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are files that you can use in order to play MIDI music in a better quality at the computer. These can be either MIDI files on the hard disc (for example files with the ending .MID) or the MIDI music in a computer game like Descent and Monkey Island. Usually, soundfonts can be recognized by the ending .SF2. In order to use them, either a compatible sound card (e.g. the Creative Audigy or X-Fi) or a suitable software (for example XMPlay with MIDI plugin or SynthFont) is necessary. However, the quality
of software synthesizers often does not reach the quality of Creative sound cards.
Soundfonts represent a kind of link between recorded and synthesized music. They contain wave samples and further settings (e.g. pitch,
dynamics, filter settings), in order to control the MIDI synthesizer of a sound card. The higher the quality of the utilized samples, and the more precise the settings of the soundfonts are, the better is its
overall quality. Soundfonts do not only use the often limited RAM of a sound card, but also the normal memory of the computer. For this reason, wave samples can be stored in them in a size and quality which is
hardly possible on sound cards.
By using soundfonts, one can increase the playback quality of MIDI files on a Creative sound card considerably. To reach that, they have to be
loaded first. At the Creative Audigy 2 and 4 or the X-Fi, the “SoundFont Bank Manager” has to be used. Usually, it can be found in the Creative folder. If you did not install it, you can find it on the
installation and applications CD of Creative (in folder Audio\SFBMgr). Left to the soundfont (e.g. 4MB GMGSMT) is the word “Bank”. If you click on it, a new window opens. In it, you can load or remove a soundfont.
Important notice: On older Sound Blaster cards (PCI512, SBLive!, Audigy), you load soundfonts with AudioHQ software.
Since I was not satisfied with the MIDI sound quality of my Audigy 2, I have developed a soundfont:
8MBGM ENHANCED v1.8
You can find more detailed information about it here. My objective was to obtain a MIDI sound which is comparable with that of my old Terratec
Maestro 32/96 sound card with DREAM SAM 9233 chipset. On the ROM of this ISA card, which has just a size of 4 MB, 393 instruments are stored.My soundfont is not only suitable for Descent 1 and Descent 2, but also for Monkey Island 1 and 2 (make sure to use the ScummVM
program on the latter). Furthermore, all other games that support the General MIDI standard sound better with it. These are many old DOS games in particular.
If you want receive the most realistic and natural sound impression, you should deactivate "CMSS 3D" in your Creative software (e.g. in
You obtain the best sound when you activate "Static Caching" in Soundfont Bank Manager (click on "MIDI Devices")!
If you cannot load the soundfont, check if the soundfont cache is not to small adjusted (especially with SB Live! cards)!
The soundfont technology was developed by the company E-MU/ENSONIQ for the wavetable synthesis of sound cards from Creative Labs.
The first sound card, which was able to use soundfonts, was the Sound Blaster AWE 32 with E-MU8000 chip. It was introduced in 1994. In 1996,
the soundfont format 2.0 appeared which offered numerous innovations. Since that, Creative Labs promotes soundfonts as an open standard.
That means that everyone may contribute solutions that support the format. In 1998, the soundfont format was enhanced to version 2.1. However, it
had its breakthrough first at the end user with the Audigy series which appeared in 2002. In 2005, format 2.4 was introduced with the Sound Blaster X-Fi series. It offers the possibility to produce samples in 24 bit.
The following sound cards are compatible to soundfonts:
- Sound Blaster AWE 32/64
- Sound Blaster PCI512
- Sound Blaster Live! series
- Sound Blaster Audigy series
- Sound Blaster Extigy and Audigy 2 NX
- Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS notebook
- Sound Blaster X-Fi series
In order to use soundfonts that are larger than 100 MB in Windows, you should apply the following entry in the registry:
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management]
Alternatively, you can download the following file and double click it: Soundfonts.reg
If you use very large soundfonts, you should increase the soundfont cache with Creative SoundFont Bank Manager (click on “MIDI Devices”).
Furthermore, you can load particular instruments with it.
If you own a PCI512, SBLive! or Audigy card, you have to use AudioHQ to increase the soundfont cache. Within AudioHQ, double click on
“SoundFont” to open the SoundFont manager. You can change the amount of memory available in the soundfont cache by clicking on the Options
tab. Then move the slider to the right. However, for the Sound Blaster Live! series, the maximum size of a soundfont is 32MB. Despite the fact that the soundfont cache slider in AudioHQ - Soundfont displays half the amount of your system RAM.
In order to produce soundfonts yourself, you can use Vienna SoundFont Studio (it is shipped with Creative Soundblaster cards, with the
exception of bulk cards). It is suitable to edit existing soundfonts as well. However, it requires a sound card of Creative Labs. If you have a different card, you can use the program Viena instead.
One can produce and edit MIDI songs with the program Cubase SX 3. Particularly, it is suitable to listen to single instruments of a MIDI file. This is
useful if you like to compare the effect of several soundfonts with each other.
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Last update on 08/11/15.