Musicians Mantra - 3

Please note this discussion would get some what technical - hang in there.

What is this Receptor? Medical books defines it is as a nerve ending that is sensitive to impulses, engineering books defines it as an electronic device that receives electronic signals or chemistry book calls it as specific cell binding or a molecule. What ever! I cooked all this from MS word lookup feature.
What is Muse Research Receptor? Let me explain features of Receptor one by one and map it to my initial requirements. [Listed earlier]

A product that can host VST instruments and effects without the host software– Yes! Receptor hosts VST instruments and effects standalone –it is a VST host that drives VST plug-ins; a stand alone box that can be an open ended sound module, an effect processor or both.

That is housed in a separate rack, like every other sound module controlled via midi sequencer or feeds via direct audio inserts from a mixer or wired digitally within the digital domain YES, Receptor is housed in a 2 rack unit. Can be triggered via midi, has audio inputs /outputs and direct guitar, USB,S/Pidf ADAT in/outs and networking.

That can be easily added on to any existing setup and work flow; of course! Receptor has Midi in, outs and thru, just plug in your midi keyboard or midi hub and start using it directly or can be called from your midi sequencer or DAW. Direct audio inserts from the mixer or wired digitally within digital domain: This is where Receptor shines like a star; receptor [5.1] uses a technology called Uniwire. Uniwire enables communication between software based instruments/sequencers or VST plugs via Ethernet. This is the best feature I like, effects are hosted else where so that pc can spend its power on audio processing instead. When tested there was no latency at all.

That is multi timbre Yes! - Receptor supports 16 channels of Midi.

That is not really 100% PC/Mac OS dependent; The Entire show is driven by Linux and set of proprietary/open source software. The OS image is small and occupies less space; the shutdown and start up is very quick. This is a remodeled computer that has CPU, a 160gig hard drive with VGA, keyboard and mouse interfaces. Though sounds like a PC, behaviors wise it is totally different from a PC; there are no hidden virus scanners, or automatic update checks or no other unwanted window services to worry about. A PC or Mac is needed to install software upgrades.

That has an easy learning curve: Receptors is very easy to learn, it just like another sound module. It does have some networking implementation concepts; however it no big deal it is as easy as installing a DSL modem.

The last but not the least something that is very easy to control with or without GUI: There are button, knobs and a LCD display in the front panel using which we can control the receptor, Receptor can take VGA monitor, keyboard and a mouse, Or, they provide software to drive receptor from a pc/mac, something similar to the Remote desktop connection in windows XP.

What Receptor can do for me? Receptor can host VST plug-ins; Receptor can serve as a multi timbre Sound module handling multiple channels of midi or it can host Effects processors that take [dry] signals and add effects and return a wet signal. Receptor offers 16 channels or I would call it as slots to host VST, meaning I do not need a midi/audio sequencer to host VST plug-ins anymore; each receptor slot can accommodate VST effects or VST based soft synthesizers. Each slot has the ability to respond to Midi and audio inputs directly or transmit midi and audio. More over you can route each channel to 3 additional effects. And some more, Sound effects can be routed or ordered using 3 paths - series, parallel or a combination of both. As an instrument alone, Receptor can have 16 different software instruments with 48 effects. As if this was enough, we have 2 x 3 master effects slots that can be used by every channel. You can save all the setting, patches and recall them when needed. These are stored as data files that can be backed up.

What are the instruments or effects it can host? A huge list can be found in their website, they list few of them as unsupported - mostly due to “non technical reasons”, but you can give try, 8 out 10 times it works.

Other than being VST host, what are the other powerful features of Receptor?God gave the power of speech - for humans to communicate [supposedly] better. Human beings created networks protocols for “their creations” to communicate; Receptor supports TCP/IP - You can access Receptor’s hard drive via networking. Receptor comes with DHCP and IP protocols for windows and apple talk that will automatically hook on to your network. Receptor wires itself as network a resource using an IP address. For non computer folks, every network resource is identified by a unique number [E.g.:] in a network.

Data can be transferred to and from receptor using the shared work space. Plug-In installations are done via network using a pc/Mac, Yes! In way Receptor is kind of computer dependent. I contradict my earlier notion little here. To install a new component, I should put the component in a predetermined folder in Receptor; May be someone hard coded the location in the code. I prefer this install directory as user configurable folder; like I should be able to use my USB stick/drive to install components. Receptor should take user inputs for getting the active install folder name. I am sure future versions will have this feature.

With its Network capabilities Receptor can communicate with other software products using Uniwire. Uniwire is a single cable solution using standard Ethernet protocol. Muse Research provides a VST plug-in that can be hosted on the DAW [Digital Audio work stations - a fancy name for an audio sequencer].
This plug-In will establish a path between the DAW and Receptor via Ethernet. Using a single network cable receptor can transmit audio and midi data in all the 16 channels. You can them connect directly or via network hub/switch. I tried using Uniwire in Protools, via VST to RTAS wrapper [converter], it worked but was sluggish; may be due to the wrapper, it is matter of time before Muse gets out a native RTAS UNIWIRE plug-in. Until then I am better of using S/Pdifs outputs for digital audio transfer. Receptor also comes with USB ports, using which you can connect an external hard drive or DVD drive, very handy for data backups. Or you might host a 1 gb grand piano sample from USB hard drive. There are ports to connect keyboard, mouse, and a VGA monitor. This is very hand in studio environments. Or you can use the remote control application, which is something very similar to windows XP remote desk top connection tool. Type in the IP address, the front end of the Receptor appears in a window. This window application has few limitations like the clip board is not common between the windows etc. this is really painful, if you want transfer some license key number, you have no other choice other than to type them one by one. Other than that, it works really well. I have a monitor/mouse connected to it.

Receptor comes loaded with 265mb of ram, this is too “low” and seriously with 256mb you will hate this box right away. A plug-in like Spectrosonics Atmosphere is destined to fail due to low memory in Receptor. Best bet would be to go for the highest supported upgrade – 2 gigs. You will not regret it, even mammoth plugs work easily with such configuration.

Receptor also comes with slew of plugs preloaded; for those “privileged” Receptor owners some of the premium plug-ins are free. I tried almost all of them; few of them are very cheesy. I don’t think few in the list will be off any use in the professional circuit, these many be handy for a marketing person who can show it off in a demo. Muse should take a note of this; they should not dump plug-ins because they are free.

“Poor Musicians” who “own” cracked plug-ins might have a question, well…will cracked plug-ins work on Receptor? I really do not know, but bottom line here is Receptor is a serious music instrument for serious musicians who want stability “yada yadas”, so regardless of anything - using cracked plugs anywhere warrants trouble in the production cycle. So it is better to avoid such “cracked” investments. A musician who can afford Receptor will be able to afford premium plugs-ins. Musician who can afford? What is the cost? - The full upgrade cost ranges from $1800-$2200. Samash has live demos available, you might want to check it or visit Muse website for demo videos

There are questions asked in Muse discussion boards like why can’t I invest on a PC instead? Well yes you can, Receptor is technically a desktop PC, but please go back and read my 4 basic points. I believe that I can get more out of Receptor than a PC or Mac because Receptor is dedicated to do a single PC task properly. Host VST! , do you pay $2000 just to host VST plug-ins? True can be argued, bottom line “you need to make a choice based on your comfort zone”.

When thinking about future possibilities, I foresee something very promising for the music industry. Assume Roland decides to bundle their VSynth technology into a windows based VST module, or some other synthesizer manufacture plans to create cross platform VST software versions, Receptor can host them for you. Does it not sounding too promising? Is there a catch? Yes there are few, both technically and logistically, technically Mac users have few issues. Receptor supports VST plug-ins made for windows platform only. Mac users should cross convert their plug-Ins. But most premium plug-ins seems to be cross- compatible. Some windows based plug-in might not work due their implementation. From a manufacturer perspective I am sure Muse is working on this cross compatibility and will get more manufacturers to “receptorize” their VST products. Logistically, Muse has to deal agreements with companies. This will never be easy in a market that is brutally competitive. The crude truth is it is matter of time before we see hybrid clones of this product.

Will this ensure “good” musical productions? The word “good” is very subjective; no one can define “good music”. People don’t decide music quality based on musical instruments – often decided based on the person playing it; Mandolin was just a European instrument, mostly used in film music genre, but when one “little guy” from South India called “Srinivas” played it, the whole complexion of the instrument changed. World heard something new! Today whenever we hear the word “Mandolin” our god given neural network will automatically map the name “Srinivas” to it. I read that Receptor is owned by many top class musicians around the world, it is also used by some of my favorite bands and musicians. U2 is said to have stacks of them, and it is also believed that “A.R.Rahman” owns this so does Harris Jeyaraj and few other Indian musicians who are technology savvy and who are NOT intimidated by technology;

In my case [a small scale musician] Receptor will definitely aid my music production in a better fashion, and over all, I am thrilled to see the possibilities using receptor and I am looking forward to produce music as usual, may be this can add more color and perfection to my creations.

Finally, I am yet to fully realize the potential of Receptor but on the first go it is simply awesome! And remember first impression is often your best!