I don't know how many times I've been asked how to create IDfiles.
Sound Quest's Midi Quest universal editor/librarian for Windowshas been around for quite some time, but with the introduction ofversion 8.0, it has clearly grown into a professional-qualityapplication. In fact, it now includes almost everything you need toedit, store, and organize the data for all your studio's MIDIdevices.
Midi Quest 8.0 supports nearly 500 MIDI devices and offers acollection of more than 67,000 public-domain patches for variousinstruments. In addition, there are a number of more advancedenhancements. For example, the program can now be used as aCakewalk MIDI Effect (MFX) or VST plug-in, and it can automaticallycreate Pro Audio Instrument Definition files.
With this new release, Sound Quest has provided tightintegration between Midi Quest and Infinity, the company'sobject-oriented, graphic MIDI control language. Other improvementsinclude automated Keyword assignments when building databases,one-button patch comparison, enhanced editing in the SysEx View,and support for all current Windows versions (including 2000 andME). In fact, this Midi Quest version incorporates more than 50 newenhancements, many of which are subtle but welcome.
Despite the numerous modifications, Midi Quest retains itsLibrarian, Group, Bank Editor, Patch Editor, and DBase windows. Asin earlier versions, Libraries are used to create a master list ofall your MIDI devices' patches. Other features, such as the MIDIController, Sequencer, MIDI Monitor, File Converter, and DriverCreator, are also still available. But the program is now moreflexible and refined in its data handling and editingcapabilities.
EM did an extensive review of Midi Quest 7.0 in the July 1999issue, so I'll focus on the new features in version 8.0. If you'reunfamiliar with the program, check out the earlier review or dropby Sound Quest's Web site (www.squest.com) for more information anda demo download of the program.
The program's most obvious change is the Patch Editor's new look(see Fig. 1). Instead of the plain-looking older versions, MidiQuest 8.0 features Skins that can change the Patch Editor'sappearance. There are several different Skins included with theprogram, and you can edit or create your own. The Skins featurelets you control color; background, slider, and knob graphics; andfonts, among other things. (You can't have different Skins fordifferent windows, but that's not a serious limitation.) Thefeature's value is purely aesthetic — it doesn't alter theEditor's functionality in any way.
A more significant change is the addition of keyboardequivalents for most of the menu functions. Those are particularlyhandy when you use the Patch Editor because they let you easilyjump from one work area to another. In addition, you can quicklyselect any of the Editor's four buffers to compare variations ofyour patches. Unfortunately, you can't customize the keyboardequivalents; you must learn the ones that are permanently etchedinto the program.
Another update worth mentioning is that all the program's dialogboxes conform to the Windows standard. They use the default Windowscolors and fonts, and they can be closed, maximized, or minimizedlike normal Windows dialogs, which makes working with the programmuch more efficient. It is now easier to gain access to differentDesktop configurations. As with earlier versions, you can savescreen layouts for later recall, but when you right-click on thedesktop in the new version, a pop-up menu provides access to allpreviously saved configurations. You no longer have to wade throughvarious menus and dialog boxes to find what you want.
One minor gripe is that Midi Quest includes only one toolbarthat can be docked or floating, and you can't customize it in anyother manner. I would like to be able to create and customizetoolbars for quick access to my favorite functions.
Perhaps the most significant change in Midi Quest 8.0 is theprogram's integration with other software products. They includeCakewalk's Pro Audio, Guitar Studio, and Home Studio; Steinberg'sCubase; and Sound Quest's Infinity real-time processing and MIDIcontrol software. (For a review of Infinity, see the September 2000issue of EM.)
Within the Cakewalk applications, Midi Quest can operate as anMFX plug-in. That lets you gain access to each of the five mainMidi Quest display/editing windows (Group, Library, Bank, Patch,and DBase) from within these programs. To do so, simply open aProject in a Cakewalk application, right-click on an empty MIDItrack's Effects Bin, and select Midi Quest MFX from the list. Toopen the Midi Quest plug-in, double-click on it. You can then openany Midi Quest file; depending on the type of file you choose, theappropriate window is displayed. For example, if you open a Bankfile, the Bank window opens (see Fig. 2). You can also open morethan one Midi Quest window by adding another instance of theplug-in to the Effects Bin.
Pro Audio users will also be happy to learn that Midi Quest 8.0can automatically create Instrument Definition (ID) files. I don'tknow how many times I've been asked how to create ID files, butwith Midi Quest 8.0, there's no longer any need for manual labor.You can quickly and easily export entire patch name banks from MidiQuest directly into the Pro Audio master.ins file or as a separateINS file for future importing or sharing among friends. Thisfeature is a massive time-saver, and as a Pro Audio user, I loveit.
Midi Quest can also operate as a VST 2.0 plug-in within Cubase.One advantage of running Midi Quest as a plug-in rather than aseparate application is that the plug-in offers automationcapabilities. Specifically, you can have the host applicationautomatically send Midi Quest data, such as a new bank of sounds,to your devices at appropriate times within a project.
Unfortunately, the Midi Quest plug-in doesn't provide the sameindividual parameter automation that you get with the standaloneversion (in which any parameter can be automated using MIDIcontroller data). But if you use Midi Quest with Infinity, you haveaccess to parameter automation and lots of other types of automatedprocesses. Infinity lets you construct various types of MIDIprocessing programs by assembling modules on a graphic“workbench.” For example, you can create your own MIDIdelays, transposers, arpeggiators, rechannelizers, and muchmore.
Infinity's Midi Quest Edit object provides access to any MidiQuest window and lets you manipulate just about all Midi Questparameters (see Fig. 3). By opening the Patch Editor window usingthe Midi Quest Edit object, you can automate any patch parameter inreal time. Imagine the possibilities! (See the Sound Quest Web sitefor special pricing if you own one of its products and wish topurchase another.)
ORGANIZATION IS KEY
One of an editor/librarian's most important functions is to keeptrack of all the patches in your collection. Midi Quest is wellequipped for the task, especially with the latest version'sexpanded Keyword features.
You use Keywords to find a patch within your collection, andversion 8.0 automates Keyword assignments. Every time you add apatch to the library, its name is analyzed for matches withexisting Keywords. If a match is found, the Keyword is associatedwith the new patch. For example, if you add a patch called“Soft Piano” to a library and you already defined theword “Piano” as a Keyword, “Piano” isautomatically assigned as a Keyword to the new patch. (Up to eightKeywords can be linked to a patch.) Also, when a Keyword is renamedin one library, you have the choice of making the same change inall your libraries.
You can also create a list of shortened names for use with theautomatic Keywords feature. For example, you can use the short form“Pno” in place of “Piano,” so that anypatch name containing “Pno” will automatically beassigned “Piano” as a Keyword. This comes in very handywith synths that provide limited space for their patch names.
Finally, Keywords can be used with Midi Quest's Sequencerfeature. Specifically, you can now assign a sequence to a Keyword.That is great for auditioning patches with music that's suited tothe specific sound type. For example, you might have a piano-musicsequence assigned to the Keyword “Piano.” Then when youwant to audition a piano patch with that Keyword, the sequenceautomatically loads and plays music that's appropriate to thesound.
Midi Quest supports more than 465 instruments with more comingall the time, so there was no way I could test all the modules.However, I did test Midi Quest with a number of the synths I own,such as the Roland Sound Canvas (SC-55) and the E-mu Proteus/2.
Of course, editor/librarians give you complete access to allparameters in a synth, and Midi Quest 8.0 definitely delivers inthat respect. I really enjoy tinkering with the individual drumpanning and volume parameters on the Sound Canvas without having towade through a slew of unwieldy menus. I love the fact that I canview and manipulate all the main parameters for each of the 16Sound Canvas Parts on a single screen as well. I was tweakin' likea madman.
I also like the flexibility with which you can view and enterparameter values. If you prefer to use numeric values instead ofgraphic sliders, you can enable Numeric Display in the Patch Edittab, and all the editors will display precise numeric values fortheir settings.
One thing I'd like to see is an easier way to input a key rangefor each Part. It would be nice to have a little graphic keyboardpop up so that you could choose notes by sight rather than just byname.
Working with the Proteus module is similar to using the SoundCanvas. It's great having access to the unit's many“buried” parameters so easily. However, editingenvelopes graphically is somewhat limiting in the default displaybecause the parameters only change in increments of 2. (Proteusenvelopes use a range of nonspecific units from 0 to 99.) Luckily,you can adjust the parameters more precisely by typing numericvalues. Another option is to use Midi Quest's customizationfeatures to change the envelope display size on the screen, givingthe envelope controls higher resolution and letting you stepthrough the values in increments of 1.
Finally, I have one big wish, which no editor/librarian softwarethat I know of provides. I'd like to see more documentation for thevarious parameters in different instrument modules. I realize thatusers are expected to read their synth manuals, but the names ofonscreen parameters are often just as cryptic as their LCDcounterparts. It would be wonderful to right-click on a parameterand have a full description, complete with a few usage tips, pop upin a separate window. No doubt the cost of this detailed help wouldbe somewhat prohibitive, though.
There are a number of less significant updates in version 8.0that still enhance the Midi Quest experience. These include arevised SysEx View (which lets you edit any byte of data), theability to list sequences by name instead of number, and aone-click Patch-comparison feature.
I would also like to commend Sound Quest for its decision toremove copy protection from Midi Quest. The control disk includedwith older versions is no longer required. Another important plusis the program's excellent documentation. Not only does Midi Questinclude a whopping 5 MB help file, but there's a very nice printedmanual as well. In addition, there are more than 300 MB ofvideo-based tutorials on the CD. This is clearly a well-documentedproduct.
There are a few improvements I'd like to see (for example,custom toolbars and key commands), but those shortcomings pale incomparison to the wide array of additions to the program. Beingable to run Midi Quest within Pro Audio and create ID filesautomatically is especially useful. Also, the new Keyword featuresreally make categorizing and searching for patches a breeze.Longtime users will find this new version very welcome, and newusers will discover the great joys of controlling all their gearfrom a single software application.
Scott R. Garrigus is the author of Cakewalk Power and SoundForge Power as well as the publisher of DigiFreq, a musictechnology newsletter. For more information, surf to www.garrigus.com.
Minimum System Requirements
80386/66; 4MB RAM; Windows
95/98/ME/NT 4.0/2000; MIDI interface
Midi Quest 8.0 (Win)
FEATURES 4.0 EASE OF USE 3.0 DOCUMENTATION 4.0 VALUE 4.0 RATING PRODUCTS FROM 1 TO 5
PROS: Integration with other applications including Pro Audio,Cubase, and Infinity. Excellent documentation including help file,printed manual, and videos. Library Keyword enhancements. No copyprotection. Automatic Pro Audio ID file creation.
CONS: Keyboard shortcuts and toolbars not customizable.