Review – Music Maker 2014 Premium by Magix

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Music Maker 2014 Premium is an easy-to-use digital audio workstation (DAW) and it ships with a large number of loops. Check it out with us in this review.

by Rob Mitchell, July 2014

 

The software company Magix has been around since 1993 and they have many music creation and video programs available. They also have a large library of sound-pools and loops, as well as audio editing and sampling applications on their website.

Music Maker 2014 Premium is an easy-to-use digital audio workstation (DAW) and it ships with a large number of loops and other audio files to get you started. The version I am reviewing is called “Premium” as it includes many more audio files, loops, and plugins than the regular version of Music Maker.

Some of the extras included with the Premium version: 6,000 sounds and loops, ten Sound-pools, additional instrument plugins, and Music Editor 3.  Plus, you can have unlimited tracks in a project. With the standard Music Maker, it can use up to 99 tracks per project.

 

Getting Started

Music Maker 2014 Premium is a Windows-only application, and is compatible with XP, Vista, Windows 7 and 8. The other system requirements are pretty low by today’s standards: A 2 GHz processor and at least one gigabyte of RAM, though two gigabytes is recommended.  More info on the specifications is available on their website.

With most other DAWs, the learning curve is a bit high. This is great if you have the time to learn everything it can do, but it can take a while. The good thing about Music Maker is you can just jump in and start using it. You’ll need the manual of course, but there is no rocket science involved. Even though it is easy to use, it still has many features and effects to manipulate the sound.

After loading it up, you’re presented with a grid type of interface, which is called the Arranger Field. Below that is the Media Pool and Transport Controller. The Media Pool is where you can load loops and instruments, and you can easily change the key of a loop from here as well. 

To load an audio file or loop (called Objects in Music Maker), just drag and drop it from the Media Pool. After it is in the Arranger Field, you can split it up into different sections if you’d like. Effects can be added to the objects, and each object or section of an object (if it has been split up) can have a different effect added to it.

Double-clicking on an object with MIDI notes in it will open it up to a full screen where you can edit the notes. The note editing in the piano roll type of view has a good number of tools available. You can drag the notes where you want, and easily click and drag out the lengths of notes. Clicking on a MIDI note will play it back for you using whichever plugin is loaded for that track, while right-clicking on it will delete the note.  Velocity amounts for the notes are shown along the bottom of the screen.

Clicking and dragging on the ends of objects will adjust their length. On the objects themselves, there is a bar stretching from left to right. If you click and drag the bar up or down, it will change its volume, or you can use it to add a fade-in or fade-out. In addition, you can draw in your own volume envelope by hand using the Automation feature. Another nice feature is that each object’s tempo can be changed without changing its pitch, if so desired. You can click and drag an object to another spot in the song, and there are options to drag all objects where you want in a certain track at once, or move all of the objects for every track.

 

 

The Mixer screen has the standard controls for volume, solo, mute, and panning. You can group tracks together, use two effect sends per track, as well as two more separate effects per track. A 6-band EQ on each track is accessible by clicking the EQ button. The two slots for effects can also load other effects you might already have installed on your computer.

The FX button on each track will open up the Effects Rack, which has many useful effects built-in to it. The Master Bus can have two effects of its own. I’ll go into more detail on some of the included effects later on. An additional touch they’ve added is that the graphic icons at the bottom of each track can be changed if you’d like. 

It is possible to mix in 5.1 surround. Each track can be placed where you want in the surround space by clicking and dragging icons. I didn’t get to really test this out much as I don’t have the necessary audio card and speaker requirements.

 

Instruments and Effects

Music Maker 2014 Premium ships with many instruments ready to load into your project. There are a few different choices in the drumming department: Beat Box 2, Drums Engine, Jazz Drums, and Robata all offer different types of drum sounds for your track.  The Jazz Drums plugin is basically a normal drum kit, but each preset for it just has different effects or EQ applied. No other kits can be loaded in it.

Of the many plugins included, I happen to really like Revolta 2 and DN-e1. Both of these are subtractive synth plugins, and have a good selection of presets in each. Revolta 2 is especially nice, and almost needs a whole separate review to go over its many features.  I think just getting these two synth plugins is worth at least half the price of Music Maker 2014 Premium. This just goes to show the good value of the Music Maker package as a whole.

Vintage Organ is a classic drawbar organ plugin, while Vita has different sampled instruments you can load. The instruments in Vita include strings, guitars and keyboards of different types. They aren’t the most detailed samples, but they can get the job done.

There are almost too many effects to go over in detail for this review, but I’ll mention some of them to give you a bit of an overview of what’s included. There’s Vandal SE, which is a Virtual Guitar amplifier with stomp box effects, there’s also a Sketchable Filter, Sound Warper, Vocal Tune, Vocoder, Timestretch/Resample, Bit Reduction, and a Vocal Strip.

Many others are also included for regular all-purpose types of jobs, with different kinds of EQ, Reverb, Chorus, Flanger, Compressor, Gate, and Delay.

If all this wasn’t enough, they have included VST support, so you can load in your own plugins. You just have to select the correct folder where they are located on your computer, and loading them in is a breeze.

 

Conclusion

To wrap things up, I want to go over a few things that I just have to mention. One of which is that you can record video into the application and add your musical soundtrack to it. I won’t go into the details on this feature, as this magazine is more about the music side of things and not video production. I do want to say that I didn’t see any way to import a pre-made video. That would be a great feature to add in a future update.

The Live Performer lets you assign certain parts of your song to individual keys of the computer keyboard or the MIDI keyboard. That way, you can hear it rearranged in a different way quickly and easily.

Music Maker 2014 Premium has the ability to export to MP3, and upload to Soundcloud, Facebook, or YouTube. You can also burn CDs directly from Music Maker. It mixes down your music to WAV format, then automatically opens Music Editor 3, which is a nice little program itself. Once Music Editor 3 opens, it then lets you burn the actual CDs.  You can also accomplish different types of tasks with it, such as importing audio from different sources for editing/cleanup. 

Music Maker does have a lot to offer, especially for the price. Once thing I did want that wasn’t included was a way to record at a higher frequency, as 48 KHz seems to be the upper limit. 

A couple other issues I had with it: For one, the time signature choices seem to be limited to 3/4, 4/4, and 5/4. Another problem is that you can’t set it to a slower metronome speed than 60. If you set it any lower, say 49 for instance, it just switches back to 60 again. Even if you use the “Tap” feature, where you tap it in at a certain tempo by clicking the mouse, it determines the speed, but then it still goes back to 60 for the setting. I don’t know how many songs would be at those slower tempos, but it should still work.

Another feature that is useful (but limited) is the built-in Rewire function. This lets you synchronize with other applications that are Rewire compatible, and control them from Music Maker. It is a one-way street though, as it only can send via Rewire, but cannot receive it from another application.

The Mixer console is easy to use, but could use a bit of an upgrade. It has unlimited tracks, and does have a way to group tracks together, but it doesn’t have a way to add more busses.

The manual is well-written, and covers just about anything you can think of, with lots of screenshots to make it easy to get started.

Music Maker 2014 Premium tries to cover many different bases, and succeeds in many areas. As I mentioned earlier, it is a good deal for the price. If a few features were improved, such as Rewire in/out, recording frequency rates, time signatures, and improving the mixer, it would be more of a professional type of application.  That being said, if you don’t really need certain features that are in some of the more expensive DAW packages out there, this could be the one for you.

Music Maker 2014 Premium retails for $99 USD, and is available from their website here:

http://www.magix.com/us/music-maker/

 

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