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Computer Musician


Brings news of a new British sound sampling drum machine, a digital signal processor from Eventide, and more.

Another batch of revelations gleaned from the press releases of the world's computer music industry.

Remember my comments back in October about the too-good-to-be-true floppy disk recorder from US company Compusonics? You know, the box of tricks that promised an hour of digital stereo on a single 5.25" floppy... Well, this time, fact has proved to be as strange as fiction, and what's more, there's not an April Fool in sight, even in Bulgaria.

What this Denver-based firm have done is to develop an advanced form of data compression that removes the redundancy in the average audio signal. Well, that's what they claim. How they put everything back at the other end of the conversion chain is another question, but there's no doubt the machine that makes use of this technique - the DSP1000 digital recorder - works, and works well.

Aside from all the usual function controls, the DSP1000 also offers 'telerecord' (digital recording via telephone - now that's really useful), a scrolling LED display for user information, and an interface for an IBM PC, thereby permitting 'applications in music editing and synthesis' as well as providing a general mass-storage system for computers. The price that's being quoted for the DSP1000 fluctuates between a 'typical high-end price' (which sounds pretty non-committal) and 'under $1000' (which I sounds a touch over-optimistic) depending on who you speak to. But whatever, you can bet your bottom dollar that Compusonics will be getting a lot of calls at (Contact Details). And just when you thought the only thing Denver had going for it was Dynasty...

Striking Anvils

You might have thought it was now safe to venture out of the office without companded cats and digital dogs descending on the old bonce, but watch out. Because here comes a new product that looks set to get an awful lot of tongues awaggling - namely, the Anvil Percussion Synthesiser from Anvil Synthesisers. What's more, it's British to the hilt, all the way in from its ultra-slick case designed at the Royal College of Art.

Briefly, the Anvil is a 16-channel sampling system that samples with 12-bit resolution at a 40kHz sampling rate into 750K of RAM, with pointers that are dynamically re-allocated as needs want. That translates to 13 seconds of sampling at a full 16kHz bandwidth, and built in as standard is a 1 Mbyte 3.5" disk drive for rapid loading and saving of sounds. In fact, it's the combination of a really fast disk system and lots of RAM that sums up the Anvil design philosophy - no more expensive ROM chips, just a high-class sampling and storage facility that allows you to build your own library of sounds on cheap and (fairly) indestructible disks.

As well as the more or less conventional sampling side of the Anvil ('less conventional' because the RAM-based samples also allow truncating and merging to be carried out on them), there's a synthesiser side as well. This digitally simulates analogue processing of both the samples and fixed or pre-defined waveforms. Add the sequencer, which permits both pitch and amplitude control of each of the channels, the usual MIDI trio (for both syncing and keyboard control) and an up-coming SMPTE facility, and you begin to get a taste of a pretty powerful machine. And the price? Well, 'around £5000' is what's being suggested at present. Not cheap, I grant you, but if it turns out as good as its specs suggest, there are going to be some purple faces on the other side of the Atlantic! At present, distribution deals are still pending, so all we can say is 'watch this space...'

Music Data

If shortcuts to MIDI and drum machine programming are what grabs you, take heed of the name MusicData. Aforesaid US company inhabits the healthy, wealthy, though possibly less than wise environs of Beverly Hills, California, and they'll be happy to supply you with disks, cassettes and ROM packs of data for multifarious musical machines programmed by such West Coast luminaries as Jeff Baxter, Ray Manzarek and Denny Seiwell. So if you agree with their comment that 'you didn't spend years learning to play your instrument only to become a casualty of the high-tech revolution', contact MusicData at (Contact Details).

Personally, I'm less than convinced by all that. If pre-programmed ROM and RAM packs proliferate, then as sure as night follows day, we're going to end up with a load of lazy musicians afflicted with the ROM pack syndrome: guys who've never bothered to dig beneath the surface of their instruments but prefer instead to reach for the nearest six-pack of presets. You want evidence? Well, how about the oft-quoted tale of the Prophet 5 presets - namely that 70% of the machines returned to Sequential for servicing had the same sounds in them as they did when they were sold. And the same is pretty much true for the Yamaha DX7.

What's more, consuming only what you're given is an open invitation for manufacturers to pre-program musical tastes and styles-Sequential's Max is an example of what could happen there. Nope, the answer is greater programming accessibility - and that comes from being healthy, wealthy and wise.

Digital Spuds

Of all the digital reverb units currently on the market, one of the top units has to be the Eventide SP2016; and as signal processors go, its price tag of $9495 is just about par for the course. The latest news is that Eventide have taken their machine one stage further, by announcing an expansion that turns the SP20161 into a bona fide Digital Signal Processor. This has been achieved by the addition of a Hewlett-Packard Series 200 computer such as the HP9816, whose job it is to communicate with the SP2016 via a 'general programmable interface bus' running at a rather impressive speed of 2Mbytes per second. MIDI, eat your heart out...

According to the publicity blurb, this combination allows the user to develop audio signal processing programs in Spud, an 'interpretive array-processing language' that runs on the 6809 processor inside the SP2016. The so-called 'Spudsystem' is provided with a desktop oven for burning the spuds (only kidding, folks - actually, it's yer standard EPROM burner sans culinary pretensions) and stereo 16-bit DACs and ADCs, and the total cost for this delectable slice of pomme de terre digitale is expected to be up in the region of $20,000. For more info, contact Eventide, (Contact Details).

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Electronics & Music Maker - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.


Electronics & Music Maker - May 1985

Computer Musician



News by David Ellis

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