These days, there is a plethora of cheap hardware and software which you can use to make digital music. Back in the 1980s, though, this was still a nascent field, with new gear changing the game for musicians. In his latest video, [cTrix] puts together a guide to building a budget MIDI home studio like it’s 1988.
The original Atari ST is the star of the show, which sold for around £300 back then. Unlike most contemporary computers, it came with MIDI ports built-in, and it quickly became a popular platform for music sequencing and controlling external synth hardware. It was often spotted in posh studios being used by big-time musicians, but [cTrix] wanted to look at how it was used by more humble users.
While the Atari ST could output some passable chiptunes, it was most powerful when paired with off-board gear. Industry magazines would readily talk up “DIY” setups worth thousands, but [cTrix] aimed for a budget in the low hundreds. In 1988, that might get you something like the 16-channel Yamaha PSS-580, which rocked full MIDI support and a ton of sounds and drumkits built in. It ran an OPL soundchip, and could play multiple instruments at once under MIDI control from software like Dr. T’s MIDI Recording Studio.
Of course, if you’ve ever played a keyboard like the PSS-580, you’ll have noted that the sound output can be more than a little chintzy. A cheap way to level up was to get yourself something like the Roland MT-32, which rocked a far higher-quality sound module. Everything from slap bass to solid electric pianos could be blasted out from the Roland, which also included a decent reverb unit, too. [cTrix] also dives into other budget heroes, like the rich and expansive Kawai K1 and the Yamaha EMT-10.
If you want to make music like it’s 1988 and you’re hunting for your first gold record, you’ll learn a lot here. We can’t wait for Part 2, that explores the next level of sophistication in this era. His previous lessons on how to make 90s dance bangers on the Amiga are a treat, too.