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Dave G

Opinions on Xpand!2 ?

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I just learned about the plug-in called Xpand!2. I'm surprised I've never heard of it before, and I'm kind of curious. Can anyone give me their opinions on Xpand!2, and how does it compare to TTS-1?

Thoughts are appreciated! Thank you in advance.

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I really like it  - a huge range of sounds which can be stacked up to four parts. Some really nice arpeggios and sequences. A bit picky about where it has to be installed - I was advised by Air to store it on my system drive when it wouldn't work from data drive. Probably one of the synths I go to most for a bit of inspiration. It's often on sale at around £15 or less - I might have even got it free I can't remember - so don't pay too much for it. I have their Hybrid, Vacuum Pro and Loom 2 as well and would say I'm a satisfied customer.

I should add that I am very much a hobbyist so other might be best to advise if the quality of sounds are high enough for more professional use!

I've not really used TTS 1 as I have so many cheap or free synths that appear to be better - also I had a long running problem where TTS 1 refused to open so I gave up with it - I think that was on my old Sonar 8 LE / Music Studio though rather than CbB

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I think all of the Air products are a great value. I accidentally ended up with Xpand!2. I must have downloaded it with some other Air instruments as a demo at some point. I don't remember intentionally downloading it. Might have been part of a package.  In any case, what happened was I kept getting pop ups that I had it and it wasn't registered. Rather than delete it, for something like 8$ I bought it. Already had Xpand.  

I was pleasantly surprised. Clearly lots of man hours went into the synth and the presets. It's a nice piece of software kit. Still has relevant sounds IMHO. Doesn't sound like the dated sounds we sometimes hear in older hardware mock ups. Any synth with that many presets is bound to have a few cheesy presets and this is no exception.

It isn't my go to because I mostly play mock ups and sample libraries. If I'm hunting for a unique synth sound this is on my list with maybe a dozen other synths.. If I had Omnisphere that probably wouldn't be the case. Crowded pad atmospheres tend to be very similar to me in actual mix use. "Something that sounds like strings and something else" is too common for me and I grow tired of that.

I don't use TTS-1 at all so can't comment. 

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Xpand!2 is a great source of sounds... it's pretty old now, but great sounds nonetheless. 

Soundwise it definitely has the edge on TTS-1, but Xpand!2 is not GM so you'll have to manually remap your sounds if you're using GM MIDI files.

As a synth, the editing options are limited... but then they're pretty limited in TTS-1 too. And Xpand!2 has way more sounds to choose from.

Plugin boutique are doing it for £9.99 / $12.44 at the moment which is a steal for that price:

https://www.pluginboutique.com/products/1560

Once you have one AIR synth, you can upgrade to the complete bundle for less than $75, which is an awesome set of VSTi's - a sampler, drum vsti, organ & a few more synths:

https://www.pluginboutique.com/product/1-Instruments/58-Inst-Bundle/2294-AIR-Instrument-Expansion-Pack-3-COMPLETE-UPGRADE-

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I would like to know, along the same lines, what about Cakewalk Z3ta? How does that match up in your opinions?

Do you feel TTS-1, Z3ta, and Xpand!2 are still relevant?

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TTS-1 is relevant if you want to do general MIDI - even more relevant if it's GS, as it'll perfectly match MIDI files geared towards Roland GS (sound canvas) modules.

Xpand!2 & Z3ta+ are both rompler synths.

Z3ta+ has way more editing options, but it's very much a synth. I find the Xpand!2 sound set far more usable for a wide range of genres.

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XPand!2 at $14 is one of the best deals there is to be had for a virtual instrument, especially for someone with Cakewalk, which is a relatively bare-bones DAW when it comes to bundled instruments. 2000 patches. The only minor complaints for me are the limited parameter adjustments (you can adjust amplitude and filter ADSR and that's it, no glide) and, given the massive number of sounds in the thing, no way to do a text search for presets. Few synths have that feature anyway.

TTS-1 is very much a 90's GM synth, excellent for its time but now dated. Still, there are some very usable sounds in there if you dig down below the top levels of the preset browser, especially the pianos and organs. I have a template for when I want to get ideas down quickly and TTS-1 with one of its pianos is in it. Light as a feather, loads in an instant. If you have a General MIDI file you need to work with, there's nothing better.

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TTS-1 is the most useful if you want to open a GM song file, and don't have a Sound Canvas module or other GM synth handy. It is 16 channel multi-timbral, and the parts in the GM file are assigned automatically in TTS-1 when you open a GM MIDI file.

It does that very well. But it is not very tweakable, is quite dated, and has some great and some not so great sounds. You can start with it, and then start substituting other virtual instruments for parts that need improvement.

Xpand!2 is the best bang for the buck ROMpler! At $15 or less I would recommend it to anyone that is just starting out with Cakewalk, and doesn't already have a collection of usable instruments.

It doesn't do GM, and it is only 4 channel multi-timbral. But you already have TTS-1 for that, right? And the sound content for Xpand!2  is only 1.5GB, so a rather small footprint on disk, compared to most sample libraries.

What you do get is a diverse array of 2500+ presets sorted into 29 categories of instrument sounds. Editing is basic, and limited to some macro knobs for easy edits (think Analog Lab, or SynthMaster Player). The 4 parts can be layered or split. You could use up to 4 instances of Xpand!2 to create a 16 part mix in your DAW. This could be a great go-to sketching tool for songwriting, because of the number of sounds available. Later on you could upgrade to high end samplers, and replace parts as desired.

*Edit:  z3ta is still a good synth, but it's all synth. Very editable, but focus is on synth sounds. Not really comparable to the other two, especially if you are seeking "real" instrument sounds. Plus z3ta+ is discontinued, and only available if you already have  it.

Edited by abacab

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I use Xpand!2 often when creating unplugged versions of backing tracks. It’s my ‘goto’ nylon guitar and acoustic bass 

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