This month's special news report rounds up everything from the January NAMM show that hasn't already been mentioned in SOS News, and combines it with news of the gear launched at the March Frankfurt Musikmesse. As usual, all the highlights are detailed here, whilst for the complete picture you can take a look at the table, which contains everything of interest we saw at the shows.
by the SOS News Team
The range of modelled analogue Virus synths from Access (Turnkey +44 (0)20 7419 9999/www.access-music.de) were joined last year by the limited-edition Virus Indigo and the Virus Rack. Welcome though these synths were, our reviewer at the time felt that they were perhaps beginning to look a little under-powered in terms of their DSP provision compared to their virtual-analogue competitors. Not a company known for resting on their laurels, Access proceeded to overhaul their entire Virus range at the Frankfurt show, releasing the new Virus C rack and kC keyboard, as well as the Virus Indigo II and Virus Rack XL. All the new models offer 32-note polyphony and 16-part multitimbrality, and the onboard DSP effects, EQ and modulation matrix have been enhanced (there are now six mod source slots and nine destination slots!). What's more, the front panels of all the members of the range have been redesigned so that they share the same hardware user interface. A benefit of the redesign is that a number of controls formerly only accessible via the LCD and menus have now also been given discrete front-panel controls, such as the arpeggiator and effects sends. Last but not least, they look fantastic, as the pic of the Virus kC (below) shows.
Applied Acoustic Systems (SCV +44 (0)20 8418 0624/ www.applied-acoustics.com) have used their physical modelling expertise to create Lounge Lizard, a Mac/PC plug-in instrument modelling classic electric pianos. Comprehensive control over features such as the force and stiffness of the mallets, pitch and decay of the tines, and pickup position allow users to recreate classic Rhodes and Wurli sounds, but also to explore new timbres. Authentic wah, phaser, tremolo and delay effects are also included. In addition, AAS showed v3 of their Tassman virtual modular synth, now also to be available on the Mac.
The most obvious product on display from Arturia (Turnkey +44 (0)20 7419 9999/ www.arturia.com) was version 2.0 of the popular Storm music studio software, with support for Mac OS X and Windows XP. However, SOS were also treated to some details of an intriguing new modular synth, to be launched later on this year. Running either as a VST Instrument or stand-alone, its graphic design harks back to the days of monster modular synths.
Cakewalk (Et Cetera +44 (0)1706 228039/www.cakewalk.com) were proudly displaying Sonar v2.0 (shown) in a hotel close to the Messe. The update features a new Cyclone sampler plug-in that imports Sonar Groove Clips or Acid-format wave files, a 'multi-port' graphical drum editor, and a new synth rack that provides more flexible integration of software synths. The XL version now includes FXpansion's DR008 software drum sampler, and Sonic Timeworks' Mastering EQ and Compressor X. Sonar now supports Rewire 2.0, multi-output DirectX instruments and automation for software synths, global MIDI control surfaces, and Yamaha's new Open MIDI Plug-in Technology Panels (of which more in a couple of pages...).
Celemony (Arbiter +44 (0)20 8970 1909/www.celemony.com) announced that their Melodyne pitch- and time-stretching software will now be available in two versions. Melodyne Studio Edition supports multiple Undo, high sample rates and bit depths, stereo files and an unlimited number of tracks, while the cheaper Melodyne Cre8 is limited to 16-bit/48kHz, mono processing and eight tracks.
Curiously, when increasing efforts are being made to place all aspects of the studio under control of a few computer-based software applications, people still keep coming up with new hardware platforms. German company DSP Arts (+49 (0)6103 604458/www.dsparts.com) were showing an early desktop version of their Tauron DSP engine (a rack version is also planned), and are promising upcoming software support in the form of software synths, effects, processors and modular synths, although these were not ready for demonstration at the show. Interestingly, SoundArt (www.soundart-hot.com), who showed their Chameleon DSP engine at last year's Musikmesse, returned this year with the Chameleon hardware finished and with two applications for it, a synth and multi-effects unit, mere "weeks" away from release, according to company head Josep Oriel-Tomas. We'll see...
Edirol (+44 (0)20 8748 5949/ www.edirol.co.uk) showed a raft of new products. Their UA700 is a desktop Mac/PC USB interface providing mic, guitar and turntable inputs along with S/PDIF digital I/O and a single MIDI I/O, which also acts as an effects unit and provides a number of real-time control knobs, while the smaller UA3D offers 5.1 surround sound via USB. The SD80 and SD20 USB MIDI modules provide the latest generation of Sound Canvas sounds as found in the larger SD90, but without their big brother's audio I/O, and the Hyper Canvas and Super Quartet software synths are joined by an Orchestral virtual instrument. Finally, the eight-in/out UM880 MIDI interface is complemented by the five-in/ five-out UM550.
The new flagship audio interface for PCs from Egosys (Arbiter +44 (0)20 8970 1909/ www.esi-pro.com) is the WaMi Rack 192X. This provides four high-quality mic preamps and eight balanced outputs, and supports sample rates of up to 192kHz, while a more affordable 192L version loses the balanced outputs and 192kHz A-D converters. Similarly, their Waveterminal 192X card offers 192kHz support on its two mono inputs and three stereo outputs, and there's a 192L version which has only 96kHz A-D converters. There's also a Waveterminal 192M, which boasts two mic preamps, four 96kHz A-Ds and eight 192kHz D-As along with optical and co-axial digital I/O. Meanwhile, Egosys' budget subsidiary Audiotrak showed the Maya 7.1, a very affordable two-in/eight-out PC soundcard.
We thought we'd seen everything Emagic (Sound Technology +44 (0)1462 480000/www.emagic.de) had to offer after NAMM, when v5 of Logic was released, but they've already started adding new features to 5.1, including multiple Undo with history, and there's a new EMI box, the 2|6m six-in, two-out USB audio and MIDI interface. They've also added a new expander module to the Logic Control range, Phat Channel, which comprises 32 V-pots and four displays for the control of software instruments and plug-ins. And, as if wanting to provide more things to control, the company premiered two new virtual, physically modelled instruments, the EVB3 drawbar organ with rotary speaker, and EVD6 (above), which promises to do for the Clavinet what the EVP88 did for the electric piano. The Clav includes filters and wah effects, and the wah may also be used to process other sound sources, as with EVB3's rotary-speaker emulator.
Rather unfairly tucked away around the back of the stand occupied by GEM (Generalmusic Holland +31 (0)653 410 566/ www.generalmusic.com) was an impressive digital stage piano (below) that looked as though its designers had really taken notice of some of the recent trends in synth front-panel design. The ProMega 3 is an 88-note weighted hammer-action keyboard with an amazing maximum polyphony of 320 notes (yes, that really does say 320, not 32), a range of piano, orchestral, and vintage keyboard sounds (some of which GEM claim are physically modelled), built-in effects, motorised faders, several infinite encoders with LED collars, and user-assignable rotary controls. No indication of price was available, but it didn't look like an impulse purchase...
After years of selling sample-based recreations of the B3 organ, Hammond-Suzuki (+44 (0)802 157586/www.hammondsuzuki.com), have finally gone the whole hog and re-released the B3 itself, complete with pedalboard. Launched at the show alongside a beautifully maintained original 1958 B3 so that you could compare the two, the new B3 looked uncannily like 'the real thing'. Close up, a few differences became apparent: sensibly, there's a digital effects unit and MIDI, for example, but most importantly, the tone generation is actually digital too -- a form of tonewheel modelling, according to Hammond. However, the key-contact system is mechanical: it uses a new patent mechanism, and thus faithfully reproduces the keyboard feel and key-click of the original B3. Naturally, this lovely instrument, which is expected to ship in Autumn 2002, does not come cheap -- it's expected to cost about 13,000 Euros (around £8000). File under 'one day...'
The big news from Mackie (+44 (0)1268 571212/www.mackie.com) was the launch of their latest stand-alone multitracker, the SDR24/96. At an expected UK price of £2000, this machine is designed to take on similar products from Fostex and Alesis and certainly appears to offer an awful lot for its price: 24-channel analogue and ADAT digital I/O as standard, a built-in 20GB drive, and 12-track recording at 96kHz. Sync is possible via MIDI, SMPTE and word clock connections, and computer users will be interested to see that there is also a USB port for import and export of audio WAV files.
There was also the first evidence of Mackie's recent purchase of Soundscape: the new Soundscape 32 integrated hard disk recording/mixing system. This 2U rack unit has room for two internal and two external EIDE drive bays and supports 24-bit/96kHz recording from its pair of built-in high-resolution mic inputs or via the I/O 896. Digital connections for TDIF and AES-EBU are also provided, along with MIDI I/O and an expansion port for various sync options. The new operating system software allows the kind of mixing flexibility you expect from computer-based systems (with surround capability up to 5.1), and users have access to the large library of third-party plug-ins available for the platform. The Soundscape 32 is designed to integrate seamlessly with multiple I/O 896 interfaces if required, each of these providing eight channels of analogue I/O and eight channels of digital I/O in AES-EBU and ADAT optical formats.
MAM (Smart Sound Direct +44 (0)1883 346647/ www.mam-germany.de) announced several more of their handy budget rackmount products, including the CT1 chromatic tuner and, of perhaps most interest to SOS readers, the monophonic 1U Taurus module. A fully analogue, MIDI-capable bass synth with a 24dB/octave analogue filter and 16 user memories, the Taurus offers small sliders to control the Attack, Decay, Cutoff and Resonance parameters of the filter, and the Attack and Sustain parameters of the amplifier. Knobs are also provided for control of pulse-width modulation and portamento.
Midiman and M Audio (+44 (0)8717 177100/www.midiman.co.uk) had several new products at the Messe, including the USB Audio Duo with two stand-alone mic preamps and 24/96-capable D-A converters alongside its USB recording features, the Delta ADAT 16 with dual lightpipe I/O supporting 16 inputs and outputs as well as ADAT Sync, and the MIDISport Uno -- a cute one-in/one-out USB MIDI interface that replaces the MIDISport 1x1. Finally, there was the new high-end Tampa preamp/compressor, which is claimed to be able to recreate the most desirable characteristics of both solid-state and valve equipment by adjusting the phase relationships of harmonics across the frequency spectrum.
Post Musical Instruments (+31 (0) 204 041 687/ www.postmusicalinstruments.com) were showing a new sampled Steinway Model D piano in their Post Piano, which is a keyboard, computer, and speaker system in a shell that resembles a piano. While there's no current shortage of good sampled pianos, creator Michiel Post has provided 16 layers consisting of six velocity levels for both pedal up and down, plus four release levels. The library is also available as a four CD-ROM set for Gigasampler and Gigastudio and is distributed worldwide through Tascam.
Roland (+44 (0)1792 515020/www.roland.co.jp) launched their usual mass of products at both NAMM and the Messe, and some have already been mentioned in the SOS News pages. The Boss 1180 is a simple 10-track digital recorder in the tradition of the BR8 and BR532, with eight virtual tracks per recording track, and a dedicated MIDI rhythm track, but it records to a 20GB internal hard drive. There are two XLR mic inputs with phantom power, line inputs and a high-impedance guitar input, plus the usual host of Roland COSM processing and effects. There's also an upgrade option that enables you to fit an internal CD-RW drive, so you can record finished stereo mixes to CD. Roland's Studio Package Pro, meanwhile, continues their collaboration with Emagic, providing a complete hardware/ software recording system based around either a PC or Mac. The Roland SI24 hardware is a desktop control surface with 13 motorised faders and 12 rotary encoders, as well as a surround panning joystick, transport and data wheel. Also included are eight phantom-powered mic inputs, six line outputs, and S/PDIF and MIDI I/O. This controller connects to a Roland RPC1 cross-platform PCI card using the proprietary R-Bus protocol, allowing eight channels of audio to be piped between the hardware and a dedicated version of Emagic's popular sequencer, Logic 5 RPC. Finally, the Roland MC09 PhraseLab (above) is a multi-purpose desktop monophonic modelling synth, four-part phrase sampler, and Groovebox with a suitably knobular control surface, aimed at dance-oriented remixers. The onboard sounds can be step-sequenced into rhythm or monophonic synth loops, and then these can be run live from the step sequencer or sampled for playback (each of the four possible sampled
The affordable new range of half-rack processors (shown below) from Samson (Sound Technology +44 (0)1462 480000/ www.samsontech.com), at just £109 each, ought to earn the company a lot of new friends in the bedroom studio fraternity. Of particular interest to users of digital workstations and computers will be the C*Valve, which not only offers fully featured valve preamplification (including switchable phantom power, phase inversion, variable tube drive, an enhancer, limiter, output gain control, and both LED and VU metering), but also has an insert point and built-in A-D converter with S/PDIF output.
An interesting novelty on the Digidesign stand was Scratch from Serato (Digidesign UK +44 (0)1753 653322/ www.serato.com), an RTAS plug-in supplied with two special vinyl records containing sine-wave tones and timecode data. If you connect your turntables to Pro Tools and DJ, the plug-in can interpret your actions on the decks and turn them into control data, allowing you to 'scratch' audio files within Pro Tools.
Steinberg (Arbiter +44 (0)20 8970 1909/www.steinberg.net) were busy demonstrating Cubase SX (see page 6), which caused quite a
The most impressive studio monitor at Frankfurt was the Ellipse 8 from Tannoy (Tascam +44 (0)1923 819630/ www.tannoy.com), a striking three-way nearfield designed for high sample-rate recording and mixing. Although there appear only to be two drivers, one perched atop the other's elliptical cabinet, the lower of the two is in fact a dual-concentric design incorporating both LF and HF elements, which frees up the tweeter so that it can deal with extreme high frequencies.
Meanwhile, TC Electronic (+44 (0)800 917 8926/ www.tcelectronic.com), were showing their new baby effects unit (above right). At £249 including VAT, the unit bucks the TC trend for menu-driven operating systems, with control over its dual-engine effects processing gained via 10 front-panel knobs. One engine provides 15 modulation and dynamics multi-effects patches, with two editable parameters, while the other offers a selection of TC reverbs, with three editable parameters. The two engines can be switched from the rear panel for serial or parallel operating and, unusually for a unit in this price range, there is an internal PSU and a good range of socketry as standard, including stereo balanced analogue I/O, S/PDIF digital I/O and MIDI I/O.
Although there are plenty of eight-input soundcards around, there's a shortage of affordable eight-channel mic preamps to go with them. The EWS Mic 8 from Terratec (Euro-tech +44 (0)870 458 0011/www.terratec.net) is designed to interface with any ADAT optical soundcard, and offers eight inputs switchable between mic and line operation, with phantom power and phase switches, and 24-bit/96kHz converters. Terratec say that the preamp design is based on that of SPL's GoldMike, and are also releasing a Mic 2 with only two mic/line preamps and six further line inputs.
The self-titled software synth from VirSyn (www.virsyn.com) was shown at last year's Messe, but is now approaching release and has a new user interface. The most notable feature is its 'spectral synthesis' oscillator, which offers a form of additive synthesis; the program can also handle physical modelling, FM and subtractive synthesis, and will be available on Mac and PC.
Following Emagic's Messe announcement of a software modelled Hammond organ, and the recreation of a modelled B3 from Hammond themselves, it came as no surprise to find that Viscount (+39 0541 981700/ www.viscount.it) have also got into tonewheel modelling. Their new DB-series organs continue the fine tradition started by the OB-series rack modules and keyboards, but use tonewheel modelling as their basis. The range extends from the DB3 (available in a desktop and single-manual 61-note keyboard version) through the dual-manual DB5 to the dual-manual DB25, which also offers a foot-operated pedalboard. All of the DB-series organs feature hardware, MIDI-transmitting drawbars, and the DB5 and DB25 also have an 11-pin connector so you can attach a Leslie rotary speaker.
Frankfurt also saw the launch of some more offshoots of the Q modelled-analogue range from Waldorf (Arbiter +44 (0)20 8970 1909/www.waldorf-music.de). The Micro Q (omega) is basically the Micro Q as reviewed in SOS February 2001, but with the hardware upgrade to 75-voice polyphony that was mentioned in that review. The new baby of the range, the Micro Q Lite, comes in at the bottom with 12-voice polyphony and less in the way of effects, but is soft-upgradeable to the full spec of a Micro Q or Micro Q (omega). Last but not least, the impressive Q+ (shown below) is a full Q workstation (now running OS v3.02) with a new built-in four-pole, 24-dB-per-octave true analogue filter module.
With Best Service (the main German distributor for sample libraries) absent from Frankfurt, so were the majority of library developers, such as EastWest and Spectrasonics. However, Wizoo (+49 421 701870/ www.wizoo.de), known best in the UK for their range of books and factory sounds for LM4, HALion, and The Grand were present, with many exciting
On the more conventional sample CD-ROM front, Wizoo presented three 'HALionised' libraries: Techno Guitars, an electronic collection of power chords, leads, and effects, Latin Percussion, and mixTended, a new kind of drum library allowing you to balance dry kit sounds with overhead or room ambience. And if this wasn't enough, Urban Atmospheres, a collection of indoor and outdoor urban soundscapes on six DVDs for Nuendo, was also launched.
Ever since their DM2000 console was launched, we've been expecting Yamaha (+44 (0)1908 369269/ www.yamaha-music.co.uk) to use the technology to upgrade their existing range of project-studio mixers. The Messe saw the unveiling of the 02R96 (see page 20), which is far more like a slimmed-down DM2000 than a 96kHz-capable 02R; it has around five times the processing power of the original 02R along with a more comprehensive user interface including extensive support for hardware control of DAWs. It can handle 96kHz with no compromise on features or channel count, offers 5.1 mixing and monitoring capabilities, and can mix 56 channels of audio via eight busses with eight aux sends per channel. The four onboard effects include new surround algorithms and there are four slots for additional analogue or digital I/O. Before expansion, the mixer has 24 inputs featuring new low-noise mic preamps on the first 16 and eight assignable Omni outs. The associated Studio Manager software is available for Mac and Windows, and the price is expected to be around £8000 -- not a budget purchase, but amazing value for what it offers. Hopefully, a more affordable 01v96 is around the corner...
Yamaha's other important launch didn't concern a product per se, rather an important new standard. OPT (Open Plug-in Technology) is the culmination of several year's work at Yamaha, and aims to provide the same friendly front-ends for MIDI hardware as their software-synth counterparts. To this end, the new plug-in format allows seamless integration of hardware control surfaces, synth editors, enhanced editing views and MIDI processing tools inside any OPT-compatible application.
Currently running on Windows 9X, ME, 2000, and XP, and with Mac OS X support likely in the near future, OPT will resolve the problems so many of us face trying to run synth editors alongside our sequencers using multi-client drivers and utilities like Hubi's LoopBack on the PC. In future, if your sequencer supports OPT Panels, you'll be able to launch any OPT-based editor just as you do a VST Instrument -- by clicking on a menu option in your choice of MIDI + Audio sequencer. This is the simplest level of OPT support, and makes it easy for keyboard manufacturers to write a single plug-in editor for their new synths that will become an integral part of whatever MIDI + Audio sequencer you use.
If your sequencer or other host application supports OPT Processors, you can also manipulate MIDI data in real time. This allows developers to create MIDI plug-ins such as arpeggiators, pattern-based editors, string and brass arranging tools, performance modelling and algorithmic generators, as well as allowing OPT Panel controls to be fully automated. MFX already provides similar functions to Cakewalk Pro Audio and Sonar users, but the advantage of OPT is that it seems far more likely to be adopted by all the major sequencer developers, ensuring a much larger potential user base, and therefore a bigger lure for software developers.
If a sequencer's developer decides to give OPT access to its data-storage structures, it can be used to provide OPT Views that display MIDI data in more meaningful ways, for editing, checking, and manipulation. For instance, strings of otherwise impenetrable SysEx data can be turned into neatly formatted messages with names such as Filter Frequency and Attack Time, making parameter editing a far more pleasurable experience. OPT Views would also allow a developer to create a basic sequencer, to which users could add their own choice of modular editors such as list, key, drum, score, pattern and so on, according to their preferred way of working.
An OPT Software Developers Kit is available free to interested third-party developers, and Yamaha are asking for no licence fees or Yamaha logos on OPT software, which has made the job of persuading other companies to support the standard far easier. As you might expect, they have already written an OPT Host Application (the SQ01 sequencer) to demonstrate the possibilities, as well as completing OPT Panels for the AN, DX, VH, VL PLG cards, and for the Motif and S08 synths -- they also intend to support all their synths, old and new, in due course.
According to Yamaha, some major hardware and software companies have already started work on OPT-based projects. A few are apparently waiting for Mac support to arrive before committing themselves, while PC-only developers Sonic Foundry have announced their support, and Cakewalk have already implemented OPT Panel support in Sonar v2.0, as mentioned earlier.