A long overdue Transfusion

David Holloway
22 September, 2008
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Over the past few years Digidesign have been playing some serious catch-up in regard to their Pro Tools application. That may sound like blasphemy to some, but Logic Pro in particular appears to have streaked ahead in its comprehensiveness as a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). Loop-based recording has become increasingly popular and frankly, Pro Tools wasn’t cutting it. That’s finally changed with Transfuser, the newest virtual instrument on the block.

At first glance there are some obvious comparisons to Propellerheads Reason or Ableton Live. Both those applications have gained popularity due to the audio slicing and dicing options they offer and Transfuser is no different.

After installing Transfuser and launching Pro Tools, starting work was as easy as selecting Transfuser as an insert in the Mix window. Once it launched I automatically clicked my mouse on the bottom right corner of the window to resize its width and then realised it can’t be done (resizing length-ways is possible). This is a major oversight for an instrument as comprehensive as Transfuser. You’re limited to a pokey side column in the Transfuser window to browse loops, which is quite frustrating to use.

Once you have chosen the loop or other compatible file to work with, the real fun starts. There are two primary uses for Transfuser. The first follows the Reason and Live model of loop-based recording. The second (and most appealing to option to me) is the ability to drag audio from standard Pro Tools tracks into Transfuser. I spent an hour or so doing just that and I was getting pretty excited at the creative possibilities that opened up. Each channel of output from Transfuser can be situated on separate Pro Tools tracks, so once you’ve sliced and diced in Transfuser you can easily apply any other Pro Tools plugins you own.

The integration with Pro Tools’ work flow is one of Transfuser’s key strengths. It seems a natural part of the application, not some hastily bolted on addition. Each instance of Transfuser you launch supports 16 MIDI channels and up to 128 internal tracks, so the only risk you run is running out of CPU power if you try to run Transfuser as inserts on multiple tracks.

Nearly 2GB worth of loops come with Transfuser and all the expected bases are covered. I may be spoilt due to my regular exposure to loop libraries but there’s nothing particularly exciting about this bundle. I’d argue that the Apple Loops bundled with Logic Studio are vastly superior in both range and quantity. To be fair, Transfuser is priced much lower than Logic Studio but even so, I did expect more. That whinge aside, there are user-defined directories so if you do have loops from other libraries in REX, ACID, Apple Loops, AIFF or WAV formats, you can utilise them fully in Transfuser.

I’ve used the term ‘slice and dice’ for good reason. Two key components of Transfuser are the Slicer and Slice Sequencer. When you add audio into Transfuser, it asks you which slicing approach you want to use. The first option is having the audio beat-matched to the overall session tempo. The second breaks down the audio into small parts for manipulation whilst matching it to the pattern-based Slice Sequencer. The third option takes your audio and slices it into parts that are assigned to twelve virtual drum pads that you can trigger. Sound confusing? It is to some extent but when you’re actually using Transfuser, it quite intuitive. Any application like this has a learning curve and Transfuser’s is no worse than any other.

One last piece of music geekery: Transfuser has a new gizmo called M.A.R.I.O. (Musical Advanced Random Intelligent Operations) which at the click of a button randomises the audio in some fascinating and very musical ways. This alone will be worth the price of purchase alone for some.

If you’re a Pro Tools user frustrated at the lack of loop-based creative options, you’ll want to take a very serious look at Transfuser. For the more traditional Pro Tools user, Transfuser also holds some appeal due to its ability to mashup standard Pro Tools audio tracks, giving you another creative option at a reasonable price.

A free 14-day demo is available for download, so try it out for yourself.

Australian Macworld Buying Advice. If you’re looking to buy your first DAW and loop-based recording is a major part of the equation for you, give Transfuser a try. The Pro Tools integration will be less obvious to you though, and the draw of products like Logic Studio, Reason and Live will be much stronger.

For mine, Transfuser is a long overdue addition. It offers a stunning array of creative opportunities and it’ll certainly keep Pro Tools very competitive in the loop-based market.

Digidesign Transfuser

Pros Integration with Pro Tools work flow, randomisation capabilities
Cons Poor loop browsing interface, non-resizeable plugin window
Distributor Digidesign Australia 1300 734454
Type RTAS Plugin
Rating 4
RRP $295.00

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