Unity Session 3.0.2

Unity Session is a set of 11 plug-ins that you can run from within a wide range of host environments. You get software sampling, analogue synthesis, physical modelling, MIDI effects, and audio effects – all from within a favourite sequencer. Stand-alone operation is also provided for, using the Unity Editor, Player and Mixer applications. The various samplers and synthesizers are implemented as plug-ins that use the basic Unity engine for playback. These include the original DS-1 sampler and AS-1 analogue synthesizer, plus the new SP-1, SampleCell, GigaSampler, SoundFonts, and DLS sample playback modules. Also included are four physical modelling synthesizers – the CL-1, FL-1, BW-1, and HS-1 – which model the clarinet, flute, bowed string and hammered string, respectively. A set of seven MIDI plug-ins lets you process any MIDI that you are sending to a Unity synthesizer to create arpeggiated chords, splits, layers and other effects. A set of 23 audio plug-ins is also provided to let you add effects such as EQ, delay, or reverb using the Unity Editor and Unity Mixer applications. Unity works with ASIO, ReWire, MAS 2.1, VST, DirectIO, RTAS and DirectConnect. These interfaces provide excellent integration with products such as Digital Performer and Pro Tools HD, Logic 5 and Cubase 5. Installation is fairly straightforward – Unity uses the challenge/response method of copy protection. Once installed, you need to set up the MIDI to work with, say, OMS, and set up the audio to work with, say, DirectIO using the Unity Control Panel. Then open the Unity Mixer – the main Unity application. This has a master section for the main stereo outputs, fed by 16 input channels – each of which can be used to play-back a different Unity instrument. You can insert two MIDI effects and two audio effects plug-ins onto each of the 16 channels, then mix the 16 channels down to a single audio output that can be routed to your ASIO or DirectIO sound card. Music master
In the master section, there are two master MIDI effects, two master Send effects, and two Global effects that can be applied to the main outputs for the entire synthesizer – very flexible. Unity Session has been improved in many ways compared with the original AS-1 and DS-1. For example, the Unity VST plug-in now includes a VST editor with library, bank, and program menus so you can select from any of your installed Unity sounds. You can also limit the number of Unity banks so that the VST programs pop-up menus aren’t too unwieldy. And you don’t have to manually switch to plug-in mode to use Unity with a sequencer – Unity automatically switches when the sequencer is launched. Another improvement over the original plug-ins is that the FreeMIDI driver functionality has been absorbed by the Unity MAS 2.1 plug-in. When Digital Performer is launched, the Unity Session server is launched in plug-in mode and automatically creates a Free MIDI inter-application communication port for Digital Performer to send MIDI to. Three CD-ROM libraries are provided, including: Black & Whites CD-ROM, Pop Drums CD-ROM, and Orchestral Strings CD-ROM. The BitHeadz Osmosis conversion utility is also supplied with the package. This lets you convert Akai S1000/S3000 and Roland 760/770 formatted disks to Unity DS-1 or Sample Cell formats. Goodbye tiny screens and awkward interfaces! Now you can use all those Akai and Roland disks you have sitting around with your new computer-based sampling tools like Unity Session and Sample Cell. And once you’ve converted the samples to AIFF, Sound Designer II, or WAVE files, almost every Macintosh audio application will have access to this new sound library. Unity Session can actually read a wide range of other file formats that can be accessed simply by dropping them into Unity’s Banks folder. These include GigaSampler, Akai, Roland, SampleCell, Sound Designer, AIFF, WAV, SoundFonts 2.0 and DLS formats – and audio CD-ROMs. Unity normally plays samples back from RAM, but there is also a Play From Disk feature that can play back very large samples that won’t fit into RAM – which is the case with many GigaSampler files. You can set a Sample Size Threshold – ie a sample size below which samples will be played back from RAM and above which samples will be played from disk. However, with playback from RAM there’s a better polyphony and fewer conflicts with hard-disk playback sequencers.


The AS-1 synthesizer has lots of great patches to get you started, and now you can explore the new modelling synthesizers as well. Most people are going to be impressed by the range of sample playback options. The library of sounds supplied with Session are good as well. I checked out the Discrete Drums sample library, and was impressed with the quality of the samples and general versatility of this set. I used a Dual 500MHz Power Mac G4 running Mac OS 9.04 with 128MB of RAM assigned to Unity. Unity Status reported that 74 per cent of the memory was in use with just one of the Discrete Drums programs loaded, and when I tried playing some rolls on the toms, the sound became distorted and the MP1 display had gone to 100 per cent – into the red – indicating that the processor had reached its limits. Once this had happened, the sound from the Unity application remained distorted until I rebooted everything – a major inconvenience. So don’t even think of running Unity Session on a minimum spec system – that’s a surefire recipe for grief. And it’s still too fiddly.

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