WELCOME to the zoo. Things have been fairly hectic here at the Bates Motel and what with letters to answer and programs to review, I've really been pushed to find time to stab people in showers and push cars into swamps and as to buying all those old ladies clothes... there simply aren't enough jumble sales to go round.
As promised last month, here are two overviews of programs designed to run on the Ram/Flare Music Machine and brought to my attention by RAMM!, the users' club. Both concentrate on developing utilities that form part of the original package and they're both really useful additions to the original.
First on the stocks is the Sample Editor from Quasar Software. It comes in two configurations on the same tape, for the 48 and the + Spectrums, and the basic idea is that it can look at samples you've made using the Music Machine in greater detail and do a lot more to them than the Ram product alone can.
When you've put samples through the treatment they can be reloaded back into your sample files for instant use - well, nearly. The honest introduction to the manual does tell you the shortcomings of sampling on the Spectrum and acknowledges that by necessity any sampling on it is a sort of compromise.
On loading up there are no voices present, so this means digging out your sampler files. It would have been nicer and more immediate for the first-time user to have some samples to play with, but never mind.
Once a sample is loaded, several options give you access to peripherals of the sample. Any alterations at any stage can either be displayed as a waveform or played from a screen keyboard display. 'Equalize' has a representation of a graphic equalizer and you can emphasise or de-emphasise particular harmonics over a very wide selection of 28 narrow harmonic bands, thus pruning odd harmonies and inharmonic frequencies.
Overall volume and pitch can be altered; changing the latter is important if you've sampled at a weird pitch which renders that sample useless to anyone but a dab hand at transposing.
But the real smartie part is the wavefom display and 'manual alteration which spreads the sample waveform over several pages. Microscopic sections of the sample can be chopped out, inserted, and the join made smooth by carefully checking the values at the new splice. At each juncture the part or whole of the sample can be played so that you can aurally check your handiwork.
And at any stage in any of Sample Editor's functions you can restore the original sample if you go wrong; whatever you do, you have a backup. Sample Editor is well worth the £9.99 that will bring it to you from: Quasar Software, Clerkenwell Road., London EC1 tel (01) 987 3908. They threaten us with more goodies in the near future. (By the way, Quasar lads, my name is NOT Tony.)