New Free Plugins, Custom Keyboards, Inspiring Plugin Update and Discount

This week’s Around the Web is a compilation of a few of our favourite news items of the week – read on for free plugins, workflow keyboards, and updates to the Ohm Force range with a discount to celebrate!

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AAS Swatches

Creating a High Quality Free Audio Plugins Shortlist (part 1)

One of the things we’re trying to pull together behind the scenes is a comprehensive, high quality bumper pack of multi platform software that can be used free of charge. We’ll be warming things up on the tips and tutorials front when it comes to specific software, but I’d really like to be able to make guides that use the same thing that you use so that you can follow along really easily, and maybe even share project files and presets with you too. As a taster, here’s a quick list of some of the things we’ve uncovered…

Native Instruments Reaktor Player is a free download from NI that allows Reaktor instruments to be loaded without owning the full version of Reaktor – and some Reaktor instruments are free too! The most impressive might be Carbon 2, included in the free Factory Selection pack, a solid subtractive synth that could even be used as your workhorse instrument.

Applied Acoustic Systems AAS Player is a simple sound bank player, and AAS are behind some of the best acoustic and analogue modelling software in the business.

AAS are behind some of the best acoustic and analogue modelling software in the business

Weighing in at just 6MB, AAS Player has 80 sounds, which are presets taken from products in the AAS stable – and thus sound fantastic.

Audio Damage Rough Rider is a compressor that can be used to create fiercely pumping audio. It’s not by any means a compressor that handles signals with grace and subtlety, but for that balls-to-the-wall effect it works really well.

Brainworx Cleansweep is a free filter, simply featuring low and high pass filters that can be operated by separate knobs or, for quick control, a joystick. The ability to switch between four settings and the superb quality mean it’s a shoe in for a main channel filter for mixing your channels.

Camel Audio CamelCrusher is a simple but effective audio distortion plugin.

used just right CamelCrusher can seriously thicken up drums and bass sounds

It’s sensitive, and has quite a bright sound, but used just right it can seriously thicken up drums and bass sounds.

Arto Vaarala Kirnu is a very usable yet powerful MIDI arpeggiator. In fact, it’s one of the most powerful arps we’ve laid eyes on, with everything from automated steps to a step sequencer, swing and gate functions, MIDI learn built in, and it’s all built into a simple interface.

That should keep you going for a little while – if you have any particular favourites do let us know! Oh, and if you’re not already, make sure you’ve Liked our Facebook page so that we can keep giving you tips, tutorials, free stuff and more inspiration!


Review: Sugarbytes Turnado

The world of effects gets more exciting by the day. Gone are the days when rackmounted devices, real springs and actual tapes were needed for the effects we take for granted today, and most of us now use software plugins for our effects. With computer power hurtling along at a frightening rate, having eight effects in a slot which would, as little as a few years ago, struggled to cope with one, the way we think about effects has taken on a whole new dimension. Turnado from Sugarbytes has two aims: create mindbogglingly complex effects chains, and make them super simple to use. Does it succeed?


PC: Windows XP+, Mac OSX 10.4+, runs VST, AU, and Standalone.


  • Unbelievable tweaking capabilities
  • Great sounding filters
  • Superb GUI

  • One of the more expensive recent plugins
  • Distortion options slightly limited
Price at review: €139/$179

Turnado is a no brainer purchase if you need effects that evolve and give your productions an organic unpredictability…

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Rather than a single effect, Turnado is a rack with slots for eight effects to be loaded at one time. It gives us a choice of 24, and those 24 fall into eight basic types: delay, phase, reverb, ring mod, distortion, loop, granulation, and filtering. Each type has at least two different effects to choose from, and each effect has four unique parameters which can be controlled by two LFOs and an envelope follower.

We found the modulation system really easy to understand

We found the modulation system really easy to understand; the main screen for Turnado shows us eight large knobs, one for each effect, and by going into the deep editor for each effect you can set the ratio by which the big knob affects every other knob. You can also select from a number of ramp shapes for the knob to follow, allowing a linear adjustment, a curve that starts off shallow and then becomes steep, and so on. Because the LFO can already be modulating the parameters of the effect and then the big knob can change that relationship on top of that, Turnado’s effects sound absolutely fantastic and very organic when tweaked.

Tweaking really is the name of the game with Turnado

Tweaking really is the name of the game with Turnado, and whilst its effects do sound good when just left to be static, you’d be missing a trick if you weren’t using them to create evolving sounds. The order in which the effects are chained can be set one of two ways: linearly, from bank one to eight, or dynamically according to the order in which they are activated. This choice can make or break a patch, and Sugarbytes have again considered the implications of potentially complex patches by allowing drag and drop swapping between the banks.

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Steinberg Halion 4

Steinberg Release HALion 4

Steinberg have just released the latest version of their flagship software sampler, HALion 4.

a big addition to HALion 4 is a virtual analogue synth

if you use any other Steinberg hardware or software, you’ll likely be interested in the improved integration with the rest of the Steinberg suite, including drag and drop connectivity between Halion and Cubase and Wavelab, VST 3.5 support, and automatic assignments to hardware.

The new interface, which revolves around separating the software window into various ‘editors’, looks very flexible – giving you the ability to set up the placement of the various elements of the software as you see fit, including saving various screens to switch between for different uses.

The other big addition to HALion 4 is a virtual analogue synth within the sampler, which gives it a real USP and should seriously increase its ‘all in one’ usefulness whilst simultaneously giving it an extra tool to spar with the gigantic library that comes with Native Instruments’ Kontakt 4, which dwarfs HALion’s 15GB collection (which includes the entire HALion Sonic library).

HALion 4 is available digitally now, and shipping very soon, for £295. More information and a review to follow…

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vintage compressors

Native Instruments Release Vintage Compressors

NI, the production mill that seemingly never sleeps, is back again with a very interesting bundle.

Vintage Compressors takes three vintage compression circuitry types – FET, Electro-Optical and VCA

Vintage Compressors takes three vintage compression circuitry types – FET, Electro-Optical and VCA – and creates three separate analogue style compressor models for Guitar Rig Player. At €199 this is a serious collection, and we’re looking forward to giving it a thorough test. You can listen to the audio examples over at the Native Instruments website, and if you update to the latest edition of Guitar Rig Player you’ll be able to test them out in demo mode yourself….

Waves MPX Master Tape

Waves Release MPX Master Tape Plugin

‘Magic glue’ is what everyone’s searching for when it comes to finishing a mix. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, there’s an almost imperceptible ingredient missing; something that ties everything together.

‘Magic glue’ is what everyone’s searching for when it comes to finishing a mix

It’s a quality that’s hard to find in the digital realm, but perhaps a little easier over in analogue land, where mixers, final stages, and recording mediums let the musical electrons dance about and get to know each other in unique ways. It’s no surprise, then, that analogue modelling plugins are so popular; Waves’s just released MPX Master Tape looks like it could be another popular solution.

To quote the Waves team, “Developed in association with Eddie Kramer, the MPX Master Tape plugin is modeled on a rare machine consisting of an Ampex 350 transport and 351 electronics [...] with adjustable tape speed, bias, flux, wow & flutter, and noise parameters [and] a flexible slap & feedback delay”. It’s available across Mac and Windows and all popular plugin formats, including ProTools TDM. Sounds good to us… look out for a review soon, and check out the MPX page over at Waves.


Review: Cableguys Curve

Curve, by Cableguys, is at first glance a utilitarian looking, grey and white subtractive synthesiser. In reality, it has a ton of sound design possibilities and a few unique features… but how does it sound?

Manufacturer: Cableguys

Price: €119/$159

Compatibility: Mac/PC, VST/AU host


UPDATE: On the 17th July 2011 Curve 1.4 was released, and adds in the monophonic options that we lamented the lack of in this review. Take a look at our news release for the full skinny, and read on for the rest of the review!


One of Curve’s big features is its waveform drawing capability

One of Curve’s big features is its waveform drawing capability. You can design up to ten waveforms in a patch, and draw the waveform itself with up to twenty node points. A really nifty thing happens when you alter the waveform; in the background, a bar chart indicates the harmonics and their amplitude in real time as you alter the curve. You don’t have to create all your waveforms from scratch of course, there are presets for sine, square, triangle and pulse ready and waiting, but it’s a great way to get an individual sounding patch and also learn a little bit more about the science behind sound design while you play.

The filter section has a bunch of settings, spread over 6dB, 12dB, and 24dB per octave cut off sharpness. All have a low and high pass setting, 24dB has band pass, and 12dB has band pass, notch and peak settings too. Resonance is really smooth, and screams tastefully at high settings.

Resonance is really smooth, and screams tastefully at high settings

There’s no way to change the routing of the oscillators and filters. The sum of the oscillators goes into filter one then filter two in series. Other than that, though, modulation capabilities in Curve are impressive. There are four LFOs, a dedicated amp envelope and two assignable ones, and pretty much anything can be modulated by anything else with a really simple cross referencing system, including frequency modulation of each oscillator by another.

Curve’s simple and maybe slightly uninspiring user interface belies the power of the synth – but it’s a power that exponentially rises based on the work you put into creating interesting patches for it. Because many synths have some form of analogue modelling in them, creating imperfect waveforms and simulating unstable VCOs, Curve can sound quite thin and basic in comparision when using its basic waveforms. Draw your own, though, and the nuances of each unique waveform thickens up the sound, especially when modulating everything by everything else.

Indeed, rather than jump on the analogue modelling bandwagon, Curve is quite staunchly digital; despite being able to create weird and wonderful sounds with its modulation capabilities and custom waveforms, you can also hark back to the stone age of digital synthesis and allow aliasing in the output for that old school sound.

you can hark back to the stone age of digital synthesis and allow aliasing in the output for that old school sound

When combined with the eco setting the aliasing is really apparent and has just as much creative use as it does practical, despite Curve’s generally very good CPU usage.

Some time savers and thickeners you may be used to in other synths appear to be absent in Curve, but due to the flexibility of its design it’s usually possible to createa workaround. Despite there not being a sub oscillator, for instance, the inclusion of three ‘proper’ oscillators makes dedicating one to a low tone a fairly small compromise. Similarly, there’s not a dedicated noise generator, but any of the oscillators can be set to noise instead of waveform. The lack of arpeggiator is mitigated creatively by drawing a complicated waveform, facilitated by the grid view having a semitone setting, and then having the pitch of your oscillators modulated by it. It just might have been nice to see one more envelope generator though – to allow their number to match the number of oscillators on offer.

If you ever need inspiration for sounds you can just look to the community, too; Curve’s default patch saving setting allows your presets to synchronise with the master database in the clouds, to be shared with other registered Curve users. You can of course turn this setting off, for your ‘secret sauce’ signature sounds, but it’s a nice community focused idea and can help to open your eyes as to some of the possibilities in Curve’s semi modular design.

There’s one real weakness in Curve, and that’s the polyphony settings

There’s one real weakness in Curve, and that’s the polyphony settings. For some reason, polyphony is a global, rather than per patch setting. There’s no true mono setting, and so subsequent note on requests are ignored whilst a note is sustaining. There’s also no glide/portamento option. This is a real shame; hopefully it’s something that Cableguys can rectify in a future update, because at the moment it really hinders what is a otherwise a great synth.


Curve’s a great synth for the somewhat adventurous; what amounts to a semi modular design and a learn as you play approach to waveform generation leads to unique sounds with a lot of depth. Its inadequecies when it comes to monophony let it down somewhat, but in general it’s a great addition to the plugin world and a welcome change to the overcrowed analogue modelling market – and its community focused patch system means there’re always new sounds to dip into.

Native Instruments Razor

Native Instruments Announce Razor

Native Instruments have just announced a forthcoming addition to their range; Razor is an additive synthesiser developed by Erik Wiegand aka Errorsmith, the man also behind NI’s Smith N Hack and MMM.

the introductory video demonstrates Razor’s propensity to emit gut punching bass with gusto

Details are thin on the ground at the moment, but the introductory video demonstrates Razor’s propensity to emit gut punching bass with gusto and shows its multi screened, clean looking interface. Other info’s thin on the ground at the moment, but when there’s more I’ll have it…

Cableguys Curve 1.2 Public Beta

Cableguys announce Curve 1.2 Public Beta

Cableguys, a team of plugin developers based in Berlin, recently put out a public beta of version 1.2 of their popular soft synth Curve. Curve is an interesting synth, despite the initial impressions garnered from a cursory glance at the clinical user interface.

Another intriguing feature of Curve is its community focused design, turning individual users into nodes in a collective brain of sound generation

It features high quality, aliasing free waveform generation, but rather than the standard choices of simple waveforms, Curve allows you to draw your own oscillator waveforms (LFOs, too) to create unique sounds.

Another intriguing feature of Curve is its community focused design, which sees presets make their way into the cloud, in effect turning individual users into nodes in a collective brain of sound generation. Cableguys’ design process is also very transparent, with user suggestions playing a major part in the direction of the synth; the top three suggestions from the 1.1 release have been added to 1.2, namely modulation of individual oscillator parameters, LFO rates, and the ability to prevent presets finding their way into the cloud, for those secret weapon patches you want to hold close to your chest.

Keep an eye out for a review of Curve 1.2 soon – the demo of 1.1 can be downloaded from the Cableguys website now…

Slate Audio Virtual Console Collection

Slate Digital Release Virtual Console Collection

In the box, DAW based mixing has come on in leaps and bounds, and results can be incredibly transparent. The summing of audio signals can become problematic in a DAW though, especially as track counts rise – the maths involved in summing audio signals digitally can leave a stereo mix sounding flat and lacking separation.

the way that classic equipment has little quirks and characterful nuances creates what many regard as a superior sound

Not only can the harmonics introduced as channels are summed in the analogue domain give a mix a more musical sound and allow each channel to retain its separation in the mix, but the way that classic equipment has little quirks and characterful nuances creates what many regard as a superior sound.

Slate Audio’s Virtual Console Collection has two plugins, a mix buss and a channel, designed to be added to the master fader and each channel, respectively. Four classic consoles are emulated, and Slate claim the Collection ‘instantly takes on the character of an analog mixing desk’. It sounds tempting – and almost too good to be true, but Steven Slate’s previous form with the actual analogue summing box the FOLCROM is promising. Expect a review soon…

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