Reaper 6 is here – and even more the everyday, budget DAW to beat

It’s got a $60 license for nearly everyone, you can evaluate it for free, and now Reaper – yet again – adds a ton of well-implemented power features. Reaper 6 is the newest edition of this exceptionally capable DAW.

New in this release:

Use effects plug-ins right from the tracks/mixer view. So, some DAWs already have something like a little EQ that you can see in the channel strip visually, or maybe a simple compressor. Reaper has gone further, with small versions of the UI for a bunch of popular plug-ins you can embed wherever you want. That means less jumping in and out of windows while you patch.

You get EQ, filtering, compressor, and more. (ReaEQ, ReaFIR, ReaXcomp, graphical JSFX, etc.)

Powerful routing/patching. The Routing Diagram feature gives you an overview of how audio signal is routed throughout the environment, which makes sends and effects and busing and sidechaining and so on visual. It’s like having a graphical patchbay for audio right inside the DAW. (Or it’s like the ghost of the Logic Pro Environment came back and this time, average people actually wanted to use it. )

Auto-stretch audio. Now, various DAWs have attempted this – you want sound to automatically stretch and conform as you adjust tempo or make complex tempo changes. That’s useful for film scoring, for creative purposes, and just because, well, you want things to work that way. Now Reaper’s developers say they’ve made it easy to do this with tempo-mapped and live-recorded materials (Auto-stretch Timebase). This is one we’ll have to test.

Make real envelopes for MIDI. You can draw continuous shapes for your MIDI control adjustments, complete with curve adjustment. That’s a bit like what you get in Ableton Live’s clip envelopes, as well as other DAWs. But it’s a welcome addition to Reaper, which increasingly starts to share the depth of other older DAWs, without the same UI complexity (cough).

It works with high-density displays on Mac and PC. That’s Retina on Mac and the awkwardly-named HiDPI on PC. But the basic idea is, you can natively scale the default theme to 100%, 150%, and 250% on new high-def displays without squinting. Speaking of which

There’s a new tweakable theme. The new theme is set up to be customizable with Tweaker script.

Big projects and displays work better. The developers say they’ve “vastly” optimized 200+ track-count projects. On the Mac, you also get faster screen drawing with support for Apple’s Metal API. (Yeah, everyone griped about that being Mac-only and proprietary, but it seems savvy developers are just writing for it and liking it. I’m honestly unsure what the exact performance implications are of doing the same thing on Windows, though on the other hand I’m happy with how Reaper performs everywhere.)

And more. ” Dynamic Split improvements; import and render media with embedded transient information; per-track positive or negative playback offset; faster and higher quality samplerate conversion; and many other fixes and improvements.”

Honestly, I’m already won over by some of these changes, and I had been shifting conventional DAW editing work to Reaper as it was. (That is, sure, Ableton Live and Bitwig Studio and Reason and whatever else are fun for production, but sometimes you want a single DAW for editing and mixdown that is none of those others.)

Where Reaper stands out is its extraordinary budget price and its no-nonsense, dead-simple UI – when you really don’t want the DAW to be too creative, because you want to get to work. It does that, but still has the depth of functionality and customization that means you feel you’re unlikely to outgrow it. That’s not a knock on other excellent DAW choices, but those developers should seriously consider Reaper as real competition. Ask some users out there, and you’ll hear this name a lot.

Now if they just finish that “experimental” native Linux build, they’ll really win some nerd hearts.

https://www.reaper.fm

Those of you who are deeper into the tool, do let us know if you’ve got some tips to share.

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Cockos releases Reaper 6.0 digital audio workstation

Reaper 6

Cockos Incorporated has released Reaper 6.0, a new version of the digital audio production application with a full multitrack audio and MIDI recording, editing, processing, mixing and mastering toolset. REAPER 6.0 contains many under-the-hood optimizations and improvements, in addition to the many items listed in the full changelog. As always, we will continue to introduce […]

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SampleRobot 6.5 Pro includes support for Sequential Prophet-X, Bitwig Studio and Synthstrom Deluge

Skylife SampleRobot 6.5 Pro small

Skylife has announced the release of the comprehensive SampleRobot version 6.5 update, adding new export formats and more. SampleRobot optimizes the audio sampling process and works hand-in-hand with a lot of software and hardware instruments already. For the new upgrade Skylife expanded the export capabilities even further. Here come three new supported formats and the […]

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Unlock sound tricks in Ableton Live 10’s effects: new tips

There are some powerful sound creation possibilities lurking beneath Live’s built-in devices. Finding inspiration from Live effects is the topic of my second collaboration with Riemann Kollektion.

In the first part of this tutorial series, I told you how to finish tracks faster using some of the latest shortcuts in Ableton Live 10.1. This time, I’ve down a round-up of some of tricks and tips with Echo, Delay, Convolution, and other devices:

Tutorial: Hidden Sound Inspiration in Ableton Live 10’s Effects

Riemann also has a Black Friday sale on already – 50% off their excellent original sample packs with code BLACK-50. If even that’s too rich for your blood, there’s the Techno Starter Kit for free.

You might want to brush up a little on your effects before diving in. For instance, the Delay:

And freezing is useful for using my Convolution Reverb hack:

The skin in the screenshots, by the way: Dark 2.

Got more / anything I missed? Shout at me in comments.

https://riemannkollektion.com

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Save 50% on Sound Particles 3D audio software in Black Friday Sale

Sound Particles Black Friday

Sound Particles has announced a Black Friday Sale with 50% off on its software tool for 3D sound. Sound Particles is something completely different from any other professional 3D audio software that exists today. Sound Particles uses the concept of computer graphics, but for audio: each particle represents a 3D sound source (instead of a […]

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Reason Studios adds AU plugin support in Reason 11.1 update!

Reason11 Logic Rack

Following closely on the heels of the recent launch of Reason 11, simultaneous with the announcement of Propellerhead Software becoming Reason Studios, the company announced today that Reason 11 is now available to an even broader host of DAW users – including Apple Logic owners – with the addition of AU support in version Reason […]

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Reason Studios Rack Friday: Get up to 33% OFF Reason 11 (incl. upgrade)

Reason Studios Rack Friday

Reason Studios has launched a Rack Friday sale on its Reason 11, the fast and flexible music production tool that is now also available as a plugin rack in your DAW. Save €80 on Reason 11 or save €100 on Reason 11 Suite and get instant access to special limited-time deals. The Reason Rack lets […]

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Deezer’s Spleeter is an open source AI tool to split stems, for remixes or … karaoke?

The real power of machine learning may have nothing to with automating music making, and everything to do with making sound tools hear the way you do.

There’s a funny opening to the release for Deezer’s open source Spleeter tool:

While not a broadly known topic, the problem of source separation has interested a large community of music signal researchers for a couple of decades now.

Wait a second – sure, you may not call it “source separation,” but anyone who has tried to make remixes, or adapt a song for karaoke sing-alongs, or even just lost the separate tracks to a project has encountered and thought about this problem. You can hear the difference between the bassline and the singer – so why can’t your computer process the sound the way you hear? Splitting stems out of a stereo audio feed also demonstrates that tools like EQ, filters, and multiband compressors are woefully inadequate to the task.

Here’s where so-called “AI” is legitimately exciting from a sound perspective.

It’s unfortunate in a way that people imagine that machine learning’s main role should be getting rid of DJs, music selectors, and eventually composers. And that’s unfortunate not because the technology is good at those things, but precisely because so far it really isn’t – meaning people may decide the thing is overhyped and abandon it completely when it doesn’t live up to those expectations.

But when it comes to this particular technique, neural network machine learning is actually doing some stuff that other digital audio techniques haven’t. It’s boldly going where no DSP has gone before, that is. And it works – not perfectly, but well enough to be legitimately promising. (“It will just keep getting better” is a logical fallacy too stupid for me to argue with. But “we can map out ways in which this is working well now and make concrete plans to improve it with reason to believe those expectations can pan out” – yeah, that I’ll sign up for!)

Start with a stereo mix – break it up into component stems.

Spleeter from music streaming service Deezer (remember them?) is a proof of concept – and one you can use right now, even if you’re not a coder. (You’ll just need some basic command line and GitHub proficiency and the like.)

It’s free and open source. You can mess around with this without paying a cent, and even incorporate it into your own work via a very permissive MIT license. (I like free stuff, in that it also encourages me to f*** with stuff in a way that I might not with things I paid for – for whatever reason. I’m not alone here, right?)

It’s fast. With GPU acceleration, like even on my humble Razer PC laptop, you get somewhere on the order of 100x real time processing. This really demonstrations computation in a way that we would see in real products – and it’s fast enough to incorporate into your work without, like, cooking hot waffles and eggs on your computer.

It’s simple. Spleeter is built with Python and TensorFlow, a popular combination for AI research. But what you need to know if you don’t already use those tools is, you can use it from a command line. You can actually learn this faster than some commercial AI-powered plug-ins.

It splits things. I buried the lede – you can take a stereo stream and split it into different audio bits. And –

It could make interesting results even when abused. Sure, this is trained on a particular rock-style instrumentation, meaning it’ll tend to fail when you toss audio material that deviates too far from the training set. But it will fail in ways that produce strange new sound results, meaning it’s ripe for creative misuse.

Friend-of-the-site Rutger Muller made use of this in the AI music lab I participated in and co-facilitated in Tokyo, complete with a performance in Shibuya on Sunday night. (The project was hosted by music festival MUTEK.jp and curated by Maurice Jones and Natalia Fuchs aka United Curators.) He got some really interesting sonic results; you might, too.

Releasing Spleeter: Deezer Research source separation engine

Spleeter remains a more experimental tool and interesting for research. Commercial developers are building tools that use these techniques but develop a more practical workflow for musicians. Check, for instance, Accusonus – and more on what their tools can do for you as well as how they’re working with AI very soon.

https://accusonus.com

Feature image is a series of posters dubbed Waveform – and really cool work, actually, if I found it accidentally! See the series on Behance; I think I need one of these on my wall.

“Waveform poster series 2017” by Robert Anderson is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

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Cubase 10.5: what do you get for the DAW that has everything?

The software has always been feature packed. But in addition to serious workflow tools, the latest release might add some inspiration, too.

Even as we’re spoiled for choice in production tools, Cubase stands out as one of a few tools that does it all. If you’re looking for a cross-platform production environment that never says “I can’t do that,” it makes it fairly hard to go wrong. So – how do you add more to that?

Let’s break that down into an overview. This update has some different additions for different audiences.

Oh yeah, and another thing – Cubase has quietly turned 30 years old with this release. That says something about Steinberg’s dedication, and also the endurance of specialized, mature tools for the unique demands of producing music and sound.

The new multi-tap delay puts Steinberg again head to head with its old rival from across Hamburg, Apple Logic (nee Emagic). But Steinberg runs their software cross-platform, and they’ve got something else in store – a powerful granular instrument.

Creative inspiration

There’s a new MultiTap Delay, adding to Cubase’s creative tools. (Pro/Artist)

Padshop 2 upgrades this unique granular instrument, which is also out on iPad. I’ll write about that separately, because, well, it’s granular. Also, while Logic has its own wild delays, here Steinberg has the edge. Oh, and it runs on Windows, too. (Pro/Artist)

Plus the Elements version now has the Stereo Delay, De-esser and Roomworks processors, which makes it actually a very fine entry level DAW investment.

Lately, all the DAWs seem to be adding a feature for recording ideas before you hit record. Steinberg calls is “Retrospective MIDI Record” which sounds better than “oh I forgot to hit — £$&* it!” Or “why do my ideas always suck when the recording is on; that was great and what did I even just play I forgot it already?!”

Match EQ visually by spectrum.
Sometimes it’s the little things – like channel strip color coding.

Mixing and editing

You can now colorize mixer channels. (Pro/Artist/Elements)

There’s a new Pro-only Spectral Comparison EQ. That’s an interesting new approach doing equalization and precise mixing; I’m curious how it’ll be received (especially by people whose ears already do this pretty well – and those who struggle, too).

A serious tool for production

There’s a bunch of other stuff:

  • Import tracks individually from a project (Pro)
  • Export video as H.264 with 16-bit stereo audio (Pro/Artist/Elements)
  • Combine Select Tools Mode for precise selection (Pro/Artist)
  • Optional dBFS Max normalization (Pro)

And the Score Editor, Macro creation window, and other areas see improvements, among lots of other improvements.

Maybe best of all – you can run in Safe Mode without plug-ins for easier troubleshooting, which all DAWs really ought to make easier. Word is also that Steinberg is finishing Catalina compatibility, though part of the appeal of Cubase – unlike Logic – is that you don’t need a Mac to run it.

More information:

https://new.steinberg.net/cubase/new-features/

It’s also worth saying that Steinberg isn’t employing a one-size-fits-all-approach – unlike, for example, their German neighbors at Ableton (or Pro Tools, for that matter). So in addition to editions, there are differentiated tools.

There’s Cubase, but there’s also Nuendo for heavy-duty production work, as favored by a lot of broadcast and film users.

And maybe most interesting is that Steinberg is one of the few companies left really developing the idea of dedicated wave editing, which is crucial to a lot of pro workflows and mastering and other engineers.

While WaveLab has long been a stalwart in this category, they’ve added something rather new with SpectralLayers, a new visual approach to editing. So you’ve got your choice of ways of working.

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Bitwig Studio 3.1 lets you do loads of creative stuff with pitch, tuning, slicing

The latest update from Bitwig offers variations on a theme – from microtuning to lots of new features for working with pitch editing and playing live. Oh, and it’s easier to learn, too.

Bitwig Studio 3.1 is now in testing, and while there’s a ton of new stuff, it’s really pitch and tuning that stand out.

Micro-pitch lets you get away from generic Western digital piano tuning and embrace lots of other options. That includes full support for the Scala SCL standard, which has now thousands of tunings from around the world. But since that can get, uh, overwhelming fast, there are also 30+ tuning presets that cover some basics for composers, theorists, and lovers of music traditions of China, Java, and more. There are even composer-specific options based on seminal works by the likes of Wendy Carlos and Harry Partch. Nerd. On.

Tuning freaks may already be using these in plug-ins – I’ve just gotten going in VCV Rack – but I really admire the elegance of the interface Bitwig built, including a nice graphical visualization.

I really hope it’s something other software copies, actually, because all of us benefit if music software is more open to tunings. It’s otherwise like being in an ice cream shop with only vanilla. I love vanilla, but not all the time.

It’s not just about this microtuning, as equally important are some other additions:

Pitch-12 lets you assign pitch classes as modulation sources for … well, anything you can imagine. This continues the evolution of Bitwig Studio into a modular design. Rough translation: playing keys on your keyboard can now do some freaky things with sound, easily and quickly. Cool.

PluckSlope ↗Slope ↘, and Follower in the modular Grid give you new envelope options. And yes, Pluck is useful for physical modeling ideas.

Transpose lets you create chords and stereo effects in the modular side of Bitwig Studio even without an input.

You’ll also find some great fast draw features. Quoting:

  • Quick Draw action: holding [ALT] with the pen tool will draw multiple notes at the current beat grid interval
  • Quick Draw action: drawing defaults to a single pitch for each note (think hi-hats), but adding [SHIFT] allows various pitches to be drawn (like a step sequencer)
  • Quick Slice action: holding [ALT] with the knife tool will cut any clip/event at the beat grid interval, for as far as you drag the mouse
  • Quick Slice action: slicing snaps its initial cut position to the beat grid, but adding [SHIFT] allows an off-grid starting position
  • Slice In Place function: will slice any selected clip(s)/event(s) at the detected audio Onsets, the set Beat Markers, or at a set beat grid interval

With some practice, those look like big timesavers.

Also, if you’re behind on exploring all this new stuff, Bitwig are expanding interactive help to more devices.

There are a bunch of new scripts and lots of additional fixes and improvements. Think little details like a ‘note chase’ option that lets you hear MIDI notes when you start the transport in the middle of them. See the full release notes:

https://downloads-as.bitwig.com/beta/3.1/Release-Notes-3.1-Beta-1.html

(at least for now, that’s a testing link)

And news item:

https://www.bitwig.com/en/19/bitwig-studio-3_1.html

Video walkthrough:

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