Shape of Things to Come
A colourful bonanza of newly released and forthcoming products unveiled...
Lexicon have announced their new contribution to the world of multi-effects units, in the form of the LXP5 effects processing module. Packaged in the same 'half-rack' form as the LXP1 digital reverb, the LXP5 can produce five effects simultaneously, including pitch shift over three octaves, delay, chorus, flanging, EQ, ambience and reverb. Over 190 preset and programmable effects patches are available. All of the LXP5's parameters can be accessed via the front panel controls, or alternatively via dynamic MIDI control - parameters can be altered in real time using MIDI note numbers, velocity, aftertouch, continuous controllers or with the LXP5's internal sweep generator. The Lexicon MRC (MIDI Remote Controller) can also be used as a source of control for the LXP5, and new MRC software allows up to 20 LXP5s (or LXP1s or PCM70s) to be operated.
Stirling Audio Systems, (Contact Details).
Atari will be launching their new Stacy laptop ST computer at the PC Show at the end of September. The machine has already been exhibited at a computer show in Dusseldorf, along with two other new Ataris, the TT and STE. The latter two machines, both a step up from the ST in terms of power and features, will not be launched in the UK until early next year.
The Stacy could well prove to be a very popular item with musicians, being a fully ST-compatible portable computer in laptop form. Its most obvious application is as a stage-worthy computer sequencer - less hassle than a separate computer/monitor etc - though home studio owners might find its compactness very appealing if they are running out of space. The Stacy (£799.95) weighs in at only 15lbs, will run off batteries or mains power, and comes with 1 Mb of RAM. A 3.5" floppy disk drive is fitted, and an internal hard drive is available as an option. The monitor is a 640x400 pixel supertwist LCD mono screen, and the ST's mouse is replaced by a built-in trackball, obviating the need for extra real estate in your studio.
The forthcoming STE is an 'enhanced' ST, featuring improved graphics and sound facilities. More interesting, however, is the TT, Atari's 32-bit 68030 based machine. The processor runs at 16MHz, and the basic model will probably have 2Mb of RAM, with an internal 60Mb hard disk. Three main graphics modes will be supported: 1280x960 mono; 640x480 with 16 colours; 320x480 with 256 colours.
The main operating system of the TT will be the multitasking Unix 5.3, with X-windows running on top. A PC emulator will be supplied as standard, which is said to give very comprehensive PC emulation, running at AT speeds. TOS compatibility is maintained with the provision of TOS 1.4, which should allow many existing ST applications (including much music software) to be run without any problems.
New from Miles Gordon Technology is the SAM Coupe, a home computer designed with musical applications in mind. The computer is aimed very much at the ZX Spectrum end of the market (with a price tag of £199), and is hardly likely to challenge the STs of this world as a professional's machine. It is based around a Z80 processor, has 256K of memory, and programs are loaded from data cassette. The 'music computer' tag is justified by the inclusion of MIDI In and Out sockets, and a 6-voice sound chip - however, a glance at the computer's spec reveals that the MIDI sockets use seven-pin connectors, which is at best a very liberal interpretation of the MMA standard.
Besides this minor worry, the other problem faced by potential users of the SAM Coupe will be the availability of software - given that the computer is not compatible with any existing machine, the only software you will be able to run will have to be written especially for it, and the market is hardly likely to be flooded with programs until the computer proves to be popular. Which then raises the familiar spectre of a Catch 22 situation in which no-one wants the computer until software is available, and no-one will write the software until everyone has the computer!
Miles Gordon Technology plc, (Contact Details).
Audiovisual Research will shortly be releasing the A16S (£595), a low-cost 16-bit stereo sampling system for the Atari ST. The system comprises the 1U 19" rackmount 16S Soundrack, which provides the necessary audio input and output hardware, an interface to connect the Soundrack to the ST, and controlling software. The editing software provides features such as 128-point 3D FFT analysis, digital filtering, real-time and steptime effects, cut and paste etc. Also provided are a basic sequencer and MIDIplay software that allows MIDI control of samples; keyboard splits and micro-tuning are available, and 99 samples can be held in memory at once, RAM space permitting. The system is 4-voice polyphonic.
Also available from Audio Visual Research is the ST12 (£245), an ST sampling module with 12-bit input and 14-bit output stages. The ST12 comes with a similar software package to the A16S.
Audio Visual Research, (Contact Details).
New from Quinsoft are two ST librarian programs for Yamaha 4-operator synths. Each program comes with a large sound library, and a bulk loader desk accessory is also included which allows sounds to be downloaded while another GEM program is being run.
The FB01 Librarian (£24.95) includes 480 voices, and the Advanced 4-Operator Librarian (£24.95), which is compatible with the TX81Z, DX11, YS100/200, TQ8, V50, DR55, includes 512 new sounds.
Quinsoft Ltd, (Contact Details).
The Omnichord, one of the more unusual electronic instruments of recent years, is now available in a new version with MIDI. Like its predecessor, the Omnichord 200M is an automatic accompaniment instrument, featuring single-finger chords, automatic walking basslines, and sampled drum rhythms. There is also a Sonic String section, which allows you to 'strum' tunes in whatever key has been selected. Note data for the bass, chord and melody sections is sent out on separate MIDI channels.
KES Music Services. (Contact Details).
The HM4 Harmony Machine from DOD (£599) is a new harmoniser that offers similar features to the IPS33 Smart Shift but in a cheaper and more easily used package. The Harmony Machine can be tuned to instruments, or vice-versa, and allows two and three-part musical harmonies to be created. The 64 presets are arranged in musical styles (rather than scales), and by using one of the four defined harmony sections it should be possible to create natural sounding harmonies for rock, jazz, country, blues, or whatever style of music you are playing. The Harmony Machine has the same audio specifications as the IPS33, and offers full MIDI control over effects parameters.
John Hornby Skewes & Co, (Contact Details).
Crown have just launched a mono-compatible stereo condensor mic, which uses PZM technology. The SASS-P (£652 plus VAT) incorporates two high-quality PZM mics, mounted on boundaries to make each one directional. Suggested applications include film, sport television and stereo sound effects recording, stereo sampling for keyboards and recording classical music. Frequency response is quoted as 20Hz-18kHz.
Shuttlesound Ltd, (Contact Details).
Apple UK has slashed the prices of its compact range of Macintosh computers by up to a quarter. As an example, the Mac Plus, the cheapest model in the range, will now cost £995 (down from £1355). The Mac has always been marketed in the UK at a relatively high price, much to the dismay of many potential users - in the States, Mac prices are much closer to those of comparable versions of the Atari ST. Although the cuts don't quite bring the UK prices down to that level, they do make the compact Macs just that little bit more accessible to musicians.
The full list of changes is: Mac Plus down from £1355 to £995; SE Twin Floppy down from £2165 to £1735; SE 2/20 down from £2665 to £2195; SE 2/40 down from £2965 to £2460; SE30 2/40 down from £3420 to £3075; SE30 4/40 down from £3935 to £3545. All prices are exclusive of VAT.
New from Samson Technologies is MusExpress, a scoring program for the Mac and ST. Music can be input in real time from a MIDI keyboard or with the mouse. Standard MIDI Files can be read, and MusExpress can also save its files in Standard MIDI File format, should you wish to transfer music created on the program into a sequencer.
Executive Audio, (Contact Details).
Now available is the latest model in the 3000 series of the Vortexion professional PA mixer/amplifiers. The new model has added thermal trip and peak level indicator features. The thermal trip cuts power when overheating occurs, and re-applies it when the unit has cooled down sufficiently. No intervention by the operator is required. With a standard six input module capability, any combination of up to 12 inputs is available on one unit, with the use of dual input modules. These inputs are accessible via XLR sockets or jack plugs.
Clarke & Smith Manufacturing Company Ltd, (Contact Details).
An upgraded version of Microdeal's Replay sampling system for the ST is now available, including both improved software and hardware. The Replay Professional cartridge features the same 8-bit input stage as the original Replay, but output is now via a 12-bit convertor which improves the audio quality, particularly when several voices are played simultaneously. The cartridge comes bundled with three pieces of software: Replay Professional sample editor; Drumbeat Professional sequencer; MIDIplay synthesizer.
The editor now includes features such as real-time onscreen FFT and oscilloscope displays, 128-step 3D FFT analysis, low/high/bandpass and notch filters, and 10 memory buffers for samples. Drumbeat Professional allows you to sequence samples once you've edited them, and MIDIplay allows you to play them from a MIDI keyboard. Drumbeat can hold up to 15 samples in memory, MIDIplay holds 128, and both are restricted to the basic 4-note polyphony of the cartridge. The Replay Professional package costs £129.95. Also available soon will be Quartet, a four-channel sample sequencing package for Replay that offers four on-screen staves on which to compose music.
Microdeal, (Contact Details).
Amongst the range of Steinberg products to be displayed at the forthcoming PC Show will be Cubase V1.5 and MROS V2.0. The new version of Cubase features the Dynamic MIDI Manager, a configurable MIDI editor which allows the user to assign a range of on-screen control elements (faders, knobs and switches) to generate MIDI controller and System Exclusive data. This user-defined front end can therefore be used to edit synths, control MIDI Volume etc. Changes made on the Dynamic MIDI Manager can be recorded and played back in Cubase, allowing MIDI mix automation using MIDI Volume and Pan, or dynamic effect and synth editing; in fact, allowing any MIDI controllable or editable parameters of your equipment to contribute to a sequenced performance. The new version of Cubase will also run with large Matrix A3 screens, now available for the ST.
MROS 2.0 now allows multitasking even with MIDI software not specifically written for MROS - all programs that use standard Atari MIDI routines can be run without modification. The new version also allows the MIDI Ins and Outs of the SMP24 hardware peripheral to be used by non-MROS programs.
Evenlode Soundworks, (Contact Details).
Dr. T's Software has launched an editor for the Emu Proteus (£110). The program will run on an Atari ST, and will give access to all of Proteus' functions.
Also new from Dr. T is a MIDI interface for the IBM PC (£125). The unit features a single MIDI In and Out, and is aimed at those getting involved in PC music for the first time.
Intro is a new package combining two of Dr. T's existing PC programs: Prism, a 16-track sequencer, and The Copyist Apprentice scoring software. Although they are separate programs, both can read and write standard MIDI Files, and music can be transferred between them by this means. Intro costs £149, a saving of £30 on buying the programs separately. The MIDI interface and Intro can also be bought as a package, costing £225.
MCMXCIX, (Contact Details).
Following hot on the heels of the Proteus sample player module, Emu Systems will shortly be launching the Emax II (£2850 inc VAT). The new Emax will be a 16-bit, 16-voice stereo sampling machine, with polyphonic outputs and 1 Mb of RAM (expandable to 8Mb). The Emax Turbo (£5290) is a version of the Emax II with an internal 40Mb hard disk, and 4Mb of memory as standard. Both machines will be available in rack and keyboard versions.
Looking more closely at the spec of the Emax II, it seems that its circuitry is more closely related to that of Proteus than the original Emax; both Proteus and the new Emax feature a maximum sample rate of 39kHz, and both have three sets of stereo outputs in addition to their main stereo outs. However, the Emax II will read existing Emax library disks, including the current CD ROMS from OMI.
Emu Systems, (Contact Details).
Coda will shortly be releasing Music Prose (£249), a scaled-down version of their Finale scorewriting program for the Mac, which also requires a less expensive hardware configuration than its predecessor. Finale itself is due to be updated to Version 2.0. The main features of the new version will be improved screen drawing routines to allow symbols to be dragged more smoothly, speeded-up page recalculation, and MIDI tools that allow the editing of note velocity, durations, etc directly on the score. The price of V2.0 will be £749 (as opposed to £599 for previous versions), although the upgrade to V2.0 from the current revision will cost only 75 dollars, direct from the USA. It would therefore be considerably cheaper to buy the current version now and upgrade later rather than waiting to buy the forthcoming version, which will be available in October.
MCMXCIX, (Contact Details).
Just launched by Passport is Master Tracks Pro 4 (£395), the latest version of their well-established Mac sequencing program. Pro 4's features include: track editor window with cut, copy and paste; support for 32 MIDI channels via two independent MIDI Outs; conductor track to control tempo and time signature changes; a System Exclusive librarian; the facility to assign sequencer functions (Record, Stop etc) to notes on your MIDI master keyboard.
Also new from Passport is Notewriter II, a music engraving program for the Mac. Features include: multiple page scores; importation of PICT files; music symbol library; up to 40 staves per page; multiple key signatures, meters, clefs and staff types can be freely mixed. Notewriter will output to PostScript compatible printers and typesetters.
MCMXCIX, (Contact Details).
Shure have added two more models to their Prologue range of budget microphones. Both mics are dynamics with supercardioid patterns. The Prologue 24 (£55.33) is the new flagship of the range, with a non-reflective black finish, internal shock-mounting to reduce handling noise, and a quoted frequency response of 40Hz to 13kHz. The Prologue 22 (£47.30) features the same frequency and directional response as its big brother, but has a chrome finish and includes an on/off switch on the body. Both mics are available in low and high impedance versions.
HW International, (Contact Details).
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