Article History
100% YQN
I am new to ST YM trackers


  1. Why a ST tracker?
  2. DMA or no DMA?
  3. Emulators
  4. Trackers
  5. Emulator setup
  6. ST setup
  7. Run a tracker
  8. See also

Why a ST tracker?

It can be cumbersome to use tools within an emulator, but the ST trackers offer possibilities that other trackers lack, sometimes referred to as "Timer effects", because they use the Atari ST timers to update the YM registers.

- "SID" sound: effects somewhat reminiscent of some SID (soundchip) sounds, or PWM.

- Digidrums: short sample replay by the YM (which means a crunchy 4-bits resolution). Replay frequency cannot be controlled by entering notes in the tracker. Only maxYMiser allows to change the replay frequencies for each row (using tracker commands, fine tuning being unavailable). Not to be confused with DMA, which allows to play melodies with samples together with a higher resolution.

- Syncbuzzer: retriggering the buzzer at audible rates, making it more in tune, and allowing new timbres and control over the buzzer volume! This is probably the trickiest and most powerful effect.

- FM: Most recent effect, appeared in 2020. Frequency modulation at audio rates, very much unlike traditional FM though.

Another benefit of emulated ST's is the better azerty keyboard support.

DMA or no DMA?

Besides timer effects, the most recent ST's (TOS 1.06 or higher) had also DMA: 8-bit sound with sampling frequency up to 50hz.

maxYMiser allows the use of 2 DMA channels alongside the 3 YM channels, but AYM entries using DMA are generally considered illegal.

It is also possible to use .mod trackers on ST, using the DMA without the YM, and there is even a version of Protracker for the STF (TOS 1.00 to 1.04) that allows the creation and replay of .mod's with a 4-bits resolution!


If you own a hardware ST you still might want to use an emulator, and use the hardware for rendering purposes.

Steem Engine (Windows, Linux)
Download version 3.2, from this link
. Newer versions are not yet stable enough for music production. You will need to download the ST operating system as well (named TOS) from the same page. You don't want to download a UK or US TOS if you have an azerty keyboard. French TOS can de downloaded from this page

Hatari (Linux, macOS)
Hatari website

is a video of gw3m (maxYMiser's creator) installing Hatari on an Apple Mac. Complete process from download to setup and running maxYMiser.


There are many native trackers but to this day most are obsolete and/or don't save to allowed file formats for aym (format). Just download:

(more powerful and still being updated, MIDI in, out).
and MusicMon 2.5e
(faster to use wihtout reading the manual, more intuitive interface).
*NEW* as of July 4th, 2020: TTrak (beta)
. Interface based on Protracker.

Unzip them in the previously created hard drive directory, in separate folders because you like to keep your shit tidy.

Emulator setup

This section details how to setup correctly Steem. In Hatari you would have to do the same but the menus and icons are indeed different...

The emulator will now need to be set up before it can run. When running Steem for the first time you will be prompted for:
- The TOS ROM you want to use (you've downloaded it already)
- The folder for your floppy disk images. You can skip that and click cancel if you only want to make music. Otherwise pick the directory where you store your disk images.
- The folder to map to the C hard drive of the ST. Click yes and select the directory where you've unzipped the trackers.
- The folder to map to the D hard drive. Just skip.

Before starting emulation you might want to adjust the resolution, since the emulated ST will by default have a 320x200 resolution. To do so in Steem, click the wrench icon, then click Display from the menu on the left. Then for both low and medium resolutions, choose Double Size (or more, try - I like Double No stretch).

Click the yellow play icon to start emulation. The pause key on your keyboard toggles emulation start/stop.

ST setup

If everything went well, you should see the green ST desktop with 4 icons: Drives A, B, C and the thrash.

If drive C is lacking, do the following, from within the emulated ST:
- Select a drive icon so that is appears inverted (black)
- Go to the menu Options > Install Icon. depending on your TOS version it can be Options > Install Disk Drive.
- In the new window put a capital C as drive ID. Lower case will not work, as it would map to the cartridge port. Give a fancy name to your drive if you want, pick a cool icon if you're using a modern TOS and click Install.

Now you see the C icon on the desktop, and by double-clicking it you can access its content. If it says that the drive is not accessible, pause emulation and check in Steem's Drive Manager (top right icon > HARD DRIVES) that you do have a directory mapped to the ST C drive, and that the Disable hard drives box is not ticked.

You don't want to do that every time you want to rock the YM, so go to the menu Options again then Save Desktop.

Optional: I find medium resolution more comfortable for the file selector when using maxYMiser, so I would recommend to now go to the menu Options > Preferences, and Medium. MusicMon uses its own file selector so it makes no difference for this tracker. Save Desktop again!

Run a tracker

Ok so now you're able from within the ST to open the C drive and browse its content.

If you want to get started quickly, go to the MusicMon directory (presumably MM25E.FIN) and launch MM_25.PRG. The tracker has a nice graphical interface, with a separate screen for sound design where you can try things out easily and get cool sounds in no time. Proceed to the MusicMon page for basic info.

Another easy-to-handle tracker, with tool tips: Ttrak. Oly suggested in second place because it's a beat the author of this section hasn't tried it hard enough to check for stability.

If you're aiming at YM expertise you might want to switch to the maxYMiser page and follow the in-depth video tutorials. That route is more time-consuming but also very interesting :)

See also

- I Am New to AYM
- aym (format)
- .snd (file)
- Tracker
- Atari ST (console)

Helper Tools