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PCRECORDING.COM - FruityLoops Review

FruityLoops TS-404
Manufacturer: FruityLoops
MSRP: Basic ($35.00), Pro ($70.00), and TS-404 ($129.00)
System: Windows 9x
Min. Req.: Pentium 133, 32 meg RAM, Windows 9x

FruityLoops

Describing FruityLoops in a succinct sentence is nigh unto impossible. A combination drum machine, loop generator and synthesizer editor, it does many things for the user and allows the user to do many things with it. Its initial release was as a drum loop generator and it has now grown to be robust music generator. It features:

  • Loopable instrument samples, drums, synthesizer, wav files
  • User adjustable edit screen
  • Support for VST and DirectX effects
  • Piano editing
  • Multiple configuration options

I have been an analog, acoustic, real instrument type of musician for all my life. My exposure to electronic, synthesizer-based music has been quite limited. As a result, when I received FruityLoops for review, I was a bit intimidated but nevertheless excited about learning how to use it, apply it and review it. I am happy to say that FruityLoops makes it easy.

Installation

I downloaded a copy from the fruityloops site to my desktop. I was prompted to include my password at the site and downloaded the full TS-404 version. The program is contained in a self-executable file. I simply double-clicked on it and it installed itself without a hitch. It was very easy and fast, no reboot was required.

Useability

The interface is quite intuitive to use. Across the top it features a standard set of program controls, File, Edit, Channels, View, Options, Tools, and Help. The user can select from several instrument configurations by clicking on File and selecting from the drop-down menu. To add a channel, click on Channels, then "add", you will be prompted to choose between a sampler channel or a TS 404 channel. Click on your choice and a new channel appears at the bottom. The Options window provides a drop-down menu where program settings can be made. Below this is a numeric pad for choosing patterns, a LED display, LED Tempo display, a Loop LED button and a toggle switch to Play the instrument. Immediately below the Play toggle switch are two interface switches, the left one activates graphical editing windows for volume and panning and a couple other features whereas the right one activates a Piano Editor described below.

Beneath this is a series of LED lights run across the interface above a series of buttons for instrument settings/controls. A large button on the left displays the current instrument button with the name of the instrument imprinted on the button. Immediately to the left of the instrument button are two knobs, one for panning and the other for volume.

To the right of the instrument button is a series of smaller horizontal buttons, one for each beat in the measure. The instrument plays each time a button is activated. By default the user has the choice of having 16, 32, or 64 buttons divided into sets of four appear on the interface for basic 4/4 time signature loops. The user can choose other default numbers and sets in the "Song Settings" section to get different time signatures. In addition, several different "skins" are available to alter the appearance of the interface. The user can select from several instrument configurations by clicking on File and selecting from the drop-down menu. To add a channel, click on Channels, then "add", you will be prompted to choose between a sampler channel or a TS 404 channel. Click on your choice and a new channel appears at the bottom. The Options window provides a drop-down menu where program settings can be made.
 

 

 

To load a new instrument into the interface, you simply drag and drop an instrument listed in the dropdown list (displayed to the left) on to a button in the interface panel. The previous instrument will be replaced by the new one. Drag and drop the instrument of your choice there and you can begin to play your loop.

Though the program comes with a robust list of instruments and samples the user is not limited to these. FruityLoops will use any 16-bit wave file you import into its system. Click on F8 and browse your computer for wave files you wish to use. For instance, there are many wave file drum samples available on the Web that are downloadable. Save those to a folder on your harddrive, browse to it with FruityLoops and it will add that folder to its instrument list. Similarly, you could make your own wave samples with your own instruments, save them in a folder and do the same. This function expands the functionality of the program immeasureably - - the instrumentation limitations are set by how much you decide to import and use. It is exciting to consider that you could independently record individual notes of your instrument of choice, save them as wave files and import them directly into the FruityLoops environment.

In addition, a user can import Rebirth files directly into FruityLoops. I do not have personal experience with this format but thought it deserved mention.

Another cool little program offered by the FruityLoops team it the Beat Slicer. You can import a wave file with Beat Slicer and it will calculate sonic events within the file and separate them into separate wave files. This can then be independently used and edited. For instance, if you have a sample of a truly cool drum fill, import it with Beat Slicer and it will divide up the components of the sample into distinct bits. Very nice.

 

 

 

FruityLoops is not only an easy-to-use groovemaker but a melody maker as well. Many of the samples that come with the program can be edited to play different notes on the musical staff. Click on the piano editor button and a rudimentary piano editor is displayed. The graphical display appears as a vertically oriented piano board for each note for your sample/instrument. Clicking on the piano key sets the musical note the instrument is to play. The related musical note is displayed in a window, for instance C5, D5#, etc. Start the loop again and the individual notes are played.

 

 

 

 

 


Editing a sample/instrument is done in an editing pop-up window. Double-click on the instrument button on the interface and a dialog window appears. As you can see, the user can make a wide variety of changes to the sample with the included controls. For instance, on the upper left are pan, volume and pitch controls. Below these are buttons for various editing functions. Underneath this is a window displaying the name of the sample being edited followed by wave and loop settings. By right-clicking on the instrument the user can choose to fill buttons at set intervals, etc. as shown in the graphic below.

Finishing up the interface are controls for "precalc" effects such as reverb, sine fx, cut and resolution, etc. In addition, you can reverse stereo, center DC, reverse the sample, and fade it left to right by pressing respective buttons. Lastly, resolution, attack and decay can be adjusted for a variety of the samples. Overall, you can significantly change the character of the sample, in essence changing it to sound completely different than the original. You can then save it by naming your new edited effect and saving it to a folder.

 

Synthesizer Tools

FruityLoops features significant flexibility with its TS-404 functionality. Basic synthesizer principles apply to this function and are beyond the pale of this review. However, it is clear that there are several levels of functionality that I have yet to explore. In this light, I am definitely looking forward to it and will provide an update to this review when I am done. As you play FruityLoops TS-404, you can record the movements of the dials and knobs. In this way, your edits are remembered by the program so you do not need to repeat them.

Musicality

The program comes with a robust set of preset synthesizer samples, wave files, and drum files. They are organized in the instrument list described above. The combination of this list and the ability to import wave samples of your choice makes this program very musical. With the piano editor, melodies can be created with a wide variety of the instruments available to the program. Harmonies, chords, and effects can all be combined to make full musical pieces. This is a long way from its simple drum machine loop origins.

FruityLoops operates from a set of buttons that act as on/off switches for the selected instrument. These buttons are divided by default into groups of four. 16 buttons are displayed by default with 32, and 64 buttons as other options. If you wish to use alternate time signatures, even 3/4 time, you must change the default settings for FruityLoops. Iif you click on Options, and choose song settings, you can set the number buttons to appear at 12, and to repeat everything 3rd button. In this way, you have 3/4 time. Similar settings can be used to do other time signatures as well, you just have to do the math. The FAQ section has some helpful hints on how to do time signature edits.

 

 

FruityLoops offers a suite of 8 effects that come with the program, these include among others, Fruity Reeverb and Fruity Center, and Fruity Phase Inverter. See the image to the left for a complete list. You can apply these effects to any loop in real-time and save them as part of your wave file.
 

Playability

A client of mine asked me to compose a small, brief audio clip for an online book. It had to be recorded at 16-bit/44.1kHz, be child-like in nature and only 8 seconds long. Rather than use my own acoustic instruments, I used FruityLoops to build up the drum track, synthbass for the bottom end, I imported a couple of choice drum samples, some selected wave files and got to work. Employing the piano editor, I was able to set the bass line and the melody line easily. I then added the drums, a jazz brush snare, a soft high-hat and acoustic bass drum. Setting pan and volume levels was easily done with the dials next to each channel. For detailed graphic displays of what I was doing, I used the editing feature in FruityLoops. To the right you see what it looks like for panning and below what it looks like for volume.

 

 

I was able to get a very catchy childish audio clip done in about an hour or so. I then simply saved it as a wave file and emailed it out to my client. The process was quite efficient in the FruityLoops environment and the results very pleasing to me and my client. This would be a great tool for those musicians hired to create jingles as well as more serious audio. The only thing I noticed on the downside was that there was some latency I had to contend with while recording. This is not much of a problem and I was able to adjust the buffering to my taste in the settings window. However, on a slower machine like a minimum Pentium 133 this could pose a bit of an issue.

 

Conclusions

This program is very flexible, easy to use and makes great loops. More than just a loop machine, it is capable of generating musical pieces from original melodies or imported wave samples and seamlessly integrating them with its native sounds. Since it directly imports wave files, you can achieve very high levels of audio quality. As a combination drum machine, loop generator, and synthesizer it allows for high levels of user interaction and manipulation. I would recommend easier support for some alternate time signatures. Otherwise, this is a very fun program to use, easy to understand and it sounds good.

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