Guide: How to Rip N64 Video Game Music Via Audio Logging

We’ve already discussed how to get N64 game music with the MiniUSF format (and included an FAQ as a bonus). However, not all music on the N64 can be obtained this way. Today, we’ll introduce a second line of attack at getting N64 music – audio logging.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

MiniUSF sets are an excellent way of getting music losslessly from N64 games. However, there is no complete archive of every N64 game soundtrack available in this format. In fact, some sets aren’t even properly named or timed in some cases even if a set for a particular game exists. There is an alternative option for getting the audio, but it involves a little more work.

Audio Logging

Audio logging is different from doing a sound chip rip. A sound chip rip records sounds produced by your computer. While there are many instances in which a sound chip rip is one recommended way of obtaining music, ripping music from an N64 emulator in this fashion is not.

The simple reason is that emulated N64 games tend to introduce a large amount of skipping. Whether this is because the video is slow in the emulation process or your computer is simply not fast enough, a sound chip rip will most likely result in a very poor quality version of the track you are after.

So what is audio logging? Audio logging is a feature in the N64 emulator known as Project 64. What it does is take all audio from the emulator and logs it. If the video is slow, or emulation otherwise introduces numerous skips, audio logging will actually remove those skips as it’s going, thus, increasing the quality of the music in the final file. In short, it obtains the audio within the emulator, practically skipping the process of the audio reaching the sound chip on your computer.

The only downside to this is the fact that audio needs to play at least somewhat correctly in the game in question before you can log the audio. If the game in question doesn’t have a supported plug-in for the audio, then this process won’t work. Fortunately, there is a very select few games that still have this problem.

Step 1 – Getting the Emulator

You need the Project 64 emulator to accomplish this task. For that, you need to download and install the emulator. This can be found on official Project 64 download page.

Step 2 – Obtaining a ROM

Emulators do not come with the games usually. So if you have a particular game you want to rip the audio from, you need to track down the ROM in question. We’ll let you figure out how to get it.

Step 3 – Open the Rom and Getting Ready for Audio Capture

Once you get a ROM, create a directory and place the ROM inside somewhere on your hard drive. As long as there’s a fixed folder on your hard drive that the emulator can read, you should be fine. Just know how to browse to it in your emulator settings. Double click on that ROM. Once the game is running, click on “Options” in the emulator menu and select “Configure Controller Plugin”:

You should see a new window with a list of controls. These are the controls that correspond with N64 input controls. Some of the controls on the left of each box is short form, so just remember: L is Left, U is up, D is down and R is Right in all but the cases in the bottom left quadrant of the window. Each box shows you what key on the keyboard corresponds to that standard N64 controller input. If you’d like to change any of these values, click on the small box on the right of the value you want to change and press that key on your keyboard. You should see the value change in the larger box between the N64 button and the clickable box. As an example, the following is the relevant portion of the screen for the “B” button typically found on an N64 controller:

Once you are happy with the controls, you can hit the “Save Profile” button. You’ll be saving this in a file so the emulator will remember the control functions next time you want to open the emulator.

Now, the next thing you want to do is locate the song in question in the game. Fortunately, many games have an audio options menu which allows you to play the song in question. If the game you want to rip the music from has this option, go to the audio options. In our example, we’ll use a game I personally spent way too much time playing years ago – Destruction Derby 64.

In this example, the first thing we did was turn to turn down all the sound effects to nothing so that there are no extra sounds heard – remember, audio logging records all sounds, not just the music. The next thing we did was select the first track as the track we want to log. Since we want to log the first track, we’ve selected track number two so that track 1 doesn’t play right away as we can see here:

Now, we are set to log the audio!

Step 4 – Logging the Audio

The next step is to simply go back in to “Options” This time, we want to select “Configure Audio Plugin”:

This will open up a new window which is really mostly just about the audio logging feature:

The “Sync Game to Audio” is about one of the few options you have for experimentation purposes. Sometimes, the audio isn’t quite right, you might get better logging results if you tick this option. By default, this is unticked and it’s probably fine unticked. For experimentation purposes, I’ve ticked this option. Volume really is just how loud the audio will record at. Most of the time, it’s fine the way it is, but if you experience any distortion from the audio being too loud in the logging, you can turn this down in a later attempt.

If you are ready, then click “Start” This will bring up another dialogue box asking you where it wants to save the WAV file. Just name the file and save it somewhere on your hard drive where you can find it later. Hit save when you are done naming and finding a place for that file. Now, in the remaining dialogue box, hit “Close” When the emulation is resumed, this will start the logging. I quickly selected “Playsong 1” in the game to start the song I wanted.

This is the tedious part of the process. Since it is logging the audio, you are only going at a 1x speed – meaning you are recording as fast as you are listening to the song. For most video games, most songs have an intro part, then it starts looping through the rest of the song. Wait for the song to fully loop once and wait a few seconds after it loops again. When you do this, you’ll have a fully captured song!

Go back in to options and “Configure Audio Plugin” In the new window, click on the “Stop”. This will terminate the audio logging. Click on “Close” to get out of the dialogue box. Minimize the emulator so that it pauses emulation (and you year nothing).

Step 5 – Testing and Editing the Logged File

It is highly unlikely you’ll be able to get a perfect logging of the song right off the bat, so we’ll need to do some quick editing of the song. First, of course, open the WAV file in any music player you use to listen to music normally and give it a listen to see if it sounds OK. Don’t worry if there’s a little bit of extra sound at the beginning, this can be edited out. If it sounds good to you quality-wise, you can go on to the next part of this step, otherwise, you can go back and re-log the song using different settings we mentioned earlier. In our case, it sounded good.

Editing out the beginning of the file is very easy. You can download a free application called Audacity. If you don’t have Audacity, this can be downloaded and installed from the official home page for free.

Once you have Audacity installed, have it open. Click on “file” and “open”:

Browse to the WAV file you created when you logged the song of your choice and open it up. In our case, our logged file will look like this after it is opened:

Use the zoom tools I’ve highlighted in the screen shot and zoom in a little and scroll to the left side of the file. We’re going to take care of that legacy sound.

After you zoom in, hit the play button and listen to when the song you want starts playing. Pay particular attention to the little line as it moves across as this will help you determine where to edit. When your song starts playing, hit the stop button, noting where the song you want starts.

Use the tool that looks like an insertion point (highlighted in picture) and highlight the area that is not the song you want like so:

Since this is a bit of a picky process, you can simply move your cursor to the edge of the highlighted area (where the blue stuff is, not where the numbers are) and click and drag to expand or contract the highlighted area to make finer adjustments. Click play. It should only play the highlighted area. I like to go a little bit after the beginning of the song I want to check and make sure I’m editing all of the legacy sound out and stretching it back to the point where the song begins. Once I have it down to the very moment that the legacy sound ends, I click on the cut button (the button with the scissors right next to the master button) This will delete the highlighted area.

Play it back and see if it sounds right. If it doesn’t sound right, you can always hold down “Ctrl” and hit “Z” on your keyboard to bring back the deleted area for any additional attempts you need to make. If it sounds good, you should only hear the song you want beginning.

We are almost there!

Next part is determining where the song begins to loop. For that, you need to listen to the first little bit of the beginning of the song. Then, go to the end of your file and listen to the last minute or so. When does the song sound exactly like the beginning? In my case, there was an affect added at the end of the song, so it actually loops right at the symbol crash after the highlight point I’ve inserted in the picture (the line in the blue stuff):

The next part is a lot like editing out the beginning, only now, we are inserting a fadeout (why we wanted to wait a little while after the sound looped when we initially logged the file). A fadeout is simply making the music seem like it’s fading out in to the distance and going quiet. This makes the song not seem like it’s just cutting out and makes it sound like a professional recording.

To accomplish this, we want to highlight the area that is merely looped portions of the song (again, using that insertion point looking tool like we did before). Lucky for us, it doesn’t matter as much if it’s exact. Chances are, you won’t notice it fading out too early if you are using the zoom tools to be reasonably accurate. You’ll probably have something like this:

Now comes the easy part. Click on “Effect” in the toolbar and click on “Fade Out”

This will create a fade out effect within the highlighted area. The result should look like this:

Now, deselect the area by clicking anywhere in the blue stuff and we’re done editing!

Step 6 – Saving the File

Audacity likes saving it in its own file format, but chances are, we need to save it to a format that is compatible with other programs. You can save the file in the Audacity project file format, but that also takes up disc space. Besides, you can always open up the WAV file in Audacity at a later time anyway if you want to do some more things to the file.

So to save it in WAV format, just click on “File” and “Export”:

Save the file wherever you like on the hard drive. In fact, I highly recommend saving over top of the old WAV file you used to log the original audio. This will also save on disc space. If you choose to do so, you’ll be asked if you want to replace the file. Select “Yes”. Another dialogue box will appear. You can insert metadata here like artist and track name, but I just hit “OK”. If you close Audacity, you’ll be asked if you want to save the file. This will create some project files on the hard drive if you choose yes, but since I won’t be using this anymore in Audacity, I just click on “No” to save on disc space.

Now, you’ll have two WAV files. The new file you created and a legacy file. The file that ends in “-old” (or “-old.wav”) is actually the original WAV file when you first started. I personally choose to delete the file – again, to save on disc space.

Some Final Thoughts

This is a time consuming way of obtaining music from the game. Not all games have the option to go in to a menu and select the song you want. Sometimes, you might have to simply go to the level in question and log the file that way. You might be forced to have some beginning sound effects and you might even have some other sound effects polluting your logging. This is why it’s best to just stick to MiniUSF files if they are available as this is just direct data from the game instead of an audio log.

Still, with a combination of this guide and the MiniUSF guide, you should have access to just about every song ever made for the N64 with only a very rare exception.

Happy listening!

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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