Shape of Things to Come
Read all about Roland's new U20 synth, Korg's M3R and S3 rhythm workstation, Peavey's mouthwatering new recording gear, and lots more!
The recent APRS show was the first opportunity for Peavey's new Audio Media Research division to show off their wares in this country, and as it turned out they had plenty of items of interest. The QFX 4X4 (£899) is a digital effects unit that combines four independent multi-effects processors into one - nothing new, you may say, but with its four sets of inputs and outputs, the QFX can use its four processors for any combination of series or parallel processing of multiple inputs.
The AEQ 2800 (£369) is a programmable 28-band graphic equaliser with 128 user memories, and up to 12dB of cut/boost per band. The MCR 4/S (£989.95) is a synchronisable 4-track cassette recorder which can be slaved to the Peavey SyncController. Other features include dual tape speed, Dolby B & C noise reduction and remote transport capability. The SyncController (£978.99) itself is a sophisticated SMPTE-based synchroniser/controller, with MIDI Song Pointer support, and the facility to programme up to 99 events to control punch-in/outs etc.
Other products included the MDB 2X4 MIDI Distribution Box, DSR1000 Digital Stereo Reverb, MIDI Director hand-held MIDI remote, CDS2 Dual Channel Compressor/Limiter/De-Esser, MAP 8X4 MIDI-controlled Audio Patchbay, EAC8 Event Automation Controller, PME4 4-band parametric equaliser and PME8 dual channel parametric equaliser. Also of considerable interest is the very competitively priced Production series of recording consoles. These high-spec consoles are fully modular, and will be available in 8, 16 and 24 bus versions. A 32 into 8 desk with VU metering costs around £6900.
Peavey Audio Media Research Division, (Contact Details).
Kawai have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the hi-tech music world, with their R50 and R100 drum machines, and most notably the K5 and K1 synthesizers - the K1 ran away with the 'Best Synthesizer' category in the recent Sound On Sound hi-tech awards. New products to be shown at the BMF include not only the K1 MkII, with built-in reverb and a separate drum track, but also the entirely new K4 synth. Details of the new machine's spec are currently about as easy to come by as comments from the Prime Minister about the European elections, but it seems that the K4 will be a 16-bit machine with sampled waveforms, built-in digital effects and drum sounds, and full digital filter and amplitude envelopes. The phrase 'resynthesis' has also been bandied about - but we'll just have to wait and see!
Kawai UK, (Contact Details).
New from AMS/Calrec is the ST250 stereo microphone and control unit, a system which offers facilities previously only found on their acclaimed Soundfield mic. Main features include: the ability to switch from A-B to M-S format; extremely accurate polar patterns; coincident stereo signal up to 10kHz; total effective control over the effective capsule angle and polar patterns; and a 20Hz-20kHz frequency response.
AMS Industries plc, (Contact Details).
A new range of heavy duty XLR to XLR and XLR-to-jack cables is now available from Beyer Dynamic UK. The Anner leads feature crimp on connections for exceptionally rugged construction, with the lead and connector moulded as a single unit. Graduated strain relief ensures a minimum of metal fatigue. The leads are available in Standard or Star Quad cable, and come in a range of colours and lengths.
Beyer Dynamic UK, (Contact Details).
TDK have released a new type of metal tape, the MA. The company already sell more metal tape than any other manufacturer, and they doubtless hope that the new tape will consolidate that position. The MA formulation has a magnetic energy four times greater than that of SA tapes, which produces an outstanding dynamic range and frequency response. The tape shell is also of a new design, to reduce modulation noise and improve phase accuracy. Sounds good, but we wonder how it will stand up to that most important test - being left on a car dashboard in the blazing sun. The MA90 will cost a very reasonable £2.99, and the MA60 £2.39.
TDK Ltd, (Contact Details).
The Feel Factory is a new unit from Aphex that aims to put back some of the 'feel' that too much quantisation can take out of music. The 'algorithmic feel composer' gives the user real-time control over the velocity and timing data of sequenced music via front panel faders, so that parts of sequenced music can be easily 'pulled back' or 'pushed forwards'. The Feel Factory has an on-board SMPTE-to-MIDI convertor, and can read and generate all four timecode standards. It also has four MIDI Outs and will interface directly to an Apple Macintosh computer.
Also new from Aphex is the Studio Clock, a SMPTE-to-MIDI convertor with some extra features that enable it to fill a notable gap left by the disappearance of the Kahler Human Clock. The unit can create tempo maps by analysing the performance of a real musician - either via MIDI or an audio input from a percussion instrument, so you can force your sequencer to follow your timing, not the other way around.
Sound Technology plc, (Contact Details).
Korg have announced the range of forthcoming products which they plan to show at the British Music Fair at London's Olympia 2 in late July. The T1 (around £3700) will be the flagship of Korg's synthesizer range: a turbo-charged M1 with an 88-note weighted wooden keyboard. The voice and effects specifications seem to be substantially the same as the M1, but the T1 has 8 Megabytes of waveform memory, 200 programs and 200 combinations, a 56,000 note sequencer and a 3.5" disk drive. The T3 (£2500) has identical specifications to the T1, but comes with a 61-note non-weighted keyboard. Filling the gap between the T1 and T3, the T2 (price TBA) differs only in having a 76-note non-weighted keyboard.
Another M1 spin-off is the M3R (£999), which seems to be a slightly cut down version of the M1R. The 1U rackmount unit's features include: DWGS synth sounds, sampled drum sounds, two digital multi-effects units, 8-part multitimbrality, the ability to read M1 and M1R ROM and RAM cards, 16 oscillators, 16 voices, 2 Meg of waveform memory, 100 programs and 100 combinations. A MIDI overflow mode is provided so that several M3Rs can be slaved together. An external hardware editor, the RE1 (£299), will be available for the M3R which offers faster editing facilities.
Also new is the S3 (around £1100), Korg's rhythm workstation. Attack and sustain portions of the onboard 16-bit sounds are stored separately, and can be re-combined by the user to create new percussion voices. The S3 has an 8-track sequencer with four pattern tracks and four song tracks, which enable the user to combine drum machine-style pattern writing with track-based real-time music entry. The S3 also includes two digital multi-effects units (a nice idea), SMPTE synchronisation, 12-voice polyphony, an 8,000 note capacity on the sequencer and 1 Megabyte of waveform memory.
Korg (UK), (Contact Details).
Recent trends in dance music have prompted many people to search out old analogue synthesizers, only to discover that although they sound wonderful, it is actually very awkward having to play something when everything else is MIDI'd. A solution to the problem comes from MIDI troubleshooter Philip Rees, in the form of a two channel MIDI-CV convertor, the MCV (£169.95 inc VAT), which allows one or two analogue synthesizers or other Control Voltage devices to be controlled via MIDI.
The MCV responds to pitch, velocity and pitch bend data, producing two parallel sets of gate and CV signals for note triggering, and a single CV output which can be used to control VCFs. Several MCVs can be connected in series for polyphonic control of several synths.
Philip Rees (Modern Music Technology), (Contact Details).
Tascam have announced the imminent availability of the MM1 mixer (£699), which offers the unique (in this price range) feature of MIDI-controlled muting. The MM1 features 12 mono and four split stereo inputs, giving it effectively a 20-2 configuration. Each channel can handle mic or line inputs, and has two-band EQ, four effects sends feeding four stereo effects returns, and 3-segment LED level metering.
The mixer's memory can store 99 'scenes', each of which is a complete set of mute assignments for the input and master channels: these scenes can then be recalled with a footswitch or via MIDI Program Changes. The unit can be mounted in a standard 19" rack and angled to suit.
Teac UK Ltd, (Contact Details).
A surprise offering from Yamaha at the APRS show was the FX500 simultaneous effects processor (around £350). The half-rack sized unit is based internally on the SPX900 circuitry and offers up to five digital effects applied simultaneously to the input. Compression, distortion and EQ are always first in line, followed by a modulation section (chorus, tremolo, flanger and symphonic) and then reverb (reverb and delay effects). This architecture means that the unit is especially suitable for guitarists, though keyboard players and home recordists could well be attracted by the price and quality of its effects. A-to-D and D-to-A conversion is 16-bit at 44.1 kHz, and effects programs can be switched remotely from a footswitch or via MIDI. The FX500 holds 60 preset programs and 30 user programs.
Yamaha-Kemble UK Ltd, (Contact Details).
It looks like the oft-overlooked but extraordinarily powerful Commodore Amiga is set to become the next growth market for music software in the UK, as more big name software houses start to release Amiga versions of their professional music programs to challenge the current superiority of Dr. T's Keyboard Controlled Sequencer.
Following on from Steinberg, Passport have announced the launch of an Amiga version of their successful Master Tracks Pro multitrack sequencer program, currently available for the Mac, Atari ST and PC. The Amiga version features the same user interface and facilities as the existing versions, which now include 64 recording tracks, a conductor track for tempo control, automated punch-in and punch-out, support for two independent MIDI outputs, and SMPTE sync via MIDI Time Code.
MCMXCIX, (Contact Details).
Studio installation company KFA Associates have come up with an innovative solution to the problem of creating a soundproofed environment in studios, in the form of The Box, an off-the-peg modular system that enables the construction of a self-contained, soundproofed room almost anywhere. The Box is especially suitable for writing and programming suites, overdub booths, edit suites and small control rooms, or any situation where alterations to the existing fabric of a building are impossible or prohibitively expensive.
A choice of three degrees of acoustic isolation is available, and a floating floor is standard. The Box is supplied complete with air conditioning, lighting and a 13A ring main.
KFA Associates, (Contact Details).
Following the success of their MIDIman MIDI-to-tape interface, Musicsoft have released a synchronisation unit called Syncman. The compact unit will generate and read all four SMPTE formats, and will convert SMPTE to either MIDI Time Code or Direct Time Lock (for Mark Of The Unicorn's Performer sequencer). A 'jam' feature allows Syncman to recover from serious tape dropout with the aid of Song Position Pointers.
Radius International Ltd, (Contact Details).
New from Roland and exhibited recently at the APRS show is the U20, a keyboard based on the U110 sampled PCM sound module. The most significant changes from a sound point of view are a marked improvement in the quality, the provision of digital reverb as well as chorus in the effects section, four different drum setups, and fully dynamic voice allocation. Although the sound creation technique is described as RS-PCM (the RS standing for re-synthesis!), the first mention of this variant on PCM on Roland products, the similarity between the U110 and U20 is sufficient to allow the U20 to read U110 ROM cards. The U20's five-octave keyboard is velocity and channel aftertouch sensitive - though under external control the U20 will also respond to polyphonic aftertouch - and two assignable sliders can generate any MIDI Controller data in real time. (Full review next month.)
Also on show were the new budget D5 LA synth, and the R5 drum machine, which is essentially a cut-down version of the wonderful R8.
Most interesting of all the hot products not seen at the APRS is the Roland S770, the forthcoming addition to their range of samplers. The brief details of the machine released so far indicate that the S770 incorporates fully 16-bit processing and storage, with 20-bit D/A conversion for optimum audio quality. The S770's memory will be expandable to 16Mb, SCSI and digital input/output come as standard, and sample rates are selectable. Up to 24 voices can be used simultaneously, an RGB monitor output is provided, and the unit is compatible with CD ROM drives (such as Roland's own CD5). Intriguingly, there is also talk of 'onboard signal processing in the digital domain'. The S770 will be on demonstration at the British Music Fair in late July. The most important question now is: when can we have one?
Roland UK, (Contact Details).
It seems that MIDI has brought every aspect of sound creation in the studio under computer control... with a few exceptions perhaps, one of which Groove Electronics have just set out to tackle - MIDI vocals. The Oratron (£175) is an unusual device that allows speech synthesis under MIDI control: the basic components of speech (allophones) are stored in the unit as samples, and combining these in different ways will reproduce almost any word in the English language. The pitch, level and metering (rhythm) of the computer speech can all be controlled via MIDI. In use, you can programme entire phrases with the aid of a MIDI keyboard, and then play the phrase back 'live' from a keyboard or synchronised to MIDI clock data.
Another new Groove product is an improved version of their existing M2CV MIDI-CV convertor. The M4CV (£199) offers four CV and gate outputs under the control of four assignable MIDI channels. Each channel responds to pitch bend, and will convert velocity, aftertouch, mod wheel and breath control into a filter output level.
Groove Electronics, (Contact Details).
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