Live's interface is a single-window affair, clear and uncluttered despite its depth. The market for audio recording software is vast, ranging from GarageBand to Pro Tools, with a lot of stuff in between. Now in its seventh iteration, Ableton Live started as a tool designed primarily for—surprise—live performances, but over the years, has morphed into a popular tool for studio and recording work as well. Ableton Live 7 is not revolutionary but evolutionary. With this latest version, Live has matured into a well-rounded, integrated environment with extensive automation and a unique approach to the musical process.
Choose Music > Pop-H when you're rocking out to Abba with headphones. Sure, it's easy enough to do, but we were too lazy to change Hear's preset to Hip Hop / Rap-H when the song switched to Akon's Smack That. Even nonaudiophiles can appreciate an app like JoeSoft's Hear, which, for $49.95, boosts the sound quality of your entire digital music library - and any other audio you care to listen to on your Mac. After an admittedly quick look at the app, however, we found ourselves wishing JoeSoft could build in a few more features that cater to lazy mousers like us. To wit: With its dozens of music presets - from Alternative / Punk to Hip Hop/Rap to Techno, all for both speakers and headphones, choosing the one you want quickly is, well, a challenge.
The iPod is not only the best-looking and best-selling music player to date but also a springboard from which dozens of accessories have launched and soared. These products turn your iPod from a mere digital music player into multi-functional tool--that happens to play episodes of Family Guy. Some attachments are so useful that it makes you wonder why Apple didn’t think of it first. In fact, some of these accessories can become so integral to your iPod that it can feel naked without them.
While there are lots of controls for tweaking the sound, you’ll fall in love with Pianoteq by just playing the darn thing. While the digital music world is ruled by gnarly synthesizers, decked-out drum machines, and spacey sound effects, most musicians will tell you that the Holy Grail of software is one that can emulate the good old acoustic piano. Sampled piano instruments typically require sample libraries that eat up between 15 and 30 gigabytes of hard drive space, and are constrained by the limitations of sampling technology. Well, fear not: A group of French geniuses have come up with the ultimate nonsampled piano, and it’s downright luscious.
At just under 4 inches on all sides, the iCube fits nearly anywhere—as long as there’s AC power nearby. Boynq offers the iCube II (and another iPod speaker, the Sabre) in both black-and-chrome “Pour Homme” and lavender-and-white “Pour Femme” versions. While “Pour Femme” is one glitter unicorn sticker away from being “Pour 9-Year-Old Girl,” the black-and-chrome version is attractive enough for a desktop, bedroom, or kitchen.
Groove Agent 3 lets you synch up two different drum modules, for extremely dense and lush rhythms. Anyone who makes—or listens to—music is well aware that, in the end, rhythm is the thing that keeps it all together and makes it gel. If you create your own tunes, you might feel constrained by using existing drum loops, and that’s where Groove Agent enters the picture: It’s a unique software drum machine that incorporates some innovative MIDI and sampled drum technology, and the result is one seriously groovy virtual skin beater.
With a little bit of work, you can create DRM-free versions of your iTunes music. Digital rights management (DRM) prevents a music file from being played by an unauthorized user or player. The recording industry thinks DRM is necessary to stop piracy, but as Steve Jobs put it in his February 6, 2007, public letter titled Thoughts on Music, “DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy.” DRM’s restrictions effectively do nothing but annoy the people who bought the music. Since Jobs’s letter, the iTunes Store has gone on to offer DRM-free songs, but the iTunes Store’s DRM-free library, called iTunes Plus, is limited (although always growing). If you already have a DRM’d iTunes song, you can pay 30 cents per song to convert to a DRM-free version—if one is available. Or you can create your own.
During the course of human events, it sometimes becomes necessary to bring the rock—and we cannot bring the rock without the hallowed tools of our trade. So we summon our guitars and amps, our boots and leather, our Pete Townsend windmills and Janis Joplin caterwauls. And now we also enlist our Macs—for they bestow furious powers of transformation upon those who seek rock star greatness. Yes, Macs are even more potent than cowbells. Consider the DIY career stylings of D’arby Rose, singer-guitarist of the As Ifs, a band that most certainly has the coolest name in the entire history of rock, ever. At the gravelly old age of 17, Rose has already produced all the must-have media assets that one would expect of a serious punk-rock frontwoman. She’s got the demo CD. She’s got the music video. She’s got the website with the obligatory music downloads and calendar of live appearances. And she, along with drummer Lily B, created all of this stuff with nothing but a MacBook. And we do mean nothing but a MacBook.