Atari ST Software
You can't keep a good sequencer down - or so it seems. While neither Virtuoso nor Prodigy have become the high-profile sequencer The Digital Muse would have liked (largely a result of "too late" with a dash of "too little"), they are, nevertheless very capable programs with a lot of satisfied users. Prodigy in particular is amazingly powerful for the price.
Just as Virtuoso begat Prodigy, so Prodigy begat Rave. The new sequencer is aimed at the first-time buyer on a budget, and although the review version was for the ST, I'm informed an Amiga version is also available.
The program disk is heavily copy-protected. You can copy it but the original acts as a key disk and makes a horrendous gurdging noise as the program checks it out. Rave will run on any ST and is available for mono and colour systems.
Layout and operation are similar to Prodigy with menu options along the bottom of the screen and the transport controls, and track markers down the right-hand side of the screen. You can cycle between the markers, drop in between them and use them to isolate sections of the music for editing. Diamond scroll arrows are used to scroll through anything which needs scrolling through - such as the track list, the grid editor, the music and so on.
One of Rave's major features is that, like its forefathers, it's written in machine code. Screen updates are nigh on instantaneous and all operations are amazingly fast. When you go back to GEM everything seems to run at half speed. The payoff is that, although Rave is mouse-driven, having its own operating system means that it doesn't support ST desk accessories.
Rave has 32 tracks which can be named (12 characters) and a collection of 32 tracks forms a Block or song. Blocks, however, are a left-over from the other programs (there, perhaps, for upgrade compatibility - coming up) and are redundant in Rave as it only supports one Block at a time. Recording and playback is pretty straightforward. Each track has its own MIDI Channel, Quantise, Program Change, Volume and Pan parameters which are easily altered. You can edit the notes in a piano roll Grid Editor and change the on and off (esoteric for a beginner's program?) velocities.
There's little editing available in the Score Edit page, which really only displays the score in notation form a track at a time (although you can change the key signature). It retains the edit boxes and symbols, notes, and dynamics menus although they have no effect. The Event Editor, however, lets you get down to serious editing. It contains a visual filter so you can concentrate on one type of event at a time. There's a useful Chord mode which shows which notes occur at the same time.
The Disk page lets you save a Song (a Block) or Tracks - useful - but the program doesn't support MIDI files. These are sure to be missed, especially by beginners on the move upmarket. The whole world and his missus seem to be producing MIDI files and they are useful for transferring data between other programs.
Rave's manual is a dinky 50-page 5" x 5.5" affair which manages to integrate a basic "my first sequencer" approach with a description of Rave's major functions. However, there are many topics not at all adequately covered, especially for the raw beginner which both program and manual seem aimed squarely at.
What is the Gate box, for example (OK, you may know, but would a beginner?), and how do you get the Score editor window back to a half display after setting it to full? I still don't know. And where is the Super Mouse in the Setup page referred to in the manual? Removed, that's where.
There's no index although it could be argued that the manual is so short it hardly needs one. To my mind, a more complete set of instructions is required, especially for the beginner. I'll gloss over the typos.
With at least three other sequencers currently available at around the £50 mark, Rave won't be an automatic budget choice (as it might have been at the beginning of '92). I wonder if TDM haven't cut down the program rather too much, and being a great believer in good manuals (if you choose not to read it, that's your problem), I did find Rave's rather thin.
However, one of the program's major attractions is the ability to upgrade it by adding extra modules such as score printing, score editing, and full Grid, Tracklist, Arrange, Process and Disk pages. Nevertheless, it's worth considering your future plans carefully for at between £20-40 per add-on, it could be cheaper going straight for Prodigy at £135 which, amongst other things, a nice fat explanatory manual.
Price Rave £39.99
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Review by Ian Waugh
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