Alta Moda Audio
The Hippo ($1,175) from Alta Moda Audio is a VCA-type comp/limiter housed in a double-width, API 500 Series-compatible module that''s modeled after well-regarded analog in-console stereo bus compressors used throughout the ''80s and ''90s. Features include sidechain filters for better bass control, a Warmth function for added harmonics, a wet/dry blend control, and a Dual Mono mode that allows the two channels to operate independently.
Propellerhead Reason 5, Record 1.5 Duo
Slated to be shipping at presstime are new versions of Propellerhead''s Reason and Record production software for Mac/Windows. Reason 5/Record 1.5 Duo (available separately or as a combo package) adds new instruments, effects, sequencing, and more for composing, beatmaking, loop-mangling, vocal treatment, songwriting, and music creation. New features include a Blocks sequencing mode for creating short song section patterns and linking them for fast arranging; Neptune (pitch correction and voice/harmony synthesis); Kong Drum Designer/Dr. OctoRex loop player; and an expanded Factory Sound Bank. The Reason Record Duo sells for $449 standalone; Reason 5 is $349; and Record 1.5 is $299. Various upgrade paths are also available.
Mackie Onyx Blackbird, Blackjack
Mackie''s new recording interfaces combine Onyx mic preamps with high-end Cirrus Logic AD/DA converters. The rackmount Onyx Blackbird ($499.99) has eight preamps, a 16x16 FireWire interface, 8x8 ADAT, and word clock I/O. Two front-panel Super Channels have low-cut filters, phantom power, and hardware monitoring options for zero-latency tracking. The Blackbird Control DSP Matrix Mixer allows quick setup of independent mixes and routing any input to any output. The compact, bus-powered Onyx Blackjack ($199.99) 2x2 USB interface has two Onyx mic preamp channels, each with built-in DIs. Separate level control for studio monitors and headphones, and zero-latency, true analog hardware monitoring take the guesswork out of computer-based production. Both units are Mac/PC compatible, work with most major DAWs, and include Tracktion 3 recording software.
Designed for studio or stage use, the AT2021 ($79) from Audio-Technica is a condenser mic offering a wide 30Hz to 20kHz response, and the ability to handle high sound pressure levels (145dB max) in a compact 4-inch body. The price includes a stand clamp and carry pouch. The mic requires 48VDC phantom power and features a cardioid pickup pattern and a low-mass diaphragm for fast transient response on piano, drum overheads, or acoustic instruments. The AT2021 is also available as the AT2041SP Microphone Pack (bundled with the larger-diaphragm, side-address AT2020 studio condenser mic) for $169.
Musicrow CS Vibes
Musicrow''s fifth soundset for Arturia synths, CS Vibes ($49), is a collection of 200 sounds for the CS80 V, taking full advantage of the Yamaha CS80''s classic qualities with fresh up-to-date sounds, rhythmic sequences, somber pads, fat leads, thick basses, and unique arpeggiated sounds. It is available as a direct download from the site, and a demo bank of 20 presets is available.
Building on the capabilities of its popular R16 multitrack, the new R24 ($499) from Zoom adds an onboard sampler/drum machine and eight additional recording tracks, featuring 24-track playback, 8-track simultaneous recording directly to SD card media, eight XLR mic preamps with phantom power, USB audio interface for computer recording, onboard studio and mastering effects, and a DAW control surface. Two dozen built-in voices can be triggered using eight pads to create loops or use the internal drum machine and 400 rhythm patterns to create original beats. The R24 can interface with most DAW software, and it ships with Steinberg Cubase LE 5 and loops by legendary drummer Peter Erskine.
Softube Tube-Tech PE 1C
Softube expands its software versions of Tube-Tech/Lydkraft gear with the PE 1C ($249 native VST/AU/RTAS; $449 TDM), modeled after the Danish hardware based on the classic Pultec studio equalizer. Each component of a pristine PE 1C was modeled, from the tube to the power transformer, with attention paid to recreating circuit gain-staging and component interaction for an analog sound. Its airy top end is ideal for vocals and guitars, while the two independent cut/boost filters on the low end have slightly offset frequencies for dialing in the signature Pultec scoop sound, often used for kick drums. Features added by Softube include output gain control and stereo operation.
Sonivox Reggaeton Instrumento Virtual
Reggaeton producers finally have a virtual instrument dedicated solely to their craft, with Reggaeton Instrumento Virtual ($99) from Sonivox. The plug-in offers quick pro beat construction and effortless integration of MIDI keyboards and pad controllers, bridging the gap between MPC-style music creation and the computer-based virtual instrument environment. It ships with 7GB of premium instruments and a selection of loop-based construction kits by noted Reggaeton producer Michael Cipriano. It operates either standalone or within a host PC (VST/RTAS) or Mac (AU/VST/RTAS) DAW.
Wave Alchemy Drum Machines 02
Wave Alchemy bundles three of its micro-series packs of sampled analog drum machines in an economical ($38) download library available from its website and from Loopmasters. Drum machines include the classic Roland TR-808 and TR-909, along with the lesser-known MFB Schlagzwerg and Drumfire DF-2000. More than 1,500 samples were recorded at 24-bit resolution using a high-end analog signal path and a variety of hardware processors. Dithered 16-bit versions of all samples are included for users of hardware drum machines. In addition to the WAV format samples, the 322MB download includes nine preassembled kits formatted for Native Instruments Battery 3 and Kontakt 4, Steinberg HALion, Propellerhead NN-XT, Apple EXS-24, and Soundfont-based samplers. But the real fun is building your own layered kits, and there''s plenty of material to work with (see Web Clip 1).
Future Loops Gai Barone Progressivo
Italian DJ and producer Gai Barone delivers a 2GB library of cohesive 128bpm loops and one-shots in Gai Barone Progressivo ($49.97, download) from Future Loops. The loops and one-shots come in WAV format; the loops are also provided as REX2 files. The loops are divided into three categories: bass (50), beats (531), and synths (50). The beats are further split among beats (with/without kicks), fills, percussion, and processed patterns, which include synth and sound-effects overlays. The one-shots add atmospheres, pads, and sound effects to the mix and include synth, bass, and drum hits for designing your own instruments. With an ear to dance/trance/house music orientation, the sounds lean toward the hypnotic, but there''s lots of useful material for other genres (see Web Clip 2).
In a never-ending quest to save ancient/obscure acoustic and electronic instruments from extinction, Soniccouture has patiently sampled and remodeled the 1939 Hammond Novachord. The project begins with a 3.5GB collection of 24-bit/44.1kHz samples made from the painstakingly restored Novachord of synth designer and restorer Phil Cirocco. His website, discretesynthesizers.com/nova/intro.htm, details the restoration and is worth visiting. Soniccouture Novachord (Mac/Win, $129) comes in Kontakt 4 and Kontakt 4 Player formats and is available on DVD or download. It starts with two Kontakt instrument models: the 2-layer NovaSynth and the 1939-2039 NovaSynth. The former layers two tricked-out Novachord models and comes with 50 authentic, multisampled Novachord presets—it''s the beast for quickly whipping up Novachord sounds as featured in films as varied as Gone With the Wind, The Maltese Falcon, and House of Frankenstein, as well as The Outer Limits and Twilight Zone TV shows. The 1939-2039 NovaSynth lets users design sounds from the ground up. It starts with individual controls for and samples of the original Novachord elements: Tones, Resonators, Attack, Filter, and Vibrato. Clicking the 2039 button adds modern niceties such as full ADSR envelopes and multimode resonant filters, and you can set everything individually for each tone and resonator (see Web Clip 3). Once you''ve designed your sound, switch to the Effects panel to add convolution reverb, delay, phase, chorus, rotary speaker, and cabinet modeler.
Big Fish Audio Ambient Skyline
With the release of Funk/Soul Productions Ambient Skyline ($129, DVD), Big Fish Audio delivers 5GB of all things ambient to your sound library. The Steve Sechi-produced collection of 2,266 24-bit/44.1kHz Apple Loops and WAV files are divided into loops (941) and one-shots (1,325); REX2 files are also available for the loops. Instruments include rhythm and lead guitars, acoustic and electric pianos, bass, tuned and untuned percussion, saxophones, pads, and vocal phrases. In addition, you''ll find an abundance of ambient atmospheres derived from New York City field recordings. All loops are at 60bpm or 65bpm so you can easily mix and match with minimal time-stretching. Most major and minor keys are covered, and the collection doesn''t stint in any category. The material is well suited to creating evolving ambient atmospheres, but there''s enough lead material, especially vocals and saxes, to craft a full piece (see Web Clip 4).