Motu Digital Performer
DP4 is now Panther and G5 ready
by the Tweak
Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) Digital Performer Software Version 4
Digital Performer can record and play back digital
audio without any additional hardware installed inside your Power
Macintosh. Imagine being able to record anything: vocals, acoustic
guitar, sound effects, or anything else — right alongside your MIDI
Have another sequencer? Cakewalk, Sonar? Logic? Cubase? Hey, even
Sound Forge--you can get the "competitive upgrade" at a really low
price by just sending a page from the manual.
Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) MachFive Universal Sampler Plug-In (MAS,
RTAS, HTDM, VST)|
The most critical thing you need from a sampler
is easy access to your sounds. MachFive (tm) offers unprecedented
sound bank management, helping you concentrate on the music – not
file handling chores on your hard disk. MachFive always remembers
where your sounds are located, and it has been optimized for browsing
and loading libraries. Even multi-gigabyte libraries are quickly
and efficiently scanned.
Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) 828MKII Firewire 24/96 Audio Interface
(Macintosh and Windows)|
The 828mkII contains everything you need to turn
your computer into a powerful 24-bit, 96kHz digital audio workstation.
The 828mkII provides 10 channels of pristine 96kHz analog recording
and playback, combined with 8 channels of ADAT digital I/O and stereo
S/PDIF. Expand your system by connecting additional 828 or 896 FireWire
Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) MIDIExpress XT Interface USB (Macintosh
This MIDI interface and SMPTE synchronizer for Macintosh
and Windows provides 8 MIDI IN, 9 MIDI OUT, and 128 MIDI channels.
It is plug-and-play compatible with all Macintosh software, and
features 16 convenient, one-touch front-panel presets (8 factory
and 8 user programmable). The software console for Mac provides
comprehensive routing, merging, and muting.
goes back to the early days of MIDI.
It has been on the Mac platform longer than any other contemporary
Mac sequencer application. I had to look through my archive of magazines to
find out how long, and finally found an early review in the September 1986 issue
of Electronic Musician, which has a great pic of Frank Zappa & studio on the
cover. Way before Emagic's Logic left the Atari platform for Mac
and PC land "Performer" was already well established on the Mac Plus and SE
and had a large following of audio professionals. These guys would tell me "Dump
the Atari, man. Performer is where it is at!" Perhaps I should have
In the early nineties, when audio recording
and editing was added, the application was renamed Digital Performer.
Fast forward another 11 or so years. Digital Performer is not only still here,
it's thriving. Like Digidesign (ProTools LE) and Steinberg (Nuendo), MOTU
has its own professional grade audio interfaces which, as you would expect,
work great with DP4. Feature wise, DP more fully embraces Apple's
Core MIDI than Apple's own Logic does, and has all the newer features sequencers
have today like freeze tracks, offline bounce, ReWire2, automation and
extensive controller and note editing. (See the sidebar one the left for
more new features in DP4)
And it has one heck of a manual.
Two actually. A 900+ page User Guide, and a 124 page Getting Started Guide.
If you think that is not important these days guess again. The speed at
which you can learn a sequencer is in direct relation to how easy you can read
and access its information. I thought Sonar 3 had the best manual all
wrapped up till I cracked the back on this one, laid it out on my keyboard and
went through the learning curve. Screenshots on nearly every page with detailed
labels, definitions and tips made learning DP fun..
of fun, working with Audio is fun with DP4. You can stretch and
shrink audio data with great elasticity. It can be downright gooey with
the things you can do. Nice. Slice. Dice. You bet. Your
mouse can chop up stuff with single stroke ease and you can move tidbits around
as you please. The audio editor boasts all the functions one expects and
includes effects rendering with an undo history, like Cubase SX.
Heads above Logic here. There is a well-implemented project directory that will
copy all audio files used in a song to itself, regardless of where you found
it on your hard drive. This is smart, because you don't want to alter
files that may be used in other songs, so it gives a lot of freedom to mangle
up your sound with total abandon if you want.
The Audio Mixer is well implemented.
It looks good and you can turn channels on and off easier than any sequencer
on the planet. It has the usual slots for plugins and 4 sends per channel.
Lacking is the channel EQ one gets with the other sequencers, but of course
you can add eqs with plugins. You can do snapshot automation here in addition
to the standard track automation one finds in most sequencers.
DP4 comes with its own loop based phrase
recorder called POLAR, which stands for Performance Oriented Loop Audio
Recorder. This is a fast RAM recorder which I will tell you more about
Automation itself works quite simply.
While I have not tried automating all my soft synths yet I found that DP could
keep up with a ton of tweaks using Reaktor Session, which is a tough synth for
any sequencer to handle. Unfortunately I could not get Absynth 2 to work
at all. That's the only plugin that is giving me trouble. All the other
NI stuff is working great; VSTis are fine, AU's work and Waves is not a problem.
Another remarkable thing about performer is
the quality of the editors. You get all the editors you would expect--sequence
editor, drum editor, audio editor, event list, notation, graphic... At
first these are rather daunting, but the manual saves the day here with clear,
concrete details on how everything is supposed to work. Speaking of editors,
you can open files in an external audio editor like Peak. Works like a
Key commands are implemented exquisitely
for nearly every program function. Bravo! For those of us used to using
certain commands it allows us to quickly to work in familiar ways. Yep,
I set it up like Logic and man, this makes it easy for me to work with.
Version 4.12 is a free update for those
who have purchased Version 4. 4.12 is Mac G5 and Panther ready. You definitely
want to update right away if using Panther (OS X 10.3.2) because the supplied
version on CD may be problematic. I could barely get it working at all,
till I found the update. One cool thing is that DP no longer needs OMS
or free MIDI to operate. It fully uses the OS X Audio/MIDI utility to
define your MIDI instruments, most of which include the names for the factory
patches. For those that don't you can convert FreeMIDI definition
files from OS9 or use either Unisyn (MOTU's own universal editor/librarian which
has recently been updated for OS X) or a donation-ware utility called
Picker. For me with a rather large rig with a lot of expansion roms
I was able to get about 70% of my patch library done in a single night just
using Cherry Picker to edit the .MIDInam files. I was able to get all
my emu expansion roms defined except for the ensoniq project. Still having
a little problem with the Triton's 8 expansion boards. Oh well.
I'll get it when Unisyn arrives I hope. To be sure, not all synths are
supported, but compared to Logic, Cubase, and Sonar, there's a much greater
chance your synth, old or new, is covered.
|Some New Features in
- Rewire 2
- Core MIDI
- Core Audio
- Track Grouping
- ProTools import/export
- Mackie Control
- Rex/Acid file
- More Keyboard
- New Look and
- Solo exempt
tracks in Mixer
- Many more
The supplied MAS plugins range from
very good to fair. Definitely way below Logic, perhaps par with Cubase
SX and a notch above Sonar, at least that is how I rate them. OK, that is a
rather sweeping statement, but I'm not going to go point by point here. But
heed this: Unlike Logic Pro 6, which now comes with a full line of soft synths,
DP comes with none. Of course it only costs half of what Logic costs.
So if audio instruments are your game prepare to buy some.
Bugs. DP has its share. I had some
horrendous crashes on day one before I updated to 4.12. Some of
them persisted until I had the Mac Audio/MIDI setup rigidly defined. And
DP seemed to loathe my Logic Control till i finally turned it off. Once
I did all three of these operations DP became stable and functional. There
is still the occasional crash, but all sequencers on the market today crash
Graphic redraws. This is to some
extent an OS X problem and DP4.12 tries to make it better by not dragging window
contents when resizing. However, if you have 24 highly graphical tracks
on two large displays with audio waveforms and controllers the screen can get
really slow. There are some workarounds by turning off controller displays,
but still it seems way too slow to me, especially since this is on a G5 "world's
No 2-button mouse support. This
is almost unforgivable. I'd say it would be enough to chuck DP in the
trash but Logic has the same problem. DP only works on left clicks--right
clicks either do nothing or the same thing the left click does. Geez!
Its not a Mac OS X thing, its an old Mac legacy thing, which assumes all mice
are Mac mice with one button. OS X perfectly does right clicks on nearly
all its high end applications except DP and Logic. Devs, get a clue already!
In this area Sonar and Cubase SX blast them both out of the water with full,
intuitive right click context menus. So far this was my biggest disappointment
with DP4 (and Logic Pro 6)
A Matter of Artistic flow.
This is the true test of any sequencer. You can cram a screen with a thousand
features, but if you can't access them in some kind of way that makes sense
to you, there is little point. With any sequencer, you have to adapt your
style of working to it. Yet simple sequencers with great flow, like GarageBand,
will take you to a point where you have to have more. So the end goal
is to achieve a balance. DP4 has such a balance, honed over 2 decades,
the application has the feel of something that has been thought out by teams
of brilliant musical minds. Such respect for DP4, if given, will open up it's
secrets and as you delve into the manual you will become more involved, enthused
and you will know you have a worthy platform for your music.
Ok, that wraps up the short course on sequencers.
We are about to move inside the sequencer to the virtual world of plugs.
Software synths, samplers and processors.
You are here,
Go to the
Sound on Sound's
archive of Digital Performer Articles
Want to talk about DP4?
Go to Studio-Central's
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