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Toy or game changer?

Review: Steinberg Backbone

Published 7:24 am on Tuesday 4th August 2020 by Beat Magazine

Musical Backbone

Each Layer has the following modules: Sample, Resynth, Pitch, Filter and Amp. On the main page of Backbone, you can adjust the most important parameters of these modules. Detailed editing is possible on the respective subpages. The integrated sample editor offers reverse and loop functions – as well as high- and low-pass filters.

For working with melodic material, the „Pitch Analysis“ function, which detects the pitch of the sample, is very useful. This allows you to adjust the keynote with a few mouse clicks and play samples chromatically. To influence the frequency of the multimode filter, as well as the pitch and volume, there are flexible multi-segment envelopes available. Since the envelopes can also be synchronized to the host tempo, creating perfectly timed sound effects like risers is child‘s play. Also, since the velocity can control various sound parameters, you can make simple drum samples or synth sounds dynamically playable with just a few clicks. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to set up different keyboard zones for the individual layers; so, if you want to create a drum kit, you have to rely on other plug-ins like Groove Agent 5.

Re-synthesis Function

Finally, let‘s look at the unique selling point of Backbone – the powerful re-synthesis engine. In this section, editing one-shots or even loops is remarkably flexible on the spectral plane. In addition to the playback position, the playback speed can be adjusted - the sound can be extremely sped up or slowed down without affecting the pitch.

If the Tonal mode is activated, it’s possible to fade between a pure and a noisy sound with frequency offset also available. Noise mode, on the other hand, transforms the sample into a noisy, disharmonic sound. Formant shifts can also be achieved.

What’s Possible with It?

In practice, amazing sound mangling is possible with Backbone. It can be used to create particularly loud drums for EDM, etc. or to retune only the tonal parts of a drum loop, while the hi-hats and cymbals remain unprocessed. How about creating epic hits from the „S“ sounds of a vocal recording or creating epic sound effects like hits, risers and swooshes from unspectacular drum samples? This tool can, of course, also be used to create multi-faceted synth and hybrid sounds based on samples.

Once you‘ve created the drum or synth sound of your dreams, you can export it as an audio file with just two clicks. The plug-in‘s excellent-sounding filters and effects also play an important role in creating exciting sounds. Although there’s no individual effect section per layer, there are two effect busses with freely configurable routing. Too bad that you can‘t modulate the effect parameters.

Verdict

With Backbone, Steinberg have created an innovative instrument that lets you transform samples into completely new sounds. Those who want to create their own drums won’t be the only ones to get their money‘s worth. Sound designers for games, film and TV will also appreciate Backbone as a powerfully creative tool. The included presets and samples won‘t let you use the plug-in to its fullest potential. But this is no real drawback, as it invites creative experiments - not least thanks to its convenient and wellthought-out operation. And that‘s what it‘s all about in the end: creating your own signature sounds in a simple way.


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