It has been some time since we've done a full review of a hardware accessory for such systems like the C64, so here we are with a brand new product directly from Shareware Plus, the 'CynthCART 64'. Now you may remember Shareware Plus's 'uCassette' , which enabled users of the C64 to play tapes via your mobile or audio equipment directly into the C64 as MP3 or Wav files. Or the 1541 Diagnostic Cartridge for disk drive diagnostics, but what we have here is completely different. This is in fact an Analogue Digitizer, designed by Paul Slocum, manufactured by Shareware Plus with special thanks to Siem Appelman, that turns your C64 into a standalone analog synthesizer! Yes you too can make music via your C64, and thanks to this short review (I'm not a music artist) you can see what it's like!
Now the first thing that smacks you in the face when the delivery is opened up, is how bright and colourful the design packaging is including the instruction manual. It's as if the ZX Spectrum made out with the C64 and this was its baby! Also added with the instruction manual which clearly says what features the CynthCART 64 v2 has including the different modes, is a shortcut key info sheet. This info sheet gives you a rather large list of key functions, with the top two rows of the Commodore keys functioning as a piano keyboard and compatible with a C64 piano keyboard overlay.
Main Features :
- 30 preset sound patches
- Arpeggiator, portamento, vibrato, and tremolo effects
- Analog filter control and effects
- Control of attack, release, and other sound parameters
- MIDI support including pitch bend, patch changes, and controllers
- On-screen help
- Color visualizer display
- Mono stack, 3-voice mode, and 6-voice mode (with second SID)
- No latency
- SID hex editor for advanced users
- Ability to turn off video chip to reduce noise
- PAL and NTSC pitch tables with automatic selection
- Copies itself to RAM (cartridge can be removed after booting)
- Commodore 64 piano keyboard overlay
- Datel, Passport, Sequential, and Kerberos MIDI interface cartridges
- Paddle controllers in port 2 for filter, pulse width, vibrato, and pitch
- 2nd SID chip for stereo and 6-voice sound
Attaching the cart to the back of the C64 was as straight forward as ever, not unless you have a dirty cart slot, you'll have no problems putting this in. It's just a shame the cart wasn't as colourful as the packaging, now that would've really made this stand out... Or am I just being picky?
Upon starting the C64, you'll be greeted to this screen above which doesn't look like much, but believe me when you press those keys, the C64 comes alive with tones and waves of coloured bars. Now the problem is and it isn't the device, it's a shame I couldn't do a much deeper review, as I'm just no good at music, it means nothing to me at a skilled level. However I will say this directly from the source : Cynthcart's key-command user interface allows it to be played and controlled without a monitor, making it especially suitable for live performance. The original Commodore 64 piano keyboard overlay can be used and Datel, Passport, Sequential, and Kerberos MIDI interface cartridges are now supported
If that wasn't enough to tease you, the CynthCart also has a SID HEX Editor, which allows advanced users to modify SID registers directly. Sound Modes, which is all of 16 voicing modes that affect how played notes are distributed to the SID's three voices ( Second SID chip installation uses a stereo chorus effect ), and a Modulation Mode, which are preset configurations of an LFO or envelope tied to the filter cut off or pulse width.
So yes all in all this is a nice device for making music, especially for live performances. If you have a Piano C64 overlay however, this would be even better, as I can just imagine musical artists really showing off their talent with this great CynthCART 64 v2 addition. But once again I must apologize for not doing a big review, testing everything this device has to offer, because as I said, music creation is just way beyond my skills.
For further information head on over to the main Shareware Plus page to buy it now
Links : 1) Source 2) Ebay