Thru the Window
An AMS quality sampler
The A.M.S. DMX 15-80S has been the digital delay line for some time now. The two main reasons for its popularity being perfect sound quality, and its ability to LOCK sounds into its memory and trigger them from any audio source. A few rivals have materialised recently offering similar facilities at slightly lower prices, but a gap remains for a machine that offers A.M.S. quality sampling, without having to shell out for the DDL functions too.
Surprisingly, a Swiss company called Giant Electronics Ltd. has filled the gap with their 16 bit Window Recorder; there's no DDL functions in sight, but the M.D.B. more than makes up for this with the inclusion of an overdub facility, dynamic MIDI triggering and storage capability.
The sampling time of the unit depends on which version you go for. 6 and 12 second units are available, retailing at £2750 and £3150 respectively. As a comparison, an AMS unit with 6 seconds of sampling would cost approximately £5400.
The "Window" in the MDB is located on the front panel. Physically it is a horizontal line of rectangular green LEDS, buffered at each end by two black pushbuttons with integral red LEDS. The window represents the total sample time (6 or 12 seconds). As a sound is sampled, replayed or edited, one green LED in the window illuminates to represent the current position in the sample memory. So, as the memory is clocked through, the green LEDS appear to travel from left to right rather like disco lights.
The sound enters the MDB via the front panel XLR input socket. An input level switch and a rotary gain control ensures optimum recording level is achieved. Pressing the "record" button causes its integral red LED to flash, and upon receipt of an input signal the window LEDs flash from left to right as the sound is digitised.
Having been safely converted into numbers, the sample can be triggered, forwards or backwards, in any of three different ways.
Like the AMS, any audio input applied to the rear XLR audio input will trigger the sample. The input gain control is used to set the threshold and a visual indication is provided by a small green LED on the front panel. The sample may be clocked out at a different rate by activating the rotary "tune" control situated to the right of the window. The detune range is +/- one octave.
Drum machines and monosynths can get in on the act courtesy of three rear panel jacks. One expects a standard 1V per octave signal, whilst the other two require +5 or -5 volt gates, thus ensuring wide compatibility with older equipment.
The rear panel also boasts a MIDI In socket, providing the third method of sample control. Like the C.V. inputs, the MIDI input allows +/-1 octave of transposition from a music keyboard, but the MIDI control is dynamic which is a very important feature, allowing your touch-sensitive DX to exploit a sample to its fullest extent — a very important feature.
Still on the back panel, two more jack sockets are visible. The first of these delivers a positive going +5 volt pulse at the start of a replay, and its friend outputs a falling edge pulse at the end of a replay. These signals could prove to be lifesavers in nasty situations, since you could, for example, use an audio signal off tape (a snare, a bassdrum) to trigger the unit, and to generate a positive going trigger, connected perhaps to another drum machine or synth.
Hiding next to a heatsink is a parallel computer interface socket whose role in life will be connect to disk drive for storing truly fab samples. It is expected soon at about £200-£400.
Interesting layered sounds can be achieved using the overdub facility (it says here). Overdub routine is identical to that of record, but great care must be taken not to initiate an overdub unintentionally, otherwise sound quality will suffer.
The "window" really comes into its own when editing the start and stop points of a sample. This is achieved by pressing a window select button (one at each end of the window) depending on which end of the sample you wish to edit. Pressing Play repeatedly changes the playback speed of the sample from very, very, very, very, very slow to normal speed, whilst the green window LEDS do their disco bit. This allows extremely tight editing ensuring that none of the vital attack of the sound is lost.
The MDB is a true linear 16 bit system and I could not detect any signal quality loss when sampling from a compact disc. The XLR sockets and overall construction quality of this unit indicates its aimed at the pro end of the market, but its price may well help it to appear in the smaller studios, perhaps even some home studios. The inclusion of dynamic MIDI triggering really makes it a powerful musical instrument, particularly for MIDI sequencing.
Contact: Syco (Contact Details)
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Review by Minty Mann
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