Due to the requests of several people, the lack of documentation in this area, and a hope to spring the SNES emulation "scene" forward, I am going to try to describe the BRR encoding scheme in this doc. Everything here, I either read in publicly available documentation, or discovered myself through trial and error. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of this doc, and I will not be responsible for errors, either typographical or otherwise. However, if you are satisfied with the output of SNESSOR, the SNES SOund Ripper, then this doc should work for you.


BRR, or Bit Rate Reduction, is the sound encoding scheme used by the SPC700, the sound chip in the SNES. It has a compression ratio of 32:9, meaning that for every 32 bytes of 16-bit PCM there are 9 bytes of BRR. These 9 bytes consist of 1 header byte, and 16 nibble of data, as follows:

|       | byte
|Header |  1
|       |
|data 1 | byte
| - - - |  2
|data 2 |
|data 3 | byte 
| - - - |  3
|data 4 |
/       /
/       /
|data 15| byte
| - - - |  9
|data 16|

The header byte is decoded as follows:

||||||||____END  bit - determines the end of a sample
|||||||_____LOOP bit - determines whether a sample will loop
|||||_______>FILTER bits - determines which filter to apply (described later)
||__________ >RANGE bits - see below

The END bit is clear for every 9-byte block until the last block of a sample. When you encounter this bit, you should finish reading the following 8 bytes, then stop.

The LOOP bit is only effective in the last header block of a sample, the one where you set the END bit. Setting it causes the DSP to continue playing from a specified loop address. See FullSNES for super awesome information. If you're trying to create music on SPC700, read on: The "loop address" is specified by you as part of the Sample's "Source" Entry. Here is a quick primer:

In the SPC RAM, a "Source Directory" location is specified by writing to the "DIR" DSP register. Be sure to learn how to write to the SPC's DSP registers, it's an indirect kind of operation. Hint: 0xf2,0xf3. Anyways, the "Source Directory" location describes each Sample's start-address and loop address. The Directory must be built by you. It is a simple table composed of 4-byte entries. The first word is the Sample-Start Address, and the 2nd word is the Sample Loop-Address. Point them to BRR-header blocks. The loop-point address is typically a sub-address of your sample, and I personally recommend you set it to a valid BRR sample location, even if unused. Try creating a dummy sample block of silence. I recommend this because FullSNES states that even non-looped samples jump to the loop address after initiating release envelope, and that makes me wonder if that is audible.. I will investigate into this personally and update this wiki. You might be able to be creative and use other sample addresses for the loop-point address.

If you are designing a looped sample, take care to ensure the looped section starts and ends on a multiple of 16 samples. This is because the smallest unit of BRR is 16 samples. Non-aligned loops will always carry more information than they should - that could wind up being extra silence or sound.

The FILTER bits are described below.

The RANGE bits tell how to read each nibble of data. Basically, you take the nibble, and you shift it left RANGE times. The nibble is signed, and this must be taken into account. Note that a RANGE greater than 12 would shift the nibble past a 16-bit value, so RANGE values from 12 to 15 are invalid, and it is on this that the SNESSOR sample search is based, among other things.

If that wasn't especially clear, I'm sorry. Let's try some example code to help:

int range, end=0, loop, filter, counter, temp; // Size of these doesn't matter
short input, output[MAXSAMPLEN];               // These must be 16-bit
int now = 0;                                   // Pointer to where we are in output[];

while(end == 0){
    range = GetNextByte();     // Let's just put the header here for now
    end = range&1;         // END bit is bit 0
    loop = range&2;        // LOOP bit is bit 1
    filter = (range >> 2) & 3; // FILTER is bits 2 and 3
    range >>= 4;               // RANGE is the upper 4 bits

    for(counter = 0; counter < 8; counter++){ // Get the next 8 bytes
        temp = GetNextByte();                 // Wherever you want to get this from
        input = temp>>4;                      // Get the first nibble of the byte
        input &= 0xF;
        if(input >= 8){                        // The nibble is negative, so make the 
            input |= 0xFFF0;                  // 16-bit value negative
        output[now] = input << range;         // Apply the RANGE value

        // Filter processing goes here (explained later)

        now++;                                // Advance our output pointer

        // Now do the same thing for the other nibble

        input = temp & 0xF;                   // Get the second nibble of the byte
        if(input >= 8){                        // The nibble is negative, so make the 
            input |= 0xFFF0;                  // 16-bit value negative
        output[now] = input << range;         // Apply the RANGE value

        // Filter processing goes here (explained later)

        now++;                                // Advance our output pointer
    // We're done with all 8 bytes, and if the END bit was present, we're done with the whole sample.

Note that this does NOT deal with the filter bits, so lets discuss that now:


There are 3 BRR filters. A filter value of zero means apply no filter.

  1. Filter 1: This filter is relatively simple. All you have to do, is take the 16-bit sample that was last output, multiply it by the fraction 15/16, and add the value you got by decoding the nibble as usual. In all 3 filters, this decoded value will serve as an "error" between the calculated value and the actual one.
  2. Filter 2: This filter and the next are a little more complicated. To calculate the value, multiply the last sample output by the fraction 61/32. Then, subtract from it the value when the sample before that is multiplied by the fraction 15/16. Then, add the value decoded from the nibble as always.
  3. Filter 3: This filter is identical to the last one, except the fractions are different. The fraction for the previous sample is 115/64, and for the sample before that, 13/16.

Now, I KNOW that explanation is going to need some example code. Assuming that output[now] already contains the value decoded by shifting the nibble by the range(see example code above), processing the filters is as follows:

    output[now] += (short)((double)output[now-1] * 15/16);
else if(filter==2){
    output[now]+=(short)(((double)output[now-1] * 61/32) - ((double)output[now-2] * 15/16));
else if(filter==3){
    output[now]+=(short)(((double)output[now-1] * 115/64) - ((double)output[now-2] * 13/16));


I think that should about do it... If you didn't catch all that, I'm sorry, this is my first doc. If someone thinks they can describe it better, please do.


  • Everyone that ever wrote an SPC doc, especially:
  • Gau of the Veldt for his SPC doc,
  • Ledi for his APU manual (TODO.TXT),
  • Uxorious, who didn't write a doc that I know of, but did write the Cool 95 plugin that can read BRR, from which I learned how to do the filters, and who I still wonder how he learned them,
  • Demo of ZSNES for helping to make a great emulator, and for his support.

And anyone else that feels they should be thanked!

The Bit Rate Reduction sound encoding scheme, as interpreted by Butcha

Notes by Bazz on the loop stuff.