(MSRP $219.99, street $149.99; www.energy-xt.com)
This program definitely marches to the beat of a different drummer. energyXT2.5 Plus comes on a 2GB USB stick (1GB for the “non-plus” version) that you can transport among Windows, Mac, and Linux machines, with a level of efficiency that lets it run credibly on Netbooks. You can run the program directly from the USB stick, install it, or even copy it to the memory in a portable music player or cell phone so you’ll always have it on you.
In a way energyXT2.5 reminds me more of a program like Reason, as it’s compact and quite easy to figure out. After installing it, I was creating drum and synth loops without looking at the manual, or calling up other plug-ins. You can even ReWire Reason (or other clients) into energyXT2.5 for audio recording, VST instruments, and track processors if Record breaks your budget.
SURPRISE . . .
You might think a program like this would be light on pro features, but the mixer section has 4-band multimode EQ per track, automation, and grouping, as well as unlimited sends and inserts. The time- and pitchstretching/ resampling use zPlane algorithms, and there are “hooks” for external controller hardware. For laptop jockeys, track folders save screen space, while track freezing lightens the CPU load.
The Sequencer section is treated as a separate module, so you can open up multiple sequencers—then open up separate mixers for the separate sequencers. The whole structure is held together by a “modular” view, which recalls Logic’s “environments” page. As this allows patching I/O and effects as well as instruments and sequencers, it’s easy to route the ins to effects and effects to the outs, turning energyXT2.5 into a software effects rack (and/or VST instrument host) for live performance.
This part is Windows-only, but an included VST plug-in version of energyXT2.5 lets you use the entire program as a VST plug-in. This is wild; it’s like being able to plug in the ultimate step sequencer. For example, you could come with an energyXT2.5 program that’s a way-cool drum ’n’ bass rhythm box with drum and bass lines, then plug that into a different program as a way to get started. You can even insert the VST plug-in into another instance of energyXT2.5 as a VST plugin— which brings new meaning to the word “recursive.”
The instruments included with energyXT2.5 are basic: a virtual phase modulation synthesizer/sampler and “drum track” (Figure 2). However, they’re also very functional. The synth has the expected features (multi-mode filter, portamento, on-board effects, and waveform split/layer via WAV file dragand- drop), and the sound quality is fine. The “drum track” includes a drum playback module that comes with sounds, but you can create custom kits, save them as presets. and create parts using a matrix-style grid, with each drum part in its own lane.
energyXT2.5 also believes in dragand- drop: Drop an instrument into a track, and poof—automatic MIDI track and mixer channel. The instruments also benefit from a built-in Arpeggiator, which is available with MIDI tracks and includes random and swing functions.
energyXT2.5 is impressive; it’s a laptop fan’s dream, but it also plays well with others. It’s easy to export and import WAV/AIF files (although to do MP3s, you’ll need to drop the freebie LAME encoder into the energyXT2.5 folder). Even better, there’s a multitrack export mode if you want to bring an energyXT2.5 project into your “big” DAW.
This delightful little program (the executable file is a minuscule 1.4MB) has been flying under the radar for a while, but it deserves serious attention. Check it out, and you’ll see what I mean.
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