Software for the Atari ST
A patch librarian that can be tucked away as a desktop utility. Chris Jenkins boots up this American software for the Atari ST.
IT'S A FACT: modern synth technology creates almost as many problems as it solves. One of the major headaches of the multi-instrumental MIDI studio is the storage and retrieval of sound patches - while most modern synths have reasonable on-board patch-storage facilities they're not normally sufficient to build up a sizeable library of sounds. On top of that there are those occasions when you want to transfer patches from one synth to another. You're facing the familiar problems of unreliable tape storage, expensive cartridges or fragile RAM cards. But, happily, there's now an alternative solution.
Paradigm Software's Omni-Banker is a patch librarian designed to run on the Atari ST family of computers. It's supplied on a single unprotected disk, and registered users are entitled to updates every quarter.
Unlike most software patch librarians, Omni-Banker is not limited to use with one synth. At the moment, it will store patches for the Ensoniq ESQ, Yamaha DXs, TXs and FB01 synths and RX drum machines, and Casio CZ synths. Later versions are intended to cope with Roland, Sequential and Korg instruments too. Obviously, this involves a saving on both money and time because you'll only need to buy and operate one program.
Another boon is that Omni-Banker works as a desk accessory on the ST. Once installed, you can load, say, a sequencer program while keeping Omni-Banker tucked away ready for use at any time. You can then change patches on your synths and return to the sequencer without having to reload it. There is a "but" here, as any desk accessory necessarily uses up some of the memory otherwise available to the main program. However, it's not a problem I ran into whilst using Omni-Banker.
The program runs on hi-res mono or medium-res colour monitors and is GEM-based and operated using a mouse, icons and pop-up windows. For traditionalists there's the option of using the STs function keys or, indeed, sensibly-chosen alphanumeric keys.
The main display features two bank windows, each of which will display up to 128 patches received from the synth. Thirty-two of these are visible at a time, and you can use the scroll bars to examine the remainder. Each patch can be named, even if the synth does not normally support naming. You can also give a disk file name and a short description to each bank, which is automatically assigned a suffix for disk storage. For example: "DX71; Basses, horns, effects. X7V".
Patch lists can then be printed out, and individual patches can be deleted, swapped around, copied to another window or moved to another position in the same window. In this way you can build up custom banks from, say, a collection of cartridges, name the banks and save them to disk. Since you can store something like 80 banks of 32 DX7 sounds on one disk, life suddenly becomes so much more simple.
The Inst and Option functions open windows which allow you to select the type of instrument currently in use, and to define the operation of the program. The status window on the main display shows the current instrument type, model, data type (voices or rhythms) and the current bank in the instrument. The Options panel lets you program Omni-Banker to warn you before it accepts radical changes such as overwriting or deleting a whole bank of patches. You an also change the default operation of the Drag mode (Swap, Copy or Move); make Omni-Banker send a patch change message to the synth each time you select a new patch on the screen; audition each newly-selected patch by having the synth play a series of notes; and auto-transmit a bank to the synth whenever it is loaded from disk.
Omni-Banker also includes a simple MIDI test utility which sends note patterns on any chosen channel. This allows you to check the connection of your system quickly and easily.
Bear in mind that, while Omni-Banker makes storage of patches much easier, it does not allow you to edit them; for that you'll still need infinite patience or an editor program for each synth. So, while Omni-Banker is an invaluable saver of time and money, it has a major rival in Hybrid Arts' GenPatch (reviewed elsewhere in this issue) which is more powerful but also more expensive.
Omni-Banker is fully supported by a free user query service and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. At this price I personally believe it will repay your investment many times over.
Price $165 inc 1st class airmail p&p (cheque or money order)
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Review by Chris Jenkins
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