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Review of Stylus RMX

A Novel Approach for Making Beats in your Sequencer



It took me a long time to warm up to Stylus.  Mainly this was because of my misunderstanding of the product.  I thought Stylus was in it's essence a "DJ tool", filled with turntable scratches and hitz and beatz and yes, it has those.  But it also has sooo much more.  I heard so many good things about the newest version, Stylus RMX, that when I found out it was now compatible with Logic 7 (which is rather picky about what plugins it can use), I took the leap.

I am glad I did.  Stylus RMX is a powerful package for drum beat creation and generation.  It's filled with the good stuff--unique, on-the-edge drum sounds and grooves.  You want edge?  It's here.  For squeaky clean pristine drum sounds, this is probably not the ticket (though it has some remarkably clean percussion sets.)  If you are looking for those intense, distorted, whole baked weeds you can drop on a track you are in the right place.  So naturally, Stylus RMX is better suited for some forms of music than others.  Doing hip hop?  You will love it.  It's got some awesomely low kiks that could get you a hefty traffic fine in Texas, and all the nerdy snares and tinny tinkly high hats you could want.  Killer krunk.  For those that prefer the faster BPMs of DnB and Trance I guarantee you will not be disappointed.  You'll find LFO-->Filter possibilities, quick and easy reversed sample capability, perfect trance delays, and in some modes you can put a whole rack of effects on each drum element in your kit as inserts, given you have the requisite CPU power.

How it works.  

In a nutshell you have a choice of how you want to use Stylus RMX.  This is the coolest part too, so pay attention as I get a little complex.

You get 8 mixer channels in Stylus RMX and you can use each channel in 3 different ways.

1. Slice menu.  Here's the whole groove is laid out on the keyboard--every single hit--arranged chromatically (up the white and black keys from low to hi).  You can play this by inputting notes in your sequencer or you can drag and drop a midi file of a groove direct from stylus (see fig 1 below).  And you guessed it, once it is in your sequencer you can edit it anyway you want.  If that was all it did it would be alright by me, but then there is also the..

Figure 1


2. Groove menu.  Using the Groove menu these midi files play when you press a key on the keyboard.  Get it, the whole beat plays on one key.  When there is a variation they play one the adjacent keys. 

3.  Sound Menus.  Here the keyboard is mapped by instrument.  For example, if you choose one of 30 odd kik menus it will load up the keyboard with kik samples.   Some of these menus may have 60 or so kiks!  You'll find menus for cymbals, hi hats, percussion, side sticks, noise, guitar bits, turntable FX, retro hits and many more, including my favorite, "Cinematic". 

In my current song that I have loaded in Cubase SX 3, I have all three methods used in only one instance of Stylus RMX.  I love having a choice of how I work.  What?  You want it in GM format?  Dude!  You can have that too! There is also a "kit mode" that lets you call kits built along the GM standard of kik at C1, Snare at D1, Hats at F#, G# and A# like you are used to. 

Oh I hear ya, preset grooves get old quick in a track.  Well they can.  But you have yet another option with the onboard "chaos generator".  You can take a preset groove and let the program create subtle or dramatic changes.  Take a look at the features in the chaos generator.  The more you move each fader or knob, the more things change.  When you hear what you want you press Capture, and then you drag it out of the export box to your host sequencer's track.  Easy and Powerful.


Figure 2


Sound complex?  Well it is.  But you don't have to read the manual.  In fact, there is none.  What you get is a whole DVD or video tutorials, done by Eric Persing himself.  You even get to see Eric sitting in his studio and can watch him use Stylus in his sequencer (which is Logic, by the way).  There are several hours of video.  But I assure you, if you go through them all like I did, you will be able to instantly use Stylus RMX and know what you are doing. 

OK, one more cool thing about Stylus RMX.  You can use the SAGE converter it comes with to import your own ReCycle RX2 files into stylus.  I was able to take my own custom Celestial Windowpane Acid Loop, run them though ReCycle to make a properly sliced RX2 file, then import them into Stylus RMX with the SAGE converter.  So you can move material into Stylus.

That's a lot of pros for Stylus RMX in my book.  Now lets look at the drawbacks.  I'll tell you now, there aren't many.  In fact it's hard to think of any without nit-picking. One would be that you cannot get in and edit the preset grooves or access the source sample files. The only files you can add of your own are ReCycle files.  There is no .WAV or AIF import.  You can import certain Akai CD roms that have the Spectrasonics groove engine, like their CD rom Metamorphosis  but not their classic Distorted Reality 2 or Symphony of Voices.    OK, looks like I don't have any other significant nits.  Even the copy protection and installation was easy.  If there is something to complain about it's Spectrasonics license agreement.  But I ranted about that in my review of atmosphere so I won't drag you there again.

I am using RMX in both Logic 7 and Cubase SX 3 on my Mac G5.  Have not tried it on my PC.  It seems to work a little faster graphically in Cubase than in Logic, but Logic's automation engine lets you more exactly record and edit the tweakage done in Stylus.  It is compatible with versions of Fruity Loops too. 

I sum I am impressed with Stylus RMX to a great degree.  Its so well-thought out, I am surprised it does not cost more. This is a solid plugin instrument, and if you are doing hip hop or adventurous forms of electronica you really have to have this one.




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