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Digital Performer 2.3: New Features You'll Use Every Day

   In our last issue of Sweet Notes, we touched very briefly on Performer 6 and Digital Performer 2.2. Astonishingly, Mark of the Unicorn has already shipped yet another upgrade, taking the Digital Performer to Version 2.3 ($795 list/call for update pricing from previous versions). In fact, MOTU has been upgrading Digital Performer at a pace we've never seen before from any music software company. MOTU is on a roll, folks, and they are clearly committed to keeping Digital Performer users on top of the latest technology.

   Many of the Digital Performer 2.3 enhancements apply to both MIDI and audio data. Take for instance the new Search window and its related set of features. This is the most comprehensive search feature we've ever seen in a sequencer. In a nutshell, you can search for anything - MIDI data or audio data - in any sequence, based on any set of criteria you wish. Need to find all notes with a velocity under 47 and a duration greater

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than or equal to 257 ticks? No problem. Want to select all of the triplet offbeats on beats 2 and 4 in your entire percussion track? Piece of cake. After you search for data, you can do whatever you want to it. For example, you can browse the Search Results window, or you can simply select the data and then perform any type of editing on it that you wish. You can even print the list in the Search Results window or export it as a text file for importing into other programs, like a spreadsheet. MOTU has taken the search feature even further with "Find Similar" capabilities. Let's say that you have a MIDI or audio phrase - or any type of data - that is similar to what you want to search for. As a shortcut, you can simply select the existing data as a sample, and then click a check box in the Search window that tells DP to base its search on the current selection. You can use this feature to quickly locate musical phrases, clusters of controller data, specific events - anything. These features make complex selection tasks effortless and instantaneous.

   Window sets are another welcomed feature. They let you save and instantly recall an unlimited number of your favorite window layouts. For example, when you're recording, you probably want to open the Audio Monitor window for input levels and the large counter window so you can see it from your position over by the microphone. But while you're mixing, you want the Mixing Board window and the effects window open. You can even call up window sets instantly with a keystroke. It's almost as if Digital Performer was duplicating your Mac screen!

   MOTU has shown us many sequencer innovations in recent updates, and 2.3 is no exception. Perhaps the most interesting is Digital Performer's new Clipping windows. What exactly is a "clipping"? Well, as MOTU puts it, it's anything that you'd like to "stash" at your fingertips. Clippings can be bits of MIDI and audio data - phrases, licks, loops - anything you want, from a single note to an entire sequence. They can even consist of more than one track's worth of data.

   To help you learn this feature, Digital Performer 2.3 ships with many Clipping windows full of MIDI and audio clippings from the Twiddly Bits™ and Universal Sound Bank™ libraries. You can, of course, create as many new clipping windows as you want and stash your own material in them. It's like having clip-art windows for MIDI and audio. You can store a clipping window in a specific DP file, or you can store it globally. What can you do with stuff once it's in a clipping window? You can drag and drop it into any window to place it in the track(s). You can double-click to audition it. MOTU says that you can even store aliases of other documents, folders and applications on your hard drive in a clipping window. For example, you might have a link to a word processing document that holds all the lyrics to the song you are currently working on. Or an alias to Unisyn for instant access.

   So far, we've been talking about features that you can use for MIDI sequencing and audio recording, but 2.3 also has several great new audio-related enhancements. In every case, these features will directly impact the quality and efficiency of your recording projects, regardless of what kind of music you make or the types of projects you are involved in.

   You can now use Digital Performer as a full-fledged digital audio workstation with one of the best implementations we've seen of fades and crossfades, which eliminate clicks and pops at audio region boundaries. Equal-power, equal-gain, or custom crossfade curves are all available, allowing you to apply them with PreAmp-1pin-point precision. When you're in a hurry, you can apply dozens - even hundreds - of short fades in one easy operation. Many useful preset curves are provided, and MOTU has taken full advantage of Digital Performer's constructive processing features (so your original audio is always preserved) and background processing (so you never have to wait for progress bars).

   MOTU would be the first to admit that working in stereo in previous versions of Digital Performer was a bit awkward, and they've address this issue - in spades. It's now an absolute breeze to record, edit, crossfade, mix, and automate stereo tracks. Stereo soundbites always remain perfectly sample-locked, no matter how you edit them. When you transpose or time-stretch them, Digital Performer's PureDSP processing now faithfully maintains the stereo image and phase coherence. When MOTU visited us recently to show us Version 2.3 (once again, the Sweetwater sales team was the first see MOTU's latest), they applied the stereo time-stretching to Dire Strait's "On Every Street," gradually speeding up and slowing down the stereo mix of Mark Knopfler's guitars. Man oh man, did it sound sweet!

   However, the feature that just totally blew us away was the sound of MOTU's new PreAmp-1, a tube preamp simulator plug-in. During their presentation, the MOTU people applied a wide range of preamp effects to acoustic and lead electric guitar tracks, creating everything from subtle tube warmth to acid guitar distortion. We couldn't believe the range of effects this plug-in produces with the help of a long list of presets with names like "Nose Ring" and "Hades Gain." Also amazing is the small amount of CPU bandwidth it uses up, which means that you can apply it liberally throughout your mixes to give them as much warmth as you need. And you'll want to, because it enhances just about any material from vocals to acoustic instruments to a full stereo mix. PreAmp-1 is one of the best-sounding plug-ins we've heard on any platform, plus it runs native in the MOTU Audio System with absolutely no extra audio hardware.

   On the subject of plug-ins, we'd like to make an important point about MOTU. The company has taken the approach of including every MOTU Audio System plug-in they offer with Digital Performer 2.3 - at no extra charge. Talk about adding value to a product! We've listened carefully to MOTU's remarkable eVerb reverb plug-in and the new PreAmp-1. Frankly, these plug- ins sound every bit as good as even the most expensive software reverbs and preamp simulators. You get great reverb, amazing tube warmth, the widest range of distortion effects we've seen so far, plus all of the "bread-and-butter" effects you'll ever need, including up to 40 bands of parametric EQ per track, chorus, echo, flange, tremolo, autopan and dynamics processing. Whew! Practically speaking, you can now do everything you need to produce album or broadcast quality recordings entirely inside your Mac with one program!

   We don't have nearly enough space to cover all of the other great new features, such as the world's first MIDI plug-in format and over 200 megs of free audio samples included. Suffice it to say we strongly feel that the Version 2.3 upgrade elevates Digital Performer to a class of its own. The program is now a complete package, giving you an unmatched set of features that transport you from your very first recorded track to your final stereo mix quickly and efficiently. Call your Sweetwater Sales Engineer today for your special low Sweetwater pricing and to find out more about how Digital Performer can serve as the consummate software front-end for your studio.

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