Review: Arcade by Output
A powerful, playable, web-based loop synthesizer with constantly evolving and updated content – including the ability to import your own loops.
Subscription based pricing model (Only $10 a month, though.)
Arcade is a hybrid plugin, synth and web-based loop browser, all rolled into one. By design, it is so simple to use, that your time is spent focused on music making instead of setting up complex signal paths or browsing endless loop and signal modification choices. To be sure, those tools are there, but accessing them is strictly on your terms.
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Review: Arcade by Output
Output has created some big waves in the software instrument arena with outstanding products like Movement, Exhale, Signal, Rev and many others.
They also offer a studio desk furniture line called Platform aimed at bedroom and project studio owners that frankly, may be one of the best values I’ve seen for the home-based, budget minded producer/musician.
But Output’s web-based, loop synthesizer, Arcade maybe their most innovative product to date. Arcade comes with a free 14-day trial and an affordable price tag of just $10 a month.
You can experience Arcade for yourself free for 14 days by signing up at Output.com.
Arcade sells for $10 per month subscription from Output
2018 may someday be known as the year of the loop browser. Hey, it could happen. Many loop and sound effect browsing ventures were launched, including Sounds.com, and many others were overhauled or revamped to make looking for sounds more like a streaming or “on demand” service. But only one really broke new ground by combining browser, plugin and playback with a quality web-based editing and effects rack. Maybe you’ve seen ads for Arcade on social media or heard a friend talking about it. Maybe you already own a software product produced by Output. If you haven’t heard of it already, it’s probably time to check it out. Last summer, Output launched Arcade with an amazing trial offer and a subscription-based price tag of just $10 a month. I jumped on board because they promised to update content daily. “We’ll see about that,” I thought, hoping I had just stumbled upon the greatest game of “gotcha!” I might ever play.
As time went on, I realized these folks weren’t lying about daily updates and besides, I was yielding at least one usable track, each time I opened Arcade in my DAW. You see, Arcade is a hybrid plugin, synth and web-based loop browser, all rolled into one. By design, it is so simple to use, that your time is spent focused on music making instead of setting up complex signal paths or browsing endless loop and signal modification choices. To be sure, those tools are there, but accessing them is strictly on your terms.
However, my nature is to despise subscription based pricing for anything so, like a jerk, I canceled my subscription to Arcade within the first month of my paid access. Flash forward another 90 days, and I am digging through my catalog of atmospheric works for a project when I stumbled across a number of pieces I had produced while using Arcade. They were quite a good fit, which caused me to recall my past experiences: It was dead simple to use, extremely fast and constantly being updated. I felt sudden and deep pangs of remorse for my brash and abrupt decision. “Why the hell, did I cancel this?” I wondered.
Fortunately, restarting my subscription was a matter of mouse clicks and I was literally making music with Arcade again in minutes!
Installing Arcade is a breeze and it consists of one very lightweight download. Once installed, Arcade is used like any plugin instrument in your DAW. Once instantiated, browsing for inspiration couldn’t be easier. Loops and sounds are organized in 3 distinct ways: Lines, Kits and Loops. “Lines” have titles like “Chopped,” “Aura” or “Particles,” and contain “kits” of curated collections of loops.
Each set of sounds within a kit are meticulously crafted to work with each other. Each kit contains 15 playable loops and sounds. Your keyboard’s white keys play ack the loops while black keys can modify them. Arcade is far more than just a clever package for loops. It is a production-oriented speed-browser, giving you fast access to previews of everything. Select a “Line” and then a “kit”, and you can preview the sounds within that kit without having to download or install anything. It’s very streamlined and efficient. Kits contain brief descriptions to hint at the content within the kit, to further speed decision making. These work very well to help you zero in your desired sounds without having to preview hundreds of ill-fitting prospects.
Once you’ve decided you want to use a particular collection, you can download the loops, then load them to begin playing. It’s fast. You won’t be sitting idle, awaiting long downloads (unless you’ve chose to download an entire line.) Note some of the options available from this view: You have the option to download all the loops in this particular “Line;” you can save the Line or just the individual kits as a “favorite;” and you can preview the loops for each kit without installing them. A preview of a kit plays snippets of all the loops within that kit, not just a mixed version of something created with the kit. This is really helpful. Also take note of the kit marked “new:” Arcade is updated daily. Yeah, daily…
Loops reside on your hard drive for reliable playback so, once you select a kit, you must first download it, then “load” it to be able to play. Kits already saved to your drive can simply be loaded (but they are only accessible while your subscription is active.) It’s a very intuitive process and download times seem lightning fast, even with a lackluster internet connection. This helps to keep your hard drive from being cluttered up by needless files because you only download what you actually use.
Now that you’ve loaded your selected kit, you are ready to create something! Note how the white keyboard keys pictured no longer say “empty.” This is a visual confirmation that you’ve successfully loaded a sound set into the Arcade browser. I found Arcade’s browser layout to be a tremendously efficient method of selecting material, specifically when I have looming deadlines and need a little inspiration. Choose a “Line”, preview a few kits, and you can be literally be producing your next track within minutes.
Some kits contain tempo range “suggestions,” but many do not include reference to tempo at all. This, by no means, is a restriction. I found that loops conform easily to any project tempo I’ve chosen and each kit is labeled with a project key signature, so there’s no need to worry about audio artifacts and out of sync-sample conversions (something that still plagues much of the loop industry today – despite it being nearly 20 years in to the twentieth century!) This speaks to the quality of the samples provided as well as to the design team at Output. Nothing here feels like happenstance or a rush to market, even though they’re putting something new up every day.
In the interest of time, I’m not going eschew a deep dive and exposition of all 11 modulation effects and the loop editing features. These tools are here – and suffice it to say, work extremely well for their intended tasks, but they never get in the way or interfere with your workflow. The tools are powerful but delivered strictly on your terms. Want to edit a particular loop? Simply click the bottom of the white keys with your mouse to reveal the edit menu.
Want to alter effects? The effects suite is always a mouse click away. Personally, I find Output’s effects engines to be nothing short of spectacular. Everything sounds good to my ears. And generally speaking, the loops and effects presets are well enough designed, that I simply felt no need to mess with them.
But some people can’t be satisfied by leaving “well enough” alone. If that’s you, relax. There’s a ton of tweakable parameters. Let’s just say you want to rearrange a loop pattern or, trigger the loop from a different point – or maybe even remove a segment altogether. These are all possibilities within Arcade’s strong suite of editing and effects tools.
Ultimately, Arcade is one stop shopping for producers looking to speed their time spent building usable material as opposed to the rather stagnating process of purchasing, downloading, expanding and then previewing loops before you can actually work with them. To call Arcade a “game changer” is a bit of a dis-service. It’s more than that. I haven’t even mentioned how adding your own loops factors into this exceptional browsing system. But you can do this! Simply drag and drop loops from their current position, into the file browser and you can start taking advantage of all of Arcade’s “re-sequence,” modulation and effects tools on all your loops. Many excellent tutorial videos have been produced by Output and I highly recommend them for extracting the most utility from Arcade right out of the box.
Working with Arcade is dead simple. It might even make you wish for all music making systems to flow as well. The curated collections of loops are excellent, spanning a wide swath of genres, styles, instruments and moods.
There’s probably something here for everyone. For beginning producers, dedicated loopers and those looking for fast access to tonal (and rhythmic) inspiration, Arcade cannot be beat. (Puns!) But if you’re used to rolling your own …uh, I mean playing actual instruments, Arcade may take some getting used to. The good news is, you can try it FREE for 14 days. How can you possibly lose?
Facts: Arcade can be downloaded in a single compressed file of just 105 MB! This is because there is no content delivered within the software install package. All included loops are user selectable and downloadable on demand. Once on your hard drive, they remain available for as long as your subscription is active. Alternatively, you may also use your own loops in Arcade making any predictions of file size or disk usage, strictly guesswork. Arcade is available by subscription only with a $10 monthly fee.
Arcade sells for $10 per month subscription from Output
Contributor Steve Blizin reviews Arcade by Output
“Arcade is a hybrid plugin, synth and web-based loop browser, all rolled into one. By design, it is so simple to use, that your time is spent focused on music making instead of setting up complex signal paths or browsing endless loop and signal modification choices. To be sure, those tools are there, but accessing them is strictly on your terms.”