Drawmer MIDMAN Processor
MIDI routing, filtering and syncing are all handled by this new British 'black box'. Simon Trask checks it out.
With the inroads that MIDI is making into studio environments these days, the entry of a company well known for its audio signal processors into the MIDI signal processing market is not surprising. Drawmer's 19" rack-mounting M401 MIDI Management System involves itself in MIDI signal routing, but also offers extensive synchronising and triggering facilities for MIDI and non-MIDI instruments, and the ability to record rhythm patterns which can subsequently be 'superimposed' on sound material. All of the MIDMAN's parameters and pattern data can be stored in 32 programs and later recalled by front panel selection, footswitch or MIDI patch changes.
MIDI routing via the MIDMAN is facilitated by a single MIDI In, four MIDI Outs and two MIDI Thrus. The unit's rear panel also sports sockets for two momentary footswitch inputs, trigger and audio outputs, an audio/trigger input, clock in and out, and start/stop out.
Each MIDI Out can be assigned its own MIDI receive and output channels, split-point value and play mode. Play mode has multiple options which basically revolve around whether notes held down are to be played normally or only when triggered by another source, and whether notes will be triggered over the whole keyboard or only the split section. Play mode (which is Out specific, remember) also allows you to convert a specific incoming patch number to any other patch number (both in the range 1 - 128).
Five categories of MIDI data can be disabled: aftertouch and mod wheel (together), pitch-bend, patch changes, controller codes and system exclusive data. These aren't Out-specific, so you couldn't disable sustain for one instrument but not another, for instance. A pity, that.
Another useful feature which sadly isn't Out-specific is MIDI volume level. When you consider that Yamaha's MEP4 (reviewed elsewhere in this issue) allows you to accomplish all sorts of data manipulations for each of four channels, and C-Lab's 16-track sequencer (also reviewed in this issue) allows you to manipulate velocity levels in real time for all 16 tracks separately, the MIDMAN appears rather less flexible.
Turning to MIDI synchronisation, it's possible to send MIDI clocks along with performance data to any individual Out or to Outs 1 and 2. In this way you could run a sequencer or drum machine off a particular Out, synchronised to the MIDMAN's internal clock or to any other clock that is controlling the system.
There's also a programmable MIDI clock output, which can be sent to any individual Out or to Outs 3 and 4. The 24 ppqn MIDI clock rate can be divided by 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12 or 24, allowing you to run MIDI sequencers and drum machines at a variety of rates. It's a feature which could lead to all sorts of interesting possibilities.
The MIDMAN can choose from three clock sources: internal, external and external MIDI. Non-MIDI clock can be set to cover all the standard rates and more. Relevant start and stop information for sequencers and drum machines will be sent by the MIDMAN for each type of output. It's also possible to use one of the footswitches or the trigger input to trigger sequences. Either a +5V pulse or an audio signal may be applied to the Trigger In jack - allowing sequencers and drum machines (or the MIDMAN's own patterns) to be triggered from a wide variety of sources. MIDI timing pulses in sync with either an audio source or a division of the clock can be sent, together with an appropriate pulse at the trigger out and audio out jacks (the last-mentioned can be used to trigger equipment such as Drawmer's DS201 Dual Gate). Drawmer have given the MIDMAN a sophisticated set of trigger output possibilities (including the ability to delay the trigger placement in units of 1/24th of a beat) which will no doubt become a much-used feature in studios.
The MIDMAN includes the ability to record 32 rhythm patterns of up to 99 beats each, in eight sets of four (one assigned to each Out). With 32 program memories, that adds up to a lot of patterns. The idea is that you record the rhythms you want (effectively up to four superimposed rhythms) complete with velocity, and subsequently 'superimpose' any notes you want on these rhythms.
Understandably, given the manufacturer's studio equipment background, the MIDMAN is most at home in a studio environment, where its extensive triggering, syncing and rhythm programming options should ensure frequent use. On the other hand, its MIDI processing options are less flexible than those of Yamaha's MEP4, which is perhaps better suited to use in a purely MIDI keyboard-based setup.
Price £395 plus VAT
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Review by Simon Trask
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