Synth: Ipad: Korg IMS-20, Hexfix93’s take.

November 12th, 2010 by Hexfix93

korm-ims-20

Wow. My jaw dropped when I saw this app on Matrix Synth blog. I left Apple a year ago for Android and the future of touch tablets only to find an extreme lack of 3rd party software. I missed the iElectribe a ton. My envy grew and grew when Gravy showed up in Denver with his, making beats with it for the newest Toxic Coma track “DIGITAL GRAVY”. Already jonesing for an ipad for the iElectribe, seeing the ims-20 videos on Matrix Synth sent me over the top (I HAVE TO SELL STUFF TO PAY FOR THIS NOW). I bought an ipad again. And immediatly bought the ims-20 app. This is a xox style sequencer drum synth groovebox app.

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Functions: 9.0
Think of this as rebirth. Except this time it’s a pure synth engine doing all the work. Not pcm sample drums, but rather that all the drum sounds are made with the ms20 VA sound engine. This rocks. The iElectribe was a hybrid engine, half VA and half pcm samples, which does offer more variation for the percussion, but for some reason I really love how this synth engine sounds. Then there is one dedicated true mono synth engine that replicates the ms20 vintage analog synth from korg. I have actually used the ms20 a bit at a friend’s house years ago and thought it was over rated next to my sh2 for bread and butter sounds. The thing is, for out there sci-fi, buzzy, aggressive in your face sounds, the ms20 can scream bloody murder in the right hands(think old aphex twin, and most goa trance). Although it still retains most of it’s sonic character, the VA ims20 is not as beefy or as raw sounding as the real thing. The synth is very easy to use. The mono synth that is. It’s straight up like a real analog synth. The drum parts are pretty much the ms20 engine as well, and you can edit the sounds for each drum sound by hitting the edit button in one of the sections of the drum edit sections. So essentially this is a 7 voice VA. You can use the drum parts for synth sounds and sequence them as well. Some of the demos that it comes with show this off. There are only two fx engines. Very limited. The typical korg fx, delays, chorus, verbs, and grain shift etc. The effects can change from pattern to pattern as well. They sound pretty good though. The sequencer is modeled after the old korg sequencer that came out about the same time the ms20 did, the Sq-10. Except you get 16 steps instead of 12. This took me some time to get used to. You have 3 knobs. The bottom one is the gate, which determines the length of the note. The middle knob is the octave, which controls which octave to play. The top knob is the note to play. As you turn them text appears on the screen and tells you what the value is. There is no slide and accent like on the 303 and rebirth, so no super acid for you here. You get those 3 knobs for each step of the sequence, which is 16th notes for one measure. There are also patterns, and you can make songs out of the patterns. While in pattern edit modes you can use the utility button on the top right of the screen to copy patterns which contains the seq for drums and synth parts for one measure. You can also render the patterns to a .wav file and import them into your favorite daw and do whatever you want to them, loop them etc. In order to accomplish this you have to connect the ipad into a mac or pc via usb, then run itunes, under apps you should see if you scroll down the files section for the different apps, there you can drag and drop the .wavs to any dir on the computer. This app also supports Soundcloud, so you can export to Soundcloud from the app itself. Below is a clip I made for Toxic Coma. It will be in one of the new songs I am working on.

toxiccomaims20.wav by Hexfix93

Interface:9.5
This is where the Ipad apps always shine: the ease of use, being able to tap the screen, use your finger on a knob and tweak it more like real hardware, in some cases better. In this case, I am floored. It’s a little strange at first look. At the top of the of the screen there are tons of these buttons, like synth, drum, effects global utility, etc. These navigate you to all the sections you need to jump to. What is really cool is that this is a semi modular synth, and you can tap and drag to connect virtual cables to the cv matrix on the right hand of the synth. You can really jack the sound up if you know what you are doing. You can also cv in and out of the seq to get really cool results. There are two virtual keyboards, a small one that is default and a bigger one you can call up; and two, yes, two, koas pads to tweak the sound. TWO KAOS PADS. You wont find that on any real MS20. You scroll the screen on the synth screen to scroll up and down to and from the seq. Its laid out pretty well. Because the Ipad is multi touch, you can mess with two kaos pads and tweak the knobs at the same time. KILLER for tweaking stuff. You can record all the tweaks into the pattern so it plays back your tweaks! This is AMAZING. You can play live into the seq then edit and tweak, or you can use the step editors. The drum sequencer is cook. It’s like the Roland tr808 etc.

korg-ims-20-app-ipad-storypic

Sound: 8.5
This is where I was surprised. I thought the iElectribe could sound a little hollow in the 60hz to 200hz, but this is a little thicker and more present down there and in the midrange. I love both of these Korg Ipad apps. They both sound pretty good. With enough post production you can get it to sit in a mix pretty well, but only when you render it to .wav and bypass the ipad’s DAC headphone/line out. The Ims20 sounds like the little brother of a real ms20, I can make it scream and sound aggressive, especially with the fx. The ms20 was always more of a lead/ sound fx acidic synth. It can do bass pretty good on this version. I thought the real version was a tad weak on bass compared to the ms10. This thing can do dance lines and aggressive industrial no problem. It still has that plastic sheen that most software VAs have, but if you put enough saturation vst plugs on it, you can make it sound more like the real thing, just a tad fainter with less juice on the resonance. I think this is the sound of trance / techno and old school industrial / glitch. This is not a super fat synth. This is good for melodic, weird acid lines, and grooves. What makes this better than the iElectribe is the 2 osc setup, hp and lp filter at the same time, ring mod, and the mod matrix with the semi modular patch bay. You can really make strange and messed up sounds with this synth engine. The lame synth presets don’t even scratch the surface. The main character comes from the two resonant filters, hp and low pass, mess with them just right and you can make it scream in this really cool way that no other synth or VA can.

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Overall: 9.1
Because this is on the Ipad it makes it so easy to pick up and use anywhere to get ideas out, simple beats and synth lines. I find this a very inspirational tool. The iElectribe is more for beats. There is no real synth engine with a keyboard. This is the game changer. This is for real. Delivering on both fronts of a drum machine that is highly customizable and uses a real analog synth style engine. The sound is pretty good for a software VA.

Pros: Very easy to use, sounds great, laid out very well, touch screen, Soundcloud support built in, can export seqs to .wav files. This is a powerhouse seq, drum machine, synth with the ms20 character.

Cons: Not as good as a real ms20 sound wise. Sometimes the timing is glitchy when switching screens and doing certain actions while using the program. Hope they fix this in a future update. Lacking presets compared to the iElectribe. What is there does not show off the beef of what this has to offer.

Bottom line: If you have an Ipad, got it for music, and are into dance style anything, this is a MUST HAVE. I am very impressed. Right now it is $15.99, Sixteen dollars. WOW, this will only last until jan 2011. So get this soon, before the price goes up to 30 bucks!!!

Category: 08-Synth Reviews! | 17 Comments »

Renoise 2.51: Music Tracker Studio.

October 31st, 2010 by Hexfix93

[screenshotsrns25matrix_s
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!

[screenshotsrns21rewire_s

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 | 106 Comments »

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

April 11th, 2010 by Hexfix93

apple-ipad
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.

synth_screenshot

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.

paper_ipad

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 | 4 Comments »

Sequencing: Atari ST Cubase 2.0 :)

March 8th, 2010 by Hexfix93

IMG_0244
The Atari STe is mono chrome in 640×480 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 | 65 Comments »

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 | 16 Comments »

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 :) 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 :) 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 :( 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 :( …. 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 | 31 Comments »

Synth Review: Korg Trinity Rack. TR-RACK.

February 13th, 2010 by Hexfix93

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Click Here to Listen to VAC’s Korg Tr-Rack Synth Demo.

This is my secret weapon. It can step in and do most any job. Yeah, the sounds are compressed rompler stuff, but seriously, the filters in this have this wet sound, this air to them that really makes things cut in the mix and sound lush and vibrant. I love the filters on this, I tried to like the triton, but the filters were not the same. I tried to love the M3, but the filters just don’t come close. These filters can sounds very acidic, and almost roland like, but a wee bit thinner. This is what is great, because you can stack so many sounds together and create these lush landscapes. With sound diver on the PC I am able to edit just about anything I want and get this to go where i need it to. Digital sample oscillators and two amazing filters to run in series or parallel. In combi mode, this is where the dream scapes happen and blow your mind away. Atmosphere and absynth on the PC TRY to do what this does, and they both fail big time. What is it about the trinity that makes it so special. In combi mode you can stack 8 programs on top of each other. You have 8 insert fx and 2 master fx. LOTS OF FX POWER! These fx are really good too. I prefer them to the ksp8 fx, not kidding either. The compressors with the verbs on drums can bring out brutal in your face industrial sounds. Add some over drive to a bass line and tweak the filter and you get mean acid. The bread and butter presets suck. But the motion synth presets are really good in combi and prog mode. The drums in this are the best workstation drums I have ever heard. All you need is 2 of these things, and you can cover a lot of ground. In the combi mode, you can make this like a vast array of modular synths. The modulations in this are really good and you can really get the sounds to animate, you can hear this in my audio clip above.
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TR-Rack vs Trinity. Well, no touch screen. But seriously, I can edit the fx from the front panel no problem, I figured out how to use the interface without sound diver, but you need sound diver to edit some things like the envelopes because the front panel wont let you edit everything unfortunately. You cannot upgrade these. But the good thing is that there are 4 banks of rom sounds, and the trinity synth only has 2 unless you buy the rom cards and install them your self. When I had my trinity keyboard, I didn’t have that much other gear so I was using it in seq mode which is the multitimberal mode, 16 tracks, and there you get sounds without fx, and you have to custom build your fx chains and send your parts to them in the fx mixer page of the sequencer mode. In this mode you don’t get to use the great combi patches, so in old vac I hardly ever used those. Now that i have two racks I can use one for drums, and one for combis. Seq/Multi mode on the rack is really limiting, because you only get one memory so you have to manually change it on every song you make and back it up on the computer via sysex. The small screen makes editing the multi really hard, and you cannot see patch names only bank and numbers in this mode. So multi is a no go for the racks. So you get one patch at a time in prog mode, and get to layer up to 8 programs in combi. The racks are not good for multi timber setups. I like using the TR racks in prog and combi mode. This works out great for me, and its easy to take a preset and mangle it with fx. The FX are so great, verbs, delays, flanger, phaser, chorus, decimator, bit crunch, limiter, amp sim, over drive/high gain. All of these can make lush or super mean and twisted sound depending on how you tweak the parameters. The DACs on these are better than the triton. Tritons sound crunchy, these have this warm color to them. This air to them that I have not heard on any other synth to date. Not even the flag ship oasys has this AIR in the sound that I love so much. Seriously. I have read reviews on sonic state that said, you cannot do industrial with this, truth is, i made most of calling of the dead with a trinity keyboard. So they obviously don’t know how to mess with FX worth a shit. LOL. No software fx, and rompler can even touch the sound quality and fx quality of the trinity. The triton cannot either. The m3 fx are damn good, but the filters and sounds are not as good in my opinion. What I cannot believe is that these racks go on ebay now for about 200 to 300 dollars. In the right hands. These can kick major ass. I give this a 15 out of 10. No joke, this is my favorite workstation of all time.


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Category: 08-Synth Reviews! | 59 Comments »

Synth: Clavia Nord Lead 2 Rack, Hexfix93’s take.

February 3rd, 2010 by Hexfix93

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Click here for VAC’s Nord Lead 2 Rack Demo mp3.
Warning, the nord lead presets suck! they suck! So do not judge the synth by those. What can I say. I’m back to digital. Not to software, I still think software sucks and sounds no where near as good as latency free, hands on real knob controls, and dedicated hardware that is not sharing its processing power with a stupid bloated inefficient operating system like osx or windows. The above demo is live through a mackie onyx, with a little bit of large chamber verb from the lexicon pcm 96. Recorded into logic 8 via an Apogee Duet. I love it. No joke. This is what I was after the whole time, I used to have a nord lead 1 expanded, and I loved it and used it all over calling of the dead and fun with knives. It would give me super aggressive leads and I could tweak the hell out of it and make it sound really mean and evil and pissed like a hissing spitting grinding angry machine. My modular did get me there with a slightly fatter sound with unstable unmusical oscillators(What makes me prefer the nord to the modular, FM, musical FM that stays in tune, could not get that out of an analog, this is how you get super mean sounds that stay musical, digital does this way better). Out of the virus a, and jp8080, and an1x that I have, this is the synth that delivers on the angry leads and arps. The nord 2 has distortion which I actually really like, it gives the filter a little more bite and its subtle. I love the filters on this, they remind me of CEM filters, but not really. They have their own sound. Made more for tweety type sounds. Great for bips and bleeps and modular sounding stuff, they are very musical and have a great color, this synth jumps out of the mix and can sit nice too. Another reason that I went back to the nord was fast responsive midi, the jupiter 8 was so bad with midi, with the encore kit it would drop notes and hang and all kinds of things. The nord is super tight with midi. My modular while it was exotic and unique, the oscillators where just not stable enough and scale good enough to be really musical. The nord gets me there on most fronts. Sure, it is not as fat as analog, but it layers with other sounds way better than my analogs did. I prefer the VAs for complex layered sounds, more room to work with.

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What really sets this apart from other synths is the fact that it hardly aliases. So when you start playing notes up high on the keyboard, the sound stays together and doesn’t lose its fullness and turn into un-pleasant distortion like the Virus A thru TI still to this day does. The jp8080 also aliases really bad when you play it up high to the point that I never play it up high. The new nord lead 2x, well I have mess around with it at the store and think it sounds like it lost some of its quality, the sound is fainter and not as present. The nord lead 3 sounds plain ugly, thin and gross like a software synth. The nord 1 as they age get gritty because the dac’s get uncalibrated and end up sounding like a sid station. I find the nord lead 2 to actually deliver all the sounds my jupiter 8, 6, and modular gave me with a slight digital sheen, granted, it’s not as lush as analog. Doesn’t matter much in the mix. I find I can get it to sit perfectly, and with a little eq I can do what I want with it. There are no effects either, but who cares, buy some outboard fx because they sound better than internal most all the time. 16 voices of polyphony, 4 timbers, can layer 4 sounds together to make huge sounds. Unison is good, I love the portamento. The arp kind of sucks because you cannot sync it to midi clock or manually edit the tempo time in bpm. There are no names for patches, only numbers, and when you install a memory card and get 4 banks of 100, finding the sound without names is tedious. If you have a daw, you can send it arp lines no problem so no big deal. This is not the ultimate bass synth, in fact I think the virus does bass a lot better and why people flock to it over the nord lead. It is why I find the virus and nord Compliment each other well. One cannot replace the other. This is a lead synth, that can do good pads, strings, sound fx, arps, and leads. Easy to edit, way easier to make sounds with over the jp8080 and virus a. The interface is better. I don’t hear any stepping when I tweak the knobs either. I like the notch, band pass, and high pass filters on this way more than the an1x, jp8080, and virus multimode filters. The low pass is kind of boring and under whelming though. I give the other synths the edge on low pass filters. This is a tweakers wet dream. I give this a 7.5 out of 10.


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Category: 08-Synth Reviews! | 13 Comments »

Synth: Sampler: Roland S770, Hexfix93’s take.

May 29th, 2009 by Hexfix93

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WOW. After really messing about with it over the last couple of weeks, I have pure love in my heart for this beast. And yes, it is a beast. Sampling with it is the bomb. Easy to use, I have only 16mb, but I can easily sample at every octave for like 10 to 20 seconds no problem. This thing plays back what is put in, with a slight color that adds life and oooomph to the sound. I just can’t get enough. I seriously think this really adds more to the sound. It’s like my high end fx, my lexicon pcm 96 and ksp8, those fx units will add to the sounds and spit out something better than you put in. I am amazed. Seriously. I tried so hard to love software samplers, used halion, emu x, kontakt, and exs24. Nothing on those ever sounded like this. Nothing. I mean I would sample my analogs and they would sound digital. This thing still sounds analog even after its in the sampler. At first, I thought it ruined my drums, because when you first import sounds into this thing, it sets the attack on the TVA(amp env) to 1 instead of 0, so the first part of my kicks would get cut off. I figured out how to edit it. They kick the crap out of battery and kontakt for drums, everything is hot, loud and punches like it should, as compared to the limp more faint sound of these software samplers. But I did find a huge problem for drums, this is from another user on the gear sluts forums “Roland S-sampler: the envelopes regularly “mis-fire” — don’t know how else to explain it, but occasional hits will sound flabby, which is especially noticeable and problematic on drums… like let’s say you have set DCA Attack @ 0, and Release @ 3 for a really tight drum sound, it’s like occassionally it will hit where it sounds more like Attack @ 3, Release @ 50 …… myself and 2 of my friends all owned S-750s and it was the same on all of ours”. So I have to deduct some points here, this is not good for drums.

What do I really like about this most of all? Inputs are on the front, the converters on this are amazing, I think they are apogee from the late 80s, I read that on some forum some where, too lazy to open it up and check. They really capture the sounds just right. I had to get my head around the complex sound structure, sample then that becomes a partial(layer up to 4 sounds as the osc, 4 mono, or 2 stereo pairs) which contains the filter and amp envs and settings like that, then the patch section where you can assign the partials to the keyboard any way you want(if you have a lot of partials, and want to edit the filter or the tva on each, there is a way to hit command then edit partials, then select global, so you can edit all the partials under the patch at once, so the settings on the filter and amp envs etc will effect all the sounds in the patch, this took me a while to get my head around. Then the performance where you assign patches to midi channels. The file system is really good(it intelligently will use the same samples over and over in different sounds with out making you save them over and over, unless you do physical edits on the samples themselves, so if you have a drum kit and one kit uses the same kick as another, it will know this, and only save the one kick but load the same one for both kits, so space isn’t wasted saving the same files over and over.), even though there is a 540 mb limit to how big a hd can be :(. You can use a mouse and external screen to use this unit. But you don’t need it, my screen is super dim, so I had to get a long composite video cable to reach my TV, then, neato. Easy to see everything. I have no problem editing stuff with the arrows and the big wheel. I also think this sampler can sync the osc(samples) like osc sync on analogs. I haven’t tried that yet.

Sampling is easy, I learned some stuff from the manuals and from some cool people over on gear sluts about how to edit stuff easier. So in partial mode, hit the command button, then sample, and it will create a partial with the sample real easy, same can be done in patch mode to make patches easy. Sampling is cool, although, when making any patch, partial, or sample, you have to name them, but once you do it will remember the name you entered again so you can just add 2 3 4 etc to the end of it easy. I remember sampling with the asrx, asr10, and emu e6400, I seriously prefer the s770 over those in sound and editing, when I sample a sound in, it automatically find the right start and end points to truncate, so it is good at saving space, and i don’t have to manually truncate myself. There are no FX, good, cause i usually hate internal fx. 24 voice poly. 8 outputs! Flopy disk, and a built in 40mb, yes MB :( HD. Without the HD you would have to load the OS of floppy every time you booted it up. So I am thankful there is one in there even though it’s only 40mb.

So it sounds amazing with low aliasing, really musical. So lush. The filters are digital, but they sound analog, the resonance is really wet if you set it just right, and the band pass and high pass are spot on and can sound really organic and analog. Todd and I compared some crumar string machine akai samples to kontakt 3, loaded them in via chicken systems translator on a zip disk. Loaded it in, played both and A and B them over and over, and we noticed that the s770 sounded fuller, more musical, had more harmonics in the sound, louder, smoother, punchier, present, warm and fat. VS the software which was more distant, thin, cold, had horrid aliasing distortions, the filters were like sand paper compared to the smooth organic filters in the s770. It was a joke. To think people are selling these things to buy software that sounds 10 times worse is an outrage.

I never used my software samplers in my music much, because it never would fit. Never matched my real analogs. The s770 does match and fit my other gear. Sits nice in the mix. So much easier to mix actually. I really wanted to get my hands on the ultimate sampler, the emu e3, the depeche mode violator sampler, but i couldn’t find one that was affordable. I picked this thing up for 200 plus shipping and i had to buy a power chord. It was mission the top of one of the knobs, but it all works. Samplers are a lot of work, but well worth the effort when you get one of these great old ones. Not all samplers are great. This thing kicks the crap out of the emu e4 i had, the sound quality of this, the bass end especially is magical, warm and fat, so analog, more than any other sampler i had. The ensoniq samplers sound musty and dirty compared to this. This is lush, big warm and analog. So is the E3. 16 bit sound in the s770 as well. 20 bit internal processes. Todd bought the big huge e3 rack from Danny Elfman’s studio! yes, and it is amazing. Real analog filters. But mine are good usable and i have multi mode, so i am really happy. Don’t get me wrong, the e4, and old asr samplers are better than the new hardware samplers from akai, and the software. But seriously, the e3, the s770 are like the ultimate in sound character, they sound analog and not digital. This is the best piece of gear I have bought in a longtime. Rock solid midi timing too.

Ok, I made a patch for you to hear. This is me, making my sh2 sound like a jupiter 8. With 24 voice poly, and resonant multimode filter :) This is a pad sound, i love the resonance on the higher notes, so lush. And the sampler still makes it sound like real analog. Amazing. Click here To listen to it. I sampled my s770 through my mackie onyx mixer with no eq, into the rme fireface 800. I am sure it would sound better if i went directly into the fireface 800. I give this a 7 out of 10. Awsome sampler!!!!!!

Category: 08-Synth Reviews! | 14 Comments »

Sampler Wars. Software VS Hardware.

May 22nd, 2009 by Hexfix93

Shot out battery 3 and kontakt 3 With RME Fireface converters against my Roland s770. I loaded the goldbaby drum kits into the s770 and loaded them into battery and compared. The bass has more mid lows and jumps out of the speakers a bit more on the s770. The snares had this brighter punchier sound on the s770, it cut in the mix better, punches more. The high hats sound more real and crisp and cutting on the s770. So battery 3 just got owned by my roland s770.

Now I converted some Akai strings. From xxlarge best services most wanted 2 string machines akai cd rom. Loaded them into kontakt 3, and into the roland s770. Kontakt 3 sounded thin, annoying, brittle and unmusical and machine like. The Roland s770 breathed this analog hue into the sounds, made it shimmer, the sounds had a lot more air in the top end, the pitching was way better with no aliasing. kontakt 3 aliased big time when playing it live even on the hq settings. The roland s770 really made my akai libraries come to life and sound more musical, more present, more hi fi and more cutting in the mix. Way more bass, mids and treble. It was smoother and musical.

I know why i have not used sampling libraries since i sold my emu e6400. They only sounds usable on a good hardware sampler. Sorry man. Soft synths are toys. The roland s770 sounds like a musical instrument. The filters are shimmery, wet and more analog sounding, the filters in kotakt3 were like sandpaper lofi make the sounds get thin and cold instantly. AWFUL! Software is AWFUL.

The difference is like a moped VS a Ferrari. Moped is the soft synth, s770 is the Ferrari. Holy crap, I can’t beleive I waited so long to come back to hardware. I thought sampling would be fine in the box. one cd drive, less hassle. The problem is, I would record all my analog synths in through my compressors, get them going in a mix, then run battery and kontakt and try and layer stuff and write drums, and even with the gold baby libs, they just didn’t fit good in the mix with battery and kontakt. Instantly, load the sounds into the s770, they come to life, and match the quality of my analog recordings, my analog instruments, the s770 plays nice with my analog hardware in the mix. NO SOFT SYNTHS DO. they never match the intensity of my modular, sh2, revolution or jupiter 8.

Now, thanks to chicken systems and a couple of zip drives! I am able to get great sounds into a great hardware sampler, that sounds loud, big, bassy and cutting and sit right in the mix with my huge analog modular stuff. This is no joke. This sampler is the shit. This is the best $200=s770, $150=chicken sys translator, $50 for 2 zip drives, one usb one scsi, and 15 for a mogaimi video cable that would reach my big tv from the s770. S770 is great, this is exactly what I needed, it plays drums back great, and does amazing strings, it has great filters, and is boundless. I havent even tried osc syncing samples yet, i bet that is cool, or this trick i read about from beer:

“Sound ON Sound – Synth Secrets has the a complete breakdown and re-construction of a lot of the classic sounds. My little trick that works best with a Roland S760 but should also work with hardware is to make use of Highpass Filters ! ( I know that sounds nuts but bare with me )- for the chesty sound you’re looking for you could try using a bit of Noise for a basic waveform then put it through the highpass filter – remembering that the resonance on a Highpass filter acts on the lower cutoff point you can sweep up from the bottom of the harmonic content and focus in on the range you need ( with a snappy EG modulating the VCA ) S760s Rule the roost for this trick – you can make HUGE bass drums with its filters

Just a thought.”

Fuck software for sound generation, synths, samplers. It all sucks compared to good hardware.

Category: 08-Synth Reviews! | 8 Comments »

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