Soundbits Roland 3D Editor/Librarian
Software for the Atari ST
Good news for you Roland D10, D20 and D110 owners comes in the form of this Atari ST editing software. "I could do with a D", says Vic Leonard.
As synthesisers and samplers become more sophisticated, software editors become more essential - how well does Soundbits' 3D cater for Roland's D10, D20 and D110?
IT WOULD BE fair to say that Roland's D10/20/110 family of synths are difficult to program from their front panels. Multi-function buttons and the ability to see little on their own LCDs make a visual editor very much a necessity, and the number of these available for the Atari ST is growing by the month.
Soundbits, based in Birmingham, have become known in the past for their synth editors and have now branched out into the sequencer market, distributing Studio 24, Track 24 and Big Band for the French company Digigram, as well as continuing in their former traditions with a new editor, the Roland 3D.
IN CERTAIN RESPECTS, the D10, D20 and D110 are identical. Each has two banks of 64 preset Tones (a, b) and a bank each of 64 User and 63 Rhythm Tones (i, r) along with two banks of 64 Timbres which are Tones with performance information (A, B). The D110 has 64 Patches, each holding eight Timbres, a Rhythm Part, reverb settings and a name, while the D10 and D20 have two banks of 64 performance patches including the above and keyboard modes (split, layered and so on) but cannot be named. The other major difference is that the D110 has eight outputs (L, R, 1-6) and can have each Part assigned independently.
AFTER LOADING UP the program (which is key disk copy protected, allowing back-up from a copy), the front page appears, which is divided into three sections; Edit Select, Data Transfer and Options. Trying to go to any of the edit pages results in a message telling you that, as yet, nothing is onboard and that it needs to be obtained either from disk or the synth. I prefer this to the method used on some editors where default data is loaded in at the beginning and can lead to errors because the information on screen differs from that in the synth.
Edit Select will turn to one of the four edit pages - Tone, Config1 (for the Timbres/Patches on the D110, but only Timbres on the other two), Config2 (for the performance patches of the D10/20), and Rhythm. Hence only three of the four edit pages apply to the D110. Options selects which type of synth, MIDI channel setting for Part 1 which is being edited, MIDI Thru on/off and choice of Multitimbral or Performance mode for the D10/20, while Data Transfer allows a Setup to be loaded or saved from/to disk, and fetched from or dumped to the synth. A thoughtful touch is the underlining of the synth type being edited underneath the title.
In fact, the idea of load, save, fetch and dump recur throughout the editor, positioned at the top of the screen as part of the menu bar, and take on slightly different meanings dependent on where they occur. For instance, on the Tone Edit page they handle either a single Tone or the complete User bank while on the Config pages any of Config, Patches or Timbres may be dealt with.
Apart from the banks that exist internally in the synths, the editor has three of its own; m for 64 Tones, M1 for 64 Timbres and M2 for 64 Patches (although M1 and M2 are both referred to as M), allowing custom banks to be built up on disk.
Another feature that appears on all of the edit pages is that of the invisible keyboard, playable via the right-hand mouse button as long as MIDI Thru (under Options) is disabled. Volume is controlled by vertical height, with the top of the screen representing maximum velocity, and note value by horizontal movement - not original, but probably the best method as the screen doesn't get cluttered up with a keyboard.
There are three methods of changing parameters; numbers are changed by clicking on them with the left mouse button at which point the cursor changes to a hand which can be moved up and down, altering the parameter value. Names are entered from the Atari keyboard and tabulated items, such as samples, are selected from the table that appears when the word is clicked on. The graphs are altered by clicking on the small boxes, the cursor changes to a "+" and movement of the mouse results in similar movement of the box.
BEFORE ANY EDITING can be done, the internal banks for the synth have to be loaded. This is carried out by the Fetch Setup command and requires two MIDI cables to be used in handshaking mode. A dialogue box appears which shows precisely what data is being transferred; the operation takes about 40 seconds to complete, at the end of which the legend "(c) 1988 Gajits VoiceMaster ST' appears in the window of the synth.
The Tone Edit page has multiple windows showing the various parameter values. Any changes can be heard immediately by either playing the synth or mother keyboard, if MIDI Thru has been selected, or the mouse if it has not, as all edits are sent to the synth real-time. This is why you need to set the MIDI channel under Options. My only gripe is that the partial mutes are at the bottom of the page and to hear precisely what result an edit has had, it is usually necessary to mute the other three partials. If the right hand mouse button is being "played", this will result in a lot of movement up and down the page as the velocity is at a minimum at the foot of the screen.
The Memory function on the menu bar allows a Tone to be read from any of the banks and written to a location in either the User or editor bank (m). This also gives access to the store - the 128 User and editor Tones are shown and may be selected from.
Undo is not quite the usual "replace buffer" command. Whenever an edit is made, the original data is placed into a buffer and held until the next edit, at which time it is deleted and replaced with the latest original. Selecting Undo will recall the parameters before the latest edit, but will also place the edited data into the buffer, so permitting a further change of mind. Consequently, Undo behaves like a toggle.
Randomise also has an interesting twist. Usually certain parameters are selected for randomisation (the "mask"), along with a percentage by which those parameters will be allowed to change. In this case, clicking on any parameter will allow you to select a number, 1-100, showing the percentage randomisation for that particular parameter. This permits a very complex mask to be set up easily and saved to disk for use at a later date.
Finally, Copy stores the parameters from one Partial which can then be used to replace those of another without having to enter the values one at a time.
THE MULTITIMBRAL PAGE allows you to set up a Patch. Config1 allows Tones to be selected from any of the five banks (a, b, i, r, m) and set up in terms of fine tuning, bend range and other performance characteristics, as well as overall reverb and Rhythm levels. Extra data, such as output assign and patch name, is available for the D110. The large window on the right-hand side acts as a monitor and shows the relevant details for each Part, which can be chosen via the Part Select box at the bottom of the page. Config2 sets up the lower and upper Timbres with balance and volume details, reverb settings and keyboard mode, the splitpoint is set by clicking on a note on the keyboard in the centre of the page. Playing via the mouse changes between the two Timbres on a split keyboard at the relevant point. Whichever Config page is used, they share the common property of allowing access to the store of editor banks of Timbres and Patches, so permitting custom creations.
Should the type of synth be changed from D110 to D10/20 or vice versa during the course of editing, certain data will have to be re-loaded, namely Patches data. Trying to edit a Config in this situation will bring up a prompt reminding you that no Config is present and it must be transferred from the synth or disk.
AS A CHOICE of 63 Rhythm Tones are available on a separate MIDI channel, a separate page is provided for them. This allows a Rhythm or User Tone to be assigned to each key of the keyboard, with individual volume levels and panning. The D110 page has an output assign function, while the D10/20 equivalent has a reverb on/off switch. Once set up - a process which can take a considerable time if care is taken - it can be saved to disk or dumped to the synth.
The mouse play is invaluable here whether the synth is a D110 or not, because playing the software keyboard is a lot easier than the real one.
STRAIGHTFORWARD SYNTH EDITORS seem to be at a premium these days, with the various software companies vying for the limited market they feed. It's all very well writing comprehensive software, but if all that's wanted is a basic editor... Well, the market will inevitably judge for itself.
The Soundbits 3D editor bears more than a passing similarity to the Dr Ts range, but has the advantage of being even easier to use - which is the main reason I like it. During the course of the review I only had to look at the manual once. The software does everything that is required of it and at £75 it deserves to sell well.
The only problem is that it will only work on the latest versions of the synths due to ROM changes in the machines - which is certainly no fault of Soundbits. Roland are prepared to update earlier ROM versions, for a nominal fee, if they cause problems with visual editors.
Thanks to Music Village, High Barnet, for access to Roland D10, D20 and D110
Price £75 including VAT
More from Soundbits Ltd, (Contact Details).
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Review by Vic Lennard
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