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Computer Musician


Digital synthesis for the IBM PC, sound-sampling for the Apple II, and drum composing for the Commodore 64. David Ellis has the details.

The computer music news page that tells you it first. As in recent months, this issue's roundup has a decidedly American flavour.

News is coming in of a pretty sharp-sounding digital synthesis add-on for that doyen of the US computing biz, the IBM PC. The single-board box of tricks goes by the name of Armonyx and comes from a company of the same name in sunny California. Standard features include 92K onboard RAM, a 32kHz sample rate, 12-bit DAC output, 16-bit dynamic range, and a five-octave, velocity-sensing keyboard. Options available include either eight- or 16-note polyphony, a four-way split-keyboard mode, plus light pen or microphone input.

The whole shooting-match is efficiently menu-driven, and the 'starter system' includes a 32,000-note polyphonic sequencer, multi-instrument layering, a 'composer mode', harmonic entry using the aforesaid light pen, and 30 preconstructed instruments. And then there's the next stage up, which adds the icing to the cake in the shape of sampling via the microphone or line input.

All of which sounds very interesting, or at least, it does to me. A cheque or money order for $3 will get you a demo tape for proof of the not inconsiderable pudding - the package itself will cost rather more. Anyway, all this and more info is available from Armonyx Inc, (Contact Details).


As Polysoft say, 'you can hear your drums, but can you see them?' I know that might sound silly, but it's a point worth making if you're a keyboard player who's not that accustomed to getting drum events oriented in time and space (like the author, for instance). And it's as an aid to these people that said company is now producing a package called Polydrum, which provides a Commodore 64-based composing tool for just about any MIDI drum machine on the market, be it E-mu, Korg, Linn, Oberheim, Roland, Sequential, or Yamaha.

What the $135 price buys you is an interface board, with MIDI Out, Clock In/Out, and metronome, plus a disk of software written by Richard Wolton, the guy behind the highly visual Musicalc software (see Rumblings, E&MM September 84).

The really good thing about Polydrum is that it gets all those problematic percussive events together courtesy of a Graphics Window Draw mode, which allows either joystick or QWERTY input of drum sounds, tracks, or accents. Other features include graphic faders for programming dynamics, punch-in/punch-out recording or erasing of single drum sounds, single tracks, or everything, all manner of auto-correction facilities (from whole notes to 32nd notes, with just about everything else in between), a display window which shows the drum score scrolling by in real time (or, as they put it, 'in past, present, and future' - HG Wells, eat your heart out...), and a 6000-note capacity to cap it all.

All good stuff, no doubt about it, but it seems monumentally thick to force people to buy yet another MIDI card for the Commodore 64, when it's an odds-on favourite that musicians using that micro for non-Mickey Mouse musical activities will already have a MIDI card of some description readily to hand. Still, if you're not deterred by this unfortunate lack of foresight, and are interested in seeing how the manual shapes up, this is available separately for $15 (credited if you subsequently purchase the whole package). Note that prospective purchasers outside North America are requested to add a hefty 20% for 'shipping'! Anyway, Polysoft Unlimited may be found at (Contact Details).

MIDI Madness

Although the Decillionix DX1 soundsampling card for the Apple II has been more than a little over-shadowed by its cheaper and polyphonic brother, the Greengate DS3, designer Dan Retzinger is still beavering away at new software to enhance its features.

One of the latest releases is the bizarrely-named MIDI Madness, a $99 program that allows any MIDI keyboard to control the DX1, implementing voice-assigning, keyboard splits, and velocity-sensing. You'll also need an Apple II MIDI card, but Decillionix have one of those on offer as well. In fact, the $99 they're charging for this is good value considering the vastly inflated price ($195) Passport want for theirs. What's more, Decillionix's MIDI card is compatible with those made by Yamaha, Korg, and Passport themselves.

And so to another software product just out from the same source, namely The Interpolator (also $99). This allows you to analyse, display, or print out samples captured with the DX1, both for the sake of visual delectation (especially in the Chart Recorder mode of printing-out), and to transfer 256-byte wavetables over to a long-in-the-tooth Soundchaser or Syntauri system that's screaming for a little more Tender Loving Care. For more info, contact Dan Retzinger at Decillionix, (Contact Details).

More from Mimetics

Finally, a quick word for Mimetics Corporation, who've sent us a flyer on the latest goodies to take their Syntauri legacy into something like the 21st Century. First, there's Metatrak 5.0, a $129 update of Syntauri's original software of that name. Nowadays, it also offers drum machine sync that actually stays in sync(!), a rather more musical vibrato (hard to be less, I'd have thought), and most important of all, a MIDI Out facility. The latter lets you assign each playback track to a separate MIDI channel, and also to use the Syntauri keyboard as a master controller - though I have to say that's the last thing I'd use it for. Like Decillionix, Mimetics have also got into the Apple MIDI card game, and their 'Proxima MetaMIDI' (talk about going OTT with titles) costs $95. It too is compatible with that from Yamaha, Korg (yawn), Passport, and... (correspondent dozes off).

Other software snippets of passing interest include the 'Meta Bag o' Tricks' package ($35), which aims (wishfully?) to give true velocity-sensing to the system, amongst others things. Then there's 'The Splicer' ($40) for rapid rearrangement of segments within a Metatrak piece, and last but not least, 'The LehrWare Sounds Library' ($75), a set of 100 'favorite sounds' for the alphaSyntauri, as compiled by Studio Sound contributor Paul D Lehrman.

It really is good to see Mimetics pulling the old digit out as far as Syntauri are concerned. After all, there was a time when the whole Syntauri thing looked as if it was doomed to vanish down an almighty great plughole, which didn't bode too well for the few thousand or so owners who'd invested their hard-earned cash in the system (that includes a fair number in the UK, incidentally). Mind you, I'm waiting to see whether the company's new and rather more upmarket 'Genesys 1' digital hardware for the Apple II really is as good as some are claiming. For more details, contact Joy Weigel, Mimetics Corporation, (Contact Details).

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Microsound Digital Music System

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


Electronics & Music Maker - Jun 1985

Scanned by: Stewart Lawler

Computer Musician



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