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Author Topic: Macintosh or Atari? (Jan. 1988, article)  (Read 2821 times)

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Offline chrisNova777

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Macintosh or Atari? (Jan. 1988, article)
« on: July 17, 2017, 02:53:34 AM »

Steinberg's Pro-24 (V2.1) and Mark Of The Unicorn's Performer (V2.2) programs

I think it's true to say that most musicians who have bought an Atari ST or Macintosh computer in the last two years have done so because they found software did a job better than a dedicated piece of hardware. However, since most musicians would rather not take their micro system on the road, there is still room in the market place for hardware such as Roland's MC500, Yamaha's new QX3 and the Studio 440 from Sequential. As there are also so many IBM PCs and 'compatibles' in the market place, there is also room for software written for these machines (eg. Voyetra's Sequencer Plus, Roland's MPS, Jim Miller's Personal Composer, Magnetic Music's Texture, et al). The IBM MIDI music market in the UK does appear to be comparatively small, though, as the software sells in the main only to current IBM PC and Amstrad owners who are hungry for any MIDI software - this is in stark contrast to ST and Mac buyers who are probably buying their first computer just to run the new breed of MIDI software.

The enormous range of software now available for both the Atari (Steinberg, Hybrid Arts, Iconix, Dr. T, Sonus, C-Lab, Compu-Mates, Beam Team, Digidesign...) and the Macintosh (Mark Of The Unicorn, Opcode, Digidesign, Passport, Southworth, Sonus...) can make choosing the actual computer itself quite hard. The Atari ST is so much cheaper than the Macintosh that the apparent choice is obvious - so how can you justify buying a Mac? Both the Atari and Mac use a mouse, pull-down menus and have built-in 3.5" disk drives, however that's where the similarity ends for using them with MIDI. The Atari ST has a basic (1 In, 1 Out) MIDI interface already fitted and a colour screen option (Steinberg's Pro-24 is a colour program) whilst the Mac requires an add-on MIDI interface and has no colour option (we're not considering the Mac II here as it is even more out of reach of most musicians' pockets). However, you'll soon discover that these basic requirements are barely enough for serious, professional use. Sync-to-tape, MIDI signal routing and other essentials of a basic MIDI studio set-up soon raise their ugly head. Also, the speed, versatility, intelligence, convenience and sheer musicality of the software will soon become apparent as the most important criteria for buying and running a computer-based music system.


Since sequencing is probably the most important component part of any MIDI-based system, let us look at the similarities and differences between the two most popular programs on the market: Steinberg's Pro-24 for the Atari 1040 ST and Mark Of The Unicorn's Performer for the Macintosh. Both programs have very recently been upgraded (Pro-24 to version 2.1 in August '87 and Performer to version 2.2 in November '87) so it's a good time to compare the two systems.

The first and probably the most important difference is the timing resolution of the two programs; Performer resolves to 480 ticks (pulses) per quarter note (ppqn) whilst Pro-24 goes to 96 ppqn. However, when syncing to an external time source this resolution comes down on Pro-24 to 24 per quarter note.

For this reason alone, Steinberg's add-on 19" rack-mounting SMP-24 unit [reviewed May '87] can be considered essential for professional use. Not only does it give you an extra MIDI input, four parallel, independent MIDI outputs (thus reducing any discernible MIDI delays), reading and writing of SMPTE timecodes, but it also returns the resolution to 96 ppqn and adds a mere £919 to the overall price! SMP-24 connects to the Atari via a parallel Centronics port at the rear of the computer, thus alleviating any possible burden on the MIDI chain of information that would otherwise have had to be squeezed down the built-in, single MIDI input/outputs.