It's easy to see that looped grooves have become an enormously popular and indispensable resource for many desktop musicians. ReCycle, from Swedish company Propellerhead, continues to fuel the popularity by offering an easy-to-use program for creating and manipulating rhythmic loops (see Fig. 1).
In a nutshell, ReCycle is a specialized tool for altering sampled grooves, which can then be used in other programs or in hardware samplers. You import a sample, such as a drum loop, and the software automatically slices it into its rhythmic components. With the beats and other rhythmic elements separated, you can do things such as adjust the speed of the loop without altering the pitch (thereby avoiding those pesky artifacts).
After setting other parameters such as loop points, you can save the file in the native REX2 file format or export it as a single audio file. You can also send the sliced-up loop to a sampler, in which case ReCycle generates a MIDI file that enables your sequencer to fire the sample slices appropriately to re-create the loop.
REWIRED FOR STEREO
ReCycle users have long lamented the fact that previous incarnations of the program have been limited to mono. (For an in-depth look at ReCycle 1.7, see the review in the December 1999 issue.) For many users, therefore, the most significant change in ReCycle 2.0 is its ability to import and process stereo samples. The Mac and Windows versions support WAV and AIFF formats with 8-, 16-, and 24-bit resolutions and can handle any sampling rate supported by your sampler or sound card. The Mac version also supports 16- and 24-bit Sound Designer II files. The maximum file length in any format is five minutes.
As mentioned earlier, ReCycle 2.0's native file format is the stereo-savvy REX2. Like its predecessor, REX, REX2 contains the source sample as well as references to the slice and loop points. Although REX files include the results of processing, such as time stretching and normalization, REX2 files include only information about how the host application will perform the processing once the file is loaded. At the time of this writing, the major products that can read REX2 files are Propellerhead Reason (reviewed in the July 2001 issue) and Steinberg Cubase VST 5.0.
ReCycle allows you to export the results of your work in a variety of formats in addition to REX2. With formats such as WAV, AIFF, and Sound Designer II, you can export a single file comprising the entire loop or you can export each slice in the loop as a separate file. The Mixman TRK format used by Mixman Studio and Mixman Studio Pro produces a single document containing the slice points, but the format supports only mono.
Digidesign's SampleCell format exports as an Instrument file along with one or more sound files. SampleCell's template feature is offered as an option. Similarly, the Akai S5000/S6000 format exports a combination of an AKP program file and its associated samples. Other export formats include SoundFonts 2 and MIDI; the MIDI files let you generate grooves when they're imported into your sequencer.
RETURN TO SENDER
One of ReCycle's handy features is direct communication with a variety of samplers, and the program includes support for several new machines. You need a two-way connection through SCSI or MIDI, depending on the specific sampler and computer. For example, the SCSI drivers in Windows operate only with devices that continuously reply correctly to SCSI 2 Device Inquiry messages — something that not all samplers offer. In addition, the SCSI implementation on the Akai S1000 and S1100 is incompatible with that of some Macs. Unfortunately, those are issues beyond Propellerhead's control.
ReCycle 2 offers specific support for the Roland S-760; Kurzweil K2000, K2500, and K2600; Ensoniq EPS, EPS-16+, ASR-10, and ASR-88; E-mu Esi-32, Esi-4000, E4, e-64, e-6400, and E-Synth; Yamaha A3000; and Akai S1000, S2000, S3000, and CD3000 series. The Akai S5000/S6000 series is supported as a file format because those samplers exchange data with a computer only through Akai's ak. Sys application or through removable media.
ReCycle 2.0 offers generic support for Sample Dump Standard (SDS) through MIDI, SCSI Musical Data Interchange (SMDI), and Extended SMDI (a protocol developed by E-mu that adds keymapping to SMDI connectivity). At startup ReCycle automatically detects any specifically supported samplers, but you must manually set up the samplers that communicate through generic protocols. There are also provisions for addressing multiple units of a given sampler model. ReCycle's supplemental PDF documentation provides comprehensive information about all supported samplers and formats.
In another welcome update, ReCycle 2.0's Preview mode lets you audition settings and effects in real time, which means that you can check out pitch and tempo changes on the fly. EQ is provided in the form of one high-cut, one low-cut, and two parametric filters. The Transient Shaper offers controls and effects that are similar to compression, though it operates on peaks at the onset of slices as opposed to a series of peaks in a continuous audio file. The result is similar in that the individual sound slices become more even in level, which can produce more punch.
ReCycle 2.0 also adds an envelope to the Stretch feature. Stretch provides variable control over the elongation of slice tails to pad out the annoying gaps that appear when slowing a sliced loop below its original tempo. The associated attack and decay controls allow you to dramatically alter the transients and tails of the slices with little effort.
You can use ReCycle 2.0 for a number of tasks beyond slicing samples for independent tempo and pitch manipulation. At its simplest, the program is great at finding and editing the ideal loop point in a sample and then exporting the loop as a file. The real-time effects can add some interesting spice to your grooves, though you need some other tools for a full complement of effects processing.
ReCycle is also great for extracting individual sounds, such as snare hits, and sending them to a sampler. You can even isolate and extract the sounds in a loop and send them to a sampler's different outputs. Exported MIDI files serve as groove templates that let you use a sequencer to map the timing of a sampled loop onto any MIDI track. Given the right source material, you can even use ReCycle to quantize audio passages.
For ReCycle to function optimally, the original sample must have clearly perceivable attacks and needs to have been recorded at a healthy volume. Samples with time-based effects, such as short delays, can make it hard for ReCycle to deliver accurate results. On the whole, ReCycle is excellent at finding the right slice points; you just dial in the sensitivity until it picks up all of the desired transients (see Fig. 2).
For difficult passages, you can manually add, move, lock, hide, and delete slice points. You can automatically restrict slices to zero crossings to avoid annoying clicks and pops. Processing options, such as Normalize and Remove DC, come in handy when working with poorly recorded source samples.
ReCycle 2.0 is a breeze to install and use. The printed documentation (which is duplicated in PDF) is friendly and fairly comprehensive. Issues that demand more detailed explanations, such as interoperation with specific samplers and file formats, are covered in additional PDF files on the CD. The Windows version also features online help. On both computer platforms, links to related Web sites are provided on the menu bar. In addition, the CD includes a modest assortment of loop fodder from several third-party developers.
Stereo-file support, loop previewing, and real-time effects are the icing on the cake of this venerable music-production tool. ReCycle's proven track record and its excellent support for hardware devices and other applications adds greatly to its value. If loops are your business, ReCycle 2.0 has what it takes to make your life easier and more productive.
Jeff Burgeris a songwriter and producer based in Sedona, Arizona.
Minimum System Requirements
MAC: Power Mac/166; 64 MB RAM; OS 8.6; color monitor with 800 × 600 resolution
WIN: Pentium/200; 64 MB RAM; Windows 98/ME/NT 4.0/2000; color monitor with 800 × 600 resolution
ReCycle 2.0 (Mac/Win)
FEATURES3.5EASE OF USE4.0DOCUMENTATION4.0VALUE3.5RATING PRODUCTS FROM 1 TO 5
PROS: Excellent control over loop slicing. Stereo support. Allows previewing of real-time effects. Intuitive operation. Support for a variety of samplers and file formats. Good documentation and Web presence.
CONS: Effects complement could be more ambitious.