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Iris 2 [read all reviews]
Reviewed By kuzami [read all by] on 16th June 2015
Version reviewed: 8.1 on Windows
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
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GUI: The GUI is lovely and very pleasing to look at. It's also very intuitive and easy to use, similarily to Serum. This doesn't just include the spectral filtering tools, but everything, including envelopes, modulation etc. It's also resizable and very customizable in terms of layout. All drag-and-drop, and provides a very nice first impression.

Features:

Spectrogram display - basically a great spectrogram visualizer, can also show a waveform, and both simultaneously. One of its main features is the Spectral Filtering, where you can use different selection tools to select different parts using the visualizer. The selection tools includes the very useful lasso tool, which can be used for some crazy sound design, amongst other things.

Envelopes: Five graphical envelopes, with the normal controls. Can be set with drag-and-drop to modulate almost anything.

LFOs: The same. Easy to use, graphical. intuitive. Same modulation system, same flexibility.

Effects: Not the broadest selection available, but you got the most important ones: reverb, delay, distortion, chorus, and filters. Available both as inserts and sends. Four parameters on each (except the filter), so these are not for the heavy tweakers, but they deliver decent results quickly. As far as the filter goes, you only get to control cutoff and resonance (as well as keytracking), but you have 17 different filters to choose from, so that weighs it up.

Sample layers: You can layer up to four different sounds, and control all individually. Master control is also available from the mix panel. Great for making crazy sounds.

Sounds:

The sound library is huge. According to the iZotope website it's at 11GB. Haven't checked myself, but it seems about right. You get some standard sounds (basic synth waves, stuff like that), which are very useful if you want to use this for "non-crazy" stuff, but the emphasis seems to be to cater to a sound designers wishes (as it should). You get objects, enviromental sounds, toys, modular synths, to mention some. Love the sounds, and it's definetely a selling point.

Sound:

As good as I expected. Not meant to be a sound-enhancing tool. but can't fault the sound. Had more problems with clicking and other audio-related problems with other software. Also includes the brilliant Radius RT, a stretching and pitching algorithm/mode that lets you (as far as I have discovered) play sounds and changing the pitch without changing the tempo. It's not perfect, but I haven't encountered anything better.

Performance: This is where things start to look a bit worse. While it's not killing your CPU from start-up, it can get nasty after a while. Got almost 50% CPU on my haswell i7 on some of the more complex patches. Expect bouncing to audio if you are going to use this heavily.

Price: While you can get it on sale, I think a $250 asking price is a bit too much for casual users. For sound designers it will definetely be worth, but for "normal" producers and composer, it may be too much for a "crazy noise machine". In other words: it depends on who you are.

Conclusion: The CPU perfomance ruins it a bit, but otherwise, this is a unique and solid piece of software, which for the right users, will be a dream come true.

Kaivo [read all reviews]
Reviewed By kuzami [read all by] on 12th May 2015
Version reviewed: 8.1 on Windows
7 of 7 people found this review helpful.
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What is it? Kaivo by Madrona Labs is a VST synthesizer. But not just a regular VST synth, this one is a combo synth with physical modelling and granular synthesis. A very original combo, but let's see how it all works out in practice..

GUI: The GUI, as in Aalto, is very minimalistic and straight-forward. No fake wood here, this one follows the same philosophy as ValhallaRoom (among others) to deliver a simple and very usable GUI. It's routable, which can be done in a "patch-bay" (what I like to call it) in the middle of the synth. This approach makes sure it all stays as uncluttered as possible. Also worth noting the visual feedbeck provided in most sections of the synth, which is a very helpful extra. And finally, it's resizable.

Features & sound: Next to the "Key controls" (glide, voices, and so on), we find the sequencer. It's a standard 16-step sequencer at first sight, but has some interesting functions up its sleeve. For example, the scalable controls for rate, offset and number of steps make it easy to make complex patterns. You can also run multiple to control different voices, and also make them run out of sync. Needless to say, this can provide some very interesting results.

Next we have the "2D LFO". This is not a normal LFO, but rather two LFOs 90 degrees out of phase with each other. You have standard LFO shapes, like circle, but also some entirily new ones such as gaussian and knight. Just turning this one and messing around with it for a few seconds can be quite beneficial. Right next to it is the noise oscillators, which also works great. Nothing way out of the ordinary, but definetely useful.

Then we have the envelopes. Nothing that's very special about them, but they do everything you would want some envelopes to do. And the patching makes it easy to map both of them to pretty much anything.

On to the granulator. It supports sample import, so you can import anything in wav format (haven't tested it with files in other formats). You can change the "position" both heightwise and lengthwise. It's not overflowing with controls, but by just messing around with those provided you can get some very unusual sounds quickly.

Right next to it we have the gate, which does pretty much what gates usually do. But the "leak control", which looks like it was added after release, has a high pass-like effect. Worth trying out. Next to the gate we resonator and the body (both resonators). The first resonator is polyphonic and has a choice of seven different models (different strings, chimes and springs). Determines the object being plucked or strung. A dry/wet knob is present to balance it all, so is are brightness and sustain controls, as well as cutoff, nonlinearity and pitch. The second resonator is the "body" one. This one is monophonic, and you have four selections of different "surfaces". They are 2D, so both X and Y can be modulated. So can the rest of the controls, which are very similar to the ones found on the resonator.

When it comes to the sound, I don't believe that this has some ultra special sound engine inside that makes everything sound good. It's all the weird features and combinations of these that do it. I could create some truly excellent patches with this, both super-realistical type sounds (do yourself a favor and check out the koto patch) and very strange ones. It definetely brings something new to the table, and would recommend it to anyone looking for some new sonic territory to explore.

Performance: It's quite CPU-hungry, but that's the only complaint I have. I can even forgive it considering its impressive feature set. Would rather bounce down a track or two than not being able to use this. Still, if possible, a reduction of CPU usage would be very welcome.

Conclusion: Wonderful synth offering something truly different. Operation is easy too, boasting a great GUI. Giving it the perfect score in spite of the high CPU usage (climbed into my top 3 favorite synths). It's that good.

Equalize [read all reviews]
Reviewed By kuzami [read all by] on 2nd May 2015
Version reviewed: 8.1 on Windows.
Last edited by kuzami on 2nd May 2015.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
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Let's get straight to business:

GUI: Good-looking if you ask me. Not as good-looking as its fiercest competitor, the Fabfilter Pro-Q 2, but not bad at all. The knobs and the rest of the controls are sized well, which makes this a joy to use. No "fiddlyness" here, as some EQs sadly have. The GUi itself is very clean in a "no nonsense" kind of way, and more sterile than Pro-Q 2's more colorful style. I also wish that Equalize, like Pro-Q 2, had a fullscreen view, but that is just nitpicking.

Features: Nothing extraordinary here, but certainly powerful. It has 12 EQ bands, which should be enough for pretty much everything, The six usual filter types are present. The frequency, gain, slope, bandwidth and resonance can be adjusted for each band, and you can choose between three filter modes (minimum phase, linear phase, novel mixed phase). All this is being visualized in real-time in the neat spectrum analyzer. Another nifty feature is the optional automatic make-up gain. No complaints here.

Sound: Supports sample rates up to 96kHz. Does both mono and stereo, and mid/side/left/right/full can be adjusted for each band. Clean sound which does not color the sound in any way as far as I can tell.

Compatability: VST and AAX for Windows, VST, AU and AAX for OS X. Both 32-bit and 64-bit versions available. As expected from a commercial product.

Other: It, like their other product Verberate, has a large and good selection of factory presets, and you can save your own as well. A nice little extra.

Verdict: Quality equalizer with an intuitive GUI and all the features 99% of us would need. Add a wide range of compatability and a solid selection selection of factory presets, and you've got yourself a solid pick. 9/10 from me, and a worthy cheaper alternative to the Pro-Q 2 (10/10).

For more info and purchase links, check out the description right here and their webpage: http://acondigital.com/products/equalize/.

DP Meter Pro [read all reviews]
Reviewed By kuzami [read all by] on 25th April 2015
Version reviewed: 8.1 on Windows
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GUI: This is the worst part of the plugin for me. The GUI is severely dated, and while functional, it still looks horrendous. I wish they could revamp it. Biggest letdown for me. It is custimizable though, so that pulls makes it a bit better.

Features: First of all, the monitoring on this things is great. It's very useful. It uses five different scales, and you can create more if you wish. It has RMS, multipeak, crest factor and more. Also measures dynamic range. And everything is bright colors! It also has another trick up it's sleeve: advanced side chain control. You can control this with all parameters, as well as MIDI CC input. Very useful! It does "stereoness", as they call it, and can measure phase cancellation. Again, very useful.

Stability: I've had no problems with this ever crashing. Super stable, like all other Blue Cat plugins.

Price: 59 euros for the metering alone would be a bit much for me, but when consider add the advanced side-chaining controls and phase cancellation measurement, it's definetely worth the price.

Conclusion: Even though the GUI is a bit of a drag, all the useful features and the low price makes this a must-have for anyone who wants something extra in terms of monitoring, side-chain control and phase cancellation measurement.

Tantra [read all reviews]
Reviewed By kuzami [read all by] on 19th April 2015
Version reviewed: 8.1 on Windows.
Last edited by kuzami on 19th April 2015.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful.
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Introduction:

When Camel Audio went out of business, a very unique plugin became unavailable. This plugin was CamelSpace. Since that day, because I never got to purchase it, I looked around for something similar. I found a few who came close, but they were still not quite what I were looking for. That was until I found this.

GUI:

This was the first thing that caught my attention. Compared to Diversion, which didn't stand out with it looks, this one definetely does. Colorful labels, big and detailed knobs and intuitive modulators. This one has it all, and it makes using it joyful, not a chore.

Modulators:

Close to the top of the screen you find modulators. There are 8 of them, which you can scroll through and edit each as you wish. They function very much like graphical envelopes, and can be edited in a similar way. Clicking and dragging, it's that simple. Each one can be mapped to modulate a certain parameter through the mod matrix.

Effects:

Tremolo: Close to the top you will find the tremolo effect. Not a ton of options, but it doesn't really need to have either. Works well.

Filter: 12 different filters are offered. The standard high-, low- and band-pass filters are offered, in addition to some special ones like the vowel filter. The cutoff, resonance, low-cut and high-cut and each be tweaked to taste with the excellent knobs.

Distortion: You can choose between overdrive and fuzz. Not the most detailed selection, but you can still get some sweet buzz out of it. The drive, fuzz, tone, mono and output can be modulated, in addition to the mix knob, which is found on all of the effects.

Delay: The speed of both the right and left channel can be controlled, in addition to the feedback and a nicely integrated LP and BP. You can choose between a normal delay and ping-pong. It can also be synced and linked. Nothing overly fancy here, but it does the trick.

Lo-Fi: This one emulates the classic bitcrushed effect, and it does it well. The parameters here are bit, rate, nose and tone, and tweaked to taste you can get that lo-fi sound your synth or drums may need.

Flanger: delay, feedback, width, depth, tone and speed found here. Can also be synced. Again, nothing fancy, but it delivers a good flanging effect.

Glitch: This is some sort of stutter effect, where scale and stretch can be controlled. You can also change the buffer size, and change the mode from run to freeze. Smoothness and reverse can also be activated. I recommend messing around with this one, some coolness to be found here.

EDIT: Also worth noting that there are two layers for all the effects, which can be controlled and modulated independently.

There is also an EQ and reverb at the end, to help shape the sound. The EQ is a three-band EQ with frequency crossover adjusting, similar to a lot of vintage EQs. The reverb can be tweaked with the size, decay, bass, treble and mix parameters. I wish there were a few more options here, like pre-delay, but it does have a very pleasing sound.

Performance: In the 1.00 version I got to try out, I sadly found this plugin CPU heavy. Opening up 64-bit Live 9 on my desktop with an haswell i7 processor, I get 0% use according to its internal CPU meter. When I open up Operator and start to play, this rises to 2-3% (preset: Celestial Pad). When I activate Tantra, however, this rises to 15% (with the preset Pad Whirl). Much more taxing than I would have thought, and I hope this gets optimized in future versions.

Conclusion: This multi-FX plugin has a great sound with lots of well-made effects and an intuitive GUI for a low price. I enjoy using this more than I ever enjoyed using CamelSpace, at the time when I had it, and this is more than worthy to fill the hole it left when Camel Audio went out of business. A few options could be added here and there, as well as lower CPU taxing, but a plugin this solid still deserves a solid 9/10.

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