TC's plug-in powerhouse is now available as an external, Firewire-conn

TC's plug-in powerhouse is now available as an external, Firewire-conn

TC’s existing Powercore PCI card has been a popular choice for both Mac and PC users looking to augment their computer’s own processing power with additional DSP. The key to its success is that its high-quality, DSP-powered plug-ins place minimal drain on the host computer, yet as far as the user is concerned, they look and behave like any other VST-style host-based plug-in.

The PCI card is supplied with a number of extremely good-quality plug-ins, most notably two different reverbs, one based on algorithms taken from TC hardware and the other a new algorithm that blends elements of the TC sound with ‘classic’ characteristics that are reminiscent of older Lexicon reverb processors. While some host-based reverbs can be quite impressive, the restrictions on available CPU power means they can never be as sophisticated as reverbs that run on their own DSP chips, and once you’ve heard the difference in quality, there’s no going back. The other bundled plug-ins cover modulated delay, EQ, dynamics, multi-band dynamics and a voice channel (Voice Strip) with five processing stages. Additional plug-ins are available from both TC and third-party companies to extend the capabilities of the Powercore.

Going Mobile
Unfortunately, the PCI card format is incompatible with the majority of laptop computers and also with ‘slotless’ Apple iMacs, and given the increase in both power and screen size offered by these types of machines (not to mention low physical noise in the case of laptops and the G4 iMac), they are particularly attractive to musicians. To address this issue, TC have developed a Firewire version of Powercore built into a 1U hardware rack, and though it costs around 50 percent more than the PCI version, it has approximately 50 percent more processing power, allowing more Powercore plug-ins to be run simultaneously. Powercore Firewire currently runs under version 1.7 of the Powercore operating software, which may also be used with existing PCI Powercore cards to provided full OS X support with Audio Units compatibility.

Powercore’s MegaReverb plug-in.
Powercore’s MegaReverb plug-in.
Photo: Mark Ewing
Inside the 1U case are four Motorola 56367 DSP chips, each with 512 kilowords of SRAM and running at 150MHz, a 266MHz Motorola 8245 Power PC chip and 8MB of on-board SDRAM. Three Firewire connectors are fitted to the rear panel for connection to the host computer and to facilitate the connection of other Firewire devices or additional Powercore units, and power for the unit comes from an in-line adaptor. A blue Powercore logo on the front panel completes the picture and prevents the otherwise plain box from being visually boring. However, the blue logo is not merely for show as it begins to pulse during boot-up and will also flash once to indicate that a plug-in has been loaded. If Powercore crashes for any reason, the blue logo goes out.

As well as working within Mac-based VST environments, TC have now included support for the new Apple Audio Units (AU) format via an inbuilt wrapper program. There’s no direct support for RTAS or MAS formats, although the latter may become less important as MOTU are apparently planning to implement Audio Units support in Digital Performer soon. The Audio Units wrapper program is also designed to handle third-party Powercore plug-ins such as those available from Waldorf, D-Sound and Sony. It is important to reiterate that all Powercore plug-ins must be specially written to run on the Powercore DSP platform, so you can’t use Powercore to run your existing host-based plug-ins. However, by using Powercore to supply high-quality EQ, dynamics and reverb (as well as a number of third-party and optional TC plug-ins), you can free up the maximum amount of your host CPU power for your favourite software instrument plug-ins. The same bundled set of plug-ins comes with Powercore PCI and Powercore Firewire. Internet connection is necessary for authorisation when installing optional plug-ins, though no authorisation is needed for the bundled plug-ins.

Both Mac and PC platforms are supported, though Mac users need OS 10.2.4 as a minimum requirement, whereas Powercore PCI will run under Mac OS 9. On Windows, Powercore may be used in Direct X applications such as Sonar by using a suitable wrapper program, such as Cakewalk’s VST-DX Adapter.

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