Adventures In Audio
Akai S1100EX 16 Voice Expansion Unit for the S1100 (part 3)

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

Thursday January 1, 2004
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Faster Than MIDI - SCSI

We are by now very well used to pieces of musical equipment talking to each
other along pieces of wire called MIDI cables (I wonder what they say about
us?). But MIDI has always been, and always will be, a very pedestrian interface.
It takes whole milliseconds just to pass the simplest of messages for goodness’
sake! How long this situation can last I don’t know. Professional and other
serious users have been straining at the leash ever since MIDI sequencers and
the bits and bytes of the MIDI signal have almost been bursting out of the cable
in the rush to get to the other end. Making a faster interface is perfectly
possible, but unfortunately it’s bound to cost more and cannot be compatible
with low end users for whom ordinary MIDI is good enough. Nevertheless, there
is another standard which is becoming more and more of interest to users of
high tech musical equipment - SCSI, which stands for Small Computer Systems
Interface, if you didn’t know by now. SCSI is altogether better and faster
and one day, I predict, will engage in a wonderfully productive relationship
with MIDI and sequenced music making will take a giant leap into the future.

The S1100 and S1100EX use SCSI to communicate with each other, transferring
sample and edit data very quickly. The SCSI standard allows for a total of seven
different SCSI devices so the first thing we must do is connect up the system
and make sure the SCSI settings are correct. Figure 1 shows the MIDI and SCSI
hook up. The MIDI cable goes, naturally enough from the THRU connector on the
S1100 to the IN of the S1100EX. The SCSI cable goes from the single SCSI port
on the S1100 to the top SCSI port on the S1100EX. If you really are wealthy
and have more S1100EXs, then the second SCSI port can be used to daisy chain
extra units.

To use SCSI successfully you need to be aware of technicalities like SCSI ID
numbers and terminators. Now in case you thought that a terminator was a nasty
machine sent from the future to get you good, a SCSI terminator is simply a
means of telling the SCSI controlling software where the end of the daisy chain
is. If you have only one S1100EX, then the termination switch is set to On.
Since there can be up to seven SCSI devices on the daisy chain, each one needs
an identification number exactly analogous to identifying instruments by MIDI
channels. The S1100 and S1100EX have preset ID numbers so that in their factory
fresh state you can connect them up and start work, but if you are adding to
an existing SCSI system, or someone has been fiddling, then you have to make
sure that each is set to a different ID number. The manual makes all of this
perfectly clear, although I suspect when computer technology is applied to musical
instruments more than it is now, the difficulties will multiply.

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