Quark MIDILink 999
Tim Goodyer looks at this MIDI link.
No, not an early warning system equipped with flashing blue LEDs, but a routing interface for channels carrying MIDI information.
Quark are primarily a studio effects design company, but the advance of MIDI technology has meant that many of their clients have acquired complex synth systems, and it's in response to those studios' requirements that Quark have introduced the MIDI Link.
The Quark is, as you must have guessed, a rack mounting unit, and is designed as a routing device capable of connecting nine input channels to nine output channels carrying MIDI information. These are not, however, MIDI channels, nor is this unit designed for syncing the channels together.
The front panel plays host to the first two of nine five-pin DIN inputs, nine thumb wheels assigned to outputs 1-9, and the mains on/off switch. The rear panel picks up where the front panel left off, with the remaining seven input sockets - inputs 3-9 - and all nine output sockets. If you hadn't already guessed it, it's the input/output configuration that gives the Quark its '999' identifying tag.
At its most basic, the idea of the MIDI Link is that any of its inputs can be routed to any of its outputs simply by setting the output thumb wheel to the required input channel number, and as far as that goes it succeeds admirably. In addition, it facilitates the connection of any number of outputs to the same input, and the grouping of several outputs assigned to certain inputs. It is not, however, possible to route more than one input to any output.
There's not really a great deal you can say about the MIDI Link; it undoubtably works. The thumb wheels do take a little getting used to but work well enough in allowing both incrementation and decrementation. You can wind them forwards as well as backwards and that's very useful as you'll know if you've ever passed the seven o'clock mark for the third time when trying to set your alarm clock.
The presence of the first two input sockets on the front panel is a nice touch as it gives a welcome alternative to leaning over the unit in order to patch something in a hurry, but why stop there? If you're wanting to eliminate all the tedious rummaging around and fiddling about that switching MIDI cables entails, you might as well go the whole hog and eliminate crawling about at the back of the routing device as well.
One thoughtful front panel inclusion is an area set aside for personal chinagraph hieroglyphics appropriate to each input and output channel. They should prove a real help when you're trying desperately to get your Synclavier working in sympathy with an electric chair but have forgotten who's plugged into what.
So the 999 is a neat little routing box that does its job with a high degree of excellence. For slightly less than that (and for correspondingly less outlay), Quark also make the MIDI Link 448 which allows four MIDI controllers to address eight slaves on four busses and costs £100 less than the 999.
Review by Tim Goodyer
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