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SOS Christmas Wishlist 1997

We all know that when we rip the brightly‑coloured wrapping paper from our pressies in a frenzy we'll probably be rewarded by a couple of pairs of socks, a furry steering‑wheel cover, and a Hai‑Karate gift set. SOS writers tell you what they'd really like to find under the tree...

Apart from peace on Earth, what I would like in my Christmas pair of tights (well, two legs are always better than one, and please make sure they're not fishnets as I don't want everything falling out) is a Brain‑to‑MIDI convertor, as the music I hear in my head takes so long to programme into my Apple Mac that by the time it's finished it doesn't sound anywhere near as exciting as I thought it would. All it would take is a MIDI connection at the back of my head, which would go into my Logic Audio and hey presto! I think of a tune and watch it fill up the screen. Then if I want a different sound for the bassline, just imagining what it should sound like would make it so...

Also can I have an Automatic bpm/pitch‑change gismo, so that I can instantly put any sample I've nicked from one record on top of another sample I've pinched from another record, and they'll be perfectly in tune and totally locked in sync, without me needing to work out a harder equation than E = MC<sup>2.</sup>

And one last thing, Santa: could you make sure that independent local radio supports local music makers, instead of just playing a diet of safe, sad established artists. Playing the best bands in the area during peak‑time listening and using the top local producers to make their jingles would be a good start. Thank you so very much, and have a nice rest until next year. Big George

What I'd really like is for Roland Inc of Japan to make me a System 700 modular synth, the whole thing — modules, keyboard and sequencer — a brand‑new, one‑off special edition just for me. If not — and I know this is a long shot — can you make a software version? Propellerhead managed to do ReBirth. So maybe? Eh? please? Eh? Maybe...? Chris Carter

I want a microphone that can cope with whispering, screaming, shouting, sibilance, popping and dropping, and still not pick up the cat crying or the fridge clicking. And I want another monitor and mouse connected to our Mac (his 'n' hers) to satisfy my twitching frustrated fingers. My laser pointer is not enough! Happy Christmas! Love From Cosey

A bit predictable, this, if you've read the review in this issue — but it has to be a complete V‑Drums system, along with rub‑it‑all‑over essence of Steve Gadd to give me the virtual skills to make the most of this brilliant technology. Oh, yeah... and, like, world peace, man... the cessation of hostilities in the Middle East... freedom of political prisoners in Chile... a stress‑free life for battery chickens... and a ban on Spice Girl hunting. Nicholas Rowland

My studio is in the tropics — well, OK, it just seems that way sometimes. The 20‑inch monitor I use generates enough heat to warm a small planet, and it seems so stupid to waste more of the world's precious resources (OK — and my money) on a noisy air‑conditioning unit to keep me cool. So what I'd like Santa, please, is a holiday in Iceland. With Sandra Bullock.

Sorry — just went one note short of a symphony there — what I want (what I really, really want) is a widescreen, flatscreen monitor, ooooh — about four feet wide, which uses no power and generates no heat. And while you're at it, could it be connected to the Internet permanently, for free, so I can read my mail, use the videophone (great for showing TV execs my lovely showreel), download movies and TV, browse the net, and have a nice soothing image of Sandra — I mean the seaside — on it when I'm musing upon the lateness of my current project) OK, I know there's more chance of me dating Sandra Bullock than getting all of this for Christmas — but then I don't celebrate Christmas. No, not because it offends my religious beliefs or lack thereof — but because I'm a miserable bugger. Humbug!! Stephen Bennett

I'd like a pair of ATC SCM20A Pro active monitor speakers, which I heard while Paul White had them in for review. Going back to your old speakers is a sobering experience, since the ATCs give you a totally honest version of your music — the truth is out there! I'd also like a mixer with a lot more stereo inputs — with virtually all synths nowadays featuring more versatile internal EQ and stereo effects, many people end up using pairs of mono channels, and duplicating their settings (apart from the position of the pan controls). I'm not talking about a cut‑down, non‑fader, rackmount unit either — what about eight mono channels, eight stereo channels, and a further four simpler stereo returns for effects (a total of 32 channels)? Eight mono channels should be enough for 'solo' instruments, allowing more exotic treatments to be added if necessary.

Finally, I make a Christmas wish that all marketing people who 'embroider' the truth in product ads should have all telephone calls from disappointed purchasers automatically routed to their office phones during the day, and to their home number out of office hours. Merry Christmas, one and all! Martin Walker

Technologically speaking, Christmas has already come twice for me this year, once in June when the Korg Z1 prototype turned up out of the blue (complete with the unexpected bonus of a Macintosh editor) and again last week when the nice guys at Apple Europe decided to extend the 3‑day loan of an 8600/250 for a French Trade show to two full months to cover some forthcoming UK shows. This means that I can finally do the simultaneous audio and video editing in VST and Adobe Premiere which I have been dreaming of for about five years now, thanks to its massive power and 100mHz data buss. However, as this loan will be up on December 21st, perhaps Father Christmas could bring a permanent replacement. I think I'd better ask for the 9600 series, as the 8600's three PCI slots are already full of 1212 I/O and Miro DC20s. I keep seeing PCI cards from Adaptec and Radius which will let me interface my new Sony DV camera via FireWire. Perhaps the 9600 could arrive with one of these already fitted (the Adaptec, I think, because it includes Ultra Wide SCSI for all those taxing hard disk transfers). Needless to say, I'll want to add loads of DSP plug‑ins, so we'd better make it the 350MHz 9600, Santa. Unless there's a faster one by then, of course! Paul Wiffen

Actually, since I now have room for one, I wouldn't mind a Studer A820 analogue 24‑track recorder, but it's a bit out of Santa's price bracket I suspect. I don't suppose there's much point in asking for a vintage Neve mixing console either. Realistically, at the top of the list of equipment I pine for at the moment is the Clavia Nord Lead 2, which takes analogue synthesis, by virtue of its digital physical modelling architecture, to new and dizzy heights. It's a classic of the future.

I don't think I need a new computer this year but it would be lovely if Santa's elves could spend their time off (between Christmases) persuading software designers that they desperately need to sort out the bugs in their existing products before starting on the next round of integer version upgrades.

Another hypothetical wish is definitely a digital multitrack recorder which (like the Studer A820) can record 24 tracks on one piece of affordable removable media rather than having to sync several machines together, which sooner or later results in putting a tape in the wrong machine and erasing valuable work.

Funnily enough, last time Sound On Sound asked me what I wanted for Christmas I said that I would like someone to invent a MIDI‑controlled filter module, which didn't then exist. Who says wishes don't come true? David Mellor

What do I want for my studio? A window would be nice. Apparently fresh air, sunlight, and a view come as standard with this bit of kit (although subject to seasonal variation, of course...).

As for the latest gear I've seen this year, I think if I saw Santa squeezing an Allen & Heath WZ20:2 rackmount console into my Christmas stocking I would wake up particularly full of the festive season's goodwill. The EQ is the best I've heard for a sub‑£1000 console and the signal path cleaner than the cast of a fabric softener advertisement. Chris Holder

Well, they say you shouldn't be beguiled by the hype, but I'm afraid I've swallowed it hook, line, and sync device. Despite the Editor's continuous rumblings about how digital recording can curdle milk, be held responsible for the Balkan Crisis of 1877‑78, and be shown to exhibit much less impressive all‑round audio recording ability than a well‑maintained wax cylinder engraver, I'd like a hard disk recorder. Please.

Specifically, I'd like a Fostex D160, as I have been faffing about on a 4‑track Portastudio for five years now, and whilst I love my Tascam 414 dearly, editing and mixing would be made a whole lot easier with a judicious dollop of sauce from the bottle marked 'Random Access'. And, of course, there'd be 16 tracks instead of four... so I could record four times as much crap as I do now. Those who point out that for "very little cost" I could be running a computer‑based multitrack digital recording system can naff right off, as (a) "very little cost" in digital audio recording terms invariably translates to "at least five pounds under a grand" (b) my computer, monitor, keyboard, optional PCI I/O expander card (etc, etc — you get the idea) doesn't lend itself well to being lugged round to my mate's house to record some acoustic guitar, and finally, (c) my Portastudio has never printed a picture of a bomb on its tape counter, ceased operation for 10 minutes while it restarted, and then brought up a dialogue box saying "This cassette recorder may not have been shut down properly last time. Please use that big switch marked 'Off' next time".

Merry Christmas! Matt Bell

Santa and I have a binding legal agreement which prohibits us from believing in each other, so there's no point me expecting the following to come crashing down my chimney: a Tascam DA38. In my opinion, the DA88 sounds better than ADAT, and this cheaper model offers unrestricted internal digital track routing and frame‑accurate automated drop‑ins — excellent for complicated vocal comps. Actually, since these fantasies cost nothing, make that two. Dave Stewart

The first thing I want is for Santa to scoot down my chimney bearing an Akai‑compatible sampler with 1Gb of RAM, an inordinately huge hard drive, lots of outputs, a great big touch‑sensitive screen, digital on‑board mixing, and no SCSI problems. Another thing I'd like is an automated‑fader, 48‑channel desk with lots of stereo channels, for under £2000. And I'd like all the sample CD manufacturers, as a New Year's resolution, to offer complete one‑off CD duplication just for the samples you want. I want MiniDisc to become an industry standard, analogue cassette tapes to be ruled illegal, and Last of the Summer Wine banned from TV. Last but not least I would like for it to be discovered that Bill Gates is the love child of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe, and Sandra Bullock to come to my studio and adjust my faders. [You'll have to fight with Paul Ward and Stephen Bennett over that last one — Production Ed.] Paul Farrer

I would really like a piece of PC software that could analyse a short piece of music (maybe a MIDI file?), analyse its structure (meter, length of notes, pitch intervals between notes, and so on) and generate more music in the same vein. There is a Windows program called Jammer Pro that will generate music from a basic series of around 20 parameters that you give it, but nothing that will start from an existing piece of music... yet.

I'd also like a cheaper MIDI guitar, as I play decent guitar but am not such a keyboard whizz, and would really like a means of musical data entry into my computer that is more intuitive than the (to me) relatively unfamilar interface of black and white keys. At the moment, the cheapest option available costs around £600, which means it always falls into the category of "something I'll buy when I have a few pounds to spare mysteriously"... and you know how often that happens.

While we're on the subject of existing things at cheaper prices, I'd like a cheaper MIDI theremin (another non‑keyboard means of MIDI data entry), as the existing ones are all over £500! Then again, as this is supposed to be Christmas, I should be able to have all these things for free anyway, shouldn't I? Panicos Georghiades

If it could be swung, I'd quite appreciate an end to world hunger, war and persecution, plus computers and hard drives that don't make any noise, and a studio without a central heating boiler in the corner. Gear‑wise, it would be too easy to get materialistic, but now that I've become a Korg Trinity Pro user, I'm reasonably content... although a Doepfer modular synth system wouldn't go amiss! Derek Johnson

A Christmas wish list is a great idea, but it's a more depressing reality to find that there are so many things I actually want! Like most people, I suspect, I've always got a list of recording equipment needs which I carry around in my head, some of which are obtainable, some a mere dream.

At the moment, my chief one is not to do with actual gear but space to put it in and record. The problem is that my gear is outgrowing the house (again!). I have 10 or more years of accumulated amps, keyboards, outboard, boxes of demo tapes, leads and accessories, which I doggedly hang onto. The result is that it's all getting a bit cramped. So what I'd really like is a bigger house, preferably with one largish room with a wooden floor, for acoustic as well as aesthetic reaons.

On a more realistic level I fancy a pair of Elacin ER15 earplugs, an essential element in any modern musician's armoury, and one which I hope will preserve my hearing for gigs to come. Then there's the long‑overdue MIDI retrofit I've been promising for my old Korg Polysix. Naturally, there's hard disk recording too, but perhaps what I really wish for in that department is some sort of standardisation. John Harris

I want a mind link directly into Cubase and Logic, so that I don't have to key things in and move a mouse about. I also want an SSL9000 desk, a really good vocal processor, preferably a Focusrite Red, and an Emu Planet Phatt sound module. And, of course, peace and goodwill on earth! Dominic Hawken

If it's not too much trouble, could you get me a Rode Classic microphone and a Focusrite Green Voicebox, so I can sound absolutely super‑duper? A Philips CDR870 CD writer would be nice too, to make a CD to impress my Mum with. And can you please not chuck them down the chimney with the other stuff in your sack, because I want them in good shape for playing with on Christmas Day. Failing that, a lot of chocolate would do. Thanks very much! Debbie Poyser

Since I hate studios — miles of trailing cables and ghastly quasi‑industrial racking systems — firstly this Christmas, I would like to receive the latest in intangible hyper‑spatial leads. You know the ones: you insert the mains plug into a wall socket and the IEC end into a piece of gear, but the cable bit lies deep in hyperspace, where you're unlikely to trip over it. The only inconvenience would be the need to keep a close eye on the routing of all my MIDI leads and audio signal cables, since there would be no tangible connections between any of the equipment.

Secondly, I'd like a spatially warped keyboard‑racking system, so that I could store an infinite number of synths on a single 3‑tier stand, accessing any combination of instruments whenever I desired.

And finally (although I accept that this may have to wait until the next leap in n‑dimensional quantum synth technology) I could really make use of a Star Trek style replicator. "Computer... give me an 88‑note velocity‑sensitive Mellotron with 2000 patches and digital outputs... and tea, Earl Grey, hot." Gordon Reid

Heading my Christmas wish list is a 48‑track Digidesign Pro Tools 4 system, with a comprehensive set of plug‑ins and a mega Power Mac computer to run it on. While I am amazed at the pace of pro audio development on the PC, Pro Tools is still way out front when it comes to hard disk audio multitracking and virtual effects processing. And there are many top‑quality TDM plug‑ins that have not made it across to the PC as yet, including the TC Electronic TC Tools Reverb/Chorus, the Focusrite D2 equaliser, Q‑Sound Lab QSys spatial imager and the Antares Auto‑Tune pitch corrector. Alternatively (or additionally), I would love to have the soon‑to‑be‑released Lexicon Studio hard disk recording system with Cubase VST running on my PC — I have been a Lexicon fan for years and the prospect of Lexicon DACs and a virtual PCM90 in VST has me quivering with anticipation! Perhaps it's also a pointer for future trends that the PC version of Lexicon Studio has been lauched before that for the Macintosh. Finally, if there is any room left in my Christmas stocking, I would like an HHB CDR800 stand‑alone CD recorder. This is a lovely machine, and it would complement the functions of my PC CD burner and wave editing software. Janet Harniman‑Cook

For Christmas, I would like: the bugs fixed in the sequencer I had three years ago. No new features, just a stable sequencer; MIDI over Firewire (IEEE 1394) — sort of SMDI with go‑faster stripes; a new synthesizer that doesn't have any distorted guitar, blown bottle, jangly harpsichord or electric piano sounds — just some new synthetic sounds, please; Apple to survive for another year; an audio DVD standard to be agreed; peace and goodwill to all men (and women!). Thanks! Martin Russ

I began to experiment with recording when I first bought a 4‑track tape recorder. I incorporated recorded samples from the radio, distorted vocals and keyboards with the aid of the pitch control, used reversed tracks for backing, and experimented with layered guitar effects. The problem was that all the effects were achieved through the recording process and were not easily reproduced live. Today, for the most part, my sequencer‑run sound modules provide me with enough effects to play with. However, I'm still limited when it comes to the guitar. There are many songs in which I originally double‑tracked the guitar, using one track for effects, ambience, acoustic or noise whilst the other guitar‑track knocked out the chords.

Santa's picking up the bill, so the first thing on my list this year is a high‑spec sampler. One with shed‑loads of RAM, plenty of editing features, time‑stretch, LFOs and many outputs. Any in the Emu E4X range would do nicely. I would use it primarily to loop guitar lines, short riffs and ambient feedback sounds.

Or alternatively I could, like Dolly the sheep, clone myself and pass on guitar‑effect duties to Tom Flint Mark II. Tom Flint

I've been particularly good this year, so how's about that Neve Capricorn desk I've been waiting for? I'll obviously need a new wiring loom to go with it, but I understand the elves are pretty hot with a soldering iron. I've also been blessed with a new PC this year, so could you please bring me a copy of Stop Crashing You Evil Little Bastard Lite for Windows 95? I've made space in my rack for a fully expanded Emu E4X Turbo and a Lexicon PCM90 too — what are my chances?

PS: The Ferrari and Sandra Bullock must have gone astray last year... Paul Ward

Those of you who have read the Philips CD‑R recorder review in this issue, you'll know that I already have one of those on my Christmas list, but I'd also like a Korg Wavestation SR or AD rack module, as here in Malvern hippy music is very much alive and well, and the Wavestation is great for meandering pad sounds. I'd also swap all my existing monitors and hi‑fi speakers for one pair of ATC SCM20As.

Getting a little more surreal, I'd like a self‑cleaning patchbay, a case of self‑tidying signal cables and a PC that actually tells me why it isn't working rather than sitting there smugly refusing to make any sound or informing me that a vital part of the operating system has just quit due to a fatal error! I could also use a packet of dehydrated time pills — I could pop one in a glass of water when needed and get a few hours of free time to play in my studio. Finally, something to stick onto computers and hard drives to make them silent would make a very welcome stocking filler. Happy Christmas! Paul White

Because I've been very good all year (well, apart from that little incident with the cheerleaders and the whipped cream), I'd very much like a Lexicon PCM90 reverb. It'll fit nicely in my stocking. No need to gift‑wrap it. For my BIG present, if you can stretch to it, I'd also like my studio floor strengthened and a Yamaha CS80 installed, along with a team of engineers to keep it running.

To end my gear cravings forever I could ask for a bright green Waldorf Wave, but then life would be dull, with nothing left to lust after. (OK, there's clotted cream, ice cream, yoghurt...)

One thing I definitely don't want is to be forced to upgrade my PC so it runs at 300 bloody MHz just so I can run a simple MIDI program that used to be rock‑solid on my little 8Mhz Atari ST! Nor do I want a synthesizer that you have to plug into a free slot on said PC. Nor yet again do I want an effects box that resides in that same evil location. So just the Lexicon and the CS80 will be fine, thanks. The rum and mince pies are in the usual place. Me. Paul Nagle

The past year has been a real treat for synth lovers like me, with many strong new models coming onto the market. Hopefully it's a trend that will continue! Korg's Z1 has emerged for me as the most exciting of the new breed, and an 18‑voice model is at the top of my Christmas wish list. Following that would have to be Roland's JV2080, complete with the plug‑in boards to take advantage of its eight internal slots — surely the ultimate sample‑based synthesis module (unless there's a JV3080 waiting in the wings!). Kawai's K5000 has reintroduced the intriguing sounds of additive synthesis, and the non‑workstation K5000S version is also on my list. Meanwhile, I've long had a soft spot for the warm ensemble sound of Yamaha's MU series XG MIDI modules, and as the most sophisticated 'GM plus' box yet, the new MU100R is another of my choices. On a more historical note, an Oberheim Matrix 12 would be like manna from Heaven. Oh, and if I could just squeeze in an Akai S3200XL, a Kurzweil K2500R, a Philips CDR870, and, last but not least, a brand new high‑spec PowerPC Mac... No wait, there's more... drat! Simon Trask