People talk about how Moore’s Law relates to hardware, but
consider this: Ten years ago, how much would a software bundle
with a DAW, a pair of virtual instruments, and several hundred
megabytes of content cost? Well, it wouldn’t have been
under $100, which is what we have here.
French virtual instrument maker Arturia has bundled a version
of their Analog Factory software with 250 patches optimized for
hip-hop, the “session” version of Applied Analog Systems’
Lounge Lizard with four different electric pianos, Ableton Live
Lite 8 Arturia Edition, and 1,200 samples and music loops from
ModernBeats. The cross-platform package works with Windows
XP/Vista/7 and Mac OS X 10.4 (Universal Binary). Let’s look at
the individual components.
Analog Factory: This VST/AU/RTAS (Pro Tools 6 and
up)/standalone virtual instrument has two main sections, the
Preset Manager View (where you browse and choose presets)
and the Keyboard View—see Figure 12.
Fig. 12. The Analog Factory Hip-Hop Edition uses the same engine as Analog Factory, but includes hip-hop specific patches.
The Preset Manager offers a browser where you can filter
based on various attributes, such as Instrument, Type of sound,
and Characteristics. If you find a preset you particularly like, you
can check it as a “favorite.” Then, when you click the Favorites
button in the upper left, you’ll see a list of all the presets you
checked. The only other significant elements are a Reset button,
which clears all the browser fields, and a User Presets button.
The Keyboard View contains the various editing controls, as well
as a “virtual keyboard” for playing notes if you don’t have a controller
handy. The controls are basic: mod wheel and pitch bend, transpose
buttons, level, filter cutoff, filter resonance, LFO rate, LFO amount,
chorus/FX mix, delay, and amplitude envelope ADSR parameters.
But there are also three cool aspects to the editing, starting with the
four “key parameter” controls that control strategic parameters different presets. There are also eight snapshots that store a preset’s
settings for later recall; you could store up to eight favorite presets,
eight variations on a single preset, and the like. Furthermore, all rotary
controls, the four sliders, and the eight snapshots
can be controlled via MIDI controller
messages, thanks to a Learn function.
Analog Factory has had a good reputation
for sound quality, and the hip-hop version
is no different. While 250 patches may
seem a little on the light side, remember
that other elements of the bundle take care
of drums, percussion, and electric pianos.
Lounge Lizard Session: Lounge
Lizard was one of the first modeling-based
virtual instruments that made jaws drop,
because the electric piano emulation was
so spot on. It still is, and although this “lite”
version (Figure 13) is limited to three
Rhodes-type sounds, a Wurlitzer, tremolo,
drive, effect (delay, flanger, chorus, wah,
vibrato, auto-wah, etc.), and three reverb
options, the sound quality and effectiveness
of the modeling remains at a high level.
Fig. 13. Lounge Lizard Session has that iconic electric piano sound in modeled form. Note Ableton Live 8 in the background, and the ModernBeats samples and loops in the browser to the left.
ModernBeats content: In a way the
package hinges on this, because hip-hop
without drums doesn’t make a lot of sense.
But ModernBeats comes through, with
human beat box samples, claps, scratches,
three drum types (Dre-type drums, additional
samples that sound more like the
Neptunes, along with Acetone FR1 and
Roland TR-808 vintage drum machines),
100 files of drum loops, and 100 files of
more “ethnic” loops (all loops run at
97BPM). There’s over about 325MB of
content, and the samples are optimized to
complement Ableton’s drum rack option.
Ableton Live 8: Of all the DAWs to
put in this bundle, Live makes a lot of
sense because of its loop-friendly
demeanor and how it handles samples. If
you’re one of the 14 people who doesn’t
know what Ableton Live is, go to the web
site and download their demo.
Conclusions: Each element can stand
alone by itself, but the big issue here is value—you’re getting a lot
for your money. Granted, you’re going to have a hard time taking it
out of its hip-hop comfort zone; but then again, the package was
never intended to be anything else, and does what it’s supposed
to do very well.
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