It’s the summer! Wow where did the time go – what happened to May I wonder? Anyway, here we are again for another round up of what’s cool and happening in the world of computer music. Today we’re going to be looking at the new Arturia V Collection, getting into VST Hosting with Freestlye, feeling all wobbly with Ouput Movement, controlling Ableton with Screenforge Yeko, street fighting with SmithsonMartins Kontrol Master, checking out the new Focusrite Scarletts, getting our cables in a twist with Softtube modular, poking Reason 9 and getting our fingers on the first universal midi controller app for Windows 10 called yMIDI.
But first the news that Sony has sold almost all of its creative software to MAGIX, the home of MAGIX music maker. This includes ACID, Sound Forge and Vegas. I’ve used Sound Forge for decades as my dedicated audio editor and Vegas is what i use to create these videos. I’ve found Vegas to be absolutely the fastest, most DAW like video editor on the market – i like the way it works and they way it thinks whereas the others like Premier just leave me baffled. It’s struggled a bit with stability over the last year or so and the frustration with the lack of development has encouraged me to look elsewhere but i keep coming back to Vegas. So will Magix strip it of assets and reuse it elsewhere or will they nuture it to new heights? We will see. They do own both Samplitude and Sequoia so they do have professional software in their portfolio.
Arturia v Collection
There are 17 synths, organs and keyboards in this stunning collection from Arturia. The interfaces have been reworked and restyled and they are gorgeous. You have various size options to fit huge definition screens and all the knobs are completely touchable – although not all the menus are. They look amazing, sound amazing and include some of the most authentic vintage sounds out there. Check out my video on running them on the Surface Pro 4.
Freestyle is a VST host for hosting VSTs…. So you can load up a bunch of virtual synths and layer them across a keyboard, add some effects and basically create a multi patch for performance and playing around. It’s been ages since a new one of these came along and the current offerings from Forte and others are all looking a bit ropey and long in the tooth. Freestyle is bang up to date and currently in beta. It shows thumbnails of all your synths and effects and you can just drag them in and the interface adapts to accommodate them. I really like it. It could be an awesome thing on a tablet but the touch isn’t quite there yet but maybe that’s something that’ll improve once released. Otherwise, brilliant, go check it out.
Output, makers of a bunch of innovative Kontakt instruments have released their first effect plug-in. They’re calling it Movement and it’s a modulation, delay, filter type thing that creates a lot of interesting movement and choppiness. It sounds great, a lot of fun to play with but costs quite a bit at £179 – ouch.
The Yeco is a strangely named touch controller for Ableton Live and it’s not even on the iPad – this is for proper big touch screens running on real computers for controlling real software. It uses both MIDI and OSC for close control and two way communication and gives you all the finger fun that’s missing from Ableton on its own. The whole reason i moved to Bitwig was because Live had become a pain in the arse when all i wanted was some multi-touch action. This could make Ableton favourable again. You have MIDi control pages, clip launching, mixer, a virtual keyboard and a virtual Hex thing. Looks just right to me and i’ll be doing a full review of this soon.
Smithson Martin Kontrol Master
That other touch software company SmithsonMartin have released an awesome looking MIDI controller called the Kontrol Master. Although they don’t seem to be called SmithsonMartin anymore, they seems to be called Touch Innovations – at least the website is, all their social media is still SmithsonMartin. So assuming they are still in business it looks like a retro arcade controller but it’s actually for controlling music software. The big knob controls whatever you put your mouse over and the buttons can be mapped to whatever you like. It seems like not a lot of functionality in a large bit of hardware but it also looks like a load of fun.
Focsurite have updated their Scarlett range of interfaces to become 2nd generation. They come in better boxes with better preamps and apparently much better drivers – this is key because Focusrite drivers are generally mediocre at best and so this could remove the annoying hesitation I have when trying to recommend them.
Would you believe, here’s an actual universal windows 10 app. I’ve mentioned it before but now Jim from Level 6 productions has released two new versions – a more general customisable touch controller called yMIDI Toolbox and a mobile version for running on a Windows phone. It doesn’t have the design flair of something like Emulator from SmithsonMartion/Touch Innovations but is has everything you need to build the MIDI controller of your dreams – and it’s getting better all the time because Jim listens and then does some more coding and bam – we have backgrounds! It’s a couple of quid – if you have a touch screen then check it out.
Modular synths always seem like a good idea, then after half an hour of not being able to get any sound out the reality of real modular kind of hits home – it’s complicated. With most so called modular synths all the hard stuff is done for you and the cabling is hidden away – Reaktor Blocks is a good example. With Softube Modular the whole point is being real – is replicating the modular experience entirety and so if you don’t know how to wire an oscillator to an amplifier then you’re not going to get very far. Fortunately there’s a bunch of presets that show off it’s awesomeness. Modular is the real deal – sounds excellent and requires a bit of thought and knowhow to work with it – which is no bad thing. The only issue for me is that it doesn’t look amazing, it just looks a bit….. So so, which is a shame in this day and age.
Today Propellerheads releases Reason 9 – a whole new version of their popular retro synth workstation DAW. There’s new player devices which are essentially MIDI plugins – there’s a 1000 new sounds from awesome people – there’s Melodyne style pitch editing – bounce in place – visual themes and audio to mIDI detection. What there isn’t is any new synths which i think will be a major disappointment. Although with the combinator functionality you have the ability to build extraordinary combination synths with what’s already there – but we always like to have new synths because there’s been nothing new in that department since the arrival of Thor in version 7 in 2013. It was a disappointment with version 8 and it looks like Propellerheads have learned nothing from that for version 9.
And finally – we’re about to vote on whether to stay in the EU or leave and hang out with ourselves, watching boxsets behind closed curtains in our pants. The amount of rubbish knocking around the internet about both campaigns is truly mind blowing. And i am constantly amazed at the reasons given by people who want to leave. We are not qualified to make this decision – we voted for a government who are supposed to make the hard decisions – they have access to the right information and can make an informed choice – we have nonsense and fairy tales. All i know is that selling to places like Norway and Switzerland is an absolute pain in the arse in terms of paperwork, customs and taxes – it’s a nightmare and apparently we want that with the every single individual country? I would much rather be connected to people, communicating and trading with people and working together for a better world – you can’t do that by shutting your doors and walking away.