HARDWAREPERIPHERIQUES ★ AUDIO - AMDRUM ★

AMDRUM|Amstrad Action)AUDIO - AMDRUM|Popular Computing Weekly
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If you've listened to many modern rock bands you'll know the rhythms generated using electronic drum kits. Until recently these boxes of tricks started at several hundred pounds - only small change for a promising band, but a lot for someone starting out.

Stand-alone drum boxes come with digitally recorded drum sounds which you can program in many varied rhythm patterns to back the most complex of songs. While a micro is ideally suited to handling rhythm patterns, most micro-based drum machines have been hampered by the quality of their sound chips. These aren't capable of reproducing acoustic instruments accurately enough for serious use. Amdrum gets around this restriction by ignoring the Amstrad's sound chip and using its own circuitry to produce the drum effects. This is accomplished with a small plug-in unit which connects to the expansion bus on the back of a CPC The mono sound output is taken from a flying lead attached to the side of this unit, and fitted with a phono plug intended for connection to the auxiliary input of a hi-fi amplifier.

This means the Amdmm can't be used on its own, since you can't hear its output without a separate amplifier. The Amdmm is intended for use with other electronic instruments though, so it's reasonable to expect this kind of equipment to be on hand. But it's a shame that no through connector is provided on the Amdrum for connecting other peripherals which use Arnold's expansion bus.

Once linked up, you have to load the Amdrum software and a set of drum sound data before you can use the unit. The software and drum sounds are provided on cassette, and instructions are provided for transferring these to disk. A set of predefined rhythms are also provided, but these are not so easily shifted to disk. Since they're meant to demonstrate the Amdmiris capabilities, it's odd Cheetah should expect you to use them from cassette when everything else might be on disk. This is particularly weird as the Amdrum software can't load anything from cassette when it's loaded from disk itself. If you don't manage to transfer the demo rhythms, you have to run the whole shebang from cassette when you use them.

The 'drumkit' provided with the Amdium consists of eight sounds: bass drum, snare, mid and low tomtoms, cowbell, open and closed hihats and claps. Each sound is very close to its acoustic original, although some still have an electronic overtone. This, is anything, adds to the overall effect, giving the whole kit a 'modern' sound. When you do run the demo rhythms, you can hear that the Anidrum is capable of 3ome very complex and professional-sounding patterns. The demo covers rock, reggae, latin, march and several other music styles, and can be used as the basis of complete songs or edited to produce the effects you want. You can also create your own rhythms from scratch, of course.

The software allows you to create new rhythm elements and to link these together. Elements can be repeated in any order you like and loop around to repeat complete sequences, which Amdruir. refers to as songs. Songs can be saved to disk or cassette, and reloaded later for replay or edit. Individual rhythm elements can be made up by entering numbers on a chart displayed on screen, or by tapping out a rhythm in real time. In real time you can add or delete any of the drum sounds while listening to the beats already laid down. If you use the display two bars are shown on either side of the current one, which helps line up repeating beats. A sound is added to any beat by pressing its corresponding number key, and you can have up to three sounds on a beat.

It's a pity you can't see the cursor following the beats as your rhythm is played back, as this would help debugging. But the facilities that are provided give a lot of sophistication, and are similar to those on a Roland drum machine I used once, which cost over £300. The Amdrum can be used for some quite serious work, but as it doesn't support midi it can't be used for triggering other instruments, h does have a synchronisation feature however, which can lay down the pattern for each sound separately on a multi-track recorder. You can then treat each sound individually and add extra effects such as reverberation.

The manual is well laid out, but a bit brief and very small (A7). I suppose it saves on staples, though! Supplied for review with the Amdrum were two cassettes offering different drum sounds, one electronic and the other Latin-American. Both are good, offering a wide selection of sounds for particular kinds of music.

The drumkit editor, provided on each cassette, allows you to combine sounds from more than one kit, making up new selections. Sounds can be saved backwards, which means they play backwards, although you can't play them through the editor - reverse play is all that can be achieved with individual sounds. It would be handy to be able to treat the sounds digitally through a separate sound editor too.

ON THE BEAT

The Amdrum is a very reasonably priced alternative to purpose-made drum boxes. You've got to have an Amstrad micro too of course, so the cost of that should be added in a direct comparison. It's a unit which is really of more interest to someone who does quite a bit with electronic sound or music rather than the casual explorer, and offers a lot for the home music-maker. Being largely software-based there is a lot of scope for extensions to the system. It should be possible to create the data needed for an Amdrum sound either from scratch with a sound designer, or perhaps by capturing it with a microphone and feeding it in from cassette. You would then have sound-capture facilities approaching those of the fabled Fairlight keyboard.

AA#13

★ PUBLISHER: CHEETAH MARKETING
★ YEAR: 1986
★ AUTHORS: Peter Hennig and Alan Pateman / SONIK ATTACK SYSTEMS
★ PRICE: £34.95

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» Hardware » Audio - Digivox (Tilt)
» Applications » Silidrum
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L'Amstrad CPC est une machine 8 bits à base d'un Z80 à 4MHz. Le premier de la gamme fut le CPC 464 en 1984, équipé d'un lecteur de cassettes intégré il se plaçait en concurrent  du Commodore C64 beaucoup plus compliqué à utiliser et plus cher. Ce fut un réel succès et sorti cette même années le CPC 664 équipé d'un lecteur de disquettes trois pouces intégré. Sa vie fut de courte durée puisqu'en 1985 il fut remplacé par le CPC 6128 qui était plus compact, plus soigné et surtout qui avait 128Ko de RAM au lieu de 64Ko.