Solid State Logic X-Gate: creative sound design and audio restoration

Image Credit: Solid State Logic

SSL X-Gate features SSL’s renowned advanced workflow; suited to musicians, mix engineers and content creators.

SSL X-Gate features a rolling waveform graph for visual analysis. The inclusion of mid/side will allow for creative stereo field gating, in addition a fixed expander mode, and built-in ducking.

With its multitude of features, X-Gate is set to be a tool for creative sound design, in addition to audio restoration and mixing.


SSL X-Gate

The rolling waveform visualisation graph empowers you to set the right threshold for your audio. Furthermore, the threshold and range controls are visually aligned with the waveform graph and the gain reduction meter for “coordinated control”.

X-Gate makes use of a “traffic light system” that informs you of the momentary open, closed, and hold states of the gate.

Moreover, you can trigger the gate more creatively with MID/SIDE processing options and specify whether the plugin should gate the mono or stereo elements of your signal.

Fast, snappy and precise, X-Gate is guaranteed to be your new workhorse plug-in for shaping drums and other instruments, adding punch to your mixes, and transparently fixing ghost notes, noise or room bleed

Jonathan Sandman, Plug-ins Product Manager at SSL

Traditional attack, release and hold parameters give you control over the final shape of your output too. And you can use the expander mode and knee control to expand the dynamic range of your signal.

More advanced options include the lookahead feature which enables the plugin to anticipate fluctuations in your signal. Additionally, duck mode only attenuates the signal when it breaches your threshold.

Finally, you can audition the sidechain and gate functions for A/B testing.


Price and compatibility

You can get SSL X-Gate now in VST2, VST3, AAX and AU plugin formats. It’s available for just $89 until July 28th, whereafter it’ll be $129. Apple M1 processor compatible is available too.

However, you can get X-Gate and a lot more from Solid State Logic in SSL’s Complete plugin subscription service for $14.99 a month.


Ready for your music to be heard? RouteNote will distribute your music to every major streaming and download store such as Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music and YouTube for free while you keep 85% of all revenues.

NuraTrue Pro: an unrivalled audio experience

Image Credit: MusicTech

NuraTrue Pro are the first pair of lossless and spatial audio pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones.

Nura has announced the NuraTrue Pro – the first pair of lossless and spatial audio pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones, reports MusicTech.

These wireless earbuds are the follow-up to the NuraTrue earbuds, and they deliver CD-quality lossless audio with spatial processing and adaptive noise cancellation. All of this is possible with Qualcomm’s new aptX lossless audio technology – a chip which enables the transmission bandwidth needed for uncompressed 16-bit 44.1kHz audio.

Before now, high quality lossless audio demanded high-end hardware, often professional studio gear. But Qualcomm’s Snapdragon mobile platform is here to change that.


NuraTrue Pro wireless Bluetooth earbuds

In its existing products, Nura provides lossless audio in addition to its patented Personalized Sound technology. This tech personalises your listening experience by measuring your hearing to establish EQ settings right for you.

But combining both of these technologies will give you an “unrivalled audio experience”, states Nura.

Furthermore, Sweden-based company Dirac has provided a spatial audio mode that makes for an immersive sound experience that was only before available on wired, over-ear headphones.

Now, in spatial audio mode, you can expect an “expanded soundscape”.

As for noise cancelling, the NuraTrue Pro takes it one step further and includes adaptive noise cancellation technology. As a result, your NuraTrue Pro earbuds will adjust the level of noise-cancelling based on the earbud positions via its three built-in noise-sensing microphones.

And finally, Nura’s new ProEQ technology allows you to use the accompanying mobile app – for both iOS and Android – and apply fine tweaks to the headphones’ EQ settings.

NuraTrue Pro will cost $329 upon release. But if you pre-order the new buds on Kickstarter, you can secure the headphones for an “early bird discount” of $199. Pre-order via Kickstarter below.

New Spotify upcoming concerts feed is a super-easy way to find nearby shows

Image Credit: Spotify

How can I find a Spotify concert near me? Spotify has updated the Concert Hub and renamed it Live Events Feed. Check it out here.

On Spotify, tours, concerts and festivals featuring your favourite artists can now be found easily on a new Live Events Feed. Shows are in a scrollable list based on your location and listening history.

According to Spotify, most of the world’s music concerts are listed on the app. The update has a new design that puts artists centre-stage, with a sleeker design featuring more imagery and more information for the user.

If a Spotify user is listening to an artist who has an upcoming gig, the tour date will appear in the app next to the artist as the song plays. The redesign keeps users on the Spotify app rather than heading elsewhere to find out about tour dates or learn more about the artist.

Sam Sheridan, Product Manager for Live Events Discovery at Spotify, said: “Fans engage with artists on-platform, but then they leave to search for listings online or to even follow artists on social media for the sole purpose of staying on top of their events. We think the Live Events Feed is an opportunity to help close this loop.”

Spotify says the changes are based on two years of learning from the behaviour of fans and studying the music industry as a whole. With live events back in full swing two years into the pandemic, the redesign is timely.


How to check concerts on Spotify

To see concerts near you on Spotify, search for “live events” in the search bar on the app. Alternatively, shows will appear displayed in a carousel on the Spotify mobile app homepage.

Tap on Live Events (Genre & Moods) to find a list of concerts based on your listening habits.

Your location will be automatically selected at the top of the page and the shows displayed will be taking place close to you.

You can change the location to find shows in other regions.

Keep scrolling to find shows “Popular Near You,” which aren’t based on your previously listened-to artists or genres.

Tapping on an event takes you to the concert page, showing exactly when and where the artist is playing, as well as other artists on the line up.

Hit the link to buy tickets. Partners include Ticketmaster, Eventbrite, DICE, See Tickets, and AXS.

There’s also a Recommended For You section, showing other concerts you might be interested in, and a link to listen to the artist’s catalogue.

A share icon generates a card that you can instantly post on social media like Instagram to boast that you’re going, or send via WhatsApp to convince your friends to come along too!


Did you know you can release your music on Spotify for free with RouteNote? You can get your tracks on all the major streaming platforms and stores, and keep all the rights to your music. Sign up today here.

SMACK 2: design unique percussion with unrivalled detail

Image Credit: Big Fish Audio

“The next generation of body percussion” has arrived. SMACK 2 is the highly anticipated sequel to the percussion plugin SMACK.

SMACK is a body percussion plugin where you can design your own percussion sounds with impressive precision. Now, SMACK 2 is here to add to the reputation of the original plugin with ever more epicness.


SMACK 2 Claps, Snaps & Stomps

SMACK 2: Claps, Snaps & Stomps is a sample set of body percussion sounds that offers an unrivalled level of detail.

“[We] set out to design and record a worthy sequel that not only captures the same magic of the first library”, state Big Fish Audio, “but also improves on it in several ways”.

As a result of this ambition, all of the body percussion sounds were recorded with three different customizable microphone positions – close, stereo, and room.

And the developer added further depth to the sample set in order to make every production as realistic as they could. To do so, they recorded every sound evenly from different positions and at several different velocity layers!

And you have total control over every sound too as you’ll have access to over seventy articulation patches. These give you immediate access to each individually recorded sample on the keyboard.

Big Fish captured every performance in small, medium, and large rooms to add more dynamics to every sound.

For further versatility, Big Fish explored a variety of new clapping techniques and stomping surfaces. “We sampled a single person stomping on a guitar case with a tambourine on top”, they say, “and also a small group stomping on plastic packing materials”.

You’ll also be able to utilise unique electronic sounds that complement the body percussion sounds too. “This patch includes electronic toms, kicks, snaps, claps, and other percussion instruments”. state Big Fish. “While these samples sound great on their own, they also blend beautifully with the acoustic samples”.


Product Features of SMACK 2

38 articulations
Recorded in 3 environments
3 mixable mic positions
43 effect presets
83 total patches
11 round robins
Up to 7 velocity layers
Over 12,000 samples
Full Komplete Kontrol & Maschine integration
Total size: 3.2GB


Komplete Kontrol and Maschine integration

Finally, Big FIsh has developed SMACK 2 for “seamless integration” with Komplete Kontrol and Maschine interfaces. This means you can get fully hands on with your sound crafting, and manipulate the plugin interface using the controls of compatible hardware.


Price and compatibility

SMACK 2 is now available for an introductory price of $79.95 until July 8th. Furthermore, SMACK 1 owners get SMACK 2 for only $69.95 through July 8th by using their original serial number as a checkout coupon. The regular price will be $99.95.

The SMACK 2 sound library requires approx 3.2GB of free hard drive space, 4GB RAM, Kontakt 6 Player (Included) or Kontakt 6 (Version 6.7.1).

The plugin is compatible with Windows 7+(32 or 64 bit) & OSX 10.13+ (64 bit).

Can I upload cover songs to Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, TIDAL, Deezer, etc.

We offer free distribution of your music to all of the world’s top stores and streaming services, and we can send your cover songs of other artists too.

At RouteNote we make it simple and free to get your music online on all the top digital stores and streaming services so people all around the world can find and hear your music. We don’t just do original music though, you can upload your covers of your favourite tracks as well.

Before you do though there’s a few things you need to be aware of to make sure that we can put up your cover songs on the world’s biggest services and you can get paid legally for every play and download.

Licenses

For releasing cover songs online you don’t need a license and can just upload it and release it. EXCEPT in a few certain territories:

  • The United States
  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Pakistan
  • India

You will need to exclude these territories to distribute your release to the rest of the world unless you have acquired a mechanical license to release a cover of the song(s) you have recorded.

However Spotify, Deezer, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Saavn, Nuuday, Anghami, Tidal, and KKBox pay for their own licenses for cover songs. This means that you can distribute your covers to these services worldwide.

It cannot use any samples from the original recording, and cannot alter the melody, lyrics or original composition.

You can acquire licenses for the US and associated territories from Affordable Song Licensing or from the Harry Fox Agency (HFA) for distribution in these territories on all services.

Formatting

When you upload your release you will need to format it slightly differently for a cover release to ensure that the original artist is credited correctly.

You must credit the original artist in the ‘C Line’ (Composition Copyright) of the album details. This will be under Album Details when uploading your release through RouteNote.

Make sure that you credit the name of the performing artist and not the composers. For example, if you were to cover Don’t Let Me Down then you would need to list ‘The Beatles’ and not name ‘John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr’.

If you have multiple covers in your release then list each artist in the ‘C Line’ one after the other, separated by commas. For example: The Beatles, Elton John, Madonna, etc.

Only mention the original artists in the ‘C Line’ section and not anywhere else in your release, including artist fields, track fields, or in the cover art.

Samples and Backing Tracks

As with all releases you cannot use any samples or backing tracks unless they are original or you have the licenses/permissions required to use it.

This means that you can’t include any samples from the original track or any other songs without the correct documented permissions or mechanical licenses

Public Domain

If a composition is in the public domain then you may not need a license to cover it.

Works remain under copyright for between 50 to 70 years – depending on the country – after the original composers death. After this period of time, works become public domain and their stores/territory restrictions will no longer apply.

Likewise if you wish to sample a sound recording that is in the public domain, you may be able to use the recording without acquiring a license.


Cover Song Distribution Q&A

What counts as a cover song? What music is in the public domain? Do I need a mechanical license? Where can I obtain a license? How do I format my metadata for distribution? You’ll need to know all of these answers before uploading your cover songs to RouteNote.

We’ll answer the most common questions related to distributing a cover song to streaming services and download stores around the world below. If you have a question we haven’t covered then leave a comment or get in touch with us at support@routenote.com where we will be happy to provide more information.

What counts as a cover?

A cover song is when an artist plays, records, or recreates the composition of another artist. For example: All Along the Watchtower is a song originally written and recorded by Bob Dylan. When Jimi Hendrix re-imagined it in his own style and recorded a new version of the track, he created a cover song.

A cover can be any song that uses any of the original songs compositional elements; chords, key, lyrics, etc.. The term includes:

  • Original instrumental versions
  • Parodies: Using an instrumental cover with your own lyrics
  • A small portion of another composition’s musical elements or lyrics
  • One cover song in an album of originals

Note that you cannot include recorded samples from the original song without permission from the rightsholder. To use a karaoke/instrumental backing track to record vocals or individual instrument parts on a cover, you would need to check the rights of the recording you’re using.

Where can I distribute my music without a license?

There are a number of stores and territories in which you will not need to acquire a mechanical license to distribute your cover songs commercially, as the licenses will be arranged by other parties.

Without spending cash on a mechanical license, you can distribute original cover songs to:

  • All stores but excluding: USA, Canada, Mexico, Pakistan, and India
  • All countries for the following services: Spotify, Deezer, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Saavn, Nuuday, Anghami, Tidal, and KKBox

To distribute to all stores and all territories you will need to obtain a mechanical license for the legal distribution rights.

For step-by-step instructions on how to distribute a release to specific countries and stores, click here.

Where can I obtain a mechanical license?

If you are not associated with someone (like a record label or publisher) who is in charge of arranging your musical copyrights, you will need to purchase a mechanical license for your cover song yourself.

In more simple circumstances, you may be able to arrange permission directly with the original rightsholder. For example, if you’re covering a song written by a friend or a smaller artist they may be able to offer their approval to you directly. Ensure any written permission includes the terms of how and where their material can be used, features a date of signature, and that it is provably from the rightsholder.

For example, you could ask for an email from the artist stating:

I give the artist ‘Your Name Here’ permission to distribute unlimited downloads and streams of their cover version of my original composition ‘Song Name. This permission extends to any digital service and in any territory.

In many cases, particularly if the original rightsholder is a popular artist and/or has a major label representing them, you will need to obtain and probably pay for a mechanical license. There are agencies you can go through to save the difficulty of trying to reach the artist/label/representative directly.

You can purchase mechanical licenses from the following sites:

You will need to provide an estimation of the copies you expect to sell and stream to select the correct pricing for your release. Bear in mind that if you exceed your listed units then you will need to arrange another license. You’ll be able to keep track of your sales and streams with in-depth reports when you distribute your music through RouteNote, thanks to our monthly reports.

The current standard royalty rate is $0.095 for a download of a track. This must be paid on top of a processing fee, which for Harry Fox is $13-15.

Unfortunately it’s not that simple for streams, as there is no fixed rate on the revenue earned by a stream. Mechanical Royalties from streaming are calculated as 11.4% to 15.1% of the gross streaming revenue of the company, minus the cost of public Performance Royalties. These rates are set by the Copyright Royalty Board and may have changed as you are reading this, as the recently launched Mechanical Licensing Collective is trying to return rates to pre-2018 times when the rate stood at 10.5%.

If you’re distributing through RouteNote, you can attach your license in an email to moderation@routenote.com so that we can approve your release and upload it to your chosen destinations.


You can upload your music for free through us at www.routenote.com to all of the top stores and streaming services.

LEWITT MTP W950: a modular microphone for live applications

Image Credit: LEWITT

The LEWITT MTP W950 modular microphone “combines studio technology with excellent feedback safety and industry-leading bleed rejection”.

The equipment to hand and the ingenuity of the sound engineers determine the quality of a live show. But imagine achieving the supreme studio clarity while performing live and giving the sound engineer total creative freedom? The new MTP W950 modular condenser microphone is here to deliver on both of those.


LEWITT MTP W950

In the past, sound engineers were tasked with bringing a show to life while being bound by the environment and equipment to hand. Now, or at least very soon, microphone manufacturer LEWITT is to provide creative freedom to engineers with their new microphone: the MTP W950.

The MTP W950 "combines studio technology with excellent feedback safety and industry-leading bleed rejection". This allows for superior vocal clarity for the artist on stage.
Image Credit: LEWITT

The MTP W950 “combines studio technology with excellent feedback safety and industry-leading bleed rejection”. This allows for superior vocal clarity for the artist on stage.

Features:

  • 1″ true condenser capsule for studio sound on stage
  • Over 90% rear rejection throughout the whole frequency range
  • Detachable capsule compatible with industry-standard wireless systems
  • Switchable polar patterns, low-cut, and attenuation
  • Immune to pop and wind noise via dual-layer design
  • Cupping-safe design to avoid tonal colouration

The biggest strengths of the MTP W950 must undoubtedly be its feedback safety and bleed rejection. By rejecting over 90% of all frequencies from any signals to the rear of the capsule, the 1″ true condenser capsule can deliver a truer sound and fewer feedback problems.

There are adjustable capsule settings which you can access by unscrewing the top part of the head cup. These settings include a PAD (-12dB), a low-cut filter (120 Hz), and a selection of polar patterns (between cardioid and super-cardioid).
Image Credit: LEWITT

However, there are adjustable capsule settings which you can access by unscrewing the top part of the head cup. These settings include a PAD (-12dB), a low-cut filter (120 Hz), and a selection of polar patterns (between cardioid and super-cardioid).

LEWITT also state that the “cupping-safe” doesn’t apply tonal colour, no matter if the performer is holding the mic head (cupping). 

And thanks to the dual-layer design, the MTP W950 reduces plosives and wind noise to “an absolute minimum” while protecting the capsule from condensation. 


Compatible with industry-standard wireless systems

In a wired setup, engineers can screw the microphone capsule onto the included handle for an XLR condenser microphone suited to smaller stages and rehearsal rooms.

"the thread and electronics are compatible with a variety of wireless transmitters". LEWITT state that these include Shure compatible systems, so engineers can choose between an array of systems and connect them to the W950 - allowing the engineer full creative control.
Image Credit: LEWITT

However, “the thread and electronics are compatible with a variety of wireless transmitters”. LEWITT state that these include Shure compatible systems, so engineers can choose between an array of systems and connect them to the W950 – allowing the engineer full creative control.

The LEWITT MTP W950 will be available in the final quarter of 2022.

How useful are the new Instagram and Facebook Reels updates for artists?

Image Credit: Instagram

Meta says new Reels updates mean making content on Instagram and Facebook is easier for creators, letting them sync Reels to music and more. How can creators like musicians best use the tools?

Changes to Reels on Facebook and Instagram are coming. With video such a huge part of social media consumption now, any tools that make creation easier are welcome for creators, including indie artists who handle their own social media promotion.

So what’s changing, and will it be useful for creators? For artists, updates to Instagram Reels and Facebook Reels offer more opportunities to get creative with promoting music content. Let’s explore.


A Facebook Reels on desktop update

Creators will be able to use desktop to make Reels, editing, scheduling and publishing them in-browser through Creator Studio.

New tools will let creators edit down their longer videos into Reels on desktop. Say you’re an artist with a recording of your latest concert – cutting that down into short shareable clips should now be a lot easier.


Voiceovers for Facebook Reels and more

Creators can now narrate over the top of videos with a voiceover tool for Facebook Reels.

There’s also new text-to-speech tools too. You can also choose a digital voice to read out any text you have in your Reels.


Learn how to sync Reel to music on Facebook

New Sound Sync feature lets you match up your videos to the beat of a song.

This is valuable for musicians creating content. Sync up your video clip with your music for a professional looking Reel.

If you’ve used RouteNote to put your songs on the Facebook and Instagram sound libraries, you can pick your own song to use as a soundtrack!


Add Stickers to Instagram Reels

The latest update lets creators add Stickers like polls, quizzes and emojis to Reels, just like you already can on Stories. Meta hope this will encourage more interaction with Reels as opposed to passively scrolling through different content.


Instagram Reel templates

You can now use other Reels as a template for your own Reel. Templates let you match the format of a clip, resulting in a more professional looking Reel.

If you’re struggling to get started making video content – something that’s expected of artists nowadays – this is a great place to start.


Adding audio to Instagram Reels

You can now import your own audio straight into your Instagram Reel. Import Audio lets you add audio from your device’s camera roll.

For artists, that could mean adding a clip of an acoustic cover of one of your songs, or an explainer of how you made a track.


Longer Instagram Reels

Over on Instagram, Reels are now officially 90 seconds long. This means artists can showcase more of their new release, for example.


It’s no secret that Meta, parent company of Instagram and Facebook, is chasing TikTok’s growth by focusing on short video creation. Most of the new updates closely copy TikTok video tools.

As always for artists, using whatever new tool a social media platform has launched is a clever strategy as the algorithmic overlords will notice and reward you with better exposure.

Learn everything you need to know about using Instagram as an artist here.


Get your music on Instagram and Facebook with RouteNote for free! Once your music is in the sound library your music can be used as a soundtrack to videos, and you’ll be paid every time a new video is created.

Sound good? Find out more here.

Techivation T-Exciter: add life to sound, save your time

Image Credit: Techivation

Techivation T-Exciter “brings life to sounds” by musically brightening the highs and adding both width and depth to your sound.

Any plugins that empower us to save our precious time while we produce our recordings are more welcome than the in-laws. Well, Tecivation specialises in this particular arena.

They’re relatively new to the plugin scene, but they bring a lot to the market. Testament to that is their new plugin T-Exciter: a plugin that gives us “magical results quickly”.


Techivation T-Exciter

With just a few settings, Techivation T-Exciter allows you to bring your sound to life quickly and effectively.

Moreover, where you may think to use an EQ to enhance your sound, T-Exciter’s simple and tidy interface removes the need for processor-hungry plugins. Whether you’re a Windows or macOS user, T-Exciter is optimised for low CPU consumption.

Features

T-Exciter has four Effect Modes where each gives our sounds and recordings different characteristics.

  1. Shine makes our sounds sharper by enhancing sonic details.
  2. Air, as you may have guessed, adds “natural” air to our sound with a musical overtone.
  3. Wet glues different sounds together by adding “overall excitement” – perfect for grouped instruments.
  4. Crisp allows sound to cut through our mix and brings them to the front.
Techivation T-Exciter has four Effect Modes.

Shine makes our sounds sharper by enhancing sonic details.

Air, as you may have guessed, adds "natural" air to our sound with a musical overtone.

Wet glues different sounds together by adding "overall excitement" - perfect for grouped instruments.

Crisp allows sound to cut through our mix and brings them to the front.
Image Credit: Techivation

And additional controls and buttons give us more control over the final effect.

  • Width widens the stereo image of sounds, instruments, groups to add “dramatic or subtle” depth and width.
  • Undo/Redo allow us to undo mistakes quickly, removing the risk of losing desirable settings.
  • A/B Switch is an onboard referee control for easily comparing different settings.
  • Mix adjusts the wet/dry mix of the two input/output signals – perfect for parallel processing.

Adding both richness and crispness to your mix has never been more instantaneous. Furthermore, you can add more definition to your sounds, instruments and groups and bring them to the front of your mixdown with a simplified workflow.

Whether guitars, vocals, drums, or key-based instruments, you can enhance the distinct tones of these sounds. Meanwhile, you can glue your grouped instruments together and add more energy by making the little details bigger.

Finally, T-Exciter reduces aliasing by running the internal process at a sample rate up to 16 X faster than the host for optimal sound quality.


Price and availability

Techivation T-Exciter is now available for $29 as an introductory price, whereas $39 will be the regular price.

The plugin is compatible with Windows 7+ in 32 / 64-bit VST and VST3, and 64-bit AAX.

It’s also compatible with macOS X 10.11+ in 64bit VST, VST3, AU and 64-bit AAX with Native M1 support.

AKAI Pro MPC Key 61 synth: streamline your studio with one tasty synthesizer

Image Credit: Magnetic Magazine

As time goes on, your home studio begins housing music gear with specific functionaltiies. But the AKAI MPC Key 61 is set to change that with its plethora of features that will streamline your workflow.

AKAI have long been pioneers in the all in one music performance tool market. Now, the MPC Key 61 is a true testament to that title. The latest AKAI synthesizer workstation tool is packed full of features for endless inspiration, creativity and most importantly, fun.


The AKAI MPC Key 61: composition and performance tools for your home studio and the stage

Powered by a quad-core processor with 4 GB of RAM, the Akai MPC Key 61 is a standalone music production keyboard synthesizer. The synthesizer combines the infamous MPC interface and velocity-sensitive RGB drum pads with a semi-weighted 61-key keybed – and that’s just the start of it. It packs 32 GB of internal storage but has an SSD card slot for expandable space!


Interface features

First, let’st talk about the new keybed. 61 semi-weighted keys with aftertouch have been “created with attention to feel, velocity response, and dynamic accuracy” with an end goal of easy performance perfect for any playing style.

And to left hand side of the key bed sits dedicated creative pitch & mod wheels. An assignable touch strip sits above the keybed, and you can use it to manually adjust plugin parameters, apply automation, note repeat, and more.

To the right of the touchstrip sit 16 velocity-sensitive RGB drum pads with bank buttons that allow you to effortlessly access & capture drum takes.

The 7″ multi-gesture interactive touch screen displays all of your project information. Here you can select your instruments, change plugin parameters, and more including physically apply edits and trim your samples “with precision”.

The interface of the AKAI MPC 61 Key is neatly laid out for ease of use. It's perfect for any playing style, and it's jam packed with features for both music composition & live performance!
Image Credit: AKAI

To the right of the screen sits a rotary encoder knob for adjusting data values. You can control parameters, automation, and more with four 360 Q-Link knobs too.

On the far right of the interface sit transport controls for recording and over dubbing, in addition to play, stop, and locate buttons.

Finally, in the top left of the MPC Key 61 sits the main volume knob for adjusting both main & headphone level.


Onboard virtual instruments & software synthesizers

The MPC Key 61 features twenty five impressive virtual instruments that give you everything from acoustic sounds to digital synthesizers. However, it includes sick brand new instruments making their debut.

Fabric

First, an impressive standalone synthesizer. Fabric is a hybrid polyphonic synth which is powered by a powered by a sample-based engine.

OPx4

Capture the sound of iconic synthesizers for iconically vintage sounds.

Organ plugin

A rich organ sound that simulates real leather & virtual draw bars.

Stage Piano

Stage Piano “takes full advantage of the semi-weighted keys”. It’s a collection of virtual acoustic pianos that range from concert grand pianos to more intimate pinao instruments.

Studio Strings

Here is a collection of orchestral instruments that includes solo violin, violas, double-bass, and more, in addition to full orchestral ensembles.

Stage EP

Finally, a collection of keyboards that includes Rhodes, Whirley keyboards and more. You can expect to get some funky ideas flowing after the press of a few keys.

The AKAI MPC 61 Key is here to streamline your music production workflow in your home studio.
Image Credit: Magnetic Magazine

Sounds, Tabs, Workflow

Next, the new sounds page is a one stop shop for organising your workflow. Organise all plugin instruments, your preset selections, set lists and your favourite sounds in one place.

Here you can access all MPC plugin instruments and select the plugin you desire. By doing so you’ll see a page full of pre-sorted sound categories that allow for quick browsing of instrument types.

Setting your favourite sounds is a simple process – simply enter the Favourites tab with an instrument loaded and hold an empty slot via the touchscreen. Then your chosen instrumetn or sound will populate that slot.

The performance tab allows you to save plugin instrument templatess that can load up in the future at once! This is a huge time saver for anyone who knows where their idea needs to go. Simply select your instrument template and get writing!

In the Set Lists tab, save entire projects for live performance and cue songs one after the other.

Finally, the Key Ranges tab allows you to stack & layer multiple track types (bass, drums, etc.) and create custom variations. Additionly, you can break up the key bed into zones that accommodate for your track types by adjusting the split points here.


Connectivity

With all of this impressive functionality and an abundance of sounds, what more could you want? Well, lavish connectivity of course! Let’s look at the rear of the synth, shall we?

MPC Key 61 I/O connectivity includes: 

4 mono 1/4 outputs & a stereo 1-4 headphone out

2 combo jacks for line, instrument, and microphone level sources where each input has its own voltage level switch & gain knobs (+48V switch sends phantom power to both inputs)

8 eighth inch TS output jacks allow you to connect to CV and gate devices 

MIDI In, Out and Through connections allow you to connect to modules, other synthesizers and true MIDI enabled devices

3 keyboard pedals (sustain, expression & assignable foot jacks)

2 USB type A ports for external storage

1 USB type B for connecting to MIDI devices and audio interfaces

1 ethernet port for Ableton Link connection where no WIFI is available
Image Credit: AKAI

MPC Key 61 I/O connectivity includes:

  • 4 mono 1/4 outputs & a stereo 1-4 headphone out
  • 2 combo jacks for line, instrument, and microphone level sources where each input has its own voltage level switch & gain knobs (+48V switch sends phantom power to both inputs)
  • 8 eighth inch TS output jacks allow you to connect to CV and gate devices
  • MIDI In, Out and Through connections allow you to connect to modules, other synthesizers and true MIDI enabled devices
  • 3 keyboard pedals (sustain, expression & assignable foot jacks)
  • 2 USB type A ports for external storage
  • 1 USB type B for connecting to MIDI devices and audio interfaces
  • 1 ethernet port for Ableton Link connection where no WiFi is available

Price and availability

The AKAI Pro MPC Key 61 standalone synthesizer is available now for $1,899/£1,699.

BLEASS Monolit: a free synth that inspires creativity – get it here

Image Credit: BLEASS

BLEASS Monolit is a free monophonic synthesizer full of creative potential for macOS, Windows and iOS devices to celebrate World Music Day.

Finding yourself stuck staring at oscillators in search of inspiration can be time-consuming. Well BLEASS Monolit is here to help you find inspiration with its abundance of sound design tools…

The synth offers two oscillators, where the first features a square wave with PWM, in addition to triangle and a sawtooth wave. Alternative, you can use oscillator 1 as a noise ossilator. In contrast, the second oscillator has a totally morphable waveform!
Image Credit: BLEASS

BLEASS Monolit: a free creative tool for professional sound

To see what this tool can do straight out of the box simply play with its randomizer. By clicking on the dice, the engine randomizes every parameter on the synths and really shows you what it can do. Though you won’t get a musical result every time, you will find inspiration for musical ideas.

Though Monolit is a monophonic software synthesizer, you can have up to 7 voices for a more stereo sound.

The synth offers two oscillators, where the first features a square wave with PWM, in addition to a triangle and a sawtooth wave. Alternative, you can use oscillator 1 as a noise oscillator. In contrast, the second oscillator has a totally morphable waveform!

Image Credit: BLEASS

You’ll find octave and fine-tuning controls on both oscillators too. And you can apply frequency modulation via a dedicated oscillator to OSC 1, OSC 2, or both with sine, tri, saw, and square waves.

To add some movement, character and warmth your signal; a multimode filter is available with slope & drive controls. And two ADSR envelopes enable you to apply modulation, in addition to an LFO with multiple waveforms that you can sync to your host DAW’s tempo.

Slide and pressure controls feature two slots each on the General tab. Here you’ll also find a modulation wheel. In my opinion, there is a lot of modulation potential for a free synthesizer!

vImage Credit: BLEASS

Moreover, adjustable vibrato, glide tools, and a range of re-trigger options allow you to maximise movement in your sound.

The synth even features an onboard arpeggiator too! If you’re stuck for melody ideas, don’t fear. You can play around with the arpeggiator settings and find the right rhythm for your track.

And, of course, a very clear and colourful user interface houses all of these awesome tools in true BLEASS fashion. The look is far from intimidating and new users will have no trouble finding their way around.

Finally, BLEASS Monolit comes with high-quality presets from both independent sound designers and YouTubers such as Red Sky, The Sound Test Room, and more!


Availability

You can get Monolit now as a free download. It’s available in VST3, AU, and AAX plugin formats for macOS and Windows devices. And iOS-based producers can get their hands on it too with its AUv3 support.