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Replace the default Quicktime SoundFont System
In OSX, the low level audio architecture is perfectly integrated with the MIDI system. In fact, there are a few really neat features, mostly unknown and untapped.

For example, CoreAudio can use "SoundFonts" files. SoundFonts are used by sequencers, software synthetizers and even sound cards. They are files containing samples and descriptions to play a range of instruments. SoundFonts are, for example, shipped with SoundBlaster cards for PC.

In fact, when you play a MIDI file with QuickTime, or use an application that uses "QTMA" (QuickTime Musical Architecture), the sound of the instruments is generated by CoreAudio, using a default (and low end) SoundFonts provided by Roland. However, there *is* a way to replace the default SoundFont QT and CoreAudio will use.

Read the rest of the article for the how-to...

First, download a SoundFont (a .sf2 file). The SoundFont must be at least GM (General MIDI, with 128 instruments) or better GS (GM plus some Roland Extensions). You can find SoundFonts from 4Mb to 128+Mb in size, depending on the quality and richness of the instrument set. For comparison, the default Roland SoundFont is 1.5Mb in size.

Once you've found a .sf2 file, copy it to ~/Library/Audio/Sounds/Banks. Then open the "System Preferences", select "QuickTime" and "Music", and select the SoundFont name from the list and click "Make Default". There you are! Now double click a MIDI file and play it in QuickTime Player, and it will use the SoundFont you downloaded!

  • QuickTime 6 preview includes a much better instrument set than before. However, it's still far from 'rich'.
  • Some instruments from the SoundFonts you download might not work; the implementation of SoundFont playback appears to be unfinished in OSX 10.1.X.
I suspect it will get much better in Jaguar.

[Editor's note: I have not tried this hint myself, but would be interested in hearing other's experiences with using sound fonts. For those more experienced in the audio world, are there standard locations where sound fonts and/or MIDI files can be legally downloaded? I know almost nothing about audio on the Mac beyond using iTunes to rip and play my CD collection!]
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It also works in Mac OS 9
Authored by: minouche on Jun 07, '02 10:02:34AM

SoundFont support was included in QT5 either in OS 9 or OS X.
The major problem is that soundfonts are usually compressed. And you have to uncompress these files with some applications that are only available for Windows.
nevertheless, it works fine

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Compressed SoundFonts
Authored by: melodymachine on Jun 18, '03 12:13:36PM

There's been an OSX decompressor for sfArk compressed SoundFonts out for a while. Officially its a beta, but no major problems have been reported.

The other compressor used for SoundFonts, sfpack, does not have any Mac version, and it seems unlikey that it ever will as their website disappeard from the net a couple of years ago, and no new release of the program has been made for even longer.

Suggestion: If you find files in sfpack format, email the webmaster asking for him/her to convert them to sfArk files so that they will be accessible to Mac OSX users.

Mac OS9 version of sfArk remains unlikely however.

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Replace the default Quicktime SoundFont
Authored by: Ken Knoblauch on Jun 07, '02 11:51:46AM

The instructions sound easy but when I open the QuickTime Preferences,
it doesn\'t show the .sf2 file that I put in ~/Library/Audio/Sounds/Banks
and there doesn\'t seem to be an option to Browse for it. It was easy
to find Sound Fonts on the web but I can\'t say if I\'m downloading a
compressed version or not and how would I uncompress it on a Mac ?,
referring to the previous comment. Thanks.

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Authored by: mweissen on Jun 10, '02 05:49:05AM

Has anyone found any *complete* high-quality GM/GS sound fonts? I found the following, but they do not work very well. There are missing voices and some of these soundfonts actually sound worse than the built-in Roland soundfont.

SilverSpring --
AnotherGS --
GeneralUser GS --

Here's another one which seems interesting, but I couldn't download it.

Fluid R3 --

StuffIt Expander can BTW open self-extracting zip files (.exe).

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Authored by: mweissen on Jun 10, '02 07:21:42AM

For the record, the Fluid soundfont sounds fantastic, but the unpacked file is 141MB large and my G3/500 can't play even a simple piano sonata without the sound getting choppy. Those of you with dual G4s and 60+GB hard disks may enjoy it, though. Unpacking requires SFArk on Windows.

The GeneralUser soundfont (25MB) seems fairly complete has problems with the relative volume of the various instruments. The bassoons and flutes are blaring, while piano and bass are barely audible.

The Silverspring soundfont (62MB) is otherwise quite OK, but the instruments are not completely in tune with each other and some percussion sounds are blatantly wrong.

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Authored by: Frungi on Jun 24, '05 09:21:59PM
quote: Unpacking requires SFArk on Windows.
See "melodymachine"'s comment, or just click here: sfArkXT zip. I don't know why the OS X version is a .zip

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Authored by: etejkowski on Jun 11, '02 06:28:12AM has some more SoundFont files for download that sound pretty good and are reasonably sized. Or, you could make your own with PolyPhontics for OS X:

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Authored by: dchung on Aug 18, '02 10:46:06PM

I tried this trick and it did work. I found a 12MB soundfont on internet, but it sounds worse than the original Roland....

Strongly recommand not to alter it until you find a really good high quality font.


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MIDI Downloads
Authored by: dcnblues on Oct 25, '02 06:29:53PM

There used to be several websites that offered MIDI files for download. However, with the advent of MP3 trading, demand for MIDI seems to have declined, so many have disappeared.

As far as the legality of MIDI trading is concerned, a MIDI is only a note/instrument control sequence (and an inaccurate one at that, according to longtime MAC user BT) and will never result in an identical copy of a recorded work. However, one COULD say that MIDI playback constitutes a 'performance' of sorts... so you might be under the same laws as govern sheet music distribution and "cover" performances. Take note that I'm NOT a lawyer, and at this point am speculating wildly.... :)

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Replace the default Quicktime SoundFont
Authored by: henryaz on Oct 07, '10 08:48:33AM

This does not appear to have been supported anymore for quite some time There is no such preference panel in the System Preferences since at least 10.4.x.

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