Shape of Things to Come
Another glimpse of forthcoming products from the hi-tech music and recording worlds.
American company Lone Wolf have introduced a number of MIDI communication products that aim to revolutionise MIDI data movement around studio environments.
The MidiTap (£1795 +VAT) draws on the networking practices of the computer industry and combines them with fibre optic technology of the telecommunications industry. The result is a device that benefits the hi-tech musician in a number of important ways. MidiTap tackles two major problems - that of MIDI patching and transmission delay over distant communication.
Each MidiTap unit features four mergeable and assignable MIDI Ins and Outs, giving 64 separate channels of MIDI communication. If that's not enough, you can link up to 253 such units at any one time. Patching is via instrument names, not ambiguous numbering systems, and your MIDI instrument patch routes can be saved as a LANscape, Lone Wolf's name for a complete 'snapshot' of the MIDI setup.
Through the use of Lone Wolf's proprietary MediaLink protocol, MIDI delay problems are eradicated and users can link equipment over an incredible 2.5 kilometre distance via fibre optic cable. In a studio environment, a network can be installed that allows all MIDI equipment throughout an entire studio to be configured into any combination and stored as a LANscape, for instant recall at any time.
In addition to MIDI data, the MidiTap system incorporates an RS232 connector so that printers and modems may be hooked up to share the same fibre optic cables in the network. Future development in this area will apparently allow digital audio, video, SMPTE/EBU, and SCSI access to the MediaLink network.
The final device from Lone Wolf is FiberLink. These are sold in pairs for £480 +VAT and can be considered as MIDI data accelerators. Their primary use is for long distance MIDI instrument communication on a one-to-one basis, eg. a master keyboard on stage that needs connecting to a MIDI rack backstage. FiberLink takes your MIDI output and turns it into a MediaLink protocol, before transmitting it down the fibre optic cable to the receiving FiberLink box.
Plasmec Systems Ltd, (Contact Details).
Akai have announced that they will shortly be launching the first digital recording system to use rewritable magneto-optical disks as a recording medium. The advantages of magneto-optical storage are high density, and the convenience of having removable disks. The disks are also relatively cheap.
The DD1000 will offer 25 minutes of stereo recording, at a maximum of 48kHz sampling rate, although the rate can also be set to 44.1 or 32kHz to extend the recording time. More optical disk drives can also be chained together to extend recording times - up to seven can be supported, giving a maximum continuous record time of over five hours! Four-track playback is possible, making the DD1000 a potentially good tool for audio-visual applications.
Much of the appeal of the DD1000 for potential users will lie in its powerful editing facilities, which include cut, cut and splice, cut and paste, non-destructive drop-in, non-destructive fade in/out, user-definable fade curves, level, pan, cue list, and spool rocking without pitch change.
The unit is well supplied with digital and analogue inputs and outputs as standard. In addition to balanced analogue ins and outs, the DD1000 has an AES/EBU digital I/O, optical digital input, SMPTE, MIDI, RS422, SCSI, Word Sync, Centronics printer port, and proprietary digital busses. The initial version of the machine will be the stand-alone rackmount DD1000, which is totally self-contained. Next will come the DL1000, a remote control for the DD1000, which will make operation easier as well as allowing up to seven machines to be operated together. Later software will include real-time timestretch, digital signal processing, EQ etc. The cost of the DD1000 is expected to be around £8999 +VAT, and the first units will be available in July.
On a more mundane note, Akai will also be launching two new electric 'Mini Grand' pianos, the PG5S and PG5. Both will be classic in appearance and draw on Akai's expertise in sampling technology for their sound generation.
Akai UK Ltd, (Contact Details).
Elka have introduced the MK76 master keyboard, which slots in between their bigger MK88 and smaller MK55 models. Logic tells us that the new MK76 offers a 76 note piano type weighted keyboard, but much more is on offer.
The entire MK range has been updated with the implementation of enhanced MIDI capabilities, including MIDI merge and MIDI performance dump straight from the keyboard. In honour of these changes, the MK88 has now been renamed the MK88 II.
Elka Orla (UK) Ltd, (Contact Details).
In an interesting move, Digidesign, creators of the Sound Tools hard disk recording system, have negotiated the use of Emu Systems' Proteus circuitry on an OEM basis to build their own plug-in Proteus board for the Macintosh.
MacProteus, as it's known, fits into the NuBus slot on the Mac II family of computers and offers all the same features of Emu's Proteus sample player, including 192 sounds, 32 voice polyphony, and 16 part multitimbral performance.
That's not all, however. Digidesign will be selling the board as part of a mouth-watering package along with Opcode's Proteus editor software. The whole bundle is expected to sell for around £849 inc VAT.
Sound Technology plc, (Contact Details).
Digigram of France have introduced the PCX3 card at £2,950 ex-VAT. The PCX3 plugs into the expansion slot of an IBM PC compatible and once installed turns your computer into a hard disk recording system. Through the use of two ultra fast Motorola DSP chips, the PCX3 is capable of realtime data compression, resulting in very economical use of hard disk space. This gives roughly one minute of CD quality audio per megabyte of hard disk space, therefore a 120 megabyte system would offer an hour of stereo recording time, or two hours in mono.
On the software side, the PCX3 includes non-destructive editing with cut, paste, truncate and fades, plus a 'juke box' facility for setting up cue lists. Other software currently under development and due for imminent release includes a multitrack option, more sophisticated editing, and timecode synchronisation.
Soundbite Software UK, (Contact Details).
Plasmec Systems have extended their range of Mosses & Mitchell audio jackfields with the introduction of the JF2/1U. Many engineers prefer using ¼" jacks but installations are often limited for space and therefore necessitate mini jack-fields. Mosses & Mitchell's new JF2/1U addresses this problem.
The new model incorporates two rows of ¼" jacks into the space normally occupied by one row on their previous models. The unit is available with either 20, 24, or 26 jacks per row, and comes with an anodised black or silver front panel.
Plasmec Systems Ltd, (Contact Details).
Digidesign are releasing a new software program called DECK (£349 inc VAT) for use with their Sound Tools and AudioMedia hard disk recording systems. The new software offers 4-track digital multitrack recording and features infinite track bouncing without signal degradation, automated mixing, muting, autolocation, and the ability to import MIDI Files; the latter allows MIDI instrument sequences to be played back at the same time as the digital audio.
Also being released is STUD, the Sound Tools Utility Disk, which includes three useful utilities: Master List, Live List, and DATa. Master List allows arrangements of sound files to be made from one or more hard disks, for the compilation of CDs etc, with variable pre- and post-roll time. Live List allows MIDI note commands or keystroke commands to trigger sound files, which means that lengthy samples of backing vocals, say, can be 'flown in' during performances. Finally, DATa allows you to store, via Digidesign's DAT I/O and a suitable DAT recorder, a sound file with all its edits and EQ settings, conveniently onto DAT tape.
Sound Technology plc, (Contact Details).
Back in 1979, AKG introduced the D300 series of microphones, which included the flagship D330. Ten years later the D330 is still going strong, with an uncompromised reputation as a leading stage vocal microphone.
Now, to celebrate its tenth anniversary, AKG have introduced the updated D330 BT MkII microphone. The new model features the same rugged die-cast case construction, plus a new patented flexibly suspended magnet that offers improved sonic qualities and reduces handling noise by a further 6dB. New equalisation switches are included and the microphone retains its hypercardioid performance. It is available in a choice of two finishes: nickel or non-reflective dark grey.
AKG Acoustics Ltd, (Contact Details).
Soundtracs have launched a new compact production console, the in-line Quartz, which is intended to deliver the highest sonic purity on a console suitable for 24-track music production. One has already been snapped up by Paul Carrack of Mike And The Mechanics.
The Quartz combines many of the features associated with the Soundtracs IL series and with those of the PC series. Input channels feature 4-band parametric EQ, six auxiliary sends, and dual line inputs, and MIDI mute automation is available on all inputs, monitors and auxiliary masters. Fully balanced bussing and a comprehensive patchbay, capable of accepting up to 16 stereo inputs, is standard on all three frame sizes: 32, 40 and 48 channel.
Soundtracs plc, (Contact Details).
Hybrid Arts have announced further updates to their impressive ADAP II digital audio recorder and editor, adding time compression/expansion software and a SMPTE chase lock interface.
Time Page software allows audio files to be stretched or compressed by up to 50% in ADAP II without any degradation in audio quality. SMPTEmate II is an interface card which provides full chase lock capabilities to time code, with sub-frame accuracy. "The SMPTEmate II interface turns the ADAP II digital audio editor into a true on-line editing system," commented Steve Cunningham, Vice President of sales and marketing. "ADAP II can now follow video precisely. This makes it ideal for use in broadcast and post-production as well as television production and other applications where audio-follow-video is necessary."
Hybrid Arts (UK) Ltd, (Contact Details).
Now available, EZ Vision (£115) is a new cut-down version of Opcode's flagship Macintosh sequencer, Vision. EZ Vision offers 16-track recording capability with a single window interface for record, playback, and MIDI data editing. Additional windows control arrangement, mixing, and track setup functions, and generally keep the whole program divided into easy to understand sections.
EZ Vision is aimed at newcomers to MIDI sequencing, and Opcode offer an upgrade path to their bigger Vision program for those who eventually want to venture further.
Galaxy (£229) is Opcode's new Universal Patch Librarian. It currently supports over 70 devices and is user-programmable, to enable you to use it with new instruments as they come along. The program contains virtually every feature of previous Opcode Librarians and adds some new items in the form of MIDI patcher control and customisable setups. Finally, you might like to know that registered owners of existing Opcode Editor/Librarian software may upgrade to Galaxy.
MCMXCIX Distribution, (Contact Details).
Available some time in August, Akai's latest addition to their popular sampler range is the S1100 (£3,499 inc VAT). The S1100 follows in the traditional of the S1000 series adding more features and even better performance quality.
Audio-wise, the S1100 features 16-bit stereo sampling, 24-bit internal processing and 20-bit DACs, resulting in an improved signal-to-noise ratio and with a further 12dB of dynamic range. Sampling is at 48, 44.1, and 22.05kHz. With built-in effects becoming the norm in the synth world, it's not surprising to find that the S1100 includes its own DSP, which offers users a variety of multi-effects including reverb, delay and chorus, plus phase and pitch shifting. Perhaps the most significant new feature is the S1100's ability to read SMPTE/EBU timecode and generate cue lists, making the unit ideal for post-production work.
Technically, the Akai S1100 offers a maximum of 6.4 minutes of mono sample time at 44.1kHz when fully expanded to 32Mb of RAM, though the basic unit comes with 2Mb of RAM as standard. Existing S1000 SCSI and digital interface boards are fully compatible with the S1100, as are samples from the S900, S950, and S1000 libraries.
Future developments for the S1100 include a CRT board for VDU operation, mouse control, and direct to hard disk sampling.
Users of the Akai ADAM digital multitrack should be glad about the new DIF1200 unit (£1399 +VAT). This is basically a 'standards convertor' that allows digital signal exchange between the Akai DR 1200 ADAM format and AES/EBU format, for interfacing with other DASH or ProDigi compatible systems. The DIF1200 supports both type 1 and 2 formats, comes in a rack-mounted 1U housing, and includes front panel selection of left/right stereo channels, sampling rate, and emphasis mode.
Akai Pro Audio Division, (Contact Details).
The EVS1, from Evolution Synthesis Ltd, is a promising new multitimbral synthesizer module which uses not one but four different synthesis techniques to create its sounds. The unit is eight-part multitimbral and 16-note polyphonic, and a separate drums section is also included. The 24-bit processor that is at the heart of the EVS1 allows it to create sounds through FM, Pulse Width Modulation, Phase Modulation and Ring Modulation, and each voice can use four independent six-stage envelopes and two LFOs. Five modulation sources are possible for the LFOs.
There are 100 internal sound programs, 20 of which are user-programmable. Should you be a little apprehensive about getting to grips with programming yet another synth, fear not - Evolution Synthesis have done what almost everyone else should have done, and actually provided free Atari ST voice editing software.
Evolution Synthesis Ltd, (Contact Details).
New from C-Lab is Steady Eye (£399 inc VAT), an external hardware box that follows in the footsteps of the company's Unitor synchroniser.
Steady Eye is a VITC reader (Vertical Interval Time Code) which allows Notator and Creator sequencer programs to synchronise music to picture where VITC is used, instead of LTC (Longitudinal Time Code) SMPTE/EBU type time-code found on Unitor. The major advantage of VITC is that the code is embedded inside the video signal, so that even when the video machine is in freeze-frame mode, a timecode is still being generated. This enables the music to remain in sync with the picture at all times. Conversely, LTC is recorded on the audio track of a video tape, which does not generate a timing signal when the tape is static.
Steady Eye can also generate SMPTE/EBU timecode which is phase-locked to the VITC signal whilst it is being read off tape. This enables a music sequencer to follow the picture regardless of video tape movement, whether in forward, return, slow forward or freeze-frame positions, thereby allowing effortless cue point finding. Steady Eye accepts video in either SECAM, PAL, or NTSC format.
Sound Technology plc, (Contact Details).
The Laser Music Processor (£149.95 inc VAT) from Computer Music Systems offers IBM PC compatible users a new powerful music notation program. LMP is capable of producing high quality printed output from a Hewlett Packard (or compatible) LaserJet printer, with optional draft quality output via standard 9-pin and 24-pin dot matrix printers.
Working in a familiar 'windows' type environment, LMP is an integrated music page composition system. The mouse-driven interface allows true WYSIWYG onscreen editing of music notation and lyric lines. However, LMP is not limited to purely visual presentation of music notation. With the addition of an MPU401 or compatible MIDI interface, LMP can play and score from Standard MIDI Files, allowing high quality music printing and audio proofing all in one low cost package.
LMP requires a PC XT or AT with 512K of RAM, Microsoft type mouse, and operates in Hercules, CGA, EGA, and VGA screen modes.
Computer Music Systems Ltd, (Contact Details).
The Advanced Media Group has been appointed exclusive UK distributors for the German 'Masterbits' range of sound sample CDs.
At present three discs are available in the 'Collection' series, and all offer high quality recordings of many popular synths and drum sounds. 'Collection 500' features 528 samples and is over 70 minutes in length. It includes sounds from the M1, D50, K1, K5, DX7 Mk11, K1000, ESQ1, PPG, FZ1, TR808, Simmons SDS, and Linn 9000. 'Collection 600' is also over 70 minutes long and includes some 600 samples taken from the Waldorf Microwave, T1, Proteus, K4, VFX, and Prophet VS. The third and final disc is 'Collection 800' with 830 samples. Over 73 minutes in duration, it is packed with sounds from the VFX, Emulator II, HX1000, R8, Matrix 1000, VZ1, MKS70, M1R, and more. Each of the Masterbits discs cost £29, or you can buy all three for £75.
Advanced Media Group, (Contact Details).