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Author Topic: using rewire (1999 article)  (Read 1593 times)

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Offline chrisNova777

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using rewire (1999 article)
« on: March 05, 2017, 08:20:51 AM »

ow that computers are powerful enough to
run real-time software synthesizers and
samplers in real time, many musicians
using Macs and PCs are intrigued by the
possibility of running an all-in-one computer studio,
incorporating a software MIDI + Audio sequencer
alongside these applications — indeed, the
feasibility of this approach was the subject of last
month’s PC Musician feature. If you read that
feature, you’ll know that this way of working is a
theoretical possibility, given sufficient processing
power. This is a big ‘given’, however, and there are
various other practical problems too, such as
latency (see the aforementioned feature for more on
this). However, the specific problem that concerns
us in this article is that of interfacing with the world
outside the computer. It can be extremely difficult
to get several applications to talk to the same audio
output device or soundcard simultaneously, since
each one requires audio playback facilities
(incidentally, this is the subject of the PC Musician
feature this month, starting on page 140!). Some
PC-based musicians have worked round this
limitation by installing several soundcards, so that
they can allocate one to each application, but even
this doesn’t solve all the problems.
Thankfully, some developers are beginning to
cater for the all-in-one studio by providing ways to
integrate several applications. Rewire is one
technology that seems to have come to the rescue,
along with VST 2.0 (see box), although several
other manufacturers are also working on their own
solutions. These include Digidesign, with their new
DirectControl protocol for slotting stand-alone
software synths and samplers into TDM Pro Tools
systems, and MOTU, with AudioTap, which allows
integration of Mac-based Sound Manager
applications into Digital Performer.

A Spot Of Rewire-ing
Propellerhead Software first came to public
attention with their excellent Recycle sample loop
manipulation package, which brought them into
collaboration with Steinberg. Their next endeavour
was Rebirth, an accurate software simulation of two
Roland TB303 and one TR808 modules in a single
streamlined package. This was (and is still) a major
success — you can see our review of the original
version in SOS August ’97, and of the updated 2.0
version in the more recent SOS November ’98.
Given the previous collaboration, it wasn’t
surprising when Steinberg announced a new
technology to let Cubase VST and Rebirth co-exist
more peacefully. Rewire is a way to transfer audio
between two applications in real time; they term it
‘the software equivalent of a multi-channel audio cable’. Up to 64 independent audio channels can
now be passed from Rebirth into Cubase, so that
you can apply plug-in effects and EQ to them
This is a huge step forward, and overcomes one
of the major limitations of most software synths
and samplers. Previously, the only way to apply
different EQs or effects to individual sounds was to
go through all the rigmarole of routing them to
different outputs on the soundcard. The beauty of
the Rewire approach is that you simply don’t need
a multi-output soundcard of any description —
each Rewire-enabled application can pass up to 64
audio streams into Cubase VST, effectively giving
you the equivalent of a 64-output synth or sampler!
Transport control can also take place from any
Rewired product, so that everything starts and stops
with sample-accurate synchronisation. This means
that when working inside Rebirth you can start and
stop your entire song (including the VST tracks) using
its transport bar, and when working with other MIDI
or audio tracks inside VST you can do the same thing
for the Rebirth tracks from the VST transport bar

Another new technology is Steinberg’s VST 2.0,
provided in the latest Cubase VST v3.7 for
Windows and v4.1 for Mac. This update to the
original VST plug-in format adds MIDI control.
This not only gives you the capability to change
effect settings in real time using MIDI controllers
and therefore add automation, but also opens the
way for complete synths to be designed as plugins,
since they can now be ‘played’ using any
MIDI keyboard. As I mentioned in July’s PC
Notes, Steinberg themselves have launched a
range of ‘Virtual Studio Instruments’ using VST
2.0 technology, the first being based on the
There are several differences between Rewire
and VST 2.0 Instruments. The main one is that
Rewire applications can also run in stand-alone
mode, whereas VST instruments are always
launched and run from within Cubase VST.
The user interface of the VST Instrument is a
single window, just like that of any other plug-in,
but the user Interface of a Rewire-compatible
product can be anything the developer desires.
The latency of VST 2.0 Instruments is exactly
that of the soundcard when used for normal
audio work. If you have one with low-latency
ASIO drivers then you’ll be pleased; if not then
real-time performances will probably be out.
Mind you, ASIO latency values seem to be
dropping rapidly in all the cards released
recently, which should benefit both VST
Instruments and Rewire applications.
New products will probably be easier to
implement as VST Instruments, since only a single
.dll ‘engine’ file is needed, whereas developers
with existing products are likely to choose the
Rewire route, since they already have a standalone
product. More complex designs may also
benefit from having a custom-designed interface and
being rewired