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23 April 2012

IZOTOPE IRIS | £99/$149 (until May 4*)

It’s said there are 10 types of people: Those who understand binary and those who’d prefer to interface with it in a more human way. Even über nerds need assembly language by which to address the machine when programming, while the rest of us fare better with graphical user interfaces.

Hardware analog synths have GUIs, y’know - the knobs, sliders, buttons and switches that shield our delicate muzos’ minds from the complexity of circuitry within. As for the machine code of digital synthesis, well, that’s just mad stuff for robots. But developer iZotope has taken a chuck from the drill of graphic design to put an interesting spin on how to access the very guts of digital audio and mess it up. You can’t get much more GUI that the environment offered by photographers’ and designers’ favourite, Adobe Photoshop. So how about taking some of this pixel-crunching package’s drawing functions and applying them to a graphic of a waveform, its character to mutate?

15 April 2012


Ah! The golden days of CB radio. We (five spotty teenagers) would huddle in our mate’s car and shout “breaker breaker” into the mic and get told to b***er off by old hands. We never figured out why. But we thought we'd stand much more of a chance of ruling the ether if we got one of those funny echoey units that make it sound like you’re Satan standing at the bottom of a well in a large, wet cave. Yep, reverb was Citizens' Band king.

Roll on 25 years (and the rest) and reverb plugins abound, but none, I repeat none, have a single knob that says 'sound more like Satan gazing upward with a wet bum'. Nah, these days you need a good reverb or four and they all have dials tagged with such arcane functions as ‘pre delay’, ‘diffusion’ and ‘make it sloshy’.

I suspect the reason I have more than a couple of reverbs, with good reviews to back them up, is because I was following the theory that I didn’t know enough about the subject. So if I get the latest wizzoo-bang reverb, it'll have the magic preset that means I just have to select it and won't have to bother with knowledge because it ain’t rock and roll. It's a fine theory if you like theories that don’t work and - who’s that ding-a-linging my bell? Why it's none other than Eli Krantzberg who is holding me by the throat against the wall for my own good and hitting me over the head with his Groove 3 video series Reverb Explained. I think he wants to tell me something...

03 April 2012

ROB PAPEN BLADE 1.0.0a | £78.95* (€99/$119)

It's one of those 'hold the front page' moments here at MuzoBlog. Rob's just been in touch to mention a new version of Blade, due any day now, which features a spectral display. Above is a brand-spanky new video to explain... (You don't get this sort of cutting-edge, up-t'-minute info-tainment with print media, y'know)

Describing someone as 'legendary' is like a precursor to them appearing on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. Which was typically a precursor to an appearance on the now defunct UK TV show This Is Your Life. Which was rather like witnessing someone attending their own wake. And so it's with caution that we should name the developer of this new, additive soft synth as the 'legendary' Rob Papen.

From the off, however, let's say that with Blade, Rob's abilities appear to be as sharp as ever. His Albino 3 continues to astound; his Predator to punch; his Punch to smash yer face in; and now Blade is poised to cut a splattergore swathe through the yielding flesh of the synth market. Yummy.

With a monicker like Blade, you'd expect this 32/64-bit AU/VST (32-bit only for RTAS - AAX on the way) for Mac and PC soft synth to be subtractive: One starts with a complex waveform and hacks lumps out of it. But Blade is additive at heart, although there's subtractive timbre-shaping control. If stumped, mug up on subtractive and additive, then hop back.