The High Voltage SID Collection

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The High Voltage SID Collection (abbreviated "HVSC") is both the name of a project to build a collection of music created on the MOS Technology 6581/8580 SID sound chip in Commodore CBM-II, Commodore 64 and Commodore 128 home computers and the collection itself. The word "SID" can refer to both the chip itself and the filename extension of the music files made for it.


At the time of the Commodore 64's release in 1982, the SID chip offered sound capabilities far more advanced than those of other home computers or video game systems, and the music composed on it soon proved to be extremely popular among users, especially in Europe. The chip has a highly distinctive sound, and the relatively complex music it could produce was an important factor in the creation of the demoscene.

However, much of the music was effectively made unavailable as a new generation of computers became more and more prevalent by the late 1980s. Far more powerful than the Commodore 64 and its kind (but also too slow to properly emulate the old C64 yet), the new machines were also incompatible with them, and much of the data on the older computers was rendered inaccessible and largely forgotten by the general public. Even those who were interested in the old SID music were forced to ignore it simply because they could not easily access it.

The collection[edit]

Started originally in 1996 by "The Shark" of the old Commodore 64 group INC, the High Voltage SID Collection started to take shape after the SID chip was already generally considered to be outdated. Originally, the purpose was merely to collect the most classic SID tunes, but eventually the project assumed a more comprehensive goal. It was not the first such collection, but as SID music was composed by actually manually programming the chip in interaction with the C64's 6510 CPU, the actual tunes were (and had to be extracted from) software code, and other collections often had broken or error-ridden tunes.

By comparison, The High Voltage SID Collection, as it came to be known (so named after a CD full of Commodore 64 disk images, named the High Voltage Collection), featured songs that had been carefully ripped from the original files and verified to be correct, usually by checking with the original composers. Also, other collections tended to be fairly small, as even the largest ones generally only contained hundreds of tunes, a very small fraction of the total SID music ever created. Originally, the intention was to address the lack of a comprehensive MS-DOS based collection of SIDs, as the Amiga already had a well-received collection, called NemeSIDs. However, the project soon became a multi-platform endeavor, with the SID player software being ported to Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh and Linux.

Currently, the collection includes 48,516 SID tunes (as of 12th of July, 2016, update 65) and is widely regarded as by far the most comprehensive collection of SID music in existence. Despite the great amount of content, the collection's actual compressed size is fairly small, roughly 100 megabytes in popular ZIP file format and 80 megabytes when compressed with modern algorithms such as LZMA. This illustrates well the era this music comes from: the average SID tune is only around 4 kilobytes in size; even the most complex ones or ones with digitized samples are rarely considerably larger than 30 kilobytes. The tunes themselves are both from the numerous Commodore 64 games and the demoscene. Among others, it features the work of C64-immortalized composers like Martin Galway, Chris Hülsbeck, Rob Hubbard, Jeroen Tel, Richard Joseph and Ben Daglish.

While nostalgia is an important motivation for many listeners of the collection, it's worth noting that in addition to the music itself, the tunes also often include the composers' comments on how the tune was composed and the working conditions of the time. This aspect of the collection enhances its historical value as a snapshot of the state of the digital entertainment industry's early days. In many cases, the collection has also managed to acquire previously unreleased tunes from the original composers. As there are still composers who use the SID chip, the collection also includes new music in its fairly frequent updates.

The collection can be freely downloaded from the project's website. As SID music is based on the SID chip itself, it cannot be played on a regular media player (unless a suitable plug-in is found). Rather, a Commodore 64, special hardware with a SID chip like a HardSID device or a SID chip emulator together with a SID-player is needed to play SID music.

Java-based players also exist which allow the SIDtunes to be heard directly through web browsers. Should the user possess a real SID chip and one of the interface devices (Sidstation, HardSID or CatWeasel perhaps) scantly available, a program like ACID64 Player could play the files using that true SID chip to achieve maximal fidelity. For those who want to listen to the collection on a regular media player who supports MP3 the SOASC= project is a conversion of the HVSC#49 where the entire collection is recorded on real Commodore 64 computers including multiple SID chip types as Mp3 for regular listeners.

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