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Shape Of Things To Come

Another colourful bonanza of hot new products served up to delight you


The 1990s have been dubbed the 'Digital Age', and TDK have launched a new range of high (CrO2) position and metal tapes to match the high quality associated with digital sound reproduction. The high position range (SF, SA, SA-X) and metal range (MA, MA-X) have both benefitted from a combination of new particle formulations, particle surface treatments, binder systems, and the latest anti-resonant cassette mechanisms. These improvements have resulted in an impressive range of tapes with higher output levels, lower noise, higher frequency response, wider dynamic range, and reduced modulation noise, all capable of vividly reproducing the power, intensity and clarity of digital sources. The stylish black and gold designs of the new packaging reflects the quality of the new range of cassettes, with colour-coded identification stripes: pink for high (CrO2) position and blue for metal.

TDK's commitment to producing the ultimate analogue cassette tape for the 'Digital Age' has produced the MA-XG, available in 60 and 90 minute lengths. The metal tape took more than three years to develop, and it represents a radical departure from conventional thinking behind audio tape design and technology. The tape uses a new multi-layer structure of TDK's unique Finavinx metal particle, and MA-XG is the first TDK metal position tape in which the coating is applied in a dual layer configuration.

For the first time fibreglass-reinforced plastics have been used for the shell material, making it highly effective in absorbing vibration and reducing resonances. Each MA-XG cassette takes three minutes to hand assemble — which goes some way to explaining a price tag of £8.99 for a 90 minute tape.

On a more general note, TDK's continuing devotion to innovation and quality clearly pays off. They currently command 43% of the total audio cassette market, well ahead of their nearest competitor.

TDK UK Ltd, (Contact Details).


New from Quasimidi Products are two MIDI boxes that will turn any MIDI keyboard into a master controller. The Turbo Volcan (£399.99) will accept MIDI inputs from two keyboards, which can then control up to eight overlapping zones. There are four MIDI Outs. Each zone features parameters for transpose, velocity offset, program number, velocity switch, slave name, MIDI volume, aftertouch, modulation, breath control, MIDI pan, and many more. There are 128 memory locations for user patches, and eight rotary controls which can either be assigned to edit patches on several popular synths, or to modify MIDI data from a sequencer in real time, as it passes through.

The Esmeralda (£219.99) will only accept an input from one keyboard as a controller, although it does have a MIDI merge function, and allows four zones to be set up. Features include a data filter (velocity, program change, pitch bend, aftertouch, modulation wheel, breath control, volume, hold pedal, all notes off, active sensing, clock).

Also new are an upgrade kit for the Roland E20 (£179.99), and M400 extra memory boards (£269.99) for the Roland E20/30, Pro-E, KR500/3000, RA50. The E20 upgrade offers extra facilities such as the ability to play any two voices together, a choice of bass sounds in Arranger mode, and a MIDI dump option, and it expands the number of user memories to 16. All 128 sounds can be produced from the E20 control panel.

BCK Products, (Contact Details).


One of the more off-beat offerings on the Kawai stand at the British Music Fair was the GB1 Session Trainer, a very usable auto-accompaniment unit. The GB1 provides sampled guitar, bass, and guitar chord accompaniment, in whatever key you want and in a variety of musical styles. Chord sequences can be recorded and replayed, and particularly on the R'n'B and Rock styles, the overall sound is surprisingly good. A single line input is provided for guitar or keyboards, and there's a mono line out, and a phones socket — perfect for doodling away in the tour bus or bedroom, or perhaps keeping a spare guitarist out of trouble while the rest of the band are trying to finish a mix!

Also new from Kawai is a floppy disk containing 300 assorted drum patterns, with drum notes mapped for the K4's drum setup. A complete single tone bank is also provided. The patterns are provided in three formats, for the Kawai Q80 sequencer, Steinberg Cubase/Pro24, and C-Lab Notator/Creator.

Kawai UK, (Contact Details).


Digisound, makers of modular analogue synthesizer kits, have launched an 8-channel MIDI-to-CV converter. The rackmount 80-25 (£249) allows MIDI data to control up to eight analogue synthesizers, including the Digisound 80 Modular System. It comes fully assembled. There are eight sets of 1 volt-per-octave CV and Gate outputs on the front panel, and the 80-25 can cope with pitch bend, velocity, and aftertouch information. In multitimbral mode, the unit will control four monophonic voices from four MIDI channels. The CV/Gate outputs are not limited to controlling only analogue synthesizers — the 80-25 can trigger percussion sources, samplers, digital delay lines, or even lighting equipment.

Also new from Digisound is the 80-24: an 8-note polyphonic keyboard controller (£99) which can be used with their existing 80-15 monophonic keyboard to provide eight CV/Gate outputs.

Digisound, (Contact Details).


The Control 1 from JBL is undoubtedly one of the most familiar and popular compact monitors, and the highly successful design has now been uprated to the JBL Control 1+. The Control 1+ uses the same enclosure as the Control 1, but offers greater bandwidth, higher power handling, and less distortion.

Better bass response is provided through a more powerful 5.5" woofer — a solid bass output down to 60Hz is available — and a larger magnet assembly improves transient response. A pure titanium diaphragm tweeter provides smooth, accurate high frequency reproduction, with a similar sound character to that associated with JBL's larger monitors. Designed as matched mirror imaged pairs, the Control 1+ offers superior stereo imaging, and being the same size as the original Control 1, it accepts all of the same mounting accessories.

JBL/Harman Audio Ltd, (Contact Details).


The VH170 from dB Technologies is the first Italian wireless microphone system, and one of the very few wireless designs to be approved for use in the UK by the Department of Trade & Industry.

The system consists of a microphone transmitter and a diversity switching receiver, which features an adjustable squelch control and VU metering. The system is recommended for both live and broadcast applications, and comes in two formats: the handheld VH170M and the lavalier lapel type VH170L. Both mics have an operating range of up to 400 metres.

Trevor Cash International, (Contact Details).


Cheetah presented its new Master Series 770 keyboard at the Frankfurt Musik Messe 90, the first in the Master Series to feature aftertouch. The 770 continues Cheetah's policy of offering "the highest specification available at the lowest prices". The 88-note keyboard is weighted for a realistic piano feel, and the price is £849.95.

Also new is the long-awaited 'PPG-for-under-£200' MS800 digital synthesizer module. The tabletop MS800 module is a 16-voice polyphonic, 16-part multitimbral digital synthesizer with dynamic voice allocation. The module is fully programmable and uses sampled waveforms, sampled partials, and complete sampled sounds, including drums.

The user can change waveforms during a sound, offering immense control and expression. The polyphony is variable, from 16 voices with two partials per sound, to 1 voice with 32 partials. The MS800 is velocity sensitive, with stereo outputs. It also boasts a MIDI overflow facility which allows two or more units to be stacked together for extra polyphony. At just £199.95, this highly affordable unit could find its way into a good many MIDI setups.

Cheetah International Ltd, (Contact Details).


Elka have updated their master keyboards, with the introduction of the MK88 II and MK76 II. Features include MIDI merge, MIDI Thru, and MIDI performance dump straight from the keyboard, in addition to the extensive MIDI control facilities already found on the original designs.

The MK88 is an 88-note keyboard with weighted, piano action keys, and the MK76 is a shorter, 76-note design. Otherwise, the specifications of the keyboards are identical.


  • Keyboard: dynamic (velocity and release velocity), 88 professional piano type weighted keys
  • Programmable Performances: 128 in two separate memories (Internal & RAM cartridge). Split settings, Transpose, MIDI Channels, Dynamic & Aftertouch functions, Real-time Control Assignments, MIDI Delay, MIDI Clock, Name, Tempo, Chain & MIDI Patch Setup
  • High resolution dynamics: 19 different response characteristics programmable for each split zone
  • Polyphonic Aftertouch: eight response curves
  • Split Zones: six freely definable zones
  • Delay/Echo/Loop: Synchronised with Internal or External Clock
  • MIDI Out: Two completely independent Outs, 32 channels
  • MIDI In: External clock input. Performance change from external instruments on alternative channel
  • Controllers: two wheels, three sliders, four function keys. Performance advance, two on/off foo.tswitches, two analogue pedals, all assignable
  • Display: backlit 16x2 LCD

Bluebridge Music Ltd, (Contact Details).


Band-In-A-Box is a new software product that provides automatic accompaniment, using your computer and a sound module, in 24 popular styles of music. It is available for the PC (MPU401 compatible), Atari ST (colour or mono) and Macintosh, and all versions cost £45. The program allows the user to type in chords in a lead-sheet style screen using standard chord symbols, such as Gm7 or Bmaj7. It will then generate professional quality bass, drum, and piano parts in the style chosen, which can be heard via a MIDI sound module. Songs can be entered in under two minutes, and the authors suggest that the program could be useful for everyone from professional musicians (for live work), to hobbyist non-musicians.


  • 24 styles (eg. Jazz Swing, Blues, Waltz, Reggae) with more to follow
  • 2 variations/styles to accentuate verse/chorus
  • Chords entered using standard chord symbols
  • Large selection of chords available
  • Inversions may be entered, eg. Cmaj7/E
  • Save songs as MIDI Files for loading to sequencer
  • Editable worksheet for cut, copy, paste
  • Preset configurations for MT32, Korg M1
  • Customise drum notes, channels etc, for other modules
  • Store 400 songs per floppy disk
  • MIDI fake books available, 250 songs/disk ready for use
  • Full control of looping (intro, repeats, tag ending etc)
  • Place part markers, fill markers on the leadsheet
  • Songs loaded by menu or desired style
  • Graphic keyboard shows bass/piano playing in real time

Zone Distribution, (Contact Details).


Steinberg have launched a low-cost alternative to their top-of-the range sequencer program Cubase. Cubeat (£285) is aimed at users who do not require facilities such as score printing and editing, and advanced MIDI management functions, but it uses the same VISP (Visual Song Processing) technology which makes Cubase's complex recording and editing processes so accessible.

Cubeat also offers the same timing precision as Cubase. You can use graphic tools to Cut, Copy, or Move parts in your arrangement, even with a sequence still running. Single events can be edited with the Grid or Key editor. Controller and velocity data can be modified together with MIDI notes in the Key edit window. The program is fully MROS compatible, a will work with Steinberg MROS synchronisation hardware (SMP24, Timelock etc).

Cubase 2.0 is now available, and should be in the shops as you read this. Existing Version 1.5 users will receive the update free of charge in the form of two new disks and a set of new pages for the manual. The most important of the updates and new features are full WYSIWYG score printing, and the Interactive Phrase Synthesizer. Some of the other new features are: improved display Auto Quantise; Delete Rests (in score edit); Enharmonic Shift; improved Analytic Quantise; the ability to 'throw out' modules (such as the Score Editor or Dynamic MIDI Manager) to increase free memory. In addition V2.0 incorporates several bug fixes from V1.5.

Steinberg have also released another in their Synthworks editor/librarian software series; the new program is for the SY77. Features include: graphics that are much faster than GEM; DX7/TX7/DX7II/TX81Z Sound Translator utility, giving access to the world's largest sound library; a Learn function that allows the program to learn and load any DX sound bank format (even from IBM and DX7IIFD disks); computer-aided sound creation functions (including Quadratic Mixture and Mosaic Creation); Neuronic Librarian; 50% data compression on saving; Bank format and disks are interchangeable between Atari and SY77 drives; direct MROS communication; onboard multitasking sequencer.


  • 16x64 Tracks: 16 arrange windows each with 64 independent tracks
  • MROS implementation: high precision MIDI management, full multitasking
  • Visual Song Processing: easy to learn, self-explanatory user interface and full graphic song editing.
  • Graphic Edit Window: edit your MIDI data with a variety of graphic tools, with MIDI controller editing in the same window.
  • Quantise Options: along with sophisticated Auto-Quantise functions, five different quantise strategies can be used to suit any musical situation. Analytic and Match Quantise.
  • Human Sync: Cubeat adopts the tempo directly from the playing and tempo changes of the musician.
  • Direct SMPTE lock: direct synchronisation to SMPTE/EBU with Steinberg's SMP24 Timelock or MIDEX+.
  • File Compatibility: Cubase, Pro24, Twelve, and MIDI File compatible.
  • Satellite: this synth macro-editing desk accessory program is supplied free.
  • Requires an Atari with at least 1 Mbyte of RAM.

Evenlode Soundworks, (Contact Details)


Exposure Productions have recently introduced the Multiframe, a multi-purpose stand and housing unit suitable for a range of music and computer hardware. Multiframe can be assembled in seconds, and is intended to be suitable for everyone from novice to professional, and to all environments including home, studio, and stage.

The system consists of a main frame on to which a selection of mounts and attachments can be fitted. Suggested applications include MIDI setups, desktop publishing, video editing, show presentation, education, and software demonstration. Complete packages will cost around £100, and at present there are 20 different mounts and attachments available, with more on the way.

Exposure Productions, (Contact Details).


Due to "an overwhelming demand from the market" for 24-track consoles to package with the many inexpensive tape machines currently available, Soundtracs have announced the introduction of a PC32 Series console. The PC32 is an extension of the extremely popular PC MIDI series consoles, comprising the PC MIDI 24 and the PC MIDI 16.

The facilities on the PC MIDI, which include MIDI control of mute automation, create a dynamic and sonically transparent sound which is well-suited for high quality track laying, as is emphasised by the use of the consoles in programming suites around the world. Air, Island, and Swanyard are numbered amongst the owners of the PC MIDI 24 in the UK.

With 32 input/output channels, the PC32 provides 72 line inputs on mixdown with MIDI control of muting on inputs, monitors, auxiliaries, and effects returns. 24 LED bargraph meters are provided to monitor 24 tape returns.

Soundtracs plc, (Contact Details).

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Tascam DA30

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 - Sep 1990

Donated by: Bert Jansch / Adam Jansch


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