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Tape Stop [read all reviews]
Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on 29th May 2017
Version reviewed: 1.012 on Mac.
Last edited by tommyzai on 29th May 2017.
9.00
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
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I did a search for tape player wind-up and wind-down effects and stumbled upon Tape Stop by kiloHearts. I picked it up, played nonstop for a couple days and wanted to share my enthusiasm in this mini user review.

Very simple, yet powerful – not many buttons or controls, but limitless in the sense that it spins-down and speeds-up whatever audio you feed into it. It's a fantastic tape transport effect emulation. I can feel the motor. I can hear the magnetic flakes jumping off the tape. Nice price. Useful. Fun. Use this wisely, and it could really spice up a track:

  • Tiny Footprint.
  • Fast loading.
  • Simple operation.
  • GUI couldn't be better. .. certainly doesn't get in the way. LOL.
  • Cool developer.
  • Priced right.

Ease of Operation = 10/10
Sound Quality = 9/10
Price - 9/10
Funness Factor = 10/10.

*I highly recommend this little gem. It does exactly what it claims and does it well.

Objeq Delay [read all reviews]
Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on 17th April 2017
Version reviewed: 1.0 on Mac.
Last edited by tommyzai on 18th April 2017.
10.00
7 of 7 people found this review helpful.
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INTRO
Objeq Delay is everything a virtual delay effects plugin should be — PLUS unique features that only Applied Acoustics Systems could deliver — combining a filter and acoustic resonators (objects) with a delay unit. This provides users with a wider palette of effects, timbres, and tones with crisp clarity. Repeats (from a tight slap-back to infinite) are free of the exponential mud that drag many units down. The interface is inviting and reveals a simple, yet effective signal/work-flow.

SIGNAL FLOW (Chapter 2 of the user manual provides a clear illustration)
The input signal travels through a low-pass/high-pass filter and acoustic resonators (the Object module), which makes the object resonate. The signal then enters a two stage delay (Pre and Echo). The resonances and delay are processed to the primary signal in real time. The signal balance is determined at the output via the Mixer module. There is also an LFO to help shape the pre-filtered tone — Types include: Sine, Triangle, Square, Random, and RdmRamp.

MODULES
1. LFO: This can be automated or tweaked manually. The modulation destinations include the usual suspects, i.e., chorus, flanger, tremolo, vibrato, as well as auto-filter modulation effects.
2. Filter: Filtered echoes for added fullness and movement. Sounds especially cool on rhythm guitar and other chordal things. The filter module provides flexibility by shaping the resonance of one of the objects selected.
3. Physical Object: Shapes the tone prior to delay (Beam, Drumhead, Plate, String)
4. Delay: There are two delay lines. The first is a pre-delay. It is used to create a delay between the dry signal and the filtered signal from the Object. This stage allows users to tweak the low and high frequencies and add acoustic object resonances. The second is a feedback loop that can create Echoes, hence the name.
5. Mixer: Balance, Output, Out/In.

Note: Each module may be activated or inactivated.

METER
The meter is located on the far right with numerical Db values and color-coding (green, yellow, orange, and red).

PRESET MANAGEMENT
The preset management system is conveniently located across the top bar. The presets themselves are very useful straight-up or serve as a great start-point for custom control — and they load super fast. I really dig the preset management — banks and programs can be accessed either by up one/down one or a drop-down menu. There is also a History arrow to help users. Auditioning sounds is fast and simple. I created a basic vocal loop and easily scrolled through the seven banks of programs (presets). In total, there are 226. ECHOES contain standard and creative delays, many of which have some filtering. MODULATORS contain wet and wild motion. On the subtle end there are chorus', flangers and tremolos; on the not-so-subtle end there are waves of sweeps and swells along with pounding pulses and bubbling flutters. RHYTHMIC LOOP MANGLERS contains alternation, wideners and other effects that are perfect for mutating incoming percussive loops into a newfound pulse of gyration. KICK TRACK ENHANCERS deliver extra pow, puff, punch, and wobble. SNARE TRACK ENHANCERS bring resonance and snap with overtones that range from plastic to wood. DRONES can be swirling and surreal. The combination of the resonator and LFO create otherworldly, evolving modulation for atmospheric, mysterious ambient textures. RICHARD DEVINE SIGNATURE designed a bank of presets that are geared (pun intended) toward cool, crisp metallic industrial, EDM, and soundtrack. There are several glitches and dreamscapes.

FAV THINGS
• Easy purchase, install, and authorization
• Clear, concise, well-written .pdf user manual for reference, but probably not needed.
• Neat, clean interface
• Intuitive preset management system
• Small digital footprint (about 10MB) with super low CPU hit (meter barely moves)
• Inspiring
• Musical
• Simple, yet powerful
• Cool developers
• Unique features that justify the purchase.

OTHER THOUGHTS
• The Objects provided are sensational, but I'm greedy and want more!
• Scalable interface?

SUMMARY
In addition to the pristine quality and all the things an electronic musical wizard would desire, this unit boasts features that set it apart. Nowadays, it's easy to find virtual delay that will sync to tempo, ping pong, slap-back, etc.; however, this plugin shines is in it's ability to combine a filter and acoustic objects with a delay. Even if another company released a plugin with this combination, it's unlikely they would do a better job at the modeling segment than AAS. How many electric piano plugins compare with Lounge Lizard? Objeq is perfect for anyone looking for a distinctive delay that is musical, inspiring, and sui generis (I recently learned this word and this is a perfect place to use it). I give this fine effect an affectionate double thumbs up — Love it! Thank you, Applied Acoustics Systems, for developing this effects gem.

PunchBOX [read all reviews]
Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on 12th September 2016
Version reviewed: 1.0.1 on Mac
10.00
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
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INTRO
PunchBox by d16 Group is the ultimate bass drum synthesizer, combining synthesis, sampling, and FX into a modular structure.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
As with all d16 plugins, this one has a cool name — "PunchBox!" The purchase, download, install, and authorize procedure is painless — without any dongles. The GUI looks like a vintage rackmount modular system. At first, it seems like there's a lot of parameters for a bass drum synth, but once you break it down, module by module, it's actually very straightforward, user friendly, and powerful.

▪ CLICK
▪ TOPS
▪ TOOLS
▪ KICK
▪ DISTORTION
▪ FILTER
▪ BITCRUSHER
▪ EQUALIZER
▪ LIMITER.

WHY THIS?
Finding the right bass drum is important in any genre, especially for EDM. Dance tracks live and die largely based on the pound of the beat. Producers, whether it be a million dollar studio or simple bedroom setup, endlessly search for the perfect kick. We look in sample folders; we scan synth presets; we experiment with effects. We may even layer sample, synths, and FX to create something unique to drive a beat. There are a few good bass drum generator synths on the market, and there are loads of sample libraries out there. I have a modest collection of over 100k bass drum samples, and I know a few producers who have much, much more! So, how do I find the perfect kick drum? My Typical workflow: Create a basic kick sound via synthesis, find a sample for layering fatness, and then use an assortment of effects to bring it to life. This process takes a long time and rarely nails the sound on the first try. Wouldn't it be cool to have it all in one place — one plugin? Enter PunchBox.

WHO IS THIS NOT FOR?
• Genres using a standard acoustic drum kit with corresponding (matching) snare, toms, etc.

WHO IS THIS FOR?
• Everyone else.

IN ACTION
This modular system plugin features sound generators that work independently and can be used in parallel. The center module, called KICK is the foundation of the sound. PunchBox provides a wide variety of 1100 samples and synthesis that features 909, 808, 606, and sine sources. This is where the meat of the madness is created. *It should be noted that user have a great deal of control over the sounds, especially the synthesis choices. From here, other modules can be employed to further shape/layer the sound — Click (short attack samples), Tops (high frequency samples), and Tools (longer mid-range samples). There are also built-in FX units that boast state of the art algorithms. Users can choose between bit crusher, distortion, EQ, filter, and limiter. Punchbox gives users lots of control over the amount of FX for each layer, and generators can be placed in any order via drag-n-drop. In total, there are over 800 presets created by a pair of infamous sound designers — Sound of Revolution and CFA Sound. The presets sound great out-of-the-box or serve as an excellent start point by which users can tweak and twist to their ear's desire.

FAVORITE FEATURES
• Flexibility and possibilities
• THE SOUND!
• Randomizer
• Multiple instances — multiple uses for this single instrument
• Drag-n-drop into DAW
• Clear, concise manual
• Priced right
• Great developer.

OTHER THOUGHTS
• Overall, the knobs and sliders are responsive and easy to manipulate; however, I have a little trouble toggling the Velocity off/on and Keytrack off/on. I contacted the developer about this issue, and they assured me it would soon be addressed.
• Browser is easy to use and reveals neatly labeled patches, but the way it scrolls from page to page might take a little time to get used to.

SUMMARY
PunchBox combines virtual analogue technology, high quality samples, and otherworldly effects to deliver a powerful, dedicated bass drum workstation. Despite the complexity and flexibility, it's fast and fun to create zillions of bass drums from scratch with this fine instrument. According to another, "[PunchBox is a] beautiful fusion of synthesis & sampling." I completely agree, and best of all — the sound is fantastic, which comes as no surprise for anyone who has used d16 Group's high quality drum machine emulations, i.e., Nepheton, Drumazon, Nithonat, etc.. All-in-all, PunchBox is another excellent release — these guys never fail to impress and inspire.

Tau Pro [read all reviews]
Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on 5th June 2016
Version reviewed: 2.02 on Mac.
Last edited by tommyzai on 5th June 2016.
9.00
3 of 5 people found this review helpful.
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INTRO
Tau Bassline Pro by Muon Software Ltd. is an excellent monophonic synth bass plugin.

TB-303
The Roland TB-303 was a "transistor bass" synth with a built-in sequencer. It was produced from 1982 to 1984. This synth is often credited for launching several EDM genres, i.e., house, acid, etc. It's interesting to note that the original launch of this product was a failure. It became famous and heavily sought after much later. The unit featured a single envelop gen, osc with only two waveforms — saw and square. Probably the most noteworthy feature was the lowpass filter, which was lively and wet. This, combined with the built-in sequencer (accented notes, portamento, etc.) made this a legendary synth workstation.

EMULATION
Many online ads and reviews claim this plugin to be the ultimate acid bassline synth and/or excellent TB-303 emulation. Well, I rarely drop acid or do acid house, and I've never owned or used a TB-303, but I am a bass player, songwriter, producer, and educator. I know the difference between a good bass and a not so good bass — Tau Pro is a great bass plugin that is capable of all kinds of wet sounds as well as deep sub rumbles. It can also produce wonderful leads.

MORE MORE MORE
This pro version features two alias-free oscillators with a choice of 11 waveforms (sine, sawtooth x5, and square x5). The waveforms can be pulse-width modulated to expand the basic timbre. This adds a great deal of versatility of previous versions and even the original Roland hardware unit. Tau Pro provides users with the capability to create an array of tones that range from comfy warm to edge-of-your-seat suspenseful.

EFFECTS
This virtual unit includes overdrive, chorus, flange, and delay.

FEATURES I DIG
• Straightforward GUI that doesn't get in the way
• Easy to program
• Surprisingly flexible (basslines, lead riffs, subs, textures)
• Great sound
• Juicy resonant filter
• Alias-free
• Stable (if running 32-bit)
• CPU efficient
• Responsive, supportive developer
• Price.

THOUGHTS
• Where are the presets? I heard there are 32 of them, but I can't locate them.
• 64-bit is needed.

TEST OF TIME?
Software, in general, comes and goes at a faster rate than hardware; yet, a rare few can withstand the test of time. Tau Pro could continue to thrive with a some upgrates, i.e., 64-bit, new presets, etc. While there are other emulations out that may be more true to the original, this plugin has proven to hold its own as a synth.

SUMMARY
Tau Pro is a naughty little plugin that is more than capable of supplying users with an assortment of throbbing basses and unforgettable leads. It's more than a two-trick pony by virtue of the added waveforms and FX. I highly recommend this fine virtual instrument to any eMusician, songwriter, producer, DJ, etc., who wants to add a sweet acid or low boom to a track. I give Tau two subsonic thumbs up.

FINAL QUESTION
Is this a timeless vintage soft synth or a legacy plugin? Only time will tell. ..

Numerology 4 Pro [read all reviews]
Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on 18th May 2016
Version reviewed: 4.2 on Mac.
Last edited by tommyzai on 18th May 2016.
9.00
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
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Disclaimer: I am a Numerology Fanboy; therefore, my opinion is biased. I no longer have an objective opinion about this software because I've used it for over three years. I am writing this user review because I dig this thing and want to spread the word.

INTRO
Numerology by Five12 is a unique and powerful modern modular step sequencer workstation for Mac.

I can't figure out how to insert images, so please imagine a really cool GUI screenshot here!

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The purchase, download, install, and authorization process is fairly straightforward. There is a copy protection by online activation. The pro version allows three concurrent installs, and the SE version allows two concurrent installs. There are no dongles or annoying protection devices of any kind. Upon the initial launch, users will be presented with a start page that provides a list of demos and other project options. The main interface is cleverly designed for fast, efficient, intuitive operation. It inspires creativity and a robust workflow. Controls are intelligently and logically arranged. Overall, the GUI is utilitarian and attractive.

SEQUENCER BLISS
I can no longer keep the secret. For years I have keep Numerology to myself and only shared its wonder with an elite group of fellow users. In a saturated audio software market, Numerology shines brightly. For one thing, it's so cool that over the years it has developed a cult following of dedicated users. There are many eMusicians using this application, and most of them are probably wondering when the rest of the eMusic world will finally discover the beast they have grown to love. I've been heavily involved in the eMusic scene since it all began and totally immersed in plugin-mania for nearly 10-years. I'm mystified! Why isn't Numerology being used by everyone creating music on a Mac. If you do an internet search — Best Sequencer for Mac, you'll mostly get a bunch of links for various DAWs. Occasionally, you'll find Numerology flying high on a well-informed Top 10 Sequencer list. But mostly, Numerology flies under the radar. This is the biggest reason I am writing this user review. I want to spread the word about this fascinating sequencer that I discovered a few years back. I can no longer be selfish and hide it under my pillow. I apologize to all my fellow underground users, who have enjoyed using their very own secret weapon. I'm truly sorry, but it's time to go public.

IN USE
N, my affectionate nickname for Numerology, is an extremely flexible application that can be used to suit your personal needs and fit your workflow. Users can select desired modules and create templates that serve as a framework for future projects. Inside the set of Factory Modules, lies seven powerful note sequencer modules.

*See discussion area below user reviews for more info about the modules. I ran out of room. Max = 10,000 characters.

Each of these modules have their own control signal generators. Users will find a grid for choosing notes along with other parameters like gate, groove, step length, repeat, divide, velocity, probability, random jump, CV1, CV2, CV3, ShPress, etc. Several of the sequencer modules have the auto-randomizing features Generate and Evolve, which can morph the entire pattern. All manual parameters can be adjusted in real time, which is very cool. Groups of modules can be assembled into Stacks, which provides the basic framework of a project. The hierarchy is modules into stacks and stacks into projects. "[It is] also a bit like a track in a DAW: it has a channel in the mixer, and a track in the arrangement timeline." A Stack includes one or more step sequencers, control generators, AU instruments, and AU effects. Users can combine countless Stacks. The arrangement of Stacks begins with the Clock Stack, which controls BPM, bar length, groove length, groove amount, etc. Although the Stacks are not linear, per se, they can be arranged on a timeline to create a song structure. Each Stack has its own track on the Timeline.

PolyNote VS. ChordSeq: The PolyNote is free-form — any note at any time, but users must know which notes they intend to use. The Chord Sequencer limits itself to an array of pre-defined chords with a very flexible set of modifiers (inversion, spacing, octave, etc). For users proficient in music theory, it offers a very quick way to enter a chord progression and explore it a bit. For users with less music theory experience, it provides a way to experiment with chord progressions while not having to manually calculate which notes are in which chords.

INTEGRATION
It's easy to sync to an external hardware or link to a DAW via ReWire. It can also run as a VST with many DAWs, or as an AU MIDI Effect in Logic or MainStage. The latest GarageBand has AU sandboxing turned on — which N4 does not support; still, users can run N4 as an AU in any AU host. It's better to use the VST with VST hosts, and as an AU MIDI Effect in Logic & MainStage — the MIDI timing is (almost) always better with the VST or AU MIDI Effect. In standalone, the AudioUnit effects and instrument plugins are hosted, and they are very easy to use within N. I prefer launching this app to demo new plugins — it's provides faster and easier access than any DAW I've tried, including GarageBand. This helps make N a self-contained music creation environment. External controllers may also be used as a trigger device. I enjoyed using a Novation Launchpad for quite some time. In addition, the software can now be controlled with Ableton Push and Livid's OHM RGB line. Multiple pieces of hardware may also be linked together enabling Multiple grids to run simultaneously.

FAVORITE FEATURES
• Clean, modern GUI
• Plays nice with others (DAWs, hardware synths, AU plugins, external controllers, etc)
• Unlimited undo/redo, plug-in delay/latency compensation (Pro Edition only)
• Awesome creative environment
• Excellent routing system
• Extremely stable and CPU efficient
• The Five12 forum is a great resource
• Amazingly responsive developer — active on forum and users may sometimes receive personal responses to inquires.
• Frequent updates.

OTHER COOL FEATURES
• Numerology has the ability to capture audio files that can then be triggered in a sequence.
• The signal processing and routing is graphic and flexible.
• Users can route almost anything from modules.
• Users can modulate just about any parameter with an LFO, sequencer or envelope — just control click on the parameter and choose "Add Modulation."
• N has four CV sequencers that are capable of doing really powerful things, but I'm not able to give much info or spin on them as I haven't experimented much with them — yet! I consider CV my sequencing desert, and I'm postponing gratification by saving it for later.

FEATURE REQUESTS
• Dedicated external hardware controller specifically designed for Numerology
• Standard MIDI File player module, i.e., simple piano, bass, drums, etc.
• Simpler, smoother real-time recording
• Ability to store individual plug-in presets within each Stack.

WARNING!
On the surface, N looks simple, but there is a lot going on under the hood, and users are invited to grab a tool and go to work. Hence, there is a moderate learning curve, and it's well worth the effort! To help speed up the process, there are easy to follow video tutorials and an excellent forum that is filled with friendly users. My favorite thread is called General Questions where no question is too silly.

SUMMARY
Numerology is a deep and flexible note-making machine with a great work flow. It is actually many step sequencers (via its modular system). It can be used in a simple manner or be as complex as you need it to be. Inherently, step sequencers are limited, but that's not the case with Numerology. It's breaks barriers, knocks down doors, and is the Star Trek of step sequencing — Boldly going where no eMusician has gone before. Some words that come to mind are: Adventurous! Flexible! Fun! Interactive! Note: N is not DAW and doesn't want to be one. Yet, it is an amazing modular workstation. Generate! Evolve! Humanize! The development of this music app is clearly a brilliant developer's labor of love that we get to enjoy. If you have a Mac and want sequencing tools that go above and beyond piano roll and MIDI event editing, give Numerology a go. But be warned! It's addictive, and you may very well develop a lovely little habit. I personally enjoy having a little monkey muse on my back! I give Numerology my very highest recommendation. It's a fantastic tool for creating music, and it's unlike anything else on the market. Thank you, Five12, for developing such a cool thing.

Note: I'm rating this a 9/10 so readers take it seriously. It deserves higher! ;-)

*There is an SE version available for the budget minded.

Fab Four Virtual Instrument [read all reviews]
Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on 17th May 2016
Version reviewed: 1.0.4 on Mac.
Last edited by tommyzai on 17th May 2016.
9.00
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
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INTRO
Fab Four by EastWest Quantum Leap is a wonderful collection of virtual instruments that encompass the essence of The Beatles sound. This comprehensive sample library is extremely customizable and useable. It's is not a simple collection of Beatle-esq loops, nor is it a simple player or inflexible rompler. For many years I have been piecing together sonic elements of the 60s vibe, one instrument at a time — a Ludwig bass drum from here; a Mellotron flute sample patch from there; "vintage" effects from who knows where. I was able to assemble some cool virtual instruments and effects along the way, but having a wealth of the exact tone in one convenient treasure chest is amazing. I still use some of my old bits and pieces, but not many — Fab Four is comprehensive. I especially dig a some of the drums kits (toms are especially cool), the Hofner and Rickenbacker basses, Hammond, and Martin D-28 acoustic guitar. The Revolution Guitar patch is addictive — I read somewhere that this famous Lennon guitar tone was created by connecting two vintage EMI preamps together. All-in-all, a great deal of detail has gone into creating this collection.

FAVORITE FEATURES
• Simple, yet powerful interface.
• Amazing, authentic sound that includes 45 instruments.
• Easy instrument menu.
• Excellent browser and patch management.
• Flexible patch editing.
• 64-bit.
• Simple MIDI notes switching to enable fast toggling between sample chains.
• Fantastic built-in reverb.
• Automatic Double Tracking. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_double_tracking
• Recent version of the PLAY engine is efficient, robust, and stable.
• Engineered by Ken Scott.
• It's developed and supported by EastWest — they won't disappear anytime soon! ;-).

OTHER THOUGHTS
• For many, the iLok requirement is a con.
• It would be cool to have some simple legato vocal backing tracks, i.e., Ahh, Ooo, Ohh, etc.
• I would like to see the keyboard patches expanded.

SUMMARY
Fab Four accurately capture the timeless vintage vibe of The Beatles. The sounds are authentic, and the instruments are inspiring. Although the Lads won't be available to help write any songs, the intrinsic nature, indispensable quality, and character of their sound is found it this virtual instrument collection! I've been eyeballing Fab Four for a few years. Later this year I'll be teaching several interactional music classes on the history of Western pop, and the 60s will be the highlight of the course. Having the power of Fab Four was something I had to have, and I have no regrets. It's easy to use, sounds great, and is a lot of fun. I'm sure my students will love this thing! I highly recommend this sample library to any eMusician, producer, film and game scorer, sound designer, DJ, etc., who is looking to add a taste of Beatlemania to their tracks. I can easily imagine using these instruments for Indie Rock, Hip Hop, EDM, and so on. Why not? Great stuff. I give this fabulous library four thumbs up. Thank you, EastWest, for creating such a timeless and useful bundle of virtual instruments.

EZmix [read all reviews]
Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on 13th May 2016
Version reviewed: 2.1.1 on Mac.
Last edited by tommyzai on 13th May 2016.
9.00
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
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INTRO
EZMix-2 by Toontrack is a pro-designed multi-effects mix tool that makes it possible for users to quickly and effortlessly accomplish sweet sounding songs.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
After a painless purchase, download, install and authorize process — users will launch and quickly notice a sleek modern two part GUI featuring and Main Interface and an Effect Rack. There is instant access to many presets that are intelligently organized. At the bottom are meters, gain knobs (in/out), and two control knobs that function in accordance to the selected preset. The right side has a tuner up top and with outboard gear, amps, etc. below. The color scheme of the IU is easy on the eyes and provides just enough contrast. Note: Users will need initially need to mute their audio out to avoid feedback.

WHO THIS IS NOT FOR!
I usually start my user reviews on a positive note, but in the case I'd like to address the elephant in the room and get it out of the way! Here goes —> If you like diving deep into every nuance of your mixing and mastering with total control over each parameter by virtue of several plugins, advanced routing, etc. — This plugin in not for you! If you feel it's "cheating" to inexpensively enjoy the expertise of award winning engineers and producers — This plugin in not for you! I completely respect anyone with a passion for total creative and artistic control over each and every element of their sound, but that is not what (and who) this plugin is designed for. You may very well feel frustrated by the inherent restriction of the controls. If the restrictions outweigh the convenience, than this is not for you. But wait! I may be wrong. Some eMusicians, producers, etc., may have a couple different ways to work depending on the project and situation. There are times when they might need to quickly sketch-out a mix. With that in mind, I think almost anyone could use EZMix-2, some more often than others.

Do you want to focus your time on writing music or mixing and mastering?

WHO THIS IS FOR!
Back in the day, when eMusic began, I quickly wrote and recorded a lot of songs — some good and some not-so-good, but I was prolific and had fun. My set-up and workflow were simple and effective. As technology advanced, possibilities became endless, and unfortunately things also became extremely complex. I had trouble completing a song until launching EZMix-2 came along! This plugin is cleverly designed to help users focus on creative process instead of getting bogged down by the technical part of it all. It is perfectly suited for anyone in need of creating a great sounding mix/master without getting caught up in endless parameter choices. It's hard to get bogged down with only two knobs (after choosing a preset)! I'm sure my struggle is by no means unique. I'm sure there are many songwriters cursing their DAW as I type this user review. If the conveniences outweigh the limitations, than this is for you.

COOKIE CUTTER?
An audio software package of this nature, begs the question — Will everyone who uses this sound the same? This is an understandable concern, but the answer is NO! That's not how this plugin works. It does not transform tracks into something homogenized; it merely optimizes your specific, unique sound to be more in line with your chosen genre. To quote a fellow online forum member," It is a tool and how you use the tool decides the outcome."

DIFFERENT STROKES
Everyone has a different approach and workflow. EZMix-2 functions best if tracks are recorded dry and processed on the back end. Some players, especially metal guitarists, prefer to record with their effects fully engaged, i.e., tons of distortion.

IN ACTION
EZMix-2 makes mixing and mastering easy and saves time! It simplifies the process, and the time vs. performance ratio is phenomenal. Users will no longer spend countless hours making micro adjustments like compression and EQ changes; yet, it doesn't do it all automatically. Users will have to do a bit of pre-mixing to get things rolling. After setting up a rough mix, the plugin simplifies the needed tasks by providing expertly designed effect chains that are optimized for specific styles of music — "enhancing the sound of the tracks." All in all, simple two knob signal chain processing is provided without having invest time and money on the setting up chains. The functions of the two knobs varies quite a bit depending on the preset. After selecting a preset, there are two control knobs to negotiate with text to the side revealing what each one does.

EZMix-2 is a great stress reducer. It's designed to be loaded on each track during mix-down, making the need for other plugins optional. Inserting EZMix-2 on a master fader can make a world of difference on the overall tone of the track. The plugin creates a painless mixing environment via mixing presets for inserts, busses, aux sends, and effects. The software ships with an excellent assortment of built-in presets. When looking for the perfect sound, users can simply scroll through the presets in real time until one catches his/her ears. For fine tuning, the two big knobs usually allow the user to access the vital parameters of the preset. Users can create a Favorites List. There are dozens of add-on expansion packs available at a reasonable price that are tailored for specific instruments, genres, and styles.

https://www.toontrack.com/ezmix-line/

EZMix-2 also includes guitar and bass amp/cam simulation settings that will be convenient and useful for many users. The acoustic and electric sounds are excellent. There are a few dozen top-notch amp presets, ranging from clean chime to dirty blues to over-the-top overdrive. I especially dig the clean presets, and the dirty is also spot on. I have a dedicated amp modeling plugin, but it's nice to know this plugin provides a nice option for my guitar tracks if/when needed. Drum bus presets include parallel compressors, tape simulators, room reverb, etc. For vocals, presets deliver anything from a clean presence to warm to lo-fi. The mastering settings provide just the right amount of whatever is needed to spice-up the overall mix without adding unwanted noise and/or artifacts.

EFFECTS
I read somewhere that the effects modules were designed by Overloud. If this is true, that would explain the excellent sound quality.

FAVORITE FEATURES
• Sleek interface
• Dongle free (plugin can access user's account and authorize automatically)
• Simple, yet powerful in every conceivable way — easy to navigate
• Shallow learning curve (not surprisingly — it is called EZMix)
• Many useable presets (three or four hundred, I think)
• Flexible preset search engine
• Great for individual tracks and/or overall mix/master
• Sounds great — especially on drums, loops, and vocals
• Stable
• CPU friendly with low latency
• Excellent developer with an amazing track record.

FEATURE REQUESTS
• Include extra expansions with initial purchase
• Scalable and/or resizable GUI with snap back to default
• Lock/unlock delay tempos to host
• Parameters could be a little more visual.

SUMMARY
EZMix-2 is the fastest, least expensive way to accomplish high quality mixes and mastering. To quote another reviewer,"[It's like there's] a little bit of magic in that EZMix bag of tricks." A phrase that comes to mind is INSTANT GRATIFICATION! I highly recommend EZMix-2 to just about anyone producing eMusic in any genre. It's capable of helping users accomplish pro-like results in a snap. However, in most cases, using this plugin won't threaten the cats at Abbey Road, The Record Plant, Sun Recording Studio, etc. Still, it might be a great tool for everyone else! It's priced right, especially if you catch the bundled expansion packs on sale. I give EZMix-2 a mighty pair of thumbs up! Great Stuff.

Rating: Consider this a 9.5!

Liquid Music [read all reviews]
Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on 13th May 2016
Version reviewed: 1.6.0 on Mac.
Last edited by tommyzai on 13th May 2016.
9.00
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
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INTRO
LiquidMusic by WaveDNA is an inspiring MIDI music performance designer software that enables users to quickly create melodies, harmonies, and chords by "painting." It's effortless, visual, and perhaps even revolutionary.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The purchase, download, install, and authorize process is straightforward with no surprised. To setup this plugin, launch your DAW, create a MIDI track, assign an instrument, and then load LiquidMusic as an effects plugin. Note: Multiple instances may be used, and there is a built-in system that keeps CPU optimized. Upon launch, users will instantly notice a clean, modern interface that is intelligently arranged.

CHEATING?
Let's get right down to the question at hand — is using music composition software cheating? My opinion — who cares? Whatever it takes to translate creativity from your brain to mixer or to jolt your noodle out of songwriters block is fine by me. Let's not blame the tools for the overwhelming percentage of terrible music being produced today. Plugins don't kill music; "musicians" kill music! Yeah, the digital audio world has made it easier to produce generic junk, but it has also made it easier for talented people to realize their golden potential. The fact that so many traditional musicians and producers are upset about this software clearly indicates how fantastic it is! Having said the above, plugins do tend to create more producers than musicians. Is using a chord book and reference chart cheating?

IN ACTION
I was going to clearly outline my workflow and illustrate the main features one-by-one, but half way through writing I realized that WaveDNA does a much better job. Please notice the video tutorial and the section at the bottom of the webpage that lists the layers and tools (Sketch, Key, Chords, Voices, Rhythm). You can manipulate and "evolve" song ideas in real-time using these layers of control:

https://www.wavedna.com/liquid-music/.

There are many ways to use LiquidMusic — it can suit various workflows. The Harmony Builder provides a powerful set of tools that have a moderate learning curve, but the rewards are great. A common approach is to create a chord progression as a framework for the note painting. Chord Roots, Types, and Modifiers help create and refine chords. The chords within the selected key are clearly indicated and distinguishable from dissonant or out-of-key chords. Keys may be changed (major, minor, dorian, phrygian, lydian, etc. Arpeggiators may be added. I consider LiquidMusic's workspace a canvas. I can begin with presets or freely splatter notes and see what sticks. If the painted notes are inspiring, I edit. If not, I wipe the canvas clean and start over. There are also ways to change chord progression with or without adjusting the melody. If the Key Layer is locked, none of the chords are changed. This allows users to construct progressions and then add cool stuff, like melodic rhythms. The Voice Layer helps add harmony to melodies and chords. All in all, this is a very visual, tactile virtual process that is unique and rewarding. By using a Chord Tracks along with the Rhythm Editor of Liquid Rhythm, users can sketch out rhythm, chords, melody, and harmony.

THINGS I DIG
• Looks sweet
• Fast and easy, yet powerful with an excellent workflow
• Syncs perfectly with DAW
• Inspiring — bust through songwriters block
• Experiment freely without going out of key
• Small footprint
• CPU Efficient
• Forward-thinking developer.

THINGS I WANT
• More video tutorials
• Standalone version! I'd like to launch and compose with this powerful MIDI music composition environment without going near my DAW. I wouldn't be surprised if an updated version is in the works because LiquidRhythm has this feature. ;-)
• Max for Live users can take advantage of a cool feature called Import Wizard that analyzes a MIDI performance to interpret the key and chord progression. I've heard that this feature is often spot-on, and when it isn't, users might just get a pleasant surprise or at the very least — a start point to work from! Unfortunately, this feature is only available for Ableton Max for Live users. "For VST / AU users: Unfortunately, the import feature is currently in development and as of yet unavailable."
• MIDI Event Editor.

SUMMARY
To quote a YouTube poster, Daniel DeMayo,"This is a dangerous tool — smart as hell, but now everyone and their grandma will be acting like they are Mozart." Well, Danny, what's wrong with having more Mozarts? LiquidMusic can help users get what's in their heads down on tracks. It also provide an excellent environment for eMusicians and producers to discover happy accidents. This software is way beyond an arpeggiator; it's an artistic pallet for creative composers of all genres. Some words that come to mind are: VISUAL! FUN! INSPIRING! UNEXPECTED! If you are an old school composer who values the traditional music composition process, this software is not for you — close your browser NOW! However, if you believe the ends justify the means, and only the music matters— grab this gem and never look back! If you're not sure, check out the 30-day full access demo. My entire user review is based on the expectation that soon all the features will become available to all DAW users and even non-DAW users. At present, only Ableton Live for Max users can completely enjoy this beast. With that expectation in mind, I hereby give LiquidMusic two guilt-free thumbs up! Great stuff.

Sundog Song Studio [read all reviews]
Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on 2nd May 2016
Version reviewed: 2.4.0 on Mac.
Last edited by tommyzai on 2nd May 2016.
9.00
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
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INTRO
Sundog Scale Studio by FeelYourSound is a fantastic song composition tool that helps song writers of all levels quickly and easily build chord progressions, harmonies, and melodies. It's a stand-alone application that transmits MIDI note data to digital audio workstations. According to the developer,"The main focus of Sundog lies on writing harmonic songs from scratch without having to worry too much about music theory."

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The purchase, download, install, and activation process is simple. Upon launching, users will notice a flat, modern, neatly designed GUI. The color scheme is an eye-pleasing mix of creamy grays, white, yellow, and red. The interface is not intimidating; it is well thought out and inviting. It can be resized to accommodate various screens, workspaces, and needs. There is also a reset UI to default command. The top red bar houses the following selectors: tempo (30-299), swing (%), chords (viewed as text or on a KB), bar length (1-16), basenote (root note), and scale. The yellow Pattern Trigger box is for playing individual notes and chords. The light gray Pattern box at the bottom is for creating rhythms over sixteen steps. Users can even use up to 64 steps by setting the Length to anything from 1 to 64 steps. The arrow in the pattern box is used to go from one 16-step-page to the next. There are Instrument blocks in the middle of the screen that transmit MIDI to different channels. Users can create a limitless number of song parts. Each song part consists of 15 instrument boxes, and each instrument has an own pattern trigger area and a pattern box. Users can create parts (1-16 bars) that can be linked together to create an entire song. The free-standing area on the right includes: solo, mute, source (scale notes, chord notes, etc.), octave (0-9), channel (1-16), instrument (general MIDI assignments), fixed note (general MIDI note assignments for drums), velocity (0-127), and a pattern area with many pattern presets. The transport bar is on the top and features MIDI, a timeline, play and record.

SETTING UP
The setup process can be a little challenging for those less experienced with configuring Audio/MIDI connections on their computer. It requires that a virtual MIDI cable be connected to a DAW. A quick-start video tutorial illustrates how to achieve this in each of popular workstations:

http://feelyoursound.com/sundog-quickstart/.

In some cases, users will need to access the Audio/MIDI Setup found in Applications/Utilities. There are step-by-step instructions:

http://feelyoursound.com/setup-midi-os-x/.

There is also a clear and concise user manual:

http://feelyoursound.com/sundog-manual/.

Once setup is completed, the fun will begin! Note: The entire setup process took me 11 minutes, so it's either easier than it sounds, or I've been doing this stuff for a long time — probably both are true.

WHY DO I NEED/USE THIS SOFTWARE?
I'm lucky, or perhaps blessed. .. or maybe cursed — I always have melodies bouncing around my brain, but converting what's in my head into a song is another story. After several college theory classes and lots of ear training, I still can't get it right. Even if by some miracle I accurately work out the correct notes, it's nearly impossible for me to choose the appropriate key and create a chord progression. My songs usually sound nothing like my original inspiration. Sometimes they are better, but most of the time my translations are a flop! Sundog is one of the rare pieces of software that can help get struggling composers like me from point A to B to C. For the more fortunate and gifted, Sundog will increase workflow, thereby speeding up the creative process. The Scale Finder feature is one of my favorites. It identifies possible scales for notes entered.

The main Sundog interface is the key element to allowing users to freely work within a scale without fear of going off-key and dissonant. It somehow keeps all notes within the chosen chords and/or the scale. This feature reminds me of bowling with bumpers along the side rails that prevent the ball from going in the gutter. When it comes to creating music, I'd like to hit the right notes as much as possible. Note: Advanced users may over-ride in-key protection to add odd, off-key chords:

http://feelyoursound.com/sundog-manual/#chromatic_chords.

For times when the creative juices are dry, Sundog helps provide instant inspiration through experimentation with new harmonies and melodies. Users may also choose from over 300 scale presets that include everything from major and minor to suspended pentatonic and all in between. Most modern Western music is in major and minor; yet, experimenting with non-traditional progressions could lead to something new and exciting. Swapping chords in an existing chord progression is a great way to generate more interesting, original songs. An added bonus — Sundog is also a very educational software — subtly teaching composition and theory along the way.

WORKFLOW
The basic way Sundog works for creating new compositions from scratch:

1. Launch Sundog
2. Launch DAW and assign appropriate instrument to track (s)
3. Choose a scale and a base-note. All notes can easily be auditioned along the way
4. Users may also choose from an extensive collection of scale presets
5. Preview possible chords, all of which will automatically fit chosen key
6. Create a chord progression, which serves as the "harmonic base of the song"
7. Parts may be combined to create a "song"
8. Melodies can then be created. Note: If you go back to the chords view and change some chords all your melodies will simultaneously update to suit the new chords
9. Once you have some ear-pleasing chord progressions and melodies, simply hit the record button on your DAW or export a song part or the entire song to MIDI and then Drag and drop into the DAW
10. Arrange, edit, mix, master, and become famous.

FAVORITE FEATURES
• Neat, clean, modern GUI
• Easy to navigate interface
• Intuitive workflow
• Excellent online video tutorials
• Over 300 scales presets
• Scale finder
• Fantastic for generating unique arps with the Pattern box
• Standard MIDI export for drag and drop into DAW
• Small footprint (45MB)
• CPU friendly
• Great price and never have to pay again — "Buy once, get updates forever"
• Enthusiastic, responsive developer.

FEATURE REQUESTS
• GUI has different scaling levels available with a reset to default, but scaleable would be even sweeter
• Helpful hints that pop-up when hovering the cursor over a feature
• Be truly standalone — include a built-in piano for times when I'm too lazy to launch my DAW. In the meantime, I setup GarageBand with a simple piano track. Others might not mind launching their big DAW
• Additional swing percentage options
• MIDI Import via drag and drop. This would make the DAW integration more symbiotic and fruitful. Unfortunately, this is probably a very difficult feature to incorporate.

SUMMARY
Sundog Scale Studio is designed assist in the process of generating compelling chord progressions, marvelous melodies, brilliant bass lines, and sizzling sequences. It's simply a indispensable, must-have tool for songwriters. It's fun, fast, and furious. It turns an often labor intensive chore into creative bliss. For some it will be an amazing sketchpad; for others it will open up new harmonic and melodic possibilities. It's extremely useful for anyone creating music on a computer, regardless of theory level. There are more complex options available for harmony assistance, but for the price range, Sundog is hard to beat. If concerned about compatibility, suitability, or workflow, I suggest trying before you buy. There's a fully functional demo available on the FeelYourSound website. I highly recommend this software to any electronic composer, working in any genre. I give Sundog Scale Studio a big thumbs up. Great stuff.

NOTE: The following user review is based on the Mac version 2.4.0.

ArcSyn [read all reviews]
Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on 7th April 2016
Version reviewed: 1.3 on Mac.
Last edited by tommyzai on 7th April 2016.
9.00
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
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INTRO
ArcSyn by SPC Plugins is a virtual analog modulator synth that is not based on any particular vintage hardware, but successfully captures the essence of that era of beasts.

The purchase, download, install, and authorize process is simple and smooth. There are no dongles of any kind i.e., iLok, SmarkKeys, etc. Upon launching, the first thing users will notice is a striking interface. Some will consider it strikingly ugly, while others will find it simply striking. I fall into the third camp — it grew on me! The GUI is original-looking and has the SPC vibe, a la shades of gray with yellow and a touch of white. There is certainly contrast! The color scheme is similar to Gater-Pro, which is one of the most popular plugins in its class. Regardless of aesthetic appeal, ArcSyn's interface is cleverly designed. Having said that, it can be a little confusing and intimidating at first. However, after a short time it should make sense. Everything is exactly where it should be, and it's easy to navigate. The knobs and sliders are responsive. I have no difficulty turning or sliding with my mouse or trackpad. There is an online manual, but I have yet to peek at it. The developer has an excellent attention to detail, so I'm sure it's well-written and easy to understand. According to SciFiArtMan,"Reading the online manual for this synth is almost mandatory if you want to truly understand it! There's definitely some outside-the-box thinking here!"

Most importantly, ArcSyn sounds great. I'm a synth purist — not a big fan of hybrids that mix different kinds of synthesis with samples. ArcSyn uses waveform synthesis. "All oscillator waveforms are generated from scratch." There are over 70 one-of-a-kind waveforms on board, my favorite of which is the sub-harmonic for the low overtones. There are several LFOs and a mod arranger that can be used to sequence up to 16 waveforms. Additionally, users will find an ADHSR, two routing modes (Series and Parallel), and mod matrix with 16 slots. There are many modulate filter options and modifiers to expand the madness.

One of the biggest reasons I installed and use this plugin are the self-oscillating filters that are based on the Oberheim Matrix 12. Back in the day, I was the proud owner of a few Oberheim keyboards and rack modules. Anything that delivers a pinch of that old sound is okay by me. Why oh why did I sell them? Anyway, I'm not sure how ArcSyn would hold up in a direct comparison, but several of the presets bring back fond memories. Speaking of which, there are more than 350 presets, many of which are usable and/interesting. My favorite patches are the drones. They are pure SciFi paradise. One of my favorite features is the Randomiser, which quickly generates patches. I found this to be the best way to discover the perfect sound. In less than a minute more than a hundred patches can be generated, and most of them will be duds, but there's an excellent chance that at least one will be explosive. Every synth should have this feature ArcSyn also has an excellent preset management directory system.

FAV FEATURES
• User-friendly
• Amazing quality sound; Unique wavetables
• Versatile
• Useable presets — some are inspiring
• Randomize feature is addictive and really useful
• CPU friendly
• Stable
• Great price
• Talented, creative, responsive developer with proven track record. Gater-Pro is in my favorites folder.

OTHER THOUGHTS
• This would be the perfect synth for alternate skins
• Key-sync?
• I look forward to 3rd party soundsets.

SUMMARY
ArcSyn is an excellent virtual synth that is capable of sounds that range from silky smooth to rough rumble. I agree with Ave Mcree, who wrote,"[ArcSyn] is one of the best synths that came out this year." In the right hands, any and all genres will benefit from this VSTi. It produces everything from creamy pads and textures to punchy plucks and anything in between. I love the subs! The flexible modulation options make ArcSyn perfectly suited for genres using textures, pads, and drones. This may or may not be the "workhorse" or "go to synth" for all users, but it should easily justify its existence in plugin folders by filling voids and getting plenty of playing time. The bang per buck ratio is really good. It's certainly worth the price. As advertised,"unexplored sonic territory" is more or less possible; yet, what I dig most is the vintage vibe with the unique modern twist of seemingly endless modulation possibilities. Without hesitation, I give ArcSyn two strong thumbs up. Great stuff.

RATING
I'm rating ArcSyn a 9 at this time. It's a new release, and there are a few little things that could be improved and/or added. I'm certain my rating will increase to a perfect 10 after the next release or the one after.