Forefront Technology FT8
MIDI Merge Box
Forefront Technology's only previous claim to fame is the Patch Commander, a useful hand-held device which acts as a patch changer and a MIDI information injector. Following hard on its heels is the FT8 MIDI Merge box - a rather neat little metal unit measuring some 11 x 6.5 x 3 cm with a couple of MIDI Ins at one end and a single MIDI Out at the other. No power socket? Well, the FT8 is powered by MIDI via the cable connected to MIDI In A - no batteries to run out in the middle of a session or gig. A red LED flashes every couple of seconds to tell you the FT8 is still alive, and there are a couple more, one on each input, which flash when MIDI data is being received.
There are two principal reasons for using a MIDI merge box. The first is when two MIDI musicians need to share a single, multitimbral sound module. Two streams of MIDI performance information such as notes, pitch bend, aftertouch and so on have to be efficiently combined. Testing the FT8 under these conditions led to no ill-effects at all and the unit seemed perfectly happy irrespective of how much MIDI data was generated. No stuck notes or other forms of misbehaviour. This was even true when using a couple of MIDI Outs from Cubase on the ST (via Midex+) and playing songs which use all 16 MIDI channels on a Sound Canvas SC-155.
The other situation which commonly calls for the use of a MIDI merge box is the use of visual editing software with a sound module. To hear edits as they are taking place, the MIDI Out from the sound module (from which the System Exclusive information emanates) has to be merged with the MIDI Out from a keyboard. This means ensuring that MIDI notes do not interfere with the System Exclusive data, otherwise any sound parameter transfer will be aborted. How did the FT8 handle it? No problem at all.
Of course, the Anatek Pocket Merge unit will also cope with the above situations; what it won't handle are long System Exclusive dumps - simply because it has insufficient internal memory. Not so the FT8, which coped with anything that I stuck through it. This is one unit you can happily place out of sight and out of mind. For those interested in such things, the initial delay between receiving MIDI data and sending it out is around 1.5 milliseconds. For those who care only whether a unit works well or not - this is inaudible and certainly quite acceptable.
Yes, you could say that I'm impressed. Try as I might (and that includes a practical session with students on a course at a local recording studio), the FT8 wouldn't fall over. Nice one guys - what's next on the menu?
More from: BCK, (Contact Details)
Review by Bob Walder
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