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Cimple Solutions Extraports MIDI Expander for the Atari ST

Derek Johnson investigates an affordable MIDI exapnder for the Atari ST. By Derek Johnson
Published October 1994

Affordable MIDI output expanders for the Atari ST are now quite common: there are now a number of devices available that plug into the ST's modem port and allow you to transmit an extra stream of MIDI data (providing your sequencing software is compatible). This concept is stretched further with proprietary multiple MIDI output interfaces manufactured by Steinberg and Emagic, for use with their sequencing software — Steinberg's Midex and Emagic's Xport both allow the user to access several independent streams of 16 MIDI channels.

What we're looking at now is a third‑party hardware product that offers this facility at a lower price: Cimple Solutions' Extraports is a compact, three‑way device that plugs in, via a metre‑long cable, to the ST's modem socket. This results in three extra streams (totalling 48 channels) of MIDI data being available to your software. The MIDI Outs on Extraports are labelled B/1, C/2 and D/3, because Notator/Creator SL labels its extra outputs B,C and D, while Cubase labels them 1, 2 and 3. Cimple's box needs no extra drivers for use with either Cubase or Notator/Notator SL; Cubase users should make sure that Steinberg's Export driver and MROS 3.33 are installed in the MROS folder. Extraports doesn't work with Emagic Logic — but then it doesn't have to, since Logic comes packaged with its own multi‑MIDI port expander.

In use, Extraports presents no problems. Adding the interface to your system immediately gives you access to 64 independent MIDI channels: 48 on Extraports plus the ST's main MIDI Out. Just keep in mind that the three outputs are addressed serially, and that MIDI information arriving at the third output of Extraport is going to be somewhat later than data arriving at output B/1 or the main ST MIDI out — avoid sending any data which is strictly time dependent, such as drums or MIDI clocks, to outputs C/2 and D/3.

One good feature I noted is that Cimple have used a chip that allows longer than usual MIDI cables to be driven by Extraports, and the only letdown for me while using the device was the lack of a manual. While setting it up is virtually idiot‑proof, and any doubts should be cleared up by referring to your software's manual, a few notes would be handy — and Cimple will be filling the gap in future.

Other than that, I've no complaints: this is an elegant, affordable little box that makes life easier for users of compatible software. Cimple are to be applauded for their ingenuity. My only question is: why has it taken this long for a third party to develop such a device? Derek Johnson.