Dr. T's MRS
Software for Atari ST/Amiga
MIDI sequencing software doesn't come much cheaper than Dr T's MIDI Recording Studio. Ian Waugh compares the Atari and Amiga versions of the affordable face of sequencing.
YOU CAN TELL MT is becoming really efficient when it starts reviewing multi-format software. As the popularity of various computers increases you can expect to see an increasing number of programs being ported from one machine to another (I'm waiting for some of the Apple Mac programs to find their way onto more affordable systems).
The rivalry between ST and Amiga owners can be ignored weekly in the letters pages of the computer press (it makes you wonder if these people have nothing more constructive to write about). As far as music software goes, however, the ST definitely has the upper hand but many software houses are now aware of the increasing popularity of the Amiga and are converting ST programs to Amiga format. I believe this is called "recognising market forces" and the conversion process is known as "leverage". However, this can only be good news for Amiga owners and for MIDI software in general.
Dr T's is one such company with over 20 Amiga programs already in its catalogue. Which brings us to the MRS - MIDI Recording Studio - a budget-priced program available in both ST and Amiga formats.
MRS is a cut-down version of Dr T's pro-level KCS (Keyboard Controlled Sequencer). (Dr T's love acronyms.) It is biased towards real-time recording and operation is based around tape recorder controls. MRS, however, only has eight tracks (KCS has 48) which is an odd restriction, even for a budget program.
Operation is simple. The program starts recording as soon as you begin to play. If you press the right mouse button the section plays back in a loop and moves onto the next track for recording.
Editing takes place in a numeric event editor which has several powerful facilities and a few features you would, perhaps, only expect to find in a professional package - and some not even there.
There are the usual editing facilities such as Quantisation, Cut, Copy, Paste, Delete and Erase. MIDI Merge routes incoming data to the MIDI Out socket and MIDI Echo sends the data out on another MIDI channel. Velocity scaling lets you gradually change velocity values over a given section; allowing you to program diminuendo and crescendos - not before time.
Other-facilities include transposition of Pitch, Velocity and Duration and these can be inverted, too. The Split feature will split one track into two tracks, one containing high notes, the other containing low ones. Useful, perhaps, for helping split two-handed piano recordings.
Compress/Expand increases or reduces the durations of the notes, which has the effect of speeding up or slowing down a track. Auto Channel Assign assigns consecutive events to a range of MIDI channels. For example, the first note may be sent to channel 1, the second to channel 2, the third to channel 1 again and so on.
One of my favourite edits is Time Reverse (a typical Dr T's function) which reverses the note order so the track plays backwards. In conjunction with some of the other esoteric editing functions, you could almost use this to create new pieces.
MRS uses both the mouse and the computer keyboard, but most numeric input can only be made from the keyboard. This is especially evident in the event editor. In fact, the whole program is rather heavily numerically based - as are most Dr T's programs.
The ST version of MRS (review version 1.1) supports the internal sound chip, but as you need a MIDI keyboard to get music in, this would appear to be of dubious value. Notes can be inserted directly in the event editor but this is not a very satisfactory method of step-time input.
The Amiga version, however, permits recording via the computer keyboard and it supports up to 16 internal IFF sounds. In fact, the Amiga version has been adapted to take advantage of the Amiga's additional facilities. It supports multitasking and you can allocate the amount of memory you wish to devote to the program. You have access to the Workbench and the CLI.
Sounds can be transposed and given their own channel number, range and velocity values. In the Sounds page you can save, load and swap sounds. There are a couple of demos on the disk which use the internal sounds.
For a budget program, MRS has many powerful facilities. However, eight tracks seems a needless restriction and several pro features are missing, such as MIDI Filters. The manual is quite thorough, however, and contains a tutorial section.
The trade-off for the power is the numeric operation. This may well appeal to computer users but any musician looking for a sequencer would do well to assess their numeracy level before taking the plunge, although I realise this is a personal preference.
Pricewise, MRS has few direct competitors. Music programs don't come much cheaper and if you've only fifty quid it is certainly worth checking out. If you find you like it and want more you can move on to the KCS.
Price £49.95 including VAT