Last Update: 2017.12.28 - Added New PinSound Orchestration Videos
So, while I don't consider myself an expert, I am a new owner of a PinSound who has created my own custom orchestration. I've had a few people ask me how it's done, so I thought I would start this topic as a tutorial for those who are thinking about purchasing a PinSound or who already have one but don't really know how to customize their sounds. Like most things, while not overly difficult there is a required set of tools, a fairly defined process, some learning required, and much trial and error to get things exactly right. So, with that stated, here we go.
To begin with, you may see a sample of my Getaway orchestration before and after here (I have made a few tweaks since I shot this video):
After PinSound with my first custom orchestration
Here are my latest Getaway orchestrations (please note sound quality is not representative of real world, but best I could do with my action camera). Setup is PinSound with upgraded stereo speakers and bass.
ZZ Top Orchestration:
ZZ Top Techno Orchestration:
Mixed Artist "I Can't Drive 55" Orchestration:
Link to all my Getaway orchestrations: http://pinsound-community.org/forum/index.php?/files/category/22-getaway
P.S. I will be fleshing out this post more in the near future, but wanted to get started even though I have more to add.
WHAT IS PINSOUND?
Well, my basic answer to this question is "awesome!" To elaborate a little, PinSound (www.pinsound.org) is an ingenious device that is a replacement for your sound board. In works on a variety of machines including: Data East R3, Williams System 11C, Bally/Williams WPC, Bally/Willimas WPC DCS, and Bally/Williams WPC 95. Before you purchase a PinSound, you will want to confirm that you pin is supported. You may do this by referencing the compatibility list at https://www.pinsound.org/pinballs. PinSound is true 2.1 stereo sound (back speakers + cabinet) with a CD quality sampling rate (44Khz), and you can find all the detailed specs here: https://www.pinsound.org/pinsound-board
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Well, I can't really answer the "how" part of the question from an engineering perspective, but basically what is occurring is that when your pins programming sends a call to the sound card whenever an event occurs. This call is encoded as a specific ID (it is digital, afterall). When PinSound receives this ID from the processor, it references its sound files, looks up the ID, then plays the sound file it has stored under that ID (more detail on this below). Thus, with this methodology you can make any sound you want occur for a specific event. You are not reprogramming the events, rather, you are simply changing the sounds that occur when events happen (e.g. theme music, ball launch, target hit, mode change, etc.)
THE TOOLS REQUIRED
1. A PinSound board (sorry for stating the obvious) | You can purchase your PinSound board directly from http://pinsound.com, but please realize these are produced in France where the inventors live. So, if you are impatient and don't want to wait for shipping (could be up to two weeks to US), then you can also find some distribution from resellers inside the US. I purchased mine at TPF this year as the guys do attend specific shows throughout the year.
2. Speakers | For many the default cabinet speakers may suffice. However, you will want to consider upgrading depending upon the model of pin you have and your current speaker condition. If your speakers are original to your cabinet on an older machine they will work. However, they may sound terrible. Many pins, like my WPC 89, where not designed to handle heavy base or a broad frequency range in general. Also, if you weren't the original owner you don't know what conditions your pin has been through. You need to closely inspect your speakers for damage which will also greatly inhibit the sound quality. Personally, I upgraded my speakers with low cost aftermarket ones and they sound great. However, you can always purchase speakers directly from PinSound or go with a Flipper Fidelity kit.
3. PinSound Accessories | If you have a mono system pin like me, you are going to want to rewire the speakers. While this is not required as the PinSound supports mono sound with your pin's default connectors, I don't think you are purchasing a PinSound to sound like your grandparents' transistor radio. Not difficult if you know what wire is and how to solder, but you can make it a little easier by purchasing the optional stereo 2.1 wiring harness. This comes with the required connector and six cables (3 pair) plenty long to reach where they need to. You will still need to solder the tips to the speaker leads or do what I did and solder on quick connects to the wire that then plug onto the speaker leads. If you want to use headphones with your PinSound then you will want to purchase the switched headphone cabinet kit. You can buy with or without headphones if you already have some (uses standard 1/8" stereo plug), and once installed you can set to turn off or leave on the speakers when headphones are plugged in. Finally, some pin models require an adapter kit and others even support a remote control. Just be sure to read everything on the site for your model, and it will tell you what you need to buy.
4. PinSound Studio | You may download the application for free here: https://www.pinsound.org/pinsound-studio. Also, you don't have to even have a PinSound board to use this. As a matter of fact, I had my first reorchestration fully developed using all of the tools before I had ever laid my hands on a PinSound board. At first it is a little confusing what PinSound Studio does. It is not an editing system, rather, it is a simulation system. It allows you to simulate/test what a game will sound like on you computer. To this, you need two basic components: one or more orchestrations and one or more psrec files specific to your pin. A psrec file is an event recording from actual game play on a pin. While the program comes with a few psrec files, you can get both psrec and orchestrations from the PinSound Community forums (see below). Alternatively, once you have installed your PinSound then you can capture and create your own psrec files. Why do this instead of just copying the files directly to your pin for testing? Simple answer - time. Orchestrations take a ton of work and require all sorts of listening to over and over to get it right. You do not want to have to continually go back and forth to your pinball machine to test every little change you make when you can do it in seconds from your PC. So, using PinSound studio, you install your orchestration(s), select your psrec file to use, select the orchestration you want to use, the press play. The software then visually crawls through the recorded event sequence, and you hear what your orchestration will sound like in real-time game play. You can see which sound file fires for which event and for what duration, which gives you critical information when designing specific game sounds.
5. A PinSound Community Account | You will want to register for a free http://pinsound-community.org account. Here you can download psrec files, default orchestrations for your pin, and custom orchestrations that others have posted. Just to be clear PinSound DOES NOT SHIP WITH SOUND FILES. I'm sure this is due to licensing constraints, so it is up to you to find/make your own sound files. While there is a methodology using a virtual pinball platform, I did not go that route and such is beyond the scope of this post. Also, not all pins have psrec files or orchestrations available. This is still a new product although it has been on the market for a few years. It is a combination of an enthusiasts designed, developed, and manufactured hardware solution along with a community supported sound development solution.
6. Your Pin's Default Sound Library | For most pins you will find this under the "Downloads" tab on the PinSound Community forum. Pins are listed by category, so you simply find yours, click on the appropriate link, agree that you own the pin, and download the zip file. By default, the zip file will contain everything you need but the audio file format will be OGG. I don't really know what this is other than a highly compressed audio format, but PinSound requires WAV files to work - sort of. If you want to develop your own orchestrations then you will need to work with WAV files. This requires that you convert the OGG files using the tool listed below. However, if you just want to play what others have already developed and not do any customizations, then no conversion is required. You simply copy the ZIP file you download to the provided USB driver, insert into your PinSound Board, turn you pin on and the PinSound will extract and convert the files as needed. Be prepared to wait as this can take 30 minutes or more for the first time. After the initial sound file installation, the PinSound may take 10-20 seconds upon each reboot of the pin before it is ready to go (it provided audible feedback so you know what is going on).
7. FRE:AC (Free Audio Converter) | If you are going to create your own customer orchestration then you will need this. You will use this tool to initially convert the entire contents of the orchestration structure that you download from OGG files to WAV files. This is crucial because this structure will contain every folder, sound file, and naming convention that is required for you to create your own orchestration. In other words, you will use the default sound structure as a template to your reorchestration. You only have to do this once per orchestration file that you download, and there is a good write-up on this process. To download click here: http://www.freac.org/index.php/en/downloads-mainmenu-33, and to see a walk-thru of the process, visit here: https://www.pinsound.org/sound-conversion.
8. Audacity | This is a powerful free audio editing tool available at http://www.audacityteam.org. I'm not going to go into step-by-step how to use the tool (although I will give a little more detail later on), but you can use this to do everything you need with sound files for the purposes of PinSound. In my case here is everything I used the tool for: capturing audio sounds and effects I wanted from various online playing, trimming and splicing audio files for content and length purposes, converting sound files to stereo, and exporting sound files to correct WAV format. While there is some art to mixing audio, for our basic purposes most anyone can do it with a little knowledge and practice. Pleas familiarize yourself with the software by accessing the online manual and watching YouTube videos.
9. Audacity Nyquist Effect Plug-ins | Audacity already has a ton of features and filters build in that you will use including normalization, fade outs, etc. However, it also supports plugins to achieve additional effects. The one additional plug I utilized was the Pseudo-Stereo effect. This allows you to take files that were originally mono, and create two channels with distinct waves (e.g. not just two identical mono channels). This is a free plugin that can be obtained here: http://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/Nyquist_Effect_Plug-ins
- Hardware & Connections
- Speaker considerations & wiring diagram
- Audio Adjustments & Tweaking Sound (dials & settings)
- Firmware Update | Information on updating the PinSound firmware is located here: https://www.pinsound.org/pinsound-board-firmware
HOW TO GET PINSOUND WORKING ON YOUR PIN
- USB Drive | All orchestrations must be place on a USB drive in a pre-defined order and format (see below for folder structure). The USB drive serves as memory for the PinSound, so it must always remained plugged into the USB port during operation.
- Default Orchestration | PinSound does not come with an orchestration, so you must download the sounds specific to your pin. The PinSound Forum has many default sound files (i.e. the original sounds of your pin) that you may download. Just navigate to the files section of the site at http://pinsound-community.org/forum/index.php?/files, select your system, select your pin, then download the original orchestration. Unfortunately, original orchestrations aren't available for every pin, which is why the PinSound community needs to share their creations with others. After download, copy the zip file to the root of the USB drive (if allowing PinSound to extract) or extract on your computer to perform the file conversion (default format from downloads is OGG, but you will need to convert to WAV files).
HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN ORCHESTRATION
- Acquiring sounds
- Mixing sounds
- Applying stereo effect
- Sound duration
- File formats
- Folder Structure | The folder structure on your PinSound USB drive is normalized and must be followed for the PinSound to operate properly. Here is an example of what the file structure looks like on my USB drive with 5 different orchestrations (the original and four custom):
1. Root folder with "audio" (where all mixes go in sub folders), ".mix" this is created by PinSound for the current selected mix, and "config.ini"
2. Within the audio folder, each mix has it's own folder
3. Within each mix folder you have the sub folders for the sound categories
4. Within each category you have the individual sound folders
5. Within each sound folder you have the individual WAV sound file(s) - you can have more than one and they will be played randomly for that event
- To Convert to OGG or not
- Testing on your PC (need .psrec files)
- Special files
ODDS & ENDS
- Headphones (installation, options)
- Multiple Orchestrations Available
- PinSound Forums
- Config Files