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ZenAudio ALK2

Live Looping Software
Published September 2018
By Bob Thomas

ZenAudio ALK2

By allowing for complex arrangements and the use of audio, MIDI hardware and software plug-ins and instruments, ZenAudio’s unique software platform breaks the boundaries of loop performance.

Looping — the practice of creating, performing, recording and playing back (with or without overdubbing) a repeating musical motif in real time — has fascinated me since that mid-1990s moment when I first laid hands on the Lexicon JamMan. Although my own looping is primarily hardware-based, I’ve been following the development of software-based looping with interest and, occasionally, dabbling with intent. However, the need to carry a laptop, a fairly decent MIDI controller or two, an audio interface and all the other paraphernalia associated with a computer-based setup has (so far) kept me loyal to my hardware, especially when playing live.

The stage environment exposes some of hardware-based live-audio looping’s weaknesses. For example, the song or instrumental more often than not starts with the recording of a short looped backing phrase, which is then overdubbed until the desired density is reached, at which point the performance proper begins. To add further examples, there’s the mis-played part that necessitates a tap dance to fix the error, the difficulty in changing effects settings on the fly (especially if you’re playing guitar), or in changing the length of a loop. Then there’s the number of pedal presses often required to keep a performance under control, and (last, but not least) the need to loop MIDI data in this day and age.

ZenAudio’s recently released Mac-only ALK2 live looping software has the look of a hybrid between live audio/MIDI looping and sequencing. Its...

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Published September 2018