Those "Glass Voices"... that "Guitarrrr"... there are many patches on this box that I used to think that I could not live without. If it broke down I would have to shop for a D-50 on E-Bay, I would say to myself.
Interestingly, as I re-work projects that featured this synthesizer, I find myself using alternative instrumentation in preference to the venerable D-50 tones. I don't know why, exactly. Many synths of its era have disctinctive patches that were overused in commercial productions of the day, to the point where the patches now sound cheezy. The D-50/550 certainly has its share of these, but it is still capable of many unique and fresh-sounding sounds with depth that hold up today.
A lot of people have said that they have had problems with these M-Audio USB MIDI interfaces, but mine has worked flawlessly with Windows 2000, XP, and more recently, Windows 7 (although the drivers were only released in beta form very recently). I originally only used the IN/OUT-A because the Roland A-880 handled the rest of the devices. When I got the Roland VK-8 I'd run out of ports on the A-880 and so I plugged it into the In/Out-B ports. This works out really well because the VK-8 will actually respond on several MIDI channels as a multi-timbral device.
I live in fear of this device breaking down. Where the heck can you find MIDI patch bays these days? Apparently no-one makes them any more, but I don't see why that should be. They are still a vital component of any comprehensive MIDI studio.
This one has been very reliable. But still I worry...
I had no problems at all with this interface in Windows XP. Sonar just profiled the device and away we go. I initially thought I would never use the SPDIF inputs but then I got the Roland Fantom, which has digital audio out. Apart from being lower in volume, I figure it has got to be better, right? So I feed the Fantom digital out into the SPDIF on the Delta-66 card.
Since moving to a Windows 7 64-bit workstation, I have had some issues. Occasionally I'll hit the playback or record in SONAR, and instead of getting sound I'll get silence. I've learned to hit the stop button pretty quickly when this happens, because if I don't I'll get a pulsing pile of digital rhythmic feedback noise on my electrodes.
I suspect the Win64 drivers from M-Audio are to blame. It happens whether I select ASIO or WDM/Kernel streaming mode, and is not affected by buffer sizing.
If M-Audio don't produce updated drivers that solve the proble, then at some point, I am going to have to switch to a different vendor. Probably Echo Layla 3G.
This has some truly excellent sounds, both synthesized and drum kits. I originally purchased it to replace what I thought was an ailing Korg M1. Until Addictive Drums came along, it was my main source of standard drum kit sounds..
The Korg M1 was our first real "workstation" keyboard. Actually, some might say that it was the first true "workstation" keyboard available on the market. Man, when I heard what this could do in the store I knew I had to have it, because it would take our music to the next level. I think it did. Suddenly we could use sequencing and drum samples, and our overdubbed sketches turned into pretty nice well-rounded demos.
Drums have always been a fairly weak point in my compositions. At some point I decided that hitting things with sticks would help, and picked up this venerable unit. My first attempts to use it to lay down grooves failed to best my existing "keyboard drumming", and shortly afterwards I gave up.
Two or three years later, I give it another go, this time augmenting the unit with a bass drum trigger and foot pedal, and a high-hat control pedal. I ran into difficulties, both in co-ordination (it would help if I had any real practice playing actual drums) and also in configuring the MIDI mapping between the physical pads and the layout of XLN Addictive Drums across the note grid. High-hat control in particular had a kind of impedance mismatch between controller data and MIDI note numbers.
So I gave up again.
Recently I've broken out the pads again, at first just to fix up some tom and snare rolls. For some reason, this time I've found a process that works better than the keyboard, for all drum parts. I'm not using the foot pedals, and I have to record the complete drum part in several passes using pad mappings to different subsets of the kit, but the net result is quite satisfying.
There are still mistakes and bad groove choices, but I always had those problems with the keyboard anyway.
I like the fact that this has 76-keys, but is still "synth action". It has a really good keyboard feel, reminiscent of the D-50. The sounds aren't bad either. A bit too techno for me but there are some nice patches.
I saw a press release from Wendler on the Harmony Central web site and curiously followed the manufacturer's link, and got very intrigued by the bass guitars.
I emailed Dave Wendler with some questions about price and finish options, and he replied promptly. He explained that he used a variety of woods and could shape the neck profile to fit my specifications, which pleased me. I measured up the neck on my trusty Ibanez Roadster which has great playability.
We settled on a tung-oiled mahogany neck, with pao ferro fingerboard. Dave kept me informed of construction progress, with photographs of the instrument in various stages.
You can read more about Wendler's passive Magnetic/Piezo pickup system on their web site. In tone, it tends to be very dark and deep. I find that plucking the strings with my right hand up the fingerboard - just like a real upright - gives the best results.
Technically this was my 40th birthday present, but experts disagree as to whether it was this or the VK-8.
Carvin BK5 Bass
This instrument was built from a kitset from Carvin, hence the lack of a brand name decal. But it is effectively a Carvin B5.
I don't use the active electronics much, for some reason I get better results with passive plus outboard amp modellers.
Here's an mp3 of me playing a riff from Porcupine Tree and demonstrating the different sounds you get from blending the pickups and changing the coil tap on the HB2.