Wizoo Latigo Virtual Percussionist Plug-In

The new buzz in loop libraries is control. Static loops aren’t good enough anymore; you need to be able to get “inside” the loop and customize it.
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And that’s particularly important with percussion, which usually provides the ear-candy variations while the trap drums anchor the beat. Endless percussion repetition gets old fast, which is what Latigo (Latin percussion) and its sister program, Darbuka (Arabic/African percussion) are intended to do. (Full disclosure: Wizoo has published some of my books. However, given the positive response to Latigo/Darbuka, I wasn’t concerned that echoing those responses would be seen as favoritism.)

Once you get past the excessive packaging and do the by-now familiar online registration thang, you have a plug-in (no stand-alone mode) that serves as a loop library front end. Latigo uses slice-based tempo manipulation, so stretching doesn’t produce audio artifacts.

The architecture is simple. Latigo has 24 styles. Within each style is up to 14 tracks. You can mix and match tracks within styles, so you can use, for example, a Calypso conga pattern in a Bolero style.

Okay, but here’s what makes this plug-in cool: On the main Play page, you’ll find sliders for Variation, Timing, Complexity, and Swing — all assignable to MIDI controllers — that add spice and variations to patterns. Remember, too, that these patterns were played by Real Human Beings (from Miami Sound Machine), so when you add “humanizing” variations, you’re humanizing something that’s already, uh, human. (This page also features basic EQ and overall Dynamics.)

A separate Mix page lets you place the instruments graphically in a cool-looking sound stage. Additional controls for each track include Punch (useful!), lo/mid/hi EQ, rear balance for surround, ambience (essentially a send control to the ambience processor), and individual assignments for the 4 stereo outs. This page is a tweaker’s delight . . . for example, make the snare really snap, while submerging maracas in the background.

Editing for individual instruments provides control over characteristics similar to those on the Play page (timing and so on), but also adds decay, lead or lag timing, change tuning, alter dynamic response, and more.

Your sounds are tweaked: Now create arrangements and play them, not unlike how you trigger scenes and start/stop individual loops in Ableton Live’s arrangement view. You can do this improvisationally, or trigger patterns via MIDI.

These are just highlights; there are other nice touches, like being able to switch on a high-RAM usage mode for highest sound quality. Although there’s no DXi version for Sonar fans, the VST wrapper works fine (except that you lose the mouse wheel functions for level control and track scrolling).

Some might wonder why Latigo lists for the same as Spectrasonics’ Stylus RMX: The latter has more effects, more sounds, and allows importing other file types to create custom libraries. Furthermore, unlike Stylus RMX, Latigo can’t save a separate, editable MIDI file to edit playback of pattern slices. However, Latigo takes the “playable instrument” aspect further, thanks to the Live-style edit page. And, the realism is beyond reproach.

While Stylus RMX offers exceptional value, Latigo fulfills its intended function so well — from recording quality all the way through to surround ambience — that you can’t begrudge the price. It and Darbuka are class programs that deliver on all levels, and indeed deserve the accolades they’ve been receiving.