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Renoise 2.51: Music Tracker Studio.

October 31st, 2010 by Hexfix93

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Before I get started check out Toxic Coma(VAC side project) all done on renoise tracker.

Overview: What makes a tracker so cool is that it is old school and written to the hardware in old school code. The code is more efficient than today’s modern sequencers and can do more without sacrificing audio engine quality. This DAW looks, feels, and operates cryptically. The interface is not at all like other mainstream sequencer applications. It always seems to be the new users who are used to cubase & logic styles of sequencing. This is not for the faint of heart. This style of sequencer started in the 80s on the Atari st and Amiga computers. I used to use these on the Amiga and Atari back when we made music for our joke band Toxic Coma. I am very proficient in using this interface. I can even use the hexadecimal code commands to pull off live sample manipulations. I don’t think any music application is easy to use, but honestly this one is particularly difficult at first but don’t be put off as this is one of the powerful audio manipulators on the market and its dirt cheap, 59 bucks or something. There are Renoise tutorials on youtube, so if you plan to use this, I recommend searching on YouTube. What you have to understand about Renoise, first and foremost, is that it is a SAMPLER. It plays samples in its native mode. Think Sampler Sequencer. It started out as an audio sample sequencer, unlike cubase and logic that started out as midi sequencers then added in all the audio later. I think this is why the sound quality is so much better. It was programmed that way from the ground up.

Below: Toxic Coma Using Renoise.

Interface: 9.5
The interface is weird. It looks like code from an 8-bit computer. There are plenty of buttons and menus. The selection interface is pretty easy to navigate. Once you get used to it, it’s actually better than cubase for setting things up. Renoise has really beefed up the tracker, modernizing it in many ways, except the main notation interface is columns of letters and numbers and the whole screen scrolls. It defaults to a 16th note grid. Its a pattern sequencer. The default sequencer is 0 through 63, so 64 notes in each pattern per channel(you can change the patter lengths as well). You can add a ton of channels if you need them. Each column is a channel. It is really easy to step edit notes. It can record you live and in loop mode. The cool thing is that this is made for the computer. This makes the main qwerty keyboard your instrument. You can play a couple of octaves on the keyboard by default. This rocks if you have no real gear to use. This is how we managed Toxic Coma all those years at everyone’s house. All you need is a computer. I honestly love this interface. I am so used to it, been using it since 1989. So I understand it completely. Through the ages they have modernized this through the addition of effects, midi, high midi resolution, and vst plugins for instruments and effects. I love how the music is scrolling down the screen versus left to right which is typical of other sequencers. The big patterns by default force me to be more creative and stay out of looping 4×4 bars like you end up doing in cubase. So when you record audio into it, you have to edit it with the sample editor, assign it to an instrument slot, and then, trigger it with a note. You cannot lay audio down like a virtual tape recorder as you would in Cubase. I prefer everything being samples and not tape like chunks of audio, it makes me feel like sequencing and cutting up and looping anything how ever I want to. This style makes me edit and tweak everything way more than I ever do in cubase. In a way, I like how everything is accessible with out too much digging, intelligently placed tabs, the upper screen and lower screen contain important track and song functione. I love the track scopes, so cool, I love how the main pattern editor and sequencer is in the middle, and on the left is the pattern seq, on the left is all the cut, copy, past tools, set up for copying a whole pattern, track in pattern, track in song, everything you need to navigate and edit. You can highlight notes and programming data in a track and cntrl c and v them to copy etc. Once you figure this out, it becomes a breeze. I prefer this sequencer setup in all honesty.

Below: Industrial!!!

Effects: 8.0
The default effects actually work well. I love the delays and the compressors. They work ok, better than Cubase fx. I don’t care for the reverbs much. The chorus is ok. The flange is usable. The phaser is pretty damn good. I like the eqs as well. Everything is pretty usable. The cool fx come from being able to manipulate the samples with the numbers on the grid next to the note value. You can do amazingly crazy, high resolution pitch bends(256 resolution, twice that of logic and cubase). Think plague of babies on that Toxic Coma song. You can restart the sample position point with the code as well. Think Attack of the Wheenies by Toxic Coma. This is something you cannot do with modern DAWS. You can do automation as well.

Below: Fast Twitch tweaking with midi interface, Bad ass.

Functions: 9.5
Supports Rewire, supports VSTi, and VST fx, has plug in compensation, high resolution timing thats tight, multi core/processor support, tons of keyboard shortcuts, a sampler and sample editor, Low Latency Sound Engine, instrument editor where you can select a slot and easily make a drum kit, split up the keyboard and put different samples on different keys, and supports many sample file formats. It also renders to wav file. The way it handles VST instruments is great, only puts a load on the processor when it is playing and using the synth. It is amazing. This has the best mixing engine I have ever used. The sound quality is amazing. I can get things so loud with this, and I never need mastering for loudness. You can stack up sample tracks. This is amazing, even when you over drive the mix bus. It gets mean and warm, not cold and crunchy like good old Cubase does. The core of this code was written in Assembler, and is efficient, using a simple graphic and making audio the priority. It sounds better than any DAW on the market. I’m not joking around. This thing renders audio way better than any other daw on the market. Way better sound quality. The sequencer is pattern based. You can cut, copy, and paste to and from any pattern. On the left hand side of the screen is where you find the controls to set the play order of the patterns. You can copy a pattern to a new one, etc. You can use higher resolution than 16th notes. I still don’t know how to though. When exporting your mix to a wav, this is called rendering. Always be sure to select the high setting, this is how it gets the best sound quality. It spits out .WAV files. You can make music so HOT with this, by stacking tracks, and using tons of compressors and limiters. The last two Toxic Coma LPS were -4 rms, that is super fucking hot. MEGA LOUD!!!!! It manages this and keeps it warm and aggressive, not cold thin and sterile like cubase does when you try to make things really hot. I all most forgot to mention that this thing pitches samples better than any hardware sampler, any software sampler on the market. Meaning, taking one sound and playing it up and down a keyboard, it is great with super low aliasing. AMAZING!

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Ease of Use: 7.5
The learning curve is high, like any DAW. This one takes some getting used to. It is very unique. To us old school tracker users, this is not a problem. To the newbies who are used to Cubase and other similar programs, yes, this will be hard for you to grasp at first. I highly recommend the Renoise tutorials on youtube.

Below: Even others can make Toxic Coma like shit with Renoise :).

Overall: 9.7
For me it is the best sounding computer application. It makes vsti instruments actually sound decent, unlike logic and cubase. The sound quality is amazing. This thing sums amazingly well and handles hot signals very well. It is easy to use and fast once you learn how to use it. I have made many lps with this software, and recently made Mental Twitch, which was on the last VAC Single. I am going to use Renoise a lot on the new VAC LP and make a more electronic record with it. I don’t think I will use Cubase or Logic ever again, I hope. Sick of the bad sound quality on those other DAWS. What really sucks is that I don’t write music as much as I should. Maybe with powerful laptop and Renoise with a lot of plugins, I will actually get things done. Portable as hell, I don’t need big midi keyboards. I can use the computer keyboard quite well because of how much better they mapped it for playing music. BUY THIS, LEARN IT, GET THE BEST SOUND QUALITY FROM A PC OR MAC! IT ONLY COSTS 58 EUROS!!!!!! Cheap! You can get professional results with this. MAC, PC, AND LINUX!!!!!

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Category: 08-Synth Reviews!, 09-ProAudio Reviews | Comments Off on Renoise 2.51: Music Tracker Studio.

Apple: Ipad 16gb wifi model, Hexfix93’s Review.

April 11th, 2010 by Hexfix93

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Why did I take the plunge and become an early adoptee on the iPad? I was so skeptical of most of it’s features when they announced it. Over time I kept my eyes on the matrix synth web blog and saw all these ipod touch apps and iPad apps that made me really go wow, cool drum machines and soft synths with touch controls, no mouse crap like computers offer. I also always wanted a touch gaming console as well, but the nintendo ds is too much fluffy crap and kids stuff to bare, plus the tiny screens. I was very skeptical of apples mp3 players because I always hated their sound quality on the iPods. I have really expensive in ear headphones. I would always go to the stores and demo the units, and sony’s walkmans always came out on top in my tests. Not to mention the fact i hate using iTunes, and not being able to browse my mp3s by folder and files like on a computer. These things kept me away from the iPod touch. The video below shows me messing around with the Ielectribe, putting together a beat, tweaking it, running it through my EMU E6400 Sampler’s filters.

So what was it that made me impulsively buy the iPad? I decided to go to the apple store on the launch day. I have been wanting another laptop to use around the house so I am not always in the studio. I mostly wanted it to read, surf the net, and write up reviews and things. I also wanted the iPod touch for the games and nothing else. I also wanted the iPod touch for some of the audio apps I had seen over the last year. Especially the drum sequencer type drum machines. Very cool with the touch controls as are the soft synths. The idea of being able to be any where with my headsets banging out beats with automation and good sound quality really appealed to me. I am working on the new LP already and didn’t want to wait for the next gen ipad. I picked up the unit, loved how it felt in my hands, then I plugged my headphones in, listened to the iPod part while surfing the web and noticed how the sound quality was a lot better, when over to the ipod touch and listened to that too, the iPod touch sounded worse. DACs are a big deal to me.

I was amazed at how fast it was browsing the web, that this 1ghz arm processor felt faster than my 2.16 duo core MacBook pro. So this is life with out flash? A fast browser? Bring on html5. Death to flash, that slow inefficient processor hog. The swipe gestures you use to scroll the screen is so fast and responsive, as is pinching to zoom in and out. Some times on web pages, I would have to zoom in to hit the link I wanted but only when i held the iPad in the thin horizontal view angle. Launching apps is weird, sometimes it will think I am swiping instead of selecting. Typing is great actually, except if you need numbers all the time, then its a major issue, so doing math stuff in a text editor is really annoying because you have to switch back and forth to the number mode or letter mode. No arrow keys to move the cursor around either. So you have to hit the pad on the text and hold and then this magnifying glass thing pops up and you move that around then it lets you drag the cursor to where you need to go, this is kind of annoying.

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I plan on reviewing games and audio apps on this device for the VAC site and e EDT site. Games were lack luster at first. I first downloaded this diablo like dungeon rpg. It had this fake analog stick control, and it sucked. It wasn’t for a few days that I realized that I could us tap controls on that game, and that instantly made it better. Then i downloaded the need for speed game, and it looks ok, kind of a bad frame rate, and is fun and controls well by tilting the iPad to steer it like a steering wheel. kind of cool. It wasn’t until I downloaded Flightcontrol HD, and Mirrors edge for the ipad that I really was kind of impressed with it as a gaming device. Mirrors edge looks great and is fun to play. Flightcontrol HD is a simple game where you draw flight paths with your fingers to land air planes. If two planes collide its game over. This is surprisingly fun, I saw the review for this on the Iphone via AREA5 and thought I’d give the iPad hd version a shot. It didn’t disappoint. The games are really cheap compared to DS and PSP and this is a real plus for me. Comparing the games on iPad isn’t fair though, the iPad games are shorter on average than a psp or ds game. So far as a gaming platform, it has potential, but it’s not even close to worth it for that yet. The video below shows me messing around with the ipad and all the stuff I have for it.

Overall how do I feel about the iPad?
Music Tools:
Audio apps kick major ass, the Ielectribe software drum machine from korg is worth the price of the iPad alone $9.99, a used electribe costs a little less used on the second hand market but I feel the software with the ipads DAC sounds better to me than the old electribe I used to own. Not to mention it’s easier to use with the drag menus. Other apps are coming as well. Being able to control a daw with it via Bluetooth is really cool. Using it as a drum pad, mixer controls. This thing is amazing for this kind of thing. Seriously, using the Ielectribe is way better than using the hardware. Easy to name stuff, and i love turning knobs with the touch screen, takes a little getting used to, but its kick ass like real hardware finally as far as the interface goes. For Audio apps, I give is a 9 out of 10.

Internet Device:
I do hate flash but the lack of flash on the iPad really is a hinderance if you want to look at sites like hulu and fail blog and media based sites that use a lot of flash players for video. I really like the touch interface for web browsing, so as long as you are reading sites its fine. This is a double edged sword, great interface but a lack of content due to the lack of flash support, so no flash games on Facebook or myspace, i hate those any way. I want html5 to take over because it is open source and flash is not. So in the end I think if enough ipads sell, flash could come to an end, and I couldn’t be happier about that. The lack of a good free chat i’m chat program that runs in the background is a big minus as well. Internet features gets a 7 out of 10.

Media:
Too big to be an effective iPod player, even though it has way better sound quality over the iPod touch. The iPod portion lacks cover flow as well, WTF apple? The screen is 4:3, not wide screen, so movies have a huge black bar, that really sucks. I think the 4:3 is a throw back to old computer screens, which i prefer for web viewing honestly, but for movies, epic fail. Media gets a 6 out of 10.

Games:
It’s to early to say weather or not it will succeed. I will say the fake analog controls have got to go, they are awful. The games here now are um, ok, not great, not terrible. kind of generic and no where near sony or nintendo, but way ahead of the zune and the other phone companies touch phones. The. Video a card in this reminds me of old pc stuff, like a few generations back. Reminds me of a dreamcast on roids in higher resolution. Nothing ground breaking other than the battery life. As a gaming platform I give this a 6 out of 10. I must say though, I see a lot of potential for god games and touch games.

Apps:
The lack of a number pad really ruins this for many types of applications. I have not tried pages, or iworks. It’s on here though so that really says to me that this is serious, because the windows media apps for phones are awful. These apps are very polished compared to the competition. The PDF stuff on this is garbage. I could not even. Read the manual for my access virus snow on this thing. They have a lot of bugs to fix on this thing, even the text app it comes with is buggy and has word wrap issues when typing large text files, I am experiencing this as I type this. It gets stuff wrong but the stuff it gets right is spot on, the Marvel comics app is amazing. The Book store and reader is great. There is a lot of promise here. I give the apps for the iPad a 7 out of 10. Lots of potential, but not there yet.

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The Hardware:
The screen is gorgeous, this is what attracted me to it in the store. WOW. It’s a little heavy, but not a problem for me. Playing certain games does get tiring tho, because of holding it up, its not heavy, but its heavy enough that after an hour, its tiring. The motion controls are great. The touch interface is great, typing is pretty good, the keyboard is ok, but having to hit a key to switch the keypad to numbers and symbols is really annoying. Ok for text, but bad for typing in numbers. The battery life is amazing, i can use it all day and still have charge the next day for a while before I have to charge it, more than 10 hours and 1 month on stand bye. WOW. The interface is very responsive. No camera, so what, I don’t care, bad viewing angle because of how you hold the device, camera up your nose is not a good thing. I give the hardware a 9 out of 10.

Overall:
Apple is wrong, this is not revolutionary. It is good, but fails in many areas. It is great because finally we have a tablet that reminds me of star trek. The lack of being able to multi task apps is a major downer(yes it’s coming, but not till fall). It lacks flash, needs a bigger screen for wide screen two work. It’s not perfect. I must say though, It has apps other devices don’t like some of the games, Iworks, and Ielectribe that are all priced just right. This is a multi media device that has some functionality of computers. This is not a laptop. This is more like a Ipod, nintendo ds, Sony psp mixed into one device, with a big screen and a touch of osx thrown in. Does it live up to apple’s hype? sort of. If you like audio apps, or iphone apps, its a good thing. If not, you want and internet laptop device? Stay very very very far away from this thing.

What does apple need to do to fix this? We need flash, we need directional control, and screen stretching functions, in word press(no arrow keys), i cannot do any real editing because of this on the ipad. If it was not for me liking the ielectribe so much, i might actually sell this thing. I only like this 100% for the audio apps, everything else needs a ton of work. They have to fix this shit! I will say it though, I really love this thing, the Ielectribe, taking beats any where with 10 hr battery life, man this alone makes it worth it for me. I do use it for media, internet and everything despite thinking it is kind of weak at some things. By no means is this a bad review. Its a good device, but it is far from perfect. I give this overall a 6.955555 out of 10.

Category: 07-VAC StudioVideo, 08-Synth Reviews!, 09-ProAudio Reviews | Comments Off on Apple: Ipad 16gb wifi model, Hexfix93’s Review.

Sequencing: Atari ST Cubase 2.0 :)

March 8th, 2010 by Hexfix93

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The Atari STe is mono chrome in 640Γ—480 max res, 8mhz, yes, 8mhz motorola 68000 processor, with 720k floppy drive and no hard drive, external mouse and monitor, a space hog. Doesn’t make noise though. Cubase 2.0 is a dream. If you don’t have a lot of gear daisy chained this is a great sequencer. It’s tight, records midi in very well, it’s midi only. The timing is super tight with drums, if you put the drums on midi channel 1 and bass on midi 2, and put the hardware for the drums and bass 1 and 2 on the midi out chain, the drums and bass will be super tight. You can throw 170 bpm 32nd and 64th notes at it and doesn’t choke. It’s amazing. If you are doing aggressive electronic, high temp, or glitchy stuff with hardware, these are the best sequencers. No PC or modern MAC can match it.
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I got this Atari STE off ebay for 160 plus shipping, so around 200 bucks. It’s a 4 mb expanded version. I had to buy a cable off ebay from the UK to let me use a standard vga flat screen monitor that does 640×480 mono. That cable was about 30 bucks plus shipping. I looked and looked for an Atari ST of any kind with cubase with midex output expander to give me more midi outs. I seem to be able to find Notator with Unitor more often on EBAY, but no matter how hard i have tried to use it, I hate notator, I hate the interface. I prefer cubase in every way. When a midex does pop up for the atari, it is always in europe :(. I have not tested the midi with a unitor or midiex on the atari st. So I am not sure it is as tight. One of the things that really matters when you have a lot of gear is having more than one midi out. Buy any more than 4 outs is pushing it, 5 to 8 midi outs on the 8 midi out boxes usually have sloppy timing. The first 4 are solid midi timing wise. It is not good to choke up one midi out with tons of notes, this will screw up your drums and bass timing. The midex on the atari would be good because its 4 total outs i think. I have not tested them so I am not sure.

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My midi timing test with cubase 2.0 yielded 2ms max and 1ms average with my high hat test at 16th notes. So this is as tight as the ASQ-10, and a Little Tighter than Cubase 2.8 with a serial interface on the high hat 16th note test. Cubase 2.8 seems to have quite a few more options than 2.0. 2.0 is really stripped down compared to 2.8. Who cares though because the timing and recording is so damn good. This thing records me playing drums better than cubase 2.8 on the PC, but just a little bit. Still, the ASQ-10 is better than both at recording. One thing that I prefer on my ASQ10 for sure is the ability in loop mode to delete the keys played in to the recorded out, with out deleting anything else when recording in loop mode. Like if i record the bass kick, snare and high hats, and i want to change the snare, i hold erase and then hold do the key or pad for the snare i want to delete, and it only deletes the snare. This is so cool. On Cubase, you hit the B key while in record loop, and it deletes everything since you hit record and starts over with out having to stop and delete it manually. This is great, and was lacking on the new cubase SX and beyond, but I prefer the ASQ10 way of deleting while in real time record loop mode. Although there is no way on the asq10 to delete all unless you hold down all the keys you played. Cubase 2.0 has a phrase synth, and midi FX like echo. I never used them though. I prefer to just write my own arps and phrases. If you like to run outboard gear, and only have like 3 synths. This is all you need. If you run hardware and have 8 to 10 synths, you need something with more outputs, either a midex for the atari ST (which I cannot find), or an ASQ10, OR Cubase or Logic on an older windows 95 setup with a serial interface. For slim downed gear set ups, Atari ST is perfect. Records great, and is tight as hell on playback. I Give this a 10 out 10 if it meets your needs.

Cubase 2.8 with serial on win 98 is tight(you have to put the comptuer in 256 colors, and tweak the os a little), but not this tight. Atari is slightly tighter than the ASQ10, but by a hair. These three sequencers kick the crap out of any modern software on the market today. So if you want tight timing on your hardware like I do. This is the only solution.


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Category: 08-Synth Reviews!, 09-ProAudio Reviews | Comments Off on Sequencing: Atari ST Cubase 2.0 :)

Sequencers: Cubase 2.8 on Windows 98. Hexfix93’s take.

March 4th, 2010 by Hexfix93

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Now I have a hard choice to make. So I bought an atari STE, a Dell Pentium 2 laptop with windows 98, and an ASQ10. I used Cubase 2.8 on fun with knives and remember it being tight. I remember decypher having fast arpeggios that sound tight. I remember moments of that lp being really tight. This is why it sold well, this is why it got the club play, it was the midi I am sure of it. I used cubase 2.8 with a pentium 1 processor first. Even on the 486 dx 66 mhz, and it was tight. I used a motu micro express that had a printer port interface that was serial. I tweaked windows 98 for optimum performance. This is the midi only version of this application back then. Using this again brought back memories, it’s just like the atari version I used way back in the day. Has so much more midi control and features than any modern sequencer you can buy for the MAC and PC. Was it tight? Does it deliver like I remember it?
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I swore to hate microsoft to the end of time. Now that I have this old laptop that I bought off ebay for 50 dollars plus shipping I am having fond memories, it is all coming back to me, all the old games I played when I first got my pc back in the day, like magic carpet, fall out, adventure games like space quest and leisure suit larry, doom, quake, what fond memories. A lot of the games then ran in dos and were a pain in the ass to set up your autoexec.bat and config.sys files. Still I remember how much I loved my PC back in the day. Those were the days of BBS systems(personal computers in homes set up to accept modem calls, with a database of file downloads, message boards and online text networked games, a totally different time in computer history that most young people know nothing about), the internet was a baby then. Piracy was not the big issue it is today then. I realize what a magical time it was then to own a PC. PCs were more of a pain in the ass back then, but the rewards were very high.
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So did this deliver on my new set up, my p2 dell laptop with amt8 via serial port set to max baud, no flow control, with a tweaked windows 98? IN SPADES! OMG it is close to how the atari was but I have 8 ins and outs instead. My new test with this set up on this pc was 3MS max 2MS average of midi jitter(my 16th note test of hi hats or bass line, mono). I am so damn happy. I have a hard drive, usb memory sticks, cd, self contained unit with display and mouse. I have p2 233mhz processor, 80mb of memory, 2 gb hard drive, and 13 inch display and 800×600 resolution.
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Does Cubase 2.8 record what I play in accurately? YES, close to how the atari does. Doesn’t drop notes, and is really manageable. I think the ASQ10 is a little better though. The asq10 only has 2ms of jitter max on my test. So it is a tad bit tighter and a lot harder to use. In some ways I do prefer the asq10, it has the swing. Cubase 2.8 isn’t as funky. It’s still really musical though. I am now leaning towards Cubase 2.8 on this laptop. The interface is just so much better. So many edit modes, List(like grid), Score, Piano roll and a ton of midi things that other seqs don’t have. One thing though, notator on the Atari ST is like 1MS of jitter on this test. It is the tightest seq ever. Don’t believe me, go listen to the “virus ep” by front line assembly, or caustic grip. That is all done on notator and it is tight as hell.
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So what happened? I remember it well, it was on TTG, I upgraded to cubase vst 5, this was when they introduced “AUDIO” into the application. This is when cubase started to suck, not record midi right and have really sloppy timing. It got even worse when they release Cubase SX. This is when usb took over, and they stripped most of the midi functions out of the application, it was more like another program than cubase at this point and basically remains the same to this day. It doesn’t record midi right, especially with USB midi interfaces and controllers, its a joke. The combination of windows XP and its background services(much of that didn’t exist in win 98) really made midi timing even worse on top of USB. USB writes and reads in bursts, not a steady stream like serial or DMA or pci does. Still, I even bought an rme fireface 800, and hdsp9652 and used the midi on that, and it was still sloppy, so it was not just USB. It was windows, and OSX that have so many background tasks running in the os, that midi is thrown to the dogs. This has ruined my interest in making electronic music over the last few years, because I could never get my hardware to sound right with the sloppy midi on playback and record. Seriously, making aggressive music with lousy timing does not work. In speed metal it is timing and speed that makes it so mean, its the same for industrial to the 9th degree, without real hardware and good timing, the aggression is lost. You can hear that in the last 3 VAC records. I bitched and moaned so hard on the cubase forums, and so many other echo’d my girpes and showed the midi to be faulty as I did. On cubase sx, it was 5 to 10 ms on the best days, on the worst sometimes up to 20 to 32 ms of jitter, horrid. If you put a big system load on modern pcs, get tons of audio running, tons of midi, tons of plugin fx, and plug in instruments, the external midi timing goes to hell, and it records midi in really bad. If you think I am crazy or the only one who freaks out about midi timing, just look up what BT and Vince Clark have to say about MIDI on google.
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Most people think they suck at playing when they write with logic and cubase and all the modern daws of today. I think if they got this version of cubase, or an ASQ10, or and atari, they would see the difference and understand what a lot of people like me are complaining about. Timing is crucial in music. These jack of all trade and master of none music applications fall short on sound quality, external midi timing, and midi recording. I am over expecting software to do it all. These do it all devices suck. The dedicated devices and software, were they do one thing, and do it really well tend to sound the best and record and sequence the best. When we were making lust for blood, we constantly had to edit our midi recordings, it would stop the flow of work, this is how it was on hex angel, this is how it was on the art of breaking apart. It made things take longer, it made us uninspired after a while. Always having to fix the poorly recorded midi. NO MORE. I refuse to put up with it ever again. I went to the mac thinking it would be better with logic, and it was, until i started recording the audio, and the tracks would not line up and everything was slightly out of sync. My conclusion, pre audio cubase is way better at midi than new cubase. Win95, win98 with cubase 2.8 is great for live midi seq and composing. I cannot say that about anything I have used since on modern computers. Oh, and I think this is what Astral projection, the super tight trance band uses still. I give this a 10 out of 10.

Category: 08-Synth Reviews!, 09-ProAudio Reviews | Comments Off on Sequencers: Cubase 2.8 on Windows 98. Hexfix93’s take.

Midi Sequencer: Akai ASQ-10. Hexfix93’s take.

February 25th, 2010 by Hexfix93

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Wow, I finally got it. 2 days of using it, plugging all my gear into it. First impression: It sounds so musical(think old meat beat manifesto, DR DRE, Aphex Twin’s older stuff. I had the sensation of 80s and early 90s music rushing through everything I was recording. This was not hard at all to use and figure out. The feel is so different to me. Not like the atari, not like the drunken computer pc jitter, and not like the I CAN’T SYNC MY TRACKS MAC. I would turn on the recorder, and magick happens. Wow, I can actually still write drums. What hurt my last release was my drums, I would sit for days messing with battery and recording myself playing and never be impressed, even with swing on logic, nothing ever sounded right. the sound quality of the software even with the elite fx did nothing for me. Now, I have an emu e6400 ultra sampler(known for fast midi response, you have to be aware that some gear will add midi slop on their inputs, old emu stuff was really bad, so was the roland s550 and 770 with out the turbo board, Akai S samplers are really quick with midi as well), those same libs, with the korg tr-rack, I can spit out any kind of drum sound I want and get it to sound great, swing, punch and hit tight and realistic. There is a swing all the time, and that is good because it makes it sound a bit more live and human, but not great for super robotic stuff like the atari ST does. I can put this thing in a single measure loop, and just write drums like mad and come up with tons of stuff fast. It records right. It plays back what I play in. PC would never be right in loop mode, I would have to stop and edit. Mac would drop notes and put quantized stuff in the wrong place. USB is the devil for midi. So recording rhythm is really evil on all computers. This has been my experience since I left the atari back in 1997(something I regret to this day). This takes some getting used to. I have never used hardware sequencers. I have always used graphical tape recorder style like Cubase 1.0 interfaces. Where I could copy and paste at ease, repeat stuff easy, move stuff around really easy. This is no longer the case here. Now, I have to pay attention to bars and measures and time. I used to edit my songs visually and I think this is a bad thing, now I have to use my ears and memory instead of my eyes. The way the asq10 is set up is pretty easy to understand, its kind of like patterns, but not really.
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Sequences are like patterns, except that you can actually turn a sequence into a full song if you would like. Sequence mode is “Main Mode”. Then there is “Song Mode” which is more like a tracker, where you sequence the sequences like patterns. You set how many times to play each seq. Once you set this up, you can convert this into a sequence as well if you want to do fine edits. Fine editing can only happen in “MAIN MODE”. I have managed to do some basic copy operations. But copying and deleting and arranging tracks is going to take some getting used to. I don’t mind because this thing records me playing way better than any PC or MAC I have owned over the last 15 years with almost every interface you can think of. I like how it makes my e6400 and tr-rack sound when writing drums. Love how it makes my bass lines play with the drums. I am so impressed so far. I can see why everyone told me on gear slutz to get an mpc60. The Asq-10 is the sequencer from the mpc 60 that roger linn wrote. That guy is a genius. His timing swing and tight midi is really good, so much better than any daw playing hardware(hardware sounds better than software, so I don’t care about tight soft synths and soft samplers because the sound is whack. I love how this makes my midi sound like a tight human band, not a tight robot. There is the head bobbing rhythm thing that can ensue when using the asq10 and mpc60. I figured out how to use the step editor and this really kicks ass compared to some of the other ones I have used. You go step by step by 16th and 32nd notes, so the screen isn’t so cluttered and confusing πŸ™‚ You can insert any midi CC stuff, bank and program changes if you know how to do the bank, its cc#0 value 0, cc#32 value 0 thru 10 for banks. Yay. I had to read on the net how to pull that off. Now you know too(also works on the mpc60). Loading and saving off the floppy drive I thought was going to suck, but guess what, its really fast πŸ™‚ Editing track names, and file names is cool, once you go into the name editor, you can use the buttons on the front, they all have a letter by them. I couldn’t be happier. One thing that sucks, there is no way to save midi files with the OS version I have. Not sure if there is a way to convert them in the computer or not. I love spinning the dial on the BPM controls. WOW, so cool ahahah. This thing is tight, musical, and sounds so much better sequencing hardware over modern computers and a lot of other hardware sequencers.
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I see this as the king of the hill when it comes to hardware sequencers with it’s 2 midi ins and 4 midi outs built in plus smpte ins and outs. It’s important to not send too much midi out 1 midi out, so having 4 outs and spreading out the midi load more really helps things sync and sound tight, the Asq-10 pulls it off. Sure it’s kind of big and the screen is ok but could be much bigger but that doesn’t put me off too bad. Another big plus is that this thing boots up and is ready to go in seconds, unlike my daw that takes me forever to get into and load stuff up. There is no latency with this, and switching through the outputs and controlling stuff with a keyboard via the inputs and out into external gear is really fast and responsive unlike computers with a heavy cpu and audio load. One bad thing I have run into is that there is no UNDO πŸ™ so I have to be really careful. There is a help button and it works in every mode you are in for most functions as well, this is a really user friendly hardware device. Also I really love how you can delete while in loop mode, you hold the erase button and hold down the key on the keyboard or drum pad you wish to delete. Also once you stop, if you don’t like erasing the bar on the track is like a two button task, so its pretty quick. I still wish that someone would make a hardware sequencer that is MIDI ONLY with 8 midi outs and 4 midi ins, swing options and robot options with a touch screen interface for drag and drop tape style cubase look and make it super tight and has smpte and all the sync options, self contained and turns on instantly like this one does. Honestly, even with the audio engine off on logic, it’s still not right even with the amt8. I am so sick of modern midi. Midi is fine if you have good hardware with fast midi response, and if you use an old atari or mpc60, mpc3000, or asq10, qy770. This is how you get tight midi that sounds more musical. This is how you get good drum sequences. Sure sample accurate software can have robotic timing or swing, but it sounds like crap to me(even with the best converters on the market), thin, lifeless, cold, tweety, stale, and boring sound. I need my hardware, I will not move out of the analog dedicated machine age of music composing ever again, so i need a midi sequencer that holds up sounds tight and records right. DAWS FAIL AT THIS. My emu, rolands and hardware sound thicker, punchier, more present, and sits in the mix way better and much easier to mix as well. I have proven to myself that I can infact still write drums, I just needed something that records midi correctly to do it well. I did try the MPC-1000 with the jjos and it has a crap sound, sounds like computers, crappy fx and cuts the transients of your samples off, so the attack is never right on some samples. I got this with out the drum brain for 350 + shipping. USB MIDI DOESN’T CUT IT on recording or playback on hardware. I think this is a gift from the GODs for me.

The above Video is the results of like 5 minutes of messing with it and my hardware, I was able to get a tight fast aggressive seq, with all instruments being played live real time with no slop or bad timing. I cannot believe how easy it is, how tight it is, how much more inspiring to use it is. I feel like a 10 ton weight has been lifted from my musical creation frustrations that I have had since leaving the atari in 1997 πŸ™ …. I make no jokes, I turned to guitar music on my last LP because of how bad midi timing on my DAWS were with usb. This will get me back to the aggressive dance sound of VAC. I welcome it. One last thing as well. With this, it turns on fast, feels immediate, I feel connected to it because it is so responsive, daws feel like a big fat clumsy elephant compared to this with latency. On this, there is nothing to distract me, no emails, no instant messages, no web forums calling out my name. This focuses me on music. Computers tend to distract me from music. I give this an 9 out of 10. Not perfect because the user interface could be a little better.


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Category: 08-Synth Reviews!, 09-ProAudio Reviews | Comments Off on Midi Sequencer: Akai ASQ-10. Hexfix93’s take.

Midi woes. Computers Suck with hardware. A grim Tale.

February 16th, 2010 by Hexfix93

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The above image is logic’s midi not lining up when tracking in sequences. For a while I have been struggling with midi. I started using hardware synths and drum machines ages ago in tandem with my Atari ST computer. The atari ST had built in midi ports. With notator or cubase software on the atari, you could get midi jitter down to about 1 to 3 ms. This is just right and sounds super tight. Even with one midi out daisy chaining through all the midi throughs of my synths, the songs I made had this syncopated musical sound that I just do not feel and hear today. I started on the atari, so I was spoiled by that timing, and came close to cubase on the PC with a serial port interface before USB took over. That still did not match the swing and tight feel of the atari. I have been struggling with this since I left the atari for the pc back in 1997. The Atari ST was a computer, so why was it so much better at midi? Well for starters the midi on the computer was built in and had DMA access, so the cpu could interface directly with it via memory instead of through a bus. The graphics were in monochrome, so the computer was not doing much. When you load a program on the atari, there is no multitasking apps. So the only thing running was the midi program and nothing else. The machine was dedicated to performing that task with exact timing and response, and listening to midi for notes. I could play anything in to the metronome and it would sync up so tight and play exactly what I played in. On a modern PC with USB midi, this is not the case at all on logic or cubase or any of the applications I have tried. Modern PCS boast millions of colors on the screen, background multitasking for printers, mice, ethernet, networks, file indexing, and all kinds of malware on the pc. the computer is task switching, which makes perfect timing impossible. This is why audio sounds bad in the box as well when compared to high en outboard gear. Task switching never will give you real time accurate audio and midi. Multitasking OS systems are your enemy when it comes to midi and audio. DONE IT ALL, TWEAKED ALL THE OS SETTINGS. TRIED ALMOST EVERY MIDI INTERFACE. Followed all the advice on cubase and logic. No Bueno. Nothing I have done on a pc or mac has made the midi rock solid like an atari or a hardware seq. NOTHING. Dedicated hardware is better always.
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Granted, If you sequence with software synths and software drum machines, you will have sample accurate timing and that is great. My problem is that software sounds thin, empty, colorless and boring, it doesn’t punch or have character like hardware does. Even if I use color and warming vst plugins, it doesn’t even come close to how my hardware sounds. I love my hardware, I love the way my emu samplers and roland samplers sound over any software based sampler. I like how my korg trinities sound over any pcm sample based playback workstation plugin vst. I like my virus A, and an1x, Jp8080 and nord rack 2 way more than any VA software synths in the box. I like how juno 106, mks50s, and mophos sound over anything in the box. I prefer my hardware reverbs and built in fx on my synths to any FX that are in the box. You get the point. Dedicated gear sounds better than software. This still doesn’t even address the JAM. I mean when you are jamming on your gear and it is responsive and tight, and the midi is as well. Having to stop and edit can really get you out of the spirit of jamming. I was testing logic all this week, and would play in stuff, and it would put the drums in the wrong place with or without quantizing. It would drive me nuts, this has been the case on all my MAC and PC midi applications. The atari was rock solid. Modern PCs are not at all. So I now reject all DAWS(I think this is why modern music sucks, too much DAW sound and bad timing mixed together).
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So I ditched my DAWs and went into the world of workstations. I bought the Korg M3, because I saw some cool videos on the touch interface and the new update with the sequencer enhancements to make it more computer like. Got it home, plugged in my trinity rack to it and started sequencing the trinity in loop mode. OMG this was super tight and musical and machine like, how I remember the atari. Then the real test, write more drums with internal m3 sounds, and then add a lot of fx. Yes, now the timing gets bad, once the workstation has to start thinking and using a lot of processing for the audio engine. Now its true multitasking colors show their spots. WOW. I payed 1500 for the m3, not only do the sounds completely suck and have this harsh annoying mid range, sound super vanilla and like elevator music. The fx were tamed down from the triton and trinity as well. I remember back in the day the trinity was the same way, tight if the sequence was working alone with no sounds and fx on the trinity running, sloppy once you put a system load on it. So back to the store went the M3.

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Enter the Mpc-1000. Yes, I got this a while back, and it and the M3 both suffer from BLAND SOUND SYNDROME, sounds more like a PC than old hardware. The biggest sin on the mpc is that if you cut the samples perfect on the pc, like a 909 kick, play it back on the MPC 1000 and the initial click of the transient on the sound is gone! no matter what I tried, all fx off, attack to 0 on the env. NO GO. Even with the JJOS this was a problem. The sequencer on the mpc 1000 is Tight. I mean like atari ST Cubase Tight! So that was a plus, had a lot of good editing features as well. Still the swing is not as good as the mpc 60. I sold it for this flaw. I wasn’t about to pay 1200 for a sequencer with a small screen and bad sound.
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So I then tried my E6400’s Sequencer. WOW this is super tight, holy shit. But, the ability to edit the recorded midi is a nightmare, limited, no step seq, its terrible. But man is it tight, depressing.
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Back to the atari? I don’t have the space, I don’t want to deal with hard drives and big monitors. Not to mention that I need more ins and outs midi wise. I have been trying for years to find a used Atari ST with a hard drive, and midex for cubase with no luck, and notator withe the unitor is hard to find too. I did not like notator at all, its tighter than cubase, but I don’t like pattern based sequencing really. Not into score writing either so this is a big NO for me. Another thing I hated about ataris is the finicky floppy drives, like your ST will read and write disks it can read fine, but try and put those disks in another Atari ST, LOL half the time it wont even work. I have the old programs on floppy disks still, but i doubt they will even work. Watch the below clip.


The mpc60. Roger linn, the timing freak, yes he made the lindrum and the os in the mpc60 and mpc3000. They swing, record perfectly what you play, play it back perfect. Watch the above demo, and you see the tight seq I am talking about, how easy it is to get a beat up and going, how tight it plays it back, and how perfectly it records the jam. This is what computers FAIL at. They never record it quite right. This is what I want. I don’t like the akai samplers, their mpcs, and what not, I like roland and emus sound much better. So what am I to do?
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Enter the Akai ASQ-10 hardware midi sequencer, with 2 midi ins, and 4 midi outs, no sound engine, no multitasking. Same Roger Linn os as the mpc60. I just won this on EBAY, I hope it works, I read that the screen was a bit dim but readable, so I decided to order a back light that I found for it on ebay. So hope all goes well. If it is anything like the video above, I will be in heaven. No joke. That is what I want, tight midi, tight grooves, tight seqs. If you want to hear an example of tight midi on a VAC track, go listen to “HELL 2” on BTE vol 2.

This is tight, listen to the drum rolls at 2:34 in the video above, I have not been able to get crisp drum rolls like that since the atari ST. This is the Atari ST with cubase into my DR 660 drum machine. So fucking tight(granted the sound quality blows, mackie 1604 into an adat, into a mackie 1604 again, into a sony walkman dat player, LOL). The arps are tight as hell as well. This is why and how VAC lost a lot of its edge and aggressive sound. The timing is crucial for stuff like this. Wish me luck, I really hope this Akai ASQ-10 is the answer to my timing and recording sessions. The korg M3 was tight, as long as I didn’t use anything else but the sequencer on it. The mpc 1000 was, but it played my samples back with cut off transients. This is just the sequencer, so now I am hoping I am finally in the tight world of Roger Linn after this. I will have to get used to some of the limitations of hardware sequencers. I don’t care. I need 4 outs, and the atari wont give me that. I need rock solid midi recording and timing. I think I might actually get my wish now.

Category: 09-ProAudio Reviews | Comments Off on Midi woes. Computers Suck with hardware. A grim Tale.

Pro Audio: Lexicon PCM96. Hexfix93’s take.

September 19th, 2008 by Hexfix93


Yes, This thing is the bomb. I’m not kidding. Dark, smooth, or bright verbs, that sound real, with smooth tails that are not metallic, it can do some metallic tails where it’s wanted if need be. This thing has super smooth reverb tails, something you do not get with plug ins. I hate all reverb plug ins, even convolution verbs. They lack modulation and the sound results sound unnatural to me. This thing is expensive, but man its worth it. To finally get some of my drums to sound like juno reactor, and astral projection. Yup this thing gets me there in combination with my distressors and drawmer tubestation. It’s like a super pcm 80, with verbs from their top of the line 480 and 960 with out the bad converts and noise the old units have. This thing is lush, full, wide and amazing. Sure I like the halls a lot. But the plates and rooms are simply breath taking. So much better than the ksp8 I have. The ksp8 sounds kind of bright and metallic, but in a good way that is not cheap. This is smooth and colored and deep sounding in any way i want, dark, bandpassed, or bright. The magick is in the early reflections. That is where this unit is heads and tails above the rest.

It does subtle things that really helps the when you are mixing, giving a sound a tad more of a 3d sound, or adding huge depth to a sound. It’s so important to ambient match sounds, to make everything sound like its in the same room or space. Cheap verbs don’t get you there. This most certainly does. Worth every penny and more, in fact i think it’s a steal. You can hook it up fire wire, and use it as 4 mono fx, 2 stereo fx, or cascade. I use it analog so I don’t know that much about the AU interface. From the front panel, i seem to be able to do everything very easily. I had to figure out what buttons did what, but once i did. This thing is a breeze to use, even easier than the ksp8 that is pretty easy to use as well. In analog mode, i can use it a two fx engines, one into the other, it has many configurations and variations for mono and stereo. But I only get 2 in, 2 out no matter what. As a audio unit in logic via fire wire, it has 4 in and 4 out. I give this unit a 5 out of 5. Seriously, I love the delays, reverse verbs, and the flanger and chorus fx. It does every thing very well with it’s own lexicon color. I love it. I made an audio demo of me messing with drums, and my sh-2 doing a sample and hold filter sweep. Both, you can really tell, I play them dry first, then I start changing fx around, verbs and stuff. So Click Here To Listen to the demo. For the demo, i ran my pcm96 as an fx send on my mackie onyx mixer, and back into a stereo channel. I ran ultrabeat and my sh2 in the mackie and mixed dry and the send signal together on the analog board, and recorded it in with my rme fireface 800. After that, i did 6db of gain with the waves L3.

Pros: Breath taking sound quality and converter, Super realistic or scifi. The rooms can make things sound really wide and 3 dimensional and in your face, I love it. Best Digital Reverb on the market.

Cons: I wish it had 4 analog ins and outs instead of two. No PC vst support for the firewire, mac only, GO BUY A MAC.

Category: 09-ProAudio Reviews | Comments Off on Pro Audio: Lexicon PCM96. Hexfix93’s take.

Synths: Moog Freqbox mf-107 Oscillator. Hexfix93’s Take.

May 2nd, 2008 by Hexfix93

The moog freqbox, a versatile fx pedal unit that can be used as an oscillator in a modular synth setup. When I first plugged them in, I noticed how huge they sounded. How alive. They reminded me of the older moog stuff, like tarus pedals and model d minimoog. With two, the oscillators would beat and sound pretty vintage. These things are FAT. The biggest. The sync sounds were so mean and huge, it would make my whole house shake. I ran these into my doepfer custom eurorack filled with rare boutique modules. I loves how the moog oscillators sounded through the polivoks filter the most. I prefered these oscillators for BASS duties. There is this warm beef that you get in the 60 to 200hz range on the low end of the frequency spectrum. No other synths and oscillators can pump this style of sound out. These pedals really did sound more vintage to me than the little phatty and the new minimoog voyagers. They had plenty of high end frequencies which I think are lacking a tad on the newer moog synths.

As far as the tracking goes? Well I ran into a little trouble. But once they warmed up I could get about 3 octaves of stable tracking no problem. Amos Gaynes, one of the techs who works at moog saw my initial comments on the tracking that I posted a while back, and offered to modify them so they would track better. After the mod, they did better. This is how great the customer support is over at moog music. A couple of things that I think would make these better would be a fine tuning knob for the osc, and if they could be put into doepfer format and make them track a tiny bit better they would put the competition in the modular synth world out of business when it comes to fat big bass oscillators. That would be so awesome. I kind of did not like having two wall warts. I also was not fond of having them on the floor with long cables to my modular, but that is something I could of fixed If i bought a rack mount for the pedals. For synth oscillators, these are the best for modular bass lines. Better than any other modular doepfer eurorack oscillator that I have used in the bass dept. for sure. I still like other things for leads more though.

We did run our guitar through this pedal, and we could get some really strange sounds with it. Something new and different for sure. The sound quality of this pedal is top notch and will enhance any guitar or modular synth rig with ease. You really cannot go wrong here. I give this a 4 out of 5.

This is a link to a video I did that shows off the moog in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_wAH_Z6R3Q

Category: 08-Synth Reviews!, 09-ProAudio Reviews | Comments Off on Synths: Moog Freqbox mf-107 Oscillator. Hexfix93’s Take.

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