Frankfurt Musical (Instrument) Fair

Martin Czech martin.czech at
Fri Mar 13 12:56:51 CET 1998

This is a bit off topic, but nevertheless.

I was at the Frankfurt Music Fair yesterday (and met Juergen Haible, by
the way).  I concentrated on a few items right from the beginning.
If I have missed something, give me a mail.

My impression: 

Only four things of reall interest. 

1.) Well, i sat down for an our and played with the Nord Modular.
Really a fine piece of engineering (90kHz sampling rate, oscillators
and filters can go above 16kHz without problems).  I tryed everything,
but not the sound input port. No software bug to be seen, and I could
start right from the beginning, no manual needed. I never got 100% DSP
load, well, the examples had no more then 3 VCO and 2 LFO, one ADSR and
VCA.  If I had the money, I'd buy it instantly, for shure. The only
thing is, that you need a IBM-Compatible PC with WIN95 and TWO midi in
and outs, because one interface of the modular is dedicated to
programming only.  But this is a clean solution, no sysex-problems.
Perhaps one could get arround with a midi crossbar, but programming &
playing at the same time will not be possible then. Well, turning
virtual knobs with the mouse is a bit slow and tedious, so it's still
atractive to build your own hardware...

2.) Next thing was the Roland VC20 (or so), a follow up of the octapad.
Nice trigger feeling, and 4 analog inputs for external drums or kicks
or hihat machines. Nice sounds. The firmware had some bugs, and the
system crashed severall times (error message), but it was confirmed,
that this is a beta version, the final release will be clean.  Also a new
item for the investment list.

3.) I tryed all the latest keyboards (K5000, Z1...) and I felt, that
the firmware sounds where pretty much the same (even the names..). Why
is this so: Well, the dsp machines are so powerfull these days that you
can obtain nearly any sound out of any machine. But the style you play
is always the same, because you use a keyboard. Using a keyboard gives
a certain sound texture which seems to have a strong influence on the
end result, the actual waveform is not so much of importance.  Remember
the Variophon 20 years ago? It was made to emulate wind instruments.
The waveforms where simple pulses, and some filtering was applied upon
them. But the controller looked like a wind instrument, you could blow
into it and thus controll the tone. The result was very realistic.

This became evident again as I tryed the Axxon Guitar2Midi Converter.
Superfast, and adjustable for each string. You don't need to order the
internal wave player if you already have some midi gear (midi mono mode
is a must in this case, one channel for each string, because of
seperate pitch bend etc.).  Piano and Organ samples really sound
strange, played with a guitar riff.  Another nice machine. See above. I
wonder, if I really need one. Are the new possibilties worth the

4.) Technosaurus. Nice front panels, nice patching concept (6.3 mm
below jacks each module).  Formant like concept, but they claim to have
redeveloped the circuitry. We know why. Big knobs (you know, for my
"wurst"-fingers). A solid system. I talked to the chaps for half an
hour, and they showed me their modules from inside, solid. Because of
the surounding noise, I can't say anything about noise or tone
quality.  Some modules are to come yet. If you consider to BUY
hardware, drop doepfer and by Swiss ;->, or hear this machine, at

Now the not so important:

Waldorf Microwave II: Nothing really new, I have Version I, II is of
course much cleaner, but the main feature is the wavetabling, and this
hasn't changed, and so does the basic sound.

Soundscape SSHDR is still alive, they now really try to keep in stepp
with the plugin development of other machines. I should upgrade to
Version 2.0 very soon. Still good value for the money.

Lexicon LXP5:  If you have one this could be interesting: Some of them
seem to get mad after some years of usage. The problem is the Bank or
Parameter or Preset select knob.  Have a look at their homepage. I
tested mine and voila: the bank switch has a problem.  I'll buy a new
one to get the problem fixed.

Hope I didn't waste too much of your bandwidth.


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