Sunday, June 17, 2012

Best midi output for Windows

I must have been living in a cave or something, because I missed the most important development in midi file output probably ever. Now, I'll most likely get the following facts wrong, but this is how I experienced them. If you were not there back then, in prehistory, computers could only output *beep-boop* sounds. Slowly, but surely the quality of synthesization improved so much as to make 8-bit gaming possible. Around the mid-90s development got stuck midi-wise, thanks in part to the emergence of recorded digital music. The last important release was Yamaha's XG format. Windows computers have kept midi support up to this day, but it's quality is as bad as it was 15 or 20 years ago. This midi synthesization is what most people know and hate. But now, there is a way to easily fix this.

Up until a couple of weeks ago I have been enjoying my media library with my S-YXG50v4 Yamaha softsynth. Back in the day, I purchased it for around $50. This softsynth gives better quality than the usual fare, but an independent listener would probably say that by not much. When Vista came out, the synth could no longer be installed and no update was forthcoming from Yamaha. As a roundabout solution, I found that it could still work, if you installed it in a XP virtual machine resulting in no noticeable loss. I was so satisfied with this solution, that I even posted it on the official Microsoft forums.

But why stop here? Claudio Nicora wrote VirtualMIDIsynth which now seamlessly lets you load soundfonts that sound a couple of quantum leaps better than anything you & I have experienced before. The program works by just replacing the Microsoft synth with one of its own, which in turn can load the soundfont (*.sf2) of your choice. The solution is very neat as you no longer need a dedicated player to load the sound fonts and works with the included Windows media player. The solution is so roundly good, that even most of my XG files will play right. If you're a purist, there are at least a couple of XG sound fonts out there which mimic the format closely, but I think no sane person will now prefer that to the superior soundfont offerings which are for the taking. The page offers links to several on which you can sink your teeth into right away.

In conclusion: Rejoice! Spread the word! The problem of midi music in Windows has been solved.


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