FXpansion Geist 1.0.3 Review

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Geist''s Song Mode, top right, lets you drag and layer patterns across a timeline.

As sturdy, self-sufficient rhythm production centers, the hardware groove sequencer is hard to beat, but feature-wise, software equivalents—especially FXpansion Geist, with its MPC-like design and richer feature set—easily tip the balance toward the virtual world. Geist includes AU, VST, and RTAS versions (Mac), and VST and RTAS (Win).

Geist''s operational roots originate in FXpansion Guru. Like most MPC-fashioned gadgets, Pads trigger samples, or collective patterns in a Scene, which are then assembled in song form. Anyone familiar with Guru, any MPC, or a drum machine will have little trouble getting up and running. Geist''s clean, focused displays improve on Guru; for instance, the larger, easier-to-navigate retractable browser doesn''t occupy space on the main work surface.

Pattern-based at its heart, Geist''s intuitive and supremely flexible Song Mode reminds me of MOTU Performer''s Chunks page, in which you can freely drag and layer sections of patterns across a timeline. Geist''s ability to switch between pattern-based sequencing to a linear workflow makes the process interesting.

Geist''s Sampler page is miles ahead of its hardware kin. Besides external sources, you can resample from Geist tracks, or capture audio output from DAW tracks. With a couple of audio loops in Logic, I inserted the included Spitter plug-in, which routs the audio tracks to the Geist Sampler. Creating transient-sliced grooves required moving the slice markers around for smoothing grooves. Sometimes, numerically dividing sample slices did the trick. The sampler encourages experimentation; simply triggering phrases I dragged to the pads almost always yielded great results. Unfortunately, there seems to be no direct way to sample virtual instruments in the standalone version.

The Multi Graph view is one of the slickest modulation schemes I''ve encountered. With a few drags of the mouse, and in seconds, I was able to create panning, filter squelches, buzz rolls, reverse playback, and pitch changes for each pad''s sounds. I painted in some modulations and inserted a slew of interesting preset modulation shapes.

Still, there''s room for improvement. Geist standlone defaults to 4/4 time; create other time signatures manually by altering the pattern length and/or using triplet time for step lengths. Guru came with many more preset groove templates, but Geist''s method of creating them is far more flexible. Think of Geist as being more about facilitating groove-preset creation than giving you multiple “canned” options. I miss some of Guru''s excellent ethnic loops and creative, circuit bent kits. Otherwise, Geist is a deep and fun program you can dive into without short-circuiting your creative muse.

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Click on the Product Summary box above to view the Geist 1.0.3 product page.