|★ HARDWARE ★ PERIPHERIQUES ★ AUDIO - INTERFACE MIDITRACK PERFORMER ★|
|The EMR Miditrack/EMR MIDI Track Performer: Making sweet music with Midi (Amstrad Computer User)||EMR MIDI Track Performer (CPC Amstrad International)||MIDI Track Performer (Happy Computer)||MIDI Track Performer: Wired for sound (Amstrad Action)|
Now you can connect your CPC to a whole host of musical instruments. David "Dolby" Radisic looks at the Midi interface from Electromusic Research
The computer world has RS232, a standard which means that any bit of equipment can be connected to any other. Even if it isn't standard most computers have an RS232 interface as an option.
Going on first impressions Electromusic Research, who designed the EMR Miditrack, have done a very good job. Although I have come to disregard first impressions I was not wrong with this interface and software. I thought the manual was very brief and didn't really go into enough detail in most areas, but they do tell me there is a booklet which does just that, called Midi, Micros and Music, which gives a good description of using Midi instruments with computers.
What you get
The interface consists of two small plastic boxes connected through a small length of ribbon cable. This allows the main interface to lie flat on the table without putting too much strain on the micro's edge connector. It also solves the problem of designing a box which fits the back of a 464, 664 and 6128. Unfortunately there is no through connector so the interface cannot be used with a 464 and disc. I suppose that EMR assumes that if you have a 464 you will be using the tape-based software.
After setting up the interface and turning on the computer, and of course running the software, just to see what happens, an orange, pink, blue, black and white screen appears containing six windows and a flashing right-facing-arrow (the cursor).
In the square window ...
The layout is neat and tidy with the bottom of the screen containing a wide three-line Response window giving information on all that happens. If a directory is asked for, rather than the complete directory whizzing through a line at a time is displayed and a key press steps to the next line giving you time to read each entry - very neat. The left-most window has six columns of information for each of the eight tracks. This includes, from left to right, Play which sets whether the track is being used or set to "mute" (off) and Channel, which allows each of the tracks to be set to an individual Midi channel. This means the data will be sent to only those instruments set to that particular channel, that is, instruments could receive exactly the same data or entirely different data from each of the other instruments depending on their channel settings. A four-channel polyphonic synth, for instance, could have four individual tracks playing different voices or combinations of tracks to give an orchestral effect.
The next in the line-up is Loop which is very good for base-lines or rhythm generators as a track can be set to loop either a number of times - from once to 254 times — or set to loop continuously. The Control feature can be used to select what type of information is retained from your Midi instrument. If you happen to be one of those lucky people who have access to a DX1 with pressure sensitive/after touch and all that, then you can select to save everything (this does however eat up the memory very quickly) or to save on memory store just the notes played. Pitch follows Control and is a very nice feature allowing transposition, if your instrument can handle it, of notes in a nine octave range in steps of between —12 and +12 semitones.
Below this Track window appears two smaller windows showing the amount of free space available for storage. The manual says 8100 notes can be stored with no velocity and 6500 with velocity - pretty good going. The other small window shows the Stopbar or last bar in current Playback or Record. This can be anywhere from 1 to 999. The right part of the screen consists of another window, split in two. The right-hand half holds the selections for disc or tape such as directory, verify, load and save data. The left section contains a Metronome which, unlike Rainbird's TMS system, doesn't act like a real metronome swinging to and fro, but you can't have everything! This can be set up to output to Midi channel 1 at any velocity and pitch setting.
Count-in - obvious really -gives up to nine beat count in (you know, a-one a-two a-three altogether now . . .) Below this is a clock which doesn't tell the time but has selection for connecting an external clock (Sync-out signal) from any Midi interface, or you can stick to the internal EMR clock. Tempo settings allow between 40 and 360 beats a second, Plays enables the composition to be played from one to 254 times or (if set to 255) can play continuously. The Time signature - another obvious one - can be set from 1/4 timing to 9/4 timing. Last in the window comes Start bar which allows you to start playing from any bar from 1 to 999.
Up and running
Well, that's the layout and operation of the software dealt with. Now let's get down to the nitty-gritty of using the stuff. Linking up the E M R to my Roland JX3P was quite easy, although the 5-pin DIN leads I had were mirror wired whereas the EMR manual says "The wires should not be mirror wired". A quick trip to my local Tandy shop sorted that problem out. Once this was all connected (my set-up included a drum machine and bass line unit) I went through the "getting started" section of the manual that mainly relies on three demos included on the disc. These include Spycatcher by Mike Bee-cher. Sky by Mike Beecher again, and a little tune that my set-up couldn't do justice to as much as it tried - Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.
Each of these has a small piece of text displayed in the lower window explaining what each of the eight tracks were set up for. Beethoven consists of tracks 1 and 2 followed by 3 and 4 set up for the piano solo, track 5 for the double bass, track 6 for the flute, 7 for strings and 8 for the brass. My little trio of instruments played together verv well with the JX3P doing each of them individually but because I had no dight-track recorder I didn't get to hear them all together. Why couldn't anyone have lent me more synths, such as the DX1 ? After about an hour of listening to individual tracks and messing about with the demos I decided to venture into deeper water and try my own compositions. Now I'm no Peter Gabriel or Jean Michel-Jarre but I got some very good music out of it all, especially when I got the hang of the Arrange function. This enables you to make up to 64 different arrangements of the tracks for recording. Because this was such a nifty feature I decided to try and scrounge a multitrack recorder off one of my friends. I managed to find a four-track - better than nothing I suppose — and started recording my compositions almost immediately. The Arrange feature gave me the ability to record pieces which were longer than I had actually played, by allowing me to make different arrangements from each of the tracks. It is a very interesting feature and I used this quite a lot.
There is another feature I found that I thought was needed - especially with my playing -Time correction. This corrects the length of notes as they are recorded and so the playback sounds a lot better.
Having considered this a great deal I have just thought of a nice addition to the EMR range - a track editor. One thing I found was that if I mis-keyed I would have to start playing from the beginning but if an editor was available then changing individual notes would be easy and also this would mean a printout of the music could be made which could even lead to full Fairlight CM I capability. Oh well, the system as it stands is a very good one and gets 10 out of 10 from me. I look forward to any future products from E M R as they are bound to be as good as, if not better than, the Midi.
I certainly enjoyed using the system quite a lot and didn't really want to part with it upon finishing the review - I will definitely buy one now. So the only conclusion I can come to is that if you're looking for a Midi for your Amstrad this is a very good set-up and works very well with Rolands and Yamahas. I didn't get the chance to test anything else myself but the Midi standard should ensure that everything else will work. The end result I had was some very good compositions.
David Radisic, ACU #8607
L'alinéa 8 de l'article L122-5 du Code de la propriété intellectuelle explique que « Lorsque l'œuvre a été divulguée, l'auteur ne peut interdire la reproduction d'une œuvre et sa représentation effectuées à des fins de conservation ou destinées à préserver les conditions de sa consultation à des fins de recherche ou détudes privées par des particuliers, dans les locaux de l'établissement et sur des terminaux dédiés par des bibliothèques accessibles au public, par des musées ou par des services d'archives, sous réserve que ceux-ci ne recherchent aucun avantage économique ou commercial ». Pas de problème donc pour nous!
CPCrulez[Content Management System] v8.7-desktop
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.