All posts by Rick H

Tips & Tricks: Kontakt Optimization – The Purge Function

Keeping in line with my recent tips on how to optimize Kontakt, here’s a great way of conserving memory. This is something that could prove to be invaluable for composers in particular due to the nature of the instruments they’ll typically be hosting in their templates. Large multi-sampled orchestral libraries can potentially use large amounts of RAM. Keeping that memory footprint as small as possible is important for obvious reasons.

Utilizing the purge function can free up RAM by unloading any unused samples. Some libraries allow you to do this from within the library UI whereby you’re able to deselect certain articulations or disable certain mic positions. This can be seen in Spitfire Audio’s Albion One Library below.

Here’s the available functions available in the Purge menu:

  • Reset Markers – When a sample is played it marks it as being used by Kontakt. This function removes the markers but doesn’t purge anything so keeps the samples loaded.
  • Update Sample Pool – Purges all the unused samples
  • Purge All Samples – Unloads all samples
  • Reloads All Samples – Loads all samples contained within the instrument

There’s a few ways you can go about implementing the integrated purge function. You could start with all samples within an instrument loaded (like it loads up by default). Once you’ve successfully laid down your part you could then simply reset the markers, run through the part from start to finish, then update the sample pool. This will unload any unused samples.

Alternatively, you could start with all samples purged within an instrument. Then as you input your MIDI it’ll load the used samples in on the fly. It’s important to bear in mind if you decide to use this method and you’re using hard disk drives to host your samples, you may experience a few clicks/pops/missing notes on the first run through as the samples load from the disk. I’d certainly recommend using SSDs if you use this method.

Notice the yellow indicator below after purging the Armageddon Ensemble patch (form Heavyocity’s Damage library), then playing a few notes. Also note the amount of RAM used!

DFD (Direct From Disk) settings should also be considered here. When using DFD, only the first part of the sample is loaded into the RAM. The DFD buffer setting determines how much of the sample is pre-loaded into the memory. Lower settings load less of the sample into the memory so will decrease your memory footprint. As more of the sample is being loaded directly from the disk it goes without saying that SSDs will perform better than mechanical disks.

Working with a large template and having every sample in every patch loaded may not be the most efficient way of working. Using this method, you could theoretically build a template consisting of many patches, each with the samples unloaded whilst keeping your memory footprint relatively small. You’d just simply load in the samples as and when you need them.

Hopefully the methods I’ve discussed over recent weeks will help you get the most out of Kontakt. If you missed my previous articles, here they are for quick reference:

Tips & Tricks: The Kontakt Quick-Load Feature

Tips & Tricks: Kontakt Optimization – The Batch Re-save Feature

 

 

Tips & Tricks: Kontakt Optimization – The Batch Re-save Feature

Native Instruments Kontakt is one of my most commonly used tools in the studio so it’s massively important to ensure it’s performing as efficiently as possible. I’ve previously touched on how to enhance workflow with the Quick-Load feature but there’s another little tip to optimize instrument load-up times regardless of whether you’re using a beast of computer or whether you’re running a rig with limited resources. This is something that can be particularly beneficial for composers who will more than likely be using large templates where hosting multiple orchestral libraries is the norm.

Anyone who has ever used Kontakt will undoubtedly have encountered the “Missing Samples” error. It’s easily enough resolved by selecting the location where the samples for library in question reside. It’s a case of then saving the patch so that the file paths are preserved.

The Batch Re-save function goes one step further and allows you to correct the file paths for an entire library but it can also drastically improve load-up times especially for larger, more ram-intensive libraries and almost certainly if your sample libraries are hosted on mechanical drives. This process will effectively re-assign the samples to each patch within the library accordingly based on your own system’s storage configuration.

To do this simply select the “File” menu and hit “Batch re-save”. You’ll be presented with a warning message. As long as you then select the original folder where the library is located (typically one level above the “Samples” folder) this is nothing to worry about. The reason for this warning being if any 2 instruments utilize the same naming structure for their samples, this process could potentially assign the wrong sample to the wrong instrument.

Then just sit back and watch as all the file paths are checked are re-assigned. Depending on the size of the library, this can sometimes take a while but it’s well worth it in the long run.

Batch re-saving is now the first thing I do whenever I install a new library. From personal experience I can honestly say this has greatly improved my instrument load-up times. Give it a try… See if it makes a difference!

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