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Shape Of Things To Come

Yet another selection of recently announced new products to whet your appetite!


Casio have introduced a personal DAT player even smaller than the DA7. The new DA-R100 (£549 inc VAT) weighs in at just 580g, and measures only 90 x 38 x 158mm — including the rechargeable Ni-Cad battery pack. The DA-R100 features 64-times oversampling on the inputs, 8-time on the outputs, and is SCMS-equipped. The long play DAT mode is supported, allowing four hours of recording at 12-bit resolution and reduced bandwidth. There is a mic amplifier built in, along with an integral A-to-D convertor, so you can plug in a mic and record without any extra hardware.

Casio UK, (Contact Details).


Eye & I Productions, known for their range of voice cards, have added two pieces of MIDI hardware to their range. The Voice Crystal Merger Plus (£76.99) is a 2-into-1 MIDI merger, powered by the incoming MIDI signal(s). The unit has a buffer to allow data to be held up if necessary, before 'interleaving' it at the output. If one input is receiving a SysEx dump, then the data arriving at the other input will be held for up to 14 seconds before the buffer will start to throw out the data.

The other unit is the MIDI Crystal (£9.99), a simple MIDI signal indicator. The MIDI Crystal can be inserted at any point in a MIDI chain — it is powered by the incoming MIDI signal, drawing less than 4mw of the 114mw available — and will identify passing MIDI data via its single LED. Also new is a second voice card for the Roland JD800 (£60).

Eye & I Productions, (Contact Details).


German software house EMC, developers of Einstein Music Software, have announced new additions to their range. There is now a Roland D70 editor/librarian (£89), complete with a new bank of sounds, and a Yamaha SY22/TG33 editor will be available shortly. Also new from EMC are style cards for Roland's popular E-series of keyboards and arrangers. Two cards feature Michael Jackson and Phil Collins hits, and two more offer Pop 1 and Jazz 1 selections.

Advanced Media Group, (Contact Details).


The next two volumes in AMG's Producer Series of sampling CDs are now available. Dancin' David Ruffy's Drum CD features a wide selection of single hits, with drums played in a range of styles and at least four different dynamic levels. There are also around 200 brand new loops played by Ruffy, a session drummer who has played with Aztec Camera, Sinead O'Connor, Prefab Sprout and World Party. In order to ensure that you can still achieve that 'straight from vinyl' feel, the CD also includes record groove noise!

Danny Cummings' and Miles Bould's Rhythm Of Life Percussion CD features an even greater number of percussion hits and around 55 minutes of percussion grooves. Each groove is provided in several mixes of varying complexity, and there are even RSS 3-D mixes to liven things up. Danny Cummings, currently on tour with Dire Straits, has also worked with the Pet Shop Boys, ABC, George Michael and Tina Turner.

Advanced Media Group, (Contact Details).


Gajits, the Manchester-based publishers of Sequencer One, have announced their new Sample Series, a collection of sound samples for the Amiga computer, stored in the standard IFF format. There are currently five volumes of samples: Percussion & Effects: Guitars & Strings; Brass & Woodwind; Synth & Vocal; Piano & Keyboards. Although the samples can be used with a wide range of Amiga software, each disk also includes a demo song in Sequencer One format, using the samples on that volume.

Newstar Technology, (Contact Details).


Kurzweil's new K2000 keyboard was one of the hits of the recent AES show in New York. The K2000 uses modestly-titled VAST synthesis, which (and where have you heard this before?) promises more sound creation possibilities than any previous instrument, simulating as it does "just about any synthesis technique ever devised". Cynicism aside, the K2000 does indeed look like a very powerful beast, well worth its anticipated £2,500 price tag. Like the K1000 and 1200 before it, it is sample-based, with 8MB of waveforms and multi-samples in ROM, and up to 64MB of user sampling (that's about six minutes of CD-quality stereo audio). The user sampling memory uses standard, cheap, SIMMs. ROM samples are all 16-bit linear, sampled at 32 and 48kHz.

VAST is an acronym for Variable Architecture Synthesis Technology. Sounds are created from up to four oscillators, and 24 oscillators can play simultaneously. 31 sound-shaping algorithms are then available to process the four layers in a sound. The algorithms each provide up to three sound shaping tools, such as a variety of resonant filters, EQs, continuous panning, amplitude modulation, crossfade, distortion, digital wrap (?), waveshaping, pulse width modulation, high frequency enhancement, and low frequency oscillators. All these DSP functions allow real-time control over their parameters via MIDI control or internal modulation.

The 4-oscillator sounds can be layered up to three deep in Programs, where envelope modulation is applied. An on-board four-effects-at-once processor provides such treatments as reverb, chorus, delay, flanging etc. There are six audio outputs, configured as a stereo pair with four individual outs, and there's a 3.5" disk drive for data storage. The entire Kurzweil sound library will be made available on disk, although you will have to fit some user RAM in order to take advantage of it. An extra input board is required for user sampling — and yes, the K2000 does sample in stereo.

Acrobat Music, (Contact Details).


Steinberg have announced several new programs including digital audio and Windows versions of Cubase, and a major update of Cubase to version 3.0. Cubase Audio, for the Mac, offers stereo and multitrack hard disk recording via Digidesign hardware alongside Steinberg MIDI sequencing, much like MOTU's Digital Performer and Opcode's Studio Vision. Features include 'banish silence' (cf. strip silence in Studio Vision), audio track mixdown, and the ability to calculate the tempo of an audio file.

Version 3.0 of Cubase (available for the Atari only at present; the Mac version is still on 1.81) adds a powerful fully integrated notation module, and new functions include polyphonic systems, drum notation, scalable page overview with edit, and a fully user-definable page layout mode. To cope with the increased demands on memory that extra modules create, Steinberg have now made Cubase fully modular — you can load and jettison the Score, IPS, MIDI Mixer and MIDI Processor modules from the main program at any time.

Cubase 3.0 also offers double the resolution of previous versions, at 384ppqn, Atari TT compatibility, up to eight simultaneous mixer maps, and logical edit presets, amongst numerous other additions and changes.

Cubase makes the leap to a whole new computer with Cubase Windows, which brings the program to the PC for the first time. As the name suggests, the program runs under Windows 3.0, and requires a 386/16MHz PC with VGA monitor and at least 2MB of RAM. An MPU-401 compatible interface is required. Steinberg have gone to some trouble to ensure that the look of Cubase is consistent across all computer types, so anyone familiar with the ST version will encounter no problems in transferring to Cubase Windows, for example.

Tango (Atari only) is an entirely new program, taking the idea of auto-accompaniment to new heights. It was written by a German jazz trombonist who, having found that there was no piece of music software that fitted his requirements of a 'session partner', learnt to program and came up with Tango. The program 'listens' to your playing over MIDI, and what you play is analysed and modified by several virtual 'players', who generate new musical themes based on your input. There are a great many parameters to allow you to control the direction of a session — you can fix the tempo, restrict the pitch of the virtual players, allow only a certain length of note, and so on. You can also, for example, use a favourite song as a guide sheet for the other players, and have the program modify all your improvised playing such that every note you play will be in harmony, no matter what key you decide to play in.

Also new are Synthworks SQ (for the Ensoniq SQ series of synths), a librarian for the S1000, and Time Bandit, an off-line time correction, pitch change and harmonisation program for the Mac. Any sound files stored in Sound Designer I, Sound Designer II and Audio IFF format can be processed. Time Bandit features a choice of several processing algorithms for audio data, from which the program chooses after a brief analysis of a file. This is intended to ensure optimum audio quality, and reports suggest that the processed audio does indeed sound surprisingly good.

Evenlode Soundworks, (Contact Details).


Passport's AudioTrax sequencer for the Mac offers two tracks of digital audio recording alongside 64-track MIDI sequencing — all for only £210.33. OK, so the quality isn't that great, limited by the Mac's on-board 8-bit sound input and output hardware, but it works. Newer Macs can take advantage of the on-board mic/line input, but older Macs will require Farallon's MacRecorder hardware.

Besides the obvious appeal to musicians who might want to use the audio facilities to play around with ideas (or just play around period), or maybe even demo songs, the program has obvious applications in such areas as business presentations, where AudioTrax's MIDI music and sampled audio can be integrated with graphics via HyperCard. AudioTrax is System 7 compatible, and requires 2MB of RAM and a 20MB hard disk to run.

MCMXCIX, (Contact Details).


Roland's DM80 multitrack hard disk recording system has now been shown in its production form, incorporating a number of changes since it was shown in prototype form to considerable interest. Quite apart from the fact that the colour has changed from black to beige, the DM80 will now record on four channels simultaneously to a single SCSI drive, even to new optical storage media with an access time of around 35ms (ie. relatively slow). The system is available in 4 and 8-track versions, the DM80-4 and DM80-8 respectively, and the DM80-4 can record 18 minutes of track time at 44.1 kHz.

There is now a choice of hardware or Macintosh software remote controls. The software will run on any Mac, and can control four DM80s simultaneously giving up to 32-track operation. An internal digital mixer allows full automation of volume, pan, auxiliaries and EQ. Balanced analogue input and output jacks have replaced the original phonos, and the input sensitivity is now +4dBm (as opposed to -10dBm). Another new feature is the video sync input for connection to composite colour VCR signals, in addition to SMPTE and MTC sync.

Roland UK, (Contact Details).


Improviser (£95), a new ST program from Creative Sounds, is described as a real-time interactive dedicated improviser, designed to generate melodic lines. The raw material for the program is a user-defined 4-track sequence of bass, drums, harmony and melody, from which Improviser improvises a new line. You can change 20 on-screen parameters as the sequence is running, to change the new line in real time.

The program recognises 20 different chord types in any key (including inversions), and generates over 20 different modes. SoftLink compatibility means that Improviser should work particularly well alongside Notator, although standard MIDI File support ensures that other sequencer users aren't left out in the cold.

The program was written by jazz saxophonist Paul Hodgson, so expect something a cut above the average 'auto-accompaniment' software output.

Creative Sounds (Contact Details).


Musicator, the PC-compatible notation-based sequencing program, is now available in a version that supports General MIDI and Roland's GS format, a 'special' case of General MIDI. An on-board mixer panel lets you change volume, pan, chorus, reverb, and other GS parameters in real time, and a drum mixer screen lets you change volume, pan, pitch and reverb for each drum. Musicator GS costs £293.75.

Digital Music, (Contact Details).


Latest of the current '3-D' audio products is a NuBus card for the Mac that allows Q-Sound or RSS-style effects to be produced from a humble personal computer. The Focal Point card is based on Digidesign's AudioMedia board, and takes a mono audio input or Digidesign soundfiles and places them in a 3-D soundfield. The CDEV/INIT that drives the board(s) is System 7.0 compatible.

MCMXCIX, (Contact Details).


Owners of Yamaha's rather wonderful QY10 Walkstation can now save, load and arrange their patterns and songs on an Atari ST, using a new program called Squirrel, available free of charge from Yamaha dealers. Patterns can be organised in three banks, and patterns can be moved between those banks; a selection of new patterns is also included with the program. A version of Squirrel will also shortly be available for the Mac.

Yamaha-Kemble Music UK, (Contact Details).


Yamaha have announced a new 4-track cassette multitracker, the MT120 (£399.99), which continues in the tradition of the MT100II. The most important new facility is the sync facility, allowing SMPTE and FSK codes to be recorded on track 4 by turning off the dbx noise reduction on that track only.

The MT120 offers a choice of normal and double tape speeds, so you can choose economy or superior sound quality (up to 18kHz at the higher tape speed). A wired remote control is included, and the tape transport mechanism has been improved. A stereo 5-band equaliser is provided, and other features include flexible monitoring facilities, mono-send/stereo-return effects loop with send controls on each of the four mixer channels, switchable dbx noise reduction, individual tape out jacks, and independent LED peak meters for all four tracks.

Yamaha Kemble UK, (Contact Details).


One limitation of MIDI interfaces for PC-compatible computers has always been that their MIDI interfaces have come in the form of plug-in cards, and could not therefore be fitted to portable laptop designs (the Yamaha C1 computer is a notable exception). Key's MIDIator MIDI interface, however, connects to any PC via the serial port (RS232). The MIDIator comes in two versions, the 1-in/1-out MS101 (£115.33) and the 1-in/3-out MS103 (£175). The MS103 supports 48 independent MIDI channels.

As the MIDIator does not conform to the MPU401 standard, it is not yet widely supported by music software, but Twelve Tone System's Cakewalk works with MIDIator, and other companies supporting it include Dr. T, GF Music, Songwright, Turtle Beach and Musicware.

Soho Soundhouse/Turnkey, (Contact Details).

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Sony DPS-R7 Digital Reverberator

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 - Dec 1991

Donated by: Bert Jansch / Adam Jansch


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