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Roland SBX-10 Sync Box/Converter

Studio Test

Article from International Musician & Recording World, July 1986

Curtis Schwartz meets The Master Controller and lives to tell the tale

An end to syncing problems

When Roland's SBX-80 was first launched last year, it made quite an impact as a very reasonably priced alternative to the SRC sync unit. The SBX-80's ability to both read and generate SMPTE timecode as well as synchronise MIDI, nine rates of Time Base (from 1 to 120 beats per second) and Roland's own DIN Sync code made it a unique and sometimes indispensable unit for under a thousand pounds.

Now, Roland have produced a scaled down version of the SBX-80, called the SBX-10, for the person who doesn't need SMPTE timecode but who does need to be able to synchronise devices with non-standard sync ports — an MC202 sequencer to an Oberheim sequencer to a Linn II drum machine to a TR808 drum machine to a PPG Wave to a MIDI system...

For a little over three hundred pounds, the SBX-10 will just about handle this tall order all at once.

The SBX-10 is a solidly built unit with the same dimensions as the MSQ-100 sequencer. It comes with an external 9V power supply, and packs a lot into its compact size. On its front panel there is a red LED numeric display which always indicates the current tempo setting. To its right are a large tempo control knob, two smaller knobs for control of the internal metronome level and level attenuation of the click input. Further to the right are two slider controls for individual switching of the Time Base output rates for each of the two outputs (48/96/120 bps).

The bottom row of front panel controls consist of a switch for different operating modes — Manual, MIDI or Time Base master control — a control for switching to the play mode, and another for the program mode. Further to the right are two larger controls for start/stop and 'tap'.

When the SBX-10 operates manually as a master controller for units with different syncing requirements, the master tempo is either selected by the master tempo control knob or by tapping the tap button to the required tempo. Master tempo changes can be accommodated by either tapping the tap button faster or slower or by turning the tempo control knob up or down.

The SBX-10 can also (as with the SBX-80) be programmed with tempo data — enabling programmed tempo changes. This is done by programming a basic tempo for the entire contents of the SBX-10's memory (1022 beats) and then altering it where you want a tempo change. To enter the program mode, you simply press the play and program buttons simultaneously, the program button's LED will illuminate, and data can then be entered. By setting the tempo knob to the desired setting, and then holding down the program button for three seconds, the entire 1022 beats of memory are set to that tempo.

The tempo change can then be entered by pressing the start button which will start the sequencers or drum machines playing until you start tapping the tap button to the tempo you wish the song to slow down or speed up to. This tempo change will then be stored, and it's actually a lot simpler than I'm making it sound.

Once the tempo data has been programmed the SBX-10 can be synced to tape via the metronome output and click input sockets on the rear panel. This is a bit unconventional as most units that sync to tape use a tempo code which does not sound unlike a dying wasp in a cup of Irish coffee. By syncing to a metronome click, however, the SBX-10 can therefore sync to something like a recorded cowbell. This gives yet more scope for syncing to more difficult material.

The SBX-10's other major function is as a straightforward convertor of sync signals. Unlike the SBX-80, the SBX-10 has inputs for Time Base and DIN Sync. A Linn II's Time Base clock output could therefore be converted by the SBX-10 into both DIN Sync and MIDI simultaneously to enable the Linn to act as the master tempo controller.

On the rear panel are all the various connections. Two MIDI Outs and one MIDI In, and two DIN Sync Outs and a DIN Sync In. Above the six DIN sockets are a row of six jack sockets — a metronome output, two Time Base outputs and a Time Base input, a socket for remote footswitch control of the SBX-10's start/stop functions, and finally a socket for the click input (with a line/mike level switch).

Roland have packed a lot of functions into their SBX-10. Surprisingly it does have a few features that are not found on its big brother, the SBX-80, but obviously it loses some of the 80's good points which is to be expected since it sells for well under half the price. SMPTE timecode, more Time Base rates, numeric keypad for data entry and a more sophisticated system for program data editing are features that you'll have to buy the SBX-80 to get.

I can't think of anything that is missing on the SBX-10 that wouldn't push its price up, and at a very reasonable £325 it gives no-one an excuse for wasting studio time with syncing problems any more.

RRP: £325.00

Also featuring gear in this article

Boss SBX-10
(HSR Jun 86)

Browse category: Synchroniser > Roland

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Previous Article in this issue

APRS 86 Exhibition Preview

Next article in this issue

MTR Dual Noise Gate

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

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International Musician - Jul 1986

Recording World

Gear in this article:

Synchroniser > Roland > SBX-10

Review by Curtis Schwartz

Previous article in this issue:

> APRS 86 Exhibition Preview

Next article in this issue:

> MTR Dual Noise Gate

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