The Microwave programmer is small (355 x 185 x 666mm), weighs 1500g, and requires an external 9V power supply (not provided). Its construction is solid, and the feel of the pots is reassuringly smooth and positive. It may be incorporated into any system, slotting into the MIDI chain after the main keyboard but before any computer/sequencer, thus allowing all synth edits to be recorded. Alternatively, it could be connected directly between keyboard and Microwave, or patched in via a MIDI patchbay when required. All incoming MIDI information is merged with the System Exclusive data generated by the pots and switches. On power-up, it defaults to 'lock' mode, which effectively disables all functionality, its output becoming a simple MIDI Thru. This prevents accidental production of SysEx, whilst also improving MIDI throughput.
As the programmer features only 26 rotary pots and nine on/off switches, Access have had to make some tough choices about which programming options to include. Three of the switches render some of the the controls multi-functional, but considering that a typical software editor for the Microwave could have more than 140 separate objects just to perform voice edits (more when wavetable creation, multi mode, user tuning and velocity tables are included), some compromises have inevitably been made for the purposes of this unit. The most obvious of these are in the modulation and envelope departments. No routings or amounts can be set for the two LFOs without turning to the Microwave itself: you can alter their rate and shape only.
The control panel is laid out like a conventional analogue synth, with oscillators (complete with wave and noise source mixer, detune and transpose), filter and output settings, complemented by the more esoteric wavetable selection, wave envelope amount and wavetable start position. A useful pointer to the Access design philosophy is the inclusion of three buttons: TRI, SQU and SAW, which select these waveforms from the current table but also turn off any wavetable modulation. This is useful partly as a preliminary to experimentation with the wave envelope, but also because it effectively transforms the Microwave into a straightforward analogue-style synth. It is then a simple matter to produce all kinds of traditional analogue sounds very quickly, using filter cutoff, resonance, envelope amount and ADSR. I created many worthwhile patches during the review period using just this method. The downside of this simplification is that it becomes easy to overlook the Microwave's many other options, which you have to edit using the synth's front panel, as before.
Weight: 1.5 kg
Main Panel: 28 knobs and 9 switch buttons
Back Panel: Midi Input, Midi Output
Power Supply: 9V DC