As an electronic musician who's been producing music in surround sound with Steinberg's Nuendo, I'm no stranger to instrument plug-ins. In fact, I've been amazed by new virtual incarnations as well as software emulations of older hardware boxes (Korg's new Legacy Collection of the M1 and Wavestation comes to mind as cost-effective software that blows the original outta the water). That said, Tape Op asked me to take Cakewalk's new virtual synth Rapture for a test spin... so here's my short and sweet story.
For starters, Rapture is a wavetable synth that offers up over 500 sound voice programs using "non-aliasing resampling engine technology" that actually sounds really good. Initially, I wasn't overly impressed with the sounds that Cakewalk says are "well suited for electronica-related music styles." But, as I started playing around with the nearly endless range of patches that are grouped into ten instrument-type categories, I became quite impressed with Rapture's quality, expressiveness, and intuitive parameter controls.
On the sound-side... It really does have a Euro-techno bent, but that's okay in my book. I really like the "one-note- wonder" sequences that provide an ever-evolving set of wave-dances. These Wavestation-like sequences can be used to add a degree of depth and fun to a track. The bass section is pretty much badd-ass (full and deep). Some of the Moog emulations are as full and rich as their original counterparts. This section's guaranteed to add a bit o' punch to the mix and is almost worth the $200 street price on its own. I'm not too crazy about many of the keys and pads, as they have a Roland-like quality that's not my fave. The ten limited drum kits are perfect for trance and industrial music, but are fairly useless for anything else. I really think that they could've spent more time developing a wider range of drum kits, as the sound is big n' full-just limited. Adding drum grooves would've rounded out Rapture's heavy techno-vibe. (Cakewalk says new sounds are coming. -AH)
On the programmability-side... I love the fact that I can use the center scroll wheel on the PC to alter parameters; it makes editing much easier. After you've selected a pre- programmed patch, you can mouse your way over to the Modulators section to vary parameters like ADSR, pitch, filter, resonance, panning, and amplitude. The handy-dandy Step section lets you alter parameters over time, using a set generator that has an unusually wide range (allowing sounds to evolve over time in a programmed fashion). I found the EQ section to be fairly unresponsive and next to useless. However, the Insert FX section sounds great and offers up a number of useful effects that can be altered easily using on- screen filter and control settings.
One of my favorite aspects to Rapture is that you can stack together up to six wavetable voices into a single patch. By selecting any patch (E1 through E6), and then clicking on the currently selected voice name, any of 233 wavetable samples can be called up, edited, and mixed (using Rapture's simple, on-screen mixer). This lets you mix samples to create and save a virtually unlimited puree of custom sounds.
On a final note, take all of the above, and combine it with the fact that the wave-dance timings will follow the DAW's session tempo (a common occurrence in many newer groove-based plug-ins), and you have a valuable tool that's both flexible and fun. ($289 MSRP; www.cakewalk.com)
-David Miles Huber