Concerns and Questions for Yamaha/Steinberg

By • November 27, 2007

During the summer I wrote a column on developers posting more detailed system specs, especially on the Mac, so that customers could easily assess whether their current version of both the OS and the host program could run the desired virtual instrument. This is a more detailed follow up based on that original story where the software written about was done so generically to avoid unnecessary embarrassment and to remedy what should have been an easy fix – posting more specific system requirements.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and two composers who bought the program for use on the Mac, which was Broadway Big Band, wrote in expressing disappointing results with serious concerns.

One composer uses Digital Performer 5.1 while the other uses Logic 7.2. Both have received outstanding help from the distributor, SONiVOX, in resolving issues. In fact, both composers described the support from SONiVOX as being outstanding to the nth degree. But neither composer believes the program to be working as it should with one composer telling me that he had spent with his tech over $9000 get it to work right on the Mac, and as of this writing, still doesn’t have it working correctly.

On October 31, I received an email from the DP Composer who wrote (excerpted):

…for months the word from their camp is that an upgrade is “just days away.” It isn’t.

I thought you should know this in the event that Digital Performer users were interested in purchasing the software. It requires a very complicated process to get it to work, so unless the potential customer is technically advanced and has the patience of a saint, I put it upon you to inform them of BBB’s current status.

From my end, I’m not technically advanced and I’ve had four major projects that could have benefited from the BBB sounds but didn’t because I simply could not spend one more hour banging around trying to get it to function properly. The hours I’ve spent with ______________at Sonivox have shown him to be decent, pleasant and beyond generous. I just wish there were better results.

Where’s the problem and who’s responsible?

There are two problems. From speaking to the tech and both composers, there are clear issues with the installation instruction documentation. This is an ongoing industry issue that companies are not moving quickly enough to resolve. Creating a product is one art. Teaching how to use it, another. Bringing in people who can teach and who can write to create clear effective, easy-to-follow documentation may have an upfront cost, but the downstream cost is reduced tech support time for the company.

The second problem, apparently, is with the HALion player made by Steinberg and now owned by Yamaha. At days end, it’s the responsibility of Yamaha’s brand manager overseeing Steinberg to see to it that the HALion player operates reliably with the fewest number of problems on whatever platform the program is coded for. That’s where the first line of accountability goes. But that’s not where it ends.

Going to the web site to review the system requirements you can see in the first screen shot Steinberg’s report that the HALion player works with Logic 7.2 and DP 4.6 but not on the MacIntel system. With the Mac in transition over OSX, this is really super inadequate information. Unfortunately, it’s the only information that dealers, distributors and OEMs (aka developers) have to post. Since this is a licensing agreement, the first line of accountability goes back to Steinberg.

When the program was tested by Yamaha Steinberg, it was tested on a specific set of Macs, with a specific OS 10.x.x designation. That should be posted.

Unfortunately for the DP composer, this system spec was posted after he had purchased and tried to install the product. And even its posting doesn’t tell anyone whether the system requirement is for the HALion player that’s already in the field or the newer one. This is important because when a developer licenses a player for his product, the company licenses a specific player version and writes to it. One should not, and indeed, cannot, automatically assume that the newer player version is the same as the licensed version. So Steinberg has a lot of clarification to do and they’re the only ones who can do it.

Next I reviewed the Fable site. Here’s the posted system requirement.

The Mac system spec is very generic and needs to be updated.

PLEASE NOTE: For the PC and operating system selection, however, there’s nothing really to say except to say except that XP is required and possibly add that SP2 (Service Pack 2) is recommended. That’s it, done.

So no fault there.

Next, I visited the Fable Sounds forum as a guest. Unfortunately, the company moved their forum to a new server in mid-November, so any technical Q&A discussion prior to that is gone (per statements on the web site). Mac users wanting to install BBB on their Mac should go to the forum and ask installation tech questions first.

I realize that Fable Sounds, like many developers, is a small company where the majority of time must be spent in development. At the same time, they could put together a specific Mac insight sheet for Logic and DP respectively and make it available as either an online forum thread (similar to what Vienna does), or a word.doc or a PDF.

My challenge to Yamaha is that the posted specs on the Steinberg site are inadequate and given the popularity of Digital Performer in the professional film community, not having tested the HALion player on the current version of DP is just plain ludicrous as it can negatively impact the sales of any company licensing the HALion player for use on the Mac. Yamaha would never accept this poor level of quality control on one of its mixers or keyboards, and it shouldn’t on its software.

Fable Sounds has the responsibility, too, of posting up-to-date system requirements on their site, and then getting the specs to their distributor, SONiVOX. But there is one other concern. Look carefully at the screenshot and you’ll see: Broadway Performer™ works on both PC and Mac (Intel Mac not yet supported).

Broadway Performer™ is Fable Sounds patent pending proprietary MIDI processing system. Again, they need to post more detailed system requirements for Mac usage.

You can read a review of BBB at Sound On Sound online. It was installed on a PC, and knowing the technical competence of my colleagues at SOS, if there were something afoot with the PC version, they would have said so.

Prior to the Yamaha purchase of Steinberg, Steinberg SX customers were told that for the most accurate MIDI sync, they needed to get the MIDEX 8 because only the MIDEX 8 handled LTB, Linear Time Base communication protocol. You can read about it at Steinberg Canada . For SMPTE, you then needed Nuendo TimeBase.

If you follow the links, they lead to Steinberg Canada. I checked, and both pieces of equipment are still listed. But they aren’t listed on the web site.

Today, Cubase users are told to use MOTU or M-Audio MIDI interfaces.

Well, wait a minute. What happened to LTB? Is it no longer implemented in Cubase 4? Was it ever really needed in the first place? Since Yamaha manufactures hardware, why aren’t the MIDEX products on the web site?

Lots of questions with needed answers. The information presented came directly from owners of the program. Yamaha Steinberg, Fable Sounds or SONiVOX are welcomed to send in any comment or insight desired and FMW will publish it exactly as written.

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