Best Underrated Budget DAW: A Guide to Reaper by Cockos

Looking for an underrated budget DAW? Your best bet is Reaper, one of the best DAWs which is still relatively underground. We briefly mentioned this DAW in our budget sound design guide here, but it honestly deserves a full feature. Reaper is a simple but effective DAW, perfect both for seasoned producers and those starting out. Read on for a proper, in-depth look at what makes it so great.

Best Underrated Budget DAW: What Makes Reaper Stand Out

All of Reaper’s best points are actually highly dependent on personal preference. Ultimately, this is a breakdown of what makes it unique – yet its tight-knit following proves these quirks are part of its appeal

  • Simplicity

Reaper’s simplicity is also its biggest potential downside, but in its own way, it’s actually a real selling point. The clean interface allows you to project your own way of doing things onto a basic format. Options to organise and colour code tracks may at first appear limited, but actually provide everything you need and customisable packs can be downloaded from the official site.

  • Value for Money

Another bonus is Reaper’s value for money. The DAW costs 225 USD for the commercial listen or 60 USD for the basic licence.  At such a great price for personal use, this really makes it stand out compared to Logic and others.

  • 60-Day Trial Period

Speaking of the trial period, Reaper gives you the option to ‘purchase now’ or click ‘still evaluating’. What this shows is that Reaper is good enough that legions of musicians have chosen to pay for this bit of kit. The developers, Cockos, brand it as ‘audio production without limits’. Ultimately there are no downsides to taking the plunge with the trial period – especially when other DAWs require payment upfront.

  • Freedom of Organisation

Reaper is really minimalist in its interface, and as a result, it doesn’t use as much processing power as more complex daws. It also has next to no extraneous content, going by the rule of thumb that more doesn’t necessarily equal better. For example, the built-in drummers and loops found on a DAW like Logic are omitted, meaning it takes up minimal space, with the flip side being that it’s relatively bland in terms of visuals. As mentioned above, you can buy customisable user interfaces from Cockos, However, if cleanly organised and stripped-back daws are your thing, you might not need it, and ultimately Reaper raises the question as to how many extra features on other DAWs actually get used by the average, serious producer.

An Underrated Budget DAW: Are There Any Pitfalls?

The one thing which makes it a bit different is the fact you have to sift through files to find the FX you need. Some people have found that as a result, on a surface level it is not as intuitive as other DAWs. It’s sort of like Linux – an operating system which differs considerably from other options on the market but which has users who swear by these differences. 

What Other Good Points Does Reaper Have?

The most potentially polarising thing about Reaper is how stripped back it is. Although we’ve mentioned earlier how this can be a plus, looking deeper into its usefulness reveals Reaper to be even more of a worthy candidate for your favourite value DAW.

  • easily adaptable to any genre 

The bare-bones layout of Reaper is another potential downside which can actually be a bonus. unlike, say, Ableton or FL Studio, Reaper really does work for any genre. Ultimately, you are getting an absolute breakdown of the signal chain and recording studio, digitally and in miniature – without being steered one way or another by the developers’ creative preferences.

  •  lack of presets stimulates creative innovation 

So, as Reaper doesn’t have any built-in loops or software instruments. it’s geared more towards those who are already confident recording. It’s not as easy to quickly make a track which sounds good as with something like Apple Loops. However, a pro is that this total freedom can actually stimulate creativity. It can seem scary at first, but this is the kind of thing which can really challenge you as a producer. Ultimately, Reaper is a bold experiment as to what happens if you give musicians just the basics.

Tech Specs: Everything You Need to Know About Reaper

Don’t let its basic appearance fool you! Like any DAW worth its salt, Reaper allows you to:

  • side-chain
  • glue, resize, loop, and overdub tracks
  • create busses
  • colour code tracks
  • add the full expanse of necessary FX and plugins

Beyond the quirks about having to dig through files, Reaper’s interface is easily understandable if you’ve used Logic or even other DAWs such as Ableton Live. In addition, its built-in FX, sampler, and synth are very high quality, if slightly generic in terms of style. However, like most things to do with Reaper, this can be a bonus because it makes them very adaptable.

Reaper- A Basic Plugin Rundown:

  • ReaEQ – EQ plugin
  • ReaVerb – high-quality neutral-sounding reverb
  • JS Saturation – saturation plugin
  • ReaComp – compressor
  • ReaGate – high-quality gate with sidechain options
  • ReaTune – manual and automatic pitch correction plugin
  • ReaSynth – high-quality basic synth
  • ReaSample – Reaper’s own sampler

… and lots more! What’s great is these can actually be downloaded as a package to use with other hosts. Yes, that’s how much some users like the sound of them. And, like everything Reaper, they’re all really low CPU.

What Does Reaper NOT Have?

  • built-in software instruments.
  • the personalisation of daws like logic
  • real recorded session musicians on their virtual instruments. however, as said before, this can be a bonus in that it promotes more creativity. 

Final Thoughts: Is Reaper Worth It?

Ultimately, the answer is a resounding YES. For such an underrated, basic-looking DAW, Reaper has very few flaws. If you’re confident with mixing and mastering, it’s easy to get to grips with. Even if you’re not, it’s an ideal place to learn the ropes due to its simplicity. If in doubt, Reaper is 100% worth trialling for the free 60 days it gives you. Regardless of your preferences, you never know which bits of it might grow on you. 

Build Your Own Synth: Intro to Erica Synths mki x es.EDU Series

Ever wanted to build your own synth? Erica Synths’ mki x es.EDU series allows you to do just that. In this way, it’s both a project and a way to learn modular synthesis from a hands-on perspective. In this way, you can really familiarise yourself with how signal chains and sound design works, too. Read on to find out more about this exciting new way of getting to grips with modular synthesis.

mki x es.EDU: What Exactly Is Involved?

Modular synthesis has a reputation for being challenging. However, it’s ideal to learn with as it breaks down the signal chain. Moritz Klein has been providing accessible synth-building information for a while now, but their collaboration with Erica Synths is like nothing they’ve done before. It helps bridge the gap between technical knowledge of synthesis, and using it fluently as a musician.

Any modular synth is comprised of different modules which are then patched together by connecting cables to alter the signal flow. These include LFOs, VCAs, and envelope generators. Together they give the input a number of interesting pathways through which to travel, altering the soundwave as it goes. The mki x es.EDU series allows you to build each of the 9 models separately. As a result, you end up with a fully formed modular synth which you are ALREADY super familiar with – inside and out.

What makes the series so great for hands on learning is it doesn’t introduce any technology of its own. Instead, it just picks from the best available. This means as you go along, you learn familiar components of modular synthesis AND get a snapshot of what modules are out there for future reference. The sample and hold module, for example, is less commonplace than an envelope generator, but after building it, you will have this in your arsenal to be able to freely experiment with. 

Build Your Own Synth: Technical Specifications

  • What does it include? 

The mki x es.EDU (Moritz Klein x Erica Synths) system includes a Eurorack case for the synth as a whole plus three sets of braided patch cables comprised of 5 pieces each of different lengths. In addition, the synth modules included are as follows:

  • VCO (voltage controlled oscillator)
  • VCA (voltage controlled amplifier)
  • Envelope Generator
  • VCF (voltage controlled filter
  • Sequencer
  • Mixer
  • Noise Generator/Sample and Hold module
  • Wavefolder
  • Output

So, How Does it Fit Together?

Erica Synths released each module alongside a detailed instruction manual every 4 to 6 months. Now all modules are out, you could in theory order them all in one go. However, it could also work to build each module separately and really get to grips with it. Either way, you end up with a fully working modular synth.

  • What’s it like as a synth?

The series is meant to be educational, as opposed to a game-changing modular synth. However, the mki x es.EDU modular synth is both creative and high quality. The wavefolder module, for example, is designed to make simple waveforms more complex. ES is great at introducing musicians to concepts not found on the mainstream market. The sample and hold module is also a great addition. Here, the company knows how to create interest in a way which is both simple and educational.

The kit is also value for money. As you build it yourself, its quality is obvious, but Erica Synths have a history of creating well-designed synths which are value-for-money. The mki x es.EDU series lives up to this.

How Does the Learning Process Work?

On the Erica Synths website, the page for each module has a selection of videos. These are both introductory but also take you through some of the construction processes. They include official ones from Moritz Klein, as well as samples of users putting the synth together themselves.

The instruction manual for each module is available for download as a pdf. It does a pretty good job at approaching the topic, both for absolute beginners – and for those with prior experience.

The manual includes the absolute basics, such as an introduction to using a breadboard. Additionally, it breaks down the fundamental concepts that synth building requires. Even if you’re completely new, it’s approachable and breaks down what comprises a synth internally. Between this and the variety of resources out there, Moritz Klein and Erica Synths have left no stone unturned when it comes to making something which works for everyone.

Build Your Own Synth: mki x es.EDU Pros and Cons

  • Pro: Suits multiple styles of learning

Moritz Klein has been making accessible introductions to synthesis for a long while. In fact, they have posted plenty of videos online on this topic.

We all know how some musicians can perfectly read music and follow along. Others have to take the song apart and get into the details before they can learn it from scratch. 

Luckily, the mki x es.EDU series caters to both. Its instruction manuals have good text-based explanations. Its handly flow diagrams make it useful for those who prefer to work visually, too. Additionally, the synth-building process itself really breaks things down if you prefer a hands-on way. And just to be on the safe side, there are plenty of video tutorials online.

  • Pro: Transferrable skills

One bonus of the synth-building project is it allows you to develop transferrable skills. By using it, you are understanding sound right down to the bare bones. This happens in a way which only comes from building a synth from scratch on a practical level. As a result, you gain the knowledge needed to work with sound more competently. This can extend to recording, mixing, mastering, and other music and sampling. Deeply understanding things like signal flow can make your production work smoother, too. Ultimately, the amount of extra skills you gain from the series is a real draw. 

  • Potential Con: Investment if unsure 

The only downside is that it is a big project. If you’re not sure whether it’s something you want to commit to, it’s probably better to start smaller. That said, it is also a unique birthday or Christmas gift. Its novelty factor is part of this. It’s also just really high quality – perfect for the synth lover in your life. so in many ways, rewards outweigh the risks.

Interested in the synth? You can check reverb.com for it by clicking here.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately this is one of the most exciting synths out there on the market. There isn’t much out there like it. Synthesis – and especially modular synthesis, can be hard to break into. High in technical terms, it can be daunting for a beginner. The combined creativity of Erica Synths, with Moritz Klein’s prior experience introducing newcomers, makes a powerful combination. This is a rare hands-on experience which provides fundamental knowledge. As a result, it makes a huge difference in developing your skills

Love hardware synths? We have a great collection which we’ve covered in our hardware section.

Soundtrap – Spotify’s Collaborative DAW: A Quick Rundown of Pros and Cons

Soundtrap pros and cons tend to include much of the conversation around Spotify as a whole. While some in the music industry are really happy with its ease of use, other musicians feel it doesn’t quite cut it and oversimplifies the creative process. Read on for a look at both sides.

Soundtrap Pros and Cons: How it Works

Soundtrap is essentially an online DAW. You can make music and bring in collaborators from all over the world, in groups. It makes things easy for long-distance projects, which are now a staple of the digital music era. However, the first impression is it’s geared towards a particular type of producer. It also takes this model and expands it to other areas of sound design.

Soundtrap operates on a subscription basis and starts with Soundtrap Free. After this, it advertises four tiers: Soundtrap for Music Makers premium and supreme, as well as Soundtrap for Storytellers, designed for podcasters, and Soundtrap Complete, which has the most features. All that’s needed after this is a simple login. Then you can begin sharing your projects with friends and collaborators. There are chat features and you can tune into projects and make adjustments, too.

Successes and Failures so Far:

It’s important to remember that Spotify started in advertising, not in music. Soundtrap’s taglines are a bit unusual for a serious producer or musician. The names of the tiers and how it’s targeting the education sector, too, mean Soundtrap feels like a very simplified DAW. However, these points make Soundtrap relatively unappealing to a large proportion of the music industry. For starters, musicians tend to work in certain ways and as a large company, Spotify isn’t familiar with this.

Essentially Soundtrap is the recording process democratised. The mystery which previously went on only in famous recording studios is now openly available to anyone. However, mainstream DAWs such as logic still sometimes prove to be too complex for the complete novice to work with. This is especially true if your goal is not necessarily to become a producer, but you need a DAW as part of a side project such as for a film score. This is where Soundtrap comes in. It is really good at combining lots of pre-existing ideas. As a result, is perfect for this sector of the market. It also removes a lot of the steep learning curve which comes with DAWS.

Main Competitors:

Obviously, Soundtrap’s competitors include other popular DAWs. However, Soundtrap differentiates itself from these by generalising as opposed to specialising. DAWs such as FLStudio and Ableton market themselves towards particular types of musicians. Even Logic, with its heritage instruments and aesthetics, is the go-to DAW for a specific industry subculture. In this case – the pro songwriting, Nashville, California, and pop/rock audience. Yet who is Soundtrap best for? Spotify’s size is also one of its greatest flaws. The company is so large that it becomes a jack of all trades. This same principle is at play with Soundtrap. As a result, it works for those who look at things from a general perspective. This tends to include educational institutions and beginner sound designers.

One major competitor for the social collaboration aspect is Audiomovers ListenTo, which we reviewed last month. Nevertheless, ListenTo is actually far more in line with the writing process at an industry level. It also offers a slicker and more streamlined service, prioritising high quality. This includes control over specific aspects of the transmission process such as latency. 

Soundtrap Pros and Cons: The Good Points

Soundtrap has many of the same pros and cons as Spotify itself. Spotify is primarily an expert in music consumers. These are people who have music on in the background but who don’t really deep dive. As a result, this audience excludes the vast majority of sound designers and producers and even a significant percentage of guitarists and other instrumentalists. Soundtrap is therefore a unique product of this – a DAW geared towards not geeks but casual creators. This makes it less than exciting for serious music lovers – but a real lifesaver for the increased number of those now interested in music creation.

It’s also collaborative, which means that it is perfect for teaching. This is in line with how Soundtrap is a social endeavour. It follows the same pattern as how Spotify allows users to share playlists and listen together. It’s clear Spotify targets Soundtrap for a certain kind of creator. 

Soundtrap’s Flip-Side: The Bad Points

However, this has its downside. Many of the things found only on Soundtrap are best for novices. Its preset beats make it really easy to create music quickly which is perfect for a school or university project, but on an industry level doesn’t quite hold up. As a result, some of the platform’s marketing, which seems aimed towards serious musicians, falls short. There is the air of a large company trying and failing to keep up with the times. This is not to say Soundtrap is bad, per se. It’s just that its target audience isn’t what you might expect and it’s prone to false advertising.

Soundtrap Pros and Cons: Overall Assessment

Soundtrap tries to do a lot in one go. Its values and the kind of musical interaction it promotes are similar to Spotify as a whole. It prioritises sharing and socialising similar to a social media platform as opposed to the serious studio work promised by potential competitor ListenTo by Audiomovers. Again, this doesn’t mean Soundtrap is bad. It just means it’s niche seems more within education or casual music creation.

Therefore, Soundtrap is fun if you’re a diehard Spotify user and you need a usable DAW with a small learning curve. It’s fantastic if you need shortcuts and you don’t want to teach yourself full music production. The designers gave it some really good software development, so you can push it to quite high levels for independent artists. However, it’s just not the kind of challenging, stimulating software which really pro gear fanatics would use – but Spotify didn’t intend it this way.

Final Thoughts:

Soundtrap pros and cons are very dependent on whether you like Spotify’s overall way of doing things. Some people love it. Some hate it. It focuses on big business and is another wing of the Spotify behemoth. Therefore, it’s a bit one size fits all. Producers can use it for their own purposes as a result of this sort of blank slate. Yet, it’s also lacking some of the things which really draw music lovers to gear. Yet if you need something easy to understand and want to start producing quickly, it’s worth a shot.

If you liked this article, check out more on software here, as well as our review of ListenTo by Audiomovers here.

Access Virus Synths: Why these Vintage Synths Are Still Relevant and A Guide to Their Range

Amongst vintage synths, the Access Virus line is a real gem. These are highly versatile, with a varied cultural legacy. In fact, they have been used by Tool, Butch Vig, and Garbage, as well as Richard Barbieri of Porcupine Tree. Yet they have also graced the tracks of Neptunes and Mary J Blige, Stevie Wonder, Fatboy Slim, and Nsync. Even Hans Zimmer has used them. Read on to find out what makes these synths so appealing to musicians of all stripes.

What Synths Are Included in the Access Virus Line?

  • Virus TI: Desktop, Polar, Snow, and Keyboard

Perhaps the most publicised part of the TI series, these were released in 2005. Snow and Desktop are small enough to keep by your computer. Polar is larger with 37 keys and Keyboard is the largest of all with a lush 61 keys. They also have:

  • Two independent multi mode filters with an analogue filter modelled after the Minimoog
  • 3 LFOs with 68 Waveforms
  • Knob quantising which syncs to the Virus clock
  • 192 Parallel effects
  • 512 RAM patches
  • Virus A, B, and C series

These were early editions of the Access Virus line when customers first discovered its fantastic features. Unlike the TI series, these do not feature wavetable synthesis. However, Access Virus A, for example, features 12-note polyphony and all basic analogue waveforms. Yet, its gritty, analogue sound is what really makes it a favourite.

  • Virus TI2

Released in 2009, the T12 features faster DSP controllers and additional polyphony. Like all in the line, it is a virtual analogue synthesiser. Otherwise, it is roughly similar to the TI series.

  • General traits of the range

As a general pattern, the filters and oscillators of these synths help them hit a sweet spot between genres. Their high-quality german manufacturing means they can cope with many different oscillators and effects. All models use a mix of techniques from FM synthesis, phase distortion, and subtractive synthesis. This design on the part of inventor Christoph Kemper unifies customers through love for quality as opposed to genre. Indeed, it also allows for new, cross-genre experimentation and super creative composition all on the same machine.

The Virus family of synths are widely available as second hand purchases on Reverb.com. You can check the current prices by clicking here.

What Else Makes Access Virus Synths so Great?

  • Combination of sounds

Another way Access manages to encompass different facets of music is through its VSTs. These allow you to connect your hardware synth to your DAW and store data directly on the sound files there. It’s a revolutionary way of working, meaning Access keeps what’s great about analogue yet also keeps pace with DAW-based production.

These synths are capable of creating a level of depth and variety as good as the options on any DAW. It’s super impressive in its ruggedness and processing power and some models in the line have up to ten different oscillators. Filters and FX such as wah and fuzz add layers of sound without exhausting your synth. These are really, really high-quality synths which Access has done its best to keep compatible with modern musicians’ habits. 

  • Keeps the pace with modern technology

Access Virus first hit the market in the 90s during the boom in DPU chip usage. This allowed for greater processing power and ambitious sets of sounds which were bigger and bolder. However, this DPU processing can easily keep pace with the average CPU needed on a DAW-created project. As a result, they are super relevant even today. In fact, when rigged up to a VST on your DAW, the Access Virus synths can save processing power. How? They actually do a lot of the work at the hardware end. This condenses the sound so when it reaches your master bus there isn’t too much data to handle. 

  • Complex and creative sounds

The raw material the musician is given with these synths allows for exciting and complex sound. To achieve this, Virus’s virtual VCOs range from sine to square waves, with 63 synthetic, spectral waveforms, a programmable filter section, and matrix modulation. Its legendary processing power also supports (on the TI):

  • between 20-90 voices on it’s dual DSP system
  • 6 balanced outputs
  • 26 banks of 128 ROM patches
  • A unique business model

The last major bonus of the Access Virus line is that they occupy a unique market niche. They are the only line of synths on the market which offer total system updates. These upgrades, overhauls, and other innovations actually come completely for free. Here, you can buy a product made 20 years ago and get entirely new sets of filters charge-free. Access is only able to do this because they are upfront about the fact that they are a premium product. They don’t hesitate to price their synths high. Nevertheless, for those who are willing to make the investment once, this pays off with future rewards. 

The Virus family of synths are widely available as second hand purchases on Reverb.com. You can check the current prices by clicking here.

Are There Any Downsides?

Perhaps the only complaint against Access Virus is they are a risky investment. Some fans have found that little support from the developers leaves them adrift. Others have discovered that there is no support at all for the VSTs. This isn’t necessarily a huge surprise. Access also focuses on other products such as guitars and is also the mind behind Kemper, so they’re pretty busy. It does mean, however, if you’re about to shell out for one of these synths it’s best to be certain about it. At prices of about 1200 plus USD – it’s really worth having a bit of experience behind you and a working studio setup beforehand. 

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. This vintage product shows how relatively recently the approach to music tech and sound design was very different. In some ways, Acces Virus shows synths used to be made of deeper stuff. Although financially accessible synths like the Korg Minilogue still had great hardware, the Access Virus opens sound designers’ eyes. These synths create a whole new world of musical layering. This really is from-scratch sound design on a totally different level. Even if they’re not in your price bracket, these synths are worth investigating for inspiration alone.

Enjoyed this article? Read more about synths in our hardware section here.

Best Mics for Recording Electric Guitar 2023: A Market Rundown

The best mics for electric guitar of 2023 show some studio classics which can turbocharge your recording. Though there are lots of options out there, sometimes the choice can be overwhelming. When recording guitar, it’s especially important to use the right mic to ensure sound translates the way you want it to – and electric guitar needs very different recording techniques to steel or acoustic. However, if electric is your instrument, read on for a rundown of what’s out there.

Best Mics for Electric Guitar – Beginners: Shure SM57

This mic regularly makes the top ten or top five lists and for good reason. The SM57 is a classic which is durable and easy to learn. Many pro studio engineers recommend it for beginners, both for its intuitive capacity and the fact it’s under 100 pounds. As a result, it’s easy to replace if broken – however, it’s also unlikely to do so in the first place. It’s robust and its one drawback is sometimes it can pick up unwanted noise, but its quality is actually very high for a mic of its price. 

Many beginners pick up a Shure SM57 not knowing much about mics only to find it’s one of the most trusty bits of gear in their studio. It’s also proven to be great on tour, able to withstand the knocks and stresses of the road.

Price and availability: Check Reverb.com by clicking here.

Specifications: 40-15,000 Hz cardioid microphone

Best Overall Mic: Sennheiser e906

This is a great mic which works for drums and other instruments as well. Its versatility is good if you need to record multiple instruments and can’t afford a specialised mic for each one. Sennheiser created a unique shape designed for guitar amps, presenting a broad and flat surface which means you can use it without a stand. In addition, its presence filter helps you adjust the amount of presence – great if you have instruments which are sounding a little dull or lifeless. In fact, this mic is great at breathing life into just about anything. It’s extremely flexible and responsive as well, meaning fast it can withstand fast punchy riffs or jolts of sound.

The Sennheiser e906 is actually a super-cardioid mic, meaning it is hyper-sensitive to sound coming from the direction in which it is pointing. This means it can get crystal clear tones from this spot alone, filtering out unwanted noise from other areas. This precision makes it absolutely amazing in the studio.

Price and availability: Check Reverb.com by clicking here.

Specifications: 40 – 18,000 Hz super-cardioid mic

Best Mics for Electric Guitar – Heavy: Royer 121 / Peluso R14

The biggest challenge of recording heavy guitars is the fact mics can easily blow out. The full force of sound coming from a Marshall stack is often too much for many mics especially if placed too close. Hard rock and metal lovers recommend both the Royer and the Peluso for their durability and reliability, ensuring many tours and recording sessions without any problems. Both are on the expensive side, yet have very similar properties. As a result, if you can’t track one down, you might be able to substitute the other without too much change in the end result.

Price and availability: Check Reverb.com for a Royer by clicking here, and for Peluso click here.

Specifications: 30 – 15,000 Hz figure 8 ribbon mic (Royer 121), 30 – 16,000 Hz figure 8 ribbon mic (Peluso R14)

Best for Soft/Vintage Guitar: AKG C451 

This mic normally has a reputation as being a drummer’s mic and is especially good for recording cymbals, however, many musicians have begun to use it for acoustic as well as gentle, softer electric guitar. Why is it so versatile and how does it work so well? This is a mic which focuses on the high-end. It’s great at bringing colour to dull sounds. And as a result, it means that you can capture vintage or more low-key guitars in all their glory. The AKG C451 adds sparkle to this kind of guitar when undertones and overtones get lost in warmth and fuzz. 

Price and availability: Check Reverb.com by clicking here.

Specifications: 20 – 20,000 Hz cardioid mic

Best Overall Ribbon Mic: Beyerdynamic M160 

This is a ribbon mic with a difference. Instead of being a figure eight cardioid mic, it’s a hyper-cardioid. For those who are not familiar, your average cardioid mic pics up sound in a figure eight pattern. This means that you get lots of natural reverb but can also get some unwanted room noise if there isn’t good enough soundproofing. Supercardioid mics like the e906 focus the pickup of sound on one area, but hyper-cardioid mics are a type of super-cardioid which focus these even more tightly, meaning with the M160 it’s really easy to direct and point this mic to get the exact sounds you want.

This mic was actually the one which recorded the legendary drums on Led Zeppelin’s When The Levee Breaks and has been around since 1957 but it is also a favourite for recording engineers to use on guitar amps.

Price and availability: Check Reverb.com by clicking here.

Specifications: 40 – 18,000 Hz, hyper-cardioid ribbon mic.

Final Thoughts 

Ultimately these mics give good variety in terms of what you use them for. Although not all of them are specifically from 2023, they’re all highly relevant and useful bits of gear which will serve you well. You can use the Shure, Sennheiser, and Beyerdynamic for multiple instruments and styles whilst the other two are also adaptable based on your playing flexibility. One thing’s for sure – these bits of gear will be useful for years to come. 

Liked this article? We have more about hardware for recording here.

Amp by Ableton Live: An Honest Look at What it Has to Offer

Amp by Ableton Live is a divisive topic. Some fans have in fact been extremely disappointed with it. However, what exactly are its good and bad points? Read on for a balanced breakdown of what this plugin does.

What is Good About Amp by Ableton Live?

Ableton’s Amp has gained a bit of notoriety on the internet. However, most critics have tended to be seasoned guitarists. For others, Amp provides good variety, and it’s intuitive and easy to use. The cabinet feature, while possibly unnecessary, is actually quite a nice way to fine-tune your sound. As a result, Amp is a great plugin for those who wish to make the transition from synthesis to guitar. In light of the overwhelming amount of choice out there, something familiar for an Ableton user is very welcome. For example, a time-pressed musician who wants to use guitar in otherwise electronic tracks might make good use of it. And Amp contains 8 models apart from its cabinet feature – Clean, Boost, Blues, Rock, Lead, Heavy, and Bass. Together, they provide a varied foundation of sounds to play with.

Taken as it is, Ableton’s amp plugin is an easy way to get guitar into otherwise synthesis heavy songs. It could work for modern electropop work, and it’s also useful for those who don’t want to go to the trouble of figuring out new software. Don’t expect it to have thought of all the features you might need as a proper guitarist. However, if you’re unwilling to switch from Live, Amp could cover you. This might be until you’ve figured out your preferences in terms of other gear on the market. Ableton’s Amp can in this way work like a training ground – but at 69 GBP, many musicians are wondering if it’s worth it.

What is Bad About Amp by Ableton Live?

There is a strong case that Amp is a bit more trouble than it’s worth. Some of the complaints aimed at Ableton’s built-in Amp are to do with its functionality. It’s not a complete plugin like the ones Logic provides. Instead, it is made up of both the Amp and the Cabinet plugin which follows it – which, while potentially appealing, also complicates it. Together, these two plugins aim to faithfully recreate the sound of an analogue tube amplifier – but this is where Amp really falls short.

So, if Amp doesn’t live up to its claims, then maybe its marketing is misleading. Some fans have criticised it for not accurately representing the models it is based off. Its clear tones are undeniably bright and cheerful. It also creates some cool sounds when Live Effects are added. However, its emphasis on rich, analogue tones seems more like false advertising than reality. Most of the models are decisively thin and tinny. As a result, Amp isn’t even that useful as a cheap and cheerful tool to start off with. In fact, one disgruntled YouTuber billed it as ‘The Worst Amp Ever’.

An Honest Look at the Pros and Cons of Amp by Ableton Live

Was Amp a leap too great for Ableton? Ableton has previously focussed on synthesis and the tools needed for electronic music and beatmaking. It’s come from a totally different mindset and when you examine it, it shows. Resultantly, Amp is a sort of a bold attempt at paying homage to something beyond Ableton’s speciality. Perhaps it was trying to please everyone – catering to electronic musicians and beatmakers, but also hoping to snag new fans. It’s an indicator that they didn’t really do enough investigation into their target market.

The overall conclusion is that Amp isn’t really worth it. It’s not very well designed, and somewhat clunkily built without the preferences of guitarists in mind. To some extent this is inevitable. Ableton never originally intended Live as a form of software for guitarists – instead they aimed it more at looping and synthesis. Yet the claims Amp makes about its sound and tonality are only believable if you’re coming from a background in synthesis and electronic music alone, without any experience with guitar.

Is There Anything Unique About Amp?

So, Amp is billed on Ableton’s website as “a physically modelled audio effect that emulates the models of seven classic amps”. One unique feature could be the amp/cabinet split, but as mentioned above, this has both its pros and cons. Amp’s minimalist interface is another point which stands out, but in comparison with its sound quality, it’s not really unique enough to make it a redeeming feature. The way Amp is advertised makes it sound like a multi-effects rack. Nevertheless, many users would prefer one model which works very well as opposed to seven imperfect ones.

In fact, these amps seem to have served as launchpads for SoftTube to take inspiration from. Ableton claim they have focussed on ‘the essentials’ – tone, vibe, and character’. This is clearly a plugin which has been designed as a homage to the golden age of analogue gear. The fact that the separate cabinet effect is available shows the creators at SoftTube had this in mind. In a way, it’s like they tried to bring to life the recording process of an analogue studio. However, there is an air of style over substance, and Amp doesn’t quite have the sparkle needed for those who are familiar with the reality of analogue sound.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, Ableton Live’s Amp feature isn’t popular. It goes for design, but even in terms of this, there are some obvious errors. To the keen ear, Ableton Live’s amp feature isn’t really worth the time. In addition, there are many other plugins which do the exact same thing. However, if you are a die-heard Ableton Live fan, and don’t have the time to find options – it is usable. Nevertheless, it works best in genres which don’t focus on guitar. In this way, musicians can make it work despite its flaws.

Amp is available from Ableton’s website at 69 GBP or 84 USD at the time of writing.

Liked this article? Find other articles on music software. plugins, and amp simulators in our software category.

The Best Software for Jazz Guitar: What Options are on the Market?

Finding the best software for jazz guitar is often difficult. Due to the genre’s distinctive characteristics, mainstream software doesn’t always suit the tone jazz guitarists are going for. However, these five picks, which range from amps to bass VSTs, are all carefully chosen. By picking out the best software for jazz, your sound design process can flow much more smoothly. Read on to find out more. 

Top Accompanying Drum Plugin for Jazz Guitar – Toontrack Jazz EZX

Why do you need a drum plugin when you’re a jazz guitarist? Every genre has a unique set of sounds which makes it special. Jazz is no exception. Indeed, the best software for jazz guitar goes with the style of your playing. Therefore, why settle for built-in drums which might not necessarily be geared for your playing? 

This is where Jazz EZX comes in. At only 80 EUR, it’s actually extremely worth it for what it is. Like all gear by Toontrack – and especially as part of the EZ series – it has a very real-life interface. Jazz EZX actually shows a full kit. You can then click on each drum for parameters to really design your tone. These drums were recorded in the real-life Blackbird studios, Nashville. In addition, Jazz EZX includes brushes, a feature not found on many drum plugins which aren’t geared especially for jazz. As a result, Jazz EZX is definitely worth including in your list of gear.

Requirements: A previous installation of EZ Drummer (minimum v. 1.4) If serious about jazz, Jazz EZX is a worthwhile upgrade. Otherwise, Mac 10.2.8 or higher for EZ Drummer, or Windows XP. Available in AU and VST formats.

Price: 80.24 USD/80 EUR, check our their official website by clicking here.

Best Software for Jazz Guitar Jamming and Improvisation – iReal Pro

What is iReal Pro? This nifty bit of software bills itself as ‘the world’s most versatile virtual band’. What this means is you can create fantastic backing tracks to jam along to. Although it includes options for other instruments such as piano, this app is really one jazz guitarists shouldn’t miss. Musicians applaud its online community for helping find lesser-known jazz songs. Its chord library, which can be used to create backing tracks, is truly extensive. It features, sevenths, inversions, and augmented chords, as well as even more complex ones ideal for playing jazz.

This app is also essential for practising techniques for jamming in real time. It is endorsed worldwide by institutions as different as America’s Tufts University and the University of Hokkaido to help with these musical skills.

Requirements: MacOS 10.13 (High Sierra) upwards although legacy versions are available for 10.12 or before. Also available for iPhone and iPad as well as Android. Not available for Windows, but can be run on Windows with a third-party Android Emulator.

Price: 14.99 USD, you can access their official website by clicking here.

Amps for Jazz Guitar 1 – Bias Amp 2 Pro

The Bias Amp 2 Pro has a few features which make it really special for jazz guitarists. The first of these is how great its clean tones are. Bias Amp 2 Pro is modelled on real tube amplifiers. As a result, there is richness and depth even with the most basic settings. Its ToneCloud feature allows artists to connect online to get custom tones and amps from real recording studios worldwide.   

What is especially good for Jazz guitarists is the dynamic tone engine feature. This is built so that the Bias Amp 2 can respond exactly to the musician’s playing. However, it is features like this which make the Bias Amp 2 worth it. In addition, 9 reverbs allow for maximum control over tone so you can sculpt your sound to your heart’s content.   

Requirements: Windows 7-10 or MacOS 10.12 – 11.6.1

Price: 199 USD, but also available in standard (cheaper) and elite (pricier) versions. You can buy it from Pluginboutique by clicking here (and you will be supporting this website by using this link as we will get a small kickback upon purchase).

Top Bass Simulator for Jazz Guitar – VSL Synchron Upright Bass

Along with a good jazz drum plugin, any jazz guitarist also needs a bass. There are a variety on the market, but none apart from the Synchron Upright bass has such attention to detail. It is marketed with Jazz Articulations from the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and this bass VST really is a dream come true. It’s largely based around plucked notes and played by Austrian jazz bassist Bernd Konzett. As a result, it contains slides, tremolos, and many more delicate articulations often forgotten.

What really makes the VSL Synchron Upright bass stand out is the fact it’s fun. It contains snaps and ghost notes and you can easily change tempo. For guitarists who aren’t necessarily bassists themselves, this plugin faithfully recreates everything great jazz bass can do. It’s not just a basic product – it has options for creative playing without requiring too much programming. Instead, it’s practically ready-made. 

Requirements: Windows minimum 8.1-10 64-bit with 10-11 recommended, MacOS minimum 10.13 with 11 recommended

Price: Comes as part of the Synchron Plucked Instruments package. 214 USD/220 EUR. Official website can be accessed by clicking here.

Kuassa Amplifikation Vermillion – Another Fantastic Amp

To finish up this list is another amp- finding your tone is a huge part of choosing the best software for jazz guitar. The Kuassa Amplifikation vermillion is billed on its website specifically as the best amp for more rootsy guitarists. However, these qualities make it fantastic for jazz guitar as well. 

This plugin is a nostalgic piece which looks back to vintage amps for inspiration. On top of this, it offers tremolo spring reverb to complete the retro tone. This amp doesn’t go all out for crazy amounts of features, but it certainly recreates what it seeks to. For jazz guitarists, the problem all too often is finding software which fits the atmosphere you are creating. However, the Kuassa Amplifikation Vermillion is a rare one of these. 

Requirements: really flexible plugin which supports AU, AAX, VST/VST3 and rack extensions, and functions on over 11 DAWs. Windows Vista (64-bit) or later, macOS 10.11 (64-bit) or later.

Price: 39 USD plus VAT – a real hidden gem. You can check the price on Pluginboutique by clicking here (and if you buy following this link, you are supporting the channel)

Final Thoughts:

So there you have it – the best software for jazz guitar in multiple categories. While jazz guitarists aren’t often catered for as much, the products which do exists out there are often carefully made. Additionally, there are plenty of hidden gems amongst more mainstream plugins which just happen to work brilliantly for jazz. If you liked this article, check out our article here on 8 Effective Hacks That Will Help You Learn Jazz.

Best Hardware Guitar Pedals of 2023: A Guide to What’s on the Market

What are the best hardware guitar pedals of this year? Although it’s hard to choose, the greatest tend to hit a sweet spot. Great pedals balance staple sounds with creative circuitry. 2023 is no different and though some of these are on the pricier side, here are the best picks on the market. 

Best Hardware Guitar Pedals – Best for Blues: Boss BD-2 Blues Driver

The classic Blues Driver pedal from Boss has been updated for 2022 and is one not to miss. It has real versatility and it can be incorporated into many more genres than blues. The Blues Driver BD-2’s sound is kept fresh and modern. It can easily fit both favourite blues songs – as well as indie, hard rock, ballads, and alternative rock. But what about it makes it such an enduring pedal? 

The valve amps this pedal is modelled on add warmth and resonance to more genres than just blues. It also provides a sought-after sound associated with old amps, yet makes this accessible to the average musician. It has three simple knobs – tone, level, and gain, and that’s it. The ability to switch between standard and custom mode means you can either keep its original circuitry (standard) or add a richer, more modern overdrive with increased sustain (custom). All in all, the Boss BD-2 is everything you want in an easily available format, making elusive tones mainstream and resulting in its cult status.

You can check the Boss BD-2 price on Reverb (and if you buy via this link, you are supporting this website as we get a small kickback)

Best for Wah: Boss PW3 Wah Pedal 

One challenge of keeping pedals up to date is how musician preferences can constantly change. Wah is a classic effect, yet this pedal keeps to the cutting edge – Boss have really added something new. The Boss PW3 specialises in its ‘rich’ mode, which means that it retains low to medium frequencies. These are responsible for much of the tone and are actually lost in typical wah effects.

As a result, the sound is much fuller and has more depth. In fact, to do this, Boss had to alter the circuitry. This addition works especially well if you’re not after typical vintage sounds yet still want to experiment with wah. The setup is simple with one switch to toggle between rich and vintage, and the physical pedal to add either a tiny bit of wah or rev on full. Used to more current sounds but want to investigate this classic effect? The Boss PW3 is perfect.

You can check the Boss PW3 price on Reverb (and if you buy via this link, you are supporting this website as we get a small kickback)

Best for Overdrive: JHS Double Barrel

The JHS Double Barrel is on the chunkier-looking side. However, it is a combination of two classic pedals, the Moonshine V2 on the left and the Morning Glory on the right. The first of these provides a well-crafted overdrive with a difference. However, when combined with the Morning Glory, this pedal really comes into its own. 

The Double Barrel contains a toggle to switch the order of the two pedals in your circuit. There are three knobs (volume, drive, and tone) and a gain switch for the Moonshine; the Morning Glory has knobs for volume, drive, tone, and clean, plus a high gain toggle which works with the JHS pedals Red Remote. From this, the guitarist has a multitude of deep, rich noises to choose from. If something sounds a little tinny or top-heavy, all you need to do is tweak what lies underneath. With the sheer amount of combinations, there are plenty of options until your tone is as you like it. 

You can check the JHS Double Barrel price on Reverb (and if you buy via this link, you are supporting this website as we get a small kickback)

Best for Distortion/Crunch: Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808 

The Tube Screamer is a fantastic classic pedal which does so much more with less. How come it makes the list? Tube Screamer diversifies itself by keeping things simple but refined. In fact, Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808 is made in Japan and the well-known quality of Japanese craftsmanship definitely shows. It has three knobs (overdrive, tone, level) is very intuitive, and adds thick, warm overdrive to your signal chain.

Popularised by Stevie Ray Vaugh, it has been described as the ‘holy grail of tube screamer plugins’ and prioritises rich, full sounds. Since its inception, its analogue circuitry has remained largely unchanged. As a result, it is absolutely perfect at balancing out the top-end which often comes with shredding and guitar solos. Instead of just a wall of distortion, all the emotions and melody of your playing remain. Just be careful of knock-offs – there are lots of copies out there.

You can check the Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808 price on Reverb (and if you buy via this link, you are supporting this website as we get a small kickback)

Best Hardware Guitar Pedals – Fuzz: EarthQuaker Hoof Reaper 

EarthQuaker launched the fantastic Palisades V2 in 2014 but it is unfortunately discontinued. However, EarthQuaker is still a really creative plugin manufacturer and the Hoof Reaper Double Fuzz goes to show this. This pedal was originally a limited edition but was so popular it was kept on the market. It features EarthQuaker’s Hoof Fuzz pedal and the Tone Reaper pedal as a two-in-one. However, what you also get is an octave-up switch. In this way, not only do you get great characterful fuzz, but you also have huge amounts of creative control over the sound’s overtones.

There are buttons to select either or both pedals and one for the octave. The Tone Reaper has three knobs for level, fuzz, and tone, whilst the Hoof Fuzz has four. These are level, fuzz, and tone, but also shift, which allows you to sculpt the mid frequencies. With this amount of freedom, you can find the perfect sound to express your musical ideas.

You can check the EarthQuaker Hoof Reaper price on Reverb (and if you buy via this link, you are supporting this website as we get a small kickback)

Final Thoughts

Whilst some of these pedals have been on the market before, all of them are making waves in 2023. This is due to either their repurposing, as well as the fact they continue to come out on top. That indescribable quality they add to your guitar playing has all helped earn their inclusion on this list. They also all include great craftsmanship and creativity in terms of really adding something new to your tone. Whichever you might choose, they will all present new creative possibilities and give you ample room to explore. 

Enjoyed this article? Check out more in our section for music hardware here.

Audiomovers ListenTo: An Honest Review of this Musical Collaboration Software

ListenTo by Audiomovers was immediately intriguing, although when setting out to review I didn’t know what to expect. ListenTo is billed as a collaboration tool to allow musicians around the globe to listen in on a single session. However, its simple formula also allows it to solve so many more problems. Read on for an honest take on ListenTo and what makes it so great.

Audiomovers ListenTo: The Basics

The ListenTo plugin allows you to stream high-quality audio to collaborators around the world. You can easily download it from the Audiomovers website, and it’s simple to install. It works on a variety of DAWs, including Logic, Cubase, Ableton Live, Protools, and even Reaper.

The plugin is priced at 8.33 USD for a standard yearly subscription or 16.67 USD for the Standard Plus Yearly (recommended). Both can also be billed annually. It’s available in VST, AU, and AAX formats. Those listening receive audio by app, via the plugin, or even on a free internet link which requires no downloads. Listeners can even record this audio for future reference.

I was impressed by the fact that Audiomovers have clearly left no stone unturned. It’s as if someone examined every step of a typical co-working process and seriously considered how to streamline it. This is also without any compromises on quality – ListenTo offers streaming quality up to 32-bit or 96 kHz.

Best Things About Audiomovers ListenTo

So to break it down, ListenTo stands out because it fills two niches, both of which aren’t really served by any other software. Firstly, its quality and efficiency are second to none. I found it extremely impressive in this regard, especially in terms of options to fine-tune audio quality (more on this later). Secondly, ListenTo works with how projects develop in reality.

Simplifies the process of collaboration

The way ListenTo keeps things simple works in line with the production process. It’s easiest to stream by putting the plugin on the mix or master bus of your track. In this way, it shares huge amounts of musical data quickly and easily. However, it can be applied to any channel strip – for example, if you wanted to work only on drums.

Built for real workflow

So, Audiomovers achieves this connection via a centralised format where one producer with a link can share large numbers of tracks with relatively large numbers of people across the globe. This smooths things over for both producers and their coworkers. Resultantly, this frees up real creative flow, uninterrupted.

Privacy, Accessibility, and Pricing

ListenTo’s built with the industry in mind – it even has the option for password/pin-protected sessions. Audiomovers site says it is used on over 85% of sessions at London’s famous Abbey Road Studios. When using it, I actually became more aware of every aspect of the track.

Its low subscription cost also stands out. By making this kind of industry-standard technology affordable to average musicians, ListenTo facilitates grassroots projects. This allows greater channels for collaboration for bedroom producers and independent artists.

Options at the time of writing this review

Additional Things That Stand Out About Audiomovers ListenTo

Really built for musicians

Similar to how LIstenTo simplifies things, what it does include is indispensable. Aside from increasing efficiency, every single feature is chosen carefully to slot in with the average producer’s workflow. This was extremely refreshing. Many bits of software come with unnecessary details, while simultaneously leaving out the small additions which make the process easier. ListenTo, on the other hand, avoids all this.

Does one thing very well

ListenTo is great at what it’s intended for and doesn’t try to be anything more. Users can freely set audio quality and can adjust latency to as low as 0.1s. ListenTo also keeps count of connected clients. By prioritising features like these, Audiomovers have created a really efficient little plugin. This lets musicians focus on getting high-quality, crystal-clear audio to large numbers of collaborators worldwide.

Is There Anything Bad About Audiomovers ListenTo?

In all honesty, there really isn’t much I would change about ListenTo. For moments when you’re in the groove, the fact that it’s audio-only has unexpected side effects. With its capacity for streamlining, ListenTo makes the production process easy on the eye and eliminates any potential distractions. I also found it made me focus more purely on the music.

If you’re looking for social networking, this isn’t it, but it doesn’t pretend to be. Its great strength lies in simplifying complexity in general. It’s equally useful for a one-on-one project with a large number of tracks on the go. The sheer audio quality and the fact this is such an efficient plugin mean that even if you don’t think you need it, you might want it.

The Only Product of it’s Kind? What Makes ListenTo Stand Out

So, is ListenTo worthy of the hype? I would have to say the answer is a resounding yes. ListenTo really does fill a real gap in the market. There is plenty of co-working software out there and plenty of options for high-quality audio streaming. However, there really isn’t anything which combines them so seamlessly – nor which can handle large numbers of tracks in one go with such clarity.

Additionally, users can send and receive audio both ways means those on the receiving end can record additions in real time. I haven’t come across anything else which does all this combined whilst simultaneously being so intuitive and unobtrusive. You might want to check their website for more information by clicking here.

Final Thoughts

ListenTo enables real creative flow without distraction. Audiomovers have designed a central hub around which musicians can work and an easy way for them to access it. As a result, this is a plugin which works like musicians do. It manages to solve many problems with very little effort. I feel I haven’t even begun to discover all its possibilities – without a doubt, it will remain with me in future.

ListenTo is compatible with MacOs 10.15 – 11 and Windows 10 (64-bit only) and 11.

Love gear reviews? We have a whole category of them, which you can check out here.

Easy Granular Synthesis: Portal’s New Granular Synth

Previously on idesignsound.com, we covered granular synthesis with the Lemondrop mini synth. You can read that review here. This synth has introduced many musicians to the concept and made it intuitive, easy to use, and attractive. There aren’t actually that many granular synths on the market, but another of these is the portal granular synth. This synth is very different from the Lemondrop. Instead, it is a digital VST which works on DAWs such as logic. However, the makers have designed it similarly intuitively to the folks at 1010 music. This is because they know that fewer people know of granular synthesis than some of its counterparts. As a result, they realised it was important to translate this type of synthesis. This led to a smooth, clean, and easy-to-use synth so that it is accessible to every kind of musician. 

What Does Granular Synthesis Involve?

Ultimately, granular synthesis is a kind of synthesis which involves samples. Granular synthesis chops up samples of real-life sounds and mixes and matches them at very small sizes, known as granules. Each granule makes up part of the soundwave. By manipulating these granules you can sculpt and shape them to create a sound of the desired timbre, tone, and texture. It is so precise, this can be anything you may want.

Granular synthesis is very different from the classic forms of synthesis which arose in the 80-s and 70s. Instead, it is perfect for creating space age, alien, or otherwise more underground and unusual sounds. This is really a type of synthesis for audiophiles who enjoy constantly seeking the best kinds of new sounds. It also suits artists who are looking for something really special 

Granular synthesis allows the artist an unprecedented amount of control over the shape of the sound. It offers an entirely new way of looking at soundwaves. Instead of the wave as a whole, fluid thing, granular synthesis breaks it down to its absolute building blocks. This means you can get to grips with exactly how to create sound. Ultimately, it can show you fractal patterns and meta arrangements of new sounds. These help you really get to see what makes a sound harsh or soft, light or dark, etc. 

What Does the Interface of the Portal Granular Synth Look Like?

The interface focuses mainly on a circle which allows you to actually map out the different grains of sound. This way you can see how they interact with each other to create the sounds you are making. There’s a drop-down menu on the left-hand side, which offers you many presets that appeal to adventurous artists. This includes really weird, glitchy, and otherwise unpo[pular or unusual sounds. These can add just that little extra something to your new track.

With a simple drag of the mouse, you can affect the amount of granulation. It also lets you turn knobs and dials for the more conventional effects such as tape delay. In this way it is like you would find on any other synth. Not only can you use it as an instrument in itself, but it can also combine it creatively with vocals. This further allows you to alter sounds in a really unusual way. 

You can check the price and buy the Portal Granular Synth + some cool presets over at our friends at Pluginboutique by clicking here. You will be helping this website a lot buy buying it using this link.

How Does Portal create Such Easy Granular Synthesis?

Luckily, the designers at Portal know that most of their customers will be new to granular synthesis. Therefore, they have made it easy for you. It has over 250 presets, all of which are seriously good in themselves. The portal granular synth is interesting based on those alone. However, it really excels at tempo-based granulation. The designers of this synth made it with the knowledge that timbre and tone do not exist in isolation. Portal wants all your tracks to really hook together and get into the groove. A value readout panel also helps you get to grips with controls. Luckily, due to the way it breaks everything down, this is a perfect synth for learning transferrable skills. You can then use these on other granular synths.

A time manipulation control really shows you how your sound waves interact with tempo. Furthermore, an XY-based control lets you plot sound systematically against these axes so you can actually visualise it. Seven built-in FX, a master compressor, and scale-based pitch modulation also add to it. All in all, this makes a super slick machine which can take you on a whirlwind tour of granular synthesis. With this, there is no doubt it will then become your trusty companion. 

Requirements to Use the Portal Granular Synth:

AAX, AU, VST and VST3 versions included

Mac OS X 10.9 or higher
Windows 7 or higher
32 and 64-bit compatible (PC)
4GB of RAM required, 8GB recommended
At least 300 MB of free drive space

And at 131 GBP (156.59 USD) it’s actually a really affordable synth. This is mostly due to the fact it is relatively unrelated and that the market hasn’t given it much publicity yet. In terms of innovation, granular synths tend to be high end. Therefore, along with the Lemondrop from 1010 music this is one of the best and most affordable out there. In fact, it provides not just an introduction ot granular synthesis but also lets you explore it further.

Final Thoughts on the Portal Granular Synth

This synth doesn’t boast any historical credentials. It isn’t modelled off a classic piece of gear. The design team also doens’t include any particularly notable minds. However, it doesn’t need it, and for what it is, it works really well within itself. It does what it needs to do, yet excells at it. Furthermore, it takes on a little known part of synthesis and makes it accessible. This is no easy feat.

Sometimes analogue or analogue modelled synths are subject to high standards. They tend to have a lot of history to live up to. However, musicians often overlook what can be doen with just a DAW in mind. This is a powerful example of a really good digital example of a synth that can hold so much possibility. The designers also haven’t felt the need to include huge amounts of complicated features. They are instead safe in the knowledge that the style of their product really is enough to turn heads. In the end, actually doesn’t need anything more. The portal granular synth is available from the portal website for download. 

You can check the price and buy the Portal Granular Synth + some cool presets over at our friends at Pluginboutique by clicking here. You will be helping this website a lot buy buying it using this link.