Thursday 28 May 2009

Aspect, Manifold, and Resound 1.3.2 released, now available in RTAS plugin format.

Aspect 1.3.2, Manifold 1.3.2, and Resound 1.3.2 have now been officially released. Download them in VST Plugin, Audio Unit, RTAS, or Standalone format for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

The main focus of these releases was the anticipated RTAS Plugin versions for users of Pro Tools LE, Pro Tools M-Powered, and Pro Tools|HD. Besides this, they also add new features and fixes, a few of which will be discussed in some detail below.

A|B comparison function
The A|B comparison function lets you quickly compare the sound of an edited program to the original settings. This is ideal for auditioning changes to a patch in order to decide if they improve the sound. Each press toggles the sound between the edited and original settings.

Reduced CPU usage
Aspect's Pulse waveform now uses about half the CPU resources when compared to the previous version. The panning algorithm - as used in both Aspect's Output section, and the Stereo Spread block of Manifold - also uses much less CPU. Another optimization reduces CPU time when the synthesis engine isn't using feedback (e.g., connecting Oscillator 1's output back into itself as a Pitch Modulation source.) Obviously, depending on the operating system, sound card and host buffer size your mileage may vary, but Aspect's Celestial String patch now uses about 30% less CPU compared to version 1.2. *

Minor glitch
When adding a plugin to a playing track in Garage Band (and likely some other hosts as well) a minor audio glitch could be heard. This has now been fixed, making the plugins ideal for those who like to add effects on the fly whilst playing live.

* Metric measured on an AMD 1.7Ghz Windows XP laptop, using Energy XT 1.4 as a VST host, and with the ASIO4ALL driver and the laptop's terrible built-in soundcard.

Saturday 16 May 2009

Loomer RTAS plugins for Pro Tools open beta

The RTAS versions of Aspect, Manifold, and Resound are now available as an open beta for anyone to try. The 1.3 beta versions contain RTAS format plugins for Mac OS X and Windows systems running Pro Tools 7 or above. The usual caveats of beta software apply: whilst we endeavor to release as stable a product as possible, beta software should not be considered for use in unrehearsed live work. Note that the beta can be downgraded to the last stable release by running a previous installer.

And 1.3 isn't just for Pro Tools users - they also offer improvements for users of the Standalone, Audio Unit, or VST plugin versions. These include reduced CPU usage, compatibility fixes for several host specific problems, and a new A/B comparison feature.

[EDIT: Beta links removed - the official 1.3.2 releases are now available here.]

Let us know if you find any problems with the beta, or have any suggestions for new features. Post a reply here, or on our official support forum, or contact us directly via the Loomer support page.

Monday 4 May 2009

Modular synth sequencing, without a sequencer

This article presents a technique for producing step sequencer style patterns in a modular synth, without using a sequencer. We'll again be using the Aspect semi-modular synth. Download Aspect for Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux in Audio Unit, VST Plugin and Standalone application formats here. (Note: Only registered Aspect owners will be able to open the patches that accompany this tutorial.)

Start with a blank program configuration by clicking File / New Program.

A sequencer connected to a synth will trigger a succession of notes, where the volume contour of each note is controlled by the synth's amplifier envelope. This triggered envelope can be emulated by instead using a repeating modulation source to shape the note volume. We'll use a percussive volume contour: a quick attack, and slow decay. A Sawtooth LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator, in this case LFO1) will provide the shape we need, but from the following display we can see a problem: Aspect's Sawtooth LFOs ramp upwards, which is equivalent to a slow attack, and instant decay.

Sawtooth LFO modulation source

This is easily corrected by linking the LFO's output into an Inverter component (we'll use Inverter1 in this example). As you'd expected, this generates the shape we need (see diagram below.)

Inverted Sawtooth LFO modulation source
Which, when connected to the Output Amp Modulation and Synced to a rate of 1/16, produces the following 16th note pattern:

Download the gated patch for Aspect by clicking here.

The remaining 2 LFO components will be used to make the notes within our sequence play at different pitches. Both LFO2 and LFO3 are set to Synced Square waves. LFO2 is set to a rate of 1/8, and LFO3 to a rate of 1/4. when we align all three LFO signals we can clearly see a short sequence that repeats every four 16th notes:

Repeating LFO modulation pattern

The LFOs now need to be connected up as modulation sources to their required destinations. LFO2 should go to Oscillator1's second Pitch Modulation slot, with a depth of 2.00 semitones. (Remember that holding down the Shift key whilst dragging a rotary control will allow for more precise changes. This is useful when exact modulation depths are required.) LFO3 should be connected to Oscillator1's third Pitch Modulation slot, this time with a depth of 7.00 semitones.

With LFO2's Square modulation output causing Oscillator1's Pitch to move between 2 semitones up and 2 semitones down every 16th note, and LFO3 causing a modulation of 7 semitones, up and down, each 8th note, we get the following jaunty pattern repeated every four 16th notes:

+9 semitones
+5 semitones
-5 semitones
-9 semitones

When this is played through Aspect's lowpass filter, set to a moderate resonance, sounds something like:

Download the sequencer patch for Aspect by clicking here.

Due to Aspect's flexible semi-modular architecture, even without a dedicated sequencer interesting melodic patterns can be created. We've explored the simplest example - using LFOs to control a note's pitch - but for the more dedicated sound designer, Aspect's audio rate modulation sources and Patch section components provide the building blocks for a wealth of complex sequencer-style patterns.