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                          OctaMED SoundStudio v1
                       a preview by:  Bohus Blahut 
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A CD rom with the complete OctaMED Studio program for creating music
modules.  The CD has many example MODS, and directories of sounds to use in
MODs of your own.

If you'll remember the last few articles that I wrote for Amiga Report,
you'll recall that I was waxing nostalgic about the purchase of my first
Amiga in 1989.  Back when I got the machine, my thoughts were of using the
Amiga for music.  Walking out of the dealer's shop, I had in my hands a
MIDI interface, and a Future Sound 8-bit sound digitizer.  The musical
experimentation had begun.

My intention had been to create music with MIDI.  The Amiga's 8-bit soun d
was fine for video games and other playing around, but I didn't think it wo
uld cut it in professional music applications.  I did a lot of
experimenting with 8 -bit sound, and eventually the I could get the Amiga
to yield good sounding audio, but then there was the insurmountable
challenge of having only 4 tracks of audio.  T he obvious solution seemed
to be to use the Amiga as a MIDI controller, and th en access MIDI's 16
possible tracks of data.

It wasn't long before I started to hear about MODs.  It was after I played
the Psygnosis games, Shadow of the Beast 1 and 2, that I heard Amiga audio
at its finest.  I learned about the various Tracker softwares that
maximized Amiga audio capabilities.  These "tracker modules" are fairly
small, and are composed of a number of tiny raw sound samples along with a
little burp of data at the end.  Then, as now, there were entirely too many
MOD formats, and more come and go with the years (many are also PC
compatible).  Attempts were made at a format that would break the Amiga's 4
channel audio limitation.

While MODs were fun experiments, they didn't really constitute music to me.
In fact, I didn't pay much attention to MODs in general.  For the most
part, they sounded like video game music, and all sounded way too similar.
They were fun cover versions of pop songs, and techno. 

Lots of techno.

I hate techno.

I understand why.  This type of music is ideally suited to MODs since it
mostly repetitious loops, and is made of lots of ripped samples from old
James Brown albums...  all very unoriginal, all very stolen (in a copyright
sense)

I pretty much dismissed MODs as a novelty.  Evey once in awhile my interest
was piqued when I'd hear about some MOD group who put on Rave parties with
only their Amigas in tow.  While that's great, that particular music isn't
my cup of tea, and I've mentioned my problems with the audio quality and
the four channel barrier. 

There have been a few advances over the last few years in audio technology
for the Amiga.  There's the SunRize card, the Toccata, and others.  These
were primarily digital recorders, not samplers.  They aren't set up to
create sampled digital instruments.  That's the promise being made by many
other manufacturers now, all to upgrade the Amiga's default audio.

All of this background is so that you'll understand just how unbelievable
OctaMED SoundStudio is.  OSS has shattered the Amiga's 4 channel barrier,
samples at 14bit for higher quality, and allows for really long samples
including vocal tracks!  The system requirements aren't all that uncommon.
While you can use the program on 68000 machines, a good machine would be an
'020. 

A default a3000/25 can play approximately 10 channels of 48khz (CD quality)
sound through the MacroSystem Tocatta card.  It's also set up to take
advantage of '060 machines (but that doesn't assure DraCo compatibility.
Remember, the DraCo doesn't have the Amiga's custom chips) Obviously, the
faster the system, the better the performance. 

The CD contains the program (in several languages), example MODs, and lots
of audio samples to use in your own projects, but that's not the best part.
One of the best things about this CD is that the program actually runs off
of the disc!  Why don't more Amiga programs do this?  Certain applications
obviously benefit from HD installation for speed, but if it's at all
possible, then why not have the prog run from disc?  OSS makes a few
temporary assigns, which you can un-assign just by clicking an icon.  The
execution of the program is well thought out, and quite simple.

There is full on-line documentation, but if you choose to, you can mail
order a printed manual.  The software does have a shareware flavor to it,
but all of my experimenting so far has revealed it to be quite stable.  It
also supports several 16 bit audio cards for its sound engine.  We will be
testing OSS with the Tocatta card which should be unusual since I've never
used the Tocatta for anything other than digital recording.

I'm so impressed with this new program, I'm going to fiddle with it some
before turning in a full review.  It's important that we know where we're
coming from to know where we're going.  I'm hoping that my level of
excitement will stay high through the rest of this review, and I'll let you
know the outcome soon.

RBF Software
169 Dale Valley Road
Hollybrook,
Southampton SO16 6QX
England