Cashback Offer on Roli Seaboard Rise 25 and 49

Roli have a nice little offer available for anybody wishing to jump into world of the funky 5D-touch Seaboard Rise controllers.

Unfortunately Roli hadn’t sorted out their website at the start of the promo so I held back from making a song and dance about it but that situation has now changed and the site is alive and kicking. Any purchases of the Seaboard Rise 25 and 49 between October 23rd and December 24th are eligible for  £75 and £150 cashback respectively from Roli. That’s not bad at all to be fair!

For anyone not aware of these controllers they are pretty unique all things considered. the keyboard is made of a pressure-sensitive squishy grey, sensor embedded material that allows you to shape sound through touch – strike the keywaves, press into them, glide sideways along them and slide up and down the keywaves to venture into new sonic territory.

Of course this is no good without an MPE (Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression) compatible synth so Roli have kindly included Equator, their custom-built software synthesizer and sound engine. A perfect companion for these otherwordly keybeds!

After purchase, simply visit https://rolicashback.com to redeem the offer.

You can find the Roli Seaboards here!

Novation Launchpad Arcade is Ready To Take Off

I’m pretty sure we’ve all seen videos of somebody going absolutely savage on a grid based controller – finger drumming, launching clips, crazy light shows and all sorts of other audiovisual trickery. I also imagine a lot of people watch on in awe wishing they had just a sliver of the technical prowess required to pull off such feats.

Well, good news everyone (insert Prof. Farnsworth meme here). Novation have devised an interactive website designed to help you hone your skills to become a Launchpad legend and think of ways to implement the Launchpad into your musical and visual creations. Now it’s not just a website where you have to use your mouse or keyboard (although keyboard control is supported), it’s designed to connect to a real Launchpad unit which takes the interaction to a whole new level!

The content will be released in a sequence of steps, the 1st is Launchpad Arcade which gives you access to a load of one-shots and samples from Harry Coade – Found Sound. The next steps will cover everything from rhythm practice, choosing a Launchpad, creating lightshows, building an online presence and getting to know your Launchpad inside out.

Head over to the new site at https://uk.novationmusic.com/launch-6-steps and check out Step 1.

The Dark Art of Pedal Chaining:

So, you’ve accumulated a bunch of pedals and now’s the time to set them all up and unleash Sonic mayhem… but in what order do they go?

Well, the truth is that there are no hard and fast rules, and for everyone that tells you to run things a certain way, there’ll be another person taking a perverse pleasure in doing it exactly opposite, and getting some creative results.

However, there is some common wisdom available, and we can take a look at this, until such time as you feel you want to ignore it.

What comes first?

As a general rule, anything that can be described as ‘Dynamic’ or in some way affecting the clean signal, should be 1st in the line. So for example a Volume/Wah Wah pedal or a Pitch Shifter has a very dramatic effect on the sound of the guitar, and while a compressor or a filter has a more subtle effect on the sound, they still alter the original signal dynamically.

2nd in line come the Gain monsters, Overdrive, Fuzz, Distortion. These are all representative of the sound coming from the amp, and therefore come before any traditional effects. (You may want to think

3rd up is Modulation.  Chorus, Phasers, Flangers and then finally in

4Th Place, Finally come the time based units. Everything from Analogue and Digital delays through to Reverb pedals. Anything that creates a ‘wash’ is best living at the end of your chain.

Tuners can usually be connected to a dedicated tuner output on a volume pedal, as you really want it out of the way, yet always available.

Now I said earlier there are no hard and fast rules, and this is true. Depending on how you play , or what sound you want to achieve, it’s perfectly acceptable to shift things around.

Let’s look at some options.

Volume pedals at the start of your chain, work very well as a larger version of your guitars volume pot, i.e. when the pedal is back the volume is dropped to nothing, so as you bring the pedal forward the volume increases. This is great for Violin type swell effects, but if it precedes an overdrive type pedal, then it reduces the amount of Gain going to the pedal, hence altering the sound.    If, for example you wanted to keep the sound at the required level of dirt and just use the volume pedal to mix your overall volume to the rest of the band, you need to run the Volume pedal after the Overdrive/Distortion section of your board. This means you won’t affect the input to your gain pedals, but you will be able to volume swell into delays or reverbs.

Finally you could have it as the very last pedal in the chain, and this would work as an overall Master volume control, taking control back from the sound man !

A similar set of controversies can be had with other pedals that follow certain ‘rules’.

Delay before distortion?  For example, no one in their right mind would put a delay, BEFORE the distortion surely?

However, with a little bit of judicious tweaking, you can emulate the sound of those early Eddie Van Halen records, where the ambient guitars were all created using this combination.

Reverb before Delay? Not for me, but if you’re looking for some 60’s guitar vibes, try this out.

Reverb before Distortion? Aaaggh! But actually a decent room reverb added to a smattering of overdrive and you’ll be taken back in time to the ‘50’s and those early rock recordings.

Wah after Fuzz/Distortion? Keeps the travel of your Wah sound intact and makes it a much more distinct ‘Wah’ sound.

Compressor as a Limiter at the end of your chain?  This sounds suicidal, and indeed it is possible to really mess up your sound this way, but, if you keep the compression down, it can act as a limiter/noise gate, and keep any of your wilder pedals in check. Just don’t add too much compression or, you’ll suck the life out of signal path.

Finally a note about buffers:

The signal to your amp can have its impedance changed by all the pedal circuits and cords the signal has to pass through or indeed how long your guitar lead is. As the impedance changes, you lose high end clarity, the bass gets flappy and the mids become foggy and undefined, as well as your overall level getting lower. The more pedals you add, the more this can happen. This is where you require a buffer.

Without going ultra technical, a buffer is an active circuit that preserves the strength and therefore the tone of your guitar signal. Some pedals have a buffer built-in, but you can buy dedicated standalone buffer pedals.

Some pedals feature ‘true bypass’, which means that your signal ‘bypasses’ the pedal circuit entirely when the pedal is switched off, effectively sending the signal from Input straight to Output. However, it has to be said that even if you use true bypass pedals, if you also use low quality, long length cables, you’re just as likely to suffer some form of loss of tone, and a buffer is what you will need.

As a general rule, if you, like me have a large pedal board, you might want to look at putting a buffer at the front AND the back end of your chain.

After all, no-one wants their tone sucked away….

 

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

 

 

Steinberg Cubase 9.5 released

Today Steinberg announced the annual Cubase update, this time its version 9.5.

Following the Tick-Tock pattern of releases for the past few years, They’ve integrated a raft of new features that are all very welcome, especially to a 25 year veteran such as myself. 

The highlights for me are as below. 

64 Bit Mix Engine
The internal mix-engine has been upgraded to 64 bit, this is a a fantastic upgrade for headroom and accuracy, but dont take it as a green light to drive your channels hard, as many plugins (about 50% on my last non-scientific test) are still dependent on getting hit with an input level below 0dB. 

More Inserts
The fixed number of inserts has always been a little bane of my production life, previously causing you to have to bus out to a subgroup if you run out, but 9.5 doubles the amount of available slots and also lets you pick the division between pre and post fader effects.  

Lets Get Curvy
Finally, we get true curves on the automation, perfect for smoothing out those highly resonant sweeps on VSTi’s. 

Metronome
Cubase Pro users can now customise their metronome clicks, load their own sounds and save multiple different patterns to use. 

Right Zone Additions
The previous monitoring zone on the right hand side now has a media browser together with your metering and cue mix controls. 

Flux
Halion Sonic SE gets its own wavetable synth library in the form of Flux, a new sound source is always a welcome addition to spark some inspiration in the production process and it’s loaded with over 70 different waveforms.

Adapt to Zoom
This features decreases the snap resolution when zoomed out for more effective editing. 

Console 1
Softube Console 1 owners can now select tracks and control volume pan and sends from the hardware interface

ReSkinned FX
Steinberg’s own plugins are somewhat overlooked, but three have had a nice GUI update. 

Cubase 9.5 @ Steinberg

Audeze Reveal : Free mix room simulation software

To co-incide with the launch of the new studio flagship LCD-MX headphones, owners of Audeze headphones now have “Reveal”, a free plugin that helps you emulate a world class mix room.

This provides the listener with an experience similar to what you would hear from high quality studio reference monitors in an acoustically treated room.
The presets are not meant to fix any issues, but are designed to make mixing on headphones more natural compared to doing it on speakers. 

Some users will prefer their headphones without any DSP presets, while others will prefer the “room sound” calibration provided by these Reveal plugin presets.

The Plugin is available in VST, AU, AAX formats and should be inserted as the last plugin on either last on your monitor or master bus, just don’t forget to turn it off when you bounce the project down! 

Just select your Audeze headphone and select how much of the emulated tone to mix in. 

Here at Scan, we’re specifically loving this with the iSINE’s & LCD-i4 (suggest 50-60% mix), The SINE and closed back EL-8 headphones (100% mix).
The LCD-X and LCD-MX4 already sounds remarkably similar to an amazing mix room, so the difference isn’t as obvious, but it’s great to have a reference.

Download Now :  https://www.audeze.com/audeze-reveal-plugin#

Audeze at Scan : https://www.scan.co.uk/shop-by-brand/audeze

Budget Signature Model Guitars. Should They Really Be Called Budget?

Budget Signature Model Guitars

To me the term budget suggests a compromise in quality and design, however the SE range from PRS is as far removed from “budget” as the term would suggest.

We are all used to seeing our favourite guitar players with their signature model guitars. Custom tailored to their playing style and tonal requirements and in some cases decidedly dodgy colour schemes………… Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Steve Lukather, Zakk Wylde, Mark Tremonti, the list goes on and on.

Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to have played many of these signature models and their less expensive counterparts. One thing I can say for sure is that while there is still and always will be a difference (let’s be honest,  a £4000 PRS and one costing £800 will always differ) between the “real thing” and the less expensive accessible to all models;  the difference is certainly becoming less apparent.

Here are a few prime examples of the signature instruments which I speak of………………….

The above PRS SE Tremonti Signature guitars are not only fantastic instruments in their own right, they are also Limited Edition Models, making them an attractive purchase and that little bit more exclusive.

The advantage to you, the customer, is that these signature models are no longer just an ego boost of musicians using their name on an inferior product that they themselves would not play. These guitars are more than capable of getting their “signature” guitar player from the beginning to the end of their gig. Body thickness is not compromised. The neck shape is what they spec and use themselves. Hardware and electronics, although not always what the more expensive model would have fitted, are more than capable of creating the tone they chase and lasting many years of hard gigging.

Below is an image of a Limited Edition PRS SE Bernie Marsden guitar which is exactly what the legendary musician uses during his live performances. No changes to the electrics, no fancy, outrageously expensive quilt top, just the instrument you can buy for under £1000. What more of a validation do you need for purchasing a PRS SE Signature Model………….a so called “BUDGET” signature guitar!

 

 

 

Intel i9 7940X & 7960X Dawbench Testing.

Today we have a few more models from the Intel i9 range on the desk in the shape of the 14 core 7940X and the 7960X. I was hopeful that the 18 core would be joining them as well this time around, but currently, another team here have their hands on it so it may prove to be a few weeks more until I get a chance to sit down and test that one.

Now I’m not too disappointed about this as for me and possibly the more regular readers of my musings, the 16 core we have on the desk today already is threatening to be the upper ceiling for effective audio use.

The reason for this is that I’ve yet to knowingly come across a sequencer that can address more than 32 threads effectively for audio handling under ASIO. These chips offer 28 and 32 threads respectively as they are hyper-threaded, so unless something has changed at a software level that I’ve missed (and please contact me if so), then I suspect at this time the 16 core chip may well be well placed to max the current generation of sequencers.

Of course, when I get a moment and access to the larger chip, I’ll give it a proper look over to examine this in more depth, but for the time being on with the show!

Both chips this time around are advising a 165W TDP figure, which is up from the 140W TDP quoted back on the 7920X we looked at a month or two back. The TDP figure itself is supposed to be an estimate of the power usage under regular workloads, rather than peak performance under load. This helps to explain how a 14 core and 16 core chip can both share the same TDP rating, as the 14 core has a higher base clock than the 16 core to compensate. So in this instance, it appears that they have to some degree picked the TDP and worked backward to establish the highest performing, clocks at that given power profile point.

Once the system itself starts to push the turbo, or when you start to overclock the chip the power draw will start to rise quite rapidly. In this instance, I’m working with my normal air cooler of choice for this sort of system in the shape of the BeQuiet Dark Rock Pro 3 which is rated at 250W TDP.  Water-loop coolers or air coolers with more aggressive fan profiles will be able to take this further, but as is always a concern for studio users we have to consider the balancing of noise and performance too.

Much like the 7920X, we looked at previously, the chips are both rated to a 4.2GHz max two core turbo, with staggered clocks running slower on the other cores. I took a shot at running all cores at 4.2GHz but like the 7920X before it we could only hit that on a couple of cores before heat throttling would pull them back again. 

Just like the 7920X again however if we pull both of these chips back by 100MHz per core (in this instance both to 4.1GHz) they prove to be stable over hours of stress testing and certainly within the temp limits we like to see here, so with that in mind we’re going to test at this point as it’s certainly achievable as an everyday setting.

As always first up is the CPUid chip info page and benchmarks along with the Geekbench results.

Intel i9 7940X @ 4.1GHz

7940x CPUid 7940x CPUid Benchmark

Geekbench 7940x

Intel i9 7960X @ 4.1GHz

 

7960x CPUid7960x CPUid Benchmark

 

Geekbench 4 7960X

Both chips are clocked to the same level and the per-core score here reflects that. The multi-core score, of course, offers a leap from one chip to the other as you’d expect from throwing a few more cores into the equation.

Geekbench Comparison Chart
Click To Expand

The DAWBench classic and newer DSP test with Kontakt follow this and once again as there isn’t a whole lot I can add to this. 

DAWBench Classic
Click To Expand

 

7960x DB6
Click To Expand

The added cores give us improvements across both of these chips as we’ve already seen in the more general purpose tests. The 7960X does appear to offer a slightly better performance curve at the higher buffer rates, which I suspect could be attributed to the increase in the cache but otherwise, it all scales pretty much as we’d expect. 

Given the 7940X maintains the roughly £100 per extra core figure (when compared to the 7920X) at current pricing that Intel was aiming for at launch, it does seem to offer a similar sort of value proposition as the smaller i9’s just in this case more is more. The 7960X raises this to roughly £125 per core extra over the 7940X at current pricing, so a bit of cost creep there but certainly not as pricey as we’ve sometimes seen over the years on the higher end chips in the range.

The main concern initially was certainly regarding heat, but it looks like the continued refinement of the silicon since we saw the first i9 batches a few months ago has given them time to get ahead of this and ensure that the chips do well out of the box given adequate cooling.  

With the launch of the CoffeeLake’s in the midrange, some of the value of the lower end enthusiast chips appear to have quickly become questionable, but the i9 range above it continues to offer performance levels henceforth unseen by Intel. The’s a lot of performance here, although the price matches it accordingly and we often find ourselves at this time where more midrange level systems are good enough for the majority of users.

However, for the power user with more exhaustive requirements who find that they can still manage to leverage every last drop of power from any system they get their hands on,  I’m sure there will plenty here to peak your interest.

Previous CPU Benchmarking Coverage
3XS Systems @ Scan

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!

Universal Audio Return With More Fantastic Q4 Promotions (Part 2) – Apollo Twin Rack + Free Satellite

Following on from the last post regarding Universal Audio’s epic Q4 promotions we have an offer that is sure to tempt plenty of people into the UAD fold.

If you buy any Apollo rackmount interface you get yourself a free UAD Satellite QUAD or OCTO. Yes, you read that right – buy any Apollo rack unit and turbo charge your DSP processing power with a free Satellite. How good is that?! All you have to do is register the product and fill out the prompted shipping information, Universal Audio will deal with the rest and ship your Satellite in 6-8 weeks.

Depending which unit you buy will determine which freebie you get:

Apollo 16 or 8P – UAD-2 Satellite Thunderbolt OCTO worth £1081

Apollo 8 DUO or QUAD – UAD-2 Satellite Thunderbolt QUAD worth £756

Apollo Firewire – UAD-2 Satellite Firewire QUAD worth £756

We think this really is an amazing promotion offer and if you’re interested you can find all our Apollo rackmount’s here.