Today we will be taking some time out to detail another fantastic software instrument for Logic Pro X and all major DAWs. Signal has become a go-to for me when it comes to rhythmic synth lines and organic poly-rhythms. It uses 40GB of dynamically recorded material and a dual-layer pulse engine amounting to nothing less than a monster arpeggiator/rhythm gate beast…
Signal is made up of three main pages: the Pulse Instruments page, the Pulse Engine and the Effects. It is a split 2-layer synth allowing you to essentially stack 2 sounds with individual rhythms for each.
The 50 sample-based sound sources range from vintage synth tones, and detuned saw waves to a felt pianos, harmoniums, piano atmospheres, harps, guitars and so much more.
Each layer has its own dedicated channel strip and a Pulse Engine with two selectable/customizable rhythms: a Main rhythm and a Secondary rhythm. That’s 4 individual rhythms in total. We also get full ADSR, a multi-mode filter, tube/distortion settings and more on each layer with individual send settings for each of the two rhythms.
The Main rhythm can be set to one of 4 modes: Wave (think an LFO), Step sequencer, Arpeggiator and a Looper. While the Secondary rhythm can be set to Wave (LFO) mode or a Step Sequencer. We can choose to mix and match these modes across both layers in any way we desire. The controls get extremely deep here as well. We can draw our own sequences or choose from a load of preset Step Sequence/Arp rhythms, LFO fade-in delays, just about any kind of arpeggiator setting you have ever heard of and an (absolutely fire) tape looper. All of which can be set to a different speed, pan position and more. Needless to say, things can get very wild here, very quick.
Output’s awesome Macro controls are front and center here once again. Those large faders in the middle of the UI can be used to control up to 6 other parameters anywhere on Signal and take the built-in Pulse Instruments way further than your typical preset, on top of making for some pretty amazing live performance tools.
The Copy menu is actually very powerful and versatile here. You can choose to copy your settings and adjustments from layer to layer with a fantastic level of granularity. You can copy the entire layer, just the Pulse Engine settings, just the Source Chanel Strip or the layer-specific Effects. This is can be very handy in sound design and can save a ton of time when you’re trying double up sounds to create monster patches and more.
The Pulse Instruments Page is essentially your typical presets manager where you can flip through the hundreds of professionally designed Pulse Instruments provided by Output. Due to the way Output uses those large Macro faders you see on the top of the interface to control large subsets of parameters throughout the instrument, Output’s Pulse Instruments Page becomes a much more powerful way to audition sounds than your typical preset browser.
While this tech/setup can be found in most of Output’s flagship instruments, it is particularly useful for me on Signal. A single preset changes drastically using the patch specific Macro controls which allows producers to get a very good idea of what a particular sound might be capable of without tinkering with loads of controls for an hour.
We get two entirely separate set of effects for each of the 2 layers in our sound along with a host of Global options that effect both layers. The Global Convolution Reverb sounds pretty sweet to me here and the Spreader Layer effect was just magical on some of the patches I have been working on. We also had lots of success with the Tape Saturation layer effect for adding extra warmth to bright sounds and for sitting massive rhythmic patches into the mix with other instruments.
Clearly this is an instrument based around pulsing rhythms, despite its ability to be quite subtle about it as well. If you’re not looking for that kind of thing in particular or tend to avoid those types of sounds in your projects, this might not be the best option considering those are the instrument’s best features in my opinion.
On the other hand, the ability to so easily inject beats and rhythms into such an impressive mix of organic samples and lush synth tones has me sold. The Pulse Engines are very deep in terms of control for accommodating everything from commercial, EDM-style synth lines, to dynamic organic motion and downright experimental poly-rhythms with odd numbered steps (and all that fun stuff).
While there may not be anything here you have never heard of before on other instruments out there, it’s the fact that these powerful rhythm generators are all right at our fingertips that makes Signal so powerful as a sound design tool. No need to load up 4 arpeggiators on 4 different tracks and then setup a web of confusing automation only to have them just “sort-of” reacting to or modulating one another’s parameters. Sure, you might be able to hack your way through a brutally complicated Massive patch or something to emulate this kind of discrete rhythm control over two separate sound sources, but not as gracefully. Even the most beginner sound designer will be able to pick up Signal and make wild and beautiful dynamic synth rhythms within minutes.
The Signal Pulse Engine runs on Kontakt 5 or the Kontakt Free Player inside of all major DAWs and requires about 41GB of hard drive space. It goes for $199 via Output’s online storefront.
You can check out our impressions of Output’s Exhale Vocal Engine and its Substance Bass synth right here.
- 500 Pulse Instruments for instant playability
- A massive array of content
- 40GB including analog synths, digital synths and organic instruments
- Up to 4 separate pulses at one time
- All pulses lock to tempo
- Rhythms: Looper, Step Sequencers, Arpeggiators, LFOs
- 4 central MACRO sliders unique to each of the 500 Pulse Instruments
See any interesting products/gear you would like us to review/cover? Let us know in the comments below.
The Logic Pros are: Justin Kahn and Jordan Kahn, who also front Toronto-based electronic/hip-hop group Makamachine.
Want more Logic Pros? Check out the archives here and stay tuned for a new installment each week in 2017.