Antares has released Auto-Tune Access, making vocal tuning more accessible, easier to use, and less expensive, than ever before. When I first saw a demo of this at NAMM I had my suspicions that this was too good to be true. After all, how accurate can it be when there are literally just two controls, with three settings each? After testing it out, I have to say that the results are simply stunning. I don’t know how they’ve tweaked their detection and processing algorithms, but this thing just works!
Universal Audio’s Century Tube Channel Strip is the perfect first step in getting a warm and fluid brush sound. Close drum mics don’t generally need as much gain as quieter sources like acoustic guitars, or even vocals. This is the perfect scenario to take advantage of the Century Tube Channel Strip’s gain staging. Engaging the pad and then boosting the Level knob results in a nice thick warm tone. Combine this with a nice steep low mid roll off and a subtle 10k boost in the EQ section, along with a few dB of sweet vintage opto compression and you are halfway towards your final drum sound. Add on Universal Audio’s Pure Plate reverb, and you’ve got a sound with real personality and vintage charm.
In this video, brought to you with the support of Universal Audio, my buddy Morey Richman and I put the Suhr SE 100 guitar amp and the EP-34 Tape Echo to work on a couple of guitar parts. Each with subtly unique and colorful tape delay settings. Combined they create a thick and rich unique sounding guitar tone.
Trackpads are great in that they do so much more than a simple mouse does. You can use gestures with different combinations of multiple fingers to pinch, tap, scroll, & swipe. AudioSwift 2 is an app that enhances these basic functions, optimizing them for use as a control surface with various DAWs, including Logic Pro X. If you don’t have an iPad Pro or a Slate Raven, you can still join the party and participate in the tactile world of touch control!
The elusive ingredient we all always seem to be searching for is the perfect emulation of analog circuit components and characteristics. Hear for yourself if True Iron by Kazrog fills the need.
Eli Krantzberg reviews the Blasting Room Signature Series Drums, a premium drum sample library for Kontakt that was produced, engineered and mixed by Jason Livermore and Bill Stevenson at the Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Eli reviews the all new PRS SuperModels guitar amp plugin, developed by Waves in collaboration with boutique guitar amp maker and guitarist Paul Reed Smith.
I’m not generally a fan of “one-knob” macro style plug-ins. But there is a new series, called Bus Glue, from Joel Wanask at Joey Sturgis Tones (JST) that is the exception to the rule.
JST Bus Glue
Bus Glue is a series of compressor/limiter based plug-ins specifically designed as unique mixing tools intended for placement either on your main instrument, or bus tracks.
Bus Glue contains versions for drums, bass, guitars, vocals, keys, and mix bus. Each contains a unique compressor and processor design.
In this video, I put it to work on a fairly sparse arrangement, so we can really hear what each of the plug-ins is doing. They add Joel’s secret sauce and work great in this scenario in moderation for subtle glue and colouring. In other more aggressive styles, they sound great slammed hard for some dramatic and powerful processing!
Learn more about JST Bus Glue here:
Here's Eli Krantzberg's review of the Sonarworks Reference 4 speaker and headphone calibration system that enables you to mix and master on your headphones with confidence.
The Sonarworks Reference 4 Calibration System
I have to admit, when I was first asked to review the Sonarworks Reference 4 calibration system, I was skeptical. The intended function of this software/hardware package is to calibrate your imperfect monitors to your imperfect acoustic environment.
It generates an EQ curve to compensate that you use to mix into on your stereo bus within your DAW. The idea is to ensure you are monitoring in as neutral a context as possible. So what’s not like? It sounds like a great idea!
I was initially skeptical; I realize now because I was fighting my preconceived notions about mixing and monitoring. No monitors are perfectly flat, and no room is acoustically perfect. You “learn” to work in your environment and that’s that. You learn to compensate through trial and error and experience until your mixes sound good. Period. Well, not so much.
You’ll have to read through to the end of the review to see how my prejudices have been modified through the experience of using this system.
So, What Exactly is Sonarworks Reference 4 All About?
First of all, Sonarworks Reference 4 comes in two flavors. The Studio Edition, which is what I used for this review, is designed to work on headphones and speakers. The less expensive Headphone Edition is a modified version, set up to work with headphones only. They also offer a premium bundle that includes pre-calibrated headphones with the Studio Edition.
There are four components to this calibration system. The first is the Reference 4 Measure app that resides in the Application folder.
This is what you will use to run the calibration routine to “measure” your speakers and their relationship to your room. Once it is done you will save this profile and load it into the second component of this system, the Reference 4 Plug-in. This is a standard plug-in, designed to be used at the last insert slot in your mixing signal flow; presumably the stereo bus within your DAW.
The third component is the actual mic itself, the omnidirectional XREF 20 measurement microphone that ships with the Studio Edition package. Each mic has a unique serial number that you will input into the downloads section of the Sonarworks web site. You are then provided with a custom profile for your specific mic that is used by the measurement Measure app when performing its acoustic measurements. The final component is a stand-alone application called Reference 4 Systemwide. Here you can load either your speaker or headphone profile so that all the sound running through your system audio is run through the calibration curve.
The Sonarworks reference system uses several advanced technologies to measure and calibrate your speakers; including the Automatic MicrophonePositioning System (AMPS) and Perceived Acoustic Power Frequency Response (PAPFR). There are a few more complex names and acronyms involved. But let’s skip that and look at how this system actually works!
Reference 4 Measurement in Action
Happily, Sonarworks holds your hand throughout the calibration routine with very clear on-screen instructions. First is to make sure the corrections are correct and there is no direct monitoring in place. Which is a very useful warning for someone using a UA Apollo setup like I am!
If you haven’t already, you are then prompted to download and choose your XREF 20 microphone’s unique calibration profile. After a few more audio interface setup prompts, the measurements begin. The on-screen graphics help you position the microphone to the necessary positions in relation to your speakers and physical setup. Finally, a profile is generated for you to save and use with the DAW plug-in and/or Systemwide app.
Mixing With the Reference Plug-in
Cards on the table here, it is a bit surprising to hear how different your speakers sound once you have the Reference plug-in set up on your stereo bus with your new custom profile in place. The EQ curve generated by the calibration process looked drastic to me. Could my room actually be this “bad”? I was assured by Sonarworks that this was not an untypical curve. Clearly, the positioning and acoustics in my room are affecting one speaker more dramatically than the other; at least down in the 150 cycle range. I’ll admit, I was reluctant and hesitant. I am used to trusting my ears with my setup in my particular room with my specific speakers.
I did an interesting experiment. I took a mix I did a month ago and remixed it with the Sonarworks plug-in in place on the stereo bus. It was a very revealing experience.
At first, I was startled that the level was so much quieter. I quickly learned this was a result of the default clipping protection that was enabled to compensate for the relatively dramatic curves needed to calibrate my set up. This was easily defeated by disabling the function and moving the output fader back up to unity output level. I used the same EQ plug-ins as in the original mix. But I found myself reaching for and adjusting bands that I don’t normally go to.
I have to admit that when I played back the final bounced version through my system on my IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitors, the new mix sounded really good! The moral of the story, for me at least, was to fight through your initial comfort zone being invaded and take the leap of faith. This system actually does work!
I confess I’m not a huge fan in general of mixing with headphones, because they can be so colored and flattering to the sound. I used the same piece I used for the speakers and started mixing into a pair of Beyer Dynamic DT 770 Pro headphones without the profile in place. I got it sounding pretty good without too much trouble, which isn’t hard to imagine, given how nice sounding these headphones are straight out of the box. I then mixed it again using a custom calibration profile provided for this specific pair of headphones.
Unlike the speakers, I was very pleasantly surprised to hear that there was no immediate dramatic shift from the uncalibrated sound. I tweaked the mix using the profile. When listening back, I A/B’d the mix through the headphones with the calibration on and off. Happily, there was not a huge difference in the results; which I think is a good thing. There shouldn’t be a huge difference, given that there are no room variables involved.
What I did notice though was how the stereo imagining opened up with the Reference 4 calibration profile active. I really like that the difference was subtle. Not only did the imaging become clearer and more focused, but the frequencies seemed to even out slightly as well. I then tried the “average” Beyer Dynamic 770 Pro calibration profile that ships with the Reference 4 system. I didn’t notice a huge difference between that and the custom profile matched to my specific pair; although the custom profile did “feel nicer”. To be honest, I’m not certain if that was a placebo effect or not though
I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment in committing to the Sonarworks profile when mixing with these headphones. The subtle enhancement of the imaging and the nuance this provides in mixing is only apparent when mixing with headphones. I may have to re-think my ideas about mixing with them now!
Despite my initial apprehension, I can honestly say that I do believe almost everyone can benefit from using the Sonarworks speaker and headphone calibration system.
For inexperienced users, you will start off on the right foot; mixing to as neutral sounding speakers, or headphones, as possible. For experienced engineers who work on the road or in different studios, this is an invaluable tool. Simply run the Reference Measure app in your new environment and use the plug-in on your master bus. You will be able to rest easy, knowing that you are mixing in a consistently calibrated environment, despite the room or the monitors being different.
For experienced home studio engineers, and I include myself in this category, the benefits are also absolutely worth it, although we will have the hardest time taking the leap. It does require a bit of getting used to. But after a short time mixing with the reference plug-in in place, I forgot about it and didn’t notice it; and just went on mixing as I normally do.
The proof is in the pudding, as they say when you play back your mixes on other systems and hear how much more accurately they translate. There is a free trial available at the Sonarworks web site. If you have an hour or two to spare setting it up and mixing with it for a while, you will see and hear the benefits for yourself quickly enough!
For more information or to download a free trial, visit https://www.sonarworks.com/reference
In this video, Eli Krantzberg takes a look at the features of the Universal Audio Lexicon 224 Reverb plugin, and takes it for a ride on a cool jazz arrangement in Logic Pro X.
Lexicon 224 Reverb
Based on the iconic hardware model used extensively in the 1980’s, the Lexicon 224 reverb plug-in from Universal Audio is an algorithmic reverb that features nine individual algorithms. Eight reverb models, and one chorus.
Check out this overview video and hear it in action on a jazz arrangement:
Two Separate Reverb Tail Times
To me what makes this reverb special is the ability to generate two separate reverb tail times. One for the lows and one for the highs, based on a user-definable crossover split point. Combined with the built-in high-frequency roll-off (Treble Decay) and diffusion controls, this allows it to create super lush warm sounding reverbs without any of the high-end harshness that is often the case with these sorts of digital reverbs. Even if it’s a small rooms or plates, there is a warmth that I find very pleasing and unique. The depth and pre-delay round out the controls for all that is necessary to create the perfect space.
The additional Lexicon 224 specific features (Mode Enhancement, and Decay Optimization) are a bonus that adds to its unique personality.
To learn more about the Lexicon 224 plug-in from Universal Audio, go here:
IK Multimedia's specialty is blurring the lines between desktop and iOS, studio and mobile, audio and MIDI, and even between software and hardware. Their latest "bundle" completes the circle on the IK Multimedia ecosystem. I deliberately choose not to describe it as either hardware or software, because it is both.
iRig Keys I/O
IK Multimedia now offer a fully functioning environment for keyboard players, either in the studio or on the go, using either a computer or an iOS device, with software instruments, easily mappable sliders, knobs, and pads, with effects processing, with MIDI and audio connectivity, and even with two bundled DAWs. Their new iRig Keys I/O has it all.
iRig Keys I/O is more than a MIDI controller or audio interface. It's a complete software and hardware workstation. It comes in two flavors: 25 keys or 49 keys. It feels great to play, in no small part because of the full-size keys, which is unusual but most welcome on this kind of lightweight, portable device.
It comes with a Mini-DIN to USB cable and mini-DIN to lightning cable to connect easily to either a computer or iOS device. I plugged it into a powered USB Hub, and it was recognized immediately by Logic Pro X as both a keyboard controller and audio interface.
The layout of the controls is economical but also very intuitive. There is a lot more functionality to the sliders, pads, and knobs than their initial settings. After about ten minutes and a brief glance at the manual, I was editing CC assignments, and storing user configurations.
The 49 key version ships with four dedicated touch sliders. Two for pitch bend and modulation, and then two more for octave shifting, and program changes. The 25 key model ships with only two physical touch sliders. One fader is used to toggle between pitch bend and modulation, the other between program change and octave shift functions, thanks to the ingeniously programmed Alt button. The ALT button enhances many of the other controls as well. For example, it is also used to toggle the data knob between sending MIDI CC values, and volume control for the main and headphone outputs.
The four knobs are assignable to eight CC numbers, making it a great simple MIDI control surface that can accompany just about any DAW. Holding down the ALT key toggles the four physical knobs between knobs 1-4 and knobs 5-8. The knobs are also touch sensitive and will display the current CC value when touched; making it great for sending momentary values. This function is off by default but can be toggled on. They can work in either absolute mode, sending the full range of 127 MIDI values, or relative mode, with a customizable programmed range of CC values. The state of all the controls are stored in four factory presets, and up to 99 configurable user presets.
The knobs and sliders are programmed to work with IK Multimedia instruments straight out of the box. I was easily and intuitively able to use the data knob to scroll through instrument banks, and load sounds in SampleTank 3, Miroslav Philharmonik 2 and Syntronik (reviewed here.)
The other knobs are pre-mapped to control the macros at the bottom of the instrument interfaces on SampleTank and Philharmonik. And they can be easily mapped to any Syntronik parameter via the Syntronik right click/MIDI Learn function.
As functional as the iRig Keys I/O is with the factory presets, its flexibility comes alive when editing parameters related to the keyboard, pads, touch controls, and knobs.
Pressing the ALT button followed by the EDIT button opens the magic door into this corner of its brain. Once in this mode, pressing the Data button confirms selections and choices
The first thing is to choose between Global or Preset edit mode. Global options pertain to the keyboard itself; how the program change functions work, setting the MIDI transmit channel, the velocity response curve, semitone transposition, and enabling/disabling the touch knob features. Here is where you can enable or disable the sending of a CC message associated with the touch of each knob.
Editing Presets is where you can toggle the default Data knob push function behavior between sending (relative or absolute) Control Change messages or audio volume control. Preset editing also allows the user to customize which CC number each knob will send when rotated, or when touched. There is only one external pedal input on the back of the keyboard for either a sustain pedal or expression pedal. Preset Edit mode lets you set the pedal function, and a nice added touch is that it can also be programmed to send out Program Change messages.
We can also edit the pads here. They can be set to a unique MIDI channel, separate from the main keyboard transmit channel. Velocity response can be edited, as can each pad’s note number, CC, or program change assignment. Preset Edit mode also allows the user to edit the slider messages from their default Pitch Bend and Modulation assignment.
With all this talk of the keyboard functions, let’s not forget that the iRig Keys I/O is also a fully functional 96 kHz / 24-bit audio interface.
Logic Pro X happily recognized it as soon it was plugged in; with no driver or software installation necessary. The combo input jack on the back does double duty for line and mic input. There is a separate button to enable/disable phantom power. A dedicated gain knob is used to adjust input gain when recording.
I fired up a very heavy processor and track-intensive Logic Pro Project and set the iRig keys I/O buffer down to 64 samples. The iRig handled it like a champ and barely broke a sweat. At a buffer setting of 32 however, not surprisingly, the audio did start breaking up.
I tried recording, first at a traditional 44.1/24 setting with the buffer at 64. The iRig Keys I/O worked perfectly. Latency with software monitoring enabled was in the expected range. I only had to set the gain knob at about 12:00 o’clock to properly power a Rhode NT-1A large diaphragm condenser mic to record a standard VO.
At 96 kHz, unfortunately, the buffer setting of 64 was unusable. Moving it up to 128 solved things immediately and it performed as expected, with about the same latency as the 64 sample buffer setting at the 44.1 kHz sampling rate.
Headphone volume is easily controlled with the data knob in ALT mode. And all this via USB power from my iMac.
Connections and Connectivity
Physically, the back panel of the keyboard is straightforward and robust. I appreciate a physical I/O that doesn’t require head scratching to figure out.
iRig Keys I/O ships with Mini-DIN to USB and Mini-DIN to lightning cables, for easy connections to either a USB computer port or an iOS device. A nice added bonus is the included iPad holder.
But the real connectivity comes with the bundled software. IK Multimedia welcomes new iRig Keys I/O owners into the IK Multimedia universe with free versions of their Sampletank, Philharmonik, and Syntronik software instruments, plus the full iOS versions of each.
In addition, the T-Racks 4 Deluxe Mix and Mastering suite is included, plus licenses for free versions of Studio One by Presonus and Live by Ableton.
With a sticker price of $300, this is everything you need to make music right away on either Mac, PC, or iOS device. Add one of the IK Multimedia microphones, a pair of iLoud Micro Monitors, and a travel bag; and you are ready to make music anywhere.
As I said at the beginning of this review, iRig Keys I/O completes the IK Multimedia ecosystem. Whether you are a guitar player or keyboard player, vocalist or podcaster, studio musician using a Mac Pro, or a songwriter working with an iPad on planes and in hotel rooms, they have the product you need.
Do all of their products offer all the functionality of other more expensive and complex hardware and software? No, of course not. But they get you in the game at a very reasonable price point. And there are upgrade paths to the more full-featured products.
Even if/when you leave the IK Multimedia universe, their products hold up in the bigger picture. iRig Keys I/O is a perfectly usable mobile controller and audio interface to use on the go or in a small home studio setup.
Of course, if you need more audio I/O or more physical controls, or more octaves on your keyboard, your journey won’t end with the one device. But I can almost guarantee you that when that time comes, you’ll still find a use for this keyboard.
As I was working with the unit for this review, a couple of small things occurred to me that IK Multimedia could do to enhance this offering.
It’s great that they include a Mini-DIN to USB cable, but it would be nice if it were a bit longer. Unless it’s connected to a computer right in front of it, the cable won’t be long enough. Then again, USB extensions are readily and inexpensively available.
It also would be nice if the knobs worked bi-directionally when navigating through instrument folders. As it is now, turning the Data knob counterclockwise navigates as expected, but turning it clockwise jumps back to the top rather than stepping back up through the folder hierarchies.
With all the functionality packed into this keyboard, it would be nice if the LCD could display more than three characters. The abbreviations in the nested edit menus take a while to get used to. Of course, there is limited space, so this limitation is completely acceptable. Same thing with the lack of an Exit button when in Edit mode. Sometimes, when burrowing deep into the edit menus, it’s not obvious how to exit Edit mode from where you are.
But there is a lot to love with this device:
- It's plug and play, both for MIDI and Audio.
- It required NO setup to be recognized. It just worked.
- Edit mode allows the external pedal to optionally be programmed to send Program Change messages.
The latter can be useful in a live situation.
And, the inclusion of touch-sensitive knobs and control strips on a device in this price range shatters what were previous barriers to entry for these types of functions.
All in all, I think iRig Keys I/O is a big win. It’s solid and robust for standard mono mic or line input recording, and the keys feel good to play, it offers very nice functional and flexible MIDI control via the knobs, pads, and sliders, and ships with a ton of great software to get you started making music right away!
For more information, visit http://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/irigkeysio/
Sharine from Wavesfactory is the first shaker and tambourine sample library that fully retains the pre-roll (also called pre-shift) of each sample while keeping the grooves in sync with your DAW.
About Wavesfactory Sharine
As we all know, when you play a shaker or tambourine there is not a single note on transient like there is with, say, a snare drum hit. There is the lead up to the main attack, created by the beads rolling around in the shaker, or the rings on the tambourine, as you move your hand back and forth. Sharine captures the bi-directional movement of these instruments as they are played, and Wavesfactory has scripted each sample to adjust for the pre-roll.
Transients and Sample Pre-roll
Rather than a static sample start offset like most samplers offer, the scripting keeps the main transient in sync regardless of the fact that each sample is unique with a different amount of pre-roll. When triggered from Sharine’s internal sequencer, it plays the pre-roll in advance of the actual note on event. So you get the best of both worlds, ultra-realistic sound with rock-solid timing.
Video - Sharine in Action
The sample library offers eight shakers and four tambourines, each recorded with three mic positions: one mono mic, and two stereo room mics.
The mixer panel is used to blend the level and stereo image of each mic, and a pop-up panel for each instrument are used to adjust their level, panning, and tuning. Layering these instruments is a simple as clicking on them to load/purge their samples.
Sharine loads with eight preset patterns that are triggered from a MIDI keyboard. Multi samples for each backward/ forward left/right movement are mapped out as well; as are accents, rolls, and tambourine hits with sticks.
But the real power of Sharine is in the sequencer panel.
It is simple and intuitive to edit or create patterns. They can either be drawn with the mouse or played in from a MIDI controller. Static sample start offsets are offered if you prefer that to the pre-roll function (although, I don’t know why anyone would!)
As a nice bonus, Wavesfactory includes their Rack Effects collection of effects processors. They sound great and are a snap to use. I also like that Sharine ships with individual instruments for each of the twelve percussion instruments. Great for those times when you just want a simple single sound.
I think Wavesfactory has hit on a void that needed to be filled. Percussion instruments are not played like regular instruments, nor should they be sequenced like them.
Now we can finally hear the full motion and trajectory of shakers and tambourines as they truly sound as they move back and forth when being played.
Learn more about Sharine from Wavesfactory here:
Eli Krantzberg reviews Syntronik by IK Multimedia, a new generation of soft synths which combine modeled filters and effects with samples of vintage synth hardware.
What is Syntronik?
IK Multimedia has gotten back into the synth business!
Of course, they’ve always been offering us SampleTank, which is an excellent Rompler style instrument with some very nice editing functions. But it’s been a while since the days of their older 32-bit instruments like Sonik Synth 2, SampleTron, and SampleMoog. With Syntronik, we now have a new generation of actual software synthesizers. Or more accurately, we have a new generation of soft synths based on older generations of classic synth hardware.
IK Multimedia are continuing their journey into software modeling that they started with MODO Bass (see here: IK Multimedia MODO Bass Review). Syntronik combines modeled filters and effects with sampled instruments. Of particular note here is their new DRIFT technology, which adds the realism of subtle oscillator variations.
In other words, real-world analog imperfections are lovingly recreated and added to these multi-sampled oscillators. The architecture includes four parts for split or stacked layers. Each part also includes a very powerful but user-friendly arpeggiator and effects rack.
Syntronik features five main windows:
- the Instrument Browser
- the Synth Panel
- the Layer Panel
- the Effects Panel
- the Arpeggio Panel
The Synth Panel
The Synth Panel is where we start to dig under the hood and get into the nuts and bolts of the instruments. Here is where we edit the instrument's traditional synthesizer parameters like its oscillator, filter, envelope, and modulation settings. The display updates depending on which hardware synth is modeled. The controls are all very intuitive.
The filter section offers interesting and unusual filter types. LFO based modulation is easily routed to pitch and filter controls. Dedicated amp and filter envelopes round out the sound shaping functions nicely.
The Layer Panel
The instrument comes to life when you start layering multiple parts. The ranges of the four parts are viewed in a single window and easily adjusted by simply dragging each part's high/low range sliders at the top of each virtual keyboard.
Or if you prefer, there are dedicated lo/hi noted fields for numeric entry at the upper left of each row. At the upper right are fields for lo/hi velocity ranges. Splits and layers are a snap to visualize and to edit.
The Effects Panel provides a five-slot effects rack, unique for each of the four parts. So you can run up to twenty effects simultaneously. Simply click on any of the four parts (A - D) at the top of the interface and that specific effects rack is displayed. There is a huge selection of fabulous sounding effects, many of which have been harvested from IK Multimedia’s stellar sounding T-Racks and Amplitube effects processors.
Effects categories include guitar amp simulations, distortion effects, dynamics & EQ, modulation, reverbs and delays, and filters. They do all sound great. And the controls are intuitive and fun to tweak.
The Arpeggiator panel contains a programmable advanced arpeggiator for each part. Patterns can be edited and saved with their associated instrument, or as independent patterns for future use with other sounds. The number of steps in each pattern is easily set by dragging the horizontal slider at the bottom of the graph. The range, velocity, and note durations for the pattern are set at the bottom.
A nice additional touch I particularly like is that you can also graphically edit the volume and length of each step separately. Each step can also be independently transposed. Combined with the envelope settings in the Synth Panel, it’s easy to generate everything from short percolating percussive patterns to expansive sweeping waves of sound.
An additional small window is available to set up and save the volume, pan, mute, and solo status for each part. As a whole, this is a fabulous collection of 17 instruments containing a total of 38 powerful and iconic sounding vintage synthesizers and string machines.
Weighing in at over 56 GB, this is a hefty collection of inspiring sounds ready to go. Syntronik runs as a standalone application as well as an instrument plug-in on most Mac and Windows DAWs. The sounds can optionally be loaded into SampleTank 3 as well. And the resizable interface is a nice touch given that Syntronik will likely be used on everything from a 12” laptop screen to 40+” HDMI monitors.
I think it is a great addition to the collection of synthesizers that ship with Logic Pro X, particularly if you are into vintage emulations of the hardware synths of yesteryear. This gives just the right amount of control for users who want to sculpt and personalize the sounds. The layering opens up a world of unique sound creation as well.
But, in my opinion, Syntronik is not for hardcore synth aficionados. There is no advanced secondary modulation for example, or the ability to offset the LFO phase. But these are modern functions not generally associated with the emulations presented here. So, if you love vintage sounds, and want to tweak them without spending an entire day constructing a single patch; Syntronik is highly recommended as a great collection of very playable and inspiring virtual instruments.
Try Syntronik for Free
IK Multimedia offers a slimmed down free version as well. So, checking it out to see if you like it is a no-brainer. There is also an iPad version with expandable in-app purchases to augment the sounds.
Vintage Synths à la Carte
IK Multimedia also offers the option of building your Syntronik collection à la carte. In other words, you can pick and choose which of the 17 instruments you pay for, to build the synth studio of your dreams one virtual instrument at a time.
Finally, here are a collection of videos from IK Multimedia, showcasing Syntronik’s various features:
Eli Kranzberg reviews Eventide EQuivocate, a brand new powerful and precise paragraphic EQ plugin developed by Eventide. It's like Logic Pro’s Linear Phase EQ and Match EQ combined, and on steroids!
The plug-in itself, along with the soon to be released mastering limiter Elevate, has been developed by Newfangled Audio. They are a new company launched by the creator of Eventide’s Black Hole, H3000 Factory, and H910 plug-ins.
EQuivocate is a perfect EQ plugin for mixing and mastering.
It uses filters which are modeled on the MEL scale, which is based on the critical bands in human hearing.
Each of the 26 critical bands tickles a different part of your inner ear, making any combination of settings sound as natural as possible. Combining this with a linear-phase filter shape that reduces pre-echo makes EQuivocate an EQ with a difference you can hear.
Video - Eventide EQuivocate in Action
Logic Pro’s Linear Phase EQ & Match EQ on Steroids
The “paragraphic” part of the name is because, unlike traditional graphic equalizers with fixed bands, you can drag the center frequency in each of these bands to shift the weighting. There is also an excellent Match EQ feature on it that is simple and intuitive.
EQuivocate is like Logic Pro’s linear phase EQ and Match EQ combined and on steroids!
Get Eventide EQuivocate for Free until October 31st 2017
Eventide is offering this plug-in for free until the end of the month.
I’d suggest grabbing it now and giving it a try. Take note though, that you do need an iLok account.
Giveaway promo page:
- Available 9/19/17 – FREE (MSRP $99) (limit 1 license per ilok account)
- Giveaway ends October 31st.
Coming Soon - Eventide Elevate
Elevate is a multi-band limiter, human-ear EQ, and powerful audio maximizer that increases the loudness of your mix while maintaining or improving the musicality. It uses intelligent, adaptive technology that responds in real time to your music; creating not only the loudest but the best sounding master.
If you have Equivocate you pay $79!
So just by downloading the free plug-in, you will save an additional $20 from the intro price.
- Available 10/3/17 - $99 (MSRP $199)
- This sale ends October 31st.
Galaxy Drums is the first instrument from a new company called Space Cabin Audio. If you like great sounding acoustic drum sets with lots of tweak-ability, this virtual instrument is for you!
Check it out what it looks and sounds like in action here:
Galaxy Drums includes two four piece drum kits, four snares, and a variety of cymbals. One is a vintage maple set, the other a custom stainless steel kit. The four snares are a variety of classic wood and metal drums.
The drum samples are hosted in a customized version of the Accent plugin from Platinum Samples. It is a full drum plugin complete with individual kit piece bleed into room and overhead mics. Per piece trim, phase invert, tuning, envelope control, effects processing, and aux routing.
Host Third-party Plugins
One standout feature in the mixer is the ability to host third-party VST and AU effects plugins along side the internal ones that ship with the instrument.
To round things out, Galaxy Drums ships with a nicely thought out MIDI groove library. There are controls to customize the timing and feel of the patterns before dragging them into your DAW. There is also an extensive Mapping page, for use with a variety of external MIDI drum controllers.
Galaxy Drums runs on both Windows (Windows 7, 8/8.1 or 10) and Mac OS 10.7 or higher.
Learn more about it here:
Eli Krantzberg reviews Output's Platform, a brand new home studio desk for musicians.
My Old Studio Desk
I have been thinking of changing my studio desk for years. My old desk, although I had grown used to it, was not set up properly for the needs of a musician. My MIDI keyboard was off to the side, and way too high. The qwerty keyboard on a lowered shelf, way too low. I had manually attached cup hooks along the outer perimeter to hold the various mic and speaker cables in place going to and from my audio interface, compressor, control surface, monitors, etc. It all kinda' worked okay, but it was time for a step up to a proper studio desk for my home studio.
A Studio Desk for Musicians
Along came the plug-in company Output, disruptors that they are, with of all things, a studio desk for musicians! And wouldn't you know it, it is designed exactly for the needs of us DAW users. I had looked at some other brands. They were all very nice, but expensive. I couldn't quite justify the outlay in cash. Platform, the new studio desk from Output, hit the sweet spot dead on in terms of features, aesthetics, and price.
This was it, time to take the long delayed plunge!
I ordered the desk, with the optional pull-out keyboard tray. It was delivered from California to me in Montreal (Canada) in two big boxes, with absolutely no problems at customs - which can often be a big issue for Canadians ordering from the United States.
Setup was fairly straight forward, except for the keyboard tray. The included pictogram was barely comprehensible. But a friend and I had it figured out without pulling out too much of our remaining hair. I love the desk, but truth be told, it has entailed somewhat of an adjustment.
Re-orienting the Workspace
Getting used to the new layout and adjusting to the new heights took a week or so. That was to be expected. But I made one crucial mistake that I would strongly suggest anyone reading this and contemplating a new studio desk, try and avoid.
I changed the placement of the desk in my studio at the same time as changing the desk itself. This doesn't necessarily have to be a problem. But in my case, it involved re-orienting not only my work space, but also the sound, and acoustics of my studio. The new orientation has the monitors positioned differently in relation to the walls and door; which as we all know, influences the sound. So as I am getting used to the new surrounding of my physical space, I am also having to "re-learn" my room acoustics somewhat. If you're like me and try and avoid change until or unless really necessary, don't make both of these changes at the same time if you can avoid it!
Output Platform Dimensions
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Video - Setting up the Platform Studio Desk
Check out the video below to get a sense of the steps my friend and I went through setting up Platform:
Conclusion - Output Platform is Rock Solid
All in all, I think this is a great studio desk, and a fantastic step up from the audio workstation I had previously. It’s got more rack spaces than I need, so I opted to leave the included rack ears off to better utilize the available real estate.
Output's Platform is rock solid, and I expect it will be the last studio desk I will ever need to buy. I can’t wait to see what Output comes up with next!
Learn more about the Platform studio desk here:
Pricing, Availability & Delivery Time
The natural coloured version of Platform as seen in this review costs $549/€699 including VAT. The Kodiak Brown version costs $649/€799 including VAT. The keyboard tray is optional and is priced at 150 in both currencies.
Delivery time will be approximately two weeks within the United States and up to 6 weeks for European customers. Shipping rates are at a flat rate of $99/€99 for the lower 48 US states, Canada, and Europe.
Subscribe to the Platform waitlist to get notified once the studio desk becomes available in your country.
Blue Cat Audio announced the release of Late Replies, a new creative delay and multi effects plug-in capable of hosting built-in or third party plug-ins anywhere in the signal path. Here's Eli Krantzberg's review.
Blue Cat Audio Late Replies
Blue Cat Audio is coming up in the plug-in world.
The interface redesign introduced with their recent update of the MB 7 Mixer and Patchworks, and also used in Destructor, have made the power of their programming much more accessible to the end user. And more fun! Now with the launch of their new plug-in Late Replies, Blue Cat Audio has given birth to a new hybrid delay/multi-effects plug-in that is not only powerful in ways we have never seen before but creatively stimulating. And most importantly, intuitive and easy to use.
What is Late Replies?
Late Replies is a powerful delay and multi effects plug-in that can be indefinitely extended by incorporating either Blue Cat Audio’s incredible sounding built-in effects, or third party plug-ins (VST, VST3, or Audio Unit format).
Effects processing can be added in any or all of four stages in the signal flow.
First, up to four effects plug-ins are available at the input stage, effectively processing the source audio before it is fed to the rest of the plug-in.
Secondly, up to four effects can be added to each of the potential eight taps (or replies) generated in the Pattern Module.
The third location is the Loops module, which incorporates two parallel feedback loops that can also be fed back into each other. Each feedback loop has the ability to host built-in or third party plug-ins so that each new echo gets more effects than the previous one.
The fourth stage of effects processing is the output stage, once the signal has passed through the taps and feedback loops.
The Pattern Module
The Base Delay settings define the value used by the Pattern and Loop sections. The delay, relative to the base delay value, can be set independently for each of the eight potential taps, or replies. Think of the grid as a way of sub dividing the base delay value So, if the base delay is set to a value of 1.00 (quarter notes), the grid can be set to divide that basic pulse into two, three, four… up to eight sub divisions. Replies can be placed evenly on the grid divisions, or, ahead or behind them for a pushing or pulling feel. If the base delay is set to 1.50 for example (dotted quarter notes), the grid sub divisions are based on that value.
The base delay value can also be set in milliseconds, free of the host tempo. So there is complete freedom to place the generated replies exactly where you want them. In fact, there is a dice icon to randomize their placement, for inspiration. The Pattern Mixer lets you manage the levels, panning, and phase of each reply as well as apply the above mentioned per-reply effects.
The Loops Module
The Loops module contains two parallel feedback loops (echoes) that can interact with each other via cross-feedback and cross talk. The Loops Module has its own independent grid, used to define a pre-delay, and the length, for each of the two loops. Loop start point and lengths can be snapped to the grid, or placed freely. They can also be randomized, for inspiration. Each loop has its own phase buttons, plug-in slots, mixer settings, and freeze controls. Both the pattern and loops modules host their own presets either for the full module or for just the grid sequences.
To round out the features of this workhorse, built-in ducking allows the user to duck the signal based either on the input source audio or via a side chain input. In addition to more effects processing, the output stage also includes a stereo spread control and built-in brick wall limiter; which is a great safety net when experimenting with feedback loops!
Rounding out the control Late Replies offers, each stage of the signal flow has its own dry/wet mix knobs and power buttons.
With effects processing at each stage, Late Replies is capable of creating everything from pitched melodic patterns to distorted rhythms, rich evolving modulations; and everything in between. The included 25 built-in effects include the potential for all of this and more.
There have been a lot of new delay plug-ins released in the past half year or so; each with their own unique features and qualities. But Late Replies brings everything, and way more, all under one virtual plug-in roof. Blue Cat Audio is redefining the traditional ways we think of a plug-in. Instead of a single function effect, Late Replies is a “host” that incorporates the outside world into its internal functions.
Think of it as a kind of plug-in workstation, and you’ll be on your way to discovering the huge universe of sonic possibilities it can bring to your music and sound design.
Late Replies costs 129 EUR or USD (tax included). The introduction price is 96 USD or EUR (25% off), until September 17th. Existing customers will be granted a larger discount, offer sent by email.
If you're a regular discount shopper at Plugin Boutique and you've already received some Virtual Cash, go here:
For more information at Blue Cat Audio, visit:
Eli Krantzberg reviews Eventide Ultratap, a brand new soundscape tool capable of producing huge spaces, glitchy gated delays, crescendoing volume swells, comb filtering, modulation, and more.
Eventide are masters at chipping away at conventional boundaries. They've successfully bridged the gap between live and studio effects with their vocal processing algorithms. And now they're changing the game again with their new Ultratap plug-in.
Is it a delay plug-in? Reverb? Modulation? Gate? Dynamics?
It's all of the above.
With so many fantastic delay plug-ins, not only from other companies but from Eventide themselves as well, having a fresh creatively stimulating tool like this is very welcome.
More Than a Multi-tap Delay-line Effect
Ultratap is much more than a multi-tap delay-line effect. It's a soundscape tool, capable of producing huge spaces, glitchy gated delays, crescendoing volume swells, comb filtering, modulation, and more. Aside from the usual delay controls, there are a few extras in here that make this plug-in unique.
Spread and Taper
The Spread and Taper controls are used to adjust the spacing and volume of the delays. So you can create ahead of the beat or behind the beat waves of repeats that swell up or down. But the Slurm and Chop controls are where this plug-in really shines.
Slurm adds a juicy tap slurring/smearing modulation. It combines slow random multi-voice detuning with modulation and a small reverb like diffusion. The more you dial it up, the more the taps get increasingly smeared, loosing their attack and definition. The result is a unique fluid chorused sounding "tail" to the input signal.
The Chop control is described in the manual as a "pre-tap chopping tremolo or auto volume processor". The function changes throughout the knob's range. First, there are several LFO waveform shapes for a tremolo like effect. A second knob controls the speed of the LFO. This is followed by two auto-volume processors that create either volume swells or a gating effect; again with their values controlled from a second knob.
Ribbon & Hotswitch
The horizontal Ribbon control is an easily programmable macro for controlling several parameters at once, like grabbing several knobs simultaneously on a hardware unit. There is no stepped movement between the values of any of the controls, so they can be moved and modulated freely without any zipper type noises. And finally, the Hotswitch button allows you to smoothly switch between two sets of parameter snapshots.
For those looking for creative delay/modulation based effects, Ultratap from Eventide is absolutely worth taking a look at. It's very user-friendly. There is a huge variety of presets to work with. And a slim thirteen-page manual to go through if you want to roll your own.
Video - Eventide Ultratap in Action
Check out Eventide Ultratap in action here:
You can get Ultratap for $49 through September 5th 2017.
For more information, visit
Eli Krantzberg reviews The Orchestra by Sonuscore, a revolutionary 80-player orchestral sample library for NI Kontakt Player featuring a breakthrough Ensemble-Engine that allows you to create quick ensemble sketches with minimal effort or write complex orchestral arrangements.
What exactly is The Orchestra?
The idea of combining pre-arranged orchestral ensembles and phrases with multi-sampled instruments is nothing new. I remember a library from almost twenty years ago called Orchestral Colours by Pete Siedlaczek. It contained a variety of hits, finales, layers, and atmospheres delivered as audio files. And in those days audio files played back in one key at one tempo. They sounded great, but like those “jingle” Apple Loops that ship with Logic Pro, there wasn’t a whole lot you could do with them. Developers have tried various variations on this idea over the years with varying degrees of success. Gary Garritan’s Instant Orchestra, for example, contained patches of various section combinations, mood-based presets, and orchestral effects.
On June 22, 2017, everything changed. The Orchestra by Sonuscore / Best Service is a new plateau in orchestral scoring. Pre-made generative phrases with plenty of user control, along with a hearty multi-sampled collection of the most useful instrument articulations, combine for a new instrument that allows for a depth of orchestral part creation that I have never seen or heard before.
The Orchestra is a 6.85 GB library hosted within Kontakt 5.6.8 or higher. Broadly speaking, the instrument is divided into two sections.
- The first is a traditional collection of all the usual orchestral instruments with all the usual articulations. They load up as individual Kontakt instruments and can be controlled via conventional key switching, or with the mouse and a collection of simply laid out front panel buttons.
- The second is built around a system of multis called the Ensemble Engine. Each Ensemble contains up to five instruments. It is a simple way of combining orchestral colors and quickly loading playable instrument combinations with intelligently laid out split and layers. The Orchestra ships with a collection of Kontakt multis that load multiple instances of these Ensemble Engines all mapped and ready to go.
If that is all this instrument did, it would be enough. But the real magic happens on the Engine page of the Ensemble. A unique system of range based arpeggiators and envelopes allow each Ensemble to generate complex rhythms between the different instruments contained within.
Let me explain.
The architecture of each Ensemble is as follows: five instrument slots, three programmable arpeggiators, two programmable envelopes, a mixer with basic control for each slot, and three effects processors.
Each of the five slots can be shifted by an octave. They can also be routed for control by one of the arpeggiators or envelopes. The arpeggiators and envelopes are where the real power lies with this instrument. In addition to the arpeggiator controls we are all familiar with, these arpeggiators have a note selection feature which allows for range specific notes to be affected. Notes falling outside the specified range are muted.
The two amp envelopes are designed for us to draw in custom curves that control the amplitude of notes over their duration. Each has their own independent note selection based criteria.
Try and imagine the following scenario: You are holding a five note chord. The top two notes have violins playing a rhythmic pattern generated from one of the arpeggiators. The brass are playing slow sforzando swells on the bottom two notes, thanks to one of the envelopes. The middle note has the flutes playing another single note rhythm based on a second arpeggiator pattern. Woodwinds are playing a slow crescendo based on all five notes, thanks to the second envelope. The fifth slot has different brass instruments playing a complimentary accented rhythmic pattern, generated from another arpeggiator, with staccato articulations. Imagine then a Kontakt Multi with several of these Ensemble engines assigned to the same MIDI channel, where each of these elements described above is layered with other instrument combinations.
Is your head hurting yet?
Not to worry, there is a large collection of multis that ship with The Orchestra. The multis are organized into three categories. They combine different presets and settings in multiple instances of the Ensemble Instrument to create huge-sounding instantly playable instruments. The Orchestral Colours Multis are full orchestral combinations for quick sketching and layering. Orchestral Rhythms and Animated Orchestra Multis contain rhythms and patterns that will be generated from any played note. Many of them are layered with playable articulations, so melodies can be played on top of the orchestral rhythms.
To give you an idea of the power of all this, below is a simple little exercise I improvised in real time that took me about five minutes to do. It is using the stock multi called Big Orchestra Basic 8ths 06.
This multi consists of three Ensembles.
The first is a collection of strings triggering three separate arpeggiator patterns.
The second is a combination of string and horn marcato articulations with no arpeggiator or ensemble based movement. So they are adding weight to the initial attack of each note played.
The third consists various brass sections playing either staccato or marcato articulations triggering three different arpeggio based rhythms. I added some mod wheel movement on the second pass for some volume swells.
And these are the notes I played in:
There’s a lot to love about this instrument. Not only do the multi-sampled instruments sound great, but the whole Ensemble Engine and Multi-paradigm bring orchestral part creation to a new level of simplicity.
I have to admit, my feelings about this instrument evolved significantly the more I got to know it.
At first, I thought, this made it too easy. Anyone could play with one finger and create fantastic sounding orchestrations. This will be the beginning of the end of true orchestration skill; not unlike the first impressions many had about singing when Autotune and Melodyne came out. And as I scrolled through the Multis I thought to myself that everyone using this instrument will create music that sounds the same. The multis are great for big dramatic gestures.
But what about more nuanced control over what is generated?
I warmed up to it very quickly though as I got to know and understand how the engine system works. For those willing to take the time to move beyond the preset rhythms and one-finger-gratification aspect of this instrument, there is a world of new workflows and possibilities here.
It would have been nice if Sonuscore had included a simple Ensemble that was completely blank, to be used as a starting point for building your own. The first thing I did was clear one out and save it as an empty preset. I then started building my own and realized how elegant this whole system is. I can see myself saving a series of presets with arpeggiator patterns laid out, but with the instrument slots empty. It’s like having a palette of orchestral rhythms available to be used in different ways on different instruments.
I think this is a fantastic 1.0 release and have a couple of suggestions for how Sonuscore can make this already fantastic product even better.
First, it would be great to have the ability to save arpeggiator and envelope presets independently of the Ensembles. Users could build up a palette to choose from that can be called up as needed within any Ensemble.
Second, since this is such a fabulous sounding set of samples, it would be nice if multiple output routing were available. That way instruments could be mixed independently within our DAWs.
Who's it For?
I think The Orchestra has a lot of appeal for a wide range of users.
For those less experienced, who want to get into working with orchestral libraries, this is a huge win. It is extremely easy to generate gratifying results with minimal tweaking. The entire manual is only 18 pages long - which is a testament to the simplicity of the interface and overall design.
For “mid-level” orchestral sample library users (I consider myself in this category) this has huge appeal as well. It is a great tool to mock up elaborate sketches quickly and easily. There is plenty of room to personalize the results and create some custom Ensembles without too much fuss. The multi-samples are perfectly useable on their own as well.
For power orchestrators, the actual instrument library will be nothing new for them. The Ensemble Engine, however, with its clever system of range based arpeggiators and envelopes, provide a fresh set of composing tools that I think will inspire and stimulate. This aspect of the instrument alone will be worth the price of admission for them.
When I first heard the audio demos, I thought - they must have done some serious sequencing and tweaking to create these. But no, they are exactly what the instrument sounds like out of the box.
At $399 it is great value for a set of basic orchestral instruments and articulations and the other unique compositional tools it offers.
To learn more, take a look at the Best Service web site to see and hear for yourself: