RUN magazine excerpt

The following is an excerpt from the article "Bach to The Future" by John Ryan, published in the April 1990 issue of RUN magazine.

Sing Along with SID

Perhaps the most popular music composition and playback program today is Craig Chamberlain's Enhanced Sidplayer for the C-64 and C-128. It is also, in my view, the most sophisticated and powerful music program available thus far.

Sidplayer comes on a double-sided disk with the C-64 version on one side and that for the C-128 on the other. Accompanying the disk is a 274-page, wire-bound manual. The editing features of this program give you total control of the SID chip. Not only can you choose a pitch, waveform and envelope for each of the Commodore's three voices, you can also control filtering, modulation, vibrato, portamento, transposition, and more. If you prefer, the program will filter automatically. Enhanced Sidplayer is so versatile that the files it generates can be merged with your own Basic programs to provide background sound.

Like the other composition programs, Sidplayer has an editor that lets you place musical notation on a grand staff, cut-and-paste, search and play your music back. However, Sidplayer takes the art of composition further. The excellent documentation delves deeply into modulation, filtering, music theory, and more, while guiding you step by step through the music-making process.

A small, stand-alone player program that comes in the Sidplayer package lets you play the literally thousands of Sidplayer files available for downloading from public domain sources such as Q-Link and GEnie (see RUN, February 1990, page 27). You'll find everything from the latest pop hits to classics, from single numbers to whole albums; and most of these files are superb. Q-Link members can also "play" Sidplayer files directly off the network through a wonderful service called The Music Connection. Q-Link has the most active Sidplayer user base of any information service.

In addition to standard Sidplayer files, stereo files are available through the online services. However, since the C-64 / C-128 can't produce stereo sound, you must install a hardware device to enjoy the six voices stereo provides.

The simplest such device is the SID Symphony Stereo Cartridge, available from Doctor Evil Laboratories. Plugged directly into the expansion port, it outputs three additional voices to an external amplifier and speaker. The original version of the cartridge was powered by a 9-volt alkaline battery connected to the external system with a simple RCA male-to-male cable. A new version of the cartridge is now powered directly from the user port. The price of the new one has not yet been announced.

Having tested this little gem for three months, I'm now spoiled by the addition of stereo to my C-128! Sidplayer files must be written to take advantage of this stereo capability, or they'll yield only mono output. Most public domain Sidplayer files state whether they are stereo.

Dozens of public domain support programs, along with documentation, are available for the Sidplayer and stereo cartridge. One versatile and powerful example is Stereo V1.0 (QuantumLink PD by Robert Stoerre, filename "Stereo.Arc"; or $5 per disk from Dr. Evil Labs, which, by the way, also sells the Enhanced Sidplayer system for $22.95, shipping and handling not included). Stereo V1.0 is a new Enhanced Sidplayer editor utility that allows you to edit all six voices at once (instead of Sidplayer's one voice at a time). Its other features include MIDI editing and playback, a built-in title and text editor and an easy-to-use, menu-driven interface.

No doubt, Sidplayer is the definitive C-64 / C-128 music composition program for both the casual computer musician and the serious composer. If you don't want to create your own music, use it to enjoy the works of other computer musicians from all over the world.

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revised March 27, 2004 06:31 EST