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


Master your Roland TR-8S drum machine settings with a plug-in editor

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 14 Jan 2019 5:38 pm

Roland’s TR-8S added loads of parameters for shaping drum kits and effects. Now you can get at all of those without diving through menus with this VST/AU plug-in – and keep your drum machine settings stored with your project.

Hardware is great, but it introduces two problems. First, there are inevitably some parameters buried in menus that are hard to reach on the front panel, no matter how many knobs and faders makers add. Second, stuff you do on the hardware is likely to get out of sync with your DAW, leading to that invariable “what the Hell was this supposed to be?” feeling when you power things up. (Okay, sometimes that leads to happy accidents. Sometimes it just leads to misery.)

Momo Miller has been trucking through the full Roland range (plus KORG and Novation Circuit). He’s been adding plug-ins for just this reason. You get more accessible editing and control, and your settings stay inside your DAW projects for easy recall.

Now, first, what this isn’t: it isn’t a full-blown editor for the TR-8S. And it’s a shame, given Roland Cloud, that the manufacturer didn’t provide one. That also means loading custom samples on the TR-8S is a manual affair. This unofficial editor isn’t able to load sample files. And you don’t get full access to all of the TR-8S’ hidden parameters, like the deep settings per kit. So, Roland, if you’re listening – please, give us that.

You do, however, get a lot of access to parameters per sound and kit – basically, anything that has a MIDI CC assignment. And you can still save your changes on the hardware, for anything this controls. Plus you can save parameters separately in software. And there are some useful performance controller mappings.

Here’s what you get:

  • Full access to TR-8S parameters (as accessible via MIDI)
  • Control effects via custom-mapped X/Y performance controllers
  • Automation of parameters inside your DAW
  • Save parameter data with your DAW – including which kit was selected, which is invaluable on its own
  • Interactive visual display
  • 32-bit and 64-bit VST (Windows, Mac) AU (Mac) and standalone (Windows, Mac) versions

Have a look:

Price: 5,90€ / US$6.90

TR-8S editor/controller

The post Master your Roland TR-8S drum machine settings with a plug-in editor appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Reloop’s new RP-8000 MK2: instrumental pitch control, Serato integration

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 10 Jan 2019 6:20 pm

Like the relaunched Technics 1200, the new Reloop decks sport digitally controlled motors. But Reloop have gone somewhere very different from Technics: platters that can be controlled at a full range of pitches, and even play scales. And the RP-8000 MK2 is a MIDI controller, too, for Serato and other software.

Oh yeah, and one other thing – Reloop as always is more affordable – a pair of RP-8000 MK2s costs the same as one SL-1200 MK7. (One deck is EUR600 / USD700 / GBP525).

And there’s a trend beyond these decks. Mechanical engineers rejoice – the age of the motor is here.

238668 Reloop RP-8000 MK2

We’re seeing digitally controlled motors for haptic feedback, as on the new Native Instruments S4 DJ controllers. And we’re seeing digital control on motors providing greater reliability, more precision, and broader ranges of speed on conventional turntables.

So digitally controlled motors were what Technics was boasting earlier this week with their SL-1200 MK7, which they say borrows from Blu-Ray drive technology (Technics is a Panasonic brand).

Reloop have gone one step further on the RP-8000 MK2. “Platter Play” rotates the turntable platter at different speeds to produce different pitches – rapidly. You can use the colored pads on the turntable, or connect an external MIDI keyboard.

That gives the pads a new life, as something integral to the turntable instead of just a set of triggers for software. (I’m checking with Reloop to find out if the performance pads require Serato to work, but either way, they do actually impact the platter rotation – it’s a physical result.)

238668 Reloop RP-8000 MK2

Serato and Reloop have built a close relationship with turntablists; this lets them build the vinyl deck into a more versatile instrument. It’s still an analog/mechanical device, but with a greater range of playing options thanks to digital tech under the hook. Call it digital-kinetic-mechanical.

Also digital: the pitch fader Reloop. (Reloop call it “high-resolution.”) Set it to +- 8% (hello Technics-style pitch), or +/- 16% for a wider range (hello, Romanian techno, -16%), or an insane +/- 50%. That’s the actual platter speed we’re talking here. (Makes sense – platters on CDs and Blu-Ray spin far, far faster.)

With quartz lock on, the same mechanism will simply play your records more accurately at a steady pitch (0%).

The pitch fader and motor mechanism are both available on the RP-7000 MK2, for more traditional turntable operation The performance pad melodic control is on the 8000, the one intended for Serato users.

Serato integration

I expect some people want their controller and their deck separate – playing vinyl means bringing actual vinyl records, and playing digital means using a controller and computer, or for many people, just a USB stick and CDJs.

If you want that, you can grab the RP-7000 MK2 for just 500 bucks a deck, minus the controller features.

On the RP-8000 MK2, you get a deck that adds digital features you’ve seen on controllers and CDJs directly on the deck. As on the original RP-8000, Reloop are the first to offer Serato integration. And it’s implemented as MIDI, so you can work with third-party software as well. The market is obviously DVS users.

The original RP offered Cue, Loop, Sample and Slicer modes with triggers on the left-hand side. Plus you get a digital readout above the pitch fader.

On the MK2, the numeric display gives you even more feedback: pitch, BPM, deck assignment, scales and notes, elapsed/remaining time of current track, plus firmware settings.

New playback and platter control options on the Reloop RP-8000 MK2.

The pads have new performance modes, too: Cue, Sampler, Saved Loops, Pitch Play, Loop, Loop Roll, Slicer, and two user-assignable modes (for whatever functions you want).

Reloop have also upgraded the tone arm base for greater reliability and more adjustments.

And those performance modes look great – 22 scales and 34 notes, plus up to 9 user-defined scales.

For more integration, Reloop are also offering the Reloop Elite, a DVS-focused mixer with a bunch of I/O, displays that integrate with the software, and more RGB-colored performance triggers and other shortcuts.

https://www.reloop.com/reloop-elite

One of these things is not like the others: the new kit still requires a laptop to run Serato.

If I had any complaint, it’s this: when will Serato do their own standalone embedded hardware in place of the computer? I know many DJs are glad to bring a computer – and Reloop claims the controls on the deck eliminate the need for a standalone controller (plus they have that new mixer with still more Serato integration). But it seems still a bummer to have to buy and maintain a PC or Mac laptop as part of the deal. And if you’re laying out a couple grand on hardware, wouldn’t you be willing to buy an embedded solution that let you work without a computer? (Especially since Serato is an integrated environment, and would run on embedded machines. Why not stick an ARM board in there to run those displays and just read your music off USB?)

As for Reloop, they’re totally killing it with affordable turntables. If you just want some vinyl playback and basic DJing for your home or studio, in December they also unveiled the RP-2000 USB MK2. USB interface (for digitization or DVS control), direct drive control (so you can scratch on it), under 300 bucks.

https://www.reloop.com/

Previously in phonographs:

The Technics SL-1200 is back, and this time for DJs again

The post Reloop’s new RP-8000 MK2: instrumental pitch control, Serato integration appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

What could make APC Live, MPC cool: Akai’s new software direction

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 2 Jan 2019 11:01 pm

Akai tipped their hand late last year that they were moving more toward live performance. With APC Live hardware leaked and in the wild, maybe it’s time to take another look. MPC software improvements might interest you with or without new hardware.

MPC 2.3 software dropped mid-November. We missed talking about it at the time. But now that we’re (reasonably certain, unofficially) that Akai is releasing new hardware, it puts this update in a new light. Background on that:

APC as standalone hardware? Leaked Akai APC Live

Whether or not the leaked APC Live hardware appeals to you, Akai are clearly moving their software in some new directions – which is relevant whatever hardware you choose. We don’t yet know if the MPC Live hardware will get access to the APC Live’s Matrix Mode, but it seems a reasonable bet some if not all of the APC Live features are bound for MPC Live, too.

And MPC 2.3 added major new live performance features, as well as significant internal synths, to that standalone package. Having that built in means you get it even without a computer.

New in 2.3:

Three synths:

  • A vintage-style, modeled analog polysynth
  • A bass synth
  • A tweakable, physically modeled electric piano

Tubesynth – an analog poly.

Electric’s physically-modeled keys.

Electric inside the MPC Live environment.

As with NI’s Maschine, each of those can be played from chords and scales with the pads mode. But Maschine requires a laptop, of course – MPC Live doesn’t.

A new arpeggiator, with four modes of operation, ranging from traditional vintage-style arp to more modern, advanced pattern playback

And there’s an “auto-sampler.”

That auto-sampler looks even more relevant when you see the APC Live. On MPC Live (and by extension APC Live), you can sample external synths, sample VST plug-ins, and even capture outboard CV patches.

Of course, this is a big deal for live performance. Plug-ins won’t work in standalone mode – and can be CPU hogs, anyway – so you can conveniently capture what you’re doing. Got some big, valuable vintage gear or a modular setup you don’t to take to the gig? Same deal. And then this box gives you the thing modular instruments don’t do terribly well – saving and recalling settings – since you can record and restore those via the control voltage I/O (also found on that new APC Live). The auto-sampler is an all-in-one solution for making your performances more portable.

Full details of the 2.3 update – though I expect we’ve got even more new stuff around the corner:

http://www.akaipro.com/pages/mpc-2.3-desktop-software-and-firmware-update

With or without the APC Live, you get the picture. While Ableton and Native Instruments focus on studio production and leave you dependent on the computer, Akai’s angle is creating an integrated package you can play live with – like, onstage.

Sure enough, Akai have been picking up large acts to their MPC Live solution, too – John Mayer, Metallica, and Chvrches all got named dropped. Of those, let’s check out Chvrches – 18 minutes in, the MPC Live gets showcased nicely:

It makes sense Akai would come to rely on its own software. When Akai and Novation released their first controllers for Ableton Live, Ableton had no hardware of their own, which changed with Push. But of course even the first APC invoked the legendary MPC legacy – and Akai has for years been working on bringing desktop software functionality to the MPC name. So, while some of us (me included) first suspected a standalone APC Live might mean a collaboration with Ableton, it does make more sense that it’s a fully independent Akai-made, MPC-style tool.

It also makes sense that this means, for now, more internal functionality. (The manual reference to “plugins” in the APC Live manual that leaked probably means those internal instruments and effects.) That has more predictability as far as resource consumption, and means avoiding the licensing issues necessary and the like to run plug-ins in embedded Linux. This could change, by the way – Propellerhead’s Rack Extensions format now is easily portable to ARM processors, for example – but that’s another story. As far as VST, AU, and AAX, portability to embedded hardware is still problematic.

The upshot of this, though, is that InMusic at least has a strategy for hardware that functions on its own – not just as a couple of one-off MPC pieces, but in terms of integrated hardware/software development across a full product line. Native Instruments, Ableton, and others might be working on something like that that lets you untether from the computer, but InMusic is shipping now, and they aren’t.

Now the question is whether InMusic can capitalize on its MPC legacy and the affection for the MPC and APC brands and workflows – and get people to switch from other solutions.

The post What could make APC Live, MPC cool: Akai’s new software direction appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Hands-on: Complex-1 puts West Coast-inspired modular in Reason

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 18 Dec 2018 1:53 pm

Propellerhead has unveiled a modular instrument add-on for Reason, Complex-1. It puts a patchable, West Coast-inspired synth inside the already patchable Reason environment – and it sounds fabulous.

Complex-1 is a monophonic modular synth delivered as a Rack Extension, available now. What you get is a selection of modules, with a combination of Buchla- and Moog-inspired synths, and some twists from Propellerhead. You can patch these right on the front panel – not the back panel as you normally would in Reason – and combine the results with your existing Reason rack. The ensemble is very West Coast-ish, as in Buchla-inspired, but also with some unique character of its own and modern twists and amenities you would expect now.

Propellerhead have also a lot of design decisions that allow you to easily patch anything to anything, which is great for happy mistakes and unusual sounds – for beginners or advanced users alike. The three oscillators each have ranges large enough to act as modulation sources, and to tune paraphonic setups if you so wish.

Prepare to get lost in this: the recent Quad Note Generator is a perfect pairing with Complex-1.

What’s inside:
Complex Osc This is the most directly Buchla-like module – subsonic to ultrasonic range, FM & AM, and lots of choices for shaping its dual oscillators.

Noise source, OSC 3 Noise sources including red, plus an additional oscillator (OSC 3) with a range large enough to double as a modulation source.

Comb delay If the Complex Osc didn’t get you, the comb delay should – you can use this for string models by tuning the delay with feedback, as well as all the usual comb delay business.

Filter Here’s the East Coast ingredient – a Moog-style ladder filter with drive, plus both high pass and low pass outputs you can use simultaneously.

Low Pass Gates Two LPGs (envelope + filter you can trigger) give you more West Coast-style options, including envelope follower functions.

Shaper Distortion, wavefolding, and whatnot.

More modules: LFO, ADSR envelope, output mixer, plus a really handy Mix unit, Lag, Scale & amp, Clock & LFO + Clock 2. There’s also a useful oscilloscope.

Sequencer plus Quant: You can easily use step sequencers from around Reason, but there’s also a step sequencer in Complex-1 itself, useful for storing integrated patches. Quant also lets you tune to a range of scales.

Function: A lot of the hidden power of Complex-1 is here – there’s a function module with various algorithms.

Yes, you can make complex patches with Complex-1.

The dual advantages of Complex-1: one, it’s an integrated instrument all its own, but two, it can live inside the existing Reason environment.

I’ve had my hands on Complex-1 since I visited Propellerhead HQ last week and walked through a late build last week. Full disclosure: I was not immediately convinced this was something I needed personally. The thing is, we’re spoiled for choice, and software lovers are budget-minded. So while a hundred bucks barely buys you one module in the hardware world, in software, it buys a heck of a lot. That’s the entry price for Softube Modular, for VCV Rack and a couple of nice add-ons, and for Cherry Audio’s Voltage Modular (at least at its current sale price, with a big bundle of extras).

Not to mention, Reason itself is a modular environment.

But there are a few things that make Complex-1 really special.

It’s a complete, integrated modular rig. This is important – VCV Rack, Softube Modular, Voltage Modular, and Reason itself are all fun because you can mix and match modules.

But it’s creatively inspiring to work with Complex-1 for the opposite reason. You have a fixed selection of modules, with some basic workflows already in mind. It immediately takes me back to the first vintage Buchla system I worked on for that reason. You still have expansive possibilities, but within something that feels like an instrument – modular patching, but not the added step of choosing which modules. The team at Propellerhead talked about their admiration for the Buchla Music Easel. This isn’t an emulation of that – Arturia have a nice Music Easel in software if that’s what you want – but rather takes that same feeling of focusing on a toolkit and provides a modern, Propellerhead-style take on the concept.

It sounds fantastic. This one’s hard to overstate, so it’s better to just go give the trial a spin. In terms of specs, Propellerhead points to their own DSP and 4X oversampling everywhere. In practice, it means even just a stupidly-simple patch with raw oscillators sounds gorgeous and lush. I love digital sounds and aliasing and so on, but… it’s nice to have this end of the spectrum, too. You get a weird, uncanny feeling of lying in bed with a laptop and some studio headphones and hearing your own music as if it’s a long-lost 1970s electronic classic. It’s almost too easy to sound good. Tell your friends you’ll see them in the spring because for now you want to spend some time along pretending you’re Laurie Spiegel.

It lives inside Reason. The other reality is, it’s really fun having this inside Reason, where you can combine your patches into Combinators and work with all the other pattern sequencers and effects and whatnot. You can also make elaborate polysynths by stacking instances of Complex-1.

There’s basic CV and audio interconnectivity with your rack. This may look meager at first, but I found this in addition to the Combinator opens a lot of possibilities, especially for playing live/improvising.

You get loads of presets, of course, which will appeal to those not wanting to get lost in patching. But I also welcome that Propellerhead included a set of basic templates as starting points for those who do want to explore.

Patching is also really easy, though I miss being able to re-patch from both sides of a cable as in a lot of software modulars. Better is the hide/unhide cables functionality, so you can make the patch cables disappear for easier control of the front panel. (Why don’t all software modulars have this feature, actually?)

You don’t get unlimited patchability between Complex-1 and the rest of Reason. For simplicity, you’re limited to note/MIDI input (from other devices as well as externally), basic CV input and output, and input to the sequencer. There’s also a very useful audio input. That may disappoint some people who wanted more options, though it still provides a lot of power.

Mostly I want to buy a really big touch display for Windows and use that. And with this kind of software out there, I may not be looking at hardware so much. I even expect to use this live.

Some sounds for you (while I work on sharing some of my own):

Complex-1 Rack Extension

Complex-1 in the shop

The post Hands-on: Complex-1 puts West Coast-inspired modular in Reason appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Reason 10.3 will improve VST performance – here’s how

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 14 Dec 2018 3:06 pm

VST brings more choice to Reason, but more support demands, too. Here’s an update on how Propellerhead are optimizing Reason to bring plug-in performance in line with what users expect.

For years, Reason was a walled-off garden. Propellerhead resisted supporting third-party plug-ins, and when they did, introduced their own native Rack Extensions technology for supporting them. That enables more integrated workflows, better user experience, greater stability, and easier installation and updates than a format like VST or AU allows.

But hey, we have a lot of VSTs we want to run inside Reason, engineering arguments be damned. And so Propellerhead finally listened to users, delivering support for VST effects and instruments on Mac and Windows in Reason 9.5. (Currently only VST2 plug-ins are supported, not VST3.)

Propellerhead have been working on improving stability and performance continuously since then. Reason 10.3 is a much-anticipated update, because it addresses a significant performance issue with VST plug-ins – without disrupting one of the things that makes Reason’s native devices work well.

The bad news is, 10.3 is delayed.

The good news is, it works really well. It puts Reason on par with other DAWs as far as VST performance. That’s a big deal to Reason users, just because in many other ways Reason is unlike other DAWs.

I met with Propellerhead engineers yesterday in Stockholm, including Mattias Häggström Gerdt (product manager for Reason). We got to discuss the issue, their whole development effort, and get hands-on with their alpha version.

Why this took a while

Okay, first, some technical discussion. “Real time” is actually not a thing in digital hardware and software. The illusion of a system working in real time is created by buffering – using very small windows of time to pass audio information, so small that the results seem instantaneous to the user.

There’s a buffer size you set for your audio interface – this one you may already know about. But software also have internal buffers for processing, hidden to the user. In a modular environment, you really want this buffer to be as small as possible, so that patching and processing feels reponsive – just as it would if you were using analog hardware. Reason accordingly has an internal buffer of 64 frames to do just that. That means without any interruptions to your audio stream, you can patch and repatch and tweak and play to your heart’s content.

Here’s the catch: some plug-ins developers for design reasons prefer larger buffers (higher latency), in order to reduce CPU consumption even though their plug-in technically work in Reason’s small buffer environment. This is common in plug-ins where ultra-low latency internal processing isn’t as important. But running inside Reason, that approach adds strain to your CPU. Some users won’t notice anything, because they don’t use these plug-ins or use fewer instances of them. But some will see their machine run out of CPU resources faster in Reason than in other DAWs. The result: the same plug-in setup you used in another DAW will make Reason sputter, which is of course not what you want.

Another catch: if you have ever tried adjusting the audio buffer size on your interface to reduce CPU usage, in this case, that won’t help. So users encountering this issue are left frustrated.

This is a fixable problem. You give those plug-ins larger buffers when they demand them, while Reason and its devices continue to work as they always have. It’s just there’s a lot of work going back through all the rest of Reason’s code to adjust for the change. And like a lot of coding work, that takes time. Adding more people doesn’t necessarily even speed this up, either. (Ever tried adding more people to a kitchen to “speed up” cooking dinner? Like that.)

When it’s done, existing Reason users won’t notice anything. But users of the affected plug-ins will see big performance gains.

What to expect when it ships

I sat with the engineers looking at an alpha and we measured CPU usage. The results by plug-in are what you might expect.

We worked with three plug-ins by way of example – charts are here. With Izotope Ozone 7, there’s a massive gain in the new build. That makes sense – a mastering plug-in isn’t so concerned about low latency performance. With Xfer Records Serum, there’s almost none. Native Instruments’ Massive is somewhere in between. These are just typical examples – many other plug-ins will also fall along this range.

Native Instruments’ Massive gets a marginal but significant performance boost. Left: before. Right: after.

iZotope’s Ozone is a more dramatic example. Stack some instances of this mastering-focused plug-in, and you can max out the CPU quickly in Reason. (left) But in Reason 10.3 alpha, you can see the “big batch” approach yields resolves that performance issue. (right)

Those graphs are on the Mac but OS in this case won’t really matter.

The fix is coming to the public. The alpha is not something you want to run; it’s already in the hands of testers who don’t mind working with prerelease softare. A public beta won’t happen in the couple of weeks we have left in 2018, but it is coming soon – as soon as it’s done. And of course 10.3 will be a free upgrade for Reason 10 users.

When it ships, Reason 10.3 will give you performance on par with other DAWs. That is, your performance will depend on your CPU and which plug-ins you’re using, but Reason will be more or less the same as other hosts beyond that.

So this isn’t really exciting stuff, but it will make your life easier. We’ll let you know how it comes and try to test that final version.

Official announcement:

Update on Reason and VST performance

For more on Reason and VST support, see their support section:

Propellerhead Software Rack Extensions, ReFills and VSTs VSTs

The post Reason 10.3 will improve VST performance – here’s how appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Cherry Audio Voltage Modular: a full synth platform, open to developers

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 13 Dec 2018 4:43 pm

Hey, hardware modular – the computer is back. Cherry Audio’s Voltage Modular is another software modular platform. Its angle: be better for users — and now, easier and more open to developers, with a new free tool.

Voltage Modular was shown at the beginning of the year, but its official release came in September – and now is when it’s really hitting its stride. Cherry Audio’s take certainly isn’t alone; see also, in particular, Softube Modular, the open source VCV Rack, and Reason’s Rack Extensions. Each of these supports live patching of audio and control signal, hardware-style interfaces, and has rich third-party support for modules with a store for add-ons. But they’re all also finding their own particular take on the category. That means now is suddenly a really nice time for people interested in modular on computers, whether for the computer’s flexibility, as a supplement to hardware modular, or even just because physical modular is bulky and/or out of budget.

So, what’s special about Voltage Modular?

Easy patching. Audio and control signals can be freely mixed, and there’s even a six-way pop-up multi on every jack, so each jack has tons of routing options. (This is a computer, after all.)

Each jack can pop up to reveal a multi.

It’s polyphonic. This one’s huge – you get true polyphony via patch cables and poly-equipped modules. Again, you know, like a computer.

It’s open to development. There’s now a free Module Designer app (commercial licenses available), and it’s impressively easy to code for. You write DSP in Java, and Cherry Audio say they’ve made it easy to port existing code. The app also looks like it reduces a lot of friction in this regard.

There’s an online store for modules – and already some strong early contenders. You can buy modules, bundles, and presets right inside the app. The mighty PSP Audioware, as well as Vult (who make some of my favorite VCV stuff) are already available in the store.

There’s an online store for free and paid add-ons – modules and presets. But right now, a hundred bucks gets you started with a bunch of stuff right out of the gate.

Voltage Modular is a VST/AU/AAX plug-in and runs standalone. And it supports 64-bit double-precision math with zero-latency module processes – but, impressively in our tests, isn’t so hard on your CPU as some of its rivals.

Right now, Voltage Modular Core + Electro Drums are on sale for just US$99.

Real knobs and patch cords are fun, but … let’s be honest, this is a hell of a lot of fun, too.

For developers

So what about that development side, if that interests you? Well, Apple-style, there’s a 70/30 split in developers’ favor. And it looks really easy to develop on their platform:

Java may be something of a bad word to developers these days, but I talked to Cherry Audio about why they chose it, and it definitely makes some sense here. Apart from being a reasonably friendly language, and having unparalleled support (particularly on the Internet connectivity side), Java solves some of the pitfalls that might make a modular environment full of third-party code unstable. You don’t have to worry about memory management, for one. I can also imagine some wackier, creative applications using Java libraries. (Want to code a MetaSynth-style image-to-sound module, and even pull those images from online APIs? Java makes it easy.)

Just don’t think of “Java” as in legacy Java applications. Here, DSP code runs on a Hotspot virtual machine, so your DSP is actually running as machine language by the time it’s in an end user patch. It seems Cherry have also thought through GUI: the UI is coded natively in C++, while you can create custom graphics like oscilloscopes (again, using just Java on your side). This is similar to the models chosen by VCV and Propellerhead for their own environments, and it suggests a direction for plug-ins that involves far less extra work and greater portability. It’s no stretch to imagine experienced developers porting for multiple modular platforms reasonably easily. Vult of course is already in that category … and their stuff is so good I might almost buy it twice.

Or to put that in fewer words: the VM can match or even best native environments, while saving developers time and trouble.

Cherry also tell us that iOS, Linux, and Android could theoretically be supported in the future using their architecture.

Of course, the big question here is installed user base and whether it’ll justify effort by developers, but at least by reducing friction and work and getting things rolling fairly aggressively, Cherry Audio have a shot at bypassing the chicken-and-egg dangers of trying to launch your own module store. Plus, while this may sound counterintuitive, I actually think that having multiple players in the market may call more attention to the idea of computers as modular tools. And since porting between platforms isn’t so hard (in comparison to VST and AU plug-in architectures), some interested developers may jump on board.

Well, that and there’s the simple matter than in music, us synth nerds love to toy around with this stuff both as end users and as developers. It’s fun and stuff. On that note:

Modulars gone soft

Stay tuned; I’ve got this for testing and will let you know how it goes.

https://cherryaudio.com/voltage-modular

https://cherryaudio.com/voltage-module-designer

The post Cherry Audio Voltage Modular: a full synth platform, open to developers appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

FL Studio 20.1 arrives, studio-er, loop-ier, better

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 12 Dec 2018 9:03 pm

The just-before-the-holiday-break software updates just keep coming. Next: the evergreen, lifetime-free-updates latest release of the DAW the developer calls FL Studio, and everyone else calls “Fruity Loops.”

FL Studio has given people reason to take it more seriously of late, too. There’s a real native Mac version, so FL is no longer a PC-vs-Mac thing. There’s integrated controller hardware from Akai (the new Fire), and that in turn exploits all those quick-access record and step sequence features that made people love FL in the first place.

AKAI Fire and the Mac version might make lapsed or new users interested anew – but hardcore users, this software release is really for you.

The snapshot view:

Does your DAW have a visualizer built on a game engine inside it? No? FL does. And you thought you were going to just have to make your next music video be a bunch of shaky iPhone footage you ran through some weird black and white filter. No!

Stepsequencer looping is back (previously seen in FL 11), but now has more per-channel controls so you can make polyrhythms – or not, lining everything up instead if you’d rather.

Plus if you’re using FIRE hardware, you get options to set channel loop length and the ability to burn to Patterns.

Audio recording is improved, making it easier to arm and record and get audio and pre/post effects where you want.

And there are 55 new minimal kick drum samples.

And now you can display the GUI FPS.

And you have a great way of making music videos by exporting from the included video game engine visualizer.

Actually, you know, I’m just going to stop -t here’s just a whole bunch of new stuff, and you get it for free. And they’ve made a YouTube video. And as you watch the tutorial, it’s evident that FL really has matured into a serious DAW to stand toe-to-toe with everything else, without losing its personality.

https://www.image-line.com/flstudio/

20.1 update

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Bitwig Studio 2.5 beta arrives with features inspired by the community

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 11 Dec 2018 2:37 pm

We’re coasting to the end of 2019, but Bitwig has managed to squeeze in Studio 2.5, with feature the company says were inspired by or directly requested by users.

The most interesting of these adds some interactive arrangement features to the linear side of the DAW. Traditional DAWs like Cubase have offered interactive features, but they generally take place on the timeline. Or you can loop individual regions in most DAWs, but that’s it.

Bitwig are adding interactive actions to the clips themselves, right in the arrangement. “Clip Blocks” apply Next Action features to individual clips.

Also in this release:

“Audio Slide” lets you slide audio inside clips without leaving the arranger. That’s possible in many other DAWs, but it’s definitely a welcome addition in Bitwig Studio – especially because an audio clip can contain multiple audio events, which isn’t necessarily possible elsewhere.

Note FX Selector lets you sweep through multiple layers of MIDI effects. We’ve seen something like this before, too, but this implementation is really nice.

There’s also a new set of 60 Sampler presets with hundreds of full-frequency waveforms – looks great for building up instruments. (This makes me ready to boot into Linux with Bitwig, too, where I don’t necessarily have my full plug-in library at my disposal.)

Other improvements:

  • Browser results by relevance
  • Faster plug-in scanning
  • 50 more functions accessible as user-definable key commands

To me, the thing that makes this newsworthy, and the one to test, is really this notion of an interactive arrangement view.

Ableton pioneered Follow Actions in their Session View years back in Ableton Live, but they’ve failed to apply that concept even inside Session View to scenes. (Some Max for Live hacks fill in the gap, but that only proves that people are looking for this feature.)

Making the arrangement itself interactive at the clip level – that’s really something new.

Now, that said, let’s play with Clip Blocks in Bitwig 2.5 and see if this is helpful or just confusing or superfluous in arrangements. (Presumably you can toy with different arrangement possibilities and then bounce out whatever you’ve chosen? I have to test this myself.) And there’s also the question of whether this much interactivity actually just has you messing around instead of making decisions, but that’s another story.

Go check out the release, and if you’re a Bitwig user, you can immediately try out the beta. Let us know what you think and how those Clip Blocks impact your creative process. (Or share what you make!)

Just please – no EDM tabla. (I think that moment sent a chill of terror down my spine in the demo video.)

https://www.bitwig.com/en/18/bitwig-studio-2_5.html

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You can now add VST support to VCV Rack, the virtual modular

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 27 Nov 2018 4:59 pm

VCV Rack is already a powerful, free modular platform that synth and modular fans will want. But a $30 add-on makes it more powerful when integrating with your current hardware and software – VST plug-in support.

Watch:

It’s called Host, and for $30, it adds full support for VST2 instruments and effects, including the ability to route control, gate, audio, and MIDI to the appropriate places. This is a big deal, because it means you can integrate VST plug-ins with your virtual modular environment, for additional software instruments and effects. And it also means you can work with hardware more easily, because you can add in VST MIDI controller plug-ins. For instance, without our urging, someone just made a MIDI controller plug-in for our own MeeBlip hardware synth (currently not in stock, new hardware coming soon).

You already are able to integrate VCV’s virtual modular with hardware modular using audio and a compatible audio interface (one with DC coupling, like the MOTU range). Now you can also easily integrate outboard MIDI hardware, without having to manually select CC numbers and so on as previously.

Hell, you could go totally crazy and run Softube Modular inside VCV Rack. (Yo dawg, I heard you like modular, so I put a modular inside your modular so you can modulate the modular modular modules. Uh… kids, ask your parents who Xzibit was? Or what MTV was, even?)

What you need to know

Is this part of the free VCV Rack? No. Rack itself is free, but you have to buy “Host” as a US$30 add-on. Still, that means the modular environment and a whole bunch of amazing modules are totally free, so that thirty bucks is pretty easy to swallow!

What plug-ins will work? Plug-ins need to be 64-bit, they need to be VST 2.x (that’s most plugs, but not some recent VST3-only models), and you can run on Windows and Mac.

What can you route? Modular is no fun without patching! So here we go:

There’s Host for instruments – 1v/octave CV for controlling pitch, and gate input for controlling note events. (Forget MIDI and start thinking in voltages for a second here: VCV notes that “When the gate voltages rises, a MIDI note is triggered according to the current 1V/oct signal, rounded to the nearest note. This note is held until the gate falls to 0V.”)

Right now there’s only monophonic input. But you do also get easy access to note velocity and pitch wheel mappings.

Host-FX handles effects, pedals, and processors. Input stereo audio (or mono mapped to stereo), get stereo output. It doesn’t sound like multichannel plug-ins are supported yet.

Both Host and Host-FX let you choose plug-in parameters and map them to CV – just be careful mapping fast modulation signals, as plug-ins aren’t normally built for audio-rate modulation. (We’ll have to play with this and report back on some approaches.)

Will I need a fast computer? Not for MIDI integration, no. But I find the happiness level of VCV Rack – like a lot of recent synth and modular efforts – is directly proportional to people having fast CPUs. (The Windows platform has some affordable options there if Apple is too rich for your blood.)

What platforms? Mac and Windows, it seems. VCV also supports Linux, but there your best bet is probably to add the optional installation of JACK, and … this is really the subject for a different article.

How to record your work

I actually was just pondering this. I’ve been using ReaRoute with Reaper to record VCV Rack on Windows, which for me was the most stable option. But it also makes sense to have a recorder inside the modular environment.

Our friend Chaircrusher recommends the NYSTHI modules for VCV Rack. It’s a huge collection but there’s both a 2-channel and 4-/8-track recorder in there, among many others – see pic:

NYSTHI modules for VCV Rack (free):
https://vcvrack.com/plugins.html#nysthi
https://github.com/nysthi/nysthi/blob/master/README.md

And have fun with the latest Rack updates.

Just remember when adding Host, plug-ins inside a host can cause… stability issues.

But it’s definitely a good excuse to crack open VCV Rack again! And also nice to have this when traveling… a modular studio in your hotel room, without needing a carry-on allowance. Or hide from your family over the holiday and make modular patches. Whatever.

https://vcvrack.com/Host.html

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Universal Audio just made their interfaces into a live vocoder, more

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 14 Nov 2018 8:47 pm

Why would you want near-zero latency on an effect? Well, maybe you want to run something like a vocoder – and that means the latest addition to Universal Audio’s offerings is a big deal.

Universal Audio continues churning out software updates with new analog emulations and other add-ons to buy; 2018 has been a huge year for them. But those effects often don’t come cheap, and they are tied to UA’s own hardware. So one of the selling points of working that way has been that UA offers near-zero latencies, letting you track through those effects. That is, plug-ins are great – until you need real-time performance, since they can add loads of latency.

This is meaningless, of course, if you’re just applying effects to recordings after the fact. But a vocoder is an entirely different story, so I suspect that the new vocoder included in this month’s UA update will matter to a lot of people.

Interesting, UA are so locked in the studio paradigm that they say you’ll want to “track” through the vocoder – record while monitoring. But I imagine this vocoder may find its way onstage. Lots of vocalists perform with laptops for greater flexibility, and the UA vocoder has real-time MIDI and keyboard control.

The new Vocoder comes from Softube, those Swedish masters of emulation, who have made themselves a big name both as a provider to UA and as an independent vendor (including with their own native platform, though it doesn’t provide the same real-time possibilities).

The result is a vocoder that looks promising in the studio and onstage. I need to test this, so disclaimer – this isn’t a review. But here’s what they’re promising.

Any vocoder is a combination of synth and vocal input, by default. Here, you get an emulation of an analog polysynth, and then a number of unique tools specific to this offering.

  • 12-voice polyphonic “carrier” synth (that’s the synth you’ll combine with your vocals)
  • Analog synth emulation
  • Four waveform types, pitch modulation, pulse width modulation (and octave and attack/decay controls)
  • Variable bands – 4-, 8-, 12-, 16-, and 20-band modes – for simpler retro “robotic” effects to richer, modern digital vocoder styles
  • Resynthesis parameters – emphasis, spectral tilt (which adjusts how you shift between frequencies), shape, and parallel bend controls
  • MIDI control of notes and chords (also available from their built-in keyboard onscreen if you don’t have a MIDI source handy)
  • Synced freeze function – so you can capture a snippet of sound, and then use different clock divisions synced to a DAW or MIDI source

“Freeze” a snippet of sound, then manipulate that freeze in sync with your DAW or a MIDI source, with various clock division options.

Spectral controls give you more contemporary sounds, retro robot sounds, or anything in between.

And yeah, you can use this on vocals if you’re a terrible singer. You can use it if you’re a great singer. You can use it on things that aren’t vocals (hello, drums). And so on. Here are some nice tips from their even nicer studio:

This wasn’t the only addition to UA’s latest software. See also an AMS Neve console built especially for emulating the desk preferred by big budget Hollywood productions. That gives you the whole console strip you’d find at, say, Skywalker Sound – with Compressor, Limiter, Expander, Gate, and Dynamic EQ, plus four-band parametric EQ. Will it make you sound more Hollywood? No idea. Will it give you a psychological boost to try? Probably.

https://www.uaudio.com/uad-plugins/channel-strips/ams-neve-dfc-channel-strip.html

AMS Neve DFC Channel Strip.

And also in this release, they’re unveiling the first-ever authorized emulation of the legendary Lexicon 480L. If you don’t know that 80s-era reverb by its model number, you might know it from its beige case and faders – it’s one of the more recognizable effects in history. Being authorized in this case matters, because they were able to derive the results directly from the original’s firmware. (Oh yeah – digital means a “model” can be very accurate indeed.) And again, you can use this live. First thing I would do would be to map some faders to those parameters.

Lexicon 480L – the original hardware.

https://www.uaudio.com/uad-plugins/reverbs/lexicon-480l-digital-reverb-effects.html

9.7 additionally includes an emulation of the Suhr SE100 tube amp, plus from Brainworx the bx_masterdesk Classic chain.

But I do think the vocoder will be the one that gets people’s attention, because everyone —

Oh, no, I’m going to be interrupted by Robert Henke again.

More:

https://www.uaudio.com/uad-plugins/special-processing/softube-vocoder.html

(PS, if it’s an Auto-Tune effect you’re after, they also have a real-time edition of Antares’ Auto-Tune.)

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Deal: get 8 engines, 19 expansions, with Output’s music software sale

Delivered... CDM Staff | Scene | Tue 13 Nov 2018 11:04 pm

Promoted: Using just one Output product can feel like you’ve got access to someone else’s studio, hard drive, and sound tricks. How about getting all of them? Output’s bundle is on a special say for November only.

[Partner post]

From now through November 30, you can get a special discount on The Bundle – that’s all the standalone instruments and effects from Los Angeles’ unique sound creation studio, ready to use on your Mac or PC. That includes nearly everything that Output makes. (The only exceptions are Arcade, which is priced by subscription, and Platform, which is a physical piece of furniture so … hard to download.)

The Bundle is already a great deal – it’s terabytes of sound, nineteen expansions, and eight separate engines, but costing 60% less than what it would if you bought all of those on their own. Now, you get the whole deal for another 25% off that discount.

How artists use these

What’s it like when you create these? Check it out. Vastly experienced producers Skizzy Mars and Michael Keenan use multiple products, layered, to create a particular sound they wanted for their work:

Che Pope, Grammy winning boss at Kanye West’s label and entreprenuer-composer and someone who has worked with everybody, makes a five minute beat and makes heavy use of Analog Brass & Winds:

Having these kinds of archives can be powerful when combined and used creatively. Composer and assistant Joanne Higginbottom, who has worked on the likes of Guardians of The Galaxy’, ‘Samurai Jack’, and ‘The Public’ is a great example of that. It’s not just about dialing presets – it’s about reaching deep to quickly combine sounds into a palette that gets the job done and is unmistakably your own. Watch her talk about her approach and inspiration – and how she can jam on the mod wheel when working and get to that instinctive level (including with these tools):

What’s in the box

This is a mind-blowing amount of content. Just one Output product includes multiple effects and a flexible engine – so you can dial up a big range of sounds, but also modify and shape new sounds in a powerful, specific engine. Those engines cover particular tasks like hybrid takes on strings, bass, vocals, and even more abstract concepts like pulses and reversed sounds, all with combinations of acoustic and electronic, analog and digital.

But put them together, and you get a whole range – a futuristic orchestra, if you will. You can mix and match, layer, and produce even bigger, more complex sounds all your own. What’s in the box:

ANALOG BRASS & WINDS
+ Brass Knuckles Expansion Pack

ANALOG STRINGS
+ Modern String Beds Expansion Pack
+ Neon Strings Expansion Pack

SUBSTANCE
+ Booty Bass Expansion Pack
+ Base Bass Expansion Pack
+ Dystopian Bass Expansion Pack

MOVEMENT
+ Current Expansion Pack
+ Beyond 4/4 Expansion Pack

EXHALE
+ Barely Vocals Expansion Pack
+ Indie Vocals Expansion Pack
+ Ambient Vocals Expansion Pack

SIGNAL
+ Adrenaline Expansion Pack
+ Classic Analog Expansion Pack
+ Cinematic Expansion Pack
+ Tape Loop Expansion Pack
+ Glow Expansion Pack

REV
+ Beautiful Pads Expansion Pack
+ Translucence Expansion Pack
+ Desolation Expansion Pack

REV X-LOOPS

That’s hundreds upon hundreds of presets, which can now be combined with one another or modified, too, and all the effect and sound engines inside.

We’ve been covering a lot of Output’s creations from the start:

Output’s Analog Brass & Winds is an orchestral library for synth lovers

Analog Strings from Output melds string orchestras, string synths

Substance is a new software approach to every kind of bass

Movement is a do-everything, musical rhythmic effect

Check it out at Output’s site:

https://output.com/products#instruments

Thanks to Output for their support of original content on CDM.

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The new Maschine Mikro is tiny – but now its workflows scale

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 7 Nov 2018 8:51 pm

Native Instruments this fall unveiled a bunch of low cost alternatives to its flagship producer products – and the one that perhaps attracted the most attention is Maschine Mikro. Can you fit more into a small package?

If you’re really into Maschine, here’s my advice: MK3. Full stop. The MK3 has the most expressive, playable pads of any of the Maschine line. It’s got the same big display as the previous Maschine Studio – meaning you can make arrangements, adjust parameters without squinting, and set mix levels really easily. (None of that is possible on the Mikro.) And it has all the latest refinements, but it’s in a perfect form factor, as beloved on the original model and MK2.

It’s also reasonably compact. Maschine is my lifesaver for gigs because whatever may be in checked luggage (and therefore lost in checked luggage), you can fit Maschine MK3 into a backpack.

By comparison, I’m not fond of Push on the road, as I think its layout is better suited to studio creation than live performance, and it’s just a little bit bigger and a lot heavier than other devices – plus no audio interface. Small details, major difference if you’re playing fit-the-rig-in-the-backpack. And I know that sentiment is shared.

But there are times when you might want smaller, and you might be on a tighter budget – particularly if you’ve already invested in another controller.

So the Maschine Mikro is back. But this time, the pads are better, and while that display is small, you really can get away with using it. It could be ideal in a corner of your desk, and it’s more portable.

FACT Magazine have a great compact (natch) breakdown of how the Mikro works.

First, you inherit the touch strip and the note repeat from the rest of the line. That includes these clever performance effects, which are really quick to access from the touch strip. Note repeat and chord modes let you get away with squeezing lots of ideas onto a small palette — and, let’s be honest, they help you fake being way better at finger drumming than you actually are.

Sorry, might be projecting there. Better than I am, for sure.

And then there’s sequencing, too, which also scales well to this small form factor:

I’m personally sticking to the MK3 for one reason alone: the encoders to me are invaluable. I can load Reaktor Blocks instances in Maschine and then really shape sound on the encoders while keeping track of changing parameters on the displays. It’s like having a huge modular rig without the gear and back ache and debt. And I think the MK3 is good enough that it’s worth swapping in even the MK2 to get one – and certainly the MK1, which lacks the various workflow improvements and especially those great pads.

But I totally get the appeal of the Mikro.

I think ironically reducing that form factor finally lets you focus on learning some core features of Maschine and focusing on them. It looks like a no-brainer next to Ableton Push or an Akai APC or whatever you use as your DAW and controller arrangement (keyboards, etc). We’ve also seen previously how much musicality you can get just by focusing on the pads, as our friend Alan Oldham (DJ T-1000) took on even the first-generation model.

Cues: Detroit innovator Alan Oldham talks to us about techno, creation

So for getting out and playing, this is great stuff – and a bargain buy with the core software, a bunch of sounds, and a controller, too. I bet some people will get these as gifts – and have a great time.

https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/maschine/production-systems/maschine-mikro/

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Streaming music is coming to DJ software, but one step at a time

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 23 Oct 2018 3:23 pm

Streaming is coming to DJing. Last week saw new announcements from Tidal, SoundCloud, Serato, and several other software makers. But progress is uneven – expect these features at first to be primarily about discovery, not what you do at a gig.

The news this week:

SoundCloud announced coming support in Traktor, Serato, Virtual DJ, Mixvibes, and more:
Just announced: Soon you can access SoundCloud’s catalog of music directly through your DJ software [SoundCloud blog]

Serato announced support for SoundCloud Go+ and TIDAL premium and HiFi subscriptions in forthcoming DJ Lite and DJ Pro releases. They didn’t post even a news item, beyond sending a press release, but TIDAL added this minisite:

http://tidal.com/serato

The markets

First, before talking about the technology and the deals here, we need to first talk about what “DJ” means. Across that spectrum, we can talk about three really different poles, as far as use cases:

Wedding DJs (read: people taking requests). This is the big one. You can tell, because when streaming site Pulselocker shut down, there were screams from people who were playing wedding gigs and suddenly lost access to their music. This isn’t just about a technological shift, either. As American music markets have fragmented and mainstream pop music has lost its hegemony – and as DJing and music consumption have become more global – the amount of music people might request has grown, too.

Whatever you think of wedding DJs, you can imagine weddings as a place where global cultural and technological changes are radical and inseparable. And that’s good, because I don’t know about you, but if I have to hear “At Last” one more time, I may try to drown myself in a punch bowl.

If you have to take requests, access to all music becomes a need, not a luxury.

DJs playing hits. There’s also a club DJ crowd looking for big hits, too, which tends to overlap in some ways with the wedding DJs – they’re going for popularity over digging deep in a particular genre. That means that certain big hits that a particular streaming site has (cough, Tidal) become relevant to both these groups. (I was recently schooled on the importance

Underground DJs. More at the CDM end of the pond, you’ve got DJs who are trying to discover new music. Tidal might not be so relevant here, but SoundCloud sure is.

If you routinely tab back and forth between SoundCloud and your DJ app, integrating the two might have appeal – even for underground digital diggers.

The question of what DJs in each of these groups would want to do with streaming also varies. There’s discovery – some people are looking to play tracks on their digital DJ decks without first downloading, or for integration of streaming sites. There’s playing in actual gigs, with a live Internet connection. Then there’s playing gigs where you don’t have an Internet connection – more often the norm – where you might want tracks from a streaming collection to be synced or cached to storage.

How the DJ streaming landscape just shifted

Amsterdam Dance Event last week tends to center on the business of electronic dance music, so it was a stage for some of the players to crow about new achievements – even making some of those announcements before the solution is fully available.

In particular, DJ software maker Serato and streaming site SoundCloud were vocal about their coming solutions.

Some takeaways:

These solutions are online only. Let’s start with the big disclaimer. Downloads are here to stay for now, because these services work only when online, and standalone decks are left out.

Streaming tracks are fully integrated – I’ve confirmed that at least with Serato, who say when you’re connected, the tracks cache and perform just like locally stored tracks. But that’s when you have an Internet connection.

Pulselocker, the service specifically focused around this idea, had offered the ability to store tracks locally. None of these integrations offers offline access, at least initially. I’ve been told by Serato that if you lose an Internet connection mid-track, you can at least continue playing that track; you just lose access to other streaming content.

Wedding DJs or some clubs where you can rely on an Internet connection I expect will take advantage of streaming functionality right away, for DJs who take requests. For DJs who prepare music in advance, though, it’s probably a deal killer.

(Pulselocker was acquired by Beatport earlier this year, a sign that the big players were making their moves.)

Once upon a time, there was Pulselocker. But the service was acquired by Beatport, and nothing yet offers offline functionality as it did. (Blame licensing?)

SoundCloud and Serato are looking to get ahead of the curve – while we wait on Beatport and Pioneer. SoundCloud is partnering with all the major software vendors. (Only Algoriddim, whose djay product line for desktop and mobile is already integrated with Spotify, was missing.)

And Serato are leading the way with Tidal and SoundCloud integration, replacing their existing Pulselocker functionality.

Timeframe for both: “coming months.”

There’s reason to pre-announce something here, though, which is to try to steal some thunder from some market leaders. Beatport and Pioneer are of course dominant players here. We know both are readying solutions – Beatport making use of that aforementioned Pulselocker acquisition, presumably. We just don’t know when those solutions will become available; Pioneer CDJ hardware in particular is likely fairly far into the future.

Just don’t underestimate the Serato/Tidal combo, or even Serato/SoundCloud. Those are big partnerships for the US market and genres like hip hop, both of which are big and growing.

DJ compatibility is a way to sell you subscriptions. Yes, artists and labels get paid, but there’s another factor here – DJing is becoming so widespread that it’s a way to upsell music subscriptions. DJing really is music consumption now.

Use Traktor, Serato, Virtual DJ, Mixvibes, and others? SoundCloud hopes you’ll buy a top-tier SoundCloud Go+ subscription.

Using Serato, and want to play some top hits in high quality? Tidal can offer Premium (AAC) or HiFi (including lossless FLAC and ALAC streaming) tiers.

In case you doubt that, both services will work with full integration using just a 30-day trial.

SoundCloud still lags in quality. Just as on the site, SoundCloud for now is limited to 128kbps at launch, as reported by DJ Tech Tools.

Yes, streaming DJs could represent a new revenue source. This is one potential bright spot here on the creator side. Assuming you can reach DJs who might not have purchased downloads on Bandcamp, Beatport, and the like, the streaming sites will divvy up those subscription fees and calculate revenue sharing for track plays by DJs.

What does all this mean?

It’s easy to assume this is all meaningless. Serious DJs playing big club and festival gigs – or even underground DJs playing with dodgy Internet connections and meticulously organized USB thumb drives of USB – you’re obviously not going anywhere near this when you play.

And those DJs taking requests at weddings and playing the latest dancefloor megahits, well, that’s relevant to you only if you’re producing those kinds of hits.

But there remains some potential here, even with these launch offerings, whenever they do materialize.

For all but the most specific boutique labels and artists, I think most music creators are trying to maximize exposure and squeeze revenue wherever they can. A whole lot of those labels do put up their music through distribution, meaning you can download directly on Bandcamp, for instance, but you can also stream catalogs on Spotify and iTunes. (Anyone who’s doing digital distribution has likely seen long lists of weird streaming and download sites you’ve never even heard of, but where your music gets dumped and … eventually ripped and put up on pirate music sites, too.)

If this gets more people on premium subscriptions, there’s hope. It’s better than people listening to your music on YouTube while you get paid next to nothing.

The real question here is how streaming integration looks. If discovering new music is really what this is about – at least until fast Internet becomes more ubiquitous – then the integrations need to actually make it easy to find music. That shouldn’t just be about some automated recommendation algorithm; it will require a whole new approach to DJ software and music tools. Or at the very least, these tools should make you want to sit at your DJ rig with some friends, punch up some new artist names and find tracks. They should be as appealing as going to a record store, thumbing through records, and putting them on turntables – in a virtual sense, anyway.

And what about ownership? I think it’s important for DJs to be able to differentiate between always-on access to all music everywhere, and their own music collection, even if the collection itself is virtual.

Why not put SoundCloud streaming in your DJ app, but offer one-click buying to add downloads?

Or why not use the cloud as a way to sync music you’ve already bought, rather than make it exclusively an overwhelming supply of music you don’t want, which you lose when you lose Internet access?

At the very least, labels who are already squeezed as it is are unlikely to savor the thought of losing download revenue in exchange for hard-to-track, hard-to-predict subscriptions. $10 a month or so seems utterly unsustainable. A lot of labels already barely break even when they pay for even basic PR and mastering services. Imagine the nightmare of having to invest more just to be found on streaming services, while earning less as flat fee subscriptions are divvied up.

There’s an idea here, but it’s far from being ready. For now, it seems like the best strategy is to keep your catalogs up to date across services, keep building close relationships with fans, and … wait and see. In a few months we should see more of what these offerings look like in practice, and it seems likely, too, we’ll know more about where Pioneer, Beatport, and others plan to go next, too.

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Logic Pro 10.4.2, MainStage 3.4: why you’ll want to update now

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 28 Sep 2018 1:48 am

The new Logic adds multi-track Smart Tempo, and sorely needed external storage of sounds, among other improvements – and live performance-friendly MainStage syncs up with Logic’s latest instruments, effects, and features.

Note that Mojave actually isn’t specifically mentioned in these updates – but pro audio users will, as always, want to move nice and slow with major OS updates to let hardware and software developers catch up and find any issues.

But existing Logic users should grab this one. Here’s the big one: if you’re running Logic on a machine that’s low on hard disk space (raises hand), you can now move your Logic Sound Library to an external storage device. So while 10.4 did add improvements for choosing what to install and what not to install, this is … possibly even better, because you can just buy a big, cheap drive and not sweat it at all.

Smart Tempo was a fascinating idea in 10.4, but now it’s actually fleshed out – so multi-track recordings, MIDI data, and imported stems now can all work with flexible time, without a metronome. (That is, they can both be a source or a target.)

Another overdue but important improvement: automation points can align vertically.

None of that will make you more creative, but Alchemy could. It’s an instrument that’s one of the best reasons to use Logic at the moment, even if we’re all sad it’s no longer a plug-in. And if you weren’t already importing audio into its powerful engine, now’s a good time to start, with a workflow that lets you choose how the engine will play that audio right as you drag it in.

The word from Apple:

• The Sound Library can be relocated to an external storage device
• Smart Tempo can analyze tempo data across multi-track recordings to define the Project Tempo
• Imported multi-track stems can follow or define Project Tempo
• Smart Tempo now analyzes the tempo of MIDI performances recorded without a metronome
• Alchemy provides drag and drop hot zones that let you select re-synthesis and sampling options while importing audio
• Alchemy allows numerical editing of parameter values
• Dragging one automation point over another now aligns them vertically
• New mixer mode allows channel strip fader and pan controls to be used to set send level and pan
• Automatic Slurs can be applied to selected notes in the Score Editor
• Add a photo to track or project notes to help remember key session details or studio hardware settings
• This update also contains numerous stability and performance improvements

Now we’re just waiting on a release that finally cleans up some of the older effects and instruments in Logic’s library – one by one, we’re getting there. (Sculpture and Space Designer gladly got a big refresh in 10.4!)

MainStage

MainStage now syncs up with the latest Logic, though it’s a shame these releases are not in (word of the week) “lockstep.”

So the following list is so long for MainStage because it’s partly catch-up with Logic 10.4’s various additions. That is a big deal for MainStage, because 10.4 included a bunch of effects and instruments.

This also means MainStage could be a go-to if you just want to jam with those toys and don’t care particularly about Logic – or, for that matter, even a DAW, period.

The “3.4” version number gives you a clue that this is the bigger of these updates:

General
• Channel Strip MIDI input inspector allows any MIDI CC data to be filtered, transformed or passed through
• Text notes can be added to the bottom of channel strips
• The Metronome is now fully configurable, with separate settings for Bar, Group, Beat, and Division
• This update also contains numerous stability and performance improvements

Sound Library
• The Sound Library can be relocated to an external storage device
• 2 vintage brush kits for Drum Kit Designer
• More than 800 new loops in a variety of instruments and genres
• New Visions library for Alchemy adds 150 cinematic presets

Plug-Ins
• ChromaVerb is a sophisticated new algorithmic reverb with a colorful, interactive interface for creating rich acoustic spaces
• Space Designer offers a new design and a scalable, Retina interface
• Step FX adds rhythmic multi-effect processing using 3 powerful step sequencers and an X/Y pad
• Phat FX makes your tracks bigger and bolder using 9 effects that add warmth and punch to your sounds
• The Vintage EQ Collection provides 3 accurate models of vintage analog EQs from the 1950s to the 1970s
• Studio Strings and Studio Horns are deeply sampled, realistic ensemble instruments with custom articulation controls
• Mellotron is now available as a standalone instrument plug-in
• Retro Synth now offers 18 different filter models
• The length of individual steps in the Arpeggiator plug-in are adjustable
• Loopback now applies a small crossfade at each loop cycle to reduce the likelihood of clicks or other audio artifacts

Alchemy
• Alchemy provides drag and drop hot zones that let you select re-synthesis and sampling options while importing audio
• Alchemy allows numerical editing of parameter values
• Alchemy adds 12 new synthesized formant filter shapes
• Alchemy now offers a side chain input that can be used as a source for envelope followers
• Alchemy includes an automatic time align feature for improved morphing
• New additive effects in Alchemy expand the options for filtering and modulating sound

Previously:

Logic Pro X 10.4: New effects, and play and mix audio without a click

The post Logic Pro 10.4.2, MainStage 3.4: why you’ll want to update now appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Real time visuals, no money spent: two great commercial tools

Delivered... Ted Pallas | Scene | Wed 26 Sep 2018 8:40 pm

Real-time design and live visuals can provide transformative powers. But what if you’re not ready to commit both time and money right away? Here are two industrial-strength tools that get you started for free. Meet Smode and TouchDesigner.

My name is Ted, and I wrangle content for live deployment to screens and sound systems. I also manage very large installs. Recent jobs include the NFL Experience in Times Square, a graphics package for Bounce Chicago, and a soundsystem install for a themed entertainment attraction built around Trolls. Next up, looks like a magic show and a year of touring a heady art music piece. I am living evidence that you can study theater and not computers, and still make a daily living doing Crazy Work with computers.

So, working with real-time visuals matters in the work I do.

The old way of doing things: go back into the content source file, make edits, render out a new video, maybe encode the video in an extra step, move the video to the server… it’s a lot, and it’s rarely a smooth process. The growing real-time toolkit, though, gives me a new option – I can just make the change in the media server, and then say “okay, how does this look?” It’s an incredibly empowering change, but with one major challenge – cost of entry, both for a strong machine to run on and time and money invested getting into the proper tools.

There are open source options. But for an easier entry into software – while still not spending money just to get going – I’m recommending either TouchDesigner or Smode.

You can expect the following features out of both packages:

  • Playback of a variety of media, moving or still or audio
  • Generate text, from string composition to font formatting to animation
  • Respond to a selection of external protocols, such as MIDI or DMX
  • Some amount of “projection mappability” – Smode locks their stronger stuff behind a paid license, while TouchDesigner gives you everything you’d need (or everything to build what you’d need.)
  • Respond to audio input, which can be shaped within the server
  • A timeline for making cues happen specifically, repeatedly and reliably.
  • The feature you’d really love access to is one you’ll have to pay for – and it’s NDI input/output
  • A user community that understands working on projects with high stakes

Resolution can be a deciding factor. If you want 1080p output and you don’t want to spend money on a license, just go download and start learning Smode. TouchDesigner’s Non-Commercial license (“no money needed if there’s no money made”) is locked to 1280×1280 output. That can be a benefit – it’s easier on system resources – but for applications that need HD (for output to monitors, cameras, or where aliasing is an issue), you might start with Smode, instead.

Beyond those features these two softwares are very different, which means they probably both have a home somewhere in your workflow. Here’s a quick comparison:

Smode

What is it? Smode is a real-time compositing engine initially built to map projections and LED screens on TV sets. It features an Adobe After Effects-style approach to look building – you put everything on a timeline, and set keyframes to do what you need them to do. There are also hooks for audio reactivity, MIDI input, and OSC input. Commercial use with the free license is allowed, it will output 1080p, and when installed on the right machine, it’s very reliable.

Who is it for? Smode is for teams that are building shows to a timeline – or even better, to timecode (hosted by Smode for other devices to follow.) I am not a regular Smode user, but with a week of playing with it, I’d say it’s a strong candidate for teams that already have a strong studio workflow (maybe feeding Resolume with content for projection mapping) and would like to start exploring what it’s like to do more work on-site. The UI in Smode references a number of classic media environments, from the stacked/nested object list to the dropdown menus in the timeline. If you don’t like looking at new UIs, this is the package for you. The army of After Effects power users out there will feel right at home in Smode. Bonus points go to the dev team, who bless you with a fat stack of totally awesome 2002-style 3d generative content. If you agree that the 90s are back this year, you should grab this software for building looks in 2020.

Who is it not for? I wouldn’t use this for busking – making up a show as I go – unless I was doing something very specific, such as deploying and live-tweaking a particle engine. I also wouldn’t use this without having a solid understanding of key frames (though this is certainly an ideal place to learn!)

What are the features that cost money? Mostly you miss out on advanced projection mapping tools, low-latency inputs and resolutions larger than a single HD (1920×1080). You also need to purchase a license to bet access to DMX and Artnet – if you’re using the server on a site with a lighting console, they think you have enough money to pay for a license.

I’d highly recommend purchasing a license – they’re affordable, and supporting software is vital to see it continue to develop.

What does it cost? Licensing Smode is currently in an interesting place – there is currently only distribution in France, Spain and Greater China. If I wanted to buy Smode I’d probably audit the heck out of the free version, make something cool, and then send it to the company so you can be linked up with the right distributor for your region. In general I think it’s always a good idea to involve yourself with companies that provide you critical tools – if you fall in love with Smode (from outside France, Spain or Greater China) it looks like your path to purchasing will involve developing this relationship as a default.

TouchDesigner

What is it? TouchDesigner is a node-based compositing tool originally forked off the grandparent of all node-based compositing tools, the great Houdini FX by Side FX. TouchDesigner is a combination of a graphics processing engine, a 3D rendering engine and a 2D engine that rapidly draws to the screen space. It’s also a Swiss Army knife for control operations – MIDI, DMX, Artnet, OSC, depth cameras, Windows multi-touch and audio are all within easy reach. It’s been used on some of the largest projects in the world, including the Salesforce Wall (this is a personal favorite, so I’m deciding to link it), upfronts and sporting events, concerts and the Times Square New Year’s Eve webcast. Touch has a workflow (and vocabulary) built around operators, or “OPs.” There are “CHOPs,” or “CHannel OPerators” for doing things to numbers, “TOPs” or “Texture OPerators” for manipulating images in 2D space, and so on – there’s special OP types for 2D manipulation, number channel operations, 3D space, materials, and data manipulation operations. The language is a bit unique compared to the VJ world, but that’s ok – it’s worth the time to learn, as you’ll be able to slip more readily into the Houdini FX world.

Made with TouchDesigner: The 33 meter (107 ft) long Salesforce Wall

Salesforce approached Obscura with the opportunity to create imaginative media for the 107’ long LED video wall in the lobby of their flagship San Francisco office. Our creative teams worked closely together to envision and produce work that transforms a passageway into a mesmerizing hyperreal environment. From capturing California’s Redwood National Forest in stunning 12K resolution, to a designing a convincing CG waterwall and more – we held nothing back in striving to impart a sense of wonder to everyone that enters the building.

Who is it for? TouchDesigner is for teams that are focusing on interactivity (or insane levels of flexibility) over complicated timeline/keyframe manipulations. Real-time media servers are exciting because they allow the content to inhabit the space more like a performer and less like a painting – the media can listen, respond and operate with specifiable levels of procedurality. Where TouchDesigner really shines as a part of my process is in how the tool approaches noise – there are ways to build any number of elegant solutions, allowing me to get things wiggling and jiggling without having to be so damn deterministic about it.

Who is it not for? If you don’t want to learn something new, stay away. If you want to look at everything from the point of view of a timeline, stay away. If you hate math, stay away. If you want a UI that serves you everything you need all the time (whether you need it in that instant or not), stay away. If you hate forums posts, wikis and YouTube, stay away. All of the rest of you – dig in.

TouchDesigner has one of my favorite origin stories in all of computers – it was initially a fork of Houdini, the massively powerful VFX and 3D compositing engine used in Hollywood for close to three decades. This is where all the -OP language comes from, and if it makes sense to you, go download and learn Houdini. If you are looking for work in media and you know Houdini, you will find work to do.

What are the features that cost money? This is a bit of a different proposition from what we saw with Smode, in spirit – resolution is similarly locked, and so is NDI. There’s also a whole bunch of highly advanced integration features that you’ll need a commercial license to access. The non-commercial free license does include Artnet and DMX, though, both in and out – a favorite use for TouchDesigner around my studio is as a host for LFOs and LFOs only, being utilized for processing somewhere else.

What does it cost? Touch Designer Pricing: TouchDesigner has two levels of paid license – Commercial and Pro. Commercial costs US$600, and unlocks all the features you’d need to handle a “typical” TouchDesigner deployment for a commercial job site. Pro adds a number of features specific to the needs of sites with a live broadcast/camera recording component, 3rd party projector calibration, simple sync of multiple TouchDesigner computers, custom bug fixes specific to the build of TouchDesigner you are deploying (very relevant for installations) and six hours of top-notch support.

Why do these two tools stand out?

There are, of course, other options – especially VVVV (for “free to use”) and Notch (for paid licenses.) [Ed.: Obviously, CDM will keep talking about other tools. Windows-only vvvv or “v-four” or “v-vier” in German has its own robust community; its user paradigm and licensing and workflow are all very much like TouchDesigner, which admittedly also makes choosing between them tough. Notch Builder is its own animal, and also well worth talking about when it comes to authoring motion graphics. In the long run, either could be just as strong, but I agree with Ted that if you want some short-term results to play around with, these two options here are tough to beat.]

I am recommending these two tools, Smode and TouchDesigner, specifically for artists, designers, VJs or teams that are new to a real-time workflow. They’re a gateway to the world of graphics that you can start with right away – without having to roll your own code (at one extreme) or be limited to low-performance, more creatively restricted VJ applications (at the other).
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More advice

Which OS – and what if you have a middle-of-the-road Mac? If you are doing graphics on a daily basis, I advise using Windows. I no longer consider the MacBook Pro a viable choice for doing live media work with modern software packages. If you are looking at a computer from 2016 or earlier and wondering “will these tools run well on this thing?” – I’m going to manage your expectation towards “not really.” If you are on on one of these older Macs, I’d consider focusing energy on VDMX, Lumen, and Photoshop – fake real-time by getting good at using VDMX’s LFOs to beatmatch visual FX parameters to music. A very new MacBook will do a slightly better job, but I still wouldn’t expect stellar performance – to push frames you need a solid graphics card. For real time I wouldn’t spec below a GTX 1080 – it’s pricey, but I honestly find myself topping out my rig all the time.

Ed.: I’ve chatted quite a bit about this with VDMX developers Vidvox. They are indeed happy on the newer Mac hardware, but they’ve also specifically optimized their software for that use case – and VDMX isn’t necessarily built for the use cases Ted is describing here. Since a lot of other software is cross-platform, even on Linux, the PC at the moment is an objectively better value for money with graphics. This isn’t a platform war, because it isn’t even a feat: there is an order of magnitude difference in flexibility and low cost for GPU power for your money, and it’s measurable. In music, it’s another ballgame: music applications tend to be less intensive than visual ones, they don’t use CPU resources in the same way, they don’t make any use of the GPU that would make a difference, and the Mac has some specific advantages that are different than the ones in visuals. You might well still choose Windows, but at least there’s more of a choice involved. And… now I’ll wait for comments on this.

Of course, follow the advice here – this isn’t about us telling you to go buy a new computer. Unless you want us to. -PK

Which framerate? Work at 60 FPS. 30 FPS is going to be less acceptable as time marches on. 29.97 is unnecessary for work heading to a projector, and you’ll want the extra frames to retime content if you are VJing a wide range of genres. A 120BPM 4-to-the-floor at 120 BPM would place a keyframe every 30 frames. Working at 60 FPS lets you get as low as half-time and still keep a good framerate, and speed up with enough resolution to maintain the critical elements of the motion.

What else should you be learning? Of course, general computer science skills are super critical to keeping this process healthy for your studio. You should be able to network stuff up, patch a video system, route audio as-needed and keep a tidy file system. It wouldn’t be bad to be familiar with some basic programming syntax, either – a lot of the time cue lists express themselves “programmatically,” and TouchDesigner goes so far as to let you use Python expressions in literally any text field.

Stay in touch! One last note – I’m looking to meet new producers and directors, if you’re looking to integrate real-time content into your project please feel free to reach out to ted@savag.es and we can talk about what you’re getting up to.

Ed.: Let us know how you’re doing with these tools and what you create! And if you work in this field, and have work you want to share or advice you want to give – including arguing with any here – we’d love to hear from you.

Also – one tip, I can wholeheartedly recommend Stanislav Glazov as a TouchDesigner instructor. He’s touring with Dasha Rush and doing various projects around Europe and Russia. Follow his studio Licht Pfad for more. We’ll be checking in with Stas soon, too, especially as he collaborates with our Establishment label. -PK

https://lichtpfad.selz.com/

TouchDesigner: http://derivative.ca/
TouchDesigner YouTube channel (with a bunch of stuff from the Berlin summit earlier this year)
Smode: http://smode.fr/

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