Review: Spectrasonics Stylus RMX – Groove VI for the ages
Positives:High quality Rex player capable of playing loops at virtually any tempo
Ability to load your own REX files
Many ways to creatively manipulate your REX files, be it manually or though intelligent randomization
Many built in FX
Ability to output each part to a separate DAW input for more manipulation / mixing
Negatives:Browser needs update and ability to rate sounds
Default library limited to mainly Electronic / Remix type sounds
As you may have gathered from my other reviews I’m a bit of a Spectrasonics fan boy – and with good reason! Not only does Spectrasonics make FANTASTIC products, but they are constantly adding new functionality to their existing instrument for FREE!! Really awesome!
Stylus RMX (which I will call RMX from here on out) is groove-based virtual instrument plug-in, mainly used for creating cool rhythmic loops and textures (however since it CAN import REX files you can use it for anything you want!!) Unlike traditional audio loops, with RMX’s SAGE (Spectrasonics Advanced Groove Engine) you are able to use any groove or combination of grooves at any tempo with a ton of ways to manipulate the signal.
There is always something about really well played rhythm tracks that midi instruments have a hard time replicating (at least in my hands, haha). However, with midi you have the flexibility to change anything about your rhythm part – don’t like the snare on beat 3 in bar 4, simply replace it. RMX is a perfect hybrid, in that it gives you the feel and groove of full audio rhythm loops played and recorded by professionals, but since each beat was cut into a “slice” and triggered by midi notes, you have full control over the pattern and performance! This is great in my work flow, as I often find audio loops to be too repetitive and/or lacking what specifically I’m hearing in my head. But with RMX if I want it to change after bar 4, simply reprogram the midi notes (or let RMX do it for me! More on that later).
Whats also cool about RMX is that it offers you 8 separate channels in one instance. This means you can take the shaker part from one groove you like, combine it with the congas from another groove, with the electronic toms from another groove, bass drum from another, and come up with your own interesting and unique loop! Inside each of these 8 parts is the ability to add from a plethora of insert effects, including all the standard EQ, Compression, Reverb, Delay, Chorus, but also wah, formant filters, distortion and amp sims – plenty of ways to modify each part of your loop directly in RMX! But if this isn’t enough, each of the 8 instruments can be outputted to separate inputs in your DAW allowing for even more sonic control.
On each of these 8 parts RMX has many creative ways of spicing up your performance, with none more inspiring than the Chaos Designer. Chaos Designer is a type of random element generator which you can set it to randomize the timing, timbre and voicing of a loop, as well as buzz and reversing effects. The key using this power for good and not crazy evil is to use the Edit Groups that are hidden under that middle grille in the Chaos panel (just click it and it will open). This allows you to select which beats within a measure will be affected and which will be left alone. For example, you could use chaos to add filtering or potentially reverse just to the off-beats in a group. Once you find a cool Chaos variation, simply hit the capture button and drag the resulting midi file into your DAW. Or you can keep it running in live mode and let randomness be your muse. I personally find a little goes a LONG way in the chaos editor, but if you want some wacky stuff, crank it up!
Another AWESOME feature that was actually added in a free update is time designer. As a film composer I’m always writing in odd meters and odd grooves, and loops in 4/4 or 3/4 exclusively doesn’t always work for a given situation or feel I’m going for. Since RMX’s loops are midi triggered I would just manually edit my loops – however, not only was this time consuming, but this would become a big “trial and error” process in which I was not guaranteed that sweet loop I heard in 4/4 was still going to be sweet in 6/8. This is where Time Designer becomes a godsend, as in real time (just like chaos designer) I can manipulate the feel of the groove via the “pattern modify” function. This allows me to change a 4/4 groove into any feel I want – 3/4, 5/4, all the way up to 13/8! And it will generate multiple variations in the new time signature. WAY COOL. There are also handily simplify knob to control how simple or complex you want you, or a swing knob to give your grooves some of that good o’le swing feel. Whats great about time designer is, like chaos designer, it works in really time. This makes auditioning loops in weird time signatures very fast and painless.
Not only does RMX come with a fantastic loop library covering all sorts of genres, but it also has a great library of single drum hits and effects as well, which can be programed and played just like a VI. In fact, some creative developers like sampleholics (www.sampleholics.com) have actually created sample based instruments that use RMX as the engine; their most recent library being Guitars! (which sound FANTASTIC through RMX’s amp sims and effects). The only downside with “kit mode” as its called is that polyphony is a little lacking. Having my brother jam on a GM drum kit with his midi drums we were experiencing some polyphony drop outs, but these can be fixed by simply spreading the drum kit across RMX’s 8 instrument slots (though obviously this cannot be done live without some major re-tweaking of your midi input controller).
1. I really wish RMX’s browser got the “omnisphere treatment” in making grooves and styles much easier to find via key words and tagging.
2. Along the same line I wish there was a way to rate my own favorite loops more than having to resave them into my own different user folders.
3. RMX, though capable of any genre, the factory content is really geared towards more remix & electronic type grooves. However, there are PLENTY of 3rd party libraries to fill the gaps in any genre – you just have to find them.
If you need a fully functional groove station, there are many options out there – but I highly recommend you at least check out Stylus RMX. Though it might be old, the ability to load your own REX files means its never dated, and the control you get over those REX files is simply second to none!