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SW-60 At a Glance
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The SW-60XG, latterly also termed 'Waveforce', is an inexpensive yet powerful (16 part multitimbral, 32 note poly) and user-friendly PC card synth that appeals to the beginner and more advanced user alike. It is good for a range of musical styles, but can excel at house/techno/garage if used with the XG Gold shareware editing program (see below).
Mounted on a now-obsolete ISA bus synth card, it was priced new at about UK pounds 170 in 1996. The SW-60 slots straight into a spare computer ISA slot and needs no IRQ or DMA settings. Inputs and outputs are all stereo minijacks (yuck) - two inputs (line/CD, and mic (mono use a condenser or dynamic mic selecting mic type with internal jumper)), and one analog output (there is neither a digital output nor any provision for direct-to-disk recording). The internal SW-60 mixer has controls for: line/CD, mic and synth gain; voice cancel function; enable/disable A-D converters; and L + R output gain.
The SW-60 is purely a synth it is not a soundcard although it looks like one, and neither does it have provision for MIDI input or output. Not to be confused with the WaveForce WF-192 gamers card, an inferior product.
The guts of the SW-60 are the same as in the Yamaha DB-50 and MU-10 synths (see reviews) but unlike the SW these latter two are configured as a daughterboard and an external module respectively. The three were the babies of the MU range and still offer incredible value. Based around the SWP00 AWM2 wavetable chip, they were sold from 1995 initially as upgrade cards for gamers, but became popular with musicians when it was discovered that their wavetable synths were capable of producing high quality sounds. The subsequent development of
computer-based editing software improved user access to the sonic power of the synth chip, which was later employed in the CS1x and other popular (and more expensive) Yamaha synths.
Basic synth characteristics: sample-based synthesis (Yamaha AWM) with 4Mb of voice ROM, offering 32 note polyphony (last note priority), 16 parts multitimbrality, a truly great 24db/oct. four pole resonant set of filters, and 18-bit D/A conversion.
The SW-60 is fully General MIDI compatible, but Yamaha XG offers more sounds (480 voices and 11 drum kits), more signal processing power, and greater
control than the standard GM mode. Interestingly, the unit is also Roland GS compatible in TG300B mode that is said to offer yet more voices (untested).
The synth card bristles with effects, offering three independent quality 24 bit parallel digital DSP effects processors. The three channels provide reverb (11 types); chorus (12 types); and variation (42 types). Variation operates in either Insert (on one channel) or System mode (across all channels) mode. All effects are editable and may be controlled in real-time with up to 16 parameters per effect, and there are a few cross modulation options. Signals applied to the external input may be routed through the effects blocks too, offering another reason to buy a SW-60.
A computer-based programme is essential to get the best out of this fully real-time editable synth, because it has no physical controller knobs. Gary Gregson's XG Edit (shareware) was developed for Yamaha and is a fine editor for using the card in standard XG mode. But third-party software developers have been busy opening up the full potential of the powerful synth chip, and Achim Stulgies' excellent XG Gold (shareware) gets the max out of the synth chip, enabling QS300 performance mode, formerly accessible only using sysex commands. Controlled by XG Gold, the SW-60 can emulate the four element
voicing and parameter controls of the Yamaha QS300 synthesizer workstation, which cost UK pounds 1200 when it was launched in 1996 (though three- and four-element sounds will each consume two MIDI channels). XG Gold is also marginally preferable for handling and editing standard XG sounds - if you've got a SW-60 and haven't yet got XG Gold, you've treat in store!
Dave Aoun's Fexman (freeware) is ideal for those wanting to use the SW-60 primarily as an effects unit to process vocals or instruments (but is said not to work with the DB-50). Other software to check out: XG Control, SW Edit, XG Wizard, and XG Tool (Amiga). Or control your synth in real-time with Yamaha equipment such as the CS1X and AN1X, or a dedicated external controller such as the Phat Boy.
One downside is that SW-60 is quite noisy, producing a high-pitched hiss that some users have attributed to the quality of the output stages (though it true to say that the noisy electronic environment inside a PC is not ideal for any synth). Zeroing the mic and line inputs with the internal mixer using either the bundled Effect Gear II software or XG Edit will marginally reduce the noise floor, and turning off the onboard karaoke chip (!) is said to help too. The MU-10 is marginally quieter.
The thin manual is totally useless, but there is plenty of SW-60 information on the WWW.
Tip: use some decent speakers if you can - if you only have typical small PC monitors, consider hitching your sound card up to your hi-fi (IF you know what you are doing…..)
See also Yamaha DB-50 and MU-10 reviews.
Comments About the Sounds:
The filter 4 poles 24db/oct is really fantastic, thevariation section in the fx is unbelivable, all controlsrespond with the same feeling of an analog machine
Links for the Yamaha SW-60
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