A review of PA Decoder's D50 ROM Vol II joins patches for the Ensoniq ESQ1, Kawai K1 and Korg DW6000 in this months' selection of readers' sounds.
If you're still waiting to see your particular synth featured in these pages, then why not be the first to submit some sounds?
Don't forget that if your patch gets published, you'll receive a free year's subscription to MUSIC TECHNOLOGY with our compliments. So send us your favourite sounds on a photocopy of an owner's manual chart (coupled with a blank one for artwork purposes) accompanied by a short demo-tape (doi^t worry too much about classic performances and impeccable recording quality; just present your sounds simply and concisely - and convince us you're the best of the bunch). Include a decent-length description of your sound and its musical purpose in life, and write your full name and address on each chart. And remember, edited presets are all very well, but an original masterpiece is always preferable. OK?
Andrew Nicholas, Leeds
A pleasingly authentic hand-bell patch with just the right delicacy and sparkle, and "use of the Noise waveform to give the sound of the hammer inside the bell". Dust off the Fairy lights and fetch out the Santa suit...
Brian F Robson, Scotland
Brian's offering, '42nd Street', is nothing if not a distinctive patch. As its creator Brian F Robson points out "the object of the patch was to allow the fun of playing those Busby Berkeley-type 'musical' numbers, and as such its musical purpose in life is purely for serious fun".
David Woolfall, Australia
The DW6000 returns to patchwork this month with three sounds from Down Under. The first, 'Breathy Organ' is ideal for light-fingered staccato jabs. 'Gutsy Bass', as the name might suggest, is a gutsy bass sound, reminiscent of Howard Jones circa '83. The charmingly entitled 'Tommy Cooper' is the sort of beautifully warm and atmospheric pad sound any synthesiser would be proud to have sired. A competent collection from a self-confessed exiled Northern bugger. And yes it is still raining in Manchester, David.
I was pleased to see that PA Decoder's D50 ROM Volume II came in a very neat and sturdy plastic case but, unfortunately, that was the end of the good news. The insert included was a piece of photocopied paper, totally lacking the durability of the card that was used in Volume I (reviewed MT, May '88). I might have accepted that this was, after all, a review copy, but...
Having placed the ROM into my D50 I then switched on in anticipation and... nothing. "Faulty ROM" or some similar message appeared. I tried again - it was definitely a faulty device.
I made a few discreet enquiries at two well-known London music stores and they admitted to similar problems. I would like to think that it was a batch problem which has now been resolved but, to reiterate a comment I made in the Volume I review, if you leave the terminals of ROMs exposed you're asking for this sort of problem.
It took a few days to replace the ROM and to give the distributors credit, the new one worked perfectly. Then came the second, and greater, disappointment: the sounds themselves. I was delighted with Volume I - I still use at least a dozen of those sounds in every gig, every session. Maybe I was expecting too much, but I hoped that another feast of classic as well as innovative sounds was coming my way. No such luck. It's not that this library of voices is bad per se, it's just, well, nondescript. Here are 128 examples of a Roland D50 sounding exactly like a Roland D50. Instantly recognisable sounds and, now that we're all used to PCM samples, integral reverbs and choruses and so on, not very inspiring ones.
Most synthesisers can produce an almost endless variety of sounds, but it takes an exceptional patch to grab the attention of the listener for the sheer quality of its sound. Obvious examples are the bass of a Minimoog, the strings of the Prophet 5 or the Jupiter 8 and the brass of an Odyssey. Also in this class of quality sounds are the organs, harps, and pads of a well-programmed D50. Nowhere on my first listen to the PA Volume II ROM did I find a sound that was in the same league as 'Glass Voices' or 'Vollenweider Harp' from Volume I. At one point I wondered if I might have heard one too many D50 patches, so I reloaded some original factory sounds alongside my own patches and some from Volume I - the D50 still has magic; PA's Volume II hasn't.
That's not to say that there aren't good, usable voices - there's a wide selection of strings, brasses, percussion, and the inevitable sound effects amongst many others. By all means check the Volume II out. It may be what you are looking for but personally, I'd strongly recommend its predecessor. If you're looking to develop your D50 still further, go and buy yourself a librarian/editor with your hundred quid. After all, £99.95 ain't peanuts and I honestly think that you are entitled to a little bit more in the way of imagination and innovation for that sort of money.
Gear in this article:
Feature by Gordon Reid