You are here

PC Retrospective 1993

PC Notes
Published January 1994

Brian Heywood looks back over the past year of PC music activity.

Wow, another year gone and still the PC music revolution grinds on, with the Holy Grail of a multitrack hard disk recorder the size of a paperback book still nowhere in sight. Seriously though, hard disk technology is continuing to fall in price, making non‑linear editors even more affordable.

Old Moore's Almanac

If I was in the prediction business, I would say that in 1994 we're going to see even more high quality sound hardware being introduced for the PC, primarily to address the 'high end' of the burgeoning multimedia production market, and of course musicians will be able to take advantage of this. The other technology to keep an eye on is recordable CD; if the prices of these follow the downward trend of CD‑ROMs we could all be able to afford to record our own 'gold' CDs by this time next year.

Well that's enough blue sky mining for the moment, on to more mundane matters....

Passport Protection

As mentioned in last month's 'Shape Of Things To Come' pages, Arbiter Pro MIDI have taken over the distribution of Passport products in the UK. Passport produce a range of rather excellent music software packages for the PC and Apple Mac, and have released a new version of their popular scoring package Encore. This is all fine and dandy except.... it is now copy‑protected! And it uses the worst possible form of protection: a floppy disk 'key' that needs to be inserted in the drive each time you run the program. As well as being the most inconvenient form of protection, it is also the most unreliable — floppy disks are prone to failure and if the key disk fails, your £470 scoring package is totally useless. I know of several loyal Encore users who have sent back their upgrade disks and are actively looking at other scoring packages, since they refuse to be held to ransom by a dodgy floppy disk. Although I'm sure that Arbiter will replace the key disk if this happens, it means that you have to wait a few days to get up and running again (a long time, if you are up against a deadline).

Passport say that the copy‑protection was requested by their 'foreign' (non‑USA) distributors, though not from the UK it seems. This is not exactly clever customer relations since it's effectively saying "you're not a US citizen therefore you are not trustworthy". The really stupid thing about it is that as the software is only copy‑protected outside the USA, there seems to be nothing to stop anyone purchasing it by phone direct from a US dealer, thus obtaining an unprotected version of the software. I would not recommend this route, it would be far better to look at an alternative package like Coda's Finale, which although more expensive (unless you're a student or a teacher) at least won't let you down at some crucial point. Well done Passport (not!).

Key MP128 Interface

Arbiter Pro MIDI have also started distributing the new Key Electronics MP128 MIDI interface in the UK, which is an eight port, 'output only' MIDI interface designed to connect to a PC's printer port. The interface is intended to augment an existing single port interface like an MPU‑401, which can provide a MIDI In. As the MP128 is a slotless interface, it can also be used with a laptop or notebook PC with a printer port, and could be quite useful in live situations where you don't need a MIDI input; alternatively, you could use a Key serial port interface to provide the MIDI In.

The unit is supplied with a Windows 3.1 device driver, so it should work with any MIDI‑aware applications. Users of DOS sequencers should check to see if the interface is supported by their software before purchasing. The MP128 costs £175 and should be obtainable from most good hi‑tech. music stores, or you can call Arbiter Pro MIDI on 081 202 1199 to find your closest dealer.

Kurzweil Sounds For The PC

Down in the wilds of Hampshire, Digital Music have announced that they are handling the new Summit sound module. This is a rather curious external device that is designed to connect to the games/MIDI port found on the back of most standard PC sound cards. The sound generation circuitry it uses is based on the Kurzweil MASS chipset, which is a derivative of their popular K2000 keyboard synthesizer, and gives 32‑note polyphony, 6Mb of General MIDI sounds (which are aftertouch‑sensitive), as well as a Roland LA‑PC/MT32 compatibility mode and a couple of MIDI connectors. The module comes bundled with a 48‑track Windows MIDI sequencer. Since it appears as an external MIDI device to the sound card, it can be accessed using the existing Windows MIDI device driver or by any DOS sequencer that can use a sound card's MIDI ports. The Summit looks like a neat way of improving the MIDI sound of an MPC sound card without having to fiddle about taking the lid off your PC. For prices and availability contact Digital Music on 0703 252131.

PC Notes Awards

Here are my PC Notes awards for the most memorable products of 1993:

  • Top of the list just has to be Powerchords, the brilliant guitar‑based sequencer; a great way to spice up your tunes and get away from those boring keyboard‑based chord sequences.
  • A special mention for SeqWin version 2 for seamlessly integrating digital audio into MIDI sequences.
  • All the PC hard disk recorders that start with 'S' (SADiE, Session 8 and Soundscape) for bringing non‑linear editors within reach of the masses.

Hopes & Fears For 1994


  • Hard disk prices will fall below 25p per megabyte.
  • Recordable CD drives will become as cheap as CD‑ROM players.
  • Voyetra will finally bring out a Windows version of Sequencer Plus.


  • Norway will win the Eurovision Song Contest.
  • There will be a Bay City Rollers revival.