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The Musical Micro

More Micro For Your Money

Article from International Musician & Recording World, September 1985

We save you money and serve you chips

After a quiet time over the last couple of months, the micro software and hardware scene has picked up a little recently, and instead of waffling about thousand-pound updates for multi-thousand pound computer music systems, we're pleased to be able to describe a couple of new goodies for normal human beings like thee and me.

SIEL are one of the best Commodore supporters in the music industry, and divide their software and hardware releases more or less equally between those intended for their own range of keyboard instruments and those with wider applications. Their latest releases include one package in each of these categories.

The first is labelled 'Data Base Synthesizer', which is (more understandably) a synthesizer data base. The package stores and recalls sounds for almost any synthesizer (except Yamaha's DX series) fitted with the now almost-universal MIDI interface.

Despite the fact that MIDI is intended as a universal standard, it's quite a feat to create a package which can cope with all the wide variety of MIDI synthesizers on the market and run on almost any MIDI interface (SIEL's is £99). The Data Base arranges up to 250 sounds in 'families' of 32, to which you can append any title of your own choosing up to twelve letters long (such as Strings, Brass or Effects) and allows you to transfer sounds to or from your keyboard — individually, in banks or in complete sets, depending on the capability of your synth. Sounds can be renamed, shifted about and generally manipulated at will.

If you have one or more synthesizers from manufacturers such as SIEL, Roland, Korg, Oberheim or Sequential, and have got tired of unreliable and boring tape dump routines, the disc-driven Data Base could be ideal for you. If you have a SIEL DK80, on the other hand, their Graphic Editor (which simulates a whole screen-load of knobs and switches for the largely knobless synth) will help you edit and create new sounds. Cursor or joystick-driven, it has high-quality graphics and can 'zoom in' on several sections of the synth, including the envelope shapers and waveform generators.

The software includes a short sequence and chord pattern to test out your new sounds without actually playing the keyboard, and dumps a finished sound to any spare memory on the DK80 synth. If visuals help you find your way around the latest generation of single-control synths, the Graphic Editor and its like are ideal.

Contact: SIEL UK, (Contact Details).

The Syntron digital drum module for the Commodore 64

The Syntron Percussion Module, at around £64, gives the 64 all the facilities of a £250 digital drum machine such as the Korg DDM110. The Syntron is a small black cartridge which slots into the 64's User Port, and has a jack Audio socket and a phono Trigger Out socket.

The module is in fact just a Digital-Analogue convertor, and the drum sounds (Bass, High and Low Snare options, Open and Closed Hi hat, Tom, Floor Tom and Crash Cymbal) live entirely in software. This comes in the form of a single floppy disc which takes around a minute to load, and which contains the operational software and sounds, and a demo set of drum patterns.

The menu allows you to Program a Rhythm Line, Compose a Rhythm Track, Set Tempo, Load Rhythms and Rhythm Track, or Save Rhythms and Rhythm Track. The Program Rhythm Track option gives you an impressive display up to 38 beats long, and the cursor keys allow you to place any sounds on any beat.

Program Rhythm Line allows you to string together a chain composed from up to 10 rhythms, and the chain can be around 115 32-beat patterns long. It is possible to use more than 10 different rhythms in a chain as long as you call up additional rhythms from disc while programming.

Disc Save and Load is reliable enough, as is the Tempo function which runs from 0 (very slow) to 64 (exceedingly fast). The clock output operates at one pulse per beat, so you could interface to synthesizers and tape clicks but you may need some kind of convertor box.

The track composition page for the Syntron software

There'll bean optional disc of seven new sounds including Clap and Syntom available, although the existing sounds are of superb digital quality and there's almost no background hiss. There's also a Spectrum version of the whole package in the pipeline; marketing isn't settled at the time of writing, so the Syntron may go through dealers or by mail-order, but more information can be obtained from the address below.

Contact: Vince Hill Associates, (Contact Details).

Activision have a new music package for the Commodore 64. It's called The Music Studio, and comes in a smart package with a bleeding great 24-channel mixing desk, two singers and a guitarist on the cover.

Not surprisingly, the reality is a little different. The package just uses the 64's sound chip (sound interface device, or SID to his mates) to create sounds and compose three-voice pieces. There are three main sections; The Sound Engineer is for setting Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release, playing scales, setting octave range, waveform, pulse width, filter frequency and resonance. The Music Editor displays bass and treble clefs in colour and allows you to place notes of any value and length on the screen. You can enter up to four verses of lyrics and print out the music. The Music Paintbox allows you to play, throw away (great graphics of a litter bin) or edit music, replay a demo piece or rearrange music. The Music Studio is available on tape or disc for under £20, and you can get more details from your local dealer, as they say in the States. Have a nice day.

More with this topic

Previous Article in this issue

Phil Harmonics

Next article in this issue

Feelers On The Dealers

Publisher: International Musician & Recording World - Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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International Musician - Sep 1985

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman



Previous article in this issue:

> Phil Harmonics

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> Feelers On The Dealers

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