HEY! I' m beginning to like this magazine - they've even got hold of pictures of my, sorry, our house for my articles.
Whilst hunting through the waste bins in some of the cabins of the motel, I found wrapped up in a three day old copy of the Los Angeles Times the most marvellous DX21/27/100 programmer. It's the one released from Quasar Software and in comparison with some of the supposedly upmarket software for 16-bit machines it takes quite a bit (pun accidental) of beating; in short it was better. And you get a whole load of new sounds to boot - about 150 in all.
Quasar have taken a very visual approach to the program. Following a loading screen, the main work area pops up. Down the left hand side of the screen appear graphic wave display of the envelopes for the four operators (I make no apologies for not going through an FM synth primer as there is a time and place for everything - and this ain't either, Sorry.) Underneath that is a scrolling window through which access can be gained to all the functions - basically either editing or transferring to and from the library, tape or the synth. Just to left of centre, a set of four vertical bars show you the relative outputs of each operator on the form of bar graphs of the levels which are essential to the final sound. This principle follows through in the smaller areas on the right hand side of the screen. A display at the top centre of the screen shows the algorithm defining the configuration of the operators currently in use. The tiny little figure to it's right is in fact the level of feedback set on operator four and not, as I thought, the algorithm number. At the top of the screen is the name ascribed to the sound.
In edit mode you can move around the different sections, each being highlighted in yellow when activated. One small niggle here is that you can only run round the screen in one preset order; since editing is usually a matter of fine tuning just a few peripherals, dodging between the two or three alternately, this editing procedure proved a little constricting. What, I wondered, were the chances of having it work from the cursor arrows - or even better the joystick control?
However, this is only a minor hiccup in what is a very excellent utility. I particularly liked the ability to get the DX to play either melody, chords or bass from an on-screen command. It would have been even better if after each edit alterations it sent a single note command so that you didn't have to keep taking your hands off to see what the editing alterations were. It has a copious and very neat file/voice management system that takes advantage of the DX's ability to 'bulk dump' (a phrase that has been taken out of context by several coarse friends of mine). This means transferring many vouces at a time, and is a great time saver; any synth programmer worth it's salt should do this.
All files and voices can be saved to tape, but Quasar have not simply stopped there. You find, on consulting the handbook, (which although tacky and rather quaintly spelt is very straightforward) that the program is adaptable to a large degree. It can be obtained in a variety of permutations: RAM or MICON (XRI) interfaces, 128 or Interface 1 network and will store on cassette, Microdrive, OPUS Discovery, Disciple, MGT Plus D or the +3. So pay yer money and take yer choice; it's a snip at £9.99
Quasar are at pains to let you know that they have been on the move and can now be sent lots of money at their new address listed at the end of the article. Soon they will send me a DX7 programmer for review and the results of exhaustive testing by myself and mother will be revealed at a later date.
The Tech Tips Tape, now available at £5.95 (see last month's issue for full details), contains some pretty nifty routines by Simon which convert programs for one interface to another, such as transferring from the Spectrum to the Ram Music Machine. Taking this a bit further, 'RAMM' (the Music Machine user club) will be releasing details of interface ports that should enable any MIDI program to run on any MIDI interface when subjected to the conversion program.
Quasar (new address): 60 Bowsprit Point, Melish Street, London E14 8NU. Tel 01 987 3098.
Detailed loading screen from Quasar's Yamaha DX 100/27/21 voice editor and file manager.