Review: Vibra 9000 by Koblo





May we present to you: the Vibra 9000 analogue sequencer in digital remake. Koblo, a Danish company, just brought this little effect kid on the market which for sure is going to find its place in certain niche markets.

Vibra 9000 brings back the good old analoque sequencing days, wrapped up in an easy to use interface. Just click a knob and slide up and down (not left and right), and -just like in the old days- the Vibra 9000 produces sequences of the craziest sounds. The more you experiment with the settings for Escillator, Envelope, Filter, LFO and so on (yes, it's all there), the more weirdo you can get the sound.

Once you have found a seqience and sound you like, you can record it directly to harddisk. A dialog box lets you determine how many seconds of audio you want, and then Vibra 9000 puts just that amount of time in digital audio on your harddisk (16 Khz stereo, SDII format). SDII is the only audio format supported. The thus produced file can be imported in any audio editor that supports SDII (most of the professional harddisk recording software does this). The quality of the audio, generated by Vibra 9000, is good.

Not only you can experiment. If you want a quick and good result, Vibra 9000 has a bunch of presets you can use. These presets give a pretty good idea what Vibra 9000 can produce. First fool around with these presets to get to know Vibra 9000, then start experimenting. Good results are quickly there.

If you are an old diehard in music like me, and you used to work with analogue oldies back in the 70's, you will quickly find your way through all possible settings. The Vibra 9000 does its thing just like the old machines with those mysterious turning knobs and switches did. If you're completely new to these kind of sequencers (and most upcoming young musicians of today were not born yet when the analogue machines were an every day use), a good advice is to start with the presets and work your way through the manual. It won't take long till you get your first good results, so it is worth the effort.

Vibra 9000 is completely developped in a programming language called Tokyo. This language is developped by Koblo. Koblo describes Tokyo as "a visual real-time programming language". This own development enables Koblo to quickly develop new products or enhancements to excisting products.

From this perspective, Tokyo is a strong part of Koblo's approach. But: at the same time, it can become the weakest point as well. If ever Koblo steps out of the market for whatever reason (which we do not hope of course), the end user will have a big problem. Support and further development for this dedicated product wil disappear from the market as well. Tokyo is not a worldwide standard programming method, and therefore has no worldwide dedicated group of supporters like e.g. C++. However: Koblo tells us that Tokyo was developped in the very same C++, so there is a standard under the hood. Tokyo as a programming tool still stays a lonely party, at least for the moment. I would not be surprised if Koblo in fact is the only user of this way of programming, as they own the rights.

The system requirements are not that heavy. The Tokyo engine runs as off System version 7.6.1 or higher on PowerMacs with 100 Mhz or higher, and feels OK with a preferred amount of 24 MB of free RAM, according to the specs given by Koblo. We tested with 20 MB allocated, and everything went fine. Of course you will need more RAM if you are going to use Vibra 9000 together with a midi sequencer and OMS. In such a situation, the RAM demand could quickly add up to 48 to 64 MB or so.

The Vibra 9000 itself does not need additional MB's, being in fact a document that has to be opened and run by Tokyo. The Vibra 9000 supports OMS, so you can trigger it using a midi sequencer or directly from your midi master keyboard. On the other hand, Vibra 9000 can send midi data out, thus e.g. triggering a midi sequencer through OMS.

I am not sure whether Tokyo is a stable environment. During testing using version 1.6.1 which was sent to us by Koblo, we had two "bombs" and the 9500 PowerMac frooze completely. I am not saying this is a lack in Koblo's product: the 9500 we tested on is jammed with all kinds of extensions and control panels. However: this is a situation you will find in almost any sytem folder on any Mac. To be complete: we did not build a perfect System Folder environment to test if Tokyo is stable. So could be that the bombs we got are my fault. Anyway: at the Koblo has an update to version 1.6.2 available.

Conclusion.

Being a very interesting but also somewhat niche product, the Vibra 9000 will not fit into each and every studio-Mac. It will do great things in studios where music like House, Dance, Rave and rapping are recorded. Music that demands a driving beat, which could be produced by the Vibra 9000 if you like.

It also might have an interesting value for studio-Macs, that live in production companies that deal with sound effects. The Vibra 9000 can -when used well and you know to turn the right knobs and switch the right switches- produce wonderfull and absolutely crazy effects.

A weak point though could become clear in the future: Tokyo is an own and copyright protected development of Koblo, and therefore could die a quick death when Koblo does not survive the commercial jungle. Let's hope that never will happen, so we can enjoy this frog-green "anadigi" toy for a long time.

My rating for this product on a scale of 1 to 10: a
7 to 8.

Demo.

You can download a demo version at http://www.koblo.com. This demo version will run 15 minutes and then quits. Afdter that you can start more 15 minutes sessions. The saving function is disabled. At the Koblo site you will find pricing information and info on dealer distributions.


All reviews in AudioMac.net are written by Peter J. Bloemendaal. All rights reserved.

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12-09-99