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


Cram Commodore 64 speech synthesis into your rack with this firmware

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 24 May 2018 5:25 pm

The open hardware Braids macro oscillator gets an alternative firmware that brings new features – including a speech engine known from the Commodore 64 days. Speech synth means modular synthesis:

Mutable Instruments’ open, digital modules have been one of the best things about the modern modular revolution. And this alternative firmware is a great example of that. Without removing any of the existing Braids 1.9 features, you get new oscillator powers.

The banner feature here is the robotic text-to-speech engine SAM (Software Automated Mouth), known from the Commodore 64. Here’s that engine in action – glitchy and distinctive:

Naturally, that opens up some wild possibilities once you patch into it in a modular environment. Listen to this firmware demo for an idea:

It’s also very fun how this works:

There are three SAM entries in the oscillator model list, named SAM1 to SAM3. Each of these SAM models contain 16 different words.

SAM is configured to work similarly to a granular sampler. By changing Timbre, you “scrub” through the word selected by Color. With Timbre at 0 position, SAM is playing the first grain of the current word. With Timbre fully clockwise, SAM is playing the last grain of the current word. The speed of an envelope can control how fast SAM says the word, independent of the pitch.

If you send SAM a trigger it will automatically play the word, starting from the current grain, at the “natural” speed of the word. In this situation, the pitch input controls both the speed and pitch of the output.

It’s not all that’s on offer, though. You also get six oscillators, evenly spaced:

6xsaw, 6xsquare, 6xtriangle, 6xsine. 6 oscillators starting at the 1v/oct input, spaced evenly across the currently selected quantize scale. Color controls the number of scale steps between oscillators, and Timbre scans through various amplitude settings for the 6 oscillators. When the Braids quantizer is turned off, the oscillators are evenly spaced by semitones (controlled by Color)

There’s already a model of this on VCV Rack, so even if you don’t have the discontinued Braids hardware, it should be possible to use in software. I’ll see about forking it and report back. The Macro Oscillator under Audible Instruments would be the obvious starting place. (Any other Braids fans, other stuff you’d want to see in an ideal fork of the module? Maybe we can make a wishlist. Macro Macro?)

Via Richard Devine.

Here’s the firmware:

https://burns.ca/eurorack.html

The post Cram Commodore 64 speech synthesis into your rack with this firmware appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The Touché, adding expression to synths – just in time for Moogfest

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 17 May 2018 5:54 pm

After years of somewhat similar wheels and pads and keys that wiggle, we’re finally seeing the ability to get physically expressive with sound in new ways. The Expression E Touché is one of the most compelling cases of that – but to understand, you have to watch, and listen.

So the French company and its fearless young leader Arthur Bouflet have cleverly taken Moogfest as a chance to do just that.

You’ll spot the wooden paddle-looking device beneath Arthur’s hand. It’s something that looks simultaneously vintage and historical and futuristic – a design object whose origin and time can’t quite be placed. And your first reaction, probably, is some skepticism – until you watch just how sensitive and intuitively gestural it is. You may or may not be taken with Arthur’s musical sensibilities – hey, I find it rather cheery and groovy, myself – but pay close attention to the gestures that are possible with it, and I think you’ll be impressed.

There’s more than one connection here to Moogfest, the festival-cum-technology meetup coming to North Carolina this week. There’s the custom, limited edition overlay for festival goers, yes, and the fact that Expressive E are going to the festival themselves. But the company have also made great effort to make custom presets for loads of gear, Moog’s equipment included. So that includes apps (Moog Model D for iOS), and hardware (DFAM, Subsequent 37, just to name two in the video).

It’d be hard to demo an expression or sustain pedal, but there’s no need. And it’s easy enough to map those two inputs to any synth. Open-ended, gestural expression is something else – there’s some prep work involved. Hats off, then, to Expressive E for both making an exhaustive library of presets and producing lovely-looking video demos to show why this all matters. (They’ve even mapped our MeeBlip synth.)

With USB, CV, and, MIDI connections, there are all sorts of possibilities for connecting to instruments – hardware and software, digital and analog. And all of these connect to the high-resolution sensing data from the Touché.

I’ll do a full review of this hardware soon, with some advice for DIYers and musicians. But in the meanwhile, these videos really get the point across.

In the age of MIDI Polyphonic Expression, you’ll see a lot of new controllers adding dimension to the inputs they read. And that makes it clearer than ever that part of what was holding back more expressive electronic musicianship was simply the common standard to describe a wider range of human performance.

But this particular hardware is special, in that it suddenly opens up sound where it had once been static. Uh… well, the name fits. Touché.

Let’s watch some more, featuring Dave Smith and Ableton and Mutable and Novation and more:

The post The Touché, adding expression to synths – just in time for Moogfest appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Speaking in signal, across the divide between video and sound: SIGINT

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Labels,Scene | Wed 16 May 2018 5:58 pm

Performing voltages. The notion is now familiar in synthesis – improvising with signals – but what about the dance between noise and image? Artist Oliver Dodd has been exploring the audiovisual modular.

Integrated sound-image systems have been a fascination of the avant-garde through the history of electronic art. But if there’s a return to the raw signal, maybe that’s born of a desire to regain a sense of fusion of media that can be lost in overcomplicated newer work.

Underground label Detroit Underground has had one foot in technology, one in audiovisual output. DU have their own line of Eurorack modules and a deep interest in electronics and invention, matching a line of audiovisual works. And the label is even putting out AV releases on VHS tape. (Well, visuals need some answer to the vinyl phonograph. You were expecting maybe laserdiscs?)

And SIGINT, Oliver Dodd’s project, is one of the more compelling releases in that series. It debuted over the winter, but now feels a perfect time to delve into what it’s about – and some of Oliver’s other, evocative work.

First, the full description, which draws on images of scanning transmissions from space, but takes place in a very localized, Earthbound rig:

The concept of SIGINT is based on the idea of scanning, searching, and recording satellite transmissions in the pursuit of capturing what appear to be anomalies as intelligent signals hidden within the transmission spectrum.

SIGINT represents these raw recordings, captured in their live, original form. These audio-video recordings were performed and rendered to VHS in real-time in an attempt to experience, explore, decipher, study, and decode this deeply evocative, secret, and embedded form of communication whose origins appear both alien and unknown, like paranormal imprints or reflections of inter-dimensional beings reflected within the transmission stream.

The amazing thing about this project are the synchronicities formed between the audio and the video in real time. By connecting with the aural and the visual in this way, one generates and discovers strange, new, and interesting communications and compositions between these two spaces. The Modular Audio/Video system allows a direct connection between the video and the audio, and vice versa. A single patch cable can span between the two worlds and create new possibilities for each. The modular system used for SIGINT was one 6U case of only Industrial Music Electronics (Harvestman) modules for audio and one 3U case of LZX Industries modules for video.

Videos:

Album:

CDM: I’m going through all these lovely experiments on your YouTube channel. How do these experiments come about?

Oliver: My Instagram and YouTube content is mostly just a snapshot of a larger picture of what I am currently working on, either that day, or of a larger project or work generally, which could be either a live performance, for example, or a release, or a video project.

That’s one hell of an AV modular system. Can you walk us through the modules in there? What’s your workflow like working in an audiovisual system like this, as opposed to systems (software or hardware) that tend to focus on one medium or another?

It’s a two-part system. There is one part that is audio (Industrial Music Electronics, or “Harvestman”), and there is one part that is video (LZX Industries). They communicate with each other via control voltages and audio rate signals, and they can independently influence each other in both ways or directions. For example, the audio can control the video, and the control voltages generated in the video system can also control sources in the audio system.

Many of the triggers and control voltages are shared between the two systems, which creates a cohesive audio/video experience. However, not every audio signal that sounds good — or produces a nice sound — looks good visually, and therefore, further tweaking and conditioning of the voltages are required to develop a more cohesive and harmonious relationship between them.

The two systems: a 3U (smaller) audio system on the left handles the Harvestman audio modules, and 6U (taller) on the right includes video processing modules from LZX Industries. Cases designed by Elite Modular.

I’m curious about your notion of finding patterns or paranormal in the content. Why is that significant to you? Carl Sagan gets at this idea of listening to noise in his original novel Contact (using the main character listening to a washing machine at one point, if I recall). What drew you to this sort of idea – and does it only say something about the listener, or the data, too?

Data transmission surrounds us at all times. There are always invisible frequencies that are outside our ability to perceive them, flowing through the air and which are as unobstructed as the air itself. We can only perceive a small fraction of these phenomena. There are limitations placed on our ability to perceive as humans, and there are more frequencies than we can experience. There are some frequencies we can experience, and there are some that we cannot. Perhaps the latter can move or pass throughout the range of perception, leaving a trail or trace or impressions on the frequencies that we can perceive as it passes through, and which we can then decode.

What about the fact that this is an audiovisual creation? What does it mean to fuse those media for a project?

The amazing thing about this project are the synchronicities formed between the audio and the video in real time. By connecting with the aural and the visual in this way, one generates and discovers strange, new, and interesting communications and compositions between these two spaces. The modular audio/video system allows direct connection between the video and the audio, and vice versa. A single patch cable can span between the two worlds and create new possibilities for each.

And now, some loops…

Oliver’s “experiments” series is transcendent and mesmerizing:

If this were a less cruel world, the YouTube algorithm would only feed you this. But in the meantime, you can subscribe to his channel. And ignore the view counts, actually. One person watching this one video is already sublime.

Plus, from Oliver’s gorgeous Instagram account, some ambient AV sketches to round things out.

More at: https://www.instagram.com/_oliverdodd/

https://detund.bandcamp.com/

https://detund.bandcamp.com/album/sigint

The post Speaking in signal, across the divide between video and sound: SIGINT appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

8BitMixtapeNEO is a glitchy hackable synth the size of a cassette tape

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 14 May 2018 2:24 pm

It’s the size of a cassette tape, has buttons and pots so you can play it as a handheld instrument, it’s open and hackable – and it sounds like 8-bit mayhem.

8BitMixtapeNEO is very, very lo-fi synth built around the Arduino-compatible ATTINY85 chip. But what’s interesting about it is that all that hackable, programmable mayhem is accessible to anyone curious, not just coders.

It sounds mental:

And it’s got some weird and clever features:

Pocket mods: Just like the KORG volca sample, an audio protocol works for upload. So you can send firmware code just by playing a sound file from an audio playback device. Flash with your phone on the fly. (They also suggest a SONY Cassette WALKMAN, of course.)

Lite-Brite: Eight RGB LEDs work as a sort of 8-pixel screen / feedback / Knight Rider display.

Upcycle: Since the PCB is the shape and size of a cassette tape, a re-purposed cassette shape shell works as a case.

Arduino-compatible chip.

Visual programming. There’s a visual, drag-and-drop programming interface you can use as an alternative to uploading code. Have a look:

User mixtapes. They’ve built their own custom community for user-generated tools, including visual effects, sequencers, sounds, and other hacks. It’s here – http://neo.8bitmixtape.cc/mixtape – and since audio playback upload is easy, you can just flash from any computer or phone or tablet with speakers!

Pricing stars at 65EUR (with that beautiful, artsy PCB). There are various ways to buy, including getting it in person in Berlin – and workshops from Hong Kong to Zagreb to Taoyuan. Check it out:

http://wiki.8bitmixtape.cc/#/XXX-Shop

http://neo.8bitmixtape.cc/

The post 8BitMixtapeNEO is a glitchy hackable synth the size of a cassette tape appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

All the best new gear and modules from Superbooth, in one place

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 9 May 2018 12:21 pm

If you love synths, you’ll want a guide to Berlin’s Superbooth. What was still just an actual booth a few years ago has grown into one of the world’s biggest synthesizer showcases. There was so much new, it’s actually hard to keep track. Here’s some assistance.

About the festival: Superbooth, held in a former East German children’s community center in the city’s Köpenick suburb, was more packed in 2018 than ever.

That’s partly a sign of the growth of modular makers. This event calls Berlin home thanks to Schneidersladen (née Schneidersbüro), the boutique synth shop that became a landmark and a beacon to lovers of electronic instruments, particularly as analog circuitry and Eurorack modular synths have seen major growth in the 21st century. Andreas Schneider and his team, and later their ALEX4 distributor and the Superbooth operation itself, have helped champion those instruments.

But like that shop, Superbooth also gathers boutique makers of many stripes, plus big manufacturers like KORG, Elektron, and Roland, each of whom had commanding presences (among others).

The overall feeling is of a place where synth makers and musicians come together, with gear at center stage. (There are panels and performances, too, but they feel a pleasant side show to the workshops and booths.)

This year’s themes: There are still wires everywhere. But “analog” sound sources aren’t the major concern they once were – or, for that matter, classic gear as models (even if Behringer clones were a big buzz). Now, you’ll see plenty of computer-like sequencers in racks, digital oscillators (including FM synthesis), more alternative control interfaces (from touch to gestures to biosensing), and fresh ideas built around digital tech.

Actually, maybe the openness of ideas is a big part of Superbooth’s easy-going atmosphere. Because modules aren’t complete products in themselves, they often seem as much a physical embodiment of an idea as a product. Even with some builders marketing complete “systems,” there was a hunger to connect gear.

But even if you’re not into modular… Here’s the funny thing. Superbooth has managed to become the world’s premiere synth show, not just modular show. Computers were mostly eclipsed, and you didn’t see a lot of guitar- or vocal-focused gear, but every other object that generates sound – from desktop synths to Theremins – was on hand, with some pretty big news.

The List.

Okay, there’s so much stuff – I’m going to make this a really fast log with some in-a-nutshell descriptions.

Things I left out of this list:

1. Stuff introduced earlier / shown before (as at NAMM in the USA, earlier this year)
2. Things I forgot / didn’t see

On #2, please feel free to remind me or make a case for something you found interesting. There’s actually way too much stuff to cover everything, though, so I did intend to pick highlights but …. I’m sure there’s more.

The show-stealers

Erik Norlander (also creator of the Alesis Andromeda) shows us the IK Multimedia UNO he worked on with Soundmachines’ Davide Mancini.

I’ve covered these already, as they made some of the biggest impact at the show (and on general audiences), perhaps with the exception of the Behringer clones (more on that in a bit).

MFB’s Tanzbär-2 was instant drool-worthy stuff, combining analog drum sounds, digital drum sounds with sample loading, and an analog bassline with easy access to sounds and faders. And it’s made in Berlin, so – score one for the home team.

The Polyend/Dreadbox Medusa is a deep synth paired with an expressive grid and extensive live recording and sequencing features. And as with the MFB, pretty much everyone I talked to instantly wanted one, so there’s that.

The $199 IK Multimedia UNO. Combining a powerful analog synth with a sequencer and lots of modulation, all in a battery-powered unit you can play right away at a low price, is an easy win. It’s also the work of a collaboration between soundmachines and IK.

Erica Synths Techno System just does everything you need for percussion and bassline and distortion and mixing thereof, and sounds amazing.

Roland’s SYSTEM-500 modules strike a nice balance between features of the 100m line, the SH-5, and newer ideas. Plus, again, Roland got to stake out the super-cool space-themed part of the building.

Bastl’s modules are noteworthy, even if not the most buzzed-about gear at Superbooth this year, for two reasons: one, I think they’ve got waveshaping interface down with Timber, and two, the 1983 MIDI-to-CV module does clever automatic tuning, for polyphony across modules.

Desktop synths and toys

The Center for Haptic Audio Interaction Research chair.audio. This is perhaps the most exciting innovation shown at Superbooth. Vibration-based sensing and haptic technology produces a control interface that behaves more like an acoustic instrument. It’s the result of a research team based in Weimar, Germany – check their complete site for an explanation, but more on this on CDM soon, for sure. The results are stunning – suggesting a new kind of performance interaction, and a window to the worlds of electronic sound that descends more from acoustic percussion and less from organs and keyboards. Watch – it’s jaw-dropping:

Dave Smith Instruments Prophet X. Dave Smith have gone to the high end with this one – it’s a new flagship Prophet, combining a digital 8-voice stereo digital synth, a new sample-based sound engine, and those signature DSI analog filters and circuitry. Basically, you get a Prophet workstation – part Prophet synth, part sample engine with 150 GB content, and all the extras. And it costs four grand, though this seems like a new generation of workstation keyboard / computer sample engine replacement. (Dave Smith for Hans Zimmer?) DSI have posted a complete product page. It’s sort of a shame Keyboard Magazine (USA) is no longer printed on trees, as obviously this would be on the cover.

Soulsby Atmultitron. This is like the 8-bit workstation to DSI’s high-res one. No gigs of samples or high resolution here – just a keyboard packing all of Paul Soulsby’s brilliant and weird 8-bit creations into a single keyboard with joystick and controls.

Pittsburgh Modular Electronic Sequence Designer. Sequencers were all over the place at Superbooth, but perhaps the most useful was Pittsburgh Modular’s entry – a 4-channel, 32-step sequencer with loads of performance and composition options. It’s a little like having a KOMPLEX Sequencer from KOMA, but in a more manageable form factor.

Twisted Electrons introduced some toys in the best sense. The 8-bit uAcid8 borrows from their bigger acid8 wavetable synth, while the 4-voice hapiNES is “inspired by” the NES game synth. Both have push-button access to some clever features like filter wobble, and both cost just 99EUR. The inspiration of the Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators was left in the open – they even had a couple of those plugged into these, jamming together.

A hardware tool for the Prologue. KORG hinted that they were bringing hardware SDKs to play with that would allow developers to make stuff for their Prologue polysynth. KORG’s Etienne Noreau-Hebert talked to us about it. It’s basically one Prologue voice on a board (with cute lasercut side stands), with audio in and out jacks so you can hear what you’re doing, and exactly the circuitry you’d have on the full keyboard. Writing in C (with limited C++ extensions), you can make your own oscillators and effects, then ship them to the Prologue user base. There’s not much to this other than that, apart from a handful of conveniences like lookup tables, but it still seems like fun. And it’s the first instance I can think of that a hardware platform worked in this way.

Holon bio interface. This was crazy fun to play with. Using an Apple Watch or a custom wristband sensor (or just your iPhone), this interface tracks your pulse as well as movement. The upshot: jog around, and music responds. It’s like having a generative composer following you around, writing music for your workout – so that even when you pause to wait for a light to change at an intersection, the music answers accordingly. They also have a modular interface for this. Awaiting Apple approval. (holon.ist site seems not to be up quite yet, either).

Soundmachines Arches. Touch interfaces were everywhere, but Soundmachines’ Arches was a standout. Not only does it provide touchable strips, but you get light-up feedback, recording and looping, pressure sensitivity and z-axis control, and tons of patchability in addition to MIDI and USB. It’s really a gestural sequencing instrument as well as control interface, with loads of pattern controls for automating as you play. See the full product page for more.

Snazzy FX pedals. If you feel a bit left out of the fun as an instrumentalist looking for pedals, Snazzy has you covered – some brilliant and completely weirdo guitar pedals from the USA, found in the Erica Synths booth.

Modular

u-he Civilization. With lite-brite rainbow colors and just a few pots, the entry of plug-in developer into the modular world was a strange one. This module is a 4×4 matrix mixer – but, with some taps of those pots, it’s also a quantizer and sample & hold module – and all of that is color coded. Basically, a single space lets you command a bunch of connections and modules quickly, making Civilization an interesting choice for saving space.

It’s a bit nuts, but it also shows some of the advantage of multi-functional thinking from software blurring over into hardware.

Humble Audio Quad Operator. Hailing from San Francisco, Humble Audio have delivered a four-operator FM synth in a Eurorack module – complete with a matrix of pots. Everything can be modulated – and you can patch in audio signal. You can choose algorithms, or mix together your own sound shapes. It’s basically everything you’d want from a software FM synth, but in modular form – brlliant stuff, and hope to look at it more.

NERDSEQ is a chip music-style tracker in a module. It’s not new – I saw some pre-modular prototype years ago even at Musikmesse – but each year, its developer takes it further. This year, cartridges containing open source synths, including the full MeeBlip anode with analog filter, were available. So you can plug in an entire synth and use it in the tracker, just as easily as you would play Excitebike. Don’t blow on the synth cartridge, though.

You can plug in a game controller, too.

Hexinverter Mindphaser. Well, this is basically your dream oscillator – an analog “complex oscillator” with phase modulation and waveshaping. And in addition to beautiful controls and patching, it just sounds ridiculously good:

In a way, maybe this is one of the best Superbooth moments. It demonstrates analog circuitry, behaving futuristic – voltages making those computer bits a little jealous. (I may seem like I’m now anthropomorphizing numbers whilst my hypocrisy takes down the very name of my site, but just remember the CDM motto – the ‘d’ stands for whatever you want it to.)

I just wish I hadn’t failed to get on the Eurorack manufacturing craze or the cryptocurrency thing, because now I … can’t afford all that mindphasing. (Or at least, thinking about it is causing some mindphasing.)

Insane Clone Posse

Behringer have gone clone mad – with Roland Corporation circa 1980 (give or take a couple of years) being a particular target.

Roland’s SH-101 synth (1982), VP-330 vocoder (1979), TR-808 (1980), and even two pedals based on the JUNO-60 (1982) were on the show floor, not to mention the announcement that Behringer’s cut-rate Eurorack line will be based on the SYSTEM-100 module line. And no one can argue that Behringer are bringing back products that Roland won’t, since Roland has unveiled the SH-01, VP-03, TR-08 (and TR-8S and TR-8), and JU-06, plus their own SYSTEM-500 Eurorack, respectively. Behringer aren’t just copying Roland from decades past, in other words – their whole brand strategy comes straight out of the 2017-2018 Roland product catalog.

Behringer’s offerings are cheaper, yes. But those aren’t profits going to some rich fat cats: they pay for the marketing and support operations of Roland worldwide, which arguably helps create the market Behringer can then come in and exploit (and certainly which pays for some jobs).

It’s not just Roland. Behringer copied Sequential Circuits (now Dave Smith Instruments) Pro-One, though the prototype on the floor copied the look and feel more effectively than the architecture. There was also the ARP Odyssey, which had recently been re-engineered and re-released by KORG. And Behringer also showed the Neutron, which looks suspiciously in board layout like Moog’s Mother-32 semi-modular.

Nowhere to be seen: the DeepMind, the one synth Behringer created that’s actually new.

On the other hand, maybe what makes this less remarkable at this point is that the 101 and 808 in particularly already have countless clones in software and hardware. Behringer is, perversely, almost trading on their reputation for being the clone maker.

Behringer’s strategy (via parent Music Tribe) and its impact on the industry deserves more investigation. Past clones have landed the company in legal trouble with Roland/BOSS and Mackie. I’m researching that story and will report more separately.

But were there new products from Behringer? Well, no – not unless you’ve been in cryogenic stasis since 1982.

Meanwhile, the oddest reaction to this has to be this, from Synthtopia’s comments:

It justifies Behringer’s hardware clones with a reference to all the human … cloning … going on. Really, human cloning? Wasn’t aware.

Weirdness

Oh, so much weirdness. Want a beer tap in a module, for instance?

Or laughing gas (via Errorinstruments)? (Makes me think about dentists.)

What did we miss?

It’s not possible to cover everything. But let us know if there was anything that particularly excited you – and that was new around this show.

(It was great seeing the Teenage Engineering OP-Z, the Snyderphonics Manta, the Polivoks, the Synthstrom Deluge … but none of those was exactly new, I think!)

The post All the best new gear and modules from Superbooth, in one place appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Polyend’s Medusa is an expressive grid, powerful sequencer, and synth

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 8 May 2018 12:14 pm

Polish maker Polyend has one special grid – expressive sensing meets powerful sequencing and recording. And now, combined with a dedicated synth made with Dreadbox, it starts to really come alive.

The first impression of Medusa, the new instrument shown last week at Superbooth, is a little bit of a Dreadbox synth tacked into a case with the grid sequencer from Polyend’s SEQ. But that’s really not what you’re getting here. For one thing, Polyend had a hand in the synth portion of this instrument, too, suggesting new architectural features. And for another, because every single parameter on the synth side can be played live and sequenced from the grid, you really get the sense of a complete, integrated instrument.

That’s not to say that SEQ, Polyend’s expansive sequencer product, doesn’t work well at these features, too. In fact, Medusa acts as a nice calling card / advertisement for what SEQ can do. But there’s something about immediately getting sound when you press into a space on the grid that makes a big difference.

And even before you start up the step sequencer, Medusa’s grid is irresistible to play. Each pad responds to x/y/z input, not just pressure. It’s sort of the opposite of the lifeless, on/off digital feeling of the monome – every continuous variation of the finger, every movement around the pad controls the sound. (Apologies to the monome, but that to me is a significant evolution – now that we’re accustomed to the once-radical grid interactions of the monome, we might well expect this kind of expressive dimension.)

Polyend have equipped that grid with a dedicated display, and mapped every parameter from the synth. So you can play live, you can record those performances, or you can increment through steps and play or program detailed changes as steps, then play back and jam.

This is what it’s all about – deep control of parameters, which you can then assign to individual pads and automate step-by-step.

Of course, the other advantage of an integrated instrument is, you don’t have the bandwidth problems of MIDI. The internal architecture is there both for synth and sequencer, so you can modulate everything as fast as you like. (Richard Devine was on hand to turn up the bpm knob really high to test that.)

The Medusa is planned for availability August/September 2018 at 999€.

That’s 999 including VAT and shipping, so figure even a bit less in USD.

And yeah, if you want to know my favorite thing from Superbooth – this is it. It seemed to be a crowd favorite, as well.

Here are the full planned, confirmed specs as provided to CDM – though Polyend hinted there may be more in the works by launch, too. (Dreadbox may have more to say about this, too; I only had time to talk to Polyend!)

Grid/sequencer/controller:
64 customizable three-dimension-expressive pads for a controller/sequencer
Step, live, and incremental sequence modes
256 independent sequences and voice presets
Per-step sequencing of notes, parameter locks, or even entire synth voice presets
Assign X and Y pressure axis to any modulation parameter, per pad
Randomization of voice and sequence
OLED display with customizable user menus

The synth is a nice digital-analog hybrid – 3 + 3, analog + digital wavetable (and comes with its own separate OLED display):

This synth end of Medusa means business, too.

Synth:

Three analog oscillators with sync, four wave types per oscillator
Three wavetable oscillators
24dB Dreadbox analog multimode filter (2- or 4-pole lowpass, highpass)
Play modes: monophonic, paraphonic x 3, paraphonic x 6 (so you can route the digital oscillators through the analog filter, yes)
Frequency modulation for oscillators and filter
Audio input
Noise generator with color shaping

Powerful, assignable envelopes and LFOs let you shape the 3 analog + 3 digital oscillators… and all of this is accessible from the grid/sequencer, too.

Modulation + control:
5 independent LFOs, which you can route into almost anything
5 independent DADSR envelopes with looping and its own parameter assignment
Mixer for all seven analog/digital/noise voices
Separate volume control for headphone and main audio out
USB MIDI in + out and DIN MIDI in + out + thru

Here’s Piotr talking about it in a couple minutes to FACT:

Sound demo, from Bonedo:

http://polyend.com/

https://www.dreadbox-fx.com/

The post Polyend’s Medusa is an expressive grid, powerful sequencer, and synth appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Erica Synths made a modular techno system called Techno System

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 4 May 2018 12:52 pm

What if you had all the modules you need to make techno and industrial in one rack? Meet Erica’s line of drum and synth modules. They seem to know their market.

Now, it’s meaningful this is coming from Erica. The Latvian-based company with some ex-Soviet Polivoks lineage has a knack for making simply mental boxes that bring that grimy, dirty industrial sound straight out of the actual post-Communist industrial landscape of Riga. If I had to sum up that user experience, it’d run something like this: turn knob, machine screams.

But that’s saying something. Making wild sounds intuitive is a feat. And Erica have earned their reputation by putting those sounds into boxes that are reliable, easy to understand, and deliver a punch without hitting the high end of the cost spectrum.

Running down these modules, you just have to keep nodding – yes, that’s what I want out of this module, and yes, that’s the sensible way to lay out these controls. I can’t really judge sound quality at a trade show, but the sound was good enough that it actually blew me away over the din of Superbooth, out of some small monitors – and that’s saying a lot. We’ll get to check out Erica’s crew at a club tonight here in Berlin, and this is one I think we’ll need to give a full review.

(Bonus: they’re also coming with the effects collaboration they built with Ninja Tune. I’m keen to see that, as well.)

I also think it’s totally reasonable to build systems around musical applications like techno. Plenty of modular instruments have morphed into particular configurations to make them musically accessible. And then since this is still patchable, you don’t have to make this sound like techno you’ve heard before – you can push that flexible sequencer and patch things together to bend something into your own genre and voice. Or, this being modular, you also have now a big line of components that could fill gaps in whatever setup you choose.

Here’s a look at those modules.

Drum

Sample slicing and triggering, WAV file (even imports CUE points), with assignable CV inputs. Actually, there’s nothing to say this has to be a drum module – it’s also a general-purpose sample slicer/module.

microSD for loading sounds.

Dual drive

Well, here’s your distortion. Three dedicated modes for each side, cascaded in series for extreme distortion. This is really the heart and soul of the Erica Techno System sound, and even if you didn’t get the rest of the line here, this one could be a must.

Dual FX

Built on the Spin FV-1 chip – a custom reverb platform – the dual FX has a set of custom mono and stereo effects from Erica’s in-house musician-madman KODEK.

Bassline

It’s all about the bass – and here, those basslines will be more than a little acidic. Erica’s Acidbox proved how crazy their filters can be. It apparently inspired the filter here – so expect really aggressive, terror-inducing acid.

Specs:

Full analogue circuit
Accent
Suboscillator
BBD-based VCO detune emulation
Built in VCF and VCA decay envelope
LP/BP VCF
External VCO FM and VCF cutoff CV inputs

Of course, what keeps this compact is, the sequencing all falls to the dedicated sequencer unit (or a sequencer module of your choice – Superbooth has had a lot of them).

Toms

Toms can easily be a throwaway, but here there was a lot of attention to detail. Toms has dedicated controls for low, mid, and high, and promises 909-inspired tom sounds. Erica says they built this in collaboration with e-licktronic – that’s the boutique/DIY maker who’s perhaps best known for their Roland clones and custom kits.

Hats

Erica are actually introducing three different hat/cymbal models. There’s an analog module (“A”) with accent and individual CV controls of everything, also made with e-licktronic. There’s a digital sample-based “D.” And there are sample-based cymbals (“Cymbals”).

Mixers

It’s easy to overlook this one. But when you’re actually in the heat of the moment playing live, you need that ability to just reach over, twist a knob, and add in a particular part.

And the Drum Mixer looks just about perfect. It boasts vactrol-based compression to keep everything properly loud and intense without losing clarity, plus a stupidly easy setup for controlling compression and the various parts, with seven inputs and both main and aux outs.

Erica also plan a more compact 6-input “Lite” version of the same, and a 4-channel Stereo Mixer.

Oh yeah, and if you’re not into the black craze, they plan to release everything again in white.

Lastly, the sequencing here comes from the Erica Drum Sequencer. Announced in January, it debuted in March – but now it has some modules to sequence:

Features of that are numerous:
12x Accent outputs

1x CV/GATE track
2xLFO with independent or synced to the BPM frequency
Time signature per track
Pattern length per track
Shuffle per track
Probability per step
Retrigger per step
Instant pattern switching
Solo/Mute tracks
Step/Tap record modes
16 Banks of 16 Patterns
Instant pattern switching
Pattern linking
Midi sync in with start/stop
Track mode
Firmware upgrade via MIDI SySex

More:
http://www.ericasynths.lv/en/home/

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MFB have a killer live drum machine + synth in the hybrid Tanzbär-2

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 4 May 2018 12:07 pm

It’s an analog drum machine plus bassline synth. It’s a digital drum machine with sample loading. It’s packed with live features and modulation. The coming MFB box could be … The One.

While big brands have focused on digital machines (or even software/hardware combos), MFB out of Berlin are the little boutique brand who have come out with a steady stream of analog boxes that are nonetheless compact and accessibly priced. And it’s not so much the fact that they have analog circuitry inside them as the fact that they’re different. Those drum timbres will hammer through your music when called upon, just like the Roland classics and whatnot, but they also sound distinctive. And with so much music already made on the well-known machines, different is good.

That said, for all the lovely sounds packed into any of these boxes, they all fell a little short of “must-have” – great-sounding but a bit fiddly and more focused on sound than performance features and sequencing. Then there was the confusing availability of two similar compact boxes, the Tanzmaus and Tanzbär Lite, alongside the Tanzbär flagship which was also … a bit similar to the other two.

Well, forget all that: because even in prototype form, the Tanzbär-2 is a whole new beast. If Roland’s TR-8S and Elektron Digitakt look poised to be the live drum machines for the mainstream, then the MFB might be the best boutique rival.

Or to put it another way – plug this thing in, and you can jam like a crazy person, with bassline and drums all ready to go.

Highlights (there’s no press release so … I’m doing this from memory):

A built-in bass synth that sounds totally brilliant, with internal melodic programming
Analog drum parts, plus digital drum parts (hey, it worked for the 909)
Sample loading, via MIDI dump or over USB, so you can load your own samples
Tons of front panel parameters for hands-on control of both the analog and digital sections’ parts
Dedicated faders for all the parts’ volumes
Two additional parameters for each part (accessed by the screen)
An LFO you can route to absolutely anything
Step sequencer, with per-step parameter automation
Separate outs for each part

And it’s really compact, too – not exactly lightweight (though that’s okay when you’re jamming hard on it), but easily slipped into a bag with a small footprint.

Really the only missing feature is, there aren’t internal effects … but that would complicate the design, and it does have separate outs.

The TB2 is really three instruments in one. There’s a simple analog bassline synth. The analog percussion section houses kicks, toms, congas, and snares. And then a digital section handles hats and additional percussion – or load your own digital samples for more choices. Sounds about perfect.

Faders! Dedicated outs! And it’s all really compact. Those knobs feel great, too, if you had a more fiddly experience with older MFB gear.

There are already a lot of parameters on the front panel, but parts also have additional parameters accessed by the two data knobs, with feedback on this display. (You’ll see some hints as to those features on the silkscreen, too.)

I’m sold. I think the fact that it includes a bassline synth internally is already great. I’ve got lots of questions, but they’re working on finishing this up this summer, so it’ll be better to make a separate trip to MFB after Superbooth. Then we can get some real sound samples without a convention going on behind us, and learn more about the details.

Cost isn’t confirmed, but they’re planning for under a grand (USD/EUR). Given you could pretty much do all your live dance sets on this box alone, that sounds good.

But wait — there’s more! MFB also new modules coming, too. Here’s a sneak peak of that:

More on this soon.

http://mfberlin.de/

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Bastl do waveshaping, MIDI, and magically tune your modules

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 3 May 2018 11:40 am

With a lumberjack-themed timbre-shaping module and a powerful auto-tuning MIDI interface, Czech builder Bastl are back to modular. And they might just solve polyphonic tuning in Eurorack, finally.

Bastl Instruments have staked out the quirky end of synth manufacture in past years. But this is probably the biggest modular news since their rollout of a whole line in 2016. There are just two modules coming out this week, but those two are each pretty powerful – and more is in store.

TIMBER

TIMBER (get it?) is a timbral-themed “Dual Waveform Lumberjack” module. There are two wave shaping circuits, each inspired by the sought-after, unique sound of the Serge Modular – a design beloved by composers since its early 70s introduction at CalArts, and one that has seen a resurgence (uff, sorry) of interest.

Best idea here: you can crossfade easily between signals, including using an external input.

It’s one of the friendliest, most sonically interesting modules we’ve seen from Bastl, and it looks like it just might be a must-have.

Cost: €170.00, shipping in July.

http://noise.kitchen/shop/bastl/timber/

1983

Okay, on the surface, this is a MIDI-to-CV module with a clever name (the year MIDI was first demonstrated).

But it’s more than that. It’s actually a solution to creating polyphonic racks without having everything fall out of tune. And while microtonal and experimental music is good fun, you generally don’t want those microtones being accidental because you can’t get your modules working together.

I’ve been talking to the Bastl engineers for some months about this problem, especially as virtuoso Brno musician HRTL, who has worked with Bastl on this problem, has been keenly working on a solution. (HRTL’s Windowlickerz duo with Oliver Torr makes heavy use of thick polyphony – and keeps it in tune.)

Here’s how it works: you get four channels of CV and gate. Each channel listens to the waveforms and with a press of the TUNE button, adjusts to whatever tune you want. It’s basically the same idea as having an orchestra tune – think of the 1983 unit as the oboe. It even maps across seven octaves.

There are a bunch of other features here, including transposition and other creative features. It could prove to be one of the most important modules of the Eurorack age, because it finally opens the format to practical, modular polyphony. Sure, you could add a polyphonic module, but that rather defeats the purpose of customizing a rack in the first place.

No pricing yet, but they promise “around 250EUR.” Due in September. We’ll watch this one.

http://www.bastl-instruments.com/modular/1983-2/

More news

Last time we caught up with Bastl at Superbooth, they had unveiled their own line of roasted coffee. (Seriously.) They’re up to more now, too. THYME, shown last year, is finally shipping at 439EUR. And they’re heading to host events in Prague and Brno, Czech, helping open the new _ZVUK_ and Synth Library spaces in Prague, co-organizing a festival, and releasing music on their new Nona records label.

More on that later.

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The $199 UNO is an analog synth from IK and some great minds

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 2 May 2018 12:49 pm

It’s portable, battery-powered, and a capable analog monosynth with a sequencer, at a low price. But it’s also worth noting IK Multimedia’s new US$199 UNO involves collaboration with some unique people.

Before the modular craze, before KORG’s volcas, before even the Minimoog Voyager, it was the Alesis Andromeda in 2000 that arguably signaled a return to analog circuitry and hands-on control for the electronic musician consumer. And that instrument was the work of synth designer Erik Norlander, who’s now the resident “synth guru” at IK Multimedia, and who IK says is the brain behind the UNO. IK have also collaborated with Italian boutique maker Soundmachines, who themselves have a bunch of wacky and wonderful ideas.

So put all of this together, and the UNO is something new – a familiar architecture, but not a clone of something you’ve heard before. It’s also an inexpensive instrument that involves collaboration with boutique makers (as Roland have done with Malekko and Studio Electronics) – rather than just undercutting those makers at low prices. And it’s made in Italy, proving that Europe can still make this sort of product.

Plus, it looks like a really fun bass synth with a built-in sequencer. Specs:

  • Analog audio path with two analog oscillators, noise generator, resonant multimode filter and analog amplitude
  • Saw, triangle, and pulse waveforms (with continuously variable shape and pulse width modulation), separate white noise generator
  • That filter isn’t the Moog ladder filter – it’s a smoother, Roland-style OTA filter, which you know from instruments like the Jupiter-8
  • Filter can be set to lowpass, highpass, bandpass, and has overdrive
  • 7 separate waveforms for modulation: sine, triangle, square, up and down saws, random, and sample and hold
  • Built-in delay
  • Instant modulation effects: Dive, Scoop, Vibrato, Wah and Tremolo

For arpeggiator/sequencing:

  • 100 presets, 80 user presets, each with an associated sequence and arpeggio (I think you can then store your own presets and patterns, making this ideal for live performance)
  • Arpeggiator with ten modes
  • 100-pattern sequencer, which you can program in real-time or step-by-step
  • Parameter locks! Set per-step modulation

And finally, I/O:

  • MIDI in/out
  • USB MIDI
  • Runs on 4 AAs or USB power

There’s also a Mac/PC software editor. (Helps to be a software company, too, as IK is.)

Sounds (though I do believe you need to go beyond just manufacturer demos):

Now, there are some questions I definitely want to answer when I get this hands-on. Analog synths with battery power — well, let’s hear if it’s noisy or not.

Multi-touch keyboard — that’s touch-based, so while they promise two octaves of sound, I want to see how precise it feels. Ditto those touch controls. You also get some pre-defined scales, which should help you … like, hit actual notes.

But this architecture looks great. That extensive modulation is already promising, and then the ability to set per-step modulation with the sequencer looks powerful, indeed. And it’s just 400 grams (under a pound).

US$/€199.99; shipping scheduled for July 2018.

http://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/unosynth/

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There’s a do-everything music box coming from the maker of monome

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Sat 28 Apr 2018 3:54 pm

From the creators of the monome grid, there’s a teaser out now for a new standalone box that could replace the computer for various creative tasks – and that builds on the legendary mlr patch.

The story so far

The monome 40h was arguably the most important first invention in electronic music in the century’s first decade. Its minimalist aesthetics broke from industry norms at the time (and earned accolades in modern art museums, even). It set the tone for music products built on open, community-driven ecosystems. It defined the grid as paradigm for computer music interaction, and in particular a bi-directional relationship that gave feedback with lights. And it set up the value of a controller combined with software to create new interactions with digital sound. Every single one of these things has been endlessly duplicated by makers big and small – it’s actually pretty astonishing just how much Brian Crabtree and partner Kelli Cain were ahead of the curve.

But the thing that really made the original monome 40h work wasn’t that it was an undifferentiated grid. That made a strong visual statement, but Yamaha’s Tenori-On did that, too, and had nowhere near the impact. The monome community took off as music makers, spawning albums, meetups and festivals, and eventually seeing controllers from Novation, Akai, Ableton, and others follow suit, partly because of the software that went with the grid. mlr, build by monome’s Brian Crabtree in Max/MSP, gave the grid musical utility by carving up samples into grids and allowing them to be triggered rhythmically.

tehn with monome prototype from tehn on Vimeo.

At the same time, this meant monome users were tethered to computers. And that destroys the image of the monome as a singular instrument. Brian has had some ideas over the years that could help users get away from that, including the teletype algorithmic module. But the new thing he’s teasing most resembles the previous aleph – a standalone computer stand-in powered by a DSP platform.

If the beginning of the century was about figuring out how to create a computer and controller combination that worked (see Ableton Live, Maschine, et al), maybe now we’ll finally tackle new standalone instruments built on the open-ended possibilities of software.

norns

norns: approaching from tehn on Vimeo.

norns is the new monome box. And like teletype and aleph, it seems to be built around making a dedicated computational device that’s focused on typing as an interface.

Brian has composed some lofty text around what this thing is about, but I’ll … reduce a little.

It looks beautiful – a luxurious block with minimal encoders and display. And the opening teaser “poem” suggests that it can do a variety of tasks related to sound, interfacing, and control (MIDI and CV):

changes.
travels.
knows something.
adores grids.
cuts sound.
shapes, filters, folds.
keeps rhythm, tells time.
summons waves.
tapes digitally.
speaks lua.
pixels.
controls voltages.
can MIDI.
radios OSC.
gamepads.
tracks, tabulates, calculates.
sings robot melodies.
shows picture.
makes music.
brings light.
loves birds.
waits patiently.

It’s also nice to see a musical intro, which is how Brian brought out the original grid.

Okay, so it loves birds. But what is it?

It’s a scriptable, connected box with a DSP engine for sound and loads of inputs and outputs for interfacing. Specs:

audio.

1/4″. 2 output. 2 input with analog gain stage. all line level. (1)
1/4″ headphone with gain.

interface.

128 x 64 OLED, 16-level bright white huge pixels.
3 rotary encoders, standard resolution.
3 keys.
rear status LED indicating power and disk access.

interconnect.

4 x USB ports for devices.
serial tty via USB-mini.

power.

power/charge via USB-mini (high output USB power supply included).
internal lipo battery 2250mAh.

processsing.

compute module 3 SoC. quad core 1.2ghz, 1gb RAM, 4gb eMMC (faster and more reliable than an sd card).
cs4270 i2s audio codec (low latency).

os.

linux with realtime kernel. (2)

We’ve also got a pic of the PCB:

Now, this is way more like what I’d want than the original, Bluefin DSP-powered aleph. USB allows connections to MIDI, OpenSoundControl(OSC), HID (so various stock USB hardware like mice and joysticks), footswitches, and even CV (over USB, that is). Those technical details got updated today:

https://llllllll.co/t/approaching-norns/13236/213

It’s the way it’s scripted that gets interesting. Not only is it scriptable with Lua, but the plan appears to be to make an online IDE and community database of scripts, so you can load up a granulator or a delay somebody as built and play with it right away. tehn also promises some interesting features like keypress performance – it’ll be interesting to see how that online scripting works in this golden age of musical livecoding.

Brian also gets into some details of his next take on mlr – an “evolution,’ he calls it – which may be what sells this thing:

virtual tape loops are mapped to grid rows where playback position is displayed and key presses cut to the location.

playback speed (with reverse) is mapped to the grid in addition to record punch in and overdub.

keypresses can be recorded and played back in patterns to automate gestures.

within the cutting interface smaller sub-loops can be selected and looped.

there’s a lot more.

He’s also added more on the first sound capabilities:

norns: cuts from tehn on Vimeo.

sound

in order:

super-parameterized polysynth by @zebra
old-akai-style sampler by @jah
simple percussive polysynth by @tehn
classic outerspace noise by james mccartney
multitrack granulator by @artfwo

norns has two sides: control scripts and sound engines.

the script chooses which sound engine to use. and decides what to do with key and knob input and midi notes and grids. and then considers what to draw on the screen or start a sequencer. and tell the sound engine what to do. (1) or how to sound.

the sound engine tells the script what parameters it has and what kind of analysis data it produces.

it’s a bit like a plugin in a DAW. except here the DAW is the language lua, and the plugin is the entire supercollider environment. (2)

Only 100 aleph units were ever made. It’ll be interesting to see if this makes it further. While it’s easy to knock commodity computers as ugly and inelegant, they’re also what allows access to this kind of music making for most people. Look no further to the livecoding movement, which does this on hardware that can run as cheap as a Raspberry Pi – and which is accordingly spreading all over the world, including in markets where importing gear is expensive.

Then again, that being the case, it remains nice to see something luxurious and beautiful and artful, even if a symbol of what the rest of that can be. We’ve had expansive conversations with Brian since the beginning of his project, so let us know questions for him and we’ll check in.

In the meantime, the monome community are more than a little excited over on the forum.

https://llllllll.co/t/approaching-norns/13236/126

Oh, and they did find the reference in the name:

“The Norns (Old Norse: norn, plural: nornir) in Norse mythology are female beings who rule the destiny of gods and men. They roughly correspond to other controllers of humans’ destiny, such as the Fates, elsewhere in European mythology.”

Well, then, let the Norns decide how this one plays out. But we’ll be watching.

Want to start learning now?

norns is powered by free software. If you’re thinking you might like to get a norns for yourself – or if you just want to play with sound tools now on your existing computer, for free – I’ve started putting together some resources on SuperCollider and Lua that will help sound DIYers:

Here’s what to learn to get a jump start on the new monome thing

(not my greatest headline ever, but you get the point!)

The post There’s a do-everything music box coming from the maker of monome appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The story of the Eventide gear that transformed music, coined “plug-ins”

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 26 Apr 2018 3:57 pm

From the extraordinary first digital breakthroughs of the 70s, when lightbulbs stood in for LEDs, to what may have been the first use of the word “plug-in,” we the inventors of Eventide’s classics – who now have a Grammy nod of their own.

Rock and pop have their heroes, their great records. But when you’ve got an engineering hero, their work finds realization behind the scenes in all that music, in hit music and obscure music. And then it can find its way into your work, too.

These inventions have already indirectly won plenty of Grammy Awards, if you care about that sort of thing. But at the beginning of this year, the pioneers at Eventide got a Lifetime Achievement Award, putting their technical achievements alongside the musical contributions of Tina Turner, Emmylou Harris, and Queen, among others.

Why are these engineers smiling? Because they got a Grammy for their inventions. Tony Agnello (left) and Richard Factor (right) at the headquarters.

Electrical engineers and inventors are rarely household names. But you’ve heard the creations of Richard Factor and Tony Agnello, who remain at Eventide today (as do those inventions, in various hardware and software recreations, including for the Universal Audio platform). For instance, David Bowie’s “Low,” Kraftwerk’s “Computer World” and AC/DC’s “Back In Black” all use their H910 harmonizer, the gear called out specifically by the Grammy organization. And that’s before even getting into Eventide’s harmonizers, delays, the Omnipressor, and many others.

1974 radio advertising:

Here’s the thing – whether or not you care about sounding like a classic record or lived through all of the 1970s (that’s, uh, “not so much” for me on both of those, sorry), the story of how this gear was made is totally fascinating. You’d expect an electrical engineering tale to be dry as dust, but – this is frontier adventure stuff, like, if you’re a total nerd.

Here’s the story of the DDL 1745 from 1971, back when engineers had to “rewind the f***ing tape machines” just to hear a delay.

Eventide founder Richard Factor started experimenting with digital delays while working a day job in the defense industry, at the height of the Vietnam War, working with shift registers that work in bits.

Their advice from the 70s still holds. What do you do with a delay? “Put stuff in it!” Do you need to know what the knobs are doing? No! (Sorry, I may have just spoiled potentially thousands of dollars in audio training. My apologies to the sound schools of the world.)

Susan Rogers of Prince fame (who we’ve been talking about lately) also talks about how she “had to have” her Eventide harmonizer and delays. I now have come to feel that way about my plug-in folder, and their software recreations, just because then you have the ability to dial up unexpected possibilities.

Or, there’s the Omnipressor, the classic early 70s gear that introduced the very concept of the dynamics processor. Here, inventor Richard Factor explains how its creation grew out of the Richard Nixon tapes. No – seriously. I’ll let him tell the story:

Tony deals with those philosophical questions of imaginative possibility, perhaps most eloquently – in a way perhaps only an engineer can. Let’s get to it.

The first commercial digital delay looked like… this. DDL1745, 1971.

So you’ve already told this amazing story of the Omnipressor. Maybe you can tell us a bit about how the H910 came about?

When I joined Eventide in early 1973, the first model of the Digital Delay Line, the DDL1745, had just started shipping. At that time, there were no digital audio products of any kind in any studio anywhere.

The DDL was a primitive box. It predated memory (no RAM), LEDs (it had incandescent bulbs), and integrated Analog-to-Digital Converters [ADCs]. It offered 200 msec of delay for the price of a new car — US$4,100 in 1973 which is equivalent to ~$22,000 today! The fact is that DDLs were expensive and rare and only installed in a few world-class studios. They were used to replace tape delay.

At the time, studios were using tape delay for ADT (automatic double tracking) and, in some cases, as a pre-delay to feed plate reverbs. Plate reverbs had replaced ‘echo chambers’ but fell short in that, unlike a real room, a plate reverb’s onset is instantaneous.

I don’t believe that any recording studio had more than one DDL installed because they were so expensive. I was lucky. On the second floor of Eventide’s building was a recording studio – Sound Exchange. I was able to use the studio when it wasn’t booked to record my friends and relatives. And I had access to several DDLs! I remember carrying a few DDLs up to the studio and patching them into the console and having fun (a la Les Paul) with varying delay and using the console’s faders and feedback. By 1974 Richard Factor had designed the 1745M DDL which used RAM and had an option for a simple pitch change module.

At that point, I became convinced that I could create a product that combined delay, feedback, and pitch change that would open up a world of possible effects. I also thought that a keyboard would make it possible to ‘play’ a harmony while singing. In fact, my prototype had a 2-octave keyboard bolted to the top. Playing the keyboard was unorthodox in that center C was unison, C# would shift the voice up a half step, B down a half step, etc.

The H910 – tagline: F@*ks with the Fabric of Time”. (Cool – kind of like me and deadlines, actually.)

Now you can “f***” (to use the technical term) with the H910 in plug-in form, which turns out to be f***ing fun, actually.

Squint at this outboard gear shot for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and you can see the H910 – essential.

I liked in particular the idea of trying things out from an engineering perspective – as you put it, from what you think might sound interesting, rather than guessing in advance what the musical application would be. So, how do you decide something will sound interesting before it exists? How much is trial and error; how much do you envision how things will sound in advance?

Hmmm. First off, it starts with a technical advance. Integrated circuits made digital audio practical and every advance in technology makes new techniques/things possible, and new capabilities ensue.

At the dawn of digital audio, the mission was clear and simple from my perspective. I had studied DSP in grad school and read about the work being done at places like Bell Labs. At the time, the researchers couldn’t experiment with real-time audio, which was a huge limitation.

It was obvious that if you could digitize audio, you could delay it. It was also somewhat obvious that you should be able to play the audio back at a different rate than it was recorded (sampled). The question was, how can you do that without changing duration? In retrospect, splicing is obvious and that’s what I did in the H910. Splicing resulted in glitches, however (I’m pretty sure that we introduced that word into the audio lexicon). So, my next challenge: I needed to come up with a method for splicing without glitches.

My design of the H949 was the first de-glitched pitch changer. With that project behind me, the next obvious challenge was digitally simulating a room – reverb. At Bell Labs, Manfred Schroeder had done some preliminary work, and I tried implementing his approach, but the results were awful. I came to the conclusion that I needed a programmable array processor to meet this challenge. This was before DSP chips became available. I designed the SP2016 and developed reverb algorithms that are now available as plug-ins and still highly regarded.

The “de-glitched” classic, the H949, also in plug-in form (thanks to Eventide Anthology).

Given that the SP2016 was general purpose, I had some other ideas that seemed obvious. For instance, Band Delays — create a set of band pass filters and delay their outputs differentially. Suzanne Ciani famously used Band Delays on her ground-breaking “Seven Waves” composition.

http://sevwave.com/

I also developed vocoders, timescramble, and gated reverb for the SP2016. The SP2016 had a complete development system that allowed third parties to create their own effects. The effects were stored in EPROMs (Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory) that plugged into sockets. We called them ‘plug-ins’ back in 1982 long before anyone else in the audio community used that phase.

Did I think that these effects would be musical? Yes! For example, while my goal with reverb was to create a convincing simulation of a real room, I mindfully brought out user controls to allow the algorithm to sound unreal. I was never concerned that an artist would have a ‘failure of imagination.’ I simply strove to create new and flexible tools.

On that same note, I wonder if maybe what made this inventions – and hopefully future inventions – useful to musicians is that they were just some new sound. Do you get the sense that this makes them more useful in different musical applications, more novel? Or maybe you just don’t know in advance?

I think that novel is good in that it broadens the acoustic pallet. Music is a uniquely human phenomenon. It conveys emotion in a rich and powerful way. Broadening the pallet broadens the impact. We don’t create a single static effect; we create a tool that can be manipulated. Our recent breakthrough with Physion is a wonderful example. We’re now able to surgically separate the tonal and transient components of a sound – what the artist does what does pieces of the puzzle is up to them.

It’s funny in that a sound is a sound. It’s tonal and transient components are simply have we perceive the sound. I find it amazing that our team has developed software that perceives these components of sound the way that we humans do and have figured out how to split sounds accordingly.

We’re really fortunate to have all these reissues. Your Grammy nomination referred mainly seminal, big-selling records. Do you think there’s special significance to that – or have you found interest in more experimental applications? What about your users, are they largely looking to recreate those things, or to find new applications – or is it a balance of those two things?

Well the H910 was used not only because it did something new but because it had a particular sound. In the same sense that artists prefer different mics or EQs or amps, a device like the H910 has a certain characteristic. The digital portion of the H910 was simple – most of the audio path was analog and the analog portion was tuned to sound good to me! Recreating the analog subtleties and (not so subtleties) was quite the challenge but I think nailed it. The Omnipressor is another case in point. That product deserves a lot more respect and attention than it gets and the plugin emulation is excellent. On the other hand, our emulation of the Instant Phaser isn’t even close. That’s why we don’t offer it as a standalone plugin. In fact, we’re working on a much improved version of it and are getting pretty darn close. Stay tuned…

On the third hand, our Stereo Room emulation of the original reverb of the SP2016 is very close, but even so, we’re not satisfied so we’re busily measuring it in fine detail with the hope of improving it. In fact, there are a couple of other SP2016 reverbs that were popular and we’ve taken a look at emulating those.

The Stereo Room plug-in recreates the Eventide SP2016 reverb. And while it’s really good, Tony says they’re still thinking how to make it better – ah, obsessive engineers, we love you.

And, yes while there’s a balance between old and new, our goal is always to take the next step. The algorithms in our stompboxes and plugins are mostly new and in a few cases ground-breaking. Crushstation, PitchFuzz and Sculpt represent advances in simulating the non-linearities of analog distortion.

[Ed.: This is a topic I’ve heard repeated many, many times by DSP engineers. If you’re curious why software sounds better, and why it now can pass for outboard gear whereas in the past it very much couldn’t, the ability to recreate analog distortion is a big key. And it turns out our ears seem to like those kind of non-linearities, with or without a historical context.]

What’s the relationship you have with engineers and artists? What kind of feedback do you get from them – and does it change your products at all? (Any specific examples in terms of products we’d know?)

We have a good relationship with artists. They give us ideas for new products and, more often, help us create better UIs by explaining how they would like to work.

One specific example that is our work with Tony Visconti. I am honored that he was open to working with us to create a plug-in, Tverb, that emulated his 3 mic recording technique used on Bowie’s “Heroes.” Tony was generous with his time and brilliant in suggesting enhancements that weren’t possible in the real world. The industry response to Tverb has been incredibly gratifying – there is nothing else like it.

https://www.eventideaudio.com/products/plugins/visconti-reverb/tverb

Eventide’s Tverb plug-in, which allows you, impossibly, to say “I wish I had Tony Visconti’s entire recording studio rig from “Heroes” on this channel in my DAW.” And it does still more from there. Visconti himself was a collaborator.

We are currently exploring new ways to use our structural effects method and having discussions with engineers and artists. We also have a few secret projects.

How would you relate what something like the H9 or the H9000 [Eventide’s new digital effects platforms] is to the early history like the H910 and Omnipressor? What does that heritage mean – and what do you do to move it forward? Where do recreations fit in with the newer ideas?

The consistent thread over all these years is ‘the next step.’ As technology advances, as processing power increases, new techniques and new approaches become possible. The H9000 is capable of thousands of times the sheer processing power of the H910, plus it is our first network-attached processor. Its ability to sit on an audio network and handle 32 channels of audio opens up possibilities for surround processing.

Ed.: I tried out the H9000 in a technical demo at AES in Berlin last year. It’s astonishingly powerful – and also represents the first Eventide gear to make use of the ARM platform instead of DSPs (or native software running on Intel, etc.).

One major difference, obviously, is that you now have so many plug-in users – even so many more hardware users than before. What does it mean for Eventide to have a global culture where there are so many producers? Is that expanding the kind of musical applications?

As I said earlier, there is no fear of failure of imagination of our species. Art and music define us, enrich us. The more the merrier.

What was your experience of the Grammies – obviously, nice to have this recognition; did anything come out of it personally or in terms of how this made people reflect on Eventide’s history and present?

The ‘lifetime achievement’ aspect if the Grammy award is confirmation that I’m old.

Ha, well you just have to achieve more after, and you’re fine! Thanks, Tony – as far as I’m concerned, your stuff always makes me feel like a kid.

Eventide’s Richard Factor and Tony Agnello Join Queen, Tina Turner, Neil Diamond, Bill Graham and Others Named as Grammy Honorees [Eventide Press Release]

Check out Eventide’s stuff at their site:

https://www.eventideaudio.com/

Including the Anthology bundle:

https://www.eventideaudio.com/products/plugins/bundle/anthology-xi

Also, because I know that bundle is out of reach of beginning producers or musicians on a budget, it’s worth checking out Gobbler’s subscription plans. That gives you all the essentials here, including my personal must-haves, the H3000 band delays, Omnipressor, Blackhole reverb, and the H910, plus – well a lot of other great ones, too:

https://www.gobbler.com/subscription-plan/eventide-ensemble-bundle/

This is both cheaper than and way more fun than many of the Adobe subscription bundles. Just sayin’.

The post The story of the Eventide gear that transformed music, coined “plug-ins” appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The story of the Eventide gear that transformed music, coined “plug-ins”

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 26 Apr 2018 3:57 pm

From the extraordinary first digital breakthroughs of the 70s, when lightbulbs stood in for LEDs, to what may have been the first use of the word “plug-in,” we the inventors of Eventide’s classics – who now have a Grammy nod of their own.

Rock and pop have their heroes, their great records. But when you’ve got an engineering hero, their work finds realization behind the scenes in all that music, in hit music and obscure music. And then it can find its way into your work, too.

These inventions have already indirectly won plenty of Grammy Awards, if you care about that sort of thing. But at the beginning of this year, the pioneers at Eventide got a Lifetime Achievement Award, putting their technical achievements alongside the musical contributions of Tina Turner, Emmylou Harris, and Queen, among others.

Why are these engineers smiling? Because they got a Grammy for their inventions. Tony Agnello (left) and Richard Factor (right) at the headquarters.

Electrical engineers and inventors are rarely household names. But you’ve heard the creations of Richard Factor and Tony Agnello, who remain at Eventide today (as do those inventions, in various hardware and software recreations, including for the Universal Audio platform). For instance, David Bowie’s “Low,” Kraftwerk’s “Computer World” and AC/DC’s “Back In Black” all use their H910 harmonizer, the gear called out specifically by the Grammy organization. And that’s before even getting into Eventide’s harmonizers, delays, the Omnipressor, and many others.

1974 radio advertising:

Here’s the thing – whether or not you care about sounding like a classic record or lived through all of the 1970s (that’s, uh, “not so much” for me on both of those, sorry), the story of how this gear was made is totally fascinating. You’d expect an electrical engineering tale to be dry as dust, but – this is frontier adventure stuff, like, if you’re a total nerd.

Here’s the story of the DDL 1745 from 1971, back when engineers had to “rewind the f***ing tape machines” just to hear a delay.

Eventide founder Richard Factor started experimenting with digital delays while working a day job in the defense industry, at the height of the Vietnam War, working with shift registers that work in bits.

Their advice from the 70s still holds. What do you do with a delay? “Put stuff in it!” Do you need to know what the knobs are doing? No! (Sorry, I may have just spoiled potentially thousands of dollars in audio training. My apologies to the sound schools of the world.)

Susan Rogers of Prince fame (who we’ve been talking about lately) also talks about how she “had to have” her Eventide harmonizer and delays. I now have come to feel that way about my plug-in folder, and their software recreations, just because then you have the ability to dial up unexpected possibilities.

Or, there’s the Omnipressor, the classic early 70s gear that introduced the very concept of the dynamics processor. Here, inventor Richard Factor explains how its creation grew out of the Richard Nixon tapes. No – seriously. I’ll let him tell the story:

Tony deals with those philosophical questions of imaginative possibility, perhaps most eloquently – in a way perhaps only an engineer can. Let’s get to it.

The first commercial digital delay looked like… this. DDL1745, 1971.

So you’ve already told this amazing story of the Omnipressor. Maybe you can tell us a bit about how the H910 came about?

When I joined Eventide in early 1973, the first model of the Digital Delay Line, the DDL1745, had just started shipping. At that time, there were no digital audio products of any kind in any studio anywhere.

The DDL was a primitive box. It predated memory (no RAM), LEDs (it had incandescent bulbs), and integrated Analog-to-Digital Converters [ADCs]. It offered 200 msec of delay for the price of a new car — US$4,100 in 1973 which is equivalent to ~$22,000 today! The fact is that DDLs were expensive and rare and only installed in a few world-class studios. They were used to replace tape delay.

At the time, studios were using tape delay for ADT (automatic double tracking) and, in some cases, as a pre-delay to feed plate reverbs. Plate reverbs had replaced ‘echo chambers’ but fell short in that, unlike a real room, a plate reverb’s onset is instantaneous.

I don’t believe that any recording studio had more than one DDL installed because they were so expensive. I was lucky. On the second floor of Eventide’s building was a recording studio – Sound Exchange. I was able to use the studio when it wasn’t booked to record my friends and relatives. And I had access to several DDLs! I remember carrying a few DDLs up to the studio and patching them into the console and having fun (a la Les Paul) with varying delay and using the console’s faders and feedback. By 1974 Richard Factor had designed the 1745M DDL which used RAM and had an option for a simple pitch change module.

At that point, I became convinced that I could create a product that combined delay, feedback, and pitch change that would open up a world of possible effects. I also thought that a keyboard would make it possible to ‘play’ a harmony while singing. In fact, my prototype had a 2-octave keyboard bolted to the top. Playing the keyboard was unorthodox in that center C was unison, C# would shift the voice up a half step, B down a half step, etc.

The H910 – tagline: F@*ks with the Fabric of Time”. (Cool – kind of like me and deadlines, actually.)

Now you can “f***” (to use the technical term) with the H910 in plug-in form, which turns out to be f***ing fun, actually.

Squint at this outboard gear shot for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and you can see the H910 – essential.

I liked in particular the idea of trying things out from an engineering perspective – as you put it, from what you think might sound interesting, rather than guessing in advance what the musical application would be. So, how do you decide something will sound interesting before it exists? How much is trial and error; how much do you envision how things will sound in advance?

Hmmm. First off, it starts with a technical advance. Integrated circuits made digital audio practical and every advance in technology makes new techniques/things possible, and new capabilities ensue.

At the dawn of digital audio, the mission was clear and simple from my perspective. I had studied DSP in grad school and read about the work being done at places like Bell Labs. At the time, the researchers couldn’t experiment with real-time audio, which was a huge limitation.

It was obvious that if you could digitize audio, you could delay it. It was also somewhat obvious that you should be able to play the audio back at a different rate than it was recorded (sampled). The question was, how can you do that without changing duration? In retrospect, splicing is obvious and that’s what I did in the H910. Splicing resulted in glitches, however (I’m pretty sure that we introduced that word into the audio lexicon). So, my next challenge: I needed to come up with a method for splicing without glitches.

My design of the H949 was the first de-glitched pitch changer. With that project behind me, the next obvious challenge was digitally simulating a room – reverb. At Bell Labs, Manfred Schroeder had done some preliminary work, and I tried implementing his approach, but the results were awful. I came to the conclusion that I needed a programmable array processor to meet this challenge. This was before DSP chips became available. I designed the SP2016 and developed reverb algorithms that are now available as plug-ins and still highly regarded.

The “de-glitched” classic, the H949, also in plug-in form (thanks to Eventide Anthology).

Given that the SP2016 was general purpose, I had some other ideas that seemed obvious. For instance, Band Delays — create a set of band pass filters and delay their outputs differentially. Suzanne Ciani famously used Band Delays on her ground-breaking “Seven Waves” composition.

http://sevwave.com/

I also developed vocoders, timescramble, and gated reverb for the SP2016. The SP2016 had a complete development system that allowed third parties to create their own effects. The effects were stored in EPROMs (Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory) that plugged into sockets. We called them ‘plug-ins’ back in 1982 long before anyone else in the audio community used that phase.

Did I think that these effects would be musical? Yes! For example, while my goal with reverb was to create a convincing simulation of a real room, I mindfully brought out user controls to allow the algorithm to sound unreal. I was never concerned that an artist would have a ‘failure of imagination.’ I simply strove to create new and flexible tools.

On that same note, I wonder if maybe what made this inventions – and hopefully future inventions – useful to musicians is that they were just some new sound. Do you get the sense that this makes them more useful in different musical applications, more novel? Or maybe you just don’t know in advance?

I think that novel is good in that it broadens the acoustic pallet. Music is a uniquely human phenomenon. It conveys emotion in a rich and powerful way. Broadening the pallet broadens the impact. We don’t create a single static effect; we create a tool that can be manipulated. Our recent breakthrough with Physion is a wonderful example. We’re now able to surgically separate the tonal and transient components of a sound – what the artist does what does pieces of the puzzle is up to them.

It’s funny in that a sound is a sound. It’s tonal and transient components are simply have we perceive the sound. I find it amazing that our team has developed software that perceives these components of sound the way that we humans do and have figured out how to split sounds accordingly.

We’re really fortunate to have all these reissues. Your Grammy nomination referred mainly seminal, big-selling records. Do you think there’s special significance to that – or have you found interest in more experimental applications? What about your users, are they largely looking to recreate those things, or to find new applications – or is it a balance of those two things?

Well the H910 was used not only because it did something new but because it had a particular sound. In the same sense that artists prefer different mics or EQs or amps, a device like the H910 has a certain characteristic. The digital portion of the H910 was simple – most of the audio path was analog and the analog portion was tuned to sound good to me! Recreating the analog subtleties and (not so subtleties) was quite the challenge but I think nailed it. The Omnipressor is another case in point. That product deserves a lot more respect and attention than it gets and the plugin emulation is excellent. On the other hand, our emulation of the Instant Phaser isn’t even close. That’s why we don’t offer it as a standalone plugin. In fact, we’re working on a much improved version of it and are getting pretty darn close. Stay tuned…

On the third hand, our Stereo Room emulation of the original reverb of the SP2016 is very close, but even so, we’re not satisfied so we’re busily measuring it in fine detail with the hope of improving it. In fact, there are a couple of other SP2016 reverbs that were popular and we’ve taken a look at emulating those.

The Stereo Room plug-in recreates the Eventide SP2016 reverb. And while it’s really good, Tony says they’re still thinking how to make it better – ah, obsessive engineers, we love you.

And, yes while there’s a balance between old and new, our goal is always to take the next step. The algorithms in our stompboxes and plugins are mostly new and in a few cases ground-breaking. Crushstation, PitchFuzz and Sculpt represent advances in simulating the non-linearities of analog distortion.

[Ed.: This is a topic I’ve heard repeated many, many times by DSP engineers. If you’re curious why software sounds better, and why it now can pass for outboard gear whereas in the past it very much couldn’t, the ability to recreate analog distortion is a big key. And it turns out our ears seem to like those kind of non-linearities, with or without a historical context.]

What’s the relationship you have with engineers and artists? What kind of feedback do you get from them – and does it change your products at all? (Any specific examples in terms of products we’d know?)

We have a good relationship with artists. They give us ideas for new products and, more often, help us create better UIs by explaining how they would like to work.

One specific example that is our work with Tony Visconti. I am honored that he was open to working with us to create a plug-in, Tverb, that emulated his 3 mic recording technique used on Bowie’s “Heroes.” Tony was generous with his time and brilliant in suggesting enhancements that weren’t possible in the real world. The industry response to Tverb has been incredibly gratifying – there is nothing else like it.

https://www.eventideaudio.com/products/plugins/visconti-reverb/tverb

Eventide’s Tverb plug-in, which allows you, impossibly, to say “I wish I had Tony Visconti’s entire recording studio rig from “Heroes” on this channel in my DAW.” And it does still more from there. Visconti himself was a collaborator.

We are currently exploring new ways to use our structural effects method and having discussions with engineers and artists. We also have a few secret projects.

How would you relate what something like the H9 or the H9000 [Eventide’s new digital effects platforms] is to the early history like the H910 and Omnipressor? What does that heritage mean – and what do you do to move it forward? Where do recreations fit in with the newer ideas?

The consistent thread over all these years is ‘the next step.’ As technology advances, as processing power increases, new techniques and new approaches become possible. The H9000 is capable of thousands of times the sheer processing power of the H910, plus it is our first network-attached processor. Its ability to sit on an audio network and handle 32 channels of audio opens up possibilities for surround processing.

Ed.: I tried out the H9000 in a technical demo at AES in Berlin last year. It’s astonishingly powerful – and also represents the first Eventide gear to make use of the ARM platform instead of DSPs (or native software running on Intel, etc.).

One major difference, obviously, is that you now have so many plug-in users – even so many more hardware users than before. What does it mean for Eventide to have a global culture where there are so many producers? Is that expanding the kind of musical applications?

As I said earlier, there is no fear of failure of imagination of our species. Art and music define us, enrich us. The more the merrier.

What was your experience of the Grammies – obviously, nice to have this recognition; did anything come out of it personally or in terms of how this made people reflect on Eventide’s history and present?

The ‘lifetime achievement’ aspect if the Grammy award is confirmation that I’m old.

Ha, well you just have to achieve more after, and you’re fine! Thanks, Tony – as far as I’m concerned, your stuff always makes me feel like a kid.

Eventide’s Richard Factor and Tony Agnello Join Queen, Tina Turner, Neil Diamond, Bill Graham and Others Named as Grammy Honorees [Eventide Press Release]

Check out Eventide’s stuff at their site:

https://www.eventideaudio.com/

Including the Anthology bundle:

https://www.eventideaudio.com/products/plugins/bundle/anthology-xi

Also, because I know that bundle is out of reach of beginning producers or musicians on a budget, it’s worth checking out Gobbler’s subscription plans. That gives you all the essentials here, including my personal must-haves, the H3000 band delays, Omnipressor, Blackhole reverb, and the H910, plus – well a lot of other great ones, too:

https://www.gobbler.com/subscription-plan/eventide-ensemble-bundle/

This is both cheaper than and way more fun than many of the Adobe subscription bundles. Just sayin’.

The post The story of the Eventide gear that transformed music, coined “plug-ins” appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The amazing touch-controlled synth made in secret in 1978 China

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 20 Apr 2018 4:18 pm

At the tail end of China’s Cultural Revolution, one inventor secretly created a futuristic take on traditional instruments – and it easily still inspires today.

I don’t know much about this instrument, but given CDM’s readership, I expect our collective knowledge should say something (not to mention some of you speak the language). But according to the video, it’s the work of Tian Jin Qin, a ribbon-controlled analog synthesizer first prototyped in 1978 and featured here in a documentary movie entitled “Dian Zi Qin / 电子琴” (1980).

There’s some irony to the fact that a simple touch instrument was something driven underground in China just one generation ago. Now, of course, China leads the world in manufacturing touch interfaces, has been the center of a global revolution in touch-powered smartphones (based loosely on the same principle, even), and even drives a significant portion of today’s technological innovation.

But… even without getting into that, this design is freaking great. It’ll make you immediately wonder why a single ribbon design is so popular, when the ability to finger multiple ribbons, fretless style, both relates to traditional instrument designs and allows more sophisticated melodic playing and expression.

Like… you’ll watch this video and want to go build one right now.

The synth is essentially two connected designs. An main synth console features organ-like push-button timbre controls and rotaries, plus four touch plates that respond both to being depressed and to continuous control vertically along the surface. (That arrangement, in turn, closely resembles the ROLI Seaboard keys, as well as having some lineage to the Buchla modular’s touch plates. In fact, a couple elements of the design suggest that the creator may have seen something like the Buchla 112 keyboard.)

The Chinese twist, though, is really the upright, fretless touch interface. This instrument is as subtle and sophisticated as Keith Emerson’s ribbon controller for the Moog wasn’t. Zithers are among the most ancient of instruments across a range of cultures, as antecedents what we’d now consider both southeast Asian and European musics. Someone following the narration here or with background in Chinese instruments (which I largely lack) could say more, but it seems inspired by instruments like the guqin. That family of instrument can be plucked or fingered with glissandi (or played with a slide). The electronic rendition here simplifies a bit by using 4 metal strips whereas Chinese classical instruments can feature more strings.

So I will indeed put this out to CDM readers. Anyone out there who’s done research on this creator or knows about this instrument?

Anyone built something like this?

(Apologies, I’d normally do the research first and then write but … as Ted Pallas who tipped me off to this promised, I indeed wanted to share it right away.)

For all the turbulence of our modern time, one thing I believe can keep us out of a Dark Ages is the fact that we are more connected globally than ever, or at least potentially so. From the walls around China and the east to the former Iron Curtain, we’re discovering that a lot of the people kept unknown to those of us in the West were pretty ingenious. And maybe we get a second chance to learn from them and share.

The post The amazing touch-controlled synth made in secret in 1978 China appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Mix Ableton and Maschine, Komplete Kontrol, in new updates

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 19 Apr 2018 2:29 pm

There’s a big push among software makers to deliver integrated solutions – and that’s great. But if you’re a big user of both, say, MASCHINE MK3 and Ableton Live, here’s some good news.

NI made available two software updates yesterday, for their Maschine groove workstation software and for Komplete Kontrol, their software layer for hosting instruments and effects and interfacing with their keyboards. So, the hardware proposition there is the 4×4 pad grid of the MP3, and the Komplete Kontrol keyboards.

For Maschine users, the ability to use Ableton Live and Maschine seamlessly could make a lot of producers and live performers happy. Now, unlike working with Ableton Push, the setup isn’t entirely seamless, and there’s not total integration of hardware and software. But it’s still a big step forward. For instance, I often find myself starting a project with Maschine, because I’ve got a kit I like (including my own samples), or I’m using some of its internal drum synths or bass synth, or just want to wail on four pads and use its workflow for sampling and groove creation. But then, once I’ve built up some materials, I may shift back to playing with Ableton’s workflow in Session or Arrange view to compose an idea. And I know lots of users work the same way. It makes sense, given the whole idea of Maschine is to have the feeling of a piece of hardware.

So, you’ve got this big square piece of gear plugged in. Then sometimes literally you’re unplugging the USB port and connecting Push or something else… or it just sits there, useless.

Having these templates means you switch from one tool to the other, without changing workflow. You could already do this with Maschine Jam, which has a bunch of shortcuts for different tasks and a big grid of triggers (which fits Session View). But the appeal of Maschine for a lot of us is those big, expressive pads on the MK3, so this is what we were waiting for.

On the Komplete Kontrol side, there’s a related set of use cases. Whether you’re the sort to just pull up some presets from Komplete, or at the opposite end of the spectrum, you’re using Komplete Kontrol to manipulate custom Reaktor ensembles, it’s nice to have a set of encoders and transport controls at the ready. The MK2 keyboards brought that to the party – so, for instance, now it’s really easy in Apple’s Logic Pro to play some stuff on the keys, then do another take, without, like – ugh – moving over to the table your computer is on, fumbling for the mouse or keyboard shortcut … you get the idea.

And again, a lot of us are using Ableton Live. I love Logic, but there have been times where I find myself comically missing the Session View as a way of storing ideas.

The notion here is, of course, to get you to buy into Native Instruments’ keyboards. But there is an awfully big ecosystem now of third-party instruments (like those from Output, among some of my favorites) that take advantage of compatibility via the NKS format. (NI likes to call that a “standard,” which I think is a bit of a stretch, given for now there’s no SDK for other hardware and host software makers. But it’s a useful step for now, anyway.)

So, here’s how to get going and what else is new.

Maschine 2.7.4

The big deal with 2.7.4 is new controller workflows (JAM, MK3) and Live integration (MK3). Live users, you’ll want to begin here:

How to Set Up the MASCHINE MK3 Integration for Ableton Live [Native Instruments Support]

There are actually two big improvements here workflow-wise. One is Live support, but the other is easier creation of Loop recordings. With the “Target” parameter, you can drop recordings into:

1. Takes
2. “Sounds” (the Audio plug-in, where you can layer up sounds)
3. Pattern (creates both an Audio plug-in recording and a pattern with the playback)

I think the two together could be a godsend, actually, for composing ideas in a more improvisatory flow. The Target workflow also works on MASCHINE JAM (via different controllers).

There’s also footswitch-triggered recording.

So, Native Instruments are finally listening to feedback from people for whom live sampling is at the heart of their music making process. It’s about time, given that Maschine was modeled on hardware samplers.

The Live integration includes just the basics, but important basics – and it might still be useful even with Push and Maschine side-by-side. The MK3 can access the mixer (Volume, Pan, Mute / Solo / Arm states), clip navigation and launching, recording and quantize, undo/redo, automation toggle, tap tempo, and loop tempo.

As always, you also get various other fixes.

Komplete Kontrol 2.0

Again, you’ll start with the (slightly annoying) installation process, and then you’ll get to playing. NI support has a set of instructions with that, plus some useful detailed links on how the integration works (scroll to the botto, read the whole thing!):

Setting Up Ableton Live for KOMPLETE KONTROL

The other big update here is all about supporting more plug-ins, so your NI keyboard becomes the command center for lots of other instruments and effects you own. NI now boasts hundreds of supporting plug-ins for its NKS format, which maps hardware controls to instrument parameters.

Now that includes effects, too. And that’s cool, since sometimes playing is about loading an instrument on the keys, but manipulating the parameters of an effect that processes that instrument. Those plug-ins show up in the browser, now, if they’ve added support, and they also map to the controls.

Scoff if you like, but I know these keyboards have been big sellers. If nothing else, the lesson here is that making your software sounds and effects accessible with a keyboard for tangible control is something people like.

By the way, NI also quietly pushed out a Kontakt sampler update with a whole bunch of power-user improvements to KSP, their custom language for extending/scripting sound patches. That’s of immediate interest only to Kontakt sound content developers, but you can bet some of those little things will mean more improvements to Kontakt-based content you use, if you’re on NI’s ecosystem.

All three updates are available from NI’s Service Center.

If you’ve found a useful workflow with any of this, if you’ve got any tips or hacks, as always – shout out; we’re curious to hear! (I assume you might even be making some music with all this, so that, too.)

The post Mix Ableton and Maschine, Komplete Kontrol, in new updates appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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