16 channels of MIDI data at the push of a slider. Vic Lennard just loves being in control.
Need total control over your MIDI system? Peavey have designs in that direction...
Reviewing the JL Cooper FaderMaster - an 8-slider MIDI control unit in October 1989, I made the remark that "there is absolutely no way this unit is leaving my studio". A hackneyed reviewer's comment perhaps, but it's one which this reviewer seldom makes. And certainly, the FaderMaster went on to see daily use as a real-time controller of my MIDI devices until a couple of months ago.
In the intervening period, certain shortcomings have come to light (the most serious of which was the fact that I needed 16 sliders!) - shortcomings, which, seemingly, have been addressed in the design of a new unit from Peavey, the PC-1600.
From the moment you set eyes on the PC-1600, you start to get ideas of what it may be capable of. Sixteen 6cm faders and on/off switches adorn the angled front panel along with a 20-character x 2-line display which has a set of four cursor keys and half a dozen control buttons; Edit, Copy, Enter, Utility, Scene and Exit. While the cursor keys are used to select the on-screen parameter whose value needs to be altered, the actual changing of values is carried out via a neat metal data wheel, reminiscent of the 'alpha' dial used on various Roland synths. The rear panel has the standard MIDI In and Out sockets along with a couple of control voltage/footswitch input sockets. Power is via a hefty external psu.
Each fader can adopt any one of three functions, but the first of these - Continuous Controller - is likely to be the most often used. Here, any Control Change between #1 and #120 can be programmed; MIDI Controller numbers and MIDI channels can be independently set per fader - as can the minimum and maximum values transmitted at the bottom and top of the fader range.
The second function allows the fader to be designated as a 'Master' controller in command of a group of others - great for fading out a number of synths. The third, and most powerful, fader function is that of MIDI 'String' where any number of data bytes can be assigned to any fader. While the initial set-up is that of a SysEx string (with 'F0 00 F7' appearing on the display), any string of bytes can be entered. Flexibility is the key here; the PC-1600 uses dynamic RAM to hold the information for the 50 presets and you therefore aren't restricted to a certain number of bytes per preset. In fact it's possible to set up some very long strings of MIDI data... if that happens to be your cup of tea.
The four functions assignable to the switches are equally useful: Mute transmits the value assigned to the bottom of the fader's position while Solo sends out such values for the other 15 faders. This is particularly neat, and one of those facilities which helps make the FaderMaster seem rather lacking.
The other basic assignments for the switches are Program Change transmit - on a selectable MIDI channel - and the sending out of Note On messages by pressing a button and the corresponding Note Off on releasing it. Of course, you probably wouldn't want to use the 16 switches to play notes on a synth, but many sequencers allow you remote access to their transport functions using Note On and Off messages, for example, and there are a range of other functions in everyday MIDI use which could be controlled in this way.
As with the faders, if the primary functions aren't sufficient you can assign any MIDI string to any button, and three further modes are available here. First, you can set up a MIDI event to be transmitted when a button is pressed; for instance, a Bank Select and Program Change message can be sent simultaneously. Second, two related MIDI events can be programmed and sent by the actions of the button press and release - useful for sending sustain pedal messages which generally require a value of 127 for On and 0 for Off.
Finally, two MIDI Events can be sent on two consecutive presses of a button; so, if the two events are some distance apart time-wise, there's no need to keep your finger on the button.
The settings for each fader, button and CV input can be saved to one of the 50 patches which can then be named (resolving a further failing of previous units). On selecting a patch, you may want values to be sent out for certain parameters; the PC-1600 allows you to set these for Bank Select, Program Change and MIDI Volume - along with a general MIDI string. One minor criticism here is that you have to overwrite existing presets to save your own patches. As many of these will, in all probability, relate to equipment you don't own, this shouldn't present much of a problem, but it would have been nice to be able to recall individual presets rather than completely re-initialise the memory which is the case here.
On a more positive note, the position of each fader and CV input can be saved as a 'scene' and transmitted at the press of a button. This is particularly useful; how often do you create the perfect mix of levels and pans for a song and then struggle to recreate those settings when you return to it a few weeks (and perhaps several songs) later? With the PC-1600 you simply set the sequencer to record, send the positions as you've set them and the work is done. Up to 100 scenes may be stored and each may be accessed by using a Song Select message.
Perhaps the greatest advantage that the PC-1600 has over similar units is that it's totally self-contained. Any editing can be done on the screen without having to resort to a program running on computer. Did I replace my FaderMaster with a PC-1600? You mean you didn't see it advertised in the back of MT...?
Price: £329 inc VAT
More from: Peavey Electronics (UK) Ltd (Contact Details)
Review by Vic Lennard
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