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31 August 2005

Groove Analogizer audio controlled drum machine

Filed under: Music software at 6:09 pm Comments Off on Groove Analogizer audio controlled drum machine

Groove Analogizer is an “audio controlled drum synthesizer” from NUSofting. I like this idea. Instead of a VST instrument triggered by MIDI notes, it’s loaded as a VST effect — audio goes in, and drums come out with timing based on the input. One of the many fun things you could do with this is use a human beatbox as the trigger — nod your head and say “boom chikka chikka ah boom” into the mic, run it through Groove Analogizer, and out comes a synth drum pattern.

Their website explains that “audio controlled drum synthesizer”, means that “like a vintage electronic drum tone generator (e.g. Simmons) the percussion sound is triggered by an audio input, not by a MIDI message. This also means that you must not load, in the host, Groove Analogizer as a VST instrument, it loads as a VST effect, usually in an insert slot.”

And full details on the actual sound generators in this plugin are on the website too. The rest of the explanation goes like this: It’s really a synth: the sound of three oscillators is triggered and shaped by the audio input in many ways.

How triggering works in Groove Analogizer: a trigger can be any kind of percussive sound, both mono or stereo, it can be a wav file ot another VST instrument. (percussive means: with fast attack time and fast or moderate decay/release time)

For each of the three generators you can choose left, right or left+right input, input can be both mono or stereo, then a band pass filter allows you to select (coarse and fine) which frequency range of the audio source will be used for triggering, this way you can separate hi, mid and low tones in the audio input, allowing you to isolate different trigger patterns from the same complex audio source (e.g. you can input a full drums loop and select snare for trigger 1, bass drum for trigger 2 and hihat for trigger 3). Groove Analogizer also features Pre-Listening (PL button), so that you can monitor which part of the source is selected as trigger.

Another control at the input named Sensivity allows to fine select the loudest triggers filtered by the band pass. So that you may include ghost notes or avoid them.

Stylus RMX review — Electronic Musician

Filed under: Music software at 8:39 am Comments Off on Stylus RMX review — Electronic Musician

Electronic Musician reviews Stylus RMX 1.2.1, Spectrasonics’ “plug-in loop construction kit”. They like the way its quasi-improvisational capabilities allow a degree of spontaneity. “You can perform almost every edit and parameter change in real time and easily create animated, complex grooves within an ever-flowing context.”

“The Stylus RMX multipage interface is a model of efficient and intuitive design.” For example, “To simplify editing, an Easy button pares the Edit page down to four faders, two knobs, and two switches, with Level and Pan faders on the right and the Master Filter’s tone control and emphasis fader on the left.” An Easy button! This idea could revolutionise computing, let alone music composition.

They liked another unique feature of Stylus RMX too: “The plug-in’s centerpiece is Chaos Designer, which uses probability to affect loop variations. In nearly every instance, Chaos Designer produced surprising and useful results. Using it with Edit Groups, wherein you can select which loop regions should be altered and which remain unchanged, was particularly effective. … Full-bore Chaos applied to the Pattern parameter can turn simple grooves into busy Tower of Power-style syncopations.”

Stylus RMX comes with all the effects and filters you would expect. The sound quality seems to be decent: “Version 1.2 adds several new processors. The update supports presets, which can have single FX or FX racks, and a nice assortment of factory patches are supplied with the installer. Effects are high quality, with buttery-sounding filters and smooth reverb tails.”

The reviewer also describes some of the sound libraries in depth — the emphasis is on electronic loops and sounds, though sounds can be imported from Propellerhead ReCycle formats to Stylus RMX. Overall, they are impressed with this program: “Stylus RMX is a terrific multifaceted tool for sculpting unique grooves and brings a hefty quotient of fun and ease to the process. Chaos Designer in conjunction with the built-in effects, Edit Groups, and an uncomplicated MIDI control setup, bring extraordinary depths of animation and precision. The elegantly designed user interface greatly simplifies potentially complex tasks.”

The final rating is 4.5 out of 5. Praising its “Extremely intuitive user interface,” they say, “Without a doubt, Stylus users should move up to RMX for $99. I also enthusiastically suggest that anyone else interested in groove construction give Stylus RMX a long, serious look.”

30 August 2005

Stylus RMX real time groove module

Filed under: Music software at 8:37 pm (1 comment)

Stylus RMX from Spectrasonics is a music production environment, or “real time groove module” as they call it. It looks good for putting together music quickly, in a GarageBand/Acid kind of way — the timestretching capabilities don’t look as advanced, but it does have some nice features (including a huge library). There’s an emphasis on realtime improvisation and performance. And as you look at the feature list below, notice the “Easy Edit page with Big Knobs”. The Big Knob concept is the way of the future for electronic instruments, both hardware and software.

The Spectrasonics website has all the details on Stylus RMX. Here are some of the highlights: Spectrasonics’ in-house development team created the new instrument from the ground up, with dozens of new features including the ground-breaking Chaos Designer, a completely redesigned multi-page user interface, a new core library of sounds, all with a focus on realtime groove creation and performance.

The massive new 7.4 gigabyte core-library in Stylus RMX has thousands of cutting-edge grooves and sounds that were created by Spectrasonics’ international sound design team, and produced by Eric Persing. The new core library contains nearly triple the amount of sounds originally offered in the original Stylus, and contains all the original material as well. The new sounds and grooves in Stylus RMX offer a much wider range of modern musical genres than the original Stylus. Mixes of grooves are broken down into individual tracks called Elements for flexibility and infinite combinations.

Also new in Stylus RMX are thousands of new Kit modules, as well as user Kit construction. The new sound menus have over 10,000 new single hits, all arranged in organized categories. Users can create their own customized multitrack remix grooves and kits, save them into the plug-in, and even share them with other Stylus RMX users on different platforms and hosts. It’s the ultimate Remix-oriented sound module for building grooves.

Of the many new capabilities in Stylus RMX, possibly the most innovative feature is the Chaos Designer. With simple controls, the user can introduce musical Chaos into the groove, which allows it to have constantly evolving variations — giving the impression that the audio grooves are improvising. The results can be subtle or extreme by setting the simple to use controls. A Capture feature allows the spontaneous audio chaos patterns to be made into a MIDI file, dragged and dropped into the host sequencer, and played back again for further editing by the user.

Some of the other interesting features are:

  • Realtime auto-sync to the beat so grooves are always in time, even when performed live! Groove Control is always active for optimum sound quality at virtually any tempo.
  • Expandable with Propellerheads REX files, which allow a user to import their own audio loops via ReCycle.
  • New multipage user interface design with fully integrated Browser for easily auditioning & organizing grooves
  • World-Class integrated FX Racks w/24 professional effects: Tube Limiter, Tape Slammer, Modern and Vintage Compressors, Wah-Wah, Power Filter, 6 different Vintage/Parametric/Graphic Equalizers, Flame Distortion, Valve Radio, EZ-Verb, Gate Expander, Stereo Imager, Flanger, 2 different Phasers, 3 BPM Delays, Retroplex Tape Delay
  • 8-part Multitimbral, each part can have dozens of grooves and samples
  • Edit Groups offer unique control of individual beats within an audio loop: add ambience to just the backbeat, control the pitch of the snare inside a stereo loop, reverse only specific slices in the loop … non-destructively
  • Powerful sound design features include: New multi-mode Power Filter, 3 syncable LFOs, 3 AHDR envelopes, Reverse and more
  • Easy Edit page with Big Knobs for simple, yet powerful control of key parameters

Stylus RMX operates as a virtual instrument software plug-in for Macintosh and Windows in all major hosts including Apple Logic, MOTU Digital Performer, Digidesign Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Steinberg Cubase SX, Nuendo, V-Stack, Apple Garage Band, Fruity Loops, Sony Acid Pro, Cakewalk Sonar, Project 5 and many other VST and Audio Unit host applications.

DubStation delay plug-in

Filed under: Music software at 1:15 pm (1 comment)

I like the look of the DubStation delay plugin because of its fun 3D interface, the attitude of its maker Audio Damage (“The World’s Most l33t Plug-ins!”) and because I like dub. Any plugin that can get you that spaced-out, infinite echo trip feeling has got to be good. I especially like the idea of the “extra dubby feedback” provided by the low-pass filter. I think all instruments should have an “extra dubby feedback” button.

Details from the Audio Damage website: The DubStation plug-in is modeled on the “bucket-brigade” style of vintage delay units, and has all the mojo that made those boxes great. Accurate down to the warm sound of the feedback loop and the low-fidelity character of the originals, DubStation is just what the (witch) doctor ordered.


  • 4ms to 2000ms delay time.
  • Accurate delay model that changes the pitch of the signal when the time is changed.
  • Sync-to-host capable
  • Full MIDI learn mode, for MIDI CC control of every control (VST only; handled by host in AU version)
  • Loop and reverse features
  • Low-cut filter controllable for extra dubby feedback

DubStation is available as a VST effect for Windows, and as an AU/VST for OSX. Note that you must have OSX 10.3.9 or greater to use the DubStation AudioUnit version.

Q-Clone sampling EQ review — Future Music

Filed under: Music software at 8:23 am Comments Off on Q-Clone sampling EQ review — Future Music

Future Music magazine reviews the Q-Clone sampling EQ plugin. As they say, this is an all-in-one native plug-in package for sampling and saving any hardware EQ. It works by sending a test signal out to your hardware EQ, which you have set up with the settings you want in the normal way. The EQed signal comes back in to Q-Clone, which analyses it and saves the analysed EQ. You can then apply this EQ like a normal software EQ, to as many tracks as you want.

If you don’t have a hardware EQ, you can use one of the presets included with Q-Clone. The review notes that, bizarrely, it’s not entirely clear which hardware EQs these presets come from, so you just have to try them out. You can also combine multiple saved EQ settings: “it’s a clever little function that packs more punch than is at first apparent.”

This is such a simple concept that it’s interesting nobody has done it before; presumably the calculations involved in the software are quite tricky. The results, though, are very good — the reviewers couldn’t tell the difference between the original hardware EQ and the Q-Cloned version. They tried Q-clone with several different EQ units, and said, “the results were certainly very impressive.”

Overall they give good marks to the Q-Clone. The idea of “sampling” effects is likely to become more common — it started with convolution reverb, now EQ, and they say “one day all software plug-ins will be made this way.” Q-Clone gets a perfect ten out of ten for stability and sound quality, and at least seven for their other criteria. As they say, it’s not a new concept, but “Waves’ Q-Clone is the first to really deliver it in plug-in form.”

29 August 2005

TRIO USB Studio in a Box

Filed under: Hardware at 5:02 pm (4 comments)

The TRIO USB, a do-everything audio box, will be released next month by MindPrint. The original TRIO was announced some months ago, but because of its super S/PDIF interface, most users would already need extra hardware (e.g. a sound card) to use it. This new version uses a plain old USB interface instead, so it really is more of an all-in-one device.

The MindPrint website says: TRIO USB expands the scope of the innovative TRIO recording and monitoring solution introduced at Winter NAMM. It offers the same channel strip with true analog EQ and Compressor, essential mixing, AUX & DAW inputs and comprehensive monitoring features as found on the original TRIO, but adds USB audio instead of the S/PDIF interface.

TRIO’s channel strip section provides a high quality instrument- and Class A microphone-input with phantom power and 10 kOhms impedance for optimal sounding results. The analog EQ’s “vintage” design makes it easy to record great sounding vocals and instruments. The Compressor’s unique Adaptive Response mode is taken directly from MindPrint’s high-end DTC Dual Tube Channel Strip and delivers superior results, requiring just one knob!

TRIO USB includes all essential mixing features required in a typical recording setup: Mic./Instrument, Stereo Line, Stereo AUX and DAW return channels may all be used simultaneously. The built-in channel strip delivers professional sound instantly and may be recorded simultaneously with the stereo LINE channel’s signal. The dual headphone amp has separate volume controls, and the latency-free monitoring mixer’s dedicated controls ensure direct access.

TRIO USB also sports a full-featured monitoring controller with talkback, MONO, DIM and MUTE functions, outputs for 3 pairs of speakers – and a dedicated, big master volume knob. This simplifies the recording process and makes music production much more intuitive.

The built-in audio interface is compatible with USB 2.0 and supports Mac OS X and Windows XP. Due to the extremely low playback latency, it is even possible to play virtual instruments or amp modeling software “live” via TRIO.

Key Features
– 1 Mic/Instrument input (Class A, Phantom Power)
– 3 stereo line inputs (Line with 2 band EQ, Aux, DAW)
– Channel strip with low cut filter, 2 band EQ and compressor
– Analog insert
– 10-segment LED meters
– Zero Latency monitor mixer
– 3 switchable speaker outputs
– 2 separate headphone amps
– Talkback Function, MONO / DIM
– Dedicated Monitor Volume knob
– USB 2.0 compatible audio interface
– ASIO drivers for Mac OS X and Windows XP
– 24bit/96kHz max. digital resolution
– Dedicated hardware knobs: 18 rotary, 15 switches
– Power supply via included mains adaptor

Tascam GigaStudio 3 review — Electronic Musician

Filed under: Music software at 4:44 pm Comments Off on Tascam GigaStudio 3 review — Electronic Musician

Electronic Musician reviewed Tascam’s all-singing all-dancing software sampler GigaStudio 3, and they say, “it’s a doozy.” They continue, “Tascam has listened to its hardcore users and introduced an extensive redesign and expansion of the program. … What’s more, the user interface has been vastly improved, and the program now boasts a number of sophisticated new features.” In fact, they say, GigaStudio 3 has blurred the line between sampler and digital-audio workstation.

They review the high-end version of GigaStudio, called GigaStudio 3 Orchestra, though there are two other version available called GigaStudio 3 Ensemble and GigaStudio 3 Solo. These cut-down (and cheaper) versions lack some of the more advanced features but are fundamentally the same product. They give a very detailed review of the updated and new features, from the MIDI mixer to the DSP Station, showing that this is a lot more than a simple sample recording and playback engine.

Of course, they also talk at length about GigaPulse, Tascam’s convolution-based reverb, which is included in the top-of-the-line GigaStudio Orchestra under review. The full reverb plug-in is not included in GigaStudio Ensemble or GigaStudio Solo, but these programs include the GigaPulse playback engine, so you do get fancy reverb when playing instruments that have been encoded with GigaPulse. As for the reverb quality, they are emphatic: “In the final analysis, how does GigaPulse sound? In a word: fantastic. … In short, this is a great reverb for all seasons, and it should serve nicely as the primary processor for most projects.”

In the end, they agree with most other reviewers that GigaStudio 3 is the best software sampler out. They rate it as 4.5 out of 5 and write: “All in all, GigaStudio 3 Orchestra is an impressive package. Its high-end audio quality, flexible routing and processing capabilities, advanced performance features, sophisticated editing tools, powerful search functions, and streamlined user interface make it once again the indisputable gold standard in software samplers.”

Toast 7

Filed under: Music software at 3:16 pm Comments Off on Toast 7

Roxio will release Toast 7 this week. This is the latest version of their CD mastering package — I still have my copy of Toast 4 from a few years back, but this new version has a number of new features. Most of the new functions concern DVDs — you can now write to several different formats including music DVD (50 hours on one disc). These new functions actually sound more useful if you produce a lot of video, but as it’s a general-purpose CD/DVD authoring package there’s a lot of functionality for you audio producers too.

The emphasis on the general user runs right through Toast 7 — it even integrates with Apple’s iLife 05 “digital lifestyle” software. Roxio’s website has more details. They say: Toast 7 is the best way to save, share and enjoy a lifetime of digital music, movies and photos on CD and DVD. Burn large files across multiple discs. Compress and copy DVD movies. Add over 50 hours of music to an audio DVD — with on-screen TV menus, shuffle play, and rich Dolby Digital sound. Turn DivX files into DVDs. Create stunning multi-image HD slideshows with collages, motion effects, titles and background soundtracks. Enjoy HD playback in your living room today! Do it all with the fastest and most reliable burning software for the Mac OS — Toast.

Toast supports the most input formats of any Mac OS burning software:

  • Audio — any non-protected QuickTime audio file, including AIFF, MP3, WAV, M4A, and MOV, as well as non-native formats, such as OGG, FLAC, and Dolby AC3 (2.0 and 5.1).
  • Video — any QuickTime video file, including AVI, DV, MOV, MPEG1, and MPEG4, as well as non-native formats such as MPEG2, DivX, XVID, VOB, and iMovie projects.
  • Image — any QuickTime image file, including BMP, GIF, JPG, PDF, PSD, PNG, and TIFF.

Toast supports the most output formats of any Mac OS burning software:

  • Data — Mac only, Mac/PC easy hybrid, ISO9660, UDF, Custom Hybrid, Mac Volume
  • Audio — Audio CD, Music DVD, MP3 Disc, Enhanced Audio CD, Mixed Mode CD
  • Video — Video CD, Super Video CD, DVD-Video, miniDVD, DivX Disc
  • Copy — CD/DVD copy, Toast/3rd party image copy, Bin/Cue copy, CD-ROM XA, CD-I
  • Disc Types — CD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW double-layer, DVD-R/RW dual-layer, DVD-RAM
  • Recorders — Most internal and external CD and DVD recorders, including SuperDrives

Toast supports special burn settings, such as CD-TEXT writing, Disc At Once (DAO) recording, and Buffer Underrun Prevention options. DVDs created with Toast adhere 100% to the official DVD specifications, and are tested with Hollywood standard certification tools to verify DVD player compatibility.

28 August 2005

Reaktor 5 review — Computer Music

Filed under: Music software at 7:43 pm Comments Off on Reaktor 5 review — Computer Music

Reaktor 5, the latest version of Native Instruments’ flagship soft synth, gets an excellent review in the July issue of Computer Music magazine. In fact, they give it top marks for both Value for Money and Performance, and make it an Editor’s Choice. They say “it’s absolutely loaded with powerful new features that are guaranteed to keep you busy for aeons.”

Reaktor is more than just a synth — it’s a construction kit that lets you create your own synths, samplers and effects. You can build components by wiring together the included modules and saving them for later use. You can save combinations of instruments and effects into a single Ensemble. According to the review, this is “an elegant design that allows users to share creations at verying level of completion and complexity. It’s also surprisingly easy to use”. Fortunately, there is a degree of forward-compatibility; Ensembles built for the previous version will also work in Reaktor 5, which is important if you already own a previous version and are thinking of upgrading.

Of course, it comes with enough presets to make it useful right out of the box too: “NI have, as you’d expect, included a more than respectable selection of new Instruments, effects, sampler transformers, beatboxes and sequencers that make use of Reaktor 5’s improved feature set.” They describe many of them in some detail, before concluding that “the new Ensembles open up plenty of new sonic territories and sound fantastic.”

Reaktor 5 includes a new concept called Core Technologies, which they say “is undoubtedly among the most powerful of the new features.” This allows much nore low-level programming of sound modules and effects. Unless you’re already into computer programming, you may not use this, but it does mean that there will be a lot of interesting third-party add-ons for Reaktor 5.

In the end they give it a solid 9 out of ten. “Reaktor remains a great deal. Add to that its incredible versatility, and it really could be the only plug-in you’ll ever need.”

Q-Clone sampling EQ

Filed under: Music software at 6:29 pm Comments Off on Q-Clone sampling EQ

Q-Clone is an EQ plugin from Waves that can “sample” a hardware EQ so you can use it in software. Two main uses: you can use a hardware EQ with different settings on different tracks simultaneously; or you can use settings “sampled” from a hardware EQ that you don’t have. This second option is probably more likely for typical Laptop Studio types who don’t have piles of hardware cluttering up their studios, though this plugin itself is pretty expensive.

The Q-Clone package consists of two components: Q-Capture and Q-Clone. The website says that using them is easy:

1. Set up Q-Capture so it sends its special capturing signal through your audio interface to your outboard hardware EQ unit and returns the equalized signal back.

2. Open Q-Clone on the first track you want to EQ. Adjust the knobs on your hardware EQ unit until you get the sound you want.

3. On the Q-Clone plug-in, hit the Hold button, and the EQ for that track will now remain just as you set it, while you repeat the process on as many tracks as your computer can handle.

You can change and reset the equalization on each track as often as you need, and save the results as a preset. Using the Add button, you can also make adjustments on top of the original setting—like having the signal running through two of your EQ units at once. And Q-Clone comes with presets captured from a selection of world-class hardware equalizers. Q-Clone is available separately and is not included in any bundle.