Derek Johnson checks out two ST freebies that could help you tame your synths...
Almost since the Atari was introduced, it's been well supplied with editor/librarians for sundry MIDI‑equipped hardware. For some reason, three familes have been particularly well supported: Yamaha 4‑operator synths, Kawai's K1 range, and CZ‑series instruments from Casio. Perhaps it was due to the affordability of the three ranges — even when new, they all featured entry‑level pricing — or to the fact that owners easily became frustrated with small displays and fiddly buttons. I was recently surprised to discover a new version of a Yamaha 4‑op editor, Martin Tarenskeen's YSEditor Plus v2.64, which was unleashed in April of this year. Full details are available on Martin's web site (www.telebyte.nl/~mt/yseditor.htm), and it's from here that you can download the software.
The background to YSEditor Plus reveals that it has some of its roots in the work of Joost Overmars (of Kawai K1 editor fame). The software's strange name reveals more of its past: it has been, in the past, an editor for Yamaha's YS100 and YS200 synths, but the similarities between all 4‑op synths are more numerous than their differences, so it was a logical step to modify the software to handle every instrument's features. The result is that not all parameters will be accessible to all synths, but this conundrum is handled with no inconvenience to the user. One other trick that YSEditor Plus manages is being able to read sound banks in virtually any format that they might come in — raw SysEx or formats native to other PD and commercial editing software.
YSEditor Plus has been in development in one form or another for around 10 years, and the result is an elegant and bug‑free program. When you boot up, you're greeted by the bank manager page; click on edit, and you have the options of 'quick edit' (with Attack, Release, Volume and Brilliance sliders) or full edit, with nearly all parameters on one screen. There's even a basic multitimbral performance editor. Of course, single voices and whole banks can be requested from and transmitted to the synth, and saved to disk. Whichever patch you're currently edited can be auditioned via a mini‑sequencer, or using the mouse; my Atari is currently patched into my Mac multi‑port MIDI interface, so it's easy for me to audition sounds from my master keyboard. And if you get stuck, call up the online help document. This software has nearly everything! One things it lacks, however, is compatibility with Yamaha's FB01, but the YSEditor Plus site has an early version of a separate FB01 editor, together with a utility for transferring patch banks between the FB01 and other 4‑op synths.
If you want a copy of the software — and as an owner of any 4‑op synth (V50, DS55, DX11, DX21, DX27, TX81Z, B200, WT11 or TQ5) and an Atari, you really can't be without it — go to the web site quoted above, which also features a folder full of factory presets from assorted 4‑op synths. If you lack Internet access, check out your favourite PD library. But if you like and use the software, do send Martin a postcard. That's all he asks for!
A few months back, we informed you that Hollis Research's classic Trackman v2.5 pattern‑based sequencer was available to download, completely free, from John Hollis' web site. I bring this up again because recently, while passing by the Hollis site, I've discovered that John's companion software to Trackman, Midiman, is also available as a free download. Midiman is a kind of universal editing controller that runs as a desk accessory. It integrates particularly well with Trackman and uses a simple graphic interface, consisting of a screen (or several screens) of sliders assigned to synth parameters. A collection of over 40 synth profiles comes with the software, but since support is nil (the software's free, remember!), any more profiles will have to be written by third parties. The profile language is accessible, but learning it might be tricky without a manual. This might become available on the web site at some point in the future: user requests have resulted in the Trackman manual becoming available for download from the Hollis site. It's in Calamus (.cdk) format, so you'll need the software to read it. But there are apparently a few copies of the original printed manual left (punched but unbound) and one can be yours for £10; email firstname.lastname@example.org. For Midiman or Trackman go to www.hollis.co.uk. Trackman was previewed in SOS November 1988, and reviewed in December 1988; MIDIMan was reviewed in October 1989.
It's great to see Atari Computing magazine reaching its 10th bi‑monthly issue. We've plugged this subscription‑only title before, and are happy to keep doing so. Issue 10 is full of the usual varied editorial: reviews (including MagiCMac 2 and SpeedoGDos v5.7), shareware, tutorials (including STe sound programming and HiSoft Basic) and more. You can buy a single copy, to try it out, for £3.50 (or £5.50 with reader disk), or subscribe. Three issues costs £10.50 (£16.50 with disk), and six issues costs £21 (£33 with disk). European and overseas rates can be obtained from the web site (www.ataricomputing.com), or by contacting Atari Computing Subscriptions, 73 Bentinck Drive, Troon, Ayrshire KA10 6HZ. Cheques should be made payable to Atari Computing Group. Note that local distributors have been appointed in Germany, Sweden, Norway, USA, New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands. Again, check the web site or contact the mag for details.
One interesting bit of news from the new issue of Atari Computing is that the mag is behind a dedicated Atari show in November — the Atari Computing Convention (ACC '98) on Saturday the 14th, at Bingley Hall, Staffordshire Showground, Stafford. The show runs from 10am to 4pm, and tickets cost £3 on the door; there are discounts for Atari Computing subscribers, and further reductions for children, OAPs, students, and UB40 and orange card holders. The Showground is accessible from junctions 13 and 14 on the M6, and has lots of free parking; there'll also be a shuttle bus running from Stafford railway station. The mag hopes to be able to organise a coach for London show visitors if there's enough demand. Many specialist Atari hardware and software dealers will be present, including Titan Designs, Club 16/32, FaST Club, System Solutions, Floppyshop, Abingdon Synthesis Projects, Electronic Cow, and ImPrint Solutions. For the first time ever, InterActive and CyberSTrider will be accepting registrations for shareware 'live' at the show.
The show is being organised with the help of Sharward Promotions and is actually being combined with that company's twice‑yearly general computer and electronics show, so you effectively get two shows for less than the price of one. So as well as checking out the latest Atari stuff, you can browse around stands offering general computer hardware, accessories, cables, CDs, books, satellite, telephone and radio electronics.