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What's New, December 2010

November 12, 2010

Spark ($199) from Blue Microphones is a large-diaphragm, phantom-powered, cardioid condenser mic for studio recording. In addition to its large-diaphragm capsule and Class-A low-noise electronics, Spark features a Focus switch that gives users a choice of two sounds: a flatter voicing for instruments and a tighter, more present sound when in the Focused setting. Spark ships with a custom shock-mount, pop filter, wooden case, and a detailed recording guide with setup and recording tips. A three-year warranty is standard.

RME''s Fireface UFX ($2,099) digital interface features 30 input and 30 output channels, four digitally controlled mic preamps, 24-bit/192kHz resolution, and standalone or FireWire/USB operation for Mac or Windows PC. Connectivity includes 12 analog inputs (four mic/line, eight line-only), 12 analog line outs, four 8-channel ADAT Lightpipe ports (four in/four out), stereo AES/EBU digital I/Os on XLRs, BNC word clock I/Os, two sets of MIDI In/Outs, and a headphone out. The included TotalMix FX DSP mixer/signal-router software allows independent control of all 30 input and playback channels to all 30 physical outputs, with a control room monitoring section, 3-band parametric EQ, compressor/expander, auto-level, and reverb and echo effects engines.

Fostex has updated its popular PM0.4 studio monitors. The new PM0.4n ($199 pair) models feature updated cosmetics, high-efficiency bi-amped design, with twin internal 18-watt amplifiers driving the 4-inch woofer and 0.75-inch dome tweeter. The dual-ported enclosures (available in five high-gloss colors) feature smooth, radiused edges to minimize diffraction effects, and threaded inserts on the speaker base accommodate optional wall-mount brackets.

The Allen & Heath GS-R24 (from $7,999) is an analog recording console featuring analog and digital interface modules, optional motorized faders, and MIDI controllers for DAW interfacing. Each of the 24 mono mic/line input channels has a mic preamp and 4-band parametric EQ. Also standard are two stereo channels, two tube preamp channels, six aux sends, and four subgroup buses. An optional 32-channel FireWire interface module ($699) with ADAT optical connectivity offers digital sends/returns on all input channels and the master stereo; an analog I/O-plus-MIDI module ($249) has D-type connectors for wiring to external converters. The MIDI control section has switches, rotaries, two MIDI faders, 24 channel faders, and a jog wheel for scrolling functions.

Groove Detective ($65) from CPU Productions is a new tool for searching large collections of drum and percussion loops. The program analyzes all of a user''s loops and creates a database that allows for searches based on the pattern of drum hits in the loop itself rather than how it''s named or the folder it''s in. An additional option includes a “sounds like” feature for searching for a particular type of sound. Once there, the search can be refined by filtering on tempo, pitch, file type, sample rate, etc., and the loop can be dragged directly into a DAW track. The software is for Windows only, but a Mac version is on its way.

After more than two years of development, WaveMachine Labs announces its Drumagog 5 drum-replacement plug-ins for VST, RTAS, or AU on Windows or Mac host platforms. New features include improved Auto-Align 2 triggering, a redesigned GUI, and support for multiple room mics and sounds. The Platinum Edition also adds auto (real-time) tracking of open/closed hi-hat positioning, direct plug-in hosting (to play any virtual instrument from within Drumagog), and built-in convolution reverb and Morph/Engine effects. Pricing: Basic Edition, $149; Pro Edition, $289; and Platinum Edition, $379.

Version 2.5 of KV331''s SynthMaster ($99, direct) semi-modular synthesizer and effects plug-in is now cross-platform on VST and AU for Mac and Windows platforms. In addition to offering multiple skins, also new to V. 2.5 are filter distortion, improved filter algorithms, new filter types, vector synthesis, 2-D envelopes, an online preset browser, modulation matrix, audio-to-MIDI triggering, and improved reverb/distortion/delay/phaser effects. A free demo version is downloadable from the company''s Website.

Loopmasters Live Lounge

Andre Touhey of CueSounds delivers an extensive library of downtempo funk, R&B, and soul-oriented loops, hits, effects, and sampler instruments in Live Lounge (approximately $46) from Loopmasters. The 1GB collection starts with nearly 500 one- and two-chord loops in an assortment of major and minor keys at tempos ranging from 90bpm to 115bpm. Those comprise individual instruments (brass, guitar, keys, strings, and synths), as well as full drum kits and single percussion instruments. Beyond that, you''ll find more than 400 hits including individual drum kit-pieces, pads, Rhodes chords, scratches, and effects (see Web Clip 1). And when you''re having trouble getting the engine started, the Motifs folder of 52 short mixes is an excellent source of ideas. The Main version of Live Lounge includes Acidized WAV and REX2 files, along with sampler patches for Kontakt, HALion, Reason NNXT, and EXS24. Ableton Live Pack, Apple Loops, and Reason ReFill versions are sold separately.

Camel Audio Planet Earth
Camel Audio''s latest preset library for its flagship synth plug-in, Alchemy, celebrates the home planet in two ways: It''s jammed with earthly and sometimes earthy sounds from jungle to nautical to industrial, and half of your payment goes to the environmental charity Friends of the Earth. Planet Earth (Mac/Win, $59.95) starts with 150 presets by notable sound designers such as Biomechanoid, Himalaya, and Ian Boddy. You get a cross-section of textures: pads and soundscapes, arpeggios and loops, basses and keys, and vocals and leads. Showing off Alchemy''s diverse programming options, the sounds range from synthy to organic. Alchemy''s real-time X/Y-morphing scheme takes this library well beyond 150 presets; each preset has eight morphs (different control settings) that you can navigate continuously using MIDI control or DAW automation (see Web Clip 2). The Alchemy Player (Mac/Win; AU and VST) plug-in is included with this library so you don''t need to buy it or own Alchemy to use these sounds.

Sonic Reality Cinema Sessions
Sonic Reality has augmented its library of scoring effects with the new Cinema Sessions series. The first four volumes (Symphonic Effects, Global Atmospheres, Dimensional Effects, Ambient Atmospheres) are available separately for $149 or bundled as the Cinema Sessions Gold Edition ($499), which includes bonus material. A smaller compilation, Cinema Sessions SE, is downloadable for $149. The four libraries comprise more than 2,200 sampled sounds covering orchestral effects, field recordings of world sounds, synthesized and orchestral ambiences, and special effects (see Web Clip 3). The first three are configured as single-sample instruments mapped across the entire MIDI key range and as Kontakt Multis, in which different keys play different sounds. Ambient Atmospheres includes both single-sample and multisampled instruments.

Cinema Sessions uses Sonic Reality''s Infinite Player—a Native Instruments Kontakt 3.5 or later and Kontakt 4 Player (included) custom-scripted instrument. The scripting offers four modes of playback—forward, reverse, formant-shift, and time-stretch—along with mod-wheel control of sample start, pitch-tracking disable, triggering on key release (handy for alternating one sound on key down with another on key up), and modulation and insert-effects settings. For more details on Infinite Player, check EM''s review of the companion library Serafine FX Tron in the October issue.

Tonehammer Requiem
The folks at Tonehammer took over one of San Francisco''s oldest cathedrals (they''re not saying which one) for two weeks to record members of the Volti choir and SF Choral Society conducted by Robert Geary. The results are the massive sample library Requiem Pro ($799, 22GB) and the resource-efficient version, Requiem Light ($299, 3GB). Both libraries are for Native Instruments Kontakt 4.1.1 or later, and Requiem Light, which I used for the example (see Web Clip 4), is also compatible with the free Kontakt 4 Player.

The recordings include full choir (SATB), male and female divisi groups, and soloists. Beyond the usual articulations in sustained-legato, staccato, and marcato renderings, you''ll find choral effects (clusters, sweeps, and body percussion) and a collection of multi-syllabic sustains in which the choir pulses through the syllables of Latin and German words. The latter, along with custom step-sequencer and phrase-builder scripts for creating your own chants and phrases, especially set Requiem apart.

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