New synthesisers from across the Atlantic
"There's a new generation of polyphonic digital synthesisers," commented one keyboardist after visiting the National Association of Music Merchants Winter Market show last January in Anaheim, Calif. "The last generation of synthesisers were priced around $4,000. The new generation is all priced under $2,000."
New synthesisers were introduced by Sequential Circuits, Korg, Juno, Syntauri, Rhodes, Yamaha and, in the higher price range, Oberheim. Most of the new keyboards are six-voice polyphonic synthesisers with two oscillators per voice and memories that range from 56 to 100 programs.
Sequential Circuits has added the Prophet-600 to its Prophet line. This six-voice synthesiser with two oscillators per voice, which carries a suggested list price of $1,995, can be interfaced with any other MIDI-equipped instrument. When connected with another Prophet-600, either keyboard can control both synthesisers, allowing four oscillators per voice and two different programs sounding simultaneously.
The Prophet-600 also features 100 programs which can be modified or replaced; a real-time, non-volatile polyphonic sequencer; dual-mode arpeggiator that is up/down or assignable; chord tracking; cassette and computer interface; and a new filter circuit for more full tone colours. Its computer interface capabilities means a home computer can be used for program storage, patch print-out, music notation, sequencing and multi-keyboard orchestration.
Also new from Sequential Circuits is the Prophet-T8, a touch sensitive (velocity as well as pressure), fully programmable with 128 programs, eight-voice, 16-oscillator polyphonic synthesiser with a suggested list price of $5,100. Each of the 76 keys' pressure sensitivity is independent and is activated by applying force to the key after it has been depressed. Velocity sensitivity is fully adjustable and has been incorporated into the ADSR envelope.
The eight voices of the Prophet-T8 are assigned according to the four keyboard modes - single mode sounds eight voices over all six octaves; double mode blends two different programs into each of four voices; split mode divides the keyboard and allocates four voices to each side of the programmable split point with a different program for each set of four voices; and unison/track mode combines up to eight voices on one note.
The Prophet-T8 also features a built-in real-time sequencer with a memory capacity of more than 600 notes. It will record up to eight separate sequences which can then be played back in single-play mode or loop mode.
Korg's new low cost Poly-61 is a six-voice programmable polyphonic synthesiser that features two digitally controlled oscillators per voice and a 64-program memory. Its digital access control, with a large LED display, provides complete and precise control overall program modes, parametersand edit functions. An eight-second cassette tape interface provides unlimited program access and storage.
Other features on the Poly-61 include an arpeggiator with latch mode, four way joystick with separate LFO, release and program advance footswitch jacks, full five octave keyboard and poly, chord memory/unison and hold modes.
Yamaha displayed its most recent synthesiser, the CE25, which features 20 polyphonic voices, a 49-note velocity and pressure sensitive keyboard, a tone generator system that synthesises a random harmonic structure of the type that occurs on acoustic instruments and an overall vibrato effect that can be applied to all voices independently of the after touch response function. There also is a symphonic effect with depth and brilliance controls.
The CE25 connects to any music instrument amplifier, keyboard mixer or sound reinforcement system via a standard ¼-inch phone jack. Jacks also are provided for a sustain pedal, an expression pedal and stereo headphones.
Roland and Rhodes were featuring at the NAMM show their most recent polyphonic synthesisers, the Juno-60 and the Chroma, respectively.
In addition, Syntauri, which offers a line of digital computer-based synthesisers, introduced to the NAMM show its Composer's Assistant, a software product that provides automated polyphonic transcription and hard copy score printing.
The Composer's Assistant can adjust for performance timing variances such as leading the beat and can ignore accidental notes produced by finger slips during difficult passages. The Composer's Assistant, which works with popular printers that interface with computers, carries a suggested retail price of $295.
From Oberheim comes a new synthesiser, the OB-8, which is similar to the OB-Xa, but with a suggested retail price of $4,395, less expensive than the OB-Xa. The new features include four waveforms on each oscillator, independent pulse width adjustment, programmable volume, intelligent arpeggiator, external pan pots, programmable detune between voices or sets of voices, programmable pitch bend, quantized portamento and volume pedal input. The OB-8's extended modulation capabilities which feature three LFOs with six waveforms each mean that LFOs are triggerable from the keyboard, can have envelope modulation, can track the keyboard, can be quantised and can be set out of phase.
Six effects for keyboard, guitar or bass are featured in a new, single, flexible rack mount from MXR. The new MXR Omni features sustain, distortion, equaliser, delay, flanger/chorus and external loop and is semi-programmable from the footswitch.
Full front panel controls enables the performer to choose the sound he wants from each effect. FET switching, says MXR, eliminates pops and clicks when changing from one effect to another. A bypass switch will take the unit out of the sound chain and will show which effects will be in the sound chain. And there are at least two controls for each of the six effects.
Morley also has expanded its effects line with the addition of two new wah pedals and two new echo pedals as part of its new line of electro-optical pedals. Morley's Slimline Wah Volume Pedal incorporates wah and volume, less the taper control, functions in one pedal. A footswitch selects either function. Morley's new battery operated photocell wah pedal offers the capability to preset the wah volume at a level lower, equal to or higher than the original signal with an output level control.
Features of Morley's new echo volume pedal, which has no moving parts except for the pedal, include a range of repeats extending from dry to runaway and continuously variable control for selection of the number of repeats. The delay time between repeats is pre-selected with an echo speed control. And the echo mode can be bypassed with a footswitch to convert the unit to a straight volume pedal.
A new echo reverb offers a delay span from as short as 20ms up to 300ms and is the quietest unit available in its price range of $200, according to Morley. There are separate controls for delay, repeat and mix.
All of the pedals in Morley's new Slimline series are cordless and use no pots or gears, in order to eliminate pops and scratches. Prices of the units released so far range from $250 for the echo volume pedal down to $98 for a variable taper volume pedal which can be used to go through the full volume range with maximum pedal travel for a smooth gradual approach to volume crescendo or with a minimum amount of pedal travel.
A microprocessor based system with memory and a variety of effects are part of the new Touch Guitar from Artisan Instruments, which combines the features of an electric guitar, an electric bass and an electronic organ. With two necks attached to a single body, it is designed so that both hands play individual fret boards simultaneously. The upper guitar neck is played by touch with the right hand while the lower bass neck is played by touch in a normal position with the left hand. A switch enables the touch bass to revert to a regular plucking-type electric bass.
Individually keyed oscillators are used in the organ design to provide ensemble and chorus effects from a full range of orchestral instruments. For the organ sounds all 10 completely isolated fretboards for the guitar and bass become the organ keyboard.
The Touch Guitar, control panel, microprocessor and all organ electronics fit into a single unit with the control panel mounted on top and the Touch Guitar instrument storable inside. Located on the control panel are lighted switched for the organ voices and couplers and the guitar and bass controls and effects. In addition, 10 memory pistons are located on the guitar neck for quick access to program changes previously placed into the memory.
For guitarists who switch between electric and acoustic electric instruments during a performance, and thus run into amplification problems, Peavey has introduced two compact amps, the Reno 400 and the Austin 400, as part of its new City Series. Each is a 210-watt amp with an acoustic guitar channel featuring high and low gain inputs, pre gain and post gain controls, a parametric mid EQ section and active low, high and presence controls.
The Austin 400 also has an electric channel that features a high gain input, pre gain, saturation and post gain controls, and an active presence control. Sounds possible on the Austin 400 range from warm and tube-like to scorching rock.
The Austin 400 utilises two 12-inch Scorpion loudspeakers and a CDP multiflare horn while the Reno 400 has a 15-inch loudspeaker for the low and mid ranges and a CDP multi-flare horn for the highs. The suggested list prices are $459.50 for the Reno 400 and $549.50 for the Austin 400.