Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rob Papen Synth Programming Tutorial Book and DVD Set Now Available

It's been a long time coming, but it appears that preset programmer and synth designer extraordinaire Rob Papen's long-rumored book and DVD course on synth programming is finally available.  "The 4 Element Synth" weighs in at 200 pages with the DVDs adding an additional 10 hours of material.  It's available for  € 74-- (EU included 6% VAT) or € 69-- (outside EU, no VAT).  Shipping cost not included.  The set is available to buy directly from Papen's site.  Shipping begins November 30th.

Preview Clips from Nitzer Ebb's Douglas McCarthy's Solo Album

Produced by Mark Bell.  Definitely a different direction than Nitzer Ebb.  What do you think?


Blue Waldorf Q on eBay

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PPG Wave 2.3 and Waveterm B on eBay

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EDP Wasp and Spider Sequencer on Ebay

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Korg Releases iPolysix fo iPad

Korg has released an iPad version of their heralded Polysix emulation called iPolysix.  As you might expect, this version includes some goodies not found on the original to turn it into more of a self-contained production environment.  The iPolysix set-up includes two Polysix instances, a sequencer to drive them, a drum machine, and a mixer.  This app is available for the introductory price of $14.95 until the end of the year when the price will double.

Roland RE-101 Space Echo on eBay

Info at the listing...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review: Wave Alchemy Bass Pedals

Product: Bass Pedals Sample Library
Developer: Wave Alchemy
Format: Native Instruments Kontakt 4 (and above)
Price: £34.96
Demo: Audio Demo on Product Page

The Moog Taurus was an unusual piece of kit.  Made to be played with one's feet, the simple bass synth featured long wooden pedals instead of keys.  While the architecture of the synth itself was quite simple, the Taurus has a sound all to itself that has gained it many fans over the years including Rush and Genesis.  This release from Wave Alchemy brings the sounds of this rare (and often expensive) beast to your computer in the form of an extensively sampled and heavily scripted Kontakt 4 instrument, complete with a nicely rendered user interface allowing you to program your own sounds.

The interface of Bass Pedals is actually divided among 4 different pages.  The presets section consists of 28 multi-sampled presets sampled from the Moog Taurus Mk 1.  In addition to sampling full patches, Wave Alchemy has also included multi-samples of the raw waveforms allowing you to create your own patches from scratch, or to mix and match with the sampled presets.

The editing itself takes place on the "Raw Oscillator" page.  Here, users have access to the synth's two oscillators, the filter, dedicated amp and filter envelopes, oscillator drift function, sub oscillator, noise, and simple LFO.

The Effects page allows access to the built-in saturation, distortion, reverb, chorus, and EQ effects to further sclupt your sounds.

Finally, we have the Controls page which is where you set up the priority of note triggering, portamento time, and other various global settings.

As we've come to expect from Wave Alchemy, the sound quality here is superb.  Long samples and use of round robin sampling techniques helps to preserve the non-linerarities and tiny imperfections that make vintage analog so appealing.  It's very easy to forget you're playing a sampled instruments with these.  The presets (28 multi-sampled presets and 40 additional presets made using the raw oscillator samples) cover a fair amount of territory from resonant growls to warm, detuned plucks to synthy zaps. The thing is, the Taurus has always been a simple beast, so even with the synthesis parameters called into play, there is a similar basic sound to most of these presets.  But what a sound!  Although it has an unmistakably "Moog" sound to it, the Taurus really didn't sound like any of their other instruments.  So, as you might imagine, this library will appeal to you more if you're looking for that specific Taurus sound than if you're looking for a synth to cover all the bases.

The interface is similarly well-done and is easy to figure out for anyone with a basic understanding of synthesis.  I didn't experience any crashes or unusual behavior, and try as I might, I couldn't find any flaws in the sampling here.  After this and their previous Sequential Circuits Pro One library, I am quite excited to see what vintage goodies they decided to take on next.  In the meantime, if you want some wooly and warm vintage goodness to round out your bottom end, give this library a look.  [9/10]

Korg Trident on eBay

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Roland Jupiter-6 on eBay

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

1.5 GB of Free Acoustic Drum Samples

Signalsaudio has made their previously commercial drum sample sets available for free under a creative commons license as SCC Drums.    The sounds are in 24-bit/44.1K formats with mappings from Kontakt, Trigger, and Drumagog.


[via BedroomProducersBlog]

We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Apologies for the sporadic posting schedule as of late.  As my band's tour wound on, I found myself more and more run down and it was difficult to keep up with the posts.  But I'm back now and things should get back to normal rather quickly...

Customized "Red Meanie" Roland Juno 106 on eBay

Info at the listing...

Akai AX-80 on eBay

Info at the listing...

Kawai K3 on eBay

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Free Sample Friday: Oberheim SEM Part 3

The third and final part of Adam's samples of the new Oberheim SEM team it up with his trusty ARP Axxe!


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Review: D16 Group LuSH-101

Product: LuSH-101
Developer: D16 Group
Format: Windows (VST) and Mac (VST and AU)
Price: $199
Demo: Audio demos and Demo version available on the product page.

“Vaporware”.  It’s a term any reputable software developer dreads having associated with one of their projects.  If you’ve never heard of it, it refers to a product with a development time so long after its initial announcement, that  people begin to doubt it will ever see the light of the day.  After about 3 years in development, many people were beginning to write off D16 Groups’s promised “SH-101 on Steroids” as just that.  To make matters worse, the product was initially saddled with the truly awful name “SH101ter”, which somehow suggested a goiter filled with feces.  Thankfully, though, LuSH-101 (the product’s new name) has finally seen the light of day .  Was it worth the wait?  Let’s find out!

Describing LuSH-101 as a mere emulation of the famous Roland SH-101 monosynth sells it short significantly.  Instead, D16 have used the 101 as a starting point and re-imagined it in a 21st century version.  Building on the 101’s rather basic synthesis functions, LuSH-101 adds new features like extra envelopes and LFO’s, oscillator sync, unison, Supersaw, a mod matrix, built-in effects, and the ability to create monster sounds by layering up to 8 synths (or splitting them… or using an instance multi-timbrally).

Installation is your run of the mill affair.  Authorization comes in the form of  a key file you can locate anywhere on your hard drive and point the software to when you authorize it.

As is pretty standard today, the manual comes as a PDF file.  The illustrated manual weighs in just under 100 pages, which hints at how deep things can get with this synth.  Your basic synthesis functions are easy enough to figure out on your own, especially if you’ve used an actual 101, but some of the less obvious functions such as building layered patches and the like will probably require you to crack the manual once or twice.

The interface for LuSH-101 is beautifully rendered replica of a 101 crammed full of extras.  The standard white skin looks pretty slick, but if you want it in a different color, a la the real 101, a future update will make the interface skinnable.

At the very top of the interface you’ll find the preset browser and settings section.  There is also a section that allows you to select which layer you’re working on, that lets you mute or unmute layers, and even “padlock” layers to prevent accidental changes, which is a nice touch.  This is also where you can select which “page” for programming you’re on… the synthesis section, the mod matrix, or the mixer.

Beneath this, you’ll find the layer settings that allow you to quickly transpose, detune and pan the current layer.  You can also set a key range for the layer if you want to build a split.  Additionally, there is a Unison function and an insert effect which offers options like decimators, vowel filters, ensemble choruses, distortion, and more.

The basic building block in LuSH-101 is called a Timbre.   This is a single sound.  Up to 8 Timbres can be combined per patch.  They can be layered, split, or set up to respond multi-timbrally to different MIDI channels.

The first synthesis functions are the Pitch/Sync controls.  Already we can see an expansion on the original 101 architecture.  Along with standard controls for pitch modulation and frequency, this is where you set up oscillator sync, a feature not found on the original 101.  LuSH-101 achieves this via a “hidden” oscillator in conjunction with the square and sawtooth oscillators on the front panel.  Sync can be modulated with either an LFO or envelope, and an adjustable mix slider lets you find a balance between the synced sound and the original.

To the right of this you’ll find the controls for PWM, which again can be modulated via any of the envelopes or LFOs.  The Source Mixer is found next door to this and allows you to mix different amounts of saw, square, suboscillator, and noise (available in several colors!  Nice!).  The suboscillator offers more waveshapes than the original as well.  This is also where you’ll find the controls for the Supersaw mode.  Different in sound and function than the Unison function, this is a nod to Roland’s JP-8000 and helps beef up the sound significantly without using additional polyphony.

Next to this, you’ll find the filter section.  Expanding on the 101’s original low-pass filter, you’ll also find highpass and bandpass options here.  All filters can either be in the rather well-behaved “Normal” mode, or the “SH-101” mode which gives the filters the squelchy, acidic resonance the 101 was known for.   Modulation amount sliders for all the envelopes and LFO’s are available, as well as keyboard tracking modulation.  Resonance can also be modulated independently via Env 2 and/or LFO 2. The main filter is followed by a simple highpass filter (no resonance) which can be useful in thinning out sounds and creating more high-frequency type sounds like bells and airy synths.

On the next row down, you’ll find controls to modulate the VCO or the VCF via either (or both) the pitch wheel or mod wheel.  Beside this you will find LuSH-101’s two envelopes and two LFO’s.  Both envelopes have reversible polarities, and multiple trigger modes, including repeating modes using the LFO, helpful for making instant-sequenced sounds.  The LFO’s offer 6 different waveshapes including random and noise.  A nice additional feature is the keyboard tracking of LFO frequency.  Applied to pitch modulation, this opens the door to very simple FM-type sounds.

Finally, we have the Arpeggiator and Gater sections.  The arpeggiator is a fairly standard, although well-featured host-syncable arpeggiator with a number of available modes.  You can expand the types of rhythms you can get with this with the gater that lets you trigger a gate in just about any rhythmic pattern including ties for extending note values.  These two form a powerful team in coming up with interesting patterns at the touch of a key.

The Mod Matrix gives you 9 sources and over 50 destinations (although not all destinations are available for all sources).  You simply add a mod slot by pressing the “+” button, assign a source and a destination, and then use the bi-polar slider to select a modulation amount.  Nice and simple.  One note, there is a destination for panning that is misspelled as “paning”.

The third available page for creating sounds is the Master Mixer.  Remember how I told you that a LuSH-101 sound could be comprised of 8 different timbres?  Not content to just provide you with basic controls over the balance of these, D16 has provided a full-fledged 8-channel mixer.  You’ll find standard volume and panning controls to adjust the balance and stereo position of sounds, but each channel also has its own compressor, three-band EQ, and effects sends for the reverb, delay, and chorus effects, whose controls reside next to the mixer.  This kind of attention to detail is what tells you D16 made good use of the long development time.  Indeed, just about every aspect of this has been so obviously obsessed over and tweaked to perfection, the development time suddenly makes sense.  They weren’t dragging their feet, they were honing this synth to a razor’s edge.

In a word, LuSH-101 sounds spectacular.  The lows are warm and organic, the mids punchy, and the highs sharp and clear.  To my ears, they’ve pretty much nailed the sound of the 101, but beyond that, they’ve really nailed the early Roland sound in general.  The oscillators are lively, the filter beautifully squelchy, and the envelopes are snappy.  Add the amazing-sounding insert and send effects, the additional synthesis features, and the ability to layer 8 instances of the synth engine into a single patch, and you’ve got a monster on your hands.

That monstrous sound comes at a price, however, and that comes in the form of the CPU usage.  Obviously, this depends on the polyphony you’re using and how many layers your sound is made up of, but only u-he’s DIVA really compares in how much CPU it uses.  Even firing up the plug-in without playing a note put the CPU meter in Ableton Live on my 13” Macbook showed between 7-9% CPU use.  Fortunately, there are lower quality modes that will allow you to work out arrangements before rendering.  I do hope, however, that future versions will work on making things a bit less processor-intensive.  On the one hand, processors are getting faster all the time, and I think the amazing sound quality is a fair trade off for the processor load, but a more efficient version would certainly be more practical to use.  And this is a really versatile synth you might really find yourself wanting to build entire arrangements with, so the ability to use more instances at once would be a big bonus.

I had high hopes for this synth when it was first announced.  As a former owner of a 101, I really did miss its sound, but as I find myself working in the box more, I also wished I could have that sound with all the conveniences of instant recall, automation, and the like.  After spending some time with LuSH-101, I no longer regret selling the real deal.  LuSH-101 not only captures the sound of the 101, but jettisons it into the present day and expands on the sound significantly without losing the original character that makes that simple synth such a classic.  Three years of development may seem like a long time to some of us, but after working with LuSH-101, the painstaking detail and design work that went into this synth becomes obvious.  I only ran into one possible bug in my time working with the it, which was in Live.  Using my laptop keyboard to play notes stopped working the moment I changed any parameter.  D16 has already issued one update, however, with new ones already planned and announced on their webpage, so I trust that any bugs that arrive will be squashed quickly.

Simply put, this synth is a beast.  If you’re a fan of the classic Roland sound, this should be a no-brainer.  They’ve nailed the sound and opened up whole new worlds of sound with the added features and immaculate-sounding effects.  I was a bit skeptical when I initially saw the $199 price-point, but after putting LuSH-101 through its paces, I feel like that’s a bargain.  Just buy it, already!  [10/10]

Roland SH-09 on eBay

Info at the listing...

Starr Labs Z7S Ztar MIDI Guitar on eBay

Info at the listing...

Oberheim OB-8 Signed by Tom Oberheim on eBay

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Free Sample Friday: Oberheim SEM Part II

This week we have more samples from the new version of the Oberheim SEM courtesy of Adam, how I had the pleasure of finally meeting in person last week.