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Roland Newslink — Frankfurt Report

Perfect Timing

Article from International Musician & Recording World, April 1985

The Roland SBX-80 puts an end to synchronization difficulties and helps you make your own video.

The SBX-80 puts you in sync.

Ever wondered whether a particular sequencer, arpeggiator or rhythm machine will connect up to another of a different type? Well if it won't, and you patch it through a Roland SBX-80, it will. From a Drumatix to an Emulator the SBX-80 is a universal synchronizer. It works with MIDI and all other systems in common use, and can use world-standard SMPTE time code which makes it compatible with video as well as pro-audio equipment.

Roland's standard demonstration of the unit's abilities with video is to replace a 'Star Wars' action sound-track with its all Roland equivalent. This involves the use of Roland drum machines and synthesizers to provide the sound effects (Jupiter 6 for explosions, escaping pressure and metal-on-metal collisions, TR-707 for thudding cannons) and a Roland MSQ-700 sequencer as the master clock.

The technique, which would of course be entirely applicable to any band making their own video, is simple. Firstly, a SMPTE code is recorded over the existing sound track using the SBX-80. This is what the SBX-80 will later 'read' to keep everything in sync. A cable is taken from the Audio Out of a standard video recorder into the SMPTE In of the SBX-80. Using the recorder and editing facilities of the MSQ-700 appropriate sound effects can then be recorded and placed where desired throughout the video sequence. Music, too, could be added in synchronization. In performance, the SBX-80 reads the time code and keeps the sequencer exactly in step with the video tape irrespective of any fluctuations in the speed of the machine.

In an increasingly video-conscious market, the SBX-80 has a vital part to play. Especially since it's around half the price of any comparable SMPTE generator. Multi-track, too, will benefit. Research and development is well under way for a new generation of eight, four, and two track recorders which will be equipped with motors capable of synchronization with one another. Professional reel-to-reel machines already have this capability and the SBX-80 can synchronize two of them together, for example to double the number of available tracks. When smaller formats are available with similar systems the SBX-80 will transform multi-track recording giving unprecedented control of time and tempo. Using the SMPTE system it would even be possible to sync up two out-of-sync pieces, each on a different recording machine.

Make Your Drum Machine Follow You

One of the most important effects of the SBX-80 is it sets musicians free from the tyranny of electronic clocks. Since the first rhythm machines and sequencers, the human musician has been obliged to fit in with his equipment rather than vice versa. This has resulted in electronic music occasionally sounding rather mechanical. A human drummer can speed up and slow down slightly to add mood and flavour to the music — a sequencer can't.

With the SBX-80, however, all the electronics in a band can be paced by a human using a tap button, a microphone, or a remote switch. Equip your drummer with a footswitch and, at the same time as playing a conventional kit, he can tap out the rate for any number of drum boxes, sequencers, and arpeggiators. No longer are techniques like accelerando and rallentando brain damage for the electronic ensemble, unless of course they don't speak Italian.

Just as the SBX-80 can be used to synchronise electronics to a human band, so it can be used to synchronise them to a recorded tape, even when the recording has been done without a click track. The technique is to play the tape (record, disc, etc.) and tap along with the music on the Tap button of the synchroniser. The tapping can be used to lay down a time code sequence on a parallel track of a recording machine, and rhythm machines or sequencers can be controlled by the SBX-80 as it reads this code. In this way it is possible to add passages to pre-recorded music even though they're too fast or technically difficult for a human musician.

With a device like the SBX-80, the possibilities are endless. Already a successful recording has been made with some of the musicians in London and others in Bermuda: only the data tape needed to be sent to ensure perfect synchronization. The SBX-80 is the first reasonably priced device to open up video synchronising techniques to the ordinary musician, just about eliminates problems of synchronisation between different products, puts the flesh-and-blood musician back in control of his digital band. Not only that, but at just £900 it's not too far out of sync with most people's budgets.

Boss Microrack

The name of Boss is already familiar to the home recording market, but a new range of microrack effects and processors will have a dramatic influence. Microrack units are small, inexpensive, and have impeccable audio quality. In the past, home recorders have had to choose between professional format modules with a price tag to match, and foot pedal type effects with less than ideal audio specifications. The Boss range includes Compressor Limiter, Digital Delay, Flanger, Graphic Equaliser, Phaser.

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Roland Digital Percussion

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The Reverb Revolution

Publisher: International Musician & Recording World - Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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International Musician - Apr 1985

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman

Roland Newslink — Frankfurt Report


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