Sound On Sound's DEFINITIVE guide to DX7 RAM & ROM cartridges
We bring you Sound On Sounds DEFINITIVE guide to all ROM/RAMs available for the Yamaha DX7 in the UK. Over 2500 voices tested and everything you need to know about the products revealed in a comprehensive round-up and table.
We gave Ian Waugh the enviable(?) task of collecting and assessing every single ROM and RAM cartridge available for Yamaha's DX7. What follows is necessarily a 'subjective' appraisal of the many thousands of voices and is based solely on products available in the UK up to 1st November 1986.
I've been locked in an attic for 6 solid weeks with only bread and water and a DX7 for company. I still can't programme the DX7 but I can work wonders with a loaf of bread!
The task of tracking down and obtaining every available DX cartridge to help while away my solitude has not been easy (the SOS editorial staff never rest), but perhaps it's not surprising that there are so many on the market. Most DX7 owners probably only want to make music and, since it's not the easiest synth in the world to programme, the proliferation of ROMs is understandable.
So, what do you look for in a voice cartridge? Do you want new sounds, better sounds, different sounds? Certainly a change from the presets we hear every week on Top Of The Pops.
As a starting point, I took the basic Yamaha sounds supplied with the DX7 and went looking for things new and different in each of the ROMs. After listening to over 2500 sounds, comparisons became rather difficult as well as odious. The most I could do was to decide if I liked what I heard and if the sounds were sufficiently different and varied to warrant the purchase of the cartridge.
To help put this mammoth amount of information into perspective, the salient points have been summarised in Table 1. What wasn't really feasible - or, I'm sure, desirable for you - was to list and comment on every single voice I heard. What I have done is to indicate the type of voices in the cartridge and make special comment on those which I thought notable - either good or bad. It goes without saying (but I'm going to say it anyway) that these are the opinions of one person only - me! - and you might love the 'Squidgy Flat Frog' sound that I hated. Use the information as a guide to the products; you can only judge them with your own ears.
The 64 voices in each ROM cartridge give Yamaha a good opportunity to show off the DX7's potential to the full.
The sounds are described in the manuals with the aid of small charts. Ideas are given for modifications to the sounds along with useful suggestions for other sounds which go well together and how you can use the sounds, eg. for backing harmony, upper-register solos, etc. There are occasional lapses into 'Japanglish' but nothing at all serious and not enough to prevent me giving the manuals a well-deserved 10/10.
VOICE ROM 101: Keyboard, Plucked & Tuned Percussion Group
Excellent selection of pianos, clavs, and guitars. Lots of oriental instruments (no Koto, though), mandolins, banjos, a zither, vibes, glockenspiels and hand bells. Too many bass sounds (15) for me, though.
The sounds aren't necessarily better than the original (supplied) DX7 voices - they, after all, are what made everyone rush out and buy a DX7 in the first place - but they do offer a welcome change.
VOICE ROM 102: Wind Instrument Group
Flutes, pan flutes and related instruments such as oboes, bassoons and clarinets. There are 4 saxophones which are very difficult instruments to synthesize and I'd give these 7/10.
There are also harmonicas, accordions, 22 horns, trumpets and trombones and 7 brass ensembles which vary in tone enormously. There seem to be plenty of DX7 brass patches around and perhaps other sounds would have been more useful. There's also a bagpipe to put the wind up any Jimmy Shandfan!
VOICE ROM 103: Sustain Group
This contains 4 violins including a rather tasty upper-register gypsy violin. Also 11 string sounds which provide welcome variations on the original DX string sounds but which don't quite lose the characteristic digital hardness of FM synthesis. There are 6 interesting but questionably useful male voices including two which sounded the same. The 4 female voices were much better and one sounded distinctly Tomita-ish. The 4 male (rugby?) choruses were an improvement on the male solo voices and the 2 female choruses sounded good too, with another 6 'ordinary' choruses thrown in for good measure (space-filling?). 10 electric organs and 5 good representations of the pipe variety complete the line-up.
VOICE ROM 104: Percussion Group
Drum sounds and lots of them including a bass, snare and tom split. There are snares, toms, electronic drums, timbales, conga, timpani, wood blocks, hand claps (whoops, not quite a drum, is it?), claves, an excellent guiro, lots of tinkly bell-tree/glass-harp type pitched sounds and 9 synth percussion noises including a gunshot and one described as 'Whipping' - not for the faint-hearted or under-18s!!!
VOICE ROM 105: Sound Effect Group
How can you classify this? Storms, water, bubbles, waves, explosions, vehicles, bells, insects, birds, lasers, a robot voice (yes, it actually sounds like a robot talking), and other sounds which propose to simulate an underground tunnel, a black hole and being swallowed! Very clever and effective programming and lots of the sounds could be used in a musical way to accompany the likes of a nature programme or for theatrical work. The sort of sounds you can play with for hours.
VOICE ROM 106: Synthesizer Group
13 string synths (very nice, usable sounds), 13 brass synths (more brass sounds but still very usable), 6 lead synths (all thin sounds, none meaty or remotely Moog-like), 4 bass synths (numbered 7-10 to follow on from the bass synths in ROM 101), 6 syn vox, 6 syn organs, 4 syn glocks, and a miscellaneous collection of other synthy things. To get a feel of the sounds, imagine a syntheziser trying to produce a string noise or brass sound or whatever and not quite getting it right. Obviously, this is deliberate and some very nice sounds are produced as a result, the strings, brass and vox in particular.
COMMENT Overall, the Yamaha ROMs contain lots and lots of good, solid, occasionally 'brilliant' sounds.
From: Yamaha-Kemble UK, Mount Avenue, Bletchley, Milton Keynes MK1 1JE. Tel. (0908) 71771.
These two ROMs come under the generic title of 'Shofuku' (don't say it slowly!) and were programmed by Yasuhiko Fukuda, author of the Yamaha DX7 Book and Noritaka Ubukata, a Japanese DX programming expert. The manuals describe the sounds and suggest various effects to further enhance them.
Shofuku Voice ROM Part 1
Contains some electric piano sounds, a nice guitar sound in Aranjuez, other acoustic guitar sounds, harpsichords from two different eras and 6 bass sounds (not more, you cry) but these are all very different and some are quite superb. In particular, 'Remark' is an excellent fretless sound and 'Bass Magic' responds to touch sensitivity by sounding a 5th higher when played lightly and brings in the full sound when hit harder. 'Bass Legend' does a pretty good double bass imitation.
There are clav, toms and other percussion voices. Some of the 6 string sounds attempt to imitate analogue sounds - and come close. There's a super Vivaldi string sound (remember Curved Air?), a suitably punchy gupsy violin (perhaps just a bit too bright), a marvellous cello, alto sax, clarinet, oboe (called 'Bolero - anyone see '10'?), and 4 powerful brass sounds with 'Superex' producing a terrific distorted sound. 'Xango' is a jaw's harp ideal for spaghetti westerns.
This ROM also includes a few sound effects - the wolf howling being my favourite. 'Outer Limit' produces a spacey sample and hold effect and the manual warns that: "Continual play... when you are tired or ill, will create strange hallucinations." (Anyone informed the Drugs Squad about this?) The 'Man Eater' sound also warns, "If you listen too long to this sound it will drive you crazy." And it probably will!
Incidentally, there's an identical 'Man Eater' voice in Executive Audio's SUPRA-RAM 128. I wonder who programmed it first? It's worth pointing out that quite a few identical sounds can be found in more than one manufacturer's cartridge. Interesting!
Shofuku Voice ROM Part 2
This opens with some brass sounds: 'Ultra Drive' is big and bright, 'Kingdom' is softer and full. There's a couple of choir voices and another 6 bass sounds. 'Urban' uses algorithm 7 to sound like the Hohner Pianet and there's a full acoustic piano sound (or a close simulation as the manual admits), a honky-tonk piano, 2 more harpsichords, a lovely dulcimer, a lute and some usable guitar sounds.
There are also music box sounds using complex harmonics, a realistic mellotron simulation, and an edgy Solina string machine sound along with a couple of other good string ensemble effects. There are 6 widely different organs including a real rocky overdriven, distorted one, some clavs, a bagpipe, some Japanese hand drums and a crazy laugh (of the "they're coming to take me away" variety). Sound effects, bell sounds, insects, a motorbike and a propellor aircraft top it all off.
COMMENT Rittor's ROMs contain a mixed bag of extremely good and usable sounds. Most are touch-sensitive and the way you play can markedly alter the sound. The voice names are particularly good. Although not always immediately obvious, most of the names have a definite relevance to the sound and once you've played them a few times, the names should stick. This will be appreciated by anyone trying to think of a name for their seventeenth electric fuzz guitar sound: Jimmy 1-17 just doesn't tell you very much.
From: Rittor Music Europe Ltd, 24 Broomgrove Gardens, Edgware, Middlesex HA8 5SJ. Tel. 01 -952 5302.
This is a nice, versatile idea. You buy a cartridge for £50 or so into which you can plug a variety of £16 voice chips each holding 64 sounds in 2 banks. It is made from sheet plastic and has a slight air of DIY about it, but it is quite robust and does the job well.
Contains a selection of synth-type percussive sounds; some plinky, some bright, others full and exciting. Some seem to be space-fillers but documentation, had there been any, might correct me on that score. String sounds include one called 'DX5 String' (Hmm?). There are some pianos, electric pianos, nice acoustic guitars, a couple of good basses, brass and a few toms.
Contains pianos, funky things, percussive zing sounds, a nice Tomita voice and a miscellaneous collection of plucked sounds, clavs, and lead sounds. Lots of string and orchestral effects with slow attack rates, choirs of various sorts and some brass, too. I liked the 'Bell+Brass' and 'Ripple 1'sounds.
Another assortment. Again, lots of synthy sounds including pianos, twang sounds, plucked sounds, and a beefy, fuzzy, distorted (?) sound called 'LSO off CD' which brings to mind the massive closing chord of a symphony - very similar to the Fairlight 'Orch' preset Kate Bush used on The Dreaming. There are plenty of sounds suitable for long, slow chords: strong full strings with slow build-up and some choral sounds.
Bass sounds, drums, noises and effects. Lots of plucky sounds and some sustains, too.
Pianos, harpsichords and allied sounds, synthy sustain voices and full sweeping filter sounds - very analogue. There are also metal noises, organ sounds, brass and various wind sounds.
COMMENT The Skyslip chips contain a mish-mash of sounds and are not in any obvious order, so it's not too easy to find what you're looking for especially as there's no voice list. Many sounds are quite synthy (as opposed to imitative) in nature and some may never find a use, but that can probably be said of everybody's ROM cartridges. If you could collect together your favourite DX sounds and blow them onto one ROM this system may well prove the ideal choice.
From: Hi-Tech Systems (Rock City), 10 Mosley Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear. Tel. 091-578058 or (0632) 324175.
This has a nice Hammond organ sound, rather shrill strings, 3 electric clavs, some rather weak pianos, synth brass, big synth sounds, 8 quite noisy sound effects including a poly portamento, 5 lead sounds and electric timpani.
A lot of sounds were quite harsh. Few seemed to respond to touch-sensitivity and didn't do an awful lot when they did. None really blew my socks off although the cartridge contained lots of eminently usable sounds.
COMMENT I doubt if I could be persuaded to buy this ROM in preference to some of the others. It's not that they are bad sounds or unoriginal, it's just that you can get similar sounds plus a lot more elsewhere. Competition in the DX7 cartridge market really is tough.
From: MTR Ltd, Ford House, 58 Cross Road, Bushey, Herts WD1 4QD. Tel. (0923) 34D50.
The accompanying leaflet says the cartridge contains lots of favourites as well as original sounds, acknowledging the fact that sounds are swapped and passed around between owners. 512 voices is rather a lot to conjure up from thin air and the 16 banks of 32 have been thankfully grouped into sections. So as to leave room for the other cartridges, here's just a snippet about each bank.
PIANOS: A good selection, nice choice of Wurlitzer and Rhodes sounds plus more exotic combinations.
VOICES: 7 good and interesting PPG Wave sounds, a nice female voice, 3 okay male voices (chaps must be harder to synthesize), lots of funky, percussion and sustain voices, a rather nice 'Syn Vox 3' and the brilliant 'Floating' which produces massive-sounding straight chords with delayed vibrato while higher notes produce voice-like 'aagh' sounds. Loved this one.
SOLO BRASS: Contains solo instrument sounds (not all brass) but you can, of course, play them polyphonically, often to good effect. The 3 saxophone sounds are among, if not, the best DX sax sounds I have ever heard. 'Panflute 1' is A1 realistic, too, but the standard flutes got a bit lost somewhere between the programmer and the instrument.
EFFECTS: This is the fun section. Some of the voices produce different sounds in different sections of the keyboard. It includes the most realistic approaching/die away motorcycle on a DX I've heard (of limited use of course), plus lots of noises suitable for horror and sci-fi movies. 'Heartbeat', 'Man Eater', 'Howling' and 'Typewriter' also appear on other company's cartridges.
ORGANS: 6 Hammond sounds ranging from Jimmy Smith to Procol Harum, a superb Rock Organ, typical 50's and 60's organ sounds, 5 pipe organs, electronic organs and lots of other organ sounds in-between.
SOLO GROUP: Lots of twangy eastern sounding instruments, plus lead synth sounds named after various Moog models: 'Moog + Rev', 'MiniMoog', 'MultiMoog', 'Rogue' and 'Prodigy'. All close to the original instrument sounds too. There's a lovely heavy chord maker in 'Tron', 'Floating' appears here again (last seen in the VOICES section) along with some percussive, bell-like sounds.
POLY GROUP: Selected presumably for chord work, this includes lots of sounds which change if you hold down the keys. There's also a lot which produce one sound upon hitting the keys and then drift into another sound, eg. 'Attack 2' produces a metallic attack followed by a soft brass sound and 'Bell-Orch' produces bell-like sounds which turn into an orchestral sound. Nice.
DRUMS + PERC: Contains a wood block, claves, hand claps, toms and electronic drums. Lots of synth percussion and metal sounds. Not an enormous range of drums but they aren't used as often as other sounds. Are they?
MELODIC: A concoction of light, delicate bell, string and ethereal voices mixed in with some heavy vibrato oriental sounds. One or two heavier sounds are suitable for big chords, too.
SYNTH GROUP: This has 32 voices called 'Synth 1' to 'Synth 32', so not too easy to sum up in half a dozen words. They are mainly variations on piano and harpsichords with a few synthy bits thrown in; suitable for lead sounds and chords. A few interesting textures here.
ORCH-STRING: Generally all ensemble sounds. My favourite string sound is the 'Orchestral Viola' which is getting as close to an ensemble as the DX7 will allow. Some percussive sounds turn into string sounds if you hold down the keys, as on the original Yamaha sounds. Lots of useful chordal textures.
IMAGES: This holds a combination of sound effects and percussion voices featuring Japanese drums, timpani, triangle and guiro etc. Lots of spacey sound effects but quite a few are musically useful, especially the more delicate 'Space-Chime' sound.
STUDIO MIX: I suppose this is as good a name as any to head another collection of miscellaneous sounds. These include percussive, metallic, brass, organ and synth-like tones, with a fair sprinkling of oriental voices.
BASS GROUP: Bass guitar sounds, real and imaginary. You should certainly be able to find something suitable here for your disco, reggae, pop, MOR or whatever piece. Some synthy bass sounds, too, and quite a lot respond to touch. Super!
GUITAR COMBO: The acoustic guitars were not among the most realistic but there's a nice flamenco and jazz guitar here and a very good 'Syn Guitar' and 'Electric Guitar 3' - just right for rocky, distorted guitar solos. There are also oriental, wavering voices and combination sounds including 'Bell/String', 'Horn/String', 'Harp/Flute' and 'Brass/Bell'.
POLYBRASS: Lots of brass sounds, many ensemble effects and a fair measure of synth brass voices, too. Some nice big-band brass sounds as well if that's what you're looking for.
COMMENT MONST-ROM by name and monster by nature! You may not love every single sound but it contains some absolute corkers which are hard to pass up.
From: Executive Audio L td, 159 Park Road, Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey KT2 6BX. Tel. 01-541 0180.
Odd calling your ROMs 'X-RAM' but then they are of German origin! Each ROM is divided into 4 banks each holding different sections of 32 sounds.
ROM 1: Performance Collection
PERCUSSIVE: Some pianos and nice Rhodes sounds, very good touch-sensitive clavinet and Spanish guitar, also metallic sounds, drums and heavy gong. It includes a sound called 'D.Foster' (I wonder who programmed it?) and there's a sound with the same name in the MONST-ROM which is similar but not identical. Strange. Some of the sounds in this bank are different from those on the voice list. Strange again.
SOLOS: A dozen bass sounds - funky, fretless and double. Synthy type punchy sounds but some mellow brass and strings there, too. The 'Altosax' didn't quite make it although it would sound okay under another name.
SUSTAINORS: Mis-spelt title perhaps, but lovely string sounds, some with very slow attacks, perfect for chords. Also brass sounds, some a little out of the ordinary, synths and a few percussive and Hammond sounds added for good measure. This is definitely the section to look at for chord work. Some lovely voices here.
SPLITS & COMBINATIONS: The 'Pianorgan' sounds just like its name but the piano sounds like it's being played at the top end of the keyboard. Absolutely terrific! 'Bell & Co'sounds like strings under a voice with bells on the top. Lots of other combinations of voices, some very original, including percussive and brass sounds.
ROM 2: Recording Collection
There was no voice list in the box but perhaps it vanished in transit. Here are the groups:
CHARACTERS: A collection of percussive, piano-type and plucked instrument sounds with synth and eastern voices. It didn't really have as much character as its name suggests.
SOUNDTRACK: Violins, accordion and Godfather-type sounds with brass and synthy voices. Some pleasant sounds and textures especially the heavy 'Jupiter' and the delicate 'Merkur'.
EFFECTS: Includes a match striking, various sirens, some super space noises, a typewriter (which appears in other cartridges), gun sounds, video game effects, a 'Pfuiteufel' (don't play this in mixed company or if you do, blame the dog!), a realistic jungle sound and other sounds which simply defy description. One of the more imaginative collections of effects around.
PERCUSSION: Percussive, vibe, chime and music-box sounds, a ride cymbal, hi-hat (closed), tambourine, and various bass drum, snare, tom and other drum sounds.
COMMENT The C-Lab ROMs hold a very interesting selection of sounds, many very original and well-worth having. Rather expensive, perhaps, compared with the Executive Audio MONST-ROM cartridge but then everything looks expensive compared to that.
Between the two cartridges, I guess ROM 1 would have the edge for me as it contains more usable sounds, but there's lots of nice ones in ROM 2 as well.
From: Sound Technology Ltd, 6 Letchworth Business Centre, Avenue One, Letchworth, Herts SG62HR. Tel. (0462)675675.
These cartridges all look basically the same and are beautifully housed in a stylish, plastic (Lexan) case which is supposed to be impervious to wear. Two small pushbuttons select the banks which are shown by numbers lit from within. And they certainly look the biz! However, the light in those cartridges with more than 4 banks spills over a little from numbers 5 to 8 (when lit) so at a glance you may think the number above (ie. 1 to 4) is lit instead.
The gold connectors on the bevelled edges run right to the edge of the bevel but it may still not be thin enough to keep Yamaha happy.
The SX COMBO cartridges automatically default to Memory Protect On when power is turned off, or the cartridge removed or a ROM selected. A clever safeguard.
SX ROM 128S (1)
Bank 1 contains a mish-mash of funny effects with a few metallic and percussive instrument sounds.
Bank 2 contains more percussive and metallic sounds along with plucked strings and synthy, moving sounds. A nice collection but a little chaff amongst the wheat. There's a rather clever Mussette sound under the title of 'Zydeco' and a few organ sounds of various types.
Bank3 contains 12 bell sounds, 10 drums: toms, steel drums, Simmons, etc, and 10 bass sounds which were not quite as exciting as some of the other basses in other cartridges.
Bank 4 contains 10 string sounds ranging from full ensembles to a fuzz string and gypsy violin (thankfully not quite as biting as other cartridges) with bowing sounds quite to the fore. There were also a few brass sounds, guitars and miscellaneous oriental and synth sounds.
COMMENT I can't help but feel the sounds could have been organised a little better and I would have preferred a few more attempts at serious instruments like the piano, strings and brass etc. However, there are still a variety of good sounds there. I did not have the SX ROM 128S (2) to comment on, but it is identical in construction etc.
SX COMBO 128S
The Sound Sources COMBO is unique amongst DX cartridges in that it contains equal amounts of ROM and RAM, so the 128S version has four banks of RAM (for storing your own sounds) and four banks of preset ROM voices (256 voices in total). It contains the same voices as their SX ROM 128S (1) with 3 of the 4 RAM banks containing duplicates; the fourth bank has a different set of voices, generally all good and presumably from the SX ROM 128S (2).
An even larger capacity version is available, the SX COMBO 256S, which has 256 free RAM allocations and 256 ROM sounds made up of the voices found in SX ROMS (1) and (2).
From: Musicorp. Tel. (06286)62770.
As RAM cartridges are primarily bought to store voices in, it may be unwise to assume that any will contain sounds upon purchase unless specifically stated, as in the case of the SUPRA-RAM 128 from Executive Audio. Some of the RAM packs I had for review did contain sounds but this hasn't been taken into consideration during their assessment, with the exception of the SUPRA-RAM 128.
The bank selector switches are on the top of the cartridge, easily accessible, and the 4 banks contain a selection of sounds which seem to have been culled from various sources.
Bank 1 contains a selection of pianos including a couple of cheeky ones called 'Steinway' (which may render them liable under the Trades Description Act) but there are some nice tries at Wurlitzer and Rhodes piano sounds. Also lots of string and orchestral sounds, very usable.
Bank 2 contains some average basses - some good, some not so good, and synthy brass and percussive sounds. Bank 3 contains more pianos and similar sounds, and a mixture of string, brass and synth sounds.
Bank 4 houses a similar sort of selection as the others including the ubiquitous 'Man Eater' and a few effects.
COMMENT I couldn't really get over enthusiastic about these voices. Some even sounded to be the original DX7 voices (eg. Brass 2), but if you consider that you're getting them free with the RAM pack, you can hardly complain - although the cartridge is considerably more expensive than other 4-bank RAMs.
This was the only RAM to advertise the fact that it contained pre-programmed voices. It is also the only RAM which, according to the documentation, has no battery!
These are similar in construction to the well-designed and robust SX ROM and COMBO cartridges. They come in four model versions capable of storing 2 (SX 64S), 4 (SX 128S), 8 (SX 256S) and 16 (SX 512S) banks of 32 sounds respectively.
This is well-constructed, easy to use and the cheapest 4 bank RAM available for the DX7. No firm guarantee period is stated by the manufacturers, Quattro Electronics, but the accompanying documentation says that if treated with respect, it is guaranteed to give long and reliable service.
From: Quattro Electronics, 43 Liddell Gardens, Brondesbury Park, London NW10 3QA. Tel. 01-969 1719.
This is identical to the Yamaha ROM cartridges in appearance but only stores 1 bank of 32 sounds. As such it is poor value at £103, but using it definitely won't invalidate your DX7's guarantee.
This is constructed in a similar way to the Skyslip ROM cartridge and looks like it was made out of a plastic building set. It's very rugged for all that and stores 64 sounds in 2 banks. It also includes automatic write protection to prevent accidental erasure.
This wasn't in my box of review goodies but I understand it only holds 1 bank of 32 voices and construction is similar to their ROM cartridge, which I did have.
This is different to all other reviewed cartridges being of a metal construction, so you could probably stand on it without doing any harm. (I wasn't allowed to perform this test on any of the review cartridges, by the way; it might have proved too costly!) It is also different because bank 2 is accessed by turning it on to its other end (both ends have connectors to plug into the DX7). A switch would have been more convenient and quicker, especially for live use, but if you have clumsy roadies...
Incidentally, the SR-64 contained a few token DX sounds (I received this unopened in original packaging), some quite original including a 'Sumo Belch' (very useful when entertaining our oriental friends to make them feel at home).
From: Sound Sales Ltd, Orchard Cottage, Church FI ill, Ravensden, Beds MK44 2RL.
Tel. (0234) 771189.
The value for money (VFM) column in Table 1 should sum up everything quite tidily - but it doesn't. Well, not quite. I'll explain why.
Theoretically, the RAM packs should be easy to classify simply on a 'Pounds Per Sound' basis (see PPS column). On that score the best VFM is undoubtedly the Sound Sources SX RAM 512S at 49p per slot, but who can afford to spend £249.55 on 512 slots other than professional programmers? That's why it only scored 8, not 10. Still, you can't argue with the figures.
At a more down-to-earth level, decide if you want 2,4 or 8 banks and check the PPS column accordingly. The cheapest RAM pack of them all is the Skyslip RAM (£59.99) and, if you only want 2 banks, this is your best buy unless you want the professional-looking Sound Sources Lexan-finished cartridge.
If you want a 4 bank RAM, the Quattro 128 is the best VFM judged on price per sound. You may like the idea of getting some factory-supplied voices as with the SUPRA-RAM, but you are paying up to an extra £48 for the privilege and would perhaps be better off spending that on a Yamaha ROM cartridge. It depends what you think of the sounds.
If you want 8 or 16 banks then you've really no choice and here the Sound Sources SX 256S and SX 512S cartridges offer good and excellent value for money, respectively.
The story doesn't end there, however, because the unique Sound Sources COMBO RAM/ROM cartridges are excellent VFM, too. If you can afford the biggie, then the SX COMBO 256S is certainly worth having, otherwise the SX COMB0128S gives it's own SX RAM 128S a good run for the money. In the same way the SX RAM 64S (at £83.77) doesn't stand up to comparison with the COMBO 64S (£90.90) which costs a mere £7.13 more for 64 RAM and 64 ROM voices! I know which I'd prefer to own.
The ROMs are perhaps more difficult to judge as there must be an element of personal preference in the scoring. C-LAB's voices are good, but expensive, and the Skyslip plug-in ROM idea is not necessarily as cheap as it may first appear - although the ROMs are very tempting at £16 a chip for 64 voices.
The Sound Sources COMBOs are good VFM, hence their high score, although in my opinion they don't have the best range of sounds. The Yamaha and Rittor Music ROMs are worthy additions to your collection and the documentation, especially Yamaha's, will really help you get the most from the sounds. If you can only manage £32, then buy a Yamaha ROM but you'll miss out on some tastier voices from the slightly more expensive Rittor ROMs.
However, for sheer value for money (29p per voice), Executive Audio's MONST-ROM 512 at £145 has to win hands down. It contains lots of my overall favourite sounds and would undoubtedly be my personal choice.
Many thanks to Terry Dorman and Colin Wood of Williams of Darlington music shop for their invaluable assistance.
Gear in this article:
Feature by Ian Waugh