Pulsar II Card
One of the most powerful budget DSP cards available
Traviss Willcox writes:
With the Pulsar II, you're getting less an audio solution, more of an audio system. Just browsing through the manuals gives an idea of the depth, power and possibilities of the system.
With the proviso I make below, the Pulsar II system is a top-notch card for a PC. The virtual synths could sell the system on their own. They open up an attractive world of synthesis and sampling. Then throw in the 20 in/out audio interface, MIDI interface and a 32-channel mixer and you really do have the hub of a realistic virtual system.
A big investment is required, both in terms of time and money; it's no instant solution, and getting the most from it requires a fairly steep learning curve once you've mastered the basics. You'll need a serious PC too, with an emphasis on memory: with 128Mb there was the odd hiccup, I suspect that 192 or 256Mb is a sensible working amount.
While the system doesn't quite have the support or power of a full blown Pro Tools system, it's certainly getting there, and as long as everything remains compatible through the various incarnations that are bound to follow, then it's developing into a serious Digi challenger, both in price terms and functionality.
(Nick B writes) This review was not without problems - firstly trying to install the card on a Mac: (9600/g3 450MHzz upgrade card, 128Mb RAM)
Though the hardware seemed to go in without any problems, I had trouble with the authorization - there were no program icons and I had to find the right app to run by instinct.
I did manage to run the system for a short while and playback some audio through Logic from disc - I couldn't get any synths to sound or recieve any MIDI either from OMS or direct cable in. This was frustrating as it looks so good!
After a few more attempts my system crashed and I had to totally reformat and re-install my system - I guess this may have been a coincidence.
Bottom line, I think Pulsar II for the Mac is not up to the level of the PC version yet - the software I used needed to be brought up to scratch.
Having said that, Creamware have released version 2.01 for the Mac and assure me that it is now much improved. As I've not tested that I can't vouch for it but I do hope so.
On the PC, at first, I suffered from random lock-ups, that required a cold reboot. 25Mb of patches later, scanning around user forums and a couple of tech support calls later, it does seem rather more stable, though still suffering an occasional complete lock-up and dreaded blue screen. One doesn't doubt the quality of the system or the support that CreamWare offer, but it does make you wonder why they just didn't delay things for a month or two to iron out a few bugs and include the Modular II synth as standard rather than as a later freebie. [Time to market pressures, I guess - Ed]
I came across a bug list in one user forum, that was as long as your arm. while I accept that many of these are very minor, and only affect certain set ups, buyers shouldn't be beta testers. - Creamware assured us that this list is somewhat out of date and shouldn't be seen as an indicator.
Grumble aside, I'm going to have another play with the MiniMo... sorry Miniscope, before I have to give it back... Keith Emerson eat your heart out…