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22 September 2005

E-Mu Xboard 25/49 keyboard controller

Filed under: Hardware at 12:47 pm Comments Off on E-Mu Xboard 25/49 keyboard controller

Hardware manufacturer E-Mu have released the Xboard USB/MIDI controllers. The Xboard 25 and Xboard 49 are 25- and 49-key controllers respectively, as you might expect. They feature a full complement of control knobs and switches in a portable package — especially the little Xboard 25.

The E-Mu website has a few more details, including these: The new E-MU Xboard Professional USB/MIDI controllers for PC and Mac offer unmatched playability, real-time control and programmability in a portable keyboard package ideal for studio and stage use. The Xboard 25 and Xboard 49 both feature fullsize velocity sensitive keyboards with aftertouch, 16 programmable real-time controllers, Xboard Control editing software, E-MU’s new Proteus X LE Desktop Sound Module with over 1000 sounds, and can run on USB, battery, or AC power.

For all you Windows users, the keyboard bundle includes Proteus X LE Desktop Sound Module with over 1000 presets and Ableton Live Lite 4 for E-MU so you can start working on that album right out of the box.

Synful Orchestra plugin

Filed under: Music software at 1:36 am (2 comments)

Synful Orchestra is an orchestra instrument plugin. It sounds like a fantastic idea: most orchestral instrument plugins will respond to key velocity and modulation — Synful Orchestra responds as a whole, in a complex way, to a full range of expressive gestures such as staccato notes and portamento. It’s almost as if you are conducting an orchestra rather than playing an instrument. Synful, the makers, put it this way: “Synful Orchestra responds to the performer. When you play a phrase with legato and detached notes, with accents, and pedal nuances, Synful Orchestra responds with realistic sounding slurs, tonguing, and bowing. No laborious editing of performances to select from a limited set of articulations in a sample library.”

Careful — the phrase “slurs, tonguing, and bowing” could easily be taken out of context. Anyway, Synful Orchestra may have rather a plain user interface, but the ideas behind it are pretty interesting. Eric Lindemann, the man behind the software, has a very impressive CV, and has patented the technology used in Synful Orchestra. The website has more information on the plugin. It says: Synful Orchestra is not a sampler or a sampler library. Synful Orchestra is not a physical modeling synthesizer. It is an entirely new concept in music synthesis. At the heart of Synful Orchestra is Synful’s Reconstructive Phrase Modeling (RPM) technology. This is the result of many years of research, several patents, and a lifetime of experimentation, design, and frustration with older synthesis technologies.

To realize the Synful Orchestra sound examples using even the most advanced sampler with the best sample libraries would require many hours manually selecting samples to achieve different note articulations. Even then the results would be disappointing, stiff, and unnatural. This is because it is impossible to achieve realistic musical phrasing for expressive instruments using samplers. A sample library is a collection of recordings of isolated notes. It is not surprising that when these recordings are strung together they sound like a sequence of unrelated isolated notes. With Synful Orchestra things are different:

  • Synful Orchestra models transitions between notes automatically.
  • Synful Orchestra models vibrato and extends the duration of notes using sophisticated statistical techniques. Sample loops with all their limitations are a thing of the past.
  • Synful Orchestra responds to volume, pitch, and velocity changes with continuous changes in timbre, just like a real instrument.

21 September 2005

Acoustica audio editor

Filed under: Music software at 3:54 pm Comments Off on Acoustica audio editor

Acoustica is an audio editing program from Acon Digital Media. Acon version 3.3 has been released, adding quality enhancement of old LP or tape recordings, effects chaining and many other tweaks. Acon say that Acoustica’s audio editing engine allows unlimited undo and redo levels, fast non-destructive editing and 24 or 32 bit editing with up to 192 kHz sampling rate. You can import tracks from audio CDs and create audio CDs with your edited material without leaving the program. Acoustica reads and writes Ogg-Vorbis, Wave Audio, Windows Media Audio, MP3 and Sun Audio files, and imports audio tracks from MPEG Video AVI and WMV files. It seems to have decent features for such an inexpensive program.

More details from the website: The new Cleaning Wizard simplifies the transfer of LP records or audio tapes to CDs. The Cleaning Wizard automates the whole process from recording and track splitting to audio restoration and CD recording.

The new effect chain editor in version 3.3 allows the user to chain internal processing tools and plug-ins. The chains can be saved including their settings for later use. Each processing step in the chain can be bypassed and the processing order changed by drag and drop. Full feature highlights are as follows.


  • High quality reverb
  • Echo, flanger and chorus
  • Dynamic processor with graphical input
  • Pitch transpose (with or without alteration of duration) and harmonizer
  • Support for DirectX audio effect plug-ins
  • Real-time preview on most of the effects

Editing tools

  • High quality time stretching
  • Create volume curves and fades
  • Sample format conversion
  • Channel mixer for stereo image adjustments

Signal enhancement algorithms

  • Improved click filter for restoration of LP and 78 RPM recordings
  • Noise reduction based on spectral subtraction
  • Automatic noise reduction with no need for separate noise profile analysis
  • Six band full parametric equalizer with graphical display of the frequency response
  • Synthesis of high frequency components gives life to old recordings
  • Automatically remove DC offsets

Signal analysis tools

  • Fourier spectrum
  • Fourier spectrogram (2D, time-frequency-plot)
  • Wavelet plots (based on the Morlet-Wavelet)

M-Audio Key Rig review — Computer Music

Filed under: Music software at 8:44 am Comments Off on M-Audio Key Rig review — Computer Music

Computer Music magazine reviews Key Rig, the first virtual instrument from M-Audio. They note its easy-to-use interface, clearly designed for keyboard players rather than hardcore programmers. The most important module of the four included is the Stage Piano module, which contains various pianos and synth pads. Strangely, the reviewers say that this module does not include any clavinets, but M-Audio’s website explicitly says that this module contains “grand pianos, Wurlitzer, classic electric pianos, FM, clavinet and more” (my emphasis). If your heart is set on a clavinet, you’d better check this first. Apart from this, they rate the Stage Piano module sounds as “serviceable” — if you want the best piano sounds then you should look elsewhere (and probably pay more). This is the price you pay for Key Rig’s simplicity and convenience.

The Polyphonic Synth and General MIDI modules are also decent but unexciting — you may not want to use them for the final mix of your next hit single, but they would be fine for demos or gigs. On the other hand, they like the Electromagnetic Organ: “there are some excellent presets here, whether you want to go smooth and jazzy or dirty and loud.” They say they would happily use this module in a live performance.

In the end, they rate Key Rig as 7 out of 10, saying that it is best suited to laptop musicians — that means you! — especially in a live setting. It has a lot of different sounds in a compact, easy-to-use package.

20 September 2005

MultiDynamics multiband dynamics processor

Filed under: Music software at 10:31 pm (1 comment)

Wave Arts have released MultiDynamics 5 as part of a major upgrade across their plug-in line. MultiDynamics is a multiband dynamics processor useful for mastering, noise reduction, volume maximization, sound design, and more. It’s one of five plug-ins in their upcoming PowerSuite 5 bundle; once all five plug-ins have been upgraded, PowerSuite 5 will leave the building.

Wave Arts describe this plug-in’s “powerful multi-band dynamics: use up to six compressors/expanders, each operating in a different frequency range. MultiDynamics 5 has a variety of uses including mastering, noise reduction, volume maximization, and sound design.” New features in MultiDynamics 5 include

  • Clean (for transparent sound) and vintage (for analog colorization and warmth) dynamics modes
  • Stunning visual interface design
  • Brand new presets and enhanced preset management
  • Up to 192K support

This is part of the soon-to-be-released PowerSuite 5, which Wave Arts say features “outstanding sound quality, more signal processing power, stunning visual interface design, and world class customer support at a tremendous value. These new v5 plug-ins cover the essential aspects of sound design, tracking, mixing and mastering. They are available in various bundle configurations and individually, so you can choose the package that best suits your audio needs. These plug-ins run on any Mac (AU/VST/MAS/RTAS) or Windows (DX/VST/RTAS) based audio/music production platform.”

Intuem “Über Sequencer”

Filed under: Music software at 4:47 pm Comments Off on Intuem “Über Sequencer”

Intuem is an unusual sequencer that tries to preserve a human feel to the music. Its makers, Companion, say “The most beautiful music doesn’t often come from a sequencer, it usually comes from the heart of an artist and is captured directly to tape. It has long been the problem that a sequencer cannot easily accommodate dynamic, free flowing, beautiful music that respects a sequencer’s bar and beat boundaries so looping tools and rhythm machines keep in sync. Intuem 3.5 puts an end to that.” Intuem version 3.5 adds a raft of new features, including extensions to Intuem’s core functions. There’s also external sequencer control, which means you can use Intuem to control the tempo of your entire studio — and tempo is Intuem’s speciality.

Here are some of the highlights of Intuem version 3.5.

Enhanced Note Refitters
They’re Intuem’s killer feature and we’ve made them even better. Not only can you squeeze and stretch notes to fit them into the bars and beats where they belong, but you can now shift notes in time to bring a section to the right starting point. The note refitters now automatically snap to the exact boundaries of a selection when you bring them on-screen and they also automatically quantise the appearance of your music giving you instant results.

No other sequencer for the Mac has the amazingly useful Note Refitters, and they are the key to making dynamic, natural sounding, variable tempo music with your computer. With Intuem’s new synchronisation abilities you can work with a beautiful, living performance in Intuem while enjoying the Apple Loops, video synchronisation and more through other sequencers running in sync.

Mix Easier
Intuem’s mixer controls add a new level of ease-of-use to software mixers. The controls show value ranges proportionally and are easier to read and control with the mouse than conventional linear or circular sliders. There’s even a dedicated controller for graphic equalisers and similar slider arrays.

Intuem’s mixer controls are unlike any other sequencers’ because not only do you get to control MIDI & AudioUnit parameters in the mixer, but you get to choose what kind of controls to use and how they appear on screen.

Low Overhead
You know that converting MIDI tracks to audio and freezing audio tracks into a single audio clip is a great way to manage a composition, but now you can reduce your CPU load even further. Intuem 3.5 lets you hide tracks so they’re off screen and removed from Intuem’s audio processing pathways. When you save your composition they’re saved too, and you can bring them back into the composition any time you need. Now you can keep all your hard work and not have your CPU pay for it!

Intuem does ReWire
Intuem is a complete ReWire mixer with the ability to use any ReWire device, like Reason for example. You can connect and control ReWire devices with Intuem and hear their audio output through an Intuem audio track, through any AudioUnit processing you want on the track and then through Intuem’s mixer out to your speakers. You can convert ReWire MIDI tracks to audio, and freeze ReWire audio tracks into a single audio clip as well as record un-processed audio from ReWire devices.

What you see is what you get
We understand that your music is much more important to you than a clever interface that fills the window with tools, dozens of pop-ups and columns of tiny buttons so we put all those things away in an info window you can call up only when you need to and laid them out in sensible groups so you can find what you need quickly and easily. What buttons we did keep on screen are arranged clearly, and take up a very small area, leaving you with lots of space to spread out and do what you love to do.

Dynamix waveshaping plugin

Filed under: Music software at 4:05 pm Comments Off on Dynamix waveshaping plugin

Dynamix is a sound shaping plugin from Hungarian company WWAYM. I have no idea how to pronounce their name, but this plugin sounds interesting. They call it “a completely new way to waveshape your sounds.” They say it’s not a traditional effect, but it can be used to emulate a compressor, EQ, distortion effect, and many more, as well as having its own tricks. Despite this fresh approach to sound shaping, the user interface has a nice retro feel, if you like that sort of thing.

WWAYM have more details on their website, along with a nice tutorial. They say: This plug-in gives you the control over the amplitude of your sound. At the same time it’s also able to boost up frequencies with the same algorithm. It’s not a compressor, limiter, maximiser, or distortion effect. It was not created on the way of thinking of analogue sound designing and mastering processors, it’s architecture is the result of a new way of thinking about sound.

With Dynamix it takes only the turning of 4 knobs to reach the highest average RMS level of a sound, but mostly the best workflow is to load up one of the numerous presets, and tweak a maximum of 2 knobs to the right place in order to reach the sound you want. You can use more instances of Dynamix to get a multiband dynamic processor. The main features are:

  • Volume managing section with input/output/dry/wet section
  • 12db/oct filter which is able to fade between Lp, Bp, Hp modes
  • The unfiltered signal can be mixed to the processed signal
  • Main section, containing everything you will need to process your signal

19 September 2005

M-Audio Key Rig

Filed under: Music software at 10:52 am Comments Off on M-Audio Key Rig

Key Rig is one of the first in a projected line of virtual instruments from M-Audio, who are better known for their music hardware. It’s an interesting idea — it’s a VST plugin that can also run standalone, and M-Audio intend it to be usable as an all-in-one keyboard sounds module. Simply load Key Rig onto your computer, plug in your keyboard controller and you’re away. And the really unusual thing about it is that the whole thing fits on a single CD.

M-Audio say that Key Rig covers all the basic needs for today’s keyboardist in a single virtual rack. It includes a virtual rack containing the following four modules.
SP-1 Stage Piano — serves up grand pianos, Wurlitzer, classic electric pianos, FM, clavinet and more.
MS-2 Polyphonic Synthesizer — delivers a new, easy way to call up and edit great synth sounds.
MB-3 Electromagnetic Organ — emulates the classic Hammond sound complete with rotary speaker.
GM-4 General MIDI Module — great for sequencing the rest of your backing tracks.

There’s also a master MIDI/Mixer section, which lets you route, split, layer and mix these four powerful modules in whatever way best suits your performance and recording needs. A master effects section even allows for adding a common effect in addition to the individual effect section included with each instrument.

Synchro-Funk sample library review — Keyboard

Filed under: Music software at 12:36 am Comments Off on Synchro-Funk sample library review — Keyboard

Keyboard magazine reviews Synchro-Funk, a package of loops from Sony for their Acid music composition software (but usable by any other package too). Laptop Studio doesn’t often feature sample libraries, but in this case the review itself makes pretty amusing reading: “Picture this: Prince and Kraftwerk decide to collaborate — Prince contributes the danceable funkiness, Kraftwerk provides the machine soul. But just before they begin recording, someone floods the studio with laughing gas.”

Some reviews give you useful information about the product; some are simply fun to read. This one is both. “The FX loops are pretty insane; if machines throw parties when you leave the room, this is probably what they sound like.” In case it isn’t obvious, they really like this library — it may be stylistically limited, but who cares when it’s such a great style. And you can’t beat this for a recommendation: “Synchro Funk is the most fun I’ve had with a sample CD in quite some time.”

18 September 2005

M-Audio Trigger Finger review — Keyboard

Filed under: Hardware at 9:34 am Comments Off on M-Audio Trigger Finger review — Keyboard

The Trigger Finger MIDI control surface from M-Audio gets a good review in Keyboard magazine. From their description of the control pads on this device, you can tell they love it — maybe a little too much: “”They seem to have taken great care in choosing the best-feeling pad material I’ve ever had the pleasure to caress. It’s like a baby’s bottom. Like real Corinthian leather. Had Solomon’s beloved had skin that felt like this, the Song of Solomon would be pages longer and steamier than it already is. These pads are dead sexy.”

While they didn’t like the display (the three-digit LED display is pretty minimal), they like the functionality of the Trigger Finger. They even go so far as to inspect the MIDI control data that the Trigger Finger sent out to make sure it wasn’t skimping.

Overall, they say the Trigger Finger is a pretty impressive value. “The TF has excellent pad feel, arguably the most important thing. It’s stoutly built, and offers far more in the areas of programming feedback and available controls. M-Audio even thought of the little things, like the Kensington lock and the provision for a stand mount.” The final word: “if you’re just now considering a pad controller for drum programming, the Trigger Finger represents an inexpensive gamble on whether or not you’ll like the idea.”