You probably won't have recognised the upcoming trend yet, but from the evidence of certain new products released at the Frankfurt Music Fair in early February, this year promises to be a significant one for the hi-tech equipment market.
Technology in general is forever advancing but it seems that new developments are being applied more quickly than ever before to both musical instruments and recording-related equipment. This was certainly evident at Frankfurt from the widespread adoption by synthesizer and drum machine manufacturers of a new storage medium for voice/performance data, the IC RAM card - a 'credit card' lookalike capable of storing considerably larger amounts of data than traditional RAM packs.
This belief was further reinforced by the plentiful appearance of mid-priced hardware devices based upon faster, more accurate 16-bit processors. Korg's new DRV range of digital reverb/effects units offer 16-bit resolution and improved signal quality, as indeed do the Alesis Microverb and ART DR-1 delay. But Casio's launch of the FZ-1 sampling keyboard heralds the beginning of a new generation of powerful 16-bit keyboards, which already includes Yamaha's new DX7. Being sound generators, of course, such keyboards will have a more direct effect on our appreciation of quality sound than will a 16-bit effects unit.
Casio's revelation came out of the blue for most visitors to the Frankfurt show and brought a worried look to some manufacturers' faces - even to some Casio staff. How come? Well, in their enthusiasm to get 'exclusive' pics of the new sampler, one butterfingered member of staff of A. N. Other musicians' magazine accidentally let one of the two working FZ-1's slip from his grasp. (Names will be disclosed only on receipt of a five pound note.) Thankfully, it recovered from the drop in time to be demonstrated that very evening at the Casio Party.
I mention this celebrated occasion purely because it was here that I had my ears pricked by a Casio representative who jubilantly announced in his speech that worldwide sales of their budget SK1 sampling keyboard had recently topped the one million mark. That is one heck of a lot of samplers and a remarkable achievement!
If we assume that the majority of these sales were made to young people, then what that hopefully means is that very considerable demand will be generated for more sophisticated samplers in the years to come, as present SK1 owners mature in age - of course, that's provided they don't bore each other sick in the meantime with their Paul Hardcastle impersonations! Still, one million samplers sold is certainly good news for the future development of our industry.
Editorial by Ian Gilby
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