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TREND #1: JUST MAKE IT SIMPLER FOR ME, OKAY? - EMusician

TREND #1: JUST MAKE IT SIMPLER FOR ME, OKAY?

Talk about instant gratification: Last month, EQ ran an article called “Keeping the Art in State of the Art.” Seems we’re not the only ones who just want to make music and not get drowned in the bitstream. Manufacturers are hitting hard on making your audio life easier, faster, and more trouble-free. The feature wars are subsiding, as companies try to seduce their customers through convenience and speed. For example . . .
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PLUG & PLAY PLUS POWER

Dedicated music computers are trying to fulfill the promise that computers will make your life simpler, not more complex. For example, Open Labs OMX64 Extreme is an AMD Opteron-based Windows-based box that’s ready and waiting for you to install programs and plug-ins — there’s Lynx I/O, memory, and everything else, ready to rock and designed specifically for music. If the $12,995 price tag would cause your budget to crash, go for the budget-conscious OMX64 LE, which weighs in at $2,200. www.openlabs.com

Talk about specialization: SequoiaDigital integrates computer systems specifically for running Magix’s Sequoia high-end recording/mastering program and accessory software, like the Algorithmix noise reduction programs. Again, Lynx cards handle the audio interfacing. www.sequoiadigital.com

Like Carillon (which announced the very cool Garritan Personal Orchestra DAW), Digital Audio Wave, Alienware, and other companies that make computers designed for audio, the pitch to the end user is “Pay for this, plug it in, and it will work. And we’ll support you if it doesn’t.” www.carillondirect.com, www.digitalaudiowave.com, www.alienware.com

Speaking of which, another interesting idea that surfaced at AES came from Obedia, a company headed by Steinberg veteran Steve Garth. The company’s premise: 24/7 technical support nationwide, via phone or on-site troubleshooting. They do maintenance contracts, consultations, and guarantee 100% satisfaction. The company currently has a network of about 40 specialists, and their rates, while not exactly cheap, are highly cost-effective if your computer goes down while you’re in the throes of finishing a major product. www.obedia.com

CUT THE CABLE!

Or maybe a better phrase is “fire your wire.” Frontier Design’s Tranzport stole the show (see “AES Buzz Box”), but there was more. The Lynx Aurora 16 is a 1U, 16 channel A/D+D/A converter with an expansion slot for FireWire, ADAT, or whatever; you can control it from the front panel or via AES16, and it speaks Mac or PC. Not impressed yet? You will be when you control it via infrared from a Pocket PC — zap the box while you play couch potato in the sweet spot. www.lynxstudio.com

WORKFLOW: THE NEW HOLY GRAIL

The world of software is less about feature wars and more about convenience. You can’t get much more convenient than Apple’s Logic 7, which bundles every plug-in and instrument that any reasonable person might want. Concerned about incompatible plug-ins, varying methods of copy protection, or companies that fade away and take your hard disk authorizations with them? Logic 7 puts all the pieces together. www.apple.com

Or look at Acid Pro 5 from Sony, which revitalizes the original loop music franchise with features designed to make your life easier — like folder tracks, better ReWire support, and databasing your samples to make choosing and using sounds that much easier. (Incidentally, we begged, we pleaded, we had compromising pictures . . . so we got a copy of the production version at the show. Check out our exclusive review on page 60.) www.sony.com/mediasoftware

And consider Cakewalk’s Sonar 4. With all the attention being focused on their surround implementation, a lot of the user interface enhancements slipped under the radar. One of the most interesting: Key command sets that match those of various hosts. If you were a Logic Windows fan and switched to Sonar rather than switch platforms, you can call up a set of keyboard shortcuts that match Logic’s. Same for Cubase, Pro Tools, Samplitude, and others. Steinberg’s Cubase SX3 is another program that, among the tech tweaks, has also added a bunch of UI enhancements — see our review in the next issue. www.cakewalk.com, www.steinberg.net

COOPERATION, NOT COMPETITION

Rather than sticking with proprietary formats and fighting format wars, companies are working together to integrate their products as part of a system. Steinberg trumpeted Nuendo’s Advanced Authoring Format (AAF) integration in version 3, which lets it play nice with Adobe Premiere, Apple Logic Pro, SADiE DAW, Merging Pyramix, Avid Media Composer, and Pro Tools. And the Studio Connections initiative with Yamaha is bearing fruit, too; check out that Yamaha SPX2000 panel sitting within Nuendo, acting just like it’s a plug-in. Which in a way, it is. www.steinberg.net, www.yamaha.com