A while back, I was sitting in class and realized that I had some midi files on a CompactFlash card which I just happened to be using with my Braille Note MPower at the time. There were also some other media files on there as well, so I was casually browsing through said files. I was surprised to find that midi files were detected by the MPower's media player, even though midi support was never documented. So I thought, what the heck, let's try playing one and see what happens. I was expecting it not to work, but to my surprise I heard the Super Mario Bros theme playing right before class! Luckily for me I had the volume really low, so I didn't get in trouble for playing music while I was supposed to be doing more important things. :d
Then my geekery stepped in. Once I find a new synth or music toy or whatever, I'm the first to admit I become pretty obsessive about learning all I can about it, how it works, what makes it work, and what I can do with it.
After school I did some investigating. What synthesizer was this using to play midis? Is it just the standard Microsoft Wavetable synth, or had I stumbled across a cheap mobile midi sound set which is really hard to track down? Turns out it's the latter. I don't recognize many of the sounds here, and I still have little idea as to what this synth actually is or why it's being used over something more widely known like the Microsoft Wavetable synth.
The rest of this post covers some introductory stuff I noticed when first playing with the synth. In post 12 I've uploaded some recordings of the synth so you can hear it, and in post 18 you'll find some more recent info I've been able to gather on it.
So now for some technical notes.
The synth is clearly sample based. It has no effects like reverb or chorus. Max polyphony seems to be 8 voices at least to my testing, and there's only one drum kit that works, though I did find a second kit with what I believe to be Windows mobile sounds on it. A few of the sounds, particularly drums, have loud screeching artifacts at the ends of the samples., There are also watery artifacts in the background of almost all the patches, and a lot of the samples have silence at their beginnings. In addition some of the loops are, to put it simply and accurately, awful. This makes me wonder if they actually tested any of this before releasing it.
All of the problems I've outlined above suggest to me that the samples are in some odd compressed format, since using compressed files in samplers will generally do that, at least to some degree though it depends on the codec used. My first guess is that they're using mp3 samples because of the artifacts I am hearing, since mp3 will generally do stuff like that. But it's just a guess.
In my opinion though, the synth still sounds much cooler than the Windows Microsoft wavetable synth, and with some cleanup I would use it in place of that. In its current state though, it's not too usable.
I'm not sure what other Humanware note takers this works on, or what versions of Windows CE support this. The MPower I tested this on is running Keysoft 7.5 with Windows CE 4.2. To my knowledge, this midi playback isn't a Braille Note feature but rather a Windows CE feature which was likely and unintentionally left exposed by Keysoft.
I know that the Apex ditched the midi synth and from what I heard that was again a result of upgrading Windows CE, and had nothing to do with the Apex itself, though I have no real evidence to back that up. There were rumors that midi compatibility would be brought back in a future update of Keysoft, but as of Keysoft 9.1, I am unable to test to see if these rumors are true, as my Apex is currently a brick which I cannot fix. A lot has happened since Keysoft 9.1, so I can't really offer any current information.
So does anyone know anything at all about this hidden midi support? What versions of Windows CE does it work with and where are the sounds from? I do recognize a few sounds but not many. One of my friends is suspicious that this was originally a Casio synth since he recognizes some sounds from his old Casio keyboard, so maybe he's right. I still have my MPower, and it works pretty well as of late 2016, so I am still able to use the synth.