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Hands On - Emu Proteus (part 2)

When I first got my hands on a Proteus, I couldn’t figure out how to work it. I knew that it could produce different sounds on different MIDI channels, but somehow it just wouldn’t respond to my untutored tinkering...

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Multitimbral Perfection

When I first got my hands on a Proteus, I couldn’t figure out how to work it. I knew that it could produce different sounds on different MIDI channels, but somehow it just wouldn’t respond to my untutored tinkering. This was because I had not realised just how simple the multitimbral operation of Proteus is - I had expected it to be as complex and impractical as multitimbral devices usually are. On powering up Proteus you will see in the top left of the display a letter ‘C’ followed by a number from 1 to 16. This is the MIDI channel. In the bottom left you will see a number from 000 to 383 (in the XR version). This is the preset number, which is followed by the preset name. So setting up the Proteus for multitimbral operation works like this: dial a MIDI channel, dial a preset; dial a MIDI channel, dial a preset, and so on. If this is not the easiest, most logical, and most utterly usable way of operating a multitimbral instrument then I don’t know what is. And the presets always sound the same whether you are using them individually or multitimbrally, there are no compromises due to the sharing of processing power, except of course that the total number of voices the Proteus can produce simultaneously is, like any other instrument, limited. (In fact to 16 simultaneous notes, each of which can consist of two sampled voices).

I can compare this to two other well known multitimbral instruments, the Korg M1 and the Akai S1000. On the Korg, the character of each individual program is very much dependent on its effects settings, which are jettisoned when you go multitimbral (the Proteus doesn’t have effects - just very solid basic sounds), and if you wanted to imitate the Proteus’ dial-in simplicity then you would have to create a special Combination for the purpose. Yes it can be done - but it’s not encouraging to the user to have to become an M1 expert first and then explore multitimbrality. (The Korg 01/W works in a similar way). On the Akai S1000, when you have loaded in the programs of your choice from disk, along with their samples, you will first of all have to change their program numbers so that they are all identical, then assign different MIDI channels to them. By the time you finish this the Proteus user will have the drum track and half the bass line already in the sequencer!

In normal operation of Proteus there are two other parameters which can easily be modified on any preset on any MIDI channel, the MIDI Volume and the pan setting. MIDI volume is straightforward enough and you can adjust this from the front panel or via the MIDI input. Each preset also has its own pan setting, and this can be left as it is, or directed somewhere between hard left and hard right in fifteen increments. Simplicity of operation is the name of the game here and Emu have achieved this beautifully.

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By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004
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