Californian developers Cherry Audio have released Voltage Modular, their new software modular synthesis platform for Mac and PC. Working as a plugin instrument or effect in VST, AU and AAX formats, as well as standalone, this visually rich sound-design environment aims to “address the shortcomings of other virtual modular synth systems”.
Obviously styled after the enduringly in-vogue Eurorack hardware modular format, Voltage Modular uses drag-and-drop for cable routing and module arrangement, and animated visuals to indicate signal flow along cables. There’s no limit to the number of modules a patch can contain, and all processing is performed at the level of individual samples using 64-bit double precision maths for “fantastic sounding audio-rate frequency and amplitude modulation, oscillator sync, insane delay feedback, and more”.
Voltage Modular ships with a total of 84 modules (69 in the Voltage Core bundle and 15 in the bundled Misfit Audio Electro Drums pack) — which includes oscillators and percussion generators, filters, effects, modulators, MIDI processors, a maths module and CV converters — and the built-in shopfront enables access to many more via in-app purchase. The idea is for other developers to be able to build and sell their own modules using Cherry Audio’s Module Designer app.
Currently, the list of third-party contributors comprises just Misfit Audio and PSP Audioware, but with PSP’s contribution — including various modules from their awesome N2O multieffects plugin — the store looks to be off to a good start. A sizeable library of fully-realized preset patches is also included, giving newcomers to modular synthesis plenty of starting points.
Voltage Modular certainly looks and sounds the part, but we’ll find out whether or not the sound is equally as impressive in our forthcoming review.
You can buy the base Voltage Modular Core + Electro Drums for $200, with individual modules ranging in price from $10-50, and three PSP bundles available for just $120, $175 and $295.
Zone’s onboard sequencer lets you animate almost all of its controls
The debut release by new developers Audiaire, Zone is a polyphonic synth (PC/Mac, VST/AU/AAX) with a “one-of-a-kind parameter sequencer” at its heart for step-based modulation of just about all controls. Knobs and sliders are assigned to lanes by drag-and-drop, and there’s no limit to the lanes you can have in a patch. Beyond that, Zone features two main oscillators drawing on 151 waveforms, a wide range of filter and modulator types, 20 effects modules, and over 400 presets. It costs $139, and is out now.
Thermionic unleash The Kite hardware EQ
Thermionic Culture have announced their latest outboard studio tool — an all-valve, stereo equalizer called The Kite.
Taking its cues from the British firm’s Fat Bustard summing mixer, The Kite is Thermionic Culture’s response to a regular piece of user feedback, says Vic Keary, MD and designer: “We’ve had many requests for a version of our Fat Bustard without the summing facility, keeping the Attitude, EQ, and of course the big fat sound. So The Kite was born.”
Controls for The Kite include HPF, Bass Cut and Lift, Top Shelf (for adding presence), Air and Attitude. The Kite has “semi floating” inputs and unbalanced outputs; and Thermionic Culture have already planned a transformer balanced version in purple livery, available soon.
At the time of writing there’s no word on price.
Spitfire launch Charango, another freebie addition to their LABS series
Spitfire Audio have added another sample instrument to their Labs line of free plugins, called Charango.
The Charango is a small stringed-instrument from the lute family with South American origins.
This sample set was recorded in 2006 by Christian Henson in his Soho flat with a KM184 mic. The instrument, played by his brother Joe, apparently inspired Spitfire Audio's creation.
Charango joins the growing roster of LABS sampler instruments, alongside Drums, Electric Piano, Amplified Cello Quartet, Soft Piano and Strings. All work within a dedicated VST/AU/AAX plugin that’s been designed in collaboration with Monument Valley developers UsTwo.
UVI promises ‘game changing’ beat-making
UVI have released Drum Designer, a plugin aimed at percussive sound creation which offers four instruments along with an eight-part sequencer and a rather large collection of samples, presets and kits.
Drum Designer aims to offer producers “game-changing” deep control with separate Kick, Snare, Clap and Cymbal engines and the ability to break individual hits down into discrete layers. Taking a synthesis and sample-based approach, Drum Designer features 3D wavetables, filtering and DSP effects to craft beats.
The sequencer gives you eight engines (Kick, Snare, etc) with a further three lanes for Volume, Pan and Pitch, bus effects and you can even click-drag sequences to your desktop/DAW as MIDI.
It's out now for $149.
MUTABLE UPDATE AND ENHANCE TIDES
Mutable Instruments have decided to update one of their most popular Eurorack modules, Tides, in the form of a 2018 edition, Tides.
For the uninitiated, Tides is a ‘digital asymmetric triangle function generator’, which can be used in AD and AR modes (for envelope generation), or looping (as a VC-LFO or VC-DO).
The triangle generator is followed by a wavetable waveshaper providing linear, exponential, logarithmic, sinusoidal, or arc-sinusoidal shapes for the A and D segments. Then, a second processor applies either a 2-pole low-pass filter to the waveform, smoothing its sharp edges, or a rubbery wavefolder, adding kinks and bounces to the waveform.
This latest revision differs from the original in the introduction of additional output modes, which produce variations of the main signal that are shifted in amplitude, time, phase or frequency.
Mutable have also taken the time to redesign the signal path from scratch, promising greater accuracy and improved audio quality along the way.
The latest version of Tides will be available soon, priced at $259. Check out mutable-instruments.net for more.
Loopcloud 3.0 lets you manage your personal sample collection
When Loopmasters unveiled their Loopcloud plugin at the start of 2017, one of the promises was that you’d be able to use it not only to manage the samples you’ve bought, but also your personal collection of sounds stored on your hard drive. Now, with Loopcloud 3.0, the company is delivering on that promise.
Folders of samples can be added to the Loopcloud browser, or you can simply drag sounds in. The software then analyzes them and adds tags, such as the content type, instrument, BPM and key. You can also add your own custom tags. With your library analyzed and tagged, you can then search for specific types of sounds and use Loopcloud’s filtering options to hone in on what you’re looking for. There’s also an Auto Key feature that pitch-shifts your samples so that they’re in tune with your project, and timestretching to ensure they’re locked to tempo.
Veteran DSP wizards Eventide have rebirthed yet more of their legendary hardware-based reverb algorithms in software form. This time round, it’s the turn of the SP2016, the first programmable effects unit, as heard on records by Adele, Talking Heads, Eminem and many others.
SP2016 Reverb (Mac/PC, VST/AU/AAX) emulates the original box’s Room, Stereo Room and Hi-Density Plate algorithms, each in two modes: Vintage and Modern, the first totally authentic (“all the way down to the bit-depth”), the second “brighter, more diffuse and [using] a higher bit-depth”. It’s said to accurately capture “every aspect of the sound of a real environment — from the complex early reflections, to the natural way in which the echo density increases with time, to the smooth Gaussian decay of the reverb tail.” It costs $249.
Rob Papen MasterMagic
There’s something of a trend towards ‘one-knob’ and ultra-minimal mastering plugins emerging at the moment, and the latest example comes from Dutch sound and plugin designer extraordinaire Rob Papen (and renowned coder Jon Ayres). Intended to be placed at the very end of your master bus effects chain, MasterMagic (Mac/PC, VST/AU/AAX), they say, makes “a big difference to any mix”. It certainly keeps things operationally simple, with just two main sections and a handful of controls to negotiate. The Air section enhances high frequencies via its Frequency (30-40kHz – the bandwidth is very wide!) and Amount knobs, while the Mono/Stereo module tightens up the bottom end by mono-izing everything below a specified frequency (20Hz-20.5kHz) or note pitch.
We’ll be reviewing MasterMagic soon, but if you just can’t wait to see what we make of it, it’s available to buy now, priced $39.
Nearly eight years ago, Zerodebug released their touchAble Ableton Live controller app for the iPad. After a couple of revisions, we now have a Pro version, rebuilt with a cleaner interface and more customization. Highlights include a waveform view for audio clips, a piano roll and the option to edit automation from the app. Templates for Live devices are now included as standard. Intro price: $29.99
Akai Fire is the first dedicated controller for FL Studio
Akai have teamed up with Image-Line to create the first dedicated controller for FL Studio, called Fire.
At its heart, Fire has a 4x16 velocity-sensitive RGB pad matrix, so you can input patterns on FL Studio’s Step Sequencer or switch to Performance Mode for live playing, note recording and launching patterns.
Fire also comes with four touch-capacitive knobs with four banks of settings, all of which gives the user the benefit of instant adjustment over parameter values, including control over channel, mixer settings and user-assignable parameters.
The controller will ship with a special edition of FL Studio called the Fruity Fire Edition, which has the same feature set as the Fruity Edition of FL Studio, which usually retails for $99. Fire is available now and retailing for $199.99.
Cycling ’74 launches ‘mind-expanding’ Max 8
In celebration of its 20th birthday, Cycling ’74 have released version 8 of Max and the company is calling it “the closest thing to a mind-expanding drug Max has ever had”.
The visual programming language has taken on a raft of new improvements in the latest iteration, most notably the introduction of the new MC objects. MC, we’re presuming, stands for multi-channel, and Cycling ’74 is sure it will “transform how you imagine sound design”. It makes patches with 100 channels of audio look as simple as those with a single channel. MC will also let users manipulate multiple audio channels and operations with fewer objects.
Much of the development in version 8 has been focusing on performance. Cycling ’74 now claim that Max will launch 20 times faster on Windows than before and load patches up to four times as quick. Performance as a whole is improved, with complex UI operations being significantly more responsive.
Another big update is the ability to control your patches with hardware, without the need to patch. In the new Mappings Mode, you can assign physical controls to your patch in just three steps; simply enter the Mappings Mode, select a slider and just move your controller — done.
Other improvements include a new Search Sidebar which allows you access to thousands of Max examples and tutorials that ship with Max, along with results from forums and in-depth articles.
Max 8 is out now on Mac and PC at an upgrade price of $149. Plus, you can crossgrade from other products for $299. Newcomers can get a permanent licence for $399, an annual subscription of $99, or a monthly subscription of $9.99.