If you have high-quality, portable recording gear and lots of processors, you can pluck sounds out of the environment and design your own audio creations. However, those of us without the necessary equipment must rely on sound-effects CDs to fill our sonic palette. Fortunately, F7 Sound and Vision has decided to help us expand our options into some uncharted aural territory with its new Concept: FX2 CD-ROM (Mac/Win; $69.95; bundled with Concept: FX, volume 1, $99.95). It offers 305 unusual stereo sound effects in 16-bit, 44.1 kHz AIFF and WAV formats.
Concept CreationConcept: FX2 bears some resemblance to Rarefaction's Digital Dysfunctions, in that a variety of intriguing sound sources were used as raw material. (For a review of Digital Dysfunctions, see the April 2000 issue of EM.) The sounds were then processed beyond recognition (often run through multiple processes) and given amusing names.
Producer Michael Oster employed a surprising array of resources to create these sounds, including a live cicada, an early '50s Telefunken radio, a huge carbon-steel exhaust pipe, a metal door, kitchen utensils, ARP Odyssey and Roland JP-8000 synths, nature sounds, machines, city ambiences, object impacts, and a dying Mac IIci. In other words, anything that sparked his imagination was fair game.
The basic sounds were then "sliced, diced, and rearranged" in Pro Tools and processed extensively with AudioSuite plug-ins (pitch-shifting, time compression/ expansion, EQ, dynamics compression, gating, and gain) and TDM plug-ins (Digidesign's D-Fi series, Focusrite's D2 and D3, DINR, TC Works' MegaReverb, and TC Works' MasterX). Limited use was also made of Digidesign's Sound Designer II and Tom Erbe's SoundHack.
Occasionally the signal was routed in series through several channels of Mackie EQ (boosting the frequency with a tight Q), then fed through a Roland SDE-1000 delay with the feedback set to 100 percent.
Sounds Like a Concept to MeAnd what was the result of all this bizarre audio manipulation? A veritable treasure trove of fascinating, one-of-a-kind sound effects. Some are short bursts of sound in the 20 Hz to 200 kHz range; others are alien textures and ambiences that last several seconds. The lengthiest recording is almost 2 minutes and consumes more than 19 MB of disk space. Most of the sounds, however, range from less than a second to about half a minute. None of the sounds has a definite pitch per se, so they're less useful as instrumental samples than straight-ahead sound effects. Some of the longer pieces have a distinctly rhythmic element, making them suitable as loops for rhythm tracks. And several of the shorter offerings have the potential to be unique percussion sounds.
Among the short effects, I especially like TrampoSprings, with its heavily processed metal-spring texture. Another favorite is UnnaturalSplash, which sounds like a single wave hitting a hard surface. LarvalGasDischarge2 is an airy, gurgling emission sound that definitely justifies its name. Many of the shorter sounds have a lot of presence, which helps them stand out in a mix. WetGutPunch, for example, hits with a solid crunch and could be used as an interesting snare drum substitute.
I particularly enjoy LophResonil, a 1 MB file with a rising and falling resonance combined with a rhythmic squishy sound. When cut and looped, it makes an unusual percussive bed. ZappySonnetRhyme is another medium-length chunk; its churning, rhythmic quality also lends itself well to use as a percussion loop.
Of the longer sounds, BL239 stands out with its edgy, distinctive character. At 4.4 MB, it rolls along for well over 20 seconds, sounding somewhat like an object being shaken inside a small plastic container. I snipped and looped bits of the sound for rhythmic effects. HumpbackInterpretation conjures up visions of whales in space; and if hoary monsters are your bag, you'll love IntoTheMurk-just add a dark swamp and fog. The 5 MB LotsaBirds lives up to its name by offering 30 seconds of cacophonous, high-pitched, birdlike chatter.
Concept CritiqueConcept: FX2 gets high marks for value. At just under $70, this CD is an outstanding buy for those times when you want to add the occasional strange bit of sound to your sonic soup.
Because this assortment is in CD-ROM format, importing the sounds directly into your favorite audio- editing program is a piece of cake. And the files are provided in both AIFF and WAV format, so you can use them not only in Macs and PCs, but also in the new Kurzweil and Akai samplers. The audio quality here is excellent and the price is right-this disc has definitely found a home in my sound-effects CD collection. Check out the F7 Sound and Vision Web site, listen to the demos, and see if Concept: FX2 will find a home in yours.
Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 4