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Harms MAC16 MIDI Analog Converter

The Harms MAC16 is a rare MIDI-to-CV/Gate converter which was made by a small one man company Harms in Hamburg Germany in the late nineties. The original price was around 1250 Deutschmarks (about 600 Euro). It provides 16 channels, which can be configured for any kind of MIDI to analog conversion. Basically there are five modes:
  • VCO (CV) - which converts note data, pitchbend into either Oct/V or Hz/V Voltage. Portamento can be added. There is also the possibility of microtuning, octave spread (for mistuned or non standard synths!), pitch offset and keyboardsplit zones
  • VCF - converts basically the note info into a voltage; then a SoftEnvelope, a SoftLFO, and one MIDI controller (modwheel or aftertouch) can be added; the amount of the envelope and/or the controller can be controlled by the velocity of the corresponding note. The converter channel can get its information either from a MIDI channel in general (using the last note) or can be assigned to a dedicated VCO-channel for polyphonic setups (* see below); keyboard splitzones are possible
  • VCA - same as VCF, only with other name
  • Aux - same as VCF, only with other name
  • Lite - similar as VCF, but no assignment to a dedicated VCO
  • Gate/Trigger - creates a gate (positive or inverted) from a note on event. Again it can use either the last note information from all notes of one MIDI-Channel or it can be assigned to a dedicated VCO-channel for polyphonic setups (* see below); splitzones are possible too of course
  • DIN-Sync out from MIDI-Clock
There exists unfortunately only a german owners manual: harms_mac16/harms_mac16_ownersmanual.pdf

In general the MAC16 is a quite cool device. It does 16Bit conversion, which makes it really usable for V/Hz or spread tuning synths, like EMS.
The only lacks are:
(*)I never managed to create a polyphonic setup (I mean: several voices on the same MIDI-Channel, like for an OB Fourvoice; multitimbral setups work fine); maybe I am doing something very wrong or it really does not work in the software version I have.
If you turn the dials too fast; it may happen that the device hangs. Then only switching off and on again helps.

Unfortunately there will never be any update of the firmware as H. Harms lost the complete code including backup.

I could test the Harms Mac16 in comparison to the EES MIDI CV-7 and the Kenton Pro 2000 and I have to say that it was better than the Kenton and quite equal to the EES.

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© florian anwander Feb. 2011