Throughout this month's magazine there are plenty of examples of products that have been put through the proverbial 'refinement processor', either conceptually, ergonomically, functionally or a combination of the three. 1987 was a year of consolidation for most hi-tech equipment manufacturers. They appear to have paused for breath, stood back, and observed what users were doing with their products (and those of their competitors) and incorporated their findings in to refined versions of existing products - Ensoniq's SQ-80 and Yamaha's REX50 are a case in point.
Naturally, this is the kind of action any wise manufacturer employs as a matter of course. But it's not easy, especially as all manufacturers have to play the guessing game and constantly predict what the musician's needs will be in one or two years time. And those needs are forever changing and, to a certain degree, are affected by what types of products, with what types of new features, other companies release in the intervening period. Within those forecasts they also have to contend with and allow for the impact of new technology and the effect this can have on designs.
For instance, if tomorrow, Aphex were to flood the world market of chips with a plentiful supply of 32-bit DACs costing only a few pence each, and the price of 32-bit high speed microprocessors were also to drop astronomically overnight, and low-cost multiple read/write CD recorders were available in abundance, it wouldn't take too long for the sampling market (and users expectations of sampling equipment) to change dramatically. Where would that leave a company which had geared up to produce 12-bit samplers which they had forecast to have a useful shelf-life of at least twelve months and had intended to retail for 'around £2000'? See my point? It's a risky business - as one innovative keyboard corporation sadly found out to their detriment recently.
This may be closer to the reality than you think. For example, once you have used Ensoniq's Performance Sampler, with its unique ability to play samples whilst loading new ones into its memory, I'm afraid I for one am very reluctant to go back to using a machine that emits only silence (and a smidgeon of quantisation noise no doubt) whilst you hang around for it to load the next sound you wish to play. Although I may be sticking my neck out a bit here, I'm pretty confident that this single feature will change a lot of keyboard players negative attitudes towards samplers and force other sampler manufacturers to copy Ensoniq. And that should increase the number of machines being sold.
Finally, as mentioned in 'Edits', Sound On Sound have moved to a bigger set of offices - though the telephone numbers remain the same. So if you'd like to make a note of our new address, here it is: Sound On Sound, (Contact Details).
Editorial by Ian Gilby
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