Renoise, the reawakening: the tracker for the rest of us hits beta 2.0, as seen above. (Screen grabs by Wallace Winfrey.)

While better-known software names may get the attention, Renoise, a music making tool in the mold of a tracker, has long had a lot going for it. It runs on every platform you own (Windows, Mac, Linux) with just one license, applies a unique approach to musical arrangement and composition with a more modern interface, and allows speedy production with lots of keyboard shortcuts. As a tracker, the pattern editing in Renoise allows a “granular” level of control, for quick editing in textual views instead of visual blocks as in a piano roll. Whereas some retro-styled trackers don’t support modern features, Renoise has multi-core support, MIDI, VST instruments and effects, ASIO, audio recording, built-in effects, and flexible routing and mixing. It also has a built-in sampler and sample editing, so you can do audio manipulation from within Renoise as well as make use of your suite of instruments and effects. And the whole thing costs EUR49.99.

Renoise is about to get a major 2.0 update, with support for:

  • An overhauled engine with better timing and precision
  • Plug-in delay compensation — although what’s interesting here is that this promises to impact more than just hardware DSP platforms like Universal Audio; it also “also compensates your MIDI gear and midi cables wired to other hosts.”
  • Audio Unit plug-ins on Mac, plus improved VST support

The AU plug-in support alone could help Renoise crack the Mac community. I also like some of the other features, including new plug-in browsing, drag-and-drop, new filters, and quantization.

Renoise 2.0 Product Page (note: there’s no public beta as such, but if you’re an existing, registered Renoise user, you can access the beta releases; everyone else will for now have to try the 1.x demo)

Discussion on Renoise Forum

This is the tracker bit of Renoise. Instead of using graphical displays, it uses text codes to represent patterns. That may look unfriendly at first, but it saves screen real estate and, combined with keyboard shortcuts, can be quicker to work with — part of the reason trackers have been popular on everything from vintage computer systems to mobile gaming consoles like the Game Boy.

Because Renoise is a bit different from the music tools to which you’re probably most accustomed, and because this is an important release, I had some quick questions for main Renoise developer Eduard Mueller (aka Taktik)…

If you’re expecting only archaic editing, think again: friendly interface streamlining like these tabs and new, improved browsers abound.

PK: For those who may not have tried trackers before, how would you suggest getting started with Renoise? What should they do once they’ve grabbed the demo in those first fifteen or thirty minutes?

EM: Beyond the manual and the tutorials, the best way to get started with Renoise is to go to YouTube and search for the word “Renoise.” Many proud users show many aspects of the sequencer and “tracking culture” on there. Of course not everything you will find is an epic masterpiece, but the enthusiasm is there, and you get a good vibe for what Renoise is all about.

What was important to you for this release?

EM: The most important feature is the engine overhaul which introduces precision and timing. It allows for level of quantization and accuracy never seen in Renoise before. Moreover, this massive engine overhaul is essential for behemoth features in later releases, such as Zooming, the Arranger, Audio Tracks and maybe even a Piano Roll.

Ed.: Wow — putting a piano roll in a tracker would be a new development, for those who occasionally want the best of both worlds!

What would you suggest to Renoise users wanting to get the most out of Renoise?

EM: Learn the shortcuts. Renoise is like an instrument. It’s like learning a guitar, or a trumpet. You have to get a feel for your QWERTY keyboard to get the most out of it. Of course you can use the
mouse, and that’s not wrong in any way, but the shortcuts allow you to get the most out of the workflow.

CDM: We’ll have more on Renoise soon as the 2.0 release launches, including how you might integrate with workflows in other tools. Stay tuned.

The new filter.

New plug-in management — and there will be more plug-ins to manage on Mac, too, thanks to AU support (plus VST tweaks on both platforms).
  • http://www.myspace.com/tekkaz tekkaz

    man i really need to get into renoise… i've been locked into ableton live for SO LONG i'm forgetting how to use other sequencers…

    hell

    my first sequencer was soundtracker 1.0 on the amiga many many moons ago

    good times :)

  • blank

    No rewire ?

    sniff sniff

  • http://www.trotch.com/ Conner_Bw

    I've managed to connect Renoise to other applications on my Mac using the built in IAC Driver provided by Apple/OS X, sprinkled with a little Soundflower by Cycling '74. Those do the job for me.

    Of course, Rewire would be sweet though! It will most likely be voted on by registered users in the official "What new feature do you want going forward?" poll once the beta phase has ended.

  • http://toilville.com peter

    Am I the only one who thinks it shouldnt be called a public beta?

  • c64

    @blank: ReWire will not be implemented because of licensing fees as far as I understood.

    This release is awesome. Still I had my hopes up for a visual arranger which is also one of the top voted features. I still keep track of the development and was a fanatic user of Renoise but switched to Logic because I needed a more visual way of arranging. But I still miss the power and control you have with Renoise for certain tasks.

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

    Well, what would be even better than ReWire would be if apps were JACK-aware — ideally not only on Linux but other platforms, too. (Maybe Renoise is JACK-aware on Linux, actually; have to see…)

    Anyway, an easy workflow would be to assemble stuff in Renoise and then play it back in Live or on a sampler, etc. I think it's well enough integrated that that won't be any huge loss.

    @peter: well, good point. "Select beta"?

  • c64

    I think it will not be too far away.. I know that the main problems integrating a visual arranger had to do with the legacy timing that Renoise inherented from the days. Now with this new timing engine this should pave the way. Anyway, good stuff!

  • http://myspace.com/corticyte Corticyte

    Renoise owns.

    Yes, it uses JACK under Linux, and regarding the playing back in Live, Renoise has a 'render selection'(to WAV) function, and the options to render tracks and/or patterns separately, making it piss-easy to arrange songs in another sequencer such as Live.

  • http://www.quikphix.org xonox

    Wow, it's becoming harder to resist getting renoise. If i wasn't already using Schism tracker, i'd get Renoise as soon as 2.0 is out! Lots of neat improvements in this upcoming version. One of the best music software available.

  • http://www.protoolerblog.com stiff

    Rewire is not necessary for Mac or Linux at least, Soundflower and JACK eats it for breakfast :)

    While PDC and AU support is cool (especially the latter so I don't need to have three versions of the same plug-ins installed anymore!), I think the best thing for me is the supposedly fixed timing. It's going to be interesting to see just how much is fixed, but I'm really hoping for the best in that department.

    To me, the most important additions to Renoise are fixes like that and a few workflow things as well (as opposed to new features). I have used Renoise a fair amount of times but I still have a hard time getting around in it compared to the old school trackers.

  • http://www.oxo-unlimited.com Veqtor

    I've been using this beta for a week now and I must say it's living up to all my expecatations so far, the PDC seems to be even more accurate than that which is in ableton live for some reason. What I'm looking forward to the most is support for multi-INPUT plugins and zooming!

  • bresk

    YOYOYOYOO! AU support finally !!!! can't wait to zap my VST folder ;)

    well done Renoise Team !

  • http://ardour.org/ Paul Davis

    You can use Renoise+Live+JACK on windows too. No Rewire necessary.

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

    I was assuming people were looking for sync with JACK, as well, although I suppose you could do sync with MIDI and use JACK for audio. (minus Linux, of course, on which you do get sync in JACK)

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  • http://www.yahoo.com/ Kingston

    I really like your blog and i respect your work. I’ll be a frequent visitor.