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March 3, 2010

Digidesign Eleven Rack Review

Digidesign surprised the world last year when they brought out a guitar amp simulator for Pro Tools called Eleven. They have now launched Eleven in rack format for applications in the studio and on stage. Let’s take a look at Digidesign’s youngest child…

Eleven RackGuitar amp simulations have already won their place in the hearts of guitar players years ago for several reasons: they give you a big sound without having to disturb the neighborhood, they save space and provide all the effects and amps you ever dreamed of. These advantages are decisive both in the studio and on stage. But most guitar players get very sentimental when it comes to their gear and it can be hard for them to set their favorite amp aside. The only reason they would do that is because of the sound–with capital S–, which is the holy grail for any electric guitar player. Amp simulations sound better and better every time with more sophisticated algorithms and convolution technology that faithfully recreate speakers and mics.
Eleven RackConvolution technology started to make its way among hardware speaker simulators like the Two Notes Torpedo, but also among software tools like the latest Guitar Rig version, Revalver and Digidesign’s Eleven. In fact, Eleven is basically a plugin for Pro Tools developed to compete with the leading products on the market; but it was hard to set it apart from its competitors, in spite of its good sound.

Thus, Digidesign decided to put its plugin into a hardware rack making it a convenient tool for studio and live guitar players. How did they do? The answer is here…

Hardware Amp Simulation

Eleven RackEleven Rack is a two-in-one product: it’s a fully standalone amp and effects simulator (it doesn’t require to be connected to a computer), as well as a digital audio interface compatible with Digidesign’s sequencer Pro Tools. Let’s start from the beginning, the amps simulations.

Eleven Rack offers few surprises in this regard, it includes the same amp simulations as the software version with the addition of some effects and interesting features…

Once unpacked, you’ll discover a nice looking 2U orange/black rack piece. The front panel has an aluminum border and plastic buttons and knobs. It looks nice and serious; time will tell if the knobs can withstand the assaults of a guitar player. The front panel also has a large and easily readable backlit display surrounded by switches and knobs, whose function depends on what the display currently shows. In normal mode, the “Scroll” encoder allows you to browse among the different presets (about 100) and the “SW1” switch allows you to select the different display types, while the knobs under the display are assigned to the different amp settings. The knobs are not motorized, but they turn on orange when close to the saved value and red otherwise. A “save” button allows you to store your settings and an “edit/back” button gives you some insight on the unit’s heart.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Eleven RackDigidesign tackles the guitar market with an interesting product for both studio and stage applications. It provides less amps and effects than Guitar Rig or Pod X3 Pro but the sound quality is very good – convolution certainly plays a key role in that. Eleven Rack is very versatile thanks to its numerous inputs, outputs and routing possibilities, and it can be used for many applications, especially reamping. The True-Z input is a real treat. The Pro Tools 8 LE bundle with its plentiful effects and virtual instruments adds a lot of value to Eleven Rack. At about $900 ($200 more than the Pod X3 Pro with its numerous modelings), it seems to be a bit expensive at first sight, but the bundle is very interesting and Digidesign took a lot of care with the sound quality, which is almost impeccable. We only miss a dedicated volume control for the phones output. Nothing is perfect!

Advantages:

  • Nice design
  • Simulation of famous amps and effects
  • Convolution technology for speakers and mics
  • Overall sound quality
  • Versatility
  • Possibility to make reamping
  • Number of inputs and outputs
  • True-Z guitar input
  • No need for a computer on stage
  • Comprehensive digital audio interface
  • Mic input with phantom power
  • Sold with Pro Tools 8 LE and its plugins
  • Eleven’s GUI in Pro Tools

Drawbacks:

  • No Eleven plugin version
  • GUI only available within Pro Tools
  • It lacks some amps and effects
  • Only two mic positions
  • Plastic knobs
  • No independent phones volume control

To read the full detailed review including sound samples see: Digidesign Eleven Rack

February 23, 2009

Review: Digidesign Transfuser

Sample Transfusion
Digidesign Transfuser: The Test

A.I.R., Digidesign’s virtual instrument division, continues to provide creative tools for users of their Pro Tools software. This time, it’s a sequencer within a sequencer, dedicated to loops of all kinds and their unlimited use. Let’s take a look…

Presentation

Ouverture

There’s a big box, a DVD, an activation number. Download the iLok license key, install the sound bank (requiring 1.65 GB of disk space) and RTAS plugin, nothing complicated, it’s Mac and PC compatibility, but you must (still …) have Pro Tools (LE, M-Powered or HD, from version 7) and it’s done. Then all you have to do is open the instrument in a session. Let’s take a look at its interface and how it works.

The idea is to create Tracks within Transfuser. These tracks, which bring together several modules, read audio files (according to various processes). On the left, there’s a browser pane that can be used to load Tracks (complete ensembles) or audio (separate sounds to build your own loops), whether factory or user-created. You can preview a sound by clicking on the file, preview lasts as long as you hold down the mouse, or, if Latch is enabled, for the duration of the file. A sync option synchronizes preview to the Pro Tools session tempo. There’s also a pitch and volume setting which can be adjusted as you preview. And lastly there’s a filtered search field that searches for all items in the list that match the typed-in criteria.

At the top there’s the area to which you drag and drop complete Tracks and audio files from the browser, Pro Tools region list, Pro Tools audio tracks, or the desktop (or a folder) of your computer. Either you import Tracks, in which case the modules are directly positioned, or you import audio, which opens a window offering the choice between three types of recognition/import: Sliced Audio and Slice Sequence, Time-Stretch Audio and Trigger Sequence, or Drum Kit and Drum Sequence (we’ll come back to these three types of Tracks later on). Corresponding modules will be opened in this section. Note that you can also use an external audio signal (more on this later).

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Gater

Though Structure, Hybrid, Velvet or Strike may do their jobs perfectly, there’s nothing revolutionary about them (sampling, synthesis, emulation of electromechanical keyboards and Drumstations). Transfuser, without being completely revolutionary, does have a real concept, and can claim to be the first totally original VSTI by AIR. It’s definitely the most complete instrument geared at loop-based music at present. The number of tracks and effects available let you do almost everything necessary solely within it. To get the most out of it nevertheless requires a certain amount of learning time. The use of external controllers is also particularly well thought out.

Beatcutter

This opens up new horizons within Pro Tools, particularly for live settings. This may seem strange, to say the least, since Digidesign software is largely studio geared. But you can also see a pattern (or strategy) developed for live musicians and DJs that started with the Mbox Micro, both of which are also being offered in bundles.

Pro Tools on stage? Is it possible? The competition is fierce, from Live to Mainstage, Usine to Reason, Receptor to SM Pro … Digidesign’s version would really have to deliver, seeing how it’s Pro Tools exclusive. There’s no problem recognizing that Transfusion, which is extremely comprehensive and powerful (you’ll need a powerful computer for prolonged use) is up to the challenge. Especially since it’s use in the studio is equally handy for working with loops.

Its concept
Its three modes
Comprehensive Drum Machine
Pitch and time stretch Algorithms
Worlfkow despite its power and complexity
Midi Learn and automation everywhere
Well adapted for live settings
Audio
Drag’n’Drop Audio and Midi
Internal audio recorder
20 quality effects included
Effects are applicable just about everywhere
Numerous presets, Sequences with effects
Loop library

Info is sometimes difficult to read
Slice screen is too small
Doesn’t import MP3, AAC, CAF, Apple Lossless
Resource hog
Pro Tools only …

To read, the full detailed article see:   Digidesign Transfuser Review

January 12, 2009

Test: Digidesign Pro Tools 8 Review

The Return of the King?
Pro Tools 8: The Test

The new Pro Tools has arrived armed with a bunch of new features: Elastic Pitch, thirty new plugins, five new virtual instruments – Boom (drum machine), Mini Grand (piano), DB-33 (tonewheel organ), Vacuum and Xpand!² (synthesizers), as well as Structure Free and Eleven. Let’s take a closer look at this latest release from DigiDesign…

First glance

lancement

While installing everything seemed to proceed normally. I chose my options and off it went! After a few minutes, I was asked to reboot the computer, which I did. Everything seemed ok…, well, almost everything. The old PT7 version was overwritten by the new version without any warning. It nevertheless kept my old plugins and extensions. Note that PT7 plugins work in PT8, and also vice versa!

I started the program up, but immediately ran into a problem. It crashed while trying to execute “stereo mixer.dpm” and “surround mixer.dpm”. I got rid of these files in the Plugins folder in Applications support. I re-started the software and it worked! Now during startup it checks for Digidesign product updates, and in the future it will also check for updates for certain brands’ plugins. One pleasant surprise: the LE version is compatible with the full range of Digidesign interfaces, from the Mbox 1 to Digi003 and TDM cards.

fenêtre edit

Once past these startup issues, a new window appeared: “Quick Start” which manages the opening of sessions. So you can choose to create a new session from models (templates) that finally have their own extention (.ptt) and a folder to manage them, located in Applications/Digidesign/Pro Tools/Session Templates. You can therefore create many templates without the risk of overwriting them with a simple backup. There are basic templates for creation, recording and mixing. The different models are nice to start off with, but it’s better in the long run to take the time to create your own to have your specific routing and display. You can also create a blank session, open a recent session, while choosing different session attributes in the lower part of Quick Start. This can sometimes be slow, but you can choose whether or not to show Quick Start at startup, which is a good point. You can also open a session, while pressing “shift”, that will load the session without loading its plugins and therefore avoiding the many issues that can arise when there are no plugins installed on your machine. You should be aware that when you close a session, the plugins stay loaded in the DSP (HD version only), which speeds up the process when opening similar sessions.

fenêtre mix

Once a session is started, you’ll finally discover the new graphic interface that looks softer and more curved. It’s nothing too extreme and you’ll be able to recognize your good old Pro Tools despite a trendy “glossy” look and sober colors. There’s a light gray background for the editing window and darker one for the Mix. Some people will be reminded of Logic, while others will think of Live or even Cubase. In any event, the colors are less aggressive, so staying in the studio for hours in front of your screen is less tiring for your eyes, and also for your morale.

Now let’s take an in-depth look…

Conclusion

PT8 has been developed to attract those who still have reservations or who use other sequencers. The virtual instruments sound good, which makes you want to use them. Plug-ins are much more numerous and sound surprisingly good. You still can’t export preferences with a session other than with Finder, but this is a small detail. Templates, that you’ll need to take the time with to record display configuration, tracks, routing, and other features, will be a real time saver in the long run. The Arrange function allows you to store all windows in cascade or tile, this has been used in a lot of other software. PT8 has had a considerable face-lift with its new design that’s not bad, especially for long sessions. Ergonomics are in general very nice and remain coherent with earlier versions. Omnipresent in professional audio and video, Digidesign is now targeting, more than ever before, home studios, composers, musicians and DJs … basically, everybody who makes music, because they would henceforth be able to export demos to a professional studio project using the same software. A multitude of small improvements make it a very serious competitor of other sequencers. It’s therefore a complete music production tool from start to finish.

New GUI
Alternate playlists
MIDI and Score editors
New keyboard shortcuts
48 track support (LE & M-Powered)
Template management
Virtual instruments
AIR plugins
MIDI offset Beatclock

AIR plugins – GUI too similar
No keyboard shortcuts for creating playlists
Score editor slows the system down in writing mode (LE)
No latency management PT

To read the full, detailed article see:   Pro Tools 8 Review

August 27, 2008

Digidesign Velvet review

Filed under: Computer music reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 1:11 pm

Electric Pianos never seem to go out of style; and because they’ve now gone virtual, Digidesign has decided to come out with their own version of these timeless instruments.

Since its acquisition/creation by Digidesign, the A.I.R team has been very busy, giving the virtual world nothing less than Xpand!, Hybrid, Strike, Structure and Velvet, the latter being the subject of this review. In recent years, Rhodes and Wurlitzer instruments have made their return to the stage and in numerous productions, from pop to hip-hop. By emulating these famous pianos, Velvet aims to be, for Pro Tools users, the direct rival of Scarbee, AAS and Native Instruments.

Seamless integration within Pro Tools
Global quality
Stability
Nice FX section
Versatility and creative power
Total automation
Quality of presets
Unusual features
Well, Pro Tools only…
Velocity setting
MkI quite agressive
Wurlitzer’s lack of “wurlitzerity”
No global volume for FX section

Digidesign Velvet review is fully available here.

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