C64 • hardware • reviews

Review: HardSID Uplay

After getting annoyed with faffing around with disk drives, loading times and a slighty dodgy keyboard on the C64 that my brother lent me, I decided to just learn Goattracker and start saving for a HardSID. Basically it’s the C64’s SID chip in a box controlled by USB and absolutely perfect for someone who just wants the beautiful C64 sound without having to mess about with 28 year old technology.

Up until recently they have just sold the HardSID 4U with room for 4 SIDs, some sort of VST thingy and stereo sound. These are all things that to someone like me, who hasn’t really touched a modern computer to make music on for years, would have no use for what so ever. I was therefore really pleased when they recently released the HardSID Uplay for around half the price of their studio version.

You can install two SID chips, one of each kind, which are selectable though whatever software you chose to control it with and powered through USB. They can only supply and fit the 8580 newer SID version, which is a shame as a lot of demos and music are written on the older 6581. I’ve yet to embark on a mission to source a working 6581 but looking at the manual the installation process looks painless.

The ordering process was easy, you just drop the HardSID guys an email and they send you the payment details. You have to pay using bank transfer, so I had to go into town and fill out some paperwork. Once they had confirmed receipt of the money, I received my package in just 3 working days to the UK. Communication was great and they kept me up to date throughout the whole process.

Setting the HardSID Uplay up was easy, plug it in using USB, install some drivers and drop a .dll file in a folder. I had it set up and working with Goattracker in about 10 minutes and playing .sid files with ACID 64 player shortly after. I quickly queued up some of my favourite 8580 sid files by Jammer, Ed and Randall and it sounds absolutely wonderful, really crisp with much less noticeable background noise than my C64 with its standard DIN audio output.

Currently the only emulator that works with the Uplay is WinVice (support for is CCS64 coming soon) and this works perfectly with all the demos I tested it with, so that’s good for anyone wanting to use native C64 trackers like SDI or JohnPlayer.

So far I have had a couple of very minor issue with it. My usual sid player, SIDplay, doesn’t seem to want to recognise the HardSID at all and the Winamp plugin just seems to make Winamp crash every time I boot it up. To be honest though, I haven’t really looked into these problems much because sid files play perfectly with ACID 64 – just as long as I have a working sid player this isn’t a really big issue for me.

All in all, a wonderful little device that is well worth the money. Yes, you can probably pick up a working C64 and disk drive for less money, but this is perfect for those that want a straightforward pure C64 sound solution that’s great for tracking in emulators and sid file playback. Another plus is that it hardly takes up any studio space at all at just over half the size of a Nintendo Game Boy. I’ve seen a few people around complaining about the lack of VST support, but this isn’t a product aimed at these people.

Go and learn how to use a tracker suckers!

Jellica is a musician and Kittenrock boss.  Check his stuff out!

This post was submitted by Jellica.

8 comments to Review: HardSID Uplay

  • Jellica,

    Do you know if it would work with VICE (Mac) running SDI tracker?

    I could actually be tempted if it did. I want something with an 8580 as I’ve already got a working C64.

    Neil

  • egr

    Does this respond to commands “in real time” or do you need to feed it a complete sid file?

    • @egr: The PC player generates the SID register and timing data and it sends down to the HardSID Uno/UPlay/4U in chunks over USB during playback. It is something like wave playback on a regular external soundcard, except there is a lot more date to send to the SID than to a regular soundcard in a given timeframe.

    • Jellica

      in real time i get a very small amount of latency, but no more than what i get using a softsynth in fruityloops on my 6 year old PC.

  • Hi!

    Thanks for this nice review!
    About Winamp: The HardSID 4U Winamp plugin was updated to support the HardSID Uno/UPlay right before the release of the new devices.
    So, the the newest version must work.
    If you’ve already downloaded the latest version and it still crashes, there must be some kind of a problem with your software setup.
    Please try it on a fresh Winamp 5.x install in this case.

  • Jellica

    Thanks, I’ll reinstall Winamp and see what happens.