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Apple Notes

There are several changes to this month's Mac Notes. Firstly, this month we've more space. Secondly, you can now see what I look like — a thirtysomething Caucasian, with a sad weakness for balancing notebook computers on my knee. Far more importantly, Mac Notes has become Apple Notes. If you've just returned from Olympia's Exhibition Halls, you'll have noticed that this year's MacUser Show underwent a similar terminological transformation, becoming Apple Expo '92.

The name change, in both this column and the annual MacUser bash, is indicative of Apple's expansion into new lines, and its multifarious alliances with a range of US and Japanese companies. In short, this Autumn heralds the start of a brave new era for the Apple Computer Inc.


This month's longer column offers an opportunity for a trip around the UK's music distributors, to survey the full range of Mac music hard and software. Hopefully, the journey will become a handy resource for old hands, and serve as a useful introduction for recent Mac converts.

HARMAN AUDIO: Harman Audio are best known for handling JBL studio monitors in the UK. No doubt Harman are equally pleased to have taken over distribution of Steinberg products — the place in history of this German software house was assured back in 1987 with the launch of Pro 24. Steinberg maintained their success with Cubase (Version 3.0 — reviewed SOS April/May '92), which was released in 1990, a Mac version appearing last year.

Until the arrival of Cubase (£399), the top end of the Mac MIDI sequencer market was dominated by Performer (Mark of the Unicorn) and Vision (Opcode). However, thanks to features like the excellent Groove quantising, a user-friendly graphic interface, and an Interactive Phrase Synthesizer, Cubase has met with considerable success. Incidentally, FriendChip's UK distributors Q-Logic have just announced the Mac K..At (£110), an Apple Desktop Bus (ADB) hardware remote controller configured for Cubase.

Steinberg are also due to release Time Bandit (£TBA), an application that uses the Sound Tools/Audiomedia NuBus card to provide time correction, pitch shift and harmonisation effects for Sound Designer 1 & 2 and AIFF files. Sound quality is said to be excellent.

MCMXCIX: MCMXCIX — MCM to their friends — handle UK distribution of programs from leading US software house Opcode. The most recent addition to Steinberg's Mac armoury is Cubase Audio, (reviewed in this issue — £699), one of two competitors for Opcode's award winning Studio Vision an application that delivered Opcode's second award for innovation, and an endorsement by eminent Californian immigrant Thomas Dolby.

Mr Dolby's enthusiasm for Studio Vision is well placed, as Studio Vision (£799.95) provides a glimpse into the future of multitrack recording, being the first example of a new genre of mixed media applications that integrates MIDI sequencing and tapeless digital audio recording within a common interface. Digital audio recording requires the presence of Digidesign's Sound Tools (I or II) or AudioMedia (I or II) or Pro Tools NuBus cards (Sound Technology (Contact Details)).

Recently updated to v1.4, Studio Vision now includes support for Sound Tools II and Audiomedia II, and includes a free copy of Galaxy (normally £199.95), a universal patch librarian. Galaxy itself has also been updated, new modules being added to support the Korg A1, A2, 03R/W, Kurzweil's K2000, Roland's JV80 and Sound Canvas, plus the Yamaha TG100 tone module.

Galaxy's big brother is Galaxy Plus Editors (£349.95, reviewed SOS October '91), supporting over 90 individual instruments, the most recent (editor) additions being the Alesis D4, Kurzweil K2000, Emu Procussion and Roland's U220.

Opcode's Vision 1.4 Sequencer, which now comes with a bundled copy of the Galaxy universal editor/librarian.

The MIDI-recording only Vision 1.4 (£399.95) also comes with a bundled copy of Galaxy and, like its digital audio recording partner, utilises the Opcode MIDI System (see SOS October '91). Recently updated to version 1.2, OMS overcomes the PowerBook 140/145/170 serial port problem — at least on the modem port (see Mac Notes September '92), and provides support for Opcode's Studio 4, an 8x8 multiport Mac MIDI interface (£449.95). Opcode also produce the 15-in, 16-out Studio 5 multi-port MIDI Interface (£1,099.95), and three non multi-port interfaces, the 2-in, 6-out Studio Plus 2 (£179.95), the 1-in, 3-out MIDI Translator (£59.95), and the 2-in, 6-out Studio 3 (£269.95) which generates and reads LTC for MTC synchronisation to audio tape. From Opcode's hardware department comes the Studio AV, a £1099.95 rackmount VITC to MTC convertor/controller.

Opcode's remaining software catalogue includes EZ Vision (£129.95) an entry-level, 16-track MIDI sequencer, Cue 3.0 (£499.95) a film music software utility, Track Chart (£159.95) a general studio booking/track sheet utility, MAX and MAXplay (£349.95 and £89.95 respectively), an object-oriented MIDI programming language and player (see SOS July '91 and August '92) and AudioShop (£69.95), a Mac sound resource editor and CD ROM Audio controller.

Passport's Audio Trax, integrating 8-bit audio recording with MIDI sequencing.

MCM, part of the TSC group that now includes Computer Warehouse and Computers In Education, also represent the oldest music software vendor, Passport Designs. At £349.95 Passport's Pro 5 occupies the middle ground of Mac MIDI sequencers, its nearest competitor price-wise being Dr.T's Beyond. New features include the long-requested record punch in, transpose lock and on-screen volume faders. Passport's Audio Trax (£259.95, reviewed SOS March '92) offers much of Pro 5's MIDI sequencing facilities, plus the ability to record 8-bit digital audio from the Mac's built-in audio input jack (those that offer them), or any other Mac fitted with Faralon's Mac Recorder. Turbo Trax (£89.95), is an entry-level 64-track MIDI sequencer, while Alchemy (£499.95) offers the best digital audio editing for SCSI-equipped samplers.

The next few months will see a direct to disk version of Alchemy that utilises Mark Of The Unicorn's Digital Waveboard, plus Producer, a professional multimedia package that acts as a visual cue sheet interface for CD audio, MIDI, digital audio (8 and 16-bit), laser disc players, video decks, animation, graphics, titling and QuickTime movies. With LTC, VITC and MTC support, Producer is aimed at the post-pro market.

On the notation side, Passport offer the DTP quality, 64-stave Encore (£429.95), offering MIDI file reading capability, and the 6-stave MusicTime (£199.95) which includes direct MIDI input.

Encore and Music Time are direct competitors for Coda's Finale 2.0 (£699.95 — version 1.0 reviewed SOS March/April '89) and Music Prose 1.0 £199.95) respectively. Also distributed by MCM, Finale and Music Prose offer 128-stave and 64-stave notation respectively, the former providing real-time MIDI input, MIDI file translation, and user-definable musical symbols that can produce a MIDI response.

SOUND TECHNOLOGY: The Mac notation arena is seeing plenty of action this year, with Mark Of The Unicorn replacing their chunky Professional Composer with Mosaic The perennial favourite MIDI sequencer Performer (£459) is now at version 4.0, and includes sophisticated MIDI Controller panels that you can save and load, an elaborate humanise dialogue box and PowerBook/Quadra compatibility. Digital Performer (MOTU's £765 Studio Vision/Cubase Audio competitor) has also been upgraded, with a promise that the LTC synchronisation gremlin that dogged version 1.0 has been fixed.

On the hardware side, MOTU offer the MIDI-controlled Mixer 7s (£590), a 1U rackmounting 7-channel audio mixer, the Video Time Piece, a VITC-reading synchroniser (£1195), and the 3x3 Video Distribution Amplifier (£495). The VDA can work alongside the MIDI Timepiece (£554), the original multiport (8x8) MIDI interface/LTC synchroniser (reviewed SOS September '90), or the new MIDI Timepiece II interface/LTC synchroniser/MIDI patch bay (£TBA) mentioned in last's month's Mac Notes.

The new Wavelink (£TBA) provides analogue audio outputs for the MOTU Digital Waveboard, a £1,395 Mac NuBus card that provides 16-bit, 44.1kHz direct to disk recording for the Mac II series, and includes built in S/PDIF digital audio I/O.

However, the Waveboard seems overpriced compared with Digidesign's new Audiomedia II NuBus card, which includes both S/PDIF and analogue I/O, yet retails for only £899. Another blow to the Waveboard is that Audiomedia II is supplied with Sound Designer II 2.0, the Sound Tools stereo waveform editing/playlisting/DSP software. At present, the only software the Waveboard supports is Digital Performer. However, MOTU would say in their defence that the Waveboard has its own onboard SCSI, and so less powerful Macs should run applications software only. The Waveboard also includes an onboard slot for expansion to play back four tracks, though these will be internally mixed to stereo, since the Waveboard itself offers only S/PDIF (ie. a stereo) output.

Like Audiomedia II, Sound Tools II (£3,495) offers two simultaneous audio tracks; however, Sound Tools II is expandable to four tracks (each with its own independent output) with the addition of an accelerator card (£TBA). Despite Audiomedia's 2-track limitation, rumours suggest that Cubase Audio may be able to support two Audiomedia II cards in one Mac, thereby providing 4-track simultaneous playback, though probably not recording.

Not surprisingly, the original Sound Tools system and the Audiomedia card have been discontinued, unlike SampleCell (£2,420 with 8MB RAM), a NuBus card that turns the Mac into a professional 16-bit sampler and includes a 630MB sound library on CD-ROM disk.

Pro Deck, the multitrack tapeless recording software, previously only available with Pro Tools, can now be purchased separately (£399) for use with Sound Tools II. Pro Tools itself is still going strong, at £6,122.97 for the basic four independent simultaneous track system (which includes Pro Deck and waveform editing software), four extra independent tracks for £3,499, and each additional eight tracks costing £3,499.

Like Steinberg, C-Lab are a German company with a very respectable line in Atari ST software, most notably Creator and Notator. However, later this month Notator Logic (£TBA), C-Lab's first Mac sequencer, should find its way into the shops. Contrary to popular belief, Notator Logic is not a translation of Notator, but a wholly new programme. Two C-Lab applications that have been ported over to the Mac are the Aura (£149) eartraining package, and MIDIA, a MIDI analysis teaching application (£85).

Sound Technology also distribute US MIDI manufacturers JL Cooper, their current Mac offerings including the CS1 (£459) and CS10 (£995), ADB hardware controllers for Sound Tools/Audiomedia and Pro Tools respectively, plus two MIDI interfaces, the simple 1-in, 3-out Mac Nexus (£69) and the 2-in, 2-out LTC to MTC convertor, the Sync Link (£168).

YAMAHA: Also mentioned in the May '92 Mac Notes was Yamaha's CBX-D5 (previewed in this issue), which gives a Mac (except the basic Plus/Classic) the ability to simultaneously record two, or play back up to four, digital audio tracks from hard/optical media. The first non-NuBus design, the D5 connects to the Mac's SCSI and serial port. The latest news is that Digital Performer and Cubase Audio will still be the only two applications available for the first year of the D5's life, though they will include DSP functions not available on any other versions of those programs using NuBus-based tapeless recorders.

Unfortunately, the D5's release date has been put back from the end of this year to "early next year", though I'm told this is not due to problems, but the "last minute implementation of some extra powerful features" — can't say any more than that, I'm afraid. See Mike Barnes' article on p138, however. Other Yamaha/Mac news is that a MAXplay editor is now available for the £349 TG100, a tone module that includes a built-in Mac interface.

ZONE DISTRIBUTION: Last but by no means least come Zone, distributors of all things Dr.T's and MIDIman-ish. The good Doctor offers X-oR to solve those universal patch librarian/editor blues (reviewed SOS December '91). At £279.63, X-oR can edit well over 100 devices, including the new Roland JD800, and the Yamaha SY55, TG55 and the Korg Wavestation A/D. On the MIDI sequencer front, Dr.T's offer the vastly underrated Beyond 2.0, a mid-range sequencer costing £199.

On the hardware front, Zone can supply two MIDI Interfaces, the MIDIman MIDIMac (£54), and the Mac Sync, which offers two MIDI ins, six MIDI outs and LTC to MTC conversion, for a tidy £250.

Well, that's it. Next month, we'll know Apple's new Mac line-up and price structure. Until then, goodbye.

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Sound On Sound - Copyright: SOS Publications Ltd.
The contents of this magazine are re-published here with the kind permission of SOS Publications Ltd.


Sound On Sound - Nov 1992



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