Musicians Mantra - Part 2

If you have missed the previous part of this series, please click here…

Any goodies to work properly, there is a price to pay. Apart from the monetary aspects, there are various technical overheads like CPU cycles, memory limitation.

A VST plug- in cannot run on its own. It requires a host that it can hook on to or call it piggy backing; having VST plug-ins without the host is like me owning Hindi literatures, just occupies space in the hard disk. This is not the major issue - Most software sequencers today support VST [Yes, today many Tamilians read/write Hindi including someone “wink-wink” who opposed Hindi]. No worries here, but the real issue would be, Software synthesizers and Effects demand lot of CPU time/Cycles - processing power and memory space. PC or Mac must be equipped with acres of memory and powerful processing capabilities. In general adding plug-ins drains processor cycles, soon system ends up in being slow or sluggish [like watching a mind blowing game of Golf on CBS or swashbuckling batting display of Geoffrey Boycott].

The situation can become volatile under PC environments [Duh!]; apart from the sequencer OS essentials like windows explorers and travelers will be drawing additional CPU juice. Also from an exiting VST users perspective if they go live on stage, using the funky-Vocal-Slice effect that was used in the studio recording is not easy, you can though, by carrying the pc or a lap top or iMac along, host your favorite software synthesizers & effects, wire them etc., believe me this is a cumbersome process and if PC goes into one of its hanging or brooding mood, we are done.

What if I use software that does not support VST or in my case I use Protools, Protools supports RTAS plug-Ins - native for DIGI design products. On the contrary there are plenty of RTAS products, but most of them will bankrupt you in day or two. Easy approach here would be to change my base software if I need to use VST, a costly proposition as I cannot let go my favorite Protools, it is damn stable and dependable, and who knows other software might come with problems or might have a steep learning curve. Having said that, at the same time I don’t want to skip VST from my producer palette, today’s industry norm is such that, musicians have limited choices if their work flow fails to support VST instruments and plug-ins.

Bottom line: Mac or PC – plug-in overload during live shows or studio recording is not a very pleasant scenario. And it is very hard for musicians to change their work flow. All said and done, in spite of pains ready to strike musicians do not hesitate to play around with VST instruments and effects why? Simply because these things inspire, they open new avenues and doors for musicians. VST is such a great tool that it has become a must for Musicians. How do we come to a compromise here? I should be able to use VST without worrying about the processing cycles crap, or changes in my work flow crap?

What if? I find a product that can eliminate or reduce the pains mentioned above; A product
• That can host VST instruments and effects without the host software
• 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
• That can be easily added on to any existing setup and work flow
• That is multi timbre
• That is not really PC/Mac dependent
• That has an easy learning curve - you can use your existing VSTs as is.
• The last but not the least something that is very easy to control with or without GUI

The above is a massive requirement specification. Let go the fancy sides like multiple platform support etc, when it comes to musical gizmos, in my opinion apart from inspiring them, “serious” musician worry about 4 major things.

Stability: The product must be stable, period. Not once my triton or motif has hung up on me, they just keep working on and on and on… [Touch wood! in my case my head comes really handy]. The reason I still use Protools in spite of no VST support is due to its damn stability. Never once it has hung-up on me.

Latency: Reaction or Response time between gadgets, assume you turn on the TV using your remote, and it comes up after 10 minutes, the latency here can termed as "pathetic". Software synthesizers are notorious for such goofy behavior; notes would sound 1 or 2 seconds after actual play time . Few software products try to compensate for such latency however at times it gets ugly which in turn slows down music creation and composing. Musicians will have to try some other alternative patch up work flow. Serious musician cannot tolerate latency. When transmitting and receiving (midi/audio) data, the unit has to respond faster [than human beings] without latency.

Adapting into my work flow: In order to accommodate the new comer, I should not order upgrades for my other trusted gadgets; with very minimum process change it should fit in automatically; Easy learning curve is a must, like the product should use same terminologies, like it should not rename the common jargons like “patch” to say something like SAVE - simulated algorithm for Virtual Entities [I just made that up]. Simplicity – Korg Triton is a complex instrument but its front is designed so well, anybody can pick it up within a short period of time.

Genuine Life time, Future upgrades and Support: I want my investment protected; I need upgrades in future and good support. When the product comes to the market it should have cleared hurdles in the beta version stage, and should have a proper life time say 2 years. The product should then grow with the industry. As soon as I buy it, since the old version had serious bugs, the company should not release a completely redesigned new version that is not downward compatible. Some companies are notorious for such gadgets.

These 4 are vital statistics for me to buy a musical instrument. You can add a 5th, Cost factor: How much you are willing to pay. This is very subjective, and depends on individual needs and economics.

Are there such products out there to do this? If not say why don’t a bunch of experienced software geeks who are also expert musicians design this for the world?

Yes! That is exactly what Muse research and their Receptor is all about. Folks! The product I will be talking about from now is called RECEPTOR. Designed and developed by Muse Research. People in Muse Research fit my description perfectly. Receptor was developed by computer hardware/software/network geeks who are also avid musicians. They come from various backgrounds and popular companies in the music industry. Before stepping on to receptor development, they have done other things to music industry. Using their experience in both the worlds, they have designed and built receptor in such a way that I am marveled as composer/producer/keyboardist and as hardcore software professional, I am thrilled to see its architecture and implementation. They have exploited technology in every possible way and have clearly addressed the needs of musicians. Honestly when heard about this gadget, I “assumed” that was just another complex thingy and I was not seriously keen to get one for me, but I was totally wrong. Receptor is a powerful gadget; its open ended architecture ensures a great future ahead of it.

Tommorrow, let use see what is this Receptor all about?

Let me clarify that I don’t work or market any thing for Muse research; I am just an avid musician who would not hesitate to use any kind of modern technology if my composition warrants such usage.

Good day..