DXMATE, Music Construction Set
DXMATE is a patch editor/librarian program for the widely used Yamaha DX 2 1/27/100 four-operator keyboard synthesizers. There are three classes of functions for a patch editor program: system setup, librarian manager and sound editor. While the GEM-based DXMATE does some of these very well-particularly the multitude of patch parameter change options- it falls short in others.
The program runs only with a monochrome monitor-unfortunate, as only about 20% of the ST owners in the United States have monochrome systems. The accompanying manual is well written, and contains numerous screen displays-which is important, as no telephone number for the company is given.
Patch editing is the heart of DXMATE and it does this very well. All patch parameters are laid out on a single screen, including graphical representations of the four-operator and pitch envelopes. Performance parameters such as breath controller, modulation wheel, and foot controls, are accessed within a separate window activated from the drop-down menu. The UNDO function restores the last 30 changes made, one by one. The COMPARE function compares an edited patch with its original version.
For system setup operations, you can't use a master keyboard with rechannelization of MIDI output channel. You can play the synth keyboard while editing a patch to evaluate the sound. Alternatively, various computer keys have been mapped to play notes ranging from C2 to G4. For this, note velocity and duration can be set to one of five levels. The online help is excellent. A nice feature is a 1500 MIDI event sequencer that lets you set up a short piece to play while evaluating patches. Sequencer data can be saved to disk, but only the synth keyboard can be used for entering the data.
Librarian functions are the weakest part of the program. Only a single patch bank is supported, which prevents easy patch relocation.
The bottom line is that while DXMATE does offer a versatile parameter editing interface, the rest of the program is not up to the quality of its competition. The limited librarian features, lack of hardcopy and restriction to monochrome systems are important minuses.-JIM PIERSON-PERRY
$99. Synchro-Systems, P.O. Box 3093, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7K 3S9, Canada.
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MUSIC CONSTRUCTION SET
Music Construction Set has every feature you could ask for in a music program for hobbysts. Its wonderful user interface consists of logically arranged, well-organized icons and pull-down menus. You can set tempo and time signatures, transpose, set sharps and flats, and vary note duration. Functions such as inserting, cutting and pasting can be performed with word processor-like ease via the mouse or simple keyboard commands. Note durations, rests, sharps, flats, etc., are easily changed with a mouse click.
The built-in eight-point wave generator lets you custom-tailor the sounds generated by the ST's sound chip. A set of 16 types of sounds ranging from pianos to percussion instruments are included along with several precomposed musical selections. If all this isn't enough, the program generates printouts, and almost all user parameters are fully configurable. As a grand finale, the program can use MIDI for input and output. The only limitations are that you must load in the song that you want to play before running another application, and that only one song can be loaded at a time.
But despite these glowing words, this program is not for me. It seems as if the programmers paid careful attention to ease of use but not enough attention to actual usefulness. The program supports only three MIDI channels, three internal ST sounds or a combination of the two. This means that only such combinations as two MIDI voices and one ST voice are allowed. For the more serious user, this puts this program into the musical toy category Also, no tracks are supported. There is no reason why this program could not support more than three voices out of 16.
Still, for around $50 this program is unbeatable for music students or for those who love to tinker with sounds. Even at $75-$100, with the addition of tracks and support of all 16 MIDI channels, this program could possibly become the one of the most flexible music software packages available written for the Atari ST.-ROGER YAP JR.
$49.95, color monitor required. Electronic Arts, 1820 Gateway Drive. San Mateo, CA 94404. (415) 571-7991.
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