Future History FS1 and FST MIDI Switchers
New company Future History have chosen two neat MIDI switchers, Future Switch (FS1) and Future Switch Turbo (FST), as their first products. MIDI switchers of any kind are bound to be useful, but both of these devices seem to be oddly configured. This is probably down to the fact that both are completely passive — that means no batteries to go flat. This passivity also restricts their versatility a bit — no MIDI leads beyond 1 metre allowed — and means that any socket can function as an input or an output, although it's best to stick with the manual's designations.
The FS1 has a single three-way selector knob and five sockets, with a claimed five possible routings; the FST has eight sockets, two three-way selector knobs and 16 possible routings. The number of routings is a little overstated; where signal can flow in both directions, a route is counted once for each direction. But we'll let that pass. Basically, the FS1 has three states, the simplest of which is as a two-way Thru box. Apart from that, two independent streams can be set up, where one of the two sockets at the bottom of the unit is connected to the socket at the very top, and the other socket at the bottom is connected either to a socket on the left or right hand side of the unit.
The FST is more complicated, but works on the same principles. The eight sockets are configured in a similar way, but the extra sockets and the extra switch give quite a few more alternatives with regard to source or destination selection. A linked pair of sockets are available that provide a simple two-way Thru at just about any time. Note that in no way can MIDI merging be undertaken by these units.
So what can Future Switches actually do? Either unit can solve a problem that is commonly brought to RM's attention, and that is how to organise the MIDI connections for a master keyboard, MIDI sequencer and synchroniser so that parts can be recorded onto the sequencer while it's synchronised to tape. In fact, a solution was given in last month's Crosstalk in the shape of a DIY switcher. If you can't be bothered to do it yourself, the simple and cheap FS1 will serve admirably. For any more complicated switching jobs, perhaps involving two keyboards addressing various modules in a multi-player set-up, then providing you don't need merging, FST (Turbo) will be the switcher for you. To get a really flexible system may involve some clever wiring using the Thrus on some equipment, so that different sources and destinations can be selected on the switcher without losing crucial interconnections, but once set up to suit your needs, it shouldn't need changing again. A variety of possible applications are given in the brochure, and if none of these suit you, then it should be possible to extrapolate something useful to your system. One useful example given in the manual solves a problem that arises if you have an older sequencer that doesn't provide a combined MIDI Thru on its MIDI Out; a flick of a switch reconfigures your system so that either your keyboard or your sequencer is the master. One thing about the manual: a rather strange labelling system for the sockets is used. The sockets are labelled from A to H, on both units. However, the FS1, which has only five sockets, loses sockets B, D and G for labelling purposes, leaving the somewhat less than intuitive socket sequence of A, C, E, F, H.
Of the two, the FST is the better buy, since it has more possibilities; that said, if all you need is some simple switching, the FS1 will do. Neither is expensive, and both are passive, so no battery costs. If your MIDI setup is just beginning to get a little unmanageable, then it could be time to take a look at one of these little boxes. If in doubt, note that both carry a 60-day, no-quibble money back guarantee. And what's more, there's a note at the end of the manual indicating that if, after purchasing one of the Future Switches, you're still confused, you can drop a line (with full info on your gear and what you're trying to achieve) to the folks at Future History, and they'll do their best to help. If that's not good customer relations, I don't know what is.
FS1 £16.50; FST £24. Prices include VAT and P&P.
Future History, (Contact Details).
Review by Derek Johnson
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