Shape of Things to Come
Your chance to check out some of the new products launched at January’s NAMM
After Proteus/1 comes Proteus/2, a bigger and completely different sounding sample playback unit. The new Proteus/2 (£1349 inc VAT) is not a replacement, but a big brother that delivers eight megabytes of sampled sounds instead of the original four megabytes. Featuring similar functions and 16-bit sound quality, Proteus/2 offers 32-voice polyphony and draws on an entirely new set of sounds borrowed from the Emulator III's vast sample library. The sounds are mostly orchestral in nature, complementing the rock/pop bias of Proteus/1, and as with the original unit Proteus/2 sports six individual audio outputs which can be configured as three stereo pairs, with programmable panning.
In an effort to satisfy current and potential Proteus owners, Emu have very sensibly located the eight megabytes of sounds in memory so that one half of them can be supplied as a four megabyte expansion (£450 inc VAT, plus installation charge) to existing Proteus/1 owners, thereby increasing its range of samples to offer both rock and classical sounds. In addition, an XR version is being released, which increases the number of preset locations from 192 to 384, and will cost £1619 inc VAT. Proteus/2 should be available in the summer.
Emu Systems UK, (Contact Details).
Hot on the heels of the SY77 synthesizer and TG55 tone generator comes the SY55. As the product number indicates, it's related to the TG55 and on the face of it would seem to be a TG55 with a keyboard attached.
Whereas the new SY77 offers RCM synthesis, AFM, AWM2 plus a sequencer, and the TG55 offers just the AWM2 sampled sound sources, the SY55 goes for a third variation and offers you AWM2 with an 8-track integral sequencer. This combination results in a workstation-type keyboard offering 74 waveform samples in ROM, 64 preset ROM voices, 64 internal RAM memories, a selection of drum/percussion samples assigned to 61 keys, 34 programmable digital effects, and stereo audio outputs, all for £1099 inc VAT.
Sonically, the SY55 uses 16-bit samples played back at either 32 or 48kHz, with 24-bit internal processing and 22-bit digital-to-analogue conversion to the outside world. Additional memory is available via RAM cards, which can be used for storing patches and sequences.
Yamaha-Kemble Music (UK) Ltd, (Contact Details).
From Danish manufacturer TC Electronics come two new products, the TC1280 Stereo Digital Audio Delay and the TC1380 Multitap Digital Audio Delay (three taps).
Both units use the same ultraquiet signal processing technology employed in the much acclaimed TC2290 sampler, and feature a full 20Hz to 20kHz effect bandwidth and a soft roll-off high end filter. Delay times can be entered as either time or distance (feet and metres), making these ideal units for both studio and live work, where the Multitap unit is most ideally suited to correcting PA speaker delays.
All inputs and outputs are via XLR connectors and the units have a security lock function for permanent installation applications.
TC Electronics UK Ltd, (Contact Details).
The ADAC-SE, from Lynett Systems, is a new full 25MHz digital signal processor card for the Macintosh SE, designed for high quality audio applications and priced at just £449. The card consists of a high speed digital signal processor which may be programmed from the Mac, a stereo 48kHz 16-bit analogue-to-digital convertor, eight audio outputs, and a DMA controller to allow direct access to the Macintosh's RAM.
A free set of software is provided with the card which allows the Mac to be used as a 4-voice multitimbral stereo sampler, with sound editing features and realtime MIDI control from pitch wheel and velocity control curves, etc.
Most significantly, the software also allows the card to function as a direct to hard disk recorder, allowing stereo 16-bit sampling of any duration - limited only by the size of your hard disk (internal or external). Audio files may then be edited and a cue sheet function allows direct from disk playback.
The ADAC-SE is aimed at musical applications such as remixes, film and TV effects cueing, and multimedia applications.
Lynett Systems Ltd, (Contact Details).
Desert Island are now importing a new editing program for the Ensoniq EPS sampler developed by Australian software house Gelva Software. EZE, as it is named, runs on a standard Atari 1040ST with hi-res mono monitor and makes great use of the EPS's Wavesample Overview Command, which allows very fast transfer of data between the keyboard and the computer. The speed increase is due in part to the way in which EZE controls the EPS functions inside the Ensoniq, machine itself, rather than having to bring an entire sound into the computer just to carry out simple operations. When a sample needs to be worked upon, EZE transfers only the selected part in a matter of milliseconds, thereby speeding up the entire sample editing process.
EZE costs £140 and a demo disk is available from Desert Island.
Desert Island, (Contact Details).
Passport, one of the oldest established music software companies in the business with a long tradition of supporting Apple computers, have looked carefully at the imminent release of Apple's new System 7.0 operating system which will contain their new MIDI Manager. The facilities provided by Apple's MIDI Manager have allowed Passport to develop Sound Exciter, a self-contained 8-voice software synthesizer.
The program can be used for a variety of purposes, most obviously as a musical synthesizer that allows you to audition music played from your Mac MIDI sequencer without the need to plug in any external sound generators. The two programs are internally 'soft-linked' via MIDI Manager rather than via a traditional MIDI cable. This 'soft-linking' of programs looks like it will have tremendous repercussions across the Macintosh music software field for both programmers and creative end users alike.
With Sound Exciter, the sound is actually generated through the use of the Mac's processor, 8-bit D/A convertor and internal speaker, making it ideal for audio proofing of your sequences. The unit responds to MIDI note, velocity, and other messages over all 16 MIDI channels and can play back up to eight sounds simultaneously over any eight channels.
Sound Exciter is compatible with Studio Session, Jam Session, and MacRecorder, and also makes an ideal music/sound source for 'multimedia' (Apple's latest buzz word) applications as well. The program will be released soon in America and will cost under $100 dollars. The UK price has yet to be announced.
MCMXCIX, (Contact Details).
For MIDI guitar fans comes the Mirror 6 from Zeta Music Systems of America. Designed as a 'no compromise' MIDI guitar, the Mirror 6 uses a customised Kahler 2700 series guitar linked to a 19" rack-mounting MIDI processing unit. The MIDI aspect of the system is based around fret scanning and pitch extraction technology that triggers MIDI notes within one millisecond on all strings.
In common with any self-respecting MIDI guitar, individual strings can be programmed to transmit on different MIDI channels in Multiple-Mono mode, or you can select Poly mode which assigns all strings to the same channel. The inclusion of 100 memory locations allows you to personally tailor your guitar's response to match your playing style(s) and the receiving synthesizer's capabilities.
As well as standard guitar controls for volume and tone, the instrument is fitted with a 'soft knob' which can be assigned to various MIDI continuous controllers such as modulation or aftertouch. Plus, on the deluxe model, the 'Accelerometer' is a special MIDI continuous controller which is affected by the motion of the guitar, ie. shaking and neck movement.
The Mirror 6 comes in two versions, the Standard at £2499 and the Deluxe (tremolo, breath controller, accelerometer) at £3199, both inc VAT. A Zeta MIDI violin is also available.
Zeta Guitars, (Contact Details).
- Anaheim Convention Centre
- January 19-21 1990
- Reporter: Paul Wiffen
One of the most exciting pieces of news at NAMM was that the team of designers from Sequential (taken over by Yamaha in 1987 and then passed on to Korg last year) have finally come up with a new synthesizer!
Being launched under the name WaveStation (WS for short), this new Korg machine bears more than a passing resemblance to the last Prophet, the VS (although its case design owes more to the T3 heritage). Taking the concepts of Vector and Wavetable Synthesis further than either the VS or the PPGs and adding a new technique called Wave Sequencing, the WS is, to my ears, the most exciting synthesizer (in the purest sense of the term, as opposed to PCM-based machines) to hit the market in several years.
Wave Sequencing can essentially be thought of as the ability to create your own custom wavetables; you get to specify the waveforms used at up to 32 locations along the time axis and then the WS interpolates between these in real time as the oscillator is sounding. This gives you the harmonic movement that was always possible in the earlier PPG machines but with infinitely more flexibility in the actual choice of waveforms (previously you were always stuck with the waveforms and the order that the manufacturer had decided upon). Four oscillators per voice are available (each of which can be running any of the 32 available wave sequences) and these can be mixed manually, using the joystick, or automatically with the mix envelope, as per Sequential's Vector Synthesis.
The patches they were playing at NAMM already showed a greater breadth of synth timbres than I have ever heard from one synth before, including rich fat analogue sounds, PPG and VS-type moving timbres, and even inharmonic FM-style patches.
The Korg WS is 32-note polyphonic and dynamic allocation is used to make the most of this, especially in multitimbral applications where it can respond independently to all 16 MIDI channels. Of course, no modern day Korg product would be complete without a couple of effects processors, and sure enough they are there (although some of the algorithms we heard sounded brand new!). There are two card slots (one for new waveforms, one for programs and performances) and the same four output configuration as on the M and T series keyboards. The WS looks set to retail at under two grand in the UK. For an old Sequential junkie like me, I can't wait to get my fix!
Roland's new keyboard at Anaheim was the D70, the first machine to expand on the sonic capabilities of LA synthesis, as introduced three years ago by the D50. The PCM waveform side of the new machine has been expanded to include full multisampled waveforms ranging from acoustic instruments to digital synth textures (as opposed to the attacks and static loops in its predecessors). Consequently, the purely imitative timbres on the machine are a lot more realistic. But for me, the most interesting side of the machine is that it too has taken a leaf from the VS book - the four partials can now also be mixed in real time by an envelope, on what Roland are calling a 'tone palette', thus greatly increasing the sonic complexity that can be programmed into a patch quickly and intuitively.
The D70, with its 76 keys, also includes all the functionality of the A50 master keyboard, and in multitimbral mode can respond on six MIDI channels at once in addition to the drums and percussion, which default to MIDI channel 10 as on all Roland gear. The D70 should also slide in at under two grand in the UK.
For the more impoverished musician, there was good news from Roland in the shape of the Boss DR550 drum machine. For well under £200, this little machine is a real must. It features all the best sounds from the R8/R5 drum machines (including those from the Power Drums card), in conjunction with the standard Boss pattern display to facilitate step-time entry. However, this doesn't mean that the machine can't be programmed in real time (for the first time on a Boss machine) and the sounds can even be triggered with velocity via MIDI, making the DR550 an excellent sound module for drums and percussion with your sequencer. These little monsters will be selling by the cartload.
At the more expensive end of the Roland price range, the S770 sampler was receiving its first full demonstration, proving that it is now ready to ship (it should be in the stores by the time you read this). At previous shows it was only shown sampling via the digital inputs, to demonstrate its superb sound quality, but at NAMM it was serving as the sound source for an entire band. Its 24-voice polyphony and 16 megabytes of memory were providing all the voicing for the merged MIDI inputs from a keyboard player, guitarist, drummer, and MC500 sequencer, and it proved more than capable of handling all these simultaneously. The S770 comes with a 40Mb hard disk crammed full of sounds and should also be able to use Macintosh SIMMs for memory expansion (keeping the price of a fully expanded 16Mb machine to about the same as that for a fully expanded 8Mb S1000.
Also in the pro range of Roland product, the DM80 4-track direct-to-disk recorder was previewed at a special dealer meeting at NAMM, although it was not shown publicly (as with the S770 this time last year!). It will be similarly priced to the S770, at around £5000.
Yamaha followed on the rave reviews the SY77 has been getting (especially from SOS's Martin Russ) by launching the SY55. However, this might not please FM programmers like Martin so much as it omits all the new advanced FM stuff he is getting excited about and chooses to concentrate on the PCM sounds (in the same way as the TG55), together with the signal processing (two effects simultaneously), and sequencing (8-track). It also features two digital filters per voice. Of course, leaving out all the FM facilities brings the price down considerably, and at around £1100 it will be stiff competition for the Roland U20, Korg M3R, and Proteus.
Talking of Emu's baby, NAMM saw a new Proteus launched. Proteus/2 features 8Mb of ROM sounds concentrating exclusively on the sounds of the symphony orchestra. Proteus/1 owners need not despair, however, as a 4Mb expansion card is available to give them all the sounds not covered already in their machine, and this will be shipping at the same time as Proteus/2.
On the computer music front, the main news was provided by a co-operation between Opcode and Digidesign. Called Audio Vision, it is an expansion to Opcode's successful Macintosh Vision sequencer program, which can now use Digidesign's Sound Tools hardware to record two tracks of digital audio synchronously with the sequencer tracks. These can then be cut and pasted in traditional Mac fashion along with the MIDI events to produce complete pieces of music, with vocals and guitar solos for example within the sequencer. Of course, to get full bandwidth audio from Sound Tools you need to use at least a Mac SE30, which makes Audio Vision a pretty expensive system - but any amateur detective should be able to foresee a much cheaper version in the near future. Add together the fact that Digidesign launched Sound Tools for the Atari Mega 2 and Mega 4 at NAMM, together with the fact that they are C-Lab's distributor in the USA, and it wouldn't surprise me if there is a version of Notator and/or Creator shown at Frankfurt which can do the same thing on the Atari. Remember where you read it first!
Steinberg's main news at NAMM was that Cubase has now been ported over to the Apple Macintosh. Amazingly, this is the first sequencer on the Mac, since the demise of the ill-fated Total Music, which can show music notation within the sequencer (without the need to boot up a separate program). This makes it ideal for people like me to whom edit grids mean very little and who like to refer to traditional music notation to see their mistakes. Of course, Cubase on the Mac boasts all the other features of the program which made it such a hit with reviewers when it first appeared for the Atari ST, and being able to run on a reliable computer can only improve its reputation. Pricing should be the same as the ST version.
Just to prove that hardware sequencers aren't dead, as some people keep trying to assert, a computer printer manufacturer, Brother, made their first appearance in the music industry with a stand-alone sequencer at a very modest price. The MDI40 works on the 2-track merge principle (keeping one track free for recording by merging previous tracks together) and should be ideal for those who find even an Atari 520ST with Prol 2 out of their price range. The MDI40 features a 3.5" disk drive for saving and loading sequences and a 14,000 note capacity. Expect plenty of change out of £200 if it makes it to these shores...
But the most exciting products at NAMM came from a company new to the music business: the Zoom Corporation. In fact, they are formed from people who have been doing design work for Korg for years, but in this new venture they have started with signal processors. Their first two products are the Zoom 9010 and the 9002, both using the company's ZFX1 custom LSI chip to produce high quality multieffects. The 9010 features four discrete digital processors in a single rack space, complete with the necessary four inputs and outputs to make this truly useful in studio/home recording applications. It features full 16-bit 44.1 kHz clarity throughout and has a dynamic range in excess of 90dB. Programs include reverb, chorus, delay, pitch shift, compression, phasing, distortion, amp simulation - in fact, all the usual goodies.
The Zoom 9002 is a strap- or belt-mounting guitar effects unit which allows up to six effects to be produced simultaneously, including EQ, compression, distortion, flanging, phasing, chorus, reverb, etc. This beautifully designed little unit provides an amazing sound quality direct to your amp or headphones. With its amazing looks and sound, I predict it will be the 'hip' unit for guitar players from the moment it hits the UK shops. No UK distributor has been announced yet, but when they are you'd better order early for Christmas! And watch out for the keyboard products from these guys later in the year.