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Add dedication to Taneli, as well. :(
author Matti Hamalainen <>
date Thu, 28 Mar 2013 15:09:47 +0200
parents 55e992b016a1
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XMMS-SID - Frequently Asked (and other) Questions


Q: How do I change the sub-tune?

A: Starting from XMMS-SID 0.8.0, there are several methods for
   changing the subtune. The default is a pop-up selector which
   can be summoned by clicking XMMS's song-position slider
   while a SID-tune is playing.

   Other methods are available, including support for the XMMS
   patch used by old versions of XMMS-SID (0.7.x and earlier),
   refer to XMMS-SID configuration for more information:

   -> Press <ctrl+p>
   -> Select "Audio I/O Plugins"-tab
   -> Choose "XMMS-SID x.y.z []" from the list
   -> Click "Configure"
   -> Select "Misc"-tab, Sub-song control

   There is also a selector in song-information window of XMMS
   (Press <ctrl+3>)


Q: So what IS the "SID"?

A: "SID" is abbreviation for the sound chip that was used in many
   of the old 8-bit home computers manufactured by Commodore Business
   Machines Inc. in 1980's. Best known of those was the Commodore
   64 home computer (aka C64 or CBM64, also known as VIC-64 in
   some countries).

   The Sound Interface Device (SID) was designed by Bob Yannes and
   is considered one of the most advanced sound chips of the time.
   Its capabilities surpassed all of the other chips on the 8-bit
   home computer market and even most of the ones used in arcade
   game systems. Thousands of games were produced for C=64 in
   1980's and beginning of 1990's, many of them having excellent
   musical score.

   Best of those tunes are still regarded as legendary - such as songs
   by Martin Galway (for games Arkanoid, Green Beret, Yie Ar Kung Fu 1
   and 2, Parallax), Rob Hubbard (Commando, Auf Wiedersehen Monty,
   Monty on the Run, Warhawk, Sanxion, Delta), Ben Daglish (Jack
   the Nipper 1&2, Way of the Tiger, Cobra, Avenger) and numerous
   other famous composers. Some of them quit their composing quickly
   after the 8-bit period, but some are still working in the computer
   music business. (Including Maniacs of Noise, Chris Huelsbeck;
   and Charles Deenen who worked with PC RPG game Fallout 1 & 2's
   musical score.)

   Today, years after the decline of 8-bit computers, many composers
   mainly from C64 demoscene continue to compose tunes for SID and
   get most amazing things out of it -- things that the designers of
   the SID didn't even imagine to be possible.

   The SID-chip is based on waveform modulation and synthesis and has
   only three separate sound channels, but there are tunes that use
   special techniques to "multiplex" them to sound like four or even
   six channels. Even with limited number of channels and barely four
   different basic waveforms (saw, triangle, pulse and noise), SID is
   able to create most wonderful sounds. Modulation of channels via
   another, special analog filter (low-, high- and band-pass) add
   to the capabilities of SID.

   What is even more amazing, using a certain 'bug' in SID chip's
   volume control, composers were able to push the limits farther
   ... Martin Galway's very famous piece on Arkanoid game was one of
   the first to feature digitized samples of real instruments. Later
   on speech and more advanced sampling techniques were developed.


Q: What are "SID-tunes"?

A: The "SID-tunes" are files that contain C64 machine code and data
   that plays the music. These files usually have names ending in
   .sid, .psid, .dat or .inf.

   SID-tune players are programs that emulate the SID's capabilities
   and other parts of C64 hardware to produce almost authentic re-
   creation of the original music. SID-tune files can be created by
   ripping the music routines and data from a program (game/demo) or
   just composing the music with some editor.

   XMMS-SID is interface and piece of "software glue", that knits
   together several emulator libraries and XMMS, allowing it to
   play SID-tunes.


Q: Where to get SID-tunes?

A: There are many collections of SID-tunes on the Internet, but
   probably the best and best known one is the High Voltage
   SID Collection aka HVSC.

   It is available at:

   HVSC contains the tunes ripped from all legendary C64 games,
   loaders, etc. And more. There are over 20,000 tunes in the
   HVSC version 5.3 and more are coming. HVSC also contains the
   STIL database (SID Tune Information List) that contains lots
   of information about many of the tunes included in HVSC.
   XMMS-SID supports the STIL database and info about the selected
   tune can be viewed with the "XMMS fileinfo" window (CTRL+3).
   STIL information can contain comments from composers, notice
   if the tune is a cover and historically interesting facts
   about games, etc...


Q: Why the SID-tunes just loop on forever and XMMS does not
   advance in playlist?!
Q: Why there is no length shown for SID-tunes?
Q: Why are all tunes same length?

A: Above problems come from the fact that SID-tunes are not
   really files containing music comparable to MP3/Ogg/MOD/etc.
   A SID-file/tune is actually a piece of program and data,
   which are executed in emulated system to produce sound.

   These programs (often called "drivers" or "players") come
   in various shapes and forms, there are usually not many
   common factors. While not delving deeply into technology
   of Commodore 64 computer and it's brethen, there are
   various ways how such "driver"/"player" can work. The
   only access points are provided by some extra information
   in SID-tune file's header, including information how to
   execute the player inside the emulator, etc.

   This lengthy explanation is required to understand that
   there is simply no _direct_ way to know the duration of
   any SID-tune!

   There are, however, few _indirect_ ways:

   - HVSC Song Length Database (SLDB): There exists a database
     of song-lengths for High Voltage SID Collection. XMMS-SID
     supports this database, please refer to README for more

   - Maximum and Minimum playtime: These help, when SLDB does
     not provide a duration for given song. Maximum playtime
     should be self-explanatory. Minimum playtime may be
     preferred if the tune's length is very short and there
     are subtunes. Refer to XMMS-SID's configuration and
     README for more information.

Q: Why isn't the sub-song control window skinned?

A: Because the XMMS's code for skins is not exported to
   plugins. And besides, you would need new reworked
   skin(s) anyway, piecing a skin together from existing
   components would probably be impossible in most cases.


Q: When using XMMS-SID with the OpenGL Spectrum Analyzer,
   the sound becomes distorted!

A: This is a known problem and occurs usually with NVidia
   cards and drivers. It is not directly related to XMMS-SID.

   With certain combinations of hardware, this problem presents
   itself with all input-plugins (mp3, mod, ogg..) of XMMS.

   Workaround: Upgrade or downgrade your NVidia drivers.
   Try lowering your systemload. Close some unnecessary
   CPU-consuming applications. Buy faster hardware.


Q: Can I make my own SID-tunes? How?

A: Yes you can. You need a real C64 or emulator like VICE and
   a composing program. There are many available, I know only
   few of them:

   - JCH's editor (search with google)
   - Cybertracker (
   - GoatTracker (

   Some of the mentioned tools can be found from Lemon's
   collection  which is an excellent place to look for info
   on games and other Commodore-related software.
   The URL is:

   You should also check

   Besides the above, you'll need some skill in using the
   programs and hardware, understanding of music in some
   level and good ideas for tunes. :)

   Rest of that is out of the scope of this document,
   please don't ask me about this.


Q: XMMS-SID plays some tunes too fast / there are severe playback bugs!

A0: Upgrade to later version of GCC, like GCC 4.6 or 5.7

A1: If you are using libSIDPlay2 emulator engine, some SID-tunes in old
    format (PSIDv1) are not compatible with it anymore and may play
    too fast or with some other audible glitches. Get new rips of those
    tunes in PSIDv2NG or RSID format, for example from recent version
    of HVSC.

A2: Generally speaking this might be a bug in emulation-library or some
    other component. Or it might be in XMMS-SID. Report and I'll see
    what can be done.


Q: Some tunes are so short that I don't have time to change sub-tune
   before XMMS moves on to next song in playlist!

A: Enable "Minimum playtime" option in XMMS-SID configuration
   (Songlength -tab in configuration dialog), which adds silence to
   end of short tunes and you have more time to change the sub-tune.