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Rock Me Armadeus

Article from Micro Music, October/November 1989

Ann Owen tests the Armadeus sampling software from music newcomers - Clares

Sampling software is flavour of the month on the Acorn Archimedes. How does Acorn software stalwart Clares Micro Supplies' ARMADEUS stand up to the competition?

The Acorn Archimedes system is now equipped with a multitasking WIMP fronted operating system called RISC OS and Clares have quickly released a number of programs to work in this new environment. Their first program in the field of music and sound is called Armadeus (ARM - Acorn RISC Machine, geddit?). The software is priced at £79.95 while a software and hardware combination comes in at £149.95.

The sampler hardware carries the Clares marque but is designed and built by Newcastle-based Wild Vision - whose Arc video genlock card is already proving very popular in professional editing suites. The card is a halfsize (aren't they all) podule which fits inside the 310 or 400 series Arc or onto the back of the new A-3000. It has a Microphone IN jack socket plus Line IN and Line Out sockets.

The software interface is RISC OS all over. For those not familiar with the interface this means that the Armadeus application is loaded by clicking on its wavey icon. The icon appears on the menu bar at the bottom of the screen with "waiting" beneath. A mini-menu associated with the icon consists of quit and info... by A. Banks and G. Forrest.

On the left hand side of the menu bar are the icons representing your floppy and hard disc storage plus a tinydirs icon "Samples". Clicking on this folder brings up the samples on the current storage device. The software comes supplied with three discs with a number of samples such as trumpet, viola, car etc and a sampled "song", more of which later.

A RISC OS window is opened to display a single sample waveform at a time. Some basic tools such as PLAY and STOP are attached and can be turned on or off. All the sampler software functions are available from a pop-up menu. Saving a sample simply involves dragging the icon into the directory "viewer" - Acornspeak for "window". If this isn't all easy enough then you can even have a help message window running while you are using the program, describing its features as you point at them with the mouse.


Sampling and playing

The software recognises five sampling devices, the Armadillo A448 and A448b (but mono only), the Unilab interface, the Wild Vision 1208 and the Armadeus sampler. In the unlikely event that you should have more than one device installed you can click on one to activate it.

Before sampling you can check your input source in the VU Meter display and adjust the volume. With the Armadeus board fitted you can select the correct level of gain for the input source to match the board.

The sample rate is set in micro-seconds and a trigger volume can also be set for you to "yell" the program into action. Clicking on the REC tool sets the sampling process in motion and it continues until it has filled the RAM buffer. You can also sample into a marked area in the waveform display. You can later resample the data to reduce the sample rate by resetting the replay rate. Rates are set by typing in a value or by dragging a slider control in the statistics window.

The sample can be reproduced with the VU Meter displayed and the cursor keys used to control the direction of playback. When you are happy with your sample it can also be played at different pitches from the numeric keyboard. It can be played repeatedly and with a pseudo stereo effect. As well as playing back through the internal speaker, a better result can be obtained by playing or recording through the Armadeus line out.

If you have an Acorn Midi board fitted (an internal option on the Acorn A3000) then a Midi menu appears offering the chance to play a sampled sound from a Midi keyboard.

A good alternative source of samples is the collection built up for the Atari ST. Armadeus can read ST discs and copy samples on them to Acorn ADFS. A utility is included to convert from the unsigned Atari format to the signed format used by the Arc. There is also a Log to Lin conversion.

Processing and looping

The sample can be carved up into sections by dragging markers around the waveform display. You can also mark in realtime by clicking while listening to the sample being played back. Just as with the complete sample, marked areas can be cut and pasted, moved or overlayed as well as being processed. A marked area can also be expanded to full window size.

The processing options are reverse, filter (low and high pass), echo delay, fade in, fade out, gate off (fade on last 2K of sample), scale the waveform to a specified maximum level, gain, clear (leaves a silent section) and delete (removes a section).

You can mark an area of the sample and play the section as many times as required by looping from the end back to the start (up to 9999 times). You can have up to 100 looping points, resulting in a longer "song" made up of different samples in different combinations of loop, each with their own pitch and stereo position. There is a neat male chauvinist example supplied on one of the sample discs. Songs, like samples, can be viewed with the VU Meter or the FFT (Fast Fourier Transform, a spectrum analysis of the waveform).

For those wanting to incorporate sampled sounds into their programs there are details of how to do so from BASIC in the manual.

The samples are not compatible with EMR software or with High Note although they will load into High Note and play at a slightly higher pitch (faster). The sounds can be saved as a module for use by Acorn's Maestro program supplied on the RISC OS applications discs. Samples could not however be configured to operate as an alternative to the dreaded "bleep".

Finishing flourish

Clares have come up with a classy bit of software but at £79.95 you are unlikely to rush out and buy it if you already have an EMR or Armadillo package. The sampling hardware actually costs less than the software so the combination at £149.95 seems like good value. Clares have come up with some more original packaging but it wanted to hang on to both disk and manual a bit too long for my liking. Less glue on the next batch please.

Be prepared to get lost in a jungle of cables as you try to rig up the compact disc and the amplifier and the video etc. The software's ease of use, hardware support, FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) and VU Meter displays will go to make it a popular program with the school music department as well with the computer music enthusiast.

Product: Armadeus
Format: Acorn Archimedes
Price: £79.95 (software) £149.95 (software and podule)
Supplier: Clares Micro Supplies (Contact Details)

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Publisher: Micro Music - Argus Specialist Publications

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Micro Music - Oct/Nov 1989

Scanned by: Mike Gorman

Review by Ann Owen

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> Advanced Recording Concepts

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