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Tool Box

Sounds, samples, & software upgrades for the modern studio

Sounds, samples, software

Recycle! analyses an incoming loop and then 'slices' it into its component parts; the 'slices' are clearly shown on this screen grab

Loop scoop: Steinberg's 'Recycle!' breaks cover

"As in Japanese cooking, it's all in the slicing." So opens the brochure for Steinberg's latest piece of Macintosh wizardry for the sample-based musician. If you want to sell software, create a few bizarre analogies with Oriental cuisine. It never fails...

Keith Floyd influences aside, ReCycle! looks set to be one of this year's major software successes. It's innovative, it's clever, it's useful, and you'll want a copy as soon as you see it in action.

So what does it do? Well, as with most 'ground-breaking' pieces of musical kit, summarising the functions of ReCycle! in a single, well-turned phrase is far from easy. Basically, ReCycle! lets you do with sampled loops what you can normally do only with beats programmed from individual drum sounds. You can alter the tempo of a groove, replace sounds, normalise levels, change pitches, send individual sounds to individual outputs on your sampler... the list of features is truly incredible.

ReCycle! works by allowing you to load samples into the RAM of your Apple Mac over SCSI from a supported sampler (at the moment, Akai 1000/3000 series or SampleCell, but not Roland or Ensoniq formats). The software then analyses the loop, and breaks it into its constituent rhythmic components, known as 'slices' - hence those dodgy references to Japanese chefs in the brochure.

The user can alter the number of 'slices' produced, and their individual 'thicknesses', by changing the resolution of the analysis. ReCycle! then assigns each slice to a MIDI note number, creates a key map, and transmits the whole lot back to your sampler as sample files and program (playback) data.

The end result is that you can play each constituent sound in a loop individually on your keyboard. Alternatively, you can load the MIDI file created by ReCycle into a sequencer and play the entire loop (which is now composed of individual 'slices') back as part of an existing sequence.

The creative possibilities such a process provides for the musician, programmer, DJ, or producer are staggering. Not only does it remove the tedious process of making a sampled loop fit the groove of a song, it lets you remove and replace sounds as you desire, send sounds for individual processing or mixing, alter the feel or ambience of a loop, and even change the pitch of certain sounds to suit your song... and much more besides.

The user interface is ridiculously simple, the software supports 16-bit sound within your Mac via Sound Manager 3.0, and you can even save completed grooves to disk.

The program isn't yet ready for a full test in our Control Room section, but in terms of offering the sample reprocessing functions musicians actually need, it seems to have hit the target pretty damn near the bullseye.

More from: Harman Audio (Contact Details)

On the Re:Mix CD...

A piece of software as immediately usable and useful as Steinberg's Recycle! can't really be summed up in words, so listen instead to the exclusive demo on re:mix. Here's a rundown of the points illustrated by each loop:

  • An untreated loop, followed by the same loop with tempo lowered but consistent pitch, then with tempo raised and consistent pitch
  • A second loop whose pitch is being altered without changing its tempo
  • A pitched loop being tuned to fit the key of a song without altering its tempo
  • The extraction of individual sounds from a loop for individual audio processing
  • A sampled loop fading into a programmed loop created from the 'feel' of the sample

Steinberg ReCycle!

Sound-to-picture software for Mac

The new SoundEdit 16 from Macromedia offers a 16-bit, Quicktime-compatible sound editor, capable of recording and playing back multiple CD soundtracks. This updated version of SoundEdit Pro allows users precisely to synchronise sound with QuickTime digital video, record directly to hard disk, and create multitrack soundtracks in up to 16-bit, 48kHz DAT quality. Over 300 sound effects come free with SoundEdit 16, taken from the Hollywood Edge CD-ROM.

Other features of SoundEdit 16 include 14 special effects, four tone-generators, SMPTE timecode support, and a sound shaper for fade-ins, fade-outs, delays and crops. The SoundEdit 16 will cost £299, although existing SoundEdit and SoundEdit Pro users can upgrade for £95. The Hollywood Edge CD-ROM costs £125.

More from: Computers Unlimited (Contact Details)

Does the world really need another analogue synth CD?

Vintage synth samples at a sensible price - the Minimoog in the background is not, alas, part of the deal

As someone who grew up with cruddy analogue monophonic synths that couldn't be programmed, drifted out of tune, and overheated as soon as they were placed within a few yards of a radiator, I'm getting a bit fed up with collections of bleeps, burbles, and warbles.

We all know modern synths are good for nothing save multisamples of real instruments and the occasional ambient pad. But surely there's more to life than the TB303 bass burp, the screaming Minimoog lead, and the rest of the tired analogue cliches?

Well, happily there is - and Mark Jenkins' Classic Synths Plus is the disc that proves it. Mark's collection of synths isn't by any means the most comprehensive in the world, but it's strong enough to yield a compilation of samples that's refreshingly unpredictable.

The beauty of Classic Synths Plus is that it showcases a number of machines which, while they may not have sold in huge numbers at the time, have since merited a place in synthesiser history. There are big synths (Yamaha's gargantuan CS80), little synths (the EDP Wasp and its close relative, the OSCar), preset synths (the Korg M500), and pioneering MIDI synths (the Elka Synthex).

The sounds are mostly played at C and have generally been recorded at two, three, or four different octaves. And speaking of recording, the sound quality is uniformly high despite the use of some notoriously noisy instruments, and the fact that a digital mastering session at Air Lyndhurst clearly wasn't in the budget. Thoughtfully, many of the best, earliest sounds have been recorded 'dry' in one channel and reverbed in the other, giving you the choice of those two samples or any mix midway between them.

I'm not sure all these instruments are exactly 'classic'. The Yamaha TX802 probably scrapes home as an exceptionally powerful FM module, but the jury is still very much out on the Korg Wavestation series, the Roland JD990, and the E-mu Morpheus - none of which should really be here at all.

Highlights, though, include some fine pads from Roland's matchless VP330 Vocoder Plus keyboard, some typically drippy (but pin-sharp) Wasp and OSCar sounds, and some thumping basses from an unlikely source: Sequential's Prophet 600 poly.

If you really can't resist the temptation to use 909 kick and snare, 303 acid basses, and Minimoog leads - rest assured that they're available, too. And all at a price that makes a lot of sample CDs look (and sound) a bit daft.

Price: £24.95
More from: AMP Records, (Contact Details)

On the Re:Mix CD...

Upper Deck

Prior to now, two Digidesign ProTools cards were required for eight tracks of audio, but the new Eight-Track Tool for Deck II from OSC manages to squeeze eight tracks onto just a single ProTools card.

Also new from OSC are some non-traditional CD-ROM sound libraries, and with a title like A Poke In The Ear With A Sharp Stick Vol III, be sure to expect something out of the ordinary on this CD.

More from: MCMXCIX (Contact Details)

Soundscape gets 8-track upgrade

An important upgrade to the Soundscape hard-disk recording system is heralded by the launch of the version 1.14 software. The upgrade allows eight-track playback from disk, real-time mixing to one or two stereo pairs, eight real-time controllable faders and pans with full automation via MIDI, and eight real-time, fully parametric EQ modules.

Other features include real-time mixing through the stereo inputs with eight tracks from disk, and eight-track merging to mono or stereo. The new append arrangement allows multiple arrangements to be loaded in one after the other, to allow easy compiling to a finished DAT master.

The good news for existing Soundscape owners is that the new software is free of charge and will be sent directly to them, while all new Soundscape purchases will include the upgrade as standard.

According to Soundscape, over 500 of their PC-based direct-to-disk recording systems have been installed in Europe since August 1993. Users include Michael Reid, musical director for Lloyd-Webber musicals and film composer, and Carlos Cruz Audiovisual, Portugal's premier TV production company.

More from: Soundscape Digital Technology (Contact Details)

Microsoft and Creative join forces

The Microsoft Corporation and Creative Technology have formed a relationship (it says here) in order to develop audio and DSP-based products for PCs. The immediate result is that Creative will license Microsoft Windows Sound System software from Microsoft, while Microsoft will license SoundBlaster 16 technology (see review elsewhere this issue) from Creative. Both companies say they will ensure that all future products are completely compatible with each other.

Three new multimedia kits are now available from Creative, tailored to the needs of different user types. They all come with a SoundBlaster 16 sound card, a photo-CD compatible CD-ROM player and a pair of speakers, but each package has a different bundle of software.

SoundBlaster Discovery CD 16 is aimed at families and newcomers to multimedia, and costs £375; Game Blaster CD16 is for the serious PC games player and costs £400; while SoundBlaster Digital Edge 3X is for professional developers, business presenters and technology enthusiasts, and costs £705.

Also new from Creative is the Video Blaster FS2000, which allows full-motion video control, overlay, capture, compression, and playback from a single high-performance video add-on card. The Video Blaster was developed for both amateur and professional video end-users, and is said to be the ideal tool for creating video-enhanced PC productions. Special effects are also available, and include flip, strobe, source switching and continuous zoom and scale of live images. The Video Blaster costs under £260.

More from: Creative Labs (Contact Details)

More PC music from Arbiter

Arbiter Pro MIDI are now distributing Voyetra Technologies products, and that includes three PC MIDI interfaces: the V22, V24s and VP11. The V22 features two MIDI inputs and two outs, and retails for £9 [Probably an error.]. SMPTE sync is available on the V24s, which has four MIDI outs and costs £249.

For notebooks and laptop computers comes the VP11, which connects to the parallel port and costs £115.

Also available from Arbiter is Passport's Music Time 16, a scorewriting program for Windows 3.1 and the Mac, costing £229 and the MIDI Master Plus from Lowrie Woolf Associates, which offers proper multi-tasking MIDI interface drivers for the first time in Windows, for a measly £34.

More from: Arbiter ProMIDI (Contact Details)

Cakewalk moves on...

Twelve Tone Systems have announced Version 3 of their Cakewalk Professional sequencer. This 256-track sequencer for Windows and Multimedia PCs has been improved to include groove quantise, MIDI machine control (MMC), printed notation with lyrics, and percussion editing.

More from: Et Cetera (Contact Details)

Sly Dunbar and the sample CD: a dubwise marriage?

Reggae drummer Sly Dunbar: A true innovator whose finest grooves are now available on sample CD for the first time

Think of reggae rhythm sections and you think of Sly & Robbie. These two haven't just played on loads of tracks - they've virtually redefined the genre, helping to bring a host of Jamaican musical styles to a wider audience through their work with the likes of Grace Jones, Maxi Priest, Shabba Ranks and, most recently, Chaka Demus & Pliers.

But Sly Dunbar isn't just a drummer - he's also a record producer, engineer, and arranger. All of which makes the release of a sample CD of some his best grooves an event to savour. The only surprise is that it's taken this long for someone (WC Music Research of Canada, actually) to persuade him to do it.

The official title of the CD is Reggae DrumSplash, but don't let that put you off. The grooves were all digitally recorded in (where else?) Kingston, Jamaica, nicely close-miked and without any discernible room ambience. The sounds are about as dry as they come.

Rhythmically the patterns span the whole history of Jamaican-influenced dance music, from traditional roots reggae right through to hip-hop, ragga, dancehall, and even bhangra. Each pattern is followed by at least half-a-dozen variations or fills, and Sly rarely misses the chance to give each style a distinctive and addictive groove. As you might expect, the average tempo of these loops is a laid-back 80bpm or so - a refreshing change from the fast-lane frenetics of so many recent sample CDs.

Better even than the grooves, however, is the vast range of sounds bashed into service by our man Sly. This is no pedestrian, kick-rim-and-snare collection. There's a whole clutch of weird and wacky noises, from industrial scrapes to kitsch syndrum thuds and bleeps - all of which help to bring the patterns through the busiest of mixes in true rub-a-dub stylee. Luckily, the expected single-hit sample section is present and correct at the end of the disc.

With excellent accompanying groove templates and MIDI files on your choice of computer platform (PC, Mac, or Atari), Reggae DrumSplash is almost the perfect sample CD. It's spoiled, though, by the fact that there are minimal audio gaps between patterns (which are track ID'd) and none at all between variations (which are not). To isolate any of these breaks successfully, you need to get your looping and truncating skills honed to a fine art. Sure, the lack of silence means you get maximum flash for your cash, but... I'd also like to have seen a tad more dancehall and bhangra and rather less of the traditional reggae stuff - but that's down to my own musical preference, nothing more.

In a world of relentlessly uptempo, in-yer-face, soundalike sample CDs, Reggae DrumSplash stands out like a Caribbean cruise in a shop full of Ibiza package tours. You think reggae ain't your style? Give this disc a spin and let Sly Dunbar persuade you that it is.

Price: £69.95
More from: Time + Space, (Contact Details)

On the Re:Mix CD...

Hear, sample, and use a selection of patterns from Sly Dunbar's Reggae DrumSplash on this month's copy of re:mix. Here's a rundown of the patterns you'll find on the disc - accompanying groove templates and MIDI files are on the CD-ROM section on Track 1. Depending on whether you're using a Mac or a PC, your CD-ROM drive will show you which are the file types for you...

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Mixed Media

The Mix - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.


The Mix - Jul 1994

Donated by: Colin Potter

Coverdisc: Mike Gorman


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> Win!

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> Mixed Media

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