Working with Pro Tools' Xpand!2 Virtual Instrument

There's not many (any?) virtual instruments with an exclamation mark in their name. But that's not the reason Xpand!2 sample playback/synth deserves your attention. Joe Albano takes you deep into it.  

For many years now, Pro Tools has included a collection of virtual instruments, including classic keyboards (Mini Grand & the DB-33 organ), an analog (mono-)synth (Vacuum), a drum machine (Boom), and a cut-down version of a high-end sampler (Structure Free). And then there's Xpand!2, the second-generation version of Pro Tools' sample-playback/synth virtual instrument. I know that many Pro Tools users tend to dismiss Xpand!2 as more of a hobbyist's option, rather than a serious instrument, because of its preset-only nature, but it can actually be a pretty powerful instrument, if you take the time to explore the tweaks that are available to shape the preset sounds, and make customized patches of your own.

Fig. 1: Xpand!2, Pro Tools' compreshensive sample-playback/synth virtual instrument.

Fig. 1: Xpand!2, Pro Tools' comprehensive sample-playback/synth virtual instrument.

Basic Layout

Xpand!2 includes a large, comprehensive collection of instrument presets'"everything from the usual drums, bass, keys, strings, brass, etc., to orchestral sounds, synth sounds, and even loops. Each Xpand!2 patch can combine up to four of these preset instruments'"called Parts'"with control over relative level, tuning, and the ability to split the keyboard for different sounds on different ranges. The four sounds/Parts can all receive MIDI on the same channel (for layering of instruments), or be assigned to receive MIDI notes on different channels, for more complex Patches. 

All of this setup is done within each of the four horizontal Part areas (A'"D). At the left, the Part is turned On or Off, and the instrument preset is selected (Fig. 2).

Fig 2 The Part area in Xpand!2, with the menu of preset instruments.

Fig 2: The Part area in Xpand!2, with the menu of preset instruments.

The center section has the controls for Part Level, Pan, and two FX Sends. On the right are three setup options (Fig. 3): 'Play'

Joe is a musician, engineer, and producer in NYC. Over the years, as a small studio operator and freelance engineer, he's made recordings of all types from music & album production to v/o & post. He's also taught all aspects of recording and music technology at several NY audio schools, and has been writing articles for Recording magaz... Read More

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