There are updates, and then there are updates. There are the updates that give you a bunch of new functionality – marketing tends to love these. And then there are the ones that just make a big slog through feature requests. Maschine “2.4.5” is not an exciting sounding update. But wow, does it ever add a long list of improvements users wanted.
Native Instruments keeps adding to Reaktor Blocks, the patch-and-play toolkit they’ve built atop Reaktor. And… it’s turning into kind of an awesome product in its own right. Reaktor Blocks 1.2 adds a bunch of the sort of stuff I think you or I would add to it were we in charge of the product. It’s suddenly got drums. It’s got a new sequencer that you can power with Maschine. It’s connecting via MIDI and CV to outboard gear and analog modular. In short, it’s something you actually want to play with.
It’s the end of an era – but maybe not such a golden era. Once upon a time, ACID and Sound Forge were each industry-leading software tools, originally developed by Sonic Foundry. Now, languishing alongside their stablemate, video editor Vegas, they’re seeing ownership pass from Sony (via its creative software division) to German software house and holding company MAGIX.
I always figure the measure of a good plug-in is, you want to tell everyone about it, but you don’t want to tell everyone about it, because then they’ll know about it. iZotope’s Möbius is in that category for me – it’s essentially moving filter effect. And it’s delicious, delicious candy.
You’ve probably used Shazam. If you’re a dance music fan, you’ve probably even both used Shazam to get a track ID at a club and cursed someone else for using Shazam to get a track ID at a club. What surprisingly few people know, though, is that Shazam has desktop clients as well as the phone apps. And unlike the phone apps, these apps will lurk in the background listening to everything on your computer’s mic, and pops up a notification when it “hears” something it recognizes. This is presumably useful at those times you’ve sat at a coffee shop …
There have been vocal effects before – your vocoder, your pitch shifter, what have you. But the folks at iZotope set a more ambitious goal: be all the classic vocal effects. Put them a single plug-in full of modules. Then combine them in a way that makes them accessible, whether you’re preset surfing or dialing in your own sound. Encourage exploration without even requiring some advance knowledge. The result of that is called VocalSynth, and it’s out today. And wow, is this thing big – big enough that I imagine I might spend the rest of the year playing with …
It’s been a few years since the original development and management team behind Sibelius found themselves unemployed at the company they started, following a restructuring by owner Avid. Since then, Sibelius has continued to progress, but in a way that’s best described as incremental. It’s now a subscription product with an emphasis on the cloud, like other Avid tools, and updates have focused on features like pen support and small notation details. If you’re happy with Sibelius, that’s not a bad thing: it’s the recipient of a steady stream of updates. But what if there were to be something new …
In the latest chapter of “people on the Internet doing cool things for electronic music,” here’s a creation by Polarity. It lets you rapidly trigger effects parameters via MIDI. And if you’re a Bitwig Studio enthusiast, it’s available for free.
Movement is here – and it’s a little scary. The folks at Output have some weird way of dialing directly into the zeitgeist of what we want from production these days, and delivering it in an easy form. They did that with reversed samples (REV), with vocals (EXHALE), and now they’re doing it in an atypically musical multi-effect with loads of rhythmic and side-chaining features. This isn’t just another delay or something like that. It’s an entire effects toolbox built around rhythm and modulation, in a way that’s unusually accessible.
The art of modeling at a handful of the best software shops continues to progress. And so it is that Universal Audio say they’ve simulated every tiny detail, “from speaker paper and heat dissipation, to filter caps and transformers,” of one of the world’s best-known amplifiers – the Fender Tweed. It’s the cranked sound of Neil Young; it’s the clear lead of Larry Carlton. It’s a lot of other things. It’s now on a computer, too.