All posts by Rick H

Tips & Tricks: The Kontakt Quick-Load Feature

Having a wealth of Kontakt instruments available at your disposal is great but being able to access them quickly can sometimes be a little time consuming. Kontakt Player libraries streamline this process as they have their own separate tab which provides quick access directly to the instruments/multis folders via individual library tabs. But what about all those libraries that aren’t Kontakt Player compatible? You’ll know from experience that navigating through the standard file browser to find a specific patch can slow you down given that you sometimes need to trawl through several nested folders to get to the actual instruments folder, especially with some older libraries.

Well there is a feature in Kontakt which should make locating your instruments quickly a lot easier – The Quick-Load feature. The Quick-Load feature allows you to organize your instruments however you like as the Quick-Load catalog is essentially a virtual hierarchy directory structure meaning that no files are actually copied/moved.

I myself prefer to organize by vendor as can be seen in the example above. You may however decide you prefer to organize by instrument type. Essentially I never have to use the file browser, only my customized Quick-Load catalog and my Libraries tab. The folder structure can be determined however you see fit. It’s just a case of dragging and dropping the instruments into the desired folders. It all depends on what works best for you. The same can also be done for multis and banks.

In order to access the Quick-Load catalog you just need to right click in any empty space inside the instrument rack and the catalog will appear.  You can then begin creating your folder structure. Once you’re happy with it you can lock down the hierarchy which prevents any changes being made to the file structure. Right clicking again will close it.

Setting up my Quick-Load catalog has certainly helped speed up my workflow so why not give it a try yourself!

sE Electronics Expand Their X1 Series With The New X1 S Studio Condenser Mic

The X1 is renowned for its sound quality and versatility at a budget price. There’s been several variations released over the years and just last year we saw a follow up to the original X1, the X1 A. Now we have another revision, the X1 S which boasts some new and improved features. This latest revamp comes housed in an all-metal body and utilizes a hand-made condenser capsule.  It features two high-pass filters as well as a 3 position attenuation switch. An SPL rating of 160dB is also worth a mention… Not bad for an all-purpose large-diaphragm condenser mic.

The X1 S is set to be priced at $249/€249 and is expected to be available in May.

The Vocal Pack and Studio Bundle have also been updated. The X1 S Vocal Pack and X1 S Studio Bundle are set to be priced at $299/€299 and $399/€399 respectively.

Head on over to their product page for more info.

SE Electronics Products @ Scan

Bandlab – A Cloud-Based Music Recording & Collaboration Tool

Bandlab aims to take online music collaboration to the next level with its social music creation platform. It combines social features such as video sharing, messaging and discovery with a cross-platform DAW. In their own words: “BandLab’s mission is to break down the technical, geographic and creative barriers between creators, collaborators and community by providing a completely FREE and unlimited service”

Bandlab utilises HTML 5, Web Audio and Web MIDI so there’s no need for any other software to be installed. The browser based DAW seems to be simple to use, easy to understand and the layout is similar to what we’re all used to. It comes with an array of instruments and loops to get you started. You can try out some of the sounds here. You can even play the instruments with your QWERTY keyboard if you don’t have a MIDI controller. Mobile apps are available providing access to your projects whilst on the go. There’s also a desktop assistant in beta stage which updates you on on any collaborations you’re involved with as well as providing some common shortcuts.

The first thing that always comes to mind with something like this is audio quality and the potential for latency issues seeing as everything is done online through your browser. However, the general consensus is that it functions pretty well. It’s also free to sign-up so go see for yourself!

 

Steinberg Releases Cubase 9.0.10 Update

So it’s been a few months since Steinberg released Cubase 9. A maintenance update has since been released which includes many bug fixes and improvements. The 143MB update (510MB for Mac users) is available for free to all existing Cubase 9 users.

Here’s a list of what’s included in the update:

Chord Track:

  • Fixed an issue where dragging Chord Event across a Divided Track List resulted in a misaligned event.
  • Fixed an issue where “Follow Chord Track” was not working correctly.
  • Fixed an issue regarding wrong note colors when using “Chord Track” for event colors.

Editing:

  • Fixed an issue where the Quantize Panel did not correctly display the Crossfade section for multi-track usage (via Folder Group Editing).

Input Transformer:

  • Fixed an issue where certain setups of the Input Transformer could crash the application.

Inspector:

  • Fixed an issue where pinned Inspector sections were all closed after loading a project.

Logical Editor:

  • Fixed a potential crash issue.
  • Fixed an issue where Filter Target “Note is equal to” was stuck on “C”.

MediaBay:

  • Fixed an issue where using the Search field on the MediaBay could crash the application.

MIDI Editors:

  • Fixed an issue where Show/Hide Controller Lanes did not work when Lanes were removed manually beforehand.
  • Fixed an issue where resizing the Controller Lane area within the Inplace Editor could crash the application.
  • Fixed an issue where note names where displayed with inconsistent enharmonics (e.g. Bb instead of A#).

MIDI Plug-ins:

  • Fixed an issue where MicroTuner settings were not applied after reloading a project.

MusicXML Export:

  • Improved the compatibility of the number attribute for slurs (for import into Dorico).
  • Improved the compatibility in regard to the encoding of tuplets (for import into Dorico).

Performance:

  • Fixed a performance issue when “Auto Select under Cursor” options was activated.

Plug-ins:

  • Fixed an issue where VST 3 plug-ins with special characters could not be used.
  • Fixed an issue where StudioEQ presets were missing in Cubase Elements.
  • Fixed an issue where panning could be wrong with REVerence.
  • Fixed an issue where side split LP/HP bands did not properly change type in Frequency.
  • Fixed an issue where the Maximizer output level was not consistent with the readings from the MixConsole metering.

Project Window:

  • Fixed an issue where “Open in separate Window” in MIDI Editors was not possible after working in the Controller Lane area.
  • Fixed an issue where the Overview Line was missing in Cubase LE, AI and Elements.
  • Fixed an issue where new recorded MIDI Parts were not displayed in open Editor tab in the Lower Zone.

Remotes:

  • Fixed an issue where remote control devices (e.g. NI Komplete Kontrol) could not follow the parameter mapping correctly while navigating through the track list.

Sampler Track:

  • Fixed an issue where Sample Start/End markers were not correctly set after dragging a resized audio event into the Sampler Control tab.
  • Fixed an issue where re-opening the Sampler Control tab showed no content.
  • Fixed an issue where the root key color indication on the keyboard display was incorrect.
  • Fixed an issue where “Remove unused Media” in the Pool was not working correctly for audio files referenced by the Sampler Track.
  • Fixed and issue where no content was displayed in a Sampler Control tab after re-opening the Lower Zone.
  • Fixed an issue where creating a sampler track from an MP3 file in the MediaBay crashed the application.

Steinberg Hardware:

  • Fixed an issue where closing the Audio Hardware Setup window (e.g. for UR hardware) could lead to an application which could be no longer operated.

Steinberg Help:

  • Fixed an issue where the F1 key did not open the Cubase Help referring to steinberg.help.

System Link:

  • Fixed an issue where the cursor position was not synchronized while scrubbing with the mouse.
  • Fixed an synchronization issue using a jog wheel followed by Fast Rewind / Fast Forward commands.

TrackVersions:

  • Fixed an issue where TrackVersions on Signature Tracks could crash the application.

Transport:

  • Fixed an issue that stops the recording when changing the Metronome volume.
  • Fixed an issue where no values for all sorts of Transport control related items could be entered by key command if both Transport Panel and Transport Zone were closed.

The Cubase 9 Pro update is available here. Updates are available across the entire Cubase 9 range so download sizes may vary slightly from what’s mentioned above.

Steinberg products @ Scan

Fret Zeppelin – An LED based guitar tuition system

Providing a unique approach to learning how to play guitar, Fret Zeppelin by Edge Tech Labs aims to make the process easier for beginners. The system uses low-profile LED technology to display where to place your fingers on the fretboard. It fits to any regular guitar neck and aims to simplify learning chords, scales and even full songs.

The free smartphone app that goes with it will be released in beta versions before the official release so any special features/requests can be considered. It’s also being developed with an easy to use open API so other apps can be written to communicate with the hardware.

This crowd funded project has already superseded its target on Kickstarter. An initial pledge of $199 dollars will get you a Fret Zeppelin system and they aim to be ready to ship in October this year. There’s also talk of a system being made to cater for bass guitars as well as 7 and 8 string guitars!

Head on over to their Kickstarter page for more info.

Audio Plug-in Subscriptions – Are they worth it?

Over recent years we’ve seen subscription models from the likes of Adobe and Autodesk in the digital media world.  Avid and Cakewalk joined the trend by introducing subscription services for their DAW software. We’re now seeing this with audio plugins as well. With software companies struggling more and more in the fight against piracy, it seems natural for them to look into more financially viable methods of selling their products. We take a look at what’s currently available in the subscription based plug-in market.

Eventide Ensemble Bundle

Includes every Eventide plug-in to date. You can put your subscription on hold at anytime and resume as and when you want. There’s also some additional benefits for those who already own any Eventide plugins. For every plugin you already own, you get a month free on your subscription. There’s a cap at 6 months but still, not bad!

It goes without saying that committing to a 12 month plan saves you money in the long run. This you’ll find this to be a common amongst these subscription models.

Pricing

Month To Month – $29.99

Annual Paid Upfront – $299.99

Go here for more info.

 

Softube Volume One

Containing 16 plug-ins valued at over $2000, Softube’s Volume 1 offers all the essential tools needed for modern-day music production,

Pricing

Month To Month – $19.99

Annual Paid Upfront – $199.99

Go here for more info.

 

Xfer Records Serum

A massively powerful wavetable Synthesizer for $9.99 a month. The great thing about this is that once you’ve paid all the installments to make up the cost of buying the plugin out-right, you own the plugin! Another great benefit is you can pause your subscription at any time and resume it again when ever you like giving you greater flexibility.

Pricing

Month To Month – $9.99 (Rent-to-own)

Go here for more info.

 

EastWest/SoundsOnline Composer Cloud

This one is obviously aimed at being an all-in-one solution for composers. Having been on the scene since the the early days of high end orchestral sample libraries I guess it makes sense that they were one of the first to offer a subscription model.

The Composer Cloud provides a vast arsenal of tools and currently offers 53 products which includes over 10,000 virtual instruments. The standard plan includes all Gold editions of their instruments. The next plan up, The Composer Cloud X plan then gives you extra mic positions for all the orchestral/choir/piano libraries. Further to this, the Composer Cloud Plus plan includes all Diamond/Platinum editions of their instruments and gives you access to the SSL/EW FX Global Suite.

There is however a cheaper option which caters for students and teachers. This is limited to 7 products of your choice. You do however have the option of upgrading to the complete plan should you want to.

Pricing

Student Plan – Month To Month – $14.99

Student Plan – Annual Paid Upfront – $161.89

Composer Cloud Monthly Plan – $29.99

Composer Cloud X – Annual Plan, Paid Monthly – $29.99

Composer Cloud X – Annual Paid Upfront – $323.89

Composer Cloud Plus – Annual Plan, Paid Monthly – $49.99

Composer Cloud Plus – Annual Paid Upfront – $599.00

It’s also worth mentioning that there’s also the option to purchase CC X and CC Plus annual licenses as a gift.

Go here for more info.

 

Waves Mercury/Silver

Waves are renowned for their vast array of plugins. The Waves Silver plan gives you 16 essential plugins and is intended primarily for home studio use. Opting for the Mercury plan will hook you up with over 150 plugins and also includes some from their Signature Series.

Pricing

Silver – Month To Month – $9.99

Silver – Annual Paid Upfront – $99.00

Mercury – Month To Month – $149.00

Mercury – Annual Paid Upfront – $1499

Go here for more info.

 

Exponential Audio Stereo Reverb/Super Reverb Bundle

Two bundles available, the second providing surround versions of their reverb plugins.

Pricing

Stereo Reverb Bundle + Excalibur – Month To Month – $29.99

Stereo Reverb Bundle + Excalibur – Annual Paid Upfront – $299.99

Super Reverb Bundle + Excalibur – Month To Month – $49.99

Super Reverb Bundle + Excalibur – Annual Paid Upfront – $499.99

Go here for more info.

 

Slate Digital’s Everything Bundle Pro

Known for their authentic analogue modeling, Slate Digital’s Everything Bundle gives you access to every plugin currently available and all futures releases.

Pricing

Annual Paid Monthly – $14.99

Month To Month – $24.99

Annual Paid Upfront – $179.88

Go here for more info.

 

Nugen Audio Producer Pack/Post Pack

Nugen Audio are offering two bundles, the Producer Pack and the Post Pack. Like with Eventide’s Ensemble Bundle, for every plugin you already own, you get a month free on your subscription. Again, there’s a cap at 6 months.

Pricing

Producer Pack – Month To Month – $29.99

Producer Pack – Annual Paid Upfront – $329.00

Post Pack – Month To Month – $59.99

Post Pack – Annual Paid Upfront – $599.00

Go here for more info.

 

OG Kush Complete

Kush already have a reputation for their unique sounding hardware. The OG Kush Complete package gives you access to every plugin currently available and all futures releases.

Pricing

Month To Month – $19.99

Annual Paid Upfront – $199.99

Go here for more info.

 

McDSP All Access

Plenty of useful EQ plug-ins in this pack. Provides access to all V6 plugins and comes in two formats – Native and HD.

Pricing

All Access Native – Month To Month – $29.99

All Access Native – Annual Paid Upfront – $329.00

All Access HD – Month To Month – $59.99

All Access HD – Annual Paid Upfront – $599.00

Go here for more info.

 

 

Le Sound Bundle

Aimed more at sound designers, the Le Sound Bundle provides access to a innovative and creative plugin suite perfectly suited for use in cinema, television and video games.

Pricing

Month To Month – €76,00

3 Month Plan – €114,00

Annual Plan – €228,00

Go here for more info.

 

Pakotec PluginPlay

Something else that’s just cropped up on the radar is Pakotec’s PluginPlay. Providing access to plugins from the likes of d16 Group, Beatskillz, Kilohearts and Soundradix with the likelihood of more being added in the future, the service allows you to work with any of these plugins for up to 10 hours per month before committing yourself to the rental platform. The service isn’t live yet but be sure to sign up for more info.

 

So, to sum up… Going down the subscription route may appeal more to people who only require the use of a particular plug-in for a given period of time. However it may not sit well with others who use these tools day in day out as it may not make sense financially. I suppose it depends on the individual’s needs. For example, if there’s a plug-in you wish to utilize for a particular project and you don’t want to fork out a shed load of money for it when you’ll only be using it a few times, the subscription route could be the way to go. You’d just use it for however long you need then end your subscription. However, if you plan to be using that particular plug-in in most projects, I can see why purchasing a perpetual license out-right might make more sense.

There are pros and cons on both sides. For hobbyists the thought of a low monthly subscription as opposed to forking out a load of cash in one go may seem more appealing. Equally it could work the other way. If you can afford to buy the software outright then why commit yourself to a monthly payment? One advantage of a subscription is the fact that you’ll always have access to the most recent updates and as stated above, some companies also include all future releases at no extra cost. On the other hand, you could argue that most professionals wouldn’t be updating through concern of things breaking. As we know, professionals tend to stick with what works!

Ultimately you’d have to decide what works best for you. As I’ve described, there are arguments both for and against subscription models. It does however seem that this is the way things are going and I’m sure most companies in the industry will be following suit.

 

 

 

 

 

Roland Announce Rubix Line Of Audio Interfaces

Roland have announced their new line of portable USB audio interfaces for Mac, PC and iPad. The Rubix line consists of 3 units – The Rubix 22, 24 and the 44 all of which are designed with transparent, low-noise pre-amps and support for audio resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz.

The Rubix 22 has 2 ins/2 outs, the 24 has 2 ins/4 outs and the 44 as you can probably guess has 4 ins/4 outs. All 3 interfaces also support MIDI I/O and feature combo jack inputs, Hi-Z inputs and headphones outputs. The 24 and 44 also feature a hardware compressor/limiter! A ground lift switch on the back should also help laptop users with ground loop issues. There’s a switchable power source on the 22 and 24 which allows you to power the interfaces with a USB battery when connecting them up to an iPad. The 44 does however require an AC adapter. The activity LEDs are visible from the front and the top of the units, making monitoring signal input from any angle very convenient .

Key Features

  • 2-in/2-out / 2-in/4-out / 4-in/4-out USB audio interface.
  • 2 / 4 low-noise mic preamps with XLR combo jacks.
  • Hardware compressor/limiter (Rubix 24 & Rubix 44).
  • Hi-Z input for guitar and other high impedance sources.
  • MIDI In/Out ports.
  • Extensively shielded, low-noise design.
  • Sturdy and compact metal construction.
  • Easy-to-read indicators show vital information.
  • Low latency, class compliant drivers.
  • Ground lifts for quiet operation in a variety of venues.
  • Includes Ableton Live Lite.

Info on pricing & availability yet to be confirmed.

Roland Hardware @ Scan

Steinberg Release Cubase 9

So the rumours were true…. Steinberg bring us the latest edition of their flagship production suite – Cubase 9. Following the same trend as previous revisions it comes in 3 forms – Pro, Artist and Elements.

Steinberg conducted a survey earlier on in the year to see what new features we’d like to see in the next version. It seems the people spoke and Steinberg listened as many of the features we asked for have been implemented. Here’s a quick glance at some of those key features:

The Lower Zone

Intended to enhance workflow, the Lower Zone incorporates the mix window into the main project window and it can be dynamically resized. The MIDI and audio editors are also accessible from here. This will prove to be extremely beneficial for anyone working on a single screen!

Mix Console History

This will surely be massively useful! Gives you undo/redo functions and allows you to recall different stages of a mix.

Multiple Marker Tracks

The ability to structure your projects neatly and efficiently with up to 10 marker tracks.

Audio-Ins

You now have the option of being able to side-chain into VST3 Instruments that support it.

Sample Track

A basic sampler was on this list of requests. Well now we’ve got one! It allows you to drag audio straight out of a project and play it back chromatically on your MIDI keyboard. It also lets you transfer samples into other Steinberg instruments.

8-Band Frequency EQ

Offers M/S and Linear Phase support, Auto Listen, Spectrum Display and a musical keyboard to assist in finding the right tone. It also allows you to completely customize the look of the EQ spectrum.

Other features include better plugin management, updated plugin interfaces, revamped Production Grooves as well as improved services for cloud collaboration.

Here’s a breakdown of the key features of each version:

Cubase Pro 9

  • Award-winning 32-bit floating-point Steinberg audio engine with up to 192 kHz, 5.1 surround, flexible routing and full automatic delay compensation
  • Unlimited audio, instrument and MIDI tracks and up to 256 physical inputs and outputs
  • MixConsole for pro mixing desk experience and integrated high-end channel strip, VCA faders, Loudness Meter, Wave Meters
  • Complete suite of over 90 high-end audio and MIDI VST effect processors, including Quadrafuzz v2, VST Amp Rack and VST Bass Amp guitar and bass tone suites, REVerence convolution reverb, Frequency four-band EQ and many more
  • VariAudio for MIDI-style note editing of monophonic audio tracks, automatic voicing harmonization and auto-tuning effects
  • Intelligent compositional tools like Chord Track, Chord Pads and the advanced Chord Assistant for creative and playful composing of harmonic progressions and advanced voicings
  • Comprehensive set of 8 outstanding instruments with over 3,400 sounds, including HALion Sonic SE 2, Groove Agent SE 4, Padshop, Retrologue 2 and LoopMash 2
  • Full VST Expression 2 with Note Expression, VST Dynamics and Expression Maps for fully integrated workflows with musical articulations, dynamics and controller values
  • Perfect integration of external hardware effect devices and instruments, such as synthesizers or signal processors, into the sequencer signal flow.
  • VST Connect SE and VST Transit cloud collaboration services

Cubase Artist 9

  • Award-winning 32-bit floating-point Steinberg audio engine with up to 192 kHz, flexible routing and full automatic delay compensation
  • Simultaneous playback of 64 audio tracks, 128 MIDI tracks and up to 32 physical inputs and outputs
  • MixConsole for pro mixing desk experience and integrated high-end channel strip with dynamics and EQ
  • Comprehensive set of 8 outstanding instruments with over 3,000 sounds, including HALion Sonic SE 2, Groove Agent SE 4, Padshop, Retrologue 2 and LoopMash 2
  • Suite of over 70 high-end audio and MIDI VST effect processors, including Pitch Correct for vocal editing, VST Amp Rack and VST Bass Amp guitar and bass tone suites, Quadrafuzz v2 and many more!
  • Intelligent compositional tools like Chord Track and Chord Pads for creative and playful composing of harmonic progressions and advanced voicings
  • Thousands of MIDI construction kits, audio loops and samples as building blocks to create sketches, play-alongs or even full songs with just a few clicks
  • Lightning-fast multi-take comping with the dedicated lane tracks and the click-and-drag comp tool for conjuring the perfect recording
  • Track Versions for playlists-like editing and render-in-place for easily bouncing MIDI and audio parts
  • Streamlined music notation and score editing feature set

Cubase Elements 9

  • Award-winning 32-bit floating-point Steinberg audio engine, flexible routing and full automatic delay compensation
  • Simultaneous playback of 48 audio tracks, 64 MIDI tracks and up to 24 physical inputs and outputs
  • MixConsole for pro mixing desk experience and integrated high-end channel strip with dynamics and EQ
  • Three outstanding virtual instruments comprising the HALion Sonic SE workstation, Groove Agent SE drum machine and Prologue synthesizer
  • Over 40 audio effect processors, including high-end VST Dynamics, Pitch Correct for vocal intonation correction and the VST Amp Rack guitar tone suite
  • Powerful sample editor covering all common editing tasks and providing creative freedom while editing audio
  • Chord Track and Chord Pads for playfully and creatively composing with chords
  • Comprehensive content library with thousands of instrument sounds, MIDI construction loops and audio samples
  • Basic score editing features for music notation and composition
  • Full upward compatibility with Cubase Pro and Cubase Artist for

There’s certainly some interesting features in there and I expect many users will justify the upgrade based on what we’ve seen. For a more in-depth look at what Cubase 9 offers, head on over to the Cubase YouTube channel. There’s plenty of videos on there demonstrating all these new features.

Steinberg Cubase @ Scan

Keith McMillen Instruments Launches K-Board Pro 4 Expressive MPE Keyboard Kickstarter Campaign

Keith McMillen Instruments are already known for their innovative engineering when it comes to MIDI controllers. Well they now aim to take the standard keyboard controller to the next level with the K-Board Pro 4. Utilizing their Smart Sensor Fabric technology, the keyboard itself has the look of a conventional keyboard but has no moving parts and the keys are made of silicone. Each key press is capable of sending attack velocity, release velocity, continuous pressure, horizontal position, and vertical position data. This allows greater control of the individual notes as you play. It also features 4 additional controller strips along the top of the keyboard.

kmi-k-board-4

There are other MPE controllers out there with similar functionality but they’re not cheap. Examples include the ROLI seaboard, LinnStrument and Eigenlabs’ Eigenharp. The K-Board Pro 4 is expected to retail for around $495 making it somewhat affordable in comparison.

Check out the teaser trailer.

See the Kickstarter site for more details.

The K-Board Pro Homepage

Keith McMillen Hardware @ Scan