Review – Structure 2 by AIR Music
Structure 2 is a sampler plugin that is very powerful, and yet still easy to use. How does it hold up feature-wise? Our writer checks it out in this review.
by Rob Mitchell, Sept. 2015
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of reviewing two plugins made by AIR Music Technology. The two that I reviewed were Hybrid 3 and Xpand!2, which are both synthesizer-oriented plugins. Hybrid 3 is a powerful synth plugin, while Xpand!2 is more of rompler plugin. For this issue, I will be shifting gears a bit, and will be covering AIR’s sampler called Structure 2.
Structure 2 is a multi-timbral sampler plugin with a huge sample library. Over 37 gigabytes of samples are on board and a large variety of instruments are included: piano, drums, strings, guitar, bass, and much more. It can also load third-party sound banks, such as Kontakt, SampleCell, and EXS24 libraries.
It can use up to 32 auxiliary outputs, has its own sample editor, and can handle up to 24-bit/192 kHz audio. Some of Structure 2’s built-in effects include reverbs, delays, EQ, distortions, and various types of modulation.
Installation and System Requirements
For the PC, Structure 2 requires Windows 7 or 8 (64-bit), and it needs a minimum of a dual-core 2 GHz CPU. They recommend an Intel i5 or i7 CPU. Four gigabytes of RAM is the minimum amount of RAM required, but they recommend eight gigabytes.
For the Mac, it requires OS X 10.8.5 – 10.10, and at least a Core Duo CPU. They recommend an Intel i5 or i7 CPU. Four gigabytes of RAM is the minimum amount of RAM required, but they recommend eight gigabytes.
It is available in VST (32 and 64-bit), AU (64-bit), and AAX formats (32 and 64-bit).
Downloading all of the files to install for Structure 2 will take a considerable amount of time, which of course depends on the speed of your internet connection. I know when I downloaded the files, it was basically an all-day event. I also ended up having to restart the download as a couple of the zipped files were corrupted. I didn’t know this until I tried to start the installation, and was notified of this fact with an error message. After I tried it again using a download manager, they downloaded correctly, and it installed with no problems.
The main installation screen gives you choices of what to install, and in which directories to install the files. I unchecked the Pro Tools and 32-bit options for my install. Structure 2 uses iLok for its copy protection, so you’ll need to install the iLok License Manager. It has to be authorized/activated in the License Manager first or it won’t work correctly.
After you start Structure 2, you’ll see the main display. Along the left side is the section where you can load in patches, and the middle of the display is mainly taken up by the parameters panel. This panel will change depending on which tab you click on using the menu bar across the top. Those tabs will bring you to the various displays in that panel: Main, Effects, Database, Browser, and Setup.
If you’re like me, you’ll probably want to jump right in, and hear some of what Structure 2 has to offer. There are some really fine sound samples within the many patches that are packed into Structure 2. I could carry on about how many quality sounds there are, but for now I just want to go over a bit of what to expect when dissecting the patches. This can help give you some ideas for when you create your own.
This is basically how it is setup: After you load in a patch, you’ll see it in the display along the left side. A “patch” is just a combination of different parts which contain samples, and can have effects and MIDI processors within them too. To get at the separate sections of a patch, you just click the arrow on the left side of the patch itself. It then drops down with another small display, which shows the basic building blocks of how it was put together. You’re able to add parts, effects, and MIDI processors within this drop down display. If you are going to be constructing your own patches from scratch, it’s a good idea to check out some of them this way.
Several other useful functions are available from the same Patch menu. Those menu items are also available if you right-click on the patch itself. From there, you can save patches, duplicate them, remove one patch (or all at once), and select automation channels. The “Show in View” feature is very cool. It has up to eight view groups that can be used to better organize the patches you’ve loaded in a complex arrangement. The groups can have different views that you can define yourself. For example, one view might have just the drums and bass patches, while another group might have three synthesizer patches, and a third view for a brass section.
Mapping and Editing
Whether you have just loaded one of the many included patches or started a new empty patch, you may want to start editing it. To get to the wave mapping and editing features, you click the “Edit” button on the patch that appears. This brings you to the “Zone” screen, and the top half of this display has many controls that will look familiar to someone who’s worked with synthesizer plugins. These include pitch adjustment, filters, AHDSR (attack/hold/decay/sustain/release) filter and amplifier envelopes, and key tracking. The envelopes can be inverted, and also synced to the host. Some other important controls are here, such as settings for how the samples will work within a patch, such as round-robin, random, and group settings.
One great feature in this section is the ability to switch the envelope controls from sliders to a numerical display. If you need precise control, it’s much easier to see all the amounts for every part of the envelope. The filter section has many types available, including several versions of low pass, band pass, and high pass filters.
In the section below those controls, you’re able to setup/edit the actual sample zones. The zones are rectangular areas in the display for the samples, and they can moved to different positions by dragging them left or right, and up or down. It has many controls for editing the zones along the top. From there, you can change the key and velocity ranges, volume, root note, change the detune amount, and much more.
The Zone section works very well, and for the most part, is also easy to use. The only thing I didn’t like about the top part of the Zone display is you can’t quite see all the controls at once. You can drag the display open a bit wider, but you still must use a slider to move the display over to get a better view for some of the controls, such as the effect send settings. I guess it was either that, or using a tabbed setup, so they decided to use a slider. After fiddling with it for a while, I was able to get most of the controls on the screen, but they weren’t 100% there.
To work with the samples themselves, you click on the “Wave” tab at the top of the display. From there, you’re able to set the sample start and end points, cut/copy/paste sections of the sample, set loop points, volume fades, and configure crossfades. If you edit the sample from here, it won’t affect the original sample, unless you manually save the sample after editing it. Working within this part of Structure 2 is simple, easy to use, and still powerful at the same time. To get back to the main controls and display of Structure 2, click the “Exit” button.
The first display you see on the “Main” tab is where you can get to some of the more basic settings. The Transpose settings have octave and semitone controls, the Pitch section has a control for fine tuning, and the Pitch Bend section is here as well. You can also adjust the polyphony amount, key range, and velocity range.
In the upper-right of the Main display are some buttons to navigate to some other screens which they call sub-pages. The “Play” button is for the Main screen that I just went over.
The next button is “Control”, and it brings you to a sub-page where you can set up six Smart knobs. These knobs are located along the bottom of Structure 2. They can be assigned to what you’d like with a right-click. For example, you can right-click on the LFO’s rate control, and assign it to the first Smart knob. You’re also able to set up MIDI CCs, and configure key switches from this section.
The “Mod” button is for the modulation settings. You are able to configure two LFOs from here using twelve different shapes. They’ve also included key trigger settings, rate, delay, and fade controls. The targets for modulation that you can choose from include pitch, cutoff, resonance, amp level, and pan settings. There’s even an adjustable grid you can switch on, which is great for when you want more precision while defining or editing an existing LFO shape.
The last sub-page on the Main tab is “Output”. This is where you can configure the four effect send levels (more on the effects later), and set up as many as 32 separate outputs. The effect sends can be switched to a pre-fader routing, which means that if it is enabled, each send level is controlled with the slider on this sub-page. Otherwise, it would be controlled by the patch or output faders.
The next tab at the top of the screen is for the effects section. You’re able to have up to four global insert effects for each of the four separate sends. Each of the sends can be assigned to any of the 32 outputs. Every send has a level control, and includes an on/off button. The Main level control (Out 1) adjusts the overall mix amount of the effects.
Speaking of effects, there is a large number of categories to choose from, including panning and tremolo, many types of chorus, delay, distortion, dynamics (with five compression types), reverbs, and several others. Some of these include many sub-presets to pick from. For instance, the reverb has many choices of non-linear presets, stereo reverbs, stereo convolution reverbs, and surround convolution types. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the effects can be added to each of the separate parts of a patch as well.
Database, Browser, and Setup
The Database is where you can look through the categorized files for Structure 2. It uses metadata, and has columns for the category, keywords, and manufacturer. You can filter the types of files that are shown by using the buttons at the upper-left. These include selections for patch, part, sample, or just click “All” to see everything available. They’ve provided a handy search field, so you can just type in a certain word to help find a particular file. Metadata can be edited from here as well, and you’re able to change the content locations.
The Browser is where you can skim through the many directories and (among other things) look for a patch to load. One nice feature is that you’re able to use drag and drop with the patches, parts, and samples that are loaded from here. You can even add directories from your computer’s hard drive and have them marked as favorites. Over time, people using samplers will usually end up having several folders with the many samples they’ve collected. This feature lets you quickly jump to those you’ve marked as favorites with no fuss.
The Setup tab is where you can configure various settings, such as disk streaming, tuning, display options, resampling quality, and folder settings for the samples.
Structure 2 is full of “bread and butter” sounds that cover a large variety of standard instruments, as well as atmospheric patches, choirs, and a good selection of effect patches. They’ve included some other instruments that might not get used quite as much (but are great to have), such as the jaw harp, accordion, shakuhachi, ocarina, and sitar. The pianos and strings they’ve included sound very good. One of my favorites out of the many sampled instruments is the Mellotron. I just happen to love that lo-fi, classic sound.
One feature I almost forgot to mention is that Structure 2 has its own REX player, so you can use REX 1 and 2 files within your patches. Also, I’d just like to add that the included effects sound excellent, and there so many (over twenty are included) that you could get lost in experimentation while you’re trying them out.
I think they’ve done an excellent job with Structure 2. It is easy to use, powerful, and has an enormous amount of exceptional samples and patches to choose from. For this review, I only have a couple small complaints: The manual could use some updating. Most of it seems accurate, but it states it is version 1.2. Also, there is that one issue I mentioned before, about having to fiddle around with the Zone display.
Structure 2 retails for $149 USD, and it also included in the AIR Instruments Expansion Pack, which retails for $299.99. The Expansion Pack also has six other high quality plugins included in the bundle. You can get more information about Structure 2 from their website here: