(Originally written by goonzy/translated from Audiofanzine FR)
Mini rack synthesizer based on the Commodore 64 and 128 "SID" chips (Xuchi you made a mistake: no SID was ever integrated in an Amiga although they were the first computers to emulate the sound of SID chips).
VSTi control, DLL library for C64 emulators, trackers (goattracker) and sid file players.
The VSTi plug-in is provided with some presets and new banks are available on the users forum.
USB connection (control) and 1/4" jack connectors (4 audio inputs and 4 audio outputs bundled per pair on TRS connectors plus one stereo "mix").
Sound style: "Advanced" chip sound.
Polyphony: 3 to 12 voices.
The original configuration requires a bit of work from the user. You must actually install the chips and it requires patience and meticulousness. You'll easily find some 6581 and 8580 on Ebay. The 6581 has a rawer and noisier sound and it is the favorite of game music fans. The 8580 has a cleaner filter, the envelops are tighter and it generates less noise. I chose a configuration with two of each, recycling the chips of my Commodore 64 and 128 (it wasn't easy to open their housing) and buying two additional on Ebay.
The sound editing is simple if you understand how the SID and the modulation table work. Compared to editing on classic trackers for C64, or Goattracker or Quadrasid, it's a wholly different world. Here you go from sound programming to real sound editing.
The user's manual is very clear with lots of illustrations of the gear and the VSTi. You can easily contact the developers and they react very fast to all questions. The user community is growing very fast.
The SID is a synth on its own merit. Beside the classic video game music from composers like Martin Galway, Rob Hubbard or Chris Hï¿½k it also allows you to create stunning sounds. You get super-fat electro bass sounds and mind-blowing synthetic percussions but also the typical synthetic arpeggio sound of games from the 80's
It has a very strong character and it is ideal for several styles of electro music (synth pop, experimental), however it might be interesting only for people looking for very raw and synthetic sounds. The audio inputs allow you to process every signal at 8 bits.
I bought the Hardsid 4 U three months ago but I had to wait two months before actually having it, because of the small-series production... but they do warn you previously.
In my opinion, its only weakness are the audio connections, especially in the "Pro" version which should have separate mono 1/4" jacks for inputs and outputs. The other weak points come from the SID itself, especially the noise but a noise gate can easily solve the problem.
The SID is a tone generator that influenced so much its users that you'll find a plethora of commercial or DIY products trying to recycle or emulate it. I have personally tested several good SID VSTi emulations but I needed to have the hardware version. Of course you'll want to compare the HArdsid 4 U with a VSTi like Quadrasid, given that their performance is very similar (4 SIDs) but the tracker-like programming of Quadrasid is very different from the editing in the HS4U VSTi. On the other hand it seems to me that the Midibox SID DIY project offers a similarly advanced editing but requires thorough electronic knowledge and lots of time to assemble and test it.
Perhaps you'll find that the system is quite expensive but once you compare it to competitor products it has a reasonable price. Anyway it's a synth for people who know exactly what they are looking for. A standard VSTi ought to be more than enough for newcomers who want to experiment the SID sound.
(Originally written by Xuchi/translated from Audiofanzine FR)
Specs from the official homepage:
Manufacturer's goal: to produce the most powerful synth since the Commodore C64 with the famous 6581 and 8580 chips...
<p class="bbcode-cite">Quote: <span>
* Two CPUs and main memory
* USB connection (compatible with both 2.0 & 1.1)
* Isochronous USB endpoint for low-latency audio
* VSTi interface with 8000Hz update rate on all SID registers (free)
* Wave-in VSTi pin for routing 8000Hz signals to any registers (example: playing other VSTi's sound on the volume register)
* Full automation of all VSTi parameters
* Superior sound quality (..it is a HardSID!)
* Support for up to four SID chips (6581/8580/6582 in any combination)
* Updateable firmware over USB
* Microsoft Vista compatible (drivers for Win2000/XP/Vista)
..and if you're a C64 fan
* Cycle-accurate playback of your favorite SID tunes
* Digitized sound + high-speed playback with low CPU utilization
* Seamless playback of .sid tunes while you work on your PC by providing a huge playback buffer for non-VSTi applications
The HardSID 4U Studio Edition
* Full physical separation of the SIDs from the USB driven circuits
* 100% elimination of EMI (Electromagnetic interference) noise that may come from your PC via USB
* Four mono dry outputs for the best sound quality (2x stereo jacks)
* Mixed output for the easiest usage (1x stereo jack - mono signal)
* Four mono inputs for filtering external sources with SID filters (2x stereo jacks)
* USB connector for connecting the unit to a desktop PC or a Notebook
* DC-in connector for connecting the power supply (1A@12VDC)
<p class="bbcode-cite">Quote: <span>The VSTi interface for your HardSID 4U
* 8000Hz update rate on all SID registers. This is not a dumb MIDI control interface!
* Wave-in VSTi pin for routing 8000Hz signals to any SID registers. Example: playing another VSTi's sound on the volume register (drum sampler, guitar synth, anything...)! No other SID synth can do this!
* Full automation of all VSTi parameters in your VST host
* Advanced modulation for each oscillator (3x for each SID):
o 8x8 Modulation Matrix with selectable sources, targets and amount (-100% to 100%)
o 8 Modulation Source Combiners for advanced modulation
o 4 LFOs
o 4 Envelopes
o Table editor for value sequencing at up to 8000Hz speed
* Selectable filter curve for driving the famous analog SID filters (logarithmic/linear for the 8580/6581)
* Up to four VSTi instances can run simultaneously (one for each SID)
No installation problems... not for me anyway.
Unexperienced users could have some problems to install and configure the synth... I'll tell you why...
The most difficult:
1 - You must find old Commodore C64 or Amiga chips (6581/8580...)
2 - You must install them. Doing so, be careful with the device and the chips and be sure to put the chips in the right position
3 - You must set the jumpers and capacitor filters (they are different depending on the installed chips)
4 - You must install the USB drivers by hand.
The documentation is clear and comprehensive!
- Sound editing is a delight... Painful programming with a SidStation belongs to the past. Why? Because you'll do this using a VSTi editor. And you'll enjoy all advantages of real-time control for all synthesis functions with automation from your host sequencer.
You must know that the VSTi mode has a bug in Ableton Live if you have more than one VSTi open. The software is still pretty young and the developers already got the information via the forum and will fix it soon.
You can use the HardSID 4U with a "Commodore 64 music player" and listen to your favorite ".sid": video games music or to artists working with "tracker".
Moreover, it's possible to play an old video game in PC emulation mode while hearing real C64 music!! I must admit it's a trip for GEEKS!!!
It's very easy to describe the sound: It's SID... pure vintage 8-bit sound, really dirty!!! It's a MUST HAVE no matter what your DIY device is (SidStation, HardSID, etc.)!!!
Same sound as the SidStation but with 4 SIDs!
If you already know it you'll appreciate it. For those of you who don't, you'll be able to create really fat bass lines reminding an analog synth!
The sound is not comparable with a software emulation.
I love it!!!
I've owned for about 2 months.
Most of all I like the easy editing.
I know Elektron's SidStation synth pretty good because I used it, but I try to avoid it for studio applications!!! Both devices have the same sound if you're using the 6581 chip from the first C64 Series. I personally prefer the 8580 chip, from the last C64 Series and the Amiga!
The HardSID 4U Studio Edition is not expensive. You will also need to buy the four chips but even then it is really affordable!
On the other hand, you must be patient if you order one because they are made only on demand by two Hungarian craftsmen. Your unit will arrive someday after making a wire transfer and having made it to the top of the waiting list.