The Ursa Major Space Station is an advanced signal processor using time delay techniques to transform a mono source into a new, stereo, output signal. It is as different from earlier delay units as the complex reverberant sound of a room is from a single repeat of a sound slapping off a wall. Where traditional DDL’s have only one or two taps, the Ursa Major Space Station has many – eight are used only for listening, and are called Audition Delay Taps, while others are used to synthesise reverberation and echo. The SST-282 can be compared to a special multi-head tape recorder, operating with a loop of tape 255ms long.
The tape corresponds to the Ursa Major Space Station SST-282’s digital memory, and the multiple playback heads to its multiple taps. The eight Audition Delay Taps are placed along this imaginary piece of tape to a resolution of one ms, and can be repositioned at will to any of 16 pre-programmed patterns. You have continuous control over another tap, the Echo tap, which can be set from 1 to 255ms and fed back to the input to create the traditional effects of tape loops. Two programs of Reverberation Tap delay times can be selected as well. Proprietary internal programming randomizes these taps so that they can be stably fed back to produce reverberation. The equalized sum of these taps appears at a pot (REVERB/ECHO FEEDBACK) where it can be adjusted to create any decay time from zero to about 3.5 seconds.
An important part of the Ursa Major Space Station’s fundamantal concept is contained in the two groups of delay taps, one for auditioning and the other for reverberation. They operate independently of each other; that is, the Audition Delay Taps set up a way of hearing the contents of the memory, while the Reverberation or Echo Taps when fed back determine the kind of reverberant sound existing in the memory.
Each acts independently so that endless varieties of sound can be created. For example, a sound approximating normal room reverberation may be set up by feedback, and then auditioned with any one of the 16 programs to sound like rooms, like a slap, an echo, or even a reverberating comb filter. Or, a comb-like reverberation effect can be set up by feedback, and then auditioned in a room, another comb, or as echo, slap, etc.
Even more versatility of the Ursa Major Space Station derives from the built-in mixer, where Audition Taps may be mixed in any desired ratio to emphasize earlier reflections, to delay the onset of reverb, etc. The possibilities are many, yet the front panel layout is spacious, uncluttered, and intuitive, due in part to the flow chart screened on the panel above the controls. The control functions were carefully chosen to balance adjustability, with its endless freedom, against pre-programming, with its convenience. For example, consider the advantage of not having to enter eight delay time Values for each program, Values you either guess or look up somewhere. Then realize that all the EQ, mixing, and feedback functions are self-contained – you don’t have to tie up large sections of a console, or untangle a patchbay.
The Ursa Major Space Station was designed by an engineer with a broad knowledge of both analog and digital technologies, who could choose and successfully use each to its best advantage. So, memory is digital, since with good A-D conversion, noise, distortion, and dynamic range will be excellent, with no degradation as a function of delay time.
Also, with RAM memory, access is fast and to very fine resolution, permitting many taps and the randomizing algorithm. A-D and D-A were a challenge: how to accomplish, at a modest cost, the high speed A-D and the many D-A’s required each sampling period? A special set of converters had to be designed, proprietary to URSA MAJOR, that met the speed requirement and permitted a full 80+dB dynamic range and total distortion and noise better than 0. 2% at maximum signal level – and with no analog companding.
Perhaps the most arcane and interesting technology in the Ursa Major Space Station is hidden in the techniques used to randomize the reverberation delay taps. We consider it highly proprietary, so little more will be said. But any worker in the field who has ever tried to create reverberation by fed-back delays knows that this is no mean trick.
- Released: 1981
- Quantization: Unknown
- Sampling Frequency: Unknown
- Frequency Response: 20Hz-7kHz
- Dynamic Range: 80dB
- THD: Below 0.1%
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