Thursday, March 15, 2012

Well, it's been a while since I've updated this blog.  Truth be told – I'd all but abandoned it.  In fact I was contemplating deleting it, fearing that it would eventually become an embarrassment!  Oh how irony strikes!

So here we are, it's update time.  Now where were we?  Oh yes, product reviews.

Well, I've accumulated several products from the retail market as well as many more from the freeware market. I'll start with those from the retail market.

Synapse Audio:
Orion v8.5 - $250
DUNE v1.40 - $140
EKS-Pro v2.0 - $40

iDrum v1.73 - $60

Harmless VSTi/Fruity v1.0.9 - $80
FL Studio v10.0.9 Producer Edition - $200

*All prices rounded up to the nearest even dollar amount. Basically take a $1 off each one. lol

Now, lets take a look at each product.

Orion v8.5 – Retail $250 ($125 with Black Friday 50% discount)

Orion is a complete virtual studio.  This product can take you from concept to final product with ease.  I have personally seen several projects to this stage, yet industrial duo NOVAkILL has recorded and mastered 3 full albums with little more than Orion.  It comes complete with an abundant amount of built in generators and effects.  Here's a list

DrumRack (1x, 4x, 8x Stereo Outputs)
Piano (Sample Based Acoustic Grand Piano)
Pro-9 (1x, 6x, 11x Stereo Outputs)
Sampler/Groove Slicer (1x, 4x, 8x, 16x Stereo Outputs. Opens WAV, SF2, KZR, AKAI)

Plucked String
Toxic v2.3.1 (Orion Edition)*
Toxic III v1.41

*Features a completely rewritten source code.

Over 40 built in effects including three effect holders to build custom chains that only occupy a single mixer insert.

Large Sample Content Provided by YellowTools

ReWire (Host only)


Audio Channel for Direct Recording (vocals or instrument) [Theoretically you should be able to record guitar or bass track through this but I have yet to succeed due to my machine or I/O Interface's abilities.]

Midi Out

Also included are the Legacy Effects & Synths for backward compatibility for existing Orion users, however they can be accessed via a Template created by Kriminal.  While their use is discouraged by Synapse, I find it amusing to play around with them on my goof off time.

We all know that a list of features like this means nothing if they are all junk, I can assure you that nothing included in Orion v8.5 is junk.  This Virtual Studio has been designed to be productive without the need of any other plugin or product what-so-ever.  The novice user may find Orion a little complicated at first but once they start to learn how to use each aspect of the studio they quickly find themselves comfortable with its workflow.

While WASP 5 looks almost identical to WASP XT by Image-Line it has its unique qualities and is probably one of the most underrated generators in the Orion arsenal.  Other 'sleepers' are Ultran and WaveFusion along with the Sampler.

Users of Reason coming into the open environment of VST/VSTi, will appreciate that the Synapse team has worked hard to eliminate redundancies.  The same logic Propellerhead has applied to Reason (where in an over abundance of effects being present is avoided if the same result can be achieved via combinating) Synapse Audio has obviously applied to Orion.  In fact I would hazard the statement that Orion is the ideal VST/VSTi host for the ReWire users of ReBirth and Reason.

Orion v8.5 is almost fully skin-able and comes with a skinning utility by Dr. Synth.

There's a lot of buzz surrounding the up coming updates to Orion including a rewritten source code for Toxic III.  I personally hope Synapse keeps up the trend of including older synths that were once individual retail products such as their own Scorpion! -hint hint Richard-  Over all I am 100% satisfied with the purchase of this product and any 'wants' or 'wishes' I may have would only be icing on the cake.

Most of my work has been done (until recently) exclusively in Orion 8.5 and can be heard here.

I intend to publish a more in depth review of both Orion and Synapse Audio at a later time.

DUNE v1.40 - Retail $140 ($70 with 50% discount bundled with EKS-Pro)

Differential UNison Engine

I do not know where to begin describing this synth.  It's simply amazing.  I was able to get the plugin at a 50% discount this past holiday season and absolutely feel like I robbed someone when price verses value is considered.

3 Ocs, 3 LFO's, 17 Filter types and combinations, FM, RM, ADSR Envelops for Amp, Filter and Mod...the list is huge!

The interface presents itself like a rearranged version of WASP, but fans of WASP 5 should prepare to step into a whole new world!

DUNE includes 383 professional patches (plus init patch) in three banks with so many more commercially available, or for free.  DUNE is adept at creating cinematic soundscapes, as well as traditional Bass and Lead synths of all styles, and its MOD Matrix is the ideal tool for blatant experimentation!

I've been able to run up to 6 instances of DUNE simultaneously before I experience processor problems.

Version 1.40 introduces effect arrangement (my only problem with previous versions – just don't ask how I know).

EKS-Pro v2.0 – Retail $40 ($20 with 50% discount bundled with DUNE)

Electronic Kick-drum Synth

This is just what the expanded acronym says it is.  It makes kick drums like it invented the kick!  When I installed this plugin I had a friend next to me with his own pair of monitors and when I previewed Patch number 2 he outburst, and I quote, “OH MY GOD THAT KICK ALONE IS WORTH WHAT YOU PAID!”

FL Studio users can template EKS-Pro as their kick as opposed to the default sample loaded when starting your program and it works just the same, the only difference is that to change kick sounds no longer requires the loading of another sample.

This concludes the products by Synapse Audio, moving on to iZotope.

iDrum v1.73 – Retail $60

iDrum is an amazing drum sampler.  Hands down it's worth every cent of the $60 price tag.  Once upon a peg-leg I'd ignorantly assumed that iDrum would be one of those plugins with a simple function but an outrageously inflated price (sort of like Stutter Edit, seriously I understand its complexity but honestly it's nothing I couldn't do with a decent wave editor and a lot of time on my hands like back in 1999/2000...anyway) I was fortunately dead wrong.  This is probably why it's the only product I've paid full price for.

It has up to 8 output channels and loads multiple file types including Mp3.

Moving on to Image-Line.

Harmless VSTi/Fruity - Retail $80 ($40 during Image-Line's giving back sale)

At first glance Harmless seems just that, Harmless, but once you break the learning curve (which is nearly non-existent) you discover a world of options.

Unfortunately I have to report that my experiences with the VSTi version have been somewhat frustrating to say the least.  Some patches only occupy 10 to 15% of my CPU but others make a power-grab for up to 127% (at this point everything crashes or freezes up) and I'm reminded of my Sakura frustrations.  Yet this isn't exactly the case with the fruity version.  While yes the wide variance of CPU usage is present amongst the various patches the numbers are a little lower and less detrimental to the system.  In short the fruity version is much more stable.  Also with the fruity version you get several extra patches not present in the VSTi version.

Yet in spite of these problems I have been very satisfied with my purchase.  The only regret was that I could not get Harmor as originally intended.  In my demo experiences I've noticed that the two complement each other the way I use them.

FL Studio v10.0.9 Producer Edition – Retail $200 (My only cost was the irony.)

This product was acquired too recently for me to provide a proper review, however there exists an over abundance of reviews for the FL Studio line of products and the only input I would ultimately be able to provide is that I enjoy the product.  However a close friend of mine recently purchased the Signature Bundle, and at the risk of breaking all review etiquette, he is highly satisfied with his purchase.  I have personally listened to his breakdown of that bundle's value, and its my personal opinion as an owner of Producer Edition that both bundles are worth their price.  The best part is the lifetime updates, along with the fact that if I wish to upgrade to Signature it will only cost me $110.  In light of the above glowing review of Orion I feel that I should clarify why I would have had a desire for a copy of FL Studio in the first place.  1) I make a totally different kind of music in FL Studio. (This is the same logic behind my desire for Reason & Balance) 2) Collaborative compatibility with projects started by or with the above mentioned close friend.  See 'A word on the DAW Wars' below for further insight.

Ok, now that the product reviews have been taken care of, lets move on to the things I still want.

Synapse Audio – X-Poly, & Scorpion (should Richard approve the account purchase)
Image-Line – Harmor, PoiZone, Toxic Biohazard, Sawer, DirectWave VST, & Signature Bundle Upgrade.
NI – Massive, & Kontakt
Toontrack – EZ Drummer Lite Upgrade, Superior Drummer & and a few select SDX and EZX packs.
iZotope - Stutter Edit
reFX – Nexus2 & a few select expansions.

If you have seen any of these just roaming around free in the wild contact me! lol

A word on the DAW Wars

There is this perpetual pissing contest between the customers of every DAW software.  Everyone's DAW is better than everyone else.  If this is the honest case in the minds of those arguing then the following logic must be true.  Each DAW was created to cater to a certain customer base and genre of music.  It's that simple for Joe Blow FL Studio beats all because he's in their targeted demographic, just like So and So's Ableton Live is designed with his brain function in mind!  I just happen to be one of the lucky people who move through those walls and am highly productive in several different software environments.
Now, we should probably discuss the industry as a whole.

I've come to grips with the fact that some developers are sniffing glue when it comes to the price of their products.  Especially those that use dongles. (Save it I'm well aware of the dongle situation of reFX's Nexus2 and that if I get that product I'll have a big nasty thingy jutting out of my tower.) Lets discuss the dongle for a moment. 

In most cases this costs extra on top of the product price and this extra expense is placed on the customer. Something like $20 or $40.  Though it should be noted that sometimes the developer provides them in the initial cost and transaction, but beyond that its on the customer including replacement upon breakage which might require shipping it off to a lab so your licenses can be rescued.  This feature is nothing more than a protection feature guarding the software from you, the customer.  Yes, I am aware of the nasty crackers and hackers out there, but lets get real for a moment.  How many of the honest customers are about to reverse engineer the product they just bought to make music?  I guess any number beyond zero justifies the consumer paying for the software protection.  Yeah, that's right, with a dongle system, you the consumer are footing the bill to protect their product from you.  I'm not condoning warezing the dongle using developers – I'm just saying!

Ok, back to the glue sniffing code-jockys.  There have been many times I've taken limited demo experience and formulated this opinion about the price of a product and have discovered much later after a deeper appraisal of the product changed my mind.  Lets take Harmor for example.  I loved the sound from the first time I heard the plugin, but felt it was inflated in its price.  However after several months in demo mode (this includes completing several songs in one session using the plugin) I have come to the conclusion that, while the price is vastly out of my immediate reach, it is well worth the price.  Unfortunately this has only happened with Image-Line products due to their loose demo restrictions.  Other companies are either too restrictive for me to make this conclusion or don't even offer a fucking demo (or one that doesn't require a dongle)!  How in the hell is an mp3 of what the product is capable of in default mode going to show me what I can accomplish with it, much less justify dropping over $200?  It seems that those with dongles get privileges the general public just isn't entitled to.  Whats up with all this phallic bullshit? 

My dongle's bigger than yours!

Ok, I'm going to lay off this subject now.  It's too touchy for me to keep going, I don't wanna piss off someone with a bigger dick.  So lets discuss piracy as a whole.

If you're a cleaver one you've noticed that this is a central theme in my and if you've been attentive to my actions on Facebook you'll know that I am very vocal when it comes to the other forms of Piracy namely the forms attacked by the RIAA and the MPAA.

I want to make this very very very very clear.  So listen up and read it twice, thrice, or even six times if you're unsure about anything.

I do not condone software piracy.  The logic behind this is very simple.  It was software that brought us Mp3 and the internet and all kinds of file sharing which is the major weapon in the battle against the oppressive RIAA (the MPAA gets my wrath only by their association with my enemy I have no real beef with them) and it is software that makes my music possible.  I'd never bumrush guitar center and walk off with a guitar or bass, if I did then its quite possible that the company could stop making their instruments.  To pirate the software that's enabling the fight would be cannibalism.  Before I get accused of it, I'll admit it.  I almost completely agree with IMSTA's propaganda even though I suspect a little numbers fudging and convenient ignoring of certain facts, I agree with and support IMSTA.

The RIAA has been robbing the artists they claim to support since it was conceived and before that, it probably had a different name known to the likes of Elvis and Johnny Cash.  It's not like we made this up to justify the downloading of mp3's like the apocalypse is coming.  I still remember when I was 12 years old and learned the ugly truth about how much of my allowance actually went to the artists I loved and purchased all of their Tapes and CD's.  After that I couldn't go a week without finding a story of an artist screwed over by the industry and when I was about 17 I heard the story that sealed it.

You see, the only enemy in this is the RIAA and those who participate in their little games.  It's really sad because they are losing but just won't give up.  They have so much power and influence and their corruption is to the bone.  Take the time to logically contemplate their arguments and it becomes overwhelmingly apparent they are full of shit.  If we were to believe them, piracy is directly responsible for the collapse of the American economy.  The only reason they haven't used that argument yet is probably because it's so blatantly retarded (I shouldn't have said that, the mentally challenged don't deserve to be associated with the likes of the RIAA).  However, the software companies (especially those who develop pro-audio programs) are the first in the chain, followed by the artist, then the RIAA and it's only the RIAA that deserves to be driven into bankruptcy.  Times have changed and in this global society an artist can manage their own intellectual property, but that's the last thing they want.

So, does this mean I condone certain forms of piracy?  No, it means that I hate the RIAA and all associated agencies, if you download and pirate things directly connected to them that's your business and I have nothing to do with it.  I, for the purpose of simplified ethics and the fact that I don't want to end up in prison, do not pirate anything any longer.  So when I like a TorrentFreak article detailing the folly of the RIAA it means that I simply want them to pass away into the collective memory of bad ideas that plagued the creative community.

Death to the RIAA, but buy the software you use!

Now lets discuss software you don't have to buy! 

I'm not going to bother reviewing these products, they are free, if you try it and think it's shit you've lost nothing but time.

Radium by B. Serrano - You may have to create several copies named different to use multiple instances on a Multicore processor.

Rez3 by Ugo Audio - I HIGHLY recommend the payware sound sets available.

Purple & Purple 2 by Odo Synths - You may have to scour the Wayback Machine for these.

Wavosaur – Freeware/Donationware wave editor much akin to Sound Forge.

NoiseMaker by TAL - Great substitute for Massive in the Dubstep genre, here's an example.

Charlatan by BlauKraut Engineering – Very simple but effective Synth.

Amphetamine by eazytoolz - Or here at the bottom of the page.

Angular Momentum – Everything! In my opinion all of their products are of very high quality take them all for a test run see what you like.

NOVAkILL – It all depends.  According to the maker of the plugins 'Bones' all the older synths are junk but you just have to sift through them to find what you like.  I personally like EGOkILLER & COLDkILLER as well as their effects.

Glitch – Stutter Eddddddiiiiiiiiit who?

The entire MDA plugin suite

I also recommend getting a copy of Computer Music simply for the DVD and all the free software included.  Technically not free but you'll be amazed by the amount and quality of the plugins you get for about $17

P.S. Apparently KVR plans to reconcile many bannings, though I seriously doubt myself or this blog had anything to do with it.

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