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Antelope Audio introduces industry-shaking Synergy Core (DSP + FPGA) FX platform via ‘hot-rodded’ Discrete interfaces — June 28, 2019

Antelope Audio introduces industry-shaking Synergy Core (DSP + FPGA) FX platform via ‘hot-rodded’ Discrete interfaces

Trailblazing pro audio manufacturer Antelope Audio is proud to formally introduce its Synergy Core next-generation signal processing platform — pairing up the phenomenal parallel computational capabilities of FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) processing with industry-standard DSP (Digital Signal Processing), possibly freeing up any audio production-purposed host computer’s CPU (Central Processing Unit) while processing effects with extremely low latency — via ‘hot-rodded revamps’ of its in-demand Real-Time FPGA FX-facilitating Discrete 4 and Discrete 8 audio interfaces.

Now named Discrete 4 Synergy Core and Discrete 8 Synergy Core — albeit respectively retaining the Thunderbolt™ & USB Interface with 4 Discrete Mic Preamps and Thunderbolt™ & USB Interface with 8 Discrete Mic Preamps phrasing boldly blazoned across already-familiar front facias, Antelope Audio’s game-changing additions to its acclaimed audio interface lineup literally give the game away. Simply speaking, Synergy Core’s industry-shaking introduction intentionally signals Antelope Audio’s objective of developing a wider range of its own effects and also collaborating with leading software developers in the industry for the benefit of all.

As such, the perfectly portable — 261 mm (Wide) x 44 mm (High) x 208 mm (Deep) — Discrete 4 Synergy Core brings best-in-class pristine Antelope Audio AD/DA conversion (capturing and monitoring audio at up to 192 kHz/24-bit resolution with 121dB dynamic range) and phenomenal processing power to the desktop. Dual DSP chips and an FPGA processor work together in perfect harmony to run Antelope Audio’s vast collection of vintage-inspired effects plug-ins plus any third-party effects joining the Synergy Core platform.

Put it this way: with Synergy Core audio interfaces hosting additional effects processing via those dedicated DSP chips, computer-based recording rig stability is increased. In other words, adding a Discrete 4 Synergy Core or its Discrete 8 Synergy Core bigger brother to such recording rigs really means that DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) can make more efficient use of available CPU power to host native effects — effectively extending the lifecycle of an existing Mac or PC, so users need not (necessarily) upgrade to the latest and greatest computer specification to run all of their favourite plug-ins anytime.

As implied by that Thunderbolt™ & USB Interface with 4 Discrete Mic Preamps phrasing,Discrete 4 Synergy Core offers four console-grade, discrete mic preamps, plus a total of 14 inputs (including four LINE-1/4” JACK | MIC-XLR combi inputs for mic/line/instrument sources) and 16 outputs (including L and R MONITOR outputs and LINE OUT on four TRS connections) — expandable via ADAT IN OUT and S/PDIF IN OUT on TOSlink, and access to Antelope Audio’s unrivalled digital clocking technology through the WC OUT 1 2 connections. Talking to Macs and PCs of course comes naturally to Discrete 4 Synergy Core, courtesy of those Thunderbolt™ and USB connections.

But best of all, Discrete 4 Synergy Core comes complete with a compelling library of 36 Real-Time FPGA FX for free from Antelope Audio! Worth well over $3,000.00 USD, all are meticulously modelled after hardware originals! On top of that, 35 optional additions are also available. All are automatable within a DAW without adversely affecting CPU load, thanks to the AFX2DAW bridge (currently available for Thunderbolt™ on macOS only), connecting the best of both worlds by effectively amalgamating Antelope Audio’s acclaimed FPGA modeling engine with the advantages of fast and intuitive DAW workflow with near-zero latency. The Thunderbolt™ driver for Windows is, however, rated as being the third-fastest audio driver in the world (with the first two only available for PCI devices). With a price-to-performance ratio that more than compares favourably to any rival Thunderbolt™ or USB audio interface available anywhere, Discrete 4 Synergy Core is ideal for musicians and producers needing a road-ready recording setup that holds the creative key to unlocking unprecedented power.

Processing power is what the ‘full-size’ (rack-mountable) Discrete 8 Synergy Core is also about. Loaded, likewise, with dual DSP chips and an FPGA processor, it is perfectly positioned for mid-sized studios. Saying that, Discrete 8 Synergy Core is boosted beyond Discrete 4 Synergy Core’s consummate capabilities courtesy of eight console-grade, discrete mic preamps. Indeed, its connectivity count totals 26 inputs (including eight LINE-1/4” JACK | MIC-XLR combi inputs for mic/line/instrument sources) and 30 outputs (including L and R MONITOR outputs and two REAMP outputs on TRS connections, and LINE OUT 1-8 on a D-SUB 25 connector) — expandable via dual ADAT (IN 1 OUT 1 and IN 2 OUT 2) and S/PDIF IN OUT on TOSlink, plus a user-friendly FOOTSWITCH jack to speed up workflow. This time the pristine AD/DA conversion delivers a class-leading 130dB of dynamic range (on the monitor outputs). Of course, those same 36 Real-Time FPGA FX — ranging from classic compressors to studio EQs and must-have reverbs to tube guitar amp models based on iconic vintage gear — are also included for free. So Discrete 8 Synergy Core constitutes a sharp set of tools to take projects from inspiration to final master, making in the box recording more attractive to both the converted and newbies.

Needless to say, the existing (FPGA) effects aboard Antelope Audio’s aptly-named, newly-announced Discrete 4 Synergy Core and Discrete 8 Synergy Core audio interfaces already ensure that recording systems are optimised out of the box by allowing audio buffer sizers to be shortened and clicks and pops to be effectively eliminated; ultimately users will also be able to take advantage of dual DSP processor-hosted effects that will be developed in the future by both Antelope Audio and third parties joining the Synergy Core platform, possibly lightening the load placed on any audio production-purposed host computer, which would be better positioned to run CPU-intensive VST (Virtual Studio Technology) synths, samplers, and native time-based effects as a result.

Fusing FPGA and DSP chips in one audio interface harnessing the parallel processing power of FPGA alongside the latest generation, state-of-the-art ARM DSP chips developed for cloud computing and mobile technology — processors that deliver a faster clock rate than the DSP chips employed elsewhere in the audio interface market — makes for computing power synergies that are unique to Antelope Audio, allowing for direct development of a greater variety of effects, including choruses, flangers, and more. Synergy Core is the answer and Antelope Audio knows that for sure!

Discrete 4 Synergy Core is already available for purchase — priced at an RRP of $999.00 USD — through Antelope Audio’s growing global network of authorised dealers or order online directly from Antelope Audio via the dedicated Discrete 4 Synergy Core webpage which also includes more in-depth information. (Discrete 8 Synergy Core will start shipping on July 20, 2019, priced at an RRP of $1,399.00 USD.)

Explore Antelope Audio’s full FPGA FX library

About Antelope Audio

Antelope Audio is a leading manufacturer of high-end professional audio equipment. Founded in 2004 and reinventing the industry with its flawless master clock technologies and versatile multi-channel interface solutions, the company has been steadily expanding its portfolio over the years under the guidance of visionary engineer and CEO Igor Levin. Antelope Audio’s products offer the best of both analog and digital technologies. Among its most recent innovations are compact interfaces with discrete mic pres, FPGA-based FX plug-ins for all DAWs, and next-generation modeling microphones. These are distributed through Antelope Audio offices in Europe, the Americas, and Asia, and highly acclaimed by users all over the world. The company’s customers include GRAMMY® award-winning sound engineers, top-tier producers, world-class artists, and some of the most renowned, recording, mastering, and post-production facilities around the globe.

© 2019 Antelope Audio

Review of Reels tape emulation plugin with echo and tape stop effect (64bit VST/AU/AAX) from AudioThing — June 26, 2019

Review of Reels tape emulation plugin with echo and tape stop effect (64bit VST/AU/AAX) from AudioThing

Introduction

AudioThing have introduced Reels, a tape emulation plugin with built-in echo section and tape-stop effect.

Reels is available from AudioThing in VST, AU and AAX versions – 64bit only – typically priced at 59 Euros.

Background

Reels is based on an old Japanese portable tape recorder with a very distinctive lo-fi analog sound. It emulates all the imperfections of consumer reel to reel recorders.

During recording or playback, analog tape units suffer from motor noise bleed in along with the usual tape hiss that limits available bandwidth on the tape.

Conclusions

This is an excellent and unusual effect. Delays and tape emulations are often used to provide high quality audio. This is not that sort of effect – it’s lo-fi, dirty, noisy and absolutely brilliant.

It’s ironic that most of the reasons we stopped using tape are replicated by this effect and they are very useful in modern music production. It adds qualities that are really hard to define, it’s not just noise / hiss or a lo-fi effect, it’s like the combination of all these imperfections are much greater than the sum of the individual parts.

I’ve used it extensively on the album embedded above. It’s an ambient / experimental sound and uses a number of field recordings, found sounds and extensive use of Reels. I’ve also used some Spitfire Audio libraries and some effects from Eventide and Glitchmachines.

In-Depth Review

The interface has modern functionality with a retro vibe. It’s laid out with the presets / settings at the top with handy randomise function; tape and noise controls; echo; master section; tape stop; global settings and animated reel to reel at the bottom.

Reels has 3 tape emulations named after the country of origin:

  • JP – Japan – used tape but with better overall frequency response
  • IT – Italy – new old stock but with limited frequency response
  • FR – France – overused and badly stored, very bad frequency response

There are also 2 tape speeds. Between them these give a number of tonal combinations.

There are also controls for harshness (distortion / loss of clarity); wow/flutter (pitch imperfections); ducking (volume loss) and crosstalk (leak between left and right channel).

The Noise section has hiss and motor noise controls along with a handy envelope function that activates the noise only when an input signal is present.

The Echo controls include bypass, sync, delay time, feedback, lowpass filter, level and wet only (disable dry signal) controls.

The master section has input and output controls.

The bottom section has a soft clip limiter, mono button that sums the left and right channels of a stereo signal, pre-emphasis control to boost high frequencies before the tape emulation section and mix control.

The tape stop is an excellent feature, replicating the slowing down effect with the option to change the tape stop speed.

Review of Silence EP by Depthcruiser — June 24, 2019

Review of Silence EP by Depthcruiser

I love the vibe of this EP, it has a sound that’s difficult to describe, somewhere between deep house, ambient and dub techno.  Mellow grooves, deep kick, unusual background sounds and lush leads create an atmospheric sound that’s engaging and superbly layered and produced.

Special Lover

Evolving atmospheric opening from spoken words and synth, this song evolves into a mellow groove with electric piano, percussive rhythm, bass and drumming. A great laid back vibe, the whispered vocals are excellent. 

Night Without You

Piano and synth to open creates an edge of tension, whispered vocals lead into an uptempo groove with delayed percussive sounds adding a great element. There’s an edge of tension and great contrast between the driving kick and more laid back dub type delay with nice build and release of tension too. 

Kraken

Excellent opening from vinyl crackle, emerging bass and synth, the kick adds a great momentum. I really like the percussive and delayed background sounds. The song has a brooding quality, building slowly to a final release. 

Journey Beyond Tomorrow

Electric piano to open with delayed percussive background sounds and running water type sound, it’s a slowly evolving groove propelled by bass and kick drum. I love the chilled vibe to this song, nice changes in feel and momentum whilst retaining the laid back vibe.

Review of The Butterfly Effect EP by Fragile X on Bricolage (bc043) — June 23, 2019

Review of The Butterfly Effect EP by Fragile X on Bricolage (bc043)

An excellent EP that’s really hard to describe, there are elements of IDM and almost a dnb / dubstep feel at times. The complex rhythms are superbly arranged and processed, often contrasting against an ambience from synths and pads that adds just an edge of tension. Background sound effects are excellently layered too, there’s superb attention to detail. 

I really like how the EP grabs and holds your attention and allows you to interpret the songs in many different ways. 

Initial Conditions (0.506)

Industrial feel to the opening drumming pattern, drone and synth lead provide contrasting elements of ambience. Background sounds effects add a great tension, the kick really adds to this. The song has a brooding quality with great changes in feel. 

Chaos Theory

Uptempo delayed percussive sounds and feedback create an urgency, a kind of DnB / dubstep feel with background synth and pad adding an excellent contrast. The song builds really well with a great release. 

Strange Attractor

Impact sound effects and metallic percussion to open, the synth sounds complement perfectly. The bass arp and drumming give a great momentum. A great vibe to this song, its got the feeling of space exploration with the warp drive engaged, disengaged to enjoy the scenery and engaged again to continue the journey. 

Fractal Dust

Percussive rhythm to open, building to a complex rhythm propelled by bass. Synth lead is excellent and background sounds really add to the vibe. Great changes in feel, percussive elements form the backbone of the song with excellent synth and background effects. 

The Butterfly Effect

Percussive rhythm to open makes great use of delay effect building another complex rhythm. Background effects have a great dub quality at times and there’s a contrasting ambience from the pad type sound. The kick adds another layer to the percussion, great evolution to the song. 

Phase System (0.506127)

Atmospheric opening from vocals, another complex rhythm with great percussive sounds. Delayed synth adds a contrasting ambience. The bass is subtle but very effective. The layering is superb, some brilliant sound effects and synth chords / leads. An excellent edge of tension that builds through the song to a final release. 

Review of London Contemporary Orchestra Textures – a virtual instrument for Kontakt (full version or player) by Spitfire Audio — June 15, 2019

Review of London Contemporary Orchestra Textures – a virtual instrument for Kontakt (full version or player) by Spitfire Audio

Introduction

Spitfire Audio is proud to announce availability of LONDON CONTEMPORARY ORCHESTRA TEXTURES — accessing an awe-inspiring aircraft hangar for facilitating a recording process like no other on its second collaborative venture with the internationally-acclaimed London Contemporary Orchestra (LCO), served up as a sophisticated collection of constantly-evolving organic textures to truly expand anyone’s sound palette.

Following in the hard-to-follow footsteps of the critically-acclaimed and continually commercial LONDON CONTEMPORARY ORCHESTRA STRINGS, Spitfire Audio’s next collaborative venture with the LCO — one of the UK’s most innovative and respected ensembles, promoting the best new music and cross-arts collaborations to an ever-widening audience — had to be something even more extraordinary. End-game? An ambition to collectively create something that no one in the sampling world had done before. But surely that’s easier said than done? Perhaps.

Partly inspired by the LCO’s work with Brit alt-rockers Radiohead’s frontman Thom Yorke on his music for Italian director Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 remake of fellow Italian director Dario Argento’s assertive horror masterpiece Suspiria, ‘Spitfire & Co.’ took familiar, pre-existing organic instruments and combined them in unique ways to create indefinable, expressive, and modern sounds and textures — much like an artist using an array of disparate colours to create a new, multi-tonal palette, marrying together the LCO’s world-class performers and 10 years’ worth of experience in the contemporary classical music and film world with Spitfire Audio’s superlative sampling expertise and experimental Evo Grid technology.

Think breakthrough British EMS VCS3, which made musical history upon its introduction in 1969 by being the first commercially portable synthesiser available anywhere in the world, thanks to its innovative modular matrix-based patchboard dispensing with the telephone exchange-like cabling of other (much larger) modular systems in favour of making space-saving connections with (removable) coloured pins; part of the genius of today’s LONDON CONTEMPORARY ORCHESTRA TEXTURES sample-based virtual instrument library lies in its inspired interface it shares with other Spitfire Audio products. Positioning ‘pins’ via an onscreen 10 x 32 grid arrangement allows access to recordings across 12 intervals — in this instance, instantly select which Evo (evolution) sits on each of those 12 key ranges, or generate randomised evolutions.

For more in-depth information, including superb-sounding audio demos from the usual suspects at Spitfire Audio alongside a number of special guest compositions from fellow LCO co-principal conductors and Artistic Directors Robert Ames and Hugh Brunt, please visit the dedicated LONDON CONTEMPORARY ORCHESTRA TEXTURES webpage.

Watch lead Spitfire Audio composer Oliver Patrice Weder’s ‘In Action’ video for LONDON CONTEMPORARY ORCHESTRA TEXTURES

Watch Spitfire Audio’s awe-inspiring aircraft hanger-hosted trailer video for LONDON CONTEMPORARY ORCHESTRA TEXTURES

LONDON CONTEMPORARY ORCHESTRA TEXTURES needs Native Instruments’ free KONTAKT PLAYER (5.6.8 or higher) — included in the purchase — to run as a fully NKS (NATIVE KONTROL STANDARD®) supporting plug-in instrument for Mac (OS X 10.10 or later) or Windows (7, 8, or 10 — latest Service Pack, 32/64-bit), while Spitfire Audio’s free Download Manager application allows anyone to buy now and download anytime.

Background

What really separates LONDON CONTEMPORARY ORCHESTRA TEXTURES from what has gone before it is the unlikely location chosen to record its namesake source material. Musically speaking, achieving a stunning, spacious sound involved finding a uniquely vast performance space, which led the LONDON CONTEMPORARY ORCHESTRA TEXTURES team to Old Jet, a decommissioned aircraft hangar in Suffolk, England. Originally built to test American fighter planes, its soundproof qualities and a remarkable 10-second reverb tail made it the perfect setting from within which to blend and bring to life the multifaceted, otherworldly textures to which the resultant release owes its notable name.

Needless to say, Spitfire Audio’s Harry Wilson worked in close collaboration with the LCO during every step of the way, with much attention to detail required when recording in such an extraordinary live space since even the smallest sound could crucially disturb a carefully crafted take in what was meant to be a controlled environment. Enter LCO Co-Principal Conductor and Artistic Director Hugh Brunt with a thoughtful take on Old Jet’s inspirational influence on the productive proceedings therein: “You don’t have to create too much sound to agitate the air — what you receive back from the room is an incredible richness of overtones and warmth of sound. We discovered sounds that you couldn’t create without that space and orchestration — for example, a harpist bowing in an attacked way gives you a lot of high end which normally dies away quickly, so we added viola and cello harmonic sul pont to lengthen that attack and pick up the overtones, while the room strengthened its resonance.”

Recording reality dictated that the LCO’s process of workshopping welcomed creative input from each of its world-class performers added character and colour to each note carefully captured for LONDON CONTEMPORARY ORCHESTRA TEXTURES, as attested to by fellow LCO Co-Principal Conductor and Artistic Director Robert Ames. “We were in a position where we could be completely experimental; in that space, certain notes and articulations would ring in a certain way, so we played off that and changed things accordingly,” he notes, before adding: “Writing for a long reverb is a really fascinating thing to do. Trying to predict how the space is going to feed back into the notes you’ve written for is a really interesting thing. To have an orchestra to play with when curating these sounds… it’s like the ultimate synthesiser!”

So, from conception to recording, the process was clearly curated and orchestrated in intricate detail. In selecting the instrumentation for each group of textures, the LONDON CONTEMPORARY ORCHESTRA TEXTURES team collectively focused on the idea that every musical sound can be broken down into three distinct areas — namely, the hit at the front, the sustain in the middle, and the decay or release at the end — and then chose a select instrument or ensemble to inhabit each of those areas, blended together and lengthened by the resonance of the vast space involved. Indeed, all concerned managed to retain the intimacy and expression of each sound by keeping the ensemble small and only recording up to five musicians at a time. Those combinations of instruments were subsequently split into four groups — Ethereal, Mercurial, Quantum, and Astral — appropriately named in keeping with the soundscapes evoked by each bespoke combination. All are distinct in orchestration, techniques, and evolutionary style, but are also designed to compliment each other when layered together. This experimental approach allowed Spitfire Audio to take the resultant sounds to a completely new space, using unconventional techniques, such as introducing vibrating foreign objects to the instruments; experimenting with quarter tone variants, adding fifths and extra octaves; introducing a variety of bowed textures — bowed harp, bowed marimba, bow hairs threaded through piano strings; and singers using different parts of their voices to create raspy tones.

The recording expertise and acclaimed Evo Grid technology attributed to Spitfire Audio adds extra dimensions to each sample, so LONDON CONTEMPORARY ORCHESTRA TEXTURES users ultimately are offered a distinctive, ever-changing kaleidoscope of progressive techniques with instant playability. Performers can choose between a range of mic positions for extra control — Close, Tree, Ambient, and Outrigger; add plate reverb; or stretch the samples on each individual texture to taste. The Close mics yield much closer attention to detail, while still giving a sense of the expanse and warmth of the supersonic-sounding space within Old Jet! Jesting apart, every sound has been mixed by renowned engineer Joe Rubel (who has worked with the likes of Brit singer-songwriter extraordinaire Ed Sheeran), with an option to choose his definitive mix.

Musical mission accomplished, Robert Ames appropriately signs off by airing his hopes and dreams for the dream library latest that is LONDON CONTEMPORARY ORCHESTRA TEXTURES: “My hope for composers is that they get a taste of what it’s like to be with the LCO in the studio — a snapshot of the kind of creativity that happens between composers, orchestrators, and musicians, distilled into a library.” A library like no other, no less. Literally through the power of sampling, Spitfire Audio again succeeds in creating new instruments that could not be recreated outside a sampler — making the impossible possible!

Conclusions

London Contemporary Orchestra Textures uses Spitfire Audio’s rich heritage and continued innovation to create stunning sounding orchestral arrangements. The unusual combination of instrumentation, playing techniques and acoustics results in very interesting and unique sounds that have an organic, evolving feel.

The presets are excellent yet still offer lots of scope to customise and tweak them through effects, microphone placement, dynamics and expression. If you start with a blank grid you can create virtually unlimited possibilities.

I’ve used it exclusively on the album embedded at the top of this review. The songs were scoped out using Rapid Composer and sounds are processed with a range of Eventide effects. I’ve also used Polygon by Glitchmachines for some background effects.

Using London Contemporary Orchestra Textures

The interface will be familiar if you’ve used some other Spitfire Audio libraries and has the modern look and feel we’ve come to expect.

The typical Kontakt controls are at the top of the screen, the EVO grid occupies the left hand side of the display with mic settings, dynamics, variation and expression settings (can be assigned to controllers) and FX controls on the right.

It should be noted that only 16 EVOs are displayed on the grid at any time, you can access the others using the slider at the bottom. The EVO grid lets you place the pegs in any position you like but there’s also a very handy randomise option shown by the dice. This allows you to randomise in a number of different ways. The smaller grid below allows you to determine whether the EVO is processed by the FX chain and adjust the volume and pan settings.

Each evolution is named appropriately for its sound:

Ethereal (orange) – singers, percussion, cello

Mercurial (blue) – woodwind, strings, harp

Quantum (pink) – woodwind, strings, piano

Astral (green) – similar to Quantum but substitutes the felt piano for woodwind.

What’s really interesting with the microphones is their settings can alter textures considerably i.e. change to the individual mics rather than the engineered mix and randomise the settings to give some awesome textures. The individual mics are close, main, room (most distant) and the fully engineered mix.

Some of the very long evolution textures change with the variation slider. This along with the dynamics and expression settings gives a huge amount of control.

When you load a preset, the display is not the EVO grid format but a simplified display with 2 extra mic controls. These are plate reverb and stretched that give much slower than normal evolutions and you can get great results mixing this with the closer mic sound. The curated presets blend sounds across the whole library.