CDM’s Adrian “Atomic Afro” Anders is the master of all music software free and cheap on the Windows platform. He’s found a free tool that could make you drop everything you’re doing, hit the download links, and starting installing regardless of your software setup. But I’ll let him do the convincing … -PK

Yes, folks, that’s an audio editor inside a VST plug-in — and that’s just the beginning of what this free tool does.

Hello CDMers, I’m stopping by this Thanksgiving to highlight a freebie which is making Windows VST users very thankful. Hell, I’m betting it will make a few drop to their knees all teary-eyed in praise (not really).

I’m talking, of course, about Highlife. The VSTi Pro-grade Sampler/Freezer/Host/Audio Editor/Multi-Sampling Tool/A Whole Lot of Other Cool Stuff, which thanks to the generosity of George @ DiscoDSP (and much to the chagrin of Arguru) is now freeware.

At the core of Highlife is a high quality/super-low aliasing sample engine designed by Arguru (original coder of all things DiscoDSP, and the creator of IL’s crazy low-priced multi-sampler Directwave) — an engine that according to an aliasing test puts your $500 mega-sampler’s to shame.

Supported import formats include wav, aiff, raw, sfz, and akai (S5000/S6000) — a first for freeware VSTi samplers. Highlife can also export to wav, proprietary fxp/fxb, and sfz. That’s right, Cakewalk Dimension fans, if you’ve been in search of that perfect sampling tool for your workstation of choice, Highlife might just be what you’ve been looking for. Also, since the latest version of Kontakt now reads sfz files, you NI fans can also take advantage of Highlife’s most special feature.

That special feature is Highlife’s freeze/VSTi multi-sampling, which for users of hosts that do not support native freeze is a (now free)
godsend. Basically, beyond Highlife’s killer multi-sample playback instrument, the program can also “freeze” a VSTi loaded into it by multi-sampling it and creating a lightweight patch as a result. It’s a totally unique way of freezing not to be found in your typical host sequencer. Since it freezes at the patch level and not as a static audio stream, users can tweak a MIDI performance while keeping the original VSTi turned off. Thus even if your host already supports instrument freeze, Highlife may still be a useful freeze tool. [Ed.: It took me a second to follow this, but now that I get it I wonder why it hasn’t been done before: Highlife basically samples the sound of your instruments, allowing you to freeze CPU-intensive patches and play them back like sampled patches. Brilliant! -PK]

Now here’s the kicker for everyone who is already married to their existing VSTi sampler: these “frozen” patches made with Highlife can be exported to sfz/wav files, which can then be reloaded by your sampler of choice. Want to layer a z3ta+ pad with an Absynth 4 atmospheric patch? Multi-sample both with Highlife, throw them into Kontakt, Dimension, or Rapture, and layer away with all of the advanced crossfading, effects, and envelopes that your sampler of choice offers. Love the sound of that ROMpler, but freaking hate the VSTi “engine” that it’s wrapped in? Throw it into Highlife, and get the raw samples to import into your sampler of choice.

But it doesn’t stop there. Highlife also has an integrated audio editor. Now, this isn’t some Wavelab or Sound Forge killer, but for quick edits and
minor processing of audio while inside a DAW sequencer environment, it’s hard to beat. In fact, I would say that ImageLine’s Edison is the only VST-based audio editor that can even beat Highlife’s integrated one.

At $99 Highlife was a bargain; now that it’s free, it’s essential.

Highlife @ DiscoDSP

Some will use Highlife as a great-sounding free multi-sampler, others will use it as a handy integrated audio editor. Some will use it to get around the technical limitations of their existing hardware, while others will use it to design their own custom sample patches, banks, and libraries. There are as many possibilities as there are users.

If you’ve got ANY Windows PC in your house, even a Mac Intel running Bootcamp, you have to download Highlife. Trust me, it may just change the way you make music.

Oh, and while you’re there check out the rest of the DiscoDSP line. They have some great sounding synths at reasonable prices.

Stay tuned … next week is Straight Out of No Cash 3: Complete Freeware Virtual Studio, Just Add Host.