Review: Air Music Technology Loom II

Additive synthesis for the masses
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Additive synthesis is easier to understand than to implement: We get the concept when working the drawbars of an organ, but reproducing complex sounds, such as an acoustic piano or a gong, is much more difficult. That’s one reason most commercially available additive synths lean toward the “creative,” as opposed to the “emulative” side of things. Loom II is an excellent case in point.

A 2014 Editors’ Choice Award winner in its initial release, version II adds new modules and processors, and comes with a bigger library of presets (including the original library, which has been revamped to reflect the latest features). Loom II works as an AU, VST, and AAX plug-in: There is no standalone version.

LOOM IN ESSENCE

With the exception of building analog-style subtractive- synthesis patches (which this instrument excels at), Loom II’s user interface may not initially seem intuitive. But because its semimodular approach is far less tedious than textbook additive synthesis, it fosters more creativity and experimentation.

Fig 1. As the cursor (a blue diamond, highlighted in red) moves along its path
 on the x/y axis, the sound morphs between programmable states you can
 assign as destinations. Here the patch morphs between settings, including
 Complexity, Delay, and Reverb Mix.

Fig 1. As the cursor (a blue diamond, highlighted in red) moves along its path  on the x/y axis, the sound morphs between programmable states you can  assign as destinations. Here the patch morphs between settings, including  Complexity, Delay, and Reverb Mix.

Loom II starts with a rich harmonic palette to which you add oscillators, processors, and functions. In the Morph window, you can create complex motion by moving between different programmed states of the instrument on an x/y axis (see Figure 1).

The Wave page has two slots for WAV files. But rather than grafting sampled waveforms onto synthesized sounds, you create motion through vocoder-like superimposition, with a choice of one-shot samples or looping. You can change start times, modify frequencies, boost fundamentals, and more. With a bit of tweaking, I was able to enhance a rich, analog-style pad with a subtle, almost conversational murmuring based on Masai-tribe chants.

Fig 2. The Edit window lets you assign
 up to 15 different modules that can
 radically alter the instrument’s sound.

Fig 2. The Edit window lets you assign  up to 15 different modules that can  radically alter the instrument’s sound.

The Edit window provides all of the sonic building blocks; three are hard-wired and 15 have menus of various module types (Figure 2). For example, the Basic Modules submenu includes several kinds of organs, a fine oscillator-sync emulation, and other useful additive waveforms. Within the Filter module is the Moving Filter, a sweet comb filter well-suited to this instrument.

New additions include Spectral Noise, which adds nonharmonic partials to the signal, as well as Spectral Distortion and Spectral Modulation that prove extremely useful in creating bell-like and raunchy out-of-tune sounds.

All of the selections in these menus are modifiers of some sort: You are not restricted to a menu of waveform presets, because Loom II produces a waveform with all harmonics present. Because experimentation is so enticing, I wish you could click and drag modules to new positions. It would also be handy if you could audition WAVs from the Load window.

And while the information panes for each module are helpful, Loom II is sorely in need of a better organized manual, as some feature remain unexplained. AIR has a few videos online that show you around, and you can purchase a Groove 3 video that explains much of the instrument.

LOOMING PRESENCE

Nevertheless, Loom II is fun to use and capable of unusual and exciting sounds. Its modular approach is sure to lead you toward your own creations. I suggest you download the free demo and check it out.

STRENGTHS

Unique sounds with lots of motion. Excellent library of presets. Modular approach encourages creativity and experimentation.

LIMITATIONS

Can’t audition samples before loading. Can’t click and drag modules to different positions. Needs improvements to owner’s manual.

$99 ($49; upgrade from version 1)
airmusictech.com

Marty Cutler is the author of The New Electronic Guitarist (Hal Leonard).