The place where MT readers exchange synth sounds with their fellow programmers; this month's featured instruments include the Akai AX73, the EMS AKS, and the Ensoniq ESQ1. Plus an assessment of storing sound data on CD.
IF YOU'RE STILL waiting to see your particular synth featured in these pages, then why not be the first to submit some sounds? Many readers are now supplementing their patch charts with a short demo cassette of the sounds in question, and this is really good news for our over-worked (and generally hungover) editorial team. Don't worry too much about classic performances and impeccable recording quality; just present your sounds simply and concisely - and convince us you're the best of the bunch.
If you can't lay your hands on a cassette player, don't let that put you off submitting some patches - an interesting description is a good substitute.
Don't forget that if your patch gets published, you'll receive a free year's subscription to MUSIC TECHNOLOGY with our compliments. So send us your favourite sounds on a photocopy of an owner's manual chart (coupled with a blank one for artwork purposes) accompanied, if possible, by a short demo-tape. Include a decent-length description of your sound and its musical purpose in life, and write your full name and address on each chart. And remember, edited presets are all very well, but an original masterpiece is always preferable. OK?
The address to send sounds to: Patchwork, (Contact Details)
Brian Cosgrove, Northumbria
Never say die! The good ol' EMS AKS is brought into play here as a processor. 'Bounce' can be used to enhance any audio input; it slowly changes the timbre of the input and sweeps the reverbed result across the stereo picture. The joystick is used to control the speed of the stereo effect and the reverb amount. Brian finds the patch most useful in the context of slow, ambient passages, but we're sure you'll put it to many other uses, too.
Greg Truckell, Dumfries, Scotland
Among the many good patches we received this month for the ESQ1 was this aggressive electric piano sound. Its creator adds that 'Klanky Keys' is not intended to imitate any other electric piano, or any synth voice, for that matter; it's a "pure'' ESQ1 sound.
Kenneth Millar, Glasgow
Unless our memory serves us wrong (and, ahem, alcohol has been known to affect the ol' grey matter), Kenneth is the first Akai synth user to grace us with some patches. (So no, Mr Akai, we weren't prejudiced after all.) 'Nick/Nick' is a pulsating strings-like sound that could fit the bill for those slowish numbers, where both a melody line and accompaniment sound is needed, and Kenneth recommends it especially for tunes in minor keys.
John Collins, Limerick, Ireland
A collection of four sounds for the JX8P (once the apple of Roland's eye):
Bowed String (A): best used in unison mode, the sort of sound Roland synths do so well.
Orch II (B): very much an effect sound, this.
String Vox (C): pretty much as the name suggests. John uses it for the Cutting Crew's '(I Just) Died in your Arms'.
Banjo (D): well, sure we couldn't have a set of patches from the Emerald Isle without a banjo patch...
Eric Sip, Raishes, France
Perhaps best described as a novelty sound, 'Vocoded Voice' imitates a laid-back "Hey" sound. At the very least, it's fun. At most, it'll point other CZ owners in the right direction for creating some more vocoder-type sounds (by altering the envelope values, Eric created a respectable "Yeah" and "Aye"). Now, if we could only get it to say "anyone for tea?".
Universe of Sound, Volume II
THE PEOPLE WHO brought you 500 disks of EII sounds on a CD-ROM have done it, quite literally, again. The Universe, Volume II contains 509 disks' worth of sounds, and is now available for the EII or the Oberheim DPX1. At £795, that works out at just over £1.50 per disk (plus VAT, of course).
What do you get for your money? The sound assortment is rather good, with all categories pretty well represented (ie. 80+ disks of pianos and synths, 70+ disks of drums and percussion, 30+ of brass and woodwinds, and so on). A third of the sounds fall into the sound effects category, which for me, at least, is a boon because I find myself more into audio-for-video and placing unusual backing effects in music these days. If you're strictly a keyboardist, though, keep this in mind.
In general, Volume II reveals better preparation than Volume I - I found all of the banks I tested to be from fair to excellent (none were "bad"). The sounds are quieter, although still in the range of EII quality - slightly lacking in bandwidth and clarity compared to more modern samplers. OMI attribute the quietness to a 16-bit sound source for all of the samples.
Almost all of the sounds have been crossfade-looped - of the 80 disks I tried out, only three or four samples clicked. Enveloping, in general, was pretty good. I still found many cases of no performance parameters (ie. no velocity or mod wheel response), however, and the odd hole in a map. If you are planning to use this with a DPX1, these pose particular problems, because you will be unable to edit these parameters as you could on an EII.
Is all this technology cost-effective? Well, let's say that, like me, you found about 100 disks' worth that piqued your interest. The price for them is about nine quid per disk. Now, add the cost of the CDS3 CD-ROM unit itself (£1725, with the essential hand-held remote). Suddenly the price is £26 per disk, which is at or above the going rate from third-party companies. To be fair, though, we have to keep in mind that if you're going to spend the money on the CD-ROM unit, you'll probably buy at least two CDs' worth of sounds over time (OMI will undoubtedly put out more volumes).
Convenience may well be the deciding factor. These sounds transfer over the RS422 port on the back of the machine(s), and therefore load much faster than those from conventional floppy disk. There is no need to go digging through 100 to 500 disks - they're all at the reach of the remote. You don't have to spend time searching for and buying those 100 or more disks - and you get 400 "free" in the little scenario I've laid out.
So - if you feel a need to have a library of this size for your EII or DPX1, the CD-ROM route balances a little extra money against less hassle (your exact trade-off, of course, will depend on how many of these sounds you find useful). If you tried Volume I and liked the idea but hated the quality, then give Volume II a spin - it's much better.
Prices Vol. I £595; Vol. II £795. both excluding VAT. CDS3 CD-ROM with remote. £1725 including VAT
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