It’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: producing the ultimate music album from your bedroom laptop using no more than a canny piece of software, a microphone and an array of digital samplers.
Serious musicians who like complex mixing and editing and are happy to open their wallets will probably opt for Pro Tools or Sonar, but penniless artists, aspiring DJs and music enthusiasts on a tight budget still have a reasonable range of options at the lower end of the market.
X-OOM’s Music Arranger Studio is definitely in this affordable area and is designed to be simplicity itself. You work exclusively off the one screen which is in muted shades of grey and is divided into just eight audio tracks filling the bulk of the display, with a Master menu bottom left and a Loop Browser to the right of this.
The sound archive has around 500 samples to choose from covering Dance (at 130bpm), Hip Hop (110bpm) and Rock (132bpm) but the scope of instruments available is limited to the more general must-haves (i.e. Bass, Beats, Drum Loops, Guitar and Keys) with a few extras such as Sax, Scratches, Strings and some random Male and Female Vocals. A separate Effects menu lets you bring in Echo, Reverb and Distortion, alongside separate EQ and Limiter and, apart from an extra folder of Drum Singles, that’s the full load of provided content.
You can of course import your own material in either WAV, OGG, WMA, MP3 or Sun Audio formats and then export the finished product in the same manner. What is immediately frustrating, however, is that wherever you choose to select your sample from, there’s no way of previewing it before you lay it on the timeline. So effectively you have to work through the whole of each section before you make your decisions, which wastes acres of time.
Yet even when you do know what elements you want for your song, you only have simple cut and paste possibilities when it comes to editing, without even the most rudimentary form of mixing. As there are no individual stereo channel controls, any attempt to produce a sophisticated composition is pretty much stifled at birth, with the only room for creativity left with the tempo.
Had this been available as freeware then it might have provided a kiddies’ starter guide to music production and editing but when you realise that you could have had a highly well produced and multi-featured package such as Magix Music Maker 15 for just £15 more, you realise just how little bang you get for your buck. When you discover that the help menu is still in German, you know just how much thought went into getting this product right.
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