Friday, August 31, 2012

Presented Without Comment

Free Sample Friday: SQ-80 Erasure

Today's free sample selection is an Ensoniq SQ-80 sound I programmed in the late 80's designed to sound like the Yamaha TX sounds favored by Erasure for rhythmic parts in much of their early work.  Not an exact match by a long shot, but try playing the intro chords to "Respect" in the upper range and I think it sounds pretty good.

10 samples as 24-bit mono WAV files, weighing in around 400k.


Pearl Syncussion SC-40 and Drum-X DRX1 on eBay

Info at the listing...

Roland Juno-60 on eBay

Info at the listing...

Solton Polyvox-K on eBay

Wow, never seen this one before...

Info at the listing...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Documentary on the Rise of the Bedroom Producer

Waveformless reader 8-Bit Jay sent this along to me - it's a short documentary directed by Mo Taha from 2011 about some of the new producers in the British dance music scene and the new ways albums are made in the era of the home computer.  Thanks, Jay!

A Lifesaver for Long-time Logic Users

So, about a month from now, my band and I will be embarking on a 7 week tour of the U.S. promoting my new album.  As a special treat for our fans in LA, we're doing a second show where we'll be performing the entire 2001 album that sort of "broke" us into the scene, ironically entitled "Failure".

So, over the past week, my plan was to load up all the old Logic files and give everything a fresh mix given that I've had over a decade of production experience and learning since recording it.  The problem is, this album was done in Logic 5, and the current version of Logic won't open files that old due to a radical change in the file format.  You can use Logic 7 to convert files to the new format, but for whatever reason, I couldn't get it to install on my system.  Panic set it.  This was potentially a big show for us and now it looked like it might not be possible to do.

Luckily for me, an enterprising gent named Greg saw a void for some sort of third party conversion service and started eLogic-X, which does precisely that.  The service works like this... you contact Greg via his website and send him JUST the old Logic files (not the audio, etc.).  Greg then sends you a sample conversion for you to test, and if it works on your system, you pay him via PayPal and he does the rest for super cheap (between $2.50 and $3.50 per file depending on the quantity).

Less than 24 hours after my initial panic, I had all the converted files working in Logic Pro without a hitch and was back on target for our special show.  If anyone out there is looking for this kind of service, I highly recommend it.

Ensoniq Fizmo on eBay

Info at the listing...

Yamaha CS-01 on eBay

Info at the listing...

Roland TB-303 with Devilfish Mod on eBay

Info at the listing...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Help a Good Guy Out

This is Kevin.  He's one of the most dedicated music fans I've ever met.  Truly the kind of guy bands wish there were lots more of.  Kevin recently incurred some medical costs, and as luck would have it, he's also currently unemployed.  If you're able to help out, a friend of his has set up a donation page to help him cover his costs until he's on his feet again.  Don't worry if you can't give much... every little bit helps.


PSP Audioware Releases Echo

PSP Audioware has released Echo, a new high quality tape-echo plug-in available in AU, VST, RTAS, and AAX formats for both Mac and PC.  Until September 6th, you can pick up Echo for $69 as opposed to the usual $99 price.  Buy it before September 17th for just $79.

Review: KiloHearts Faturator

Product: Fatuator
Developer: KiloHearts
Format: PC (VST) and Mac (VST and AU)
Demo: Audio and downloadable version on product page.
Price: $19

Hot on the heels of their One synth, new developers KiloHearts are back with their first effect plug-in: Faturator.  Let's have a look!

Faturator is a distortion plug-in aimed at providing everything from slight drive and color to bone-crunching distortion.

Installation is performed simply by dragging the plug-in to the relevant plug-in folder.  As it is, this will run in the demo mode.  To authorize, you simply enter the serial number you're e-mailed upon purchasing it.

The interface for Faturator brings to mind the Fairlight CMI or Apple II computer with its tan frame and green "computer" screen.  As you can see, it's quite simple.  You have meters for your input and output levels, sliders for Drive, Fuzz, Color, and Mix levels, and a "Stereo Turbo" dial that provides stereo widening for even bigger sounds.

For a plug-in with relatively few controls, it's surprising how flexible the sound of Faturator is.  By varying the levels of the different parameters, you can be subtle and just warm up your sounds slightly or completely tear them apart.  The sound of Faturator is a bit more 'digital' to my ears than some of the other similar plug-ins on the market, which makes it especially appropriate for newer styles like dirty electro and dubstep.

As for what it'll work on... well, damn near anything with the right settings.  It's great on drums, can add some nice, gritty dirt to synths, and even works great for edgy vocals. One nice feature of Faturator is that it's designed to preserve the dynamics of whatever you feed into instead of just bricking everything.  Not sure how they achieve this, although if I had to guess, it probably uses some form of parallel distortion, much like you would use parallel compression.

Let's face it - there's no shortage of distortion effects out there.  But Faturator separates itself from others in a number of ways.  As mentioned, the sound of Faturator has a bit of a digital sound to it, which gives it an edge for more modern styles of music.  The stereo widener is a nice feature missing from most distortions that opens the door to bigger, more imposing sounds if you want them.  The CPU use is almost negligible, and at $19?  Even if you don't use it on everything, the price is absurdly reasonable.  [8/10]

Roland MKS-70 on eBay

Info at the listing...

Korg DSM-1 on eBay

Rackmount version of the underrated DSS-1 synth/sampler hybrid.

Info at the listing...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Linplug Releases CRX4 Softsynth

Plug-in developers Linplug have released CRX4, the latest iteration of their ChronoX synth - or is it?  While CRX4 does build on the ChronoX legacy, it changes the workflow, abandons a few older features, and introduces tons of new ones including:

- Filter saturation can be modulated

- Loaded loop sampler presets have samples now loaded successively (no gaps)

- Filter may be routed in serial or parallel
- LFO's speed can be modulated

- Up to 4 loop samplers

- Invisible, automatic master limiter

- Envelopes switchable between ADSFR and AHDSR mode

- Envelopes shape now individually adjustable for every phase

- Switchable MIDI Program/bank change (may be disabled in setup)

- Chorus now with invert switch

- Oscillators can be run up to +12 dB now

- Oscillators allow +-5 octave pitch modulation now (+-3 or -2/+5 before)

- Oscillator FM and AM now with much wider range (more intensity)

- Oscillator balance can be modulated

- All-on-one-edit-page design

- Larger sample display

- Extended envelope parameter modulation (sustain, hold)

- LFO frequency range up to 275 Hz

- New LFO waveforms (impulse, peak and random pulse)

- LFO one-shot mode

- Symmetry now working for LFO Noise too

- New noise oscillator with double filter, pitching and cross modulation

- Reworked oscillator with variable aliasing (thus compatible with CronoX 2 and 3).

- Switchable CronoX 2 sound compatibility (automatically on loading CronoX 2 presets).

- Editing functions (typically load, save, copy, paste and init for many modules)

- All sample content comes now in WAV format (for easier processing outside CrX4)

- New preset browser with full size bank or patch view

- MIDI-CC indicators next to preset name

- About 300 reworked CronoX 3 presets + about 200 new presets

CRX4 retails for $149.  Or, upgrade from ChronoX 2 or 3 for $29.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tama DS-200 Drum Synth on eBay

Info at the listing...

EML-101 ElectrroComp on eBay

Info at the listing...

Great Profile of Yazoo's "Upstairs at Erics"

As my fellow Vince Clarke fanatics undoubtedly know, Yazoo's amazing "Upstairs at Eric's" recently celebrated its 30th anniversary.  The Quietus did a great look back at the album with Mr. Clarke himself.  Check it out!

U-he Updates Diva and Zebra

U-he has updated two of their softsynths: Diva (to version 1.1.1) and Zebra (to version 2.5.4).  Here's what's new:

  • • Installers now ready for Mountain Lion
  • • Junk and Favourite files now recognize Windows-type line breaks
  • • Zebrify: fixed mono/left/right modes
  • • Symbolic links can no longer create endless loops
  • • Fixed microtuning (.TUN) file related crash
  • • Diva: fixed Tune modulation
  • • Fixed info text bug while saving in Windows VST
  • • Zebra: fixed hanging notes while switching presets
  • • Fixed "silent synth" in large Win64 projects
  • • Diva: fixed crash / silent voices while tweaking cutoff

Ensoniq ESQ-1 on eBay

Info at the listing...

Roland V-Synth GT on eBay

Info at the listing...

Friday, August 24, 2012

Free Sample Friday: Juno Electro Classic

Well, okay, not from an actual Roland Juno-60, but here is an old school electro bass/synth I programmed for TAL U-NO-LX, which I also happened to review recently if you missed it.

7 multi-samples saved as 24-bit/44.1k WAV files.  Total file size is around 800k.


Arp Pro Soloist on eBay

Info at the listing...

Yamaha CS-5 on eBay

Info at the listing...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Soundforge for Mac Announced

Sony has announced that a Mac version of their well-known audio editing software Soundforge is coming soon.  No other details are known for the moment.  I, for one, welcome this development, as I still feel like the Mac lacks a really great audio editor.

Kawai K3 on eBay

Digital synth, but with an analog filter.

Info at the listing...

Octave Cat on eBay

Info at the listing...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review: No Dough Music 303 Acid Jam

Developer: No Dough Music
Product: NDS-303 Acid Jam
Format: 24-bit/44.1k WAV files
Demo: Audio demo on product page.
Price: £24.99

The latest release from the good folks at No Dough is NDS-303 Acid Jam.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out this is a sample library of synth loops from the infamous Roland TB-303.

There really is no shortage of 303 samples out there, so where Acid Jam tries to set itself apart is in providing mostly dry sample loops in several variations for more lively arrangements. The library is sorted into folders categorized by: Main TB-303 Loops, Bassline Loops, Square Loops, Lead Loops, Distorted Loops, and FX Loops.  The Distorted and FX Loops categories include processed loops, but most of the others are dry and ready to be messed with in any way you see fit.

If you know the TB-303, you know what to expect here... funky squelches and slides, tight basslines, and more.  As No Dough points out, much of what makes the TB-303 so distinctive is its built-in sequencer, and the programming on these loops is very well done and authentic sounding.  It might not be the same as having the real deal, but if you're after a little acidic goodness for your latest production, give it a look.  [8/10]

MIDIed Moog Memorymoog on eBay

Info at the listing...

Roland SH-09 on eBay

Info at the listing...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review: Sonic Charge Pemut8

Product: Permut 8
Developer: Sonic Charge
Format: Windows (VST), Mac (VST & AU)
Demo: Audio demos on product page.  Downloadable 3-week trial version.
Price: $66

Sometimes a plug-in comes along where mere audio or video demos really aren't enough.  Sure, you can get a general idea of the sound of an instrument or plug-in, but with some plug-ins, it's as much about the process as it is the end results.  Sonic Charge's latest release, Pemut8, is a perfect example of this kind of plug-in.  More on that later.

That's a good question.  It's hard to describe Permut8 without using vague terms like "audio destroyer" or "glitch machine", but those don't really do it justice.  The reason is, although there may be tons of glitch and buffer effects out there, no one has quite done it in the same way Sonic Charge has with Permut8.  Permut8 was inspired by the lofi tastiness of 12-bit digital devices from the 80's.  It's based around a 12-bit digital delay with a variable sample rate from 0 to 352k.  That doesn't sound all that impressive on its own, but what makes Permut8 different is it allows you to switch on and off different "operators"in the modeled processor that further effect the sound.  Depending on the operation you carry out, you can get reverse effects, beat repeater/buffer effects, comb filtering,  flanging, bitcrushing, and more.  Add to this filter, saturation, feedback and other effects to apply to the signal as a whole and you have some serious sound-mangling firepower under the hood here.

When you purchase Permut8, you simply select "REGISTER" from the pulldown menu at the top of the interface and enter the serial number you received.  Easy.

Permut8 has very basic documentation in the form of pop-up windows that come up the first time you launch the plug-in.  This is enough to get you messing around, but if you really want to understand Permut8, you're going to need to crack the full manual, which is available as a PDF.  The manual is well-done and easy to follow, which is important, as this isn't the most obvious plug-in to figure out at first.

The topmost part of the interface consists of a pulldown menu where you'll find initialize and randomize commands, save and load, links to the manual and pop-up tutorials, etc.  Additionally, there is a two-digit display that allows you to select different banks, each of which contains several presets.  I'm just going to get this out of the way and say the current preset management system kind of stinks.  Why force you to save entire banks?  Let's please just have an alphanumerical display where we can see preset names and select sounds independent of banks.  Perhaps they were trying to replicate some of the archaic methods of preset management on old devices, but I think this is one area where users will forgive you for taking some liberties in bringing it into the present.

Next to the preset selection are switches that allow you to control certain parameters via MIDI keys, opening the door to more real-time use.

The majority of the interface is taken up by the sound parameters themselves.  On the left hand side you'll find INPUT trim (with a limiter), OUTPUT level and CLIP mix, a FILTER that varies form LOWPASS to HIGHPASS and can be placed in various points in the signal chain, and a FEEDBACK parameter which can be used to produce everything from comb filtering effects to digital shrieks.

To the right of this is where the real action takes place, however.  Here you will find the two INSTRUCTION sections.  These run in series and allow you to turn on and off different "bits" to create rhythmic effects, while the OPERATORS control the various ways in which the READ and WRITE buffer interact.  I know that all probably sounds like a bunch of vague nonsense, but I promise you it makes sense once you've messed around with it for awhile.  Spend some time selecting different OPERATORS and switching the various bits on and off just to see what it does. That's part of the appeal of this plug-in that I hinted at earlier.  Sonic Charge made a brave choice to make the interface for Permut8 something that is not immediately obvious when you use it.  That's not a failure on their part (aside from preset management), but instead is aimed at encouraging you to mess around without knowing exactly what you're doing until something just clicks.  To that end, you can even alter the bits by adjusting the HEX readout if you want to feel even further removed from knowing what you're doing.

At the very bottom you'll see a graphical representation of the READ and WRITE buffers and the SYNCable CLOCK FREQ which selects the speed at which the INSTRUCTION sections do their thing.  You can also turn off the SYNC and freely adjust the frequency for truly out there effects.

I'll cut to the chase and say that I absolutely love this plug-in.  With that said, I also believe this is not for everyone.  Sure, it ships with 300 presets which are all nice enough, but to my mind, this isn't a preset user's plugin.  This is one for people who like to tweak and experiment until they come across that perfect little touch of audio magic.  In many ways, working with Permut8 feels like working with some bizarre, circuit-bent device, and indeed the types of sounds it can produce are not far removed from that at all.  But as I said in the beginning, this is a plug-in where the process of creating new effects is part of the appeal.  Even if you have no idea what you're doing, it's a blast to randomly flip switches and dials to see what the result is.  To that end, this seems like a plug-in that's built for live performance.  Map some parameters to your MIDI controller, and tweak away.

The sound quality of Permut8 is a nice meeting of the digital and analog worlds.  The analog processing section (INPUT/OUTPUT, FILTER, FEEDBACK) really does lend a bit of analog-style warmth to the occasionally harsh digital sound of INSTRUCTIONS section.  And the digital section is everything you'd hope it would be.  All sorts of crazy digital distortions and manipulations are possible with rhythmic precision and an interface that really feels like working on a weird bit of old hardware.

And if you're REALLY a tweaker, an artificial terminal comes up when you click on the plug-in name that you can apparently operate as an actual assembly terminal of some sort.  This is a bit above my geek-level, so I haven't messed with it myself, but just the idea of putting it in there is pretty awesome,  I love it when a developer doesn't "dumb down" their products!

So who needs to check out Permut8?  Obviously anyone into experimental music is going to love this.  Likewise, IDM and dance music producers looking for edgy effects are going to eat this up.  I also think people who do live PA sets and the like would have a lot of fun with this.  You very well may have an entire plug-in folder full of glitchy plug-ins, but I guarantee you don't have anything like this.  Spend an hour with the demo and you'll figure out rather quickly whether it's the sort of thing you'll enjoy or not.  But for those who will enjoy it, I feel confident they're going to love it dearly. [9/10]