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All reviews by Starship Krupa

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Reviewed By Starship Krupa [all]
December 17th, 2023
Version reviewed: 16.08 on Windows

I don't like leaving a negative review on a MeldaProduction product, as they are hands down my favorite plug-in house.

But I have a warning on this one: while the sounds are excellent, it only allows for 6 of them in each "machine." Also, it doesn't do choking, so you can't do a realistic hi hat interaction.

The problem with only 6 slots in a classic drum machine emulation is that most drum machines have/had at least 8, sometimes 12.

Kick, Clap, Snare, OH, CH, Crash, Hi Tom, Lo Tom at minimum.

For this reason, DreamMachines is not useful to me at all. MeldaProduction explained the slots limitation by saying that MSoundFactory is limited to 6 outputs, which still doesn't make sense to me. How about doubling up one or two of those outputs by routing open and closed hi hats to one and hi and lo toms to the other?

And a drum machine with no choking? Even my old TR-606 back in 1982 had hi hat choking.

All this is to say that if you're looking for something by MeldaProduction to take on the duty of vintage drum machine emulation, this is not it. It comes at no extra cost with MDrummer and MSoundFactory(LE), so no harm there, but don't buy it for MSoundFactory Player.

2 stars because the sounds are excellent, but only 2 because of the limitations of the interface.

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Reviewed By Starship Krupa [all]
October 20th, 2022
Version reviewed: 16.01 on Windows

Outstanding comb filter. Comes in the FreeFXBundle and is way more capable that some similar plug-ins that cost twice what it does to upgrade the FreeFXBundle to the pro version.

I love tempo-sync'd modulation FX, and this one lets you set up 4 different poles that can be modulated in a variety of ways. Envelope following, generated, free form, or static if you don't want any movement.

If you have it sitting in your plug-in collection and not checked it out due to not really getting what it's supposed to do, rack it up and start walking through the presets.

I like to put it on drum tracks, makes the whole kit sound like it's rolling across the floor.

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Reviewed By Starship Krupa [all]
October 20th, 2022
Version reviewed: 16.01 on Windows

The last delay you'll ever need to buy. It covers absolutely everything and then more. The "device" GUI's really help those who may have been put off by Meldaproduction's NASA Mission Control UI in the past.

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Drum One

Reviewed By Starship Krupa [all]
March 12th, 2022
Version reviewed: .80 on Windows

I realize that this is pitched as "beta" software, however, "beta" usually means that all the features are in place but they need a wider testing base before shipping. To quote Wikipedia on the subject, "A beta phase generally begins when the software is feature complete but likely to contain a number of known or unknown bugs."

I'd call this somewhere between "mockup" and "alpha." And for anyone who thinks I'm quibbling about something that I got for "free," well, my time to download it, figure out the password(!) for the .ZIP file and install it, set up a drum map in my DAW so that I can play some MIDI tracks through it is a price I wouldn't have paid if they rightly advertised this as an alpha release. I'm often happy to try a beta release if it's something I might be able to use, but I'm not interested in alpha releases with missing features.

Most of the controls don't do anything when clicked on, the manual doesn't match the labeling of the UI, and the most interesting feature, "the latest modeling technology" seems to be nowhere to be found, unless they consider samples in .SF2 format to be that. For anyone who expects anything from this but a static sample player with one sound for each drum, replete with a needlessly non-standard drum map, is going to be disappointed.

Their site pitches it as something that's supposed to make you want to buy their payware products, but sorry, quite the opposite. A company that doesn't know the difference between an alpha release and a beta release may also not know the difference between a beta release and a final release.

One star because it actually does produce drum sounds, with some effort. If you're curious as to what they want this to look like when released, it's better to just examine the picture here than it is to download and install the whole thing.

My advice to the company: either pull this completely or properly label it as an alpha release or mockup. It's not going to win you any new customers.

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Reviewed By Starship Krupa [all]
February 26th, 2022
Version reviewed: 2020 on Windows

As with AIR's other synths, don't let the low price fool you. This is a powerhouse.

It's a virtual ROMpler, a "workstation," great for sketching out ideas.

The thing is, the sounds (over 2000 presets) are so good that I often start out "sketching" with Xpand!2 and end up using it in the final mix.

Great basses, pads, polysynths, leads. Some very usable drum machines. Excellent arpeggiator.

It's not without a few (slight, IMO) weaknesses. The orchestral sounds are not something I'd ever use in a final production, but that's to be expected. Orchestral samples take up a huge amount of space. Still, they are sometimes usable when layered with synth sounds.

The GUI is not resizable, so if you're on a 4K monitor, it'll look pretty small. Not a big issue because it's a ROMpler, you use the presets.

The underlying code hasn't been updated in many years, but this actually works in its favor: it's very resource-friendly.

A smashing deal whenever it drops below $10. I think my licenses (I have multiple for my various DAW systems) were purchased for $5. Whatever, it's worth many times that.

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Vacuum Pro

Reviewed By Starship Krupa [all]
February 26th, 2022
Version reviewed: 2020 on Windows

Don't let the low price fool you into overlooking this top quality synth.

I can't add much to what the previous reviewers have said, except to mention that it's my first line when I'm looking for phat bass sounds and rich pads. It has other tricks up its sleeve as well.

It hasn't been updated in a few years, but this actually has the benefit that it's very efficient as far as resource usage. Soundwise, it doesn't need to be updated. It's aimed at emulating vintage synths, so why update it?

If there's one thing that might be a negative, it's that the UI is not resizable. Not that big an issue for me, as it looks great on my aging 14" laptop, and my desktop DAW system uses dual 23" monitors. If you use a 4K monitor, it probably starts to look pretty tiny.

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Hybrid 3

Reviewed By Starship Krupa [all]
September 30th, 2021
Version reviewed: 3.0.7 on Windows

I love this synth. Big evolving ambient pads, arps, leads, it has it all. The going rate for it seems to be $4.99; if you can't find it for that, then just wait and watch for it to come up again at Pluginboutique. A real sleeper, I've had it for years and still find new inspiration when I open it up and browse through the presets.

Highly recommended for people like me who want huge electronica sounds but can't afford Serum or Omnisphere. Having said that, though, it's not just a broke musician's substitute for the more expensive ones, it has its own strengths and stands on its own as a professional instrument. Don't let the low price fool you.

The engine is a few years old, which is actually a benefit: it uses next to nothing as far as processing power so you can use it on any system you have, even that hand-me-down Dell laptop.

The one drawback it has, is as others have mentioned, the non-resizable GUI. It looks fine on my monitors, but I can see that if you had a 4K it would be pretty small. Whatever, there are so many good presets (and extra ones free for downloading) that you can get immersed in it without ever touching the controls.

Just get it. If you use it on one track it's paid for itself. For the price of one beer at your favorite watering hole, stay home for a night and work on music instead.

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Cakewalk by BandLab

Reviewed By Starship Krupa [all]
October 25th, 2020
Version reviewed: 2020.09 on Windows

First I'd like to say that I'm grateful to BandLab for rescuing this DAW. I only started using it after the first BandLab version, so my impressions are those of someone who has only known it in its Cakewalk By BandLab form. I don't think things could have worked out better for the existing user base and new users looking for a professional DAW whose workflow and layout are much-imitated industry standards.

At this point, 3 years since the Cakewalk company dissolved and BandLab acquired its intellectual property, it's no longer accurate to say "Cakewalk by BandLab is Cakewalk SONAR with a new name." That would be like saying Studio One 5 is Studio One 4 with a new name. If Cakewalk did versioning, it would surely be up to Cakewalk by BandLab 2 or 2.5 at this point..

Cakewalk (the DAW) began life as a rebranded update to SONAR, but since then, there have been so many changes. While preserving the old SONAR workflow for people who had gotten used to it, the developers have added new features great and small. The small features are usually ones requested by the user base, many of whom participate in the very active and helpful Cakewalk by BandLab forum.

The larger features include such additions as an Arranger Track and MIDI Articulation mapping (just released in their Early Access Program).

The developers have also been relentlessly improving the DAW's stability and tuning the audio and screen rendering subsystems. This has resulted in CbB becoming not just more stable, but faster and less taxing of system resources. I can run it no sweat on a 10-year-old Dell notebook when I want to use it away from home.

As for this program with its 33-year history, the first things I fell in love with were its mixing console view and its silky, rich sounding playback engine. I've yet to see an audio routing task that I couldn't accomplish with Cakewalk's mixer, and the graphics are the most attractive I've seen in a DAW.

In 2018 when I first tried it, I initially had some trouble with comping/editing. As I experienced it it steered the user too forcefully toward using its advanced tools at the expense of more traditional, copying, pasting, dragging and trimming. This has since been remedied with the strategic addition of a couple of options that better permit the user to jump in and start editing/comping using a more basic workflow while allowing the user to learn the more advanced techniques at their own pace. Which I recommend, if you have straightforward comping to do, you can fly with Speed Comping. Just be sure to switch tools before working in a more traditional fashion.

Because of the strength of its mixer and comping, it makes a great companion for Ableton Live, which is such a strong compositional tool, but is weaker in pure multitrack audio recording, comping, routing, and mastering. Ableton Live! and other programs may be connected via ReWire. There is nothing requiring you to edit, mix and master using the same DAW you use for recording and composition, and it is an easy matter to export your tracks from one DAW and use Cakewalk for mixing.

A big strong point for me and others who love to customize their tools is the comprehensive Cakewalk Theme Editor, which allows end users to set colors and replace bitmapped artwork throughout the program. There are many excellent user-created themes available for download in the aforementioned forum.

And for heaven's sake, my favorite feature is the free subscription license! This not only substantially decreases the necessary investment required to have access to a top-tier mature DAW, but it has other less apparent benefits. Specifically, the BandLab developers' only mandate is to increase the quality of the product, and no priority is given to new features at the expense of basic functionality. With payware programs that rely on new and upgrade license purchases to sustain the company, the first mandate will always be to focus programming and testing resources on the introduction of new features that are more likely to make new users want to buy it and existing users pay for the upgrades.

BandLab is a large, diversified company that owns multiple music publications, guitar brands, and musical accessory brands. Cakewalk (along with their Android, iOS, and browser-based DAW's) is a project they support to promote music-making and increase brand awareness. It earns its keep as a free prestige promotional item, and this means that the developers are much more free to create a quality bug-free product that shows off the company's sense of excellence.

How many times have you wished that the developers of your favorite program would fix existing bugs rather than coming up with flashy new features that you aren't going to use? Well, Cakewalk under BandLab's stewardship is just that.

Only 4 stars because there are some areas of the program that need attention. When a program has been around this long, under so many different management teams, it's inevitable that some features will get more resources than others. It's also likely that a feature added in 1997 and one added in 2020 will have inconsistencies in look and feel.This can slow down learning different features. Having acknowledged that, once I learned how to record and enter both audio and MIDI, and then edit what I had created, the rest is just....icing on the cake (sorry).

Although it comes with enough audio plug-ins to create excellent mixes (you could do it using only the ProChannel modules in the console if you wanted), it's a bring-your-own-plug-in affair when it comes to virtual instruments. There is a General MIDI instrument that can be tweaked to sound pretty good with some of its instruments. Since you are reading this on KVR, you will be aware that this is easily remedied via the vast collection of freeware now available. If you want synths, many excellent mature instruments are available from such companies as AIR (Hybrid, xPand!, Vacuum Pro) and iZotope (Iris, Break Tweaker) for a fraction of their original licensing fees if you watch for promotions. Newcomers like W.A. Production and SoundSpot are also great at filling out the instrument collection.

I do admit a fondness for the (included with sampled electric piano and drum kit as an extra download) Cakewalk Studio Instruments String Section as a quick tool for sketching string arrangements.

I've been using the program as my primary DAW for 2 1/2 years and it's so rich, so deep in features, that I'm still learning what I can do with it. The (separate download) PDF manual is over 1,700 pages long, and few of those pages are redundant.

-Erik "Starship Krupa" Miller.

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Reviewed By Starship Krupa [all]
June 25th, 2019
Version reviewed: 1.0 on Windows

Nice little ROMpler collection of 25 long slow ambient pads.

Has the standard ADSR and that's it.

If you want to do some ambient soundscapes, and get there quick, Padspheres is worth a look.

If you want to build your own unique sounds, go elsewhere.

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Reviewed By Starship Krupa [all]
April 24th, 2019
Version reviewed: 12.12 on Windows

This is the compressor I used to really learn how to use a compressor, and it is still a go-to years later.

What makes it such a great compressor for learning and everyday use?

First, the graphic display is a really good depiction of what the compressor is doing, making it easy to visualize the settings as the user dials them in. And when first learning to use a compressor, despite the bleats of "use your ears, man" from the p-nis gallery, I found it very helpful to use the other senses I have available.

Compression can be a subtle thing at first, until one tunes one's ears to be able to hear what it's doing, the actual effect of attack and release times, ratio, threshold, all that. The graphic on MCompressor shows you just what it's doing.

There's also a time graph you can access, but I rarely use it.

The thing's also incredibly versatile, and I'm not even going to qualify that with "for a freebie," because it's way more versatile than most other compressor plug-ins on the market. You can set the RMS length of the detector all the way to peak, set the knee to hard, soft, or linear, and in soft mode, set just how much knee you get.

With such versatile settings of the detector, you can imitate the response of an opto, VCA, FET, etc.

It's great for side-chaining from another channel.

After using it for years and not using it for side-chaining I also discovered that when I pressed "Enable" on the Side-Chain bar, it also enabled high-pass and low-pass pre-filters for the detector, which is great for when you're using it on a drum bus and don't want every kick hit and cymbal crash to pump the compressor.

If I were restricted to using no compressor plug-in but MCompressor (and no EQ but MEqualizer), I could do a respectable job of mixing a song. It might take longer, and it might not sound as slick as it would if I could use my whole goodie bag, but I could get it done.

Download the Free Bundle, use it for free, register it for $49.00 or wait for Meldaproduction to put it on sale for $25.00. It's a bargain at any of those prices. MCompressor alone is a $50 plug-in. To get to use it for free is just nuts.

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