|Hardware Feature #33|
|Cheetah Sound Sampler||Cheetah Marketing||£44.95|
Cheetah Sound Sampler
The following reviewt was taken from ZX Computing Novemebr 1986
Sound sampling has become the "in" thing in the music field at the moment due to recent developments in technology and, since it is a computer based technique it is not surprising that such a device should be developed for our home micros.
To put it rather simply, sound sampling involves making a digital recording of a voice instrument, piece of music or some other sound, processing it as required and replaying it in a choice of pitches.
Cheetah sampling system consists of an interface,
software cassette and microphone. The interface connects
to the port at the back of the Spectrum (48K, Plus or
128) and has two control dials on the front, a mini jack
sound input socket on the left hand side and a six foot
lead fitted with a phono plug to take the output
The microphone is a fairly basic one for use with a portable cassette recorder and is not really suitable for serious use.
Although a Microdrive backup routine is supplied, there is a dire warning not to use the interface with anything other than another Cheetah Unit.
The specifications are impressive, replay over two octaves, superb processing allowing very fine selection of start and end points to be made and sustain start and end points. These are chosen on a graphic waveform display. Samples can be reversed or combined, saved or loaded and reconfigured at will.
The frequency or bandwidth is 17.5KHz and this is as good as you'll get on some dedicated samplers for many times the money. Sample rate is 70000 times a second and maximum length is around one second. Which is long enough to say your name or a simple Nineteen!
The utility or effects program is great for playing around with, providing echo reverb fuzz, chop bubble and pitch effects, very noisy though and there's not enough control for serious usage.
The publicity claims "Home or Professional" use and I wouldn't disagree All I would say is that the professional use may be rather limited, especially if it was intend6d for recording as the sound quality is good rather than excellent, and the background noise is rather too high for professional standards even under optimum conditions.
The input section is well designed, allowing a wide range of impedences from microphone line or instrument sources and the output match proved compatible with both my power amp and my cassette line in.
Operating the sampler is a joy. Everything is menu driven and error trapping seems to be very comprehensive even with my idiot act in full swing it informed me of where and why I had gone wrong each time.
I loved it, even at the level of simply playing around it was great. I took it into a local school and the pupils had a great time with the utility program and the Science teacher was devising ways of using it for the new GCSE exams
Finally I have spent quite some time using the sampler, and I am becoming more and more impressed with it. I would even cautiously suggest that a studio might be able to use it for some short and limited effects provided enough noise reduction was available.
The following review was taken from Sinclair User November 1986
Maybe Cheetah has missed the boat. The sound sampler its recently released will inevitably be compared to the Ram Music Machine.
Rams unit combines a sampler, MIDI, and built in software and the Cheetah Sampler costs about the same, has no software built-in and lacks MIDI.
Does it stand a chance? Well, maybe.
If youre any sort of
serious musician perhaps with existing MIDI gear
its very doubtful that the Cheetah package will
have much to offer when compared with the MIDI-compatible
What you get is a black
joystick-interface-sized unit which fits on to the
Spectrum edge connector. Also supplied is a microphone
which connects into one side of the unit. There is
another lead which connects from the unit into the back
of a hi-fi system (it ends in a phono plug so if your
hi-fi uses DIN then youll need a new plug).
A single tape contains all the driving software for the system. Theres the sound sampler itself, a number of digitally-encoded test Samples including a bell (that old standby) and someone saying hello. The final program on the tape is a real-time sound utility program, of which more in a moment.
The sampler software is at
the same time both sophisticated and awkward. One of its
many features is a volume level check facility that
allows you to adjust the volume levels exactly for the
best possible sampling - it works by producing a graph of
the volume of input, if the peaks of the graph waves are
just contained within the screen volume level is good, if
the peaks are clipped then you will start
loosing sound quality.
What it means is that in the period of time you have sampled (in which you said woof) you might also have breathed heavily to begin with and coughed at the end. Using the system you edit those bits out by fixing markers on to a graph of the sound which snows precisely where the sample is to begin and exactly where it ends. The sustain is simply a section of sound which is held onto until it is time to end the sound like ner. ner, ner, ner... (you know what).
This is all very clever
and the graph of the sample (which can extend over many
screens - you scroll through it) is quite interesting,
but there ought to be a way of avoiding this stage if all
you want is a straight sample just to try out
the system. There isnt.
It is a lot of probably
completely pointless fun and with care the samples can be
made surprisingly effective - perhaps even marginally
better than those attainable using the Music Machine.
Transformations include Reverbe,
Echo, Fuzz Box (it makes everything
screech as though Saxon are in concert). Sound
Chopper cuts the sound up as though being switched
quickly on and off and the Bubblizer just makes
very, very odd noises.
The Cheetah Sound Sampler is a Lot of fun, I dont really think it stands an earthly as a serious musicians tool now that the Music Machine is around (to be brutal about it).
But it may still be worth investigating if you just want to play around.
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