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100 Issues Of Sound On Sound

Special Feature
Published March 1994

As SOS enters its second century, we look back over the past 100 great issues and chart the changing face of hi‑tech music.

We've now produced 100 issues of Sound on Sound, so by way of blowing our own trumpet, or Casio Digital Horn, we've taken a look back through the 13,000‑odd pages of 'Europe's No. 1 Hi‑Tech Music Recording Magazine' to relive some of the highs, lows and middles. Firstly, though, consider the following:

  • In December 1985 (Volume 1, Issue 1) you got 84 pages of Sound on Sound for £1.20. Cost per page: 1.43 pence
  • In December 1993 (Volume 9, issue 2) you got 218 pages for £2.50. Cost per page: 1.1 pence. And it was damn good value in 1985.

Not Forgotten

  • Grey Matter Response — The company which produced the E! expansion board (£399) for the DX7.
  • Greengate Productions — DS3 music software.
  • LinnDrums — everyone was using them once.
  • UMI 2B Software — BBC Micro sequencing software.
  • 360 Systems MIDIBASS — great bass sounds from a 1U rack.
  • Fairlight Voicetracker — did it ever work ?
  • XRI — low cost synchronisation.
  • Southworths Total Music for the Apple Macintosh — ahead of its time.
  • Thatched Cottage Audio — helped keep prices down.
  • Sequential Studio 440 — Sequential's excellent sequencer, sampler, drum machine all in a box.
  • STEPP DG1 "The world's first digital guitar" — £3500 + VAT.
  • Yamaha FB01 — £299 in 1986.
  • Simmons — electronic drums that led the world.
  • Nomad SMPTE to MIDI Synchroniser.
  • ICONIX, and Virtuoso — British MIDI Software.
  • Zyklus MIDI Performance System — what was that?
  • Twister — retrofit mix automation
  • Yamaha C1 computer — what went wrong?
  • Intelligent Music — innovative software.
  • Casio PG380 MIDI Guitar Controller — Mmmmm...
  • Lynex — the start of integrating digital audio and MIDI.
  • Casio's Digital Horn — £99 worth of real MIDI fun.
  • Music X — sequencing software for the Amiga.
  • TT and Stacy — great Atari computers.
  • Dynacord ADS — the top quality German samplers.
  • MIDI WASP — from Groove Electronics.
  • Cheetah International — a British company producing good budget equipment.

Great Ads

Probably the most entertaining series of adverts came from the Keyboard Shop, sadly no more. Their copy included such gems as:
If you've ever played a Kawai Grand Piano, or used their jelly, you'll know this company's reputation for excellence.
(November '89, p21).

Dear Cynthia
Why are so many acronyms used in electronic music?

Puzzled of Purley

Dear Puzzled
Here's a rhyme to help you

P.C.M., R.C.M., I.A. L.A. SMPTE
Find out more at K.S. O.K.?
(March '90, p43).

If you have a small budget then these are the synths to pursue. However if you have a small budgie then you are reading the wrong magazine.
(December '90, p35).

Drum machines are now so intelligent that there are two of them in John Major's Cabinet.
(April '91, p35).

Other companies had some memorable copy lines, not always for the right reasons...

"In the future, the time it takes to record an album will be the time it takes to listen to it."
Yamaha advert (November '86, p34/5).

Stress, Mayhem, Panic, Tension, Expense — Is this what SMPTE means to you?
Advert for Steinberg Timelock.
(February '87, p51)

You've bought the software. You've written the song. Now... how do you raise the invoice?
ADT advert (July '88, p54).

If Picasso had a Quadraverb, he might have mixed music instead of paint.
Quadraverb advert (December '88, p25).

The following, however, give me the opportunity to highlight the not‑so‑imaginative side of the 'world of the four‑hour lunch break.'

Bound only by your imagination.
Notator/Creator advert (December '90, p9). Obviously their ad agency was brimming over with imagination.

The World's Largest Synth Library has one limitation. Your imagination.
Casio VZ1 advert (September '89, p40). No wonder they closed their pro division.

Hear tomorrow today.
TC Electronics (January '93, p95). Here today... gone tomorrow.

Harnessing the Power of Nature.
Roland JV‑Series advert (March '93, p11). Is it some kind of hydro‑electric powered synthesizer then?

And one to think about:

Music Control — Yesterday's Technology Tomorrow!
(September '93, p184).

Memorable Quotes

Over the past years there have been some memorable quotes, and a few pieces of good advice that we hope have helped you to get more out of your music. At the risk of sounding too Norden/Beadle‑esque, here are some of the more interesting.

"That's why a lot of contemporary music sounds how it does, because you've got all this machinery that, unless you're incredibly stupid, allows you to make something that's in time and in tune. We start by being out of time and out of tune."
JJ Jeczalik about The Art of Noise.
(December '85, p14).

"I don't think that technology is a big threat to live musicians. Machines have eliminated some marginal musicians who used to play terribly and cost a lot of money in wasted studio time."
Arif Mardin (July '87, p10).

The Roland Philosophy: "No one synthesis method can produce ALL the possible sounds. Each method has its own strengths and weaknesses."
Ikutaro Kakehashi (June '87, p27).

"The funny thing is that you make mistakes when you are recording, but when you do a live TV show or a live gig, you do it straight off practically perfectly. You wonder why you go through all the hassles in the studio."
Phil Fearon (November '87, p72).

"There's a growing gap between the capability of the technology and the capability of the keyboard operator."
Alexander Skeaping (February '86, p66).

"...a corpse can be made to twitch and jerk via electricity, but only if it's truly alive will the body sing."
Dave Stewart in his music seminar
(July '90, p22).

"I think that drumming is the heart of rock music, then melody, harmony, and all the rest come after that."
Peter Gabriel (January '87, p42).

"Mozart would have written a symphony in the time it takes someone to programme several racks of equipment!"
Vangelis (July '90, p28).

"There's no modern synth that I know inside out. The user interface doesn't encourage you to just go 'well, I wonder what this knob does ?'"
Thomas Dolby
(April '92, p92).

"...programming the TG55 is a bit like trying to wallpaper the hallway through the letterbox."
David Hughes
(March '90, p39).

"I find it interesting that a first class guitarist is happy to sound like a third class saxophone player."
Robert Fripp on guitar synths (March '88, p25).

"Sony have said that consumers investing in budget priced audio systems may soon find themselves disappointed and disillusioned with compact disk."
Edits (June '86, p64).

"I believe it is impossible to find a microphone that is quiet enough. In every experiment we've done, the tape is not the limiting factor any more — it's microphone noise."
Ray Dolby (July '87, p36).

"Compared to the latest black‑box‑of‑electronics signal processor, for which we seem to think nothing of paying hundreds of pounds, modern mics offer unsurpassable value for money."
Dave Lockwood (January '92 p86).

"I remember the old way I'd written songs with John, the two acoustic guitars facing each other, like a mirror, but better ! Like an objective mirror, you're looking at the person playing chords, but it's not you."
Paul McCartney (October '86, p37).

"If there were a top 10 Worst Manual Chart who would win? Stiff competition indeed! Would it be Yamaha with their classic 'Mysteries of the DX7', or Roland's '1001 Things You'll never know about the D50' or the swashbuckling Akai Thriller 'The S900, And the Best of Luck Mate!'?"
Roger Jackson (April '90, p112).

"I've not met one single person who has seen a current MIDI file format standard in black and white, or who knows about its internal data structure!"
Paul Overaa (June '90, p96).

"The delay in a properly‑designed MIDI device between the In and the Thru jacks is of the order of three microseconds, which is the amount of time it takes an opto‑isolator to fire. You should therefore be able to chain about 100 MIDI devices before a delay equivalent to a single MIDI byte would be encountered."
Paul D. Lehrman (October '91, p44).

"By its very nature, General MIDI could threaten to erode the distinctions between competing products and so encourage fiercer competition, lower prices, and lower profits."
Chris Jordan (April '91, p46).

Would You Believe It !

"I've never used a Minimoog in my life."
Tony Banks, Genesis (September '89, p53).

"... even if we had faster processors we couldn't export them due to a regulation set by COCOM (Co‑ordinating Committee for Export Control)... The concern is that CPUs and memory devices could be removed and used in Soviet submarines."
Mr Noriyasu, MD Roland Corp.

"I like to read about quantum mathematics, things like the Mandlebrot equations on fractals."
John McLaughlin (July '88, p76).

"We used to do all the recording live — it was a really heavy production number for us if we ever did an overdub!!"
Peter Gill, Frankie Goes to Hollywood (December '85, p40).

"I remember at the AES show in 1979... people were coming up to the instrument [Fairlight] and saying 'Yes that's great — but who can make music with such a thing?' We shared our exhibition space with Roger Linn, he too had the same comments. By the end of the show Roger was about ready to give up and slash his wrists."
Kim Ryrie, President of Fairlight Instruments (May '87, p52).

"I wondered how winning joint best production gong [at the recent Q awards] with Peter Gabriel affected them. 'Stupid bastards,' says Weston [The Orb] in no uncertain terms. 'We think Gabriel is shit anyway. U.F.Orb could've been miles better quality if we'd had the equipment.'"
Interview (May '93, p30).

"An interesting experiment for people to try is to get out their favourite records and monitor the signal level on their tape recorder or mixer. They'll see that very few of them have anything more than a 20dB dynamic range. In fact some of those that have a very punchy sound may only have a 6dB dynamic range."
David Richardson, MD SRT Records & Tapes (October '86, p44).

"It [Roland TR626] may not have 96ppqn timing resolution (though you can arrange that sort of accuracy if you feel it necessary...)"
Mark Badger (November '87, p19).

"The computer on which the Synclavier is based (the ABLE 60 developed by the founders of New England Digital) is being used by NASA to troubleshoot their Galileo Jupiter orbiter."
Edits (July '89, p8).

"Andy Bell was recently commissioned [by Scalextric] to record the sound of Formula Three racing cars at Brands Hatch. The fruits of Andy's efforts will soon be heard in living rooms up and down the country."
Edits (November '88, p8).

"Usually when Liz [Fraser] is doing her vocals, I just leave the tape in cycle mode and go to the pub."
Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins) (July '89, p81).

"I understand that there were over 3,000 cover versions of 'Yesterday', which is quite interesting."
Paul McCartney (October '86, p37).

"[Passport] AudioTrax was so much fun I had to keep checking the packaging to make sure there wasn't a Government Health Warning."
Paul Wiffen (January '92, p54).

"During the demonstration of the system, I couldn't help notice that the screen was headed Roland Audio Toolworks No! finally they've done it: Roland RAT."
Julian Colbeck (November '93, p58).

Good Advice

"If you can benefit now by having a certain piece of equipment, then do so — don't sit on the fence worrying about whether Company 'X' will bring out a cheaper version in six months' time."
Ian Gilby, Editorial, (June '87, p5).

"Good enough isn't good enough."
Richard Dodd quoted by Paul Libson. (February '86, p25).

[Scoring for Film] "Very often if there's a sad scene, I write something moderately jolly against it because it makes it even sadder."
Hans Zimmer (August '86, p.55).

" exciter is a device which can make badly recorded music sound good, and well recorded music sound bad."
Wilf Smarties (December '92, p68).

"I, like various Japanese manufacturers, realised that reverb sells things."
Paul Wiffen (November '88, p96).

"Computer manuals mention it. Hard disk manuals stress it. Consultants worry you about not doing it. Victims always do it afterwards. So what is it? Backing Up."
Martin Russ (July '92, p144).

"If you meet anyone who indulges themselves in virus creation, make sure that they cannot leave the room and still breed."
David Nicholson (June '91, p98).

"The first rule of good soldering is never to be satisfied if it's not quite right."
David Mellor (December '88, p80).

"Your mouth is the best synthesizer in the world."
Dieter Meier, Yello (February '89, p85).

"At this rate it won't be long before record companies will do a survey, feed the information into a computer and come out with a record."
Ed Buller (August '93, p176).

"If the software makes you wait when it accesses the disk or says 'Are you sure?' and waits for an answer, it certainly seems to be the computer that is in charge."
Martin Russ (August '89, p112).

"Users who feel pressured into always having the latest, hippest, noisemakers never have a chance to get past the surface of each new toy before they have to move on."
Paul D. Lehrman (April '92, p74).

"Some of the all‑singing, all‑dancing keyboards are so busy processing their every sound, in order that it sounds like you hired the Grand Canyon as a venue, that they have less time to deal with the plasticky bits you have leant on."
Steinberg Support Page (March '92, p110).

"Typical [run‑of‑the‑mill] synth‑based film scores are done with an organ approach — something for the left hand, something for the right, then start the drum machine."
Wendy Carlos (November '93, p23).

"Don't confuse soundproofing with acoustic treatment — foam tiles or egg boxes on your walls may produce a better sounding room, but won't make much difference to the level of noise escaping."
Feature (August '93, p120).

"I have never signed a band on the strength of an unsolicited demo, and I'd be surprised if anyone ever has."
David Bates, Head of A&R, Phonogram (November '93, p108).

...And Quotes Of A Not Too Useful Nature

"I'm planning a trip to London Zoo this week to record some animal noises onto the [Sony] PCM‑F1 to use as samples. My favourite animal noises are ant‑eaters' toenails. When they walk they make a clicking noise you know — a bit like castanets."
Larry Streinbachek (Bronski Beat)
(February '86, p45).

"In response to demands from many studios... [SSL] have started to manufacture the Synth Table. This is a large table top area..."
Edits (July '86, p72).

SOS: Many players, especially those who may feel their touring days are over, are trying to break into film and TV music... any tips for them?
Jan Hammer: "Move to LA."

Interview (March '93, p93).

"My oven door makes a superb unsynthesizable sound as you open it, something like the Klingon phaser blast in the original Star Trek."
Martin Russ — steer well clear of his kitchen (March '92, p112).

"No disaster is complete without a good bunch of celery to slowly twist."
John Rowland (February '86, p62).

"Omnichord goes MIDI."
(October '89, p11).

Bottom Quotes

"The name 'Big Bottom' was the product of excess alcohol and an over‑vivid imagination."
Marvin Caesar, President, Aphex
(August '93, p82).

"One person's 'boomy' is another person's 'adequate bottom end', so to speak."
Dave Ward, Gateway School of Recording
(January '86, p13).

And Finally...

"The CBX‑D5 will ship later this year."
News (May '92, p10).

"Yamaha are putting the finishing touches to their eagerly awaited CBX‑D5 hard disk recorder."
Apple Notes (December '93, p162). you think it'll be ready by issue 200?

A Jolly Difficult SOS Quiz


1. Who featured on the cover of Volume1 Issue 1?

2. What "sounds just as good down the Victoria as it will in the Albert Hall"?

3. Who said "Tawakamakatangi"?

4. In 1986, what went from "0‑120 in 3.6 seconds" ?

5. What did we consider to be star of the 1986 AES Show?

6. Quote from feature in March 1987. "No one knows when *** is due to be released to the public, or what final form it may take, but watch out, it is going to be big." What was it?

7. What do the '12' and the '14' of Akai's MG1214 refer to?

8. Who produced the "Mister Six"?

9. With reference to JL Cooper's PPS1 and PPS100, what did PPS stand for?

10. "Emerson, ****** & Palmer — A great team", ran the advert. Fill in the gap.

11. Who manufactured:






12. About what was Winston Churchill talking when he commented during a visit, "My God, I thought I'd come to the wrong place. It looks like a hospital."

How To Get Ahead In Advertising...

Over the years some great, and some not so great adverts have appeared in our hallowed pages. Some of the best included...

  • Ramsa (2.1 p9/10)
  • Stepp (2.4 p39)
  • NSEM (3.7 p64)
  • Technics (3.12 p18)
  • Thompson (5.9 p38/9)
  • Plasmec (6.5 p71)
  • "Shure Genius" Shure (7.4 p73)
  • "I wish I had an Allen & Heath Console" (7.5 p25) and rest of series.

Some You Win, Some You Lose: The Ins And Outs Of New Technology


  • "A new range of software from Germany's Steinberg Research includes the Pro16 package for the Commodore 64." (March '86, p64).
  • "You may like to consider — or at least ponder on — Atari's new 520ST computer (around £750 [!!]), a technically excellent machine which comes complete with built‑in MIDI interface. There doesn't seem to be any MIDI software around yet, but no doubt that will come soon." Ian Waugh (February '86).
  • "We will port as much stuff as we feel is appropriate to the Atari." Dave Oppenheim, Opcode Systems (October '89, p28).
  • "The D50 will change your conceptions of what a digital synth sounds like, as well as banish any fear you might have of programming them." Martin Russ (May '87, p36).
  • "Technology coming your way in 1987 — R‑DAT digital cassette recorders and MTC (MIDI Time Code)." Edits (January '87, p80).
  • "...what I'm trying to say is that the S900 is inevitably going to be an enormous success for Akai." Mark Jenkins (July '86, p53).
  • "To sum up, the MIDIVerb looks poised to become the new standard in a wide range of studios." Dave Lockwood (March '86, p23).
  • "Recordable CD is coming." Edits (December '88, p8).
  • "I feel confident in saying that future musicians and engineers will look upon ADAT as a milestone in audio development." David Mellor (September '92, p64).
  • "If the MC500 was £1500 it would seem a good bargain... as it is, at £799 the MC500 seems almost laughably wonderful." Mark Jenkins (August '86, p9).
  • "My opinion is that software writers and users will eventually realise the vast potential of MTC." Chris Smith (October '89, p104).
  • "The most exciting product at NAMM [1990] came from a company new to the music business: the Zoom Corporation.... I predict it [the 9002] will be the 'hip' unit for guitar players the moment it hits the UK shops." Paul Wiffen (March '90).
  •'s [Zoom 9002] a technological miracle. Brilliant!" Ian Gilby (December '90, p71)... Probably the Best Review for a product.
  • "I cannot emphasise enough how lovely it [Lexicon PCM70] sounds." Mark Badger (December '87, p58).
  • "Copy protection of programs is a pain in the neck, but while people misuse software it is going to stay with us." David Mellor (January '88, p12).
  • "If you've got the impression that I'm not impressed with this batch of product [Twister PAC, MegaMix and JL Cooper MidiMation mix automation systems] then you're absolutely right. Eight VCAs in a box no more constitute an automation system than eight VCOs in a box constitute a polyphonic synthesizer." Graham Hinton (March '88, p56).


  • "Market forces dictate that the [Yamaha] CX5 cannot continue to be viable in the UK. MSX has collapsed and new technology is appearing to meet the demands of the end user." John Brydon, Yamaha‑Kemble (July '87, p80).
  • "I don't believe the original [Steinberg Pro 24 v3.0] manual was proof read by anyone. Not even the office cat. It is truly awful." David Hughes (August '88, p75).


  • "Hand on heart, I can honestly say that I personally feel that the [Technics] PX1 is as important a revolution in the keyboard world as were the Hammond organ, Mellotron, Minimoog and Fender Rhodes in their respective times." Rick Wakeman (April '86, p28).
  • "All this crap about studio monitors and so on is such nonsense, because really you don't want the ideal picture of the sound — you want the best sound, the most inspiring sound." Brian Eno (October '90, p54).
  • "Lifting samples off other people's records is artistically valid." William Orbit (October '91, p62).
  • "We firmly believe that the current state‑of‑the‑art digital audio standard of 44.1kHz as employed on compact disk is not a good enough standard and it's not where the industry will be in 1995."
    Brad Naples, Vice President, New England Digital Corporation (makers of Synclavier), May 86 (November '91, p14).
  • "...some of the things we're likely to see more of [with respect to MIDI] in the future:
  • Star networks to replace the conventional MIDI chain.
  • Super‑MIDI running at high speed.
  • Faster MIDI functions in instruments.
  • Advanced two‑way protocols for computer control of instruments.
  • Mode 4 implementation for direct voice control.
  • Poly timbrality for greater musical possibilities.
  • More complete, accurate and sensible MIDI implementations.
    (April '86, p52).
  • "The one person I really don't like is Tomita... he just sits inside a pyramid mixing tapes and using fireworks. He won't become a star sitting inside a pyramid."
    Kitaro (May '89, p55).
  • "Digital recording is not perfect, but it's a damn sight better than any current analogue format other than Dolby SR used on professional equipment."
    David Mellor (February '93, p29).
  • "...ditch the games machine and get a serious applications computer — a PC. They'll be around a long time after the STs and Falcons have gone down the VIC 20 road."
    Paul Trappett (September '93, p10).

SOS: Getting Things Done

  • "Why don't manufacturers provide a training video with each new synthesizer?"
    Ian Gilby, Editorial (August '90, p4).
    SOS Video Shop (June '91, p103).


'More product for your pound' must sum up the main change in the past eight years; for example...

  • "Apple Cuts UK Prices... Mac Plus, the cheapest model in the range, will now cost £995 (down from £1335)... SE30 4/40 down from £3935 to £3545."
    News (October '89, p11).
  • "It's a shame that many average musicians aren't able to afford what might be their computer of choice, when Apple undoubtedly could make it possible."
    Paul Ireson, Editorial
    (October '90, p4).
  • "Lower Prices for New Macs... £575 plus VAT buys you the new Mac Classic, a replacement for the Plus and SE models."
    News (November 90, p12).
  • "Whilst the prospect of gleaming new product every six months ensures Apple hardware remains at the cutting edge, existing owners are left with nearly new machines worth a fraction of their original cost."
    Kendall Wrightson
    (October '92, p80).

"In March 1991, Apple President Michael Spindler was asked which computer company Apple feared most. His reply was 'Nintendo.'"
Kendall Wrightson, Apple Notes
(September '93, p148).

Quiz Answers

1. Midge Ure. 2. Akai's AX80. 3. Rupert Hine/Quantum Jump. 4. Ensoniq ESQ1.5. Yamaha's DMP7. 6. DAT. 7. 12‑channel mixer, 14 tape tracks. 8. Sansui. 9. Poor Person's SMPTE. 10. Kahler. 11. a – Akai; b – Alesis; c – Hybrid Arts; d – Lynett; e – Plasmec. 12. Abbey Road Studios.