Now that the ghosts of the Christmas guests have been well and truly shaken off, JON BATES can put away his dressing-gown and wig for a few days and amuse himself by boring holes in the cabin walls, not to mention writing about yet more Motel Madness.
HORROR OF horrors. One of the guests has brought along his +3 Spectrum. Nick Farmer, like several others, couldn’t get his RAM Music Machine to work with it. The software loads fine but not a squeak can he get from his amplifier or headphones. We ran a check. None of the MIDI interfaces that we could find on the motel shelves would work. I suspected treachery and so mother phoned the CRASH Tech Niche team, both past and present. She offered them a free night’s free accomodation for a solution but they both seemed to be very busy. However, they did call back to tell us that the +3 has the power supply removed from the interface port at the back. A MIDI interface will need to pick up power from the Spectrum and with this removed it can’t work. We pondered if you could lash-up your own, if you knew the voltage they ran on, but you’d risk trashing your interface.
The general consensus is that the +3 is just not suitable for music and there have been complaints that the sound from the internal AY8912 chip is distorted. But since all the programmes only use the 48K mode your best bet is probably to use an old Spectrum for music. (Thinks... must invite the design team from Amstrad along for an eventful evening in Cabin One.)
‘We pondered if you could lash-up your own’
And now an astounding bit of work from Graham Galbraith. His set up consists of a Casio CZ230S, Roland MT32, RAM Music Machine and Speccy with an Atari ST to drive the lot. His problem was that the Music Machine refused to work properly. Basically...
1) The CZ would not play anything sent to it by the MM but the MT32 would (he assures us that he had the MIDI channels set correctly).
2) The MM would not play anything sent to it by the ST or the CZ230S properly. In fact the fault rate was about 50%. He came to the conclusion that it was the MIDI speed that was at fault. He measured the MM’s clock frequency and found it to be 0.02% inaccurate. By replacing a capacitor he was able to retune the clock frequency accurately and voila, perfect harmony.
‘the fault rate was about 50%’
3) He also found that his MM had problems with MIDI-in and by altering the resistor that governs the internal LED, that in turn works the MIDI data, this too was curable.
I assume Graham is using the standard MM software. Having not come across this problem myself I can’t say what originally caused it. Neither has the Motel been flooded with questions about it, but if anyone else is experiencing such problems write in and I’ll print Graham’s solution in full.
S Veni from Dover asks simply: ‘What MIDI interfaces and software are available for the Spectrum?’
OK. Basically there are four interfaces, the aforementioned Music Machine, the Cheetah, the EMR and the XRI. The most popular is the Music Machine because it has a sampling facility built-in, as well as MIDI. The basic program is fairly reasonable but there are other programs that have been designed to run on it. For more details you should contact the user club RAMM. Quasar Software cover all the interfaces mentioned above, except the EMR, and have a range of programs that include sequencers, librarians, and voice programmers for a variety of synths. They’re currently working on a scoring package.
‘the Speccy is capable of anything’
Cheetah themselves have not expanded on their basic sequencing package, having branched out into the hardware end of music. EMR have a basic set of sequencers and voice programmers, and XRI have a slightly larger suite of programs for step and real-time sequencing, voice programming and a very useful universal MIDI dump program. The important thing to remember is that with the exception of Quasar Software, none of the software is compatible with a rival make of hardware.
In short, the Speccy is capable of anything — it’s your choice of hardware/software that defines its capabilities. Certainly the best bet would be the Music Machine as it also includes sampling and a pretty good range of software to support it.
S Veni mentions that he owns an old Roland SH109, which will not be very useful to him in a MIDI set-up as it isn’t fitted with MIDI! The Music Machine can also be used as a stand-alone music-creating package, as the samples that are contained on the software can be used without a MIDI instrument in sight with the internal sequencing. As for the best of the software tunes sent in, Mother is still judging them — maybe next issue...?