BEATS TO GO
The new XR20 Beat Production Center ($499 [MSRP]) from Akai (akaipro.com) is a desktop unit with a sound set designed especially for hip-hop and R&B. Its more than 700 sounds by Chronic Music range from one-shot drum hits to bass and synth sounds. You get 99 presets and 99 user patterns, backlit pads that follow the beat, a mic input for mixing vocals over patterns, and a headphone output. In Pattern Play mode, pads trigger patterns rather than sounds. A large, backlit LCD lets you know what's going on. You can power the XR20 with batteries or an AC adapter.
SOUND DEVICES 788T RECORDER
CAUGHT IN THE ACT
With the release of the 788T digital recorder ($5,995 [MSRP]), Sound Devices (sounddevices.com) expands its 7-series line of digital audio recorders to eight tracks and adds a host of new features. The 10 × 1.65 × 6.25-inch unit weighs less than 4 pounds and sports a 160 GB hard drive, a CompactFlash slot, and FireWire storage. FireWire and USB connections are provided for data transfer. The 788T has eight phantom-powered, LED-metered mic inputs, along with digital I/O and a headphone output. In addition to its full-featured timecode clock, the unit offers word-clock I/O and tri-level video sync input. You can use external power or removable, rechargeable Li-ion cells.
TC ELECTRONIC DESKTOP KONNEKT 6
TC Electronic (tcelectronic.com) has just released the latest in its Konnekt series of audio interfaces. The compact Desktop Konnekt 6 (Mac/Win, $249) offers the same quality and features as the rest of the line, including the Big Control volume knob, Impact mic preamps with 48V phantom power, high-resolution LED metering, and separate headphone level and source. You get mic/instrument, instrument/instrument (true high-impedance guitar), and stereo line inputs, along with balanced stereo outputs. The built-in M40 Studio Reverb is also supplied as a VST and AU plug-in. The unit is FireWire bus powered and supports 24-bit, 192 kHz audio.
Cycling '74 Max 5
The latest incarnation of Max/MSP (Mac/Win, $495; with Jitter, $699 [both MSRP]) from Cycling '74 (cycling74.com) boasts a variety of new features aimed at giving increased flexibility and greater ease of use. Most notably, the Patcher has been enhanced with multiple undos, a pop-up object palette, and simultaneous open views. Presentation mode lets you arrange objects in the user interface independently of their size and arrangement in the Patcher. Integrated documentation, message help, and debugging tools make Max patching almost intuitive, and there are numerous examples and tutorials to get you started.
JOIN THE CIRCLE
Circle (Mac/Win, $199) is the first product from Irish software developer Future Audio Workshop (futureaudioworkshop.com). This standalone and plug-in (VST, AU, and RTAS) soft synth stretches the analog-modeled paradigm in various ways while placing primary emphasis on ease of use. Its four oscillators offer waveform morphing between 110 single-cycle waveforms. Those, together with noise and a tuned-delay feedback circuit, are mixed into a 3-bank filter and distortion processor. Drag-and-drop modulation routing from five multimode modulators (each of which is configurable as an LFO, an ADSR envelope, or a step sequencer) makes complex setups a snap. And you get 500 factory presets to show you the way.
HUMANOID SOUND SYSTEMS SCANNED SYNTH PRO 2
Scanned Synth Pro 2 (Win, $99.99) is the first commercial implementation of a variation on wavetable synthesis, heretofore found only on synths created in do-it-yourself environments such as Csound. It produces sounds reminiscent of both wavetable synthesis and physical modeling: edgy, ethereal, and unpredictable. This VSTi plug-in adds standard multimode filters and effects, along with ADSR envelopes and LFOs for modulation. A customizable randomizing scheme nearly always generates usable variations on the many factory presets. Buy it or download the free demo and scaled-down versions from Humanoid Sound Systems (humanoidsounds.co.uk).
AUDIO DAMAGE KOMBINAT
Audio Damage (audiodamage.com) proudly proclaims, “We're In Yr DAW Murderin' Yr Bitz,” and the release of Kombinat (Mac/Win, $49) won't tarnish that image. It's a 3-band audio mangler with seven distortion engines: fuzz, saturation, distortion, clipping, warping, bit reduction, and ring modulation. The bands, which you can arrange in series or parallel, are preceded by a 3-band EQ with adjustable crossover, and in parallel mode, each band gets its own distortion engine. The signal path ends in a resonant lowpass filter and a compressor. VST versions are provided on both platforms, and AU is provided for the Mac.