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Goodbye Obsolescence

When Peavey first announced their intention to produce a synthesizer, it brought a few raised eyebrows and quizzical grimaces to the faces of some members of the hi-tech cognescenti. The idea of a guitar combo manufacturer turning its hand to keyboards seemed a strange move to many - but why? Other hi-tech keyboard manufacturers also produce amplifiers and guitar-related equipment, so why shouldn't a company famed for its audio equipment also manufacture a keyboard?

As an industry watcher, one thing I have learned is to expect the unexpected. Many moons ago, a Japanese consumer audio company (at the time best known for their open reel tape recorders and hi-fi gear) decided to break into the hi-tech field with a low-cost sound sampler. Pretty soon they were market leaders. Will the same be true of Peavey? They certainly seem to be taking their move into keyboards very seriously. The fact is that a synthesizer is not such a departure from what Peavey do best as some may think.

Part of Martin Russ's review of the DPM3 (page 48) explains the technology and philosophy behind Peavey's first synthesizer. The instrument utilises off-the-shelf digital signal processing chips to generate the voices and effects instead of custom ones designed by the manufacturer for a specific task. This is a wise move by Peavey, because the company already has experience of DSP technology as a manufacturer of signal processing devices (guitar effects, reverb units, etc). Also, their decision not to use proprietary chips offers the major benefit of enabling them to update the instrument at any time by reprogramming the internal DSP chips - to perform new functions, add new effects, or even a different method of synthesis.

This chameleon-like ability to change to suit the demands of the market place gives Peavey's machine the all-important edge that it needs to compete against existing synthesizers. There's no doubt that the DPM3's all-American heritage will appeal to its home market (Americans prefer buying American gear), for it appears to be finding favour already, but how will it fare over here?

As our review points out, the DPM3 offers some interesting product life enhancing facilities that UK musicians should find appealing - the ability to load your own samples from floppy disk means that you are not stuck with the PCM wave samples that the manufacturer provides. Thus, if a new wonder synth is released by another company which features great sounds, you could just sample its naked waveforms, load them into the DPM3 and - hey presto! - you have access to the latest up-to-the-minute sounds!

Peavey are playing on the built-in obsolescence factor and 'closed architecture' of most current keyboards in the hope that forward-thinking musicians will come to recognise the benefits of a software-updatable instrument and plumb for their machine in preference to one of the better known manufacturers' keyboards. The question is, if the DPM3 starts to steal sales from the major synth manufacturers, how long will it be before the big boys adopt the same philosophy? 1990 looks like being an interesting year...

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Sound On Sound - Copyright: SOS Publications Ltd.
The contents of this magazine are re-published here with the kind permission of SOS Publications Ltd.


Sound On Sound - May 1990

Donated by: Bert Jansch / Adam Jansch

Editorial by Ian Gilby

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