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ONE Groove Module - 4 out of 5 Mice - MacUser
PROS - Large loop library + eight-rack device + easy to use + stable + endlessly expandable + fair price
CONS - Core Library’s electronic bias + hard-wired FX configuration
Following last year’s Kick-Ass Brass! plug-in (reviewed MacUser issue 21, number 20), developer AMG has now released ONE, a combined groove module and sample library. The company is pitching ONE as a cross-platform, sequencer-friendly, groove-activating instrument, with low CPU demand and a “simply powerful” approach to getting the job done, whereby it sounds great and is easy to use but is also effective, intelligent and flexible enough not to inhibit a user’s creativity. To its credit, this is precisely the experience that ONE delivers.
ONE presents a good-looking interface, with three main areas to focus on: the browser on the left, global controls at the top and the main display window (featuring Racks 1-4, Racks 5-8, FX and Options buttons) in the centre. Straight away, it’s pretty obvious how things work. Using the browser, you can search and filter the Core Library (plus the My Files and Favourites folders) by genre, producer, format, BPM, effect-type etc; preview loops directly from the browser, and load your selection to a chosen rack by double-clicking (drag and drop won’t work). As ONE automatically syncs to host tempo, auditioning loops during playback is a breeze.
ONE will load REX, ACID, WAV or AIFF files (although the latter two cannot be time-stretched in real time), so any content you already own in these formats is immediately compatible. ONE also ships with a Core Library of 4.5Gb of loops and samples and – given the audio-mangling capability on offer for every slice in every loop – this raw material alone should provide considerable distraction. The only caveat is that there is an electronic bias to the Library, with a consequent lack of acoustic drum samples, although this issue is to be addressed by one of AMG’s (inevitable) forthcoming expansion packs to supplement ONE’s content.
There are eight discrete racks in ONE, all of which can play back files simultaneously. Each rack can be triggered either by a single MIDI note or across up to two octaves for instant keyboard sample mapping. ONE’s output (and your performance) can be recorded directly in to your sequencer or you can export the MIDI file for further manipulation. All operational aspects of ONE are also MIDI controllable.
Each rack offers three different modes: synth, waveform or step sequencer. The synth controls cover everything you might reasonably want to do to a sample or slice, especially via the comprehensive and excellent multimode resonant filter section. The waveform page shows all slices in a file, colour coded to indicate current state (e.g. dark blue = muted; purple = reversed). A neat Show Layers option produces a blank row of slices beneath the existing loop, into which new sample data (taken from anywhere) can be pasted. Existing slices can also be copied and pasted to any slice in any rack or pasted into one of the 32 step sequencer slots within every rack.
The step sequencer page houses a traditional 16-step sequencer, with individual accent control per step, 32 sound slots (with independent volume, pan and pitch) and step swing per cent and accent strength controls for each rack. As before, the steps are colour-coded to indicate their state (on/off) and samples can be pasted into them from the 32-slot matrix to build up your grooves.
ONE also has a total of four 64-bit FX units (two insert, two send, all post-fader) and 16 effect algorithms. While you cannot add more effect units, ONE at least offers flexible routing (up to four stereo outputs) so that you can combine insert and send FX devices as necessary to route the audio as you choose.
ONE has plenty to offer, sensibly arranged such that everyday tasks are easily accomplished while deeper editing is only ever a mouse-click away. Some might find that the Core Library is not entirely to their taste, but anyone who already has a large REX or ACID-ized file collection could quite conceivably never use a single loop from the included Library, yet still find ONE becomes an indispensable part of their music making. On this showing, AMG is fairly entitled to consider ONE “the complete loop solution”.
FUTURE MUSIC REVIEW
Gotta lotta loops? Looking for a multi-timbral player to warp and trigger them? Jonathan Wilson wonders if he’s found just the right ONE for you.
Having established its plug-in credentials with last year's enjoyable horn-fest, Kick-Ass Brass!, AMG returns with ONE, a combined groove-activating loop module and sample library which bundles three tools in, er, one: a file player that accepts REX, REX2, ACID, WAV or AIFF files; a waveform slice editor, and a 16-step programmable sequencer.
Tidily housed in ONE's stylish interface, each function has its own dedicated editing screen and controls. From the eight instrument racks that ONE offers, you simply click the icon in the top-left-hand corner: the rack's current state is indicated by either a MIDI keyboard icon (sample trigger and filter mode), a waveform icon (slice mode) or a number matrix icon (step sequencer mode).
There's also the small matter of the 4.5Gb Core Library (which is encrypted and only authorized for use on one machine). With over 3,500 loops and thousands of individual hits, there’s more than enough here to keep most groove monkeys off the streets for some time. There are plenty of usable drum sounds and instrument samples, plus there's also the audio-mangling capabilities of ONE's filters and FX on hand, so that 4.5Gb of content is really more of a starting point limited only by your own imagination.
My only gripe with the content is the heavy electronic bias of the Library, with less acoustic drum loops. AMG tells me that it’s planning a range of expansion packs to supplement ONE's content and that an acoustic collection will be one of the first, but this does mean that out of the box ONE is not as well-rounded as it could have been.
ONE breaks down into three sections: browser window on the left, global controls at the top and the main display area in the centre, which can be switched to display either racks 1-4, racks 5-8, the FX or the Options screen. Everything starts with the browser, which displays all the content associated with ONE. This can be filtered by genre, producer, format, BPM, effect-type and so on, so you can easily assemble a perfect batch of loops on the fly.
Loops can be previewed from the browser, although one shot samples and full-mix Multi files cannot. Double-clicking (not drag and drop) loads a file into the selected rack. Post-session, your own tricked-out ONE creations can be saved as either single rack program files or as all-rack-packing multi files and previewed from the browser any time in the future.
When you load your own REX and ACID files, they’re stored by default in the My Files folder. This keeps things nice and tidy and facilitates easy browsing, although it also means that if you change your mind about particular loops, you might want to periodically clear out and rescan the My Files folder.
At the controls
With a file loaded in to a rack, it’s tweakin’ time. A loop or sample can be triggered either by a single specified MIDI note or spread across an octave or two for instant keyboard mapping. There’s no way of triggering a file (apart from individual slices) from within ONE itself, so a MIDI keyboard is the only option. All eight racks can be triggered simultaneously simply by setting each rack to respond to the same MIDI channel and note. Talking of MIDI, files can be exported for further manipulation and ONE is also fully MIDI controllable, with a MIDI learn mode which automatically links any control to the next MIDI CC message.
The synth controls are the default selection for each rack, with a three-page system providing access to all the controls, such as ONE’s resonant multimode filter section and envelope ADSR. 10 different filter types are available and used in conjunction with the cutoff, resonance, mod depth and ADSR controls, you’ve got a great deal of creative control over any sample. As with all parameters in ONE, when you move any knob or slider a feedback box displays its current settings. There’s also a filter LFO section, with a choice of waveforms (sawtooth, square, triangle and sine) and the LFO rate and depth modulation parameters.
Clicking the keyboard icon takes you to the waveform page, which displays the loop chopped into its component slices. Each one is colour-coded to indicate its current state, such as dark blue for muted or purple for reversed. Individual slices can be auditioned by clicking and holding and multiple slices can be simultaneously edited using shift+click.
The Show Layers option here is pretty cool: this presents a blank row of slices under the currently loaded file, into which new sample data can be pasted (WAV, AIFF or ONE’s OPS single-shot samples). This is an easy way to beef up a pattern or add accents to a groove. Slices can also be copied and pasted to any position in any rack. There are also one-button shortcuts to swap adjacent slices around if you want to quickly mix up a loop.
The 16-step sequencer is the final page displayed in the rack windows, with individual accent control per step and 32 sound slots (each with independent volume, pan and pitch) for all eight racks: drop a sample into a slot and fire at will. With a separate instance in every rack, you can create multiple pattern variations and trigger them as required or add new beats to existing loops.
As above, steps are colour-coded to indicate their state, plus there are step swing per cent and accent strength controls. It’s limited to 4/4 time, though, unless you get creative with multiple instances of ONE in your track. There are also no playback controls to demo your pattern; you’ll only hear how it sounds when your host sequencer is rolling.
The final aspects of note in ONE are its FX and routing features. Four 64-bit FX units are available, with each rack having an auxiliary send for FX units 3 and 4 (units 1 and 2 are inserts). There are 16 different FX algorithms in total and the parameter knobs change to display the appropriate parameters for the effect chosen (delay, reverb, phaser, flanger, EQ etc).
Output-wise, ONE has four separate stereo outputs and each rack’s output can be routed directly to any of them, so that it’s possible to combine insert and send FX on a rack’s loop before routing the combination to a single stereo output. All FX send controls are post-fader, however, which can’t be altered, so the volume of a rack’s output affects the overall instrument output.
ONE is undoubtedly a very useful tool. With a decent library onboard, the promise of future expansion packs, the easy addition of your own collection and creative control over every slice, ONE pretty much covers most people’s looping needs. Its integrated, cross-platform, multi sequencer-friendly approach deserves to win ONE new friends and the hidden depths help curb the interface bloat of some of its competitors. Nice ONE!
Anyone using loops, especially in REX or ACID format, may well find that ONE is the creative and stable multi-timbral file player they’ve been looking for. ONE to watch.
Marks out of 10:
Value For Money: 8
Ease Of Use: 9