Like the rest of the Mac press, this page has often criticised Apple Computer Inc. However, the recent deluge of (IBM) PC-compatible music add-ons suggests that maybe it's time to close ranks. Fortunately, we Mac-heads can still maintain the air of smugness that so irritates PC, Atari and Amiga owners, since the principal reason for the sudden interest in the PC as a music platform is the rise and rise of Microsoft Windows. In other words (adopt sneering tone), the PC is only able to compete with the Mac by imitating it and, as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (conceited nod of the head).
The most significant piece of new PC recording hardware is Digidesign's Session 8, an 8-track tapeless recorder/editor (see Shape Of Things To Come and PC Notes for the details). Price/performance wise, the £3,500 Session 8 (excluding PC and hard drive) is an extremely attractive proposition, more so when compared to Yamaha's Mac-controlled rival, the £2,499 4-track CBX-D5. Yamaha's price seems wide of the mark considering that the D5 was designed to be driven by cheaper (non NuBus equipped) Macs such as the Classic II and the LC — the D5 is well over three times the cost of a Classic II.
Another difference between the Digidesign and Yamaha devices is that the Session 8 is shipped with multitrack recording software, whereas the D5 requires Steinberg's £699 Cubase Audio (v2.5) or Mark of the Unicorn's £899 Digital Performer (v1.3). Both these applications are world class, fully integrated MIDI/digital audio sequencers, but the point is that their non-bundled status makes a 4-track Mac-based D5 system more expensive than the 8-track Session 8.
As if that isn't enough, the D5 will soon be competing with Akai's new 4-track tapeless system — the DR4D. The Akai machine is expected to retail for under £1500, a price that includes an internal 240MB hard drive offering approximately 10 minutes recording on each of the four tracks. (Neither the Session 8 or D5 include mass storage devices). Rumours suggest that a Mac front end for the DR4D may appear in the not too distant future, and a Mac Session 8 should appear before 1993 is out.
Still, at the opposite end of the market, Yamaha are about to launch a winner in the shape of a £300, 28-voice polyphonic, 16-part multi-timbral PCM Tone Module. The as yet unnamed device conforms to the General MIDI format and, like the TG100, offers a built-in Mac/PC interface. The unit will be bundled with Steinberg Cubase lite (Mac) or Cubase Junior (PC) and a selection of GM MIDI files. The variety and quality of the internal sound is said to be excellent.
Mark Of The Unicorn have also been paying attention to the PC, launching a Windows version of the MIDI TimePiece II (Mac version reviewed Feb '93), and a new cut down MTPII. Known as the MIDI Express, a Mac version is also available, offering a 4x6 multi-port matrix — that's 64 by 96 MIDI channels (as opposed to 128 by 128 on the MTP II), 16 memories (128 on the MTP II) and LTC to MTC/DTLe conversion.
As mentioned earlier, MOTU have been busy upgrading Digital Performer ready for the Yamaha CBX-D5. Version 1.3 supports up to two D5s (eight simultaneous tracks) and makes full use of the D5's dual DSPs to provide an extensive range of effects. MOTU promise that all the new features found in sister application Performer 4.1 have also found their way into the digital recording namesake, including notation printout, custom consoles and support UniSyn (MOTU's own editor/librarian. (Sound Technology, (Contact Details)).
Digidesign Inc. must have been a hive of activity over the past year, since in addition to the Session 8, the Californian digital audio gurus have unleashed six new Mac products and a new core technology. At the top end of the market, Sound Tools ProMaster 20 consists of Sound Designer II software, a NuBus accelerator card, and a rackmount 20-bit audio interface with 24-bit internal data paths. No UK prices were available at press time, but Digidesign claim that a complete ProMaster system will be cheaper than a 20-bit digital master tape recorder.
Digidesign's new solution for ProMaster/ProTools/Sound Tools II tape synchronisation is the 1U SMPTE Slave Driver. Connecting to the slave clock inputs, the Slave Driver varies playback sample rate for true tape synchronisation and features an Apogee designed internal master clock. A varispeed of +/-10% is available.
Digidesign's new core technology is called the TDM Digital Audio Bus, a system that allows third-party manufacturers to develop cards for Digidesign Mac products. Based on a 256-channel, 24-bit digital audio bus and a soft DSP engine, TDM has already attracted the support of Apogee (no product announcements yet) and Lexicon, who are due to release a digital reverb card for ProMaster, ProTools and Sound Tools II.
Should you run out of NuBus slots, Digidesign have developed the Expansion Chassis, offering 12 additional NuBus slots in a 19" rack. Unfortunately, the system is recommended only for Digidesign and TDM cards, which is a shame form the point of view of audio-for-video and multimedia studios who could fill an Expansion Chassis with video cards and graphics accelerators. The chassis works with all NuBus Macs except the IIfx.
On the software front, Digidesign have released a 'software plug in' for the ProMaster/ProTools/Sound Tools II systems, called Digidesign Intelligent Noise Reduction. DINR offers hum cancelling, and claims up to 30dB of noise reduction, with all processing in real time. DINR works rather like the Sonic Solutions' NoNoise system in that it takes an acoustic fingerprint — it examines a section of programme material noise — and applies this profile in its noise reduction algorithms. Pro Tools owners will be glad to know that version 2.0 software includes recording, editing and signal processing fadlities in one application. Digidesign haven't completely deserted their less well financially equipped customers, producing AudioMedia LC, which is, by all accounts, exactly that — an AudioMedia board for the LC.
Digidesign now have a European office in France, and they'd like to hear from you if you own any of their products in order that they can update their mailing list. Address all enquiries to Digidesign Europe, (Contact Details).
As we went to press, Apple announced price cuts across the entire Mac range, in preparation for an avalanche of new machines (first mentioned in Apple Notes Jan '93). We don't have space to list every price, but here are the edited highlights:
|Model||Old SRP||New SRP||% cut|
|Quadra 700 4/230||3,975||2,875||28%|
|Quadra 950 SD||4,895||4,195||14%|
|Quadra 950 4/400||6,095||5,395||11%|
(Prices exclude VAT)
These are Suggested Retail Prices, which means that you'll be able to buy cheaper if you shop around. Also, you should be able to pick up Macs that are about to be discontinued — such as the IIsi and the IIvi — for silly prices. As an example, Computer Warehouse are currently selling IIvi 4/40s for £799.
As if this isn't enough, the Performa range is finally with us. Performas will be available from high street chain stores and are shipped with ClarisWorks, PC Exchange and At Ease. The prices are:
|Performa 200 4/40 (re-badged Classic II)||£799|
|Performa 400 4/40 (re-badged LCII) inc. non-Apple 14" colour monitor||£1,099|
|Performa 600 4/80 (IIvx without the cache) inc. colour monitor||£1,899|
|Performa 600 4/80 CD||£2,199|
(Performa prices include VAT)
Back in July the pound was worth $2; as we went to press £1 would only buy you $1.43. How much lower would these prices be if the pound was actually worth something? More comment and details on the full range of Macs next month.
Feature by Kendall Wrightson
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