Yet more MIDI manipulation, as Bob Henrit explores this trigger to MIDI converter
TMI stands for Trigger-to-MIDI Interface and its main purpose in life is to convert dynamic signals received from a non-MIDI equipped electronic drum kit into a language which will be understood by MIDI based drum machines, keyboards, voice expanders, etc. So, as with MTM (another Simmons product) the drummer no longer needs to make do with drum sounds, he can now immediately access actual notes and chords from synthesisers as well as percussion voices from any MIDI drum machine, every time he hits a pad. Of course it's a less sophisticated, therefore cheaper version of MTM which is aimed squarely at the drummer who already has an SDS 5, 7, 8, 800 or even their latest 1000. (I see no reason why it couldn't work with all the other existing non-Simmons EDKs too). Simmons have, I understand, been inundated with calls from guys who have heard vague rumours that they can get more sounds from their 'old' sets. So, in essence TMI is, among other things, the same as the MIDI section of SDS 9.
So, having plugged your pads into TMI and then joined its outputs to the 'brain' of your original electronic drum kit, you're now in a position to play via the MIDI socket sounds contained in other pieces of equipment. You can even mix the sounds together if you wish to bolster your normal drum voices. Now the 'miracle of MIDI' allows you to access all these sounds via patches which are routed to each voice. TMI has a facility for 50 of these which will be remembered by its internal memory. (Patches may be dumped to cassette to save memory, as may sequences of patches). Patches may then be stepped through in series or in a pre-determined sequence via an optional footpedal or a button on the front panel. A patch consists of several different pieces of info: eight MIDI notes, MIDI program change number, MIDI channel, etc etc. It may sound confusing but really it's a question of getting on with it and following Simmons' extremely informative instructions.
The TMI unit is rack-mountable like all the latest Simmons equipment and its front panel has two sections containing all the necessary controls. On the left are eight 'pots' which control sensitivity. Each has an LED below to tell you when it's being triggered. The pots have a dual function since they also indicate a particular channel when you're setting up a patch. Next to these is the MIDI indicator which lights when you are altering MIDI programs together with a pair of displays which show exactly what is occurring. There are also more LEDs for MIDI note and channel programming.
Next we have a cluster of five buttons: one to increase/decrease data, one to enter program mode, one for channel select, another for dumping to and loading from tape, and yet another to tell TMI what to display. (Incidentally if you press Channel and Display simultaneously you will set the unit up to accommodate Simmons stereo pads. A microprocessor inside the unit eliminates cross-talk from rim sound to pad sound. It compares the signals and makes up its mind which voice to fire up.)
The only other things on the front are a bunch of LEDs to tell us which mode we're in and whether our manoeuvres to and from tape have been successful. (Loading takes a couple of minutes.)
TMI's back is relatively uncluttered. Aside from eight jack inputs from your pads or triggers and five outputs to your EDK (Electronic Drum Kit) we have a footswitch jack for patch change and three DIN sockets: MIDI out, Cassette and one called mysteriously 'Suitcase kit'. (One can only presume that Simmons are about to resurrect that old SDS 5 set of mini pads which were all housed in a briefcase. Crosstalk between the pads should no longer be a problem due to the aforementioned microprocessor). In the very centre of the front panel is another DIN socket for MIDI out. Simmons have their own expander SDE, which produces digitally controlled sounds. When used in conjunction with TMI it will give up to six different sounds per patch.
TMI works in four MIDI modes which initially sound complicated but I'm sure won't be once you get your hands on the unit.
As I said, in its simplest form TMI will allow you to play dynamically (via pads) all the sounds from your MIDI equipped drum machine which in itself is a giant step forward. However, once you get to grips with its other features it becomes a whole lot more!
Simmons TMI - RRP: £249.99
Review by Bob Henrit
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