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

UAD for everybody: Arrow sound box is Thunderbolt, PC or Mac, $499

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 16 Jan 2018 9:00 pm

Universal Audio just brought their DSP platform – and top-notch audio interface tech – to a box that’s Thunderbolt, bus-powered, and under US$500.

Here’s the thing: if someone asks you the age-old question “which audio interface should I buy,” it’s actually pretty hard not to mention Universal Audio. While the company may have gotten started selling pricey high-end DSP cards for their platform of vintage gear emulations and sound tools, starting with Apollo, they also happened to make one of the best audio interfaces. The Apollo line boasts high-end converters and audio circuitry and rock-solid performance. And it’s been steadily reaching more and more people, with the smaller Twin bringing the price down, and Windows support following Mac.

The Apollo Twin is good enough, in fact, that you can almost recommend it just for its audio interface capabilities – not only as a gateway into the catalog of UAD studio effects and sound processors and the like.

But the Apollo Twin still represents some outlay of cash. And it’s portable, but not quite throw-it-in-a-laptop portable – especially once you figure in that power brick.

So, the Arrow starts to look really smart as an entry level device. Its estimated street is just US$499. It’s still 2×4 like the Apollo Twin – so you can have a separate monitor mix. And there are two mic preamps.

But it’s sleeker, prettier, more portable, and it runs on bus powered Thunderbolt 3 on both Mac and Windows. (Gone are the days of interface companies catering just to Apple – the press kit even came with shots both of a MacBook Pro and a Razer Blade, my respective favorite high-end Mac and Windows choices.)

Now, if you were just spending $500 on an interface alone, this might still not make sense. So then you have the value-add of the UAD DSP platform. While native processing is powerful these days – running VST and AU plug-ins and the like – it still means contending with some latency. So, you have to listen to the dry signal of your instrument or voice while you’re recording, and then add compressors and reverb and pitch correction and whatever else afterwards.

UA’s ongoing argument is that they can deliver their signal processors with near-zero latency, thanks to their onboard DSP (the “UAD SOLO” is what they call it). The mic preamps feature Unison technology, which models gain structure on the hardware for more accurate emulation of studio tools. And you can take your vocals and guitars and synths and keyboards and everything else and add their library of effects as if you’ve got the actual gear there, without hearing a delay as you track.

Those plug-ins don’t all come cheap, once you buy a lot of them. But the Arrow has newcomers to UAD in mind, bundling a full 14 full-featured “Realtime Analog Classics” in the box.

Ah, remember the days of expensive hourly studio time? Meet the bundled analog gear – software UAD form.

The bundle’s not too shabby, either. You don’t get the latest models of everything, but you do get the full UA 610-B channel strip for taking advantage of that Unison technology, ideal for recording. And there’s a nice selection of EQ, compression, and the like (from the still very decent previous generation), plus excellent Marshall Plexi and Softube Bass Amp room additions (great on instruments). You’ll want to budget more if you’re really in this for the UA stuff, but it’s not a bad start. UA of course hopes this gets you hooked so you buy more, so – here’s their explanation of their various hardware/software bundles:
UAD-2 / Apollo Plug-In Bundles Explained [scroll down]

Really, the only catch is that the Arrow has just one UAD SOLO processor. That means you can’t layer on a whole lot of those UAD effects at once – you’re limited by available processing power. I like the form factor of the Arrow enough that I hope UA will offer a DUO version with two DSP cores – my experience has been that on the Apollo Duo that’s more than enough horsepower for solo musician/producer needs. The single core, though, I suspect will feel a bit cramped for UAD addicts. (Those Legacy models in turn will be lighter on the SOLO, so there’s a certain wisdom to their inclusion.) Oh, and one other niggle – that extra x2 out is only on the stereo headphone jack, though – it’s missing the Twin’s separate rear channel jacks, useful for spatialization or other external outputs.

As a live device, though, and as an entry point to UAD, this one looks like a winner. UA keep iterating on their accessibility, and this one is sure to be a big breakthrough. That real-time functionality and library of plug-ins also makes it more fun to buy than competing audio interfaces, which only act as, you know, audio interfaces.

Arrow is shipping now. I’ll try to get one in to review.


and about those plug-ins:

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Ableton Live 10 now in public beta; here’s what you need to know

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 12 Jan 2018 3:23 pm

Electronic musicians have been living with the idea of Live 10 for a while. Now, the actual software is available in a public beta. Here’s how it works.

Who can join the public beta?

You need a registered copy of Ableton Live 9 Standard or Live 9 Suite. Earlier versions and entry level/bundled versions of the software don’t qualify.

How do I join in?

Ableton uses bug tracker Centercode to share current in-development testing builds of their software, and to collect data on how you’re using it. If you have one of those Live 9 serials, you can sign up directly:


Why is it a public beta?

Ableton say they use this stage of the process to collect data on how you’re using the software and how stable it is. So, they are actively looking for bugs.

Back in the day, that meant you had to write extensive reports for developers to know what wasn’t working in the software. Now, a lot of that process is automated (though if you encounter some very specific bug, for instance with a particular third-party setup, you may want to write some report to Ableton).

Is it stable?

Okay, officially, it’s beta software, so strictly speaking it isn’t as stable as a finished release.

But Ableton betas are unique, in that certified trainers, some members of the press (hi there), Ableton employees, and some artists have been using Live 10 since the fall. I’ve probably opened Live 9 only a couple of times since September, and have played with Live 10 onstage and finished tracks in it.

Just be advised that any really essential files you’ll want to keep in Live 9; once you save as a Live 10 file, you can’t go back. And you can keep Live 9 and Live 10 installed side-by-side on the same machine. I’ve done that on both my Mac and PC and intend to leave it that way until Live 10 ships (and maybe a few months after).

Where can I find out what’s new?

Our monster guide covers pretty much everything:

Ableton Live 10 in depth: hands-on impressions, what’s new

Plus Tom Cosm has an extensive video walkthrough at the bottom of that post, and a handy, printable quick reference guide to shortcuts and new features – which is great for getting more productive in the refreshed Arrange view!

I’ll do an updated round-up of videos next week, and you can expect more guides in words (because reading is cool) around the release.

What’s up with Max?

Live 10 also includes the new version of Cycling ’74 Max/MSP, Max 8. Cycling haven’t revealed all of the new features in Max 8, and in particular what hard-core Max users will get from the authoring tool, but a pre-release version of Max 8 is shipping with Live 10 – meaning Ableton and Cycling ’74 are testing the new generation of each of their products at the same time.

That’s one small step in the direction we confirmed Ableton and Cycling intended to take as the two companies merged efforts:

Exclusive: Ableton acquires Max maker Cycling ’74; what you need to know

A conversation with David Zicarelli and Gerhard Behles

What’s the best feature that no one would immediately imagine is the best feature?

Drum Buss. (Search your feelings: you know it to be true.)

Enjoy the beta.

The post Ableton Live 10 now in public beta; here’s what you need to know appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

How to make the free VCV Rack modular work with Ableton Link

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 4 Jan 2018 9:35 pm

VCV Rack, the free Eurorack modular emulation software, is a perfect match for wireless sync. Here’s how to do it, step by step.

Why Link? Link has already made itself known as a godsend. Not only does it work in Ableton Live, but Traktor, Serato, Reaktor, and Reason, and others. It works with numerous iOS apps, too. Get those tools on the same network (probably via wifi router), and all of them can use the same tempo and transport. There’s no master, no slave – in the style of a jam session, everything follows a shared tempo – which also means you don’t lose timing if one drops out.

And Link is a logical choice for VCV Rack. Both have an open source base. And whereas you own physical analog gear and modulars, you’d use clock signal by connecting a cable, here in the software domain, wireless, networked clock is just as useful.

Think modular. Even with the latest copy of VCV Rack, you don’t see a big, friendly “Link” button in the corner. Remember that the whole metaphor of Rack is that you have a virtual rack of modules. You’re going to have a module doing the Link synchronization – and you’re going to be able to use Link in some more modular ways.

To add Link support, you install a free, virtual module. (It’s the on-screen equivalent of coming back from the synth shops with a new bit of kit and bolting it in with a screwdriver, only this will be faster and … won’t cost anything or take up space in your studio.)

You may want to review our more in-depth guide to getting up and running with Rack:

Step one: How to start using VCV Rack, the free modular software

That article also includes instructions for building from source, though here we’ll use pre-built software for ease.

Installing Link on Rack

1. Grab a copy of the Stellare Link module. Link comes from Ableton, but it’s open and available to developers. So our friends Sander and Enzo (Stellare Modular) made their own virtual module for Rack. To get it, head to vcvrack.com and select the Plugin Manager. Type “Link” into the search box, then click “Free” to highlight it. This adds the Link module to your account, and will synchronize it to any Rack setup.

2. Synchronize your Rack. Now with Stellare’s module attached to your account, you need to install it to your machine. Launch VCV Rack (you need a current version), and click Update Plugins. You should see a progress bar appear, and you’ll be prompted to restart Rack.

3. On Windows, move one file. On Mac and Linux, you’re done with installation. Windows users need to add one additional step, because as of now, the Plugin Manager isn’t yet fully able to locate one needed file. (This feature is in development, so this may be addressed.)

After running ‘Update Plugins,’ locate the installed directory (using C: as an example):


Copy link-wrapper.dll from that directory to the directory where your Rack.exe executable is located:

C:\Program Files\VCV\Rack\plugins

— so that link-wrapper.dll is on the same level as Rack.exe.

Restart Rack.

Wire up Link

4. Add the Link module. If you’ve performed the above steps correctly, you can now add the Stellare Link module to any rack. Right click in a blank space, then choose Stellare, then Link. On Windows, you may be prompted to enable access for Rack on your network; make sure to check both boxes, and then choose Allow Access.

5. Get something to sync. Any iPad on the same network, running an app like Modstep or Elastic Drums, or any local desktop software (Ableton Live, obviously, but here for fun I chose Serato DJ instead) can now jam along with VCV Rack in perfect timing.

Make sure “Link” is enabled (highlighted) in the associated software.

6. Play with clock! We’re on to the fun part!

The “/4” output jack on the Link module represents quarter divisions of the current Link clock. Reset sends a pulse on each subsequent downbeat. You could obviously get fancier than this, but you don’t need the Link module to do much more – you can divide or multiple that beat with other modules.

Here are two free modules (both installable from plugin manager) you can try out as gateways from Link to other stuff.

Add Grayscale > Algorhythm. Try connecting from the “/4” output on Link to the “CLOCK” input on Algorhythm. Click the start/stop at the top left of the Algorhythm module, and you’ll see Link advance the clock.

Now add Fundamental > SEQ-3. (As the “Fundamental” name implies, you should almost certainly install this selection of modules.) Connect from “RESET” out on Link to “EXT CLK” on SEQ-3. Now, the bottom row will advance at the same rate.

What’s actually happening here, respective to the master tempo? Well, the “/4” in Rack represents quarter-subdivisions of the beat – so think sixteenth notes, since the Link beat is a quarter note. (You’ll get four subdivisions for each kick drum in four-on-the-floor techno, etc.!)

Try moving the patch cable on the SEQ-3. Drag on the end connected to “/4” – move it so it’s connected from ‘RESET’ on Link to ‘EXT CLK’ on the SEQ-3. Now, the sequencer advances on every downbeat.

7. Keep on ticking:

From here, you can experiment with other modules that take signal, clock dividers for transforming metrical divisions of the signal, and more.

A great place to start is by installing the Simple modular pack, then selecting Simple > Clock Divider. This will give you some different, musical divisions of that incoming clock.

Ted Pallas, who has been contributing our tutorials so far, uses that 1/16th signal to drive the VCV Pulse Matrix modules.

You can also make creative use of the useful ‘Offset’ knob – something missing in a lot of other Link implementations. Offset simply dials in a continuously controllable amount of time added or subtracted from outgoing clock signal. And that can be used as groove, as Ted explains:

A super cool feature I hope to see repeated next to every Link button I ever encounter is seen here for the first time: there’s an offset knob, and if you spin you’ll shove the link signal forwards and backwards in time. This knob allows you to really dial in the perfect sync between Rack and the larger system you’re trying to lock to. I’ve also used to Offset knob as something of a “swing designer,” placing my sequencer rhythm ever-just-so alongside a Tr-09.

Here’s a sample from Ted:

Oh, and another thing: there’s a lot of room for happy accidents and mistakes that wouldn’t make sense in another context. Because you’re just messing with signals, you may discover that something that isn’t theoretically what you intended is something you musically like. And since music is about making decisions based on taste, that opens up possibilities.

In Core, you’ll find a bunch of objects for routing MIDI signals – including clock – to modules. That may make a good future tutorial, and it’s where you’ll want to start if you have hardware or software sending MIDI clock in place of Ableton Link. (Hey, MIDI clock still has its place!)

The Link module isn’t a complete implementation of everything Link can do. There’s no way to transmit clock from VCV Rack using it, to adjust the tempo of other connected hardware and software on your Link session. And there could be additional rhythmic options built in.

But it’s free – so if you are already enjoying it or if you want to encourage such features, here’s a thought: donate to the developers!


https://github.com/stellare-modular/vcv-link/ (though you don’t need this site to install automatically, source and documentation live here)



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Step one: How to start using VCV Rack, the free modular software

Delivered... Ted Pallas | Scene | Fri 29 Dec 2017 7:01 am

So, you’re ready to try a free and open platform for modular synths – even if you’re new to modular. Here’s how to get started.

Ed.: In part one of Ted Pallas’ guide to VCV Rack for us, we got an overview of VCV Rack, an open source platform that brings software emulations of Eurorack modules to Mac, Windows, and Linux computers.

A guide to VCV Rack, a software Eurorack modular you can use for free

It’s pretty transformative stuff. You can run virtual modules to synthesize and process sounds, both those emulating real hardware and many that exist only in software. You might try out modular synthesis for the first time, even if you’ve never worked with this approach to sound before. Or you might use Rack as a computer complement to physical hardware rigs, a way of testing out new modules before investing, or as a way of mixing computer and hardware modules.

Of course, where to begin can be overwhelming, especially if you’re new to this kind of software or hardware. So, let’s talk about how to get up and running – even if you’re new to these kinds of tools. -PK

Where to find Rack

This article is for people who are new to modular, open-source software, or both! We’re going to go over where to find Rack, how to get it on your machine, and then will examine a sample patch to check out some modular techniques — the sort of techniques you might lack if you’re more used to working with desktop synthesizers or computer DAWs and soft synths.

The best place to find Rack is at its official project homepage:

(Check out the official Facebook group for additional community and support, as well.)

Before you grab the download, register an account (or login if you’ve got one already). Linking your Rack to a user account makes it easier to install virtual modules automatically and to stay up to date.

Then, you have a choice: you can build from source, or use pre-built stuff. If you’re not accustomed to this choice, that is to say, you have easy conventional installers linked right from the top of the VCV page – installed as you’d install any other Mac and Windows software – or the option of building from source if you prefer, more as a developer (or typical Linux user) would.

Building from source means maximum compatibility with every cool new module, and the ability to stay up with the developers – not a bad idea, given this project is in active development. On the other hand, using pre-built software is easier, and now provides access to a package manager for one-click installation of the most popular modules (including commercial ones), and account synchronization.

That’s not an either/or choice, you can do both. So, we’ve included some tips on building from source. And a note on that:

Don’t fear the source. Don’t panic. The installation process for the developer version is relatively painless, so for this tutorial, we’ll follow along with that. (If you just want to get going quickly, and our explanation here loses you, you can try one of these pre-built binaries.) And some modules – like, as we write this, the monome modules – do require the developer version.

Translation: if you can follow instructions and use copy/paste, you’ll be okay, and you’ll be done in under about half an hour (or much less depending on what’s on your system)!

Here, we’ll walk you separately through the automatic binary installation and the process of building from source for those who want to try it.

Downloading binaries, package manager for modules

Grabbing the pre-built binaries is definitely the fastest way to get up and running, and it does support a lot of modules via a new automatic package manager.

You’ll find installers at the top of the VCV Rack page for Mac, Windows, and Linux.

With VCV installed (either from source or from the binary), you have just an empty rack – the same as if you bought an empty Eurorack case from the synthesizer store. So, you can add some virtual modules. A series of modules called Fundamental are now bundled in the pre-built binaries, but you can add some more fun stuff to that.

Grab installers automatically via the new plugin manager. Just sign up for a free account to keep in sync.

For automated installation of both free and paid modules, there’s now a plugin manager that works with any version of Rack 0.51 or later. The plugin manager syncs your favorite plugins via your account – a cloud sync for modules, if you like.


From your Web browser, once you’re logged in, you can scroll down and click the green buttons that say ‘+Free’ to add all the available free modules. (Later, when you’re comfortable, some more sophisticated modules are available as inexpensive paid add-ons.) The growing range of free selections already includes a nice collection of virtual modules with real-world equivalents, with modules from popular Eurorack manufacturers Mutable Instruments, Greyscale, E-Series, and Befaco. The button will change from green to red to show you’ve added the module to your account.

Then when you open Rack, just hit the Update Plugins button on the toolbar on the top of the program, and you’ll automatically download those modules to your system.

First, log in.

Then update.

(You may want to check the documentation for some modules, even if using the plugin manager. For instance, the free Ableton Link support provided in Stellare’s module requires manually copying a DLL file. This is still software actively in development.)

Building from source

If you prefer to try the build-from-source approach, here’s how to proceed.

Head to GitHub for the developer version. Choose GitHub on the main VCV site, then click Rack, or head to this link:


Install your build environment. You’ll need to install some developer tools – the tools developers of Mac and iOS software, Linux software, and some open source Windows software would use. The process doesn’t require any actual developer knowledge, though – just some extra steps.

Mac users will need Xcode, which is now a one-click download from Apple’s App Store. You’ll also need wget, a command line file downloader. The two-step method to get that is via a very simple project called Homebrew. Look at the Homebrew site and copy-paste the command for installing Homebrew (right at the top of that page), then wget (the second line on that page).

Windows Since Windows lacks a *nix-style command line, there’s a one-click installation of MSYS2. Then install everything you need via one line from the VCV instructions:
pacman -S git make tar unzip mingw-w64-x86_64-gcc mingw-w64-x86_64-cmake

Restarting MSYS2 before the next step will let you make sure the make command finds the path to the compiler.

Linux users probably don’t need our help, but you’ll want to double check you’ve installed the packages gcc, make, cmake, tar, and unzip.

Then follow the remaining instructions for building VCV from source, which involves simply copy-pasting a few lines of text into the command line.

In short, it’ll be something like this:
1. Grab the source code:
git clone https://github.com/VCVRack/Rack.git

Grabbing dependencies on Windows.

2. Build it:
cd Rack
make dep
git submodule update --init --recursive

But see the VCV site for full instructions. (Don’t forget the submodule update; otherwise, the build won’t find needed headers.)

Add some modules. As with Rack itself, you can build plugin modules from source manually. Those instructions are also on the GitHub page. You’ll find “source” links for all the open source modules next to the ‘free buttons.’ That’ll give you a link to the repository – where up-to-date code from the developer is stored.

cd [change directory] to the plugins folder inside your Rack install, git clone the plugin’s github (or other) repository, and then cd to the plugin folder. Run ‘git submodule update –-init -–recursive’ Chances are this command did nothing – that’s ok. Once these are all done run ‘make’. To add more plugins cd to the plugins folder, clone another repo, run another git submodule update, execute another make run. There are a ton of third party modules out there; they’re listed on the same page as the pluginmanager (just copy source links for what you want to build to the command line):


Doing stuff with Rack

Now you’re ready to start patching.

You start with an empty virtual rack when you first open the software or start a new project – a bit like a Eurorack case awaiting new modules. Right-click anywhere in the Rack window to bring up the Add Modules window. The left-most list represents different collections of modules, grouped by ‘manufacturer’. The list to the right of this contains individual modules. Hovering over a module will bring up its information in the pane to the right – right now, this information only contains the author and tags the developer of the module might have chosen to add.

All of the text present is searchable in the bar on the top of the Add Modules menu, from manufacturer names to module names to tags.

It’s helpful to know common synthesizer shorthand – if you’re looking for a filter you can type “filter” or “VCF,” for example.

Step by step, Hello, world!

Let’s quickly make the Hello World of modular synthesizers – an oscillator plugged into a VCA [amplifier], with that VCA plugged into a soundcard [your audio output] and a scope [so you can see what you’re doing]. This is about as simple as a synthesizer can get. Starting with a blank Rack document, here are the steps to building this first patch:

From a blank canvas, you add the first module.

1. Add an oscillator Right-click to open the Add Modules menu. Click on the manufacturer name Fundamental – that’s the bundle of built-in, basic bread-and-butter modules that now are included with the package. Add a simple oscillator to the rack by clicking VCO-1. The module will be dropped in just under where your mouse was positioned.

The VCO-1 is a basic oscillator with four waveforms – sine, triangle, saw, and square – with PWM [pulse width modulation] on the square wave. An FM [frequency modulation] input, a sync input and a PWM CV input round out the offering. These three inputs let you color the sound by adding envelopes, LFOs, or other modulators to affect the signal over time.

2. Scope it out. Let’s use a virtual oscilloscope to see the signal the oscillator is generating. Right-click again and choose Fundamentals > Scope. Drag any blank part of the faceplate of the module to move it around in the rack and snap it into place; let’s move Scope next to VCO-1.

Connect the oscillator to the scope by dragging to create a virtual patch cable: drag from VCO-1’s SIN [sine wave] output to Scope’s X IN input. Sine waves should appear in the scope!

Now drag VCO-1’s SQR to Scope’s Y IN. You now have both waveforms displayed overlapping one another; drag up the Y SCL knob one notch so it’s easier to differentiate between the waveforms. Also, run the TIME knob all the way up.

3. Add volume. Adding a VCA module is really a fancy way of adding volume you can control both with a knob or by patching in control signal (VC = voltage-controlled). So, right-click an empty area again, and choose VCA.

We’re going to do something that’s not possible on a physical modular (without an adapter) – plugging two jacks into a single hole. Once a patch cord is connected, dragging from that hole will disconnect the cable. So, we’ll patch from an empty hole into the connected hole.

Drag from VCA’s IN on the top half of the module to VCO-1 SIN, and from VCA IN on the bottom half to VCO-1 SQR. Then drag the LEVEL knobs all the way down – this will keep us from accidentally hurting our ears or our speakers with level that’s too hot.

4. And mix. We have two signals – square and sine – that we want to connect to our output via a single cable. Right-click to bring up Add Module and choose VC Mixer. This has the controllable levels the VCA had, but adds a mixed output that combines up to three signals into one – giving you one pipe, one cable to connect out. Patch each OUT on the VCA to CH 1 IN and CH 2 IN.

5. Connect sound to the outside world. This time, to save time, let’s type in our module name. Type ‘audio interface’ into the search bar on the top of the Add Modules window.

Click on the Core manufacturer – these modules ship with all versions of Rack, whether installed via binary or built from source. They offer up integration with the world outside of Rack, through audio interfaces and MIDI inputs. The Audio Interface device handles both input and output, whether to internal software audio interfaces like Soundflower and ReaRoute or to hardware devices.

First, drag a patch cable from Output 1 on the Audio Interface to VC Mixer MIX > OUT. Repeat for Output 2, so you get stereo sound. , and drag from Output 2 to the Mixer Mix Out. Select your preferred output in the drop-down menu (for internal audio interfaces on laptops, look to “Built-In Speakers” on Mac or “WASAPI > Realtek” and the like on Windows). 1 and 2 will most often represent the main left and right audio outputs, but your mileage may vary.

Turn up the VCA LEVEL knobs to twelve o’clock. Run the mixer CH 1 and CH 2 knobs up to about ten o’clock, and then gradually increase the MIX knob on the top so you hear sound. If you don’t hear anything, turn down the knobs and double-check the drop-down interface options and your patch connections.

6. Now let’s play. Drag the VCO-1 > FREQ to change the frequency of the oscillator, and watch the Scope for some groovy shapes. (Try adjusting the SCOPE > TIME to change the displayed scale, and switching SCOPE > X/Y to X+Y for a radial view, for added variety.) For fine-scale adjustment of knobs, ctrl-drag (Mac: cmd-drag). While you’re making groovy shapes, try patching the VCO-1 TRI output into the VCO-1 FM Input, and add some of the FM knob.

7. Stop the endless drones. Let’s give this patch some life by adding an ADSR and an LFO-1 from the Fundamental modules collection. The ADSR is a standard Attack-Decay-Sustain-Release generator. It’s used to make envelopes that open and shut on a contour, in response to a gate input. The LFO-1 is a low-frequency flavor of VCO-1, with an additional FM Input in place of the VCO’s 1/v Oct and a Reset input in place of the VCO-1’s Sync input.

Patch the LFO’s square wave output [SQR] into the gate input of the ADSR. Patch the OUT of the ADSR into the EXP inputs of the VCA channels – Exp and Lin refer to exponential and linear, which are different ways of interpolating the incoming envelope. Digital modular is fun! You should also move the scope patches from the oscillator to the VCA outs, so you can see the shape of the envelope in the scope. You’ll probably need to adjust X and Y Scale a bit.

8. Mo modular modulation. Here’s where we go crazy: right-click your ADSR and select ‘duplicate’ to create an additional ADSR envelope. Do the same with the LFO, and then go ahead make a third LFO the same way. Unpatch one of your VCA CVs and patch it into this newly-created ADSR Out. Patch one of the new LFO’s Square wave outs into the Gate input on the new ADSR. On the other LFO, the one without anything patched, patch the Square wave out into the Reset inputs of each of the other two LFOs. This last patch will retrigger the two LFOs, so they can start on a “downbeat” determined by the leading post of the LFO. Groovy!

While we’re in here, let’s add a couple of VCF’s, and patch them in line between the VCAs and the mixer. For a bonus bit of modulation we’ll patch the ADSRs into VCFs opposite from their assigned VCO’s – let’s put the first ADSR on the second VCF’s Freq CV input, and patch the second ADSR into the first VCF’s Resonance CV input. Turn the Freq CV knob on the first VCF up a little bit, and make sure your LFO driving the resets is slower than the other two.

Free downloads: PolyBlip, Ableton Push/MIDI, and Extras

Since you’ve made it this far, you’ve earned a reward. We’ve got a patch, a maxforlive device, and a module installation script and meter for you.

First up: the PolyBlipper, a patch I made around this idea of LFO triggering with some added FM modulation fun thrown in the mix.

PolyBlipper [VCV patch download]

Download it and open it up from within VCV, and you’ll hear nothing – until you select your driver and soundcard on the audio interface, and then run up the Mix knob on the VC Mixer in the top row, above the audio interface. This is a simple patch, but it can offer up a wide variety of sounds.

The main concept of the patch is a more complicated version of the LFO-triggered helloworld patch we built in the tutorial above. Two almost-identical voices sit to the left of the VC Mixer and Audio Interface. Both feature a VCO-2 (a waveform-morphing oscillator with a CV input for wave shape) with FM input from the mixed outputs of a VCO-1. Mixing the VCO-1’s outputs creates a complex modulation oscillator, for some fun West Coast vibes. Each voice has its own gate, and additionally the first voice has its wave shape modulated by one of the “sequencer” outs. For a different flavor, you could modulate this via an ADSR, such as one of the ones already present in the patch. Adding a VCA will let you scale the effect of the modulation, as well.

To the right of the mixer and audio interface are three LFOs and two voltage controlled mixers. These act as something of a sequencer – the waves act as triggers for the ADSR, after being combined in the mixers below. Each mixer triggers one of the voices, by combining the signal in different ways on different mixers you can find unified polyrhythmic sequences, such as the one on the patch at the start.

For some applied coursework – can you figure out how to get each of the three LFOs triggering the oscillators resetting poly-rhythmically, in overlapping sets of two? Can you figure out how to reset everything, including the above, so you get repeating measures of music? Answers next week, along with some tips on using VCV as an effect.

Next, we’ve got a Max For Live device called AbleRack that sends MIDI from your Push 2 (or anything else mapped to the device’s knobs) out to VCV Rack for conversion to CV via Rack’s Core MIDI CC-To-CV Converter.


Drop this on an empty MIDI channel, and then select the desired MIDI output in Live’s MIDI Out dropdown menu. Make sure to set the desired MIDI channel as well – incoming MIDI from the device and your Push 2 (or other controller) will be remapped as well. You’ll notice an offset knob on the device – turning this knob clockwise and then hitting the button will add the stated value from the knob to the 16 knobs present. This is MIDI, so it’s important to remember that 0 is a value.

In VCV Rack, add a MIDI-to-CV module, and then patch the CV Outs as desired. The text boxes above the outputs denote which MIDI CC the output is listening for. You can change these text box values to listen for different CC’s, which is where the offset knob comes in – multiple MIDI-to-CC converters and multiple channels of AbleRack can be used simultaneously, and within live each knob can have it’s own automation per-clip. Adding a MIDI-to-CV converter to rack and selecting the same MIDI Port and channel will let you use a keyboard alongside AbleRack. I put each instance of AbleRack I use in a set on its own channel, and route all the MIDI through its own IAC [“Inter-Application Communication”] Bus (on Mac) or LoopMIDI port (on Windows). (See instructions for Mac/IAC Bus or download loopMIDI for Windows. LoopBe1 is another excellent MIDI loopback driver for Windows.)

Lastly, we’ve got a script and a fun toy from our friend Jeremy Wentworth, creator of the Wavhead and several other notable modules.

jeremywen/community-builds-from-source.sh [build from source script download]

The script is super-helpful – put it in your plug-ins folder and run it with the terminal, and the script will download and build all the plug-ins listed in the community repo.

He’s also got a special module for you to play with – an X/Y version of his famous WavHead meter, with a special alternative logo switch for changing up your flavor and adding some Berlin to your patch. Download binaries for all systems:


We’d like to thank Jeremy for all of his help providing technical read-throughs and proofreading of this article. His website is a treasure trove of fun bits of code and other things to poke at, including this browser-based synthesizer and this super-weird browser-based random syllable generator.

By now you should be relatively comfortable using Rack, know where to find the community (in the Official VCV Rack User Group on Facebook) and have a good sense of what you’d like to use the tool to do. Have fun exploring the modules and patching up a storm! I’ll be keeping an eye on Rack, if anything big happens I’ll be back with more coverage.

Ted Pallas makes techno as Greco 727, and performs with Chicago’s M Sylvia under the name Str1ke. Ted recently released The Sor EP on Lisbon’s Toxic Recordings, available on Beatport. Get in touch at http://savag.es

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Arturia’s Fairlight, Clavinet, DX-7, and Buchla Easel are each a steal

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 27 Dec 2017 8:11 pm

Arturia now offer these classic instruments individually – with another 50% off through January 10 – and have video tutorials to teach you how to use them.

Let’s have a big round of applause for democratization. There was a time when something like the Fairlight CMI was so out of reach, just owning one would probably land you some big gigs. Now, you can get software recreations that offer you the musical possibilities of these instruments, for the price of a nice date night.

We already had a look at the full update of Arturia V Collection 6 – basically, the software versions of a whole bunch of keyboard instruments and synths, plus tools for organizing and playing them.

The story here is, maybe you really just want the Fairlight, or just the Clav, or just the Buchla, or just the DX-7. Now those three instruments are available individually.

The Buchla story is especially interesting. Apart from getting the authorized stamp of approval, Arturia say they’ve gone component by component modeling the original Easel. And while full rack modulars are all the rage these days, it’s really the way the Easel distilled that sound into a single, integrated design give it a singular vision. It’s not just the “West Coast” idea in terms of signal flow: it’s a West Coast instrument.

Then, take the reboot from Arturia and its new features, and you get a relationship that’s a bit like Bob Moog’s reimagining of the Minimoog as the Minimoog Voyager. It’s authentic, but it’s also modern.

The overview video explains the basic idea:

But now there’s a tutorial series with Glen Darcey. (End of an era: Glen, who managed a lot of Arturia’s recent successes including the Beatstep and ‘Brute lines, announced early this month that he’s moving on to start a new brand. We wish him the best!)

Glen also takes us on a tour of the Fairlight CMI, the ground-breaking digital instrument that defined digital as we know it. I always admired the Fairlight’s unique interface and workflow, so this seems to me as much a chance to get your hands on that as the distinctive sounds it made:

Flashback: a few weeks back we featured Steve Horelick showing off the same hardware back in the early 80s. Steve here is speaking to kids (hi there!), but you might know his voice from his terrific Logic videos from our present decade.

The DX-7 sees a terrific recreation here, one that makes editing uncommonly accessible – just in time for FM to see a full resurgence:

Clav fans, there’s a tutorial series on that, as well (plus announcement video to give you the big picture):

Pricing: 50% off the individual instruments makes them each US$/EUR 99, through January 10 only.

The full version of V Collection is US$/EUR 399 (normally 499), same.

Upgraders: you’ll need to log in to see customized pricing.






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Maschine with audio arrives; here’s how to get the most of it

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 18 Dec 2017 8:47 pm

Maschine’s Audio module has arrived, with looping and time stretching. And that makes the perfect time to look at some new ways of playing Maschine.

Maschine has had a year full of growth – new features, new ways of working from the community. As of Friday (well, after some glitches with the update server), that also includes an update that delivers a feature Maschine users have been asking about the longest: pitch-independent time stretching and looping.

The bad news is, this isn’t integrated with Maschine’s existing Sampler module. The good news, perhaps, is that this means the new module is focused on its own set of functionality, and won’t disrupt what’s already there. (I’m going to play around with it a while longer to reach my own conclusions on how I feel about this decision, but it certainly does keep each module cleaner and simpler.)

I’ve seen a lot of people posting the sentiment lately that music making isn’t just about updating to the latest-and-greatest — and I certainly agree with that, that’s fair. But some updates do come from real user needs and remove technological barriers to things you want to do.

On the human side of the equation, of course, you’ve got all the ways people pick up an instrument and make it their own. And the Maschine community this year has been astounding – all the reviewers, users, experts, trainers, and yes even the Maschine team themselves.

So, for starters, here’s a great demonstration of how that Audio Module works:

(Ha, that musical example is a bit wacky, but… you can of course apply this to whatever music or genre you want; I’ve done some really experimental stuff on Maschine that I suspect no one would guess was that tool)

From the same creator (“loopop”), here’s a unique take on how to use Maschine Jam, the clip launching grid + touch fader hardware for Maschine, alongside the traditional Maschine hardware. He takes on Jam as a “virtual conductor,” a mixer for different parts, and even an easy way to strum instruments. It’s a reminder that it’s best to think of Maschine as a live interface, not something specific to a particular genre. And the result is something different than what I’ve seen from other interfaces (like Abletoh Push), demonstrating how many different directions live interfaces for computers can go.

Maschine has also worked well as a hub for other instruments – hardware and software alike. It can be a trigger for snapshots in Reaktor, as we saw in our run-down of Belief Defect. (I’m reprogramming my own Reaktor-based setup, so I’ll do a more complete tutorial soon.)

And you can use snapshots and morphing with hardware, as loopop shows in this video. This was initially a Jam feature, but it has extended to other hardware controller.

(I just played right before Grebenstein Friday night, and he was using a Maschine MK1 alongside the Vermona as his live rig, so more possibilities with this setup. It blew me away; it was really tight.)

This next example is worth another story on itself – I’m a huge fan of Reactable’s recent, overlooked apps for sequencing and drum pattern creation. The latter, SNAP, has integration with Maschine Jam. The upshot: instead of repeating the same old loop over and over and over and now I’m bored, you can work in a fluid, live way to create more human, varying patterns. Watch – the Jam stuff kicks in part of the way through:

Stepping outside of one genre can often help you to better understand techniques and musicality. So here’s DDS with a great series on Maschine from the perspective of a hip-hop producer. (If you make hip hop-influenced music, that’s already relevant – but even if not, listen to the producers of the genre that gave you so much of how we think about this hardware in the first place!)

Finally, worth a read:


If you have more tips / tutorials or videos to share, send them in and I’ll update the article here.

And in the interest of fairness, we’ll have a bit more on the Akai side of the equation shortly, too; it’s also been a good year for the rival MPC.

More soon.

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This free phaser from NI is a must, even if you don’t like phasers

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 15 Dec 2017 4:36 pm

Native Instruments has a free phaser plug-in called Phasis as a holiday special – and, wow, definitely don’t skip this one.

Here’s the deal: as NI do yearly, they’ve got a holiday special going. This year, there’s an e-voucher and a giveaway contest and blah blah — let’s skip to Phasis.

Phasis is a free plug-in (VST, AU, AAX) for Mac and Windows. You’ll need to sign up for the mailing list, then get a serial number to enter into Native Access, NI’s latest all-in-one software for managing licenses and updates. That tool works well, though one note on Windows: look for the phasis.dll file on your hard drive, as I had to manually copy it to the correct VST plug-in folder.

Phasers may call to mind cheesy guitar effects and overused pop sounds, but this one’s different. Here’s how NI describe it:

PHASIS is a brand new phaser. It offers timeless phasing sounds – adding movement, soul, and creative magic to any signal. PHASIS draws inspiration from classic phasers but adds powerful new features for never-heard-before results. The Spread control changes the spacing of the phaser’s notches, for vocal-style effects. Ultra mode pushes modulation to ultra high rates, producing unique FM-esque tones. Download the VST/AU/AAX plug-in for free now!

It’s the combination of the phaser with those notch filters and “ultra” extreme audio rate modulation that produces something genuinely novel. I apply it here to a bland 909 drum loop, and already you get some more radical results:

Holiday Deal or …

Phasis download page

Wow, Windows backwards compatibility has gotten way easier than the Mac… Mac users will need 10.11 or later (10.13 if you use Cubase); Windows runs back to Windows 7. Well, once we find the darned VST plug-in folder. I’ll put it on both my machines. I only wish we’d gotten a Reaktor ensemble here so we could play around with the innards.

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Try a new physical model of a pipe organ for free

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 13 Dec 2017 5:01 pm

Now, all your realistic pipe organ dreams are about to be solved in software – without samples.

MODARTT are the French firm behind the terrific Pianoteq physically modeled instrument, which covers various classic keys and acoustic pianos. That mathematical model is good enough as to find applications in teaching and training.

Now, they’re turning their attentions to the pipe organ – some of which turns out to be surprisingly hard to model.

For now, we get just a four-octave preview of the organ flue pipe. But that’s free, and fun to play with – and it sounds amazing enough that I spent some part of the afternoon just listening to the demos. (Pair this with a convolution reverb of a church and I think you could be really happy.)

The standalone version is free, and like all their software runs on Linux as well as Mac and Windows. Stay tuned for the full version. Description:

ORGANTEQ Alpha is a new generation physically modeled pipe organ that reproduces the complex behaviour of the organ flue pipe.
It is a small organ with a keyboard range of 4 octaves (from F1 to F5) and with 2 stops: a Flute 8′ and a Flute 4′ (octave).
It is provided in standalone mode only and should be regarded as a foretaste of a more advanced commercial version in development, due to be released during 2018.


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djay Pro 2 brings algorithms and machine learning to DJing

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 12 Dec 2017 6:42 pm

A.I.D.J.? The next-generation djay Pro 2 for Mac adds mixing and recommendations powered by machine learning – and more human-powered features, too.

When Big Data meets the DJ

The biggest break from how we’ve normally thought about DJ software comes in the form of automatic mixing and selection tools. One is powered by machine learning working with DJ sets, and one from data collected from listening (Spotify).

Automix AI is a new mixing technology. And hold on to your hats, folks, if the “sync” button was unnerving to you, this goes further.

When we say “A.I.,” we’re really talking machine learning – that is, “training” algorithms on large sets of data. In this case, that data comes from existing DJ sets. (Algoriddim tells CDM that was drawn from a variety of DJs, mostly in hip-hop and electronic genres.) Those sets were analyzed according to various sonic features, and the automixing applies those to your music. So this isn’t just about mixing two different techno tracks with mechanical efficiency – it’s meant to go further across different tempos and genres.

It’s also more than matching tempo. Automix AI will identify where the transition occurs, decide how long the fade should be, and apply filters and EQ. So, if you’ve ever listened to existing Automix features and how clumsy they are with starting and stopping tracks, this takes a different approach. Algoriddim explains to CDM:

The core of this tech is finding good start and end regions for transition between two songs, while also respecting the corresponding sound energies and choosing an appropriate transition accordingly (e.g. most likely EQ or short filter transition if you have two high energy parts of the song for the transition)

Then there’s “Morph” – which Algoriddim argue opens up new ways of mixing:

This actually goes beyond what a regular DJ can do with two hands. Morph not only syncs the songs but seamlessly ramps the changed tempo of the inactive deck to its regular speed as the transition progresses. E.g. in the past if you had a hip-hop song at say 95 BPM and an electronic track at 130 BPM, syncing the two and making a transition would leave the new track in an awkwardly rate changed state (even with time-stretching enabled). So as the transition starts, both songs (in this example) would be playing at 130 BPM but as we are doing a simultaneous tempo “crossfade”, the hip-hop track ends up being back at 95 BPM at the end of the transition. This ensures the tracks always play at their regular tempo and these types of mixes sound very natural, allowing for seamless cross-genre transitions.”

Also impressive: while you might think this sort of technology would be licensed externally, the whiz kids over at Algoriddim did all of this on their own, in-house.

On the Spotify integration side, and also related to automating DJing tasks, “Match” technology recommends music based on BPM, key, and music style. Existing Spotify users will be familiar with some of this recommendation engine already. Where it could be good for producers is, this means there’s an avenue by which your music gets exposed by algorithms. And that in turn is potentially good news, if you’re a producer whose music isn’t always charting the top of a genre on Beatport.

These “autopilot” features are all under your control, too: you can choose which parameters are used, choose your own tracks, switch it off at will – as you like. Or you can sit back and let djay Pro run in the background while you’re doing something else, if you want to let the machine do the DJing while you cook dinner, for instance.

Pro features, for humans

Okay, so at this point, djay Pro 2 may sound a bit like this:

But one of the disruptive things about Algoriddim’s approach to DJ software is, it has simultaneously challenged rivals both among entry level and casual users and more advanced users at the same time.

So, here’s the more “Pro” sounding side of this. Some of these are features that are either missing or not implemented quite the way we’d like in industry leaders like Serato and Traktor.

A new audio engine with master AU plug-ins. A rewrite of the engine now allows high-res waveforms, post-fader effects, higher-quality filters, plus the ability to add Audio Unit plug-ins as master output effects.

Integrated libraries. iTunes, Spotify, and music in the file system / Finder are now all integrated and can be viewed side-by-side.

Integrated library views bring together everything on your local machine as well as Spotify.

Smart filters. Set up dynamic playlists sorted by BPM, key, date, genre, and other metadata. (Those columns are available in other tools, but here you get them dynamically, a bit like the ones in iTunes.)

Keyboard Shortcuts Editor. There’s a full editor for assigning individual features to custom shortcuts – which in turn can also map to custom hardware or the MacBook Pro Touch Bar.

CDJ and third-party hardware support. Whereas some other players make their own hardware or limit compatibility (or even require specific hardware just to launch, ahem), Algoriddim’s approach is more open. So they’re fully certified by Pioneer for CDJ compatibility, and they include 60 MIDI controllers in the box, and they have an extensive MIDI learn function.

More cueing and looping. Version 2 now has up to eight cue points and loops, with naming, per song. (I recently lauded Soda for adding this.) You can also now assign loop triggers to cue points.

Single deck mode for preparation. Okay, some (cough, again Serato) lock you into this view if you don’t have authorized hardware plugged in. But here, it’s designed specifically for the purpose of making set prep easier.

Accessibility. VoiceOver support makes djay Pro 2 work for vision-impaired users. We really need more commitment to this in the industry; it’s also been great to see this technology from Algoriddim showcased at Apple’s developer conference. If you’re using this (and hopefully CDM is working well with screen readers), do let us know.

New photo / still image support.

And it does photos

Back to less club/pro features, the other breakthrough for casual users, weddings, and commercial gigs is photo integration. Drag and drop photos or albums onto the visual decks, and the software will make beat-matched slide shows.

The photo decks also work with existing, fairly powerful VJ features, which includes external output, effects, and the like. You can also adjust beat sync.

Still image support builds on an existing video/VJ facility.

Plus a no-brainer price

The other thing that’s disruptive about djay Pro 2: price. It’s US$49.99, with an intro price of US$39.99, on the App Store.

You’ll need Spotify Premium for those features, of course, and macOS 10.11 or later is required.


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What you need to know about VCV Rack, a free Eurorack emulation

Delivered... Ted Pallas | Scene | Thu 7 Dec 2017 11:38 pm

In a few short weeks since it was released, VCV Rack has transformed how you might start with modular – by making it run in software, for free or cheap.

VCV Rack now lets you run an entire simulated Eurorack on your computer – or interface with hardware modular. And you can get started without spending a cent, with add-on modules available by the day for free or inexpensively. Ted Pallas has been working with VCV since the beginning, and gives us a complete hands-on guide.

There’s always a reason people fall in love with modular music set-ups. For some, it’s having a consistent, tactile interface. For others, it’s about the way open-ended architectures let the user, rather than a manufacturer, determine the system’s limits. For me, the main attraction to modulars is access to tools that can run free from a rigid musical timeline, but still play a sequence. It means they let me dial in interesting poly-rhythmic parts without stress.

An example: I hooked a Mutable Instruments Braids up to a Veils modular, triggered their VCA with an LFO, and ran the resulting pulse through a Befaco Spring Reverb. I used this patch to thicken the stew on a very minimal DJ mix. I also had a simple LFO pointed at a solenoid attached to a small spring reverb tank boinging away in a channel on the master mixer.

This is all pretty standard Eurorack deployment, except for one tiny detail – all of the modules exist in software, contained inside a cross-platform app called VCV Rack.

VCV Rack is an open-source Eurorack emulation environment. Developer Andrew Belt has built a system to simulate interactions between 0-5 volt signals and various circuits. He’s paired this system with a UI that mimics conventions of Eurorack use. Third-party developers are armed with an API and a strong community.

VCV Rack is open-source, and the core software is free to download and use. The VCV Rack website also features several sets of modules as expansions, many of which are free. The most notable cost-free VCV offering is a near complete set of Mutable Instruments modules, under the name Audible. Beyond the modules distributed by developer Andrew Belt, there’s an ecosystem of several dozen developers, all working on building and supporting their own sets of tools – the vast majority of these are free as well, as of the time of this writing.

The result is a wide array of tools, covering both real-world modules (including the notable recent addition of the Turing Machine and a full collection of Audible Instruments emulations) and original circuits made just for Rack. The software runs in Windows, Mac OS and Linux, though the system doesn’t force third-party developers to support all three platforms.

VCV Rack is a young project, with its first public build only having become available September 10th. I became a user the same day, and have been using it several times a week for several months. I don’t usually take to new software so quickly, but in Rack’s case I found myself opening the app first and only moving on to a DAW after I had a good thing going. What continues to keep me engaged is the software’s usability – drop modules into a Rack, connect them with cables, and the patch does what it’s patched to do. Integration with a larger system is simple – I use a MOTU 828 mk2 to send and receive audio and CV through and audio interface module, and MIDI interfacing is handled in a similar fashion through a MIDI module. I can choose to clock the system to my midiclock+, or I can let it run free.

VCV Rack runs great on my late 2014 MacBook Pro – I’ve heard crackling audio just a handful of times, and in those cases only because I was doing dumb things with shared sound cards. To a lesser degree, VCV Rack also runs well on a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, though using the interface via touch input on the Surface is fiddly at best. Knobs tend to run all the way up or all the way down at the slightest nudge, and the hitbox for patch cable insert points is a bit small for your fingers on any touch screens smaller than 15”. Using a stylus is more comfortable.

Stability is impressive overall, even at this early pre-1.0 development stage. Crashes are exceptionally rare, at least on my systems – I can’t specifically remember the last one, though there’s been a few times the aforementioned crackles forced me to restart Rack. Restarting Rack is no big deal, though – on relaunch, it restores the last state of your patch with audio running, and more than likely everything is ok. Rack will mute lines causing feedback loops, a restriction which ultimately serves to keep your ears and your gear safe.

As part of my field work for this write-up, I decided to run a survey. The VCV Rack community is more approachable, open, and down to get dirty with problem-solving than any other software community I’ve participated in directly. I figured I’d get a handful of responses, with variations of “it’s Eurorack but on my computer and for free” as the most common response.

Instead, I got a peek inside a community excited about the product bringing them all together. Over a third of the respondents have been using VCV since early September, and a quarter of the respondents have only been using the tool for a few weeks. Across the board, though, there’s a few key points I think deserve a highlight.

“Modular is for everybody”, and VCV Rack is modular for everybody.

Almost every single one of our 62 respondents in some way indicated that they love hardware modular for its creative possibilities, but also see cost as a barrier. VCV Rack gets right around the cost issue by being free upfront, with some more exotic modules costing money to access. There’s also a solid chunk of users coming from a university experience with large modular systems, such as Montreal’s SYSTMS, who say what initially appealed to them was “getting to explore modular, whereas before that was just not available to a low income musician. I had been introduced to Doepfer systems in university, and since then I have of course not had access to any very expensive physical Eurorack set ups. Also the idea of introducing and teaching my friends, who I knew would be into this!”

(While Rack is especially hardware-like, I do want to shout out fellow open-source modular solution Automatonism – you won’t find anything like a complete set of Mutable modules, but you will find a healthy Pd-driven open source modular synth with the ability to easily execute away from a computer via the Critter and Guitari Organelle.)

VCV Rack can be used in as many ways as a real Eurorack system.

The Rack Github describes Rack as an “Open-source virtual Eurorack DAW,” and while I wouldn’t use it to edit audio, Rack can handle a wide enough set of roles in a larger system to fairly call the software a workstation. There are several options for recording audio provided by the community, with an equal number of ways to mix and otherwise manipulate sets of signals. It’s possible to create stems of audio data and control data. It’s possible to get multiple channels of audio into another piece of software for further editing, directly via virtual soundcards.

VCV Rack also has a home within hardware modular systems, with users engineering soundcard-driven solutions for getting CV and audio in and out of a modular rack running alongside VCV. User Chris Beckstrom describes a typical broad array of uses: “standalone to make cool sounds (sampling for later), using Tidal Cycles (algorithmic sequencer) to trigger midi, using other midi sources like Bitwig to trigger Rack, and also sending and receiving audio to and from my diy modular.”

8th graders can make M-nus-grade techno with it.

I mean, check it out.

If you build it, they will come.

For having been around only since early September VCV Rack already has a very healthy ecosystem of third-party modules. Devs universally describe Rack’s source as especially easy to work with – Jeremy Wentworth, maker of the JW-modules series, says “[Andrew Belt’s] code for rack is so easy to follow. There is even a tutorial module. I looked at that and said, hey, maybe I can actually build a module, and then I did.” Jeremy is joined by over 40 other plug-in developers, most of whom are managing to find their own Eurorack recipe. VCV Rack also has a very active Facebook community, with over 100 posts appearing over the three days this article was written in. I’ve been on the Internet for a long time – it’s unusual to find something this cohesive, cool-headed and capable outside of a forum.

The community aren’t just freeloaders.

Almost two thirds of our respondents have already purchased some Rack modules, or are going to be purchasing some soon. Only a handful plan not to purchase any modules. There’s a market here, a path to the market via VCV Rack, and a group of developers already working to keep people interested and engaged with both new modules and recreations of real-world Eurorack hardware. Two thirds of respondents is a big number – if you’re a DSP-savvy developer it’s worth investigating VCV Rack.

DSP is portable.

The portability of signal processing algorithms isn’t a phenomenon unique to VCV Rack, but it is my opinion, VCV Rack will be uniquely well-served by the ability to easily port DSP code and concepts from other plaforms. Michael Hetrick’s beloved Euro Reakt Blocks are being partially ported from Reaktor Core patches into VCV Rack, for example, and Martin Lueder has ported over Stanford’s FreeVerb as part of his plugin pack. As the community cements itself, we’ll likely only see more and more beloved bits of code find their way into VCV Rack.

A handful of cool, recent VCV developments

VCV Rack are selling commercial modules. Pulse 8 and Pulse 16 are drum-style Sequencers, and there’s also an 8-channel mixer with built-in VCA level CV inputs. You’ll find them on the official VCV Rack site. Instead of donations, Andrew prefers people purchase his modules, or buy the modules of other devs. All the modules are highly usable, with logical front-panel layouts and powerful CV control. Ed.: This in turn is encouraging, as it suggests a business model pathway for the developers of this unexpected runaway (initially) free hit. -PK

An open Music Thing module has come to VCV. The Turing Machine mkII by Music Thing Modular released by Stellare Modular – A classic looping random CV generator, typically used for lead melodies or basslines, sees a port into VCV Rack by a third-party dev. Open source hardware is being modeled and deployed in an open source environment.

There’s now Ableton Link support. A module supporting Ableton Link, the live jamming / wireless sync protocol for desktop and mobile software, is available via a module released by Stellare. In addition to letting you join in with any software supporting Link, there’s a very handy clock offset.

Reaktor to VCV. Michael Hetrick is porting over Euro Reakt stuff from Reaktor Blocks, and making new modules in the process. Especially worth pointing out is his Github page, which includes ideas on what to actually do with the modules in the context of a patch: https://github.com/mhetrick/hetrickcv

VCV meets monome. Dewb’s Monome Modules allow users to connect their monome Grid controllers, or use a virtual monome within Rack itself. He’s currently also got a build of Monome’s White Whale module: https://github.com/Dewb/monome-rack

Hora’s upper class tools and drums. Hora Music is to my knowledge the first “premium” price module release, at 40euro for his package of modules. With a combination of sequencers, mixers, and drums, it could be the basis of whole projects. See: https://gumroad.com/horamusic

I’ll be back next week with a few different recipes for ways you can make Rack part of your set-up, as well as a Q&A with the developer.

Ted Pallas is a producer and technologist based out of Chicago, Illinois. Find him at http://www.savag.es/

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Arturia add CMI, DX7, Clavinet – and Buchla Easel – in software

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 7 Dec 2017 5:06 pm

Arturia refreshed their mega-collection of synths and keyboard instruments, with new sought-after additions – including a recreation of the Buchla Easel.

Get ready for some numbers and letters here here. The resulting product is the Arturia V Collection 6. The ancient Roman in me apparently wants to read that as “5 collection 6” but, uh, yeah, that’s the letter “v” as in “virtual.”

And what you’re now up to is 21 separate products bundled as one. Inception-style, some of those products contain the other products, too. (If you just want the Buchla, sit tight – yes, you can get it separately.)

So, hat we’re talking about is this:

Synths: models of the Synclavier, Oberheim Matrix 12 and SEM, Roland Jupiter-8, ARP 2600, Dave Smith’s Sequential Prophet V and vector Prophet VS, Yamaha CS-80, a Minimoog, and a Moog modular. To that roster, you can now add a Yamaha DX7, Fairlight CMI, and a Buchla Music Easel.

Keys: Fender Rhodes Stage 73 (suitcase and stage alike), ARP Solina String Ensemble, Wurlitzer. And now there’s a Clavinet, too.

Organs: Hammond B-3, Farfisa, VOX Continental.

And some pianos. Various pianos – uprights and grands – plus other parameters via physical modeling are bundled into Piano V.

The bundle also includes Analog Lab, which pulls together presets and performance parameters for all the rest into a unified interface.

This isn’t all sampled soundware, either – well, if it were, it’d be impossibly huge. Instead, Arturia use physical modeling and electronics modeling techniques to produce emulations of the inner workings of all these instruments.

About those new instruments…

There’s no question the Clavinet and DX7 round out the offerings, making this a fairly complete selection of just about everything you can play with keys. (Okay, no harpsicords or pipe organs, so every relatively modern instrument.) And the Fairlight CMI, while resurrected as a nifty mobile app on iOS, is welcome, too. But because it’s been so rare, and because of the renaissance of interest in Don Buchla and so-called “West Coast” synthesis for sound design, the Buchla addition is obviously stealing the show.

Here’s a look at those additions:

The DX7 V promises to build on the great sound of the Yamaha original while addressing the thing that wasn’t so great about the DX7 – interface and performance functionality. So you get an improved interface, plus a new mod matrix, customizable envelopes, extra waveforms, a 2nd LFO, effects, sequencer, and arpeggiator, among other additions.

Funk fans get the Clavinet V, with control over new parameters via physical modeling (in parallel with the Arturia piano offering), and the addition of amp and effect combos.

Okay, but let’s get on to the two really exciting offerings (ahem, I’m biased):

The CMI V recreates the 1979 instrument that led the move to digital sampling and additive synthesis. And this might be the first Fairlight recreation that you’d want in a modern setup: you get 10 multitmbral, polyphonic slots, plus real-time waveform shaping, effects, and a sequencer. And Arturia have thrown us a curveball, too: to create your own wavetables, there’s a “Spectral” synth that scans and mixes bits of audio.

I’m really keen to play with this one – it sounds like what you’ll want to do is to go Back to the Future and limit yourself to making some entire tracks using just the Fairlight emulation. If you read my children’s TV round-up, maybe Steve Horelick and Reading Rainbow had you thinking of this already. Now you just need a PC with a stylus so you can imagine you’ve got a light pen.

The Buchla Easel goes further back to 1973. It’s arguably the most musical of Don Buchla’s wild instruments, bringing the best ideas from the modular into a single performance-oriented design. And here, it looks like we get a complete, authentic reproduction.

Everything that makes the Buchla approach unique is there. Think amplitude modulation and frequency modulation and the “complex” oscillator’s wave folding, gating that allows for unique tuned sounds, and sophisticated routing of modulation. It all adds up to granting the ability to make strange, new timbres, to seek out new performance life and new sound designs – to boldly go where only privileged experimentalists have gone before.

This video explains the whole “West Coast” synthesis notion (as opposed to Moog’s “East Coast” modular approach):

Arturia makes up for the fact that this is now an in-the-box software synth by opening up the worlds of modulation. So you get something called “gravity” which applies game physics to modulation, and other modulation sources (the curves of the “left hand,” for instance) to make all the organic changes happen inside software. It’s a new take on the Buchla, and not really like anything we’ve seen before. And it suggests this software may elevate beyond just faux replication onscreen, with a genuinely new hybrid.

My only regret: I would love to have this with touch controls, on iOS or Windows, to really complete the feeling. It’s odd seeing the images from Arturia with that interface locked on a PC screen. But I think of all the software instruments in 2017, this late addition could be near the top (alongside VCV Rack’s modular world, though more on that later).

But it’s big news – a last-minute change to upset the world of sound making in 2017.

Watch for our hands-on soon.

Intro price and more new features

Also new in this version: the Analog Lab software, which acts as a hub for all those instruments, parameters, and presets, now has been updated, as well. There’s a new browser, more controller keyboard integration, and other improvements.

Piano V has three new piano models (Japanese Grand, a Plucked Grand, and a Tack Upright), enhanced mic positioning, an improved EQ, a new stereo delay, and it’s own built-in compressor.

There are improvements throughout, Arturia say.

There’s also a lower intro price: new users get US$/€ 249 instead of 499, through January 10.

And that Buchla is 99 bucks if that’s really what you want out of this set.


V Collection

Buchla Easel V

The post Arturia add CMI, DX7, Clavinet – and Buchla Easel – in software appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Maschine will finally get time stretching, melodic shifting for loops

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 28 Nov 2017 7:27 pm

You can already sample and slice with Native Instruments’ groove production instrument. But soon, you’ll change loops’ pitch and time in real-time, too.

Maschine has been guided by focusing on certain means of working, ignoring others. The hardware/software combination from the start began with an MPC-style sampling workflow and drum machine features, and it’s added from there – eventually getting features like more elaborate pattern generation and editing, drum synths, more sound tools, and deeper arrangement powers.

But hang on – that’s not really an excuse for not doing time stretching. Real-time time stretching has been a feature on many similar hardware and software tools.

Now, it’s sort of nice that Maschine isn’t Ableton Live. In fact, it’s so nice that the combination of the two is one of the most common use cases for Maschine. But it’s so expected that you’d be able to work with changing pitch and time independently with loops, that it’s almost distracting when it isn’t there.

So, Maschine 2.7 adds that functionality. In addition to the existing Sampler, which lets you trigger sounds and loops and slice audio into chunks, there’s now an Audio plug-in device you can add to your projects. Audio will play loops in time with the project, and has the ability to time stretch in real-time.

The features we’re getting:

Real-time time stretching keeps loops in time with a project, without changing pitch

Loop hot swapping lets you change loops as you play – apparently without missing a beat, so you can audition lots of different loops or trigger different loops on the fly

Gate Mode lets you play a loop just by hitting a pad

Melodic re-pitching lets you change pitch in Gate Mode of a whole loop or portion of a loop, just by playing pads

Gate Mode: trigger loops, change pitch, from pads.

More discussion on the NI blog.

The combination of pads and Gate Mode sounds really performer-friendly, and different from what you see elsewhere. That’s crucial, because since you can already do a lot of this in other tools, you need some reason to do it in Maschine.

I’m eager to get my hands on this and test it. It’s funny, I had some samples I wanted to play around with in the studio just before I saw this, and decided not to use Maschine because, well, this was missing. But because the pads on the Maschine MK3 hardware feel really, really great, and because sometimes you want to get hands-on with material using something other than the mouse, I’m intrigued by this. I find this sort of way of working can often generate different ideas. I’m sure a lot of you feel the same way. Actually, I know you do, because you’ve been yelling at NI to do this since the start. It looks like the wait might pay off with a unique, reflective implementation.

We’ll know soon enough – stay tuned.

The old way of doing things: the Sampling workflow:

The post Maschine will finally get time stretching, melodic shifting for loops appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Get a terrific Little Plate reverb from Soundtoys, free

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 8 Nov 2017 8:39 pm

Soundtoys are on a short list of the best plug-in developers out there. Now through Nov. 22, you get their model of the classic EMT 140 plate, for free.

That seems a little dangerous. The EMT 140 is a versatile enough plate that … it’s tough sometimes to use anything else. There’s an exceptionally good set of models from Universal Audio I use all the time, which have three different plate models included. But the Soundtoys rendition is good enough to use right alongside, thanks to some clever design additions.

There’s delay times up to infinite reverb, for one. (There’s your next ambient project, sorted.)

And doubly useful, since the 140 was never intended to go beyond five seconds, there’s also a crucial mod switch that fattens up and varies those reflections.

This plus an all-important low cut filter.

I’m obligated to tell you that while this is free, it does require an ilok.com account. Don’t panic, though – those have been far more reliable these days. You don’t need a dongle, and very often ilok is more convenient and responsive than third-party plug-in developers rolling their own authentication systems (depending on the case). Of course, it’s up to you.



The post Get a terrific Little Plate reverb from Soundtoys, free appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Two sequenced Max for Live devices go off the usual grid

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 7 Nov 2017 12:03 am

Will a step sequencer be a tool just for expected repetition? Or can it take you somewhere different? A series called “Out Of Grid” aims for the latter.

There are certainly plenty of step sequencers and sequenced devices for Max for Live, let alone for music software in general. The angle in MOOR and Twistor is to help you produce more pattern variation and irregularity right from the get-go. The notion: 16 steps? Two bars? Why not change step length and randomize steps and set custom dividers and multipliers? And why not play all of that in real-time?

The two tools for Max for Live come from K-Devices and composer-founder Alessio Santini, who has already been busy making oddball music tools for Live and iOS.

You’ll probably want to crack the manual, unless you’re just going for straight-up IDM chaos. But once you do, you’ll discover that Cardassian-like user interface belies some clever tools for getting you out of the usual step-by-step monotony. There are two tools: MOOR is a mono step sequencer for creating patterns of notes, and Twistor outputs modulation to other bits of Ableton Live. That is, MOOR won’t make any sound until you hook it up to a soft synth, and Twistor only when you wire up parameters of some other device. But then, you’re given a wealth of options for mangling the patterns as you create them.

The center of Moor’s interface will look immediately familiar: it’s just the vanilla steps with note values. Where the irregularity comes in is, you can then opt for different time divisions, and a global multiplier for arbitrarily modulating the overall length. You can do that live, including with automation, making for some crazy possibilities. If a global multiplier and timing division weren’t enough, you can additionally modulate individual steps as a percentage of the whole.

Oh yeah, and the playhead doesn’t have to move steadily across the sequence, linear style – while it may never have occurred to you before to even try this, you can opt for exponential or logarithmic curves, too. There are per-step chance values and extensive randomization options.

Basically, even if you start mashing around the controls or load some of the many included presets, you can immediately start producing mangled, complex patterns.

When you’ve got a pattern you like, you can simply let it run from this Device, or drag and drop MIDI clips to your Session.

Moor spits out mono notes, but its sibling Twistor simply outputs modulation, which you can then use to target the parameter of another Ableton Live device of your choosing. Appropriate to that choice, Twistor also provides various choices for shaping interpolation of the signal between steps.

(Live 10 will bring more modulation routing options, so hopefully K-Devices will consider polyphonic models before that’s out.)

Both tools store snapshots, each of which can also be triggered via automation or MIDI.

So everything can be “played live. Where they’re really fun is once you add a controller then. The easiest way to do that, of course, is Ableton Push. In fact, to me it’s really with Push that this all starts making sense – the whole architecture of K-Devices’ work here is really built around real-time modulation, so getting your hands on the step programming and dialing in variations is perfect.

Whether you’ve something complex in mind or just want to scramble some patterns that have gotten dull, they’re both really compelling tools. Moor is US$34; Twistor is $22.

I’ve been playing with them a bit. If you always loved messing with step sequencer chance and length parameters, these are definitely for you.

CDM special: K-Devices wrote to offer up a special discount coupon for CDM readers. Through Monday, November 13, though, you get a special discount off the bundle. Add both products, then enter that code on checkout, and the two are discounted to 29€˘instead of 39€.

Code: koog17

More: www.k-devices.com

The post Two sequenced Max for Live devices go off the usual grid appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Ableton Live 10 in depth: hands-on impressions, what’s new

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 2 Nov 2017 12:27 pm

Live 10 adds a tasty new synth and delay effect, an updated look, and many more small details. We’ve had it now a few weeks; here’s a look at what’s new.

What’s the story behind 10?

It’s tough for updates of mature music production software to keep us happy. On one hand, we’ve all got a big list of stuff we want to see improved, fixed, added – and that list tends to get longer. On the other hand, we don’t want any major changes to disrupt how we work, break our existing projects, or lead the tool away from why we chose to use it in the first place.

What Live 10 does is to focus on making a lot of little changes that have a big impact on how you interact with the interface, in editing, arranging, and finishing tracks. There’s more and clearer visual feedback and editing behaviors, on screen and on Push.

In other words, imagine it’s a studio overhaul that did some cleaning, renovating, and reorganizing. And like a studio reorganization, you’ve also added some new gear – in the form of new devices called Echo, Wavetable, Drum Buss, and Pedal.

Photo courtesy Ableton.

An updated interface

Ableton has doggedly resisted messing much with its minimal interface. And sure enough, the biggest Live makeover yet is – actually pretty subtle. Those just get more useful as you dig.

So, on the surface, you can instantly see some new colors (now organized in “themes”), including some much more consistent darker themes. And there’s the new Ableton Sans font.

On high-density screens or as you scale, you’ll notice still more improvements – particularly around vectors like knobs. Windows users also get specialized HiDPI support – crucial since the PC platform otherwise doesn’t work as seamlessly as Retina displays on Mac. There’s also a Pen Tablet mode, which works with graphic tablets as well as tablet PCs, though I didn’t get to test it yet.

Scaled up, you can see the impact of that new font and lots of precise details (even a tiny notch indicator on the knobs).

Lots of little details like these add up to being able to more clearly see what you’re doing – sometimes even without noticing why you’re suddenly working faster. Ironically, this is probably the biggest UI overhaul Live has ever had – and yet you won’t really notice it, which is sort of the point.

Capture: Never miss an idea

The new transport – your challenge is to try to recognize it over someone’s shoulder in a club. That dotted rectangle icon on the right is significant.

So, there’s a funny mystery to the universe: the moment you hit the record button, all your creative ideas go away. Also, if you aren’t recording, you’ll suddenly play something ingenious – and then immediately forget it.

“Capture” is a way around this – it listens in on any connected MIDI input on armed/monitored tracks. Just played something on the keyboard you like? Hit the Capture button, and it turns instantly into a clip – no recording needed. (You can do this from Push, too; it seems inevitable that a Push 3 will have a dedicated button, but for now the Record and New buttons will do.)

Arrangement and Automation

The Arrangement View is the reason I think you’ll want to update to Live 10. It’s now finally easier to edit, arrange, and automate your projects. And here, it seems like they were watching over our shoulders, adding in features we had been looking for (shown with shortcuts):

  • Stretch Arrangement audio clips directly. (Shift-drag the border)
  • Slide the contents of an Arrangement clip directly, by dragging. (Alt-shift/Ctrl-Shift)
  • Reverse a selected bit of time, or part of a clip. (R)
  • Activate/deactivate just a portion of a clip, if you select only part of it.
  • Move clips by dragging the upper half of the clip.
  • Double-click on a MIDI track to create a MIDI clip.
  • Minimize all tracks at once, aka “Show All Tracks.” (S)
  • Zoom to and from a time selection. (Z/shift-Z)
  • Zoom tracks by scrolling with (alt), (cmd/ctrl) vertically

At last – view more than one MIDI clip at a time. Image courtesy Ableton.

The fact that a lot of this is true of other DAWs makes this even more welcome – both because it’s hard to re-train those habits, and because, well, this is a better way for this to work.

In addition to adjusting how you edit that content directly, Ableton has also made the whole view far more sensible by separating out automation – those “rubber-band” line segments that control changes to device parameters and mix settings. Now, you can hide or show all automation lanes via a global Automation button (or hit ‘A’).

This makes adding fades and cross-fades easier, too. You can always just drag from the corner of a clip to create fades.

Things you wished you could do previously suddenly magically start working: like you can double-click anywhere and make an automation breakpoint (not just on the envelope itself).

Oh yeah, and finally: “It is now possible to move automation segments horizontally.” (People who have been next to me in the studio while editing know that I tended to use … colorful language … in past versions over this.)

Many other DAWs work in similar ways to this already, but Ableton has managed to add these features without messing too much with its own distinctive interface. And that means you’ll adjust I think very quickly – ironically both if you were doing most of your editing in Live, and if you weren’t (because you found the absence of these things frustrating).

There are lots of other subtle helpers and visual feedback that make it easier to select, edit, and move breakpoints as you’re working. So there’s nothing new here in the sense of the addition of fade curves – just everything works better.

Small details abound – fades are always accessible at clip corners, cursors change more clearly so you’re aware of how you’re editing, and — even little stuff like this visual feedback on breakpoints can be a big help.

One thing that wasn’t changed here: you still can’t edit MIDI events directly in the Arrangement View lanes. But at last, you can edit multiple MIDI clips at the same time – both in Arrangement and Session. That’s beautifully implemented, and at last stops all this hunting in and out of clips when you’re editing. That may be a better solution, on balance.

Wavetable, the new Ableton synth. Looks impressive with everything expanded, but it retains a simple interface. Image courtesy Ableton.


Finally, Operator has a worthy sequel – a synth that feels truly native to Ableton Live.

And it’s about the most flexible synth you could wish for. It’s also more approachable than Operator’s FM (frequency modulation) synthesis – even though that design, conceived by Ableton co-founder Robert Henke, made FM easier to understand. By contrast, Wavetable is a synth that almost dares you to dive in without reading the manual.

Bride of Operator: classic Wavetable architecture, simple design, but with interesting twists. Note the Sub oscillator at left, Unison modes at right.

Wavetable synthesis is all about starting with an interesting waveform, then adding modulation and moving through that waveform. Animations show you how that works, even if you’ve never done it before. (Waldorf’s synths do that beautifully on the iPad, built by Wolfgang Palm, the man who perfected the technique. That seems to have influenced the design here, but — imagine it far simpler, more compact, flat, and Ableton-y.)

From there, you can add filters and modulation in a terrifically straightforward way. Filters look the way they do elsewhere in the software – you’ve got two multimode filters to apply as you like. Choosing some different filter models and adding drive will dirty up what is otherwise a very pristine-sounding instrument.

There’s also an easy modulation matrix, if a simple one. And you can pop out envelopes and LFOs (modulation sources) when you want more real estate.

The deal is sealed for me by the Unison modes – that Shimmer is lovely – which thicken up the sound of each note by using multiple oscillators. And there’s a sub oscillator, making this an excellent bass synth.

With the use of the various wavetables, different filters with drive, and unison modes, you can very quickly get away from sounds that are too clean or too clinical, which for me was always missing on Operator.

On paper, the whole thing honestly looks boring. But those filter models, the fact that you can route the two oscillators together or in parallel, those filter models (which you may already know from Live 9’s revamped Simpler), and those unison modes… oh, those unison modes… (Just trust me on that.)

It’s fun to design sounds on-screen, but even more fun with Ableton Push, as all those visualizations now map perfectly to the displays, and the encoders are ready for hands-on control.

In the end, it’s exactly what you want a built-in Ableton Live synth to me. It’s easy, it’s consistent – but it’s got personality, and it isn’t limiting.

Echo: a single device bringing together a lot of the digital and tape delay sounds you’d want, all in one consistent interface.


Wavetable is great, but … might not sway you if you’ve already got a stable of synths you love. Echo, on the other hand, is irresistible.

Echo almost made me forget everything else I planned to work on on this review, because suddenly I had a bunch of tracks just based on Echo.

We’re spoiled for choice now when it comes to delay effects. Native Instruments’ Replika XT is exceptional, just to name one. Universal Audio and the like have beautiful models of analog classics. Eventide have brought their whole arsenal of delays. Surreal Machines have some especially brilliant models.

I happen to use all of these. And even I have use for Echo.

The genius of Echo is really that it seems to merge a lot of different kinds of delays and echo effects into a single unit, and then let you morph between them relatively seamlessly.

You get two delay lines, which can run free or synced. These then operate in stereo, ping pong left to right, or mid/side. There’s also a reverb you can add pre or post delay.

The Modulation section is here things get interesting. You can modulate both delay times and filter frequencies, for some pretty far-out effects, and even morph between an envelope follower and modulation.

Modulation – route this to the delay itself as well as the filter.

That would already be enough, but there’s more. Using the “Character” modules, you can add Noise and Wobble effects – simulating tape – as well as dynamic controls (Gate, Ducking).

The “oh, maybe I’m a Space Echo, too” and “let’s change this around with dynamics” section. Or, uh, “Character.”

The upshot of all of this is, you get a uniquely Ableton-y delay with a character that ranges fully from subtle to out-the-starcraft-airlock, digital and clean to old and grimy. I happened to have some stems I’d made with a real Roland Space Echo, and I was able to produce some effects that were pretty close. This is … much lighter to carry around. But beyond that, I could morph the same sorts of effects back into software territory, and anywhere in between.

It’s terrific for any kind of sound design, as well as dubby and dance-y stuff. It’s about the most invaluable effect I could imagine them adding – and like Wavetable, it manages to root itself in classic gear without being overly nostalgic or overly complicated.

Don’t overlook the Drum Bass and Pedal effects. Pedal may not look like, well, anything – but it sounds amazing.

Drum Buss and Pedal

Echo isn’t the only effect – there are two more, Drum Buss (not a typo) and Pedal.

Drum Buss is a multi-effects processor with distortion, compressor, low-frequency “Boom,” transient shaping, and high frequency dampening. Now, the “Drum” part is meant to indicate that you can warm up, thicken, and compress/glue drum sounds together. But even though a lot of this was already available elsewhere in Live, the combination of these elements and new additions all in one device make it useful – and not just for drums.

Pedal is one you’ll probably overlook, but shouldn’t. It looks homely. It sounds… surprisingly amazing. That gnarly distortion, overdrive, and fuzz are actually more useful than all the previous Softube stuff combined, all with dangerous one-knob access. I’ve been destroying drum and synth sounds with them. Don’t be surprised if you start smearing on eyeshadow and sleeping in a coffin during the day. It’s worth it.

Oh yeah, and put Echo and Drum Buss and Pedal together… even with Wavetable? Indeed.

Visualizations now show up on Push. Image courtesy Ableton, because … I’m lazy and my desk is a mess?

What’s new for Push?

All these other changes should silence anyone who thinks Ableton are only making enhancements for their Push hardware customers.

But if you are a Push hardware customers, you do get a lot, too. There are tons of little fixes and additions. Some standouts:

On Push 2, you can now visualize lots more stuff – EQ Eight filter bands, Compressor, envelopes, and more are all visible, plus notes in MIDI clips.

There’s now a note layout mode for Push, combining step sequencing and note access. On the top, you get a 32-step sequencer, on the bottom, 32 notes. This was a convenient feature on the (smaller) Novation Circuit; it works really beautifully on an 8×8 layout.

MIDI notes on Push 2. (Push 1 users get lots of little enhancements, too, though, so don’t feel left out.)

Everything else in a nutshell

Groups inside groups for better organization. Image courtesy Ableton.

Nest Groups inside other Groups. Useful for drums in particular, this is apparently an oft-requested featured. I agree that it’s cool, so I will resist the urge to make an Xzibit meme.

Install Packs inside Live. No more trips to the Website for sound packs – you can do it in the Browser. (note that this only works for Ableton-provided Packs; others install as before)

Better Browser organization. Color-code entries. Make your own Collections (really nice if you’re doing a lot of sound design).

You can export more easily. WAV, AIFF, FLAC, WavPack export, MP3 export, and – finally – you can export MP3 and WAV at the same time.

Saving doesn’t clear the Undo history. Good.

It’s faster. Two examples: large Live sets now close 5-10 times faster, and samples load a lot faster. All around, it definitely feels snappier.

Max for Live is more integrated. Bundled in Live, loads at startup.

Double-click to reset knobs and sliders. Another “finally.”

Split stereo option for pan.

More flexible audio routing. Drum Rack pads can be routed to the return of the parent. You can also support multiple audio inputs and outputs inside Max for Live, which opens up lots of new possibilities (including multichannel/surround applications), and route to arbitrary tracks via the Live API.

Zoom and scroll! More vertical zooming of tracks, but also horizontal scrolling on Windows (not just Mac), using your trackpad or mousewheel in Simpler and Sampler and Detail View and Arrangement… and Detail View now zooms as you expect.

Set names for inputs and outputs. Good lord, at last!

Updated metronome drop down.

Set metronome settings like sounds and interval and when to click, right from the context menu on the transport.

What isn’t in this update

To me, Ableton Live still has two big weaknesses.

First Live just isn’t a terribly convenient scoring tool, because of a lack of convenient video display and management of markers. This might seem an odd thing to point out, but it’s something I hear with some frequency from users, and I find it’s a frequent reason people choose a different host.

Second, Ableton’s controller customization is still a nightmare. Even basic MIDI features implemented back in Live 1.5 haven’t gotten a look lately – it’s still really tough to edit MIDI CC assignments. (The inability to type in custom CC numbers, for instance, is … kind of weird.) And while the whole notion of unique controllers for Ableton Live came from DIY projects and the community, there’s still no open, accessible interface for making your own controller mappings. Ableton may point to Max for Live as the solution, but that’s actually even clunkier to use in practice than the Python API that predates it. A consistent API could greatly expand the range and imagination with which people use Live as an instrument – and “sequencing instrument,” the moniker used by Live 1.0, is someho even more relevant today.

It also seems the time is approaching soon when Live will want to be more agnostic about multichannel outputs and less stereo-centric.

But these are all worth mentioning as they’re areas for possible future growth. I think Ableton have addressed a lot of what users most wanted.


The real test of any upgrade is – once you’ve updated, would you be able to go back? I can say very precisely, no. Normally, I keep a beta running side-by-side with the stable release. With Live 10, for the first time, I just couldn’t bring myself to look backward, not once.

Plenty of DAW upgrades introduce splashy new features. Live 10 ought to be commended for focusing on the details of how you interact with the software, from recording and capturing ideas to arranging them, and all the visual feedback you get along the way – whether on Ableton’s own Push hardware or just on your screen. What’s really nice about a lot of this is, once you upgrade, you’ll stop noticing it’s there. You’ll just experience less resistance from the software as you work.

And the devices have a similar feel: Echo and Wavetable are two that you simply won’t want to give up. They feel totally native to Live and have a character all their own – a bit like you’ve added two nice pieces of hardware to your studio.

Live 10 isn’t likely to win over a lot of new converts, I think, but that isn’t the point. It’s an upgrade that should just make Live’s enormous user base happy. And if you’re behind in upgrading, now might be a great time.

We’ll look more in detail in the coming days and weeks at how to make Live 10 as productive as possible in your music making. Let us know if you have any questions or interests.

Disclaimer: I’m working with a prerelease version of the software. This isn’t yet a comment on stability – though I didn’t have any issues with performance, reliability, or functionality. The only thing I found was, on Windows 10, I had to set the systemwide default scaling to 100% for some third-party plug-ins to work properly. Your mileage may vary; we’ll check in on the final release.

Official Ableton site

The post Ableton Live 10 in depth: hands-on impressions, what’s new appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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