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The Future of Amiga Audio
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Author:dhomas trenn
Published by:CU-Amiga magazine (UK)
Date:October 1998

With this being the last issue of CU-Amiga, I thought it best to take a look into the future and see what is ahead for the Amiga audio scene. As you will see, there are some pretty exciting products (both software and hardware) in the works.

What's To Come
Maurizio Ciccione of AudioLabs is keeping very quiet about their upcoming software release ProStationAudio, but here is a little of what you can expect: ProStationAudio will offer a multitrack, region-based, visual time-line editor (grab and drag objects to fade in, out, cross-fade, trim, etc.) and a fully automated mixing console with multiple DSP inserts and sends per track. Automation tracks can be graphically edited on the time-line, superimposed to audio waveforms, or operate on-the-fly though the mixing console. With support for the Alps system you can expand ProStationAudio just by adding new plug-ins. Alps plug-ins can process tracks in real-time and react in real-time to parameter variations. Using both DSP inserts and DSP sends you can build complex serial/parallel networks of DSP algorithms that work in real-time.

Petsoff Limited Partnership continue to expand their line of Delfina audio cards. Soon to be released is the DelfExp serial expansion, with up to 625 kbps throughput, and the A1200 Delfina internal sound card. Also in the plans are a digital expansion for the Delfina Lite (S/PDIF) and a new Delfina Pro sound card. DelFX allows you to redirect audio streams, such as to apply real-time effects to any AHI sound source, or to redirect incoming sounds with applied effects to any AHI program. This "sound piping" will be greatly improved with the Delfina Pro, where modular sound effects processing is planned. Jyrki Petsalo, of PLP, indicated that they are also working on the possibility of some special features for the Delfina sound cards when used with the upcoming ProStationAudio software. Soon to come, as well, is a long awaited hardware based MPEG layer 3 player for all Delfina sound cards.

HiSoft Systems have just released Soundprobe 2; but, do not have any immediate plans for new audio products. David Link promises that HiSoft will continue to support all of their music products (ProMIDI, Megalosound, Aura, Soundprobe, etc.) as long as there is demand.

David O'Reilly shared some ideas about the future of his program Soundprobe (HiSoft Systems), though he acknowledges that nothing is written in stone. Soundprobe 3 is in the works for release next year, with 10-20 new effects planned, enhancements and improvements to the existing effects, dynamic access file storage (no more waiting for file based cut/paste functions), faster FFT routines based on the Radix-4 algorithm, more and improved editing functions, multi-level undo, better AHI support (with real-time effects processing), compressed storage, new graphical displays, a programmable effects editor allowing linked effects with variable parameters for more powerful signal processing. There is also the possibility of hardware based DSP effects, particularly with the Aura16 sound card. One of the more exciting plans is the integration of Soundprobe with Stefan Kost's shareware program SoundFX - so that the two programs can be used side-by-side. They are also planning a common plug-in format so that effects can be used interchangeably. These are the top Amiga sound editors and a merging of the two would be a much appreciated achievement. A PPC version of Soundprobe is also under consideration, and if/when the next-generation Amigas appear, expect to find Soundprobe among the first available programs. For those of you venturing elsewhere, Soundprobe apparently works under the Amiga Forever emulator, with just a few minor problems. Upcoming AHI support for UAE will mean that Soundprobe should be able to output directly to PC sound cards - if not, direct PC sound card plug-ins are also being considered.

Dissidents' Sample Wrench (Amiga) is currently at a maintenance level of development, with only bug fixes and small enhancements to be expected. Resident dissident, Jim Flore, acknowledges that no new Amiga product development is planned at this time.

A.C.T. Germany are continuing to invest both time and money into development of Amiga hardware and software products. Marc Albrecht says they will continue to concentrate on their existing products; but, also have some new ones coming soon. Expansion modules for the Prelude sound card are on the way, including the Rombler which will allow you to use any WaveBlaster compatible wavetable board (such as the Roland SCB-55 and Yamaha DB50XG) with your Amiga. Also soon to come for the Prelude are an MPEG audio decoder and a SP/DIF digital I/O interface. Particularly exciting will be a new Zorro III, 24 bit, 96 kHz, 12 channel (6 in, 6 out), expandable audio card called the Festiva. A 19" rackmount device called the MIDI-PortAl will offer up to 3 MIDI units each with 3 Out, 1 In and 1 Through, giving you access to a possible 48 MIDI channels with compatible MIDI software. For audio CD production, be sure to check out Melting Music. An as yet unnamed musical workstation will be everything you need to take a professional audio project from start to finish. It will come in three forms: a tower workstation, a 19" rackmount version and a hardware/software bundle. The workstations will include a CDROM writer, MIDI interface and hard disk recording system all built-in. All hardware and software will be fully compatible with their soon to be released (freeware) ARTAS project (see below).

Thomas Wenzel is also working on the ARTAS project and says that Samplitude Opus 4.0 will be completely based on it. His immediate plans for Samplitude are to move some of the internal effects routines into loadable plug-ins and also to add some new ones. Once ARTAS is available, Thomas will begin work on the successor to Play16, a new multi-format sound player based on the ARTAS system. Further improvements are in the works for AmigaAMP, an MPEG-3 song player, with plans to re-write the loader/decoder routines to give better multi-tasking performance and also to improve the playlist editor.

young monkey studios has released MIDI SYStem EXplorer (MSE) freely to the public.

Martin Blom is optimistic about his plans for the Amiga, with hopes of a PPC accelerator board and a next-generation Amiga developer system in his future. Development has been restarted on the much delayed PPC version of AHI. AHI version 5 is in the design stages, but high expectations of the new ARTAS standard may or may not see its release. Whatever happens though, the AHI source code will be released either as part of version 5 or in its current state. If ARTAS is a hit with the developer community, as it is expected to be, efforts will be made to allow old AHI programs to work with this new system. Perhaps little known, is that AHI was originally designed with Martin's dream of a new high-end sound card in mind - with lots of local memory, a very fast DSP and high quality AD/DA convertors. Martin has also been asked to port parts of AHI to BeOS; work, that would most certainly benefit any Amiga version, too.

Richard Koerber will continue development of his Maestix project, which includes an AHI driver, developer library and documentation for the Maestro Pro digital audio card. He says that if there is a new sound interface in future AmigaOS that he will definitely write a Maestro Pro driver for it. He has also released a free keyfile for his program SoundBox. With the current state of the Amiga (his girlfriend), Richard admits that he is looking for a new dream system, and if he finds it, he will leave the Amiga for good.

Kenny Nilsen is continuing his exploration and development of audio applications and enhancements. Next on the agenda is an AHI driver for the Sunrize AD516 and AD1012 sound cards. Also planned is a new mixer module for Studio 16, including MIDI, send fader, scene saving, enhanced grouping, ARexx, envelope editing and more. A new modular sample editor called Cosmo will include sound layers (just like in the graphics realm), a real-time calibrating system, filters and more. It will support the AD516/AD1012 as well as other sound cards. He admits that he is not making any promises as to release dates or even the completion of any of these projects; but, he will continue to work on them as time permits.

I have touted the relentless work and great efforts of many of these developers before, but enough could never be said. Each and everyone should be commended for helping keep the Amiga alive.

While I was communicating with these developers and compiling all the information here, I had to keep reminding myself that it was good-bye to CU-Amiga, not see-you Amiga. There is a lot of concern about the future of the Amiga, and it is becoming more and more difficult for Amiga developers to survive. So, please, do what you can to support their work. Without them we will soon be saying "see-you Amiga".

I would like to thank each of you, the readers and developers, for your kind comments and support. If you have found my articles informative and enjoyable, please contact other Amiga publications and let them know you would like to read my work in their magazine. Take care.

The ARTAS Project
The Amiga ReTargetable Audio System (ARTAS), is not specifically an audio system as its name implies. It is, simply put, a system designed to efficiently process data streams of any size or kind (audio, MIDI, video, etc.). To insure accuracy, it incorporates an external sync timing system, driven by the timer.device on existing Amigas or soundcard resources on future systems.

The philosophy enables you to use plug-in modules or drivers to invisibly make use of available hardware. These drivers would allow ARTAS access to MIDI hardware for MIDI data, soundcards for audio playback, etc. and all based on your personal preferences. If a driver is not available for a particular process (say you want to playback an MPEG audio file, but you do not have MPEG specific playback hardware) ARTAS will find the needed module to give you the best possible playback quality.

From a programmer's point of view, the task of supporting multiple hardware will no longer be a concern. Playing back a given sound with ARTAS will be as simple as a call like this: PlayBackSound(start, length, frequency).

For More Information
NOTE: All outdated links have been removed.

A.C.T. Germany
Audio Labs
HiSoft Systems
Martin Blom
Richard Koerber
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