After much speculation Commodore have finally come clean and announced the release of a new mid-range Amiga aimed at bridging the gap between the A1200 and A4000. Although this new machine has no obvious link to music, it does provide a platform from which the serious user can firstly afford, and more importantly expand upon.
Although the A1200 has great potential as a first step, the lack of Zorro slots does mean far less expandability even in comparison to the relatively outdated A2000. On the other side of the coin comes the A4000, a machine with all the expandability and speed you could ask for, but alas a price tag that simply doesn't justify the investment if your exploits are primarily musical.
Enter the new A4000 030, which comes in the same box as its bigger brother but offers an 030 CPU as opposed to an 040. For most musical endeavours the effect of a slower CPU will be negligible, whilst the expansion slots offered by the desktop design means the user won't be left out in the cold as the technological advance marches ever onward.
Although the machine won't officially meet the press until later this month at the official Commodore unveiling, the box shifting community are already busy offering the machine to eager punters for around £1100 — without a monitor — a figure roughly half that of an A4000.
Apart from the infinitely more attractive price tag and easy expansion, the new machine also offers a potentially unlimited upgrade path — at least as far as the CPU is concerned. Like the A4000, the existing CPU sits astride a daughter board which, when you decide to upgrade, could be simply popped out and swapped with the replacement.
After the rumours surrounding the release of a DSP — Digital Signal Processor — within the A4000, and subsequent disappointment as it failed to appear, I've been very sceptical about the subject. However, according to a confidant of the Commodore hierarchy the aforesaid chip is already up and running and more than ready to make its debut in the early summer. As yet it's still unclear how existing machines will be upgraded, but the most likely option will be to add the chip to the existing CPU daughter board perhaps via a trade in deal.
It's even being rumoured that the AAA chipset due for launch in the spring of next year will boast a DSP as standard, along with true 24-bit graphics, all based around a 060 processor.
Along with the release of a new machine comes the long awaited sequel to Bars & Pipes Professional. Like the aforementioned hardware B&P Pro 2 is only days away from its debut in the UK. Although essentially pretty similar to the old version, this new incarnation takes the program's multimedia skills to the extreme with heavy emphasis on the subject, primarily in the form of a built-in Scala style multimedia authoring system entitled Media Madness.
Although not much use to the hardened muso, this new addition does consolidate the position of B&P Pro as the Amiga's premier multimedia music platform.
Via this new element the program claims to be able to control animation playback, both SuperGen and G-Lock genlocks, ARexx — and in turn ARexx compatible hardware — Scala, SoundCanvas setups, and of course the SunRize series of direct to disk recorders. All this can be accessed by the program's Tool options.
For the pure musician some of the faults of the original package have had an overhaul. The primary beneficiary is the program's notation options, which all to often let the package down in the past. Other muso-friendly additions include guitar tablature editing, groove quantising, event-specific recording and merging, plus integrated transport control.
Although admittedly this is a very brief description, I will be returning to the subject of B&P Pro in the next issue of SOS.
To complement the arrival of B&P Pro, Blue Ribbon Soundworks took a radical step and released the Amiga's first internally fitted sound module. Like much of the above, it hasn't as yet made the perilous journey across the pond — however, the specs for 'The One-Stop Music Shop' have arrived, and although the title may not be too inspiring the aforementioned specs certainly are.
For a start, the unit boasts the Emu Proteus sound engine, which is in itself a promising start. In addition, a MIDI interface comes as part and parcel of the unit, thereby freeing the Amiga's serial port for additional kit such as genlocks, modems, SMPTE generators and so on — yet more attention lavished to multimedia and serious DTV.
Once installed the card can handle up to 32-channel playback/polyphony with the assistance of a 4MB SoundFile ROM which, when combined with the 20Hz to 20kHz DSP, should mean truly excellent sound quality.
The card comes as standard with over 210 sounds organised into the usual 128 presets plus 64 drum maps — perhaps most important of all, everything adheres to the General MIDI standard.
For the do-it-yourself types the hardware also ships complete with editing software which, in theory at least, will allow the user to program their own sounds by mixing samples, cross fading, editing envelopes and so on.
Not surprisingly the unit is compatible with, and hence can be controlled by, the entire range of Blue Ribbon software, including B&P Pro, SuperJam and PatchMeister, and of course in the true spirit of multimedia, ARexx can also take control if required. Although a UK price hasn't been quoted as yet, the US retail is $649 which, with the aid of a calculator and a glance at the current exchange rate, should point you in the general direction.
Rest assured that as soon as a review unit arrives, SOS will be the first to bring you the definitive appraisal of what could be yet another revolution in the Amiga music and multimedia...
Feature by Paul Austin
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