Phil Brammer unleashes the full potential of his M-1 and his DX with two great patch editors
Phil Brammer unlocks the potential of his collection of synths thanks to a box of delights from Pandora
In recent conversations with MIDI-folk a recurring theme has concerned the amount of time spent experimenting (and just playing) with MIDI gear and how much music we actually commit to tape. Are these computers making life any easier for the artists using them or what? Quantizing is great if your playing is inaccurate (and very few of us have perfect rhythm) but I am convinced that many of us are getting lazier in the long run. How many excuses can we find for not hitting that Record button?
Well I guess this is what ultimately sorts out the pro's from the dabblers, and suspect that even the dabblers will settle down with their micros and start producing, eventually. But there is much to learn and time is very precious. What's most likely to really save us time is Generic Editors.
Two such Synth Editors are the DXessory (sic) for the mighty Yamaha's 6-Operator Synths such as the DX and TX series, and the M1-Accessory for the Korg M1 and M1-R, from Pandora Technology.
They have a lot in common. Both programs are written by Rupert Page, so he really should be onto a good thing with these packages. The synths are expensive and notoriously difficult to program. The software (comes as a single-sided disk in each case) is relatively cheap, sits patiently as a desk accessory while you run your sequencer, and saves you from ever having to get off your backside.
And what do they do? Everything you would expect to be able to do to the sound of your Synth you can do onscreen using one of these Editors. And much quicker. Those nice people at Argents (Hi kids) myself to create havoc there on more than one occasion ("Can you rewire this, please?") and remained cool throughout.
Thanks to them we were able to use a Yamaha TX-802, a Korg M-1 and their Atari 1040ST in order to test these packages.
The M1 Accessory has since convinced itself that it is either a copied disk or a Demonstration disk. So even software can lose it's cool in these chaotic times.
The Graphics are excellent in both cases (I particularly like the lavatory trash icon on DXessory), although the fact that once you allow the mouse pointer to leave the smaller than usual main screen the program disappears is a little disconcerting at first. But never fear. You simply grab it back from GEM Desktop. And this is the beauty of these Editors after all - the fact that they do reside in memory and allow you to carry on sequencing.
Usually you can call up the Editor while the sequencer is running! As I write I am exploiting the Desktop facility by using 1st-Word with the DXessory loaded to remind myself what it looks like. And it looks pretty good to me. In fact the layout in each case is so self-explanatory that I need not bore you with much detail. Take a look at the pics. You surely don't want to read more tales of Algorithms and Samploids? No. If you already own one of the relevant Synths you're already more au fait with its weird and wonderful workings than I, and if I can use these programs with relative ease, given such a small amount of time with the actual hardware, then you certainly can. If you have been spending hours trying to get into the guts of your Synth (or trying to understand the manual) in a semi-mystical search for the sound, then you will find the graphic representation of the parameter you are editing a real joy.
You can still use numbers if you wish (by clicking on the relevant Numerical box), but the way you can just drag the graph of your data around - by clicking the mouse on the section of the graph you wish to edit and then dragging - is much quicker and more rewarding.
Drop-down mini-menus save cluttering up the main screen and from the one headed display you can choose which parameter you are viewing, whether or not you happen to be editing that aspect of sound, so these two packages really are quite flexible. The Algorithm you are using (see the top right of the DXessory main screen) is sensibly displayed and is changed by clicking in the "ALG" box. Clicking on an operator will turn it white (and OFF) and the amount of feedback around a loop is changed by clicking in the "FBACK" box. Okay, so I promised I wouldn't mention Algorithms, but I'm sure that there will be TX/DX 6-Operator owners who will be relieved to know how much simpler life could be with the DXessory.
Operation-wise these Editors really are easy, and as I don't intend to rewrite the manual here, I must now turn your attention to the man behind the programs.
Rupert Page has obviously put his heart and soul into these packages and this is reflected in the manuals, which are quite small (but still a bit too wordy for my liking), and humourous. eg "To enter the Bank Manager (?!!) select the 'Bank Manager' option from the 'Utility' minimenu."
Unfortunately RP's sense of humour haunts the software itself, with Dialog Boxes containing such gems as "Sorry Matey. That file was of the wrong type", and "Okay, big boy. The old voice is in the Clipboard" - which is nothing if not sexist.
A shame, really, as the software is otherwise very sophisticated, and if you are going to spend hours building up libraries of sounds I think most of you will find even his wisest cracks wearing a bit thin. My only other gripe is with the lack of a simple "Note Off" button as we seemed to suffer a lot of stuck notes during our trial, although these became fewer as we became more familiar with the software.
Nice that both programs will run on any Atari-ST, but you will need a high resolution monitor, and you can't make a proper backup copy as is usually the case these days, relying instead on your master disk for validation of your working copy.
Pity then that my review copy of the M1-Accessory now thinks it's only a working copy and refuses to validate itself. Despite my minor reservations I think that many people owning a compatible Synth (and cheap they're not) will have one of these packages high on their shopping lists. I'm sure the pro's will, if they don't already own one. Because it saves time. And time is money.
Products: DXessory (for Yamaha 6-Operato Synthesizers)
M1-Accessory (for Korg M1 and M1-R Synthesizers)
Format: Atari ST (all models)
Supplier: Pandora Technology, (Contact Details)
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Review by Phil Brammer