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Showtime!

What you may have 'missed' at the Los Angeles AES and the London Hands On Shows.

Los Angeles and London were the recent locations for two very different audio get-togethers. Paul Gilby reports on the proceedings and products shown at both the AES and Hands-On shows.


The 81st Convention of the Audio Engineering Society. Los Angeles. USA.



OPUS, the next step in digital audio mixing and processing from Lexicon.

e AES holds four shows per year around the world and the purpose of these are two-fold. First, to allow manufacturers in the professional audio world a chance to show their latest goods and second, to provide a meeting place for the industry's leading research and development engineers who present papers on their topics of research and inform the world through a series of technical talks of their current areas of development. Many of these sessions contain the seeds of ideas that eventually turn into everyday products, eg. the compact disc, digital audio, and MIDI.

For those who attend an AES Convention, it is these lectures that contain some of the most exciting ideas and proposals. The principles of FM synthesis were first revealed by John Chowning at one such session back in 1973, and then some ten years later Yamaha launched the DX7 based on the ideas in Chowning's paper. That is just one example of the importance of the AES Conventions worldwide!

So, here is a report on some of the highlights of the Los Angeles gathering.

Frank Zappa demonstrating the Synclavier direct-to-disk system used to record his latest album 'Jazz From Hell'.


SOFTWARE



Hybrid Arts showed their ADAP (Analogue to Digital Audio Processor). This is a software/hardware package for use with the 1 Megabyte Atari 1040ST computer and provides, in its basic format, digital recording and sampling at 44.1 kHz (CD format) for 20 seconds - or various permutations to give longer sample durations, mono or stereo sampling and also multi-sampling of up to 64 discrete sounds for 8-note polyphonic playback by a MIDI keyboard.

The software allows on-screen sample editing via the Atari mouse for cut-and-paste operations and sample looping, real-time effects such as echo, reverb and enveloping, together with MIDI command manipulation. The system memory can be expanded by adding hard disk storage and it is hoped that future software will make direct-to-disk digital mastering truly affordable. ADAP costs around £2,499.

Also from Hybrid was a new sequencer in their MIDItrack ST series: the SMPTEtrack. This is a powerful 60-track MIDI recorder with full SMPTE timecode lock-up facilities and is part of a modular software system. The program allows realtime recording of MIDI keyboards or event information, quantization, MIDI song position pointers, variable clock outputs, punch in/out and advanced song building modes for chaining sections. The software can be integrated with GenPatch ST which gives you the facility to store all MIDI instrument set-up data so that on boot-up the software loads all instruments with a whole set of sounds, samples, patterns and songs prior to going into the main sequencer program.

The Adams Smith Zeta Three SMPTE-MIDI synchroniser.

The SMPTEtrack is £539.95 and is also available as the SYNCtrack (non-SMPTE version) for £349.95. Hybrid Arts products are available in the UK from Syndromic Music. (Contact Details)

Roland showed their new MESA (Music Editor Scorer and Arranger) software. Pictured here is Kentyn Reynolds, the author of MESA, who spent his time at the show demonstrating the program commissioned by Roland.

MESA runs on the IBM PC or compatibles and is a real-time 65,000 note capacity sequencer with 8 tracks containing up to 128 'virtual tracks'(?). The program has three parts: Song mode for sequencer work, Score mode for notation editing, and Print mode for score printout. The software is mouse-controlled and offers extensive MIDI data manipulation, part editing facilities, sync via MIDI or FSK, text overlay for lyrics on the score and it supports the Roland DG computer plotters for high quality scorewriting output. MESA software will cost £695.95 inc VAT and is designed to work with the existing Roland MPU-401 MIDI interface. (Contact Details)

MIDI Merge Plus and more from 360 System.


MegaMix from Musically Intelligent Devices is an automated mixing program for the IBM PC or compatibles and Apple Macintosh. The system features mouse-driven software and a hardware box containing VCA circuitry for each of 16 audio channels, which may be expanded up to 40 channels. MegaMix will interface with any mixing desk and offers you automated control of channel levels, grouping, channel mute and solo. It uses high quality graphics to display a pictorial mixing desk and can show such information as fader positions. The system supports sync-to-tape, MIDI clock and SMPTE via MIDI song position pointers. There is no current UK distributor for MegaMix. (Contact Details)

From Digidesign comes their latest program for the Apple Macintosh - the Korg DSS-1 Editor. This allows on-screen editing of samples, looping and crossfading as well as a front panel emulation of the DSS-1 controls for fast programming at the computer. (Contact Details)

STAR OF THE AES SHOW: YAMAHA'S DIGITAL MIXER


The product that stole the limelight at AES was undoubtedly the Yamaha DMP7 Digital Mixing Processor. This appeared to be an innocuous little 8 into 2 mixer measuring 18x16 inches but - and it's a big BUT - closer examination revealed what must surely go down as the most significant technological development of 1986. For the DMP7 is a totally digital, fully automated mixer with built-in effects - and that spells POWER!

Yamaha's publicity brochure for the mixer states "Music and sound production will never be the same" - how true. The fact that the mixer is designated 'DMP7' would (in keeping with past performance) seem to indicate that Yamaha might later introduce further models and follow a similar number hierarchy as the DX7. Interesting. So, on to what you've all been waiting for - a description of what the hell it will do!

Eight unbalanced audio inputs are converted into the digital domain to the same standard as compact disc, ie 16-bit resolution at 44.1 kHz sampling rate. Once the signals have been converted they are available within the mixer to be processed and mixed before being converted back via a couple of D-to-As to a stereo master output. But what you can do with the signals whilst they're inside the DMP7 is the exciting bit.

Each of the eight mixer channels is totally programmable. Everything - input gain, three-band EQ, the three effects sends, pan and channel level - can all be individually programmed for a particular 'mix'. You can store the complete settings as a patch (or 'scene' as Yamaha call it) in one of the 32 internal memories or on the DX style plug-in RAM cartridge. By programming a series of memories with the different 'mixes' you intend to use, you can then flip from one set-up to another in a split second. Here's the fun - when you do this, all the faders are motorised and change automatically in front of your eyes to the new channel level positions. The first time you see this happen you realise the 'robotic' future has finally arrived!

But that's not all. You can programme the pan to any of 17 positions (centre/8 left/8 right) and have it autopan through different spatial positions; you can alter the EQ settings over a defined period of time; and most excitingly, send signals to the onboard multi-effect processors. Yes, the DMP7 has an unbelievable battery of SPX90 type effect units built-in and offering superior audio quality.

On Effect Send 1 and 2, you can select any of the 15 effects which include normal and gated reverbs, delays, flanging, phasing, tremolo etc, and each parameter of the effect can be programmed just like on the SPX90. Effects Send 3 can be fed to yet another 5-effect processor or sent out to the external world for more orthodox signal processing before being returned to the DMP7.

Having decided on your final mix you can also add digital stereo compression to the master outputs as you mix down to your mastertape.

If you want to use balanced microphone inputs, a separate MLA7 mic/line rackmount amplifier module is available. Also, if you feel eight inputs is a limitation, you will be pleased to learn that you can cascade up to four DMP7s together to create a 32 input, all-digital, automated mixing desk!

Now, as if that wasn't enough, Yamaha have also made the DMP7 totally MIDI controlled as well. Each parameter can be controlled via MIDI so that, for example, different 'mixes' can be selected via MIDI Program Change numbers either sent from a keyboard or sequencer. You can record all the DMP7 front panel changes into a MIDI sequencer and overdub different changes on different MIDI channels, then play it all back in-sync with all your keyboards, drum machines and samplers with mixes and effects changing all on cue, and without ever putting a thing down on tape - that's powerful!

Who's going to buy it? People who can afford it is the short answer, because at around £3000 this sort of world-beating technology isn't exactly a street-level product (yet?). But if you're rich and you want the ultimate in hi-tech digital automated mixing and sound processing for your MIDI keyboard set-up, or you are an audio-visual production facility, or a serious audiophile who makes high quality digital recordings of classical music or jazz for CD releases, or if you are just plain interested - watch out for the Yamaha DMP7 in 1987. It is surely only the start.

(Contact Details)


MIDI HARDWARE



JL Cooper Electronics showed their MIDI-Mation series of products which featured MIDI Mute, an eight channel MIDI controllable muting system that can be linked to any mixer. This offers the possibility of switching channels on or off in either live or recording situations via MIDI and is expandable up to 24 channels. Cost around £549.

MegaMix computer-based MIDI mixing system.


SAM (SMPTE Automation Manager) is designed to automate the MIDI Mute. It contains a built-in SMPTE timecode generator for striping tape and reading it back. Up to 11,000 mute points can be stored in memory and triggered at a specified SMPTE timecode number. Data may be downloaded to a SAM Disk or dumped to tape or via MIDI. SAM costs around £849. JL Cooper products are sold in the UK by (Contact Details). All prices are very approximate!

360 Systems, showed their MIDI Patcher and MIDI Merge Plus. The Patcher has been available for some time in the USA and is a 4-in, 8-out MIDI routing system with memory. The front panel utilises an LED matrix to show which input is going to which output and these configurations can be stored in eight non-volatile memories for recall by pressing the desired button or using MIDI program change information. The unit also includes some 'smart features' such as sending All Notes Off commands on patch change and has a MIDI Test button to check the cables of everything connected to the MIDI Patcher. Cost around £295.

The new MIDI Merge Plus, is an intelligent unit that can merge two independent MIDI inputs and filter out various MIDI data such as pitch bend, aftertouch, program change, system exclusive etc.

Kentyn Reynolds author of the new Roland software MESA.


In addition to filtering, MIDI data manipulation in the form of information modifying is also possible. Transpose, allows you to change the key of the incoming performance data by any interval, Bump-up increments the incoming MIDI channel by one and All Notes Off does just that! Patches can be stored internally and selected via MIDI program changes. Cost around £295. (Contact Details). All prices are very approximate!

GENERAL EQUIPMENT



Adams Smith launched a low cost SMPTE timecode sychroniser, the Zeta Three. This incorporates SMPTE to MIDI control supporting MIDI song pointers and is intended for synchronising sequencers and drum machines to tape with SMPTE timecode autolocation. It also includes a video input for extracting frame edge timing data as a reference point and has various sockets on the rear panel, including a serial port for a computer, an RS232 machine control port and 25-pin D connectors for Master and Slave transport signals. Cost around £2,400. (Contact Details)

Korg showed the SDD3300 triple delay, a 2U high unit featuring 3 independent digital delays with full routing, filters and a pair of LFOs, plus MIDI control. (Contact Details)

MIDI-Mation automated mix muting from JL Cooper.


Fostex unveiled the 4010 SMPTE Timecode Generator/Reader for their synchroniser system. It offers all SMPTE formats and will soon provide 'burn in' of timecode numbers on screen, for video applications.

Also from Fostex were two little boxes that aren't brand new, but have had little said about them in the UK. These are the TT-15 Test Tone Oscillator which gives various standard line-up frequencies at three output levels, and the TS-15 Tape Sync Unit, which converts digital clock outputs from drum machines and sequencers into FSK code for recording onto tape. They both cost around £55. (Contact Details)

Tascam showed their new ES-50 Synchroniser/Controller as well as introducing their first-ever 24-track tape machine! (Contact Details)

Jan Hammer talking about how he writes and records the music for 'Miami Vice' on the new Fairlight Series III.


Kurzweil gave a full audio presentation of their keyboard systems which included the new MIDIBOARD, featuring an 88-key weighted action wooden keyboard. This is a master MIDI keyboard for controlling external expanders or synthesizers and costs £1,949.25. (Contact Details)

Sony kept a prototype R-DAT portable multitrack digital tape recorder in a glass case for all to stare at! (The R-DAT format is the new digital cassette system that we haven't told you about yet! Watch these pages next month for technology coming your way in '87.) (Contact Details)


The Hands On Show, Strand Palace Hotel, London


The Hands On Show returned to its more usual hotel format after last year's Turnkey Shop location. As usual, a good variety of seminars were on offer covering such topics as studio acoustics, expanding 8-track with timecode and MIDI sequencers, as well as the popular question and answer sessions. Manufacturers at the show included microphone companies AKG, Beyer, Shure and Sennheiser. Fostex showed their 'black series' tape machines including the new E16 and Model 80 as well as the Seck mixer range. Harman UK displayed their new Tascam Porta Two, some standards in the form of the 246 Portastudio, Porta One and Studio 8, plus the new JBL Control One mini monitors.

Dr Revox (Mike Bernard) checks out another visitor's A77.


Soundtracs showed their new 24 input MIDI PC Series mixer featuring MIDI automation of channel muting without the aid of an external computer, which was ably demonstrated by Peter Banks. Dr Revox (alias Mike Bernard) held the now famous Revox Clinic for ailing A77 and B77 tape machines, Steinberg held a continous demonstration of their Atari Pro-24 sequencer software, while Yamaha showed a small range of signal processing equipment - but nothing new. The Gateway School of Recording and Music Technology not only took part in many of the seminars but also informed the assembled public of their growing range of specialist courses.

Akai also had a presence and demonstrated their S900 sampler to good effect as well as quietly unveiling four small half-rack width effects processors, the EX range (further details on pages 6/7). Tannoy were also there with the latest speakers in their range, the DC100 and DC200.

Soundtracs MIDI mixer demonstrator, Peter Banks.


From Tantek was a very interesting unit called the Master Matrix T41. We understand that this was the first public showing of this prototype unit and that several features will be added to the final production model. The Master Matrix is a rack-mounting automated audio signal patchbay which connects 12 sources to 16 destinations with 199 user programmable memories for patch storage. The large LCD window shows a matrix board where input/output names can be typed in and patching easily assigned. The T42 Expander unit increases the system capacity to a 24x32 matrix for larger studio applications. All patches may be selected manually or via MIDI program change commands. (Contact Details)



Previous Article in this issue

Inside Views: Aphex

Next article in this issue

Akai X7000 Sampling Keyboard


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 - Jan 1987

Show Report by Paul Gilby

Previous article in this issue:

> Inside Views: Aphex

Next article in this issue:

> Akai X7000 Sampling Keyboard...


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