Sega Master System FM Audio

History:

The Sega Mark III was a console launched in Japan that was essentially the early version of the Master System. One of the many options available for this system was an "FM Sound expansion board". It was a device that plugged into the Mark III and allowed games to utilize it's built-in sound chip. Games would have to be programmed to use this module, but surprisingly, many were.

 

Supported Games:

After Burner Game Box Série Esportes Radicais R-Type
Alex Kidd: BMX Trial Game Box Série Lutas Rampage
Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars Golvellius: Valley of Doom Rastan
Alien Syndrome Great Golf Rescue Mission
Altered Beast Hoshi o sagashite... Scramble Spirits
Aztec Adventure Kenseiden SDI: Strategic Defense Initiative
Blade Eagle 3-D Lord of the Sword Shinobi
Bomber Raid Maze Hunter 3-D Solomon's Key
California Games Megumi Rescue Space Harrier 3-D
Captain Silver Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord SpellCaster
Casino Games Mônica no Castelo do Dragão ThunderBlade
Chōonsenshi Borgman Out Run 3-D Turma da Mônica em: O Resgate
Cloud Master OutRun Wonder Boy in Monster Land
Double Dragon Parlour Games Ys: The Vanished Omens
Fantasy Zone II Penguin Land Zaxxon 3-D
Fantasy Zone: The Maze Phantasy Star Zillion 2: Tri Formation
Galactic Protector Poseidon Wars 3-D
Galaxy Force Power Strike  

 

Examples:

If you'd like to hear the difference for yourself, here's a really short video I did demonstrating the FM sound chip's ability:

 

Play SMS Games with FM Sound
There are a few methods that allow you to play your SMS games on original hardware with FM sound.  Some require console modifications and others do not:

Modification Required:

Tim Worthington sells an FM kit that you can install in your SMS.  Installation in an SMS 1 is pretty easy, as it can plug directly into the expansion port in back, requiring only a few wires to be soldered.  A full internal installation (required for an SMS 2) is also available, but a bit more complicated.  There have also been reports of people installing this kit into a Power Base Converter, or even a Genesis itself, but no instructions for that are available:  http://etim.net.au/smsfm/smsfm.html

 

No modification needed:

Power Base FM
db Electronics now offers an FM Power Base Converter! That means you can play all your FM Sound-compatible SMS games on a Genesis (or Mega Drive) without any modification to your system. This will also work with SMS ROM Carts, such as the Master Everdrive:  http://db-electronics.ca/product/power-base-fm/

MK-2000
You can buy a Japanese Master System model MK-2000 (not Mark III). The Japanese Master System had the FM sound chip, as well as the 3D glasses adapter and the rapid fire module built directly into the console! The only problem is Japanese Master System cartridges are a different size than the ones released in the rest of the world, so you'll need an adapter to play SMS games on them. Luckily, there are a few available and I've tested these two:

SMS2SG1000
Pro's: Uses the top cartridge slot, so no modification needs to be made to the console; Just plug and play.
Con's: The game cartridges look a little silly sticking that high up above the console.
If you're using a Master Everdrive, it's recommended you use OSv7 with this adapter.  As an FYI, after flashing to OSv7,the SD card needs to be re-formatted to FAT32.

SMS Gender Adapter
Pro's: Sits behind the unit, so your console always looks "clean".
Con's: A small bit of plastic needs to be cut for it to fit properly & if you're using cartridges, it's a pain to go behind the unit each time to switch it out.  Also, there's some compatibility issues with some games and ROM carts.
If you're using a Master Everdrive, it's recommended you use OSv6 with this adapter.  As an FYI, after flashing to OSv6,the SD card needs to be re-formatted to FAT16.

 

Using a ROM Cart that supports FM Audio

The "Neo" ROM carts for both SMS and Genesis support FM audio:

Genesis Version = NEO Myth MD 3in1: http://www.ic2005.com/shop/product.php?productid=33&cat=3&page=1

SMS Version = NEO SEGA MKiii: http://www.ic2005.com/shop/product.php?productid=130&cat=3&page=1
Please note that the SMS version requires you to run the audio output of your SMS AV cable through it, for FM audio to be mixed in.  If you're using RGB, you can try to order (or make) a custom SCART cable with an RCA audio output and input.  Alternatively, you can use a Genesis RGB SCART cable that gets audio from the 3.5mm jack, then wire audio directly from the SMS' multi-out:  http://www.retrorgb.com/smsaudioout.html


While these carts do work well, I feel I need to warn you about a few things before proceeding:

Using the enhanced menu's is a must, as the stock menu's are terrible:
Genesis cart enhanced menu: (1st post):  http://www.neoflash.com/forum/index.php/topic,5880.0.html
SMS cart enhanced menu: http://www.neoflash.com/forum/index.php/topic,7199.0.html

The Neo carts are not plug-and-play like the Everdrives, they actually require software to read and write ROMs.  You can purchase an additional MicroSD card adapter, but it's expensive and you'll still need the software for initial setup (although after setup is complete, you can just read and write ROMs like a normal ROM cart):  http://www.ic2005.com/shop/product.php?productid=33&cat=3&page=1

Support is pretty bad.  I had an issue with mine and it took over a month of exchanging emails with pictures and videos proving my issue before they agreed to a return.

Comparison of the above methods:

I uploaded an audio comparison of some of the above methods. You can listen via YouTube below, or get the direct wav file here:
http://www.retrorgb.com/files/MK-2000-FMKit-NeoSMS-NeoMD.wav 

 


Summary:

I mostly play SMS games on my Genesis, but whenever I play FM audio or 3D games, I play them on my MK-2000.  That being said, all of the other options are good and you should pick which fits your needs best.  If you're not sure if FM audio is worth the extra hassle, you could always download an emulator that allows you to toggle SMS FM sound on and off and try the games first. As I said in the emulation section of this site: I would never use emulators as a replacement for one of my favorite systems, but they're a great way to try before you buy.

 

Please click here to go back to the Master System page.  If you'd like info on mods for other systems, head to the Getting RGB From Each System page or check out the main page for more retro-awesomeness.