Phil Brammer runs through the pro's and cons of the Proteus Editor from Caged Artist
The E-Mu Proteus Editor/Librarian by Caged Artist works in medium or high monitor resolution modes and is packaged as one copy-protected single-sided disk with a seventy-odd page A-5 soft backed manual, all lovingly wrapped and hermetically sealed in cellophane. It costs £110 quid.
As you may expect if you're at all familiar with the stuff from Caged Artist and the good Dr. T it works inside their famous Multi Program Environment, wherein various Mouse Play modes will give access to KCS (their Keyboard Controlled Sequencer) functions. (KCS freaks take note: you will need to allocate at least 6K bytes of memory to resource storage - see your KCS manuals!) The program also has a GEM interface so you can still run some of your favourite DA's (Disk Accessories and nothing to do with ducks) from Desktop, but don't expect the GEM window environment found on Dr. T's X-OR - the 'Universal' Editor Librarian which is reviewed elsewhere in this fab ish.
Most of the screens are rather dull affairs, actually. They give you access to the nuts and bolts you need to do the job, but my main impression is one of endless lists of channels, parameters and the rest, which you are usually expected to change by means of the mouse - by clicking on the current value, thus highlighting it, and then zapping over to the virtual slider which runs up the left hand side of many of these screens, grabbing it (it's usually at the bottom), and then dragging it up (or down) to change the specification highlighted. All this even just to turn a function ON or OFF! Alternatively move the cursor around with the Atari's directional keys, changing values using the +/- keys. Neither mode of operation eases the creative flow for me.
The Globals Edit, Program Map, Tuning Edit, Setup Edit and System Edit modes (from the MODE drop-down menu) operate pretty much as described above, except that the Tuning Edit page gives some light relief with a musical keyboard diagram (KEY SELECT/PLAY) with which you can interact directly using the mouse. The same page offers the USER TUNING TABLE and the OCTAVE SELECT table along with that ominous slider to the left of the screen...
Of the two Modes I haven't mentioned yet Preset Bank lists one of four available banks of Presets (three factory banks being supplied on the disk) which can be copied, swapped or moved around the table in which they are listed. Click on the required Patch (say, Hollow Solo), choose the relevant option (Copy, Swap or Move) from the EDIT menu and you will be given a prompt where the menu bar used to live as to how to proceed. EG select destination. Not as handy as just clicking and dragging, but it works. However, Patches can be moved around Banks, from Bank to Bank, Saved, Saved as Banks or Sent to the Proteus and all that. So much for the Librarian aspect of this Editor/Librarian.
The final MODE is Preset Edit and I guess this is where the fun begins. Beneath the main Menu bar is the NAME of the Patch which was highlighted in the Preset Bank table (said Patch now being in buffer) alongside an EDIT SELECT bar with the options: Instruments, MIDIPatch and Links/Ranges. Clicking on the Preset Bank mode we are brought directly into the Instruments page, but we will find that the NAME/EDIT SELECT bars are common to all three Preset Edit pages.
Beneath these bars on this first page we find tables of parameters for both Primary and Secondary sound sources in boxes left and right, with the Cross-fade/Output table in between. These parameters include Sound Start, Delay, Coarse and Fine Tuning, Volume and Pan (change the number with the slider), and the famous Reverse facility (sounds groovy to me, Pups), Chorus, Envelope and Solo functions which are all turned On or Off using the virtual slider. What a drag!
Clicking on the Instrument name of the Primary or Secondary source of your current Patch evokes a table of instruments with an OK box and a More box. Hit More for another list of instruments. Choose an instrument (EG Perc.FX1), click on OK and that's the source instrument fixed.
The AHDSR (Attack, Hold, Decay, Sustain, Release) envelopes for the two sources can be manipulated by dragging their respective graph plots around. This is good for all concerned as I don't have to go on about clicking on Attack, for instance, and then reaching for that bloody slider. But it's still an option.
Playing the sounds thus mixed is by use of the mouse, as I mentioned earlier. In its basic mouse mode clicking on the right hand mouse button plays a note. Left to right motion increases Pitch whilst movement up and down the screen alters the Velocity. A nice feature, this, also found on X-OR.
On the MIDIPatch Edit screen parameters in the Realtime Modulation, Key Modulation, Footswitches tables have their own lists of options available in the form of a pop-up box which appears when you double-click on a chosen parameter. EG In the Realtime Modulation table, source 1 is Pitch Wheel. Click twice on its current destination (currently Pitch) and 24 other destinations are displayed, such as Primary/Secondary Pitch, Volume, Decay. Click on Decay and the pop-up box disappears leaving your Pitch Wheel set up to control Decay. Efficient. LFO and Controller values are entered using those other methods... The Auxiliary Envelope on the bottom right of this screen operates like the AHDSR Envelope graph so it's OK by me.
Nice graphics on the Links/Ranges Edit screen allow easy editing of stacks by means of a series of parallel bars which you drag to adjust their length against a keyboard diagram beneath. The EDIT drop-down menu features Compare/Copy which will return you temporarily to the Preset Banks screen and prompt you to 'select source', after which you are returned to the Edit page and any parameters having different values from those in the Edit Buffer are underlined (or a different colour if you're still trying to work in Medium resolution). You will now be prompted to 'select parameters to copy' and you only have to highlight these and click on DONE and it's done. Also worthy of note are the Random Mask and Randomize options from the same menu. The percentage of randomization of parameters is set within the System Mode and chosen parameters only (chosen using the Mask) are randomized on the Preset in the Edit Buffer. The Undo feature on the ST will be useful here - until you find a sound worth storing.
Question: Is Proteus...
1) A Greek sea-god who when captured had to prophesy the future, and to escape doing so could change shape?
2) A person who changes opinions, principles and character rapidly?
3) A bacillus found in decomposing meat? Or
4) A genus of half blind wobbly legged eel-like amphibians found in some caves?
Answer: All of the above. It is also no doubt a powerful dedicated Editor from Dr. T - just about totally mouse-driven although I'm personally not very happy about certain aspects of this mouse control. Yes there's MIDI Merge with Solo and Rechannelize and many other admirable features and maybe it's only because I only had a few hours working with the E-Mu Proteus itself (the hardware) that I'm not smitten but I doubt it.
If I owned a Proteus expander I'd be tempted to wait until an E-Mu Proteus Profile appears for X-OR. I am reliably informed that Version 1.1 of X-OR will be available very soon - maybe is available by the time you read this - and as Caged Artist have apparently been working their bottoms off to give us more Profiles, maybe the Proteus Profile will be amongst them. Maybe not. If you are only using a Proteus and don't expect to be taking any more synths on-board then take a look at this Editor/Librarian from Dr. T. And as always check out the competition.
Product: E-mu Proteus
Format: Atari Version 1.02
Supplier: Dr T
Address: (Contact Details)
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Review by Phil Brammer