This month Vic Lennard looks at the practical implications of DirectConnect and possible problems when using the wrong system updaters...
Much has been written about Steinberg's VST system and its use of ASIO (Audio System Input Output) drivers to allow data to be ported from third‑party plug‑ins into Cubase. In fact, many manufacturers, including Digidesign, Emagic, BIAS and TC Works, make use of this system. However, very little has been mentioned about Digidesign's host‑based audio streaming technology released last autumn: DirectConnect, a TDM plug‑in that allows audio data from a software synthesizer or sampler to appear on Pro Tools' virtual mixer.
This provides a similar facility to VST in that sounds and compositions created with a supported third‑party application can be brought into Pro Tools for additional mixing, real‑time automation and audio processing. Up to 32 discrete channels from the host application appear as 32 discrete inputs in Pro Tools. The technology is transparent, the setup is simple, and no additional hardware is required, with DirectConnect supporting up to 24‑bit resolution as standard. At the moment, seven third‑party applications offer DirectConnect support for ProTools integration (see the box below).
A number of scoring packages are appearing — but if there's one that's definitely worth a look at, it has to be Coda Finale 2001. To try it out, there's a demo for the entire program that is full‑featured apart from being save‑ and export‑disabled — also every time you print the permitted one page, the words 'Finale Demo' appear on the printout.
The features are very impressive and include a number of Web options such as 'Save As Web Page' and 'Distribute On Net4Music' plus some important new technologies such as MicNotator for automatic notation of a played instrument, and MIDIScan/SmartScore from Musitek Music Imaging Technologies for scanning files directly into Finale. The new Find Parallel Motion plug‑in analyses music for parallel fifths and octaves between voices, layers and staves, and the Guitar Entry editor now has a Fretboard option with the ability to save fretboards and styles.
Other changes are no less important. Double‑click on most items and Finale switches to the appropriate tool. Set the tempo by tapping your mouse in the 'Finale is listening for tempo' dialogue box. Hear notes as you enter them in Simple Entry. Insert or delete systems (stave setups) into your music while keeping the rest of the systems intact or reflowing measures across systems and pages. Aim your Web browser at (www.codamusic.com) for the 7Mb download.
Take care when updating components of your system software! I recently used the North American version of the MultiMedia Update 1.0 while testing out the Roland UA30 USB audio device (see this month's Crosstalk). On further updating with the English International version, the System file was damaged to the point of not being able to reboot! A minimal system installation later, followed by the copying across of a new System file and allied elements, I started checking for English International versions.
The problem is, most web sites that specialise in the Mac are US‑based and don't provide information on non‑US updates. Generally, English International updates start with the prefix 'Z‑' such as Z‑MultiMedia Update 1.0. Important recent updates include: Z‑AirPort 1.2; Z‑Apple DVD Player 2.2; Z‑AppleScript Update; Z‑ColorSync 3.0.1; Z‑Firewire 2.4; Z‑G4 FirmwareUpdate 2.4 (plus those for iBook, iMac and Powerbook); Z‑USB Printer Sharing 1.0 and Z‑Video Extension 1.0.
Just to add to the confusion, some updaters can be used on any Mac system. These include Ethernet Update 1.0, Macintosh Manager 1.3 and USB Card Support 1.4.1. Find the English International system updates at (asu.info.apple.com), select 'English‑International' in the 'Language' box and click 'Search'.
If you're into messing about with voice recognition, you might want to try Any Requests? (www.members.home.net/gweston/dow...), a voice‑controlled MP3 player interface. Imagine being able to lounge in your studio chair and utter that inimitable phrase: "play my next number one". Now there's a thought...
DirectConnect Support For Pro Tools Integration
The following seven third‑party applications offer DirectConnect support for Pro Tools integration.
- Koblo Studio9000 sports four music production modules: two monophonic analogue‑modelled synths in Vibra9000 and Vibra6000, an eight‑voice polyphonic sampler in Stella9000, and a multi‑timbral drum machine with built‑in step sequencer in the shape of Gamma9000. All four of the Studio9000 modules can be played in real time via an external MIDI controller and triggered from Pro Tools or a third‑party MIDI sequencer. Most parameters can be manipulated via MIDI controller messages and the synths can be automated in real time with project recall of all settings courtesy of Pro Tools' advanced automation capabilities.
- BitHeadz Retro AS1 is a 64‑voice, polyphonic software synth. Its MIDI implementation is good enough to allow real‑time control of all parameters plus layers, splits or a simple multi‑timbral sound module running in conjunction with a MIDI sequencer or digital audio program.
- BitHeadz Unity DS1 is the sampling brother to Retro AS1. Altivec‑optimised for Power Mac G4, it's a 128‑voice sampler with functionality that puts most hardware devices to shame.
- BitHeadz Voodoo is the third piece of the jigsaw. This 128‑note drum machine again offers a level of versatility that no hardware beat box can match — and all from within a single on‑screen window. MIDI File playback, velocity‑switched 'pads', graphical waveform editing, and Altivec‑optimised for G4.
• Native Instruments Reaktor is the combination of Generator and Transformator. This modular system is used to create synths, samplers and effects processors.
- Gallery Alkali is a very useful utility that allows you to fit loops to any tempo automatically. It also includes a varispeed feature and a quantise facility to tighten the groove. Using DirectConnect, Alkali appears as an audio source within Pro Tools, thus allowing you to try different loops 'on the fly'. It syncs to Pro Tools' MIDI Clock and works like a 'live' groove track. Experiment with different loops, changing parameters 'on the fly' without stopping playback.
- TC Works Spark XL is a two‑track editor. As v1.6 offers TDM support, this presents the user with a unique facility: the additional FX window allows you to add up to five Pro Tools TDM plug‑ins in addition to any VST plug‑ins that are loaded into the standard Master View. This leads to 'hybrid' processing where VST and TDM plug‑ins can be applied to the same file at the same time courtesy of DirectConnect.
DirectConnect is a DigiRack plug‑in for Pro Tools 24 MIX systems and Pro Tools LE and freely downloadable from Digidesign's web site (www.digidesign.com). It's worth bearing in mind that most of these products have VST equivalents or dedicated plug‑ins for Logic or MAS, the MOTU Audio System.
Top of the demos this month is Casady & Greene's SoundJam MP Plus 2.5.1 (www.soundjam.com). Highlights include significant improvements to the encoder (including support for the new dual‑processor G4), revamped playlists, receiving and broadcasting Internet radio and better MP3 player support. As usual, this is a free upgrade to all registered users with a 14‑day, 30‑encodings trial also available.
The audio editing program BIAS Peak 2.51 LE/TDM (www.bias‑inc.com), is available as a 14‑day trial. With a new user interface, support for VST plug‑ins and playback through ASIO and Sound Manager, this is worth a look.
Fancy trying some new VST plug‑ins? The PSP StereoPack demo (www.psp‑audioware.com) consists of PSP PseudoStereo, PSP StereoEnhancer, PSP StereoController and PSP StereoAnalyser. Some controls are disabled in the demo and the sound mutes every few seconds, but you'll get the idea.
Widgets (www.coolstufflabs.com) is a TDM plug‑in that offers a collection of several small, but very useful, tools for making the Pro Tools mixer a little more flexible. A mono‑to‑stereo Split, stereo‑to‑mono Monoizer, A/B/X Switcher, L/R Channel Swap and the Stereo Fix — intelligent stereo file handling with the Pro Tools mixer.
SHAREWARE & FREEWARE
GrooveRecorder v1.0 (www.acrylnimbus.de/grooverecorder) is an easy‑to‑use AIFF file recorder that includes an easy gain setup with accurate level meters and autogain which works like a limiter.
While one or two DJ‑style mixing programs already exist for the Mac, Vmix (www.Come.To/Thelifeinmovement) looks interesting. It has two players designed to act like turntables plus a mixer so you can create your own DJ mixes and practice mixing techniques. Features include pitch shift for quick accurate beat matching, volume controls for both channels, crossfader and master volume control.
How about a sampler as a VST2 plug‑in? bs‑1 (homepage.mac.com/bismark/) is a Soundfont 2‑compatible offering that plays 32 voices (but only two voices in the demo version). Info is a little sketchy but it's certainly worth a try at less than a 1Mb download!
- Digital Performer 2.71: maintenance version with several bug fixes. From www.motu.com.
- FreeMIDI Update 1.45: maintenance version. From www.motu.com.
- MOTU Audio System (MAS) 2.1.1: maintenance version that includes updated MAS plug‑ins for DP 2.71. From www.motu.com.
- Songworks 2.43: OMS is checked earlier in the startup to make sure the program doesn't default to QuickTime. From www.ars‑nova.com.
- MPlay 1.4.7 (freeware): Bug fixes plus a few new features. From (hem1.passagen.se/deep9/mplay.htm).
- Sound Byte 1.8.0 (shareware): new sounds loop feature. From (www.blackcatsystems.com/software...).
- Sound Studio 1.4.3 (shareware): lower system requirements (Mac OS 8.1 or later); paste bug fix; new 'Delete Scratch Files' preference; resampling code now much faster. From (www.felttip.com/products/soundst...).
- studio system 3.1 (shareware): various bug fixes. Contact email@example.com.
- Virtual Composer 2.4d2 (shareware): minor update. From (www.crosswinds.net/athens/~jgal/...).
- VSamp 3.0.1 (shareware): fixed sound resource bug; opening a bank or VST Instrument that can't find an instrument now prompts to locate it. From (www.kagi.com/smaug/vsamp).