Pictures Of An Exhibition
New Products Special
Frankfurt show report
A photographic jaunt around the stands at this year's Frankfurt Music Exhibition, compiled with the aid of E&CM's research team in Germany.
No music equipment show would be complete without Messrs Roland and Yamaha displaying their latest innovations. And it's fitting that we begin with them, since out of the whole show their two stands were probably the most consistently busy. Roland were demonstrating the new guitar synth along with the as-yet-unreleased Juno 106; both of which feature (albeit briefly) in last month's ES&CM. Yamaha revealed a stranger to these shores in their CX5 micro-computer, capable (with keyboard) of doubling as a DX9. Also on show was the top of the DX range — the DX1.
Both companies had plenty of staff on hand (predominantly German, for obvious reasons), though most people seemed more interested in getting hands-on experience — no bad thing in our opinion.
As a side note, Hamer were showing one of the first guitars to be fitted with the Roland guitar synth insert, which enables their guitars to work the synth unit. However, we did wonder about possible resonance problems, especially as Roland's own 707 has been designed with a supporting arm to prevent such problems.
Despite several differences between the products we've put under this heading, it seemed appropriate to group them — they were also in the same corner of Hall 9 amongst hundreds of pianos (don't ask us why).
Star of the Oberheim demo room — though not yet in full production — is their six individually-programmable-voice synthesizer expansion system. Coupled with the DMX drum machine and DSX sequencer, plus OB-8 (with MIDI no was standard), the complete system is pretty formidable. Let's hope they can set up a comparable distribution network.
Sequential Circuits had brought their demonstrator over from The States and whilst he was busy playing the T8, we got our shot of the other T8 on show with the new Drum Traks and Six Traks — though we must admit to some dismay at having to play 'spot the MIDI/Commodore 64 interface'. Still, they're a good bunch of lads really.
After the high powered (megawatts) Oberheim demo and the busy SCI stand, we descended upon a brief concert featuring the new gear from Siel (one of the few companies to prepare an English press pack). The new boy in the Siel camp is their Expander 6 — a six voice programmable synthesizer with MIDI. As with the Oberheim, it will work with any MIDI synth; though obviously Siel would prefer if you bought theirs.
Walking around the stands, one thing became immediately apparent — everybody is into drum synths, drum samples or drum machines. We shall be looking in detail at more of these at a later date, but here are three with widely different formats.
The Dr Bohm Digital Drums are exactly what you'd expect from a keyboard giant. Designed more with keyboard players in mind, the sounds are still all sampled. However, if you forget about the preset rhythm patterns then the layout is similar to most other drum machines of this type. The sound was just as good and it did seem to be attracting some attention.
The Klone Kit II is also new on the British market, and worth including since the pads are so novel. Then there's the Dynacord system, featuring sampled sounds triggered by pads or buttons on a separate unit. This is another machine we will be investigating more fully at a later date.
Amongst the new instruments on show were some from companies not usually associated with a specific product line — synths in our case. Firstly, Farfisa with a range of keyboard systems (but no literature), sounding like many others in this style.
The Project 100 from the German company Solton. It looked promising, but there didn't seem to be any to listen to and we couldn't find anyone on the stand who spoke English... so spielt das leben! Lastly, one of the talking points of the show, from Akai. Paradoxically, they weren't doing much of the talking themselves, though the three piece band giving the demonstration (they were called DIO) made up for the deficit. From the pictures can be seen the synth, sequencer and video-cassette based recording and mixing console — so far Akai will only talk about the 'whole system' and this is probably a good idea since the sounds on the synth were rather thin.
In between the Rolands and Yamahas of this world, and the single product concerns, are others with their own particular brand of instrument. Some, like Kawai had large selections of organs and pianos and consequently their stand was only minimally set up to cater for budding synthesists. Korg, on the other hand, were to be found amid myriad poly 800s on tables, alongside the rest of the range — Poly 61 et al. The Korg demo was also quite impressive, despite a few technical problems at the start. Seiko had no trouble showing off the finer points of their synth, but then there is really only one of them. We've also included Jen in this section (see elsewhere in this issue) and the Crumar Composer and T3; though until the latter sort out their UK distribution, that's about all we can say.
As far as the serious electronic music composer is concerned, the real showstoppers were slightly harder to find than more commercially accessible products. However, by the second day we had routed out this little lot.
Starting with the Rhodes Chroma, and our old friend Peter Vitesse — looking decidedly pallid after being blinded by our photographer's flash-gun (well, he'd just deafened us with the "Chroma's excellent filtering"—Ed). Another synth With an expander, though this time it's 16 voices.
Then there's that stalwort of the computer music technician — the Fairlight. Unfortunately, we got somewhat of a posed shot, since they were so fussy about attending the demo at the correct time that we didn't bother.
Next something called the McCleyvier or some such name — another stand where the inadequacy of informative literature was exceeded only by the abruptness of the people running it. It's a pity, since the equipment looks pretty exciting.
And to round off the trio of uninviting stands, there was this person demonstrating the Synergy to someone hell bent on running through every single sample on the plugin packs. Again, no literature, so no real story, though the machine has been around for some time anyway. Moving on to the Emulator II, here's one instrument that will definitely appear in a future issue of ES&CM. One point that is worth mentioning is that they've managed to avoid keeping up with the latest trends towards miniaturisation — yes, it's bigger than the Emulator I. Some remnants of civilisation now, on the PPG stand, where we were greeted by the Wave 2.3. Elsewhere in this issue you can read about how the BBC use their PPG to good effect, but suffice it to say that here is one company who manage to put on a good show. After the demo we discussed the finer points of the new system and picked up the relevant leaflets — such a change from meeting with the usual contempt greeting the press at trade shows (if you're not buying, they're not selling).
To close this brief foray around the stands at Frankfurt, we've saved the best until last — the Cover Publications stand within the British press contingent. We did try to take a picture when the stand was a bit less crowded, but that turned out to be impossible — just one of the problems of being popular I suppose.
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