energyXT2

The $75 app energyXT2 starts out sounding similar to other music apps — but after a long list of twists, seems anything but. It’s a DAW. It’s a sequencer. It’s an audio multitracker. (Okay, not so interesting so far …) It’s a synth. It’s a sampler. It’s a drum machine. It’s a looper. It runs as a host. It runs in a plug-in. Now it runs on Linux — making it perhaps the first significant music creation app to do a commercial, out-of-box release for the penguin. It’s got a modular engine underneath.

And now there’s a big release coming soon. Before we get a chance to spend some time on it, here’s a preview of why it’s on the radar screen.

Release date: June 15. (See the discussion thread on KVR.)

energyXT2 is in beta now, the first big release in three years. In features and interface design, it appears to borrow more than a little from Ableton Live — but, then again, since energyXT2 runs as a plug-in, I’m sure someone is working out some wild performance setup where they use both simultaneously. It also takes some design cues, as near as I can tell, from Cakewalk. But the combination of features here in unique, it’s affordable enough to be an impulse buy, and we’ve heard from several users that you’re very excited about it.

Is there room for yet another music production tool? EnergyXT already has a loyal following, and with music creation as personal and dynamic a process as it is, I think the answer can always be yes.

New in energyXT2:

  • Completely re-worked interface and structure
  • Higher-quality time- and pitch-shifting algorithms
  • Support for MIDI, audio, and dedicated “drum” loops, including a specialized “drum-machine track”
  • Clip-based automation
  • New mixer, phase modulation synthesizer, and multi-FX processor built in
  • Controller maps
  • Out-of-box Linux support — yep, that’s right, from a commercial application.

energyXT2 Light theme

Linux support from a commercial music app should raise a few eyebrows. I’ve talked to a number of music developers who have said, basically, sure, they love Linux, can’t stand Windows, but they don’t see support any time soon. There are two answers: one, it’s two expensive to support, and two, Linux users don’t pay for software. If energyXT2 gets any traction on Linux — as a much smaller developer, no less — it’ll at the very least blow holes in those two excuses. (It may not convince anyone to make the jump, mind you — but as an experiment, it should be telling. And if you’re a happy energyXT2 Linux user, you may not care.)

Even as a secondary piece of software, this has interest. I’m especially intrigued by the “zero load time” claim. I could see syncing into an older PC — even with Linux replacing XP — to turn an unused laptop into a drum machine — or using this in conjunction with another app. And with increased interest in streamlined workflows, for many others this could be a primary solution. The real competition for people wanting a deep sequencer, though, may be trackers like Renoise.

An introductory price drops the total sticker to US$49. The interesting question to me isn’t will Linux users spend the small amount of cash, but whether the Linux audio community will embrace a closed-source project.

Linux or Windows, we’ll have to do a full review once the full version comes out.

  • Wallace Winfrey

    EnergyXT came to fame, originally, because it allowed one to use VST instruments in an ancient form of Ableton that (at the time) didn't support VSTi (load up EnergyXT as a VST effect, then load the VSTis in EnergyXT. Routing MIDI, as I recall, was a pain but it did the job.)

    Personally, it gets the most use when I want to check out a new VST, quickly and without a bunch of hassle. As far as "zero load" time, I guess it's relative. It does seem to start up as an app, and load VSTs faster than anything else though, that's for sure.

  • http://www.protoolerblog.com stiff

    I hadn't heard of this app before. To me it's most interesting because it will run on Linux. I don't, however, see this changing the attitude of other companies, especially not the major ones out there. It's a very big difference between $50, and $500-$1000 that you pay for the major players, so if Linux users buy this it really doesn't prove anything.

    Thanks for the article Peter, looking forward to that review ;)

  • kibibu

    Its also a great way to get multi-track recording into Buzz and clones (like Buze…)

  • art

    I swear is a great app, use it all the time

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    I think it does prove something if Linux users invest in a big way. The issue was never that Linux users were simply "cheap"; the assumption is that they're philosophically opposed to commercial software, or that the platform won't support commercial software.

    The bigger problem that the major developers have really is support and development costs, because while they're charging a bigger sticker price, I think their sense of risk and overhead is larger. And many of them really *can't* port to Linux, just because of what they've got under-the-hood. I don't imagine any big migration to Linux any time soon, but if one commercial app did clear the way, it's possible even one or two others could follow. And if you focus on one app in music making or even one app in live performance, that could mean more Linux rigs onstage running something other than just Pd.

    But, you know, before I go and make any sweeping assumptions about Linux development, the important story here really is EnergyXT. :) And I can easily see running it on Windows XP/Vista!

  • seismo

    XT is great to have around. i agree with mr. winfrey, it's my go-to app when i want to test a new plugin or test an audio configuration.

    i also use it to get nasty with my (dave smith) evolver. midi VSTs in conjunction with XT's arpeggiator … a beautiful thing. ableton still can't load third party midi VSTs, so here again XT steps in.

  • Projectile

    I use energyXT all of the time. It's strong suit was originally as a modular vst chainer. Load it into any host and create complex modular patches on the fy, and then save them as a simple patch.

    I also use it for auditioning new plugins, because it loads faster than anything, and you don't need to even have the plugin installed in your vst folder. Just download the dll to your deskop and drag/drop into eXT.

    Over the years Jorgen, it's mad-scientist developer, kept adding more and more sequencing capabilities until it had a pretty powerful lightweight sequencer on board. XT2 is a complete re-write of the software to turn it into more of a full-fledged sequencing environment.

    For anyone interested, I'd recommend that you also download the old eXT 1.4, because it's actually a more complete finished product at this point. XT2 is still heavily in development and it's missing a lot of important features of it's older brother EnergyXT1.4.

    I don't know how jorgen is going to make the June deadline, because it seems to me that XT2 still needs a lot of work, but I'm eagerly awaiting it's completion. IMO it's the most exciting piece of software in development right now. I hope people don't get the impression it's just a Linux or "lite" solution, because it really is going to be a spectacular sequencer that can stand against the big boys. It's midi editing is almost unsurpassed by anything except cubase. It's feature list and capabilities are impressive for a sequencer in any price range.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Projectile — any features in particular missing in XT2, for those of us relatively new to this tool?

  • http://jackit.sf.net/ Paul Davis

    i will be suprised if the linux audio community will embrace a closed-source, for-fee application. energyXT2 does have some impressive features, but the fact that (a) you don't currently get JACK support out of the box (b) nobody can fix anything that is wrong with it except its core developers pretty much flies against everything that most of the existing linux music/pro-audio community has worked to build. there appears to be almost nothing in energyXT2 that isn't already offered by existing linux audio apps. the "easy install" is pretty exciting (heh, thats what you get for using essentially no run time library dependencies), but it seems like a hard sell to anyone who knows what already exists for linux…

  • http://toilville.com peter

    I find energyxt far more advanced in usuablity than most other apps (and that isnt even limited to linux only). Dont let stupid philosophical differences keep you from trying a great full featured app.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    It's not a philosophical difference if energyXT2 doesn't support JACK, a key Linux audio technology. It'd also say it's not a "stupid" philosophical difference; just something seen differently by different parts of the communities here.

    But I do have to agree with Peter that energyXT2 is well advanced of much of what's available in the application space on Linux, with the exception of tools like Paul's own Ardour. And Ardour has a very different workflow/target audience. I would challenge someone to point to an open source application alternative here that has the kind of robust functionality that energyXT2 does — or the popularity. And it's not hard for me to imagine a Linux musician using energyXT alongside open source tools like Ardour and Pd, and getting a more robust platform as a result. (Just like I can't see avoiding Flash Player or NVIDIA drivers on my Linux distro just because they're closed source.

    But I'm curious to know what some other Linux users think.

  • http://www.midiplugins.com cold c

    (I'm not projectile, however…)

    >> any features in particular missing in XT2

    Most of them.

    It is a different app. It had to be rewritten in C++ to become cross platform.

    Jorgen is rewriting it with development of future versions 2.0, 3.0 etc in mind.

    The sampler in XT2 isn't remotely similar to the sampler in XT1. I think the XT2 sampler and fx are mainly there as a starting point for the Linux people (as they have fewer native VST plugins).

    Things like the components – chord component, arpeggiator component (actually a step sequencer) from XT1 are not in XT2 yet.

    XT1 also had beatslicing functionality in the sampler and MIDI radomisation features in the sequencer, the interface was completely skinnable, had many keyboard shortcuts, had live performance components and modes, etc.

    Of course XT1 can still be used as a plugin within energyXT2.

    The XT2 plugin version isn't even on the radar.

    (I originally bought energyXT to use it as a MIDI plugin within Cubase.)

    The foundations are there in XT2 and I am using it as one of my main tools, but it is not as complete as previous versions yet.

    I don't think the pace of development will be as fast as XT1 due the cross platform nature of XT2. Waiting for the new features can be quite addictive though
    http://www.energy-xt.com/download/changelog.php

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Ah, yes — have to admit that plug-in capability and arpeggiator would be very vital, along with some of these others … but could be well worth the wait as these fall into place.

    I hope that the cross-platform foundation on which it's built might open Mac compatibility in the future. (Just thought I'd bring that up, before someone else does!)

    Any chance purchasing XT2 will also include a license for XT1, or how will that be handled? (Guess I could be asking the developer these questions, but since y'all are being so helpful …)

  • http://www.iamnotadj.net Albert

    I'm seriously considering buying this. I've been waiting for Aldrin to mature to start getting back into music production on Linux, but I think this might just be the ticket.

    Oh, and there's one good thing about commercial applications – By buying it, I'm paying for someone to work on it. I'd gladly drop $75 for a useful piece of software, especially if I know someone's going to work on it.

  • http://toilville.com Peter

    stupid meaning closed versus open. Im sure that jorgen will add jack support eventually, he is a responsive cyborg, he is.

    Also some reports are that energyxt2 works great in wine, meaning that you can use windows plugins in linux!

    Exciting.

  • kibibu

    Re: philosophical stuff, there are other big apps in other domains such as Maya (3d) that have been ported to linux and certainly aren't free or even particularly cheap.

    There are other issues involved here, such as the massive 3d industry shift towards linux, but hey there's at least one example.

    Albert: Fingers crossed for Aldrin. I even downloaded Ubuntu to try it before I realised how painful setting up linux was last time…

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Right, and there's also the example of Unreal Tournament shipping for Linux. Most Linux users I know were excited by that.

    You definitely lose the advantages of open source, but does commercial, proprietary software *hurt* Linux? I think quite the opposite. Free, open source code isn't the right answer for everyone. You have the fact that commercial models may be the best way for a developer to support their efforts. You have code that for legal reasons can't be open sourced. And there are times when an open development process isn't appropriate, because there isn't the tool, the contributors, the process in place to support it — and, in fact, the "closed" efforts of a single developer or handful of developers might be the best solution. I've heard plenty of open advocates make exactly these points, so this isn't just a simple set of binary camps on this issue.

    So, yeah, I hope that philosophical issues don't hold this up. I certainly understand the benefits of open source, as Paul mentions, and even understand someone choosing an open alternative for those reasons. But that still doesn't seem to me like it should automatically rule out a robust alternative, especially since for many people this will mean the difference between running Linux and running Windows, and there are many issues there that go far beyond just open/closed.

  • seismo

    i think the XT2 beta already supports JACK, no?
    http://www.energy-xt.com/xt2.php

    the massiva license key is identical/interchangeable for both versions of XT. and the price is dropped to $49 right now in a pre-release "sale." GO!

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    It appears to support JACK, after all. (But via "source code"? Guess I need to try it out on Linux and see.) That's definitely a must.

    They do have a curious statement on their webpage: "but there has not been any serious music-software for Linux without compiling." Well, not sure what they mean there; compiling isn't that hard on modern distros, there are prepackaged releases, and even whole distros full of music software. But I do think there's a niche to be filled for this kind of app on Linux, even with stuff like Aldrin out there. (and, ironically, more people might use Aldrin if more people were on Linux, and energyXT2 might help them make the leap … the more 'killer apps', the better.)

  • http://jackit.sf.net/ Paul Davis

    Yes, I saw JACK support, but thats why I added "out of the box", which I figured was about as justified (or more so) that the comment about "without compiling", which as you noted Peter seems totally nonsensical. "yum install hydrogen" doesn't involve compiling …

    However, I took a quick look at the JACK code and oh my, there's a big fat mutex right in the middle of the main process() callback. Run that puppy in a situation with lots and lots of MIDI input, and its going to be clicking up the wazoo. This just isn't real-time safe coding. I can only hope that the rest of XT2 is better designed (and note: I don't mean this sarcastically – I believe it probably is)

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Applications without compiling is a bit like dehydrated water…

    So the JACK code itself is open?

    This is the case where, whether something is officially open source or not, it would of course benefit from good design and contact with, well, Paul, when it comes to JACK implementation.

  • http://myles.debastion.com/sonance myles

    Hurray! eXT has been my main host for a number of years now, I think it's something to do with the fact that it loads up in 0.4 seconds and handles VSTs effortlessly..

    Will be switching to eXT 2.0 when it gets out of beta, did you know that eXT 2.0 is free to anyone who purchased eXT?

    Big it up to the lone-music app coders Jorgen, Justin F. (Reaper) et al.

  • GaryG

    Just to say it again: for a couple of years now it's been the policy that you get a free upgrade to eXT2 when you bought v1. So I've had a year or twos use of eXT with eXT2 on the horizon for £27 (uk). Cool. :)

  • Michael

    XT2 is starting from scratch, but i'm already liking the foundation of this one more than that of xt1. While xt1 is a full-featured and wonderful application, to be sure, this next iteration is a lot easier to get into, i reckon. I'll be using both versions together for a while longer, but i'm looking forward to the day that xt2 surpasses xt1 in functionality.

  • volikitu

    xt2, even ,in this state, is by far easiest and by far most stable, pro audio app on linux.

    many windows musicians are starting to experiment with linux because ext2, and thrugh it discover work of p.davis and others. and that has to count something even for zeliots. more musicians then ever before, consider now linux for serious audio work, and that can be only good.

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