Sibelius

Music notation software is among the earliest software for desktop computers. SCORE in 1987, Finale came around in 1988, Capella in 1992, and Sibelius in 1993. Many others came and went during this time. Music notation software was so much more than the typical word processing or desktop publishing system. Specialized fonts were needed to display the music notation and there are many other variables for different instruments allowing individuals and others the ability to create complicated compositions in an inexpensive way.

Sibelius [SI] + [BAY] + [LEE] + [UHS] was originally developed for the Acorn system in 1986, then released on Windows and Macintosh in 1998-99. The software became very popular and in 2006 was purchased by the software giant AVID. The software was used enough to get a preservation assessment by the British Library in 2017 and draft status format description by the Library of Congress, written by the amazing Ashley!

Both reviews of the format emphasize the proprietary nature of the file format which has been used since the early versions. Aside from the early Acorn release, the Windows and Macintosh versions used a binary format with the SIB extension. They are actually quite easy to identify.

hexdump -C Sibelius-s01.sib | head
00000000  0f 53 49 42 45 4c 49 55  53 00 00 40 00 02 00 a4  |.SIBELIUS..@....|
00000010  f1 ed 00 00 00 30 00 00  00 02 00 00 00 01 00 00  |.....0..........|
00000020  00 2a 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 0f 53 49 42 45 4c  |.*.........SIBEL|
00000030  49 55 53 00 00 40 00 02  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 3a  |IUS..@.........:|
00000040  00 00 00 00 38 a1 28 06  b3 d2 2f 66 03 04 16 4e  |....8.(.../f...N|
00000050  5f 5c 8d f3 95 27 3e f1  2a 1b 68 de 08 81 e8 9a  |_\...'>.*.h.....|
00000060  ea 1c bf dd 54 0e 92 8d  4d be e3 34 ed 42 78 36  |....T...M..4.Bx6|
00000070  d2 e1 67 7b 8d f7 98 6a  3a 70 c4 8b 0b 08 7b 26  |..g{...j:p....{&|
00000080  f9 45 00 00 00 00 48 71  7c 4c 98 df 0b 38 7d 9d  |.E....Hq|L...8}.|
00000090  2a 2d 84 9c a4 39 0f 4d  da a2 cc 97 ad 3d b0 55  |*-...9.M.....=.U|

This is exactly how PRONOM and other identification methods determine they are Sibelius files. PRONOM has assigned the format fmt/696 and is looking for the hexadecimal bytes 0F534942454C495553.

The problem with this identification method is that all the Sibelius files are identified as such, regardless of version. As mentioned by Ashley, version of the software used is highly important as new features were added all the time making backwards compatibility difficult. Add in the fact that there were different releases for each version which would limit these features even more and I can see how a musician could get very frustrated. If you created a score in Sibelius 5 and tried to open in Sibelius 5 Student version, you may find your composition lacking in many ways. The only way to avoid compatibility issues is to always open in the latest “Ultimate” version. Sibelius Ultimate can open all versions of the SIB format back to version 2. The software even has an export feature which allows you to export back to a previous version stripping what is necessary to ensure compatibility.

Sibelius export to previous version

For those with a bunch of SIB files in their archives, how would you know which software version created the file? Well lets take a closer look at the bytes and see if we can find some patterns. Let it be known, I am not reverse engineering the format, just looking for patterns which will allow for proper identification!

I am not the first person to ask this question, many others want to know the versions of their SIB files. Thankfully others have found some clues on which bytes hold the version information. It seems we can determine the version based on 4 bytes shortly after the SIBELIUS string. Specifically bytes 10-13.

hexdump -C Sibelius2-s01.sib | head
00000000  0f 53 49 42 45 4c 49 55  53 00 00 08 00 22 00 47  |.SIBELIUS....".G|
00000010  98 4c 00 00 00 3a 00 00  00 00 4e 81 49 34 41 2c  |.L...:....N.I4A,|
00000020  fa 76 62 f9 71 53 a9 93  0f 54 1e 20 6c 63 61 4d  |.vb.qS...T. lcaM|
00000030  f7 b2 b0 a7 5d bd 82 3a  0d 86 02 8b f2 89 d2 a0  |....]..:........|
00000040  83 1f 8d e0 37 1b ed 1c  6a 8b 82 08 4b 6d 64 60  |....7...j...Kmd`|
00000050  71 59 e8 aa ef b1 3c df  5c 25 0a 9f 66 50 69 de  |qY....<.\%..fPi.|
00000060  2a d3 4e 2a cd 97 88 06  67 5f 50 64 0f 8f 86 2b  |*.N*....g_Pd...+|
00000070  08 0d 3f f7 80 26 e0 63  f6 7d 4e f8 e7 c0 3f fc  |..?..&.c.}N...?.|
00000080  7a 77 ea b3 4a b9 30 59  13 47 6e 09 0a 0b ae 3c  |zw..J.0Y.Gn....<|
00000090  c1 93 85 f6 41 f8 58 22  4b 92 35 3f b2 f5 3f 9d  |....A.X"K.5?..?.|

From what others have gathered and updating it with more recent versions I have come up with a list.

VersionHex 10-13
Sibelius 1.200 00 00 0E
Sibelius 2.x00 08 xx xx 
Sibelius 3.x00 0A xx xx 
Sibelius 4.x00 1B xx xx 
Sibelius 5.000 2D 00 03 
Sibelius 5.100 2D 00 0D 
Sibelius 5.2.x – 5.400 2D 00 10 
Sibelius 6.0.x00 36 00 01 
Sibelius 6.100 36 00 17 
Sibelius 6.200 36 00 1E 
Sibelius 7.000 39 00 0C 
Sibelius 7.0.1 – 7.0.200 39 00 0E 
Sibelius 7.0.300 39 00 13 
Sibelius 7.1.000 39 00 15 
Sibelius 7.1.2 – 7.1.300 39 00 16 
Sibelius 7.5.x00 3D 00 0E 
Sibelius 8.0.0 – 8.0.100 3D 00 10 
Sibelius 8.1.x00 3E 00 00 
Sibelius 8.200 3E 00 01 
Sibelius 8.300 3E 00 02 
Sibelius 8.4.x00 3E 00 06 
Sibelius 8.5.x00 3E 00 07 
Sibelius 8.6.x, 8.7.0, 8.7.100 3F 00 00 
Sibelius 8.7.2, 2018.1, 2018.4.x, 2018.5, 2018.6, 2018.700 3F 00 01 
Sibelius 2018.11, 2018.1200 3F 00 02
Sibelius 2019.100 3F 00 04
Sibelius 2019.4.x, 2019.5, 2019.7, 2019.900 3F 00 06
Sibelius 2019.1200 3F 00 07
Sibelius 8.6-2019.1200 3F 00 0A
Sibelius 2020.100 3F 00 0B
Sibelius 2020.3, 2020.600 40 00 01
Sibelius 2020.900 40 00 02
Sibelius 2022.500 40 00 03
Sibelius 2022.1100 41 00 02
Sibelius 2022.1200 42 00 00
Sibelius 2023.300 42 00 01
Sibelius 2023.800 43 00 07
Sibelius 2024.3.100 44 00 01

That is a lot of versions and I feel there may be some gaps that still need to be identified. It appears that the first two bytes are the major version and the second set of bytes is the minor version. Although it looks like a few major version bytes span across a few software versions. With this chart, one could be very specific in identifying which Sibelius version wrote the file, but for archiving purposes it seems we can group many of these capturing just the major version. The export screenshot above seems to have broken down significant changes and grouped similar formats together, the biggest being 8.6 through 2019.12. A comparison of “student” and “first” formats don’t have any obvious bytes which indicate as such, so for now they are all lumped together.

There is one other similar format which needs to be mentioned. Sibelius Scorch was a product made to share scores online. This has been replaced with Sibelius Cloud Publishing, but for awhile was the best way to share a score with others in a way that protected the original. I have no idea how they were made, but sites like scorestreet.net and sibeliusmusic.com were sites you could upload your score to for sharing. Some SCO files appear to have a PDF embedded within them for proper printing.

hexdump -C smd_h_0000000000097761.sco | head
00000000  0f 43 43 53 43 4f 52 43  48 00 00 36 00 1e 00 c0  |.CCSCORCH..6....|
00000010  d4 55 00 00 00 30 00 00  00 01 00 00 00 01 00 00  |.U...0..........|
00000020  00 22 0f 43 43 53 43 4f  52 43 48 00 00 36 00 1e  |.".CCSCORCH..6..|
00000030  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 3a  00 00 00 00 03 56 11 b9  |.......:.....V..|
00000040  70 dc fe 90 50 48 30 df  eb 39 88 23 8e 88 78 bf  |p...PH0..9.#..x.|
00000050  da ab ab 5b e2 13 98 89  66 eb 94 67 8d 16 00 00  |...[....f..g....|
00000060  00 00 cf 6f 0c 67 85 ec  57 90 e5 c1 ea 8a eb 9f  |...o.g..W.......|
00000070  c8 13 d2 1d 75 bd a5 9f  eb b9 ef 1d 25 79 45 2c  |....u.......%yE,|
00000080  05 bb 74 41 e8 8f 27 6a  01 07 d0 f5 3b 17 ce 87  |..tA..'j....;...|
00000090  7b c2 82 d9 41 6b 82 2f  d8 b8 17 32 fa d3 59 05  |{...Ak./...2..Y.|

I am not sure the best way to handle all the different versions within the PRONOM registry. I went ahead and made a few signatures based on the export dialog of Sibelius 2024. Even with combining a few together, it leaves us with 17 new PUID’s. Maybe further discussion can refine these down a bit more? Regardless, each file can be associated with a specific Sibelius version, making it easier to open and migrate if needed without fear of opening in the wrong version. Take a look at some samples and my signatures on my GitHub page and let me know if there is a better way.

Shorten

I was recently going through some of my old CD-R’s and came across this 11 year old fun memory.

I remember going to this 2003 Toad the Wet Sprocket concert in Salt Lake City with some friends, I had seen this band perform before, but this was the first time I was able to get a recording of the show. Normally having a recording of a concert of a well known band was a little shady, but for some bands, they not only allow recording of their live concerts, but they encourage it. There has been a few bands over the years who have this philosophy, one most have heard of is the Grateful Dead, because of all the tape trading, the band’s numerous concerts will live on forever.

The scene of recording concerts is still alive and well, and if you are into recording and sharing it is expected you share in a lossless audio format. The world of lossless audio is definitely in the minority of all those who listen to music on the daily. Most of us have been placated with the infinite playlists on services like Apple Music, Spotify, and Amazon Music. Most probably don’t care about owning music anymore, but for the few who consider themselves Audiophiles, having a lossless audio file is the only choice.

When it comes to formats, there are a few lossless formats to choose from, they all come with some advantages as well as some downsides. WAV files contain the full PCM audio stream, and while internet bandwidth today can handle full uncompressed audio, it can still be beneficial to use some compression for archiving or sharing over the web.

The most common lossless format today is the Free Lossless Audio Codec or FLAC, but there are also quite a few who like the Apple Lossless Audio Codec. Both offer many advantages, especially with metadata, cuesheets, and can contain cover album art. But many years ago another lossless format was most often used with bootleg recordings and audio sharing.

Shorten was one of the first lossless formats, developed by Tony Robinson in 1993 for SoftSound. It could cut the size in half of a typical 16-bit WAV file. It achieved this by using Huffman coding, kinda the same way a JPEG works, by reducing the frequency of how often patterns occur. Today FLAC and ALAC have replaced this format and offer improved features and support. Many audio players have dropped support for shorten making it difficult to use this old format.

The Shorten format uses the .SHN extension. It is one of the formats listed on the Library of Congress Sustainability of Digital Formats with the ID fdd000199, although a couple links don’t appear to work as it hasn’t been updated since 2011. Support was ended for this format and many of the links found on various websites are for broken, usually referencing the etree wiki. Much of which is archived on the Internet Archive.

Let’s take a look at the what makes up a lossless compressed SHN file. A quick look at a sample header:

hexdump -C test.shn | head
00000000  61 6a 6b 67 02 fb b1 70  09 f9 25 59 52 a4 d1 a8  |ajkg...p..%YR...|
00000010  dd cf 85 5a 01 57 a0 d5  a8 b6 6b 6d d2 41 10 80  |...Z.W....km.A..|
00000020  40 20 10 18 04 0a 01 44  d6 40 20 11 0d 8c 0a 01  |@ .....D.@ .....|
00000030  04 80 44 20 16 4b 0d d2  c3 b8 f8 55 a0 11 80 59  |..D .K.....U...Y|
00000040  98 56 1d b1 79 51 9f 39  f1 12 d2 d3 75 5c cd 08  |.V..yQ.9....u\..|
00000050  06 25 68 6b 52 5e 9f 4c  39 cd c1 32 c4 0d a9 b7  |.%hkR^.L9..2....|
00000060  69 34 56 f0 96 fa 46 89  a2 6e 8c ba d5 d0 58 de  |i4V...F..n....X.|
00000070  f5 44 5b aa 61 82 c7 85  88 37 d6 ee cb ab 4e 44  |.D[.a....7....ND|
00000080  91 19 b7 38 d4 20 ae 98  98 d1 2c 4a 4e 88 dd 3e  |...8. ....,JN..>|
00000090  36 68 1b 59 a8 7d 84 23  76 0a 84 21 a1 cd 80 8e  |6h.Y.}.#v..!....|

The first four bytes seem to be consistent among my samples. It makes me wonder if the ascii values have something to do with the author, Anthony (Tony) J. Robinson. In the source code for the shorten software, the file shorten.h defines the ascii “ajkg” as the magic header for the SHN format. Also found in current ffmpeg code. Although the tools don’t have much to say about them.

mediainfo test.shn 
General
Complete name                            : test.shn
Format                                   : Shorten
Format version                           : 2
File size                                : 3.17 MiB

Audio
Format                                   : Shorten
Compression mode                         : Lossless

ffprobe -i test.shn
Input #0, shn, from 'test.shn':
  Duration: N/A, start: 0.000000, bitrate: N/A
  Stream #0:0: Audio: shorten, 44100 Hz, 2 channels, s16p

Using the older SHNTOOL, we can get more information.

shntool info test.shn  
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
File name:                    test.shn
Handled by:                   shn format module
Length:                       0:32.23
WAVE format:                  0x0001 (Microsoft PCM)
Channels:                     2
Bits/sample:                  16
Samples/sec:                  44100
Average bytes/sec:            176400
Rate (calculated):            176400
Block align:                  4
Header size:                  44 bytes
Data size:                    5697720 bytes
Chunk size:                   5697756 bytes
Total size (chunk size + 8):  5697764 bytes
Actual file size:             3325489
File is compressed:           yes
Compression ratio:            0.5836
CD-quality properties:
  CD quality:                 yes
  Cut on sector boundary:     no
  Sector misalignment:        1176 bytes
  Long enough to be burned:   yes
WAVE properties:
  Non-canonical header:       no
  Extra RIFF chunks:          no
Possible problems:
  File contains ID3v2 tag:    no
  Data chunk block-aligned:   yes
  Inconsistent header:        no
  File probably truncated:    unknown
  Junk appended to file:      unknown
  Odd data size has pad byte: n/a
Extra shn-specific info:
  Seekable:                   yes

Many Shorten Audio Files are found out there in archives and file sharing sites, so even though the format isn’t used to create new files, it will still be around for awhile. My GitHub has my signature proposal and a couple of samples.

Finale

The amazing Ashley recently did a little writeup on the Sibelius music notation software. I thought I would take the opportunity to talk about another music notation software which needs a little update. Finale was created in 1987 for the Macintosh by a company called Coda Music and became quite popular with musicians and composers. The ability to use a computer to typeset a musical score was a huge advancement. This was all possible by the use of music notation fonts.

Finale was originally written by Coda Music Technology, owned for a time by Net4Music, now currently owned by MakeMusic. Over the years there has been additional products developed along side Finale.

The first version of Finale was developed for the Macintosh and didn’t have an extension. But by version 3.5 there was a comparable Windows version and the use of the extension .MUS. In order to share the files between the different platforms Finale also created an ETF file, which instead of the binary MUS the ETF is a plain text “transportable” file.

Finale 1.0 HyperCard HelpStack

Both formats are based on the Enigma or “Environment for Notation Intuitive Graphic Music Algorithms” format. These formats were last used with Finale 2012 when a new format took over in 2014. Let’s start from the beginning.

hexdump -C Finale1-s01 | head
00000000  46 69 6e 61 6c 65 aa 20  31 2e 30 2e 30 20 45 4e  |Finale. 1.0.0 EN|
00000010  49 47 41 20 53 74 72 75  63 74 75 72 65 73 20 43  |IGA Structures C|
00000020  6f 70 79 72 69 67 68 74  20 31 39 38 37 20 62 79  |opyright 1987 by|
00000030  20 43 6f 64 61 2e 20 41  6c 6c 20 72 69 67 68 74  | Coda. All right|
00000040  73 20 72 65 73 65 72 76  65 64 2e 20 50 61 74 65  |s reserved. Pate|
00000050  6e 74 20 50 65 6e 64 69  6e 67 00 00 00 00 00 00  |nt Pending......|
00000060  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
00000080  01 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
00000090  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|

This is a sample of the very first version of Finale. Currently not identifiable by PRONOM. You may also noticed in this version it was called ENIGA.

hexdump -C Finale2.6.3 | head
00000000  46 69 6e 61 6c 65 28 54  4d 29 20 31 2e 38 20 43  |Finale(TM) 1.8 C|
00000010  6f 70 79 72 69 67 68 74  20 31 39 38 37 20 62 79  |opyright 1987 by|
00000020  20 43 6f 64 61 2e 20 41  6c 6c 20 72 69 67 68 74  | Coda. All right|
00000030  73 20 72 65 73 65 72 76  65 64 2e 00 00 00 00 00  |s reserved......|
00000040  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
00000080  01 01 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
00000090  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
00000200  00 00 00 09 00 00 02 00  00 00 46 4e 50 65 74 72  |..........FNPetr|

A file from version 2.6.3 shows a different format structure, also not currently identified by PRONOM.

hexdump -C F35-s01.mus | head
00000000  45 4e 49 47 4d 41 20 42  49 4e 41 52 59 20 46 49  |ENIGMA BINARY FI|
00000010  4c 45 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |LE..............|
00000020  46 69 6e 61 6c 65 28 52  29 20 33 2e 35 20 43 6f  |Finale(R) 3.5 Co|
00000030  70 79 72 69 67 68 74 20  28 63 29 20 31 39 39 35  |pyright (c) 1995|
00000040  20 43 6f 64 61 20 4d 75  73 69 63 20 54 65 63 68  | Coda Music Tech|
00000050  6e 6f 6c 6f 67 79 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |nology..........|
00000060  00 02 00 00 00 00 7c 02  08 00 00 00 03 03 50 03  |......|.......P.|
00000070  46 49 4e 00 57 49 4e 00  02 04 50 03 03 03 50 03  |FIN.WIN...P...P.|
00000080  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 7c 02 08 00  |............|...|
00000090  00 00 03 03 50 03 46 49  4e 00 57 49 4e 00 02 04  |....P.FIN.WIN...|

By Version 3 we see the format stabilize and this header is used until Finale 2012. There was other various products which also used the format so there is some variation.

hexdump -C Tutorial1a.mus | head
00000000  45 4e 49 47 4d 41 20 42  49 4e 41 52 59 20 46 49  |ENIGMA BINARY FI|
00000010  4c 45 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |LE..............|
00000020  50 72 69 6e 74 4d 75 73  69 63 28 52 29 20 32 30  |PrintMusic(R) 20|
00000030  31 30 20 43 6f 70 79 72  69 67 68 74 20 31 39 39  |10 Copyright 199|
00000040  38 2d 32 30 30 39 20 4d  61 6b 65 4d 75 73 69 63  |8-2009 MakeMusic|
00000050  20 49 6e 63 2e 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  | Inc............|
00000060  00 02 0e 01 00 00 6a 02  0e 00 00 00 04 02 02 0b  |......j.........|
00000070  46 49 4e 00 57 49 4e 00  03 04 02 0b 0d 02 00 0b  |FIN.WIN.........|
00000080  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 6d 08 0d 00  |............m...|
00000090  00 00 31 02 00 0f 4e 54  52 00 4d 41 43 00 10 02  |..1...NTR.MAC...|

The current PRONOM identification for fmt/397 is looking for the “ENIGMA BINARY FILE” bytes but also the string “Finale(R)”, so this PrintMusic variation is not identified correctly.

Another format that is a little more rare to see, but is part of the Finale formats collection. Finale Performance Assessment File (.fpa) is an older format discontinued in 2007, but has a similar format. It was a tool similar to the current SmartMusic tool.

hexdump -C Tuba.FPA | head
00000000  46 49 4e 41 4c 45 20 50  45 52 46 4f 52 4d 41 4e  |FINALE PERFORMAN|
00000010  43 45 20 41 53 53 45 53  53 4d 45 4e 54 00 00 00  |CE ASSESSMENT...|
00000020  46 69 6e 61 6c 65 28 52  29 20 32 30 30 35 20 43  |Finale(R) 2005 C|
00000030  6f 70 79 72 69 67 68 74  20 28 63 29 20 31 39 38  |opyright (c) 198|
00000040  37 2d 32 30 30 34 20 4d  61 6b 65 4d 75 73 69 63  |7-2004 MakeMusic|
00000050  21 20 49 6e 63 2e 00 6f  6c 6f 67 79 00 00 00 00  |! Inc..ology....|
00000060  00 02 06 00 00 00 68 06  09 00 00 00 16 02 00 09  |......h.........|
00000070  46 49 4e 00 57 49 4e 00  01 04 01 09 16 02 00 09  |FIN.WIN.........|
00000080  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 68 07 0d 00  |............h...|
00000090  00 00 0a 01 00 0a 46 49  4e 00 57 49 4e 00 03 03  |......FIN.WIN...|

As for the Enigma Transportable File, there is a couple variations.

hexdump -C Finale1-s02.etf | head
00000000  45 4e 49 47 4d 41 20 74  72 61 6e 73 70 6f 72 74  |ENIGMA transport|
00000010  61 62 6c 65 20 66 69 6c  65 0d 45 4e 49 47 4d 41  |able file.ENIGMA|
00000020  20 53 74 72 75 63 74 75  72 65 73 20 43 6f 70 79  | Structures Copy|
00000030  72 69 67 68 74 20 31 39  38 37 20 62 79 20 43 6f  |right 1987 by Co|
00000040  64 61 2e 20 41 6c 6c 20  52 69 67 68 74 73 20 52  |da. All Rights R|
00000050  65 73 65 72 76 65 64 2e  20 50 61 74 65 6e 74 20  |eserved. Patent |
00000060  50 65 6e 64 69 6e 67 2e  0d 0d 5e 6f 74 68 65 72  |Pending...^other|
00000070  73 0d 5e 46 4e 28 30 29  20 22 50 65 74 72 75 63  |s.^FN(0) "Petruc|
00000080  63 69 22 0d 5e 49 55 28  30 29 20 31 20 30 20 2d  |ci".^IU(0) 1 0 -|
00000090  38 30 20 32 20 30 20 2d  33 31 36 20 0d 5e 49 55  |80 2 0 -316 .^IU|

hexdump -C Finale37-Sample.etf | head
00000000  45 4e 49 47 4d 41 20 54  52 41 4e 53 50 4f 52 54  |ENIGMA TRANSPORT|
00000010  41 42 4c 45 20 46 49 4c  45 0d 0d 5e 68 65 61 64  |ABLE FILE..^head|
00000020  65 72 0d 5e 30 31 20 22  46 69 6e 61 6c 65 28 52  |er.^01 "Finale(R|
00000030  29 20 33 2e 37 20 43 6f  70 79 72 69 67 68 74 20  |) 3.7 Copyright |
00000040  28 63 29 20 31 39 38 37  2d 31 39 39 36 20 43 6f  |(c) 1987-1996 Co|
00000050  64 61 20 4d 75 73 69 63  20 54 65 63 68 6e 6f 6c  |da Music Technol|
00000060  6f 67 79 22 0d 5e 30 32  20 31 20 30 20 30 20 30  |ogy".^02 1 0 0 0|
00000070  20 0d 5e 30 33 20 31 32  30 20 31 31 20 39 20 0d  | .^03 120 11 9 .|
00000080  5e 30 34 20 22 22 0d 5e  30 35 20 35 37 36 37 32  |^04 "".^05 57672|
00000090  32 30 34 20 0d 5e 30 36  20 22 46 49 4e 22 0d 5e  |204 .^06 "FIN".^|

The current signature of ETF files is only able to correctly identify the later version of the string in all caps. The fmt/398 PRONOM ID could use an alternate signature to ensure all variations are identified correctly. There is a couple versions of the specification out there, but does not add much to what is known.

Starting in 2014 Finale starting using a new file format to store its notations. The native format now uses the MUSX extension. This new format uses a ZIP container to store all the data. Let’s take a look at the inside.

Path = Finale26-s01.musx
Type = zip
Physical Size = 98608

   Date      Time    Attr         Size   Compressed  Name
------------------- ----- ------------ ------------  ------------------------
2022-12-19 16:28:36 .....           34           34  mimetype
2022-12-19 16:28:36 .....          252          168  META-INF/container.xml
2022-12-19 16:28:36 .....          347          218  NotationMetadata.xml
2022-12-19 16:28:36 .....         1163          821  presets/10001.preset
2022-12-19 16:28:36 .....          649          544  presets/1.preset
2022-12-19 16:28:36 .....        96140        96155  score.dat
------------------- ----- ------------ ------------  ------------------------
2022-12-19 16:28:36              98585        97940  6 files

The mimetype file appears to be “application/vnd.makemusic.notation”

The NotationMetadata.xml file stores much of the information needed and begins with the root tag.

<metadata version="26.2" xmlns="http://www.makemusic.com/2012/NotationMetadata">

It seems the presence of the NotationMetadata.xml file and the mimetype would be sufficient for identification in a container signature.

The current version of Finale can export to a few different “Music XML” versions. This includes MUSICXML, regular XML, and a compressed MXL file. The only one needs attention is the compressed MXL file and added to PRONOM. It already has a PUID, fmt/897, but no signature. Here is what it looks like inside the ZIP container.

Path = Finale27-s01.mxl
Type = zip
Physical Size = 4737

   Date      Time    Attr         Size   Compressed  Name
------------------- ----- ------------ ------------  ------------------------
2024-02-07 23:55:50 .....           34           34  mimetype
2024-02-07 23:55:50 D....            0            2  META-INF
2024-02-07 23:55:50 .....          202          144  META-INF/container.xml
2024-02-07 23:55:50 .....        18004         1996  Finale27-s01.musicxml
2024-02-07 23:55:52 .....        17554         1953  p1.musicxml
------------------- ----- ------------ ------------  ------------------------
2024-02-07 23:55:52              35794         4129  4 files, 1 folders

Looks like a standard identifiable MUSICXML file within the container with a mimetype of “application/vnd.recordare.musicxml”. The MUSICXML file will be impossible to use for identification because of the variable file name, but the mimetype should do just fine.

Hopefully that covers all the major formats that need identification. I saw on a list that I will soon be working on an old Macintosh which has hundreds of Finale files, I hope these updates cover those needs! Take a look at my GitHub for my signatures and plenty of samples.

FlashPix

Is there a perfect raster image format? TIFF has been around quite some time and is generally accepted as a preferred preservation format. There have been a few attempts to have a single file contain multiple resolutions with the purpose of providing resolutions for different uses, lower-resolution for web and higher-resolution for print. Even the semi popular JPEG2000 added multiple resolutions to improve the JPEG format. Kodak came up with a few ideas to do this as well. The Kodak PCD, PhotoCD or Image PAC files was one that was used for awhile before it was abandoned. Another was FlashPix.

I briefly mentioned FlashPix on an earlier post about the Microsoft Picture It! format. They are extremely similar. Both. have the same basic structure in a Compound Object format. Some of the FlashPix files generated by Picture It! even have the same identifiers in the CompObj header.

FlashPix was supposed to be the answer to all the problems with storing bitmap image data and how we view the web. Kodak partnered with some big names, Microsoft Corporation, Hewlett-Packard Company and Live Picture, Inc, were among them. Kodak marketed the format and even included it as a native file format to some of its new digital cameras. The format was made official in June of 1996, with a Whitepaper explaining all the benefits and architecture. There was a lot of hype, some even calling it, “Not your Grandma’s format“. Many graphics software started to include support for the new format, including Adobe Photoshop. So what happened, why didn’t the format catch on? Some say it was the size of storing multiple resolutions in one file, others believe it was the complicated Compound Object structure that lead to its demise. Either way, the format had a lot of hype in the late 1990’s, but by the year 2000, it had gone silent and all the websites went away.

FlashPix did have a big impact, and there were many software and hardware devices which were made compatible. There are a few stories left behind of those who scanned all their photos to the FlashPix format only to find a few years later it was unsupported on more modern computers. There was also a few early digital camera’s which could capture directly to the format. Take my Kodak DC260 zoom camera, circa 1998. Changing the Capture Preferences, I can switch between a JPG and FPX.

Using exiftool we can take a look at one of the images from the camera:

exiftool P0004795.FPX
ExifTool Version Number         : 12.73
File Name                       : P0004795.FPX
Directory                       : GitHub/digicam_corpus/Kodak/DC260/DC260_01
File Size                       : 251 kB
File Modification Date/Time     : 2024:01:06 12:54:20-07:00
File Access Date/Time           : 2024:01:06 13:20:46-07:00
File Inode Change Date/Time     : 2024:01:06 13:04:34-07:00
File Permissions                : -rwxrwxrwx
File Type                       : FPX
File Type Extension             : fpx
MIME Type                       : image/vnd.fpx
Code Page                       : Unicode UTF-16, little endian
Data Object ID                  : 13BC5A58-6B90-1B6B-12C9-0800201177F8
Data Object Status              : Exists, Not Purgeable
Creating Transform              : Source Image
Using Transforms                : 
Cached Image Height             : 1024
Cached Image Width              : 1536
Comp Obj User Type Len          : 16
Comp Obj User Type              : FlashPix_Object
Visible Outputs                 : 1
Maximum Image Index             : 1
Maximum Transform Index         : 0
Maximum Operation Index         : 0
Thumbnail Clip                  : (Binary data 18480 bytes, use -b option to extract)
Revision Number                 : 1
Create Date                     : 2024:01:06 12:53:29
Modify Date                     : 2024:01:06 12:53:29
Software                        : KODAK DIGITAL SCIENCE DC260
Image Width                     : 1536
Image Height                    : 1024
Subimage Width                  : 1536
Subimage Height                 : 1024
Subimage Color                  : RGB
Subimage Numerical Format       : 8-bit, Unsigned
Decimation Method               : None (Full-sized Image)
JPEG Tables                     : (Binary data 558 bytes, use -b option to extract)
Number Of Resolutions           : 1
Max JPEG Table Index            : 1
Scene Type                      : Original Scene
Software Release                : KODAK DIGITAL SCIENCE DC260
Make                            : Eastman Kodak Company
Camera Model Name               : KODAK DIGITAL SCIENCE DC260
Serial Number                   : 7577
Exposure Time                   : 1/180
F Number                        : 4.7
Exposure Program                : Program AE
Exposure Compensation           : 0
Subject Distance                : 0.520 m
Metering Mode                   : Center-weighted average
Light Source                    : Unknown
Focal Length                    : 24.0 mm
Max Aperture Value              : 4.6
Flash                           : No Flash
Exposure Index                  : 90
Sharpness Approximation         : 0
File Source                     : Digital Camera
Sensing Method                  : One-chip color area
Extension Create Date           : 2024:01:06 12:53:29
Extension Modify Date           : 2024:01:06 12:53:29
Creating Application            : Picoss
Extension Name                  : ijuhsimasa
Extension Persistence           : Always Valid
Extension Description           : Data Object Store 000001
Storage-Stream Pathname         : /Data Object Store 000001
Extension Class ID              : 56616000-C154-11CE-8553-00AA00A1F95B
Used Extension Numbers          : 1
Screen Nail                     : (Binary data 4304 bytes, use -b option to extract)
Subimage Tile Count             : 384
Subimage Tile Width             : 64
Subimage Tile Height            : 64
Num Channels                    : 3
Audio Stream                    : (Binary data 30780 bytes, use -b option to extract)
Aperture                        : 4.7
Image Size                      : 1536x1024
Megapixels                      : 1.6
Shutter Speed                   : 1/180
Preview Image                   : (Binary data 4164 bytes, use -b option to extract)
Focal Length                    : 24.0 mm

The file also does identify in PRONOM:

sf P0004795.FPX 
---
siegfried   : 1.11.0
scandate    : 2024-01-17T23:13:59-07:00
signature   : default.sig
created     : 2023-12-17T15:54:41+01:00
identifiers : 
  - name    : 'pronom'
    details : 'DROID_SignatureFile_V116.xml; container-signature-20231127.xml'
---
filename : 'P0004795.FPX'
filesize : 250880
modified : 2024-01-06T12:54:20-07:00
errors   : 
matches  :
  - ns      : 'pronom'
    id      : 'x-fmt/56'
    format  : 'Kodak FlashPix Image'
    version : 
    mime    : 'image/vnd.fpx'
    class   : 'Image (Raster)'
    basis   : 'extension match fpx; container name CompObj with byte match at 53, 36 (signature 2/2)'
    warning : 

If you notice, PRONOM has two signatures for the FlashPix format, this image was identified with signature #2. The first signature looks for the string “FlashPix Object”, but the second looks for the CLSID which is unique to each compound object format. FlashPix has the CLSID: {56616700-c154-11ce-8553-00aa00a1f95b}. Looking at many of the other samples I have there is much variation on the use of the string and CLSID.

FlashPix samples:
FlashPix Object({56616000-C154-11CE-8553-00AA00A1F95B}
FlashPix Object({56616800-C154-11CE-8553-00AA00A1F95B}
Picture It! FlashPix'{56616700-C154-11CE-8553-00AA00A1F95B}
LPI FlashPix'{56616700-c154-11ce-8553-00aa00a1f95b}
FlashPix_Object'{56616700-C154-11CE-8553-00AA00A1F95B}
'{56616700-C154-11CE-8553-00AA00A1F95B}
Picture It!'{56616700-c154-11ce-8553-00aa00a1f95b}
Flashpix Toolkit Application'{56616700-c154-11ce-0000-000000000000}

The images from the Kodak Camera use “FlashPix_Object” string so with the underscore it doesn’t match the first signature, but others I made using Picture It! software used a couple variations. Many don’t use the string at all. Others use a sightly different CLSID in both uppercase and lowercase. We will have to suggest adjustments to the current signature to identify them all.

Looking at the contents of the OLE container we can see some interesting things.

Path = P0004795.FPX
Type = Compound
Physical Size = 250880
Extension = compound
Cluster Size = 512
Sector Size = 64

Size         Compressed     Name
------------ ------------  ------------------------
188          192           [5]Data Object 000001
272          320           [1]CompObj
388          448           [5]Extension List
144          192           [5]Global Info
                           Data Object Store 000001
18704        18944         [5]SummaryInformation
816          832           Data Object Store 000001/[5]Image Contents
272          320           Data Object Store 000001/[1]CompObj
988          1024          Data Object Store 000001/[5]Extension List
1624         1664          Data Object Store 000001/[5]Image Info
4332         4608          Data Object Store 000001/[5]Screen Nail_bd0100609719a180
                           Data Object Store 000001/Resolution 0005
                           Data Object Store 000001/Audio_bd0100609719a180
1112         1152          Data Object Store 000001/[5]KDC_bd0100609719a180
72           128           Data Object Store 000001/[5]SummaryInformation
108          128           Data Object Store 000001/Audio_bd0100609719a180/[5]Audio Info
30808        31232         Data Object Store 000001/Audio_bd0100609719a180/Audio Stream 000000
6208         6656          Data Object Store 000001/Resolution 0005/Subimage 0000 Header
176378       176640        Data Object Store 000001/Resolution 0005/Subimage 0000 Data
------------ ------------  ------------------------
242414       244480        16 files, 3 folders

The main CompObj is where we find the identification information, but the Data Object Store 000001 directory is where all the image data is stored. In a multiple resolution image we might see additional Resolution directories. You may also notice a mention of an Audio directory. Yes, this image was captured and then audio was recorded with it. Not a video, but an audio clip associated with the image. FlashPix can contain audio streams. This isn’t the first time we have seen this, HP camera’s also have this function which as it turns out is stored in a FlashPix exif extension within a JPEG.

The FlashPix native format may have disappeared, but the format lives on as an extension to Exif data, allowing you to embed audio and other media within a JPEG file. The code for FlashPix was given to ImageMagick and is maintained by them.

RCA-VOC

I wonder sometimes what goes through a software/hardware developers mind when deciding a format to use for a new device. There are so many options our there for audio formats to choose from. I am sure there are pros and cons to using one technology over another but it seems a few decide to go ahead and make their own. I am sure there is some commercial advantage to developing a proprietary audio format, but with all the established choices it seems unnecessary.

Sony developed their own audio compression formats, which I explored in an earlier blog post. I came across a small goofy looking RCA voice recorder, model VR6320.

Many of these RCA VR series recorders can record in a WAV or a VOC file format. The WAV files are pretty run of the mill, but the VOC format is unique to RCA recorders.

The VOC format is not to be confused with another audio format with the same extension. The Creative Voice Format is a bit more well known. It was used with the Creative’s sound cards (Sound Blaster family) many folks had in their Windows computers in the 1990’s. But the RCA file format is different, and because of the same extension needs its own identification so they are not confused with each other.

sf REC00001.VOC 
---
siegfried   : 1.10.1
scandate    : 2023-11-19T23:33:47-07:00
signature   : default.sig
created     : 2023-05-12T09:10:13Z
identifiers : 
  - name    : 'pronom'
    details : 'DROID_SignatureFile_V112.xml; container-signature-20230510.xml'
---
filename : 'REC00001.VOC'
filesize : 47231
modified : 2015-01-09T20:51:10-07:00
errors   : 
matches  :
  - ns      : 'pronom'
    id      : 'UNKNOWN'
    format  : 
    version : 
    mime    : 
    class   : 
    basis   : 
    warning : 'no match; possibilities based on extension are fmt/1736'

The RCA VOC file format seems to be undocumented, there isn’t much available. You can always download a copy of the RCA Digital Voice Manager software, which may or may not run on your current system, and convert the VOC files to WAV or you can use a piece of software coded in 2008 called “devoc“. The developer used to have an online website you could upload the VOC to and it would convert it automatically, but is not longer available. The code can also be found here.

Let’s take a look at the header of a couple of the files I have:

hexdump -C REC00001.VOC | head
00000000  56 43 50 31 36 32 5f 56  4f 43 5f 46 69 6c 65 0c  |VCP162_VOC_File.|
00000010  0f 01 09 14 32 1c 00 00  0b 44 03 00 00 00 00 00  |....2....D......|
00000020  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
000001b0  00 10 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 10 00 00 00 00  |................|
000001c0  00 00 00 00 00 10 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 10  |................|
000001d0  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 ff  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
000001e0  ef 11 14 d3 96 77 57 44  34 33 34 44 43 33 44 43  |.....wWD434DC3DC|
000001f0  43 34 44 34 43 43 34 44  43 43 33 35 43 33 43 34  |C4D4CC4DCC35C3C4|
00000200  34 43 43 24 34 43 43 33  44 51 33 42 14 44 32 43  |4CC$4CC3DQ3B.D2C|

hexdump -C A0000003.VOC | head
00000000  52 50 35 31 32 30 5f 56  4f 43 5f 46 69 6c 65 78  |RP5120_VOC_Filex|
00000010  08 06 16 0a 0f 20 00 04  17 01 03 00 00 00 00 00  |..... ..........|
00000020  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
00000180  00 03 b9 2f 00 07 62 af  00 0b 0c 2f 00 0e b5 af  |.../..b..../....|
00000190  00 12 5f 2f 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |.._/............|
000001a0  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
00000fa0  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 e1  |................|
00000fb0  ea eb ea fe df ae 4e a1  1d cd 1c cf 9f de cf 3b  |......N........;|

Most of samples I have show “VCP162_VOC_File” in the header, but I have one sample with “RP5120_VOC_File“. I have heard of others, one being “V432_Voice_File“. There could be more variations. One could assume the header is somehow associated with the model number of the device, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Although there is a device with the model number “RP 5120“. It might be that the older RP series get one header and the newer VR Series get VCP? I will need more samples to confirm, if you have any send them my way. Also, according to the manuals, there is a SP and LP mode to manage the bitrate of the file to squeeze more minutes on the built in memory of these devices. This doesn’t appear to affect identification, but might be good to differentiate in the future.

For now you can take a look at the signature on my GitHub page.

HighMAT

Before the days of streaming and devices likeSmart TVs, AppleTV and Fire sticks, a few companies tried their best to come up with ways to make viewing your media on your TV mainstream. In a previous blog post I touched on the Kodak PhotoCD method, but there is one you are probably even less familiar with. HighMAT. HighMAT, or High-Performance Media Access Technology was a technology co-developed by Microsoft and Panasonic. You may have at one point owned a DVD player which had the technology built-in, but may have never used it. It came on the scene around 2002, but was abandoned by 2008.

Panasonic DVD/CD Player with HighMAT playback.

There were quite a few devices stamped with the HighMAT logo. The technology allow you to playback any Audio and Images like a DVD, with a menu and everything.

There was three different types of HighMAT compatible devices, Audio, Audio-Image, and Audio-Image-Video.

Writing data to the HighMAT format could be done with a plugin for Windows which added the functionality to Windows Media Player for burning audio playlists to the HighMAT format or through the standard CD Writing Wizard built-in to Windows XP. An extra screen would come up asking if you would like to make the CD HighMAT compatible. Making video compatible HighMAT CDs could be done through Movie Maker.

When a HighMAT CD-R/CD-RW is authored we get an interesting CD. It appears to be a Mode 2 Form 1 format:

/dev/disk10 (internal, physical):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:        CD_partition_scheme                        *846.4 MB   disk10
   1:       CD_ROM_Mode_2_Form_1 Highmat02               2.7 MB     disk10s0

If you would like to check out a sample disc, you can grab the ISO or BIN/CUE here.

tree /Volumes/Highmat02
/Volumes/Highmat02
├── Audio\ Samples
│   ├── 17\ [no\ artist]\ -\ Speaker\ Identification\ Test.wma
│   └── sine.wma
├── HIGHMAT
│   ├── AUTHOR.XML
│   ├── CONTENTS.HMT
│   ├── IMAGES
│   │   ├── T0.HMT
│   │   ├── T1.HMT
│   │   ├── T10.HMT
│   │   ├── T11.HMT
│   │   ├── T12.HMT
│   │   ├── T13.HMT
│   │   ├── T2.HMT
│   │   ├── T3.HMT
│   │   ├── T4.HMT
│   │   ├── T5.HMT
│   │   ├── T6.HMT
│   │   ├── T7.HMT
│   │   ├── T8.HMT
│   │   └── T9.HMT
│   ├── MENU.HMT
│   ├── PLAYLIST
│   │   ├── 00000001.HMT
│   │   ├── 00000002.HMT
│   │   ├── 00000003.HMT
│   │   ├── 00000004.HMT
│   │   ├── 00000005.HMT
│   │   ├── 00000006.HMT
│   │   └── 00000007.HMT
│   └── TEXT.HMT
└── My\ Pics
    ├── Blue\ hills.jpg
    ├── Sunset.jpg
    ├── Water\ lilies.jpg
    └── Winter.jpg

5 directories, 31 files

There is a lot going on here, lets take a look at a few of the formats we find in this disc structure. The files added to the CD are converted to WMA if you checked the “Convert Files” feature and are accessible like a normal data CD. The HighMAT folder is created to make a compatible HighMAT disc. Except for one XML file the rest of the files in the HighMAT folder all have an HMT extension. The author.xml file contains the root element <HMT> with some filenames indicating some of the HMT files may be thumbnails. If we open one of the HMT thumbnail files in a hex editor we can see:

Just a plain old JPG header. Exiftool tells us it is small 160×120 pixel image, must be a thumbnail. But lets take a look at another HMT file.

Even though the Menu.hmt file has the same extension as the thumbnails, this file is definitely not a JPG file with pixel data. Same goes for the Contents and Text files as well, unique formats.

The files in the playlist folder also have a unique format.

So it seems all the HighMAT folder really does is add compatibility for hardware to provide a menu to access the original data, providing playlists and thumbnails to navigate the data on your TV screen.

I came across one of these discs while processing a collection of CD-R discs donated to our library. Normally I would copy the images and other data off the disc to our preservation system, but this disc made me stop to think about the best way to preserve the data. Is a disc image appropriate or is the HighMAT folder even worth preserving if we have the original files from the disc? Finding hardware or a software player to present the disc as intended is getting harder to do. I am curious what others think of the value of this content.

I chose not to submit any signatures to PRONOM for the moment as we assess. It would be difficult to properly identify each format with all of them having the same extension, especially the JPG thumbnails as HMT is not a valid extension for the format. Take a look at my sample files and if you have come across this format before, let me know.

Shockwave Audio

Ok, confession time.

There is only a couple moments in my tech history which had a profound effect on me, enough to sear the memory of the moment into my brain. When I was in college around 1997 I had a decent CD collection and I had learned how to copy those AIFF files off the disc and use them on my trusty PowerCenter Pro. These files were huge, at the time. I knew a regular size song would take up around 50MB on my hard drive. This was a lot of space back in 1997, but I could then mix them with other songs, something I did sometimes for friends I had on the dance team. I didn’t have a CD burner at the time so I would transfer them to cassette tape. I know, but remember this was the 1990’s when everything was changing and expensive.

One night I was exploring the world wide web and I happened across someone sharing a few songs. I assumed they were just clips as they were only 5MB in size, a tenth the size they should be. I downloaded the song, which of course still took a few minutes back in those days. When I played the song, I was dumbfounded, it was the whole song. I was completely confused. How could they take a 4+ minute song and compress it down to under 5MB? This was amazing.

I started grabbing every song I could find. Before long I had quite the collection. And before you judge me for downloading music from the web, this was a couple years before the advertisement we all remember reminding us that we wouldn’t steal a car so why would we steal music.

The files I found on the internet were MP3 files, the same we are familiar with today. Back then creating MP3 files wasn’t easy. MP3 was actually a licensed product so you had to get a little creative in order to make them. On my Macintosh PowerCenter Pro, there were even fewer options. I was already familiar with the sound editing application from Macromedia called SoundEdit 16, it was the tool I used to do all my editing. I found there was a plugin you could add which allowed export to a format called Shockwave Audio. This was meant for use in Macromedia’s Director application to add sound to the growing Flash animation industry. Once I got the plugin and installed I couldn’t stop making files and I made them as fast as I could. For a whole album this could take over an hour on my hardware, but it was worth it. Before long I had a large collection of popular music ready to play at a moments notice. My player of choice was MacAMP, a sibling of the popular WinAMP. I even borrowed some equipment from a friend who DJ’d on the weekends and DJ’d a college dance. I lugged my whole PowerCenter Pro tower and 17in trinitron monitor over to the school. It was so much fun and folks didn’t understand when they asked to see my CD collection.

Enough about transgressions from my youth, lets talk about the Shockwave Audio format.

To create a SWA file you would first need SoundEdit 16 Version 2. Then the plugins to enable export. This would only run on PowerPC computers running Macintosh OS or Classic in Mac OS X. For this post I pulled out my trusty PowerBook G4 Titanium running MacOS 9 and MacOS X 10.2. Installed SoundEdit 16 and the plugins in the Xtras folder and we are good to go.

Before you export you need to set what bitrate you prefer for the final file, giving you the option of 8KBits up to 160KBits per second. The higher the bitrate the longer it took and made larger files.

SoundEdit 16 had a native audio format and also frequently used the SoundDesigner II format to save the uncompressed files. On a Macintosh you had to be careful as these formats did not travel well to other systems on account of the resource forks associated with the data.

Because these SWA files were meant to be used in websites and other non-Mac systems, they did not have a resource fork, but had the Creator/Type codes, SwaT/SHCK. An extension wasn’t necessary for use on your Macintosh, but it was best to use .swa.

Here is what the data looks like for a SWA file.

Even though the SWA format uses MPEG compression, this is not a typical header you might see in a MP3. There was no ID3 tags at the time so not much in terms of metadata.

General
Complete name                            : tone2.swa
Format                                   : MPEG Audio
File size                                : 80.7 KiB
Duration                                 : 5 s 166 ms
Overall bit rate mode                    : Constant
Overall bit rate                         : 128 kb/s
FileExtension_Invalid                    : m1a mpa mpa1 mp1 m2a mpa2 mp2 mp3

Audio
Format                                   : MPEG Audio
Format version                           : Version 1
Format profile                           : Layer 3
Format settings                          : Joint stereo / MS Stereo
Duration                                 : 5 s 172 ms
Bit rate mode                            : Constant
Bit rate                                 : 128 kb/s
Channel(s)                               : 2 channels
Sampling rate                            : 44.1 kHz
Frame rate                               : 38.281 FPS (1152 SPF)
Compression mode                         : Lossy
Stream size                              : 80.7 KiB (100%)
ffprobe -i tone2.swa 
[mp3 @ 0x155704a60] Format mp3 detected only with low score of 25, misdetection possible!
[mp3 @ 0x155704a60] Skipping 324 bytes of junk at 0.
[mp3 @ 0x155704a60] Estimating duration from bitrate, this may be inaccurate
Input #0, mp3, from 'tone2.swa':
Duration: 00:00:05.15, start: 0.000000, bitrate: 128 kb/s
Stream #0:0: Audio: mp3, 44100 Hz, stereo, fltp, 128 kb/s

There are a few consistencies among all my files. They all begin with the hex values “00000140000000030000” for the first 10 bytes and all of them seem to have the string “MACRZ” at offset 36. I haven’t been able to find a open specification for this file format, so we will have to go with what we can find in the samples. According to ffprobe from above, there is 324 bytes of a header before the first MP3 frame starts.

MPEG signatures are difficult, there are no headers, just a sequence of frames. This is why there are often so many identification conflicts with the MP3 format. These SWA files indeed identify as MP3 files, but with a mismatch extension.

filename : 'tone2.swa'
filesize : 82661
modified : 1970-01-01T00:00:00-07:00
errors   : 
matches  :
  - ns      : 'pronom'
    id      : 'fmt/134'
    format  : 'MPEG 1/2 Audio Layer 3'
    version : 
    mime    : 'audio/mpeg'
    class   : 'Audio'
    basis   : 'byte match at 0, 4088 (signature 5/9)'
    warning : 'extension mismatch'

If we wanted to distinguish an SWA from an MP3 we would need to create a new signature and give it priority over the MP3 signature. There is enough of a header this would be possible and easier, but since they are, in reality, just MP3 files does it matter? Trying to play a SWA on a modern computer is only possible if you change the extension to MP3.

If you want to take a look at some samples you can grab a couple I made on my GitHub page or check out some commercially made files for an awesome Star Trek Starship Creator game.

Sony Voice Recorder

Sony’s IC Recorders have been a popular small digital voice recorder for many consumers. The current models all use common recording formats like Linear PCM WAVE files or MP3, but it wasn’t always so. One of the first models ICD-R100 would record to the ICS audio format, which was Sony’s original sound formats used on the IC Recorders. I am still looking for samples of this format. If you do have a need to convert this format, Sony has free converter software.

The next generation of IC Recorders used a Memory Stick and therefore recorded audio to the MSV (Memory Stick Voice) format. There were actually two different types of MSV files, the first used the ADPCM codec and the next used the LPEC codec. Later IC Recorders would record to the DVF (Digital Voice Format) which also had a couple versions, one using the LPEC codec and the other the older TRC codec.

AFAIK, none of the codecs used in these file formats has been made public and these formats are not readable by tools such as MediaInfo. The only way to know details of a file and have the ability to play or convert is to use Sony software which has been discontinued and the replacement, Sound Organizer, can only recognize the LPEC codec versions of MSV and DVF. There is also a plugin for Windows Media Player available here, which is required even for Switch to work.

PRONOM currently has one signature for the LPEC versions of MSV and DVF, so lets look closer at the formats and see if we can determine what they are from the header.

The CODECs

ADPCM is an abbreviation for “Adaptive differential pulse-code modulation“. Appears to only have been used with the ICD-MS1 and possibly MS2 digital recorders.

TRC may be an abbreviation of Truespeech’s “Triple Rate CODER” or “Triple Rate Codec“, but not much info exists.

LPEC is a proprietary compression format. It is an abbreviation of “Long-term Predicated Excitation Coding“. It even had its own trademarked logo which was cancelled in 2015.

The Software

The first IC Recorders came with PCLINK software, then came with the “MemoryStick Voice Editor” software. List of compatible formats.

Digital Voice Editor came next. It could read and convert everything except “ICS” files. Click here to download the last version. Version 1 compatible formats. Version 2 compatible formats. Version 3 Compatible Formats. The software was officially retired in 2016.

The current software for managing audio files from IC Recorder is Sound Organizer. The software does open and convert some MSV/DVF files as long as they use the LPEC codec. Sound Organizer Compatible formats.

Also note, Sony made one ICD-CX series recorder which could also capture photos. It requires the Visual & Voice Player software. Audio is recorded in the DVF format.

Test Data Set

In order to explore the different formats I first needed to gather some samples. There are a few out there, but with the Digital Voice Editor 3 software, I was able to take a sample file and convert it to the many options available. You can see in the screenshot below, the different samples, their extension and the codec used. You can find my samples in GitHub here.

All MSV and DVF file have a similar pattern. The first 32 bytes have the text string “MS_VOICE SONY CORPORATION”. In between MS_VOICE and SONY, there is 4 bytes which vary slightly between the different formats. Here is a table of samples and the 4 bytes so we can see the differences.

ModelCODECEXTENSIONHex Values
ICD-Px0TRCDVF01020000
ICD-Px8TRCDVF01020000
ICD-Px7TRCDVF01020000
ICD-SXxx0LPECMSV01030000
ICD-SXx8LPECMSV01030000
ICD-SXx7LPECMSV01030000
ICD-SXx6LPECDVF01020000
ICD-SXx5LPECDVF01020000
ICD-SXx0LPECDVF01020000
ICD-MXLPECMSV01020000
ICD-BMLPECMSV01020000
ICD-STLPECDVF01020000
ICD-MS5xxLPECMSV01010000
ICD-SLPECMSV01010000
ICD-BPx50LPECDVF01010000
ICD-BP100/x20LPECDVF01010000
ICD-MS1/MS2ADPCMMSV01000000
ICD-R100/R200UnknownICS

There is an obvious pattern to the hex values as they increment 0100, 0101, 0102, and 0103. But there is some overlap between extension and codec, so probably more of a version number than specific to the codec. Currently the PRONOM signature for this format fmt/472, has the pattern for the 0102 version, but none of the others. We could simply add a variable in the signature for the different values and update the PRONOM signature so more samples would be identified. This would work well if there was a secondary characterization process to get technical metadata such as the codec and quality, but I am unaware of any tool to gather this information from the format, so I wonder if we can find any hints in the file to identify the codec so we have multiple PRONOM signatures to choose from. Also, you can see from the screenshot above that some of the LPEC formats have specific model numbers in the codec column, which could mean they may not be exactly the same. Each IC Recorder model has different quality settings and it appears, some settings may not be compatible with other models.

Looking beyond the first 16 bytes there is a lot of hex values which are unknown. A close comparison of all the samples leads me to the 4 bytes at offset 60. They seem to be the same for files with the same settings. Below is a chart of those values.

ExtensionCODECQualityOffset 60
DVFTRCHQ00300001
DVFTRCSP00350001
DVFTRCLP00370001
DVFLPEC (ICD-BP-100/x20)SP00150001
DVFLPEC (ICD-BP-100/x20)LP00190001
DVFLPECSP002A0001
DVFLPECLP002C0001
MSVLPEC (ICD-BM/MX/SXx7/SXx8/SXxx0)SP004A0001
MSVLPEC (ICD-BM/MX/SXx7/SXx8/SXxx0)LP004C0001
MSV/DVFLPEC (ICD-SXx7/SXx8/SXxx0)STHQ00200002
MSV/DVFLPEC (ICD-SXx7/SXx8/SXxx0)ST00240002
MSVADPCMSP00050001
MSVADPCMLP00090001

Just to be sure this value at offset 60 was indeed an indication of codec and quality I manually switch out the 4 bytes from a LPEC ST file for a TRC HQ file. Sure enough, the software now saw the file as a TRC HQ audio file, even though the original is a Stereo file.

There is a very good chance this is not all the options. I only have one physical recorder which only records in Mono. But this gives us a really good idea of how to tell the difference between files. Below are the patterns I am submitting to PRONOM.

MSV ADPCM

4D535F564F494345{4}01000000534F4E5920434F52504F524154494F4E{28}00(05|09)0001

DVF TRC

4D535F564F494345{4}01020000534F4E5920434F52504F524154494F4E{28}00(30|35|37)0001

MSV/DVF LPEC

4D535F564F494345{4}01(01|02|03)0000534F4E5920434F52504F524154494F4E{28}00(15|19|20|24|2A|2C|4A|4C)00(01|02)

Perhaps we can alter the existing PRONOM signature for fmt/472 to catch all we may miss to:

4D535F564F494345{8}534F4E5920434F52504F524154494F4E6D73766C637374772E73706900000000

This is one example of a file format which has a proprietary component which was never released from the vendor. When the vendor stopped supporting the software to open and read these formats, the risk increased for long-term preservation. It would be really nice when a vendor discontinues a technology, which was used by consumers, they would make the documentation for the format openly available. If you know more about the format, please reach out or if you have samples which don’t match the patterns mentioned here.