ProRec is one of the oldest and best dressed audio sites on the planet. Really. 2016-01-19T22:27:06Z WordPress brandall <![CDATA[Freebie Frenzy- Cinesamples’ Jerry’s Piano]]> 2015-12-22T08:19:56Z 2015-12-18T19:32:41Z Cinesamples released their latest freebie today, called Jerry’s Pianos. Often the orchestral piano is called upon to double rhythmic patterns at pitch – its percussive nature allows the texture to speak quicker and more precisely.  Larger orchestral ensembles occasionally include a second piano for balance and color. Orff employs two pianos playing the ostinato in his bombastic

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Cinesamples released their latest freebie today, called Jerry’s Pianos. 

Often the orchestral piano is called upon to double rhythmic patterns at pitch – its percussive nature allows the texture to speak quicker and more precisely.  Larger orchestral ensembles occasionally include a second piano for balance and color. 

Orff employs two pianos playing the ostinato in his bombastic opening movement of Carmina Burana.  John Williams uses two soli pianos to score the arrival of the AT-AT’s during the Imperial Assault on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back.  Don Davis often uses two pianos in quasi arpeggiating motifs during the chase sequences in his Matrix Trilogy scores.  Quasi random, fast moving patterns in the lower octaves are a mainstay of modern cinematic orchestral writing. 

With this patch we captured two pianos playing tutti/unison at the Sony Scoring Stage.  The pianos were placed in deep orchestral position on the violin side slightly wider than the French Horn section.  Concentrating on the lower range, we sampled sustains and staccatos on the two house grand pianos.  

We’re certain that Jerry’s Piano will become a useful tool in any composer’s palette. 

You can find more info at

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brandall <![CDATA[Spectrasonics Announces New Delivery Platforms]]> 2015-12-18T18:31:27Z 2015-12-18T18:31:27Z Los Angeles, CA – December 16th, 2015 – Spectrasonics today announced a major change in their delivery platforms and has eliminated all DVD-ROM discs in its virtual instrument product line – replacing them with modern Download and Drive Editions. The company is now using high quality USB drives in their in-store packaging for all three of their award-winning

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Los Angeles, CADecember 16th, 2015Spectrasonics today announced a major change in their delivery platforms and has eliminated all DVD-ROM discs in its virtual instrument product line – replacing them with modern Download and Drive Editions. The company is now using high quality USB drives in their in-store packaging for all three of their award-winning virtual instruments, Omnisphere 2, Trilian and Stylus RMX Xpanded – making physical installation dramatically faster, easier, and more reliable. The company is also announcing that it is now selling full download editions of each of the three instruments, which has been a top customer request. The packaged drive editions are available exclusively through Spectrasonics’ worldwide reseller network, while the download editions are sold exclusively from Spectrasonics’ website:

Eric Persing, Spectrasonics’ Founder and Creative Director, says, “We are extremely pleased to at last offer our whole line of virtual instruments in vastly improved modern platforms that truly match the rest of the premium experience of our award-winning instruments. We happily bid farewell to the era of optical discs and their eternal install times!”

The new metal credit-card style USB drives are designed to make installing Spectrasonics products a vastly simplified process. The transfer speed is many-times faster than optical discs as well, saving users hours during the install process. While these non-writeable drives are intended for installation and not for actually streaming the instruments, they are much more reliable than DVD discs. Finally, the wallet-size USB drive can be easily stored for future use when new computer installs are needed.

For customers wanting the convenience of immediate delivery, the download edition of Spectrasonics’ instruments is an excellent solution. Spectrasonics uses a worldwide network of robust servers to deliver the fastest possible download experience to its customers, regardless of location. Spectrasonics’ ‘Download Manager’ app ensures reliability when downloading such large files.

Existing customers who want the same convenience as the new editions can also purchase the new USB drives for the instruments they already own, or for a nominal fee purchase full downloads of their current instruments as an ‘Additional Download’ for fast and easy installations 24/7 worldwide. These “Support Services” options for existing users are available exclusively in Spectrasonics webstore/techshop:

For pricing and more information, visit:

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brandall <![CDATA[The Return Of January 2016]]> 2015-12-17T16:32:39Z 2015-11-15T06:47:33Z Over the next three weeks, ProRec is going to be screaming towards a complete relaunch, with a new design, loads of new content, new site features, and a whole lot of well-dressed audio content!

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For those paying attention, you may be thinking that is already here. I mean, you’re reading this. Good call, my friend.

But if you’re really paying close attention, you may also notice that there hasn’t been anything new here….in a LONG time. It’s actually quite sad. is, and forgive me for putting aside humility for a moment, historic in the world of audio production websites. One of the oldest ones on the interwebs in fact. 

So it has been unfortunate that such a great site has been left behind for the last couple of years. Much of the old content is missing, and those involved with running the place have had the uncontrollable circumstance of having to put the site aside. And for this, I am sorry. Life does get in the way. But I’m sorry, truly. 

But things are changing. ProRec isn’t dead, and it has not been forgotten. I’m happy to announce that starting in January of 2016, ProRec is going to be back on track. Which track? I don’t quite know. But due to some changes in circumstance and a shift in workload, I believe it is the right time to try and do ProRec justice once again.

Some things will be different

ProRec has been around since long before social media became a household activity, and long before mobile devices ruled over desktops. As a result, much of the way we have worked is kind of stuck in the past. The way we present content and interact hasn’t kept up with the times. So I’ve made it my goal to make sure this changes.

In January, we’ll be unveiling a completely new site. Every bit of the site is being scrapped and rebuilt. Everything. Besides a new design, you can expect to see more of a focus on interaction with you, the reader. The type of content provided will change a bit as well. While you will still find plenty of in depth content and reviews, we’re going to make it a little less clinical. More laid back. 

As the Editor, it is my goal to make sure that the new ProRec is better than all previous versions. Not everyone is going to like it, I’m sure. There won’t be as many hardware-based reviews as there has been in the past, and some topics just won’t be covered at all unless we bring on more writers who specialize in those areas. But we want to present the best, most up to date ProRec we can. As the editor, I take responsibility for this. 

Stay tuned for more news as things progress. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have ideas, suggestions, complaints, or want to get involved.


Brent Randall

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brandall <![CDATA[Freebie Frenzy- Tone2 Sets Firebird FREE!]]> 2015-12-23T00:16:59Z 2013-08-12T17:18:49Z Tone2 has decided that Firebird 2 has reached the end of it’s commercial life and the company has announced that this extremely popular and flexible synth is now FREE for everyone. See the full press release below.After seven years of faithful service, Firebird itself has become vintage. Even though it’s no longer profitable to remaina

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Tone2 has decided that Firebird 2 has reached the end of it’s commercial life and the company has announced that this extremely popular and flexible synth is now FREE for everyone. See the full press release below.

After seven years of faithful service, Firebird itself has become vintage. Even though it’s no longer profitable to remain
a commercial product, we feel that more people deserve an opportunity to enjoy this sometimes heavily underestimated
Which is why we decided to release one last update and turn Firebird, previously sold for $79, into freeware.

Please feel free to download, share and enjoy this freebie, which should provide you with a nice introduction to our products,
as well as many more years of musical inspiration.


Firebird+ Unique & innovative

Firebird+ is not just another subtractive synthesizer, it uses a unique synthesis architecture to deliver next-generation sounds.
Its innovative user interface provides you with the tools to create impressive sounds with a minimal amount of effort. Featuring
an impressive selection of 437 build-in sounds, representing both highly sought-after VA sounds, as well as sounds more
specific to Firebird and characterized by its Harmonic Content Morphing synthesis, breathing both life and dynamics into the

Harmonic Content Morphing (HCM™) synthesis

Harmonic Content Morphing synthesis is based on a large, expandable repertoire of standard waves, like saw, pulse, as well as
more complex wave material, like multi-waves, trumpets, organs, pads, pianos and voice samples.
These waves are modified in real-time, by for example transposing the wave by one or two octaves and adding it to the original
wave, altering its harmonic structure, syncing, compressing or even expanding the frequency domain of the spectrum. Making
the wave for example sound more fat using only one oscillator, transforming each wave into a hyper-wave or selecting some
cycles of a sample and moving through them over time (comparable to wavetable synthesis). Any modification of a wave can be
modulated producing lively shimmery sounds (remember: using only one oscillator!) With a total of more than 18,000 different
spectra available for combination and modulation, Firebird+ gives an almost unlimited amount of timbres to experiment with.

   * Very easy to program and easy to use
   *  A unique sounding synthesis: Harmonic content morphing (HCM)
   * High sound quality: Warm, transparent
   * 437 hand picked presets included, over 1000 sounds available
   * 84 oscillator types containing 18,000 morphable waveforms
   * 38 different filter types
   * True stereo mode, 4x unison mode, and up to 8 oscillators per voice
   * Can sound like other synthesis methods – additive, subtractive, AM, FM, phase distortion, supersaw, vocoder, sync
   * Can sound like natural instruments like piano, brass, organs…
   * 23 spectral manipulations or “modifiers” can be applied to the oscillators
   * 21 arpeggiator types
   * 13 effect types
   * Skinable user interface
For more info and download link, please visit the Tone2 website:

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brandall <![CDATA[The New iLok License Manager- “Temporary” Licenses Issue Fixed]]> 2013-06-11T16:41:15Z 2013-06-10T15:58:52Z A couple of days ago, announced the release of their new License Manager software. But do NOT sync your licenses yet unless you want to temporarily lose them, or have them converted to time-limited, as many people are reporting.

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UPDATE: It appears that the issues caused below by the new iLok License Manager are now fixed, according to Sound Toys:

Further instructions were provided in the KVR thread linked to below.


A couple of days ago, announced the release of their new License Manager software. This software does away with the web-based license management and is browser independent, which is great since apparently iLok has been unable to code their website to work with 80% of all modern browsers.

Many new features are available, including the ability(FINALLY) do “deactivate”, or delete your licenses(in case you have demo licenses taking up space), organize your licenses into folders and other tools. But……don’t go syncing your iLok just yet.

According to this thread on Gearslutz, along with this thread on KVR, some major issues are happening though. Licenses from numerous developers are coming up as “temporary” or deactivated. THIS IS BAD. While I can’t personally confirm these problems, the additional info provided by devs such as Soundtoys makes me think that it may be smart to wait a few days before syncing your license with the new system.

In other words, don’t touch this new software with a ten foot pole until you hear the all clear. I’ll update this post once things are sorted, and we can then talk more about the good. Stay tuned.

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brandall <![CDATA[8Dio Adagio Violins Volume 1- Full Review]]> 2015-12-22T06:45:56Z 2013-05-23T05:54:40Z 8Dio Adagio Violins Volume 1 claims to break new ground for deep sampled orchestral string libraries. But does it deliver?

We take a look at this first library in the Adagio Strings series to see if Adagio Violins is worthy of a place in your collection.

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Huge focus on legato transitions, very good and complete shorts, dynamic sound, drop dead easy interface
No legato volume control, some rough edges, solo and divisi lack detail found in ensemble patches
Adagio Violins Volume 1 is loaded with options for your sound. No other library offers this level of dynamic phrasing or legato control. If you can deal with a few minor issues, there is no reason why this shouldn’t be included in your strings collection.


Price- $399

Very few strings libraries actually push the envelope these days. Nothing new under the sun, so to speak. So it’s refreshing when somebody take take a leap and create something a little different. 8Dio set out to do just that with their Adagio strings series. Starting with the violins, the Adagio strings series puts it’s focus on previously “under tapped” areas of string sampling.

So we’re going to take a look at Adagio Violins Volume 1 and see if it manages to stand out from the pack. Following this review, we also hope to take a look at the other three sections; cellos, violas and basses. So stay tuned for those.

Tale Of The Tapestry

Adagio Violins is available exclusively through 8Dio as a downloadable library. Using what seems to be a custom built downloader, you will need around 25GB of space to house the 44.1kHz/24-bit library(compressed down from about 50GB using Kontakt’s NCW compression). 25GB is a lot to download, but the custom downloader makes things pretty easy. It handles corrupt files and lets you pause and resume downloads.

You’ll need the full version of Kontakt 4 or 5 to really use the library. Kontakt Player won’t do as you’ll be restricted to 15 minute sessions. But then again, you DO already have Kontakt, right? Kontakt 5 is preferred due to it’s vastly superior Time Machine quality, which will benefit you greatly with this library.

We’re reviewing version 1.1 of Adagio Violins, which was a huge update from the release version. For a quick rundown of what was added, before we get into the details, see this video from 8Dio:

Understanding 8Dio Adagio Violins

Upon loading Adagio Violins, the first thing you’ll probably notice is just how simple the interface is. Really, when compared to many newer Kontakt libraries, Adagio Violins is pretty darn basic. But that’s just on the surface, as you’ll see throughout this review.


Adagio contains three section sizes. You get a full violins section of 11 players, a 3 player ‘divisi’ section, and a solo violin, allowing for great flexibility with part building and splits. Each section has a unique selection of articulations and playing styles, but the core idea among the three is the same.

adagioviolinsmicpositionsYou also get three microphone perspectives; Close, Far and Mix(a combined Close and Far). You can mix each of these as needed, or keep them off if desired.

I’ll be honest. It took me a little while to “get” Adagio Violins. When I first played the library, it didn’t feel quite right and I kept thinking that there was something wrong. And there was. Me.

Adagio Violins is actually very easy to play. The interface is extremely simple, and you don’t need to micromanage multiple knobs and controllers to get a good sound. You just need to understand the various bits of the library and know how to use keyswitches(which is how you switch playing styles in each patch), adjust a knob or two, and you’re good.

Adagio Violins doesn’t work the way that most string libraries do, but it was natural to try and play Adagio in a way that would have worked with those libraries. While most libraries throw all articulations and playing styles together into a single patch and call it a day, Adagio focuses on unique variations of each element, placed together to work together. You can almost consider Adagio to be a collection of tens of thousands of individual single note performances spliced together to create YOUR song.

Adagio Violins is about expression. More importantly, NATURAL expression. With most string libraries, you shape notes manually with controllers, and Adagio allows this as well, but Adagio Violins breathes on it’s own. The samples were recorded that way. The key is learning the slew of different recording types and how to put them together into one coherent, flowing piece. It’s not hard at all to do either. The recordings capture the instrumentalists playing their instruments in the same way they would do during an actual performance, full of sways and turns and expression, instead of just a bunch of straight and static notes.

Adagio Violins contains an almost exhaustive list of different playing styles and articulations, and the key is knowing what works where. So I’ll get through the different core aspects one at a time.

Keep in mind that Adagio Violins is VERY deep, so I won’t necessarily cover EVERY detail, but I’ll try.

Getting From Here To There

The biggest focus of this library is on two primary areas: transitions and expressiveness. And really, this is WHY you would likely purchase Adagio Violins above the rest.

Most string libraries these days include legato transitions. Some are even quite in-depth with recorded transitions from every note to every other realistic following note. Sometimes, you’ll get some portamento samples, or glissandi even. The problem? Violinists are more fluid than that. They adjust their playing based on the material and this often requires different speeds and character in that precious space between the notes which holds the melody together. Most libraries include static, universal “legato”, and that’s that.


8Dio Adagio Violins goes far beyond this by including several variations of legato. These range from the abrupt to a slow portamento of a player settling into their pitch. These legato types are named after the composers and work which inspired their sound. Names such as Perdition Legato, E.T. Legato, Instinct Legato and Village Legato are designed to represent the styles of popular composers such as Thomas Newman, John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith and James Newton Howard, among others.

There are ten advertised legato types included, but keep in mind that these are split among the three section sizes. There are seven different ensemble legato types, two different divisi types and one solo legato type. So ten in all, with no overlap between sections.

Dolce Legato is designed for slow passages. Most libraries don’t include transitions that work well with slow and dramatic pieces, but Dolce Legato was designed for this. The transition is not over the top, and doesn’t emphasize itself too much. It just flows softly and gradually into each note.

Instinct Legato is a very refined and “even” legato sound. You could call this the “general purpose” legato, as it sits somewhere in the middle of quick and deliberate. Capable of faster paced transitions than Dolce, you also get slightly more attack out of Instinct. As this will likely be one of your more used legatos, it also helps that 4 round robin variations of each legato sample are present. Very welcome indeed.

Extraterrestrial Legato(ET for short, of course) takes a leap upwards from Instinct in terms of speed and emphasis. More attack and a faster “settle” time make ET ideal for faster passages where you really need to move along. The more abrupt attack can be a little bit distracting if you’re not careful, and I found myself needing to redo some of my playing to accommodate. But all-in-all, this will be a commonly used transition for most people.

Village Legato takes the faster moving aspect of ET legato, but drops down some of the attack emphasis. Village almost has a sense a tension because of this. When using Village legato, you get the impression that each player is making the tough yet conscious decision to move on. An ever slight delay in this legato means that you get emphasis without the attack, and it works well for the big Hollywood score sound. Multiple round robin variations are included with this one as well.

Perdition Legato is different from all the rest because it’s sole focus is on the softer sordino(muted) sound. It’s a slower sound in general, somewhere above Dolce but below Instinct, but it moves very quickly due to enhanced attacks(not sharp attacks, but notes come on faster). Being a sordino playing style, the use for this is obvious. Perdition is all about passion and reflectiveness. And it does it very well.

Emo Slur and Soft Emo Slur are closer to portamento than a true legato, with the Soft Emo Slur being the less emphasized transition of the two. These are quite good when you need emotionally drenched transitions. The Emo Slur transitions almost tell a story of pensiveness that is quite refreshing. While not something that I’ll use with every piece, this is the kind of sound you TRY to write for because when in the proper context, it’s very pleasing.

The Lost Legato 1 & 2 are the only Divisi section legatos. There isn’t a whole lot of built in emotion to Lost 1, which makes it a good default legato for your chamber arrangements. It also works best for faster passages compared to Lost 2, which is more of a deliberate legato with the feel of being pulled along. While Lost 1 works well for smaller arrangements, Lost 2 would fit in well even with medium sized orchestral arrangements due to it’s more expressive nature which makes it cut through a little easier. In fact, even the simple differences from Lost 1 make Lost 2 feel twice as large, which is quite a feat.

The last legato is the lone solo transition, called the Schindler Legato. It’s easy to see where the inspiration came from for this one. Schindler is definitely not in the “all rounder” category, but instead leans towards the aggressive. Fast passages are a piece of cake, and slower sensitive passages are not typically ideal here.

adagioviolinsmultisThere are also a few multis included in Adagio Violins that allow you to use up to three different legato types within a single phrase. You can choose to either use a MIDI CC to switch between legato patches, or you can use note velocity. These patches are really where you have a chance to shine with Adagio Violins because it allows you to create fully dynamic recordings without loading multiple tracks and patches. I do wish that more multi variations were included though as you’re kind of stuck with the specific combinations they give you. But what’s there is still welcome.

NOTE: In the coming days, we’ll be posting examples of each legato type here on, so stay tuned for those.

The series of different legato types included make for a much more versatile library than you will find anywhere else. And I’m a fan of many libraries out there. But these transitions pretty much make this the only kid on the block with the cool new sneakers. It’s very VERY fun to mess around with these and to see such variety in the types of performances you can get. But it goes beyond just the legatos.

Making It All Dynamic

The patches in Adagio Violins are each based around their respective legato types. So you will find various differences from one to another besides the legato type itself.

The patches are designed to work alongside the traditional crossfading of samples to shape dynamics. If you prefer, you can use your mod wheel and expression pedal to form your notes and guide them along, just like virtually all other libraries on the market. But also included are a series of what 8Dio refer to as “Dynamic Bowings”. These are bow strokes that could be considered single note performances of their own.

You’ll find variations of vibrato in case you may need a note to be emphasized with a fuller vibrato sound. You will find differing intensities and arc swells to trigger, variations of long and short bows, etc. If you want a quickly fading, almost detached note, you can trigger this with a keyswitch. If you want a more long and drawn out note with a more defined swell, you have it. And each patch is different.


You’ll find things like Marcato legato in the solo violin patch, while you’ll find more varieties of deep legato in the Emo Slur patches. Each playing style is designed to work inside the “big picture” of each legato. And this is something I’ve never seen before, maybe because nobody has ever put this much attention on the transitions. But it works very well. It takes some getting used to, so don’t think that it’s just going to work perfectly the first few times you play around with it. But once you dig for a while, you ‘get’ it. You’re going to love this new way of playing. I sure did.

adagioviolinsdynamiccontrolsIn addition to these dynamic bowings, you have control over the dynamics of your notes using a MIDI CC, which allows for more controlled swells. This works well as it uses appropriate filtering to allow for varied intensity in your notes. Also, you’ll find an expression knob which can also be triggered by MIDI CC. This is essentially a volume pedal and allows you to fade notes completely in or out as desired.

Vibrato control is also included. Now, many of the playing styles have a built-in vibrato that works well and doesn’t stand out. But if you want a bit more, or if you want to add a little to the non-vibrato samples, this knob allows you to do it. This changes a bit of the character of each note as well, allowing it to break through the mix with a more full tone, or letting it set back a bit.

Finally, and in my opinion this is every bit as important as the rest, is the speed control. Out of the box, all legatos play at their slowest realistic tempo. But the speed knob allows you to slow down or speed up each transition to eliminate the “over the top” nature of some transitions. So you can adjust a little of the emphasis and attack using this knob.

These four controls alone allow you to COMPLETELY transform a phrase. It’s worth taking the time to map each one and adjust to taste. I personally found myself mapping the dynamics and expression to the same expression pedal, with vibrato mapped to my mod wheel and speed control to an available knob.

There are a couple of minor gripes that I have with the legato system in general. One is that at times, there are very slight bits of inconsistency in volume that can throw things off a bit. The legato transition samples seem to play at nearly the same volume level no matter where you are in the envelope of a note. So if you trigger a new legato note while at the tail end of the preceding note, just as it’s dying down, the legato transition will jump out at you a bit. You can fix much of this in your editor of choice by going back and making sure to cut off the previous note before triggering the new one, but this leads to the triggering of a new phrase and not a smoothly transitioned one.

This could have been solved with a simple volume knob for the legato samples, but unfortunately, there is none. You’re stuck with the built-in levels. Maybe 8Dio will consider this for a future patch. I hope so.

Also included are special “Dynamic Bowings” patches that include all the variations of dynamic swells and arcs in one patch.


These are useful if you need even more flexibility outside of the legato patches. But these don’t include any legato transitions and are a little more challenging to use on their own. I highly recommend working within the legato patches for best results.

Portato ‘de Loure

I put this in it’s own section because I want you to make sure not to miss it. We’ve seen portato (often referred to as Loure) articulations in plenty of libraries in the past. Adagio takes it further by integrating them into the legato patches.

This playing technique is when a player slightly relieves bow pressure in a way that creates a new subtle attack emphasis in the middle of a note. Most commonly used when continuing the same note, this technique feels as if it’s a “floating” sound. I personally love using this to help a rather slow piece to move along a little easier. It almost adds rhythm to your slower passages. And Adagio includes several variations of this. See the picture below for the full list of Loure variations(taken from the Adagio Violins manual):


Each legato patch includes multiple Loure variations, typically between 1 and 4 repetitions. So you can keyswitch to each one depending on your needs. The best thing is that they work alongside the legato transitions so you can flow right into a Loure style and right back to full sustain at will. In addition, the Loure samples are synced to your host tempo so they feel like they belong.


You also have a dedicated Loure patch which contains all variations in one patch in case you need to specifically pick out a certain dynamic.

I can’t emphasize enough how important having Kontakt 5 is here. The timestretching in K5 is far superior to K4, and these Loure samples DESERVE the improved quality.

These are a fantastic, and unique addition to the already nearly complete Adagio feature list. But to make them even better, you get numerous round robin variations of several Loure types, which makes this feature even more fluid and realistic.

The Long And Short Of It

Adagio Violins comes with several additional patches in addition to the legato variations. In particular, you’ll find patches that contain sustain articulations, and patches that contain the shorts.


The sustain patches are separate from the normal legato patches, and while there is a little overlap, they are mostly unique articulations that don’t really fit into a legato line.

For the ensemble sustains patch, you get a whole slew of fun stuff to work with. In addition to more than one variation of the basic sustain and a sustained sordino, you get a wonderful sounding, quick moving tremolo(non-measured, though we’ll discuss that in a moment), along with a full complement of harmonics samples. But the highlight of the ensemble sustains is without a doubt the large variety of trills included.

You’ll find all intervals from a half step trill to a fourth trill. To make things better, you also get a variation of each of these that includes a dynamic swell throughout the trill. These trills are soft enough to use in more thoughtful passages, but you can really let them loose to ratchet up the tension as needed. As with other parts of Adagio Violins, 8Dio went further with this feature than most libraries do, and you’ll love it.


In addition to the single generic tremolo in the ensemble sustains, you also get a dedicated patch for measured tremolos. These are tremolos designed to work within the timing you have set forth in your piece. You have two different speeds of tremolos that are tempo synced to give you more flexibility, along with two different speeds of sordino tremolos. Plus, as an added bonus, two types of tremolo glissandos are included for extra effect(perfect for the whimsical or horrific, should you choose!).

The Divisi and Solo sections also contain a selection of sustains, but they are much more limited in this area. For instance, you don’t get a full compliment of measured tremolos with the Divisi section. You get a single variation. The downside here is that doing exact matches alongside the ensemble patches may prove difficult if you need them to sound identical. But it should be noted that these smaller section sizes are really supplemental, so it should be pretty easy in most cases to fit them in with the more full ensemble patches.

The shorts in Adagio Violins are superb. It’s one of the more complete collections out there. The round robin recordings for each of the shorts really help create a sense of movement within notes that have little movement of their own. Apparently, more than 10,000 recordings are included in this section, though I’ll be honest…….I didn’t count them(I gave up at 2,358).

adagioviolinsshortsFive(yes, five)spiccato variations are included; feather spiccato, on bow, tapped, bounced spiccato and arp spiccato, which allows you to trigger a spiccato sound on both note down AND note release(in case you need some really fast, or on-tempo spiccato). These variations give you loads of flexibility for crafting a spiccato that bits just enough, or blends in. It’s really quite refreshing to see the attention to these.

But spiccato isn’t all that you get. A Staccato articulation is also present in case you need a little more body to your short sounds. The staccato is wonderfully lush and present, and doesn’t sound like it’s trying too hard to be abrupt, something I can’t say about all string libraries.

Want Marcato for a more flowing and nearly sustained short bow? Check. Pizzicato for enhanced rhythm ? You betcha. How about Bartok Pizzicato for the extra resonance and snap? It’s there too. You’ll even get the wonderfully backwards Col Legno sounds for those times when you’re just tired of the horsehair getting all the attention!

Ok, kidding aside, this is an excellent and very complete collection of shorts. And they are very very smooth sounding. There is a great sense of sturdiness in the Adagio Violins shorts that allows them to really punch. There is so much detail there that the shorts could have been a library of their very own and people would pay for it. Below is a demonstration from 8Dio showing the shorts in action:

You can adjust tightness if you need, or you can have a slightly “sloppier” sound, but all-in-all, you won’t find a larger collection of shorts in this quality in ANY library. Sharp enough to be noticed, but slick enough to be subtle. Don’t miss these.

As with the sustains patch, the Divisi and Solo sections are also quite limited when it comes to the short notes. As already mentioned, this isn’t necessarily debilitating because these sections are meant as complements to each other. And honestly, with the hugely vast amount of content in Adagio Violins, it’s very hard to complain about. But it’s worth mentioning.

Sounds Like Candy

Adagio lends itself to a wide range of applications. It’s comprehensive articulation list makes for quite a flexible set of tools. But the specialty here is the most definitely the sensual and passionate film score type compositions. When you play it, this feeling is just drenched all over every note. You could define Adagio Violins as “sweet”, if it had to be put into a word. It’s a softer sound, though the upper registers retain the ability to pierce through.

The Ensemble patches are lush and bold, but are surprisingly “airy” to allow other instruments their own space. The 11 person ensemble here is a nice balance between getting lost in the mix and overpowering it. While there are a few exceptions, the ensemble parts are, for the most part, very solid and play as a very unified section sound. In addition, you’ll find by FAR the most articulations and playing styles in the ensemble patches. There is more here than either of the Divisi or Solo sections.

The Divisi sections are a little more biting, but to be honest, they don’t lose a lot in terms of size. Some chamber section libraries have a thin and tinny sound to them. The Adagio Violins Divisi section is the opposite of that and can hold it’s own. You get some of the more intimate sounds from the Divisi section as you can hear enough bow scrapes and strings twisting to really pour on the dynamics. It’s a bigger sound than a lot of libraries, which may be good or bad depending on what you are looking for, but it works very well.

You will find the short articulations lacking in the Divisi sections, as you only get Spiccato and Staccato repetitions. Plus, a very limited tremolo variety and no trills to speak of. So if you need a full-on chamber section with all articulations, you may need to supplement elsewhere.

The solo violin is recorded well, and it sounds great, but it’s a little more limited in scope compared to the rest of the library. Because of the limited Schindler legato type, you’re kind of restricted from doing anything TOO slow and emotive. This doesn’t mean it’s not useful, but it’s just not meant for that, in my opinion. In addition, there are less available articulations in each of the solo patches. You don’t get the full compliment of shorts that the Ensemble has, though you do get slightly more than with the Divisi section(Spiccato, Arp Spicatto, Marcato, Pizz). I found that the solo shorts were slightly weaker in sound than the rest of the solo violin sound as well. Some compression and EQ worked wonders for me though and brought out the intricacies of the sound that I was needing.

The solo sustains were also quite limited compared to the rest of the library, though you do get some essential tremolo and sordano articulations to play with. In the end, I don’t think this solo violin was meant to be a full-on library of it’s own though. This is a supplemental section designed to work alongside the other section sizes for extra emphasis. And for this, it’s absolutely perfect.

There is a certain raw nature in the Adagio Violin sounds. The kind of feel you get when playing is almost one of pulling you along with a slight degree of tension as you wait for notes to resolve themselves to the next note. The emotion in the players is obvious, but yet the dynamics manage to stay rather consistent.

The natural ambience of the church where Adagio Violins was recorded is also quite obvious. But it’s more of a character ambience than a spatial one. As a result, Adagio works rather well with external reverbs. I think my favorite setup was to let the natural ambience remain for the early reflections, while adding a nice external reverb tail to help fit it perfectly into the rest of the arrangement.

Adagio Violins isn’t perfect. In fact, when listened to without any other tracks around it, there is a very raw sense of color to the samples. The audio QUALITY is good, but this isn’t anything near an anechoic chamber. You can sometimes hear the instrumentalist playing the instrument, and even the occasional non-violin noise will creep in here and there. But on the flip side, you almost come away with the sense that you could visualize the player as they rocked the bow back and forth. You don’t get the sense that these players are recording a library in a static controlled environment. You instead get to hear what it would be like if you asked each player to sit down in front of you and “play something” (man, I REALLY hate it when people ask me to do that, by the way……..I know a million songs, but ask me to choose just one and I’m clueless……). They are playing, not recording. There is a distinct difference between the two, and Adagio Violins hits the mark.

There are also some pitch and tuning issues, if you want to call them that. Players don’t always hit their notes imediately, particularly when using legato. Of course, I’m not talking about being a full semi-tone off or anything. The issues really are minor. And of course, they are MUCH less obvious in the context of a track. Solo out some string players in most any recording, and you would probably find a similar set of issues. This is just the natural adjustments made during a performance, and when the alternative is a very “clinical” sound, I’ll take natural any day.

Intonation is pretty solid throughout most of the library. I did, on occasion, hear what sounded like a bit of comb filtering in the full section patches. I can’t tell if this was due to some sloppy crossfading or just natural swelling of tones between players, but it is definitely there.

With all this being said, let me get one thing clear: Adagio Violins sounds REAL. In the context of a mix, these little issues provide a rather organic and “played” sound, which is actually quite refreshing compared to some libraries that try a little too hard to be perfect. And don’t get the wrong impression that you’re getting a messy library. That’s absolutely not the case. NONE of these issues in any way interfere with the library sounding great or being useful, even in a solo fashion. But in case you’re looking for perfect recordings of single notes that don’t sound like real players played them……Adagio may not be for you.

If you need violins, there is a world of exploration to be had inside of Adagio Violins. If you need something soft and full of passion, Adagio shines like NO other. If you need something larger and bombastic, Adagio holds it’s own. And if you need pure exhaustiveness of sounds, Adagio rises above the rest. Here are a couple of the official demo tracks for Adagio Violins, in case you need more of the sound. We’ll also be showing some of our own examples in the coming days.

As If That Wasn’t Enough…

There are some additional features that are worth mentioning that make Adagio Violins even more complete.

While Adagio Violins doesn’t include a 2nd violins section, it does provide the option to make every patch into a 2nd violins section. With the push of a button, the tone of your patch will change to a slightly darker sound with a varied amount of processing to place it separately in the spatial panorama. This is done very well. I am always afraid of these types of “features” because I’ve seen so many libraries just add it to make the “easy way out”, but it still sounds artificial. Adagio accomplishes what I would hope for a 2nd violins section, and while a full 2nd section would have been great, I have no complaints.

You’ll also find lite versions of almost every patch in Adagio Violins. These allow you to stream more samples from disk if you prefer that instead of loading into RAM. So they are there if you need them, though Adagio Violins isn’t a tremendously demanding library by default.

adagioviolinsoutputroutingAs previously mentioned, you have three different microphone perspectives; Close, Far and Mix. Adagio Violins allows you to route each of these perspectives to different outputs if you need it. This may come in handy if you’re doing some surround, or just want to process each mic separately in your host.

In addition to the plethora of articulations and playing styles included, 8Dio have also included a small but useful collection of ensemble and solo phrases. These are merely pre-recorded runs, solo lines, special fx and other pieces in a similar style to those found in 8Dio’s other library, Studio Solo Violin(see review here on While these don’t make up a significant portion of the library, they are there in case you should need them. This is more a bonus than a selling feature though, in my opinion.

Finally, 8Dio have used the core sample set of Adagio Violins to create a series of ambiences to include in your recordings. From pads to drones, these are very creatively put together and often include external non-violin samples and effects to create some truly unique “score candy”.

The Wrap-up

8Dio Adagio Violins is something special. Is it the only violin library you’ll ever need? No, I wouldn’t say that. But it can very well fit at the forefront of your string arrangements and orchestral scores. Whether you write for Hollywood videos or video games, there is so much content here that Adagio needs to be on your hard drive.

It’s not the end-all, be-all of string libraries, and it’s not without it’s faults. But it’s amazing how much 8Dio has put together in this one library. And not only that, they did what many library developers fail to do, and they have created a different way of working. One that makes sense, indeed. The money you pay for Adagio Violins is very much worth the returns you’ll get.

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Jeffrey Tacketts <![CDATA[Independent Recording Studio Do’s And Don’ts]]> 2013-05-21T05:07:00Z 2013-05-21T04:58:17Z Studio business is made or killed in first impressions. Even the first few seconds of a phone call can mean the difference between a busy session, or a weekend watching re-runs. I hope to shed some light on a few things you can do to keep the potential client interested in visiting, and eventually booking time.

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(Editor’s Note: This is a repost of an article from our previous web server on running an independent recording studio. It has been re-edited and added back as it’s contents are still very relevant.)

Your recording studio business is made or killed in first impressions. Even the first few seconds of a phone call can mean the difference between a busy session, or a weekend watching re-runs. I hope to shed some light on a few things you can do to keep the potential client interested in visiting, and eventually booking time.

Most large studios have the advantage in the booking game. Reputation, equipment, and marketing are all on their side. However, pricing is to your advantage. You can overcome these handicaps, beat their price, and compete in the small studio world. Just use your head and stay on your toes!

Your Recording Studio- Be Prepared

We are going to look at a few things that will help book your studio and build a client base. I assume you’ve done all the preparation needed to actually get the phone call. Do you have a website, MySpace, Facebook? Have you visited clubs, printed business cards, placed local advertising, etc? You haven’t done these things? Then get on it. If no one knows who you are, they aren’t going to come looking for you.

First Contact

Make sure you have a professional sounding phone system. I don’t mean to run out and buy a $50,000 phone routing system. You need to have one information number. The voice mail should be set up with your studio name and a timeline for the return call. Don’t put your latest beat or a downloaded song as your greeting. Make it short, sweet, and to the point. This will also help future follow up return calls. Nothing will turn someone off quicker than a five-minute wait before the message.

It doesn’t really matter if it’s a cell phone or a land-line. Make sure that if you can’t take the initial call, you will be getting right back to the caller. Remember that your new client is probably calling around to other studios for pricing and/or a tour of the facility. The first one to answer is usually the winner.

Sell Yourself

Call back quickly and have all your information ready for any questions. A calendar, equipment list, rate schedule, and reference numbers should all be at hand. Be ready for any questions. If you have to call back a second time with more information, you will lose that client to someone who’s ready with an answer. Often, the potential client doesn’t know what to ask. So make notes on what you want to say about your studio. You don’t want it to be scripted, but if you have an idea about what your studio is all about, that helps break the ice.

independent_studio_tips_3 Many years ago I opened my first studio. I was a fan of Cakewalk, then moved on to Sonar. Clients who didn’t know anything about recording knew the term “Pro Tools”. So the first question would be, “Do you have Pro Tools?” I would say no and the next thing I heard from the call was a dial tone. Be ready for those kinds of questions and have a quick answer.

Don’t assume your client knows about gear or what’s the latest in audio. They are often reacting to marketing. A question like, “I heard that XYZ makes a great mic”, for instance. Your answer might be, “Yes, that is a good mic. But I have an ABC mic and it sounds very similar to the XYZ. You should come try it out and hear how amazing the voice sounds on this thing.”

Face to Face

It’s time for the in-person visit. Set a time for your potential client to talk about their project. But keep a few things in mind. Arrive for the appointment early. Nothing turns a person off more than having to wait for someone. Even if they are on musician’s time, it shows a lack of respect and may give the impression that you don’t care. Additionally, if you show up right on time or a little late, it sends the signal that you are not very busy. Therefore you must not be very good.

Arrive early and do a little housekeeping. Make sure things are put away, cords are wrapped and hung, the fridge is stocked, and amps and guitars are against the wall or displayed in an orderly way. Your new client is probably going to make their decision in that first minute or two, so don’t give them any trivial excuse to move on to the next studio.


Greet your visitor at the door with a handshake. This isn’t the time to get fancy about your high fives and back slaps. Just a regular handshake and simple greeting will suffice. Call them by name often during these first few minutes so they have the feeling that you are on top of things. Be ready to give your undivided attention. Speaking of undivided attention, don’t answer cell calls or get caught up in something else during this meeting. Your visitor is surveying your studio and your personality. Don’t give them any negative impressions.

The Studio

Talk about your studio with pride. Don’t point out any problems or work- a-rounds. People tend to believe you when you say something is broken. Don’t focus on the negative. Walk them around the studio. Spend a little time in each part and initially keep them moving. You want them to soak in your vibe, so show your place off.


Never, ever talk bad about other studios. That’s bad karma, and it shows that you’re insecure. Know your competition. Make your client aware of that knowledge. Even if the other studios talk bad about you, your positive attitude shows your visitor that you are honest and confident.

After the greetings, tour, and small talk, you will now get down to the nitty-gritty. Be prepared to play something that is in or close to the genre of music that the client is going to record. Play mixes that are up to snuff and not some hack job. Make sure your monitors, board, and connections are good. This is not the time for studio maintenance. If you don’t have any genre specific recording, then play the best mix you have. Keep reminding the client during this process that you can do anything, and whatever they ask for is possible.

Negotiate the Price

There is an old saying in business that goes something like this; whomever says the first price loses. Hopefully you’ve given your standard pricing in the phone contact, but everything is negotiable. This is where the real art of the deal comes in. Ask for a budget and the amount of time that they have for the project. Give them an idea of how much you expect per hour and try to work with them.

Let’s say they have $500 for the project and they want to do 15 songs. Explain to them you can do that if they want, but it will be hurried and something might suffer (like the mix). Don’t be negative. Let them know the process and how long things take. Many new artists think that if a song takes 5 minutes, then the recording process must be about 5 minutes.

Go through the process and tell them how it works. Not in an “are you crazy?” sort of way, but as a teaching moment. If they still don’t understand, tell them to break it down to 2 or 3 songs and budget accordingly, then see how it goes. This helps establish trust in the relationship.

Before the Booking

At this point you are talking about booking and negotiating the price, so you’ve got your client booked! Discuss all the details with the artist. Either meet in person, or talk on the phone before the session. Make sure there are no surprises. This is pre-production and is the most ignored, yet important step of recording. Do you think they sound like the Carpenters, but they think they are the next Jay-Z? Get that clear before you start.

Ask lots of questions. Are they bringing files to use as a base? What format? Do they understand that you can’t alter individual instruments in bounced stereo Reason files? Who is the Producer? Who makes final decisions? How many people in the band? Are they bringing in a Djembe? Is someone coming to video record? How many family members, dogs and cats, boyfriends, girlfriends, and other characters are coming? What about food? Are they buying? Do they know you need a break every now and then to eat or clear your head? Do they know they have to pay for you to set up mics, or are you going to throw that in?

You should also have some sort of legal document ready and agreed to before the session that states non-refundable deposits, breakage of equipment, and liabilities should someone have an accident. What is your studio policy on smoking, drinking, and illegal substance abuses? If any of these things are violated or come up during the session, it’s your job to keep everyone calm. Nothing destroys a session or a future business relationship quicker that a session meltdown.

I hope this helps some of you new studio owners out there. Maybe this is also a reminder for some of you veterans as well. Owning a studio and making a living at it is tough, but it can be done. Always remember that it is a business, and even though it’s in a creative field, you still have to follow certain time proven rules.  Now go record.

Jeffrey Tackett

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Kim Lajoie <![CDATA[Pan Law Of The Land]]> 2013-05-20T05:36:26Z 2013-05-20T04:57:47Z Most people have heard of the term "pan law", but many people don't fully understand what it is or why it matters to them. But it's an important thing to understand while mixing in a stereo space. So we're here to define pan law in detail.

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(Editor’s Note: This article on pan law is a repost of an article originally posted on our old server. Please be aware that in some cases, these reposts may present information which may be out of date, but the bulk is still completely relevant.)

Most people have heard of the term “pan law”, but many people don’t fully understand what it is or why it matters to them. So we’re here to define pan law in detail.

Pan law determines what happens when a mono channel is routed to a stereo bus (either a group or the “master” 2-bus). The designator (0dB, -3dB, -6dB, etc) describes how much the audio is attenuated (made quieter) when it’s panned to the centre.

More specifically, it determines what happens when mono channels are not panned hard-left or hard-right (that is, they’re panned somewhere in the middle). In (almost[1]) all cases, a mono channel panned hard-left or hard-right will come through to (one side of) the stereo bus at exactly the same level as it is on the channel.

0dB Pan Law

0dB pan law is probably the easiest to understand. With this pan law, mono channels that are panned centre are not attenuated at all. Audio that’s at full scale digital (0dBFS – very loud!) would appear at the stereo bus at the same level – full scale 0dBFS – on both the left and the right side of the bus. Another way to think about this is to imagine panning a mono channel from hard-left to hard-right. When it’s panned hard-left, the left side of the stereo bus is showing the same level as the mono channel. As you pan towards centre, the right side of the stereo bus starts to raise in level, but the left side doesn’t lower. At centre, both sides of the stereo bus are at the same level as the mono channel. As you then pan towards the right, the left side of the stereo bus lowers in level. But the right side stays at the same level.

The advantage to using this pan law is that mono channels are as loud as stereo channels (stereo channels are just two mono channels panned hard-left and hard-right). This is because the mono channel “fills up” the stereo bus as if it’s a stereo channel. This could be useful if you regularly work with a mix of stereo and mono channels and don’t do much panning. It might also be worthwhile if you regularly use mono channels for foreground instruments (such as lead vocals or kick drum) because with 0dB pan law, mono channels are actually louder when panned centre than when they’re panned to the side. This is because mono channels panned centre are sent to both speakers at full level.

The disadvantage with 0dB pan law is that mono channels are much louder when panned centre than when panned to the side. This can make pan automation sound strange. It might also be a problem if you mostly mix with instruments panned center (as I do), leaving the panning to the later stages of the mix. With 0dB pan law, audio will actually get quieter if you pan it away from centre, which can unbalance the mix because those instruments are pushed further to the background. Of course, you’d compensate for this by adjusting the fader at the same time, but it’s more work.

Another disadvantage to 0dB pan law is that if you control the width of a stereo channel by adjusting the pans of the left and right sides, you’ll find that the audio gets louder as you collapse it to mono. This is because each side gets added to the other side, but the level is not automatically reduced to compensate. In most cases this sounds “wrong”.

0dB pan law is probably useful for modern electronic or pop music, where powerful foreground synths are in stereo but highly correlated (mostly mono anyway), and there’s a strong emphasis on the foreground sounds that are panned centre.

-6dB Pan Law

By contrast, -6dB pan law attenuates the mono channel by 6dB when it’s panned mono. If you pan a mono channel from hard-left to hard-right, it’ll start at full level at hard-left. As soon as you start moving it to the right, however, the left side of the stereo bus starts lowering in level at the same time that the right side of the stereo bus is increasing in level. At centre, the audio is coming through both sides of the stereo bus, but at half the level. As you then move the audio to the right, the left side of the stereo bus continues lowering in level and the right side continues rising in level. When the channel is finally panned hard-right, the signal coming through the right side of the stereo bus is at the same level as it is on the channel.

The advantage to using this pan law is that mono channels stay the same level wherever they’re panned. This should make pan automation sound more natural, and make it easier to pan mono channels late in the mix without changing the balance much. The other advantage is that stereo channels in which the main component of the sound is equal on both sides (i.e. mono) can have their width adjusted by panning each side without the apparent level changing.

The disadvantage is that in a full mix it can make a mono channel actually sound weaker in the centre and louder at the sides. This is because most mixes are more dense in the centre than at the sides. So even at the same level, a mono channel can get a bit lost, or “masked” in the center, but come through clearly at the side. This is the exact opposite behavior to 0dB pan law, where mono channels in a mix are louder in the centre but can get lost at the sides. Also worth considering is that with -6dB pan law, stereo channels can actually sound up to 6dB louder[2] than mono channels at the same fader setting.

Another disadvantage relates to stereo channels that are loosely correlated (true stereo). These are stereo channels where each side is similar, but slightly different (for example, ambience effects or wide stereo synths). If you try to adjust their width by panning each side using -6dB pan law, they may actually get quieter. This is because each side is not exactly the same, and thus they won’t exactly reinforce each other to make up for the 6dB gain reduction. This is also what happens when you use a separate plugin to collapse the stereo field to mono. Most such plugins use a -6dB pan law and thus the sound itself gets smaller.

-6dB pan law is probably useful for more ambient or acoustic music where there’s more emphasis on background textures (and stereo space), and foreground sounds don’t dominate the mix.

-3dB Pan Law

-3dB pan law is a compromise between 0dB and -6dB pan laws. Mono channels are attenuated when panned centre, but not as much as with -6dB pan law. When listened to in solo, there’s still a slight increase in level as the channel is panned towards the centre. When panning in a mix, however, the level remains mostly even and the mix retains its balance better. Fully correlated stereo channels (where both sides are exactly the same – effectively mono) will become slightly louder when collapsed to mono using pan controls for each side. But loosely correlated stereo channels (where each side is slightly different – true stereo) will remain about the same level no matter how each side is panned.

-3dB is probably your best choice if either 0dB or -6dB pan laws don’t feel right to you, or you find yourself regularly working in a variety of different styles and genres.

Why It Doesn’t Matter… Much

Mixers are complex, but so are mixes. When you’re actually working on a mix, you’re adjusting faders as well as pans anyway. Using a pan law that works for you merely reduces some of the work in adjusting the volume as you place a sound in the stereo space. Additionally, each mix is different. The way audio signals combine to reinforce and mask each other is subtle and complex. Regardless of which pan law you use, you have to use your ears to determine if you need to adjust the fader to compensate for any actual or perceived volume change.

Other Weird Pan Laws

0dB, -3dB, and -6dB are the basics. But some other digital mixers have other options. -2.5dB, -4.5dB, -3dB compensated, constant power, log/sin taper, and others are some examples of pan laws on offer in some mixers and DAWs. You’ll have to check the manual or other documentation to find out how these differ from the usual pan laws.

Armed with this article, you should be able to make sense of it all and choose the best option for you!

[1] I’m not a Logic user, but apparently the “3dB compensated” pan law in Logic boosts hard-panned mono channels by 3dB. Look out!

[2] Depending on correlation. A stereo channel will sound 6dB louder than a mono channel with -6dB pan law if both sides of the stereo channel are exactly the same (they’re fully correlated). If each side is slightly different (that is, the stereo channel is loosely correlated), then it will sound slightly less than 6dB louder than the mono channel.

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riprowan <![CDATA[Over The Limit- Classic ProRec Article On The Loudness War]]> 2013-05-20T05:57:39Z 2013-05-14T05:54:14Z "Over The Limit" is probably the most popular article in ProRec history. Used in everything from audio school curriculums to being republished by, this is THE seminal article blasting the modern mastering industry for singlehandly destroying a generation of great music.

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(Editor’s Note: This is a repost of a classic ProRec article. This article has been referred to as THE article on defining the loudness war. Please be aware that in some cases, these reposts may present information which may be out of date, but the bulk is still completely relevant.)

I’m a big Rush fan.

Yeah, I know. Me and 50 million other drummers.

I’ve been listening to this band since they showed up on my radar in the late 1970s, and have always followed their tours and new albums. I admit that I fall into the camp of wistful fans who yearn for a return to the art-rock glory days of the band (which pretty much makes me an old burnout) but I still like to hear the new stuff and see what these dudes are up to. And, Rush’s return to a more guitar-oriented (and acoustic-drum-oriented) sound has reignited some of my interest in their performances. Rock music is all about the guitar, and few people are as interesting to listen to as Alex Lifeson. And don’t even get me started about Neil Peart.

The other interest I have in this band is that they have always been at or near the forefront of recording technology. They were one of the first bands to jump into digital recording, where they definitely learned some tough lessons, but the engineering work done on their CDs has usually been top-notch. I can almost always learn something about engineering from listening to the production of a Rush CD.

So you can guess that it was with much anticipation that I awaited my first real listen to the band’s newest CD, “Vapor Trails”. Reviews heralded this album as one of the hardest-rocking Rush albums in some time, with a strong focus on guitars, powerful drumming, excellent bass work, and some of the best songwriting to come from the band in years. And, in listening to the CD, I found all of these things to be true. This is easily my favorite collection of Rush songs in years, maybe decades. It’s incredible work and I earnestly hope it reflects a new and sustainable direction for this great band.

However there was one fact that the reviewers had all left out: this CD sounds like dogshit.

Perhaps you think I’m being a little strong. I think not. This is without prefix or suffix the worst sounding Rush CD ever made. In fact it is so bad that I cannot listen to more than a few songs before I just have to turn it off.

What’s the cause of this sonic catastrophe? There’s no secret here: loudness. Vapor Trails is just the latest CD to fall victim to the current craze of LOUDER IS BETTER production. Rush is not alone. Most of the current crop of rock CDs have been punished by the LOUDER IS BETTER process, and I know I am not alone when I say, once and for all, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

Where the damage was done on the Vapor Trails CD is impossible to say for sure. Usually, LOUDER IS BETTER is inflicted by the mastering engineer. It is relatively evident from an investigation of the audio on Vapor Trails that the problems arose in mixing or mastering, not in tracking. However the audio on this disk is so bad that had I been the record label, I would have sued the responsible party for malpractice. Unfortunately, I know all too well that the record label is almost certainly the culprit in this crime, and the band and its fans the victims.

The Label is the Culprit

Record labels have never really understood what makes a record “sound good” and frankly, few even care. Many of the people who sign artists don’t understand their music at all. Instead, they are able to pick up on musical trends, and replicate those trends across the ranks of their artists. Artists that fit into the trend are fed, the rest are starved.

Over the past few years, record labels have increasingly attempted to dictate to the artist and producer the target volume level of the CD. For some reason, record labels have it in their head that “LOUD” equals good, and therefore, “LOUDER” equals better. Not caring to understand even the basics of audio, these morons simply demand more volume (typically from the mastering engineer) and really don’t understand – or care – about the consequences of their demands.

Mastering engineers are caught in a Catch-22. If they do not deliver a product that is appropriately LOUD, then they are consdered inept by the labels and are shunned. If they refuse to destroy the artist’s music, then they aren’t being “team players” and quickly fall out of favor. But if they provide what the customer demands (and remember, the label, not the band, is the customer) then they ruin a perfectly good piece of music, and they know that sooner or later, people are going to figure out why the sound is so horrible, and then the mastering engineer will be blacklisted for having followed orders.

Having said all that I really don’t know what I would do in their shoes. If someone offered YOU the opportunity to master a Rush CD, and then told you that you would have to destroy the sound quality in order to get the job, how would you respond? It isn’t a clear or easy choice.

However what is clear as day is that this CD sounds like dogshit. I cannot say this enough. My God, this thing sounds terrible. It is hands-down the worst sounding CD I own.

Perhaps a brief education about the history of the problem is in order.

A Little History Lesson

Everyone has heard the CD That Is Too Quiet. This is usually your (or your buddy’s) first demo. You pop it in and you can barely hear the music. There are many reasons for the CD That Is Too Quiet, and it isn’t my intention here to go into them all. But we’ve all heard (or made) the CD That Is Too Quiet and regretted it.

Professional engineers, particularly the ones working with digital in the early days of that medium, made some CDs That Were Too Quiet. Usually, these guys had lots of skill and great intent. You get the whole CD laid out in the DAW, and you’ve been careful with your gain structure, and there’s lots of headroom. In one or two places, there’s a freak transient that comes close to 0 dB, but overall the peaks are hitting near –9 or lower, and there’s tons of dynamic range. In general these professional CDs sound pretty good – sometimes excellent – but the average level of the audio is relatively low.

Most older recordings tracked and mixed to analog didn’t suffer these problems. The reason was that traditionally engineers would saturate the analog tape by running it hot, essentally using the tape as a peak limiter at every stage of the process. As a result there are usually no errant peaks in an analog rock recording, and for this reason most rock records are still recorded to analog tape.

The problem with the CD That Is Too Quiet is this: when you put the CD into the CD changer, it’s YOUR music that nobody hears. Well, folks, if you’re a record label exec, that’s the ONE problem that you know just cannot be allowed to stand. Quiet CDs became synonymous with Amateur Recordings, and Loud CDs became synonymous with Professional Recordings.

Understandably, nobody wants to have the quietest CD in the CD changer. Nobody wants to have the one CD that doesn’t get heard. The problem with the LOUDER IS BETTER approach is simply that with any medium – digital or analog – there is only so much signal that will fit in the space provided. Beyond a point, you cannot gain anything without losing something.

Why Be Normal?

The idea behind peak limiting of digital audio started simply enough. Before people got the idea to use a peak limiter on their digital audio, the process of normalizing was used. Normalizing is a strange word that simply means “increase the volume of the signal by whatever amount is needed to bring the highest peak up to 0 dB, full-scale. Normalizing audio during a CD transfer is simply an easy way to get the audio as loud as it can be without changing the dynamics whatsoever. From an audiophile point of view it is the proper technique to get the hottest signal on CD with no distortion of the signal at all.

However, as we’ve discussed, if you have just one transient that jumps out of the signal, then you really can’t get much extra volume out of the signal. Here’s where limiting comes into play: if we just tame the small number of peaks that are eating up the dynamic range of the signal, then we can get the entire signal hotter. Used properly, this results in an imperceptible change to a small number of peaks in the signal and the whole signal can be made louder, sometimes considerably so. This approach achieves the maximum volume while still preserving virtually all of the original signal.

People discovered that with modern limiter technology, you could pretty much ride ALL of the peaks, and squeeze another few dB of gain out of the signal. This approach definitely changes the sonics of the signal because the peaks are being limited throughout the song. However, depending on the source material and your personal taste, this approach to limiting can sound pretty good as long as it is kept in the range of reasonableness. A lot of CDs have been mastered using this approach to limiting, and most of them still sound pretty good.

However, the latest trend is LOUDER IS BETTER. This approach basically ignores any distortion caused by limiting and seeks to make the audio as loud as possible. The idea is to peg the meters and keep them pegged. As a result the signal is just ruined.


I bet you couldn’t even finish reading that paragraph. Get the idea? If louder was really better, then all print media would be printed like the above paragraph.

Editor’s note: immediately after printing this article, Senior Editor Bill Park mentioned in a Discussion Forum thread(no longer available) that one point that had not been made in this article was the psychological effect of LOUDER IS BETTER on the listener – that people tend to either turn the music off, tune the music out, or get away from it. Of course, that is precisely the point of the paragraph above in all caps. Bill had actually fallen victim to the point he was trying to make – the all-caps paragraph was so overwhelming to his brain that he either couldn’t stand to read the whole thing, or his brain failed to process the message. The irony of this is just amazing, and clearly proves the point that Bill was trying to make: LOUDER IS BETTER means that people actually fail to even hear the music.

Case Study

I went back through some of my collection of Rush CDs to see if my theories held true. What I found was pretty shocking, but not surprising. It turns out that Rush is just a microcosm of what has been going on in music for the last five or so years.

Here is a side-by-side picture showing a sample of audio from five different Rush CDs. On the top is the latest CD, Vapor Trails (2002). Below that, going back a few years, is a sample from the Counterparts CD (1993). Going back a year is a sample from the Roll The Bones CD (1992). Next is 1985’s Power Windows, the first Rush CD to be recorded entirely digitally. On the bottom is a sample from the Grace Under Pressure CD (1984) which immediately preceded Power Windows and was recorded to analog.


A numerical analysis of these tracks offers more insight into the same information: a 10-second representative sample was used from each CD in computing these statistics.



# Clipped Samples

RMS (average) Power

Vapor Trails

0 dBFS
-9.5 dB


0 dBFS
-14 dB

Roll the Bones

0 dBFS
-17 dB

Power Windows

-.3 dBFS
-18.5 dB

Grace Under Pressure

-.3 dBFS
-18.5 dB

Power Windows and Grace Under Pressure are classic examples of the Normalization approach to CD transfer (note: I have no earthly idea how any of the CDs were actually mastered, but they still serve as excellent examples of the various approaches to mastering I will discuss). Both Power Windows and Grace Under Pressure show no signs of brickwall peak limiting. Most of the peaks fall well below 0 dBFS, but each one had one peak that hit -.3 dBFS. In the mid-eighties, -.3 dBFS was considered the loudest signal that was safe to put on a CD, since some CD players at the time would treat a 0 dBFS sample as an error. It seems apparent that these two CDs were normalized immediately before transfer to CD master and were not processed with a brickwall limiter.

Roll the Bones shows some signs of peak limiting, but the limiting was a very safe approach. Most of the peaks are just a little below 0 dBFS, but several of them do hit 0 dBFS. However, investigating those samples shows that most of the transient is preserved, leading me to believe that the limiter was used primarily as a safety device, rather than with a deliberate attempt to knock the peaks off of the transients. A little gain was achieved vis-a-vis the older songs: the Roll the Bones sample is 1.5 dB louder than the samples from Power Windows and Grace Under Pressure.

Counterparts is indicitive of an aggressive approach to limiting that still seeks to preserve as much fidelity as possible in the signal. Here it is pretty clear that the limiter was used to shave off a few dB from most of the peaks. Although the analysis software reported that the Counterparts sample and the Roll the Bones sample both had 5 “clipped” samples, investigation of the peaks shows a more consistently limited signal on the Counterparts CD. Not surprisingly, this CD is noticeably louder than the older three samples used in this test. Counterparts is 3 dB louder than Roll the Bones and 4.5 dB louder than Power Windows and Grace Under Pressure. As you probably know, that means that you will perceive Counterparts to be twice as loud as those older CDs. And, while the trained ear will recognize the sound of Counterparts as having been processed with a limiter, the sound is still relatively open and more-or-less unmolested. Audiophiles will probably disagree with me here, but in the world of rock music, a little bit of peak limiting doesn’t necessarily ruin the sound.

But what is going on with Vapor Trails? The numbers quickly report the truth we were hearing with our ears. The average volume is a whopping 4.5 dB louder than Counterparts. But where Counterparts was able to achieve a 4.5 dB volume boost with almost no increase in audible distortion, in the Vapor Trails sample almost every peak is clipped, many of them severely so. And, as we shall see, the limiting is so severe that the songs have no punch, and just slam out of the speakers like a loud blast of white noise.

What Price Volume?

Have a look at this and tell me what you see:

One of thousands of ruined kick drum transients from the Vapor Trails CD

What you are looking at is a serious square wave. Note in the top swing of the clipped wave how the high-frequency harmonics have had all of their peaks shaved off? This is why clipping sounds harsh. Now note how in the lower portion of that wave the bottom is just perfectly squared off? That’s a pulse of white noise. Now note how all of the peaks in this signal are all hitting the top of the scale? This is why the CD has no punch. A powerful blast of the kick drum should be louder than the rest of the signal and should have a sharp transient on the front of the wave. In the case of this song, however, it just produces a quick blast of distortion and a dull thudding sensation.


If there was one or two places on the CD that had been tortured like this, it would be one thing. But that’s not the case. Every peak on the whole album is wrecked. In fact I didn’t have to try to find an ugly picture to illustrate the damage: the question was “which one do I choose?”

You’re probably thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding!” But I’m not. These are just a few of the thousands of examples of the trashed audio on the Vapor Trails CD.

Now, anybody with any experience in audio should be able to look at these examples and immediately know, “That won’t sound good.” And, it doesn’t. So the question is, why is this CD wrecked, and by whom?

Notice how, when the signal clips, the whole signal is being destroyed? If this had been caused by an error during tracking (say, the kick drum track was too hot) then there would still be detail left in the signal. Therefore, we know this distortion was caused either during mixdown or during mastering. I’d be willing to bet that it was caused during the mastering process. At least I hope it was during the mastering process. At least that way there’s some chance that one day I’ll be able to buy a remastered copy of Vapor Trails that’s worth listening to.

But before you think I’m accusing the mastering engineer of incompetence, remember my earlier discussion. I doubt very seriously if any engineer actually wanted to do this to the music. No, only the decision of a record label executive could destroy music like this.

What a shame. What a crying shame.


I can sit here and rant all day long. The real question is: what can be done about it?

The good news is that LOUDER IS BETTER is definitely a self-correcting problem. Because this stuff just plain sounds bad, and sooner or later (hopefully sooner) people are going to realize that the music doesn’t “rock more” or “cut through better” but that it’s just plain annoying.

Because the simple truth is that audio such as this does NOT cut through better. In fact, in all probability this song will be QUIETER on the radio than, say, Roll the Bones! How, you may ask, could this be possible?

The answer lies in the simple fact that the radio station uses compressors and limiters as well. The station’s signal processors are also designed to get the hottest signal on the air. As such, they expect a certain amount of peaks in the signal. A broadcast processor that can’t “see” any peaks is simply going to clamp down on the whole signal. In the end, the song is no louder (and maybe quieter) than other, more dynamic material – AND it is further penalized because it has no punch and is very harsh.

So to you record executives who think you have identified the magic way to ensure that your song is louder on the radio, think again. It just isn’t so.

And as far as being the loudest CD in the CD changer, has it ever occurred to anyone just exactly how annoying that is? Let me tell you, you won’t catch me loading Vapor Trails into MY changer with a bunch of older Rush CDs. It sticks out like a sore, bleeding thumb.

As I have said before, Rush is not the only band to fall victim to LOUDER IS BETTER. As a matter of fact I have had some of the CDs which I have engineered fall victim to LOUDER IS BETTER. I don’t mean to pick on Rush, one of my favorite bands of all time. However, let’s look at some facts.

More than most other bands, Rush has proved itself capable of consistently delivering music that pleases the fans. Rush’s success has not come through a string of chart-topping hits, clever marketing, or sex appeal. Rush’s success comes from its close alliance with its fans.

I wonder what would happen if Rush fans complained about the sound of this record? To my mind, the only thing that the record company mooks will pay attention to is audience disapproval. So I encourage you to write to your favorite bands and tell them that you will quit buying their CDs if they insist on trying to make them the loudest CDs you own.

Oh, and when you write them, WRITE IN ALL CAPS.

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brandall <![CDATA[Freebie Frenzy- Ample Guitar M Lite]]> 2013-05-18T05:16:02Z 2013-05-11T05:35:36Z The guys at Ample Sound have created several plugins over the past year designed to give you realistic acoustic and electric guitar sounds. And if you've been looking to get your hands on the libraries to test, you're in luck. They announced today the first FREE version of one of their libraries, the Ample Guitar M Lite.

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The guys at Ample Sound have created several plugins over the past year designed to give you realistic acoustic and electric guitar sounds(one of which we’ll be reviewing very soon). And if you’ve been looking to get your hands on the libraries to test, you’re in luck. They announced today the first FREE version of one of their libraries, the Ample Guitar M Lite.

The AGML is based on the full sample set and plugin from the Ample Guitar M, which uses samples of a well known Martin guitar.Here’s a video of the FULL product in action:

The lite version specs are as follows:

Size: 682 MB
Samples: 668 samples
Sample Rate: 16bit 44.1khz
Fret Limit: 0 – 4th fret
Playing Style(sample bank): Finger
Sample Cycle: Maximum 2
Techniques Sustain: Sustain, Hammer On & Pull Off, Palm Mute, Popping 5 techniques
Sound Mode: 1 Stereo
Customized chord: 6
Strummer Humanization: 1
Strummer SEQ: 4
FXs: Reverb, Stereo Delay 2 FXs

You can read more and download here:


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