Brought to you by the same team who were responsible for the seriously excellent Z3TA, Dimension Pro started life as part of Cakewalk’s music creation tool ‘Project 5’ and quickly proved to be so popular, that they decided to spin it off as a self contained cross platform plug in.
At the time, this was major audio news, because it was the first time in their history that Cakewalk had released a piece of software compatible with anything other than a PC, so it prompted speculation about the possibility of Mac versions of their other products…
As if to fan the flames of speculation, Cakewalk have recently released another soft synth, ‘Rapture’…once again as a cross platform plug in (stay tuned for a review), so it will certainly be interesting to see what the future holds for the rest of their line up. But in the meantime, here’s the lowdown on DP…
Based around a sample playback engine with powerful synthesis capabilities and a massive library of sounds, Dimension Pro is best described as a very contemporary workstation soft synth with a user interface optimised for easy programmability.
At its heart are four sound generators, called ‘Elements’. Each element has a player (as opposed to a playa) which can function as either a wavetable oscillator, a ‘waveguide’ (physical modelling) generator, or which can play back your choice of single/multi sample(s)…and because multi samples are defined using the open standard, text based sfz format, which offers far more parameters than you will find on your common or garden sampler, you can use it to create extremely complex and flexible multi sample arrangements.
Each player is routed through its own dedicated ‘effects stage’ consisting of an overdrive module, a low-fi section that offers two controls, one for bit reduction and one called (in a deep voice) “the ‘decimator,” (which continuously adjusts the sample rate) and one of the most comprehensive filters I’ve seen, which can emulate anything from a one-pole filter with a 6db octave roll off, to a six-pole filter , with a 36db/octave roll off!
After the filter, comes the ‘DSP stage’ (one per Element), which consists of 3 band parametric EQ and a delay unit featuring a variety of modulation and delay FX, all with cutoff, resonance and LFO controls. Then it’s onwards to the ‘modulation module’, which offers no less than five envelope generators (for amplitude, pitch, cutoff, resonance & pan), five LFOs and five keyboard tracking generators…per Element. And because each EG features an arbitrary amount of segments, with adjustable shape, keyboard tracking and velocity tracking for each segment, as well as looping, the sonic possibilities are almost endless.
Finally, the output from each element is sent to a four channel mixer with two FX sends per channel for the global reverb and modulation FX units.
I said that Dimension Pro ships with a massive library. It does…7GB (that’s 3GB more than the Project 5 version) on two DVDs, which amount to over 1500 presets, including ‘banks’ of pads, real & synth basses, drums, percussion, strings, guitars, organs, acoustic & electric pianos, bells, leads, brass, saxes, vocals, drum & musical grooves (which include MIDI patterns that can optionally be dragged into your sequencer of choice for editing and/or assignment to completely different patches), ‘techno & trance’, ‘electronic’, ‘ethnic & world’, orchestral soundscapes…and ‘The Garritan Pocket Orchestra’ – all of the major instruments in a symphony orchestra, taken from the Garritan Personal Orchestra.
So how do these presets sound? For the most part, excellent. The best of the lot, to my ears, are bank number 1 ‘Dimensions’, evolving soundscapes that are right up there with the likes of Absynth and Reaktor. Second place goes to the various electronic patches, which, unsurprisingly, do the same fantastic job of emulating classic and contemporary synths, as Z3TA and coming a close third is The Garritan Pocket Orchestra. Less impressive are the ‘real’ basses, which, as a bass player, I have to say, don’t sound particularly real to me.
Of course these presets are just part of the story as not only can you load your own samples, but also, thanks to an incredibly well designed interface, you can select, mix and mangle sounds in mere moments and use the MIDI Matrix to assign any MIDI control Message to any sound parameter (with or without the alliteration). In fact the only real restriction is that Dimension Pro doesn’t offer any sample editing facilities of its own.
The danger with workstation ‘synths’ is that in trying to be all things to all musicians, they end up doing most things in a mediocre manner. That’s certainly not the case with Dimension Pro, which does most things very well. As long as you have plenty of space on your hard drive for its sample library and don’t mind the consequently large amount of time needed to install it, the chances are you’ll find a multitude of uses for DP. Add into the mix the recently announced REX support, Microtuning and Alternate tuning with Scala file support, MIDI learn, RTAS support and Mactel support of the recently announced version 1.2 upgrade and Dimension Pro is definitely one to check out.
More info: http://www.cakewalk.com/
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