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aardvarkkPhaser [read all reviews]
Reviewed By SmoothMountain [read all by] on 10th February 2020
Version reviewed: 1.05 on Linux
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I really like this plugin! I've been looking for a phaser/flanger that can be manually controlled for a long time, and here it is.

I set it to "manual", set the LFO depth to 0, and control the "Manual" knob through any number of different automation parameters. It's great for adding some zing to a scratch sample, especially when I control it from the amplitude of the sample (kind of like an envelope follower, but with flange instead of a filter).

I'm running Reaper 6.03 native Linux (Ubuntu 18.04). Great stuff, thanks for supporting Linux.

One caveat; I have to use version 1.05. Version 1.06 won't run. Reaper gives the following error:

swell: dlopen() failed: /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libcurl.so.4: version 'CURL_OPENSSL_3' not found (required by /home/me/.vst/aardvarkkPhaser.so)swell: dlopen() failed: /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libcurl.so.4: version 'CURL_OPENSSL_3' not found (required by /home/songsmith/.vst/aardvarkkPhaser.so).

This is basically a libcurl V3/V4 issue. Ubuntu 18.04 uses libcurl V4. Odd that the newer plugin version (1.06) requires libcurl V3, while the older version (1.05) works with libcurl V4.

No worries on my part, I had already downloaded and tested the 1.05 version and had been loving it, so I bought it. When the 1.06 version wouldn't work, I just put the old 1.05 version back, opened it in Reaper, put my registration key in it, and am happy to support the developers of this fine plugin.

I gave it 5 stars even though I can't run the latest version (1.06) on Ubuntu 18.04 (the latest LTS release), because I'm having so much fun using 1.05.

A tip for Linux users: When testing plugins, start your DAW from the command line. That way, if it causes a crash, the command line will (usually but not always) give some useful feedback as to what the nature of the crash was. That's how I got the error message above.

My thoughts to devs about Linux support: It seems that devs are using Ubuntu 16.04 as the standard to build against. It is a Long Term Support (LTS) release.

looking at the Ubuntu release info, Ubuntu 16.04 was released in April 2016 (almost 4 years ago) and will reach the end of standard support in April 2021. 18.04 was released in April 2018 and will reach the end of standard support in April 2023.

It appears that Ubuntu releases a new LTS every 2 years. If you are using Ubuntu as the Linux "standard" (I chose Ubuntu because it's a popular and well-supported distribution), then move to the latest LTS release 1 year after it is released. That is nowhere near the bleeding edge of new releases, but not too far behind the Linux development curve, either.

Moving to the latest LTS version 1 year after it is released is not forcing us users or you devs to use a bleeding edge OS.

Just my 2 cents... and thanks again for supporting Linux.

Couture [read all reviews]
Reviewed By SmoothMountain [read all by] on 10th February 2020
Version reviewed: 1.4 on Linux
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Good plugin. I run Reaper 6.03 native Linux, and I have Couture embedded in a couple of drumset track templates. I've been exploring compression and saturation on drum tracks recently, and the ability to add saturation and shape transients in a single plugin is great, especially on cymbals.

I have a couple of drumset templates where I send the cymbals to a separate submix, and send that submix through Couture. The transient and saturation controls give me lots of flexibility while mixing.

I started with the free version, but wanted the saturation, so I bought it. I'm glad I did. I only use the Sin, Bass and Tube saturation settings, (the others are a bit too intense for me) but as I said, they work great on cymbals.

I specifically got it for drum tracks, and it does the job well...

Good stuff.

Wusik Station V9 [read all reviews]
Reviewed By Ojaix [read all by] on 10th February 2020
Version reviewed: 9.2.8 on Windows.
Last edited by Ojaix on 10th February 2020.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
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Awesome synth. I've not been able to go through the endless list of presets but the engine is really powerful and the sounds are so so good. I would need a lot more time to fully explore the power of this beast but so far it stands toe to toe with some of my best go-to plugins, as far as the sound is concerned. It definitely deserves a lot more attention than it's getting right now.

NOVO Essentials [read all reviews]
Reviewed By BONES [read all by] on 5th February 2020
Version reviewed: 1.0 on Windows
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This Kontakt instrument is an absolute cracker! It works in the free Kontakt player so anyone can use it and it offers an incredible feature set. There are three separate instruments in the product. One allows you to play strings like you would on any synth. The second one, String Designer, lets you shape the sampled strings into sounds that are more like a synth. The final instrument, Loop Designer, allows you to choose and play preset pattern loops, as played by the orchestra. They allow you to stack three layers - bass, cello and violin/viola - to create powerful string arrangements for your compositions.

You get 6GB of sample content and the quality is amazing. It includes multiple articulations - sustain, tremolo, pizzicato and staccato - and you can mix between the close and room mics to get the best sound. There are plenty of effects too, including a step sequencer in the String Designer that you can use to modulate certain parameters to create your own synth-like rhythms, It goes way beyond your average string sample set. The Loop Designer also has plenty of loops for you to work with. You can mix and match loops between layers for even greater variety.

The instrument is very deep, you can go crazy creating your own patches and it takes a lot of time and effort to fully explore everything on offer. I was really surprise dhow complex it all is. That said, it's presented in a clear way and I didn't find it daunting at all. Once you have your sounds, playing the instruments is even easier. You use your left hand to set the note you want to play, within a single octave, and then you use the three higher octaves to select your loops. e.g. I might want to play the bass loop that's mapped to the F in bass octave, the cello loop on the B key and the loop on E for the violin. I just have to press those three keys momentarily to select those loops. If I want them to play in the key of G, I press the G key with my left hand. If I go from G to A, it raises the pitch of each of the three loops by two semitones. So you play your melody with your left hand and you use your right hand to change any of the three rhythms (loops). It's dead easy and very addictive.

NOVO Essentials is one of those things that you probably have to experience to appreciate. The demo only includes a tiny proportion of the samples but it will give you a good idea of the potential of the package. If you want orchestral strings in your songs and you can't justify spending several hundred dollars on them, this thing will more than get you up and running. I envisage using it for years without having to worry about repeating myself or sounding like everyone else. Highly recommended.

Phrasebox [read all reviews]
Reviewed By SMAustinTexas [read all by] on 3rd February 2020
Version reviewed: 1.0.1 on Windows
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
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Phrasebox from Venomode (https://venomode.com/phrasebox) is a fascinating and powerful MIDI utility designed to help you compose music more easily. As the name suggests, the focus of the tool is on building musical phrases, which is a much needed fresh perspective on traditional arpeggiator or chord progression tools. After all, musical phrases are how musicians think. As a composer, you often want to try out your musical ideas in different keys, different locations in the score, or with different arrangements. Phrasebox makes this exploration so much easier, especially for a very reasonable price. This review will hit some of the highlights I've found in my first week of using it.

Phrasebox works within your DAW. (This reviewer uses Cubase). In Cubase, it seems to work best when using one instance of Phrasebox to play one instrument, and you can of course add as many instances as you need for your tracks. The basic concept is that you will feed into Phrasebox chord progressions either by playing on your keyboard live or by routing a MIDI track with chord notes on it - and those notes will be transformed by Phrasebox into the musical idea you've laid out in the grid. Ostinatos, driving bass lines, wild arpeggios are all possible. Want to build a four-part fugue? Go right ahead. This tool ensures your melodies, harmonies, and counterpoints are all right on key. Phrasebox could be used powerfully with a wide variety of VST instruments - piano, guitar, synths, orchestral instruments, and sound design instruments. Setting up Phrasebox is relatively straightforward, somewhere between easy to intermediate in complexity. It's not going to read your mind, yet with just a bit of practice you're going to be doing some great creative work a lot faster than you did before and having a lot more fun doing it. After just a week's use, I can see I'll be using this for most if not nearly all my composition projects from here on out.

Phrasebox also succeeds by not trying to do too much. You couldn't, for example, sequence the entire first movement of Beethoven's Fifth with it, but you definitely could create some great variations on that opening. Feeling a little Zimmerish? Build those lower string ostinatos on one track and layer some high string and brass melodies on top of it. Those tracks will all blend beautifully, even when you switch from D minor to G major or later change your mind to hear it in B-flat lydian. Because the tracks are following your chord progression, you don't have to make substantial changes to a bunch of MIDI just to experiment with different keys or scales. You can also constrain your patterns to a specific scale mode in each key - you get twelve modes per key from which to choose (major, harmonic minor, natural minor, dorian, phrygian, lydian, lydian flat 7, mixolydian, locrian, jazz melodic minor, pentatonic major, and pentatonic minor).

Many of the features are what you'd expect in this kind of tool, but a few features really stand out. First, each instance can include up to seven different CC automation lane assignments of your choice, in addition to velocity, transpose, octave, chance, and pitch bend. This means if you want to add some increasing vibrato to your phrase (for example), and your instrument supports vibrato through a CC channel (e.g. CC 11), you can include that expression as part of the phrase. Use CC 64 to apply the sustain pedal to all or part of your phrase. If your instrument uses a CC value to switch articulations, you can accommodate that too (although, from what I can tell, keyswitches are not supported directly). Overall, you can be as precise as you need to be to fit your target instrument or more generic to suite a wider variety of VST instruments. Phrases can be copied and pasted as you'd expect, and an entire Phrasebox setup can be saved as a user preset. What all these features ultimately give you is the ability to compose freely and still get the playback quality you want, to the degree of preciseness you want.

Then to make your phrases a permanent part of your project, you would record the MIDI output from Phrasebox in you DAW, and the output includes your CC and automation data too.

Another hugely important capability is being able to make fine adjustments to the length of notes whether for more realistic performances or to trigger legato transitions that require overlapping notes.

(Cubase users, if you've ever tried to use the Cubase Chord Track to modify individual MIDI tracks based on scale or chord, you'll find that Phrasebox makes that process so much simpler and in many ways better because you get more predictable results.).

For future versions, I'd like to see a keyswitch lane added to the grid similar to the "Fixed" note lane with different fixed notes per step. For longer compositions, I could also use more than twelve phrases per instance and at least twice as many steps per phrase (you get 32 right now, which is a lot already). Lastly, more scale modes like exotic scales, or perhaps user-defined scales, would be really fun. I'd love to see a future version where you could record a phrase live from keyboard or import MIDI from the DAW into Phrasebox for that nth degree of humanization.

That said, this is a very well designed and user-friendly compositional aid that has been made with a composer's perspective front and center. For version 1, it's incredibly deep and powerful. I would pick this utility over any of the other scale, chord, and pattern MIDI tools that I've purchased in the last couple of years.

Rating: indispensable.

Limited-Z [read all reviews]
Reviewed By DeraZilla [read all by] on 2nd February 2020
Version reviewed: 10 on Windows.
Last edited by DeraZilla on 2nd February 2020.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful.
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Great features with a small paid.

One of the most usable limiter that I have ever used.

Bug fixes are also frequently implemented.

It is strongest if input is strengthened in the future.

ModulAir [read all reviews]
Reviewed By severak [read all by] on 30th January 2020
Version reviewed: 1.1.0 on Windows
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
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I was wondering if there was a freeware modular synth. I discovered this gem and was surprised that it even has a polyphony.

It's very well-advised concept and it has very good balance between simplicity and flexibility. Once you get idea about difference of master modules and voice modules (and common section), you are able to create simple polyphonic patches. And there is a lot of patches to steal ideas from.

Definitely recommended, only thing you can loose is your time playing with it.

AFX (Acoustics Frequency Xperience) [read all reviews]
Reviewed By rahnrasen [read all by] on 29th January 2020
Version reviewed: 1 on Windows
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die dll dateien sind etwas tiefer in der ordner strucktur. die mit dem download kommt, versteckt, aber durchaus finbar. das plugin klingt gut, und mann hat genug möglichkeiten die sounds zu personalisieren. einfach in die entsprechen slots die jeweilige sfz bank laden, dann kann mann pro slot, also z.b. bd oder snare usw durch die verschiedenen samples zappen, und diese mit den filtern. pitch, etc seinem persönlichem geschmack anpassen. hat man ein drumkit erstellt, unbedingt abspeichern als bank ...damit die arbeit nicht umsonst war. und hier kommt auch ein kritik punkt : keine drummkit presets mitgeliefert, mann muss also erstmal selber ran. und leider ist auch das interface etwas klein geraten, was meine betagten augen nicht erfreut, also ein skalierbares interface wäre echt ne bereicherung, aber ansonsten ein sehr brauchbarer klopfgeist !.

Nuance [read all reviews]
Reviewed By Gamma-UT [read all by] on 29th January 2020
Version reviewed: 2.1.157 on Mac.
Last edited by Gamma-UT on 29th January 2020.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
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Functional but packed with niggling flaws

This is one of those products that looks good at a superficial level. It tries to make the most of natty GPU techniques like fading boxes. But as a sampling instrument it suffers from a raft of niggly, baffling usability flaws that make it often frustrating to use. Samplers are often inscrutable lumps of software because they have to deal with complex combinations of key and velocity mappings. They inevitably lead to a lot of clicky-clicky as you make adjustments. But in a product that is supposedly geared up for fast, creative sampling, Nuance can sometimes makes things harder than they are in one of the supposedly more "bloated" products like NI's Kontakt or Battery.

You will welcome the fact that it at least has a decent undo feature. That comes in handy when a click on the "Pad Root" setting – which you would assume simply sets the base note of something like an MPD – sends every single sample in a group that you've painstakingly keymapped to a single random key for reasons that I still haven't figured out.

It's at times like these ("why did it do that?") you work out that the manual is pretty terrible. There are two reasons.

Reason 1: It's perfunctory. It's really just a list of subwindows and commands. As a result, it gives very little help on how to get started with Nuance. If you've never tried to build instruments in a software sampler before, unless you're just going to drag in a single sample, have mapped it across a large chunk of the keyboard and leave it at that, it's going to be a bumpy ride. There are entire things that are simply missing, like the zoom function lurking above the keyboard in the mapping editor. Eventually, you'll find it. Things like the "Reset Root Key" context-menu command you have to work out for yourself. Maybe it's in all the manual somewhere but good luck finding it because...

Reason 2: It's presented as a set of web pages that aren't searchable and despite being presented as web pages there are very few hyperlinks that take you to where you can get more detail. For example, the UI introduction mentions the drum-pad display and how it's meant to support layered drums but doesn't link to any longer explanation of how you actually go about achieving that.

The result: trying to work out how to apply things like the pad mode are pretty much just trial and error. There are groups (which you can't rename to anything useful) and pads (which you can't...you get it) but working out how they are meant to relate to each other? You're on your own. In fact, quite a lot you wind up finding through trial and error.

Instrument building

There's not much of a factory library to speak of, so you will realistically spend a fair amount of time creating your own instruments. That's where the fun, er, stops. Keymapping samples is surprisingly tedious unless you are lucky enough get it right first time when you drag a group of samples in from the browser. Like Kontakt, it uses the position in the window to determine how many MIDI notes each sample will take up. Drag a group to the bottom and you get single-key samples. Problem 1: At the default display setting you have no way of working out which sample is which without moving the mouse to the top subwindow where its name will flash up momentarily before fading away (using one of those nice but not all that useful GPU effects). Then you realise some are not really where you want them. I know, let's drag each one to a different position. Oh wait, nothing happens if I drag to the left and it simply stretches out the sample across multiple keys to the right.

Unlike Kontakt, you can't simply place the cursor in the middle and drag. Nothing happens. Well, that's not entirely true. There's a zoom function that's not mentioned in the manual (well I couldn't find it). If you zoom in part of the name shows up and eventually you'll to the point where the software will notice you're clicking in the middle and will let you drag it somewhere else. Not too far, mind. Because by this point, you've got a grand total of two octaves on the screen and you need to drop the sample and readjust the zoom position in the lower bar to get it to where you want it. Yes, it won't scroll the window if you drag the sample to the edge. If you've got a moderately large drum kit and you need to shuffle things around, this is not good news. Pinch and zoom with a touchpad kinda works, expect it will only scroll while you're zooming. A regular two-fingered scrolling gestures does nothing.

MIDI control? Not so fast

Another requirement for a lightweight sampler intended for creative sampling is that you might want to map some things to MIDI controllers. Unfortunately, the MIDI setup is built almost entirely around MIDI Learn. The only MIDI CC you can select as a modulation source in its own right in the modulation editor is the modwheel. Any other CC has to be mapped to a control on the Nuance UI using MIDI Learn. This gives you a choice of three controls – X, Y and Z – that aren't tied to a specific function that can then be deployed in the modulation editor. Want more than that? Unlucky. You can MIDI-learn a bunch of other targets but then you are stuck with full-range movements, so be careful with those controllers when you move them. Now, four probably sounds like enough but it's pretty easy to max out with something like a TECcontrol breath sensor and a Linnstrument or a ROLI before you even get started on foot pedals.

The second problem is that MIDI learn is only convenient if you have a control surface that is all discrete knobs. If you have something like a Linnstrument, something with motion sensors in it, like one of TEControl's breath units, or even the X-Y pad on an SL, MIDI Learn is a royal PITA. In Nuance, you have no way of editing the CC it learns if it picks up the one you didn't want. If you're not feeling lucky, the only reliable workaround for this is to have a bunch of knobs set up for things like breath on, say, an SL so you don't have to futz about hoping it will latch onto the CC you want rather than the others coming through the MIDI stream.

And if you map something like a Novation SL's XY pad you'll notice that the Y direction reversed. It's not a major deal from a performance perspective but there's no way to set the 0,0 origin in preferences that would make it slightly less confusing when you're programming the modulation. On the plus side, the X, Y and Z settings are also reflected in the knobs under the pad itself.

It's at this point you start to think: "Why didn't I try to build this simple instrument in Kontakt? Maybe that NI thing isn't so bloated after all."

Drums and layering

One of the claims NSA makes for Nuance is that it's good for drum layering. That's partially true. It has some built-in features that lend itself to that and perhaps more so than creating pitched instruments but it's another good-news/bad-news situation here. For those with a Machine- or MPD-style 16-pad controller, it's got a lot going for it. You can set up a 4x4 grid of pads reasonably easily and add a bunch of samples, each with its own set of envelope controls and effects, to the same pad. Be careful with the drag-and-drop though as it's easy to accidentally replace a sample when what you really wanted to do was add a pad layer. Undo, comes to the rescue once again.

At first glance, the pad-layer editing seems to go further than, say, NI's Battery. However, I find layering easier in Battery because that provides easier access to the samples and velocity switches and crossfades. The thing about Battery is that you can't add non-destructive envelopes to layers within a cell. But in Battery there's nothing stopping you from mapping the same MIDI notes to more than one cell to achieve the same thing.

If you want to combine samples into one edit group with a common envelope, you need to get out of pad mode (though you are free to map samples to the keys underneath the pads - though you might need to be careful when transposing the pad-root key, as mentioned above). Layering can get tricky here. The problem with Nuance's approach is that it can sometimes get really hard to pick the sample you need to edit because there's no way to click on it without activating another sample that overlaps it. Battery, in contrast, lets you switch between samples in a layer easily with a drop-down menu on the sample's name. There's clearly space to have this in Nuance, but Nuance doesn't do it.

What looks like a missed opportunity when it comes to layering is that Nuance doesn't have the features of something like the defunct Stacker that sets it apart. There's no sample offset to let you create layer flams and big clap sounds unless you add silence to all your samples and rely on the start/loop controls. You're also on your own if you're trying to work out how not to get phasing between samples mapped to the same pad. You've got no way to nudge samples or adjust relative phase short of opening up the sample in an external editor and messing with it there. Battery doesn't do sample offset either, but if you're trying to get a sample player into a niche, you probably want additional features that will attract those users.

There's a bit more in the discussion down below as this review exceeded the KVR maximum character count.

plasticityFilter [read all reviews]
Reviewed By TheDragonborg [read all by] on 29th January 2020
Version reviewed: idk on Windows
1 of 2 people found this review helpful.
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This is a must have for Drum & Bass producers... especially for neurofunk... the fact that it's free is insane! Sounds great on basses with a huge helping of distortion! The only thing I would add be an option for it to automatically disable the filter when it reaches 0 for highpass or 100 for lowpass for some drum filter sweeps. You can accomplish the same thing by automating the bypass setting in your daw.

I did encounter a bug when I deleted the plugin from a chain in Reason 10 and it crashed the plugin instead of deleting it. The other plugin instance kept working though.