The readers' synth sound page, with patches for SCI Pro One, Yamaha DX7 and Casio CZ 101 instruments, plus reviews of anew DX RAM pack and another collection of sounds for sampling.
Right you lot, if you're still in two minds as to whether or not to send in your own synth sounds, we'll just mention that from now on, successful contributors to Patchwork will be awarded a free year's subscription to E&MM, commencing with the issue in which their patch is published. Not that most of you need any incentive, mind you, judging by the quantity of patches we've received since The Return of Patchwork was first mentioned last month. But when the Publisher is in an extra-generous mood (something to do with a horse), why argue?
Patchwork MkII incorporates reviews of sound libraries (cartridges, disks, cassettes, chips and so on) for all types of synths and samplers, so there should be something for everyone.
If you'd like to be included on our subscribers' list without having to fork out a penny, send us your favourite sounds on a copy of an owner's manual chart (coupled with a blank one for artwork purposes), include a brief description of your sound, and what musical purpose you feel it's best suited to — and don't forget to include your full name and address. Patches please to: Patchwork, E&MM, (Contact Details).
Michael Thydell, Sweden
The Casio CZ range seems to have a healthy Swedish following, as 'Koyaanisqatsi' follows the 'Starshine' patch from last month's Swedish contributor. Named after the film soundtrack by the doyen of systems music, Philip Glass (as if you didn't know), this patch consists of two sounds, mixed in 1+2 mode and therefore just four-note polyphonic. DCO2 is a good organ-type sound from the mid to top end (for the solo voice), while DCO1 provides the bass which is blessed with a distinct but nonetheless subtle amplitude envelope curve. Excellent for those Glass-like endlessly-repeating organ arpeggios — so long as you don't fall asleep listening to them.
Sean Harvey, Middlesex
This one is modestly described by its creator as 'about the most powerful bass sound that can be achieved from this great synth'. We hope you agree. 'Punchy Bass' is another good reason why the humble monosynth is still so popular as a dedicated bass and leadline machine; could you get anything more aggressive out of a modern-day digital polysynth?
So dig out the cobwebbed Pro One from under the bed, dust it down and get programming. Remember that the older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune (or so our ad manager keeps telling us, anyway).
Martin Bullard, West Yorkshire
Not exactly an exclusive sound, as we hear that 'Fuzz Bizz' (or should that be 'B'ukz Fizz'?), is already very popular with DX7 owners the length and breadth of Yorkshire. However, in case you originate from a different part of the globe, the creator describes this patch as 'a good beefy no-nonsense sound that you can really lean into and attack. It doesn't attempt to put the DX7 into the analogue synth category, and neither does it try to create a sound which has become overused or over-recorded.' Noble sentiments, those.
Sound Sample Tapes
Along similar lines to the Korg sample tape featured last month, the Timbre tapes — for there are two of them — comprise an extensive collection of assorted sounds for feeding into your resident sampling machine (if you have one).
The 261 sounds are Dolby B-encoded, there's a note included to the effect that using Dolby C on playback gives a further improvement in S/N ratio, along with the suggestion that gating the samples gives cleaner results. Each sound appears twice: the first time to allow the setting of trigger levels and so on, and the second for actually making the sample. This alleviates the need for having to rewind the tape every time you hear something that takes your fancy — a nice touch.
There's no verbal introduction to each sound. Instead, all the sounds appear on an accompanying list, where there is provision for writing a tape counter number alongside each one — remembering, of course, that you will always be using the same cassette machine, that its counter never slips, and that you will always be able to put your fingers on the list whenever you need it.
The sound selection covers almost everything, from the inevitable percussion and sound effects to Fairlight clichés, an orchestra tuning up, and another shakuhachi in a similar vein to Korg's. The sounds are conveniently arranged in family groups, and there's a useful number of alternatives to most of them, so if the first sound isn't quite what you're after, one of its relatives might be.
Sound quality is as good as can reasonably be expected from both the cassette itself and the machine you're playing it back on — aural exciters being conveniently forgotten for the moment.
The Timbre Tapes are a more expensive proposition than the Korg version, but have the double-edged advantage of offering more sounds and a bigger variety of them.
RAM Cartridge for Yamaha DXSynths
Nice though Yamaha's DX synths are to look at, listen to, and play, there's no escaping the fact that they're a bit of an old walrus to program — even if Patchwork's contributors seem to have little difficulty. All the more reason, then, why DX owners should have a reliable, versatile means of storing their sounds once they've created them so painstakingly.
Yamaha's own RAM packs are a little restricting in a number of ways: they can store only 32 sounds, they take over ten seconds to load those sounds into the DX, they're a mite on the expensive side, and they have a nasty habit of crashing whenever you try something complicated like turning the synth off with the cartridge still in it.
The Red Planet SR64 — brainchild of a Canadian company of the same name — sidesteps these problems and incorporates some ingenious design elements of its own. It's a dual-edged package that effectively houses two RAMs, immediately doubling storage capacity to 64 voices.
Loading each bank of 32 takes no more than a couple of seconds (which makes this RAM a lot more usable live), and the Red Planet package should prove considerably more reliable than its competitors, thanks largely to a clever piece of delay circuitry that disables the memory chip for a few milliseconds as soon as mains power is switched on or off, thereby preventing any unscheduled loss of data.
The SR64 looks a fair bit more durable than the Yamaha ROM, too, and like Rock City's Skyslip design, it should theoretically last forever and needs a new battery only every decade or so. No rush on Duracell shares this month, then.
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