I was always painfully aware of the differences between different sound chips. And I don’t mean the differences between the Atari-sound and the C64-sound. There is actually a difference between two chips of the same brand, model, and revision. Obviously this is not the most interesting topic for some people (eh, most?), but a while back there was an interesting paper on the topic made available online.
Sebastian Tomczak wrote a paper last year for Australasian Computer Science Conference and it was actually criticized a bit for being too specialized (even by computer nerds, hehe). Tomczak’s assumption was that in the production of this videogame toy, you wouldn’t be as thorough as you would with a musical instrument. (which the Gameboy has become) And it seems he was right. It is refreshing to read a methodological and academia-styled approach to the sounds of 34 different Gameboys! I especially like the focus of the noise character of different Gameboys (not the user-controlled noise channel, but the background buzz/hum, the ‘selfnoise’). Interesting to some would be that underclocking the Gameboy removed this noise, atleast in one case. As one conclusion, Tomczak states that although the sound in the original grey Gameboys are widely regarded as the best, they are also the ones that vary the most. This is similar to the soundchips of the C64, as the old model (6581) varies more than the new model (8580), but more about this some other time. In the paper, there is not really any more conclusions, but since I read the disclaimer (please, don’t expect too much) I am still satisfied.
Anyway. Read Tomczak’s paper here and get more info (sonograms, audio files) here. Tomczak also mentions a previous study of the Gameboy sound chips, by Herbert Weixelbaum, which is found here. (Btw, the Gameboy does not really have a dedicated sound chip – the CPU handles the sound) Recently, Tomczak also questioned the supposedly increased bass sound of the Pro Sound modification of the Gameboy. In this blog post he shows sonogram images which do not indicate much difference in bass. Don’t believe the hype! Bring back the bass!
To make up for this massive gameboy nerdery, here is something completely different.