Intrepid reporter Paul Wiffen jets over to Chicago for an exclusive peek at the latest goodies from the States
Micro Music Brings you the hottest news from the Summer NAMM Show in Chicago - Paul Wiffen reports
Latest entry in the 'Dream Machine' stakes, unveiled in Chicago for the first time, is the S-770 16-bit stereo sampler from Roland.
Although the operating system clearly has a long way to go (Roland are realistically quoting Jan'90 as a delivery date), the hardware is very impressive. The demonstration at the show was already using a digital audio In to take stereo from CD, DAT and SCSI, to save and load sound files at high speed to hard disk and (fanfare of trumpets!) rewrite Optical Disk (more on this later).
The S-770 is a 24-voice machine, sampling at 48KHz, 44.1, 24 or 22.05 to cover all industry standards and comes with a 40 meg internal hard disk as standard. Basic memory is 2 meg of RAM, but this can be expanded to 16 meg. Alternatively 10 meg of ROM cards (with sound data permanently stored on-board) can be installed, and this allows 8 meg of RAM for user-sampling to be resident simultaneously. So you could have 10 meg of Roland or third party library sounds permanntly loaded and still have room for 8 meg of your own custom samples.
Digital I/O (SPDIF and Optical formats), SCSI and 6 polyphonic audio outs (in addition to stereo left and right) are all fitted as standard, and all digital-to-analog conversion is 20-bit. Standard Roland digital filters are used (with resonance) and software will allow for D-50 LA-style synthesis as well as pure sample-based sounds. The projected retail is $8,000 (around £5,000 unless the dollar/pound ratio has changed during the publication process).
At the more affordable level Roland also showed the U-20, a cleaned up U-110 sample player in a keyboard. Gone was all the noise in the sample playback and multi-timbral operation is simplified along the lines of the D-series synths. Should just creep in at under a grand.
Korg have expanded the M-1 technology in two directions. For the impoverised there is the M-3R rack, which holds the majority of the M-1's features in a 1u rack with an optional remote program. This will bring the prices of the Korg series of synths down to just over the £1000 mark.
For the professional user, the T-1, T-2 and T-3 keyboards expand the concept to double the M-1's memory (8 megawords) for PCM waveforms and add a disk drive to save and load sequences and user-samples which can be ported in from any MIDI Sample Dump-equipped sampler.
The T-3 features the same 5 octave keyboard as the M-1, the T-2 expands this to 76 notes and the T-1 gives all the way with an 88-note weighted version. Prices for the T range start at just under £2,000. For M-1 and M-1R owners there is an expansion card which expands the PCM memory to the same size as the T-series.
Perhaps the most innovative product at the show for computer owners was from a new company Lone Wolf. They introduced the concept of Media Link, a Local Area Network running over fibre optic cable, which is able to combine MIDI routing and processing with other digital protocols such as Digital Audio, SCSI, RS-422/232 etc. The maximum cable baud rate is 2 Mega baud. This can be increased to 10 mega baud to deal with the demands of multi-channel Digital Audio and the theoretical maximum (when the hardware becomes available) of 100 Megabaud will allow Media-link to expand to give enough bandwidth for high resolution digital video.
The first Media-Link device is the MIDI Tap which features 4 MIDI IN's, 4 MIDI OUT's and RS-422/232 serial connections. MIDI Tap can route information on any of the 64 incoming MIDI channels of each MIDI Tap to any of the outgoing 64 MIDI channels. Concepts like MIDI merging and filtering are outdated as it becomes possible to treat each MIDI channel as an independent data stream and combine or seperate them at will to any destination channel.
MIDI Tap should retail for $1500. Future Lone Wolf products will provide a way onto the network for Digital Audio, SCSI, Digital Video and any other protocols which seem appropriate.
News was rife at the show of rewritable Optical Disk Drives with SCSI interfacing. One particularly interesting one I heard about is from Ricoh which allows 300 meg of data to be stored on each side of a removable cartridge. The drives should come in at under 2 grand and each cartridge under £200 which represents the most economical SCSI mass storage format yet by a factor of 10. Put me down for the first one!
Centre of attraction on the Atari stand was Stacy, the portable ST with battery operation. The compact format includes a trackerball (hurrah!) as a standard and options include a second floppy or hard disk.
Stacy will be the first affordable MIDI computer and its 1 meg standard is enough to run the majority of music programs, but if not it can be expanded to 2 or 4 meg.
Also on the Atari stand, Steinberg were showing programs like Cubase and Avalon running simultaneously with non-M-ROS programs like C-Lab's Xalyser.
Returning the compliment, C-Lab's Notator was running under their multi-tasking enviroment with a Soundworks D-110 editor.
Intelligent Music were also showing a multi-tasking enviroment called ST-RAM which allows complex MIDI routing from program to program inside the ST, which they hope will be adopted as a standard by the industry.
As a friend of mine put it, "Oh to be a fly on the wall of the Atari Developers meeting as they try to decide which standard to adopt."
Show Report by Paul Wiffen
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