AF’s Weblog

January 25, 2011

Avid Pro Tools 9 Review

It was THE event at the 2010 AES show in San Fran: the launch of Pro Tools 9 took center stage and generated a lot of expectations. Pro Tools 9 is not merely a simple update. It is in fact a small revolution for Avid, given that the famous DAW is now open to the external world — for the first time ever.

Over the last couple of months there were rumors everywhere about the possibility of, one day, being able to use the well-known digital audio platform independently from the dedicated Avid hardware interfaces… All of you who have been patiently waiting for that moment can rejoice: now Avid Pro Tools doesn’t need Avid hardware to work, and still deliver a high performance. Or at least that’s the assertion by the American manufacturer — the leader in the digital pro audio and video markets.

Surely the most skeptical will think that it will only be possible with a “light” version of the software or something. Wrong!  We mean THE Pro Tools 9 — an almost “unique” version that works with all sorts of digital audio interfaces. However, when searching for more information on Avid’s website things get a bit more complicated, considering that there are several possible configurations at very different prices!

In order to make things clear, we will start by giving you an overview of the main software and hardware configurations and then introduce the new features offered by Pro Tools 9.

Set Menu or à la carte

Avid Pro Tools 9

Until now, the options to use Pro Tools were quite simple because they were limited: you could choose between an expensive Pro Tools HD system (including at least one DSP Core card upgradeable with Access cards) or the more affordable Pro Tools LE system with limited functionality (the price depended on the interface you chose)… Today, the configurations are quite different, although there is still some hierarchy when it comes to features (and price).

The first version is still the flagship in Avid’s DAW range: Pro Tools HD 9. Like its predecessor, this update of Pro Tools HD 8 works only with HD Core and Accel PCIe cards (including nine DSPs each) and is sold bundled as before: HD1 system (with one Core card), HD2 system (with one Core card and one Accel card) and HD3 system (with one Core card and two Accel cards). There is no surprise up to now.

The real change comes with the second version called Pro Tools HD Native, which is a piece of software that provides exactly the same features as the “HD” version but without a DSP card. Instead, Pro Tools HD Native is sold with a PCIe card with two Mini-Digilink ports that allow the user to connect any HD interface to it, like the new Avid HD I/O interfaces: 16×16 Analog, 16×16 Digital, HD MADI, and the new HD Omni! In other words, this Pro Tools version is the first “HD version” that can work without a dedicated DSP card… In fact, the compatibility between Pro Tools HD Native and the UAD-2 card system has just been officially announced… Does it start to make sense to you now?

Last but not least, the product range includes another version, simply called Pro Tools 9, which is very similar to the HD version and works on both Mac and PC platforms, regardless of your ASIO or Core Audio digital audio interface. This new hardware-independent version has the clear goal of competing with other native sequencers.

Let see if it can succeed!…

Pro Tools Will Always Stay Pro Tools

It’s true that the Pro Tools concept doesn’t change with this new update. We will probably have to wait some more time before certain features appear in the Avid software. Despite all, the manufacturer wants to listen to what its users have to say through IdeaScale.

 

And let’s make something clear: the fact that Pro Tools is used by the vast majority of professionals is not only due to the brand’s effective marketing. Apart from the proven quality of the ready-to-use hardware/software solutions in the HD range, Pro Tools has always had a great response due to the design of the software itself. Although it lacks some features, the software allows for an easy and fast recording, editing and mixing of audio, in comparison to other tools that make things much more complex because of their sophistication (for example, until version 4, the side chain was incredibly complex in Cubase and Nuendo compared to Pro Tools…).

 

For primary tasks, Avid’s sequencer is not disappointing at all and allows the user to work well and fast. That’s the main reason why it remains the first choice of many professionals and why it can be very appealing to beginners who can easily get scared by the endless menus, tabs and options in some competitor products… If all sequencers offered a demo version, these differences would be obvious, making the user’s decision much more easier.

Conclusion

By ensuring the compatibility of its flagship product with the external world, Avid took a huge step forward, which will certainly delight many professionals and semi-professionals: from now on, you can take the software anywhere, and even if it’s not an HD version it allows you to do some serious work.

After the major update that version 8 represented, we expected more new features and plug-in improvements. And we are still in shock by the price of the Complete Production ToolKit, which addresses professionals mainly. Although the “big” Pro Tools is now affordable to all budgets, it is not the best tool for everyone. And now that it can be really compared with other sequencers it could suffer from the aggressiveness of its competitors. But, since Avid is not a company that rests on its laurels, we are looking forward to seeing how this market will evolve…

Advantages:

  • Pro Tools usable with third-party audio interfaces!
  • Ease of installation/use/configuration of the software
  • Possible configurations
  • Improved I/O setup
  • Easier bus routing
  • Latency compensation (finally)!

Drawbacks:

  • Few new features compared to version 8 in terms of functionality
  • No VST/AU support
  • Complete Production Toolkit for HD version too expensive for non-professionals
  • Not all audio interfaces are 100% supported
  • Bounce only in real time

To read the full detailed article see:  Pro Tools 9 Review

 

Advertisements

January 10, 2011

Cakewalk Sonar X1 Review

The new Sonar version has arrived. However, instead of being version 9, it is named Sonar X1. Cakewalk actually decided to completely rebuild the interface of its sequencer. And it changes everything. For good.

Interface

Review Environment
 

We reviewed the software with a release candidate version and two different computers: my studio computer is a Q6600 (quad core) with 4 GB RAM running Win XP, it has two 20″ wide screens and my sound card is an RME Multiface. I also have a Behringer BCF (to control the sound card), a Mackie Control (for the sequencer) and a Novation Remote SL 25 with Automap (2.5) for virtual instruments. The second computer is my notebook. I use it a lot for office and web applications and also a bit for photo editing. Except for some utilities, the only music applications I had used, until this test, with this computer was the Virtual DJ and the Hercule DJ Console last summer. The notebook is a Dell Precision M4400 running Seven 64 bit on a Core 2 Duo T9400 CPU with 4 GB RAM. The sound card is an Echo Indigo IO. The review was done at 24 bits/88.2 kHz with a 256-sample buffer size for 3.3 ms nominal latency and 7.3 ms total latency.


A recurrent reproach about previous Sonar versions was its confusing interface. Experienced users got on with it and liked to have a lot of information in front of their eyes, but new users could get easily lost and even miss interesting functions the software offers.

For this new version, Cakewalk put most of its efforts in redesigning the user interface. It’s almost as if Cakewalk developers asked themselves: if we could create a new software from scratch, how would we do it? The result includes new windows, a new menu and function structure, and loads of work on graphic aspects. The result looks astonishing. Everything is much clearer, much more easily readable, and all functions —especially the most interesting and powerful ones— are now easily accessible.

The new default screen layout recalls the old one… The Global View displays the main elements (see screenshot below).

All these elements can be floating, and the user can move, enlarge or reduce them. The different screen configurations can be saved in ten screen sets, six of which can be directly accessed by clicking on the tool bar. This way you can create different working environments depending on the task and instantaneously switch between them.

The Multidock (on the bottom by default) can host any element: the content of the current track, the mixer, the step sequencer, the matrix, etc. You can also drag the browser, virtual instruments, etc. into it. You can browse among the different elements using tabs. The GUI is very practical and fast. Like all other windows, the Multidock can be moved to a second monitor. That’s probably the ideal working configuration: it allows us to keep a track plus the inspector maximized on one screen while other elements are displayed on the other screen. Awesome!

But, there is a problem: when the Multidock is in fullscreen mode on the second monitor and you are using virtual instruments, it will appear in window mode after you restart the program and the virtual instruments will be on floating windows again. And even more annoying: after dragging the browser into the Multidock on the second screen, Sonar will crash if you try to take it back. We hope this will be quickly fixed.

Moreover, context menus have been added directly to each window, allowing you to access all useful functions and controls. We miss the possibility to open a window directly from a menu in the Multidock. That way you wouldn’t have to look for some of them in the main menu.

However, the Multidock is still a very valuable feature. The same applies to the new track inspector.

It has been updated and improved, and is now twice as wide by default. This means that, for MIDI tracks, you now get the extended view with direct access to many parameters like arpeggiator, groove, etc. For audio tracks, you get two tracks displayed side by side: the current track and the output bus it is assigned to (or the main out if the track is not routed to a bus). You can also display the ProChannel, which we will describe later and add valuable information: properties and effects of the clip or the groove, track properties, audiosnap settings, and a very convenient notepad. Everything is easily accessible, immediate and intuitive. This module is virtually perfect.

Cakewalk Sonar X1

The same applies to the track display. Beside the new GUI that makes everything much more readable, a simple but highly valuable function has been added: each track head includes a menu to select the track’s content display and what you want to edit. This is what Cakewalk calls Track Filter. The days when you risked moving a clip by clicking on the wrong place when you wanted to edit overlayed automation curves are now over. From now on, this menu allows you to display and edit only the desired automation curve. It allows you to edit clips, track or clip automation curves, as well as audio transients (audiosnap). For MIDI tracks, transient editing is replaced by note editing.

And it all turns even more awesome with the SmartTool. Thanks to this intelligent tool, Cakewalk has made the workflow with a mouse much more fluid now. The basic idea is that you don’t need to change tools to manage different tasks. Although the usual tools are still available, you almost don’t need them anymore, because the mouse automatically adapts to what you’re doing and where you’re doing it.

Thus, without changing tools, you can add and edit notes in the piano roll, move clips, manage fades in/out in an audio track, edit an automation curve in the neighbor track (depending on the filter of the selected track). The type of operation/action is defined by the place where you click the object. Very useful. If needed, you still have the possibility to quickly switch between tools via a pop-up window using the “T” keyboard shortcut or clicking with the mouse wheel (which must be preset as “center button”).

To wrap it up, this new interface is really excellent. Experienced Sonar users will quickly find everything they need, considering that everything is based on what already existed. Moreover, they will be able to improve their workflow, which will be faster and more comfortable (and they will not contribute to make their optician rich). As for new users, they will be able to learn the software much easier and faster and will easily access many well-conceived and powerful tools.

There is one thing that will surely disappoint some users: the score display is still the same after all these years. It seems that Cakewalk planned to improve it but they decided to take some time to launch a major evolution… Hopefully.

We would like to mention two new features that appeared in version 8.5, which we hadn’t reviewed.

The first one is the Matrix, a heritage of Project 5, Cakewalk’s electro sequencer. This grid is similar to what you can find in Ableton Live where lines correspond to tracks (audio or virtual instruments) and rows to song parts.

Cakewalk Sonar X1

Cells can contain audio or MIDI loops (or one-shot samples). Clicking on a cell starts the playback, a second click stops it. The same applies to rows: click on them to start all cells in a row. Rows can correspond to sections of a song you can mix together. For example, click on the bass of an other row and this bass line will replace the bass of the current row. Triggering can be instantaneous or synced (to the bar, 1/4 note, 1/8 note, etc.). The cells can be played in loops or only one time. And you can control everything via MIDI, so you can compose or improvise either with the mouse or a master keyboard. The Matrix can work independently from the track data (only the matrix is played) or on top of the project playback. You can also record in a track whatever is being done in the Matrix.

The other new feature is the step sequencer. It uses the principle of vintage sequencers (like Rebirth does). Say hello again to the grid! However, this time lines are notes (or drum elements) while rows correspond to beats. This sequencer is quite powerful and very easy to use. We just miss a glide (or glissando) function to perfectly emulate a vintage sequencer. You can load and save sequences (called patterns) independently from the project.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

In spite of a couple bugs (remember that this is a pre-release version, so hopefully they will be fixed at launch date) this major update is a great success. Sonar keeps all its advantages and gains considerably in readability, ease of use, working comfort, and effectiveness. I realized it when I went back to version 8 and wanted to compare the performance: it felt as if I had gone back several years in time! The virtual instrument and effect package provided is still very good and the added plug-ins sound really nice. What else could you ask for? That it were cheaper? It is! Cakewalk decided to strike a decisive blow offering the “big” Producer version for less than $400.

Advantages:

  • Greatly enhanced design
  • Interface readability
  • Pleasant look
  • Intelligent tools and functions
  • Excellent and comprehensive instrument pack
  • High-quality effects
  • Very competitive price

Drawbacks:

  • Crashes under Win XP
  • Some design details can still be improved
  • Nothing new regarding the score editor
  • Nothing new regarding functionality

To  read the full detailed article see:  Sonar X1 Review

December 20, 2010

Propellerhead Reason 5 Review

What features does the fifth version of the historical Propellerhead software have to offer? Overview.

We won’t retell the full Reason story, but we must acknowledge that Propellerhead shows an impressive consistency in the sense that they never derailed from their original philosophy: provide a standalone application that doesn’t allow the integration of third-party software (however open to the outside world via ReWire) and provides almost anything you need to produce electronic music.

The launch of Record (review to come) reinforces Reason’s position: instead of importing audio recordings into Reason, they can be embedded into Record, which is meant to remedy Reason’s “deficiencies.”

The fifth version of the virtual studio includes virtual synths, samplers, effects, etc., as well as some improvements and new features. Let’s have a look.

Introducing Reason 5

Propellerhead Reason 5

Reason 5 comes in a box including a DVD, a quick start guide (no printed user’s manual but an HTML help instead…) and a sheet of paper with the license and registration numbers required to activate the software and have access to updates. Note: it’s a good thing that the manufacturer tries to save paper not providing too many printed documents. But if that’s case, why do they deliver the product in such a big cardboard box? Considering the number of products sold, isn’t it a big waste of paper? I don’t really get it…

There’s no need to comment on the installation: everything is clear enough so anyone can open their first project after just fifteen clicks or so.

Powerful Sampler

Propellerhead Reason 5

Each new version brings with itself some graphic and useful improvements. On the top of the rack, you’ll find four buttons to open/close advanced audio and Midi parameters, as well as a Big Meter that can be set as a VU, PPM, Peak, VU+Peak, or PPM+Peak meter with in/out channel selection. Yes, indeed: Reason 5 finally supports audio, not for track recording like a sequencer but for making its samplers “real” samplers. Actually, many manufacturers misuse language when they state that their sample players/editors are real samplers — regardless of the incredible possibilities they provide.

It’s different at Propellerhead: with this new version, the NN-XT, NN19, Redrum and Kong (new module, see below) can record audio from any input or directly from one of the rack modules, with independent monitoring of the incoming signal. You can even route audio data directly within the computer, using Soundflower, for example (you can also create a loop with the audio card but it’s not that practical). The ability to sample the modules could inspire many manufacturers to use Reason’s possibilities to create sample banks from its very versatile instruments. Not that this wasn’t possible before, but you needed ReWire, external editors, etc.

Propellerhead Reason 5

Now it all happens inside. Select the input or the module by routing it to the sampling input on the rear side of the rack, click the waveform button (or use the tools window) and it will start recording immediately. By the way, a control to start recording manually would be much appreciated. We can imagine some extreme setups, considering that Sampling supports any stereo signal: you can rig modules and get the signal out of the main out (or the sends) of a mixer connected to several mixers, etc. So the internal possibilities are actually… endless. Once the signal has been recorded, click the Edit button to open the integrated sample editor.

Propellerhead Reason 5

Waveform display, selection, loop options, crop, normalize, invert, fade in/out and three play modes (normal, loop, forward/backward loop): only basic features (you feel like using a good old hardware sampler) but it’s enough to prepare a sample. Afterwards, you can make all resynthesis editing in any module, in which case the samples become available for all compatible instruments — including the outside world (AU, VST, etc.). Although the samples are saved by default with the actual song, you can export them to any WAV compatible tool.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

The main advantage this version has to offer is the introduction of real sampling within the program and in all modules that deal with audio data. Hats off Propellerhead! This will hopefully have some impact among competitors. However, we also hope for an update (or a future version?) with a more sophisticated sample editor providing more features.

When it comes to new modules, Dr Octorex is very disappointing, considering that it cannot play several loops simultaneously; but, on the other hand, Kong does a very good job if you keep in mind that Reason is a software tool dedicated primarily to electronic music production. We still miss the possibility to have real pads of four layers each.

Regarding all other new features, the development team has been proving its mastery for years, and Reason 5 takes full advantage of this fact — just like all its predecessors. In short, if you want to record samples directly into a module to use them immediately, or if you want a powerful instrument dedicated to drum sound design, Reason 5 is the tool for you. If you are still hesitant, the manufacturer offers a free demo version so you can try it out.

Advantages:

  • Sampling embedded directly into the modules
  • Integrated sample editing
  • Kong module
  • Many drum samples
  • Three different sound synthesis engines in Kong
  • Dr OctoRex module
  • Improved editing
  • Possibility to export the samples recorded
  • Multicore support
  • Blocks
  • Multitrack Midi recording
  • HTML help

Drawbacks:

  • No simultaneous Rex loop playback in Dr OctoRex
  • No real four-layer pads
  • Snare drum PM and bass drum PM modules not very convincing
  • Sample recording cannot be triggered manually
  • No printed manual
  • Still no 64-bit Rewire

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Reason 5 Review

April 16, 2010

Celemony Melodyne Editor Video Demo

To see more gear video demos see:  Audiofanzine Video Vault

March 10, 2010

Presonus Studio One Software Review

Fed up with Cubase? Sick of Logic? Bored by Sonar? PreSonus will take back your software in exchange for Studio One. But, is it really worth it?

Launching a new sequencer in 2010 is a bold venture considering that there are several well-established products out there. We could name at least a dozen top of mind, each one better than the others (Pro Tools, Logic, Sonar, Cubase, Nuendo, Samplitude, Digital Performer, Live, Tracktion, Reaper, Acid, Reason/Record, Fruity Loops, etc.), for all sorts of applications and within all price ranges. Nevertheless, more often than not, it was unexpected outsiders that introduced innovations in the field rather than the established brands (Cubase’s InLine Edition and Reason’s Combinator owe a lot to Tracktion to name only one example). That’s one of the main reasons why we are very pleased to welcome PreSonus’ Studio One – which we hope will bring some fresh air to the sequencer world.

How Long Has PreSonus Been Making Sequencers?

Studio OneWell-known for their FireWire interfaces (FirePod and FireBox, for example), the guys at PreSonus also offer a very comprehensive range of audio products from digital mixers to dual high-quality preamps (conceived by Anthony de Maria), headphones amps, monitoring controllers, etc. In short, almost everything you need to set up a home studio, except for microphones and monitors. In this context, a sequencer seems quite natural, all the more if you think that most leading manufacturers in the pro audio industry have their own sequencer: Cubase and Nuendo belong to Yamaha, Sonar to Roland, Pro Tools to Digidesign/M-Audio, Acid to Sony, Tracktion to Mackie, etc.

However, PreSonus could not become a software developer overnight even though they have lots of experience with DAW hardware solutions. Therefore it was no surprise to find the very experienced Matthias Juwan behind Studio One, a developer who worked six years for Steinberg before founding his own company and developing a free sequencer called Krystal Audio. Matthias had already planned to make V2 a paid upgrade before arriving at PreSonus; it seems his new software ended up being Studio One.  Fine.  Enough with the history lessons…

Is Studio One the One?

Studio OneStudio One is an audio/MIDI sequencer for Mac and PC (it includes Windows 7 and 64-bit support). There are two different versions available, “Artist” and “Pro”. They both share the same functions except for some major details like the audio engine’s internal resolution (32 bit in Artist, 64 bit in Pro), the ability to import/export to MP3 and, above all, AU, VST and Rewire compatibility. I beg your pardon? Did you just say that the Artist version which costs $200 doesn’t allow the use of external plugins? Yes, I did! Even though the Artist version includes about 20 virtual effects and instruments like a sampler, EZdrummer Lite and Kore Player, it’s hard to imagine how it’s supposed to compete in this market without allowing external plugin integration… But that’s none of our business right now because we will only deal with the Pro version in this review, which does support third-part plugins, provides additional effects and offers many samples as well as Kore Player sounds. Now let’s go back to the pretty blue box containing two DVDs…

Installing Studio One and the additional software tools provided is pretty straightforward and easy. Among the printed documentation included there’s a short quick start guide in full color and a leaflet listing all the shortcuts. It’s not much but you will also find a 189 page long PDF under the software’s Help menu, and PreSonus also included a handful of video tutorials to get you started. That was nice of them, even if one the main pros of Studio One is its intuitiveness.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

PreSonus did a good job with Studio One. We have rarely used such an intuitive sequencer: it is always difficult to switch from Cubase to Pro Tools or from Sonar to Digital Performer due to design and layout problems, but that wouldn’t be a problem with Studio One thanks to the great ideas implemented in this respect. Studio One resembles Tracktion in a way: it’s a small sequencer conceived for music creation that can be installed on a notebook to avoid more resource hungry tools like Cubase, Logic or Sonar. It is well thought-out, comprehensive, very stable, and promises a lot even if it’s a bit too expensive compared to similar products. Not taking into consideration the Artist version, which is too limited to be interesting, the Pro version is a bit more expensive than Mackie’s Tracktion 3, which place it in the same price range as all the big names on the market… and it just can’t compete with them, except in design and layout. To wrap it up, Studio One is a bit too expensive but it does offer some nice features so we will keep our eyes open for Studio Two…

Advantages:

  • Excellent design and layout
  • Provides everything to create a song from A to Z
  • Stability
  • Effect plugins quality
  • Well thought-out mastering section

Drawbacks:

  • Improvable virtual instruments
  • Artist version can’t host third-party plugins
  • There are much more powerful tools available for a few more bucks…

To read the full detailed article see:  Presonus Studio One Review

February 10, 2010

My iPhone is a Sequencer

iPhone/iPod Touch Sequencers Report

We’ll start with Xewton Music Studio, a pretty comprehensive MIDIMy iPhone is a sequencer sequencer if you consider that it runs on a mobile phone. It features 128 MIDI tracks, 4 FX sends (reverb, delay, EQ, amp simulation) and 21 instruments – more than enough to get you started… But even though the instruments will cover most of your needs and you can edit their volume envelope curve (in a somewhat rudimentary way), don’t expect too much from their sound (the quality is on the same level as an old wavetable Sound Blaster sound card, in other words cheap-sounding, but usable, Soundfonts).

On the other hand, the sequencing functions are pretty comprehensive including a dual, virtual MIDI keyboard for real time control of two instruments, a piano roll view, an arranger window, velocity management, and all necessary sequencing functions like cut, copy, paste, transpose, etc. It goes without saying that you can set the volume and pan for each track and, more importantly, you can export your work as a WAV or MIDI file. In conclusion, it is definitely a must-have for the iPhone and well worth the $19.99 the developer asks for it.

Now let’s look at some several other sequencers…

Loop the Loop

To wrap up this non-exhaustive iPhone sequencer overview let’s My iPhone is a sequencertake a look at loop-based production tools inspired by Acid/Garageband. With a brilliant design, IK Multimedia’s Groovemaker is available for different music styles at $7.99, but you cannot import your own loops, which is a major drawback. That’s why we prefer Looptastic’s Producer version ($9.99), because it allows you to import your own WAV, AIFF and OGC files. It can synchronize up to 20 files at the same time and allows you to export your mix.

My iPhone is a sequencerIt’s a pity that you cannot record! That’s the whole point of loopers and loop samplers! They come in very handy to record song ideas on the spot and loop the loop with our previous report about iPhone audio recorders. Anyway, we will only mention the nice StompVox, which lacks an export function, and take a nearer look at the excellent iSample which has been praised by Roger Linn himself and Jordan Rudess. This app provides six 30-second samplers, a mixer, a loop editor, delay and reverb effects, and a 12-pattern sequencer. Everything for only $9.99.

On the other side, some of you will appreciate the simplicity of My iPhone is a sequencerEveryday Looper! The oddness about this 4-track looper is the GUI with no buttons: you can slide both ways using 1, 2 or 3 fingers to start or stop the recording, toggle between different tracks, and export the result of your work via WiFi. This app is very ergonomic and costs only $3.99.

To read the full detailed report see: iPhone Sequencers

December 16, 2009

Celemony Melodyne Editor Review

Ever since the creation of the first DAW, no other software has caused so much ink to be spilled and generated such expectations. The Direct Note Access technology, which was introduced by Celemony at Musikmesse 2008, is one of those holy grails no one ever thought to be accessible because it allows you to edit single notes of a polyphonic audio recording. Is it some sort of de-mixing? Yes and no! Is it a revolution? You bet!

Celemony Melodyne EditorBefore we dive into the innards of the program, a brief summary about Melodyne is necessary for those of you who don’t know it yet. Celemony created Melodyne in the wake of the Antares Autotune, which allowed you to edit the pitch of an audio recording. Melodyne worked under the same principles (pitch shifting and time stretching with formant control) within an interface conceived for musicians instead of sound engineers. After detecting the notes, you had several tools for pitch, time and amplitude correction, so you could actually edit audio recordings as easily as MIDI parts, under one condition: the audio recording had to be monophonic. The software’s excellent algorithms and idiot-proof user interface gave lots of product ideas to their partners (like Ueberschall, who developed customizable loop banks for the Melodyne engine) and competitors. For instance, Autotune got a new user interface (see the Autotune EVO), several competitors appeared (Waves Tune, Zplane) and the main audio sequencers integrated Melodyne-like functions (Steinberg introduced VariAudio in Cubase 5 and Cakewalk did the same with AudioSnap for Sonar).

While competitors were still trying to catch up with the first Melodyne, Celemony changed the game again by offering individual note editing in polyphonic recordings. During the product presentation at Musikmesse, Melodyne’s boss had a blast changing a guitar minor chord into a major chord using a simple MIDI keyboard. And to top that, he also modified the trumpet of a Miles Davis recording without changing the double-bass or the drum part. Impressed? There are no words to express it. The presentation of the product had such an impact that some people thought it was a hoax. That, together with the time it took for the official release to come out raised serious doubts among the audio community. But…

Melodyne Editor, the first software using Direct Note Access technology (DNA) has finally hit the stores. And it works…

On Familiar Ground

The installation is extremely easy. You will only need the serial number to activate it online on Celemony’s website. The software is protected in two different ways: either you activate the product online, in which case the registration is limited to only one computer (you’ll have to uninstall it first before installing it on another computer) or you transfer your license to an iLok key. Once you did that you can start your sequencer (I work with Cubase) and look for Melodyne Editor in your plugin list.

Celemony Melodyne EditorUsers of previous Melodyne versions, especially those who had the plugin version, won’t feel too estranged at first sight. The user interface (the look and layout) didn’t change much. Under the Settings, Edit, Algorithm, View, and Help menus, you’ll still find the aluminum-like bar hosting the basic parameters. Most of the interface is made up of a sort of piano-roll grid displaying yellow, orange and red events… On the right side, you’ll still find the “Correct Pitch” and “Quantize Time” buttons, as well as three automation-capable controllers that allow you to play with the pitch, the formant or the volume parameters in real time. On the center of the tool bar you’ll find the Undo/Redo icons and the tool box (with the same old icons): from left to right, you’ll find six tools for selection/zoom/scroll, pitch editing (with modulation and drift parameters – a sort of audio pitch bend), formant editing, volume editing, timing editing and note separation editing.

Right below these icons, there are two fields that display the note detected in the segment selected and its distance to the correct note. Finally, on the left side of the bar you have the transfer parameters. Just like with the first plugin version, the first thing you have to do is start the detection process: once Melodyne is inserted in the track that is to be processed, click on the transfer button and start playback in the sequencer. Depending on the algorithm you selected in the “Algorithm” menu, Melodyne analyzes the audio material and generates events on the grid. There are three algorithms available: monophonic (melodic), rhythmic/unpitched and polyphonic. In this review, we will focus on the latter since the two others are already known from the Melodyne plugin.

Before we get into details, we have to mention that, unlike the first Melodyne plugin, you can fully resize the program window and freely zoom in/out via shortcuts. It would have been perfect if it had a button to switch into full-screen mode with a single click…

Now let’s take a look under the hood…

Conclusion

Melodyne Editor is indeed the revolution we expected, thanks to its DNA technology. The algorithm is not infallible and (still?) doesn’t allow to entirely de-mix a song. Nevertheless, there has not been such an exciting invention in the audio industry ever since the creation of Autotune – and the invention of samplers before that. Melodyne is available for a very affordable price considering the huge R&D efforts Celemony had to make to achieve these results.

While we wait for a more comprehensive version that includes MIDI export of the detected notes, we strongly recommend Melodyne Editor to sound engineers (to repair an acoustic guitar recording when the guitarist already left the studio), to musicians who work with loops (and never find the right sample in the right key) and to all sound designers. You will undoubtedly have lots of fun discovering the huge possibilities it provides. However, there is still one thing that remains unclear: what happens to the copyright of the processed samples? If I change all the notes of a Miles Davis phrase, will he still be the owner of the melody I use in my song?

To wrap it up, if I were to have only one gift under the Christmas tree, I’d ask for this one!

Celemony Melodyne Editor
Advantages:
  • Technological feat that revolutionizes audio editing and sampling
  • Ease of use
  • Stunning results when used for the right application
  • Price (considering the R&D investment)
  • Amusing and creative tool
  • One of the best monophonic time-stretching & pitch-shifting tools, maybe even the best…

Drawbacks:

  • CPU consumption: you’ll have to bounce!
  • Left and right channels cannot be edited separately
  • Not multitimbral
  • Disappointing results with some audio material

To read the full detailed review including sound samples see:  Celemony Melodyne Editor Review

April 4, 2009

Musikmesse: PreSonus Studio One

Presonus shows us their new Studio One sequencer.

presonus

For more Musikmesse videos and news visit Audiofanzine Musikmesse

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

Blog at WordPress.com.