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Cheetah Ms800

Digital Wave synthesizer (1991)


"A buget digital module from the nineties from English society Cheetah, most known for their MS-6 a kind of Oberheim Matrix 1000 clone. But now, this module has a weird story! "


OVERVIEW half rack module made outof steel, sturdy, a kind of black monolith from outer space.
The main panel is pretty poor featuring a cryptic segment display and 10 buttons for whole edit.

MIDI unit is multitimbral and manages some basic Midi parameters including: velocity, pitch bend, program change and exclusive systems.
Sadly (DEEPLY) no external  computer editors.

Rear panel terminal connectors: 
1-  Midi IN OUT THRU (velocity-sensitive)
2- main signal out (mono + stereo) 
3- PSU input 5-dins (unknown voltage)
4- Switch

Cheetah Ms800


SOUND  based on a Synertek SY6502 the unit manages up to 15 voices but it is possible to increase the polyphony chaining various Ms800 modules. A basic MS800 sound patch is composed by up to 14 PCM* voice in layer or TONES (each PCM uses 1 voice from the polyphony) and each tone has some editable parameters:
- analog out assign (L/R 1/2)
- pitch detune amount
- pitch transpose (+/49 cents)
- velocity curve response (0-4 presets)
- volume gain (0-99 scaled).
* only slots 51-54 can have 14 tones while 61-70 up to 5 tones finally 81-99 only 2... complicated uh?

WAVEFORMS internal ROM system is based on a SGS IC (cannot read out, this is pretty messy!) which reads data out of an EPROM 27256 features 21 companded waveforms at 8 maybe 12  bits resolution - pretty dirty and aliased. There's a big mess into the boardwith a lot of last minute modification then wrapped in plastic.
What the hell is that?? SGS chip wrapped in tape?

Envelope and wavesequencing

ENVELOPE no EG generator but a simple attenuation parameter: a kind of attack and a release.

WAVESEQUENCE special wave cycling mode for textured sequences a bit like Korg Wavestation or Commodore 64 wavetable.
The MS-800 wavesequence creates some harsh digital sequences but it badly lacks a filter structure- old fashioned way. As mentionend into the manual, some parameters are not "yet" implemented (for future expansion).  Here's roughly the typical MS800 wavesquence edit structure, be aware that the interface offers quite no clue about your programming steps, so get paper and pencil and get note(!) : 

STEP 1- waveform number
STEP 2- volume step amount 
STEP 3- step time duration (m.seconds) 
STEP 4- crossfade time (smoothes wavefrom transition for clicks, like Wavestation) 
STEP 5- go to [next wave] xor [LOOP] or [END].

MEMORY Sounds can be saved only by exclusives system using internal MIDI sysex DUMP utility.
50 ROM patches  / 49 RAM patches / 50 ROM tones / 50 RAM tones


The Aphex Twin case

WHY?  Luckily, the Ms800 quickly disappeared from the market, as it simply sounds like crap, but  2016 famous artist Richard D. James of Aphex Twin released an EP called "Cheetah" and even referenced the synth in the titles in some tracks. Probably another Richard's joke, like he previously did for the album SYRO (2014) claiming to make use the expander ORLA DS24/12, which is another unspiring and hard to program module, mostly (and still) used as a doorstop. Then the net debates/controversies for months like "look what you can do when you're a pro".... now the MS800 overpriced for iconic status, but it's damm cool under a glass case. 

cheetah ms800

Cheetah Ms800 Technical Data

Company: Cheetah
Model: MS-800
Class: Synth Module
Dates: 199X
Country: UK
Weight: n/a
Dimensions: n/a
Price: 300€ UP

Synthesis: PCM rompler
N. samples: 21 PCM
Resolution: 8 bits
Polyphony: 15 voices
Filter: none
LFO: none
Envelope: 1 EG
Memory: 49 slots

CPU: Synertek SY6502 

video demo

Do you use this machine ? do you like it?  Let us know in the comment field just below 


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