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Archive for January, 2008

Omnisphere Will Soon Be Here

I asked Stephen Kay, master synth programmer for Korg and inventor of KARMA, “What did you see at NAMM that impressed you the most?� Without missing a beat, he said, “Spectrasonics’ new Omnisphere.� So I strolled over to the Spectrasonics booth to have a look for myself. I had already missed a series of full-length demos given to large groups of NAMM attendees, so company founder and creative director Eric Persing graciously agreed to give me a brief personal demonstration. It was his final demo during NAMM, so I shot him. We’ll try to post a video clip on this site within the week.

Omnisphere is the forthcoming flagship soft synth from the makers of Stylus RMX, Trilogy, and Atmosphere. Containing many times the sample content of all those programs, it incorporates the new STEAM Engine, which will also be the basis of future Spectrasonics products. Omnisphere combines just about any synthesis architecture you’ve ever heard of (granular, FM, polyphonic ring mod, timbre shifting, and lots more) with some very unusual samples, complex modulation routing, and a new technique for morphing one instrument’s harmonics into another’s. And I was floored by its method for drawing and assigning finely detailed modulation envelopes and arpeggiation patterns in real time. Just about everything else I saw this week had a projected ship date around the end of February, but not this one. Look for Omnisphere on September 15 (they promise it won’t be late), selling for $499.

A Blast from the Past Foretells the Future

Today I had a semi-private demonstration of Kurzweil’s PC3X, the resurrected company’s first new keyboard in several years to incorporate VAST technology. The latest variation in the old K-Series’ synthesis architecture is called Dynamic VAST, apparently because you can specify as many components as you need to construct whatever sound you’re aiming for, and you can save your own algorithms as starting places for future sounds.

The factory-programmed voices I heard very accurately reproduced a tremendous variety of signature sounds from music made popular over the past few decades, from Led Zeppelin and David Bowie to the latest hip-hop hits, and it absolutely excels at orchestral and piano sounds. Judging by first impressions, I was simply blown away by the quality of every patch, without exception. Running off custom integrated circuits, the PC3X is a 128-note polyphonic instrument with an 88-note keyboard and an onboard multitrack sequencer. It’s expected to sell for around three grand and ship by the end of February. Or as they say around here, N.A.M.M. (Not Available, Maybe March)!

A Cool Classic in New Threads

There’s something new at Universal Audio, crafted from hand-picked components, including new old stock (NOS) vintage vacuum tubes and custom-wound CineMag input and output transformers. It’s the LA-610 Signature Edition, a limited run version of UA’s respected LA-610 channel strip, comprising a mic preamp, DI, EQ, and opto compressor. Only 500 will be manufactured, and each will be signed by Bill Putnam, Jr. With a black faceplate and an electroluminescent front panel, the Signature Edition costs about $500 more than UA’s standard LA-610, and it’s destined to become a collector’s item.

NAMM ’08

Maurice Gainen here. My studio, Maurice Gainen Productions (what else?) was profiled by Matt Gallagher in the Mix July ’07 edition. NAMM is awesome….I’ve been here almost every year for about 20 years. I recommend coming on Thursday first thing as it is empty and you can get maximum face time with all the reps, tech people and any of the many stars haniging out that you may run into. Highlight for me was running into Stevie Wonder and getting a picture. Other cool things: Mix publication Electronic Musician has been re-designed and looks great. Cool gear and software: Waves, Fishman “Aura” acoustic guitar shound shaping boxes, Guitar Rig 3, ProTools 7.4 “Elastic time”, Melodyne and Serrato Pitch ‘n Time. Nice live performances all over the floor. Free champagne and DJ jam 5:00 everyday at Propellerhead (Reason). Saturday is cool for networking and seeing old friends………it’s packed and loud, a real party. Final word: The gear is GREAT!! It’s up to us to make great music. Therein lies the challenge…have a good one!

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The Mini Skinny: SSL Duende Mini

Following up the success of its Duende FireWire DSP unit, SSL has introduced Duende MINI, a hardware box about the size of an external hard drive, but including the same DSP processing power of the 1U rackmount Duende. While the Duende comes with 32-channel capability, the $799 Duende Mini starts out with 16 channels–upgradeable to 32 for $399. Out of the box, Duende Mini includes SSL’s EQ and Dynamic Channel plug-in and can host other SSL Duende-powered plug-ins, such as the X-EQ and X-Comp. If you upgrade the Duende Mini to 32 channels and add the Stereo Bus Compressor plug-in for $399, you’d essentially have the same capability of the original Duende at the same price. Duende Mini is schedule to ship in February.

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iZotope RX Plug-Ins

The folks at iZotope announced that their RX audio restoration software will be released soon as a group of five plug-ins. Each plug-in will handle the duties of one of RX’s five modules. The modules include Spectral Repair, which lets you zero in on a specific part of the audio using a spectral display, and then attenuate and otherwise process it. The Declipper takes audio that is clipped and restores it. The other modules are the Hum Remover, Declicker, and Denoiser. Overall, it’s an excellent Audio Restoration package, and with the plug-ins will now be even more flexible.
The plugs will be included with the standalone version of RX, which lists for $349 (standard version) and $1199 (Advanced version with additional tweaking options).

METAlliance Goes Pro

METAlliance today announced a Pro Partner program, inviting professional audio manufacturers to join the founding Board of Directors in recognizing quality and high-resolution in the recording arts. The first group of manufacturers, Audio-Technica, Cakewalk, GML, JBL Pro, Lexicon, Manley Labs, Millennia Media, Royer Labs, Sanken and Universal Audio, have joined METAlliance founding members Ed Cherney, Frank Filipetti, George Massenburg, Phil Ramone, Elliot Scheiner and Al Schmitt to recognize the call for quality in the recording arts. “We’re living in an era where formats are reduced in resolution,”Frank Filipetti said. “There are high-res formats in video and film, but we’re going backwards in audio.”

Under this new alliance, METAlliance member manufacturers will have their products evaluated by the panel. Gear is put through exhaustive testing procedures, and for a product to be certified, it must be approved unanimously by the entire “Gang of Seven.”

“Some may argue that there is no need for higher quality because the average consumer doesn’t care,” said Jim Pace, METAlliance director of business affairs. “It’s not a question of bandwidth or delivery anymore. So who is the METAlliance speaking to? One group would be the people who buy these products here at NAMM-people who try to create and craft their art in any way they can. Because they work to get it right, these are the ‘consumers’ that realize it’s worth it to get the full sonic experience at home or wherever they play music. It doesn’t have to be ‘almost good enough,’ it can be a truly fulfilling experience.”

Tell plosives to hiss off with Sonnox Oxford SuprEsser plug-in


Sonnox has introduced its first plug-in since becoming an independent company in April 2007. With the new SuprEsser plug-in, it is attempting to fill the void of a professional quality de-esser in plug-in form. The highly featured SuprEsser includes a Simple mode for fast fixes, but also effectively doubles as a linear phase dynamic EQ when used in Advanced mode. Employing three listening modes and an intuitive visual waveform display, users can locate the problem frequencies quickly.

SuprEsser is scheduled to ship this March in RTAS, AU and VST formats for a price of $315. It will also be available for Sonnox’s customized bundles, in which customers can receive a discount of up to 40 percent, depending on the number of plug-ins they buy.

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MSR Adds to Studio Acoustic

Well, we’re in the midst of day 3 here at Winter NAMM and just got back from the MSR booth — way down in Hall E among the majority of the musical instruments — and they’ve got some exciting innovations coming. In addition to their complete line of acoustical products for the brick-and-mortar studios, MSR also takes a tiered approach to working with studio owners — from mobile units to the project studio in your house — developing three separate lines of acoustical materials based on the studio owner’s space, project and needs. If you aren’t at the show, check them out online at

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Baby on Board


The latest mode of NAMM transportation, caught by our roving cellphone reporter…

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The Bus, EM's editorial blog, features posts from all the EM editors on topics related to gear, recording techniques and much more. It's also home to posts from a selected group of guest bloggers.


January 2008
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