Get Roland Sound Canvas Music in xu4!

Húrin has made an interesting discovery concerning xu4, the cross-platform Ultima 4 engine:

…my goal was to make xu4 work with Telavar’s MIDI arrangements. Some googling showed that some had requested the ability to use their own MIDI files and/or MIDI devices with no response for the xu4 developers. This was not promising. Nevertheless, I began experimenting. Unfortunately, there’s no way to send MIDI output via xu4 to an external MIDI playback device (which DosBOX allows). And, if you put MIDI files themselves in the xu4/mid directory, and edit the xu4/conf/music.xml file appropriately, it will play back the MIDI files, but with its own internal MIDI player (via “TIMIDITY” perhaps?).

So, what to do if you have a Roland Sound Canvas (or other preferred MIDI device) and some authentic-sounding MIDIs. . . and you want to use that Roland Sound Canvas to play those MIDIs while playing Ultima IV via xu4?

Well, on a hunch, I just put a digital audio file in the xu4/mid directory and pointed the xu4/conf/music.xml to it. . . and it played as background music appropriately (though it sounded strange in that particular case since the file contained a sound effect and not music)! That first file was an OGG file. Then I tried an MP3. And, finally, a raw WAV file. They all played! The ability to play our own recorded tracks of whatever music we preferred was right there under our noses the entire time.

Consequently, he has released digital recordings of the Sound Canvas tracks for Ultima 4, as well as an accompanying XML file that tells xu4 what to do with them. Since I haven’t yet got the Ultima 4 subdomain working, I’m going to just put the download here for the time being:

[wpdm_file id=452]

Some notes from Húrin:

Though xu4 will play back just about any file that is put in its “mid” directory and appropriately indicated in the music.xml file, I noticed some issues when using various types of audio formats. For example, using MP3 files with variable bit rates caused some “squirking” sounds during xu4 playback that were not present when played normally in Windows. Also, track looping in-game was delayed and therefore jarring to the listener. Original/raw WAV file in-game playback was better, but the file size was quite large and for some reason xu4 introduced artifacts to the “shopping” track playback (again, not audible during standard out-of-game playback). Eventually, OGG was settled upon as the best compromise since it introduced no delays, had a reasonable filesize, and the “shopping” track has less artifacting than the raw WAV file.

Anyhow, if you still have xu4 installed, grab the above and fire up the game; enjoy the sultry sounds of a Sound Canvas as you adventure through Britannia once more!

5 Responses

  1. Alatari the Steadfast Dragaon says:

    This is the nicest version of the U4 soundtrack I’ve heard so far – nicer even than the Apple II Mockingboard version. Thanks for posting this!

  2. Hurin says:

    Thanks for the kind feedback. For others interested in just listening to the soundtrack rather than embedding it in xu4, there is a zip file of MP3s (rather than the OGGs that xu4 prefers) at the bottom of my post at

    Incidentally, there’s also recordings of Roland MT-32/LAPC-I output for other Ultima games at my Ultima Digital Music Archive linked on the right.

  3. Hurin says:

    Now that the Ultima IV subdomain is up here at the Codex, does this music upgrade to xU4 warrant inclusion? The article above at one point said it would be included so I thought I’d ask.