Emagic have launched two new classic keyboard emulations for Logic.
The latest additions to Emagic's roster of virtual instruments for Logic are EVB3, a recreation of the Hammond B3 tonewheel organ, and EVD6, which emulates the Hohner D6 Clavinet. Before users of other sequencers start lusting after them, it is as well to keep in mind that Emagic plug‑in instruments are not really plug‑ins at all but are in fact integral parts of Logic itself, so they can't be used within any other software. When you buy one of these 'plug‑ins', what you really pay for is the authorisation code that updates your XSKey to allow the 'plug‑in' to be used, though every Logic user gets a free evaluation period to play with any of the virtual instruments, so there's no problem finding out if you like them or not before you buy. All you need to do is activate the demo period for the plug‑in you're interested in via the Authorization window.
Whereas other companies seem to be able to come back with an access code either immediately or in a matter of hours, Emagic sometimes take rather longer, so when you buy one of their virtual instruments, it comes with a temporary code to get you up and running straight away, after which you have 12 weeks to register the product and get your permanent access code, which can be done either by post or by email. The installer CD is actually a Logic updater, so if you don't have a suitably current version of Logic 5 already, it will be updated for you. Only Logic 5 users can access the new virtual instruments as the programs are embedded in Logic 5 itself, and of course only Logic 5 and later uses the XSKey method of authorisation. It's worth pointing out that despite Emagic's promise to stop development for the Windows platform, both EVB3 and EVD6 are available for both Mac and PC versions of Logic.
EVB3 is conceptually very similar to the very wonderful Native Instruments B4 organ emulation insomuch as it models a tonewheel Hammond organ, provides full drawbar control for two manuals and a set of pedals, and includes a convincing rotary speaker simulation. It also incorporates other effects that I'll get to later, most of which may be used as separate effect plug‑ins for processing other Logic audio tracks. The two manuals and the pedals may be accessed simultaneously by using three different MIDI channels, though it's also possible to define your own keyboard splits and octave transpositions so that all three parts can be played from a single keyboard on a single MIDI channel.
As a contrast to the photo‑realism of B4's interface, EVB3 has a more stylised interface with its drawbars at the top of the windows and sliders or switches for the various parameter settings below. This means you can get to everything from a single window, but I found it less intuitive than B4, although it really doesn't take too much getting used to.
Like the real B3, the upper and lower manuals have nine drawbars each and the pedals have only two where each controls a preset mixture of harmonics and octaves. The volumes of the manuals may be adjusted independently and the overall volume can be controlled using a MIDI expression pedal or anything else that sends Controller 7 messages. The master tuning may be adjusted manually but not via a global MIDI Tune command.
Part of the magic of the Hammond organ is its Scanner Vibrato, not to be confused with the rotary speaker effect, and the two are separate parts of the EVB3 package. The Emagic Scanner Vibrato simulates three vibrato types and three types of chorus, and both rate and depth are adjustable. The effect can be applied independently to either or both of the upper manuals.
Other important Hammond features which Emagic have included are the percussion effect and key click, both of which are modelled faithfully on the original, along with those technical shortcomings that add to the sound, such as crosstalk, frequency modulation due to worn bearings and so on. As with a real B3, percussion only works on the upper register and isn't retriggered during legato playing.
Another B3 feature emulated here is the set of 12 drawbar presets, which on the original could only be changed using a screwdriver. The octave below the lowest notes on the keyboard can be used to recall these presets and a feature has been added to either step or smoothly 'morph' between presets using a MIDI continuous controller. The Sustain control models the behaviour of the original and has three separate controls for the three manuals.
One feature not found on the original B3 is a window in which you can limit the number of tonewheels to save on CPU power, and a shape function that allows the near‑sinusoidal tonewheel waveforms to be modified to emulate other organs such as Farfisa, Solina and Yamaha. Another addition is a pitch bender — pitch‑bend only occurs on the real thing during start‑up and power‑down — while also included are various tone‑shaping controls to help match the sounds of the individual registers and a whole section dedicated to modelling the artifacts that creep in as a tonewheel organ ages. In addition to the parameters mentioned, this section also includes filter ageing, click length and so on.
The effects section is somewhat more crowded than on NI's B4 as it includes not only the Leslie simulation and three flavours of overdrive but also wah‑wah and EQ, the latter based on the Logic Fat EQ algorithm. The wah can be controlled in real time using an expression pedal connected to the master keyboard. There's also reverb with a choice of Box, Small, Medium, Large, Big and Spring variants, which always comes post‑EQ/wah but pre‑Leslie. If you need post‑Leslie reverb, you can use a standard plug‑in in Logic.
Because the rotary Leslie speaker is such an integral part of the Hammond sound, the EVB3 designers have modelled four different types with both single and dual rotors. Leslie speed can be controlled via mod wheel, aftertouch or sustain pedal, with a choice of latching or non‑latching toggle modes. Naturally the acceleration/deceleration follows the behaviour of the real thing and there's also a choice of simulating the effect of removing the horn deflector (a mechanical baffle removed by some users to provide more amplitude modulation and less of the Doppler effect) or leaving it intact. The mic angle and distance are also modelled and can be adjusted, and in the dual‑rotor models, there are motor modes for tremolo, chorale, brake plus the special 910 Memphis modification which parks the bass rotor when the speaker is set to its slow speed.
The Scanner Vibrato, Rotor Cabinet and Distortion II effects appear in Logic as separate plug‑ins and may be used to process any audio track. There is no rotor speed control on the Leslie plug‑in as it's possible to switch this manually during performance using the designated controller.
In many ways the instrument sounds quite similar to the Native Instruments B4, which isn't surprising as both offer very accurate emulations of classic Hammond tonewheel organs. However, there are subtle differences: if anything, B4 is warmer while the EVB3 seems to have more definition. All the vices of the original are very neatly emulated and although the Leslie sound is different to that of B4, it's not in any way less (or more) authentic — it's akin to the way a real Leslie sounds different when it's miked up in slightly different ways.
Many of the supplied patches are categorised by performer and even subdivided into songs ('Smoke On The Water' anyone?) and cover all the main genres, from theatre organs to pop, rock and blues. I checked out a number of these played from my guitar synth (organ seems to work particularly well using this type of controller) and really loved the results. As with all Logic plug‑ins, any parameter that it makes sense to automate can be automated. Having the additional wah and reverb effects is a nice touch, and while B4's rotary speaker can already be used as a separate plug‑in, EVB3 extends this to the scanner vibrato and separates out the overdrive as a discrete plug‑in rather than combining it with the rotary speaker.
Despite the initially less cuddly user interface, EVB3 is a tremendous product and because it already works under OS X, it means that until NI produce an Audio Units version of B4, it's the only serious option for Logic users who need to work under OS X.
Emagic's other new plug‑in, EVD6, uses modelling to emulate the Hohner Clavinet, an instrument probably best known for its driving funk sounds on tracks such as Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition' (come to think of it, that's the only track I can remember that uses one!). The instrument can be used polyphonically with up to 24 voices, depending on how much CPU power you can spare, and like EVB3, it includes a sympathetic effects section. Unusually, a real Clavinet produces its sound by using a hammer to push a string down onto a solid metal surface or anvil, and the harder the key is hit, the louder the sound that's created. One end of the string (the end 'short circuited' by the anvil when a key is down) is wound with wool so that as soon as the key is released, the 'woolly' end damps the note.
Like the original Clavinet, EVD6 boasts four switchable tone filters, plus switches for the two pickups. However, the model also allows the pickups to be moved and even angled across the strings. Because the Clavinet isn't the mainstream instrument that it used to be, the designers have wisely extended the parameters of their modelling system to allow a whole range of different sounds to be created. The basic models are Classic D6, Old D6, Sharp D6, Mello D6, Basic, Domination, Funk, Harpsichord, Pluck, Tuned Wood, Little India and String Bells. The Mello D6 model is interesting as it smooths out some of the abrupt tonal transitions that occur on the original D6 due to the transition between plain and wound strings.
Once a model has been loaded, it can be further modified using the damper wheel control (another original D6 feature), an exciter, variable key‑release click and various string‑related parameters such as decay, release, damping and tension modulation, the latter reproducing the way a hit or plucked string initially sounds sharp and then settles back to its correct pitch. Other tinkering tools let you modify the inharmonic aspects of the sound by changing the string tension and the way the pitch falls after a key has been released.
The effects section includes distortion, compression, wah and a modulation effect switchable between phaser, chorus or flanger. There are four permutations of connection order and the wah also appears as a separate plug‑in within Logic.
If the EVD6 had been designed only to emulate the D6, it would still have been a remarkable achievement as it handles the dynamics and subtle nuances of the original extremely well and is orders of magnitude more 'organic' than a sample. However, this might have limited sales to those musicians determined to do an accurate cover version of 'Superstition', so it's just as well that it can do 'other stuff'. By allowing the user access to certain 'handles' within the various models, the instrument can emulate a whole range of tuned percussion from Clavinet to 'near‑harpsichord' to marimbas and tuned‑metal percussion. It can also do a nifty sitar impression as well as a number of DX‑like keyboard sounds, some of which are quite spooky.
Because of the way the modelling works, all these instruments, both real and imaginary, respond readily to playing dynamics giving them an element of 'realness' that most synthesized and sampled sounds lack. Furthermore, because the interface is so much simpler than most synthesizers, it's relatively easy to come up with new sounds by changing values and/or dragging the pickups around in the graphics window. The Clavinet sounds certainly have the distinctive bark of the original and have a superbly incisive attack, but not being a big Clavinet fan, it's the non‑Clavinet models that really caught my interest. In all, a splendid instrument that's sufficiently different and sufficiently organic‑sounding to appeal to a lot of people across a range of music styles.
Both these virtual instruments capture the essential personality of the original in exactly the same way as EVP88 did for the electric piano. Comparison between EVB3 and NI's B4 are inevitable, but despite subtle differences, it's very hard to come down in favour of one or the other. EVD6, on the other hand, is to my knowledge currently unique, and in addition to capturing the funky Clavinet sound to a T, it is able to produce all kinds of other sounds that aren't related to any real instruments, yet have an element of reality about them. Certainly you shouldn't dismiss EVD6 because you don't use Clavinets. Of course, the beauty of these instruments is that every Logic 5.3 owner can audition them for a couple of weeks free of charge, which should allow plenty of time to fall in love with them.
- Accurate emulations of classic instruments.
- Sensible number of user parameters.
- Fully automatable.
- Most effects may also be used as discrete plug‑ins.
- Currently only available to Logic 5 users.
These are both impressive as emulations of original instruments, and EVD6 can also generate a surprising range of 'fantasy' instrument sounds.
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