Is it a bird? is it a plane? No it's a rather nifty little patch package as John Renwick finds out
John Renwick dumps his data with a little help from this "Super" package
One of the problems with having a sophisticated MIDI setup, using several different synths is that you rapidly lose track of your collection of sound patches. Supplied on cartridges, RAM cards, ROM cards, tape, data sheets or disks, it rapidly becomes impossible to find the sound you need without hours of searching.
Separate MIDI patch editing packages are only part of the solution. Yes, they allow you to change sounds more quickly than you can with the synth's own panel controls; but every time you need to use a different synth, you have to dump the program, load a new one, and start all over again. The solution is a generic patch librarian, which doesn't actually edit sounds, but which will archive them - thousands of them, for dozens of different synths.
Super Librarian from Pixel Publishing, distributed in this country by MCM, may be just what you're looking for. You'll find the list of synths and other devices it supports elsewhere in this article; let's just say that if your instruments aren't on the list, you're using some mighty strange equipment...
Super Librarian operates in colour or mono on any ST, and has a joystick-port dongle. It can be backed up to floppy disk or copied to hard disk. There's a patch-passing desk accessory program on the disk; this is unprotected, and can be used with most GEM-based sequencers, allowing you to receive or transmit Super Librarian format files without dumping your sequencer program.
The main screen of the program is divided into seven sections. At the top (just about where you'd expect) is the row of standard GEM pop-up menus. To the left is the device panel. This displays the "folders" in the current set-up. Up to eight folders can be displayed at once, and each can represent a different type of instrument data. You aren't limited to loading and saving entire banks of sounds from your synth; you might want to handle single sounds, or performance memories, or sequences, or some other combination.
Super Librarian comes supplied with all types of data profiles. To select the ones you want, you pull down the Setup menu and select the manufacturer of the equipment you're using from the list which appears in the third section of the screen, the files panel. This brings up another list of data types; the most impressive is for Yamaha equipment. Clicking on the types you want allows you to install them in the device panel until it's full. If you want to change later, you have to delete a data type before you can install a new one.
The fourth section of the main screen, the help panel, shows prompt messages explaining the options you have at each stage. This is useful, since although the manual is pretty clear, it's fairly easy with any type of patch librarian to forget what kind of data you're handling and where it's going.
The fifth section is the control panel, where you select the disk drive in use and enter file names. At the bottom left is the sixth section, the Channelizer, where you can decide whether patch changes in the software are passed through to the synth. The final section is the buffer message box which displays the name of the file in the memory buffer, waiting to be written to disk or transmitted to the synth. So, your first step is to set up a device panel with the instruments you want to deal with, and their appropriate MIDI channels, indicated. You can save setups for re-use at any time, and choose one to serve as a default setup if you wish. You're now ready to transfer patches from your synths.
Simply move the cursor to any folder in the device panel and double-click. A prompt will come up asking "Is instrument ready?" and assuming that it is, clicking on YES in the control panel will initiate the data transfer. Files can then be named and saved to disk with the appropriate file extender. You can load up to 288 files in a folder, and not many of us have more banks of sounds than that for a single synth! Under the File menu you'll find options to rename, delete, or copy files, format disks or read memo notes which can be appended to files.
Now that you have all your sounds stored away in Super Librarian format, you'll want to reorganise them using the Bulk Organiser. The best way to work is to use the right-hand clipboard as a "blank", and fill it with selected patches from the files loaded into the left-hand clipboard, either from disk or using the Synth-Computer icon. Sounds can be copied once or several times, swapped between clipboards, or renamed using different key/mouse click combinations. The contents of your clipboard can then be saved to disk, transmitted to the synth or printed out.
To audition a sound you can use up to ten custom sequences, recorded and activated by the function keys. These short five-second snippets can be stored as part of your default setups, so they're always available for auditioning the appropriate instruments.
That's just about all there is to Super Librarian, unless you want to get into designing your own instrument profiles. The Profile Library Editor uses a "Capture" mode which allows you to peek into an instrument's MIDI system exclusive code, and display the hex and ASCII data transmitted. A special programming language then lets you put together the information needed to generate an instrument profile. I just might have been able to do this with the help of the manual, a full MIDI spec for the instrument, several free days and loads of coffee, but basically if Super Librarian doesn't handle your instrument I'd wait until they update it in due course!
Although it doesn't let you edit sounds, and there are packages coming along soon which will. Super Librarian could well solve all your patch archiving problems at a stroke.
Product: Pixel Publishing Super Librarian
Format: Any Atari ST with colour or mono monitor; Macintosh and Amiga versions forthcoming.
Price: £109.00 inc VAT
Supplier: MCMXCIX, (Contact Details)
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Review by John Renwick