Steinberg Avalon 2.10
Steinberg's Avalon for the Atari ST was one of the first professional digital sample processing & resynthesis programs on the market in 1989 but it certainly wasn't any ordinary sample editor - compared to the features of sampling editors in 2010, it was way ahead of its time. Although the Atari was known more for MIDI sequencing, it was often underestimated for it's powerful audio editing capabilities. Steinberg's Avalon pushed the Atari ST's hardware to its fullest potential as a fully featured, powerful, digital audio editing program.
A Brief Overview
Once loaded, the program opens at the default mapping page, a customizable graphical desktop which acts as the control centre of Avalon. Depending on what hardware you have connected, the layout will differ for each user. All samplers and storage devices appear as an icon. Additionally, there are four bank icons (each representing a bank of eight samples), eight sample icons (representing the eight samples in the currently active bank), as well as a clipboard, info, edit, and synthesis page icon. Most tasks are carried out by dragging one icon onto another; for instance, to perform a MIDI sample dump, drag the sampler's icon onto an empty sample icon. Similarly, by clicking on a sample icon, you can link two consecutive samples to form a stereo sample, which can then be treated as a single entity. Right-clicking a sample causes it to be played back via either the monitor's internal speaker, the STe's sound chip or the optional 16-bit D-A board.
Double-clicking a sample icon opens the Time Domain Editor, the default editing interface, which includes a graphic waveform display and a toolbox from which you can select various functions. It's important to note here, that Avalon separates the Time Frequency Domain from its Frequency Domain Editor to reflect its two different approaches to handling samples (more on this below).
The toolbox offers standard editing tools such as zoom, fade in, fade out, reverse, truncate and optimize, as well as six different filter types with an adjustable cutoff and width. Using the mouse pointer, you can even draw amplitude envelopes and sample waveforms. There's also a tool for defining blocks within waveforms, and the option to apply a number of standard processing algorithms to them. Some of these algorithms offer some intriguing possibilities:
- Replicate: reproduces a selected block from 1 to 999 times. One possibility is to use this feature with the waveform-drawing option by drawing a single cycle of a waveform, and then replicating it as many times as necessary to create a new sample of a usable length.
- Delay: creates effects by calculating and adding delays to the original waveform. This algorithm is capable of creating a whole plethora of effects -- offering delay times of just a single sample to 10 whole seconds.
- Time Correction (Timestretch): A self exanatory function, however, it should be mentioned that Avalon performs this feature intelligently by analysing the active sample and applying the best algorithm for the highest quality possible. It also extrapolates the sample's length in milliseconds as well as its tempo in bpm. You can see also see the projected time/tempo values of the sample by adjusting the 'Stretch Factor' controls.
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The Time Domain Editor also feautres Split Loop Mode - a clever and intuitive tool for finding the best loop points in a sample. When you enter this mode, the main editor window divides into three sections:
Top: an overview window displaying the entire waveform with its start/end points
Bottom left: displays the section of the sample in front of the loop end point
Bottom right: displays the section of the sample behind the loop start point
This display arrangement allows you to view the loop the same way you will hear it (ie. with the loop end running into the loop start).
To get into the Frequency Domain Editor, you must select Analyse Block which performs a Fourier analysis on a selected block, breaking the sample down into its component parts to display it in the Frequency Domain Editor window in 3D. Amplitude is plotted on the vertical axis, frequency on the horizontal axis, and time on the 'depth' axis. The resulting image looks a lot like a range of mountains which can be rotated and viewed from any angle.
To edit, you can use the 'cross-wire' cursor to select two-dimensional cross-sections from the so-called mountain range. These cross-sections, referred to as 'frequency slices' by Avalon, represent specific frequency bands from within the sound, which can be edited individually. More in-depth editing can be done in any of the two following modes:
2D Frequency Mode: displays a graph of the sample at a given point in time, with frequency on the horizontal axis and amplitude on the vertical.
2D Time Mode: displays a graph of a given frequency slice, with the horizontal axis representing time and the vertical axis representing amplitude.
In either of these modes, you can use the mouse to define 'rubberbands', which are like multi-stage envelopes that allow you to reshape the sample. The shape of the rubberband and editing mode will determine the overall effect on the time, frequency and amplitude characteristics of a sample.
There are many more advanced editing possibilities including Macros which are preset combinations of independent frequency and time rubberbands, designed to have a particular effect on a sound. A total of 13 Macros are available including Time Plexer: frequency-specific delay effects; Spectral Dynamic: frequency-specific compression; 3D Filter: time-variant filtering; Harmonic Edit: selectively edits frequencies on the basis on the harmonic series; Frequency Mixer: selectively generates additional harmonics; Threshold: erases frequencies below a specified amplitude -- can be used as a 'de-noiser'; Frequency Selector: allows you to erase or keep all frequencies except the loudest
The Avalon 2.0 synthesis page is actually an impressive, beefy modular software synth. Creating 'connections' (or patches) is easy: simply drag the modules that you want to use from the toolbox to the main window, and make the appropriate connections between them (see illustration). You must use the Link Tool to connect modules using a virtual patch cable found in the mouse toolbox (using the right-click button). The Play Tool allows you to monitor the sound produced either by the whole connection (by clicking on the last module in the chain), or by any single module within the connection (which allows you to see how the sound is affected by each module in turn). The final sound can then be dumped to your hardware sampler.
There is a lot of modules available from the synthesis toolbox including signal Generators and signal Modulators.
- Mapping Page Sample: Imports a sample for use as an oscillator.
- Wave Generator: An oscillator which allows you to create simple or complex wavetables by crossfading a series of basic waveforms, such as triangle and sine waves.
- Fourier Generator: A sine wave oscillator which allows you to create up to seven additional harmonics. This feature is similar to the complex waveforms generators found on Yamaha's famous four-operator FM synths.
- Karplus-Strong Synthesis: A relatively obscure type of synthesis in which a noise signal is passed through a progressively dampening delay circuit producing somewhat 'twangy' sounds.
- Fractal Synthesis: allows you to specify parameters according to which a graphical fractal is drawn. The graphic is then converted into a sound. This conversion translates the two-dimensional graphical matrix into a time/amplitude matrix and renders the result as a sound. Keep in mind, the sounds are highly unpredictable and you can experiment with this one feature a long time.
- Envelope Generator: Generates simple or complex amplitude envelopes.
- Envelope Follower: Uses low-pass filtering to impose a smooth envelope on a complex waveform.
- Frequency Modulation: Provides a sine wave carrier, the frequency of which can be modulated by an input signal to create more complex waveforms.
- Amplitude Modulation: Provides a sine wave carrier, the amplitude of which can be modulated by an input signal to create more complex waveforms.
- Ring Modulation: creates dissonant, metallic sounds
- Phase Distortion: Similar to Frequency Modulation, except the sine wave carrier has no fixed frequency value of its own, instead taking its frequency from the input signal.
- Digitally Controlled Filter: A low-pass filter, the cutoff of which can be controlled by the output any other module (i.e the envelope generator).
- Parametric EQ: offers several basic filter types including low-pass, high-pass, band-pass, notch.
- Delay: creates various types of echo and delay effects.
- Time Variant Waveshaping: distorts a signal by passing it through a non-linear curve, creating odd harmonics and generally unpredictable results.
- Pitch-Shifter: shifts pitch up or down
- Digitally Controlled Amplifier: Similar to the Voltage Controlled Amplifier in an analogue synth, a Digitally Controlled Amplifier dynamically controls volume and is itself controlled by an input signal, such as is produced by an envelope generator.
- Mixer: mixes signals together
- Macros: effectively 'connections within connections' allowing you to create and save custom patches to perform a specific functions (such as ring modulation plus high-pass filtering). You can then use your macro as one of the elements within a much larger patch. But there's more! You can acutally have macros within macros within macros; in fact, you can have as many macros as you like within one patch as depending on your system's memory.
Avalon 2.0 must run in monochrome hi-res mode on any Atari 520 ST+, 1040 ST, 1040 STe, 1040 STf, MEGA ST 1, MEGA ST 2, MEGA ST 4, MEGA STe (with the cache switched off) and the STACY. Unfortunatly, it is not compatible with the Falcon. Although it loads and runs on very little RAM, the more the memory your computer has, the longer samples you can edit.
Avalon includes the following sampler drivers: Akai S700, S900, S1000 and S1100; Casio FZ1& FZ2; Dynacord ADS and ADD; Emu Emax and Emax II; Ensoniq EPS; Prophet 2000; Roland S50, S330, S550 and S770; Yamaha TX16W
If you don't have any of the above samplers, there is also the 'MMA Standard' driver, which is a generic MIDI sample dump driver that should work with just about any sampler. SCSI drivers are also available for the Akai S1000 and S1100 and the Dynacord ADS and ADD.
Download the Avalon 2.0 manual (special thanks to Jos van de Gruiter for painstakingly putting this file together)