AF’s Weblog

September 14, 2012

Basic Concepts in Electronic Music Production

To read the full detailed article see:  Basic Concepts in EDM

If you’re reading this article you might already know that EDM stands for Electronic Dance Music. The styles range over a wide gammet of musics, from House to Dubstep, Drum-n-Bass, and IDM (Intelligent Dance Music). While the specifics of each style are extremely diverse (even within different styles there are dozens of sub-styles) – certain attributes remain consistent.

If you are just getting into EDM, or just want a fresh perspective on it, this article should offer some great food-for-thought.

Rhythm

The purpose of EDM is to make people dance. Period. The rhythmic elements and the movement of the record are sacrosanct. Once you find the pulse of the record, you make that as clear as possible. That means pushing the rhythm elements way up, exaggerating any kind of pumping movement and articulating the attacks of anything that is outlining that rhythm.

In addition, it’s best when people not only hear what they want to dance to, but feel it as well. One of the biggest challenges with EDM is packing that heavy bass into the mix. The first key is to remember that physical bass is a much wider range than just the sub. In fact, club systems tend to be very unreliable when it comes to the sub range. Pay special attention to what’s happening between 80 Hz and below 300 Hz. There’s a still a lot of physical bass there, and a little love in that zone can go a long way.

In fact, most instruments have “physical” ranges. For a snare, you might be looking at 300 Hz – 500Hz. For a hi-hat you might be looking at 1 kHz. To say exactly where the physicality of a certain sound exists is almost pointless – it varies widely. But when you feel it, you know.

Loudness

The difficulty in physical sound, and I know a lot of engineers are going to shoot me for saying this, but the difficulty is that club music needs to be loud. Only so much energy can fit into a limited space, so picking and choosing how to maximize your bang-for-the-buck in terms of headroom is one of the biggest challenges in EDM.

Sometimes it’s a lot more productive to trigger a sine wave or use a bass enhancer on a kick drum, rather than simply boosting the low end – as you can get a little more “perceived” bass without running the headroom. And equally over extending compression or distortion to gain perceived size is also worth experimenting with. Ideally all club systems would have tons of clean amps with DJs who know how to not overload the speakers, who could then turn the club amps up and keep there mixers down. But that’s not the world we live in. So until then, club music does fall under the jurisdiction of the loudness police.

Let’s take a look now at some other concepts…

….

Conclusion

This article is very stream of consciousness. I hope people comment and ask questions below as there is probably a million more things that could be said on this subject. But in the mean time, this should provide a few basic concepts that will step up your game when producing EDM.

To read the full detailed article see:  Basic Concepts in EDM

March 4, 2011

Noise Gates Don’t Have to be Boring

Noise gates aren’t as relevant as they were back in the analog days, when hiss was an uninvited intruder on anything you recorded. But noise gates can do some really cool special effects that have nothing to do with reducing hiss. This article shows how to make them a lot more interesting, and throws in a bunch of fun audio examples, too. But first, let’s do some noise gate basics for the uninitiated.

Noise Gates Basics

A noise gate mutes its output with low-level input signals, but higher-level signals can pass through. Following are the typical adjustable parameters found in a noise gate, whether analog, digital, or plug-in.

  • Threshold: If the input level to the gate passes below the threshold, the gate “closes” and mutes the output. Once the signal exceeds the threshold, the gate opens again.
  • Attack: This determines how long it takes for the gate to go from full off to full on once the input exceeds the threshold.
  • Decay: This sets the time required for the gate to go from full on to full off once the signal falls below the threshold. Since decaying signals often criss-cross the threshold as they decay, increasing the decay time prevents “chattering.”
  • Key input: Normally, the gate opens and closes based on the input signal’s amplitude. The key input allows patching in a different control signal for the gating action (for example, using a kick drum as the key signal to turn a sound on and off in time with the kick’s rhythm). Note that in most cases, you won’t find this in plug-ins, only in hardware units.

All right, let’s get into applications.

Selective Reverb

I was using a premixed drum loop from the Discrete Drums Series 2 library, but in one particular part of the song, I wished that the snare—and only the snare—had some reverb. Although Series 2 is a multitrack library, I didn’t want to go back and build up the drum loop from scratch. So why not just extract the snare drum sound, put some reverb on that, and mix it in with the drums?

Referring to Fig. 1, I copied the drum loop in Track 1 to a second track in my sequencer (if you were doing this in hardware, you’d split it into two mixer channel inputs). In the second track, there’s EQ inserted to roll off all the low end, which took most of the kick out of the signal, as well as the high end, to reduce the level of cymbal crashes.

Reverb sélective

Fig.1

The next step was to insert a noise gate in Track 2, and raise the gate threshold so that only the snare peaks made it through (the screen shot shows a Compressor/Gate plug-in, but the compressor was disabled by setting the ratio to 1:1). These peaks fed the reverb, which dumped into the master bus along with the original drums. The end result: Reverb on the snare only, added in with the rest of the drums.

Now let’s take a closer look and listen to some samples…

Kick Drum “Hum Drum”

Here’s a trick for hardware noise gates. Suppose you want to augment an existing kick drum sound with a monster rap kick, like that famous TR-808 rap sound. Here’s a sneaky way to do it:

  1. Set a sine wave test tone oscillator somewhere between 40 and 60Hz, and plug it into a mixer channel module containing the noise gate.
  2. Patch the kick drum into the gate’s key input and set the threshold relatively high, so that the kick exceeds the threshold for only a very short amount of time.
  3. Set the noise gate decay for the desired amount of oscillator decay. Hopefully your gate decay can go up to about 2 seconds, but even 1 second can do the job.

Now whenever the kick drum hits, it opens up the gate for a fraction of a second and lets through the sine wave; the decay time then provides the desired fadeout.

Real Time Manipulation

This real-time performance tip can sound very cool with hip-hop, techno, and other types of music that rely on variations within drum loops. With most loops, the snare and kick will reach the highest levels, with (typically) hi-hat below that and percussion (maracas, shakers, tambourine, etc.) mixed in the background. Tweaking the noise gate threshold in real time causes selected parts of the loop to drop out. For example, with the threshold at minimum, you hear the entire loop. Move the threshold up, and the percussion disappears. Move it up further, and the high-hat drops out. Raise it even higher, and the snare and kick lose their decays and become ultra-percussive.

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see: Noise Gates

 

January 27, 2010

Novation Launchpad: Who’s Pad?

Novation Launchpad Gear Review

Novation surprised everyone by bringing out an Ableton Live dedicated control surface. Like Akai’s APC? Not really, and obviously not at the same price.

Even though the Ableton Live revolution already goes back several years, it is noteworthy that dedicated control surfaces started to appear very late on. Except for Faderfox and Livid – which were the first to offer products conceived for Ableton’s baby – most manufacturers limited themselves to offering Live mappings for their generic controllers. The market started to get interesting for Abletoners when Akai launched its APC40. Following Akai steps, Novation introduced its own Live controller, but with a serious advantage: it’s sold for under $200 – half price of the APC40. So let’s take a look at what Novation has to offer for that price.

Novation Launchpad

The Launchpad is basically an eight-by-eight pad matrix with 16 function buttons made out of the same smooth, translucent plastic as the pads. All buttons are backlit (green, amber or red, depending on the application – we’ll come back to this later). The device is a 6.45″ long and 1.2″ thick square. It weights about 1.5 lb. and is equipped with four large rubber feet to ensure it stays secure and perfectly stable on almost any surface, even when you hit the pads. There’s nothing to criticize the finishing quality about except for the pads’ hardness, but that ought to change with time. We appreciate its lightness and compact dimensions that allow you to take it with you in a backpack along with your notebook for mobile applications.

The device has only one USB connector. No MIDI in/out/thru, no sustain or expression pedal connector, only the bare minimum! But Novation points out that you can use several Launchpads at the same time using a standard USB hub. However, we received only one unit for the review so we couldn’t test this setup. We recommend you to use a USB hub with a power supply because the Launchpad is powered via the USB connector and it might be too much to ask from your computer to power several units at the same time, especially if it’s a notebook…

The device is, obviously, provided with a dedicated Live version (limited to eight scenes, though). Once you install Live and the drivers, you just have to declare the Launchpad as a control surface in Live and you’ll be ready to go. As a (funny) side note: the program installed the Novation Audio Control Panel on my computer, which is less than useless considering Launchpad is a MIDI-only control surface and I only got error messages when I tried to open it…

Among other regrettable details, I’ll mention the two-page Getting Started guide provided as “documentation” with the product. It’s true that the Launchpad is a masterpiece regarding intuitiveness but I still find it hard to believe that it takes only two pages to describe how it works… I bet Novation had to sacrifice such details in order to command such a low price. On the other hand, the manufacturer provides some nice video tutorials on its YouTube website which are clear enough to compensate for the lack of a serious user’s manual.

Conclusion

The rugged, compact and light Launchpad will surely be a success among Ableton Live fans who can’t afford an Akai APC40. Novation clearly gave a lot of thought to its product, and even though some aspects could still be improved, it will definitely win you time and improve your ergonomics. As a result, you can rest assured that you’ll see it on lots of stages and in home studios, and certainly under more than a few Christmas trees…

Advantages:

  • Extremely affordable price
  • Compact size and lightness
  • Rugged
  • Ergonomic and well thought out
  • Four modes for virtually any application…
  • Effective MIDI learn function
  • Several Launchpads can be used simultaneously

Drawbacks:

  • Lighting intensity hardly distinguishable by daylight
  • Not velocity/aftertouch sensitive
  • Continuous controllers set by steps: we miss encoders and faders…
  • The lack of track information display can get you lost in the matrix

To read the full detailed review see: Novation Launchpad

November 25, 2009

Infected Mushroom Sound Alchemy

Filed under: Artists — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 6:20 am

Exclusive Interview Reveals Production Tips and Tricks

Erez Eisen and Amit Duvedevani “Duvdev” (background).

Innovators, geek tricksters, obsessive-perfectionists, un-serious, electronic-rock geniuses?   Time will tell, yet The Legend of the Black Shawarma, Infected Mushroom’s 7th album release will certainly grab the chair from underneath you and leave you thinking- I’m not sure what was this meticulous musical chaos, but I can’t stop moving even after the track has finished.

Hailing from sunny shores of Israel, now based in another sunny city, Los Angeles, the sun always seems to shine in Infected land, the core of which is Erez Eisen and Amit Duvedevani.  But seriously, between the hard-earned success, the mess, the nuclear shows, the private jokes you will find two very do-it-yourself kind of musician scientists who write, produce, mix, master, tweak and fix almost every detail of their music.

It was only fitting then that Audiofanzine (AF) will ask the obvious:  How do you make that sound?  As we brushed off the cobwebs with a morning coffee in Paris, Eisen joined us late at night from his studio in Los Angeles to tell us the production tales of Infected Mushroom.  Enjoy.

Part 1:  “It’s always changing, you know”

This is Infected Mushroom today.

AF:  Can you quickly present the band? Who’s doing what?

Eisen:  We started- my partner Amit Duvedevani, known as Duvdev, and I, Erez Eisen, in 1996 doing some horrible music.  Now today we are like a big band you know, not so big, but we have a drummer named  Rogerio Jardim he’s a great drummer from Brazil, he lives in America now.  We have an Israeli guitar player Erez Netz, which is considered one of the best electronic guitar players, the best in Israel.  We love him.  And also Thomas Cunningham, another guitar player from America who performs with us.  This is Infected Mushroom.

AF:  What do you consider to be your influences?   You’re using some ‘metal’ gigs and some ‘jazzy organs’ on the same tracks, some hip-hop influences, some Spanish music influences…

Eisen:  It’s always changing, you know.  It started with electronic like Psytrance bands, which is Simon Posford, known as Shpongle as well, also Hallucinogen.  At the time we liked X-Dream, Etnica, many other bands from this genre.  These are the main ones.  And slowly through the years we became open to everything.  We are listening to radio and MTV, not as it is today, horrible, but how it used to be with more heavy metal stuff.  Even if it is hip-hop sometimes, a few Jay Zee tracks, it can be nice.  Maybe we don’t like the whole concept but we like some ideas.  We try to just have fun in the studio basically and to be as creative as we can.

AF:  Your style has changed a lot in the past few years. When you go back to your old tracks and you listen to them, what are your thoughts?

Eisen:   The Gathering, which is the first album as Infected, I tend to think that is has a few decent tracks for me.  I think Tommy the Bat is one of them, and a few others, but the production is horrible.  I’m not so proud of it, let’s say.  But, you know, I was 16 I think when we did it.  So it’s OK.

Infected Mushroom’s Studio in L.A.:  Best place for inspiration.

AF:   Do you begin making a song in your studio or sometimes you need to go to someplace else to get inspired?

Eisen:  No, it’s always in the studio.  We tried doing tracks on the road, but we never did one.  Sometimes we come with just no ideas into the studio and we just decide on a BPM, usually it’s just 145, and we just start kick, bass line, and somehow looking for sounds and stuff.  Sometimes we are lucky, everything goes smoothly and we have a track going on very fast, and sometimes we get stuck like a week on a track.

AF:  I know what you mean.  I have been stuck for 10 years now.

Eisen:  When we are stuck, I wanted to kick myself sometimes, I wanted to say “that’s it, I cannot do anymore music, I have no more ideas”, but then Duvdev said “let’s see it as a fight in the studio”, like a video game- there is a level that is really hard to pass, and you keep trying until you move to the next level.  So this is how we see it these days and it really helps.  For us, when we have these horrible days we just give it a fight.  Sometimes it’s the lyrics.  Duvdev comes in with lyrics, and from there we get something- which is much easier.   Every time it’s something different.

Infected Mushroom Live in Chicago 11/14/09

AF:  What would you consider to be your biggest challenge as a band?

Eisen:  We always have challenges.  I guess the first big challenge was to make the band happen, to find the guitar player, to find the drummer, to write the parts for them, because the tracks are already kind of busy for us, and we didn’t want to make it noisy for the live show.  It’s kind of hard, in the beginning, to think about what the guitar player would play that will not sound too busy, and how to add a drummer that will not create too much of a mess.

AF:   In the studio you can create and produce music under ideal conditions.  It then becomes a challenge to re-create that sound on stage.  How do you approach that?

Eisen:  Yeah, for stage we try to have a little bit more bass, this feeling that you have a big speaker and you want to feel the bass, not just hear it.  This is very important.  And for the rest of the frequencies we try to make it as good as we can compared to what we had in mind in the studio- which never happens, by the way.  With our luck, we go to horrible sound systems most of the time.  It’s always a challenge to do a proper sound check.

AF:  The big thing in this record is your collaborations with Jonathan Davis, Perry Farrell and the Doors.  Is this something that you’ve wanted to do for a long time, collaborate with other artists?  And what was their contribution?

Eisen:  We can start with the Doors.  It was the Doors track that Warner Brothers requested us to remix.  They did a remix CD for many Doors tracks, and basically we got approved to use it in our album – The Riders on the Storm.  We got original channels from the Doors which was really exciting to get all these cool recordings, which sounded pretty good I must say.  This was the easiest one because it was pre-recorded so we didn’t really collaborate.

With Jonathan Davis from Korn, in the beginning we asked him which song he wanted to sing.  He chose Killing Time in the beginning.  He came to the studio and we said, ‘do you mind trying Smashing the Opponent because we think it fits more to your style’.  And he said ‘sure’.   He didn’t practice it, but we just printed the lyrics, he gave it a shot, and I think not more than one hour recording and it was done, the vocals.

AF:  So basically, the lyrics and the melody lines were written and he just performed them?

Eisen:   Yeah.  Everything was written before.  He just came and performed the vocals.  Same for Jane’s Addiction singer, Perry Farrell.  We asked him if he minds doing Killing Time, and he liked it.  With him we did two different sessions.  We bothered him twice.  Actually, he knows us for a long time.  He has Classical Mushroom EP and The Gathering, which was very weird for us.  Like, why do you have these albums?  It was pretty fun.

Our move to Los Angeles was the move to make collaborations with people.  In Israel we were pretty limited to Israeli artists, which I have nothing against.  But it’s limited to Hebrew mainly.   We have dreams, as kids, you want to work with big artists, and you never believe that you will be able to do, so we said let’s try.  We almost got Dave Ghan from Depeche Mode singing, but at the end it didn’t happen.  Hopefully, it will happen with Dave in the next album.

Duvdev and Eisen: Serving up The Legend of the Black Shawarma
to legions of ‘converted vegetarians’.

AF:  Last question about your lyrics from [the track] “The Legend of the Black Shawarma”, they are very positive and they are almost sending a message but maybe with a little bit of a warning.  I am assuming these are not totally random lyrics, is this something that you’ve realized with time and now you wish to share with your listeners?

Eisen:   When we started doing lyrics, we said we will write about everything except about love.  Because, it’s not that we have anything against love, but every song is about love.  So we said everything but love, which was not so hard.  And slowly it became the Duvdev road, most of the lyrics.  He came into the studio with almost all of the lyrics and maybe I didn’t like one or two words.  Duvdev is a pretty crazy guy.  He has lots of weird ideas.  Lots of them we cannot even write about.  We try to write stuff with less meaning, that will open people to think about stuff.  Or we write very un-serious lyrics that it’s just private jokes between us and our friends.  So please don’t take our lyrics seriously.


AF:  So you mean that actually you don’t want to convert vegetarians for real?

Eisen:   Why not?  No, I’m just kidding…  Everything is just funny, don’t take it too seriously.  Converting vegetarians, if there is a meaning it’s mostly meaning:  convert yourself from listening to regular music and be open to listen to other kinds of music.
To read the full detailed interview see:  Infected Mushroom Sound Alchemy

June 3, 2009

Waves & Maserati – All Revved Up and Ready to Go!

Waves Tony Maserati Collection: The Test

The Maserati collection represents a meeting of industry titans. Waves, one of the earliest and most enduring audio plug-ins companies, has made its reputation on quality bundles of their own plug-ins such as the Gold, Platinum and Diamond bundles as well as emulations of some of the most respected names in studio hardware from API to SSL. Tony Maserati is a multi-platinum, Grammy winning engineer with mixing credits including Mariah Carey, Destiny’s Child, the Black Eyed Peas, John Legend and Kelly Clarkson. What Waves and Tony Maserati have done is to put together some of Tony’s tried and true combinations of EQ, compression and effects into a simple, intuitive package. Basically, we’re being invited into Tony’s audio world and getting a chance to benefit from his experience in our mixes.

What You Get

The Maserati collection is six plug-ins specifically designed for the primary instruments of most mixes. They are the VX1 for lead and harmony vocals, the ACG for acoustic guitars, the GTi for electric guitars (and horns depending on the preset), the HMX for keyboards, the B72 for bass and finally the DRM for all of the individual drums in a standard studio kit. Atypical of most EQ and compression plug-ins, the Maserati collection also offers built-in effects on each of the six plugs. These effects include reverb and in some instances a delay as well (like on the GTi and VX1). The FX knobs control the overall amount of the effect but in a very general way. On occasion you’re also offered some additional controls like a “Wet” knob(on the HMX) a “Tone” control (on the B72), “Excite” and “Pre Delay” (on the ACG) and even “Vibro” and “Chorus” (on the Gti). Overall, the effects are well thought out, appropriate and sound great.

The Look and Feel

The first thing I noticed about the Tony Maserati collection is that visually it stands apart from a lot of available audio plug-ins in that it’s more fanciful and artistic in its design and doesn’t have a hardware equivalent in the physical gear world. The best description I can give would be to say it looks like a cross between an old wooden radio and the dashboard of some vintage automobile. The way the knobs work and the lights glow has a very comforting, warm look and feel to it. There’s a method to this madness as well: By leaving out actual frequency notations, delay times and almost all numbers, we’re forced (in the best possible way) to use our ears and not our eyes to mix. This is a borderline radical notion these days when we’ve become used to typing 200hz and minus 1.5 into the windows of our EQ plug-ins. By changing our workflow, we’re compelled to listen instead of simply expecting a result that we’ve gotten hundreds of times before.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Overall, I’d have to say the plug-in world is a better place with the Maserati collection in it. And I’m not the only one who feels this way as evidenced by it’s selection for the 2009 Musikmesse International Press Award for best new studio recording effects software. There is absolutely no doubt that each of the six Maserati plug-ins has its own personality and multiple personalities at that. You can think of these plug-ins as the audio equivalent to the Mac OS. In other words, there’s a lot under the hood and you don’t need to know all the details to get great results. The plug-ins are a bit CPU hungry and it was pretty much all my 17” 2.16 Intel Core Duo MacBook Pro could do to keep up with all the plugs at once. That being said, as a go-to spice for a particular job, these plug-ins are exceptional. As Tony Maserati says in his video, every mix is a custom job and if you keep that in mind then using the plug-ins from this collection, they’ll provide you with an exceptional palette for your future mixes. Price: $800 MSRP approx $600 street (the price of a decent mid-level outboard pre amp or compressor).

Pluses:

  • Superb look and feel
  • Unique sound-sculpting approach that makes you use your ears
  • Simple to use with great results that can be achieved quickly
  • The GTi plug-in is exceptional

Drawbacks:

  • A little CPU hungry
  • In certain instances more detailed options for tone control would be helpful
  • A bit pricey

To read the full detailed article see:  Waves Tony Maserati Collection Review

May 16, 2009

Ableton Live 8 Suite: The Test

Long LIVE Ableton
Ableton Live 8: The Test

Ableton’s Live has been with us for some time now and since it’s initial release in 2001 it has proudly sported a simple one window interface and transparent ’no frills’ operation. This simplicity initially led some producers and musicians to believe it was perhaps a step down from other more complex DAWs, but seven years down the line Live has more than stood the test of time.

Many musicians, engineers and DJs have now adopted Live as their primary production or performance environment and Ableton is now onto an impressive eighth major release. Their constant development of the application is also relentless with version 8.01 of Live being released only weeks ago, which sees stability and workflow further improved.

Ouverture

Live has never been short of virtual instruments, hardware quality effects and cool production tools but each major release manages to expand this sequencer’s inventory, and version 8 is certainly no exception. With a brand-new virtual instrument, updates to the interface, new production tools, extra effects and even an expanded sample library, the folks at Ableton certainly aren’t running out of ideas.

How Suite it is

Live now comes in three different versions: Live LE (medium), Live (Large) and Ableton Suite (XL). Live LE is essentially a cut down version of Live for the entry level user or budget conscious beginner and is limited in some areas such as number of tracks and effects that can be used. Live and Ableton Suite are pretty much the same core application but the Suite contains a pretty large sample library (including the new Latin Percussion collection) and you will also get all ten virtual instruments that Ableton offers for the higher price tag.

Let’s take a look at the major changes and hear some audio examples of them in action to see if this new update is a step in the right direction…

Conclusion

This is a really major release for Live and although the application remains the same at first glance the changes could literally change the way you use it. What could be a new set of toys to the seasoned user, could potentially be the feature that convinces the new user to switch.

Plan de groupe

Installation is a breeze and can be completed by download without the need for any dongles or iLoks. Activation is an automatic process that takes a matter of minutes so you’ll be up and running in no time. So if you haven’t checked it out already then do yourself a favour and upgrade or a least test drive the demo.

Feature rich update
Very cost effective (from €49 to Live 7 users to €549 for full Ableton suite)
Exciting new effects processors and instruments
Long list of interface and workflow enhancements

Overall interface and metering may be a little basic for some pros
Lack of support for multiple monitors maybe an issue for some

To read the full detailed article see Ableton Live 8 Review

January 21, 2009

NAMM 2009: Video Demo Native Instruments Maschine

Exclusive presentation of the new Native Instruments Maschine groove production interface and software.

To watch all NAMM 2009 video demos visit us on Audiofanzine NAMM 2009.

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

November 28, 2008

Time Stretching and Pitch Shifting: Comparison

Time Stretching & Pitch Shifting: Comparison Part I
Software Comparison
OK, here we go! This is the first of our comparative software tests on time-stretching and pitch-shifting. The competitors: 26 Mac and PC programs, from big sequencers to small applications, plug-ins to audio editors
Digital audio has brought about many changes to the audio world when compared to analog. Is this good or bad? Everyone has their own opinion; but certain features have been improved, some totally new ones have emerged, while others are less effective or successful (knowing that many opinions are primarily subjective).

But the goal here is not to make (empty) comparisons between the two worlds. We’ll be dealing with two important features that have more or less created a revolution in music since their arrival with the earliest samplers: time-stretching and pitch-shifting. The first can speed up or slow down an audio file without changing its pitch, the second change its pitch without changing its tempo (otherwise, it’s back to tapes and vari-speed …).

With a lot of reverb, sustained chords, resonance, slides, transients, this file is not easy. And it already shows at 75%: Kontakt can’t do it at all, TimeFactory 2 Clear Scale and SampleTank Stretch have problems with lows, DSP Quattro gives us tremolo, while SampleTank PS/TS adds an expression pedal (no transients). Melodyne has a phase issue, same with Peak which decreases transients, which are also damaged in Pitch’n Time and Live. And as for their part, Logic, Pro Tools TS and X-Form, TimeFactory 2 MPEX3, and UVIWorkstation smear up the sound …

At 90%, it’s the same, except for Time Pitch’n which fared a little better with transients. At 110%, things change: Melodyne alters one or two attacks, Peak and Live still eat up a few transients, SampleTank Stretch, PS/TS and DSP Quattro “tremble”, Kontakt, Pro Tools TS and X-Form, TimeFactory 2 Clear Scale, and UVIWorkstation “wobble” more or less. When we slow down even more to 133%, there aren’t too many contenders left: Amazing X, Pitch’n Time Pro (with less transients just the same), TimeFactory 2 DIRAC, and Radius are at their limits …

At 200%, one can appreciate the efforts the programs make just to keep up continuous audio, but most of them take their toll on transients. The others just accentuate the defects they already had.

Access 2 GB of audio examples about time stretching/pitch shifting algorithms.

August 27, 2008

Arturia Analog Factory Experience review

Filed under: Computer music reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 1:05 pm

Arturia has been showing more and more interest in software/hardware solutions, as can be seen with some of their top of the line projects, such as Origin. The editor also offers a more affordable solution with Analog Factory Experience (AFE), combining v2.0 of its Analog Factory and a keyboard controller made by CME. Let’s see what this tempting bundle has to offer…

What’s in the box?

Clavier

The first surprise when you lift the cardboard box is its weight: 3.7kg. Does this mean there’s a good keyboard inside? In any event, its metal case and solid wood-style sides make a nice impression in this all-plastic era. On one hand there’s the keyboard controller, on the other there’s v.2.0 of the Analog Factory, a Windows and Mac software program that compiles all the audio engines of Arturia’s former soft synths. The v.2.0 now offers 3500 presets grouped by style, synth model and other tags, while v.1.0 “only” has 2000 presets and doesn’t include the Jupiter-8.

The Arturia sound
Audio engine of each of the seven synths
3500 presets
Classification and fast access
Standalone and plug-in
Keyboard seems to be solidly built
Full-size keys with a nice touch
Controllers
Pedal inputs
USB or Midi
Low price

Some presets are too loud
Some clicks when changing presets
No direct monitoring of Key Parameter assigning
Pitch bend values are fixed in presets
Polyphony is fixed in presets
Some faulty connections (ADSR sliders)
No aftertouch
Lifespan of keys?
Some issues with other Arturia synths in standalone mode
Optional DC adapter
Multifunction Level knob

Read the full Arturia Analog Factory Experience review on Audiofanzine.

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