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The Help File

Article from The Mix, June 1995

Your questions answered

Digital diagnostics, techno troubles, glitches in your Gizmos; they're all in a day's work for The Mix medical department. Send your queries to: The Help File, (Contact Details).

Domestic harmonies

QI have been a keen musician for many years, and I also have a healthy interest in computers. I would like to be able to use my PC as a digital recording studio, but don't know really where to start. My PC is a 486sx 25MHz with a CD-ROM drive and Soundblaster Pro. I would like to use a keyboard which would be good enough for someone who plays a piano (my wife), and which also has a good range of sounds for use with a sequencer. Can you recommend something in the range of £800?

The second problem I have is that I am considering using Cubase as a sequencer, but don't know what to do about recording vocals or guitar with it. Do you have any solutions which won't involve me taking out a second mortgage?
Ian Wilson, Bath.

AKeyboards like the Korg M1, Roland JV35, or Yamaha SY35 all have a good selection of sounds, velocity sensitivity, and in the case of the M1, channel after-touch. The SY35 is the cheapest, although you could get any of them for under £800 with a quick scout around the free ads.

Cubase Audio (Harman Audio, (Contact Details)) is a good idea, because as well as having an excellent sequencer, you get eight tracks of digital audio. With this, it's possible to record the vocal and guitar parts, and then move them around just like you would a normal MIDI data block. But there are cheaper alternatives: Musicator version 2.1 (Arbiter Pro MIDI, (Contact Details)) lets you use .WAV samples alongside MIDI data, and Samplitude Pro (Evolution, (Contact Details)) can synchronise MIDI files with eight tracks of direct-to-disk sampling. Even some versions of Cakewalk (Et Cetera, (Contact Details)) allow you to 'drop-in' .WAV samples as events. DM

Back in a GIFfy

QThe Re:Mix CD no. 9 (March) has been something of an enigma, to say the least. First of all, there was no folder for Mac software. This was no great loss for me, but I bet some Mac owners were cross. Next, there appeared to be no MIDI or COM files for the Dream Sequences tutorial, only a load of DX patches which didn't do much for me.

Lastly, there was a mysterious folder in the PC section named piccys, which wasn't listed in the software index. It proved to be a collection of GIF images, but none of them would load; one PD library I sent them to said they must be corrupted. All in all, a most uncoordinated CD-ROM, and not up to the usual standard. Perhaps I was unlucky.
W.M.Coombs, Chertsey, Surrey.

AThere is a Mac section, honestly. Because you're reading the Re:Mix CD on a PC (or Atari) ISO9660 CD-ROM drive, it doesn't recognise the Mac HFS partition. As for these wretched DX patches: these are not MIDI files, but just share the same .MID extension, and are actually files for a shareware editor that didn't make it onto the CD-ROM, for some strange reason. We have copies of it at the office, should you need it.

As for the Dream Sequences .MID and .C0M files, these ended up in a folder in the PC partition called MIDIBOOK. The Analogue Sequencer program for the ST also turned up here too.

Lastly, the GIF images aren't corrupted, they just aren't GIF images. The CD-ROM data is compiled on a Mac, and these computers have a nasty habit of keeping parts of data from files on floppy disks, even after you delete them. Our compiler, who works on a PC, didn't realise this, and thought they were files to go on the CD. DM

101 uses for the Pro Mix

Timecode-taming the ProMix

QI am writing to you for some help. I own a Pro Mix 01 mixer, and I was wondering if there is any means of using the timecode from a BVW75 Sony Betacam SP machine as a reference to memorise the fader, EQ, effects settings and so on, on the mixer.

For example; four audio tracks and SMPTE timecode coming from the BVW75 to be mixed down, once the track has been mixed on the Pro Mix. How can I memorise the settings, so that if I rewind the tape in the BVW75 and play it, the Pro Mix will remix it just as before, using the timecode readings as a reference? I also own a desktop PC (386sx 20MHz): would it be possible to use this to run the Pro Mix?
Simon Woodward, Maidenhead.

AThe simplest way of memorising settings so that your ProMix will run through a mix the same way each time, is to record them into a track on your sequencer, then sync that to the Sony, and voila! Your sequence plays back, controlled by the Sony and the ProMix's faders move up and down, all at the appropriate time. You will need a SMPTE to MIDI converter to translate the Sony's timecode output into MIDI timecode, but from there on it's plain sailing. RB

Thrusting hopeful

QI have been buying THE MIX since July last year, and really enjoy it. But I have a problem. I have been seeing these great reviews of sub-£1,000 mixers, and it has put me in a bit of a dilemma. As I still consider myself to be a beginner in recording, I would greatly appreciate your help. I have about £800 to spend on a mixer, but have no idea which one to buy. After seeing your review on the Samson MPL2242 in the February issue, I am feeling even worse. I have heard that mixers such as the Mackie 1604, Citronic's Ephos desk, and so on, are great value for money. Please could you help me by stating which one of these offers the best value for money, as I am on a tight, bedroom-set-up-type, budget.

Also, I would appreciate your advice on nearfield monitors. I am considering buying a pair of Richard Allan RA8Ms, but seeing the review of the Spirit Absolute 2s in your last issue, I'm now unsure. Please could you give me some clues as to which would be the best of the two, or suggest something in the same price range offering the same quality.

Incidentally, last year in one of your studios, I remember seeing a letter from someone around my age (16), saying that it is almost impossible to find people willing to let them learn and help in their studios. Luckily, I am one of the few people who have managed to find someone, and all I can say to others who haven't yet, is keep on trying, and sooner or later something will come up. Congratulations on the great magazine, keep it up!
C. Taylor.

Mono-only Mackie 1604 hasn't stopped it cornering the sub-£1000 mixer market

AIn answer to your mixing desk query, the Mackie or Samson offer the best value for money in that field. The Samson offers 22 input channels, six of its input channels being stereo, while the Mackie offers only 16 mono channels. Soundwise, the Mackie and the Samson both offer excellent EQ, and it's really a matter of letting your ears decide on sound quality. The Mackie is the market leader, so many people have obviously plumped for their EQ. To my ears, the Samson EQ is comparable to the Mackie's, but it offers those extra input channels for the same price. But it's your money, so pop around to your local retailer, and hassle them into letting you listen to both.

As regards monitors, once again, it's really a matter of letting your ears decide. Some people like to monitor on flat monitors like the ubiquitous Yamaha NS10s, whereas I personally prefer a little more colour, and use Dynaudio monitors for their lovely pumping bass response, something usually missing from most studio monitors.

The two monitors you mention both fall fairly in the middle of these two extremes, the Richard Allens being a little warmer in sound. As Richard Allen offer a free trial period, it might be a good idea to try these out on that basis, and talk your local retailer about trying out the Spirits, to allow you to make a comparison. Monitors are quite a personal thing, and ultimately it is up to you. Go out and listen to as many speakers in your chosen price range as you can, and let your ears be the judge. RB

Welly warmer

QI have a Korg M1 and a Yamaha QY20 drum machine/sequencer. I play both through a Yamaha RA200R combo amplifier (1976 vintage), which outputs 200w of power. Whilst my combo unit has given me exemplary performance for almost twenty years, I now want an amplifier with the following criteria:

  • Stereo
  • Less weight (the RA2000R weighs a hefty 2cwt!)
  • Better bass response. I want a deep, rich, bass sound, to be as close as possible to a bass guitar. Although both of my instruments have good bass sounds, playing them an octave lower (emulating a bass guitar), the sound is weak and feeble. Is this the keyboard, or the amplifier?
  • Clearer drum sounds
  • Retain the same power output, at least. Actually, is 100w per channel on a stereo system the same as 200w from a mono cabinet?
Can you advise on the best amplification system, as the music shops I have visited do not understand the technical aspects of sound reproduction. With many thanks in anticipation.
Dave Bennett, Rugby.

AIt sounds as though you need a mixer in your set-up, before trading up to a stereo amplifier. This would allow you to EQ the drums and M1 sounds separately, accentuating the lows you want for bass sounds, and adding crispness and reverb to your drum sounds.

Playing bass sounds on a keyboard an octave lower will often result in feeble sounding tones, as the sample waveform is played back too slow. An amplifier will not address this problem, and the only way to use these sub-bass tones is to compress them, to bring some welly back into the output.

Bass guitar sounds on a keyboard are usually arranged so that the left hand plays the same frequency range as a bass guitar and, if you feel the need to lower yours, it's possible the output from your combo amplifier is making the bass sound a little peaky, losing its 'bassness' in the process. A small mixer such as the Spirit Folio Lite would provide you with ample EQ to address these sound faults and add some clarity to your mix.

Once you have a mixer, a stereo amplifier becomes even more important, and there are a wealth of keyboard amplifiers out there which would fit the bill. Yes, 200w mono is the same in output terms as 100w per side stereo, and you will need at least that, and preferably 150w per side to compete with the loudness of your old combo. There are a wealth of quality amplifiers out there which would fit the bill, and it's really a matter of letting your wallet guide you to a clutch of appropriate products. RB

Starter's orders

QFirstly can I ask, have you done any articles on a beginner's guide to home studio construction? I have been interested in music for years, but only recently bought all of the equipment for making it. I only have a little knowledge on sampling, sequencing, and so on, and would love to know more about these simple things.

As I suppose like thousands of others like me who are just starting out with 'bedroom music', this would make a good topic, and an interesting read for everyone, from the beginner to the professional. I have been buying THE MIX since September 1994, and think it's excellent. The CD free on every issue with all the reviews, bands, and most of all the samples, is brilliant! Thanks.
Boyd Goulden, Rickmansworth, Herts.

AA series of articles exploring setting up a home studio on various budgets is due to appear soon in the mix. These articles will explore in detail what basic equipment is needed, and what is available in a given price range. I don't have the space here to answer your letter fully, as I'm sure you appreciate. But watch this space. RB

Previous Article in this issue

Cook and chill

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Monitor Mix

Publisher: The Mix - Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

The current copyright owner/s of this content may differ from the originally published copyright notice.
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The Mix - Jun 1995

Donated by: Colin Potter

Coverdisc: Mike Gorman

Previous article in this issue:

> Cook and chill

Next article in this issue:

> Monitor Mix

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