Upon brief usage of ShortCircuit it becomes pretty obvious where the inspiration for the name came from. It's whole philosophy is geared towards the shortest route to being creative with samples. This is in stark contrast to the typical sample-players geared up to play back huge multisampled librarys we see today.
You see, back in MY hardware-sampler-owning days, samplers were these weird blocks of plastic and metal which people fed sounds into and did crazy s--t with. Sure, there were libraries (am I even spelling that right?), but they were an option among many choices. The sampler was a way of directly manipulating sounds and chopping, filtering, and distorting them into music with the aid of a sequencer.
THIS is what the freeware ShortCircuit is about! And that's a glorious thing. Take your samples, chuck them in, maybe set up some keysplits and crossfades, and from there-on in, we're in the familiar and wonderful world of creative synthesis. Of course, SC is said to respond to multisamples well, and will automagically map them where possible, not to mention chop up breakbeats and map them on command, but I've never tried it. I get this weird kick out of chopping up waveforms myself. Not sure why). Mainly I'm using it for breakbeats and oddball single shot samples.
Recently I've been using it to trawl through 70MB-worth of classic Amiga samples. They're 8-bit and sampled at a low rate due to the days of half-megabyte memory limitations, and so need to be pitched down in modern samplers. Thankfully, SC lets you audition samples within the context of your current patch, so once I had the parameters set, I was free to trawl through the mountain of samples with the cursor keys, with my other hand on the keyboard playing riffs from 90's computer games. This is also useful because you can audition samples with the envelopes and filtering you have set up, which aids the creative process of finding just the right sample for your arrangement.
Sound quality is impeccable. It really is. The effects use oversampling when needed, and apparently the sample playback engine uses some fancy maths... Personally sound quality isn't that important to me (a bit of grunge is always welcome as samples are not there to be 'real' in my world), but it's very much appreciated as another creative option which is there when it needs to be. And when it's not, there are myriad ways to dirty up the sound.
That pretty much sums ShortCircuit up. The fancy stuff is there, waiting like a well-spoken, skilled servant until it's needed. "Can I help you with that multisample, madam?" "Would you like a crossfade loop on that, or would sir prefer a spot of ping-pong?"
As stated in the tech blurb, you get two 'filters' (which can also be effects) in addition to the envelopes, slew generators, envelope follower, etc, and a 12-slot modulation matrix which can do things which would put a fully expanded Akai S3000XL in the asylum ("You're not a real sampler! You're just software! Look at me! I'm REAL! REAL DAMMIT!"). As well as controling filter cutoff and the usual synth fare, you can modulate the sample start and end points, loop points and length, envelope levels AND shapes, effect levels...
In otherwords, everything, basically. Because this is what sampling should be about. Doing creative manipulations on sound recordings. There are no flashy timestretch algos, no formant preservation, no.... um... whatever cutting edge widget is in the latest version of Kontakt... just good old-fashioned sampling fun :)
groups-->multi. Thats it. There's a plethora of filters available, and the modulation matrix is a monster. Each sample gets 2 filters, 2 EGs, 3 step sequencers, 2 lag generators, and an envelope follower. The modulation matrix has 12 slots with a huge list of modulation source and destinations. Each sample also has a waveform view. Making multisamples out of samples is pretty darn easy - just drag and drop, and SC will take care of the rest. It'll scan the filenames for possible root key information, and if it finds it, it'll map them out (for ex : Piano C1, Piano G1, Piano Bb1 will get mapped automatically according to their root note). It has a beat slicer for drum loops. Oh wait - that's a whole different world.
SC has a wonderful slicer with automapping. As you slice a drum loop, it'll automatically map it out to keys, and you can select "splits->zones" to chop up your samples to various zones, mapped to the keys. You can create some REALLY lo-fi grunge beats with this sampler, using just the filters. You can also do glitch, DnB, Techno, and pretty much everything out there. It doesn't have Disk streaming, which makes sense perhaps because all those modulations require reading off from the RAM. You can even modulate the sample start and the loop length. In short, Shortcircuit is sooo deep, and yet soo simple to use, that a caveman can start making beats with this. Not to mention the variety of sample formats it loads such as SF2, rex, battery, akai S5000/6000, sfz and ofcourse wave and aiff.
Did I mention its free? Free or commercial, this is one of the best samplers out there and it begs to be tweaked. Two thumbs up for vemberaudio for making this excellent sampler and giving it away as a freebie.
I was looking at purchasing NI Battery3 as I wanted something that would allow me to load samples quickly and easily plus had good sample editing options (sample start/end, loop setting etc.) and sound effects/tools that would be useful for drums (distortion type effects and filters especially). Shortcircuit was another possibility, but being rather short of spare cash at the time, I left trying out demos until I knew I could afford either. Then I found out that the developer had decided to release Shortcircuit as freeware - yes it is now free!! And it is amazing!! Quick and easy to use. I use it for all my drum samples now. Features like "add empty zones (drumkit)" for quick drum mapping, "replace sample" to quickly run through and demo your samples, loads of fantastic sounding filters, EQ, gates, distortion types and even additional oscillators plus superb modulation options and a great help file all make for a well designed drum sample synth that has everything on a single page. Feature wise, as a sample player, there is nothing really missing. Of course, there is often something that a particular user might find useful to them that isn't included (I found one such feature that I would love to see added but can quite easily live without). As for presets - none are provided. This instrument is designed to be used as a way of creating your own unique sounds - I would never use any presets with this sampler. Value for money - I would have had a very big smile on my face if I had paid full price for it! This is THE plugin bargain at the moment. Donations are welcome though (and well deserved in my opinion). I used it over the last weekend and had no problems with it at all.
Surge is rather brilliant also!
Well, this is quite a treat. This review is in accordance to v1.1.2 as one cannot use the latest beta, and since that's beta that shouldn't be reviewed anyway.
Anyway, it's a HUGE surprise to the audience here that this monster-of-a-sampler had its price tag from the hundreds to $0, or freeware. One could easily say that this beats the living daylights out of HighLife (another formerly-sold sample player) in the FREEWARE market!
Shortcircuit comes with a simple interface with massive amounts of controls under the hood. At first you're met with the multi screen, which the grid shown is where the samples are placed and conform to Key pitch and velocity. The great thing is, like a soundfont editor, you can drag any samples of your choice and stick it in via drag-n-drop or importation. Additionally, shortcircuit supports importing soundfonts, sfz, AKAI, even Battery (v1) kits! In other words, this can act as your soundfont player as well!
Going through the screens, there's plenty effects/filters to choose from which can turn any real-sounding instrument to an electronic glitchmo, at the same with any other sound. Shortcircuit also makes it fairly easy to decide how a sample is played, whether it be oneshot, looped, reversed, or beatsliced even! Now that's a feature set! From the standard passfilters to some limiters, distortion, to ring and phase modulators, to simple OSCs, to EQ's and morphers, to bitcrushers, the list goes on.
But as far as things go, shortcircuit's support of multi-outs, multisamples, countless combinations of modulation routing per-sample or as a group, 256-polyphony... There is immense amounts of power. One would have to be crazy to say that shortcircuit is LIMITED in any way.
The downsides? Well, if one does not understand the basics of multisamples, general synthesizer knowledge, and soundfonts, this beast is definitely not for you, although it does come with a help manual in .chm format. Nevertheless, shortcircuit might end up short-circuiting your brain if one isn't too careful.
Sound quality is superb. Every sample played through this thing sounds identical to how they're played normally in a soundfont or audio player. Of course depending on your host sample rate, it WILL alias unless you have some sort of oversampler or set the sample rate higher.
Unfortunately shortcircuit does not come with any presets; makes sense since it was originally made for those who don't enjoy sample players with great factory presets but a really limited sampling engine. Not that it matters; you can take any piece of sound or use the simple OSC filters to make a sound out of this.
Value for money, well originally shortcircuit ranged to about $150 however claes of Vember Audio decided to release this free of charge, much to his generosity and a hard decision on his part. There's no doubt that people will appreciate his efforts put on this masterpiece.
Stability, so far it hasn't crashed for me, though version 2 alpha (v0.5.0) has, a lot. Shortcircuit has been fairly stable for the most part, although when there's a lot of polyphony and immense amounts of processing put through a large sample set, the CPU does indeed spike.
Hmm..well face it, there's just not enough to say about shortcircuit, but if you ask me, there is NO OTHER ALTERNATIVE when it comes to a good drum sampler, soundfont player, AKAI sample player, SFZ player, and of course fares well.
Anyway, don't doubt the power of Vember Audio shortcircuit. Highly condensed of sample-mangling power, and great for glitch music, as well as anything else.
Well I entered the soft-sampler market a couple years ago after some years working with emu and yamaha samplers. After a disppointing spin with emulatorx, I settled on Kontakt for pads/bass/instruments and Battery2 for beats...there were some shortcomings, and stability issues, but I felt they were the best soft samplers out there, even though there were some things I could do on the hardware samplers that weren't possible.
Then, out of nowhere, came shortcircuit. Someone mentioned it in a kvr thread...I must admit, I was a bit sceptical about trying it - I tended to avoid some of the plugins not backed by a large name-brand because of stability issues; but I'm beginning to feel that the opposite may be true, many large well-known software packages are bloated and much more unstable than the nimble, efficient code some of the independant developers are coming up with. My experience with shortcircuit has certainly been that way as it's one of the stablest programs I've ever seen.
Anyway, after downloading the demo, what first struck me was how well-thought out the interface was. It's apparent that Claes (the developer) has studied the various ways samplers have chosen to handle sample groups, zones, regions etc...and come up with a setup that is as transparent as it is easy to use. Each sample gets its own zone and parameters (kind of similar to the yamaha A-series way of doing things), you can then group samples together in groups, if you desire, which have their own set of relevant parameters. In practice, you don't need to use groups at all and can do everything on a sample basis, very very simple. But groups do come in handy for simultaneous control over multi-layered samples for example. The system also works to make a separate drum sampler (such as Battery) unnecessary as sc works that way too.
When you click a sample to edit it, all the parameters are immediately displayed on screen...and there are many! but again, the interface is so well done, that it is not overwhelming at all, just click the parameter and drag with the mouse, or type a value with the keyboard. I won't attempt to list all the parameters here, but you get 3 LFO's per sample an ADSR for amplitude a 2nd ADSR you can assign anywhere (to one of the filters for example), you can set sample start and end points, loop points (with a crossfade point to smooth the edges), portamento and...2 filters.
Now the filters are not just filters in the traditional sense, you do get a healthy selection of the standard low pass (with different poles), high pass, band pass, notch, peak etc...but also 2-band parametric eq, morph eq (a la zplane), comb filter, and some more FX oriented ones: gate, clipper, slewer, limiter, freq shift, pulse osc...
Not only that, but the sound quality of the filters is excellent - in fact, it's the first soft sampler where I'm not slapping a 3rd party filter VST on the output but am quite happy using the internal filters.
The last thing I have time to mention here, is the modulation matrix. All the parameters can be modulated by most other things, sources are: LFO's, midi controllers, AEG's, random generators, velocities etc, destinations are pretty much everything...and once you start messing around some really interesting - yet usable - sounds can come out. The key though, is that it's so easy to play with, no GUI lag, just click and go...and that's the key really to shortcircuit, everything's so easy it's very conducive to experimentation..just start playing, and before you know it you're sucked in and mangling samples all over the place.
The other thing you notice about shortcircuit is the sound quality...1 thing I like to do on pads is to modulate the amplitude with a sine LFO. I've tried this with Kontakt and for some reason it doesn't sound right. With shortcircuit it's smooth as butter. On the shortcircuit website they say "All filters & effects are calculated at the precision required for them to sound the way intended and oversampling are used when required to prevent aliasing." If you play around with it for a while, you come to realize that this is true.
Well, there's so much else I could mention, the lag generators, sample previewing, etc...but I've run out of space. Every so often, I'll learn something new I didn't know was in there by browsing the shortcircuit forum. In fact if you think of something cool for shortcircuit, it's either in there already (you just don't know how to do it yet), or it's about to be added with the frequent updates...you can also post suggestions in the forum (which are often implemented too if they make sense), and the updates are very frequent with top notch support.
Noone should be buying a new soft sampler without trying the shortcircuit demo first...download it; it may change the way you look at softsamplers...(and no I don't work for them, but am just extremely grateful they developed it, a lot of my software headaches have gone away and made space for making music..)
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