Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review: Roger Linn Design AdrenaLinn Sync 2

Product: AdrenaLinn Sync 2 Plug-in
Manufacturer: Roger Linn Design
Platform: Mac VST/AU (Mac RTAS and Windows VST/RTAS expected in July)
System Requirements: Mac with Intel processor, OS 10.5 or above
Price: $99
Demo: Free 14-day trial

Last fall, I did a review of Roger Linn's first foray into the world of plug-ins, AdrenaLinn Sync. My conclusion was, that although it was a plug-in that showed a lot of potential, its reliance on the now defunct Pluggo platform, its ho-hum interface, and rather non-descript filters kept it from being a product I could recommend. Now Linn is back, in partnership with WayOutWare, creators of highly regarded Arp 2600 and Axxe emulators. AdrenaLinn Sync 2, has been fully re-coded from the ground up and is available absolutely free to those who purchased the first version.

Installation is the standard drill. The plug-in will function fully for 14-days in demo mode (a great policy, by the way!), after which you will need to purchase an authorization code to have it continue functioning. Note that the install will replace any previous version of the plug-in on your system. (UPDATE: Roger tells me this is not supposed to be the case and in fact isn't the case for most users, but this is what appears to have happened on my system.)

The most immediately obvious improvement to AdrenaLinn Sync 2 is in the new interface. Instead of the flat, frankly kind of boring interface of the first version, the new interface is a lot easier on the eyes and more pleasant to work with. It's also thankfully quite a bit larger. The actual layout of the plug-in is mostly the same as the original, with some bits moved around and a few new controls here and there, but it is close enough to the original layout that if you're comfortable with it, learning the new version won't take any time at all.

Instead of rehashing all the features of the first version, I just want to concentrate on what has changed since then. You can refer to my review of the original if you need more info. But to give you the Cliff's notes version, AdrenaLinn Sync 2 is a plug-in designed to produce rhythmic effects with a chain of filter, distortion, limiting, volume/pan, and delay, modulated by a syncable LFO and 32-step step sequencer. So here's what's new:

• Fully "hard-coded", so it no longer requires the Pluggo software to run. This was the first version's biggest stumbling block because Cycling '74 dropped support for Pluggo, and eventually, as OS revisions happen, it will stop working. The dependence on Pluggo also meant the original couldn't be used in Cubase. Happily, the new version functions just as any other AU/VST plug-in.

• The filters have been re-done from scratch. I found the original filters to be pretty uninspiring-sounding. The new versions do indeed seem to sound less clinical and "in the box", but as with the original, I found they sounded best when used in conjunction with the very simple, but surprisingly effective distortion section of the plug-in. On their own they are quite clean and polite sounding, but used with even subtle amounts of distortion, they really come to life. The filters also self-oscillate, which allows you to essentially play melodies with your filter cutoff when used in conjunction with the step sequencer. Helpfully, you actually set the filter cutoff frequency as a note value, which makes these types of melodies still easier to achieve.

• The stereo delay times have been extended to up to 32 seconds or 8 bars, allowing you to build up layers of looping sound and get into Frippertronics territory if you so desire.

• The limiter has been tweaked to do its thing in a more transparent fashion, as well as adding faster attack and a sustain control for shaping the sound to taste. The limiter is an important part of an effect like this since more extreme resonance/flanger/phaser settings can produce some unpredictable and abrupt level changes.

• The sequencer display has been split in two, cleaning up the sequencer portion of the interface noticeably. You now access each 16 step section via a Bar 1/2 button.

• 100 brand new presets are included that do a much better job of showing off the plug-in's capabilities than the previous version. Guitar players will enjoy a number of the presets designed to emulate effects used by famous bands and guitar players.

It's clear that Linn and company really took the time to listen to their users and reviewers and fix the weaknesses that held the original version back. They've made improvements to pretty much everything I had a complaint about and the new interface alone makes it a much more pleasant instrument to spend some time with. The new presets do a good job of showing off the plug-in's capabilities and demonstrate the importance of messing with each effect in the chain to get the best results. Indeed, this is a plug-in that can get quite deep if you want to, but never at the expense of being user-friendly. The sound quality is excellent and it sounds good on just about any type of sound you might want to throw at it - drums, guitars, synths, you name it.

The only real problem I've encountered is that occasionally, the plug-in would mute the channel it was applied to when first activated (by which I mean, the channel simply stopped making sound, not that the DAW's actual MUTE button was activated). This problem seemed to be remedied simply by taking the effect off and re-applying it. (Note I am on a Mac using Logic Pro 9.1.1). This is a minor annoyance, and not one I could even faithfully reproduce every single time, but it did come up occasionally.

So if you've been interested in this plug-in, but had held off due to the significant weaknesses of the original, rest assured, they've been remedied. The Roger Linn/WayOutWare guys clearly listened to feedback from their users and the new version is a definite improvement in just about every way. There are similar products on the market (although features such as the ability to sequence flanging aren't common), so ultimately it comes down to which plug-in you like the overall sound of. I highly recommend downloading the fully functional 2-week demo (kudos again for that!) and putting it through its paces. You may find that there's an awful lot to like here. [9/10]

Linn 9000 Drum Machine on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Korg Poly-61 on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Yamaha CS-30 on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cool Presentation on Audio Myths

Via EthanWiner on YouTube:

Here's one strictly for the geeks. Very nice hour long presentation talking about how we perceive audio and how some unscrupulous companies exploit our feelings about sound into some incredibly hilarious, overpriced products to bilk the underinformed (the jar of stones is my favorite).

Roland SH-7 on Ebay

Info at the link...

Arp Axxe on Ebay

Info at the link...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sample Fodder: ZX Spectrum Games In Your Browser

In need of some stylish 8-bit chip sounds, but don't have any of the old classic machines on hand to sample? No problem! is an online emulation of the old Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer complete with a huge selection of games to choose from. Load up Audio Hijack or any other program that lets you record a computer's audio, fire up your browser, and before you know it, you'll have a whole ton of classic 8-bit sounds ready to be edited into your own custom sample kits.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Free Sample Friday: Alesis Ion Synth Sounds

Well, we made it through another week. I say we've all earned some free samples. Today we have our first guest Free Sample Friday with a selection of 11 synth sounds (as 24-bit WAVs) from the Alesis Ion courtesy of Adam W. If you find the samples useful, be sure to give Adam a shout out in the comments!


Have some cool, original samples you'd like to share here? Just shoot me an email at tomshear (at) comcast (dot) com and maybe you can be a guest star here at Free Sample Friday too!

Let's Do This Thing...

So a little while back, I posted about the possibility of having some "guest stars" providing content for Free Sample Friday. We got a little bit of interest and have our first guest sample pack (not counting the excellent one done by Portion Control a while back), so I thought I'd post some guidelines if anyone else wants to join in the fun.

• The sounds can't be from commercial sound libraries or be otherwise copyrighted.

• Ideally, the sounds should be fully edited and in 24-bit/44.1k WAV format.

• If the sound is a melodic one, please include the root key in the file name. (For instance, "moogbass-C2"

• Try to keep the sample packs to 5 MB and below.

• Send any packs you'd like to submit to me at tomshear (at) comcast (dot) net. Be sure to include your name, and if you have a music project you'd like to promote, include the link to your MySpace/Facebook/Bandcamp profile.

Bachmann WS3 on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Analogue Solutions Tereshkova on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Prosoniq Introduces Free Vuvuzela Filtering Plug-in

In case you've been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks, the World Cup is going on right now in South Africa. What seems to be getting more attention than the games themselves is the "vuvuzela", a plastic horn that the fans use to make noise. When the sound is heard en masse, it sounds like a wasp nest on steroids and apparently people can't stop talking about how irritating that is. Personally, I feel like all the complaining about it is far more irritating than the sound itself, but if you disagree, Prosoniq would like you to meet Vuvux, a free AU format plug-in that uses Prosoniq's Sonicworx audio de-mixing technology to eliminate the pesky sound without effecting the audio you do want to hear.

Making A Drum Kit With Your Mouth

Before hip-hop hit the big time, it was a very underground phenomenon and as a result, most of the artists at the time had to make music as cheaply as possible. Indeed, some bands couldn't even afford a drum machine, so "beatboxing" was born where a performer would imitate the sounds of a drum kit with his mouth to create the beat for the rapper to do his thing over. While it seems kind of hokey now, your own voice is actually still quite a decent source for new drum and percussion sounds. Here are some tips on getting the best results from your vocal drum sample experiments:

• Just Let Loose
I recommend setting up your DAW to record and just record a whole bunch of random sounds at once. Try imitating the sounds of different drums with your voice. Alternately, try making percussive sounds that aren't imitating anything... a cough, a wheeze, a burp, a sharp inhale or exhale, etc. Just improvise and don't give it too much thought. Once you feel you've had enough, import the file into your favorite audio editor and separate the good stuff from the bad stuff. These are just your raw sounds. You're going to want to...

• Use Effects to Sculpt Your Sounds
When I got my first sampler (an Ensoniq Mirage rack), I was disappointed by the fact that when I tried to make vocal drum samples, they didn't sound as awesome as when Yello did it. The reason, of course, aside from the fact that Yello are godlike, is that their samples had been processed more than cheese in a can. Definitely take the time to experiment with compression, EQ, reverbs, filters, and other effects that may help you bring your sounds closer to the sounds you're trying to imitate. Use compression to exaggerate the attack and bring out the snap in your sounds. Use EQ to thin out cymbal sounds with a highpass filter, or exaggerate the low end frequencies in your kicks. Once you've processed your sounds into oblivion, resample them with the effects and build your kit.

• Use the Mic to Your Advantage
Microphones are subject to a phenomena known as "the proximity effect" where bass frequencies get exaggerated as the subject gets very close to the mic. You've probably heard comedians on TV use this trick to imitate the sound of explosions or the voice of God. All you need to do is get yourself unnaturally close to the mic and the proximity effect takes care of the rest. Most mics are also very sensitive to plosives, or the popping vocal sounds like the letters P or B make that are produced with a percussive burst of air. If you don't use a pop filter or get too close to the mic, these get exaggerated and result in pops. Don't be afraid to sample some of those to act as the start to new percussion sounds with a little sound design.

• Stretch and Pitch
By no means should you feel you need to use your samples "as is". Take advantage of your sampler's abilities to re-pitch sounds or use time-stretching and granular processing to alter their length and character. Pitching sounds up past their root key is an easy way of adding a little punch to your sounds. Try playing the sounds backwards, too.

• Layer
You'll get much better results if you break up the sound you're trying to imitate into components. So if you're imitating a snare drum, use one sample to imitate the resonance of the drum shell, one to imitate the crack of the impact, and one to imitate the rattle or buzz of the snare. Process them separately until you're happy, then use a bus to compress the individual layers together and resample!

Yamaha CS-80 on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Akai AX-80 on Ebay

Info at the listing...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Kids Perform Aphex Twin Song on Steel Drums

Via Tarekal on YouTube:

Review: Ohm Force Ohmicide Melohman

Product: Ohmicide:Melohman
Ohm Force

AU/VST multiband distortion effect

VST & RTAS for Windows, VST, RTAS, & AU for OSX.


Available here.

This is a product that has been out for a while, but when the Ohm Boyz themselves asked if I might like to take a look at it, how could I refuse? If you haven't heard of it by now, Ohmicide:Meloman (I'm going just called it Ohmicide from here on out) is a multi-band distortion effect on steroids. Multi-band distortion allows you to split a single signal into multiple frequency bands allowing you to process and tweak each band completely independently of the others. Let's see how it stacks up.

The plug-in is downloaded as a standard installer. Click, install, and you're done. Nothing to see here, move along.

Ohm Force seem to want to encourage users to make use of their online manual, but it is available as a downloadable PDF too. Unfortunately, this is easy to miss. The downloadable version isn't listed among the PDFs for their other products (an omission, perhaps?), but a link is available at the bottom of the INTRO page. A more conspicuous location for this might be preferable, as online documentation alone isn't always very convenient for traveling musicians who might find themselves without an internet connection frequently.

That said, the online documentation is very well done and easy to follow. There's a few typos and bad English moments, but nothing that would prevent you from understanding the material.

It's a good thing the documentation is well done, as Ohmicide is a rather complex beast. It's actually very well laid out and easy to understand once you've had a look at the manual or video tutorials, but what the features each contribute to the final sound might not be immediately obvious if you haven't worked with an effect like this before.

In the upper left hand corner, you'll find the SET-UP menu, which covers additional info and features not used directly in altering the sound of the effect itself. Here you'll check your version number, link to the online manual, register, check for updates, access a registered user only preset section, map parameters to a MIDI controller, control the quality of the output (and thus the CPU load), etc. Below it, you'll also find a manual tempo setting and a bypass switch.

At the very far left, you'll find the INPUT TRIM level. This allows you to adjust the level of the signal being fed into Ohmicide which has some effect on the overall level of the effect, but can also influence the sound itself.

To the right of the INPUT TRIM, is a PRE-GAIN control that allows you the option of adding a little coloration or distortion to the signal before it hits the "real" distortion section. A STEREO LINK button is also provided to keep parameters that are affected by signal levels consistent in a stereo signal that might have different levels on the left and right.

In the very top center of the interface is the MAIN DISPLAY which shows a visual representation of what you're doing to the signal (and INPUT and OUTPUT can be viewed separately), as well as of the width of each of the frequency bands. It also displays the currently selected parameter and its current value, which is very handy.

Now for the fun stuff! As I mentioned before, Ohmicide takes the input signal and splits it up into four bands, each with its own settings. Three knobs at the top, allow you to define the points in the signal's frequency that split it up. This keeps each band from overlapping and getting messy, insuring you'll get more useful results.

The sound-mangling parameters for each of the four bands are identical (but obviously operating only on its own slice of the overall signal). Each band features its own:

• Fully adjustable noise gate (great for using this with drum tracks)
• A dynamics section consisting of settings for SHAPE (whether the signal is compressed, expanded, or not effected), and BODY (effects the amount the SHAPE parameter effects the signal and eventually adds limiting to it).
• A DISTORTION section with settings for GAIN (the amount of distortion), distortion TYPE (with a whopping 28 algorithms and 84 types), and BIAS (simulates the DC offset added by a malfunctioning amp). An ALTERATION knob also allows further variation of distortion dependent on the type you ahve selected.
• A FEEDBACK section allowing you to set the AMOUNT, FREQUENCY, and STEREO SPREAD of the feedback for each band.
• A "mixer" section that allows you to MUTE or SOLO each band individually or together (very handy!), set a MIX level for each band, set a PAN position for each band (for some truly huge sounds), and the option to have to signal processed in MID-SIDE mode.

After your signal has been shredded to bits, it travels through a lowpass filter with selectable SHAPE (filter steepness, essentially) and FREQUENCY (the filter's cutoff) parameters to do help filter out any shrill or (unintentionally) irritating high end.

The next bit you'll encounter here is the MELOHMAN section, which you may have encountered before on their other products. This gives you 12 slots to store "metapatches" that are variations on the main patch. You can then use the bottom octave of your keyboard to morph back and forth between these variations smoothly and in real time. This will be a real boon to live performers who like to tweak the hell out of things onstage. Whether you're looking for subtle or drastic variations, this section allows you to switch in between them easily on the fly.

Finally, there is an OUTPUT TRIM that allows you to adjust the final output level of your effect.

My first inclination is to say that if you're looking for a distortion effect, look no further, but that's not entirely true. Ohmicide is packed with so much programability, that it might be intimidating to beginners. That's not to say that it doesn't include some cool presets (it does), but it's not hard to see how a plug-in with so much depth might scare off someone new to messing around with distortion.

But if you aren't afraid of getting in there and twisting some knobs, this things is like a playground... a filthy, grimey, playground. There is so much flexibility in how you can shape your sound. Even the different types of distortion can change the sound quite a bit on their own. Subtle saturation, twisted waveshaping, bitcrushing, complete anihillation - all of it is within your reach. When you additionally consider that you have four different bands that can each have their own distortion types, gains, levels, pan position, etc., you can begin to see the amazing amount of control and complexity this plug-in offers you.

My only real beef here was in trying to map it to my MIDI controller within Logic 9. The system is set-up where you turn on autobind mode, move a parameter on the plug-in, move a control on your MIDI controller and that control will alter that parameter. I couldn't get this to work. Basically, just nothing happened when I tried this. Even within Novation's AutoMap software, if I tried to use the LEARN mode to assign a parameter to a new control, the interface would freeze up and lag severely thereafter. Again, I'm not positive whether the problem lies within Ohmicide, my controller, or my host, but my set-up isn't all that uncommon, so be aware you may run into some problems here.

Regardless of your experience level, Ohmicide sounds undeniably great. It can sound analog, it can sound totally digital, or you can mash the two together into your own monstrosity. This is the kind of plug-in you will find yourself getting lost in for hours with a big grin on your face the whole time. You neighbors might not be as amused. [9.5/10]

Yamaha CS-15 on Ebay

Info at the link...

Korg MS-10 on Ebay

Info at the link...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Zoom Announces the H1 Digital Recorder

Via soundonsoundvideo:

As if the H2 wasn't already affordable, it looks like Zoom has an even more budget-conscious, easy to use version coming around the end of July...

Korg Gives a Nod to Custom Mods of the Monotron

Via KORGINC on YouTube:

One of the things about the Korg Monotron (expected to hit these shores around the beginning of July) that has a lot of people fired up is the potential to mod it into something more capable. Modding gear really isn't anything new, but what is new is that Korg is acknowledging and giving support for this kind of activity in its marketing like the above video. I think that's brilliant. If they can help create an interesting little subculture around the instrument, I'd have to imagine it would help sales. Anyway, check out the video. I like the modular one the best, how about you?

Ultimate Percussion K2 Analog Drum Synth on Ebay

Info at the link...

Crumar Stratus on Ebay

Info at the link...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Free Sample Friday: Oberheim Matrix-6R Poly

Most of the time when I post synth samples on here, they're of bass sounds, since those are particularly easy sounds to sample. But today, I thought I'd give you something in a higher register. This is the 'Poly 2' preset from the Oberheim Matrix-6R multi-sampled as 24-bit mono WAV files. Root keys are in the file name.


Korg DDM-220 Super Percussion on Ebay

Info at the link...

Roland SH-3A on Ebay

Info at the link...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cool Synth Demo Site

This site has been around for quite some time, but somehow I only just found it the other night. Tons of really good demos of different synths and drum machines. The music in the demos isn't really my thing, but the sound programming does a nice job of showing off the personality of these synths....

Moog Liberation on Ebay

Info at the link...