First of all, you may ask, what's the difference between the Fantom-X and the new Fantom-Xa? The Fantom-Xa has many of the Fantom-X's powerful features, including 128-voice polyphony, Skip Back sampling, reatltime sample time-stretching, and much more (see New Gear feature on page 14 for additional specs). As you can see, the Xa has inherited some serious hardware from its big brother. Of course, there are some differences to help make the Xa more affordable. The most obvious is the Fantom-Xa's 240 x 64 monochrome LCD, in place of the Fantom-X's huge full-color display. In place of the Fantom-X's 16 dynamic pads, the Fantom-Xa has 10 non-velocity sensitive trigger pads handy for firing off samples, rhythms, and RPS patterns. The Fantom-Xa comes with 45 seconds of sampling time, which you can expand to about 48 minutes of stereo sampling if need be, has one SRX expansion slot (compared to four on the Fantom-X), and its sound set, including over 100 new patches, is based on the Fantom-S.
Serious Sound Bank
The foundation of any workstation is its sounds they should inspire you to play, create, and write music, and keep you coming back for more. Like its big brothers, the Fantom-Xa shines with loads of great new patches, covering all the traditional keyboard instruments and much more.
For piano players, some quick highlights from the Fantom-Xa's patches include the beautiful ConcertGrand and the funky CurlyWurly. You can easily get lost in acoustic sounds, like the expressive string slides of Comp Stl Gtr, or the full-bodied section sounds of FS Strings. The preset patches are categorized by type, so it's easy to find your sound quickly.
For today's synth gurus, the Xa is full of wicked basses and an impressive array of synth sounds, from subtle textures to blistering leads. And under the hood is a full-blown Fantom with the most powerful synth engine available great raw waveforms, structures, multiple filter types, and up to eight syncable LFO's per patch, including the Fantom's unique user-programmable Step LFO. You'll find it highlighted in the Pulsating and Beats&Groove categories; use the onboard rhythms to fire off a rockin' breakbeat from the pads, then press the category lock button to surf through dozens of perfectly sync'd rhythmic patches for instant dance-floor inspiration. To take it a step further, press Arpeggio to enable the Xa's arpeggiator, choose from over 100 programmable patterns to add to the beat, and warp it with a quick twist of a knob. Capture your moment of inspiration with Skip Back Sampling, instantly creating a WAV file of your magic moment for further development.
Writing With the Fantom-Xa
Unlike other workstations, the Fantom-Xa is always ready to record. You can start sequencing anytime and from any mode, whether you're playing your favorite piano patch, using an onboard rhythm combined with funky arpeggiated bass, firing off some imported samples from the pads and jamming along, etc. no matter where you are or what sound you're playing, you can start sequencing immediately.
To develop larger musical ideas, you'll want to use the Performance Mixer, where you can record and mix 16 tracks with one-button access to levels, pan positions, effects sends, and more. Finding just the right sounds is easy with dedicated Patch Select and Category buttons. For example, you can start laying down a drum track from the pads or keys. Then, while your drums loop (easy again there's a dedicated Loop button!), just put the Fantom into Rehearsal while you find a sound, practice a new part, tweak with the knobs whatever you want to jam on until you're ready to record your next track. Lay it down and keep building up your song. This is easy with the new dedicated Track Select and Mute buttons right on the front panel great for creating quick variations and trying different mixes of your tracks.
Make a mistake? No problem. Simply erase in real-time using the keys or pads one note or the whole track while recording, and jump right back in to get it right. Or, if you prefer, just stop and press the Undo button to delete that less-than-perfect last take. When you're ready to sculpt your master tune, the Fantom-Xa has incredibly powerful sequencer editing, groove quantize templates, and graphic microscope editing down to single note detail to let you shape your music.
Sampling up a Storm
Next you may want to add vocals, guitar, or any other audio elements to your song. As a sampler, the Fantom-Xa let's you plug in a mic for vocals, record guitar using the onboard multieffects, or sample any audio from another synth, drum machine, or CD. Or you can resample any riffs, patterns, or songs you've sequenced onboard, creating a WAV file for use on the Fantom-Xa or on your computer; drag and drop it via USB into your favorite software DAW, create an mp3, or burn it to CD.
With USB you can also import WAV and AIF files, so you can bring in audio files you've recorded or downloaded on your computer, or loops and phrases from sample CDs. Only the Fantom workstations have Realtime Timestretching, so your samples can automatically sync to your sequencer without changing pitch. For example, you can select several sampled loops, select them to create a new kit on the pads, and sync them all with one button press. Or use the Fantom's Auto Chop to slice the sampled loop into individual hits and create your own drum kit. And, of course, your samples can use the Xa's powerful synth engine, filters, and MFX to create totally new sounds.
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