Tue, 31 May 2011 Record 1.5 review
Audio production workstation adds new vocal and pitch tricks
- Manufacturer: Propellerheads
- Pros: Easy-to use, transparent pitch correction and harmony; simple arrangement with Blocks; minor improvements smooth rough edges
- Cons: Still no MIDI output, ReWire host, or plug-in support; more useful if you add Reason
- Price: £193; £129 for Reason users; £299 duo pack
- Star rating:
The initial appeal of audio production tool Record was its toybox of simulated sonic gadgetry. Record’s debut featured terrific-sounding processors and a massive mixer modelled on a beloved console, making it a natural mixing and recording complement to Reason’s synths, drum machines, and effects. Some of the features expected of general-purpose workstations were missing though.
Record 1.5 still doesn’t allow the use of plug-in effects, but it does evolve some of the missing features that annoyed in its 1.0 iteration, and adds new vocal and pitch tricks along the way. If you didn’t like Record before, you probably won’t like it now, but if you’re a current Reason (page 32) or Record user, or you’re considering them, each of the paired programs now provides an expanded value proposition.
Antares’ AutoTune pitch adjuster has become notorious in popular culture, thanks to intentional overuse of its pitch correction for special effects. But subtle pitch correction can improve recorded vocals and add harmonies. Neptune is a new multi-purpose instrument and effect for Record 1.5 and one of the most useful features is Neptune’s ability to work as an AutoTune-style pitch adjuster. Neptune, described as a “pitch adjuster and vocal synth”, isn’t as complex to operate as a specialised pitch plug-in like AutoTune – and that’s not a bad thing. Its settings are simplified to a few well-chosen parameters, for adjusting the results between barely noticeable and ‘killer robot’.
Record is tough to beat as a bundle of terrific-sounding effects and simulated mixing hardware, combined with deep, open-ended modular signal routing capabilities
At the subtle end, Neptune can be impressively transparent, putting a little gloss on a vocal without sounding obviously like pitch correction. But its standout feature is its Vocal Synth mode. Adjusting for natural formants in the voice, harmonies, and outright pitch changes can sound surprisingly lovely. They won’t replace a backup singer, but they have a human-sounding timbre all their own. That’s pretty impressive for a bundled effect. The only room for improvement is that the signal routing for setting up Neptune and MIDI tracks requires a few steps; a simple preset would help.
A step forward
Record, like Reason, is tough to beat as a bundle of terrific-sounding effects and simulated mixing hardware, combined with deep, open-ended modular signal routing capabilities. Record 1.0’s minimal approach to sequencing tools could make you miss more general-purpose workstations like Pro Tools or Logic. Record 1.5 smoothes over some of those rough edges.
Building on excellent pitch- and tempo-independent audio transformations, version 1.5 lets you stretch clips by resizing. Much-needed audio features like normalise and reverse, commonplace in competing tools, are now included. In previous versions of Reason and Record, locking a MIDI device as a control surface prevented you recording notes played on that device; now, you can do both at once. Improved tap tempo and looping make recording easier, and key commands work better on laptops.
Despite these improvements, Record remains something of an oddity. If you want to use plug-in effects, you’ll have to use another tool. Record has exceptional mixing and mastering capabilities, but Propellerhead hasn’t implemented a technology it invented, ReWire, in host mode. That means you can’t use Record to finish off materials in tools like Ableton Live or Logic Pro without exporting audio first. You can’t sequence external MIDI gear, because Record doesn’t output MIDI. Record without Reason also feels a bit limited. For those wanting a broader feature set, version 1.5 feels like a step forward, but just one step