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Shape of Things to Come

Your chance to catch up on the latest releases from the world of hi-tech music and recording.


Digidesign have announced that a version of their successful Macintosh Sound Tools digital hard disk recording/editing system will be released soon for the Atari ST Mega 4.

To be known as Sound Tools AT, the new version offers similar features as the original Macintosh system and costs £1995 inc VAT. Sampling rates are variable between 32, 44.1 and 48kHz, all material can be non-destructively edited to form seam-free mixes, and even an entire CD-worth of material can be edited into different running orders - all in the digital domain.

As with any disk-based digital recording system, the total record time is dependent upon the size of your hard disk, typically 10 megabytes to the minute for stereo recording. Other than straightforward recording, Sound Tools AT can perform a number of signal processing tasks including digital parametric and graphic equalisation, time compression/expansion, and waveform redrawing. All material can be synchronised to external SMPTE timecode and MIDI Time Code.

Sound Tools AT comes complete with its own 16-bit A/D convertor and users who wish to keep the material entirely in the digital domain throughout the recording and mastering process can use the existing Digidesign DAT I/O unit (£999 inc VAT), which interfaces Sound Tools directly with DAT and AES/EBU digital compatible recorders.

Sound Technology plc, (Contact Details).


Brother is a new name to the world of hi-tech music. Better known for their computers and office typewriters, Brother's first showing in the music industry will be two compact MIDI sequencers. The MDI30 (£279) and MDI40 (£339) are basically the same units, with the only difference being the memory size which determines the maximum number of notes you can record (7,000 and 14,000 respectively).

Each unit features 2-track recording with unlimited MIDI merge; easy punch in/out; variable tempo from 25% up to 225% of the original; velocity, aftertouch and pitch bend controls. Sequence data can be stored on the internal 3.5" floppy disk drive, which has a total storage capacity of 53,000 notes.

A UK distributor is yet to be appointed. However, in the meantime, further information is available directly from Brother in the UK.

Brother International Europe Ltd, (Contact Details).


From the not-so-aptly named Diki Devices comes a range of clever data storage systems for the musician who's really into sampling.

As everyone who's used any of the big sampling systems knows, storage and retrieval of sample data on floppy disks can vary from a few seconds for very short samples to minutes for gargantuan samples and complex split keyboard arrangements. One of the best ways of reducing this waiting time is to use mass data storage devices, where the sound remains in the digital domain and can move back and forth between the sampler and storage unit at high speeds. It is this very market that these Diki Devices address.

The CDU-541 (£799 inc VAT) is a CD ROM drive with a built-in SCSI port and can be used for downloading sound as data from sample library CD ROMs, or it will play ordinary audio CDs if you want to transfer samples or music from more traditional sample CDs.

Where read/write storage is required, the DD44 removable hard disk system (£1029 inc VAT) can store up to 44 megabytes of data per cartridge. It's based around the popular SyQuest drive and can be used with most makes of computer that support a SCSI interface. It can also be plugged directly into many of the popular samplers, including the Akai S1000, Emu Emulator III and Emax, and Ensoniq EPS. Both units come housed in a 19" rackmounting format, either separately or as a pair.

The Synthesizer Company, (Contact Details).


The MDR7 is a handy little MIDI-to-tape synchronisation unit from Sansui. Designed to complement their range of cassette-based multitrack recorders, the MDR7 (£169 inc VAT) utilises FSK signal control technology to stripe a code track on tape which can then be used for synchronising MIDI equipment, such as a sequencer or drum machine, to the acoustic audio tracks on tape. This allows you to effectively increase the total number of tracks at mixdown stage by the combination of both analogue tape tracks and the virtual tracks of your MIDI sequencer.

The synchronisation aspect of the MDR7 includes MIDI Song Position Pointers, which allow you to drop in or out of a track at any bar in the music. This unit also offers you the ability to change MIDI Program Numbers throughout a mix, so increasing the usefulness of any MIDI controllable effects units, by allowing all effect changes to be perfectly synchronised to the music.

Fabulous Audio Technology, (Contact Details).


The Mosses & Mitchell range of jackfields are famous throughout the pro-audio industry for their strength and reliability. However, their product range has generally been concerned with B-gauge jacks (often known as Post Office Type 316 plugs), as the pro industry have always had a quiet distrust of the cheaper common or garden A-gauge jack. However, with the introduction of higher quality A-gauge plugs and sockets over the past year, M&M have seen fit to design and build a range of jackfields to use with these plugs and have introduced a 1U rackmounted unit which offers two rows of 24 jack sockets housed in a strong anodised aluminium panel, with an integral plastic coated tie bar.

You can obtain further details on the new A-gauge and existing B-gauge jackfields from the distributors.

Plasmec Systems Ltd, (Contact Details).


Philip Rees, famous for their low-cost high spec MIDI accessory boxes, are about to release the PSP Percussion Sample Player. Housed in the familiar Philip Rees half-rack case, with internal power supply, and costing £169.95, the PSP offers five percussion samples held permanently in memory with up to 12 more at a time available on plug-in cards (£19.95 each). One sample card is supplied with the unit, containing sounds digitally recorded by Jonathan Miller at London's CTS Studio One. The sampling rate used is 31.25kHz.

As well as the main stereo output jacks, the PSP sports four separate voice outputs and MIDI In and Thru. An easy programming method allows voice, output channel, and stereo position to be selected by means of a single MIDI note number. All 16 MIDI channels are supported, and the PSP responds to velocity using an unusually fine 16 step logarithmic scale for smooth level variations. The triggering speed of the samples is reckoned to be extremely fast.

The initial series of plug-in cards are: Tight Kit, Natural Kit, Power Kit, Metal Kit, Techno Kit, Latin Kit, Analogue Drum Machine, Snare Collection and Tabla.

Philip Rees, (Contact Details).


Roland will be launching a whole range of new products at the coming Frankfurt Music Fair, commencing with the D70 Super LA synthesizer at £1799. This 76 key multitimbral keyboard features new 'enhanced' LA synthesis technology and built-in digital reverb and chorus. Other releases include the U220 RS-PCM sound module (£699), a rack-mounted version of the popular Roland U20 keyboard which includes many of the features of its sister unit, such as high quality PCM samples, built-in effects, six audio outputs, and 30 voice polyphony.

To complement the launch of the U220, Roland have five new ROM cards for their SN-U110 range (around £45 each). These cards can be used with the U110, U20, U220, and the new D70, and feature high quality samples grouped in style sets on each card. You'll find many new acoustic instrument samples as well as some of Roland's own classic sounds resampled from their TR808 drum machine and Jupiter synths of days gone by.

The SPD8 (£399) is a lightweight self-contained percussion pad featuring MIDI control capabilities and 40 built-in 16-bit sounds, ranging from rock to Latin to electronic drum kit.

Three new ROM cards (around £45 each) for the R8 and R8M drum machines will include a 'Mallet' set, with marimbas, vibraphones and Indonesian gamelan sounds; the 'Dry' card, which contains clean non-processed drum sounds; and the 'Power Drums USA' card, which features state-of-the-art recording of big drums, snares and basses that create some of the hottest trend-setting sounds in America.

Roland's Computer Music division are launching the new CS10 Stereo Monitor Amplifier (£79 inc VAT). Designed to complement the CM modules, the CS10 features a pair of mid-range speakers positioned either side of the main power amp, with a single bass woofer unit mounted underneath. The whole unit is magnetically shielded to reduce any risk of interference to the computer's own monitor screen and disk drive, and it comes in a neat 'desktop' size.

On the pro-audio front, Frankfurt will see Roland's much previewed and now finished S770 mega sampler released at £4860 inc VAT. This rack-mounted monster features 16-bit digital sampling at 48, 44.1, 24 or 22.5kHz, with 24-bit internal processing and 20-bit D/A conversion. The standard S770 comes with two megabytes of RAM which can be expanded internally to a maximum of 16Mb with the addition of the RAS-770 memory board.

A built-in 40 megabyte hard disk provides rapid sample data transfer either to the S770's RAM or to the 3.5" high density floppy drive. The unit also comes with a SCSI port for connection to third party external mass storage devices or Roland's own M07 magnetic optical disc or CD ROM player. The S770 offers 24 voice polyphony with independent Time Variant Filters and Amplifiers on each voice.

For the more budget conscious, Roland's Boss Division are launching the DR550, briefly mentioned last month. The Dr Rhythm DR550 will sell for £199 inc VAT. It offers 48 internal 16-bit sounds sampled at 31kHz, ranging from basic rock to resampled classic TR808 drum sounds (hip-hop fans take note!); 64 preset patterns; 64 user-programmable patterns; eight songs; and 12 voice polyphony.

Roland (UK) Ltd, (Contact Details).


Just when we thought we had wrapped our brain cells around Yamaha's RCM synthesis, what do they do? Launch another synthesizer in their SY range that keeps us guessing!

Unlike Yamaha's previous DX range, which repackaged and repackaged again the same FM technology at £100 increments, where the more you paid, the more algorithms and operators you got, the SY range seems to be taking a different approach. The flagship SY77 was launched with AWM2, AFM and RCM synthesis; the SY55 (TG55 rack) offered a cheaper cut-down synth using just AWM2 sound sources; now the SY22 moves in a different direction again by introducing Dynamic Vector Synthesis. It's essentially AWM and FM brought together under vector control. Now anytime you hear the word 'vector', you can bet your life that ex-Sequential designer Dave Smith had something to do with the product. As well you may remember, Yamaha bought Sequential a few years ago and recently sold them to Korg (hence the new WS).

Technically, the SY22 allows two or four 'elements' drawn from the AWM and FM sound sources to be combined and shaped by a joystick type vector controller to produce new sounds. The synth has 128 AWM waveforms and 256 FM presets, 64 preset voices, 64 user voices, it's 8-part multitimbral, includes 16 built-in digital effects, and has a velocity/aftertouch sensitive keyboard and stereo audio outputs. Price is rumoured to be £799 inc VAT.

Yamaha-Kemble Music (UK) Ltd, (Contact Details).


Other than being the name of America's latest and most costly 'radar invisible' spy plane, Stealth is also the name of the newest and probably cheapest Ultimate Support keyboard stand.

Weighing in at only eight pounds, Stealth is constructed from high performance resin that's strong enough to support up to 50 pounds but is as light as a feather (well, almost). The design is based around a hinge idea and the stand can be picked up, collapsed in half, and carried off in seconds. Furthermore, it's aerodynamic!

The Synthesizer Company, (Contact Details).


Shown at the recent NAMM Show in America, Korg's new synthesizer, the WaveStation, is based around a sound source system where the characteristics of the waveforms are stored in PCM ROM format within the machine. The sound synthesis employed bears a close resemblence to the Sequential Prophet VS of some years ago, and if we tell you that the same designer (one Dave Smith) was involved in both machines, you may start to appreciate the similarities.

The use of PCM waves and vector synthesis techniques make it possible to generate a whole range of new sounds, which in turn are controlled by conventional filters and envelopes to produce a more traditional programming approach with all the added flexibility of dynamic digital synthesis.

The Korg WS sports a 61 note keyboard with aftertouch and offers 32 dynamically allocated voices, 50x4 banks of performance memories, four banks of 32 patches (128), four banks of 32 wave sequence locations (128), two card slots and two built-in digital multi-effects processors. Price to be announced.

Korg UK, (Contact Details).

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Roland R8M

Sound On Sound - Copyright: SOS Publications Ltd.
The contents of this magazine are re-published here with the kind permission of SOS Publications Ltd.


Sound On Sound - Apr 1990

Donated by: Bert Jansch / Adam Jansch


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> Edits

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> Roland R8M

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