Bitheadz Tubes, Tines, and Transistors 1.0

Tubes, Tines, and Transistors 1.0 ($199) is an extensive collection of vintage keyboard sounds on CD-ROM in BitHeadz Unity DS-1 format. It emphasizes

Tubes, Tines, and Transistors 1.0 ($199) is an extensive collection of vintage keyboard sounds on CD-ROM in BitHeadz Unity DS-1 format. It emphasizes a number of electronic organs and classic synthesizers from ARP, Gleeman, Moog, Oberheim, Roland, Sequential Circuits, and Waldorf. For good measure, BitHeadz includes Chamberlin and Mellotron strings, Fender and Wurlitzer electric pianos, Hohner D6 Clavinet, and a pipe organ. In all, you get 116 sound banks. Each bank contains variations of an instrument.

To use the collection, you need not own the full version of Unity DS-1. Tubes, Tines, and Transistors includes the free Unity DS-1 Player (which is Unity without the Editor module) as well as the MIDI and audio drivers necessary for playing TT&T from your MIDI sequencer or keyboard controller. If you have Unity DS-1, you can expand the collection by adding your own programs. Unity owners must install the program's content portion using the Custom Install option. If you have a Unity version prior to 1.31, download the free update from the BitHeadz Web site.

Most banks are based on two or three multisamples assembled from a vintage keyboard. The programs within a bank typically start with single-oscillator versions of an instrument, followed by two-oscillator combinations, and end with modifications using Unity's filters, modulation routings, and effects, giving a large number of unusual variations on each instrument. A Unity oscillator is simply a multisample player.

Going Organic

The collection of Hammond B-3 and Korg CX-3 banks dominates the organ department. The B-3 multisamples include bass pedals and various drawbar sets with and without Leslie. There are slow and fast Leslie sets and a valiant — if imperfect — attempt to simulate Leslie acceleration by crossfading the two. Finally, there is a clicks multisample and a drawbar set with percussion. The result is a collection of several hundred serviceable B-3 sounds.

Six CX-3 banks are based on multisamples of three normal CX-3 presets and presets with key click, percussion, and overdrive (one preset each). The organ collection rounds out with two Farfisa banks, two Vox Continental banks, a Lowrey bank, and a full-stop pipe-organ bank (think Bach).

The collection's strength is in the use of Unity's synthesis techniques to combine and stretch the multisamples beyond the norm. As an organ collection, the offerings are limited, though they are functional for recording.

The Synth Zone

Eighty-three of TT&T's 116 banks are devoted to vintage synthesizers, with an emphasis on Sequential Circuits' Pro-One and Prophet-5 banks. You'll find banks from a few rare units such as the Gleeman Pentaphonic (about 60 were produced in the early 1980s) and venerable classics such as the ARP Solina (aka String Ensemble) from the late 1970s.

The vintage synth section's patches are roughly divided into basses, pads, and leads. For example, 8 of the 10 Moog patches are basses derived from the Moog Taurus, 9 of the 11 Oberheim patches (from the Oberheim SEM) are pads, and the Pro-One and Prophet-5 patches tend toward leads and effects. The programmers obviously paid close attention to what characterizes a particular synth's sound and what it does best.

Like the organs, the synth banks take advantage of Unity's synthesizer architecture. All banks start with a vintage synth's raw sound and then add Unity's filtering and effects. If you're looking for a specific vintage sound, you're likely to find something close in that section. If you're into programming Unity, you can add your variations.

Bank for the Buck

The TT&T collection wraps up with five banks of Chamberlin and Mellotron sounds, Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos, a Hohner D6 Clavinet, and a Fender Key Bass. The Chamberlin and Mellotron banks are mostly strings, but an amusing Chamberlin flute and trumpet bank is included. In some cases, the multisamples could have been mapped more carefully; using more sample zones could have smoothed some abrupt transitions between pitches, especially because the necessary samples are already available in the bank. In other cases, Unity's Zone Crossfade function could have been used to smooth the transition. If you have Unity, those problems are easy to overcome with a little tweaking.

Tubes, Tines, and Transistors provides an excellent selection of vintage keyboard sounds and a number of interesting twists on an often overplayed theme. At $199, it offers a lot of bang for the buck.

Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 4

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