Chainer is a low-cost VST / VSTi host that functions as both a stand-alone application and as a plug-in itself. It can effectively make any combination of your synths and / or effects stand-alone, free from the complexity and CPU drain of Cubase et al. These 'chains' can also be accessed through your favourite host by using Chainer as a plug-in. I bought it for live use but have found myself constantly using it on my main DAW.
It can even host multiple instances of itself; what's the point of that then? Well, suppose you find a combination of synths and effects that sound awesome together (with strategic mixing and panning) and you want save the 'chain' as a single preset. You can do this very easily and recall the preset in a couple of clicks, run it alongside an existing chain or on a different channel, load / save the same configuration under Cubase or FL Studio and so on. If like me you occasionally take a semi-modular approach to your plug-ins (like layering several instances of Synth1 for example) these features come in very handy.
It functions very well as a lightweight host, but its strength is really in the ease of editing and routing / automation possibilities it presents. Mapping the controls from my MIDI keyboard to a plug-in is a breeze using the parameter list editor, when I'm done I can just save the configuration as a preset. One thing I have to mention is how the parameter list focuses on whichever control is being adjusted in the plug-in's main GUI. Then it is just a case of using Chainer's own MIDI learn to map the controller knob to the parameter.
This is a must for all live musicians and sound designers, as well as people who are just extremely lazy. Chainer gives you the maximum of control with the minimum of fannying around. I love it!
User Interface The GUI is extremely intuitive and usable. Everything feels like it's in the right place, and the 'slot-based' concept for plug-ins works really well. You can drag and drop plug-ins between slots, bypass single instances or entire channels. I would have deducted a point for the rather garish colour scheme, but there is now an alternative skin available now :-)
Sound This is a difficult area to score for a host. Although it doesn't make any sounds itself, it allowed me to create combinations of sounds and effects that I couldn't (or simply wouldn't take the time to) in another host.
Features Chainer is a lightweight and minimal host, but it does far more than you might expect. The preset lab is great and a sound designer's dream. I also found it really useful for editing two or more plug-ins alongside one another; none of the random window behaviour I have observed with other hosts here. A few more hot keys (such as copying, pasting and renaming presets) and a Mac version would have been nice.
Documentation The on-line help is there if you need it, but the learning curve is not exactly steep. Five minutes worth of experimenting with it should be sufficient.
Presets Again very difficult to know how to score this, let's assume we are talking about the way the program handles presets. You can load and save presets or banks per plug-in, as well as the entire rack. For instance, I have found it a lot easier to make banks under Chainer than with FL Studio.
Customer Support Support is provided by direct E-mail, which is a good thing I reckon. I had a couple of questions which were answered within a few hours, really nice guy too.
Value For Money You get a lot for your $60, although at first glance it may not appear so. Chainer looks like Minihost with bells on, it does a lot more than just host plug-ins.
Stability At the time of writing, the program hasn't seen an update since 2002. What does that tell you? It's a mature product that just works, that's what.
Overall Clever, convenient, cheap and mind-blowingly useful. I defy anyone not think this is the best $60 they have ever spent on software for their DAW.
Quoting the below previews: "Chainer is VIAGRA for VST ..nothing less" -110% true:D
Some additions to them: USER INTERFACE Could hardly be more intuitive.
SOUND For some reason it seems to boost the quality of the instruments used... How in the *ell is this done!?!?
FEATURES "aMUSEd" writes about the linear chain as an bit of a disadvantage. Well, could be, but let´s be honest here... I had to ask myself: How many times did I wrap multiple synths and fx in a chain without actually creating a hopeless cacophony... I´ve come to see that (mostly) complex modularity is really secondary to sound/fx quality of more simple VSTs. In cases of creating soundscapes I personally prefer to split my project into a few tracks.
The biggest advantage by this plug is that you get to manage your instrument/fx combinations already at MIDI stage with every possible parameter CC automted!
DOCUMENTATION This is the only part I found a little lacking. However, the intuitve use compensates hands down. Still 10/10 because this puppy is allover worth 10/10 in any case.
PRESETS The ease of saving your own VST presets/banks and managing the already included presets of included VSTs through one interface is just... Phenomenally cool!
CUSTOMER SUPPORT No experience except an rapid response to a personal thank you and appraisal mailing:D Anyway... 10/10 because this puppy is worth it allower in any case.
VALUE FOR MONEY 10/10 with "all universal superlatives". Buy it - I guarantee you won´t regret the investment!
Chainer is simple perfection. It's satbility, ease, and efficiency has simply convinced me that VSTis are a reliable, professional part of my aresenal. I was not convinced of this before.
I have a dedicated softsynth computer that I treat essentially as a multi-synth "tone module," midi'd up to my main DAW. I tried numerous hosts with varying degrees of success and stability. Most of them were way over-featured for my needs and were not CPU efficient. Chainer is just ideal for me. Rock solid, transparent, and I seem to get:
a) significantly more instances of synths and effects out of my CPU than with my last main host.
b) less crackling, clicking, and crashing than I've experienced with other hosts.
It's odd that a non-sound-making application would be the most inspiring purchase I've made in some time, but it is absolutely the case. I feel like I'm breathing freely and moving confidently in the VSYi world for the first time.
PS, I commend the developer on his enlightened demo. The only lacking functionality is loading saved presets, but you can save them anyway, and the demo will open with your last configuration, so you can actually get to work on the demo and not sacrifice any moments of inspiration. Because of this, I was very quick to purchase Chainer after only one evening with the Demo. So "lightly restricted" demos can pay off in good customer relations. Good job.
Chainer is going to single-handedly keep me from losing my mind. It was just what I was looking for. Making music up until now has been just way too hard.
I'm using Chainer to play VSTis from Harmony Assistant (scoring program) so I can hear what I'm doing in the instruments I intend to use. I'm happy to report the waves record out flawlessly from Chainer through Sonic Foundry's Virtual Midi Router. I can do precisely what I want to do: Get dry audio waves out of HA without having to export to midi, revise the midi files to fix what didn't export perfectly, jump through hoops to try to sync everything, have all these files littering up my system, and yadayadayada. Of course, if I want to, Chainer will allow me to add effects as well at this stage.
The only thing is I have to close Chainer before Cool Edit will recognize the wave file; probably an ASIO conflict thing. Also, and this is specific to HA, I cannot mix digital and midi-out instruments and play them in real time; I have to shape and render out HA's Goldbase instruments first, then relate all the instruments to the midi out for Chainer to render the non-HA instruments. This is no biggie compared to what I was having to do before.
I've crashed Chainer once when I was just loading everything but the kitchen sink and changing a ton of settings while playing it. I haven't yet figured out how to get the panning controllers from HA to be read by Chainer, and it's only routing out to the left channel of one of my Mia virtual outs; not sure but this may be a limitation of the demo. I certainly plan to buy this excellent program. CPU usage is barebones minimal, and all my VSTis load VERY quickly...even SampleTank! Chainer is an awesome piece of work!
An addendum: When you load a VSTi into a slot, you need to set the proper transmission value (from the pulldown arrow to the left of the VSTi name). It defaults to Channel 1, which could lead to your thinking it doesn't work right.
My first review - noticed all the other reviews of Chainer and it is one of my favourites too so I wanted to add what I think is great about it.
Most people have covered the basics so I won't repeat what they have written - but there are a few really special features I wanted to draw attention to.
One is the fact that if you have Logic it is the only VSTi that enables you to access and automate ANY other VSTi on your system - Logic also has its own patch handling system and not all synths have internal ones so Chainer enables you to use the fxb/p patches properly too (this might also work with Orion too which also has its own preset system and issues with some VSTi's I believe).
Everyone knows some VSTis don't like to be wrapped as a DXi - however if you just wrap Chainer you can play them all and without having to wrap every VSTi in your system and the resultant conflicts and registry additions.
Chainer can load multiple directories so it is good for testing out synths before adding them to your main directory. I find it useful for troubleshooting problems with a synth or effect. That makes it a central place to play and test out your synths.
Because it works with "chains" of synths and effects you can create multiple combinations of synths and effects and then save them (with the full version)- effectively making a new modular synth. The only limitation here is that the chain is linear (unlike say the TC Spark machine). Try using even a basic synth sound with something crazy like GRM tools or an Ohmforce effect and it opens up a whole new vista of sound design. You can even save the results as a soundfont or wave file to use in a sampler.
And you can generate even more crazy and useful sounds with the innovative preset lab.
Chainer is the most stable host I have come across, and it lends some of this stability to the host you load it up in - I have been able to load up synths and effects in hosts they normally crash using Chainer.
Chainer may be the best $60 you'll spend on VST stuff,period.It's a patch bay for all your VSTis and VST effects(and combined with VB's ffx4,DX effects,too). It will let you mangle different combinations of synths and effects to your heart's content;add a little hardware(there's audio ins,too),and export it all as a .wav file,or as .wav or SF2 multisamples.Load THAT into Crystal,VirtualSampler,NN-19,Kontakt,CronoX-you get the picture.Add to all this that it doesn't use hardly any resources(less than 1.5% on my old 933 MHz PIII) and the fact that it DOESN'T crash-if Chainer crashes,it's either a bad plug or something's wrong with your system-and you have the perfect solution for a lot of routing,sampling,etc.problems.Try the demo if you haven't,and then BUY it...these kind of apps need all the support we can give them!
I'm gonna add my own ten cents because this app really should be in the featured list and therefore it needs at least five reviews.
This app is nothing less but a GEM. Anybody working with VSTi synths - I'm a sound designer - needs this thing as bad as you need your ears.
This probably is the smallest VSTi host out there (it is a plugin in its own right). It is FAST (loads in no time), flexible (you can add as many VST directories as you have) and does not use up all the memory and CPU time any other host would. If you don't need sequencing and the lot why would you waste your resources on any other host.
I tried this baby on a regular P III laptop, no special audio cards or anything and latency was just STUNNING ! Being a programmer I can definitely appreciate the fact that I can use my computer's keybord to play - no need for an external keyboard. (people that need to be mobile like me will definitely appreciate this)
Specs say you can load up to 100 VST instruments/effects in one instance of Chainer ... BUT .. you can also load several instances of Chainer in Chainer (as it is a standalone app AND a plugin ) You can't even begin to imagine what possibilities that will open up.
Imagine layering Model E, PPG wave, Pro 53 and Pentagon .... and whatever else you have around ... BOY ... the sounds this little baby lets you produce just makes your pants drop down ! And most surprising of all .. the processor hardly notices !!! Try that in Cubase SX or any other host !!
Forget RTPlayer, because of it's stupifying clumsy handling of VST subdirectories, and forget V-Stack if you don't need VST link.
Enough said, only if you're really stupid you will not download the fully functional demo at http://www.xlutop.com and play with it for a while. This will be your best spent 60 bucks EVER .. trust me.
In short : your processor will love you for it and your latency impotence will be temporarily relieved. Chainer is VIAGRA for VST ..nothing less
I have to edit my old review now for version 1.03:
With Chainer you can play as many VST/VSTi as you want at the same time or independent from each other. Each VST-instrument is multitimbral with Chainer. You can create new presets for each instrument very easily and fast. The automation is very good and easy.
There are no presets, because it is no instrument itself, so I rated this high. The same for the sound quality.
The GUI is fine and easy to understand and context sensitive by right mouse click.
I had no stability problems.
Problems and bugs are supported very fast and very well. 4 bugs that I reported were eliminated within one week.
Ok, since i have little time to spare at the moment - i'll be consise.
This product rocks. I have not yet purchased the full version - which i will as soon as i am financially able.
However i gave this puppy a thorough excersize by jamming my guitar through the standalone. It's plain excellent!
One annoying visual bug that i have mentioned in passing on this here forums (i didn't even send a report to the makers) - was noticed and fixed the next day. Aside from it - there were never any problems for me at all.
My only desire for the future releases would probably be DX effect support (i happen to have lots of those). But even without this - it's still the most versatile tool you can buy to process your sound, no matter what host. And it works as standalone - so plug your guitar, insert that excellent Guitar Suite free JCM amp emulation - and you have an amp with direct monitoring. Wonderful.
Ok, this is actually not a VST instrument or VST effect, but a VST/VSTi host, that can be used within a VST compatible application. Confused? Well, this is where the fun starts.
Ever wanted to run a sound source through a flanger through a delay through a distortion through a reverb and a compressor? Or stack a couple of VST instruments for a fat layer sound? And save your favourite combinations for easy retrieval?
Each FX or instrument slot (and there are a lot, 10 chains with 10 slots each) does have it's own volume level, panning and a through level from the previous slot which means that you can exactly define it's internal mix of the audio signal.
It's also amazing for intrument plugins that are not multitimbral like the FM-7 for example... just open several within the Chainer, set each to their own midi channel and voila, works like a charm! In the same way it can also be used to give you more than the regular 8 instrument slots in VST 5.1, which I for example love because I don't like to switch to Cubase SX yet.
But actually this thing can do even more. It's also a standalone software, means a full functioning VST host with midi input and ASIO support that can be used to run instruments and effects just like a rack full of audio machines on a second computer for example.
It incorporates even more extras: You have a function that can randomize parameters of any plugin. And you can assign any midi modulation source to almost any parameter using a midi learning function, so you can finally automate plugins using midi CCs (like the free TAU for example) who don't support them in the first place.
Stability seems to be excellent (I had no problems so far in Cubase 5.1, couldn't try other hosts though)
The documentation could be a bit more extensive, but most of the functions are easy to understand.
This is an amazing piece of software that deserves more attention and it's very much worth the price!
I know this is really old school, but Chainer is still my 'goto" vsti host. It's simple, and it works, but only for VST 2 plugins. Does anyone know if it will work in Windows 10? I'm about to get a new computer, and really would like to know. Plus, if there's another Chainer-like vsti host that looks similar, and absolutely does work in Windows 10 please let me know :)