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25 March 2014

ROB PAPEN BLUE-II Review | £109 / €137 / $179

Rob Papen's soft synth Blue-II comes nine years after its predecessor, which is a long time in polysynths. Stroll down the page for the instant thrill of audio demos, or stick around for sagacity, the least gaseous of which is a claim right here on MuzoBlog, which you are now reading, with your eyes, that Muneer Papen has coded a synth that will set cinematica alight. Or, at least, make it squirm inappropriately, as did the original Blue, but now with more digital stimulation thanks to enhanced hands-on control.

Sound-wise, Blue-II is more than capable of producing the sizzles, pungent flarps and bubbling bloops of EDM (if you can bear the term) in its many guises. Amid the more than 3,000 patches of the factory banks, there’s a wealth of techno/complextro/dubstep, brostep, naughtystep/blah - you name it. However, the synth looks set to become a must-have for movie soundtrackery, ambient weavings, new-age atmospheres and, oxymoronically, progressive.

06 March 2014

IZOTOPE BREAKTWEAKER Review | £165 / $249

Boston MA developer iZotope has forged quite a reputation for hitting the nail squarely on the head. On launch, its Ozone mastering suite received praise left and right for the wealth and quality of audio-enhancing modules presented, while audio-repair tool RX is an essential part of many a production pro's arsenal. However, the company also appears adept at devising shiny new hammers.

More elegant than a Birmingham screwdriver is Stutter Edit, a sample-stammering signal processor designed in association with 'name' DJ BT. And this 2014, hyped to the hilt prior to its unveiling at Winter NAMM, we've the latest BT collaboration, the aptly named BreakTweaker. Yep, it's for tweaking breaks, and does it ever.

06 December 2013


'Know Thy Tools'? Why would I want to know my tools when there's a lifetime's worth of instant gratification to be had from VST preset flipping? You don't have to learn what all those knobs on a plug-in do, yet end up with an aural aesthete's appreciation of sound. Well just hold on there.

One of the latest kids on the Minimoog emulation block is Native Instruments Monark and Al Swettenham over at Groove 3 has made it his mission to force your fingers onto aforementioned knobs until you've learned 'em good. Al is from the Union Jack side of the pond, but has a clear voice so I doubt Americans will have difficulty understanding the accompanying audio.

I recognise his voice from other Groove 3 videos and the training company is right to ask him back since, after a couple of vids, it's clear he's going to make the effort to explain things clearly.

One thing I do like is that Al is not afraid to grumble about things he finds exasperating, so this series doesn't sound like a slick product ad - you get a feeling that there's honest advice here.

05 November 2013

TOONTRACK METAL! EZX Review | £49.95 / €69

The video above can mean only one thing: November is here and that means metal. Well, it does at the Swedish HQ of developer Toontrack, which annually celebrates the lilting tones and figures of heavy metal in its various shades.

Metal is a genre that lends itself to the usual lexical excess of sub-genre - one merely replaces 'heavy' with 'black', 'death', 'thrash', 'badger' and so forth. For Toontrack's 2013 celebration of Metal Month, the first product out of the bag is an expansion for EZdrummer and Superior Drummer, both sample-based percussion plug-ins of immense facility.

The developer already has EZX libraries devoted to metal but, rather than messing things up with a sub-genre monicker, this newbie's title sports just a single exclamation mark: Metal! That must have been one barn-snorting product-planning brainstorm. So what's the difference between Metal! and Toontrack's other metalloid EZXs, Metalheads, Metal Machine and the venerable Drumkit From Hell? Perhaps we can get an idea with some video showing how Metal! came together...

20 September 2013

IZOTOPE RX 3 Review | £249 / €299 / $349 &
RX 3 ADVANCED Review | £899 / €1,049 / $1,199

Noise is anathema to modern recordings. When once you could get away with a little background hiss in a demo, or a characterful clunk or amp buzz on an album track, digital tech renders rattle, clatter, belch and hum most unwelcome. At least, such is the sophistication of the audience's ears after years of digital audio.

Any audio chain is prone to the intrusion of noise, especially in live recording, but even in the controlled environment of a studio, aberrant sounds abound. A hissing amp, a click in the mains, an asthmatic wheeze near an open mic, the roar of flatus from a chorister suffering IBS... It all adds up when multitracking.

Of course, when there's noise in a take, you'd typically retake, but that's not always possible. Live recordings, expensive session musicians, highly strung divas and more are problematic. As is dropping in SFX sourced from location recordings, working with old movie or TV soundtrack snippets, or even attempting to polish up your own back-catalogue masters.

While audio-editing software is a must in the modern studio, tough cleaning jobs demand something else, such as iZotope RX, which has been relied upon by many pro recordists since its launch in 2008. Where an audio editor will enable you to chop out noisy sections of a recording and notch such unwelcome frequencies as mains hum and ringing drum, an audio cleaner offers a more surgical approach.