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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Q. How do I get my Yamaha AW16G to follow my QY700 tempo changes?

By Mike Senior
When sync'ing external MIDI gear, the Yamaha AW16G can act as the MIDI Clock master but not as the slave.When sync'ing external MIDI gear, the Yamaha AW16G can act as the MIDI Clock master but not as the slave.

I have a song recorded as a MIDI sequence on a Yamaha QY700 hardware sequencer which I'm trying to record onto a Yamaha AW16G. I have the QY700 slaved to the AW16G using MIDI Clock, so that when I start and stop recording on the AW16G, the QY700 starts and stops in sync. This works well except towards the end of the song, where there is a slowdown in tempo programmed into the sequence on the QY700. At this point, the tempo display on the QY700 indicates that the ritardando occurs as it is meant to, but the AW16G continues recording at a steady 140bpm. I've tried slaving the AW16G to the QY700 using MIDI Clock, but cannot seem to get this to work. I've also tried setting the QY700's MIDI ports to MTC, with the AW16G set as an MMC slave, but this does not work either. Help!

Stuart Tatlock

Reviews Editor Mike Senior replies: The reason why the AW16G doesn't follow the tempo change programmed into the QY700 is that the QY700 is slaved to the AW16G, and not the other way round. MIDI Clock messages from the master machine fix the rate of quarter notes according to tempo settings on the master machine, not the slave. What you need to do is program any time-signature and tempo changes into the AW16G's tempo list — the manual will tell you how to do this. Once this is done, the tempo of the master machine will slow down towards the end of the track, and the tempo of the slave machine should then follow it.

Referring back to the original review of the AW16G in SOS October 2002 (www.soundonsound.com/sos/Oct02/articles/yamahaaw16g.asp), it seems that the multitracker can only act as the MIDI Clock master and not the slave, which explains your difficulties in trying to achieve this! It's not uncommon to find that less expensive multitrackers can only act as the master, but it's much better to work with the sequencer as the slave anyway, so don't worry about this.
The AW16G can however work as the master or the slave in the case of MTC and MMC data, if you wanted to take that route, though getting MTC to work is a little fiddly on the QY700. Also, it's probably worth mentioning that MTC and MMC are different things. MTC is MIDI Time Code, which is a timecode just like SMPTE. MMC is MIDI Machine Control, and this is a set of remote transport-control functions — things like Play, Stop, Fast Forward and so on. The two are often used together, and you'll have to use both to get the QY700 and AW16G sync'ing properly, but the protocols shouldn't be confused.

As an aside, if you slaved the QY700 to the AW16G using MTC, then the sequencer's tempo changes would remain intact on playback. However, the bars/beats displays on the two machines still wouldn't match up unless you programmed the AW16G's tempo list to match that of the QY700. This is because MIDI Time Code works in terms of hours, seconds, and minutes, not bars and beats. If your tempo changes on the QY700 are ridiculously involved, so you don't want to have to transfer them over to the AW16G, you might prefer to synchronise using MTC, if possible, and put up with the erroneous bars/beats display on the AW16G instead.

Published October 2005

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Q. Is there a big difference between hardware and software reverbs?

By Hugh Robjohns
Dedicated effects processing hardware, such as the TC Powercore Compact, offers a way to make use of the latest reverb plug-ins without placing additional demands on the host computer's CPU.Dedicated effects processing hardware, such as the TC Powercore Compact, offers a way to make use of the latest reverb plug-ins without placing additional demands on the host computer's CPU.

How much difference is there between the quality of a VST reverb plug-in and a hardware reverb processor such as the Lexicon PCM81 or the TC Electronic M One XL?

SOS Forum Post

Technical Editor Hugh Robjohns replies: Digital reverb effects, or at least reverb effects that try to emulate real spaces with some degree of accuracy, involve a great deal of complex digital data processing. While it is perfectly possible to run the algorithms in a PC or Mac environment using the host processor, the maths involved places huge demands on the CPU. As a result, even on the most up-to-date and powerful systems there will be a practical limit to the number and complexity of reverb processors that can be run while doing everything else you may want the computer to do.
Hardware reverbs are dedicated to doing just one thing, and so can be heavily optimised in terms of the processing power and electronic design.

Up until recently, most native reverb plug-ins used relatively simple algorithms and were often audibly inferior to even quite modest hardware reverbs. The advent of software convolution has improved matters considerably, and many of these new convolution reverb plug-ins sound as good as hardware units in many situations (to my ears at least).

Another very good alternative is to use embedded hardware processing like the TC Powercore or Universal Audio UAD1 cards. These offer dedicated DSP power to avoid clogging up the host processor, and allow advanced algorithms (often transcoded from hardware processors) to be run. The advantage is that everything is still under computer control, and so settings can be instantly saved with specific projects, which makes remixing or revising a project later on much quicker and easier than trying to find your settings notes (if you remembered to write them down!) and/or reconfiguring a hardware unit.

Published October 2005

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Q. Can you explain the effects routing on my Roland multitracker?

By Mike Senior
The Roland VS2400CD's flexible routing system can seem complicated at first. 
The Roland VS2400CD's flexible routing system can seem complicated at first.

Please can you help me understand the effects routing on my Roland VS2400CD? Is it possible to have effects on all tracks with only one effects card installed? Can you explain (in idiot's terms) how to 'print' an effect to a track? Also, would this free up the effect for use on other tracks?

Helen Adams

Reviews Editor Mike Senior replies: First of all, let's clarify some things about setting up effects routing in general, regardless of which system or machine you're using. Basically, there are two ways you can add effects to a single track. The simplest is to just shove the effect directly into the signal path, something referred to as 'inserting' the effect. This is the best approach for any of the algorithms which invlove compression, and anything which is designed to change the character of the whole signal, such as track-specific EQ treatments and modelling or modulation processors.
The disadvantage of using your onboard effects as inserts is that you need a separate effects processor for each track you want to add effects to. It is to get around this problem that you're given compression and equalisation as standard on every channel — if you had to add these using the effects board, one board wouldn't get you very far!

Setting up a send effect is the best way to use an effect on multiple tracks.Setting up a send effect is the best way to use an effect on multiple tracks.

The second routing approach allows you to use your choice of effect algorithm on all the tracks at once. This is done by feeding the effect's FX Return channel from one of your aux sends, such that any and all tracks can send to the effect using the channel aux send controls. You then return the output of the effect to the mixer for mixing alongside your tracks. This is the best approach for any effect which makes use of any kind of delay or reverb.

I'm guessing that you've already worked out how to insert effects, as that's much easier, so here's how to set up a send effect. Let's assume you're wanting to add reverb to every track. First push the Aux1-8/FX1-8 button to bring up the FX Return channels to the faders, and then press the Ch Edit button to bring up the settings for the FX1 Return. There will be a little box at the top left of the screen labelled Assign. Set this to a spare auxiliary send — for the purposes of this example, let's use Aux 1. While you're in that screen, check that the fader is up, the Mute switch is off, the Mix switch is on, and the Aux 1 switch is off (the last of these avoids the possibility of creating a feedback loop).

Now cursor to the large Effect 1 box and press the Enter button (below the main data wheel). This will take you to the screens where you can select the effect and change the parameters if you wish. You can also reach these effects-editing screens at any time by holding Shift and pressing F4. Now choose a channel to which you want to add effects, and press its Ch Edit button so that you can see its channel parameters. Along the bottom of the screen you'll see all the aux send controls. Cursor to Aux 1 and switch the switch to Pst. This setting means that the signal is sent to the effect from after the channel's level fader (post-fader, hence 'Pst'), which is the best choice in this case as it means that the effects level you set shouldn't need adjusting if you change the fader level. The other setting, Pre, is best when you're using the Aux send for other purposes, such as for providing monitor mixes during recording.

Setting the channel's aux send to 'Pst' (post-fader) is best when using send effects.Setting the channel's aux send to 'Pst' (post-fader) is best when using send effects.

Now cursor to the Aux 1 control and use the data wheel to fade it up. You should now (fingers crossed) hear the reverb effect being added. If you don't, then you should try to troubleshoot the situation by using the available metering. Go to the Home screen, where a row of meters are given at the top of the screen. The 'F' keys at the bottom let you show a variety of different signals with these meters. In this case, you could have a look at the aux buss meters to check that signal is reaching Aux 1 from the channel, and have a look at the FX Return meters to check whether signal is reaching the effect channel. The ToPre/ToPost option on the F6 key is particularly useful. If you have the metering set to Pre (the current setting is shown above the meters) you can see whether a signal is reaching the input of a given channel, whereas if you have the metering set to Pst you can tell whether it's leaving a given channel. For example, if the metering shows a signal for FX1 Return in the Pre metering mode, but not in the Pst metering mode, then you know that there's some channel setting that's not letting the signal through the FX1 Return channel — perhaps the Mute button is on, or the Mix switch is off. Learning how to troubleshoot routing problems using the metering is incredibly useful on the VS multitrackers, so do take the time to learn about how the metering works, if nothing else. It may seem a bit boring, but it really pays off when things don't go how you expect them to!

Now let's turn to printing effects. Depending on whether you're using insert or send effects, the procedure for printing effects is different. However, for both, you'll need to use the internal routing matrix. First choose the track you want to print to, and then hold down its Status button for a second or so until the patchbay screen comes up. You can also access this screen from the EZ Routing button. Hold down the Status button again and press Clear to remove any existing assignments to that track, and then press the Ch Edit button on the source track. A little line should now show up on the screen connecting the source channel on the Track Mixer block with the destination channel on the Recording Track block.

Now go back to the Home screen, arm the destination track for recording, and print the track to its new destination with its effects. If you need to, you can print a mix of several tracks, along with the output of an effects return, in the same way — just make sure that all the channels' and returns' Ch Edit buttons are lit at the relevant point. You can even bounce to a stereo track if you've got one set up.

Published October 2005

Monday, October 17, 2016

Q. How do I get back to making music?

By Paul White

I have a problem that I think could be fairly widespread. I've spent years dabbling with studio technology, reading SOS, acquiring various bits of kit, messing around with software and so on. The trouble is, when I do get a few spare minutes to actually sit down and create music I seem to be devoid of inspiration — I've spent so long worrying about my next bit of kit I seem to have lost sight of the object, which is to make music. Help! I need something to kick-start my creativity, but I don't know what it is. Can you offer any advice?
Neale, Cambridge
A dictaphone or a portable recorder like the M-Audio MicroTrack can be handy for capturing new ideas when inspiration strikes.
Editor In Chief Paul White replies: This is a common problem, but it helps if you can divide your time between music-making and and the more mundane tasks of studio maintenance and management. There's nothing worse than having to take your mind off composing to deal with a computer issue. If you don't feel inspired, then tidy your hard drive, update your plug-ins, organise your files and so on. The other useful thing you can do is construct a default song with all your commonly used software instruments ready to go so that as soon as your computer boots up, you can open your default song and start work. If you can switch on your computer and then leave it in Sleep mode when you have spare time, it will make starting work that much faster.
 A dictaphone or a portable recorder like the
 M-Audio MicroTrack can be handy for 
capturing new ideas when inspiration strikes.

Nothing kills creativity like spending an hour looking for sounds, so try to keep your sound library organised, and if you do embark upon a sound browsing session between creative bursts, try to put your favourites into suitable categories for future use. Having a million samples is of no use if they are not organised. The better you prepare, the quicker you can get your ideas down when they arrive. I also find that having a good rhythm part often inspires ideas and that's where something like Stylus RMX is excellent. Even if you decide to replace or change the rhythm parts later, it is worth using a preset as a starting point if it gives you some ideas. Some composers also find that setting artificial limits gets them moving faster, so why not give yourself a dozen sounds to choose from, and see what you can create using them? Once the idea takes shape, you can break this rule and proceed as normal.

Other useful tips include keeping a simple dictaphone with you so that when an idea pops into your head halfway down the M4, you can hum it or sing it and then come back to it later. Strictly speaking, this should have a hands-free mic attached! It can also help to turn your back on the technology for a while and then just sit down with a guitar or piano and noodle around for a while. Again, leaving a portable recorder running is a good idea, just in case anything wonderful and totally unrepeatable should turn up! And finally, some people find it much easier to come up with ideas when they have a musical colleague to bounce their ideas off, so don't always assume that you can do everything alone. Different things work for different people — for me, having a deadline definitely does the trick!

Published October 2005