M-Audio sweetens products with free music software

Avid' M-Audio unit is bundling a new free music software program with its audio and recording products.

Home-recording enthusiasts and consumers looking for a quick way to get into music creation on their PCs have yet another application to check out: Session, from Avid Technology's M-Audio unit.

Starting Monday, M-Audio is offering the software free, bundled with its FastTrack USB, a device that lets PC users record guitars and vocals. FastTrack is sold at retail for $US99.00 and the company hopes M-Audio will encourage its sales and use. The company is working on a plan to offer the software as a stand-alone product, according to Robb Mason, M-audio's director of consumer sales. The software also will be included free of charge with other, to-be-announced M-Audio products.

Session allows users to piece together tunes by selecting from a 2G-byte library of sound loops, which are prerecorded snippets of music that range from one-beat drum hits to riffs from a wide variety of instruments. Session also lets users record vocals and instruments, though to do this, a separate external device, such as FastTrack, is needed.

Session functions much in the same way as other loop-based products, such as Apple Computer's GarageBand, and Magix's Music Maker. Loops can be pieced together by clicking on samples, and dragging and dropping them to appropriate tracks in a song.

Like other loop-based consumer music software, Session also offers a variety of tools such as tempo and pitch adjustment, as well as more sophisticated controls for experienced musicians and advanced users. Controls include 20 real-time effects such as reverb and distortion. Users can apply up to five simultaneous effects per track, plus several effects that can be applied to an entire song.

Multiple live tracks also can be recorded simultaneously, Mason said. M-Audio built Session from the ground up with ease of use for recording novices in mind. The software also has enough functionality to interest more advanced musicians who are looking to get into home recording, he said.

"GarageBand was one of the best things to happen to the music industry in 15 years," Mason said. But GarageBand is Mac-only, he noted.

However, there are a number of loop-based music tools on the market for PCs, such as Music Maker, Sony Media Software's Acid, and Twelve Tone Systems's Cakewalk.

Session will be available in Australia in 6-8 weeks.

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