The MIDI Function of the SOUND BLASTER Pro


What can you do with the (Sound Blaster) SB MIDI? Well, with MIDI you can "record" songs just like recording on a conventional tape. You can play a song on your keyboard (assuming it has MIDI capability) and record it on your computer. Then you can play it back using Sound Blaster's FM sound, your synthesizer, or a combination. The nicest thing about this is that the quality of the sound doesn't change (Playing a tape 1000 times would degrade the quality of the sound). Also if you are not a good keyboard player (just like myself), you can enter the song note by note with your keyboard (or your PC keyboard) and sound like a pro when you play it back. Another thing about MIDI is that you can take your composition to a friend (or a studio) who has a real synthesizer and play it like a professional band... (Some bands even use MIDI in their performances).

Those who are familiar with MIDI on an MS-DOS machine would ask, "Is Sound Blaster MIDI compatible with Roland MPU?"  Unfortunately the answer is no. Roland MPU (the standard MIDI interface for MS-DOS) is a "smart" MIDI interface, that is it does all the work (eg: timing etc.) on the interface leaving the computer to do other jobs. This is appropriate if you have a slow machine (like an XT). Nowadays, with 386 and 486 many people would argue that we don't need a smart interface.

Sound Blaster MIDI is a "dumb" interface, that is it still needs the computation power of your computer (Don't worry, there are many other dumb MIDI interfaces out there). Since it is a dumb interface, software that was written using Roland MPU smart mode will not work with your Sound Blaster. However, some major MIDI software (such as Cakewalk, Band in a Box) does recognize the Sound Blaster. Several shareware programs also recognize the Sound Blaster MIDI port.

SB Pro comes with a sequencer program (a program that allows you to record and playback your composition) called "Sequencer Plus Pro (SP)", form Voyetra. This program is comparable to their "Sequencer Plus Jr." The installation is very easy and I can run it in no time. I am able to load the demo song and play it using FM sounds from the Sound Blaster card. I tried it also with a Roland D-110 sound module connected to the card with the MIDI cable. I can get mixed sounds with drum and bass from D-110 and piano from the Sound Blaster. Nice. SP can read different file formats: its own format (.SNG), standard MIDI file (.MID) and .ROL files, but can save in .SNG and .MID formats only.

I think it would be fair to say that I am satisfied with the MIDI implementation on the Sound Blaster, although the documentation on this topic is very poor. I couldn't find anything in the documentation on how to access the MIDI port. I'd like to write my own program. I phoned Creative Labs, and they suggested that I should buy the Development Kit ($100.00). I guess I have to wait until I have enough money to spend....

Have fun with your MIDI gears...

By Budi Rahardjo