your files directly on the device’s OLED display.


YM2612 VS. YM3438

The YM2612 and YM3438 are pin-compatible versions of the same sound chip, but feature different electrical and acoustic properties. The YM2612 is the “original” Genesis/Megadrive sound chip and is recognized for it’s “gritty” and “rough” sounding DAC. The YM3438 was found on later models of the Genesis/Megadrive and was built into the VDP ASIC. The YM3438 is based on a newer CMOS process, rather than the YM2612’s PMOS process and is therefore more power-efficient, runs cooler, and most notably features a few “bug-fixes” that some argue are to the detriment of the chip’s overall experience. Most notably, the “ladder-effect” glitch that was leveraged for several YM2612 soundtracks simply no longer exists in the YM3438.

One notable advantage of the YM3438, however, is the drastically lower DAC noise. The YM2612 when operating normally will produce a soft, persistent white-noise due to it’s time-division multiplexor cycling through all of the FM channels. This is only really noticeable when nothing is playing, but is certainly something to be aware of. The YM3438, on the other hand, has a markedly lower noise floor; almost to the point of being inaudible. This noise is literally an artifact directly from the chips themselves and can’t be removed – one of the quirks of working with real hardware!

Here are two noise-floor examples recorded directly from the Mega Blaster 2:

YM2612:

YM3438:

If your headphones are sensitive enough, you can probably notice the difference in DAC noise between these two chips. Something to keep in mind, however, is that the YM2612 noise floor is really not noticeable while a track is playing, but it’s something to be aware of when comparing it against the YM3438.

It really all boils down to personal taste:

More grit for the original Genesis/Megadrive experience? YM2612.

Cleaner sound with an improved DAC and a cooler-running chip? YM3438.

Can’t go wrong, both sound awesome!

Limitations

This device is designed to work with OPN and SN76489 VGM files. That means that soundtracks that utilize only the YM2612/YM3438 and SN76489 will work. This also means that Genesis accessories like the 32x and Sega CD are not supported as they used additional sound hardware.

The Mega Blaster 2 is not a MIDI instrument. You can find that here if you’re interested.

I also offer an OPL3 VGM player here that can handle any VGM track featuring the OPL, OPL2 and OPL3 sound chips (YM3526, YM3812, and the YMF262).

Open Source

The source code to this project is licensed under the AGPL 3.0 license.

The printed circuit board design files for the Mega Blaster 2, including it’s schematic, gerber files, KiCAD files, bill-of-materials, and 3D models are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 license.

You can find the GitHub page for this product here.

This sale page is an opportunity for me to produce physical units for anybody that is interested in supporting my work. The main goal of this project is to serve as an educational resource for others looking to experiment with old school FM sound chips. 
If you decide to create your own boards, I would really appreciate a contribution from you, though one is not required of course. I’d also be very interested in seeing any modifications you make should you decide to do so!
I am humbly asking for your support so that I may continue providing the community with these custom instruments and video game music players. Thank you very much.

 

California Residents:
WARNING: Cancer and Reproductive Harm
associated with materials used in circuit boards and solder.
http://www.P65Warnings.ca.gov

Additional information

Weight 3.5 oz
Dimensions 3.9 × 3.9 × 0.4 in
FM Sound Source

Yamaha YM2612 (OPN2), Yamaha YM3438 (OPN2c), NO SOUND CHIPS

Programmable Sound Generator

Texas Instruments SN76489

I/O

MicroSD
Full USB type B
3.5mm Audio Output Jack

File Format

FAT32 formatted SD Card
VGM
VGZ

What's Included in the Box

The Mega Blaster 2 unit attached to it's plastic baseplate.
SD card and USB cable not included.

Disclaimer

Please note: All devices are made by hand. If you order a product that is out-of-stock, you will be placed in a manufacturing queue. Orders can not be canceled after they have been put into production. If the product you have purchased was in stock, it will ship within two business days. Made-to-order products will take longer.

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