Anyway, as I said, not one regret.
Whilst I didn't feel the need to continue using hardware, I have still needed some form of external control for the software. The Novation series of ReMOTE controllers are too large and cumbersome for my minimalist requirements, so I was quite delighted to get this little controller from Akai. It has 8 pads which can be linked to things such as Native Instruments' Battery 3 drum sampler or the various sample players from Superwave that I use. It also has 8 pots that are very handy for controller different parameters on both software-based synths and effects/processing units. The biggest plus for me is it's size as I can comfortably use it on my smaller computer desk without it taking a lot of space.
I've never made any secret of the fact that i am a big fan of the Evolution MIDI keyboard controller. I have four of them now and the latest addition was the 5 octave MK-461C keyboard. You mat be wondering why I would go for this, considering I already have the 4 octave MK-449C, which is essentially the same unit, Well, it is to do with the extra octave on the keyboard and there are extra controllers, which makes a difference. Being a piano player, I like to have as long a keyboard as possible - if Evolution had made a full size 88 note version, I would have it. And as I said at the beginning, the Evolutions are simply great keyboards. Straight-forward, no fuss, easy to use and will talk to anything you connect it to.
I know I said that I wouldn't be getting anymore hardware, but I gave myself something of a get-out clause when I added that I would still be looking at effects pedals. And here we are with the latest addition to my little collection. The Behringer US600 is basically a pitch-shifter with added harmoniser, and whilst it is primarily designed for use with guitars, it works great with vocals. I got this as part of an multi-media art project I am working on with my partner, Anne Mancini-Smith.
I got the the first incarnation of The Oddity, a very highly regarded emulation of the classic ARP Odyssey synthesizer, a while back and it's been a workhorse synth. When I heard about this update, I was more than little excited and had my money there ready as soon as I could for the pre-order. My enthusiasm was further fed after talking with one o it's creators, Dave Spiers, at the I Speak Machine performance held at the Southbank Centre in London at the end of September 2014, and also by conversations with Tim Dorney of the group Republica who used a beta version when republica played as guests on the Autumn 2014 Boomtown rats tour. When my download arrived and was duly installed, I was not disappointed in the slightest, and now consider it to be one of my main "go to" synths. In fact, it's made some of my other synths redundant, it's THAT versatile. I love GForce software and over the course of the coming year, I will be adding another couple of pieces to the collection
I've always had a high regard for ReFX products, notably their Nexus 2 rompler and this little beauty, Vanguard. It's full on, it's brash and it's in your face. Interestingly, many people WRONGLY consider that it's main use is for dance/club/trance etc music, but it is in fact perfect for less "banging music" style genres, as very capably demonstrated by ne of my favourite sound designers, BigTone (I purchased the 3 available BigTone soundsets when I got Vanguard). The on-board arpeggiator and gate are highly useful and with a little attention to programming, can create some wonderfully cosmic sequency rhythmic tones, atmospheres and effects. I ran a couple of basic sequences using Vanguard alongside the Oddity 2, ImpOSCar 2 and Omnisphere - you'll hear it on the "Hollow Sun" ;-)
Waves Abbey Road EMI TG12345 channel strip:
I like Waves products, they look great. And when you get something that sounds as great as it looks, it's a real bonus. And this is one of those bonus things. The Abbey Road EMI TG12345 is a channel strip based on the legendary mixing console used at the Abbey Road Studios during the late 60's and the 70's. Notable albums recorded on these consoles were by the Beatles ("Abbey Road") and Pink Floyd ("The Dark Side of the Moon", "Wish You Were Here"). Comprising a wonderful EQ section and compressors that are simply amazing, the TG12345 channel strip provides a certain warmth, richness and character to your recordings, whilst retaining a lovely bright crisp sound.
Sometimes, you need something really shit in your arsenal and nothing comes much shitter than the RatShack reverb from the bonkersly brilliant Audio Damage. Now you may be asking yourself "what the hell?" and it is as you must, but when I use the term "shit" in this context, it's a good thing. The RatShack Reverb is based on the truly awful Realistic Electronic Reverb from U.S. electronics company Radio Shack, and is a very true emulation, right down to hum and distortion as well as feedback capabilities. The beauty of this plugin is that when pushed to extremes, the sonic possibilities are quite something. Even Audio damage themselves state that RatShack "accurately recreates the suck of the original" and even going as far as saying that "never before has a vintage effect of such low quality been as painstakingly modeled as Ratshack Reverb v2.0". That's just about the coolest sales pitch I have ever seen. And yeah, I love the Ratshack reverb.
Keeping the theme of vintage gear emulations, we now have the GS-201 from Italian software house GSi. The more musically inclined aong you will immediately see that it's a recreation of the fanous and huighly sought after Roland RE-201 Space Echo unit. Let me tell you that having used RE-201's in my past, this little plugin really does an amazing job and I cannot recommend it enough. Lots of nice little detail and one feature that really sold the GS-201 to me as the lack of tempo-synching to your DAW - just like using a real echo machine. The analog quality is there as are the little foibles associated with vintage echo units such as shifting pitch when increasing echo rate, self-oscillation , wow and flutter and signal degradation on higher feedback levels. For the price, this little plugin delivers the kind of results you would expect on more high end products.
Eventide. A wonderful name. And a company that makes wonderful products. Wonderful products that aren't in the lower end of the budget by any stretch of the imagination. That said, there is a certain truth in that you get what you pay for and quality is almost guaranteed with an Eventide product. I nearly fell over when I saw that Eventide were, for a brief period of time, giving this channel strip away, and what's more is that it is a fantastic product. With the Abbey Road EMI TG12345 channel strip you have warmth and character, with the Eventide UltraChannel you have clarity, crispness and an amazing level of control over your tracking/mix in one unit.
Another emulation of vintage gear, this time a terrific software version of the classic and revered EMS VCS 3 XILS-Lab. This is a cut-down version of a fuller product, but what's missing doesn;t take away from the sound at all, as it's more akin to the priginlal this way. When you eventually get a sound out o it, it's fantastic - yes it's a bastard to patch up, particularly if you're a newcomer to the madness that is the VCS 3. And I think that's a part of the sheer enjoyment of this product because when you start to get something out of it after hours of head scratching, it's an achievement. The built-in sequencer is a delight, particularly when used in conjunction with the on-board delay. For those Jean Michel-Jarre bubbley moments, this is the biscuit.
I am a confirmed Reaper user, but I have a lot of old files that were created using an older version of Cubase and now as my system is 64-bit I was having some difficulty in accessing them. So, I bit the bullet and rather than buy the full Cubase program, I got this cut down version. I can now access old music files and that makes me happy. Don;t get me wrong, Cubase is a good program, as is this Elements version, but i do prefer the less bloated and equally feature laden Reaper.
I both wanted and needed a good strong piano plugin that didn't break the bank and wasn't sample-based. Now whilst Pianissimo is sample-based, it ticks the boxes in everything else and then some. It uses a very effective combination of samples and physical modeling that provides for an amazing acoustic grand piano sound. The samples were done using a Steinway Model D grand piano, and this coupled with some rather complex signal processing and programming, effectively recreates the warmth, response, and playability of a real grand piano. You get alot of control over many differnt parameters, 256 voices of polyphony, and CPU usage is surprisingly very low. I've tried out quite a few piano plugins and I have to say that Pianissimo is one of the very best.
A very simple piece of software but one that does exactly what it says n the tin, and does it so incredibly well. I've enjoyed using the Pro Gate on everything from drums to vocals to synth sequences and just about everything in between and each time, the pro gate comes but with the goods. Don't be put off by the low price, it's a premium quality product.
I'm a massive fan of the Minimal System Group's products - I have quite a few of them on my system and use them all the time. Another channel strip and this one is as good as the Waves and Eventide. A big statement, but that's what I think based upon what I have experienced with this budget plugin that gives so much more than it promises. A high level of control over your sound, warmth, character and a certain sound quality that sets this aside from many of the other similar products on the market. The price is jaw-dropping and I have had nothing but great service and communications with MSG.
Another excellent MSG product that sits on the master output channel and takes care of proceedings nicely. Coupled with the Waves C4 multi-band compressor and the MSG Pro EQ, the Mastering Limiter is a valuable piece of kit in my mastering chain.
Now here's a serious bit of sound-mangling kit, Clitch 2. The name is a massive clue as what this wee plugin is about and boy does it deliver. I used the first freeware version and loved it's chaos, it's lunacy and it's unashamedly destructive capabilities. This second commercial affair takes the originakl to new heights without falling down when you get there. Sharp, aggressive and satanically brilliant. get it. End of story.
IK Multimedia Vintage Compressors Bundle:
Completing my collection of processing plugins is this utterly excellent bundle from IK Multimedia. Comprising three emulations of classic compressors along with a compressor that has what one would consider to the best features of the ideal opto-compressor. On the emulation front are what are considered to be amongst the best software versions of the classic Urei 1176 Limiting Amplifier and Tectronix LA-2A Levelling Amplifier and the absolute holy grail of compressors, the legendary Fairchild 670. My initial fiddlings with these plugins have been a sheer pleasure and I fully get everything the reviews say about them. Used in conjunction with other products such as the Waves Abbey Road EMI TG12345, the MSG Pro Channel and the Eventide UltraChannel, theses compressors provide a wicked pallette of opportunities to create some very sweet sounding mixes. And yes, IK Multimedia are another company that I really like.
|Tara Busch of I Speak Machine|
|Bruce Watson - Big Country|
|John Cooper Clarke|
|Bob Geldof - Boomtown Rats|