Monday, June 2, 2014

Yamaha Computer Assisted Music System (YCAMS) "This is the second most powerful tool for making music." ad, Keyboard 1985

Yamaha Computer Assisted Music System (YCAMS) "This is the second most powerful tool for making music." two-page colour advertisement including the QX1 digital sequencer/recorder, TX816 FM voice generator system and RX11 (or RX15) digital rhythm programmer from pages 48 and 49 in the July 1985 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Yamaha was advertising *a lot* in Keyboard magazine around this time period. It wouldn't be uncommon to see two or three pages worth of Yamaha ads in any given issue. This advertisement for the Yamaha Computer Assisted Music System began to appear around the summer of 1985, including the July, October and December issues. It also appeared in the January 1986 "MIDI Mania" issue on the back of the "MIDI sequencers: computer based and dedicated hardware" fold-out page. Nice placement! When this ad wasn't running, Yamaha's other two-page ad featuring it's CX5M computer and software system would make an appearance.

To me, just the fact a company decides to go with a two-page ad says something about the product as much as the content of the ad itself. Its a signal by the company to the reader that they are investing heavily in whatever is being promoted. And the QX1 looked impressive enough to be worth a two-pager. No doubt!

That's really all I can say about the QX1 though - that it looks impressive. Ever since I saw this ad years and years ago I have wanted one. But it was way out of my price range at the time (over $3000 in Canada), and I already had an Apple IIe, so replaced my first sequencer - the one on my Casio CZ5000 - with Master Tracks Pro software instead. But that QX1 with its awesome customized computer-like keyboard has never left my mind in the 30 years that have followed.

And before I go further - YCAMS? There was no better, more memorable acronym?

[...ten minutes goes by....]

Okay - I can't think of anything better. YCAMS it is. Nevermind.

Even as I type this, there is a QX1 sitting on eBay that I've been watching. But the only clue to its condition is that they've turned it on, and 'most times' it goes to Disk Imitation (whatever that is). So, I just watch it sit a zero bids. Do I chance it and bid? Gah. 

Ever since choosing Master Tracks Pro over the QX1, I've stuck with software sequencers for serious recording, picking up the odd hardware sequencer such as an MMT8, Roland MSQ100 and 700 only when opportunity, price and curiosity have intersected. Actually, my band mate and I took that MMT8 on stage a couple of times - never failed us. That track mute feature was awesome.

Now that I've been persuaded to think about playing live again, the topic of a hardware sequencer has been stuck in my head. So, I started doing my research looking into a lot of old and new hardware sequencers including the Linn Electronics LinnSequencer that I blogged about last week, and the Yamaha QX1. And again, opportunity, price and curiosity collided to the extent that I fell into an Akai MPC2000XL, MPC1000 and 500 in rather short order.

I think hardware sequencers are attractive to me because they are table-top oriented.  The Yamaha QX1, Alesis MMT8, Roland MSQ700... all of them tabletop. It just makes sense. Similarly, as much as I like the space-savings provided by rack synths, I think tabletop synths like the Kawai K1m, Waldorf Microwave XT and Access Virus modules have equal charm for this reason.

And I think that is why I am now gravitating towards the Akai MPC1000. Hardware. Tabletop. No computer required. And until Akai comes out with a new non-controller MPC, the 1000 seems to be the way to go. Plus you get some killer sampling to boot.  

But if I ever come across a QX1 guaranteed to work - well then... that MPC1000 may begin playing back-up duties.

Time to check eBay again... and again...

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