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CutterMusic SawCutter 2.0 review: CutterMusic SawCutter 2.0

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The Good Easy to use; inexpensive; offers a nice array of customizable filters and effects; allows you to import WAV files for tweaking; supports MIDI control; great for experimentation.

The Bad Can work with only as many as four instruments at a time; instrument selection is limited; caters to ambient techno.

The Bottom Line SawCutter isn't brimming with features, but it has plenty to get you started on your first techno loop, and it's affordable to boot.

6.8 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Support 7

Review Sections

CutterMusic SawCutter 2.0

Editors' note: We have changed the ratings in this review to reflect recent changes in our ratings scale. Find out more here.

CutterMusic is a one-man operation that offers two software programs: Revitar and SawCutter. In our search for a simple and basic software synthesizer, we discovered that SawCutter 2.0 fits the bill nicely. The program, which costs a mere $25 to register (the site also offers an earlier version for free), proves a good choice for elementary sound creation.

SawCutter 2.0, currently available for download from CutterMusic's Web site, is a snap to install and is ready to use within minutes of downloading. When you first open the program, you are prompted for your username and registration code, which is provided by e-mail if you purchase the program. Alternately, you can just run the app as many as 30 times for free. The interface is well laid out--clutter is kept to a minimum, and most features are color coded for easy selection. This setup makes the program blissfully easy to use, though it probably will take some practice to fully take advantage of the features.

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When you roll your mouse over each part of the interface, a textual description and tutorial of the feature is displayed in the bottom bar of the window.

Considering its low price, SawCutter has a healthy array of features. You can manually set tempo by typing in the beats per minute (BPM), adjusting the latency for optimal CPU usage, and selecting the note steps per pattern for each instrument (the minimum is 4; the maximum, 64). Once you begin to place notes on the frequency scale, the amount of tweaking you can do is endless. For adjusting the basic parameters of the notes, there's a completely malleable waveform editor with a harmonic adjuster; a multichord selector (handily laid out as piano keys); and an eight-set envelope bank, which can be toggled between amplitude, pitch, and frequency cutoff. In layman's terms, this means you have lots of control in creating just the sound you want. More advanced filters can be applied using the Delay/Reverb tool and the 2D Effect Controller, which lets you work with 2 of the 10 effects at once (alternatively, you can adjust each one individually by using control knobs). Thanks to full MIDI control, you can use a MIDI keyboard or controller to adjust parameters and trigger sounds instead of relying on your mouse.

Our one complaint is that SawCutter comes with only 15 instruments (there are a couple of extras available for download on the site), and they all lend themselves mostly to ambient techno or trance. However, you can import WAV files of your own to use as instruments, so this is a minor complaint. The app will only let you use 4 instruments at a time, but each instrument has 4 banks with 8 patterns each, meaning you can have up to 128 different patterns (32 for each instrument) to use in the sequencer. When activated, the sequencer lets you arrange each pattern in the time sequence and order in which you would like them played. Once you've arranged your song in the sequencer, you can record it, and then export your creation as a WAV file. Check out a sample sound created by SawCutter.

Throughout our testing, SawCutter performed with ease, sputtering out a few clicks and pops only if we tried to access the main program toolbar while playing a loop. All effects were applied in real time with no noticeable delay. All of our tech-support questions were answered within an hour or so. However, the FAQ page is limited, and we suspect that if there was a sudden onslaught of queries, response time would be slower due to the fact that CutterMusic is a one-man operation. That said, it's still a nice luxury to get a personal response from the software creator himself.

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