Produce Music on Your Old C64?

Loops And Samples for Free

TB-303 clone on Commodore 64
TB-303 clone on Commodore 64

Do you have an old Commodore 64 or 128 laying around? For some 50 EUR you can turn it to a music producing station, sort of. If you are a old hardware type of geek, and happen to like early electro sounds, this cartridge will make you smile.

Let's tell the story from the beginning, for the sake of younger generations. Commodore 64 was the common home computer back in the eighties, used by most of us for playing games and that sort of thing. Apart from his overall cuteness, the C64 had an interesting feature. It had an audio chip (SID) that was really interesting in the realm of sound synthesis. It had an interesting rough sound, so interesting to some people that they used to rip it out of the machine and use it with other devices to play them as an instrument. This devices are hard to find and very expensive today. That's where we come to the real story.

MSSIAH is a cartridge for C64 (remember how it had that big hole in the rear, well that's for cartridges, if you didn't know). On this thing, you have a bundle of software for music making, and more important it has an MIDI interface. What that means is that you can hook up your MIDI keyboard to the C64 and control the chip in that way. The guys that made this thing ( even offer an expansion board that allow you to have multiple chips and hence, more voices. 

As for the software, it is prety rounded up. It has several features: Sequencer, Mono Synthesizer, Bassline (a 303 clone), Drummer (a 909 style drum machine) and a Wave-Player (a 4 bit sample player). Mono Synthesizer has two oscillators, filter, LFO and an envelope sections, as most analog synths do. The Bassline is a classic 303 clone that is for me the most interesting part of this software, cause some really powerful sounds can be made with it (lets not forget that we are on an 8-bit machine with 64K of RAM), you can hear it in the video bellow. Drummer is not that impressive, cause of the obvious hardware limitations, but lets be honest, you will probably be using some other drums with this one.

I must say that I don't have the unit itself, cause I gave my C64 to some kid almost 20 years ago, so all of my impressions are based on the demos that I found online. If I still had a C64 I will order the cartridge for sure, I think that for 50 EUR its wort a shot.

There is a lesson to be learned from this, never throw away your old technology, some geek will find a way to use it, then you will see that on Youtube, and will be sorry. If you follow my advice, you will maybe avoid the sadness, but more likely gain this.