NAMM 01: New Music/Audio Product Roundup

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Date: Wednesday, August 8th, 2001, 10:24
Category: Archive

New music and audio software, more OS X announcements, and even Star Trek-inspired “smart fabric” control surfaces for live performance: there’s big news in Mac music making.

New music and audio software, more OS X announcements, and even Star Trek-inspired “smart fabric” control surfaces for live performance: there’s big news in Mac music making.

The big event of the summer for music technology on the Mac isn’t necessarily Macworld: it’s the huge summer NAMM show held in Nashville. Go2Mac already covered the shipment of MOTU‘s Digital Performer 3 and the announcement of an OS X production suite from Emagic at Macworld. But that’s just the beginning of the news in the Mac audio and music creation world. We’re a little behind after recovering from Macworld, but we have an exclusive on the web: a roundup of all the Mac-specific product news. We’ve sorted through all the NAMM news and picked out the best new stuff for the Mac, to make it worth your wait!

BIAS goes X, ups Deck. First off: in the “missed at Macworld” department, in addition to Emagic, BIAS Inc. has announced its own flagship products are coming to OS X, and was actually previewing them in the Apple Booth at Macworld. (This one flew right under our radar, go figure.) BIAS says it will release a Carbonized Peak in November 2001, bringing the Mac’s most popular 2-track digital audio editing/processing app to X. For multitrack audio, signal processing, and effects, expect a Carbonized version of Deck soon after Peak. No details or pricing are available yet.

In the meantime, you can enjoy a new version of Deck right now: BIAS is shipping Deck VST 3.0, free to owners of version 2.7, with new VST support, including 25 free plug-ins to get started, and an overhauled GUI. (More VST related news below . . .)

The virtual control surface arrives. Midiman was showing off its new USB/MIDI Surface One virtual control surface at NAMM. The Surface One is fully MIDI-programmable and utilizes a “smart fabric” Star Trek-like fiber optic-based touch-sensitive material as its primary interface. The technology was actually developed by the Canadian Space Agency. The “controllers” themselves can thus exchange roles, locations, and functions, according to M-Audio. Exactly how will this work in practice? That’s what I’m wondering, so be assured, the first review you read will be here at Go2Mac. The units are scheduled to ship in September.

Midiman was also showing its new Keystation line of USB MIDI keyboard controllers. The keyboards, in 49- and 61-key versions, will act as an independent MIDI controller or interface directly via USB. And Midiman even had a prototype of a Bluetooth-based wireless MIDI transmitter/receiver.

Cubasis finally back on the Mac. The Mac has lagged seriously lagged behind the PC in one critical area: entry-level music studio software. The worst offender: Steinberg‘s popular Cubasis VST 2.0 application was PC-only (a more limited, older version was available for the Mac). Thanks to what Steinberg calls “strong demand,” the Mac is now finally getting Cubasis parity. Cubasis VST 2.0 Mac is an integrated workstation for composition, arranging, recording, and distribution. While it’s called “entry level,” it has inherited some powerful features from its bigger brother Cubase: Cubasis allows 48 tracks of digital audio recording and 64 tracks of MIDI, includes virtual instruments like a Universal Sound Module, virtual synth, bass synth, and virtual drum machine, and even tools for encoding MP3s and burning CDs. For those of you new to this, that means hook up a keyboard and you’re ready to make music with a new powerful arsenal of software-based instruments. As the name implies, you’ll also have full access to VST plug-ins for real-time effects. There are other amazing features: Internet collaboration with other musicians, ASIO support for audio hardware performance, 600MB of samples and loops, printing, and even Mixman and ReCycle import. All this for US$99 MSRP, available now.

Powerful VST effects, dirt cheap. Speaking of VST effects, TC | WORKS has taken the signal routing power from its SPARK product and offered it as a very inexpensive web-downloadable-only product. A 4×5 routing matrix at the heart ofFXmachine SE lets you use virtually any VST plug-in as a building-block in a multi-effect of your creation, which can in turn function as a plug-in effect in any VST-compatible application (like Cubasis VST). There’s even an MAS version for Digital Performer users. The software is just US$29.95 or EURO35 (incl. German VAT). When combined with the multitude of freeware VST plug-ins on the web, it’s perfect for project studios on a budget.

Reaktor 3. Soft synthesis powerhouse Native Instruments is now shipping version 3 of Reaktor. The new version promises optimized audio performance, a redesigned user interface, and new functions and modules, including Akai sample import and MP3 playback. For those of you not familiar with it, Reaktor is a G4-optimized “sound design studio” with modular real-time software for synthesis, sampling, and effects processing. (Sorry for the marketing jargon here, folks, but you need marketers to sum up a ridiculously powerful tool like Reaktor in a sentence!) Again, stay tuned to Go2Mac: I hope to be one of the first to bring you a hands-on review.

Auto-Tune 3. But let’s talk REAL audio power: the ability to put your singing in tune! Antares’ Auto-Tune is one of the most popular plug-ins of all time, having been used (on a Mac!) for Cher’s “Believe”, to keep NSync in tune, and by Rosie O’Donnell. It’s even been parodied on The Simpsons in their Party Posse episode. And Auto-Tune has also hit version 3. (For the record, that means in the past week I’ve covered Digital Performer, Deck, Reaktor, AND Auto-Tune all hitting the big three-oh!). New features in v3 include “Source Specific” pitch detection and correction algorithms (including soprano, alto/tenor, baritone/bass voices and “instrument” and “bass instrument”). There’s also a “spiffy” new interface, an AudioSuite version, and the ability to set target pitches in real-time via MIDI (so if you can’t sing, maybe you can play?), among other new features. Auto-Tune 3 is available for US$599 (TDM), and US$399 (MAS/RTAS/VST). And there is a DirectX version for PCs, but, hey, even Rosie uses a Mac!

BitHeadz offers downloadable samples for Unity. Those of you with the Unity DS-1 software sampler from BitHeadz will like this news: Sonomic will be providing thousands of exclusive downloadable Unity multisamples right over the web. The Internet has the advantage of enabling instrument and keyword search and instant purchase and download. August 1 was the planned launch date, so check it out!

Pro Tools hits the road. Digidesign has now officially approved MAGMA‘s CardBus-based PCI expansion systems, meaning you now have Digidesign’s approval to run Pro Tools|24 MIX or Digi 001 systems with your PowerBook G4. MAGMA has also announced availability of DC-ready models.

TC PowerCore DSP. The G4 is one powerful chip, but even the most powerful dual-processor machine can feel the strain pretty fast doing digital audio. And because digital audio has to be realtime, audio can be more demanding of the machines it runs on than even video or 3D graphics. TC Works is responding with the TC PowerCore, now shipping, a PCI card loaded with Motorola 56K DSP chips designed for audio, adding
the equivalent of four G4 processors on a single card, at a fraction of the price. The TC PowerCore will dramatically expand your signal processing horsepower in any VST or MAS application, such as Cubase, Digital Performer, Logic, Nuendo, and Spark. There’s even a new plug-in format called VST PowerCore, with support announced by Antares, DUY, Steinberg, and TC Helicon, which will run exclusively on the DSP circuitry of the PowerCore, leaving your primary processor free to do other things. PowerCore comes with the FX-package TC Tools, and formerly TDM-only plug-ins are now coming to the format (a boon to those of you who are running non-Digidesign hardware and software). Best of all, it’s Mac-only. US$1,299, shipping now.

Phew! That’s it for now. If these products strike your fancy, be sure to watch for a review here. Definitely in the queue include Native Instruments’ Absynth and Reaktor 3, TC’s SPARK, and MOTU’s Digital Performer 3, and hopefully the UPS man will be showing up with more. As always, be sure to drop me a line if there’s something you’d like to see reviewed or featured.

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