Report from the NAMM front.
We all know America is bigger and better. It's also earlier. The NAMM Anaheim musical instrument show beats Frankfurt to the punch by a couple of weeks. We Jumboed Jim Douglas to California for the famous sneak preview.
Make believe you're Dragnet Joe Friday, the editor said — "just the facts" — so here goes. If there was one word which was on just about everyone's lips at this year's winter National Association of Music Merchants' trade show in Anaheim California, that word would be MIDI.
"It doesn't mean a thing if it ain't got that (5-pin) DIN (and maybe a personal computer or two)."
Yamaha were showing various DX Series FM digital synths hooked up via MIDI to an IBM PC running a new series of music composition software program and interface cards from Passport Designs (who also make the SoundChaser and MX-5 keyboard/synth cards, and the new Polywriter music-writing program for the Apple II and IIE).
Roland fired up an array of synths including the Jupiter-6, JX-3P, and the new Juno-106 (six-voice/128 programs) synth via its MPU-401 MIDI Processing Unit that can be hooked up through custom interfaces to the Apple II or IBM PC. Also available is the new MKB-1000 MIDI-equipped keyboard controller with wooden keys to provide the player with the feel of an acoustic piano, plus the MSQ-700 Digital Keyboard Recorder — described as the world's first MIDI-compatible sequencer — which will store up to 6500 notes in eight memory "tracks"; it also handles both MIDI information, DCB data (Digital Communication Buss) when fitted to the Jupiter-8 and Juno-60, plus the MD-8 MIDI-to-DCB interface box.
Although they might be MIDI-equipped only for appearances' sake, such is the power of the MIDI buzz-word these days, two keyboards which sounded particularly tasty were the 360 Systems Digital Keyboard which features 16 digitally recorded sounds available at the touch of a button — different sets of sounds can be loaded as memory chips; the strings and piano sounds, in particular, sounded exceptionally realistic — and the Kurzweil Model 250.
Showed a year ago at NAMM in early prototype form, the Kurzweil is now said to be in full production and offers up to 60 digitally recorded instrument voices, optional sound sampling and extended sequencer storage, plus computer interface for music composition, editing and notation print-out. String, drum and grand piano sounds, in particular, sound stunningly realistic — thanks, in no small part to the complex digital sampling and pattern-recognition techniques used to capture each individual note, decay envelope, and harmonic content/partials for each note. Not to mention the split-keyboard mode which puts strings, for instance, in their correct registers, and the 255 levels of the velocity-sensitive keyboard. Look for this to become the next generation of Fairlight...
Technics have entered what for want of a better word I'll call the "high-end Casio market". Their eight-voice SK-100 digital keyboard offers eight preset tunes complete with chord progressions, rhythm, effects and bass-lines: an add-on memory pack enables accompaniments to be programmed by the user.
Bearing with the synth theme for just a moment longer, Roland was wowing NAMM crowds with its new GR700 guitar synth and GR707 controller with its odd-looking one-piece neck and neck support made from graphite. The 700, which is also compatible with previous GR guitar controllers, features 12 digitally-controlled oscillators, six VCAs, six VCFs, LFO, chorus, and a programmer. A footpedal layout on the unit enables any one of 64 patch memories to be recalled — the Hammond B3 sound is quite stunning. An optional cartridge adds 64 more programs, or you can make your own sounds with the PG200 programmer. Oh, and yes, the GR700 also comes with MIDI in/out.
Other bits 'n' pieces that caught my eye: Studio Master "The System" stackable keyboard cabinets containing either 15in or 18in drivers for the bottom end, two 10in cones for the mid, and a horn for the high end; DOD 900 Series Digital Delay unit available with up to 1.9s delay, and switchable flange/chorus/double/echo and variable speed LFO; MXR Model 191 mono-in/stereo-out programmable digital reverb with built-in "programs" ranging from plates to large rooms, and the Junior Portable Sound Box (same package as the Series 2000 pedals), which contains four digitally recorded sounds in replaceable ROM — ranging from drum and percussion, to handclaps and "farts" — that can be triggered from the front panel pad, or external foot-switchable pad; Allen & Heath SRM-186 18-channel monitor mixer with built-in mic splitter, three-band eq, six output mixes, PFL/solo on each channel and group, plus comprehensive talkback; Moog's prototype "The Producer" computer-controlled system based on a Commodore 64, and seen controlling via MIDI three drum machines and up to four Source synths; new features for the LinnDrum include improved trigger outputs plus sync with virtually any sequencer, single-step programming, and expanded song capacity (now 250 steps per song), plus optional memory expansion to double the events capacity to 5200, and a library of over 60 plug-in sound chips; and a Fostex MN-115 battery or mains powered five-input mono mixer with built-in compressor/limiter (for use with the 250 Multitracker).
Show Report by Jim Douglas
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