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Sound Designer 2000 Software

Article from Electronics & Music Maker, May 1986

Digidesign's sound-editing software for the Emulator II has now been adapted for the Prophet 2000: Brian Devereux gives it the thumbs-up.

If you read the Prophet 2000 review in E&MM December '85, you may have been distracted by another feature on Digidesign's Sound Designer software for the Emulator II. At the time, it seemed a pity that a similar software package wasn't available for the 2000. A few months later, and Digidesign have adapted the package to work with the Prophet, and have even gone as far as incorporating some facilities that weren't included in the original system. As if that wasn't enough, the Prophet 2000 version (or SD2000) is half the price of the Emulator one.

In the new system, the Mac communicates with the 2000 via MIDI, which means that only a cheap interface is needed to run the software. Not surprisingly, though, communication time is a fair bit higher than it is with the EII's RS242 port.

Just in case you missed Paul Wiffen's original report, I'll briefly recap on the main points of the Digidesign package.

Sound Designer's main raison d'être is providing on-screen editing of samples, with facilities including looping, cut-and-splice, re-drawing and digital mixing. Functions normally accessed via the host instrument's front panel can be selected instead from the Mac, allowing envelopes and filter configurations to be visualised and edited. Fourier Analysis allows the frequency content of the sample to be viewed in the 'mountain range' format first seen on the Fairlight. And in addition to this, digital synthesis using the Karplus-Strong algorithm is possible, offering a range of 'plucked' timbres.

To this already impressive list, SD2000 adds several innovations. The most instantly appreciable of these is the Loop Window. This wraps the end of a sample loop round and places it up against the start point, so that you can match up waveforms and levels for faster glitch-free looping.

For those sounds which are really impossible to loop, Digidesign have expanded the digital mixer section (represented on-screen by the 'food blender' icon) to include a feature called Cross-Fade Looping. This takes the areas around the start and end of a loop and fades them in and out by means of digital addition, which hides the loop point through reshaping the waveform. It won't hide any pitch or timbre glitches if your whole loop is badly positioned: like invisible mending, it only works if the materials match.

SD2000 supports both the sustain and release loops of the host Prophet sampler, though you have to keep a sharp eye on this, as one loop marker can hide another.

The Prophet's front-panel functions can be accessed in a similar manner to those of the EII. In the case of the Prophet, this facility is worth its weight in gold - because however good the sampler may sound, its front panel is a mite tricky to use. By representing Prophet functions graphically on-screen, Sound Designer goes a long way toward overcoming the host machine's inherent programming awkwardness.

Mapping sounds across the keyboard becomes a doddle, as you place original and highest pitches by selecting notes on a representation of the keyboard. And the Prophet's complex arpeggiator section also becomes a cinch to use when all its parameters are laid-out in front of you at the same time.

For owners of the Prophet 2002 module who may not have a MIDI keyboard to hand, the rackmounting unit may be played direct from the software using a pull-down window called - aptly enough - MIDI Keyboard. This also allows a short sequence to be recorded for checking up on how edits affect the playing of a particular phrase.

If you want to check how your latest keyboard map is working out, a function called Pattern runs from bottom to top, playing all the semitones so you know exactly where your sounds are. Saves you having to replug Mac and MIDI keyboard alternately when editing.

All in all, SD2000 takes the Prophet sampler's sound-manipulation facilities, expands them, and makes the whole system a real pleasure to use.

The forthcoming Mirage version should save a lot of tedious mucking about in hexadecimal, while for those who remain put off by the Apple Mac's high UK selling price, Digidesign are hard at work adapting their software to run on the Atari ST.

Price RRP Prophet 2000 version £395 including VAT; Mirage version available shortly

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Casio CZ230S Keyboard

Publisher: Electronics & Music Maker - Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

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Electronics & Music Maker - May 1986

Donated & scanned by: Stewart Lawler

Review by Brian Devereux

Previous article in this issue:

> Mirage Multisampler

Next article in this issue:

> Casio CZ230S Keyboard

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