What is the Falcon?
It's a computer, which was created by Atari in 1992, equipped with a DSP, enabling Steinberg to develop their Cubase program further - into hard disk recording on the Atari platform. I've used a Falcon system in my studio for several years with great results and I'd recommend it to anyone who's more comfortable with the Atari system than with PC or Mac, since it really works very well and is very reliable. The sad part is that Steinberg don't update Cubase for Atari anymore, but naturally they can't continue supporting a platform where no new machines are sold, so I understand their point of view fully.
My own Falcon system had, among other things, 8 independent balanced outputs and two balanced inputs. It was also equipped with an S/Pdif interface, 4 extra midi out ports, a CD-writer, over 5GB of HD space and much more. So even though I had a PC that should have worked rather well with VST, I continued using the Falcon for quite a long time for my music making, since it's always been a more stable system, without soundcard problems and glitches between midi and audio. The PC version has become better and better, so now even I've made a switch - more about my current computer setup on the studio page.
What's needed to get started with HD-recording on the Falcon?
- Atari / C-lab Falcon with 4MB or 16MB RAM (I recommend 16MB).
- SVGA monitor + SVGA adapter (or RGB - but SVGA gives you a more stable picture).
- Cubase Audio - preferably with an S/Pdif (digital interface), which gives you the possibility to use external A/D-D/A converters (like DAT or similar). To be honest, the converters that are built into the Falcon from the start aren't as good as you'd wish for - and besides, the S/Pdif interface gives you the possibility to use a standard DAT with digital in/out as a cheap tape streamer for your audio files. Cubase Audio plays back 8 audio tracks with effects (OK, the effects in the program aren't the best around - but anyway) or 16 tracks without effects (optional in the program). When using the 16-tracks setting, the data is compressed (intelligent compression, like with DCC and MD), so that hard disk space requirement is about the same as in the 8-track mode. Naturally, the sound quality is somewhat affected by the compression.
- If you don't need any midi tracks, you can use SoundPool's AudioTracker, which records and plays up to 8 audio tracks at once. When using AudioTracker, a fast EIDE-harddisk is recommended rather than SCSI.
- If you need to send the audio tracks separately to an external mixer, JAM8, FAD, FA-4 and FA-8 are available and they give you a much better sound quality than the built-in D/A-converters.
- To speed up the graphics I recommend that you install NVDI.
- External SCSI-II harddisk where the audio tracks will be recorded (Cubase Audio can't handle IDE/EIDE). For 8 or 16 tracks, about 40MB/minute is used. Access time can be at the most 13ms to be able to use 4-6 tracks, while 8 tracks needs an access time of about 11ms, or that you split the different recordings between different harddisks (PHYSICAL harddisks - not different partitions on the same disk). It is possible to use slower harddisks, but the performance is a little more uncertain then - they might not be able to handle more than half of the tracks - the rest can be put in RAM-tracks if there is enough RAM available. To get a flawless operation you should defragment the harddisk quite often (I always used Diamond Edge). To some extent, the computer can be used as a sampler, but since one track is used for each voice, this function is mostly useable for loops and effects sounds. Sampler tracks need much memory, since the samples are loaded into RAM instead of played from the harddisk, and can only be used on 16MB Falcons.
- Both ADAT-interface and JAM-IN2/8 are useable with Cubase Audio since version 2.06 (which also is the last version) and these interfaces allow you to choose which stereo couple out of four you want to record from. A program called ADATREC is included in the 2.06 update and this program records 8 tracks simultaneously as 4 stereo tracks, which can be imported into Cubase's audio pool.
About my own Falcon machine
My Falcon was housed in a full tower, to make sure that most of the things I needed could fit inside the case. I added an interface for standard PC-keyboards, as well as an interface for a PC-mouse - since they are of higher quality than the original Atari keyboard and mouse.
Because I have a small company (Holmerup Musik & Data) and still sell some Atari related products (not to mention the nostalgic reasons ;) ), I still have a Falcon - but in a standard case and with external harddisk and CD-ROM.
The hard disks etc were as follows...Quantum Fireball 1.3GB + 2.1GB
SCSI: Conner 2.1GB, Toshiba 12X CD-ROM, Philips CDD2600 CD-writer, external Iomega Zip-drive.
The computer was accellerated a little bit with a Speed resolution card, which gave me a CPU speed of up to 36MHz, an FPU speed of 32MHz and a bus speed of up to 18MHz. It also enabled higher screen resolutions, like 800*600, which I used most frequently. I waited in vain for new accellerators from CENTEK, TITAN DESIGNS and WIZZTRONICS, which were claimed to give an awsome speed enhancement. Centek's CenturboII seems to work ok even though there are some problems installing it in some Falcons, but the other ones haven't seen the light of day yet.
The extra music equipment for my computer was the following:
Philip Rees 3M Mergebox, to be able to record midi from three sources at the same time.
S/Pdif interface for connecting to digital sources with both coaxial and optical connections in and out.
MO-4 gives 4 extra midi outputs (totally 80 midi channels together with the built-in midi port).
Here you'll find the latest driver for MO-4, to put in the MROS-folder.
JAM-8 has 8 separate balanced outputs with professional data.
JAM-IN2 has two balanced inputs with equally professional data.
Roland CS-10 micro monitor for times when I didn't feel like starting up the whole studio when working only with midi.
C-lab Combiner gave me the possibility to have up to four cartridges (for CAF, ZeroX and DeNoiser - the last one was empty) connected at the same time. I had to modify the Combiner a bit to be able to use it in my tower-housed Falcon, though.