What's New, May 2008

J. PRESEDO MASTER GAITA IT'S IN THE BAG If you're wondering how to hone your bagpipe chops without being evicted, look no further. Master Gaita ($371)
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If you're wondering how to hone your bagpipe chops without being evicted, look no further. Master Gaita ($371) from Spanish developer J. Presedo (arrakis.es/~jpresedo/midig/mgengl.html) is a MIDI bagpipe controller consisting of a PVC tube with nine touch-sensitive contacts connected by an 8.5-foot cable to a plastic box with a MIDI jack, an on/off switch, and a fingering-mode switch. You can play two independent drones and control instruments on two MIDI channels. The unit is 9V battery powered but has a jack for an optional external power supply (not included).

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Native Instruments (native-instruments.com) has upgraded its combination hardware-and-software virtual-instrument and -effects workstation. Kore 2 (Mac/Win, $559 [MSRP]) offers an improved hardware controller, a much easier software interface, and a built-in sound engine integrating the engines in Absynth, FM8, Guitar Rig, Kontakt, Massive, and Reaktor. You get more than 500 KoreSounds, with new KoreSound Packs being released regularly. Third-party plug-ins are also supported. Each KoreSound has up to eight variations through which you can morph seamlessly in real time using the hardware or onscreen controller.

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Livid Instruments (lividinstruments.com) is now shipping the Ohm (Mac/Win, $790), an innovative MIDI control surface aimed at the live-performance DJ or VJ. The 17.6 × 1.5 × 10.5-inch, 6-pound wood-paneled tabletop unit and the 5U, 8-pound rackmount unit feature switchable blue backlighting and include a USB cable, a 12V wall-wart power supply, and the full version of Livid's video mixing program, Union 2.5. Two 4-channel mixers flank a 36-button clip-triggering matrix and crossfade slider at the center of the unit. You also get 20 function buttons, 10 rotaries, and a bpm tap button.

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Dave Smith Instruments (davesmithinstruments.com) has released a new tabletop, knobby-module version of its Prophet '08 synth. The 18.5 × 7 × 3.5-inch, 6-pound Prophet '08 Synthesizer Module ($1,499) presents a reorganized control panel and lacks the keyboard but has the same classic Prophet look and wood sides. Road warriors can replace the sides with rack ears (included) and mount the unit in a road case. Under the hood, the unit is the same as the keyboard model; it includes split or stacked layers, Velocity and Aftertouch support, and the full-featured modulation matrix.

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Mackie (mackie.com) has just released the MR series of powered studio monitors. The MR5 ($149.99) and MR8 ($199.99) have baffles molded to minimize diffraction, and a waveguide designed for smooth frequency transition. Both units feature Class A/B amplifier architecture for flat frequency response, and both have controls for high- and low-frequency adjustment. The MR5 combines a 55W/30W biamp with a 5.25-inch woofer and a 1-inch tweeter. The MR8 gives you a 100W/50W biamp, an 8-inch woofer, and a 1-inch tweeter.

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Mixcraft 4 (Win, $64.95) is the latest version of Acoustica's (acoustica.com) virtual multitrack audio and MIDI recording studio. With it, you can simultaneously record multiple audio and MIDI tracks, use built-in virtual instruments and effects as well as VST and DirectX plug-ins, mix down to MP3 or WAV audio files, and burn CDs. Most audio formats are supported, including Apple Loops and Acid Loops. Mixcraft has a 32-bit sound engine and supports up to 192 kHz audio recording and playback. The download comes with a royalty-free loop library and a variety of song starters.

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Yellow Tools (yellowtools.us) has bundled and updated versions of three flagship products in the new Independence Pro (Mac/Win, $499). You get Independence 2 with a 70 GB sound library, Independence Live for using Independence 2 projects onstage, and the VST and AU plug-in Independence FX, which gives your DAW access to 40 Yellow Tools effects, including the impulse-response processor Origami. Independence 2 sports a redesigned audio engine with multicore management, hosts third-party VST instrument and effects plug-ins, and has a sophisticated new browser with attribute matching.


Tone2 (tone2.com) has unleashed a synthesis method it calls Harmonic Content Morphing (HCM) in its latest synth, Gladiator (Mac/Win, $199). HCM combines wavetable synthesis with spectral-based morphing using filter-, layer-, and time-based harmonic-modulation techniques to produce a broad range of sounds. For example, you can start with an organ sample, frequency modulate it with a sawtooth, and then amplitude modulate the result with a drum loop to produce an oscillator wavetable. Control-rate modulators consist of LFOs, ADSFR envelope generators, and a 16-step sequencer, all routed from a modulation matrix. A categorized selection of 754 factory presets is provided for the patch averse.

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Israeli software developer Musicrow (mcrow.net) offers the latest in its line of innovative VST plug-ins. Magic Vox (Win, $99) starts with sampled guitar harmonics, which are produced by lightly touching the strings at harmonic nodes rather than fretting them, and then adds envelopes, filters, and effects. The resulting sounds are reminiscent of a plucked instrument but are also evolving and ethereal. Ten guitars and two basses were sampled, and each patch starts with two sample players that are then mixed and processed by the effects: granular, phase and chorus, distortion, delay, and reverb.


Focal Press's Sound FX

Sound FX: Unlocking the Creative Potential of Recording Studio Effects ($39.95), by Alex Case, explores effects processing, with emphasis on the home studio. The book starts with audio essentials such as waveform, signal flow, and perception. It then covers amplitude- (distortion, EQ, compression, and volume) and time-based effects (delay, pitch-shift, and reverb). It wraps up with chapters on basic and automated mixing and examples of applying effects to snare drums and piano tracks. Full details are available at the Focal Press Web site (focalpress.com).

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MacProVideo.com (macprovideo.com) is a purveyor of downloadable video tutorials for Apple Macintosh users. A variety of Mac products are covered, with an emphasis on audio and video production software such as the various applications bundled in Apple Logic Studio and Final Cut Studio. You'll also find coverage of Ableton Live, Digidesign Pro Tools, Propellerhead Reason, and Apple GarageBand. Prices range from $9.50 to $49.50, and with a fast Internet connection, you can download most titles in 10 minutes or so. The tutorials do not expire or self-destruct, and you're free to burn them to DVD.

Course Technology's The Audio Mastering Handbook

Bobby Owsinski's The Audio Mastering Handbook ($34.99 [MSRP]) from Course Technology (courseptr.com) is an updated edition of his Mastering Engineer's Handbook. It covers mastering for optical media (CD, DVD, and so on), compressed and streaming formats, surround, and vinyl. Owsinski reveals the secrets of making hot masters and addresses compression, frequency balancing, and mixing with mastering in mind. Throughout the book, legendary mastering engineers Bernie Grundman, Bob Ludwig, Glenn Meadows, Doug Sax, and others share their experiences, tips, and tricks.


Big Fish Audio's Latin Jazz

Latin Jazz by Peter Michael Escovedo (Mac/Win, $99.95) from Big Fish Audio (bigfishaudio.com) is a 2.5 GB collection of 40 Latin-jazz construction kits in a variety of major and minor keys with tempos ranging from 66 to 140 bpm. Each construction kit consists of percussion and drum loops along with a smattering of bass, piano, guitar, and solo brass- and wind-instrument loops. The material was recorded by noted San Francisco percussionist Peter Michael Escovedo using local musicians. The DVD contains files in Apple Loops, REX, Stylus RMX, and WAV audio file formats.

Vir2 Instruments' Elite Orchestral Percussion

Vir2 Instruments (vir2.com), a division of Big Fish Audio, has released Elite Orchestral Percussion (Mac/Win, $399.95). This 19 GB sample collection runs the gamut from traditional to little-known orchestral percussion instruments. You get a full range of pitched instruments like chimes, gongs, marimbas, vibraphones, and so on. The library comes in Kontakt Player 2 format and makes extensive use of the Kontakt Script Processor for enhanced playability, automatic trigger patterns (roll, flam, and user-defined), humanization, room ambience (convolution reverb), and equalization. It integrates easily with most MIDI pad controllers.

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Puremagnetik's TeeBee

If you're a fan of the classic Roland TB-303 and TR-606 synths, you'll want to check out the new TB-303 emulation TeeBee (Mac/Win, $12 or by subscription) from Puremagnetik (puremagnetik.com). This downloadable Micropak is available in Ableton Live, Native Instruments Kontakt 3, and Apple Logic EXS-24 formats. The Live version nicely complements Live 7 Suite's Drum Machines, also developed by Puremagnetik, which include emulations of the TR-606. TeeBee combines sampled TB-303 sounds with a simulation of the original control panel and a host of MIDI bass clips. Start from there and use Live's advanced effects and sequencing tools to play outside the box.