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The Sync-ing Feeling

Article from International Musician & Recording World, March 1985


Or How Roland re-wrote the Star Wars soundtrack


The SBX-80 is probably the most versatile electronic clock in the world: a synchronization device compatible with almost all sequencers, arpeggiators and rhythm machines and using SMPTE time code for working with professional video and multi-track.

The 'Stars Wars' demonstration carried out at Roland UK is typical of what the SBX-80 can do in conjunction with the Roland system. First, a section of the Star Wars video showing an all-action dogfight was selected. A SMPTE code (the world standard professional time code used by audio, video and film engineers) was recorded over the sound track, and a cable was taken from the Audio Out of the standard video machine to the SMPTE-in of the SBX-80. Sound effects were then recorded using the multi-track facility of an MSQ-700; explosions, collisions and gun-fire were simulated using a Roland JP-6 and a TR-707. The Roland team were not so immodest as to attempt to re-write the theme music and synchronize that to the action, although this too would have been technically possible. The end result: a complete new soundtrack with a time code locked in to the Video recorder, the SBX-80 reading the code off the video tape and controlling the MSQ-700 accordingly.

This initial demonstration was just an appetiser for what the SBX-80, at just £900, can do. Setting aside the remark of a passing musician that it would be ideal for re-dubbing the sound effects for his collection of blue movies, it's a near complete solution to sync-ing problems. Any sequencer can be synchronised with just about any other sequencer. (The exceptions are pre-MIDI Fairlights and PPG's, but current Fairlight and PPG models can be synchronised through the MIDI system). Electronic rhythm and sequencing devices can be controlled via the SBX-80 by a human percussionist using the tap button, a microphone or a footswitch trigger. For the first time, an electronic rhythm section can be made to follow the human player rather than the other way round.

For studios, the most important aspect of the new time-code device is its use in multi-tracking. In the past it's been impossible to synchronise rhythm units and sequencers to material recorded without a click-track, and with fast arpeggio passages and sequences human players could not keep up either. With the SBX-80, you can use the Tap button to tap along with the music and thus lay down a time code on one track, converted by the device into a specific tempo. Once this is done, new tracks can be added to the piece in step time or, for example, in real time at half the speed. The Data Tape for the time-code becomes the key to synchronising any additional parts on to a musical piece.

In multi-track recording the SBX-80 will have a dramatic influence on studio techniques, the more so since all indications are that the next generation of recording machines will have motors capable of synchronization with one another. With such machines it will be possible to sync up two out-of-sync pieces, make a 16-track recorder out of two eight track recorders and achieve even greater control over time and tempo — all using the SBX-80. Meanwhile, Roland proudly present a studio 'clock' that's so far ahead of its time producers are only just starting to discover its potential.


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

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International Musician - Mar 1985

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman

Roland Newslink

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Previous article in this issue:

> Roland at Frankfurt

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> Get a PA rise


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