SocaLabs has launched SN76489, a freeware virtual instrument in VST and AU plugin formats which emulates the Texas Instruments SN76489 sound chip found in the Sega Master System and other similar gaming consoles of the era.
The virtual SN76489 by SocaLabs stays true to its hardware counterpart, completely avoiding the addition of any modern bells and whistles to the feature set. The plugin features three monophonic pulse oscillators (three voices in total) and a noise oscillator with adjustable noise type (periodic and white). The user can change the volume of each sound source and also control the speed of the noise oscillator. A waveform display in the middle of the interface shows the waveform shape in real time. And that’s pretty much it, there aren’t any other controls or features to speak of, making the SN76489 one of the simplest virtual instruments we’ve seen in a while.
There’s no doubt that SN76489 was developed specifically for use by chiptune artists and 8-bit lovers out there, as it doesn’t feature any advanced sound design features. But why would even chiptune artists use a virtual instrument of this sort instead of a freeware synth like Charlatan which already includes pulse and noise oscillators? The thing is, SN76489 emulates the sonic characteristic of the lo-fi sound chip, delivering the authentic gritty sound that is hard to find in modern “hi-fi” synthesizers. Simply play a few notes with the white noise source and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
The plugin can be downloaded directly from the product page linked below, no registration is required. It is available as a VST and Audio Unit plugin for PC and Mac, delivered in a ZIP archive with manual installation files. The source code is also a free download on the developer’s website. By the way, this isn’t the first sound chip emulation released by SocaLabs. The developer has previously released a NES RP2A03 emulation and a simple voice synthesizer, both of which are located in the Plugins section on the SocaLabs website.
SN76489 is available for free download size via SocaLabs (3.2 MB download size, ZIP archive, 32-bit & 64-bit VST/AU plugin format for Windows & Mac OS).