Gmedia's GForce M-Tron 2.04 ($69.95) is a VSTinstrument for Mac and PC that emulates the classic Mellotronkeyboard of days gone by. M-Tron includes 28 completesample sets of Mellotron tape banks, such as the well-known Flutes,Choirs, Strings, and Brass sounds as well as the less familiarRhythms, Accordion Bass, and Mandolin sounds. The plug-in's 16-bitmono samples come from a variety of Mellotrons, including the M400used by Radiohead. According to the owner's manual, some of thetape samples are more than 20 years old “and as such there issome authentic noise, which adds character to the sounds.”Sometimes that character can be a bit intrusive; however, you cando a respectable job of whipping the sounds back into shape withjudicious use of the Tone, Attack, and Release controls.
To install M-Tron, just pop the CD-ROM into yourcomputer, and an image of the instrument appears. When I selectedthe Install option on my Windows-based computer, it launched anMS-DOS conversion program. (That's a little too retro for me.) Itreturned to the familiar Windows installation dialog box shortlyafterwards, though.
Once you install the M-Tron plug-in, a second screenappears that asks which sound banks you want to install — all28 are selected by default. New M-Tron users will likelywant to load all the tapes just to hear how they sound. However,doing that requires 518 MB of hard-disk space, so be sure that youhave room.
You may not find all the sounds appealing; I wasn't fond of therhythm banks. Although there's no uninstall feature for erasingunwanted sounds, you can open the M-Tron sound folder anddelete the appropriate sound bank files.
Knight in White Satin
Gmedia based the M-Tron's appearance on a MellotronM400 with a white body (complete with coffee stains and cigaretteburns); a 35-note keyboard; and Volume, Tone, and Pitch controls.However, the A-B-C switch, which lets the Mellotron user selectamong the three tape banks, functions differently inM-Tron. In position A, the panel lid is closed, andM-Tron plays the default or previously selected sound.
Position B opens the panel lid to reveal the Attack and Releasesliders. Moving the sliders to the right lengthens the Attack andRelease envelope times. M-Tron, like the Mellotron, playsits sounds unlooped. It plays a note for the length of the tape(sample) and then stops. That results in a 7-second limit toindividual sounds. To get around that restriction, you can lengthenAttack and Release times and retrigger a note before it fades away.You may not get a perfectly smooth sustain, but you also won't geta “hard” retriggering.
Position C opens the panel lid to reveal the Tape Banks list. Toselect a sound, click on its name, and M-Tron loads it.M-Tron can play only one tape bank at a time, so if youwant to play a second sound simultaneously, you'll have to loadanother instance of M-Tron into your VST instrument rack.In addition, you can use MIDI Control Change messages to control anumber of M-Tron's parameters, including Volume, Tone,Pitch, Attack, Release, Pan, and Reset All Controllers.
A Question of Balance
M-Tron aptly reproduces the widely recognized Mellotronsound. Although the tape library has a couple of clinkers, it alsohas some pleasant and unexpected delights, such as the BassAccordion sound. M-Tron works in most VST hosts, exceptfor Sonic Syndicate's Orion 1.7 and VST Wrapperv2 by Audio Ease. According to Gmedia, both companies are aware ofthe problem and are working to resolve the issue.
If you happen to have $5,200 to spare, and don't mind waitingfor delivery, buy a new Mellotron Mark VI. But if your budget ismore modest and instant gratification is your thing, getM-Tron. It won't leave you moody blue.