An Alphabetical Appraisal
Hot news on hot products.
ALLEN AND HEATH brought their two new computer interfaces with them to Frankfurt - the CM 164 with its built in software for expanding the CMC mixer's internal computer (when used in conjunction with a Commodore 64); and the CMS64 which is designed to complement the CM164, expanding the CMC's sequencer functions.
Also on the AHB stand were their new range of SR. Sound Reinforcement mixers as well as the Inpulse One drum computer and the new CMC24 mixer itself (reviewed this month - Ed).
AKG are another company fresh from the drawing board with a new product - the D321 dynamic, shock proof microphone. This is a rather phallic looking hand held mic, whose design comprises of both its permanent magnet and the coil being suspended in the same housing. Theoretically this should all but eliminate pickup of handling noise, although we were not given a practical demonstration. Looks interesting though.
AKG also had some new wireless systems (as did most mic manufacturers) and in their case these were versions of the popular D330 mic, the CK67 'tie clip' mic, and the new D321.
AKAI are one of the newest companies to have expanded into the world of professional musical equipment, having only released their first products less than six months ago.
Nevertheless, they have already launched 5 major new additions to this range — a new polyphonic programmable synth called the AX90, (approx £2199.90) a remote (mother) keyboard called the MX76, (approx £769.90) a modular version of the AX90 called the VX90 (approx £1099.90), and possibly their most exciting product, their MIDI digital sampling unit called the S612 (£1099.90). This will generate a six note polyphonic output of any sampled sound by using 12-bit processing, giving sample times ranging from 0.25 to 8 seconds. Controlled from any MIDI instrument, it will also loop manually, and store the samples onto their optional 'quickdisk'.
The fifth major new item from Akai is their Music Computer system. This comprises of four individual units — the computer/dual disk drive, recorder board, editor board and display (approx £3299.90); and is essentially a large MIDI sequencer. This was not, however, in a working state, and judging from appearances, it looks very elaborate.
Still on the Akai stand, we came across a few interesting MIDI accessories — a MIDI digital delay (ME10D) (£169.90), and a MIDI digital fader (ME15F) (£169.90) which has one MIDI In, four MIDI Outs, and each output has its own fader. Both of these items simply work on the MIDI bus, remotely controlling the MIDI instrument's output. One other little box of interest is their MIDI arpeggiator (ME20A) — good news for all you ex-Juno 60 or Jupiter addicts.
AUDIO TECHNICA are one of many companies who have jumped onto the proverbial portastudio bandwagon this year.
Their four-track, called the AT-RMX64, is unlike the majority of newcomers into the four track department, because it is primarily a top quality (and top price), professional model. With a three motor, direct drive, two speed transport, six input channels, balanced inputs with phantom powering, dolby B and C and soloing to mention but a few of its features; this looks to be quite a powerful tool, and will be available in this country from June onwards with a retail price of around £1100.00.
BOKSE are a British company who produce a universal synchroniser called the US-8. This will just as easily interface a Fairlight with any old mono synth, as it will the TR606 with anything else you care to think of. Certainly worth having a look at it you are in the market for a synchroniser, and they come from Royston no less (where?).
As expected, CASIO revealed their full size version of the CZ101 at the show. Namely the CZ1000, this proved to be identical in spec to the 101, yet with full size keys and velocity sensing. In addition to that, Casio had only a prototype of the CZ-5000, looking pretty exciting, though we'll have to see what it sounds like next time.
Other than that, Casio's new products were pretty much as expected, with the addition to the home keyboard range of the MT-85, 36, 210, 100 and CK-500.
Over on the CRUMAR stand was a final version of the Bit 1 expander. Called the Bit 01, this has a few more additions in the MIDI department since we last had a look at it. However it looks a bit (no pun intended, honest) boring in comparison to all the new arrivals on the scene.
The most interesting thing on DOD's stand was their new range of digital delays which consist of three new rack mounting DDLs — the RDS900, 1900 and 3600; and two new digital delay footpedals — the PDS1000 and 2000. The latter two are in fact dual footswitch units giving a maximum of one or two seconds delay time respectively, with 7kHz bandwidth, 87dB dynamic range and switching for effect on/off and repeat/hold. The three rackmounting units give delay times relating to their model numbers, with the two bigger units both being capable of 1900mS at full bandwidth. The two digital footpedals will retail for around £200.00 and £270.00 respectively, and the three RDS units will be selling for under and around £400.00.
DYNACORD are a company who have long been associated with quality products, particularly in amplification. However, the most exciting newcomer to their range is their MIDI sampling system. This consists of the 'BOOMER' digital sound programmer, which enables you to put samples into its working memory, and filter and edit them before finally programming them into a sound module.
These sound modules can then be inserted into Dynacord's Percuter which will hold a maximum of eight modules at any one time — ready to be triggered from either live pads or a MIDI sequencer such as their new Big Brain. This last item appears to be correctly christened, as its internal memory can hold more than one and a half million bars of music!
Other exciting things to be found on the Dynacord stand were their new programmable MIDI digital delay and digital reverb, and the Midi Computer, which will route any MIDI input to any or all four MIDI outputs with rerouted MIDI channel, all switchable from either the unit's front panel or from an optional footswitching panel called the MIDI-Memory-Controller.
All the E-MU SYSTEMS team were over in Frankfurt, giving one of the most entertaining demonstrations, with primarily four Emulator IIs and the latest Drumulator mod. with MIDI. Also on show was a prototype of the Drumulator II which they promise will be very cheap (!) and available in the summer — user-sampling, 12 bit format, SMPTE reading/generating, MIDI, and fully dynamic, tuneable voices...
ELECTRIC MUSIC RESEARCH are a software company who shelter under the Rose Morris umbrella. At this year's show, they have unveiled their latest items, quite interesting as it happens; five MIDI interfaces for five different micros — Spectrum, Amstrad, BBC B, Commodore 64 and MSX. They also have several new software packages for performing, composing, editing and even notating (only in mono at the moment).
EMT, famous for their plate reverberation systems, have a new Digital Delay, the EMT 445. True to form, it is very powerful (16 bit, 20kHz bandwidth, 99 memory, 2-6 tap outputs...) and rather expensive (starting at £3000.00 for the dual tap model).
One of the most pleasant surprises of the show was to be found on the ENSONIQ stand. Their bargain priced sampling digital keyboard, the MIRAGE — 8 bit multi-sampling, velocity sensing, split keyboard, built-in disk drive, etc. for less than £2000 (see my review elsewhere in this month's issue).
In addition to the announcement of the FAIRLIGHT Series III (see Feb. Frankfurt preview), Fairlight have a new product to offer the serious(-ish) musician. Called the Voicetracker, this system is a MIDI based triggering system which uses the human voice (or any other monophonic audio source) to control any MIDI instrument's pitch, envelope and volume (if velocity sensing). They had it linked to a DX7, and I can assure you that this is quite an exciting new product.
FOSTEX'S extremely popular B16 16-track machine has had a slight up-grading (all you present B16 owners will be pleased to hear); the modification to the B16 itself being the direct drive motor. This gives the machine a faster start-up time (0.4Sec.), as well as knocking off a few hundredths of a percent from the spec sheet. Additionally, the B16 is packaged with two 19" rack-mounting units for the conversion of level matching from the standard B16's -10dB phono, to +4dB cannon.
JVC had dozens of their excellent new KB-600 keyboards littered around their stand for everyone to play on (quite infuriating), and the closest we got to seeing the latest addition, the KB-800 was as a big poster on one of their walls...
KORG have a very exciting range of new products — the DW6000 digital polysynth (see review elsewhere in this issue), the MR-16 MIDI rhythm sound unit with 19 different digitally encoded drum sounds, a MIDI pedal-keyboard called the MPK-130 (polyphonic and transposable), and another very exciting item is their new SDD-200 sampling digital delay. Sporting all the function found on Korg's excellent SDD-1000, the 2000 has 64 memories, a maximum delay/sample time of 4368msec., and the samples can be played monophonically from a MIDI source. The program changes can also be controlled via the MIDI bus, and this looks like being a winner at under £700.00 (hopefully).
KURZWEIL's new sampling software for the 250 was revealed at the show this year, and this will provide the Kurzweil 250 user with 20 second samples at a sampling rate of 25kHz, or when the sampling rate is reduced to 5kHz, samples can be as long as 100 seconds. Furthermore, the software enables samples to be trimmed, looped, tuned and up to 87 samples can be built up over the keyboard for one patch. Their Macintosh interface is also ready and this will facilitate storage of keyboard set-ups, instrument set-ups, user-sampled sounds, sequences and even lists of set-ups to be called up in order when you are playing live.
ROGER LINN could be said to be THE man to thank (blame?) for the current trend in music towards the driving backbeats of dance orientated rock. His latest creation, the Linn 9000, is certain to make just as big an impact as its predecessors did, with its ability to do... everything! The 9000's total programmability of hi-hat decay time alone justifies a place in the history of major design achievements.
On MTR's stand were a few new items. Cutec's TFE1531 switchable stereo/mono graphic looks quite interesting for less than £250.00, and they also have a bargain priced ten band stereo graphic selling for under £100.00. MTR also have a few new items from VestaFire — the new RV-3 stereo spring reverb (only £215.00), and a new compressor/ limiter with balanced XLR connectors called the SL020, which will sell for £290.00.
OBERHEIM can always be counted on to come up with some rather exciting products, and this year is no exception. As if one of their Expanders were not sufficiently powerful, they have incorporated TWO Expanders into a completely programmable, polyphonic, split, layering, touch sensitive keyboard called the Matrix-12. Billed as 'the ultimate analogue synthesiser', for once a brochure might not be exaggerating, as it can provide you with twelve voices which are all individually programmable, and costs around one and a half times the price of an Expander. Another newcomer to the Oberheim range is the 'Xk' programmable MIDI keyboard controller. This is a mother keyboard sensitive to velocity, release, and after-touch, with 99 memory locations for storage of three user-definable split points, MIDI channel, patch number for each split etc. One more new item from Oberheim is the Stretch accessory for their DX digital drum machine, adding a further 12 sounds for immediate use.
PEARL'S big guns were their DXR-1 programmable electronic drums, capable of storing up to 8 completely different 'kits' in memory.
PPG are not a company who will rest on any of their laurels. Only a short while after the appearance of their PRK processor keyboard, the original design has been re-vamped to include a high speed floppy disk drive, modulation wheels, MIDI etc. Called the PRK FD, this should be available immediately. PPG also have a new Wave Term, called the Wave Term B. This is now much faster and uses 16 bit sampling, therefore reducing the amount of attention needed by the user to details such as recording level etc.
Absolute secrecy was the name of ROLAND'S game, keeping the news of their latest products close to their chest until the formalities of the Frankfurt show. Their newest polysynth, the JX8P, was the only major newcomer to the Roland range to be unveiled before the show — possibly as a taster for the rest of the new range that was to follow.
The big new department that Roland surprised a lot of people by entering into (although the progression is a natural one from drum machines) is the development of an electronic drum kit. Comprising of the PD-10 bass drum pad, the PD-20 snare or tom pads, and the DDR-30 'brain', this will provide the drummer with digital drum sounds, a very flexible system for sound modification, as well as MIDI compatibility.
The DDR-30 has six touch sensitive drum voices (Bass drum, Snare and four toms), each with four different PCM digital sound sources from which to choose. These voices can be edited by the user with 13 parameters, such as Pitch, Voice, Attack and EQ. The modified sounds as well as up to 32 combinations of voices (whole 'kits') can be stored in the DDR-30's memory, and all this comes in a single 19", 2U unit, which will be available in September for a retail price of £1450.00 for the brain, £140.00 for the bass drum, and £80.00 each for the snare/tom pads.
Still in the percussion department, Roland have brought out a percussion version of their TR707, called the TR727. Identical to the 707 in every respect (including its price of £525.00), the 727 has all the usual digitally recorded sounds of bongos, congas, timbales, agogos, cabasa, maracas etc. as well as some more unusual choices (for a drum machine), such as quijada (Jaw-bone), whistles and tubular bells (more like wind chimes).
Roland are perhaps best known for their range of professional synthesiser keyboards. In this department the aforementioned JX8P (see our review in last month 's issue) was 'the big news' for '85. However, as Roland are dedicated to the MIDI module, they have developed a whole range of MIDI accessories in their Boss range — a MIDI input selector, output selector, and a MIDI channel filter/converter, which will change a signal's MIDI channel, as well as giving you the option to filter out all but the key information from that signal.
Roland have a new MIDI-CV interface, as well as a very interesting new product, the MKS-900 signal indicator. This has an 88 LED display in the configuration of a piano keyboard, which displays the desired MIDI channel's Key-on information, which is extra-fascinating when used in conjunction with a guitar synth.
Two more MIDI items to appear form the Roland camp are their new DDL — the SDE-2500 (17kHz bandwidth, and up to 750mS of delay, with 64 memory locations for storing all parameters selectable via MIDI program select), and the SRV-2000 digital reverb. This last item is a programmable reverb, with reverb time selectable from 0.1 to 99 seconds, 24 memories, pre-delay, digital filter, high-frequency damping, 9 room sizes, as well as internal gating of the reverb to simulate 'that' drum sound (for example). All this is available in 1U 19" rackmountable unit, and will retail for £1450.00 from July!
Returning to Roland's keyboards for a moment, they have produced a home version of the Juno-106, called the Synth Plus-60, with built-in amp and speakers, with a finish 'to match any home environment'.
BOSS have branched out into a few new departments as well. They have a new range called the Micro Rack Series, which comprises of a rackable or stackable digital delay, compressor/limiter, flanger, phaser and graphic equaliser. Boss also have a high-performance DI box, and a digital sampler pedal called the DSD-2. It will sample or act as a digital delay, with a maximum sampling time of 800mS, 7kHz bandwidth, and a price tag of £200.00.
The highlight of Roland's range of new combos has to be the superb sounding JC77, a smaller version of their ever-popular JC120. I had forgotten how good these amps sounded — well worth a listen.
SEQUENTIAL Circuits were another company who did not reveal any of the their new products before the show, although they did dangle a few proverbial carrots in front of a few noses. One such carrot turned out to be a touch sensitive, five octave keyboard version of their successful Sixtrak, which they have called the Multi-Trak. Unlike the Sixtrak however, this is a very rich and powerful sounding polysynth incorporating a 1600 note real time sequencer with five degrees of autocorrection, latchable arpeggiator, three ADSRs, and individual outputs for each of its six voices, and will sell for £1565.00.
Another new item on the Sequential Circuits stand was their new Tom digital drum machine (although it was only in prototype form), which is an eight instrument version of the Drumtraks which we sell for £860.00.
SENNHEISER are certainly no newcomer to the world of music, and this point was emphasised by their re-issue of the MD409 U3 dynamic microphone. Possibly one of the most unusually attractive mics I have ever come across, this little gem is resistant to very high sound pressure levels, is able to handle most situations, and will be selling for under £100.00 (gold-plated grill and all).
Over on the SHURE stand, one will find a rather odd looking microphone called the SM91. Until now, having a directional Pressure Zone Microphone (PZM) was a contradiction in terms (almost). However, Shure have now developed a half-cardioid directional PZM called the SM91. Its specs are very impressive, with a maximum sound pressure level of 144dB and a very linear frequency response from 20Hz to 20kHz, it looks as if this mic might just be something rather revolutionary.
SIEL really have been beavering away the past few months and have developed a rather posh looking, budget priced polysynth called the DK80, and a MIDI Expander version of it called the Expander 80. Essentially a dynamic, 12 voice, bitimbric synthesiser, with a built-in sequencer, this is very straightforward and portable, yet versatile and is promised to sell for a bargain price...
Further, Siel's software division have produce some MIDI application software packages — Multitrack Composer, Sixteen Track Sequencer, Expander Editor, Data Base, Digital Echo Delay, Keyboard Multi-tracking, and a couple of programs for graphic editing of the DK80 and Expander 80, all for the Commodore 64 with Siel interface (some can also be used with the ZX Spectrum).
TED DIGISOUND are gradually becoming more well known here in the U.K., and they were certainly making themselves known in Frankfurt. They not only have some very exciting new products, but they also were driving most people up the wall with their infuriating sampled whistle. Everytime this was triggered, everybody turned around to see who was whistling to them... TED's new products are the Digimemory — a digital Eprom player for all types of Eproms; and The Winner — a digital sound sampler, Eprom programmer/blower/copier, MIDI and computer serial in/out. Both of these items look very exciting indeed, and will have a retail price of £139.00 for the Digimemory, and £730.00 for The Winner.
As mentioned in last month's Frankfurt preview, TASCAM have a new 16-track on 1" tape machine, and have additionally brought out a small series of mixers, called the 300 series. These are suitable for live or studio four-track mixing; however we feel that they do not really represent the last few months of work for the Tascam R&D department; and thus by logical deduction, we here at ES&CM formally predict the next Tascam product to be of the 24-track variety... but when?
YAMAHA had a wide range of new products at this year's show, all exclusively revealed in our Frankfurt Preview last month. In their professional keyboard department were found the TX7 (a modular DX7 with full performance parameter controls for both itself and an external DX7...), QX7 MIDI multitracking sequencer, KX88 mother keyboard (weighted wooded keys, multisplits etc.), and DX5 FM synthesiser (essentially two DX7 synthesisers with performance memory); and in the recording department they have their new MT-44D four track cassette deck (still running at normal speed), a new dedicated mixer for it called the RM-602, and a couple new signal processors — a twin channel compressor/limiter called the GC2020, and a 31-band graphic — the GQ1031. DX7 owners will be pleasantly surprised by the appearance of six 32 voice ROM packs for the DX7, and these will be available in June for around £50.00 each.
A product that supported many other manufacturers' demo's was the revamped T8PR, now with improved looks and a new name - The TX816. Eight Keyboardless DX7's in one - frightening!
Yamaha also have two interesting new PA mixers from the MC range, the MC-1608M and the MC-2408M, specifically designed for mixing down monitor signals using either 16 or 24 inputs into 8 outputs (monitor sends).
The new guitars were as we expected — very posh and sporting tremolos, and altogether Yamaha can pride themselves on having had one of the most popular stands at the show.
That's it for this year. During the coming month well be bringing you words and music, on tape and in print, of most if not all, of these new instruments and equipment.