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Sounds, samples, & software upgrades for the modern studio

Article from The Mix, October 1994

New software, updates, sounds, and samples

Mozart to metronomes

There are three bits on this month's Re:Mix CD for those ST owners fortunate enough to own a CD-ROM drive. If you haven't got one, don't despair, because if your PC owning friend has, then you can copy the files onto an MS-DOS formatted disk from his or her drive to try them out. While you are there, you can also copy the twiddly bits MIDI files, because they will work as well. And who was it who wrote in complaining there isn't enough ST stuff? Oh, I don't know, there's just no pleasing some people...

The first is an amusing PD program called 'Mozart's Dice' which, from a series of random dice throwing, composes a four part waltz. Magic. It doesn't end there, though. The score can be printed out, and played via a MIDI synth, which means that you can transfer the MIDI data to an external sequencer and edit it. Whatever, it's harmless fun, and quite a useful composition aid as I have discovered. The program was written by Chris Earnshaw, and comes with complete disk documentation, but works on mono systems only (mono emulator compatible).

There must be as many BPM calculators as there are stars in the firmament, yet this Delay Calculator is one that will be around a bit longer than Haley's comet. In addition to working out conventional delay times, this handy little accessory also calculates a tempo from a manual key tap - particularly useful for finding out tempos of pre-recorded music (so long as you can keep the beat, that is). In addition, Delay Calculator can also work out the frequency rate of a sound at the tempo inputted, which is infinitely helpful in sampling applications, and also for adding flanges and phasing effects to music in time.

To run the program, copy the .ACC file and its accompanying resource (.RSC) files to the boot partition of your hard disk (usually C:\ drive), or onto the floppy you use to boot up the ST with. The Delay Calculator is then accessible at any time from the desk accessory menu. It is worth noting that this program is shareware, which means that if you find the thing useful, you should send the author a contribution. In this case, the price is just a blank disk, which is exceptionally cheap for a good accessory. Medium or High resolution compatible. Disk documentation provided.

Also on this month's CD-ROM partition for the ST is a selection of samples for use in Avalon from Four Minute Warning. There are two samples from the Emulator III Strings sample disk (notes a and c) for you to try out. If you think these are good, Four Minute Warning have a library of 190 disks full of the stuff, not only in Avalon format, but also for Akai and Roland samplers as well.

For a full list of the library available, and for information on other products, contact: FMW, (Contact Details).

On the RE:MIX CD

For Atari users, we have three fully-working programs for you to use: Mozart's dice is a random music generator, that can also print out scores For calculating your BPMs, try the delay calculator.

And for Avalon owners, we have some Emulator III string samples, provided by Four Minute Warning


Embellished with a good supply of features, (and a pink graphic interface in medium resolution), Soundlab is definitely a contender for best sample editor. All the usual crowd are there, quaffing, as they do, on their light ales. The transport controls (play, record and mark) are all easy to operate if you've used any sampling software before. Come to think of it, even a banana could press play. But there's also a speed button, which determines the rate at which the sample plays back. Samples above 30kHz can be loaded in, but are converted to a more modest frequency. Soundlab isn't sneaky about it 'though; a prompt appears with an option to go through with the transfer or abort the whole thing, so you won't be left gasping "but my sample didn't sound like this before...". Fine tuning of the sample can be achieved with the tone up and down buttons.

The cut and paste blocks take a little getting used to. Larger blocks take quite a while to cut, and Soundlab also has a rather idiosyncratic way of highlighting the portion of the sample you want to edit. Instead of the relevant part becoming a different colour/shade, the section you aren't editing does. The left and right markers are controlled with the left and right mouse buttons respectively, which is sensible enough.

The volume section is quite useful. It offers a proportional increase or decrease in volume of your sample (or selected portion thereof), and displays the new waveform with little extensions, to make sure you don't distort your sample. It can then be auditioned before you wreck your sample irreparably. The fade tool also allows auditioning to take place before you place one of a selection of pre-defined fade 'shapes' to your sample. You can either fade in, or fade out incidentally.

The only effect available in this version is echo, but even this is good. In this section you can apply a customised amount of delay and how fast it fades to your sample. You can't audition the effect, which is a shame, but what you can do is load and save delay patches to disk, to create a library of echo patterns. Soundlab also contains the amusing reverse function - and one of the fastest I've seen at that. It outperformed Replay 8's editor in a bench test of a fairly large sample, which can't be bad.

Soundlab is not just an editor. It lets you use a hardware sampler to capture your own sounds as well. It's probably a prudent time to tell you that this version doesn't work with Replay 16's cartridge, but it does with earlier models like Replay 8. It's also useful as a file convertor. I would recommend it on this basis alone. Soundlab is compatible with almost everything, from .AVR files (both signed and unsigned), .SPL, .SAM, and .SND files, to the PC's .WAV format. At last, access to all those libraries of PC samples! I also discovered that it can load in samples saved in Avalon's .SMP format as well.

Soundlab is shareware, so it isn't free. The author asks for fifteen pounds to be sent, which itself isn't a lot for such a good program, but in return will send you free updates. You can currently only sample and playback from 5kHz to 30kHz in mono, but the updated versions promise 16-bit, stereo sampling up to 50kHz (on the STe), eight different effects, D-to-D capabilities, an FFT page, and a faster interface. If this sounds good to you, then register your copy when you use it - else they probably won't write it!

Works on colour and mono systems (at least 1 Mbyte recommended).

Friend-Chip MM1

MIDI Multi Port for the Atari ST

Having recently made the decision to go 'direct-to-disk' and spent interminable hours poring over the spec of the various systems on offer, I eventually came down in favour of Cubase Audio. Not because it offers substantially better audio editing facilities than its software or hardware rivals, or because it worked out cheaper than other systems. No, I chose Cubase Audio for the Mac simply because it was Cubase - the sequencer I have spent the past five years learning to use, cursing, delighting in, watching fall over, (buying it a tricycle? - Ed) and generally assimilating into my home studio set-up. The thought of having to get to grips with an entirely new system filled me with a horror that will be familiar to anyone who regularly struggles with the pidgin English, ambiguous language and general worm's-eye view common to most instruction manuals.

The only difference was, that was Cubase for the ST, this is Cubase for the Mac. But of course, there is no difference. At least, nothing a few hours' use wouldn't sort out. And there's the rub: audio tracks aside, running Cubase on the Mac - my incredibly fast, hugely powerful, cripplingly expensive, Quadra 840 Mac - offers little improvement over running it on my trusty old ST, now confined to the lowly task of loading old material ready for transfer to the new format.

The sole exception to this comes in the form of my chosen MIDI interface - Mark Of The Unicorn's MIDI Time Piece II - which, with the minimum setting up, provides me with 16 discrete MIDI output ports, each of which may be connected to a multi-timbral synth or sound module, to provide full on-screen access to their 8 or 16 available parts. This was a real step up as far as I was concerned. Although I was running a second MIDI out via the modem port on my ST, I still found it restricting only having 32 channels available to me. This wasn't through any kind of hi-tech megalomania, simply that with a limited number of MIDI Outs it becomes immensely tedious having to mute all those channels you're using on one synth on each of the other synths - and vice versa. Barring the odd happy accident when a brilliant unplanned layered sound resulted from my forgetting to mute the requisite channels on my various sound modules, the limited MIDI out facilities on my ST were, well... limiting.

So I'm glad I upgraded to a Macintosh; I now have ready access to every single part on each of my multitimbral synths and samplers without having to mute channels or reconfigure my system. But I would have been a hell of a lot gladder had the German company Friend-Chip not recently released an add-on for the ST which would have given me exactly the same facilities without having to splash out on the Mac or the MIDI Time Piece.

Okay, not exactly the same facilities; the Friend-Chip MM1, as it is known, offers only 8 MIDI ports rather than 16, but there's still the ST's main MIDI out that can be used - and there can't be many people who run more than nine synths or sound modules simultaneously. If they do, it is apparently possible to cascade up to four MM1s to address a staggering 512 MIDI channels.

Friend-Chip are no newcomers to the hi-tech music and computer market. Their K..AT remote keyboard control for the ST has been around for quite some time now, and the company produce a range of SMPTE/MIDI Time Code sync units. The MM1 package comprises the hardware add-on itself, plus a disk containing the necessary software bits and bobs required to install it via the printer port on the ST. What isn't included - quite wrongly in my opinion - is the required 9V power supply or the 25-pin Sub-D cable used to connect it. I can see no excuse for this; these are not optional extras, they are components essential to the system, particularly the power supply. This kind of thing just encourages people to experiment with any DC adaptors they may have lying around - with possibly disastrous results.

Despite this, the MM1 seems particularly well made in its durable steel case with the eight MIDI ports along the front panel - labelled A-H - and the printer in and out connectors (so that your printer remains connected, should you require it) at the rear. Also at the rear is a set of DIP switches (used when cascading two or more MM1s together) and the Mode switch which works in association with the two top panel LEDs to select between Print and MIDI modes, depending on what you wish to do. Selection of these functions may also be carried out on screen using a desktop accessory included on the disk: in this situation, the switch on the MM1 would be set to its centre position.

Connecting up is quite straightforward - as is installing the M-ROS driver included on the disk, particularly if you've done this before, as many Cubase users will. If you haven't, then I'm afraid the manual offers little by way of advice or troubleshooting. In fact, I use the term 'manual' rather loosely. Two measly single-sided A4 pages may be what some people consider to be an adequate manual, but I do not. Though it can go without a hitch, syncing up any two pieces of equipment can often cause problems especially where both hardware and software is involved. How many people, I wonder, are unaware that software drivers are disabled when their '.drv' suffixes are abbreviated to '.dr'?

Once set up and loaded, addressing the chosen MIDI Out port is simply a matter of selecting it from the Output column alongside the track listing in the main Arrange page. I had no trouble getting the system to work first time - but then I knew what I was doing, I had a spare printer lead to connect the MM1 to my ST, and I had I suitable power supply.

If you have none of these things, the MM1 isn't quite such an enticing proposition, but it still represents a real boost to your ST's creative potential.

There can be no doubt that whatever the developments in computer technology, the ST is going to be around in musical circles for years to come. Running a program like Cubase, it does everything you could reasonably ask (providing you have the memory) and at current second-hand prices is almost laughably cheap. The MM1 effectively removes the final obstacle to its expandability and would be a worthwhile addition for anyone who sees no reason to upgrade to a more expensive computer. No reason other than the Mac's full-colour Star Trek screen savers, that is...

More from: Q-Logic, (Contact Details).

Twiddly Bits

MIDI files

Twiddle1: The Cubase Arrangement makes it easy to audition all the files without loading each one individually.

Twiddly Bits! What are they? To quote from the manual; "those interesting frills, fills, flourishes and licks, often difficult to play but that nonetheless make the difference between flat, amateurish music and music that sounds as if it has been arranged and played by people who know what they're doing".

There are currently three Twiddly Bits disks, with more on the way. They were recorded by some famous and semi-famous musicians such as Bill Bruford, Milton MacDonald and Julian Colbeck, sometime music journalist and the chap behind the Keyfax books. Volume One contains over 200 files ranging from brass and guitar licks to piano and string lines. Many are only a beat or two long, although some are several bars long. Drop them into your own songs to spice 'em up a bit.

The files include all sorts of, er, twiddles which can add authenticity and a sense of professionalism to a piece. Many were recorded with breath controllers and MIDI guitars, so you get the nuances of style these instruments confer. There are soaring string scales, slap bass effects, brass swells and rises, guitar slides and bends, and woodwind trills to mention but a few.

Volume Three (we'll get to Two in a mo) is a guitar disk, and contains a range of bends, slides, vibrato, broken chords, banjo riffs, finger picking licks, chords, and short jazz, blues and rock riffs. These are unbelievably realistic, as I suppose they should be having been recorded with a MIDI guitar. But all the timing and subtleties of expression are there for you to transpose, before dropping into your own material.

Volume Two is slightly different. If contains 15 gate effects. These consist of volume, pan and modulation data and duplicate the sort of effects engineers produce by running a drum track through a noise gate. The gate opens and closes in time to the rhythm, and guitar and synth sounds fed into the gate switch on and off in time to it. It sounds a lot better than it probably reads.

Twiddle2: One of the funky Clav parts from Twiddly Bits One.

Twiddle3: A twiddly soaring string scale.

The gate effects have been carefully programmed, and produce a variety of rhythmic effects. You can, of course, combine two or more effects to produce crossrhythms. If you're a slave to the rhythm you'll love them. There are also four gate effects on Volume One for you to try.

All the disks come with printed documentation, 'though their CD case dimensions make them tricky to read. They give a brief description of each file and its start time, plus some hints and tips.

The files are easiest to use with a pattern-based sequencer which gives you more flexibility with your arrangements than linear sequencers. The files are in Standard MIDI File format, but there is also a Cubase Arrangement of them all, which makes it easy to audition each file without loading them individually. The files are available on PC/ST and Amiga disks.

After the plethora of MIDI file drum patterns, you could look upon Twiddly Bits as the next generation of building-block disks. If you only buy one MIDI file disk it should be Twiddly Bits Volume One. Although you really should hear the riffs on Volume Three... If they don't give your songs a professional feel you should go back to being a DJ.

Twiddly Bits 1 and 3 are £19.95 each, Twiddly Bits 2 is £12.95, all plus £2 p&p.

More from: Keyfax Software, (Contact Details).

On the RE:MIX CD

For use with guitar, brass and drum samples, the Twiddly Bits MIDI files on this disc can be used to create realistic instrument riffs.

That sounds new...

Newtronic are still continuing their software support for the Atari ST, but in addition they are branching out to cover Windows based PC editing software too. The current range of software includes editors/librarians (for both the ST/Falcon and PC platforms) for the complete range of Korg keyboards and modules (M and T-series, X2/3, i2/3 and 01/W), the Yamaha SY77, TG77 and SY99, and the Roland JD and JV series of synths and expanders. ProSound also have a huge helping of sounds available for all of the above synths. New to this range is some PC editing software for the newer Korg keyboards and modules (including the 05R/W).

EMC have also found a new UK outlet in Newtronic. The German company specialises in editors for the Emu Vintage Keys and JD synths, as well as and a range of style software cards and disks for the Roland E35/46/70/85, Technics KN800/1000/2000, and Korg i3. These disks can be personalised for the individual from a choice of over 130 styles, so you won't be stuck with a duff pattern, or something that you're never going to use. As if this isn't enough, Newtronic also have a supply of MIDI song files and sample CDs.

For a full list of their wares contact: Newtronic, (Contact Details). does this

There's nothing more embarrassing that hearing a preset amid a cacophony of sounds in the latest drab hit being aired on that infamous TV pop programme, so perhaps it's about time you altered the patches on your synth. If it all seems like too much hassle, there are some rather pleasant people who can do it for you for a small fee. Sounds OK have a giant library of sounds available for a wide range of popular (and obscure) synthesisers, and this month sees this pile get that bit bigger.

Sounds OK are now responsible for the UK distribution of Sound Source Unlimited, a company specialising in the production of sounds. They come on a range of formats, including Atari, Mac, PC, Amiga and most MIDI data filers, as well as keyboard specific formats (disks where applicable, ROM and RAM cards).

There are too many to list here without driving you all to drink, suffice to say that this new range covers the entire Korg range, Roland JV, JD and D-series and the SoundCanvas, and a great deal of Yamaha models including the SY series, DX7 (and the MkII) and TX16W sample packs. Some of the sound disks include new PCM samples as well as sound patch data.

For a more complete list of what's available, contact: Sounds OK, (Contact Details).

Urban Flavor

Disenchanted with the tragic un-hipness of so-called 'groove' collections from German and American sources, London-based programmer/producer Lee Curtis has come up with Urban Flavor, a sample CD that fairly bursts with the style and sensibilities of the underground music scene in 90s Britain.

The disc contains around 400 loops, presented in one- or two-bar snippets and grouped together according to the 'kit' of drum samples that they use. Yes, this is a properly programmed collection that makes full use of today's sampling and sequencing techniques, not a motley assortment of out-takes bashed out by a 'name' drummer in the down time between album takes and the takeaway tikka.

For all that, Urban Flavor sounds less mechanical than many a big-studio session man. With a smart range of tightly stretched drum sounds and a sequencing style that puts the emphasis on feel, these loops kick ass in a way that suggests Detroit in the mid-1960s, Islington in the 70s, or Chicago in the 80s.

Stylistically, the disc leans towards jazz, rare groove, and funk - all genres deserving of closer attention than many sample CDs descend to giving them. But there's something for (almost) everyone - house, hip-hop, swing beat, four-on-the-floor disco - and all with BPMs clearly printed on the inlay card.

Space restrictions mean that the loops generated with each 'kit', sometimes 18 or more of them, all share the same track ID, while the gaps between the loops are often painfully small. But the good news is that, on a separate track after each set of loops, we find one-hit renditions of all the samples used - dead handy for creating your own variations and fills, as well as for spicing up existing rhythm tracks within your repertoire. Some of the kits are refreshingly simple, containing no more than eight or nine untreated sounds, while others draw on a range of noises that embraces metallic crashes, lush latin hits, and analogue-synth squeaks and bleeps.

Urban Flavor ends with a quick jaunt through some one-hit samples intended to accompany the loops. These range from some natty brass and upright bass sounds to less conventional (but intriguing) echoed vocal and guitar effects, most sampled from vinyl, which come under the heading of 'Toy Box'.

Thoughtfully laid-out, carefully recorded and nicely packaged, Urban Flavor is a breath of fresh air in the increasingly stale atmosphere of mass-market sample CDs. It's a welcome antidote to the 'disc-behind-the-brains-behind Eric/Michael/Elton/Tina' hype. It's as hip as they come, but it doesn't brag about it. It's also very cheap. I can't praise it highly enough.

Price inc VAT: £29.95
More from: SJC Promotions, (Contact Details)

On the RE:MIX CD

Urban Flavour contains some impeccably-played and recorded contemporary drum grooves. Try our taster selection on the Re:Mix CD...

- Urban Flavour samples

...And the kitchen sync

Philip Rees have come up with another one of those innovative compact devices to make your MIDI applications as painless as possible. The new MIDI-to-DIN Sync Converter (or MDS, which is possibly easier to digest) is such a gadget for connecting analogue sequencers in sync with MIDI devices. It does this by listening to an incoming MIDI Clock stream and derives from this a Sync24 or 'DIN sync' format output to be read by the analogue machine.

The MDS allows this connected Sync24 device to be slaved via remote control from the master MIDI equipment, so it starts and stops, and plays in time. In addition to this, the MDS also implements the MIDI continue command, allowing the measure to be paused and then resumed from the same point. Some Sync24 devices don't have this feature, and so irritatingly return to the beginning of the sequence every time you stop.

The MDS contains an integral mains power supply, thus eliminating the need for an external adaptor or batteries, whilst still remaining incredibly small. It features a MIDI in and Thru, and Sync sockets and also a rather useful 'beat' LED that flashes on and off in time with the sync stream. The MDS retails for £69.95, and is available from: Philip Rees, (Contact Details).

Apple Exposure

If you're in the process of bonding with your new Macintosh, or already have a secure relationship with it, then the Apple Expo is the ideal way to seal your nuptials.

It caters for every possible use for your Mac computer, from DTP to multimedia, art and graphics to programming applications, with a comprehensive programme of seminars and stands.

Taking place at the Grand Hall, Olympia, between the 12th and 15th of October, let's hope the Expo show will prove to be a pool of information about how to make the most of your partner. Telephone for your free ticket on (Contact Details).

From wire frames to Phong raytracing - it's all in the mix - logo, that is

Video Antics on the ST

Making a conventional film is horribly difficult. Wrestling with a cast of infantile, obstreperous actors, pretentious set designers and ghastly bills would be enough to turn anybody off the idea. But with the advent of computer technology, a cast of thousands can now be replaced by computer images, and the crew by the computer itself. But can this machine be the humble Atari ST? Why, yes of course it can...

Graphics can be created using a range of design packages from Antic.

When God created man he used Cybersculpt

Cybersculpt and CAD3D (or Cyberstudio) are both 3D modelling packages capable of chiselling out an infinite array of objects. Both programs are based around a graphics interface, so objects and templates can be drawn in using the mouse. These 'sketches' can then be spun (a process whereby the template is centrally rotated around a number of degrees to form a circular or semi-circular shape), extruded, or used as a cross-section of a more complex shape. Up to 80 objects can be glued together, or merely juxtaposed, to form a complete 'scene'.

Animating the objects can be achieved with Cybercontrol; a programming language written especially for the task. It's not dissimilar to Basic, with extra commands peculiar to animation nestled amongst the usual esoteric computer blurb. Using these functions, Cybercontrol can take your object or set of objects and make them walk, explode, fly around, or anything you'd care to think of - so long as you can program it. It renders each frame and then adds it to an animation file which is in Delta (.DLT) format.

These animations can then be loaded into another art program called Cyberpaint. This is a 2D animation program with a huge supply of special effects for picture manipulation, as well as the more conventional painting tools. In here you can add a moving background to your animation and even merge two together, as well as adding text or touching up pictures with a brush, thus creating a finished scene. In many respects. Cyberpaint is the visual editing suite in the chain of software, preparing your animations (by resaving them as an AVS compatible .SEQ file) for the AVS Creator.

Adding Audio

Making tracks: Replay 16's main editing window

Once you have all the graphics you need for your film, it's time to start thinking about sampling in some audio. Replay 16 is a good choice of sampling software and hardware for creating a soundtrack for your AVS sequence, because of its extensive editing features. Though you don't have to create a conventional piece of music for a soundtrack, it's still a good idea to chop up small portions of what you sample, and save the portions individually. Four or eight bar sections will probably work quite well for a musical soundtrack, whereas it might be better saving spot sound effects completely separately. When the time comes to merge video and audio together, this will give you greater flexibility in looping, synching and pasting sections in the AV sequencer - as well as the inescapable fact that small chunks will fit into RAM easier than huge chunks.

One thing to note is that the Replay 16 file format is not compatible with the AVS Creator, but a program supplied with the master disk (called SConvert) will convert them to a .SPL file that is. These .SPL files will have to be 8-bit and only up to 32KHz to work.

The ST can be better employed at producing some far more impressive graphics if you use an external sound source/sequencer. A program called Xenomorf, can render any 3D2 file (the generic file of CAD3D and Cybersculpt) in anything from 512 to 32,000 colours on a standard ST (Falcon, TT, and graphics cards resolutions are also supported). It also allows animations to be rendered using Cybercontrol scripts as well. You can apply images or textures to objects, and choose from a range of rendering options including Gouraud and Phong shading, to make the objects look less faceted. Animations will take a while, but one thing that computers have in abundance is patience. There isn't yet a program that can sequence together multiple Xenomorf animations, though you can get around this by editing the animation frame script file that it creates to merge them.

Really, the only thing that limits you with multimedia on an ST is, as they say, your imagination. It's certainly a cheaper option, both in terms of hardware and software, than trying to purchase a system for a Mac or PC. So get cracking and make a video. DM

AVS Creator

Sequencing the sampled audio segments with the 'Cyberpainted' images and animations is a task best suited to a program called AVS Creator. This program allows you to freely load (RAM permitting), paste, loop, and time alter sections of graphics and samples into a coherent film. It's arranged into a simple window of tracks with coloured blocks representing segments of data. The AVS Creator and its playback only version are available as Public Domain software so it really is the cheapest multimedia software sequencer you can buy.

Composite Video Cable

Video taping your ST multimedia demo is possibly the best way to gain a large audience, but to do this you're going to have to make (or buy) an ST to composite video cable.

Built It Yourself: A simplified connection diagram

What You Need to make it: a 13pin Atari monitor socket, which you can buy from Maplin for £1.48. Obviously, you need some cable. Don't be too stingy with the length, or you'll regret it later when it comes to connecting the ST to the video and discovering it won't reach. Single core screen cable should suffice (I used this on mine), which costs upwards of 20p per metre. For the audio and video connections, standard phono jacks are used, which are 22p each. For the STFM you need two or three (depending on your video's audio inputs), though for the STe you can just use a stereo phono to phono cable instead of the audio pin connection on the monitor socket. If you can't make one, or you need a SCART connection, System Solutions will be only too happy to sell you one. Contact them on: (Contact Details).

Getting Started

16/32 Systems can supply you with all the graphics software featured here, the AVS creator, and a wealth of PD utilities and ready-made 3D tiles. Contact them at: 16/32 Systems, (Contact Details).

Replay 16 and the other ST samplers can be bought from Microdeal: 01726 68020. Also from Gajits Software. Tel: 0161 2362514.

You can buy parts for your Cable from Maplin Electronics. Tel: (Contact Details) (Sales).

Analog-to-Digital II

One of the seeds that sowed the great digital synth backlash was the 'more-is-less' preset phenomenon. You know the sort of thing. Press a key, and an eerie, slow-attack pad sound builds gradually into growling strings, followed by a grand procession of ambiguous percussion which continues fading into the background long after it has shot its load in a reverb-soaked, decanter-shattering digital crescendo.

This type of program, commonly clogging the LCD with a title like 'Space Jungle ZawinulPad 14', sounded great in the high-street music stores of the late 1980s. But it was the musical equivalent of the chocolate teapot: fun to take a bite out of, but impossible to use. No wonder people went back to their TB303s.

Oddly enough, when digital synths first plinked their way into the public consciousness a few years earlier, they too were seen as an antidote to the arpeggiated indulgences of the synth establishment. Never mind all those Jarre-inspired swooshes and sweeps - here were some synth sounds that were pure and truly musical.

Well, forgive me for playing killjoy, but I can see the whole sorry story repeating itself in 1994. As exhibit A, I call forth Analog-to-Digital II - or A2D2 for short. A follow-up compilation from the multiple VCOs of analogue master Dave Hickman, the disc showcases sounds from such classic analogue hardware as the EMS VCS3, the Minimoog, the Prophet 5, and the EDP Wasp, as well as throwing some contemporary classics like the Waldorf Microwave and E-mu Morpheus into the spotlight.

The disc starts unpromisingly with an over-indulgent 'club mix' of pad sounds, then proceeds through a range of atmospheres, pitched loops, percussion noises, and 'straight' synth and keyboard sounds. While many of these are individually impressive, finding the right slot for them in a mix is like trying to discover a definite date for the opening of the Channel Tunnel. You begin with high hopes, then get bogged down in red tape, until eventually you give up and go back to what you know and trust (like the Dover-Calais car ferry? — Ed).

Then, just when you think the analogue horse really has been flogged to death, Hickman redeems himself with a fine range of waveforms - the basic 'building blocks' from which all those classic analogue sounds are made. Now this is more like it: simple, pure sounds which fit effortlessly into a mix, but which can also be used as the basis for more complex sounds when layered with other waveforms or 'acoustic' samples. There's even a section devoted to that much underrated mid-'80s master-piece, the Korg DW8000, and a short burst (sorry) of highly useful studio test tones.

As we've come to expect of Time+Space product, A2D2 is well-documented, with plenty of info for each sample (whether mono or stereo, original sampled pitch, and so on), plus some detail as to how the material was recorded. And, at its best, the disc is an enjoyable voyage into future analogue possibilities. At its worst, it's not really a sample CD at all; it's a demo disc for the 'look-how-many-LFOs-I've got' brigade - the latest generation of synth programmers to prove that more is less.

Price inc VAT: £54.95
More from: Time+Space, (Contact Details)

On the RE:MIX CD

Analogue-to-Digital II is a synthesiser hall of fame, from analogue classics to contemporary digitals. Enjoy some choice excerpts on this month's Re:Mix

- A2D2 samples


The third in d-zone's Loopisms follows the innovative and successful formula pioneered by the first two: a collection of 20 or so loops, repeated so that they last a full minute-and-a-half, accompanied by a set of more conventionally-arranged one-hit samples.

The beauty of Loopisms loops is that, because they play for so much longer than the average one-bar pattern found on yer typical sample CD, you get a clear idea of how they're going to fit in with the track you're working on (or not, as the case may be) much earlier on in the production process. While they were created primarily for DJs and do not, as a result, provide the kind of fills and variations that a studio programmer would ideally like, there's no doubt that being able to get into the groove before the pattern has even entered your sampler is a real bonus, especially when time is tight.

The rhythms on Loopisms 3 paint a broad canvas across today's mixed-up, shook-up dance music gallery. There are funk loops, disco loops, ragga loops (a bit predictable, these), techno loops, industrial loops. There's only space for a couple from each genre, so if you only make one kind of music, you'll exhaust the disc's possibilities pretty fast. For those of more catholic tastes, however, the stylistic variety is welcome, as is the broad palette of sounds used.

Some loops betray their roots more obviously than others. The 80s hip-hop classic, 'Bang Zoom Let's Go Go' is all-too-audible in one, while the 'My Donna' loop sounds like 'Justify My Love' replayed at the wrong sample rate. What all the loops share, however, is a great economy of arrangement which makes them ideal foundations on which to lay records in a club, or programmed drum patterns in the studio. While some of the grooves are very fine, none of them is so busy that it draws too much attention to itself.

The one-hit samples on Loopisms 3 rejoice under the title 'Vintage Keys'. Annoyingly, they are all grouped together on track 26 of the disc; finding the one you want is a serious test of your CD player's skip-and-search facilities, not to mention your own patience. The sounds are arranged in no particular order; sample no.7 is a bass hit, but then again, so are sample nos. 114 and 115.

If you're a connoisseur of analogue synth and keyboard sounds, there's little in this selection which you won't have heard before. But, if 'vintage keys' represent only a small part of the sound library you normally draw on, then this little bookcase is a very cheap way of getting in on the revival act.

And that, of course, is the beauty of Loopisms 3. The disc is so damn cheap that, from a creative point of view, it's almost more costly not to buy it. DJs will love it. DJs who also do studio work will want to live with it forever and have its children.

Price inc VAT: £14.99
More from: d-zone, (Contact Details)

On the RE:MIX CD

Loop the loop with our selection of samples from the Loopisms 3 CD - Funk, disco, ragga and techno loops - Better wear your fireproof trousers!

- Loopism Volume Three

All Atari ST Public Domain Software supplied this month by Merlin PD, who have a good range of music and MIDI applications as well as a whole library of other programs, utilities and games.

Contact: Merlin PD, (Contact Details).

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Plasa '94

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.
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The Mix - Oct 1994

Donated by: Colin Potter

Coverdisc: Chris Needham, James Perrett


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