I was interested to read that the Avid group has bought M-Audio (News, SOS October 2004). I was suprised that you gave this event such a glowing write-up ("...it can only be good news for us"). My limited experience of Avid is that they make good products, but they do have a habit of being very 'corporate'. By this I mean that you have to use their hardware with their software, and once you're locked into using their software, they charge a significantly higher price for their hardware.
It's not as though Avid are the only people in the world to do this, but I'd hate to see this approach filter down to people like me who are on a tighter budget at home. For example, I wouldn't like to think that I had to buy a Dell PC to unlock all the software interface options on my soundcard. Up to this point, M-Audio haven't seemed to have any serious difficulty turning out innovative and competitively priced equipment. I will be interested to see what influence Avid has on them.
Keep up the good work though. I work in video production and find the technical writing in your magazine transferable and very helpful.
News Editor David Greeves replies: 2004 was an unprecedented year for buy-outs, mergers and 'strategic alliances', and Avid's aquisition of M-Audio was one of the biggest. I often come across people complaining that music technology companies are too corporate and commercially minded. It would be nice to imagine a world where the hardware and software that we use to make music was all produced by small companies who were in business more for the love of it than for financial gain, and indeed most companies did start that way. But if the events of the last year have shown us anything, it's that there aren't many companies like that left.
In terms of the amount of money spent on home recording products, the music technology market is bigger than ever before, yet many companies are struggling. Consider how much it would have cost 10, 15 or 20 years ago to equip your home studio with the kind of facilities you now have. There are more customers now and more manufacturers, yet profit margins are arguably slimmer. Additional issues like software piracy squeeze them even further.
Customers want affordable products which also offer professional features and are accompanied by comprehensive after-sales support, bundled software and so on. Big companies are able to offer these things, and big companies have a habit of swallowing up little ones. You may not like Avid/Digidesign's approach of tying their software to their hardware, or their prices, but then (at least, I assume) those products aren't really aimed at you. Home-studio users might have the time to mix and match software and hardware and tackle any resulting problems when they arise, but professional studios don't. They're willing, and able, to pay for a system which they can rely on — they can't afford not to. This is one of the reasons you'll find a Pro Tools rig in so many pro studios, even though their hardware is far from the cheapest around. But even Avid/Digidesign, with their many pro users, offer lower-priced systems such as M-Box and Digi 002, and these can be mixed and matched with other software packages, so the company is hardly a stranger to the more typical market for M-Audio products. Indeed, over the last couple of years, Digidesign have told us that their more affordable systems have accounted for a large portion of their business.
As I said in the original news item, there has been no suggestion that M-Audio's focus or approach is set to change, and M-Audio product releases since the takeover seem to bear that out. While I'm not privy to the innermost workings of the Avid corporation, I'm confident that my 'glowing write-up' won't turn out to be wishful thinking.
Thanks for the Isle of White article [SOS December 2004] — fascinating stuff on the old WEM PAs. Of course it was nearly all WEM in the late '60s and early '70s, except for the odd US band with a JBL system. I have to say that generally the vocal sound was pretty good! We have an Audiomaster along with a 100 slave in our 'museum' in our warehouse.
Can I point out that, in your picture of the Canegreen guys on page 98, the person on the left is actually the well-respected Yan Style, the main man at Canegreen, and not just one of the 'crew'.
News Editor David Greeves replies: Thanks for your kind words, Paul, and our apologies to Yan!
PC music specialist Martin Walker writes: Back in PC Notes October 2004, I mentioned a replacement third-party font available to Emu soundcard users which makes some of the legending on the PatchMix DSP mixer's GUI much easier to read. Its developer Alex Korn has since asked me to direct SOS readers to the Unofficial Emu Forum to find the latest mods and skinning options provided by various authors, including himself.
If you're not content with making the font easier to read, you can download several new skins for the version 1.6 drivers, complete with PowerFX support. Surf to: www.productionforums.com/emu/
The Japanese market is often portrayed as a cold, corporate and impersonal entity. And yet when reading your excellent History of Roland (and Korg a couple of years ago) one realises how, there too, it's only the sheer determination and creativity of one individual that has changed the face (and sound) of music. Well done for reminding us of this important fact. Ikutaro Kakehashi is up there with the Bob Moogs of this world.
Managing Editor Matt Bell replies: If you're interested in finding out more about Ikutaro Kakehashi's life and work, I recommend his autobiographical book I Believe In Music (ISBN 0634037838). It's not strictly chronological and leaps about a fair bit, but there are some fascinating nuggets of information in there.