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Funny word 'preset'. Back when it took something the size of a telephone exchange to make a sound as interesting, it didn't mean much. With the advent of the first usable monos, it became a term of abuse applied by owners of MiniMoogs and MS20s to those who settled for the security of say, a Yamaha CS15D or ARP PRO/DGX. Real men programmed their synths... a task which admittedly was becoming harder to do...

Then around the time the first Prophet V's were in for service, something strange was noted — the vast majority were returning to the factory with their original sounds intact. Could it be — gasp — that people didn't really want to program stuff anyway?

The advent of FM synthesis lent considerable weight to the growing 'no-program' lobby, as did MIDI — why bother with Digital Access control when all you had to do was cobble together half a dozen presets via the famous five prong plug?

And so to today, and the rebirth of the preset: while the preset-laden mini-DX and CZs of this world clean up the bottom end of the market, while Simmons, the pioneers of user-programmable percussion face heavy pressure from the legions of switch-on-and-play kits, true user-programmability has retreated to the esoteric echelons of Pro-dom, a spirit kept alive only in mega-machines like Oberheim's Matrix. So — plenty of cheap, powerful sounds — and an awful lot of records in the charts with them on. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I guess it depends whether you spend most of your time listening to music, or making it.

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International Musician & Recording World - Copyright: Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.


International Musician - Aug 1986


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