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17 September 2005

SpectraFoo signal analyser

Filed under: Music software at 5:12 pm Comments Off on SpectraFoo signal analyser

SpectraFoo is a signal metering and analysis tool from Metric Halo. It looks useful for the pro sound engineer, not so much for the run-of-the-mill Laptop Studio musician, but it deserves mention here for its fun name at least. Metric Halo write: SpectraFoo provides all of the tools today’s digital projects demand. Whether you are a live sound engineer or a studio mixer, you need the power that Foo provides. Including standards-based level metering, high-speed, high-resolution spectral analysis, the unique Phase Torch, correlation metering, triggerable waveform display, power balancing and a variety of power, envelope and spectral histories and phase analysis on any number of input or output channels, the SpectraFoo range is absolutely essential for broadcast production and critical mixing & mastering.

Two versions of SpectraFoo are available. Both have just been released for MacOS X.

SpectraFoo is a collection of award-winning, high resolution metering tools in both standalone and DAW Plug-In configurations. SpectraFoo includes basic, sample-accurate metering, triggerable waveform display, power balancing and phase analysis on any number of input or output channels.

There’s also SpectraFoo Complete, which provides the engineer with sample code metering tools, a recording, playback, looping & static analysis system, and a complete transfer function measurement system.

The key features are:

  • Lissajous phase scopes (X-Y, vectorscope and stereo field display modes)
  • Full featured audio frequency oscilloscopes
  • Power balance meters
  • Full featured level meters with physical unit calibration
  • Full featured audio spectrum analyzers
  • Spectragram spectral history meters
  • Correlation meters
  • Correlation history meters
  • Phase Torch frequency-sensitive phase meters
  • Envelope history meters
  • Band Limited history meters

Native Instruments Kontakt 2 review — Keyboard

Filed under: Music software at 1:04 pm Comments Off on Native Instruments Kontakt 2 review — Keyboard

Native Instruments Kontakt 2 is favourably reviewed by Keyboard magazine. They write: “Only at version 2, Kontakt is arguably the most flexible, creative, and usable sampler to take up residence on our hard drive since software instruments first became viable alternatives to hardware.”

They describe the Kontakt Script Processor, which lets you program the way samples are played. This enables very complex behaviour; for example, Kontakt 2 comes with a guitar instrument that uses KSP to switch amongst the many samples to allow for things like fingering and strumming direction automatically. As they say, “it’s scary how well KSP works.”

The included convolution reverb function is predictably “fantastic”. The other basic functions of this sampler are also impressive. You can change a sample’s pitch or remove it entirely, timestretch, and slice beats all within Kontakt 2. The only cautionary note was to do with importing samples: “Non-native format conversion largely depends on the source material. In other words, your mileage may vary. But with over 30 formats supported, Kontakt 2 is still way ahead of the pack here.”

Overall they are impressed with Kontakt 2. “Whether you’re a sound designer, composer, producer, or synthesist, there’s a lot to love about Kontakt. No other software sampler puts it all together quite like K2. Combining cross-platform compatibility, multiple sample-playback modes, high-quality built-in effects, powerhouse multitimbral capabilities, support for a variety of non-native sampler formats, intelligent MIDI processing, and much more, K2 is in a class of its own.”

Sony Acid Pro 5 review — Pro Audio

Filed under: Music software at 12:48 pm Comments Off on Sony Acid Pro 5 review — Pro Audio

Pro Audio Review take a look at Sony Acid Pro 5 and say it’s an excellent consolidation of all the features that Acid is famous in an improved interface. They are particularly pleased with the ReWire support in Acid Pro 5, as well as the new support for VST plug-ins and multiport VSTi soft synths. They also like the new Media Manager for organising your Gigabytes of samples and sounds. This kind of function is more and more necessary these days; some reviewers have found the Media Manager to be a bit heavyweight, here they found no problems with it.

Other features they like are less glamorous but still useful — Folder Tracks, for example. These allow tracks to be grouped and hidden in folders. “Unfortunately, unlike … other programs, trim/expand editing operations cannot be done directly on a folder track, though the editing of clusters (overlapping events within a folder displayed only when the folder is collapsed) allows easy cut/copy/paste operations across multiple tracks. Folder tracks also provide much-needed grouping functions in Acid. Groups of samples and alternate arrangements can be auditioned in the project by muting or soloing folder tracks.”

On the other hand, they call Acid Pro 5’s lack of support for external hardware controllers “devastating”. A bit harsh perhaps, but the ability to use controllers would make the most of Acid Pro’s ease of use.

In summary, they approve of this upgrade, and think it brings Acid Pro to the next level: “Sony Media Software has done a highly admirable job of bringing a unique and much-loved application into the professional production arena.”

16 September 2005

Ableton Live 5 review — 3D World

Filed under: Music software at 10:27 am Comments Off on Ableton Live 5 review — 3D World

3D World magazine reviews Ableton Live 5. They talk a lot about the general features in previous versions of Live and how they are useful to various types of musician — live performer, DJ, studio musician — and also mention their favourite new features: “DAW features have been added to Live 5 enabling audio professionals to access high-end studio effects and processors such as clip-freeze and compression. This is a fantastic addition to Live as in the past I have found many Live users still using other sequencing software to master a Live mix.”

Live’s interface tweaks also get a boost: “Artists can now make parameter changes to a whole group of samples as opposed to individually — and clip browsing and navigation have also been improved for faster and easier access.” The Live tutorials also get a mention. Previous versions (at least Live 4) had tutorials too, but this feature didn’t get as much attention in reviews as the music production features. Here they do get their due. “New software is never easy to learn, but Ableton has made it as simple as turning on your Mac or PC. Live 5 comes packed with a host of tutorials and samples to learn your way around the myriad of features included. Titles such as ‘DJ with Live’, ‘Acoustic and Voice Recording’ and even ‘Setting up latency compensation’ are included all with easy-to-follow interactive steps.”

The conclusion follows on from the rest of the review. Simply put: buy this software. “Live 5 is not just an upgrade, it contains way too many new features to call it that. It is a total music solution for the garage, bedroom, studio or stage. The only way to really see what I mean is by grabbing a copy and testing it yourself.”

15 September 2005

Mobile Laptop Studio Backpack

Filed under: Hardware at 11:44 pm Comments Off on Mobile Laptop Studio Backpack

M-Audio make a nice Mobile Laptop Studio Backpack, which I feel must be included on this website simply because of its name. As M-Audio say, you can “carry your studio on your back — and in style. Our padded ballistic nylon Studio Pack conveniently carries an M-Audio Ozone or Oxygen8, a laptop and accessories.” Unfortunately, it does not come emblazoned with the Laptop Studio logo.

This Studio Pack backpack holds a 25-key MIDI keyboard controller along with your laptop, and has various compartments for assorted paraphernalia. It’s very convenient to have everything in one bag. As they say, it “lets you carry your studio with you”!

Bhajis Loops DAW for Palm handheld

Filed under: Music software at 11:00 pm Comments Off on Bhajis Loops DAW for Palm handheld

Bhajis Loops is a software DAW for Palm PDA devices. It looks surprisingly full-featured — it contains a complete sample editor, virtual instruments with wavetable synthesis, pattern editor and sequencer, effects and automation. And like every other music production software these days, it has a special mode for live performances — Ableton Live has a lot to answer for. It sounds perfect for those long commutes on the subway in the mornings.

The website has a lot of information about the product, unsurprisingly, and about the workflow and features. Not much about Indian food though. Here’s a summary: Import your favourite samples from your collection of .wav files or SoundFonts, use a SamplePack or directly record a new sample with the built-in microphone of your Palm. If necessary, edit your samples with Bhajis Loops integrated sample editor. Then, make them sound exactly like you want using the numerous options of the synthesis section: low-pass and high-pass filter, LFO, envelope, layering.

Bhajis Loops has a powerful pattern editor in which you can create the basic blocks of your song. Use the Piano roll view to compose melodies, or the Grid view to compose rhythms. Forget the mouse: Entering notes with the stylus is so easy! With the pattern recorder, you can even record a melody by playing on the on-screen piano keyboard, or create drum patterns with the buttons and keys of your Palm.

18 effects plug-ins are provided with Bhajis Loops — from an extreme distortion or bit-crushing to a smooth reverb or chorus, through a variety of EQs and filters.

Finally, any work done on Bhajis Loops can be seamlessly exported to the desktop as WAV or MIDI files.

Other standout features:

  • An XY pad on which you can control in realtime 2 synthesis or FX parameters with the touch screen.
  • Freely redistributable song player and WinAMP plug-in: let your friends listen to your tunes!
  • A special mode for live performances — chain patterns, mute instruments and control synthesis parameters in realtime.
  • A lively community of users — hundreds of enthusiastic musicians ready to share their tunes and skills with you.

Ableton Live 5 review — Future Music

Filed under: Music software at 11:34 am Comments Off on Ableton Live 5 review — Future Music

Ableton Live 5 gets a top review in the October issue of Future Music magazine. They have always had good things to say about previous versions of Live, and they think this new version is a huge improvement on an already great program. They give Live 5 their Platinum Award for general all-round excellence. It scores 8 out of 10 for value for money, 9 for build quality, ease of use and versatility, and a perfect ten for quality of results.

They say that no other program matches Live 5 in its intuitiveness and ease of use, and praise its “inventive integration of live performance into the DAW paradigm.” When they start talking about “paradigms” you know they’re getting serious. More usability does not mean less power though– this version is “the best Live yet; version 5 takes this deceptively powerful system to new heights.”

They conclude by wondering if any of Ableton’s competitors will ever catch up with Live 5. “There’s still nothing out there like it, and with Ableton genuinely basing most of their high-velocity development program on user feedback, it’s hard to imagine that there ever will be.” You get the impression that only one program will ever overtake Ableton Live 5 — and that will be Ableton Live 6.

14 September 2005

TimewARP 2600 ARP emulator plugin

Filed under: Music software at 11:59 pm Comments Off on TimewARP 2600 ARP emulator plugin

The TimewARP 2600 is a digital software emulation of the classic ARP 2600 analog synthesizer. It’s sufficiently impressive that it is apparently the only ARP 2600 emulation product endorsed by the creator of the original ARP 2600, Alan R. Pearlman. The great thing about it is that the emulation runs very deep; you can “mistakenly” patch the wrong things to each other and the weird noises you’ll get are the same weird noises you’d get with the original hardware. There are some improvements over the original too — of course you can save your patches, and it has 8 voice polyphony compared to the original mono synth.

The interface is very nice. It uses the virtual patch cable interface made famous by Reason, but it is actually appropriate here in a vintage synth emulator. There are a zillion control knobs and sliders, and you can assign an unlimited number of them to a single MIDI control on your MIDI keyboard or control surface.

The TimewARP 2600 has been around for a while as a standalone soft synth, but just now Way Out Ware have released plugin versions in VST, RTAS and AU formats so they’ll fit into almost any studio. They say a TDM version is on the way, so all you Pro Tools users will be able to join the ARP frenzy soon too. Here’s the full list of features from the website.

TimewARP 2600 Synth Features

  • 3 VCOs – all capable of generating audio band and Low Frequency (LF) signals.
  • 1 Lo-Pass Resonant Filter – supports variable-depth self-oscillation and audio band and LF control modulation.
  • 1 Sample & Hold – driven by either an internal, external, or MIDI Beat Clock. Can also be used as LFO source.
  • 1 Ring Modulator.
  • 1 Noise Generator – adjustable from white to red noise.
  • 2 Envelope Generators – 1 ADSR, 1 AR.
  • 1 Envelope Follower.
  • 1 VCA – 2 audio inputs, 1 linear control input, 1 exponential control input. Also has initial gain control.
  • 4 plug multiple module.
  • Stereo Reverb.
  • Output Pan.
  • Electronic Switch.
  • Lag Processor – LF filtering from 1.2 to 1200Hz.
  • 2 Inverter Modules – both with attenuable inputs.
  • Preamp In – mono or stereo.

TimewARP 2600 Keyboard Features

  • Virtual ARP 3620 Keyboard.
  • Variable-rate portamento, octave switch, pitch bend, LFO controls including delayed sine wave vibrato depth and speed.
  • LFO Outputs – include square, triangle, and sine waves.
  • External LFO-In – allows keyboard voltages to be modulated by any signal present on the TimewARP 2600.
  • Interval Latch Switch – will latch a two note interval for use as single key play.
  • 2 Upper Voice Outputs.
  • Multiple or Single Trigger Mode – provides for single or multiple gates for slurred notes.
  • Keyboard Repeat Mode – provides auto repeat or repeat on key-press synchronized to keyboard LFO and MIDI Beat Clock.
  • Square wave is syncable to MIDI Beat Clock.

Apple Soundtrack Pro review — Mix

Filed under: Music software at 12:15 pm Comments Off on Apple Soundtrack Pro review — Mix

Apple Soundtrack Pro gets a good review in Mix magazine. Soundtrack Pro is Apple’s full-featured audio editor, a much more powerful version of their old Soundtrack software. Soundtrack Pro is available on its own, or as a part of the Final Cut Studio video editing software suite. This includes Final Cut Pro 5, DVD Studio Pro 4 and Motion 2, and these three programs work together with Soundtrack Pro. The review talks about his integration, calling it “seamless”, and also has some very good things to say about Final Cut Pro towards the end. However, most of the piece describes Soundtrack Pro’s features and how well they work in normal conditions.

They say that Soundtrack Pro’s user interface is straightforward and easy to understand, and powerful: “Editing is sample-accurate and non-destructive, with near-unlimited undo. And Soundtrack Pro’s script and batch processing can apply plug-ins, sample rate conversions, amplitude adjustments and more to dozens (or hundreds) of files at once simply by saving the Action as an AppleScript.”

The reviewers are impressed with the included extras: Soundtrack Pro comes with more than 50 AudioUnits and Logic plug-ins, including dynamics, EQ/filters, distortions, modulations, reverb/delays, de-noise, pitch shifter, stereo spread, sub-bass, meters, test oscillator, tuner and more, including restoration tools. They note that “several of the DSP effects are particularly impressive.”

Overall, Soundtrack Pro gets the thumbs-up, not only for music and sound editing but particularly for use in a video editing context. “Soundtrack Pro takes the concept of its predecessor light years ahead in terms of power, versatility and feature set. On my want list for the next version would be multitrack recording and track locking, but especially in view of how Soundtrack Pro integrates with and strengthens Final Cut Pro 5 and the entire Final Cut Studio Suite, this is one audio editor that, like a fine wine, will only mature and improve with age.”

Sony Acid Pro 5 review — Australian IT

Filed under: Music software at 9:31 am Comments Off on Sony Acid Pro 5 review — Australian IT

The Australian newspaper’s IT section doesn’t often review music software, but they’ve just published a look at Sony’s Acid Pro 5. It’s a pretty bright and breezy review — hey start by comparing Acid to the obvious competition, Apple’s Garageband. Among Acid Pro 5’s many features, they mention the Groove Mapper quantisation tool as being ripe with possibilities. And even though the review is short, there is one simple nugget of wisdom that we should all keep in mind: “While no actual instrumental or vocal ability is required, you need your wits about you and a modicum of taste to aid in the development of the music.”

I feel they didn’t really exercise the program to its fullest extent — the only bad point they found is that the included loops soon grow stale. Apart from that they think Acid Pro 5 is good fun, describing it as “a great way to create an original score for your latest home video or presentation, and it’s perfectly possible to use the music created here as a bed for something a bit more original. … With less musical effort than ever before (why bother learning an instrument?) you could soon be able to create music that will be at least on par with half of what’s out there today.”