Shape of Things to Come
Your chance to check out some of the new hi-tech and recording equipment launched at last month's Frankfurt Music Fair.
Two of the stars of the Frankfurt Music Fair came from a new Japanese company called the Zoom Corporation. For the first time, the Zoom 9010 (£1299 inc VAT) multi-effects processor is offering independent routing configurations from four audio inputs to four audio outputs, to really take advantage of its processing power: one routing configuration creates four totally independent effects channels, and another allows up to seven effects at once to be used in series. There are four configurations at present, and more can be loaded from ROM cards. New effects programs can also be loaded, considerably expanding the 9010's potential.
The chip that makes all this possible is the ZFX1. Although the name Zoom is a new one, the company has a good 'behind the scenes' track record in designing hardware and software for many of Japan's most successful music products. Zoom also plan to introduce a series of synthesizers in the near future.
The company's second launch product is a very neat guitar effects processor, the Zoom 9002 (£349), whose diminutive size most certainly belies its power. The ZFX1-based 9002 will clip on to your belt or guitar strap, yet it can produce six effects at once, including Compression, Tube Distortion, EQ, Pitch Shift, Chorus, and Digital Delay. The unit holds 20 preset and 20 user programs.
One small oversight on the Frankfurt 9002 prototype was the lack of backlighting for the LCD screen - an essential requirement for darkened stage use, surely?
MCMXCIX, (Contact Details).
Programmable and MIDI-controllable equalisers are nothing new, but the Rane MPE14 MIDI Programmable Equaliser introduces a new level of control in being the first unit to respond to real-time controller information. The unit is a two-channel, 14-band, 2/3rd octave equaliser and uses fully analogue audio processing circuitry, which is controlled by a 16-bit 16MHz processor. In all, 128 equalisation curves can be created and stored, then recalled by MIDI program change commands or via the front panel. The current curve can be dynamically modified with MIDI continuous controllers - so the equaliser can now become an expressive part of your recording setup.
Inputs and outputs are via either jacks or balanced XLR sockets, and each EQ band's cut/boost is variable over the range +12 to -15dB in 1dB steps. Besides the MPE14 (£695 +VAT), Rane will be marketing two other similar units: the 1/3rd octave single-channel MPE28 (£675 +VAT) and the seven-band 4-channel MPE47 (£695 +VAT). All units are standard 1U rackmount size.
Music Lab, (Contact Details).
Steinberg had several significant additions to their product range to show off at Frankfurt beginning with Cubase for the Mac (£550). The Mac version implements all of the features of Cubase v1.0 on the Atari ST, and will run on the Mac Plus/SE and II computers. At £285, Cubeat is a budget version of Cubase, and Pro24 Amiga (£285) is exactly what it's name suggests - although new features have been added to Pro24, and a Steinberg Amiga MIDI interface is included in the price.
SY77 Synthworks will be the next addition to Steinberg's series of synth voice editor/librarians. As well as allowing you to edit Yamaha's new AFM/AWS synth, the program also implements a function which converts DX7 sounds to SY77 format. The Avalon 16-bit stereo D-to-A convertor is now available, which will enable samples processed by the program to be auditioned in true CD quality without first transferring them to a sampler. Midex Plus (£475) is a combined SMPTE synchroniser, MIDI expander (4 Out, 2 In), and key (dongle) expander that plugs into the ST's expansion port. The basic Midex (£350) omits the synchronisation facilities.
Cubase on the ST has now been updated to Version 2.0, which adds two major features: Score Printing and a Note Synthesizer. The Score Printing function enables you to obtain high resolution hard copies of your score directly from Cubase - Steinberg say that it is a full 'WYSIWYG' system, which will generate a 360 dpi output. The Note Synthesizer, using a system called Interactive Phrase Synthesis, allows you to process and modify musical phrases with a variety of systematic functions, including scale correction, and pitch and rhythm modulation. The idea is that the process can be regarded as similar to analogue sound synthesis - taking a basic sound and processing it with filters and envelopes. Sounds interesting.
Evenlode Soundworks, (Contact Details).
Music Business Conspiracy Theory Number 1: everything that companies in the signal processing field do is intended purely to confuse journalists and public alike. No sooner do we review the ART Multiverb II [March 1990] than three related new products are unveiled at Frankfurt from the same stable: the Multiverb LT, Multiverb III (inevitably), and the Multiverb DRX.
The new DRX is the flagship of ART's signal processing range - it will perform 10 effects simultaneously and has real-time MIDI performance control facilities. Up to two seconds of stereo delay is possible, and a sampling facility is provided. The pitch transposition effect offers two octaves of shift, and a harmonic exciter is amongst many of the effects on offer. Via the Performance MIDI function, up to eight different parameters can be dynamically controlled by eight MIDI controllers in each of the DRX's 200 effects programs.
The complete effects list is: Harmonic Exciter; Noise Gate; Programmable Equaliser; Expander; Peak Limiter; Compressor; Envelope Filter; Studio Sampler; Pitch Transposer; Digital Reverb (24 algorithms); Gated Reverbs; Arpeggiated Flange; Multi-tap Delay; Rotating Leslies; Stereo Delays (21 types); Stereo Echoes; Live Sample/Playback on the fly; Stereo Panner/Imager; Stereo Chorus; Stereo Flange.
The Multiverb III can produce four of its 53 effects at once, and features the same DSP functions as the DRX but without the dynamic processing functions. That means that the effects it can produce are: Pitch Transpose (two octaves); Digital Reverb (24 algorithms); Gated Reverb; Reverse Reverb; Arpeggiated Flange; Multi-tap Delay; Rotating Leslies; Stereo Delay (21 different types); Stereo Echoes (up to two seconds); Studio sampling; Live Sample/playback on the fly; Stereo Panner/Imager.
The Multiverb LT is essentially a preset, cut-down version of the Multiverb III offering 192 effect programs, three simultaneous effects, and a processor that ensures the same effects quality as the Multiverb III (but the effects programs are not as complex). Effects include: Stereo Chorus, Plate, Hall, Room, Cathedral, Reverse and Gated Reverbs, Stereo Delays, Stereo Imaging, Stereo Panning, Tap Delays, Slapback Delays, Stereo Echoes, Arpeggiated Flanges, and Stereo Flanges.
Harman (UK) Ltd, (Contact Details).
With their WS Wavestation having been shown at NAMM (see last issue), the major new item of interest from Korg at Frankfurt was their long-awaited S3 Rhythm Workstation, a combined sequencer and drum/percussion sound module. The S3 employs Korg's SI (Sonic Integrity) technique in replaying 16-bit PCM stored waveforms: attack and sustained portions of sounds are stored separately, in order that they can be re-combined to create new sounds. Two stereo multi-effects units are provided to enhance the final sound.
The sequencer section features 8-track operation (4 pattern tracks plus 4 real-time tracks), and a storage capacity of 8,000 notes (expandable to 16,000 with a RAM card). SMPTE support is provided, allowing the sequencer to be synced to tape without any additional interface. The S3's own sounds are output via stereo outs and four separate output jacks, and two ROM card slots are provided to supplement the on-board sounds.
Korg UK Ltd, (Contact Details).
First came the B16, then the E16, and now... the G16. Fostex's newest 16-track recorder is based very closely on the E16, but it features a quieter and more efficient transport, and the electronic design has been refined too. An optional built-in synchroniser allows the G16 to feed SMPTE in fast wind or play mode to an external machine, and it can read external code at high speed and chase it. It also supports, and will respond to, MIDI Time Code. The audio circuitry has also been improved, and Dolby C noise reduction is featured, as on the E16.
Fostex UK Ltd, (Contact Details).
Ensoniq have launched a new workstation keyboard, based on the highly-praised VFX performance synthesizer. The new VFX-SD adds a 24-track sequencer and a selection of drum sounds to the basic VFX configuration, and also has improved signal processing facilities.
The 12-part multitimbral synthesizer section is identical to the original VFX, but with the addition of new drum sounds over 1900 waves are available in ROM. The new drum and percussion sounds can be used in 24 kits. The 24-track sequencer has a 25,000 note capacity (expandable to 75,000) which can be shared by up to 60 Sequences and Songs. Sequencer functions include auto-locate, automated punch points, and several record modes, and the recording resolution is 96ppqn. Sequences, and also sounds, can be stored via the on-board 3.5" disk drive. The sequencer software is also loaded from disk into ROM, and can therefore be easily updated.
Also new from Ensoniq is the SQ1 (£1189), a more affordable workstation. The SQ1 features a slightly watered down version of the VFX voice architecture, but it still boasts 24-bit effects processing and a powerful 16-track sequencer.
Ensoniq GB Ltd, (Contact Details).
Digidesign's Sound Tools, the acclaimed Mac digital recording system, is now available on the Atari Mega ST. Each Atari Sound Tools system will include a computer card for the Mega ST2 or ST4, an external A-to-D/D-to-A convertor, and the system software.
The system allows the user to record two tracks of audio on to any Atari hard disk drive - a 300 Megabyte drive will accommodate a 30 minute stereo file recorded at 44.1kHz. Sound Tools itself has been upgraded, and now provides facilities for CD mastering, live performance, DAT backup, and integrated digital audio and MIDI sequencing (see also Opcode info).
Q-Sheet A/V has also been updated, to V2.0. Q-Sheet A/V is a package designed to allow postproduction facilities to easily integrate MIDI devices into their work - the new update adds the facility to record two independent tracks of digital audio.
Sound Technology plc, (Contact Details).
Rhodes, now established as a major force in music once more, have launched the Model 760 synthesizer, an upmarket version of the existing Model 660. The audio architecture of the two is identical, which means that the 760 uses the same U20-derived RS-PCM voicing system as the 660.
The 760 is a performance oriented instrument, and differs from the 660 mainly in that it has a 76-key weighted keyboard in place of a 61-key standard action, and it also has a larger LCD display. Internally, the only difference is that the 760 allows the creation of 24 user patches, as opposed to eight on the 660. Both the 760 and 660 are 6-part polyphonic, with 30-voice polyphony. 128 preset tones are stored in internal ROM, and two card slots are provided to allow extra tones to be added via Roland's SN-U01 series of sound library cards.
Rhodes (UK) Ltd, (Contact Details).
Tascam have introduced a new mixer series, the M3500, intended as an ideal compliment to their current generation of multitrack recorders, the TSR8, MSR16 and MSR24. The M3500 comes in two frame sizes, 32 input (£5999) and 24 input (£4999). These prices are for consoles fitted with mono input channels; a stereo input module is also available, and 24 mono/8 stereo inputs in a 32 channel frame is also available as a standard configuration.
All configurations have eight audio busses and an in-line monitor system that allows connection to 24-track recorders. The in-line format - which has taken the big studio console market by storm - also means that each input actually has two signal paths, so that input capacity is effectively doubled.
Teac UK Ltd, (Contact Details).
Quinsoft's Trax Recording Studio Manager, a set of management utilities designed for multitrack recording studios, is now available, price £68 (plus p&p and VAT). The utilities run on an Atari ST and are as follows: a Tracksheet program (8 to 24 tracks, cuesheet with timer, mixdown and utilities); Invox Accounts (an accounts program for small businesses); Address Utilities; Indexer; Accessories (a 24-track track sheet and an address book).
ESP Software, (Contact Details).
Tannoy are launching a new range of studio monitors, with designs that bring together the best of their traditional design philosophy and modern speaker technology. The company has long believed that the Dual Concentric single point source provides the best basis for the natural reproduction of sound, but some time has passed since they introduced their first designs. These new monitor designs therefore take advantage of current state of the art techniques in acoustic and production design.
The range stretches from the System 2 NFM (£103 +VAT per pair) to the System 215 DMT (£2036 +VAT per pair).
Tannoy Ltd, (Contact Details).
The main attraction at Cheetah's stand at Frankfurt was their SX16 16-bit rackmount sampler (£799.95). The company also announced a keyboard version of the sampler, the SX16K (£1199), and a rackmount version of their MD16 16-bit drum machine, the MD16R (£349.95).
The SX16K will feature identical internal architecture to its rack-mount forebear: 6-48kHz sampling rates, 8-voice polyphony, 16 part multitimbral, eight separate outputs, memory expandable to 2Mb.
Another new product that made an appearance at the show was an aftertouch sensitive version of the Master Series 7P keyboard, the 770 (£849.95). Features include: an 88-note piano-weighted keyboard; velocity and release velocity sensitivity; after-touch; eight user-definable keyboard zones; MIDI Echo, Delay and Arpeggio; 100 performance memories; 16 velocity and 16 release velocity curves with programmable sensitivity; four independent MIDI Outs, three Continuous Controller Wheels; MIDI Clock with internal/external stop/start.
Cheetah Marketing Ltd, (Contact Details).
A new piece of sequencer software for the Apple Macintosh is now available in the UK. Deluxe Recorder, from Electronic Arts, offers 16 tracks assignable across 32 MIDI channels, programmable quantisation, and detailed editing features. The program supports the Standard MIDI File format, and Deluxe Recorder files can be exported to Deluxe Music Construction Set, Electronic Arts' music engraving software. The best thing about the program, however, is its price - at £99 (inc VAT), it's by far the cheapest fully-featured Mac sequencer on the market.
Argents, (Contact Details).
Audio Visual Concepts have released Unison 110, an Atari ST-based voice editor for Roland's U110 sample playback module. Unison 110 can run in three modes: as a stand-alone program; as a desk accessory; or as part of a multi-program system (such as C-Lab's SoftLink). It allows full control of all the U11O's parameters and output routings and can save and load Parts and Patches individually to disk. The program is copy protected and costs £69 inc VAT.
AVC will be releasing Unison 220 soon, which provides similar functions but for the Roland U220. Price £99 inc VAT.
MCMXCIX, (Contact Details).
New from Digitech is the IPS33B Smart Shift Harmoniser, which will create two and three note harmonies from a single note input, and generate 'intelligent' harmonies in 42 scales. The unit also features auto transposition, stereo chorus, and up to 1.5 seconds of delay, which can be used simultaneously with any harmony - dedicated pitch shifters tend not to be able to do this because of the processing power that is required for real-time harmonising.
Other features are MIDI controllable key changes, 128 programmable memory locations, the ability to tune the IPS33B to an instrument and vice-versa, a 90dB signal-to-noise ratio, MIDI continuous control of programs and parameters, and a studio remote control.
JHS & Co Ltd, (Contact Details).
Soundcraft used Frankfurt to launch a new PA console, the Venue, which is based on their current 200 Delta console. The Venue comes in four frame sizes - 16, 24, 32, or 40 channels - in which any combination of input and output modules can be specified. A removable overbridge is optional on the three larger frames, complete with either moving coil VU or PPM meters. A single-piece steel frame is employed, as in the Delta series.
The console has full 8-bus routing and six independent auxiliary controls, and both mono and stereo input modules provide optional mute group facilities, allowing each channel status to be controlled by four master mute buses for rapid resetting of the console during a live performance.
The stereo input module features a stereo width control, which enables you to vary the width of the stereo image from mono through to stereo, and on to phase-enhanced wide stereo.
On the output front, a Dual Matrix module allows two additional output mixes to be created from signals present at the group and mix outputs - this is intended for use in theatres using a matrix of speaker feeds, and a full 8x8 matrix can be created by using only four modules. The combined Dual Group/Stereo Return module contains facilities for generating audio subgroups and stereo effects returns.
Soundcraft Electronics Ltd, (Contact Details).
It seems that more people are coming to recognise the value of generic editors and librarians for synths: C-Lab's new Polyframe (for the Atari ST) is described as a Universal Modular Library and Editor, and within the main program you can have several modules, each of which is effectively a librarian and editor for a different synth.
C-Lab also showed an updated Notator at Frankfurt - the new release is V3.0, whose features include Adaptive Groove Design, Musical Quantise II and Hyper Edit.
Also new is Notator Alpha (expected to be around £200), an entry-level budget version of C-Lab's popular notation and sequencing program.
Sound Technology plc, (Contact Details).