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%% Sunrize AD516 Hardware and Studio 16 Software by Neil Brewitt %%
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Sunrize AD516 Hardware and Studio 16 (V3) Software.
The Sunrize AD516, coupled with the (supplied) Studio 16 software
provides a complete 16 bit, 48kHz direct to disk sampling system which
is capable of replaying up to eight tracks (samples) simultaneously.
Name: Sunrize Industries
Address: 2959 S. Winchester Blvd.,
Campbell, CA 95008
Telephone: (408) 374-4962
FAX: (408) 374-4963
$1495 (US) dollars (according to the promotional literature).
I paid around 1100 GB Pounds as part of a package deal: AD516, Bars
and Pipes Pro, and a 1-gigabyte hard drive.
SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS
4 Megabytes of RAM required. More is recommended.
68030 Processor or higher.
*FAST* hard drive; optimally, less than 10 ms seek time.
One free Zorro II/III slot.
AmigaDOS 2.0 or greater.
None. Hard disk installable.
MACHINE USED FOR TESTING
Amiga 3000/25 (Softkicked), 3.5 MB Fast RAM, 2 MB Chip RAM.
1 internal 1.44M floppies.
Quantum 105 MB internal hard drive.
Seagate 550 MB internal hard drive.
Workbench 3.0, Kickstart 3.1
The software uses the Commodore Installer program and is extremely
easy - just choose a destination directory.
The hardware (AD516) is also easily installed - remove a blanking
plate from the card bay, insert the AD516 into a free Zorro slot, and
replace the fascia screw. All that is then required is to plug a
suitable inputs and outputs into the AD516's external connectors -
2 Audio IN, 2 Audio OUT, and 1 SMPTE IN - all RCA (Phono) Sockets.
Not being the kind of person to read the full manual before using
stuff, I can genuinely say the AD516 and Studio16 combination was a
plug-and-go experience. It took between five and ten minutes to install
the whole package, all documented well in the manual.
My first foray into direct to disk recording was surprisingly easy -
a double click on the Studio16 icon brings up a "Studio16bench"
(essentially a blank screen) onto which the various modular parts of
the sampling software can be loaded.
From this blank screen, there are two pull-down menus:
"Applications" containing all the modules for the package, and "Project"
with the familiar "About" "Prefs" and "Save Setup" options. There are
around 10 modules immediately accessible, with names like "Recorder",
"Mixer" and "Meters". Everything starts from here. Each module produces
its own window on Studio 16's screen, and are all fully multitasking.
The first module I opened was "Recorder", which presented me with a
simple front-end with two sliders ("Rate" and "Gain") and four buttons
("Monitor", "Record", "Stop", and "Name"). I switched monitoring on, and
started my (test tape) input sound source. With the monitor button
depressed, the AD516 acts as a "pseudo" monitor, in that it actually does
process the incoming analogue signal to digital (at the specific rate) and
then back to analogue again on the output jacks. This is the best way for
the monitoring to work, in my opinion, as it gives a true impression of
how the end sample will sound.
Being too scared to sample quite yet, I opened up the "Samples" module,
which presents a list of the sample paths (and samples contained in
them). From this module, I found I could set the sample paths via a pull
down menu which had appeared to the right of the "Applications" menu.
This, again, was extremely intuitively designed.
Having set up my path(s), I opened the "Meters" module and was
presented with a "traditional" analogue meter, a digital meter, and a
scrolling graph of sound level - for the input, output, and channel one.
Shocked by this, I discovered that with the use of my right mouse button
(another menu had appeared) I could select any of analogue, digital, or
"graph" representation for the input channel, the output channel, or any
of the eight sample channels. I decided to have just a digital bar graph
for input and output channels for the time being.
So I recorded my first sample. On pressing the "Record" button in
the "Recorder" window, a small status window opens showing the size of the
current recording sample, the space left on the device, and the start time
of the sample (which said NA).
After pressing "Stop", I found the sample "Untitled_L" could be played
from the "Samples" window. I renamed the sample (from the pulldown menu)
and then chose "edit" from the same menu, which forced the Editor module
to load and open the selected sample. This was the familiar sample
editing window with a number of differences - I had the option to do a few
different things to all or any part of my sample. So, I "Normalized" it
all. This scales the sample so that it is at maximum volume (the loudest
part of the sample is represented by +32768). Then I added echo to it, and
then I analysed it to examine it's frequency content.
Next I opened the "Cuelist". Here I had to pick up the manual. The
cuelist looks very similar to the tracks display in Bars and Pipes
Professional, and works in a similar way. A sample can be dragged from the
"Samples" window and dropped onto a track in the cuelist. It then appears
as a "block" in the cuelist, which can be dragged around across any number
of tracks, crossfaded with other samples, and truncated and spliced ad
infinitum. Along the top of the Cuelist window is a "transport" control;
i.e., a Stop, Play, Forward and Backward button which performs just that
function - manipulating the "position" line within the tracks. All timing
within the cuelist is via one of four methods: SMPTE, SMPTE Plus (SMPTE
with fractions of frames), Beats Per Minute, or Hours Minutes and Seconds.
Here I encountered my first problem - It's essentially impossible to place
a sample at (SMPTE) 00:00:00:00 and have it start playing from its start.
The sample will be in sync properly, but won't actually start playing
until it's fully synchronized (around 3 seconds). This means you *must*
have *all* samples after the 5 second mark, which in turn means a five
second delay every time you listen to your masterpiece.
The cuelist is a *very* powerful part of the package. With the AD516's
SMPTE IN socket, this means writing audio-for-video is an ideal
application for the package. Each track may be played solo, turned on or
off, and direct recording into the cuelist is possible (punch in/out).
Samples may be grouped and edited simultaneously (useful for stereo
pairs), and all samples may be faded in or out linearly, logarithmically,
or exponentially over any time up to 2000ms. The Cuelist has a *very*
large time range, and I (just) had a ten hour time span visible at once,
with samples all indicated in their various positions.
There is an option in the cuelist whereby the mix of the eight
tracks is taken from the "Mixer" module. Within the mixer module, it
is possible to record both pan and levels of each track thus allowing
completely automated mixing to occur.
The remaining modules are utilities like a SMPTE generator, SMPTE
monitor, clock, and various "housekeeping" utilities.
Studio16 sports a full ARexx interface, and ARexx commands can be
associated with a specific timecode as an entry in the cuelist. This
could allow multimedia presentations to be played.
The performance of the hardware was as everyone had told me - very
good quality indeed, with excellent convertors.
The printed manual which accompanies the Studio 16 software covers both
software and hardware installation. It has a full tutorial section, a
comprehensive troubleshooting section, and a large reference section,
with a good index.
In my opinion, the manual is over-excellent, simply because I didn't
need it for a long time and even then I guessed what most things did. The
tutorial is excellent, and the whole manual is clearly written and well
The manual is very well planned. There is very little in terms of
operation instructions, instead being more of a slightly verbose
reference manual with a tutorial section.
The interface. It's easy to tell what's happening, and how you can
The overall "feel" of the product. Now that I've read the manual, I
realise there are several things which I didn't find out by
experimentation (marking and naming of ranges within samples being a
useful example) that may prove useful.
The full Studio 16 interfaces seamlessly with Bars and Pipes Professional.
With Studio 16, there are two B+P accessories- an SMPTE tool to lock B+P
to the AD516's internal SMPTE code, and an accessory that, when opened,
gives the Studio 16 pulldown menu allowing access to all the modules on
the B+P screen. A separate configuration file is maintained for Studio 16
operation under Bars and Pipes.
DISLIKES AND SUGGESTIONS
There are several things I dislike, though none affect the operation
of the product directly as a production tool.
I'd like to see more effects. The DSP on the AD516 is underused in
my opinion. There is only one effect available (with respect to
"normalizing" which isn't really an effect), Echo, and I'd like to see a
great many more. Compression is the sort of thing which is *easy* to do
digitally, so why isn't it there? The echo is good, but why can't I echo
backwards as well as forwards?
I'd like *some* realtime effects. A simple routine could turn the AD516
into a realtime digital delay. For a small amount of effort, a lot of
The sample scaling (in the Editing module) is linear - why? I'd like
to specify an "envelope" to which the sample can be scaled.
The Studio 16 Installer installs a default configuration file which
is for a standard 640*256 screen. No mention is made in the manual that
it is possible to run Studio 16 on an overscan screen. Luckily, the
author of part of the manual contacted me via email and explained that
if I delete the default configuration file, Studio 16 duplicates your
Workbench screen size. Such a small omission in the manual, but since
the cuelist is *horizontal*, an extra 64 pixels is *very* useful.
I'd like to see a "Maximum Performance" mode, whereby the screen is
blanked and multitasking is stopped, allowing the whole computer to
concentrate on producing a full "master" mix.
I heard that the upgrade from Studio 16 version 2.1 to version 3.0 cost
existing owners 200 GB pounds. I think that this is an unreasonable
price for an (albeit large) upgrade after such an initially high purchase
price for the package.
I'd like to see an official developer's kit. I think it would be nice to
see a "hard/sunrize" directory on Aminet containing various utilities
for manipulating samples within and without the Studio 16 environment. I
personally would like such a kit so I can write a compressor.
I would very much like to see Sunrize offering technical support via
COMPARISON TO OTHER SIMILAR PRODUCTS
On the Amiga platform, there are two other cards such as this: the
Toccata and Wavetools. Both are much cheaper than the AD516 but offer no
facilities such as the cuelist. The Wavetools has an RTX Real time effects
module which is available as an upgrade.
To be honest, I have neither auditioned nor used either of these cards
because the distribution of such exclusive products in the UK is quite
poor. Wherever I inquired, I was told that the AD516 was the best, and
having read lengthy reviews on all three boards, I came to the conclusion
that the functionality of any software without a cuelist feature is quite
poor. The Wavetools package has a niche with its realtime effects, but
I'd hope that Sunrize would challenge that.
Other platforms were not considerations, since I already own an Amiga and
to purchase a PC would cost at least, if not more than, the AD516. My
supplier (who is a audio/video producer by profession who supplies Amiga
peripherals as a sideline) told me that he had had clients who had bought
PC's and later discovered they needed more memory, bigger hard drives, and
generally more money.
I have found one small bug, whereby two grouped tracks are "strangely"
ungrouped if you edit one of them on its own.
I've also been told that there's an impending free upgrade to V3.01
which is nearly ready for release which is basically a bug fix.
I have had problems with the speed of my hard drive(s). All the
documentation regarding the Sunrize package states that a hard drive with
a 14ms seek time is sufficient for recording / playing 5 tracks, and that
one with a 10ms seek time will play 8 tracks. My supplier supplied me with
a 12ms hard drive. :) As it is, I have managed to play (not reliably) 7
tracks simultaneously, so a 10ms drive should easily play 8 tracks. I will
be receiving a 9ms drive in a few days, so I may update this review after
this. I certainly have not been misinformed by Sunrize.
The package I bought included a half day training session and unlimited
telephone support from the supplier (NOT Sunrize), neither of which I
have had to use yet.
Original purchaser - one year from purchase.
The AD516 and Studio 16 is a very powerful direct to disk recording
system. Its interface is so easy to use it's beyond belief, and it does
as much as is needed for basic radio edits, multitrack recording, and
video soundtrack production.
That aside, the hardware is of top quality and simply isn't utilised
to it's potential in my opinion. More effects and more versatility with
them coupled with a developer's kit would make this a card to buy an
Amiga for (like the Video Toaster).
I'm excited by the potential of the hardware, but daunted by the potential
upgrade cost. This results in a degree of caution in recommending
this card to others. It is truly unique and without compare on the Amiga
platform, but would I buy an Amiga for it? Probably not - yet.
This review is Freely Distributable.
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