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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » Hardware


Yaeltex V2: realizing the music and visual controller hardware you wanted in your head

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 27 May 2020 8:33 pm

Finally, an open browser tab can bring you something good for your music and performance - like helping you build your dream controller, visually. A first look at Yaeltex V2.

The post Yaeltex V2: realizing the music and visual controller hardware you wanted in your head appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Akai’s next-gen MPC matures as your gear hub, with new MPC Live II hardware and 2.8 software

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 14 May 2020 10:38 pm

Akai’s recent 2.8 software offers some powerful new features – and a revised MPC Live II could be a sweet spot in hardware, with expanded connectivity and built-in speakers. And finally, you get MIDI multi capability, like on the classic MPCs. Here’s the rundown. The demands for a digital drum machine/production workstation are now pretty […]

The post Akai’s next-gen MPC matures as your gear hub, with new MPC Live II hardware and 2.8 software appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

This vaporwave synth was made with a VHS tape deck – and it’s surprisingly deep

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 29 Apr 2020 11:37 pm

In these trying times… well, we definitely need to hear rare 80s synths with some friendly, fuzzy VHS deck warble, right? Wish granted!

This saga starts with SampleScience’s Vaporwaves, which was a grab-bag rompler/multi-sampled instrument full of 80s sounds – FM mallets, glass pianos, Rhodes, onboard VHS effects. And yes, of course it also came with a triangle and a classical statue and some pink and purple vaporwave graphics.

But Vaporwaves 2 is really more than a sequel. This entire multi-sampled instrument focuses on one fairly obscure 80s FM synth. (I actually now know what it is, because I bugged Pierre until he told me. But I’m sworn to secrecy.)

https://www.samplescience.ca/2020/04/vaporwaves-2.html

$30, Mac + Windows.

There are 45 FM sounds recorded into there, with a full 1.04GB of sound. And whereas this could have just been a sample player with an amplitude envelope, call it a day, there’s more. So you get a preamp processor, multiple voice modes, multiple filter modes, and an LFO with both configurable target and source.

I’ve been playing around with it, and it’s really beautiful. So in addition to being able to get wonderfully retro sounds, I already can imagine it being bent into some other ambient and experimental contexts. Sometimes you just need a simple instrument for some added inspiration – and since we can’t get to flea markets for the moment, this downloadable instant gratification can fill in.

Listen:

This being CDM, of course we need to know more. And – oh God, I’ve used this VCR. (It’s rare now? I hope I didn’t miss my chance.)

Pierre explains:

The VCR I used is the Panasonic PV-S4670, it’s an S-VHS compatible VCR which is rare. The sounds have been recorded on very bad tapes though because I wasn’t getting the effect I wanted with good tapes. I remember that in the 90s broke musicians were using VHS as a way to get “high” quality recordings for cheap. With good tapes and recording in SP mode, the sound is actually quite good.

For Vaporwaves 2, I artificially degraded the tapes by putting them in the freezer. I took the idea from Brian Grainger, a dub techno/idm artist mostly known for his work as Milieu/Coppice Halifax. In his case, he would burry his tapes in his yard for a day to see what would happen. I really like the sound he got by using this technique.

We have some behind-the-scenes photos, taken on a suitably grungy 2000s-era digital camera.

Also, LaserDisc. Courtesy the developer. Someday, maybe you’ll get near such fine studio sound equipment.
Memories, like the corners of my … closet.

The freezer trick was never necessary before; we were able to just keep re-taping Fraggle Rock and Doctor Who over tapes again and again, so I’m glad to know this new technique.

Features list:

  • 45 FM synth sounds recorded on VHS
  • 1.04 GB of sounds
  • Multi-LFO
  • Lowpass/Highpass filter
  • Multi-voice mode and glide control
  • Amplitude range controls
  • Preamp
  • Available as a VST/VST3/AU plugin for Windows and macOS (High Sierra and Mojave, Catalina via the Maize Sampler Player)

Oh yeah, and for more inspiration – Brian Grainger has a YouTube channel. I don’t know how I missed that.

https://www.youtube.com/user/Slowlid

Vaporwaves 2 Plug-in

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Instrument makers, technologists, synth lovers – let’s meet up virtually

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Scene | Fri 24 Apr 2020 6:17 pm

Human connections are what make the community around creative music and live visual technology matter. Since we don’t get to meet, here’s one chance to meet up virtually.

Previously, this time of year might have brought us together at events like Superbooth and Ableton Loop in Berlin – and I had originally planned travel to Russia, Greece, and more, as well. That travel is worthwhile partly because it’s tough to substitute for face-to-face communication.

That said, I’ve always been one to enjoy working a bit slowly. I like reading and taking time. I like writing rather than live streaming. I enjoy great still photos sometimes instead of video. I appreciate putting off listening to music weeks or months so I can find the right moment, close my eyes, put on headphones, and really get lost. So yeah, this idea that everything should be a multi-way Zoom chat or Facebook or YouTube stream is a bit strange to me.

Even when we’re together at events, there’s never enough time.

So if you’re a manufacturer – or artist, or just reader – with something on your mind, let us know. It’s the equivalent of grabbing a beer or Club-Mate and having a chat. And of course, some of you have never been able to come somewhere like Berlin, so now here’s our chance – in some weird way, we’re all the same distance from one another.

I have no idea what will get talked about here, but I promise some responses in the next couple of weeks, and to cover what I can on the site – slow style. And yeah, I’m keen to know what you’re doing just to pass the time, CDM related or not.

Also, if you do like streams, I’m on tonight with Hainbach on his live stream – plus Ableton are doing #loopathome on their channel, too.

Stay safe and healthy, thanks to all our CDM readers working on the front lines from health care to grocery lines, stay in touch.

Got some other ideas around this, too, but this was more fun than just asking for you to do a video stream or just send in news.

Form embedded below or head to https://forms.gle/tzmXSoj89gzGADQf9

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Adam Jay on building live techno sets on Elektron gear – and why you should stay punk

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 15 Apr 2020 10:20 pm

The system has failed us, but not Adam Jay. He’s here to show us how he rigs up his latest live techno sets. And he can make 3 tiny waveforms on a $300 Elektron make you want to dance.

There’s some fantastic music here, so feel free to sit back or get up and let your smartphone’s step counter know you’re still very much alive. But if you’re wondering how anyone plays like this live, he talks us through his setup.

And yeah, if you need any added motivation to work on your chops as stay-at-home producer in isolation, this is like a free cross-training decathlon intensive master class. It’s not about amassing a lot of gear – what the Indianapolis-based artist with a deep Detroit soul has amassed is a ton of skill.

A single-cycle exercise

“The System Has Failed Us” is a live techno track that channels “frustration with our current global predicament”:

…how our leaders have failed us and how we must work together to overcome the reckless choices made by those who have abused their power. I could not sleep last night and had to get this out of my system.

The track was a way to exorcise frustration, but also served as an exercise in minimalism:

[It’s] all single cycle samples. Trying to find out how far I could push the machine with the minimum amount of source material – and it’s only three separate single cycle sample .wavs at that, using them across 6 tracks on the Model Samples.

The rig:

  • Elektron Model:Samples, with 3 single-cycle samples (556 bytes in length!), across six tracks
  • “Heavy” LFO modulation for the kick and bass and hat (so you get them out of the same waveforms)
  • Model:Samples output hits an Alesis Micro Limiter and some light Octatrack effects (EQ/Compressor)
  • Midi Fighter Twister controller controls a bass equalizer (also hosted on the Octatrack).

In a nice instance of Elektron sonic recycling, those 556 bytes x 3 were originally produced by an Elektron Digitone (kick, bass) and Analog Four (hat). The samples were created by Taro, and you can grab them for yourself – they’re free:

https://freewavetables.glideapp.io

https://www.elektronauts.com/t/free-wavetables/121639

A full-length set – and how it’s structured

That’s one track, but here’s an expanded set.

I was really curious about how he puts the pieces together. So Adam details the setup for CDM. The basic idea here is to play the Model:Samples as the main sound source, but use additional Alesis hardware and some clever performance routings on the Octatrack for dynamics processing and (on the Octatrack) messing about with re-sampling loops and adding effects.

The Octatrack is the performance command station, both with additional loops, effects, routing the Model:Samples, and additional control via the MIDI Fighter Twister for hands-on encoder moves. The ingredients:

  • Elektron Octatrack is MIDI clock host, sending clock to the Model:Samples
  • Elektron Model:Samples is the sound source for “all the material”
  • Model:Samples signal chain: Alesis MicroLimiter > Octatrack AB input
  • Octatrack track 3 is a THRU track (Model:Samples with Compressor and EQ in the two effects slots)
  • Track 7 is a FLEX track, “recording/looping/mangling the T3/Model:Samples audio.
  • Track 5 is another FLEX track “with just some other very short loops previously recorded, made on the Model:Samples with heavy EQ filtering and Dark Reverb in the the two FX slots. Re-sequenced on Track 5 on the fly, as needed.”
  • Track 8 Master “has a dark reverb that I tweak during some of the dubbier bits.”

And then there’s control: “The Midi Fighter Twister controller goes through a USB MIDI host box to convert USB-A to 5 PIN DIN MIDI. The Twister controls Octatrack levels, EQs, reverb sends, allowing me to creatively mix between the thru and flex tracks, without any paging around on the Octatrack.”

Now obviously, keeping these tunes together means there’s some pre-programming – but then it’s about the ability to mess with it, thanks to the routing above. He explains:

Ultimately, each tune is a single Model Samples pattern, tweaked and freaked live. And the Octatrack is there to loop it, effect it, and mix the live-looped Model:Samples for transitions.

The conceptual approach is to use the 6-track limitation as an advantage and make sure each sound is a good fit, since there are so few tracks to work with — and to set up the patterns so they can be played live in interesting ways that keep moving and stay dance-y.

Hooks are heavily filter-modulated and the Model:Sample’s Pioneer DJM-style low-pass/high-pass filter is very beneficial in this regard. They often come from small recorded Analog Four synth phrases that have some motion in them already, modulating start point and/or filter brings them to life. Bass lines are often the same samples as the kicks, with the start point shaved to take off the attack, and then pitch/distortion/filter to get them grooving. The latch-able FILL mode often works as seventh track, mostly for pattern variation, as each tune is only a single pattern.

Cramming in as much dance-able content into each pattern was the key to keeping it interesting. The Octatrack just adds a bit of trickery-flair and keeps the transitions seamless. I was a DJ first, so my live sets have always had that mixed element to them.

Keep techno punk

Oh yeah, and Adam has a message for you: stay punk. Play cheap.

Doing all the creation on the Model:Samples is also a big middle finger to those who like to poo-poo low cost instruments to make themselves feel better about their $3,000 synthesizer expenditures – the people who call instruments without a long list of features “cheap plastic toys” and never add anything of substance to the conversation.

Techno should be more punk, more visceral, and more pushing what you have to the limits. Some of the most inspiring stuff I’ve ever heard in my life came from an old friend on his Roland R-8 [drum machine] through an AIWA boombox. I’m all for Elektron and Korg and Roland and Novation pushing out inspiring, capable instruments to the masses. Everyone should have the option to be able to express themselves and get their message across, no matter what their budget is.

This narrative that now that Elektron is more appealing, and more affordable to people who can’t afford the Digi or big boxes… that the “glory days are over”? Oh man, I couldn’t disagree more. The most creative, brilliant, and under-served people I know are the ones who can only afford the $299 instrument. Even before the pandemic, they were struggling, disadvantaged, living life day to day, check to check, working multiple jobs. They are no less deserving of quality tools to express themselves.

I would argue that creating this lower entry point to far more people is when the glory days actually begin. Far more music will be made on these boxes by a greater number of people. And that number will include more young people, and more disadvantaged people than before. This excites me the most. Their voices are equally valid and should be equally valued. If that reach, that influence on the populace is less “glorious” than a metal case with more LFOs, then I think some have lost the plot.

Music is here to connect humans together. The connection I have with someone else I do not know, when I hear and enjoy their music… it’s like nothing else in the world. Why on Earth would anyone want to keep the gates up on that? Why would anyone want to wall themselves in with only the people who can afford more expensive tools?

For some musical evidence of that, Adam has pulled off not one but three exceptional, forward-thinking electro albums on Detroit Underground, including this year’s terrific Inoperable Data (a title that kind of sums up our brains right now, too).

Have a listen. No further witnesses; the defense rests.

You might want to have a look at that one, too, as there are videos for every single track:

https://detund.bandcamp.com/album/maxia-zeta

And for still more Adam Jay action, check the mastering credits for the likes of Mike Parker, Noncompliant, Daniel Troberg, and Kero. (To butcher the 1980s BASF ad, Adam didn’t create some of the music you hear. He’s made some of the music you hear bang harder.)

Thanks, Adam, we may be checking in with you routinely in these strange times!

The post Adam Jay on building live techno sets on Elektron gear – and why you should stay punk appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Polyend teases Tracker: grid, tracker display, hardware

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 11 Mar 2020 11:20 pm

Polyend has been gradually releasing a set of teasers for Tracker – and today we get the first big picture, looking like a love child of a monome, 90s tracker software, Maschine, and Push.

I mean, just look at this thing:

It looks massively fast for programming elaborate patterns, whether you’re thinking classic genres or wild, new micro-obsessive inventions.

Okay, if you aren’t familiar with the 90s software, that’s not so important. These tools took a different, more non-linear approach to rhythm programming. It’s responsible for some recognizable styles of the time, with elaborate subdivided rhythmic phrases, but it remains appealing irrespective of genre as a different way of thinking about pattern – and, for many, a really fast way of working. It’s also appealing if you simply find that you keep getting stuck in a rut, repeating ideas, when inside the boundaries of a fixed step grid found on a lot of drum machines and simple hardware sequencers and the like.

Maybe the best way to think of this is, it’s a new direction in how to do standalone hardware for music-making away from the computer, on one hand, and the predictability of Roland-style drum and bassline sequencing and Akai MPC sampling on the other.

I mean, if Polyend pull this off, it will certainly appeal to lovers of this approach – but perhaps to newcomers, too.

That’s exactly what happened when different music editing tools found their way onto Nintendo gaming handhelds. People who had never heard of a tracker before, or even in some cases ever tried making music, often picked up these devices because they were self-contained and fun. (See LSDJ on the Game Boy, or, while it’s its own grid-based approach, Nanoloop.)

I’m also impressed that this takes some of the best one-button access to editing functions from Native Instruments’ Maschine and Ableton’s Push. But at first glance, Polyend’s approach looks far simpler and more direct – it’s really elegant seeing that big jog wheel, and a minimal number of buttons. Whereas Push and Maschine are really interfaces to elaborate computer-style software, Tracker promises to be built around its own, standalone workflow. That is, it could be really fast to work with.

A leak suggested this will all be battery-powered, and even come with its own internal FM synth. See Synth Anatomy from earlier this month.

But you won’t have to wait much longer for the full details. Polyend promises to give us a complete run-down when this thing is ready.

So I hope you all keep yourself and loved ones healthy in these challenging times, and that we’re making some great music together later this year. Work on the joy of music continues, and it’s nice work if you can get it. Watch this space.

Past teasers:

(Oh and yeah – I wasn’t playing coy when I said I didn’t know what was coming when the first teaser came out. Polyend really didn’t tell me! I still know what you know, but – when this drops, full official information.)

Polyend

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Elektron’s Model:Cycles, revealed – so it’s Model:Samples, but FM

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 26 Feb 2020 5:06 pm

Elektron’s Model:Cycles is revealed, and – it’s exactly the structure, form factor, and UI of the Model:Samples, but with FM synthesis.

As Elektron puts it, “scale angles dense and jagged, glide over plains vast and fluid, or sink into mists of dissonance. To model is to shape the formless.” Uh, yeah. FM synthesis. Turn knobs, get crazy sounds.

On the Cycles, this is divided into dedicated FM engines – Kick, Snare, Metal, Per, Tone, and Chord. (See videos below.)

And the price definitely isn’t bad – at about 349EUR (converting from SEK), this could be a fun little box to pick up. By slicing the price from the samples model, Elektron are also making this tougher to resist.

None of this is a bad thing. FM synthesis and its wild, sonorous results are terrific for making out-there grooves and percussion, in particular – since it has some of the kinds of nonlinearities in spectrum that you get from molding metal and the like. It’s not so much that we’ve gotten better at FM synthesis over the years, arguably, as it is that our ears are now more tuned to appreciating all that range. Armed with digital power under the hood, I fully expect we’ll see a lot more FM soon – just as we’ve seen polysynths and wavetable synthesis start to move into the space.

But maybe what is a bit disappointing is that the Model:Cycles isn’t a new design. It’s the Model:Samples – the same control structure, the same buttons, the same UI, the same 6-track architecture – but with FM. I mean, it looks like it’s even the same color plastic as the Model:Samples. .

Look, I love having extra controls. And I love cheap and cheery boxes and portability. So I’m very tempted to defend this from people resisting the concept.

There’s just one problem – because I really loved the Model:Samples, I have to really protest here. Why couldn’t Elektron meld sample engine and FM? That would help this box rise from “oh, there’s their previous entry level box with different firmware” to “everyone needs to own this the moment they can get it shipped to their door” classic.

Okay, this isn’t quite as bad as when KORG tried to sell us one electribe as if it were two electribes – the electribe and electribe sampler, which were so similar they seemed like an experiment to check if the distributors were reading the promo materials, like passing the German driving exam. But at least KORG had the decency to change the color.

All that rainbow-colored melted Play-Doh can’t quite distract from the fact that this … looks the same as a Model:Samples. I mean, it’s also 350 bucks, so we can’t complain too much, thought that doesn’t change the fact that you might want to load some one shots on a drum machine so you can use it effectively in a set.

We’ve seen what happens when a manufacturer takes an entry-level product and crams it with firmware updates instead of making people buy a new box. That’s the story of the Novation Circuit. And the moral of the story is – if you can make your hardware do this, your customers will shower you with adoration and form a whole community around your gear. It’s easier said than done – this makes the life of engineers tough, and it means you have to shift marketing so you can make a software update as exciting as a new box.

But the result can be long-term value for everyone involved, because presumably – forming a more lasting relationship with their little box – customers are even more likely to spread the word.

There’s also some confusion looking at this and Elektron’s own Digitone. The Cycles has audio tracks; the Digitone doesn’t. But the Digitone is superior in basically every other way – real polyphonic sequencing, 8 voice polyphony, more FM algorithms, cool filters and extra modulation for more sound shaping, and more effects, including Overdrive, plus Overbridge support for easier integration with your software.

Oh yeah, and because Elektron’s effects sound fantastic, that alone might be reason to save up (it’s closer to EUR 750 list).

Basically, if the Model:Cycles added even basic sample playback as one extra engine – a la Model:Samples, it’d be my main drum machine. If the Digitone added some of the audio features of either of the Model: line, I’d save up and it would be.

But meanwhile, I’m a little confused. Now, I am happy to be proven wrong. Andreas who reviewed Model:Samples for us seems non-plussed by this. But since he did that review, I’m happy to take on this one and see if I wind up embracing some limitations.

Have a look and see what you think, as I know many readers wrote us saying they were curious what’s coming.

https://www.elektron.se/products/modelcycles/

And for a brief reminder that CDM has been rooting for Model:Samples, here you go:

The post Elektron’s Model:Cycles, revealed – so it’s Model:Samples, but FM appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

If you’ve got $7500, you can also have an E-mu SP-1200 sampler remake

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 17 Jan 2020 7:12 pm

Also new in 2020 – a remake of the legendary 1987 E-mu SP-1200. Just get ready for some sticker shock, because it’s not just a clone, it’s an actual SP-1200, rebuilt.

This one is an extremely, extremely limited edition because it starts with an original working SP-1200. So the price tag is similar to a top-condition refurbished 1200 because that is literally what it is. The new SP-1200 undertaking comes from E-mu Systems co-founder Dave Rossum, so we can think of this as passion project more than anything.

Rossum Electro-Music calls it “better-than-new.”

Starting with an original SP-1200 and upgrading and calibrating it, you get (copy-pasting here):

  • A new 3.5″ disk drive (seriously), plus an SD card floppy emulator integrated with the software (by Dave himself, no less).
  • Manual filter cutoff frequency control sliders for the SSM 2044 analog filters for channels 1 and 2 added to the rear panel
  • A new metal chassis
  • A new panel overlay
  • The top shell restored and painted “SP Grey.”
  • A new power supply with locking connector (and cool operation)
  • A new LCD display with adjustable brightness and a selectable red, blue, or green color LED backlight
  • All new play buttons
  • All new programming buttons
  • All new 1/4” and MIDI jacks
  • All electrolytic and tantalum capacitors replaced with high-reliability ceramic or aluminum-poly caps
  • All rotary potentiometers replaced with million cycle lifetime pots and installed with new knurled black metal knobs
  • All slide potentiometers replaced with 200,000 cycle lifetime sliders and installed with new slider knobs
  • All original trimmers replaced with 20-turn versions and precisely calibrated
  • New rubber feet
  • An individualized Dave Rossum signature plaque
  • A dust-proof, crush-proof, lockable Pelican™ brand case with press-and pull latches, wheels, and an extendable handle.
  • Full testing and calibration by Rossum Electro-Music

Yes, there’s a wait list. So Dr. Dre, if you’re reading, go get on it.

I’m lost, to be honest, so coming soon to CDM, I’m proud to launch a new feature: a round-up of what legendary classic gear isn’t being cloned/remade/rebooted.

Actually, if I wait a few days even that story may be unnecessary.

Also, anyone want to take bets on when we get a Behringer BS-1200? (for “Behringer Sampler,” you know…)

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KORG add two more Nu:Tekt kits: headphone amp, valve overdrive

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Sat 11 Jan 2020 3:17 am

KORG are adding to their inexpensive, easy put-them-together kits with a headphone amp and valve overdrive.

The Nu:Tekt line came out first with the NTS-1. That’s still the most exciting Nu:Tekt, in that it’s pretty close to having a voice from the ‘logue line – and since it supports the ‘logue SDK, you can run a variety of downloadable third-party oscillators and effects on it, some of them free.

The valve overdrive and headphone amp are not really anything like that, but they do look like fun and useful tools, and they’re still delivered as a kit.

There’s no soldering or anything advanced on these kits – as far as assembly, they’re the musical equivalent of those snap-together model airplanes for children. But on the other hand, they’re the opposite of a lot of our consumer society today. You still handle the parts and put them together.

OD-S Overdrive kit parts. All photos courtesy KORG.

And while that’s just busy work, KORG are keeping with the idea of customization with each of these products, which is interesting – especially from a big music gear brand, and not just a boutique operation. The customization takes different forms on each of these two new products.

Short version:

  1. There’s a tube-based overdrive effect
  2. There’s a tube-based headphone amplifier

…and each lets you modify parts to customize its sound, if you so choose.

OD-S Nutube Overdrive

KORG have been pushing their all-new, all-analog Nutube tubes, made with Noritake Itron Corporation. They’re small, energy-efficient, and stable compared to vintage tubes, but offer similar sound.

So just as the NTS-1 put a ‘logue synthesizer voice into a compact kit, so does the OD-S give you quick and easy overdrive access in your own little overdrive pedal. And that’s appealing to synthesists and guitarists alike, I think.

Part of what makes this interesting are the controls. There are two gain knobs instead of one. There’s input gain, as you’d expect, but also TUBE GAIN, which adjusts the load on the tube – so you get a second timbral control to color the distortion, in other words. And there’s a switch with two overdrive types / ranges – low and high.

But what’s customizable about it?

Well, that’s the fun part – this thing is built to be modified. As KORG explains:

For advanced users who want to customize their tone further, the modification-friendly layout allows you to change out discrete components to create your own unique pedal to match your desired tone and performance. The possibilities are endless. Circuit diagrams are readily available in the download section.

Of course, if you’re advanced enough to do that, you could also just build your own overdrive from scratch. But the nice thing here is, your basic layout is done, you’ve got a housing, you’ve got that cool, modern tube, and you can just swap out parts. That puts you in the role of the engineers finishing and tuning a design rather than trying to start one from scratch.

HA-S Nutube Headphone Amplifier Kit

On the headphone amp, you also start with the Nutube, but apply it to a warm headphone amp. (Blah blah “audiophile” something something. Hey, if it sounds good, I’m in.)

KORG have included a switch so you can choose whether or not the tube adds harmonic content. That gives you an option of a colored or clean sound; hopefully the clean sound is useful for monitoring applications.

But as with the OD-S, you can make modifications:

For further sound modification, we have included two OP amp options for the output: the premium audio oriented “MUSES01” and the industry standard “NJM4580”, both from JRC. These can be easily replaced so even the most purist audiophiles will be able to customize and adapt the sound of their HA-S to their heart’s content.

For advanced users who want to customize their amplifier even more, the circuit diagrams are readily available, making it really easy to change discrete components and make your own and unique headphone amp matching your desired tone and performance, the possibilities are endless!

To me, this doesn’t look as generically useful as the overdrive – I’d prefer my headphone amp to be as neutral as possible, and I’m not particularly interested in modifying it, especially if I need to monitor a mix for production. I realize that probably means I’m not the target demographic anyway.

But they’re both nifty ideas, and they demonstrate that KORG are up for sharing kits containing small but tasty bits of their tech. There’s not any other big maker doing anything like this, and it builds on work KORG has already done, like making hackable analog instruments and releasing their MS-20 filter circuit.

It also shows that hackable and open can be made manageable by focusing on a particular area. That seems to broaden appeal of those sorts of modifications, and brings music gear back full circle to an era when manufacturers posted circuit diagrams as an expected part of documentation.

CDM is awaiting final availability and pricing on these products. Let us know if you have other questions for KORG.

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KORG starts a new instrument division in Berlin, focusing on sustainable “things that matter”

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 18 Dec 2019 10:38 pm

Former KORG Chief Engineer Tatsuya Takahashi is leading a new division in Berlin, alongside COO Maximilian Rest. And it sounds like a different kind of synth business.

It’s not clear just what exactly KORG Germany will do, apart from design instruments in Berlin. But the fact that “Tats” and Max are in charge, and that they’re writing some lofty mission statements, is enough reason to take notice. And they’re hiring, too, largely across engineering roles – mechanical, electrical, and software.

Tatsuya was at the engineering helm at KORG through some of the most innovative synth industry accomplishments of recent years. That includes the monotron and monotribe series, which helped kick off a boom in affordable modular and compact synths, followed by a string of volca hits (beats, bass, keys, sample, kick, fm), the collaboration with open source magnetic snap-together kit maker littleBits, the ARP Odyssey and MS-20 remakes which helped push the historical clone concept, and the fresh monologue synth.

Then Tats went to Yadastar, the independent marketing company that ran the Red Bull Music Academy program before Red Bull pulled the plug. And what we got from Tats was interesting, but nowhere near as accessible as his work for KORG – the Granular Convolver, for instance.

Well, now Red Bull’s loss is the synth world’s gain, because Tatsuya is back full-time with KORG. (He continued consulting for the company in the interim, as I understand it.) And he’s bringing with him collaborator Maximilian, who has long been a champion of making more sustainable products and reflecting on issues like labor practices. Max has also run his own independent business making modular and timekeeping pieces, E-RM; I’m unclear on what its future will be as he steps into the role at KORG.

So, what we get is a new enterprise that these two promise will engage both in new instruments and partnerships, and investigate “things that matter” and are made sustainably. With some flux at Behringer, ROLI, Native Instruments, and others, they may find some talent becoming free agents, too.

Team building is a big deal, and it’s worth noting that all those KORG products were possible because of collaborative, team-driven engineering efforts. So this talk of collaboration is itself compelling – even as some of Tats’ own private projects like audio-rate triggering a TR-808 are also rather cool and I suspect may figure into this, as well. (One of my highlights of 2019 was definitely making loud noises in a Latvian warehouse and then partying to Tats’ set!)

From their statements –

Tatsuya is CEO and says the company will make instruments with a core team “but also through per project partnerships and collaborations. “

Maximilian talks about sustainability and getting out of business as usual: “We will only market the things that matter, because the key to our way of great business is to respect each other as humans and the resources of our planet.”

More, plus job applications:

https://korg-germany.de

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MOTU’s new audio interfaces may finally be what we all need – $169.95

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 8 Nov 2019 3:13 pm

The no-compromise and entry-level audio interface – it’s something that should be impossible, but MOTU might have just cracked it.

I have literally been trying to pack suitcases for a long trip, staring at audio interfaces because I can’t find the one that does what I need. I’ve been equally stumped sometimes asking inevitable questions from friends about what they should buy.

MOTU has always made great audio interfaces. But many of them require drivers, which means your Linux-running laptop with Bitwig Studio or your iPad with those great new Eventide apps are both out of luck. Or they don’t fit a small budget.

So the M2 / M4 genuinely surprised me. They have the specs of a high-end box from MOTU or others, but they start at US$169.95 and at last they also work with every OS, all squeezed into a portable package.

Here’s what you might not expect:

High-end converters

2.5 ms latency with their drivers

A high-res color screen and built-in metering (unheard of at this price)

RCA outs? MIDI I/O? Sure!

But that’s not why I say they’re really no-compromise (though the high-end converters surely go there). MOTU did their own custom USB drivers for ultra low-latency performance on Mac and Windows but they also made this class-compliant – so it doesn’t need drivers on Linux or iOS or Android.

And then the pricing is stupidly nice.

So finally, one little box does everything – and if you get into the iPad or Android or Raspberry Pi, you don’t have to go buy another interface.

Yes, these are USB-C but that will also connect to your existing USB A connection.

Promising stuff – I’ll be interested to pick one to review (or pick up one to hopefully keep).

Full specs from MOTU:

• 2-in / 2-out and 4-in / 4-out USB audio interfaces with studio-quality sound
• Best-in-class audio quality driven by ESS Sabre32 Ultra™ DAC Technology
• Best-in-class speed (ultra-low latency) for host software processing
• Best-in-class metering for all inputs/outputs with a full-color LCD
• 2x mic/line/hi-Z guitar inputs on combo XLR/TRS
• Individual preamp gain and 48V phantom power for each input
• 2x balanced 1/4-inch line inputs (M4 only)
• Hardware (direct) monitoring for each input
• Monitor mix knob to balance live inputs and computer playback (M4 only)
• Measured -129 dB EIN on mic inputs
• Balanced, DC-coupled 1/4-inch TRS outputs (2x for M2; 4x for M4)
• Measured 120 dB dynamic range on the 1/4-inch balanced TRS outputs
• RCA (unbalanced) analog outs that mirror 1/4-inch outs (2x for M2; 4x for M4)
• 1x headphone out (driven by ESS converters) with independent volume control
• MIDI in/out
• Support for 44.1 to 192 kHz sample rates
• USB audio class compliant for plug-and-play operation on Mac (no driver required)
• Windows driver with 2.5 ms Round Trip Latency (32 sample buffer at 96 kHz)
• Mac driver (optional, for 2.5 ms RTL@32/96 kHz and loopback feature)
• iOS compatible (USB audio class compliant) 
• Driver loopback for capturing host output, live streaming and podcasting
• Bus powered USB-C (compatible with USB Type A) with power switch (USB cable included)
• Rugged metal construction
• Workstation software included (MOTU Performer Lite 10 and Ableton Live Lite 10)
• 100+ instruments (in Performer Lite)
• Over 6 GB of included free loops, samples and one-shots from industry leading libraries
• Kensington security slot
• Built in the USA
• Two-year warranty

Now shipping, $169.95 for the 2×2 M2, or if you want 4 ins and 4 outs, $219.95 for the M4.

https://new.motu.com/en-us/products/m-series/m2/

https://new.motu.com/en-us/products/m-series/m4/

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Elektron Analog updates let you sequence other gear, add musical complexity

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 21 Oct 2019 5:13 pm

Elektron just revised their Analog Four and Analog Rytm MKI/MKII OSes. Finally: MIDI out. Wait, that’s cool: per-track scale, powerful macros, and more.

A few features really stand out here.

First, finally you get sequencer MIDI out. Now, that’s been a long wait, but it at last brings the Elektron sequencer workflow and conditional trigs and whatnot to all the other stuff in your studio.

There’s some other cool stuff in this update, though:

Scale per track: Borrowed from the Digitakt and Digitone, this makes even more sense as an advanced feature on the Analog line.

Parameter randomization: You can do this instantly across a whole page, and there’s revert if you don’t like it.

Multiple performance macros, one knob: The Quick Performance Control knob now can be assigned multiple macros. I’d say Elektron are gradually improving their live performance features, and it’s a welcome move.

Graphics have been improved, too, and there are various bug fixes and other little details.

https://www.elektron.se/support/

News item on upgrades

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Natural-sounding reverbs come to Eurorack: Tasty Chips stereo convolution reverb

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 1 Oct 2019 10:03 am

It’s one more way your Eurorack modular is starting to look like a total replacement for your computer: stereo convolution reverb is next.

Sure, you’ve got convolution reverbs in your DAW, and maybe a favorite plug-in. But this hardware adds some twists – not just delivering realistic modeled reverberation to your modular rig, but bringing some hardware-specific functionality on the way. It’s the work of Tasty Chips, known for their granular hardware.

Quick refresher on convolution reverbs – the idea is, a sound measurement of the space lets you create a fairly accurate model of how sound will reflect. You record an impulse (some broad-spectrum transient or sweeping frequency, so you capture a full frequency range), and the resulting recording in time can then be applied to any source you choose. So, why would you want this in modular?

You can record impulse responses right on the device. Fire up your starter pistols (okay, more likely sine wave sweep), and record impulses directly. I imagine some people might just tote a portable modular rig into a church in the town where you’ve got a gig. Sure, you could do that with a recorder, too, but – this is at least fun. run

Alternatively, you can capture synth impulses from your modular, and then run those little synth-y bits through your saved impulses. I’ve always loved this for sound design, even outside the “what does my local parking garage sound like as a reverb.” (Apple’s pro apps team must like it, too, as you will find a bunch of these sorts of impulses in Space Designer in Logic these days.)

You can crossfade between convolution files.

There are tons of hardware controls. Also some nice thought into options like pre-delay and position.

You get CV control. Here’s the modular part – you can use CV to control position, crossfade, and stereo width. Convolution reverbs are normally a set-it-and-forget-it affair, so I’m curious how this works in practice, but it does help make the case for hardware.

The excellent Synth Anatomy get the scoop on this and have some of their own take:

Tasty Chips Electronics Announced ECR-1 Convolver (Stereo Convolution Reverb) For Eurorack

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Native Instruments is struggling to provide customer support following cuts

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 26 Sep 2019 8:35 pm

Recent staff cuts at the company have hurt customer support, according to sources familiar with the matter and user complaints.

Native Instruments did not mention cuts to customer support in its statements to me earlier this month. NI cut an estimated 30% of its workforce this summer — fully 20% in a single day, as reported by the company. Yet despite promises from NI management that these changes would “improve the experience for all users of our products,” one immediate impact is constrained support options and increased service backlogs.

Direct personal support options, previously offering email and phone support, are now reduced or gone. You can observe this for yourself by navigating NI’s site.

Software support now dead-ends at a set of documentation articles; then you’re able to create a post on the community forums if you don’t find an answer, but direct contact is gone.

Hardware support does provide some direct contact options – you can directly contact repair service if you have faulty hardware, which allows you to open a ticket. But even most hardware options now also lead only to the knowledge base.

It’s also possible to open a chat for presales or order and account support, but that change may be flooding account support with queries that would normally go elsewhere, sources tell us.

Your best bet if you are having problems is still to make a post in the forums – or talk to other users. But reaching NI support is more difficult; a message across all support pages now reads:

“Due to the high amount of incoming requests, we currently cannot achieve our desired response times. We thank you in advance for your patience until we get to your request.”

You will find a September 10 update to Traktor DJ 2 on the site, and Native Access has recently delivered updates for Komplete Kontrol, Controller Editor, and Maschine, though at least some of these involve development that would have preceded the cuts.

Native Instruments did not immediately respond to CDM’s request for comment.

Previously:

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Review: 1010 Blackbox, sampling workstation hardware in a little square

Delivered... Andreas Roman | Scene | Mon 23 Sep 2019 4:46 pm

This cute little box promises to let you manipulate sound and play live with samples without a computer. Andreas Roman returns to CDM with another in-depth, hands-on hardware review.

This time, it’s the US$599 1010 Music Blackbox, a compact, boutique sampler and sample manipulation workstation. (See Andreas’ previous review of Elektron’s Model:Samples – with a similar take on how limitations can make for a focused device.)

Meet the Blackbox

I’ve mostly stayed away from modular, so I was unfamiliar with 1010 Music, a company that’s known largely for their Eurorack offerings. (The Blackbox is their first desktop offering.) Then I started seeing the 1010 Blackbox as early adopters posted their reviews.

So what is it? It’s a sampler. It’s neat and tidy, small enough to fit in your open palm. It’s got a focused set of features that can take you from nothing to a complete something that can even sound like it happened in a studio – if you work it right. It’s built like a brick. It’s got a navigation system so clever, you might feel sorry for whoever wrote the documentation because you won’t need to read the manual. And it runs on a portable battery.

Look and feel

On the surface, the Blackbox seems ordinary. A large touch screen dominates the center, like a window into its heart if you will. A set of buttons on the unit at the bottom allow you to flip through the sections. Four endless encoders surround the screen, used for navigation and parameter tweaks, and two push buttons help you flip between menus.

It looks a bit crude on first impression – as you turn it on, the brash and utilitarian design underlines this. But when you touch it, there’s a solid sense of quality to the materials. A minute or so with the interface, and it becomes clear that in this straight forward, no-nonsense approach is conscious design choice. The raw pixels and squared menus give it some retro-digital flair.

It’s neat, practical, and perfect for the purpose. Within the hour, I’d sampled, sliced, sequenced, processed, and built a song with external as well as on-board factory material. I even made a structure for composition and rendered it into a WAV file – all within the Blackbox, by my kitchen table.

Sample slots and editing

Starting from the left-hand side of the unit, let’s begin with assignable samples. You get sixteen of these, which can be anything from a one-shot to minutes-long audio sequences. (You could theoretically even go hours – the Blackbox streams from an SD card.) [Ed. Note that that’s very much what’s missing on hardware like the new Roland MC-101/707, which requires you to copy audio into internal memory, both adding steps the workflow and limiting sample length and storage. -PK]

Also, thanks to a smart mapping system connected to sliced-up samples, one slot can trigger multiple samples from the virtual keyboard or from external hardware.

Tapping the on-screen pads can trigger different behaviors. With a combination of sync options and settings, you can either let the sound fire as you strike, which is preferable for live drumming and FX, or you can have it sync to a section of the beat and trigger perfectly on cue – great for looping or longer, pre-recorded sections. Although sixteen slots for samples might not seem much, the flexibility makes this 4 by 4 grid quite potent. You could stay here for an entire set, mixing loops and complete backing track sections with mad live drumming skills, all in sync to internal or external clock.

From the sample section, you also access deeper editing functions such as an envelope per sound, a filter, start- and end-points for loops, time-stretch parameters, and so on. The shaping is more geared for sculpting your sample to work in a mix, and less about creative effects. The filter acts like an EQ that blends between states. The lower you go, the deeper the thuds and greater the cutoff. Aim high, and you’ll lose the rumbling deep ends and position your sample in the cleaner forefront. The amp envelope is used to trim what’s already there, so if your bass sound doesn’t snap on its own, don’t expect the decay, sustain, and release to fix that for you. Just watch your source material, and these tweaks will serve you well for their intended purpose.

One very impressive update is the granular option that 1010 threw in as I was writing this. With a neat combination of additional features for granular synthesis, you got access to parameters that had me tearing up drum loops like I was the coolest thing from Iceland since last winter. With just an extra screen for granular, you’d think that it’s too barren to serve the purpose.

But that’s the thing with the Blackbox – what’s on offer has been so carefully selected, the combinations of what you can achieve grow into something larger than you’d think at first glance.

Compact size means the Blackbox fits into your workflow and space – though over time, its deep capabilities may surprise you.

Sequences

This emergent design is even more evident in the Sequencer section, which records your live drumming or clip launches from as many samples as you prefer. The Blackbox holds sixteen patterns per project, but those patterns can play all samples at once and polyphonically, too, as long as the CPU allows it. Patterns aren’t bound to a specific sound, but just to whatever performance you record into them.

Each pattern has its own time signature and number of steps, and has a refreshing maximum of 128 steps if you’re going for the traditional 4 / 4 thump. Split up the time signature and you can go plenty further, as long as your playing allows it – slow leads, evolving pads, meditative jazz chords.

There’s plenty of room for extended live takes here. To push it, I recorded a few 64-bar loops from my Tempest, set them all to sync and time stretch from within the Blackbox and launched them from just one pattern, at the lowest possible time signature to reduce cycling. Worked like a charm. Next, I tore up the (kitchen) floor with a 32 bar disco lead from a Rev2, and the crowd (my wife and kids) went wild. 

While the sequencer itself has a rudimentary system for editing notes, with only the bare minimum allowed for editing – mostly triggering and timing, really – the patterns themselves can be played in sequence or simultaneously, launched in sync or on the go. You can have all of them run at once, playing a selected number of samples, at different time signatures and number of steps. The kind of polyrhythms you could pull off with this approaches Sequentix Cirklon and Squarp Pyramid territory. When you realize that these sequences can run while you’re still playing the sample grid, we’re close to mind-melting possibilities.

And that’s even before getting to Song mode. Here, you can live-record the starts and stops of each pattern, creating a master version of your preferred combination of patterns as they go on and off while you’re jamming. Each part of the Song has its unique number of bars, so you can have one section that’s just two bars, another one that’s sixteen, then a third that’s eight, and you can string those together into a list that plays these in order, or launch them live as separate overarching sections of your performance. Doesn’t matter if you’re an improvised act or a structured studio musician. You can be as spontaneous or as meticulous as you want.

Effects and MIDI support

Before we get to live sampling/audio recording, the remaining features are also fairly basic but useful. Each sound can hold a combination of reverb and delay, with the dry/wet output set per slot. Both the delay and the reverb contain master settings for all channels and they provide enough parameters for you to move between small, tight rooms with slap delay bouncing around, to wide, open spaces and long tails of slow-moving echoes. They sound slightly better than good and in a mix, they’ll do just fine. What remains then is a mixer window where you got the basics covered such as output, panning and muting, no EQ but a subtle and neat on/off compressor further to the right, and then browsers and setup tools for sync, file management, midi channels, metronome tweaks, and the like.

MIDI support on the Blackbox was a bit lean at launch, but recent updates have corrected that. The hardware now sends and receives clock, responds well to external gear, and is easy enough to set up, with increasingly flexible routing delivered in each new firmware update. The sequencer both records and sends MIDI, so the Blackbox can sequence external gear as well as internal sounds. I took mine to the local dealer and hooked it up to their Yamaha CP88, and within minutes I had something going where I recorded my CP88-style Rhodes action as MIDI parts into the Black Box, then played back the section from the sequencer as I recorded it live from the Yamaha directly into the Black Box.

I used these recordings to try and talk my wife into realizing that our home needed a Yamaha CP88 and how great it would be for the kids, but I can’t blame the Blackbox for my failed attempts at diplomacy. Our living room remains void of a piano still (but the kitchen’s still disco, so don’t worry).

Yes, all minijacks, though adapters for MIDI are included in the box.
The full package, with everything you need – adapters, cable, memory card.

Yes, it’s a real sampler

Oh, yeah. Also, this thing samples. Plug in your audio source, adjust the gain and either go for manual sampling, threshold by audio or – and this one’s my favourite, an old combat wound from the Octatrack years – midi synced recording, with perfect start and end points. It writes directly to a micro SD card (included at purchase), and it stops when you or the memory card tells it to. So if you got massive space and you want to sample your hours long ambient session, just go ahead.

Really, all you other manufacturers of samplers out there. How is it that you don’t get that this is all we need? A basic set of timing options, real-time stereo recording straight to card like if it was tape, great converters and some flexibility on the start trigger. Look at how it’s done by 1010 Music, and take notice. Mono sampling only? I don’t think so. 64mb memory? Puh-leease. This is 2019 and the Blackbox knows it.

So sampling is a breeze no matter if you’re going for a one-shot snare or improvised epics. You can also use the Blackbox as a live looper if you set it up as such. There’s resampling, both by external hardwiring and internal recording. I routed a few loops through one of the box’s three stereo outs (yep, three – pretty neat, huh?), changed it to mono and sent its audio into a Sherman Filterbank 2.

After some mad mayhem filter tweaking, I had something that I liked and recorded it back into the Blackbox external input. Obviously, doing it like this makes monitoring tricky and until 1010 Music implements some kind of cueing (and they might never, you know, and we should be cool with that), you either accept the challenge or find a way to monitor the signal externally before you record it back. I used an Analog Heat for the purpose, which was overkill but stupid fun. And also, if all you want to do is resample what’s going on within the box, internal resampling was added as an update during the summer. As long as you got one slot free, you can render your entire performance down into one WAV file.

Conclusions

The Blackbox is not about its list of features. You could still think this instrument falls short if you compare it to beasts like from Elektron, Pioneer’s Toriaz SPS-16, or the Synthstrom Deluge, and the MPC family, of course. Maybe those kits or their alternatives is what you need.

But one of the main points with cleverly built hardware is the way it all comes together — how you interact with the instrument, how all these sets spark ideas as you go with the flow. And the Black Box has a flow that few others can match.

Sure, there are limits more obvious than others. There’s the sixteen slot system. You can get around this with slicing up your sample chains; it’s not really a complete workaround, but a neat way to get more out of the grid. Even so, sixteen is sixteen. This same limit applies to the sequencer patterns, and since the Blackbox so quickly helps you get results, it’s worth pointing out that you will hit a full stop at some point solely on the quantity of space available for your sounds and patterns. Seeing as it reads from the card, I’m not sure why this limitation is in place, other than the fact that each project becomes very defined. Which, however, follows the ethos of this instrument quite well. It’s very clear on what it is and what it’s not.

Also, I haven’t mentioned modulation, have I? That’s because there is none. You can affect a few parameters from external gear, but there are no LFO’s and no automation recording, including what comes from MIDI. Remember the above example, my in-store sessions with the Yamaha CP88? It recorded my playing but none of my interactions with the sustain pedal.

And even though the onboard delay and reverb are both solid, some of you will want for at least an extra parameter or two, to bring the effects to stranger places. Or maybe you’ll wish for more effects options – a chorus, perhaps an EQ, a tint of overdrive. I don’t miss it, but you might. But again, back to the clarity of this thing, because if you’re going to include just one or two effects, you’d certainly do right to go for a reverb and a delay.

Had I reviewed the Blackbox in June, I also would’ve said that the MIDI implementation left me wanting. But that’s no longer the case. Each update has improved the MIDI features considerably, and if you look at the latest addition with the granular options introduced, it’s clear that 1010 Music is devoted to the development of the Blackbox.

If you acquire the Blackbox today, and embrace what’s there, you get a fully developed, well designed, and amazingly inspiring instrument on which you can write great music. If you got another idea of what such a platform could be, that’s fine. But it’s been awhile since I had such a sparkling piece of kit around, and chances are, you’ll agree once you’ve tried it yourself.

Product page: 1010 Blackbox

A sample jam

We enjoyed Andreas’ music last time – here’s a real-world example jam among various he made while working with this.

He explains:

It really pushes the Blackbox. 14 of 16 sample slots are used. The sequencer launches loops and triggers one-shots, some of them just brief 8 step tracks and some close to 64 bars long, running in parallel. On top of that, it’s all strung together with the song mode, and no external processing has been used. The headroom in this thing is pretty impressive.

Also, anyone else who has lived as I have in the metro NYC area, I presume you also can’t stop hearing the signature 1010 WINS radio ID? (Ah, nothing says “good morning” quite like hearing a major seventh of xylophones and … trumpets. I literally had this on my alarm clock for a while — jarring.)

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