Shape Of Things To Come
Another colourful selection of new and improved instruments, equipment and software.
Alesis' new crop of products, several of which we reported on last month, is completed by the RA100 reference amplifier (£299 inc VAT) and the 3630 (£249 inc VAT) dual channel compressor/limiter/gate. The RA100 is a 100 watts per channel (into 4 ohms) power amp in a 2U rackmount case. Speaker outputs are on both quarter-inch jacks and push clip terminals. The unit features large built-in heat sinks for maximum heat dissipation without a fan, with an eye to use in environments where ambient noise is a particular concern.
The 3630 is a fully featured compressor limiter with variable threshold, compression ratio, attack, release and output level, and selectable peak/RMS and hard knee/soft knee compression styles. Other features include: input/output metering; gain reduction metering; adjustable gate; TRS sidechain for ducking and de-essing; true stereo linkable operation. Oh, and the '3630', in case you wondered, comes from Alesis' address in the US — 3630 Holdrege Avenue, Los Angeles.
Sound Technology plc, (Contact Details).
Digidesign have introduced Studio D, a modular digital recording and music production system for the home studio musician. Studio D integrates MIDI and digital audio on the Macintosh II computer, allowing musicians to produce, record, mix and master CD quality digital music in a personal studio setting. The system consists of a Macintosh II with a high capacity hard disk, and Digidesign's SampleCell, DECK, and Audiomedia (or Sound Tools) hardware and software. Users can configure the system according to their musical needs, and budget to add sample playback, digital multitrack recording and mixing, sampling, and digital editing capabilities. "It's going to revolutionise personal recording," said Product Manager Toby Richards. "We're offering musicians an affordable, expandable, all-digital environment in which to make music. For the first time, they can have total creative control over every aspect of music production, from the initial rhythm tracks to the final CD pre-mastering in the comfort of their own home."
Sound Technology plc, (Contact Details).
Mark of the Unicorn have introduced Atari software to control their MIDI Mixer 7, allowing complete control of the mixer from the computer. Both Mac and Atari software are bundled with the MIDI Mixer 7s, and a version for the PC will be available shortly.
The software console looks like a standard mixing console, and screen controls animate in response to incoming MIDI data. The 7s Console runs either as an application or as a DA, and is available free to registered MIDI Mixer 7 owners.
Performer, MOTU's highly praised Mac sequencer, is now on version 3.61, and Digital Performer with support for Digidesign's Sound Accelerator and Audiomedia boards is expected soon.
MCMXCIX, (Contact Details).
Fostex's new entry level X28 4-track cassette multi-tracker (£379 inc VAT) offers an impressive eight inputs — 10 if you count the stereo aux returns. Four of the input channels can accept mic level signals, the others are suitable for line signals only. The compact machine runs its tapes at standard speed with Dolby B, and recording on all four tracks at once is possible — there is no restriction to only record on two. Four bargraph meters constantly monitor the tape track levels, and a further two are permanently connected to the stereo output. The meters are part of a good backlit LCD display, which includes a digital tape counter and an animated graphic that mimics the tape reels' motion. Track select indicators show channel status, and there are also indicators for rehearsal mode and Dolby in/out.
Fostex UK, (Contact Details)
Running a sequencer in sync with digital audio on the same computer seems pretty popular at the moment, and Passport are to introduce an entry-level version of such a system. AudioTrax offers hard disk recording with sequencing at the ridiculous price of only £149 inc VAT. There's a catch of course — AudioTrax uses MacRecorder as its sound input device, so we're talking lo-fi 8-bit quality (the new Mac LC and IIsi both have a sound input facility similar to that of MacRecorder, so no additional hardware is required for these machines). The sequencer part of the system is of course Trax, and the new program supports two tracks of digital audio with simple cut, paste and copy editing functions.
Trax is a 64-track sequencer with step and real-time entry, and on-screen faders for MIDI volume control. Graphic editing of measures and individual notes is available.
MCMXCIX, (Contact Details).
Peavey's range of hi-tech products is continuing to expand. The DPM2 (£1125 inc VAT) is a new synthesizer using the same Digital Phase Modulation as the DPM3. The most significant difference is that the DPM2 does not have the sequencer section of its big brother.
The DPM3 itself has now been upgraded in spec to the DPM3 SE (older DPM3s can be upgraded to the new spec). The SE version adds more multi memory locations, alternate tunings, improved MIDI and sequencer facilities, and most significantly the ability to control the new DPM SX sampling expander. The SX (£299) is a 1U rack unit which allows you to record samples and then transfer these to DPM3 SE's RAM area (which can be expanded up to 1MB) where they can be treated just like any of the ROM waves, and used as building blocks in DPM synthesis. Data transfer is currently via MIDI, and therefore rather slow, but a SCSI option will be made available. The SX comes with 256K of on-board RAM, expandable to 16MB with standard SIMMs (around £50 per meg, less if you shop around), and sampling rate is variable up to a maximum of 48kHz. But why could you possibly want 16MB of RAM when the DPM3 only has 1MB to accept the data? Read on...
Peavey are also launching a 16-bit sample playback unit, the DPM SP (£529 inc VAT). Samples can be loaded via MIDI or SCSI, and also from the 3.5" high-density disk drive (Peavey are offering the Prosonus sample library on suitably formatted disks). RAM is expandable up to 32MB, again with cheap and readily-available SIMMs, and up to 255 samples can be stored. The MIDI and SCSI transfer facility means that the SP can be twinned with the SX to form a cheap and powerful 16-bit sampling system.
Peavey Electronics UK, (Contact Details).
Akai announced several new products and the re-introduction of another at Frankfurt. The S1100EX (£1899 inc VAT) is a 16-voice polyphonic expansion module for the S1100. It has most of the features of the S1100, with the notable exception of any front panel controls apart from an on/off switch and a volume knob. The slave unit is controlled entirely from a master S1100 via SCSI. Two modes of operation allow either the creation of an integrated 32-voice system with an S1100 and an S1100EX, or a serial connection of up to six S1100EXs in a monster multi-timbral configuration. A Mac front panel emulation, S-FMAC-V1.0 is also available.
Akai's EWI3000m analogue synth module for the EWI system has apparently attracted some interest from keyboard players in the past, but they have been prevented from taking full advantage of its abilities simply because keyboards do not generate the same controller data as the EWI wind controllers. R&D to the rescue... The X335i (£99 inc VAT) is a headset-style breath controller which incorporates the same breath and vibrato sensors as the EWI3000 controller, adding extra expression to a keyboard player's performance on the EWBOOOm.
The ME80P (£229 inc VAT) is an 8-in/10-out programmable MIDI patchbay that stores up to 128 banks of setups. Banks can be switched via MIDI or with a footswitch. MIDI merge and filtering facilities are also incorporated.
The MPC60, Akai's original sampling drum machine, is to be reintroduced as the MPC60II (£1899 inc VAT). There are cosmetic changes, and all bugs are now long gone, but internally the unit remains unchanged: 12-bit sampling, 99-sequence/99-track sequencer, 20 songs, 32-channel programmable mixer, dedicated keys for all functions, expandable memory...
Akai UK, (Contact Details).
Korg have announced a rackmount version of their rather wonderful Wavestation synth, the Wavestation A/D. The unit actually costs a little more than the keyboard version, but it does feature some significant extra features to justify the price. Waveform memory has been doubled to 4MB, and stereo audio inputs and A-to-D convertors are fitted. The inputs allow any external mono or stereo audio source to be used as a waveform in the Wavestation's synthesis. The sounds can be processed by the filters, envelopes, pan control and digital effects processors. A Vocoder feature is also included, allowing you to modulate the onboard waveforms with the external input.
Korg UK, (Contact Details).
The MIDI Gate from LA Audio is a rather handy rack unit that allows 16 channels of MIDI controlled gating, muting and panning to be added to a recording setup. Connection is via 16 stereo audio sockets to the insert points of a mixing desk. On power-up the MIDI Gate is effectively a box containing 16 conventional noise gates (with variable threshold, attack, decay, hold and range), but with MIDI connections 16 channels of gating/muting or 8 channels of auto panning are available. Channels configured as mutes can be turned on and off with the front panel channel control key or by MIDI notes, or alternatively you can switch between 128 mute patches which define the configuration of all 16 channels. Gates can also be programmed as ducks, and any channel can be used as an audio trigger for a signal on another channel.
LA Distribution, (Contact Details).
Steinberg's Avalon generic ST sample editing program (£325 inc VAT), now on version 2.0, has acquired two new pieces of peripheral hardware. The D-to-A (£350 inc VAT) board allows samples to be monitored in 16-bit stereo without the need to transfer data back to the sampler. The SCSI controller; connected to the Atari's DMA port, facilitates data transfer between Avalon and connected samplers by taking advantage of the greater speed of SCSI transmission relative to MIDI (about 250 times faster, in fact). It also allows the Atari to use SCSI mass storage devices such as hard disks, removable cartridge drives and optical disks. Avalon itself now supports a wide range of samplers (Including Akai, Roland, Ensoniq, Dynacord, Emu, SCI, Casio and Yamaha machines), and sample editing facilities include time contraction/expansion and resynthesis.
Evenlode Soundworks, (Contact Details)
Ensoniq have announced three new keyboards, the flagship SD1 and the SQ1-based SQ1 Plus and SQ2. The SD1 replaces the VFXSD and employs identical synthesis circuitry, ensuring compatibility with existing sound libraries, although 3.5MB of waveform ROM is now fitted, including new piano waves. The effects section, however, is taken from the EPS16 Plus rather than the VFX. The 24-bit processor offers 22 different single and multiple effects algorithms. The SD1 also incorporates a 24-track sequencer, and holds 180 Sound Programs and 60 Performance Presets.
The SQ1 Plus is an upgraded SQ1, offering 180 sounds, 24-bit dynamic effects, a 16-track sequencer, and a whole new megabyte of 16-bit piano waveforms, doubling the SQ1's wave memory. Existing SQ1's can be upgraded to the new spec. The SQ2 is internally the same, but a longer 76-note keyboard with a weighted piano-style action is fitted.
Sound Technology plc, (Contact Details).
New from Kawai is the GB2, a more sophisticated version of their earlier GB1. The GB2 provides complete song accompaniment (variations, fill-ins, intro and ending) rather than a simple pattern, and you simply plug your guitar or keyboard in to the unit and play along — perfect for late light practice on headphones. 48 preset songs are provided, and you can programme your own arrangements as well. Backing consists of drums, bass and chords (all using 16-bit PCM sounds), and songs can be transposed to any key. A built-in overdrive unit is provided.
Kawai UK, (Contact Details).
New from Roland is the RSP550 (£750 inc VAT), a stereo signal processor offering top-quality effects and true stereo processing. Full 2-channel A/D/A conversion is employed, with 16-bit resolution and a 48kHz sampling rate. Frequency response is quoted as 10Hz-21kHz, with a dynamic range in excess of 95dB. 39 single effects algorithms offer high-quality reverb, chorus, delays, pitch shifting, and so on. The RSP550 also has a range of multi-effects algorithms with both parallel and serial processing. There are 199 effects programs in all, 160 of which are for user programs.
Also new is the SBX1000 cueing box (£1,995 inc VAT), a SMPTE/MIDI event generator and synchroniser. The SMPTE-based cue sheet can store a range of MIDI information, and song position data for a sequencer. The unit's tempo controller, which can drive the internal sequencer as well as external units, can store tempo data for 32 songs and allows time compression or expansion of a song by simply changing the timecode for the song's end. Tempo data can be programmed via step time input, a real time tap or MIDI input, or by loading a song file in from the disk drive. The SBX1000's on-board sequencer is equivalent to an MV30, and sequence data is compatible with that from the MC-series with Super MRC, MV30 and W30, and also with MIDI standard files. Four GPI ports are provided, which allow control of non-MIDI devices (tape recorders, video machines etc) via positive or negative electrical impulses.
Roland UK, (Contact Details).
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