Monday, September 16, 2013

Last One Out Turn the Lights Off

It's been a long time coming, but I have made the decision to shut down Waveformless, at least for the foreseeable future.  The reason is simple: my workload is just too heavy to keep up with it.  Happily, I work in the music industry, so being really busy is great, but I've gotten to the point where something has to give, and closing up shop here at Waveformless is the easiest way to lighten my load a bit

I will not be taking the blog down, so you'll be able to read all the articles and reviews to your heart's content.  I will also be continuing with Waveformless Soundware, although it admittedly might be some time before the next release.  In the meantime, I will continue to post interesting stuff I find on my personal Twitter, so feel free to follow me there.

I have a lot of people to thank for making the past 6 years of Waveformless.  First and foremost, thanks very much to my readers, without whom this blog wouldn't have been possible.  Thank you to the developers who were kind enough to provide me with so many amazing plug-ins, synths, and sample libraries to review.  Thank you to the other bloggers who linked to Waveformless and helped grow our readership (and to Ronnie for reviewing my Waveformless Soundware releases).  And an extra special thanks to Adam, who was always dependable for an interesting Free Sample Friday submission when I was too busy or on the road.

Who knows that the future will bring, but for the next year or so, I am going to be plenty busy.  I really enjoyed sharing tips and reviewing stuff, and could easily see myself going back to it some day, but for the time being, you've got amazing blogs like Synthtopia, Create Digital Music, Matrixsynth, Rekkerd, Bedroom Producers,, Music of Sound, and more to keep you entertained.  So long, and thanks for all the fish!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Review: Sounds of Revolution's Minimal Techno Revolution Vol. 3

Product: Minimal Techno Revolution Vol. 3
Developer: Sounds of Revolution
Format:  Logic EXS-24, Native Instruments Kontakt, REX
Price: €47.99 for everything (smaller packs available individually for less, pricing info on product page)
Demo: Audio demos on product page.

With their latest release, "Minimal Techno Revolution Vol. 3", Sounds of Revolution once again delves into the atmospheric, technical vibe of Minimal Techno.  Consisting of 1,400 24-bit WAV samples, MTR-3 is aimed at giving you everything you need to get started making your own minimal techno club hits.  You'll find basslines (synth and real), SFX, drums, lush stabs, dubby synth chords, spoken and sung vocal parts, slamming full and top-only loops... really everything you might want.

As always, the programming and sound design is extremely creative and interesting, making it stand out from other similarly-themed sample libraries.  Sounds of Revolution have always made products with good production quality, but it feels like they upped things a notch this time around.  The loops especially draw a better balance between loud/punchy and dynamic than before and sound professional and present without being smashed within an inch of their lives.

If you're familiar with Sounds of Revolution's prior work, you know what to expect: great, professionally produced sounds and loops and lots of creativity.  Happily, this library continues that trend, even dialing things up a notch when it comes to production quality.  If you're looking to make some Minimal Techno and need some inspiration, this would be a great place to start!  [10/10]

Univox Korg K-2 on eBay

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Roland Juno-6 on eBay

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things: Synth Plug-in Edition - Part 3

11. Spectrasonics Omnisphere ($499)
In my opinion, this is one of the best-sounding synths I've ever used.  Yes, it comes at a hefty price, but I've never regretted my purchase once since I got it.  Omnisphere is essentially a ROMpler on steroids(although there is also a Virtual Analog section, too).  While you'll find standard sampled source material like beautiful guitars, choirs, and sampled synths, what makes Omnisphere stand out are some of the more unusual sample sources, such as the infamous piano on fire.  Omnisphere offers a ton of programming depth and has one of the most pleasant to use interfaces I've used.  Perfectly blurs the lines between acoustic and electronic instruments in a way few other synths have.  It should be noted that Stylus RMX and Trilian are no slouches either.

12. Synapse Audio DUNE ($139)  [Read the Waveformless Review]
Nowadays, a synth with a Unison function is pretty standard.  But Synapse Audio decided to expand on what Unison does and bring it into the 21st Century.  While most Unison modes simply detune and pan multiple voices for fatter sounds, DUNE allows you to adjust pretty much ALL the parameters on a per voice basis.  This means, each voice in your Unison part can have different filter settings, different envelopes, or even be entirely different sounds if you so choose.  DUNE offers a great balance of simplicity and depth and has a very nice, modern sound.  (Buy my patches for DUNE)

13. TAL Bassline 101 ($40 introductory price, $60 regular price)
If you're looking for a Roland SH-101 emulator that is faithful to the original architecture, you really owe it to yourself to check out TAL's Bassline 101.  The original, free version (called simply "Bassline") really only shared the architecture with the synth it emulated, as it didn't really sound very 101ish at all.  But for the commercial version, the synth got a ground-up reboot and is now virtually indistinguishable from the real deal.  Even better, even though it's only been out a short time, TAL has already started adding new features such as Filter FM like you would find on the SH-101 Novamod modifcation.  If you're looking for extras like polyphony, layering, effects, and the like, you might want to check out D16 Group's LuSH-101 instead, but if you just want the sound and simplicity that make the SH-101 great, you should definitely give this one a listen!

14. Tone2 Saurus ($119)  [Read the Waveformless Review]
I happen to be a fan of pretty much all the synths Tone2 has released from Gladiator 2 on up, and Saurus is no exception.  Although this is one of the new generations of "almost analog" sounding software synths, Tone2 took a different direction that many companies and instead of trying to emulate a specific vintage synth, created their own.  2 oscillators (each with subs), beautiful sounding multimode filters with saturation and filter FM, an Arp/Gater, simple effects and easy programability combine for a really great vintage-sounding synth.  The presets don't always demonstrate this well (many coming across as too modern sounding), but even some cursory messing around reveals this is a synth capable of very convincing vintage tones if programmed accordingly.

15. u-he DIVA ($179)
Germany's u-he are no slouches when it comes to synth design, so when I heard they were working on a synth that allowed you to combine oscillators, filters, and envelopes modeled on famous synths from Moog, Roland, and Korg, I definitely took notice.  And they didn't disappoint at all.  This was one of the first vintage synth emulations I heard that convinced me we are not far away from having plug-ins that are indistinguishable from the real thing.  DIVA sounds incredibly warm and alive, and the ability to mix and match modules from different famous synths is every bit as fun as it sounds.  Even as we speak, u-he are working on new modules for the next version, so this is a synth that will grow significantly with each major revision.  It's worth noting that the CPU usage can be pretty brutal on this one, but fortunately, multiple quality modes are available, allowing you to sketch out ideas at a lower resolution and CPU load than when you finally render the sounds to disk.  An absolute essential.   (Buy my patches for DIVA)

Your Wednesday Morning Serving of WTF

Beamz by Flo 2 Minute Commercial from Static Free on Vimeo.

"All the fun of making music without all that making music!"

Thanks to my "friend" Isaac for bringing this to my attention.

Casio DG-20 Digital Guitar on eBay

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Sequential Circuits Six Trak on eBay

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things: Synth Plug-in Edition - Part 2

6. KV331 Audio Synthmaster ($99)  [Read the Waveformless Review]
If you're looking for some serious bang for your buck, it's hard to go wrong with KV331's excellent Synthmaster.  Essentially a synth Swiss Army knife, Synthmaster is a massively detailed semi-modular synth that allows Virtual Analog, Additive, Sample Playback, Vector, Wavetable and more sounds to be programmed with a great deal of depth.  A lot of care obviously went into the design of this synth as they seemingly have thought of everything.  A synth-programmer's synth.  And did I mention is sounds amazing, too?

7. Madrona Labs Aalto ($99)  [Read the Waveformless Review]
This one is definitely not for everyone, but those of you knob-twiddlers out there who love getting lost inside a Buchla-like modular synth unlike anything else you've used will find a lot to love here.  It is based around what is essentially a 2-oscillator FM set-up fed through a Waveguide/Delay and Multimode Filter (based on the Oberheim SEM) into a nicely old-school sounding Reverb.  Two envelopes, and LFO, a Sequencer and other modulators can be routed just about anywhere for all sorts of modular insanity.  If you're looking for trance leads, move along, but if you love weird, unpredictable synths, don't miss this one!

8. Plogue Chipsounds ($95)  [Read the Waveformless Review]
If the 8-bit sounds of yesteryear are your thing, you absolutely have to check out Plogue's Chipsounds. This synth emulates 15 different 8-bit sound chips from popular home computers, home video game consoles, and arcade games and lets you use them to sculpt your own new sounds.  You can mix and match up to 8 different layers, each with their own type of chip, if you so desire, so the ability to make thick sounds out of traditionally thin-sounding oscillators opens up.  It sounds amazingly authentic and is tons of fun to play around with, especially if you're a fan of unusual sounds.

9. Sonic Academy A.N.A. (£49)
Here's one that has slipped through a lot of people's radar.  Sonic Academy is a website that musicians can subscribe to in order to access a generous and ever-expanding selection of video tutorials covering different aspects and tools of various electronic music genres.  However, they also created their own software synth.  A.N.A. (short for Analog Noise Attack) combines 3 virtual analog oscillators, 2 "noise "oscillators" that play back a variety of different inharmonic samples, and a 6th "attack" oscillator which plays back sampled attack transients.  If that sounds a little bit like an updated version of 80's synths like the Ensoniq SQ-80 or Roland D-50, thats because the concept isn't that far off.    A.N.A. brings that synthesis concept and gives it more flexibility and improved sound quality and marries it with some excellent presets in the house/techno/trance/EDM style.  And as if the price wasn't already cheap enough, if you are already a subscriber to Sonic Academy, you can pick it up for only £29.

10. Sonic Charge Microtonic ($99)
Now in its 3rd version, Sonic Charge's Microtonic is a fantastic little analog-style drum box.  Use the oscillator, noise, and filter to build a kit of up to 8 different sounds and program your own vintage-sounding beats with the built-in step sequencer.    While the sounds it produces are generally unapologetically old-school, by layering several sounds at once, more complex and modern drum sounds become possible.  And in one of the coolest innovations I've seen in awhile, Sonic Charge created the Sonic Charge Patternarium which generates new, "genetically mutated" patterns based on user feedback.  Hear a beat you like?  Simply download the preset and load it right into Microtonic!

"32 Lives" Will Allow 32-bit Plug-ins to Run in Logic Pro X

Among all the cool improvements to Logic in the latest version, was one restriction that scared off more than a few potential customers, myself included.  With the release of Logic Pro X, the DAW stopped supporting 32-bit plug-ins.  So, those of us who needed maintain compatibility with old projects, or who simply make use of plug-ins that may never be released in 64-bit format, held off on upgrading right away.  I figured this would be enough of a problem for someone software company, and indeed that is the case with the announcement of 32 Lives.  32 Lives promises to allow you to run your 32-bit plug-ins just as if they were 64-bit completely transparently and hassle-free.  The program is still in beta at the moment, but you can actually buy a beta version at reduced price ($69 versus $99) with a free upgrade to the full version when it is released.

[via MusicRadar]

Yamaha CS-10 on eBay

Info at the listing...

Drumfire Analog Drum Synth on eBay

Info at the listing...

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things: Synth Plug-in Edition - Part 01

Back in July, I made a series of posts about some of my favorite effects plug-ins.  I promised to do the same for synth plug-ins, and that is what we start with this morning.  Let's get started, shall we?

1. Arturia SEM-V ($99)  
Arturia's previous products have often been accused of having a somewhat "samey" sound to them, and while I am not sure that is entirely fair, I can say that they really upped their game with SEM-V, their simulation of the Oberheim SEM synth.  To me, this is one of a handful of software synths that has that indefinable "it" that usually defines vintage hardware.  It's a synth that sounds alive and organic and is amazingly flexible for how relatively simple the architecture is.  Brilliant for basses and leads, and thanks to the "8-Voice Programmer" (a step-sequencer/modulator), arps and steppy sequences and modulated sounds.  In addition to the 8-Voice Programmer, there is also a full mod matrix, and very basic Overdrive, Chorus, and Delay effects.  If there is one area that lets this synth down, it's the effects - they sound pretty lousy.  But switch them off and process through your own choice of effects, and it sounds brilliant.  Bit of a CPU hog, but this is a case where it is worth the heavy processor load.  (Buy my presets for SEM-V)

2. Camel Audio Alchemy ($249)  [Read the Waveformless Review]
Camel Audio's Alchemy is a few years old and probably due for a version 2, but that doesn't mean this super-deep synth isn't still great.  With Additive, Spectral, Granular, Sample Playback, and Virtual Analog modes, there is a wide variety of methods to sculpt sounds with right out of the gate.  But add to that dozens of filter types, extensive modulation abilities, great performance controls, multiple sequencers, envelopes, LFOs, mult-stage envelopes, and some very nice sounding effects, this is a synth that is easy to get lost in.  I do think the sequencer could be made a bit more user-friendly, and some of the factory samples are not that inspiring, but this is a synth with serious abilities if you want to build complex and unusual sounds.

3. D16 Audio Group LuSH-101 ($249)  [Read the Waveformless Review]
When this was first released, I got the impression that a lot of people missed the point of this synth.  While it does indeed take its inspiration from the venerable Roland SH-101, D16's LuSH-101 uses that as a mere starting point and builds on it from there adding significant new abilities such as polyphony, unison and Supersaw modes, additional envelopes and LFOs, a mod matrix, extensive effects, and the abilities to layer or split up to 8 instances of the synth engine for incredibly thick and intricate sounds.  While it certainly does a great job of emulating the 101 if you stick to the parameters that were available in the real thing, that really misses the point, as you can go so much further.  A nice, modern update to the 101 that even in its more "modern" settings, still has the sound and spirit of Roland.

4. FXPansion DCAM SynthSquad ($249) [Read the Waveformless Review]
This 2009 collection of synths was one of the first to make me sit up and say "whoa" in the analog-sounding plug-ins world.  Consisting of Strobe (a monosynth with a character similar to an SH-101 crossed with a Pro One), Amber (an emulation of divide-down string machines), Cypher (an "Analog FM" type synth), and Fusor (a plug-in that lets you combine multiple layers of Strobe, Cypher, and Amber, process them through effects, and sequence them).  Even four years later, these sound fantastic and are a ton of fun to program.

5. GForce Oddity (£99)
Although it was released way back in 2003, GForce's Oddity is still an impressive emulation of the ARP Odyssey.  This is mostly a straight-up emulation with no additional features like built-in effects, but it doesn't suffer because of that.  Authentic-sounding and very full of analog character, the only thing that really lets this synth down is the absolutely horrible preset management.  How about an update with a decent patch management system, Gforce?

Kawai SX-240 on eBay

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Oberheim Matrix 6 on eBay

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