Frankfurt Musik Messe 1984
A look at a selection of the new and innovative equipment on show at Europe's premier trade fair.
Frankfurt Musik Messe has had a difficult run in the late 70s and early 80s, with the 'dramatic new advances' that are touted every year, turning out, in most cases, to be mere mares' nests. This year, however, the equipment displayed showed some real innovation, and the new models and advances proved to be the most exciting for some time.
Staged around three of the massive Frankfurt Showground halls, the centre of attraction was mainly focussed on Halle 8 (guitars, electric and acoustic instruments and drums), and Halle 9.1, the 'upstairs hall' which contained the sound equipment, speakers, recording equipment and some of the most impressive new hardware ever assembled at a trade fair.
Over the next few pages are a visual guide to a selection of the brand new-advances that were displayed at what is sure to be regarded as one of the most exciting trade fairs ever.
The revolutionary Bond Guitar features a neck devoid of frets! Instead, the strings are held against a carbon fibre neck, onto which are impregnated 'steps' in a sawtooth configuration. Much attention was fostered on the new guitars, soon to be put into full production in the UK at a new factory in Inverness.
Rose Morris unveiled the new range of Vox guitars at the show. Pictured is the Vox White Shadow Fretless, a maple-bodied fretless bass guitar, which will sell for well under £200 in the UK. Their new range of Venue amplifiers (reviewed on page 16) also attracted a great deal of attention, as did the 'traditional' Vox amps.
Hard to photograph due to the crowds around them were the new Dynacord Digital Drums. There are two types of controllers available for them, the Percuter, an eight-track digital drum computer which contains the natural sounds in chips that can be changed as required - a range is available. The others are 'ready to play' Digital Hit incorporated sound module, for which one will be required for each drum. There is also a Boomer Programmer, which can be used to sound sample. RRPs are not yet available, but the drums are to be distributed in the UK in Spring.
The Maxim Synth Drums come with a special controller with five-drum capacity, and the capability to produce a stereo signal from the kit. There are also four preset sounds on each drum. While there is no distributor yet making the Maxim kits available, the manufacturers expect to announce an appointment soon.
UK have started the manufacture of power amplifiers, mixer/amps, guitar and bass combos, mixers, and this low-priced 100W monitor, with internal amp and tweeter, and high-power driver. The RRP of this is to be well under £100.
Pictured here are just two of the myriad of products that were shown in the MTR stand. The Vesta Fire AL 10, ten-band spectrum analyser and graphic EQ will retail for just £324, while the RV2 stereo spring reverb (with 8 springs, low-cut, and limiter) will cost £276.29. Other goodies that attracted attention on the MTR stand included the ACES range of pro sound equipment and multi-track, and the budget McGregor equipment range including the 200W Keyboard Amp, with 3 channels, costing £248.
Siel were showing - and demonstrating - their new MIDI Computer Interface, pictured here with Commodore 64 and 1541 disc drive. It's compatible with computers based on CPU Z80, 6502, and 6510 (Sinclair ZX Spectrum, ZX81, Vic 20, CBM 64 and Apple II etc ...) There are 3 MIDI outs, a MIDI in, and 44-way connector for the Sinclair and Commodore models. Prices have yet to be fixed.
Siel MIDI Expander. This is a modular unit of a six voice polyphonic programmable MIDI expander, equipped with the capacity to split the keyboard into 2 sections at any point, playing 2 different timbres simultaneously. MIDI cassette interface, and 'Polymode' position capability enable codified data from two or more Expanders to be identified from the master keyboard on the Siel Opera 6 polysynth.
The Korg stand contained a large number of new products, amongst them the new Super Section PSS-50. This allows are programming of backing patterns, including drums, bass, etc. and the chord progressions through which they are to run. Forty-eight built-in patterns are programmable as song patterns, written in one bar at a time (or half for chords). Up to eight songs can be stored, the drum sounds are digital, and the whole output has stereo capability. Korg also showed a new tuner, the AT 12, with calibration capacity, the new PME 40X effects system, plus huge quantities of Poly 800 keyboards.
The McLeyvier digital computer system, based on FM synthesis techniques, attracted a lot of attention at the show. Designed by Laurie Spiegel, the company are currently negotiating for a UK distributor.
The new Solton Project 100 programmable keyboard appeared on the Craft Stand at the fair. The unit offers 6-voice poly operation, a polyphonic sequencer (and mono sequencer), chorus, a tape interface, transposition, plus joystick operation for pitch bend. Stereo outputs and MIDI input complete the picture on this new item. Again, a UK agent is being investigated.
Akai unveiled their new Micro Studio System at the fair. The centre of the system is the MG1212 12 channel multitrack mixer/recorder, based on the world's first ½" cassette tape.
The Music Processor MS16 converts notes and other musical information on music scores into standard keyboard or key input data. It can use MIDI to control multiples of synths simultaneously. Fine nuances and dynamics can easily be accommodated, and up to 10,000 notes can be memorised.
The 8-voice polyphonic AX80 synth is used as the sound source for the system. It features 32 preset tones, a 64-tone memory bank, a fluorescent display that shows every sound parameter, and a pre program facility, allowing the 'Next Key' system to be changed through one single switch. The keyboard is touch-sensitive. In addition to the above three items, there is also a Rhythm Oscillator Bank MR10 which has 16 percussion sounds (operated through the MS16), and a MIDI/Analog converter MS404 which takes the signals from the MS16 and converts them into CV and Gate signals, enabling it to be used with analogue synths. MR10 and MS404 are rack-mounted.
Not only instruments were shown at the fair, accessories were also very well represented. General Music Strings displayed some products from P+N Stands, including the 377 Double Keyboard Stand, which will retail for £29.95.
The ddrums electronic Digital Drum Pads were being shown by E-mu Systems. Two user sounds can be programmed into each of the drums, which feature sound-sampling. They are expected to retail for around the £200 mark in the UK.
Space dictates that we can't print pictures of all the relevant new equipment presented at the Fair (at a quick estimate, it would fill about 304 pages of E&MM), but below are a few things that caught our eyes (and ears...).
PPG Wave 2.3
The natural successor to and development of the 2.2. Either as a unit alone or as part of the PPG music system, 2.3 is a 'sound polyphonic' instrument which means that its 8 different voices can each have a completely different sound (up to 8 different wavetables). These can be played either with the keyboard itself or via the sequencer.
With a basic program of 30 wavetables, each of them a combination of 64 waveforms, all the waveforms can be partly or completely controlled by the envelopes. PPG have also added two natural sounds, piano and saxophone, which are called up in the same way as the other custom patches. Unlike the 2.2, the 2.3 is entirely compatible with the Waveterm Computer.
We hope to run a complete test on the Wave 2.3 in the near future, as they are to be introduced into the UK this month. Watch this space...
E-mu Systems Emulator II
Not just an update on the old Emulator I, the new model has up to 17 seconds of sampling time and a full megabyte of disk storage. Independent, delayed LFOs are available on each channel (eight in all), and these can be coupled to VCAs and envelopes to give extensive program modifications. There is also direct MIDI interfacing available for multi-purpose trigger/control/sampling and pass-on data interfacing.
Roland JSQ-60 Digital Keyboard Recorder.
Following on from the Digital Piano Recorder, the JSQ-60 has the capacity to real-time load or step load from the Juno 60 and the Jupiter 8 (with DCB capability). The JSQ-60 has a 2000-note capacity.
Audio Control Pro Power Amp
A new rack mounting PA amplifier or monitor amp, there are two models available, the 500, giving 200W per channel at 8 ohms (270W per channel at 4 ohms and 540W mono bridge mode) has a frequency response of ± 0.5dB 20Hz - 20KHz and a S/N ratio of better than 100dB. The 260 model gives 100W per channel at 8 ohms, 150W at 4 ohms and 300W in mono. They are being distributed in the UK by Executive Audio, but no prices were available at press time. (They were all still in Frankfurt...)
A new UK company displayed a new range of sound equipment at Frankfurt. Hailing from Southend, 3rd Generation displayed mixers in a myriad of configurations, both for recording and for live work, high powered amplifiers up to 1kW, crossovers, equalisers, and a range of mini mixers for keyboards, featuring 6/2 capability, it is also available with an internal 100W per channel amplifier.
The Oberheim Xpander... was attracting vast crowds in their booth in Halle 9.0. The spec-sheet for the new keyboard was enough to make many music dealers froth at the mouth: 90 VCAs, 30 LFOs, 30 Envelope Generators, 6 FM Processors, MIDI in and out... the list is as long as it is impressive. Price for the Xpander is expected to be around £2500, and UK deliveries should begin around May.
Roland Juno 106
This is essentially an update of the Juno 60 programmable polysynth, which it replaces. Its 128 memories (in two banks of 64) and polyphonic portamento are just two of the reasons why the 106 represents an advance over its predecessor, and the appearance of the synth has also been tidied up to give it a more contemporary aspect. Expect to pay about £800 when the keyboard reaches these shores in the not-too-distant-future.
Roland MKB-1000 MIDI Keyboard Controller
Developed exclusively for MIDI equipment, the MKB-1000 is an 88-note fully polyphonic controller with velocity-sensitive wooden keys, the idea being to make it feel as much like a traditional piano keyboard as possible. Two 19" rack-mounting modular MIDI sound sources, the MKS-10 Piano Module and the MKS-30 polysynth module, were also unveiled at the show...
Roland GR 700 Guitar Synthesiser
Roland G707 Guitar Controller
The new Roland Guitar Synthesiser deserves a mention here if only for the attention that it attracted throughout the Musik Messe. With demonstrators on hand during the fair, the G707 controller and the GR700 were put through their paces several times a day. Creating the sound of a giant organ, a pipe organ, a flute ensemble, and even voice and choral effects. And that is just a brief selection of some of the latest innovations and products. Over the next few months we will endeavour to cover as many of the new products as we can, as and when they are released to the UK market. One of the major problems in writing about an international fair such as this is that many of the products will never see the UK shops, and sometimes never seen again in this continent! Still, here's to next year!