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OUR MOST EVER! GRAffIO CM vst/au effect






phonem vocal synth
+ 20 more Hot ProDucts!

April 2016 / CM228


H Di







See the game composer

turned popster at work

reFXs legendary
instrument explained




intro / computer music <

See page 5 to find out how
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exclusive content



Wherever you see this icon, theres

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Tutorials featuring this icon make
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Plugins find
out all about them on p14.



This icon means there are extra files

to help you follow a tutorial feature:
project files, audio examples, etc.
Theres extra video content
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See and hear the latest software in

action! Get the video on the Vault, or


Subscribe to
Computer Music!

See p32

Where to get
in stores and online

for PC, Mac, Android, iPad & more

Distortion is distortion, isnt it? Pick a plugin any plugin
then nudge the gain till you get warm saturation,
crunchy drive or all-out cranium-crushing distorted
mayhem. Job done! Or so I used to think
Yet once I began to take music production seriously,
I realised that distortion is a tool with serious nuance and
depth as much as any EQ,
compressor or reverb, in fact,
and with the potential to sound
way worse than any of those if
you get it wrong.
So, whats the trick to using
saturation to create mixes that
are warm and classy, and not
just cheap and, well, distorted? How do you get those
grinding, chainsaw distortion tones to sound solid,
controlled and impactful, rather than messy, harsh and
indistinct? How do digital effects like bitcrushing fit into all
this? And whats it even mean when we say that an effect
adds odd or even harmonics? Questions, questions
I wont leave you hanging any longer, as weve
compiled the answers to these and many more in our
colossal Distortion Secrets guide, beginning on p34.
Youll learn how distortion really works, how
to choose the right plugins, and a whole
host of professional techniques thatll
drastically turn the heat up on your
mixes in the best possible way.
We give you the tools, too, with a
brand-new all-in-one overdrive, exciter
and bitcrusher from HoRNet being
yours for free, exclusively with this
magazine. Get that one installed,
crank it up, and

is a tool with
real nuance
and depth

Enjoy thE issuE



for iPad, iPhone & iPod touch

for Android & Chrome for PC/Mac

Lee du-Caine Editor

Issue 228 APRIL 2016



61 bentley jones

Step inside his studio for some first-hand

track-making wisdom, and see how he
puts it all together in our masterclass video

Craft perfectly driven tones in

your DAW with this 16-page
mega guide, p34

55 mIxIng for
smAll sPeAkers

Make your music stand proud on

even the lowliest of speaker systems



69 HoW to
use nexus2

Get fully acquainted with

reFXs ace dance machine



easy guide:
blues concepts


geeK tecHniQue:
analysing reverbs


4 / ComPuter musIC / April 2016

designer sounds:
vocal sound design

dr beat: claves
and timbales


88 elePHAnte

From economics to electronica, Tim Wu

charts his rise to the ranks of remix royalty

This issues exclusive
free content from
Computer Music

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Go to my vault to see all your

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In tHe vAult
tHIs Issue

Hornet graffio Cm
Scratch the itch for saturation, excitation and
bitcrushing with this plugin giveaway, p10

A huge pack of royalty-free
one-shots and loops to
give your tunes that
authentic house energy
and atmosphere, p12


slate digital csb & Fg-bomber


WolFgang palm ppg pHonem

100 earecKon eareverb 2

102 iK miroslav pHilHarmoniK 2
104 sKnote disto
Plus 19 more ProduCts revIeWed

Tutorial videos
High-quality videos to guide you through
our tutorials. Wherever you see the icon
on the left, theres a video version to watch
See this issues entire video content on the next pages




WHats on your drive?


burning Question




next issue


bacK issues

Tutorial files

A folder full of audio examples,

synth patches and project files
to help you follow our tutorials


blast From tHe past:

bucHla modular syntHs

CM Plugins

Our exclusive collection of

free plugins for Mac and PC.
See whats available on p14

This digital content has been thoroughly scanned and tested at all stages of production, but as with all new software, we still recommend that you run a virus checker
before use. We also recommend that you have an up-to-date backup of your hard drive before using the content. Future cannot accept responsibility for any disruption,
damage and/or loss to your data or computer system that may occur while using this magazines programs and/or data. Consult your network administrator before
installing any software on a networked computer. If you have problems using our Vault download system, please contact
* Please note that the Producer Masterclass video is not available as a download. From

221 onwards, this video is available via a streaming link.

April 2016 / ComPuter musIC / 5


Get all these videos on PC/Mac at

Master this music production essential
Read the full article on p34

1 Basic clipping and

waveshaping explained

2 Harmonic distortion in
plugin emulations

6 Exploring the effect

of EQ on distortion

3 Intermodulation
distortion: theory & practice

4 Examining aliasing and

sample-rate reduction

5 The common distortion

types and how theyre used

7 Using parallel
distortion in the mix

8 Subtle enhancement
with multiband distortion

9 Multiband distortion
on a clean sine bass

11 Processing sounds in the

mix with digital distortion

12 Improving a mix with

subtle distortion



Our fantastic software, samples, videos

and tutorial files are now available to
download! To get access to this content,
go to
on your PC or Macs web browser. Youll
be asked to register and answer a few
simple questions to prove that youve got
the mag. Youll then be given access to
our content! You can sign in any time to

6 / COmpuTER muSIC / April 2016

Vocal distortion

5 Um cumquam rem
de verspist
register new issues
and download
content. For more info, see our Vault FAQ:
* Please note that the Producer
Masterclass video is not available as a
download via our Vault, though Apple
Newsstand users can watch the video via
built-in internet streaming.

10 Rock and metal guitar

distortion with AmpliTube

TIP9 Polyphonic distortion


Want our vids? Get on over to

Producer Masterclass*

Check out this months free plugin giveaway
as we take it for a spin in this tutorial video
Read the full article on p10

Well show you how to
replicate and mix for
tiny playback systems
Read the full
article on p55

1 Simulating a small
speaker system with EQ

See him at work in the studio, reconstructing
his track Passenger on Propellerhead Reason 8
2 Making bass
and kick cut through

3 Balancing a mixs
midrange for small speakers

* Please note that the Producer Masterclass video is not available as a download via our Vault.
See page 62 for viewing instructions, or watch on Apple Newsstand via built-in internet streaming.

Read the full article on p61

April 2016 / COmpuTER muSIC / 7

Grab this issues videos via Vault download see p5 for details

reFXs beast of an instrument
is ready to be conquered
tame it with our tutorials
Read the full
article on p69

1 Accessing presets in
Nexus2s Library browser

2 The Front Panel Reverb

and Delay in Nexus2

3 Balancing and
adjusting Nexus2s Layers

4 Nexus2s Filter and Amp

Modifiers, and Master Filter

5 System and Config

preferences in Nexus2

6 Working with Nexus2s

Insert and Master effects

7 Modulation
capabilities in Nexus2

8 Nexus2s Arpeggiator
and Trance Gate

9 Understanding the
Frequency Analyzer









See the theory behind

the blues at work in Dave
Clews expert tutorial

Break transforms vocal

samples into entirely
different sounds

Gain deep knowledge of

your reverb plugins with
Owen Palmers tricks

Ronan Macdonalds
latest guide to Latin
rhythm and vibe

Read the full

article on p76
8 / COmpuTER muSIC / April 2016


Read the full

article on p80

article on

> download / hornet graffio cm

>Exclusive full software


Graffio CM

Get the plugin, the video and
the Tutorial Files on PC/Mac at

Distort, excite and bitcrush to the max with this multitalented

VST/AU/AAX/RTAS distortion toolbox from the Italian developer
HoRNet are a software brand
that should be familiar to
readers plugin folders.
After spoiling us with a classy
compressor plugin (Fat-FET) and
an all-in-one beat-mixing device
(DrumShaper), theyve returned
with a third world-class plugin:
Graffio CM, a three-in-one
distortion toolkit thats taken
from their multiband plugin
Graffio. Its the perfect
accompaniment to our Distortion
Secrets cover feature, and is an
essential tool for anyone seeking

pro-quality distortion and drive.

At Graffio CMs heart are a trio of
modules that operate in parallel,
each providing distinct distortion
flavours that can be combined or
used in isolation: first, the saturator
module provides plenty of drive,
aggression and character; next up,
the Exciter module can provide
more subtle warmth by
introducing odd and/or even
harmonics; finally, the crunchy bit
reducer adds digital degradation,
grit and fuzz. Whats more,
tweakers will be happy to know

Push your signal into the
saturation circuit, modelled
on a class AB amplifier

Toggle to activate
4x oversampling

Change the bias of the
saturators virtual transistor
for extra even harmonics
and more warmth

Mix a modules
effect with the
unprocessed signal

10 / CoMputer MusiC / April 2016

that each module features its own

bypass switch and Dry/Wet mix
knob, allowing you to customise
which and how much of each
effect is applied. A final Output
Gain knob sits at the far end of the
plugin so you can match the level
of the plugins effect with your
unprocessed signal, and the
Oversampling function activates
4x oversampling for higherquality processing.
Graffio CM is essentially one
band extracted from Graffio,
HoRNets three-band distortion


Add subtle odd and/or
even harmonic excitement

Reduce the signals bit
depth from 24 to 4

multieffect which allows you to

apply the same trio of processes as
Graffio CM but across three userdefined frequency bands for even
more flexibility. Also be sure to
check out HoRNets other plugins.
Many, such as ChannelStrip Mk3,
MultiComp Plus and SW34EQ
feature the same tasty saturation
technology found in Graffio CM.
Finally, note that, until 24 May
readers can get 20%
off HoRNet plugins and bundles
using the code PROMOCM.

Set the plugins
final output level

When the lights blue, the
module is active. Press the
button to deactivate the module

hornet graffio cm / download <

> Step by step Installing and using HoRNet Graffio CM



Graffio CM comes in several plugin

formats: VST/VST3/AAX/RTAS for PC
users, and AU/VST/VST3/AAX/RTAS for
Mac users. To install the plugin, download from, extract
the Zip, then place the install files in
the relevant folder on your system.
See the included Installation text file
for further details.

The DC Offset parameter changes the

balance between the top and bottom
headroom of the saturator. HoRNet say
this is like having a transistor that is biased
in the wrong way adding DC makes the
positive peaks of the wave saturate much
faster than the negative ones, creating
uneven harmonics. Increase this
parameter to apply the effect.

Youll have noticed that each module

features its own Dry/Wet knob,
facilitating speedy parallel processing
by blending the processed (wet) signal
with the unprocessed (dry) signal. Try
driving the saturator effect to extremes
before pulling back the Dry/Wet knob so
only a fraction of the distorted signal can
be heard.

To check out Graffio CM, open up a

blank project in your DAW and insert
an instance of the plugin over an audio
signal use the 130bpm audio files found
in Tutorial Files if you like. The plugin
features three modules that operate in
parallel: a saturator, an exciter, and a bitdepth reducer. The three modules
outputs are summed before the plugins
master out.

Next, deactivate the Saturator module

and turn on the Exciter module, which
can add both Odd and Even harmonics
(up to the 7th) independently via the
appropriate knobs. Again, application is
straightforward: turn up the knob to apply
the effect. Use this module when youre
looking for subtle harmonic excitement
and warmth.

As mentioned previously, the final

Level knob controls the plugins
master output level after the three parallel
effects have been summed. Use this in
conjunction with your DAWs plugin
bypass button to level-match your
unprocessed and processed signals,
ensuring your mix decisions arent
influenced by gain change.

Each module is active by default. Turn

off the Exciter and Bit Reducer using
their Active buttons. First, well look at the
Saturator, which HoRNet tell us is based
on an ideal-class AB amplifier. Increase
the Gain to push your signal into the
saturation circuit, adding warmth and
drive through to aggression and overt
distortion at high settings. Pull back the
plugins overall Level knob to compensate
for the added gain.

Turn off the Exciter before activating

the Bit Reducer, which can be used to
reduce the bit depth of your signal for
noisy, lo-fi effects and quantisation noise.
The Quantize parameter is set to the
maximum 24bits by default: pull this knob
anti-clockwise to reduce it to its minimum
setting of 4 bits. Unlike most bit-depth
reduction effects, Graffio CM blends in the
dry signal too, for a less harsh result.

The final parameter to mention is the

bottom-left Oversampling button,
which engages 4x oversampling to
increase the plugins processing quality.
Now its a case of trying out the plugin
over various sound sources: try
aggressive parallel saturation on clean
synth basses, gentle harmonic excitement
on synths and guitars, and fuzzy bit-depth
reduction on vocals.

April 2016 / CoMputer MusiC / 11

> download / samples

Exclusive samples

Retro House

Download the samples
onto your PC/Mac at

Get back to the old school with this pack of royalty-free hits
readers by two masters of the trade
and loops, created just for
Feeling nostalgic? Come with us as we
take a step back into the world of classic
house music, where the bass is deep and the
grooves are tight. Our expert samplesmiths
have taken some vital house hardware
staples down from their attics, and theyve
cooked up a storm of 909 beats, classic
organs n pianos and low-down, dirty bass.
While youre waiting for your Vault download
to finish, why not read what the brains behind
this months pack have to say about the
bounty that lies within it?


This sample set swings back to the simple old

days of house, with beats, basslines, piano and
pad loops, drum kits and multisampled
instruments. The drums all hail from the Roland
TR realm, with a selection of kick, snare, hi-hat,

toms and percussion layers to load into your

sampler of choice. The multisampled
instruments include the five bass synths
(C0-C3, white notes) and two pianos
(C1-C6, white notes) used to make the looped
lines. The basses all have their sustain loop
ranges embedded in the WAV files so they
should be able to load into any sampler platform
with the minimum of fuss.

This sample set

swings back to
the simple old
days of house

The pianos were created with the Kurzweil

K2600r, with a tip of the hat to the Korg M1
sound. The beats were created in layers
(kicks, snares, hats, etc) three different mixes
were made with the kick, and you also get two
or three other layers (kick/snare/hats,
kick/rimshots/toms/cymbals, kick/claps/
percussion). The piano and pad loops were
recorded alongside some of the basslines, but
theyll swap around quite easily, so no need to
match them up its assumed theyll be further
stretched and pitched anyway!
Swing was used in the writing of the beats
and lines, and it varied from 50% to 75% in
Nuendo. It was too much to include this info
within the file names, but a little mismatching
can always bring the funk!
Let Robbie know how you like his timepiece
loops by giving him a virtual shout:

Groove Criminals
VOL. 32

To create these classic house samples, we used

a real mixture of hardware and software. On the
hardware side, we rinsed out our beloved
Roland SH-101 for basses and arpeggios, and we
gave our E-MU Classic Keys a run out for some
fat, organ-style bass riffs.
For drums, we used the Jomox AIR Base 99
drum module for some analogue 909-style
beats. We also broke out the Boss DR-202 drum
machine, another 90s unit with some good
beats and hits, if a bit cheesy in places.
We also turned to our bunker of software
drum hits to intersperse some LinnDrum, 808
and other assorted drum hits into the beats to
avoid it being all too 909.
Keep abreast of Olis latest goings on by
following the sonic scoundrel on Twitter:


What are you waiting for? Log in to the Vault and get downloading this treasure trove of timeless sounds!

12 / ComputeR musiC / April 2016

drum hits
multisampled instruments
bass loops
drum loops
melodic loops
beat stripes
keys loops

samples / download <


Fuel your productions with hundreds of samples every

issue theres a new exclusive pack each month!
VOL. 31




Let it all hang loose with

this huge pack of off-kilter
beats. These loops have
been created to bring your
tunes the classic swung
feel of hardware such as the Akai
MPC500 and Rolands TR-909.

Make your tunes a little

loonier with hilarious FX,
wacky vocal sounds and
entire cartoon theme sets,
all exclusively recorded,
generated and processed for this
fiendish pack of loops and one-shots.

This inspiring pack is full of

atmospheric pads, scapes
and dark rhythmic loops.
Layer in haunting ambiences,
sculpt out-of-this world
intros, and move into unexplored sonic
territory with this huge pack of sounds.

ISSUE 227 TOTaL SampLES 915

ISSUE 226 TOTaL SampLES 941

ISSUE 225 TOTaL SampLES 922

Expand your
sample banks
by picking up single issues!
Grab a recent print version from, or get
dozens more in digital via Google
Play, Zinio or our iOS app. Youll
get the sample pack with every
digital issue since 182, thanks
to our Vault download system.

Find out more about the


Weve teamed up with a

roster of electronic artists
to bring you big-name
sample packs. Dig through
our digital back issues to
get hold of them.

Vault at
April 2016 / ComputeR musiC / 13

> download /


plugINS guIDE

Our exclusive collection
of instruments and
effects is included
with every issue of
Computer Music its
got all you need to
make great music now!
Plugins collection is a suite of complete, limitation-free
instrument and effects plugins. Its an incredible resource, boasting
more than 50 pro-quality plugins that you wont find anywhere else, all
for PC and Mac, in VST and AU formats. All of the included software is
created exclusively for us by respected commercial developers such as
Ohm Force, KV331 Audio, u-he, Cableguys, AudioThing, XILS-lab,
Vengeance-Sound, Rob Papen and zplane.

Where do I get
As a download from our Vault
(see p5 for instructions on how
to access).
How do I install
Youll find specific installation
instructions for each plugin
in the How To Install file in the
CM Plugins folder.
What do I need to use them?
A PC or Mac and a music program

(aka DAW) to host them (ie, plug

in to). You need a DAW that can
host VST or AU plugins, such as
Ableton Live, Reaper, FL Studio
(PC), Cubase, Sonar (PC), Logic
(Mac) or Garageband (Mac).
What happened to!
As of
209, many
have been upgraded to include
64-bit compatibility. The few older
Plugins that remain 32-bit-only
such as Amplifikation CM, Rhino
CM and KR-Delay/KR-Reverb are
now included in the 32-bit only
subfolders. These plugins require
either a 32-bit host or a suitable
bit bridge (eg, jBridge) for use
within a 64-bit DAW.
Still got questions?
See the full FAQ at

14 / Computer musiC / April 2016

GGet all of these effects on

your PC or Mac right now at



Cableguys Curve 2.6 CM

Design-your-own-waveforms synth
New waveform capabilities for v2.6
Phat 16-voice Unison mode
Based on Cableguys Curve 2.6
AU/VST/RTAS, 32-/64-bit

Synapse Audio Dune CM

VA and wavetable oscillators
Powerful per-voice modulation
12-slot modulation matrix
Based on the full version of Dune
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

frequently asked questions

What is
Plugins? Is it just
freeware from the internet?
No, and neither are the plugins
limited or crippled. Its a set of
virtual instruments and effects
created by some of the best
developers in the business just for
us you wont find this set of
plugins anywhere else!


KV331 Audio SynthMaster CM

Dual wavescanning oscillators
Multimode filter and built-in effects
Customisable waveshaping distortion
FM/AM synthesis modes
Based on SynthMaster 2.5
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Klevgrnd Enkl CM
Classic monosynth design
Modulation, arpeggiator and effects
Based on the full Enkl synth
AU/VST 32-/64-bit


u-he Zebra CM
Blendable oscillator waveforms
Super-programmable step LFOs
Slick delay, reverb and chorus/phaser
Original synth designed just for CM
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Expert Sleepers
XFadeLooper CM
Creative crossfade-looping sampler
Hard sync mode Modulation
Saturation section Flexible looping
Based on Crossfade Loop Synth v3
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Enzyme CM
Scanned synthesis sound generation
Straightforward preset-based setup
Assign presets parameters to controls
Based on the full Enzyme synth
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Loomer Cumulus
Granular sampler
Scenes function for sequencing slices
Not based on an existing plugin
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

plugins / download <

plugins reloaded / make music now <


We turn our attention to this

versatile, inspiring synth, the latest
Plugins family
addition to the

Download Curve 2 CM, the
videos and tutorial files at


Last issue saw the arrival of

the incredible Curve 2 CM, a
Computer Music-exclusive
version of Cableguys amazing
Curve 2 synthesiser. The synth is
now part of the
Plugins suite,
an awesome collection of proquality instruments and effects
thats yours free with every issue
of Computer Music.
For those unfamiliar with
previous versions of Curve, this
synth is based around a powerful
waveform editor that allows you to
create your own custom oscillator
and LFO waveforms with ease. This
means you can fine-tune the
harmonic content of your
with aand
great deal
finesse, and even blur the lines
and arpeggiators
It cant have
weve used the
Satson CMsequences.
plugin on almost
be synced
host a
track intoour
tempo or set to run free with a rate
good reason for this: Its
that can exceed 5kHz!
awesome! Satson CM emulates
Curve 2 CM now includes unison
the sound of a hardware mixer
detune capability with up to 16
channel and its designed to be
voices, and it also replaces the
on every
in your
mix, to lend
Its light
on CPU
can make
as the
any track
Even more
a single
can alsothe
to smooth
out the sometimes-harsh
Curve 2 now has three
one for
of digitalwaveforms
synths. Driven
an provide
extra waveform
Satson CM
oscillator 1 that
can besounding
the main
highand low-cut
filters give us a
quick andAnother
easy way
is the lows
of macro
out muddy
or rolling
be assigned
tinny that
you can to
control multiple parameters

off the drive function if you just

want to use it for the filters. For a

look at
Satson CM take
look at our YouTube video at
content of
your oscillators with a
of finesse
> Step

> Step by step

11. Piano and vintage synth sounds


Weve got almost all the musical ideas

we need to create a full tune, but we
need to spice it up with extras and ear
candy. First, lets process a piano patch so
that it sounds a bit like its been sampled
from an older tune. We start by loading a
MIDI track panned 9R with a patch from
the KeysGran Piano preset in Alchemy
Player CM.

We EQ the piano in quite a distinctive

way in IIEQPro, using the curve shown
here, cutting off the low frequencies and
adding a big boost at around 8kHz, for a
thinned out, vintage kind of sound. The
piano sound is finished off by Satson CM,
with the Gain increased to +4 and High
Pass set at 400Hz to lose even more
low end.

We play some chords into the track

(Piano.mid) and copy some over from
the strings track. The piano sound is quite
short, so we raise the Release to 70%, to
lengthen it, making it more suitable for
our track. We also turn the Delay Mix to 0
to knock out off the inbuilt echo effect.

Next, a vintage synth lead line

(Glide.mid) from PolyKBII CM, which
boasts some truly great analogue-style
sounds. We choose LeadAllLD Soaring
Glider JRM and play in a melody line
using the pitchbend wheel to add interest
(Glider.mid). We add Satson CM with -3
Gain, 750Hz High Pass and 16kHz Low
Pass, enabling the tighter 12dB/oct mode.

12. Risers and effects with Alchemy Player CM

simultaneously. As well as these

new capabilities, Curve 2 CM
includes all of the original Curve
CMs goodies, including dual
multimode filters, frequency
modulation and independent glide
times for each oscillator.
In this
Focus, were going
to take a look at how you can get
the most from Curve 2 CMs filters,
LFO, unison detune and FM
functionality. Make sure you check
out the included videos, and
VIDEOyou can get all the
patches we create in the Tutorial
Files folder. Curve 2 CM can be
found in the Were
to need a few one-shot
along with a selection
of other
FX to sprinkle throughout
stunning instruments
the track, and
a really
simple way to create
Get it installed
is to
Alchemy Player CM on a
new track and select the DrumsFour
Way Drum Morph preset. Add
KR-DelayCM set to PingPong mode and
1/4 beat Sync Delay time. A Feedback and
Dry/Wet level of 40% is perfect.

We take the easy option for the reverb,

using ReverberateCMs Cathedral
preset, with the Dry/Wet at 10dB Wet to
create some big, splashy hits and crashes.
An instance of Satson CM set to 400Hz on
the High Pass dial removes some of the
more boomy elements, which could
conflict with the kick drum and bass.

Theres a good white noise riser sound

in Alchemy Player: Sound
EffectsBreakdown Booom. This patch
uses four different layers, so we use the
X/Y 1 matrix to manipulate it. Dragging
the control to the top right of the panel
means that only the white noise sweep
layer of the sample is played. In the track,
we can use volume and pan automation
to add interest.

December 2012 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 47

CMU185.t_plugins.indd 47

n CM Plugins TuTorial Bank
To help you get the most out of our immense plugin
collection, weve assembled the
Plugins Tutorial Bank,
containing over 100 guides and tutorials for our
specially selected from past issues. Youll find Getting Started
PDFs and videos for most of the individual plugins, along

with tutorial PDFs and videos on using

Plugins for sound
design, mixing, and even creating entire tracks. Youll find all
of this as a handy download in our Vault go grab it now and
start getting more out of your plugins!

10/25/12 12:16 PM



LinPlug Alpha CM

50 ready-mixed, royalty-free kits

Kick, Snare, Hi-hat and Misc parts
Level, Pan, Pitch and Reverb controls
50 MIDI beats included
Based on the full Beat Machine
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Dual oscillators with blendable waves

Easy operation Modulation matrix
Slick chorus effect Polyphonic glide
Based on the commercial Alpha synth
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

DopeVST Beat Machine CM


DopeVST Bass Engine CM

Rob Papen RG-Muted CM

45 authentic hip-hop bass patches

Three eras of faux-sampled material
Envelope and note controls
50 MIDI riffs included
Based on the full Bass Engine
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Creates realistic funky guitar grooves

Sequencer, FX and modulation
Based on Rob Papen RG
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

AudioThing miniBit CM

Models the ultra-rare PolyKobol synth
Packed with mix-ready preset variants
Knobs assignable to main parameters
Based on XILS-labs PolyKB II
AU/VST/RTAS, 32-/64-bit

AudioRealism ADM CM
Old-school-style drum machine
Emulates Rolands legendary TR-606
Also contains custom
Based on the full ADM
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Madrona Labs Aalto CM

Unique and powerful monosynth
Unusual oscillators with FM
Waveguide delay section
Intuitively patchable modulation
Onboard reverb Step sequencing
Based on the full Aalto synth
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Modelled on the EMS VCS 3 modular
Authentic oscillators, spring reverb
and ring mod circuits of the original
Added chorus and delay effects
Pin matrices to patch the signal flow
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Kirnu Cream CM
Master arpeggios with this MIDI tool
Get more out of plugin instruments by
controlling them with Cream CM!
Program and store complex patterns
Musical controls for rhythm and notes
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

zplane vielklang 2 CM

Camel Audio
Alchemy Player CM

brunsandspork Grooove CM
Innovative drum instrument
Load in two samples per sound and
choose how they respond to velocity
50 built-in
Micro Kits to play
Based on the full Grooove
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

15-waveform chiptune synth

Envelope, LFO, bit/sample reduction
Based on the full miniBit synth
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

200 awesome ready-to-play patches

Loads SFZ patches often included in
our own
sample collections!
Based on the full Alchemy synth
AU/VST/RTAS, 32-/64-bit

Pitch-correct and retune audio

Harmonise melodies with ease
Algorithms by the experts at zplane
Based on vielklang 2 Instant Harmony
AU/VST/AAX, 32-/64-bit

Squaredheads Nora CM
Eisenberg Einklang CM
Morph between a trio of oscillators
Envelope and timbre controls
Modulate tone with the LFO
Based on the full Einklang synth
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Input up to four notes, output chords

and arpeggios across three octaves
Program velocities and store patterns
Based on the full Nora and Nora 2
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit
Mac users require OS X 10.8 or above

April 2016 / Computer musiC / 15

> download /


plugINS guIDE


Ohm Force Ohmygod!


FEaTurED Plugin

Two superb equalisers

IIEQ Pro CM: 19 filter types
LP10 CM: Linear phase mastering EQ
Based on commercial DDMF plugins
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit


Curve 2.6 Cm
The latest version of this virtual
analogue synth plugin sees its
already-awesome waveform editor
upgraded with better visualisation and
the new Steps melody-creation tool.
With these, plus the recent addition of
new filter modes and below-deck
sonic improvements, Curve 2.6 CM is
truly the synth that keeps on giving.

16 / Computer musiC / April 2016

Resonant comb filter

Distortion section
LFO with sync
Output filter
AU/VST/RTAS, 32-/64-bit

OverTone DSP
Program EQ CM

eaReackon CM-EQUA 87
Smooth three-band EQ
Adjustable low-cut filter
Switchable high/low shelves
Analyser, EQ tips, limiter and more
Based on eaReckons PR-EQUA 87
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Pultec-style vintage EQ emulation

Dual bass boost/attenuate controls;
high-mid boost; high shelf cut
Tube amplifier circuit-only option
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

AudioThing ValveFilter CM

Vengeance Sound Philta CM

Dual high- and low-pass filters
Four slope settings: 12/24/48/96dB
Resonance and width controls
Link function and notch mode
Based on Vengeances Philta XL
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Gorgeous filtering and drive

Low-pass filter circuit emulation
Vintage valve saturation section
Based on Valve Filter VF-1
Settings randomiser and metering
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

plugins / download <




Unfiltered Audio G8 CM
Toneboosters Barricade CM
Intelligent mastering-grade limiter
Dynamic response controls
Stereo options and versatile metering
Based on the full Barricade
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Get tight dynamics or creative effects

Includes advanced gating controls
Real-time waveform display
Use MIDI as a trigger or output
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Blue Cat Audio

FreqAnalyst CM

Subsonic Labs Wolfram CM

Pitchshifting, distortion, phaseshifting, panning, delay and filter
Flexible modulation
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Pro-quality, feature-packed analyser

Numerous customisation options
Based on Blue Cats full FreqAnalyst
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit
RTAS 32-bit

HoRNet Fat-FET

SKnote Snap
Boost or tame transient brightness
Brighten or dull a sounds sustain
Uses two intelligently linked filters
Not based on any existing plugin
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

FET-style compressor
Similar to classic 1176LN Peak Limiter
Ultra-fast attack as low as 0.02ms.
Based on HoRNet MultiComp
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Inear Display Eurydice CM

Buffer override/repeat, delay,
bitcrusher and filter with modulation
Custom signal routing
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Photosounder Spiral CM
Musical, note-based spectral analysis
Useful for figuring out notes in audio
Based on the full Spiral plugin
AU/VST/AAX, 32-/64-bit

HoRNet DrumShaper

eaReckon CM-COMP 87
Slick, punchy compressor
Mix knob for parallel compression
Limiter to keep the output in check
Clear VU- and LED-style metering
Based on eaReckons SD-COMP 87
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Instant EQ & compression for drums

Dial in effect amount and in/out gain
7 algorithms for kick, snare, loops, etc
Based on HoRNet TrackShaper
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Joey Sturgis Tones & Boz

Digital Labs SideWidener

audioD3CK SunRuys CM

LVC-Audio Transector CM
Transient tweaking and saturation
Define and process envelope stages
Useful metering/display functions
Mix control for parallel processing
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Vengeance-Sound Scope
Spectrum view for frequency analysis
Oscilloscope for waveform monitoring
Stereo phase and level metering
Tons of advanced analysis options
AU/VST/AAX, 32-/64-bit

Characterful bus compressor

Dry/wet mix and blend controls
Advanced options for serial tweakers
Based on the full SunRuys plugin
AU/VST/RTAS/AAX, 32-/64-bit

Add stereo width to mono sounds!

Signal retains mono compatibility
Goniometer for stereo visualisation
3 widening modes, plus Width & Tone
AU/VST/AAX/RTAS, 32-/64-bit

Nyrv Agent CM

Toneboosters Sibalance CM
Pro-quality de-esser and de-harsher
Four modes for different use cases
Select reduction and Attack amounts
Based on the full TB Sibalance plugin
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Create custom effects chains

Host your VST/AU plugins
Design your own interface
Based on the full Agent plugin
AU/VST/AAX, 32-/64-bit

April 2016 / Computer musiC / 17

> download /


plugINS guIDE


GGet all of these effects on
your PC or Mac right now at




Cableguys Waveshaper CM
Graphically editable distortion curves
Design curves by dragging nodes
Syncable input vs output oscilloscope
Not based on an existing plugin
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Audio Assault
GrindMachine CM
Five amp and ten cab emulations
Three-band EQ plus depth and presence
Djentbox for tightening low tunings
Based on the full GrindMachine
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Audio Assault
BassAmp CM
Inspired by Ampeg bass gear
Gain and Deep controls for added drive
Three-band EQ plus Mix blend
Choice of two cabinets
Not based on any existing plugin
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

LiquidSonics Reverberate CM
Convolution reverb
A selection of real-world presets
Import your own impulse response
Based on the full Reverberate plugin
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Audiffex STA Enhancer CM

New for v1.5: CPU optimised, tube
mode soft switch, new interface
Valve-style signal exciter/enhancer
Separate low/high enhancement
Choose from five tube circuitry modes
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Acon Digital CM Verb

Simple-but-versatile operation
Five modes: hall, plate, studio, etc
Built-in high- and low-pass filters
Based on Acon Digitals Verberate
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Sonimus Satson CM
Classic mixer channel emulation
Subtle warming saturation
Gentle, musical high/low filters
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Kuassa PreMix CM
Subtle saturation to screaming drive
Three-band Baxandall sweetening EQ
A/B comparison function
Not based on an existing plugin
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Rop Papen RP-Distort CM

Five crunchy distortion algorithms
EQ, dynamics, widener + modulation
Filter and parallel processing controls
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Lindell Plugins 6X-500 CM

Classic preamp emulation with EQ
High and low boosts for musical tone
Modelled on Lindells 6X-500
hardware preamp/EQ
Based on the full 6X-500 and
ChannelX plugin
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

Tekit Audio CrossDr CM

Three independent bands of drive
Drive, Warp, Crush and Clip signals
Per-band Balance and Level
AU/VST, 32-/64-bit

18 / Computer musiC / April 2016

ViDEo guiDEs
Plugins Getting
Started videos are also on
YouTube. Head to the below
address to check them out:

> news

New releases commeNt iNdustry happeNiNgs

New controllers for 2016

This years NAMM show proves that innovation is alive and well within the MIDI controller scene
You could have been forgiven for
thinking that youd seen everything in
the MIDI controller world, but when the
musical instrument industry gathered for
the yearly NAMM show in California, we
were pleasantly surprised by the forward
thinking on display. If youre still bashing
out your music on an old set of black and
whites, you may not be aware of todays
host of options. Here are just a few of the
highlights for the foreseeable year ahead:
Korgs nanoSeries controllers have given
on-the-go musicians diddy keys, pads and
mixing control for about eight years. Now,
the nanoKey Studio and nanoKontrol Studio
(top-right) are set to offer more real estate
and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. The
25-note nanoKey Studio can light up notes
based on your scale, while the nanoKontrol
Studio offers faders, knobs and plenty of
buttons. They should cost 130 each when
theyre released in a few months.
More INFo
ROLIs new Seaboard RISE 49 adds a 49-key
model to their range of squidgy, expressive
keyboards. These make use of
Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression
technology to provide fingertip glissando
and vibrato. It should be out by the time
you read this, but as rubber fetishists well
know, silicone dont come cheap; the RISE
49 is set to cost 949.
More INFo

M-Audios CTrL 49 can control

VST instruments and effects

22 / Computer musiC / April 2016

Korg widen their

nanoSeries range to offer
more hands-on control on the go

M-Audios CTRL 49 (bottom-left) was

also announced at NAMM this year.
Furnished with the same VIP
software from Akais Advance
keyboards, this colourful controller
will allow you to control VST plugins
with feedback via its 4.3-inch screen.
Thanks to a recent update to VIP,
VST effects are now also accessible.
The CTRL 49 should be available from
Spring, for 350.
More INFo
Alesis are offering a new two-octave
keyboard the V Mini for just 50. This
25-note number also offers four velocitysensitive pads and four knobs. It should be
out by Spring, so youve got time to save up
all your coppers to pay for it!
More INFo
New from Arturia, the KeyStep (aboveright) is inspired by their BeatStep
controller. This 32-note keyboard
will also function as a polyphonic
step sequencer with an onboard
arpeggiator. The KeyStep will connect
to CV and MIDI gear, and its got plenty of
other features baked in. Its set for release
in spring, at a price of 119. Read all about
it at
More INFo

Arturias Keystep gives you

sequencing from the board

Finally, the Zoom ARQ (below) is billed as a

drum machine, sequencer, synth, looper and
MIDI controller in one. The ring you see
before you is detachable, connects to the
base via bluetooth and wait for it has a
built-in accelerometer. See just what the
devils going on in the video at
More INFo

Zooms new one is off-the-wall and out-of-this-world

news <

trackers &
We peruse updates to
two big trackers, a great
demo and a Bowie tribute

IK are taking a shot at the affordable end of professional audio, aiming at both mastering and monitoring

IK Multimedia iLoud Micro &

Lurssen Mastering Console
IKs dinky new monitors are 18cm high and
claim to offer a completely new and
unmatched portable sonic experience. The
woofers three inches, and the tweeter a
quarter of this, so were not expecting audio
miracles, but the company are sensibly
pitching it as having a controlled bass
response, open midrange and pleasing
top end. The iLoud Micros can take phono,
3.5mm jack or Bluetooth input, and theres a
back-end EQ switch to pad low and/or high
frequencies by 3dB. They should be out in a
couple of months, 366 for a pair.
More INFo

New Waves releases

Weve seen three new VST/AU/AAX plugins

from the been-there-done-that developer
over NAMM this year. The first, Greg Wells
MixCentric ($199), uses a mix of EQ,

Greg Wells offers one-knob intensity in MixCentric

In the software domain, IK want to make

mastering more straightforward with the
Lurssen Mastering Console (VST/AU/AAX/
iPad). Basically, you select a Style from a
list, and youll be furnished with a prepared
chain of mastering processors that should
get the job done. You get adjustable EQ,
input gain and a Push knob, plus some
visualisation. Were yet to put to the test
IKs claim that LMC will give you
amazingly professional results, but rest
assured well be doing just that in an
review. If you cant wait for
that, its out now for 300 (plugin) or up to
100 via IAP (iPad).
More INFo

compression and distortion to tighten up a

signal. Waves are pitching it as a bus/group
processor. Oh, and its only got input/output
gain sliders and a single central Intensity
knob. Nx ($99) is a headphone referencing
tool or virtual mix room that simulates real
rooms. Whack it on your master bus and dial
in any extra settings you feel to get a grip on
your mix in different contexts. Theres no
specific room or speaker options to choose
from, though. Finally, the new Abbey Road
Reverb Plates plugin models four of the
studios EMT 140 plate reverbs and their
associated circuitry, replete with period
knobs, cranks and wheels so you can truly
get your George Martin on.

DMG Audio Limitless

If their previous releases are anything to go

by, we should be in for a treat as DMG take
on the concept of limiting. While Limitless
contains a Simple mode, its Advanced mode
is what will really make it worth the 150
price tag, offering up a tweakable multiband
architecture and the ability to separately
process transients.
Limitless puts your signal through up to
six linear-phase filters for separate
processing, and the limiting process itself is
said to be gentle and transparent, serving
up optimally smooth gain reduction and
giving the user control over a clipper placed
before the limiting stage. Theres also state-

As we half-anticipated last month, and after

nearly a year-and-a-half since the release of
version 3, Renoise 3.1 is finally upon us.
Among myriad improvements, this update
brings various enhancements to the sound
engine, including a rewritten filter section.
There are also new digital and analoguestyle filter modules, and Renoises Phrases

Renoises Phrases have been

overhauled, bringing them
into line with the workflow
of its plugin sibling Redux
have been overhauled, bringing them into
line with the workflow of its plugin sibling
Redux. Improvements have also been made
to DSP chains, which can now be routed to
tracks, making those awesome samplebased instruments act like multichannel
instruments. Theres also a new preset and
library system for improved workflow.
SunVox has also seen a nice update this
month to version 1.9.1 introducing a new
Glide module, which allows smooth
transitions between notes. Theres an
updated pattern interpolator to help
generate commands, and modules can now
be replaced, meaning you dont have to
break connections when swapping modules.
demo of the month
Happy New Year 2016 by Cocoon
The New Years festivities may now be a
distant blur, but we feel obliged to highlight
Cocoons latest masterpiece, which took first
place in Januarys Synchrony demoparty in
Manhattan. Happy New Year 2016s stylish
visuals perfectly match its downtempo
soundtrack from Polyak.
But all of this is mere preamble to
Elysiums marvellous C64 David Bowie
remix. Reimagined by Rock, this SID chip
version of Starman is a fitting retro tribute to
a defining rock legend.

DMGs new limiter is sure to push a few boundaries

of-the-art metering onboard. Its out now in

VST/AU/AAX formats, and were looking
forward to reviewing it as soon as we can.
More INFo

Cocoon let rip with nebulous, abstract 3D art

April 2016 / Computer musiC / 23

> news

Get with the

The Head of Development of this thoroughly modern
music software house makes his thoughts known



Your interfaces are firmly abstract,

rather than aiming to resemble traditional
hardware concepts. Whats your reasoning
behind that?
JS One of our primary goals with our
products is to provide an interface where the
user can be creative and is encouraged to use
their ears. Making a software product look
like a hardware product isnt always the best
way to go, and most of the time its a pretty
boring way to go! The possibilities and
characteristics of a flat surface differ quite a
lot from those of hardware devices there are
things you can and cant do when using both.
I really dont think one can compare them,
though. We all love real knobs and faders, by
the way!

Youve got a wide array of software,

but how do you come up with ideas for new
projects? And how do you decide which of those ideas goes on to
become a fully developed product?
JS Its actually different every time. Most of the time, someone has an
idea for a product, then we develop that idea together, and if we still find it
interesting, a prototype is made. Then everyone gets the ability to test it,
and after another discussion, we decide if well go on with the production.
And yes, we have a lot of prototypes laying around.
Korvpressor takes an interesting approach to compression,
but it offers very few controls. Can you tell us whats actually going
on under the hood?
JS Korvpressor basically consist of five compressors and one limiter.
Three of the compressors process different frequency regions, and the
other two are inserted on the input and output. The user interface only has
three parameters to control the
compressors (input, squeeze
and output), but those each
alter a lot of parameters
under the hood like attack
times, release times, frequency
regions and much more.
Exactly how the parameters are
affected is a secret!

iOS is still a pretty small

market when it comes
to audio plugins, but
its growing quickly

Your software comes

in both desktop plugin and iOS flavours. How do iOS sales compare
to plugin sales, and what do you think this says about iOS as a
music-making platform?
JS iOS is still a pretty small market when it comes to audio plugins, but its
growing quickly. With stuff like Audio Unit Extensions, Ableton Link and
similar frameworks, I guess more and more professional music producers
will integrate their surfaces into their workflow.
Whats next for Klevgrnd?
JS Were currently working on an iOS app that I unfortunately cant say
anything about (except that its music related!). Were also planning on
adding Audio Unit Extensions support to our existing iOS apps during
spring, and there are a couple of ideas for new plugins and software synths
that I really want to start prototyping.
24 / Computer musiC / April 2016

Slate Digital
Virtual Preamp Collection

Originally designed for use with the

upcoming Virtual Microphone System
(which they are included with), Slate have
popped out Virtual Mix Rack modules of
two of the best preamps of all time: the
preamps from Neves 1073 and the
Telefunken V76 of Abbey Road REDD fame.
As well as gain (Trim) controls and polarity
inversion switches, both processors include
Virtual Drive controls which increase
preamp gain while reducing the output to
compensate. The VMR-hosted plugins (VST/
AU/AAX) are available now on their own for
$149, or as part of Slates Everything Bundle.

PSP Audioware &

Avedis PSP E27

This multistage equaliser plugin (VST/AU/

AAX) aims to be a spot-on model of Avedis
E27 hardware, and its approved by the
company themselves. Each band
operates at one of nine selectable
frequencies, with boosts or cuts applied
in increments of 2dB up to +/- 16dB. There
are also low- and high-shelf filters. For
the software version, PSP have thrown
two virtual units together to offer operation
in L/R or mid/side modes, linked or unlinked.
You can also double the number of bands
for each channel to six, and add a preamp
featuring high-pass filter, drive and master
output. Its out imminently for $180.

Sonivox Pitch2MIDI

Pitch-to-MIDI processing is nothing new,

and is even available as standard in some
modern DAWs. The main thrust
behind SoniVoxs new VST/AU/AAX
plugin, though, is real-time
operation, allowing you to input a
live musical signal to be converted
into MIDI to trigger other
instruments or the built-in
synthesiser. Pitch2MIDIs suitability
and effectiveness will be determined by the
latency of your audio setup, of course. Its
also worth noting that it only currently
processes monophonic audio. If it sounds
right for you, its available now for $150.

Audiority TS-1

This multimode, frequency dependent

transient shaper (VST/AU/AAX) approaches
envelope processing by strategically adding
saturation to the input signal, with the
intention of retaining the dynamics of your
material, thus making it a good candidate for
drum processing. TS-1s attack and sustain
stages each have Gain (+/- 24) and Frequency
(20Hz-8kHz) parameters, plus detectioncircuit filtering to improve results. Theres a
Soft Clip switch, as well as Size and Blend
parameters, along with Output gain and
metering onboard. Envelope response
curves can also be inverted. TS-1 is available
now for 49.

news <

The Cupertino Corp give something

back with three free offerings

We eyed some wacky
inventions that were
destined for the dump

Apple updates and music memos

Any Apple loyalists will have been suitably chuffed this month as the
company released three free new musical offerings. GarageBand for
iOS 2.1 (top-left) is a free update introducing Ableton Live-style Live
Loops, Logics Drummer feature, and support for Audio Unit
Extensions. Read all about it at
Elsewhere, Logic Remote (bottom-left) has now been brought
to the iPhone and iPad Pro, and the new Music Memos app
(bottom-right) aims to replace Voice Memos as a way to record and
develop musical ideas on iPhone.

Ins & outs

Roland have announced a new
partnership with Virtual Sonics (a
software, services and media
solutions provider) that they say will
change the world through music.
But how, you might ask? Expect
a cloud-based suite of high-fidelity
instruments for starters.


was saddened to
learn of the passing of
Bernie Torelli, founder of Nomad
Factory. Hed managed to keep
working throughout his illness, and
decided that one of his final plugins,
Bus Driver, should be offered as a
free download for a limited time.


MIDI controllers with built-in
Bluetooth for wireless operation
are starting to appear, but old
devices dont have to go without!
Yamahas new Bluetooth adapters
( connect to
USB and standard MIDI ports.


Theres nothing wrong with a bit
of self confidence, but when Kanye
West tweeted that hed finished
work on the best album of all time
the album in question being Swish,
his new long player we couldnt
help but think that he was getting
slightly ahead of himself.


Just when we thought wed seen
every Star Wars tie-in possible,
along comes Star Wars Headspace, a
new electronic music compilation
curated by Rick Rubin and featuring
a cast of contributors from Flying
Lotus to Ryksopp. Find out more

Speaking of new albums, the
launch of Rihannas ANTI didnt
quite seem to go to plan last
month. It was accidentally released
on streaming service Tidal, and then
ended up being given away for free.
Or perhaps it was all one giant
marketing ruse all along

We got all chin strokey in issue 98, as we

entered the unconventional world of
electronica and created an IDM track.
These days, of course, intelligence in
electronica is indicated by an ear-splitting
white noise riser followed by an airhorn
sample, so weve clearly come a long way.
In our Burning Question, we rather
pessimistically asked if music software
developers had run out of ideas. If they
had, then theyve certainly done well to
recycle old ones for the past decade.
Over in the News section, meanwhile,
we reported on Apples chargeable Logic
7.2 update, a far cry from the meaty

We reviewed an early
example of wearable tech
point-release upgrades that theyre
happy to let us have for free these days.
We also reported on Mackies intriguing
Satellite audio interface, which featured a
dock you could leave in the studio and a
pod that could be detached and taken
on the road. We liked the idea, but since
we havent seen anything similar since,
its safe to say this is one Satellite that
didnt take off as intended.
Finally, we reviewed an early example
of wearable tech in the form of the
GypsyMIDI controller. It did work, but the
fact that you looked like someone
recovering from multiple bone breakages
when you were wearing it might have put

in April 2006, electronica wasnt quite

the catch-all term its become today

April 2016 / Computer musiC / 25

> news

freeware news
If variety is the spice of life, this months tasteful bounty of
cross-platform free plugins is sure to satisfy your creative cravings

u-he Protoverb
With this experimental free plugin, you can help the
German software family furnish their new room
Most of our readers will be familiar
with algorithmic reverbs. These
effects simulate natural spaces using
myriad echoes that vary in pitch and time.
Traditionally, great pains are taken to
avoid resonances in an algorithmic
design. Protoverb (PC/Mac, VST/AU/AAX)
dispenses with such conventions, instead
building up its artificial spaces by piling
on as many resonances as it can in order
to recreate the body of air in a given
space. As it happens, this is a pretty
good way to simulate the effects of
churches, halls and other man-made
and natural environments.
All of this is very interesting, even if much
of the technical jiggery-pokery happens

behind the scenes.

Protoverb provides only the
merest handful of controls.
Three knobs Decay, Dry
and Wet are joined by a
pair of buttons used to
randomise the stuff we cant
see and to which no other
access is granted.
There is also a means by
which to send the results
back to the developer. Ten of
u-hes Protoverb fills up the corners and everything in
between with its unusual take on algorithmic reverberation
the best submissions will be
chosen and the responsible
Hurry up, though, as the deadline for
users will win a u-he plugin.
submissions is 31 March!
Its a neat take on data-mining and is sure to
benefit both u-he and the users themselves.

sH-it Bass



One shouldnt read too

much into this plugins selfdeprecating handle, the
tight, spiky basses of an
SH-101 being quite the
opposite of crap.
A sample-based
instrument, SH-it Bass (VST/AU) offers a means by
which to mix and match 25 sub oscillator and 25
main oscillator samples with a quintet of noise
samples taken from the Roland SH-101. Only the
merest collection of controls are on offer, but
theres enough for a bit of variety. For PC or Mac.

Not all frequency-based

processors are alike, as
TBProAudio make clear with
sTilt (PC/Mac, VST/AU/AAX/
RTAS ). Rather than a typical
shelving EQ, sTilt tilts the
spectrum of incoming audio
signals around a user-defined centre frequency.
A clockwise spin of the big knob increases the
gain above the center frequency and attenuates
below it, while a twist the other way performs the
reverse. A linear-phase filter, sTilt preserves your
signals phase, though doing so adds latency.

The simplest tools often are

the ones that get used the
most, and as such, we have no
doubt that DeeGain will
become a go-to VST/AU plugin
for many of you. DeeGain does
one thing: it alters the volume
level of an incoming signal.
With a range from -20dB to
+20dB, you can use DeeGain to
manage levels between other plugins. It would
make an exceptionally useful utility in modular
plugin environments. For PC or Mac.



Urs Heckmann is a master when it comes to

modelling analogue hardware. Here, he
took a different approach by realising in
software an abandoned hardware design
based loosely on Rolands Juno-60. Tyrell
(VST/AU/AAX) doubles the Junos single
oscillator-per voice count, adds a second
ADSR and another LFO, plus allows for

26 / ComPuter musiC / April 2016

plenty of modulation. A matrix gives you

interesting cross-modulation options, and
an exceptionally flexible ring modulator is
provided for those metallic, clangorous
tones. Like the replicants that inspired its
name, its in many ways far better than what
it was based on.

iSSUE 228 APRIL 2016

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The Majorca-based tech-house don and

Tronic boss will now happily accept imitations
Ive been using Ableton for a long, long
time. At first, I missed the excitement of a
hardware studio, but moving onboard gives
you so many more options and so many
more sounds. Ableton is an amazing DAW.
Another one that reminds me of the
analogue era. When I first heard the
software 303s, I didnt think they were quite
as deep as the real thing, but these days
I cannot tell the difference. I was talking to
Richie Hawtin about this, and even he says
that the plugins are getting it right.
I think its hard to find a really good
software flanger; not many developers have
managed to get that warm analogue sound.
For me, the MXR is the best one out there. To
be honest, I would have been happy to talk
about any of the UAD plugins. Ive got the
whole set and every one sounds incredible.

Because I come from a hardware
background, I was drawn to the Arturia V
collection. The Minimoog gets used for most
of my basslines and stabs. The only problem
is that it eats up a lot of processor because
you have to EQ it, compress it and really
shape the sound. If you feed it straight into a
track, it feels way too heavy.

Im really getting into

panning my hats
I love panning adding some serious
width to a track. Im really getting into
panning my hats at the moment; a fast pan
that doesnt affect the sound too much, but
gives you so much space. Any producer
who doesnt investigate the Soundtoys
plugins is a fool. They will make your music
sound better!

Christian and Wehbbas Passion Over Fashion is about to be released

/ burning question

Is the mastering
process being
While its been possible to
do in-the-box mastering for
years now, there are many
more credible resources that help
people learn how to do it, so more
people are! Mastering no longer
means trying to fit tracks into the
Billboard Top 40 it means making
music sound good in whatever
context. However, it doesnt make


mastering any easier. The same

things that democratise the
activity make it more challenging
in some ways. Jonathan Wyner

The tools have certainly

become democratised.
MixBus is only $79 and it
has everything you need to get
good levels, balance your tracks
against each other, sequence
them, and export your album in
multiple formats. But the
knowledge to use those tools at a
professional level is just as costly
as ever you still have to hire
someone who knows what theyre
doing, or take the time to develop
those skills yourself. Ben Loftis


IK Multimedia

As a lover of sound and

the art of mastering, Im
still awed by great
mastering done by the best
mastering engineers. I dont think

The mastering process

has always involved a lot of
mystery and mojo. This is
because the art of mastering
covers many different aspects, all

of which interact with each other.

The democratisation, we think,
comes from having provided
something which users can count
on something that they can be
assured is correct and leaves just
those controls that are required to
create the balance and the final
level. Davide Barbi

Professional tools are
getting more affordable
and more people are
learning how to use them, so in
that sense, the process is definitely
being democratised. However,
experience and good ears are not
easily purchased, so not everyone
will get a great result, even with
the right tools. But the same goes
for all parts of the process,
whether its songwriting, playing,
recording, mixing or mastering.
More musicians and artists are
mixing their own albums these
days, and I think its safe to assume
that more will try to master their
albums as well, regardless of
whether the outcome is good
or not. Niklas Odelholm

Illustration by Jake

the disruption thats happening

with tools like LANDR will touch
that, but many of the millions of
made-for-Soundcloud tracks,
demos and bedroom productions
will be mastered to a quality that
never would have been possible
before. Justin Evans

SubScribe to the digital

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All styles and abilities from intermediate to advanced

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iPad version includes moving tab perfectly synched to

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30 / Computer musiC / March 2014

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April 2016 / Computer musiC / 33

> make music now / distortion secrets

34 / Computer musiC / April 2016

distortion secrets / make music now <

Dont just throw it on and

hope for the best let us
show you the pro secrets
for giving your tracks the
edge every single time
In simple terms, distortion refers to the
process of overloading a circuit with an
audio signal until the circuits available
headroom is exceeded, clipping the signals
waveform and generating new harmonic
content. Youll probably be familiar with
the act of running a clean electric guitar
tone through an amplifier or distortion
pedal, which creates an aggressively
distorted tone; but in fact, many types of
analogue audio equipment have long since
imparted various strengths and flavours of
this effect to sounds, giving our favourite
songs of yesteryear a sense of warmth
that can at first seem difficult to achieve
with todays pristine digital systems.
Luckily, modern plugin technology allows
us to emulate all kinds of saturation, overdrive
and distortion circuitry within our DAW. Want
to run your channels through classic
preamps? No problem! Feel like calling up an
entire collection of legendary guitar

amplifiers? Easy! And naturally, there are

plenty of distortion effects that arent inspired
by analogue gear at all indeed, some are
based on digital distortions such as aliasing.
But while the tools are available, the actual
applications require knowledge and skill, and
as all producers will have experienced, its all
too easy to turn your sounds into a bloated,
distorted mess! How do the professionals
avoid this and instead use distortion to both
obvious effect and as a secret mixing
weapon? Well, youre about to find out!
Over the next few pages and in our expert
videos, youll learn exactly how distortion
works on a technical level; after that, well
break down saturation, drive and distortion
approaches that you can use to transform
sounds and improve your mixes. Well also
look at how EQ and level affects distortion,
plus how to mix using more advanced
approaches such as parallel and multiband
setups. Now, lets take your tracks for a drive

Get the videos and tutorial
files on your PC/Mac at

April 2016 / Computer musiC / 35

> make music now / distortion secrets

As a computer musician, youll be familiar with
the use of waveforms to represent audio signals.
Spiky peaks are transients (such as drum hits),
and if you zoom in far enough repeating
cycles appear wherever theres a musical tone
(such as synth, instrument or vocal notes).
Distortion, in a music production context, is
an effect that transforms and deforms the curve
of a waveform, and the most basic variety is
clipping. Have you ever turned up the master
output of your DAW too much and found that
the signal meters maxed out, and the sound
became harsh, noisy and, well, distorted? If not,
try it now. Thats clipping in action! Theres a
maximum level that the audio interface can
handle (0dBFS), so any parts of the signal that
would exceed this point are simply clipped off

its as though you used a pair of virtual scissors

to simply cut off the tops of any parts of the
waveform poking above a certain level.
Remember, audio waveforms work in both
positive and negative directions, so this happens
at both ends of the waveforms amplitude
range, known as symmetrical distortion. So wed
have to snip the bottom of the waveform too.
If the signal is transient-heavy, a little clipping
can be practically imperceptible, as the only
parts affected will be the loudest peaks, which
typically occur for a very short period of time.
But on a smooth, sustained sound like a sine
wave, even the tiniest bit of clipping will be
obvious, as every single peak and trough will be
flattened off, creating a sharp angle where the
wave meets the clipping point (see step 2

below). We end up with a waveform that is not a

sine wave at all, with a buzzy quality to it. Any
cyclical waveform that is not a pure sine is
essentially made up of multiple sine waves of
different frequencies, and thus clipping, like all
forms of distortion, can introduce new
frequencies to the signal.
Weve just described hard clipping; soft
clipping is a little gentler, and while it will still
clip off any part of the signal exceeding its
threshold, there is a gradual onset just below
that. The sharp angle described in our sine wave
example would instead be a curve leading to
the clipped portion.
So, thats the basics of clipping lets now see
it in action, and also get our heads around
another basic form of distortion, waveshaping.

> Step by step 1.Basicclippingandwaveshapinganalysedandexplained

Clipping and waveshaping are two

fundamental methods of producing
distortion. Here weve set up an oscillator,
a gain plugin, a combined clipper/
waveshaping plugin (Cableguys
Waveshaper CM, which is free with this
magazine) and a spectrum analyser. We
also need an oscilloscope, and handily,
Waveshaper CM includes one, although
another alternative would be VengeanceSounds Scope (also part of

To get soft clipping, we can switch

Waveshaper CM to Analog Clip mode.
Here the waveform is already modified
with our tone at 0dB, and by reducing the
level, its clear this tailored clipping
actually starts at about -2dB. If we increase
the level beyond 0dB, we also get a
smoother waveform. On the spectrum
analyser, A/B-ing the two clip modes
demonstrates the different balance of
harmonic levels generated.

36 / Computer musiC / April 2016

To see the clipping in action, set the

oscillator to a sine wave with an easily
visible frequency such as 499Hz. Set all
plugins to unity gain or 0dB, and select
the Digital Clip mode on Waveshaper CM
to apply straightforward hard clipping. Set
Waveshaper CMs oscilloscope to the
same frequency as the oscillator, with loop
mode active and input and output signals
visible. Now simply increase the level of
the gain plugin to introduce clipping.

Next, lets return our gain to 0dB and

modify the waveshaper shaping
function. The display plots output level
(the vertical Y axis) against input level
(the horizontal X axis). If we retain the
default straight line but shift the Y axis
value halfway down, weve essentially
halved our output level, and we can see a
corresponding halving of the amplitude
on the oscilloscope.

Our oscilloscope shows the flattened

clipped, in fact peaks produced by
the clipping, and increasing the level
much more leads to a square wave. In our
analyser, new harmonics are introduced
these are all odd-number multiples of the
original frequency (499 x 3 = 1497Hz; 499
x 5 = 2495Hz, etc). As the waveform
becomes squarer, the frequency spectrum
becomes more like that of a square wave
ie, all odd harmonics which makes sense!

Try out Waveshaper CMs other preset

line shapes. These can create gentle
soft-clipping effects and harsher regular
clipping of the type weve already
investigated, but with more control over
their exact clipping points. Keep an eye on
the analyser and listen to the output, and
experiment with the plot and the source
sound, too.

distortion secrets / make music now <

Valves are
revered for
their euphonic

> Step by step 2.Harmonicdistortioninpluginemulations

We started off with the example of
digital clipping, but distortions
origins lie in the analogue devices
of yesteryear. Many such units are
now revered for their musical and
pleasing distortion, the quest for
which has led engineers right back
to classic analogue designs based
on valves, transformers and further
components such as field effect
(FET) or germanium transistors. All
of these have their own distortion
characteristics, and their
desirability has considerable
bearing on the demand for plugin
emulations. But what is it about the
distortions these designs produce
thats so likeable? The reality lies in
the balance and level of harmonic
distortions, their dynamic
behaviour and interaction.
Youll often see specifics quoted
about certain components, such as
transformers and tape saturation
both generating odd harmonics,
and valves generating even
harmonics. These generalisations
about components can be
misleading, as often its the circuit
design itself thats the critical
factor. Beyond this, certain
components may only distort a
limited frequency range
(transformers are a good example,
typically affecting frequencies up
to about 500Hz), and others
(valves for example) may react to
transients and clip in their own
specific way, exhibiting some form
of dynamic characteristics. Indeed,
youll sometimes hear engineers
talk about tape and valve
compression, and while these
devices do indeed affect dynamics,
its not compression in the usual
threshold and ratio sense.
Finally, you may be wondering
how distortions can generate odd
and even harmonics in different
amounts. In our clipping examples
on the previous page, we clipped
both sides of the sine wave
(symmetrical clipping) to generate
a raft of odd harmonics. If wed
clipped just one side (asymmetrical
clipping), wed have generated both
odd and even order harmonics.

Lets use an oscillator and spectrum

analyser to see the effects of plugins
that emulate analogue distortion.
AudioThings Valve Exciter emulates the
ECC83 preamp valve. In Triode mode,
increasing the gain introduces even and
odd harmonics, but theyre only
significant up to the 5th harmonic. Using
an oscilloscope helps avoid hard clipping,
which would introduce harmonics
unrelated to the valve emulation.

For tape saturation, our plugin (u-hes

Satin) has a Modern tape setting,
which first introduces just a 3rd harmonic,
then adds 5th and eventually some higher
odd harmonics as we increase level.
Switching to Vintage tape mode, the 3rd
and 5th harmonics are introduced at a
lower level, and a more dominant 5th
harmonic means that the vintage tape
sounds more distorted overall.

Field Effect Transistors (FET) can be

used in distortion circuits, and JFETbased circuits generate 2nd-harmonic
distortions. Here, the Vertigo VSM-3
includes a specific FET harmonic
generator. As we increase the gain, we get
2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th harmonics. Even so,
the 2nd harmonic is very dominant. Of all
our distortions, this one delivers the
cleanest even harmonics.

Switching to Pentode mode, we have

to readjust the Drive slightly to match
levels, and at the same Drive level, there
are also odd and even harmonics. Once
again theyre insignificant beyond the 5th
harmonic. For both pentode and triode
modes, increasing the bias (as would be
possible in a valve circuit) reduces the 3rd
harmonic and increases the 4th harmonic
until theyre roughly even at the maximum
bias setting.

Activating the Analog button on

Lindells 6X-500 CM adds output
transformer saturation. As we increase the
gain, odd harmonics appear in abundance.
Looking at the oscilloscope, we also have
some gentle symmetrical clipping. Finally,
by increasing the oscillator frequency, we
can see the added harmonics tail off for
higher frequencies this is typical
transformer behaviour.

Diode-based designs (often found in

guitar distortion pedals) can be
configured in various ways. D16 Groups
Devastor 2 provides six diode-based
transfer shapes with further shape
tweaking. We can see and hear many
variations, ranging from Hard Clip, with
its extensive odd harmonics, to
Asymmetric Hyperbolic Tangent, with
its significant even harmonics.

April 2016 / Computer musiC / 37

> make music now / distortion secrets

So far weve looked primarily at
how a simple sine wave is
distorted to produce musically
pleasing harmonics. However, in
the real world, sounds include a
complex array of frequencies. In
a situation where two or more
frequencies are combined and
they encounter nonlinearity
(such as distortion), you get
intermodulation between those
frequencies. This generates
further frequencies based on the
sum and difference of the
original frequencies, and this
intermodulation distortion is
often inharmonic and can sound
quite unpleasant. Nevertheless,
with careful note selection, it can
be used to your advantage, as
well demonstrate with the
classic guitar power chord effect.
Another byproduct that we
can encounter is specific to
digital systems and is called
aliasing. In digital converters, the
Nyquist theorem (Google it!)
dictates that the maximum
frequency a digital signal can
contain is half its sampling rate
(so 22,050Hz at 44.1kHz).
Attempting to store or generate
frequencies above this will result
in them being reflected about
the Nyquist point and added to
the signal below our upper limit
(eg, an intended frequency of
32,050Hz, would be manifested
as 12,050Hz instead). In our audio
interface, this is usually resolved
with anti-aliasing filters, while
plugins may use techniques like
oversampling to combat
unwanted aliasing. However,
some plugins embrace aliasing
as a creative effect, as well
soon see.

> Step by step 3.Intermodulationdistortionintheory&practice

To demonstrate very basic IMD, we

can blend two tones that are not
harmonically related, and clip them. Well
use 1kHz and 1.1kHz. With Waveshaper CM,
we can switch between types of clipping.
When we activate the clipping, we can see
many harmonic distortions, including
those created by the difference between
the two frequencies (100Hz).

This is why a distorted power chord

(root + fifth) sounds so heavy lets try
it with an actual guitar chord. For A it will
include a root (A), the fifth above (E) and
an octave above (A). Switching the clipper
on and increasing the drive produces a
fizzy but nonetheless sonically pleasing
sound. Before the level dies away, the
added harmonics sound related in terms
of frequency with the chord.

We can actually use this difference

frequency to our advantage. When
tones of A (220Hz) and E (330Hz) are
clipped together, the sound remains quite
pleasant, even with considerable gain.
This is because they are acting as if theyre
natural second and third harmonics of the
difference frequency 110Hz. Youd expect
to see 220 and 330Hz in a note of 110Hz!

Finally, lets compare this to a full A

major chord. Here the notes are A,
E, A, C and E. The root and fifth are
repeated, but the addition of the third (C )
adds harmonic complexity that causes a
lot of intermodulation distortion. Clipping
the signal creates a messier sound even
for this simple chord, and if we A/B it with
the power chord, the latter sounds much
more cohesive and, well, powerful.

> Step by step 4.Examiningaliasinginsample-ratereductionplugins

Aliasing effects have become creative

tools in their own right, often used to
add edgy frequencies to loops, keyboards
and guitars. Plugins dont always
approach this in quite the same way. Here
we have two that intentionally introduce
aliasing one which simply provides
downsampling multiples and one which
provides a specific sample rate setting and
aliasing amount. Lets see how they work.

38 / Computer musiC / April 2016

Logics Bitcrusher is a pretty blunt

instrument, with downsampling
limited to divisions of the original. At half
sampling frequency, the plugin produces
aliasing from a source tone of 1.75kHz
upwards. Sweep that tone up to the
Nyquist limit (roughly 11kHz) and beyond,
and the aliases are added below the test
tone frequency, reflecting back down the
frequency spectrum.

ToneBoosters TimeMachine is a very

different plugin. As soon as we reduce
the Sample Rate below our DAW sample
rate, multiple frequency artifacts appear,
and increasing the DA aliasing control
from 0 to 100% simply emphasises those
at the highest frequencies. In terms of
generating multiple nasty frequencies, we
found a single test tone anywhere up to
around 1kHz was most effective.

> make music now / distortion secrets

> Step by step 5.Thecommondistortiontypesandhowtheyreused

Now that we know how distortion

works, lets take an audio tour of its
many flavours and varieties, to get a feel
for how they each sound. Tape saturation
combines transient smoothing,
compression and soft signal distortion to
progressively glue and fatten. Emulations
often apply EQ and simulated tape hiss
and flutter. Its great for warmth and glue,
and can be applied to every track.

Guitar overdrive pedals like the Ibanez

Tube Screamer apply mild distortion,
often coupled with EQ/filtering and a level
boost, all designed to overload the input
of the amplifier theyre connected to,
adding aggression to a sound which could
already be quite hot. Heard in isolation, it
has a basic, crunchy timbre that retains
dynamics halfway between the subtlety
of saturation and all-out distortion.

Guitar distortion heard on its own can

sound very fizzy and harsh. The guitar
sounds were used to hearing come from a
microphone placed in front of a speaker
cabinet in a real room, all three of which
heavily colour the frequency response. So,
for an authentic tone, these aspects must
be simulated too, and many plugins offer
this. We can switch the cabinet simulation
on and off to hear the difference it makes.

40 / Computer musiC / April 2016

Like tape, valve saturation

progressively adds harmonics in a
musically pleasing way, with distinct
colouration. Triode valves generate
largely even harmonics, while pentode
circuits give odd ones, often considered
less musical, but deeper and richer.
Saturation is usually used subtly, rather
than pushed to the point of obvious
distortion though its always an option!

Fuzz is basically very strong clipping,

usually used as a guitar effect. It adds
harmonic distortion and massive sustain,
and obliterates dynamics. A filter to roll off
the treble can make it more versatile. One
of the all-time classic fuzz boxes, ElectroHarmonix Big Muff of which Universal
Audios Bermuda Triangle is a great
emulation has just three controls:
Sustain, (output) Volume and Tone (filter).

Bit-depth reduction gives us the

crunchy sound of old-school sampling
and vintage home computers. It adds grit
and edge, which can help sounds cut
through busy mixes. It also adds a hissing
sound, noticeable on signals like reverb
tails, so you might want to gate signals
before bitcrushing, and to apply reverb
afterwards. Unless thats the old-school,
sampled vibe youre after!

Many types of distortion employ

clipping behaviour, but when we talk
about clipping in music production, were
usually referring to basic hard and soft
clipping. While pure digital clipping can
sound harsh, a dedicated soft/hard clipper
can reduce peaks invisibly when used
moderately. In the mix, its useful for
keeping signal levels in check, and great
for transient-heavy sources.

Confusingly, there is a distortion type

called distortion, derived from the
world of guitar pedals. Most associated
with heavy guitar music like punk and
metal, distortion may incorporate multiple
EQ, filtering and clipping stages, arranged
and tuned to give extreme results while
retaining articulation. Unlike overdrive,
distortion pedals are intended to largely
create the distorted tone by themselves.

Sample-rate reduction decreases the

temporal resolution of the digital
signal. The most recognisable result is a
kind of atonal ringing with a metallic edge.
You can roughly tune this ringing by
changing the sample rate, or modulate it
for distinctive riffs and digital effects.
Modulation of the sample rate is often
used as a sound effect in modern
sci-fi soundtracks.

distortion secrets / make music now <

When working with distortion processors, its
vital to consider your levels and gain staging at
both the input and output stages. Weve already
looked at the basic relationship between gain
and distortion on the way in: raise a signals gain
into a distortion plugin (by turning up its output,
using the distortion devices input gain
parameter, or a combination of both), and the
waveform will be clipped, shaped or otherwise
altered. At the other end, the distorted signal
that emerges will typically sound far louder than
the undistorted signal.
In practice, then, there are two key points for
the producer to bear in mind: firstly, the level of
your input (ie, your pre-distortion signal) will
greatly affect the distortion response; and
secondly, youll almost always need to turn your

post-distortion signal down a fair bit to match

the level of the unprocessed signal this is why
most distortion plugins feature a bypass button
and output gain/trim parameters.
Just as overall level impacts the distortion
response at both the input and output stages, so

You can affect

particular frequencies
to control the
distortion response

do the levels of individual frequencies. By EQing

a signal before it enters the distortion device,
you can affect particular frequencies to control
the distortion response, and control which
frequencies the added harmonics are generated
from. This can be used in a corrective sense if a
particular frequency in the source signal is
generating nastiness in the distortion, for
example or for creative uses, such as pushing
specific frequencies into the drive stage.
On the flip side, EQing post-distortion is a
handy way to clean up emphasised
frequencies, which is often useful in a corrective
sense, subduing any unpleasantness the
distortion has introduced. Combined with preEQ distortion, a vast array of timbres can be
coaxed from even the simplest clipper.

> Step by step 6.ExploringtheeffectofEQondistortion

Lets explore the relationship between

pre- and post-distortion EQ. Load
BassGuitLoop.wav on an audio track in a
new 110bpm project. Were using Live 9 as
our host, but you can follow the principles
in any DAW. Insert Graffio CM, turn off the
Exciter and Bit Reducer modules, then
crank the Saturators Gain knob to 25dB,
and pull the output Level knob back to
-11.5dB. We can improve this fuzzy effect
with a combination of pre- and post-EQ.

By assigning the level of our low shelf

cut to a single macro knob, well be
able to control other parameters with the
same macro. Right-click band 1s Gain
knob and select Map To Macro 1, then
head into the Racks Macro Mapping
editor and set this parameters Minimum
to 0dB and its Maximum to -9dB.

Load an instance of Live 9s EQ Eight

device, being sure to place it before
Graffio CM in the chain. On the EQs
analyser, we can see that the majority of
the loops energy is focused around the
low and low-mid regions. It figures that its
these frequencies that are pushing
hardest into the distortion.

Now the EQs low shelf band is pulled

down when we turn up Macro 1 and
we can use this same macro to apply an
opposing low-shelf boost after the
distortion plugin. Duplicate the EQ Eight
instance and place this copy after Graffio
CM in the chain (within the Rack), then
open the Macro Mapping Editor and set
this EQs Minimum to 0dB and Maximum
to 9dB.

Highlight both EQ Eight and Graffio

CM in the chain, then hit Ctrl/Cmd-G
to group them into an Audio Effect Rack.
Lets set up the EQ so it will pull down
these heavy low frequencies: activate EQ
Eights first band, leave it set to a low shelf,
then set the bands Frequency to 120Hz
and Q to 0.5.

Now, turning up Macro 1 will

simultaneously pull down a low shelf
cut pre-distortion, and boost the same
frequencies post-distortion. This tames
the heavy low frequencies entering the
distortion stage and boosts them back
again after, retaining their weight and
smoothing out the effect. To finish, head
into Graffio CM and adjust settings to taste
to tailor the response to your liking.

April 2016 / Computer musiC / 41

> make music now / distortion secrets

Distortion can be a very extreme effect too
extreme, in fact, for many applications. The
increasing signal level, overtones and harmonic
content can be sonically overwhelming, which
is why so many distortion effects are combined
with some kind of filtering, particularly those
that introduce lots of odd harmonics.
But such effects applied to directly inserted
distortion will only serve to further distance
the source sound from its original state, and
we often dont want to mangle our sounds to
that degree. So, a great way to tame these
results is to combine the dry (ie, undistorted)
signal with the distorted version using a parallel
channel, send/return bus, or a plugin that has a
dry/wet control built in. Indeed, a lot of the
distortion you hear on pro tracks is applied in

this way everything from warmed-up

characterful vocals and synth parts to
emphasised drums and harmonically rich
basslines that pack in all the low-end weight and
warmth yet are somehow magically audible on
headphones and consumer speakers too.
As mentioned, many distortion effects have a
built-in dry/wet control, offering a quick and
effective way to make their colouring effects
more subtle. By setting up a dedicated channel
for parallel distortion, though, you can achieve
much more crafted results and even apply the
same exact effect to numerous elements in
your track (be wary of intermodulation artifacts
when doing this, though see p38). Not only
that, but by placing our distortion on a parallel
chain, we can add lots of other creative and

functional processes, allowing stereoising,

pumping, modulated filtering, multiband
excitement and countless others far more
useful than a single dry/wet mix control, then.
Do bear in mind that parallel distortion can
introduce slight time/phase offsets between the
dry and wet channels, which can sometimes
result in unpleasant comb-filtering effects. A
processor such as Universal Audios UAD Little
Labs IBP can adjust the phase and timing of the
parallel bus to minimise these problems, though
you can achieve a similar fix using ultra-short
sub-millisecond delays (Voxengo Sound Delay is
good for this) or all-pass filtering (try our own
DDMF IIEQ Pro CM). Or, of course, you could
embrace the nastiness of that comb filtering,
and make it part of your sound!

> Step by step 7.Usingparalleldistortioninthemix

Place a distortion effect on a bus.

Were using Universal Audios
Bermuda Triangle an emulation of the
classic Big Muff fuzz pedal but any
distortion effect will work. Now we can
selectively add distortion to parts using
sends, changing these amounts
throughout the arrangement. Used on
multiple parts, it has a gelling effect;
applied to just one part, it makes that
element stand out more.

Parallel-distorted tracks are also a

great place to introduce stereo
movement. Here, we try flanging, stereo
chorusing and stereoising on filtered bass
distortion. By only focusing on the mid
frequencies and harmonics of the bass
distortion, were creating a wide stereo
bass patch thats still mono-compatible
and doesnt extend up too high and
muddy the stereo mix higher up the
frequency range.

42 / Computer musiC / April 2016

With our distortion on a bus (or

parallel channel) we can use
Vengeance-Sounds Philta CM to isolate
and accentuate specific harmonics and
frequencies. Here, we try top-and-tailing
the frequencies to accentuate the mid/
vocal range, low-passing to add warmth to
a synth by rolling off the tops, and even
modulated filtering. Try placing the filter
before and after the distortion for radically
different results.

This send-/return-system also allows

us to accentuate specific notes. For
example, we automate the send on our
bass clip so we only hear distortion on
selected notes. For another, more organic
method, we insert a gate on the bus
before the distortion effect so only the
strongest sounds have added distortion.
Bass-heavy signals will trigger the gated
distortion more aggressively than those
without much bass.

Parallel distortion may cause phasing

and comb-filtering effects, and
depending on context, youll either want
to avoid or embrace these. You can even
introduce such effects intentionally here,
were experimenting with a phaser in the
effects chain. Placed before the distortion,
it produces a less overtly phased sound;
placed after, we find it helpful to use a
compressor to smooth the level out.

For a variation on the gating trick, try

a gate with a sidechain EQ control.
Now the gate (and therefore the
distortion) is only triggered by a
frequency range of our choosing. Here we
do just that to a drum loop, effectively
creating a kind of magnifying exciter
effect that only adds distortion when
theres plenty of top-end already. Of
course, we can adjust this to work on any
frequency range.

distortion secrets / make music now <

> Step by step 8.Subtleenhancementwithmultibanddistortion

Multiband distortion plugins are

great for gently enhancing specific
frequency areas. Load DrumLoopClean.
wav on a new audio track in a 127bpm
project, then call up an instance of
FabFilter Saturn on its channel. The dense
break, taken from
206s The Young
Punx VIP Series pack, is rather dull, so well
shape its tone and harmonics.

Multiband effects are designed
to process separate user-defined
frequency bands of a signal in
isolation, and particular
favourites of ours in the
distortion department are D16
Groups mighty Devastor 2,
iZotopes Trash 2, the berpopular FabFilter Saturn, and our
own CrossDr CM by Tekit Audio.
The most obvious use for
multiband distortion is when
youre looking to beef up or
mangle a particular frequency
region within a dense,
multilayered signal such as a
drum loop or frequency-rich
synth sound. In the latter case,
you might wish to design an
aggressive, full-frequency bass
sound; if you simply apply
traditional full-band distortion
over the whole sound, the basss
low frequencies, which contain
the most energy, will likely
trigger the distortion effect first,
muddying up the low frequencies
and creating a distorted mess.
Instead, a multiband distortion
plugin can be used to focus the
effect only on the mid and/or
high frequencies, while leaving
the sub and bass areas
completely clean meaning that
you can push the upper areas
much harder and customise the
effect further.

D16s Devastor 2 is one of our fave multiband units

Lets warm up the upper-midrange of

the loop first. Click on Saturns display
to add a crossover point, then drag this to
around 700Hz. Crank the right bands
Drive up to 75%. The default Warm Tape
algorithm is a little too dirty-sounding,
so switch it to Clean Tube for a more
subtle effect.

To spice up the treble, add another

crossover point at around 5.1kHz, then
apply 85% Drive with the Warm Tube
algorithm. Finally, turn the plugins main
Output down to -3dB, then turn the plugin
on and off to evaluate its effect. Weve
enhanced our dense break in a subtle but
musical way that would be difficult to
achieve with regular EQ.

> Step by step 9.Multibanddistortiononacleansinebass

Here well heavily distort a detuned

sine bass while leaving the lowest
frequencies clean. Load CleanSineBass.
wav and BackingBeat.wav into a 174bpm
project, turn the bass channel down to
-6dB, then load Tekit Audios CrossDr CM
(found in the CM Plugins folder) on the
bass track.

Set the high bands HP Cutoff to

860Hz with a Q of 35%, apply 30dB
of Drive, then turn the bands Level up to
-2.5dB. This reduces the level of the sine,
letting the analogue-style background
noise in our synth part to come to the fore.
Applying distortion then adds harmonics
to the bass while roughing up the noise,
adding texture and grit. Turn the inputs
Treble down to -5.5dB.

The three horizontal rows of knobs

represent three separate frequency
bands. To begin, turn the HP, BP and LP
bands Amp Level values down to the
minimum -72dB, leaving us with the
clean dry signal. Now, we can apply
distortion to these other bands in parallel
to the dry signal.

Often, simply distorting one higher

band is enough, but you can always
experiment by adding distortion to
additional frequency ranges. Here, well
apply 100% Drive and Warp to the mid
band, with its BP filter Cutoff cranked up
to the maximum 22050Hz. Now subtly
mix in this bands Level to taste, and also
try pulling its Clip dial back to introduce
more timbral interest.

April 2016 / Computer musiC / 43

> make music now / distortion secrets

The first guitar amplifiers were intended to
cleanly amplify the clear, bell-like tones of the
electric guitar, but guitarists discovered that
they could edge their way into a new realm of
tone by deliberately cranking their gear past its
intended operating point. Crunch, drive and
rock n roll mayhem ensued, and distortion soon
became an intrinsic part of the sound of electric
guitar, to the point that some styles of music
simply would not exist without it.
The development of deliberate distortion
effects came about in the 1960s, the simplistic
clipping fuzz pedal being the first. Later came
compact overdrive and distortion pedals from
companies like Ibanez, DOD, MXR and Boss.
Eventually, amp manufacturers began to build
amplifiers with a distortable preamp stage that

could be used to create extreme distortion

tones even at moderate volumes and cranking
up the power amp stage would lead to even
fatter, juicier tones, so long as you could
withstand the skull-shattering volume! Classic
examples include the Marshall JCM800 and
900 from the 80s, and 90s mainstays like the
Peavey 5150 and Mesa Boogies Dual Rectifier.
Even these, though, are just a tiny fraction of

Some styles of
music simply would
not exist without it

whats out there, and it can be difficult to know

how to combine pedals, amps, effects, and
speaker cabinets to best effect, especially with
modern virtual amp software that puts an entire
studios worth of gear at your control. There are
plenty of tried-and-true combos, of course, and
your best bet for learning about these is through
guitar-specific websites and magazines, such as
our sister titles Total Guitar and Guitarist. Simply
apply the advice given for real gear to its
emulated virtual equivalents.
Were about to show you how to dial in
instant rock and metal tones using classic gear
combos, but for a deeper foray into the world of
high-gain guitar mayhem, see
214s Killer
Guitars feature, where we create an insane
metal guitar mix using just

> Step by step 10.InstantrockandmetalguitardistortionwithAmpliTube4

Lets take a look at a couple of classic

recipes for hot guitar tones. Start off
by loading Guitar Riff.wav onto a track in
your DAW. Were going to use the
modelled amps and pedals in AmpliTube 4
for our demonstrations, but youll find that
the techniques work just as well in other
software equivalents. Click the Amp A slot
in the routing diagram to access the amp
page, then change the Pre Model to
Classic Brit Collection Brit 8000.

This is a fantastic pedal for tightening

distorted amps, and much of its secret
lies in using it subtly. Roll Drive right down
to 0, set Tone to 12 oclock, then adjust
Level until clicking the pedal to bypass
makes a minimal difference about 4.2
does it. Even with these neutral settings,
it sounds more up-front and tight. Now
tweak the Drive and Tone for the desired
level of crunch and bite.

44 / Computer musiC / April 2016

This changes the amp to a model of

Marshalls JCM800 a legend in rock
and metal circles. Increase the Pre Amp
Volume to 8 to distort the signal further,
then crank the Master Volume the
power amp emulation to 8. The latter is
not a simple clean volume control, and
like on a real guitar amp, the power amp
adds drive too. The tone is good, but its a
bit loud, so set the Master knob below
which is a clean level control to -8dB.

Bypass the OverScream and load up

AmpliTube Distortion Metal
Distortion in a new slot. This one doesnt
sound so good the pedal and amps
distortions seem to be fighting each other,
producing odd gating effects. Go to the
Amp A page and click its Power button to
disable it. The pedal, now isolated, sounds
remarkably similar to the type of
distortion produced by the amp itself!

Its a pretty good rock tone, but it

seems like weve already exhausted
this amps distortion potential, as cranking
the gain up much more makes the sound
blurry and muddy. This is where a good
overdrive pedal comes in. Click the
Stomp A button, then one of the Empty
fields, and select AmpliTube Distortion
OverScream to call up AmpliTubes
Ibanez TubeScreamer simulation.

The Metal Distortion mimics Boss

Metal Zone pedal, creating distortion
similar to a hot amps preamp. So, we
need to run it into a clean amp to get the
intended effect switch the amp to
AmpliTube Clean Metal T, and there
we have it! Zero Spring Reverb, and head
to the Cab A page to try different cabs,
noting how a brighter one, for example,
can make the distortion more apparent.

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Sonimus Burnley 73: Hands-on

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350+ videos, with more
added regularly!
SynthMaster 2.7: Hands-on

zplane Elastique Pitch 2: Hands-on

> make music now / distortion secrets


Clippin heck! There are so many awesome ways to drive
your signal that weve drawn up a list of our favourites


221 9/10 $50

Proving that low-budget neednt mean low
quality, this four-band exciter is at its best when
pushed hard, becoming a gloriously analoguestyle multiband overdrive. Selectively muting
its bands adds another creative dimension.


Amplitube 4 Deluxe



N/A N/A $249

This modern classic is designed to
emulate the valve saturation and
overdrive of five legendary pieces
of kit: Ampex 50, the EMI TG Channel,
Neves 1057 preamps and the modern
Thermionic Culture Culture Vulture.

226 10/10 360

145 virtual modules painstakingly recreated
amps, pedals, speakers and rackmount hardware
give you practically every flavour of guitaroriented distortion tool known to man. You can
increase this number with additional purchases.


Vinyl strip

226 9/10 55
With a variety of modules associated with old
vinyl records (compression, turntable noise,
reverb, EQ, distortion, bit and sample rate
reduction), Vinyl Strip is one of the best value
all-round old-school distortions on the market.



129 10/10 $49

Three bands with 13 distortion types each, plus
feedback and filtering, all resulting in devilishly
dirty results. Whether used as a DJ-style band
killer or techno-peddling loop-mangler, you can
always get something usably nasty out of DVA.

227 10/10 169

Ozone has always had a fine harmonic enhancer/
exciter module, and v7 adds a Vintage Limiter to
this renowned mastering package. Push it hard
on drum busses and full mixes to round off the
edges with hardware-style smooth saturation.

Kombinat DVA

ozone 7



115 9/10 99
Four bands of multimode distortion (chosen
from over 80-types), per-band dynamics, gate,
EQ and more make this MIDI-enabled effect
thoroughly unsuited to subtlety! Check out
our how-to guide for it in

225 7/10 49
This company make many distortions, but the most
extreme is this multiband bit-manipulator. Offering
anything from subtle grit to skull-exploding digital
audio destruction, MBBF is one bad MF. Try the free
single-band version if you dare.





187 9/10 67
For convincing analogue sounds and modern
digital naughtiness alike, this multiband jack of
all trades has just about every kind of distortion
you might want, plus some astounding tonealtering properties to transform your sounds.

112 10/10 $179

This ones been infusing in-the-box mixes with oldschool analogue saturation and warmth for almost
as long as people have been mixing on computers.
We love it applied to individual channels, but theres
nothing to stop you throwing it on a whole mix, too.

trash 2
46 / Computer musiC / April 2016

psp VintageWarmer2

distortion secrets / make music now <



179 10/10 99
This multiband saturation and distortion allows
convincing amp and tape recreation, classic
digital and analogue hardware simulation, and
experimental modulated patches. Saturn is
truly one of those rare desert island plugins.


Burnley 73


FREE with
Congratulations, dear reader! Just for
buying this magazine, youve now got
access to ten dedicated, pro-quality
distortion plugins, available to download
from From
amp sims and hardware-style saturators
to flexible digital waveshaping and
multiband processing, theres plenty to
turn a track with a clean bill of health into
an extremely dirty, deranged monster!
Check them out on page 14, and discover
our latest, HoRNets Graffio CM, on p10.


Virtual preamp

N/A N/A $149

This stunning new pack fits two classic pre-amps
the Neve 1073 and Telefunken V76 inside Slates
Virtual Mix Rack system. Other must-try Slate Digital
warmer-uppers include Virtual Tape Machines,
FG-Bomber, RC-Tube and Virtual Console Collection.


Decimort 2

N/A N/A 39
An acclaimed recreation of the bit depth and
sample rate reduction characteristics of classic
samplers, with a list of presets to emulate
specific hardware, Decimort 2 is an ideal digital
exciter or for authentic old-school emulation.

226 10/10 $59

The distinctive saturation of Neves 1073 preamp
is as revered as any in the business, and this
faithful recreation (with its three-band EQ) is one
of our faves. Hear what it can do for your mixes
in our in-depth video at


Guitar rig 5 pro

170 8/10 169

One of the most respected names in guitar cab and
amp simulation, with 17 amps, 27 cabs and 13 effects.
GR5s presets offer just about every classic setup
and sound you could wish for, and its also ideal for
dirtying up vocals, drums, synths you name it!


uAD thermionic
Culture Vulture

210 10/10 229

The hardware is a modern classic, with
three types of genuine valve saturation
(one triode and two pentode types), and
this is the definitive virtual version. Use it
as an insert or via a parallel channel on
absolutely any type of signal, from drums
and bass to reverbs and master buses!
Hot stuff.
April 2016 / Computer musiC / 47

> make music now / distortion secrets

> Step by step 11.Processingsoundsinthemixwithdigitaldistortion

Downsampling simulates a reduced

sample rate, and Logic Pro Xs
Bitcrusher performs this in quite a basic
way, with audible aliasing. It can work very
well as an effect on beat loops. Using the
x5 setting, the sample rate is now 8.82kHz
and the aliasing adds a nice tinny effect to
the kick transients. On our bass, the x3
(14.7kHz) option adds just a little highfrequency poke to the attack.

Sticking with Decimort 2 and

returning the resampling to 44.1kHz,
we can look at bit-depth reduction. With
5-bit resolution, our beat loop has gained
lots of noise and sounds very messy. In
contrast, HoRNets Graffio CM sounds
much cleaner at 5 bit, since it blends in
the dry signal too. Logics Bitcrusher
is also noisy but sounds almost gated.
Lets see why this is happening.

Our musical sounds have complex

frequency content, meaning a little
distortion can go a long way, so youll
generally apply extreme processors
like these in a sparing fashion, unless
youre aiming for overt results.
Nevertheless, lets see what happens
when we push a couple of choice plugins
to their limits. First up, Decimort 2

48 / Computer musiC / April 2016

With TB TimeMachine, we can simply

reduce the sample rate. On our
electric piano, higher sampling rates
(10kHz to 48kHz) introduce quite highfrequency aliasing, but as we reduce the
rate below 4kHz, we get a richening effect.
Meanwhile on our beats loop, around
30kHz darkens up the top end, and the
aliasing is pretty inaudible amongst the
existing high-frequency content.

On closer inspection, Decimort 2

includes two quantisation modes
(which use the mid tread and mid riser
method respectively), and these affect
how the zero amplitude point is
represented. If we switch DC Shift on, our
5-bit noisy loop suddenly sounds gated,
and very similar to when processed using
Logics Bitcrusher.

Using the Resampler, we can reduce

the sample rate (Frequency) and add
Jitter, which increases the randomness of
the resampling. Using the two resampling
filters (Images and Approximative) we can
influence the overall frequency content.
Finally, by reducing the bit depth
(Resolution) with DC Shift active, we can
add a final layer of crunch to proceedings.

D16 Groups Decimort 2 includes an

advanced images filter, capable of
removing all forms of aliasing without prefiltering. On our electric piano, this works
surprisingly well, with a 3.5kHz sample
rate delivering a lo-fi sound with minimal
artifacts. Switch the images filter out,
though, and set the resampler to 8kHz,
and we get a great dirtied up loop.

Now lets try 5-bit resolution with TB

TimeMachine. This sounds close to
Logics Bitcrusher, but once again it has its
own character. It also includes an option
called muLaw that delivers a smoother
sound. As a final comparison, we can
cycle through all four bitcrushers, to
demonstrate how different each of them
sound. Check it out more fully in the video
version of this tutorial!

Now, the same loop with WaveShaper

CM. Its worth trying the preset shapes
as starting points, and harsh square-wave
shaping is easily achieved with the
Straight Line preset, for example this is
essentially 1-bit bitcrushing! However, we
can achieve a great, almost gated effect
with some careful tailoring of the curve, so
that the distortion flicks on and off across
a narrow region of the dynamic range.

distortion secrets / make music now <

> Step by step 12.Improvingamixwithsubtledistortion

Now that weve got a good grip on

everything distortion can do, lets see
how we can use it for serious mixing
applications. Here, well improve a mix to
enhance whats already there or recreate
missing parts of the frequency response
without obviously transforming or
distorting the sounds. Load the audio
stems from Tutorial Files onto new tracks
in a 120bpm project.

Offbeat Hat.wav could also do with a

little harmonic presence, so load
Lindell Audios 6X-500 CM on the channel.
Set its Gain to maximum and its Output
to minimum. These stages of drive and
distortion were adding are extremely
subtle, but they will all add up to an
improved result by the end of our
mix session.

SynthLoop.wav can be considered

the core hook of the groove, and must
therefore stand out in the mix. To do this,
well use all of Graffio CMs parallel
modules. Load it onto the channel, then
set the Saturators Gain to 22dB and DC
Offset to 44%; next, set the Exciters Even
dial to maximum 100%; finally, pull the Bit
Reducers Bits down to 4 Bits and relevel
the output Level to -11dB.

The tracks kick drum is made up of

two layers: a high attack layer and a
lower sub layer. To glue them together
and enhance the kick, well load Graffio
CM on the channel. Deactivate all modules
except the Saturator, turn its Gain up to
16dB, then pull the output Level back to
-6dB to relevel.

The clap requires a touch of

excitement to help it poke through the
mix, so load Graffio CM on the channel,
deactivate the Saturator and Bit Reducer
modules, then crank the Exciters Even
knob up to the maximum 100% and pull
the Level back to -1.5dB. Now use Graffio
CM to crunch the Snares channel. Set its
Gain to 50dB, DC Offset to 70%, Dry/Wet
to 25%, and its Output to -9dB.

As a finishing touch, well apply

parallel saturation to all the mix
elements, to glue and thicken the overall
tone of the mix. Load PreMix CM on a
return track, set the returns level fader to
-20dB, then set PreMix CMs Gain to 25dB.
Now send each mix element to the return
by a 0dB amount.

Tamb Loop.wav is a little thin and

treble-heavy in the mix, so lets use
combined drive and tone-shaping to sort
this problem. Load Kuassas PreMix CM
on the channel, then pull its High-shelf
knob down to around 11 oclock. Next,
turn its Gain up to 22.5dB, and pull the
Output back to -7dB.

A touch of even harmonic excitement

will help the bass cut through the mix.
Add a Graffio CM to it, deactivate the
Saturator and Bit Reducer modules, then
turn the Exciter modules Even knob up to
a gentle 13%. Next, subtle drive on the
guitar stabs will give them a sprinkle of
flavour load 6X-500 CM on the guitar
track, then set its Gain to maximum and
Output to minimum.

To evaluate the success of our

multiple saturation stages, load
1. Dry Mix.wav an audio bounce of the
track from step 1 onto a new audio track,
mute it, then solo and un-solo this track to
A/B our before and after mixes with a
single button press. The results are subtle,
but the increased average level of the mix
makes a difference to the mixs tone,
dynamics and overall cohesion.

April 2016 / Computer musiC / 49

> make music now / distortion secrets


distortion 02

Theres no limit to the creative

and clinical ways in which you
can distort your signals. Here
are ten of our favourites


Adding distortion to a reverb bus can

be used to impart character in several
ways. The more organic way is to place it before
the reverb processor, to add crunch and
harmonics to the sounds first. Adding distortion
after the reverb sounds less natural, but
depending how its done, you can achieve
everything from extremely noisy results
(especially when using bitcrushing) to a nice
softening effect on harsh high frequencies.



Compressors arent only useful for

creating distortion they can also control it.
Placing a compressor or limiter before a
distortion plugin helps us ensure a more
consistent tone; placing it after the distortion
helps us shape the envelope of the overdriven
signal. You can go even further using two
compressors before and after the distortion
and sidechaining a kick signal to each or both,
making the distortion amount and/or level
pump rhythmically along with your track.



One of the main pop mixing

problems is getting nice deep subbass-heavy basslines to be heard on inferior
speakers and, critically, headphones, and a very
common use of distortion/saturation in pop
music is for adding upper harmonics to bass.
Adding harmonics to the bass on a parallel
channel is a great solution for this, as it allows
you to isolate specific frequencies to boost. For
a more in-depth look at how to do it, check out
this months Mixing for small speakers feature.



VoCAl Distortion

Distorting vocals adds grit and urgency, but

even when going for an extreme sound, its
often best to use parallel processing, as otherwise
the voice will be raspy and unlistenable, with no
body. Add an overdrive effect to a bus, roll off some
of the tops and bottoms, then blend to taste. Its also
often worth distorting the vocals before your effects
chain, for a fuller and more authentic tone. iZotopes
Nectar 2 is one of our favourites for subtle distortion,
and PreMix CM is ideal for more extreme effects!


Automation is a vital element of any

production, adding variation to the
arrangement, making the piece evolve and
keeping it from becoming stagnant and boring.
Automating your distortion parameters is
nothing to shy away from, then! If youre short
on ideas, try adding harmonics progressively
during a breakdown section to bring in a sense
of lift and tension; or ramping up the overdrive
in the chorus to enhance the feel? Your listeners
will thank you for it.

No modern production is complete without automation,

so why leave your distortion parameters where they are?

50 / Computer musiC / April 2016

distortion secrets / make music now <



Distortion tends to strip away the

dynamic range of your material, as it
is effectively limiting as it distorts it. This is why,
for example, when you progressively saturate
material, its perceived loudness and RMS both
go up. You can put this dynamic range and
variation back in after the fact with some clever
processing. One simple way is to apply a
sidechain-enabled gate and use the dry signal to
trigger it. This works far better with rhythmic
material with strong transients, though, so
you might want to look at custom envelope
shaping tools. One of the most powerful weve
seen is Impact Soundworks Peak Rider, which
allows you to perfectly match the volume
envelope of the distorted signal to any source
material, including the undistorted signal.



Many soft synths and other virtual

instruments feature distortion
modules, and these come alive when accessed
via the synths modulation features.
LennarDigitals Sylenth1, for example, allows us
to link the input note velocity to the distortion
amount, giving progressively more (or less)
distortion as velocity increases. Add in the
synths modulation envelope, and we can
conjure up a fast-attacking distortion sound, or
one that gets more distorted as the note is held.

Got a synth with distortion? Bring its modulation matrix
into play to make more expressive use of the effect


polyphoniC Distortion

This trick is a process by which you

individually distort the notes of a chord
rather than the complete chord, for radically
different, more musical results. You can then
combine the distorted full chord and polyphonically
distorted chord together to pick out specific
elements of both that youre after.


One of the most distinctive things

about vintage records is how the
drums were heavily squashed with saturated,
softened transients. This happened due to a
number of factors, such as the drums often
being recorded to tape first and then
re-bounced a number of times during the
multitracking process. If you dont have a tape
sim plugin, you can get a reasonable
approximation using heavy compression to
soften the transients followed by a few stages of
tape saturation. Try HoRNet Fat-FET followed by
Sonimus Satson CM (both from
Plugins). You
might also roll off a little high-end, around
10-12kHz, to further simulate the effect that tape
has on the signal recorded to it. Used subtly, this
gives a gentle old-school vibe, or push it hard to
bring some seriously hot reel-to-reel action to
your tracks.



The process of soft clipping is useful

for rounding off and reducing a signals
loudest peaks, so it comes into its own for
controlling spiky transients while preserving
punch. One particularly useful application is to
increase loudness at the mastering stage. Heavy
limiting can cause pumping and reduce
transient detail in an obvious and undesirable
way, and sometimes a clipper can actually give
more transparent results. And if you want to
exploit the qualities of both, try placing a soft
clipper plugin before the limiter this will allow
you to gently clip a few dBs from the tracks
highest peaks before the signal hits the limiter,
reigning in the tracks transients more
effectively and reducing the limiters workload.

SIRs StandardClip is a fine mastering-grade clipper

Check out
212s Modern Mastering feature to
see and hear a professional mastering engineer
demonstrate this technique.
April 2016 / Computer musiC / 51

> next month

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mixing for small speakers / make music now <

Make your tracks kick huge ass on tiny
systems with our mixing masterclass

See it in action in video
on your PC or Mac via

With the explosion of portable devices in the last

decade or so, music has never been so
accessible, with gadgets such as mobile phones,
tablets and wireless speakers allowing us to listen
to our entire music collection just about anywhere.
Unfortunately, the leap forward in convenience has
often meant compromising on sound quality, with
dedicated hi-fi gear and CDs increasingly becoming
a thing of the past terrible news for the audio
purists among us, and something that definitely
needs to be taken into account when mixing.
The first thing to consider is that even an
inexpensive pair of studio monitors will give a level of
detail and accuracy that most listeners will not be able
to achieve with typical domestic playback devices.
This makes it crucial that mixes sound good across a
wide variety of playback systems, including tiny

speakers such as those found on a phone or tablet.

Although that club banger youre working on might
sound great on the studio monitors and heartstopping on a big rig, its just as important that it
comes across correctly on your nans kitchen radio
after all, even the most dedicated clubber wont be
listening to your music at a rave seven days a week.
Over the next few pages, well show you why testing
your mixes on even the tinniest of laptop speakers can
be an invaluable reference tool, easily showing up
common ills such as vanishing sub bass or midrange
frequency clashes. Of course, well show you how to
tweak your mixes to work around these problems and
produce a mix that sings on systems great and small.
And if youve not got a set of secondary speakers, fear
not well also show you how to ape the sound of them
right from the comfort of your DAW.
April 2016 / Computer musiC / 55

> make music now / mixing for small speakers

The difference in tonal qualities of
dedicated studio monitors when
compared to smaller speakers such
as those used in a laptop or mobile
phone are obvious, with the little
uns being incapable of putting out
any serious low end, and often
lacking up top too. Why, though?
Well, just as American muscle car
addicts might say, theres no
replacement for displacement. That
is, size matters!
All speakers have at least one
driver, which converts electrical
energy into sound vibrations.
Reproducing low frequencies
requires a bigger driver and more
energy. A typical studio monitor has
two drivers in general, a lowfrequency woofer and a highfrequency tweeter and can
generally reproduce frequencies
from over 20kHz down to around
40-50Hz, giving a full sound.
But the drivers in domestic audio
systems can be tiny in comparison,
restricting the range of frequencies
they can produce. Low frequencies
(below around 200Hz) are easily
lost, and small speakers without a
separate tweeter may also struggle
to reproduce frequencies above
10kHz effectively.
All this means that a shiny, glossy
mix with plenty of sub bass will
translate well on quality monitors,
but it may not come across as
intended on a smaller system,
and could well lack the bass and
sheen altogether.
To compensate, many smaller
speakers use onboard processing
to, for example, give a hyped feel to
frequencies above 2kHz or add
density with compression. These
processes can bring out extra detail
in well-produced music, but they
can be equally ruinous to sound
quality if your tracks dynamics
arent right to begin with!
The obvious way to avoid this
situation is to test your mixes on
small speakers as you go easy to
do on a laptop by switching to the
internal speaker every now and
again. If youve not got any small
speakers handy, you can fake their
response using an EQ on the master
output and thats exactly what
were going to do in our
first tutorial.

56 / Computer musiC / April 2016

> Step by step

1. Simulating a small speaker system with EQ



Lets look at how we can use an EQ to

mimic the sound of a small speaker,
allowing us to check our mixes as if they
were output from a small playback
system. Open your DAW and import
RoughMix.wav and FinalMix.wav from
the Tutorial Files folder, then solo
RoughMix. Our rough mix works well on
studio monitors, but how will it sound on
small speakers?

Now, lets add a 6dB/oct FlexLP filter

at 10kHz to simulate a small speakers
high-frequency roll off. Finish off the curve
by adding a 6dB FlexPeak at 7.3kHz with
a Q of 0.6, plus a 0.6dB FlexPeak at 4kHz
with a Q of 6. This will give our reference
curve a hyped high-mid similar to a lot of
modern small speakers great for
checking for issues such as overly sibilant
vocals or harsh drums.

First, well use an EQ to create a curve

mimicking the frequency response
curve of a modern, portable Bluetooth
speaker. Add DDMFs LP10 CM to your
DAWs master output and add a 6dB/oct
FlexHP filter at 300Hz, a 1dB FlexPeak at
350Hz with a Q of 4 and another -1dB
FlexPeak at 700Hz with a Q of 4 youll
hear the bass response change to
something closer to a small speaker.

Use your DAWs preset saving and

recall function to save the curve for
use later on. You can, of course, make
custom EQ curves using this technique
by grabbing a frequency response chart
for the speaker you wish to mimic.
We can now use our EQ curve to hear
how our rough mix might sound on a
portable speaker.


>Start out small

Toggle LP10s bypass when the EQ is

active, the bass mostly disappears,
with the kick drum cutting through less.
Listen to the FinalMix track, which has
been processed with a wider range of
sound systems in mind. The bass
translates better, and the kick has greater
low-mid definition. Well explain the
processes we used to make this mix work
on the small speakers later.

Even if you normally mix and

reference on multiple sets of
speakers/headphones, do a
rough mix of the volume levels
on small speakers before
checking and fine-tuning on
studio monitors. By doing this,
youll be taking into account the
limitations of lesser playback
systems from the start of the
mixing process, making it simpler
to get your mixes to pop not just
in the studio, but elsewhere too!

mixing for small speakers / make music now <

Low-end theory
Weve all been there: after making a fat, subby
bassline that rocks the studio, you play your
masterpiece on your phone only to hear
nothing! One thing that smaller speakers can
struggle with is the low weight of a mix, but
using some clever techniques can help to craft a
mix that not only shakes the walls in a club but
also comes across well on dinky speakers.
A good starting point is to get the right
relationship between kick and bass. Big studio
monitors are great for getting a full picture of
how things sound, but they can sometimes give
a false impression of how the bass and kick
sound together due to the sub frequencies
masking or dominating the low mids especially
in a less than ideal listening environment. A

> Step by step

good way to overcome this is to listen to your

mix on a pair of small speakers whilst working
thisll show up any frequency clashes that may
get missed on larger speakers.
A great method of making your bass stand
out on small speakers is to add extra harmonics
so it can be heard as well as felt. Real-world
musical tones ie, those made by the human

How do we add
harmonics to a
signal? Distortion!

voice or a musical instrument have a

fundamental frequency (the pitch of the note
itself) followed by a succession of harmonics. If
these harmonics are strong enough, were able
to determine the pitch of the sound even if the
fundamental frequency is missing or reduced.
Small speakers may not actually be able to
reproduce the fundamental tones of our bass
parts, but by emphasising the harmonics, we
can make it sound like they do. So how do we
add harmonics to a signal? Distortion!
Dedicated plugins such as Waves RBass add
distortion to the dry signal to excite the upper
harmonics before blending the two together,
but we can achieve the same thing with normal
plugins inside a DAW. Lets see how its done.

2. Making bass and kick cut through on small speakers



We can use a number of techniques to

increase the perception of bass as well
as enhancing the kick drum. This will give
our mix a bigger sound on small speakers
without compromising on the low-end
grunt needed on a bigger system. Start by
opening your DAW and setting the BPM to
174, then importing the files beginning
Mix from the Tutorial Files folder.

We can add a pitched-up click to our

kick drum, adding weight to its uppermids and giving it greater presence on
small speakers. Import Click.wav from the
Tutorial Files folder, and duplicate the
audio over four bars. With the LP10 on the
master channel enabled, pull down the
level of the Click track, keeping it
prominent but without overpowering
other elements. Ours works best at -15dB.

Add DDMFs LP10 CM onto the master

output and load the preset from the
previous tutorial. Although small speakers
cant reproduce the lowest sub bass
frequencies, so long as enough harmonics
are present, well still perceive them as
deep bass notes. Lets add harmonics to
our sub bass by creating a new FX send
with Rob Papens RP-Distort CM select
the Bass Fuzzy preset.

We can increase the kicks perceived

attack even further by setting the
Click channels Delay Time to -3ms,
having it play slightly before the main kick
layer. Apply some multiband compression
to the MixBass channel to pin down the
sub frequencies, conserving headroom
and increasing the perceived level of bass.
Bypass the LP10 CM, and add iZotopes
Ozone 7 Dynamics to the MixSub channel
(a demo is available from

Send the MixBass channel to this

return at a level of -16dB. Add a Satson
CM after RP-Distort CM, and push its High
Pass filter up to 10 oclock with Low Pass
at 12 oclock, removing the distorted
signals high and low frequencies to
minimise clashes. Set the return tracks
volume to minimum, move LP10 onto the
master, then push the FX returns volume
up until you can hear the bass cutting
through weve put ours to -6dB.

Bypass bands 2 and 3, and set band 1s

crossover to 100Hz. Bass frequencies
can distort when compressed too fast, so
use an Attack of 30ms and a Release of
50ms. Pull the Threshold down to -22dB,
and hit the Auto Gain button so we get a
volume-matched comparison when
toggling the bypass. Youll hear the bass
take on a tighter feel, saving valuable
headroom and bringing out the low mids.

April 2016 / Computer musiC / 57

> make music now / mixing for small speakers

We all love shiny treble and deep,
booming bass in our music, but
theres one area that carries
particular importance: the
midrange. Not all instruments have
a lot of high or low frequencies, but
most have a strong presence in the
midrange area between roughly
400Hz and 4kHz. This makes it a
particularly important area to get
right, avoiding any unwanted
frequency clashes that will only be
magnified by smaller speakers.
Listening on smaller speakers
now and again when mixing will
naturally bring the midrange into
focus, showing up the vital balance
between drums, lead vocals and the
presence of the bass. Small
speakers can also aid in getting the
kick and bass relationship right,
making it easier to hear if their
upper harmonics sit together nicely.
To help check how mixes will
translate in the real world, most pro
studios will have a pair of small
single-driver speakers with rolledoff bass and naturally subtle treble.
Dedicated, studio-oriented singledriver midrange speakers such as
the Auratone 5C (or clones such as
the Avantone MixCube or Behringer
Behritone) also have the advantage
of not colouring your signal by
putting it through a crossover
network, giving a clearer insight
into your mixs mids.
You can, of course, use just one
speaker for mono playback when
referencing to get a better idea of
mono compatibility and how your
mix might sound in the
supermarket or on a cheap radio. If
you dont have dedicated midrange
speakers to hand, any old small
speaker can be used to help home in
on midrange problems. Be aware
that modern speakers such as those
in a laptop or a portable Bluetooth
rig may apply unpredictable
psychoacoustic processing to give a
more hyped sound.

> Step by step



58 / Computer musiC / April 2016

3. Balancing a mixs midrange for small speakers

The midrange is where the lead

sounds in most mixes will sit,
including synths, guitars and vocals, so its
very important to get right. Here, well
look at techniques to get a uncluttered,
solid midrange that translates well on all
playback systems. Import the 174bpm files
beginning Mix from the Tutorial Files
folder and loop playback in your DAW.

Set the high-pass filter to 100Hz to

cut some low-end mud out, freeing up
some headroom. Now set Band 1 to a -4dB
cut at 360Hz with a Q of 2, and apply a
-3dB cut at 900Hz with a Q of 1.3, to give
the vocals busy mids some breathing
room. After this, apply 0.6dB of Output
gain to compensate for the cuts. Toggle
the EQ off and youll hear the vocal get
pushed back in the mix more.

Select the 3-Band Compressor preset

from the left-hand panel, and click the
Edit button (top right) to bring up the
processors controls. Bypass Band 1 and
Band 3 using the X buttons. Set Band 2s
crossover points to 100Hz and 1.5kHz
respectively, to make the compressor act
only between those frequencies. Next, set
the Ratio to 2:1 so that the compressor
begins to act.

When several sounds occupy the

same frequency ranges in a mix, its
usually best to start by picking one to take
the lead and making the others fit around
it. Well do just that with our vocal. Create
a new group channel, and send MixOrgan,
MixGuitar and MixStab to it. Now well
use an EQ to make room for the lead
vocal add a fresh instance of eaReckons
CM-EQUA 87 to our group channel.

Well use a multiband compressor to

control the mid frequencies of all the
musical and vocal parts. This will add
extra weight and power on any playback
system. Create another group channel
and route MixBass, MixBassMid and
MixVox to it. Route this first group to a
second group and add
MMultiBandDynamics (theres a demo
available at

Set the Attack to 25ms and Release

to 40ms, and reduce the Threshold
to around -25dB. Apply 2dB of Output
Gain to make the levels up, and bypass
the plugin to hear the difference weve
made the midrange sounds thicker and
more defined, without swamping the mix.
Load up our Small Speaker LP10 preset on
the master, and bypass each processing
stage to hear each tweak in context.

mixing for small speakers / make music now <

10 tips for small-speaker success

leave tHe rooM
When mixing, try leaving the room now and
again to see how things sound when youre
not in the listening position you might well
find that certain parts of the mix dont cut
through enough when youre not directly in
front of the speakers. If the mix sounds
balanced both away from the speakers and in
the listening position, itll likely translate well
on a broad range of playback systems
including small speakers.

route 66
There are many signal routing options when
it comes to using small speakers alongside
your existing monitoring setup. You can bag
a dedicated monitor controller such as
Mackies Big Knob to switch between up to
three pairs of speakers, or if your audio
interface has enough outputs, use your
soundcards internal mixer instead. Some
DAWs also offer speaker switching features,
such as Cubases Control Room.

If your interface has multiple outputs and a decent mixer app, make use of it to output to multiple playback systems

equal louDneSS CurveS

Did you know that we perceive bass and
treble as being louder at higher playback
volumes? This is something to bear in mind
when mixing your own music, and the best
known set of contours that depict this are the
Fletcher-Munson curves (see graph aboveright). By pulling the volume down to a lower
level when mixing, your ears will naturally
focus on the all-important midrange
frequencies, helping to get a better mix and
reducing hearing fatigue.

teSt Driver
Kill two birds with one stone on boring car
journeys by checking your mixes as you
drive most standard car stereo systems
consist of similar speakers to a domestic

Sound pressure level (db)

virtual reality
Dont want to clutter your studio with
umpteen pairs of reference speakers? Many
speaker correction tools such as IK
Multimedias ARC 2 or Sonarworks Reference
3 will not only calibrate your monitors (and
headphones, in the case of Reference 3), but
also allow you to hear what your mixes would
sound like played back through a selection of
virtual speakers, from consumer-grade gear
to professional studio monitors.

your computer onto the box without

having to export files from your DAW a
quick and easy way to hear how your music
sounds with another room and system.


pHoning it in






These curves show us how loud various frequencies

must be for us to perceive them to be the same level

stereo, making them an ideal reference

point. You also get the added bonus of
seeing how well your mix cuts through
background noise great for road-testing
your tracks dynamics.

Sub SlayerS
Dialling in lots of sub bass in the pursuit of
more bass might help when listening on
big speakers, but the perceived weight of a
bassline actually lies in the low-mid
frequencies. Using small speakers during the
mix process will help you enhance and refine
those areas.

Its a piece of cake to beam a track to your

phone in order to check out how its speakers
handle it. PC/Linux/Android users may find
SoundWire the easiest solution this app lets
you use the phone (or Android TV) as an
audio receiver via your wireless network. iOS
users should investigate Rogue Amoebas
Airfoil app (compatible with PC/Mac). As for
actual file transfer as opposed to streaming,
services like Dropbox or Google Drive may be
more convenient than your phones standard
file transfer methods.

a to b
Keeping the volume levels consistent can
really help overall decision making when
switching between multiple pairs of
speakers. Balancing your different speaker
sets by ear is a good starting point, or for
the more fastidious amongst us, using Bob
Katz K System to calibrate your speakers
to a matching SPL level will give a more
precise and repeatable result, ensuring that
when you set the volume knob to a certain
position, you get a specific SPL level.

be Creative
Only one pair of speakers? Get creative by
using whatevers to hand for referencing.
That naff Bluetooth speaker you got for
Christmas or the dusty old boombox in the
loft will do the job perfectly as would a
memory stick loaded with your music
plugged into the USB port that most TV sets
and DVD players now come with as standard.

Set-top boxing
With the right TV, you can stream your PC or Macs
output direct to its speakers, for referencing purposes

Set-top TV boxes such as Apple TV or

Googles Chromecast can be pressed into
service for streaming audio directly from

Voxengos free SPAN analyser plugin has an option for

Bob Katz calibrated K-System metering approach

April 2016 / Computer musiC / 59



Dont miss our Ultimate Production Tips 2016. Its packed with our greatest ever features
and comes loaded with video, tutorial files and more. Available in print and digital now!
Available digitally on these devices

Producer Masterclass


The high-scoring game composer and solo popster

shows off his perfect production chops in Reason 8
April 2016 / COmpuTEr muSiC / 61

> make music now / producer masterclass

You may not be familiar with pop

heart-throb Bentley Jones, but his
numbers put many higher-profile artists
to shame: 14 million YouTube views, 2.5
million sales, plus 10 million sales as a
featured artist. A literal posterboy for the
digital-age DIY ethos, Bentley records
and produces himself, makes his own
videos, and even hustles as a remixer and
composer on the side, working on huge
names like Adele, Beyonc and Madonna
as Phunkstar, and contributing scores to
games in the Devil May Cry, Tekken and
Sonic the Hedgehog franchises. We
tracked the muscular mogul down to his
West Midlands studio to find out more
about life as a modern one-man band.
Music creators like to have control over
everything; my remix manager calls it
producer syndrome, Bentley explains.
I have to admit Im a little bit of a control
freak I like to make sure that everything I
put out is of a certain quality. When you
collaborate with another person or
company and the quality isnt there, thats
devastating in itself. When you know you

Ive been doing it for

over ten years and
Im still learning
can do it yourself to a better standard, you
start thinking, I want to do it all myself.
Indeed, its Bentleys frustration with the
music industry that inspired the concept
behind his latest album The Rebellion.
My own work is completely
independent, and I love that. But then as a
producer and a writer, I still deal with record
labels, publishers and artists managers. As
time progresses, theres just this heightened
level of bullshit! The music industry has
always had a certain level of smoke and
mirrors its all part of the glam, the image
and the shininess of the final product but
somewhere along the line, its just gotten so

In this exclusive
tutorial, Bentley
shows us how he
made the epic Passenger
from The Rebellion in
Propellerhead Reason 8.
Watch it on your PC/Mac
62 / COmpuTEr muSiC / April 2016

Selected kit list

kit list
Yamaha Audiogram3
Acoustic Energy AE22
Unbranded MIDI Keyboard
sE Electronics SE2000
sE Electronics GuitaRF
Microsoft Windows 7
Propellerhead Reason 8
Vienna Symphonic Library

ridiculous. Sales are inflated and royalty

collection has just become opaque. Major
labels are taking higher royalty rates than
indie artists who actually need the higher
rate its all just complete bullshit!
That pretty much sparked the concept
for the new album. The title track was the
very first track that I laid down last year, and
that was specifically written about my
frustrations with the modern industry.
So what was the experience of making an
album independently like?
It was hard. Ive been doing it for over
ten years and Im still learning, but this year
in particular Ive learned so much, working
with so many people, learning the ins and
outs of the UK industry. Its been a real eyeopener, especially when you see sales
figures. Its been a great experience.
What advice does Bentley have for young
musicians hoping to follow in his footsteps
and get into the industry?

Dont do it Just kidding! First of all, just

read and learn a lot just be a sponge and
take in as much as you possibly can. I think a
lot of people get into the music industry
because theyre blinded by the glamour and
shiny end product, and they probably dont
realise its the least glamorous industry
possible. Its hard. If you want to turn it into a
profession, you have to just slog it out for
quite a long time.
When I was starting out, I took a good 18
months where I was just working constantly.
It was quite depressing and challenging, but
I just kept reminding myself that I needed to
put this legwork in. Just dont be fooled that
some manager with a magic wand is gonna
discover you and everything will be done
for you and youll live this wonderful happy
life where all you have to worry about is
making music its just not the case! Even
the most successful artists spend 70-80% of
the time managing their careers.

producer masterclass / make music now <

Pristine pop vocals


Bass with Combinator and Thor


Bentley begins by composing a

chord progression to base the song
around using a simple, warm, sawtooth-based
pad patch in Malstrm. He then derives a bassline
from the progression, which plays a basic pattern
that uses the same rhythm as the kick. The
beauty of working in pop is you dont have to

Im a sucker for
these enormous,
great big beats

With the instruments coming together,

Bentley decides its time to add the
vocal. In pop, you wanna keep things quite dry, he
notes, but to add the extra atmosphere and widen
the sound, I added a delay to the lead. I took out the
high end round about the 3kHz mark, just so that it
doesnt interfere too much with the lead vocal and
any of the harmonies and backing vocals. Theres
just some gentle pitching going on, Bentley laughs.
But I strive to get my vocals sounding as natural
as possible.

overcomplicate things, Bentley chuckles. The

part is played back via the Finger Bass
Combinator preset from Reasons Factory Sound
Bank, which is parallel-compressed to make it
both fat and punchy. The finger bass is then
layered with a sine oscillator sub patch Bentley
created himself in Thor to beef up the low end.

Guitars with NN-XT and ID8


To retain his rocky edge, Bentley cuts

through the pretty pads and pianos
with a variety of guitar sounds. The first, the NN-XT
Ac 6 Perspective acoustic guitar preset, is played in
a dancey, stabby fashion. It sounds like an acoustic
guitar, but its been played in a really inhuman way.
I wanted to create this pseudo-dreamlike
soundscape with the song, so having guitars that
didnt sound like guitars was kind of perfect. This is
compressed with a slow attack so that its transients
remain punchy. For the electric guitar sound later in
the track, Bentley uses the ID8 Instrument Device
with its Clean Electric guitar patch. Its processed via
the Line 6 Guitar Amp for a more authentic sound.

Drums with Redrum,

Scream 4 and Pulveriser


When making dance music,

Bentley usually makes the drums
first, but for poppier projects these come later.
He triggers the drum sounds in Redrum,
starting with the kick, then adding toms, which
are parallel processed with Scream 4 to make
them fatter and more textured then run through
a big 80s-style reverb from RV7000. The snares
high end is boosted to make it shinier, then its
run through Pulveriser for compression and a
touch of foldback distortion.

HeaR moRe

Piano with Reason

Pianos and RV7000


Now the tone has been set with

chords and bass, Bentley is
ready to start adding hooks. Anybody who
knows me knows Im a sucker... for piano and
strings! he admits. I knew this was going to
be quite a sentimental piece, so I wanted to
get a piano hook going on. To create his
perfect piano sound, Bentley uses a Yamaha
C7 preset from Reason Pianos, which he EQs
to bring out its highs and fit it into the mix.
This is then run through an RV7000 reverb
with a long Decay time and no HF Damping to
create an ethereal feel. The signal is then
compressed using an MClass Compressor to
make its tail louder for longer.

Devils Cry (Shall Never Surrender)
Cheryl Cole Fight for this Love
(Phunkstar Radio Mix)

April 2016 / COmpuTEr muSiC / 63

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Elegant monosynth by Klevgrnd



March 2016 / CM227


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how to use nexus 2 / make music now <


Get the most from reFXs

classic samples n synthesis
instrument with our guide
Despite being almost eight years old,
the popularity of reFXs Nexus2 hybrid
synth/ROMpler among dance music
producers shows no signs of abating. In
our review in
131 (thats way back in
the mists of 2008), we scored it 9/10,
highlighting its exceptional ease of use,
light CPU overhead, and seemingly
endless parade of knock-out presets.
Indeed, in
interviews since, weve
seen the likes of Dada Life, Afrojack and
Fedde Le Grand sing the praises of this
modern icon of virtual instrumentation.
Built on a powerful underlying
architecture that combines synthesis and
sample playback with under-the-hood
effects and performance processing,
Nexus2 gives the user just enough control
to be able to quickly and effortlessly tailor
its many mix-ready presets to their tracks.
Indeed, those presets are what the
instruments all about, as no access is given
to the source oscillators and samples at all
beyond volume, pan and pitch. Further
effects can be applied, and filter and

envelope settings can be modified, but

Nexus2 is best approached as a
supercharged ROMpler, packed with
vibrant, beautifully designed patches for
dance music productions of all kinds, and
boasting enough customisability to ensure
that its more than just a preset machine.
With the sounds at its core being key,
then, expandability has always been a huge
factor in Nexus2s longevity, and with over
80 expansion packs currently available and
new ones added regularly, the Nexus-toting
producer is truly spoilt for choice when it
comes to bolstering their sonic palette. You
can even avail yourself of a range of
alternative graphical skins, too should you
tire of the default white fascia as well as
extra impulse responses for the Impulse
Reverb module. Click the Live button in the
GUI to get details of the latest additions to
the range.
In this tutorial and its accompanying
videos, well take you on a fly-by of Nexus2s
features and controls, showcasing some of
its awesome sounds along the way.

See it in action in video
on your PC or Mac via

April 2016 / Computer musiC / 69

> make music now / how to use nexus2

> Step by step 1.AccessingpresetsinNexus2sLibrarybrowser

Nexus2s presets browser sits in the

central display and is accessed via the
Library button. To switch the presets
between alphabetical and categorical
ordering, click the abc/cat button. To
select a preset, navigate through category
folders (left side) and presets (right side)
using the mouse, cursor keys or MIDI CCs.

Clicking the Info button toggles

displays of CPU and voice usage,
memory usage, author name and star
rating click to give the preset a rating
from 1 to 5. To delete or rename a preset,
right-click it. Right-clicking a folder brings
up options for Favorites folders use this
to create up to eight folders and add
presets to them in this way.

Nexus2s Mix page includes a
roster of excellent insert effect
modules, but for that allimportant reverb and delay, you
need look no further than the
front panel.
The Front Panel Delay comes
immediately after the Master
Filter in the signal path, and
turning it on automatically
deactivates any delay effects
employed by the layers in the
preset. It offers a choice of four
modes: Mono, Stereo, Cross Type
and Ping Pong.
The delay Time can be set,
from 1/32 to one bar, with triplet
and dotted options, and theres a
Feedback knob to feed the delay
output back into its input, plus
filtering and modulation
controls, and an overall dry/wet
mix knob.
After the Front Panel Delay
comes Nexus2s superb Front
Panel Reverb, licensed from
renowned DSP experts
ArtsAcoustic. Its Room, Hall and
Arena algorithms place the
source signal in increasingly
large and complex virtual spaces,
with control over their Decay
tails. There are also Mix, Lo-Cut,
Hi-Cut and Mod knobs, plus a PreDelay parameter to delay the

Load a preset with a double-click. To

load the next or previous preset, click
the left and right arrows below the
browser, or use MIDI CCs 98 and 99 to
switch category and 96 and 97 to switch
presets. To save edits to a preset, doubleclick its name to rename it, then right-click
the name and select Save Preset.

Selecting New Search from the folder

right-click menu creates a virtual
folder of links to all presets containing the
text entered in its name. To search for
presets by star rating, simply enter one to
five asterisks. For fuzzy searches, put
quotation marks around the text; and to
specify that your text has to be at the start
of the preset name, prefix it with a dash.

Hear the delay and reverb in action in this vid

> Step by step 3.BalancingandadjustingNexus2sLayers

A Nexus2 preset comprises up to 16

separate layers, fed by up to 64
oscillators, and although the user is given
no direct control over their synthesis or
sample playback parameters, basic mix
control is provided. Click the Mix button
to switch to the Mix page, then the Layer
tab at the top. The display now shows the
layers and their component oscillators
and processing modules.

70 / Computer musiC / April 2016

The modules (effects and

performance tools) in place on each
layer are positioned at the top of each
channel using abbreviated naming arp
for arpeggiator, prt for portamento, tg
for Trancegate, etc. You cant adjust their
parameters only switch them on and off.
Its worth noting that the per-layer delay
and reverb are overridden by the Front
Panel Delay and Reverb when activated.

To mute and unmute a layer or

oscillator, click its number. The four
unlabelled controls below enable
tweaking of from left to right volume
level and pan (drag horizontally), and
transpose and detune (drag vertically).
Certain preset layers feature a second
oscillator tuned an octave higher than the
main one. With these, dual volume sliders
are used to level them independently.

how to use nexus2 / make music now <

> Step by step 4.Nexus2sFilterandAmpModifiers,andMasterFilter

With sound-specific amp and filter

settings baked into each Nexus2
preset, editing of them is limited to using
the controls in the Amp and Filter Modifier
sections to apply positive and negative
offset to all layers together. With all Filter
and Amp knobs centred, the preset is
exactly as designed by its author.

The filter Attack (Atk), Decay, Sustain

and Release knobs apply offset to the
times and levels of the corresponding
envelope stages for all layers again,
twisting them can lead to unexpected
results. The Amp Modifier section serves
the same function as the Filter Modifier
section, but for the volume envelopes of
the layers in the preset.

The offset dialled in by the Filter and

Amp Modifiers is proportional, so that
no matter where the filter cutoff, say, is set
for each layer, turning the Cutoff knob
fully clockwise will fully open the filters on
all layers. Because of this, each preset
behaves differently and sometimes a bit
confusingly so the best way to discover
whats possible is to dive in and get busy
with the knobs.

Turn the Amp Modifier on by clicking

its power button. The Pan knob shifts
the positioning of the layers in the stereo
spectrum, and the Spread knob alternates
left/right panning of the signal from note
to note. The Spike knob raises or lowers
the amplitude of the first 3ms of the
sound, for more or less attack. Again, the
Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release knobs
offset these stages across all layers.

So, to turn the Filter Modifier on, click

its power button. Turning the Cutoff
and Res knobs offsets the filter cutoff and
resonance for all layers remember that
with each layers filter starting at a
different point, the way they individually
respond to positive and negative offset
can vary considerably. The Env knob sets
the envelope modulation depth, and can
be positive or negative.

The Master Filter is positioned before

the EQ in Nexus2s signal path, and is
unaffected by the Filter Modifier section. It
features four modes Low-Pass (LP), HighPass (HP), Band-Pass (BP) and Notch
(Ntch) as well as a choice of 6, 12 and
24dB/octave roll-off slopes. Make it
scream with the Cutoff and Resonance
knobs you know the drill.

Clicking the Sys button to the right of the
central display opens Nexus2s System
page, wherein various global settings can
be tweaked, and expansion packs imported
and viewed.
The Master Tuning and Transpose sliders
pitch the whole instrument up or down by
Hertz and octaves, respectively. Velocity
Curve adjusts the response to MIDI velocity:
slide left to lower the response to highvelocity notes; slide right to increase the
response to low-velocity notes. Voices sets
the maximum number of simultaneous
voices, up to 128.
Arpeggiator Velocity Source switches the
velocity of Arpeggiator-generated notes
between that of the first note played and the
most recent, while Output Gain enables you to
raise or lower the global output by 6dB. Lastly,

Give Nexus2 a bold new look from its System screen

Quality lets you choose between Low, High and

Ultra interpolation algorithm quality, each
demanding a corresponding CPU overhead;
Tempo Sync doubles or halves the rate of the
internal clock relative to the host DAW tempo;
and the GUI Skin menu is where you access
your installed Nexus2 skins.

On the right of the System screen is the list

of your installed expansions and the buttons
used to import new ones. The easiest option is
to place your downloaded expansions on the
desktop and click the Desktop button, but if
youve already put them somewhere else, hit
Import Data instead and browse to the
appropriate folder.
Clicking the Nexus2 logo at the bottom
right of the GUI flips to the animated rear view,
at the top right of which are a set of
configuration preferences. Using these, you
can deactivate MIDI selection of presets,
elect to have the synth export at Ultra quality,
adjust the scroll speed through the preset
library and more. Unlike the System
preferences, these settings are applied to all
instances of Nexus2, not just the one currently
being edited.
April 2016 / Computer musiC / 71

> make music now / how to use nexus2

> Step by step 6.WorkingwithNexus2sInsertandMastereffects

Nexus2 features four insert effects

two before the Front Panel Reverb/
Delay (i1 and i2), and two at the master
stage (m1 and m2). You also get an EQ,
Impulse Reverb and Limiter. Access them
at the top of the central panel, where the
order of the tabs represents the signal
flow through the effects.

The EQ section houses a flexible fourband parametric equaliser, with each

band able to load any one of eight filter
types: Low-pass, High-pass, two Bandpasses, Notch, Peak, and High and Low
shelves. The Frequency parameter ranges
from 20Hz to 18kHz, and 24dB of cut or
boost is on tap for all but the Low-pass,
High-pass and Notch filters.

Each Insert and Master effect slot can

load one of 13 modules, selected from
the Type menu. Modulation, distortion,
dynamics and other effects are covered,
with highlights including Ensemble,
Talkbox and Analog Phaser. These are
supplementary to the effects built into the
preset, as viewed and activated/
deactivated in the Mix page Layer tab.

The convolution-based Impulse

Reverb contains impulse responses to
emulate various spaces. The controls give
plenty of scope for tailoring the IR,
including a graphical amplitude envelope,
low- and high-cut filters, pre-delay and
tone shaping. Care is required to not overegg the ambience pudding, what with the
Front Panel Reverb providing more of it
further down the chain.

The controls for the loaded effect

appear in the left-hand side of the
display, and the right-hand side houses a
menu of presets, with the XFX presets
loading combinations of effects into slots
i1 and i2. To load an effect or XFX preset,
double-click it. To save your own, rename
the preset in the Name field, then rightclick and select Save FX/XFX preset.

Finally, at the very end of the signal

path, the Limiter features variable
Release time and up to 5ms of Lookahead, and can be pressed into service for
the essential job of preventing clipping, as
well as more creative signal-squashing
applications. Its identical to the Limiter
insert effect type.

> Step by step 7.ModulationcapabilitiesinNexus2

In the left-hand side of the Modulation

page, you can set up a vibrato mod
source (mod wheel, aftertouch or both),
adjust velocity volume sensitivity and
global pitchbend parameters, and switch
between polyphony and portamento
settings. The portamento speed is
selected from a menu of straight, triplet
and dotted note values.

72 / Computer musiC / April 2016

The right-hand side hosts up to ten

modulation slots with the source
assigned on the left, the target assigned
on the right and the mod depth set using
the slider in between. Targets include
pretty much all parameters, including
some hidden ones such as Oscillator Drive
and Random Pitch. Sources comprise mod
wheel, aftertouch, pitchbend, eight MIDI
CCs, eight host automation controls and

Nexus2s only onboard modulation

sources: a pair of LFOs. These are
accessed via the LFO tab in the
Modulation page, and each one outputs
your choice from a list of six waveshapes,
including sample and hold (Chaos). They
can run free or synced (with or without
retriggering), and digital stepping can be
progressively introduced using the
Granular slider.

how to use nexus2 / make music now <

> Step by step 8.GoingindeepwithNexus2sArpeggiatorandTranceGate

Nexus2s Arpeggiator and Trance Gate

each come with their own library of
preset patterns, and turning either one on
disables all of its under-the-hood layerspecific equivalents. The Arpeggiator
includes controls such as chord playback
Mode (Up, Down, up then down, Random,
etc), Octave range (1-4), Speed (including
straight, triplet and dotted) and Gate time.

The pattern editor lays out a rhythmic

sequence of pitch offsets. Set the
Length (0 to 32 steps), the loop start
point (with the pointer), and click in the
editor to create a sequence. The middle
row selects the original pitch, the other
rows up to two octaves up or down, and
the grey box beneath selects semitones.
Drag to change note lengths, Alt-drag to
adjust velocity; and right-click to delete.

The Filter menu can be used to specify

which notes are allowed through the
Arpeggiator with each new step. Lowest,
for example, only lets the lowest held note
pass, while Last only passes the last note
played. The five Fixed options,
meanwhile, lock the pitch to C0, 1, 2, 3 or 4,
the idea being to then pitch each step
using the pattern editor below.

The Trance Gate is all about rhythmic

audio gating. It can be used in Mono
or Stereo mode, the left and right channels
each having their own step lanes in the
latter for auto-panning patterns. Create
your rhythm by activating every step on
which you want the gate to open, then
hold down a note or chord. The loop start,
Speed, Length and Shuffle controls do
the same as their Arpeggiator equivalents.

Strum only works in the Arpeggiators

Poly Mode, where all held notes are
arpeggiated together as a chord rather
than split up. The higher the Strum slider
is raised, the further the notes of the chord
are spread out in time, from guitar-style
strumming to distant spacing. Shuffle
dials in swing for the main Arpeggiator or
those built into the layers of the preset.

Mix, Contour and Width control the

balance of gated and ungated signal,
an underlying envelope for extending the
attack and release times of the gate, and
the stereo width of the gated signal
respectively. The Delay setting tells the
gate to activate a specified time after note
input, while FadeIn sets an amount of
time for the gating to fade in over both
range from a 16th-note to 4 bars.

> Step by step 9.MonitoringtheoutputwithNexus2sFrequencyAnalyzer

The Freq button switches Nexus2s

main display over to the Frequency
Analyzer, which gives three modes of
visual feedback on the final signal leaving
the master output. Although not a
precision instrument on the same level as
a dedicated plugin, its certainly a handy
enough reference tool for keeping low
frequencies under control or checking
your stereo image.

The default mode is Fast Fourier

Transform (FFT) your basic
frequency analyser, showing frequency
on the X axis and volume on the Y axis.
You can view the curve for just the Left or
Right channel, or both together, and the
Zoom Y slider zooms in and out on the
vertical plane for getting close up with
particularly quiet signals.

Oscillator mode is a waveform display,

showing amplitude over time. This
one also lets you choose Left, Right or L+R,
but expands the zoom function to the X
axis as well as Y. Vectorscope mode shows
you the difference between the left and
right channels and is primarily used to
check for phase issues. Finally, all three
modes feature a Freeze button no prizes
for guessing what that does.

April 2016 / Computer musiC / 73

tutorials <

Become a better producer every month with pro

advice and videos from our computer music gurus

Easy Guide

Music theory
with Dave Clews

Learn the tricks behind the

repertoire that still influences
music in the 21st century

Designer Sounds

Sound design with

Charlie Break Bierman


sound design

Break shows us how to transform

a humble vocal sample into
complex bass and pad sounds

Geek Technique

Advanced production
with Owen Palmer

Put your virtual spaces through

their paces Owen demonstrates
how to compare and contrast

Dr Beat

Beat and drum design

with Ronan Macdonald


and timbales

Add some South American spice

to your programmed percussion
with this sage rhythmic advice
April 2016 / Computer musiC / 75

Dave Clews


Blues concepts

Download the accompanying
video and the MIDI/audio files at

Taking you from theory to practice, our resident music

theory wizard comes over all soulful this month
The subject of blues music is so broad that
we could easily fill an entire magazine
with it but never fear, Ill just be covering the
very basics this month! Blues is a term that
encapsulates a melancholic, soulful style of
music rooted in late-19th/early-20th century
America, originating with the religious
spirituals and work songs synonymous with
the slave trade in the rural Southern states,
and evolving into the urban blues and jazz of

>Step by step

the 1940s that became the forerunner of both

rhythm & blues and rock & roll during the
1950s and 60s.
The basic theory of blues might be more
significant than you think its actually the
basis of a vast amount of modern Western
pop music, and its based around two main
concepts: the blues format, in which tunes
take the form of repeated 12-bar sections; and
the blues scale, a particular set of notes

on which melodies can be based. Although the

traditional blues format might now be regarded
as a little pass, the use of the blues scale for
vocal and instrumental melodies has filtered
down into most current styles, including soul,
jazz, house, R&B and DnB so its pretty
important! There arent many current tunes that
dont make use of it in one form or another, so
lets get down to grass roots and explore what
makes the blues tick.

Exploring blues scales and techniques



Traditional blues comes in two

flavours major and minor and is
based on a repeating sequence of 12 bars,
hence the term 12 bar blues. Heres a
typical progression in C. We first get four
bars of the I chord (C), with the chords
played in fifths: the root (C) and the fifth
(G), with no third. This means we can fit
either major or minor licks over it.

Blues scales are based on pentatonic

scales. I the very first Easy Guide back
192, I explained that a pentatonic
scale contains only five notes, and that
there are two types: major and minor. The
major pentatonic scale is derived from the
major scale, so heres the C major scale
all the white notes of the piano keyboard,
played from C to C.

76 / Computer musiC / April 2016

To drive the progression along, the

upper note often alternates between
the fifth (G) and the sixth (A) to give us a
basic classic blues/boogie left-hand piano
part. This pattern follows through into the
next section, with two bars of the IV chord
F in this case, its upper note alternating
between C and D. This is then followed by
another two bars of the I chord (C).

If we remove the 4th and 7th degrees

of the scale the notes F and B in this
case we get our major pentatonic scale.
To make it a major blues scale, we only
have to add one note from outside our
original major scale: the blue note, a
raised 2nd degree, in this case E . This
will give the scale a total of six notes,
making it hexatonic.

Lastly, one bar of the V chord (G), a bar

of the IV chord (F) and two final bars of
the I chord (C), the last two beats of which
revert to the V chord (G) to resolve back to
the I chord on the turnaround. And thats
really all there is to the basic blues-format
chord progression. Now lets look at some
of the things you can play over the top of
it, starting with the blues scales

The minor blues scale is way more

common than the major maybe
because the blues is an inherently
mournful genre by definition. Lets derive
a minor pentatonic scale from a natural
minor scale. A minor is the relative
minor of C major, simply because it also
contains only the white notes on the
piano keyboard.

easy guide / make music now <

tHelonious monK,
A perfect example of a
major jazz piano blues
from a master of the genre,
complete with hipster
beanie and beard!

Katys awesome extended ad lib

in the mid section is straight from
the F minor blues scale, including
the incredible final slow bend
from the B blue note up to the C.

To make a natural minor scale

pentatonic, we need to remove the
2nd and 6th degrees B and F in the case
of A minor. For minor scales, the blue note
that we need to add to the minor
pentatonic is a raised 4th degree, which
means that for A minor, the blue note
would be D . This gives us the notes A C
D D E and G our A minor blues scale.


Alternatively, we can simply riff in the

C minor blues scale (C E F F G B ) over
all 12 bars, effectively ignoring the
changes. Itll still sound cool, despite (or
because of) any dissonances that occur
between the A notes in the left-hand and
those from the blues scale in the righthand part. Thats the great thing about the
blues: its pretty hard to go wrong!

Dave Clews


In a studio career
spanning almost 25
years, Dave has
programmed and
played keyboards on
records for a string of
artists including
George Michael, Kylie
Minogue, Tina Turner
and Estelle. These
days, in between writing articles
and other magazines, he
collaborates on occasional songs
and videos with singer/songwriter
Lucy Hirst, aka Polkadothaze.

GraCe and favour

A classic blues technique for instruments like piano

and Rhodes is to use the blue note as a grace note,
sliding off from it either up to the fifth or down to the
fourth, while the little finger hits either the high root
note or the minor seventh. Watch clips of Jerry Lee
Lewis, Jools Holland, Ray Charles, or any of the great
blues players, and youll see this kind of thing a lot.

Bendy Blues

When soloing on a synth using the blues scale, you can

make good use of your controllers pitchbend wheel.
Set your synths pitchbend range to +/- 2 semitones and
youll be able to do a full bend up from the fourth note
of the scale, or down from the fifth note, that will take
the pitch of the note through the blue note to the next
note in the scale. The pitchbend wheel also allows
access to the kind of microtonal blue notes youd get
by overblowing a harmonica or bending a guitar string.


Interestingly, the blue notes for the

C major and A minor blues scales are
# b
the same note: D /E . In fact, these two
scales contain exactly the same notes,
since theyre relative scales. To illustrate,
heres a two-bar run through the notes of
the C major blues scale, followed by a
similar run through the A minor blues
scale, over eachs respective root chord.

Applying the blues scale to a more

current-sounding production, we
might end up with something like this: a
house drum track at 128bpm, with a synth
riff (played here by Alchemys Analog
Stack Synth preset) playing a rhythmic
sequence of stabs describing an upward F
minor blues scale identified by the
inclusion of the B natural.

neXt montH We take an in-depth look at harmonising notes from outside a scale


Weve explored the construction and

sound of the major and minor blues
scales, but how do we apply them? Lets
look at how theyd be used to form the
lead part in a traditional blues. We can
change the scale of the melody to fit the
chord changes, playing an F minor blues
scale over the Fm chord when it occurs at
bar 5, for instance.

The blues scale is also great for

soloing over a backing track in a minor
key. Our previous example happens to be
an F minor progression that just grooves
continuously over the root F minor chord,
so we can use the F minor blues scale to
riff over the top. Its great practice and
enormous fun. Make sure you check out
the video to see it in action.

April 2016 / Computer musiC / 77



with Break


Vocal sound design

Struggling for a unique sound? Breaks here to show us
how an unlikely source can provide creative inspiration
For me, using natural sounds to create
texture and groove is one of the coolest
and most enjoyable parts of music
production. This is one of the first things that
attracted me to jungle: acoustic sounds
mangled in a sampler to sound electronic and
strange but still with an organic edge. The
same can be said for hip-hop, as the best of
this music was made on samplers in a similar
era. Producers such as Timbaland and

>Step by step

Premier are know for using obscure sounds

in their track elements.
With the rise of soft synths and DAW
production, these techniques can sometimes be
thrown onto the back seat and forgotten. Im
guilty of that myself sometimes. Having limited
sampling time on a sampler forced producers of
the past to be more creative, but thanks to
computer technology, you can play around with
audio in any way imaginable. Using

Get the video and audio
examples on your PC/Mac at

timestretching, distortion and pitchshifting, we

can transform anything into anything.
With this in mind, this month Im going to take
some vocal samples and transform them into
completely different track elements. With its rich
sonic texture and large frequency range, the
human voice is a really useful sound source.
Plus, its the main source our ears were built to
tune into, so what better sound could there be
to use as a starting point?

Using a vocal as a source for bass and pad elements



First off, Ive auditioned and then

picked out a few clips to use. To some
extent, what will work is down to luck, but
Ive found a promising portion of a vocal
to make a bass sound from. Im aiming to
make a Reese-style bass, and the vibrato
in this vocal sample will help to give us
that modulated feel youd get from a
sound like that.

I duplicate this track to add some

parallel distortion. Soundtoys
Decapitators Punish mode gives a pretty
raw sound, and Ive turned up the Low Cut
to about 400Hz to stop the bass
frequencies overloading the distortion.
Ive also enabled a steep High Cut at about
12kHz, just to remove the ultra-high fizz.

78 / Computer musiC / April 2016

Ive converted the audio clip into a

sampler track then tuned it down by 12
semitones. Its still not low enough, so I
add Soundtoys Little AlterBoy to shift the
pitch and formant further, setting them to
-12. Ive then duplicated the plugin in the
chain, bringing it down by three octaves in
total (using the sampler and two plugin
instances to move it an octave each).

To balance the parallel channel with

the original, I turn it down by 6dB. The
parallel channel needs some EQ, and Ive
gone for FabFilter Pro-Q 2, low-cutting to
at 400Hz with scoops at 500Hz and
1.4kHz and a 5dB boost at 10kHz. Ive also
loaded another Pro-Q 2 with a resonant
low cut, and automated it to sweep from
high to low to give some filter movement.

Now that the vocal is down in the bass

and sub range, I draw in some
pitchbend with the range at +12 on the
sampler to give it some movement. Edits
like this will help make it sound more
mangled and less like a natural voice.
Adding EQ helps to shape the vocal into
more of a bass sound I boost 40Hz and
scoop at 90Hz and 200Hz.

For further effects, you can get really

creative and try out all your plugins.
Ill give Logics pedalboard a go for some
phasing. The Phase Tripper pedal, set to
sync over one bar with about 30% Depth
and Feedback, helps to give movement to
the distortion and does interesting things
to the stereo field. The widening helps
bring some life into the mono vocal.

designer sounds / make music now <

Busta rhymes, Legend
of the faLL offs

In this dark track, the snare is the

sound of a spade digging a grave,
and the flicking earth functions as
a hi-hat. A great replacement for
conventional drums.

nas, nas Is LIke

Produced by my favourite
hip-hop beatmaker Premier,
this track has a loop of birds
chirping pitched rhythmically
with the drums most easily
heard in the first 20 seconds.

For a sense of space, Logics Platinum

Reverb sounds fine on its default
setting Ive just shortened the Reverb
time to 2 seconds. Going back to the Little
AlterBoy and tweaking its settings sounds
quite interesting against the original
channel it brings more presence, but it
starts to sound plasticky, so Im leaving
the settings where they were.


I really like Logics Space Designer for

effects like this, but other reverbs that
generate long tails will work, especially if
they have filter or modulation settings too.
Ive flicked through a few presets to find
one with a long tail and some movement
that creates an atmospheric rhythm. Next,
just bounce out the vocal with the reverb.

Touted as the DnB

producers DnB
producer, Break aka
Charlie Bierman has a
discography thats
seen him sign tracks
to the likes of
Metalheadz, RAM,
Critical and Shogun, as
well as his own imprint,
Symmetry. His latest
album, Simpler Times, was
released last year to rave reviews.

distorted reality

Lots of sounds take on a totally different character

when you add distortion. Ive been doing it with vocals
in this tutorial, but try distorting anything you can get
your hands on. There are loads of different types of
distortion, and they all do something a little different
(see this months cover feature for more on that, of
course). Personally, I like bringing in some distortion
using amp modellers, since this will give most things a
rockier feel and a cool sense of space.

not what it seems

It can be interesting to try and use the wrong sound in

order to get a weird result you wouldnt initially think
of a vocal for a bass sound, but the transformation
process gives you room for creativity and can lead to a
more unique outcome. Samples such as doors closing/
opening, nature sounds, cars and anything else can
sound great when you treat them with the right effects.


You could try bouncing these two

tracks together, or loading other vocal
slices into the sampler. Once the distortion
channel is set up, its easier to hear the end
result of the pitched and distorted vocals.
You could even set up a couple of channels
with similar effects and plug in a mic to see
what kind of sounds you can make with
your own voice.

If you Bounce in Place within Logic,

make sure the Include Audio Tail in
File option is ticked. You could chop a
section of the tail from the bounce to
create a loop. Ive applied a fade in, and
then an equal-power crossfade, so theres
a smooth transition each time the block of
audio loops around. Turning on the click
track helps get the loop in time.


To finish off, Ill make an atmospheric

pad loop from the same vocalists
samples. The same trial-and-error
approach applies: picking a part with notes
or a timbre that you like is a good starting
point. Ive taken a clip that says Youre all
around and just chopped out the word
around. A quick fade off on the end and
its ready for some reverb.

Now to give it more character with

effects. Ive scooped out the vocal
resonance at 1.5kHz to help it sound more
like a pad, and a sweeping filter from
Soundtoys excellent FilterFreak 2 helps
give it movement over four bars. Its hard
to think that this sound came from a
single-word slice of a vocal!

April 2016 / Computer musiC / 79


with Owen Palmer


Analysing reverbs
With so many virtual space processors out there, how
do you evaluate each one and truly learn its sound?
For most of my school life I had a really
bad reputation with the teachers. In my
defence, I always had good intentions and
was normally polite, but admittedly, I had a
hard time accepting some of the rules, and I
challenged authority whenever something
seemed unfair. I had an innate desire to ask
why things are the way they are. Why cant I
gaze out the window while the teacher reads
if I can still prove Im listening?

>Step by step

Similarly, I have memories of fixing broken

toys, which later evolved into fixing electronics.
I then got into building PCs (with the help of my
father I wasnt a tech prodigy), and then I got
into computer programming. These interests
absolutely require a knowledge of how things
work. In particular, learning to program forces
you to embrace extremely logical thought
processes, as computers are stringently
pedantic. You must combine methodical and

See the video and get the audio
demos on your PC/Mac at:

creative thinking styles with lots of testing to

attain your goals.
Parallel to that backstory, Id always been
obsessed with music but it wasnt until I
applied the programmers way of thinking to my
musical efforts that I really started to gain
momentum with the quality of my results.
To this day, I find that logical processes and
rigorous testing help to get the most from
tools. Lemme show you what I mean...

Gaining deeper insights into your reverb plugins



Ill start by showing you a crafty

experiment thatll help you compare
reverbs so you can choose which plugin to
use in a mixing situation faster, and with
greater confidence. Once were done with
that, well look at a few simple ways to
make virtually any reverb plugin sound
more expensive, producing the reverb
tails that best serve your mixdown.

With your monitoring turned right

down, take a look at our little peak
on a frequency analyser. Mathematically
speaking, the one-sample spike means
that Impulse.wav contains every
frequency allowed by the sample rate
and so youll see a freakishly straight
horizontal line come up on the frequency
analyser display.

80 / Computer musiC / April 2016

The point of this tutorial isnt to make

claims that one reverb is somehow
subjectively better than another, so for
simplicity, Ill be sticking to the reverbs
that come packaged with Cubase. I
encourage you to follow along with your
personal favourite reverbs you certainly
dont need to be using the same plugins as
me to reap the benefits.

Insert a reverb plugin and set it to

100% wet. Im using RoomWorks here.
Since the impulse is sonically neutral, just
browsing through the reverb presets will
give you invaluable insights into the
spaces the plugin can conjure. Taking it
further, make the tonal parameters neutral
and explore how the reverb parameters
affect the tails smoothness and spatiality.

Youll find Impulse.wav among this

months Tutorial Files. Dont listen to
it! This is a full-amplitude audio event
sort of like a spike that lasts the
minimum duration allowed by the sample
rate. Since my sample rate is 44,100Hz,
our audio spike lasts 1/44100th of a
second. It just sounds like a nasty click, but
it does have its uses

Find the quirks and qualities of

whatever reverb youre testing. This is
much easier than judging the sound of a
reverb placed on a complex musical signal
because you effectively hear pure reverb
with no overlapping tails. RoomWorks
Efficiency produces some messed up
robotic effects, and higher Size values lead
to a grainier tail its all very evident.

geek technique / make music now <

Owen Palmer


226s, Geek Technique explored using vocoders

to perform a variety of mixing functions, including
using MeldaProductions MVocoder plugin to
produce a very high-quality reverb effect. The basic
principle is to use a noise signal (start out using pink
and white noise) as a carrier and the dry instrument
as a modulator. Routing-wise, this is a little trickier to
set up than a regular reverb plugin, and it can be
quite unforgiving on the CPU, but it sounds so good
that its worth it. Test out this vocoder-reverb setup
with Impulse.wav from this months Tutorial Files as
the modulator. Youll find that, being a vocoder, you
can produce some really interesting effects that are
spatial and reverberant, yet way more experimental
and creatively freeing than a regular reverb plugin.
Vocoders remain a largely untapped source of
incredible power, so Id encourage any producer
looking for an edge to investigate them.

Repeat this process for each reverb

youre interested in getting to know
better especially for reverbs you own but
havent yet had a fantastic sound from. Im
not pretending that all reverbs have
equally amazing potential, but if you use
this process to help familiarise yourself
with each, youll be better prepared to get
the most from them. For example


For musical material, you should use

the tonal controls on your reverb. Its
clear when using our impulse that
RoomWorks damping filters dictate how
quickly the reverb decays in the high and
low bands, relative to the main Reverb
Time. Damping highs and lows helps to
push the reverb backwards in the mix.

As an in-demand
dance music engineer,
Owens worked with a
slew of outstanding
underground artists
behind the scenes
from his London
studio. After years of
meticulously studying
what makes a great
production tick, hes
promised to share his most
coveted techniques each month
exclusively in
. You can sign up
for Owens free email course on
making mixdowns easy at


When mixing, its often a good idea to insert additional

plugins ahead of your reverb in an effects chain. For
example, running a vibrato effect on the signal before it
hits the reverb can be a way to blur resonant
frequencies and produce richer-sounding tails which
in turn can give the impression that the dry signal is
bigger and thicker. Some reverbs already have a
feature like this built in, but using a dedicated vibrato
plugin means all of your reverbs can benefit from
this trick. Very small amounts of pitch modulation
usually work best maybe half a semitone at most
but you can really get creative with the pitch LFO shape
and speed. Note that since our Impulse.wav test file has
no discernible pitch, our earlier experiment isnt
suitable for auditioning any pitch modulation effects.
And if youre wondering how realistic the use of
vibrato in a reverb is, you may be suffering an acute
case of BBD thats Boring Brain Disease.


Although a small Size value on

RoomWorks leads to a smoother tail,
the same cant be said for Cubases
Revelation effect, which produces bell-like
metallic tails with low Room Size settings.
To get a smoother tail from Revelation,
this parameter needs to be closer to 25%.
Switching on its Modulation also dampens
high frequencies good to know!

For brighter instruments, its usually

best to reduce high frequencies in the
reverb tail if you want to create the illusion
of a big sound. RoomWorks also has input
filters to help you with this, but you can
emulate these with an EQ before the
reverb in your send chain. Youll also want
to use some Pre-Delay to illustrate a sense
of distance from the dry source sound.

neXt montH Owen shows you the treble tools hiding in his geek satchel


So how do these discoveries help us in

a musical context? Use the same
reverb plugins on your musical material
and pay attention to the parameters that
had notable effect on our impulse. For
example, Ill make weird metallic tails
using the Efficiency dial on RoomWorks,
then Ill produce smoother textures with
low values of the Size parameter.

When using a reverb that has an early

reflection section, observe the early
and late signals separately to get a grasp
on how each element colours the sound.
Early reflections can enhance very
smooth input signals, but can sound
grainy on instruments with sharp
transients sometimes its best to bypass
the ER section completely.

April 2016 / Computer musiC / 81

> make music now / geek technique


In the first of a new series of exclusive Q&A sessions, Geek Technique

mastermind Owen Palmer answered your questions live on the
Facebook page and now you can read em in the mag below!

Julian Ahmed
Could you explain why I notice a
change in the tone when using
different types of compressors. Arent they
supposed to adjust amplitude?

If your mixes look like this, you could have a serious harshness problem on your hands

HarsH words
Logan Atbud
I think young producers like me have
some problems with high frequencies (harsh
zones). How can you manage hi-hat, white noise
(in transitions), rides and clear synths in the
8kHz frequencies? I mean at the same time.

Yeah not just young producers. Youve

got to be really careful letting those
frequencies build up (ie, dont). Make sure
you use sounds with the absolute minimum
amount of those harsh frequency areas as you can
get away with. If you wait until the mixdown, youre
gonna have a very difficult job on your hands. So
yeah, minimalism is the key. Also, watch out for
3-4kHz especially the typical resonant frequency
of the ear canal very painful. OP

82 / Computer musiC / April 2016

Think about it like this: you cant

change the amplitude of an audio
signal over time without affecting its
waveform (kind of obvious), and you
certainly cant make rapid adjustments to
amplitude without contorting the waveform
sufficiently to produce additional harmonic
content. I hope thats clear so far.
For example, if you play a low sine tone (say
55Hz) and apply a tremolo to it, if the tremolo
moves fast enough, you get that metallic effect
known as amplitude modulation (or AM). If you
were to inspect the waveform closely, youd see
that the rate of amplitude change has effectively
warped the sine wave.
Back to compressors. They have different
shapes of attack and release, different shapes
of threshold knee, and many have saturation
and EQ (in the sidechain, or sometimes in the
output) to intentionally give them character.
All of these things impart a tone thats unique
to that particular compressor. So basically,
two reasons: fast amplitude modulation
naturally colours the signal; and some
compressors are intentionally designed to
colour the signal. OP

Stephen Clay
Your thoughts please on getting
mixes to translate across different
systems. I would normally test in a few
different locations and fix issues with EQ,
sidechaining parts or possibly a bit of
saturation etc. Are there any strategies
(eg, with compression) that you use?

Thats such a broad topic I could write

a book about it, but let me offer you
the following guidelines:
Always check headphones vs
speakers (theyre so different from each other,
mechanically, that if you can make both work,
youre probably doing well). Id rather check on a
mid-level pair of speakers and a mid-level pair of

geek technique / make music now <

If you want your mixes to translate,

check them on speakers and
headphones as you go

Andrew Pakuts
Whats the deal with analogue
summing? Is it something worth
looking into?


headphones than just a high-level speaker

system alone, or just a high-level pair of
headphones alone.
Be gentle with your sounds. EQ, compression,
limiters all the stuff we like to play with to
shape the mix those things are more
delicate than most people realise, and you
wont hear most of the harm theyre doing
just on one playback system. Keep your
sources as natural as possible and strive for
minimal processing.
Take your mixes elsewhere and try to
remember the things that you notice about
your mixes outside the studio so that you learn
what to compensate for when youre back in
the studio! OP

Ben Sayward
When creating a bass-driven
track, how important is the
inaudible part of the sub bass in the mix?
And is a low-cut EQ (say below 20Hz) going
to help clean up the low end of the mix?
I obviously cant hear [those frequencies],
but I can see them on an analyser and
wondered if rather than boosting the kick
and cutting the sub to add clarity in that
area of the mix it may be that low low-end
thats muddying the mix. Is that the
frequency that I feel and love in the club?

Youre not gonna hear/feel much

under about 40Hz in a club, most of
the time. Its safe to assume that any
frequencies below 20Hz are
unnecessary and probably unwanted but Id
investigate how those ridiculously low
frequencies got there in the first place. Its best

Id investigate how
those ridiculously
low frequencies
got there in
the first place

to address that before resorting to EQ. Cutting

down there might cause mud in the lower mids,
rather than prevent it.
Id advise you to leave those frequencies
down there well alone as far as possible, but
keep an eye on whats going on down there, and
try to prevent those frequencies from occurring
in the first place. OP

Dolo Jones
To get some interesting spatial
effects, Ill sometimes hard pan
sounds or achieve width with mid/side
processing tools. When Ive played these
tracks in club situations Ive had no problems
so far, but I sometimes wonder whether Im
asking for trouble on certain sound systems.
Is there a general rule for how wide to pan
certain key elements, or safeguards to make
sure sounds arent lost?

Im glad you asked. You can go as

wide as you want. You can go wider
than hard panning, by the way, by
using a stereo expander (eg,
Voxengo MSED) after panning all the way to one
side (which is essentially the same as adding a
polarity-flipped version of the signal to the
opposite side).
Rules? Check the left only signal; check the
mono only signal (aka mid); check the right only
signal; and you may as well check the side signal
as well.
I do these checks like OCD and the
mixdowns always sound better over a greater
variety of systems! OP

Worth looking into? Theres

nothing thats not worth
looking into, in my book, so yes. My
feeling, however, is that adding
analogue summing to an otherwise
digital setup isnt going to be the
make-or-break difference. I love
analogue gear, but realistically,
theres better ways to spend the
money than getting a summing
system. Certainly dont take a leap
of faith on that one test it out if
you can, or dont do it. OP

Fancy a summing box like the Dangerous

2-Bus+? Read Owens sage advice first!

Aleksashka Zilkov
What always makes my brain
squeeze: if EQ does not saturate
and band shapes are as usual,
how can it possibly be that with
this EQ you can boost more than
with a regular EQ or this EQs
2dB boost sounds brighter than
that EQs 2dB boost?

Good question! Youre right: if

theres no saturation, and the
curve shapes and phase responses
are the same, its the same effect,
no matter who made it or what the
interface looks like! OP

You Got
We got the answers!

The free bx_solo plugin from Brainworx is an invaluable

stereo referencing tool dont mix down without it!

To find out about

upcoming live Ask
sessions with the
Experts, follow us on our
Facebook and Twitter at

April 2016 / Computer musiC / 83

with Ronan Macdonald

Claves and timbales

Two more members of the percussion family are introduced
Ronan Macdonald
served as Editor
of drummers
bible Rhythm as
well as
Music, Ronan is
clearly the right
man for this
particular gig. Hes been playing drums
for over 30 years and making music
with computers since the 90s.

For the last few instalments of Dr Beat,

weve been working our way through the
list of Latin percussion instruments, and this
month its the turn of claves and timbales.
A pair of thick, short wooden batons, one
cupped in the hand to maximise resonance and
struck by the other, the claves are the most
primal of instruments in any Latin band, tapping
out a sort of complex click track that guides the
whole ensemble. In non-Latin music, theyre
ideal for creating a feel or as a spot effect.
While Latin percussion doesnt get more
simple than the claves, it doesnt get much more
technically involved than the timbales a pair
(or sometimes more) of shallow, metal-shelled

See it in video and get the
tutorial files on your PC/Mac at

single-headed drums, one slightly smaller than

the other. Theyre mostly played with sticks, but
can also be played with palms and fingers, for
dynamic and tonal variation. For electronic and
dance music, these uniquely characterful drums
are most effectively employed for fills and as a
rhythmic counterpoint to the drum kit.
Here, Ill show you how to program basic
clave and timbale parts for use in your pop, rock
and electronic productions. Im using Abletons
Latin Percussion Live Pack, but any general
percussion sample set should feature similar
sounds. Most of these patterns were recorded
live and left unquantised, as any good
percussion track should be.

>Step by step Understanding and programming clave and timbale percussion rhythms



The primary role of the claves in AfroCuban music is playing the foundation
rhythm of the same name. The two most
ubiquitous clave rhythms are called son
clave and rumba clave, and although they
sound pretty similar, each has its own
distinct feel. Heres the son clave. Check
out the rumba clave in the video version.

Programming authentic timbale parts

isnt for the faint-hearted, but lets look
at the fundamentals. First, the good ol
timbale fill. The brash, ringing tone makes
these drums ideal for marking the end of a
phrase. Combine open strokes with
rimshots for realistic variation, as Ive
done here.

84 / Computer musiC / April 2016

Each of the two clave rhythms is

divided into two halves: the three-side
(three notes) and the two-side (two notes),
and either half can come first. Heres the
rumba clave, now in its two-then-three
formation. The difference this makes to
the rhythmic phrasing within the bar is

In simple terms, there are two main

types of timbale groove: the cascara
and the bell pattern. Cascara is Spanish for
shell, and the technique involves playing
a clave-style pattern on the shell of one
drum with or without incidental notes on
the head of the other. The cascara is often
used in verses and quieter song sections.

You dont have to stick to traditional

clave rhythm any rhythmic riff is fair
game. Id advise keeping things simple,
though, as the cutting sound can easily
make it irritating if the notes get too
dense. One of the most effective uses of
clave sounds can be for occasional reverbheavy emphasis of the backbeat.

The bell pattern, as the name implies,

brings a mambo bell or woodblock
mounted above the timbales into play. In
non-Latin music, you can just use
articulations open, rimshot, mute, etc
to build rolling rhythms that complement
your drum kit parts. Again, dont go
overboard with the note density.

NEXT MONTH How to incorporate shakers to add top-line pace to a groove

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April 2016 / Computer musiC / 87

Koury Angelo

> interview / elephante

88 / Computer musiC / April 2016

elephante / interview <

The prog house producer and remixer for
hire reckons we shouldnt be afraid of pop
music you just need to add a little chaos

Michigan-born Tim Wus parents were

understandably proud when he landed a
place at the prestigious Harvard University
famous alumni include John F Kennedy,
Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg and
Leonard Bernstein. And they were
understandably super-pissed when, having
majored in economics and landed a well-paid
corporate job, he gave it all up for
progressive house and Ableton Live.
It was a fantastic job, explains 26-year-old
Wu, but I knew it wasnt what I wanted out of
life. Outside of the office, I was spending 30 or
40 hours a week working on music, putting
together bootleg remixes and digging deep into
Ableton. Thats where I was at my happiest, and
eventually I just said to myself, Tim, why spend
your life doing something you dont want to do?
You gotta follow your heart, right!
In these economically uncertain times, it
might have seemed like a risky decision, but its
one that has seriously paid off Wus remix CV
includes everybody from Calvin Harris and Katy
Perry to Lorde and Grammy-nominated Galantis.
You could argue that my life would have

been a lot easier if Id stayed in the corporate

world, adds Wu, because things are definitely
getting tougher in this industry. But that first
day I switched on my computer and said
this is my job made me so happy. Music is part
of me music feels like home.
Computer Music: Did the idea of a career
change come out of the blue?
Tim Wu: Not exactly. Ive been studying piano
since I was a little kid, and I taught myself how to
play guitar. Music has just been there. My mom
likes to tell this story about when I was about
four or five: if I was naughty and wouldnt do as
I was told, she would put on Walt Disneys
Fantasia and I would immediately calm down.
: From what we remember about Fantasia,
its quite trippy. Dancing horses and brooms
that work on their own. No wonder you ended
up making dance music!
TW: [Laughs] Man, you could be right. I used to
have weird dreams about those brooms. And
Mickey Mouse. As I got older, I did start to drift
away from classical; thats why I picked up the

guitar. Classical music seemed like a chore, and I

was getting more and more interested in pop
music. I would listen to a song on the radio and
then pick it apart, work out the chords. I wanted
to know how it worked. Why did this chord
follow that chord? How come that harmony
sounded so beautiful?
Yes, Ive been classically trained, but some of
my favourite musical moments have been when
Im banging around on the keyboard or the
guitar and just grabbing a handful of notes. You
have no idea what youre playing, but something
will suddenly jump out at you. Its as if you know
inside when something works.
No matter how many lessons you have and
how many tutorials you download from
YouTube, there still has to be that natural thing
that goes on in your brain. Music isnt just
technique; its also instinct.
: Before you headed into electronic music,
you were all set to be a traditional, acousticstrummin singer/songwriter?
TW: That was the plan. After college, I moved to
LA, thinking that Id do a few gigs, get my demo
April 2016 / Computer musiC / 89

> interview / elephante

I was just a kid in his bedroom,

learning how to make weird
noises that sounded OK
Once Id realised that the computer could be
my entire studio, I immediately headed down
that road. Switching to Ableton was the final
piece in the puzzle. It was super-liberating.
: Youre not the first person to say that!
TW: I tried FruityLoops, I tried Pro Tools, but as
soon as I loaded up Ableton, I discovered a
direct link between the ideas in my head and
what was happening in the computer. Ableton
made everything else seem kinda clunky and
slow. I dont mean they made the computer run
slow; they made my ideas run slow. With
Ableton, you get an idea and you can get it down
in seconds. User-friendly, intuitive call it what
you want, but Ableton never gets in the way of
the music.

Steven Truong

to a record company and make millions.

Unfortunately, after I got to LA, I realised that
everybody was a singer/songwriter, and
everybody was going to get their demo to a
record company and make millions.
The one advantage I had was that Id given
my singer/songwriter act a technological twist:
I was working with a laptop, complex delay
pedal setups and an MPC, layering various
noises and melodies into a sort of folktronica
groove. Yes, I used GarageBand, but Id also
experimented with FruityLoops and I knew my
way around sequencing and MIDI.
That corporate job I told you about involved
a lot of travelling, so I had the chance to spend
some serious time on my laptop, and I think
thats when I started investigating music that
could be made entirely with a computer and
software. The move was probably inspired by
early Skrillex tracks like Scary Monsters and
Nice Sprites. The first time I heard it it blew my
mind. I immediately wanted to know how hed
made something so beautiful out of so much
chaos. At first, I started looking around on
YouTube, downloading 50 million videos that
claimed to know how Skrillex worked, but then I
started messing around with my own sounds
and sequences.

And its a pretty forgiving platform; one that

allows you to learn how to produce. The effects,
the synths, the drum rack and all the stock
production tools are more than adequate and
will immediately give you a decent-sounding
finished product. I was never really taught about
EQ or compression, so I had to work it all out for
myself. The track doesnt feel right; OK, maybe it
needs compression. No, that makes it sound
worse. Maybe it needs EQ. Yeah, that sounds
better. Does the compression work now?
When youre not quite sure what youre
doing, theres always a temptation to start
looking for a new plugin thats going to solve
your problems. Everyone says the 1176
compressor is great. Ill buy that and all my
songs will sound great. Sadly, it doesnt work
like that. All that happens is that you buy some
expensive plugin, youre not quite sure how to
get the best from it, and you give up because its
not providing that instant satisfaction.
Before I invested in any third-party plugins,
I made sure I knew what I was doing on Ableton.
That was my training ground. I was just a kid in
his bedroom, learning how to make weird noises
that sounded OK.
: Sequencing capabilities aside, does
Ableton still provide the nuts and bolts of
an Elephante production?
TW: There are third-party plugins, but a lot of
the basic stuff is still done in Ableton. The drums
are put together on the Drum Rack Ive set up
a few basic templates that can get a song
started and I usually get a rough idea of the
mix using the onboard tools. Its like an audio
canvas; you can sketch out a song.
Of course, there is a point where you think,
Yeah, I know where this one is taking me. Thats
when you start pulling up some of the Waves
toys or FabFilter, fine-tuning and working out
how you want that song to sound.

Tim sees in the new year

by ripping it up at San
Diegos OMFG NYE event

Tim rates Massive as his favourite synth, and he cant get enough of Output Audios Exhale vocal instrument

90 / Computer musiC / April 2016

: Whats the first synth that usually gets

pulled up?
TW: Massive. Not 100% of the time, but its
definitely the one that I feel most comfortable
with. It was also the first third-party synth I ever
bought because Id heard so many great things
about it. What I cant understand is that some
people have started giving Massive some flak
as if its been overused. Sorry, but Massive is still
my benchmark. If Im testing out a new synth,
Im always asking myself, Is this giving me
something that I couldnt get in Massive? All my
other synths things like Sylenth and Spire are
there precisely because they do things that
Massive cant do.
: Are software synth designers missing a
trick? Anything you think we need from the
soft-synth world?
TW: There are so many synths out there so
many claims that a synth can do this and that.

Koury Angelo

elephante / interview <

Personally, Im not really interested in the

technical spec at all. The only question I ask is,
Will this make my life easier? Will it help me
make music?
Theres a great VST called Exhale a vocal
engine. Vocal chops and effects are something
that I spend hours and hours on in the studio,
and Exhale has made that whole process so
much easier.
And mastering is something that Ive
sometimes struggled with. Yeah, thatd be
a fantastic bit of software the perfect
master plugin.
: Just one simple switch: Master my track
Guaranteed results every time!
TW: Every book Ive ever read on production
says that you should never work on a song with
anything on the master buss. You finish your
song, then you add the master. At first, thats
how I used to work, but I always found that my
subs and my reverbs suddenly went all haywire
when I started mastering. Things were so out of
place that it was actually quite difficult to dive
back into the song and fix it. You tweak the subs,
something else sounds wrong; then you tweak
the reverbs and you lose something else. I

ended up mixing everything twice, so I decided

to add a light master as Im putting the song
together. Nothing serious just something to
give me an idea of how it will sound.
Some of my producer friends also tell me
I should bounce out to stems, too, but again
I guess Im just comfortable with the way I work.
If Im getting results that are working for me, I
dont really see why I should change. Sure, there
are accepted ways of working in the studio, but
those accepted ways arent going to give the
same results to every producer. Its taken a long
time for my ears to get tuned into the sound that
I want. And thats probably one of the best
pieces of advice I could give to anyone whos
looking to make their own music: give your ears
the time to get used to your sound.
Im sure there are producers out there who
can sit in front of mixing desk and immediately
get a song to sound great, but because Im not a
trained producer, I find its more like a process of
elimination. You think the bass needs to be this
loud, but you do a rough mix and it doesnt
work. Try again then try again. Youre
constantly retuning your ears to work out how
you can get the best from a song. Its a two-way
process; the song will sometimes tell you what it

Kit list
Apple iMac
Apple MacBook Pro
Universal Audio Apollo Twin
M-Audio Oxygen 9
Mackie Big Knob
KRK Rokit 8
Fender Stratocaster
Fender Jazz Bass
Martin 000C-16RGTE
Ableton Live 9
Waves plugins
UAD 610 preamps
UAD 1176 limiters
FabFilter Pro-Q
FabFilter Pro-MB
Native Instruments Massive
Native Instruments Kontakt
Reveal Sound Spire
Xfer Records Serum
Output Audio Exhale

April 2016 / Computer musiC / 91

> interview / elephante

Whos afraid of pop?

Benjamin Czegeny

There are a lot of producers who will

completely dismiss pop, but Ive always
been a big fan of the pure pop song.
Who cares if its a Justin Bieber vocal?
Theres no way Im going to dismiss a
song just because its not meant to be
cool. My immediate reaction is, OK,
where can I take this song? How can I get
people who dont like pop to listen to it?
And how can I get pop fans who dont
like dance music to go on a different
journey? I want to bring together the
best from both worlds. A pop song might
only take three brain cells to process,
but the chances are that youre going to
get some great hooks in there, so why
not make use of them?
Sure, there are songs out there that I
dont think I could work on. I mean you
have to believe in a song if youre
actually going to bring something to the
table. But, apart from that, I love the idea
that youre taking this cheesy vocal and
introducing it to a whole different
audience. Lets chop it up, lets turn it
inside out. Lets introduce a little chaos!

wants. You have to be flexible and you have to

be prepared to head down a rabbit hole that you
didnt even know was there.
: It was your remix skills that first brought
you to the publics attention. Do you apply
that same flexible approach to a Katy Perry
tune as a Calvin Harris tune?
TW: In the early days before record
companies started getting in touch with me
I would remix in the fairly traditional way; by
chopping up bits of what was out there. Yeah,
there are websites that will give you access to
good-quality stems and acappellas, but they
arent from established artists.
If I wanted to rework something that was in
the charts, I would dig out as many different
versions as possible. Hopefully, thered be an
instrumental version which you could throw
against the original to isolate the vocal.
Sometimes, Id end up with some pretty trashysounding audio, but I tried to incorporate that
into my remix. [Laughs] I suppose thats a very
long-winded way of saying, Yeah, I try to be
flexible with my remixes.
Now that Im lucky enough to get asked to
do official remixes, I try and get away from the
computer as much as possible. I work out the
chords and shift the song over to piano or
guitar; I actually sit and play it like a song like a
singer/songwriter song. To me, thats a great
way to ease your way into a piece of music and
find out how it works, kind of like how I used to
when I first taught myself guitar. If Ive got an
acappella vocal, Ill play along to that or sing
the words myself, adding all sorts of strange
synthy noises with my mouth. All Im trying to
do is imagine the bits that are going to make up
the song.
92 / Computer musiC / April 2016

I hate choosing
drum samples its
probably my least
favourite part of the
songwriting process
Usually, the last thing I work on is the
drums. I guess there are two schools of
thought: either you put the kick drum front
and centre right from the start, or you build
up a song and then fit the drums around that.
I always go for the latter because I hate
choosing drum samples its probably my
least favourite part of the songwriting process.
If I build up the song before I start working on
the drums, it will at least give me something to
aim for.
The kick drum will always go in as audio.
That gives me maximum scope for fine-tuning,
and the rest of the kit will be samples.
Can I tell you quick story about the Katy
Perry remix? When I started messing around
with remixes, the business didnt seem to
be as heavily policed as it is today, so you
could get away with a lot more. I put together
a remix of Dark Horse and it started getting
quite a bit of attention. One day, my manager
rang up and said, Katy Perrys record company
have just been on the phone. They want to talk
to you.
My immediate reaction was: Whaddya
mean they want to talk? They want to talk about

suing me for appropriating her music? Do I need

to talk to my lawyer? After I calmed down, my
manager said, No, they told me that Katy has
heard the song, she likes it and theyd like to put
it out as an official remix. They want to give you
some money.
: Ever been overawed by a remix?
TW: Im a huge Miike Snow fan, so getting
asked to remix Galantis was a real honour. That
was one where you think, Cmon Tim, dont fuck
this up!
Tims single Age Of Innocence is out now

Hear more

Age of Innocence
Dark Horse (remix)



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April 2016 / CompuTEr muSIC / 95

> reviews / slate digital custom series bundle & fg-bomber

Custom eQ bands
like the classic gear
that inspired it,
Custom series eQ
uses fixed
frequency settings

Custom series lifts parallel
eQ bands only boost

HigH liFt
Present affects the upper mids,
and silky affects the highs
shows the post-input, preprocessing level, to find the
processing sweet spot
set the drive so that the
meter peaks roughly at
the bomb in the middle,
then set the effect blend
with the intensity

the high- and
low-pass filters
are very gentle,
delivering a highly
musical outcome



low liFt
big influences the weighty lows, and
Punchy emphasises the low to low-mids

Choose one of three
frequency focuses:
two low and one

Slate Digital

Custom Series Bundle

& FG-Bomber $149/$99
Slates API 500-influenced plugin package delivered impressive sonics on
release, and now, as promised, new modules are starting to appear for it
Slate Digitals Virtual Mix Rack (9/10,
is a rack-style modular effects plugin that
hosts the companys range of proprietary
processing modules. On initial release a year
ago, five such processors were available, four
of them bought as a bundle (FG-N Brit-N EQ,
FG-S Brit-4K EQ, FG-116 FET Compressor and
FG-401 VCA Compressor), the fifth (Revival, a
simple two-band EQ) included with the VMR
rack itself which is a free download as a
taster option. A physical iLok 2 key is required
for all VMR authorisations, including the rack
and free plugin.
When VMR was launched, it was made clear
that further modules would follow and indeed
they did. The first was a revised version of Slates
Virtual Console Collection, plus a free gain and
phase reverse module (Trimmer). Now, the
second wave is upon us in the shape of the
two-module Custom Series Bundle ($149),
comprising Custom Series EQ and Custom
96 / Computer muSiC / April 2016

Series Lift, and FG-Bomber ($99), described as a

dynamic impact enhancer.

Playing the Classics

Custom Series EQ is a four-band hybrid

emulation with additional high- and low-pass
filters, based on custom combinations of classic
hardware EQs. Slate dont say which ones
specifically, but they do state the type. When
boosting, the HF (high frequency) band is a

When VMR was

launched, it was made
clear that further
modules would follow

classic valve design combined with mastering

EQ-style air, while the HMF (high-mid) band
combines multiple discrete analogue designs,
the LMF (low-mid) band is a mixture of valve and
solid state, and the LF (low) band is modelled on
two classic mastering EQs. In contrast, all the cut
curves are based on a modern transparent
mastering EQ.
The crucial thing here is that the boost curves
emulate combinations of EQs rather than a
single unit, and although this may seem like an
odd approach, it actually emulates the way in
which many pro mix engineers work. The
frequencies are at fixed points, rather than
sweepable, which is also to be expected given
the finely tuned methodology.
The HF and HMF bands are great for adding
focused edge and musical air to vocals, snares
and acoustic sounds such as guitars and
orchestral instruments. Viewed in a spectrum
analyser, its also clear that while the HF band is

slate digital custom series bundle & fg-bomber / reviews <

All three plugins make

worthy additions to
VMR, offering a fresh
take on analogue-style
audio processing
a peak filter, HMF combines peak and shelving
shapes. The behaviour is more typical in cut
mode, with broad, predictable dips that are
good for taming harshness in cymbals and
electric guitars, but not narrow enough to notch
out specific problem frequencies. Boosting with
the LMF band delivers an incredibly broad peak
that fills out the low mids, while the LF band
boasts quite a steep shelf, aiding low-end
weight. The low- and high-pass filters are very
gentle, rolling off at about 6dB per octave.

Going up

Custom Series Lift is a two-band boost-only

sweetening EQ based on the same hardware
analysis behind Custom Series EQ. Each band
(High and Low) has just two frequency settings
and delivers up to 10dB of boost. The result is
upper mid articulation at 5kHz (Present), high air
at about 10kHz (Silky), overall low end weight at
90Hz (Big) and peaking lows at 90Hz (Punchy).
Its a simple concept with a musical sound that
we fell in love with instantly, and although its
tempting to hype everything with it, if you just
stick to key elements such as vocals, beats,
submixes and mixes, its incredibly effective.

Slates subscription option kits you out with some of the finest mixing plugins on the planet

Sub machine
If you like the look of Slate Digitals
various plugins but cant afford to buy
them all outright, you might consider
their new subscription option. The
monthly subscription (currently $25)
enables access to the full current range
as well as any new ones introduced
during your subscription period. That
means all the VMR modules, Virtual Bus
Compressors, Virtual Tape Machines,
FG-X Mastering and LX480 Reverb.
Theyll even throw in the required iLok
2 key for free if you dont have one.
On the upside, you can pay for your
subscription annually or monthly, the
latter including the option to pause and
resume at any time very welcome for

sporadic users. However, the benefit

in paying a whole year up front equates
to a saving of about 50 pence, which
isnt much of an incentive.
Also on the downside, although
Slate are quite prolific in terms of
adding to the product line, ultimately
you have no control over how many
new plugins youll get each year. Its
also obviously impossible to insure
against subscription price rises or
plugin discount purchase deals, both of
which will influence the long-term cost
of each purchase method.
However you look at it, getting ready
access to Slate Digitals entire stable of
plugins is seriously enticing.

Bomber command

Achieving punch, depth, liveliness and impact in

sounds and mixes requires tailored use of
compression, saturation, transient processing
and, often, filtering. FG-Bomber combines all of
these in a single plugin with just three controls:
Drive, Intensity and Tone. The first two set the
input level and effect blend, and the meter
includes a handy target marker for optimising
levels. Meanwhile, Tone offers three options,
focusing the processing on the mids (Present)
and lows (Fat and Tight).
Clearly, FG-Bomber is one of those black box
processors, but its one capable of doing good
things to a range of sources when handled with
care. For isolated kick and snare drums, light
Intensity settings bring up the tail, but as you
wind the intensity up, transients are increasingly

squashed; and the Tone setting simply focuses

this effect towards its designated frequencies.
On mixed drum material, high Intensity settings
can easily suck the life out of the signal, and
once again, playing it safe pays dividends in the
form of a more energetic sound. As the manual
says, a little goes a long way.
On both synth and electric bass, the Present
Tone setting adds real bite, while the other two
Tone settings increase weight. In all cases,
keeping the Intensity to around 30-40%
achieves the best results by far; and on fully
mixed material, extra care is required to avoid
pumping. However, a little Intensity (up to 20%)
livens up loops and submixes nicely.

Put it on the slate

All three of Slates new plugins make worthy

additions to VMR, offering a fresh take on
analogue-style audio processing. Were still
quite disappointed at the lack of internal rack
routing options in VMR though, and the inability
to use the plugins on their own away from it (or
at least to collapse the interface down to show
just the modules youre using, for instance).
Even so, well park that thought for now, and
sum up by saying that this trio of new modules
makes an excellent addition to the lineup.
The new modules have integrated output trim, but VMR
Trimmer is there if you need it, complete with metering


Soundtoys Decapitator
152 10/10 $199
A seriously useful fattening
processor with five preamp
styles, drive and EQ shaping
Softube Tube-Tech Classic Channel
N/A N/A $489
Full-on valve EQ and opto
compressor experience

For Excellent hybrid EQ
FG-Bomber is a solid alternative to
regular dynamics processors
Lift is a great sweetening tool
Integrated output trim
Against Rack still lacks flexible routing
Plugins only work in the Rack
With Custom Series EQ and Lift, and
FG-Bomber, VMR becomes an even more
flexible, interesting mix processing system

FG-Bomber 10/10
Custom Series Bundle 9/10
April 2016 / Computer muSiC / 97

> reviews / wolfgang palm ppg phonem

tweak the formants
and resonances of
each phoneme here

these three buttons switch
between the timeline, Parameter
and effects pages

organise presets, banks
and factory content

string phonemes
together into words
and phrases here

controls the
frequency content
of the excitation

Browse and
select phonemes

Freeze Fx
activate to freeze
Phonems reverb
and delay effects



select preset
utterances here or
program your own

shows the modulation of the
resonator Filter from phoneme
to phoneme in real time

assigned to
pitchbend and ideal
for touchscreen use


Wolfgang Palm

PPG Phonem


Combining vocal synthesis with deep modulation, will Wolfgang

Palms latest replace your singer or just the Speak & Spell?
Coming from the brilliant mind of digital
synthesis pioneer Wolfgang Palm, PPG
Phonem serves up a combination of vocal and
wavetable synthesis, sequencing and
modulation. Its raison detre is the creation of
synthesised vocal phrases, supplemented with
the included wavetable oscillator and triggered
via MIDI just like a conventional synth.
The three round buttons at the top of the GUI
switch between the top-level Timeline,
Parameter and Effects/Setup pages, and sit
alongside a central panel for browsing, loading
and saving programs and banks.
The synthesis happens in the Timeline page,
with its Phonem, Track and Wave subpages
called up using the three top-left buttons. Words
and phrases (called utterances) are sequenced
in the Phonem page by arranging short snippets
of synthesised sound (phonemes) on the
eponymous timeline. Phonemes are essentially
syllables, displayed phonetically aw (sounds
98 / ComPuter musiC / April 2016

like ow) and dh (sounds like th), for example

and there are 46 English ones included, as well
as five German and four French.
The Phoneme source signal is generated by a
spectral oscillator called the Excitation
Generator the frequency spectrum of which is
controlled by moving the bass, mid and high
frequency nodes in the Excitation Editor and a
multi-resonant filter, the two working together
to emulate the human vocal tract. The filter
comprises 12 independent resonators, their
frequency, gain and Q width adjustable in the
central Resonator Editor. Each resonator can be
subtly tweaked to change the flavour of the
phoneme or pushed to extremes, but deliberate
range limits are in place to keep them sounding
vocal. Five human Voice options (two female,
one male) are available, based on analysed
sounds from vocalists and narrators. Theres
also an effect library containing a range of
silent phonemes for use in between different

combinations of words; and the FX phoneme,

for creating non-vocal sounds, with no limit to
the adjustment range of its resonators.
The Source menu lets you cycle through the
utterances linked to each program, the
phonemes for the selected one appearing in the
Phoneme Timeline below. (Note that a Phonem
program includes links to the utterances it uses
the actual utterance files and wavetables used
are saved in Phonems resource folder.) Clicking
the New Text button enables text entry into the
Source field, for synthesis using a nifty American
English text-to-speech converter if this doesnt
recognise the words you need, you can create
an utterance from scratch by typing your own
phonemes into the box below. This can involve a
bit of trial and error, but it generally works well.

Walk the line

Sequencing of phonemes is done in the

Phoneme Timeline, where each phoneme is

wolfgang palm ppg phonem / reviews <

The ability to import

WaveGenerator and
wavetables is a
welcome bonus
contained in a frame. Frames are inserted,
deleted, copied and pasted via the right-click
menu, and the phoneme in each one is selected
using the Phoneme Selector, listing the
aforementioned 55 phonemes.
The shape and playback behaviour of the
selected frame are adjusted using the controls
below the Timeline. Length extends or shortens
the phoneme without affecting its pitch; Blend
crossfades between phonemes; and Steep
controls the transition between phonemes, from
linear to a more natural-sounding cosine. Cutoff,
meanwhile, determines the frequency above
which the signal is filled with noise (adjusted on
the Parameter page) ideal for adding extra
sibilance, particularly; Aspiration adds a bit of
distortion; and Fricative adjusts the volume of
noise in unvoiced phonemes, such as plosives,
sibilances and, well, fricatives.
The Track section houses two automationstyle modulation tracks, one hardwired to pitch
(obviously essential for turning a monotonous
vocal into actual singing), the other freely
assignable in the modulation matrix.
Rounding off the Timeline page is the Access
Mode menu, featuring a variety of options for
controlling how the frames in the Phonem
section are played back, including the Time
Envelope (for timestretching, forward/backward
directional play and freeze effects), the
placement of Start/End Markers, and playback
of the selected frame only.

Parameters and pads

The Parameter page houses a comprehensive

modulation matrix, with 21 mod sources
(including six envelopes, four LFOs, two MIDIcontrollable X/Y pads, and the vocal-specific
Vibrato, Growl and Flutter generators) and 20
targets (LFO depth, pitch, pan, etc).
The Oscillators subpage contains controls
for pitching the excitation generator up and
down by up to four octaves and adding
unison detuning, while the Noise section is

Phonems pitch and modulation tracks

are easy to use and aid creativity

Its not all about

the vocal Phonem
also has wavetable
oscillators onboard

The crest of a wave

As well as a hatful of voice synthesis
tools, Phonem also features a
wavetable oscillator. Located in the
Wave section of the Timeline page, its
functionally similar to the vocal
generator on the Phonem page, except
that the individual waveforms of the
wavetable are arranged across the
timeline, rather than Phonemes.
21 wavetables are included, and
owners of PPGs WaveGenerator and/or
WaveMapper2 synths can import those
of either program via the Import
section of the Effects/Setup page. You
can also create your own wavetables
using the 64-step Spectrum Editor,
clicking harmonics in one at a time

where the colour and volume of the

aforementioned noise signal are adjusted.
Activating Song Mode tells Phonem to
sequentially play all of the utterances contained
within the program, for crafting whole vocal
verses or longer sentences.
The Effects page offers simple reverb and
delay modules, a Global tuning and voicing
section, Master Volume and Drive, and Import of
other PPG wavetables (see The crest of a wave).

(Pick mode) or drawing the whole

wave freehand (Draw mode). Each
waveform can be edited individually,
and the amplitudes of all waves in the
table are collectively adjustable using
the Centre control to focus on a specific
area (which can be set to a curved,
triangular or rectangular border) and
the Width control to decide the size
of that area, then applying gain and
boosting/cutting upper harmonics
with the Gain and Tilt knobs.
The Excitation Editor described in
the main text is also in place, allowing
shaping of the whole wavetables
frequency content via its bass, mid and
high nodes.

Plogue chipspeech
219 10/10 76
Vintage-style speech synth with
mental circuit-bending emulation
Vocaloid 4 Editor
N/A N/A $108
Generate synthetic vocals by
inputting lyrics and a melody

The final word

Phonems vocal synthesis is extensively

tweakable using the sound-shaping, pitch
tracking and modulation controls, giving
impressive if obviously synthesised results that
electronic producers will have endless creative
fun with. We also like the extra sound design
possibilities opened up by the Wave oscillator,
and the ability to import WaveGenerator and
WaveMapper2 wavetables is a welcome bonus
for owners of either. Not being able to adjust or
modulate the mix of vocal utterance and wave
oscillator is a downer, the CPU usage can get a
little high with complex patches, and the
interface is a little confusing in places, but
Phonem would make a great-sounding, unusual
and thoroughly relevant addition to anyones
synth collection.

For Generates interesting sounds
Very flexible modulation
Excellent sound quality
High-quality internal effects
Against Can be heavy on CPU
X/Y pads arent MIDI learnable
Cant adjust balance between
utterance and wavetable
A powerful, innovative vocal synth that
sounds awesome and isnt as hard to
use as it looks, Phonem is another winner
from the house of Palm

April 2016 / ComPuter musiC / 99

> reviews / eareckon eareverb 2

Edit modE
Choose from Pro and SE
modes for comprehensive
or simplified editing

PoS modE
Access the X/Y grid for
positioning sounds by
panning and proximity

freely drag Early
reflection taps around

muLtiBAnd & GAtE

further advanced editing
is achieved via these two
Screen modules

Control overall
early reflections
for level, pan,
filtering and more

A new algorithm
with its own near/
far control and
Bright setting

Choose from one
of six Late reverb algorithms, ranging
in length from 0.05s to infinite

the parameter range
adjusts to suit the
currently loaded late
reflections algorithm




EAReverb 2


With its beautiful tails and simple interface, the original EAReverb became
a firm favourite with many producers. So, what has v2 got in store?
Released in 2011, EAReverb ( 164, 8/10)
was an algorithmic reverb plugin that used
one core algorithm to create a choice of nine
carefully tailored Late Reverb spaces (XXS to
XTREM). This was combined with an Early
Reflection section to deliver a wide variety of
natural-sounding spaces and ambiences. The
interface was straightforward, with a flip-down
panel at the bottom revealing advanced Early
Reflection editing, an AHR reverb gate, and a
three-band stereo processor for per-band
adjustment of stereo width and level.

Larger than life

EAReverb 2 (VST/AU/AAX) introduces a new look

for the GUI and considerably expands on the
capabilities of the original, with five new
algorithms (Bright, Alu Box, Auditorium, Plate
and Reverse v1s is called Natural and still
offers the same nine spaces), three core editing
pages (called Modes: Pro, SE and Pos), and even
100 / ComputER musiC / April 2016

more advanced editing via three new Screen

Module panels. In Pro Mode (the default state),
Early Reflections (ER), Late Reverb (LR) and Mix
levels are handled in the bottom half of the
screen, with the big central knob accessing the
14 Late Reverb algorithms and spaces.
The ER and LR parameters are similar to
version 1, including the very useful ER Leak,
which controls how the early reflections interact
with the tail. New controls include ER Pan, ER
Diffusion and ER Spread, LR Smooth and LR Post
Modulation with Rate, Depth and left/right
Offset, plus a couple of additional controls for
the new Auditorium and Reverse algorithms,
which well come back to.
The new Screen Modules at the top provide
simple adjustment of Gate, Early Reflection and
MultiBand parameters. The Early Reflections
page proves particularly useful, enabling
intuitive graphical adjustment of individual left
and right channel reflections. Rather brilliantly,

your edited settings can be saved as ER User

presets in the main ER section below, too.
In contrast to Pro Mode, SE Mode boils the
GUI down to just the essentials, with an even
bigger knob for selecting the Late Reverb
algorithm/space, and just nine adjustable
parameters. This simplification has no bearing
on the underlying processing, however, with all
settings made in Pro Mode remaining active but
inaccessible, and five of the knobs actually
controlling multiple parameters, colour coded in
Pro Mode for easy identification.
EAReverb 2s final Mode, Pos, is used to
position incoming signals using an X/Y pad.

Use your EARs

EAReverb 2 includes all of v1s presets in their

original folder structure (Classic Space, Ac
Guitar, Vocal, Piano and so on), plus new folders
for the Plate, Auditorium and Reverse
algorithms. This combination of task-orientated

eareckon eareverb 2 / reviews <

It is a slightly
deeper, different
experience to v1,
but it retains all the
sonic charm
and general presets isnt entirely intuitive, and,
with no searchable browser, is the plugins
weakest point. Back on the upside, though, we
now have independent preset handling for the
ERs, with one ER preset designed to specifically
match each algorithm, and, as mentioned
above, the ability to save User presets. Also
useful is the new parameter lock function, for
loading a new preset while retaining selected
settings from the current one (just the Mix
settings, for example).
As in v1, the Natural algorithm generates
everything from barely-there width (XXS and
XS) to expansive, warm decay (XXXL and
XTREM). Mid-sized preset favourites from v1
Studio A and Studio B (which use the L and M
Natural spaces respectively) ably demonstrate
the subtle wooden room warmth at which
EAReverb excels.
The new Bright and Alu Box algorithms
deliver quite extreme processing the first fizzy
shimmer, the second tinny, fluttering resonance.
Both will help with special effects design. Plate
(the only mono in/stereo out algorithm),
meanwhile, captures not only the splashy
brightness (Plate Percussions) but also the thick
mids that plate reverbs can exhibit (Large Dark).
Auditorium is an altogether more lively
algorithm, particularly with its Bright setting
switched on. We like its additional Distance
control, too, which influences the late reverb
width to allow adjustment from near to far.
Finally, Reverse gives the classic reverb riser
effect (0.05 to 1.5 seconds), with the very
welcome inclusion of tempo sync good
thinking, eaReckon.

Lots to like

Further useful new features in EAReverb 2

include Infinite Decay for the Bright, Auditorium
and Plate algorithms, a transient detector for the
Gate, and two operational modes for the
MultiBand Module. The straightforward Post
reverb option simply adjusts levels and mono/

Pos Mode provides visual feedback of positional data for all loaded instances of EAReverb 2

In position
Pos Mode facilitates positional editing
beyond simple left/right control. The
X/Y grid includes a single location point
that governs a number of Early
Reflection parameters (Diffusion,
Complex, Spread and LF Cut), the Late
Reverb Filters (LF Cut, HF Cut and
Damp), overall Output Level, Wet/Dry
balance and Left/Right Pan. With the
exception of the Pan control, all of
these parameters follow the vertical
axis, and all but Pan and Wet/Dry
balance can be activated individually,
giving very flexible control. Every
parameter has lower and upper
limit settings that determine the extent
to which theyre influenced by
movement of the location point, and

stereo width on a band-by-band basis, while the

Pre reverb setting splits the signal into wet and
dry components, providing level and per-band
wet/dry balance, and is intended for when using
EAReverb 2 as an insert effect.
eaReckon have come up trumps with
EAReverb 2. It is a slightly deeper, different
experience to v1 (you may well be thankful for
the SE mode), but it retains all the sonic charm
and adds in a host of fabulous new sounds and
features. Highly recommended.

there are seven visually assistive

backgrounds included, the most useful
of which maps the standard layout for
an Orchestra.
Even more handy than that,
though, is that multiple instances of
EAReverb 2 are also represented in the
graphic, so you can at least see
(although not edit from one instance)
all location point positions in every
open instance of the plugin. These are
simply numbered in the order in which
the plugins are loaded, so its not
entirely intuitive it would be great if
we could name them. Nonetheless, if
youre using multiple insert instances
on orchestral sounds, for example, its
certainly helpful as it is.

2CAudio Aether
156 10/10 $250
A mind-blowing reverb with
almost 500 presets and endless
tweakable parameters
ValhallaDSP ValhallaRoom
166 8/10 $50
It may look a little basic, but its 12
superb algorithms are first class


For Excellent choice of algorithms
Good value
Infinite setting
Positional editing
All the v1 presets
Extensive ER editing
Against Basic preset browsing

When you need to

get down to some
speedy editing, SE
Mode is your friend

Expanded algorithms, a slicker interface,

and the nifty Screen Modules and Pos
Mode make EAReverb 2 one of the
best algorithmic verbs on the market

April 2016 / ComputER musiC / 101

> reviews / ik multimedia miroslav philharmonik 2

Make overall adjustments, mix instruments/
auxiliaries, edit articulation settings, including
envelopes, lFOs, filter and key span

Instruments are informatively labelled, including
whether or not patches include looping
a level meter
for each part

The main presets
comprise single
articulations and
multiple articulations
with key, velocity or
mod wheel switching

Each instrument includes
macro controls for easy
access to key parameters

Five mixer inserts for the
currently selected part



Edit the currently
selected insert effect

a full set of patterns that can be triggered from
the keyboard or dragged as MIDI into your DaW

IK Multimedia

Philharmonik 2


One of our favourite orchestral packages reaches its second version,

but with more competition facing it these days, can it still stand out?
IK Multimedias original SampleTankpowered Philharmonik ( 92, 9/10) virtual
instrument was built on the first library by
orchestral sampling pioneer Miroslav Vitous. Its
ten years since it was released, and even longer
since the sample set originally became available
in other formats. In the meantime, IK have
stepped SampleTank up to version 3, delivering
a slicker interface, better effects and tons of new
sample content ( 210, 8/10).

Phil your boots

Miroslav Philharmonik 2 (VST/VST3/AU/AAX/

standalone) is effectively a custom version of
SampleTank 3, and apart from the obvious
omission of the drum Pad Screen, it keeps all of
SampleTank 3s features in the same locations,
albeit with a full graphical makeover. So, its a
16-part multitimbral design, incorporating a
16-channel mixer with four dedicated auxiliaries,
four dedicated returns and a master output
102 / CoMPuter MusiC / April 2016

section. Each channel has five insert points, and

with 34 effects to choose from, including
familiar IK favourites such as the Black 76 1176
emulation and ConvoRoom convolution reverb
(with a nice new 3D visualisation page), onboard
processing is exceptionally well covered.
The Edit page houses typical sample
playback/synthesis options including keyspan,
sampling type (Resample, Pitch Shift/Time
Stretch or Stretch), filtering, LFOs, velocity

Philharmonik 2 is
effectively a
custom version of
SampleTank 3

response, envelopes and round robin

options. Importantly, theres also a dropdown
Element/Articulation selector, which comes in
handy when youre editing a preset containing
multiple articulations. What you dont get, as
expected, is any access to the underlying
samples themselves.
Further SampleTank 3 features include Live
Sets, for quickly selecting and loading sounds
in a live performance setting, and 98 MIDI
Pattern Presets, which can be triggered from
single keys or dragged into the host DAW for
playback and editing.

Well orchestrated

By default, Philharmonik 2 installs its sound

library into the SampleTank 3 folder, so if you
also have SampleTank 3 installed, the
Philharmonik 2 library automatically becomes
available there, too, loading in ST3s standard
interface. Philharmonik 2 retains all of v1s

ik multimedia miroslav philharmonik 2 / reviews <

The all-in-one nature

of Miroslav
Philharmonik 2 will
be a godsend to those
on a budget
sample content and adds a whole new
orchestral sample set. Altogether, it weighs in at
56GB on disk (6GB of which is the Philharmonik
1 library) and comprises over 2700 instrument
presets. Like SampleTank 3, it has integrated
access to IKs Custom Shop, although any addon sounds have to be used in SampleTank 3
(which comes with any Custom Shop purchase),
as Philharmonik 2 can only load its own library.
The new library includes solo and ensemble
instruments and lots of articulations. For multiarticulation instruments, articulations are
switched via velocity (VS), key (KS) or mod
wheel (MW) this is indicated in the preset
naming, so you always know what youre
loading. The panel just above the keyboard
toggles between showing the parameters of the
currently selected insert effect and eight Macro
controls, which put salient parameters for the
current instrument at your fingertips.
Youll also find ten orchestral multis (Full
Orchestra, String Ensemble and so on), layering
various instruments on one MIDI channel.

Orchestral manoeuvres

The new library is divided into five categories:

Strings, Brass, Woodwinds, Chromatic and
Piano. The first three are self explanatory, while
Chromatic includes harpsichord, marimba,
glockenspiel, chimes and vibraphone, and Piano
is a concert grand. What you wont find are any
new percussion, choirs, guitars or organs,
although the old ones are still in the v1 library.
The most obvious improvement to
Philharmonik 2 over v1 is its better, more
abundant selection of articulations. Looking
beyond the multiple articulation instruments
(which are perfectly good for the major playing
techniques) and heading to the various subfolders, youll find instrument presets for most
of those individual articulations. The Ensemble
Violins, for example, include 11 articulation subfolders, offering individual bowing directions,
and looped and non-looped patches. Further
goodies include played legatos, glissandi,
intervals and scales, all of which can be

Philharmonik 2 runs within SampleTank 3s engine and

thus includes the same core parameter editing options

The v1 library was

recorded in a live
concert hall, with
the larger space
giving a more
obvious reverb

New for old

Although there are many similarities
between the Philharmonik 1 and
Philharmonik 2 sample libraries, there
are also some significant differences.
First, the spaces in which they were
recorded: Philharmonik 1 was recorded
in Pragues Dvorak Symphony Hall,
while Philharmonik 2 was recorded in
Studio 1 of the Czech National
Symphony Orchestra Studios, also in
Prague. Dvorak Halls traditional
shoebox-style space gives almost three
seconds of reverb and a classic warm,
rich, enveloping experience, while
CNSO Studio 1 provides a more
controlled space and a much shorter,
tighter orchestral studio sound.
Next, although both sample sets are
stereo, Philharmonik 1 incorporates

invaluable for emulating real strings. Whats

more, if you switch to the Stretch sampling
engine, any articulation can be retimed to match
the track tempo. Crucially, across pretty much
all instruments, the articulations are more
sonically consistent than those of Philharmonik
1, again making the process of orchestra
emulation considerably simpler.
Other things to mention are the 9-foot
Philharmonik Grand piano, which not only
sounds great, but includes eco versions that
greatly reduce its 1.5GB RAM footprint. We also
like the Classical Harpsichord and Concert
Marimba, the last offering soft and hard mallet
options, and both also available in eco variants.
Given that most orchestral packages are sold
as individual sections, the all-in-one nature of
Miroslav Philharmonik 2 will be a godsend to
those on a budget, as will the inclusion of the v1
library, which provides a full further layer of
helpful alternatives. Despite its extensive sonic
coverage, though, this is certainly no budget
product, delivering the goods on every level
with its superb samples and the slick, reliable
SampleTank 3 engine. An excellent update.
Prices Download, 600; USB drive, 647
Upgrade From v1 or SampleTank 3/SE, 360+
Crossgrade From other IK products, 480+

instrument panning in the stereo

image. This is great for getting quick
results and useful if you dont know
how to pan orchestral instruments, as
the orchestral layout is built into the
sounds themselves. It is, however, also
a bit limiting, and efforts to pan stereo
sounds across multiple instruments
arent always successful. For
Philharmonik 2, the main string,
woodwind and brass instruments are
all centred in the stereo field, making
them far more flexible to lay out.
Finally, Philharmonik 2 has smaller
sections than its predecessor, with the
violins, for example, typically
comprising 14 players a lot less than
the 23 of v1 and thus delivering a more
focused sound.

Vienna Symphonic Library
Special Edition Vol 1
N/A N/A 295
An affordable, pared-down entry
into VSLs impressive library
Garritan Personal Orchestra 4
147 9/10 99
A more affordable all-in-one
orchestral package thats well
worth a look

For Huge array of articulations with
consistent sound quality
Includes the v1 library
Excellent onboard processing in
SampleTank 3
Patterns library
Against No new percussion sounds
Things have come on a lot in ten years, and
v2 of Miroslav Philharmonik is a hugely
powerful one-stop orchestral shop

April 2016 / CoMPuter MusiC / 103

> reviews / sknote disto






A plugin emulating hardware that mimics other

hardware. It all sounds very meta, but is it any good?
Italian developers SKnote have made a name
for themselves with unofficial recreations of
high-end classics such as EMTs 250 reverb and
Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor. Their
latest, Disto (VST/AU), takes on two Empirical
Labs industry standards: the Distressor
compressor and Fatso Jr tape saturation
simulator. These bad boys cost around 1,300
and 1,800 respectively, so the appeal of a
40-buck plugin addressing both is obvious.
Distos gorgeous GUI is divided between the
two emulations, the top two thirds housing the
distressor and the bottom third containing the
Fatso. Each features two identical sets of
controls, enabling stereo, mid/side or
independent L/R operation for both units.
The Distressor section comprises a controlfor-control recreation of the hardware. Four
knobs set the (input) Gain, Attack, Release and
(output) Volume, while the Ratio button steps
through 1:1, 2:1, 3:1, 6:1, 10:1, 20:1 and infinity:1
ratios. The output Drive button has six possible
states, applying one of three distortion
algorithms with or without high-pass filtering.
There are currently two operational Modes
governing the plugins sonic character and
dynamic response, selected from a dropdown
menu at the bottom of the GUI. Original mode is
said to be modelled on the original hardware,
while Out of Order mode is more extreme; but
both are rather fiercely calibrated, with the

plugins controls jumping very sharply indeed

from an unprocessed signal to a very heavily
processed one with not much in between.
SKnote say a third, softer mode is in the works,
which should allow more subtle operation.
The Sidechain button switches between two
levels of high-pass and band-pass filtering, for
preventing bass frequencies triggering the
compressor, and allowing vocals, guitars and
the like to shine through.
The UK Mode button, taken from the
Distressors British Mode, is inspired by the
famous engineering trick of pushing all four
Ratio buttons of the Urei 1176 compressor in at
the same time, resulting in a very particular
response curve and a hotter, louder signal. With
an actual 1176, this only works at one Ratio value
around 20:1 but with Disto (and the later
EL8-X Distressor), it can be applied with any.

Fatso on a diet

Thats where the strict emulation ends, as Distos

lower third incorporates just a couple of key
controls from the Fatso Jr. Hottitude drives the
signal hard, adding bags of harmonic character,
while the Warmth control is almost worth the
asking price alone, using a dynamic filter to
progressively smooth the harsh top-end of
anything you put through it. The Trafo button
engages a virtual transformer, further colouring
the sound (with low-end emphasis).

Disto has no presets, but with it being so easy

to use, we dont feel so inclined to hold that
against it, particularly. However, it does miss a
wet/dry mix control, and the inability to disable
the simulated analogue noise is irksome.
If we were to sum the Distressor hardware up
in one line, wed describe it as the sound of the
Top 40 and Fatso Jr, too, has graced countless
hits. Disto isnt a flawless recreation of the two,
but it really does offer a taste of a pair of classic
pieces of hardware in a clever combination at a
very low price.

Universal Audio Fatso
153 8/10 229
Great recreation of the Fatso Sr and
Jr with Empirical Labs approval
Sly-Fi OG Trifecta Bundle
224 9/10 $239
Features an excellent Distressoralike, Deflector ($99 on its own)

Middle of the road
One thing Disto can do that its hardware
progenitors cant is operate in mid/side mode
although users of the real things can do it
themselves by applying separate units to
decoded mid and side channels.
In mid/side mode, the top compressor
channel and left saturator channels control
the mid signal, while the right/bottom deal
with the sides. The ability to set the
compression and saturation for both
elements of the stereo image independently
104 / Computer musiC / April 2016

is powerful stuff. You might, for example, use

punchy compression to highlight transients
in the mid channel, while applying broader
transient-squashing compression to the
sides; or soften the harsh high frequencies
that often result from extreme compression
and boosting of the sides signal.
A nice touch is that the Output level knobs
can be used to adjust the levels of the mid and
sides levels, even with all the actual
processes bypassed.

For Stunning looks

Good sound
Mid/side mode
Easy to use
Against No presets
Not a perfect hardware emulation by
any means, but Disto sounds great in its
own right and represents fantastic value


> reviews / zynaptiq unmix::drums






The innovative German developers continue mining their seam

of esoteric de-mixing plugins with this drum-focused processor
Unmix::Drums (VST/AU/RTAS/AAX) claims to
let you manipulate the level of drums in a full
mix without dynamically affecting their
harmonic content. Its arranged across three
pages of increasing complexity. The Main (basic)
layer contains three principal controls that do
the majority of the setup: Drum Level, Threshold
and Release. The Fine Tune (advanced) page
repeats the basic controls and adds to them with
Attack, Detection Density (the amount of
threshold-exceeding signal scanned in terms of
time and frequency), Mix Cut, Unmix Feathering
(blurs the distinction between drum and nondrum material for a smoother result) and Bass
Synth. The third page, Curves, gives frequencydependent control of the three Main parameters.
Above the main parameter section is the
Global area, where you call up presets, set the
core Algorithm (Punchy or Smooth), activate
Mid/Side mode, apply automatic Level
Compensation (always useful when boosting
drums) and control the Output level (manually,
with a limiter, or both). The Mid/Side mode is a
bit misleading, as it actually behaves more like a
stereo balance control, preventing the stereo
image skewing when drums are hard panned.
The central Drum Level control turns any
drum sounds in the input signal up or down,
with three buttons below setting it to the
maximum, minimum or neutral. The Threshold
control sets the discrimination point between

drum and non-drum material. This isnt an

orthodox RMS level detection threshold but an
intelligent waveform detector: the higher the
threshold, the more obviously drum-like the
waveform has to be to be cut or boosted. As the
Threshold is turned down, it starts to mistake
chord hits, for example, as drums, which may or
may not be desirable. To the right, the Release
control sets the length of the drum tail.
The Curves page takes things to an even
greater degree of precision, targeting the
processing at specific drums using a graphical
frequency curve editor. If the snare or clap is too
loud, for example, but the kick is where you
want it, you can shape the detection filter curves
for the main level and threshold parameters
around just the snare frequencies. Even subtle
changes to the curves bring clear results,
although its a shame we cant solo the detection
circuit to hear the processed signal on its own.
Theres even a built-in sub-bass synth for
adding harmonic weight handy for countering
low-frequency loss that can be caused when
tightening up a drum loops envelope.


In action, Unmix::Drums is incredibly impressive.

The three intuitive main controls combine to
tune in the sound you want quickly and easily,
while the Fine Tune page lets you discriminate
further between drums and the rest of the mix,

Getting creative
The range of Unmix::Drums controls gives
scope for subtle and extreme processing, and
everything in between. For producers, the
level of precision on offer makes complete
rebalancing of drum loops genuinely
possible. If a loop is all good apart from, say, a
kick drum thats killing the rhythm, the Drum
Level and Threshold response curves can be
used to target and attenuate the offending
element. Its also very good for frequencyconscious transient shaping, emphasising
106 / CompUter mUsiC / April 2016

drum tails or giving more front to the initial

hit using the Attack and Release parameters.
And with automation in the host DAW, a loop
can be made to evolve in terms of weight and
power through the length of the track.
For mastering purposes, Unmix::Drums
can sort out that perennial problem of hi-hats
becoming too loud when the overall mix is
brightened, and it can be used very subtly to
tuck in a rude backbeat or accentuate the
punch of a kick drum.

and shape the sound of the former.

Beyond the fact that Unmix::Drums is a great
corrective tool, delivering extremely effective
results, it also has huge creative potential. You
can use it to bring the dynamics back into an
overcompressed drum bus, or tweak the level of
a kick drum within a mix, but its also a powerful
weapon for creating builds in DJ sets and
injecting life into flat drum loops.

UAD SPL Transient Designer
135 8/10 149
Although Unmix::Drums is unique,
its reminiscent of SPLs legendary
device when used on solo drums
iZotope RX 5
225 10/10 329-815
In theory, you can manually isolate
drums and adjust levels with RX

For An original concept, well executed
Intuitive GUI
Broad range of control
Huge creative and corrective potential
Frequency response curves for precision
Against M/S setting doesnt give
independent mid/side control
No solo monitoring of processed signal
Another quasi-magical plugin from
zynaptiq, Unmix::Drums really does give
you the ability to boost and attenuate
drums in a mix, collectively or individually


> reviews / mini reviews

mini reviews

A rapid-fire round-up of sample libraries, ROMplers and music gear




Format PC/Mac, Kontakt 5/Player

A Kontakt 5/Player virtualisation of Will

Gregorys (Goldfrapp, The Moog Ensemble)
Ondioline. Weighing in at 3.4GB (6GB
uncompressed), this intriguing 1940s valvepowered French monosynth comes with all the
preset switch combinations laid out in George
Jennys original manual and is blessed with the
addition of a polyphonic mode.
The GUI has no control legending, but
contextual descriptions of whatevers under the
mouse pointer appear in the Kontakt Info panel.
Nonetheless, its all a bit confusing until you get
used to the functions of the all-important
lettered switches at the top. These include
switching between waveforms, and activating
octave dividers (for extra stacked voices one
and two octaves below), a bank of seven
formant filters, vibrato, percussion, a temposynced gate and a short Decay envelope.
Beyond that, there are no adjustable oscillator
or filter controls theyre either on or off and

the only freely editable parameters are

the divider circuit levels, envelope
Attack and Release, and global volume.
The last is manipulated using the big
red lever at the bottom, which was
knee-operated in the real thing and is
MIDI-assignable here.
In the Speaker and Reverb Setup
page, you can choose to output the
instrument directly with no cabinet
emulation, or through the modelled
Ondioline speaker cabinet (with Close,
Mid and Far mic options) or the three
cabs from Soniccoutures Ondes
Martenot (with five cab/distance
combinations). A convolution reverb is onboard,
too, with impulse responses for springs, plates
and rooms. The amount of signal sent to the
reverb is set using the R slider (the only one that
isnt an actual switch), and its only editable
parameter is a low-cut filter.
Ondioline is capable of much more than just
the Telstar/Runaway whine that everyone will
instinctively reach for on first launch. We rather

like its pads (polyphony really does make all the

difference), and it even fares well in the bassline
department. The sound is very retro warm,
rounded and organic and although Ondioline
is unarguably limited in scope by its lack of deep
control, its great to see this underappreciated,
sonically unique, highly playable classic brought
to life in software.

Impact Soundworks

shreddage 2 iBZ


Format PC/Mac, Kontakt 5/Player

A souped-up, spikier and more aggressivesounding alternative to the original Shreddage 2

187), Shreddage 2 IBZ is a lead guitar
instrument for Kontakt 5 and Kontakt Player,
built on a multisampled Ibanez RG7421. Like its
stablemate, its a seven-stringed instrument
tuned to drop G, and owners of Shreddage 2 can
get it for $119.
Requiring 5.5GB of disk space for its 13,000+
samples, IBZ is spectacularly comprehensive in
terms of articulations and technical variations.
Every fret on every string has been sampled for
every articulation Sustain, Mute, Staccato,
Tremolo, Pinch, Harmonic, Hammer/Pull,
Portamento and FX with separate up and
down strokes, real hard and vibrato sustain
variations, and up to four round robins per pitch/
articulation/stroke. Being primarily aimed at
rock and metal, however, each articulation only
has a single velocity layer.
The interface divides a wealth of sound and
performance customisation features over four
main pages Perform, Articulations, Engine and
Effects plus an Advanced options dialog for
108 / Computer musiC April 2016

tweaking portamento, palm mute

layers, keyswitches, etc. Instant
stereo double tracking is a button
press away, and using the
Doubletrack 1-4 buttons, up to four
tracks can be layered in a single
instance of Kontakt, each playing its
own round-robin sequence for an
authentic overdubbed feel. Then
theres assignment of articulations to
keyswitches, velocity layers and MIDI
CC ranges; separate power chord
assignment; LFO-based vibrato;
optional extra pick noise; the ability
to dial in realistic line noise, and
much more.
The Effects rack houses distortion, amp/cab
simulation, EQ (pre-amp, post-amp and postcab), Compressor, Chorus and Delay modules,
all of which sound great. With the raw samples
being clean and unprocessed, it is possible to
get non-metal tones out of IBZ, although the
lack of velocity layers limits its serious usage in
most other genres.

The absence of a chord engine is slightly

disappointing, and that single velocity layer is a
definite limitation outside metal, but if your
programming skills and understanding of guitar
playing technique are up to scratch, Shreddage
2 IBZ is a very impressive instrument, capable of
producing hard-hitting guitar riffs and lines
practically indistinguishable from the real thing.

mini reviews / reviews <

The Loop Loft

Drum Direktor FNK-4

Format PC/Mac, Kontakt 5/Player

A pad-based virtual drum machine for Kontakt

5/Player, Drum Direktor blurs the line between
playback of loops and one-shots, bringing the
two together in a single instrument featuring
almost entirely acoustic content. Each of its 16
pads is loaded with a loop (synced to host
tempo or not) or one-shot sample chosen from
the included library of 300-odd. Loops can be
whittled down to individual sounds or sections
(just a snare hit or two beats of a four-beat
groove, say) by moving the slice start marker
which snaps to transients but can be freely
offset and using the amp envelope to control
the shape of the masked area. Its an admirably
quick and effective system, though visualisation
of the envelope would only make it more so.
General sound shaping controls comprise
pan, pitch, stereo width, resonant HP/LP filtering,
bitcrushing and sample rate reduction, and
randomisation of pan and pitch, the last ranging
between +/-100 cents and proving handy for


gentle hit-to-hit variation. Every pad is

made a member of one of eight colourcoded Groups, each routing to its own
mixer channel and choke group. The use of
colour makes the interface that bit more
intuitive, certainly, but if we were
nitpicking, wed prefer separate assignment
of choke groups and mixer channels.
The 32-step sequencer holds up to eight
keyswitchable patterns. Its only got four
velocity layers, plus a global Accent lane
that boosts all hits on its active steps by a
user-definable amount. There are Mute and
Solo buttons on every lane, and choke
groups are reflected in note placement
drawing a note deletes an existing note
on any lane in the same Group on that step.
The Mixer page enables adjustment of pan
and volume for each of the eight Groups, plus
transient shaping, compression, EQ, reverb,
delay and tape saturation effects at the Group
level, and compression, EQ, filtering and digital
distortion at the Master level.
While its scripted engine does a great job of

Ample Sound

Ample Bass Acoustic ii

both sequencing and sound shaping, Drum

Direktors defining features are its beautifully
played and produced library of live drum loops,
and the ability to easily target single hits within
them. Without the ability to import samples,
though, the whole thing feels as awkwardly
restrictive as it does powerful and innovative.




Format Mac/PC, VST/AU/AAX/RTAS/standalone

Format iPhone

Ample Sound continue in

their ongoing guitar
emulation mission with a
massively multisampled
Guild B-54 CE acoustic bass,
just shy of 5GB in size. The
DI signal and two mic
channels have been
sampled separately, and full
control is enabled over their relative mix levels, mono/stereo/midside configuration, width and frequency content (via Ample Sounds
redesigned EQ three parametric bands plus low and high cut).
As usual, every note has been sampled at every fret, eight
keyswitched articulations are covered (Sustain, Palm Mute,
Hammer On/Pull Off, Natural Harmonic, Legato Slide, Slide In/Out,
Pop/Slap, and Dead Note), and a range of lifelike noises can be
independently mixed in (Fret, Release, Accentuation, Buzz, etc).
You can also have the instrument play itself by loading tab files into
the Tab Player, which has been customised specifically for bass
notation and articulations.
Like its numerous stablemates, Ample Bass Acoustic II (the II
denotes that its v2 of Ample Sounds engine, incidentally) sounds
jaw-droppingly realistic and offers more sound and performance
shaping than most users will ever need. Beautiful.

In 2008, Korg started a

minor mobile music
revolution with their DS-10
synth workstation for
Nintendo DS, and now its
available in considerably
slicker, beefed-up form
for iPhone.
iDS-10 comprises two virtual analogue monosynths, a Voice
synth and a drum machine, plus pattern (up to 64 steps) and song
(up to 32 patterns) sequencing, and a Kaoss Pad that can be used
for note input (with scale snapping) and real-time parameter
control. The analogue synths are based on the MS-10 and feature
two oscillators, a multimode filter, an ADSR envelope, a handful of
effects and a nifty patch-point modulation setup (albeit with only
six targets). The Voice synth lets you record or type in words for
processing via a vocoder-esque engine its not intended for
generating realistic voices and the Drum Machine gives a
surprising amount of control over its synthesised kick, snare, hats,
tom and percussion sounds.
Although for serious music production on iPhone there are
significantly more powerful options on the App Store costing less,
iDS-10 sounds good, is a lot of fun to mess around with, and could
certainly serve as an effective sketchpad on the daily commute.
April 2016 / Computer musiC / 109

> reviews / mini reviews

Soundware round-up
Sample Magic

Golden era 35
Another classic hip-hop-style library, Golden Era is
cleaner and more structured than the grittier, dustier
Smokers Unite, but neither is qualitatively better
than the other. Sample Magics contender comprises a
whopping 1382 samples, including mini break
construction kits, drum, percussion, synth and vinyl
noise loops at 80, 90 and 100bpm, and a ton of oneshot drums, FX, stabs and more. Hip-hop is the
overarching theme, but theres more to it than that. In
addition to the quality of production, the volume of
content included makes this a crazy bargain.


other Worlds 56
A 4.6GB library of extended textures and ambiences
by Adam Pietruszko, Other Worlds 500 lengthy (up to
1m44s, with most around 30s) samples are divided up
into Futuristic, Industrial, Mellow and Suspense
folders. There are multiple variations of each sound at
different pitches and keys, but you still get a decent
amount of material for the money. Tonally, Other
Worlds ranges from decidedly abstract to subtly
melodic, although its largely of more relevance to
sound designers than music producers.

Raw Cutz

smokers unite 50
The follow-up to the excellent Turf
Smoke (9/10,
217), which is actually
included (hence the high price
owners of Turf Smoke can upgrade for
25), Smokers Unite is another hazy
virtual crate digging session, featuring
146 laid-back, jazzy loops and 255 oneshots, plus 16 small but perfectly
formed Live and Maschine projects/
Groups/Drum Racks. The sound and
vibe of golden era hip-hop has
been captured to a T, with a broad
range of real instrumentation covered;
and we love the attitude and spirit of
both collections.


110 / Computer musiC April 2016


elements of techno 20
Put together by a respected techno producer whose
releases have been played out by many of the worlds
top DJs, Elements of Technos 556 loops and hits are
raw, elemental and earthy, and land at a price that
cant be argued with. Techno being the understated
genre that it is, theres nothing particularly
spectacular here (the separated drum loop elements
kick, snare, hats, etc are positively by-thenumbers), but EoT has a convincing authenticity to
its production and sound that make it well worth
checking out.


ultimate Vocals 45
A best of compilation of vocal loops and lines from
across the Loopmasters catalogue (far too many titles
to list), at 3.5GB in weight and 2000 samples in, err,
height, Ultimate Vocals cant help but constitute good
value for money, and by and large, the quality level is
high. With so many genres represented from blues,
funk and pop to DnB, trap and house theres
something for everyone, although the scattergun
approach might render most of it redundant for many
producers, depending on how stylistically adventurous
theyre prepared to be.

mini reviews / reviews <



superAnalog909 $29

massive Groove eDm Kits 12

Goldbabys second dedicated TR-909 multisample

library (the other being Tape909) sees his beloved
beatbox shoved through various outboard
configurations (Fat Bustard II, Moog 500 filter, AML
ez1073-500, etc) and every sound recorded as eight
round robins. You get individual samples and
multiformat sampler patches, and as with many of its
label-mates, its the analogue subtleties and nuances
that make SuperAnalog909 a worthy endeavour. For
the electronic producer seeking a sampled 909 with
real character, soul and bite, its a must-have.

Six extensive 128bpm construction kits put

together by DJ Shiverz, each comprising a build
and drop, followed by a full-on groove, and all
squarely falling into the mainroom EDM bracket.
The production behind this pack is first rate, and
the inclusion of MIDI files and presets for the Spire
and Sylenth1 synths used to create it brings in that
extra bit of interactivity. If it wasnt so cheap, wed
be questioning the utility of MGEK, with its
restrictive remit, but at just 12 quid, its well worth
checking out.



Mode Audio

Sample Magic

resonate 15

underground House 35

400 vintage drum machine one-shots, most arranged

into kits for Reason, Logic, FL Studio and Live, plus five
tuned kick drum sampler patches and four creative
channel strips. The sounds are powerful and mixready, and the Drum Racks (in our Live version) are
well balanced and set up with six macros already
assigned although they have to be pointed at their
sample folders when loaded. We wish the samples
were more descriptively named, but Resonate is a fun,
musically useful and joyously affordable offering.

Among Underground Houses 1.2GB of samples, MIDI

files and Massive presets, the 36 stemmed drum loops
are the least interesting part theres nothing wrong
with them; they just dont wow us. The rest of the loops
are well up to Sample Magics usual standards, though,
amounting to a ton of attention-grabbing basslines,
melodics, pads, FX, percussion lines, tops and vocals
that hop confidently between minimal, dark, tech and
deep house styles. You also get a sizeable collection of
equally comprehensive one-shot drums.





elevated Consciousness 35

Neuro rage 35

Stating Boards of Canada as its driving influence, this

1GB ambient electronica library (255 loops, 245 oneshots) centres on its Drums and Synth Loops folders,
the first serving up a diversity of light-fingered drum/
percussion parts, the second packed with inspiring
tones, textures and rhythms. The Bass, Organics and
SFX Loops folders, meanwhile, feel rather empty in
comparison, with just a handful of samples in each
albeit really good ones. Elevated Consciousness is a
bit unbalanced in terms of coverage, but whats there
is artfully conceived and produced, and sounds lovely.

Constituting 250 drum, bass and synth loops, plus

150 one-shots, for producers of bass music in all its
filthiest forms, we cant fault the sounds of Neuro
Rages tearing Reeses, ballistic drums, creative FX
and hyped leads. However, being one of those
increasingly prevalent libraries that ups the
numbers by supplying variations on each sample
so that what appears to be 125 Bass and Synth
loops is, in reality, just over 40, but with multiple
melodic options for each the value proposition
feels a tad lacking.




Mode Audio

Dope Ammo & run tingz Cru

Drum & Bass Fusion Vol3 25

string theory 18

For Loopmasters third Drum & Bass Fusion library,

Dope Ammo is joined by another leading light of UK
jungle. The 531 samples have been compiled from a
series of named projects, so its easy to see what goes
with what for construction kit-style usage, although it
does also mean that each folder of loops is full of
variations on a few themes. It all sounds awesome
though, with its hard-hitting but old-school vibe, and
the usable one-shot drums round things off nicely.

This hip-hop sample library with an emphasis on

guitar looks like an iffy proposition on paper but
proves to be pretty convincing in practice. Sorting its
contents into 12 complete projects, String Theory puts
electric guitar and bass alongside down-the-line hiphop beats, synths, keys, vinyl noises and FX; and while
the axes dont feel 100 percent comfortable 100
percent of the time in that setting, the performances
and tones are great on their own terms. An odd one,
but were all for trying something different.

April 2016 / Computer musiC / 111

Future Music is the mag for the latest gear and how todays cutting-edge music makers use it.
Weve been making the future since 1992. Make sure that youre part of it.

> make music now / blast from the past



buchla 100 richard smith

Though another pioneers name would

become synonymous with the word synthesiser,
Don Buchlas mad musical instruments were equally
important to the development of electronic music

Buchla Modular Synths

Music production has always been subject
to rampant and righteous bouts of brand
loyalty. Just as desktop musicians debate the
merits of Reason vs FL Studio, analogue
aficionados often argue over their chosen
aesthetic, defined by the region from which
two seminal synthesisers emerged. Moogs
modular systems were built in New York,
situated on the East coast of America, while
Don Buchla resided in northern California, on
the West coast. To this day, synthesists
describe traditional, toneful electronic music
as East coast, whereas more experimental,
aleatoric compositions are said to exhibit
qualities of the West coast.
While Moogs designs and nomenclature
have become familiar to electronic musicians,
Buchlas modules have names like Source of
Uncertainty (a random voltage generator) and
Arbitrary Function Generator (a combination of
a sequencer, multisegment envelope and
voltage processor). Many of these differences
might seem like the reactions of a contrarian,
but Buchlas first instrument was designed at the
same time as and independently from
Moogs. In fact, Buchla beat Moog to the
sequencer, an inclusion that would become

important to users of both systems.

Don Buchla began designing his first
instrument in 1963 after being commissioned
by Morton Subotnick and Ramon Sender,
founders of the San Francisco Tape Music
Center. The idea was to create an all-in-one,
purpose-built electronic musical instrument that
could replace the hodgepodge of laboratory
oscillators, filters and modulators with which
most electronic music was made up to that
point. Significantly, the instruments 16-stage
sequencer could be used in lieu of the thentraditional technique of recording individual
tones to tape and cutting and splicing the
recordings to create complete compositions.
In addition to the sequencer, Buchlas first
instrument offered analogue oscillators, a noise
generator, ring modulator, reverb, voltage
processors, envelope generators and gates
(Buchlas answer to the VCA). As with Moogs
synths, connections were made with patch
leads. Rather than the traditional keyboard, a
touch-plate was used to play the patches.
Buchla purposely steered clear of convention,
convinced that new types of performance
techniques would inspire new types of music.
He was right, too, and there is no better

tech SPecS
Year of manufacture
1964 - present
Original sale (commissioned)
Current price
Full systems starting at $5299

example of the Buchla sound than Morton

Subtonicks classic Silver Apples of the Moon.
Released in 1967, it was the very first electronic
music ever commissioned by a record label. Full
of quixotic rhythmical bleeps, chirps and squalls,
accompanied by distinctive percussive
sequences, the work stands in stark contrast to
the record that would make Moog a household
name, Wendy Carlos comparatively
conventional Switched On Bach.
Buchla would continue to expand upon his
designs, selling modular systems such as the
100 and 200 series, variations of which are still
available today. Never as popular or industrydefining as Moogs instruments, Buchlas
designs have nevertheless recently begun to be
rediscovered by modern musicians,
manufacturers and software developers alike.




Three software Buchla alternatives

Madrona Labs aaLto

native instruMents reaktor 6

encoreaudio iMMensity

Aalto was one of the first and remains one of

the best software synths to draw upon
Buchlas legacy. Like many of Buchlas
systems, Aalto offers a complex waveform
generator, sequencer, and the low-pass
gate that was key to creating those famous
percussive tones. Readers get our version,
Aalto CM, free within
Plugins (see p14).

Reaktors sixth incarnation added hardwareinspired Blocks components, and among

them are a few informed by the West coast
aesthetic. Theres a low-pass gate module
(West Coast LPG), a Buchla-inspired
waveform generator (West Coast DWG), and a
wicked modulation generator and sequencer
(West Coast XYS). Grab em and patch em!

Encoreaudio offer Buchla-inspired devices

for use in Max For Live. This particular one
models Buchlas 259 Complex Waveform
Generator, but extras such as its envelope
generator and filter provide Ableton Live
users with a cheap n cheerful taste of the
Buchla sound. Nearly every parameter can be
modulated and automated within Live.

114 / Computer musiC / April 2016