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26 April 2005

East West Vapor

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Vapor, the “large plug-in ROMpler” from East West gets a good review in Grooves magazine. This software playback sampler has over 2GB of sounds, and “a flair for the decidedly synthetic”. They note some interface glitches, but overall like the sounds that come out of Vapor. Vapor uses the Native Instruments Kompakt engine (as used by NI’s own Kontakt sampler). The reviewers says Vapor’s feature set is light, but that can be a blessing as well as a curse.

Vapor’s “thing” is synthetic sounds. If you want realistic strings, look elsewhere, but they say “synthesis junkies will welcome this collection into their fold.”

The user interface gets good marks overall: “Even though the features are on the light side, I found patch creation to be enjoyable.” And tools like this should always be enjoyable, or what’s the point? Unfortunately, the interface isn’t perfect: they say the multi-preset selection scheme may induce carpal-tunnel syndrome as you have to click the mouse and keep the button held down at the right times, all while navigating tiny menus and buttons. It sounds a bit of a pain, but not necessarily a deal-breaker.

Aside from this, they do like this instrument: “the sounds of Vapor are quite divine. with its 2.2GB of content, synthesis junkies would be missing out on a treat to snack on if they passed up this bargain. … This is one moderately priced synth that should not be missed.”

24 April 2005

GarageBand 2 review — Computer Music

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GarageBand 2 gets a great review from Computer Music magazine. They call it “one of the most intuitive, easy-to-use applications on the market.” “GarageBand sits in a genre all of its own… and, in its own way, is revolutionary.”

They rave about GarageBand 2’s “new and powerful editing features. The Track Editor now contains sliders that allow you to sort out any timing or tuning problems — use them sensitively, and the results are excellent.” Track tempo management seems very simple — if you change the tempo or pitch of the project. your recorded audio parts will sync up accordingly.

They also note that this version allows multitrack recording, which is essential if you are actually recording a real band, in a garage or anywhere else. GarageBand 2 also has very good handling of musical notation for all you real musicians out there. There’s also a lock feature to conserve processing power when playing complex tracks and effects — this is like the freeze feature found on many high-end music production packages. In fact, it has enough high-end features that they say “only blatant snobbery could stop you from being impressed by GarageBand 2.”

This version of GarageBand moves more towards Logic, Apple’s own high-end music software, in terms of features — in fact, GarageBand can do some things that Logic still can’t. There’s a ready-made upgrade path from GarageBand 2 to Logic. Unfortunately, there’s no special upgrade deal for users of the first version of GarageBand, but they seem to think GarageBand 2 is worth the full price anyway.

They give GarageBand 2 a rating of 9 out of 10 and a special “Value for Money” award. “If you’re just starting out, GB2 represents a compelling reason to buy a Mac rather than a PC — it really is that good.”

23 April 2005

Steinberg WaveLab 5 review — PC Plus

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PC Plus magazine’s review of Steinberg WaveLab 5 is quite positive. They emphasize WaveLab 5’s new surround sound processing functions. The monitoring has been upgraded accordingly: “WaveLab’s excellent visual metering tools have been extended to allow full surround metering. Eight channels of spectral analysis running in real time is quite a sight – this is one area where WaveLab has always excelled, and this update carries on that tradition.”

They note WaveLab’s new support for DVDA (DVD Audio) formats, as well as Data CD and DVD. However, they describe the DVD video support as “sketchy”, so if you’re into video, then perhaps you should keep looking. They also lament the fact that surround support is not quite pervasive: “Some tools are surround-friendly, while others, including the popular multi-band mastering compressor, are stereo-only. This is frustrating, if understandable, and it does diminish the usefulness of the new surround features.”

So overall, they do like WaveLab 5, but only recommend it if you have a specific need for its new features: “For casual use, it’s a touch too much in terms of features and learning curve. But if you work more seriously with media, perhaps for events management, business presentations, or sound design for games and films, then this upgrade has a lot to offer. For the first time you can edit, author and burn DVDA presentations in the most popular surround formats, with slideshows, menus, and all the other extras the format can provide.”

21 April 2005

Steinberg WaveLab 5 review — Grooves

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Grooves magazine reviews Steinberg WaveLab 5. The new version of WaveLab, they say, focuses on DVD features — you can now create various DVD formats, though the options aren’t as extensive as you would expect from a high-end DVD authoring program. There are also lots of other goodies in this general-purpose audio editor.

The Audio Montage feature in this version of WaveLab supports VST effects, but not DirectX. Still, they say, “it would be a great tool, though, for editing things like radio spots or news programs, as cutting up audio, sliding it around, and crossfading between clips is fast and easy.” They think Audio Montage is powerful and useful, though it doesn’t quite do everything.

The reviewers find some faults with WaveLab’s user interface. The editing commands are non-standard — Steinberg like to do things their own way rather than follow the Microsoft guidelines. Also, the arrangement of functions is not always intuitive: “Certain operations that should be fundamental, like setting tempo, are hidden deeply in menus.”

Despite the fancy DVD features, they conclude that the basic features are what makes this program worthwhile. “The real value of the program for me — and for users not yet working with surround sound — is as a fast, flexible, full-featured stereo-audio editor and CD mastering tool. Those core functions are all easy to grasp, quick, and flexible. I’ve yet to have have WaveLab 5 crash or lose work, either, and in general, it seems very stable. As a result, WaveLab 5 is perhaps the only audio editor you’ll ever need.”

18 April 2005

Waves – IR-1 Parametric Convolution Reverb V2

Filed under: Music software at 11:08 am (1 comment)

Waves have updated their IR-1 parametric convolution reverb to version 2. This new version has tools to capture your own impulse responses, so you can capture the natural reverb of your own bathroom or closet, if you want. It also has a number of other tweaks and a bigger, better library of impulse resp0nses.

As they say on the website, “Simulated reverbs offer great control of individual parameters but can’t accurately reproduce the sound of real acoustic spaces. Convolution reverbs are sample-based, and so capture natural reverb, but haven’t offered the flexible controls of simulated reverb — until now. With the IR-1 V2, you get the actual captured sound of the world’s best venues and unmatched control using the traditional parameters you’re already familiar with.”

Other new features are:

  • Convolution Start Control lets you trim the beginning of an impulse response to eliminate unwanted predelay.
  • ER (Early Reflections) Buildup Control lets you adjust the buildup slope of the early reflections to control their attack sound, from crisp to smooth.
  • Dry Gain Mode gives you more control over the sound by letting you adjust the wet and dry signal gains separately in addition to the option of using the traditional dry/wet control.
  • Extensive Library of Improved Impulse Response Samples with Different Micing Options.
  • Dynamic Preset Handling. Adding or removing presets is now easier, with the preset menu reflecting the impulse response samples contained in the presets folder.

17 April 2005

GarageBand 2 review — CNET

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GarageBand 2.0, Apple’s music-making program for the Mac, has been reviewed by CNET. They quite like it as a comprehensive music creation tool, but say its lack of depth means it’s not for the experienced user. They would recommend it to “Indie bands that want to easily add electronic effects to live instruments; parents and amateur videographers who want to make unique soundtracks for personal movies; novice music enthusiasts with an itch to create their own electronic tunes.”

They give the program 7.5 out of ten and overall are very positive: “Although this creative audio tool takes up a boatload of drive space and won’t satisfy many advanced users, it’s a fantastic starting point for novice music enthusiasts with a desire to experiment with digital tunes. GarageBand 2.0 alone justifies purchasing iLife.”