Techture

April 12th, 2004

TXT:: I dropped by 111 Minna Gallery to meet up with Blake, a.k.a. Techture, a fellow Reason user who puts on a live show and DJ sets every 2nd Tuesday. Coincidentally, I ran into an old internet aquaintance, Ben who is a close friend of Emmet, the man who hosts this website. Yes, the world is getting smaller. Unfortunately I couldn’t stick around for the show since I had to get home and finish up my taxes.

I picked up the Logic Pro upgrade, and I finally tried out the EVP88, that everyone seems to rave about. EVP is pretty cool, but more impressive is space designer! I don’t have much time this week to play with it, but I know i’m going to be tweaking around with custom impulse response templates in Space Designer :-)

No Shame

April 6th, 2004

TXT:: I’ve been commissioned to work on a new project, so my current projects will probably held back for another month. I’ll probably take a break and relax by finishing up the ReFills. I’m working on another beginners guide to Reason. I’ll post up more details when they come available.

I received an email today from a fellow reason user who discovered that my track “Noesis” was plagiarized. I guess this is one of the pitfalls of having RPS files floating about on the internet. The email pointed me to an artist page hosted on IC-Musicmedia.com and sure enough, “Noesis” was posted with a different title. The person didn’t even try to remix it or alter the original. I sent an email to the technical support, and within an hour the file was deleted. The efficiency of the admins at IC-Musicmedia is quite impressive!

Analog Days

April 2nd, 2004

TXT:: I’ve been Reading Analog Days by Trevor Pinch and Frank Trocco (Harvard University Press). It’s a fascinating book about the history and development and cultural impact of the Analog Synthesizers of Buchla and Moog. The interviews and anecdotes are informative and quite funny; I especially enjoyed the story of Bob Moog trying to find the resonance frequency of an elevator on the way to his thesis presentation. Don Buchla’s participation in the SF Bay Area counterculture (about the time I was a fetus) was really enlightening. There’s a funny photo as well from the 60s with some kind of Taco Bell endorsement of Moog Synthesizers. I would highly recommend it to any analog collector or enthusiast interested about the subject.

Anyhoo the book inspired me to finally get around to making the necessary repairs to my Buchla 200 powersupply. I thought maybe it was a leaky cap, but it turned out to be a bad solder joint on the transformer. I guess there was a bit of smoke particulate mixed in with the flux :-) ’ This is a relief because i thought I was going to have to replace all the caps–Finding original parts is a bit difficult, and using replacements might require changes to the circuitry. The next big project is tearing apart a the 208 and restore some of the sliders that are a bit sticky….

ReFill:: I’ve put the Live session 02 ReFill online which contains Sax, Rhodes and upright Bass phrase samples. The server has been drawing a lot of bandwidth the past few months, so I’m temporarily taking the Rhodes ReFill offline. Both of these ReFills are on the CD-Rom that comes with Power Tools for Reason, so if you have the book, then you already have the ReFills. The CD-Rom image is already floating around on the usenet, so if you really want it, you can probably find it on a newsgroup.

I’m putting the final touches on the Theremin ReFill, and there’s a MP4 audio demo that a threw together on my Music Page. The demo is comprised of ReCycle Loops and Samples arranged using Reason. It’s one of those strange experimental pieces. There’s also a MP3 Stream.

Loopmasters Jazz/World & Lounge Chillout

February 20th, 2004

Bias/Disclaimer

This is a solicited review requested by Loopmasters. I purchased these libraries through the Big Fish Audio website and they were delivered in a few days. After realizing that my sample library seemed to be lacking in certain areas, I specifically chose the Jazz/World, and Lounge/Chillout collections based on the product descriptions. I’m constantly on the lookout for acoustic instrument and raw percussion samples as well as acoustic drum and percussion loops and samples, and I’m happy to say that I have found these two libraries to be quite a refreshing change from the same old programmed sample libraries.

Format Delivery

The Loopmaster libraries are delivered on CD-ROM, and typically provide about 450 to 500 megabytes of sample data in Microsoft WAV and ReCycle RX2 format. Both the audio and ReCycle files are 16bit /44.1 kHz files. About 70 megabytes are occupied with promotional demo loops in WAV format showcasing the other Loopmaster titles. The basic file formats make these libraries accessible to MacOS 9/X, Windows, and other operating systems. I had no problems copying the data over to my hard drive, and simply accessing the samples directly from the file browser—this is probably the best way to manage the library.

The WAV format is ideally suited for users of applications like ACID, Live, Logic, etc. the producers of these libraries have included Reason patch files for the multisamples and Redrum kits, making them especially useful for Reason users. While these patch files are useful for Reason users, hardware and other software sampler users will have to go through the trouble of mapping these manually.

Production Quality

Several things impressed me about the Jazz/World and Lounge/Chillout Libraries. The audio recordings are top quality matched with equally stunning performances from very talented live musicians. The audio samples have just the right amount of outboard processing to make them usable as elements in a track without standing out from the rest of a track. The production quality is the credited to the engineering skills of Harvey Summers and Simon Southgate, who recorded these performances at Swine Studios in the UK.

Sound Design

The overall feel of these Libraries is a produced tracking session. By this I mean that the samples are extracted from the individual tracks of a song. The loops are very tight and have that energy as if they were played and tracked live with each player in iso booths. The loops complement each other fairly well, and there’s very little need for timing correction to match a drum groove with the bass. Either it was tracked live, or someone is a madman with the editor! Each Library is like a specific production kit which can help you achieve cool results in a very short amount of time.

The samples are categorized by instruments, with subdirectories listed by tempo. As long as you stick to loops in the same tempo category, you can build up a very lush sounding production in a few minutes. I even noticed that these two different seem to complement each other well, so loops from 100BPM J/W library match those in the 100BPM L/C library.

The Drum Loops and individual hits are stereophonic with the elements balanced in the stereo field. Layering up several drum loops is a bit overkill since each individual loop is already quite rich. The producers were quite meticulous with the ReCycle editing, and there’s no need to adjust slice points. Decreasing the tempo on the RX2 files seems to work well down to 20% before the groove loses integrity. This amount varies since some loops still sounded great with a 50% tempo decrease.

I really must applaud the musicianship on most of these samples. The drummer is really tight and has some fantastic original grooves that provide solid foundations for a variety of styles. The bass performances are also top notch with some catchy hooks usable for commercial projects. There are plenty of usable percussion loops with intricate patterns which can be used as templates for groove quantization. The Solo sax samples have a great sound and with some creative manipulation, you can create some great lead riffs.

The loops are solid for the most part, and the editing quality matches the stunning audio. For those using audio loops, you should have no problems implementing the loops in your software or hardware samplers. For those who use ReCycle files in Cubase, Logic, Reason, or even Reason Adapted, the RX2 can be imported and synchronized to the song tempo. In most cases, for every WAV loop there is a matching RX2 file, so the producers have done all of the work. There are few cases where there are more WAV files than RX2 loops for some of the instrumental parts.

Content Overview Jazz/World Library

Category Description
Double Bass Nice usable bass loops and multisample upright bass
Drums Stunning drum and percussion loops and individual hits
Flute Great Flute Riffs. I wish there were more of these
Guitar Several different styles played on different instruments
Piano Ok phrases, but not so usable
Sax Section lush sound of sax section hits. Perhaps a bit too much of the same
Saxophone There are some nice sax riffs from a great sounding instrument

Lounge/Chillout Example Song (5.6Mb RPS)

Criticisms

One problem with the J/W library is that there are four distinct styles, African, Cuban, Latin, and Jazz, and there isn’t always a clear indication of which loops complement. The matching samples are there, but you need to explore the different files before you can come up with a solid match. Because the samples are spread across different styles, the number of usable combinations is limited. It takes a bit of work and groove averaging to make loops from different tempos fit together, but obviously this was not the original intent of the library.

There are 57 loops of acoustic piano riffs that don’t seem to complement the J/W library. This is a purely subjective opinion, but the performance on the piano does not meet the standards set by the other musicians. The timing is very tight on these loops, so these loops seemed to be performed by someone who is classically trained, or a drummer who is chopping out chords with precision timing. With jazz or Cuban styles, I would expect something with a little more syncopation. There are a couple of ragtime loops that sound really out of place. Also, the individual slices of several loops contain artifacts when a slice occurs in the middle of a sustained note, which limits their use in Dr.REX players.

The multisample bass patch functions perfectly in Reason, however the mapping is rather intricate, so without these patch files, it would be difficult to recreate the patch in other software or hardware samplers.

Content Overview Lounge/Chillout Library

Content Overview Lounge/Chillout Library

Category Description
Bass Loops Some really groovy fretless bass loops
Double Bass Multi Same samples as J/W Multi - Patches Improperly Mapped.
Drum Kits 10 different kits with ReDrum Patches
Drum Loops Solid groovy drum loops and Rex files
FX & Atmospheres Single samples of layered sound textures
Pads Highly produced texture multisamples with NN-XT patches
Percussion Clean and very usable one shot samples
Sequences Miscellaneous sequenced sound loops. My favorites are the talkbox guitar loops

Lounge/Chillout Example Song (5.6Mb RPS)

Criticisms

The Upright Bass multisample NN-XT patches on L/C library are improperly mapped. The root key information is not adjusted for the individual samples, so mapping features on any sampler will not automatically set the zones.

Upon a closer inspecting, these are the identical upright bass samples included in both the J/W and L/C libraries. It seems that the producers attempted the old shortcut of copying the directory and renaming the samples without reconciling the file paths in the NN-XT patch. Because the files were renamed, Reason will not automatically replace the samples. I’ve fixed the patches, and users should make a copy of the “Double Bass Multi” folder on a local hard drive, then place these SXT files in the directory.

LC-MultiBassPatches.zip

The Multisample pad samples do not contain root key or zone information so these must also be manually mapped in samplers other than the NN-XT. The file name contains the root key name, so this task is not quite as difficult since 4 to 7 zones are typically mapped.

There are number of one-shot percussion samples. It would be useful if ReDrum (.DRP) patches were provided for these sets, or even velocity sensitive NN-XT patches. Of course, these can be easily customized in any sampler.

So

After shipping and taxes, each CD costs a little over $80 US if you order through Big Fish Audio. This is not exactly a small investment for what totals to about 30 minutes of unique sounds. However if you’re a UK consumer, the £39.95 price seems like a bargain. I’m not going to say that everyone needs either of these libraries, but if you need some unique acoustic instrument loops in the REX format, then you will not be disappointed with the Loopmaster Libraries. If you’re the type who looks for a good bargain with every possible bit squeezed out of the CD, then these are probably not for you. If you’re looking for really solid drum loops and fills with uncompromising audio quality, then the Jazz/World and Lounge/Chillout Libraries are definitely worthwhile investments.

Two Channel Stereo Connections

December 12th, 2003

This article was adapted from my book, Power Tools for Reason 2.5 published by Backbeat Books. The example from the Chapter Four section on ‘attenuation’ discusses a particular cabling technique, useful for all Reason/Reason Adapted users. This example is only mentioned in passing, and in retrospect, i should have placed a little more emphasis on the topic. While the material is not intended for the Reason neophyte, anyone can learn from the examples by following the procedures, studying the wiring schematics.

Dual Mono Mixer Connections

Since the introduction of Reason there have been a few issues regarding signal levels. One concerns the levels of preview samples being much louder than the levels coming from the master outputs. The other issue concerns audio fidelity with some people debating that Reason is somewhat “flat” sounding. While researching the chapter on audio signal routing, I discovered that the pan control set at center seems to attenuate the signal. Actually, panning a signal towards the left increases the level on the left mix bus–higher than when the signal is panned center. This shed some insight on the issues, and led to the following discovery.

Stereo audio signal levels from Reason sound modules are louder when they are connected to two separate mixer channel inputs panned hard right and hard left. This dual mono cabling technique adds gain to the incoming stereo signal, and the increased dynamics can restore some fidelity that may get lost in a mix. Take a listen to the following example file that demonstrates the signficant loudness difference between a sampler connected to a stereo input as compared to the same sampler with dual mono connections:

Loudness Comparison.rns

Making Dual Mono Connections

Dual Mono connections are established by connecting stereo outputs from Reason sound modules to two separate mixer inputs. Each of the mixer channels are panned hard left and hard right. Try the following example.

1. Start with an empty rack and set the song tempo to 90 BPM
2. Create a Remix Mixer
3. Pan mixer Channel 1 to –64, and channel 2 to 63
4. Bypass auto-routing (hold down the shift key), and create a Dr.REX Loop Player.
5. Load the ReCycle file, “RnB04_Mpc_090_eLp.rx2” from the Reason Factory Sound Bank\Dr Rex Drum Loops\RnB Hiphop directory.
6. Copy the slice data to the Dr REX 1 sequencer track.
7. Bypass auto-routing and connect the Dr.REX left output to the mixer channel 1 Left input.
8. Bypass auto-routing and connect the Dr.REX Right output to the mixer channel 2 left input.
9. Run the Sequence


Click to view a larger Image

Why Bother with Dual Mono connections?

Certainly you can connect stereo devices into the stereo inputs and raise the Dr.REX master output level to maximum or add gain by raising the fader level above unity gain settings of 100. It’s important to maintain high signal levels with digital audio in order to take full advantage of the available bit resolution. Using dual mono connections benefits from the added extra gain, and insures that the signals are hot. For example, the output levels of a Dr.REX module decrease as the velocity amplitude modulation parameter is increased, and the levels are sometimes very low, where raising the Dr.REX master volume and Mixer channel fader to maximum are still not enough. The dual mono connections can add more gain, and help restore the dynamic range.

Flexible Panning

The main benefit of using the dual mono connections is that it provides greater panning options. Stereo inputs are fixed in their pan positions to left and right, however with dual mono inputs you can pan signals to two arbitrary points between left and right. Creating tighter stereo fields can make certain signals balance better in the mix. If you have several stereo input signals, a couple can be panned hard left and right, and the others could be panned to narrower stereo splits like –48 and 47. This will add some depth to the stereo field and balance out elements so they sit better in the mixdown.

Improved Fidelity

In theory, there really is no audio quality difference between using stereo or dual mono connections, but let your ears be the judge. The dual mono connections seem to have a noticeable effect on the mix in the following example. Certain elements of the mix seem to stand out more clearly with more definition which lends to an improvement in the fidelity.

DualMvsStereoMix.rps

The sequence is built up around several loops triggered from Dr.REX loop players. The output signals are split with Spider Audio modules, and the signals are cabled into two mixers. One mixer is connected using the default stereo input connections, and the second mixer is cabled using dual mono connections. Both mixers’ outputs are merged using another spider audio module, which links both mixes to the reason hardware interface. The sequence loops several times, and automation tracks switch between each of the mixes.

The mixes are almost identical, so it takes a careful listen to hear the subtle nuances. The first thing you should notice is the higher levels from the dual mono mix as the master output fader is much higher on the stereo mix. If you solo out particular elements in both mixes, the subtle differences become more apparent.

During the dual mono mix, the difference is most noticable with the hi-hats on the drum loop—the dynamics between hits are quite vivid. By comparison, the loop in the stereo mix sounds a little less exciting. The main factor is the narrow panning of the drone and deep drum sounds which allow the stereo separation of the REX loop to stand out. The drone of the dual mono mix feels a bit more centered. The subjective art of the mixdown requires balancing both techniques of cabling. Some devices will benefit from stereo connections and others with dual mono connections. Layering up too many sounds in stereo or too many in mono will quickly lead to a track that’s difficult to mix.

Monophonic Sources

The Subtractor Synthesizer only has a single audio output, however it can be split using a Spider Audio splitter and wired as Dual Mono signals. The increased gain levels are instantly noticable, but the fidelity change is not quite as apparent unless the dynamics change in large amounts. For example, a sweeping synthesizer patch that changes in loudness and timbre would benefit from the increased dynamic range. Acid synth patterns do not typically benefit by being wired in with dual mono inputs, unless you insert an effect module like a Scream 4 Sound Destruction Unit. The distortion effect might have an extra presence and slightly richer tone with the increased gain.

Thanks for Listening

This is one of those tips that everyone should try applying to their old Reason tracks, and hopefully it will help ressurect some of those old projects that seem to get stale after being overproduced (it happens to all of us!). Cabling individual audio outputs to separate mixer channel inputs is tedious, but in the long run, the benefits of increased loudness and pan flexibility can improve the sound of your Reason songs. Try experimenting with different pan separation settings and using a combination of the dual mono and stereo input connections. The variations can lead to surprising results.

Flatpack - ReFill Sample Library

April 26th, 2003

Bias/Disclaimer

This is a commercially solicited Review, and I received a free copy of the library with the understanding that I may provide honest feedback about the product. Flatpack is the debut release from the Lapjockeys. The moment you see the tasteful packaging with line art of TB-303 knobs and the catchy Flatpack logo, you can sense that this is a special product. Preview demos of the flatpack are available for download from the Lapjockey website as well as the Propellerhead Software website.

Format Delivery

The sample library is packed as a ReFill delivered on a CD-Rom. The Refill boasts a hefty 444 megabytes of data for use with Propellerheads Reason 2.x. There are hundreds REX Files for use in the Dr. Rex, a wide variety of patches for both the NN-19 and NN-XT samplers, several ReDrum sets, and synthesizer patches for Subtractor and Malström.

Audio Quality

The high quality audio production really distinguishes the Flatpack. If you really want Casio VL-Tone sounds processed through a D.I. into a vintage Telefunken V-72 Mic Preamp into Pro Tools via Apogee converters, then Flatpack is right up your alley. If recording quality (Tele-what-en?) is not an issue, then there are alternative sources for many of these sounds. The atmospheric and textural effects really benefit from high quality recording because they are lush, very clean, open, and dynamically even. These samples are ideal sounds for film scores and adding ambient effects to a song.

Sound Design

The overall sound design of Flatpack has a uniquely British aesthetic. Until I had the chance to meet the creators, the concept behind this project was a little confusing. After becoming acquainted with the Lapjockey crew, I see how various influences shaped the overall production. There are three sides of the Flatpack library. One side has a heavy “Electro” influence with some emphasis on Sci-Fi Film sounds and classic video game noises. The other side is inspired by a love of vintage analog synths like the Moogs, MS-20, TB-303 and Arps. The third side is the “that sounds really cool, let’s drop that in there, too” aspect. While browsing through the Flatpack, the first two aspects are pretty obvious. Then, you will find the washboard rex loops and think “wtf are these sounds doing in an electro library?” These are basically sounds which just sound cool and could be useful.

There is the primary set of vintage electronics that includes samples from the catalog of Roland TR and CR Drum Machines, the Yamaha RX5, and the OB-DX. The Classic drum samples are certainly handy to have, but the original Flatpack ReDrum sets are truly impressive. The sample selection and patch settings are really well done which makes drum pattern programming musically friendly. The only shame is that there are so few original FP ReDrum sets. One other issue is that some of the patches do not make use of the “Channel 8&9 Exclusive” feature for Hi-Hats.

With over 200 REX loops, one can consider Flatpack pretty useful, however in reality it is a lot more than 200 loops. The main directory of REX loops has three frequency range categories: Hi, Mid, and Low. Each category has a variety of loops, and when three Dr. REX players are used with each playing a loop from each range, one can build unique loop combinations. This ingenious technique provides more flexibility than loops that contain all elements in one REX file. This means the actual number of loops you can create is far exceeds the advertised 200.

The Subtractor and Malström patchs are really impressive! Obviously someone with a great deal of programming experience developed these patches. They are far better than some found on the Reason Factory Soundbank. The patches are the type that inspire you when you hear them. These are the types of patches that practically lead you to creating a new song idea.

The Casio VL-Tone is well archived in the Flatpack. Not only are the Rhythm patches looped and processed with ReCycle!, several sampler patches contain multisamples of the instruments. The sound of the VL-Tone instruments pitched down a couple of octaves is wickedly menacing! The other quirky set that I love is the set of Yamaha TX81Z 4OP FM bass samples. Fellow TX81Z owners, hold on to this relic for the “Lately Bass” patch. The Lapjockeys have included this sample set as well.

Criticism

Rather than be a pandering bastard, I have some open criticisms about Flatpack. The NNXT multisample organs leave something to be desired. The organs are usable, but the key ranges are a little too broad and the Leslie sound becomes obvious when played too far from the root key. The performance of the Rhodes Chords and Runners are really useful, however the number is rather limited. The multisamples are still useful if you’re looking for the sound of a well recorded Rhodes or Wurlitzer, but they don’t have the depth of expression that the original instruments have. These could benefit from another velocity group.

The other criticism is that navigation can be tedious. The file naming protocols are not always consistent, and the organization is not always consistent. For Example, there is a directory for “Extra Samples” in the top level, however there are NNXT patches for these samples nestled down a few levels under the NNXT patch directory. Other patches usually have the samples in a subdirectory of the patches. Another example is in the FP-Music REX loops directory. Some files have the same base name, but are sorted into different subdirectories. These are not major problems, but it just makes file browsing a little more tedious and sometimes confusing.

So

This Refill is not for everyone because the library is rather eclectic, and only those who desire the unique will truly benefit from this library. If you need a strong arsenal of electro sounds, tweaky analog loops, and really lush pads and atmospheres, then you must have flatpack. Anyone critical of sound quality will appreciate this library, the production uses the finest current and vintage equipment to sample the sources. One can probably download similar sounds recorded through a cheap sound card, but they will sound nothing like the professional quality samples in Flatpack.

Minimoog Voyager VX-351
Output Adapter Installation

January 3rd, 2002

Disclaimer: This modifcation risks voiding the warranty, damaging your Minimoog Voyager, and personal injury. If you are not adequately trained in electronics, do not attempt this on your own. Refer servicing to qualified Personnel Only! This page is not authorized by Moog Music, Inc.

These items are required for installing the Output Adapter:

  • Peronal grounding system or static free environment
  • A large, well lit, workbench
  • A regular Philips head screwdriver - NOT a powered Driver
  • Thin Soft Cloths (2)
  • Output Adapter (Supplied with the VX-351 CV Expander package)
  • Before You Begin

    DISCONNECT POWER FROM THE MINIMOOG VOYAGER! Do Not attempt to install the Output Adapter with the unit powered on! Anyone who does this is an Idiot!

    Static Electricity will damage Internal Components. Before you start, make sure you are grounded or discharged.

    1. Getting Started

    Set the Minimoog Voyager on your workspace with the Back Panel facing you.

    Lift the Front Panel Up and hold it at 90° perpendicular to the body.

    Insert the soft cloths in the crevice between the wooden sides of the Front Panel and the wooden board above the keyboard. The Side Panels could pinch the top board leaving an unwanted dent. If possible, find someone to hold the Front Panel vertical. This works best!

    2. Removing the Screws

    There are 5 Screws that fasten the rear door of the Front Panel.

    While Holding the Front Panel vertically, unscrew the Five screws using the Philips head Screwdriver. Do Not Force the driver into the screw without a counterforce on the panel. This can dent the woodwork!

    Set the Screws to the side within arms reach.

    3. Open the Rear Panel

    Gently let the Front Panel tip foward and make certain that you don’t put pressure down causing the dings.

    Slowly - Very Slowly open the hinged back door, and lower the rear panel down into the case.

    You will see circuitboards fastened down to the rear panel and plenty of ribbon cables connecting these boards to the Controller Circuitboards on the front panel.

    Click Here for the Old Page with complete directions