Inbound: Z3TA+ Waveshaping Synth, The Next Generation

Cakewalk’s Z3TA+ has long been a favorite virtual analog / waveshaping soft synth, so much so that it consistently hits top 10 lists of software classics, even as it’s been (in past, at least) a Windows-only offering. Years, later, though, it’s most definitely due for an update. Cakewalk has released a video of what’s in store this week, with a redesigned UI, new effects, deeper editing options (which, incidentally, had been my disappointment with the first generation), and improved sound quality. Highlights: New sound content, many from original Z3TA+ sound designers New waveshaping functionality New filter types (check out the …

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For Lovers of Aalto, Semi-Modular Soft Synth, a Place to Share Patches

Producer Sam Greene was so in love with Aalto, the semi-modular, Mac and Windows soft synth whose developer we profiled last month, that he made his own place to share patches for it. Patches are free to download and use in your music, and you can upload your own; the only restriction is that the site asks that no one re-sell the patches themselves. Find the results: patchdump.com You can thank the synth for making it easy. While discussion of sharing features often turns to sophisticated cloud and social features, here’s one solution: just make exchanging files dead-simple. As the …

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Madrona’s Randy Jones on Aalto Soft Synth, Designing a New Instrument, Small Makers

Patching together unique sounds on the classic Buchla 100 was an impetus for a new software instrument by Randy Jones – just released for Windows. Photo (CC-BY) guiltyx/roll_initiative. Software can easily enough emulate, down to each knob and patch cord, a vintage synthesizer. But can a genuinely new software synth incorporate the ideas about instrument design beloved in a classic synth like the Buchla modular? How do you balance open-ended sound design with the sorts of limitations that give an instrument personality, limitations that inspire? And could all of this be meaningful even for someone first discovering synthesis, who may …

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Rob Papen Punch: Sample+Synth Drums, Now Shipping; Software Drum Machine Scene Looking Hot

In a sea of software and hardware, a handful of releases every year stand out. On the software side, one of the most promising is Rob Papen’s Punch. It reflects a number of trends in soft synth design – given a choice between sampling and synthesis, it choose both; 64-bit support comes standard; pattern sequencing is built in. But it’s worth examining for two reasons: one, independent soft synth designer Rob Papen has done some of the best work in recent years, and two, it appears to offer a rich set of practical features in equal measure. The video above …

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Piano Lovers: Ivory II’s Resonance Modeling a Winner, Says Keyboard Mag

Steinways in a row. One example of how pianos can be tough to model: the distinctive Steinway treble “sparkle.” Photo (CC-BY-ND) mypouss. For something with a row of keys, the piano can prove surprisingly hard to model perfectly. But computer software, blessed with lavish storage space for samples and now-ample processing power, has a decided edge. There are lots of good sampled pianos, but two products have really impressed me above the others: Synthogy’s Ivory and Pianoteq’s modeled instruments. After years of waiting, Ivory II is now here, and my friend and colleague Steve Fortner, at the helm of Keyboard …

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An All-Android Hip-hop Album, and the Tools Used to Create It

Now airport lounge layover-ready and musical – the Android platform. A hip-hop release that used these handheld tools exclusively is a good window into what’s out there. Photo (CC-BY) Laihiuyeung Ryanne. From an eBay-purchased Atari ST to your phone, you really can make electronic music however you like, wherever you like. Generally, I’ve therefore been skeptical of gimmicks like all-iPad albums, particularly as it seems fairly obvious that such things should be possible. On the other hand, albums produced entirely with less-obvious, less-popular options may lead to more unexpected solutions. And they can both prove my ultimate thesis: you should …

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Yamaha’s MOX: Recession-Friendly, More Portable MOTIF Keyboards; Computer Workflows

While Roland this week is pushing their JP-80 and celebrating a 30-year milestone (the Jupiter-8), Yamaha has a different tack. They’re talking about the 10-year anniversary of the MOTIF workstation line, and introducing a version that’s actually easier to lift and afford. That could be friendly to the current economic tough times. But with all that people love their software synths, can Yamaha make a compelling case to the computer user, too? I put Yamaha on the spot to answer that. First, here are the specs: MOTIF XS sounds, with 1,217 voices and 355 MB of waveforms. (Okay, that’s nothing …

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HALion 4, Steinberg’s Sampler + Synth Soft Workstation, Gets Deeper

Sampler? Synth? Workstation? Or just big bucket of sound? There are some impressive rabbit holes for sound designers out there, and Steinberg’s offering just got a big refresh. While looking at the latest flagship from a music hardware giant (Roland’s Jupiter-80), it’s revealing to compare the software side of the fence. Computer software instruments may not be directly equivalent to all-in-one keyboards, but they do each embody the latest thinking in how to build expressive instruments and new sounds. German maker Steinberg is at home at this week’s giant Messe trade show, and they’ve taken the wraps off the upcoming …

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Pulsing Geometries, Free Massive Synth Downloads: Ableton + NI + Cinema4D Music Video

Artists Leisure-B and Usselino collaborated on this Autechre-inspired audiovisual short, filled with pulsing geometric primitives. The work is a kind of A/V composition, the music arranged with abrupt, video-style edits. For fans of Native Instruments’ thick-sounding Massive synth, you also get some free preset downloads in the deal. With Native Instruments’ software providing the sound palette, Ableton Live became a context for editing the music as you would video: Leisure: “I tried to approach the composition as “sound design” as possible. Since the video was animated on the BPM (117) and rhythmical accents of “Vose On”, all I really had …

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First Look: An iPad, Transformed into an Expressive Guitar, in OMGuitar

Speaking of tablets, can the flat surface of a touchscreen really emulate guitar expression? One developer thinks so. Toyo Bunko of Amidio, makers of soft synths for iOS, writes to share their latest project. OMGuitar is a “guitar synth.” While it’s entirely touch-based, they’ve found ways of adjusting the tone, including using the speed of a strum to impact timbre and techniques for bends and mutes. You choose chords via an interface of their own design (rather than on conventional frets), and onboard effects make this an all-in-one solution. 300 chords are available, and there’s a dedicated arpeggio interface. It’s …

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