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Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on December 16th, 2021
Version reviewed: 1.1.2 on Mac

I've written and posted over 200 user reviews in the past 10+-years. You've probably seen my name here and there. I have clearly spent too much time writing reviews and not enough time writing and producing music. I recently vowed to stop doing reviews unless I came upon something extraordinary. Alas, here we are.. .

De-Essers, in General
De-essing (also called de-sibilizing) is the process of reducing harsh and/or loud sibilant consonants, i.e., "s", "z", "ch", "j", soft "c", and "sh", in voice recordings. De-essers are similar to compressors but more focused on the high frequencies that cause "s" and similar harsh spikes. There are many software units available on the market. Some are more effective than others, but even the best options, have a tendency to make audio sound unnatural and cause artifacts. They affect the frequency balance with their dynamic processing, which is good and bad. The goal is to use a de-esser that is straightforward, accurate. and natural-sounding — one that will help smooth out abrasive high sounds. As modern-day producers strive to brighten-up mixes, it's even more important to tame loud sibilants to avoid blowing out listeners' eardrums.

T-De-Esser Pro is the expanded and enhanced version of Techivation's fabulous free T-De-Esser Plus release. According to the developer, "Our plug-in is meant to smooth out high sounds in a very natural and musical way." So, does it live up to this claim? Let's investigate.. .

Getting Started
There is a simple purchase, download, install, and authorization via a code. .. no iLok or dongle of any kind. No confusion. The plugin was recognized and launched swimmingly in Apple Logic Pro X and GarageBand, Cockos Reaper, MuTools MuLab, Serato Studio, Image-Line FL Studio, and Twisted Wave. The initial launch reveals a neatly designed, eye-pleasing, inviting interface with no clutter or chaos. Yet, this comes with more features than a standard de-esser.

Buttons, Knobs, Sliders, Menus, Gizmos, etc.
• In the center of it all is a big processing dial that regulates how much audio signal slides through before the effect is engaged. This is the threshold.

• Users can de-ess in a wide frequency range, which is easily selected via four presets scopes (Low-hi, Mid-hi, High, Hi-end) as well as a handy slider to dial in more custom, specific range via a slider (1kHz to 20kHz). The presets are fixed and the slider is smooth and responsive. This is an excellent feature when working with instruments like guitar, cymbals, and sound FX.

• The Intensity dial works in ratios (1.0:1 to 10.0:1) and is reminiscent of standard compressors. I like how these ratios have micro tunings beyond the standard 2:1, 4:1, etc.

• In my noodling, Sharpness seems to affect the smoothness of the audio. According to White Noise Studio, "Sharpness will set the crossover slope between the unprocessed frequency area and the de-essed."

• Attack (0.0ms to 30.0ms) and Release (1.0ms to 120ms) work as they should.

• Mix (0% to 100%) is a slick way to blend and fine-tune-adjust after the user has the desired effect. .. wet vs. dry.

• The Quality menu is something I found interesting and unique. This drop-down enables users to manipulate oversampling via the internal processor that correlates to aliasing (1x, 2x, 4x, 8x, 16x). If a user's processor was struggling, I would recommend rendering after tracking. On my system, the difference between 1x and 16x was almost exactly double within one of my DAWs (31% to 60%).

• Another feature that goes beyond standard de-essers is the Saturation (0 to 100%) "Filter" (orange when engaged). This drives the audio through virtual analog circuits to create a subtle form of distortion with harmonics. What I like about this particular saturator is how it processes the selected high-frequency range. Using Saturation also helps to smoothen the sibilants.

• Hi-cut (3kHz to 20kHz) reduces some of the overall annoying hi feq. harmonics, Mode (processing of stereo vs. side signals), Link (balance between L, R, mid, side), Undo/Redo.

• Lookahead is really nice to have. It allows the unit to get a jump on the input signal, thus resulting in more accurate processing. The manual warns that this feature "will increase latency." So, like the oversampling feature mentioned above, it's probably best not to use Lookahead for tracking.

• The A/B switch is invaluable for comparing and dialing in.

In Action
T-De-Esser Pro is extremely responsive, even without Lookahead engaged. The controls are all easily adjusted, with smooth transitions between parameters. The presets (available via download) provide a nice start-point, and if you've ever worked with compressor/limiters and similar hardware or virtual gear, it's not difficult working from scratch. I found it easy to go from subtle de-sibilizing "s", "z", "ch", etc. for vocals up to 10 kHz to more extreme editing/sound design with cymbals and screaming electric guitars. Harsh drum transients can also be warmed-up without sacrificing the overall punch. Users can also domesticate out-of-control snares without beating them into roadkill. By virtue of the Saturation feature, this unit has two ways to de-ess. For me, I need my de-esser to do a better, more natural job than editing manually with EQ, compressions, and de-amplification. Alas, T-De-Esser Pro does it for me! Words that come to mind. .. smooth, creamy, effortless, fleshy. Note: Users can click on "Filter" in the audition section to hear the side-chain input, and the "Diff" button allows you to hear what's being altered/removed.

Things I Like A Lot
• Eye-pleasing interface that scales nicely up to 150%.

• Stress-free workflow. .. easy to ascertain the desired effect. Fast.

• Hover tooltips, which are super helpful in getting to know the plugin and identifying numerical parameters.

• High-quality algorithms that yield a sweet sound - ranging from natural to FX. This de-esser is hard-working, but the results are organic and seemingly effortless.

• Extra cool features include Lookahead, Oversampling, and Saturation "filter"

• Amazingly complete for a v1 release.

• Lifetime License.

• No iLok or dongle of any kind is required.

• Enthusiastic, forward-thinking, responsive developer.

Thing's I'd Like Added/Changed
• Although this plugin is relatively CPU/latency efficient, I'm hopeful future versions will be even more optimized to keep performance up and consumption down.

• Ability to turn off hovering tool tips. Once a user knows the plugin well, this might become annoying.

• Here's a dream. .. a wish-list item. .. what about a built-in frequency analyzer to illustrate A/B of original vs. effected?;-) That would be cool! I, like many producers, use my ears and eyes when editing audio.

The developer claims, "Our plug-in is meant to smooth out high sounds in a very natural and musical way." So, does it live up to this claim? The answer is YES!!! Upon launch, it's apparent that T-De-Esser Pro offers more than most de-essers, including its little brother - the free version. This plugin crosses over into side-chain compression and is fully stocked with features, without being a bloated, chaotic mess. The Pro edition delivers more flexibility, versatility, and options. It keeps the sound musical and doesn't create artifacts. It doesn't just work as a repair tool but also as a creative tool that can help you be more creative while fixing the issues in the audio.

Techivation's T-De-Esser Pro is an extremely effective, hi-end plugin that delivers musical results, and best of all. .. it's fun to use.;-) The only question I think potential users need to ask is, "Am I a hobbyist, who simply wants to clean up spoken/sung word(s), or am I more than that?" Amateurs have the free versions (I think there are two options). Pros and pro-hopefuls have this spectacular version that comes with a lifetime license! The price is very reasonable considering what other hi-end units cost, but when you consider free lifetime updates, it's a fantastic bargain!! I highly recommend this sweet tool for any eMusician, producer, sound designer, DJ, etc., looking to improve their control of sibilances or for sound design and mixing. It delivers as promised.

For my final sentence, I'll quote Tory G, "T-De-Esser Pro is a freakin' beast!"

*I sincerely hope my user review has been helpful. .. or at least a fun read.;-).

Version Reviewed: v1.1.2 for Mac.


Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on December 11th, 2021
Version reviewed: 1.20 on Mac.
Last edited by tommyzai on 11th December 2021.

For several years I've been looking for a straightforward, yet powerful MPC-style drum sampler to replace AudioSpillage Ekektroid (abandoned), One Small Cue Poise (never developed for Mac OS X), Native Instruments Battery and Kontakt (many reasons), Geist, etc. I found all of these sampler-based options either missing essential features, way too bloated and complex, or ridiculously expensive. I yearned to have my sampled drum kits in one sweet place that was easy to use, with a smooth workflow that didn't get in the way of my creative process. I don't know about you, but once the momentum has stopped, it's difficult to get it going again. I avoid software that tangles me in a web of menus and madness. Yet, when I need to go deeper into some advanced features for editing, I need to know those tools are somewhere under the hood.

I am happy with my synth-based options like SonicCharge MicroTonic, D-16 emulations, etc., but I have a huge drum sample library and need a way to access, play, and tweak my kits. Note: Serato Sampler and Serato Studio show lots of promise. Still, it's nice to have a dedicated sample-based drum machine to drop into random DAWs. This is especially important for those of us who change DAWs like underpants. .. or perhaps even more often.;-)

Enter Apisonic Labs Speedrum, the pro version of Speedrum Lite. It's currently going for €49.00, which I feel is a bargain. .. way less than upgrading Battery. I just downloaded the very latest version (v1.20), and I'm loving it! Anyone else digging this little beast? Note: The free version is super cool and provides a nice gateway into the full version. I'll be leaning on the full version of Speedrum for my drum/percussion sampler needs.

Some of my favorite features:

• Easy to install, authorize, and get started.

• MPC Layout in 16 or 32 pads.

• Lovely clean interface.

• Resizable from 60% to 200%.

• Excellent pad control.

• Fast as lightning. .. appropriately named "Speedrum."

• Lots of sample layers, chokes, editing features, etc.

• Built-in transient shaper.

• Nice browser for sample selection with drag-n-drop.

• Small footprint and light on CPU.

• Sounds fantastic.

• Fun to use. Musical.

• Excellent developer responsiveness and support. I've sent several emails and all of them were answered quickly.

Things I'd like to see added

• Stand-alone version for DAW-less work.

• Include both round-robin and multi-layers with velocity mapping.

A couple of useful links:



Note: One thing that blows my mind about this software is how amazing it is for version one.

Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on April 29th, 2021
Version reviewed: v1.0 on Mac

NOTE: I'd like to give this 4.5 stars at this time, but that wasn't an option. I'd rather go with 5 than 4.

Multiphonics CV-1 is a new virtual modular synthesizer from Applied Acoustics Systems, a Canadian-based audio software development team that has produced some of the world's most innovative plugins. ... Lounge Lizard, Ultra Analog, Chromaphone, Objeq Delay, etc.

I'm a registered user of the AAS bundle. Over the years, I picked up each synth and effect one-by-one, usually on an introductory offer, and I never had regrets. When Multiphonics CV-1 was officially released, I wasn't sure if I could justify the purchase. .. I'm currently not working, and I have a good semi-modular synth from another developer. Still, I tortured myself by checking out the promotional ads, watching YouTube tutorials, and reading comments on the forums. I noticed that the tone of the posts range from glowing to dim and not much in between. I simply had to check this out and see and hear what all the hullabaloo was about. AAS makes it really easy to demo, but I pulled the trigger, optimistically hoping I would love it. So, I purchased, downloaded, installed, authorized, and began noodling. As I dove in, I felt compelled to share my first impressions. I hope you find my words informative or at least an enjoyable read.;-).

THE MODULAR SYNTHESIZER (Gurus, feel free to skip this section)
Modular synths are comprised of separate modules, each with a different function. These modules can be connected together by cables in various ways to create a patch. This environment is perfectly suited for creatively sound design. Like most modular synths, Inputs and outputs can be "patched" together in many ways. These synths lend themselves to experimentation and offer a signal path that is extremely flexible in comparison to other types of synths. Wikipedia has a sweet list of "typical modules." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modular_synthesizer. They include: Sources (VCO, LFO, EG, Etc.) and Processors (VCF, VCA, LPG, RM, Mixer, etc.).

Modular gear is in vogue. Over the past few years, several virtual options have been released. I'm actually surprised that it took so long for this mode of madness to become fashionable. These synths are a natural fit for EDM, Ambient, and anything experimental. I did some research about the various available virtual models. There are a few different approaches that include:

1. Open-Source (expandable via 3rd party modules).

2. Closed-Source (self-contained modular environment).

3. Semi-modular (collection of pre-wired modules).

After noodling around for several hours, here are a bulleted list of my first impressions and thoughts.. .

ReasonS TO BUY
• Version one of Multiphonics CV-1 provides all the basic modulation options needed to make great sounds. There are plenty of modulation and audio possibilities to keep users of all levels satisfied. .. until more modules are added, of course.;-).

• The built-in factory library is modestly comprehensive; yet, the patches are well-crafted and offer a rounded aural palette that illustrates what this synth's capabilities. Some of the patches in the Generative Folder are addictive. The library patches also provide a great starting point for user tweaked sounds.

• This synth sounds fantastic! The modules are pro quality in look, feel, and sound. They are not clunky and chunky like some offerings out there. And, like all AAS synths, CV-1 manages is capable of the unique combination of clarity and warmth. Sonics range from clear as a bell to deep and dirty and everything in between.

• Objeq Filter and State Variable Filter Modules are wonderful.

• This synth looks fantastic! Streamlined elegant interface. Eye-pleasing. Not intimidating. Seems 3D. Patch librarian is smooth, and I especially appreciate the notes section for each patch. .. they are visable without clicking anything.

• Super easy to use. Everything is right there on the main interface, providing a fast, efficient work-flow. Although it's virtual, it behaves and feels physical and tactile. Nothing gets in the way of sound designing and playing patches. It's perfect for modular rookies and veterans. Regardless of experience, CV-1 enables users to work quickly before their muses abandons them.

• It's fun, inspiring, and musical. This is one of those instruments that are a joy to experiment with and play.

• Multiphonics is a closed system, which means the entire library is integrated with all modules sharing the same conventions and designed to work well together.

• Relatively low-CPU hit for a modular.

• Easy to read manual (probably not needed). Good video tutorials.

• Standalone and plug-in (AU, VST, VST3) version.

• Small footprint. Hard to believe so much fits in a handful of megabytes (8.8MB for application version).

• Being a registered user of this synth won't become a money pit. AAS will undoubtedly provide us with exciting free updates, and down the road when they create v2. .. it won't cost much for registered users of v1.

• Applied Acoustics Systems has a strong user base with a responsive customer service.

• like an open android-type technology that allows you to collect 3rd party modules. The Open vs. Closed system debate is much like PC vs. Mac. Some users like to mix and match components from a variety of sources, while others like to keep it all in a neat, clean box. Some users might want more complexity, more menus, and more under-the-hood tinkering. There are advantages and disadvantages to both camps. For those campers who prefer open architecture, look into: VCV Rack, Voltage Modular, and Softube Modular.

• cannot wait for this new release to add modules and grow into a beast.

• have enough synths. I tried to explain to my girlfriend why I needed another synth. My arguments made me sound like a junkie with a serious addiction problem. It's hard to argue or justify why we need more gear to a non-musician. Yet, we musicians know we need more! Why do I need a Telecaster and a Stratocaster when I can only play one guitar at a time? Because they each have their own unique feel and sound. The same can be argued in favor of purchasing another synth.

Multiphonics CV-1 is a virtual modular synth that inspires creative experimentation and educational probing. It appears oddly tactile for a virtual instrument. Users can almost feel the patch cables and they drag them from module to module. Speaking of modules. .. they are clearly high-end and provide many patch options; yet, we want more! Experienced modular enviroment users will yearn for more, and I'm sure it will develop and evolve with each update. Knowing AAS, I am confident more modules are in the works, and I look forward to grabbing them. This company is best known for physical modeling. I'd like future updates to include more of their signature physical modeling via modules. Tassman, their synthg from years back included lots of modeling modules. When CV-1 includes more modeling, there will be little comparison between this and other modulars. .. assuming you are like me and dig physical modeling.;-) What I like most about Multiphonics. .. it's fun to use. .. time flies by as I move cables around, creating sounds that will surely lead to tracks and songs. Overall, the synth is expressive and musical. I don't find myself frustrated working with it. My head isn't buried in a manual, fiddling with hidden menus. What you see is what you get, and what you get is pretty cool! Everything is accessible directly from the interface. This makes it both a fast creation tool for seasoned patch designers and a great learning tool for modular newcomers. I've tried other modulars, both hardware and software, and I found most of them to be overly complex. This one is simple, yet powerful. And, the price is great. There is a demo. I highly recommend checking out this modular beast. I'm glad I picked it up.

Tassman used to be Applied Acoustics Systems' flagship synth. I loved it! Is this a new version of Tassman, renamed? Well, Tassman was discontinued a few years ago. I did some investigating and found this: https://www.applied-acoustics.com/tassman-4/faq/. Multiphonics CV-1 is not a continuation of Tassman. This is a totally new synth. Both share the same modular philosophy and are closed systems (no third-party modules), but Tassman behaved a lot like Reaktor, whereby patches were created in a "builder" interface, which required users to switch into the "Player" interface to tweak and play — sounds were interrupted when changes were made in the patch. Multiphonics is more like a Eurorack with patching done with wires directly on the playing interface. No doubt, the Tassman's coding became outdated. Multiphonics CV-1 represents the latest in coding/tech, and in my opinion it's much faster, smoother, and more fun.

Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on December 19th, 2019
Version reviewed: 1.0.1 on Mac

Please Note: This software has just been released. Therefore, my review is a concise introduction that focuses on what it is, why use/buy it, and first impressions. I did have a pleasure of doing a little beta-testing prior to release, but not enough to provide anything massive and in-depth. I sincerely hope my words prove to be useful. .. or at least. .. entertaining.;-).

deCoda by zplane is a music practice and transcription software that enables users to swiftly learn and play songs on their instrument without being distracted by dealing with tech bloat.

Where's the software? Did they forget to include buttons, knobs, sliders, and menus? Nah! Everything is there, but zplane has cleverly arranged the interface to facilitate a fast workflow without the software getting in the way. It's clearly designed to help users get to the point quickly without being side-tracked. I drag-n-dropped a song into the empty window and POW. .. it loaded the audio file and analyzed it. I toggled between the light and dark view. .. I prefer the light, but it's nice to have that option.


Assistance: Help is available if/when needed and comes in various forms:

  • Convenient tool-tips ranging from a basic help overlay that is activated by hovering the cursor over a tool to detailed help by double-clicking into a region. These are accessible via the top of the IU menu bar inside the question mark.
  • Several video tutorials clearly demonstrate "how to get started" as well as a tour, navigation, etc.
  • Support staff at zplane is highly responsive and happy to assist.

As before mentioned, it took a little time to get used to the streamlined GUI, but soon after I appreciated a clean, crisp look and feel. It's like a new canvas awaiting some paint from a pallet that is so easy to reach. There is a top bar that expands to view loop-able/loopview parts (in waveform or piano-roll) and a bottom bar that features: Edit time, key, bookmark (saves favorite parts), metronome, transport, focus on/off, octave, and playback speeds/BPM. Sidebar menus reveal bookmarks, parts, editing, mixing, export, etc. There are three lines, a.k.a burger menu, that show current project, project history, open file, and settings. The controls, functions, parameters, and settings are unobtrusive, yet easy to access. There is no clutter; no overstuffed nonsense to get in the way of doing what we do — music.

Lightning-fast! You simply drop audio music file onto the interface, let those amazing algorithms work their magic for a few seconds, and voila — music is deCoded! From there, parts can easily be reorganized and parameters can be manipulated as/if needed (Key, time signature, BPM, chords, etc.). The zoom feature is handy and easy to use.

zplane knows how to change speed without pitch change. Again, their algorithms shine. deCoda can be slowed (or sped) to help users learn and/or practice parts at their own pace.

What About My Instrument?
Most audio software requires users to have both hands glued to the keyboard, but deCoda minimizes computer time and maximizer instrument time. A one-handed keyboard nav creates an convenient, compact, ergonomic way for users to manipulate the instrument (on your lap) and software. This saves time and unnecessary movement that puts your instrument at risk. So, keep that guitar (bass, piano, etc.) close by and play on using it. deCoda is a tool designed to help you quickly learn and play songs.

File Management
All loaded files are neatly stored, automatically updated, listed, and loaded without navigation through a maze of files and folders. Users we not be slowed down by traditional file management, i.e., naming, saving and so on.

Oh, those zplane algorithms!!! Key, time, BPM, and song parts are usually spot-on. And when they're not, they're close enough to provide a solid foundation to work from.

I'd like clearer automatic note-by-note transcription for melody lines and solos. Then I wouldn't need to load that other app.;-).

You, me, and every other musician that wants to figure out a song or recording.

The extremes, i.e., Mozart and absolute beginners. However, Wolfie would certainly have fun with it, and once beginners better understand their instruments, this would become an invaluable tool for them to better understanding other people's music and improve their skills without the distracting of computer stuff.

Most software, especially audio transcription software, is cluttered with stuff that needs to be defined and explained in detail. deCoda is remarkably minimalist, yet extraordinarily powerful. It simply works well. What can I say about software that defines itself? When I think of deCoda, these words come to mind: Time-saving, elegant, clever, powerful, fun, educational, invaluable and indispensable. deCoda is what every software should be. .. it does exactly what you want it to do and doesn't get in your way. It doesn't prevent you from playing your instrument; it enhances instrument time. This is one fantastic tool. deCoda quickly became an indispensable tool in my studio, and I plan on keeping it in my dock until my ears fall off my head. If you have a need for audio transcription to help you reverse engineer some music, I strongly suggest you check out deCoda.

Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on December 12th, 2019
Version reviewed: 2.1 on Mac

Disclaimer: I wanted to give this software a 4.5 rating. I do believe future revisions will push it up to 5.0. However, 4.5 is not an option. I had to choose between 4 and 5, so I went with 5.

Nuance v2 by New Sonic Arts is an inspiring compact creative sampler with a fast, intuitive workflow. There's no bloat. It's light on CPU and heavy on performance. It more than lives up to its joyous promise of being quick, capable and fun.

Upon the first launch, seasoned sampler users might find themselves a little unsure about how to navigate around the interface. Luckily, there are helpful hints that pop up and the GUI soon after becomes intuitive and extremely inviting. It's minimalist, but it does all the right things and does them well. It can also consolidate, simplify and streamline a user's setup by assuming virtual drum machine duties. It's got the pads and kit features, including multiple layers per pad, round robins, choke, etc. The Pad View enables users to load and/or construct kits. The Piano mode returns the user back to a standard sampler with standard keyboard assignment and mapping.

If it's what's inside that counts, Nuance definitely has a lot going on under the hood as evidenced by its performance. If looks do matter, well. .. this is a fine looking piece of software. Check out the website. It's elegant and ultra-modern, just like their software's GUI. Side note of little importance. .. I like their logo. The tilted N encapsulated in a ring is cool and catchy. .. easy to see in the dock.

I've come to realize that there is no one way to flow that work. Users can keep it simple by dragging in single samples (simple instruments) or drums into the padview. In this way, the file browser and My Samples database becomes workflow central. Or, more advanced users can get a bit more complex by building their own multi-instruments and relying more on the map editor and detailed editing functions. That flow might look more like this:

1. Drag sample(s) onto the interface
2. Loop and key assign/map zones via pulling edges around
3. Switch to the Mapping View to set key, velocity range layering, multi-sampling, adjust start/end points, fades and looping in the wave editor.
4. Layer as/if desired
5. Globally edit Pitch, Pan, Volume, FX and modulation in groups or layers. Note: Modulation can be manipulated and then dropped in.
6. Assign to Cycle Groups for sequential round robin triggering.
7. Save.

Nuance fosters a super fast basic workflow; yet, the advanced features and power is as needed.

• Neat (compact), user-friendly interface with a truly "effortless workflow"
• Small footprint and CPU friendly
• Loads all the common audio files, and saves patches in its own format with an option to embed referenced samples
• Drag-n-drop in and out
• Inspiring and Musical
• Sounds great
• Simple, yet powerful layering, Amp Env, Pitch, Modulation, and FX
• Modulation is flexible and assignable via a drag-n-drop features into the Modulation Matrix or onto target parameters. For many, this might be a game changer.
• Step/Table Sequencer provides rhythmic, tempo-synced modulation and the XY Pad connects between the Assignment Manager and the Modulation Matrix.
• Round robins for more realism
• Built-in Choke feature for hats and other choke-able instruments.
• Batch edit
• Batch tag samples and filter for lightning browse/selection. The database neatly organizes a sample library within Nuance, which speeds up usage.
• Quick loading of sampler patches
• Helpful speech bubble hints = shallow learning curve
• Stand-alone and plugin versions
• Responsive developer
• Priced right.

• Pitch detection
• Advanced time compression/expansion
• Crossfading between Zones
• Key-Mapping by filename
• Random round-robin
• Transport and/or audition button for stand-alone version
• Name or color option for pads
• Detailed video tutorials.

If you love the feeling of falling in love as much as I do, you'll dig Nuance. It's like the best chocolate imaginable. .. a few simple ingredients. .. smooth, tasty, and not too sweet. So far, I see many positives and endless potential. Hopefully, this honeymoon stage is everlasting.;-) Nuance is a piece of software that I've been searching for. .. inspiring, fun to use, and not an overly complex mess. I don't foresee myself outgrowing this fine software. Like any good relationship, I hope we grow together. Nice job, New Sonic Arts. You won my heart; hopefully, that leads to some beats.;-).

Will it do everything the mega samplers like Kontakt, HALion, and MachFive does? NO! Will it do a better, faster job at the most important thing. .. help users make music? YES, I believe so! The full feature set of Nuance will not be as deep as the mega samplers, but it will blow away standard samplers. Nuance combines simplicity to enable users to work fast, but does not have the limitations of some simple samplers. The power is there if/when needed. This baby is streamlined and will sample circles around the big bloated beasts!! Nuance is cleaner, less confusing, and enables musicians, producers, DJs, etc. to focus on what matters instead of wasting time being frustrated. Without hesitation, I give Nuance two pulsating thumbs up. Check out the free demo.

Note #1: I'd also like to check out their other offerings, i.e. Granite (granular texture generator), Vice (loop slicer), and Freestyle (stage and studio).

Note #2: If you cannot live without pitch detection and advanced time compression/expansion, I suggest complimenting Nuance with Serato Sample. They make a great team.

Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on December 12th, 2019
Version reviewed: 1.1.0 on Mac

VStomp Amp by Hotone pronounced, "Hot One," is a collection of realistic modeled legendary amp emulations. The range includes: Marshall, Vox, Black Twin, Silver Twin, Mark, Baseman, Mesa Boogie, etc. The software uses the same tech found inside of their XTOMP multi-effect pedal, CDCM (Comprehensive Dynamic Circuit Modeling) system. Okay, I have no clue what that is, but I know it sounds great. Under the hood. .. I'm guessing they employed one of the following:

1. Miniature effigies of Jimmy Page et al.
2. Cutting edge algorithms for amps that also manipulate loaded cab IRs.

After investigating, I discovered that CDCM is a special kind of circuit that helps to emulate/replicate all the parameters and tonalities of classic amps and cabs to achieve "the closes possible characteristics" of the actual circuitry. Hey, it sounds great!.

1. Launch
2. Select an amp
3. Select a cab
4. Add delay, reverb, and boost.
5. Play
6. Save preset.

VStomp allows users to combine a wide variety of amps and cabs to create a unique custom sound. It includes countless clean, overdriven, hi-gain, and bass tones. I'm more into a 60s vibe as of late, so I favor the clean tones. I found an good preset demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9W3ZRn_luI4. It's good for a reference, but I think most of the examples sound better at home. .. less tinny. To quote Raphael Morgan from a KVR Audio post, "It sounds killer with Recabinet and some good IRs."

• Attractive, user-friendly interface.
• Fun to use.
• Sounds great.
• Nothing complicated, which = more playing.
• Built-in noise gate.
• Can be used as standalone (Mac OS X).
• Presets adjustable via MIDI controller in vivo.
• Priced right
• Free amp cabs frequently added.
• Enthusiastic developer with excellent communication.

• Needs more bass amps. Don't be stingy. Show bassists more love!
• Modulation FX
• VStomp is a bit buried in Hotone's website, but you can find it here: https://vstomp.hotoneaudio.com.

There are countless amp/cab emulations out there. .. some good, some bad, and some are just plain ugly. VStomp is GREAT! In my opinion, VStomp nails the sound of the original hardware counterparts, especially Fender and Marshall. If you're looking for the deepest IR loader, look elsewhere. If you want to play and sound good for under $100, look here! VStomp is a software amp simulator that every guitarist and bassist should consider, whether you play a real or virtual axe. This thing rocks. Try the free demo. .. you have nothing to lose.

Note: If you pull the trigger, I highly recommend adding their Amps and Cabs bundle, which often goes on sale. This will ensure you have "all the real sounds of rock heroes past and present."

Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on December 3rd, 2019
Version reviewed: 1.04 on Mac

Harvest is a MIDI plugin sequence generator that can produce note melodies, chords, and rhythmic patterns.

Let's get right down to it with a pre-emptive strike against the opposition. Is using Harvest cheating? I'll answer a question with questions.

• Is using a word processor instead of a typewriter cheating?
• Is using a nail gun instead of a hammer and nails cheating?
• Is opening up a dictionary or thesaurus cheating?

Harvest doesn't complete a composition and market it. It's a tool, devised to "Unlimit your MIDI." Does it succeed? In my case, YES! Harvest has quickly become one of my favorite tools. The learning curve is shallow. In no time, I was up and running, navigating about and creating. In a word — INSPIRING!!! I particularly find it useful for developing unique melodic leads and basses. It's also great at tweaking melodies and blasting through songwriter's block via randomizing. Here's where I plagiarized my workflow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thEsZGnA7No.

• Open a couple MIDI tracks, one for Harvest and the other for an instrument that Harvest controls.
• Select number of bars, note length, and quantization
• Input notes or select from a list of preset keys (scales/mode) and chords
• Use metronome to tap-out notes (all notes will be in key as per key selection)
• Lock-in desired notes and ReGen/randomize the rest. .. almost like playing poker. .. keep the good cards and ask for a few new ones. Only with Harvest you can keep asking for replacement notes until you nail it!
• Press record to print onto instrument track.
• Edit and shape as/if needed.
• Add more layers if desired.
• Add FX to taste.

• Neat, clean, inviting interface
• Easy to use; fun to use; fast; musical
• Demolishes songwriter's block
• Subtly teaches music theory
• Interactive Piano Roll
• Humanize for some swag and swing
• Stable
• Updated frequently
• Responsive developer with good customer support
• Excellent video tutorials
• Good price.

• Stand-alone version
• Increase number of bars to 32
• Drag-n-drop
• Note locking issue identified by KVR Audio Member, Saffran: "Only two options to lock notes, click one note at a time or all notes. If you have 30 notes and want to lock 2/3, that's 20 clicks. Why can't any of them turn into lasso selecting when ctrl-clicked?"
• Streamline CPU consumption.

Harvest has quickly become an indispensable tool in my virtual toolbox. No regrets whatsoever. It's extremely musical. If you're a songwriter of any genre, check this out. There's a free version, Harvest Mini. If you dig that, step up to big bro. unique workflow for writing music. Thanks, Harvest Plugins, for developing this amazing audio composition software.

Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on November 28th, 2019
Version reviewed: 2.1.1 on Mac

Groove Extractor by LeSound miraculously transcribes drum loops into individual general MIDI file instruments: bass drum, snare drum, closed hi hat, open hi hat/cymbals, and toms. Did you ever have a great groove, but wished you could substitute the kick, snare, etc.? Well, you can with this software. Use your "found" loops to get a track going. Translate into MIDI. Tweak as needed. Trigger your own kit. BAM!.

Groove Extractor features an attractive, user-friendly interface with a simple workflow that yields powerful results. The transport is basic, but includes exactly what's needed. .. no more, no less. In action, users either browse or drag-n-drop an audio file loops (or folder of loops) and allow the software algorithms to do the work under the hood. Within seconds, loops are divided into individual instruments on their own respective MIDI note numbers. Results can be exported, edited (if needed), copied, pasted, and manipulated endlessly into a creative bliss.

• Does it really work? YES!
• Is it perfect every time? NO! But.. .

Some loops are deciphered more accurately than others. It seems to depend on the recording quality, type of kit, and instrument positioning. Clean loops with instruments tonally where they should be = clean transcription. Yet, almost all transcriptions I demoed were useful. Some needed a little editing. Users can help processing accuracy by zeroing-in on the appropriate type of loops, i.e., Electronic, Acoustics, and Trigger (detects onsets). In my limited experience, I've noticed that acoustic "real" drum loops translated more accurately than electronic. I have a theory as to why. .. real drums instruments are easier to identify as they have a more distinct timbre and frequency range. Electronic drums, on the other hand, have a wider variety of tone and often share frequencies. For example, many electronic kicks and snares sound fairly similar except for a bit of added resonance or pseudo "snare" quality of the snare. In addition, acoustic drum loops are usually played by humans with human limitations, whereas electronic loops can be super human with no boundaries. However, some acoustic performances are complex with more percussion, and some electronic sequences are more straightforward and minimalistic. So, most of my hypothesis is pointless. LOL. Regardless of drum instrument type and performance, Groove Extractor earns its keep, cutting hours of suffering down to minutes of tweaking (if needed).

• Clean, easy-on-the-eyes GUI
• User-friendly
• Fun to use
• Surprisingly accurate
• Good browser
• Great tool that saves time
• Note/velocity editing
• Tempo estimation
• Forward-thinking, responsive developer
• Good price.

• Stand-alone version.

I love this software. It's perfect for my workflow and will certainly help me complete tracks. I will no longer have to spend hours struggling to recreate the vibe of a groove in MIDI form. It does exactly what it claims to do, and the price is right! If my virtual house caught on fire, this is one of the first things I'd save from the blazing inferno. I give Groove Extractor two steady hi-hats up. Check it out! In the meantime, I'll check out the rest of LeSound's bundle to see if they are a one hit wonder or. .. much, much more.

Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on February 25th, 2019
Version reviewed: 2.0.3 on Mac


Euphonia v2 by TB Pro Audio is an outstanding audio spectrum balancing plugin that subtly, but significantly works sonic wonders on tracks. It didn't take me long to appreciate the many benefits of adding this to my workflow. It's perfectly suited for mastering, but can also be used for restoration, re-mastering, sound design, and sculpting single tracks. Euphonia's original v1 interface was fun and inviting. I liked the original GUI as it had a bit of a vintage, lo-fi vibe, but this one sparkles with enhanced clarity.

The complex calculations are done behind the scenes, enabling the user to focus on the creative process — not mathematics. Soon after launching Euphonia, I knew it would become a permanent part of my music production. It's an excellent tool that fills a few vital important roles, most notably bringing the overall frequencies in line with the intended genre. This was something I once labored over when producing tracks, especially dance tracks. I would mix, master, press a test copy, beg a DJ friend to mix it in with other club music, and see how it matched up. It was all done by ear and/or guesswork. With Euphonia, there is less guessing and more smiling.


• Easy download, install, and authorization process
• User-friendly, gorgeous Interface
• Sounds great! The new version boasts enhanced spectrum matching. V2 creates more accurate filter curves even if the reference curve does not fit perfectly.
• Good price
• Innovative, responsive developer.


• There are two ways to capture audio. I prefer the off-line option, as it's much faster.

• The built-in curves are excellent, and v2 has custom reference curves, which will allow users to tailor the balancing for other genres and subgenres, i.e., Funk, Motown, R&B, Folk, etc.

• New zero delay operation mode. Very cool.

• There were some CPU spikes in v1, but I did not notice any with v2. The overall consumption is good considering the powerful processing that's going on.

• Audio files (WAV/AIFF) can not be instantly loaded as reference "fingerprints" — much faster and more efficient.


The new, improved Euphonia is a handy plugin that is a must for anyone (eMusicians, producers, film and game scorers, sound designer, DJs, etc.), who are serious about making music that stand tall when compared to other tracks in its genre. It helps breathe life into music, not suck the life out of it! Tommy Zai gives Euphonia v2 two keenly balanced thumbs up. Thank you TB Pro Audio for creating such an essential plugin.

Note: This plugin will not take the place of mastering engineers, but it will help "set a solid (frequency balancing) ground for mastering." I stole this quote from an online comment.

Double Note: I recently reformatted my hard drive and reinstalled only the apps/plugins I love. This was one of the first re-installed.

Reviewed By tommyzai [read all by] on May 10th, 2018
Version reviewed: 9.0 on Mac.
Last edited by tommyzai on 10th May 2018.

Disclaimer: I waxed a little crazy on the details and wordage for this user review, but it's real and sincere. I could have trimmed this down, but I giggled and left most of it. ;-)

Auto-Tune Pro is the latest version of Antares' world-famous pitch correction/vocal processing software, and it does not disappoint!* This update is significant and sophisticated, yet sleek and easier to use than it's predecessors. It boasts a redesigned/reorganized interface as well as several feature additions, re-additions, and enhancements that will surely allure new users and excite experienced pros.

The purchase, download, and authorization process is straightforward via an iLok activation. AU validation in Logic was successful (MacBook Pro), and I'm sure it works fine in other formats with other DAWs. Upon launch, the interface reveals the two modes — Automatic and Graphical (more manual). Automatic mode now has a two layer view:

Basic contains the most frequently used parameters
• Retune Speed (subtle pitch correction to total FX a la Cher, T-Pain, Kesha, etc.)
• Flex-Tune (adjusts reactivity/threshold in relation to pitch quantization of selected note(s).
• Humanize (helps to preserve performance of sustained notes and corrects robotic bends of shorter notes). Note: Formant
button and Retune Speed in Graphical Mode can be utilized globally or on specific notes to help reduce artifacts and preserve a
natural sound.
• Natural Vibrato (from smooth to a rapid quiver).

The advanced mode uncovers all the other cool parameters, many of which were found on the launch page of previous versions
• Create and tweak vibrato (rate, onset, etc.).
• Bypass (skips targeted notes) and Remove notes (correct targeted note).
• Create scales.
• Advanced MIDI stuff.

• GUI: The new redesigned interface is intuitive, fast, and looks great. The dual layer approach contributes to a smoother work-flow; it makes perfect sense and is inviting. The big stuff is all right there, neatly arranged, while the fine tuning and deeper programming features are easily accessible. Experienced users will undoubtedly find the new layout faster and more fun to use, and new users will enjoy diving-in without being overwhelmed. Note: Some features and functions have been relocated to the preference section and are customizable. This is especially useful in adjusting the Graphical Editing view and workflow.

• AUTO-KEY: Straight-away I was impressed with this sub plugin, which automatically detects the song key. It's a small sub-plugin that can placed on a track to detects the key and transmits the info to the Auto-Tune session. Music theorists might poo-poo this feature (then secretly use it), but the likes of me will be extremely grateful. I can quickly create sweet melodies and then spend a lifetime trying to decipher the key and chords. Auto-Key instantly gets me the info I need to determine my chord progression and modes, speeding up my creative process. It's accurate and extremely useful. At the very least it provides excellent info. Whether to adjust, tune, or preserve performance is up to the user. Note: Auto-Key might go between two detected keys, but those are usually just the relative major or minor, which share the same scale notes, so either is valid.

• GRAPHICAL EDITING: This page is customizable, cleaner, and easier to use for micro and macro note manipulation. It's visual for those who like to edit audio with their eyeballs; however, there are automatic features built-in to assist users. It does pitch, pitch-n-time, etc. The Make Notes feature provides a nice guide for adjusting the captured notes. The original and corrected pitch are color-coded. Number of Notes helps users determine the breadth of adjustment. In action, I noticed Pro has smoother scrolling than version 8, and the new zooming tools rock.

• CLASSIC MODE: The Auto-Tune v5 "sound" has been brought back. Many users were upset that v6 and beyond abandoned this feature. I've heard a producer say, "A.T. 5 was better than 8." According to an online forum poster blayz2002, "For me, v5 coming back is a game changer — v5 had a sound that people, including myself, fell in love with. After v6 (EVO) the code was improved but also lost some of the magic. The way it snapped into notes and cut through a mix." Well, good news, the quintessential Auto-Tune vibe is back and includes all the newer generation algorithmic improvements along with lower latency.

• ARA (Audio Random Access) support for superior integration in Studio One (I don't have S.O., but it's probably a cool feature if you do).

• SAMPLE RATE: Auto-Tune Pro now supports higher sample rates up to 192kHz.

• LATENCY: Super low when tracking a melody line.

• BACKWARDS COMPATIBILITY: Auto-Tune Pro is compatible with v8.1, but not earlier versions.

• Requires iLok — some users prefer this added security; some not so much.
• Pitch correction is an essential production tool for anyone working with singers. Hey, there's no need to be ashamed. ;-) The end result is what matters, right? Pitch correction actually helps me to improve my singing in the same way that spell-checkers have improved my spelling. Besides, rarely has any singer in the studio nailed a track in one take. Producers have spent days comping, tuning, bouncing, punching, spicing and dicing to improve a vocal track. Using tricks of the trade is not new. The only thing that's changed are the tools.
• Real-time re-pitching via Advanced Mode > Target Notes > Side-chain (then select a function from drop-down menu). In vivo performances can be captured in Logic and probably other DAWs.
• Specific notes can be bypassed to preserve unique performances. Note: Notes can also be removed completely from processing, if/when needed.
• Auto-Tune is NOT limited to vocals. It can help create interesting, perfectly tuned instrument tracks. I recently rescued a solo violin performance. ;-)
• Results are most transparent and free of artifacts when the singer's performance is reasonably close to being in tune. The more out of tune, the more the results will sound "effected." Vibrato and slow slurs and slides between notes/phrases also present a natural sound challenge. Note: The vibrato seems cleaner and more accurate than before to my ears.
• Flex Tune certainly helps preserve a natural sound.
• I found it better to use Auto-Tune as the first insert (especially for vocals), followed by other FX. This way all the additional processing is in tune. Imagine an off-key delay beneath the pitch-corrected vocals. ;-0
• Choose the correct input type to increase pitch correction accuracy, i.e., Soprano, Alto/Tenor, Low Male (Baritone/Bass), Instrument and Bass Instrument.
• Set key and scale of the song for better accuracy. If not sure, get some help from the Auto Key sub plugin that comes with Auto-Tune.

• AAX DSP support and compatible with hosts that only support VST-2.
• Polyphony.

Auto-Tune or Melodyne? This is a likely question many will ask, and it's a bit like asking which DAW is best. Which should you buy? Well, most pro studios answer this question by having both on hand. Two of my producer friends use Auto-Tune regularly and Melodyne for complicated corrections, wobbly vibrato, and transitions. If you can swing it, I highly recommend you do the same. However, if you're on a budget like most of us starving electronic musicians, you'll need to choose one or the other.. .

Sorry, I had a lot of info/suggestion about which to get, but I ran over the 10,000 character limit. ;-(.

I highly recommend Auto-Tune Pro for anyone who works with digital notes and has a little money to spare. Antares clearly listened to users' feedback and responded by creating this slick, snappy new version that streamlines the tuning process and brings back the classic Auto-Tune sound as an option. I have a good friend who just updated and emailed me, "I used Auto-Tune on and off for years, but the workflow never quite clicked until now!" Other users complained about the previous version (v8) being a bit sluggish. I didn't think so until I spend a couple hours with Pro. It is faster and easier to use thanks to the Basic and Advanced modes. In addition, the Graphical Editing page is much neater and cleaner with more responsive zooming tools and viewing options. Antares has successfully managed to incorporate complexity and features without the bloat. BRAVO!! All-in-all, Auto-Tune Pro is well worth the initial purchase of $399 and is an upgrade no-brainer at $129.00.

*For the few who don't know, Antares are the cats who began the pitch correction obsession back in '97.