FUTURE RETRO ORB SEQUENCER
Future Retro has released the first in a new line of XS-ories for controlling its XS semimodular synthesizer as well as other CV/gate and MIDI synths. The hand-built Orb ($550) holds 256 16-step patterns governing note duration, pitch, accent, glide, loop point, time signature, and swing. You can record and edit everything on the fly, and the Orb automatically saves your changes. Patterns can be arranged to create 16 songs, and you can chain songs to play sequentially. Save everything to your computer or other Orb and Revolution units using MIDI SysEx dumps. Each Orb has ¼-inch jacks for CV, Gate, and Accent outputs as well as MIDI In, Out, and Thru ports.
FABFILTER TWIN 2
Dutch software developer FabFilter has upgraded its flagship subtractive synth plug-in. Twin 2 (Mac/Win, $169) boasts enhanced oscillators and filters, a feedback-delay effect with additional filters in the feedback loop, and on-demand modulation with drag-and-drop routing. Its three oscillators host the usual waveforms along with white and pink noise. They feature ring modulation, hard sync, stereo panning, and polyphonic portamento. You can arrange the two multimode filters in series, parallel, or per oscillator and choose from FabFilter's full complement of 11 filter characteristics. Modulator sources include x-y controllers, LFO/step-sequencer modules, ADSR envelope generators, most MIDI message types, and envelope followers that track Twin 2's sidechain audio input.
FRONT AND CENTER
LEXICON IONIX U42S
The Lexicon Ionix U42S USB 2.0 audio interface (Mac/Win, $399.95) puts the controls right where you need them: between your computer keyboard and monitor. You get level knobs and LED metering for its four input channels and its main stereo output along with level knobs for two headphone outputs. Rear-panel XLR combo jacks serve as mic/line inputs with 48V phantom power and dbx high-voltage, low-noise mic pres on each channel. The left side sports high-impedance instrument inputs for the first two channels. You also get S/PDIF I/O and a single-port MIDI interface. Manufacturer's specs call out 44.1 to 96 kHz, 24-bit resolution, zero-latency monitoring, and low-latency ASIO drivers. Bundled software includes Lexicon's Pantheon II reverb VST/AU plug-in, Steinberg Cubase LE4, and Toontrack Ezdrummer Lite.
ALIVE AND WELL
ABLETON LIVE 8 AND SUITE 8
Live 8 and Suite 8 (Mac/Win, $449 and $699) add a host of features and a completely new sound library to Ableton's ubiquitous sequencing and performance software. Extracting and working with grooves is made easy with Groove Pool; the Warp engine now identifies transients and flexes the sample rather than the timeline; and you can group tracks, step enter MIDI, and draw crossfades. New effects include Looper for classic sound-on-sound recording, a vocoder, a frequency shifter, and new dynamics and distortion processors. The overhauled Operator and a new physical-modeled percussion synth, Collision, with a companion resonator effect, Corpus, beef up the premium-plug-in content. You'll find movies and more at the Ableton Web site.
LOUD IS GOOD
OVERLOUD AUDIO TOOLS TH1
TH1 v1.1 (Mac/Win, $349 [MSRP]) is a fourth-generation suite of guitar effects from Overloud Audio Tools. It is distributed by Ilio. The standalone, VST, AU, and RTAS plug-in starts with 8 amps with 15 channels, SLR amp morphing, and VariFire gain character control; 21 cabinet models; and 3-D microphone positioning for its selection of 18 mics. That's augmented with 60 stompbox, pedal, and rack effects; Smart Controls with fully configurable MIDI mapping; and a browsable library with 12 factory sound banks. Overloud claims 4-sample latency for the amps and zero latency for all other modules. See for yourself by downloading the full-featured 14-day demo from the company's Web site.
PMI AUDIO GROUP JOEMEEK FLOORQ
Noting that guitarists and bass players are buying its Joemeek TwinQ and threeQ just to process their instruments during performance, PMI Audio Group put pedal to metal. The Joemeek FloorQ ($249.99) delivers the same optical compressor circuitry where it belongs onstage — under your foot. The unit has a high-impedance JFET input and a Class A preamp with input-level control, so that even with the compressor switched out, it can serve as a front end and level matcher for guitar amps by providing an additional 20 dB of gain. The floorQ comes with a 12V AC wall wart, but you can use virtually anything in your rig from 9V to 18V, AC or DC to power it.
IN THE ZONE
IZOTOPE OZONE 4
Ozone 4 (Mac/Win, $249.95 [MSRP]), the latest update of iZotope's mastering suite, packs seven top-notch tools and a user-configurable signal path into a single plug-in that is available in all DAW formats. These analog-modeled, linear-phase tools cover the bases with loudness maximizing, multiband dynamics, stereo imaging, parametric EQ, mid-side processing, harmonic enhancement, dithering, and mastering reverb. You get extensive metering and spectrum analysis, sampling rates up to 192 kHz, and full-featured automation. The documentation goes beyond module specifics to help demystify the mastering process, and a new preset manager offers over 100 presets and MacroPresets to show the way. Download a 10-day trial version from the iZotope Web site.