Shape of Things to Come
A look at some forthcoming products from the world of hi-tech music and recording.
Most computer-based music transcription and scoring programs are notorious for failing to provide the detailed facilities that a demanding musician will ask of them, but Coda's much-vaunted Finale program (£795) looks likely to break the pattern, setting a new standard in this field.
Modestly described by its creators as "the most powerful, most intelligent, most flexible music software available today", the PC/Macintosh-based Finale offers far too many features for a listing to be given here, but suffice to say that the program seems to have been designed throughout to satisfy the requirements of almost any musician.
Music may be input in several different ways, either in real-time from a MIDI keyboard (and Finale will transcribe such input as you play) or step-time, or directly on to the stave by various means. The program supports standard and user-definable key signatures, complex time signatures, different meters and key signatures in each staff.
'Explode' and 'Implode' functions allow music written on a grand staff to be translated to an orchestral score, or vice versa. Lyrics may be imported from word processor files, and automatically aligned with note heads, syllable by syllable. Editing has been made as comprehensive as possible, and the edited score may be reviewed at any time, with all music notation translated accurately into MIDI data. You can even create your own symbols, and define their function. Finale outputs to Postscript laser printers in a range of fonts, and certainly looks up to the task of producing publishing quality manuscripts.
Requirements: Macintosh version: Any 1 megabyte Macintosh, any MIDI instrument, an ImageWriter, LaserWriter or PostScript compatible printer. Available now. IBM version: 1 megabyte IBM PC/AT or equivalent, with VGA or EGA graphics card, any MIDI instrument, any dot matrix or PostScript printer. Available December 1988.
MCMXCIX, (Contact Details).
E-mu Systems have announced the availability of software Version 2.0 for the Emulator III digital sampler. The new features offered by Version 2.0 include SCSI compatibility with the Mac family of computers, the facility to load EIII sound banks by calling up a MIDI program change on another keyboard, MIDI Sample Dump support, and a 'Quick Zone' function which allows the easy viewing and editing of all parameters associated with a particular range of the keyboard. The update is available free of charge to all registered EIII owners - so contact your local dealer now!
E-mu Systems, (Contact Details).
Master keyboards seem to be making a welcome comeback of late, with several manufacturers introducing new models. Two such offerings are the DMK7 and DMK8 from Orla.
These instruments are identical in all respects except that the DMK7 features a 61-note (C-C) keyboard, and the DMK8 an 88-note (A-C) piano-style version. Master keyboard functions available include: mod wheel, three split points, programmable Arabic scaling, along with a real-time MIDI volume control, and volume, tempo and start/stop MIDI rhythm controls.
If there's one device every MIDI studio should contain, it's a MIDI routing box. Like an audio patchbay, it removes the hassle of interconnecting various MIDI instruments, and until you've used one you don't know what you are missing.
One such device is the 360 Systems MIDI Patcher, an 8-in/8-out routing box capable of storing up to 100 individual routing configurations and patch maps in its non-volatile memory. The MIDI Patcher will respond to program changes on any of its eight inputs, allowing setups to be recalled from a controlling keyboard, sequencer, MIDI footpedal, or its own front panel. All in all, a powerful device to have sitting at the heart of your MIDI network.
Argent's, (Contact Details).
Beyer Dynamic have recently introduced a new range of microphones designed especially for live use, the Tour Group series. All feature extra-sturdy construction, to stand up to the rigours of life on the road, and a non-reflective matt black finish, making them ideal for TV or video work... as well as looking trendy enough to keep any image-conscious musos happy.
The Tour Group series includes new versions of some popular Beyer 'standards', such as the M88, as well as completely new designs like the MCE80TG and MCE81TG. Prices of the new mics range from £59.95 to £255.95.
Beyer Dynamic UK Ltd, (Contact Details).
Those Akai S900 owners who've recently begun to suffer from a mild inferiority complex as a result of the proliferation of 16-bit machines may be saved a trip to their analyst by a new upgrade board from a Dutch company, Synton Electronics. The Marion Systems MS9C is a replacement 16-bit audio voice board which, because it is 'invisible' to the S900's operating system, leaves all operating procedures unchanged, and is compatible with all past and future software versions.
Moving up to 16-bit processing does not make existing 12-bit disks useless, as the new board can operate in 12-bit mode to read original S900 sample disks. A UK price is not available for the MS9C as yet, but should be around the £1000 mark, making it potentially the cheapest way to get into serious 16-bit sampling if you already own an S900.
Synton Electronics BV, (Contact Details).
One of the annoying things about synth editor programs is that you need a different one for each of your synths - until now that is. Steinberg have done the decent thing and produced the Synthworks X-Syn Modular Music System, which enables the user to edit virtually all of the main MIDI synthesizers on the market.
The program consists of a master File Manager, into which are loaded various Sound Editor modules for the synthesizers you wish to work with. These can then be called upon instantly to perform editor/librarian tasks, and the Sound Bank Manager (dig the name!) module facilitates organising and keeping track of your sounds. X-Syn also features an 80,000 note real-time sequencer/recorder. X-Syn Universal costs £99, and price details for the X-Syn Modules are not available yet.
Also in the Synthworks series comes a new version of their MT32 editor (£99), which is compatible with Roland's D110 module, and D10/D20 synthesizers.
Evenlode Soundworks, (Contact Details).
A new package marketed by Evenlode Soundworks offers pro sequencing and SMPTE synchronisation with Steinberg products at a considerable saving.
The Sync Pac consists of the Pro24 Version III sequencer for Atari ST computers and the Timelock SMPTE synchroniser packaged together at a price of £499 - a saving of £185.
Evenlode Soundworks, (Contact Details).
Not content with producing the industry standard 12-bit sampler in the S900, Akai are about to introduce a successor in the form of the S950. The basic specifications of the new unit are identical to the S900, but several new features make the S950 an attractive proposition, especially at a price of £1399.
Although the unit is still 12-bit, the maximum sample rate is 48kHz; basic memory is 750K expandable to 2.25 Meg; as on the Ensoniq EPS, sounds may be loaded whilst others are playing; the maximum number of samples is increased to 99; a time-stretch feature has been implemented (as on the S1000); double-speed MIDI reduces the time required for sample dumps or visual editing via computer; both S900 and S1000 disks may be read; all the facilities of the S9V2.1 software update for the S900 are implemented; the disk drive may be operated via MIDI for Program Changes; Atari/Supra hard disk and CD/DAT interfaces are available as options, allowing extra memory and better signal quality.
The release of the S950 is presumably intended to maintain Akai's hold on the lower end of the pro sampler market, as the S1000 goes for the high ground. On paper it certainly looks good, although its very existence will doubtless make secondhand S900s an even better buy.
Two further versions of Akai's new S1000 sampler have been announced recently, the S1000PB and S1000HD. The S1000PB is a playback-only version of the S1000 aimed at studios and remix DJs who use more than one sampler but require only one set of editing facilities, and the price of £2199 represents a saving of £700 per machine. The S1000HD (£3999) is an S1000 with an on-board 40Mb hard disk. Both models should be available in November.
Several options for the S1000 are now available: the EXM005 2 Megabyte expansion board (£699), of which up to three may be added; the IB102 Atari/Supra hard disk interface (£99); the IB103 SCSI hard disk interface (£99), and the IB104 digital input/output (£tba).
Having scored a success with their budget EX90R reverb, Akai are soon to release the AR900 (£799), a high-quality digital stereo reverb. Its sampling rate of 46.875kHz ensures high fidelity, and dual 7-band EQ and dual 7-band spectrum analyser features are included. Eight preset modes, 12 factory presets and 79 user programs are available, and a wireless remote control unit is supplied.
Akai (UK) Ltd, (Contact Details)
If you're stuck for ideas for Christmas presents, how about Ferguson's new pocket LCD colour TV, the small but perfectly formed PTV02/A. This new model features a 3.2" active matrix LCD screen, and measures only 93mm x 106mm x 52mm. The rechargeable battery pack will give approximately 1½ hours of use, and reception is either via the built-in telescopic rod aerial or an external aerial socket. And the price of this go-anywhere viewing? A mere £299.99. If you're also stuck for ideas for who to send such a present to, simply address it to SOS Publications, PO Box 30...
Executive Audio have released the third volume in their series of PA Decoder D50 sounds. The D50 Memory Card Volume III offers 128 voices, all programmed with pitch bend and modulation effects in mind. We won't attempt to describe what they sound like!
Executive Audio Ltd, (Contact Details).
If you've just bought a MIDI interface for your PC read no further, or you may wish you had waited just that little bit longer!
Music/PC is a Roland MPU401-compatible MIDI interface card for the PC AT/XT, which comes packaged with a 64-track sequencer program and makes up the MidiMusic MIDI System, all for a remarkable £99.95 (plus VAT)!
The sequencer features a 60,000 note memory, a (very high) 600 clocks per quarter-note resolution, copying and track/note/measure erasure and deletion facilities - in short, far more than you'd expect a 'giveaway' program with a cheap interface to offer.
The Program Shop, who distribute the MidiMusic MIDI System in the UK, will also sell you a card that converts your PC into a fax machine for only £199.95!
The Program Shop, (Contact Details).
Whoever said Digital Audio Tape recorders would never get off the ground must now be feeling like the record company exec who turned down The Beatles! With Sony and Casio DAT recorders already available, two professional DAT recorders will be released by Technics early next year to add to the growing numbers. (Apparently, Fostex and Teac models are also 'on the way'.)
The 'heavy duty' Technics SV360 is a studio-oriented machine, featuring balanced XLR inputs and outputs, digital in/out terminals, switchable sampling rates, and employs two 18-bit DACs on each of the stereo channels on playback. The SV260 is a portable DAT recorder, also with XLR inputs, and 2.2 hours of playback/recording from a rechargeable battery. Both machines will be available for the professional audio market only.
Technics UK, (Contact Details).
The Akai ME35T is a new audio-to-MIDI trigger unit, which accepts up to eight audio inputs (from microphones, electronic drum pads, audio click tracks, etc) and assigns each one to a MIDI channel and note number independently. Besides the obvious application of triggering drum machine or sampler sounds from electronic or acoustic drum pads, such an interface can be used to replace existing drum sounds on a multitrack tape by triggering the new sound with the one to be replaced.
Each Channel has user-programmable parameters for Sensitivity, Capture Time, On Time, Trigger Level, Recovery Time and Velocity Curve. Trigger Level, Sensitivity and Velocity Curve allow the response of the unit to be adjusted for the dynamics of the trigger signal, to give consistent triggering and a good dynamic range. On Time sets the time between Note On and Note Off commands, so as to allow better control of sustained synth sounds if necessary, and Capture and Recovery time allow the response of each channel to be adjusted so as to reduce the chance of double-triggering.
Still on the percussive theme, Akai are about to release the XE8 drum expander, a 16-bit sampled replay device with no internal sequencing facilities of its own, just high quality tunable samples, which can be flexibly allocated to any of eight outputs. The XE8 is provided with 20 internal sounds, and two slots for 1 Megabyte memory cards containing another 20 sounds each - giving a grand total of 60 sounds on-board at any time. The ability to change sounds over will doubtless be an attractive one to many musicians.
The XE8 is not the first 'sound only' drum box; Korg released the conceptually similar (but cheaper, and only 8-bit) MR16 almost two years ago, a unit that failed to capture the public's imagination at the time. Now, however, with so many musicians choosing to programme dedicated rhythm tracks on their sequencers, duplication of sequencing facilities on the drum box seems unnecessary, and the 'sound only' beat box is perhaps an idea whose time has finally come. The SOS staff ears are pinned back in anticipation...
Akai (UK) Ltd, (Contact Details)