ENHANCED EDITION WITH AUDIO AND VIDEO | S Issue 288
Making the future since 1992
Technique and technology for making music The
The world’s most powerful synths go head-to-head | Rare factory tours and designer interviews | The ultimate guide to CV & MORE
Watch the British beatmaker break apart his new track The Ritzy on video
EXCLUSIVE SAMPLEPACK 1l
EXCLUSIVE SAMPLEPACK 2l
Layer on a dose of retro-futuristic funk
Psychedelic distortion effects aplenty
Producer’s Guide to the Sub 37 & loads more
ENHANCED EDITION WITH AUDIO AND VIDEO Issue 288
Making the future since 1992
Technique and technology for making music The
The worldâ€™s most powerful synths go head-to-head | Rare factory tours and designer interviews | The ultimate guide to CV & MORE
Synth demos | REVIEWs |
IN HE STUDIO
Mid/side masterclass Get creative with this powerful mix technique
IN the studio with
BASEMENT JAXX// PANDA BEAR
The studio secrets of the UK Dance icons and the Animal Collective innovator
“Without doubt the most elegantly simple yet deep synth I have ever programmed.” James Wiltshire, The Freemasons
“It’s a really cool synth and I’ll be using this a lot in the studio and on stage.” Richard Barbieri “Distills the essence of the Lead 4 into something that’s fun, intuitive and addictive.” Future Music Magazine
“Creative, addictive, simple and a joy to use.” MusicTech Magazine
“A gorgeous-sounding synthesizer ... like its big sister the Lead 4, it’s an inspiration machine” Keyboard Mag
Nord is distributed in the UK by Sound Technology Ltd. Please call 01462 480000 for more information.
The Lead A1 combines our latest analogue modelling engine with a streamlined user interface for fast-track programming. Whatever your synth programming experience, the Lead A1 is an addictive instrument delivering sensational sonic results.
Discover the Nord synthesizer range:
nordkeyboardsuk Handmade in Sweden by Clavia DMI AB
SOMETIMES THEY DO COME BACK, AND THIS TIME, IT’S WITH EVEN MORE BRUTE-STRENGTH POWER ONBOARD Pulse 2 is a complete analog synthesizer that accurately delivers what synthesizer enthusiasts around the world truly crave. Three analog oscillators in combination with a true analog cascading filter is what Pulse and Pulse 2 have in common. But we didn’t stop there. The filter circuits now also offer Highpass and Bandpass modes.
2-Pole is giving the guitar player, the DJ, or the keyboard player access to the heart of the Waldorf sound - with an inspiring user interface with a one knob function philosophy.
Combining the best of the now extinct string Synthesizers of the 70s and early 80s. Dual sound engines feature a fully polyphonic strings section and a monophonic solo section.
SPL PHONITOR 2
The Waldorf Rocket Synthesiser is a super compact and insanely powerful synthesiser that delivers incredible sound and bone crushingly fat bass synth sounds.
Waldorf is back in the game with the Blofeld. This synthesizer offers all the unique qualities that made Waldorf a truly legendary brand. Now available in limited Black Edition.
120 VOLT AMPLIFIER
SPL introduce the successor of our legendary Phonitor 2 headphone preamp. Keeping all proven features while incorporating some major improvements.
After many years of research and engineering, Event has defied conventional audio philosophy and created the Opal. Its woofer, tweeter, amplifier and cabinet all feature innovative and unique design.
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SPL CRIMSON USB INTERFACE & MONITOR
THREE WAY PERFORMANCE Event’s very first three-way studio monitoring system. The Event 20/30 monitoring system provides unmatched performance in its class. It combines three discrete drivers with precisely engineered acoustic design.
SPL Crimson combines a USB interface with high-quality preamps and a separate, fully-featured monitor controller. You can play and play back, record and convert, control and listen with one single device.
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The SPL Surround Monitor Controller (SMC) is a one-point analog volume control and switching matrix for system-independent 5.1 surround and stereo monitoring.
MTC combines volume level control, source switching and loudspeaker management for stereo monitoring with comfortable talkback and cue mixing functions.
Now Event is proud to announce a new generation of clarity, transparency and definition with the release of the 20/20BAS. This two-way front ported speaker incorporates a number of fundamental improvements over the original model while remaining true to its tonal character and performance strengths.
MONITOR & TALKBACK
A MODERN CLASSIC
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It’s just over a year since FM published our Mini Synth Special (issue 274), in which we rounded up the recent wave of affordable wonders, put each side-by-side and tested the best qualities of each. Almost as soon as that issue was put to bed, we knew that at some point we’d have to replicate the exercise for ‘the big boys’. That’s what this issue is all about; exploring the most powerful, innovative and exciting electronic instruments in the world today, and meeting some of the teams behind them. Head to page 28 now to join us on the journey… As the (hopefully) ideal accompaniment to our synth feature, we’ve a host of hardware-focused tutorials in this issue. Head over to page 58 now for our comprehensive guide to getting creative with control voltage, and check out the latest Producer’s Guide To… on page 105, in which we go in-depth with the Moog Sub 37’s duophonic synth engine. Plus, in the latest edition of our Modular Monthly column we get our DIY on and show you how to create casings on the cheap. Be sure to check out this issue’s disc/downloads too, for demos of all the cover feature synths, videos for every tutorial and audio for the latest reviews.
Si Truss, Editor email@example.com
expert contributors this month…
Joe Rossitter musician, producer
Bruce Aisher musician, producer
Dan ‘JD73’ Goldman musician, producer
It’s not just hardware in this month’s FM. This issue sees Joe breaking out his plug-ins and unlocking the power of Mid/Side processing. Head over to page 72 now for his guide to this often misunderstood, but hugely powerful mixing technique.
Card-carrying patch lead addict Bruce is the man behind this issue’s guide to control voltage on page 58. Head there now to discover the wonders of old-school analogue interconnectivity. As Bruce says, you can never have too many cables.
Our resident synth expert has been in instrument Nirvana this month, after taking the lead in analysing and exploring every one of the gorgeous synthesizers included in our massive cover feature. Head to page 28 now to join his guided tour…
Contents | This Issue
contents Issue 288 | February 2015
IN THE STUDIO WITH: Panda Bear Animal Collectiveâ€™s Noah Lennox aka Panda Bear meets up with FM to talk tech, touring and Octatracks on the release of his uplifting new solo album, Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper
This Issue | Contents
52 INCLUDES VIDEOl
THE TRACK: Melé, The Ritzy Innovative beatmaker Melé gives us the lowdown on his latest Rave-inspired track
In-depth tests of all the latest gear 80 Steinberg Cubase Pro 8 86 Fluid Audio FX8 INCLUDES AUDIOl
88 iZotope Ozone 6 Advanced
90 Drawmer MC2.1 Monitor Controller
Essential production advice and ideas
91 Samson Concert 88 Handheld
92 UAD 7.10 and 7.11 plug-ins INCLUDES AUDIOl
96 Spitfire Audio Hans Zimmer Percussion Libraries INCLUDES AUDIOl
98 Eisenberg Vier 100 Mini Reviews
REVIEW: Steinberg Cubase Pro 8 A new version of Steinberg’s flagship DAW has arrived. Does it live up to its ‘Pro’ moniker?
Essential Guide To CV All you need to know about the world of CV
Mid/Side Techniques Using this powerful stereo processing tool
105 INCLUDES VIDEOl
Producer’s Guide To… Get the most out of Moog’s Sub 37 9
Contents | This Issue
01 GROOVE CRIMINALS PRESENT: Sci-Fi Toplines Add retro-futuristic excitement to your tracks with these out of this world loops and lines. CYCLICK SAMPLES PRESENT: 02 Fuzz-Psych Download, plug-in and tune out with this pack of fuzzed-out psychedelic sounds. FROM THE ARCHIVE: Electro Essentials Machine-driven funk is the name of the game with these instruments, loops and hits. 03
Get your samples, audio and more here No disc drive? Bought a digital edition? And get even MORE content to accompany this issue online from vault.futuremusic.co.uk
INTERVIEW: Basement Jaxx The Dance rebels are back with a new album Junto. We talk to Simon Ratcliffe
This Issue | Contents
MODULAR MONTHLY: Audio Damage ADM06 Sequencer 1 The latest news, reviews and creative ideas from the world of modular synthesis
FEATURE: The Best Synths Ever! We go under the hood of the world’s most powerful synthesizers and guide you through the best qualities of each
14 18 17 16
Expert tips, techniques and tutorials 18 Classic Album: Funki Porcini, Hed Phone Sex
The Track: Melé, The Ritzy
58 Technique: The Essential Guide to CV
25 Album Reviews
66 Interview: Basement Jaxx
28 The Synth Issue
72 Technique: Mid/Side
44 In The Studio With: Panda Bear
108 Advice 112 Gear Guide
Find us online at www.futuremusic.co.uk
Watch our videos www.youtube.com/ futuremusicmagazine
All the latest gear from around the world 14 Future Music’s resolutions for 2015
Follow us on Twitter @futuremusicmag
17 Talking Shop: Kiasmos 22 Subscribe to FM
Join us on Facebook www.facebook.com/ futuremusicmagazine 11
Contents | This Issue
This monthâ€™s demo selections free with FM at vault.futuremusic.co.uk. Download and enjoy!
01 02 03 04
01 02 03 04
05 06 07 08
05 06 07 08
http://sounds.beatport.com 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08
Sample Tweakers Bigroom EDM Revolution Raw Loops Warehouse Music Sounds To Sample House Essentials 3 Whitenoise Records Deep House Drums Waveform Recordings Deep Techno 2 Incognet EDM Hits And Drops CNTRL Samples Mainroom Progressive Micropressure Samples EDM Tonal Kicks
www.loopmasters.com 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08
Loopmasters Artist Series Cause 4 Concern Drum & Bass Unleashed Rawcutz Durty Wins Loopmasters Hip Hop Instrumentals 3 Singomakers Melbourne Energy Bounce Particular Space Rangers Inter Stellar Textures Loopmasters Artist Series David Seaman Electronic Underground Loopmasters Top 100 DJs Signature Sounds Massive Presets Vol 3 Industrial Strength Recordings Gancher & Ruin Russian Roulette 2
Filter | The Future of Music
The latest gear from around the world
highlightsâ€Ś 16 Build A Studio
16 NI Traktor Control S8
17 Talking Shop: Kiasmos
18 Classic Album
The Future of Music | Filter
New Year’s Revolution So, it’s the New Year and you’re probably fed up with hearing about furniture sales and probably wouldn’t mind if you didn’t see your in-laws for another year. We think you’re ready for a little ‘me’ time. In keeping with the time of year, we have rustled up some resolutions for the forthcoming 12-month period. We’ve got ways you can save money, ideas for trying new things and ways to get the most out of your studio set-up in 2015 Master your own tracks
Make movie music
Knowledge is power
There can be many fiscal benefits for cutting out the middleman; it also saves on time too. Getting your tracks mastered is one such opportunity where doing it yourself can save you time, money and doesn’t necessarily have to be a daunting task. Chances are, you already have the tools at your disposal to master your own music. Check out these tips to improve your home mastering workflow from our feature on Mastering at Home in issue 280 http://bit.ly/1raMBUV & http://bit.ly/1sG3iEB. And if you want to dive further into the world of mastering techniques check out our Mid/Side tutorial feature on page 72.
You may be striving for that lucrative publishing deal, earning a crust working in a studio or you just like to make your own music. We all know there is more than one way of earning money from your music and production skills. Sound design for TV and film can be a lucrative business, so why not get out of your comfort zone and try something new? Check out next month’s FM for a masterclass in how to make music for film trailers in our Box Office Sound Design feature, with techniques, tips and tricks of the trade, plus what is expected from clients when touting yourself for business.
If you don’t already, the quickest way to save money is to subscribe to Future Music magazine. With savings of up to 56% off for both print and digital bundles, you’d be crazy not to. With bundles ranging from six months to two years, there is something for everyone. Hell, you could even afford to get one for your Gran. http://bit.ly/SubscribetoFM
Filter | The Future Of Music
Build (or rebuild) a studio
…and we’ll help you along. Several members of the FM team have new production spaces in the works, and we’ll be charting their progress and sharing what they’ve learned over the next few months. Stay tuned for essential tips on planning, building and treating your space!
Take your music to the stage
Get out of your comfort zone in 2015 by creating your own live set. Look around your studio and you may already have some of the tools you need to take your music to the stage. Beware, you’ll want to stick with reliable gear and nothing too flimsy, so choose wisely. There are many ways of going live, so go with whatever works best for you. A laptop and controller may be enough. If you make the successful transition to a live set-up, then you’ll want to make sure of gig etiquette. The number one rule is never rely on borrowing gear, so always be prepared. Extra cables, batteries, power supplies, backup drives and a torch should be in your emergency toolkit.
Rediscover vinyl It’s official, vinyl is back, with sales breaking 1 million copies in the UK in 2014 for the first time in nearly 20 years. So what better time to break out that old set of Technics and investigate the world of hybrid DJ set-ups? With its built-in DVS support, flexible mixer and touchsensitive controls, NI’s latest controller, the S8, could be the perfect tool to do just that. Check out FM’s verdict for more: http://bit.ly/1AA4OwP
Take iOS seriously Okay, so it might not be time to ditch your studio computer in favour of a tablet just yet, but the latest batch of iDevices has more power than ever before, and there are plenty of powerful apps out there to take advantage of that. Take control of your DAW with apps like Lemur, touchAble and Conductr; get creative with Korg Gadget; mix with Traktor DJ; or even master with Final Touch. And get to grips with Audiobus 2 to wire it all together.
There’s never been a better time to go over to the dark side. With more Eurorack units available than ever before, and big names like Dave Smith getting in on the action, you’re only limited by your imagination (well, perhaps your credit limit too). FM’s new regular modular column will be on hand throughout the year, with a monthly dose of reviews, news and tutorials, both in the mag and on video. Head to page 102 now to check out the latest.
The Future Of Music | Filter
FM: Tell us about your studio… Janus: “I always have a pair of trusty studio monitors at home, just so I can check on mixes or do some editing whenever I’m in the mood. But most of my work is done in my studio space; that’s where all my equipment is. It’s always a mixture of hardware and software when I’m working. It’s been a while since I stopped caring about what I use to make music. If it sounds great, then I use it. I do tend to use analogue synths a lot though.”
The Icelandic duo on their collaborative album
iasmos is the collaborative project of Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen of Synth Pop outfit Bloodgroup. The duo’s self-titled debut album, released earlier this year, sees the pair
of musicians exploring the sonic space between their respective sounds; fusing the classicallyinformed string arrangements and experimental electronics of Arnalds’ soundtrack work with Rasmussen’s bold, melodic synth tones.
Ólafur: “Our studios are actually in the same big old warehouse turned studio complex. I’ve been there three years. My room used to be a THX cinema mixing space so it’s treated as such. I’ve been trying to bring the acoustics a bit more to life by adding some wooden panels and diffusers but I love the dry sound as it gives me full control of everything I record. Surprisingly strings and piano sound really great. I am a total analogue guy and I’ve got a big collection of vintage EQs, compressors and synths, although I often turn to in-the-box stuff for convenience.”
Kiasmos’s essential production advice More elements do not make a bigger sounding song “It’s safe to say that we learned this the hard way. If aiming to make a huge sound, the first intuition is often to pile all the elements you can think of into a huge wall. This just creates a mess and you lose all dynamics. Organise walls of sound and don’t let elements fight. Give each the space it needs to be dynamic, melodic, or whatever its purpose is.” Listen to your mistakes “Listen closely to your mistakes – are they really mistakes? Many of our best ideas came from happy accidents. Technical glitches can be very inspiring. Think of how many common uses of equipment today are not their intended uses.”
Read the full interview: http://bit.ly/1zGuWI2 Talking Shop continues regularly at www.futuremusic.co.uk
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*£100 excess applies to computer equipment. Allianz Musical Insurance is a trading name of Allianz Insurance plc.
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Filter | Classic Album
CLASSIC ALBUM Vintage releases revisited
Funki Porcini Hed Phone Sex Ninja Tune, 1995
ometimes you just have to make music for the sake of making music. You know what it’s like when you fiddle with a sound, a sample, a preset. Something might click and, like a kid pulling at a thread at the bottom of his jumper, you just can’t stop. James Braddell aka Funki Porcini had that itch to dig through charity shop records and promotional flexi-discs and load an ever-increasingly kooky batch of sounds into his sampler, just for the fun of it. The result was the bonkers little album, Hed Phone Sex – a wonderfully woozy low-bpm trip through the type of Dubby bass, choice dialogue snippets, and precision drum programming, that would come to define the mid-’90s era of Ninja Tune and Trip-Hop. “It was very much like, ‘Let’s go on a journey’”, says Braddell. “I wanted to play around and make good beats, but also add something dreamier into it all, I think. It would end up quite psychedelic, but I wasn’t really pushing for that at the time. I just thought I wanted to make things a bit more interesting, just for me.” Braddell indulged himself. He would mic up frozen lakes and skim chunks of ice across to get sounds, pitch-shift his own voice to make up bizarre characters, and spend a week finding just the right snare to add to his already masterfully layered drum loops. All this in an era when Braddell would be figuring out the degree by which he needed to stretch his samples with a calculator and a note pad. “It’s so funny thinking back to that period,” says Braddell. “Now, everybody has the means to record sound so easily. One forgets how much of a dedicated pursuit it was back then. I was compelled to labour through it.” And for that dedication, we salute you. Here’s to making music for its own damn sake.
Classic Album | Filter
Track by track with James Braddell A Word Of Vice “I got the samples for this one off an old flexi-disc called Sonya’s Sex Diary that came free with an old porn mag. It was a sort of really dirty [adopts hushed sexy tones] ‘Come over to the bed…’ thing. It was pretty hilarious. My brother gave me that one. It used to amuse me so I thought I’d use it here. It sets the tone up for the record as well. It’s a seduction record.”
B Monkey "A film script that someone gave me to read inspired this. I put together a nice groove inspired by the story. I always liked grooves where everything was a bit late, and everything falls a little bit late here. It’s those slightly off rhythms that I like. “There’s the sound of arcing electricity sampled in there. I wanted to use noises as well as melodies in these songs. I was after anything that could make an atmosphere, really.”
Dubble “There is a bass sample in there from an old Reggae record which I manipulated and twisted. I used to listen to a lot of that and Dub when I was quite young. I always thought that as a musical style it was probably the most original thing that was around at that time in my life. I’ve always like Dub because of the emptiness of it.”
King Ashabanapal Pt1 “That was based around a flexi-disc that was given to me of an American evangelical preacher doing a sermon about King Ashurbanipal, a Biblical figure, and not a very nice one. “I really liked stretching things out, as you can tell, and changing the speed. It was a lot more difficult to do back then. I’d stretch things out according to the musical timing and pattern. I would grab a sample and take it a third, then take it a fourth, until it was sounding good.”
The Deep “This is like an underwater track. Fuck me this is over nine minutes long! How indulgent!
Besides the new Funki Porcini soundtrack to Chemi Bebia, James Braddell is currently working on an impressive interactive cinema project called City. It debuted at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival last year and boasts a screen size three times bigger than a normal cinema. The projected footage is of cities at night made up of hundreds of HD images, which Braddell can zoom in and out of to expose little narratives within the cityscape. It’s accompanied by his own sound design and music. Plans are underway to take the poetic visual experience out again. Head to Funki Porcini’s Vimeo page for promo shots.
"When I was making that record I was just indulging myself. I’m not that good at writing songs, if you see what I mean. Sometimes you just need more time with a track. “This album was all about me finding a way of being comfortable making music on my own. So as I was developing the Funki Porcini thing I was just really enjoying making music.”
King Ashabanapal Pt2 “This was originally all one track, then I thought it would be better as two. I touched on Drum ‘n’ Bass rhythms in my drum programming here, with a bit of Beenie Man thrown in over the top. The first thing I’d ever heard that was anything like that rhythm was when I was living in Italy and we had this mixtape from a girl living in Oxford. She was playing everything too fast. This was before Jungle and Drum ‘n’ Bass or anything like that. I just remember thinking at the time that it sounded great, and that it was a very original approach.
“I used to use this wonderful old thing called an Ursa Major Space Station. It replicated Les Paul’s railway tunnel – he used a disused railway tunnel as his reverb chamber. He set up loud speakers at intervals and put a microphone in there somewhere, depending on how much reverb he wanted. They designed the Ursa Major Space Station to give you that effect. It had a fantastic sound when it had nothing running through it, too. It was like sticking your head inside a massive seashell. I used it on just about everything on the album.”
“I used to like speeding up just the end of a bar, so it wasn’t all running at that rate. I’d take snippets and chuck them in at double-time.”
Michael’s Little Friend “This track just skips. It was a joke, like the listener’s CD player wasn’t working, or that the CD was scratched. It was me recreating the sound that CD players made when they were on the blink. Then I added a message at the end explaining that. I got an American friend in and recorded them for that one. I just told them that I wanted to make a track where nothing can play it.”
White Slave “I sampled the dialogue for this one off an old Black Beauty record. It was narrated from the horse’s perspective. The horse has been sent to market and the buyers are slapping the horse around to see if it’s in good nick. I thought I’d twist it around to make it sound sexy. I would buy records like this from charity shops. I used to
always go in to those places and just buy anything. I would think that there must be at least one sample in there. I used to end up with all these really crappy records, but on each one of them there would be something.”
Poseathon “This is the one with the Bongwater sample. They were a group from America. They made the funniest music. It was like [adopts a Southern drawl], ‘Ooooooh. I want a whole lot of rednecks to take me out to the woods,’ or whatever. I had to use it. “This one is a bit more uptempo. It’s more of a party track. I was always tempted to make more uptempo music, but I ended up getting bored.”
Wicked, Cruel Nasty And Bad “That was based around an Eartha Kitt sample from her song I Want To Be Evil. She sings ‘And in the theatre I want to change my seat/Just so I can step on/Everybody’s feet’. Wicked, Cruel Nasty And Bad was
Filter | Classic Album
actually made for a friend of mine who had written a play that was being performed in a theatre in Cambridge and he wanted a piece of music for it, and I did that for him originally. Then it got included on this record.”
Pork Albumen “These are some silly track names. I had a friend that would come over and he would make all these titles up, as I had no idea what to call them. He came up with this one, and his other good one was Tiny Kangaroo Dolphin (From Hell). “This has some nice field recording stuff on it. I would often go out and capture what I could. I had various little recorders that I used to use. I had quite a good Sony one. It was a professional portable cassette deck, which was very good.”
The Softest Thing In The World (Motorway Accident) “I remember thinking that at this point in the record things were getting a bit too sentimental, so I stuck Motorway Accident into the title to remove the sentimentality. It’s a very cinematic track. I think that is what half the frustration was when I was
making this album; I really wanted to be making films, but I was making music instead. This track is like a little film, but an oral film. I liked working with dialogue. In this track it’s me putting on the accents and
hear. I was then quite surprised that other people liked it.”
Tiny Kangaroo Dolphin (From Hell) “This is just over a minute. It’s like an intermission piece before the end. It’s like a little bit of lemon juice to cleanse the palette. The sequencing of the record came very naturally as it got made. It was a case of making one type of track, and then making the next one a bit different. I always knew that the track A Word Of Vice would go at the beginning, and that Long Road would be the ideal finisher.”
I wasn’t thinking about other people listening to any of this album when I was making it then shifting my voice so I could make up these little characters.”
Something Wonderfull “I think I took that title from a quote from the film 2010. The character says, ‘Something is going to happen��� Something wonderful’. This track is about seven minutes of odd noise. I wasn’t really thinking about other people listening to any of this album when I was making it. I was thinking more about what I wanted to
LIKE IT? TRY THESE…
Long Road “When I was making this track my parents had gone away on holiday so I invited a whole load of people up from London, and they all took copious amounts of mushrooms and hash cookies all weekend. We ended up calling it ‘the lost weekend’. I even sampled me saying that on here. “Did Hed Phone Sex define the Ninja Tune sound of that era? Sometimes I’ve read that. It just felt like it was all a natural result of using the technology available. And being a bit more psychedelic. It is what it is. I just made what I felt like.”
Various Flexi-Sex Downright filthy collection of flexi-disc recordings from ’70s porn mags. The kind of top-shelf material James Braddell’s brother gave him to sample on Hed Phone Sex. add these to your playlist: Sonia’s Sex Diary, Folky Fenella From| Dorset and Babs|
Eartha Kitt RCA Victor Presents Eartha Kitt That bad Eartha comes across wickedly on this 1953 recording. Her pipes would resurface many years later, sampled on the Funki Porcini number, Wicked, Cruel, Nasty and Bad. add these to your playlist: I Want To Be Evil, Mountain High, Valley| Low and C’est Si Bon (It’s So Good)|
Mantovani Latin Rendezvous The kind of kitsch records that were catnip to Braddell. He’d pull them out for the cheesy covers alone, but always find a sample tucked away. See if you can… add these to your playlist: Malaguena, Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps| and Amapola|
In The Studio With… James Braddell “I was staying in my parents’ house, so set up my studio in a room there and just got on and did it. I used to use a bit of Logic and a bit of Pro 24 on an Atari ST as a sequencer. I liked working with it because there wasn’t really a visual representation of the music, so you were listening more, rather than arranging things by how they looked. “I used a Yamaha DX9 that had the most fabulous bass sine wave. I put that on everything. I also had an E-mu Emulator sampler, which was a slightly better sampler that was about just before the Akai came in and took over. “I played saxophone on there as well, and I also used to enjoy going out and recording bits and bobs on a portable recorder. “I did a lot of drum programming inside Pro 24. So I’d normally work off a loop and then program on top. Once I had that going I’d write a bassline and then begin the track that way.”
“This is only available on the vinyl release. It was really the first ever Funki Porcini record. An ex-girlfriend ad-libbed the name when I asked to provide some vocals to this beat. “This track has a really nice sound on it. I went to a frozen lake and put transducers on the ice about 20 yards apart, and chucked lumps of ice across it. It made this wonderful noise. The whole top of the ice sheet works as a diaphragm. When we were doing it, this guy came along who had a shotgun. I said to him, ‘Come on. Let off a couple of round into the ice and let’s see what it sounds like.’ And it was crap [laughs].”
WANT to KNOW MORE? For more incredible albums, and links to exciting new video work, head on over to funkiporcini.bandcamp.com
Bongwater The Power of Pussy Braddell loved the campy nature of Bongwater, and littered tracks like Poseathon with samples from these late ’80s college Rock staples. add these to your playlist: Bedazzled, Mystery Hole and Women| Tied Up In Knots|
9 Lazy 9 Paradise Blown Before Funki Porcini there were 9 Lazy 9. Braddell (under the name Giacomo Braddellini) joined forces with Keir Fraserello to supply the fledgling Ninja Tune with experimental beats. add these to your playlist: 5am, Brothers Of The Red and The Herb|
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ALBUMs This month’s new releases
album of the month
outh London producer Archie Fairhurst’s distinctive sound and academic approach as Romare has caught the attention of plenty since he first arrived on the scene back in 2012. Taking his name from the illustrious US collagist Romare Bearden, the producer shares the artist’s fascination with African-American culture and brings the same collage technique that Bearden championed into his music. Following on from his first EP, Meditations on Afrocentrism, and his recent Roots EP for Ninja Tune, the producer now drops his debut album for the UK stalwart label. Projections is a musical collage that meshes the producer’s vast influences together with his own imaginative and creative ideas. Merging a myriad of samples, captivating hooks and arresting riffs, the album works a heady mix of Hip-Hop, Electronic, Bass music, Funk, Jazz, modern Soul and everything in between into an exciting and wholly engaging album. The blend is seamless, conjuring a sound that is direct and urgent, infused with plenty of joy, colour and personality. Full of energy and purpose, the record moves through various tempos, rhythm structures and atmospheres. Projections is a unique album from a producer who is able to express his musical inclinations with a mixture of homage and new, forward-thinking ideas. Tom Jones ADD THESE TO YOUR PLAYLIST: Motherless Child, Roots, Prison Blues|
© Sam Gill
Albums | Reviews
Reviews | Albums
© Mitchell Grant
Macchina Nera Collage Pastamusik
After a decade of building a reputation for pushing bright and spirited left-of-centre electronic music, Munich-based label Pastamusik is now moving into the album arena for the first time. Sticking with their idiosyncratic approach, the imprint takes this step forward with fellow Munich producer Macchina Nera, for whom Collage also represents the first LP. The record is drenched in colour, its
snappy pace and upfront attitude creating a direct connection with the listener at every turn. Gliding its way through the German producer’s seemingly interchangeable notions of House, Disco, Techno, Italo-Disco, Funk and Nu-Soul, the record is versatile and diverse throughout. Synth-heavy with numerous standout vocal performances, an abundance of catchy hooks, classic synths
and a constant supply of insatiable grooves make this a pleasant and body-moving experience. It has unabated joy and hedonism coursing through its veins, capturing a perfect snapshot of the label and producer’s shared outlook on modern electronic music. Tom Jones ADD THESE TO YOUR PLAYLIST: Risky Ride, When The Bass Sweats Blood, Gangbäng|
Au.Ra Jane’s Lament Felte
ADD THESE TO YOUR PLAYLIST: Drifting Red, Cooping,
ADD THESE TO YOUR PLAYLIST:
Sun, Talk Show, Ease|
Lake People Purposely Uncertain Field Permanent Vacation After a string of critically acclaimed EPs, Leipzig-based producer Martin Enke drops his keenly anticipated debut album as Lake People. Released on revered Munich label Permanent Vacation, Purposely Uncertain Field finds the German developing his trademark melodic approach to Tech House. Refined, mature and extremely well balanced, the record weaves its way through
a mixture of slow, expansive soundscapes and dancefloor fodder. Both sides of the output work alongside each other in perfect harmony. When it’s more dancefloor focused, the record is intense, full bodied, powerful and hypnotic; when it is more ambient, the LP is richly textured, considered and immersive. Heavily layered, the record explores a beautiful but often haunting
ane’s Lament is the wonderfully dreamy debut album from Cosmic Pop duo Au.Ra. The album follows a well-received double A-side from last year and finds the duo, Sydney’s Tim Jenkins and Tom Crandles, exploring a hazy, emotive soundscape across nine brand new tracks. Shimmering guitars, looped drum beats, dreamy melodies and layered reverb all feature heavily to create a rich, shoegazing sound. The highly textured sound mixes energetic rhythms with fuzzy guitar lines to create an intoxicating mix of Psychedelic Rock and New Wave. There is something simultaneously otherworldly and familiar about the vibe on this record, at times feeling spacey and withdrawn but also conjuring that cosy feeling of an autumnal walk. Born out of improvised jam sessions, the record has a raw but easy-flowing aesthetic that brings their non-traditional Pop songwriting alive with a genuine heart. Heartfelt lyrics also add to this sense of openness, helping to construct an album that is deeply personal and emotionally complex. Such is the duo’s ability to strike a balance though, it remains a light, breezy affair, wafting and chiming away as it meanders with a disarming but engaging pace. A highly accomplished debut album, Jane’s Lament is an early marker for a duo who look set to take on the world. Tom Jones
soundscape which opens up even further and expands Enke’s already rich sound universe. But it is ultimately the complexities awoken by the constant crossreferencing between the harder and softer moments in electronic music that make this such a compelling album. Tom Jones
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Feature | The Synth Issue
Under the hood of the world’s most powerful electronic instruments
here’s no question about it, hardware is very much back in fashion. With the rise of affordable analogue, driven by brands like Korg, Waldorf and Arturia, and the recent surge in the popularity of Eurorack, there’s never been a better time to venture into the world of hardware synthesis. We’re not here to talk about budget boxes of circuitry, however. Whilst it’s easy to get excited about affordable compact synths and systems, you still get what you pay for when it comes to sonic power and innovation. And forget lusting after those vintage treasures on eBay; be they analogue or digital, monophonic
or polyphonic, today’s high-end synthesizers are undoubtedly more powerful, stable and exciting than anything that’s come before. To prove this point, we’ve spent the last month in the company of some of the most impressive electronic instruments in the world today. Our team have crossed the globe from Scandinavia to North Carolina, to meet the teams behind the biggest names in synthesis, to get to the bottom of what makes each instrument special and guide you through the best qualities of each. Don’t take our word for it though – with this issue’s disc/download you can hear each in action for yourself. Read on, to meet the synths that are shaping modern music, and the teams behind their creation…
The Synth Issue | Feature
Accelerator | $2,195 It’s not cheap (and the expansions are extra) but it has some unique features onboard and a very distinctive sound of its own that straddles the past and future nicely The Accelerator is an eight voice/two-part multi-timbral polyphonic synth, expandable up to 32 notes poly/eight parts multi-timbral using expansion cards. It has a nice feeling 61-note keybed with aftertouch and, uniquely, includes a sensor onboard that allows you to tilt the whole unit in two different directions to provide modulation. It uses advanced DSP for its oscillators and filters to provide a precise high-quality sound across the frequency spectrum. It can mimic warm analogue textures nicely but also excels at bright, punchy and futuristic time-evolving sounds. Add into the mix high-quality effects over four busses, up to eight polyphonic arpeggiators, up to eight 32-step three-track sequencers, six envelope generators, four LFOs, two multimode filters, Time Linearity Modulation sweepable waves and FM type synthesis, and it’s clear how powerful this synth is.
Best FOR… Evolving sounds, complex sequences, modulated sounds and arpeggios, upfront cutting sounds and authentic FM sounds.
Analog Keys | £1,319 The addition of a keyboard, X/Y joystick and Multimap nicely improve on the Analog 4 – the Analog Keys feels like a much more complete instrument and it’s a great live centrepiece Analog Keys takes the great sounding four-note polyphonic analogue sound engine from the Analog 4 and adds several invaluable live performance features, including a 37-note keyboard with aftertouch for playing/triggering beats, basses, leads, pads and chords and an X/Y joystick that allows several parameters to be assigned to a sound and seamlessly morphed. Multimap allows you to map different sounds or sequences to every key – you can then trigger beats, basslines and play a melody over the top as needed. The sound engine sounds full and suitably analogue yet precise (with very stable tuning), plus there are two great-sounding analogue filters with analogue overdrive. There are seven LFOs (for vibrato, fades, autobend, plus two assignable and more) and a four-track sequencer with FX track that can sequence CV equipped gear too. An enticing package at the price point.
Best FOR… Warm yet precise analogue pads/brass sounds, complex sequences, sequencing live sets and spaced-out atmospheric FX.
Feature | The Synth Issue
Voyager XL | £3,819 The extra octaves and ribbon controller are a bonus for live performers and the patch panel opens up the already powerful sound engine even more. The Voyager – expanded! All flagship instruments should have the ‘wow’ factor and the Voyager XL certainly has it! Launched in 2011, the XL features the same Bob Moog designed sound engine as the standard Voyager but it’s now coupled to a five-octave, 61-note keyboard with aftertouch. There’s also a ribbon controller for pitch and filter sweeps and at the far left of the front panel is a huge patch panel which turns the standard Voyager into a semi-modular beast along the lines of a Korg MS-20 or ARP 2600. This extra connectivity adds even more flexibility, opening up all manner of new sound adventures that simply aren’t possible with the standard model (unless you purchase the VX-351 and CP-251). You’ll find CV and gate outputs for controlling other CV equipped gear and CV inputs, plus another MIDI Syncable LFO (bringing the total to two like the cheaper Sub 37). A serious synth!
Best FOR… Authentic Minimoog basses and leads, analogue sound FX/drums and modular connectivity. Built like a tank!
Sub 37 | £1,249 A Sub/Little Phatty on steroids! It has its own unique yet unmistakably Moogy character and can play two-note chords. Warm, fuzzy, lively, intuitive and eminently tweakable Unlike its predecessor, the Little Phatty, the new duo-paraphonic Sub 37 has a knob/ switch for pretty much every function, with only a handful of parameters in the menu. So, it’s very hands-on yet remains intuitive. Both the Phatty and Sub 37 are warm sounding with punchy envelopes but the 37’s sound/tuning is more precise due to the revised oscillator designs, which now require no warm-up time. The 37’s dual LFOs, dedicated noise source, sub oscillator, extensive modulation/routings, arpeggiator and 64-step sequencer make it extremely versatile for the studio and stage. The extra preset storage is also indispensable and the Multidrive circuit facilitates extra grit, though it’s less wayward sounding than the Phatty’s Overload. But the mixer can be driven into saturation more easily and there’s a feedback control for thickening the sonics. A very versatile little synth.
Best FOR… Classic and contemporary basses/leads, duophonic madness, crazy modulations/sound FX and twisted arps/duophonic sequences.
The Synth Issue | Feature
hen Moog senior engineer Cyril Lance arrives to chat with us, we are whisked into a back room that houses spare parts, a Synton 3000 modular from the ’80s, and a vintage Moog System 15. “It’s been here a while. It’s always great to have vintage gear around to inspire us,” he explains. Lance, a blues guitarist, is now part of the small team behind the company’s range of electronic kit. Following the warm reception of the Sub 37, you sense from Lance and the rest at Moog that they have plenty of upwards trajectory ahead. FM: Can you characterise Moog’s developmental process these days?
CL: “Products come from all different places. There’s no set path. Once you start developing a product, there’s a
process you follow, but even with that you have to be flexible. I actually see the process as closer to crafting a piece of music. You have some inspiration, then you might have some compositional fundamentals but then you have to be open to where that process takes you. Often an idea will have been discussed – sometimes for
may re-envision how we approach an instrument, while still staying true to the fundamentals. As we grew as a business, we needed to build a foundation and we’ve spent a lot of time doing that. Now our synth line has everything from the Werkstatt, which is one oscillator and very simple (but not sonically simple) all the way up to the Voyager itself.” Did you and Bob ever speak about what Moog should look like ten years from when you started?
“Unfortunately I came aboard when Bob got sick. So we had this plan to
wish that Bob was here to “ Ienjoy the excitement about these instruments”
many years. Then a lot of times, there is input from artists who come to us. And then there’s also an element of the marketplace. Music technology changes and the requirements for a successful instrument change. We
spend a day together each week having conversations but shortly after his diagnosis we had very little time to interface on that level. And there were so many imperatives to solve, the few conversations that we did have tended
to be more technical or just getting to know one another. However, there are people in the company like Steve Dunnington, who had been working with Bob for ten years. I wish to God that he was still here because not a day goes by where I wouldn’t like to ask him something, but also I wish he was here to enjoy this huge growth and excitement about these instruments and the whole world of analogue synthesis and electronic music.” Do people still hammer on at you about creating a polysynth?
“From within 30 seconds of working at Moog. This may seem a little heretical, but I don’t feel that we’ve fully explored the monophonic synthesizer. I feel that we’ve a huge amount of work to do. There’s clarity and focus in a monosynth that you lose in a poly synthesizer. There’s an early tape of Bob creating a synth for Herb Deutsch where he had started exploring polyphony and he felt it was the wrong way to go. Because the harmonic content is so rich in an analogue synth, more voices isn’t always better. Think of a tenor saxophone. Is the world clamouring for a polyphonic tenor saxophone?”
Factory Tour Despite being a Tuesday morning, there’s a small crowd ahead of us touring the Moog factory. They are all clearly twentysomethings and appear to be a group of tourists drawn in by the chalkboard out front. Christmas in Asheville normally brings hordes to see the Biltmore Estate and the grand eloquence of Grove Park Inn but, ever since Moog Music created this location in 2011, visitors have been drawn to its synth-decorated facade to get a look in on how Bob Moog’s legacy is being carried on. FM are no strangers here, having covered the past few editions of Moogfest. On this occasion, what the dazzled group of visitors are probably unaware of, is that Moog have just entered their pre-NAMM frenzy. Our guide informs us that engineering and much of the second floor is off limits to avoid any accidental glimpses of what’s brewing.
Feature | The Synth Issue
hen Tom Carpenter founded the company 18 years ago, Analogue Solutions were one of only a small handful of Eurorack developers. While many have followed his path in recent years, thanks to his resolutely ‘vintage’ ethos, Analogue Solutions remains one of the most respected names in modular-minded synthesis. FM: Can you explain the overall ethos behind Analogue Solutions?
TC: “I have a big love of electronic music and I’ve always been interested in instruments geared towards that. When I started the company I started to build equipment that would help me create the music I like, rather than going by market research and seeing what everyone else wanted. I’m always getting steered by thinking, ‘What
would be my ideal synthesizer?’ It’s always led by me trying to create better electronic music.” So were there any particular instruments that inspired you when you got started?
“It was never any single instrument. When I was younger, it was just
I buy a vintage synth I’ve never “ Ifused before, I can’t help but try
to think what ideas I can borrow”
anything I could get my hands on. It was kind of a golden age when I was a young teenager, as you had things like the DX7 and the Prophet VS, these digital hybrid things. Simmons were still around, companies like that.
Factory Tour We couldn’t help but notice the Synthi 100 that Tom is currently restoring… TC: “The offer came up to buy it and I thought, ‘Oh my god, that’s a lot of money and a lot of work!’ At first I thought it was ridiculous, but it kept nagging at me. I ended up buying it as a box of parts, essentially. There was lots of work to be done. It wasn’t too difficult for me personally – since I manufacture synths, I know how to get parts and where to get printing done. It’s cosmetically almost complete, I’ve now started the rewiring. It’s been about six months. “There are no plans for a [Synthi inspired] product, but I can’t help but be inspired by a project like this. It’s already influenced the design of our new synth, the Nyborg. It’s subtle things that perhaps nobody else would notice, but the influence is there.”
Really it was all new, it was like a big wide world I’d just entered. “When I started building my own products, it’s just been taking a bit from here and a bit from there; pooling ideas from different synths. Even today, if I buy a new vintage synth that I’ve never used before, I can’t help but try to think what ideas I can borrow. Not necessarily circuits – I’ve just bought an old Yamaha CS30, and I quite like the way some of the signals are labelled and routed. Just subtle things really, but it will all leak into designs in the future.”
How do your own musical endeavours influence the design process?
“I have a music partner in San Francisco who does a lot of the Analogue Solutions videos and their music. We had the idea to get together
and do some songs, partly to promote the synths, but also to create original music for our band, Sound Of Science. I’d say 95% of the sounds are coming from Analogue Solutions gear and vintage analogue. Using my own stuff for songwriting allows me to really test everything. I’ve got to be honest, when I started to use my own synths like that, I was actually pleasantly surprised that they did everything I set out to do! Being a designer, I look at any products I use, not just music stuff, and it’s shocking how many of them are awful in use. The boot lid of my car, for example – you open it after it’s been raining and it tips water all over your head; the designer obviously hasn’t checked it does what it’s supposed to do.” Why do you think modular has seen a surge in popularity in recent years?
“I think it’s because you can build up a system in affordable chunks. Instead of spending £2,000 on a synth, you can buy a case for £200 and build something up over a few years. And there’s that collectability side to it too – you can go out and buy a new module and suddenly your system is a little bit better.”
The Synth Issue | Feature
002 | £2,995 Quite possibly the future of synthesizers. The all-British made Modulus 002 adds functionality and modulation like nothing we have seen. A classic is born The chief aim with the 002 is to combine vintage sounds with a modern interface. It features your classic subtractive architecture, with PPG-esque oscillators and a Moog-style ladder filter (with unique ‘polesweeping’ morph feature). It draws inspiration from the classics, but still has a firm eye on the future. The 002 features 12-voice polyphony with full multi-timbrality. At its heart are two oscillators and two switchable sub-oscillators per voice, with over 50 waveforms to choose from. The 12 Track, 12 row, 32-step sequencer can be used to control notes and parameters with any part of the synth available for modulation. It’s connected to the internet via ethernet cable and can be updated direct with Modulus planning regular updates, but the real winner is the editor which can be accessed via any HTML5 browser anywhere.
Best FOR… An almost infinite amount of modulation via the sequencer. In-browser editing and sharing new patches with other 002 users via the cloud.
Polymath | £2,280 A fully modular system that is crying out to be rewired, patched into an existing modular set-up or cross-patched with another Polymath The Analogue Solutions Polymath is a four-oscillator paraphonic synth. The idea behind the Polymath was to make, probably, the first modular paraphonic synth – with perhaps a few rare exceptions. Similar to a Korg Mono/Poly, its architecture is very much like a paraphonic synth. The fact that it’s modular means you can rewire it how you want. Instead of playing a straight four-note chord, with four oscillators you can use two as oscillators and the other two can be used for modulation. The combination of an arpeggiator and an analogue step-sequencer in there gives you more tools to create a unique sound. Having it play the arpeggiator, the sequencer running to control the filter, playing a chord and adding some spring reverb, and you have a characteristic sound that is unlike any other standard monosynth.
Best FOR… Experimentation and expansion. From classic four-note chords to complex filter sequenced arps. It can effectively be expanded with other modules, or whatever takes your fancy.
Feature | The Synth Issue
fter an early career developing electronics for Sweden’s telecommunications industry, Hans Nordelius founded Clavia – the company behind Nord instruments – alongside Mikael Carlson in the early ’80s. Following early success with their Digital Percussion Plate (DPP) range, the first Nord Lead synthesizer arrived in 1995, bringing with it a groundbreaking leap in virtual analogue technology. Several updates, Stage pianos and modular systems later, and the rest, as they say, is history. FM: Did you have a background in music before founding the company?
HN: “I was a Pop guitar player, and then I went over to keyboards and played in different bands, but mainly I’m an engineer and into the electronics side.”
So you originally started developing instruments in your spare time?
“Yes. For many years. I started the company in the early ’80s, and I built my first electronic organ around ’75. It was mainly inspired by me not having the money to buy a Hammond Organ or a Minimoog, but I had the skills to build things. It
made it in eight months. “ We I don’t know how we managed it – we were just three guys”
wasn’t originally to start a business; it was just for myself. “It was always in my mind to work in the music industry, but I didn’t know how or when. I was playing in a Punk band by the early ’80s and I
Factory Tour Nord gear is devised, developed and hand-built in an old 19th century cigarette factory, tucked behind an unassuming, graffiti-covered facade in Stockholm’s fashionable Södermalm district. HN: “We were outside the city for many years, and we came into the centre of Stockholm in the ’90s. It’s very good having a location like this. Because we’re small and have everything in the same building, things can happen quite fast. If you have a production line elsewhere you miss a lot of communication between the production guys and the developers. Small things could cause problems in production but you might not be aware of it. When it’s close, people talk a lot, and it means we can keep the quality high because the people in production, final test and the developers all communicate with each other.”
had a Rhodes, a Clavinet and I had my own small synthesizer. The drummer asked me for a drum synthesizer. At that time, building a synth for a drummer wasn’t that exciting to me, but I found that if I took some technology from my work – get a D/A converter, put it in a box and put some sound in an EPROM – I could sample sounds for him. I didn’t think about making a business from it; it was just an easy way around it for me. But he was impressed, as were a lot of musicians. Around that time there might have been a few digital drum machines on
the market, but there were no digital drum pads. So a lot of drummers came and asked me to build one for them. I realised it could be a good product. So that was the beginning of the company.”
How long was the first Nord Lead in development before its release?
“It was quite a fast project. I had two software engineers employed at the time. It was based on an old dream we had to make a completely digital Prophet 5, because I had one but it was very expensive and had a lot of tuning problems. At the beginning of the ’90s we looked around to see what kind of processors were available, but you didn’t have the power. But by ’94 we realised that there was a DSP available with enough power to create an analogue modelling synthesizer. From there, we made it in eight months. Looking back, I don’t know how we managed it – we were just three guys.” Is the process of sampling and modelling instruments an ongoing thing?
“With the original we didn’t look at specific components, like the Moog filter; we just made a digital low-pass filter. Later we went into exploring different analogue synths. At the same time we made sure the Nord Lead had its own sound, so we always have one foot in the analogue world, and one foot in digital.” We
The Synth Issue | Feature
Stage 2 | £2,369 A very well spec’d performance board that can cover just about anything in the studio and on stage. It’s super easy to use considering how much is onboard Nord’s flagship all-rounder takes key elements from their other products and puts them all into one easy-to-use performance-orientated instrument. There’s a great-sounding organ section (B3/Vox/Farfisa with digital drawbars, plus realistic vibrato, percussion and Leslie/ drive emulations), a piano section featuring authentic acoustic grands and uprights with long release and pedal resonance modes, various electric pianos (several Rhodes plus a Wurli and CP80 and a Clavinet with dedicated pickup switching/EQ buttons), a streamlined-yet-versatile VA synth with simple arpeggiator and user sample upload feature and an External section for controlling other MIDI gear, plus there’s some great amp emulations and powerful insert/global FX included. You can split and layer sounds very easily and there’s very little reliance on menus, making it perfect for live set-ups.
Best FOR… Authentic organ sounds, great acoustic pianos/EPs/Clavs, MIDI controller duties, staple poly/mono synth sounds and FX.
Lead A1 | £1,169 It’s a couple of hundred quid cheaper than the Lead 4 and simpler to use with nicely different FX. The tweaked filter models give it a nicely vintage tone The Lead A1 takes the essence of Nord’s flagship Lead 4 and distils it into a simpler to use package with preset oscillator configurations to make sound designing super-easy to set up. It sounds every bit as good as the Lead 4 in terms of the oscillators, and the filters have been tweaked to sound even more vintage and juicy, though there’s no dedicated filter envelope. However, in addition, there are some great new FX onboard including an ensemble and phaser effect for making those great ’70s string ensemble sounds. As another bonus, there are now separate delay and reverb sections (the Lead 4 only allows you to use delay or reverb on a sound) so you can now have delays and reverbs running simultaneously which is very handy indeed when designing patches. All in all, a very appealing package.
Best FOR… Authentic analogue-style mono and poly sounds and FX plus quick and intuitive sound design.
Feature | The Synth Issue
Solaris | 3,680 euros A truly unique synth that can do very authentic impressions of the classic analogues but can go way beyond this into completely new territory with all the features on offer The most striking thing about the Solaris is its hands-on interface which has several different modules available on the front panel which you can wire together in different ways. Each main section (Oscillators, LFOs, Filters/VCAs, Envelopes, Mixer/FX and Envelopes) has its own screen, making it easy to dial in complex sounds quickly. The number of sound-shaping possibilities onboard is staggering – there are four oscillators including Prophet 5 and Minimoog oscillator models (plus wavetables and sample playback facilities), four LFOs, 10-voice polyphony, several filters (including a 23-mode multimode filter, plus CEM, SSM, Vocal, Comb, Minimoog and Oberheim State Variable modes), four mixers, six five-stage envelopes and a 16-step four-track sequencer. And it sounds superb – it’s lush, warm, bright hi-fi and pulls off mean analogue impressions too.
Best FOR… Solid analogue impersonations, complex modulated sounds, detailed and super-deep sound FX and evolving sound design.
Sledge | £683 A nicely priced hands-on synth that offers a decent amount of functionality, a great sounding VA engine, solid staple effects and a keyboard with aftertouch, which is a rarity these days! The Sledge features a five-octave keyboard with aftertouch and it’s powered by an authentically analogue-sounding virtual analogue engine designed by those well-respected boffins at Waldorf. It’s priced nicely and offers a lot of functionality but with a very tactile, hand-on interface. Its front panel is nicely laid out, with three oscillators, each with five waves. Then there’s a very analogue sounding poly-glide, two LFOs with several waves that can be sent to the oscs independently (plus to volume, the filter and waves/PWM) whilst Osc 2 and 3 can also be frequency-modulated by Osc 1 and 2 for all manner of crazy sounds and effects. There’s a nice filter (with drive and 12/24dB slopes) onboard, a simple mixer and filter and amp envelopes. To top things off, there’s also a basic yet handy arpeggiator and two very nice sounding effects units.
Best FOR… Analogue brass, warm pads, evolving sounds, staple analogue solo leads and deep bass sounds.
Feature | The Synth Issue
Dave Smith Instruments
Pro-2 | £1,360 It may be smaller but it sounds every bit as good as the flagship P12 (and then some with all the new features onboard). Very powerful and versatile yet intuitive! The Pro-2 is based on the Prophet 12’s powerful sound engine but with a few significant tweaks. Firstly, it has in the main been designed as a powerful monosynth and at this it excels, but in addition it features a unique poly/paraphonic function that allows you to play up to four-note polyphonic chords where each note in a chord can have its own oscillator and wave! This makes for some truly unique sounds that can adventure beyond even the Prophet 12. In addition, the Pro-2 houses a powerful multi-track sequencer that can sequence both CV and MIDI data and there are two new filter designs (a thick and juicy low-pass based on the Prophet 5 filter and a multimode based on the Oberheim filter) that can be flexibly mixed together onboard, which again set it apart nicely from the P12. One of the most exciting synths to appear in recent times.
Best FOR… Exciting polyphonic sounds, edgy/deep mono basses and leads, complex live sequencing, evolving sounds and FX.
Dave Smith Instruments
P12 Module | £1,539 It has fewer hands-on controls than the keyboard version but it’s got the all-important P12 sound engine and all the key features. A very powerful yet extremely portable polysynth The Prophet 12 Module packs in the same 12-note polyphonic engine as its keyboardladen brother. Featuring brand new high-resolution DSP oscillators (four in total) running through Curtis low-pass and high-pass analogue filters, the sound is bold and upfront but with plenty of texture. It’s capable of emulating older sounds when using the classic analogue style waves (which can all have their shapes twisted/modulated), but once you add in the new waveforms which include types such as ‘buzzz’ and ‘ohhh’ and morph between them, you’ll find that the P12M has a unique yet unmistakably DSI-ish sound! Add in the effects (which include an analogue distortion and digital character effects for dirtying or thickening up sounds), an arpeggiator and four analogue delay units, plus deep modulation possibilities, and you basically have a Prophet 12 in a streamlined package!
Best FOR… Creating atmospheric textures, complex evolving pads, punchy leads and cutting polyphonic sounds and FX.
The Synth Issue | Feature
relatively small, localised operation. What benefits does this have?
o call Dave Smith an icon of the synthesizer industry would be something of an understatement. Trained in computer science and electronic engineering, he began his career in music with the founding of Sequential Circuits in the mid-’70s, launching the iconic – and hugely influential – Prophet 5 polyphonic synth alongside John Bowen soon after. This was followed by the (now ultra-rare) ten-voice Prophet 10, and the equally seminal Pro-One monosynth, which provides the indirect inspiration for Smith’s recent Pro-2 (see opposite!). This alone would have been enough to cement his place in the annals of synth history, but for Dave Smith this was just the beginning. In the early ’80s, working alongside a handful of other designers, including Tom Oberheim and the teams at Roland, Yamaha and Korg, Smith was instrumental in the creation of MIDI, which still remains the standard for communication between electronic instruments today. The mid-’90s, meanwhile, saw him take over the helm of software company Seer Systems, resulting in the creation of one of the first ever software synths. Since 2001, Smith has been running his own hardware company, Dave Smith Instruments (DSI), producing a run of instant classic instruments, including the Prophet 08, Evolver, Mopho and Tempest drum machine – a collaboration with Roger Linn. Despite its pedigree, however, DSI remains a fairly low-key operation, run by a relatively small team in San Francisco’s North Beach neighbourhood. With the release of his first modular unit just last summer – the DSM01 Curtis Filter – it’s clear that Dave Smith has no intention of merely living off his legacy. We’re certainly excited to see what projects he’s got up his sleeves for 2015… FM: The use of DCOs alongside ‘true’ analogue circuits has become one of the defining features of DSI
synths. What, for you, is the main advantage of using DCOs? Do you still meet any resistance from vintage purists who’d rather things be ‘100% analogue’?
DS: “Many people do not realise that the output from a DCO is 100% analogue. The waveshapes are generated in the same way as in a VCO, starting with charging a capacitor. The only difference is a DCO’s frequency is controlled digitally, a VCO’s frequency is controlled via a control voltage. “A DCO has the advantage of stability; it does not drift like VCOs do. You can make it as accurate or inaccurate as you want since we always include a ‘slop’ control.” Despite being a bigger name in the industry, you’ve kept DSI as a
“We move quickly, and can do whatever we want! We do not have a big infrastructure to support, so decisions are not made for business reasons, but rather based on what cool instrument we want to develop next.” Almost 20 years on from your stint developing soft synths with Seer Systems, would you ever consider returning to the realm of software synth development?
“I have no interest in developing soft synths. While they usually sound good, and they’re cheap, and it’s nice to be in the box, they simply don’t have the sound and personality of a ‘real’ instrument that you can touch and hold. Synths are made to interact with, and knobs are much better than dragging a mouse on a monitor!” How close a relationship do you have with the musicians that use your instruments? Does their feedback influence the design process?
are made to interact “ Synths with, and knobs are much better than dragging a mouse”
“We talk to a lot of players to get feedback on our synths. We don’t specifically get input on new products we’re developing, but we take previous suggestions into account. We do not make custom versions; we’d rather spend the time on new designs!” You released your first modular offering over the summer (the DSM01). What was the inspiration behind that?
“It was something new and fun to do. We do plan on some future modules; in fact we now have the DSM02 Character module, which takes the Character section from the Prophet 12 and Pro 2 and puts it into a module.” Given the recent popularity of ‘affordable analogue’ instruments and recreations of vintage synths, do you think there’s less of a market for innovative hardware instruments now than there was in the ’80s and ’90s?
“There’s plenty of innovation that can be done within the scope of analogue synthesis. We always try new approaches in our new designs to keep it fresh and interesting.” Would you ever consider going down the road of recreating one of your classic Sequential Circuits synths, in the way Korg have with the MS-20?
“Exact copies seem pointless, since it’s already been done. But, the idea of creating an instrument inspired by a classic design can be interesting, as long as it’s different. Stay tuned!” Your collaboration with Roger Linn on the Tempest was a huge success. Would you consider joining forces once again?
“No specific plans at the moment, but some time in the future it would be fun to try something new.” Aside from your own achievements, what other instruments or music tech innovations have stood out as particularly impressive or inspirational to you over the years?
“Nothing specific, but what’s really cool now is that there are so many instruments out there – analogue, digital, and software – and most of them sound good. “Of course I’m partial to our synthesizers, but it’s a great time to be a synth player with so much to choose from!””
In The Studio With | Panda Bear
Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear) has used a band sabbatical to create a fifth solo album, the sublime Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper. Hamish Mackintosh talks tech, touring and Octatracks with the Panda-in-chief
© Kevin Lake
with… o i d u t in the s
Panda Bear | In The Studio With
ome people’s work rate is sent to shame you. None more so than Mr Noah Lennox or Panda Bear as he’s also, more commonly, known. As if being one quarter of the wondrous Animal Collective or contributing vocals to Daft Punk’s Doin’ It Right wasn’t enough, Noah has just unveiled his fifth solo offering, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, and what a damn fine musical offering it turns out to be. Fashioned in his Lisbon home studio, the new album was produced with former Spaceman 3 honcho, Sonic Boom (Pete Kember) and, as with previous Panda Bear outings, showcases Noah Lennox’s deft touch with a melody and joyous mash-up approach to guitars, samples and synths. FM hooked up with Lennox, both at home in Lisbon and at the West London home of his label, the brilliant Domino Records, to talk through his creative process and the tools of his trade for the uplifting new album.
FM: Is starting your album with a track called Sequential Circuits a technological statement of intent? Noah Lennox: “It’s kind of just a name I liked, although a lot of the songs touch on reflections on identity and the way things move in the context of identity and thought processes, so I liked that the title gives an image of that, right off the bat. I should say that it was a working title from way back and I’d always intended to name it something else because I don’t actually use any Sequential Circuits gear on the record, although from the very first tour Animal Collective went on, Dave (Portner) used to play his guitar through a Sequential Circuits delay unit that I’ve never seen another one of. It had a glittery dolphin sticker and he got it second-hand somewhere. It felt like it was broken as it had a mind of its own. I guess the brand Sequential Circuits has just stuck with me. We met Dave Smith when we played a festival in San Francisco and he was a really nice, mellow guy.”
Lennox’s Moog Voyager provided the bulk of the basslines for his latest album
Do you use a lot of Dave Smith’s other brilliant invention, MIDI? “I quite like MIDI and I use it a bit. As far as robo-languages go, there’s a lot of stuff with software programs these days that will skip some steps or automate certain things for you and I kind of understand that process but I find I don’t typically enjoy the results. I prefer to use software in a caveman, cruder sort of way. I think things end up being livelier and a little more human in a way that I resonate to more if I do it that way. MIDI is a digital language that seems to have its own little idiosyncrasies that I appreciate.”
advantages and disadvantages. I feel like we tried to find a happy medium where we could add MIDI elements, for example; you have to have the thing locked to be able to sort that kind of thing but, again, not having all the delays exactly matched and bpm-synced. We wouldn’t let the computer match things up as we always tried to make sure that there was the stamp of a human being there amongst all the sounds and the way it all fits together.”
FM enjoyed that the new album doesn’t sound as if everything has been quantised to within an inch of its life. Was that a deliberate thing? “Totally – that’s kind of what I’m talking about with technology. There is a give and take, in that if you don’t put things on a grid on the computer there are
So, you’re not a fan of every element being locked in on the beat within a track? “It’s a similar sort of deal with Auto-Tune, really. Recently I saw this thing about Mariah Carey singing at some Christmas event in America and there’s been outrage online about how bad her
vocals are when they’re isolated. I took a listen to it and clearly she seems to be having some problem with her voice but it doesn’t sound that bad to me. I think it’s because people have become so used to hyper-polished vocals with everything being perfectly locked pitch-wise, so anything with a normal sounding voice now sounds off to people! [Laughs] They’re gonna hate this album. I’ve never Auto-Tuned vocals but this album features a lot less ‘surgery’ as far as the takes and editing.” It’s looser than some of your other solo stuff… “It’s definitely looser but, again, there’s a give and take there where sometimes these sorts of imperfections in vocal takes give the songs an emotional quality that maybe doesn’t exist when
In The Studio With | Panda Bear
everything is over-polished. There were a couple of times where we’d try and improve the vocal on a couple of the more vocal-heavy tracks but we found that it was the inexactness of the vocals and the way they fit together that really gave the song it’s character so we just let it be.” You’re on record as liking to work quickly. Is that still important to you? “I’ve changed a little bit. Especially working with Pete [Kember aka Spaceman 3’s Sonic Boom] I’ve learned how to take my time with stuff a little more. I’d still argue that there are always a couple of hours or a very distinct moment where the magic of the song happens and everything after that is just sort of refining that moment. So, I still feel I need that quick blast of inspiration for the thing to feel worthwhile, although I’ve also got better at polishing the rock.”
Do you know when a track is done? “Yeah. Like anybody, it helps to have deadlines but I’m restless as a creative person so just my appetite for moving on to a new thing combined with my self-consciousness about releasing something half-assed… those two things in conjunction mean that I can pretty easily get things done.” Can you talk FM through the gear you have set up in your home studio in Lisbon? “It’s pretty simple. I have a room in my apartment dedicated to production; then, because my daughter gets really embarrassed hearing me sing in the house, I rent a room with another band in Lisbon that’s underground with no windows. If I want to do something loud, test sounds out or sing, then I’ll often go there. In my place I’ve got a pair of Yamaha HS50m monitors, the new versions of their NS10s.
I really like those a lot and I don’t have a second set of monitors as I’ll usually just A/B on laptop speakers, especially as I suspect the percentage of people who’ll actually listen to their music on laptop speakers is shockingly high! “I use a JoMox XBase 999 drum machine, which I really love. I just got a couple of JoMox Eurorack drum modules too and they’re sweet. I have a Universal Audio Apollo sound card and I’d say that maybe about 70% of the plug-ins that I use are Universal Audio. I have a Drawmer compressor, which I rarely use and a Neve 1073DPD, which I use as a mic preamp. It’s just two channels but it’s that classic, warm Neve quality. I’ll send pretty much everything through the Neve then into the Apollo.” Any preferred mics for your vocals or guitars? “I don’t think we used it on this album but I have a Shure SM7B mic, which is the one they used for Thriller and it’s really dry and upfront sounding. In studios that have them I usually go through a Neumann U67, which seems to be the one people usually use on my vocal. Ben Allen who did Merriweather Post Pavilion with us used the Neumann after testing a bunch of other mics. It’s also the one Pete favours and when I did the track with Daft Punk I think that’s the one they used too.”
There’s always a distinct moment where the magic of the song happens and everything after is just sort of refining that moment
Noted for his love of samplers, what is Noah’s current sampler of choice? “I do love the Octatrack. I’m not a big fan of using a laptop onstage myself. I’m not opposed to it, I just never felt like I could figure out a way of doing it where I felt like I was still performing or that there was a flexibility to it. I know Daniel from Oneohtrix and, talking to him, he’s found a way to achieve that but I haven’t really sorted it yet. So, the Octatracks are essentially my way of having Ableton in a box if you deal with it a specific way. I’m basically taking stems of the studio recording over seven of the tracks, using the eighth as a master channel. Typically I’ll take drums, bass, weird percussion stuff, weird sound stuff and maybe a main melodic component so I know everything’s set up with that template. There are two Octatracks, both of which contain the exact same information on the card and I kind of mix from one song to the next. Some nights I do it better than others but it’s essentially DJing the stems of the record.”
Since you mentioned it… How did the collaboration with Daft Punk come about? “I’ve been a fan of theirs since Homework and love what they do. We had a song called My Girls that we wanted a remix done for so we took a shot in the dark and asked Daft Punk. They came back saying they really liked the track but they weren’t really interested in doing remixes anymore. So, I asked them again when I did the Tomboy album and got the same answer but Thomas [Bangalter] and I stayed in touch with an email here and there and he came to a show in Paris. One day I got an email saying that they were working on a new group of songs and they had one that maybe I could work on and would I want to come to Paris and work with them? I was super excited and really nervous – I felt like I went in there and I didn’t totally fuck it up!” What about keyboards and synths… Do you still have your Korg M3 workstation that you’ve used on previous projects? “I have the M3, which I bought without a keyboard as I wanted to write songs on a guitar but also have some sort of electronic component but that wasn’t too convenient. I wanted to have to sequence everything and it would have to be the antithesis of whatever the guitar was doing, in a way. I only think I used the M3 once on this record. I also have a Moog Voyager that maybe 90% of the bass sounds on the album are from. Pete gave me an old Yamaha TX81Z module and I have an x0xb0x, which is the replica of the TB-303 but I don’t use it that often. It’s a very distinct, squelchy sound so quite limited but when you need that sound it’s the guy for the job.”
In The Studio With | Panda Bear
Do you think the Voyagers don’t get the praise they deserve in comparison to older Moogs? “Absolutely… They’re brilliant synths and more convenient than the old ones with their MIDI capabilities. They still go out of tune at times as we found when Animal Collective took one out on tour. I think that might be something to do with power/ voltage issues between different countries.” You set yourself a challenge with Grim Reaper to use bought samples in a new way… “All the songs started using drum breaks. I found a folder online of hundreds of the most commonly used, hackneyed breaks. At first I was just using them for fun but after a while I got into the idea of using something that felt very typical in a way that felt like nobody else could’ve made the thing that was made. I have a healthy fear of repeating myself
so I don’t like to use the same set-up or process for making something. Any time I shove myself into a place where I’m not super comfortable, it forces me to do something different in ways I find exciting, and hopefully that resonates with other people too. As a creative person, as in life, it’s good to explore.” What’s your modus operandi for dealing with the samples as you put them into a track? “Actually, the Octatracks came in at the end of the album and it was a way of taking everything I’d done out of the computer and Ableton. Everything was eventually recorded onto Pro Tools but the workbench was Ableton. Again, I’m not a big fan of the auto-warping side of Ableton so I always turn that off. Having the flexibility of seeing an audio form and being able to take little bits of it and move them around, put effects on them, drop the pitch –
With its infectious vocal hook, Boy’s Latin is one of many standout tracks on the album. Noah talks FM through its creation… “I don’t think that one has a drum break but once I’d started going along the path of using a common sample I wanted to use some stuff from a commercially available sound-pack. I like the fact that a lot of those samples have no soul to them; not in a bad way but just that they’re devoid of personality, so I like the idea of taking something like that and going in the opposite way with it. So, I think Boy’s Latin has some Reggae drums sound-pack samples in it; the Reggae rhythm being a sort of mirror of a Rock beat – where the kick and snare hit in a typical Rock beat is inverted with Reggae. If you move that beat in a DAW then, of course, you can get results that then don’t sound so typically Reggae or Dub. I think there was a combination of a couple of different beats isolated and moved around that formed the rhythmic basis of it. Then I figured out that bouncing vocal thing, which then really became what the song was about. The day I did that and figured out how it could sit with the rhythm was the important time. Everything else was just adding trimmings to that concept.”
all those things are how I’d play around with the samples initially. The singing and the words were the very last thing. The first few months of each track was mainly trying to get the rhythm a very specific way and have the sounds work together. Then, when I took it to the studio, Pete wanted to take everything I’d already done, isolate each element and send it through all the gear in the studio to maximise all the sounds. That was then our foundation for adding all the vocals and percussion.” Do your Roland SP-303 and SP-555 samplers still get a run out at all? “I still use the reverbs on them. When the new versions of them came out, Roland switched a lot of the algorithms for the delays and the reverbs, which were the two things I used the most. So, I’ll still fire them up if I want that particular type of reverb.
Panda Bear | In The Studio With
There’s also a certain quality to them – maybe the way they compress the sound or something – that, if I’m looking for that then I’ll go to them too.” Have you used any software samplers yet? “I haven’t yet, no. It’s not software but the one place I wish I’d gone is the MPC route. I have a bunch of friends who use them and Ben Allen would just be seemingly hitting random buttons and doing everything so fast with his. Sometimes the way certain machines are set up – or maybe there are quirks about them that people find, that push the boundaries of the operating system and make a process really simple that can produce really musical results. I like how we develop relationships with machines… or not. I like when they become almost little friends [laughs], although sometimes they become enemies! The M3 and I were a bit of both.”
Do you enjoy stepping out of the democracy of working within a band? “Yeah, it forces you to do things in a new way and keeps things fresh. Stuff I learn from one thing bleeds into the next and it just carries on in that way. Just having a different look or different mentality about what you’re making helps keep it interesting.” What first drew you to Ableton? “My friend Bradford Cox of Deerhunter was the first one to mention it. We went on tour together and we’d talk about how I used to use a cassette eight-track and that was essentially how I’d learned to record music and it was my favourite thing to use. I’d been using Cubase and he said I should really try Ableton – that coming from a four-track/eight-track mindset you could use it that way, and it was easy to use. It was on his advice that I started using it.”
You mentioned using a lot of Universal Audio plug-ins on the album. Which ones do you use? “The Cooper Time Cube I use extensively – I kind of abuse it. I use it almost like a chorus effect where it just thickens and fattens certain sounds. Spatially it’s really good and makes something much wider. There’s one called the Voice of God that’s a sub, which I use on bass and kicks all the time. It can get a bit out of control if you’re not vigilant with it.” So, was the Boy’s Latin vocal a happy accident? “I think it was as it’s two vocals together and I think I was just playing the track and singing along with it. I started singing the first part, tracked it really quickly and while I was listening back to it I was singing a harmony. It’s sort of like evolution where there are mistakes that are made that eventually become better versions of what you had before. That’s kind of how I work. “I enjoy doing my vocals a lot. That’s when I lock the door to do it though, as the thought of someone barging in on me while I’m doing them, feeling very vulnerable… That’s happened before and it’s pretty horrible! Getting the space to feel really safe is when things happen that can be really powerful.” Are there any new bits of gear that you’re currently lusting after? “I’m trying to use this Eurorack stuff. I know it’s getting popular nowadays but I really like it because the idea that you can build your own, idiosyncratic instrument from these various elements is so exciting. I sat for a while conceptualising what my little box was gonna be and I’m not totally done putting it together yet. It is frightfully expensive too. “I’m not sure if I’ll use it live – I’d like to be able to get my head around the thing to the point where I can just get up onstage and know where everything needs to go. If that doesn’t happen then I’m hoping that it might dictate the song-writing process and I’ll try to write new songs with it.” What comes next for Noah Lennox? “The last two years, for me, I’ve toured quite a bit. I haven’t done a whole load of solo touring in the past. I’m doing a little bit of live stuff in the spring, maybe a couple of festivals, then I’m shifting my focus back over to Animal Collective.” Do you enjoy playing live and touring? “There are things about touring and performing that have helped me learn things about myself and the world that I never would’ve learned any other way. Of course, I endlessly appreciate people coming out to support the shows too. I definitely don’t feel like I was ‘born to perform’ so my favourite part of the process is still putting the songs together in the studio – just that moment when you make something, listen back to it and think, ‘man, this sounds cool’. That juice is what makes all the rest of it worthwhile.”
want to know more? Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper is out now via Domino. Find out more at http://www.pbvsgr.com/
The Track | Melé
The Ritzy Quadrants, 2014
ince debuting back in 2009, Wirral born producer Melé has touched on a wide range of dancefloor sounds. From synth-driven Garage and 808-powered House, to the high tempo Grime of last year’s Kano collaboration Beamer, he’s proved himself to be a particularly agile and adaptable beatmaker. Following a quiet few months, November saw him return with a pair of Rave-inspired tracks on his own, newly founded label Quadrants. FM paid him a visit to discover the ideas behind his latest sound.
New ideas “I had the idea of [starting] the label for maybe about a year and a half; it was kind of just getting the right music together really.
Melé | The Track
“The Ritzy was a club in the town where I grew up on the Wirral. There was this club called The Ritzy in Bromborough where my aunties and uncles would go when I was younger. It’s not there anymore but you can go on YouTube and search for The Ritzy and you’ll find ‘Livin’ Joy perform Dreamer at The Ritzy’ or something like that. So I just thought it was kind of a cool name.”
I wanted to launch it with something that was going to be a real representation of where we were going in the new year. I came up with these two tracks pretty quickly actually. I just got on to Ableton and the first one I did was The Ritzy. I’d built up maybe about 15 tunes between summer last year and now, but I scrapped all of them. I did these two – The Ritzy and its B-side – in about two weeks. I just knew as soon as I’d done them that it was going to be the first thing for the label. “I always try to do different stuff; my music represents what I go and DJ on the weekend. That could be from House, Techno, Grime, Jungle, whatever. It’s kind of a mixture between all these sort of things; the last track I had out was a Grime track with an MC on, so this one I wanted to go and do something which I was playing in my sets at the time. I’ve been playing a lot of old Rave bits, a lot of old R&S, and Techno, so I wanted to do a two-tracker that was still in my style but trying some different ground really. “This track actually started from a Future Music sample CD. I forgot which one it was, maybe one in the summer or something like that. This is the first track I’ve made in Ableton as I was using Logic X for a couple of months but I just didn’t really like the flow of it; it was kind of just slowing me down and stuff. I was on a train going to a gig and I’d found this [synth] sample on the CD, which I really
liked the sound of the first note of. So I took that and arranged it with a little loop I had going. I then started playing with the envelopes in Ableton. Because I was getting into new software it was kind of nice to find different ways of working. “It’s kind of weird this track; usually I’d always start a track with drums. So it’s nice getting in to Ableton and starting to get into new habits and things. Once you get stuck in the same old thing, the ideas can get a bit stale.”
A simplified mix “I wanted to make this one a lot easier for me to mix. A lot of the time, I tend to overcomplicate my tracks, which is annoying as I always kick myself when I’m DJing as I can’t mix them very well. I usually start with some weird drums or something that makes it impossible for myself. So here I started with this really simple hat loop, and then I found some old school breaks which I put in. I had the idea of making this track a sort of massive warehouse Rave track, sort of like how Liam Howlett used to do, on the first Prodigy album especially – how everything used to seem to be drenched in reverb but didn’t sound weird. I just started experimenting with that sort of thing. So there are really simple drums to start off with. I just wanted to make it a lot easier for me, or other DJs, to mix with it.”
The Track | Melé
FXpansion’s delay plug-in Bloom has become something of a secret weapon for Melé
“I made the whole intro and build-up in keeping with the Rave theme. I have these [vocal] stabs in there, which I drenched in the Ableton Reverb. I’ve got a few UAD reverbs as well but, to be honest, I’ve never really used them. I think the Ableton one, for what it is, is brilliant. I then found one of those old Rave videos, Fantazia or something, which was just a load of people on camera talking at the end of the Rave. I just took the little end bit and used that as – I don’t want to say ‘the drop’, but the little bit before the drop I suppose. Then I came in with some 909 snares, again with the Ableton reverb on them. “That’s it for the intro really. I didn’t want to do it how a lot of Dance tracks are, where they go intro, breakdown, load of white noise… I wanted the intro and the build-up to merge into one.”
Building the rhythm “When the drop comes in, I suppose the natural thing for the track would be for it to go into the standard House-y kick/clap. But I decided to confuse myself even more and do some sort of half time drums. I like doing half time tracks at House tempo; I think there’s something really strange about it. So I came up with these really simple drums, because that’s how I wanted to keep it. There’s nothing major done to the kick or anything. I think it’s really important to choose sounds that sound good anyway, rather than overcomplicating things and ending up with channels full of compressors and EQs and stuff. So I’m just low-cutting everything that I don’t want in that bottom-end – hi-hats and percussion, that sort of thing. I have the kick following the same pattern as that main synth loop. It gives a weird sort of rhythm to it. Then I also have this rolling shaker, which was from a bigger loop, but I think I just cut it. On top of that it was just a case of building layers up. I had this 808 snare which, when I listened to the master of the track, I really wish I’d turned the decay down on as it was just way too much. It kind of muddied things up. But that’s how it turned out. It was weird – when I actually heard the master it kind of changed the dynamics of the track a bit. But I like the low-end; it’s a lot better in the mastered version.”
Melé | The Track
“A plug-in called Bloom by FXpansion has really become a big part of my sound. It’s basically a modulation/tape-delay sort of thing. There are a lot of different features in it; you can get really deep but, to be honest, I just use it as a delay. I often put it on hi-hats or snares just to sit in the background; I find that’s a good way to fill out tracks. I know some people will use reverb to fill up space, but for me I seem to use Bloom a lot.”
“The thing that ties everything together with this track is the bassline. It comes from [Native Instruments] Monark, which is in Reaktor. It just started as a standard sub bass. The way I always do my basslines is I’ll come up on the attack of the filter envelope. When I started I didn’t know how to EQ or mix the kick and sub together, when you have that initial hit. So I’d always come up on the filter envelope so the kick would deal with the first part of it and the sub would follow after.”
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Technique | The Ultimate Guide To CV
We may live in a digital world, but recent years have seen a resurgence in gear using analogue sound generation circuits or embracing analogue control voltage principles for synchronisation and control. It’s time to get plugging…
lectronically assisted music has, perhaps surprisingly, been with us nearly 150 years – though sound generation as a by-product of electrical experiments goes back somewhat further. Although the first forays in this area were rudimentary and often by-products of research into telecommunications and commercial radio, there is a potent lineage of electronic synthesizers. However, the idea of building modules that could be linked in a standardised way did not become a commercial reality until the arrival of the transistor. In this arena it was Bob Moog and Don Buchla that took
the lead, though both with different approaches to how these ‘modular’ systems would be interconnected and controlled. Buchla, being more interested in freeing musicians from musical tradition, eschewed a conventional keyboard. Moog, however, wanted his systems to be musical and exhibit a broadly predictable behaviour when routing audio and control signals between modules. To this end, each module had jack-based inputs and outputs that could be freely linked, whether they carried audio or control information.
Back to basics Let’s take the example of an oscillator circuit. Rather than just having a knob to control frequency, or having it pre-wired to a specific keyboard system, we could allow
The Ultimate Guide To CV | Technique
CV Patching Basics Delving into the world of CV patching needn’t require you to go modular or fully retro as there are some great newer synths that may help you get started In the world of mono synths, CV/Gate interfacing can still hold its own – and unencumbered by issues of polyphony. It is also now relatively cheap to provide some form of CV-MIDI conversion – as witnessed by Waldorf’s Pulse 2 as well as Arturia’s recent foray into the non-digital world. The MicroBrute in particular is of much interest to voltage control nerds on a budget and has CV/ Gate in/out, MIDI and USB-based note control. More significantly it also features a small patchbay that offers LFO and envelope outputs, and CV input control over four different oscillator controls (including pulse width) and filter cutoff. Besides being able to use the tiny Mod Matrix to create more elaborate patches using the included patch cables, it is also possible to link the synth with other units in some very interesting ways. This makes the MicroBrute an ideal starting point for those looking to see what CV patching might offer.
The MicroBrute is a patchable synth, rather than being fully modular – it can be used without utilising the Mod Matrix. However, the matrix can be used to extend the sound creation possibilities of the synth on its own or when connected to other gear.
Vibrato is created by modulating the oscillator pitch. Notice the small jack cable being used to patch the LFO output to the pitch input. We can then adjust the shape, amount (peak-to-peak voltage) and rate from the internal LFO section.
Alternatively, the LFO can be repatched to control the filter cutoff. In the Mod Matrix this is simply a case of moving the LFO output to the filter input. On many synths this is accessed from the modulation menu or hardware switch.
Let’s revert back to modulating the pitch. This time we’ll use the single built-in envelope to create a downward pitch sweep by utilising the Env output in the Mod Matrix. In this case, the envelope is triggered each time a note is pressed.
Alternatively, the envelope can be used to alter the square wave’s pulse width. When a key is pressed the pulse width moves from narrow, to fully symmetrical. The degree of change is controlled by the Env Amt knob.
More complex routings can be achieved with the use of a simple jack splitter. We can now use the Mod Matrix envelope output and route to it both the pitch and PWM inputs. You can never have too many cables!
Technique | The Ultimate Guide To CV
MIDI, DIN, Clocks, Gates, Triggers, (LFOs And Envelopes…) In the world of CV there are endless possibilities for signal generation and routing. You may initially only use a MIDI to CV (pitch) converter to integrate your vintage mono synth with your DAW, but there comes a point where more elaborate options might prove useful. The Koma RH301 combines a whole series of functions into one box and serves as a useful example of the various forms of clocking. MIDI and DIN Sync ins and outs are both included, and allow the box to convert MIDI Clock data into a Roland-style analogue DIN sync output – great for syncing up a TR-808 to your DAW. In fact, MIDI Clock is a direct digital equivalent of the DIN’s 24 PPQN analogue pulse system. Both are linked to the
song’s tempo. Like MIDI, DIN Sync also includes a start/stop feature (though here it requires its own additional signal line – 0V = stop and +5V = start). Analogue clock pulses are also output via two 1/4-inch jack outputs, generating a pulse at each beat step. This type of clock pulse might be used to drive an arpeggiator or simple sequencer (as found on the recent Korg Volca boxes). This unit also includes a clock divider/multiplier that outputs a Division clock pulse. This is useful for running a number of sequencers or arpeggiators at different rates (for polyrhythmic material) or to drive LFOs and envelope/contour generators in time with other elements (as used here in the Koma).
it to be under voltage control (hence the name Voltage Controlled Oscillator, or VCO) – the higher the voltage, the higher the frequency. If we now take an LFO module (that outputs a slower moving cyclic voltage) and plug it into the VCO’s Frequency input, it creates a vibrato effect. Push the LFO frequency up into the audio (20Hz+) range and you’ll start to get the clangorous tones of FM synthesis. There are, of course, many ways of creating a varying voltage that might be of use in a musical context. A simple analogue ADSR envelope generates a voltage output determined by four basic timing controls. This shaped voltage output might then be routed to control the level of a VCA (Voltage Controlled Amplifier) that is placed after the output of a VCO. After this we could employ a VCF (Voltage Controlled Filter) with the filter cutoff controlled by a second envelope generator.
LFO Once in the analogue realm, clock pulses can be divided quite easily, and used to control other elements. Here an internal LFO generator can be free-running or locked to the internal or incoming tempo-based clock.
Clock & Sync Besides using CV to control pitch, filter cutoff or other ‘continuous’ variable sources, voltage pulses are used to run compatible devices in sync.
The start of the envelopes in this instance is triggered (or retriggered) by ‘Gate’ pulse. This would usually occur when a new note is played on a keyboard (but a note could also be sent from a sequencer). Therefore, for this reason, the most basic interfacing options for a synth in the pre-digital era were the humble CV and Gate ports. And, in fact, voltage pulses were also used as a way of synchronising drum machines, arpeggiators and sequencers.
Despite a lack of standardisation, the arrival of CV was a massive step forward for electronic music
It should also be pointed out that the connection/socket type also varies, though the most common are 1/4-inch (6.35mm) and 1/8-inch (3.5mm) mono jacks. Drum machines are perhaps a special case and in pre-MIDI days could be synchronised with other gear by using a stream of analogue pulses matched to the song’s tempo. The most well-known of these was perhaps Roland’s DIN Sync, which employed a 24 PPQN (pulses per quarter note) system. This employed a +5V timing pulse and start/stop trigger utilising the common 5-pin DIN connector (though completely incompatible with the all-digital MIDI system). Others, like Oberheim, used higher resolution 48 or 96 PPQN pulses.
Luckily, many newer pieces of kit allow you to select which system to use Modular mayhem
It’s all about the voltage
From its modular origins an (almost) standard system of CV/Gate signalling was established. Sadly though, compatibility between manufacturers was not guaranteed. For example, whilst most used a Volt per Octave (V/Oct) system for determining the voltage required to play a given pitch, Yamaha and Korg used Hertz per Volt (Hz/V) – and there were other proprietary systems used by EMS, Buchla and others. Gate signals also had competing V-Trig and S-Trig versions. Luckily, many newer pieces of kit allow you to select which system to use, and there are conversion boxes available to help.
Despite the apparent incompatibilities, the underlying system for most of the analogue interconnection scenarios is a varying voltage with a 10-15V total range (-5V to +5V or 0V to 10V providing the same scale). CV/Gate systems were never great when dealing with polyphonic synths – something solved with the arrival of MIDI. Interestingly, even MIDI-era synths occasionally maintain a link to the analogue-controlling past with expression pedal inputs that can be fed from a CV source (and mapped directly to filter cutoff in the case of our beloved Roland Juno-106).
The Ultimate Guide To CV | Technique
Connecting Different Units CV starts to become a lot more fun when plugging multiple units together in interesting and sometimes unexpected ways. Happy accidents are your friend Here we take the MicroBrute and combine it with two Koma units in order to expand its sonic range. The synth’s audio output is left unaffected, and its mini-patchbay is used to increase the number of modulation sources. Remember there is no single standard for voltage ranges any device might employ. However, it is worth being aware of two aspects of the lingo – unipolar and bipolar signals. A bipolar signal moves between maximum and minimum values, neither of which is zero (these will commonly move between positive and negative voltages). A classic example is your household AC mains supply. In the CV world under discussion, a good example of a unipolar signal might be that used for DIN Sync. This employs the TTL (Transistor– transistor logic) standard of pulses and triggers that move between 0V and 5V (and nothing in between). In reality this sits on the cusp between digital and analogue systems, but it’s still all about voltage.
The MicroBrute is joined by two boxes that host a nice complement of jack sockets. The MicroBrute provides oscillators, an LFO, envelope and filter. The additional units will be used for an additional LFO, envelope and step sequencer.
The LFO section of the RH301 is more complex than that of the MicroBrute, with more waveshapes and adjustable symmetry. The rate can be free-running or locked to incoming MIDI, DIN or analogue clock. Here it is patched to the Arturia’s filter cutoff.
The RH301 includes a proximity sensor that generates a voltage output that increases the nearer your hand (or foot!) gets to it. This makes for a highly interactive and quick-responding control. Here it is patched to the synth’s pitch to create a simple Theremin.
Increased flexibility comes from having an additional inverted LFO output – its polarity is the opposite of the main LFO. Here the LFO is patched to PWM and the inverted version to Ultrasaw depth (that progressively adds two phase-shifted saw waves to the original).
Here the Koma’s LFO is used to modulate the synth’s pitch, but with the LFO speed controlled by the external envelope. The Koma’s envelope is set to a free-running loop mode rather than triggered by its Env Gate input.
Finally, we use the FT201 filter sequencer as a simple CV generating step sequencer. It receives external clock timing from the RH301 and the output voltage of each sequencer step (set using the small pots) is sent to the MicroBrute’s pitch input.
Technique | The Ultimate Guide To CV
Digital Control In An Analogue World In a world dominated by the DAW, software developers have embraced new hardware as a means of unlocking the power of older analogue technology After the arrival of MIDI, CV was assigned to the back-burner. More recently, developers realised that, in its role as a digital to analogue converter, the modern audio interface could play a role outside that of audio playback and recording. Both MOTU’s Volta and Expert Sleepers’ Silent Way use audio ins and outs for transmitting and receiving variable CV, clocks and triggers. The added benefit here is that software can be used to generate complex LFO and envelope shapes, as well as convert to and from MIDI controllers in a very open-ended and flexible way.
Silent Way is not just one piece of software, but in fact a series of plug-ins. Here we have the Voice Controller (that is loaded as a virtual instrument) – a complex MIDI to six channel CV converter with three built-in envelopes and numerous routing options.
The Sync plug-in is a universal analogue sync generator, that provides a very fine level of control over the clock pulse’s rate and shape (and the spec of the start/stop signal). This is a true synchronisation toolbox, and even has a swing control.
Feature-wise, the two channel LFO goes much further than that built into most analogue synths. Multiple waveshapes can be combined, and with adjustable phase, offset, ‘smoothness’ and width. Each can be locked to project tempo and with variable timing and swing.
The Silent Way package also allows you to utilise your soundcard’s inputs. The CV to MIDI plug-in does what it says, but can also be used for real-time tweaking or manipulation of modern synths from analogue sources – knobs, LFOs etc.
CV In A Virtual World Although MIDI could have been seen as the death knell of CV, in reality it just lay hidden from view. Even mid-’80s DCO-based synths like the Juno-106 used voltage control of parameters internally, albeit managed via microprocessor for patch selection and MIDI control. In the virtual realm, the modular approach is still alive in synths such as u-he’s Zebra. Here, the various synth elements can be selected from a range of building-blocks, allowing you to build a custom synth. There are
also some interesting wholesale recreations of modular classics, such as Arturia’s Moog Modular V plug-in, which employ ‘real’ CV patch cables. Most decent virtual synths use some form of modulation matrix section which allows you to choose a source and destination/ target. Although taking place in the digital realm (using numbers rather than actual voltage changes), the effect is exactly the same as using a jack cable to create timbral changes by one module modulating another.
Mod Source Modules The central area of Zebra 2 allows you to select from a series of modules. These can be rearranged as required and used alongside a number of envelope and LFO modules common to each patch.
Here we have Envelope 3 as the modulation source routed to the tuning/ frequency of Oscillator 1 (the target). We can control the amount of modulation and also route it via another parameter or control.
Technique | The Ultimate Guide To CV
CV Essentials Want to get creative with voltage control? Here are five great CV-equipped starting points... clock or triggered from an external gate signal. Finally, there is an infra-red proximity detector that outputs a varying voltage that is freely routable via its output jack. This is a jack-of-all-trades box that also manages to be greater than the sum of its parts.
Koma RH301 Rhythm Work Station/Utility Tool
Berlin-based Koma Elektronik make a small range of interesting and jack-laden boxes that include the multipurpose RH301. It combines three or four main elements that would normally be found as separate modules, but manages to combine them in a worthwhile way. There is a multi-format clock converter with MIDI, DIN and analogue clock inputs and outputs. This makes it the ideal way to lock external gear to your DAW’s tempo. An LFO section can be synced to the clock, but also offers CV inputs to control LFO Speed, LFO Symmetry and LFO Cycle Reset. The four-stage envelope section can be free-running – much like a customisable LFO – locked to the
Doepfer Analogue Modular System
For those of more modest means, the Doepfer Analogue Modular System is a Eurorack-based system that can be built bit-by-bit. Individual modules start at less than £50. It is by no means the only modular system available, but the universal Eurorack system is used by many other manufacturers allowing you to include modules from a range of sources. With a whole host of developers having adopted the Eurorack format in recent years, this opens up the
Analogue Solutions Telemark v2
Telemark is a UK built, MIDI-equipped, analogue synth loosely based on the original Oberheim SEM. As well as adding additional features such as a sub-oscillator and ring modulator, the Telemark includes over 40 patch points and built-in MIDI/CV conversion, making it a semi-modular monster. Also be sure to check out Analogue Solutions’ excellent, highly patchable 4-voice paraphonic beast Polymath, which you can find out more about in this month’s cover feature.
A modern analogue single oscillator, multi-waveform monosynth that avoids just being a retro clone. It comes laden with MIDI, USB and other sockets, making it an ideal tool for the DAW user looking to integrate it into their set-up. The CV/Gate ins and outs make it perfect for connecting up older gear, and the Mod Matrix means that it can connect to other units very easily. possibility of adding modules from the likes of Cwejman, Analogue Solutions and now even Dave Smith to your existing rig. It’s now easier than ever to piece together your dream modular system.
Expert Sleepers Silent Way
Silent Way is a set of plug-ins designed to provide a way of interfacing any CV-based
gear to your DAW via your sound card. In effect, they turn audio inputs and outputs into CV sources or destinations. There are a few caveats in terms of the types of interface and/or cables you should use, but the options available are almost endless. Expert Sleepers also manufacture their own range of Eurorack interfaces for more elaborate set-ups. Whether it’s that you merely require a specific clock signal for your old E-mu Drumulator or you want to connect your modular synth to your DAW in a fully integrated way, Silent Way may be the answer.
Interview | Basement Jaxx
Basement Jaxx © Jean-Luc Brouard
Dance rebels Basement Jaxx rose to popularity in the late ’90s. Having emerged from Brixton’s underground House scene to become transatlantic chart toppers, their latest album, Junto, finds them rebranding their sound. Danny Turner visits Simon Ratcliffe in the band’s new studio surroundings
Basement Jaxx | Interview
asement Jaxx have been one of British Dance music’s biggest success stories. Following their 1994 debut album, Origins, the duo’s rise to the top peaked with the release of Progressive House albums Remedy and Rooty, which spawned a raft of classic Top 10 singles including Red Alert, Rendez-Vu, Romeo and Where’s Your Head At?. Two BRIT Awards for Best Dance Act followed in 2002 and 2004, as Ratcliffe and Buxton became in-demand remixers for prominent artists such as Missy Elliot and Justin Timberlake. Meanwhile, confirmation of the duo’s burgeoning reputation arrived when Janet Jackson requested a songwriting collaboration for her album, Jamita Jo. Following the double-release of Scars and Zephyr in 2009, a five-year hiatus became a period of reflection and diversification, culminating in soundtrack work for the hit monster movie, Attack the Block. Basement Jaxx returned this year with the album Junto, alongside a new label, Atlantix Jaxx, and a new studio space across the river.
FM: What were the origins of your sound and how did you meet Felix Buxton? Simon Ratcliffe: “It was House music I suppose. I’d been doing a thing called Tic Tac Toe, which was early Hardcore Jungle, then Helicopter, which was Funky House. Both did well enough to buy some equipment, which formed the beginnings of a very simple studio. I had a Soundcraft Spirit Desk, one sampler, one keyboard and that was it. I met Felix through friends of friends; he was putting on parties around London and was really into the New York/Chicago House sound. He came to my studio with his mates and wanted to make a track, so we did a few sessions. I charged £100 a day, which Felix thought was a good deal and we seemed to have a good understanding, so eventually it kind of filtered down to just me and Felix. Our first release, EP1 in 1994, was based on the New York House sound I suppose. Influences were people like Masters At Work, the Strictly Rhythm label, the Nervous label, 8Ball – all these old labels basically, and early Roger Sanchez.” Did British electronic Pop influence you? “Not really, other than we all grew up with it. I was living in Wales when I was ten years old, and the first thing I ever bought was Diamond Dogs by David Bowie, only because I made a mistake and thought it was Gary Numan – who I’d seen on telly the night before. I’d watched him doing Are ‘Friends’ Electric? on Top of the Pops, went to WHSmith the next day and saw the cover of Diamond Dogs and thought “that’s the guy I saw last night”. I subsequently ended up loving David Bowie as well, just because of that.” When did you first start experimenting with songwriting and production? “I don’t know whether it was being an only child and spending a lot of time indoors, but I’ve always
Simon and Felix’s new studio has afforded the pair space to work on ideas separately
liked making things in my own little world. I’d been in bands, but negotiating and compromising is quite hard; I just liked having that control or power to make something out of my head, and the technology was affording that. The first thing I got was a Fostex X-26 Multitracker, which my mum very kindly bought for me. That was like having a 24-track studio as far as I was concerned. I could create my own artificial band by bouncing tracks. It was limited, but I worked that thing to death and used everything it could do, using all kinds of tricks. It was very exciting times, very cool.” What did you learn about audio production during that period? “I was in a Jazz Funk band in London, which was a bit of a struggle, so I started DJing beats onto the Fostex and had a Boss DigiDelay thing that had a two-second sampler. I used to sample beats and loops into that and do sequencing by pushing it with my foot or hand in time to the Fostex. That’s how I started making Rave music really; there were no computers involved whatsoever. My first track was called Tic Tac Toe and it achieved ‘cult status’ in the Drum ‘n’ Bass world – even Goldie still keeps going on about it. I basically did it all on my Fostex. Then my mates, who were really supportive of me, said, “man, this is wicked let’s cut it… we’ll rent
you some equipment for a weekend and make a white label.” So they rented me a sampler and a reel-to-reel from a studio hire and I suddenly had all this stuff but didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t understand the concept of MIDI and basically had to recreate what I’d done on the Fostex. I kept calling the hire guy up all hours of the night saying, “hello… it’s me again, sorry”, and he was getting really pissed off, like if you don’t know how to use MIDI what are you doing with these samplers?” Did that trial and error approach to using hardware give you an education that soft synth users miss out on? “Maybe. I think having an idea in mind then having to work out how to do it is fun, and if you do achieve something you’ll probably achieve it in a different way to how other people would, but that’s what makes it your own. With Basement Jaxx, we were forever trying to sound as cool and sophisticated as the American stuff, and we didn’t, but in the process we ended up creating our own sound. If you want to create something you will, but you’ll make it within the limitations you’ve got. Presets can be great, but if you don’t have that inquisitiveness and creativity to want to try and do other things, I don’t think you’re ever going to
Interview | Basement Jaxx
achieve that much really. There’s no secret, there’s no magic key; the people who want to achieve things will do it because they’re born to do it.” Out of all the remixes you’ve done, which ones really stand out for you? “Well it’s been a while since we’ve done a remix, but the one I think of that ticked all the boxes was the mix we did for Missy Elliot. We were huge fans and honoured to be invited to that party. The track was called For My People and we did a mix quite quickly, which they used as a single edit and cut the video to our remix. To be honest, remixes seem a bit irrelevant now because everyone’s doing them. There’s not much preciousness about these things anymore. Everything’s up for a remix; everything’s being mashed up really well and the technology’s there to make everything sound amazing.” You took a five-year sabbatical after Scars – what was that down to? “We just needed a break, because we’d been on this wheel of album, tour, album, tour. We had a deal with XL Recordings, which was a five album deal, although we actually gave them six because of the ambient soundscape album Zephyr, which was like a postscript to Scars. We’d been in the same studio, doing slightly the same routine for over a decade, so it kind of made sense to freshen up and do something different. I did a solo project called Dorus Rijkers, which was an electronic Jazz fusion sort of thing, which I want to do more of. It’s definitely niche, but a great joy to do.”
Do you ever feel that there can be too much reliance on technology? “Often with people who are obsessive about technology, you hear them talking about it, getting very excited, and can’t wait to hear the music. But when you hear what they’re doing it sounds so ordinary, so it’s got nothing to do with anything really. Of course technology can do wonders, but it’s still totally down to the individual and what they do with it. As things become more accessible and factories produce their packs of beats and presets, it’s so easy to do something that sounds completely right, completely playable, but it’s equally easy to do something completely unoriginal that’s going to be forgotten within weeks.”
You also went into film scores? “We did two film sound scores, Attack the Block and an American Documentary called The Hooping Life, which is about the hula hooping resurgence in America, so we were quite busy. We were still DJing and did the odd gig with the band, and then we moved studios from Brixton to Kings Cross, so basically had three years off. Two years ago we started working on Junto in earnest; we thought the musical landscape seemed to be in our ballpark – that groovy, soulful House vibe was all cool again, Jazz is not a dirty word anymore, and that aesthetic has shifted in our favour.” Was working on the soundtrack to Attack the Block an eye-opener? “An exciting thing for us was to do film soundtracks, to see what else we could apply our knowledge and creativity to. We put the word out that we were up for it and spoke to a few people; one of them was Joe Cornish who was doing his first ever film. We liked him very much and he showed us a very rough draft of the film, but he was really nervous and under a lot pressure. If we’d said, “this is shit”, he would probably have broken down in tears. As it turned out, he did an amazing job and I enjoyed doing the film score. Compared to writing an album, where the possibilities are endless and you’re forever trying to find this perfection, you don’t have time with a film because they’ve got deadlines.”
What did you learn from the whole process? “We worked in conjunction with Steven Price, who won an Academy Award for doing the music to Gravity. He’s a traditional film scorer, but there’s a whole technical side to film scoring; it’s very tricky how the music is applied to the picture, how they stretch bits and get things in time. We did what we did, but Steve acted as the middleman between us and Joe and made sure the time codes all fitted technically. The Hooping Life was even more extreme because they were in LA, so we’d Skype and they’d give us some references, but even with Skype there can be misunderstandings and, if someone goes off working based on a misunderstanding, five hours could be wasted. Amy Goldstein just said, “fuck it”, flew over to the
studio and sat there with us for three or four days. We worked around the clock and got the whole thing done. With albums, it’s all about, “what does this say about society?” and, “does this lyric really resonate?” – you can go on forever crawling up your backside. I like the anonymity of film scores; there’s a freedom because you’re asked to do tempos that are up and down, all over the place, but at the same time you’re restricted and the dialogue and sound effects come way ahead of any kind of music, which is good for your ego. I think it’s a good way for ageing musicians to go.” Was there anything you learned that you could carry into the new album, Junto? “Definitely, the discipline of just getting something
Interview | Basement Jaxx
done and finishing it. With Junto we knew we had a deadline to meet if we wanted it to come out in 2014. We had a frantic last three or four days; in that period I think we got more stuff done than we did in the previous three or four months.” Is it mixing that causes a lot of delays? “It’s one and the same thing to be honest. With the music that we do, as you know, the way a record feels, the way it makes you feel and its position in the world is based on its sonics – or a lot of it is. There’s a message in the sound that says where you’re coming from. A song can sound really cool and seductive or awful and cheesy depending on the instrumentation, what kind of kick drum you use or how much space there is in the mix. That aesthetic is an integral part of what the song says and how people judge it within the first 20 seconds of hearing it.”
recorded Remedy and Rooty in Camberwell, just down the road from Brixton. We’d shared that studio with other people and had to call up and haggle over studio time. We were using JBL wedding speakers. To hear the bass you had to put your head in the corner of one part of the room and you had to stand outside to hear the vocals. That studio was always meant to be a stop-gap, but we ended up there for 12 years. The roof was leaking, it was getting smelly and there were no windows. It was in Loughborough, which I think was top of London’s shooting black spots a few years ago – and there wasn’t anywhere nice to get a sandwich. We thought we should brighten up our lives a bit and get a studio more suitable for a professional music-making duo, so we went up to SSL in Oxford and got this desk from them. It’s four or five years old, a digital/analogue hybrid.”
The first thing I noticed was that your artwork has changed – no more cartoon animals. Was that a rebranding exercise? “It was a bit yeah; we’d done all that and wanted to do something clean and fresh that symbolised the new age that we feel is upon us. Something that seemed to be mysterious but bright, positive and hopeful – like a window into a new world. The last album we did, Scars, was a bit sombre in its tone, even the name Scars. We felt a bit damaged by everything; but this time we had a studio with big windows and a view of London. We felt on top of the world, bright and positive and wanted the music to reflect that, and also have music we could DJ in clubs or that people could put on during a barbecue to make them feel good.”
What other hardware do you have? “We started using a Juno-106 keyboard again, which is nice. You can’t imagine now, but six or seven years ago people would not be interested in those sounds, then you had a new breed of producers who were using analogue synths again. When we recorded Remedy, we had an Atari sequencer; press go and all the lights would start blinking because everything’s talking – all these little organisms doing their own thing. It’s all a little bit unpredictable, and tunings go up and down and timings go a bit. On Junto, I played guitar, bass and we had live brass, while some of the music was recorded on location in Paraguay and Kenya. We also used an old Moog Voyager, a Prophet 6 and the Korg EMX2, but most of it is done in the box, using Logic.”
You’ve always worked with a lot of vocalists but you rarely choose well-known artists… “We did it in the way we always used to. When we started there were no celebs or anything. When we used Dizzee Rascal, he wasn’t known at all. We just sort of use people that fit. We’re so used to X Factor people who sing very well, very professionally. They’ve got the expression and hit the high notes, but it leaves me completely cold – it feels like a factory. You’re looking for a human being, and things like honesty, fragility, expression and
Do you work side by side? “We used to work together in the studio, but now we have the luxury of having a mixing room, a writing room and a vocal/live room. All of them are sizeable and have computers in, so I’d say at least half of this album we were working in completely different rooms to each other. We’d swap roles and rooms, whereas in the past we’d always be stuck in one room together hammering over something. Felix listens to one aspect and I listen to another, and he doesn’t really hear what
”We thought we should get a studio more suitable for a professional music-making duo”
To hear the bass you had to put your head in the corner of one part of the room and you had to stand outside to hear the vocals emotion; imperfections I suppose. We find vocalists in many ways, we even checked out people on YouTube.”
I’m hearing and I don’t really hear what he’s hearing, but it gets to a certain point where we both think it’s cool.”
You now have a new studio in North London. Why did you move? “It wasn’t much of a move, some bands move to Berlin or LA, we just moved north of the river. We
Would you consider using an outside producer? “On this album we were probably more open to input than at any other time. We had Warren Brown helping us, Duncan Brown, and Michel
Cleis, who worked on Mermaid of Salinas. There were definitely times when we were looking at each other and thinking we need to get a producer in here. “The thing is, we are producers. Before we were signed, we saw ourselves as Masters at Work, in the background, producing singers; and somehow we ended up becoming the act. We still see ourselves as producers, but at the same time, we could have done with Rick Rubin coming in the room and going, “ditch that, that’s cool, ditch that”. A producer who can edit, and make quick, honest, well-judged decisions.”
Basement Jaxx | Interview
When you’re working in the studio, how do you and Felix tend to split roles? “I’m more insular in a way; I sort of make a piece of music that pleases me, and hopefully if it pleases me it pleases other people. But Felix is always thinking about the bigger message – almost in social terms. I’m always trying to come up with a piece of music that’s got something within ten seconds of hearing it – the basic groove or the musical identity of the track, but Felix is more of a people person. Basement Jaxx is a very populated entity, and that’s all down to Felix; he’s a really gregarious, worldly person and always bringing in different kinds of characters.”
Has Logic always been your choice of DAW? “We were quite late coming to that scene. After our first two albums, all the American producers came round to our studio and were almost in hysterics laughing at how old-fashioned our equipment was. They were tech-heads and we were never techheads; if something’s not quite sounding right, put some cotton wool on it and see if it helps. The stuff we’re probably most known for had all the vocals recorded to DAT, then we went back and sampled the best bits through the sequencer, which was a long-winded and cack handed way of doing it.” So when did you start using Logic? “On Kish Kash, around 2003. We heard the stems from Good Luck the other day, which was a big
track for us, but it was really ropey – full of clicks and glitches because we hadn’t got the hang of Logic and weren’t treating the files with much care. Now it’s like picking up a guitar. Once it does what you want, it kind of stops there really, even though I know Logic’s capable of going a lot further. I probably like the sound of Ableton more; there’s something crunchy about it that I like, so I need to start exploring that when I have the time.” Are you always expanding your sound library? “We used to but now, with things changing so fast, you’ll hear a new kick drum from somewhere and think, “oh my god, that’s better than what we had last week”. The aesthetic is always shifting. Also, we constantly try to listen to the music around us to
make sure that what we’re doing is relevant, which, when you’ve been going as long as we have, becomes a bit more difficult. You have to keep on your toes and keep referencing; it’s all about the nuances in the sound and the sonics – that’s more important now than ever. When we started, a lot of House Music – we used to call it Punk Garage – was made for next to nothing by people in bedrooms with no money. It was rough and raw and ready, and for us that was part of its charm. Thankfully, we DJ a lot, so we’re up to speed with what’s going on; it keeps us connected.”
want to know more? Junto is out now via Atlantic Jaxx. Keep up with the pair’s latest projects, news and dates at www.basementjaxx.com/
Technique | The Essential Guide To Mid/Side
INCLUDES VIDEO and AUDIO
Mid/Side processing can seem confusing, and it can easily go very wrong when pushed too far, but with a decent understanding of the concept and techniques behind it, M/S mixing can help you take your tracks to the next level. Here’s how...
id/Side is a hugely powerful but widely misunderstood concept, originating from a microphone technique designed to emulate the way in which we hear in stereo. Most new mixing plug-ins now boast M/S features, offering the ability to affect the image and width of tracks and mixes like never before. Those in the know can use M/S to dissect a stereo signal with razor-sharp precision, but the naive engineer can end up doing more harm than good so it’s important to fully grasp the concept. A stereo signal can be separated into two discrete components: the Mid and Side. To
extract the Mid information, the left and right channels are added together, leaving information only present in the left and right channels equally, called the ‘sum’. The Side signal is obtained when the left channel is subtracted from the right channel (or the information lost when the left and right are added together), called the ‘difference’. Imagine a rendered file of a stereo mix. Anything mono in the mix – generally bass, drums and lead vocal – will only be present in the file���s Mid signal. All stereo elements, such as hard-panned elements, reverb, sound effects and wide delays, will only be in the Side. In practice, many mix elements have both mono and stereo characteristics, and will be found in both signals, but these general distinctions help give a feel for how the two components work.
The Essential Guide To Mid/Side | Technique
Creative Widening With M/S Mid/Side processing allows you to get a grip on each mix element’s width and spatial balance -– we’ll show you how it’s done While equalisation is probably the most common Mid/Side processing choice, there are plenty of other ways to affect the individual components of a signal: creative M/S compression, transient shaping and imaging treatments can all sculpt the tonal and dynamic balance of the mono and stereo signals independently. Note that pseudo-widening plug-ins and Haas delay techniques are great for spreading narrow elements out to the sides of a mix, but it’s easy to go overboard and ruin a mix’s mono compatibility. Mid/ Side balancing and EQ can be used to rein in the width of any excessive stereo spread, giving you complete control over which frequencies are widened, and which remain central. Listen to our audio examples and hear how we’ve enhanced the stereo width of each element in a considered way. You should be able to take our methods and apply them to your own projects, giving you complete control over a mix’s space and depth.
The relative mix of this 124bpm House track isn’t bad, but everything sounds a little too narrow. Let’s use widening and M/S techniques to enhance and excite the stereo image of each part, without compromising the track’s mono compatibility too much.
To widen the synth riff, we add Flux’s free BitterSweet transient processor, which can add attack to the Mid and Side signals independently. Boosting the attack of the riff’s Side signal helps its stereo elements punch through the mix a little more.
To further enhance the stereo element of the synth part, we can use Ozone 6’s Dynamics module to heavily compress the Side signal while leaving the mono information alone. This gets the stereo information pumping for a creative widening effect.
The narrow vocal stab sits too centrally in the mix, and sounds rather dull in comparison to the other elements. A pseudo-widening plug-in is used to add width and space to the vocal, pushing it out to the sides of the speakers for excitement and interest.
Our vocal processing is now a little too overbearing, so we use Voxengo’s MSED to turn down the Side signal and turn up the Mid signal. This keeps the perception of width we previously added, but brings back enough mono information to prevent excessive phase cancellation.
Finally, to add treble width to the drums, a high-shelf boost to the sides brings out the stereo information a little more. Ozone 6’s Imager module is then engaged in multiband mode – the stereo signal is boosted above 9.5kHz for a touch of width and sheen.
Technique | The Essential Guide To Mid/Side
Mid/Side Frequency Balance And Equalisation Techniques Plenty of modern equalisers now come with a dedicated M/S mode, providing two identical processing stages – one that treats the Mid signal, and the other the Side. The frequency balance of both the Mid and Side components will heavily influence the quality of a mix, so it’s important to understand how tonal and spatial characteristics interact. Stereo bass frequencies are usually removed from mixes for a couple of reasons: firstly, low-frequency content cannot be perceived as coming from any particular direction anyway, and club speakers are usually found far apart, so wide bass will remove focus and clarity from the low-end of a mix. Secondly, stereo bass can cause a vinyl cutting lathe to skip, inhibiting
the record-pressing process. Traditionally, an ideal stereo mix’s width is thought of as an upside-down triangle: low frequencies sit in the centre of the mix, getting wider further up the spectrum, until the widest elements are found in the treble. Mid/Side EQ allows us to perfect the frequency balance of mono and stereo information separately. Removing unnecessary bass frequencies from the sides of a mix will improve low-end direction and focus, achieved by filtering out the lows from the sides. Some plug-ins feature a dedicated Mono-Maker knob, which will sum anything below a certain frequency to mono. Lifting up high-mid and treble frequencies in a signal’s Side component
Mid/Side practicalities So a stereo sound’s Mid information contains its mono elements, and its Side information contains its stereo elements. Think of the M and S elements as ‘mono’ and ‘width’. Want to make a sound wider? Turn up its Side signal. But why don’t we just go through our mix and turn up all our channels’ width? Well, consider that the Mid signal is just the mix collapsed to mono. Club sound systems, mobile phones, many radios and other important playback systems only output the sum of the left and right channels (ie the mono information), so a track’s Side/stereo information will be lost altogether. A ‘mono-compatible’ mix will sound powerful and consistent in both mono
can gently add perceived width and stereo brightness to drum overheads, synths, pads or backing vocals (or slight shelf
cuts can reduce excessive stereo presence). Frequency pocketing is another way to carve out mix space: by cutting key areas of a
Lifting The Sides
A gentle high-shelf boost to the sides will increase a signal’s perceived width. This can be especially effective around the sensitive 2-5kHz ‘speech’ area – but be careful not to cause harshness. If needs be, dip the Mid signal to compensate.
Most Brainworx plugins have a MonoMaker knob to sum frequencies below its value to mono, removing any stereo bass from your signal and improving low-end focus. Alternatively, highpass the Side signal.
and stereo, but key elements in an excessively-wide track will disappear due to phase cancellation, and result in a mix that falls apart when played through a nightclub system or other important mono format. Your choice of stereo balance will depend upon the output destination of your music, so
An understanding of Mid and Side is essential for creating tracks that will work on mono club systems
stereo sound from mono elements, we can help each sit in their own region and define their mix roles more clearly.
decide if impressive width is more important than mono compatibility. Using basic Mid/Side processors, you can monitor the M and S elements in turn, affect their gain, and tweak their comparative balance individually, finding the sweet spot between mono compatibility and impressive width. You can also use these tools to monitor the mono and stereo components of your favourite mixes, giving you insight into exactly how pro producers use widening, panning and spatial techniques.
Those in the know can use it to dissect a stereo signal with razor-sharp precision
Once you’re comfortable with Mid/Side as a concept, it becomes clear why it’s such a powerful stereo processing tool. Mastering engineers, who only have access to a single stereo file, are able to disjoin any mix and affect its four separate stereo elements – the left channel, right channel, Mid signal and Side signal – in complete isolation. Mono bass frequencies can be compressed while leaving the stereo elements alone. Width can be added by equalising the Side signal, leaving the mono component’s balance intact. These concepts aren’t only for the mastering engineer, however; almost any effect can be applied to the M and S channels individually at the mix stage. We’re going to look at several Mid/Side techniques, showing you a few ways to handle mono and stereo balance. Remember though, it’s easy to overcook things…
The Essential Guide To Mid/Side | Technique
Improve A Mix’s Mono Compatibility Modern music must work in both mono and stereo. Mid/Side tools are indispensable when getting the balance just right Super-wide mixes often sound impressive in stereo, but this isn’t much good if carefullyadjusted frequency and dynamic relationships crumble over a mono playback system. Luckily, Mid/Side processors are more common than ever, so you can strike the perfect balance between width and mono compatibility. Less important stereo sound effects and details can sit out to the sides of a mix, but core elements – drums, lead, bass and vocals – must maintain a strong mono presence. Get into the habit of summing your master channel to mono as you compose and produce, and you can address any phase compatibility issues straightaway. Audio examples can be downloaded from http://vault. futuremusic.co.uk. We’ve included both stereo files, plus the individual mono and Side components where appropriate, so you can hear what we’ve done and why.
Our basic mix has a drum beat, synth bass and reverb FX. Brainworx’s bx_solo (free at http://www.plugin-alliance.com/en/plugins/detail/bx_ solo.html) is loaded on the master channel. This plug-in allows you to monitor the track’s mono information and stereo information independently.
The bass features a heavy chorus effect, which has created an excess of stereo low frequencies. When we listen to the Side signal of the drums in isolation, it’s clear that the low frequencies of the snare and toms are a little too stereo.
Setting bx_digital’s Mono-Maker knob to 210Hz sums any frequencies below this value to mono, cleaning up the mix. A high-shelf cut to the sides and corresponding high-shelf boost to the Mid bring out the bass’s treble, helping it cut through when summed to mono.
Now to the main drum loop: bx_digital notches -6dB out of the sides at 125Hz, carving out the fundamental frequency of the snare in the stereo field. A couple of gentle boosts to the mono signal again help to rebalance the tone of the drums slightly.
Sound effects are usually the widest elements in a mix, and the reverb effects here could be much wider. We load Voxengo’s MSED (free from http://www.voxengo.com/product/msed) and raise the gain of this channel’s Side information by 5dB, increasing their stereo width in the mix.
To finish, we A/B between the original track and the newly-processed version. Our improvements have given the mix a higher degree of mono compatibility, without sacrificing too much width. From here we can head back in and adjust settings to taste.
Technique | The Essential Guide To Mid/Side
Create A M/S Encode-Decode Set-up Not all processors come with a Mid/Side mode as standard, but we’ll show you how to manually encode and decode a stereo signal into M/S If you want to apply Mid/Side treatment, you may think that a dedicated M/S processor is the only way to go. However, many hardware and software units can only be used in unlinked left/right mode. With a little routing know-how, ‘manual’ Mid/Side encoding and decoding can open up more processing possibilities. The plug-in we used is Voxengo’s free MSED plug-in (download at http:// www.voxengo.com/ product/msed). With the included audio examples, you’ll be able to hear exactly how our routing has turned our traditional stereo EQ into a Mid/Side processor.
Here’s a track that needs a touch of master buss brightening. It’d be useful to EQ the Mid signal and the Side signal separately, but our mastering EQ – UAD’s Manley Massive Passive – can only operate in left/ right mode, not Mid/Side.
Now we load a second MSED instance, being sure to place it after our EQ in the plug-in chain. Once we set this instance’s mode to Decode, it will take our encoded M/S signals and convert them back to a regular stereo signal.
To get around this, we load Voxengo’s free MSED plug-in before our EQ in the plug-in chain. After switching its mode to Encode, it will now output our signal as a decoded M/S signal, with the Mid channel output through the left channel, and the Side signal through the right channel.
Our EQ, sat in between the encode/decode stages, can now process in M/S once its left and right channels are unlinked – we can treat the Mid signal with the plug-in’s left channel controls and the stereo signal with its right controls.
Creative Mid/Side Processing Mid/Side is generally used in mixing and mastering situations, but try using it in creative ways. An M/S transient processor is a great tool for heavy-handed stereo enveloping – try clamping down on a heavily-reverbed signal’s sides, or forcing its sustain up higher to give your width a more pumping feel. Many saturators or exciters can also operate in M/S mode, meaning you can add grit and bite to a sound’s mono information while leaving the stereo ambience clean. Gentle
pitch-shifting can also give your stereo effects a unique edge. You don’t have to go crazy – sometimes a simple passage of gain automation to the Side signal is all it takes to push a sound harder into a plug-in, reduce width before a breakdown, or raise the stereo presence for an uplifting chorus. This slight levelling works well with wide backing vocals or synth melodies, as it can give your music an added dynamic dimension without becoming noticeable to the listener.
Many saturation plug-ins, such as FabFilter’s Saturn, let you apply drive to the Mid and Side signals independently. Subtle settings can add a tickle of extra bite and depth to a dull Side signal, while leaving the important mono information clean.
Flux’s free BitterSweet transient shaper can treat either the M or S signal in isolation. Restrained use will add snap to a drum hit or loop’s stereo attack for a wider, punchier sound. Heavier settings will get things pumping, but watch mono compatibility.
Issue 288 | Reviews
Studio essentials on the FM test bench
highlightsâ€Ś 86 Fluid Audio FX8
88 iZotope Ozone 6 Advanced
90 Drawmer MC2.1 Monitor Controller
96 Spitfire Audio Hans Zimmer Percussion Libraries
Reviews | Steinberg Cubase Pro 8
WHAT is it? The latest iteration of Steinberg’s multi-platform DAW – and now with a Pro designation
Contact Who: Steinberg Media Technologies GmbH Tel: +49 (0)4042 236115 Web: www.steinberg.net
HIGHLIGHTS 1 Render in-place 2 Plug-in manager 3 MixConsole enhancements – VCA faders and direct outputs
Steinberg Cubase Pro 8 | £449 Two years after the introduction of Cubase 7, a new Pro update arrives. Bruce Aisher wonders if it can still play with the big boys and girls
teinberg’s release schedule for major Cubase updates is now well established. For the last few months their forums were buzzing with anticipation of what might arrive at the close of 2014 – and sure enough Cubase Pro 8 landed at the beginning of December. The most noticeable difference, before even loading the software itself, was its new Pro moniker. The cynics out there might see this as a leap into the Apple Logic territory, though it does at least help differentiate it from the trimmed-down (and cheaper) Cubase Artist 8. Two years ago, when Steinberg introduced Cubase 7, the most noticeable change was the MixConsole.
Hailed as a much more flexible update to the traditional mixer windows, in the end it proved to be something of a mixed blessing. After a few weeks of use I realised it wasn’t quite up to the mark – style over substance perhaps. In fact, it had great features, but suffered from some serious, scaling and font issues (which many users grappled with for months). Despite this, I made the leap to Cubase 7 (and then C7.5), and over the last couple of years have enjoyed many of the other new features. Track Versions, Advanced Channel Linking and ASIO-Guard were among my favourites, but we shouldn’t forget the Chord Track, VST Connect, Track Visibility options, Multi-channel
Instrument Tracks and new or updated plug-ins such as LoopMash FX, Revelation, Magneto 2, HALion Sonic SE 2 and Groove Agent SE 4.
Going Pro This brings us to Cubase Pro 8. Visually, there’s nothing radically different here – so no nasty surprises. Of course, the first place I went after loading an older C7.5 project was the MixConsole. There have been a few minor graphical tweaks so, on the face of it, it’s mostly the same. I still have gripes over the lack of globally accessible mixer set-up presets. One of the biggest time-wasters is the hassle of reconfiguring the three mixer windows when loading older projects, or ones created on a different computer. Cubase workspaces do a decent job of saving and recalling multiple windows but the MixConsole is crying out for something like this. Incidentally, there is now an Update Workspace function, which does really help their overall usefulness. One noteworthy visual addition to MixConsole is the new Wave Meters. Previously seen in Nuendo, this shows a vertical scrolling waveform display in the meter bridge instead of the PPMs. Sadly, this only works for audio channels – and no key command switching is available – which perhaps limits their relevance, though for single monitor users they may be helpful. They do look nice! In the functional
Steinberg Cubase Pro 8 | Reviews
Cubase Pro 8: What’s New?
Here are five of our favourite new additions. We suspect all have been on Steinberg’s ‘most requested’ list for some time – and now they’re here…
There are plenty of options for rendering a selection of MIDI and audio parts or full tracks with and without effects, and various routing options. Reverb and other effect tails can also be accommodated. There are a few aspects that need ironing out. Sidechain processing is not included in the rendered audio, and multi-timbral VST instruments with separate outputs are picky about which options have been set. Notwithstanding these issues, this is an important step forward for Cubase.
Direct Routing allows you to send channels to multiple destinations at once. This makes it very easy to create monitor and stem mixes, parallel processing busses, and sidechain sends with only few clicks. By default you can switch between multiple output sources with a single click – great for auditioning different signal chains across groups – but with Summing Mode eight destinations can be active at the same time. This really helps to make MixConsole feel more like a hardware desk.
Another analogue desk throwback. These are independent fader channels that can be used for controlling other channel levels (plus mute and solo status) – somewhere between a Group Channel and a Channel Linking. Multiple VCA faders can be nested under another VCA fader, a useful tool when building-up complex mixes. When automation is involved, VCA automation can be merged with individual or group channel automation curves. It sounds complex, but it is a proven workflow tool in Pro Tools and large format hardware desks, and is simple to get your head around when applied in practice.
A long called-for feature, which has been increasingly needed since the arrival of the VST3 format plug-in, is a plug-in manager. Well, our prayers have been answered, and it’s great. You can build so-called collections of different plug-ins, each with their own folder structure and plug-in order, and then switch between different collections form any plug-in selection window. A simple yet powerful tool, though some may have wished for the ability to rename plug-ins or provide abbreviations.
Better Window Handling No, it’s not glamorous! All windows can now be placed outside of the main desktop area. Previously, for Windows users, this could only be done for some windowed elements. This may seem like nerdy stuff, but it makes using multiple displays much better – and all windows are now accessible using standard Windows OS commands (Alt+Tab works a treat, and even for plug-ins). Previously, the Always On Top plug-in option did not work correctly with some other windows. This now, thankfully, functions as it should.
Reviews | Steinberg Cubase Pro 8
specs System requirements: Mac: OS X 10.9/10.10 PC: Windows 7/Windows 8.x Both: Intel or AMD dual core CPU, 4GB RAM, 15GB of free HD space, Display resolution of 1366 x 768, Graphics card with DirectX and WDDM 1.1 support (Win Only), USB port for USB-eLicenser (license management), OS compatible audio hardware DVD-ROM dual-layer drive
Pricing Cubase Pro 8
Cubase Artist 8
Update from Cubase 7.5
Update from Cubase 7
Update from Cubase 6/6.5
Update from Cubase 4/5
Upgrade from Cubase Artist 8
stakes direct routing and VCA faders are both extremely useful ‘pro’ features. One disappointment for some Windows 7 users will be the necessity of having to turn on DWM composition and use an Aero theme. If ever there was an excuse for moving to Windows 8, then this is it. Even if you use Cubase exclusively, the Aero themes lack much tweakability, making some menus and taskbar tabs hard to read – at worst it looks cheap. Bring on the Apple fan boys and girls! On the upside, overall window handling in C8 is much improved. Though it appeared to be a side-effect of the older classic window-handling, it’s a shame we had to wait two years for this to be fixed.
Guardians of the latency Next stop was the Performance Meter. Steinberg have slightly uprated their quite modest minimum specs for Cubase Pro 8. My three-year-old 16GB Intel i5 rig was well above these, though processor load is going to be highly dependent on the current project. Comparing the same project, consisting of audio and MIDI alongside a host of third-party plug-ins, proved that Cubase 8 did not consume more CPU than previously – a common complaint in software updates. In fact, it was marginally less than Cubase 7 (with and without Aero). This is partly helped by the variable buffering of ASIO-Guard 2, which now supports multi-timbral and disk-streaming instruments. An option has been added to set the ASIO-Guard ‘level’, with progressively more potential latency and
Groove Agent SE 4 gains a new ‘agent’ in the form of Acoustic Agent – a self-contained acoustic drummer module that includes both samples and patterns. A pleasant surprise was that, despite being preset-based in many respects, there is a lot that can be done to control the kit mix and playback style. The latter can be tweaked in real time by using keys or pads to trigger different patterns and an x-y pad to
adjust intensity and complexity, with other controls over the use of crash, hit and ride cymbals. MIDI patterns can be both imported and exported. The built-in mixer provides access to individual kit mics, stereo overhead and room sources, as well as EQ, compression, tape saturation, envelope shaping and four aux sends (for each). This is before you even consider that mic balance
memory usage when moving through the Low, Medium and High settings. In any event, this feature can also be turned off on a per plug-in basis should you wish. This certainly helps minimise spurious CPU spikes, with some users reporting quite hefty improvements in processing overhead and/or lower
The new ‘virgin territory’ feature makes it noticeably easier to experiment with fader/parameter automation
(including bleed), tuning, attack, hold and decay can all be adjusted. It’s a shame that this perhaps wasn’t created as a separate plug-in with simple and advanced modes. Groove Agent, like HALion, is very powerful, but can be fiddly at times. Nevertheless, this is a very welcome addition. Perhaps those at Steinberg HQ had been eyeing-up Apple Logic X, which includes its own Drummer.
latencies. Real-time peaks were down considerably on some of the projects I tested. Incidentally, Cubase 8 retrieved and imported my C7 preferences, key commands, presets, workspaces and other settings automatically. So the transition was pretty painless.
Reviews | Steinberg Cubase Pro 8
The new scrolling Wave Meters are a nice addition, but MixConsole could still use some tweaks
Plug-in play A special mention should be made of Quadrafuzz. This disappeared from the Cubase line-up some years back and now returns with a nicely updated feature set. The origins of this processor lie in a DIY electronic circuit for guitarists designed by Craig Anderton in the late ’70s, and its digital equivalent was developed 15 years ago (and added as a bundled plug-in three years later). At its most basic it is a four-band distortion processor, but Quadrafuzz v2 takes this much further by adding a noise gate and ducking modulated feedback delay to each band. This is a great plug-in, which can be put to work on all kinds of sources – whether to add some subtle flavour or all-out nastiness.
Steinberg have also introduced a multiband version of their Envelope Shaper and Expander. The Envelope Shaper is quite interesting to experiment with on drum loops, whilst the Multiband Expander left me a little cold – although in fairness it is perhaps a little more niche in its appeal. The DeEsser has been updated with low and high-pass filters and sidechain support, making this a far more versatile tool, and not just for vocal use – it has also been added to the Channel Strip module, which is still somewhat visually crude and unappealing. Usefully, the Channel Strip pre-filter now has a range of five selectable slopes for both the high and low filters, and the EQ section offers note/pitch-based editing.
Like the DeEsser, Multiband Compressor has seen both functional and graphical improvements. Sidechaining is far more complex, with individual monitoring, filtering and control over sidechaining for each band. Again, this makes for a more interesting and creative tool. Tuner has been tweaked, and adds a strobe tuning mode. Four years ago, VST Amp Rack was added to Cubase, which provided a decent emulation of a full electric guitar recording and processing chain. Cubase 8 now includes a low-end partner for it – VST Bass Amp. Functionally it is almost identical, but with the effects, amp, cabs and microphones tailored for bass instruments.
Long Live MIDI
Audio processing and virtual instruments usually get all the glory, but it’s worth remembering that good old MIDI data still underpins significant areas of functionality in the modern DAW. MIDI (like Audio previously) now gets its own
Tempo Detection feature. The principle here is that you jam or play without reference to the internal tempo or click, and that Cubase will create a tempo map for the performance that will then be realigned to the current project’s grid at fixed tempo. It’s
not perfect, but it is helpful and welcome. The Chord Track features which were introduced in Cubase 7 have been enhanced with the new Circle of Fifths and Proximity Assistant modes. Proximity Chord Assistant
helps make suggestions for chords based on a reference chord (with visual cues as to its complexity). The Circle of Fifths mode employs the classic harmonic ‘wheel’ to aid selection. Both of these features work with the new
Chord Pads, which allow single keys to play chords with variable voicings. As a way of learning and exploring harmony, or even getting out of a creative rut, these features are interesting and worth exploring further.
Steinberg Cubase Pro 8 | Reviews
Finally, we also get a decent plug-in manager, which is essential in this age of big plug-in bundles and unmovable VST3 plug-ins.
Back on track Back in the main project window, the Track List and Inspector have seen some refinements making them generally clearer. Track Control settings can now be saved and recalled more easily, whilst the configuration window is more detailed and offers an in-window preview of each control section. The Instrument rack and MediaBay can now be docked to the right of the main arrange page (another Apple influence?) – both a great help when mapped to a keyboard shortcut. Automation is left largely untouched, with the exception of so-called virgin territory handling. When enabled in the automation preferences, automation will only be written (and therefore read) where it has been explicitly added. In sections where automation data has not been placed, you are now free to move the fader/parameter. It’s a small thing, but now provides an easy way to practise possible automation choices before committing. I think that the most important aspect of this update, for many, is going to be the much-requested
The Full Cubase Family The current Cubase 8 line-up consists of both Pro and Artist versions. Given that the Artist version is £200 cheaper, there may be some appeal in taking the Artist option, especially when you consider that it is by no means deficient in feature terms. In fact, by my calculation, you can actually save £42 by buying Cubase Artist 8 and then upgrading to Pro! In terms of new features in Pro that you don’t get in
Artist 8, you will miss: VCA faders, automation virgin territories, VST Connect SE, direct routing, Wave Meters and Proximity Chord Assistant. Artist does have limitations in terms of numbers of tracks, mixer views and included effects, but these aren’t too problematic. If, however, you want to delve into mixing bigger projects, use lots of automation and need to employ the full range of
audio editing options, then you will need to go for Cubase Pro 8 – after all these are all ‘pro’ features. In fact, for the cheapest taste of Cubase you can still buy Cubase Elements 7 online for £82. Steinberg offer updates from most historical versions of Cubase (going back eight years to Cubase 4 which cost £600 at the time), and upgrades from all Artist, Elements, LE, AI versions as well as Sequel 2.
Apple Logic X £140 Logic X is far cheaper than Cubase (not including the computer to run it) and offers considerable bang for buck in both instrument and effects terms. www.apple.com
Ableton Live 9 £249 Ableton have always carved their own furrow, and manage to successfully straddle both studio and performance scenarios with Live. www.ableton.com
Pro Tools 11 £549 Now fully native and 64-bit, Pro Tools is a cross-platform industry standard. www.avid.com
The most important aspect of this update, for many, will be the muchrequested render in-place function render in-place function. Thank you Steinberg, it’s brilliant. Another useful addition for those looking for inspiration in the absence of a large recording space is the Allen Morgan Pop-Rock Toolbox. This includes 30 full audio project construction kits, as well as a number of decent Groove Agent SE kits (see Rhythmic Agents). Apart from the various MIDI-based improvements mentioned elsewhere, and some good tweaks to the VST Connect SE remote recording tool, that just about rounds up everything new in Cubase 8 – well as reported by Steinberg at least. Take a look on their official forum, and you will find a ‘Hidden Cubase 8 features’ thread with some other additions such as Disable Instrument Tracks.
Conclusion I’m still not 100% happy with MixConsole, and there are legibility issues in some parts of the program but, for a release version, Cubase 8 feels pretty solid. Load times appear quicker and I had no crashes whilst testing – which certainly counts for something. I’d like to see even more key commands, mixer configuration presets, a simple keyboard-oriented sampler and improved delay effects but, who knows, they may arrive in C8.5? I suspect Windows users will look increasingly likely to move to Windows 8.1, given some of criticisms of Windows 7 detailed earlier, but this shouldn’t detract from the quality of Cubase 8 – it does also run under OS X after all.
Looking right across the DAW landscape, there is still a way to go when it comes to truly automating production workflow and the mix process – automatic vocal alignment, comping and mixing anyone? Whilst one could argue that nothing on offer here is earth-shattering, all things considered, this is a very strong update in my view, with some real and worthwhile enhancements.
EASE OF USE
A solid update, built on strong foundations, with some genuinely useful new features.
Reviews | Fluid Audio FX8
Fluid Audio FX8 | £299 Fluid Audio’s latest monitors are coaxials. Trevor Curwen listens to the results of putting the tweeter in the centre of the woofer WHAT is it? Powered two-way coaxial nearfield monitors
Contact Who: Hand in Hand Tel: 01752 696633 Web: www.handinhand. uk.net www.fluidaudio.net
HIGHLIGHTS 1 Sharp imaging 2 Plenty of power 3 Comprehensive input options
specs Frequency response: 35Hz-22kHz Power: 130W (HF 50W, LF 80W) LF driver: 8” low-frequency driver with composite paper cone HF driver: Coaxial mounted 1.2” silk dome hi-frequency drivers with integrated waveguides Controls: Volume fader Connections: XLR input, balanced jack input, unbalanced RCA jack input Dimensions:
254 x 270 x 340mm Weight:
luid Audio have only been around for three years but the company, founded by Kevin Zuccaro who was in charge of monitor design and voicing at M-Audio, have come up with a range of several small powered nearfield monitors in that time, including the F5 which we looked at earlier this year. The latest, the FX8, is the largest studio monitor in their range and a departure from their usual two-way design with tweeter above the bass driver, in that it’s a bi-amped dual concentric (also known as coaxial) design. In a traditional two-way monitor design, the audio, split at the crossover, can collide when radiated from the separately located tweeter and woofer, but a coaxial design ensures that all frequencies coming from the tweeter and woofer radiate from the exact same position (point source), which ought to translate into better phase coherence and superior imaging. With thin acoustic isolation pads on their base, and constructed from MDF reinforced with internal bracing, the
FX8s are sized on a par with many of their competitors – probably a little too large for sitting on a desktop next to your computer but just right if you can sit them on stands or a strong shelf a little way from your favoured seating position.
All about that bass The bass end here is handled by an 8-inch low-frequency driver with composite paper cone that’s driven from an 80 Watt amp and there’s also a bass reflex slot port just below it. The coaxial set-up in this instance sees the 30mm silk dome hi-frequency tweeter, driven by 50 Watts of power, sitting in a metal waveguide that extends out from the centre of the woofer, putting the actual tweeter level with the woofer’s outer rim. A small red LED on the fascia indicates when the monitor is turned on, but the rear panel switch that accomplishes this is the only thing you need to access round the back once the connections have been made. There are no tonal controls at all to adjust, just a volume control, and that
is placed on the fascia for easy access and runs from silence up to 0dB, with an indented position at -6dB. Connectivity covers all the common options with XLR, 1/4-inch jack and RCA phono sockets. Fluid Audio say that they pride themselves on the importance of speaker imaging. Their goal is to present a realistic soundstage where you can pinpoint and place each instrument exactly where you want it to be in the mix. A dual concentric design doing its work ought to achieve that goal and, when listening to some mixes on the FX8s, it does become apparent that there is a nicely detailed soundstage. There is a very good sense of sound location across the stereo spread as well as a decent sense of space back to front. Mixing a track using the FX8s, we were able to clearly hear instruments as we panned them into position. Clarity of sound is very good across the frequency range and the 8-inch woofers, combined with the port, will give you plenty of bottomend; although if you think it’s too much for your situation, as mentioned earlier, there’s no bass cut facility to help sort it. As with any monitor, though, it’s a matter of getting familiar with how they sound and, overall, we felt that the FX8s were monitors that we would have no trouble using on critical mixes.
A nice price There are loads of monitoring options in the sub-£400 range, but, if having a set of coaxial monitors appeals, you’ll find that there are not an awful lot of them around for these sort of prices, making the FX8s something of a rare beast. Then again, you might not be bothered whether your monitors are coaxial or not. Either way, Fluid Audio do seem to be a company that deliver plenty of bang for the buck, and at under £300 the FX8s are really good monitors for the price.
EASE OF USE
Nearfield coaxial monitors with 8-inch bass drivers for under £300 – the FX8s are great value.
Reviews | iZotope Ozone 6 Advanced
INCLUDES AUDIO l
WHAT is it? A modular software-based master-processing system that comes with both standalone and plug-in versions
Contact Who: iZotope Web: www.izotope.com
HIGHLIGHTS 1 Seamless Bypass for gain-matched bypassing 2 Customisable signal chain 3 Standalone app with third-party plug-in support
iZotope Ozone 6 Advanced | from $249 Bruce Aisher looks at Ozone 6 to see if the days of a dedicated mastering engineer may be numbered
ou only have to delve into your nearest music-tech web forum to find out the full range of views that people have regarding the process of mastering. In fact, despite the widespread availability of high-quality digital tools designed specifically for mastering of finished tracks, there is still much confusion over what it should really entail. In reality, whilst a great mastering engineer might have access to some very covetable outboard gear, it is their ears and experience that tend to be the most important part of their job – though a familiar and good-sounding monitoring space comes a close second. Notwithstanding the ongoing arguments over excessive dynamic compression or the pitfalls of mastering your own material, there is ever more
pressure on producers to deliver ‘finished-sounding’ tracks. Sadly, you can’t buy good ears or seasoned wisdom, but digital technology does offer some solutions – both aural and visual – and iZotope have a tool to help.
The dark arts Ozone 6 is a modular mastering solution that combines a number of common processing tools into one package. As with the previous version, these include EQ, Post EQ, Dynamics, Exciter, Imager and Mazimizer, with all but the latter providing both Stereo and Mid/Side options across multiple frequency bands. The most noticeable thing about the new Ozone is the interface. Clearly, iZotope were looking to declutter things and, though change can be scary, the
new look makes for a much clearer and more straightforward workflow. The EQ (and post EQ) both offer eight bands of highly customisable equalisation (and include a Match EQ function). A wide range of digital and analogue filter shapes are available for each band including the new Baxandall Bass and Treble filters, API-style Proportional Q filters plus Band Shelf Resonant High and Low shelving types. The digital filters (all now matched to analogue shapes) allow you to adjust the phase delay from linear to minimum phase and offer a surgical mode. Visual feedback here – as with all other areas of Ozone – is excellent.
Zen master The Dynamics section benefits from the clearer interface making parameter setting much easier. I was a fan of the multiband Learn mode (that automatically calculates crossover points based on the audio material) from before, and it’s good to see that it’s still here alongside a new variable knee setting. Level detection has been enhanced with the True Envelope detection mode and variable detection filter types. However, it’s here that I noticed the missing scaling sliders for each module introduced in v5. These acted as a ‘strength’ control for each section, and were great for backing-off or hyping processing in a hurry.
iZotope Ozone 6 Advanced | Reviews
The big new addition (if you are happy to stump up the additional $750 for Ozone 6 Advanced) is Dynamic EQ. This offers four bands of EQ similar to the main EQ module, but combined with a level detection and gain control section. This allows you to apply gain or cut only when the signal in that area is present (or not). It’s incredibly powerful, especially when used in Mid/Side mode, but is by no means a quick ‘set and forget’ process – it certainly requires a bit more patience. The Exciter now offers six flavours of excitation – essentially a form of parallel saturation/distortion (including the now standard Triode and Dual Triode modes). This can be a great tool when used in moderation – Ozone is one of the better ones – and can enhance or warm-up a problematic mix in a way that EQ cannot. Imager is a four-band spatial processor, allowing you to enhance or narrow the stereo field. This is again a module that is best used subtly, but can help with low-end control and enhancing ambience in mix. The Stereoize control is reserved for adding
Make It Louder Like Auto-Tune, Dubstep and Taylor Swift, maximizers can be used for both good and evil. Whilst I don’t want to get stuck into a moral debate regarding their use, it should be remembered that they are just another form of dynamic processing, and in the right hands are a worthy addition to any toolbox.
As it is, the limiter available here does allow you to increase the perceived loudness of your track considerably – when used sensibly – and now incorporates most of the ‘advancedonly’ features from before. Gone are some of the lesser maximizer algorithms, but Transient Emphasis (which
attempts to stop transients getting lost) and predictive True Peak Limiting come as standard. There are plenty of ‘flavour’ controls, giving you a range of options for tailoring settings to the source, though it’s fair to say that this module can be a resource hog when using is pushed.
The big new addition, Dynamic EQ, is incredibly powerful, especially when used in Mid/Side mode width to mono sources and does a fair job on less rhythmic content. Some may certainly miss the Imager’s Phase, Polarity and Delay Offset controls from Ozone 5.
Great value For new users, Ozone 6 represents great value for money in my book, even if only
as a solid pre-mastering tool. The Reverb module has been dropped, though some of the options that were only available with the much pricier Advanced version (such as transient recovery) are now included as standard. Those upgrading from Ozone 5 Advanced or considering this option may be harder to please, though the
inclusion of the Insight metering suite, Dynamic EQ and individual component plug-ins may be enough to sway some. The standalone application is a very welcome addition, and mitigates some of the elements missing in the upgrade – though it does not replace the need for an audio editor (when creating DDP format CD masters for example). Overall though, this is an excellent mastering and mixing tool that provides quick access to some powerful processes but has some serious depth should you wish to explore further.
System requirements PC: Windows 7 and 8 or Mac: OS X 10.8 or later (Intel-only) Plug-in formats: RTAS, AudioSuite, 64-bit AAX, VST 2, VST 3, and Audio Unit Graphics card requirements: For use of the scrolling 3D Spectrogram, Ozone 6 Advanced requires a graphics card that supports Open GL 2.0
IK Multimedia T-RackS Grand 320 euros T-RackS takes the analogue-modelling route. Well-regarded and with plenty of depth, and expandable via their Custom Shop. www.ikmultimedia.com
Universal Audio UAD-2 from £220 Not a true mastering system, but DSP cards capable of hosting some great-sounding specialist mastering plug-ins. www.uaudio.com
EASE OF USE
Ozone 6 now comes with a standalone mastering application option
A solid upgrade to a good product. Despite the omissions, Ozone 6 is more powerful than ever.
iMusicAlbum Audio Mastering for iOS £8.99 Maybe this is the future of mastering, but even if it isn’t you a lot for under a tenner here. audio-mastering-studio. blogspot.co.uk
Reviews | Drawmer MC2.1 Monitor Controller
Drawmer MC2.1 Monitor Controller | £395 Drawmer are renowned for producing bulletproof audio products. Mo Volans checks out their monitor controller to see if it measures up WHAT is it? An analogue hardware monitor controller
Contact Who: Drawmer Tel: +44 (0) 1709 527574 Web: www.drawmer.com
HIGHLIGHTS 1 Can control up to three sets of active stereo speakers and a mono subwoofer 2 Will accept and mix up to four stereo inputs 3 Two high-quality headphone amplifiers with independent volume controls
specs 3 stereo balanced speaker outputs, dedicated mono speaker/subwoofer output Ultra low noise and transparent circuit design Left/Right Cut, Phase Reverse, Mono, Dim, Mute Four inputs including balanced Neutrik XLR, balanced Neutrik XLR/JACK COMBI, and shared aux phono or 3.5mm jack Two headphone amplifiers with individual controls Built in talkback microphone, mono output jack and internal headphone routing Dimensions:
215 x 272 x 81mm Weight:
rawmer don’t mess around when it comes to build quality and, with 30 years of consistency, they are becoming something of a British institution. The company have built pretty much everything over the years but are probably most famous for their compressors, EQs and noise gates. So a move into the ‘prosumer’ market with a monitor controller is an interesting one. On unboxing the MC2.1, the first thing that hits you is the weight. The entire case is clad in metal top to bottom and this gives it a seriously solid feel. The addition of some sturdy rubber feet means that once you position it on your desktop it’s not going anywhere! This is a real plus as more complex set-ups will require the 2.1 to have a good number of thick XLR cables attached to its rear panel. The overall unit is attractive but certainly follows Drawmer’s no-nonsense approach. There are no flashy colours or translucent plastics here; the order of the day is black, white and some well placed sensible graphics. Everything is intuitive and functional, making the MC2.1 one of those products you want
to plug in and use immediately, with pretty much no need for a manual. The front panel has a good selection of metal push buttons for source and speaker connections, plus coloured LEDs to show you when something is active. There is a dedicated section for the front-mounted talkback mic which includes a smaller level control and toggle switch for speaking to artists. You’ll also find two headphone outputs with an independent level control for each. Finally, there is an incredibly smooth, oversized level control, which is obviously an important part of any monitor controller! Although the front of the MC2.1 does have a reasonably slim front panel, it is a pretty deep unit overall. Considering the MC2.1 contains its own power supply and lots of electronics, this is as expected. If space is an issue, Drawmer do supply a rather nice rack mount kit for the unit, allowing you to fit it neatly into a two-unit/19-inch space.
have to be connectivity and sound quality. Let’s address the former first. The back panel houses three sets of stereo balanced (XLR) connections for speakers, and the first is augmented by an additional mono XLR connection intended for a subwoofer. There is also a talkback output in this section which takes a direct feed from the talkback microphone on the front panel. The input section is just as flexible with a total of four inputs. There are two female XLR, another two XLR ‘combi’ (allowing a 1/4-inch jack to be used), a pair of phono inputs and a stereo 3.5mm jack, ideal for mobile phones, tablets and laptops. We have been told that all of these sources can be used simultaneously and will be mixed if activated at the same time. So how does all this analogue goodness sound? In one word – great. Even though this is an active design, the results are clean and transparent and added no apparent colouration to our signal chain. The results that we achieved in testing equalled products in much higher price brackets. To sum up, if you are in the market for a monitor controller or for a way to mix various sources, then you should certainly put the MC2.1 on your list – perhaps even at the top of it.
Design and build quality are important but as the MC2.1 is a monitor controller the most critical aspects to consider
EASE OF USE
A solid monitor controller with transparent signal path and flexible connectivity at a realistic price.
Samson Concert 88 Handheld | Reviews
The CR88 wireless receiver is half-rack size and free-standing, although it does come with some brackets for rack-mounting if desired. It features both a balanced XLR output and an unbalanced 1/4-inch jack output on the rear – a jack to jack cable is supplied with the package. Output volume is set by a front-panel knob and the active channel is shown in a display alongside a pair of LEDs, one lighting up green to show when the system is paired up and ready, the other being a red overload indicator. A front panel button changes channels and can sync receiver and transmitter channels via an infrared signal, if you have several systems working together and need each to have a different channel.
WHAT is it? Vocal microphone wireless system
Contact Who: Samson Web: www.samsontech.com
HIGHLIGHTS 1 Ease of use 2 Long range 3 16-channel true diversity operation
Samson Concert 88 Handheld | £72 Samson have a new wireless mic, the Concert 88. Trevor Curwen tries it all round the venue… specs Range: 90m Features: Tabletop receiver, rackmount kit included, transmitter mute switch on mic Connections: Balanced XLR, standard jack outputs Power supply: Transmitter: AA battery x 2 (8 hours battery life) Receiver: 15v DC (200mA). Power adaptor supplied Receiver dimensions:
210 x 125 x 44mm
he latest wireless system from Samson, the Concert 88, can be purchased in several different forms – the basic receiver is packaged variously with headset mic, guitar belt pack, in-ear monitors or, as here for review, the Concert 88 Handheld with a dynamic vocal mic. The Concert 88 operates with analogue UHF frequencies and can be used on one of 16 channels and has a range of up to 300 feet. It’s a true diversity design which sees the receiver fitted with two independent receiving sections, each with its own antenna. These are spaced at each end of the unit and the receiver constantly checks the pair to select the one that has the strongest signal. The idea behind this is to keep the signal strong as a dropout is unlikely to happen at the same time in both. If a dropout does occur, the receiver has tone key and auto mute functions to eliminate any background noise until the signal is restored.
The microphone has the standard onstage vocal mic look of a Shure SM58 but is a little fatter and about four inches longer to accommodate the transmitter electronics, and, despite looking quite huge, the body is made of plastic so is reasonably light. The lower half of the body is covered by a cylindrical sheath that can be unscrewed to reveal the battery compartment (the transmitter runs from two AA batteries which are not supplied with the package) and a small control (adjustable with a screwdriver stashed in the battery cavity) to set the required gain if you need to change it from the factory default. To turn on the mic you press and hold a switch on its body, indicated by a solid green LED that also flashes green to show low battery status. This doubles as a mute switch and it only needs a short press to mute the mic (LED turns red) so you’d have to be careful not to accidentally press it onstage.
There are two sides to the performance of the system – how well the wireless system operates and what the actual mic sounds like. In terms of the wireless performance, as soon as the mic is turned on, it pairs up with the receiver and we had no troubles whatsoever with decent communication between the two. The mic features Samson’s Q6 capsule as found in their standard Q6 vocal mic, which sells for a street price between £20 and £25, so we weren’t expecting top of the range performance and we didn’t get it. Tonally the mic is a little dull with a surfeit of woolly lower mids and a lack of crispness in the top-end when compared with an SM58, a mic specifically engineered to let vocals cut through. Having said that, judicious use of EQ on the mixing desk can get the sound into the ballpark with acceptable results. If you are a singer wanting to roam around the stage rather than stay in one fixed position, a wireless microphone is a definite temptation, and the Concert 88’s budget price might be tempting. However, for crucial live situations you may wish to up the budget.
EASE OF USE
An inexpensive way to get the wireless vocal microphone job done but with tonal limitations.
Reviews | UAD 7.10 and 7.11 plug-ins
UAD 7.10 and 7.11 plug-ins | from $199 Universal Audio’s digital division have been working overtime on several new choice plug-ins. Jono Buchanan provides critical judgement INCLUDES AUDIO l
WHAT is it? New Reverb, Compression, EQ and Saturation plug-ins from UAD
Contact Who: UAD Tel: Source Distribution: 020 8962 5080 Web: www.uaudio.com
HIGHLIGHTS 1 AMS RMX16 reverb is straightforward to use but unique in sonic character 2 Manley Variable Mu is great for mix buss compression and provides ‘mix glue’ 3 Vertigo Sound processors both offer vintage character without unwanted noise
ince our last UAD review, two new versions of the company’s system software have been released. Version 7.10 offered two new plug-ins, with recreations of the classic AMS RMX16 reverb and Summit Audio’s TLA-100A compressor, developed alongside Softube. Version 7.11’s arrival delivered clones of Manley’s Variable Mu Compressor, two Massenburg EQ designs and two Vertigo Sound plug-in emulations, of the VSC-2 Compressor and the VSM-3 Mix Satellite. Clearly, we’ve got some catching up to do…
From Burnley, with love… The AMS RMX16 was released in 1982, designed in Lancashire and provided the first full-bandwidth reverb unit controlled by microprocessor. Rather than employing fixed, ‘mathematical-only’ algorithms, the RMX16’s blueprint was modified by
ear to produce an uncommonly musical signal response. The resulting hardware became – and remains – an essential outboard processor for any self-respecting high-end recording studio but, for those of us on tighter budgets, UAD’s plug-in represents good news. Compared to many reverbs, the RMX16 is extremely simple to use. Firstly, click on the right-hand side of the red LCD-style display to select an algorithm from Ambience, Room A1, Hall C1, Plate A1, Hall B3, Chorus 1, Echo, NonLin 2 and Reverse 1. Then, the buttons below the display, controlling individual parameters, are largely self-explanatory. All of the original preset programs are available, which you can select by clicking the program button, before selecting a preset number manually, or by pressing the Nudge Up/Down buttons which incrementally add or reduce the currently selected parameter in single
units. PreDelay, Decay Time and Decay Filter (controlling high and low frequency Decay Times independently) buttons can be edited similarly, whilst you can decide upon a Dry/Wet balance for insert treatments, or select a Wet Solo option for Auxiliary effects. For parameters which operate over a wider range, the Pot dial to the left allows you to dial in larger numbers, whilst Input and Output levels can be tweaked on the far left-hand side. So what makes the RMX16 so special? In short, its versatility, the classic nature of its assorted algorithms and its extremely musical sound. This is best demonstrated by its most famous algorithm – NonLin – which was responsible for that Phil Collins drum sound used in In The Air Tonight. It’s an algorithm which mimics a gated drum signal without you having to produce the gating yourself, which sums up the spirit and independent thinking behind this unit.
UAD 7.10 and 7.11 plug-ins | Reviews
For me, however, the Ambience algorithm is the embodiment of reverb heaven on top-end sounds, offering a sparkle, shimmer and sheen which works beautifully on vocals, strings, pads, leads or anything else to which you want to bring a celestial quality. But there isn’t a single algorithm here which won’t do something useful to your mix, whether you want some classic ’80s chorus, the warm richness of the Halls, the vocal wonder of the Plate, and so on.
Compatible with UAD-2 systems (Satellite, Apollo and PCIe cards) Thunderbolt systems: Mac: OS X 10.8.5 Mountain Lion or 10.9.x Mavericks, VST, AU, RTAS, or AAX 64 host DAW software, 4GB available disk space, Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 port FireWire & PCIe systems: PC: Windows 7 64-bit Edition w/SP1 Mac: OS X 10.8.5 Mountain Lion or 10.9.x Mavericks Both: 4GB available disk space, VST, AU, RTAS, or AAX 64 host DAW software
Man(ley) power UAD’s 7.11 release contained a plug-in model for which there has been much clamour: a thorough and detailed recreation of Manley’s Variable Mu compressor. Whilst UAD’s recreation of the Massive Passive has proved hugely popular, we’ve been kept waiting for a modelled version of Manley’s flagship compressor. The hardware, from which UAD’s plug-in is cloned, is made by hand and is tube and transformer-driven. It’s equally popular with mastering and mix engineers and has developed a reputation as a tool which glues audio together, at the same time as adding what you’d expect of a compressor: power, punch and dynamics control. When linked, the Variable Mu works in stereo, with controls tweaked on either side of the centre automatically assigning the same settings to the other side. Once you’ve selected the compression Threshold level, you can tweak Recovery (Release) Time across five notched
Most coveted EQs are desired because of the unique colour they bring to the business of tone shaping. Imagine the complete opposite: a surgical tool which uses the cleanest filters to shape, prune, enhance or magnify only elements already present in a sound, rather than adding internal distortion or colouration to the process.
Surgical and clean aren’t words we tend to associate positively in an era when we’ve all been convinced that digital mixing is too transparent, lacking in character and a bit lifeless. However, of course there are situations when such clarity is exactly what’s needed and George Massenburg’s painstakingly researched parametric EQs are among
the best in the business. Two processors are provided here with three and five bands respectively, for each of which a filter type, gain offset, bandwidth and frequency control is provided. For problemfrequency reduction or exaggeration of a particular sonic character within a sound, these EQs are excellent.
pricing Manley Variable Mu:
Vertigo Sound VSC-2 Compressor:
Vertigo Sound VSM-3 Mix Satellite:
Summit Audio TLA-100A Compressor:
$199 positions from Fast to Slow, whilst Attack Time is adjusted via a more regular dial control. Parallel Compression treatments are made easy via a Mix control to blend uncompressed signals with processed ones, whilst there’s also an extremely useful filter control which allows you to omit frequencies below 100Hz from the processing chain, leaving the
bottom-end untouched. This is particularly useful if you’re planning to process drum overheads from which you want to ‘miss out’ bass drum spill. Buss compression, either applied to grouped sounds within a mix (like drums or guitar stacks, for instance), or strapped across the output chain to dynamically process an entire mix, is common practice. But very few processors provide the sonic character of the Variable Mu. It has become famous for giving the sounds it processes ‘a warm hug’ and, whilst that might be too queasy a phrase for most readers, it’s an apt description. It warms sounds up, ties them together and provides a level of mix continuity you might not have even known you were missing. UAD’s clones of both this and the AMS RMX16 are thoroughly recommended.
There’s nothing else quite like either the RMX16 or the Variable Mu out there in plug-in land…
Each of the AMS RMX16’s algorithms offers a unique and great-sounding approach to signal processing
Which brings us to two places called Vertigo. Vertigo Sound was established in 2007 with the remit of building outboard hardware which emulated the tonal character of classic gear but
Reviews | UAD 7.10 and 7.11 plug-ins
UVI Sparkverb $199 As well as plug-ins from reverb stalwarts like Lexicon, Sonnox and Waves, the less well-known Sparkverb offers a great deal, including some breathtaking reverb special effects and may appeal as an alternative to the AMS RMX16. www.uvi.net
Waves PuigChild 660 and 670 $400 Very few compressors can be compared to the classic Fairchild 660 and 670 but the Manley Variable Mu perhaps comes closest. UAD model these classics too but, for a native solution, Waves offer a rival. www.waves.com
SoundToys Decapitator $179 If the VSM-3 has got your juices flowing but you’re seeking a native plug-in, Decapitator might end your search. With five saturation algorithms, masses of onboard Drive and filters for tone control, it’s flexible and sounds great. www.soundtoys.com
Summit Audio TLA-100A Compressor
Summit Audio’s TLA-100A balances rich and flexible soundshaping tools with ease of use. UAD’s clone models its tube/solid state circuit and makes compression simple due to a deliberately limited feature set. There are controls for (input) Gain and Gain Reduction, which selects a compression amount via
a combined Threshold and Ratio approach. Similarly, Attack and Release times are controlled by rocker switches with only three positions, whilst further dials include a Dry/Wet balance control for parallel treatments and a Low Cut dial to filter bottom-end. The standout feature is the inclusion of a
The stereo and M/S modules in the VSM-3 allow for a stunning breadth of distortion flavours
allied this to the low-noise and high headroom specifications of contemporary equipment. That became the company’s mission statement and its first offering, now cloned by Brainworx for UAD, is the VSC-2 VCA compressor. The feature set here provides a rotary Threshold control before stepped dials for Ratio (with Soft, 2:1, 4:1, 8:1, 10:1 and Brick(wall) options), Attack and
the high noise values you might immediately associate with the hardware of yesteryear.
Bespoke saturation The second of the Vertigo Sound clones is the VSM-3, which allows you to add colouration and saturation to masters, whole mixes, or components thereof. Processing comes in two main stages – the 2nd Harmonic FET
and grit to lifeless mixes. However, as a ‘rougher up’ of synth leads, drum loops, basslines and other mix elements, it has a huge amount to offer, especially bearing in mind it’s a processor which allows for much more subtle flavours of distortion than most other units which offer that effect. As you can see, with the two recent updates to their software, UAD have continued to enhance their reputation with a suite of great-sounding processors. In the AMS RMX16 and the Manley Variable Mu, in particular, there’s nothing else out there quite like them – unless you can afford the original hardware, of course…
As a ‘rougher up’ of synth leads, drum loops and basslines, the VSM-3 has a huge amount to offer Release. Make-up Gain can be added up to 22dB, whilst the unit can be used either in mono, stereo or dual mono mode. The VSC-2’s character comes from the internal structure, which provides two VCAs per channel (four in total). The first comes in the main audio path, whilst the second is inside each channel’s side-chain. The VCAs work together to determine independent compression settings for both channels, as they aren’t summed to unify the stereo ‘image’. In practice, this means a versatile, vintagesounding compressor which adds plenty of character without injecting
Saturation control which boosts and enriches harmonic content, either subtly adding warmth or more radically reimagining your source signal. A single dial controls Saturation, so if you don’t get what you need in five minutes, you probably won’t get it at all. Most times, however, it has something worthwhile to bring.
Crusher, and then the 3rd Harmonic Zener Blender. Both modules provide Drive, Level, Filter Shape and Mix controls but part of the joy here is that both processing and monitoring are super-flexible. Mid, Side or stereo sonic enhancement is available to both 2nd and 3rd Harmonic processors, as well as separate Harmonic monitoring, allowing you to hear exactly what you’re adding to the input signal. Whereas distortion isn’t an effect you’d most commonly associate with mastering, the VSM-3 has found itself proving hugely popular with mastering engineers looking to bring colour, bite
EASE OF USE
The Variable Mu and RMX16, in particular, offer the key sounds of classic hardware to your DAW.
COAXIAL DESIGN BRINGS HIGH-END STUDIO TECH TO THE MASSES
Unlike any monitor in it’s price range, the Fluid Audio FX8s employ a dual concentric driver - sometimes called a “coaxial”. Coaxial drivers, found in such world renowned monitors as the Manley ML10, sound great because all frequencies coming from the tweeter and woofer radiate from the exact same position. This is critical for accurate oﬀ-axis response as well as phase coherence.
PRECISE IMAGING FOR A MORE FLUID WORKFLOW The Fader Series (F4 & F5) features have been carefully chosen to help solve problems that many consumers see with speakers in the market today. Whether you’re tracking, mixing, or just listening to your favorite CD, the Fader Series are an invaluable tool in your arsenal.
“A REAL CONTENDER IN THE SUB £200 BRACKET” SOS
JZ VINTAGE 11
JZ J1 MICROPHONE
The V11 is a turning point for the praised Vintage series with a whole new design which follows the same vintage traditions and qualities as all JZ mics. Vintage 11 was created for everyone who loves recording in the highest quality possible.
After the huge success of Vintage V11, JZ decided to expand the product range with the J1. Although targeted to more budget oriented bedroom studios, J1 is still completely handcrafted in Latvia under the supervision of Juris Zarins.
“SOUNDS VERY NATURAL - THE HIGHS ARE ALL PRESENT, BUT WITHOUT CLAWING AT YOUR EARDRUMS” SOS
“A VERY CLASSY MICROPHONE CAPABLE OF DELIVERING THE GOODS IN A NUMBER OF SITUATIONS” SOS
YOUROCK GUITAR <GEN2>
NEO VENTILATOR 2
The YouRock Guitar <Gen2> is a fast tracking, no latency, aﬀordable digital MIDI guitar for recording, composing and creating Tablature via MIDI. It can also be used stand-alone with its internal sounds.
The Neo Ventilator 2 is the latest in Neo’s highly regarded Leslie rotary speaker simulations. Ventilator 2 simulates a 122 model rotary cabinet, and gives you complete control over the simulation so you can modify it to your preference.
“TAKES THE SLOG OUT OF MIDI COMPOSITION. FLEXIBLE FEATURE LIST. GREAT VALUE. FUN!” TOTAL GUITAR
“ONE OF THE MOST REALISTIC ROTARY SPEAKER EMULATIONS WE’VE SEEN.” FUTURE MUSIC
ROTARY CABINET SIMULATOR
WI DIGITAL AUDIOSTREAM PRO EL STEREO DIGITAL WIRELESS SYSTEM Ultra-lightweight system supports discreet, unobtrusive miking applications with comfort and ﬂexibility. The included high-end professional grade, ultra-thin, earset and lavalier microphones easily accommodate alternative mounting applications such as left and right earset, ear placement, ties, shirts and more.
INCLUDING LAVALIER MICROPHONES
MOBILE MUSIC CREATION The body of the Xkey is housed into a piece of molded aluminum. The thickness is merely 3.6mm. Weighing at around 600g. With the slim and light form factor the X-Key is the ultimate in portable mobile music creation.
“XKEY IS A STYLISH, FULL-FEATURED MIDI KEYBOARD THAT PLAYS VERY WELL” COMPUTER MUSIC
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Reviews | Spitfire Audio Hans Zimmer Percussion Libraries
Since HZ02’s release, however, a third Spitfire Audio/Zimmer percussion library has landed too, so this review will cover the merits of both the HZ02 Los Angeles library and HZ03 London Solos, which you can read about on the opposite page. Both libraries require either Kontakt or the free Kontakt Player for hosting purposes.
INCLUDES AUDIO l
WHAT is it? Parts 2 and 3 of Spitfire’s epic percussion collaboration with Hans Zimmer
Contact Who: Spitfire Audio Web: www.spitfireaudio. com
Rock the soundtrack
HIGHLIGHTS 1 Huge range of articulations and microphone options in both libraries 2 HZ02 Performance Kits let you hear the ‘whole kit’ before individual patches provide detail 3 HZ03 offers more intimate solo versions of the larger Ensembles from HZ01
pricing HZ02 (Los Angeles)
HZ03 (London Solos)
Spitfire Audio Hans Zimmer Percussion Libraries | £199 Spitfire Audio and Hans Zimmer collaborate again with two new percussion libraries. Jono Buchanan feels the force…
pitfire Audio’s first collaboration with Hans Zimmer produced the HZ01 London collection: a broad selection of cinematic percussion instruments designed to provide a bombastic sonic palette for composers and producers alike. The second collection is subtitled Los Angeles and brings a third collaborator onboard. Alongside
Spitfire Audio’s sample creation know-how and Zimmer’s legendary reputation as a composer, the HZ02 collection features the drum playing of Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham. Jason’s extreme hard-hitting appeals not only to Rock enthusiasts but to composers too, with drum kit performances forming the backbone of plenty of films and TV series.
Jason Bonham’s distinctive sound, which has led to his work on Zimmer scores such as Man Of Steel, comes not only from the strength with which he hits the skins but also from his chosen kit itself, which is a unique, customised DW Vistalite kit. This has been set up and recorded in three separate locations to form the HZ02 library: the Newman Stage at 20th Century Fox, the Sony Stage (still affectionately referred to as the MGM Stage by many in Hollywood) and The Cathedral, a huge concrete space within Hans Zimmer’s own studio facility, Remote Control. HZ02 was recorded by regular Zimmer engineer Alan Meyerson and was principally mixed by Steve Lipsom and Geoff Foster. Once you’ve downloaded, installed and authorised the library, you firstly select one of these stages from a dedicated folder before deciding whether to load a Performance Kit or a single instrument type. If you load one of the kits, you’ll be greeted with a multi-sampled MIDI mapped kit (with kicks on C1, snares on D1 etc) ready to play and sequence as you would with any other drum library. Alternatively, if you load an individual instrument type, you’ll then be greeted with multiple playing styles for each instrument, including stick and beater types, different microphone mixes, and so on. So, having sequenced a pattern, you can then assign a pretty staggering amount of control and detail to the performance of each kit piece from these dedicated patches. As with all Spitfire’s libraries, these samples have been captured using multiple microphone configurations too, between which you can balance using the dedicated level sliders towards the top of the GUI. These include Close, Gated, Room and Outrigger perspectives, meaning you can often blend between the sharpness of close mic’ing and the impressively large spaces in which the drums have been recorded. And, as concerns playing variations, the snare alone contains
Spitfire Audio Hans Zimmer Percussion Libraries | Reviews
variations for regular and bamboo sticks, felt mallets and playing types, including snares on/off, Edge Hits, Flams, Rolls, Side Hits and many more. These vary from one recording space to another too, so it’s well worth looking in the folder for each stage to pick and choose sounds for your productions. The full list of instruments recorded in this ultra-detailed way is Crash, Crash Ride (with Combos featuring both together too), Hi Hat, Ride, Kick, Snare, Snare Alternatives, High Tom, Mid Tom and Low Tom. However, even this list doesn’t really do the library justice as the Cathedral recordings include Bonham’s DW Snare alongside alternative Maple and Brass Snares, multiple Kicks, and so on. Indeed, everywhere you look, this library provides detail over every aspect of drum kit recording.
For composers only? Such is the microscopic level of detail available here, we should dispel the
HZ03 London Solos
HZ03 London Solos is the third title in Spitfire Audio’s collaboration with Hans Zimmer and provides a pared down approach to the bombastic sound of the HZ01 library, with solo performances of many of the same drums featured in that first library. If you want to bring a smaller-sounding, more intimate version of an instrument to the fore,
before perhaps bringing in a fuller Ensemble sound behind it, this library is for you. To make such sonic partnerships straightforward, HZ03 offers the same microphone positions as those found in HZ01 but there are more performance articulations for some instruments, mining the subtleties of
instruments which are diluted when performed in larger Ensembles. Indeed, this detail is explored further with the inclusion of Additional Mics patches, which offer Bottle, Mid-stage, Gallery, Overhead, Stereo Pair and Contact microphone perspectives too, significantly increasing the sonic potential for each instrument.
The level of detail available here is microscopic, but this is not a drum library for composers alone notion that this is a drum library for composers alone; anyone needing a heavy, multi-sampled rock kit for their productions should give its acquisition some serious thought. However, the more alternative playing techniques offered will certainly
For both libraries: Requires Kontakt 5 or free Kontakt Player System requirements: Mac: OS X 10.7, Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM PC: Windows 7 (latest Service Pack, 32/64-bit), Intel Core Duo or AMD Athlon 64 X2, 4GB RAM recommended HDD: HZ02: 22.7GB in download product from 34.3GB of WAV data HZ03: 13.0GB in download product from 36.2GB of WAV data
have composers who seek fresh sounds for their scoring palettes salivating; the soft mallet cymbal swells are a personal favourite, alongside the bamboo hits across a range of instruments. Lastly, there’s a kit of Hans Zimmer’s own electronic percussion
sounds. I’m a little surprised these have been included – whilst they’re perfectly usable and useful sounds, in the context of larger electronic drum libraries, a single kit of electronic sounds seems a touch tokenistic. That’s not in any way to detract from the core programs in this library, however, which are great to play from the Performance Kits but, more importantly, supremely detailed when it comes to assigning individual articulations to each kit piece. If you’re looking for Rock drums, either for production or scoring work, you should definitely make checking out the demos of this library on Spitfire Audio’s website a priority.
EastWest Stormdrum 3 from $299 The third iteration of EastWest’s Stormdrum is the best sounding yet and is considered an essential tool for film composers who favour bombastic percussion. www.soundsonline.com
Sample Logic Impakt $399.99 Featuring a collection of more delicately tuned percussion instruments alongside more explosive hits, Impakt covers many bases. www.samplelogic.com
EASE OF USE
The Additional Microphones folder dramatically expands the potential of the HZ03 library
Each of the three libraries has huge individual merits, but together their force is unstoppable.
NI Action Strikes £249 NI make it easy to create Hollywood percussion ensembles with great sounds playable both individually and from a Loop Player. www.native-instruments. com
Reviews | Eisenberg Vier
INCLUDES AUDIO l
WHAT is it? A polyphonic emulation of the Doepfer MS-404 with four modules
Contact Who: Eisenberg Tel: +49 30 60 98 73 14 Web: www.eisenberg-audio. de
HIGHLIGHTS 1 A great emulation of a characterful little mono synth 2 Excellent MIDI control possibilities 3 A clever macro and linking system to make simple but powerful performance controls
Eisenberg Vier | €99 After the excellent Einklang, Berlin-based Eisenberg have now added an emulation of the classic monophonic Doepfer MS-404 to their product range. Stuart Bruce investigates… specs Plug in formats: VST, AU, RTAS and AAX System requirements Mac: OSX 10.7 or higher. 32 and 64-bit. PC: Windows. Works with all 32 and 64-bit versions. 64-bit installer also installs 32-bit version Hosts: Works with any compatible host and also in free-standing mode. With Windows it will work with Windows Audio, ASIO and Direct Sound, although this is not recommended unless your interface has no ASIO driver
he MS-404 is a great little mono synth along the lines of the TB-303 but with a few significant additions such as two LFOs. Eisenberg have taken it a stage further with the Vier giving you four polyphonic modules which can be linked together or set to individual MIDI channels. With all modules set to the same MIDI channel, there are six playing modes which do the following: Unison: all four play simultaneously. Split: each module has a range set by dragging its related colour bar over the keyboard. Revolver: each new note swaps to the next module. Random: as Revolver but random! Chord (blow): chords are split intelligently with lowest notes going to the first module and highest to the last. Chord (grow): notes are split lowest to highest and when there are more notes than modules it starts again from the first module. It is also possible to link a knob on any module to any other knob on any other module by left-clicking and
holding on the name below the knob and dragging to the desired destination. There is no limit to the number of links and you can then link to one of eight macro knobs which can again have any number of links. All links are relative so, once you have set up a sound with all four modules, you can then put together some incredible control patches and, thanks to the MIDI implementation, every knob has its own cc number (and you can easily edit them). If you like performance controls, you will love this as the possibilities are endless.
Individual sound The modules themselves are pretty straightforward as the 404 is a very simple synth. The two LFOs control the pulse width or FM modulation of the oscillator and the filter cutoff respectively and the rest is very much self-explanatory. My initial reaction when flicking through the sound library was that it sounded a bit ordinary and thin. It was only when I started to get
into layering modules together and thickening up sounds with some modulation and detune that it really came to life, but that also was the moment when I got my biggest surprise. You can’t pan individual modules in a stereo instance and there are no individual level controls, ie in audio terms it is mono. That said, I love the sound of it. It takes me back to my Düsseldorf days. Crisp clean tones with some strident modulation possibilities and, with the addition of a bit of drive, a hard edge that can go deliciously nasty. The Vier is certainly a great addition to the sonic armoury as it has a truly individual sound and, with the addition of pan and level controls, it could well become a classic. The MS-404 was discontinued some time ago so this is the best way to get your hands on four of them… and it’s a bargain.
EASE OF USE
An excellent synth, the lack of mixer section notwithstanding, with a very distinctive tonal colour.
MINI REVIEWS Prodipe ST-USB Lanen Mic | £79 www.prodipe.com
There are times when convenience is paramount and Prodipe’s ST-USB microphone is designed for such moments. It’s a medium capsule cardioid condenser mic with integrated A/D converter (16-bit, 44.1 and 48kHz) and USB connectivity. So you simply plug it into the USB slot on your computer and it’s buss powered and ready to go. PC users can also grab an additional ASIO 2.0 driver if required. Once powered up, a blue LED illuminates the capsule, and mic gain is handled at software level via your computer’s audio driver. For a budget mic, ST-USB sounds pretty good, with a bright detailed sound and quite broad cardioid pattern. Nevertheless, its USB cable seems to carry low-level computer interference (not resolved with a ferrite choke), and in use it’s also far too easy to dislodge the USB plug at the bottom. So, the price is attractive but it’s probably worth checking out other options too. Jon Musgrave
KOMA Attenuator Cable | ¤9 www.koma-elektronik.com
When you’re in front of your modular trying to achieve an exact sound, you need to be able to create exact voltages to do it with. And not all modules actually include attenuators, for dialling back the voltages you’re chucking in and out of their various sockets. Enter the Koma Attenuator Cable – a thin but sturdy 25cm long 3.5mm jack adaptor, with a built-in slider that provides audio or CV attenuation within the cable itself, saving you the precious HP (and cost) of a dedicated attenuator module. With only about 5mm of travel on the slider, it’s tricky for dialling in very precise settings with; but it does the job, with no discernible bleed when set totally off. For the money, giving emergency attenuation right where you need it, it’d be well worth having a few of these handy. Al James
Livid Instruments Guitar Wing | £165 www.lividinstruments.com
he Guitar Wing slots firmly over the lower horn of most popular guitars, Strat, Tele, Les Paul and Fender basses included, and can output MIDI note and CC messages wirelessly via a Bluetooth connection to a USB dongle plugged into a computer, iPad or a USB-MIDI host for a hardware MIDIequipped pedal.
An array of switches, buttons, pads, touch faders, plus a 3D motion sensor, are all easily operated with the picking hand for, typically, switching effects, adjusting parameters in real time and controlling recording software – MIDI mapping templates are provided for the likes of Ableton Live, Logic Pro, Reason, NI Guitar Rig and others. You also get the
WingFX software (standalone and plug-in) with effects directly controlled from the Guitar Wing. A brilliant tool for guitarists willing to embrace hi-tech, Guitar Wing offers convenient and practical remote control when recording, as well as huge dynamic performance possibilities. Trevor Curwen
Total Samples Cutline | £17.95 www.primeloops.com Dubstep heads who are used to having their faces screwed, and cones melted, will no doubt be familiar with the boys on the box of this sample pack. Cutline have made a name for themselves in the UK bass scene through their tireless touring schedule and sublime remix skills (Rudimental felt the love, for sure). Their broad influences range from Classical to Jungle, and here they offer a collection of royalty-free loops and beats that are more than just your generic club fodder. This 230MB pack, comes ready to rock with a wealth of drums, tops, synths, FX and basslines. The licks on demand are fresh, fearsome, and varied enough to find a home in a variety of cutting edge bass music styles. All in all, it’s a solid outing. Roy Spencer
Sample Magic House Nation | £34.90 www.samplemagic.com Girl, Sample Magic will House you. And boys too. In fact, this giant collection of 1,122 loops and one shots is for just about anyone who hankers after the early days of Chicago and Detroit. It’s old skool organs, Disco diva vox fodder, and re-sampled riffs a-plenty here. A quick checklist of the gear used (808, MS-10, Juno-60, Ensoniq Mirage etc…) will have gear heads frothing at the bit, too. Everything is lovingly recorded – they’re going for the grit and glamour of the glory days, but polishing the whole shebang with the best modern production techniques. If you’re up for packing a bit of that throwback Funk into your cutting-edge trunk, then you’ll have a blast with these song-starting House jams. It also comes with a handy ten-page tips and techniques digital booklet. Roy Spencer
SM Studio Afro Percussion | £14.90 www.samplemagic.com It began in Africa. And the tribal rhythms of that continent run deeply through all music. Sample Magic have sought to do that legacy justice with this 281 strong collection of authentic loops and layers. Presented at 125bpm in Wav format, as well as Rex2 and Apple Loops, the traditional instruments at your fingertips are a joy work with. The intricate rhythms in the loops add unexpected grooves to any genre, and the one-shots let you develop your own beats from scratch.
As you’d expect, everything has been recorded using high-end drum mics, so the pristine sound quality does the congas, bongos, timbales and shekeres justice. From Deep (and Tribal, of course) House to the more exotic ends of genres like Trap and Moombahton, you’re going to be able to inject some fresh ideas into your beats with this useful pack. Roy Spencer
Capsun Pro Audio Textures: Dust, Dirt & Crackle Vol 1 | £19.95 www.loopmasters.com Textures are a much-overlooked component of a track – they provide mood and atmosphere, and can help change up the vibe you thought you were working with. Just play with some of the 143 texture loops in volume one of this new series alongside some ongoing projects and you’ll find that new harmonies start to reveal themselves immediately. Pass them through your favourite processors and further developments take hold. Loopmasters carry a fair few texture packs (Organic Textures, Space Rangers and Cinematic Textures are all worth a look in), but this collection really gets the haunting and redolent angle the title promises – crackling beds tick away in percussive fashion, while ghostly voices hint at melodies. Capsun Pro Audio are channelling experimental composers like Burial and Brian Eno, and the results will cast enlightening new shadows over your productions. Roy Spencer
Every issue in Computer Music... Essential reading for all Mac and PC musicians
Packed with tutorials, reviews and advice, and featuring a DVD full of exclusive software and samples, helps you make every month better music on your Mac or PC!
System 6 Samples Presents Death Proof Recordings | £11.97 www.loopmasters.com The Death Proof Recordings label might only be clocking in at a mere three years young, but the banging House and Techno it puts out has always found its way into the crates of the scene’s DJ elite. Their brand of beastial, bass-laden, big-room noise, has been championed by everyone from Maya Jane Coles to Danny Tenaglia. Production whiz and Death Proof head honcho, Benjamin Vial, steps up on this 900MB collection to show just what makes his label so dear to the big dogs’ hearts. He’s assembled drum hits and loops, one shots, basses of all kinds, and the kind of sizzling synths that his camp is known for. His contributions in this heavy pack are suitably invincible and make for a fierce collection of loops on their own. Death Proof new pup, Frankie Ferrell, follows suit with his own invulnerable collection of Techy Funk flavours to round out this strong release. Roy Spencer
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Audio Damage ADM06 Sequencer 1 | $699 Reportedly over ten years in development, Audio Damage bet the farm on ADM06, their attempt to create the most powerful Eurorack sequencer yet
udio Damage, software purveyors of plug-in effects and instruments, have more recently extended into the physical realm with a range of (now six) simple but unique Eurorack effects and noise modules. Simplicity has been asked to leave the room, however, with their latest – the Sequencer 1. This is a step sequencer dubbed on their website “the most powerful CV/Gate sequencer in the Eurorack format”, which is a bold claim but, as we’re about to see, quite a fair one. In a nutshell, it’s a 64 step Eurorack sequencer with three additional CV generators included, inspired in part by the sequencer in Elektron’s Analog 4. Out of a nutshell… it’s rather daunting. It has the ability to store and recall 64 patterns, 16 apiece in four banks, saved to a MicroSD card
allowing you to back up its pattern memory onto your computer. Each step has a pitch you determine with the little button-keyboard, a gate and an accent and a slide and a ratchet parameter (a note-repeat, like a flam), and a gate length parameter. There’s also a global swing amount. We have a broad range of sequencer playback modes: forward, back, ping-pong (two different styles), every other step, a pseudorandom ‘walk’, random and halt, which repeats the current note only. We also have two flexible CV inputs, allowing us to patch voltages in. We can CV-modulate gate length, the current step position, the selected playback mode, repeats, ratcheting and pitch transposition, or switch patterns (within the current bank)! Where it goes crazy is that we also have three additional CV outs, which allow us to select a step and
twist the three push-button knobs, adjusting three arbitrary voltages in hundredths-of-a-volt increments, ±5V max, per step. This gives you three Elektron-esque parameter lock modulation sources for anything you can voltage-control in your modular. But, if we so choose, we can convert any or all of those outs into three independent complex timesynchronised LFOs with a bevy of shapes and rates, with control of amplitude and polarity, phase and synchronisation, which can be used as one-shot envelope generators too! Since you have three CV complex sources right there in Sequencer 1, it can easily self-modulate itself to fascinating ends. We transformed funky patterns playing in ‘walk’ mode, CV-transposing them with its own tempo-sync’d square-wave LFO while simultaneously using its S&H shape to randomly CV-scrub the step
position, with the third CV out programming filter cutoff. There are also front panel momentary repeat and ratcheting buttons, the former of which we hold down and grab two, four or eight step sections of our sequence, for live sequence ‘remixing’. But what’s musically interesting here is, when you let go, the pattern picks up from where it would have been rather than just continuing on from the end of the grabbed loop. And this feature is a CV modulation destination too. So your 64 steps are only a starting point. Sequencer 1 has a tremendous capacity to reinterpret them in fascinating ways and, of course, its modulation power can be put to great use elsewhere in your case. And Audio Damage promise major updates in future, with complex pitch quantisation capability due first, and hints of more significant new functionality in store (all via free updates). Sequencer 1 already does a hell of a lot. But we agree with the manual that “the price of that power is complexity”. Making sequences involves regular Alt-button tapping, repeated knob pushing to cycle through its various menu pages while tweaking. You lose a little immediacy for it to do so much. We can’t (yet?) play the little button keyboard live to enter a melody in real time and, unlike Elektron gear, you can’t edit multiple steps simultaneously. And it’s not cheap, but it fulfils the role of several (premium) modules in one. It would be a one-stop source of complex recallable sequencing and modulation in a live performance rig – and back home a powerful tool for musical exploration with extraordinary sounding results.
specs 36HP wide, 20mm deep, 110ma +12V draw. 1-64 step Sequencer, 64 Pattern Storage, MicroSD card storage, 1V/Oct & Hz/Volt Selectable Pitch Out, Gate Out, Accent Out, Slide & Tie & Ratcheting, Multiple Gate Out Styles, Variable External Sync, Run & Reset ins, Sync & Run & Reset outs, Three complex LFO generators w/25 waveforms to 3 linear voltage outputs, Two Programmable CV Ins.
Contact Who: Audio Damage Web: www.audiodamage.com/hardware
verdict It’s already a formidable, and Audio Damage aren’t done with it yet.
Modular Monthly | Round-up
IN THE NEWS Boomstar
Casing Cases With over 1,000 different modules available, there’s something for everyone in Eurorack. But everyone needs something to put them in. Let’s browse some options…
Studio Electronics have announced an entire range of Eurorack products inspired by their Boomstar synths. Expect through-hole filter clones of the 303, ARP and Moog ladder, plus a ‘vibey’ AMP module first, and more in 2015.
Tiptop Audio Happy Ending Kit 3U/84HP £129
Monome have unwrapped Earthsea: a third addition to their Eurorack lineup, being a “gridenabled shape memory pattern instrument” for playing and looping gestures with a connected Monomegrid controller.
Height measured in 3U multiples. One row = 3U Width is measured in HP. 84HP = 426.72cm (a single HP is 5.08mm)
Still one of the simplest and cheapest ways to get started. Can be configured for use on your desk, or in a 19-inch rack, giving you 84HP to play with (minus 4HP for the included uZeus power supply).
Thonk 104HP Skiff/4ms Power Bundles 3U/104HP £190 Brighton-based DIY modular retailer Thonk.co.uk have just unveiled neat
perspex-sandwiched desktop kits which combine a 4ms Row Power 30 module for a wider and beefier power solution than the Happy Ending Kit.
ADDAC Frames (Various, 42HP-197HP, 3U-12U) from 120 euros Quiet but prolific German module makers ADDAC have a broad range of simple but classy looking plywood cases, open back and closed, in a variety of form factors and sizes, with and without power, at fair mid-range prices.
Doepfer LC6 6U/84HP 240 euros Doepfer LC9 9U/84HP 280 euros
4ms Modular Rows (Various 3U 104HP) from $398
Eurorack father Doepfer offer fully enclosed pre-built upright wooden cases which are plain but very decent, with powerful PSUs inside capable of coping with more demanding loads than a single uZeus can. One of the most popular cases out there.
A remarkable new metal case system from 4ms in which multiple standalone rows can be clipped together with 30 and 45 degree pieces, with no tools required, forming larger cases which can be angled or straight, in any combination.
Custom Cases Fancy something a touch more personal than an off-the-shelf case? There are highly skilled custom case manufacturers out there worth investigating, namely those of Goike (www.goike.com) and Lamond Designs (lamonddesign.co.uk). Also consider the IKEA-self-assembly-style Ginko Synthese Wooden Case Kits (ginkosynthese.com – email for info on powered kits!). However, if you are on the strictest of budgets or want to quickly prototype a case you intend to build from more permanent materials, you could even purchase metal Tiptop Audio Z-Rails (£32), a uZeus (£65) and PSU (£15), making a case from wood or even cardboard(!). See below, but note that metal rails are required as they dissipate heat generated. Be very careful with electronics and respect all safety requirements of the power supply you choose! If in doubt, buy a case.
Pittsburgh Modular are introducing the Analog Replicator, a new modular BBD delay with a truly obese 8,192 stages for a remarkable 2.6 second delay time!
In this month’s Vault you’ll find a printable PDF guide with dimensions and template, and accompanying tutorial video, for making a simple 3U cardboard enclosure – using a pair of 84HP Tiptop Z-Rails, a Tiptop uZeus, double-wall cardboard and tape!
Watch the video and print the guide PDF without re-scaling. Carefully, using scalpel and cutting mat, cut the required pieces. Use the guide to trace and cut the end pieces, using it to mark the guide holes for final assembly.
Assemble and tape together. Ensure the four top pieces are placed on top of the base rather than to the side of it. Use an awl or cocktail stick to enlarge screw holes and then screw in rails carefully. Done!
Moog Sub 37 | Producer’s Guide To
producer’s GUIDE TO…
INCLUDES VIDEO and AUDIO
Moog Sub 37
Duo Mode, Modulation and more
oog are now shipping their Sub 37 analogue synth after its initial introduction at NAMM last January. The Sub 37 is Moog’s most fully-featured compact analogue synth to date and it firmly addresses the criticisms that were angled at the great sounding yet streamlined Little Phatty. The Sub 37 is overflowing with real-time hands-on goodness and its front panel features 40 knobs (in contrast to the Little Phatty’s seven) which makes live performance way less button reliant and much more involving. Then there’s the additional sub oscillator (that debuted on the recent Sub Phatty) which is great for adding extra thickness and growl to sounds – whilst it’s not as versatile as the third oscillator on the Voyager due to its fixed square wave, it does get you much closer to those famous three-oscillator Minimoog/Voyager sounds. Thankfully, you don’t have to sacrifice an oscillator for LFO/modulation duties here (like the Minimoog) as there are two dedicated LFOs/mod busses onboard. The Sub 37 is also the first Moog to house a duo-paraphonic sound engine. Each of the main two oscillators can be assigned its own note on the keyboard
and, when Duo Mode is engaged, up to two-note chords can be played. This feature opens up the sound creation options considerably and, as a bonus, the sequencer will also sequence two notes simultaneously if Duo Mode is engaged during recording. In addition, the two mod busses, arp, sequencer and envelopes can all be synchronised to the internal master clock or MIDI and the envelopes can also be latched and looped for creating drones and off-the-wall effects. All things considered, the interface is a significant step up from the now discontinued Little/Slim Phatty, yet the Sub 37 retains a similarly thick and gooey family sound. Notably, it has a slightly more precise character due to the new/more stable oscillator design which eliminates the need for warming up (something which could take around 30 minutes on the Little/Slim Phatty). In this feature we’re going to explore four key areas of the Sub 37 – the aim is to inspire ideas and approaches and help you to get the most out of this compact yet complex synth. Firstly, we’ll dig into how to add extra dirt to sounds, secondly we’ll be taking a look at the Sub 37’s modulation options, thirdly some quick tips for sound design and lastly how to use Duo Mode and the sequencer.
Producer’s Guide To | Moog Sub 37
Adding Dirt To Sounds The lovely folks at Moog Music have provided the Sub 37 with a whole load of options for adding texture, thickness and low-end weight when designing sounds, most of which can be found in the mixer and filter sections. In the mixer section, simply pushing the levels of the oscillator dials past the halfway mark results in
a thicker, more harmonically rich sound (the higher the level is coming out of the mixer into the filter, the more grittiness/distortion you get). This trick alone adds some very useful yet controllable character, though, of course, you can get cleaner sounds too using more conservative oscillator levels. Another great way to dial in extra
weight is using the sub oscillator. Depending on how you set the level, you can add a subtle thickness to your sound, or push the level higher for huge-sounding triple-oscillator leads and basses. In addition to the four filter slopes which can each impart radically different characters upon your sounds (brighter, smoother, bassier, and so on), the Sub 37 also has a Multidrive control. Multidrive is basically a built-in clipping/distortion unit and it’s the quickest way to add instant grit, fuzz and thickness to your sounds! (Note that the way the Multidrive reacts will change depending on the level coming into the filter from the mixer.) You can also use the noise source to rough up sounds, plus there’s a feedback control which internally hardwires the main output back into the mixer for thickening sounds and creating mayhem at higher levels! This is an old trick used on the Minimoog that also works on the Voyager too, though you have to physically wire the main out to the external input. Don’t forget, you can use just one of these features/options or combine them all simultaneously in varying amounts for creating different textures.
Modulation For Spicing Up Your Sounds You take two oscillators, add a sub and some detuning, but then what? Let’s explore some modulation options… The Sub 37’s two mod busses and LFOs are very versatile. When Hi Range is selected on either modulation buss (for example), the LFOs go into the audio range for adding further grit and FM/ring-mod-like textures. They can both run independently or be synced to the internal clock or MIDI and their cycles can be reset by the keyboard for a more consistent initial attack. Each LFO can also modulate the pitch of one or both oscillators and the filter simultaneously and there are a further six preset destinations and one user-programmable destination per LFO too. There are also five waves available per LFO (plus a programmable source), whilst looping the envelopes gives even deeper LFO-like control. Here are some examples to try…
To set aftertouch to control Mod Buss 1 rather than the mod wheel, press Controllers and set the aftertouch percentage in the menu. Set Mod Wheel percentage to 0 to hear the effect.
Process external instruments through the filters and envelopes using the external input. Plug in your source, turn up the external in level and latch the envelopes.
Using the envelopes in Loop mode is a great way to produce tape delay type effects. Try short decays and long releases and mess with the attack controls to fade sounds in.
Switch filter slopes for smoother (24dB) or dirtier (6dB) characters and flick between them whilst playing to add variety.
To add vibrato to one or both oscillators, push up the mod wheel, select LFO 1 and set its source to triangle wave. Turn up the Pitch AMT dial, assign the oscillator(s) using the Pitch AMT button, then tweak the LFO rate for a faster or slower vibrato.
Assign the vibrato LFO to control the waveshape of one or both oscillators. The LFO will thin/thicken the sound depending on the mod wheel’s position. Select Loop and/or Sync on one/both envelopes for creating freeform or synchronised envelope based modulation.
To set up LFO 2 to control the rate of LFO 1, select LFO Rate as the destination on Mod Buss 2. Move the LFO dial to F.EG/ PGM if you want to use the filter envelope as a mod source, or choose from several other mod sources/destinations via the Controllers button.
Use the patch select buttons for saving your sounds in the correct order for your live set.
Moog Sub 37 | Producer’s Guide To
Duo Mode And Sequencing The Sub 37 can play two-note chords and it can also sequence two notes simultaneously…
Next up, set the pitches of both oscillators to 16. Turn Duo Mode on and set Keyboard Control to high priority so that the top note leads any chords that are played. Set the Beat Freq of Osc 2 to taste for a more in tune or detuned sound. Now flip to the Glide section and set Time to just past 2 (controlling both oscillators). Select the Exponential curve with Gated and Legato selected for 303-style glides when sequencing.
Set LFO 1 to pulse wave with Sync engaged to sync the LFO speed to the master clock (master clock speed is set by tap tempo, MIDI or the Rate control in the Arp/Sequencer section). Set the Pitch AMT dial so that the pitch jumps an octave with the mod wheel at full and engage the OSC 1 button with Filter AMT set to full. You can now simultaneously control the pitch and filter frequency of Oscillator 1 with the mod wheel.
Next Issue: Roland TR-8
Revive the vibe of Roland’s classic grooveboxes with our guide to the Aira range’s beat machine. Available February 12th.
Firstly, let’s start from scratch with an initialised patch. Click and hold on the Panel/Init button which initialises all settings including the sequence associated with the patch. Let’s make a sound utilising two oscillators and the sub oscillator. We’re using a saw on Osc 1 and a sine/saw mix on Osc 2. Set Osc 1 level to 6 and Osc 2 to 8. Add some sub oscillator to taste and a little feedback to beef up the sound further.
Now let’s record the sequence. Set the Pattern dial to REC and enter single notes/ two-note chords to taste. Wherever you want a glide in the sequence, press the note you want to be the start of the glide then press TIE, then enter the note you want to glide to (ideally an octave above). Once you have entered 16 steps (up to 64 steps max) switch the Pattern dial to SEQ, hit the ON button and engage LATCH for hands-free looping.
Set the Mod 1 AMT dial to 3/4 full and destination to OSC 1 waveshape so that the mod wheel affects the waveshape of Osc 1 without affecting Osc 2. Now move onto the filter, setting the slope to 12dB for a dirtier sound. Add Multidrive to taste whilst tweaking the filter cutoff and resonance until you’re happy with the sound. You can tweak the filters during live performance so don’t worry too much about an exact setting here.
Now it’s time to get creative! Transpose your sequence by pressing any key, introduce pitch and filter changes using the mod wheel and engage LOOP on one or both envelopes to use them as pseudo LFOs for creating rhythmic effects. For a tighter feel, use envelope SYNC to synchronise the start of each envelope’s cycle to the master clock tempo. Engage DUO Mode and you can also play a melody over your sequence (monophonic sequences only).
Advice | Your Production Problems Solved
Nord Stage 2 Now, Or Wait?
We would just go with the Stage 2 now – it’s unlikely you’ll exhaust all the possibilities in the Stage 2 anyway as there’s plenty onboard. Also, don’t forget that Nord instruments generally hold their value well if you do want to upgrade at a later date, whilst Nord sounds and libraries are usually backwards compatible too.
Your production problems solved
Can I trigger samples on my QWERTY keyboard?
Obviously, your computer’s QWERTY keyboard has its limitations as a sampletriggering platform – the keys aren’t velocity sensitive, they’re small and packed in closely together – but there are occasions when being able to quickly map a load of sounds to it so you can play them could be useful. One application that specialises in enabling this is Soundplant (http://
soundplant.org), a standalone piece of software for PC and Mac. Simply drag ‘n’ drop sounds onto its graphical QWERTY keyboard (a multitude of formats is supported and the samples can be of any length you like) and they can then be triggered with low latency. You can actually play back up to 256 sounds simultaneously so, as well as being potentially useful in the live arena, Soundplant could have possibilities as a sound design tool, too.
Soundplant costs $50, though there is also a free version of the software you can take for a spin.
What size MIDI keyboard should I buy?
This really depends on your proficiency as a keyboard player, whether you want your keyboard to be portable, and how much space you have in your studio. If you’re any sort of player, the chances are that you’re not going to
Best Mixbuss Compressor Plug-In ?
The SSL G-Series Master Buss Compressor, which is part of the Waves SSL 4000 collection and for the UAD2 platform, is fantastic for gluing tracks together without destroying quality. Also, check out Cytomic’s Glue, Elysia’s Alpha Master, the TDR Feedback Compressor II, the VPS Multiband Sidechain 3 and the PSP BussPressor.
settle for anything with fewer than five octaves (61 notes). This is enough for proper two-handed playing, though if you’re a pianist, you might also consider investing in a model with 76 or 88 notes, or using an existing synth/workstation/stage piano as your controller. If you can’t play at all, it might be tempting to go for a 25-note model but, while these have the advantage of being super-portable (particularly those with mini keys), be aware that you might ‘outgrow’ this if your skills improve and your requirements change. Investing in a four-octave (49-note) model at the outset might actually be wiser if portability isn’t an issue. One thing we should say is that price is far less of a factor than it used to be. Sure, the very cheapest controller keyboards tend to be the smallest ones, but you don’t have to spend that much more to get a bigger model. Acorn Instruments’ five-octave MasterKey 61, for example, can be had for less than £75. Okay, it doesn’t have an abundance of control options (just assignable pitch and mod wheels), but it’s certainly playable.
Are ‘lite’ versions of DAWs any good?
Practically every full-blown DAW on the market is also available in some kind of cutdown format. It certainly makes sense for developers: simply by removing or locking out a few features from an application that already exists, they can sell a separate product at a much lower price, potentially generating revenue from customers who simply wouldn’t be willing or able to pay for the full version. There are benefits for users, too. If you buy a cutdown DAW it will likely look and feel very similar to the
Advice | Your Production Problems Solved
Tips For Mixing Synth Bass I always have trouble getting synth bass sounds to sit nicely in my tracks. Any tips? Synth basses are hard to mix, especially as they often have lots of sub frequency content and spiky attack transients. Synths with very snappy envelopes can be a double-edged sword – you may stumble upon a punchy sound that sounds great but, once you’ve lived with the sound for a bit, the attack may start to grate on you. You can easily end up with frequencies and transients clashing between the synth bass, drums and other instruments in the mix if you’re not careful, so choose your sounds wisely! Here are a few pointers...
When Is A Master Too Crushed?
If your mastered track sounds lifeless, distorted in extreme lows and highs, lacking in dynamics and the waveform looks like a solid brick wall, then you’ve probably gone too far with pushing your levels! Generally, you should be shooting for the RMS level on your master to hit between -10 and -20dBs. Any higher than -10dB and you’re likely destroying important dynamics and transients.
software that spawned it, so you can learn the basics of a pro application without having to pay top dollar. And if you decide that it isn’t for you, at least you haven’t wasted hundreds of pounds on it. There are also reasons to be wary of cutdown/lite versions, though. Software developers aren’t daft – ultimately, they’d like to have you onboard as a user of their full package, so the chances are that some of the features that are omitted are ones that, sooner or later, you’ll want and then have to shell out for. You may be able to pay an upgrade price rather than the full whack, but
be aware that investing in a cutdown version may mean that you’ll have to get your credit card out again at some point. Make sure you check the specs and version comparison charts so you can see exactly what you’re getting at the outset. If you decide that you don’t want to feel like you’re getting a watered down version of a full DAW, there are other options: namely, full products that are significantly cheaper than the big-name packages. The discounted licence for Cockos Reaper, for example, only costs $60, and Tracktion 5 can be yours for the same price.
We have a synth bass with a punchy attack and a lot of mid and high frequency content which is clashing with the attack of the drums and congas. Insert an EQ and a spectrum analyser to highlight any peaky transients, then bring down the offending frequency area(s).
If you want a subby synth bass sound to dominate the low-end of your track, remove subs from the kick until the synth bass cuts through better or, if you want a bassy kick drum to dominate, remove lows from the synth bass until the kick cuts through nicely.
Compression is your friend for keeping synth bass under control! Use fast attack to clamp down on rogue attack transients. Or sidechain your bass to the kick drum so, when the kick hits, the initial attack of the bass is compressed and the kick cuts through better.
Don’t be afraid to use reverb on synth bass – careful use of reverb/delay can really help your synth bass sit in the track better. In particular, if you stick to small reverb sizes with short reverb times, you shouldn’t really hear the reverb as such but will feel it instead.
Sample Pads For Drummer?
The Alesis SamplePad Pro has six large pads and two small pads, plus kick/hat trigger inputs and two additional pad inputs. Custom samples can be stored to SD card too and it costs just £199. Alternatively, the Roland SPD-SX (£559) has nine pads, three-multi FX engines and 2GB custom sample memory.
Got questions that need answering? Send your queries to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and our team of experts will endeavour to solve them
Gear Guide | Essential Tools for Music Making
Bass Monsters DAWs Studio Headphones
Essential tools for music making
Bass Monsters Moog Minitaur | £499 Full Review: FM250
A powerful, deep bass synth with a flexible future. Well priced and solid Moog build. It’s limited to a specific, low-end function, but it’s so good at it that we’d never complain.
Novation Bass Station II | £399
NI Monark | £89
Korg Volca Bass | £119
Moog Sub Phatty | £849
Review FM271 They say ‘never go back’ but
Review FM266 Arguably the best Minimoog
Review FM271 The Volcas are revolutionary at
Review FM268 A truly stimulating instrument
Novation have and we’re all the better for it.
Model D emulation yet, Monark sounds amazing
this price point. Everyone should own all three!
that punches above its weight to live up to the
Bass Station II is quick and easy to get a wide
but its Reaktor requirement is mildly irritating.
If you can only stretch to one, then we would
range out of. Cheers to that!
definitely recommend the Bass.
Rob Papen SubBoomBass | £89
Spectrasonics Trilian | £209
Korg MS-20 mini | £599
NI Massive | £169
Review FM215 SubBoomBass has got more to
Review FM224 Trilian’s not without a few quirks,
Review FM265 A faithful resurrection of the
Review FM182 Massive has a cutting-edge
satisfy bass hounds than most synths and is
but it’s a fine successor to Trilogy and one of the
MS-20, at a crazily good price. Everyone should
sound with a sonic size that lives up to its name.
particularly well suited to urban styles.
best sources for bass sounds of all kinds.
own one! Great for producing simple but
A great all-rounder, but it’s best known for bass.
full-bodied bass tones.
Essential Tools for Music Making | Gear Guide
Steinberg Cubase AKG K712 Pro Pro 8 | £448 £379 Full Review: FM288 A solid update, built on strong foundations, with some genuinely useful new features. If MixConsole could be tweaked further visually we would be almost entirely happy!
Full Review: FM272
A pair of great open-backed mix headphones. The K712 Pro are light, airy, comfortable and expertly put together.
Logic Pro X | £139
Ableton Live 9 | £315
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x | £159
Shure SRH1540 | £469
Review FM270 Version ten of the popular DAW
Review FM265 With new features including
Review FM277 The M50x goes deeper and feels
Review FM274 Shure have produced truly
revamps the interface and introduces some
64-bit architecture, updated devices and browser
clearer and more airy than its predecessor, the
premium headphones that make monitoring
long-awaited MIDI effects plugs. And let’s not
and Audio to MIDI functionality, Ableton Live
M50. A great all-rounder at a low price.
an easy pleasure.
overlook that price – wow!
continues to lead in creative innovation.
Sonar X3 | £419
Pro Tools 11 | £550
Focal Spirit Pro | £239
AKG K812 | £1,099
Review FM275 A well-bundled package that
Review FM269 Pro Tools 11 sees much of the
Review FM275 The Spirit Pros are comfortable,
Review FM280 The K812s do not disappoint,
features an audio-engine that beats some of its
new tech from 10 finally bedding down and
quality-sounding headphones for tracking,
delivering detailed sound with depth and clarity.
rivals on paper. Most certainly a heavyweight
making sense. It’s now caught up with other
mixing and mobile listening.
contender with enough extras to lure new users.
DAWs for fast workflow to match its power.
The Single Source Pro-Audio Supplier