EMC SY/TG55 Manager/Editor
Atari ST Software
Is it a librarian? Is it a manager? Ian Waugh checks out this flexible ST software companion to Yamaha's SY55 synth - and reckons he can't manage without it.
There will be others, but EMC's SY/TG55 Manager is the first software of its kind to appear - and the price is definitely right.
YAMAHA'S NEW RANGE of SY/TG synths is certainly attracting a lot of attention from software developers. Not only are programmers busy programming sounds, but software writers are also turning out the required software. The SY/TG55 Manager/Editor comes from a German company called EMC. If I tell you that their logo is Albert Einstein you can probably guess that the name is derived from his general theory of relativity equation, E=MC2. The package looks deceptively simple (an impression reinforced by the slim manual) but it packs a wholesome range of facilities.
The program is supplied on a protected disk. You can copy it or install the program on a hard disk but the original is then needed as a key disk. It requires 1Meg of RAM and a hi-res monitor. It is compatible with C-Lab's Softlink and Steinberg's M.ROS but you'll need at least 2Meg for this.
On booting you select either SY55 or TG55. There's a cute scrolling welcome message which also scrolls across the SY/TG's display, but can't we just get on with the program, boys? When you quit the program it leaves you with a "C U soon" message which appears on the instrument, too.
THE MAIN SCREEN shows 64 Voices and 16 Multis. Along the top are five bank icons labelled SY/TG55, Presets and Memory 1, 2 and 3. The Voices for the currently-selected bank appear on the screen. Little crosses by the name show how many elements each Voice contains. The Presets are the sounds built into the 55. The Preset bank can't be changed but the sounds can be copied and edited and stored in another bank.
Data can be saved and loaded directly to and from internal memory or RAM card. The program warns if it can't detect a card (perhaps the batteries are low) but it's obliging enough to let you transmit to it anyway.
To the right of each Multi is a mini LED mixer which shows the relative volumes of each of the active MIDI channels (and assigned Voices).
Ten buttons along the bottom of the screen are used to select basic operating functions including copy, swap, delete, edit, receive and transmit. You can select them by clicking or by pressing one of the ST's ten function keys.
SELECT COPY, CLICK on a Voice and move the mouse. The Voice name becomes highlighted and moves with the mouse. The name is superimposed on the Voice slots as you move over them. To copy, select the slot and click. You can copy Multis in the same way.
You can copy and swap between banks by clicking on one of the other bank icons. Right clicking swaps between the last two selected banks which makes it fairly easy to construct a working bank from the others.
The system works extremely well. In fact, it's a pleasure to use.
ONE PROBLEM FACING librarian programmers, is what to do with the Voices when you mess around with the Multis. For example, Voices are usually assigned to a Multi by their position in the bank rather than by name. If you remove or swap a Voice, what happens to the Multi?
Well, the Manager handles the situation very well. What's more, it handles it logically. If you swap Voices within a bank, the correct sounds stay with the Multis. If you delete a Voice, any Multis which used it remember the Voice slot. Put another Voice into the slot and it becomes assigned to the Multi(s).
Now, if you copy a Multi from one bank to another, it takes its Voices with it if they are not there already. Copy Multis into an empty bank and the voice slots fill from the bottom (slot 1) upwards. The Voices won't necessarily occupy their previous original slots.
The Control Multis functions warns you if you are about to overwrite a Voice which belongs to a Multi. If you run out of voice slots while copying Multis to a bank, you're told how many extra slots you need. The program switches to delete mode until they have been freed (still warning if any Voices belong to Multis) and then switches back to copy mode. Helpful, I call it.
So just to spell it out, Multis can be constructed in any of the banks using whatever Voices are there and then copy them into your working bank knowing the Voices will move with them. The Auto Store function automatically sends changes made in the program to the SY/TG55. The Delete Unused Voices option deletes any Voices in a bank not used by a Multi. Useful.
All this Voice and Multi assignment may appear rather confusing but you can tell which Voices are assigned to which Multis - and vice versa - using Show Assign. Clicking on a Voice then shows which Multis it is assigned to and vice versa. You can also see which Multis a Voice is assigned to by clicking on its number so you don't have to enter Assign mode to see check assignments.
KEY PLAY PRODUCES an on-screen keyboard when you click on a Voice. Click on it to play the sound. There is also a (very) mini sequencer (play, stop, record, save and load options) which will loop through a recording and let you change Voices as it plays. Nice.
In the Tools menu there's a MIDI Thru so you can route a keyboard through the ST to play a TG55. Two options let you call up the instrument's Device number and discover the version number of its software. You can also switch memory protect on and off.
The System menu lets you set parameters such as note shift, tuning, receive channel, velocity curve and the card bank number.
"You can construct Multis in any of the banks and then copy them into your working bank, knowing the Voices will move with them."
SELECT THE EDIT button and click on Multi and you are transported to the Multi Editor. Here you can assign new Voices and set shift, tune, note reserve, pan, effect, volume and output settings. You can select the effect type and adjust its parameters. It's all done by clicking and is quite painless, although some of the areas you have to click on are rather small.
You enter the Drum Editor if Voices 63 or 64 are selected. You can select the range of keys you wish to edit on a giant scrollable keyboard. Each "key" contains drum parameters for selecting the sound/waveform, pan position, output, volume and so on. You can initialise a key, copy assignments from one key to another and select the effect. It's far better than fiddling about with the SY/TG55 itself, although the manual doesn't explain what all the "buttons" do so you'll either have to read your instrument manual or experiment.
There is a Voice editor, too. This is rather more complex and there is a dearth of information about it in the manual, which makes it a little more difficult to get into - although if you know your synth you should have few problems.
The Voice editor contains element mute and swap facilities. Filter, pitch and amplitude envelopes can be altered by clicking and dragging. You can set the filter level scaling by dragging nodes above an on-screen keyboard.
You can change the way the envelope's parameters are displayed. Most synth users will probably associate low numeric values with short phase times but Yamaha uses the opposite convention. Thoughtful.
The parameters of Voices with more than one element are overlaid like overlapping windows. Click on the "window frame" to bring an element to the top. There's also a random function (love these) which works in a rather unusual and unique way. All the parameters for a particular function are grouped together in a block and you select the function you want to randomise by clicking on the block. You can try a sound and then alter selected bits of it, or select all parameters for a complete re-hash job.
Variations of 10, 20 or 30 percent can be chosen, or parameters may be randomised from scratch. As ever with these things, small variations tend to produce the best results. Although they generally end up as variations of the original sound. You can copy parameters using the same "block select" technique although the program will let you go through the initial stage of copying mismatched parameters (for example, amplitude parameters to the LFO) before telling you you can't do it.
A compare function and an associated buffer can store up to five Voices for you. This can help the transfer of parts of sounds from one Voice to another.
UNFORTUNATELY, THE MANUAL has been written/translated by a German. As well as wishing us a "comfortable sound manager" and extolling the virtues of a "flexible mouse", it also offers delights such as the Control Multis option which "continuously controls the mutual affection of Voices and Multis" and tells us that "to check the adjustments of the selected Voice/Multi they are sent if the last selection of a Voice/Multi is longer than one second ago". OK, the Manager may be inexpensive but the manual is positively cheap. Have a groan and a chuckle but after a bit of messing about, if you know your synth it's fairly easy to suss the program.
Operationally, my other main niggle is the fact that the filing system doesn't remember the last-used filepath. It's a nuisance if you're working a couple of folders into a disk.
Two banks of Voices and Multis come with the program. They could just have caught me on a bad day but I'm afraid I wasn't terribly impressed - although there are some good 'uns amongst them. But then I have just ploughed through over 2000 sounds - honestly - for Yam's SY/TG range, so perhaps complacency has set in. Anyway they're basically free and they are worth a little more than that.
The review program was version 1.01 and free updates are promised fairly soon. Among the new features will be better library functions, such as a facility to let you search for sounds by name and by parameter characteristics. You will, for example, be able to look for sounds with an attack time below a certain value. All clever stuff.
ALL IN ALL, the SY/TG55 Manager/Editor is an impressive piece of code and it'll be even better when it gets more sophisticated librarian utilities. It is also the first SY/TG55 Librarian/Editor to hit my desk (although there may well be others by the time you read this).
Grumbles (which, apart from comments about the manual are admittedly minor) aside, it's a competent, comprehensive program which can be highly recommended to anyone with a SY55 or TG55.
The price can't have escaped your notice. Put the Manager in a bigger box, add a better manual and it could well be selling for two to three times the amount - it really represents excellent value for money. Buy it before they read this and put the price up.
Price £55. Price may be subject to change due to the recent increase in VAT.
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