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Sounds, samples, & software upgrades for the modern studio

Article from The Mix, May 1995

New software, updates, sounds, and samples


Surf's up



Snatcher is for people who want to surf the Net without getting their feet wet. It aims to give Mac users the familiar, friendly interface they know and love, and to spare them the etiquette which is de rigeur on the Net if you want to get your navigator's license.

The program makes great use of AppleScript, to automatically connect to many popular FTP sites. Some already seem to be out of service, although this is common on the Net, and you are warned that this may be so.

The directories and files appear on the desktop as icons inside windows, just like the Mac's Finder. You navigate you way around the system in usual Mac fashion, by opening folders and viewing the contents using the Finder's usual View facility. Command-Click on title bar, to see the parent folders. You download a file simply by dragging it to your desktop or hard drive. Conversely, you upload a file by dragging it to an open Snatcher window.

Snatcher has a list of suffixes (such as GIF, FAQ, PICT, TXT and so on). You can configure it to use a particular type of transfer method (such as ASCII or Binary), or to respond to a suffix, by associating it with a particular application. Then, the application will open when you double-click on the file).

The manual tries a little too hard to keep things simple. It tells you what Mac users know anyway — how to change the View and Sort Order of the files, and navigate your way around the folders. What it doesn't explain is the hard bits, such as how to actually get connected to the Net in the first place (you are referred to your system administrator). Perhaps that's reasonable, but if you've managed to set up Config PPP and log onto a server, the chances are you will have sussed how to use Fetch, one of the Web browsers, or any of the other 17-dozen Net programs.

Nor does it tell you how to write scripts, so you can log onto various servers automatically. Perhaps the manual thinks that's a bit more than Snatcher users will want to do.

You can't double click on a file to download it, or to read it if it's a text file. You have to copy it to your hard drive first. There are no search facilities, so there's no easy way to check if a site has a particular file you're looking for. You have to physically open all likely-looking folders. You can get Info on a file or folder, but the folder info doesn't tell you if it contains any other folders or files. It does give you the URL (Uniform Resource Locator), which is the full pathname to that particular file and server on the Net.

If you're already Net-wise, it's doubtful if Snatcher will have anything to offer you. If you're not, you could find it a very useful way of navigating the Net, especially if you can't be bothered faffing about with other Net programs. However, you do need to have a Net connection such as Config PPP already set up. Ultimately, however, it lacks a few features to make it a longterm prospect for serious surfing.

Snatcher is £39.99 plus VAT. More from: Computers Unlimited (Contact Details).



Who gives a TOS



Charming as it is, Windows just isn't as wonderful as GEM; the only advantage it has, apart from being able to play daft samples on starting and quitting, is that it multi-tasks. As the ST's processor is quite capable of multitasking, Atari decided to try it, and contrived MultiTOS, but this turned out to be a bit on the clumsy side.

Using high speed CPU-switching, MultiTOS was able to achieve multi-tasking, taking advantage of the 68030 chip's memory protection routines to ensure that programs didn't interfere with each other. This means when a program crashes, the system doesn't lock up. It is a very efficient system (in theory at least), but as all the chips before the 68030 (used by the Falcon and TT), don't have memory protection, running MultiTOS on the ST is a bit like buying a lottery ticket, with an equally disappointing outcome.

Fortunately, there is an awful lot of third party interest in the Atari at the moment, and there are currently two other commercial multi-tasking systems to choose from: MagiC and Geneva.

Geneva and NeoDesk


Whilst it is possible to use Geneva on its own, you do lose the ability to perform all the usual desktop tasks, like copying files and such like. To get around the lack of desktop, you can opt to run Geneva after the normal Atari desktop is loaded, rather than have it autoboot, and then quit out of the program when the need arises to copy, delete or move files. More usefully, there is the option of automatically running a shell program on start up, like NeoDesk, or even one of the PD/shareware desktops like Teradesk.

Geneva uses a system known as co-operative multi-tasking (the same as is used on the Macintosh system software, and with Windows on the PC). This is when each application has equal access to the computer's CPU chip, and then assigned priority according to whichever is most active.

Under Geneva, each program can be given a set of user-definable flags, ensuring that even the most reluctant programs work properly. With the Task Manager accessory, it is possible to allocate certain amounts of memory to programs; most ST applications will otherwise happily munch up all available RAM (having being written for single tasking), and so have to be restricted to a chunk that the system can afford.

Other flag parameters include limiting window handles to the usual seven offered by GEM (rather than the 256 offered by Geneva), an option to clear allocated memory, maximize window areas (useful if you have a graphics card with high resolutions), and various other parameters concerned with special Geneva functions, like keyboard shortcuts and new button graphics.

Sometimes, whatever flag set up you have, programs just refuse to work sensibly (if at all), in multitasking mode. For example, all of the Steinberg software that uses that fiddly little bugger, the MROS system, will die if you ask it to run in a multi-tasking environment. In these cases, you can tell Geneva to run these programs in single-tasking mode, sending all the other applications, save the accessories, to sleep. This doesn't mean it starts rambling endlessly on about its summer holiday in Gibraltar, and showing the accompanying slides; it just switches temporarily to single-tasking mode, diverting all available RAM to the unfriendly application (from programs that aren't in use). It then returns to multi-tasking mode, and puts everything back where it found it.

Switching between applications is done in exactly the same way as on the PC or Mac; by either clicking on the window pertaining to that program, or by cycling through the programs with the key combination [Alternate] and [Tab] (much like the Amiga's switching system). Without a large screen, or a virtual screen driver like MonSTer, things do tend to become a little cluttered, once two or three windows are opened. Fortunately, non-GEM windows (like Write On, and Replay 16's function bar) always temporarily close when switching programs, and proper GEM windows can be resized.

In short, NeoDesk is the best shell to run with Geneva, as they are ideally compatible. Not once during the entire review period did they fail to get along. Like Geneva, NeoDesk has an on-line Hypertext help facility should you get stuck, as well as all the usual desktop facilities, plus a few bonuses. For example, NeoDesk has an excellent search file, with the ability to look for a file with one of six user-definable templates, or show all files created on certain dates, times, sizes, as well as other attributes.

Various options are also available for configuring the working environment. You can set up a new desktop pattern, or even replace it with a picture (IMG, Degas (PC? and PI?), NEOchrome, BMP, and TNY formats supported), which you can have span the whole screen, or tile like the wallpaper on Windows. Icons too can be edited, although you cannot have more than one type of floppy disk, hard disk or rubbish bin icon.

Copying files and formatting can be made to perform in the background while you carry on with other things. In truth what it actually does, is pause the operation until such time as the computer is free again. The NeoDesk package also includes various utilities: a printer queue accessory for dumping ASCII text to the printer. With this, you can just drag a document to the printer icon, and then forget about it, safe in the knowledge that shortly a piece of paper will protrude from the device with the document printed. There is also a recoverable rubbish bin, but for this you do need a hard disk, to which files may be temporarily written.

This is fortunate, as the Trash CPX I was using prior to using NeoDesk completely messes up the entire system. You also get a replacement control panel, which is quite pleasant, if not completely useful. Geneva and NeoDesk also both come with a replacement file selector that works with multiple load, sort and filter parameters, and displays file and disk information.

MagiC and Ease


Unlike Geneva, MagiC does come complete with a replacement desktop: MagX Desk. Whilst it does suffice, MagiC only really works well when used with Ease (or better yet, with Ease and Kobold — a very fast file management system). MagX has all the functionality of TOS 2.x, which means that you can move files, launch programs from desktop icons or by dropping files on to them, as well as a configurable window view.

The bundle also includes a set of useful accessories (including Atari's clock application for MultiTOS), TTP programs, and CPX files. The CPX files for the Atari XControl panel are for configuring MagiC's working environment. The first CPX contains general options, like having pull-down menus, and switching on or off TOS mode (slower but more compatible with software); the second controls the time-slicing, or how much processor time you allow background applications to have.

MagiC uses a completely re-written (100% machine code) version of TOS (so you'll find that your machine is now running TOS 2.0!), and uses a system of pre-emptive multitasking. This method controls the amount of access of the CPU by programs, but at the same time allows calculations like sample editing and raytracing to be undertaken, while you carry out other tasks.

It manages this, even when the mouse is removed, by a built-in memory manager (accessed with [Alternate] [Control] [Escape] key combination). It works most of the time; certainly, MagiC will happily render a fractal, unzip files and still let you have the processor for file management, or word processing, even MIDI applications. Other ways of switching between applications are by clicking on the applicable window, or by choosing it in the MagiC pull-down menu.

This menu behaves much like the Mac's System 7 software, allowing you to hide certain programs. Here, you can also see the amount of available RAM, and also force a screen redraw in case some programs have left a mess behind them.

MagiC has its own method of dealing with avaricious, RAM-raiding programs, and that is a firm talking to with an application called LIMITMEM.TTP. It's a TOS CLI program that requires an input string to work. For example, to limit the amount of RAM that say, 525E.PRG uses to 1Mb, you would type: D:\REPLAY 16\525\525E.PRG 1024, specifying the exact file path followed by the amount in kilobytes you wish to allocate to that file. Running this application should write a piece of code into the MAGX.CNF (or Ease desktop file if you're running it) file, but it is also possible to do it manually if it doesn't work.

For the most part this works fine, with the possible exception of Replay 'Biffa Bacon' 16, which ignores LIMITMEM.TTP, and still swipes all the RAM it can. What a bully. Still, if you execute Replay 16 last, it is possible to have Breakthru 2 up and running alongside it, which is incredibly useful.

Applications that aren't 'multi-tasking-friendly', can be configured to run in single-tasking mode, but only if the replacement desktop Ease is running too. Neither Cubase nor Avalon work with MagiC, which is a shame, because in re-writing TOS, it has optimised the MIDI routines, making them faster and more reliable. However, dropping into single-tasking mode (with the aid of the application parameters in Ease) does allow Hyperpaint and Calamus v1.09 to run error-free.

MagiC is quite susceptible to spurting out a line of cherry bombs at the most inopportune moments with some software; the error messages are equally unfriendly and esoteric. Still, it too does its utmost to restore the system, but if it fails, it asks if you want to save the system to disk, which you can then piece back together after rebooting. By contrast, when used with Ease, it does seem a little less volatile, and is also more polite in its error messages, returning them in a GEM window, rather than all over the screen.

Ease, like NeoDesk, can use GDOS and SpeedoGDOS fonts for replacing desktop and window text. But Ease can have more than one font displayed at a time; indeed, each window can have a different typeface if that's how you like it. The background can be replaced by one of a preset palette of patterns, or with a *.IMG-type picture file. Depending on the resolution, this can be anything from 2 to 256 colours. Ease's icon designer is much the same as NeoDesk's, but with two fundamental exceptions: Firstly, up to eight masks can be assigned to one icon, instead of just one (so you can set just one sample icon to *.IFF, *.WAV, LAVR, *.SPL, and *.SND files), secondly, more than one type of disk, rubbish bin and printer icon can be used. Other noteworthy additions to the desktop include using the right mouse button as a double-click, automatic resizing of windows, and also the ability to iconize windows when not in use. MagiC isn't yet compatible with the Falcon, but Ease is.

Comparisons


Rewriting TOS makes MagiC the faster of the two operating systems by a long chalk. The memory management system it employs, means that it's that much better at intercepting programs which remove user access when working (like raytracing and sample editing), and switching applications too. However, Geneva is far more compatible: Its flag-labelling options are far more comprehensive than MagiC's configuration accessory, and guarantee almost all applications will work, if not in multi-tasking, then in single-tasking mode. Both systems run TOS programs in GEM windows (which MagiC handles that much better than Geneva), allowing you to continue multi-tasking, and both work far better when used with their respective desktops.

Obviously, the more RAM and processor speed your Atari has, the better the multi-tasking system you can have. But even with the most basic ST, either program will make your Atari so much easier to use.

Where can I get it?

System Solutions: £49.95 Ease, £59.95 MagiC, MultiTOS £49.95 (plus a nominal carriage charge). Special package deals include Magic, Ease, Kobold and NVDI v2.5 for £149, or with v3 of NVDI for £169: (Contact Details).

Compo Software: £59 NeoDesk v4, ££9 Geneva (inclusive of postage): (Contact Details).

Teradesk or Gemini (shareware replacement desktops) are available from any public domain library (see PD suppliers list), or via one of the Atari FTP sites:
ftp.demon.co.uk
/atarisrc.doc.ic.ac.uk/packages/atari/umich/


What’s required of your ST

memory ST(e) TT Falcon Desktop Hard disk
MagiC 2Mb MagX Desk recommended
Geneva 1Mb recommended
MultiTOS 4Mb GEM recommended




Compatibility with music software

MagiC Geneva
Cubase (Audio) ✓ (in single-tasking mode)
Avalon ✓ (in single-tasking mode)
Replay 16 ✓ (but cannot task switch during operations)
Clarity ✓ (same as Replay 16)
Notator Logic (Audio)
Breakthru v2
Stormtracker




Four weddings and a frame editor



Intel inside, eh? Well here's another piece of hardware wearing the badge — the i750 to be exact. What the Intel Smart Video Recorder Pro is about is digital video, compression, quarts into pint pots and that sort of thing.

As you probably know, digital video uses a vastly greater amount of hard disk space than digital audio. In order to save space, most digital video systems use some form of compression. There are lots of compression routines, but one of the most popular is Intel's Indeo which, you've guessed it, uses the i750 chip.

Also, if the files are uncompressed, the computer has to read large amounts of data, and display them in real-time. Compression reduces the demands on the hard disk, although it means the software drivers have to work a little harder. On playback, software drivers enable you to play the video on a system without the card, via the Media Player.

Smart card


Let's get back to the Intel Smart Video Recorder Pro, or ISVRP for short. It comes on a half-size 16-bit card, which is easily fitted. It needs an IRQ and Port Address, which are set from software. The manual basically suggests a trial and error approach until the system doesn't hang, or runs at a suitable speed (byte it and believe it!). However, there is a configuration program which helps set these up, and tests the system to see if all is well. To my surprise — all eight slots in my PC now being full — setting up was pretty easy.

The card has composite video and S-VHS inputs. If you want to record audio, you'll need a separate sound card. The trusty SoundBlaster 16 continues to do a sterling job.

The pack includes Asymetrix Digital Video Producer software and a CD of DigiClips. There are two parts to DVP, one for capturing video, and one for editing it.

Working flat out, the card can theoretically capture a 320 X 240 image at 30 fps (frames per second). In reality, the ability to do this is governed by your PC's performance. For most Video for Windows movies, a frame rate of 15fps will be adequate, and the smallest image size of 160 x 120 will suffice for most purposes.

Using Indeo compression with the quality set to 100%, my system (a rather old but still trusty 486 66MHz machine) was able to capture 320 x 240 video at 15fps, with virtually no dropped frames. Whacking this up to 25fps resulted in dropped frames of less than ten per cent. At 30fps this went up to almost 24 per cent. Oddly, reducing the quality of the video had a negligible effect on the dropped frame rate. Capturing data raw, without any compression, was only viable at 240 x 120 (14 per cent dropped frames) and 160 x 120 (no dropped frames).

There are several capture options to experiment with, and experiment with them you will have to do, in order to find the best settings for your equipment. You'll also have to consider the system the video will be playing back on. If the movie will eventually be played from a single speed CD-ROM drive, set the Video Data Rate to around 135Kb/sec. For a dual speed drive you can increase this to around 240. These settings will determine the amount of data you can capture, so that it will look right when played on the relevant system.

Until we all have video compression cards and P6 chips, we have to perform these tradeoffs to get the best quality video into the smallest amount of space. The benefit of capturing raw data is that it suffers no degradation through compression. In the DVP edit program, you can compress raw data after capture. This enables you to work with original quality images, compressing only when the video is complete.

Edit it


The DVP editing software works on traditional video edit lines. You import media files which can be video, audio or bitmap files, into the Media Window. You then drag them into either of the two Player windows (two — very handy!), and, if they are movies, play them. You can mark In and Out points manually or on the fly, and then drag the segment into the Timeline. This has two video and two audio tracks, plus a Transition and an Overlay track.

Once a clip is in the Timeline you can move it, add titles and filters to it, and apply various special effects. Transitions are used to move from a clip on one track to a clip on another. There are only 14 — wipes, slides, fades and dissolves — nothing particularly spectacular, but unless you are creating a pop video, they will do fine for weddings and funerals.

There are only a dozen filters, and these are applied to individual clips. They include fades, black and white, ripples, colour balance, tiled effects, blur and sharpen. Again, nothing out of the ordinary, but good workaday stuff.

Preview mode lets you see the result of your edits. However, it takes you through the video a frame at a time, the speed depending on how much processing the effects require. It's excruciatingly slow, and you don't hear the audio. The only way to see what it looks like when played, is to build a video. It's the same process you use when the movie is finished, and you want to save the final file to disk. This takes an absolute age too, but at least you can see what the finished result will be like. You can save the movie in a variety of formats, including Video for Windows (but not QuickTime).

The Titling function enables you to add basic text titles to the video, selecting colour, font size and movement. Again, nothing out of the ordinary here. The DigiClips CD will be of most use to people putting together business presentations, but there are some oddball clips, and some nature shots which you may be able to slip into a music video.

More trees


The DVP software is adequate, but not spectacular. I'm afraid I've been somewhat spoiled by Adobe Premier. But I shouldn't turn my nose up at DVP — it's a good introduction to video editing. You can do lots of things with it, and you can upgrade to a more sophisticated package later, if you feel the need.

Main niggle, however, is the lack of a manual. There is excellent on-line help, but you're forever back and forth with it. It's really no substitute for a few pulped trees. The manual which comes with the card is helpful and an easy read, and should get you up and running pretty quickly.

Secondary niggle is the RRP, which is a few dollars more than you might expect. The price of video capture cards continues to fall, and the specs are getting better. Still, shop around and see what deals are available.

The ISVRP card performed brilliantly, both with DVP and Premier. The only thing it can't do is save the result of your edits back out to video.

But for high quality Video for Windows movies, it's excellent. Now that desktop video has become affordable, you can make videos of your band, put images to your music, and generally have as much fun with visuals as you have with sound.

Price: Intel Smart Video Recorder Pro, £449.95 inc VAT.

More from: Intel Corporation (UK) Ltd., (Contact Details).



Consenting sequencers



The problem with a lot of (but by no means all) budget sequencers, is that they're often about as approachable as potential in-laws. But while there are ways of getting around pre-nuptial problems (boxes of chocolates, for instance), some programs just can't be persuaded to be nice. Sweet 16, however, is an exception to the rule. It's been available for the Atari range of computers (yes, TT and Falcon too...) for just over a year; now it's the turn of the PC.

Because Sweet 16 is a pattern-based sequencer, you're dealing with chunks of data, rather than a constant stream. And whilst an eight bar pattern is fine for a chord sequence, playing a percussion part for that length is a nightmare. Fortunately, you can use a loop function on the offending part. This takes a section from the beginning of the whole pattern's measure to a definable number of beats afterwards (a value of 4 = 1 bar, for example), and then repeats it until the pattern is finished. Each track has a number of columns for inputting various parameters, including mute, solo, MIDI output activity indicator, and track name. Quantise can be switched on or off for each part, with a selection of note values which are used in conjunction with the quantise options.

Recording a track is straightforward enough: first, you select the appropriate track, and then set the left and right locators. Sweet 16 has two types of record mode, each of which have separate buttons to activate. Pressing the [/] key puts the program into replace mode, whilst [*] allows you to overdub existing parts. Playing in a drum part can be achieved by setting the cycle mode to On. With the quantise function active on the track, it automatically adjusts the recording after each loop. A one bar count-in is automatic, but you can opt to switch the metronome on or off. The best thing about the count-in is, rather than clicking for four beats, and then starting at the measure you want to record at, it plays the bar before. The cycle mode is quite superb. Not only does it produce no noticeable MIDI glitches, but both locators are adjustable in real-time. This allows you to loop certain sections, and then return to another part of the song and loop that; all without stopping. Other functions in Sweet 16 include an Event editor and Key edit page, and the ability to create both tempo and time signature tracks.

You may find sixteen channels a bit limiting after a while, but Sweet 16 is prepared for your expansion, and has the ability to both mix down tracks on to a single track, or to remix composite tracks into separate ones (useful for MIDI file type 0). The PC version also supports two MIDI interfaces, giving you 32 MIDI channels to work with. File options include export and import of standard MIDI files, its own proprietary *.SNG format, as well as the option of loading and saving individual patterns or tracks. This gets around the limitation of only being able to load one song into RAM at a time.

Sweet 16 is an absolute breeze, once you get the idea of how it works (which doesn't take long). It isn't cluttered with functions like Logic or Cubase, but there are enough for it to be very useful. These factors, combined with the modest asking price of £49.95 (for the fully working up-to-date version with printed manual), make Sweet 16 the easiest way of getting into sequencing.

Available from: Hands On MIDI, (Contact Details).



A new 'face



Gone are the days when adding a MIDI interface to the PC meant burying your head in an R.A. Penfold book and probably botching the motherboard in the process. The introduction of the MPU-401 must have brought a big smile to all those music enthusiasts. Now, amongst the several hundred (gross hyperbole) interfaces, the original functions provided by the MPU-401 seem plain by comparison. Thus, Roland have engineered a cunning plan, and re-developed the MPU-401, bringing it up-to-date, with the features expected of today's interfaces.

The new version (MPU-401 AT) has, amongst the more usual MIDI connections (one input and output), a standard-type daughter board socket. With this, you can add on any daughterboard, like the GM/GS-compatible Roland SCB-7, SCB55, or the Wave System board (reviewed last month), effectively transforming the MIDI interface into a complete sound card. The MPU-401 AT even has two RCA audio connections, for outputting the sound from the daughter board, plus a mini-jack headphone socket for more intimate audio. And reasonably priced, it still represents a cost effective way to start your MIDI fiddling.

More from: Roland, (Contact Details).



PD Library Updates



PD soft have recently updated their Amiga PD library, and are also now equipped to take Switch and credit card orders. The new disks include some 50 sample disks, with a diverse range of 8-bit IFF files, (ideal for use in tracker programs), plus a number of interesting-sounding sample editors and utilities. Full catalogues are available for £1, while each disk costs £2 (with incentives for bulk purchases). Give them a call, and get yourself some samples. PD Soft also have a range CD-ROMs for the Amiga, and shareware/PD for PCs.

More from: PD Soft, (Contact Details)



Your flexible friends




My amplifier often only has one use: keeping my feet warm. Powered speakers are so much more convenient than lugging a huge box around, with all the attendant cabling. They provide the desktop musician with an immediately accessible set up, and the quality has improved drastically since the days when it was akin to sitting next to somebody's cheap Walkman on the tube. The new YST-M5 mini-monitors are Yamaha's latest bouncing baby in their range of Active Servo Technology products.

Their durable plastic cases are ideal for travelling. The front panel is tastefully sculpted, with a grille over the full-range speaker cone, and a chasm-like bass reflex tube above the main controls, which comprise volume, power (on/off switch), and, 'presence.'

The sound is fairly crisp, helped along by the presence control, for accentuating or cutting the signal by 7dB at 10KHz. The speakers do tend to write, 'Yamaha', all over the sound, but there's nothing wrong with that. They aren't meant for studio monitoring, or anything.

The actual frequency response ranges from 90Hz to 20Khz, but you'd be hard pressed (or just downright mean) to notice any fault with the bass reproduction. But if you are one of those folk who like their bass sound to make the disks rumble off the desk, then here is the option of adding a subwoofer. The optional YST-MSW10 fills the bass frequency hole left by the 'M5s with a range of 35Hz to 250KHz, offering 25 Watts of additional power (and is equally compact at just under 30cm2 in size).

The sub-woofer is connected via the output on the back panel of the YST-M5's right speaker. But this stereo jack socket isn't just limited to this option; applying a little ingenuity, you can invent all manner of other uses for it. A mic or guitar pre-amp, a very simple signal processor (using the EQ and gain control), or used as a through-connection to an amplifier.

All the other connections on the back panel are of the stereo minijack variety, with the exception of the socket for wiring up the left speaker, which is mono. There are two independent stereo inputs, giving you the additional functionality of a simple mixer; especially useful for use with sound cards and external CD-ROM drives (or an extra sound module).

Because they are so compact and complete, their uses are enormously diverse. They can sit unobtrusively beside any computer monitor, and emit epic amounts of arcade noises, or make a convenient way of plugging in a CD or cassette player. The YST-M5s serve equally well as personal on-stage monitors for keyboard players.

While the YST-M10s (reviewed last November) offer a marginally better frequency range, and 4 watts more power, the YST-M5s have more connection possibilities, making them that much more flexible.

They're also some twenty pounds cheaper, costing £49.95 per pair, with the optional YST-MSW10 sub-woofer at £116.00. The choice is yours; but if it's too hard to decide between them, buy both, connect them together in series, and have twice the fun.

More from: Yamaha, (Contact Details).



Jumping Jupiters



New from Sounds OK are two sets of sounds for the K2000 and the JD800, created by Simon Rae. The JD800 sound card, aptly titled, 'Pure Synthesis', is firmly entrenched in the analogue domain, with the timbres of Moog, Jupiters and Oberheims all a source of inspiration. There are also vector and wave-sequencing sounds, but with the emphasis on usability, rather than just sounding good. By comparison, 'Acoustica', is a broad-based selection of acoustic and synthesised timbres, and features sounds specially programmed to take advantage of the K2000's expression controls. No RAM is needed for these sounds, as the key map edits are stored within the program data.

Acoustica for the K2000 costs £29 for a disk, while the Pure Synthesis sounds for the JD800/990 come on either ROM or RAM cards, for £55 and £65 respectively.

More from: Sounds OK, (Contact Details).

On the RE:MIX CD

For the PC, there's two versions of the Sweet 16, TripleDAT!; a direct-to-disk recording program for Windows (needs 6Mb to run), and the new Music Domain PD catalogue in ASCII format. We've also included PKUNZIP.EXE to decompress the Massive Attack screen saver (needs an SVGA monitor).

For the Mac, there's a demo version of the versatile MIDIQuest synthesiser editor. Double-click on the MIDIQuest icon to either load, or self-extract the file. There's also some IFF samples to try out.

Atari owners get their own batch of AVR samples. There's also two versions of Sweet 16. A CLI sample convertor called SOX (yes, it's unfortunate, but it is the same as Sam Fox's band...), ST ZIP and Paula (a versatile MOD player) are also included. The STESND.ACC is for Falcons only. It's a useful accessory for switching the Falcon's DSP chip to emulate the STe's sound chip, allowing compatibility with older programs. Finally, there's the ST version of the Music Domain catalogue.

More information on TripleDAT! from: Koch Media, (Contact Details). Music Domain, a PD music library for PCs and STs, can be contacted at: Music Domain, (Contact Details). MIDIQuest is available from: Arbiter Pro MIDI, (Contact Details).





Twiddly Bits



Contrary to what people might say about drummers, you could never really replace them. For starters, which member of the band would be subjected to all the ridicule, or be expected to behave badly at the pub on Friday nights?

Seriously though, nothing can beat a bit of live programming in a MIDI sequence, to eliminate some of the sterility that quantisation can cause. Keyfax have a solution for those who have problems negotiating a pair of chop sticks (let alone drum sticks): 'Drum and Percussion', Volume Four in the Twiddly Bits series.

It's a definitive collection of rhythms, fills and grooves, saved in SMF format (on an MS-DOS formatted disk), enabling you to use them with any software, and some hardware, sequencers. The kits follow the GM map, and some patterns actually contain a program change for specific drums kits, like brush, electronic, and power kits.

There are a few 16 beat MIDI files, each of which contain a number of variations, all laid out on different tracks. These include basic grooves, some laden with congas, and a fine set of fills of various complexity (from straightforward tom fills to manic Animal-from-The-Muppet-Show-style fills that use all the drums at once), for every occasion.

The disk contains an equally fulfilling 8 beat section, with just as many derivations, making it dead simple to create a truly vibrant and organic percussion track for your sequence.

For the more adventurous, other time signatures are included: 7/8, 5/4 and 6/8. Less popularly-used genres like country, shuffle, and brush jazz patterns are also featured. The latter are amongst my favourite on the disk; delightfully laid-back, all performed with an element of swing, with the exception of a more abrasive funky pattern, which is equally excellent.

Although you can freely chop elements from any of the files, Twiddly Bits has some individual percussive performances of hi-hats, congas (the 'trills' section is right out of Mission Impossible), tambourines, claves, and cowbell. These, when woven into a programmed drum part with quantisation, can add oodles of character.

All the MIDI files were recorded using a number of controllers, from the Roland Octapad to the KAT drum kit, performed by some very reputable percussionists: Gavin Harrison (of Level 42 and Incognito), and Dave Spiers (Deborah Harry, Shakespear's Sister) amongst others.

There are more than fifty MIDI files on disk, and within these, at least ten different permutations, making Twiddly Beats a most comprehensive collection of rhythms. The price of these drum twiddlings is a mere £19.95 (plus £2 p+p).

More from: Keyfax, (Contact Details).



Jungle Joose


(d-zone)

d-zone are at it again. After their highly successful Jungle Loops, and the continuing success of their Loopisms series, they've brought out Jungle Joose, a collection of 30 loops ranging in tempo from 148 to 173 bpm, and all between 16 and 20 bars in length. This is followed by the same loops in mono, and a series of sub-bass tones which will put your woofers through some serious workout! They claim these are the only bass sounds you will ever need for jungle, and they're not far wrong. These are fat and low, rumbling sons of bitches going all the way down to C0 and up to C5, ideal for slow dubby basslines, and some deep and dark percussive effects.

The loops are of the usual high standard we have come to expect from d-zone, and all original. The fact they are so long is ideal for the jungle method of cutting up a long sample into different bites, and placing portions on different areas of a keyboard, for live loop playing. There are a load of effects on these, and your attention should really be turned to the mono section, for real expressive manipulation in a jungle stylee. But the stereo loops are equally usable in their own right. Just make sure you stock up on plenty of RAM in your sampler, for a ram jam session of breakbeats!

Price: £11.00 (CD)/£7.00 (LP). More from: (Contact Details).

On the RE:MIX CD

Get those sample trigger fingers flexing, to grab some jungle grooves from these two Jungle Joose tracks:

29 'Rougher' - 169 BPM
30 'Rudeness' - 166 BPM





Phantom Horns


(Zero G)

Every music-technology student knows that brass sounds are the most difficult thing you can ask a synthesiser to mimic. What's not so widely appreciated is that, these days, it's not so much the sounds themselves that are the problem; digital multisampling techniques and advanced filtering can do wonders in creating a smart trumpet stab.

But, if realistic-sounding brass is your goal, and you want to go beyond simple stabs, then the best bet is to sample from, 'real', sources like records and CDs. Of the latter, there have been a few attempts at producing the ultimate brass sample CD, but none with the unique appeal of Phantom Horns.

The CD is the brainchild of two session men who've worked together as a horn section on dozens of records: trumpeter John Thirkell and sax-man Gary Barnacle. Rather than set out to produce an all-singing, all-dancing brass CD, they've opted to specialise in the work of yer typical brass section in pop, rock, and dance.

The samples are divided along stylistic lines, with suitable homage being paid to three of popular music's greatest brass sections: the James Brown horns, Earth Wind & Fire, and Tower of Power. Of these, the JB-inspired riffs are juicy-sweet and funky, while the EWF styles are suitably spectacular, if a little on the thin side.

Rock 'n' roll and reggae sections swiftly follow, but the most intriguing part of Phantom Horns comes near the end: some 30-odd tracks' worth of solo sax and trumpet samples which can sound a bit daft in isolation, but which act as building-blocks for the user to assemble custom riffs and solos. Long notes, short notes, swells and falls — they're all here waiting to be chopped-up and hurled into the mincer.

Like the longer blasts that precede them, these solo snippets are all offered in a choice of pitches no more than a fourth apart, so no matter what kind of track you're trying to fit them into, you shouldn't have to do any radical detuning. The longer riffs also come in a choice of BPMs, so 'artificial' stretching should be averted in most sessions.

Instrument-wise, there are alto, tenor, and baritone saxes from Mr Barnacle, and trumpet, flugelhorn, and trombone from Mr Thirkell. Flugelhorn is one of the great underused brass voicings; it's nice to see it here.

Recording-wise, everything is very clean — but there's some serious compression going on here (the engineer's preference, or simply a symptom of the CD mastering process?) which seems to choke off some of the best riffs just as the players are starting to open their shoulders.

Overall, though, Phantom Horns is a clever and well-executed package that should cure a lot of headaches in a lot of studios. To misquote a well-known advert, it does exactly what it says on the sleeve.

Price: £54.95 inc VAT.

More from: Time+Space, (Contact Details).

On the RE:MIX CD

A frenzy of stabbing, rasping and honking rounds off this month's Re.Mix CD, as Zero G's Phantom Horns supply a selection of 'wild stabs in the dark.'



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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.
More details on copyright ownership...

 

The Mix - May 1995

Donated by: Colin Potter

Coverdisc: Nathan Ramsden

Re:Mix #11 Tracklisting:

29 Jungle Joose samples - 1
30 Jungle Joose samples - 2
31 Killer Horns sample - 1
32 Killer Horns sample - 2
33 Killer Horns sample - 3


This disk has been archived in full and disk images and further downloads are available at Archive.org - Re:Mix #11.

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