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Tool Box

Sounds, samples, & software upgrades for the modern studio

New software, systems, sounds, updates

Hard-disk editing software from SAW

Hard-disk editing for the PC from Software Audio Workshop

SAW is a software-based hard disk recording and editing software package for the PC that allows sampling and manipulation of 16-bit, 48kHz audio via a compatible host Sound card (like Turtlebeach's Multisound card). Four tracks of stereo audio are created in the software and are digitally combined into one stereo output.

Using a Windows-based platform, SAW allows you to splice audio data together, non-destructively. This means if you seriously foul up some editing, it isn't irretrievably ruined, unless you save it as well. Splicing of tracks can be done with sample accuracy (which is 1/48,000 of a second at 48kHz), and without actually modifying the original sound files directly, by using marked regions for playback of portions of samples.

Among its extensive selection of editing tools is a digital pitch-shifter that is accurate to a tenth of a semi-tone. Using the 386's 32-bit Register Assembly Language, SAW apparently manages to process these pitch variations incredibly quickly, without glitches or noticeable distortion.

By adding an optional SMPTE/MIDI card to your system, synchronisation between other SMPTE generators and MIDI timecode machines can be achieved. This gives you the option of using tracks from the hard disk with other sequenced or multitracked parts.

Using an innovative archiving technique, SAW is able to back up edit session information on a standard audio DAT machine and one small floppy disk file. It also does this in real time, which means that a 20-minute session is backed-up in 20 minutes.

The software requires that you have at least a 386, running Windows 3.1 and DOS5 or higher, with 8Mbytes of RAM and sufficient hard-disk space to store sound files at 11 Mbytes per minute. DM

More from: Et Cetera Distribution (Contact Details)

Amiga support

Fear not, Amiga users: customer support for your computer should still be available despite the uncertainty over Commodore's fate

Following the announcement that Commodore Business Machines has ceased trading. Blue Ribbon have declared their continuing support for Amiga users. This support is currently in the form of the recently released update of Bars & Pipes Professional (V2.5), and in the company's Quarter Notes newsletter. DM

More from: Blue Ribbon Soundworks (Contact Details)

The Fairlight re-discovered....

Where were you when first heard a Fairlight? For anyone with a passion for hi-tech instruments, I suppose this could be the antidote to those JFK, first man on the moon chestnuts. Certainly, you couldn't have been listening to music during the 1980s and not heard one. The problem, of course, was knowing whether what you were listening to was a Fairlight sample or a real instrument. That was the, um, point.

Musos, especially hi-tech musos, always claimed they could spot the Fairlight, and in truth it wasn't that difficult. Like the Mellotron before it, the warts in the Fairlight system gave it a distinctive quality. And despite the fact that it was a sampler, the factory-installed sounds cropped up everywhere during the mid-'80s. Indeed, rumours were rife that Fairlights were returning to the factory for servicing loaded with exactly the same sounds they had left with - making it the most expensive preset machine in history. (There was, however, another way of deciding if it was a Fairlight sound: simply check for the names Horn, Levine, JJ or Dudley anywhere on the record sleeve and yes, chances are, that was a Fairlight sound.)

Like many others, my first brush with a Fairlight was on Tomorrow's World, but such was the 'dryness' of the demonstration - I think Judith Haan coughed into it or something - the significance of the instrument escaped me. Not until I witnessed Thomas Dolby on tour in the early '80s was I made aware of the awesome possibilities of the machine. Despite the Fairlight's limited eight-bit resolution, Dolby had successfully replaced several stage musicians with a single machine. It was Luddism in reverse and it met with my wholehearted approval - as it did the other handful of people in the audience that night. ("Did you all come in the same car?" quipped Tom. He was only out by one.)

A couple of years later, real musicians had been drafted back in, Dolby was free to strut his stuff, and you couldn't get near the front of the stage to see the Fairlight. The rock'n'roll-hi-tech-rock'n'roll cycle was complete. Next stop LA.

No worries, though. Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush were still doing interesting things with this Australian technology. And there was that sublime Propaganda album...

So why am I telling you all this? Because those once-revolutionary, now endearingly naff eight-bit sounds are now available to everyman in the shape of this sample CD from Digital Domain. The disc is stuffed full of samples, some good, some bad, some excellent - but all refreshingly simple by comparison with today's 16-bit multi-samples. They are all taken from the original Fairlight library disks (vast 8" floppy affairs that were notoriously unreliable), but not all of them are as familiar as you might think.

For anyone fascinated with the Fairlight sound or who lusted after the machine during the '80s, this is an opportunity not to be missed. NL

Postscript: Digital Domain are asking everyone who bought the Fairlight IIx sample CD at the APRS to contact them and reregister with their invoice number, as their current registration list, among several other items, was stolen from their car during the show. Registration is important as it enables the buyer to get money off the CD-ROM version and other discounts and special offers on future products.

Prices: CD £49.99, CD-ROM £TBA, but CD owners receive £49.99 off cost of CD-ROM when they upgrade

More from: Digital Domain (Contact Details)

SoundBlaster gets upgraded

SoundBlaster goes one better: the AWE32

Building on the success of the ever-compatible SoundBlaster PC card, Creative's newest offer comes in the form of a sound card featuring 32-note polyphony and built-in digital special effects.

Utilising E-mu's Advanced Waveffects Synthesis in conjunction with reverb and chorus capabilities, the SoundBlaster AWE32 is said to give music, games and multimedia applications a new realism in sound quality.

The onboard Advanced Signal Processor allows add-ons of sound enhancement algorithms including compression, decompression, advanced speech synthesis, and a number of others through software upgrades.

The GM-compatible AWE32 has a 16-bit sampling resolution, and is capable of record and playback at rates from 5kHz to 44.1kHz in stereo. DM

More from: Creative Labs UK (Contact Details)

Just a small point...

The microLogic review in last month's issue of the mix featured Version 1.0 of the PC sequencing package, which had minor flaws in the lack of tempo changes and virtual memory. Well, V1.5 sees these two problems addressed, and if you don't believe us, try the demo on last month's CD-ROM!

Filtering comes to the Akai S3000

Not all of us are lucky enough to have used Akai's top-of-the-line S3200 sampler with its direct-to-disk digital recording and multimode filters. It's a delightful way to work, and now owners of its poor relation, the S3000, have the opportunity to fit the IB304F filter board and join in the fun. Even the S3200 reverb effects are thrown in.

The benefits of direct-to-disk recording are obvious, but the filtering available may seem a black art to some. The multimode filters allow high-pass, low-pass, and band-pass filtering - which, put simply, means you can wind off the bottom, top or emphasise the middle of a sound's frequency spectrum using a resonance control to boost harmonics. It's the old analogue stylee at play again, providing Akai samplers with a way of operating as a true synthesiser.

Alternatively, the filter section can be used as a single-band EQ with variable frequency and resonant cut/boost. As with all the filtering options here, control from modulation sources is possible.

As a supplement to the new Version 1.30 operating system (see next month for details), there is a new power-up disk for the S3200, S3000i, S2800i and the CD3000i.

It boasts three new features that enable these samplers to play up to 50 Standard MIDI Files from MS-DOS disks (total maximum size 300k). You can use these samplers as MIDI data filers, so that System Exclusive data can be stored, saved to floppy, and re-transmitted as required.

Finally, samples can be equalised with a graphic display of the EQ curve. You can choose between low shelf, band wide, band thin or high shelving EQ. The equalised sample is re-sampled, and can be EQ'd again if required.

If the filter board isn't your bag, you might be interested in the S2800i and S3000i. These come supplied with 8Meg of memory and SCSI board fitted as standard and are available now. BD

Prices: IB304F filter board £499, S2800i £2499, S3000i £2999

More from: Akai UK (Contact Details)

Loopisms: from decks to desks...

It's one of the best-kept secrets in the business. The hottest dance grooves aren't to be found on conventional sample CDs, but on collections designed for DJs and remixers. Typically featuring song-length grooves, these albums contain far fewer tracks - usually between 15 and 30 - but are priced as conventional CDs, or even cheaper. Typical of the genre are Coldcut/Ninja Tune's DJ Food series and Music Of Life's Breaks, Beats, and Scratches.

On the RE:MIX CD

Our CD showcases a number of samples from Volumes 1 and 2 of the Loopisms collection. Some of these are loops, others individual sounds. Either way, they're well worth loading into your sampler and playing merry hell with. So what are you waiting for...?

- Loopisms - 1.mp3
- Loopisms - 2.mp3
- Loopisms - 3.mp3
- Loopisms - 4.mp3
- Loopisms - 5.mp3
- Loopisms - 6.mp3
- Loopisms - 7.mp3
- Loopisms - 8.mp3

A new company - d-zone - recently entered the stakes with the first two volumes of a new series, Loopisms, which they hope will catch the ears of DJs and producers. But they clearly also have an eye on the more mainstream (and lucrative?) sample CD market which has developed to meet the demands of groove-hungry samplers/ists. Two volumes came out earlier in the year and a third should be available by the time you read this.

Covering a range of styles from garage and disco to trance and hardcore, these are dance grooves - hard, uncompromising, and highly usable. There are 16 on the first volume, 26 on the second, along with extra tracks offering dozens of individual samples for you to sift through.

The crucial point about Loopisms - and collections like them - is this. Rhythm, by its very nature, needs to be repeated to be fully appreciated but with the brief, single-pass breaks included on most sample CDs, this isn't possible. Here you can listen to a groove for several minutes - to give it chance to work as a groove - before deciding.

It's also possible to use these loops as an arrangement tool, to determine whether a particular rhythm works with the other instruments in a track, and if necessary, to tailor those instruments to suit. Given the popularity of direct-to-disk systems these days, it should also be possible to drop in an entire Loopism track as a single sound file.

With this in mind, it's disappointing that the tracks don't develop over a period of time so that we could finally get away from single two- or four-bar grooves repeated for the entire length of a song. But maybe that's something we can look forward to in future volumes... NL

Prices: CD £9.99 each, vinyl £5.99 each; both inc VAT and p&p.

More from: d-zone (Contact Details)

Cubase Audio Version 2.0

The perfect marriage of MIDI and audio? Steinberg's Cubase Audio V2.0 is now shipping

Launched at the APRS last month was Steinberg's Cubase Audio Version 2.0 for the Apple Mac. The latest version has a number of enhancements, perhaps the most significant of which is the supporting of between four and 16 channels of audio.

Also featured on V2.0 is real-time equalisation control, multi-channel record, audio track delay, a dedicated waveform editor, and enhanced resolution for audio waveform displays.

The program should also be fully compatible with Digidesign's Digital Audio Engine (DAE) protocol.

Cubase Audio for the Mac retails at £799 including VAT, and is available now. DM

More from: Harman Audio (Contact Details)

Something weird for the Akai sample library.

More, more, more: new additions to the Akai sample library are available on CD as well as floppy - perfect for CD3000 owners

Fresh in from Japan, and in my hot little hand, are 20 new sample library disks for the Akai 3000 series. This addition to the library caters mainly for those who are inclined to use breakbeats and those fashionable analogue sounds. The architects of these voices occasionally veer into the avant-garde in a bid to produce something that no one else is doing (or is likely to want? - Ed).

Many of the pads are, indeed, first class, but most of the monophonic meanderings left me cold. The 'Breakbeat Kits' collection has loops, basses and pads laid out across the keyboard including individual drums on separate notes. Some of these breakbeat kits were just so funky that my bottom very nearly caught light. Check out Breakbeat Kits 3 and 6 (SL3081 & SL3084) - great stereo imagery with detailed percussion patterns. Dynamite stuff.

Those of you who have a tendency to devise your own music, rather than borrowing someone else's, will be pleased to discover a fine 'Acoustic Guitar' (SL3075) which appears to be a sampled Martin. 'Beauty Voice & Bell' (SL3078) also includes a splendid string pad as well as solo voices. But with a lot of these sounds, I felt that more could have been done with effects programming.

Besides some fizzy, sweeping pads on the 'Breakbeat Kits', there's not much else for those of a conventional persuasion, just a collection of five 'Remix Kits' (SL3065-69) that seem to suggest that Akai are trying to start a new fashion in drum sounds. While you can't fault the fidelity, the actual timbres are a bit alternative. Then again, maybe that's what a sample library is there for.

The inclusion of 'Reverse Collection #2' (SL3070) seems a little pointless. Time-saving, maybe, but most owners of the new 3000 series should be able to grasp reversing samples themselves. Disks SL3071-74 deals with those beloved Acid and Housey sounds. 'Housey Chord' (SL3072) is a must for one-finger chord merchants, who will hopefully be able to cope with 27 sounds to choose from. 'Acid Line' (SL3071) has seven programs with basses at one end, and filtered arpeggio loops at the other, sadly not always in tune with each other. SL3073, 'Glunge Ana Synth' ('glunge' is Japanese for grunge, by the way) is a selection of analogue synth bass and lead sounds that failed to blow me away. The same goes for 'Old Mode Synth' (SL3074). No, for the most fun you can have with clothes on, it has to be 'Breakbeat Kits 1-6' (SL3079-84).

If you're interested in any of Akai's vast sample library, then contact AL Digital ((Contact Details)). Disks are a quid each, but the company are happy to provide the sample library on a variety of storage media. You can even arrange for them to put your precious sample collection on a CD - a perfect back-up, and ideal for touring musicians. BD

More from: Akai UK (Contact Details)

Software for axe fans

G-Vox is a new system that allows guitarists to link up with a computer and gain the benefits of sequencing, notation, and instructional software. Using a lightweight rubber pickup which can be attached to any steel-string guitar, G-Vox allows you to see your own fretboard on screen, while software titles like 'Riffs', 'Chords' and 'Tour' can be used to improve your technique.

Alternatively, G-Vox can be used simply as a MIDI controller, inputting data for sequencers and driving sound modules.

You can see the G-Vox in action, literally, on this month's Re:Mix CD-ROM - a three-minute video demo can be played on Video For Windows (PC). CJK

Prices inc VAT: Pickup & belt pack £350,'Riffs' software £69, 'Chords' software £69, Windows bridge software £80

More from: Optech (Contact Details)

Say hello, Wave goodbye

'Wave To' for Windows is a visual sample-editing and conversion package with support for MIDI sample dump, and is intended to enable synthesiser and sampler users to utilise samples from a wide variety of sources. Among those synths that can be used with Wave To are Korg's T1, T2 and T3, Kurzweil K2000, Peavey DPM3SE, Yamaha SY99, SY85 and TG500, and GeneralMusic S2 and S3.

Wave To can convert to and from most common sample formats, including Windows 3.1 WAV files. Sample Vision (SMP), Sample Dump (SDS), Gravis Ultrasound, and SoundTools files. The program employs full graphical editing facilities including cut, paste, and zooming. It allows automatic loop point location, cross-fading, and on-screen manipulation of sample loop points. CJK

Price inc VAT: £47

More from: Optech (Contact Details)

Sequencing for songwriters, not programmers: Mark Of The Unicorn's new Freestyle

MOTU goes Freestyle

Songwriters and other musicians who value ease of use above features and gimmicks in a sequencer may find Mark Of The Unicorn's new Mac program, Freestyle, up their street. It doesn't have tracks like a conventional sequencer. Instead, the user can create an ensemble of players, each with a list of takes. Many functions can be controlled from a MIDI keyboard, so that an entire song can be created without touching the computer.

The demo of Freestyle on the Re:Mix CD-ROM is fully working, apart from the Save option. The program will run on any 68020-based Mac (or faster) running System 7.01 or higher; it requires at least 4MB of RAM and 6MB of hard disk space. The release version of Freestyle comes with an instructional video. CJK

Price inc VAT: £179

More from: Sound Technology (Contact Details)


The following items from this month's ToolBox are also to be found on the Re:Mix CD-ROM:

MOTU Freestyle (demo version for Mac)
G-Vox (video demo for PC)
'Wave To' (demo version for PC)

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Mixed Media

The Mix - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.


The Mix - Aug 1994

Donated by: Colin Potter

Coverdisc: Mike Gorman


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