International Music Show
Paul Ireson on this year's International Music Show.
Paul Ireson reports on the highlights of the IMS.
The change in name from British Music Fair to International Music Show hadn't quite caught up with everyone by the time the show itself rolled around. It was fairly easy to ignore "BMF" in conversation, and mentally substitute "IMS" if you're particular about that kind of thing, but not quite so easy to ignore the fact that one of the signs outside Olympia proudly announced the "International Music Fair". Oops. It was also quite obvious that despite the grander title, the event itself was smaller than last year — fewer exhibitors, fewer visitors — reflecting the state of an industry in recession.
The BMF/IMS has always had an odd feel to it. Rock 'n' roll, orchestral instruments, hi-tech and printed music all come together, but unlike the Frankfurt Musik Messe, the London show is not really big enough to comfortably accommodate the different elements. This year's smaller show emphasised that, with the result that all types of visitors found less than usual to catch their eye.
Anyway, for those that did turn up it was at least easier to get to play with all the goodies, and there were one or two genuine surprises in store. The major news at the show was the unveiling by Emu, exhibiting for the first time in five years, of their new Proteus Master Performance System. The MPS is a performance oriented Proteus-based keyboard with great looks, Proteus-ish sound (but a better grand piano, a mono version of the Proformance piano in fact), a very classy internal effects processor, and strong performance features, including a Quick Keys function which allows you to call up any of a set of stored setups for an entire MIDI system. The MPS should arrive this month, and the price will be £1,199.
Also in the "genuinely new, not seen before" category was a working version of Cheetah's MS800 synth module. This £199 rackmount 16-voice wavetable synth module will be the cheapest programmable synth expander on the market, although the spec of the unit has yet to be finalised — there is still the possibility of analogue filtering to add to the basic wavetable synthesis, although that would push the price over the magic £200 mark. The new Master Series 770 controller keyboard (£899.99) offers an 88-note keyboard with aftertouch, velocity and release velocity response, and Cheetah also showed an early prototype of the Zeus 24, which the company say will be the most powerful analogue synth ever produced — quite a claim to make when an Oberheim Matrix 12 and OB-MX were being shown in the same hall. In any case, the 24-voice polyphonic instrument looks like it will indeed be something of a monster (in the best sense of the word), although Cheetah would do well to spend a little money on giving it decent case to match the circuits they intend wrapping up. Price? Relax; you'll probably be able to afford it.
Speaking of the Oberheim OB-MX, this modern classic should be shipping now, and despite a hefty price tag for a full 12-voice module (the basic OB-MX has one stereo voice card, and you can add up to 11 more), there doesn't seem to be a shortage of buyers.
Over on the Sound Technology stand, the Alesis ADAT affordable 8-track digital recorder was still not available in a working version; there was, however, a different form of digital recording in Digital Performer. Digital Performer is a version of MOTU's pro sequencer that integrates recording and editing of stereo audio (on hard disk) with MIDI data recording, in much the same way as Opcode's Studio Vision, which was also on show in its version 1.3 form. Both use Digidesign digital audio hardware, and it looks like Cubase will be the next to make the MIDI-audio link in this way. For those that can't afford this route to audio/MIDI integration, a cheaper and more traditional (?) route was on demo on the Fostex stand, where the R8 was shown running in sync with both Cubase and Notator on the ST.
There was nothing really new from Yamaha; although the SY99 received its official UK launch, the SY99, QY10 and RY30 had all been seen at Frankfurt, the MIDI Music Show and/or the APRS, but were nonetheless impressive to first timers. (I bought a QY10 a while back, and it still amazes me.)
Roland's latest range of products were all similarly old news to show-goers, but the JX1 (small, perfectly formed, today's ideal starter synth), JD800 (the one with all the knobs and sliders that should never have disappeared in the first place), Sound Canvas, and S750, were eagerly devoured by the hi-tech public.
Korg, however, did have something new in the Wavestation A/D, the rackmount version of the Wavestation. The 'A/D' refers to the provision of twin analogue inputs on the unit, allowing a stereo source to be fed right into the heart of the Wavestation's vector synthesis. The effects section has also been improved, to include several effects intended specifically for certain external inputs (a vocoder, for example). Korg are, incidentally, about to launch another major new product. It will be a keyboard called the 01/W, and there will also be an 01/WFD. By the time you read this it should have been unveiled, but at present the wraps are very firmly on, so there really is nothing more to say at present — check next month's Shape Of Things To Come for details.
On the digital effects front, the Zoom 9030 was another star of the show, but I'll leave it to David Mellor's review to tell you all about it. The ART Multiverb Alpha also looked good; this new top of the range model sounds better than its predecessor, and costs less. The GT (guitar) version of the Alesis Quadraverb was also on show which, like the Zoom, features an analogue pre-amp section offering compression and distortion.
Finally, one of the more off-the-wall new products was the Philip Rees G2 MIDI controller, which looks something like a cross between a lyre (as played by Cacafonix the bard in all those Asterix comics) and a Suzuki Omnichord. The player holds down buttons on the neck to select chords, and taps or strums six pads on the body to trigger notes — the result is a very playable guitar-esque controller, a usable new instrument rather than a guitar wannabe that falls into the trap of not quite being the real thing. The G2 is not yet in production, but when it arrives for real, the price should be around £400.
Show Report by Paul Ireson
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