9 years in videogame music preservation – Part I

(Quick note: rather than making a single, huge post no one will read through, I have decided to make a mini-series of articles about the evolution of videogame music preservation and the role 16bap had in it. Several announcement will be made afterwards to keep everyone updated with the most important things going on in our project. Please stay tuned: huge changes are coming and we’re going to need help.)

On the 19th of October in 2012, the 16-bit Audiophile Project was born.
Its origins and goals were humble: in a world where soundtracks available on Youtube and forums were recorded mostly from (inaccurate) emulators, 16bap wanted to show how different real hardware sounded, and do it using the best recording equipment I could personally afford.

This wouldn’t have been possible without the huge efforts made by Project2612, who provided VGM logs of most of the Mega Drive / Genesis library, and Deadfish Shitware, who not only provided a software to play the VGM files on original hardware, but even modified it for us so that we could achieve more accurate timing.

And so, off we went, ripping and sharing music with the world recorded from authentic hardware.
I was astonished to find mixed responses to our work: there were those who were (and are) delighted with our releases and those that felt the sound was muffled, bass-heavy and lacked sparkle. It turned out that there are people that have never heard how a real Mega Drive sounded and their experience was limited to emulators such as Gens and KEGA which sounded way different from real hardware.
This was interesting to me, because while people each have different tastes and ideas on what kind of sound signature they enjoy, I understood that it was important to archive music in its original form, the way it played via its own circuitry.
I started wondering not only about recording quality, but other important aspects such as achieving perfect timing.
For casual listening purposes, no one would notice a 1% difference in speed (and, as a consequence, pitch), but when an expert ear starts listening to certain tracks critically, that 1% becomes easily detectable.

This became apparent after few years when some people started questioning our work and showing evidence that something was off.
Little we knew that there were people so passionate that went to the length of listening critically to our work and comparing it with their own Mega Drives. Their feedback would  lead to one of the turning point in our project, one which would eventually lead us into re-recording from scratch our releases in what became known as “Rematsters”…

To be continued…