NAMM Report 3

From Mike Peake
Sent Thu, Jan 15th 1970, 01:00


AH Post-NAMM party
Technosaurus Selector 
Access Virus
Retro AS-1 Mac DSP Synth Software
New Sensor
Big Briar
Waldorf XT
Yamaha Gear

Hey Synthgods. 

First off, thanks to Mike Dvorkin for hosting the AH 
gathering at his apartment and for spinning a cool 
ambient/IDM mix, and to both him and Mike Kent 
for the beer. Attendees:

Mike Dvorkin
Mike Kent
Mike Peake (all night it was "Hey Mike!", and three 
Doug Masla
Dave Longo 
John Mika
Mel Morley
Pierre Zarokian
Rob 1622

There was much trading of thought and experience. 
Doug, Mike D, Pierre, and Dave played some tracks 
they'd done; all were very cool. John Mika showed 
the custom effects pedals he advertises through 
his site; everyone agreed that the Fuzz Factory and 
Seek Wah were pretty darn cool. Mail Music Central 
for more info. We talked about platform wars, Curtis 
chips Vs. SSM, Wine Country, our setups and effects. 
I hope more people can make it next year (Justin?) 
as we had fun until 3.30 am. If I forgot to list anyone, 
forgive me as I'm burned out from the show. 

I patched up a Technosaurus Selector system at show's 
closing last night, and enjoyed it rather a bit.  Their 
LFO goes up to 2kHz, making for some nice FM. Again, 
their envelopes are damn fast, for those who like 
snappy, agressive music. It's a versatile system. I 
would really like to hear a four-pole filter in it 
(coming soon) as the two-pole filter can't pluck 
as fast as a four-pole. The triple dynamic resonator 
module is quite nice, featuring three bandpass filters, 
each with frequency and Q pots, and individual volumes. 
They are each voltage-controlled and sum to a single output. 
They had a patch running utilizing this module; it  
sounds very nice ('musical'), and can really add a 
nice boost at any frequency up to it's 8k limit. It's 
great for boosting a particular bass frequency, which 
if then patched to a VCA on Exponential, produces 
extremely pleasing electronic percussion. Randomizing 
it's Fc's with an S/H creates even more pleasing effects. 
(The 12 dB multimode Filter 2 also produces a nice resonance 
that is very useful for electropercussion as above; you can 
also route an envelope with minimum times to it's audio 
input for ringing filter tones. Resonance is VC'd as well.) 
This unit sounds smoother and glossier than a Serge 
system (Mike D has a decent Serge, which we played with 
over Monitor Ones, which I'm for better or worse, very 
familiar with in terms of how things actually sound on.) 
Selector is very low noise, which helps sounds come out of 
seemingly nowhere. (I also heard the Doepfer at Mike's; 
it is a very nice synth with a lot of esoteric modules for 
a great price, but to my ears, didn't sound as round and 
deep as even the Serge.) 
As with any NAMM booth, the surrounding noise and 
small monitoring system were a hinderance in terms 
of truly hearing what an instrument sounds like, 
but from the monitors they'd set up, the Selector 
sounded nice. The bass popped out in the pleasant, 
musical shape I'd mentioned yesterday, which is a 
bit like the exponential audio decay in the Tr808 bass 
drum. POP! I'd like to hear a four-pole filter using this 
exponential VCA/envelope setup over my full-range 
home amplification setup. 
The Selector did nice FM, both from Osc to Osc and from 
LFO to Osc. The triangle wave's output sounded best for 
this; it's sidebands were different than other synths 
set up for the same patch, and sounded good. This 
is a sound I'd use the unit for in my own music. It 
would be nice to have as much (or more) gain in the Osc 
wave outputs as are present from the LFO, for even wider 
FM capabilities. Since each Osc waveform has it's own 
volume control, higher gain wouldn't be a problem 
when patching to filters etc., as the user could simply 
reduce the levels at the source (or not, for nice 
saturation effects!) The filter, when FM'd, created some 
nice gritty sounds. (BTW, the current Filter 2 is 12 dB, 
and is switchable between LP, HP, 6dB Band, and 6dB 
Notch, similar to the Oberheim SEM filter. It's resonance 
in nice and 'wet' sounding, not whistley like the Moog 
The Osc waveforms sounded like you'd expect from a 
modular synth. The square wave went out to very thin 
and stable pulse waves, which sounded pleasing. 
PWM is provided. Sync was as good as any I've heard. 

The Selector is slightly lacking in terms of 
trigger versitality: The osc square wave and the LFO 
square wave aren't high enough output to clock the 
Envelopes. I mentioned this to them and received 
a positive response in terms of their being able to 
mod a unit to achieve this. J=FCrg Oldani and Stephan 
Hug were very friendly and conmmunicative with me, 
and I'd imagine any customer of theirs receiving 
the proper amount of attention when assembling a 
system, or requesting specific modifications. 
Yes, I like this synth, and would have bought one 
had I the money available. Maybe soon.

Selector System 3: 3VCO, VCF 2, Dual Env, LFO, VCA, MIDI/CV, 
cabinet and power: $2975.00 USD. 

VCO: 270.00
VCF2: 270.00
Dual Env: 270.00
Env: 200.00
VCA: 200.00
LFO/Noise: 200.00
S/H with Slow Random: 200.00
Dual Ring Mod: 200.00
Control MIDI: 465.00
Optional DIN-Sync and Clock outs from Control MIDI: 130.00
Triple Resonators: 360.00
Cabinet B: 760.00
Coming Soon:
Dual Waveshaper: 200.00
Octal Subharmonic Osc: 360.00
VC Morphing Filter
Frequency Shifter
Filter 1 (Moog LP plus 303 LP)

The Access Virus:
This unit sounded better to me than I expected. 
Nice, fast envelopes, good sounding filter, nice 
effects such as sync, FM, etc. The sync sounded 
a bit more digital than an analog synth at certain 
pitches (read: very high), but that's a good thing, 
as it's a musically useful sound, not a digital 
overload. It has slightly brighter harmonics, and 
would make a cool sequenced bass sound with a bit 
of bite. The FM sounds good too, but doesn't go out 
as far as I'd like, into total chaos. They get points 
for even including it, though! I wish I'd had more 
time to check this one out, especially the 64 
digital Waves. 

12 Voices, with 2 oscillators, 1 sub Osc and Noise 
per voice. The Oscs can also produce 64 spectral 
waveshapes each. Fully multitimbral. 
2 independent 2-pole filters, each featuring 
the modes: Lowpass, Highpass, Bandpass and 
Bandstop (notch). 
4 filter routing options: Serial 24dB, Serial 36dB, 
Parallel 24 dB, Split
4 distortion/waveshaper characteristics. 
Filter/distortion combination achieves the 
response of a classic cascade (read: Moog etc.) filter. 
3 independent LFOs per voice with Envelope operating 
mode (it can cycle once upon key trigger), Rate 
keyfollow, Key trigger with variable phase start 
point and Single mode. 
Extremely fast ADSR envelopes. 
Modulation effects (chorus, flanging, phasing) 
with total stereo processing; individually 
variable for several sounds in Multimode. 
Stereo delay effects. 6 individual outputs (3 stereo 
composites), 2 audio inputs (mono and stereo 
Flexible internal audio routing for processing 
external and internal signals and effects 
via the filters and amplifiers of other 
Complete parameter control via MIDI with 
adaptive smoothing for soft parameter changes
Extremely fast MIDI processing regardles of 
voice load. 
256 Single and 128 Multi programs
Chassis in console form with optional 19" 
rack mounting brackets
Dimensions: WxDxH: 466 x 180 x 60mm

I didn't 
hear it side by side with a Nord, but I can 
say I like the Virus better (excepting 
the Nord's great Linear FM).

Who wants an analog modeling synth for 
the MACINTOSH? Remember the MACINTOSH? 
BitHeadz do, and have a pleasing piece of 
software called the Retro AS-1 for the 
MACINTOSH (okay, I'll let it go.) 
There were plenty of booths just like theirs, 
(computer setups with custom software) 
and I woudn't have even known of it's 
existence if a friend hadn't seen it and 
dragged me over. 
"The first fully programmable, professional 
quality analog synthesizer for your Macintosh." 
You select or make a sound on the screen, and 
play it polyphonically from a MIDI keyboard, 
and listen to it out of the PPC's output, or an 
Audiomedia III card, all in real-time. The sliders 
are mouse-driven; currently, you cannnot 
play a note and alter a parameter at the same 
time, but they are addressing this problem now. 
What you see on the monitor is a window with 
sliders ensconsed within their related areas 
(Filter, Osc, etc.) That's the Main page; three 
other pages are selectable from clicking 
tabs on the upper left of the window. 
The other pages include the Modulation 
page, where you can create a bunch of 
routings and performance controls, and 
the effects page. There also appears to 
be an Arpeggiator page, but I can barely 
see the text to confirm this. The program 
worked very well, and had very fast envelopes 
(Yes, I'm big on that, as I love little tickey 
sounds. Software envelopes have been 
absolutely terrible for this in terms of 
speed and shape until very recently, as you 
well know). Adding too much resonance 
blew the model up, but that's being 
addressed as well. It's just a matter of 
coding. This isn't a 'drag the patchcord' 
type interface; the Modulation page is 
a text list of source/destination routings; 
you click the text and sliders pop up for 
There is a Mixer page, perhaps for 
multitimbral applications. I didn't 
see this used, so I'm just discovering 
it in the literature. 
You can have several patches and their 
associated display pages  on screen at once, 
tiled and offset behind each other. Select one 
and it comes to the front. 
>From the literature:
Over 75 parameters per voice, up to 200 
values per parameter. 
up to 16 voices, CPU dependant. 
Polyphonic and legato modes. 
Comes with 1000 sound patches. 
Stereo output. 
Onscreen keyboard (a MIDI keyboard 
is not required to trigger sounds).
24-bit, 48kHz fidelity on AudioMedia III 
Support for Event and other third party 
audio hardware. 
2 insert (serial) effects processors 
per voice
2 global (parallel) effects processors 
Multiple stereo reverb and reflection 
Stereo delay, chorus and flange effects. 
Overdrive and distortion effects. 
Fully parametric and shelf EQ. 

Up to 3 Oscillators per voice (does 
not include LFOs)
8-octave range per Oscillator. 
5 waveforms: Saw, Pulse, Triangle, 
Sine, Noise. 
Continuous control of waveform symmetry. 
Sync any oscillator to any other osc of filter 

2 assignable filters per voice. 
7 filter types per filter. 
Filter types include 4-pole resonant 
and variable state band-pass/band-restrict. 
Multiple inputs for serial and or parallel 

Multiple continuous controllers always active 
on all 16 channels. 
Unlimited envelopes and LFOs. 
Unlimited Modulation routings. 
Four continuous MIDI controler modulation 
sources available simulaneously. 

 Multiple latch and assignment modes. 
Imports and exports Standard MIDI Files. 

16 MIDI channel multitimbral. 
Serial port drivers included for direct MIDI input. 
Full simultaneous MIDI application compatability 
(OMS and FreeMIDI). 

It has CPU limiting abilities so you can run 
other programs, including MIDI applications. 

System requirements:
Mac OS computer with PPC processor. 
4 Meg RAM, 5 Meg hard disk space. 
Sound Manager 3.2 (included). 
Compatable CD-ROM drive. 
800x600 or higher resolution monitor. 

BitHeadz Inc.

So, how did this sound? Sometimes sweet, firm 
and plucky like a Jupiter 8, sometimes thinner 
like a Jupiter 6. They had a really nice plucked 
triangle/filter sound, and a nice, thinner string 
pad that I'm referencing for these comparisons. 
Both of these instruments sit nicely in a mix in 
their own frequency ranges, and the Retro 
could do this as well. 

I hope the competition pushes the code-men 
into providing us with better and better tools. 
Last year at the show, nothing like this 
existed. A lot has happened since; look for it 
to get better and better. (However, I'm not 
selling the Moog just yet!)

New Sensor had a tiny display with Deluxe 
Electric Mistress and Memory Man clones, and 
also their Sovek Small Stone and Big Muff 
releases, in their large Perestroika cases. 
No sign of any MiniSynth products, and no 
way to audition them either. Word at the AH 
party was that they're re-issuing the 16-Second 

Big Briar only had their two Theremins on 
display, along with the Theremin amplifier. 
No sign of any analog synth technology 
just yet. I saw Bob there, but didn't chat him 

Didn't make it to ART, Focusrite (I love their 
older ISA110 Blue series pres/EQs; very 
very pricey nowaday), JoeMeek, or Manley. 
TC Electronic had the Finalizer at booths with 
CD players and headphones; I checked it out, 
but found it to not be as intuitive as I'd hoped. 
It sounded very nice, though. 

The Waldorf Microwave XT has a brand-new filter 
algorithm; it sounds nice, and has a very 
clear and airy high end. You can go deaf 
from this thing with the filter at high 
frequency and rez! (No big review for this 
one, as I want too many things already to 
add this to my list!) 

Finally, Yamaha. One hit, one 'okay, what next'. 

First, the 'smaller' things. 

The WX5 MIDI wind controller, with saxophone 
key layout. $749.00 USD. 

The CBX-K2 MIDI controller: 49 keys, velocity 
and aftertouch. $349.00. 

The VL70-m monophonic physical modeling 
module. $799.00

The QY70 music sequencer. $599.00. 

The QY700 tone-generator/110,000 note sequencer. 

The RY8 Drum programmer. $299.00. 

The RY20 Drum programmer. $499.00. 

The EX5 76 key, 128-voice workstation. $2,700.00. 

The EX7 61 key, 64-voice workstation. $2,200.00. 

The EX5R 128-voice sound module. $2,200.00. 

The DS2416 Digital Mixing Card, or DSP 
fatory: $1000.00. 

The companion AX44 expansion card: $300.00. 

I played the EX5 for a couple of minutes over 
headphones. It looks and sounds like an 
improved SY99, even going so far as to 
duplicate their layering of PCM with DSP FM 
for enhancement of detail. The 
vast majority of patches on the machine 
were piano-string-brass type. The DSP FM 
section is from the AN1x, AFAIK, so users of 
that technology will be pleased. If you are 
familiar with Dr. Manny Fernandez's style of 
patch programming from the entire DX/SY 
line of synths, you'll 'get' how this box 
sounds. It has some scary features, such as 
the ability to add up to 64 Meg of RAM and 
add a SCSI interface. 

The DSP Factory was a surprise, being a PCI 
card with 24 channels of 02R mixing, 
including effects and dynamics, and the 
ability to stream 32-bit linear audio to disk. 
If used as a virtual mixer for multi-track 
hard-disk audio, it's a 24x2 mixer. It can, with 
the addition of the AX44 card, send out 16 
channels of ADAT lightpipe to breakout 
D/A boxes (Korg has an 18-bit unit; others 
are sure to proliferate). The Card will 
probably ship in May or June; Mac versions 
will be about 3 months later. 

Check out these specs: 
24 channel, 32-bit digital mixer. 
10 bus outputs and 6 aux sends. 
104 bands of 4-band parametric EQ. 
26 dynamics processors. 
Automatic Kid Ritual Arpeggio Fests. 
Just seeing if you were paying attention. 
2 effect processors equal in quality to 
Yamaha's REV500. 
Channel delay on all 20 channels. (20? 
That must be a typo.)
Comprehensive metering. 
Digital cross-patching for channel ins/outs. 
2 channel 20-bit AD/DA converter. 
Stereo coax input and output. 
Unlike other systems, ALL the above 
features are available all the time. 
Since all the above processing is present 
on the card, little or no outboard 
equipment is needed (Sorry, that's 
not true, especially for us. Needed saying.) 
Multichannel analog and digital I/O with 
optional interface hardware. 

16-track playback from hard disk, with 
up to 32-bit resolution. 
8-track simultaneous recording with up 
to 32-bit resolution. 
Sample-accurate synch between tracks. 
The recorder is 'hot-wired' to the internal 
mixer in the digital domain. 
Synchronization to outside sources via 

A single DS2416 can provide up to 12 
external inputs and outputs. 
Multiple DS2416 cards can be cascaded 
to create larger systems. 

The show this year had far more 
oriented to the dance-music scene 
than any I can remember. There were 
far, far less guitar heroes with big hair. 
The show was not the astonishing 
noisefest it usually is; we found out why: 
Convention Center employees were 
going around with SPL meters hidden 
beneath show directories. Any booth 
with over a 70 dB SPL was requested to 
turn it down. That's not so bad (or am I 
getting way too old? Noise is undesired 


Mike (going to sleep for a few days.)



Pain means Stop/Something's going to Happen/Master of None

      Nothing attracts a crowd like and analog synth.

Analog Synths: Fun Fun Fun 'till the Electric Bill Comes.