When I first started my switch from hardware to software FXpansion GURU was the first software I turned to. It had been out for a while but it was new to me, and it looked like the type of products I was used to in the hardware world.
There were some things I loved about it, and some things I could do without, overall it was a good intro for me into the software world.
Many have been waiting for GURU 2, but FXpansion decided to start from the ground up and do a new instrument that, while certainly related to GURU, has it’s own style and thought process.
They seemed to go for more hands on creation and moved away from some of the “auto generated” or “push button” concepts and procedures (though many found great ways to use those features)
Anyway, let’s get into it and check it out. Also remember you can download the demo and check it for yourself on their website: FXpansion Geist
So what’s up with Geist? What is it all about?
Geist is a drum sequencer/groove machine and sampler from FXpansion. This is an exiting development as many consider (myself included) FXpansion GURU to be the grandaddy to all the virtual groove box, 16 pad wearing, sample slicing products we see on the market today.
It has 8 engines, which each have 16 pads. Each pad has 8 layers. Each pad has it’s own track or sequencer in the step sequencer window.
Each engine has it’s own grooves, as well as 6 insert fx. You also get 6 insert fx on each pad, as well as each layer. And on the master. Yes, tons of fx and routing options.
You also get time-stretch at the layer level, which is cool for messing with samples.
Each engine has it’s own set of 24 patterns, and you can capture any set of 8 patterns (1 for each engine) into a scene, which can then be triggered manually or drawn into the song arranger.
Speaking of which, I really like what they did with that, it’s very flexible as you can draw in where you want you patterns to play for each engine, and for how long, it’s not static at all.
You can also record your scenes on the fly in real time into the song mode.
Probably the newest and most exciting feature for many is the addition of an on-board sampler within the program. (Guru didn’t have one)
They also improved the sample editing/slicing quite a bit, it’s much more flexible and manual, you can add, remove, and adjust your own slice markers, drag the slices you want directly to the pads, and start sequencing.
- delivery: download only
- content: 2gb sound library
- price: $249, $125 cross-grade for guru owners
So what’s it like? How’s the slicing, sampling, and fx?
Well, it’s pretty straight forward when it comes to loading sounds and sequencing. The browser is pretty flexible and the slicing is integrated with the browser, so if you turn slicing on, and click on a sample in the browser, it brings up the slice page where you can do your thing.
You can slice and have it automatically load to the pads, lock a few pads, open another loop, slice some from there, etc. That’s a quick way to mangle up a bunch of loops together quickly, only using the bits and pieces you want.
The sampling is pretty easy as well. You can do this in standalone as well as in a daw. They implemented a “spitter” plugin that you load as an fx on an audio input, this automatically shows up as an input in the Geist instrument, no need to load Geist as an effect plugin. You can have multiple spitters, and each one shows up as a separate input.
You can sample multiple takes, sample by threshold, time based, in sync with the host, or in sync with midi input.
Chopping is slick as well, you can do it based on transients, or just by dividing into equal parts. And there is a “classification” system that will try to classify your chops by kick, snare, hat, and perc, if you want to use that feature. Pretty good for building kits quickly out of drum breaks.
The fx are superb and use some of the DCAM modeling technology, also a version of Breverb’s reverb is included.
The filters are nice and you can add some nice punch to your samples with the drive option.
What about the sequencer?
It’s a step sequencer, and while it’s a very flexible step sequencer, that’s the one thing I didn’t like very much from Guru.
I’m not a step sequencer person in general, I like to work in bars as opposed to steps. I like to set my time signature, turn the grid off, and record.
If I want to quantize, I like to be able to freely change the quantize values without regard to how many steps are there. Sure, there’s the option to “convert timing” on each pattern if you want, and that’s cool, but I’d rather be able to quickly change the quantization values on the fly directly in the sequencer screen.
Again, I know many who love step sequencing, so if you know going in that it’s a very powerful step sequencer, you’ll be fine. If you’re like me and you prefer to set your patterns bar length, then record…or if you like to record with no grid, definitely try the demo to see if you can work with it.
Yes I can work with the sequencer, and the graph edit options let you really dial in some microscopic groove and shift timing. That mixed with the groove engine can allow you to get some pretty nice grooves.
There is also no tap tempo, this is huge, especially if you sample a lot. Personally, even when I’m not sampling, I use tap tempo to start my tracks, my tempo is rarely an exact tempo, I hear it in my head and that’s what I tap in, so this really threw me off a bit.
Another thing I noticed is the lack of count in, definitely something many will miss when using the sequencer.
So what’s the final verdict?
It’s pretty much as I expected, they made some nice changes to a very great concept. The addition of sampling and how it’s implemented is on point, time-stretch will be very welcomed by many people.
I really love the layering and how you can tweak each layer to your liking, triggering by random round robin, or by velocity.
The fx routing and the fx themselves sound superb, no doubt thanks to the DCAM modeling technology.
I give Geist 4 out of 5 subs, it’s a very solid sampler/drum machine. For those that love step sequencing then you will probably feel it is is a 5 start application.
I just so happen to be of a different process when it comes to sampling so in general step sequencing really isn’t my thing, a nice piano roll style sequencer that I can set bars and turn my grid off would really be dope for me, I’m sure I”m not alone.
The slicing is really fast and intuitive to use, being able to quickly pick out the bits and piece you want is definitely a plus.
I’m looking forward to more features and additions, it only seems natural that a drum synth will come at some point, and who wouldn’t love to use some of the DCAM Synth Squad technology inside of this thing?
For me, at this point, I can just bypass the sequencer and use it as a very powerful drum layering sampler. Being able to quickly mix my drums and layer with chops and samples is definitely a good look in my opinion.
One of the great things I like about FXpansion is they let you try all their stuff as demo versions. So go on over and try it for yourself, you may have a totally different outlook and that’s okay! Checkout FXpansion.com
This is just one man’s opinion
let me know what you think!