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Siel Software

Article from One Two Testing, August 1985

expand the DK80, plus MIDI data base

POSITIVELY CHURNING it out, they are. That there software — the floppy stuff you feed your computer. That SIEL company — they're one of the worst offenders. Lots of it, there is... three new ones this month. Shouldn't be allowed...

Still, you can only applaud SIEL for following up all their new hardware introductions with complementary software so promptly. The packages we're looking at here are a ROM for the SIEL DK80, a software Graphic Editor for the same synth, and a Data Base synthesiser (or Synthesiser Data Base? Shurely shome mishtake here?) Which can be used with any MIDI SYNTH except Yamaha's DX series. SIEL have other arrangements in mind for Yamaha...

Let's look at the DK80 ROM (£29) first, because it's the easiest and I'm knackered (think it's post-APRS show depression). This little cartridge fits into the expansion port on the DK80 synth, and gives it 100 new sounds. The DK80 itself is pretty good value for money, offering velocity sensitivity, 12 voices and split generation — the facility to play two independent sounds as part of one patch. Only one snag — there's just one filter as on the Korg Poly 800, and so you can come up with re-triggering problems on some sounds, particularly brass and synthesiser swept filter effects.

The new programs neatly avoid these problems as far as possible. The patches are arranged from 50 to 99 in two banks, A and B, selected by a small switch on the ROM cartridge itself; the DK80's 40 resident programs and 10 user programs take up the spaces from 00 to 49. There's some overlap of sounds — the pianos, patches A50, A60 and A70 on the cartridge aren't too different from sounds already resident in the DK80, but the split patches, such as A59 (Bass-Organ) and B79 (Piano-Flute) are very useful.

Full use is made of the DK80's complex envelopes on sounds like Delayed Resonance (perhaps something to do with the morning after an Indian meal — these programmers have to get their ideas from somewhere) and there are some nice descriptive sounds — B80 (China), A98 (Drama) and so on.

On to the software proper with the Data Base synthesiser (£39), which stores and organises patches for almost any MIDI synth. Since MIDI is intended to be universal it attempts to allocate enough codes for every knob and switch you're likely to find on a commercial synth, even coping with the vast complexity of Oberheims, but it must still have been a massive task to make this package compatible with everything from OSCars to Juno 106's. The package gives a couple of options for different SIEL synths at first, then when you want to do any serious program dumping asks you to identify your synth and displays the manufacturer's MIDI ID number for you.

The Data Base can hold 250 programs in sets of 32, with up to 30 different programmable "Family names" such as Brass, Strings, Effects or whatever you may find useful. These "families" could be used for storing all the sounds for a particular album or live set as well.

How you are able to use the families depends on the capabilities of your synth. Some MIDI synths will allow you to dump and replace any single voice — the Data Base allows you to do this simply by typing in the appropriate synth patch number — while others will only work in whole banks or entire memories, in which case the Data Base lets you pass whole families across, specifying which patch number the new programmes should start at. For instance, if you try to dump 32 memories starting at Patch 86 into a Prophet 600, which has 100 memories, the Data Base tells you where to get off in no uncertain terms.

All the expected facilities — renaming files, erasing, dumping to disc, inserting and deleting files — are there, so all you need to begin is a Commodore 64, a SIEL or similar interface (the very cheap RMS mini-interface may work, since there are no clock signals involved), a disk drive, a monitor and a MIDI synth.

If you already have a DK80, the third SIEL package will be of interest to you. In the grand tradition of their Expander Editor, the DK80 Graphic Editor (£54) simulates a whole screen-load of knobs and switches for the (largely knobless) DK80, all on the computer's monitor screen. For those who like a little visual stimulation in their programming this is invaluable, and can speed up the whole process of sound creation.

SIEL's editor packages have very high quality graphics, and the DK80 Editor's screen pictures are very life-like. You can choose to have a shot of the whole "panel", or zoom in on some sections such as the filter and envelope generator for more detail.

In fact there are nine main options — Panel, Load (loading an existing sound from the DK80); Save (sending the sound back); Free (a zero position for sound creation); Play (a short monophonic sequence which allows you to hear your sound changes without having to touch the synth — a bit more to the point on keyboardless expanders than on this package though); Chord (as before but with a short chord sequence); Old Setting (retrieving the original sound loaded); New Setting (allowing you to begin creation of a new sound); and End Of Job (which very thoroughly clears the computer's memory of the SIEL package — and no, you CAN'T get it back again by typing RUN).

You can either use computer keys or a joystick to zoom from one parameter to another and make alterations, and there are some handy graphic displays of the envelope waveshapes, oscillator waveforms, keyboard split point and so on. All these parameters can be changed on the screen, and the new sound can be played on the synth or from the computer's short sequences. Your very own new sound can then be placed in any free memory. Simple, yes?

The good thing about SIEL's packages is that they're equally divided between customers for SIEL's own synths, and other kinds of human beings. Certainly the Data Base is a wonderful idea, particularly if you have several synths and are getting tired of trying to remember all the different tape dump routines and recorder settings. The other packages — well, they bring a new burst of life to the DK80 at least, and should make it even more attractive to potential purchasers who already happen to have a Commodore 64 lying around.

SIEL software: £ see text

CONTACT: SIEL UK, (Contact Details).

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Fair Games

Publisher: One Two Testing - IPC Magazines Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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One Two Testing - Aug 1985

Donated by: Colin Potter

Review by Mark Jenkins

Next article in this issue:

> Fair Games

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