Several features and enhancements have been added to Storm ($99; update free to registered users) since EM reviewed version 1.5 of Arturia's all-in-one loop-based software workstation in the February 2002 issue. A new chord synth called Shadow offers an advanced synthesis engine and greater flexibility in chord voicing. An interactive Composition Wizard guides you step-by-step through the creation of complete songs in five styles (with more styles planned for the future). The online Hall allows you to share Storm songs and sample files, access tips and tricks, chat with other users, and get the latest Storm news. On the Mac, Storm now comes in OS 9 and OS X flavors; in OS 9 and Windows, Storm can function as a ReWire slave or master as well as a VST Instrument plug-in.
Wizards and Windows
The Composition Wizard is Storm's most exciting new feature. It builds a Storm Studio suited to the chosen song style, loads a collection of samples for that style, and then leads you step-by-step through the construction of each song section. The Wizard appears in a separate window and has buttons for moving forward and backward through steps in the construction of the song. Another button automatically carries out any step that you don't want to perform manually. A convenient slider at the top of the Wizard lets you scroll to any completed step and change what you or the Wizard have done.
The Wizard quickly gets you up and running with Storm, and it's an excellent compositional aid and tutorial on the included musical styles. You can, of course, modify and expand your compositions after you've closed the Wizard, and you can bounce sections of Wizard songs for use as audio tracks in other Storm songs. The MP3 example Wiz is made up of short clips from each of the five Wizards: Dance, Dub, Hip Hop, Jazz Funk, and House.
Storm's online Hall is sparsely populated at the moment, but it has the potential to become a thriving community of Storm users. The mechanism is there for file sharing of songs and sound files. A number of useful tutorials are already available, and the news section has the latest Storm information along with many Web links of general interest.
Shadows and Sounds
Shadow is the only new synthesizer or effect in the Storm lineup. Shadow isn't restricted to triads as is Equinoxe, Storm's other chord synth. The new synth offers four chord modes: triads, triads with a major or minor seventh added, and free-form, in which you can include any notes you like. Furthermore, you can choose any inversion of a chord, and you can double the root one or two octaves lower.
As with Equinoxe, you can choose to have Shadow follow Storm's Kepler harmony sequencer. When the Kepler link is enabled, the root is determined by Kepler, and the third and sixth degrees of the chord (if present) are lowered for minor harmonies. Shadow's synthesis engine features two multiwave oscillators and a noise source, a lowpass filter, and an LFO that can modulate both the filter cutoff and output level. Shadow comes with 64 factory presets and 64 slots for user presets.
Storm's ReWire support allows it to act as a slave, with its output sent to another ReWire application, or as a master, with other ReWire applications' outputs mixed into Storm's audio output. In a nice twist, a second instance of the Storm application can be opened as a ReWire slave to a first instance. With sufficient CPU power, that lets you run eight Storm synths and six effects. On my 800 MHz G4 PowerBook, I was able to realize that configuration with no problems. I was also easily able to slave Propellerhead's Reason to Storm, to slave Ableton's Live to Storm, and to slave Storm to Live. I did experience occasional crashes in all configurations, but the problems weren't showstoppers.
Minor enhancements to Storm include text tags in the Sequencer (letting you delineate song sections), improved graphics for most of the modules, improved MIDI controller implementation, and programmable presets for the Seq Filter (my favorite Storm effects processor). Things that haven't changed are the tendency for QWERTY key commands to stop working, serious playback problems with the EZtrack audio-file player, and a generally sluggish response to the computer keyboard and mouse, probably due to the fact that the user interface is implemented in Java. Still, if you can put up with a little quirkiness, Storm is a lot of fun to use and a great loop-making tool. Check out the demo on Arturia's Web site.
Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 3.5
Arturia; tel. 33-438-020-555; e-mail email@example.com; Web www.arturia.com