With Gatelab, developer Audiomodern is giving away a plug-in which “hacks” into your audio tracks using all the classic gating and sequencing tricks in the book. A creative gate sequencer, Gatelab generates rhythmic patterns and volume automations in real time, with various random functions added. That’s a welcome addition to any producer toolkit, especially for the price of free!
After the ingenious filter step that made it into many freeware hit lists since its appearance, Audiomodern presents another free plug-in that’s not to be missing from any collection. Gatelab is a creative gate sequencer that creates new patterns by rhythmically ‘dismembering’ the audio track.
Among everything else, the plug-in offers a ‘flow mode’ for manipulated volume curves alongside a gate mode for traditional gate sequences of up to 64 steps. You can simply draw them separately with the mouse for the left and right channels. A ratcheting function with up to three subdivisions can be activated per step. There is also a shuffle function and sequences can be played forwards, backwards, or in ping-pong mode.
A palette with numerous ready-made patterns is a good starting point for new patterns. A click on the central Randomize button creates random sequences, which always creates new patterns. There is also an auto-randomize function which automatically shuffles patterns after a chosen number of bars.
What I find particularly interesting is Gatelab’s ability to output MIDI data for sequencing other plug-ins. And the other way around, Gatelab can be comprehensively controlled via MIDI controllers which makes it ideal for live use. The preset buttons at the bottom are also a great performance addition. Here, the created patterns can be saved and recalled spontaneously.
Free for macOS, Windows and iOS
Audiomodern Gatelab is available for free from the manufacturer’s website for macOS and Windows. All you have to do is create a free account. The plug-in runs under macOS 10.12 or later and Windows 7 or later in AU, VST, VST3, and AAX formats. It’s also available standalone.
The iOS version, which you can get in the App Store, is also free. It requires iOS / iPadOS 9.3 or later, and runs as an AUv3 plug-in.
With VocAlign Project 5, software developer Synchro Arts presents a completely redesigned version of their software for automatic alignment of multiple vocal tracks. That sounds very complex, and it is. The technology behind VocAlign has matured for over a decade and trust me when I say it’s a lifeline. It works perfectly enough to spare you from tedious vocal alignment in post. Even for those grid-obsessed, super meticulous / draconian producers, VocAlign provides a starting point that’s darn near close to finish. I consider it indispensable for tight multi-tracked performances, and it all happens quite clickly. VocAlign Project, the most affordable version, does everything a reasonably accomplished music producer may be looking for in the flagship product. Its latest version is available now, at an introductory discount (EUR 89 down from EUR 141).
Synchro Arts VocAlign Project 5
VocAlign Project 5 from Synchro Arts should help you get multi-tracked vocal recordings perfectly in time, while sounding natural. Thanks to SmartAlign tecg, the plug-in automatically detects the sections in the recordings that are supposed to “fit together” and pushes several tracks on top of each other. With the tightness control, you can determine how precise you want the tracks lined up. Additionally, there are presets which make it easier to get started. That aside, VocAlign’s user interface has been improved again. The all-important waveform view has been revised to make it easier to catch offsets in the recordings. Moreover, the software incorporates dongle-less iLok authorization.
VocAlign Project 5
Synchro Arts VocAlign Project 5 deals
Until October 25 2021, Synchro Arts VocAlign Project 5 is available here at Thomann.de (affiliate link) at an introductory price of EUR 89 (down from EUR 141). The upgrade from version 3 is also reduced here at Thomann.de (affiliate link) to EUR 29 (down from EUR 46). If you bought V3 before March 16 2021, you can upgrade to the new version for free. Additionally, VocAlignUltra and upgrades are also offered at lower prices during the introductory period. You can find the offers here at Thomann.de (affiliate link).
VocAlign runs under Windows 10 or later and macOS 10.8 or later in VST, VST3, AU and AAX formats (32 or 64-bit). In addition, the software supports the ARA2 interface for direct integration into Cubase, Studio One, and Logic Pro. To authorize a maximum of two licenses, you need a free iLok account (or paid USB dongle). A limited demo version and several demonstration videos can also be found on the SynchroArts website.
Whether you’re thinking of entering the world of vlogging, or looking to upgrade your current setup, you’re not short of options! And while it’s great that the market is overflowing, it can get a bit overwhelming. So here are a few camera options at different price points to get you started.
All cameras in the following list come with built-in microphones, although some do offer connectivity for external microphones. But if you’re concerned about getting the best audio quality, it’s probably wise to have a separate audio setup to capture sound. Especially if you are on a desk, and especially if it is sound-centric (like playing music or guitar). If you’re just starting out, and don’t want to drop a sum quite straight away on a sound-card bundle, even an affordable microphone with a 3.5mm connection (supported by most of the following cameras) would be able to give you a better and more focused audio.
If you really want to save, or want to start a vlog without having to first buy a new camera, you might find that your current Android or Apple device may be just the device for you to dip your toes into the world of vlogging. It’s hard to compete with a device that is always at hand. Most phones boast pretty decent camera specs nowadays, and you get the added benefit of being able to upload your videos directly. You can often also edit the videos directly in your phone, or download an app for it, to give your videos more of a polished feel.
As long as your phone camera supports a few minimum specs, you should be good to go. You may not be so concerned with having 4K 60fps if you’re using your phone, but a minimum of Full HD is recommended, at least for now. Before it’s obsolete. Remember, the higher the fps, the smoother the video, which is especially helpful with content featuring action or movement. Most modern mobile devices will feature some form of video stabilisation. However, it’s always good to have a tripod, for those shots where you need your hands free. Any tripod will suffice, as long as you have an adapter that attaches to the head of your tripod. This is usually in the form of a clamp, that bites down on the phone to keep it secure. Or have a selfie-stick for travel logs.
DJI OM 5
For mobile device – DJI OM 5
If you still want to upgrade, but stick to your mobile device, you could have a look at the DJI OM 5 Smartphone Gimbal. The OM 5 utilises a high-grade 3-axis gimbal technology, keeping your camera pretty stable, and perfect for action shots. So if you were sick of getting wobbly footage from your phone, this should smoothen it out. It also has an extension rod, to turn it into a very sophisticated selfie stick. You can control your camera functions via the OM 5 with the accompanying app and a Bluetooth connection.
RRP – EUR 159
GoPro Hero 9
Best for outdoor – GoPro Hero 9
If you’re looking for an all-weather camera that is rugged enough to brave the elements, you can’t go wrong with a GoPro. The new GoPro Hero 9 features a 23.6 MP CMOS sensor and can shoot videos at 5K/30fps. You can also shoot at 240 fps at 1080p, perfect for capturing (or slowing down) fast moving subjects, etc. And if you want to livestream, you can do so through the GoPro mobile app. There’s no flip-up screen here, but you do get a front-facing colour display. Also, to connect an external microphone you’ll need to get the GoPro Mic Adapter add-on.
Thanks to its small form factor, the GoPro can easily clip on to your helmet, handlebars, or guitar headstock. And the HyperSmooth Boost stabilization mode makes footage smooth at all framerates. It has a waterproof rating of up to 10 metres, which means you can take it underwater too. Though if you want to take it deeper, you’ll need an additional protective housing.
It’s not the cheapest option out there as far as ‘sports’ cameras are concerned. But as far as making videos in the outdoors and/or on the move, GoPro cameras have a proven track record.
RRP – EUR 399.99
DJI Pocket 2
Smallest option – DJI Pocket 2
If you’re not really planning on tackling the elements, but still want a small and compact camera to document your activities, check out the DJI Pocket 2. The Pocket 2 follows on from DJI’s Osmo Pocket with several upgrades that include a larger sensor with up to 4K/60 fps, four microphones, a wider lens, and a better autofocus system. The camera comes with a built-in three-axis gimbal, so you won’t get motion sickness watching the footage, and a 20mm f1.8 lens.
At 117 g, it’s the lightest camera on the list, and it really is tiny enough to fit in your pocket, so you never miss out on capturing those perfect moments. Even if you’re filming while running and shaking it.
RRP – EUR 339.99
Bang for buck – Sony ZV-1
Although officially released last year, the Sony ZV-1 may still currently be the best camera, for the money, for vlogging. You get a 4K/30 fps video and a fully-articulating screen, so no angle is too crazy. It also has a 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens, which should suit most applications just fine, and a 3.5mm port to plug in an external microphone, if you don’t want to use the built-in one. But its biggest attraction is Sony’s new Real-time tracking and Eye AF, which is excellent at tracking the subject and keeping it in focus. The camera is also compact enough for you to pocket and take with you on an adventure, when not on your desk or on a tripod.
RRP – EUR 666
Panasonic Lumix S5
Premium option – Panasonic Lumix S5
Although Panasonic has updated its GH5 model for 2021 with wireless live streaming, we think the Lumix S5 is still a better option, due to its full-frame24.2 MP sensor. The mirrorless camera can record at 4K with up to 60fps, and has a 3-inch fully articulated touch screen that lets you know what’s going on behind the lens. You could get it with a lens as part of a kit or, if you know the focal lengths you will be working with, buy the body separately and a compatible lens. Keep in mind though that buying the kit will obviously bump up the price a little.
If you’re only just starting out, The S5 may be a bit of an overkill. But if you’re sure you want to dive in deep, then it could be a worthwhile investment, as you can always upgrade lenses, etc. So if you’re not on a budget, the Lumix S5 is definitely worth checking out.
There are plenty of ways to keep your levels and loudness in check. When your DAW’s built-in metering doesn’t quite cut it for your needs, you need a professional metering suite. A new one on offer is Fennek, made by German developer Zplane. It’s reasonably priced for what it is, and it does all kinds of surround sound. A serious piece of kit!
Zplane Fennek loudness and metering suite
Fennek keeps your loudness and peaks in check using a customizable interface and a useful loudness history view. The interface can be freely resized and lets you switch modules on and off. The latter shows loudness over time with several choices for visualised information. Fennek supports industry-standard peak and loudness metering and all types of audio mixes, including surround up to 7.1.2. A preset bank helps you get started with the appropriate metering for your material. You can also export highly detailed loudness reports for your audio – something tells me you probably won’t be sharing these on your Facebook feed.
While Fennek is quite easy to get around with the provided presets and informative visuals, it seems geared for pros. The metering options and amount of information may be excessive for casual producers and content creators. Fennek is what I’d use if I were to deliver a fine-tuned master that will stand up to extreme scrutiny.
Price and availability
Fennek costs EUR 119 and is available in standalone, VST, VST3, AU, and AAX formats for Windows 10 / macOS 10.15 or later. A free demo version can be downloaded from the Zplane website, along with the user manual.
Mooer has just launched the new Groove Loop X2 stereo looper pedal. The pedal features an onboard drum machine, so you can play against a beat. There are 121 drum grooves that can be synced to the looped audio, making practise a lot less of a chore.
Mooer Groove Loop X2
The new Groove Loop X2 stereo looper from Mooer has 14 save slots, each of which can store up to 10 minutes of audio. Then you have those 121 drum grooves that can be synced to your looped audio, so practising will be a lot more fun. There are 11 different musical styles on offer here, which you can select using the Genre and Pattern controls on the pedal.
Mooer Groove Loop X2
Three Looping Modes
You also have access to three different looping modes. These include the Normal mode, a Count-in mode that you can toggle on or off, and finally, an Automatic mode. The latter mode automatically starts looping as soon as a guitar signal is detected.
The Time Stretch function enables players to alter the speed of their loop’s playback, without affecting the original pitch. It’s a neat feature that you can really get creative and experimental with. There’s also a Tap Tempo that you can use to set the tempo manually. And when not, the pedal will detect the tempo automatically while you are playing.
The looper features an onboard drum machine, time stretch and tap tempo
You also get stereo inputs, along with the ability to split the looper and onboard drum machine to separate stereo outputs. This could be great for live work, especially if you want to send your drums to their own PA/mixer channel or separate amp setup.
The pedal supports editor software for exporting/importing audio files, which should make life a lot easier. You can download the free editor software directly from mooeraudio.com.
You can see the new Mooer Groove Loop X2 in action in the demo videos below. It certainly packs in the features and, if the price is right, it should sell pretty well.
Wavegrove is taking the path that smaller developers are taking increasingly often: instead of selling their products via their own website (which is an ongoing investment), they sell them on Gumroad and Patreon. That certainly makes things a lot easier and frees up more resources for development. Maji is a new plug-in from the up-and-coming manufacturer that combines saturator, compressor, and EQ in a great-sounding way.
According to Wavegrove, the plug-in is based on principles derived from the laws of physics. It’s not like the same doesn’t apply towards most hardware-inspired plug-ins, anyway. But yeah, physics! Maji works like a kind of transformer that is “pushed” beyond its natural limit, so to say. This creates a natural type of compression that you cannot hone with parameters like attack and release. There are two additional controls, however, to let you determine how the effect of compression and simultaneous transformer saturation behaves.
You can regulate the compression amount with Strain, and the harmonics added by the saturation with Grain. A bias control is also provided, changing up the harmonic overtones by the power of sheer cyber-electricity.
Additionally, there are two EQ controls to let you edit bass and treble. The treble control should be adept at adding soft highs or eliminating harsh frequencies and at the same time providing a little more “air”.
You will also find a controller for output gain , and the delta button is used to adjust the input and output volume even more precisely . And then there is a bypass switch and a button that you can use to switch oversampling from 4 to 16 times.
Price and availability
Wavegrove Maji works in VST, VST3 and AudioUnit formats under Windows and macOS. You can get the plug-in from Gumroad for a tenner (USD 10), or subscribe for a Patreon membership.
Almost 10 years ago, Akai presented the MPC Studio, a very compact USB and MIDI controller with accompanying software. At the time, this MPC generated positive feedback but also some critical voices. The famed Japanese manufacturer has just released a completely new model at a surprisingly low price. Will the new MPC Studio blow us away this time? We had the opportunity to build a few beats with it before its release – here’s what we found.
Akai MPC Studio
First off, let me be clear that the MPC Studio is new territory for me. I haven’t used any of the recent products in this series. But me and the MPC have history! I’ve been an enthusiastic owner of an MPC 2000 XL for years, I consider an integral part of my studio set-up. I haven’t yet been “pulled in” by the newer standalone models and the combinations of controller and software, on the other hand. So this review was a great opportunity to get a taste of the modern MPC world.
The AKAI MPC Studio
This is a USB controller that’s also equipped with MIDI connections (one out, one in) in TRS format. The hardware is just 33 cm wide, 17 cm deep and less than 3 cm high, (13″ by 6.6″ by just over 1″). As small and light as this controller is, the workmanship makes a good, solid impression. The MPC Studio definitely fits in any backpack, making for an eminently portable tool for beat makers.
Compared to the ten-year-old version, this new black model looks more elegant and tidier. There are a few changes. The Q-link controls have disappeared, instead you get a touch strip flanked by an LED display. Equally obvious is the reduction in the size of the display. This shows you the parameters you are currently editing but I feel that it’s so tiny that it simply won’t be enough for many future users. To be honest, Akai could just as well have done without the display altogether.
The display on the MPC Studio is really tiny
The 16 velocity-sensitive pads with RGB lighting at the edges have been retained, of couse. These also offer aftertouch and are modelled on the pads of the MPC X. You can use them not only to play beats, but also melodies and chords. For a faster workflow, there are pad bank buttons on the left side. This way you can quickly switch between different pad assignments, controlling up to eight banks. Switching is done with a double tap on the corresponding button.
The 16 pads feature LED lighting round the edges
The right side (beyond the pads) is dedicated to menu navigation and the transport functions of the associated software, which offers the functional range of a DAW. Akai has kept the rotary and push encoders for parameter input. Nice!
By the way, the MPC Studio doesn’t have an integrated audio interface. Akai assumes that you already have one or that you are satisfied with the laptop’s headphone jack for listening on the road. If you’re looking to pick up an interface, check out our recent overview of the best interfaces under €200.
Akai MPC Studio rear panel
MPC2 Desktop Software
MPC Studio only works in combination with the corresponding software, available for both Windows and macOS. The version number I had for this review was 2.10. Shortly I finished this review, a new update appeared. Using the MPC2 software as a plug-in under Ableton Live didn’t work for me, maybe this was fixed in the new update. Unfortunately, I was not able to try this out.
In any case, the software provides you with most of the functions of a DAW and also includes some effects and virtual instruments. External plug-ins in VST and AU format are also available. An integral part is, of course, the extensive possibilities to arrange, sequence and mix tracks.
MPC Studio provides you with a complete package to create entire tracks without additional hardware or software – apart from the computer and an audio interface, of course. And even the latter you could – theoretically – do without when you’re on the road. The computer’s headphone output might be enough for you in that scenario. An audio interface will give you multiple inputs and outputs.
The software’s many functions also mean that the MPC Studio is very complex compared to the “good old” MPCs because of the possibilities it offers. And that certainly requires a certain amount of familiarisation and a learning curve. I can’t help but compare the MPC Studio to the classic models, that were designed for simplicity. You could figure out the concept in no time, and start having fun with it quickly. I miss this aspect here, because first you have to get to grips with the software and the interaction with the controller. I found this to be a hurdle. In fact, I had to do a lot of trial and error as well as reading up. At some moments I found the software not particularly intuitive.
Having said that, you do get off to a stress-free start here. Download the software, install, connect the controller via the included USB cable and everything is ready to go. Then when you launch the app, you’re confronted with a somewhat confusing interface. At first, even simple things like finding a sample via the integrated browser and loading it onto a pad were a bit annoying.
MPC Studio offers you different views that you have to switch between frequently. So when you start out with the MPC Studui, you may feel a bit lost. And newcomers to music production on a computer will probably find all this challenging. The many options probably don’t allow for a GUI that’s overly simple, but I still think that the interface could be a little more elegant in some places.
Possibilities without end
But in spite of this criticism, you will eventually find your way around more quickly and you’ll develop your own flow. And as I said, the possibilities are immense, rewarding your efforts. And you discover more and more details that are genuinely great and heaps of fun to use.
For example, you can play the pads with different scales or directly fire off use them to fire off suitable chords. You can also integrate external hardware easily via MIDI and control it via MIDI CC. The audio track recorded via the interface ran directly in sync with the arrangement without a hitch. Effects can be placed as chains on pads and tracks or integrated via send and return.
The included FX, filters and virtual instruments offer good sound quality and can be expanded at any time with VST and audio unit modules. Popular features such as 16 levels, groove, swing or quantize are provided by the MPC2 Desktop. And compared to the old-school models, a lot of what’s going on is much more sophisticated. The arrangement, for example, can be edited in much more detail.
I could go on here, but we’re not doing an exhaustive test of every function. Suffice to say, working with the MPC Studio will lead you to your own favourite functions.
The new MPC Studio has a pleasing, compact design, a tidy layout and solid workmanship. Most people will be able to do without the built-in display because it is simply too small for practical use. The accompanying software offers an enormous range of functions that can hold its own against most DAWs. The combination of hardware and software requires some training and a little patience. But once you’re prepared, you can do a lot with this small, powerful package. Considering the price, you get a very comprehensive all-in-one solution for (mobile) music production.
Akai MPC Studio is available now and costs €299 at retailers, including our affiliate partner Thomann.
This review was written by Dirk B, a regular contributor at the gearnews.de team.
This post contains affiliate links and/or widgets. When you buy a product via our affiliate partner, we receive a small commission that helps support what we do. Don’t worry, you pay the same price. Thanks for your support!
Most of Acustica’s plug-ins are based on impulse responses, so it was only a matter of time until the developer would venture into the world of reverb. It’s taken Acustica surprisingly long, but now they’ve introduced Silver, the company’s first dedicated reverb plug-in. Yes, it’s a convolution reverb, but it comes with a twist that Acustica calls “dynamic convolution”.
Acustica Audio Silver
Convolution reverbs are the current state of technology when it comes to imitating real-world spaces. But Acustica says that most IR-based reverbs sound static and lack dimension. Building on the experience they gained while developing Sienna, Acustica claims that they’ve come up with a solution, which they’ve named “dynamic convolution”. This involves digital sound processing and artificial intelligence.
Silver includes a so-called Perfection Control section, which helps to correct the sampled space by eliminating problems that stem from the geometry of the room, Acustica says. It’s like an EQ that works on every reflection. There’s a slider for mixing the original impulse response with an “ideal” one, which lets you fine-tune the reverb and gives you more flexibility.
Acustica claims that they’ve also improved upon the way in which changes of the length of the reverb tail are handled. The manufacturer says that Silver lets you modify the tail of the reverb at will, without distorting the first reflections like many other convolution reverbs.
Acustica Audio Silver Mini
Three free players
Silver has another thing in common with Sienna. The plug-in suite consists of three different players (Silver, Silver Mini, Silver Lite), which are essentially just different GUIs for the same engine with a few differences in the controls. The players themselves are actually free and include four different emulated physical spaces by default. Along with the Silver plug-ins, Acustica has now released Silver Volume A, the first of what will presumably be a series of expansion packs that you’ll be able to purchase. Silver Volume A contains 77 physical spaces ranging from clubs to churches to opera houses and theaters to studios and scoring stages. More expansions are coming soon, Acustica says.
Price and compatibility
The three Silver players are now available for free via the Acustica website. You’ll need Acustica’s Aquarius application to download and install them.
Silver Volume A is now available at an introductory discount. During the first four weeks, the expansion pack costs €119 (down from €159).
The Silver plug-ins run on Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.14 or higher in VST, AU and AAXformats.
Overloud has released Gem Mod, an emulation of the famous Roland Dimension-D chorus effect from the 80s. And you can get it for free: During the first week, Overloud is giving away 1000 free licenses per day.
Overloud Gem Mod
The latest plug-in of the Overloud Gem series emulates the classic Roland Dimension-D hardware chorus effect, a studio staple of the 1980s. Famous for its rich and musical sound, the Dimension-D is a favorite for vocals, guitar and even full mixes. And now you can add it to your plug-in arsenal thanks to Overloud’s emulation.
The developer hasn’t stopped there, though. The original only offered a handful of buttons for choosing various presets, which have been faithfully modeled, including pressing combinations of buttons. In addition to this, the Gem Mod plug-in offers plenty of controls to play with and fine-tune the effect to your liking. You can adjust the speed, depth, shape and amount of modulation and sync the LFO to the tempo of your track. All parameters can be controlled by input envelopes, which means that the effect can react to the input signal.
Overloud has also added an input saturation stage for generating extra harmonics. And there’s a mix control to blend in as much of the effect signal as you like.
Get Overloud Gem Mod for free
And here’s the best news yet: During the first week, you can get the Gem Mod plug-in for free. The company is giving away a maximum of 1000 free licenses per day until September 27, 2021. After that, the price will increase to USD 99. All you need to do to secure yourself a free copy is create a user account on the Overloud website (if you don’t already have one), and click “download for free”.
The plug-in runs on macOS (Apple Silicon supported) and Windows in VST3, AU and AAX formats.
Although fairly new to the plug-in business, Flowsonics has introduced its second plug-in, Intercosm. After Graindrop, Flowsonics goes to other realms – shimmer reverb.
Intercosm starts with the signal passing through a granular pitch shifter that’s then fed into an algorithmic reverb. Processed there, the signal is fed back into the pitch shifter. Alternatively, you can send the output of the pitch shifter back in itself. In the feedback section, you can switch between pre and post modes. The pitch shifter itself can also be operated in three modes (single, inverse, solo). So you can see that there are plenty of sound design options.
But there is more. You can tune the sound up to two octaves up or down and use the gain control to adjust the volume. Because there is a granular engine in here, you get interesting creative options. You will also find a reverse mode that either plays the grains, the incoming signal, or the output in reverse.
The FDN Reverb (FDN stands for Feedback Delay Network) with eight delay lines provides controls for size, decay, damping, and modulation. The output section lets you adjust the pre-delay and use the Mix blend to set the ratio between dry and effect signal. In addition, a high and low pass filter are available.
All the parameters can be automated in the DAW and synchronization with host tempo is also provided. 13 presets are included in advance, the user interface is scalable, and the price seems quite right.
Flowsonics Intercosm – Price and availability
Flowsonics Intercosm works in VST and AU formats under macOS (10.12 or newer) and Windows 10. You can download a limited free demo version from the manufacturer’s website. For a short time, the plug-in will cost USD 19 instead of the regular USD 30.
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