Shape of Things to Come
News of Ensoniq’s rackmount sampler, the EPS-M, and other goodies are unveiled in glorious techno-colour. Read all about it.
Ensoniq have done what they vowed they would never do and have released a rackmount version of their EPS keyboard sampler. The new EPS-M sampler module (around £2199) has similar features to the EPS, though its internal RAM is four times the size of the EPS, at 1 Megaword. A powerful multitrack sequencer is included, as is the very useful facility to load new samples whilst playing (as on the EPS).
Ensoniq GB, (Contact Details).
Technics have recently released a new CD player, the SLP999 (£449.95), aimed firmly at the audiophile. The new machine features 20-bit linear decoding and eight-times oversampling for optimum audio quality. 'How do they get 20-bit out of a 16-bit disc' you cry: apparently the trick is to use four DACs (two per channel), in a configuration that Technics claim "eliminates Digital Zero Cross Distortion and permits a 20-bit replay resolution".
Improved error-correction is also a feature of the new machine. All CD players incorporate some kind of error-correction to conceal the inevitable small errors pressed into every compact disc, and the improved sample interpolation on the SLP999 is intended to cope with larger data corruption caused by fingerprints or scratches. This raises the intriguing question of what happens if an artist deliberately records the sound of a CD scratch on one of their albums? Also now available is the SLP777, a machine which shares many other features of the SLP999 (switchable digital output, 32 selection random access programming, auto cue and timer play), but with only 18-bit resolution and four-times oversampling.
Panasonic/Technics, (Contact Details).
Another new item of Atari hardware is the Trak-ball (£28.99), which is an alternative to the mouse that we all know and love... or not as the case may be! The Trak-Ball functions like an upside down mouse: rather than push around a plastic case enclosing a rubber ball, you rotate a rubber ball within a fixed plastic casing. The advantage that Trak-Ball offers over a mouse is that it takes up less desk space, and it also eliminates mouse droppings - off the edge of the mat that is.
Hard Edge Communication, (Contact Details).
Simmons have made another ROM card available for the Trixer/SDS2000/SDS2000R, which brings the total number of cards available to five. The new card contains Latin sounds, and the sound sets now available are: Latin, Ambient, Street/Studio, Live/Hip-Hop, Practice Kits 1,2,3.
Meanwhile, Simmons' powerful SDX sampling workstation is finding still more uses and users. In a recent demo at the TVS dubbing suite in Maidstone, the SDX was pressed into service to carry out sampling and replay of the ambient sound used to maintain continuity across extended news commentaries. The SDX allowed the editors to hold a bank of 16 commentaries and FX, and run them against SMPTE cues in the SDX's 64-track sequencer.
Simmons Digital Music Ltd, (Contact Details).
Poke Ltd have launched a range of cheap PC-based voice editors for Yamaha 4-operator synths. All the programs - DX11ED, TX81ZED, DX21ED, DX27ED, DX100ED - cost £49.95 each. Features of the programs include a menu-driven user interface, performance editors for the TX81Z and DX11 versions, and voice randomiser. The software is MPU401 compatible, and versions will shortly be available for the Yamaha C1.
Computer Music Systems, (Contact Details).
The Quickrhyme On-line Rhyming Dictionary is a unique Apple Macintosh desk accessory, which can offer songwriters and poets alike the nudge that they might need to get from the end of one lyric line to the start of the next.
Quickrhyme (£55 + VAT) will run in conjunction with a word processing application - such as MacWrite - to look up rhymes for the currently selected word in the text, from a dictionary file of over 22,000 root words. An unusual built-in suffix processor allows you to enter not only suffixes, but also plurals, verb conjugations and superlatives, enabling you to find rhymes for over one million words! With this number of words on tap, it's probably just as well that Quickrhyme lists its words in their approximate order of usage in normal English: so if Paul McCartney had tried to find a rhyme for 'yesterday', he wouldn't have had to think too hard about 'parquet' and 'sleigh' before deciding that 'away' is the stuff that hits are made of.
Quadrant AVC Ltd, (Contact Details).
The importance of cassette deck alignment is not always appreciated: if a deck is not correctly aligned, it will not give good results when playing back tapes recorded on other machines. Unfortunately, remedies for the problem don't always come cheap. Test cassettes to allow the correct alignment of decks have tended to be aimed at the professional audio market and have consequently carried price tags of around £80 or more - prohibitively expensive for all but a few domestic users. However, a cheaper range of test cassettes is now available, ranging in price from £3.50 to £18.50.
The bottom of the range tape provides test signals for Dolby Replay Level and Azimuth Alignment only, whilst the multipurpose test tape (£18.50) contains the full range of tests: Dolby Replay Level, Azimuth Alignment, Frequency Response, Dolby B & C Replay Tracking Accuracy, Tape Transport and Meter Transient Response Accuracy.
Ian Harrison, (Contact Details).
Guitarists are generally not reknowned for their overwhelming enthusiasm for MIDI and music software, but Dr. T may have just found a way of getting even the average axe hero interested in computers, with the release of a guitar tutor program called Guitaristics.
Guitaristics is primarily a tool for teaching the guitarist to play chords and scales in all keys and at all positions on the fretboard. It also gives an insight into the concepts of scale improvisation and chord substitution.
The main screen of the program displays chord and fret scale diagrams as well as an analysis of how the two interact. Practice scales and arpeggios are output through MIDI as well as via the Atari's internal sound chip, thus assisting the player in developing a technical mastery of scales and arpeggios.
MCMXCIX, (Contact Details).
New from Data Conversion Systems is the DCS900 Analogue-to-Digital Convertor, which has been designed to improve significantly on the performance of existing ADCs in digital tape recorders, hard disk recording systems and digital mixing consoles. The DCS900 is a two-channel unit, configured for the audio industry as a stereo pair. Sampling is at 128 times the final output rate to produce optimum quality. Excellent distortion performance is claimed, particularly at low signal levels, and a signal-to-noise ratio of better than 105dB is quoted. Two on-board crystal oscillators are provided to offer both 44.1 kHz and 48kHz sampling rates, but the unit can also be synchronised to an external AES/EBU or SDIF2 word clock.
Data Conversion Systems Ltd, (Contact Details).
Audio Logic's range of professional signal processing equipment is now available in the UK from John Hornby Skewes & Co. The range consists of the MT44 Quad Noise Gate, MT66 Compressor Limiter, SC31 31-band Graphic Equaliser, X324 Stereo/Mono Crossover, PA86 and PA88A Psychoacoustic Enhancers, SC215 Stereo 15-band Graphic Equaliser, and the R2D3 3-tap Digital Room Correction Delay. The R2D3 features one dry and three independent delayed outputs: each delay output is capable of up to 327 milliseconds of delay, or 1310 milliseconds on the R23D X version.
JHS & Co Ltd, (Contact Details).
Fostex's D20 DAT digital master recorder made its first European appearance at the recent AES Convention. The D20 is the first DAT player to implement fully transparent recording and playback of SMPTE/EBU within the subcode area: the D20 works with timecode in much the same way as a stereo centre timecode analogue tape machine, enabling the recording of timecode onto any existing DAT tape, or the recording of both stereo audio and timecode at the same time.
Other features of the machine include a 4-head design, off-tape monitoring, switchable 44.1/48kHz sampling rate, varispeed +/-10%, and control ports to interface to a wide range of synchronisers and edit controllers. Because the heads are switchable read/write, read before write is possible, to allow seamless punch in/out when recording.
Coincidentally, the AES was the venue for a meeting to discuss new proposals for an international standard on pro DAT timecode - however, the D20 could perhaps be seen as a de facto standard in its own right, now that over 200 units have been shipped.
Harman UK, (Contact Details).
Plasmec, manufacturers of Mosses & Mitchell audio jackfields and sockets, are now able to supply pre-wired units for both their standard and mini product range. Another innovation by the company is the manufacture of a new 36-input jackfield, which utilises PCB construction and input connections to eliminate all interface wiring.
According to Plasmec, this will assure completely noise-free operation and longterm reliability, on top of the obvious benefit of greatly reduced installation time. The jackfields can be pre-wired to a standard or custom configuration. Plasmec's PCB-construction jackfield, manufactured in association with LWT, is a 36 input design in which there is a positive identification of the rear panel connections with the front panel sockets: this gives an obvious correlation of external cables to sources and destination, and consequently reduces operator confusion.
Other features of the new jackfield include custom normalling between the three rows of vertical jacks, which allows the user to have three groups of totally different normalling.
Plasmec Systems Ltd, (Contact Details).
Anew way of storing and retrieving MIDI data has just been made possible by a gadget called MIDIman: cassette tape storage(!). MIDIman is a small interface box which will accept a MIDI input, and convert it into an audio output that can be recorded on any cassette recorder. Replaying the tape signal back into MIDIman reproduces the original MIDI data at MIDIman's MIDI Out. Live use is one possible application for MIDIman - download MIDI sequences from your computer and take MIDIman and a cassette player on the road or to the pub instead - and it could also offer a cheap medium for System Exclusive data storage.
However, though such applications are a possibility, whether they're a good idea or not is another matter entirely. In principle, it seems that MIDIman combines all the bad and none of the good points of both MIDI and audio tape. One of the great things about MIDI is that it allows music, represented as data, to be manipulated by powerful processing tools: computer sequencers don't have to deal with their tracks sequentially, songs can be stopped and started at any point with the greatest of ease, and aspects of a recorded song changed at will. If you want to remove a bass line, it's no problem. This is not the case with data recorded on tape, and there is also the possibility of drop-out if MIDIman's output isn't recorded at a high enough level... In fact, this device would seem to resurrect all of the problems traditionally associated with sync-to-tape, cassette dumps, etc. Still, if you think you need a device that can record MIDI data on tape, it's here.
Radius Marketing Ltd, (Contact Details).
Atari have announced the imminent launch of a new version of the succesful ST computer: the Mega 1 ST. The new machine will feature 1 Megabyte of RAM (as found in the 1040ST), but will be physically similar to the existing Mega 2 and Mega 4 STs having a separate keyboard, processor unit and monitor. This makes the design far easier to upgrade in terms of hardware than the more compact 520/1040 format, because there is sufficient space inside the processor unit to accept new boards, etc. The price of the new computer is expected to be pitched between that of the 1040ST and Mega 2 ST, at £699.
Atari UK, (Contact Details).
Voice editors for synthesizers are wonderful things of course, but unfortunately you need one for every synth in your setup, which can be both expensive and awkward. But now Dr. T's Music Software has come to the rescue of every musician who's been agonising over which pieces of their gear they can afford to buy editors for, by producing a program that performs as an editor/librarian for any MIDI synth, effects unit, mixer, etc.
X-Or is a modular system which uses 'Instrument Profiles' - files which contain all the information X-Or needs to know about a specific instrument - to edit each instrument. An optional Profile Editor allows you to create custom Profiles for any MIDI equipment you wish to edit and for which there is no existing Profile: X-Or's onscreen sliders, buttons and graphic envelopes can be assigned to any of the equipment's parameters.
MCMXCIX, (Contact Details).
Audio Kinetics' new console automation system, Mastermix II, will be on demonstration for the first time at the forthcoming APRS Show at Olympia 2. The new system combines features from both the MkI version and the Reflex automation system, and current owners of both Mastermix or Reflex will be able to upgrade to the new system.
Mastermix II combines the generic Reflex MX844 Mix Computer and colour monitor with the high quality AK2 VCA faders from Mastermix. The company claims that the design of the AK2 gives Mastermix II the best noise and distortion figures of any comparable automation system.
Audio Kinetics Ltd, (Contact Details).
British pro audio manufacturer Third Generation is now establishing a UK dealer network following a split from its original parent company. The company's competitively priced pro audio equipment includes mixing desks and amplifiers, ranging in size from 6-2 to 32-8-2 and 200W to 1200W. All products carry a three year warranty.
Third Generation Ltd, (Contact Details).
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