Shape of Things to Come
Three jam-packed pages of hot new products.
Details of new Yamaha products to be unveiled at Frankfurt are a little sketchy. On the keyboard front, the V50 synth could be the rumoured M1 challenger, featuring a five-octave keyboard, twin oscillators, 16-note polyphony, eight voice split/layers, PCM rhythm sounds, an 8-track sequencer, built-in digital effects, and RAM card storage. The price of all this is a mere £1200. Also on view (but strictly out of touch) will be the replacement for the DX7 MkII, which will not actually be available until much later in the year.
The DS55 (£500) is a close relative of the YS100, designed to bridge the gap between portable keyboards and synthesizers. It features 4-operator FM synthesis, eight algorithms, 8-note polyphony, a 61-note keyboard and built-in digital delay.
In a slightly higher price bracket, Yamaha's IBM/AT compatible portable computer will be shown in a new version, the C1/20(£2995), which includes a 20 Megabyte hard disk as standard. The C1 comes with a built-in SMPTE/MIDI interface, and is bundled with two 'major' pieces of software.
The RX8 (£400) is a new drum machine (not to be confused with the Roland R8 drum machine or Tascam R8 tape recorder), featuring 43 16-bit sampled sounds, 11-note polyphony, 12 key pads, 100 patterns, 20 songs and RAM card storage.
A new FM expander is being unveiled in the form of the TQ5 (£450), an upgraded version of the popular TX81Z. The features are similar, but a few new ones have been added, such as the built-in 8-track sequencer. Otherwise, the TQ5 is a 4-operator, eight algorithm, 8-note polyphonic unit, with built-in effects (reverb, delay etc). Another new sound module is the WT11 (£325), similar to a TX81Z and designed specifically for use with the WX7 wind controller.
On the home recording front, a new multitrack cassette recorder to follow in the footsteps of the succesful MT2X will be shown, the MT3X, though it will not be available until later in the year. Newly developed chips have allowed Yamaha to bring out some new effects units, the first two of which are the SPX1000 and the SPX900. The SPX1000 is a top of the range 16-bit/20kHz stereo unit, aimed at the pro market, which offers five different effects at once, 40 presets, 59 user memories, and a very full MIDI spec. It is expected to retail for around £1000. The new SPX900 will be oriented more towards home users and musicians, and will come in at under £700.
Yamaha-Kemble UK, (Contact Details).
Roland have announced several new products to be shown for the first time at the Frankfurt Music Messe this year. Probably the most exciting is the W30 Music Workstation (£1599), a five-octave, 16-bit sampling keyboard with onboard sequencing facilities. A 3.5" disk drive is also included, which allows existing Roland software to be used with both the sampling and sequencing sections - presumably this means 5550 and MC500 MkII software. The W30's own software includes a 16-track, 15,000 note sequencer with many editing functions including Microscope, Delete and Insert. It is compatible with the S550 sample library, and there is internal ROM containing about one disk's worth of frequently used tone data. An optional SCSI interface allows the W30 fast access to vast amounts of sound data on hard disk or CD-ROM.
Having made the W30 and S550 both compatible with CD-ROM, Roland have taken the next sensible step and produced a CD-ROM Player of their own, the CD5 (£1399). The new machine has operating software dedicated to the S550 sampler, and comes with a CD-ROM disk containing the equivalent of more than 120 floppy disks worth of samples from the current S-Series sound library! This number of floppies would actually cost more than the price of the CD5, so this looks like a pretty good deal. The CD5 can be used to sample audio from conventional CDs, as well as data retrieval.
Guitar synthesizer fans will be keen to get their paws on Roland's new GR50/GK2 Guitar Synthesizer System. This has a sound module based on the LA range of synthesizers, and the GK2 pickup can be fitted to most electric or steel strung guitars. The GR50 sound module can also be used with Roland's existing GM70/GK1 guitar-to-MIDI controller, via the BC13 Convertor Box (£80). The GR50 will cost £950, and the GK2 £125.
The seven ROM Sound Library cards for the U110 are now available, at a price of £44 each. The cards are: Pipe Organ and Harpsichord: Latin and FX Percussion; Ethnic Instruments; Electric Grand and Clavi; Orchestral Strings; Orchestral Wind Instruments; and Electric Guitar.
Finally, from Boss comes a new low-cost guitar effects processor, the BE5 Multi Effects Processor (£299). The BE5 boasts five popular effects, with full manual control over each one.
Roland UK, (Contact Details).
Although several manufacturers offer MIDI routing or patching units, they tend to be a little pricey. However, a cheaper alternative is now available in the form of the rackmount DACS MIDI Patchbay, which uses conventional (and therefore cheap and easy to make up) mono jack patch cords.
It works in much the same way as a conventional audio patchbay, with 40 front panel jack sockets for MIDI signal routing. Up to 10 instruments can be connected to the rear panel of the patchbay, and it requires no power. Price: £116.72 inc VAT.
DACS, (Contact Details).
Emu Systems have announced the availability of an SCSI interface for the Emax SE Digital Sampling System. SCSI is a high speed serial interface which allows the Emax to use external data storage devices such as the Data Technology Hyperflex Removable Cartridge Disk Drive, which will load an Emax sound bank in under seven seconds. Each Hyperflex cartridge holds up to 35 Emax sound banks. New Emax software allows access to up to eight SCSI devices at once. The SCSI will be shipped as standard on all new Emax SE samplers, and is available as an update from Emu Authorised Service Centres for all existing Emax SE owners.
Also from Emu comes the RM45 removable hard disk cartridge system for the Emulator III, which interfaces to the EMI via SCSI.
Finally, rumour has it that Emu will unveil a world-beating new product at NAMM/Frankfurt. Our guess is that it will be a stereo 16-bit, replay-only, rackmount sampler for around £500. Just wait and see.
E-mu Systems, (Contact Details).
Several new or improved products will be available from Studiomaster in the near future, and will be on show at Frankfurt. The Session Mix 12-2R is a rack-mount only, non-expandable 12-channel stereo console, which shares features with both the 8-2 and 16-2 versions. Its price will be roughly half way between the other two. The SF811 is a 16-bit digital delay module designed for the Studiofex modular effects system: up to 11 can be fitted into a single Studiofex mother unit.
The FCP1 is a rack-mount microphone phantom power unit, designed to enhance the Session Mix range of mixers, though it can be used with any console that does not have phantom powering built-in.
Finally, a new range of mixing consoles will be launched: the Pro-Line series. These will be available in 8-4-8 (rack-mount), 16-4-8 and 16-8-16 formats, and will have a retrofit MIDI mute option on input channels and auxiliary sends. Other features include 3-band swept EQ, four auxiliary sends, 100mm faders, electronically balanced mic and line inputs, post-fade direct outs, and pre-fade insert points on all inputs and subgroups. The units will be priced somewhere between the Session Mix and Mixdown ranges.
Studiomaster, (Contact Details).
Electronic drum pioneers Simmons have promised an exciting line up of products at Frankfurt. Foremost among these will be their SDX Sampling Workstation, along with the Trixer, Portakit, Acoustic Drum Triggers, Drum Huggers and the SD2000 Drum kit.
The Trixer is a combined trigger unit and mixer, with built-in digital reverb and drum sounds. It allows the drum samples to be triggered from an acoustic kit, and for the sampled drum sounds to be mixed with the sound of the acoustic kit.
The Acoustic Drum Trigger is a rackmount unit that takes trigger inputs from mics or trigger bugs, and converts these into MIDI trigger signals. A 'learn' feature is included, which it is claimed allows the ADT to obtain clean triggers from drum sounds by listening to a single drum strike.
Drum Huggers are unobtrusive drum pads that can be fitted on to your acoustic drums without any rearranging of the existing kit.
Simmons Digital Music Ltd, (Contact Details).
A new version of MIDIdrummer, the powerful ST drum sequencer, is now available. Rhythm patterns can be entered graphically by entering notes on an on-screen grid, or in real time from an external MIDI controller (keyboard, drum pad, etc). MIDIdrummer costs £85, and a demo disk of the program is available.
Square Dance Audio, (Contact Details).
Many sequencers offer sufficient editing facilities and high enough resolution to allow the user to programme 'feel' into a song by the careful shifting of notes in time. However, this can be a very time-consuming business, particularly if you don't quite know what you're doing. What you need, ideally, is a dedicated unit that will do all of the note shifting that you would do, if only you could be bothered, and just such a device has arrived in the form of the Feel Factory (£600 + VAT).
The Feel Factory has been designed by Michael Stewart, a record producer with 25 years experience, whose first succesful attempt to humanise the hordes of computers and sequencers arriving in studios was to design the Kahler Human Clock. During the design of that device, he realised what it was that made much sequenced music sterile in comparison to that played by humans, and these discoveries have been incorporated in the Feel Factory, which is intended to put back the human feel into sequenced music. Eight sliders are used to provide real-time control over the micro-timing changes to the placement of different channels or notes.
Quadrant AVC Ltd, (Contact Details).
In a move guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of home keyboard manufacturers everywhere [that's enough melodrama - Ed.], Amstrad have launched their first keyboard, the CX100. As with their TV, computer, audio and video products, the CX100 is cheap, and Amstrad obviously hope it will be as popular as their other product ranges.
The price is £129, and the keyboard is firmly targeted at family usage. A unique feature is the 'Playright' mode, which allows the user to play along to prearranged backing tracks, available on data cassette, which also come with a song book. To allow data transfer to and from the CX100, all Amstrad Fidelity audio systems have been designed with a data socket on the back, in anticipation of the new keyboard. Talk about an integrated system!
Michael Joyce Consultants Ltd, (Contact Details).
One reason many people choose dedicated sequencing hardware rather than the computer-plus-software combination, despite the many advantages of the latter, is the simple matter of portability: the amount of effort it takes to dismantle and transport computer-based systems from A to B can be horrendously off-putting. However, there are other answers to the problem besides avoiding computers altogether, and one such comes from Poke.
The PPSS - Portable Professional Sequencing System - consists of a 'luggable' PC/XT compatible computer, with Voyetra software and MIDI interface (MPU401 compatible). The computer screen is of the Supertwist LCD type, and the video adaptor can be configured to emulate either MDA (Hercules) or CGA adaptors, thereby allowing the PPSS system to be used with standard PC compatible monitors if necessary. The sequencing software supplied is Voyetra Sequencer Plus MkII (33-track) or MkIII (65-track).
Prices for the whole package start at around £1500 (plus VAT) for a single disk system: other hardware options include a 20MB hard disk, a second 5.25" or 3.5" drive, internal modem, and external monitor.
Also available from Poke are voice editors for the Yamaha DX21 and DX100. The DX21Ed and DX100Ed programs cost £49.95 each, and features include a voice randomiser should you feel particularly uninspired and want to head off on a new sonic tangent.
Poke Ltd, (Contact Details).
Total Audio Concepts have just released the Bullet compact-format mixing desk, aimed at sound reinforcement, video production, broadcasting, theatres etc. The Bullet is housed in a freestanding chassis which can also be easily mounted in a 19" rack. The meter hood is separate and contains seven 15-segment LED meters. The basic configuration is 10/4/2. All channels have mic and line inputs, phase reverse and phantom power on/off, a 4-band EQ similar to that on the Scorpion, and 100mm faders. There are also four stereo auxiliary returns.
Total Audio Concepts, (Contact Details).
The cure for some of your MIDI headaches may be the new XRI Systems XR400 MIDI Mate, a rackmount MIDI routing unit.
The XR400 features a three-way MIDI merge, 11 MIDI Thrus, and a three-way input selector to allow flexibility in routing configurations. XRI claim that "an auto-routing system ensures that the right MIDI signals go to the right place whether you are playing, sequencing, recording, merging or voice editing". We're not quite sure how it does it, but it sounds interesting anyway. The XR400 is expected to cost less than £200.
XRI Systems, (Contact Details).
A new graphic editor/librarian is now available for the Casio VZ1 and VZ10M: VZ-Rider from Dr.T's Caged Artist range. The program is MPE compatible and, as with other Caged Artist editors, it features graphic envelope editing.
Also from Caged Artist comes FX Pack 1, a graphic editor/librarian for four of the most popular digital effects units, all in one package. The effects devices supported are the Lexicon LXP1, Yamaha SPX90/90II, Digitech DSP128, and ART Multiverb.
MCMXCIX, (Contact Details).
One new product from Digidesign certain to attract a good deal of interest at Frankfurt is their new Desktop Recording system, a low cost, direct-to-hard disk, 16-bit digital recorder based on the Apple Mac. The system uses Digidesign's new Sound Accelerator card for the output stage, and the AD In unit for the input stage. The controlling software is Sound Designer II.
Also on show will be the Atari version of the Turbosynth modular synthesis program, and a real-time version of Turbosynth which, when used with Sound Accelerator and a MIDI keyboard,turns the Macintosh computer into a full-blown 16-bit digital sampler. Don't it just make your mouth water?
Evenlode Soundworks, (Contact Details).
Small companies making electronic music products have a habit of going out of business fast enough to make your head spin, but there's an exception to every rule, and EMS are an exception to this one. 1989 marks the 20th anniversary of EMS as a producer of synthesizers, and the famous VCS3/Synthi A are still in production. The company will be at Frankfurt this year, showing off their Soundbeam ultrasonic MIDI controller, which allows movements such as dancing to control MIDI equipment. Three systems were bought by Jean-Michel Jarre recently, and the company are in the process of supplying two more to Kraftwerk. The Soundbeam has obvious applications in music therapy, helping handicapped people to trigger instruments that they would not otherwise be able to play.
EMS, (Contact Details).
Steinberg have announced the launch of what may well prove a significant development in the field of computer music software. MROS (MIDI Real-time Operating System) is a new multitasking operating system that allows the simultaneous running of several musical applications on one computer. MROS is presently available for the Atari ST, Apple Mac and IBM PC compatible computers.
Aspects of the operating system that are specifically oriented towards musical applications are an internal resolution of 1536 units per 4/4 bar, a tempo resolution of 0.001 bpm, and the ability to sync to external MIDI Time Code, MIDI Clock and SMPTE with one-bit accuracy. The multitasking facility is particularly mouth-watering: imagine running a sequencer, mix automation and voice editing software simultaneously. The fact that different computers will be able to use the same operating system should ensure compatibility between the different makes.
All new Steinberg products will naturally run under MROS. These include the Synthworks voice editor programs and the new Twelve sequencer (see review p.21 for details).
Several new Steinberg products will be on show at Frankfurt. These will include a completely new "ultra top-end" professional sequencer, and Version 2.0 of Masterscore, which is expected to be a major revision incorporating a new score entry interface. Also available in the near future will be Score-Pac, which will combine Pro24 and Masterscore in a single package with a single key/dongle - Steinberg's answer to C-Lab's Notator.
On the voice editing front, the Synthworks range will have a new member, a Korg M1 editor. The Soundworks sample editing range is to be complemented by a new program which will be compatible with all major samplers, and will also allow sample transfer between machines.
Evenlode Soundworks, (Contact Details).
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