Digidesign Burner Software
Fancy putting that percussion sound you sampled with your keyboard into your digital drum machine? Rick Davies discovers that all things are possible in California.
When Linn introduced the LM1 drum machine in the early eighties, everyone and their mother was impressed by the quality of eight-bit drum samples, and the ease with which patterns could be assembled using them. Soon enough, a number of competing devices appeared, and proved that there was a huge market for drum machines if the price was right. Since these drum machines had their sampled drum sounds on EPROMs which were, in general, easy to replace, there was soon a demand for alternative sounds. If the drum machine's manufacturer didn't offer alternative sounds, then an independent company would.
Many moons later, samplers have started to take over the drum machines' role in the recording process. The drum machines may be recorded onto tape to begin with, but often each sound is recorded on a separate channel so that later, it can trigger a sampler and be replaced by another sound. These days, there appears to be little time to have your samples converted into drum chips.
Which is too bad, really, since EPROMs don't lose memory when power is switched off, and are also a good deal more roadworthy than the 3½" disk drives currently featured on many samplers. Digidesign (who started off as DigiDrums, by the way, producing alternative drum chip sets for various drum machines) have recognised the number of drum machine owners who are trying to keep their sounds up to date, and came up with Burner, a hardware/software package for the Apple Macintosh (and Macintosh Plus) which 'burns' EPROMs for a variety of drum machines, using Sound Designer sound files. It does require owning Sound Designer, or at least obtaining Sound Designer files, but Digidesign appear to have already taken that into consideration. Anyway, before we get into obtaining sound files, a look at Burner's operation is in order.
The Burner package consists of a program disk and an EPROM burner which can be used in other applications as well. There is only one screen in the Burner program, and burning an EPROM is easy.
First, to make sure that the EPROM you are about to burn has been erased, you insert the EPROM into the ZIF (Zero Insertion Force) socket on the burner itself, then select the 'Blank?' utility. If the EPROM fails the test, it must be erased with an ultra-violet EPROM eraser, and then tested again. Once that's out of the way, the burning process continues: load in a sample file on the Mac, select the type of EPROM, the drum machine for which it is intended, the number of 'split' in the chip or in the sound, then select the 'Burn' utility and wait for the hourglass display to 'run out'. Each of these functions, incidentally, is carried out using the Mac's mouse. It's then recommended that you verify the EPROM has been successfully burned, and a utility exists for this as well.
The sound files themselves are stored in 16-bit format, so Burner converts the data into whichever format is required (eight-bit linear, eight-bit companding, or whatever) by the drum machine in question. Currently, Burner makes EPROMs for the Linn LM2, Linn 9000, Oberheim DMX, DX, DXa/Stretch, Sequential Drumtraks, Simmons SDS1, SDS7 and SDS9, and the cymbal chip for the E-mu Drumulator. It's unfortunate that it doesn't burn the other Drumulator chips, but this is apparently due to the complexity of the 'header' which must be included with the sample data on the EPROM in order for the Drumulator to know where to find each sample.
So what happens if you don't happen to own the Sound Designer program, but want to get sound files for Burner? Well, it appears that Digidesign will make sound files available by modem through their BBS, and in any case, they emphasise that since most percussion sounds are relatively short, sound files could easily be transferred over networks such as the American PAN system.
Personally, I can see Burner receiving a warm welcome from many musicians who will be happy to find that the technology which at one time appeared to have left their drum machines behind, has come back to give them a lift.
Price To be announced
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Review by Rick Davies
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