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Time Signature WaveIt Soundfonts & Wien Editor

Sound Bytes By Martin Walker
Published July 1998

Figure 1 The Wien SoundFont Editor has a host of useful timesaving features. Here it is auditioning the P5mlbr‑4 Piano (five octaves, mellow and bright options), which is an 8Mb SoundFont containing 42 samples and 32 velocity layers.Figure 1 The Wien SoundFont Editor has a host of useful timesaving features. Here it is auditioning the P5mlbr‑4 Piano (five octaves, mellow and bright options), which is an 8Mb SoundFont containing 42 samples and 32 velocity layers.

SoundBlaster cards no longer need to rely on a complete set of GM sounds crammed into 1Mb of ROM now that SoundFonts allow up to 28Mb of RAM expansion. Martin Walker feels the quality of Time Signature's new collection.

Many people still see SoundFonts as cheap and cheerful sound collections suitable only for amateur and home use, but they would be wrong. Over the last couple of years, the increasing number of SoundBlaster AWE owners who want to be more serious about their music, and the existence of the S/PDIF output on the AWE64 Gold card have both conspired to raise SoundFont quality to new heights. There is nothing inherently lo‑fi about SoundFonts; they are simply a standard way of specifying the WAV files, loop points, filters, envelopes and LFO settings that comprise one or more complete 'instruments', to be played back using any SoundBlaster soundcard. In addition, now that both Ensoniq (of Paris fame) and E‑mu are subsidiaries of Creative Technology, we are likely to see more high‑end products such as E‑mu's new Audio Production Studio, which uses the SoundFont standard in a more professional package.

Here in the UK, Arbiter Pro Audio are now marketing the Waveit range of SoundFonts on CD‑ROM, and these have been developed by Time Signature with a great deal of care and attention to fine detail. The original Micro Waveit CD‑ROM is still available for £19.95, and this provides a huge array of quality sounds that can fit into even the unexpanded 512K RAM. However, for the more serious musician who has a SoundBlaster card with a larger memory, the new Waveit Gold collection is a much more sensible proposition, since not only does it include all of the sounds of its predecessor, but also has better versions for those with larger memories (up to 4Mb). In all, there are 300 SoundFonts, 1200 presets, and nearly 3000 samples.

In addition, Waveit Gold includes an editor, Wien (the German spelling of Vienna) to help you create your own SoundFonts, and there is also a full version of Emagic's MicroLogic Fun sequencer which provides access to SoundFonts directly from the bank selector, as well as allowing real‑time filter control.

Serious Soundfonts

Figure 2. The Toolbox. A comprehensive set of controls allows access to every parameter of Wien , including click and drag envelopes as shown here.Figure 2. The Toolbox. A comprehensive set of controls allows access to every parameter of Wien , including click and drag envelopes as shown here.

I dutifully listened to the sounds, which were very good (see boxes), and I have to admit that it wasn't until I met TimeSignature at the recent Frankfurt MusikMesse that I took much notice of the Wien editor. Having now seen Wien demonstrated, I would suggest that the distributors make a bit more of a song and dance about it — this is a clever and very useful piece of software for any AWE user, and not just yet another SoundFont editor.

To give you an idea of the possibilities, Time Signature recently made a presentation of their new Waveit Piano sounds to another company, but rather than demo a carefully tweaked SoundFont, took along 96 piano multisamples and the Wien editor. They then simply dragged all 96 samples simultaneously onto the Wien icon, and seconds later played the finished SoundFont. During the load process Wien uses an FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) algorithm to analyse each fundamental pitch. Once your samples have loaded you will find any slightly out of tune samples retuned relative to A440, as well as being already key‑mapped across the appropriate notes, and any data after the loop points discarded. This saves a huge amount of tedious work. Appetite whetted?

Getting Started

Figure 3. You can also learn a lot from the FFT (spectrum analysis) display window — here you can see the strong 3rd harmonic content of an overdriven guitar sample.Figure 3. You can also learn a lot from the FFT (spectrum analysis) display window — here you can see the strong 3rd harmonic content of an overdriven guitar sample.

Wien is a beautifully clean program, which even runs directly from the CD‑ROM, and doesn't stuff folders full of extra system files onto your hard drive. However, for a faster load time, it is best to copy the files across to a new folder on your hard drive. One thing to watch out for here after copying — using Explorer, right click on Wien .ini and select properties, and then untick the read‑only box. All files on CD‑ROM are by definition read‑only, but once copied to your hard drive you will not be able to save your own preferences to this initialisation file until you can overwrite it.

SoundFonts consist of four levels: sample, split, instrument, and preset. Each sample loaded into Wien creates a split according to its pitch and any other samples already in place. As you add other samples, they are automatically split across the keyboard, and the complete set of splits (along with their associated parameters such as volume, envelope, tremolo, vibrato) is called an instrument. An instrument can be restricted to a keyboard or velocity range, and you can stack or split several instruments in a preset — either several different sounds, or variations of the same one. Finally, up to 127 presets can be present in a SoundFont — either different instruments or variations of the same one.

To create your own SoundFonts, you can start by either dragging WAV files directly onto the area beneath the Wien keyboard display, or by using the appropriate menu option. Since Wien provides auto‑mapping, auto‑tuning and auto‑truncating, this may be all you need to do, apart from saving the completed SoundFont. Drum samples normally need to be allocated to a specific keyboard note, so you drop the WAV file directly over the desired key graphic. You can edit at all levels (Splits, Instruments and Presets), and Global Edit is provided so that you can simultaneously adjust the parameters for all splits within an instrument. If you want to hear how well all your splits sound in context, the tiny Test Play button next to the splits keyboard will play each split sample in context from bottom to top, which makes it easy to hear how smoothly your split transitions are sounding.


Once you have your selection of WAV files in place (one for each split), the many parameters associated with the split can be edited. These are neatly grouped under seven tabs labelled LFO, Wave, Pitch, ModEnv, Filter, VolEnv, and Volume. Apart from Wave, each of the other options has between four and nine click and drag vertical faders, although you can also click in the text value box beneath them, and then enter new values directly. There is also a click box for each parameter which selects between local and global editing, so that you can fine tune a particular local split value, or revert to the overall global setting. Both the Modulation and Volume Envelope also have a graphic display of the envelope, and this can be directly clicked and dragged instead of using the faders.

The Wave tab is a special case, providing a mini waveform editor with a surprising number of features. It can show the standard waveform (like most other editors), but also be switched to show just the looping portion, as well as an FFT display (which is extremely useful if you want to see the harmonic structure of your sounds). You can find and play loops, delete any portion of the waveform, or crop an edited sample immediately after its loop point to save memory. It is also possible to calculate the pitch of the loop, which will also set the Original Pitch and Pitch Correction values automatically.

On The Menu Today

Further menu options make light work of perfecting your SoundFonts. Most of the File Menu options are self‑explanatory (providing various import and export functions), but in the Edit menu there are some very useful additions. Unfortunately the Undo function has not yet been implemented, but Duplicate allows you to duplicate presets (for creating variations on the same sound), or layers (for chorused sounds), or samples (before you cut or otherwise modify an existing sample), as well as several other options. Spread Samples will remap whatever samples you currently have in your Instrument, which is useful if you have deleted some splits, and want to map the remainder across the keyboard range.

Since AWE cards don't have an option to control the filter frequency with velocity level, the Velocity Layers function instantly sets up a user defined number of splits according to velocity, with a minimum filter value and a filter sensitivity. This only takes a small amount of memory, since the same samples are being used, but allows the filter frequency to be opened up as you play harder on the keyboard. This method can sometimes be even more expressive than having filter frequency mapped to velocity values, since you have precise control over every part of the velocity range. To accommodate parameter editing on all of these new layers at once, Layer Edit is provided — several parameters unsuitable for Layer Editing will be greyed out (including the velocity and note range), but the remainder will all display zero, and you can then increment or decrement the particular parameter values in every layer by the same amount.

Under the MIDI menu there are three options. MIDI Input allows you to play the editor from a MIDI keyboard (very useful when auditioning sounds), 'sf to AWE' forces a new transfer of sounds to the soundcard (after deleting some samples for instance), and Analyse MIDI file contains another of those neat tricks — apart from creating a user bank number, it scans the notes contained within the desired MIDI file and then deletes any instruments, presents, splits and samples not used by the file, minimising the SoundFont size.

Wien was originally created to help design the SoundFonts in the Waveit range, and it shows. There is a host of timesaving functions here, so that you can get on with what you really want to do — create the best SoundFonts from a set of multi‑samples and get on with making music.


Wien is an excellent editor, and given the number of extremely useful sampling tools provided, E‑mu sampler owners will be pleased to hear that a new version of Wien will soon let them in on the action too.

The Waveit range shows that SoundBlaster owners no longer need to be embarrassed about their sounds, particularly if they have an S/PDIF output feeding an external D/A converter. These SoundFonts are ideal as both additional solo sounds (to use in conjunction with the onboard ROM set), or as standalone ones for use with other MIDI equipment. For the many musicians who normally only use their SoundBlaster card for games, now might be the time to reconsider. I must also admit being surprised at how good the onboard SB reverb and chorus were in context. The only real limitation left when comparing these sounds to other midrange synths is the lack of multi‑effects (which can transform most patches).

The next Waveit volume should be available around May, and this will include 'tons of vintage synthesizer SoundFonts, techno/Rave drumbeats, Arpeggios and nasty synth lines'. Should keep lots of people happy then!

Wave It Gold Sounds

Thankfully, considering the total number on offer, the sounds are well arranged into 23 categories, each in a separate folder. Each SoundFont has a descriptive filename, which makes selection far simpler. The size is also indicated (those ending in L are larger than 2Mb, those with M are larger than 0.5Mb but smaller than 2Mb, and those with S will fit in even an unexpanded 0.5Mb memory).

The SoundFonts include a couple of dozen acoustic drum and other loops grouped by tempo, but most of these also contain variations at the same tempo, so there is more on offer than at first appears. There is also a huge selection of drumkits to suit all styles of music from Busker to Ballistic, as well as many individual drums and percussion sounds.

On the instrumental side, we start with four acoustic pianos (these are good, but obviously can't compete with the sounds of the dedicated Waveit Piano set), and a large selection of both acoustic and electric basses (including a nice plucked acoustic bass which sounded exactly like the one from Lou Reed's 'Walk on the Wild Side'). There is a small selection of Choirs, tuned percussion (bells, vibraphone and xylophones), and then some electric pianos (Clavinet, Rhodes, Wurlitzer), followed by Dulcimer and Koto.

Guitars of all persuasions are provided (nylon, acoustic, mute, jazz, Strat, heavy metal), as well as harp, plucked strings, and various organs. Most orchestral instruments are represented — woodwind is available, brass in both solo and ensemble (including many saxes), and there is a wide variety of solo strings and ensemble strings. Along with a selection of synth leads and pads, most basic sounds are provided. Along with the 23 folders of SoundFonts, there is also a further 26Mb of other single WAV loops on the CD‑ROM.

Despite the fact that the majority of the Waveit Gold SoundFonts use 2Mb or less, they sound very good, with neat looping where used, and all of significantly better quality than the ones in the ROM set (as you might expect).Of course you don't get long evolving sounds using this amount of memory, but overall, at £49.95 (including Wien and Micro Logic), this pack is very good value for money. If you only want the sounds, the original Micro Waveit is still available at £19.95 (but with only the 0.5Mb versions). Any existing owners who are interested in Wien can upgrade to the expanded SoundFonts as well for only £30.

Wave It Piano Sounds

Shortly before my review of Waveit Gold was completed, a copy of Waveit Piano arrived, and this should interest any SB owner who tickles the ivories. In similar fashion to its stablemate, the piano sounds are supplied in various SoundFont bank sizes from 0.5Mb all the way to 8Mb. There are twelve piano banks in total (including a surreal one with some useful and fun alternatives such as upside down piano), along with a further selection of electric pianos, organs and synth pads. A tremendous amount of work has gone into all these sounds, but the acoustic pianos in particular are a programming tour de force.

There are up to three samples layered according to note velocity, and up to 32 levels of velocity layering are used, along with fine tweaks of other aspects such as release time and attenuation. There are several fonts for each RAM size, and these are graded according to their optimum note range (5, 6 or 7 octaves), and velocity maps (which determine the timbre — choices are available depending on the bank from mellow 1 and 2, through medium, to bright 1 and 2). Each bank also has several variations, which add reverb and chorus to suit different styles of performance.

Once you make the best choice depending on the length of your keyboard, style of performance, and even the rest of the mix, the sounds range from extremely responsive (more useful for solos) through to bright or dark for ensemble work. Even the smallest 0.5Mb bank is very respectable, and looping is excellent throughout, but the larger banks are extremely good. I hadn't really considered using a SoundBlaster grand piano in my own music before, but having heard these sounds I might change my mind. If you need quality acoustic piano sounds this is excellent value at £19.95, especially considering the huge amount of work that has gone into it.


  • Wien editor has some great time saving features.
  • Waveit Gold contains a wide range of quality sounds.
  • Wave it Piano contains possibly the best acoustic piano SoundFonts currently available.
  • Both packages are excellent value for money.


  • Wien Undo feature not yet implemented.


An excellent range of quality SoundFonts, along with the extremely clever Wien editor which has features that put many dedicated samplers to shame.