The Roland MT-32 or Multi-Timbre - 32 sound module was originally marketed to amateur musicians as a budget synthesizer with an original list price of $695. The Roland MT-32 was made prior to the creation of General MIDI, so it uses a proprietary MIDI structure. The most important difference between MT-32 and GM is the different instrument list.
The capabilities of the MT-32 were re-created in the CM-32L, CM-64, LAPC-I, LAPC-N, and the MT-100. There were three generations of Roland MT-32s, each one upgraded the synthesizer and fixed problems with the earlier models. The original design used an 80-pin LA32 sound chip and an Intel C8095-90 CPU. It did not have a headphone jack and the line-out plugs were slightly unbalanced. The second version used a 100-pin LA32 sound chip with the same CPU. The third version switched the CPU to an Intel P8098 and added a 1/4" headphone jack.
Interest in the home computer market was spurred by Sierra On-Line's drive to push the limits of multimedia support. They took an interest in the Roland MT-32, and decided to utilize the synthesizer's potential, even to the point of distributing the MT-32 themselves. This led to the MT-32 becoming popular in the PC gaming market, and other companies followed suit. By the end of its life, the MT-32 was supported by games across platforms including Atari ST, Amiga, DOS, MSX, PC-9801, and X68000.
The MT-32 had a much higher quality sound than the competing AdLib and Sound Blaster cards of the day, especially in regards to percussion and brass instruments. However, the Roland MT-32 was considerably more expensive than other sound devices, so few could afford to experience the richness of its sound. In 1990, Sierra was selling the Game Blaster for $130, the AdLib for $175 ($245 with AdLib Visual Composer, the Sound Blaster for $240, the LAPC-I for $425, and the MT-32 for $550 ($650 with a MIDI micro channel). Also, unlike the Sound Blaster, the Roland MT-32 didn't have a DAC, so it could not process PCM audio making it terrible for sound effects, and useless for voice.
|Owner's Manual||Download - (info)|
The MT-32's pre-MIDI instrument list can be seen below.
|Number||Instrument Name||Number||Instrument Name||Number||Instrument Name||Number||Instrument Name|
|0||Acoustic Piano 1||32||Fantasy||64||Acoustic Bass 1||96||Brass Section 2|
|1||Acoustic Piano 2||33||Harmo Pan||65||Acoustic Bass 2||97||Vibe 1|
|2||Acoustic Piano 3||34||Chorale||66||Electric Bass 1||98||Vibe 2|
|3||Electric Piano 1||35||Glasses||67||Electric Bass 2||99||Synth Mallet|
|4||Electric Piano 2||36||Soundtrack||68||Slap Bass 1||100||Windbell|
|5||Electric Piano 3||37||Atmosphere||69||Slap Bass 2||101||Glock|
|6||Electric Piano 4||38||Warm Bell||70||Fretless 1||102||Tube Bell|
|7||Honkytonk||39||Funny Vox||71||Fretless 2||103||Xylophone|
|8||Electric Organ 1||40||Echo Bell||72||Flute 1||104||Marimba|
|9||Electric Organ 2||41||Ice Rain||73||Flute 2||105||Koto|
|10||Electric Organ 3||42||Oboe 2001||74||Piccolo 1||106||Sho|
|11||Electric Organ 4||43||Echo Pan||75||Piccolo 2||107||Shakuhachi|
|12||Pipe Organ 1||44||Doctor Solo||76||Recorder||108||Whistle 1|
|13||Pipe Organ 2||45||School Daze||77||Pan Pipes||109||Whistle 2|
|14||Pipe Organ 3||46||Bellsinger||78||Sax 1||110||Bottleblow|
|15||Accordion||47||Square Wave||79||Sax 2||111||Breathpipe|
|16||Harpsichord 1||48||String Section 1||80||Sax 3||112||Timpani|
|17||Harpsichord 2||49||String Section 2||81||Sax 4||113||Melodic Tom|
|18||Harpsichord 3||50||String Section 3||82||Clarinet 1||114||Deep Snare|
|19||Clavinet 1||51||Pizzicato||83||Clarinet 2||115||Electric Percussion 1|
|20||Clavinet 2||52||Violin 1||84||Oboe||116||Electric Percussion 2|
|21||Clavinet 3||53||Violin 2||85||English Horn||117||Taiko|
|22||Celesta 1||54||Cello 1||86||Bassoon||118||Taiko Rim|
|23||Celesta 2||55||Cello 2||87||Harmonica||119||Cymbal|
|24||Synth Brass 1||56||Contrabass||88||Trumpet 1||120||Castanets|
|25||Synth Brass 2||57||Harp 1||89||Trumpet 2||121||Triangle|
|26||Synth Brass 3||58||Harp 2||90||Trombone 1||122||Orche Hit|
|27||Synth Brass 4||59||Guitar 1||91||Trombone 2||123||Telephone|
|28||Synth Bass 1||60||Guitar 2||92||French Horn 1||124||Bird Tweet|
|29||Synth Bass 2||61||Electric Guitar 1||93||French Horn 2||125||One Note Jam|
|30||Synth Bass 3||62||Electric Guitar 2||94||Tuba||126||Water Bell|
|31||Synth Bass 4||63||Sitar||95||Brass Section 1||127||Jungle Tune|
Because of these different instrument mappings, games that play General MIDI through the MT-32 will play the wrong instruments. For example the main theme of Ultima Underworld II (DOS) will have its harmonious "cello 2" solo replaced by a cacophonous series of orchestra hits.
Other differences exist, such as the MT-32's support for reprogramming sounds. For this reason, merely translating instrument number values to their closest GM equivalent, or using an MT-32 soundfont, is often not enough to faithfully emulate the MT-32 sound.
The project MUNT, which is incorporated in ScummVM and in foobar2000's MIDI Decoder, although unfinished, is the most accurate MT-32 emulator available. However, it requires ROM images from the original MT-32 in order to work.