The Shape of Things to Come
Check out some of the forthcoming and recently released new products from the hi-tech and recording fields.
The past few issues of SOS have carried quite a bit of news about forthcoming Yamaha products, and there are lots more to come. However, before we mention them it's worth saying a few words about release dates. In common with many other manufacturers, Yamaha now seem to be moving away from the once yearly product launch to a more even spread of releases throughout the year. This has two major effects on you, the buyer. First, it means there will be no specific time of the year when the music stores are packed with a great number of new instruments all jostling for your money. Second, the spread of products across the year means that you ought to be constantly visiting your local dealer to check out the latest gear, because there will always be new models hitting the market. So, to recap on the Yamaha products mentioned some months ago, the DX11 synth is now available and retails at £679, and the TX16W sampler at £1999.
New Yamaha products include the RX120 preset drum machine. This features 38 sampled percussion instruments (using the same sample rate as the RX5/RX7), 40 preset patterns, each with three variations. You can construct your own songs and store them in the 20 memories. When Yamaha say 'preset', they are talking about a series of pre-defined rhythms and the choice of 40 includes rock and pop, reggae, disco, shuffle, samba, waltz and more.
The three variations on each rhythm offer additional musical possibilities, which may be increased further by the use of fill-ins, intros, an ending and break section. These features all help to produce fast and usable patterns in the shortest possible time. Finally, in addition to playing the patterns, you can add your own cowbell and handclaps manually in real-time over the rhythm. Price £249 inc VAT.
Next comes the PF2000 FM piano. This features an 88-note weighted keyboard and offers a basic selection of 12 different instruments, such as pianos, electric pianos etc, and includes 12 variations of the sounds provided. The PF2000 also has a built-in sequencer for recording your performance or adding a backing track to what you are playing live. Further to this, you can load in DX7II sounds and performance data via the PF2000's cartridge port and use the PF2000 to play DX sounds, though you have no programming controls.
Products from the Pro-Audio side mentioned recently have now all appeared, these include the new NS40M monitors at £678 a pair, the P2040 amp (£299), PC2602 amp (£869) and the MC1602 mixer at £959.
A new product with some interesting applications is the MV422. This is a multi-source mixer suitable for club/disco installations. Housed in a 19" rack, the unit can accept signals from a number of sources and has four mic/line channels with EQ, pan, aux send, monitor and level, plus two further input channels offering level and monitor control of A/V type stereo sources such as a tape deck, CD player, record deck, video or video disc. And, there is a facility which allows you to perform crossfades between sources, plus an automating function which reduces the level of the music for DJ talkovers. The general audio specification quotes a frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz, with crosstalk of —60dB at 1 kHz. Price £629 inc VAT.
Contact Yamaha-Kemble UK, (Contact Details).
After much speculation, Tascam have become the first manufacturer to introduce an 8-track cassette recorder. The Tascam 238 is a 19" rack-mounted unit which provides eight audio tracks by the use of two separate four-track heads arranged at a staggered interval. The tape runs at double the normal cassette speed (ie. 3¾ ips) and its speed can be controlled in three ways: fixed, variable (+/-12%) or externally, for use with synchronisers. In addition to speed control, transport controls can be accessed via the optional remote unit (RC88) or from a computer via the built in serial interface.
The audio performance of the model 238 is stated as being the same as the 4-track Tascam 234. Levels are monitored by 12-segment LED bargraph meters and in keeping with other Tascam products, dbx noise reduction is included. This is switchable on tracks 1 to 4 and 5 to 8, and in addition you may switch the dbx off on track 8 when using the Tascam 238 with SMPTE or MIDI timecode. Price to be announced.
Also from Tascam comes the MTS-30 MIDI Tape Synchroniser. This unit is designed to allow you to synchronise MIDI devices such as drum machines and sequencers to audio tape, so that you can stop and start the tape from any point within a track and have the music drop-in at the nearest MIDI song position pointer. The ability to synchronise to MIDI song pointers was previously only available in SMPTE timecode devices. By selecting the appropriate time signature, the MTS-30 will also display the current measure number on its LED readout. MIDI In/Out sockets deal with the general data and a MIDI Out/Thru socket automatically switches its status depending on the current save/load mode of the MTS-30. This feature helps eliminate the need for constant re-patching of the system MIDI cables. Price £N/A.
Contact Teac UK Ltd, (Contact Details).
At a pre-Frankfurt product launch reception, Akai revealed a number of new instruments. Full details will follow next month, but here's a taster to keep you going...
Probably the most important product to be announced was the new sampler, the S1000, which is due in the shops this August. This big brother of the popular S900 is a 16-bit machine offering stere sampling, and an innovative feature called 'time stretch'. Expected price is £2699.
A new master keyboard, the MX76 (£1299), is a weighted key instrument with four split points. The MWS76 is similar, but features a powerful onboard sequencer identical in function to Akai's ASQ10, and is priced at £2299. The VX600 is a six-voice synthesizer with a 37-note keyboard, six individual audio outputs, and 50 internal sounds expandable to 100 with the IC RAM card. The VX600 is primarily designed for use with the EWI and EVI wind controllers, or MIDI guitar synths, and has a facility to programme 32 chords into memory for triggering by monophonic instruments like the EWI/EVI. Price £1299.
For existing S900 owners comes a hard disk interface, the IB101, for use with Atari or Atari-compatible 20 Mbyte drives. Price £199. The ME35T is a drum-to-MIDI interface which accepts eight inputs and converts acoustic drum sounds into MIDI trigger information. Price £249.
Finally, Akai's new XE8 Drum Module sets off in a new direction. It's an 8-voice machine which uses 16-bit samples of drum sounds loaded off IC card memory. The basic thinking behind this product is that musicians who use sequencers only require drum sounds from a drum machine, and not the programming functions. As any person familiar with this type of set-up will verify, the memory and program functions of a drum machine are redundant when an external sequencer is in use. To this end, Akai's introduction of the XE8 should prove interesting, especially its price - £399 inc VAT.
Contact Akai UK, (Contact Details).
If you are concerned with demagnetising audio tape heads or video heads, you should be interested in two new products from Annis. The Pocket Magnetometer provides a Gauss reading of residual magnetism present in recording heads, drive capstans and tape guides. To remove a magnetic build-up, the Han-D-Mag unit with its angled probe allows you to demagnetise your heads, even if they are difficult to get at, as is the case with many cassette decks. The Pocket Magnetometer and Han-D-Mag are available separately, or in a kit which contains an additional extension probe and a test strip. Price Pocket Magnetometer £25, Han-D-Mag £49, Kit £75.
Contact Music Labs, (Contact Details).
Passport Designs have introduced a MIDI/SMPTE interface for the Macintosh computer called the MIDI Transport. This is a dual purpose unit that can sync to all SMPTE formats, its own FSK code, or to MIDI Time Code, and is fully compatible with the J.L Cooper PPS-1. In addition to acting as a MIDI interface for the Mac, offering 2 MIDI Ins and 5 MIDI Outs, the unit can also be used as a stand-alone SMPTE to MIDI synchroniser. Price N/A.
Passport also announced their latest software program for both the Macintosh and Atari ST - Master Tracks Junior. This entry-level program is fully compatible with Passport's Master Tracks Pro sequencer and provides an easy operating environment for recording songs. It features 64 tracks, tape recorder style transport controls and extensive tools for composing, recording and editing music via its graphic interface. Price £99 inc VAT.
Contact MCMXCIX, (Contact Details).