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Opcode Galaxy Plus Editors

Tell your Mac what it's hooked up to! Save the contents of all your MIDI devices with one mouse movement! Edit 47 different devices from the comfort of your armchair! Kendall Wrightson examines Opcode's new Mac system software and the latest in editor/librarians.

Figure 1. Galaxy screen with with Bundle Window, Bank Window (Kawai K1 Singles) and Mouse Keys.

The story so far: back in the old days, musicians and synthesizers shared an intimate, tactile relationship. New sounds were created, new schools of music established; man and machine were one. Suddenly, one afternoon in 1983, the manufacturers went totally mad and decided en masse to hide the massive creative potential of the synthesizer behind a solitary 'data entry' slider. Originality waned, the preset was King. Thankfully, MIDI came to the rescue. Using the system exclusive protocol, instruments were able to communicate with musicians via interpretive software. Control was transferred to the computer screen. The art of synthesizer programming was saved from extinction. Now read on...

Opcode are pioneers of MIDI software, and since the mid-80s have produced editor/librarian applications for over 60 different devices including synths, drum machines and effects processors. Last year saw the release of a 'universal librarian' called Galaxy, capable of saving, sorting and even generating patches far over 90 individual instruments. Opcode's latest offering is Galaxy Plus Editors which, in addition to Galaxy's librarian facilities, adds 47 fully featured graphic editor modules (see separate box for the full list).

Both Galaxy and Galaxy Plus Editors require Opcode's latest software innovation, the Opcode MIDI System. OMS is a Mac system extension and setup application that stores information about the hardware connected to (or fitted inside) your Mac. Once installed, all OMS-compatible applications (at present that means Vision and Studio Vision v1.3) use this knowledge to route MIDI data from the Mac to the outside world and display instrument names in their menus (see 'Opcode MIDI System' box).


Having configured OMS, the next stage is to run Galaxy from the master floppy disk and decide whether to transfer a special software 'key' to your hard disk. This 'HD Install key' is the most common copy protect scheme on the Mac, and nearly all MIDI software publishers employ it. Once a key is installed, you don't have to insert the master disk each time the application is run after power up — which is good. However, there is a serious risk of losing keys should your hard disk crash — which is very bad. Virus detectors and disk optimisers are also extremely key-unfriendly.

If a key is destroyed, you're locked out of the application for ever, and the only solution is to beg the distributor (who will then beg the publisher) to give you a new master disk. This is hardly ideal, particularly mid-session, but at least the Galaxy master disk contains two keys.

The third and final installation procedure is to load whatever librarian and editor modules you need. This is done from within Galaxy by selecting Easy Configuration from the Setups menu. A dialogue box asks to see all five Galaxy disks, and any modules matching those described in the current OMS Setup document are loaded automatically.


You can fetch a bank of patches by selecting New Bank from the Galaxy File menu. A dialogue box appears listing all the devices connected to your Mac, (and any other installed modules not used in the current OMS document). The device list also includes the various different types of data that each device supports. For example, the Kawai K1 contains 'Singles' and 'Multis' and the Korg M1 holds 'Combinations', 'Programs', 'Effects', 'Global Data' and 'Sequences'.

Having selected a device and data type, an empty Bank Window appears. The size, shape and organization of the Bank Window reflects the device and type of data selected. The Bank Window in Figure 1 shows a Bank of Kawai K1 'Singles' which are organised as two groups of 32 (iA1-8 to D1-8 and IA1-8 to D1-8), whereas a bank of 99 Korg M1 'programs' are numbered simply 0 to 99. (For the remainder of the article the word "Patch" is used as a generic term for any single item of data in a Bank Window).

Selecting Load Bank (card or internal) from the Load/Save menu initiates the transfer process. A 'progress' dialogue box displays the estimated load time in minutes and seconds (which decreases as data is loaded). Where the transfer requires user intervention, Galaxy gives appropriate prompts, such as "Press MIDI Transmit and then press Yes" in the case of the Yamaha DX7. Galaxy also provides comprehensive online help for every module installed — essential reading for the professional programmer.

When loading patches that contain sub-patches, (such as Kawai K1 Multis, which contain Singles), Galaxy automatically loads both since the former (the 'parent') is useless without the latter (its 'child'). When the load operation is complete, the empty Bank Window fills with patch names unless the device in question doesn't support them (such as the elderly Roland Juno 106).


Galaxy's 'Bundles' offer a way to load/save all the different types of data (or selections thereof) that an individual device supports. Better still, a Bundle can contain different instruments. For example, the Bundle in Figure 1 contains Kawai K1, Korg M1 and Oberheim Matrix 1000 patch types. Bundles are built by selecting New Bundle from the File menu, and choosing the devices/data types you wish the Bundle to incorporate.

By highlighting a particular device, all data from that device is loaded. With the "Get All Banks In Bundles" command, it's possible to take a 'snapshot' of an entire studio setup — ideal for studio sessions. Both standalone Banks and Bundles can be saved in either Galaxy 1.0 or Opcode Librarian version 5 format. In addition, Bundles can be saved as a template, so that you don't have to build one from scratch every time.


Referring to our Bank Window again, individual patches can be renamed (by clicking on individual patch fields) or rearranged using standard cut, copy and paste techniques. By holding down the option key, patches can also be 'dragged' from one location to another — a neat touch. If several Bank Windows (of the same type) are open, patches can also be copied/pasted/dragged between them — great for arranging custom Banks for gigs.

Since an instrument's performance banks are always limited in size (64, 99, 128 etc.), a Bank is not the ideal repository for storing a large collection of sounds. In order to fulfill this role, Opcode offers the 'Library', a file of unlimited size into which patches can be copied/dragged from Banks and Bundles of the same device and data type. If a parent patch is moved out of a Bundle into a library (or a standalone Bank) Galaxy copies the children too — very smart.

Figure 2. Patch Info dialogue box.

One way to use the Library facility is to build files containing various categories of sounds, such as string or brass sounds. However, with Galaxy's new Find facility, you could store all your patches in a single Library file (one per instrument), since each patch can be assigned a small amount of descriptive text plus a series of custom categories and keywords to help you find particular sounds. This text is configured in a window called Patch Info (see Figure 2). Descriptive text, categories and keywords make it possible to be very specific about the kind of patch you're looking for. For example, searching for a fast attack, bright, warm, medium release cello is no problem! To get you started, Galaxy Plus Editors is supplied with 1,500 factory patches all containing text, categories and keywords.


The Patch Factory menu provides access to three types of automatic patch creation algorithm. 'Shuffler' generates a new Bank or Library file by shuffling the parameters of a specified Bank. Thus if the Bank contains mostly string sounds, the Shuffled Bank will be heavily biased towards strings.

'Shade Two' allows you to select two patches and have Patch Factory generate patches that consist of a gradual transition from one to the other. You can choose to generate an entire Bank or a Library, the latter giving you the option of determining how many patches (and therefore how many interim steps) there will be between the two extremes. Both Shuffler and Shade Two are intelligent enough not alter parameters which would result in a complete dogs' breakfast of a sound.

Like Shuffler, 'Constrained Random' requires two patches as a starting point. The algorithm uses them to set the limits of randomisation, hence in one you set minimum parameter limits and in the other, the maximum. Patch names are also randomised in this process, a feature I highly commend — "Flapper" for example is priceless. Sounded pretty good too. A fourth Patch Factory option is 'Library Sampler' which creates a new Bank or Library consisting of Patches picked at random from (preferably) a large library file.

Figure 3. Roland D110 Tone editor.


Individual patches can be transmitted to an instrument's edit buffer — or to the highest patch number if it has no edit buffer — at any time by selecting Send Patch from the Load/Save menu. A 'Send On Select' option provides an automatic alternative, transmitting Patches as you click on them in the Bank Window or as you step through them with a MIDI controller event (such as a footswitch). The latter makes it possible to check a Galaxy Bank from a remote keyboard.

Galaxy offers several ways to audition a patch. With Echo Keyboard set to On, any MIDI note received at either of the Mac's ports is echoed and auto-channelised for the appropriate device. Alternatively, the MouseKeys window provides a small on-screen MIDI keyboard which automatically routes its MIDI output to the current device. MouseKeys offers adjustable octave scroll, velocity, repeat, 'Lazy Keys', chords and multiple MIDI channel selection. The Mac alphanumeric keyboard can also get in on the act, 'Z' being middle C.

The Play menu also makes provision for a small sequence to be recorded. Length is limited only by available memory and sequences can be set to loop — ideal for testing riffs. Finally, Galaxy can also play an imported MIDI file.


When Galaxy and Vision/Studio Vision run together in Multifinder or System 7.0 (which integrates the Multifinder completely), Galaxy Patch names appear automatically in Vision's List and Graphic windows, the Metronome and Select dialogue boxes and the Control Bar. An instrument's program numbering scheme is also displayed. For drum machines, Vision/Studio Vision can display MIDI notes by name rather than number.


New librarian and editor modules are introduced fairly regularly, and can be purchased for a nominal fee. For those who understand all those weird numbers at the back of instrument manuals, Galaxy has a programming mode in which librarian modules can be constructed using a language called PatchTalk. It's very similar to the HyperCard scripting language, HyperTalk, and makes full use of Galaxy's menus, windows and graphics.


With Galaxy, arranging, categorising and searching for patches has never been easier. Patch conversion, random patch generation and dynamic links with Vision are great, OMS is brilliant, and the "Get All Banks..." command is a godsend for commercial MIDI studios. While Galaxy Plus Editors can't provide the intimacy of real knobs and sliders, having all controls and parameters visible simultaneously makes navigation easy and programming intuitive, through its excellent graphic tools and displays, Galaxy presents a consistent user interface, making it easy to learn new devices.

Galaxy/Plus Editors greatest appeal will be to Vision/Studio Vision owners, thanks to its automatic patch publishing links between the two and also because both support the excellent OMS. I suspect everyone else will want to compare Galaxy Plus Editors with Dr.T's X-OR, which is some £67 cheaper, isn't copy protected and supports editors and librarians for 90 devices. After that review, maybe I'll be able to say one isn't really a patch on the other... (sorry).

Thanks to David Kaplowitz at Opcode


Galaxy Plus Editors £346.63 inc VAT.
Galaxy £210.33 inc VAT.
Individual Editor/Librarians £129.25 to £210.33 inc VAT.
Upgrade from Galaxy to Galaxy Plus Editors £188 Inc VAT.
Upgrade from individual editor/librarians to Galaxy/Galaxy Plus Editors — difference in RRP.

MCMXCIX. (Contact Details).


Emu: Proteus 1/2/XR.
Ensoniq: ESQ-1/SQ-80.
Kawai: K1, K1r, K1m.
Korg: M1, M1R, M1 EX, M1R EX, M3R, T1, T2, T3; Wavestation.
Kurzweil: K1000 (SE, SE Extended, SE 11, SE II Extended, 1000PX, HX, SX, GX, PX Plus, AX Plus, K1200, K1200 Pro1, Pro2, Pro3).
Oberheim: Matrix 6/1000.
Roland: D50/D550; Multi-D (D5, D10, D110, D20, MT32).
Yamaha: DX/TX (DX7, DX7II, TX7, TX816, TX802); TX81Z, DX11, DX21, DX100; REV5; SPX90/SPX90II; SY77, TG77 (includes DX/TX to SY77/TG77 patch conversion utility).

Alesis: Quadraverb, MIDIVerb III.
Casio: CZ1, CZ101, CZ3000, CZ5000, RZ1.
J.L. Cooper: MSB 16/20, MSB+ (Not fully Supported with MSB V2).
E-mu: Proteus 1/2/XR.
Ensoniq: ESQ-1, ESQ-M, SQ-80, VFX, VFX-SD, SQ1, SQR.
Fender:Chroma, Polaris.
Kawai: K1, K1r, K1m, K3, K3m, K4, K4r, K5, K5m.
Korg: DW8000, EX8000, M1, M1R, M1 EX, M1R EX, M3R, T1, T2, T3; Wavestation.
Kurzweil: K1000 (SE, SE Extended, SE 11, SE II Extended, 1000PX, HX, SX, GX, PX Plus, AX Plus, K1200, K1200 Pro1, Pro2. Pro3).
Lexicon: PCM70, LXP1.
Linn: LinnDrum.
Oberheim: Matrix-6, Matrix 6R, Matrix 1000, OB-8, Xpander, Matrix 12.
Peavey: DMP3.
Rane: MPE 14, 28, 47.
Roland: Alpha Juno 1/2, CM-32L/32P, CM64, D70, D50/D550; D5, D10, D110, D20, MT32, Juno 06, JX8P, MKS-50/70/80, R8, R8M, GP16, S330 (names only), Super Jupiter, U20/220.
Sequential: Prophet VS.
Waldorf: Microwave.
Yamaha: DX7, DX7/E!, DX7EI2, DX5, DX1, TX216, DX7E!, DX7E!v2, DX7S, DX7II, TX7, TX816, TX802; TX81Z, DX11, DX21, DX100; FB-01. REV5; SPX90/SPX90II; SY77, TG77.
Generic Bulk


The Opcode MIDI System consists of several items of software that store information about a Mac's MIDI setup. Armed with this knowledge, compatible MIDI applications are dynamically informed about port assignments, interface types, and the direction of MIDI traffic. It's also possible to tell OMS exactly what MIDI devices are connected, and even determine the MIDI channels and device IDs to which each will respond.

MIDI applications can use this information in a number of ways. At the most fundamental level, Galaxy Plus Editors uses OMS information to route system exclusive data to and from the outside world. Less significant (but just as convenient), it uses OMS data to determine which editor/librarian modules to load.


The OMS software consists of a system extension (formally known as an INIT), various OMS drivers, and an application called OMS Setup. A special OMS Installer utility places the INIT, drivers and Apple's MIDI Manager into the System Folder and puts OMS Setup on the desktop.

An OMS Setup with an 8-port MIDI Patcher and nine MIDI devices

As OMS boots, it takes a look through your Mac's printer and Modem ports and tries to determine what's connected. Any standard single or dual port interface is recognised, and its speed (0.5MHz, 1MHz, 2MHz or Fast) and synchroniser capability (Yes/No) can be set later with a menu item called Edit Device Info.

Custom drivers can be added to support other interfaces and, at press time, OMS is supplied with drivers for Mark of the Unicorn's MIDI Time Piece and Opcode's new Studio 5. (These are multi independent port MIDI interfaces, capable of addressing over 500 MIDI channels. The MIDI Time Piece was reviewed in the September 1990 issue of SOS.)

OMS also checks your Mac's NuBus slots. At present, OMS only recognises SampleCell (Digidesign's digital sampler — SOS March '91), but it shouldn't be long before a driver for MacProteus (Digidesign's Proteus ROM player — SOS Jan '91) becomes available.

When OMS Setup has completed its look into the crevices of your Mac and MIDI interface, an "Untitled" Setup Window appears, containing icons for each interface and any NuBus card detected. The next stage is to select New Device from the Studio menu — which produces the dialogue box below — and tell OMS all about the equipment you've managed to amass (or not).

OMS Device Info dialogue box.

A pop up menu lists all the popular (and not so popular) manufacturers, and a further pop up lists all the MIDI synths, samplers, effects and tone modules from each manufacturer to date. Check boxes inform OMS whether the selected device transmits MIDI ("Is Controller"), "Is Multi-timbral", and whether it should send and/or receive any synchronisation data ("Sends/Receives Sync").

You can also set Device ID numbers and MIDI channels. (Device IDs allow software like Galaxy Plus Editors to tell the difference between, say, two D110s or three M1s.) OMS warns you if two devices have the same ID number, or if you attempt to assign a device to a MIDI channel which has already be assigned.

If you have a MIDI patchbay (Opcode call them MIDI Patchers), a menu item called MIDI Patcher can be used to set the number of ports and its MIDI receive channels (if any).


Every device appears as an icon in the Setup window. By clicking on the device and dragging it on to the appropriate port, OMS is informed of the wiring used in your setup. The diagram below shows a setup for an 8-port MIDI Patcher with one device on ports 1 to 7 and two devices on port 8 (using MIDI thru). The numbers in the little trapeziums are MIDI program changes which are transmitted to the MIDI Patcher when you click in the trapezium. The program number in the top trapezium is transmitted automatically on power up.

Several studio descriptions can be defined and saved, but one must be designated as the Current Setup, as MIDI applications look for this document when they are opened.


Like OMS, Apple's MIDI Manager/PatchBay software routes MIDI data to NuBus cards and the outside world. Of the two, OMS is far superior since it becomes a more integral part of an application. It 'knows' what's connected to (or fitted inside) your Mac and can refer to it by name. OMS also has the advantage that it doesn't slow your Mac down like MIDI Manager, which uses so much CPU time that it cannot run effectively on a Mac Plus, SE or Classic. It also has to be said that the latest version of MIDI Manager has more gremlins than a Joe Dante movie (see SOS October '90 for more on MIDI Manager). On the other hand, MIDI Manager can route MIDI performance and timing data between applications as well as hardware. This isn't really important unless you routinely run a couple of sequencers together, or wish to record the system exclusive data generated by a editor/librarian directly into a sequencer. I've never had call to do either, but if you do. Opcode provide an OMS driver for MIDI Manager driver (which replaces the Apple MIDI driver) so that non-OMS applications can talk to Opcode software via MIDI Manager.

The only real drawback OMS has is that at present only Opcode software is compatible with it. OMS is a great idea; lets hope that this time next year, it is as well supported as MIDI Manager is today.


A Galaxy editor is activated by pressing the tiny Edit button (or double clicking a patch location) in a Bank Window. All editors are unique, but the user interface is common to all, so once you've learned one editor mastering another is simple.


Like all Mac applications, values can be typed directly, but in keeping with the rest of the Opcode range, values can also be entered by holding the mouse down and moving it upwards to increase the value and vice versa. You can also nudge values up and down by pressing the "[" and "]" keys, which is neat. Clicking certain numerical boxes produces a 'Guide Slider' which, like all sliders, gives you an instant idea of how high a parameter is compared to its maximum value. Other parameter boxes offer only two states (On/Off, In/Out, Yes/No) — when shaded the parameter is Off/Out/No, when clear it's On etc.

Clicking one of the Galaxy's miniature graphic envelopes produces a much larger display offering boxes with which you can drag the envelope into the desired shape. Envelopes and other graphic objects can also be displayed numerically (useful for typing in data from a data sheet) by toggling an item in the Edit menu. Where an item has umpteen possible non-numerical values (such as a list of PCM waveforms). Galaxy offers pop-up menus which scroll automatically on 9" (compact Mac) monitors.

Undo, Cut, Copy and Paste commands can all be used within Galaxy editors, so common editing tasks like copying envelope data around is a two key-stroke affair. Other menu items include Compare/Uncompare (which temporarily reverts to the last version saved) and Initialize Patch. Some Editors offer additional Edit commands such as Copy Layer, Paste Layer and Paste Child Patch.

All the auditioning methods described in the main text are available within the editors, and if Play On Parameter Change is toggled, a sequence or MIDI file will play every time a parameter is altered. Each module has its own manual, but as so many are provided on disk, manuals have to be ordered separately. Manuals are free in the UK, though a nominal charge is made to cover shipping from the States and UK postage and packing.

Also featuring gear in this article

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Next article in this issue

Roland S750 Sampler

Sound On Sound - Copyright: SOS Publications Ltd.
The contents of this magazine are re-published here with the kind permission of SOS Publications Ltd.


Sound On Sound - Oct 1991

Donated by: Bert Jansch / Adam Jansch

Gear in this article:

Software: Editor/Librarian > Opcode > Galaxy

Previous article in this issue:

> Electronic

Next article in this issue:

> Roland S750 Sampler

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