Shows light signs of cosmetic wear
Includes unit only
Until now, sequencing and tape recording have been regarded as complementary, if not alternative, systems. But Fostex' MTC1 promises a new age of integration.
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WHEN FOSTEX RELEASED the R8 in 1988, it followed in their tradition of providing good quality eight-track recorders at an affordable price.
One of the major advantages the R8 has over its predecessor, the Model 80, is the removable front panel. This serves as a remote control for the unit without putting you to the expense of having to buy an extra box. However, Fostex obviously had other ideas regarding remote control which few of us suspected. When I reviewed the R8 (MT March 1989), I made a passing comment about the serial port being for "future use of a Model MTC1 MIDI Time Code controller." Read on, the future is here.
THE MTC1 HAS three main functions; a SMPTE timecode read/write generator; MIDI Time Code (MTC) for synchronising to/from sequencers which will send/receive MTC; and a function which allows all operations of the R8 to be controlled by MIDI event messages.
Physically, the MTC1 is a small black box which attaches to the rear of the R8 recorder by a couple of screws. Connection is by a short lead which plugs into the serial port and power is derived from the recorder, with a red LED to show that all is OK. An LTC (Longitudinal Time Code - generally SMPTE to you and me) Out connects to one of the track inputs (usually track eight) to allow SMPTE to be written to tape. The output from this track then plugs into the LTC In, with a green LED to show when a signal is being received. In addition, there are the usual MIDI In/Out/Thru sockets, with another green LED next to the MIDI In to show whether the received message has been recognised by the MTC1.
Finally, there are eight switches, termed Mode Set, arranged in a small block. These set the following: MIDI channel to receive on (switches 1-4), adherence to the set MIDI channel or acceptance of data on any channel (switch 5), acknowledgement of remote control commands from MIDI event messages (switch 6) and the SMPTE frame rate (switches 7 and 8).
Although MIDI Time Code was covered in the March 1990 issue of MT, a brief recap might be helpful here. In short, SMPTE code from tape is translated into hours, minutes, seconds and frames. This allows you to work in terms of time both on tape and sequencer instead of having to convert into bars and beats as with SMPTE.
MIDI REMOTE CONTROL
ANY OF THE R8's functions can be controlled by MIDI note events using the MTC1 - for example, it's possible to hit a C2 (note 48) on your keyboard and see the R8 go into play mode.
As there are a large number of functions which can be carried out, the MTC1 uses a single note on for the most common operations and two notes on for those which are used less often. A C2 note sets the R8 into play, F2 rewinds, A2 puts the R8 into fast forward, and C3 stops the recorder in any mode. G2 puts the R8 into cue mode for monitoring from tape, and keeps it in this mode while the key is held down. On release when the note off is received, cue is turned off.
For other operations, a key denoted Shift must be held down while the key denoted Normal is pressed. So to select a track for recording on, B4 (note 83) has to be held down while either C1 is pressed for all tracks to be put into record mode, or a note between C#1 and G#1 (corresponding to tracks 1-8) is pressed for a single track. Interestingly enough, notes A1 through G#3 are reserved for tracks 9-32. A sign for the future?
For the purposes of this review, if accessing a function requires a Shift key followed by a Normal key, it will be written in the order Shift-Normal. For instance, to select all tracks for record, the sequence would be (Shift)B4-(Normal)C1.
The R8 has a good selection of loop modes. These facilitate playing, recording and the like each time the loop restarts. The MTC1 supports all of these. The sequence F#4-F3 turns loop mode on, A#4-C#3 selects the loop start, while A#4-D3 selects the loop end point - real-time control with a difference. Once you have set the loop points, you have two options: stay in playback mode (G#4-C2) or record on any selected tracks (G#4-C#2). The R8 also offers you the ability to loop and change the monitoring from tape to input at a preset record punch-in point, then change back to tape monitor after the record punch-out. This is called Rehearsal mode. To achieve this using the MTC1, set the loop points and the location where record will take place. Punch-out (B2) drops you out of record but keeps the tape running until the loop end and then rewinds to the loop start.
Certain MIDI commands are used in a way that is, strictly speaking, outside their true meaning. Local control On/Off usually divorces a keyboard from its internal sounds. However, the MTC1 uses Local On/Off to remove control of the R8 from the front panel. All Notes Off turns off any MIDI note events currently controlling the MTC1, while Omni On/Off effectively operates switch five on the Mode Set block. This then allows for MIDI commands on any channel to be recognised.
SOME FEATURES OF the MTC1 are unique to it and do not exist within the R8.
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