Andrulian's blog

Creating sounds | Making music | supporting fellow musicians | reflections in time

This Friday, Stand with Bandcamp in Support of Immigrants/Basic Human Values — January 31, 2017

This Friday, Stand with Bandcamp in Support of Immigrants/Basic Human Values

Bandcamp Daily

Bandcamp

Like 98% of U.S. citizens (including the President), I am the descendant of immigrants—my great-grandparents came to America from Russia and Lithuania as teenagers and worked in sweatshops until they were able to afford to bring the rest of their families over. Most everyone you speak to in this country has a similar story to tell, because we are, in fact, a nation of immigrants, bound together by a shared belief in justice, equality, and the freedom to pursue a better life. In this context, last week’s Executive Order barring immigrants and refugees from seven Middle Eastern countries from entering the United States is not simply immoral, it violates the very spirit and foundation of America.

Contrary to the assertions of the current administration, the order will not make us safer (an opinion shared by the State Department and many members of Congress including prominent Republicans). Christian religious leaders…

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Noiiz – an online subscription based sounds platform with unlimited downloads – now improved with updated price plans — January 27, 2017

Noiiz – an online subscription based sounds platform with unlimited downloads – now improved with updated price plans

June 2017 update
There have been a number of improvements and changes to the Noiiz service since the original post was published in January 2017 so I thought I’d summarise them in an update with the original post below.

New pricing model from 4th July 2017
This is excellent news for both new and prospective customers. The yearly subscription fee will be cut from $199 to $99. For monthly subscribers, the monthly price will be cut from $29.99 to $9.99 with 1GB of data per month which rolls over. Existing customers don’t have to do anything – accounts will be upgraded automatically.

All users will now get full access to the Noiiz Plugin and there is a new 15 day free trial, so you can try Noiiz out for free and download up to 1GB of content.

Home studio giveaway
To celebrate the launch of the new pricing plan, Noiiz have teamed up with Native Instruments, Ableton, Roli, Korg and Adam Audio to offer one lucky winner the chance to win a home studio setup with over $5k!

NoiizGiveaway

The full prize list is very impressive –
1 Lifetime Noiiz UNLIMITED Subscription
1 Ableton Live 9 Suite software
1 Pair of Adam A7X Monitors
1 Maschine Jam Controller
1 Komplete Audio 6 Interface
1 Komplete Kontrol 49 Keyboard
1 Komplete 11 software
1 Korg Volca Sample
1 Korg Electribe Sampler
1 Roli Lightblock

All you have to do to enter is simply register your details for free on the Noiiz website but be quick, the winner will be announced on the 4th July 2017.

Presets
It’s great to see that Noiiz now has a preset section. There will be more content added soon and Noiiz would like to hear from you if you have any suggestions.

Website and plugin updates
The website now has a new feed section so you can see all of the new releases as they happen.

The plugin now has a new auto tempo-sync feature, which automatically syncs to your DAW’s tempo, plus a bunch of interface and performance enhancements.

VST Buzz Mega Deal
It’s also worth highlighting that VST Buzz are currently running an 88% off mega deal. For 99 Euros you get a 1 year subscription to Noizz plus the entire collection of Samplephonics Kontakt libraries comprising 18Gb of content valued at 795 Euros. This deal is only avaiable for another week, expiring in 7 days on 4th July.

Original post
For anyone who uses sample packs Noiiz looks like a very interesting platform. It’s an offshoot from Samplephonics and in essence offers unlimited downloads of all Samplephonics packs and content from 10 other creators such as Fold, Skit, Primate and 43% Giant with new material being added daily. It also offers a cloud connected plugin – although at present this is Mac only, the windows version is under development but should be available in the next few days – which allows you to access sounds on Noiiz in your project and audition them in time and in key before use. There are also other tools for exploring sounds and building your personalised sample library.

The video below gives you an idea of how the plugin works in Maschine:

 
Noiiz are currently offering a year’s subscription for half the normal price at $89. Additionally, this fee will apply each year for life. The offer is only available until the 31st January and also includes a free pack of 8000 drums and fx samples. After this date the subscription fee will rise to the normal price of $199 per year. It’s worth noting that you keep the rights to everything you download even if you cancel your subscription.

If you use samples in your projects, even only occasionally, this introductory offer looks like an exceptional deal. At current exchange rates this is about £71. When you consider that Samplephonics packs normally retail at £34.70, for the price of just over two packs a year you can have access to their entire library and new content as it is released. From the website it looks like future additions could include projects, presets and apps so there appears to be a lot of promise for added value in the future.

I really like the idea of a cloud based sample library. I sometimes purchase sample packs and often find that I don’t use all of the included content and it takes quite a long time matching sounds together. I can see that the ability to audition sounds and search on key / tempo would speed up workflow and mean that you are only using the sounds that you need.

The flipside is that you are limited to Samplephonics and other creators as they come on board. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because they have loads of excellent quality sample packs covering just about every style you can imagine but it does mean you may still need to purchase other sounds if you have a number of favourite providers. The other concern for me would be the access speeds, as it becomes more popular will bandwidth decrease and impact the app and downloads. This doesn’t look too much of an issue though, Noiiz has been very popular since launch and users report that download speeds are extremely quick.

It’s also very encouraging to see the massive effort being put into improving the service and the very prompt responses to feedback. It only launched on Monday but already more content is being uploaded to ensure all Samplephonics content is available; an AAX version is planned over the next few weeks; installation instructions are being improved and suggested features are being considered.

Review of Choice of No Choice by Luke Lund on Terranean Recordings — January 19, 2017

Review of Choice of No Choice by Luke Lund on Terranean Recordings

 
This is an excellent album of remixes which started as an open call on Twitter by Luke to remix some processed guitar loop sessions from his ‘Of That Which is’ LP that he wasn’t satisfied enough with to include on the album. The resulting album covers a wide range of styles from techno to drone with great soundscapes and cinematic qualities at times too. I’m delighted to have a remix included on this album.

Choice of No Choice (Oula Maaranen remix)
There’s a great edge to this track, a gritty drone bassline with a techno drum beat giving excellent momentum and there’s an ambience thats swirls and pulses against the incessant kick rhythm. Great variation in drumming pattern and sounds with the evolution of the song.

Keep On (In and Out mix)
An ominous sounding drone to open, excellently layered background sounds really add to the atmosphere. I really like the evolving soundscape, there’s some excellent use of delay / feedback and a great tension through the song.

Feeling Into Thought (Polypores Remix)
The opening has the feel of a church bell ringing albeit a demented one. There’s a great background ambience from swirling sounds and contrast against the emerging bassline and sparse kick rhythm. I really like how the defined beat emerges providing a more defined rhythm which fades out returning to an edgy ambience.

Keep On (Andrulian Remix)
This is mine so feel free to add your own comments!

Choice of no Choice (Logosigil Mix)
There’s an edgy feel to this track which has a cinematic soundscape quality. There’s a great tension from layered sound effects, delayed percussive sounds and a kind of gnarly, growly synth sound.

Choice of No Choice (Trium Circulorum Session)
An excellent drone opening with some glitchy / distorted sounds there’s great use of delay and a percussive rhythm that sits low in the mix gradually gaining prominence along with a bassline to give a pronounced minimal techno feel. Excellent layering of sounds against the swirling drone and I really like how the percussive rhythms evolve through the song.

Be (Two)
The opening reminds me of Himalayan bowls, quite meditative but with an underlying subtle drone which adds great tension. The distorted guitar works really well with the layered sounds and delayed effects. It’s a great soundscape.

Feeling Into Thought (And Back Again Mix)
Glitchy / distorted background noise layered with a wind type of sound to open, there’s great movement in the sounds and a build and release of tension through the song with a nice change of feel to end.

 

Luke Lund on twitter
Terranean Recordings on bandcamp

Track 1: Oula Maaranen
soundcloud | facebook

Tracks 2 & 8: Matt Warren
website | bandcamp

Track 3: Polypores
soundcloud | bandcamp

Track 5: Elricj
twitter | blend

Track 6: Trium Circulorum
bandcamp | twitter

Track 7: KEK-W
website | soundcloud | twitter

Review of Dust sample based granuliser synthesiser and effect VST by Soundmorph — January 14, 2017

Review of Dust sample based granuliser synthesiser and effect VST by Soundmorph

 
Dust is a revolutionary binaural sample based granulising synthesiser which uses real-time particle simulation. It is available from Sound Morph in VST, VST3, AAX and Audio Unit formats for OSX and Windows. It’s normal price is $99.

For this review I’ve started with the conclusions because I’m so impressed with Dust and basically can’t wait until the end. It is absolutely phenomenal software and a joy to use.

What I love about Dust is that you can get to grips with the basics really quickly but there’s still lots of scope to learn how to further refine your sound using some of the more intricate features. It’s very capable software and transcends the possibilities typically offered by VSTs giving full control and virtually unlimited sound sculpting possibilities.

It’s one of those few VSTs that gives you a sense of anticipation and provides great inspiration. So much so that instead of the usual demo track I’ve created a whole album of 12 tracks based around Dust and just some of the different types of sounds that it can produce. Soundmorph’s website says that Dust is addictive and the album I’ve created instead of the usual single track definitely goes a long way to prove this. The album is embedded at the top of the post.

Dust has fairly high spec requirements – An Intel® Mac with Mac OS X 10.9 (or later), OR a PC with Windows 7 (or later); Multicore processor; 2 GB RAM; 1024×768 display. That said I currently have a 2Ghz dual core processor with 4Gb ram and it could handle most of what i threw at it with Dust, it did struggle a bit with extensive modulations and when pushed to its limits but generally it worked really well even with a few other VSTs and delay effects running during the creation of the album.

When you initially load Dust, first impressions are excellent. The GUI looks clean and well organised, there are clearly a lot of controls but it looks well thought out and logically arranged.

The first thing to do without knowing anything about the software is to load a preset. You know there’s some quality sounds when the likes of Richard Devine and Ivo Ivanov (Glitchmachines) have produced presets. And it’s not disappointing, the sound quality is excellent and there’s a bit of everything from ambient, drone, cinematic to robot / glitchy.

Because it is different to traditional synthesis methods there are number of terms and concepts that need to be explained and it’s worth considering these before looking at the interface:

Particles
Each particle is a distinct granular synthesiser. The source sound is split into smaller grains which are then repitched and repositioned arbitrarily to form another sound.

The audio output is panned binaurally based on the particle’s position relative to the centre with up and down corresponding to forward and backward in the sound field.

The particle moves around the flow field for a time determined by its amplitude envelope after which it is removed and can no longer be heard.

All parameters of the particle sound can be modulated based on properties of the particle’s motion such as speed, x & y position and distance from centre.

Particle Emitters
These create particles and can be independently positioned around the simulation space. They can emit particles automatically based on a given frequency or triggered manually via midi input. Particle initial properties such as speed and direction or granuliser parameters are set by the emitter and there are 8 emitters in total.

Flow Field
This is a 2d force field that determines how particles move around the space and is defined by a set of effectors and an equation.

Effectors are like customisable magnets. They can be individually positioned and have a strength (attraction or repulsion) and fall-off (reach of influence).

The flow field can be selected from a list of built in equations or generated by a user defined equation.

Convolver
Dust has a built in convolution reverb. This works by taking tonal, textural and temporal characteristics from a loaded audio file instead of computing them algorithmically. What this means is that instead of computing the reverb for a given sized room, you can record the sound of a cave, in a pipe or rustling leaves and apply this as your reverb. Basically any audio file can be loaded enabling a wide range from natural or very unusual sounds.

dust_main

Having considered the basics we can look at the interface in more detail. The design comprises of 6 principal sections. The majority of the display is the particle view. Emitters are shown as coloured circles with a protruding line indicating the speed and direction it will emit particles. Particles are shown as glowing blobs, colour coded to the emitter. The size of the particle indicates its sound output level. Effectors are shown as dashed white circles and are slightly larger than the emitters. The small ‘dust’ particles in the background show the flow field.

dust_emitters

The emitters panel is the next largest section and controls the heart of Dust. The coloured circular buttons at the top correspond to each emitter and selecting one of these will bring up the controls for that particular emitter. Below the buttons you can edit the global volume and choose the audio source. At present, Dust is sample based but an ‘effect version’ is currently in development which will allow real time input. If you click on the drop down menu you can select sounds from the Dust samples folder but if you click on the little folder you can load any of your own samples.

The next part controls how the emitters create particles. The trigger modes are midi single note; sequencer auto (pattern designed by step sequencer); sequencer midi note (as previous but only whilst a note within emitter’s note range is held or off).

The step sequencer is fully featured with trigger, length, mode, sync, rate and phase controls.

The midi range button brings up a keyboard which is used to select the range of notes that trigger particle releases when midi note single or sequencer midi note trigger modes are selected. You can set range, start note and notes per emitter.

The next section is where you can edit the particle position and launch velocity.

The controls in the final section determine the various synthesis properties of the emitted particles – envelope, granuliser and filter.

dust_presets

The next section is presets where you can load, save or delete them.

dust_flow-field

The flow field section is where you define the flow field by a set of effectors and/or an equation.

dust_convolver

The convolver section has an enabled button, dry / wet controls and a drop down list of Dust built in impulses or you can click on the folder to load your own.

The output panel has a master gain, hard limit output and meter.

Dust also has extensive modulation options – any parameter with a dial can be modulated by right clicking on the dial. There are four ways to modulate a parameter – LFOs, midi mapping, sequencers and particle property mapping.

All modulation is additive which means this adds to the manually set value rather than replacing it. Multiple modulations can be applied simultaneously with the result being the sum of all of them.

Although Dust offers comprehensive options, creating your own patches starting with the init patch is atraightforward and you can have a patch created in a few minutes. The emitters have default trigger note ranges and if you use these it can speed up the initial creation but these can be edited as required. The steps are generally to load the required samples; set the trigger mode (and midi note range if required); determine the starting position and starting velocity; set the envelope, granuliser and filter settings; set the flow field equation, either preset or define your own; determine whether you want to use effectors and where to place them and their values; decide if you want to use the convolver.

The flow field equation has quite an impact on the sound and experimenting with effectors yields some interesting results too. The range of convolution impulses is good, I’ve already got a number of these which can further define your sound.

There’s great scope for control, I’ve used Hollyhock’s advanced midi sequencer to trigger sounds randomly which gives really good results. I’ve also used a midi keyboard which gives you greater control over triggering the sounds and you can adjust ranges to layer samples as required.

Automation adds some great movement, I find that the reducing the scale control for the LFO enables you to provide some subtle movement of the position of the emitters for instance.

It works well with all types of sounds that I’ve loaded from short impact / glitches to longer vocal, synth or pad type sounds. I think that choosing / combining samples that go well together is a definite art and a key part of ensuring a great sound. Although you can create a patch in a few minutes, it’s very easy to tweak and adjust settings to refine your sound. For instance, envelope and granuliser settings can make a big difference to your sound resulting in sounds between a looping type of effect to more of an ambience.

It’s ideal for live performances, the effects version which will process live inputs will be very interesting and will open up further creative possibilities. When I created the album I used Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock II as my DAW which records live and I often edited the settings of the patch during the recording and didn’t suffer from any audio glitches or drop-outs. I also typically applied Spaceship Delay by Musical Entropy to further enhance the sound.

Overall it’s an excellent VST for anyone who likes creating or sculpting sounds. It offers virtually unlimited possibilities not only because you can load your own samples therefore giving potentially unlimited sound sources but also because you can edit particle settings, granuliser settings, filter settings, flow field equations and convolution reverb settings to create very interesting and unique sounds.

Review of Monique Monophonic Synthesiser by Monoplugs — January 3, 2017

Review of Monique Monophonic Synthesiser by Monoplugs

 
Monique is a monophonic subtractive synthesiser designed to create bass and lead sounds.

So it seems the best place to start this review with how it sounds – Excellent. It has a powerful sound and can create some pretty aggressive bass and lead sounds. A good example of the sort of sounds it can produce is the demo song embedded above. I created this using Monique for all sounds apart from the drums, some sounds were processed with Incipit by Inear Display and others by Spaceship Delay by Musical Entropy.

An example of individual sounds is the Monoplugs video below which showcases some of the presets and is embedded below:

Although Monique comes with a range of presets, it’s not one of those synths with which you can tend to rely solely on the presets because there’s so much more to Monique than that.   It really excels at sound design and encouraging you to tweak various parameters to get the best out of it.  The oscillators and filters are only a start – the envelope controls, automation and modulation all shape the sound and the effects, especially EQ, also refine the sound further.  Not to mention the arpeggiator, loop function and morph mode. There’s something really satisfying about a synth that requires you to put the effort in to reap the rewards, especially when it has an intuitive GUI and not too steep a learning curve so it shouldn’t take you too long to get to grips with it.

I really like the look of the GUI. First appearances may give the impression that it’s complex but in practice it is well laid out and easy to navigate. It has a freely scalable multi-touch interface to avoid the use of menus. A number of themes are available and you can also design your own colour scheme. There has also been quite a lot of development since the original release including layout changes, revamped arpeggiator and a sub-poly mode.

monique

The manual refers to all controls as sliders for consistency which I’ve replicated in this review. It’s important to point this out because a key concept of Monique is the use of dual purpose sliders (called backsliders) to combine similar parameters with the button beneath acting as a switch. You can switch these on with the shift button in the top left part of the display and this is shown in the picture below. Next to shift is the CTRL button and when you enable this mode all parameters are visible.

monique_backsliders

Monique’s sound engine is basically 3 oscillators, 3 filters, an EQ bank comprising 7 resonant based filters and a few effects but it offers much, much more than this.

monique_osc

The first oscillator is the master and has a phase shift control and a range from -24 to +24 semitones. The waveforms are sine-square, square-saw and saw-noise (white). The graphic on the slider shows the current wave which can be built/ morphed out of these pure waveforms or combinations between 2 successive waveforms. It has a key-sync (K-sync) option which forces a new wave cycle which is useful for percussive sounds.

Oscillators 2 and 3 have the same waveform controls with a tune option and sync controls. You can also modulate the tuning or phase with an LFO by enabling the MOD-L button.

Each oscillator can be shaped by an FM oscillator (a shapeable sine wave oscillator combined with an LFO) which has tune and swing settings with the shape control as the backslider of the osc tune slider.

There’s a very handy oscilloscope display which you can switch on to show the resulting waveform.

monique_scope

The filter section comprises of 3 filters but there’s a lot more to the filters than this and it’s definitely worth getting to know this section in more detail. They act more like a 3 x 3 set of filters because each filter has an input from each oscillator and these are mixed into one stereo track at each filter output.

monique_filters

Filter 1 takes the input from osc 1, 2 & 3 whereas filter 2 can take the output from filter 1 or output from the oscillators directly. Filter 3 can take output from filter 2 or output from the oscillators directly. This means that you can create a large number of serial/parallel routings giving an excellent range of sound shaping possibilities.

There are standard envelope ADSR controls with an additional retrigger and slope control. There are choices of low pass, high pass, band pass filters and a bypass option with the usual cutoff and resonance with a handy distortion and pan control too.

An excellent feature of the filters is the ability to create a ‘modulation mix’ which is a signal mixed from an envelope curve and an LFO which can be used to automate cut-off, resonance, distortion, pan and volume settings. To do this you need to turn on the modulation button (MOD-X) above the parameter slider. The backslider is then used to set the maximum amount by which the modulation mix changes the modulated parameter.

The mod mix slider is used to define the amount of envelope curve and LFO in the modulation mix. On the absolute left only the envelope curve is used; on the absolute right the LFO and in the middle is a 50:50 split.

You can take automation a step further by also automating the filter inputs. The principal is the same the button on top of the input turns on automation.

The amp envelope is placed after the filter output and has the standard ADSR controls as a shape control.

The EQ bank and FX bank occupy the same space on the screen and you use a button to select between them.

monique_eq

The EQ bank is a 7 band filter 0 2.6kHz which can by bypassed using the mix control slider. The backslider of mix can be used to control resonance of all filters. Furthermore, all band gains have their own envelopes which are automatable. The EQ shouldn’t be overlooked as it can really help define your sound.

The order of effects is pre-determined and cannot be changed. The effects are distortion, chorus, delay, looper and reverb.

monique_fx

On the subject of envelopes, we’ve already covered that the controls are the standard ADSR by with additional parameters of retrigger and shape. The retrigger timer starts after reaching the sustain level and can create a pulsing effect. The shape control is a neat addition which allows you to define the slope of the curve.

All the envelopes work in the same way although there is no retrigger option in the amp envelope because this should be done with note on and/or note off. If you edit an envelope in a pop up you get a preview screen where you can adjust envelope parameters. They are always time based (milliseconds). Conversely LFOs are always sync’d to note duration from 16/1 – 1/64. They have wave, speed and offset controls.

The arpeggiator is a sixteen step sequencer split into 4×4 beat groups. You enable each step by clicking on the required button and you can use the backslider to adjust the note offset (in semitones from root note) and velocity. There are also shuffle, offset and sync controls.

monique_arp

One really cool feature of monique is the morph mixer. This basically has 4 morph mixers, one of which mixes between osc values from 2 presets, one mixes between filter values from 2 presets, one mixes between arpeggiator values from 2 presets and the fourth mixes between eq / fx values from 2 presets. I don’t think you can edit these settings directly but you can always create your own presets with required settings for these specific parameters. Alternatively there is an option to ‘set to current’ which can be used to reset values at the minimum setting and then you can turn the morph slider to 100 and make the required adjustments to filter input, eq / fx etc and use the morph slider to mix between these values. It is also possible to use an LFO to automate certain morph parameters. There is also a drag pad which can be used instead of the morph sliders which has a smooth control.

monique_morph-mix

Another cool feature is the loop function. This can be found in the fx section next to the delay and is enabled by using the fill button. It works like a delay and the signal in the buffer is overdubbed each time. This means that if the release setting is 100 it will loop indefinitely but if the release setting is 50% then the next time it is written in the buffer it will be at half power, the next time 25% and so on. The size setting by default is 1:1 which writes in all four bars of the buffer at the same time. If you set it to 2/1 you will only write in every second buffer and 4/1 will only write in one of the four bars of the buffer. You can use this to make your pattern more interesting than a one-bar loop. I used this towards the end of the demo song.

Monique also has a sub poly mode, this works by retuning the oscillators rather than using multiple voices to save CPU power and retain the monophonic principles. The poly button towards the top right opens the dialog box where you can enable osc key tracking then change the tuning of the oscillators to create a chord and you can alter the note order which can give different effects depending on your settings. You can also change the cut-off key tracking. There are also options for filter input, filter output and filter envelope triggering.

monique_subpoly

Monique is a very capable synth.  I can see that the monophonic nature may be off-putting to some but it certainly shouldn’t be because Monique has some unique characteristics and can produce some excellent aggressive bass and lead sounds.  The sub-poly mode also goes someway to counteract this.  The filters, automation and morph mixer really make Monique stand out from other synths and enable you to create great movement and evolving sounds. The arpeggiator is also a very useful addition for bass or lead sounds.

Monique is available from Monoplugs priced at $99.  Should you want to try it out, a demo version is also available.  It’s fully functioning but has no skinning support and a periodic returning noise.