Music and Gaming - Ghost in a Shell (PS1)

In this series we take a look at computer game soundtracks from the past that influenced a generation of people to become fans of electronic and underground music. It is no secret that for the youth of the 80s and 90s, computer games played an integral roll in influencing and forming musical tastes. From techno to hip-hop, video games exposed the youth to music that was outside of commercial radio at the time, and long before the internet. Join us on our journey in rediscovering the best of the bunch. 


When I was a younger self I used to look forward to the release of Official Playstation Magazine like it was Christmas each and every month. Why? Because of the DEMO DISC that came with every issue. I used to rinse the one or two level games on them in times where buying the full game might not have been possible. It was a little taster of games I wanted until I had saved enough pocket money to go buy the full thing. And in Official UK Playstation Magazine 18 vol. 2 I was exposed to ‘Ghost in a Shell’ for the very first time along with its soundtrack.

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Ghost In A Shell’ started as the Japanese manga series illustrated by  Masamune Shirow.  The manga, first serialised in 1989 under the subtitle of The Ghost in the Shell, told the story of the fictional counter-cyberterrorist organisation Public Security Section 9, led by protagonist Major Motoko Kusanagi, in the mid-21st century of Japan. There has since been a number of films released along with TV Series, however it is the game released for the PS1 which we are interested in today.

Ghost in the Shell the game was developed by Exact and released for the PlayStation on July 17, 1997, in Japan by Sony Computer Entertainment and later in the rest of the world. It is a third-person shooter featuring an original storyline where the character plays a rookie member of Section 9. The game was alright however the soundtrack Megatech Body was an absolute monster that I still listen to on regular occasions.

Although at the time of first playing the game the soundtrack, although appreciated, probably at the time not given the full appreciation it deserved. Several years after this I began clubbing and partaking in all that goes with it and I soon began to find myself listening to this at after parties along with similar appreciative pals.
With the likes of Joey Beltram, The Advent and Derrick May providing the tracks the theme is obviously Grade-A techno throughout the first half of the OST. Some of it serious, industrial and pounding, whilst others are more Detroit and Chicago influenced with bigger chords and groovier drums, like with Dave Angels ‘Can You Dig It’ and Derrick May’s ‘To Be Or Not To Be (Off The Cuff Mix)’. The second hour is a more eclectic collection of electronic music spanning electro, house and acid. A personal favourite from this half is a lovely detroit-ey house banger called ‘So High’.

I would love to pick out a more favourites but to be honest every one of the tracks is amazing and something I would happily play out in a club today. We really were spoilt for choice in the 90s when it came to gaming soundtracks and this epitomises that in every way.

If you’ve heard it before then reminisce. If not, enjoy.

1 – Takkyu Ishino - Ghost In The Shell

2 – Mijk Van Dijk - Firecracker

3 – Brother From Another Planet - Ishikawa Surfs The System

4 - Hardfloor - Spook & Spell (Fast Version)

5 - WestBam - Featherhall

6 - Joey Beltram - The Vertical

7 - Scan X - Blinding Waves

8 - The Advent - The Searcher Part II

9 - BCJ - Spectre

10 - Dave Angel - Can U Dig It

11 - Derrick May - To Be Or Not To Be (Off The Cuff Mix)

12 Fuchi Koma

13 Down Loader

14 Thanato

15 Moonriver

16 Brain Dive

17 Spook & Spell (Slow Version)

18 Die Dunkelsequenz

9 Section 9 Theme

20 So High

21 Mysterious Traveller (The Mix Of A Mix Mix)

Decloak Review - DJ Monitor Speakers Under £300

In this series we explore what is on the market in terms of music production software & hardware and DJ equipment. Each time will aim to provide you with all the information needed to be confident in your next purchase. Join our e-mail list here to keep posted on future articles. This week we are looking at DJ Speakers for less than £300.

 

Firstly, what are the advantages of using individually powered monitors over, say, an amp and passive speakers? Monitor speakers will provide a more accurate and truthful sound, plus a more adequate stereo representation of the music. HiFi speakers are generally designed to colour the sound and make it sound better than it might be on the recording. Other downfalls of a passive system include increased risk of overheating and more physical space needed for the amp. Most importantly, active monitors are designed specifically for near-field analysis of music and will always give accurate feedback about what it is your mixing, meaning they are essential tools for practicing your skills as a DJ or producer.

In this review we are taking a look at a range of speakers under the £300 mark (all prices are for pairs). To try and help sum up some pro’s and con’s of each type of speaker and help you decide what might be most suitable for your needs if you are a first or second time buyer of monitor speakers. The main focus here is on speakers suitable for home DJ setups, but we will also be taking into consideration at how they will fare in a hybrid production set up, and also how suitably they might double up for general listening. All but one of the speakers listed below are in the 5 inch range. This refers to the ‘Woofer’, which is the larger cone on the speaker where the low and mid frequencies are produced. The smaller cone is referred to as the tweeter. All but two of the entries are be available in bigger sizes (usually 6, 7, 8 or 10 inch). For most with a medium sized bedroom/studio, 5 inch monitors should suffice, but there’s not too much harm in going for bigger speakers if you want a bit more bottom end and volume (and don’t mind annoying the neighbours a bit more), if you have the cash to spare. 

These reviews do come with a significant caveat regarding acoustics and speaker positioning. Not many people have the time, money or means to purposely soundproof any given space, however there are things you can do so that you get the best out of your choice of speakers. Speaker stands and isolation pads are well worth spending an extra 50 or so quid on as it will make finding a suitable position for them much easier plus it will isolate the speaker and significantly reduce any potential coupling effect (cancellation of low frequencies) caused by the speaker being too close to a wall or a lack of dispersion from the speakers being sat directly on a sound absorbing surface like a wooden desk or shelving unit.

Obviously talking about speakers and listing their pro’s and con’s can only give so much information. We would implore anyone thinking about buying monitor speakers to read this article, then go to your local DJ or Music shop and listen to the few that you think will be most suitable for you. Nothing will be more informative that your own ears!

 
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PIONEER DJ DM-40BT

Pioneer are of course a very reputable brand when it comes to DJ equipment. These entry level speakers are of the active/passive type, meaning you will need just one mains connection, with the passive speaker being connected to the active speaker with a standard speaker cable. They rely on an RCA (red and white) connection and are ideal for smaller set-ups, especially where you might have a bus powered DJ controller or small mixer that only has RCA on the Master Output. They sound nice and punchy and can go pretty loud for their size, but there are clear limitations here with the woofer being just 4 inches (compared to the rest in this review being 5 inch). The bass frequencies aren’t as ‘rich’ as the manufacturer might claim when you compare them to some of the other options in this article, but it is still an impressive sound for a speaker of this size. The bluetooth connectivity is a really handy feature allowing you to connect another bluetooth device like a phone or tablet to wirelessly play audio, meaning these speakers will be really handy for those who might have their decks or controller in a room where you also listen to music casually. They also come with a 3.5mm Jack to RCA so they can easily be plugged into any headphone socket. They also come in a standard non-bluetooth version for around £50 cheaper, and both models are also available in white.

For more information click here and for the full manufacturer specifications click here

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MACKIE CR5BT £215

These speakers have all the pro’s of the DM40’s with them being active/passive and having an inbuilt bluetooth receiver, plus they have a 5 inch woofer capable of reaching a little further into those much desired low frequencies. The specification claims they will represent frequencies as low as 60Hz, whereas the close competitor in the DM40’s reach is 70Hz (the human ear can detect as low as 20Hz). It would not be fair to compare those two exactly so we tested the 4 inch version of the Mackie CR range and the Mackie’s did come out better in terms of overall sound quality and richness so this is a speaker well worth considering spending a little more on if you want good connectivity on top of a nice sounding speaker. They do also have inputs for TRS ¼ inch Jack as well as the RCA giving the option to use a balanced connection and no need for any converters if your sound source does not have RCA Master out. All in all these are probably the best value for money in the active/passive category. That said, these speakers are rear bass ported. This means the port that allows the energy created by cone vibrating back and forth to be dispersed is via the hole at the back of the speaker and this can be more susceptible to a cancelling out of certain low frequencies depending on the positioning and acoustics of the room.

To find out more about the Mackie CR5BT click here and for the full product specification click here

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KRK ROKIT RP5 G3 £258

The KRK Rokits are likely to be the most well known and most recognised of all the products featured in this review. Their iconic yellow ‘Aramid glass composite’ woofer is known the world over, and these have been a mainstay in many studios both amateur and professional for the past 20 years. The reason for this is mainly because they are a great sounding speaker with a frequency range of 45Hz to 35,000Hz, you can start to see the benefit in having two individually powered monitors. Unlike the first two entries both of these speakers will need to be plugged in at the wall, but with more power comes a better frequency response and more room to drive the speakers to higher volumes if required. Despite there clear popularity, some do not see the Rokits as having a particularly ‘true’ sound and claim that the bottom end is hyped. It’s certainly true that they do have a lot of wellie in the bottom end, and most speakers this size do not go as low as 45Hz. This might be something to consider avoiding if you are thinking about also using your speakers as production monitors as well as for the decks. This being said many may favour the rich bottom end, especially those playing hip hop and bass heavy dance music. Furthermore, there is a High and Low Frequency adjust setting on the back which can be adjusted accordingly, along with a gain knob. It has been reported by some that Rokits are prone to overheating, however this is likely to be due to prolonged use at volumes that might be too loud for one person - none of the speakers in this list are exactly ideal for parties or gatherings for more than a dozen or so people as they are designed to sound good in the optimal listening position. These speakers have RCA, TRS Jack and XLR connections.

To find out more about the Rokit RP5 G3 click here and for the full product specification click here

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Pioneer DJ S-DJ50x £249

The Pioneer SDJx range are quite similar to the Rokits in many ways. They look fairly similar bar the yellow woofer, are front bass-ported, and they also sound fairly similar. There is a slight difference, though with the low range - it’s not quite as obvious as the Rokits. These are a great sounding speaker given the price. Another feature that they share with the KRK’s is the thin layer of dense foam padding on the base of the unit. This is helps isolate the sound and also stops any movement of the speaker caused by vibration (and meaning they are less likely to be accidently knocked or pushed off their resting place!). The specifications of this speaker states the frequency range is 50Hz to 20,000Hz, so not as broad as the Rokits, but it’s worth knowing that most adult ears can only detect up to 20,000hz when it comes to high frequencies. These speakers have the full complement of RCA, TRS Jack and XLR connections on the rear, plus a high frequency level adjust and gain knob, and a handy auto-standby feature that will mean they will power off after a period of no sound, which is fantastic for the more absent minded of us, and also if your speakers are in a tricky to reach spot.

To find out more about the Pioneer S-DJ50x click here and for the full product specification click here

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YAMAHA HS5 £272

Yamaha is a brand synonymous with high quality speakers as well as other various instruments and studio equipment. The iconic white woofer has been a mainstay in many studios since the 70’s. The main observation when listening to these speakers over their competitors is that they provide a very flat and true sound. The midrange is much clearer in these monitors when compared to others in the same price bracket, meaning these should be a strong contender for those who expect to be producing tracks as much as DJing with them. That said the frequency range goes from 54 Hz to 30,000hz, so if you are using them to write music be sure to reference your tracks on a system that will confirm your sub bass frequencies are at the right level (or go for the 6 or 8 inch option). The HS range are probably the best value for money in terms of a DJ/production crossover due to the almost perfectly flat frequency response. However, these speakers only have TRS Jack and XLR inputs on the rear, so if you happen to have a DJ mixer or controller that only has an RCA output, it’s likely you will need some sort of adapter for your cables. One other factor to consider with these speakers is that, unlike the Rokits and S-DJ50x, they are rear bass ported, meaning some sort of stand and/or isolation pads will be essential to get the best out of them. All of the HS range are available in both black and white.

To find out more about the Yamaha HS5 click here and for the full product specification click here

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ADAM AUDIO T5V £290

Adam Audio are a company that tend to be more associated with top end studio monitors. This incarnation of speaker is their most recent, and an attempt from the company to provide entry level users with the high quality Adam Audio sound. Clearly, at such a lower price point than the X series, they don’t sound quite as good as the mid to high range products, but one thing you might notice from the images of this speaker is that the tweeter looks quite different. This is called a ribbon tweeter and is pretty much unheard of at this price point. Ribbon tweeters are designed to be less harsh but still as accurate as the silk ones you usually find at this price point, and are more suited to long mixing sessions (either DJ or production) as they cause less fatigue to the ear. On the rear we see High and Low frequency adjustment settings, a gain knob, and an XLR and RCA input. A significant difference to other speakers here is that they have a switch to choose your input (for speakers without this, if there is two cables plugged in you will get no sound). So this means you can theoretically have your decks and audio interface connected at the same time and just use the switch depending on whether you are producing or DJing. Another feature that work well in tandem with this is the design on the speaker being as such to increase the size of the sweet spot, again meaning that if you optimise the positioning for when you are sitting down to write tracks, when you stand up to fire up the decks the sound should not change too dramatically. Unlike the their older sibling the A5X, these speakers are rear bass ported, so stands and or isolation pads would be strongly advisable. When comparing these to the Yamaha HS range, both provide a nice, accurate response, with the Adam’s sounding a little warmer with a less clinical mid-range.

To find out more about the Yamaha HS5 click here and for the full product specification click here

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MACKIE MR524 £278

The MR range have recently been re-designed and according to the manufacturer have an ‘ultra-wide’ sweet spot, due to the curved shape of the front panel around the woofer and tweeter. This design is said to help disperse the sound well and will make your (production) mixes sound great anywhere due to their logarithmic waveguide that minimises reflections and match the high frequency dispersion of the tweeter to that of the woofer. This is what provides the ultra-wide sweet spot. This is a great thing to know for both producers and DJs. They are rear bass-ported and they do have various settings for various likely speaker positioning situations, plus a handy little diagram on the back panel of the speaker to suggest what setting you should choose if your speakers are close to a wall or in a corner. This means that (unlike the Adam T series) if you can’t stretch the extra for stands, you can tailor the sound of the speaker to best match your acoustic space. Technically these are 5.24 Inch woofers (hence the name) allowing the frequency response to go to 45Hz to 20,000Hz, although this might differ slightly depending on which acoustic setting you have selected. When listening to these speakers and comparing them to the others, they do have a noticeably wide sweet spot and a great punchy sound. It’s hard to say which of the monitors features sound the ‘best’ or more accurate, but it might well be these ones. Like we suggested earlier in the article, go and listen to them for yourself! 

To find out more about the Mackie MR524 click here and for the full product specification click here

All prices accurate according to www.bopdj.com as of August 2018. Bop DJ have show rooms in Manchester, Leeds and Brighton.

Decloak Review - Entry Level DJ Controllers

We take a look at the latest entry level DJ Controllers on the market to try and help make sense of the myriad of choice. Pro and Cons discussed for each one to try and help you with your decision if you are thinking about purchasing your first controller.

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Music and Gaming - 'Grand Theft Auto' (PS1, 1997)

 

 In this series we take a look at computer game soundtracks from the past that influenced a generation of people to become fans of electronic and underground music. It is no secret that for the youth of the 80s and 90s, computer games played an integral roll in influencing and forming musical tastes. From techno to hip-hop, video games exposed the youth to music that was outside of commercial radio at the time, and long before the internet. Join us on our journey in rediscovering the best of the bunch. 

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LONG, long before it was abbreviated to just 'GTA', the first release in the franchise was graphically a far-cry away from where it is now. The now infamous Rockstar Games were a practically unknown games developer before they smashed into people lives with this epic title. Sure, they were still  called DMA, based in Dundee,  when 'Grand Theft Auto' was released, but they became Rockstar. Not only was the game perfect for any teen of the 90's being rebellious in nature and rife in its reference to drugs, guns and gangs, the developers reputation was cemented as bad boys of the gaming world when they were faced with lawsuit, after lawsuit after lawsuit from all areas of the concerned mainstream world, from parents to priests. These mostly failed, but was a PR gold mine for Rockstar.

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Even to this day and throughout the series, there are similarities that remain from the genesis of the most successful gaming series in history. The gameplay, the violence, the sheer enjoyment are all aspects that have kept each title as spectacular as the ones that came before it. But it's the music that has always remained top notch and instrumental in adding to the ambience of each time and city you find yourself in. Young adults across the world will credit GTA and the series as introducing them to classic tracks from years gone by, and we will look at these in detail in future posts on the topic.

'Grand Theft Auto', however, wasn't embellished with the huge artist roster we are familiar with in the versions later than PS1. The soundtrack was written primarily by a relatively unknown composer and producer named Craig Connor, who is credited with the entire playlist.

For only 60 minutes of radio play this was by far the most advanced and captivating reality based soundtrack of any game that came before it. It was actual radio, that switched on when you got in the car! And was a different station in different cars! WTF! Very exciting stuff as a 10 year old playing a game rated as an 18.

Hip-hop, trance, acid, break beat and techno are all evident, along with a quirky country number that was always playing in the pick-up trucks.

Reminisce, people...

Music and Gaming - OctaMED (Commodore Amiga)

 

 In this series we take a look at computer game soundtracks from the past that influenced a generation of people to become fans of electronic and underground music. It is no secret that for the youth of the 80s and 90s, computer games played an integral roll in influencing and forming musical tastes. From techno to hip-hop, video games exposed the youth to music that was outside of commercial radio at the time, and long before the internet. Join us on our journey in rediscovering the best of the bunch. 

Stepping outside of the standard agenda of this series, today we take a peek at an absolute revolution in the use of home gaming consoles and electronic music.

If you think Ableton looks confusing, the below image shows the equivalent back in the early 1990s.

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OctaMED was a music production suite designed for the Commodore Amiga console.

The distinguishing feature of MED and OctaMED in comparison to other music trackers on the Amiga was that MED and OctaMED were chiefly used by musicians to create stand-alone works, rather than by game or demo musicians to make tunes that play in the context of a computer game or demo.

In others words, the entire bedroom producer culture was born out of this software and its limited, yet brilliantly used capabilities.

It only had 4 Channels to work with, and graphically there was a rather daunting interface, making Ableton today seem like a dream.

Here is a video showing a track produced on the software playing by heavyweight Jungle/DnB legend Aphrodite. 
DJ Aphrodite who was also part of Urban Shakedown, used two Amiga 1200's running OctaMED to create a range of his early hits such as "Dub Moods", "Summer Breeze", "King Of The Beats", joint productions with Micky Finn such as "Bad Ass" and the remix of 'The Jungle Brothers'-"True Blue" and also including his first album, Aphrodite.

NOTE- The stereo field is pretty messed up. (For reasons we won't bore you with here)

Music and Gaming - WipeOut (PS1)

 In this series we take a look at computer game soundtracks from the past that influenced a generation of people to become fans of electronic and underground music. It is no secret that for the youth of the 80s and 90s, computer games played an integral roll in influencing and forming musical tastes. From techno to hip-hop, video games exposed the youth to music that was outside of commercial radio at the time, and long before the internet. Join us on our journey in rediscovering the best of the bunch. 


Last time we posted about the 'G-Police’ soundtrack  from the Sony Playstation 1, but this week we feel we have to talk about the game series with the most pounding of soundtracks of all time which gave it classic status as the series that embraced the harder forms of electronic music, Wipeout.

The description for the title reads "Ballistic Antigravity Racing", and the soundtrack couldn't any more perfect. Fast, acidy, pounding, rolling, racing ballistic AF techno... it melted my tiny mind then and it does so even more now.

If you grew up as a kid in the 90s and now listen to techno, there is a good chance this is the reason why... with tracks by The Chemical BrothersLeftfield and Orbital it is absolutely no surprise. If you have never heard of WipeOut then I suggest you play it. But for now, enjoy the noises...

TRACKLIST:
00:00 Intro
01:16 Cairodrome
08:44 Cardinal Dancer
16:01 Cold Comfort
24:10 Doh T
32:27 Messij
40:16 Operatique
48:57 Tentative
57:06 Transvaal

Music and Gaming - 'G-Police' (PS1)

 In this series we take a look at computer game soundtracks from the past that influenced a generation of people to become fans of electronic and underground music. It is no secret that for the youth of the 80s and 90s, computer games played an integral roll in influencing and forming musical tastes. From techno to hip-hop, video games exposed the youth to music that was outside of commercial radio at the time, and long before the internet. Join us on our journey in rediscovering the best of the bunch. 

For those who played the futurist 'G-Police' released in 1997 on the Playstation 1, they should remember the soundtrack that was comprised of jungle, DnB, trip-hop, acid and techno numbers that still would destroy any soundtrack of current games.

The game itself took place in 2097 on Jupiters Moon 'Callisto', where flying cars exist in cities encapsulated by giant domes to protect the citizens from the dark void of space beyond (and presumably to keep the player confined to a map). The gameplay as I remember was fun, and the graphics and the relative freedom you had to fly about it your jet propelled police helicopter was unique for the time. But it was the soundtrack that keeps me coming back to this game in moments of reminiscence.

As a 10 year old I recall loving these (to me) new sounds that I hadn't really heard on the commercial channels such as the Radio and 'Top of the Pops'.
An appreciated of the music through a big old boxy TV of yesteryear in mono was one thing, but listening now through an actual sound system gives a whole new level of appreciation for the soundtrack.

Enjoy.