Friday, July 29, 2011

Two Free Plug-ins from Ignite Amps

Ignite Amps have released TS-999 SubScreamer and NRR-1 Tube Preamp, both freeware available in VST (Windows/Mac) and AU format (Mac) formats.

NRR-1 is an emulation of a custom 2-tube guitar pre-amp with the following features:

  • • Dynamic 12AX7 / ECC83 coupled triode stages analog modeling.
  • • Three channels: clean, rhythm and lead, each with fully separated controls.
  • • Mono / Stereo processing support.
  • • Selectable oversampling rate (up to 8x).
  • • Global input / output level controls.
  • • Double precision (64 bit) floating point mathematical model.
  • • Fully automatable controls.
The TS-999 SubScreamer is "stomp box" style guitar overdrive effect consisting of:

  • • Dynamic 2N3904 BJT input and output buffers analog modeling.
  • Dynamic 1N4148 diode clipping circuit analog modeling.
  • Op-amp saturation analog modeling.
  • Symmetric / Asymmetric clipping mode.
  • Normal / Fat bass response mode.
  • Mono / Stereo processing support.
  • Switchable Input and Output Buffer modeling to decrease CPU usage.
  • Selectable oversampling rate (up to 8x).
  • Variable Input Level control for better response to different pickups.
  • Double precision (64 bit) floating point mathematical model.
  • Fully automatable controls.
  • Zero latency.

Free Sample Friday: Korg Monotribe Samples

Today's free sample selection is a "bell" sound, as well as all the individual drum sounds from Korg's recently released Monotribe. Thanks to Mr. Poppet for these!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Open Labs MiKo on eBay

Info at the listing...

Future Retro FR-777 on eBay

Info at the listing...

Cool Radio Piece on Sampling

"On the Media" just ran an interesting feature on sampling called "They Say I Stole This" which can be streamed from their website. Here's their write-up of it:

"Twenty years ago a series of lawsuits criminalized the hip-hop sampling of artists like Hank Shocklee and Public Enemy. And yet, two decades later, artists like Girl Talk have found success breaking those same sampling laws. OTM producer Jamie York talks to Girl Talk, Shocklee and Duke Law professor James Boyleabout two decades of sampling - on both sides of the law."

Follow Me on Twitter

So, after trying it once and not really clicking with it, I'm giving Twitter another shot. This account is related to my band, Assemblage 23, but techy stuff is sure to come up.

Follow Assemblage_23 on Twitter

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Oxford Oscar on eBay

Info at the listing...

Billy Corgan's Roland JP-8000 on eBay

Info at the listing...

Arp Odyssey on eBay

Info at the listing...

Casio DJ-1 Rapman on eBay

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Yamaha AN1X on eBay

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New Episode of Vince Clarke's Analogue Monologues Up: RSF Kobol

Vince Clarke has uploaded a new episode of the Analogue Monologues, this time focusing on the rare RSF Kobol.

Review: kHs ONE

Product: kHs One Softsynth

Developer: kiloHearts

Format: VST (Mac and Windows), AU (Mac)

Price: $119 (available for $49 for a limited time)

Demo: Audio demos on product page.

It’s always exciting to see new developers appear on the scene. The more the merrier, as far as I’m concerned. More developers means more competition, more innovation, and, best of all, more synths. When those developers release their synths on both Mac and PC, all the better. Such is the case with kiloHearts, who have appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, to present us lucky electronic musicians with a brand new softsynth called ONE.


ONE is a virtual analog synth featuring two oscillators (and an additional sub oscillator), a multi-mode filter, multiple LFOs, dedicated envelopes, a waveshaper, basic effects, and a mod matrix. In their promotional material, kiloHearts states that the aim of ONE is to make an easy to understand synth with the controls readily accessible and ready for even novices to get started creating their own sounds.


It doesn’t get much simpler than this. When you purchase ONE, you are issued a unique download link to a copy of the software registered to you. Simply drag the plug-ins to the appropriate folder on your computer, and you’re ready to rock. After dealing with some truly baffling registration processes (Arturia, I’m looking in your direction), it’s a pleasure to see a synth that doesn’t make you jump through additional hoops just to get going.


At the time of this writing, the documentation for ONE was not complete. The good news, however, is that if you’re familiar with the basics of synthesis, you’re unlikely to need to crack the manual at all. Everything is laid out right in front of you. On the other hand, if you’re totally new to synthesis, you may want to wait until the documentation is available before purchasing. Of course a demo version is available as well, so you can give it a drive around the block to check it out beforehand.


ONE’s user interface is very nice indeed with a dark grey and light blue color scheme that is very easy on the eyes. Everything is laid out on a single page, with no need for flipping back and forth between multiple tabs or pages.

On the leftmost portion of the interface you’ll find the oscillator and voicing section. As mentioned before, ONE consists of two main oscillators, and a sub-oscillator. The two main oscillators feature a choice of saw or pulse waveforms (both with variable shape), and coarse, interval, and fine tuning controls. All told, each oscillator can be turned as desired across more than ten octaves. The suboscillator is a bit simpler, offering just shape controls and an octave selector (which, unusually, also spans ten octaves).

The voicing section allows you to set the range of your pitch bend wheel, set polyphony, engage a legato mode, set glide, and engage a unison mode with up to 8 unison voices, detune and spread settings.

Next door, you’ll find the amp, filter, and assignable mod envelopes, as well as the first of the two filters. The envelopes are your standard ADSR affairs. The filters are switchable between lowpass, highpass, bandpass, and vocal filters with cutoff, resonance and envelope and key position modulation amount controls. Beneath the mod and filter envelopes, you’ll find three dedicated modulation slots each to assign modulation destinations for both the mod envelope and velocity. You standard modulation destinations are available here along with knobs to assign positive or negative modulation amounts.

A bit further to the right you’ll find the waveshaper which allows you to modulate the shape of your oscillators with variable waveforms, drive amount, and mix amount. The second filter, which is identical to the first is beneath that. And beneath that, you’ll find the first LFO, which is a polyphonic LFO that is triggered per voice. It is scalable via key position, has dedicated waveform, rate, depth, and phase settings, along with an three more dedicated mod slots. The downside is that it is not instantly syncable. All rate settings are selected in hertz.

Still further to the right, you’ll find settings for the built-in chorus and syncable delay effects, an additional monophonic “global” LFO (which replaces the key scaling knob with buttons for sync and S/H).

Finally, at the right edge, you’ll find a small display that indicates the preset that is being played. Master volume, treble and bass settings (along with a selectable limiter effect), and three more mod slots dedicated to the mod wheel can be found beneath that.


As was kiloHeart’s goal, ONE is simple to program. They’ve found the right balance between simplicity and flexibility. The oscillators sound good, if a bit sterile. Where they really come to life is when modulating the shape (the PWM is quite nice sounding) and using the waveshaper to abuse the basic waveforms into slightly weirder, dirtier sounds.

One oddity I noticed with the envelopes is that the attack seems to lag slightly even at the lowest settings. It’s a bit difficult to describe, but their is an audible “ramping up” to the attack level that takes some of the punch and oomph out of percussive bass and synth sounds. To make sure I wasn’t imagining this, I rendered out a single note from ONE, and the same notes playing back through Logic’s built in ES-M monosynth and took a look at them in a wave editor. Indeed, ONE’s waveform ramped up a little bit in amplitude at the very start, whereas ES-M’s started at full amplitude. I know nothing of audio and DSP programming, so I’m not sure what would cause this, but it does make ONE a bit less suited for certain types of sounds than others. (NOTE: kiloHearts tells me the ramping up is to avoid pops on the attack. That’s fair enough, but this seems like something that should be possible in a less audible manner…)

The filters also show some room for improvement. Although they don’t sound bad by any means, I did find them rather sterile and lifeless sounding. For certain, precise types of sounds, this isn’t a problem, but for me at least, filters can make or break a synth, and as it stands now, the filters don’t exactly ooze character. There is also audible stepping, mostly at lower cutoff values that should probably be remedied. That said, the VOX filter is very nice sounding and a welcome addition to the standard LP, HP, and BP variations.

Soundwise, once again, ONE doesn’t sound bad, but I have to say it’s pretty non-descript. There’s nothing here that is unique to ONE’s sound that would make you say, “Ah, they must be using ONE on this track!” if someone used it in a song. While there are some decent presets, most of them were pretty dull, and even the audio demos on kiloHeart’s web page didn’t really do much to get me excited for this synth. Programming your own sounds proves slightly more rewarding, but I still was struck with the almost “faceless” quality of the sounds I came up with. There was nothing bad, but nothing especially notable either. It was just sort of “there”.

ONE is a promising start for kiloHearts, but it also has a lot of room for improvement. Throughout the time I tested it, I kept asking myself who this synth was aimed for. Yes, it is very well laid out and easy to program, but the quality of the sounds that come out of it was fairly uninspiring when compared to similar synths on the market. I’d love to see kiloHearts concentrate on breathing a bit more life into the sound of ONE. Perhaps slightly less stable sounding oscillators, more characterful filters, faster envelopes, and even a basic reverb effect would go a long way towards making ONE stand out from the dozens of other softsynths on the market.

Scoring this synth is a bit difficult. This is a synth that is very early in its life cycle, so it’s hard to know how it will develop, but at the moment, it is hard to recommend to synthesists who already have a couple virtual analogs in their plug-in folder (and who doesn’t?). If you’re brand new to synthesis and just need fairly basic, clean, bread and butter type sounds, you will probably find ONE more appealing. I am anxious to see where kiloHearts goes from here. They clearly have a lot of talent, and with some evolution, they could definitely develop into one to watch. Until then, however, you might consider waiting for TWO. [7/10]

Hartmann Neuron on eBay

Info at the listing...

Nord Lead 3 on eBay

Info at the listing...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What Are Modulation Effects?

Modulation effects are a family of audio effects that generally work by mixing the original audio with a copy of that audio that is being altered in some way, resulting in the original sound taking on a different character. Some of these types of effects don't see as much use as they did when they first appeared on the scene, but they can all be useful tools in your audio bag o' tricks. I'll be providing some audio examples of a guitar sound being effected to give you a real world example of how these effects sound if you haven't used them before. Here is the original, uneffected audio:

• Chorus
Probably the most widely used modulation effect is chorus. Chorus is designed to "fatten up" sounds by crudely simulating the way an ensemble of instruments might sound. When you have a group of musicians playing or singing the same part at the same time, even if they're using identical instruments, there will be some slight variations from musician to musician in their timing and tuning. This is concept is why a string orchestra sounds "bigger" than a quartet instead of merely being louder. Chorus effects mix the original signal with small amounts of delay and variation of the pitch, usually created with an LFO. The result sounds different than if you had multiples of the same instrument playing at once, but it's still quite a pleasing effect, adding width and warmth to the effected sound. Chorus is commonly used on guitar and vocals, and was an extremely common effect to be included on many of the DCO polysynths in the 80's that lacked the huge unison effects so common on synths today. Here is an example of what it sounds like:

• Flanging
Flanging is an effect that was extremely popular among guitarists in the 70's. Before the dedicated effects units existed, audio engineers would create the effect by running two tape machines playing the same audio materials and altering the speed of one of the machines by gently placing their fingers on the flange of the tape reel. The effect became so popular that dedicated flanger effects that simulated this technique were created. These worked by mixing the original audio with a copy that is being delayed by a varying amount. The sound of flanging could be described as "wooshing" or "sweeping". It works great on guitar (especially if you are after a retro sound), on entire sections of a mix as a special effect, or on anything that has a lot of high frequency content or noise to add instant movement. The "train" sound at the beginning of Kraftwerk's "Trans Europe Express" is a good example of this. Late night paranormal radio show host Art Bell was famously such a fan of the effect, that Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top had a CD player with a built-in flanger on the outputs especially for him! Here's what flanging sounds like:

• Phasing
Phasing is sort of like flanging's more mellow cousin. It produces similar sweeping effects, but is noticeably less nasal and aggressive. Phasing works by mixing the original signal with a copy of that signal that is having its phase modulated. This effect was a favorite among keyboardists in the 70's and 80's, especially on electric piano and string machines. The strings in Jean-Michel Jarre's "Oxygen Pt. 1" are a great example of the effect in action. Here's what it sounds like on our guitar:

Although these are the most common modulation effects, they are by no means the only kind. The thing to keep in mind with these effects, as with any effect, is that there is no one "sound" you are restricted to. By varying the parameters in your DAW's modulation effects, you'll find an amazing amount of variation within these seemingly simple effects.

Korg Poly-800 with "Moog Slayer" Mod

Info at the listing...

Chamberlin M1 on eBay

Similar to the more famous Mellotron, the Chamberlin also worked by playing back recordings of real world sounds.

Arp Explorer on eBay

Info at the listing...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Synth Magic Releases Virtual Jen SX-1000 for Kontakt

UK company Synth Magic, who made waves recently with their virtual Arp Quadra, have released Jen SX-3000, a virtual version of the old Italian Jen SX-1000. The beautifully-designed instrument was created with Native Instruments Kontakt and retails for £24.95. Here are the details:

"This Kontakt instrument based on this strange little Italian mono synth.

The Graphical user interface has been designed by renowned GUI designer Anders Hedstrom(Flavours of Lime)who has done an amzing job creating the front panels and user interface.

There are lots of great sounds from sound design guru Ingo Weidner who has made a batch of great sounds for the Jen sx3000-there are also sounds from Synth Magic.

Over 130 presets plus random preset generator-Easily create new and exciting presets by pressing one button.

We sampled our Jen SX1000, every note, every octave to give half a Gigabyte of Jen samples(411MB zipped)and added a few twists ourselves such as interval generators, sub oscilators ,lots of effects and best of all we added our custom sequencer which has undergone a major revamp and can now store and read a number of patterns for instant playback.

Sequencer can now store a number of patterns and recall them instantly,allowing you to build up your compositions.

We also added random sequence generator-at the touch of a button a completly new pattern will be created and random cutoff and resonance patterns too-Very inspirational and the source of hours of fun and great patterns.

The synth section also has aftertouch to vibrato and aftertouch to filter cutoff to allow for some really great expressive sounds."

[via Synthtopia]

Will It Work Under OS X Lion?

As to be expected with any major OS revision, Apple's recently-released 10.7 version of OS X has broken compatibility with some apps. Roaring Apps has created a helpful chart you can check before upgrading to make sure you're not going to have a hard drive full of temporarily useless software.

Texture: New Free Granular Synth for Mac and Windows

Texture, is a new granular synth for Mac and Windows based on algorithms originally developed by Giorgio Nottoli of the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome.

Here are the details:
"Texture is an instrument to perform Asyncronous Granular Synthesis based upon the algorithm developed by Giorgio Nottoli [Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia, Roma], and is fully implemented with programming language C++.
It generates a grains’ flow in which the way each grain follows the other depends on probabilistic parameters such as grain density (attack/sec), overlapping, synchronism and fade of each grain.
The spectrum generated by the synthesis could be harmonic, expanded or contracted according to the value of frequency exponent parameter; the result will be a sound texture that can change from noisy fragmented sounds, to metallic and tuneless sounds such as bells, finally to harmonic sounds similar to strings or choirs.
Texture is available both as VST or Audio Unit instrument, and each interface’s parameter is automated and can be controlled by the host; some factory presets are implemented in a combo box on the upper-left side of the interface, but user can save his own sound inside the host if needed.
An advanced and a basic interface are provided for expert users or casual ones; we’re going to see the details in the following chapters."

Rhodes Chroma Polaris on eBay

Info at the listing...

Sequential Circuits Prophet 600 on eBay

Info at the listing...

Friday, July 22, 2011