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Issue 141 December 2014

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Issue 141
December 2014
The magazine for producers, engineers and recording musicians

TOP 100
PART ONE The easiest guide
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MT141.cover.indd 1 05/11/2014 15:08
Welcome MT

Expert Panel Part


Studio Hardware John Pickford
John is a studio engineer with over 25 years of
experience. He is a keen sound recording historian
and has a passion for valve-driven analogue
equipment and classic recording techniques.
one
Mixing/Mastering/Logic Mark Cousins
Mark specialises in sound design and cinematic
productions. He has recorded with orchestras
across Europe and is heavily involved in
soundtrack composition.
Careers Editor Rob Boffard
Rob Boffard is a sound designer with a
background in TV and radio work. He is a Reason
evangelist, and when not writing for MusicTech he
releases hip-hop music under the name Rob One.

Digital/Composition Andy Price


With a masters in songwriting and a vast interest
in music history and recording techniques, Andy About this time of the year things tend to slow
works daily on MusicTech.net as well as regularly
contributing to the magazine.
down a tad in the music technology world as
Recording & Guitar Tech Huw Price
we build up for NAMM, the big ‘new music gear’
A recording engineer since 1987, Huw has worked show in LA in January. So it’s a great time to run
with David Bowie, My Bloody Valentine, Primal
Scream, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave, Heidi Berry, the MusicTech Gear Of The Year voting,
Fad Gadget and countless others. something that we did last year and was so
Scoring/Orchestral Keith Gemmell successful that our relatively new site (www.musictech.
Keith specialises in areas where traditional net) had something of a ‘coming of age’ when we ran the
music-making meets music technology, including
orchestral and jazz sample libraries, acoustic results across the 12 days of Xmas. This year we’ve upped
virtual instruments and notation software.
the categories to 17 (see page 6) so had to extend
Ableton Live & DJ’ing Liam O’Mullane Christmas to 17 days to announce the results – hope you
Liam has worked as a D&B scratch DJ as well as
releasing dubstep, D&B and hardcore tracks. His
don’t mind…
passion is to master the production styles of the Expecting something of a lull, I’d also commissioned MusicTech’s biggest-ever
latest genres using Live. feature for this part of the year: the 100 best apps for music making. It’s our largest
article not only in terms of page count – we’ve had to spread it over two issues as
Reason & Mobile Hollin Jones it’s so big – but also in the time that it took us to put it together. We wanted a good
As well as teaching music technology, producing
and writing soundtracks, Hollin is an expert on cross section of the platforms (iOS, Android, etc) but also a wide variety of different
everything Apple, mobile or computer-related, as categories, so this month we have top tens in DAWs and synths (among others) and
well as being an accomplished keyboard player. next month we look at more traditional instruments and less traditional off-the-
wall apps.
Electronic Music Alex Holmes
Alex has been a computer musician for 15 years, So, you could say this issue is the best of the old, the best of the new, the best of
having a keen passion for beats, bass and all the mobile and the best of the, er… Depeche Mode (see page 28).
forms of electronic music. He’s currently involved
in three different dance music projects.
Andy Jones Senior Editor
Cubase Tim Hallas Email andy.jones@anthem-publishing.com
Tim’s a music technology consultant and
Send your tweets @AndyJonesMT (although don’t expect much tweeting from me)
education expert. As Cubase Editor he will be
bringing you a range of technique features for the Read my blogs at www.musictech.net
popular DAW over the coming months.

Pro Tools Mike Hillier


Mike spent five years at Metropolis Studios,
working alongside some of the best-known mix
and mastering engineers in the world. He is now
building his own studio in south London.

New to Music Tech?


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Head to our constantly updated website
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MAGAZINE December 2014 |3

MT141.welcome.indd 3 05/11/2014 15:19


MT Contents

MT Contents
Issue 141 December 2014

12 THE 100 BEST


MUSIC APPS

In the first part of


MusicTech’s biggest ever
feature we look at the best

28 Violator
mobile apps for music
making including DAWs,
synths and controllers…
Find out how Depeche Mode
created this classic album

Technique Technique

44 2O PRO TIPS 58 The Art of


Hollin Jones shows you the ins and outs of
perfecting your arrangements
Melody
Andy Price reveals the secrets behind
writing a catchy hook

4 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.contents.indd 4 05/11/2014 15:13


Contents MT

p78

MT Issue 141 Full listings…


COVER FEATURE
p66
012 | 50 Best Apps Read part one
of our enormous round-up
The Latest Reviews LANDMARK PRODUCTIONS
028 | Depeche Mode: Violator

ALESIS I/O DOCK, Go behind the scenes of this


classic piece of electronica

STEINBERG GROOVE AGENT 4


TECHNIQUE
034 | Music to picture

Plus reviews from NI, Akai, Unity Audio Creating a composing palatte

and more! 039 | Cutting-edge production


techniques
Delay-based effects
p87
DAW Tutorials 044 | 20 Pro Tips…
…for improving arrangements

WORKSHOPS FOR p48


048 | Beats and sound design…
Creative beat programming

EVERYTHING! 052 | Genre focus


Dirty dubstep, part 5
058 | Composition techniques
The art of melody
062 | Subscribe and get free
digital editions, plus save 35%
REVIEWS
064 | Alesis I/O Dock 2 interface
p39 066 | JamHub GreenRoom silent
rehearsal system
069 | Resident Audio T4 interface
071 | Graham Audio LS5/9 monitors
073 | Standard Audio Stretch
075 | Unity Audio The Pebble &
Bam Bam monitors
078 | Steinberg Groove Agent 4
instrument

Bluffer’s Guide 080 | Overloud/MoReVoX REmatrix


reverb plug-in
083 | Spitfire Audio King’s Cross
Kitchenware – Glass instrument
084 | EZkeys Mellotoon instrument
087 | Universal Audio The
Culture Vulture plug-in
088 | NI Polyplex drum instrument

106
092 | Mini Reviews
NEW REGULAR FEATURES
103 | 6 of the best…

A BLUFFER’S
The greatest keyboard synths
106 | A bluffer’s guide to music
technology, part 3: compression

GUIDE TO COMPRESSION
110 | Show off your studio Another
chance for readers to show off
112 | Next month in MusicTech
114 | On your MT DVD

MAGAZINE December 2014 |5

MT141.contents.indd 5 05/11/2014 15:13


MT Advance

FOR MORE
OF THE
MTAdvance
Round-ups Analysis & comment Industry insight
LATEST NEWS
CHECK OUT
MUSICTECH.NET

GEAR OF THE YEAR 2014


The categories are in, the nominations made, and it’s time for you to vote for the
MusicTech gear of 2014. (And potentially win some!)

I
t’s been a brilliant year for music the year and then the close of the year with MusicTech.net/gearoftheyear. By voting you
technology gear releases. It’s not been Native Instruments’ redefining Komplete could win – see over the page for more details.
quite the ‘total DAW’ year of 2013 where Kontrol S-Series keyboards and you are just We have 17 categories this year and we’ll be
every sequencer was updated – how could scratching the surface of a great year of gear. announcing the winners from Christmas Eve
it be? – but there have still been some We’re celebrating 2014 with a bumper onwards at www.musictech.net. So, vote now,
milestone releases. Think back and recall the collection of awards and you can shape the and watch the results unfold this Yule season!
hype over Roland’s Aira release at the start of outcome by taking part in the voting at Here are the nominations…

1. BEST DAW 4. BEST LIBRARY


With only minor updates it could have been a bit of a bland year A word of explanation: a library is a huge collection of
for DAWs in 2014. Sure, Cubase and Reason both had fairly instruments, patches and sounds spread over GB of your hard
major updates and Live a tweak, but it was still a big year for drive. It can be any instrument and any genre hence the breadth
DAWs because there was a new kid on the block in the form of of our nominees…
Bitwig Studio… NOMINATIONS
NOMINEES 1: Best Service Cantus
1: Apple Logic Pro X 2: Zero-G Epica
2: Steinberg Cubase 7.5 3: Native Instruments Action Strikes
3: Ableton Live 9.1 4: Spitfire Audio BML Mural Vol 1
4: Avid Pro Tools 11 5: Best Service Shevannai The Voice Of Elves
5: Reason 8
6: FL Studio 11
7: Sonar X3
5. BEST SOFTWARE
8. Bitwig Studio INSTRUMENT
Generally speaking these are acoustic and orchestral
instruments and acoustic guitars have had quite
2. BEST MONITORS a year in the virtual instrument world…
If anything 2014 has been the year of the monitor with more NOMINATIONS
announcements than ever before from more companies than 1: Vir2 Acou6tics
ever before and our selection of nominees represents a huge 2: Modartt Pianoteq Pro 5.0
cross-section of models and prices…
3: Garritan CFX Concert Grand
NOMINATIONS
4: A-List Acoustic Guitarist
1: Fender Focal Passport Studio
5: ProjectSAM Symphobia Orchestrator
2: Genelec 8010A
3: Presonus Eris series
4: Eve SC204/TS107 6. BEST HARDWARE SYNTH
5: JBL LSR series With so many hardware synth releases in 2014 this is one
6: Sonodyne SRP 400 of our new categories, just to cover them all.
And what great releases there have been…
7: My Audio Design 1920s
NOMINATIONS
8. Yamaha HS series 1: Yamaha MOXF
2: Nord Lead A1
3. BEST MIC 3: Roland FA-06
One of the smaller categories this year but still 4: Arturia MicroBrute
some notable releases from the big players… 5: Studio Electronics Boomstar 4075
NOMINATIONS
1: sE X1 USB
2: Sontronics Aria
3: Audio Technica AT4060a

6 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.advance.indd 6 05/11/2014 12:04


Advance MT

7. BEST SOFTWARE 3: Bias for iPad

SYNTHESIZER 4: Positive Grid Final Touch

Not such a busy year for soft synths but


what there has been has been amazing… 13. BEST PLUG-IN EFFECT
NOMINATIONS The nominations for plug-in effect are probably stronger than
1: Rob Papen Blue 2 any other category with software effects now capable of
2: Plugin Boutique Virtual CZ producing incredible results and some
highly-creative solutions…
3: Linplug Spectral
NOMINATIONS
1: UA Fairchild Tube Limiter
8. BEST CONTROLLER 2: Air Music Technology The Riser
What a year for controllers because, as with monitors, more 3: iZotope RX4
new models were released than ever before. 4: iZotope Breaktweaker
NOMINATIONS 5: Fabfilter Pro-MB
1: Nektar Impact LX49
6: Meldaproduction Mtransient
2: Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S-Series
3: Korg Taktile
4: M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro 14. BEST PERCUSSION
5: Novation Launchkey Mini HARDWARE/SOFTWARE
Such was the strength in both hardware and software
percussion releases we’ve got ourselves a new category to
9. BEST OUTBOARD cover them – just feel the quality…
We love hardware outboard gear and think that everyone needs NOMINATIONS
to invest in at least one quality item to improve their signal flow. 1: Toontrack EZ Drummer 2
Pretty much all of the following nominations scored a 2: Plugin Boutique BigKick
maximum 10/10 in our tests so it’s a tough category to call…
3: Roland Aira TR-8
NOMINATIONS
1: Elysia Xfilter 4: Heavyocity DM-307
2: Thermionic Culture The Rooster 2 5: Hans Zimmer HZ01
3: Thermionic Culture The Phoenix HG15
4: Rupert Neve Design Shelford 5051 15. BEST SAMPLE COLLECTION
Another new category to cover what is a key part of music
10. BEST INNOVATION production for many people, the humble sample…
NOMINATIONS
As well as the more obvious hardware nominations 2014 has 1: Loopmasters EDM Hooks and Drops
seen some brilliantly innovative software releases and our
nominations cover both… 2: Wave Alchemy Deep House & Garage
NOMINATIONS 3: Freshtone The Lost Tapes
1: Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S-Series 4: Sonic Academy Trance 2.0
2: Meterplugs Perception 5: ModeAudio Power Tools
3: Brainworx bx_refinement 6: Analogue Workshop Vol 2 Dark Ambient
4: Roland Aira System-1 7: Sonokinetik Grosso
5: Arturia Beatstep
6: Softube Console 1 16. BEST HEADPHONES
7: sE RF Space Headphone monitoring is an essential part of music making for
8: JamHub Greenroom many producers and we had some great releases this year.
NOMINATIONS
11. BEST VALUE 1: Audio Technica ATH-M50x
2: Focal Spirit Professional
Prices for music production gear are soaring
but there were still bargains to be had… 3: Aiaiai TMA-1
NOMINATIONS
1: Presonus Eris monitors 17. BEST INTERFACE
2: sE X1T & X1D microphones Aruably one of the most important items of studio hardware is
3: Air Music Technology Advance the interface and there were many varied releases in 2014…
Music Production Suite plug-ins NOMINATIONS
1: Ferrofish A-16
12. BEST APP 2: RME Fireface 802
Mobile music marches onwards, although perhaps not at 3: Focusrite Saffire Pro 26
the rate it did in 2013. Here are 2014’s best mobile apps… 4: Universal Audio Apollo Twin
NOMINATIONS 5: Native Instruments Traktor Audio 2
1: Native Instruments iMaschine 6: Focusrite iTrack Dock
2: Korg Gadget 7: Steinberg UR44

MAGAZINE December 2014 |7

MT141.advance.indd 7 05/11/2014 12:04


Advance MT

VOTE AND WIN £13000 OF


GEAR (OF THE YEAR)!
You’ve just seen the Gear Of The Year nominations, and now you can win a
massive amount of them simply by voting. Here’s how!

T
he MusicTech Gear Of The Year awards have quickly
become one of the biggest events on the music
production calendar. This year we have 17
categories all listed on pages 6 and 7, but the best
news of all is that you can win some of the
nominated items, simply by voting! We have no less than 60
prizes worth £13,000 up for grabs and all you have to do is go
to www.musictech.net/gearoftheyear and vote. It will only take
a few minutes of your time and as well as helping decide who
wins, you could be in line for winning one of many prizes
including…

Steinberg Cubase
FL Studio
Avid Pro Tools
Best Service Cantus and
Shevannai libraries
Modartt Pianoteq
Pro instrument
Sonokinetick Grosso library
Rob Papen Blue synth
Plug-in Boutique
Virtual CZ synth
Fender Focal Passport
Studio monitors
Genelec 8010A monitors
Sonodyne SRP 400 monitors
Yamaha HS7 monitors
Universal Audio Apollo Twin interface
Arturia Microbrute synth
Loopmasters sample collections
Mode Audio sample collections
Wave Alchemy sample collections

MAGAZINE December 2014 |9

MT141.compo.indd 9 05/11/2014 15:05


MusicTech.indd 1 29.10.2014 10:13:10
MusicTech.indd 2 29.10.2014 10:13:14
MT Feature The 100 best music-making apps

MT Feature

THE 100 BEST


MUSIC-MAKING
APPS We bring you part one of our biggest feature ever on mobile music
making where we round up the best apps for music production on
your phone and tablet…

Part I
t’s one of the biggest features we
have ever produced – so huge it
has to go over two issues of
MusicTech! So in this first part we
reveal the 50 best mobile synth,

one
DAW, vocal, controller and, best of
all, free apps! Where possible we
have tried to include different
platforms in each category.
Check out next month’s
MusicTech for another 50 covering
guitars and some of the more
out-there and experimental music
-making apps…

12 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.cover feat.indd 12 05/11/2014 12:44


The 100 best music-making apps Feature MT

TOP 10 DAW apps

The closest thing to fully-blown DAWS and


complete studios for recording or making music…
APPLE BLIP SOUND
GarageBand Interactive TRENDS
(iOS) NanoStudio Studio.HD
(iOS) (iOS)

Apple is giving GarageBand away free NanoStudio was one of the first This loop-based app is aimed at anyone
as part of the iOS package or via iTunes, music-making apps on the market. who wants to get ideas and tunes
so it makes two of our Top Tens. If you Within it you can combine up to six together quickly and who doesn’t mind
don’t have it then it’s obviously well instruments (expandable to 16) using loops to do it. Sure you can record
worth a download. It only comes with including the rather fabulous Eden your own playing – and do this three
eight instruments as standard but £2.99 16-voice synth. There’s sampling and times per track over eight tracks
gets you the full works, and what an pad triggering via the TRG-16 plus a resulting in 24 playback tracks – but
amazing app it is. GarageBand features sequencer that enables up to 64 tracks with 900 loops on offer across a variety
‘proper’ virtual instruments such as to be assembled (if you buy the of genres you’ll be very tempted just to
guitars and pianos – although you expansion). With a nice range of effects, assemble music that way. There are a
needn’t be skilled in either to play them NanoStudio is well suited to the decent range of nifty effects that you
– and with 250 loops thrown in you can mid-experienced musician. can use on each channel but there are
easily be assembling songs in no time, Web www.blipinteractive.co.uk some limitations in mixing too,
especially with the ‘smart’ options that Price £9.99 although at just £6.99 it’s one of the
help you assemble melodies and beats. cheapest options to get some quick
All genres covered, no experience tunes together.
needed, easy to use and free! Web www.soundtrends.com
Web www.apple.com Price £6.99
Price Free/£2.99

HARMONIC IMAGE-LINE STEINBERG


DOG FL Studio Cubasis
MultiTrack Mobile HD (iOS)
DAW (iOS and
(iOS) Android)
With little in the way of compositional With 133 instruments, FL Studio Mobile Like GarageBand, Cubasis is put
options – that is instruments or bundled HD definitely veers more towards quick together by a company that knows its
loops – Harmonic Dog concentrates on composition than the likes of Auria and music software. Steinberg has been at it
recording and does it well. It also looks MultiTrack DAW, which concentrate for years, which definitely shows here.
great, the waveforms especially, and more on recording. You compose either This is an incredibly slick music
there are several effect options both per by using a virtual keyboard, piano roll production app and more like a
track and globally. You can even do a editor or a very intuitive step sequencer. professional music-making package
little mastering to make your tunes It’s pretty hard not to get some decent than many others on these pages, and
sound more ‘pro’ should you wish. tunes going within minutes and this is Cubasis also boasts incredibly intuitive
You’ll want to upgrade to get the probably the app to go for if you are touch controls. It is therefore quick to
maximum track capacity but doing so new to music making, as it has find your way around – create tracks
will only cost you a total of £12.48. everything you need on just a few easily and select instruments and
Web www.harmonicdog.com screens. It’s arguably more for loop- effects in an instant. It’s pricey, and
Price £6.99 based composers – within electronic or could do with more synths, but you
dance genres – than GarageBand, but really can get pro results and it’s ideal
for instant rewards there’s little better. for all genres and musical abilities.
Web www.image-line.com Web www.steinberg.net
Price £13.99 Price £34.99

MAGAZINE December 2014 | 13

MT141.cover feat.indd 13 05/11/2014 12:47


MT Feature The 100 best music-making apps

TOP 10 DAW apps cont...

WAVEMACHINE 4 POCKETS KORG


LABS Meteor Multitrack Gadget
Auria Recorder (iOS) (iOS)
(iOS) With a traditional mixer this is more of
a recording app, but there are
instruments and effects for producing
One of the first quality recording apps complete in-the-box tunes. Meteor is a Not strictly an all-round studio app as
for the iPad and still one of the best. very rounded music-making package audio is not an option just yet, but how
Auria features quality channel strips on and suitable to slightly more can you resist a package that enables
each of its 48 playback channels with experienced producers in any genre. you to combine 17 synths and drum
effects bundled in by high-quality Web www.4Pockets.com machines, up to 35 tracks (on newer
third-party companies such as PSP Price £13.99 iPads) and some of the coolest looking,
Audio (and there are many more well, gadgets around? The emphasis is
optional effects to buy too). There’s little very much on electronic music
to get excited about on the composing INTUA production and you can’t add audio
side as this app concentrates purely on (yet). Korg will be getting
BeatMaker2
high-quality recording – and on that a few mentions in
score is the most ‘pro’ app here – and is
(iOS and Andoid) these lists but this is
BeatMaker was one of the first ‘proper’
the ideal choice if like a ‘best of’ –
mobile apps, and while BeatMaker2 has
you are in a band amazing sounding
extensive drum machine action it’s
and want to synths and drums
developed into a complete music
record gigs or and a very easy-to-
making package with instruments,
studio sessions. samples and effects. We’ll look at the use environment to
Web www. drum side of things in detail next month… put it all together.
auriaapp.com Web www.intua.net Web www.korg.co.uk
Price £34.99 Price £6.99 Price £27.49

TOP 10 Synth apps

The app market for synthesizers is hotter than ever with emulations of
classics synths alongside modular madness. Here are our ten best…
ARTURIA BEEPSTREET JASUTO
iMini SUNRIZER (iOS and
(iOS) (iOS) Android)

Over a year since its release and this We’re trying not to do too many Interestingly with Jasuto and
classic Minimoog emulation is still as emulations of classic synths here but Reactable the Android and iOS
great-sounding as ever, with a front this is a worthy inclusion and not a platforms are blessed with (at least)
panel that is easy to use, equalling a total emulation, although owners of two modular synth-type apps where
synth that is easy to program. It the highly regarded Roland JP-8000 you drag and link modules to create
comes with a huge variety of presets, will be happy when they give this one various sounds, sequences and so on.
a little randomly ordered at first but a go. It uses SuperSaw waveforms, Jasuto comes with more than 75 of
then you realise you can load them by and these are combined with analogue these nodes plus (thankfully) 200+
programmer and type very easily. modelled oscillators, loads of examples, so you don’t have to do any
There’s a glorious performance page modulation and filtering meaning the work if you are a non-synth head. And
where you can modify parameters in resulting sound is right up there with some of these really are something to
real time using X/Y grids, plus chorus pretty much every mobile synth out behold: giant bulbous creations all
and delay effects and a neat there (and way beyond some). It might pulsing and shimmering with wave
adjustable keyboard. Arguably it be more dance orientated but the options to adjust parameters in time.
could be more accurate sonically but, original was slap-bang in the middle Jasuto might just have the edge in
hey, what Arturia has added is a of rave, and this pays homage to it terms of prettiness, but big fingers on
bonus to the sound overall, which is while supplying enough sounds for both of these apps could be a
both right and varied. Superb. more up-to-date genres. problem. But then aren’t they always?
Web www.arturia.com Web www.beepstreet.com Web www.jasuto.com
Price £6.99 Price £6.99 Price £2.99

14 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.cover feat.indd 14 05/11/2014 12:47


TOP 10 Synth apps cont...

KORG
iMS-20
(iOS)
As well as software versions of the
MS-20 there are even newer hardware
releases including a mini keys and
build-your-own! Which all must mean
that this is a great synth. iMS-20
doesn’t disappoint but you might be a
little overawed at first, as it does look
pretty daunting and Korg has added a
lot. You can patch things together,
route audio and effects in and out or
generally just have fun with the
sequencer, the pattern producer and a
fantastic drum module.
Web www.korg.co.uk Price £20.99

2BEAT
Oscilab
(iOS and Android)
Hard to categorise this as just a synth
as it’s really a groove box and more.
But it features so many instant sound-
shaping and swiping options that it
shows a great way forward for
hands-on mobile synthesis. There are
28 wave shapers, a synth, a drum
machine and 36 instruments. You go
into each section and adjust as it
loops. Adjust the waveforms, for
example, add some beats and then
instrument notes to flesh it out.
Inspiring stuff.
Web www.2beat.io Price £6.99

MOOG MUSIC
Animoog
(iOS and
Blackberry)
It is refreshing that a company with a
track record as good as Moog’s in
producing hardware hasn’t just done
a software emulation of its synths
(but that would be very cool too).
Animoog is powered by an Anistropic
Synthesis Engine (or ASE) and the idea
is to move through an X/Y space to
morph between classic Moog sounds
using an X/Y pad. With excellent
touch feedback and those superb
sounds, it’s a joy to use.
Web www.moogmusic.com
Price £20.99

MT141.cover feat.indd 15 05/11/2014 12:24


MT Feature The 100 best music-making apps

TOP 10 Synth apps cont...

PROPELLERHEAD Thor REACTABLE STEINBERG


(iOS) (iOS and Nanologue
Android) (iOS)

Originally a research project the If you want something free then we


We love a bit of marketing speak. Reactable caught the eye of many have a whole section of free apps in
Apparently Thor is ‘simply the most musicians who loved the concept, this issue, but this one didn’t make
powerful synth ever created; an which was essentially moving blocks it… because we could include it here!
unstoppable monster of a sound over a scanner to synthesise sound. Nanologue is Steinberg’s surprisingly
generator that utilizes synthesizer One was Björk who took a prototype good analogue synth emulation. We
technology from the last 40 years.’ It’s of it on tour, successfully combining say ‘surprisingly good’ because
a shame that lines like that do get in the visuals (it looked amazing), with initially it’s just that – a bog-standard
the way sometimes as Thor really is a hands-on real-time synthesis. Now synth – but what it does it does very
very good synth, transferring the bulk the blocks have been turned into well. Big monophonic sounds, cool
of the power and character of the virtual touch elements, easily linked interface and very easy to use. If you
original into the iPad for some together to produce very interesting are new to analogue synthesis you
breathtaking sound. With over 1000 results when dragged into a central can’t go wrong with this. It’s not
presets and a synth engine based pulsing area. Reactable really does trying to be clever
around six different oscillators and show what touch operation is all but it can
four filters you really do get an about – don’t expect to be making be big!
incredible range of sounds songs straight away but it is great for Web www.
Web www.propellerheads.se hours of noodling. steinberg.
Price £10.49 Web www.reactable.com net
Price £6.99 Price Free

TOP 10 Controller/Performance apps

There are a large number of apps specifically designed to control music


software and hardware. Here are the best…
TKFX HEXLER. Livkontrol
(iOS and NET (iOS and
Android) TouchOSC Android)
(iOS and
Android)
TKFX is a controller for Traktor Pro’s TouchOSC for iOS and Android is an Ableton Live is one of the DAWs that
effects that runs on iPad and Android open programming environment app best suits remote control from a mobile
devices and gives you remote control of that isn’t tied to any particular software device thanks to its clip-launch style of
the effects in real time. Greatly but instead enables you to create setups performance. Install the support files
expanding on the control available to to control anything that can accept the on your Mac or PC and Livkontrol for
you using the mouse in Traktor itself, it Osc or MIDI protocols, which covers a iOS and Android will discover your copy
uses MIDI mapping to enable an X/Y huge range of applications. You can of Live (8.26 or higher) and give you
grid, and you can assign different choose custom sets of controls and hands-on control over your sessions.
parameters to both axes as well as make assignments, building unique There’s the Launchpad interface for
holding the effect on, flipping between maps to do exactly what you want. It launching clips, a scrollable Track
decks and slots and controlling overall supports both wireless and wired MIDI Detail, and a Clip Composer to work
dry / wet levels. To enable this you have and is officially supported by Logic Pro, with MIDI clips remotely. There’s also
to install a small, free app on your Mac as well as a range of other DAWs and MIDI sliders for varying parameters,
or PC that acts as a MIDI server more experimental music packages. and MIDI pads for composition. Live
between the two. It supports both There’s a downloadable editor for OS X, responds especially well to remote
wireless and wired network connections Windows and Linux that enables you to input, and with this app you can control
and you unlock access to more of create and customise layouts more your sessions and actually play and edit
Traktor’s effects via in-app purchases. easily from your desktop computer. MIDI live as well.
Web www.tkfxapp.com Web www.hexler.net Web www.livkontrol.com
Price Free, with in-app purchases Price £2.99 Price Free, Standard and Pro versions

16 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.cover feat.indd 16 05/11/2014 15:46


FREE! £95
worth
denser mic
WALDORF SONTRONICS STC-10 pencil con
Nave available at selected Sontronics stocki
offer ends 31st December 2014
sts

(iOS)

Waldorf has a great reputation in


wavetable synthesis, and while Nave when you buy an
may look fairly simple its engine
contains some of the finest factory STC-3X PACK
wavetables from Waldorf’s Blofeld three-pattern condenser mic
and ‘soon to be legendary if they available in black or silver
aren’t already’ Wave and Microwave
synths. There’s more, however, as Nave
has a couple of wavetable oscillators
and an Uberoscillator to fatten things
up. There’s a shedload of other
features as some of the biggest names
in modern synthesis were involved,
including Axel Hartmann. As such
then, Nave delivers the sonics but LIFETIME
might be for the more experienced WARRANTY
synth head. Spend time with it and protects all our
microphones
you will be very well rewarded.
Web www.waldorf-music.info
Price £13.99

NATIVE
SCAN ME or visit
INSTRUMENTS www.sontronics.com
Traktor DJ to find out where to
get your FREE mic!
(iOS)

When NI does mobile apps it tends to


do them really well. Traktor DJ for iPad
and iPhone takes the essence of the
much bigger Traktor Pro software and
places it into a touch environment. The
results are amazing: incredibly accurate
beat detection and sync capabilities,
slice freezing and easy library and
shockmount double-layer zip-up mic
playlist navigation. You get a bunch of
with spare nylon mesh pouch & 5m
effects that can be controlled via
elastics popshield XLR cable
integrated X/Y pads and the whole

rworld
thing feels really slick. You don’t have to
be an experienced DJ to give a great
sontronics users: undeep worth
abbey road studios • paul
performance and you can even record
the output of the app as a regular audio
e
aerosmith • queens of the stone ager
file. Features like the Superslicer mean
it’s more of a performance tool – it’s not
just for spinning tracks.
stephen street • flood • alan morco uld
urt
friendly fires • paul weller • ed ha editors
Web www.native-instruments.com

ne • the
Price £2.99
ren harvieu • dave grohl • keande bourne opera
athlete • the dandy warhols • gly
arctic monkeys • chase & stastus • pj harvey • hard-fi 012
• mar k rank in • jack douglas
razorlight • andy gray • the vac cine
• toseland • turinww
e
w.essontron
brak
young knives • incognito • steve whit
MT141.cover feat.indd 17 05/11/2014 12:29
MT Feature The 100 best music-making apps

IK APPLE
MULTIMEDIA Logic
DJ Rig Remote
(iOS) (iOS)
TOP 10 Controller/Performance apps
Designed to work in conjunction with As is often the case, Apple is so big it
IK’s iRig Mix, DJ Rig is a familiar- can afford to give away some
LIINE looking DJ app with two virtual remarkably powerful apps in order to
Lemur turntables and several modes of drive hardware sales. For musicians
(iOS) operation. Each of its decks can operate that’s a pretty good deal, and Logic
in waveform, turntable or CD Digital Remote is a really excellent app for iPad
Jog modes to suit your performance that works with Logic Pro X, MainStage
style. You get all the tempo and sync 3 and GarageBand. You can play any
The touch interface is perfect for certain features you’d expect as well as a drift Logic or GarageBand instrument
kinds of control, and before iPads and meter, direct cue with multiple cue remotely on a virtual keyboard or
iPhones came out it was restricted to points, three-band kill EQ and access to fretboard, play beats on virtual pads
very high-end hardware. Now for a tiny the iPad’s music library. There’s also and even strum chords. Navigate
fraction of those kinds of costs you can IK’s X-Sync feature that syncs the projects using transport controls and
get the same experience. Lemur enables tempo of tracks from the iPad with markers, punch recording in and out
you to build any control interface you songs from external sources when used from anywhere on a network and
can think of for software that can with an iRig Mix. There’s AutoMix for remotely change patches and trigger key
receive MIDI or OSC input signal. That when you want to go to the bar and a commands. It’s an amazing and free
includes DAWs, DJ software, VJ apps, loop surface as well as onboard effects. extension to your studio setup.
stage lighting and loads more. A highly Web www.ikmultimedia.com Web www.apple.com/uk/logic-pro/
advanced system, it lets you script Price Free; full version €17.99 Price Free
custom widgets with multitouch
support and has complex sequencing

You get the kind of functionality


objects and an in-app editor (iPad only)
to design and edit templates on-the-fly.

from your iPad that a decade ago


Fully skinnable, it’s found fans among
some of the leading electronic artists.

would have cost thousands


Web www.liine.net
Price £17.49

STEINBERG NEYRINCK HUMATIC


Cubase iC V-Control TouchDAW
Pro Pro (Android)
(iOS and (iOS)
Android)
Steinberg has been very active in V-Control Pro is a multitouch control This Android-only MIDI control app
developing a range of iOS applications surface that supports a wide range of supports Cubase, Logic, Pro Tools, FL
that tie in with its flagship Cubase apps running on your Mac or PC. It uses Studio, Reason and a range of other
software. Cubase iC Pro (there’s also a Wi-Fi to control transport, editing and DAWs. You get mixer and transport
free version available) runs on iPhone mixing and also provides control of functionality and the app can send
and iPad as well as Android and is sends, automation, groups, plug-ins, MMC in parallel with, or instead of,
beautifully designed, giving you a transport, I/O assignment and more DAW control. There’s a multitouch MIDI
detailed overview of your project as well depending on the app you are keyboard and launchpads, a MIDI mixer,
as hands-on navigation controls. You controlling. Remarkably, it can connect configurable X/Y pads and the app
can mix, and you also get to set up to to almost any music app: Pro Tools, works both over wired and wireless
four individual headphone feeds using Logic, Live, Cubase, Sonar, Reason, connections and hooks into Apple’s
Cubase’s control room features, and any Digital Performer and Reaper among Network MIDI implementation. It’s an
performer with their own device can them. And it can also control Adobe inexpensive way to open up your studio
adjust their own mix independently. Premiere and Final Cut Pro. It may be setup to wireless control from your
There are customisable key commands among the more expensive apps around Android device and can be configured to
and macros, and you can record- and but it gives you the kind of functionality work as you wish. There’s a limited free
monitor-enable tracks from anywhere from your iPad that just a decade ago version for testing and then you can opt
on the Wi-Fi network. would have cost thousands of pounds. to buy the unlimited version.
Web www.steinberg.net Web www.neyrinck.com Web www.humatic.de
Price £11.99 Price £34.99 Price £3.80; Free demo available

18 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.cover feat.indd 18 05/11/2014 12:51


Singer-Songwriter Ben Montague

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...same sonic signature
The new M-Series headphones from Audio-Technica
feature the same sonic signature of the original and
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MT Feature The 100 best music-making apps

TOP 10 FREE apps

Yes, you can get something for nothing and it can be great. In fact you can
get ten somethings for nothing, and here they are!
SoundCloud APPLE NOVATION
(iOS and GarageBand Launchpad
Android) (iOS) (iOS)

The SoundCloud app GarageBand for iOS is free when you The Lauchpad app for iOS comes free
runs on your iOS or buy any new iOS device, otherwise it with eight ready-to-play sessions, and
Android device and not costs £2.99, and for that it works on additional features such as audio
only provides a way to iPad and iPhone for a single payment. import are available after in-app
listen to content from the It’s ludicrously cheap considering what purchases. For £4.99 it’s probably worth
audio-hosting website and curate your you get: multiple virtual instruments, unlocking audio import as it will really
own playlists and collections, but also auto-playing tools for strumming broaden the scope of what you can
record directly from your device into guitars and playing chords, guitar amps achieve: you get an 8x6 grid for
the cloud. So if you are out and about or and live recording through effects, a launching up to eight loops at once, a
making field recordings you can use sampler and a cool mixing environment. range of effects on iPad including
your device’s built-in mic and capture You can record lots of tracks (though repeater and synced filters, and on the
the sound around you directly into your not unlimited) and when you’re done iPhone there’s filter, stutter, gating and
account. SoundCloud is pretty much the either mix down your file or export the delay. You can perform, mix and match
standard audio hosting site for most raw project data out to GarageBand on and trigger loops and record your
people these days and also provides the Mac for further editing. As such it’s performance, then share it online or to
some apps to help you sell and market a great way to start an idea on the move another app via Audiobus. You can also
your music. then continue work back at home. connect one of Novation’s controller devices
Web www.soundcloud.com Web www.apple.com via the USB Camera Connection kit.
Price Free Price Free or £2.99 Web www.novationmusic.com
Price Free

RETRONYMS Drum Guru REVONTULET


Tabletop (iOS and STUDIO
(iOS) Android) Walk Band
(Android)

Tabletop is a modular environment that Drum Guru for iOS and Android is a This popular app for Android gives you
lets you mix and match different training app for drum enthusiasts of all a range of virtual instruments to play
devices such as samplers, mixers, skill levels, and features lessons on the move. There’s a virtual piano
effects, synths and more. You get 14 delivered in video and audio format by with single or dual rows, two-player
devices for free and can add extras via some of the world’s leading drummers. mode, along with pressure sensitivity,
in-app purchases. It’s an advanced but There’s a half-speed option so you can key-width adjustment and five keyboard
relatively approachable system and up break down what’s actually going on, sounds. You can record MIDI and audio
to 43 devices are available, with and musical notation and transcription and set your recordings as a ringtone.
support for Tabletop-ready apps such as of each lesson that can be viewed while The virtual guitar has chord mode and
iMPC, iMini and iProphet. There’s a watching the video. Interactive practice three model types, and there are also
piano-roll editor and pads for mode enables you to play along with or five drum kits that you can play using
programming and editing MIDI, without a click, looped and at different virtual pads. Bass and synths round off
quantization, MIDI learn and mapping, tempos. Lessons are divided into packs the package, and there’s support for
Core MIDI support and the ability to of 8-10, categorised by style and skill external MIDI keyboards over USB
hook up compatible MIDI hardware. level. You can add more lessons for not MIDI. It’s possible to add more
More devices and features tend to get very much money via in-app purchase instruments through in-app purchases.
added over time so Tabletop is an in the style you want to learn. If you’re after a free way to play music
organic, expanding environment. Web www.drumguru.com on the move, this could be for you.
Web www.retronyms.com Price Free Web play.google.com
Price Free; added in-app purchases Price Free

20 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.cover feat.indd 20 06/11/2014 11:00


The 100 best music-making apps Feature MT

TOP 10 FREE apps cont...

IK Musical Piano Hokusai


MULTIMEDIA FREE Audio Editor
AmpliTube (Android) (iOS)
Free This free, ad-supported app gives you a
(iOS) virtual piano and keyboard with various
options as well as eight bundled MIDI
AmpliTube Free for iOS brings a piano instruments. You can pay to This audio editor for iOS supports
beautifully designed set of guitar upgrade the app, which unlocks 128 multiple tracks, and you can edit them
processors to your mobile device and it instruments, wireless playback and side by side, mix together, export to
works using either the built-in mic or a piano recording. WAV or MP4 format and send them to
connected interface to get sound into Web play.google.com your computer, DropBox or to another
and out of the hardware. You get four Price Free app inside your device. You swipe and
simultaneous stomp boxes, an amp zoom to select areas of audio clips, and
head, cab and mix and you can add live scrubbing means you can hear the
more gear by purchasing in-app. There’s IK MULTIMEDIA sound as you move your finger across
a single-track recorder, again the waveform. There’s full undo support
iRig Recorder FREE
expandable to eight with master and a set of bundled processing tools
effects if you choose, and a tuner and
(iOS and Android) includes fades, normalization, reverse
The app is designed to
loop drummer module to play along to. and basic synthesis. Upgrading to the
work with IK’s iRig Mic
Inter-app audio and Audiobus are paid version adds audio copy and paste,
models but will work with
supported for touring sound grain synthesis, noise gating, time-
any mic. If you want to
internally and imported songs can be stretching, pitch-bend and a host of
record on the move and
slowed down for you to learn them then clean up and upload other effects including filtering, reverb
more easily. your sounds, try it now. and modulation.
Web www.ikmultimedia.com Web www.ikmultimedia.com Web App Store
Price Free Price Free Price Free

TOP 5 Vocal apps

Five mobile apps designed


with the singer in mind…
IK ANTARES VIRSYN
MULTIMEDIA Auto Tune Harmony
VocaLive (iOS) Voice
(iOS) (iOS)

VocaLive gives you a suite of 12 Antares has been at the cutting edge of Harmony Voice is a pitch-shifter and
real-time professional vocal effects as pitch correction and auto-tuning on the harmonizer that can add up to four
well as recording capability that can be desktop for years, so it was natural that voices to your sung signal based on keys
combined into a chain of any four at they would eventually bring that that you play on a keyboard, and also
once. 50 presets are included and the technology to the mobile arena. The idea comes with automatic tuning correction.
effects include Pitch Fix, Choir (a is that you plumb your iPhone or iPad in It works with formants, so you can turn
three-part harmonizer), Morph for between your mic and the mixing desk a female voice into a male one and vice
formant shifting, De-Esser and Doubler. or your audio interface and make versa. Choose automatic or manual
There are also seven studio effects settings on the device for how the pitch harmonisation, change voice character
including reverb, delay, EQ and is to be corrected. Use gentle settings and play back racks from your iTunes
compression. The single-track recorder for subtle correction or flip into full library. There’s onboard reverb, delay
can be expanded up to eight tracks with robot mode to get the well-known and chorus to process the signal, and
in-app purchases, and a Voice Cancel ‘stepped’ effect. It’s Audiobus Audiobus support along with an audio
feature lets you remove the vocal parts compatible so you can use it to recorder with a metronome and support
from existing tracks and sing along to process vocal parts that you have for MIDI input devices. Connect to other
them. It’s MIDI controllable and already recorded, and has multiple apps or use it as an effect between your
supports Audiobus for routing vocal scales available for more accurate mic and computer-based recording
parts in from other apps. pitch correction. setup and create harmonies with ease.
Web www.ikmultimedia.com Web www.antarestech.com Web www.virsyn.net
Price £6.99 Price £2.99 Price £2.99

MAGAZINE December 2014 | 23

MT141.cover feat.indd 23 05/11/2014 13:07


MT Feature The 100 best music-making apps

TOP 5 Learn Music apps

Brush up on your technique, learn a new


TOP 5 Vocal apps cont… instrument, or simply work on your musicality
QNEO Better Ears Songsterr
Voice Synth (iOS and Tabs and
(iOS) Android) Chords
(iOS and
Android)
Voice Synth is a nifty tool for real-time Better Ears for iPad is an educational Songsterr for iOS and Android is a tab
vocoding. In fact it has three 24-band music and ear training program, which player with instant access to realistic
live vocoders, AutoPitch, a multiple helps you grow your musical skills. playback of 90,000 songs (500,000 tab
voice harmony arranger, pitch and There are ten different exercises tracks) from Songsterr.com. You can
formant shifter, an onboard sampler, included, starting from interval search tabs by keyword or browse by
24-band EQ, multiple studio effects and recognition all the way to chord tags and popularity, and it supports
a spectrum stroboscope. You can import progressions. You can choose from a guitar, bass and drums. There’s
vocal files or route sound in from the range of exercises performed by up to alternative Chord view, half-speed
mic or via inter-app audio. Use the six different instruments. It comes with playback, a realistic guitar engine and
built-in virtual keyboard to control the a virtual keyboard and fretboard so you tabs for multiple instruments, as well
notes that are generated by the can enter notes yourself, and has four as looping, solo, offline mode and
vocoder and even use inter-app MIDI to skill levels from beginner through to syncing. There’s a tuner and background
control it from a different app. There are professional. There’s support for audio support so you can play along
100 factory presets and you can building your own courses and syncing using a compatible effect app. Happily
record and export your performances. between devices amongst other things. it’s also all legit so when you access a
Advanced pitch-shifting enables you Music theory is often overlooked but it tab the original composer will get a
to change your voice into almost can really help you to get a better small royalty payment.
any style. understanding of how music works. Web www.songsterr.com
Web www.voicesynth.com Web App Store Price App free; subscription is £2.99
Price £6.99 Price £10.49 per month

VocalEase STEINWAY & SONS Guitar Jam


(iOS and Etude 2.0 Tracks: Scale
(iOS and Android) Trainer &
Android)
This app for iPad lets you find a song Practice Buddy
from the in-app music store, download (iOS/Android)
it, and see keys to press at each
This is a portable moment. You can slow it down and even This app for iOS and Android lets you
warm-up studio for practice each hand separately. There’s a learn guitar scales and solo to five
performing vocalists built-in MIDI synth, onscreen keyboard, great-sounding jam tracks right from
and public speakers, and sheet music or piano roll views. your device, adding more styles and
designed by a well- Web www.etudeapp.com scales with the in-app store. The
known vocal trainer. 12 Price Free; buy songs for £1.99 each easy-to-read scale charts show you
warm-up exercises are exactly where to put your fingers to
included as audio files and you start sounding like a pro. Several keys
can play these to get your pipes ready MAHALO and scales are included as well as styles
for the big performance. Warm-ups are
Learn Piano HD such as acoustic blues, jazz and modern
a crucial part of any performance and rock. Simply pick a key to start playing
something that a lot of vocalists don’t
(iOS/Android) the track, then tap Chords to see what
This app, with content from piano tutor
take seriously. With these exercises to chords are being played, or tap Scales to
Peter Darling, shows you everything
hand there’s no excuse for damaging see the scale charts for that key.
from hand exercises through basic
your voice by not limbering up first. playing skills and much more. The app Practice is one of the hardest things to
You can also opt to download itself is small, but you can download motivate yourself to do but it’s an
extra exercises via in-app purchases videos through it to greatly expand the essential part of improving, and this
at any time. range of lessons you have access to. app can really help.
Web play.google.com Web www.mahalo.com Web www.ninebuzz.com
Price £1.18 Price £1.49 Price £1.49 (offers in-app purchases)

24 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.cover feat.indd 24 05/11/2014 13:09


MT Landmark Productions Depeche Mode: Violator

Landmark
Productions No. 33

The tracks
1. World in My Eyes
2. Sweetest Perfection
3. Personal Jesus
4. Halo
5. Waiting for the Night
6. Enjoy the Silence
7. Policy of Truth
8. Blue Dress
9. Clean

DEPECHE MODE: VIOLATOR


Recorded at Logic Studios, Puk Studios, Master Rock Studios and Axis Studios Produced
by Depeche Mode and Mark ‘Flood’ Ellis Mixed by Depeche Mode and François Kevorkian
Engineered by François Kevorkian, Alan Gregorie, Goh Hotoda, Peter Iversen, Phil Legg
Violator marked a new approach for Depeche Mode, and paved the way for both the band’s
future and that of electronic music production. Andy Price will make you a believer…

T
hroughout the 80s, Depeche Mode had established a working relationship and routine that was, as far as the band
themselves as kings of the electro-pop landscape, albums were concerned, beginning to stifle rather than fuel their
such as Some Great Reward, Black Celebration and Music for musical ambitions…
the Masses had defined a sound and style that was both At this point Depeche Mode were used to spending a lot of time
alluringly original and at the cutting edge of technological innovation, before the recording of their LPs discussing at length the style, tone and
winning them a sizeable, dedicated fan base. During the course of compositional approach that they would use. However, for their seventh
this decade, Messrs. Gahan, Gore, Wilder and Fletcher had developed (then untitled) record they resolved to try something new. “We decided

28 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.LandmarksDepecheMode.indd 28 28/10/2014 11:35


Depeche Mode: Violator Landmark Productions MT

that as our first record of the 90s, it ought to be different,”


Martin Gore told the NME in 1990.
Gore had previously come under fire within the group for
going away, writing pretty much complete songs, demo-ing
them and almost instructing the rest of the band what to play
and how to play it. For this record, Gore intentionally kept his
demo ideas as simple as possible, with much of the layering
and arranging duties left to bandmate Alan Wilder.
Enlisting the help of the increasingly respected producer
Flood (real name, Mark Ellis) the band began the Violator
sessions at Logic Studios in Milan. The first fruit of their
labours being the instantly addictive Personal Jesus.
Unusually for Depeche Mode the dominant instrument is the
electric guitar – a fairly significant deviation for a band that
were primarily associated with electronic sounds. The driving,
repetitive rhythm was actually the sampled sound of feet
stomping on flight cases and then looped, treated and mixed
with electric snare and tom sounds. The mantra-like vocal
melody (and brooding croon from Gahan) would cement this
track in ears and minds on both sides of the pond following its

Photo © Getty Images


swift release as a single.
After the resulting success of the single, Gore’s twangy,
insistent guitar sound would become a key component in
subsequent songs by the band, and Personal Jesus would
become many a newcomer’s introduction to the Depeche
Mode sound, and go on to inspire a tone and sonic mood that,
eventually, would become known as ‘industrial’.
Although Gore’s songwriting and craftsmanship were (Above) Seems that Violator sessions, building up whole sampled kits and
Depeche Mode photo
massively important to the resulting album, much of its sonic rhythmic loops.
shoots were much like
depth can be credited to Alan Wilder’s arrangements, utilising school PE lessons: Nowhere on the record is this more apparent than on Halo
an arsenal of vintage synthesizers and sound-generating forget your kit, and you – a track that uses a drum loop from Led Zeppelin’s When the
do it in your vest.
tools. Wilder used much of the same go-to gear he had been Levee Breaks that was sampled on an unnamed rap record
using heavily throughout the preceding decade: an EMS (Below) Producer Mark before being taken off and re-used by Depeche Mode. Flood
VCS3, Moog Minimoog and Oberheim OB-8 synths, as well as ‘Flood’ Ellis used the utilised his ARP 2600 on this track as well, combined with a
ARP 2600 synth to
the ever-popular Roland Space Echo and Manley amplifiers. stunning creative variety of other modular synths and sampled string sections.
effect on many of A technique that Wilder had used previously and applied to
Reach out and touch faith… Violator’s tracks.
the Violator sessions would be to stretch a string sample, vary
After recording Personal Jesus in Milan, the band relocated to the sound or pitch, and then add in his own strings over the
Puk Studios in Denmark to record the rest of the album. Both top to concoct new, dramatic sounding orchestral phrases. A
Flood and Alan Wilder were heavily influenced by the clear example of how being limited in terms of music-making
then-burgeoning sound of hip-hop coming out of America resources (compared to today’s world of endless plug-ins and
and had begun to utilise sampling a great deal during the sample packs) forced Wilder to think outside the box.
Flood’s ARP 2600 synth was essential to creating the meat
of Waiting for the Night. Wilder told The Electricity Club in 2011

Personal Jesus would become


many a newcomer’s intro to the
Depeche Mode sound
how the track’s main musical hook was reached: “The ARP
2600 has many flaws when setting up your 16-note sequence,
such as tuning and gate length. We would have fiddled
around, tweaking the filters and envelopes within the ARP
until we arrived at that particularly hypnotic end result.”
Wilder and Flood then used this shape as the sample for
each held note on a keyboard or synth, so each chord would
trigger this shape, being generated again and again as the
chords were played.
The album’s arguable high point, Enjoy the Silence, has
subsequently, along with Personal Jesus, become one of
Depeche Mode’s most recognisable songs, being their highest
climber in the US charts and a ‘jumping-on’ song for intrigued

MAGAZINE December 2014 | 29

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MT Landmark Productions Depeche Mode: Violator

ears to start delving into their back catalogue. The writing of


the song began in a much more traditional vein than you’d
expect. Initially a piano-based ballad written by Martin Gore,
the song was then (at the suggestion of Alan Wilder) sped up
significantly, transforming an otherwise sanguine piano
ballad into a pulsing, danceable chart smash.
Perhaps the most ‘mainstream’ single in the Depeche
Mode canon, Enjoy the Silence immediately preceded the
release of the LP and became the band’s biggest hit. The
album version segues into a moody interlude (unlisted on the
record sleeve) with a Gore guitar lick that builds and builds
before fading out into a distant saw-like synth noise.
Third single Policy of Truth also prioritises pop-friendly
melodies and tight rhythm over progressive composition. Yet
the mix is fascinating, kicking off with a single note recorded
on guitar, then fed into a sampler, looped and fed into a
keyboard, adding a bendy, vibrato effect. The rest of the song
features duelling synthesized noises and layered vocals. The
band would later state that it took them a great deal of time to
isolate a lead riff sound that worked, even attempting to
record it on a flute.
Violator’s opening track World in My Eyes was conceived by
Martin Gore, recording an as-requested stripped-down demo
in isolation. Initially an unremarkable piece, much studio-
based enhancing (including the addition of Minimoog mixed
together with the ARP 2600 and Gahan’s powerful vocal line)
Photo © Getty Images

morphed the composition into something much more


interesting and the perfect opening to the album.
High-register, almost feminine electronic synth sounds
kickstart Blue Dress before the landscape lapses into a
moving, phasing texture, along with Gore’s shimmering,
washy guitar chords. Gore would describe Blue Dress as a

Critics were enthralled by years” gives a lyrical sense of resolution and exorcism to the
closing moments of the album.

the album’s textured, dark The LP’s final mix was led by François Kevorkian with
heavy creative input from the band. Although several

and edgy sonic landscape alternate mixes of the album’s tracks exist (and have been
subsequently released) Kevorkian added his own stamp; for
example, Sweetest Perfection was overloaded with tape
“pervy love song”, the theme of the lyrics being that of a boy (Above) Martin Gore loops, bizarre phased sounds and discordant mania well after
witnessing a woman undressing for the first time. The with his Gretsch White recording with the band had been completed.
Falcon – a guitar that
song gives way to the second interlude on the record: a would help the band Upon release, Violator was instantly hailed as a milestone
slightly more unhinged little piece that serves to enhance develop their newer in the band’s history. Referred to as a “perfectly formed void”
sound.
the flow of Violator. by Tom Nicholson of Record Mirror, most critics were
enthralled by the album’s textured, dark and edgy sonic
Closing time landscape as well as its pop sensibilities. It was massively
Final track Clean owes much to Kraftwerk and, as the band successful commercially, too, and became Depeche Mode’s
openly admit, Pink Floyd. It features a bass riff pilfered from breakthrough record in the US and their first LP to sell over a
Floyd’s One of These Days, with an unusual aural landscape million copies in the land of the free. It also generated four top
peppered with fragmented electronic melodies and a 20 singles in the UK.
chugging, mechanical electric bass. Yet the real highlight of Now regarded almost universally as Depeche Mode’s high
the mix is the sweeping, theatrical vocal melody soaring point, Violator is a fine example of a band pushing their
above the Krautrockian backing by Gahan, singing of creative and musical limits and, rather unexpectedly, being
becoming “clean” and “an end to the tears, the in-between richly rewarded in both sales and near-universal acclaim. MT

The players:
Dave Gahan Martin Gore Alan Wilder Mark ‘Flood’ Ellis
Gahan’s dark vocal power As Depeche Mode’s Wilder worked closely Producer Flood provided
was a key ingredient to principal songwriter, with Gore to arrange the valuable technical
the mainstream success Gore pushed the material on Violator. He expertise and served a
that the release of sonic boundaries on was also responsible for vital creative role in the
Violator would propel the Violator with a new, many of the textured genesis and recording
band to. rockier approach. synth sounds. process of the album.

30 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.LandmarksDepecheMode.indd 30 28/10/2014 11:35


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MT Technique Creating a composing palette

Powered by Requirements
Technique Producing Music To Picture, Part 3 Our Producing

Creating a
Music To Picture
feature is illustrated
using Logic but you
can apply the
principals to
whatever
DAW you use.

composing palette
Putting together an initialised palette of sounds can significantly speed up your
composition process. Mark Cousins forms his own band.

H
aving dealt with some of the mechanics of count. Alternatively, use a combination of Kontakt
writing music to picture, we thought it was On the disc instances and strategically built Multi Racks inside of
about time that we explored some sounds that Kontakt, either to group related instruments (a wind
dominate screen music, and in particular, how section, for example), or what I find most useful: a grouped
best to work with them. Given the complexity of Accompanying set of related articulations.
project file included
working with orchestral samples (which generally form the on the DVD Although some composers prefer using keyswitching
backbone of a score), and the need to work quickly, most for articulations, the Multi Rack approach has the benefit
composers tend to start with a pre-built palette of sounds. of level control for each articulation, for example making it
We’re going to take a closer look at this process, examining easy to lift the amplitude of a spiccato sound while
strategies that are both time- and RAM-efficient. reducing the legato.
Creating your own compositional palette is a matter of The benefit of using the Multi Rack system (as well as
personal taste and preference, with composers often loading complicated banks of sounds quickly) is that you
can also think strategically about mixing. As well as the

Creating your own aforementioned control over the articulation level, you also
have the benefit of using signal processing across your

compositional palette is a selected group of sounds. For example, where you’re


moving between different articulations on-the-fly it’s

matter of personal taste interesting to note how the application of compression


can really help knit the
taking a variety of different approaches that are depending
on their set-ups and compositional requirements.
Unless you’ve got plenty of RAM to spare and feel happy
waiting three minutes for a cue to load, you’ll find it
beneficial to take a more ‘modular’ approach to creating a
composing palette, using a variety of techniques (such as
Kontakt’s Multi Patches, DAW-based track imports, etc)
that enable it to be customised on a song-by-song basis.
While the modular approach is slightly less time-
efficient, you can ensure you’re only loading the instrument
groups you need, and that everything benefits from a
degree of pre-organisation.

First Kontakt
One key ingredient in the process of building your
compositional palette is deciding how you want to work
with Kontakt. The lazy approach is to use a separate
instance per instrument or articulation, which can
soon lead to a cumbersome and overbearing track

MULTI-COMPUTER SETUPS
If your eventual palette ends up super-sized, then you may want to
consider a two-computer system, where one is used for sequencing duties
and audio playback, while another machine is used solely for sampled
instruments. Rather than using lots of MIDI cables, applications such as
MusicLab’s MIDIoverLAN CP can stream hundreds of MIDI channels over a
suitable network connection. Given the intensity of playing back lots of
voices, you can ensure your second computer is optimised for sample
streaming, with lots of RAM, a RAID drive array or an SSD hard drive with an
ultra-fast access time.

34 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

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Creating a composing palette Technique MT

MT Step-by-Step Building a palette in Kontakt

Create a new instrument track, assigned to MIDI channel 1. Open It’s worth noting Kontakt’s Quick-Load tab, which can be a useful
01 an instance of Kontakt, which we’re going to use to create a Multi
02 way of accessing favourite patches (dragged across from the
for our Violin section complete with multiple articulations to cover a Libraries section), or as a means of browsing libraries that don’t
range of playing styles. support Kontakt’s Library system.

Start assembling your Kontakt Multi by dragging instruments Now create a series of tracks (with an incremental MIDI
03 into the Multi Rack area. In this case we’re using a series of Violin
04 assignment) that correspond to the instruments in Kontakt’s
articulations – found in the Individual Brushes folder – from Spitfire Multi Rack. In Logic Pro, for example, you’d use the menu command
Audio’s Mural (loaded from the Quick-Load section). Track > Other > New Track With Next MIDI Channel.

One interesting option, which we’ll explore in a future workshop, With the other tracks named, you should be able to record your
05 is to leave one of the tracks in an ‘All MIDI channels’ setting. This
06 music using the various articulations, moving between tracks to
is useful if you want to move dynamically between articulations in the select the desired playing style. Regions are then automatically
same musical part. named, making it clear to see how the music is being played.

performance together. Where you still need to split using Kontakt’s own Multi Save feature, or an equivalent
elements out, consider using a Multi Output version of function in your DAW that stores the current channel strip
Kontakt so that you can direct one or more instruments setting. Once saved, you can import complicated banks of
to individual outputs. sound with relative ease and efficiency.
Once you’ve pre-assembled your collection of Kontakt For a solution that bridges the per-Multi approach and a
Multis, you then need to consider how best to work with complete RAM-heavy template, consider using a feature
them. Saving the project as a whole is one solution, although that lets you import or recall multiple tracks. Most DAWs
of course this means the complete sound palette is loaded feature some form of multiple track import from another
every time you start a new cue. A more RAM-efficient project, so that your master template can be imported in a
solution is to save the template on a per-Multi basis, either more piecemeal way, eg, adding just the string tracks rather

MAGAZINE December 2014 | 35

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MT Technique Creating a composing palette

than the complete orchestra. In Logic Pro X’s case there’s to concentrate on musical decisions, which should really
the Track Stack feature that enables you to save and recall form the heart of your creative workflow.
groups of tracks rather than individual channel strips. Investing time in building your own compositional palette
As we’ve seen from previous workshops, the skill of is time well spent, and will reap dividends every time you
writing music to picture is as much about the intricacies use it to start a composition! MT
and polish of your workflow as it is about your ability to This tutorial is endorsed by Point Blank. With courses in London, online and
write a good melody. Removing the barriers to your now LA, Point Blank is The Global Music School. You can study sound to picture
composition process – even if that’s as simple as quickly on their Music Production Diploma courses, with pro industry tutors.
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MT Step-by-Step Building a palette in Kontakt… cont’d

The advantage of working in this way is having control over the There are situations where you may want the articulations to
07 various articulations using Kontakt’s mixer, while the instrument
08 address individual outputs, maybe to add some treble to the
as a whole travels down a single DAW channel strip. Add compression, pizzicato, for example. To do this, you’ll need to add a Multi Output
for example, to ‘knit’ the articulations together. version of Kontakt from your DAW’s mixer.

Once you’ve added the Multi Instrument version of Kontakt, Now we need to route the instrument in Kontakt. Open the Mixer
09 you’ll then need to create additional auxiliary mixer channels in
10 screen and from the dropdown menu select Batch Functions >
your DAW for the corresponding number of outputs. In Logic Pro X, this Clear Output Section And Create One Individual Channel For Each
is achieved by clicking on the small + sign. Loaded Instrument in order to route all the articulations.

As well as creating new Kontakt mixer strips for the instruments, Once you’ve created your Multi, consider the best way of saving
11 note that Kontakt has also routed each individual instrument in
12 the template. In Logic we’ve saved the set-up as a Track Stack,
the Multi Rack. If you want, you can change this assignment, possibly but you could also choose a selective track import, saving an
to route two articulations down the same path. individual channel strip setting, or saving the Kontakt Multi.

36 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.TUT.Logic.indd 36 28/10/2014 12:41


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Cutting-edge production Technique MT

Requirements
New Series Cutting-edge Production Techniques, Part 4 Our Cutting-edge

Delay-based
Production
workshops are
illustrated using Pro
Tools but you can
apply the principals
to whatever
DAW you use.

effects
Delay is a crucial tool, and it can be used for far more than just producing simple
echoes. Mike Hillier plays with time…

D Delay is also the tool behind


elay is one of the fundamental effects we can
apply. A short slapback can thicken a signal,

several other effects, including


while longer settings can add rhythmic and tonal
interest, as well as a sense of space, similar to

chorus and flanging


reverb. Delay is also the tool behind several other
effects, including chorus and flanging. We’re going to look at
re-creating a variety of different delay-based effects using
simple plug-ins and a little automation. of an effect on shorter delays, and can sometimes help
With a basic setting, the length of the delay itself will to remove muddiness from the low end of the
change the way we hear the effect. Very short delay times, thickened signal.
between 20-50ms for example, will create an artificial
doubling effect, as if two voices are performing the same Time is on your side
part. Of course compared to a well-tracked double, artificial The above effects all use delay as a simple, fixed line.
doubling can sound, well, artificial. However, by adding modulation, either with an LFO or
automation, to the delay time we can produce some
The times they are a-changin’ unexpected and interesting effects.
Lengthen the delay a little and you’re into slapback territory. Changing this parameter continuously will produce a
Anything from around 60-120ms will produce a slapback pitchshift. We won’t get into the maths here, but the amount
delay effect. Tape-based slapback effects are the go-to of pitchshift is proportional to the speed at which the delay
effect for surf-rock guitars, but can also be useful for rock ’n’ time is changing, not to the actual delay time itself. So
roll vocals, and used subtly can evoke a sense of space while the delay time is
similar to a small room but without the muddiness of a
small-room reverb effect. Keep the feedback control down,
as usually only a single repeat is needed.
Longer delay times are often referred to as echoes. These
are distinctly audible as a repeat of the performance. Longer
echo effects produce a sense of scale closer to larger halls
and stadiums and can be timed to the tempo of the music to
produce rhythmic effects.
In the modern era of click-tracks, heavy drum-editing
and quantized performances, the tempo-sync’d delay is an
easy-to-use tool, and many plug-ins don’t even require you
to do any maths to work out the delay time. However, leaving
your delays free-running rather than tight to the beat can
often work in your favour, adding a sense of movement as
well as sounding more natural. With longer delay times,
more repeats dialled in with the feedback control can help
to place the delay in a natural space.
An often ignored but interesting effect can be had by
inverting the polarity of the delayed signal. This has more

PRO TIP
Flanging effects work best when there are more frequencies to work with.
Try adding an overdrive or saturation effect to the original signal, with the
aux set up as a post-fader send. This will help to add lots of additional
material to the signal for the comb-filtering of the flanger to catch on to and
reinforce or null.

MAGAZINE December 2014 | 39

MT141.Tut CPT.indd 39 28/10/2014 12:31


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Cutting-edge production Technique MT

getting longer, the pitch will drop, and when the delay time is and is stationary at all other times, and for pitchshift to
getting shorter the pitch will rise. work the delay time must be changing continuously.
A single delay line with a sine-wave LFO modulating the Put the dry signal back in and you can create a chorus or
delay time will create a constantly shifting pitch in the flanger effect. Flangers use a very short delay of less than
delayed signal. If we remove the dry signal then we have 20ms, and this very short delay time will cause some
created a simple and effective sine-wave vibrato effect. frequencies to be comb-filtered. The continuous motion in
Changing the sine-wave LFO for a triangle wave or sawtooth the delay time moves the filtered frequencies up and down
wave will create similarly differing vibrato effects. Note that creating the effect of flanging.
square waves are not particularly good at this, as the delay With longer delay times, around 20-60ms, the comb-
time only changes instantaneously twice per wavelength filtering has less of an effect, and the changing delay time

MT Step-by-Step Creating different delay-based effects

We’re using the built-in Mod Delay III in Pro Tools, but any basic To widen this out into more of a slapback delay, bring the time up
01 delay plug-in should suffice. We’ve added the Mod Delay as a
02 and consider rolling a little of the high end off using the built-in
send effect to the E. Guitar track, and set up a basic doubling with the low-pass filter. You could also add a tape saturation effect before the
guitar panned left and delay panned right. delay in the aux channel for a more authentic tape echo.

For a longer echo, delays can really give a dramatic sense of space, To create a vibrato effect, place the Mod Delay directly on the
03 but keeping them in tempo with the main performance can be
04 track, rather than as a send effect, and keep it 100% wet. Use the
useful. Engage the sync tool, and then highlight the quarter-note icon in LFO to dial in movement. Faster LFO rates will produce faster vibrato,
Mod Delay. Experiment with feedback for a more natural sound. while boosting the depth will increase the amount of pitchshift.

Turn your vibrato into a flanger by simply turning the dry/wet mix To experiment with inverted polarity delays, simply click the
05 knob down to around 50%, or by placing the effect back onto the
06 polarity inversion switch on the Mod Delay plug-in input section.
aux channel. Low depth levels on Mod Delay, around 8-12%, produce If your delay plug-in doesn’t have a polarity switch, add an EQ with
great effects. polarity inversion before the delay.

MAGAZINE December 2014 | 41

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Cutting-edge production Technique MT

MT Step-by-Step Creating different delay-based effects… cont’d

To create a chorus effect we’ve duplicated the aux send, panning Not all delays have a built-in LFO, but by automating the delay
07 one hard left and the other hard right. Extend the delay time
08 rate you should be able to create your own modulations to
differently on each side: we’ve gone for 60ms left and 80ms right for a re-create these effects. Here we’re using the UAD2 EP-34 Tape Echo.
wide chorus effect.

09

We’ve assigned automation to the delay rate


09 and have used the pen tool to draw in
10 triangle waves at regular intervals (above).
11

The EP-34 has a minimum delay of 80ms,


10 but we can still use it for simple vibrato
effects by bouncing it down to a new channel
and moving the clip ahead by 80ms. This will
also make the part sit much better with the
groove (left).

Similarly we can create flanging like this,


11 and even through-zero flanging, by just
moving the clip ahead. If you’ve modulated
between 80-120ms try moving it 100ms ahead, so
it moves from 20ms before the beat to 20ms after
12
the beat as it modulates (above right).

When creating choruses, try drawing the


12 automation in differently on each channel,
perhaps starting one at 80ms moving up to
120ms, while the other channel starts at 120ms
and moves down, rather than up, in its first
cycle to 80ms (right).

has more of an effect on the pitch, creating a combination of grid so that the first delays happen before the original
doubling and vibrato, which is the chorus effect. signal. As well as cleaning up any timing issues that may
The mathematically inclined reader may have noticed at arise from delaying the signal this has a more obvious effect
this point that all these delay-based effects occur after the on the flanger, creating a type of flanging effect known as
initial sound. For obvious reasons this is the only type of ‘through-zero flanging’. Because the delayed signal now
delay effect that can be used in real time, but with recorded passes directly through the original signal the flanging goes
sound it is possible to use delays that occur before the through a point where it completely reinforces the signal at
original signal. all frequencies (or nulls it completely, if you have the polarity
If you bounce the delayed versions of your source to a inverted) and as it approaches this point higher frequencies
new track in your DAW you can then drag that track on the are reinforced or nulled. MT

MAGAZINE December 2014 | 43

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MT 20 Pro Tips Arrangement

Arrangement
Tips
Your grooves and melodies won’t mean a thing if they’re poorly structured. Get your musical
house in order with Hollin Jones’s indispensable advice…

LOCK TO A TIMEBASE
02 Always record to a click track, even if your music doesn’t
involve any beats. DAWs are based entirely on the notion of
material conforming to a timebase and use this for snapping,
quantizing, slicing and all kinds of other things. While it’s
possible to just record without reference to any kind of clock,
this could cause you problems further down the line as, for
example, it will make it much harder to remix your music.
Remixers like stems that have been recorded in time and that
start precisely at a bar marker, and preferably have the BPM
included in the file name or somewhere else prominent.
01 DAWs let you quickly cut up, copy and paste and rearrange
material but this is far easier to do if you’re not having to
worry about stuff drifting out of sync or indeed not being in
sync at all in the first place.

MAKE MULTIPLE VERSIONS


03 The way you arrange your track will depend on what
your target market is. If you’re making a nine-minute
experimental prog rock song, you probably aren’t too worried
about it getting airplay on drive-time radio. Conversely if
The Arranger track in you’re writing stuff to pitch for adverts it needs to be concise
Cubase is an easy-to-use
and punchy. Modern technology gives you a huge amount of
feature that can have a
big impact on your flexibility when it comes to arrangements, so your album
music (above). version doesn’t have to be the only one you make. Radio edits
USE ARRANGER TRACKS have been around for years: shorter, punchier forms of songs
01 If your DAW has any kind of non-linear composition that cut out the long intro, the drum breakdown in the middle
technology available, try it out when arranging. Logic Pro X has and other elements that make a track less likely to get played
the Arrangement track, Reason has the Blocks system and on mainstream programmes. Make a radio edit of longer
Cubase has the particularly powerful Arranger track. All of tracks to increase the chances of them getting played. Also,
these in some way enable you to build sections of music on always have a ‘clean’ edit if your track contains any swear
the timeline and then specify a playback order for them that is words, and always keep a separate instrumental version for
unrelated to their actual position. So for example you can tell sync purposes.
the track to play back two instances of the intro section, four
of the verse, one of the chorus and so on, in any combination. GET TO THE POINT
The ability to create multiple ‘virtual’ arrangements and hear
04 It might sound obvious, but if you’re writing anything
them without having to actually copy and paste or shuffle that’s designed to be catchy and memorable (as opposed to
anything around on the timeline until you have settled on an vague and experimental) it’s a good idea not to muck about
arrangement is really useful. Cubase even has the ability to for too long before you get to the hook. Some songs have
render out multiple arrangements to new project files. massive choruses and the verses are really little more than

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Arrangement 20 Pro Tips MT

filler – a less interesting bit that you have to get through so


you’re even more ecstatic when the chorus returns. That’s not
to say your verses can’t be memorable and interesting, indeed
they should be. But don’t have a three-minute build of
ambient noise before anything happens, unless that’s
specifically what you mean to do. Some bands trade almost
entirely off the dynamics of their music – Mogwai are a good
example – but it takes skill to make it work well.

GO NON-LINEAR
05 Most people are used to working in a DAW, and these 07
encourage us to work with a linear left-to-right approach.
Your project starts at zero and goes on for three, four, five
minutes. This wasn’t always the case, and early sequencing
tools encouraged you to build up sections of music and then
link those sections together to form a song. Some software,
notably NI’s Maschine, still works this way for its own internal
song sequencing tools. It’s almost a more mechanical way of
working: you have two instances of this section, three of the
next section, one of that part and so on. This approach can
work particularly well for electronic music where there can
often be more of a build up / build down approach than
conventional songwriting with its verses and choruses.

form, tied in with the science of mixing. Modern software lets


you have more or less as many tracks as you want in a
project, and while that can be liberating (add an orchestra
while working from a bedroom) it also provides the
opportunity to go over the top if you’re not careful. Just
because you can throw in 15 synth lines doesn’t mean you
necessarily should. Good arranging can be as much about
what you leave out as what you leave in. While the production
behind many classic records can be complex, the actual
arrangement often isn’t. Sometimes less really is more, and
you should be ruthless. Seek the opinion of a trusted friend or
colleague if you aren’t sure whether something is working: it’s
easy to lose perspective.

GET WITH THE TIMES


08 This is a bit of a strange one, but if you listen to a lot of
05 the non-electronic music that makes it onto the radio you’ll
hear a curious number of whoops, whistles, claps and brass
hooks. Although this seems to be a recent phenomenon it
actually goes back years, and if you listen to old funk and
disco records you’ll hear similar compositional tricks being
used. Introducing more of a human element, like the idea of
someone clapping along actually within a track or whistling a

Layering your mix is pretty


06 BURN OUT OR FADE AWAY
Knowing how to end a track is always a bit of a
vital to creating a full, rich sound
conundrum. The classic cop-out has always been to fade a
track out, but increasingly producers are opting instead to that will entice the listener
actually think of a way to end a track. This is particularly
important in the modern era where sync – using music for chorus, has a psychological effect and enables listeners to
adverts or film – is increasingly important as a potential connect with the music on a more fundamental level,
source of income for musicians. Editors like definitive, whether they realise it or not. And although it may seem
manageable sections of music because it enables them to slightly over-simplistic to say “if you want to get airplay,
cut the picture to the sound much more easily. So even if your include some hand claps or brass hooks”, evidence would
track doesn’t come to a dead stop at the end, consider having Bolster your sound by seem to lend this idea a certain amount of credence.
an alternative edit that does, or including a stop or two within carefully layering in
the body of the track and a subsequent return of a big chorus more instruments COMPOSE IN SECTIONS
or refrain. This will make a track more usable for sound-to- (top right).
09 Although conventional songwriters will often work on a
picture purposes. song in a very linear fashion there’s nothing to say that
Break from the norm
and work in a
everyone has to do this. DAWs and other recording
LESS CAN BE MORE technologies enable you to think up and work on various
07 Layering your mix is pretty vital to creating a full, rich
non-linear way with
different sections of a track in a non-linear way. So for
NI’s Maschine
sound that will entice the listener in. But it is also a real art (above left). example you might come up with an idea for a chorus first,

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MT 20 Pro Tips Arrangement

10

09

Don’t let your track get boring.


Be ruthless with the arrangement.
Does it need a fifth verse?
Composed the chorus
then somewhere else on the timeline start to construct a first? Simply
couple of different ideas for what the verse could be. Then colour-code, copy
later add fills or breakdowns and stitch the whole thing and paste (above).
together, either using some kind of arranger track or by
copying and pasting stuff around in the sequencer. DAWs Take a random leap of
faith to spice up your
generally use nondestructive editing, so even if you pitchshift track (right).
one audio loop the others remain the same, making it safe to
experiment with different treatments. Create back-up
singers with the click
RANDOMISERS CAN HELP of a mouse (below).
10 There are plenty of tools available to help you come up
with new musical ideas – you’re not on your own when it
comes to thinking of variations, beats or melodies. For MIDI
parts especially there are usually options in your DAW to
randomise notes within a clip, and these can often be set up
to affect some parameters but not others; for example, to
keep the timing of a clip but change the pitch of the notes.
This can cover everything from transposition to an arbitrary
re-imagining of a part. Some tools will even come up with
stuff from scratch for you, entering a random selection of
notes or creating a whole new instrument sound by assigning
values to a synth’s parameters or a drum machine. MIDI loops
and audio samples are another good way to spice up your
compositions if you’re lacking in inspiration.

VOCAL HARMONIES HELP


11 Vocal harmonies or backing parts can add a lot to an
arrangement. They don’t even have to be singing words, often 11
just ‘oohs’ or ‘aahs’ will do it. Even if you don’t have backing
vocalists available you can either record them yourself or use
technology to help. Some plug-ins (such as Melodyne ) or
DAWs (check out Cubase with its VariAudio technology) can
help you to easily generate harmonies from a simple,
monophonic vocal recording.

TURN ON THE RADIO


12 Always listen to music to get ideas. If you’re working on a
pop song, listen to a load of pop music and analyse the
structure. What is its instrumentation? How long is the track?
How many times do they repeat the chorus? How long does it
take to get to the first hook? Stuff like this is invaluable!

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Arrangement 20 Pro Tips MT

check out Radiohead’s Paranoid Android as a track that uses


it to devastating effect.

KEEP IT INTERESTING
16 Don’t let your track get boring. Be ruthless with the
arrangement. Does it really need that fifth verse? A track
that’s three minutes long with no fat is better than a
five-minute track that drags and feels full of padding. If your
music is electronic, is it just repeating the same beats and
loops over again? Create variation, builds and breakdowns to
keep things interesting.

DON’T CONFUSE PEOPLE


13 17 Being experimental and avant-garde is fine as long as
you’re pitching to people who like that kind of stuff, or you
don’t care who likes your music (which is a perfectly
acceptable approach!). But if you are aiming for a more
mainstream appeal, don’t throw people with too many
unexpected or jarring changes in a track. That’s not to say
don’t have fun, but people do like to have structure and
some repetition.

USE YOUR EYES


18 One of the benefits of working in a DAW is that you get a
visual overview of the way your track is structured. The
constituent tracks are layered up and contain coloured
blocks of audio and MIDI, and you can see how simple or
complex the arrangement is at a glance. You can also often
see if things are going on too long – a large stretch of the
same blocks usually means a lifeless arrangement.

KEEP STEMS
13 Whenever you work on a project, always save the stems
out at the end in addition to your original project file. As well
as providing a backup it will mean that remixes and
instrumentals can be created at a later date with a
minimum of hassle. Hopefully your software supports batch
export, but if it doesn’t simply put the kettle on and get
exporting one by one.

KEEP IT VARIED
14 It’s all too easy to come up with a drum part and just
copy and paste it all the way through a track. A real 18
drummer would vary things a little, throwing in some
flourishes and variations here and there to keep things
interesting. Try not to let a beat get stagnant, and consider
adding small augmentations and extra elements at different
points in a track.

CHANGE TEMPO
15 Although tempo and time signature automation can
seem gimmicky if used too often, they can also be very
effective if used sparingly. DAWs almost all enable this trick BACK UP YOUR MELODIES
of changing speed within a track, and it can be a good way to
19 You can create depth and richness in an arrangement by
keep things interesting. It’s not limited to dance music, either: ‘ghosting’ parts. What that means is using instruments to
back up existing melodies or rhythms and thus increase their
impact. So you might have a vocal melody being shadowed by
a lead guitar, or a drum part mirrored by a percussion kit. By
copying and pasting MIDI or extracting audio note data to
MIDI and reassigning new virtual instruments this is really
If your DAW has batch
export, make good easy to do.
use of it (top).
BE RUTHLESS
Use your eyes as well
20 Don’t be afraid to bin something just because it’s taken
as your ears to create you a while. We’ve all been there: you’ve spent two hours
a top-notch
arrangement (above).
tweaking a drum part but you’re still not happy with it. Don’t
15 leave it in just because of the time it’s taken, you’ll only regret
Vary the speed to add it later. Junk it and try to come up with something better and
interest (left). you’ll end up with a much-improved song.

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MT Technique Creative beat programming

Requirements
NEW SERIES Beat Programming And Sound Design, Part 3 Our Beat

Creative beat
Programming And
Sound Design feature
is illustrated using
Reason but you can
apply the principals
to whatever
DAW you use.

programming
Creating a solid rhythm part is the foundation that every track needs, and with
modern software it’s easier than ever, as Hollin Jones explains…

B
eats are at the very heart of almost all kinds of slots in an instrument will probably be mapped across the
music, and these days you’re just as likely to be
On the disc keys chromatically, as they are in ReDrum and Kong. Velocity
programming your own or at the very least will be recorded so you can tailor the style of your playing.
modifying an existing pattern. Samples still serve Pads are another popular way to get MIDI in for the
Accompanying
a purpose, of course: they’re ready to go straight project file included purposes of making beats. These can be the pads on a
out of the box and you can slice them up and generally mess on the DVD controller keyboard or a dedicated MIDI pad unit that you
about with them, but even that sort of counts as play either with your hands or with drumsticks, depending
programming since you’re changing the original. on the model.
The days of just using a sampled funk drum break are Reason has the Remote system and device locking to
more or less behind us, though the technique of modifying automap certain controllers straight to devices in the Rack.
that same funk break in new and creative ways is still very (Other instruments can sometimes do this as well:
much in fashion. Novation’s Automap is a notable example, and the new
Komplete Kontrol from NI will also automap its keys and
Double time controls to the latest NI instruments.)
You have two basic approaches when it comes to
programming beats, and within those a range of techniques Using samples
for getting what you need. The first could be broadly termed The second technique for beat programming involves taking
‘building from scratch’ and involves starting with a drum existing sampled audio in various formats and re-mapping
instrument, be it a synth, a re-creation of a conventional kit or tweaking it to produce a new beat. Although you can do
or some hybrid of the two such as Kong. Each drum hit is this in the sample editor of most DAWs or on the timeline it’s
mapped to a separate MIDI note and you use the mouse, a far easier to achieve when you have an instrument
MIDI keyboard or a pad input device to program the beat by that supports the slicing of
recording MIDI notes into a piano roll or drum roll editor.
As well as live input you often get the option of ‘step’
input, which can suit some people better. This basically
lets you enter notes in a similar way to classic
sequencing hardware and drum machines. Although not
exclusively for non-keyboard players, step input does
tend to suit those who aren’t comfortable with the keys.
Your method of hardware MIDI input has a bearing on
the results, too, and will largely depend on your personal
preference and your abilities as a drummer or keyboard
player. We’ve mentioned step input but many people find
it more intuitive to actually play a beat live, layer sounds
up and then edit and quantize afterwards. A MIDI
keyboard is a decent enough way to do this and the drum

BEAT VELOCITY
As with any MIDI, you are able to make comprehensive edits to parts
after recording notes. In the case of beats this often means quantizing
the clip but also working with the CC data that affects the character of
the sound. Probably the most important CC for beats is velocity, as this
determines the volume and force with which any given note is played
back. When you have a beat consisting of a kick, snare, cymbals and so
on, varying velocity is crucial to getting a human feel for a part. Or
conversely, making velocity uniform will lend a mechanical feel, which
may be what you want. Choosing to make every alternate snare or
kick a little louder can also help to make a beat feel more natural and
less computerised.

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Creative beat programming Technique MT

MT Step-by-Step Constructing a loop

To create a beat using a drum machine, begin by loading your Use the left and right markers to set up a loop in the sequencer,
01 module. We’ve chosen Kong and then gone to the browser and
02 then activate looping on the transport. Switch on the click track if
loaded a patch. Each pad is populated with a drum sound, either there isn’t already anything rhythmic to refer to, and press Record to
sampled or synthesized. capture your performance.

Double-click the MIDI clip to open it in Edit view and you can add You can actually quantize to values of less than 100% by opening
03 more notes or move or delete the ones you have recorded. Select
04 the Tool window and going to the Quantize section. Using a value
one or more notes and use the Quantize shortcut menu to choose a between 50% and 75% should correct timing without sounding
value to correct their timing. mechanical. Other DAWs also have this kind of feature.

Some devices have an onboard step sequencer. ReDrum enables There are multiple pattern slots on this device. You can use the
05 you to enter notes in a non-linear way by clicking the buttons on
06 Edit menu to copy and paste patterns between slots, edit them
the sequencer. Choose a drum channel to enter a pattern for that and then place them into the main sequencer either as pattern lane
particular sound, and build up a whole drum part. data or as note data if you want to export or otherwise edit them.

audio and its mapping to the pads of that instrument so associated tools of that module such as individual slice
loops can be remixed and re-sequenced easily. Groove tweaking and multiple audio output routing for more
Agent, Maschine, Geist and MOTU’s BPM are prime advanced processing.
examples of this. Reason actually goes a stage further by It’s useful when recording to set up a loop and to be able
automatically analysing any audio that you import or record to record in lanes, which Reason enables, so that you can
and gives you the option not only of quantizing it but also of start with the kick and snare, for example, then add a new
bouncing it to a REX loop inside a new Dr. Octo Rex Loop lane on-the-fly and start to add more elements to your beat
Player. So you can take a drum loop and within a couple of such as hi-hats, toms and other effects. Of course you can
clicks be playing it as if it were an instrument, using all the generally copy and paste MIDI data in clips and also explode

MAGAZINE December 2014 | 49

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MT Technique Creative beat programming

MT Step-by-Step Constructing a loop… cont’d

You can slice up loops really easily to work with them more Double-click to open the clip in Slice Edit mode and you can see
07 creatively. In the screenshot above a loop has been imported and
08 that Reason has analysed it for transients. Other DAWs have this
stretched to fit the project tempo by holding down the Alt key while too, such as Cubase’s Hitpoints and Logic’s Flex Pitch and Time. Move
snapping it to a bar marker. any slice markers to change the timing of the clip.

Right-click on the clip in this view and you will see an option If you go to the Song Samples section or navigate from a
09 10 REX-capable module using the file load button you can bring up
called Bounce > Bounce Clip to REX Loop. If you choose this, a REX
version of the loop is created and placed into the Song Samples section this new REX loop into the rack in a couple of clicks. Open the
of the browser. Programmer section and you’ll see the loop.

You will now find that each slice of that loop is playable from your Copy the REX data to the sequencer using the Copy Loop to Track
11 MIDI keyboard or pad. What you have done is sliced it up and you
12 command and you can now edit the REX loop even further by
can now take advantage of all the slice editing tools. manually picking up a slice trigger note and moving it around to create
new beats.

or merge lanes to get a better view of what’s going on and to retain a human feel (unless, of course, you’re aiming for
quantize individual parts of a beat more specifically. Say, for something more rigid and machine-like).
example, a straight 1/4 quantize for the kick but a 1/16 triplet Programming beats in software has never been easier,
for the hi-hats. and the tools that you get with your DAW will enable you to
Most DAWs enable groove quantization too, so you’re not put together great-sounding drum parts using synth- or
just making every beat sound mechanical. Reason has the sample-based instruments or by manipulating sampled
ReGroove mixer for real-time swing processing and this or a loops. You don’t even have to be the world’s most skilled
similar technique of applying less than 100% quantization player, you just need a feel for the groove and an
when correcting parts is a good way to ensure your beats understanding of the technology and you’re away! MT

50 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.TUT.reason.indd 50 28/10/2014 12:45


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MT Technique How to produce… Dirty dubstep

Technique How to produce…

Dirty dubstep Part 5


In the final part of this epic series Liam O’Mullane and Christopher Pearson guide
you through the hardest part of music production: finalising your mix and finishing
off your track…

W
ell, it’s been a long road but we’re finally at arrangement details that could prevent our main ideas
the last stage of our dirty dubstep track, and On the disc from coming across in their best light. Remember that your
we hope you are too. Even if you feel that the song is a story and your mix is there to sell it to the listener.
track you’ve created isn’t that great, stick A bad mix won’t get the ideas across clearly, so with that in
Accompanying
with us and sit through the entire process example audio files
mind let’s make some mixing decisions and compile our
from start to finish. It’s important to drum in all of these included on the DVD completion list.
skills and not get too caught up on one part of the process in
particular, as every track you complete is a worthwhile Trimming the fat
lesson for the skills you’ll gain for the next project. The first rule about evaluating your current mix is to listen
We’ve been crafting our ‘mix’ throughout the sound- and with your ears and not your eyes. So for the first few
idea-building process, but regardless of how good things evaluative plays, listen with the computer monitor turned
may seem to sound at the end of a creative songwriting off. This secret of the pros is often overlooked yet it
session there are many problem areas that are much easier highlights parts of your song that need further editing.
to detect when you’ve given yourself a break from the Perhaps some sections need improving as they aren’t in
project and listen with completely fresh ears. keeping with the established flow of the track. Or maybe the
ideas are all there but in some sections they’re sounding
Patience is a (dubstep) virtue cluttered due to an overload of events. A big part of this
We’ve waited a good few weeks before re-opening our stage is to be brutal and decide what aids the song and
project for writing this final instalment and can immediately what needs cutting back so the ideas can breathe.
hear a variety of problems with the mix and finer This is a time to explore muting out specific parts that
may distract the listener from the main ideas happening at

We’re at the last stage of our any moment in time. Choosing muting rather than deleting
means you can always un-mute later, and this is better than

dirty dubstep track, and hope having to undo or load an older project version.
When creating fills at the end of a section, newly

that you are too… programmed elements are often blighted by competing
layers of sound that may still exist from the song section
that’s about to end. These can also be muted or you could
MIX BUSS PROCESSING choose to re-program them to work in unison with the new
Processing on the mix buss will help to sculpt your work. Here are a few tips for heading in the idea instead.
right direction when mastering dubstep…
Use a linear phase EQ for the most transparent After listening to our own song with
adjustments, and add a high-pass filter to cut fresh ears it’s immediately obvious
below 35-40Hz to clear out sub frequencies that our track is a little too dense in the
that will only eat up the headroom and
therefore the potential maximum volume your top end and that the kick and snare
track can achieve. Also limit the top end with a are often being masked by other
low-pass filter around 16kHz. Although this is
a classic technique to help your music
sounds in the mix, resulting in an
translate better to vinyl, it’s good to smooth off inconsistent feeling of power. When
the top end for a warmer sound. assessing your track it’s important to
Experiment with gentle compression but
be careful not to get too squash-happy or you’ll start creating your end goals for
ruin the dynamics. We’re talking 2-3dB of gain completion – this is where writing a
reduction, applied with a slow attack and list is important. (See the Completion
release to keep the transients intact.
Stereo width control and possible List boxout on p54 for an example and
enhancement are a consideration too; but with check out the audio files provided on
width comes a loss of power, so be sparing and
keep it in the higher frequency range.
your MT DVD.)
Last in the chain is limiting. Although this
needs to be left off for mastering, to get a quick Physical phatness
playout version beforehand try one limiter and
lower the threshold until you hear crackles and Now that we have an initial to-do list of
Mix buss processing should be used with caution, but it’s useful to make
artefacts, then back off. A second limiter with a
the track ready to play out on the day of completion. A non-processed
fixes for our mix, let’s look at how we
different algorithm can be added, and a little of can achieve some basic tasks. One
version should always be available when delivering your work for
the two will have a cleaner loudness than too
mastering, but sending your processed version can give them artistic advantage of stripping back some
much being squeezed out of one.
reference to work from as well.
elements in your track is that they’ll

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How to produce… Dirty dubstep Technique MT

bring the remaining sounds to the fore, making them seem MT Step-by-Step Effective side-chaining
more present even though you’ve not technically made any
changes to them. In the case of our drums being lost in the
mix, this needs more attention than simply stripping out
other conflicting elements, as this could result in almost
nothing being left and we don’t want to lose the epic, trance
production-like sound we’ve gained so far.
The kick and snare have plenty of size in terms of
ambience and weight for lower-end impact but they don’t
come across as aggressively as we’d like. One option is to
process single drum sounds, or the whole drum group, with
some saturation-based plug-ins.
Saturation is a good option here as it can be used to
increase the density of mid-range frequencies while also
compressing the signal to become a little louder and more
up-front sounding. A drawback of this approach is that we
could soon be chasing our tails by beefing up the drums too
much in relation to our other sounds, and then ramping up
other elements and ending up with a louder but just as
A good way to ensure your drums will always cut through your mix is to
cluttered mix. 01 group all other sounds that aren’t drums, and then set up a compressor
We also thought about the key frequencies within our triggered by the kick and snare with a fast attack and release to duck this ‘all but
drums and how we don’t want too much overlap from other drums’ group.
parts, which will cause masking. A simple trick that can be
very effective here involves adding an EQ to the drum group,
and then using its frequency bands to pinpoint where the
main impact and mid-range frequencies of our kick and
snare are via a combination of positive gain settings and
sweeping the frequency of each band to find and boost the
key frequencies. Group all non drum-based sounds and drag
the same EQ over for subtractive reduction of these set
drum-orientated frequencies.
This can be as subtle as five or so decibels in reduction,
but these notches in all non drum-based sounds will help
the drums to cut through the mix better and therefore have
more impact.

Stereo dynamics
Though we’re about to discuss loudness and dynamics, it’s
important not to overlook the dynamics available through
If you want a massive sound for leads or pads, send them to a huge-
the manipulation of the stereo field. A variation to the stereo 02 sounding reverb on an auxiliary channel. Then add a compressor after the
width of different mid-range bass sounds can really help
reverb and have the original sound trigger it with a fast attack and a slow,
your basslines have a stereo dynamic as a whole. musically set release time. This will duck the reverb when the source sound plays
Some of your upper bass sounds may be stereo from and the reverb will swell up in volume in-between the notes.
source or from effects you’ve processed them with as part

It’s important not to


overlook the dynamics
available through stereo
field manipulation
of your sound design. If this is the case, a simple stereo
width plug-in can help you pull in or slightly widen the
stereo field on a per-sound basis. If sounds are mono or only
slightly stereo in nature there are a few ways to process
them to become wider sounding.
The first and most common way is to use dedicated
stereo enhancement tools. Though this isn’t the A great way to tighten up your mix without losing its ambience is to add a
03 compressor after your auxiliary ambience FX, as in the last step, but with a
cheapest method, plug-ins such as iZotope’s Ozone or
snappier, short release time to be triggered by your drums. Now ambience FX will
Alloy make it easy to create dense, stereo sounds. But
duck in sympathy to your drums so the heavier sections sound tighter and
before you splash the cash, there are other options out breakdowns fill out with louder FX.
there to create width.

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MT Technique How to produce… Dirty dubstep

MT Step-by-Step Creating tight micro edits COMPLETION LIST EXAMPLE


Below is our own completion list, created after a few fresh
listens to our project at the start of the day. As well as noting
down points of concern, jot down how you think you’ll fix the
issues as well. This will help create a list that you systematically
have to get through. Even though more areas needing attention
will become apparent as you start working through each task,
using this method will at least help you get started in the
daunting task of finishing your music.

• Get kick and snare to cut through better, maybe EQ out


clashing frequencies on all other sounds in the mix.
• Slowly introduce duller kick and snare on intro with low-pass
filter and add tape delays to create more rhythm.
• Process the Obnoxious bass sound to sit better in the mix so
it’s less wide sounding and overly up front.
• Slowly introduce main pads at intro with volume automation.
• Minimise other sounds alongside the vocal stabs before the
drop to make the vocal more prominent.
• Clean up pad ambience and other background sounds on
various bass fills for a dryer sound.
• Create more stereo movement and interest for middle-eight
vocal part.
• Process middle-eight vocal riff more towards end of phrase
for more interest and make it the main feature just before
Stripping down your mix for short fill sections really helps to tighten up your
01 sound and create more dynamics in your track. This is quite a time-consuming
the breakdown.
• Give arp synth part more textural interest and movement when
task, but a good starting point is to loop around the fill with a bar or so either side for playing, maybe through filtering.
context, then solo each track to hear where all the current sounds are coming from. • Add filtering to main melody riff on intro and outro.

The first method is to use slightly opposed pan


settings for two related sounds. This isn’t great for bass,
but does work very well on percussive drum parts such
as two hi-hats that alternate between each other on a
regular basis. Just set one slightly to the left and the
other to the right and your drum sounds will suddenly
start to sound wider while your kick and snare still drive
down the centre of the mix.
You can also do this with layered pad sounds so the
layers are panned across the stereo field. Be careful
because width substitutes power, and whereas a hi-hat
doesn’t need to be up front, a bass generally does, so
exercise caution with leading instruments.

Special effect
The Haas effect is one of our favourite methods to
widen any non-percussive sounds. This involves
Now start muting out parts that detract from the main elements. If sounds have
02 a decay to them you’ll have to automate either a mute or a fade to create
delaying one side of the signal by a short, sub-50ms
complete silence. This can also apply to your auxiliary FX channels too, as reverb tails value, so although you can’t detect the delay as a
and delays will also shift the focus. separate event you do get a sense of stereo. But its
delay-based nature means it doesn’t work very well on

Your drums sound


wider while your kick
and snare still drive
down the centre
percussive sounds, as you can start to hear a slight
flamming effect on transients at higher ms values. For
pads and mid-range bass tones, though, this is a
valuable tool.
You may have already utilised modulation effects in
your bass design, but chorus, flanger and phaser are
excellent tools to stereo-ise a variety of sounds. You can
When stripping things down to one or two sounds, experiment with going from a
03 wide stereo sound to mono using a stereo width plug-in. This will give another
go for slow, subtle modulation rates and a liberal
dynamic to the track at this point and is brilliant to help the sound seem unique to the amount of wet signal, or go for more extreme tonally
rest of your potentially wide mix. altering settings and only feed a slight amount of wet in
with the dry signal to achieve width. The trade-off with

54 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.TUT Genre pt5.indd 54 28/10/2014 12:40


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MT Technique How to produce… Dirty dubstep

these effects, though, is that sounds become a little MT Step-by-Step Unwanted pops and clicks
smeared and will step slightly further back into your
mix, but this smoothing side-effect is often more
beneficial than being a hindrance.
Our final technique can achieve similar results to the
purpose-built enhancing plug-ins already mentioned,
but you’ll need to figure out how to do mid / side
processing within your specific DAW to achieve it.
In short, the mid signal is the mono centre of the
mix, and the sides are all the information that is unique
on one side of the mix from the other. Start with at
least a slightly stereo-ised sound so some side
information exists, then add compression or saturation
to the side signal only. Saturation is particularly useful
here as it adds compression and new harmonics, which
is great for that super-wide sound whilst retaining
mono compatibility.

Achieving tasteful loudness While you’re performing micro edits you’ll start focussing your hearing at such a
Our last focus is on maintaining a level of volume 01 high level that you’ll potentially start to find problem sounds and clicks, which
dynamics while also achieving a competitive level of you’ll want to get rid of. If they are at the start or end of a piece of audio use fades to
loudness. As dynamics are coming back into fashion it’s smooth them out.
important that you don’t just slam the hell out of your
sounds for a perception of loudness. If you add
saturation, compression or limiting to a sound or group
of sounds, go for little and often so the effect isn’t so
obvious to the ear. We like to use a variety of tonal,
vintage gear emulations, pushing the sound a little bit
with each one so the tonal sum of each tweak is
texturally interesting to the ear.
When it comes to saturation, a multi-band option
over broad or whole-band processing can let you
selectively choose where you want the new, loudness
increasing harmonics to sit while leaving the other
frequencies untouched. Just remember to experiment
with these settings in the context of the whole mix so
you can correctly tune your new harmonic content to sit
in a non-congested area of the mix.

Final thoughts Another problem area can arise from clicks in consecutive heavily edited pieces
If you’ve made it this far we want to say ‘well done’ for
02 of audio. This happens from jumps in the waveform cycle position between edits.
sticking with us on what’s been quite a long pursuit. To solve this, solo the track and use crossfades to smooth out the transition from one
Over this series we’ve covered a lot of ground and hope slice to the next to even out the resulting waveform.
you’ve picked up some useful applied technique for the

Experiment with
settings in the context
of the whole mix to tune
harmonic content
filthier side of dubstep. Though you will of course aspire
to produce to the standard of your heroes, don’t forget
our tips on experimenting with your ideas to discover
something unique.
This attitude is what will continue to push the scene
forwards, striving to achieve the same FM8- and
Sample-based MIDI instruments may also benefit from some de-clicking,
Massive-based bass sounds that the masses will not. 03 especially if you’ve been heavily re-sampling bass from your own creations. You
We wish you all the best with your efforts and don’t
can move the start point with a ‘Snap To Zero Crossing’ setting enabled, or, like audio
forget to see each project through to completion when parts, you can use the attack and decay or release stages as fades to smooth out any
possible, as it’s the final tasks that are the hardest clicks and pops.
skills to master. MT

56 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.TUT Genre pt5.indd 56 28/10/2014 12:40


THE KOMPLETE INSTRUMENT.

www.the-komplete-instrument.com
MT Technique The art of melody

Requirements
New Series Composition Techniques, Part 3 Our Composition

The art
Techniques features
are illustrated using
Cubase but you can
apply the principals
to whatever
DAW you use.

of melody
You can use top-of-the-range recording gear, the flashiest instruments and the tightest
bunch of musicians you can muster, but if your top-line melody isn’t up to par then your
song is going nowhere. Andy Price tunes up…

W
e’ve previously talked about the essentials subjectivity – some melodies will permeate longer in certain
of songwriting by looking at some basic
On the disc types of brain far more than others. Much like our
forms and also examining how writing in key discussion of keys last issue, many songwriters don’t fully
keeps your chordal selections aurally understand exactly what they are doing theoretically when
Accompanying
pleasing. Now we move on to what is project file included writing top-line. But the human mind itself is instinctively
without question the most important element of a on the DVD gifted with great judgement of what works melodically and
successful song, and that’s the melody. what doesn’t, and many vocalists tend to write melodies
The main vocal melody of a song is usually referred to as within their natural vocal range.
the ‘top-line’ melody, and that’s what we’ll look at in detail To be deemed a melody, movement throughout the
here. Many songwriters begin their compositions by coming intervals that make up the key has to occur (otherwise it
would be a drone). There are multiple methods of doing this

An effective melody is at and there isn’t really a ‘correct’ way, so long as the intervals
you use remain within the right key.

the heart of what makes a Repetition plays its part as well. To be considered a
song’s hook, the central melody must reappear at key

song memorable moments – the more times we hear this melody the more it
lodges inside our subconscious mind. However, there is a
fine line between constant repetition and keeping things
up with (often through sheer blind inspiration) an idea for a melodically interesting.
melody and then finding the correct key and song structure By referring to the circle of fifths we discussed in the last
later in their process. issue we can apply some carefully thought out interval
An effective melody is at the heart of what makes a song movement. More often than not, songwriters will begin their
memorable, so giving this element significant consideration melody at the root note of the chord’s key they’re singing
can really make or break a composition. We’re evolutionarily in, however this is not always
hard-wired to try and detect sonic movement and to
memorise patterns in sound, our memories as both music
maker and listener play a vital role in whether or not a hook,
and therefore a song, will endure.

From the top


So where do we start when making our melody? What
is a ‘good’ melody and how do we know when we have
one? As with most things there is a degree of

FOCUS ON… LEAPING TO THE


STRATOSPHERE
Here’s an oft-replicated trick that can result in an instant,
epic-sounding hook. Starting your melody on the root and then
moving to the same note of the same scale but exactly one octave
(eight notes) up can have a dramatic effect on the ear. Listen to
Judy Garland singing Over the Rainbow, David Bowie’s Starman
and also Suede’s The Drowners – can you hear the similarity? All
these songs have a top-line that octave-leaps stratospherically in
their central hooks. This kind of leap bolsters the melody of the
song and creates a positive sensation for the human ear. As the
two notes on either end have a similar resonance, we hear both
the notational familiarity and the leap to a higher octave, creating
what is akin to a kaleidoscopic, sweeping effect.

58 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.tutorial cubase.indd 58 28/10/2014 12:45


The art of melody Technique MT

VERSE MELODY TIP

In general, the verse melody is the part of the song that delivers the most lyrical content, therefore sufficient
01 space should be given to allow your tune to breathe and to clearly communicate the narrative of your song.

the case. It helps to be experimental with your starting


VERSE MELODY TIP note just as long as your melody hits the notes from the
triad of the chord you’re using. For example, if you’re
singing over an A major chord your vocal melody should
hit either A, C# or E.
A traditionally written melody is the equivalent of a
musical mountain range, with peaks and troughs of
movement up and down the key notes with an easily
discernible and natural-sounding flow. So when
reaching for those higher notes, don’t simply go there,
work your way there through a succession of gradually
rising and falling notes. Unexpected leaping can be
jarring, and the human mind likes to pre-judge where a
melody will go, so too much deviation from established
norms can be detrimental to your song’s success.
Many great verse melodies make heavy use of the dominant note (the fifth Usually, top-line writers will compose their melody in
02 degree of a scale). The human ear will naturally want the sound to resolve to one octave, as too much movement can make it difficult
the tonic (first degree) but constantly heading back to the dominant and not the root to pin down the central hook. (That said, see the Focus
will build anticipation for the chorus. In C major, for example, the dominant is G. On… boxout on p58 for examples where octave-jumping
(Using last week’s Circle of Fifths tutorial we can easily find the dominants.) can work.)

The colour and the shape


VERSE MELODY TIP So the key elements of an effective melody are both
shape and repetition, as without a clearly defined shape
and a recurring movement the melody will sound
aimless, atonal and uninteresting. We also need to bear
in mind the rhythm of our tune, which should generally
follow the pulse of our song’s time signature. Often if a
melody has been created without musical
accompaniment it will need to then be chopped and
tweaked to fit the resulting piece of music’s rhythm.
Of course one of the things that is also vitally
important is that the melody fits the feel of the piece of
music you’re trying to write. There’s no point writing an
uplifting, happy melody if you’re going to counter it with
The verse needs to naturally transform into the chorus melody without too melancholic minor chords.
03 much of an obvious division. The verse should end with a feeling of unresolved Usually a spontaneously written melody will
musical tension that the chorus’s chordal and melodic shift should naturally follow.
suggest which chords you will use when building your
In this melody I’ve opted for a descending sequence of notes that ends on the first
note of the chorus. song; likewise chordal movement can imply how you
will add your top-line. No approach is better than

MAGAZINE December 2014 | 59

MT141.tutorial cubase.indd 59 28/10/2014 12:45


MT Technique The art of melody

CHORUS MELODY TIP

Your chorus melody should generally be in a higher pitch than the preceding verse or pre-chorus melodies. The
01 sonic implication being that a lift or a rise has taken place, we are at the ‘peak’ of our song and that this is
(usually) the location of our primary hook. Here’s a brief rising melody for the chorus.

another, but the mixing of your elements must make


CHORUS MELODY TIP
musical sense.
Having said that, perhaps the best (certainly the
most enjoyable) melody-generating exercise is just to
play back a series of recorded chords and, without
thinking too heavily about keys, bars and the like, just
improvise. More often than not you’ll start to hear little
fragments of ideas coming forth. This is my usual
approach. Once I’ve amassed enough ‘idea fragments’
I’ll take one and try linking it to another.

When we ascend to the highest note we should then start descending from it Instrumental, my dear songwriter
02 gradually. This has a satisfying effect on the human ear, adding drama and Your top-line melodies don’t have to be limited to
resolution to our chorus’s key point. Here’s a melody I wrote a while ago that vocals. Try playing the same melodies on different
demonstrates this. instruments – you may be surprised to find it takes on a
completely different life when a vocal melody is played
on the piano. You will also be inspired to deviate and try
CHORUS MELODY TIP
different approaches, particularly when playing your
melody on an instrument that you’re not completely
comfortable with.
Another handy tip is to alter the speed at which your
melody is delivered. Try it as slow as possible, then
accelerate the same melody in the chorus and see what
the effect is. Often this can be unexpected, but can
sound rather dramatic and interesting. Other times less
so. The key is experimentation!
Being a top-line melody writer is a skill that takes
time to develop, akin to learning and mastering an
instrument; and indeed many people make quite a good
living from writing melodies. Far too often the top-line is
throwaway and last minute, when really it should be
Usually the chorus resolves to the tonic note of the key. It’s better to resolve to
03 the tonic in the chorus than in the verse in order to add a sense of completion given precedence over all other song-building
and give the chorus added musical weight. considerations. After all, this is the part of the song that
people will whistle in the street! MT

60 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.tutorial cubase.indd 60 28/10/2014 12:45


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MT Reviews Alesis IO DOCK II

MT Lead Review
Hardware Software Mobile tech Accessories

design from its


predecessor,
maintaining a solid
and rugged feel while
remaining fairly
lightweight and portable.
It supports iPad models
1-4 and there’s a slide-out
insert to compensate for the
smaller bodies of specific iPad
models. There are two connectors
supplied to handle both 30-pin and
Lightning connections and these are
interchangeable, plugging into a
master connector attached to the side
on a short wire.
You may be wondering about this

ALESIS slightly muddled support situation.


Well, we’ll try to explain as simply as

IO DOCK II
possible! The first three iPad models
Details
had 30-pin connectors and the fourth
Price £119
had Lightning. The newer iPad Air and
Distributor InMusic
Contact :Via website
Air 2 both have Lightning but Alesis
Web www.alesis.com doesn’t supply inserts to
To celebrate 50 glorious apps starting on p12, accommodate their body sizes. Since
you will want to upgrade your iPad’s audio. Key Features
● 30 pin and
they are smaller than previous iPads,
the newer models will sit inside the IO
Alesis might have just the solution. Hollin Lightning
connectors
Dock but are not held in place. You can
Jones goes mobile with the IO Dock II… ● Officially
plug them in and they do work, since
supports all the data is carried over the

A
iPad models 1 Lightning cable, but they are not
through 4
lesis was one of the first single port for getting sound, power ● Two combo XLR
officially supported just because of
companies to come up and MIDI in, you need to build a system inputs the size issue.
with a genuinely around it that gives a musician the ● Phantom power Apple has discretion when it
professional accessory for kinds of I/O they are more accustomed ● Mic/line/guitar comes to officially certifying third
switch
those making music on to. And if possible, do so without party kit as “Made for iPad” and in this
● USB and
iPad, the IO Dock. Its successor brings having interfaces dangling on wires hardware MIDI case it appears that such approval has
some evolutionary changes though it while doing so. I/O not been forthcoming. While the iPad 2
● Headphone
has now been joined on the battlefield is still in fairly widespread use, it’s
output
by a few competitors. The idea is that Look and feel ● Power adaptor hard to imagine anyone trying to make
since the iPad really only provides a The IO Dock II doesn’t shift radically in music on an iPad 1.

64 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.rev io dock II.indd 64 05/11/2014 15:27


Alesis IO DOCK II Reviews MT

Alternatives
Focustrite’s iTrack Dock at £169 goes the other way and only supports the
iPad Air and Mini, no older models. So, in its own way, it is cutting out many
iPad owners, but at least it’s looking forward rather than backward. It has
fewer ports, lacking the hardware MIDI I/O though it does have USB MIDI.
It’s arguably more ergonomically designed too.

In use capturing sound and tracking into a


With your iPad connected, it begins to compatible app is a breeze. Connect
charge automatically when you plug guitars, bass, dynamic or condenser
the IO Dock in with its bundled power mics or synth and other hardware.
supply. What you get is a surprisingly There are only two inputs at any one
good selection of I/O that brings proper
connectivity to the iPad platform.
There are dual combo XLR jack inputs
with switchable phantom power and
The IO Dock II does a great job of turning
gain controls on the back and one of
them has a switchable guitar/mic/line
your iPad into a much more powerful
switch and there’s also a guitar direct
switch. A footswitch input allows you
environment than other add-ons…
to trigger recording remotely where
supported and there are stereo jack time but this can be enough for anyone iTrack Solo, Apogee Duet and Quartet
monitor outputs as well. On one side of working on such a compact scale. and Roland Duo Capture EX all feature
the unit is a master volume output dial both computer and iOS compatibility,
as well as a single headphone out with In the dock? meaning you get more flexibility. It’s
variable level control. The IO Dock II does a great job of true that they usually require a Camera
The other side of the box contains turning your iPad into a much more Kit adaptor to work with iOS and so are
MIDI connections and here you get powerful recording environment than not as elegant a solution as a dock, but
USB MIDI in and out as well as two some other add-ons have the ability to that won’t bother everyone.
hardware MIDI ports for connecting do. It’s a shame that Air and Mini Considering what you get, the IO
external kit to your iPad instruments or models aren’t officially compatible, Dock II is competitively priced and it’s
your iPad sequencer to external kit. though they can be connected and will certainly a clever way to expand your
Getting sound and MIDI in and out work – just don’t move anything iPad into a more rounded audio and
works via the CoreAudio and CoreMIDI around. More importantly, this kind of MIDI recording environment. With
frameworks in iOS so there’s no real dock device is no longer the only game official support for newer models it
setup required. When everything is in town when it comes to iPad could be an even better deal and stake
plumbed in, the inputs and outputs production. As well as competing a claim to being the most effective way
will appear to your apps like docks from the likes of Focusrite, an to turn your iPad into a pro music
GarageBand, Auria, Nanostudio and increasing number of smaller audio production tool. MT
others. The IO Dock has 24-bit interfaces are gaining iOS
converters that do a great job of compatibility. Boxes like the Focusrite MT Verdict
+ Bring a compliment of pro I/O to
your iPad
+ Recordings sound great
+ Charges as you work
+ Lightning and 30-pin connectors
+ Connect external MIDI kit
+ Send MIDI to and from your
computer
+ Good all-in-one solution
+ Competitively priced

- Doesn’t officially support iPad


Mini or Air
- Removable adaptors can be lost
- Increasing competition from
interfaces with iOS and Mac / PC
support

A great way to record music on your


iPad, but bringing full physical
compatibility with newer models
up to speed would be ideal.

8/10
MAGAZINE | December 2014 | 65

MT141.rev io dock II.indd 65 05/11/2014 15:27


MT Reviews JamHub GreenRoom

JamHub obviously requires a lot of long cables,


so be careful to avoid tripping musicians.

Vocalists, on the other hand, can simply


use the built-in FX section.

Let’s rock!
My band was soon up and running, and
once everything was plugged in the
JamHub almost resembled an octopus,
Choice Innovation with its cable arms reaching out to

JamHub 9/10
9
9/10
every corner of the room. Obviously the
more members in your band there are

GreenRoom
the more of a hazard this might create,
so cable management is important.
While playing, though, we did enjoy a
more, shall I say, intimate musical
experience than usual. Controls and
It’s a piece of tech that enables you and your fellow musos to levels were easy to adjust and we were
practice in perfect harmony, at any time, without annoying the definitely a tighter unit, as you feel
audibly closer to your bandmates.
neighbours. Alex Mobaraki strikes up the band… JamHub’s main selling point is silent
rehearsal, and it certainly achieved
that. Those of you out there with

M
Details y band is finally back output level, panning position and acoustic drum kits are probably
Price £420 together. The equipment is effect amount. wondering whether or not there’s any
Contact sales@ set up, everyone’s in tune The centre panel, labelled ‘R’ for need for it, and electronic drums are
scvdistribution.co.uk
Web www. and the levels are Rear/Record, delivers additional inputs, obviously better suited. For everyone
scvdistribution.co.uk balanced. Normally, though, my outputs and knobs that can be used to else, however, the benefit of having
neighbour would have something to say receive music from an MP3 player and their own monitor mix proved to be
on the matter, as paper-thin walls accommodate a seventh musician if incredibly valuable. The time and
make any kind of noise an absolute required. The R section also provides a energy usually spent trying to hear
no-no. But not this time, as the JamHub USB output giving the option to record what everyone was playing could be
GreenRoom makes it possible to rock stereo WAV/AIFF files. spent focusing on performance.
out any time and at any volume… Also found on the rear are four ports In short, the GreenRoom excels at
that can be used to incorporate the providing an attractive, compact and
So what is it? SoleMix remote (included), that extends convenient way to rehearse silently at
Simply put, JamHub is a multi-channel the distance a player can be from the home or on the move. MT
device that enables up to seven main unit by 12 feet.
musicians to practise in virtual silence. Both the outputs and inputs of the MT Verdict
Key Features Each musician is treated to their own JamHub are stereo, so it is important to
+ Delivers on silent rehearsals
● 21 audio channels monitor mix which they can control and note that you will need either stereo
for up to seven
+ Individual mixing controls
listen to through headphones. leads or mono-to-stereo adaptors + Easy-to-use interface
musicians
● Seven XLR and
There are three options available to when plugging in your instruments. + Stereo environment
seven TRS input you in the JamHub range: BedRoom, Another thing to consider is that while + All-in-one, compact and
jacks the smaller of the three, which offers guitarists can plug themselves directly lightweight
● Four SoleMix + USB stereo recording
the necessary ins and outs for five into the JamHub, the resulting tone
remote jacks (one
remote included) musicians to practise together; isn’t adjustable, so an amplifier - You may need additional cables
● Built-in 24-bit GreenRoom, which will be the main speaker-out or amp simulator will be and adaptors
stereo effects
focus of this review; and TourBus, which necessary to get the desired tone - No internal amp simulation
including reverb, - No internal EQ or compression
delay and includes all of the GreenRoom features running into and out of the system.
modulation plus onboard recording. Combines all the essential bits of
● USB out for direct The front of the GreenRoom unit is Alternatives kit necessary to enable virtually
recording to
divided into six sections, each providing Although we haven’t reviewed it yet, Roland silent ensemble rehearsals in one
computer
offers the HS-5 Session Mixer for silent well-designed, compact and
● Supports Tracker a phantom-powered XLR microphone rehearsal, which enables up to five musicians
MT16
lightweight package.

9/10
input, a ¼in instrument input, a ¼in to rehearse or jam while monitoring with
● Phantom power headphones. We’ll be looking at that system in
(+48V)
headphone output and knobs to control
a forthcoming issue.
each input’s gain level, headphone

66 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.Rev.JamHub.indd 66 28/10/2014 12:19


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Resident Audio T4 Reviews MT

front panel controls are all tilted slightly


upwards, making it easier to see and
operate the controls when it’s on a flat
surface. The backlit dials also make it
easier to see at a glance what you’re
changing in low-light environments:
this is a box that’s been designed both
for studio and live work.

In use
The T4 offers near-zero latency, and in

RESIDENT AUDIO Choice practice I was able to drive it at very low

9/10
9
9/10
T4
buffer settings in Logic without any
For PC issues at all. Switching the sample rate
& Mac up didn’t make an appreciable impact
and everything flowed beautifully, with
pristine audio quality.
Thunderbolt is a blazingly quick connection, but it has always A small control panel software app
lets you make some level settings.
carried a hefty price tag until now. Hollin Jones knocks on the Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that the
door of Resident Audio to try out the T4… device draws more power than a USB
box would, it drains laptop batteries a
little faster than a regular interface. But

A
Details Thunderbolt has come as the box, along with hardware MIDI in then you really shouldn’t be doing any
Price £399 standard on all new Macs for and out ports. There are four important work without having your
Distributor Synthax
some time now, but it’s only balanced line outputs and a laptop plugged in anyway, and of course
Contact E: info@
synthax.co.uk recently that the costs have headphone-out port (on the back, any desktop computer will by definition
T. 01727 821 870 come down to a level where it’s possible which is mildly inconvenient) and one of be on the mains.
Web to incorporate it into more affordable the other line outs doubles up as a The T4 is a great solution for
www.synthax.co.uk
hardware. Windows machines can be secondary headphone output in a portable recording, performance or
Needs
Mac or PC with fitted with Thunderbolt cards, but it’s specific mode. indeed anyone who doesn’t need tons of
Thunderbolt port much less common to find the port as Usually you have to have a much simultaneous I/O, which applies to quite
standard. Resident Audio is a new, Long bigger unit to enable engineer and a lot of people. It’s very well engineered
Island-based company that has performer to monitor at the same time, and has some nice touches such as the
produced the T4, and it claims it’s the but not here. On the front panel are four secondary headphone out, Smart
world’s first buss-powered four- combo XLR / jack inputs with gain Monitoring, and backlights for live
channel interface. Thunderbolt is far controls and three-colour LED lights, as performance. Perhaps best of all there’s
quicker than other connector types well as an input mix control and a one less power supply to worry about
and can carry more power, so devices master level ‘big knob’ dial with and you get all the advantages of
that have been engineered specifically backlighting. There’s phantom power, of Thunderbolt at a price that’s lower than
to use the protocol can use higher- course, plus switchable mic / line for it has been in the past. Don’t think that
quality components. each pair of channels and support for means they have compromised on
audio at up to 24-bit / 96kHz. quality, though: this is a really solid
Look and feel The T4 operates in one of two modes interface for Thunderbolt users. MT
The build quality is excellent and the depending on the output configuration.
unboxing experience not entirely unlike When a connection is made to output 4
opening a new Mac, which surely isn’t a it operates in Multichannel mode with MT Verdict
coincidence. It’s also compact and four mono outputs from the computer + Very solid and well engineered
certainly portable enough to use with a to the hardware, and live input sent to + Excellent low latency
laptop-based system, and reassuringly the headphone jack only. In Stereo Mix performance
Key Features + Speedy Thunderbolt data and
solid as well. On the rear panel is a mode, where no connection is made to
● Four channels power
of I/O single Thunderbolt port to carry power output 4, all live input signals, together + MIDI ports
● Thunderbolt and data between your computer and with the output of the computer, are + Compact and portable
powered mixed to stereo and sent to outputs 1 + Multi modes are handy
● 24-bit, 96kHz Alternatively and 2. In this mode you can use output + Suits the studio or the stage
audio
● Four balanced
Focusrite’s Saffire PRO 26 at £300 has 18 ins 3 as a headphone jack. - Supplied Thunderbolt cable is
and 8 outs, though some of these are optical.
outputs Further to this is Smart Monitoring, quite short
It has a rather more utilitarian design, and
● Phantom power there’s another caveat – you have to use a whereby you can switch between mono - One headphone port on the front
● Two headphone Thunderbolt-to-FireWire adaptor, which isn’t and stereo monitoring. Mono panel would be ideal
outs available included. UAD’s Apollo Twin Solo at £549 has
monitoring is useful for DJs and anyone
● High-quality mic extensive onboard DSP power for running A really solid and well-built audio
inputs and ADA UAD plug-ins and a gorgeous design, but only recording vocals because you can still and MIDI interface that has all the
converters two inputs. hear everything in one ear while the benefits of Thunderbolt in an
● Smart affordable and portable package.
other earpiece is removed.
9/10
Monitoring
● Backlit controls It’s not obvious from a front view but
the T4 is actually designed so that its

MAGAZINE December 2014 | 69

MT141.Rev RAT4.indd 69 04/11/2014 15:16


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What really sets Diva apart is the authenticity of analogue sound. Diva is the first native software synth that applies
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Includes 1200 presets from 5 decades

Download the demo version for all common plug-in formats and platforms here*:

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*while you‘re at it, check out the award winning ACE, Zebra, Uhbik, Filterscape and More Feedback Machine too. Same developer, same website, same fun factor.

DIVA_Attitude.indd 1 13.01.2012 15:10:40 Uhr


Graham Audio LS5/9 Monitors Reviews MT

Alternatives
Two of our favourite passive monitors come
from British manufacturer My Audio Design
(MAD). The 1920S (£2,350) is a small monitor
with a big sound, reminiscent of the classic
BBC LS3/5a. The larger Grand (£4,449) is a
superb monitor that makes use of a Volt coaxial
drive unit. The smaller model has something
of the traditional BBC sound, while the larger
monitor is more akin to the smaller Tannoy Dual
Concentric models.

to listen in to a wide and deep


soundstage instead of firing audio at
you relentlessly.
While the treble response isn’t as
obvious as that in many monitors it is
smooth and sweet, preserving the
natural timbre of voices and
instruments. The bass response is
warm and weighty, sounding like a

GRAHAM AUDIO Choice much bigger speaker.

9/10
9
9/10
The real heart of this monitor,

LS5/9 Monitors
though, is the broad midrange, which
offers superior resolution of fine detail,
highlighting subtleties within the mix.
Naturally-recorded sounds such as
piano and strings sound correct, and
It seems that all classic gear gets a revamp at some point, and voices are reproduced convincingly. The
now it’s the turn of these monitors plucked from the BBC’s vaults. LS5/9s are particularly good at
revealing micro-dynamics – the slight
John Pickford listens closely (without Mother)… changes in level that occur within a
particular performance. Best of all, the
midrange integrates with both the top

M
Details uch of the studio 200mm polypropylene unit along with a and bottom end seamlessly.
Price £3,450 (cherry hardware we review these revised crossover in order to re-create Having worked with original LS5/9s
or studio-black finish)
days is based on or the authentic sound. in the past, it’s clear that Graham Audio
Contact 01626 361168
inspired by classic Like all the classic BBC designs, the has got its new revision absolutely right.
Web
www.grahamaudio. designs. The exception to this trend is cabinet is a thin-wall construction They sing with all types of music,
co.uk studio monitors, most of which now made from birch plywood; however, although their unforced nature will
appear as active designs with built-in rather that using foam internal probably appeal more to those who are
amplification. But Graham Audio is damping, Graham Audio uses medium primarily involved with acoustic-based
bucking the trend by revisiting a density rock-wool slabs. music rather than electronica. MT
BBC-designed passive monitor from Unlike most modern monitors, the
the early 1980s. LS5/9s come with a cloth grille that is MT Verdict
The LS5/9 was the last of the great designed to be left in place, and this is
+ Superb resolution of detail
monitors to come from the BBC secured with neodymium magnets + Excellent image depth and width
Key Features Research Department. The beeb never rather than the Velcro used in original + Smooth and sweet treble
● Frequency
manufactured its own designs, instead units. Removing the grilles reveals a + Weighty and tuneful bass
response: 50Hz- granting licenses to various veneered front baffle featuring a + Natural, non-fatiguing sound
16kHz (+/- 3dB) loudspeaker companies. Graham Audio bass-reflex port along with a factory-
● Dimensions: - Power amplifier required
now has the much-coveted license to set adjustment panel that finely tunes - Too overly refined for modern
28cm x 27.5cm x
46cm build the LS5/9 to the BBC’s specs, and the response of the tweeter unit. dance music
● Bass/midrange the result is a high-grade monitor that
drive unit: The LS5/9 is a traditional-sounding
200mm
is quite different from the vast majority On air passive monitor built to the
diaphnatone of the competition. Critical to the On first listen, the overall sound was highest specifications as required
polypropylene development of the new LS5/9 was the quite different from the usual by the BBC. Its resolution of the
● Tweeter: Son involvement of Derek Hughes, son of presentation offered by modern natural timbre of musical
Audax HD instruments is first rate and
13D34H Spencer Hughes who was a key figure monitoring systems. Most of the current
rhythmic timing is spot-on. The
● Sensitivity: in the BBC’s Research Department crop of quality mid-sized monitors deep and wide soundstage enables
87dB SPL (2.83V during its heyday. display similar characteristics, namely
at 1m)
sounds to be placed precisely
● Maximum
While the original 34mm Audax a bright, explicit sound with lightning- within a mix and pinpoints
output: over tweeter is still manufactured, the fast transients hammering home a subtleties lesser monitoring
100dB for a pair systems gloss over. A classic design
original Rogers mid/bass driver is no torrent of unforgiving detail. The LS5/9s
at 2m with an impeccable pedigree.

9/10
longer available. Derek worked with take a somewhat gentler, smoother
● Finish: teak
veneers respected driver manufacturer Volt to approach. That’s not to say that they are
produce a close copy of the original dull or lack detail, rather they invite you

MAGAZINE December 2014 | 71

MT141.Rev GrahamAudio.indd 71 28/10/2014 11:39


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Standard Audio Stretch Reviews MT

the low- and high-end mode helped to


Alternatives
push the kick forward in the mix, adding
Original Dolby 361 Noise Reduction units pop
up on eBay fairly frequently, and usually for more punch and definition to the kick,
well under £100. But to do the Dolby trick you’ll creating a mid-scooped EQ tone
also need the Cat 22 cartridge, and then to do
the mod on top of that. Stretch gives you this,
without any additional EQ.
and six more modes, all in a 500-series unit, A pair of Stretch units would make
making it a far more convenient option – and an excellent addition to overheads,
of course it won’t need servicing quite as soon.
drum buss, or even the stereo buss.
However, with only a single unit we
– from which the Standard Audio were still eager to give it a go, and
Stretch takes its name. placed Stretch across a mono version
Stretch splits the signal into four of our overheads, dialled in a tone we
bands: 20-110Hz, 110Hz-3kHz, liked using all four bands at once, and
3-20kHz and 9-20kHz. It then then bounced the left and right
compresses each of these with preset channels through the single unit one
threshold, ratio, attack and release after the other. The end result was a
settings tailored to each. The user is more exciting, open drum sound with a
limited to only a few controls: input and little more width than the dry signal.
output levels, a wet/dry blend, a bypass
switch and a mode switch. In essence, Dynamic stretching
then, Stretch is incredibly easy to use: Stretch is incredibly easy to use, and
select the mode you want, dial up the dialling in exciting tones takes no time
input until you’re getting the amount of at all. Our only reservation is that as you
compression you need, and dial the switch through the different modes, it
output to keep optimum gain structure is often the case that you quickly
into the next device. narrow it down to one of two; and,

Standard Audio The seven modes on Stretch enable


or disable each of the various bands. Of
unfortunately, to go between them
involves switching through all the other

Stretch
the four bands the two high-bands modes, which can be a little annoying.
overlap, and this is because the Similarly, the two LEDs can be a little
top-most band behaves more like a difficult to see if the unit is low in the
simple EQ, adding a little top-end rack, as the input and output knobs get
sparkle to the mix. in the way of your line of sight. However,
Stretch is based on an old studio The original Dolby ‘stretch’ mod these are minor niggles, and in no way
secret. Mike Hillier reveals all… involved bypassing the low- and detract from the fantastic sounds we
mid-frequency parts and only using the were able to get.

W
Details ell here’s an interesting high band, so we began our Stretch is far from a studio
Price £579 module. The Standard experiments by engaging that mode essential, but once you’ve added it to
Contact KMR Audio Audio Stretch is a and running a lead vocal part from a your rack you’ll more than likely find
0208 445 2446
multi-band compressor modern RnB mix through the Stretch. yourself running more and more
Web www.standard-
audio.com inspired by a selection of noise- With only the 3-20kHz band engaged through it. As a vocal processor, Stretch
reduction units from the 70s and 80s. and the mix knob set to 100%, Stretch adds a sparkle to the top end that is
It’s pretty much the case that there’s doesn’t just leave the bottom end very easy to get to, and couldn’t be
really no need for noise reduction with untouched, it filters it out completely, achieved with simple compression or
modern equipment, and even if there meaning this is only really of use in a EQ alone. MT
were, software such as iZotope RX can parallel buss set-up. Dialling it down to
clean audio far better than noise around 40% produced a vocal MT Verdict
reduction hardware. This may all be performance that was more open and
true, but that’s not what Stretch has glossy than the original. Engaging the + Adds stunning gloss to vocals
+ Adds punch and weight to drums
been developed for… 9-20kHz band adds further air to the
vocal, helping it to sit in front of the mix - Switching through modes is
The art of noise without seeming to take over. For this inconvenient
Key Features Soon after noise-reduction units came type of vocal, Stretch seems like almost - Hard to read LEDs when low in
the rack
● 500-series into use, enterprising engineers started the perfect tool. - No stereo linking
● Seven different using them during mixing and they Next we put the Stretch across the
modes
quickly became secret weapons of kick drum, and switched through the Like the Dolby trick before it,
● Preset
compression mixers ‘in the know’. Some engineers modes. The low-frequency-only mode Stretch is sure to become the
characteristics secret weapon of many engineers.
even went as far as to modify their gave a consistency to the low end and
● Wet/dry mix
knob
units, with one of the most popular
mods being known as the ‘Stretch’ mod
added a little weight, even tidying the
sound up a little, but switching over to
8/10
MAGAZINE December 2014 | 73

MT141.Rev.Stretch.indd 73 28/10/2014 12:20


Unity Audio The Pebble & Bam Bam Reviews MT

Details
Alternatively
Price The Pebble:
Given the concept behind the Pebble/Bam
£1295 (pair)
Bam combo it’s hard to pinpoint any direct
Bam Bam: £1075 (pair)
competition, however the Focal SM9 (£4536
Contact Unity Audio pair) does comprise two independent monitor
01799 520 786 systems housed in a single enclosure. On the

UNITY AUDIO
Web www. one side there’s a two-way monitor with a
Choice unityaudioproducts. 6.5in bass/midrange driver and a 1in pure
co.uk beryllium tweeter. On the other side there’s an

The Pebble &


8in bass woofer with an 11in passive radiator.
Although they can’t be separated physically,
you can switch between the two-way system
and the full four-way system. Alternatively

Bam Bam
check out the Barefoot Sound MicroMain 35
Key Features (£6360 pair), which has a 5in mid bass driver
and a 1in tweeter on the front, and reaches
THE PEBBLE
down to 35Hz with the help of dual 7in
● Active two-way subwoofers mounted on the sides.
monitor
● 5in SEAS Woofer
Unity Audio’s latest active monitoring system ● Soft dome Hypex and it’s designed to feed three
comprises four speaker enclosures. Huw Price tweeter
● 18mm MDF
amplifiers, which explains the power
output socket on the back of the
discovers how it stacks up… sealed cabinet
with 30mm Pebble enclosure.

T
baffle and APV
he company that brought us cabinet. This creates a bigger and Although the Bam Bam has a 180W
(Aperiodic
the Boulder, Rock and the deeper bass response than you Vent) for low internal amplifier of its own to drive a
mighty Avalanche has added might expect from any given size of frequency single 7in SEAS woofer, it takes its
extension
the Pebble and Bam Bam to its sealed enclosure. power from the Pebble’s power supply.
● 2 x 180W class D
range of active studio monitors. It’s hard Unity Audio’s approach to monitor amplifier This illustrates how each Bam Bam can
to imagine how Unity Audio’s manufacturing seems to be closer to ● 48Hz-20kHz only operate as a unit with a Pebble.
geologically inspired theme can extend that of some high-end hi-fi companies, +/-3dB Although it’s designed to drop the low
● Optional ‘Bam
much further, but if they’re stuck for a but in a sensible way rather than Bam’ 7in Active
end down from 48Hz to 34Hz, it
name we’d suggest a monitor that’s fantasy fulfilment. Rather than Bass Extension certainly shouldn’t be regarded as a
specially voiced for producing dubstep manufacture everything in-house, System separate subwoofer that has to be
● 242mm deep x
called the Fubarite. various components are sourced from 193mm wide x
integrated with an often unrelated
Anyway, back to the subject at hand. specialist manufacturers. For 280mm high monitoring system. Like the Pebble, the
The Pebble is Unity Audio’s smallest instance the Pebbles 5in woofer Bam Bam is priced and sold in pairs.
offering so far, but it’s still a reasonably comes from SEAS in Norway, and the BAM-BAM
● Active Bass
substantial box. For the development soft dome tweeter comes from Extension
Why have two sets?
phase Unity Audio turned to a very Wavecore in Denmark. System Combining a Pebble with a Bam Bam
experienced designer called Kevin Van The appearance is more ● 7in SEAS Woofer effectively creates a three-way monitor,
Green. He had turned up an old BBC conventional than some of Unity Audio’s ● 18mm MDF but housing the low-frequency driver
sealed cabinet
design with an ‘aperiodic vent’, and after offerings, but then again, the Pebble with 30mm separately has some distinct
using it in the Avalanche subwoofer, it and Bam Bam are from the more baffle and APV advantages. From a practical
has found its way into both the Pebble affordable end of the range, so there’s (Aperiodic perspective it enables the Pebble to be
Vent) for low
and Bam Bam. no exotic or eye-catching molded frequency disconnected for easy portability if you
Corian speaker baffle or sculpted lines. extension. want to take your own monitor system
The tech Instead you get 18mm-thick infinite ● 180W class D – or at least the most vital part of it – on
amplifier
The speaker enclosure is a split baffle cabinets and massive 30mm ● 34Hz -3dB
location or to another studio. From a
chamber with a partition that employs thick MDF baffles with rolled-over ● Priced and sold technical perspective it means that the
a restricted membrane. Much research edges to minimise diffraction. as a pair to team midrange and treble drivers can
with The Pebble,
was carried out to determine the best The on-board amplifiers are fully operate in an enclosure that’s free from
complete with
diameter for the hole in the partition discrete units from Hypex in Holland audio & power colouration caused by bass frequency-
and the density of the foam used to and they a produce total power output link cables induced box resonance.
● 242mm deep x
plug the hole. Restricting the flow of air of 180W for each drive unit, which is The necessary hook-up cables are
220mm wide x
between chambers ‘fools’ the woofer pretty remarkable for speakers of this 281mm high provided and they’re all high-quality
into thinking it’s actually in a larger size. The power supply also comes from items. The power link cable has

MAGAZINE December 2014 | 75

MT141.REV PebbleBamBam.indd 75 28/10/2014 11:42


MT Reviews Unity Audio The Pebble & Bam Bam

impression was that the system had


been freed up because the midrange
became far more open and detailed.
Although the soundstage depth was
already deep with the Pebbles, the
addition of the Bam Bam really
snapped the left/right imaging into
focus and apparent volume increased.
Oddly enough, the bass doesn’t
sound more prominent, but it’s
noticeably deeper and much quicker to
respond. Complex bass drum patterns
bounce through the mix and it’s much
easier to hear subtle groove details
that would otherwise be missed. In
other words, the frequency response
and the transient response times are
both improved.

Better together
We were able to spend quite some time
multi-pin connectors with screw fixings crossover frequencies and volume with the review items and found we got
– like high-quality valve microphones. levels. Obviously you won’t need to used to them very quickly. It often
Audio is fed to the Bam Bam, then worry about box placement or phase seems to be that way with truly
routed into the Pebble via a short issues, either. Simply set them up, professional quality monitoring
male-to-female XLR cable. If you’re patch them together, turn them on and because there are no hyped upper mids
using the Pebble without a Bam Bam, you should be good to go. or artificially extended high frequencies
the audio signal connects straight to to skew your perception. We were able
the Pebble and you can leave the power Together and apart to gain fresh perspective on some
link cable disconnected. Listening tests were conducted in two mixes that were nearing completion,
The Master Level control on the Bam stages – with and without the Bam particularly in the balance between kick
Bam works in conjunction with the Bams. As regular nearfield monitors the drums and basslines.
Level control on the Pebble, and trim Pebbles sound refined and spacious. Splitting the boxes and using the
controls for both boxes are hidden Those who have become accustomed to Pebbles as a portable monitoring
under plastic covers on the back of the folded ribbon tweeters might find the system is a great option and we’d be
Bam Bam. Compared to conventional treble a bit soft, but others will perceive happy using them for location
satellite and sub systems there’s no it as natural rather than hyped. The recording. But for the full-on, full-
guesswork when it comes to setting bass is ample and deep, with the type of frequency experience the Pebbles and
the Bam Bams are best used together.
This is where the system comes into its
On connecting the Bam Bams it was own for critical listening. MT

immediately apparent that they’re far MT Verdict

more than optional extras + Excellent sound quality


+ Splitability equals portability
+ Sharp imaging
+ Very well-controlled deep bass
solidity that many would associate with + Plenty of power
Method Spot + Deep soundstage
a sealed enclosure. However, the
When used together, the Bam Bam and Pebble + Very easy to set up
fulsomeness of the midrange does
should be situated adjacent to one another.
Fortunately the placement options are quite detract from the clarity and detail to a - Power switches on back
flexible so the boxes can be arranged to suit small degree, and the stereo imaging - No auto standby mode
your space. For instance, the Pebbles can be
isn’t quite as pinpoint as some other - No EQ adjustment
placed upright on a meter bridge with the Bam
Bams tucked up against their inside edges. contenders at this level. Top-end nearfield/midfield active
Alternatively the Pebbles can be placed On connecting the Bam Bams it was monitors that enable flexible
sideways on stands with the Bam Bams
placed on top or underneath. If you go for the immediately apparent that they’re far working thanks to the innovative
top or bottom options you’re advised to put more than optional extras. The audio enclosure design.
spacers between the boxes (these are
provided with the rest of the kit).
quality of the Pebbles was elevated
from impressive to exceptional. The
9/10
76 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.REV PebbleBamBam.indd 76 28/10/2014 11:42


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MT Reviews Steinberg Groove Agent 4

convenience, and there’s a minimum


Alternatively
system requirement of 4GB RAM. There
NI’s Battery 4 (£169) has a more streamlined
are three ‘Agents’ and four agent slots, look and much less of a focus on pattern
so you can mix and match. Acoustic playback – it’s more about the sound editing.
Nonetheless it has some great kits, and if you’re
Agent is a virtual drummer with some
buying the Komplete bundle its price comes
excellent acoustic kits; Beat Agent is a down significantly. Cubase comes with Groove
more futuristic drum sampler for Agent ONE, a cut-down version with fewer
sounds but some of the core features, which
electronic music with advanced slice may be enough if you already own it, depending
editing and drum hit recognition; and on your needs.
Percussion Agent features over 20
different rhythm instruments.
For each Agent you can choose from
a huge number of presets and filter
your list by style, genre, rating or even
just enter text to search. As well as the
MediaBay browser there’s a regular file
explorer for locating content and you
can drag-and-drop audio files from the
desktop directly onto pads. These, plus
any library samples, can be edited in

STEINBERG
great detail via the onboard sample
editor that appears to be based on process the sound as much as you like.

Groove
Cubase’s own sample editing section. Last but not least, a toolbar at the top
As well as the ability to trim, tune provides various shortcuts.
Value and pan samples there are advanced

€£$
envelope sections for pitch, filter and Feel the groove

Agent 4
amp, and detailed editing tools in the This is far and away the most advanced
Sample tab. You even get to use MIDI version of Groove Agent. It’s much more
effects and create slices from samples, akin to Battery in its approach –
which are auto-mapped to the pads. multiple sections and deep audio
Switch from Instrument to Pattern editing – than ever before. The ability to
Creating a great beat is key to making mode and pads become loop or pattern blend the three Agents makes for great
good music. Hollin Jones finds out if triggers, and clicking each one plays a beat creation possibilities, mixing old
tempo-synced rhythm that can be and new sounds. The preset rhythms
Groove Agent 4 can do the business… tweaked or edited. Right-clicking on a are really very good and can easily be
pad reveals further controls such as tweaked or new ones built from scratch,

S
Details teinberg has been making copy and paste, trigger note assignment and the onboard sound-shaping and
Price Full version, Groove Agent for many years, and more. If you go into Edit mode in processing tools are powerful and
£146 and there have at certain this section you can alter the pattern useful. This feels like Groove Agent
Update from version 2 points been versions that control performance parameters and coming of age, and whatever kind of
or 3, £82
were perhaps not as cutting edge as the use a fully featured drum lane editor. music you make you’ll find it a valuable
Contact
Via website competition when it came to beat There’s also a Style Player that lets addition to your studio setup. MT
Web making. These days, though, the you quickly control the complexity and
www.steinberg.net German developer is able to use some intensity of generated drum parts, and MT Verdict
Minimum system
requirements of the lessons learned from building a Jam Mode that creates backing
+ Amazing selection of beats
Mac OS X 10.8 or Cubase, its flagship DAW, when making tracks and has a dial to let you choose and samples
higher its virtual instruments. As a result they between intros, fills, main beats and so + Mix and match Agent types
Windows 7 or higher
4GB RAM are considerably more advanced than on. The AudioWarp algorithm means + Powerful onboard mixing
Dual-core CPU some earlier versions. that loops adjust their tempo when you + Good selection of effects
+ Pattern modes genuinely useful
Groove Agent 4 is a case in point. change the project speed.
+ Everything can be tweaked and
A drum studio and virtual drumming There are quick controls in some of controlled
environment, users of Cubase 7 will the Agent windows for sound shaping + Excellent Cubase integration
Key Features recognise a fair few graphical elements. and there’s also a proper onboard mixer. + Slice and play audio loops
● Huge sound And, of course, although it comes as a This enables grouping and routing with + Layer up sounds to create
library multi-instruments
VST and AU plug-in and a standalone up to 16 outputs, and each channel has + Attractively priced
● Three Agents:
Acoustic, Beat
application it’s designed to work with access to four dedicated effects: EQ,
and Percussion Cubase for things such as drag-and- compressor, tape saturation and an - Some graphic elements a little
● Pattern editor drop and browser integration. envelope shaper (with configurable small or obscure
● Style player - Likes lots of RAM
controls). There are also four aux
● Jam mode
Nuts and bolts channels available, each with four A huge advance for Groove Agent,
● Integrated mixer
and effects The download comes in at almost 9GB, effect slots and a selection of 30 effects bringing power, flexibility and a
● Standalone and authorisation is via the regular USB from reverb to compression. Whole kits depth of sound editing along with
or plug-in some excellent new beats.
dongle. That vast sound library of over can also be processed in the Kit
operation
● Loop slicing
22,000 samples can be offloaded to an
external drive during installation for
channel, and the Master channel has
four further effect slots, so you can
8/10
78 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.Rev Agent.indd 78 28/10/2014 11:37


MT Reviews Overloud/MoReVoX REmatrix

sends to cover more general reverb


Alternatives
duties. The GUI is crisp and clear, if a
The closest alternative is probably mixIR2 by
little un-inspiring, with a main panel of Redwirez ($49), which lets you stack up to 30
sliders enabling you to blend together IRs but doesn’t have the same ease of use,
up to five impulse responses taken flexibility or built-in master FX. If you’re just
after a decent convolution reverb then you
from libraries of Hall, Room, Plate, Early, could go with Audio Ease’s Altiverb 7 (€499),
and Special categories. Each slider has which has a massive library and extensive
editing. Or if you want a different take,
a solo and mute button, and there are
MeldaProduction’s MMutibandConvolution
also dry and wet sliders for setting up (£38.95) enables you to assign different IRs to
the overall balance. up to six frequency bands.
As a nice touch, you have stereo pan
controls on the main outputs, so you easy-to-use compressor, and a final
can experiment with focussing the dry two-band EQ.
Innovation signal in the centre whilst keeping the Although the presets and library are
effected signal out to the sides. To the decent, REmatrix is a fairly expensive

OVERLOUD/ left you’ll find the broad collection of


400 presets, plus the 250 individual
proposition when many of us will
already have a convolution-based

MOREVOX impulse responses created by


MoReVoX. These are mostly very good,
reverb. It’s a flexible and easy-to-
program plug-in but you don’t have the

REmatrix
with a range of real and effected same level of editing depth for each IR
spaces, although we found the lack of as, say, Logic’s Space Designer, which
any really short rooms below 500ms, enables you to change the volume and
and any speaker or amp simulations, a filter envelopes and reverse the
Why use one reverb when you can use missed opportunity. However, you can waveform. We also found little details,
five at once? Alex Holmes enters the easily load in your own IR libraries,
which greatly opens up possibilities.
such as not being able to input specific
values for the EQ frequency and delay
matrix with Overloud’s new plug-in… You can also use this left-hand time, a little frustrating, and would love
panel to edit each IR with two flexible to be able to use a side-chain signal to

A
s a technology, convolution Details EQs and controls for pan, stereo width, control the compressor.
and the use of impulse Price £229 length and delay. This is where you can These things aside, designing
responses to re-create Contact begin to craft individual layers, reverbs using the sliders and controls is
Time+Space
real-world spaces and sounds 01837 55200 perhaps panning a room sound slightly a unique and intuitive experience that
has been around for quite some time Web to the left and giving it a pre-delay, gives excellent results. Individual
now, and we’ve all become accustomed www.timespace.com whilst widening a hall and placing it to instruments spring to life with a level of
Minimum system
to quickly being able to place our audio the right. depth and detail that is much harder to
requirements
into any space we desire. Although PC: Windows XP and achieve with individual plug-ins and
traditional mixing techniques dictate a above Reverb flexibility buss sends. With a few tweaks and
more limited number of reverbs across Pentium IV 1.5GHz / Once you’ve chosen, edited and blended added features, plus the promise of
Athlon XP 1.5GHz with
an entire track to ensure a feeling of 1GB RAM your different impulses you can turn to more presets and impulse responses,
cohesion, the act of using multiple Mac: OS X 10.6 and the top panel, which shows each REmatrix has the potential to become a
reverbs on single sounds to create a above, Intel Core Duo individual waveform, plus (if you choose future classic. MT
1.5GHz with 1GB of
richer and more complex sound stage is RAM to use all of them) the sum of all five.
becoming more and more common. Rather than run each impulse in series, MT Verdict
REmatrix is a new plug-in from REmatrix actually combines each one
Key Features + High-quality IR library
Overloud made in conjunction with IR into a single IR, where each minor tweak + Intuitive and easy to use
● Multi-layer
specialists MoReVoX, which aims to convolution with re-draws the wave. You can also control + Detailed sound and results
take the hassle out of setting up five IR matrix the overall reverb time by increasing or
multiple reverb sends by including a ● Master section
decreasing the length by 50%. - Can’t input specific figures to EQ
with algo and delay
multilayered convolution engine within reverb, delay, In addition, this section features
- No rooms or plates shorter than
a single plug-in. modulation, input and output meters, plus a master 500ms
drive,
compressor
effects section for further crafting the - Can’t edit shape or reverse IRs
In use and EQ wet signal. Here you have a Mod
Although REmatrix isn’t especially
The software can run within your DAW, ● 250 IRs and 400 processor for adding a little movement
presets cheap, and could benefit from a
or alternatively in standalone mode, into the static reverb tails, a sync-able broader range of IRs, it’s an
● IR import
where it processes the input signal ● Control over
delay for adding detail, and an incredibly intuitive plug-in that can
from your audio interface. As it’s fairly length, delay and algorithmic reverb taken from Breverb 2 breathe life and detail into any
light on the CPU you’ll most likely end stereo field that can be used to help make the tails instrument or track.
up using multiple instances of REmatrix
to design individual tracks, and on buss
● Low CPU and
zero latency
silky smooth. Finally, you have drive with
tape- or tube-style saturation, an
8/10
80 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.Rev Rematrix.indd 80 28/10/2014 11:54


distributed by Audio-Technica
Spitfire Audio King’s Cross Kitchenware – Glass Reviews MT

delicacy few other instruments can


produce. Arguably the first patch – the
Clarvis Wine Glass Array – is the best
example of how much musicality
Spitfire has extracted from such an
unconventional source. For the Clarvis
instrument Spitfire enlisted the help of
Paul Clarvis, who provided his own
‘tuned’ glass array. Impressively, this
instrument features eight different
articulations, covering everything from
a nail pluck to a long bow, all of which
can be called into action using Spitfire’s
Alternatively keyswitching system.
Taking a similar approach to Kitchenware – The rest of the instruments in
Glass, Paper Stone Instruments’ Creative Junk
Kitchenware – Glass (which covers
(£49) uses a wide variety of ‘found objects’ as
percussion sources. The instruments cover around 15 or so different sources) have
both atonal and tuned ‘tonal’ versions sourced all been sampled with a variety of

SPITFIRE AUDIO
from industrial heaters, bouncing balls, bottles,
jugs and filing cabinets.
different beaters, as well as a hotrod
stick and hand. Arguably, the initialised

King’s Cross
setting doesn’t present the instruments
in the best light, defaulting to a soft
beater and the close mic position. Add

Kitchenware
in some of the other mics, though, and
switch to a medium vibraphone beater
and the instruments really start to sing.

– Glass
The 12-cup cafetière, for example, takes
on a gamelan-like depth, while the
various sherry and brandy glasses have
a pleasingly sonorous chime.

Kitchen unit
Spitfire Audio’s Producer Portfolio the Producer Portfolio has largely been Clearly the Producer Portfolio is
range explores a different, non- recorded at Spitfire Audio’s own studio
in King’s Cross. As a result, all the
designed to be a more niche product
range than something like the Albion
orchestral approach to cinematic patches have a smaller, more intimate series, and indeed it’s worth noting that
scoring. Mark Cousins gets cooking. sound to that of the orchestral libraries, you’ll need a full version of Kontakt to
which arguably makes them slightly run Kitchenware – Glass, rather than
more diverse in respect to their music just the free Kontakt Player.

A
s well as developing a suite of Details application. Of course, add some reverb That said, it’s a real delight to see
powerful cinematic libraries, Price £49 and there’s no reason to think that they Spitfire taking a more creative, left-field
Spitfire Audio has also Contact couldn’t sit well in an orchestral approach, and across the Producer
Via website
invested time creating a suite soundstage, but that isn’t their primary Portfolio range there are some real
Web
of smaller, more intimate instrumental www.spitfireaudio. raison d’être. gems to be found. While Kitchenware
sounds. This arguably started with their com As the name suggests, Kitchenware – Glass may not have the same
‘Laboratories’ project where they gave – Glass isn’t an entirely conventional knockout sonic power of a library such
away various experimental sampled library. The sound source is an array of as HZ01 or Albion III Iceni, it is one that
instruments – including toy pianos, glass objects that you’d expect to find in rewards detailed exploration, with
frame drums and an Indian banjo – in a kitchen rather than a concert hall: plenty of musical potential to be
return for a donation to Unicef. Their wine glasses, a cafetière, cordial extracted from it. MT
Producer Portfolio arguably follows the glasses, fishbowls and so on. All the
same ethos as the Laboratories project, instrument sources have been recorded MT Verdict
although this time the libraries have with a range of different articulations,
+ Unique sound palette
been developed to the point where and many have been recorded with and + Range of articulations
they’ve become fully fledged Key Features without the addition of water! In + Different mic sets
● Professional
commercial products in their own right. keeping with the Spitfire philosophy, a + Affordable
tuned wine glass
array range of microphones was used –
- Niche sound
Investment portfolio ● Esoteric covering close position, overhead, room
- Quiet default setting
‘domestic’ array
The Producer Portfolio range now perspective and even a vintage ribbon
● Literally wet &
includes over nine different libraries, dry versions microphone – giving you plenty of scope Spitfire Audio’s Producer Portfolio
but for this review we’re going to look at ● Performed to tailor the sound. range has some real gems up its
with life and sleeve that will delight those
its most recent offering, King’s Cross
character looking for something different.
Glass ceiling
8/10
Kitchenware – Glass. Rather than being
● Numerous
recorded at Air’s Lyndhurst Hall (as with techniques As you’d expect, Kitchenware – Glass
their other Albion and BML libraries), has a somewhat unique sound, with a

MAGAZINE December 2014 | 83

MT141.Rev Spitfire.indd 83 28/10/2014 12:18


MT Reviews Toontrack EZkeys Mellotoon

producing a very rich choral sound with


Alternatives chordal voicing.
Although many modern synthesizers come with
a range of mellotron sounds, decent standalone
It’s subjective, of course, but brass
products are quite rare. M-Tron Pro from GForce was never one of the Mellotron’s strong
is an established name (£140) and chock full of points. Three presets are available here:
sounds and comprehensive editing tools. UVI’s
Mello is good, too, and runs in MachFive or their a straightforward brass ensemble
own UVI workstation ($99). patch, a low-speed patch, and mixed
brass complete with phasing (again, all
delay – limited but perfectly in keeping part of the charm). All, though, have a
with the period. touch of the crumhorn about them.
The flute and recorder are both Several interesting mixed
good, the latter particularly so in its ensembles and pads show off the
descant range. So, too, are the vibes, creative possibilities of Mellotoon,
which are only let down by the slightly although the user’s sound editing
inconsistent percussive qualities, but effects are limited to four types
that’s all part of its charm. simultaneously, and often only two are
Original mellotron strings – what a presented. All the usual EZkey’s goodies
treat! These are wonderful, with a are here, though, including the built-in

TOONTRACK
beautifully mysterious sound quality. sequencer, a full MIDI library and
Value Five presets are available, each with cut songwriting and music education tools.

€£$
EZkeys
and boost frequency controls. There’s Although the MIDI files are fairly
no solo violin but the solo viola is a good extensive, if more are needed €25 will
substitute when played above its range. buy the Keys & Strings MIDI
The same goes for the cello, which can construction kit with two separate but

Mellotoon
be played lower as a bass. related song sections.
The evocative sound of three violins, Not too many mellotron sample
16 violins and a full string section are libraries have passed our way recently
also available, as well as a very creepy but at least one of us here has played
three violins low-speed patch. You won’t the original, both live and in the studio.
How do the sounds of this recreation of find any high-end sample library Toontrack’s Mellotoon provides sounds
a 1960s tape-driven Mellotron articulations or super legato transitions
here (these instruments were recorded
that are faithful to the original, with the
addition of some modern pads and
compare with those of the original before such things were dreamed of), multi-instrument sounds. And there’s
instrument? Keith Gemmell is all ears. just sustained patches with that the further bonuses that you don’t need
slightly weird and wonderful string four people to carry it, and it stays in
sound unique to the mellotron – a bit tune and doesn’t break down in the

M
Details ellotoon is based on the tremolo-heavy but perfect for middle of a performance.
Price £103 early-1960s Mellotron atmospheric pads or quirky solos. If you already own EZkeys and you
Contact Time+Space M400, the first instrument are on the lookout for a mellotron
01837 55200
Web www.toontrack.
of its kind to include Sing out recreation, Mellotoon is a no-brainer. If
com samples of real instruments. However, The boys’ choir is good: no time- you just need a mellotron sample
Minimum System unlike today’s digital samplers the consuming Latin phrases or syllables library it’s also a good buy because you
Requirements Mellotron’s sounds were accessed by to configure, just a very pleasant choir will benefit from the many songwriting
Windows XP SP3, 1.8
GHz, 1GB RAM way of a magnetic tape loop attached to sound. Eight voices together is and musical education features that
Mac OS X 10.5, G5 or the keyboard. Popular with artists such another option that’s capable of EZkeys has to offer. MT
Intel processor, 1GB
as the Beatles (Strawberry Fields
RAM
Forever), King Crimson (In the Court of MT Verdict
the Crimson King), or David Bowie
+ Excellent samples
(Space Oddity), it came with various + Unique sounds
sounds but its moody strings were the + Mixed ensembles and pads
main attraction. Mellotoon is part of + MIDI library
Toontrack’s popular EZkeys line and is + Songwriting tools
+ Built-in sequencer
sold complete with a copy of EZkeys.
- Harsh brass
Fab sounds - Some key-to-key inconsistency
There are 24 presets including the (authentic nonetheless)
gloriously quirky sound of the original - Limited effects editing
Key Features Mellotron piano. It’s impossible to Top-notch 1960s Mellotron
● Sampled describe it exactly but the sound of an recreation – the strings in
Mellotron M400 old joanna recorded in the front room of particular. Add a MIDI library and
● 15 original the songwriting and educational
instruments
a 1960s semi comes close – great for
tools to the equation and we have a
● All sounds mix- honky-tonk styles. Each instrument superb value-for-money package.

8/10
ready loads with a set of basic effects
● Extensive MIDI controls, which in the piano’s case, and
library
most others, is a plate reverb and tape

84 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.Rev Mellotoon.indd 84 28/10/2014 11:40


LS-12 & LS-14
better than cd quality recording

The latest in portable recording from Olympus offering


broadcast quality audio recording
Record Loud
130 dB spl directional stereo microphonescan capture the loudest of sounds with 130
dB spl
minimal clipping. Layer sound-on-sound with overdub recording.

Easy to use Mode Dial


The LS-14/12 feature a single front dial that lets you choose between the tuner and various
recording modes in an instant.

• TUNER MODE - an integrated chromatic tuner for instruments

• MANUAL MODE - for recording sounds based on instruments and playing styles

• QUICK MODE - to record immediately without optimising sound quality in advance

• SMART MODE - automatically adjusts to the optimum recording level

Music Recording, Made Easy www.olympus.co.uk/audio

15060 LS12/14.indd 1 10/01/2014 13:43


Universal Audio The Culture Vulture Reviews MT

UNIVERSAL AUDIO
behind that simple façade sits a set of hard-edged drums or electric guitar. All
carefully interleaved controls. The two three modes can also be influenced by

The Culture
principle points of attention, therefore, the Bias control, which varies between
are Drive and Output Level. Simply a ‘fatter’ distortion when you move the
increase the Drive to start producing control counter-clockwise of its central

Vulture 9/
some form of distortion, matching this position; and a more ‘starved’ distortion
with a corresponding reduction in the when you move the control clockwise. In
Choice Output Level. P2 mode, Bias is at the heart of some of

9/10
9 10 The quality of the distortion is
dictated by both the Distortion Type
the most unusual distortion effects,
almost verging on ring modulation-like
control – labelled T, P1 and P2 – as treatments.
well as the Bias control, both of which
The ultimate valve-driven distortion vary the colour between soft Pure analogue
hardware gets the UAD treatment. saturation and the sound almost
being completely destroyed by the
As is evident from both the sound and
versatility of the Culture Vulture,
Mark Cousins plugs in… amount of overdrive. Universal Audio has spent a lot of time
modelling every last detail of the
Gaining the advantage original hardware.

O
ver the last year or so Details Arguably the most important control to The significant cost, however, is DSP
Universal Audio has directed Price $299 master on the Culture Vulture is the processing power, with just a single
a lot of effort towards a timely Contact Distortion Type. Starting with the Triode instance of the Culture Vulture using up
Source Distribution
refresh of many of their key 020 8962 5080
setting (T), it can be used to generate a to 36% of resources on our timid UAD-2
plug-ins – such as the Pultec Passive Web smooth and musical collection of Satellite DUO. Of course, given the
EQ, Fairchild Tube Limiter and 1176 www.uaudio.com second-order harmonics, which are ability to ‘print-through’ the Culture
Compressor – arguably as a result of what most people attribute to the Vulture as the front-end of an Apollo
having more DSP processing power to ‘warm’ sound of tube distortion. audio interface this might not be such
play with. One of the key benefits of all The Triode setting, therefore, is a an issue for some users.
these updates has been the great way of adding warmth to a Having been a long-term fan of
improvement in modelling the device’s sterile digital recording without the using the Moog Multimode Filter
unique nonlinearities, or distortion in output sounding deliberately distorted. plug-in like a distortion pedal, the
other words. Therefore it’s a logical Drums sound great, for example, with a addition of the Culture Vulture, and the
extension that Universal Audio has touch of Triode adding body and energy, versatility it offers, is a welcome new
directed much of this recently acquired while vocals can be given some recruit to the fold. Certainly it’s hard to
experience towards the ultimate important extra bite to help cut through think of another plug-in that offers this
hardware distortion box – Thermionic the mix. level of authenticity and versatility in
Culture’s Culture Vulture. Far more aggressive and unusual respect to valve-driven distortion, so if
distortion can be found under the two you’re a real overdrive junkie the Culture
Cultural history Pentode modes (P1 and P2), which tend Vulture is not to be missed! MT
Introduced back in 1998, the Culture to favour third-order harmonics and
Vulture was designed as the ultimate sound great when you want a more MT Verdict
audiophile distortion box, driven by deliberately ‘distorted’ sound, like some
+ Versatile range of distortion
Thermionic valves and a distinct lack of effects
solid state components. As you’d Alternatively + Faithful to hardware
expect, the hardware version produced Decapitator from SoundToys ($179) is a good + Added Mix control
all-round analogue saturation modeller,
a wide range of tones that became a hit
capable of producing sounds similar to the - CPU-hungry
with many sound engineers, from Culture Vulture. Different Style settings vary - Careful with those output levels!
subtle valve-driven ‘warming’ effects, Key Features the tone and behaviour of the saturation, and of
course the Decapitator runs in Native plug-in
right up to complete sonic obliteration! ● High-gain valve
formats, so you don’t need a UAD card!
Detailed modelling with a CPU load
distortion to match, Culture Vulture is a
Ask any software engineer how difficult
● Models entire perfect way of rounding-off those
distortion is to model properly and you Class A circuit digital edges, or simply creating a
can see why Universal Audio took its ● Three modes of wall of noise!

9/10
time before attempting this beast! operation
● Dry/wet parallel
In essence the Culture Vulture is
mix
somewhat akin to a big gain knob, but

MAGAZINE December 2014 | 87

MT141.Rev UAD.indd 87 28/10/2014 12:18


MT Reviews Native Instruments Polyplex

the edit section so you can trace the Alternatives


layer across and see each of its settings FXpansion’s Geist at £165 is also a sampling
easily. Layers can be modified drum machine, though it places less emphasis
on randomization and more on detailed
individually or linked together. The edit
sample editing. It’s a more complex beast,
section starts with Samples and lets with a greater focus on importing, slicing and
you control which sample to play back remapping your own loops and beats and
re-sequencing them. It comes with a lot more
for each layer, defined as a MIDI value bundled content and uses DCAM effects. The
between 0 and 127. If you choose User two instruments approach drum shaping in
here you can add your own samples, quite different ways, though both are powerful.

though this means accessing Reaktor’s


Choice Sample Map Editor, which requires a bit

9/10
9
9/10
of research if you’re new to the
software. Then there are pitch, start
position and pan controls each with min
/ max parameter range sliders, and

NATIVE
finally a volume section so you can
balance the layers’ levels.

INSTRUMENTS
is. There are seven kit slots and you can
Taking effect copy and paste settings between them

Polyplex
There are 18 effects onboard and up to to create up to seven variations on your
four can be used at once, ranging from kit and flip between them easily.
reverb, compression, glitch and Polyplex sounds incredibly cool, as a
autopanning to stutter, stretch, listen to the audio demos will reveal.
frequency and pitch effects. Each has The sounds it can make are cutting
its own controls and can be switched on edge and amazingly useful for all kinds
Hours spent trying to build unique or off for each slot, and you can set up of electronic music. This is thanks to the
electronic kits could be a thing of the MIDI modulation of effects as well as amount of organic stuff that’s going on

past thanks to NI’s Polyplex. Andy using LFO, envelope and velocity to
control the parameters mentioned
with modulation of parameters and
effects meaning that sounds twist,
Jones finds out if it’s really true… previously such as pitch, pan, volume echo and morph in very desirable ways.
and so on. This also applies to the two Although you can manually tweak

N
I’s Battery has been its go-to Details further sub-pages, Envelope and EQ, everything, the randomizers do their job
drum sampler for quite some Price £59 that are used to shape the sound. of coming up with endless variations
time, and of course the Distributor Native All of this is great, but it’s not the supremely well and the results are
Instruments
company also makes main focus of Polyplex: that comes stunning. That the onboard effects are
Contact Via website
Maschine, though both are geared Web www.native- when you start to randomize so much better than the usual delay /
primarily towards the sequencing of instruments.com parameters. Sound tweaking is nothing reverb / compression toolkit is a factor
relatively conventional kinds of beats. Minimum System new but the ability to endlessly come as well. You will need to add few, if any,
Requirements OS X
The many drummer series hosted 10.8 or higher
up with new variations and, crucially, external effects to the sound because
inside Kontakt are also mostly Windows 7 or higher really usable variations is somewhat the processing inside the instrument is
recreations of real drum kits. Polyplex is 4GB RAM more unique. By clicking on the Master first class. As a quick solution to drum
something quite different: an Randomizer button at the top (these sound design, Polyplex is a winner. MT
“experimental drum designer” with an buttons all have dice icons) you can
emphasis on randomization of many instantly randomize the way the layers MT Verdict
parameters to create new and unique behave, completely changing their
+ Amazing, cutting-edge drum
kits. Designed by the team at Twisted sound but within boundaries that keep sounds
Tools, it runs in Reaktor 5 or Reaktor 5 them usable. What we mean by this is + Fine-tune each layer
Player and weighs in at a modest that it’s not going to randomize things + Easily create infinite variations
200MB. The idea is to make a smaller so much that you end up with a bunch + Affordable
+ Excellent onboard effects
amount of content go much further. of bleeps and white noise that don’t
+ Randomize globally or by
play nicely together. parameter
The layout Key Features + Top-notch presets
There are eight sound slots in Polyplex ● Standalone
Going further + Easy to create futuristic kits with
and each one can hold four separate or plug-in In addition you can choose to a couple of clicks
samples. Each sample forms one layer operation randomize each individual sound slot in
● 142 sounds
- Using your own samples could be
of a drum sound and for each sound different ways. Click the button for a more approachable
● Eight slots with
slot you can specify a layer type and a four layers per slot and its parameters are randomized - For more detailed sound shaping
subtype, choosing between kicks, slot but the other slots are not. Go into the a read of the manual is
● 18 effects recommended.
snares, hi-hats and so on. The slots are parameter section and you can
● MIDI modulation
colour coded for easier recognition randomize just one thing at once, such An affordable and hugely gratifying
● Extensive
across the interface and they also tie in randomization as pitch, but leave everything else the instrument to create cutting-edge,
with the new Light Guide features of capabilities same. You can even lock a layer to make organic drum kits for all kinds of
● Integrates electronic music.
NI’s Komplete Kontrol keyboard. There sure it’s not changed and also deselect
are then a range of controls for each
one, helpfully arranged in layers across
with Komplete
Kontrol
any randomizable section so that it is
not included while everything around it
9/10
88 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.Rev Polyplex.indd 88 28/10/2014 11:52


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Xmas 2014 Subs DPS A4 FOR PRINT.indd 1 05/11/2014 12:39


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Xmas 2014 Subs DPS A4 FOR PRINT.indd 2 05/11/2014 12:40


MT Christmas Songwriting

Christmas Songwriting
They’re songs that are etched into our consciousness, wheeled
out every year from November onwards. Some people
– gasp – even listen to them for pleasure. Love them or loathe
them, there’s no disputing that Christmas songs can be a
500 grand per
Slade make a reported
hugely lucrative revenue stream for songwriters. year from Merry Xmas
Everybody

Andy Price and Richard J Parfitt deck the halls…

W
riting a Christmas of these songs feature the demand that was at home for Christmas.’ The record
song appears to be a the listener look to the future with company picked up on that from a
key (and sometimes optimism, and to reflect on their past marketing perspective, and added a
desperate) aim of deeds during the preceding year. tubular bell. The song went to number
many songwriters It’s interesting to find that this is a three in the UK, and topped the charts
– and with good reason. When all the common thematic thread among many in several European countries.”
myriad elements that make up a of the songs on our Christmas playlists, Regardless of Jonah’s original intent,
successful Christmas song come as is the lyrical theme of togetherness the song is now a fundamental staple
together, the annual financial royalties and family. Jonah Lewie’s Stop The of every Christmas playlist. Appealing
very often ensure that the writer never Cavalry is another song that differs to more and more people not just
has to work again. But how does a song from the norm you’d expect. The lyrics because of the minimal, direct
writer go about writing a successful and militaristic brass band Christmas reference but because the

Minor chords abound and Christmas


Christmas song? Well it can seem quite
a daunting task to write a song that not

serves as an emotionally-enhancing
only ties into the festive mood but also
is hooky enough to remain in the public

backdrop to a narrative of optimism in


consciousness over the ensuing years
(and isn’t bloody annoying).

the face of despair and misery


But by looking at the perennial
Christmas canon we can detect some
technical aspects that are shared. For
example, although Slade’s 1.2 Million arrangement primarily reflect upon the song, with its (although intended to be
selling Merry Christmas Everybody and perils of warfare and the struggles of ironic) oompah brass musical
John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War is the narrator, a soldier, not specific to arrangement has a festive warmth that
Over) may seem, on the surface, to be any particular war, who misses his has led the song to be appropriated
drastically different styles of Christmas family at Christmas time. by popular culture during the
song, both share similar lyrical and Lewie would tell the Daily Express Christmas season.
melodic themes. One is a slightly tipsy, “Stop The Cavalry actually had nothing Perhaps that is the key point we
retro, working-class party anthem and to do with Christmas when I wrote it. should make here: that to attempt to
the other is an impassioned, There is one line about him being on the write a novelty Christmas song, full of
countercultural peace-plea, but both front and missing his girlfriend: ‘I wish I direct references to Christmas is not

92 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.ChristmasMusic.indd 92 05/11/2014 15:03


MT Christmas Songwriting

the warring former lovers - again not Sometimes, even songs that make
your average Christmas theme! no direct reference to Christmas
Dispensing with saccharine somehow tap into our national psyche
sentimentality and instead, through its and end up taking the seasonal crown.
story, presenting a varied emotional Gary Jules and Michael Andrews’
rollercoaster of a song that, however haunting, stripped down cover of Tears
dark, is somehow relatable and quite For Fears’ Mad World is one such
beautiful against the picturesque example of a song that somehow,
backdrop of an idealised New York became a massive hit in Christmas
instantly recognisable from countless 2003, against everyone’s predictions.
movies of yesteryear. The song features no direct references
Musically too the main chord to Christmas but has a straightforward,
sequence is a circular, almost nursery wintery and reflective tone that
rhyme like sequence that resolves its somehow bored a hole into the mental
tension in the big chorus. state of a nation.
Subconsciously the song cleverly
Were they responsible for the best Chistmas song of all time? Yes. incorporates references to immigration It’s Christmas…
to America, reinforcing the idea of So, if you’re going to have a stab at
the way to go. Some of the most change, growth and living in a ‘new writing your own Christmas song we’d
popular festive hits such as the world’ – or, in a broad Christmas sense, say that is the principal thing you need
aforementioned war-themed tunes and the new year. to take on board musically in not to
of course the biggest Christmas song of OK maybe that’s a little too deep, but over-saturate your track with the
all, Do They Know It’s Christmas, contain the point we’re making here is that if obvious tricks – sleigh bells and
a morally sound, direct appeal to the you’re clever with your song and don’t children’s choruses are perhaps the
conscience, rather than attempting to simply flounder around trying to most overused cliches. Instead
drown the listener in Christmas cliches. shoehorn Christmas references in left, approach your song in a more
Regardless, these songs do include right and centre, you’ve a much better straightforward way. As we’ve pointed
an inclusive, honest sentimentality that chance at appealing to more people out – X-Factor aside – the record
appears to be one of the enduring and having a more successful buying public aren’t mindless sheep.
elements in all Christmas-related art. Christmas song long term. There has to be something universally
Songs such as Wham’s Last Christmas
and East 17’s Stay Another Day both
reflect on failed relationships, regret
and yearning. Minor chords abound and
If you are clever with your song and
Christmas serves as an emotionally
enhancing backdrop to a narrative
don’t shoehorn Christmas references in
of optimism in the face of despair
and misery.
you will appeal to more people
Again, the primary focus of the song
isn’t on an arbitrary and random
sprinkling of Christmas-themed Mad World appealing in your composition.
references, it’s telling a relatable The very concept of ‘the Christmas Final tips? Incorporate something
human story, appealing to basic human number one’ has been coveted and that’s not usual for the style of music
needs and hopes. And nowhere is this sought after by many artists over the you write in. And take inspiration from
more apparent than on perhaps the years, and indeed a vast swathe of what’s gone before but don’t
most universally loved Christmas otherwise successful musicians have regurgitate. Take the lead and fashion
song of all… tried and failed to achieve this kind of your own musical response to
festive immortality. Christmas. And for god’s sake, leave
The Bells Were Ringing Out… Contemporary culture now dictates sleigh bells out of the mix! MT
The Pogues wistful but gritty Fairytale that X-Factor contestants have the
Of New York is regularly voted the inalienable right to vie for the top spot
nation’s favourite Christmas song. Part at Christmas after winning the show,
of the song’s recurring success is with the televisual hype-machine giving
perhaps due to the counterpointing the winning artist’s songs a boost. The
jaunty, sing-along melody and dark, result is a recent spate of Facebook-led
despairing lyrical content, delivered in campaigns to topple this regime,
the form of an argument between an resulting in such un-festive chart-
inebriated, punky Shane Macgowan toppers such as Rage Against The
and a world weary Kirsty MacColl. The Machine’s Killing In The Name – an
teary piano intro gives way to an ironic stab at not just the X-Factor’s
arrangement that includes tin whistle, hold over the record-buying public, but
harp and strings. at the very idea of what a Christmas
Do they know it’s Christmas? Clearly…
The focus of the verse-narrative are song should be.

94 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.ChristmasMusic.indd 94 05/11/2014 15:03


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MAGAZINE March 2011 | 127

oom in your pocket.


Mini Reviews MT

Logic Pro X Advanced Molecule


Vol 1 Manufacturer Sinevibes
Price $39
Manufacturer Groove3
Contact via website
Price $30 (download) $15 (access Key Features
Web www.sinevib.es
to whole site) ● 10 chapters

M
Contact via website ● 1 hour 20 olecule is a multiband Key Features
minutes running
Web www.groove3.com time effect that splits the ● Audio Choice

9/10
9
9/10
Unit effects
● Presented incoming signal into

D
processor with
espite the fact that Logic by Apple three bands, each of which has its three adjustable
Certified Pro Eli bands
Pro X offers a scaled down Krantzberg
own effect processor with a choice
complexity option akin to of 16 algorithms. These include a ● 16 Effect
● Intermediate algorithms
Garageband, beneath the hood to advanced tips tasty array of analogue, clipping ● LFO
to streamline
still lies an intricate and flexible workflow
and digital distortions, plus great modulators for
system. In this tutorial Eli sounding barber pole phaser, each band
● Download,
● Randomise
Krantzberg explores ways to set watch online, or comb filter and ring mod. Each function and
stream to iPad,
up templates, channel strips, band has its own modulator LFO eight snapshot
iPhone & iPod
screensets, key commands and with multiple shapes, a wide rate, buttons
● Clear and easy
more to help tailor Logic to your and chaos and lag functions to
to use GUI
own style. It isn’t the sexiest of add shape. You can also bypass
tutorials as it focusses on specific each band, set the crossover
functions and menus and doesn’t MT Verdict frequency, randomise the plug-in, MT Verdict
really require any audio examples. and quickly switch between eight
Not the most thrilling of An easy to use and playful
However, if you use Logic every day tutorials, but still packed with snapshots. The GUI is crisp and way to add texture to sounds,
and are looking for ways to speed plenty of tips for intermediate intuitive and the slightly off the with a quirky selection of
up productivity, then there are and advanced users looking to wall selection of effects forces you great sounding and
plenty of tips to be found here, and streamline their workflow. to be more creative The only inventive effects.
Krantzberg explains it all
concisely and clearly. MT
8/10 improvement we’d like to see is
wet/dry control for each band. MT
9/10

Robert Owens The Voice Kruisemode:


of House Music Liquid RnB
Manufacturer Loopmasters Manufacturer Samplephonics
Key Features
Price £29.99 Price £34.70
● 252 Loops &
Contact info@loopmasters.com Contact info@samplephonics.com 157 one-shots
● 24-bit Wav,
Web www.loopmasters.com Key Features Web www.samplephonics.com Acid Wav, Apple
● 782MB of 24- Loops, or REX2

C M
bit 44.1kHz Wav formats
hances are if you listen to or Apple Loops Choice uch like the way future
● Patches for

9/10
9
9/10
house music then you will ● 8 Full spoken garage gave regular EXS24, Kontakt,
have heard Robert Owens’ and sung song garage music a deeper Ableton,
ideas MachFive, NN-
soulful voice and velvet speaking and more electronic edge, Liquid
● 75 short sung XT, SFZ, HALion
tones, most famously on the and spoken RnB takes the sexy sounds of RnB ● Bass, drums,
classic Can You Feel It. This pack is phrases and infuses them with harder trap keys, leads, vocal
divided into two halves, with eight ● 116 - 125 bpm beats, organic throbbing synth chops and more
● Combines
full song ideas including both chords and wonky percussion.
soulful RnB,
spoken and sung verses, and This pack contains an eclectic mix hip-hop, house
multi-layered sung choruses, plus of chopped up, hip-hop style and garage
influences
14 folders of shorter phrases and samples, deep and funky
loops. Decent male soul vocals basslines, and lush, soulful chord
can be hard to come by but Owens progressions. There’s a variety of
delivers an authentic and classy beat styles, from bulky trap and
performance with a broad range MT Verdict dubstep rollers, to more off-kilter
of phrases and lyrics that are
A well written and truly
hip hop grooves and disco breaks. MT Verdict
perfectly suited for late night club authentic pack of soulful Aside from some occasionally
A treasure trove of original,
music, and only a hint of cheese spoken and sung male questionable reverb choices and beautiful and inspiring
here and there. You may have to phrases put together by a the odd overly simple riff, there are musical loops that could be
get creative to break away from veteran of house music. plenty of inventive, warm, and used in a range of genres.
house music cliches, but this is a
great tool nonetheless. MT
9/10 inspiring loops here to kick start
your tracks. MT
8/10
MAGAZINE December 2014 | 97

MT141.REV minisP97.indd 97 04/11/2014 14:51


MT Mini Reviews

Elemental Techno VST Bridge for Choice


Manufacturer Neurodriver Ableton Live 9/10
9
9/10
Price £29.95
Manufacturer AudioModder
Contact info@loopmasters.com
Price $20 AUD
Web www.loopmasters.com
Contact via website

H
ead of Broken Robot Web www.audiomodder.
Records and excellent myshopify.com
techno producer

O
Neurodriver presents this new ne of Ableton Push’s Key Features
pack covering all the production weaknesses is that it ● Compatible
Key Features with 64-bit
aspects needed for deep and doesn’t integrate easily with Ableton Live
engaging techno / tech-funk ● 1.2 GB at 24- third-party VST plug-ins. There are ● Runs on OS X
bit, 44.1kHz
composition work. Available as workarounds, but it’s time- or Windows
● Kontakt,
single samples, loops or consuming with the likes of ● Many
EXS24, HALion,
instrument
instruments in a variety of NN-XT and SFZs Komplete 9 Ultimate, UAD, parameters
● One-shots and
formats, there’s bass, drums, Soundtoys Native Effects and ready for
loops automation
synths and FX included, with a ● Apple Loops, Maschine 2.0. AudioModder has
● Integrates
high sonic quality throughout. We Ableton Live been through this process so you various libraries
love the drum kits and hits on Pack and Refill can easily access the plug-ins into Push
formats environment
offer here, with strong kicks from Push. After a slightly fiddly
covering a vast tonal range, and manual installation we enjoyed
some really unique-sounding MT Verdict the much broader palette of MT Verdict
percussion samples and zaps too. sounds available from these A no-brainer for anyone
A good addition to any techno
Bass and music loops are also producer’s library, with plug-ins and loved the separate owning Push and at least one
really well programmed and we mix-ready loops for quick outputs per sound in Maschine’s of the plug-in suites
can see these being used for construction work. kits so they can be easily supported by this release.
augmenting DJ sets as well as
making tunes in the studio. MT
7/10 processed with Live devices
from Push. MT
9/10

Neuro Dub and


Juice Reggae
Manufacturer ASL SoundLab Sound
Price £25.99
Contact via website
Station
Web www.aslsoundlab.com Manufacturer Nord
Price £14.95

O
wners of the mighty Sytrus Value
Contact info@loopmasters.com

€£$
FM synthesizer from
Image-Line will already be Web www.loopmasters.com
aware of its sonic powers, and ASL

D
Key
SoundLab has managed to really ub and reggae has long
Key Features Features
nail neuro sounds for it in this new been an influence on
● 64 bass ● Quality
preset pack. Unlike various other presets in logical electronic music. Listen to instruments
packs we’ve checked out over the workflow folders examples from any current genre recorded
● Programmed through
years, these are designed to offer and you’ll find elements of premium gear
for XY pad
lots of expression through full control syncopated rhythms, dub delays, ● 1.5 GB at 24-
support of Sytrus’s own XY pad, ● Cutting-edge dub FX and deep, heavy bass. New bit 44.1kHz
offering an easy to control but vast neuro sounds Level Sound Station has nailed ● Construction
● Also includes kits, loops,
sonic range from each sound. FX, pads, synth
many of these through guitar, instruments
Presets are logically ordered and and keys presets piano, bass, drums and various and one-shots
can be manually animated by the other sounds, along with MIDI files
user, controlled by envelopes for for that much-needed groove. In
one-pass modulation or based MT Verdict this pack sampler instruments MT Verdict
around sequenced modulation for Pushes Sytrus to its fullest for utilise velocity for easy dynamic The craft of this work shows in
animated tones. Some melodic warped bass tones. The XY expression. The sounds on offer its authentic sound and range
lead sounds are in here, but pad makes modulation easy. ooze culture and are a useful tool of tones throughout.
twisted bass is the main focus
and it certainly delivers. MT
8/10 within any producer’s kit. The pack
goes a long way for the price. MT
8/10
98 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.REV minis.indd 98 28/10/2014 11:41


LOGIC PRO X

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MT141.US subs.indd 5 06/11/2014 11:19


Mini Reviews MT

Hot Hand
USB
Manufacturer
Source Audio
Price €99
Contact via website
Web www.sourceaudio.net
Dehumaniser Pro
T
Key Features
here are quite a few options
● 100ft range Manufacturer Krotos
for wireless MIDI control between ring
Key Features
these days, with Leap and receiver Price £49 Lite; £199 Pro
● Three ● Ten layers
Motion probably being the most Contact via website of sound
axis motion
well-known name. Whereas Leap detection processing
Web www.dehumaniser.com ● Pro version
Motion involves levitating your ● Up to six hours

H
battery life has dynamic
hands above an invisible field, Hot eavy-handed vocal control per layer
Hand USB is a little ring you ● Class processing is a key trick to
compliant ● Can load in
attach to one hand which you can driverless create textured, synthetic two ext effects
use up to 100ft away from its installation yet somehow organic sounds in
receiver. The response time is your music productions, and
pretty fast, enabling rhythmic Dehumaniser offers a load of MT Verdict
MT Verdict
control work. Like most controllers real-time processing for this exact This is a very powerful tool
of this nature, though, complete A different approach to task. It takes a bit of time to figure and it’s worth exploring the
wireless MIDI control that demo to see if it suits your
accuracy is difficult to achieve, so out what’s possible with your own
requires minimal set-up vocal transformation needs,
control for FX parameters and and offers the freedom of vocal styles and how far certain but the real-time aspect really
filters is where it works best. But being able to move around processors can be pushed, but helps to encourage better
it’s compact, has a long battery while on stage. there’s certainly a lot of scope here performances, which is fun.
life and could be that visual
element your live show needs. MT
7/10 for games, sync, theatre and
general music production. MT
8/10

ONE for Choice

Innovation iPad 9/10


9
9/10
& Mac
IRCAMAX 1 Manufacturer Apogee
Price £289.00
Manufacturer IRCAM Key Features Contact 0845 500 2 500
Price €99 ● Six effects and
one instrument Web www.sonic-distribution.com Key Features
Contact via website

A
● Well-designed ● 3.5mm
GUI pogee has made some solid headphone/
Web www.ableton.com monitor output
● Flexible releases in the portable

F
and real-time ● 1.5GB at 24-bit
rom the Institute for audio interface market in
capture/ 44.1 kHz
Research and Coordination manipulation recent years, and this update to ● iOS 7
Acoustique/Musique comes ● Some devices the original Apogee ONE, as its compatible and
require a above
a unique set of Max for Live name suggests, opens the device
slightly adapted ● XLR and
devices sound design. Consisting workflow to
up for use with iOS. instrument
of six processing effects and one capture ideas to Other improvements to the new inputs
instrument, these are designed to rendered audio version, including being able to
make abstract changes to sound. record up to 96kHz at 24-bit, up
Though most of these devices run the quality and there’s now buss
on audio tracks, they want to be
MT Verdict power, battery power and mains
played like an instrument through If you’re serious about sound power to choose from depending MT Verdict
parameter control. Our favourite design this pack is a must for on your set-up needs. We’ve used
Live Suite owners, and we ONE excels at being a great
device is IM-SimpleTransp(ose) have already found it to be a the onboard condenser mic for a travelling companion in
which allows for some delicious go-to collection when in multitude of tasks. The quality is terms of portability, especially
pitch-shifting with formant search of creating unique surprisingly high and its omni- with its high quality onboard
tones in our work. condenser microphone.
control, and the others cover directionality makes it versatile.
many more interesting ways to
twist your sounds. MT
8/10 Overall ONE is a very useful and
high quality mobile tool. MT
9/10
MAGAZINE December 2014 | 101

MT141.REV minis.indd 101 28/10/2014 11:41


Six of the best Buyer’s Guide MT

Six of the best


Hardware Software Mobile Technology Samples
Welcome to the new MusicTech Buyer’s Guide where we round
up some of the best products recently reviewed in the magazine.
This month, six of the best keyboard synths…

W
e’ve been banging on
BEST Mono about how good
Novation’s Bass Station II

Novation
is for probably too long
now, but we still rate it as the mono Details
synth to go for, especially for the money. Price

Bass Station II
£1,295.99
When he reviewed it back in MT127, Contact Korg UK,
Senior Editor Andy Jones loved the 01908 304600
follow up to a synth he’d reviewed two Web www.korguk.
com
decades previously, saying…
“The focus is squarely on
Details
electronica and dance music (old and
Price £399
Contact Novation
new). No big pads or digital textures, no
01494 462246 polyphony, no chords, no ‘real’ sounds
Web or emulations, just pure, ferocious,
www. proper analogue synth sounds. Just the
novationmusic.
com sound of the circuit at its raw, dirty,
animal-like best. And at just £399.99 –
a mere £50 more than the original cost BEST Project

Korg
on its release two decades ago – it’s
stunning, simple as that.”
He finally concluded: “Bass Station
II is an exceptional synth. For £399 you

MS-20 Kit
could buy a couple of high-end synth
plug-ins. Don’t. Buy this instead.”

O
BEST Variety of sounds kay, so you may have to build
it yourself but constructing

Yamaha MOXF
this classic from Korg is great
fun and it will get you one of
the best analogue synths around, not
to mention being a project that will give

Y
amaha has a great reputation standalone composing tool, say, while a you an enormous amount of
when it comes to synth band is touring and then blending satisfaction. Reviewer Huw Price said…
workstations, and MOXF is those ideas into their recording setups “In total, assembly will take around
Details
designed to integrate with when they get back. Yamaha has done two to three hours. The instructions are
Price
today’s DAW setups. Reviewer Andy a cracking job at updating the MOXF6: £1,017 excellent and there’s even a
Jones said: “If you need a great sound workstation for today’s studio.” MOXF8: £1,526 troubleshooting guide, but fortunately
source that covers every base and has He concluded: “An inexpensive Contact Yamaha we didn’t need it. Technical know-how,
0844 8111116
a lot of scope to edit on-the-fly and synth workstation with an amazing soldering ability and an understanding
Web uk.yamaha.
create all-new sounds, look no further. sound, lots of editing potential, superb com of electronics are not required to
I can easily see this used as a sequencer and software integration.” construct this MS-20 Kit, so it’s ideal for
a beginner’s DIY project. Even so, it
should be (and indeed is!) a very
satisfying undertaking for experienced
constructors too.”
The final verdict was: “This MS-20
reissue is the real deal. You can run it
old school or hook it up to your MIDI
setup, plus you get both sets of filters.
And building it yourself makes it even
more fun.”

MAGAZINE December 2014 | 103

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MT Buyer’s Guide Six of the best

Details
Price £1,249
Contact Sound
Technology
Tel 01462 480000
Web www.nord
keyboards.com

T
o be honest, either the Nord thinking that its simplicity, its creativity
Lead 4 or A1 could have been and its quality will win it many friends. If
included but we’ve gone for the you have an analogue heart, hold a note,
A1 because of its hands-on dial some dials and after five minutes
creativity. As Andy Jones said… you’ll be won over too…”
BEST Creative “A totally unexpected synth from He then concluded: “Creative,
Nord with one of the most ‘instant’ addictive, a joy to use. It’s for people

Nord Lead A1
feature sets I’ve ever used. And while it’s with valves as organs and wave-
smaller than the Nord Lead 4 (in shapes as heartbeats. You can
physical and sonic terms) I can’t help program a synth. This synth…”

It’s for people with valves for organs


BEST Workstation
and wave-shapes for heartbeats. You
can progam a synth. This synth… Roland
FA-06
L
ike Yamaha, Roland has a great
rep with ‘do everything’ synths,
and this certainly takes the
workstation concept up a notch.
We said…
“A great workstation for the studio
and the road. It sounds big, is
supremely easy to use and is packed
with tones that you can dramatically
alter with both synth and effect engines.
Details “Everything you need to make
Price FA-06: £825; great-quality tracks in one package.
FA-08: £1,299 The FA-06 is truly a pinnacle of the
Contact Roland
hardware workstation genre.”
BEST Compact 01792 702701
Web
www.roland.co.uk Details

Arturia
Price £269
Contact Source
Distribution
Tel 020 8962 5080

MicroBrute
Web www.arturia.
com

T
hey don’t come much smaller go to more places than any other
than this little beauty from single-oscillator machine out there. It’s
Arturia. It may be small in size a crazy amount of synth for the money.
but its sound is much bigger. “A great little synth that you can
Andy Jones said in the review… have a lot of fun with and use as the
“MicroBrute is a lot of fun and easy hub of a bigger network of gear. Superb
to get your head around. It can probably value, too.”

104 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.6 of the best.indd 104 28/10/2014 11:09


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MT App ad A4.indd 1 05/11/2014 15:54


MT Feature A bluffer’s guide to compression

MT Feature Music Technology

A BLUFFER’S
GUIDE TO
COMPRESSION
The piece of audio on top has
not been compressed, while
the one below it has. Note the
different shapes.

Every track needs a compressor, and finding the right way to


apply it needn’t be a struggle. Rob Boffard demystifies this
vital and often misunderstood effect…

T
here is no other process more likely to make your music sound amazing
than compression – if it’s used correctly. Compression is why songs on
the radio sound so amazingly full and rich. It’s why drums are tight
and punchy, why you can pick up vocals in a mix, why you can take any
audio you like and turn it into a growling monster. More than any other
audio effect, compression will make you sound like a total pro.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy. EQ, which we dealt with last month, is similarly
powerful, and we likened that to Tetris: easy to figure out, hard to master.
Compression isn’t quite the same, though. It’s reasonably tricky to use at first,
especially if you’ve never had a crack at it before, but once you figure it out – and
see what it can do – you’ll have no trouble implementing it in your tracks.

Pump it up
At its most basic level, compression is about making the volume of your tracks
even. Whenever you record a song, there will be some things that are louder
than others. It’s perfectly possible to make a mix from these untouched sounds,
but you may find that some of them vanish into the mix simply because they’re
too quiet.
When something has compression applied, it makes the loud bits softer and
the soft bits louder. When everything is at a consistent volume, you can then

106 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

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A bluffer’s guide to compression Feature MT

raise the overall volume


of the sound. You can
actually see this visually.
A piece of audio that
hasn’t been compressed
will be made of spiky
waveforms, with plenty
of peaks and valleys.
Compress that audio,
and these will ‘squash’.
The resulting shape will
look more like a
sausage, with a flat,
even top and bottom.
Most DAWs will have The basic anatomy of a compressor, including ratio, threshold, and make-up gain controls.
more than one
compressor plug-in included. The easiest way to hear the power of
compression is to actually use it, so load up a piece of audio and slap on a
Tech terms
plug-in as an insert effect. You will immediately see a bunch of controls. Chances
● THRESHOLD:
are, these won’t make sense right away, but give us a few minutes and we’ll
The point at which
demystify things. Try loading up a compressor with a visual readout, not just a
a compressor kicks
bunch of faders. in, which is always
The first thing to pay attention to is the threshold control. Essentially, this measured in decibels.
sets the point at which the compressor kicks in. If you lower this to, say, -20dB,
● RATIO: The amount a
then the compressor will activate whenever the sound goes above that level. With compressor affects your
us so far? Good. Now we’re going to control what happens after the compressor sound by. A high ratio,
kicks in. such as 10:1, will result
This control is called the ratio. It tells the compressor how much to lower the in gentle compression,
audio by once it goes over the threshold. It’s called the ratio control because it and a low ratio will make
literally expresses this as a ratio: if you set it at 4:1, then for every 4dB of sound things more aggressive.
that goes over the threshold, the compressor will lower the volume by 1dB. 4:1 is ● ATTACK AND
actually quite gentle; if you wanted the compression to be more noticeable or RELEASE: The time it
powerful, you’d set it at a lower ratio, say 2:1. If you set it at 1:1, then the takes for a compressor
to activate once the
compressor would reduce the volume by 1dB for every 1dB above the threshold.
sound has crossed the
In other words, your threshold would act like a brick wall, and refuse to let the threshold, and the time
sound get louder than that point. (This technique is called limiting, and we’ll get it takes to stop working
to it in a moment.) once the sound dips

At its most basic level,


Again, the easiest below it.
way to hear what this ● MAKE-UP GAIN:

compression is about making the


will do to your sound is A control to raise
to try it. A good the volume of the

volume of your tracks even


compressor will actually sound after it’s been
include a visual compressed.
feedback to show you
how much your sound is
being reduced by, which can make it easier to get consistent compression.
There are a couple more controls you need to pay attention to: attack and
release. It’s very easy to make a compressor act like an on/off switch, so that the
second you go above the threshold the compressor immediately steps in to kill
the sound.
Sometimes this approach can make things sound a little unnatural and forced.
The attack and release controls act like a buffer, stopping the
compressor from immediately activating, and once it is activated, stopping it
from turning off right away. These controls are usually measured in
milliseconds, and you shouldn’t have to increase them too much to start hearing
the difference. An attack value of 2.5ms, for example, means that the compressor
will only kick in 2.5ms after the threshold is crossed. That means the audio has
a chance to go a little bit over limit before it’s pulled back, resulting in a slightly
more natural sound.
Then there’s the make-up gain. When you’ve compressed something it’s going
to be at a lower volume, as you’ve made the soft bits louder and the loud bits

MAGAZINE December 2014 | 107

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MT Feature A bluffer’s guide to compression

softer. The make-up gain raises the overall volume of


the sound after it’s been compressed.
Your compressor may have one or two more
controls – and the good news is, you shouldn’t have
to worry too much about these now. They’re just good
to know. An expander works like a reverse
compressor: whenever the sound drops below a
certain threshold, the compressor will stop it getting
too quiet. Also, you may see a control for something
called a knee. This smooths out the transition when
the compressor kicks in, making your sound even
more natural.

Parallel lines
Compressors are wonderful. They have an infinite
number of uses, and as we said, they can drastically
improve your track. We’ll run through a couple of
these uses now to show you why it’s worthwhile
Limiting is a good way to finish off the track, as it stops the master output from clipping.
getting familiar with what compressors do.
One of the most common uses of a compressor is
to ‘catch the peaks’ of the sound. If you use a high the qualities of the original sound with the
threshold and a gentle ratio, then you can stop it punchiness of the compressed version.
clipping and distorting when it gets particularly It’s a little too complex to go into here, but there’s
loud, which is great for taming a clip that doesn’t a wonderful technique called side-chaining. With
have an even volume throughout. This kind of this technique you can lower the volume of one
compression is almost transparent: you hardly know whenever another kicks in. If you’ve got a bassline,
it’s there, mostly because it’s only activating when then you can have it automatically compress
the sound gets too loud. whenever a kick drum plays. The pumping sound in
You can also get aggressive with the compressor. most dance records is down to aggressive side-
If you take a bassline and hit it with a low threshold, chaining. Once you’ve got this technique down you’ll
aggressive ratio and low attack and release values, find yourself using it again and again.
then raise the make-up gain, you’ll end up with an Compression isn’t just used for mixing. It’s
amazingly punchy, growly, in–your–face bass noise. almost always used to master a track as well. One of
That grungy sound in dubstep? It’s been compressed the major ways that mastering engineers apply a
to the nines. compressor is as a limiter. Remember the 1:1 ratio
There are a number of more subtle uses for we were talking about earlier? If you put a
compression, too. For example, take a track and compressor on the master out and keep the
create a parallel version of it. Put some heavy threshold nice and high – around -3dB – then your
compression on the parallel version – in audio track will never go above that particular level. As
parlance, the track is now ‘wet’. Mix this track in long as you’ve mixed things properly, this is great for
with the ‘dry’ track, and you can get an extremely adding fullness and shine at the very end.
attractive level of compression: one that combines
Phat of the land
Don’t worry if you don’t get compression
straightaway. Like we said earlier, it can be a little
hard to wrap your head around. We don’t mean this
in a condescending way, either: compression is
notorious for giving producers hell. The best way to
figure out how it works is to play with it.
That being said, there are definitely some
principles you should bear in mind. Try not to overdo
the compression. Like many effects it’s at its best
when working quietly in the background. If you’re
going to use aggressive compression, save it for one
or two elements in your track.
Finally, not all compressors are created equal.
There’s a reason why some cost a bomb. Vintage
compressors will often impart a characteristic
warmth to the sound, and the more you use
compression, the more you’ll start being able to pick
up this quality, and the more choosy you’ll be about
Side-chaining can be a very clever way to create more space in your track, and to stop two elements
your compressors. This is a very good thing – for
– such as a kick drum and a bassline – getting in each other’s way.
your tracks, if not your bank balance. MT

108 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141.feat Bluffer's Guide.indd 108 28/10/2014 11:34


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MT Show off your studio

Show off your studio

It’s the most popular feature we’ve


ever had in MusicTech where you
simply show off your studios. Just
look at all of that gear…

W
e’ve been blown away by the response to
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Facebook where we simply ask for photos
of your studio set-ups. We’ve since
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results. If you want to show off, add your picture to our
Silicone Music Productions: a regular Facebook Show Off Your Studio posts…
professional home studio

Silicone Music Productions


Interviewee: Gustavo A. Sacchetti
Contact: www.siliconemusic.com / email info@siliconemusic.com

Which DAW do you use and why? Dive motion picture soundtrack. have already reserved, and a Rupert
Logic Pro X. The versatility you get Neve II prototype.
with MIDI and audio editing is great. Perfect or room for improvement?
The virtual audio instruments have Perfection doesn’t exist and there’s Advice?
an excellent quality and the libraries always something more that I want The most important tool to master is
and effects are superb. to get… the ear, as Paco de Lucía used to say.
In the end all that matters is what
Favourite gear and why? What is next on your studio the musician wants to express, and
The Trident mixer for its warmth and shopping list and why? one has to learn how to capture that
effects. Another would be the AKG The Pendulum Audio OCL-2, which I moment perfectly.
ADR 68k reverb – it has an amazing
depth and an even greater versatility.

What do you use your studio for?


I have worked on two productions
for Alejandro Sanz, I’ve worked for
Paco de Lucía, produced
Argentinian rock bands and I also
have a song on James Cameron’s The

110 | December 2014 MAGAZINE

MT141 Show off your studio.indd 110 28/10/2014 11:06


Show off your studio MT

Bass Lab “I haven’t


Interviewee: Steven Comeau (steven@basslabstudio.com)
given it a
name yet!”
Web: www.basslabstudio.com

A compact set-up built inside


shipping containers…
Interviewee: Francisco Castellón Escrivá
Contact: contact@xiscocastellon.com /
www.xiscocastellon.com

What are the main components?


I have two laptops with Cubase, one
is a MacBook Pro and the other a PC.
I’ve also got a Windows 8 Surface Pro
Type of studio? improvement but I feel the studio with Traktor Pro 2 and Serato DJ
Technically a home studio, but it’s sounds as good as one built inside installed. The other main
built inside a couple of shipping two shipping containers can sound. components are the audio monitors,
containers that I welded together in my desktop PC with Cubase 7.5, and
my backyard. Next on your studio shopping list? my VSTi plug-in collection
I have just returned from Burning (Cakewalk, Waves, NI). To control my
What are the key components? Man [a week-long event in the DAW and for creating melodies I use
An Apple Mac Pro, Event Opal Nevada desert focussed around art an M-Audio Axiom 25 keyboard, and
monitors, Apogee Ensemble, Vintech and radical self-expression] and any for creating drums loops I’ve got a
X73, Benchmark Audio DAC1 and a money I have would be better spent Korg padKONTROL.
Wacom Cintiq. on rehab and physiotherapy! That
being said, I’m sure to fall prey to Favourite piece of gear?
Which DAW do you use and why? some new plug-in within a short The software, because it’s the core of
I use Logic Pro X. Not because I have period of time. Nothing planned as of my composition flow, particularly NI
a great love of Apple, in fact I dislike yet, though. Battery and Groove Agent for
them intensely as a company, I just samples and drum loops. After that
have an even greater dislike for using What is your dream piece of gear it’s my Loopmasters sample
Ableton Live as a production tool. and why? libraries, all Cakewalk synths, and
I have always lusted for a Prophet VS finally, my huge collection of Waves
What is your favourite piece of Rack. Not sure exactly why, but the plug-ins for mixing and mastering.
gear and why? sound of it makes my inner angst-
My Event Opals. It’s a joy to listen to ridden teenager want to write bad How do you use your studio?
music through them. industrial music. I’m doing music for fun but trying to
work professionally.
How long do you spend in the Do you have any advice for people
studio each week? starting out? Perfect or room for improvement?
The question should be ‘how much Buy the best you can, and save and The only essential things that you
time do I spend outside the studio in put off purchases if you have to. In need are a DAW, good audio monitors
a week?’! the long run you’ll save bags of cash that complement the room’s acoustic
from not having to upgrade or fix qualities, and a condenser mic to
How do you use it? good-quality gear. Spend this saved record vocals.
I specialise in electronic music. I do money on procuring an attractive
a fair bit of mixing, remixing and and charming partner who will help Next on your studio shopping list?
mastering of clients’ work. lure you outside of your studio and A DAW controller like Mackie Control
experience this thing people are Pro. I had one but sold it to a friend.
Is the studio perfect or is there always talking about called life –
room for improvement? your work will improve dramatically What is your dream piece of gear?
There is always room for from this! A reFx Nexus2 – it sounds amazing.

MAGAZINE December 2014 | 111

MT141 Show off your studio.indd 111 28/10/2014 11:06


MT Next month

What’s in Issue 142 On sale 18 December

GEAR OF THE YEAR


2014: THE RESULTS
We’ll add up your results and the winners will be
announced (and someone will win – see page 6!)
Six Of The Best Plus

The second part of our huge


MODULAR SYNTHS App round-up (so big we
REVEALED & RATED couldn’t get it all in this issue!)
The Experts (see p3) 1479-4187, is published monthly (12 times
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FIRST WITH REVIEWS
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powerful, 8-stage loopable envelopes, ring
synth parameters. Create choppy, chip tune arps and
and noise modulation, eight wave shapes,
strange pads and textures with the built-in bitcrush
and compatibility with the original hardware.
and delay effects, plus five modulation slots including
www.pluginboutique.com
key follow, velocity and aftertouch. www.saltline.co.uk

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Your Disc MT

SAMPLE LOOPS//ROYALTY FREE

//LIQUID RNB, ROCK  Size 280MB Format 24bit/44.1 kHz WAV


Samplephonics has been steadily building a
formidible back catalogue of highly-inventive and

GUITARS, SOULFUL varied releases over the last couple of years. We’ve
got a bunch of tasters taken from nine of their latest

BRASS AND MORE


releases. You’ll find etherial voices from Celtic Vocals,
haunting riffs and textures from Post Rock Guitars
and Soundscape Electronica, and funky horns from
Soulful Brass Constructions. There’s also glitchy
basses, instrumental loops and beats from Luo: Live
Electronica, Mounter & Mifi Progressive Techno, and
Kruisemode Liquid RnB. Finally, there are weird and
wonderful, heavily processed sounds and effects
taken from Ghostek System Evolution and Kinetic
Design FX. Web www.samplephonics.com

VIDEO FEATURE//27 MINS

//LOGIC X
VIDEO FEATURE//25 MINS

TEMPLATES & //LOOP+


KEY COMMANDS   Size 920MB Format MOV
Loop+ brings us another selection of studio
production videos. First, a module from Quantize Courses’

  Size 109MB Format gPlayer (included)


Although Logic Pro X is the most accessible version of Logic yet, there’s
still a huge amount to discover under the hood. Groove 3 and Logic expert Eli
award-winning Loop Expert Ableton production course,
which sees founder Keith Mills use Ableton Clip actions to
create new sample libraries. Also in Ableton, remixer and
Krantzberg delves deep with three chapters taken from the recent Logic Pro X DJ Jake Childs gives us a quick tip for creating house
Advanced Vol 1 tutorial. The first video looks at creating and setting up a range transition riser FX. Finally, we get tutorials on the new
of templates for different production tasks, followed by a video on how to VirtualCZ synth plugin with Producertech’s Rob Jones
import specific tracks, content, plugins and automation from other project and Rob Talbott from Dodge & Fuski, who look at its sound
files without ever leaving your open project. Finally, Krantzberg takes a look at design features. Web www.loopmasters.com/loopplus/
how to search, edit and store key commands. Web www.groove3.com

MAGAZINE December 2014 | 115

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K812

Pure and natural like nothing before


designed for music professionals, the k812
superior reference headphones provide the most accurate
balance for mixing, mastering and music production.
www.akg.com

TECHNOLOGY
Distributed in the UK and Eire by Sound Technology Ltd | 01462 480000 | www.soundtech.co.uk | info@soundtech.co.uk