Why Does the SNES Sound better than the Sega Genesis? | Retro Facts

The 16-bit era of gaming witnessed a fierce rivalry between the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and the Sega Genesis. While both consoles boasted impressive libraries of games, one area where the SNES undeniably outshined its counterpart was in its audio capabilities. The SNES sound triumphs over the Sega Genesis due to its advanced sound hardware, which includes the remarkable Sony SPC700 audio chip. This chip, with its sample-based synthesis system and eight channels, allows for richer, more complex sounds that elevate gaming experiences to new heights. While both consoles had impressive game libraries, the SNES's audio capabilities set it apart, captivating gamers and music enthusiasts alike. In this article, we delve into the factors that contribute to the SNES's superiority in sound quality and explore why it remains cherished to this day. In this article, we explore the factors that contribute to the superiority of the SNES sound over the Sega Genesis and why it holds a special place in the hearts of gamers and music enthusiasts alike.

Advanced Sound Hardware

The SNES, released in 1990, came equipped with Sony's SPC700 audio chip, which was a remarkable piece of technology for its time. It featured a sample-based synthesis system that allowed developers to store and manipulate digital audio samples. This feature gave birth to a wide range of sounds, from realistic instrument samples to imaginative and atmospheric compositions. The SPC700's eight channels allowed for greater audio depth and complexity, enabling composers to create more immersive soundscapes.

In contrast, the Sega Genesis utilized the Yamaha YM2612 sound chip, which employed a different approach. It employed a combination of FM (frequency modulation) synthesis and PSG (Programmable Sound Generator) channels. While capable of producing impressive sounds, the Yamaha chip's limitations, such as a lower number of channels and less advanced sample capabilities, meant that the Sega Genesis struggled to match the audio quality of its competitor.

Dynamic Range and Sound Fidelity

The SNES possessed a wider dynamic range, allowing for greater nuance in music and sound effects. This enhanced dynamic range meant that composers could create more intricate melodies, capture subtle musical expressions, and produce soundscapes with depth and complexity. The SNES's superior sound fidelity ensured that the audio output was faithful to the original compositions, offering a more immersive and satisfying auditory experience.

On the other hand, the Sega Genesis, while capable of producing decent sound, suffered from a narrower dynamic range and lower fidelity. This limitation became particularly noticeable in complex compositions or tracks that required a broad range of tones and instruments. Consequently, the Sega Genesis often delivered music that sounded more simplistic and less refined compared to its competitor.

Compositional Techniques and Artistic Freedom

The SNES's superior sound hardware and capabilities gave composers greater artistic freedom to experiment and create memorable soundtracks. Composers were able to harness the full potential of the SPC700 chip, utilizing its sample-based synthesis system to create diverse instrument sounds and sound effects. This, in turn, contributed to the overall atmosphere and emotional impact of the games.

In contrast, the Sega Genesis relied more heavily on FM synthesis, which had its own distinct sound. While some games on the Genesis had memorable soundtracks, the limitations of the YM2612 chip often made it challenging to achieve the same level of complexity and depth found in SNES compositions.


The SNES, with its advanced sound hardware, wider dynamic range, and superior sound fidelity, provided a level of audio quality that was unmatched by the Sega Genesis. The SPC700 chip allowed composers to create intricate and immersive soundscapes, elevating the gaming experience to new heights. While the Sega Genesis had its own unique charm and some memorable soundtracks, it couldn't compete with the SNES in terms of sound quality and versatility.

Decades after their release, the SNES sound still resonates with gamers and music enthusiasts worldwide. It stands as a testament to the impact that innovative audio technology can have on our gaming experiences, making the SNES a cherished and timeless console for both its gameplay and its magnificent audio capabilities.