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The MX4 is a mac-only software synthesizer which comes in MAS, RTAS and AU formats. From the website you can download a demo, which, when you buy and insert the iLok dongle switches to the full-version.
The MX4 is configured like a classic analog synth: 3 oscillators go through the filters to the amplifier section where two effects can be added to the overall sound. For modulation we have 6 LFO's, 4 ADSHR envelopes, and a step-sequencer.
The MX4 takes things a little bit further though.
The oscillators offer not only classic analog waveforms like saw, pulse and triangle, but also a whole range of digital wavetables. There are 'symmetry' and 'wavetable index' parameters (which can be modulated), FM, ringmodulation and hard sync. All these sound sources can be panned individually. This allows us to create some pretty complex sounds, without even using a filter or an effect.
The filter section is very flexible as well. There are two identical multi-mode filters which can be any combination of low pass, hi pass, bandpass or band reject with 6, 12, 18 or 24 DB/octave characteristics. The two filters are accompanied by a overdrive/distortion and they can be set up in 12 different topologies, like for instance distortion first and then the filters in parallel, or the distortion between the filters, or the filters in series. Whatever you can think of.
To round of the audio chain we have a master section where we can adjust volume, stereo, panning and mix in a fundamental. (Logic's ES2 has this feature too, and sometimes it is just what you need.)
This all would not be very exciting without some modulation thrown in. Luckily the MX4 offers a very powerful modulation matrix. Modulation sources are assigned by selecting a modulation slot and then option-dragging the controls of any parameter. This gives a nice visual feedback of the modulation range, much like in Native Instruments' Massive. On a separate page MX4 has a step-sequencer, an arppegiator and a gater. These, together with the LFO's can all be sync'ed to the hosts tempo to create vast evolving rhythmic soundsscapes.
The MX4 has a very warm, liquid-sounding character is surprisingly easy on the CPU. The one prob I have with the MX4 is it's user interface: it is laden with tiny fonts, sliders, switches and knobs that I just find hard to operate. It's a shame really, because the thing has so much character I want to use it all the time, but it's just so fiddly it can be quite tiresome to use. So I advice anyone to try the demo first and see if they experience the same.Read Review
At its price, Ethno is an excellent buy. I installed Ethno Instrument version 1.0.0 a week ago. I could not direct Ethno to find its library on an external drive on the first install, but performing a second install allowed ethno to find its previously installed components (*.dat and *.ufs files) and update them in a fashion which I could later alter to direct Ethno to the proper external drive holding its library. The iLok install went smoothly for version 1.0.0. Once working, the sounds Ethno produced were simply superb. Unfortunately, version 1.0.0 had a playback problem on my machine (eMachine 6811 laptop 2400+ Athlon 64 with 1.25MB RAM) when running in FL Studio 7 and 8. A sound would start and, perhaps, play for a measure, then cut the instrument off. The instrument would have to be reinstalled in the host for the sounds to play again. I later discovered version 1.0.1, an unreleased beta, at MOTU’s site. Installing the iLok update for version 1.0.1 took some practice, however, after a few attempts I got it right. The install of version 1.0.1 was straight forward and I was able to edit the *.dat and *.ufs files to find the library on an external disk in my system. I’m glad to announce that version 1.0.1 fixes the ‘cutoff problem’ on my machine. However, it is a really CPU hog in FL Studio 7 and 8: eating up to 75% with one instance running two tracks of didge sounds, one track of flute, and one of percussion! (The same result obtains for four instances running one track each.)
In past compositions I have used ethic samples in wav form extensively. To get things right required lots of wav file editing, re-pitching, and stretching in Live and Acid. Ethno goes a long way to eliminate the necessity of doing this.
Most of the ethnic styles I’m familiar with are covered and there were one or two surprises for me in the Middle Eastern instruments. I have to say, though, that for someone with a large ethnic sample set; Ethno will seem somewhat limited in breath and depth for a 'universal world/ethnic instrument'. My particular (depth) complaint here is the lack of a more extensive didgeridoo sound set. While what Ethno has is good, it needs a lot more rhythms and drones to be 'universal'.
More urgently, perhaps, Ethno needs more voice styles. Notably missing are Chinese and Japanese voices, various throat singing styles like the Inuit and Tuvan, Tibetan monk and nun chanting, Maori chants, and Polynesian singing. Also, Polynesian and Hawaiian instruments need to be covered. I assume these omissions will be addressed in future releases. (I dread to think how large the library will grow with such inclusions!)
My overall impression of Ethno is that it is an excellent addition to any computer musician’s collection of software instruments, especially where they don’t have an extensive library of ethnic sounds. Ethno sounds like the instruments in the various areas represented. Ethno offers ambient synth sounds, which is more than I'd have expected in an ethnic oriented instrument. The documentation covers the feature set adequately. The presets are all pretty useful. I've had no need for customer support. For about $300US, its a good buy. (There's a specialty gamelan instrument in the market for $500US, which I'll be interested in comparing soon.) Version 1.0.1 seems quite stable, although it needs to be optimized for CPU utilization.Read Review
A while back, I had reviewed this in the forums and I gave it a good score. Now I regret having done that, because purchasing this software was an expensive mistake.
First off, MSI comes with a PACE iLok dongle. As I said in my old review, this is a piece of crap, and as I used MSI more, it got worse - to the point where my PC would freeze because of this thing after every third time I tried to choose an instrument. PACE has pretty much screwed over everyone who buys this software. Maybe it'll be fixed in an update... but I'm not waiting around to find out.
User Interface: MSI's main redeeming quality is its GUI. This is probably as good as it's going to get right now. Everything you need to tweak a sample is right in front of you. Hit one button and you can go into key-switching and crossfading, etc. Great.
Sound: Some of MSI sounds good. It comes with a lot of extras you might find useful (like a ton of wonderfully sampled recorder instruments), but unfortunately where it counts (strings, brass, woodwinds) this thing falls flat on its face. Basically many of the instruments have attacks that're WAY too slow. Not to mention the strings aren't multisampled enough, so you're plagued with vibrato problems and really obvious rosin noise (friend, who's not a musician, even noticed it and said it sounded real bad) in many of the violin and viola ensemble and solo instruments. The strings aren't completely unusable, but don't expect this to be the be-all and end-all of budget orchestra. The brass (most of it) is excellent for the most part, no real complaints except for pitch ranges (see below). The woodwinds are a joke, though. The flute is out of tune on certain samples and again, some of the attacks are too slow. The woodwind ensembles are terrible. The clarinet is okay and so is the oboe, but they aren't great. The brass and woodwinds have pitch ranges that're WAY too narrow. The oboe is missing about 8 notes from its pitch range. What gives, MOTU!? That's bull! The overall quality of the sound is good for the price, but there're too many unforgivable little quirks that make it largely unusable as a stand-alone orchestral instrument.
Features: Good filters, good tremolo effect, good EQ. If you're unhappy with the french horn solo sample (like I was) just run it through a lowpass filter some and you got yourself a pretty basic french horn patch that sounds the way a solo french horn should. You shouldn't have to do this in the first place, but whatever.
Documentation: Decent. Great that it offers a few tables that tell you how much memory each sample takes up.
Presets: Like I said before, they're largely unusable. To get the most out of this instrument, tweak your own stuff.
Customer Support: MOTU's customer support is great when you can get a hold of them. Also Unicornation's MSI forum has a bunch of people who are willing to help if you have a problem.
Value for Money: 300 dollars for something I can't really use? I don't need to go into this anymore.
Stability: What a joke. Granted, MSI itself doesn't freeze my PC, PACE iLok does.
I think I'm the only person that owns this synth. I've had it for a couple of months now and here's what I think. The reason I chose MX4 was because after to listening to audio demos and playing all the demos I could, MX4 had the most organic evolving sound I could find. I don't doubt I didn't explore every other possibility with every synth but it seemed like it would be easiest to do with MX4. The interface has got to be one of the simplest I've ever used. Especially considering how complex a single patch can be. Everything is on one panel and it's very sexy looking too. Two things that stand out are the number of wavetables that it ships with and the ease of modulation. I don't know exactly how many there are but there's dozens of wavetables, each of them full of complex waveforms. With 3 oscs and all these waveforms, you can easily have a sound that is never the same at one time. 6 LFOS can modulate almost anything including eachother. Modulation is very visual as well, you draw out the range and you even watch the value changing as you play the synth (represented by little markers pulsating all over the interface). Every "modulator" also has a slot for itself to be modulated. So you can modulate things modulating things. Everything can be synced to the tempo. Most of the patches I make with MX4 are complex rhythm sequences. This is what I think the MX4 is best used for. You can make beautiful little clicky textured drones with tons of character without adding a single effect. So there are endless mixtures of modulation and wavetables so I think it offers a lot of sound possibilities. I can't compare the sound to anything in particular, but it does have it's own sound. I guess I'd say that it's very warm. The chorus and the delay sound fine and work although I can't say I've ever heard a bad kind of either. You can run audio through the synth although I haven't found a reason why I would want to do it, it's there if you want it. It comes with an easy to understand manual but the synth is so simple to use and i think I've only read the manual about 2 or 3 times. Presets are the only thing lacking here. There are very few and I hardly like any of them. This is fine with me since I prefer to program from scratch. My experience with support: I lost my iLok. MOTU sent me a new one promptly once I reported it. What else can I say. Value for money: I cant compare this to other synths Ive bought as its the only one I have. I like the sound, but It isn't cheap... Don't think it's crashed ever. Almost forgot: http://www.kvraudio.com/news/2959.html Add all those new features onto what it has to offer now and I think the value for money definently comes up.Read Review