Converting old Amiga and PC MODs with a modern Mac

This is probably going to interest zero people, but I’m so happy I managed this and that’s a subject so dear to my heart I wanted to share it in case somebody would like to follow the same crazy path (and if you have a better way to do that, by all means – let me know).

I was a teenager in the 90’s, grew up with the old-fashioned demoscene with Amiga and then PC (actually saw the mythical Second Reality by Future Crew at the time it was released. Nobody knows what the hell I’m talking about? Aaaah.)

I’m part-electronic musician and there are some tunes in that scene I am hugely fond of from that era. Problem is, they were all created using music software that’s all but extinct today: trackers (of which Renoise is probably the only modern survivor). .mod, .stm, .s3m, .it, .xm file formats all had their own quirks and are hard to render fully correctly (especially in 2020 when only diehards not only still care, but know what they are). Some big names re-released their old stuff on streaming services, but that’s the tip of a very, very deep iceberg and many tunes are all but lost to history (I found again some of them on the backwaters of old HTML 3 web pages…)

I wanted to put some of my favorite tunes from that era in my modern Apple Music library, a) for nostalgia and b) for the fun of bridging two vastly different eras of computing.

The software
As mentioned, tracker file formats were almost hacky in parts and musicians did all kinds of weird stuff with them to push the limits of what they could do. So accurate rendering is hard. VLC does open tracker files, but it regularly renders them incorrectly (usually stumbling on pattern speed variations).
Windows has OpenMPT which allows for quick export of module files and reads them flawlessly, but we’re on Macs.

I found that Foobar 2000 does an excellent job of rendering mods. It is more actively developed on Windows but there is a Mac version that works: http://www.foobar2000.org/mac and it seems to be 64-bit (I’m still on Mojave, but Go64 did not raise a warning examining it), so it should work on Catalina.

Foobar 2000 does not have a neat export function like OpenMPT does, so you have to play the modules you want to export and somehow capture the sound output of the app. I’m using Rogue Amoeba’s Piezo for this: https://rogueamoeba.com (of course, if you have Audio Hijack, it works too).

Editing, trimming and fading out endless loops that appear in many modules can be done in any simple audio editor such as Audacity https://www.audacityteam.org (if you use the m4a format, you will need to install FFMpeg, which is very straightforward from the help pages).

Convert to mp3 or AAC using any converter (such as Permute, included in the Setapp subscription)…

And voilà, you’re ready to listen to cracktros from 1988 in full hi-fidelity on your HomePod. And I think that’s very fun.

(If you’re curious, a link to a YouTube rip of the aforementioned Second Reality: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iw17c70uJes
Demoscene on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demoscene)

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I spent most of the 1990s tinkering with a sound sampler and OctaMED, and I had thousands of mod files!

Thanks for sharing this, I’m going to go hunting for some old mod files on Google and give this a go. It’s bound to bring back some nice memories.

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Oh man! It sure will. I know it did for me, tunes that were buried in my memory and couldn’t remember but I found myself humming them as soon as they started playing. Happy that could make someone else happy! Have fun :blush:

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FYI there’s Sunvox and a FastTracker clone too.

And FYI the $2.99 VividTracker app for iOS can load, create and export Amiga Protracker modules.

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Amiga, oh yeah! I still have my 1000 and 4000. I loved both platforms, did heavy modifications on the 1000 to get more memory and speed. I did some free lance coding for commodore (nothing big). I was big on the sampler scene and made many for sale, paid for college! Nowadays the amiga looks so hopelessly unrefined next to a mac but i have never had as much fun on a computer as with the amiga.

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Thanks, but all those do not appear to open the more recent PC tracker formats (stm, s3m, xm, it). For mods and meds, though, that will work.
I talked about Renoise as being the only modern survivor because tracking as a way of seriously making music on a computer has fallen by the wayside – except for this app, which is very much a “pro” tracking app and could be considered a DAW of sorts.