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Issue 146 May 2015


Issue 146
May 2015

The magazine for producers, engineers and recording musicians



The complete guide
the making ofand
The Fat Of The L


The past, present and future of

the biggest studio in the world

New Gear Special!

30 products reviewed
Bluffer's Guide to synths
6 of the best keyboards
In-depth workshops

Issue 146
May 2015
MT146.cover.indd 1



30/03/2015 12:19


The Focusrite sound on USB 2.0

Focusrite have been designing the finest microphone preamplifiers since 1985 when
Sir George Martin commissioned no-holds-barred preamps for his Air Studio facility in London.
And so, the Focusrite DNA was formed, and today lies at the heart of our Scarlett range of USB 2.0 interfaces.
Combined with class-leading digital conversion and rock-solid driver stability, your sound
could not be in safer hands.
Whatever your audio recording needs, theres a Focusrite Scarlett interface for you.
All you have to do is choose.

2 In / 2 Out Single mic pre

2 In / 2 Out Dual mic pre

2 in / 4 out

6 in / 6 out

18 in / 8 out

Find out more at:

Eight Focusrite mic preamps

Welcome MT

Expert Panel
Studio Hardware John Pickford

John is a studio engineer with over 25 years of

experience. He is a keen sound recording historian
and has a passion for valve-driven analogue
equipment and classic recording techniques.

Mixing/Mastering/Logic Mark Cousins

Mark specialises in sound design and cinematic
productions. He has recorded with orchestras
across Europe and is heavily involved in
soundtrack composition.

Careers Editor Rob Boffard

Rob Boffard is a sound designer with a

background in TV and radio work. He is a Reason
evangelist, and when not writing for MusicTech he
releases hip-hop music under the name Rob One.

Digital/Composition Andy Price

With a Masters in songwriting and a vast interest

in music history and recording techniques, Andy
works daily on as well as regularly
contributing to the magazine. He is currently
heading up our Landmark Album features and
songwriting/Cubase series.

Recording & Guitar Tech Huw Price

A recording engineer since 1987, Huw has worked

with David Bowie, My Bloody Valentine, Primal
Scream, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave, Heidi Berry,
Fad Gadget and countless others.

Scoring/Orchestral Keith Gemmell

Keith specialises in areas where traditional

music-making meets music technology, including
orchestral and jazz sample libraries, acoustic
virtual instruments and notation software.

Ableton Live Martin Delaney

Martin was one of the first UK Ableton Certified

Trainers. He has taught everyone from musicians
to psychiatric patients and has written three
books about Live. Martin also designed the
Kenton Killamix Mini USB MIDI controller and is
now the editor of

Reason, DJ & Mobile Hollin Jones

As well as teaching music technology, producing

and writing soundtracks, Hollin is an expert on
everything Apple, mobile or computer-related, as
well as being an accomplished keyboard player.

Electronic Music Alex Holmes

Alex has been a computer musician for 15 years,

having a keen passion for beats, bass and all
forms of electronic music. Hes currently involved
in three different dance music projects.

As you can see from my

studio photo (I say
studio its more a
collection of coloured
lights at the moment,
but Im getting there) I
dont have the room to
physically work with
anyone else. And if Im honest I dont really like the idea of
someone sitting there observing my every move, silently
criticising my key commands, my note-playing, my choice
of socks You know the type never happy, always staring
at what youre doing (Paranoid? Me?)
I do, however, like the idea of collaboration, per se, just maybe with someone a
long way away (preferably the moon Ceres). Fortunately, several DAW
manufacturers are on the case making their apps more approachable in this
regard, making it easier to share musical ideas with anyone anywhere (usually
limited to this planet, however). With this in mind weve decided to look at the whole,
ever-widening subject of hi-tech music collaboration, starting on p12. Indeed its
such a big subject that this is the first of two large features on the subject.
Elsewhere we have exclusive access to Abbey Road Studios (p32) plus a synth
bonanza with tutorials on creative synthesis (p38) and a Bluffers Guide (p106) for
newbies. Whatever you do, enjoy your music making whether its on your own, with
humans or aliens. Until next month
Andy Jones Senior Editor
Twitter @AndyJonesMT

Pro Tools Mike Hillier

Mike spent five years at Metropolis Studios,

working alongside some of the best-known mix
and mastering engineers in the world. He is now
building his own studio in south London.


Head to our constantly updated website

for the latest news, reviews and 10 years
worth of quality content

New to Music
Check out ourde
Beginners Gui
at musictech.n


Subscribe and save

35% and get the
digital edition free
see page 66 for
full details.


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30/03/2015 12:27

MT Contents

MT Contents
Issue 146 May 2015

28 The Prodigy
Andy Price has the story
behind Liam & cos
The Fat of the Land


MT Buyers Guide

Hollin Jones tips on
compression and dynamics

103 Six of the best

Controller keyboards
A controller keyboard for
every studio revealed

4 | May 2015

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31/03/2015 08:55

Contents MT

MT Issue 146 Full listings

007 | Industry gossip and opinion

The latest reviews


A masive 30 products for your studio reviewed!

DAW workshops

38 creative synthesis
46 Perfect bass in Live
56 Do it yourself drums
Getting creative with Logics synths

Martin Delaney goes low and Live

Synthesizing your own beats and hits

012 | Make music anywhere, with
anyone Collaboration is the latest
and greatest option within many
DAWs. Heres how it works for you
028 | The Prodigy:
The Fat of the Land
The dance classic dissected
032 | Abbey Road
The inside track on the past,
present and future of the worlds
most iconic recording studios
038 | Creative Synthesis
Boost interest in Logics synths
046 | The ultimate guide to
Ableton Live, part 4
Martin Delaneys perfect bass
052 | 20 pro tips to dynamics
056 | Beats and sound design
Design your own drum sounds
060 | Cutting-edge production
Digging deep in the sidechain
066 | and get a Launchpad!
068 | GForce Oddity2 a soft ARP
070 | Focal Alpha 50 & 80 monitors
072 | Archetype Bundle for Live

Bluffers guide

075 | Icon QCon Pro controller

076 | M-Audio BX and M monitors
081 | H2 Project Bravo library
083 | Zero-G Impact Designer fx
085 | East West HOP library
087 | Roland RD-800 digital piano


090 | PSP lotary rotary simulator

094 | Ferrofish B4000 organ module
092, 095, 096 | Mini Reviews Xtra
bonus review extravaganza
103 | 6 of the best keyboards
106 | A bluffers guide to: synths
110 | Show off your studio more
reader production rooms
112 | Next month in MusicTech
114 | On your MT DVD


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W W W. S P I T F I R E A U D I O . C O M




Industry insight


Just why is the studio world going so retro? And should you care?
Andy Jones dons his hardware hat and goes in

s we saw last month, the biggest news in the synth

world right now is the retro recreation of machines
such as the ARP Odyssey and Moog Modular. But
elsewhere in the recording world other hardware
and mostly analogue hardware is making a huge
comeback. On p32 we see how Chandler Audio are recreating
classic pieces of Abbey Road studio gear and, in many other
aspects of music making, hardware has again become the
first choice buy for producers.
But its 2015, right? Isnt this the year we all make music
on our iPads? Arent we supposed to be using touchscreen
Macs and PCs to compose? That was the plan, but its not
quite turned out like it was supposed to. Whereas some

Analogue and retro

but, more than
ever, its colour,
colour and more
colour that is
attracting us back
to hardware music

predicted that wed have thought-to-MIDI note convertors by

now, or be putting pieces of music together by pointing at
virtual devices and controllers Minority Report-style, what
we are actually doing is, well, doing it like we always have
With keyboards, with hardware and a steadily increasing
amount of analogue gear.
There are now more bespoke hardware outboard
companies than ever before, as there are hardware modular
synth companies. Weve had a new ARP Odyssey, the rebirth
of the Novation BassStation. Native Instruments are doing
more hardware than ever before, as are Arturia. Its all gone a
bit wrong in terms of the computer music revolution more
steam punk rather than cyber punk. So what happened?

The answer is manyfold

The most obvious point is piracy. In a rush to get everything to
go digital, to recreate every classic instrument in software
and every other recording effect, device and controller as a
bunch of pixels within your DAW, people seemed to forget
that anything you create digitally can be copied. Which is
obviously what happened (and not just within our industry),
so many companies have shied away from software-only
solutions and have, at the very least, started tying their
software to hardware dongles. Weve even had one software
developer contact us saying that theyre going to give their
software-only app one more go, and if its pirated then theyll


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31/03/2015 08:46

Advance MT

turn away from software forever. The end of the computeronly studio solution could be just around the corner piracy
has put paid to that rather elegant dream (which turned out
to be a clunky nightmare anyway). So far, so obvious.
But then fashion also happened. That difficult to predict
zeitgeist thing where a certain tipping point of people are
seen to do something cool. Hardware started to look really
cool, really colourful and that certainly led to more people
using it. Those colourful Launchpads, well-lit Komplete
Kontrols, and the like Well you can see a bearded hipster in
Shoreditch using all of them, cant you? Certainly, music
making now looks far better than someone skulking over a
laptop squinting over a mouse and pointer creating
And the looks thing is important. Taking the point further,
do you really want to spend a load of money on software to
look like youre sending an email? (Or, if youre Kraftwerk,
spending a load of money on hardware, software, a huge
stage show and allegedly of course look like you are
surfing the internet.) So certainly the colourful designs of
todays hardware compared to the last great surge in music
hardware gear use back in the black and grey days of the late
80s and early 90s has led to a massive resurgence of
coloured lights within our studio environs.
And, not surprisingly, people who create like to physically
create, either by playing or performing, actually pushing,
pulling, turning and switching. Not just moving a pointer
between the four (five?) walls of a DAW and moving a block
from here to there.
So we reach todays world of retro confusion, where
19-inch outboard compressors cause more of a stir at trade
shows than the latest subscription-based
DAW. Where an analogue synth with no
presets is seen as a more exciting
option than a soft solution with
2500 presets. Where at least
one of our best London
studios now has a
dedicated tape-based

studio to capture (and recapture) a true analogue recording.

Where the very magazine youre holding a magazine that,
lets face it, glorifies the march of technology on a monthly
basis has a picture of a 1968 mixer on its cover. Where I am
pictured with possibly the finest synth Ive ever had the joy to
use and it has wooden cheeks, and is analogue (yes theres
an iPad there too but thats just for show).
So what does it mean for you? On the face of it you could
be being pulled in all sorts of directions for your studio
setups according to whatever is considered todays fashions,
but if youve got any sense which you all seem to have
youll take all the trends and advice with a pinch of salt and
work with whatever works for you. Which MusicTech readers
seem to be doing. Our incredibly successful Show Off Your
Studio feature see p110 demonstrates that producers
around the world are using every kind of setup you can
imagine, and arent following any particular courses of
action. Sure theres a lot of hardware but theres also a lot of
software, a lot of analogue, a lot of digital, a lot of very old and
a lot of very new. No Minority Report holograms to report just
yet, mind. But all of it seems to be working for the producers
concerned and everyone seems happy enough.
So ignore the trends, and ignore me if you really must.
Keep enjoy making music with whatever you use. Nothing to
see here. Carry on.MT

One good piece of

hardware, a great
studio makes


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MusicTech.indd 3

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MusicTech.indd 4

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MT Feature Online collaboration

MT Feature Online collaboration

Make music
with anyone
There are now more ways than ever to collaborate with other
musicians and produce great music without ever being in the
same room. Hollin Jones gives you the lowdown

12 | May 2015

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Online collaboration Feature MT

echnology has changed almost every aspect of music production in ways

that not so long ago could only have been dreamed about. You can
emulate the outboard used at Abbey Road in a plug-in, track a live band
into your iPad, or chop and mash a drum loop into something alien and
futuristic. An even greater advance has been the rise of the internet, and
it has brought dramatic new possibilities and challenges for musicians. Most
people know that you can host, showcase and sell your music online, but perhaps
fewer realise that the holy grail of full online collaboration is now closer to being a
reality than at any point in the past.
Its been possible to communicate online for some time, of course, but the
requirements of music recording and production are far more rigorous than sending
email or even video calling. Were still not fully there, or at least we dont yet have a
solution thats as good as being in a room with other musicians, but there are now
many ways in which you can work on music with people in other cities or countries
and sacrifice little, if any,
quality. Those who
remember the Rocket
Network from the 1990s,
one of the first serious
online collaboration tools,
will also remember the
dialup internet speeds we
had back then and which
seem prehistoric by todays standards. And although we now all have far faster
connections, the demands of latency-free audio streaming over the net are still a
real limiting factor, albeit one that some developers have worked around in
ingenious ways.
The most basic way of collaborating online is also the oldest, and that is to
collect all your project data into a folder and upload it to a hosting service and send
your music partner the link. If its a MIDI-only file you can even email it. The vast
amount of storage space you get for free these days means swapping even big
projects is easy. But this isnt particularly realtime: for that youll need a dedicated
system such as Steinbergs VST Connect. A third category of tools is websites that
let you compose and even record and use effects, all within a web browser
something that has become possible thanks to advanced web technology.
With so many people having home studios of one kind or another, working
together on a musical project no longer means having to be in the same location. If
you choose the method that will work best for you and do some preparation and
groundwork, its quite possible to work effectively with anybody in the world who
has a decent internet connection. Although meeting up is always good, its not
always possible due to the distances and costs involved or the commitments of the
musicians. Were going to show you the many ways in which you can expand your
musical horizons by breaking down the walls of your studio metaphorically
speaking and opening up the whole world to collaboration.

Its possible to work with

anybody in the world who has a
decent internet connection


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26/03/2015 10:58

MT Feature Online collaboration

Making music online: the basics

There are some important things to understand before you get started
The good news about working online is that, on the
whole, digital formats these days are pretty advanced.
No serious DAW will make a fuss about the difference
between an AIFF and a WAV, or refuse to recognise a
standard MIDI file. But theres still a lot that can end
up being fiddly if you dont do the groundwork. Youre
going to need access to a computer or tablet and have
a decent internet connection, which means anything
thats technically broadband. The faster your
downstream and upstream connections, the better.
And ideally you wont have any kind of data cap either
as this can scupper your work if it kicks in. A CD quality
WAV stream can have a data rate of anything up to
3Mbps and thats before you factor in all the
sources of latency and fluctuations in
network strength, as we will see.
If youre planning on collaborating in the
most traditional way, youll be sending a
folder of material over the web to another
user, probably via a file hosting site. Its
important to get a few things clear at the
outset. The first is

MT tech term :
The cloud
A cluster of servers
that store information
somewhere in the
world. All big tech
companies, such as
Microsoft and Apple,
have their own. And
others, such as Dropbox
use similar setups.

Clean and tidy

(Left) Youll make your life easier

if you get your project settings
sorted before you start.
(Above right) OMF files are a
little more basic than AAF but
are supported by the widest
range of audio and video
software at the moment.
(Far right) The most basic way to
swap files is to export stems or to
zip and upload a project folder.

Project planning

Plan ahead to maximise your productivity

If youre collaborating on music with
someone who doesnt live nearby, the
techniques for doing it online that we
discuss here all have their pros and
cons. Some are cheap, and some are
expensive. Some tie you to a particular
platform while others dont. And some
are simple, and others are
complicated. There are parts of the
music process that are easier to do
online than others, so if you have any
scope for being in the same room at
any point you should plan to do the
hard stuff then, and the easier stuff
remotely. Things that are much easier
to do when youre in the same place
include tracking drums, recording
multiple players at once as well as
recording large instruments such as

14 | May 2015

MT146.cover feat.indd 14

what DAW theyre using. If

its the same as yours, is it
the same version? And do
they have the same set of
plug-ins? Probably not. If
its a different DAW, does
it have any special
requirements? Your first task is to set up the project
using pre-determined settings. That might mean
starting a project at 48KHz, 24-bit WAV and 115bpm,
for example. All these things can be set differently of
course, maybe 44.1KHz and 16-bit, but if you
standardise it before you start and tell your partner,
they should be able to open your data without any
conversion. Its possible to convert sample and
bit-rates and even tempo but its all extra work.

pianos, or developing musical ideas

using a back and forth approach.
Things which are much easier to do
over the web include tracking any kind
of single-source sounds such as
vocals, guitars or horns (assuming you
sort the latency out), voice over,
listening to and discussing
arrangements or mixes, and playing
about with and selecting sounds.
Since your time is far less precious
when youre sitting by a computer than
when youve travelled to see someone,
try to separate out the things you have
to do into more and less urgent piles. If
you do happen to have plumped for a
pro solution like VST Connect Pro you
have more scope to achieve some of
the harder things remotely.

Many DAWs now encourage you to save everything into

a project folder but if you havent done, you may find an
option to consolidate or back up a project in your File
menu, which should create a copy of all the relevant
files. Software tends to use hard links to audio files so
it likes to know the precise file path to the sounds
youve recorded. If you have a main project folder and
everything related to the project is stored within it,
that makes everything much easier. There is, of course,
the issue of plug-in instruments and effects and its
likely that the other person isnt going to have exactly
the same sound set as you. One option is to let them
re-link the MIDI track to a new instrument at the other
end or substitute their own effect, but a better solution
is to render down virtual tracks before sending. By
bouncing down a Kontakt track for example, or a guitar
part with your plug-ins on it, you can make the virtual
processing real . Of course you can also include the
dry version or the MIDI-only track to give them extra
options for editing and processing.
If youre both working on very different kinds of
systems you may want to bounce all your tracks out as
you would when exporting stems for mixing, perhaps
including dry and wet versions and being sure to set
left and right locators precisely to make life easier at
the other end. There are specialised file formats that
are designed to facilitate the exchange of raw project
data between different platforms for just this kind of
task. OMF (Open Media Framework) files were
developed by Avid (owners of Pro Tools) as a way of
moving between video and audio editing systems
without constantly rendering and re-importing media.
The format proved useful for DAWs as well, where the
requirements are not dissimilar events on a timeline,
with some real-time effects.

Open formats
The OMF 1.0 format could cope with audio clip
position, project tempo and some other basic


26/03/2015 10:58

When we see red we are far from angry.
In fact we are over the moon with both
The Phoenix HG15 and The Culture Vulture super 15
receiving awards. We must be doing something right!


A super-sounding mic amp and compressor with
some eq thrown in, so effectively a channel strip with the
unique Phoenix sound. 48v supplied, Air, Presence and HPF eqs.
Side chain bass cut switch. Two can be coupled for stereo

concepts, and OMF 2.0 added volume settings and

fades for events as well as clip names. OMF doesnt
support MIDI files (though these can be exported
separately) or plug-ins, because DAWs work so
differently. As such, OMF is fine for exchanging
audio-based projects but certainly has its limits. Most
full DAWs support OMF export and import, though
things such as advanced mixer settings, scores,
surround and so forth are well beyond the scope of
these kinds of file formats. OMF has been succeeded
by the AAF format which is more advanced and can
include more information but this is currently not as
widely supported, though Logic Pro X and Pro Tools
among others do support it.
Theres also the Mxf format for audio and video
interchange, though this hasnt made much headway
in the audio world yet. Different software supports
different formats, so its certainly worth investigating
this as it will save you a lot of messing about later.


All valve pro stereo distortion/enhancer.
Can just warm a sound or Destroy it.
Loads more tonal variations on this model plus new eqs.
Can now be ordered with balanced inputs AND outputs (XLRs)

and now for something with a little

Attitude . . .

Good housekeeping
The problem with exchanging raw project files
between different DAWs is that they all work in very
different ways and theres little incentive for
developers to make it easy to switch to a competing
product. But you just have to understand the makeup
of a DAW project to work around this. Keep your audio
files together, note down the project settings and
render down any MIDI and plug-in effect tracks to
audio. If you have used external samples, ReFills or
sample-based instruments youll also need to either
make sure these are bundled into the package you
send, or render them down as audio too. The
difference is that with a rendered file the other person
will have less freedom to edit.
Then all you have to do is make sure everything is
in place and transfer the project folder to a hosting
website like Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive,
WeTransfer or something similar. Its a very good idea
to zip the folder before you send it. Not only may this
reduce the file size a little but it will also greatly
lessen the chance of any files getting corrupted during
the upload process.

MT146.cover feat.indd 15


16 input all valve summing mixer.
She may be smaller than her big Fat brother, but shes feisty and
will fully drive your DAW! Clean yet warm until the Attitude
is boosted and musical 2nd harmonics are added.
The eyes may glow red when the output is high.
The Air control adds a nice silky sheen to the mix.
Channels are switched in pairs. 13-16 may be sent to centre.

A terrific summing mixer bringing

NATURALITY to a mix.

30/03/2015 11:44

MT Feature Online collaboration

Making music live on the web

The latest technology means you dont even need a DAW installed on your computer
Web browsers are hugely
complex. We are way past
the days when a browser
was simply expected to
show text and pictures.
Now web apps are
commonplace, and its
these that enable realtime,
online music-making and
collaboration. Think of a
web app as a simpler
version of an application
that would run on your
computer, only running in a
browser and hosted
virtually in the cloud.

Not just browsing

Early web apps for music were built in Flash and were
fairly basic beatboxes or synths where notes triggered
samples. Now, things are much more advanced. There
are some real advantages to working on the web, the
first of which is that many of these services are free, at
least unless you want to host lots of material. Using a
centralised site to sequence, record and edit music
means there are no compatibility issues: you can be on
a new Mac in London collaborating with someone on
an old PC in South America and not encounter any
platform issues since the site works the same on both
machines. You have access to the same online
instruments, and changes are saved in realtime so its
not necessary to upload entire project folders.

Working with others

Theres a community element to a lot of these kinds of
sites and people tend to share samples and presets.
Its also easier to find someone whose music you like
and consider working with them regardless of where
they are. Some sites restrict you to using the tools they
provide but others enable you to record audio directly
through the Flash Player. Alternatively, some get you to
track audio in your DAW and then upload the tracks to
the site, at which point theyre formatted in a way that
means others can work with
them. Yet another category
of collaboration sites use a
hybrid system where you
download an application
that you use to record, but
is linked to the main site
and will back up all your
work to that site in a
format that your
collaborators can access.
All of this is geared
towards reducing the
challenges that can come

16 | May 2015

MT146.cover feat.indd 16

Make music with Soundation

Making music online is easier than

you might think

(Above) Ohm Studio uses a

combination of desktop and
cloud software to let you
record locally and still
collaborate online.
(Below) Audiotool is a fun
virtual modular programming
environment that runs in
your browser.

Head to and either sign

up or simply click the Launch button to get
started right away. Set a project tempo and then go to
the Library tab at the top right and audition some of
the free loops. Drag one into an audio track to place it
into the project.


Click the Add button at the bottom left to create

a virtual synth and then choose a preset from the
window that appears. You can either drop in a MIDI
loop from the online library, use the virtual onscreen
keyboard to play, or use the Piano Roll editor to enter
notes. A MIDI keyboard can be connected if you use an
extension in the Chrome browser.


You can enable audio recording and various

other features by logging in, and use the main
project area to arrange your song in a way thats not
so different from a desktop DAW. When youre done
you can publish the song online or export it to a WAV
file, which you can save locally to your computer.



26/03/2015 10:58

Online collaboration Feature MT

with sending DAW

projects between users,
but it does have some
limitations. Online DAWs
still arent as powerful or
flexible as high-end
desktop software, and
using a browser
introduces performance
restrictions that arent
there in a regular
application in many
cases you cant use your
favourite plug-ins because youre locked in to a sites
particular way of working. There can be issues around
latency and streaming speeds, so as usual youll want
the fastest internet connection you can get: preferably
wired rather than wireless.

Splice supports a number of

DAWs and lets you back up and
work online as well as locally.

Your choices
There are quite a few online DAWs to choose from.
Soundation is free to use and looks like a desktop
application even though its web-based. It comes with
over 400 loops, three synths, five instruments, 11
effects and programming, editing and mixing tools.
You can record audio into the site but theres limited
storage unless you upgrade to a paid account (6.50 a
month for 5GB) and this also unlocks sound sets and
an app that lets you upload your own sounds.

Ohm Studio can see your VST plug-ins, so your

favourite instruments can be a part of your projects.
Your changes are synchronised to the server and
updated in your colleagues copies of the app. Theres
admin control over who can do what, as well as project
versioning. Upgrading (from free to 99) unlocks 24-bit
recording, VST plug-ins and upgrading your hosting
means you can save up to 200 projects. works in a similar way with a desktop/
cloud combination. Audiotool is a virtual modular
system that runs in the cloud and is beautifully
designed, letting you program, sequence and
collaborate online and also publish music to social
media. Audiosauna is a simpler but still fun and free
online programming environment with synths,
sequencing and mixing. Kompoz lets you record in
your own desktop DAW like Logic, Reaper or Cubase
and then upload the audio to their servers for others to
work on. Some developers are building collaborating
functionality right into their apps, such as
Propellerhead and Discover, a system that works
across some of its desktop and mobile applications
and enables global co-operation on music tracks.
Theres now much more to the online DAW world
than just painting in some preset loops. The addition of
audio recording, hybrid desktop/cloud systems and
the ability to work your plug-ins into the mix mean that
working with others remotely is easily achievable.
Theres never been a better time to give it a try.

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30/03/2015 09:58

MT Feature Online collaboration

Realtime collaboration in your

desktop DAW
You dont have to leave your beloved DAW to work online
So far weve looked at two of the three ways to
collaborate online: collecting and uploading projects
for someone else to open, and working in a browser or
via the cloud so that files are all kept standardised.
Theres a third technique, and thats to stream live
performances into your DAW over the web. Its
technically more challenging than the other methods
but it also lets you stay working in an environment
youre familiar with (your main DAW) with all its tools,
and means little if any importing and exporting.
One of the main challenges for this kind of working
practice is latency and some techniques will require
you to carefully tune the latency
compensation of

(Below) Source makes a number

of online audio streaming
products designed for music
production, ranging from free to
pretty costly.

the incoming stream to deal with any problems. A fast,

wired internet connection will work best and itll help if
your computer is relatively well specified. There are
fewer commercial tools than you might think that are
developed for musicians to work this way and some
are expensive. On the other hand if youre willing to put
some time into setting it up, its also possible to use
some free tools to stream and record online as well.

Getting connected
One of the few specialised online music systems
around is Steinbergs VST Connect, which consists of
two parts: a host plug-in that runs in your Cubase, and
a free app that runs on the other persons machine and
doesnt require them to have a copy of Cubase, just an
audio interface. In fact it comes in two versions: VST
Connect SE comes with Cubase 7 or higher and
enables you to record a stereo stream and conduct a
video chat with someone running the Performer app,
with talkback and cue mixing as well. The VST Connect
Pro version is more advanced and adds encrypted file
transfer, MIDI send and receive, and up to 16 tracks of
recording. Since you cant reliably stream 16 tracks of
uncompressed audio online the software pulls a clever
trick: up to 16 uncompressed tracks are captured on
the remote system but not transferred immediately.
Instead you get a temporary stereo version recorded
to you and afterwards the uncompressed files are
transferred in the background. The Pro version also has
access to the Studio Pass app which can stream test
mixes and video chat with others to get feedback on
mixes. The MIDI features are nice too: you can record
MIDI and audio from a VST instrument anywhere in the
world via the Performer software. So if the other
person has a really great VST instrument and you dont,
you can play and record it to your system remotely.

Choose your weapons

Some of the other streaming solutions are less
platform-specific, such as Source Elements. This
Understanding web streaming

Get your head round uploading

Youll be used to having an internet connection at your home or
office, and it will in all probability be a fast broadband connection.
Most home broadband has a big discrepancy between download
and upload speeds. And most people need download much more
than upload, for watching online video, downloading updates and
so on. Upload speeds are generally pretty slow, and ISPs throttle
upload speeds to deter piracy, since to Torrent something, someone
first has to be seeding it.
When you want to use your connection for something more
serious than sending email, you can run into upload streaming
issues. Assuming your ISP doesnt start to artificially strangle your

18 | May 2015

MT146.cover feat.indd 18

upload speed when you pass a certain amount of upload in a given

period, you might still find that only a high bitrate encoded stream
such as AAC or MP3 will work on a weaker connection. For those on
a better link, you should be able to do decent stereo streaming of
audio at higher quality. If you plan on doing a lot of this kind of work
or you run a studio its worth asking your ISP about paying extra to
unlock the upload speeds. This is technically easy to do, its just
that they want you to pay more for it. As noted, some specialised
software like VST Connect Pro works around this by keeping local
copies of multitracked HD audio recordings and uploading them in
the background after recording has finished a novel solution.


26/03/2015 10:59


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MT Feature Online collaboration

service has a range of tools for

realtime audio streaming at high
quality, ranging from the free
Source Connect for streaming
via the Chrome browser all the
way up to seriously expensive
Source Connect starting at
$650. This is designed to be a
professional solution and runs as
a plug-in inside a VST host or Pro
Tools, streaming high quality audio
directly into a DAW session. This is
pretty much the holy grail of online
collaboration, but comes at a price
and so might be best suited to
those doing this professionally.
At the other end of the pricing
spectrum there are some free
ways to stream audio into your
DAW and these vary in complexity.
Cockos, the company behind Reaper, also makes
Ninjam. This is a small, free app for Mac and PC that
has two components, a server and a client. One person
sets up a server and configures it and the others
connect via clients. Its not been updated in a while
and is quite technical to set up so a proper read of the
manual and some technical know-how wont go amiss.
Of course you can stream audio (and video) easily with
services such as Skype, FaceTime and similar
communications apps, though the difficulty with using
them for music is two fold. Firstly they compress and
downsample audio to make it stream more easily, and
secondly theres no easy way to control latency or
talkback so synchronisation can be a real problem.
With any kind of workaround such as Ninjam or
FaceTime youre going to need a way to get sound into
your DAW, and for that youll need a special bit of
software. Mac users can download Soundflower, a free
and rather elegant kernel extension that enables
the routing of

(Above) Steinbergs VST Connect

Pro is a very elegant solution for
realtime online HD
multitracking, though it does tie
at least one user to Cubase.
(Below) OS X comes with a
built-in AU plug-in for sending
and receiving audio over a local
network called AUNetSend.

sound from any

source to any destination
within your Mac. Youll
need to pay attention to
the routing but its possible
to route Skype, for example, into your DAW, though
monitoring on the other end could be a little harder to
sort out. Theres also Audio Hijack Pro which is able to
read from apps and system inputs and record the
sound. Jack Audio Connection Kit (http://jackaudio.
org) is free for both Mac and PC and does something
similar to Soundflower, though its more complex to
set up and use.

MIDI sent round the world

Routing MIDI over networks is another useful way of
collaborating online and requires far less overhead
than audio, since MIDI uses very small amounts of
data by comparison. OS X has its built-in Audio MIDI

Routing MIDI requires far less

overhead than audio since MIDI
uses very small amounts of data
Setup application which lets you set up and configure
networked MIDI sessions and every copy of OS X also
has standard network audio AU plug-ins included in it.
If you look in Audio Units > Apple youll see AUNetSend,
which enables you to manage streaming audio in and
out of Logic, for example. There are also network MIDI
plug-ins for Windows (and third-party ones for OS X)
including ipMIDI and rtpMIDI which can deal with
streaming MIDI across a network. In days gone by this
kind of thing was used for running heavyweight
sampling software on a dedicated PC to free up
resources on your main machine, though modern
computers are powerful enough that this isnt usually
needed now. If youre setting up MIDI and audio
networks, dont underestimate the technical
challenges of getting it all working and defeating
latency. Theres a reason the commercial solutions
cost money, and thats because they take the hassle
out of this complex process!

20 | May 2015

MT146.cover feat.indd 20


26/03/2015 10:59

MT Feature Online collaboration

Propellerhead Interview

Propellerhead is linking together its desktop and mobile apps with a new cloud component
called Discover that lets users work with others around the world on a variety of devices. We get
the inside story from Kalle Paulsson and Leo Nathorst-Bs, who helped create it
MusicTech: Give us an insight into your goals?
Kalle & Leo: We want to make it easy to share and
collaborate no matter what ambitions, tools and
platforms a user has. For a long time, music
technology has been completely focused on the
studio whether its at home or in a professional
facility, it has always been about the producer.
Were changing that. With Take, as an example,
we want the people who just love to sing to be
able to make music, without forcing them to learn
a DAW first.
MT: Do you see a time where internet
connections are fast enough to remove every
barrier to actual real-time recording and
collaboration over the web? Is this something
thats possible now on a superfast network?
K&L: There are many different ways to
collaborate on music. The classic way is, of
course, four dudes getting together and jamming
in the same room. And that is certainly possible
to do over the internet with a fast connection
today. Our approach is that collaboration can be
unplanned, unstructured, and can even be
between people who actually dont know of each
other. A vocal hook I record and drop to
Propellerhead can be picked up by many different
people, sampled or reworked into something new.
Weve already seen examples of this happening
between our users. Jacob Haqs Figure piece
Nebula Rasa is a great example. Its been turned
into over 100 new pieces already: http://phead.

22 | May 2015

MT146.cover feat.indd 22

Above: Kalle and Leo foresee a

time when your hardware wont
limit your creativity.

MT: What are the biggest technical challenges in

building an online collaboration system?
K&L: The biggest challenge is all the different
situations that people are in when making music,
and making sure you build exactly the right
experience for all of those. When were using our
phones for music making, were often in other
situations than when at the computer, and that
requires different approaches. We want to make the
experience of using our service and apps right for

Collaboration can be unplanned,

unstructured, and between people
who dont know each other
the multitude of devices, ambitions and situations
music makers are in.
MT: Are we likely to see a kind of Reason in the
cloud one day? Is this technically possible?
K&L: Sorry, we cant comment on our development
plans for Reason!
MT: It would be ideal to combine functions of
Figure and Take together into a single app. Is this
something that could happen?
K&L: Thats exactly what our service does: making
all our apps work together while keeping each app
experience tailored to what you want to do. Keeping


26/03/2015 10:59

Online collaboration Feature MT

focus is very important to us when designing apps.

We believe combining things in one single app
actually limits how good each experience is and who
will want to use it. But putting them together using
our sharing service gives you more than the sum of
their parts.
MT: What tips would you offer to users of the
Propellerhead service to really get the most out it?
K&L: Drop your music early and often. Its free
dont be bashful! And invite your friends to work on
your pieces its more fun to make music together.
Make sure you explore various pieces on Discover,
and follow how theyve been used, for what and by
whom. This is super inspiring and we bet youll
open one up and contribute your own stuff before
youre through.
MT: Is mobile technology likely to replace desktop
DAWs any time soon? As good as iPads are, most
people still turn to the desktop machine for really
serious production work, as evidenced by the fact
that systems such as Propellerhead usually end up
in a desktop project.
[Most pieces dropped to Propellerhead actually dont
end up in Reasonmost collaborations happen
between users of Figure and Take.]
K&L: We think that mobile and desktop platforms
will keep co-existing. Some stuff is perfect to do on

a mobile device, while others benefit from big

screens and lightning fast processors. Think of it
as like using your camera app, Instagram and
Photoshop. Sometimes you want to go in and make
it perfect and other times you just want to share.
MT: How do you think the internet and
technologies like yours are changing the way
people make music?
K&L: More people are making more music than
ever before, and theyre having even more fun
doing it. People now can participate who before
didnt have the means, skill, ambition or desire to.
DAW users will now have tons more collaborators
out there. Its really starting to get to be fun.
MT: Do you plan on supporting mobile devices
other than iOS devices?
K&L: We want everyone, regardless of platform, to
be able to make music with our apps. Just like
everyone else, weve been challenged by device
fragmentation and latency on mobile platforms,
but we hope well be able to get there soon.
MT: Figure is very EDM-focused at the moment:
would you like to see it, or a similar app, cater for
more diverse musical styles?
K&L: Yes, Take is one way that were doing that!
Stay tuned!

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31/03/2015 15:19

MT Feature Online collaboration

Steinberg Interview

Steinberg is at the cutting edge of online collaboration with its VST Connect system. We talk to
founder Charlie Steinberg and software designer Michael Spork about their vision
MusicTech: Music technology has changed
massively since you first got involved in the
business. How do you think the internet has
changed the way we produce music?
Charlie Steinberg: In a way its only just starting
to have more and more impact. Musicians are
still happy on their own, but they use mobile
technology more and also connect across the
internet. The good thing is that you have a choice
when to communicate with other musicians, or
record somebody in a remote location just as if
he or she was next door. Professionals use it more
and more because it obviously solves a lot of
logistical problems, but also find out that
performers feel more comfortable when
performing at home or in the studio they know.
MT: Was a technology like VST Connect
something you always envisaged might happen
one day? Was international, real-time
collaboration between musicians always a goal
of yours, or did it only become a firm idea once
the internet had appeared and got faster?
CS: There are so many aspects of how the internet
adds to possible actions, not only real-time but
also cloud, collaboration and social networking.
We did envision some of what happens today back
in the 80s, when we first used email technology
that was long before the internet as we know it
today. Some of what we envisioned became true
much later than we thought. An example would
be video on demand, which has only now become
big business while it was obvious to us that itd
happen but we expected it much sooner.
ResRocket would initially only work with MIDI,
but nowadays sending audio across the web is a
cinch. When we started to work on real-time
collaboration, we thought it would be well
received much sooner than it did, but now its
taking off and theres certainly more to come.

Michael Spork and Charlie

Steinberg (right)

instance, I would never want to write this on a

tablet, but speech recognition and control may soon
change this, as well as other developments which
change the way we deal with these stupid machines!
MT: Do you see a time in the future where internet
connections are fast enough to remove every
barrier to real-time intercontinental recording? Is
this possible now on a superfast network?
CS: No matter how far technology evolves, and as
long as Einstein is in the right, its simply
impossible to achieve that with a satisfactory
latency. Technology poses at least 10 milliseconds in
each direction and it only gets worse because of
increasing traffic. But even if we assume that the
internet doesnt apply any latency whatsoever,
theres the limiting factor of the speed of light. From
Berlin to New York, considering that information
travels at the speed of light on a straight, unbent
cable, it takes more than 20 milliseconds in both
directions. Add to that latency on both ends due to
audio hardware and you easily end up with a latency
of more than 50 milliseconds again, this is if the
internet itself were to be without any latency.
So even with the most advanced technology and
best connections available, youre faced with
latencies of 60 milliseconds and more. So unless
Einstein is proved wrong this will never be possible
no matter how much technology is improved.

MT: Is mobile technology likely to replace real

computers any time soon? As good as iPads are,
most people still turn to the desktop machine
for really serious production work.
CS: The MS Surface is a good example of how a
tablet can replace a desktop machine. For
instance, for live performance, if it fits your
requirements (and its quite capable already), you
can put it on the keyboard, connect an interface
via USB or even use its internal audio output and
youre done. I guess tablets will become more and
more capable as in that example, when the
physical circumstances are beneficial, they can
replace a desktop computer. This becomes even
more true when other paradigms change: for

24 | May 2015

MT146.cover feat.indd 24


26/03/2015 11:00

Online collaboration Feature MT

one room or in a recording studio. To get them

there, we have to ensure that both of them
dont have to handle all those technical
features or technical traps. The engineer
should have an easy workflow to get VST
Connect up and running in Cubase, and the
performer then only has to enter the key to
enter the virtual recording room. And, of
course, it needs sample accurate recording.
Which is another important point! VST
Connect has that

Interviewee: Michael Spork

MusicTech: Can you give us an insight into
whats been updated and whats new in version
3 of VST Connect?
Michael Spork: The main focus
was to integrate VST Connect more
deeply into Cubase Pro 8 to provide
a better workflow, so now it only
takes one click to add VST Connect
to your current project. These days,
many users are working with
multiple monitors. To give these
scenarios more flexibility, weve
added a new floating video window.
And if one wants to provide a
performer or engineer with some
text notes or audio files, this is now
possible too: you can simply drag
and drop files to them. Users asked
for FX support on the performer
side, and weve added that. And
weve re-designed the UI: so if you
like, you can change the editor to
show a big mixer.
MT: What are the biggest
challenges in building an efficient
online collaboration system?
MS: The engineer and the performer
should feel like theyre together in

MT: We already have the brilliant Studio

Pass, but do you see a greater role for iOS
apps in future?
MS: Yes, I do see a greater role for iOS apps,
and its all about the performance. Lets take
the iPad as an example. The performance of
an iPad just gets better and better with
every generation. Weve also released VST
Connect Performer for the iPad, and its
great. The app runs two video streams,
records and plays back audio, sends data to
and receives data from the net. This is a lot
to handle for machines still in a maturing
age, but it works smoothly.
It is already possible to record over the net to
Cubase and, of course, Cubase is doing a great job on
the iPad. Only a few more jigsaw pieces need to be
put together and itll be possible to combine the
desktop and mobile world for online recording.
MT: What tips would you offer to users of VST
Connect to really optimise their systems for the
best collaboration experience?

Weve re-designed the UI: so if

you like, you can change the editor
to show a big mixer
Were trying our best to give you an optimised
system, but my one piece of advice is: if youre going
to start recording with VST Connect, please dont
run any net applications, such as mail clients, or
browsers, in the background.
MT: This is already the third version of VST
Connect Pro. Wheres the journey heading?
MS: There are many interesting directions were
investigating for the future of VST Connect. Were
getting a lot of feedback from musicians and
post-production studios in particular that will
definitely influence our next steps. MT


MT146.cover feat.indd 25

2015 | 25

26/03/2015 11:00

MT Landmark Productions Prodigy: The Fat Of The Land

Productions No. 38

The tracks

1: Smack My Bitch Up
2: Breathe
3: Diesel Power
4: Funky Shit
5: Serial Thrilla
6: Mindfields
7: Narayan
8: Firestarter
9: Climbatize
10: Fuel My Fire


Produced and Mixed By Liam Howlett
Recorded At Earthbound Central

The incendiary power of The Prodigys 1996 mainstream breakthrough Firestarter was
followed up with a controversial album that re-wrote the dance music rule book and caused
a tabloid frenzy not seen since the days of The Sex Pistols. Andy Price exhales, exhales

entered around the experimental sampling and

synthesiser-heavy musical creations of Liam
Howlett, The Prodigy (named after the Moog
Prodigy that he used frequently when writing his
early songs) was born when the young Howlett
developed an interest in the then increasingly popular
rave scene. This would eventually lead him to meet Keith

28 | May 2015

MT146.Landmarks.indd 28

Flint and Leeroy Thornhill, who originally joined the

outfit as live dancers and frontmen while Howlett
focused on the music-making.
Experience was a shaky debut album which saw their
initial edgy blend of ironic samples and pule-pounding
beats dubbed kiddie rave. The Prodigy attempted to
distance themselves from this by releasing their


24/03/2015 11:44

Prodigy: The Fat Of The Land Landmark Productions MT

second album
Music For The Jilted
Generation, which pushed
Howletts more polished sonic
creations in new challenging
directions and featured a more dynamic use of samples
stemming from a range of sources.
It was an opportune time for the band. The Criminal
Justice Acts anti-rave legislation created a massive
backlash from the scene. Battle lines were drawn and
the band seized upon the mood of a nation with single
Their Law a direct anti-authoritarian clarion call that
made the band the figureheads of the militant rave
scene. How can the government stop young people
having a good time? Fight this bollocks read the singles
liner notes. The genre perhaps known best as Big Beat
had well and truly arrived.
Anticipation was high then for the groups third LP,
which underwent a much longer gestation period than
its predecessors. The success of Jilted Generation had
enabled Howletts Earthbound Studios to grow from a
modest home studio to a creative hub where he could
indulge himself with a vast assortment of music
technology. It was there that he set to work on the
Prodigys third record.

Two years later

Howlett still only 24 years old at the time had a
range of creative approaches to music making. However,
hed usually begin by kicking together some loops and
samples primarily obscure soul and funk rhythm
sections which hed extract from the original vinyl and
then twist and sonically contort in a number of bizarre
ways before turning to his own instruments, creating
something interesting and seeing how it could relate to
the samples.
Howletts main instrument for songwriting and idea
generation during this period was the Roland W-30
Sampler Workstation, although initially Liam ignored the
all-in-one sampling capabilities and focused on using
the W-30 as a MIDI programmer and keyboard. Most of
the ideas that became the The Fat Of The Lands tracks
would be envisioned with just the W-30. Howlett would
later recall his obsession with Rolands powerful
workstation by saying, I got the W-30 and, you know, for
about four months I didnt go out. I stayed in every day
with the headphones on learning how the thing worked.
Man, I just had to learn that keyboard inside and out.
Also, during the making of the album, Howlett would
acquire an Akai S3200 and a CD300
The albums mixing was done entirely with
Steinbergs Cubase on an Apple Power Mac, then in its
infancy. Prior to this Howlett had solely used the W-30
for everything, including track mixing and sequencing,

(Left) Howlett used the

Korg Prophecy to
create the main riff on
Smack My Bitch Up.
(Right) the EMU
SP1200 drum machine
was the brawn behind
the breakbeat in

but he was starting to see the limitations of doing

everything with hardware. The diverse possibilities of a
DAW was alluring, and Cubase was the perfect fit for
what Howlett was doing at the time. It would take nearly
two years for work on the album to be completed.

Danger illustrated
Not least in small part to the new, terrifying appearance
of Keith Flint in the singles video, Firestarter was an
unprecedented aural assault that horrified and excited
in equal measure upon its release a year prior to the
album in 1996, becoming the groups first number one
hit single in the UK.
The instantly recognisable wah-wah guitar riff that
dominates the single originally comes from the song
S.O.S by The Breeders, before the seismic breakbeat
kicks in, which is generated with the classic E-mu
SP1200 drum machine, and the song takes off. Flint
adopts a John Lydon-esqe snarl as he self-consciously
enunciates a list of depraved things that he is punk

Firestarter was an
unprecedented aural assault
that horrified and excited
detonator, filth infatuated before proclaiming himself
to be a firestarter, and a twisted firestarter at that.
The visceral energy of Smack My Bitch Up, perhaps
the most universally well-known controversial song of
all time, is achieved by weaving together a range of
samples into an uncompromisingly raw (yet still highly
danceable and mainstream) mix. The standout hook
being the provocative vocal, the lyrics being: Change
my pitch up, smack my bitch up. In actuality this
constantly repeated stanza is a sample taken from Give
The Drummer Some by New York rap outfit the
Ultramagnetic MCs. Although originally it was part of a
flow of lyrics by rapper Kool Keith, it takes on a new
darker context when used in repetitive isolation, sitting
atop the energetic, narcotic-like intensity of The
Prodigys production.
Howlett at this time was a big fan of the monophonic
Korg Prophecy synthesiser and used it on Smack My
Bitch Up to provide the main acid-inspired riff the
Prophecy was used on pretty much every track on The
Fat Of The Land. He was taken by the level of distortion
that the Prophecy could generate and the flexibility of
the programming. He would use this directly with his

MT146.Landmarks.indd 29

| 29

24/03/2015 11:44

MT Landmark Productions Prodigy: The Fat Of The Land

DAW as a MIDI controller too, and for generating string

sounds like those heard on Climbatize.

Youre the Victim

The Moog Prodigy

was so much admired
by Liam Howlett that
he appropriated the

Breathe is perhaps the most paranoid and disturbing

single ever to make it to the top of the charts. Like
Firestarter it showcases Keith Flint (in his sharply drawn
pantomime yob role) as the frontman and lead vocalist,
with MC Maxim Reality also adding vocal contributions.
A towering bassline provides the central pillar which the
songs various elements circle, including heavy
distortion on pretty much every element (provided by
the Korg Prophecy and a range of extra effects including
Boss guitar pedals and the Alesis Quadraverb multieffects) and of course, gigantic breakbeats. Breathe
would continue the trailblazing campaign kickstarted by
Firestarter, and pre-release excitement for The Fat Of
The Land was at fever pitch.
The album, of course, did not disappoint. It was a
diverse and genre-hopping thrill ride for which the
three-single salvo had laid the perfect groundwork.
Diesel Power lays down a funkier groove, and stands
apart from the other tracks on the record by having
guest vocalist Kool Keith (the vocalist from the oftsampled Ultramagnetic MCs) providing an original rap.
The intense rave energy of the album is perhaps
exemplified best in tracks such as Funky Shit with
energetic beats and samples a-plenty. The tracks main
vocal sample is lifted from The Beastie Boys track Root
Down it allegedly cost the band close to 3,000 to
license its use while the close of the track uses a

multitude of sounds lifted from The Shining, including its

ominous title music.
Mindfields is the first of two centrepiece tracks that
lay at the heart of the album an acidy, synth-rich mix
that invokes images of urban paranoia, with the
repetitive this is dangerous vocals provided by Maxim
distantly echoing through a sonic landscape dominated
by chirpy, electronic synth-lead sounds which interact
like demented computers.
Narayan, perhaps the albums high point, comes
next. Its sublime (if creepy) synth line kicks things off
before a typical Prodigy beat bursts in, interspersed
with electronica and a distorted lead vocal. After a
prolonged, dance-able workout, the track breaks down
and chanting begins. A track that has to be heard to be
truly appreciated is perhaps the finest creation that
Howlett had made until that point.

Photo Getty Images

Fuel My Fire
Climbatize is a curious beast, merging together an
eclectic range of samples into an eastern, tribal-trance
groove which appears to incorporate flutes and weird
zoomy effects. Much pitch bending takes place
throughout, as the gorgeous strings float ethereally in
and out, most likely created by a Roland U-220. Before
long a repetitive bass hook takes over and the songs
pace picks up. The album concludes with a track
originally made famous by L7, a punky epilogue entitled
Fuel My Fire that ends the record on a high-energy note.
Fat Of The Land propelled the band into the
mainstream and made household names of abrasive
frontman Keith Flint and, of course, Liam Howlett. The
record also broke the band to the US market. Perhaps
the records greatest strength is its diversity: the slick,
futuristic hip-hop of Diesel Power sits side-by-side with
the paranoid, punk menace of Breathe, while the
narcotically driven explosive rollercoaster that is Smack
My Bitch Up offends, provokes and stimulates in equal
measure. A masterpiece of dance music. MT
Thanks to for gear information.

The players:
Liam Howlett

There is no better word

for Liam Howlett than
prodigy. He
composed, mixed and
produced every track
on The Fat of the Land
at the young age of 24.

30 | May 2015

MT146.Landmarks.indd 30

Keith Flint

The de-facto
frontman of The
Prodigy, Flint was the
groups public face and
adopted a provocative,
cartoon punk-like
image to promote the
album, and gurned his
way through several
iconic videos.

Maxim Reality

The groups regular MC

adopted dual vocal
duties with Flint,
taking the lead on
Mindfields and the
chart-topping chorus
of Breathe.

Kool Keith

The main vocal sample

used on Smack My
Bitch Up was from a
Kool Keith rap used
with his outfit the
Ultramagnetic MCs.
He also featured in
the main rap on
Diesel Power after
befriending Howlett.


24/03/2015 11:44



W W W. P O I N T B L A N K LO N D O N . C O M
For course enquiries call +44(0)20 7729 4884 or email

MT Industry Guru Mirek Stiles

MT Feature Industry Guru

The greatest studio in the world has an unparalleled
legacy. Andy Price talks to Mirek Stiles about the
past, present and future of Abbey Road

Munro (above left) and Cuan

studios, one of his favourite
recording rooms with a perfect
natural acoustic.

32 | May 2015

MT146.interview.indd 32


26/03/2015 15:14

Mirek Stiles Industry Guru MT

s head of Audio Products at the

legendary Abbey Road Studios, Mirek
Stiles has a unique insight into both
the rich history and the future plans of
the studios role in the development of
music technology. As Chandler Audio prepare to
release its latest re-make of some of the vintage gear
used by The Beatles and their ilk we asked Mirek to
share some of Abbey Roads closely guarded secrets
regarding their recording history and the studios
incredible, purpose-built machinery
MusicTech: Can you give us some insight into your
career? Tell us about when you first started
working at Abbey Road.
Mirek Stiles: Ive been here since 1998, so quite a
long time. I started off as a runner in fact I was the
very first runner at Abbey Road studios. Before that
the assistants had to go and get the coffee! So I came
aboard and after a few months I became assistant
engineer. I worked on quite a lot of film scores and
some rock and pop stuff that was being recorded
There used to be an interactive department,
which had an opportunity for an interactive
producer, so I thought Id try it out and I did for a
few years. Shortly after that the audio products
department really started kicking off. The person
who was in charge of it left so I was asked if I could
jump back over to the studios again and take the
reigns. It was the best of both worlds really.
I was asked first to look after the samples. Audio
Products had a line of plug-ins which wed
developed in-house which were sold in-house as
well. There wasnt really a sample-strategy so
that was my main area of concern. From there we
started working with Native Instruments and
brought out a line of drum sample packages.
After that I got asked to run the department,
which included plug-ins, samples and Chandler.
MT: How did that relationship develop?
MS: Chandler started off doing EMI-inspired gear,
and replications of the old TG gear. They
approached Abbey Road and asked if they could use

MT146.interview.indd 33

The TG12345 was the first

solid-state mixing desk
designed by Abbey
Road engineers.

some of our in-house

trademarks. So naturally we
asked to check some of their
stuff out first before putting our name to it.
The TG-1 Compressor was their first Abbey Road
inspired product. We got it over here, tested it out
and we were all blown away it sounded really
amazing. So then we decided to talk to them more
and do an officially branded Abbey Road TG.
Our relationship grew from there really. There
were five products out over the course of three or
four years. There was a bit of a hiatus in the
development while Chandler looked at some other
projects, but we saw each other at NAMM and
discussed working together more it was a
no-brainer really. The relationship resumed shortly
after because there was so much more we could do.
Theres a massive list somewhere with everything
we want to do on it.
Weve just released the REDD.47 Pre Amp, and
theres a ton of other gear in production which is
really exciting.
MT: Could you explain the history of Abbey Road
Studios and how it grew into the world-renowned
powerhouse it is today?
MS: Abbey Road was originally owned by EMI (it
was called EMI Studios back then). EMI was
actually a collaboration of three record labels: HMV,
Columbia and Parlophone. They merged in the 1920s
to form EMI.
Before they came here these companies would

26/03/2015 15:14

MT Industry Guru Mirek Stiles

obviously do recordings but theyd record where

they could really: church halls for example, or
HMVs factory over in Hayes recordings were even
done in hotel rooms. This is before electrical
recording was invented so it was using cones
straight to wax! Really amazing.
So then electrical recording came about, hence
the merging of the three labels into Electrical Music
Industries (EMI). It was decided that a purposebuilt recording studio was required, so they were
scouting around for a place to build this studio.
St Johns Wood was, and still is, a rather quiet
neighbourhood but its very close to central London,
which made it appealing. The house here (number
three) was for sale, but what really attracted them
was this massive plot of land behind it which at
that time was the garden of the house.
So they built the studios on the land, and then
EMI Studios was launched. All three labels had now
come together under one roof. Studio One was
HMVs studio, Studio Two was Parlophones and
Three was Columbias. It must have been weird at
the time prior to this they were all long-time
rivals. I think at the time this caused each studio to
develop a unique character and the engineers in
each were quite secretive about the recording
techniques used.
Up until then EMI was using the Western
Electronics recording system and they had to pay a
royalty to use this gear, so they brought on a few
technicians [to develop their own]. Real geniuses
like Alan Blumlein came in to re-invent the
recording system, so we could have our own system
and not have to pay this ridiculous licence royalty.
Off the back of that Alan Blumlein went on to
invent so many different innovative things in the
world of music production, television and radar he
was a real visionary thinker. But he was first based
in EMIs factories in Hayes. He did the first ever
stereo recordings in Studio Two back in 1931 20
years before stereo took off!
Since Blumlein and his team created that first
in-house recording system EMI continued making

unique gear with Abbey Road. Kit such as mixing

consoles, tape machines, microphones, EQs and
compressors were all built in-house and were never
available to buy commercially.
This gear was never sold privately but it was sent
out to different EMI studios around the world. And
as some of those studios started to fold over the
years then some of this gear found its way to being
available on the second-hand market. There was a
bit of a cult interest in it.
There was a book released around ten years ago
called Recording The Beatles which I thoroughly
recommend, which covers every aspect of The
Beatles gear that was used at Abbey Road. In a way

The gear found its way onto the

second-hand market. There was
a real cult interest in it
that has re-ignited peoples interest in the old
fashioned methods that were used and the iconic
status of the gear.
This stuff was only available to the people who
were in the position to use it professionally back in
the day no-one else could play with it or
experiment with it. The great thing about our new
releases is that were opening the door.

The infamous zebra crossing

next to the studio entrance is a
constant source of attraction to
tourists and annoyance to
drivers alike!

MT: Is there any pressure to get all this old gear

together, and re-create an authentic mid-60s
studio setup?
MS: It has certainly been discussed! Well never say
never to that idea I personally think itd be really
cool to do that.
Funnily enough no-one really knows where some
of the old mixing consoles ended up. But we still
have a lot of REDD and TG desks here, and luckily
most of it was kept it was probably sent to the
archives in Hayes.
Weve got an amazing technical team who really
look after this stuff and treat it with the reverence it
deserves, but they also maintain it and make sure it
works. Theres a legendary team of boffins here
called The Amp Room who look after everything.
MT: Can you give us a potted history of the REDD
consoles you just mentioned?
MS: The REDD desks were created by the Record
Engineering Development Department. Abbey Road
was like the testing ground and the engineers were
the people they could consult with very much like
our relationship with Chandler now. So REDD, The
Amp Room and Abbey Roads engineers were all
very much involved with each other in developing
the equipment.
There was the REDD 1, but that was very much
an early prototype. The REDD.17 was the first
modern looking mixing console. It had faders/EQ, so
it was a massive deal. The REDD desks were all

34 | May 2015

MT146.interview.indd 34


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MT Industry Guru Mirek Stiles

This is now obviously the norm, and youll find that

on plenty of desks, but back then in 1967 it was a
very big deal.
There were ongoing side-by-side recording tests
with the REDD and the TG throughout the late 60s
to make sure the new technology didnt miss any
features of the old.
It was officially installed in Studio Two in 1969,
and fittingly the first album to use it was the
Beatles Abbey Road. If you listen to that album
youll notice it sounds cleaner and more polished
and then the Beatles broke up, which of course was
all the TGs fault! [Laughs]
The TG went on to be used by Pink Floyd, Kate
Bush and a load of bands in the 70s and 80s.
MT: In the 80s everyone thought digital was the
next big thing. In Abbey Roads history was there
huge pressure to convert the whole recording
process to digital?
MS: There was, but all the old gear got carefully
archived, either here or at Hayes. Or, as I mentioned
earlier, it had been shipped out somewhere else and
sold off privately.
There was a thing here called The Sale of The
Century in Studio One. A few studios all got
together and sold off some of their older gear. There
were a couple of days of auctions and a few bits and
pieces went there.
We know where some of the gear is that got sold
then: one of the REDD.37s that was in Studio One is
owned by Lenny Kravitz, and theres a studio in
London that has a REDD.51 mixing console. Its
funny where things are picked up I think Church
Studios got its hands on an EMI compressor that
used to belong to an EMI studio in New Zealand.

four-track tape-machines.
By the time eight-track came around, the REDDs
werent really suitable.
REDD desks were used on the recording of Sgt
Pepper, along with J37 tape machines. Complex
songs such as A Day In The Life would be created by
filling up a four-track J37 tape machine bouncing
it down to one track on another machine, four or five
It was amazing that once they did that first
bounce, there was no going back to tweak or change
things. Those tracks were locked. Its a real
counterpoint to todays attitude of oh Ive got 64
tracks I must fill all of them!
MT: Can you tell us a bit about the transition from
four-track to eight-track?
MS: Abbey Road got two eight-track tape machines
immediately as soon as the technology became
available, but before it went into the studios the
Amp Room guys said we need to check this out and
make sure it meets our standards.
Sometimes that would result in a complete
change. For example with the RS124, this used to be
an Altec. So the Altecs were shipped over here from
Capitol studios and turned into a completely
different device by the Amp Room guys. The same
thing happened with the eight-track technology
everything needed to be modified.
This modifying process took longer than The
Beatles wouldve wanted and they were very
insistent we speed up and get the most up to date
stuff in the studio. So REDD desks and eight-track
were a bit problematic in the end, and it was soon
realised that we needed a bigger desk and so the
TG console was born.

The REDD.51 was the central hub

for the bulk of The Beatles
recording history. It featured two
type of EQ: pop and classic.

MT: How did the studio evolve post Beatles? What

happened in the 70s and 80s?
MS: Well the TG evolved. The Mark 4 was a big
wrap-around version which was used in Studio One
on a lot of film scores. Raiders of the Lost Ark was
our first film score that we recorded here, so that
will have used the TG mixing console.
There were two big companies that we had our

MT: Can you tell us a bit more about the TG desks?

MS: TG was EMIs first no-valve, transistor-only
desk which was a completely different sound.
It was also, I think, the first console to have a
compressor and limiter on every single channel.

36 | May 2015

MT146.interview.indd 36


26/03/2015 15:14

Mirek Stiles Industry Guru MT

That can be quite

difficult sometimes. But
as far as the internal
hardware goes, its all
pretty straightforward.
The valves for the
REDD.47s are still the
same specs.

eye on, Neve and SSL. At some point I dont know

the exact reason why the decision was made that
they were doing such a great job with their mixing
desks, and it was unviable for us to carry on making
our own mixing desks. The need was gone. So Neve
and SSL desks were then brought in to our studios.
The first Neve installed in Studio Three was
actually a collaboration it was called the EMI
Neve, which is now in Church Studios. It was used
throughout a huge chunk of the 70s it was those
Amp Room boys again, fiddling about with it and
wanting to perfect the equipment!
MT: Could you touch upon whats going on right
now in Abbey Road?
MS: Traditionally Abbey Road was always owned by
EMI, but now EMI has been dissolved were now
owned by Universal Music Group, the biggest music
company in the world. Theyre massively behind
Abbey Road and everything we do here and the way
we do things, so its great. There are some really
exciting plans to expand some of the studios and
more developments coming soon.
We get 400,000 visitors a year coming to see the
outside of the studio, and this happens without
advertising ourselves as being a tourist destination
as you know we are still a working studio! The
walls outside are white-washed once a month but
visitors always write their messages on it whenever
they come here, and of course do the famous
crossing walk, much to the annoyance of motorists!
Film soundtracks are a big part of our business
here now. Recently weve had all The Hobbit
soundtracks recorded here, Gravity, Skyfall, Theory
Of Everything, The Imitation Game huge movies.
Plus we have pop stars coming here, people like
Florence And The Machine, Lady GaGa its still
very much alive.
MT: So, turning back to the developments with
Chandler, how meticulous are the recreations
are compromises made on the internal
components or is it an exact replication?
MS: Its usually an exact replication the REDD.47,
for example, was very much exactly as it was. Most
of what was used is pretty readily available. The
exceptions there are silly things mainly, such as
classic looking style meters. If you want to get an
exact meter that looks like it was used back in the
day then youre going to have to ask someone to
specially make them for you.

Chandler Audios latest classic

remodelling is this gorgeous
REDD.47 pre-amp that was
originally used in Abbey Road
Studio Two from 1964-1968.

MT: Have you found that its getting easier to do

these kind of recreations in recent years, getting
hold of old analogue components? It seems all the
rage right now
MS: Oh, its still a big tough job Chandler spend a
long time before building just getting to grips with
the gear, trying things out and seeing what works
and what doesnt. Once hes happy hell send us over
a couple of prototypes to listen to and well compare
it with the old gear and maybe give feedback. So its
not like a quick and easy process by any means.
MT: So after getting a proposal from Chandler to
begin with, youll then give the nod and it will go
into production?
MS: We get a list together initially a road-map
and well discuss the possibilities of each bit of
classic gear, how realistic and time-consuming itll
be to build them.
Well decide on what features its going to have,
how the unit will look and then once were at the
prototype stage well have them shipped to Abbey
Road where engineers will use them on sessions.
Well field test them in the real world.

I think people hanker after

something real in front of them, as
weve all got so many plug-ins
As much as theyre authentic recreations, well
sometimes add some things to the units to make
them more compatible with 21st century production
methods, to make everyones life easier!
MT: How has demand been for these recreations?
And why do you think the demand for hardware is
going up and up?
MS: Yes, demand seems to be increasing. I think
people hanker after something real in front of them,
as weve all got so many plug-ins. They want
something they can touch. Its also more of an
investment than a piece of software is.
If youre into recording, then owning one of these
pieces of iconic gear is a just a great thing to have.
With pre-amps, its your front-end before you go
into the digital world. The more attention you pay to
that before you commit it to digital the better.
Next month well reveal more on the development of
Chandler Audios Abbey Road gear. MT


MT146.interview.indd 37

| 37

26/03/2015 15:14

MT Technique Creative synthesis

Logic Pro X Hands on workshop

Creative synthesis
in Logic Pro X
Logic Pro X comes bundled with more instruments than any other DAW. You can just use
their presets, of course, but spend a little time getting to know them can reap rewards

or the money, there is no doubt that no other DAW

on the market comes close to Logic Pro X in terms
of what you get bundled with the software. The
number of instruments you get with it is simply
phenomenal and you will spend an age
downloading the additional sample and loop content. In short
Apple wants you to have everything you need to create music
in any genre (and arguably sell it to you at such a low cost that
you buy into the companys hardware but thats an article
for another day!).
Theres a good argument to say that you could simply just
get in there and start making music using the thousands of
preset sounds on offer and why not? That is what they are
there for after all There are many people who have
produced many tracks with Logic presets all over
them and Apple loops have
found their way into many an
album track and single so who
are we to say dont use them?
But, as ever, if there is a proper
way of doing something it is
probably balancing using whats
on offer with a little (or a lot) of
your own input. And that means
getting to know the instruments
within Logic a little more and
gaining the confidence to either
produce your own sounds from
scratch or tweaking the existing
ones either dramatically or

subtly to create something that you can quite easily call

your own. And that is what we are going to do here.
Well concentrate on the synth side of Logic because it is
so well endowed in that department, and the bulk of the

Well help you get to know the

instruments within Logic to create
something that you can quite
easily call your own


Logic comes with many, many
instruments more so than many
DAWs and the ES range of synths has
been with the software for years. In this
tutorial, though, well concentrate on
the newer Retro Synth that comes with
the latest version of the software.
Thats not to say that ES1 and the like
should be discarded. While some of
their sounds are starting to pale a little
and their futuristic fascias are perhaps
looking a little less futuristic, many of
their sounds do cut it so dont ignore
them. We particularly like some of the
sounds with added movement but
most of the step by step workshops
over the following pages will focus on
Retro Synth (pictured) although we will
look at updating ES1s sound in the
final tutorial.

38 | May 2015

MT146.Tut Logic synths.indd 38


20/03/2015 10:23

Creative synthesis Technique MT

MT Step-by-Step Adding punch to bass

The best thing to do when programming any sound is to have a

cycling loop of notes playing so you hear the changes as you
tweak. Its a bass sound so heres our looping bassline.

Now we will simply choose one of the less memorable presets on

Retro Synth to liven up. The Hyper Lead preset might be a lead
sound but it sounds more like a bass waiting to be improved

The oscillators might provide the basis of the sound but in this
instance arent the most important ingredient but a combination
of square and sawtooth is a good one to choose.

The real drama happens in the filter section. You can experiment
with the different filter types but weve chosen the 12dB low
pass for added zing on our bass line.

Adjust the Cutoff and resonance in real time simply by grabbing

the pointer. You can hear the sound change like an acid bassline
here but we settled on around 0.2 (Cutoff) and 0.9 (Resonance).

To add the punch youll need to adjust the Amp dial (up) and
balance it with the attack time in the Amp envelope window, also
reducing the release time. Careful with the balance of each here as you
can overdo the punch with too high an attack on the sound.




tutorials will be on Retro synth because that is the newest of

the additions (see box opposite for more on the rest)
although we will look at updating the sounds of one of the
ES range in the final step-by-step tutorial.

Easier than you might think

Before you shy away from this thinking you need a degree in
synthesis to understand what is going on, dont! Because you
dont! A simple understanding of signal flow is all you need.
The building blocks of basic analogue synthesis are that you




always start with a signal generated by one or more

oscillators. This might be a sine, square or sawtooth
waveform, usually something fairly simple. This is then
filtered by frequency to give some bass or treble
characteristics. It is then modulated to give it more character
with perhaps a low frequency oscillator adding movement or
a sub bass oscillator adding depth and bass. An Amp
envelope equates to how the sound comes in and out i.e. its
volume characteristics (the attacks, decay, sustain and
release parameters). And that is basically it!

MT146.Tut Logic synths.indd 39

| 39

20/03/2015 10:24

MT Technique Creative synthesis

Of course there are a lot of different synths that add a lot

more to it than that. Some analogue types might have seven
different oscillators, for example, or allow a gazillion different
modulations so you can take the output of an LFO and apply it
to the resonance of the filter (basically in software synths you
can do take any sonic parameter and apply it to any other).
And that is just analogue synthesis. With more digital
based synths you dont just start with analogue waveforms,
you can have digital waveforms or samples that enter the
signal flow for all sorts of fun. And FM synthesis is a whole

new ball game which we will touch upon with Retro synth but
not get in too deep for fear of drowning.
So armed with just that fairly basic knowledge you should
easily be able to understand what were doing with each
sound in each workshop. Well start with a punchy bass
sound which will demonstrate not only the importance of the
core ingredients of the sound, the oscillators, but also how
important the filter is in shaping the punch and EQ of the
sound (actually vital in this case). It will also demonstrate
how the amplitude envelope can help add weight in terms of

MT Step-by-Step Fattening up a lead sound

Now were going to see how a few simple tweaks can fatten a
preset up. Dial in Retro Synths Simple Analog Lead sound. Its OK
but is what it says simple. Were going to change that!

The first thing to note is that although there are two oscillators in
use you can barely hear them as they are both the same shape,
so change oscillator 1s waveform to make it more distinguishable.

Detuning one oscillator is a great way to add breadth. You can do

it very subtly by making a very small adjustment or wade in there
like we have here and simply push oscillator 2 up by 24 semitones.

The filter again comes into its own now although were not going
to use it as dramatically as in the first tutorial. Tweak the
Resonance up to 0.3 and the Cutoff to 0.44 for some subtle buzzing.

Its surprising how much playing with the envelope

characteristics can have a dramatic effect on a sounds character.
Here weve tweaked the filter envelope but the biggest change comes
from extending the sustain which helps give the lead a lot more body.

Now its simply a case of adding a helping of Chorus to really

finish things off. Press the Compare button to hear how far the
simple lead sound has come in just six short steps. Apple should really
give us a job programming its synth sounds!




40 | May 2015

MT146.Tut Logic synths.indd 40





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26/03/2015 13:44

MT Technique Creative synthesis

punch i.e. how quickly the sound comes in and how this, in
turn also adds to the sounds character.
Next we show you how to fatten up existing sounds. While
Retro Synth is good it does have the odd surprisingly weak
sound. In this case were using up one called Simple Analog
Lead to show you how simple sounds can be beefed up. We
use a combination of detuning (which is a common way of
distinguishing oscillators from one another) and envelope
shaping (which adds a surprisingly dramatic change to the
sound). Were also lucky that Retro Synth comes with built-in

effects as a helping of chorus at the end fattens things up

although this feels a little like cheating and we like to think
that our programming has already fattened the sound up a lot
by this stage!
In the third walkthrough we take a couple of the principles
picked up already and take them up a notch. We use another
pretty basic preset, Bright Cycle, and apply the oscillator
fattening technique and also some filter envelope tweaking
to show you how to get a buzzing sound without resorting to
too much filter changing. But the big drama here comes with

MT Step-by-Step Using the envelope as an effect

Were going to take some of the principles picked up opposite and

get really dramatic now. Again were livening up another of Retro
Synths weaker sounds, this time called Bright Cycle.

Again, use the oscillator tuning method to add a bit of breadth

but this time only tune up by 12 semi tones. You can go as low as
one if you want the sound to be a little more wonky.

Were not dramatically changing the filter Resonance and Cutoff

like last time. Instead play with the filter envelope to introduce a
little rasping and nudge the Filter FM dial slightly to the left.

Were wheeling out the big guns here now by bringing the LFO
into the fray for the first time. Dial the Shape Modulation rotary
to the left and Vibrato dial right for some subtle wobbling.

Now the real drama. Increase the Release time of the Amp
Envelope to 0.45 and, as in the last tutorial, you get a dramatic
change in the sound, but this time it sounds more affected like you
have added a reverb or short delay and is great for adding character.

In this way weve used the on board parameters to add an effect

to the sound, especially useful if none are available. As Retro
Synth has some on board, though, we might as well bring them so
heres some very unsubtle Chorus.




42 | May 2015

MT146.Tut Logic synths.indd 42





20/03/2015 10:24

Creative synthesis Technique MT

how the Amp Envelope can be used to dramatically change a

sounds character, adding its own effect, and a very useful
option if your synth doesnt come with built-in effects. Once
again this shows how a little knowledge can really lift your
existing presets.
In the fourth tutorial (below) we show how bringing in the
LFO can add movement to a relatively low key preset. As good
as Fifth Sequence is, theres no denying that adding a bit of
delay and drama will lift it and thats what we can do by
bringing the LFO in, applying it to some of the filter

parameters but reigning it all in with the LFO synth and

lowering its rate. This introduces some delay effect and
added interest. We then increase the decay and release
times and suddenly another of Retro Synths presets have
been lifted.
By this time youll wonder why you cant apply these
simple principles to all synths to breathe new life into their
sounds. The answer is: now you can!
Finally we look at the classic ES1 synth. While we said
wed stick mostly to Logic Pro Xs new Retro Synth, theres no

MT Step-by-Step Adding movement to a preset with the LFO

Now were going to show how the LFO on Retro Synth can bring a
preset very quickly to life. Dial up the Fifth Sequence preset. We
like the sound with its noise element but think we can make it better.

Apply some of the LFO to the filter parameters by nudging up the

LFO dial within that section by a couple of notches. It should
make the sound start to wobble but doesnt sound great yet.

Now we need to play it in time so sync it within the LFO section

(nudge the Sync switch to the right on position). You can hear
that it already sounds better with added delay but not quite right.

By changing the LFO waveshape to a square wave its impact is

much more dramatic so weve done just that. Note how the
preset sounds a little raspier and with a much quicker attack.

Now were really going to lock it into the groove by lowing the LFO
rate down to 1/8 from 1/16th. This makes the delay far more
manageable but also more noticeable.

Weve livened up the preset with movement and delay. Time to

use the Amp Envelope trick again. Take the decay time up to 0.35
and the release to 1200ms. The sound is a lot more in your face.
Compare it to the original and youll hear the preset has been lifted.








MT146.Tut Logic synths.indd 43

| 43

20/03/2015 10:24

MT Technique Creative synthesis

harm in looking at one of Logics older synths to see if we can

update its sound too. This time were taking a fairly tired
string sound and turning it into a fatter lead. Firstly we use
ES1s Drive and Filter cutoff parameters but then return to
the Envelope shape to add punch and depth with more of a
delay effect added at the end. The sound quickly moves from
a fairly bland string sound to a cutting lead with the turn of
just a couple of dials.
We hope that by now you realize just how easy it is to get
in to your soft synths and improve the preset sounds with

some basic knowledge and editing. And these principles can

be applied to any synth, not just those with Logic! Theres no
need to put up with tired presets as with a few parameter
changes and edits you can become a synth programmer. MT
This tutorial is one of the all new tutorials available in the MusicTech Logic
2015 Focus on sale now. It is endorsed by Point Blank which specialises in
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MT Step-by-Step Updating ES1s sound

ES1 is one of Logics older synths and, in the main, still sounds
great. But one or two of its presets are pretty weak and could do
with updating. Load up the Classic Synth String preset.

Its a weak sound but ES1 can be a powerful synth so were going
to turn it into a rock solid lead sound with a twist of a couple of
buttons. First up bring the sub into the mix using the Mix slider.

Now push the Drive parameter up very slightly and the Filter
cutoff dial upwards. The sound starts getting a little edgier but
still retains its string character.

Sometimes the obvious is good. In order to give this preset added

umph, simply increase the amp envelope. In other words, the
volume! Dont be afraid to use it.

Well now take one of the principles picked up in the first tutorial
to add a bit of punch by reducing the Attack time so the sound
comes in quicker and punchier. Its the first of our envelope tweaks.

And heres the second. Its the old Release trick. Nudge the
Release time in the ADSR envelope upwards until it become an
effect, adding a short delay to the sound and giving it a final fattening.




44 | May 2015

MT146.Tut Logic synths.indd 44





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26/03/2015 12:30

MT Technique The Ultimate Guide To Ableton Live Part 4

Ableton Live The Ultimate Guide to Ableton Live Part 4

Lets make
some bass

On the disc

Martin Delaney thinks its time to add some

bass to our beats, doubled up with a little sub
to make it bounce. Heres his guide

his month were adding a bass part, ideally one

that somehow fits in with our beat from the last
tutorial. Refer to the example set included with
the issue its called TUGTAL4. The set includes
all the steps from the last tutorial as well as a
couple of samples youll need to complete this one.
Bass sounds change considerably across genres;
youve got classic electric bass played with pick or fingers,

Resist the temptation to

make a huge bass sound
because we plan to add
other instruments
analogue and digital synths, and LFO-driven wobble
sounds. Theyre all good and theyre all readily available to
us these days,through real or software instruments and
Live Packs. Were going to build our own bass sound and
program our own part. This is because the Simpler
instrument we use is included in every version of Live. If I
was to do the tutorial using the Operator synth, you might
not be able to follow the steps. You should try Operator,
though its my go-to synth for bass parts. Ill move
on to others only if I cant find what I want in there.
Were spending more time working with
instrument racks as this is a great way to build
deep synth sounds that would otherwise require
complex routing across several tracks. In many
ways theyre similar to drum racks, which weve
already encountered. Were using two chains in our
rack thats two instruments playing together but
you can have up to 128 chains in a rack. Impressive
enough, but then bear in mind that you can have


The best thing you can do if you want to program good
bass parts is to get your hands on a bass guitar its a
great way to try ideas against your drum tracks. You dont
have to learn to play properly, it doesnt even have to be a
good bass and it doesnt matter what it sounds like,
because 99 times out of 100 it doesnt even get plugged in.
This is my most common way to create bass parts, noodling
away while the drums loop. To get a bass vibeplay bass. Its
pretty obvious!

46 | May 2015

MT146.TUT live4.indd 46

project file included
on the DVD

128 racks inside another rack, so you can quickly end up

with thousands of chains buried deep within your rack.
When you connect a MIDI keyboard or use your
computer keyboard to play those sounds, youre going to
get a massive sound because all of the chains will play at
once. This can be a bit overbearing, but were only using
two today, so well deal with that issue another time, and
there are various tactics we can use to specify which
sounds play at what times.
Were using a transposed sine wave to create a sub
bass a low bass fundamental tone which fattens up the
bottom end. It can be almost inaudible in the mix at
certain times. For reasons of simplicity, were pairing it
with our square wave sound, but theres no reason why a
sub couldnt be on a track of its own and subject to a
whole other round of editing and effect processing.
After drawing in the notes in our bass clip, we went
back to shorten the bass note in our sliced drum rack from
last time to make sure it didnt overlap with the new bass
part. When youre working with MIDI programming, a lot of
mixing problems can be fixed at the programming stage.
Its the same reason we set the Simpler instruments to 1
voice each, to avoid overlaps that will affect the bass part.

Simpler sampler
Simpler is a very powerful sampler, although it has a
user-friendly interface. It makes it possible to build long,
sustaining notes by loop and crossfading short samples,
but on this occasion we dont need those controls. Lucky
us! Maybe well come back and use them later.
As I mention in the tutorial, its important to
resist the temptation to make a huge bass sound
right now. This is because we plan to add other
instruments, and sonically there wont be any room
for them if we have a bass sound thats riddled with
effects and covering a huge frequency range.
We use clip envelopes to create repetitive
movement of the Auto Filter controls; it makes our
bass sound a bit more evolving and interesting. It
depends on what genre youre working with, but
automated filters can be a huge factor in the mix. If
you dont like the restrictions and mouse-work of
drawing these envelopes, be aware that you can
record them in real time if youre using a
suitable hardware controller. Also I cant stress
enough the importance of unlinking clip
envelopes from the clip length. And remember:


20/03/2015 10:20

The Ultimate Guide To Ableton Live Part 4 Technique MT

MT Step-by-Step Making some bass

Open our example set, which follows on from last time. Load
an empty Instrument Rack into a new MIDI track. Drag the
clip square into the rack and itll automatically appear inside a
Simpler instrument.

Arm the track and play your keyboard to audition the sound, in a
low-ish range. Drag the clip sine into the racks drop area,
creating another chain. Now youll be playing both sounds together.

In the sine Simpler instrument, set the Trans (transpose) value to

-12 semi-tones, thats one octave down. Well use this as our sub
bass and the saw as our more immediately characteristic tone.

You might want to rename the chains now, for visual reference
Cmd-R. Good, now lets draw in some notes. Double-click in an
empty slot to create a new MIDI clip, as weve done before.

Refer to the screen shot. Its just E1 then D2 at 1.1.3 then E1 again
at 1.3, D2 at 1.3.3, and A2 at 1.4.3 and E1 at 1.4.4. Match the note
lengths to what you see in the picture.

Theres a bass sample in the drum kit; our bass clip leaves room
for that. But, find the controls for the bass note in the drum rack
and reduce the Release to 1.00 ms, shortening the note.




each envelope can be a different length. You might notice

that the sine wave part of the bass sound doesnt react
much to the filter, but thats normal sines are not so
responsive compared to other more complex waveforms.
We finished off the bass track with Lives Compressor.
This is perfectly adequate as a clinical compression tool,




although thats one area where I think third-party plug-ins

or even hardware can step in and do the job better, for
those times when you want a compressor that purposely
adds some character to the sound. If you have the Glue
Compressor from the Live 9 Suite, thats a good place
to start

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MT Technique The Ultimate Guide To Ableton Live Part 4

MT Step-by-Step Making some bass contd

While were shortening, set the Sines Sustain to -7dB. This makes
it shorter against the higher, square sound; when you play the
clip, it keeps the punchy low bass hit without cluttering up the mix.

Because were using short punchy notes for this, we dont have to
play with the other Simpler settings for loop/fade, release time,
and so on. Our samples are long enough that it wont matter.

Our simple bass part will be monophonic only one note at a

time so we can set the voices for each Simpler to 1. This means
we cant play or program any overlapping notes by mistake.

We could add effects to each chain and use the Spread control to
make a monster bass sound, but it doesnt leave much room for
other sounds in the song if the bass is too big.

Lets raise the sine volume inside Simpler to 0dB Simpler and
Sampler always default to -12dB, I guess to protect us from
ourselves! You can keep tweaking the levels as you go on.

Lets add Auto Filter for some nice filter sweeps. Drag it right after
the rack so it applies to both chains and set the filter cutoff to
170Hz, and the Q (resonance) to 2.00.




As were adding more elements to our track, weve got

to make sure everything sounds good alongside everything
else. While working with the bass sound, I was starting to
feel the Resonator settings were a little bit too abrasive. To
fix this you can go to the Resonator in our percussion track
and tame it a bit by resetting all of the fine tuning values to

48 | May 2015

MT146.TUT live4.indd 48




0 using the white boxes under each Pitch control. That

should sound better!
Thats all for now. Next time well be working on a
keyboard part to layer over our bass and beats. Once
again well take a shot at building our own instead of
loading a preset. MT


20/03/2015 10:20

The Ultimate Guide To Ableton Live Part 4 Technique MT

MT Step-by-Step Making some bass contd

Sweep time. Inside the MIDI note editor, click the envelope arrow
and choose Auto Filter and Frequency from the pop-up choosers.
Click the Link button and type a value of 4 bars next to that.

Click the left end of the red dotted line in the editor to anchor it.
Drag the right end upwards to 1.50 Hz (Cmd-Click-Drag for finer
resolutions). Now the frequency changes as the clip plays.

Choose Resonance now, unlinking it again, anchor it, then draw

an envelope that ends at 2.90. Youll hear that as well. Look at the
Auto Filter and youll see red dots marking the automated controls.

What sounds cool is if you create different length sweeps for

different parts of the song. Once youve clicked that Link button,
you can set envelopes to any length, even with simple one-bar clips.

When youre repeating these nice envelope sweeps, dont

use the same values every time either itll sound more
organic if you vary them a bit. You will hear the difference especially
with the Resonance.

Drop in Lives Compressor/Classical Compression preset. Make

sure it goes right after the entire rack so it applies to both chains.
If youve got Glue Compressor from the Live 9 Suite, try that instead.








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MusicTech.indd 5

27.03.2015 12:52:56



Music is Our Passion
MusicTech.indd 6

27.03.2015 12:52:56

MT 20 Pro Tips Dynamics processing

Dynamics processing


Master the art of compression and your music will reap dividends.
Hollin Jones explains how to compress with success
Stereo buss compression (sometimes called master
buss compression) can be useful, but remember that it does
affect the whole mix. Producers sometimes add a dB or two
of compression when mixing down to add some punch or
clarity to the mix. This is fine but how much you add depends
on how the track is going to be mastered. Usually, mastering
engineers will add compression and limiting to a track during
the mastering process, so it may not be necessary to add
much at the mixdown. Radio and TV broadcasters also add
their own form of volume boosting during transmission, so it
can be easy to get a little carried away with compression. The
message is: when compressing a whole mix, keep the
mastering stage in mind as well. Used carefully, some master
buss compression can work brilliantly, giving a gentle glue or
coherence to the soundstage.




(Right) Dont muddle

up your mixing and
your mastering:
create one set of
files for each.
(Below) Keep your
mastering in mind
when compressing.


When applying master buss compression when doing a
mixdown, stay on the side of caution. The idea during
mixdown isnt to squeeze loads of volume out of the track:
that can be done with a limiter at the mastering stage.
Instead, aim to make the track gel together properly; to sound
like its sonically coherent. Also bear in mind that any tracks
in the mix that have heavy compression applied to their
channel might sound over-compressed when further
compression is applied down the line, so take care. Although
technically possible its not a good idea to limit during
mixdown. Save limiting for the mastering stage. You should
aim for two sets of files: mixdowns that sound sweet and
balanced, and masters that are the same but louder and
more in-your-face. Having original mixes means you can
always re-master later if it becomes necessary.


52 | May 2015

MT146.Tips.indd 52


20/03/2015 10:30

Dynamics processing 20 Pro Tips MT

De-essing is actually a form of dynamics processing. A
de-esser is basically a compressor with a very specific
frequency target. You can use the threshold setting to
determine how much of the sibilance is removed by being
compressed and sometimes theres also a frequency control
that lets you target the precise area you want to hit.
De-essing is almost always best used with caution, since
applied too heavily it can very quickly start to sound
unnatural and squashed. Its better to take precautions
during recording using a good popshield, which will also
reduce sibilance than trying to fix problems afterwards.
De-essers are also useful for compressing and controlling
loud, splashy cymbals such as crash cymbals in rock tracks.
Since that kind of sound actually has a very narrow, high
frequency range, it can be easier to isolate with a de-esser
than with a conventional compressor.

make this happen. Some interfaces and hardware mixers do

have onboard DSP-powered effects that can be captured as
part of a take, or you might want to connect either an
outboard unit or perhaps a compression pedal if youre
recording guitar or bass. Remember, though, that any effects
recorded in this way are part of the signal and thus cannot be
removed post-recording.



(Below left) Use a

de-esser in
combination with a
popshield to get the
best effect.
(Below right)
can give you much
more sophisticated
control over
your music.

Multiband compression is a more versatile but also
more complex tool than single band compression. Used
correctly, however, it can give you much greater control over
the different parts of a sound. Its great, for example, for
controlling sounds with multiple frequencies such as drum
loops or music samples. Percussive sounds contain more
energy than sounds that occur continuously over time. If
youre using a multiband compressor, consider using more
gentle compression on the higher frequencies higher
threshold and lower ratio settings which should have the
effect of letting the transients of the percussive sounds
through while still keeping a punchy effect on the sustain of
the continuous sounds. Experiment with the crossover points
of your multiband compressor to suit the characteristics of
the track youre working on. Using gentle crossover curves
can also give you more flexibility.



You can take better control of your mixes by blending
compressed and uncompressed versions of the same signal.
For example, you could try taking the lowest sounds in a
track typically the bass and the kick drum and sending
them to a stereo compressor. Apply a relatively large amount
of compression to these so that theyre squeezed the exact
amount will be up to you then route them back to a new
channel and blend that with the uncompressed signal by
balancing the two faders. This can help the bottom end
sound controlled while still leaving space for other sound
sources such as guitars or vocals. This is possible in most
DAWs where routing and mixing is pretty flexible, and in
some, including Reason, theres actually a dedicated feature
in the mixer to enable you to create parallel channels for just
this kind of task.


If youre recording live sources such as guitars, drums
or vocals, its possible to use a little compression between
the source and your DAW to control any unexpected peaks in
the signal during performance. This works best, however,
when the effect is inserted between the source and the
input, and as such is rather easier to achieve with hardware
effects. Insert effects in your software may be heard as part
of a monitored signal but theyre not recorded as part of the
take, at least not unless you do some deliberate routing to


On a guitar track you might

want to look at a ratio of around
4:1 for moderate compression
Think of compression as a way to keep everything
controlled and smooth within the mix. Getting sounds to sit
in the mix correctly is your aim, and it doesnt matter what a
sound is like in isolation, only how it works in the context of
the whole track. Settings are very project and genredependent, but on a typical guitar track you might want to
look at using a ratio of around 4:1 for moderate compression
or perhaps 8:1 for heavier stuff like lead guitars. Compress
drums individually if possible rather than as a whole, then
maybe a little strapped across the whole kit. Bass often
requires more compression than other tracks because of the
large difference in volume and energy between low and high
bass notes. Where you have fewer elements, such as a simple
vocal and guitar, youll probably use less compression since
theres so much room for the two tracks to breathe. In a busier
mix, more compression will be needed to make everything
play nicely together.



MT146.Tips.indd 53

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MT 20 Pro Tips Dynamics processing


Expanders and gates are also forms of dynamics
processors. Expanders actually increase the dynamic range
of audio signal, whereas compressors reduce it. Expanders
are sort of compressors in reverse, and are able to both
increase the gain of the signal above the threshold, and
reduce the gain of any signal below the threshold. In the latter
mode theyre acting as noise gates: cutting off signal such as
hiss or background noise that doesnt reach the specified
threshold level. Gating is a particularly useful tool to have in
your arsenal because, when set correctly, a gate can
automatically cut out all background noise in a live take
without you having to manually chop it out of the audio takes.
The key is to set the attack and release controls so that
neither the very start or very end of the sounds you want to
let through the gate are accidentally truncated.




Consider using a multiband compressor in situations
where you are dealing with audio material that is more
complex, such as a whole mix. You can have three or four
bands and each has its own set of gain controls, allowing you
to shape each band separately. The bottom end of the track,
for example, could have slow attack and release times, and a
smooth amount of gain reduction. The top end, on the other
hand, could use faster attack and release settings to be more
reactive to peaks. One benefit of multiband compressors is
that no single frequency controls the amount of gain
reduction applied to the whole track so you can push each
one harder or indeed leave it more natural sounding but treat
other parts of the frequency spectrum differently. This is why
multiband compression is often used at the mastering stage,
because it provides much more fine-grained control.


(Below left) Use an

expander to increase
the dynamic range
of your signal.
(Below right) A
compressor gives
you detailed control
of each element of
your track.



Very low frequencies can cause problems for
compressors and especially limiters, potentially resulting in
too much gain reduction being applied across the whole mix
and meaning that your master ends up much quieter than it
could otherwise have been, and with less dynamic range. Try
using a high pass filter to filter out any sounds below 30 or
35Hz and see if this frees up a bit more headroom for the
track as a whole.



Like most things in music production, dynamics
processing is as much an art as it is a science. One thing that
can become an issue is a dynamics equivalent of fader creep
whereby you keep nudging compression or limiting levels
higher and higher without realising that its starting to have
an adverse effect on the sound. The trouble is that when you
have been listening to a mix for hours, a heavily compressed
sound can actually appear to be good because it can be
driven louder, and loud equals good. You may not actually
realise youve got to this point until you look at the level
meters and everything is being crushed a bit too hard. Its
honestly better to back off on the compression, look at your
project and drop everything down a bit. Re-balance the mix
and be more sparing with the dynamics, then use the master
fader to control overall level. Worry about absolute gain at the
mastering stage.
When using a multiband compressor, be aware of the
crossover points. Listen to the track youre working on and
identify where the different frequencies intersect. Admittedly
this is easier in dub than in rock but you can use multiband
compression to get better control over the overall dynamics
of a track, provided the crossover points are correctly set.


54 | May 2015

MT146.Tips.indd 54

When compressing bass guitar, consider placing the
compressor before any EQ in your signal chain. If you do this
the other way round, the frequencies youve boosted with EQ
will be compressed more and you might lose highs and mids.
If you compress the signal prior to EQing it and then use EQ
to add bottom end, youll end up with a more even, weighty
and accurate sound.


Its better to back off on the

compression, look at your project
and drop everything down a bit
Compression can amplify the noise in the sound being
treated, because when a signal is below the threshold, the
compressor raises the gain. Its possible therefore to
accidentally raise the volume of things like hiss and other
background noise during compression. A little hiss is
sometimes a natural part of recording, so be gentle in your
efforts to eliminate it.



20/03/2015 10:30

Dynamics processing 20 Pro Tips MT

When limiting, typically at the mastering stage, consider
setting the output level to -0.1dB rather than zero. This might
sound like a small, unnecessary thing to do but it guarantees
you wont get any clipping. Also, try not to drive the input
overly hard, which will also reduce the probability of
distortion in the limited signal.




One interesting use for compression is when your
compressor supports sidechaining. This enables you to use
one signal to control how much compression is applied to
another signal. So, for example, you could feed a
compressors external sidechain input with a copy of a kick
drum track, and then feed a bass track to the compressors
processing input. The result should be that the volume of the
bass part is pulled down more or less instantly every time the
kick drum sounds.


(Above) Use
sidechaining to use
one signal to control
the amount of
compression applied
to another one.
(Right) Switching
the output level to
-0.1dB guarantees
you wont get any
clipping bonus.

Selectively compress to bring

just a few elements to the front
rather than everything


Parallel compression is useful for mastering. Take one
version of the track and apply moderate mastering
processing. Then duplicate the audio file to a new audio track,
perfectly in sync with the first, and dial in some more extreme
settings. Use the mixer faders to slowly blend in a small
amount of the heavily processed track with the original, and
see how this affects the overall sound. MT


Compression can be used to bring elements out of a
mix but should not necessarily be applied to every track, at
least not heavily on every element. Its easy to over compress
and suddenly find that everythings fighting with everything
else. A good rule of thumb is to decide what needs to live
where in the mix and in the soundstage, and then selectively
compress to bring just a few elements to the front rather
than everything.



One way to work with groups of sounds is to route them
all to a group channel or a buss channel and then apply
dynamics processing to that channel. So a choir might only
need to be run through a single compressor. A drum kit could
be selectively compressed channel-by-channel since its a
complex source, but then smoothed out by compressing the
drum group with one processor only.



The best way to get compression to add punch to a
track is to enable the attack of the sound through and
experiment with release times to tweak the effect. Faster
attack times will reduce the amount of punch that the signal
has, but slower release times can cause an unwanted
pumping effect as the compressor takes too long to let go.
The ideal setup, which you can find by a bit of
experimentation, is to make the compressor seem to breathe
at the same pace as the track.



MT146.Tips.indd 55

| 55

20/03/2015 10:30

MT Technique Synthetic drum design

MT Workshop Beat Programming and Sound Design

Design your own

drum sounds

Our Beat
Programming and
Sound Design feature
is illustrated using
Reason but you can
apply the principles
to whatever
DAW you use.

Designing your own drum sounds from scratch lets you put your
own sonic stamp on any production, as Hollin Jones explains

he invention of the drum machine caused a

revolution in popular music. Suddenly, not only
were producers able to program patterns that
had never been heard before, but they could do
so using sounds that were totally new and
unique. Although some early drum machines such as the
Linn LM-1 used digital samples, others such as the
legendary Roland TR-808 used synthesis to generate its
sounds, and the TR-909 used a blend of both methods.
The advantage of using synth circuits to make drum
sounds is that they can be constructed from the ground
up and then bent, twisted and tuned in any way you want.
Its true that nowadays you can process drum samples to
an almost infinite degree, but when you literally control
the waveforms and filters that are being used to generate
a tone, your level of control is that much greater.
While many software drum machines have used
samples (Reasons ReDrum was for years its go-to
beatbox) its often those that use synthesis for some or
all of their sound generation that produce more
interesting results. By designing your own synthetic beats
you can make the drums a signature part of your sound.
You may be adept at constructing your own synth and
bass patches, but if you then just chuck in some sampled
drum loops you can be missing an opportunity to stamp
your character on the rhythmic component of your tracks.
There are plenty of tools that enable you to build your
own drum sounds: Reasons Kong Drum Designer is even
named appropriately, FXPansions Tremor is a clever drum
synth with built-in sequencing, and LinPlugs RMV
combines synthesis and sampling. There are more, of
course, and although were going to look at how Kong can
help you quickly build your own kit, the basic principles
apply to most similar drum design plug-ins.
The great thing about synthesisers is that theyre
hugely versatile. You can take the same set of modules
and, depending on how you set them up, create
everything from a deep kick drum to an arpeggiated pad.

On the disc
project file included
on the DVD

Of course it helps when a synth has been designed to be

a little more specific, and to that end Kong (and similar
software instruments) has drum synth modules that are
specially tailored towards making certain kinds of
sounds. If you expand Kongs Drum and FX section and hit
a pad youll see the current generator module appear
along with any effects chained to it. There are actually
two categories of drum modules: physical and snare,
although the physical ones are actually produced using
physical modeling synthesis rather than a real sample.
There isnt access to the most basic building blocks here
such as waveform selection, although that stuff can be
found if you make drum sounds using one of the other
synths such as Thor or Subtractor, where you only get one
sound per instance of the synth.

Going above and beyond

By tweaking the various controls and indeed swapping
out different modules you can easily go far beyond the
basic patches. You might even want to start by initialising
Kong to clear out all its settings and starting from
scratch. It makes sense to map your kit in a fairly
traditional way, with kicks and snares on pads 1-4, toms
and cymbals on pads 5-12 and then FX and other weird
stuff on 13-16, though you do of course have complete
freedom to mix and match these however you see fit. In
the Factory Sound Library youll even find Kong kits
mapped in different ways, some for a MIDI
keyboard and others

Reasons other synths, and indeed any synth at all, can also be used to generate synthesised
drum sounds. The difference is that they generally only do one patch at once, whereas a drum
synth can hold multiple generators, one for each drum sound. The way round this in Reason is
to create a Combinator and then build several instances of synths inside it, each with a
separate synthesised drum patch loaded. Use the Combis key mapping section to allocate
each individual sound to a specific note or range of notes and you can create your own
synthesised drum kit. Whats really cool about this trick is that you dont just have to use
synths you can build samplers, effects units and anything else you like into the Combi.

56 | May 2015

MT146.TUT Reason.indd 56


23/03/2015 10:43

Synthetic drum design Technique MT

MT Step-by-Step Designing drum sounds

Initialise an instance of Kong by selecting Edit > Reset Device. This

will clear out all its settings. Then expand the Drum and FX
section and click on the first pad to select it, and go to the drum
module section.

Click on the module select icon and choose to add a Synth Bass
Drum module. By default this will have a simple kick sound in it.
Modify the Pitch and the two Bend dials to drop or raise its pitch and
bend amount.

Use the Tone and Noise dials to add a little top end into the signal,
and the click dials to control how much click is present. The
Decay dial in the final column is vital to determining how short and
punchy or long and sustained the sound is.

Repeat the process by clicking on the second Kong pad and this
time adding a physical snare drum module. Use the tuning, pitch,
tension and mix dials to create a sound that works alongside the kick
you created in the previous step.

Adding effects can make all the difference. In the snare modules
first insert slot, add a Noise module. The Pitch, Decay and Sweep
dials can be used to shape the results and its easy to get a cool synth
snare sound going.

Add a second effect this time a Tone module and dial in some
settings. Remember, you can go back and swap the drum
generator while leaving the effects intact, to try some new things.




for a MIDI pad setup, so you can choose which best suits
your control surface.
Tuning is a key part of designing synth drums and this
is an easy ways to differentiate kicks from snares and
toms, by pitching them appropriately. Its also a good
opportunity to mix things up a bit, perhaps by creating a
much more middle-heavy kick sound to double up with a
very deep sub kick and, in the process, create a much




more dense kick foundation. The snare, hi hat and tom

synth modules are all straightforward in how they let you
shape your sound, add noise and tweak decay. The
physical modeling modules have different controls but
are also pretty simple. Play with the virtual damping,
tension and tone to create the desired drum effect.
To any module you can add up to two insert effects
and although some like delay and filters will be familiar,

MT146.TUT Reason.indd 57

| 57

23/03/2015 10:43

MT Technique Synthetic drum design

MT Step-by-Step Designing drum sounds contd

To create a variation, right-click on the drum pad (2, in this case)

and choose Copy Drum Patch. Then click on pad 3 and right click,
then choose Paste Drum Patch. You can then make changes to this to
end up with two similar but differently-pitched snares.

Keep going and fill the other pad slots with different sounds. You
might want to add a synth hi-hat module for example, maybe
using overdrive and compression as inserts to help the sound cut
through the mix.

You can use sampler modules as part of a kit too using the
NN-Nano or Nurse REX modules and dragging and dropping any
sounds from the browser into the module. These can be tweaked and
even layered based on velocity within the modules.

Each drum module has a Drum Output menu at the bottom right
hand corner and if you click on this you will be able to manually
route that module out to a range of destinations. This is helpful for
splitting sounds off for separate effect processing.

Depending on the module type you may also have multiple hit
types available to you. Click on the Hit Type quick control button
and the pads reveal which ones are currently using which hit type.
Change these as you wish: some will sound different to others.

Some parameters can be automated, and by alt + clicking on one

you can see if this is possible. If it is, a green outline will appear.
Experiment with automating drum synth parameters in real-time for a
more dynamic and interesting sound.




the most interesting from a sound design perspective are

Noise and Tone. These can fundamentally affect the
character of the sounds. Bus and master effects are also
available to process the output of the whole instrument,
and individual modules can be submixed using their level
dials. Its even possible to route any channel out
individually for post processing by spinning Kong around
and grabbing cables.

58 | May 2015

MT146.TUT Reason.indd 58




Another great tip for synthetic drum design in any

software is to automate synth parameters within your
drum instrument. Not just conventional stuff such as
levels or reverb amounts but also the building blocks of
the patches. So you might automate the pitch of a snare
drum as a track plays, or map a real-time MIDI control to
it so you can tweak it for the purposes of automation or
for better control during a live performance. MT


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MT Technique Digging deep into the sidechain

MT Workshop Cutting-edge Production Techniques

Digging deep into

the sidechain

Our Cutting-edge
workshops are
illustrated using Pro
Tools, but you can
apply the principles
to whatever
DAW you use.

Use a sidechain filter to boost your frequencies, remove the low-end, and
improve your track no end. Mike Hillier gets the lowdown

idechain compression is a classic trick, and one

weve discussed frequently in MusicTech. It
usually involves using a kick drum to trigger the
compressor on another track, such as a synth
pad, to create a pumping sound. This can be a
great trick and has been used to great effect on many dance
hits. But it is only one of a myriad of techniques that can be
employed using the sidechain to create unique and
interesting compression effects.
Many compressors, even those without an external
sidechain, feature a sidechain filter. This takes a separate
copy of the audio signal, filters the low-end and uses the
filtered signal to trigger the compression. The compressor,
however, continues to act on the dry, unfiltered signal. This
is particularly useful for preventing a track from ducking in
response to excess low-frequency energy. But with an
external filter we can get far more creative in our use of
filtering, opting to use our own favourite EQs, or even other
effects in the sidechain.
The creative benefits of this are huge. By using a fully
featured EQ instead of the built-in filters we can shape the
incoming signal in any way we want, not simply by removing
low-end, but by boosting frequencies that we do want the
compressor to respond to.
Understanding how the compressor is going to respond
as you do this can get quite complicated, and remembering
that the compressor is still acting on the full, un-touched
signal is key. Removing low-end results in the compressor
ducking the signal in response to mid- and high-frequency
material, producing a stronger, more present low-end. While
boosting the low-end in the sidechain would result in the
compressor ducking the signal more in response to the
low-end, producing a bass weak mix.
The same is true across the spectrum: as you boost the
signal going into the sidechain, the compressor will push
the mix down more in response to this frequency, which will
have the effect of lowering that frequency in the mix. In fact
this is how early de-essers worked, in that they would filter
out all of the signal apart from the sibilance in the

By using a fully featured EQ we

can shape the incoming signal in
any way we want
compressor sidechain, therefore ducking the whole signal
whenever the sibilance pushed the compressor into gain
reduction. This is similar then to multi-band compression,
except that with multi-band compression only that
frequency band is reduced, whereas by reducing the full
spectrum in response to a specific range, using the
sidechain can result in a much more natural sound.
But why stop with EQ? What would happen should you
add dynamics processors, such as another compressor,
across the sidechain? This would reduce the dynamic range
of the sidechain signal, causing it to cross the threshold of
the primary compressor less often, reducing the amount of
compression that occurs, but also smoothing off the level of
gain reduction, and lengthening the attack and release. This
can be useful if you want to compress a signal without
reducing the transients. Add a limiter to the sidechain to
chop the transients off before they hit the primary
compressor sidechain detection circuit. The compressor will
now only respond to the signal after its been limited,
ignoring the transients and letting them through
un-compressed. See over

Many plug-ins and hardware units have external sidechains, not only
compressors. Once youve got your head around the concepts described
here you could easily apply them to other types of effects, such as gates or
expanders. How about triggering a gate on a kick drum only in response to
the very low-end, in order to prevent accidental mis-triggers by the snare?
Or filtering the low-end off from the snares sidechain, to prevent the kick
from triggering it?

60 | May 2015

MT146.TUT CPT.indd 60


25/03/2015 08:58

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MT Technique Digging deep into the sidechain

MT Step-by-Step Adding a sidechain filter

The built-in sidechain filters are fairly minimal, so
lets use an external sidechain. Start by duplicating
the Drums Aux channel on to a new track, though this
time without the Dynamics III insert. Weve chosen to
name it Drums SC.


Add an instance of Dynamics III to the Drums channel. Like many

dynamic plug-ins this has a built-in sidechain filter section. We
can use this to remove low- or high-end from the sidechain signal.


In Dynamics III on our Drums channel we now need to assign

the external sidechain. Select the buss we just created from the
drop-down menu thats next to the key icon in the top-left of the
plug-in window.


Were just using this new Aux. as a sidechain for

the compressor, so we need to set the output of
this new channel to a spare buss. Remember, we dont
want this channel being routed to our mix, so dont
route this new buss to its own Aux. channel.


Now any changes we make to the sidechain signal will alter the
way the compressor responds. We can still use high- and
low-pass filtering, but now we can use any EQ we choose. Here were
using the free Brainworx Cleansweep V2 to filter the signal, which has
smoother slopes than the filters built into Dynamics III.


Setting the filters to act as a band-pass filter we can use our

sidechain to focus on the sibilance, turning our compressor into a
simple de-esser.


62 | May 2015

MT146.TUT CPT.indd 62


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MT Technique Digging deep into the sidechain

MT Step-by-Step Adding a sidechain filter contd

We can be far more adventurous with our EQ now too, as we are

no longer limited to just high- and low-pass filtering. Here we use
the Softube Tilt plug-in to change the balance of the sidechain signal,
similar to shelving EQs.


Combining shelves and filters together we can make the

compression respond quite differently to a standard compressor,
and often in very interesting ways. Here weve used a high-pass filter at
60Hz to stop the compressor from responding to excessive low-end,
and boosted the top-end with a shelf, to push the compressor to
respond more to the cymbals. This results in a very mid-forward mix.


EQ is only one of the tricks you can employ on the sidechain. In

this example weve added a limiter to the sidechain. This removes
any stray peaks and smooths out the compression behaviour. This
technique can be especially useful on a stereo buss.


Alternatively, if you want to really clamp down on the peaks in

your mix, you could place an expander across the sidechain,
forcing the compressor to respond more than usual to the peaks in
your mix.


We can even use the external sidechain trick to force our

compressor to ignore the mono signal and respond only to the
sides. Here were using Brainworx bx_solo to quickly solo the sides in
our sidechain. There is no advantage here however of soloing the mids,
or changing the stereo width, as the sidechain input is mono, and
therefore mids-only anyway.


If you want to listen to the

sidechain as you process it, you
can always engage the sidechain listen
mode on Dynamics III. Just be sure to
turn this off once youve finished to once
again hear the actual effect of the
compressor on your signal.


64 | May 2015

MT146.TUT CPT.indd 64


25/03/2015 08:58


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MT.Subs DPS.indd 49

30/03/2015 12:39

MT Reviews GForce Oddity2

MT Lead Review


Mobile tech





After last months review of Korgs ARP Odyssey

Andy Jones takes a look at the latest software
version of the ARP. An alternative, and then some

s timings go it couldnt get

much better. Last month I
had the pleasure of
reviewing Korgs remake
of the classic ARP
Odyssey synth (quick recap: its an
Odyssey, but smaller) and
recommended GForces Oddity as the
best alternative to it, albeit a software
alternative. And now this month as
the synth gods would have it we get
our hands on the upgrade to that
software, Oddity2!
Youll forgive me, then, if I continue
the ARP excitement from last month
and retread some of the historical
ground from that review for those of
you who havent had the sheer
pleasure of reading it.

68 | May 2015

MT146.REV Oddity 2.indd 68

The original Odyssey was made

between 1972 and 1981, a brash
alternative to the more rounded
Minimoog. Its distinct tone won it fans
among pioneers of the time including
Gary Numan, John Foxx and Kraftwerk,
so it certainly made its mark on music.
Until last month, however, few if
any had attempted to remake an
Odyssey in hardware and surprisingly
few had remade it in software. But the
first and the best software version was
the GForce Oddity

One of the first

The original Oddity was one of the
most successful realisations of classic
synth hardware in software. John Foxx
said of it: The Oddity is beautifully

Price 139.99
Developer GForce
Contact Via website
Web www.

Key features
Mono, duo
and polyphonic
Over 1400
Two syncable
oscillators + sub
Three filter
Timed morphing
Spread and
random pan

realised. All the power, character,

precision, intricacy, grunge and sonic
extremes of the original. So it has
become almost a classic in itself,
something wed not say lightly about
any software. Theres been almost a
decade between the first version and
Oddity2 on test here, so whats new?
Oddity2 boasts a lot of features
over the original, and the hardware
synth come to that. This could largely
be because Oddity v1 arguably
concentrated on realism, copying
many of the idiosyncrasies of the
original whereas Oddity2 concentrates
on refinement and taking the synth
into new territories. As GForce says, it
transports the spirit of the original into
a new dimension.
Oddity2 can be used as an effect so
you can route audio through its filters.
And talking of these, it has three filter
modes plus an extra oscillator and can
apply LFO and ADSR to many on-board
features. The filter section is initially
the most interesting. Rather like the
hardware last month you can select
the filter type between 4023 (2-pole)
and 4035 and 4075 (4-pole) so you can


25/03/2015 09:04

GForce Oddity2 Reviews MT

effectively switch between the three

main original Odyssey versions by
doing that, although GForce dont
make as big a fuss about this as Korg
do on the hardware.
This aside, the biggest and most
obvious extra for Oddity2 is, wait for it,
polyphony! While I was reviewing the
re-engineered Korg hardware last
month, as much as I enjoyed the
souring, authentic leads and rasping
tonal rises and falls I did wonder how
good a polyphonic version would
sound And now I have it. This is
without a doubt the killer feature on
Oddity2 and one that many have been
waiting for. Youre turning a duophonic
classic into another beast entirely a
big fat beast with added claws, teeth
and a belly the size of Bournemouth.
Yes, Oddity2 comes into its own when
you play poly, and you will do just that.

2 much 2 say
We wont go too much further into the
architecture of the original synth you
can read more about that in the review
last month and weve listed some of
the other extras you get with Oddity2 in
the box below. The truth is I dont
really have the time and space to dwell
on that as there is the small matter of
over 1400 presets to get through. Not
that I encourage preset use
especially when you have a synth as

MIDI and
play modes for
duophonic, legato
and now the
polyphonic mode.

X-tra modulation
as these can be
applied to the
sliders on Oddity.

easily programmable and relatively

easy to get to grips with as Oddity2
but when someone has taken the time
to put so many sounds together, and
they are this good, well, it would be
rude not to use them
But while were on the subject, one
other feature that is worth detailing
before we get too carried away with
the presets is the ability to morph
between them. Its a feature Im seeing
more of and one that I enjoyed back on
my old Yamaha SY22 hardware synth.
Probably just a matter of raising the
volume of one while reducing that of
the other, but who cares? Its great!

How many?
I havent come across this many
presets since reviewing Rob Papens
Blue II and I actually criticised that
synth for having too many sounds! Its
not a criticism to level at Oddity2
though, although the presets are
occasionally a little random in order.
Stepping through the sounds and a
few things quickly become very
apparent. The original sound of the
Odyssey is evident on enough presets
to maintain Oddity2 as still one of the
best emulations out there. There are
also plenty of obvious and not so
obvious nods back to many of those
synth pioneers I mentioned, with
presets named after them or their

OSC1 & 2
The two main
oscillators and
sub oscillator

Three filter
types to offer a
mellow rounded
synth sound.



2 Good
So Oddity2 is a triumph. It comes
packed with many features over the
original we love the extra mod
options and using it as an effect.
But the best news comes by way of
the Polyphonic mode, a feature that
takes Oddity to new heights. You want
a polyphonic Odyssey? I said, a
its great. And, really, I dont need to say
any more than that. So I wont. MT

+ Loads of extra features over both

the original h/w and s/w!
+ Many, many fantastic presets
+ Polyphonic mode adds
enormously to overall sound
+ Wide range of genre uses
+ Looks great, just like a MkIII
+ Relatively easy to program and
understand the architecture
+ Preset morphing!
+ Competitively priced
- Order of presets a little random
- The odd click on heavy CPU
polyphonic sounds

Select sounds
and morph
them here.

classic tracks. Stand up Barbieri, Foxx

and Currie! Its a lovely touch and a
great nod of appreciation, but were not
just dwelling in the past here as there
are a load of contemporary sounds in
the pot too. So basses, leads, sounds
with movement and very, very
electronic sounds are catered for
across a surprisingly wide amount of
genres. And pretty much all of the ones
I auditioned set the stirrings of
inspiration in motion. Im going to be
busy over the next few weeks

MT Verdict

Add delay effects
and control
output level
and spread.

Well, as the original Oddity was pretty much the only alternative to the
Korg re-engineered ARP Odyssey last month, it would be churlish not to
put said hardware in this box as an alternative to Oddity2 this month. That
hardware can sound like this software, as theyre based on the same
synth principles but you wont get the polyphony, effects and other bits
and pieces that Oddity2 offers. But you do get a great piece of hardware
and a nice case to carry it in. Well have one of each please, to be honest

Pitch & mod
Range between 1
and 24 semitones.

& S/H
The low
oscillator, and
sample and
hold sections.

Mix your sound
sources together
etc) here

ADSR and a
selection of

Oddity2 really does take the

originals sound into new
dimensions. If ARP had carried on
as a company, this is the synth it
would have made now.


MT146.REV Oddity 2.indd 69

| May 2015 | 69

30/03/2015 09:45

MT Reviews Focal Alpha 50 & Alpha 80



Price 185- 259
SCV London:
0330 122 2500 g

Key features
Alpha 50
LF driver: 5in
polyglass cone
HF driver: 1in
inverted dome
HF driver type:
inverted dome
LF driver power
amp: 35W
HF driver power
amp: 20W
range: 45Hz22kHz (+/- 3dB)
Maximum peak
SPL: 103dB
Enclosure type:
Input types:
Weight: 7.3kg
Alpha 80
LF driver: 8in
polyglass cone
HF driver: 1in
inverted dome
HF driver type:
inverted dome
LF driver power
amp: 100W
HF driver power
amp: 40W
range: 35Hz22kHz (+/- 3dB)
Maximum peak
SPL: 103dB
Enclosure type:
Input types:
Dimensions: 397
Weight: 12.8kg

70 | May 2015

MT146.Rev FocalAlpha.indd 70


Alpha 50 &
Alpha 80
Highly regarded in professional audio circles,
French company Focals affordable Alpha series is
made in China and comprises three models.
Huw Price checks out the Alpha 50 and Alpha 80
from the bottom and top of the range

everal of Focals international

distributors have been asking
for an affordable monitor line
for quite some time, but it was
never going to be a case of knocking
something up and shipping it out. In
fact, Focals UK distributor had almost
given up hope when they were invited
over to the Focal factory to assess the
Alpha series.

Saving energy
Both the Alpha 50 and Alpha 80 have
polyglass cone woofers and 1in (25mm)
inverted dome tweeters. These look very
similar to the inverted dome tweeter
thats used in Focals CMS models and
the Passport, and youd be forgiven for
thinking they were the same, but these
are made from pure aluminium rather
than the aluminium magnesium alloy
used for the more expensive monitors.

Amplification is Class AB, but power

levels differ. The 50 has 20W for the
tweeter and 35W for the woofer, but this
is upped to 40W and 100W for the Alpha
80. At 35Hz, the 80s low frequency
response reaches 10Hz below the
Alpha 50s.
Almost invariably, monitor on/off
switches are located on the back panel
near the mains input. The Alpha model
switches may be around the back but
there are two good reasons were not
complaining. Firstly, the switches are
located near the top corner, so theyre
really easy to get at. Secondly, auto
standby switching features throughout
the range.
The controls are kept to a minimum
with a simple Sensitivity switch. The
two settings are 0dB for normal use
and +6dB for occasions when sheer
volume is the main priority. High and

low frequency shelving is provided too

with plus and minus 3dB adjustment at
300Hz and 4.5KHz.

Alpha testing
Regular MusicTech readers may have
noticed that review speakers are often
compared to our in-house Focal CMS
40s. In this case it seems more
appropriate than ever, and the family
resemblance between the Alpha 50 and
CMS 40 is striking. Bearing in mind that
this was a set of brand new speakers
next to a well played in set, the upper
midrange and soft but transparent
treble were almost identical.
With the equalisation set flat the
Alpha 50 produced more thump and
width in the lows. In small rooms or
close to walls you may find the port
assisted lift a bit too much, but
notching the bass down by about 2dB
tightened the 50s lows and brought the
overall sound characteristic closer to
the CMS 40.
Our favourite thing about the CMS
40 is the sense of acoustic depth and
realism in the soundstage and, once
again, the 50 comes extremely close. Its
not quite as smooth or forward in the
vocal region of the midrange but the
lack of colouration and natural quality
of the sound is completely in line with
our expectations of Focal monitors.
So how does the big brother
compare? Well for starters its much
more powerful and will fill small to
medium sized rooms with sound quite
effortlessly. Given the enclosure size
youd expect bigger bass too, but


26/03/2015 11:05

Focal Alpha 50 & Alpha 80 Reviews MT

instead you get a bass response thats

deeper and more even across the range
with no obvious tip up around the 50Hz
-100Hz mark.
For the most part this aspect of the
Alpha 80s performance is enjoyable,
however it does sound very slightly
sluggish when challenged by fast bass
lines containing very low frequency
content. The
midrange also has
a different quality
to the Alpha 50,
being slightly less
forward. So vocals
and guitars sound
a bit recessed into
the mix almost
as if theres an
area in the upper
mids that isnt
quite filled out.
There are those
occasions when
you need loud
monitors with lots

of bass to vibe up a room and the Alpha

80 delivers that in spades. However, to
also have the option to switch to
another set of monitors for critical
listening would be preferable, and this
is where the Alpha 50 really wins out.
The clarity, accuracy and sheer audio
quality this monitor provides is rare
indeed at this price point. MT


(Below) Okay, the

on-off switches are
round the back of the
Alphas, but theyre
really easy to reach.

In the 5in woofer category, contenders include

the ADAM F5 (145), Yamaha MSP 5 (182)
and the EVE Audio SC205 (283). The Alpha 80
competes against the Monkey Banana Turbo
9 (269), KRK VXT8 (418) and the coaxial
Presonus Sceptre S8 (471).

MT Verdict
+ Excellent sound quality (Alpha
+ Ample power (Alpha 80)
+ Simple but effective EQ
+ Auto standby
- Midrange colouration (Alpha 80)
- Slightly loose bass response
(Alpha 80)
- Bland styling
Both these models have much to
recommend them but for high
quality studio monitoring the Alpha
50 is the one wed choose.

Alpha 50
Alpha 80


Avantone CV12 Large Diaphragm

Multi Pattern Valve Microphone.
The CV12s design, character and performance is comparable to some of the fine
vintage valve mics of the 1950s & 1960s but at a fraction of the cost!

Also available by Avantone




CK1 Pencil FET

CK7 Multi pattern FET

Large diaphragm FET

Distributed by SCV Distribution: Call 03301 222500 for your nearest dealer

71-2-15.indd 1
an one FocalAlpha.indd
-12 al a e

31/03/2015 15:15

MT Reviews Sonic Faction Archetype Ableton Bundle


Archetype Ableton Bundle

If youre looking to beef up your sound
library in Live, Sonic Faction might have
just the thing. Hollin Jones unwraps
the Archetype Bundle

any people will be familiar

with the major plug-in
formats on the market
today, and also which ones
their particular DAW is able to work
with. Ableton Live is pretty good when it
comes to formats, dealing with VST and
AU (Mac) instruments, as well as having
its own suite of bundled generators and
processors. One thing that makes Live
stand out from other DAWs is its ability
to be extended using Max for Live, an
application thats used for designing
instruments and effects using software
patching and building blocks. Based on
Max by Cycling74, it comes as part of
the Live 9 Suite install, and can also be
downloaded separately and for free
downloads/maxforlive/ https://
maxforlive/, a link which can be tricky
to locate. After you install Max for Live
youll be able to open any instruments
created with it inside Live itself, and its
required to use this bundle.

To the Max
The clever thing about Max for Live, a bit
like NIs Reaktor, is that you can use it to
build pretty much anything you like as
long as you have the skills. Make no
mistake, building software instruments

72 | May 2015

MT146.Rev Ableton Bundle.indd 72

Price $199
Via website
System requirements
Ableton Live 9 Suite
Max for Live

isnt for the faint hearted. The vast

majority of people prefer someone else
to do the hard work and just pay them
for the end results, and thats what you
get with this bundle.
Sonic Faction is a collective of
musicians and programmers, and this
bundle can be installed in Live 9 Suite
on Mac or PC by double-clicking the
installer files, after which theyll be
available in any Live set. They behave
just like other Live-native instruments
and have their own interfaces that exist
inside the Device area at the base of
Lives window. Theyre even designed to

whole instrument. A 16-channel mixer

lets you submix the kit and theres a
two-part LFO section as well as
multiple effects in the FX section. A
good selection of available effects
enables you to process and dirty up
your sound nicely within the
instrument, and the kits are suitably
hard-edged and in-your-face, which is
perfect for EDM.

Into the synths

Sickness is next up, a polyphonic synth
with two switchable oscillators plus sub
and noise which you can mix together to

You can use it to build pretty

much anything you like as long
as you have the skills
Key features
Built with Max
for Live
Preset morphing
Drum sample
Multiple onboard
Two step
LFO and mod
control sections
Extensive sound
shaping tools

look like theyre part of Live, and dont

have their own pop-out GUIs like VST or
AU plug-ins.
There are eight instruments which
are also available separately, though as
you might expect the bundle price
represents a significant saving over
buying them all individually.
The first is Beatdown, a drum
machine with over 40 kits and the
ability to swap out individual drum
sounds. Its logically laid out and the
main interface has various sections.
Theres a sample editor where you can
edit each drum sample and a Global
section for making settings across the

create massive synth sounds. It has the

sound shaping sections you need :
Filter, Envelope, Shape and LFO as well
as a good FX section and a
programmable arpeggiator with
configurable groove. Theres a healthy
selection of presets and youll find a
wealth of cool sounds from huge
basses through to eerie pads and spiky
leads. Like many of the other
instruments in the bundle it features a
preset morphing system for blending
between versions of a sound as well as
a randomiser for instantly dialing in
completely new settings, which is
always fun and often useful too.


16/03/2015 16:11

Sonic Faction Archetype Ableton Bundle Reviews MT

Evilfish 303 is based on the classic

TB-303 monophonic bass synth and
promises squelchy analogue madness
with its six levels of overdrive, filter
morphing, waveshaping, FM and an
effects section that includes saturation,
autopanning and frequency shifting
among other things. It has a random
pattern generator that will come up
with an endless selection of acid
basslines for you, and this has
transpose, complexity, swing and length
controls as well as the ability to punch
in your own pattern. It sounds nice and
fat, and the pattern section is really
useful for quickly generating some
authentic-sounding acid bass patterns.
Hatchet is described as a retro lead
weapon and is a monosynth capable of
generating both piercing leads and fat
basses. Its interface is quite

help you dial in mutations to the sound,

creating anything from screaming
basses to detuned leads and pads.
Check out this synth for techno leads
and stabs as well as filthy bass
patches. Whoosh Machine the names
get a bit literal at this point is a sound
FX design synth designed to generate
textures, rises and falls for both sound
design and soundtrack work and for
punctuating dance tracks. Parameter
changes are tempo synced, and the FX
blender allows you to mix between
three sound sources each with a
different type of noise, texture or synth
tone. Its actually got a really good
sound to it, making the kinds of
futuristic, mechanical sweeps and
soundscapes that can be useful in a
range of musical applications,
especially for scoring.

This is a solid collection of

instruments for electronic music
production in Live
straightforward and you can blend and
detune its oscillators to achieve a fat
analogue sound. Like some of the other
synths it has a number of control
sections including filter and LFO and
there are effects and an arpeggiator,
again with preset morphing and a
sequencer. The arpeggiated sounds are
particularly cool with a genuinely retro
vibe to them. For those that pine for the
1980s, the Clone synth is billed as a
throwback to that era, though it sounds
fairly contemporary, perhaps because
of the prevalence of retro synth sounds
in modern EDM and pop music. Sharing
a similar design to many of the other
synths, it also features a Delta
Triangulator section that you can use to
quickly dial in variations to the sounds.

Bleeps and sweeps

Pulsator is a synthetic sounding synth
with lots of waveshaping, FM and
distortion effects as well as an X-Mod
oscillator with a special interface to
Method spot
One feature thats increasingly popular in
software synths is a morph section for blending
between different sounds within a synth to
create something really unique. Most of the
synths in the bundle have this so you should
never be stuck for new ideas. Many also feature
arpeggiators for livening up your patterns.

Last but not least of the

instruments is Rogue One, another
mono synth with two harmonically rich
vintage oscillators, waveshaping and
FM for creating huge analogue basses
and fat lead sounds. It features a
double arpeggiator for extra flexibility
and has the FX and morphing tools of
the other synths. The bundle also
includes free synth and a drum step
sequencers for Push, APC40 and
Launchpad hardware units.

The Archetype Bundle certainly
contains enough instruments to really
add a lot to your Live setup if youre
working with any kind of electronic
music. The fact that most of the synths
share a similar basic layout and design
means the learning curve is relatively
gentle and even beginners should find
them pretty easy to

One of the main
features of Max for
Live is that it enables
anyone with the
relevant skills to build
their own instruments.
As such, if you head to
com/library/ youll
find a decent number
of devices which are
generally free, that
you can download and
install. Of course youre
trusting that the people
who created the instruments and effects did a good job and few will
be as complex as the instruments in the Archetype Bundle, but its
worth a look nonetheless.

get to grips with. They all sound good

and there are some excellent patches
to be had, though not all the synths
sound wildly different from one another.
Thats really an argument against
buying them separately, which youre
not likely to do anyway: for the price of
three or four (individual prices vary) you
can get all eight, so youre still a winner.
With any instruments created using
Max for Live youll only be able to use
them in Live, unlike perhaps a VST
instrument which could be used in any
host. The trade off is really nice
integration with Live itself and good
optimisation of the processors. When
you only have to focus your efforts on
compatibility with a single DAW, you can
expend more energy on it. Ultimately
this is a solid collection of instruments
for electronic music production in Live,
with some great performance features
that will surely bring an added
dimension to your productions. MT

MT Verdict
+ Great sounding synths
+ Attractive bundle pricing
+ Gentle learning curve
+ Cool drum sounds
+ Massive basses and leads
+ Good for sound design
+ Integrate well with Live
+ Arps and morphing mean
endless variations
+ Randomise tool saves time
- Only for use in Live
- Requires Live Suite
- Synths sometimes sound a
bit similar
A competitively-priced way to get a
bunch of new sounds in Live. Very
useable patches and well-designed
controls make for a fine addition to
your sonic arsenal.



MT146.Rev Ableton Bundle.indd 73

| 73

16/03/2015 16:11

Icon QCon Pro Reviews MT


QCon Pro
Sometimes you need tactile control to
get the very best mixes. Hollin Jones
road tests the QCon Pro

Audio in the mix?

s powerful as software
becomes its still nice to be
able to get hands-on with
your projects when it comes
to tracking and mixing. USB DAW
controller devices remain popular and
have also generally come down
significantly in price since they were
first released. Icon makes a number of
these kinds of devices, and the QCon
Pro is at the higher end of its product
range. A comprehensive DAW controller,
it has many features that not so long
ago would only have been found on a
much more expensive unit.

Feel the weight

The QCon Pro is quite big and heavy,
designed to sit on a desk rather than be
carried about. Its very solidly built in
brushed aluminium and looks sleek
and professional. It comes with a power
supply and connects to your Mac or PC
over a single USB cable. Theres no
need for a driver as it is class compliant
and works with all recent versions of
OS X and Windows.
The first thing you need to do is put
it into the mode of the DAW you want to
control. Many big hitters are supported:
Logic, Cubase, Nuendo, Pro Tools,
Samplitude, Live, Reason, Reaper and
Studio One. Plus theres a MIDI Learn
mode for making assignments to
software that isnt directly supported.
Set up is fairly simple you just
need to check which protocol to use for

your particular DAW. Most use the

Mackie Control preset and Pro Tools
the HUI preset, so once these are set
up in the software you should be good
to go. Logic Pro X and Live proved no
problem at all and Cubase worked
pretty well too, though some buttons
on the hardware didnt quite behave as
expected. This could well be because it
was Cubase 8, a more recent version
that the device may not yet have been
updated for. Firmware updates are
possible, though at the time of
reviewing none were available online.
Since theres such a variety of versions
of the major DAWs out there, if youre
wondering whether your specific one is
supported its probably best to contact
Icon directly. Controls such as play and
stop dont really change, but developers
do muck about with more esoteric MIDI
controllers, which can cause issues
until updates are forthcoming.

Price 399
Distributor Synthax
Contact info@
Web www.

Key features
Nine touchsensitive faders
Eight encoder
18 assignable
Jog wheel
Pedal inputs
with an audio
Presets for all
leading DAWs
Overlays for
MIDI learn mode

Around the back youll find two control

pedal inputs and the USB port, and on
the front there are two audio monitor
outs with level controls. As standard
these are not connected: they only
come alive if you add the optional Umix
1008 Satellite, an audio interface
expansion that can be fitted to the rear
of the QCon Pro. With an RRP of around
219 the expansion board adds 8x6
analogue audio I/O at up to 192kHz
down the USB cable, plus a software
control panel. Its an interesting option,
and would turn the QCon Pro into a
formidable all-in-one device.
The top panel houses nine
motorised faders which are eight
channels plus one master. These are
touch sensitive so just laying a finger
on without moving it will select that
channel in the software mixer. This is a
nice addition as it means you can mix
more ergonomically and intuitively
without having to change a level just to
activate the channel selection. There
are eight encoder knobs with
push-to-select that can function in a
variety of ways, such as changing
panning or other parameters, and 18
assignable buttons. The large backlit
screen is only two characters tall but
does a good job of conveying
information about whats active and
assigned. Theres a jog/shuttle wheel
for navigation and transport controls of
course, plus zoom controls with
direction keys, automation, assignment

Nektars Panorama P4 is actually a MIDI
keyboard and control surface in one, so its
focus is a little different but it also offers
an alternative range of functionality. It has
faders, only one of which is motorised, and its
arguably not as pro as the QCon device, but is
designed specifically to integrate with Reason
as well as having a generic MIDI mode. Mackie
Control hardware is available too, but tends to
be a little pricier.

and function sections for performing

more advanced tasks such as changing
window layouts. Each one of these is
specific to your DAW but overlays are
provided to help you more easily see at
a glance whats set up.

Join the Q
The layout is well-designed and
communication between the hardware
and software instantaneous. If youre
used to the mouse theres inevitably a
little readjustment needed when
switching to physical controls, but it
quickly becomes second nature. The
ability to control a surprisingly wide
range of DAW functions remotely is
really useful, the faders feel accurate
and motorisation is a real bonus. As a
MIDI controller this unit works very
well, though you should double-check
compatibility with your specific system
for any DAW controller. Adding the
audio interface component would be
an interesting way to consolidate all
your system I/O into one place. MT

MT Verdict
+ Very robust build
+ Motorised faders are great
+ Latency-free communication
with DAW
+ Well laid-out
+ The expandability is an
interesting option
+ Can be easily chained to other
QCon units
+ Set up is fairly simple
- Double check compatibility with
the very latest DAW releases
- Slightly larger screen would be
a bonus
A USB DAW MIDI controller that
works well and wont blind you with
science. A good way to get
hands-on with your projects.



MT146.Rev Qcon pro.indd 75

| 75

16/03/2015 16:16

MT Reviews M Audio BX5 D2


BX6: 117.49 each;
M3-8: 219.99 each
In Music Europe Ltd
01252 896 000

Key features
BX6 Carbon
LF driver:
6in Kevlar
curved cone
HF driver:
1.25in (32mm)
shielded natural
silk dome
45 Hz22 kHz
LF amplifier
power: 60W
HF amplifier
power: 40W
Signal-tonoise ratio:
100dB typical
1x XLR balanced
input connector
1x TRS
input connector
RF interference,
output current
limiting, over
turn on/off
subsonic filter,
external mains
Cabinet: vinyllaminated,
high-acousticefficiency MDF
Weight: 7.5kg

76 | May 2015

MT146.Rev M Audio.indd 76

BX5 D2
M-Audio has released two new active monitors with
Kevlar cones and soft dome tweeters but thats
where the similarities end. Huw Price tests the BX6
Carbon and the M3-8

he BX6 Carbon is the smaller of

the two M-Audio monitors were
reviewing this month. Its
equipped with a 6in woven
Kevlar low-frequency driver and a
1.25in silk dome tweeter with 100W of
Class A/B bi-amplification.
Kevlar is the stuff they use for
bulletproof vests, so if somebody starts
waving a pistol around in your control
room, at least you wont have to worry
about holes in your speakers. More
importantly for us, Kevlar is also
reputed to provide a fast transient
attack, high sensitivity and resistance
to cone flexing.
The tweeter has a waveguide to
expand the listening sweet spot and
enhance stereo imaging. An Acoustic
Space switch adjusts the bass
response with three settings flat,
-2dB and -4dB. Audio connections are
made via TRS jack or XLR as well as a
volume control

Three reasons, three ways

Appropriately enough M-Audio believe
you need a three-way monitor for three
reasons. Firstly, theyre louder because
a typical midrange driver with a 4in to
5in diameter moves more air in its
frequency range than a 1in tweeter. So
you get more sound pressure for the
same input power.
Secondly, the midrange driver can
handle more amplification power than
most tweeters, and the tweeter can be

used to handle the high frequencies

that its really designed for. Similarly the
crossover can be configured so the
woofer only handles the bass end.
Thirdly, the dispersion or radiation
pattern is said to be extremely wide and
consistent. In a studio context this
should mean that you can hear a proper
balance without being tied to the sweet
spot dead centre of the speakers.
Having said that, one of the
drawbacks that may be an issue for

ferro fluid cools the 1in tweeter. Three

drivers call for three separate
amplifiers, producing a combined total
of 220 watts of Class AB power. A
powerful three-band (LF, MF, HF)
equaliser combines with a switchable
low-cut filter, which enables the M3-8
to be used with a subwoofer such as
the M-Audios BX.
Computer technology has been used
to determine the optimal size and
location of the rear bass port, and

The most striking feature is the

wood veneered baffle, which
creates a classier look
multi-driver speaker systems is that
the sound emanates from a wide area
rather than a single point source and
this means that not all frequencies
reach your ears at the same time.
To overcome the potential for time/
arrival distortion, M Audio has mounted
the M3-8s midrange and tweeter
in-line with each other. Its hardly a new
idea and respected speaker
manufacturers have favoured this
coaxial method over several decades.
However, it is unusual to get coaxial
monitors at this price point.
Both the 8in woofer and the 5in
midrange driver have Kevlar cones and

internal bracing has been designed to

solidify the enclosure. Perhaps the
most visually striking feature is the
wood veneered baffle, which creates a
softer and classier look than the
pseudo hi-tech stylings of the BX6.

BX6 Carbon
The first thing that captured our
attention was the BX6 Carbons clarity.
The treble response has definitely been
assisted to some extent, presumably in
an attempt to achieve this wide open
sound stage. By and large this has been
successful. Consequently you can really
hear inside mixes, particularly acoustic


16/03/2015 16:15

MT Reviews M Audio BX5 D2

Monitor theory
Coaxial monitor theory can be explained in
simple terms. When recording vocals or an
electric guitar its obvious that the sound
comes from a specific place, so thats where
you place your microphone. Speakers divide
sound into frequency bands and divert it to two
or more drivers. These drivers are physically
separated so reproduced sound emanates from
a relatively wide area rather than a single point.
Therefore frequencies will reach your ears at
different times. Coaxial designs provide a single
point source but manufacturers face technical
challenges. Typically, the low frequencies
from the woofer tend to modulate the high
frequencies coming from the tweeter causing
intermodular distortion. Presumably this is
why M-Audio has used a coaxial design for the
midrange and high frequencies with a separate
low frequency driver.

recordings, and sense the room

ambience around the instruments.
Detail resolution is another plus.
The BX6 Carbon has a fast transient
response, which combined with the airy
top end puts me in mind of folded

instruments and vocals. However the

big bass and treble lift do conspire to
make the midrange seem a bit
recessed. So your ears would need to
adjust to the treble response before the
BX6 Carbon could be totally relied upon
when making critical mixing decisions.

The M3-8 is perhaps not the best
choice of monitor for project studios
and small control rooms. The
enclosures are pretty sizeable and both
the volume levels and scale of sound
that they produce is best appreciated
when this monitor has a bit more room
to breathe. You should also consider
placement, because any speaker
stands will need to drop down fairly low
if the M3-8s midrange/tweeter combo
is to fire at ear level.
While having just as much clarity as
its smaller sibling, the B6 Carbon, the

The BX6 Carbon would not

sound or look out of place in a
professional environment
ribbon tweeters rather than
conventional domes moving coil units.
The bass is weighty, deep and fairly
well focused, however there may be a
hint of boominess if the enclosures are
placed near a wall or in a corner. That
said, we found the Acoustic Space
switch very effective with a mere -2dB
cut proving sufficient.
Imaging is fairly crisp and its easy to
hear finer details from midrange

M3-8 has a far more conventional

treble response. This is no bad thing
because even with the equalisation
controls bypassed the M3-8 requires
far less in the way of acclimatisation.
Imaging is crisper too, with key mix
elements located fairly solidly within
the left/right image and plenty of
soundstage depth. None of us work in
anechoic chambers so some degree of
frequency adjustment is generally
welcome. There are two things that we
really appreciate about the M3-8s

Key features
low-mid: 450Hz
mid-high: 3.9kHz
amplifier power:
amplifier power:
amplifier power:
LF cutoff switch:
flat, 60Hz, 80Hz
LF: 6dB boost/
cut at 100Hz
MF: 6 dB boost/
cut at 1kHz
HF: 6 dB boost/
cut at 10kHz
EQ bypass
Output current
limiting; overtemperature;
transient on/
off protection to
prevent speaker
pops; subsonic
filter; external
mains fuse
Cabinet: wood
veneer front
baffle with
(WxHxD): 268x
Weight: 12.8kg

setup. Firstly the controls are indented,

which makes it simpler to match the
settings on two or more speakers.
Secondly the whole equalisation
section can be bypassed.
Although we would have been quite
content working with the M3-8 set flat,
we did investigate the EQ controls. The
settings that worked in our room were a
slight treble lift combined with mid and
bass attenuation of one and two
notches respectively.

In the round
The BX6 Carbon is a very impressive
performer at this price point, however
we feel it would be even more
impressive if the frequency controls
allowed for some treble adjustment as
well as that low end tweaking. But even
with these misgivings, its certainly well
suited to project studios, and would not
sound or look out of place in a
professional environment.
The M3-8 costs twice as much but
you do get an awful lot more in every
sense. There are relatively few
manufacturers offering coaxial
monitors at this price, and when you
factor in the M3-8s high quality audio,
frequency response adjustment and
sheer power it looks like a very
interesting proposition . MT
Coaxial monitors were once the preserve of
professional studios and hi-fi enthusiasts but
theyre becoming more mainstream. Check out
the Fluid Audio FX8 (259 pair), the Emes Black
TV HR Active (CA-2) (559 each), the Equator
D5 (388 pair) and the Equator D8 (621 pair).
Alternatively, you could check out the smaller
versions of the M-Audio monitors reviewed
here the BX5 Carbon at 87.49 and the M3-6
(189.99 each).

MT Verdict
+ Loud and powerful
+ High build quality
+ Impressive clarity
+ Crisp imaging
+ Deep bass (M3-8)
+ Fine detail resolution
- Power switches at rear
- Limited frequency adjustment
(BX6 Carbon)
- Very bright sounding (BX6 Carbon)
- Maybe too large (M3-8)
- No auto-standby

Both speakers are

well suited to studio
use, but withe the
M3-8 (left) you
certainly get more
bang for your buck.

78 | May 2015

MT146.Rev M Audio.indd 78

M-Audio has come up with two

pairs of well made and fine
sounding speakers that offer good
value for money.

M3-8 9/10

BX6 Carbon


16/03/2015 16:15

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Hybrid Two Project BRAVO Reviews MT

Project BRAVO is certainly a great one-stopshop for cinematic effects, but there are some
good solutions that focus on more specific
parts of the palette, such as Zero-G Dark Skies:
Cinematic Ambiences (83) or Zero-G Impact
Designer Cinematic Slam Creator (69). Project
BRAVOs wav import, though, arguably makes it
a creative tool in its own right.



Project BRAVO
Building on the success of Project
ALPHA, Hybrid Twos Project BRAVO
offers another tempting slice of
cinematic sound design. Mark Cousins
takes a listen

hen we first took a look at

Hybrid Twos debut sample
library Project ALPHA
back in 2013, we were
certainly impressed by what it had to
offer. Rather than concentrating on the
orchestral side of cinematic sampling,
Project ALPHA put a distinct focus on
contemporary sound design, including
an array of trailer-friendly effects,
transitions and drum sounds.
The power and creativity evident in
Project ALPHA was certainly
impressive, so we were eager to see
how Hybrid Twos catalogue might
develop. With the release of Project
BRAVO we finally get to see the next
step in Hybrid Twos vision, and it
certainly looks an exciting prospect

Price 139
Time + Space:
01837 55200

extends and adapts the samples

inherent musicality.
Rather than reinventing the wheel,
Hybrid Two seems to have stuck with
the same broad sound categories that
defined Project ALPHA: including
Impacts, Booms, Risers, Downers,
Reverse FX, Tempo Syncd Rhythms and
a variety of synth sounds covering arps,
pads and basses. Certainly, its a
formula that works, as its perfectly in
sync with contemporary trends in trailer
and film music. Ultimately, Hybrid Two
seems to have a good handle on the key
ingredients of cinematic sound design,
with all the sounds exhibiting just the
right amount of subsonic wobble, sonic
impact and grit that makes them stand
out from the crowd.

Bravo leader

New Project
As with Hybrid Twos first library, Project
BRAVO isnt an exhaustive strain on
hard drive resources, taking around
2.5GB of drive space, although you will
need a full version of Kontakt 5.3.1 to
run the library.
Given that the majority of the sound
content isnt complex multi-sampled
acoustic instruments, you can see why
its use of hard drive resources is
relatively modest. Hybrid Twos efforts
have clearly been expended in the
individual samples themselves,
alongside a powerful user interface that


Key features
Over 2GB new
hybrid musical
sound design
Over 200 Kontakt
New user
Created by
renowned sound
designers Daniel
James and Aaron
Open WAV
file format

Arguably a big part of the appeal of

Project BRAVO is its powerful user
interface, which includes the usual
array of sound-shaping elements and a
variety of powerful step sequencing
effects. Its a pleasing incremental
improvement on what Project ALPHA
had to offer, and, as illustrated by many
of the step sequencer-based
instruments, a feature thats been put
to good use with the included sound
content. One pleasing inclusion is the
MIDI export feature, which enables you
to export a given step sequence as MIDI,
making it incredibly easy to augment
Project BRAVOs output with other
software synths, or other samplebased orchestral libraries.
As with many contemporary sample
libraries, the interface is certainly
something that needs time to fully
investigate and understand how to use

properly. The multiple step sequencer

paths, combined with dual filters and a
gate make Project BRAVOs interface a
powerful and dynamic sound-shaping
tool. While its a shame theres no
printable manual included with the
download, an hour-long You Tube video
manual should certainly be considered
essential viewing, especially when you
consider the possibilities of loading
your own sample content into Project
BRAVOs interface.

Hybrid power
Although it might have been interesting
to see Project BRAVO diversifying from
the palette established in Project
ALPHA, theres little doubt that the
wisdom of the if it aint broke, dont fix
it mantra is certainly well applied in
this context. Existing Project ALPHA
users that have made good use of the
first library will certainly be pining for
more material to play with, while new
users will undoubtedly be impressed by
the way Hybrid Two has developed and
refined its original concept.
Ultimately though, all samples
libraries can be judged by two key
points the creativity applied to its
sound content and, even more
importantly, the librarys musical
effectiveness. In both these respects,
Project BRAVO more than ably delivers,
and has already made a significant
dent on several of the tracks were
producing at the moment. In a world
apparently overflowing with sample
content, its pleasing to see a small
developer delivering creative content
that stands out from the crowd. MT

MT Verdict
+ Powerful cinematic sounds
+ Perfect for trailer use
+ Flexible user interface
+ Imports user-generated wav files
- Similar palette to Project ALPHA
Project BRAVO continues to
demonstrate Hybrid Twos enviable
skill at producing powerful
commentary cinematic sounds that
are perfect for trailer use.



MT146.Rev Project Bravo.indd 81

| 81

20/03/2015 10:17



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Zero-G Impact Designer Reviews MT




gets a near limitless number of

possibilities, allowing the end result to
have some degree of originality (which
is an increasingly desirable ingredient
in a world full of sample libraries) as
well as being able to tweak and refine
the presets to match your specific
musical needs.



Make an impact

Zero Gs Impact Designer offers an

exciting new way of creating powerful,
customised cinematic effects.
Mark Cousins takes a look

R ry to imagine a film trailer

nowadays without the a variety
cinematic slams, booms, braahms
and drops being used to add
dramatic impact, often at ear splitting
volume its almost unthinkable. And
while theres plenty of libraries offering
a selection of these cinematic hit
sounds, its interesting to see a number
of sample developers starting to exploit
Kontakts powerful sample scripting as
a means of providing something far
more exciting than a series of one-shot
samples. Zero-Gs Impact Designer is a
perfect example of this, with a host of
features that enables you to build and
customise a range of powerful
cinematic sound effects.
Working with a full version of
Kontakt 5.3.1, Impact Designer provides
507MB of raw data, all beautifully
stitched together using its own
custom-built GUI. The concept behind
the package is that an Impact can be
split up into three constituent
components Hit, Boom and Decay. By
mixing up the material provided with
Impact Designer, the user theoretically

Native Instruments Rise

and Hit (129) follows
a similar approach to
Impact Designer, dividing
a cinematic effect into a
series of distinct stages.
In the case of Rise and Hit,
though, theres a greater
emphasis placed on the
rise element, resulting in a
more expensive solution,
but one with a larger
amount of content.

Price 69.95
Time + Space
01837 55200

Key features
507MB of sounds
456 samples
91 Kontakt 5
Custom graphic

Despite being designed as a creative

tool in its own right, Impact Designer
still comes with a healthy collection of
presets to get you started. The folder
structure gives you plenty of idea what
to expect, with sections for Slams,
Ker-Booms, Whooshes, Deep Impacts,
Reverses and so on.
Once youve loaded a patch, its
clearly apparent whats happening
thanks to an animated sequence of
lights that guide you through the
progression of the sound from
Pre-Hit, to Hit, Boom and Decay.
Glancing across the GUI you can see the
various sound sources that have been
loaded into the respective eight slots
(two per section), all of which can be
adapted as you see fit.
As the name suggest, the optional
Pre-Hit section offers a variety of
reverse sounds that lead up to the main
hit. An additional Gap control then adds
the required amount of dramatic
silence before the hit, which is an effect
often employed in contemporary
trailers to add dramatic impact.
The Hit, Boom and Decay section all
correspond to the main impact sound,
enabling you to favour a sound with
more percussive bite, for example, or a
sound thats deeper and longer in
duration. As well as the obvious sound
selection, you can also specify the
amplitude for each section, and you can
employ a filtering and effects option
that can adapt the basic samples far
beyond their original scope.

Obviously, despite a great GUI, the

strength of a library like this ultimately
comes down to the sound content. As
youd expect, Impact Designer has all
the power in the right places, often
sourced from unusual acoustic sources
that have then had the required
amounts of grit and gravitas added
through the addition of effects such as
compression and distortion. In short,
Impact Designer sounds like it should
be in the cinema that said, any music
that enjoys a spot of dramatic energy
(which could include everything from
Dubstep to EDM) could well do with
exploring what this intriguing library
has to offer.
Although the sonic output of Impact
Designer might not be entirely unique to
the market place, theres little doubt
that the combination of a flexible GUI
and plenty of creative sound content
makes Impact Designer a tempting
proposition. Certainly, the possibility of
creating your own custom-designed
cinematic effects makes the whole
package feel less generic, and more
importantly, you can be confident that
the sounds that you create are more
individual to your music. Ultimately,
Impact Designer neednt be the end of
the creative process, but a spark to
drive further sonic exploration. MT

MT Verdict
+ Powerful cinematic effects
+ Plenty of creative input
+ Great randomisation feature
- Impact sounds well addressed in
other libraries
Impact Designers creative
approach makes it more than just a
preset bashing tool its a great
way of creating custom-designed
cinematic effects.



MT146.Rev Impact Designer.indd 83

| 83

16/03/2015 16:13

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EastWest Hollywood Orchestral Percussion Reviews MT

Project Sams True Strike (225) series is a
longstanding favourite for sampled orchestral
percussion, with a rich concert hall acoustic.
Spitfires HZ01 (479) has caused a real stir,
with its big ensemble sound recorded in the
fabulous Lyndhurst Hall studios, although it
isnt a traditional orchestral percussion library
in any sense of the word.


Hollywood Orchestral
The final instalment of EastWest/
Quantum Leaps Hollywood Orchestral
series takes a look at the percussion
section. Mark Cousins investigates

astWest/Quantum Leaps
mammoth task of creating the
ultimate sampled orchestra
has arguably reached its final
conclusion with the release of
Hollywood Orchestral Percussion. As
with the other products in the
Hollywood series (Strings, Brass and
Woodwinds), Hollywood Orchestral
Percussion has been recorded at
EastWests own Studio 1, which has a
client list including Frank Sinatra and
the Rolling Stones. Notably, all the
libraries have utilized Shawn Murphys
sonic mastery, whose work as a scoring
mixer with John Williams, Danny Elfman
and James Horner has defined the
Hollywood sound.

Perc up
Totaling over 75GB of data, Hollywood
Orchestral Percussion certainly
lavishes plenty of attention on the
percussion section, making many
competing libraries seem somewhat
diminutive. Looking more closely at the
library, its clear to see where the efforts
have been expended, with a range of
articulations and playing styles on each
instrument as well as an assortment of

Price 479
via web

Key features
Full orchestral
techniques and
Round Robin
Multi mic
75GB of data

phase-locked mic positions (Close, Mid,

Main, Surround and Vintage). Another
detail is the range of choice within each
instrument type, so rather than having
one snare drum, were presented with
three Ludwig and two Pearl variations
as well as a variety of Field Drums.
Unlike many competing libraries,
Hollywood Orchestral Percussion stays
loyal to EastWests own sample engine,
Play. While Play lacks some of the
versatility of Native Instruments
Kontakt (the additional SSL signal
processing, for example, requires a paid
upgrade), its still a competent
performer with many likeable features,
as well as a clear easy-to-use interface.
The library is organised into key
instruments Cymbals, Drums, Metals
and Wood as well as a folder of
Combo kits that includes the key
orchestral percussion sound mapped
across the full range of the keyboard.
Most instruments map the different
articulations across the keys, although
with Timpani you can use a keyswitched
instrument, or assign individual
articulations to their own MIDI channel.

Hollywood sound
Of course, the key part of any library is
its sound and the expressive
possibilities of the instruments.
Sound-wise theres a key difference
between many of the libraries sampled
in a large orchestral soundstage
ambience (like Air Lyndhurst, or a
concert hall for that matter) and the

EastWest libraries sampled in Studio 1.

In some respects, I enjoyed the
controlled acoustic of the room, which
seemed to wrap nicely around the
percussion instruments, rather than
creating a long reverb tail that clutters
the mix. Although the main mics have a
pleasingly roomy sound, the addition of
the close set adds a flattering level of
detail, which is important if the part
needs more focus in the mix.
As with Storm Drum 3, which I
reviewed a few months back, it was
good to see the attention to detail when
it came to sampling the instruments.
Theres a healthy amount of Round
Robin articulations, and when it comes
to instruments like the Celesta, it was
good to see both short-note versions
and a sustained version, whereas most
competing solutions sample just a
single length. Being a little picky, it
might have been good to see a greater
variation of sticks/beaters on
instruments such as the Vibraphone
and Marimba, although its worth noting
that the all-important Timpani comes
with both Felt and Hard beaters.

East meets west

While other libraries seem to explore an
increasingly esoteric approach to
orchestral percussion, its great to see
how modern sampling technology can
be used for a traditional percussion
section. More than anything else, its
the choice on offer in Hollywood
Orchestral Percussion that really makes
it stand out from the crowd, letting you
tailor your sound to the music in
question. Although Hollywood
Orchestral Percussion possibly misses
a trick in comparison to some of the
more creative libraries, its naturalistic,
lifelike sound certainly makes it a
desirable entity, and a great addition to
a sample-based orchestral score. MT

MT Verdict
+ Great range of sample
orchestral percussion
+ Flexible mic sets
+ Naturalistic room sound
- Smaller acoustic than some
alternative solutions
- SSL processing requires
paid upgrade
Hollywood Orchestral Percussion is
a comprehensive and naturalistic
source of classical percussion
sounds perfect for those that
favour a purist approach to
sampled orchestration.



MT146.Rev Hollywood.indd 85

| 85

16/03/2015 16:12


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Roland RD-800 Reviews MT

The V-Piano




Rolands flagship stage piano inherits
some technology from the formidable
V-Piano. Hollin Jones finds out if its
V for victory

oland has been at the cutting

edge of stage piano design for
a number of years and has a
well-earned reputation for
building instruments that players love
to use. The RD series has been going for
a while and is its flagship stage piano, if
you dont count the seriously exclusive
V-Piano which is somewhat less
portable for a gigging musician. Stage
pianos have come a long way, both in
terms of sound quality and portability,
and they can now replace several
physical keyboard instruments without
sacrificing authentic sound.

Fire it up
The RD-800 is as solid as any stage
piano but a little lighter than you might
expect, something that Roland has
been working on. Any weight saving is to
be welcomed when you have to carry
these things around. Theres a sort of
binding post on the back that acts to
prevent the power lead being ripped out
in the event of someone tripping over
the cable again a nod to the realities
of live performance. As well as a
headphone out you also get stereo XLR
and jack outputs so you can connect to
any kind of PA or amp, and a mini stereo
jack in for connecting an MP3 player to
route through to the outputs. Theres

Price 1799
Via website

Key features
88 weighted
keys with
Escapement and
ebony/ivory feel
128 voices,
16 parts
Over 1000 tones
Four sound
Piano Designer
Individual Note
Voicing for
Multiple effects
and realtime
Audio file
player and
WAV recorder
200 rhythms
Sustain pedal
MIDI control
Two USB ports
Two assignable

hardware MIDI in, out and thru and four

pedal inputs: Damper, Ext and two foot
The piano comes with a sustain
pedal which is essential for proper
playing, and there are also two USB
ports on the rear panel. One connects to
your Mac or PC and transmits MIDI
back and forth, and the other can be
used to connect a USB memory stick or
a wireless adaptor. With a memory stick
you can load and record WAV files of
backing tracks or your performance,
and with wireless you can connect to
one of Rolands iPad apps such as Piano

Rolands V-Piano is very possibly the most

advanced digital piano in the world. Entirely
focused on recreating the sound of a real piano,
it actually goes even deeper in its flexibility
than you could with a real concert grand and
a specialised toolkit. Each individual note can
be altered and tuned in incredibly fine detail
independently of the others. You can morph
between piano models, creating completely
unique hybrids of sounds in ways that go far
beyond the capability of other instruments.
All this comes at a price, of course, and
physically its quite a beast, but for the ultimate
playing experience its hard to beat. The RD-800
has inherited some of its technology, which is
great news for those who cant quite stretch to
the V-Piano.

stage pianos. The action is perhaps

best appreciated when playing the
piano sounds, since theyre generally
the most expressive.
There are four sound engines on
board: The SuperNATURAL Piano,
SuperNATURAL electric pianos and
clavis, a virtual tonewheel organ, and a
PCM sound generator for the other
sounds. Theres a total of 1113 tones, a
maximum 128 voices and 16 parts. The
jewel in the crown is the Concert Grand
piano model which is derived from the
V-Piano Grand, though there are
actually five acoustic piano types

As you might expect its

extremely responsive to play,
with an incredible action
Partner for learning to play. You cant at
present send MIDI wirelessly to a
receiver for triggering a DAW, which
would be a nice addition.

Keys to the kingdom

The keybed is an 88-key weighted
PHA-4 concert keyboard with
Escapement (for more expressive soft
playing) and an ebony/ivory feel. As you
might expect its extremely responsive
to play, with an incredible action. And
the keys really do have a grand piano
feel to them the simulated ivory finish
being particularly noticeable compared
to the regular plastic of some other

available and 34 variations within

these. Calling up and editing sounds is
easy, thanks to the clear layout of the
front panel, the large colour screen and
the navigation controls.

Play it one more time

The pianos sound exquisite, of course,
but theres a lot you can do to tweak
them to your liking. Theres a Piano
Designer section available for piano
patches and this lets you alter in fine
detail the many characteristics that go
to make up the sound, such as string
resonance, key-off resonance, hammer
noise and more. Even better, carried

MT146.Rev Roland.indd 87

| 87

16/03/2015 16:18

MT Reviews Roland RD-800

over from the V-Piano is Individual Note

Voicing, a technology that lets you
adjust the pitch, character and level for
every individual note of a piano sound.
With this you can edit as if your piano
was real rather than having to make
global settings for the whole preset. A
Tone Colour knob is also available for
every sound, and with a SuperNATURAL
piano selected this defaults to control
the sounds width so you can dial in
stereo or mono effect as you wish.
The electric piano section is also
remarkably accurate, with a great
selection of Rhodes, Wurlis, Clavis and

simulators lending the electric pianos a

truly authentic feel.
In fact there are quite a few effects,
many of which have realtime, backlit
controls on the front panel for live
tweaking. There are 56 types of
modulation effects, six reverb and five
delay types as well as a three-band
compressor and five-band digital EQ.
The reverb, modulation, tremolo and
amp sim sections all have their own
hardware controls, and there are four
further dials which can be set to control
EQ, delay or a user-assignable
parameter. Four sliders control part

Yamahas CP4 has a broadly similar price and is aimed at a similar kind
of player. The layout is a bit different and you get fewer hands-on effects
tweaking sections on the front panel, though still a good selection of
pianos, effects and other instruments. The ability to tweak individual piano
notes isnt there however, as this is something thats come from Rolands
own V-Piano technology.

programmed backing beats are

available too should you need them.

Your next stage?

A stage piano should always focus on
performance, and thats what the
RD-800 does. The acoustic pianos are
breathtaking, the electric models just
as good in a more retro way. The keybed
feels fantastic and the instrument as a
whole is supremely playable. Placing
multiple effect controls at the players
fingertips is very welcome and means
you can be more creative midperformance than if you had to dig
around in submenus. And the effects
are very good and really useable as well,
letting you modify your sound as you go
in a way that many keyboards dont.
The RD-800 is an excellent stage
piano that focuses on what players
need: a wonderful action, gorgeous
sounds and powerful effects. The other
stuff like audio file playback and MIDI
control works well, but its when youre
designing and playing pianos that this
instrument really comes into its own. MT

A stage piano should always

focus on performance, and
thats what the RD-800 does
others from the 60s to the 80s. Again
you can edit things like mechanical key
noise, damper noise and more, and
theres a very cool feature where the
Tone Colour knob lets you morph
between electric piano models so you
can, for example, blend a little hard
edge into your dreamy EP sound. The
effects really come into their own here,
with gritty distortions and amp

Method spot
The RD-800 has a good selection of effect
controls on the front panel, and more than you
might usually find on a stage piano. These are
really useful for live performers because they
let you change EQ, compression, delay, reverb,
tremolo, distortion and other things as you
play. It means having to use fewer pedals if
any and also provides some control over the
shape of your own sound independently of the
sound man.

volumes, and the keyboard can be split

and layered as well as transposed.

Going live
There are Live Sets available which are
presets you can flip between on the fly.
So, for example, you might have a bass
in the left hand and layered piano and
strings on the right, with effects
assigned accordingly. Hardware
shortcuts mean you can switch
between these without fiddling around
in menus, which is a relief. The RD-800
is all about live performance, and
players will know how important it is to
be able to transpose, boost or cut EQ,
change part volumes or vary effect
levels as quickly as possible. Luckily
this is all easy to do.
There are many other sounds on
board, though they arent perhaps as
breathtaking as the pianos and EPs.
Some serviceable organs benefit from
the addition of some grit via the effects,
and the sliders become drawbars in
organ mode, plus there are strings,
pads, basses, brass and others to give
you a few options. Some pre-

MT Verdict

The keys on the

RD-800 have an
authentic ebony/
ivory feel.

+ Incredibly playable instrument

+ Superb key action
+ Pianos sound wonderful
+ Electric pianos are
highly authentic
+ On board effects are excellent
+ Many realtime effect and
performance controls
+ Live Sets great for gigging
+ Piano Designer works really well
+ Doesnt bury you in science
or menus
- Some non-keyboard patches are a
little run-of-the-mill
- Backing rhythms may be best
for jamming
A fantastically playable stage
piano with top flight piano and EP
sounds and excellent hands-on
effect controls. Extremely well
thought-out and inherits some
powerful piano design technology
from the V-Piano.


88 | May 2015

MT146.Rev Roland.indd 88


16/03/2015 16:18

MT Reviews PSP Audioware Lotary

MVintageRotary costs 49 and
has a bunch of controls such as
amp simulation, EQ and cabinet
types, as well as some of the
advanced setup stuff thats a part
of all the developers products. Its
probably a bit less slick to look at.
If you already have a dedicated
Hammond virtual instrument
such as Vintage Organs by NI
youll have a rotary effect as
part of that and usually these
can be used as separate effect
processors as well.




Tired of going round and round with

the same old sounds? Put some
movement into your music with Lotary,
as Hollin Jones explains
Price $99
Via website
Windows XP SP2
or higher
Mac OS X 10.5
or higher
i5-class Intel CPU

Key features
32 and 64-bit, all
major formats
for Mac and PC
Separate Horn
and Drum rotary
Virtual mic
noise control
Onboard EQ
and ambience
Variable speed
Two quality

90 | May 2015

MT146.Rev L'Otary+minis.indd 90

olish developer PSP Audioware

has been making great
plug-ins for many years now,
and its VintageWarmer was
part of many producers introduction to
software mastering. The latest effect
processor to emerge from its stable is
Lotary, a rotary speaker emulation
based on the Leslie 122 and 147
speakers which are so closely
associated with the classic Hammond
organ sound. The idea of course is that
you dont just use it on organs; rather it
can be brought to bear on any number
of different sounds to add depth,
dynamism and interest. In addition to
the keyboards youd expect, guitars and
vocals are quite often run through
rotary speaker effects to jazz them up
but not just for jazz.

Big beast
If youve ever been in the presence of a
real Leslie rotary speaker youll know
that theyre quite remarkable things.
Though most musicians would
recognise the sound of a Hammond, its

something else to see the speaker

switched on and hear it literally start
moving round and round inside its case.
Its one of the few pieces of music
equipment that actually has to vibrate
and hum like a washing machine to do
its thing. Like a lot of hardware, finding,
affording, renovating and storing a real
Leslie is massively impractical for most
people so its a prime candidate for
software emulation. And while most
software organ instruments will have a
rotary stage, Lotary is a dedicated
rotary plug-in thats designed to be
applied to anything you like.
It comes in all major formats for
Mac and PC and is a small download

The Horn and Drum sections are

located at the top and bottom of the
window respectively and have identical
controls plus a visual representation of
their current speed. There are dual
speed controls as well as an Inertia
section that sets acceleration and
deceleration of the rotation.
A Mic section lets you set virtual
distance from the cab, gain and cutoff.
Both speakers can have their fast and
slow speeds set, and the speed lever in
the middle of the plug-in transitions
between the two of them, with the
accel/decel settings determining how
long the speakers take to gradually
change speed.

If youve ever seen a real Leslie

rotary speaker youll know that
theyre remarkable things
which is authorised using a licence file.
A minimum of an i5-class Intel CPU is
required and an i7 is recommended.
Realistically youre not going to be
running a modern music setup on a
machine much slower than an i5
though theres a suggestion that some
pretty heavy duty processing is going
on inside the plug-in. In fact you can
switch it from regular to high quality
mode, though PSP says this increases
sound quality only a little but at the
cost of considerably more CPU power.
A Leslie speaker has two main
components and both are, of course,
modelled here with detailed controls.

The idea here is that the Chorale

setting is slow and gives an almost
chorus-like quality to the signal,
whereas the Tremolo setting is much
faster and represents more intense
rotation. Its a common technique with
the Hammond: when the part youre
playing is supposed to be more in the
background, youll opt for slower, less
noticeable rotation, and when youre
playing lead you whack it up nice and
fast so it becomes much more
prominent. Set the lever somewhere
in-between the two for a more
moderate effect, and use that handy
speed lever to go straight from fast to


16/03/2015 16:13

If youd rather spend time

working on your tracks
instead of browsing
through technical manuals,
Mixcraft Pro Studio 7 is the
perfect blend of simplicity
and sophistication.


For Microsoft Windows

Download a free trial at

MT Reviews PSP Audioware Lotary

slow. The Stop button can also be used

to quickly fade the effect, leaving you
with a dry signal.
One thing that youll probably want
to do is move the speed lever in real
time, since this much better simulates
the real Hammond playing style where
players move instinctively around the
slow/fast spectrum as they play. You
could do this by automating the lever in
your DAW or by connecting an
expression pedal via MIDI and linking it
to the control via a second MIDI
channel. Unfortunately MIDI Learn,
which would simplify this process, isnt

type and drive. Theres also a Setup dial

with five options for altering the mic
setup as well as switching into
Amp-only mode, bypassing the
electroacoustic parts of the emulation.

Round again
Lotary sounds great, and its nice to see
a Leslie simulator that doesnt use
skeuomorphic graphics of a real Leslie
for once, because frankly they dont add
anything to the sound. Its also
indicative of the fact that this is
designed to be used on more than just
organs. Of course it sounds excellent on

You can put it on guitars,

vocals, drums and synths and it
brings an authentic feel to them
organs, with the various control
sections giving you more say over the
behaviour of the rotary effect than you
might normally get. Having a speed
lever and separate speaker speed and
acceleration controls means a more

yet supported although it is promised

for the future.
In the centre are some global
controls including a mechanical noise
amount dial, four-band EQ, room
ambience controls and amplifier input,

realistic Leslie experience, and dialing

in some mechanical noise sounds nice
and gritty. This stuff all applies to other
sounds as well, so you can strategically
put it on guitars, vocals, drums and
synths and it brings an authentic feel to
them. Theres a fully functional 14-day
demo available for you to check out. MT

MT Verdict
+ Excellent rotary speaker
+ Precise control over
speaker speeds
+ Tune the sound with EQ
and ambience
+ Move virtual mics around
+ Punch in rotary stop
+ Control and automate lever for
authentic, expressive playing
+ Sounds great on different
sources, as well as organs
+ Competitively priced
- A few more presets would be nice
- MIDI Learn is not supported yet
A really solid Leslie emulator with
all the controls you need. Sounds
great on organs and anything else
you stick it on.


Flare Audio
Reference R1
sE Electronics
ProMic Laser
Price 99
Contact Sonic Distribution
0845 500 2500

ou can capture highresolution video with

exceptional quality on a
simple DSLR even the pros are
doing it. But capturing audio at the
same time is a little trickier. The
built-in mics arent often great, so
sE has launched the ProMic Laser,
a shotgun microphone designed
to fit on a camera.
The ProMic Laser takes a
single AAA battery, and connects
to the camera over a short
balanced mini-jack cable. On the
body of the mic is a three-way on/
off switch, which in the third

92 | May 2015

MT146.Rev L'Otary+minis.indd 92

Manufacturer: Flare Audio

Price 499
Contact: via website
Key features
pickup pattern

Manufacturer sE Electronics

Key features
Low distortion at
full volume
Fully open
DSV (Dual Sided
Vortex) silencing
3.5mm gold minijack connector
Carry bag

position engages a high-pass

filter at 80Hz, and a separate
-10dB pad switch. The mic is
bundled with a custom-designed
quick-release shockmount and a
foam windshield. MT

MT Verdict
For recording on location
direct to DSLR, the ProMic
Laser is a clear upgrade.



heres absolutely no denying

that these will be among the
best-sounding headphones
you will audition. Theyre true,
clean, unphased by volume and
after listening to them for an
extended period you will fall in love
with them. You might even
dispatch your existing monitors in
favour of them. You might
(whisper) even forget the 499
price tag, they really sound that
good. There is a problem, however.
People who boast a big head, and
thats at least two people in the
MT office, might find extended use
uncomfortable. If you have a big
noggin or wear glasses, youll find
them painful. Sure the sound
makes the pain worthwhile, but
for half a grand we want the best
of all worlds, sorry MT

MT Verdict
Great sounding headphones
among the best in fact but
big heads should avoid



16/03/2015 16:14

MT Reviews Ferrofish B4000 +




B4000 +
When it comes to Hammond organs,
hands-on control is the ultimate way to
get the sound you want. Hollin Jones
dives into the Ferrofish B4000+

ammond organ sounds arent

exactly rare in the software
world, but whats more
unusual is to find a hardware
emulation complete with drawbars and
other controls youd get on a real organ.
There are some good reasons why
you might want a hardware instrument
rather than a software one, especially
for live performance. Taking a laptop on
stage is far more reliable an approach
than it used to be, but theres still an
element of risk with crashes and
durability. Apart from anything else, you
may not have a laptop! And while many
workstations have passable Hammond
patches, and some higher-end
keyboards such as Nords have excellent
ones, they tend to come with a
corresponding price tag.

B smart
The B4000 + is a Hammond sound
module with nine drawbars and plenty
of ins and outs that are powered by an
ARM Cortex M3 and Sharc DSP
processors, allowing three fully
polyphonic manuals to be used.
Polyphony is a crucial factor with organ
sounds, since you often find yourself
holding lots of notes at once during
runs, so you dont want to be running
out of power.

94 | May 2015

MT146.Rev Ferrofish.indd 94

Price 249
Distributor Synthax

There are not many dedicated hardware

organ modules around these days, since
software is often used in the studio.
Rolands VK-8M is now discontinued but
can be found second-hand for a sensible
price. NIs Vintage Organs collection at
89 is, of course, a software tool, but its
an alternative if you dont necessarily
need the physical drawbars.

The unit itself is small but very

solid (bomb proof, actually) and
made of white metal. On the rear panel
are two MIDI inputs for connecting
keyboards to the upper and lower
manuals plus a pedal input. Theres a
footswitch input too, as well as a single
audio in for processing sounds through
the onboard effects. Plus theres a
headphone output as well as an audio
out for routing to an amp or mixer. A
USB port enables MIDI to be sent to

dont want rotor speed to be just on or

off, you need to be able to set it at some
mid-way points as well.

Up and running
The unit is easy enough to get to grips
with and the six dials along the top feel
solid and well built. You can press the
Preset button to dive straight in and
start playing sounds. The small TFT
colour display is definitely useful and

Its a Hammond sound module

with nine drawbars and plenty
of ins and outs
Key features
Three full
Tonewheel and
Rotary speaker
FX section
Nine drawbars
External audio
Pedal inputs

your Mac or PC, effectively turning the

unit into a MIDI interface. Theres a
downloadable librarian app for patches,
and firmware updates can also be
performed over USB.
Pedal inputs are particularly
important for realistic Hammond
performance as youll want to control
both volume and the rotor speed of the
Leslie effect in realtime. Much of the
expression a Hammond player puts
into their playing is to do with varying
these parameters: typically, slower
rotor speeds and lower level during
verses and louder sound with faster
rotation during choruses or solos. You

switches to display whatever

parameters you select. It makes using
the B4000+ much easier than an LCD
screen would, since it can display
graphics more accurately. The dials can
be used to control almost any
parameter and their functions are
shown printed helpfully on the front
panel, with one for each section: sound,
percussion, tone, rotor and horn/bass.
This is really easy to work with and
get used to, and youll soon be jumping
to the right section to alter different
parameters of the sound. Flipping
between registers is simple too with
dedicated buttons to help you on your


16/03/2015 16:11

Ferrofish B4000 + Reviews MT

way, and the onboard effects rotary,

chorus, reverb and compression are
simple to work with.
The drawbars are excellent and help
with the feeling that youre playing a
real instrument, without the insane size
and responsibility of using a real
Hammond. They are notched so each
movement results in a tiny click as it
does on a real organ. Theyre smooth
but firm and switch to control the organ
register thats currently selected. The

which mode youre in and alter the

relevant setting accordingly.

Organ transplant
The Hammond sounds are excellent,
and range from dirty, mechanicalsounding jazz and blues organs through
to cleaner, church-like organs. Although
its all in the ear of the beholder, theres
something particularly gratifying about
having hardware-generated Hammond
sounds, even if they are being

The sounds range from dirty,

mechanical-sounding jazz
through to church-like organs
six dials along the top are used to
modify all kinds of other parameters
such as click, leakage, mic distance,
crunch and other physically modelled
functions, and the printed text attached
to these means you can quickly identify

generated by a processor. The effects

are great and overall its a highly
playable and authentic-sounding
module. Youll want to add a couple of
pedals for expression, and ideally use a
MIDI keyboard with waterfall keys since

these make runs and rapid note repeats

easier to play, though anything with
semi-weighted keys should do a decent
job. If youre after a dedicated
Hammond module, the B4000+ is an
easy-to-use and great-sounding option.
Its affordable and extremely sturdy, and
has all the control you need to take your
organ performances to the next level. MT

MT Verdict
+ Excellent Hammond sound
+ Get hands-on with the drawbars
+ Easy to use
+ Extremely rugged build
+ Good selection of ins and outs
+ Great organ and effect modelling
+ Plenty of polyphony
- Hardware form factor may be
more essential to performers
than producers
A literally very solid way to get
excellent Hammond sounds either
on stage or in the studio, with a
clear interface and great
hands-on controls.


TC Voice Jam Studio

Manufacturer TC Electronic
Price 14.99
Contact Via website

C Electronic has a deserved

reputation for vocal signal
processing in hardware and also
software form. Like many developers
its branching into iOS applications, and
its latest is Voice Jam Studio, a vocal
effect and looping app for iPad. You get
four stereo tracks into which to record
audio loops which can be up to eight
minutes long each though youll likely
use much shorter loops than this, and
unlimited overdubs. A metronome is
available, and for each of the tracks you
can choose a vocal preset with 50
effects presets, ranging from simple
reverbs through to hard tuning, gender
changing and so on.
The idea is that you perform vocal
parts in a loop and build up a track, as
seen in the demo video. This works fine
but there are some drawbacks. The
effects are printed on to the audio as
its recorded so they cant be changed
afterwards, although of course you can

re-do the take. Nonetheless

it would be nice to be able to
record your part once and
then flip between effects
afterwards. As long as youve
recorded to the click, the
app keeps your loops in sync
even if theyre of different
lengths. Theres MIDI control,
Audiobus and Inter-App
Audio support, and a slightly
superfluous selfie video
option so you can see
yourself. Basic mixer controls are
provided and you can record and share
your performances.
The app works well enough, though
the concept loop four tracks of audio
with effects is not enough to justify
the asking price, especially given the
competition. The effects are powerful
but the developers need to offer more
functionality or drop the price
preferably the former. MT

Key features
50 vocal effects
from TC-Helicon
Four stereo
loop tracks
Audiobus and
Inter-App Audio
Sync your loops
Record and
export a

MT Verdict
Fun enough but doesnt feel as pro
as it should for the money.



MT146.Rev Ferrofish.indd 95

| 95

16/03/2015 16:11

MT Mini Reviews

IK Multimedia
iRig Pads
Manufacturer IK Multimedia
Price 119.99
Contact via website

he latest in the seemingly

endless wave of pad-based
groove controllers is the iRig
Pads, only this time it aims to be
more compact and portable than most
and is specifically aimed at the iPad,
iPhone and iPod Touch markets (plus
laptop Mac and PC owners). It certainly
fulfils the brief in this regard as its
rugged and solid in feel but small
enough to put in an (albeit large) pocket.
The unit features a USB connector
(for your computer) and foot pedal
connector plus the expected Lightning
30-pin Apple connector. Controls
include two assignable MIDI rotaries
and one assignable slider, a couple of
assignable buttons, a rotary switch
(also programmable) and finally two
edit buttons. The biggest controls are, of
course, the 16 pads, all back-lit,


Key features
16 backlit pads
sliders, buttons
and rotaries
iPad, iPhone,
iPod compatible
USB connector
for Mac and PC
16 user scenes

multi-coloured, velocity responsive,

dominant and eminently playable
which is what they should be The
whole unit is light enough to easily carry
and powers by way of the device you
connect it to very neat.
In terms of what you can control, as
you might expect, the emphasis in all
the marketing blurb is IK focussed with
particular mention of Groovemaker 2,
DJ Rig and SampleTank, the latter of
which is bundled with it in touch form
free of charge. With it iRig Pads is
(perhaps obviously) brilliant for beat

creation on an Apple device and

likewise with SampleTank 3SE for your
Mac or PC which offers 6.5GB (for an
additional 80) to take your creativity
beyond the beats. Obviously with
everything programmable youre not
just limited to IK apps, so itll work with
APCs, Live, Maschine, GarageBand and
so on, and will save up to 16 scenes to
work with such software (of which it
ships with six presets).
As well as beat and riff creation it
will also soon work with DJ Rig to help
you mix and blend MP3s and take you
into more of a performance/DJ area.
So iRig Pads is a very flexible device
as well as being highly portable (its
depth is particularly and notably thin).
You perhaps wont benefit from its
controlability if your music is beatless
as the emphasis is definitely on grooves
and dance, but if you want extra
i-Control and are perhaps tiring of
touch, this is a worthy option. MT

MT Verdict
A compact, sturdy and portable
unit which makes a useful, tactile
addition to your i-based studio.



Korg Mini
Kaoss Pad 2S

Manufacturer M-Audio/InMusic

Manufacturer Korg

Price 49.99

Price 119

Contact via website

Contact via website



eadphones for mixing at

this price point are few and
far between. There are
plenty of listening phones but, at
just shy of 50, few make bold
studio boasts, so are these new
M50s claims justified?
Were not keen on the
wrap-around comfort compared
to more expensive options but the
phones do feel rugged. The bass
response is less rounded
compared to our reference AT
phones but these cost five times
the price so this is to be expected.
At this price, though, the M50s
will suit some pockets and we can
see them being snapped up by
entry level mixers. Experienced
producers may opt for the more
expensive HDH50s. If thats you,
check page 98 MT

96 | May 2015

MT146.REV minis.indd 96

Key features
Driver size: 50mm
Impedance: 32Ohms
Freq response:
28Hz - 20kHz
Rated power: 30mW
Cable: 1.83m and
over-ear design

MT Verdict
Theyre one of the cheapest
headphone options for proper
mixing but the detail at the
bottom is a little lacking. There
are other options see over!


he number of Kaoss devices

Korg produces might be
confusing kaottic, even
but the latest KP2S refines the
concept (thats arguably been
around for 16 years) further.
Kaoss Pad 2S retains the large
number of effects of its
predecessor (100 in total) but
adds sampling (explaining the S)
to the mix, so you can use the
device as anything from simple
recorder to mobile vocoder.
Using the device is
tremendous fun, of course, and it
is perhaps more a mobile gadget
for the performer than producer.
But the recording option adds to
the studio experience, and the
more you work with it (and the
smaller your fingers) the more you
will sonically reap. MT

Key features
100 effect programs
15 filter, 15 mod,
20 LFO, 10 delay, 5
reverb, 20 looper, 5
vocoder, 10 synth
Stereo mini jack line
in and headphone out
2x AA batteries
Data storage:
Micro SD and SDHC
Dimensions (WxDxH):
Weight: 100g

MT Verdict
Its an evolution of an aging
concept, but the KP2S is small
and perfect in many ways.



25/03/2015 08:55

Mini Reviews MT

Live 802

Manufacturer Alto/InMusic
Price 169 (street)
Contact via website

Tiny Thunder Audio

he Alto 802 Live is clearly aimed

at the live circuit, but could
actually suit a studio
environment as well. Its
compact and sturdy enough to work in
most playing and recording situations
from small studio to live venue and
packs a surprising amount of features
in for the money.
Altos parent company InMusic also
distributes Alesis, and the results of
that mix are evident here. The 802
packs quite an effects punch, with 100
digital effects care of Alesis, with a good
mix of delays, plates, tremolos and
choruses plus reverbs aplenty.
The mixer feels very sturdy and the
dials and knobs surprisingly pro given
the price tag. Youd honestly expect this
to come in at twice the price given the
spec and build.

Key features
USB 8-channel
mixer with 100 fx
3-band EQ & 2
Five XLR inputs
with preamps
9-band graphic
EQ for main/
monitor outs

It does fall down when powered up,

with notable hiss at higher levels
especially with the gain cranked up per
channel something we would expect,
given the budget. The graphic EQ can
help here with some nudges reducing it,
but its not what the EQ was intended
for it being an overall tone control to
help with global balance depending on
the venue in which you are playing.
The channels are well specd with
3-band EQ, and dynamic compression
on channels 1 and 2 particularly
welcome. This is certainly an effectspacked mixer because there are also
two aux sends on each channel, which
enable you to branch out to your own

effects racks if you tire of the on-board

DSP based ones. Dual outputs give it a
flexible monitoring edge.
As we conclude, again we have to
mention the price because a USB mixer
of this spec and for just 169 (street) is
pretty good, although the USB side is
limited you can channel two tracks of
audio to the computer.
We can see the 802 being picked up
not only for small band use but also
studio use where a couple of
instruments might be paired with a
computer. InMusics brands are getting
quite a reputation for delivering a solid
spec for low outlay and this mixer
continues that. Its solid and punchy,
and if you can work with the odd niggle
and mix at lower levels, it could be a
flexible solution to a variety of problems
both in the studio and at small to
medium-sized live venues. MT

MT Verdict
For the money the 802 delivers a
great spec, but make sure your gain
stage is as low as it can be with
your signal at maximum at source
to enjoy a more noise-free mix.


You say

Control Freak

like its a bad thing.

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MT146.REV minis.indd 97
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30/03/2015 10:00

MT Mini Reviews

Audiohub 2x4
Manufacturer Novation
Price 159.99
Contact via website

ovation, more than pretty

much any other company, has
embraced the USB standard
with all sorts of mobile
Launch products among many others,
all ready and raring to go for the more
mobile musicians. And sister company
Focusrite knows a thing or two about
audio, so if you want a hub to manage a
bunch of USB gear and that hub to
provide a good quality audio interface
too, what better than a device that does
it all, effectively from both companies?
The thinking with this is that
peoples desktops are getting pretty
cluttered with USB gubbins, and that
this device can act as the central hub,
uniting it all and more into a unified
setup. We can see how this works, even
though some of the promotional
pictures dont appear to clear the

Key features
balanced jack
Four unbalanced
RCA outputs
line inputs
Three USB type
A sockets
134 x150x41mm

clutter up, just add another device to it

all to plug in to
But were being a little picky because
this is a potentially very useful box,
despite its looks not promising too
much from the outset. Having two ins
and four outs might seem odd but the
three USB sockets provide the main
use clue. There are a pair of RCA inputs
at the front, and balanced outs to your
speakers. So plug a keyboard in (RCA
ins), for example, plus a USB device or
two, say a Launch Control (free with a
subscription to MusicTech at the
moment!) and LaunchKey and you

suddenly have a compact and very

usable hub that interfaces directly to
your computer as it turns out very
easily (with Logic in our setup).
The DJ is catered for too with
enough connections for an NI Maschine
(USB), DJ mixer (audio output) and
turntable (RCA ins) another prime
example. Then theres mobile use with
iPads, EDM studio use and beatmaking all provided for, and a good
demonstration of how flexible this unit
can be.
As ever, once a company reveals
what can be done (and should have
been done) we inevitably want more, so
more inputs (TRS) Novation, please!
This will inevitably happen with the next
release were sure. For now though
Audiohub seems like the way to go for
the desktop DJ and producer and we
look forward to more in the range. MT

MT Verdict
Not immediately obvious how
useful this little box can be but a
little thought and a lot of USB make
it everyones friend



IK Multimedia
iRig 2

Manufacturer M-Audio/InMusic

Manufacturer IK Multimedia

Price 119.99

Price 29.99

Contact via website

Contact via website



eve just seen (p96) how

the entry-level phones in
M-Audios new range
shape up in the studio and now its
time for the more expensive
option. With an encompassing
build these offer a more
immersive experience than the
M50s and the frequency response
digs deeper and reaches higher so
the response is better. At more
than twice the price of the
entry-level phones, youll have to
ask yourself if the extra 70 is
worth it for the extra Hz and
experience. Wed say definitely!
Headphones and monitors are the
most important end of your signal
chain and, as with most monitors,
these demonstrate that the more
you spend, the more you get back
in terms of accuracy MT

98 | May 2015

MT146.REV minis.indd 98



Key features
Driver size: 50mm
Impedance: 16Ohms
Freq response:
Max SPL:
114dB @ 1kHz
Cable: 2.1m and
cable with built-in
microphone included

MT Verdict
At 120 the HDH50s are a
good buy and offer a better
mix experience and range
than their cheaper brother.


he original iRig is now touted

as the most popular guitar
interface of all time and even
though that may be true, it had
much room for improvement, or so
the specs of v2 suggest
iRig is, on the face of it, a
simple interface that enables you
to plug your guitar (or bass) into an
i-device, Mac and (now) Samsung
Android. iRig 2 now features an
adjustable input dial for its 1/4in
input, and a 1/4in output jack for
amp connectivity. This is obviously
especially useful when paired with
IKs own AmpliTube guitar
processor, a free version of which
ships with iRig 2. Theres also now
a selector switch to switch in and
through effects, so v2 now comes
with a flexible range of controls
the best really has got better. MT

Key features
instrument in
and amp out
Input gain dial
1/8in TRRS
out and
headphone outs

MT Verdict
iRig 2s features arguably
should have been on v1 but it
really is the i-interface your
guitar has been looking for.



25/03/2015 08:55


On sale now 8.99 with free DVD. Digital version 5.99.

Available at WHSmith (UK), Barnes & Noble (USA) and all good
bookstores in Australia, Canada, and throughout Europe.
Or order online at 1

25/03/2015 16:22

MT Mini Reviews


Key features

Extreme Audio
Publisher Zero-G
Price 55.95
Contact +44(0)1837 55200

ound design wizard Si Begg

returns to Zero-G with
another hefty library of
meticulously crafted sounds and
textures. Aftershock aims to stand
out from other cinematic
collections by calling on cuttingedge dance music production
techniques and contains over
2.1GB of 24-bit audio in both Acid
WAV and Apple Loops formats.
Sounds are divided into folders of
abstract events, atmospheres,
hits, sweeps, risers, bass effects,
morphs and transforms, drones
and tones and more, and
everything here is detailed and
well polished. There are also
sampler instrument files for each



sample so you can experiment

with the pitch and play the sounds
like an instrument. This would be
an excellent resource for anyone
wanting fresh sounds for a
soundtrack, or for dance music
producers looking for
sophisticated sounds and fx. MT

MT Verdict
A large and meticulously
engineered package of
cutting-edge sound design
samples thats perfect for
media work. Also, having
individual sampler patches for
each sample is a major bonus.


Full Intention
House Republic
Manufacturer Loopmasters


MT146.REV minisP100.indd 100

DJ Sappo
Presents Rolling
Jungle and DnB
Publisher Loopmasters
Price 29.95

eteran Jungle and DnB

producer DJ Sappo has
joined forces with
Loopmasters for a massive
collection of trademark sounds
taken from some of his biggest
tunes on Flex, Intalex, V
Recordings and more. Theres over
600MB of rolling breaks, tough
bass lines and moody music riffs,
all programmed and re-sampled
on original Akai, Yamaha and
Roland hardware, then
remastered using analogue valve
compressors, EQs and pristine
converters. Everything here oozes
a warm analogue grit that makes
it stand out against more modern
packs. Any fan of classic 90s DnB

Key features
668MB of rolling
DnB loops and hits
Available in wav,
Apple Loops, Live
and ReFill formats
140 Sampler
patches for EXS24,
HALion, Kontakt,
Kong, NN-XT
and SFZ
174 to 178bpm
Produced by
DJ Sappo

will feel immediately at home, and

although its familiar, the excellent
production makes everything
relevant. Sappo manages to
balance interesting production
with punchy hooks. To top things
off, theres also a huge collection
of excellent one-shot bass, synth,
FX, drum and percussion hits. MT

MT Verdict
A varied treasure trove of
satisfying, well produced
hooks and riffs with a well
rounded analogue finish.


Remixing Techniques

10 in Ableton Live
671MB of
44.1kHz audio
125 sampler
patches for
HALion, EXS24,
Kong, NN-XT
205 loops and
317 one-shots


100 | May 2015


Key features

Price 29.95

ance pioneers Full Intention

have teamed up with
Loopmasters for a pack of
over 600MB of big sounding
drums, basslines and synth
melodies, which have been taken
from, and inspired by, 15 years of
productions and remixes. All
samples have been recorded
through an analogue valve mixer
or SSL desk and everything here
has a high quality sheen to it. You
wont necessarily find anything
cutting edge in the drums,
percussion, top loops, bass and
synth loops, but everything is
solid, well produced and punchy,
but not over compressed. The real
stars are the fantastic live brass
and string loops, which can be
used to add a nice organic flavour
to your tracks. There are also

design library
by Si Begg
Over 2.1GB of
24-bit audio
600 samples
in Acidized Wav
and Apple Loops
for Kontakt
5.4.2, EXS24,
HALion and
hits, drones,
morphs, FX
and more

some bonus MIDI files, Massive

presets, and a large and excellent
collection of drum, bass and
music hits with accompanying
sampler patches MT

MT Verdict
A large library of classy house
music samples, with some
lush string and brass loops
alongside some decent,
punchy hits and fx.


with Rob Jones

Manufacturer Producertech
Price 22.95
Contact via website

roducertechs Rob Jones is

back with another step-bystep tutorial for, which can be
streamed online direct from the
site. Although the resolution could
be a little higher, theres still more
than enough detail to follow
whats going on and everything
loads quickly. Jones works his way
through a remix project, which
starts off with the individual track
stems and gradually builds up into
a full deep house track. Along the
way there are many useful tips
and techniques including making
sampler instruments, extracting
grooves, and writing bass lines
with Push. Although Jones
occasionally touches upon mixing

Key features
elements, the Two hours
tutorial overall of video
Nine modules
focusses more
53MB of free
on the creative Loopmasters
samples plus
aspects of
building up the Live Project
parts and then Follows a deep
laying out the house remix of a
arrangement. folk track
You also get a
bonus Live project of the finished
track and a handful of high
quality tech house loops and hits
from Loopmasters. MT

MT Verdict
An easy to follow tutorial
thats light on mixing
techniques, but packed full of
useful creative tips and
arrangement ideas.



25/03/2015 08:57

Mini Reviews MT

Korg Volca
Manufacturer Korg
Price 119
Contact via website

ere playing catch up a

little here with the Volca
Sample, a gadget that has
been around for a little
while but slipped a couple of issues of
the magazine. And we nearly missed a
good one because Volca Sample carries
on where the other Volcas left off and
adds a bit more and in this case, its a
bit more digital. Yes, whereas the first
three units which concentrated on
bass, keys and beats were largely
analogue, Sample is largely digital,
down to the fact that it is sample-based
more than anything else, but the digital
side does enhance its use.
Without the possible hindrance of
an analogue design, the unit boasts a
more productive performance feel with
an intuitive sequencer. Its very easy to
program, drop sounds in and out and


Key features
Polyphony: 8
Sample size:
4Mb (65 seconds!)
11 parameters
Reverb, bass
and treble
Battery or mains
(optional) operated
Weight: 372g

build tracks by way of the ten-pattern

memory. There are a lot of cool example
patterns too some perhaps a little too
cool for school and the Motion
Sequencers functions enable
sophisticated editing over 11
parameters to twist and turn ideas.
The rather grandly named Analogue
Isolator is a bass and treble control for
anyone over 35 but eminently useful, if
for nothing else, to boost the range of
the on-board speaker which isnt great
but useful if youre away from your
studio (although even then we might
recommend headphones).
Sound-wise it comes loaded with a
bank of sounds provided by Korg which


Manufacturer Roland
Price 110
Contact 01792 702701

olands AIRA assault

continues! Last month we
had the TR-7X7 expansion for
the superb TR-8 module and
this month its another turn for
System-1. Weve seen how well another
Roland synth classic, the SH-101,
converts to the System-1 format. You
get a piece of software that emulates a
piece of classic synth gear both as a
Plug-out and plug-in. With the former,
the Roland classic synth sounds sit
within the System-1 keyboard to take
out live or to the studio. As a plug-in the

Key features
synth (run multiple
instances in s/w
for polyphony)
Dual oscillator
plus noise source
64 presets
patches plus user
VST and AU
Req: Mac OSX
10.8.5+, 4GB RAM,
100MB hard drive;
PC Windows 7+,
2GB RAM, 100Mb
hard drive. Intel
Core 2 Duo for both

software also sits within your DAW

working exactly like a standard
software instrument plug-in.
Were still not entirely convinced of
the former Plug-out need. Sure its a
nice touch, but its still limited to eight
sounds to take with you. But that said,
we do like the way the System-1
hardware so easily controls the
software plus the synth sounds have
been authentic version of the
originals so far.
Which brings us to the not an
obvious synth for a reboot, Promars
Plug-out. The original was a rare, quirky
1979 synth that used digital technology
to become one of the few analogues
with presets okay, just 10 plus 10
user, but presets nonetheless.

you can replace by way of an i-device

(this seems to be the theme in this
issues Mini Reviews section) which is a
limitation although the app is free.
This, the speaker and some fiddly
controls might put off some people, and
perhaps those more used to polished
hi-end devices. But that would be a
shame because theres arguably more
fun and creativity to be had here than
on the other Volcas (and especially with
the other Volcas) and we like the nod
back to happier, simpler sampling
times. Limitations on memories? Lo-fi
sounds? Bring it all back we say, as
under those limitations creativity
blossomed! Everything is far too clean
these days and sometimes we could all
do with reining it in, being limited and
getting a bit dirty. MT

MT Verdict
Its the whitest of the Volcas and
dont hold its digitalism against it
because theres a lot of fun to be
had with Samples intuitive nature,
sequencer and interface.


Of course were not limited to that

when it comes to the software, so were
not now limited to the names Synth1,
Trumpet and Piano that you found on
the original synth either!
Instead you get four banks of 64
preset locations, of which not all are
filled, so you get 44 bass sounds, 38
Lead, 25 Synth and 48 FX, Drums and
ARPs (plus some 1979 recreations of
those presets including a horrible sax
very authentic mind!). The real fun
with the Promars is had with some of
the synth and Arp sounds which often
have an edgy bite and squelch, not like
your normal analogue plus the bass
sounds especially those exhibiting
added wobble. These give the synth a
contemporary edge and a real
character, and the System-1 keyboard
control makes this a joy to use. So while
we might not be convinced of System1s power and point, Promars certainly
makes it a more attractive package. MT

MT Verdict
A fantastic sounding plug-in that,
while fairly pricey, when combined
with the hardware can be glorious
both in sound and to control.



MT146.REV minis.indd 101

| 101

25/03/2015 08:55

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30/03/2015 12:32

Six of the best Buyers Guide MT

Six of the best



Mobile Tech


Welcome to the MusicTech Buyers Guide where we round up

some of the best products recently reviewed at MusicTech.
This month: a range of hardware controllers,, from small to
do-it-all, from Komplete to mobile

BEST Komplete deal

NI Komplete

Price 429 to 599
Contact Native
01792 702701

inner of not one,

but two MusicTech
Gear Of The Year
Awards (Best Controller
and Best Innovation), Komplete Kontrol
is the complete deal if you own NIs
Komplete software. As well as being a
superbly built keyboard range, it
utilises amazing screens and Light
Guide, where keys on the keyboard are
lit with different colours to either help
your playing or to replicate the
keyboard zones in your current
Komplete instrument. Superb!
Reviewer Andy Jones said: Native
Instruments is designing incredibly
good-looking products that are solving
problems we quite often dont know
we have, and concluded: Komplete
Kontrol brings Kontakt and Reaktor
software to life. Essential if you have
Komplete and after seeing them in
tandem, youll consider both as the
ultimate music production package.

BEST Something for everyone

Alesis V/Vi ranges

here are two ranges to choose

from here, but with the V and
Vi ranges from Alesis you
really do get a keyboard to
match most playing styles and studio
uses. The V range is slim and
surprisingly playable, whereas the Vi
range comes packed with controllers
and pads. Something for every

pocket too, as the prices for both

ranges go from 65 to 130. Andy
Jones concluded: Wed recommend
the Vi range overall as the cash outlay
isnt that much extra. The VI61 is a
particularly good steal. Superb
keyboard range for the money,
offering a proper playing experience
and oodles of control.

V: 65 to 120
Vi: 120 to 179
Contact InMusic
T: +44 01252 896040

Price 80
Contact Novation
01494 462246

BEST Mobile


he Launchkey Mini is like a

miniature version of the
Launchkey 25. However on
closer inspection it becomes
apparent that Novations focus is on
iPad-based composition. Integration
with the free Launchkey app allows for a
staggering amount of creative control.
The eight assignable rotary dials control
a range of varying parameters that alter
the myriad presets substantially,
resulting in quite a range of sounds and
effects. Reviewer Andy Price said: It is
immense fun to play, offering a huge
range of ideas with little physical space
taken up in-studio and no mains
powering required one of the finest
mobile instruments money can buy. He
concluded: Launchkey Mini packs
quite a punch and is clearly designed
with the modern, trendy and
constantly-moving composer in mind.

MT146.6OTB.indd 103

| 103

16/03/2015 16:01

MT Buyers Guide Six of the best

BEST Tactile

Korg Taktile

Price 279
Contact Korg UK:
01908 304600

aktile from Korg is a USB

keyboard controller available in
49 and 25 keys, with a Triton
model also available with
sounds from the Korg classic. The
49-key Triton-less version we tested is
among the best keyboard controllers
that adapts to the DAW you use, with
presets available for all of the most
common software sequencers. It also
has a huge number of control and
playing options, making it a great
compact controller useful for a wide

A huge number of control options

making it a great compact controller for a
wide range of applications
Price 209
(89.95 upgrade)
Contact T&S:
01837 55200
Web www.time

BEST Live controller

104 May 2015

MT146.6OTB.indd 104

BEST Sounds


eyboard controllers arent

exactly known for their
sounds as theyre usually,
well, purely controllers. Most
of the time, that is. Arturias Keylab
range changes things, however, by
offering access to the companys back
catalogue of heritage sounds a whole
range of classic synths and
instruments. We had a few reservations
when reviewing it originally but it has
since been updated and now includes
a full version of Bitwig Studio. Reviewer
Andy Jones said: This hybrid
keyboard/synth is a great idea with a
rock solid controller and some
amazing sounds.


Akai APC Key 25

kais latest controller is the
APC Key 25, the only APC
model with a keyboard. It
manages to fit a surprising
amount of functionality in and will
certainly be of interest to Live users. Its
insanely portable and very light indeed.
Its also pre-mapped for Live, and youll
find that the controls map across

range of applications. Reviewer Andy

Jones said: It has those great real-time
options and superb DAW integration,
and I havent even mentioned the
software bundle which includes Korgs
M1 Le software, EZ drummer Lite,
Lounge Lizard Session, an Ableton Live
discount coupon and Reason Limited,
which is enough to get anyone going
from scratch. Taktile has set the bar
high a great package and
performance tool. Much more than a
typical keyboard controller.

Price 99.99
Contact InMusic:
01252 896040

beautifully, with red outlines appearing

in the software to denote what youre
currently controlling. Hollin Jones said:
Its tiny footprint means its good for
those pressed for space, or for working
on the move, and concluded: A
surprisingly versatile Live controller
considering its extreme portability.
Having a keyboard is a great bonus.


16/03/2015 16:01

on any device,

Download your FREE app today

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30/03/2015 12:29

MT Feature A bluffers guide to Synthesisers

MT Feature Music Technology

Just why are synths so popular? Take a swift walk through the
history of the synthesiser with Rob Boffard and youll be hooked

oull come across a synthesiser pretty quickly if youre involved in

music production, particularly electronic music production. Perhaps
youve already had a chance to play around with one and youve
almost certainly heard the sounds they make. That buzzing, slightly
artificial sound that makes dance and dubstep feels so good? Thats a
synthesiser. But if youve never used them before, then they can be daunting
Its rare to find one, certainly among mass-market plug-ins and hardware,
that doesnt have dozens of knobs and faders on it. If youre not familiar with
how they work, then youll find yourself stuck in a world of presets. And thats no
fun at all. Fortunately, understanding how synthesisers work is actually
relatively straightforward once you understand the basic principles. Thats what
well be looking at in this guide.

Powered by

Back to basics
Take a tone. That isnt a euphemism for something. Just think of a tone: a single,
unvarying note. It doesnt matter which one. Now combine that tone with
another one perhaps one an octave higher or lower. Congratulations: youve just
synthesised a new sound, with its own timbre and character.
This is the underlying principle of synths. A synth generates a tone, or a set of
tones, and combines them to form new sounds. These tones express themselves
as electrical signals, which enable the sound to be played through speakers, and
come from components that are known as oscillators. Synthesisers are usually,
but not always, controlled with a keyboard.

106 | May 2015

MT146.Bluffers Guide.indd 106


20/03/2015 10:12

A bluffers guide to synthesisers Feature MT

Logics ES2 synthesiser. Note

the oscillators and their
related shapes. In this case,
weve picked square and
sawtooth oscillators.

The fun part comes when you

start altering the combined
tones, or mixing them with
other sounds.
By adding in things such
as filters, low-frequency
sounds, envelopes, noise
and the like, you can create
a theoretically infinite
palate of sounds. You can
mimic real-life
instruments, create
brand new ones, or
A (Korg) ARP Odyssey. This is a classic synth albeit in modern form, based on a 70s and 80s synth, and
re-engineered by Korg and one of its original designers.
engineer an exciting
combination of both. The
synth is the ultimate production tool, and there are good reasons why producers
obsess over them.
Although there are theoretically an infinite number of tones, youll find that
Tech terms
there are a few common ones that get more use than most. The basic sound
ingredients start with waveforms such as sawtooth, square and triangle, and
electronic circuit that
produces a signal. In
they all have differing characteristics.
audio terms, combining
There are several different types of synthesis, such as subtractive, additive,
two of these signals
wavetable and grain. Were not going into these here, as we could take up
together will give you a
hundreds of pages of this magazine just delving into the possibilities of each
new sound.
one. But to give you an idea, subtractive synthesis is the one that youll
FILTER: a circuit
encounter the most. It takes a set of signals and attenuates them using filters
(or part of a software
subtracting from the sound to create a whole new set of harmonics. Think of this
program) that cuts
as mixing different types of concrete together to create a new substance, letting
or boosts the sound
it set, then attacking it with a chisel until the shape you want emerges.
at a specific frequency.

At the controls
Once youve got your oscillators going, its time to start meddling with them.
There are a few tools youll have at your disposal on any synth, and its worth
knowing what they are.
Firstly, theres the low frequency oscillator, or LFO. This is a special type of
oscillator, in that its not actually audible until you apply it to your existing
sound. Essentially it pushes a low-frequency pulse (generally under 5Hz) through
your sound, causing it to wobble. You can hear examples of this in dubstep
basslines. Like regular oscillators, the LFO has distinctive shapes, and the
amount you add in controls how fast the oscillation is. You can also sync it to the
tempo of your song to match the rhythm, making it a very handy tool.
Then there are filters. A filter enables you to select a particular frequency
within a sound, and increase or decrease its impact. This modifies its harmonics,
which mean you can create some truly wild sounds particularly if you
automate the filter. If youve ever heard rising rush before the main part of a
dance track kicks in, youre hearing the effect of a filter.
You can also use envelopes to manipulate the sound. Its important to
remember that a synth note is a musical note, just like any other. You can control
how fast it comes in (its attack) and how fast it fades out (its release) these are
the easiest to understand, and the ones youll be using the most. You can also
control the level the sound plays at throughout its duration (the sustain) and
how long it takes to get from the apex of the attack to that sustain (the decay).
Those are just the basics. Most synths will have a multitude of other tools
enabling you to mess with your sound. But if you can get your head around
oscillators, filters and envelopes, youll have a good grounding in what
synthesisers are and what they do. Understand those and you can create any
sound on Earth. Grab a freeware synth there are loads online, and any DAW on
the market will come with a few and start messing around. Youll find you get
the idea very quickly.
One of the slightly frustrating things about starting with synthesisers is
actually figuring out where the controls are. This is worth mentioning because

ENVELOPE: a set of
values affecting the
volume of the sound at
specific points, such
as its start and end.
Usually expressed using
the terms attack, decay,
sustain and release.

LFO: Low Frequency

Oscillator. Refers to
an inaudible pulse,
lower than 5Hz, which
is applied to a signal
in order to give it a
characteristic wobble.


MT146.Bluffers Guide.indd 107

| 107

20/03/2015 10:12

MT Feature A bluffers guide to synthesisers

many people will get their start on software

synthesisers, and for some reason, manufacturers
often try to mimic the design and layout of hardware
synths. What you end up with is a collection of knobs
and faders on screen, which arent intuitively laid
out and are sometimes a little bit fiddly to use with a
mouse. Unfortunately, this is something that youre
going to have to get used to. It stops being a problem
once youve found a synth youre comfortable with.

Hard versus soft

There is no subject in music-making more nerdy or
more filled with anoraks than synthesisers. We mean
this in the nicest possible way. Its because of those
anoraks that we have such fantastic sounds at our
disposal. But for anybody new to synths, its a bit
like having someone explain Game Of Thrones to you
when you havent read the books or seen the series.
Its all incredibly fascinating, but it is also
immensely complex.

The Moog System 55 Modular Synthesiser costs an expected whopping $35,000, and is based on three
classic Moogs. Needless to say, only aficionados need apply

The circuitry in these models is

often exquisite, producing
unbelievable sound quality
This is because synthesisers go back a long way.
They were around decades before Macs and PCs
came on the scene. Anyone wanting to get involved in
synthesiser work in the 60s or 70s needed a basic
knowledge of electrical engineering as well as
Buddhist like-level of patience for when things didnt
work out as planned. They also needed a massive
spare room to put the bloody things in early
synthesisers were absolutely enormous.
Certain synths are indelibly linked to certain
genres the Roland TB-303 was a bass synth that
kickstarted a lot of dance music, for example. Going
into the full history of synthesisers would, as before,

take up a lot more room than we have here, but as

youd expect theres plenty online if you want to
investigate. Youll soon become familiar with names
such as Korg, Moog and more all of which still
make killer instruments today.
The crazy thing is, even now, when software
synths are just as powerful and versatile as those
old dinosaurs, theres still an enormous market for
hardware. Theres a very good reason for this. The
circuitry in some of these models, old or new, is
often exquisite, producing sound quality that is just
unbelievable. The downside, of course, is that they
can be amazingly expensive. Moog, one of the
godfather companies of synths, recently announced
a System 55 modular synthesiser that replicates
classic Moogs. Want to buy it? Youll need $35,000.
But, then again, you could get your self a Novation
Bass Station II, a common enough sight in many
studios, for just 400.
If you still cant afford these there are still plenty
of fantastic software synthesisers that you can use.
Companies such as Native Instruments, u-he and
LennarDigital make some truly amazing software
instruments. These often come with stacks of presets
to play around with, too, so youve got no excuses.

Dive in
We cant emphasise enough that this guide is only
scratching the surface. The quickest way to figure
out what synths can do, and where they can take
you, is to dive right in. Its only by playing around
that youll figure out exactly what your chosen synth
can do. And when you do get going, youll find that
synths are a huge amount of fun MT

Reasons Subtractor analogue synth. This is a pretty standard subtractive software synthesiser,
with easy-to-understand sections.

108 | May

MT146.Bluffers Guide.indd 108

This feature is endorsed by SSR which has been

providing professional education training in the
audio engineering industry for over 30 years. With
campuses in London, Manchester, Jakarta and
Singapore, SSR has gained a healthy reputation
within the music industry for producing well
trained, professional graduates across the globe.


20/03/2015 10:12




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06/03/2015 09:51

MT Show off your studio

Show off
your studio
Its one of our most popular features
where we ask MusicTech readers to
show off their studios. Simple as that!
Here are three of the best

A real relationship between the

machine, the music and you

Paquito Garcia
Interviewee: Paquito Garcia
What are the key components in
your studio?
Powerful Apple iMac, Logic Pro 9,
UAD Apollo Quad interface including
lots of plug-ins; Moog Little Phatty;
Korg MS-20; Roland TR-8 drum
machine; Arturia and Korgs Legacy
collection; M-Audio Project Mix
control; Yamaha monitors and more!
Which DAW do you use and why?
Ive been a Logic user since version 2
and still my main DAW is v9. Logic
does the job best if you work with
MIDI. For live performances I work
with Abletons Live.
What is your favourite piece of
gear in the studio?
My Moog Little Phatty beast. Its
always such a warm sounding bass
and it simply add something special
to the tracks You can basically dry
your hair with a Moog bass thats
how powerful this machine is!
How often are you in your studio?
Being a father changes your
priorities. Therefore I spend much

110 | May 2015

MT146 SOYS.indd 110

less time in the studio now, but I try

to work faster and more efficiently.
Around 20 hours a week and
sometimes more. Im also working on
my Anthology album but it may take
a while to finish the project which
will be released on Vertige Records.
How do you use your studio?
For composing, recording and mixing.
I enjoy inviting musicians and
organising crazy recordings and jam
sessions. You never know what can
come out of a jam session. Sometimes
you can be working on your own for
hours trying to break a good sound,
and one person can come in and
the magic happens!
Perfect or room for improvement?
I think I spend far too much time
doing one thing. For instance,
creating a sound, on a track section,
mixing, searching in samples
libraries, etc. So its nothing really
annoying but perhaps I have too
many options. I miss the time of the
Amiga 2000: making music back in
those days was simply more

straightforward. No internet, no
plug-ins nothing could stop you. It
was a real relationship between the
machine, the music and you.
What is next on your shopping list?
For the past eight years Ive been
using the M-Audio Project Mix
(discontinued support) as my main
audio/MIDI control. Its probably
about the right time now to upgrade
for example, to Avids Artist
Control, which supports the latest
OSX versions.
Dream piece of gear?
Ive always liked 80s movies, music
and synths. One day Ill get a
Roland Juno 106, Jupiter 8, Korg
PolySix, Korg MonoPoly and why
not? also a LinnDrum.
One piece of advice?
Maybe just to start with one
powerful hardware sampler. Make
it work! Period.
And finally, your philosophy?
No music, no life.


19/03/2015 09:20

Show off your studio MT

The Room

Wilson Flores

Interviewee: Brian McNatt

Interviewee: Wilson Flores


Start simple,
be patient



Key components in your studio?

The Brain (StudioCat rack PC, Quad
Core 4.4Ghz, 16GB RAM, Win7);
Central Nervous System (Allen &
Heath Xone 92 with an NI Audio10 &
patchbay gets it all in and out
nicely); JoeMeek TwinQ Pre/Comp/
EQ; Blue Spark Mic; Audix OM2 mic;
FMR Audio RNLA (nice levelling
amp); Technics 1200; Moog Sub
Phatty; Moogerfoogers; Waldorf
Rocket; Roland TR-8; NI Maschine &
Kore 2; Akai APC40; Novation 25SL;
Korg KP3+ & Kaoss Pad; KRK Rockit
8s with 10s sub and so many cables!
Which DAW do you use and why?
Ive been with Live since version 2.
As to why, Im an old school cut and
paster at heart. I first started making
tracks on an old version of Cool Edit
(RIP) when it was a single stereo file
wave editor and only did offline
processing. Talk about time
consuming: using a calculator and
figuring out all the paste points in
milliseconds! Id learned MIDI from
a Yamaha RM1X and been using
Reason 2, but once a buddy of mine
turned me on to Live I never looked
back. That said, I use Maschine a lot
I have Komplete 9 Ultimate and the
pairing of the two is beautiful.
Reason still gets game time, too.
Favourite part of the studio?
Isnt that kinda like asking a parent
to pick their favourite child?
How often are you in your studio?
A typical week sees me in here about
10-15 hours. With a full-time job and

A room with a brain

(and a Brian)

a daughter, well, yknow But there

is this sweet spot of the day right
when my girlfriend goes to bed. Ill
usually get two to three hours then.
How do you use your studio?
I like High End Amateur. I like many
styles of electronic music a love
affair I developed when a buddy
turned me on to Aphex Twin. I read
how the Chemical Brothers got into
making records as they didnt like
any of the music, and I said sign me
up for that. Thats when I bought my
Yamaha RM1X. That was when I was
20-ish now Im 35 (yikes). Its been
a helluva good time.
Perfect or room for improvement?
I keep avoiding it, but I should buy
some acoustic treatment. As far as
efficiency goes Id like some hard
wood floors and a chair with wheels.
What is your dream piece of gear?
I dont really have a good answer. I
really do like what I have. Maybe
some massive modular setup.
One piece of advice? Make your
studio interesting and fun. Ive got
sci-fi toys dotting the landscape,
posters, TV, videogames
wonderful for writers block and
when you need to give your ears a
rest. The gear doesnt matter. Some
of my favourite albums/songs are
being made by kids 15 years
younger than me with a laptop and
one MIDI controller. Get yourself a
space, make it enjoyable, be creative
and never stop having fun.

Main studio components?

Akai MiniAk and APC40; Korg
EM-1; Arturia Spark LE, Mini Lab,
Micro Brute; Moog Slim Phatty.
Which DAW and why?
Ableton Live 8: its awesome for
creating remixes and live jamming.
Logic X: great for electronic music,
hip-hop beats, etc.
Favourite piece of gear and why?
My favourite has to be the Moog Slim
Phatty synthesizer, because its
analogue and I grew up listening to
analogue gear.
How long do you spend in the studio?
About three to five hours.
How do you use the studio?
At the present time its just for fun.
Perfect or room for improvement?
Its in my living room I wish I had a
separate room.
Next on your studio shopping list?
Id love a mixer with an audio
interface, so that I can have more
control over inputs.
Dream piece of gear?
A violin or cello I just love the
sound and would love to learn to play
them both.
Any advice to people starting out?
Start simple, be patient, and never
get rid of old equipment. MT

MT146 SOYS.indd 111

| 111

19/03/2015 09:20

MT Next month

Whats in

Issue 147 On sale 21st May


The second part of our collaboration special will have

you making music with anyone, anywhere
* If anyone gets the reference they get a prize

New gear!

6 of the best

The Experts (see p3)
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16/03/2015 16:05



Photo: Radek Barczak -
2014 Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. FENDER and PASSPORT are registered trademarks of FMIC. All rights reserved.




2014_Fender_Passport Studio_AD The Music Trades 2_210x297_3mm bld.indd 1

27/10/2014 12:26

MT Your Disc

DVD146 4GB+ PC&Mac



Welcome to DVD 146. Weve got a tough pack

of raw analogue synth sounds alongside trap
kits and electronic samples and hits. Plus
tutorials on Cubase, Live and Logic, and the
latest demo, software and workshop files

Size 207MB Format 24bit/44.1kHz WAV, Kontakt, NN-XT

Arturias first foray into the analogue synth market a
couple of years back proved to be quite a hit, with its compact
MiniBrute offering up four oscillators, sub and noise oscillators, a
Brute distortion knob and Steiner-Parker Multimode Filter all
wrapped up in a neat package. Our friends at Pink Noise Studio
have got their hands on one and created an exclusive pack of 15
multisampled resonant basses, searing leads and percussive FX
that sizzle with raw analogue energy. The collection
demonstrates why the MiniBrute is one of our favourite synths
and just a little of what it is capable of.
Web Web



Size 1.13GB Format 24bit/44.1kHz WAV, MIDI

Equinox Sounds present a massive pack of five
instrumental Trap and Dirty South construction kits. With a
fusion of tight hip-hop-style drum sounds, massive kick
drums, rolling hats and epic musical elements, youll find
everything you need to put together your own club-ready
masterpiece. Each kit is provided with the BPM information
and presented with a full mix and its component parts as full
stems. Also included are MIDI files for the melodic parts of
the construction kits so you can use the riffs with your own
instruments and libraries. Web


The iOS classic synth has finally been

ported over to Audio Unit format, with two
oscillators and two sub-oscillators, pulse
width, frequency and ring modulation,
flexible multiband filters and more.


An ultra high-quality emulation of a rotary speaker
based on two legendary Leslie 122 and 147 models.
Recreate classic sounds or rotate the high
frequency horn and low frequency horn
independently for more creative effects.

114 | May 2015

MT146.DVD pages.indd 114

Size 515MB Format MP4, MOV

Producertech turns its attentions to remixing in two new tutorial courses
featuring Rob Jones and Dodge & Fuskis Rob Talbott. First up, Jones
takes us through building up the percussive house beat and arranging
in Ableton Live, then we have Talbott walking through putting together
a big EDM style riser section using Cubase. There are also trailers for
the full courses, plus the latest edition of Producertechs In The Loop
video podcast, which looks at Compassion and PitchFunk plug-ins from
DMG Audio, using clip envelopes for sidechain duties in Live, creating a
303-style bass in Massive, an interview with producer Christian Vance, and
a look at the new Tannoy Reveal 402 monitors. Web

Meter software that offers VU meters, RMS meters and PPM
meters in a single plug-in so that you can measure and compare
your signal in different ways. Triple Meter has an M/S mode,
plus discrete calibration, shared trim faders, filters,
and a label strip.

An octave divider plug-in based on the Boss OC-2
Pedal that generates signals one and two octaves
below the original. Features include a scope showing
the key signal and output, additive and phasemultiplier modes, a gate and envelope follower, and
two LPFs.


Based on the infamous Supersaw sound of the Roland
JP-8000, SUPER-7 is a compact synth with 32-voice
polyphony, an emulated supersaw wave, 4-pole lowpass
filter, shape-able envelopes and 20 presets.


27/03/2015 08:31

Your Disc MT



Size 330MB Format 24-bit/44.1kHz

WAV, MIDI, Massive
Sample company ModeAudio offers up a
diverse range of cutting-edge, electronic
sample packs, and weve got a massive, highly
flexible collection for you taken from their
latest and greatest releases. You can expect
to find dark and evocative drones and
textures, heavy, glitched out beats, dreamy
chillwave guitars, dusty, lo-fi music loops and
much more. There are loops and hits in 24-bit
WAV format, plus MIDI loops, and a whole
load of hip-hop, tech house, trap and RnB
Massive presets for you to experiment with in
your tracks. Web



Size 725MB Format MP4

The drum track forms the backbone for nearly all forms of modern
music and, as such, needs to be mixed well to be effective. Weve got two
videos presented by Point Blank Music School that delve into the art of
mixing drums. First up, engineer and Point Blank Instructor Ganesh
Singaram (Pharrell, Swedish House Mafia) gives his top five tips for
creating bigger drums, with discussions on EQ, compression, panning and
more. Theres also a video with Justin Lindley on mixing techniques using
Logics stock plug-ins alongside a load of free software such as Tokyo Dawn
Labs TDR VOS SlickEQ, Camel Audios CamelCrusher, and Sinevibes
Turbo. Web



Size 412MB Format MOV

Loop+, the production blog from Loopmasters, has
whipped up another bundle of studio and software videos.
This month they put together an interview with Live Deep
Jazz House producer Dan Mardan, who takes us through his
sample pack production workflow. Next, Producertechs
Rob Jones delivers a product show and review of Lindell
Audios ChannelX analogue channel strip plugin toolset.
Finally Dodge & Fuski producer Rob Talbott shows us
around BitWig studio. Copy the videos to your HD for
optimum playback. Web


MT146.DVD pages.indd 115

2015 | 115

27/03/2015 08:32


Pure and natural like nothing before

designed for music professionals, the k812
superior reference headphones provide the most accurate
balance for mixing, mastering and music production.


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