The shape of things to come
Tony Reed goes back to the future for the Frankfurt forecast
Tony Reed with exhaustive information of the exhausting Frankfurt music fair
It's that time of year again: even as you read this, the shakers and movers of the music trade are making their way to that Avalon of all things instrumental, that Mecca of musicological merchandising, in short – The Frankfurt Music Messe '86.
As usual, this year's fest is a five day affair, running from Saturday 15th to Wednesday the 19th of Feb and, as usual, is a Trade-Only event for the first four days. Joe & Jane Punter can get in on the last day for a reduced entrance price of DM 17.00 (Normal gate price DM 26.00). And what will they see when they do? Well, quite a lot actually; This year there are over 700 exhibitors from 30 countries covering every aspect of the music business, from state-of-the-art hi-tech to sheet music, from harmonicas to 'special furniture'(!)
The British contingent alone numbers no less than 92 companies, and, if last year's figures are anything to go by, they can expect the support of upwards of a thousand UK visitors keen to check out the latest gear. If you'd like to wave the flag about a bit in person at the show, advance tickets, and a show catalogue (price: DM12.00) are available from Bronner Verlag, (Contact Details). A brief and unscientific survey of London travel agents reveals that you can expect to pay about £74 for your flight there and back, and anywhere between £20 to £50 a day for your room, on a basic, no-frills deal. Obviously, shopping around might turn up something cheaper, and of course, you don't have to fly – good train and coach fares are worth tracking down too. If you are thinking about going it'd be best to try and sort out your accommodation in advance – with so many people descending on them, the good burghers (frankfurters?) of the town may be a little pushed for room... (For more details of ticket and travel possibilities, contact (Contact Details)).
Rest assured that once you arrive, there'll be enough to keep your interest. Open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, the fair incorporates the 20th German Jazz festival, the awarding of the prestigious Frankfurt Music Prize, and numerous concerts, guest appearances, demos and happenings spread across the four floors and two halls of this huge (266,000m2) site.
But what amid all this confusion, I hear you ask, is actually worth seeking out? This, of course, is where we come in. Since Frankfurt is the first opportunity for new products to see the light of day, a place where revolutionary concepts are revealed, dodo's laughed at, and reputations made or broken, the major manufacturers approach the lead up to the show with all the paranoia of a US military adviser entering Nicaragua.
Fortunately, for you, the IM Dirty Tricks Dept (©R. Reagun) can now exclusively reveal a few of the choicer titbits on offer this year.
As always, there'll be a few surprises, and a few disappointments – all will sooner or later find themselves under our merciless scrutiny later in the year. For now, check your bank balance, lick your lips, and read on...
Akai, whose range of rack mounted samplers and MIDI effects processing units have made a very significant impact since their introduction in 1985, promise further important moves in the same direction. A new digital pro MIDI sampler, 12 bit linear with eight voice polyphonic capability will be on display. Capable of 12 seconds sampling time at 40 kHz, it is a multi sampling unit and has complete editing, sync and triggering facilities, with a built in sequencer.
Akai's range of MIDI effectors will be increased by a further two units, extending the range of effects possible via the MIDI buses. Also on the stand will be two new keyboards and a rack mounted synth/expander, all with the exclusive input device for editing the sound samplers.
A fully programmable mixer with complete MIDI compatibility and SMPTE time coding will be on show, which will enable live mixes of gigs and performances that would pose problems even in recording situations, with every control fully programmable, called up at the push of a button, or incorporated into MIDI sequences.
And finally, for the first time on display will be the CPZ1000 music computer now in its final shape. The 4U high, twin disk-drive unit complete with monitor and keyboard will be capable of storing up to 40,000 notes over 16 tracks. It is complete with SMPTE syncing, which will include MIDI sync, tape sync, and SMPTE sync from the master or slave with a SMPTE generator built in. The 3.5" disk permits memory and storage of all features with computer communication a possibility, and the whole package is rumoured to have a British target price of under £2,000!
AKG will be showing their entire range of mikes for all live and studio applications, and introducing a couple of very interesting new lines: the D112 builds on the success of its precursor, the classic D12 bass drum mike, and broadens its range of application to encompass all bass frequency applications.
Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, you'll find the K240 DF headset, designed specifically for monitoring sound engineers, since it is claimed to simulate a perfect monitoring environment by 'recreating studio ambience'. Chances are that Jon Hiseman will be on hand assisting with the demos and concerts, too – he hasn't missed a year yet.
As in previous years, Bandive, the distribution company behind the Turnkey shop, will be exhibiting Seck mixers, the Great British Spring Reverb, and the Accessit range of budget signal processors. Two new units to look for in the Accessit rack this year: the Exciter, an affordable version of the mysterious Aphex Aural Exciter, which through a subtle blend of time-shifting and equalising circuitry promises to add a sparkle to even the muddiest multitracked masterpiece; and the Autopanner, which, as its name suggests, lets you pan sounds around the stereo field automatically. (Essential for that jet-plane-taking-off-effect!) Two stabs at Trevor-Horndom for about 80 quid a throw. Can't be bad. And what about rumours of a computer-linkable Portastudio? At the moment, they're just rumours but you never know...
Colin Barratts Exports stand (No. 91F66) will be chock-a-block with the Cub range of amps for guitar and keyboards, ranging from 7 to 60 watts in power: Frankfurt will see the launch of new 10 watt combos and 30 watt tube amps. Custom Sounds' PA gear will be there too, and the 'Answer' guitar featuring a patented sliding pickup system.
Casio have developed a taste for causing stirs at Frankfurt of late, and this year looks like being no exception. Leading the assault is their long predicted sampled drum machine, which has finally materialised in the form of the RZ-1 – a PCM-based unit with 12 on-board sounds, separate audio outs, volumes for each voice, and three levels of accent. Memory capacity is gratifyingly large (20 songs, 100 rhythm patterns) quantisation very broad (everything from ½ to 1/96th resolution) and there is dump to tape, an LCD display, and of course MIDI IN, OUT and THRU. So far, so TR707. BUT: the RZ-1 also features 0.8 seconds of user-sampling time, at 20kHz, which can be used as one long sample, or split into four separate sample locations of 0.2 seconds each – enough for a shortish drum sound or effect, which may then be incorporated into your drum patterns. Pretty good, huh?
It gets better. How about a polyphonic sampling keyboard for under £100? Yep... The SK-1 sampling keyboard has eight PCM-sampled preset voices, one 'build-it-yourself' location for creating sounds harmonic by harmonic (a la Oscar) – and one user-sampling location with loop and envelope editing. Rounding everything off are 11 preset rhythms, auto-accompaniment 'multi-memory recording' (?), a built in mike and mike/line inputs for the sampler – yours for £99. Where's it all going to end...?
Certainly not just with synths, that's for sure. Casio have now decided to move into the electronic percussion business, with their Digital Drum Kit. Actually, the moniker's a bit misleading since this set of five touch-sensitive pads routed into a MIDI translator box produce no sound of their own, but like Roland's Octopad, allow you to play and control attached MIDI gear, be it drum machine, synth, or even effect unit. And the unit apparently comes well equipped to do the job, sporting eight MIDI Ins, nine MIDI outs – and memory locations capable of storing up to four complete performance patches. Rumoured also is a rack-mounted sampler, with two-second, full-bandwidth sampling, dump to disk and more, with an implied price of around £1000, but this is some way from reaching the shops at the moment.
Something which definitely will reaching the shops is the latest addition to the CZ range, the CZ-3000, which duplicates the spec of the £995 CZ-5000 – five-octave keyboard, 32 user-programmable memories. Ram dump and MIDI – with the exception of the 5000's on-board sequencer. Oh, and it's black, not brown.
And now: in their quest to leave no stone of the musical world unturned, Casio have finally taken the plunge and produced what is, believe it or not, their first ever electric piano. And it looks like they've done a thorough job of it: five octaves, eight note polyphonic, full sized keyboard with touch sensitivity, 14 preset sounds – great. 12 rhythms with accent break, and Casio Super Accompaniment, well maybe not so great, at least as far as the pro player is concerned, though with an RRP of £545 this first testing of the water for Casio should be worth checking out.
Casio have not neglected the rest of the home market either – the customary welter of new all-singing, all-dancing machines will include, amongst others, the CT-6500 which packages 48 preset Phased Distortion sounds for home consumption in a five-octave unit complete with autorhythms, synthesized bass and chord sounds, performance memories, keyboard split and stereo speakers. The inclusion of MIDI might even help the CT-6500 to achieve a bit of crossover into home recording setups...
Casio's by-now traditional keyboard oddity this year doesn't feature an onboard radio and cassette deck, or even a toaster, but a set of finger-triggerable 'drum pads' which let you furnish your own live PCM rhythm accompaniment as you play. If that's too tricky, a plug-in set of miniaturised remote pads – the DP-1 – lets a friend in on the act. I guess somebody out there'll love it... But with products like the RZ-1 and SK-1, Casio can afford the odd keyboard, can't they?
Carlsboro, exhibiting independently for the first time due to their rapid expansion, will be showing their new Taurus range of professional PA cabinets, a 60 watt valve combo, 150 watt bass head, combo and cabinet, 90 watt lead and bass combos, and new Cobra/Marlin mixer amplifiers.
Dynacord, distributed in the UK by Washburn, are one of the biggest musical instrument manufacturers in Europe, and as befits this status, will have one of the largest stands at Frankfurt. And on that stand you will find their pro range of sound reinforcement gear, with the famous Reference Series this year being augmented by quite a few new models, including the Reference 400 MIDI bass and a guitar equivalent; an upmarket, pro-quality digital reverb, and a new budget range of guitar and bass amps. The entire range of Dynacord electronic percussion will also be represented – the kit, the Boomer sampler, and the Big Brain sequencer. Dark mutterings indicate the launch of a new digital drum machine, the ADD-1, which will use the excellent existing sounds but with greater control. Can't say much more at the moment but it sounds excellent.
Washburn themselves will be keeping their end up via a new range of guitars building on the success of the Rebel G2 series. The new models, with prices ranging from £150 to £300 will feature fittings and construction usually found on guitars costing £500 – one such example of which is the Wunder Vibrato system the series supports... Washburn'll also be expanding their acoustic line-up, and adding a couple of basses. Frankfurt will be the first public airing for a new series of budget floor effects from the company too, so, one way or another the stand should be worth checking out.
ILP Electronics have a couple of goodies lined up for the fair, in the form of a new bass combo, a 100 watt model incorporating five band Eq, a compressor, full bi-amping facilities, and a very powerful stereo power amp. The amp, provisionally titled the 2002, puts 1 kW RMS per side into two ohms, and incorporates mono and bridging facilities. Prices have yet to be finalised, but are said to be 'extremely competitive'. (Nobody, with the possible exception of Trace Elliot of course, are likely to say otherwise...)
The latest additions from Korg at this year's show will include the DSS 1 digital sampling keyboard, featuring built-in sounds, and user sampling by virtue of a built in disk drive.
The SG1 Piano Sampling Grand will offer accurately sampled piano, with options for more samples via a ROM cartridge. Modelled along the lines of the Emulator and the Mirage, the keyboard will be touch sensitive, although it's not clear whether the keyboard will be weighted or not.
A new Poly 800 will feature built in digital delay, programmable eq, extended sequencer capacity and improved envelope generators.
The MEX digital memory expander will store four lots of 64 sounds via MIDI and can be used with any Korg keyboard.
And should you want to sing in harmony with yourself, the DVP1 digital voice processor combines a vocoder, harmonizer and pitch shifter into one MIDI controlled unit. With 64 programmes able to specify the unit's use as a Vocoder etc, and also able to memorise chord shapes, this unit will probably revolutionise the world of voice-overs and other advertising vocal styles enabling five part vocal arrangements to be produced from one voice part.
Marshall will be promoting four new models at the show; for openers, the 3203 Composite Head, a 30 watt head which as its name suggests aims to combine the best of both amplification worlds through the marriage of a valve output stage to a Mosfet front end. Input as usual is split, with clean and distorted options both available. The 4203 is the combo version of the same 30 watt unit, and sports a 12" Vintage speaker in the by-now familiar compact enclosure, DI, and headphone sockets.
A step up in power is offered by the 5215 100 watt 1x15" combo, which sports the same mosfet amp and front-end options of the popular 3210 model, but has been specially tailored towards a fuller, richer sound. As before, you have the choice of clean or distorted inputs, but the clean channel in this case has a characteristic 'jazz' feel.
And finally: the 5213 Mosfet Reverb Twin 100 watt model drags that particular design concept up to date with a package containing two 12" speakers, and two entirely separate input stages. One 'side' offers the split clean/distortion option, whilst the other has a very broad (0 to -60 dB) attenuated input, to accept keyboards, mikes, and virtually any other input you are to think of.
Also to be found in Marshall-land will be 2x12" versions of the 1965 A & B models (these to be called the 1966 A & B's!), a very neat 15 watt studio combo with a built in dummy load for getting over-the-top distortion effects at bearable volume levels, and several surprises in the expanding Bass system range.
UK musical instrument and audio marketing company Musimex will have a varied selection of products on their stand including a pair of new digital delays from Bel, the BD2400 and 3200; Sessions' combo version of the successful SG:2100 Stereo Guitar Amp Head, and a new bass combo; as well as a variety of bags, straps etcetera from companies like Reunion Blues and The English Tannery.
Focal point of the proceedings, however, is likely to be the Frazer Wyatt range of sound reinforcement equipment, for whom Musimex have recently been appointed world-wide agents. Frazer Wyatts' acclaimed range of speaker enclosures and powered systems cover every application from disco to bass amplification, but attention this year is likely to centre on the ZX100P powered speaker system, designed specifically for electronic percussion and drum machines – something of a growth area in sound reinforcement lately.
Pearl will have a lot of drum kits kicking around the place – the MLX will offer a choice of maple shells with lacquer or chrome finish, the DLX Pro kit, lacquered finish with the extra-large Super Hoops. A new line, the WLX, is designed to slot between the top range Export and DLX kits, offering seven-ply construction, mahogany/maple shells lacquer finish, and double braced legs on the stands. The Export series will now also be available with an 8" metal shell snare.
With the acoustic tub-thumpers taken care of, Pearl have spared a thought or two for their electronic cousins. Details are vague, but Frankfurt will be the first time out in public for a new electronic development, not merely an update of the DRX-1. Could one speculate about some kind of MIDI-orientated 'expander'? Why not...
The irrepressible Hartley Peavey will have 50 out of a total range of over 500 products on display, including some which he confidently describes as 'Baad!' (I think he means good.) Amongst their number you will find a MIDI amplifier which, it is claimed, takes the concept further than any of the competing models currently available. Also expect the 'world's first digital music amplifier' the Mega Bass, which Mr Peavey sees as direct competition to the Trace Elliot marque, outstripping it on quality and weight, a new 1200 watt power amp, and 'lots of new speaker enclosures.' Also lookout for quite a few new guitars, and the fruits of a 'new musical project' which may well draw upon the resources of the just-finalised Peavey plant in Corby, Northants. All in all, Frankfurt looks like being a jolly Baad show for Hartley...
Premier will be showing an improved version of their already famous Resonator kit. Like its predecessors, the new kit utilises a patented glueless construction method for each drum's inner shell, giving it a characteristic depth of tone and projection. Refinements now include a new finish to add to the already extensive range in the form of 'Piano White', the provision of matched natural-wood bass drum hoops, repositioning of the bass drum lugs to facilitate tuning with the pedal in position and the fitting of Premier's new Prolock Tom holder as standard. Also worth looking out for on the Premier stand are their new range of drum heads aimed at the 'modern' drummer, the Premier Multiclamp, which allows the drummer to fit boom arms, tom holders, mikes and more to their existing kit stands and two new 'Recording' snares, the 6½" deep 2009, and the 8" deep 2010, both fitted with overtone-killing cast stress rims and mike-sized 'sound-holes' as an integral part of shell design.
And finally, long-suffering neighbours might be interested in Deadheads – a selection of rubber-faced, chipboard discs, which simply fit on top of your existing kit heads (including bass drum) to give you a kit which retains enough of the original sound to keep you happy, at a low enough volume to keep everyone else happy too.
Roland's flagship offering is likely to be the RDP10, an electronic MIDI piano with eight reportedly excellent basic sounds, including a 'brilliant' grand, upright, Rhodes, harpsichords and vibes. The RDP10 uses a new method of synthesis, felicitously called SAS – Structured Additive Synthesis – suggesting comparisons with PPG's Wavetables, or perhaps Korg's digital building-blocks. However it is achieved, the net result is reported as 'rivalling the fidelity of sampling instruments, whilst retaining the flexibility of more traditional synthesis techniques.' User-programmable editing and storage of the basic sounds make the most of this side of the machine, with a 'nice' velocity-sensitive plastic keyboard taking care of the ivory-tickling end.
If you want the sounds without tickling the ivories, though, there is of course a keyboardless 19" rackmounted expander version available, the MKS20. At an estimated £2,300 for the RDP10, and £1,200 for the MKS 20, there should be no lack of interest in SAS if it lives up to its advance publicity.
Elsewhere on the Roland stand, you'll find both the Alpha Juno 1 (reviewed last ish) and it's big brother, the Alpha Juno 2, offering 61, not 49 notes, and adding velocity and touch-sensitivity to the former machine's already respectable spec – six-note polyphony, MIDI In, Out & Thru, 128 memories split equally between factory presets and user-programmable locations, cartridge dump, etcetera. (In case you're wondering, both machines derive the 'Alpha' part of their name from the infinitely-incremental parameter wheel they both sport, an innovation seen first on the DDR30 digital drum unit... (Supplies of the Juno 1 should be in the stores now, at around £575, and the Juno 2's can be expected soon at an RRP of £799.
A certain amount of welcome infilling characterises the remainder of Roland's announced products; a new mother keyboard, the MKB200 features the same weighted plastic keyboard found on the JX8P. 64 notes long,the new board will be of particular interest to live users, featuring cartridge-dumpable performance patch storage, and remote volume control of up to two attached synths via volume slider or optional pedal (EV3) – assuming the attached synth's MIDI spec can handle it, that is. With all this in addition to the features one normally associates with mother keyboards, and at an RRP of £599, it may tempt a few more players into the expanding Expander field.
Cost v Specs in the drum machine market is bound to be a big issue at Frankfurt this year, and Roland's riposte to Yamaha's RX21 should be worth a looksee: logically if unimaginatively entitled the TR505, it is essentially a downmarket 707, featuring a full complement of sample kit sounds, and MIDI, for £290.
On the sequencer front, Roland have acknowledged the step-forward marked by Korg's SQD1 at bringing real, disk-driven sequencer power to the people, by releasing their own MC500. Building on the success of the MSQ700, this new toy offers a multitrack, polyphonic storage capacity of in excess of 20,000 notes, drop out and drop in (thus rectifying one of the most frequently voiced criticisms of the MSQ's) and, most importantly of all, a built in 3½" disk drive, in addition to the usual extensive editing and so on. Yours for a mere £799.
Signal processing hasn't been overlooked either – the RPQ40 is a handy, dual purpose addition to the popular Microrack series of home effects units, combining the functions of preamp (for guitar or mike to desk/portastudio matching) and parametric Eq into a compact £130 unit. Elsewhere in this month's mag, you will already have read Dave Burrluck's assessment of the Dimension C ("Dimension D in a footpedal") and the HS2 high band flanger (£30, £89 respectively) – so I won't go on about them.
Suffice to say that you can expect to see all these goodies at Frankfurt – and Roland promise a few more besides. Stay tuned...
And will Roland be entering the samplers takes this year? Only the Shadow knows, and he isn't telling. But between you and me, I wouldn't be surprised.
On the Sountracs stand for the first time will be the new M series monitor desk, complementing the M series sound reinforcement console, as well as the CM4400 studio console. This console is linked via a CMS2 interface to a 24 track tape machine, automating the muting and routing against SMPTE/EBU timecode, and incorporating video synchronisation. It will be available in a number of mainframesizes from 1-2-2 up to 44-12-24-2+2.
Simmons are playing their cards closer to their chest than most, refusing to reveal officially anything that they might or might not have up their collective sleeve. The recently released Simmons 64 sequencer software for the Commodore will almost certainly be on show, as will the long awaited MTM MIDI/analog/MIDI interface box. Bearing some superficial resemblances to Syco's PSP unit, the Simmons, as you'll have read elsewhere in this issue, goes a lot further, allowing you not only to trigger virtually anything from anything else, but offering extensive routing, repeat triggering a la SDS9, and even the ability to play whole chords from a single drumstroke, over MIDI. The possibilities are limitless...
And no doubt Simmons stalwart Bill Bruford and American keyboard whizz T. Lavitz will make the most of it, in the series of sessions they'll be presenting on the Simmons stand.
Studiomaster are adding three new models to their already extensive range of mixing desks, in the form of the Series II 16-12-2, 16-8-2, and 16-4-2 machines. More expensive than the existing models, these three desks will however offer a number of improved facilities, including better parametric eq, flexible routing and a MIDI interfaceable muting system which enables complete muting patterns to be controlled from any MIDI sequencer. Hardware and software links to Commodore and Spectrum micros will allow multiple patches to be stored. As usual with Studiomaster, all the desks will be expandable...
The company have also been busy on the power amp front, and will be introducing the latest and most powerful addition to the Studiomaster Mosfet Amp range, in the considerable form of the Mosfet 2000 Power Amp.
This compact (3U high) model is capable of delivering 450 watts per channel into four ohms, via no less than four discrete amplifier stages, or, bridged into linked pairs, at least 1000 watts per channel into four ohms, and can, of course, be operated in input-linked mono, stereo, or bridged format.
For people with more modest power requirements, two high specification 'budget' range amps will also be available; the Stellar Fets 2 and 4, which, as their names suggest, can deliver 200 and 400 watts respectively into four ohms. Prices on all the above have yet to be set, but are said to be 'competitive'.
Trace Elliot's continuing quest for perfection surfaces this year in the shape of the Mark V version of their acclaimed pre-amp, the GPII. Both technical tolerances and user-friendliness have been upgraded, with footswitch control of some of the preamp's functions, and eq balance; the range'll apparently 'look better' too. A new product in the form of the MP10 digitally programmable bass pre-amp will make its first appearance, enabling instant recall of a wide range of stored settings either from remote footswitch, or in the case of Status basses, touch-sensitive pads which will replace the instrument's tone controls. Frankfurt will also be the first major airing for Trace Elliot's new departure, the EPAS electronic percussion system, reviewed in last December's IM... Quite a few goodies then, but as with all Trace Elliott gear – if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it.
Vox will be heading up their display at the show with The 100 Watt Stack, an imaginative name for their 100 Watt stack. (1 lead head, two 4x12 cabs).
Elsewhere on their slice of the Frankfurt turf, there my be found the latest three additions to the Vox Venue range – the Dual 100 switchable twin channel amp, a solid-state device offering clean and distorted sounds via two entirely independent channels, and the new Venue 50W combos – compact bass and lead units both featuring 3-band Eq, DI, Headphone and Slave outs, and, in the case of the lead model, reverb.
Also keep an eye out for the new Vox White Shadow 'M' series Lead and Bass guitars, featuring rosewood fingerboards, maple necks, and basswood bodies. The lead range is available with or without locking tremolos, and with a choice of pickups, in red or white or black. The basses, in black with red binding, offer a choice of fretted and fretless models.
Yamaha will be attacking the opposition on virtually all musical fronts this year. Their major 'combo keyboard' exhibit will be based around four major new products: the DX100 and DX27 'budget' FM synths, already reviewed in IM, employing the same technology behind the monstrously successful DX7; and the eagerly awaited successors to the highly respected PF10 and 15 electric pianos. The PF80 and 70 both feature extensive MIDI (16 programmable control functions, making them an excellent choice of master keyboard in a MIDI set-up), ten FM voices, tremolo, chorus three-band eq, built-in rehearsal speakers, and a weighted keyboard action. With the 76-key PF70 going for an RRP of £899, and the PF80 for £999, both are sure to be big sellers for Yamaha. Expect them in the shops 'early in the new year'.
The modular side of the business will see the launch of the RX21's Latin counterpart, logically enough called the RX21L. Price (£248) and specifications function-wise are identical, tape dump, MIDI) but the 16 PCM sampled voices here cover a range of Latin sounds from the familiar (low, high and muted Congas, Timbales, Cowbell, etc) to the exotic (Whistle 1 and 2, Cuica...). If the sound quality of these sounds match those of the other Yamaha drum machines, then there should be a scramble for the unit. An L of a machine, no?
To be seen at the show but not hitting the shops'till May, there'll be three MIDI processing units – the MEP4 MIDI Event Processor; the MCS2 MIDI Control Station, and the MJC88 MIDI Junction Controller (Shades of Akai here, methinks.) Quite what these units do I haven't yet discovered, but I'm sure they do it well... There is also good reason to believe that Frankfurt might see the release of a new, budget sequencing unit (To compete with Casio's SZ-1, no doubt).
CX5M computer owners will be pleased to hear that they haven't been left out of the bonanza either. Several new software packages will be available, including disk-compatible ROMs for DX21 Voicing, FM Music Composer II, FM Voicing II, and FM Music Macro II (all clearly needed, after the somewhat variable quality of their predecessors.) Best 'add-on' of the lot though is the SFG05 Tone Module. Using the same tone-generating circuitry as the DX21 and DX100, this unit can simply be slotted into the CX5M in place of its own voicing module – with the additional advantage that this at long last adds a full-function MIDI In capability to the CX5, allowing it to be used as an FM expander unit. With an RRP of 'under £100' it could be the answer to a lot of people's prayers.
Bit of a mixed bag over in the PA/Pro Audio field. Being given a very high priority by Yamaha is their new multitrack cassette deck, the MT1X Recorder/Mixer. First impressions immediately suggest Tascam's Porta-One, and with a target price of 'around £450' this is clearly the primary competition. But, as always, Yamaha have a little something up their sleeves – in this case, a built in MIDI Sync facility...
At the other end of the Audio market, expect to see a new power amp, the P2075 – joining the revised 'P' series line-up introduced last year. Output is 75W + 75W into four ohms, mono switchable to give 150W into eight ohms. In mixers, lookout for the top of the line PM3000 32-channel desk. A range of five microphones will also be on hand, covering both vocal and instrumental use, and marking this entry of the company into yet another pocket of the music market.
Elsewhere, the Dark Rumours Department have been at it again, with news of 'a major breakthrough in low-cost multi-effects signal processing' expected imminently – a rival for Roland's Microrack series, perhaps...? Yamaha are unequivocally back on the effect pedal scene too, with six 'competitively priced' units: a Compressor, Chorus, Distortion, Flanger, Overdrive, and Graphic Eq. Spot prices on the Distortion (£39) and Chorus (£54) suggest that they mean business... On the guitar front, there will be some additions to the SE Series, based on the traditional single coil design; the new guitars will feature variations on that theme and humbuckers, with revised tremolo systems thrown in too. Cheapest model, the SE150, is yours for 'significantly under £200'.
Additions to Yamaha drums, admirably represented so far by both the 9000 Recording Series, and the new 8000 Tour Series will be joined at Frankfurt by a range of brass shell snares, updates in the hardware department, and two new lacquer finishes – Quartz Grey on the 9000 and Sunset Brown in the 8000 Series.
Putting an end to months of speculation, the first pre-production prototypes of Yamaha's entry into electronic percussion will be on display in the form of pads and a MIDI Interface box, in this first instance linked to existing units like the RX and TX modules, though a dedicated drum unit is currently being developed to be ready later in the year.
And that (taking a short breath) is just about it for Yamaha, who don't seem to have left any blind spots in their quest for total music world domination.
...And that also just about wraps it up – a brief taster of the goodies that'll be revealed down Frankfurt way. For the main course and dessert, watch out for our Frankfurt Review – and start drooling...
Show Report by Tony Reed
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