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Software Reviews

Noiiz – Unlimited Cloud Based Samples – Review

by Mark Morgon-Shaw


Disclaimer :  I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services  mentioned in this review.

Working with a team of musicians and sound designers to create fresh and unique sounding content across 40 genres,  UK based  Samplephonics have produced well received royalty free sample packs since being founded by former producer and mastering engineer Davis Rose in 2011.

With subscription plans increasingly becoming the norm within the world of  Pro Audio and professional software tools in general,  what can Samplephonics spin off service Noiiz bring to the table for the cloud generation ?

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Finding Authenticity In Writing Production Music

by Will Benoit

One of the most important parts in the process of composing production music is keeping your tracks fresh and exciting after turning out so many pieces of music. But to me, theMcDSP Analog Channel most important part is getting your tracks to sound consistent within the aesthetic of the genre you are writing in. Whether it’s EDM, Hip Hop, Rock, or any other genre, the song needs to sound a certain way in order to feel authentic. Continue reading

FabFilter Pro-R Reverb

by Charlotte McMillan

I’ve recently been exploring FabFilter’s algorithmic reverb Pro-R.  It comes in VST, VST3, AU, AAX Native and AudioSuite formats (in 64- as well as 32-bit).  RTAS is available as 32-bit only.    I used it as an AU plugin with Digital Performer 9.1. as well as with Vienna Ensemble Pro 5.4.1 on a desktop Mac with OS 10.7.5.
Fab Filter PRO-R
Keeping with Fabfilter tradition, Pro-R’s GUI is gorgeous.  A dark blue window (which can be resized up to full screen)  displays the controls across the top, and a spectrum analyzer  occupies the window’s bottom two thirds.  The aesthetic appeal is strong, especially the visualization of the cascading reverb lines in the “reverb+post” mode.

But behind the beautiful aesthetics is a sensible and efficient design, very conducive to a smooth workflow.  There are tons of convenient features that let you dig in under the hood if desired but which stay hidden otherwise:  pop up dials for pre-delay as well as the input and output signals, pop up controls for EQ bands (more about that later), drop-down menus for many controls, and help hints that appear when you hover over any parameter (this can be turned off if desired).  Across the top are seven dials that allow you to shape and tailor your reverb.

Brightness.  This dial essentially turns up or down the higher frequencies, mimicking the absorption (or not) of high frequencies.

Character.  With the dial set at 0, the reverb is transparent.  As you turn it clockwise, the sound becomes more modulated, with “chorus-like” effect at 100%.  This effect is more noticeable with some sounds than others.  In my experience, the chorus effect was most apparent with solo piano.

Distance.  This knob would seem to be analogous to the early reflections control on other reverbs.  Bring it to 0% and you’re as close as you can be to the sound source.  Turn it clockwise, and you begin to move away from that sound source.

Space.  Sitting in the middle and the largest of the seven dials, this controls the size of the space, indicated by length of the reverb:  from 200 ms at the shortest to 10 seconds at the longest (though this can be extended up to 20 seconds with the separate decay rate dial) —  small, nearly dry rooms to cathedrals and warehouses. This continuously variable value lets you hone in on exactly the size of room that you’d like.  Icons representing increasingly larger spaces are helpfully positioned at six different points around the dial, for quick jumping from one size to another.

Decay Rate.  This lets you increase (up to two times) or decrease (up to 50%) the current decay rate of the space you’re using,  The idea is to let you increase or decrease the decay without affecting the room size.

Stereo Width.  This button changes the width of the signal from mono (0%) to true stereo (50%) to multi-mono (100%) to extended stereo (above 100%, all the way to 120%), which amplifies the side signal.

Mix.  This controls the wet/dry mix of the signal.

Two more important controls are the decay rate EQ and the post EQ.

The Decay Rate EQ appears as a blue horizontal line across the spectrum analyzer, with a blue decay rate scale from 12 to 200%  along the vertical axis on the left side of the window.  Its function is to decrease or increase the rate of decay for particular frequencies.  You can create a band by simply clicking anywhere on the blue line and dragging it up or down.  Up to six bands total can be created, in a variety of possible shapes:  notch, low shelf, high shelf, and bell.  The Q can be controlled via the mouse wheel.  The band can be bypassed for comparison.

The Post EQ equalizes the final sound with available band shapes of bell, low cut, low shelf, high cut, and high shelf.  It appears as a yellow horizontal line across the spectrum analyzer with a dB scale (also in yellow)  from -30 to +30 dB along a vertical axis on the right side of the window.   The visible range can be zoomed in to +/- 18 or +/- 9 dB.

All parameters can be automated, and I had no problem using my Korg NanoKontrol to control them.

This technical description belies the simplicity and intuitiveness of using this plugin.  The simple dial setup of the seven key parameters makes them easily understood and encourages one to experiment with and refine the sound.  Likewise, EQing is a cinch, particularly with the spectrum analyzer (something lacking in my other reverbs).  I, for one, love the generous and clear visualization of these EQ controls.  All the controls work beautifully in concert to help you craft wonderfully creative reverbs or refine existing ones with surgical precision.  Looking to create a garage-y, slapbackish drum room or a pure, transparent space for a haunting, beautiful vocal?  You can get to either one pretty quickly.   Though I have some reverbs that are comparable in quality to this one, I’ve never felt inclined to create my own reverb while using them. With Pro-R, I did so with instant ease and pleasure.

One can venture into Pro-R easily by exploring the numerous presets, which range from small rooms to cathedrals and include plates.  I found that some of the presets tended to be a little bright for my taste, though that is easily fixed with tweaking.  Some of the standout presets for strings, vocals, and piano were Medium Hall 1, Neutral Room, Small Dark Hall, Concert Hall Amsterdam Modern, and Concert Hall Sydney.

As someone interested in mostly transparent reverbs for acoustic instruments, I feel this reverb meets that need beautifully.  But it can also be used for creative, sound design-ish reverbs, from all kinds of slapbacks (including tempo-synced ones) for drums and vocals to interesting comb-filtering reverbs for synths.

All in all, I’d highly recommend this reverb based on its excellent sound and incredible ease of use. It works so easily and intuitively that you want to start designing reverbs! It sells for $199 on the FabFilter site.  A 30-day demo is available.


Embertone Stringsby PJG

In the last few years, Embertone has specialized in detailed, affordable virtual instruments: from the classic sound of the clarinet to the exoticism of the erhu and the insanity of the mouth trumpet – their products are always deeply sampled and beautiful scripted. And during all this time their solo strings have been Embertone’s flagship, starting with Friedlander Violin in 2013 and finishing with Leonid Bass early this year. Completing the series, Blakus Cello and Fischer Viola: it is always nice when libraries give their performers proper due. Continue reading

Soniccouture – Box of Tricks

By David Christiansen

Sometimes virtual instruments are created for artists for studio work, albums, sometimes live performances and later on they are released. Imogen Heap’s Box of Tricks is such a library and an extraordinary instrument created of her in cooperation with Soniccouture. After three years of refining 13 Kontakt instruments are release. The library consists of 30GB of sampled material and comes in a 12.7GB download. Kontakt 5.5 or later is required to run the instruments.

All instruments are recorded in high-end quality and with a thoughtful use and placement of microphones. The sound quality is superb and the sample files have been saved in 24bit / 96kHz..

One of the most interesting aspects of the library is the programming of the Kontakt instruments. All instruments make use of the complete playable range. On a 88 key controller all keys can be played. In Kontakt the original sampled range is marked blue and the transposed notes on the upper and lower end are marked green.


9 velocity layers, 5 octaves.

Pizz with 16 velocity layers and 3 round robins / bow / harmonic slides, reverse pizz.

With up to 64 velocity layers and room and direct mics. Great use of Euclidean Beats Module (explained later on)
* One of the instruments I will use most for all kinds of compositions *

Tongue Drum
10 velocity layers, 3 round robin layers, one octave sampled, sounds good on whole keyboard.

Body & Vocal Percussion
61 sounds
Play sounds with single sounds on the keys, or arrange with the Jammer or or Euclidean Beats Module.

Articulations are fingernails, bow (decay, looped) and reverse and come all with 9 velocity layers.

Articulations are: dry, ghost, reverse. The articulations can be mixed with the 3 sliders.

32 velocity layers with carpet & wooden beaters.

Pad sound with chromatic sampled Whirly Tubes.

11 velocity layers and 3 round robin layers, great sound and great with Jammer 2.0 and Hamoniser (explained later on).

Shruti Box
With spectral overtone crossfading. Personally it’s one of the patches I will not use too often. It seems to be a bit less versatile than the other patches.

A colorful great sounding collection of 128 waterphone sounds.

9 velocity layers.
It’s a fretless zither and very useful for chords and melodies. * This is well is one of the instruments I will use most for many styles of music *

Are available for each chosen instrument.

Euclidean Beats
Can be used with Cocktail Kit and Vocal + Body Percussion Kit. With this module it’s very easy to generate and program complex beats. Steps and hits per sound can be inserted easily and the results always sound compelling. This way it’s simple to create individual loops. The midi note result can be inserted with drag and drop into the sequencer.

Can be used with almost all instruments and is a simple NI script giving harmony. Used for instance in combination with the next module Jammer, this can be quite a powerful effect. 26 scales based on all 12 chromatic notes can be used.

Jammer 2.0
An apeggiator with 12 different patterns, which can be automated while playing and assigning options to any MIDI CC. This module has 5 offset controls and 5 evolve control to play around and find creative settings you can use and store. The scale section gives many options: major, minor, black notes, wholte tone C and C# and 8 Messiaen scales, which were invented by Olivier Messiaen.

The strumming can be used for the instrument Marxophone and for MBira and has a control to allow settings like direction and speed. In Marxophoone the strumming can be split and be used for the left of the keyboard (chords) or for the melody on the right side of the keyboard.

This button let’s you play the sound you just played on the whole keyboard. This can be used for the 61 unique sounds of Vocal & Body Percussion and for the 128 Waterphone sounds.

This is for the SHRUTI BOX which has a possibility to adjust the pressure of the instrument and makes it sound more organic.

There are so many options to play with in in this library. There is a whole FX section with 17 different insert effects and a random mode. It comes with it’s own convolution reverb: 10 Spaces of Heap’s House. 22 Rooms (Concert Room, Cathedral, Cave…) and 20 SFX-Patches. Another function which is very interesting to experiment with is the SLIM controller which reduces the fundamental frequency of each chromatic note.

It’s interesting to know, that for all instruments there are different snapshots you can load in and learn from the masters behind it, how they create great patches from sometimes simple and pure sounds.

Soniccouture – Box of Tricks is an extremely inspiring instrument. It could have been named ‘Box of Inspiration’. The 13 instruments can be embedded in many kind of music. The sample quality is superb. The Performance Modules, Effects and all the possibilities programmed into the instruments. It helps the composer very much, that the best fitting Performance Modules have been choosen and lead to fantastic results in very short time. Box of Tricks has mesmerizing qualities and gives the composer a feeling of great play-ability at the same time.