A case for Defecting?

Yep, that Atari logo was a major symbol of my youth. In the early years it represented cutting edge electronic entertainment in the seedy world of the local arcades before moving on to the diluted (but fun) home gaming of the Atari VCS and, most significantly, introducing me to the world of MIDI via the Atari ST – the first home computer to have a built in MIDI port. MIDI was a relatively new technology that enabled computers and musical instruments to talk to each other, bringing the home studio ever more feasible to those who could re-mortgage their houses to set one up. Allegedly it was all down to Nolan Bushnell, the founder of the company whose son was a musician. This foresight created the platform that enabled me to create the music that had manifested itself in my head since those heady, early days of house music, the mid to late 80s.

It was on the Atari that I first came across Cubase, v.3 to be exact, installed from a floppy disk that was handed to me by an engineer in a studio in Brixton in the early 1990s. The built in MIDI port was tight, very tight with timing accuracy that was so good you could trigger sequences like samples from a rapid push of that 1 key on the number pad. And you know what? that Atari ST, Monochrome monitor and Cubase were my musical partners for many years, the platform that enabled me to create many of my most successful tunes back in the day.

So years pass by and my loyalty to Cubase saw me ‘upgrade’ to the early PC version – BIG mistake! This bloated nightmare was NASTY, seriously – I don’t know how I managed to get on with making music, in fact I didn’t – this negative move was one of the main reasons my musical output dropped in the 97 period. So anyway, I persevered, the upgrades occurred and the performance increased, the features grew and so did my satisfaction. Cubase VST eventually became a stable work platform and began to offer the stability (but not that amazing timing!) of the Atari version I knew and loved.

Fast forward a few years, and I evolved through VST to SX, from SX to SX2 and eventually onto the current version of SX3, a platform I’ve championed in my role as a Lecturer at Pointblank College where I teach the Cubase SX way; an avid SX evangelist if there ever was one… god I even appeared in a magazine showing my devoted love for it. So why the whole history, why on earth do I feel compelled to even go the extent of writing so many words on this Blog posting?

It’s all about that Mac…. you know, the new one with the extra drive bay on the front. That one with the additional firewire 800/400 ports and a 256MB graphics card as standard. The Mac that runs what is pretty much the INDUSTRY STANDARD sequencer in professional studios (Logic Pro innit!) That shiny new Apple Mac Pro that can take up 16GB of RAM and has Quad Xeon processors up to 3GHz! Yes, the very same Mac Pro that has an operating system with a CORE (ie not bolted on) Audio and Midi component, hell it even has a core Video component now is this the ultimate creative computing platform? By all accounts Logic Pro has grown to be a solid platform for making music, the bundle out of the box offers immense value in comparison to what SX3 offers. The Mixer, Effects and EQ are superior by far to those offered by Cubase and the audio routing much more ‘desk like’ in its flexibility.

Recently it’s been a case of Mac User? Get Logic, PC? Get Cubase. Then came Boot Camp. For the uninitiated Boot Camp allows you to install XP on one Mac partition and OSX on the other; essentially you get two computers in one. Now compu-schizophrenia aside I can only see this as a very appealing prospect. In fact this is the most significant factor in making me question my allegiance to the PC platform. Vista (the next version of Windows) by all accounts does NOT have a core audio and midi component and this seems crazy when it is offered by OSX. On Cubase SX3 there are many documented cases of people with Midi Timing problems, problems that according to the .pdf file provided by Steinberg blame the way that XP as an operating system accesses the Midi Interface. It seems crazy that nothing is planned to provide a global solution to these issues at operating system level, Vista has been delayed for numerous reasons and I can only hope that one of these is the fact that Microsoft will finally take the PC music makers seriously. What we need is a serious integration of MIDI and Audio along with a free introduction to sequencing along the lines of friendly but powerful Garage Band. Without this Microsoft and all those involved in the manufacture of PCs face the very likely fact that Producers like myself and my peers will wonder across enemy lines and embrace the juicy Mac’ness.