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Having spotted a piece on it over at Rekkerd a few months ago, Soundation was the first online sequencer I ever came across. I remember being suitably impressed at the time and now it comes to really putting the tool through its paces for an in depth review its not hard to see why.

Created by PowerFX, one of the premier producers of samples and loops, Soundation offers producers a stable and intuitive means of making music from just about anywhere with an internet connection and without the need to worry about installation or updates – all for free.

In addition to this PowerFX are making their considerable collection of high quality samples available to users of Soundation via an integrated store and have created a desktop application called Audiolocker to allow users to store purchased loops as well as import their own.

The Interface & Loop Browser

Having loaded up Soundation in your browser you are presented with a well laid out interface with a browser section for loops on the right hand side. The standard features are such as volume, pan, loop and zoom are here as you’d expect but its worth point out that this Flash based DAW does actually seem a little less clunky and more responsive than some the well known desktop ones I’ve used – it really is very slick indeed.

The loop browser comes pre-loaded with a set of free loops from PowerFX but additional ones can be purchased from their integrated Sound Shop and added automatically to Audiolocker, a desktop application that allows cloud based storage of sound files.

Working with Tracks

I found the best way to get started was to drag a loop directly into a track, which then automatically changes the track tempo to that of the loop. A very handy feature also on offer the option of automatic timestreching when importing loops of a different tempo which I’d image would be incredibly useful for remixes.

Once imported the loop can be edited, cut and spliced and timestrectched in any way you please and yet again its likely you will find the editing here is a little faster than on a standard DAW – although it does lack some of the advanced editing features on offer in these tools.

Instruments, FX and Automation

Whilst not boasting the aesthetically rich interfaces of most normal plug-in FX, the ones on offer here are fairly dynamic and very useful for colouring sounds. The standard fare of delay, phaser and reverb are coupled with more experimental ones such as a “Degrader” bit crusher style effect and a “Fakie” which emulates sidechaning in a fairly interesting and effective way.

In terms of virtual instruments Soundation includes a mono synth, a multiple oscillator synth and a synth based around a Saw-wave. Also included is the SAM-1 – essentially a virtual instrument with piano and organ patches and a programmable drum machine. Whilst none of these are as impressive as the instruments available in standard DAW’s they are still a useful addition for producers looking to add some elaborations to their loop based tracks. Instrument based tracks are programmed using a piano roll which is created by clicking on the target track. Although it was a little tricky to use at first I did find after a while that I was able to quickly create and edit parts with ease.

Perhaps the best feature around instruments and FX and one of my favorite within Soundation is the superb automation available. In addition to a tracks volume and pan every parameter available within the instruments and FX can be controlled via an easily drawn in envelope. I actually found the automation feature here was an improvement on the desktop DAW I use – mainly due to the simplicity of the drawing process and the speed at which adjustments could be made.

Audiolocker & Soundshop

Although Soundation comes with a good amount of free loops to play around with its likely that you’ll soon want to purchase some more from the integrated Soundshop or import some of your own. Its certainly here that the backing of a well established loops provider like PowerFX comes into play since what’s on offer through the store is an extensive set of loops taken from their vast back catalogue. In addition to browsing various genres you are able to audition the loops within store as well as hear the loops in context thanks to the demo tracks provided.

Once purchased (via Paypal) the loops are then available when accessing Soundation via a  “Bought Sounds” folder which, aside from meaning you can easily start using them within a track without having to import, provides a handy means of backing up your purchases.

For those looking to import their own loops or have access to their sound files from pretty much anywhere then Audiolocker, which can be purchased from the Soundshop, is an essential tool. This Adobe Air based application integrates seamlessly with Soundations loop browser and can offer up to 5GB storage space – primarily for loops but additionally for any other file type you may wish to use it for. I found importing my own sample libaries to Audiolocker via a simple drag and drop was both fast and  easy. I was also very impressed that it integrated with the Soundshop to allow me to easy import loops purchased for Soundation onto my desktop PC.

Saving & Mixdown

As you’d expect songs can be saved to your PC or Mac at any point although one thing that did surprise me was that rather than saving to your profile – as is the case with other online DAW’s – Soundation creates a .sng file that can be loaded within the application. Although this can be easily worked around by saving the file to Audiolocker or any other online storage it still may create a slight issue people using Soundation on multiple devices and I hope its something PowerFX address in the future.

Once a track is completed it can be mixed down to a standard .wav file or uploaded to Soundation’s servers to be streamed online. This latter feature is done via a rather nice looking widget that can be embedded into your website or shared directly via Face book.

Conclusion

All in all its difficult not be impressed by Soundation – from the get go it offers a fluid way of making music in your browser coupled with some fantastic features and superb loops.

For producers who are looking to work on tracks and remixes on the move or those looking for a quick and easy means of sketching out ideas its certainly a very useful solution. I’d also strongly recommend it as a starter tool for anyone who is looking to try their hand at music production since its significantly easier to use than most established desktop DAW’s and also offers a very concise online guide to its features – not to mention the fact that it requires no cost to get started.

Recent conversations with PowerFX have confirmed that more features such as recording and additional FX/Virtual instruments are on the way too – all of which will make this already excellent online sequencer even more appealing.

You can try out Soundation for free over at www.soundation.com and for an example of how it sounds check out this track I’ve made on it recently using some of PowerFX’s loops.

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