Sometimes, what you need is just a sound. And the best thing for your creativity is to get to that sound quickly – not to start thinking about which plug-in you’re meant to use.

With that in mind, you can get AIR’s terrific XPand!2 almost for free. (Pricing around a dollar, depending on region.)

First made for Pro Tools, but now available for any Mac or Windows host, XPand!2 kind of does everything. I remember that first joy in the early 90s of dialing through lots of sounds – wow, I can have brass, or strings, or synths, or some “ethnic” thing as they’re calling it that I may or may not recognize, or other oddities or whatever. Now, this category, called derivatively “ROMpler” for providing simple playback, actually can remain useful. Maybe you just need one of those sounds, or maybe you want a simple sound like that to route through effects and turn into something else.

But that said, XPand!2 is a lot more than a ROMpler.

You can set up sophisticated performance features (zones, arpeggiators), modulation, and effects. You can combine voices. There are “Smart Knobs” and other useful features for pulling that together. It’s kind of like getting a workstation keyboard for a dollar. There are powerful features, and dozens of effects.

It’s also got other sound engines in there – FM synthesis and virtual analog and tonewheel.

It’s all pretty ridiculous to get this for $0.97. There’s a full gigabyte of sounds.

In other words, I can’t think of much else out there that’s in the “free or nearly free” zone that does what this does. is selling instant downloads:
Air Music Technology XPand!2 Workstation

It’s a Cyber Monday sale, through today the 29th only.

  • fishphacurr

    You know you have enough sounds already when a plugin romper with 1gig of sounds is advertised for $1 and you look at it and go, ehhhhh. But yeah, if you are just starting out, that’s a good deal.

  • Jon Grönvall

    This requires user to compromise the system with iLok. Please don’t spread malware.

    • Oh come on… want to verify that claim about iLok?

      • Jon Grönvall

        I just tried installing Xpand2, and yes, it does try to install iLok.

        • Tom D

          You can skip the iLok step, just don’t tick the box

          • Jon Grönvall

            No such option on Windows unfortunately, only where to install the plugin. Thankfully Windows does ask before installing iLok, but denying it results in failed installation of Xpand2.

        • DPrty

          iLok is not required for use

          Bottom of page

        • Armando

          No iLok required here.

        • Right — the deal is, iLok / PACE these days is pretty widely used authentication.

          I understand why people used to hate it – I was one of those people. It caused major OS compatibility issues, etc., even in software-only mode.

          But the reason developers and users aren’t complaining is essentially that the current generation of the software is fine.

          Plug-in makers are small shops. They outsource something like authentication because they want to focus on the music software part and not spend their days troubleshooting authentication.

          • Michael M

            I used to be one of those people, I’d put up with iLok but swear under my breath. Then a month ago I replaced my crashing Mac with a brand new one and had to re-install and re-license everything. The five or six VSTS that were on iLok were easy to unlicense from one mac and license on the other. After dealing with 30 different proprietary licensing schemes on other software it was a breath of fresh air!

          • Elekb

            They require iLok even though a serial is needed for authentication, as usual.

            A warning on your article about being required to install this dodgy piece of malware would have been nice, Peter.

            I just wasted a dollar. Thanks.

          • Jon Grönvall

            I think it has caused more issues on audio production machines historically than any other software, virus or malware. But I do confess I haven’t given it a fair chance in years. I’m just going to take your word and go ahead with the install, if I don’t run into any problems I’ll just have to correct my opinion.

            Thanks for the heads-up on Xpand in any case!

    • terrygrant

      iLok and the companion app are perfectly safe and run (more or less) flawlessly now. I shudder to think of the hoops I’d have to jump through to individually authorize the mountain of stuff I have on there.

      Hardly ‘malware’.

      • Jon Grönvall

        Yeah, I can imagine it could help with that. But almost all of my plugins are from three developers, so re-authorizing them isn’t any kind of issue. And tbh it’s not something people do very often, I updated my machine 5 years ago last time- the 10-15 minutes spent on authorizing just can’t be considered as an argument in my case.

  • Chrisleb

    You don’t need an ilok KEY, but I’m quite sure you need the ilok software as they mention PACE. Not ideal but at this price I ordered 2 and I’ll install one on my son’s laptop 🙂

    • cactus donkey

      Yep, this is correct. You don’t need an ilok, but the software is installed. It can be told to store your license on the local computer, though.

  • intrawl

    I don’t have the option to uncheck iLok and all of the PACE stuff when installing (yes, I chose Custom Install). So as far as I can tell, their claim that “iLok is not required for use” is false. I think I’ll pass on installing since I don’t yet have iLok or PACE on my computer.

    • I’m using the PACE authentication stuff nowadays really with no issue. There are a lot of plug-ins that require it. Unlike the Bad Old Days, lately PACE have been keeping up with OS releases — meaning you may be better off with PACE authentication that weird homebrew stuff plug-in makers came up with on their own.

      I have no vested interest in PACE, just telling you my experience and what I’ve heard from other people.

      And until I hear otherwise….

  • wetterberg

    To be honest, I’m always searching for “that one” bread and butter synth/rompler that I can just plop in anywhere. This might be it, if you’re willing to forego some of the “ooh my it’s omnisphere… again!” that you normally get.

  • Liam Donaldson

    Just checked the install again and there is no option to ignore the iLock software

  • Stéphane Picher

    iLok… begins with the same letters al illuminati. And don’t tell me it’s a coincidence.

  • Bart Decrem

    crashes my Ableton (mac) on startup. you guys?