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RE: other LD additions

Title: RE: other LD additions

>>There's a new section for the old Powertran Digital Delay Line, a piece of history:

ah- er- ah. I thought that was going to be about the contemporaneous mcs-1 delay line/sampler. I wrote the list about it some time back, comparing it to the bel bd80. would you consider entering the blurb into the tools section if I were to provide a decent snap of the box?

here, from 24jan2004:

Title: powertran mcs-1

I don't know how many of you will have even heard of this unit. most of the existing machines will have been built from kits in the mid 80s by readers of a UK electronics magazine that I haven't seen for years. the instructions were spread over three or four editions and included a theory-of-sampling-technology guide.

after a few years of gathering dust (because of jam-mans and repeaters), mine found it's way back into the studio yesterday.

the machine is a monophonic 8-bit sampler that can be played with cv&gate or over midi, but it doubles as a delay line. it has a colossal 64kb of memory and the master clock can be wobbled with an LFO, so that it can be used as a chorus/flanger/phaser. the designers (orr and monkhouse, according to the rear panel) distinguish amongst these three in terms of the base delay time involved.

it's a deep 2U box made of the same iron as WW1 tanks and has a 4-1/2 digit LED display legible from the moon. the buttons will outlast most wedding rings. there are four analogue knobs (input level, w/ clip LED, repeat, output balance and "tune"- more on this later) and a rotary encoder. everything on the circuit board seems to be at least half-an-inch from it's nearest neighbour.

there are adjustments for the amount of ram it can write to, the master sampling frequency, the number of poles of filtering (it's got a decent tracking filter), pre-emphasis on/off (which they call noise reduction), "sweep" range and depth (the LFO, which can be engaged in any mode and goes from barely noticeable to insane, both in depth and speed), gate or trigger, midi channel, BBC microcomputer interface (the venerable beeb micro was how you saved samples- one per 64k floppy disc).

other buttons switch between sampler and delay-line modes and, in this latter, engage "freeze" which stops further writing to the memory. this can be done with a footswitch too. if "freeze" is on, a momentary footswitch disengages it temporarily, and vice versa. nice touch, that.

the tune control, an analogue pot poking through the front panel, has an enormous range- probably about three octaves altogether. this is one of it's best features.

how I use it: I /never/ use the sampler mode- it's always in delay line mode with the maximum amount of ram and with the sample rate at half the default value. I don't know what the exact number is but I suspect it's about 16kHz, so an effective bandwidth of about 6kHz.... because of the noise reduction, dbx companding and pre-emphasis, it's not quite as lo-fi as one might expect.

this is with the tune control centred and the LFO off, giving about 8 seconds of delay/recording time.
so I'll be feeding audio into it from an aux on the studio desk, and using a footswitch to unfreeze it and grab bits of audio.

the repeat level control functions like the "overdub" level on a repeater, so that existing sounds can be gradually erased, or not.

obviously, it's not synchronised to anything (though I've toyed with the idea of adding this somehow), but by judicious use of the tune control, it can be made to stay roughly in sync with other devices. having acquired some interesting audio into it, I can then apply the LFO and/or start using the footswitch to make little gaps appear in the frozen audio (the repeat turned right down), or throwing the tune control around, or altering the amount of ram or the sample rate.....

it really is the most fun. looping in a tempo-free world.

I'd suggest adding this info, and a picture, to the appropriate section of the looper's site... and recommend that we all watch out for one of these machines popping up on the 2nd hand market. I'm hanging on to mine- obviously; the only thing wrong with it is that it's a bit too big to gig with these days.

the nearest commercial device that compares to it is the bel BD80 delay line.



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