Monday, August 17, 2009

return of the dinosaurs

While some scientists plan to clon at least Mammuts, it seems that some early digital music synthesizers makes a comeback too.

On one hand its the Canadian Acxel resynthesizer, reborn as a soundcard. It analyses and mangles samples through additive synthesis with FFT and the first version from 1991 got a special device called Grapher with touch sensitve LEDs making it easy to draw filters and envelopes with your finger.

They promise a remake of the Grapher for 2010.
Even the website looks vintage.

And then there is the Fairlight CMI sampling computer. You might have heard it at Yello, Trevor Horns projects Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Art Of Noise, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Coil, Graeme Revell/SPK.

While the company was around all the time, they were specialzed in high end studio recording systems for audio and video, a logical step from sampling. They claim now to simulate that certain sound through the hardware emulation with FPGA ICs. We are not talking about software emulating hardware like virtual analogue synths, its about hardware emulating hardware with reconfigurable chips. The price tag is vintage too, that system seems to cost 17.000$. I wonder what they will do with their typical lightpen because these devices only work on CRT monitors, not LCDs.

The big question is if these systems nowadays have their place and market. While everyone seems to use software synthesis, dedicated hardware instruments still seems to cut better through a mix and provide a more lively sound. While there is a point in using real analogue synths today, what have these digital systems to offer?
I must admit that I find the early period of digital synthesizers in the 70s-80s most interesting, offering several new aproaches. This period inspired me often on my own software projects like 'Microcomputer' and 'Minicomputer'.

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