Shape of Things to Come
A colourful bonanza of newly released and forthcoming new products.
Yamaha have launched a major new flagship synthesizer, the SY77 (£1999), as the first of what could be a whole new generation of Yamaha products. The SY77 represents another significant step forward in synthesis technology, in the same way that FM and LA did — old style 6-operator FM has been kicked into touch, and superceded by a technique called Realtime Convolution and Modulation (RCM) synthesis. The technique incorporates Advanced FM (AFM) synthesis and AWM2 sampling capabilities, but within an architecture that allows them to interact - the characteristics of a sampled sound can be used to modify those of a synthesized sound.
The SY77 is 32-note polyphonic, 16-part multitimbral, and includes on-board drum sounds, digital effects and a 16-track sequencer.
Also new is the TG55 tone module (around £699), which has the AWM2 voicing facilities of the SY77 but no AFM and no RCM. The TG55 is 16-voice polyphonic, 16-part multitimbral, and offers onboard digital effects.
AWM2 sampling technology is a refinement of the Advanced Wave Memory found on previous Yamaha instruments. Samples are stored with 16-bit resolution, and all are sampled at 32kHz or 48kHz. Internal processing is 24-bit, output is via 22-bit digital-to-analogue convertors, and 4Mb of samples are stored internally. Additional waveform data can be read from ROM cards; one ROM card slot is dedicated to waveform data, another to program data.
The Advanced Frequency Modulation uses six operators, which can be configured in 45 different algorithms. Each operator can use any of 16 different waveforms, and any algorithm can include up to three feedback loops. RCM involves using AWM2 elements to modulate AFM operators. Each AWM2 and AFM element in an SY77 voice has two 12dB per octave real-time digital filters, a significant addition to FM. A full review of the SY77 will appear in next month's Sound On Sound.
Yamaha-Kemble Music (UK) Ltd, (Contact Details).
The first CD ROM disk of sounds for the Akai S1000 sampler is now available; Lightware Volume 1 from InVision (£299). The disk contains 65 fully engineered acoustic instrument volumes and over 1500 programs. Instruments include string bass, orchestral hand bells, concert cymbals, solo flute, acoustic guitar, harps, trumpet, grand piano, marimba, tympani, sax, violin, viola, cello and male vocals. The disk comes with a CD ROM caddie, and must be used in conjunction with V2.0 software or higher for the S1000.
If you also need a drive to take the disk, you might be interested in the new DIKI Devices CD ROM player (£999). The drive supports full SCSI, and can be rackmounted.
The Synthesizer Company, (Contact Details).
What Christmas present could you give to the muso who has everything? SOS's own tip for the best music-related seasonal gift is the Takara Rock'n'Flower - an all-dancing, if not all-singing, plastic flower. Simply place the flower near a speaker, crank up the volume a little, and it will happily dance along to your favourite tunes.
The flowers come complete with sunglasses, inane grin, and a choice of electric guitar or saxophone. Controlled tests in the SOS studio revealed that the flowers tend to favour drum and percussion oriented music - Yello, and a variety of House tracks produced the best results, and Christmas carols and New Age music the worst. On the basis of this, several record company A&R departments are currently considering using the flowers as a preliminary means of assessing demo tapes.
£19.99 plus £2.00 postage.
Sounds Great, (Contact Details).
Desert Island have released a new Waveform Development disk set for the Ensoniq EPS sampler. The disks are intended to provide raw material that will allow EPS owners to recreate virtually any synth sound, from those of modern standards such as the M1 and D50, to older classics such as the MiniMoog, Wasp or VLTone. The full set includes 30 EPS disks, five example disks, and a manual. A demo disk is available for £3.00.
Desert Island, (Contact Details).
Is your computer bad for your health? Evidence of links between computer VDUs and a range of health problems has been building up for some time, and most health and safety experts who have looked into the issue agree that, although the risks have not yet been quantified, it is very likely that spending hours in front of a VDU does pose some danger to health. Worsening eyesight, recurring headaches, dermatitis and an increased chance of pregnant women suffering miscarriages are among the principal health problems so far identified.
Help is at hand, however; the NoRad dB60 shield (£95 +VAT) is a mesh screen which can be fitted to the front of your VDU to cut out potentially hazardous radiation. The shield blocks more than 99% of the electro-magnetic radiation generated by a CRT display, totally eliminates static build-up, and also increases the contrast of the display by cutting out glare from the screen front. The shield is available in a range of sizes, to fit over 500 different monitor types. Can you afford to be without one?
Spring Data Systems, (Contact Details)
Third Generation have added a new small amplifier to their range of power amps. The HP200 is a compact unit (1U high, 19" rack-mount) delivering 100W into 8 Ohms. Possible applications include monitor driving in home and small professional studios, or PA use. The HP200 is fully protected against thermal overload, open and short circuits and DC offset. Audio connections are via XLRs, with binding posts also fitted to the outputs.
Third Generation Ltd, (Contact Details).
While most companies accelerate ever faster down the road of technological progress, eyes fixed only on some distant horizon, it seems that others are prepared to look backwards as well as forwards in their search for audio perfection. Professional Audio System Technology (PAST) is a new company catering to a demand for high quality vintage audio products, by manufacturing outboard equipment based on 1960s and 1970s technology.
The new PAST equaliser is based on Neve Series 80 technology, to obtain a classic mic and EQ sound. It has four overlapping bands each with 18dB of cut/boost at switchable frequencies, plus five high frequency and low pass filters. Mic sensitivity is switchable in 5dB steps from -15dB to -70dB, and phantom power is wired internally, inputs and outputs are via gold-plated XLR connectors, and latching jack sockets are also provided for direct interface to balanced or unbalanced instruments.
Audio nostalgia has its price, however - the PAST equaliser will set you back £1500.
PAST, (Contact Details).
A new range of MIDI interfaces and MIDI management boxes is now available from a British company called Personal Computer Services. MIDI interfaces are available for the Apple Macintosh (£69.95), PC compatibles (£89), and the Commodore Amiga (£39.95). The company also manufacture a six-way MIDI Thru box (£34.95) and 1x4 MIDI switcher (£29.95).
The PC interface is a UART type as opposed to the industry standard MPU401, and is aimed principally at those wishing to write their own MIDI software. Demonstration software and full programming instructions are provided. Both the Mac and Amiga interfaces conform to industry standards, and are therefore compatible with existing music software for those computers. Both incorporate one In, one Thru and two Out sockets.
PC Services, (Contact Details).
The S1000KB (£3499), soon to be launched by Akai, is a keyboard version of the now industry-standard S1000 sampler. The unit is physically very impressive - people will really notice if you have one of these in your studio - and with the same audio specification as the S1000 (V2.0), its internal facilities are just as notable. Major features of Version 2.0 software include: Timestretch; resampling at variable bandwidth; sample merging; loop tuning; the ability to read S900 and S950 disks; the ability to use hard disks with capacities of more than 60Mb; automatic hard disk load initiated via MIDI; backup of hard disk to DAT via an optional IB 104 digital interface; direct-from-digital sampling via the same interface, at up to 48kHz; SCSI support. All memory upgrades and optional interfaces that are available for the S1000 are fully compatible with the S1000KB.
Also new from Akai is the XR10 16-bit drum machine (£369). The XR10 features 65 drum and percussion sounds, 20 songs and 99 patterns. Programming resolution for patterns is 96 ppqn, and tempo can be varied over the range 40-296 bpm. Sound edit parameters include: Pan, Level, Sweep, Tune, Fine Tune, Decay, Hold, Velocity Start, Reverse.
Akai UK, (Contact Details).
Mitsubishi have upgraded their X86 two-channel digital recorder with a digital interface card (DIF2) as standard, enabling 20-bit recordings to be made via external convertors. Although the X86's own convertors are only 16-bit, the recorder itself is nevertheless capable of recording data at 20-bit resolution. External A-to-D/D-to-A convertors (such as the DCS900) can be connected via the AES/EBU interface, making the X86 currently the only two-channel digital recorder that is capable of 20-bit recording.
Mitsubishi suggest that the need for more than 16-bit resolution throughout the recording process is necessary to maintain the professional's edge over domestic audio standards, which are being raised to new heights by oversampling CD players and the like.
Mitsubishi Pro Audio, (Contact Details).
Amongst the range of hi-tech Peavey products now available in this country is the Autograph programmable graphic equaliser. At the most basic level, the unit is a 28-band programmable graphic EQ, which allows the storage and recall of 128 different frequency response curves.
The frequency bands are at standard ISO centres, and offer 12dB of cut or boost in 1dB increments, or 6dB in 0.5dB increments. The Autograph also includes a pink noise source and a real-time analyser, which can be used in conjunction with a microphone to automatically generate an EQ curve to even out the frequency response of a room.
Peavey Audio Media Research Division, (Contact Details).
Four new hi-tech stocking fillers come from Anatek, in the form of additions to their Pocket Product range. The Pocket Thru (£75) provides three buffered Thru connections from a single MIDI In - it can handle all types of MIDI data, and requires no batteries or mains adaptor, like all other MIDI processors in the range. Pocket Channel (£85) takes data on any MIDI channel and assigns it to one, several or all MIDI channels. Up to 16 different assignments are possible, and a velocity switch feature allows switching between channels with velocity.
Pocket Panic (£59) is a handy emergency rescue tool for the live performer, to deal with embarrassing stuck notes - it sends All Notes Off messages on all MIDI channels, and also Note Offs for each note on every channel. The panic function can be operated manually or with a footswitch. It can also be used to filter out All Notes Off commands from master keyboards.
Finally, the Power Pack can be used to provide phantom power for several Anatek units. Although all units can operate without any power source - they draw sufficient power from the MIDI signal - a little extra juice may be necessary when several Anatek units are used in series, or where the products providing the original MIDI data do not conform to MIDI specification Version 4.0.
Sound Technology plc, (Contact Details).
Dr. T Music Software have announced the release of Version 1.7 of their KCS and KCS Level II sequencers for the Amiga. The price remains unchanged, and existing owners can upgrade for £30, via Dr. T's UK distributor, MCMXCIX.
Also new from Dr. T is Hit Man (£199) for the Atari ST, a powerful film scoring tool with full SMPTE event listing. SMPTE times can be specified for each event in a cue list, and a sound effects editor lets you assign names to specific events. The program can communicate with KCS via MPE, and supports a complete tempo map and multiple time signatures.
If you have any queries about this or any other Dr. T software, the company have a special bulletin board number in the States, offering on-line answers to users' problems, and even the facility to download bug-fixing versions of programs. The number to call is (Contact Details). Key into 'Professionals On-line', then select 'Dr. T Station'.
MCMXCIX, (Contact Details).
Isotrack have announced a range of new products which will allow the creation and rackmounting of customised connector panels. The Universal Connector Panel has been designed to allow the mounting of any combination of components which use the standard Neutrik 'D' flange. The panels are 1U high, and are available in 16-way 19" rackmount, and 8-way half-rack sizes.
The N-Case modular housing system provides a means of building enclosures for mounting both the standard and half-rack size panels. The assembled boxes are extremely robust, and can be used free-standing as stage boxes, or wall-mounted to act as mic/foldback boxes etc. End panels are available in 2U, 3U and 4U heights.
Isotrack, (Contact Details).
New from Digitech is the DSP256 (£549), an expanded version of the DSP128+ multieffects unit with a 20Hz-20kHz bandwidth, studio remote control, and the ability to produce four effects simultaneously. Data conversion is fully 16-bit, and effects include reverse and gated reverbs, chorus, flanging, delay, multi-tap delay, parametric EQ and 9-band graphic EQ. There are 128 factory preset memories and 128 locations for storing user programs.
JHS & Co Ltd, (Contact Details).