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Need A Helping Hand?

Dave Simpson discovers a remote control, autolocate and spare hand all in one compact unit - the QuPlay QP1.


Dave Simpson discovers a remote control, autolocate and spare hand all in one compact unit - the QuPlay QP1.


NEED A HELPING HAND?



I'll be honest - it's not often that I get a device like this to review and in the two years I have been running a professional B16-based studio, although I have bought every imaginable effect and recording aid, somehow a remote control never seemed able to justify its cost to me. That new digital reverb, or yet another delay/sampler, always seemed more important. Well, let me tell you now - it's not!

A couple of weeks ago those awfully nice QuPlay people brought me a little gadget called the QP1 Auto Record Memory, and after the first few sessions, without wishing to give away the tone of the review in advance, I was hooked. The device has three main functions which lend themselves to a host of applications. Firstly, it acts as a remote control - not a full remote though, the QP1 will only let you use the tape transport functions and activate the record button ie. you cannot select which track you wish to record on. Secondly, it memorises drop-in and drop-out points allowing repeated drop-ins with incredible accuracy.

Thirdly, it can be used to trigger devices such as sequencers and drum machines at pre-programmed points.

The QP1 has three main sections. At the top of the unit are six buttons which duplicate the tape transport functions found on a tape recorder, with one exception: instead of a return to zero button (as found on a Fostex B16 for instance) there is a button which, when pressed, returns the tape recorder to the programmed drop-in point. If no such point has been programmed then the tape will continue rewinding until it spools off the reel, and will ignore any zero counter on the actual machine. These six buttons are used in exactly the same way as the controls on the master machine - you press Record and Play to put the unit into record mode, and pressing Stop will do just that. Fast Forward and Rewind operate in the same way and, given the generous five metres of cable, I found that just using the unit as a remote was very handy. The QP1 does much more than this however.

Below the tape transport controls are five further buttons, and three small LED 'windows'. These buttons allow the programming of drop-in and drop-out points and provide a visual display of what the QP1 is doing.

I never quite see the point of going into endless detail describing how to use a given device and what controls to press to get it to do A, B or C. It seems much more useful to detail what it does (or doesn't) do, and any problems connected with it. A brief rundown on how to perform an automatic drop-in probably won't hurt though.

DROPPING IN



Pressing the button marked Prog(ramme) causes a green light to come on and readies the unit to accept instructions. You then wind the tape recorder on until you reach your required drop-in point whereupon pressing the button marked In will programme the drop-in point into the QP1's memory. Since this can be done with the tape moving or stationary, it allows very accurate points to be chosen. You then wind or play the tape forward until the drop-out point is reached, and press - you guessed it - Out.

Rewinding the tape, you can play over the drop in and out points and check them using the LED windows - as the tape passes the drop-in point an orange 'cue' light will come on, going off as the dropout point is passed. This check is possible because the unit will not actually tell the tape machine to record until the Arm and Disarm buttons are pressed simultaneously on the QP1, at which point a red light will come on indicating record status. Repeating the check process now will cause the machine to begin recording at the drop-in point, and de-activate record at the drop-out point. Handy huh?

In the case of the B16, the drop-ins will occur on whichever tracks have their record ready buttons depressed - in other words, you have to choose the track (or tracks) to be dropped in on the multitrack itself - the QP1 will only begin and end the recording period (albeit remotely).

What the QP1 will not do then, is let you stash your B16, or whatever, at the rear of your vast control room and run the entire show remotely, just like they do in 'proper' studios. What it will do though, is let you accomplish drop-ins with great accuracy time after time, and if only a single track is to be dropped in, it is no big deal to walk over from wherever you happen to be to your multitrack in order to choose your track. Personally, my control room isn't big enough to extend the cable even halfway, so the exercise is tolerable!

CALL TO ARMS



Moving onward, to the rear of the QP1 are two switches and two jack sockets. With regard to the first switch, remember I talked about having to 'arm' the machine by pressing two buttons at once in order to enable recording to take place? Well, in one position, the switch necessitates re-arming the QP1 after every take. This means that if you record a passage, then go back to re-record it, the second time around the tape would play, but the record function would not be activated unless the Arm and Disarm buttons have been pressed. This safety function makes accidental erasure less of a problem. However, we have all probably experienced times when some rinky-dink guitarist is on the fifteenth take, and you just know that he's going to muck it up again, and by switching the switches to the other position, it obliviates the need to re-arm the unit after every take. You can close one eye, have a cup of coffee and just keep pressing a single button - he can cock it up all he likes without draining your valuable energy or taxing your precious concentration!

The second switch controls the triggering function. In the first position, a single trigger pulse is emitted by the device which can be used to activate a sampler, say, or trigger an effect. In position two, a continuous closure is provided to last over the whole of the period enclosed by the drop-in and out points - useful for starting sequencers, drum machines etc. The trigger output is via the second jack socket on the rear of the QP1.

The first jack socket accepts a standard footswitch which has two functions. When the machine is in the 'program enable' mode, a single press will memorise the drop-in point - a further press will memorise the drop-out point. I didn't find a great deal of use for this, but it's there if you need it I suppose. When the QP1 is in passive mode (not program enable) you can shift a 'window' (ie. the time between drop-in and out points) to anywhere in the track by simply pressing the footswitch at the new tape location. Again, I didn't find a use for this since drop-ins usually have very specific times relative to their points on the tape. It might be useful if the unit could memorise more than one 'window', so bursts of sequencer could be programmed, but that's another story. I didn't use the footswitch functions much, but again, they are available if you want them.

An interesting variant on the 'drop in then drop out' theme is to drop in, rewind the tape and then programme the drop-out point before the drop-in. For example, if you want to preserve a recorded synth solo, whilst filling up the unused element of the same track with rhythm guitar, the unit will record from the beginning of the track, drop out at the start of the solo, leaving it intact, then resume recording after the solo.

One other point I forgot to mention is that the QP1 accepts programming via devices such as sequencers - the QP1 can trigger an effect of a specific length during a mix for instance - very handy.

The QP1 derives its power from the tape recorder via a multiway plug connected to the Remote socket of the recorder, so no batteries are required and the unit can never die on you at a vital point (unless, of course, the tape recorder does).

CONCLUSIONS



I would have loved to see some more memories on the QP1, possibly a tape counter, and some way of selecting drop-in tracks would have been nice. Despite that, the ability to clean up tracks without fear of accidentally erasing a valued take, alone makes it worth the money (£299 plus VAT). The remote function is invaluable - the triggering facilities a bonus.

The QP1 is excellently laid out, robust and, most of all, extremely accurate - after 17 tape passes I found it accurate to just over an inch running at 15ips on a Fostex B16. I've lost count of the uses the unit has, and only one small black cloud lingers on my horizon: soon I plan to go 24 track, and although the QP1 will interface with most Japanese recorders (eg. Otari, Tascam, Fostex), European machines (Studer, Soundcraft etc.) use metal rollers and, subsequently, are not accurate enough to drive the unit! The QP1 is so useful though that I'll probably have my new 24 track modified to accept it, rubber pinch wheel and all. The QP1 really is the handiest studio device since the re-introduction of the Sinex nasal spray and, in my opinion, is a must for all multitrack owners.

(Contact Details)


Also featuring gear in this article

QuPlay QP1
(HSR Oct 85)


Browse category: Remote Control > QuPlay



Previous Article in this issue

Perfect Beat

Next article in this issue

Talking MIDI


Sound On Sound - Copyright: SOS Publications Ltd.
The contents of this magazine are re-published here with the kind permission of SOS Publications Ltd.

 

Sound On Sound - Feb 1986

Donated by: Gavin Livingstone

Gear in this article:

Remote Control > QuPlay > QP1

Review by Dave Simpson

Previous article in this issue:

> Perfect Beat

Next article in this issue:

> Talking MIDI


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