Vic Lennard investigates a rather interesting new Falcon product...
I have been flying the flag for direct‑to‑disk recording on the Falcon since my first column, some nine months ago. While at an Atari show in Berlin some time ago, I saw a rather interesting multi‑track playback program by the name of TrakCom. My immediate reaction was 'oh no, not another tracker', having seen the release of a large number of sample playback programs recently. But on looking closer, I started to realise that TrakCom might appeal to musicians as well.
TrakCom is a mono sample playback program offering between six and 10 tracks depending on the sampling rate — CD quality (44.1kHz) gives the former, while a respectable 25kHz accounts for the latter.
While TrakCom cannot record sound, there are already a substantial number of Falcon‑based products that can, including WinRec, Atari's FalconD2D and Compo's own MUSiCOM. TrakCom will happily import audio files from such programs and then allow you to carry out basic waveform editing.
The main strength of this program lies in its user‑friendliness — it literally is a load‑up‑and‑go situation, with only two main screens: the Editor and the Sample Editor.
Samples are loaded into the 100‑slot Sample List by means of a simple double‑click; each sample also has its own keyboard shortcut for ease of access. A further double‑click on an inhabited slot takes you into the Sample Editor, from which you can zoom in and out to set the start and end points, loop the sample or increase and decrease the level. Edited waveforms can then be saved in one of four formats, including the industry‑standard .AVR format and a variant compressed .DVS format.
Once happy with the various loaded samples, it's back to the Editor for the real fun. If you've used a pattern‑based sequencer, then TrakCom's structure will be very easy to follow. There are a number of steps per pattern (or 'lines' as TrakCom calls them), which you set from the Song Parameters dialogue box. Additionally, each pattern is sub‑divided into 'shifts': musos will probably view this in the same way as beats in a bar. Unfortunately, tempo is then set by the number of lines per second — weird!
The layout is in the style of a vertical cue‑list and is very easy to work with; samples are placed at the correct playback frequency via their keyboard shortcuts, or at a different playback rate by hitting any other key.
Blocks are also supported so that you can (say) set up a 'verse', copy it to the GEM clipboard, and insert it wherever you wish. There's even a facility to fade samples in and out by means of volume changes — a little like MIDI Controller #7 data in a sequencer. At present, TrakCom does not allow you to import and export samples through the clipboard, which is a pity, as you could have had both this and a sampling program loaded in at the same time in one of the multi‑tasking environments such as MultiTOS. This would have removed the need to save a freshly‑recorded sample to disk and then load it in again.
I have to admit to a little personal involvement here, in that I knocked the English documentation into shape for Compo, but I'd be the first to admit that, at the moment, TrakCom is a little bit too toy‑like to be taken seriously. That said, the potential is there, and in many respects, this is a similar scenario to the one that occurred with MUSiCOM, where the first version simply allowed you access to the Falcon's Digital Signal Processor, while MUSiCOM 2 is a far more accomplished product altogether. Additions, such as support for MIDI and synchronisation, could lead to the creation of a useful jingle and dance music tool. Let's see how the situation unfolds...