"I want to start making music - which software should I get?” It used to be the question that experienced computer musicians feared the most – give the wrong advice and you could end up landing a friend with a copy of some vile, crippled sequencer that they hated. These days, though, the question is easy to answer if your newbie happens to be a Mac owner - all you need to do is point them in the direction of GarageBand.
Session represents M-Audio’s attempt to produce an equivalent app for PC users. You start a composition by specifying the key and tempo, then drop in automatically matched loops from a 2GB sound library.
If you want to go beyond the supplied loops, you can make your own recordings. At the moment, this has to be via either a Fast Track USB or the Micro interface that you get when you buy Session as a standalone product. You can also use your MIDI keyboard to play and record the proprietary Syntax synth.
Tracks can be spiced up with the 20 real-time effects that are included. Once you’re done tinkering with these and you’re happy with your finished mix, you can render it to a WAV or WMA file.
On the whole, Session’s loops are of a high standard, with the varied guitars and basses being particular highlights. It’s genuinely possible to knock up something that doesn’t sound half bad in under five minutes, although one possible concern for beginners is that the transposing system is based on musical keys. Things would be simpler if you could transpose up or down at the push of a button.
Audio recording, however, is a breeze - Session shines as a simple multitracker. The Micro’s design ensures that things are as simple as they realistically could be; just whack it in a USB port and you’re good to go.
Sadly, Session is let down by its MIDI features, which are decidedly limited when compared to those in GarageBand. You won’t find even basic note-editing functionality, so tweaking MIDI clips is highly cumbersome. Even worse, there’s no plug-in support.
Session isn’t a bad product, but it needs improving if it’s to become the go-to software for PC-based beginners. It has its good points, but is currently blighted by some real limitations.