The $17,000 Fairlight CMI 30A Computer Musical Instrument

fairlight-cmi-30aPeter Vogel has posted additional information on the new Fairlight CMI 30A at the Fairlight site.

Unfortunately, the projected price for the new Fairlight CMI 30A is expected to be approximately US $17,000 and the additional music keyboard option US $2,000.

Here’s what that $17,000 will buy you:

Description:

The CMI-30A will utilise the immense power of the latest Fairlight Crystal Core media processor (CC-1). It will not only faithfully reproduce the original sound but go well beyond the original capabilities in a dramatically smaller and more reliable physical form.

The 30A will look like and perform like the original CMI, although the mainframe will be much lighter, for portability. The look and feel of the user interface will also be similar to the original, with classic retro green on black graphics. A replica of the original music keyboard will also be available as an option, or you can use your own MIDI keyboard.

The software will combine the very best of the early Series II and III, with a number of significant new features. Sound quality of 8-bit, 16-bit, or “best quality” 36-bit floating point can be selected and existing Fairlight users can import their entire sample libraries. Even better, non-Fairlight sounds from any source, such as WAV files, can be imported and played with the classic Fairlight sound.

The Fairlight 30A will have sixteen analogue and one digital (MADI) output. However, unlike the earlier CMIs, any one physical output could offer dozens of voices.

All the original Fairlight sound libraries from both the CMI-IIX and the III will be included, plus a huge selection of samples collected from the past 30 years.

CMI-30A Provisional Hardware Specifications
(as at 13 August 2009)

System Components:

  • Mainframe — free-standing and adaptable to rack mount, includes 750GB SATA hard drive, DVD R/W drive, USB ports.
  • Monitor — 15″ with lightpen (passive stylus)
  • Alpha-numeric keyboard
  • Music keyboard — weighted, velocity sensitive, MIDI, 6 octaves, 73 keys with pitchbend.

Outputs:

  • 24 channels analogue, balanced XLR
  • 2 channels analogue monitor mix, balanced XLR
  • Dynamic range > 100 dB (unweighted)
  • THD < 0.002% @ 1kHz, -1dBFS
  • Frequency response +0.05 / -0.15 dB, 20 Hz – 20kHz
  • Digital output: 64 channel BNC MADI

Inputs:

  • 2 balanced mic inputs XLR
  • Sample rate: 44.1, 48, 96, 192 kHz
  • THD < 0.002% @ 1kHz, -1dBFS
  • Frequency response +0.05 / -0.15 dB, 20 Hz – 20kHz
  • SPDIF

Other I/O

  • MIDI, MIDI Timecode input and output 5 pin DIN
  • LTC (Linear time code) input and output
  • Word clock (for synchronisation to external sources)

Provisional Software Specification

The original Fairlight CMIs were renowned for not only their superb sound quality, but also their elegant and intuitive software.

The CMI-30A will combine the very best features of the Fairlight series IIX and the III, with considerable new developments. The “page”, and “sub-page” system will be retained, allowing users to easily navigate around a particular set of functions, while “help pages”, effectively the relevant sections of the user manual, will be only a key-click away.

Sound acquisition, whether through sampling or importing, will be as easy as ever, with playback quality switchable between series I, II, or III quality, or “best possible” 36-bit floating point.

Page DWaveform drawing and FFT sound generation will be available, with the ease of use of the earlier systems. There will also be the ever popular “Page D” display page, expanded to vary the viewpoint (such as rotation) of a 3D sample.Many existing CMI users have requested modulation and live performance controls be given particular consideration. Accordingly, there will be provisions to patch many sources to a variety of functions. Sources will include hand-drawable ADSR generators, sample and holds, LFOs, noise and keyboard following will be patchable to any parameter, such as pitch, filter frequency, filter resonance and many more. It will also be possible to cross modulate samples (ring modulation). Of course, external MIDI control of these parameters will also be available.

The classic “Page R” sequencer will be retained, plus some valuable upgrades such as increasing the number of tracks to 80 (to be confirmed).


26 thoughts on “The $17,000 Fairlight CMI 30A Computer Musical Instrument

  1. $17,000 is a lot for any synthesizer, especially for one that's got a 30-year-old operating system that looks like something off of a Commodore 64.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
  2. I bet a lot of people are curious to experience the Fairlight, as it is a piece of history; but how many of them have $17,000 lying around? I wonder if they’ll ever come out with a more affordable (but less accurate) software emulation for PC or Mac.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  3. I bet a lot of people are curious to experience the Fairlight, as it is a piece of musical history; but how many of them have $17,000 lying around? I wonder if they'll ever come out with a more affordable (but less accurate) PC or Mac Fairlight emulation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  4. I wonder if a digital nostalgia wave is about to hit us, like analogue did. It might of course be that the most modern technology is still just an ever-more complex version of essentially digital sound and, if we wish to celebrate its essential non-complexity, there are already movements like 8-bit and circuit-bending of toy keyboards and so on.
    With any production effort, there is the aspect of basic material and assembly costs but – equally significant – the way an increasing market subdivides the overheads. For example, Korg's Kaossilator retails for £129 or, say $200 but if they were only planning to sell 100 of them, the retail price – covering R&D and manual production, would be into the tens of thousands of pounds/dollars sold.
    Thing is, with the original Fairlight, it's unique selling potential was about far more than the nuance of the sound texture so, in this day and age, I think it'll have a hard time selling at such a premium for this aspect alone when all its other original unique selling points are long since superseded and by far, far cheaper equipment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
    • So, analog is nothing more than nostalgia? What world do you live in? I don’t understand this at all. Everything you hear is analog. Even a digitized sound file is converted to analog, otherwise you would not hear it. Your ears after all are a marvel of evolution, more complicated than anything your money can or will ever be able to buy.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  5. I wonder if a digital nostalgia wave is about to hit us, like analogue did. It might of course be that the most modern technology is still just an ever-more complex version of essentially digital sound and, if we wish to celebrate its essential non-complexity, there are already movements like 8-bit and circuit-bending of toy keyboards and so on.
    With any production effort, there is the aspect of basic material and assembly costs but – equally significant – the way an increasing market subdivides the overheads. For example, Korg's Kaossilator retails for £129 or, say $200 but if they were only planning to sell 100 of them, the retail price – covering R&D and manual production, would be into the tens of thousands of pounds/dollars per unit sold.
    Thing is, with the original Fairlight, its unique selling potential was about far more than the nuance of the sound texture so, in this day and age, I think it'll have a hard time selling at such a premium for this aspect alone when all its other original unique selling points are long since superseded and by far, far cheaper equipment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
  6. I wonder if a digital nostalgia wave is about to hit us, like analogue did. It might of course be that the most modern technology is still just an ever-more complex version of essentially digital sound and, if we wish to celebrate its essential non-complexity, there are already movements like 8-bit and circuit-bending of toy keyboards and so on.
    With any production effort, there is the aspect of basic material and assembly costs but – equally significant – the way an increasing market subdivides the overheads. For example, Korg's Kaossilator retails for £129 or, say $200 but if they were only planning to sell 100 of them, the retail price – covering R&D and manual production, would be into the tens of thousands of pounds/dollars per unit sold.
    Thing is, with the original Fairlight, its unique selling potential was about far more than the nuance of the sound texture so, in this day and age, I think it'll have a hard time selling at such a premium for this aspect alone when all its other original unique selling points are long since superseded and by far, far cheaper equipment.
    I see its market consisting in the successful pop musician who, growing up in the eighties, was wowed and inspired by those using it first time around. Now, they have lots of success and money themselves and tons and tons of equipment. What they'd maybe like, is one piece of equipment that has ample room for patient exploration and quality output, to simplify their methodology; their life etc. etc. and take them back to their original childhood inspiration, in the same way that people of my generation obsess over the modular synths and Radiophonic Workshop. Nostalgia for fabled simplicity has the appeal of the carefully built model railway set: it restores an illusion of personal control.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
  7. What I want to know is, what can the new Fairlight do that other sampling systems can't?

    Sure, the early units had a certain character to them (Peter Gabriel /Security) but now that we're in the age of crystal clear sound, what unique/better things can it possibly do? Why is it necessary to stick with the "mainframe" hardware model when a single unit with a display (similar in appearance to, say, Roland S-50 but with up to date OS/Hardware) with SIGNIFICANTLY lower cost would be in order?

    I just can't see Fairlight's current business plan in any feasible light.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
  8. If it does everything that it's supposed to, then it definitely is worth the price. If you were to buy all the outboard gear and software to do everything that this little dynamo does then it would cost well over $17,000! Considering that when the Fairlight CMI came out it cost roughly $100,000 this isn't really that much.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  9. There are clearly some very rich collectors out there. If you could make a quick buck re-manufacturing an old classic and selling it to these suckers, then why not. I applaude the Robin Hood’s of the audio world.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  10. I have wasted more than 17-grand on shit that still doesn't work.
    Give me the old technology, always reliable and easy to use.
    We have to go back to making music again, instead of arsing around with updates, upgrades, apps and plug-ins. We've become so bloody insatiable, we've lost track of what we really want to do, which is make good music. This Fairlight I believe will bring us back there.
    Good thinking you Aussies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  11. It's a lot more than just the old Fairlight. Let us see what Fairlight does for their roadmap. As alternatives, there is the KYMA system from Symbolic Sound (2K-4K) and the IDARCA ACXEL-2 as well at cheaper price points. However, given the XYNERGI engine in this thing, it may supercede the others.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  12. Don't get hung on the price people – there's a lot of money out there in the world. There's a lot of poor musicians so there are a lot of cheap instruments. The flipside is that because there are also a few rich musicians it pays to make expensive instruments for those people too. Even if I'll never own one of these I'd rather they exist than live in a world where you only ever see cheap things – how depressing would that be? Give up the jealousy and just enjoy the wonderful new stuff!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  13. I can understand how it would be good to have an 80s style operating system. The general nature of tech developers inclines most of them towards adding things to what they're building. The result is often impaired cognitive focus due to the clumsy interfaces that result. You hardly realise it but you're constantly distracted away from making music by the tools you're using. I noticed this when I switched from a cheap Russian mechanical SLR camera to a computerised Nikon – most of the time it was fiddly and slow to get results with the Nikon – even if the quality was superior once you'd gotten properly set up. I ended up using the Nikon only for studio work and taking the cheap camera out where I needed to be a high-performance photographer and catch photos as they happened.

    I can imagine the same for this Fairlight – working with samples and rhythm page sequencing could be a lot of fun and flow with a stripped-down interface compared to an ordeal of menus and check boxes – like a rich mans MPC but with cool 80s styling…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  14. Peter Vogel used to be my Hero.

    From 24 analog outputs (XLR – don’t forget first specs) we go to 12 outputs, then before even finished specs; now we go to 6 analog outputs. Not a one decent attempt by any player, to even demonstrate its power. No, only short sexy 8-bit demos everyone knows by heart. As the times go by, Peter gets even more and more vocal about specs. Even Fairlight’s forum end up as nothing but announcement wall for Peter messages. There is really no exchange, and such is labor.

    Had Peter envisioned more good will to CMI30A development and less attention to iPad folklore, perhaps results would give us more honest instrument then this. Implementation of Apple’s touchpad is no less then knife in the back, to all my expectations. Not even Peter could endure the fake promise of “Apple’s” innovation and had to attract us in the most disappointing way.

    Sadly, this is really nothing more then Peter said himself : “For those who could not afford Fairlight then, who listened Faitlight on the records and now have saved some money”

    Don’t get me wrong, I like knowing Fairlight exists and made CMI30A! After “charging no$talgia” and making some profit, I hope something really innovative comes from Peter again.

    Now I see that even some EU shops are claiming to have demonstration unit. That doesn’t sounds good to me. It seems Peter exaggerated nostalgia value and I hope I’m dead wrong. Otherwise this would turn in very poor sale.

    Let CMI IV cost even more, but please Peter, be consistent and honest as you were before. I much as I love Fairlight, as much as CS goes great guns and offers power in abundance, but I would be lying myself to turn off the honor of critical thinking. If CMI IV ever finds its way to my checkbook, I will look upon CMI30A, with different eyes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  15. Here's the key that many of you are missing. If you have the money, it is absolutely worth it! If you don't have the money, keep using what works for you. Because what the system has over everything else that you can buy today is that it's a COMPLETE turnkey system.

    If you have the money to invest in a Fairlight, or Synclavier type system, it works, and will always work and do whatever you need it to do, according to exactely what they say it is capable of doing to the max.

    Please name me "1" music company that can give you an all in 1 system that allows you to record/sample audio up to 192khz, gives you 24 pro quality analog outs, 64 pro digital outs, a 750gb HD, 73 key weighted keyboard, midi sequencing, FFT synthesis, Subtractive synthesis, all of these things at once without crashing, all manufactured by the SAME company to be purchased? NONE !!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  16. Considering that 20K is a pretty low-end Grand piano, and 40K is a quite nice one, I'd have to say, 17K for a standalone // instrument // doesn't sound too bad ;)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  17. Either does the Fairlight company has enough funds or they are incredibly stupid. Hello were living in a Mac world whereas no one except for a multimillionaire would ever buy a $17.000 plus cost keyboard unless you talk about the original Yamaha Gx-1. I agree, with a Commodore 8-16 bit and 1960’s look in a time where there so many good plugins for less then $ 500 whaaaaaaaaa are you kidding me? That’s like going to some Rich dude whereas he says yeahhh look at my Fairlight…. Cool man now look at my Macbook Pro pimped Mac with a huge Kontakt database and ehhhh all the million sounds I bought for less then $2.000 and they are 24 bit by the way lolI wish them all the success in the world. Thats like trying to pimp an Akai DD 1000 pay a shit load of money in a time where no one even uses that machine anymore due to flexibility which equals saving time and thus cash!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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