New Beat Trancemission
|a game by||Microforum|
|Editor Rating:||6/10, based on 1 review|
|User Rating:||6.0/10 - 1 vote|
|Rate this game:|
According to Microforum, New Beat Trancemission is "the hyped up music studio that lets you mix and record your own music creations … So get ready to experiment, go crazy and become the DJ you were meant to be." Does it hold up to what it claims? The answer is yes. Is there room for improvement? The answer is also yes.
In a nutshell, New Beat Trancemission is a somewhat limited PC, DJ phrase sampler similar to AKAI's Remix 16 (the Remix 16 is pure professional nuts-and-bolts hardware, by the way). What is one difference between the two, outside the fact that one is a professional piece of hardware and the other is software designed for the PC? New Beat Trancemission will set you back about $40 while the Remix 16 will set you back about $1200. Which brings things into perspective. Considering the price paid for this cool little tool, New Beat Trancemission kicks some PHAT ass, if you know what I mean. I searched the web high and dry for anything comparable and basically came up nil. The only thing remotely comparable would be a MOD editor, which can be a wee bit less user friendly. If you're curious about MODs, just search the web; you'll find more than you will ever want to know.
How Does It Work?
New Beat is a twenty-track loop/mixer with a four-track recorder, a wave editor, and a fourteen-track percussion/drum machine. The main interface pretty much looks like a physical console with a digital window, twenty-key numeric pad, volume knob, four button sections for the four-track recorder, and four buttons for Layout, Tracks, Sound Warp, and Fuse Box. To start a mix, you first select Layout. A new window comes up where you select what sounds and loops you want to assign to each of the twenty keys. Your choices out of the box consist of sixteen bass loops, ninety drum loops, seventy-five rhythm loops, eighty-three SFX loops, and eight MISC. If you do your math, that's a total of 272 samples to work with. Not bad for forty bucks, I must say. By the way, you do get to test the sounds before you close out of Layout.
Once you have selected your samples, you simply close out of Layout and the pads are now ready to go. This is where the fun begins. Simply press a pad and go. Clicking the same pad again stops the selected loop. With twenty loops to work with, you can make it as thick as you want. Once you decide how you want the mix laid out, simply press record on one of your four tracks and play. If you later want to add to the loop, simply press record on another one of the four tracks, press play on the original recorded track and then add what you want. Doing this, you can bounce tracks to your heart's content.
Aside from the main mixer, New Beat also includes a wave editor called Sound Warp. You can sample your own sounds and edit with the following options: Fade, Pan, Mute, Insert Silence, Swap Channels, Reverse, Normalize, Echo, Playback Speed, Change Pitch, Compress/Expand (one note: you cannot import compressed wave files), and Chorus. Finally, New Beat includes Fuse Box, a fourteen percussion instrument rhythm machine. Fuse Box consists of an eight-beat loop generator that allows you to play a maximum of sixteen notes in the loop. Unfortunately, you can't add your own sampled sounds or percussion. You might think that all of the above can be pretty taxing on your hard drive, but in truth it really isn't. New Beat Trancemission saves everything in a proprietary format similar to midi -- in other words, the tracks you create will not eat up hard drive space unless saved or converted to wave format. The notes and what instrument was played for the note are remembered rather than the sound itself.
Control of New Beat Trancemission is a mixed bag. As far as layout control, it doesn't get much easier. Everything is labeled and laid out in a logical fashion, and you can pretty much get going without ever looking at the manual. New Beat's simple, intuitive interface is what makes it stand out above the rest. On the other side, and what ultimately kept my score from going into the 90s, was the lack of real time input control, a couple of needed features for the four track, and some other minor hindrances.
As far as input control, New Beat does not let you bring in the start of a sample wherever you want in a loop. Case in point: I added a sample my buddy Aeri made of Shaft stating, "I got to feelin' like a machine ... that's no way to feel." At points in my mix, I wanted to bring the first half into the middle of a loop, but it would start with "a machine" rather than "I got to feeling ..." I could go ahead and create a new wave file, but as you can imagine this can be somewhat inhibiting. Another problem with real time control of the mixer is the slow incremental control of panning. You can't instantly pan absolute volumes from left to right speakers. As far as the four track, there is no editing capability within a track itself. This is actually standard for multi track recorders. If you want to add to a track, you start recording a new track, play the original track, and add to that. What makes New Beat's track system a pain is that there is no pause, fast forward or rewind. If you miss hitting that key two minutes into your new mix, guess what? You have to start all over again. It would be awesome if New Beat Trancemission included a sync feature for all four tracks, allowing you to fast forward, pause, or rewind the tracks in unison. It would also allow you to be more expressive with the mix during playback.
One final annoyance I had was with Sound Warp. I had a hell of a time getting my own sounds to be the right length. Since the loops used by the mixer play back two, four, and eight second wave files, your imported files have to be that length, as well. And I mean exactly. If you're off by .00001, sorry. One function of Sound Warp allows you to insert silence, but only allows you to insert a value from .001 to 60. The editor shows you the length of a file up to four digits past the decimal, but doesn't round up for you. My Shaft sample was 3.9999 in length. I added .001 to the file. It made it 4.0009. After a lot of frustration, I went to the manual and discovered that there was an "easy" way around this. First you insert silence that makes the wave more than two, four, or eight seconds. Next you click a button to set the cursor at the beginning of the wave. Then you select Set Selection from the Edit menu and set the wave to the desired length. The editor then highlights the selected portion for you. Next you select Copy from Edit (another annoyance is that there is no right-click for New Beat; I thought this was a Win95 program), open up a new sound file, paste the sample you want, and Voila! You have your two-, four-, or eight-second sample. To be honest with you, though, once you do it a couple of times it's not that bad. The only reason I have a gripe with it is that one: why display up to four spaces past the decimal, but only let you edit down to three? and two: why not just round it up or down for you?
If you think the graphics for something like New Beat Trancemission shouldn't matter, you are probably right. But I must mention that the interface for New Beat Trancemission looks pretty cool. It looks more like a mixing box than an application. It's too bad they're not coming out with a physical model. Everything is sharp, slate gray, the buttons press realistically, and the digital display is digital green. A cool graphic effect is green volume lights that flash up and down the sides of the interface, representing left and right volume levels. Funny thing is that they don't show this in their demo screen shots. Oops. Marketing better wake up. It looks way cooler with the lights flashing.
Audio obviously is the most important feature in a product like this. If the samples don't sound any good, what the heck would be the point? I'm happy to say New Beat Trancemission delivers. You get 272 loops out of the box, plus as many you want to create with the Fuse Box, and Sound Warp. Sounds range from full on PHAT to ethereal clean. I went in thinking this is a good idea, but I bet anything the sound quality will be below par, or the loops will be more appropriate for a cheesy commercial than any real music. I was wrong. To give you a little background on where I'm coming from, I play synths, love techno from the likes of Orbital, the Orb, 808 State, and FSOL, and I used to go raving a couple of years ago in Los Angeles, as well as a couple of times in Seattle. New Beat does deliver. A note on this, though: sound quality does depend on your sound card, speakers, and your PC in general. Compared to professional recording equipment designed for music, PCs are pretty damn noisy. I tested with a Sound Blaster 16 and it was decent, but I'm not sure how New Beat handles higher-end sound cards. New Beat defaults to 8-bit mono at 22kHz, but can be set as high as 16-bit stereo at 44kHz. A funny little side note: the $1200 AKAI Remix 16 I mentioned earlier only goes up to 16-bit at 32kHz.
One really cool feature with the Sound Warp portion of New Beat is that in addition to cut, copy and paste, there is a Paste Mix option that allows you to mix in the copied sound over the existing wave. This makes for some really cool sound effects and loops.
Room for Improvement
Considering how affordable New Beat Trancemission is, it's hard to really gripe about much to improve. But if price were not an issue, my wish list would include the following: the ability to add your own sounds to Fuse Box, and/or a simple sequencer, pause, forward, and reverse for the Track recorder, a simpler way to edit sounds to the right length, better control over panning, and MIDI support.
New Beat Trancemission comes with a very simple twenty-page manual. Considering how intuitive the program is, this is not a problem. The manual covers everything you need to know. It immediately helped me out when I got stuck on the sound editing issue I mentioned.
Windows: 486 DX/66 computer or better, Windows95, 8 MB RAM, 2X CD-ROM drive, 8-bit sound card, microphone (optional)
Recommended: Pentium-based 100MHz computer, 16 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, 16-bit sound card, microphone, speakers
Reviewed On: Pentium 90, 40 MB RAM, 6X CD-ROM drive, SoundBlaster16, 150W cheap OEM speakers
Microforum was right on with its recommendations. I didn't have a problem with my system even at the highest resolution setting of 44kHz, 16-bit stereo. On a 486 w\ 8 MB of RAM and a SoundBlaster16, I did notice some delays and general jerkiness. One thing I thought was really cool of Microforum was that they created an 8 MB directory of sample layouts for users with only 8 MB of RAM, which only use ten of the twenty channels.
For the price, New Beat Trancemission definitely delivers. You get some really cool samples and loops covering trance, hip hop, house, etc. You get a pretty decent wave editor with some really cool effects, and you get a simple yet sufficient percussion/rhythm composer. Although there is room for improvement, it's not a bad buy and is a blast to play with. All the included sounds are royalty-free, which means you can use them for whatever you want, and yes, the sounds are good enough to use. I give New Beat Trancemisson an 85 out of 100.