xpand2

You can get this great do-everything instrument plug-in for $1

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 …

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FL's new look, as of version 12, won't burn your retinas.

FL Studio keeps rocking – now with mobile integration

FL Studio, the program once known as Fruity Loops, is one of those indestructible gems of music software. It’s the thing people may sheepishly admit to using – only to proceed to gush about their love for it. And it just keeps chugging along with updates. It’s a reason to love music software: while some creative tech turns into a monoculture (cough, Adobe), music remains obsessively eclectic. This update’s surprises? How about a US$49 add-on emulation of the 303? Oh, and, Willy Wonka style, that enters you to win an original 303 or a modded TT-303 hardware clone? Or what …

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araucann

Only a randomize button can save this synth with way too many knobs

araucann looks like what would happen if someone’s plug-in SDK … exploded on the floor. It’s a six-oscillator synth – okay, so far, so good – but then it also has 33 envelopes and 32 LFOs and things sort of get out of hand from there. This ocean of parameters is then encapsulated into a set of simple, musical controls that let you easily — ha, no, only joking. They made a knob for everything and called it a day. Each individual oscillator has its own bank of controls, and then even one of those banks is already slightly overwhelming. …

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nativeaccess

If you use NI stuff, get Native Access and Maschine updates

A public service announcement: if you use Native Instruments software, you should probably check out Native Access if you haven’t already. There’s a good chance it could make your life easier, and keep you up to date with software like the Maschine update that dropped last week. Here’s the deal: NI software has in the past been scattered across a set of manual support downloads and two tools, one called Service Center and one called Komplete Downloader. And odds are pretty good you’ve head a headache with one of those tools at one time or another. A new piece of …

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screenshot_594

Finally, a different EQ model – and it’s free from Soundtoys

Vanilla. I love vanilla. But I don’t want to eat vanilla ice cream all the time. EQs lately have been like vanilla ice cream – you get the same old model over and over and over again. You can get really amazingly accurate models in digital form, enough that you might reasonably skip hardware. But it’s too much of one thing. The folks at Soundtoys apparently felt the same. And they’re giving us something different. Now, I’m happy with my Oxford plug-ins and my Pulteqs and so on – don’t get me wrong. Really; I use them all the time …

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slow

Slow is a super long reverb delay from Tim Exile and it’s free

Well, if you’re on a tight deadline for delivering an ambient/experimental/IDM album, and you’re totally out of money (and even possibly ideas), good news. You’re saved. Tim Exile just released S L O W, for free. To those who don’t know him, Mr. Exile is a professional mad scientist specializing in Reaktor engineering, virtuoso laptop musicinator, electronica personality, and man about town. Tim’s exploits are widely known and buzzed about among nerds and sonic weirdos, but since they won’t reach everyone’s ears that way, he also has a mailing list. Signing up for said mailing list is your key to …

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The overview screen, for navigating - some overtones of both Kai's software from the 90s and the better stuff from Apple (Sculpture).

Substance is a new software approach to every kind of bass

There are those desserts that are subtle. And then there are the ones that are layered chocolate and peanut butter and cream that you drench in still more chocolate sauce, but in a way that holds together. You know – layering. Substance, a new soft synth from Output, is all about layering. It’s about making enormous bass things out of other already pretty-large bass things. And it represents a nice latest chapter in what the boutique software developer has been doing with sound design

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maclaunch

Here’s the story of how the Mac and Atari found their voice

There’s something magical about the moments in history when computers were able to speak (and sing) like a human. That’s certainly true of Bell’s famous “Daisy Bell” performance (the real-life moment echoed in 2001). But it’s also true of the Mac, which first spoke to uproarious applause.

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maschinejam - 1

Maschine Jam is new hardware built around live performance

These days, various combinations of faders and touch sensors and grids of pads and buttons and encoders and knobs appear with cyclic regularity. We’re past the point of inventing the automobile – we’re down to tuning particular cars for particular tasks. But what do you want to use if you’re really playing live? Maschine Jam is a combination of software and hardware that focuses on that scenario. We’ve met with the team that built it at Native Instruments and have our own unit in now to test, so here are some first impressions.

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serum

Rent-to-own Serum means Kanye doesn’t have to pirate it

Somewhere – tonight, even – some unknown producer is going to make some brilliant new track using software. (Seriously, this is the world we live in.) And when they do, odds are they might well turn to a popular synth like breakout-hit Serum. The problem is this: someone getting started in producing is probably unwilling or unable to shell out US$189 for a single software instrument. So that individual is likely to pirate the software.

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