|★ HARDWARE ★ PERIPHERIQUES ★ Cheetah MK5 Midi keyboard and Amstrad mini-interface ★|
|Audio - Cheetah Mk5 Midi Keyboard (Amstrad Computer User)||Hardware Peripheriques|
Kitten on the keys
If making music is what you seek And your finance is quite meek Then Cheetah's keyboard is worth a peek Or so says our man — Dennis Leek PAYING around £130 to play tunes on your Arnold may sound unwise: When you get a Cheetah MK5 Midi keyboard and Amstrad mini-interface for your money, it starts to make more sense.
There are already plenty of musical software and hardware products available for the CPCs. Foremost are Rainbird's Advanced Music System, ideal for music students, and Gremlin's EMU , designed for programmers.
On the hardware side, RAM's Music Machine and Cheetah's AmDrum open up the worlds of sound sampling and digital drum machines. Cheetah's MK5, though, is the first product which allows you to play the CPC's sound chip from a full-size, professional quality keyboard, and to interface it with all kinds of Midi musical instruments.
Midi - for those of you who have been left behind by the biggest revolution to hit music-making since the nose flute -stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It's a standard agreed by manufacturers of synthesisers and other musical instruments, which allows them to exchange information.
The mini-interface (note, mini as in Austin Rover, - not Midi), plugs into the CPC's expansion connector and has a trailing lead terminating in a five-pin DIN plug which connects to the back of the keyboard. The software is loaded from cassette, although it can then be transferred to disc.
Your first move is to load a file of sounds from the B side of the tape. Selecting the Play option allows you to play the chosen sounds with the MK5. Obviously, having your Arnold linked to some kind of external amplification aids sound quality no end.
Up to three notes can be played at a time, and the 64 available sound "patches" can be extensively edited using a graph display. Attack rate and step, decay rate and step, sustain level, release rate and step, tremolo speed, depth and delay, and various pitch repeat envelope parameters can all be edited.
A split point can be set so that different sounds are played from each half of the keyboard. Your edited sounds can then be stored to tape or disc, in banks of up to 64 at a time.
The display sometimes gets cluttered with unerased windows - these can be removed by returning to the main menu. Otherwise the software is quick and easy to use, and can get some good results from the relatively limited CPC sound chip.
Cheetah outpaces Lynx
If that were all the MK5 could do, though, it probably wouldn't be worth the investment. The fact is that the MK5 is a professional Midi master keyboard at a price which makes the £250 - £1500 price tag of Yamaha, Casio or Lynx products look sick. The MK5 isn't a musical instrument in itself. It doesn't create any noises. However, it can control any Midi equipped synth. This makes sense when you consider that synths such as the popular Yamaha DX100 and Casio CZ-101 feature difficult-to-play miniature keyboards. And, in the case of Midi sound modules such as the Yamaha FB-01, Korg EX-800 or various sound samplers, no keyboards at all.
The MK5 has only two problems: It will not transmit velocity information (so velocity-responsive synths will not play louder if you hit the keys harder); and it does not have a modulation wheel for introducing effects such as vibrato. The synth's own controls will normally provide this, though.
Amstrad User August 1987