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XRI Systems
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Hardware: Music
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Jon Bates
Chris Bourne

The Micon interface from XRI SYSTEMS is an adaptable little fellow, which seemingly can turn its hand (or port) to anything. It was reviewed in these hallowed pages when it was a step-time recorder and now there are plenty of other programs available for it.

As you should know, a real-time recorder turns the Spectrum into a multi-track machine for any midi keyboard. XRI's Multitracker program does just that with a reasonable degree of efficiency. It works like this. Anything you play up to 250 bars long, monophonic or polyphonic, is recorded first in a working buffer. You listen to this and decide if it is fitting for your needs, and any minor timing cock-ups can be rounded up by a definable quantization. Having listened to it and ascertained that it is suitable and correct, the section recorded is then allocated a sequence number and name, and transferred to a storage buffer/sequence file.

The next task is to place it in position in the song: this task is carried out on the 'track control' screen. The tracks, all eight of them, are scanned from left to right with track number one at the top of the screen and track number eight at the bottom. Let's assume you have a bass-line already recorded into the sequence file that you want to put on track number one. Move the cursor to the beginning of track one, bar one, and enter 'a' for add: the prompt then asks which sequence number you want. It you can't remember, enter 's' and the sequence file will overlay itself and remind you of their names and number. If all is well, the bars visually fill themselves up (by turning a disgusting shade of yellow) and name themselves with the allotted name of the sequence. Play back and listen - Okay? Then back to the record screen and tell it that you are about to overdub and want to hear track one while you record another sequence. And so on. Mid-flight patch changes are easy enough and have a separate file that allocates a letter to a patch. Just to keep you in order, the working screen for any function always shows the current filename/song-name in the memory, the amount of memory left, beats per minute and sync status.

After a few hours of doodling around, I realised that to get the best out of this program, you need to concentrate very hard on the way you plan your piece. The recording of a sequence is terminated by entering 'x. Get this wrong and your sequences will form a useless musical mash - and the only way to fix a duff sequence is to re-record it!

The sequence is only recorded on channel one of midi, so this could mean that as you get further into your piece you have to record and budge the sequence initially on the wrong sound. Once recorded you can allocate the playbadc to any channel and specify what voice (patch) it will play back with. Individual bars can be inserted, deleted or repeated, but sections cannot be repeated (silly really).

Multitracker will respond to external midi pulses from a drum machine, and it has metronome features which can be designated to any note on the keyboard. This is thoughtful, as some other sequencers play metronome notes that clash horribly with what you are trying to play. It has a Midi Function Cut that enables you to maximise on the memory space, by defaulting on unnecessary midi information: ie. pitch bend, note velocity, systems exclusive etc - but you do need to know your midi decimal codes. The documentation could have included a copy of the common codes as it would save novices hours of research; most synths have poor documentation in this department.

The version I had did not correspond exactly to its documentation, but I understand that yours will. Virtually anything can be done with the Multitracker, but I do have a few reservations, like the lack of a repeat function and track merge. It would have been nice, too, to have a visual edit facility for the working buffer sequence that enabled you to knock out the bum notes and rests to avoid tears and tantrums at the recording stage. But all in all, this is a very comprehensive package.