A bare-bones UI belies a powerful engine - and a tool that could finally jump-start sound designers embracing an open format. Proprietary lock-in, no more.

Software Instruments, Freed From Sampler Formats: SFZ, Free Sounds, Free Sample Player

“Free As In Free Me From Proprietary Formats.” If you’re ready to explore sounds – as a novice sampler user or as an advanced sound developer – SFZ brings tidings of great joy. When they move from defining mere sounds or samples to describing whole instruments, sound designers need file formats. The problem has been that those formats tend to be particular to one sampler or another – just Kontakt, or just Logic’s EXS24, or just Gigastudio. Yes, there are converters, but because these samplers have different capabilities, converters cause problems. Being able to create instruments for these samplers is …

READ MORE →
podolski

Podolski is a Free, Full-Featured Virtual Analog Synth Plug-in from Urs Heckmann [Mac, PC]

Any instrument from software maestro Urs Heckmann seems worth a mention. This one, doubly so: it’s free. Podolski isn’t new; it has made appearances through the years in the excellent German-language magazine KEYBOARDS (no relation to the US Keyboard). But now, it’s available for everyone, with some nice updates and modernization and versions for just about any Mac or Windows host (or Linux, via WINE). Now, even if we’re talking only free plug-ins, there are a lot of virtual analog synths out there. But this one is special: it’s got the great sound of FilterscapeVA, and waveform morphing and short …

READ MORE →
hadron

Grains as Instrument: Free and Open Source Hadron Synth, Now VST, AU Plug-in [Videos]

Synthesizers can sometimes seem stuck in a groove, an endless, repeating parade of identical virtual analog synths. If you want something different, the Hadron Particle Synthesizer could fit the bill. It’s a synth. It’s a sampler. It’s an effect. It’s a synth that can morph from synth to sampler to effect. Based on granular synthesis, sound is transformed into new sonorities, sometimes liquid, sometimes stuttering, layered here for even more complex sounds. Earlier versions ran in the sophisticated, evergreen sound-coding tool Csound, and in Max for Live. But if you felt left out, a new version now works as a …

READ MORE →
Switches and things you may or may not recognize... but, you know, don't worry, not only are there hundreds of presets, but randomly switching presets is a lot of fun.

Sonic Charge Permut8: All Your Lo-Fi Digital Mangling Effects in One Place

Permut8 is the kind of thing that inspires the dreams of people who love digitally-manipulated sound. From legendary Swedish developer Magnus Lindström (Malström in Reason, MicroTonic), it’s a digital delay gone very, very mad. Think delays, flangers, bit crushing, beat repeating, and “circuit-bent” digital insanity. The core of the idea is a 12-bit digital delay with variable sample rate, all controlled by a programmable processor. That lets you do things you … shouldn’t. Various digital operators let you mangle and manipulate sounds, for effects that can be sonorous and beautiful or clangy or hideously-distorted, subtle or extreme, or any combination. …

READ MORE →
Z3TA+ 2 is now available on Mac - and stacks up nicely against other modern synths, especially at US$99.  Go invent a replacement for dubstep (brostep?) with it, if you like.

Z3TA+ 2: With Mac Release, QuNeo Live Control, a Classic Soft Synth Gets New Life

Even in 2012, one of the great wonders of computers is, they sure make some damned awesome synthesizers. Z3TA+ 2, around for about a decade, is one of the soft synths you might fairly call a “classic.” (Not just in a press release, either – I’ll defend that moniker.) You’ve probably heard it used in productions. But unlike a sought-after piece of hardware, you can make it your own for a hundred bucks. But what makes Z3TA+ 2 “news”? How about the combination, seen recently on Synthtopia, with the QuNeo controller? Here, all of those timbral parameters become touchable, aided …

READ MORE →
TDZ_1

Rock Zebra2 Like Hans Zimmer: Dark Zebra Pairs Soft Instrument, Dark Knight Sounds [Video, Screens]

A shadow was unquestionably cast across the film by tragic events last week in Colorado. But while it became an unexpected stage for terrible events, The Dark Knight Rises itself is also a cultural object from artists we care about, and as musicians and sound designers, we value every chance to express ourselves. Composer Hans Zimmer and synth sound designer Howard Scarr are today releasing some of their work in a unique piece of software. It’s simultaneously a work of engineering – one of the most sophisticated software instruments available, Zebra2, and sound designs for that tool – and a …

READ MORE →
xcomp

Circuit-Modeled Dynamics, Plus One Free Plug-in, From FXpansion

Quietly, FXpansion have been making some well-loved, circuit-modeling instruments in the DCAM series. They may not be a household name, but just ask around artists – producers I know consistently bring up the DCAM name and just talk about it sounding damned good. Now, DCAM turns to processing and not just synths. DCAM Dynamics is a suite of plug-ins, each based on models of analog circuitry. There’s a good range of stuff here, covering the gamut from fine-tune adjustments to more creative applications, and I’m eager to try them. Best of all, the freebie here isn’t just a cut-down throwaway, …

READ MORE →
audulus_synth_t

Audulus is Simple, Elegant Mac Modular App for $15, Now With Plugin Support

Audulus Briefing from Taylor Holliday on Vimeo. In a physical studio – heck, even with some guitar stompboxes – it’s customary to get the rig you want by connecting different modules. So, it makes absolute sense that software might work this way, too. But many popular modular options, while insanely powerful, can overwhelm simple tasks. Audulus, by contrast, may be an accessible tool for users. It doesn’t do everything – I’d like to see more sequencers and such, please – but it does have a nice collection of useful utilities. The basic idea: hook up some modules graphically, and process …

READ MORE →

Cloud in a DAW: Free Plug-in Lets You Browse, Drag-and-Drop to and from SoundCloud

From iPads to desktop, apps have been adding SoundCloud integration. But this plug-in goes one better: you can navigate SoundCloud from an in-DAW browser, then drag and drop sounds to hosts like Ableton Live. (You can upload, too, also via drag-and-drop.) The plug-in is free for native hosts on Mac and Windows. One major criticism: without the ability to see SoundCloud’s licensing terms, you can’t be sure if the samples you’re grabbing are something someone wants you to use. Unless I’m missing something, it’d be great to have Creative Commons search support – indeed, it’d help people who do want …

READ MORE →
iZotope_Iris_allOpen

iZotope Iris: Paint with Spectra, Make a Real-Time Synth [Videos, Gallery]

Imagine working with sound design by painting with spectra, then applying those spectra to instruments you can play in real-time, and you’ve got the basic notion of iZotope Iris. The dream of combining graphics tools, a la Photoshop, with sonic ones has been in the minds of creative computer users for some time. Iris is a major landmark, though: instead of just being an editing tool, it turns sonic selection into something you can use in a synth. It lets you do your creative sound editing, but then play those sounds live, transforming the technique into an instrument. In fact, …

READ MORE →