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PRODUCT REVIEWS by Media News Blast Editors

Ooni Koda Product Review w/ Man Crate's Pizza Grilling Crate
by Michael Yannon 
      It’s been said a watched pot won’t boil. Those physics aren’t at play here because watching the Ooni Koda bake a pizza is like watching a time-lapse film. As a matter of fact, watching it bake is almost a must considering how quickly this powerful little oven cranks out the pies. The company touts an amazing 60 second average cook time but our times were even better. And its portability makes it ideal for many outdoor activities.
     Okay, a couple of things to keep in mind. First, since shipping flammable liquids is not wise (and illegal), you’ll need a propane tank. Secondly, the Ooni Koda is designed for outdoor use only (so don’t be cranking it up in your studio apartment). Finally, use an oven mitt or glove whenever you insert or remove pizzas (learned this the hard way).
     Assembly, if you could call it that, is extending the units three legs, inserting the cooking stone and attaching the propane tank. Ooni is also kind enough to include a pizza paddle (a.k.a. pizza peel). After opening the propane valve, turn the start knob counterclockwise and with a soft click, the Ooni roars to life. You’ll want to allow at least 15 minutes for the oven to heat up, allowing the stone insert to reach its max temperature, ensuring a crispy pizza crust.
     For test purposes, we tried a variety of pizzas, including frozen, take and bake and those of our own creation and here’s what we learned: Papa Murphy’s smallest pizza is 12”. The largest the Ooni Koda accommodates is 10”. Also, the conventional ovensafe cardboard - their pizzas come on for baking - was toast within seconds of hitting the 1000 degree inferno. Learn from my mistakes, people. And although we trimmed their pizzas and made them work, Papa Murphy’s is not an ideal choice for the Koda. However, they do sell ready made pizza dough.
     It’s best to completely thaw frozen pizzas. We tried two brands of frozen and while both took longer they still browned much quicker than a conventional oven. They were also cold in the center. And remember, if you do thaw, do it in the fridge. Raw dough is hard to handle at room temp. The pizzas we made ourselves netted the best results!
     We achieved the best results with pizzas we made ourselves, keeping the pies small (about 8”) and the crust thin, but running the gamut on toppings and sauces. Regardless of design, each mini pizza was done within a minute, browned evenly with a crispy crust and nicely charred toppings. We also made quesadillas and toasted grill cheese sandwiches with excellent results. The Ooni is reminiscent of top broilers, like the Salamander, used in professional kitchens. It browns that fast.
     The Koda‘s small size and portability make it ideal for just about any outdoor gathering. I believe it will find a prominent place in most outdoor kitchens or in any situation where a propane grill is already present. Tailgating comes to mind. It may not be practical for the rough-it campers but glampers may consider it a must-have.
     Earlier I mentioned something about a 1000-degree inferno. Well, I exaggerated a bit, it only reaches a max temp of 932 (500C). Hotter by far than most grills, so at the very least the same common sense rules apply; respect the fact that burns are possible, keep the kiddies at a safe distance, protect yourself. For its convenience, portability and cooking power, we highly recommend the Ooni Koda. The good folks at Ooni are starting a pizza revolution, offering several different options including its original wood pellet oven, The Ooni 3, and the Ooni Pro, which uses gas or pellets for fuel. Check them out at www.ooni.com.

     If you’re giving an Ooni oven as a gift, consider the Man Crate Pizza Grilling Crate as the perfect accessory. As the name implies, it comes in a small (but very manly) crate. The crate includes pizza dough ingredients, a recipe book and all the tools needed to get them started in their pizza-making quest for glory! Check out all the Man Crate options here: https:// www.mancrates.com.
Overview 
     As an owner of many of Output’s plugins, I was very eager to try its latest offering, Arcade, a robust playable loop engine which comes with a vast library of loops that you can modulate in real time. Granted, I’m always a bit apprehensive regarding the term loops, and there are millions out there from services like Splice and Loopmasters, but it always felt a bit like cheating to me. And would the loop I chose show up in another song? Well comparing Arcade to a simple loop library is unfair to loop libraries. So let’s take a look at some of the features that will make you rethink your attitude on loops.

Features & Functionality 
     The way Output presents its content is the first major difference you’ll notice. Instead of organizing loops in folders on a web browser, Arcade allows you to search, audition and load kits within the plugin itself, from 3 categories: Lines, Kits and Loops. Lines are collections of sounds, representing multiple genres and vibes. Lines are broken down into kits and each kit has 15 loops covering a 2-octave range on your controller keyboard. The white keys are for the preset sounds themselves which include everything from drums and other rhythmic beats to arpeggios to cinematic effects. The black keys are modulators which you use in real time. You can preview each loop and download only those you want, saving time and storage space. Once downloaded, you are presented with an abundance of options for editing, which enables you to really make these presets your own. As a bonus, you can also import your own loops (including those from Splice) and edit them as you would the factory presets. Both white and black keys can be edited.
     As mentioned, the black keys are real-time modulators featuring Playhead, Repeater and my favorite, Resequencer. The latter creates completely new sequences from the original loops, ensuring you won’t hear them on other recordings. But even if you decide to forego this process, keep in mind each preset tempo locks to whatever BPM you set and you can select different keys, including changes from major to minor, flatting the 3rd in chords and arpeggios, taking out the guesswork for beginners and adding yet another touch of uniqueness to your composition.
     The white keys also have their own Edit function that allows you to adjust volume, panning, attack time, release time, crossfade time, speed, tuning, send level and filters. Arcade’s Mixer assigns a channel strip for each loop, which controls volume, pan and send level for each white key. In addition, there’s a master bus which allows you to add 4 different audio effects of your choosing, including chorus, compressor, multi-tap and stereo delays, distortion, EQ, filter, limiter, lo-fi effect, phaser and, of course, reverb.

     Now, given all these options, you might think the learning curve is intense, but I assure you it isn’t. Its sparse, beautiful interface, (Output never fails to deliver in this regard) is intuitive, never intimidating and easy to navigate, so you’ll feel comfortable jumping right in. Each kit has four sliders unique unto itself and of course you can edit these as well by opening the Macro Overview and making changes as you see fit.
     In all honesty, I haven’t dug as deeply as I normally would into the sound design aspect of Arcade. I’ve had this product for about a month and haven’t even scratched the surface. I’ve had my hands full with just the presets and I’ve composed with it daily since subscribing. Currently, there are 23 Lines, each containing anywhere from 40 to 100+ kits and they’re adding more daily. Oh yeah, that’s the best part, you get all this for $10 per month (perfect for starving artists such as myself) and new content keeps coming in. If you do cancel, you don’t  lose your recorded work, for which companies like East West are notorious. If you’ve ever had to resubscribe to a service just to revisit a year’s worth of work, bounce every track which uses its presets to audio, well, don’t get me started. Output takes the ethical high road in this regard and I’m grateful. Of course, when you cancel, you do lose access to the library, but again, sounds already recorded are forever part of your composition.

Drawbacks 
     There are only a few problems I’ve encountered with Arcade. For me, the main issue is key changes. As I mentioned, you can select whatever key you like, in major or minor, prior to playing the loops, but not in real time. So, creating progressions can be difficult and time consuming. You have to create tracks for each key change but the presets don’t always conform, meaning there may be some sonic adjustments needed and this can be a chore. So, where some programs, such as Alchemy and Omnisphere, offer one key arpeggios that are played across the keyboard in whatever note/key you choose, Arcade is limited to just the one key.

      The other issue is you may be bound by the speed of your internet. If you still have - gasp - DSL and you’re subject to iffy connection speeds, it can kill your creative flow. I’ve personally downloaded every kit onto an external SSD drive in the event I lose internet, but if that’s not available to you, this can be a major headache.

Summary 
     With Arcade, Output has created a unique, easy-to-use loop synthesizer with features you won’t find with Splice or Loopmasters. And while there is always the possibility of hearing certain bits you’ve used elsewhere, the abundance of editing capabilities, key and tempo changes narrows the odds in your favor. Use their presets, import your own or use other services loops and make them your own. The first month is free (full version trial) and only $10 per month thereafter with new content added often. Trying it is a no-brainer, keeping will be too.