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KORG volca modular and volca drum are real – and now we’ve got details

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 15 Jan 2019 7:13 am

Some things are too good, or too improbable, to be true. Apparently that doesn’t apply to KORG’s volca series. Because if the ultra-compact, affordable modular and drum were exactly what you wished for, well – they’re here.

These will look familiar, because images of the top panels of these two pieces of kit hit the Internet in December. The funny thing was, a lot of people responded with “oh there’s no way that modular could be real.” Guess again.

The newest volcas are a modeled drum/percussion unit and a compact modular with tiny header pins for patching.

volca drum

This isn’t the volca series’ first take on percussion. It’s had a full drum machine with analog circuitry (volca beats), a bass drum synth piece built around the classic MS-20 filter (volca kick), and a digital sampling machine (volca sample).

But volca drum could turn out to be the most interesting yet, if they’ve nailed its sound source. volca drum is a percussion synth, with diffeent DSP-based models for sounds.

The WAVE GUIDE controls in the middle are the most interesting. And of course, having KORG’s sequencer with motion controls attached to a parameterized percussion synth seems really tasty – as with the volca kick, this could be interesting for all kinds of different parts, not just the obvious ones. But we’ll have to wait to hear more about it.

KORG for their part promise “standard percussive sounds” and “eccentric drum styles.”

Price: US$169.99

Availability: early 2019

volca modular

The volca drum has been so far overshadowed, though, by the curiosity of the volca modular.

There are eight independent functional modules in this unit. They’re pre-wired for patchless operation, but you can also reconfigure them with a whopping 50 patch points. Tiny jumper wires are included for connecting to the onboard pins. The volca modular is like a tiny toybox of sound design – a Buchla Easel for cash strapped millennials. (Okay, all of us older folks, too.)

Okay, but then – is it a modular? Well, even KORG cautiously dub it “semi-modular,” but while there’s no clear line, I’d say even modular is a reasonable term. While modular is now taken by some to mean something with interchangeable modules, especially in this age of Eurorack, I’d say anything with discrete functional modules that be interconnected in different ways ought to qualify.

And yeah, while this will work without patching, so too did the ARP 2500, and no one called that semi-modular.

Enough of semantics, though: it’s cool, as you’ll see in today’s hands-on review from Francis Preve.

The price is a little higher for a volca, but … no matter. This is a spectacular amount of modular patching in a single unit, and I think it’ll be really popular.

Price: US$199.99

Availability: early 2019

Side note: KORG are hardly the first to suggest this kind of modular patching. Phillip Stearns and Peter Edwards envisioned a modular system you’d build entirely on a breadboard – hyper-modular, if you will:

Edwards went to work for Bastl Instruments, who not coincidentally employed these jumper wires on their own instruments (like Kastle).

And if you feel volca modular isn’t quite what you’d want in a volca modular – like you’d rather have interchangeable, separate modules – that’s been done, too, in the form of the AE Modular Synth:

But the volca modular is unique in focusing on West Coast style synths – an oscillator source you make more complex with modulation and wavefolding, and which even gets fed into Buchla-style modules like the LPG (low pass gate).

And let’s be clear: it’s also unique and cool. Hope I get to play with one, too, soon.

The post KORG volca modular and volca drum are real – and now we’ve got details appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Images of KORG volca modular, volca drum appear online

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 21 Dec 2018 5:58 pm

Unconfirmed and unofficial images identified as KORG volca modular and volca drum are circulating across social media channels today, after first appearing on Reddit.

Normally, this site refrains from posting leaks and rumors, but in this case, the images have quickly become ubiquitous – perhaps speaking to the unique appeal of the volca line. (Literally, my inbox and feeds now are clogged with people posting them.)

The images appear to show a drum synth and patchable mini-modular, in the existing volca form factor. We can’t comment on their authenticity.

They’re even becoming the buzz of YouTube:

What do you think? Let us know in comments.

The post Images of KORG volca modular, volca drum appear online appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The new iPad Pro has a USB-C port – so what can it do, exactly?

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 5 Dec 2018 1:46 pm

The iPad finally gets a dedicated port for connectivity, as you’d find on a “desktop” computer – and it’s loaded with potential uses, from power to music gear. Let’s break down exactly what it can do.

“USB-C” is a port type; it refers to the reversible, slim, oval-shaped connector on the newest gadgets. But it doesn’t actually describe what the port can do as far as capabilities. So initially, Apple’s reference to the “USB-C” port on the latest iPad Pro generation was pretty vague.

Since then, press have gotten their hands on hardware and Apple themselves have posted technical documentation. Specifically, they’ve got a story up explaining the port’s powers:

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT209186

Now, keep in mind the most confusing thing about Apple and USB-C is the two different kinds of ports. There’s a Thunderbolt-3 port, as found on the high-end MacBooks Pro and the Mac mini. It’s got a bolt of lightning indicator on it, and is compatible with audio devices like those from Universal Audio, and high-performance video gadgetry. And then there’s the plain-vanilla USB-C port, which has the standard USB icon on it.

All Thunderbolt 3 ports also double as USB-C ports, just not the other way around. The Thunderbolt 3 one is the faster port.

Also important, USB-C is backwards compatible with older USB formats if you have the right cable.

So here’s what you can do with USB-C. The basic story: do more, with fewer specialized adapters and dongles.

You can charge your iPad. Standard USB-C power devices as well as Apple’s own adapter. Nicely enough, you might even charge faster with a third-party adapter – like one you could share with a laptop that uses USB-C power.

Connect your iPad to a computer. Just as with Lightning-to-USB, you can use USB cables to connect to a USB-C port or older standard USB-A port, for charge and sync.

Connect to displays, projectors, TVs. Here you’ve got a few options, but they all max out at far higher quality than before:

  • USB-C to HDMI. (up to 4K resolution, 60 Hz, with HDMI 2.0 adapter.)
  • USB-C Digital AV Multiport. Apple’s own adapter supports up to 4K resolution, 30Hz. (The iPad display itself is 1080p / 60Hz, video up to 4K, 30Hz.)
  • USB-C displays. Up to 5K, with HR10 high dynamic range support. Some will even charge the iPad Pro in the process.

High end video makes the new iPad Pro look indispensable as a delivery device for many visual applications – including live visuals. It’s not hard to imagine people carrying these to demo high-end graphics with, or even writing custom software using the latest Apple APIs for 3D graphics and using the iPad Pro live.

Connect storage – a lot of it. Fast. USB-C is now becoming the standard for fast hard drives – USB 3.1/3.2. That theoretically allows for up to 2500 MB/s data access, and Apple says the iPad Pro will now work with 1 TB of storage. I’ve asked them for more clarification, but basically, yes, you can plug in big, fast storage and use it with your iPad, not limiting yourself to internal storage capacity. So that’s a revelation for pros, especially when using the iPad as an accessory to process video and photos and field recordings on the go.

Play audio. There’s no minijack audio output (grrr), but what you do get is audio playback to USB-C audio interfaces, docks, and specialized headphones. There’s also a USB-C to 3.m mm headphone jack adapter, but that’s pretty useless because it doesn’t include power passthrough – it’s a step backward from what you had before. Better to use a specialized USB-C adapter, which could also mean getting an analog audio output that’s higher quality than the one previous included internally on the iPad range.

And of course you can use AirPlay or Bluetooth, though it doesn’t appear Apple yet supports higher quality Bluetooth streaming, so wires seem to win for those of us who care about sound.

Oh, also interesting – Apple says they’ve added Dolby Digital Plus support over HDMI, but not Dolby Atmos. That hints a bit at consumer devices that do support Atmos – these are rare so far, but it’ll be interesting to watch, and to see whether Apple and Dolby work together or compete in this space.

Speaking of audio and music, though, here’s the other big one:

Work with USB devices. Apple specifically calls out audio and MIDI tools, presumably because musicians remain a big target Pro audience. What’s great here is, you no longer have the extra Lightning to USB “Camera” adapter required on older iPads, which was expensive and only worked with the iPad, and you should be free of some of the more restrictive electrical power capabilities of those past models.

You could also use a standard external keyboard to type on, or wired Ethernet – the latter great for wired use of applications like Liine’s Lemur.

The important thing here is there’s more bandwidth and more power. (Hardware that draws more power may still require external power – but that’s already true on a computer, too.)

The iPad Pro is at last closer to a computer, which makes it a much more serious tool for soft synths, controller tools, audio production, and more.

Charge other stuff. This is also cool – if you ever relied on a laptop as a mobile battery for phones and other accessories, now you can do that with the USB-C on the iPad Pro, too. So that means iPhones as well as other non-Apple phones. You can even plug one iPad into another iPad Pro.

Thunderbolt – no. Note that what you can’t do is connect Thunderbolt hardware. For that, you still want a laptop or desktop computer.

What about Made for iPhone? Apple’s somewhat infamous “MFI” program, which began as “Made for iPod,” is meant to certify certain hardware as compatible with their products. Presumably, that still exists – it would have to do so for the Lightning port products, but it seems likely certain iPad-specific products will still carry the certification.

That isn’t all bad – there are a lot of dodgy USB-C products out there, so some Apple seal of approval may be welcome. But MFI has hamstrung some real “pro” products. The good news as far as USB-C is, because it’s a standard port, devices made for particular “pro” music and audio and video uses no longer need to go through Apple’s certification just to plug directly into the iPad Pro. (And they don’t have to rely on something like the Camera Connection Kit to act as a bridge.)

Apple did not initially respond to CDM’s request for comment on MFI as it relates to the USB-C port.

More resources

MacStories tests the new fast charging and power adapter.

9to5Mac go into some detail on what works and what doesn’t (largely working from the same information I am, I think, but you get another take):
What can you connect to the new iPad Pro with USB-C?

And yeah, this headline gives it away, but agree totally. Note that Android is offering USB-C across a lot of devices, but that platform lacks some of the support for high-end displays and robust music hardware support that iOS does – meaning it’d be more useful coming from Apple than coming from those Android vendors.

The iPad Pro’s USB-C port is great. It should be on my iPhone, too

The post The new iPad Pro has a USB-C port – so what can it do, exactly? appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Noir is part bass, part drum synth – a must-have iOS drum machine

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 12 Nov 2018 8:58 pm

Dark, crunchy, synthetic sounds, grooves that morph somewhere in the shadows between bass line and percussion pattern – Ruismaker Noir is exactly the sort of drum machine you’d want with you at all times. And as it’s an iOS app, you can take it with you.

Here’s the idea: what if the drum synth were also a monophonic synth? And what if you could morph between those, for basslines that start to get edgier and more rhythmic, or rhythmic lines that start to get more melodic? And what if you had an integrated sequencer so you could mess with both of those at once (including all the mighty morphing modulation)? Well, uh, obviously the answer to that would be yes, please, I would want that.

Noir is the latest in the Ruismaker line from Dutch developer/designer Bram Bos. Bram has had a series of synthesis-focused drum machine apps for iOS mobile, and as if that weren’t already enough experience for you, he has a long history of plug-in development dating back to one of the first software drum machines ever.

But that’s the thing about developing electronic instruments – it’s often not about a single breakthrough but lots and lots of iteration. So Noir is the most full-featured of the Ruismaker series yet, but also reaches a new level of playability and sound. Sorry, that sounds like marketing copy, but having used Bram’s stuff over the years, I mean that from first-hand experience – I’ve watched him add those details and refine ideas as he goes.

And it comes at the right moment. You hear a lot of these sort of aggressive, synthetic sounds (uh, winter is coming for the northern hemisphere). But a lot of people use modulars to get them, which means you need a modular rig and some time in the studio. (Time, money, space … uh oh.) Plus, having this in an iPad app with an intuitive touch sequencer will also be a far shorter path to articulating a groove that’s in your head for a lot of people. And the results here are distinctive enough that even if you do have that modular rig, you might tinker around with this anyway.

You can also use a standalone mode to fine-tune presets, then jam with the plug-in later.

It’s built as a plug-in, so you can use it with DAWs like Cubasis, Garage Band, and Modstep. Or combine it with other drum machines like Elastic Drums for some serious drum mayhem.

Delicious with effects:

Specs:

– AUv3 (Audio Unit) plugin, with integrated sequencer
– Basic standalone mode for tinkering or preset creation
– Universal; runs on any iDevice with iOS10 or higher
– All parameters accessible via MIDI CC and AU Params
– AU MIDI output from sequencer (requires iOS11+)
– Fullscreen plugin GUI in all compatible hosts
– Modest CPU and resource loads

This whole thing packs a lot into one app. There’s a full MIDI implementation, which means you could even make a hardware controller mapping if you like. But it’s also nice that the internal sequencer will do the job if you don’t want to switch back and forth to an app.

I have a feeling I may not sleep on my flight back from the USA to Germany as I’ll get sucked into playing with this. See you on the flipside.

The app:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ruismaker-noir/id1441208874?ls=1&mt=8

User manual available on ruismaker.com

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Apple’s new iPad Pro: USB-C is in, headphone and home button are out

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 31 Oct 2018 2:09 am

Apple’s new iPad Pro again establishes the high-end of Apple’s tablet line. But it also reveals some significant changes that iPad-using musicians will notice – USB-replaces Lightning, and the headphone jack and home button are gone.

Apple’s own marketing reveals something of how they think of computing – “a magical piece of glass that does everything you need.” And in that regard, the new iPad continues Apple’s leadership both in quality of display and the computational and graphics horsepower underneath. The iPad Pro has a dramatically better display, and dramatically faster hardware to power it, both of which will benefit creative apps including music and visual creation. These are the high-end models – US$799 and up for the smaller model starting at 64GB, $1149 for the bigger display.

The chip in this case is the A12X Bionic, which boosts all three categories of hardware performance we’re now seeing in mobile – CPU/computation, GPU/graphics, and now machine learning-specific optimizations. Apple has also vastly improved their Pencil for those using that. Most notably, you don’t have that awkward problem of charging with the pencil balanced from a Lightning port; you can just magnetically attach it to your iPad and it charges automatically. There’s a new keyboard design, too, which is also welcome. (I prefer my Logitech keyboard to Apple’s offering on my older iPad Pro; we’ll see if this time round, the first-party offering is more competitive.)

The boosted performance comes at a nice time for Apple apps, as Adobe ships full-blown Photoshop and promises an augmented reality platform next year.

About that port: now in place of Lightning, you get a USB-C port. The good news about this is, you get a single port for connectivity and charging. And it’s the same one you’d use with your later-generation MacBook (or newer PC).

The bad news is, there’s only one port. That means dongles not only for USB-C use, but also you’ll need an adapter that has pass-through charging if you want to charge your iPad and use accessories. Lightning-based accessories are also out.

Oh yeah, “USB-C” – a phrase which is utterly confusing, since it describes the connector but not what the connector implements. (I will reach out to Apple for comment on that.) We do know there’s support for advanced external displays, but that requires … still more dongles. (“Up to 4K through USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter and USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter,” sold separately.)

And Apple has eliminated the headphone jack. That’s defensible I think on a phone, which has limited space and benefits from better water resistance. On a hefty tablet, though, it’s inconvenience without any real purpose.

This doesn’t mean the end of iPads for audio use – you just add an adapter. But it adds some additional resistance for pro users. And I remain puzzled as to why Apple doesn’t offer its own more innovative pro solution based on USB-C, other than a bunch of plain-vanilla but very-expensive adapters.

There’s another, subtler problem. For a lot of us, one of the big use cases for the iPad is use as a control surface for other apps. If you’re using an iPad onstage, though, one of the first things you’d want to do is disable all those gestures, so you don’t accidentally trigger them while running your live show or jamming. Since the new iPad Pro eliminates the dedicated home button, that’s no longer an option – and the upward swipe for the home button means you’re liable to accidentally exit your controller app. That’s pretty unpleasant if you’re onstage.

All of this could be another reason to consider something like a Windows touch-enabled device instead of an iPad Pro, particularly at the high end. $300-400 iPads are just phenomenally better than anything running Windows or Android right now, so there it’s no contest. But at the price point of the high-end iPads Pro, you might want to do some pros/cons with Windows.

And I don’t expect this news to go over terribly well, because it’s coming atop a year that left anyone looking for high-spec Mac desktops in the cold … again. So you get some utterly gorgeous iPads, but they’re still port-challenged. And you get updated MacBook and Mac mini, but still favoring slimness and battery life over high-end specs.

Apple has hinted there’s more in the pipeline, but it seems that we’ll see those results some time next year. In the meantime, some iOS developers I know are taking a more serious look at competing platforms – but that may be for the best, anyway.

Heavy iPad users I’m sure will want these, and if you’ve been putting off Mac mini or slim MacBook purchases, now you finally can make your move. Just expect some added griping from pro users about losing ports, especially when there’s not a clear immediate benefit in trade.

https://www.apple.com/ipad-pro/

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Teenage Engineering OP-Z is here, and it’s full of surprises: video round-up

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 29 Oct 2018 6:25 pm

Teenage Engineering’s OP-Z takes everything the mysterious Swedish maker has done in the past years and packs it into a candy bar-sized hunk of awesome. The first feature reveals and videos of the final creation are inbound, showing it doing some weird and wonderful things.

First, what is the OP-Z? (O-P-Zee for Americans, O-P-Zed for the rest of the world.) It’s an ultra-compact digital synth with loads of sequencing and groove features. It feels terrific in the hand – nicely heavy, but with the width of the beloved iPhone 5 so it’s easy to hold. (I don’t have a review unit yet, but I have gotten to try it.)

The main focus of the instrument: sequencing, so you can create elaborate patterns of synthesized sounds, as part of a rig or on its own, for on-the-go and studio creation or live performance.

What it doesn’t have is a screen; you connect a smartphone or tablet for that on the go. And so the basic idea is, it combines some of the compact game-style ideas of TE products like the Pocket Operators with the powerful synth and sequence workflow of the OP-1. It does more than all those past creations combined, though, and the Teenagers are pushing some unique possibilities for visual creation.

Your iPad or iPhone is the display and multi-touch editor / expanded sequencer for the OP-Z. (No Android support yet, but there are some unique PC visual integrations, too.)

The OP-Z ships worldwide for EUR599, and at the moment it’s sold out. That situation may ease as the Teenagers ramp up production.

But the OP-Z seems to have the most attention at the moment of any digital product, in contrast to sought-after analog instruments like the Moog One.

And sure, while some of this is more predictable – sample packs of drum sounds, effects like delay and reverb, – some of it is decidedly more left-field.

The most surprising features so far

The biggest surprises of the OP-Z:

1. It’s polymetric and does automatic melodic analysis. 1-144-step patterns let you create different rhythms on different tracks, and automatic melodic analysis gives you easier transposition.

2. Wireless display. iOS devices – iPhone, iPad – give you wireless displays and multi-touch input, and they’re remarkably responsive, enough so to play live.

3. The microphone is connected to the accelerometer. Yeah, this thing knows if you hold it up to your mouth.

4. Luxe texture. At first I thought this surface was a process applied after manufacture, but TE say they’ve added glass fibers into the body during injection molding. That makes the OP-Z feel expensive and grippy – so you don’t drop it. It’s not quite like anything you’ve touched before, and they’re promising serious durability.

5. It’s a spiritual successor to the Game Boy Camera. This wouldn’t be a TE product without some nod to the weirder side of Nintendo. This time, you get rapid-fire “photomatic” sequences a bit like on the Game Boy’s camera mode, which you can sync to the music. Of course. Or maybe you should think of it as a GIF creator. Either way, back to the 90s.

6. It’s a VJ instrument and immersive audiovisual tool. This is wild enough that we’ll need a separate story on it, this being CDM. But think Unity 3D integration.

This has relevance not just for the OP-Z but anyone interested in MIDI control of 3D visuals in Unity, since they’ve released the entire toolkit on Github:

https://github.com/teenageengineering/videolab

Plus there’s even a dedicated track for controlling lighting (via the industry standard DMX protocol)? Not sure how you connect this, exactly, but it’s a cool add-on – and someone may want to rig up some DIY solution with light bulbs as in their demo.

7. Tons of expandability is planned. Teenage Engineering are promising new effects, firmware updates, expansion via hardware ports, and more.

Video hands-on

YouTube celebrity Andrew Huang has the highest production values of the first OP-Z videos, and gives you a snapshot review.

More depth comes from Cuckoo, who’s don an extensive mega tutorial (and is just getting started, it seems):

Microwavez shows how you’d combine this with an iPad:

Here’s what it looks like making a beat, via Brandon Guerra:

And NomNomChomsky has a review up, as well:

More:

https://teenageengineering.com/products/op-z

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Teenage Engineering OP-Z has DMX track for lighting, Unity 3D integration

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 29 Oct 2018 6:21 pm

The OP-Z may be the hot digital synth of the moment, but it’s also the first consumer music instrument to have dedicated features for live visuals. And that starts with lighting (DMX) and 3D visuals (Unity 3D).

One of various surprises about the OP-Z launch is this: there’s a dedicated track for controlling DMX. That’s the MIDI-like protocol that’s an industry standard for stage lighting, supported by lighting instruments and light boards.

Not a whole lot revealed here, but you get the sense that Teenage Engineering are committed to live visual applications:

There’s also integration with Unity 3D, for 2D and 3D animations you can sequence. This integration relies on MIDI, but they’ve gone as far as developing a framework for MIDI-controlled animations. Since Unity runs happily both on mobile devices and beefy desktop rigs, it’s a good match both for doing fun things with your iOS display (which the OP-Z uses anyway), and desktop machines with serious GPUs for more advanced AV shows.

Check out the framework so far on their GitHub:

https://github.com/teenageengineering/videolab

We’ll talk to Teenage Engineering to find out more about what they’re planning here, because #createdigitalmotion.

https://teenageengineering.com/products/op-z

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Deep Synth combines a Game Boy and the THX sound

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 22 Oct 2018 3:43 pm

Do you love the THX Deep Note sound – that crazy sweep of timbres heard at the beginning of films? Do you wish you had it in a playable synth the size of a calculator? Deep Synth is for you.

First, Deep Note? Just to refresh your memory: (Turn it up!!)

Yeah, that.

Apart from being an all-time great in sound design, the Deep Note’s underlying synthesis approach was novel and interesting. And thanks to the power of new embedded processors, it’s totally possible to squeeze this onto a calculator.

Enter Eugene, Oregon-based professional developer Kernel Bob aka kbob. A low-level Linux coder by day, Bob got interested in making an audio demo for the 1Bitsy-1UP game console, a powerful modern embedded machine with the form factor of a classic Game Boy. (Unlike a Game Boy, you have a decent processor, color screen, USB, and SD card.)

The Deep Note is the mother of all audio demos. That sound is owned by THX, but the basic synthesis approach is not – think 32 voices drifting from a relatively random swarm into the seat rocking final chord.

The results? Oh, only the most insane synthesizer of the year:

Whether you’re an engineer or not, the behind the scenes discussion of how this was done is fascinating to anyone who loves synthesis. (Maybe you can enlighten Bob on this whole bit about the sawtooth oscillator in SuperCollider.)

Read the multi-part series on Deep Synth and sound on this handheld platform:

Deep Synth: Introduction

And to try messing about with Deep Note-style synthesis on your own in the free, multi-platform coding for musicians environment SuperCollider:

Recreating the THX Deep Note [earslap]

All of this is open hardware, open code, so if you are a coder, it might inspire your own projects. And meanwhile, as 1Bitsy-1UP matures, we may soon all have a cool handheld platform for our noisemaking endeavors. I can’t wait.

Thanks to Samantha Lüber for the tip!

Previously:

THX Just Remade the Deep Note Sound to be More Awesome

And we got to interview the sound’s creator (and talk to him about how he recreated it):

Q+A: How the THX Deep Note Creator Remade His Iconic Sound

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Modular to go: 4ms are making cute little $100 “Pods” for modules

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 11 Oct 2018 9:46 am

It’s Eurorack without the big rack. Or rack modular that thinks it’s desktop. In any event, if you ever found a module or three you wanted to use without getting a big rack, or quick portability for a beloved module, 4ms may have a solution for you: 4ms Pods.

They’re cute. They’re cheap. They’re daisy-chainable. So if you don’t want that “cockpit” / “I’m outfitting a submarine command center” look, now you can take modules and put them in little handheld boxes you can move around, mix with desktop synths and effects, guitar pedals – whatever.

The daisy-chainable power designed just for this range also mean that you can put together a handful of pods pretty economically, since you only need to buy one with power supply. The pricing – the number being the size in hp, of course:

Pod20: US$55 unpowered / $99 powered
Pod26: $60 / $109
Pod32: $65/$119

It’s a clever idea, and they look really nice. Now they just need a nice carry case – a Podpod?

4ms announced these earlier today; “coming soon.”

https://4mscompany.com/

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Control all of Ableton from iOS, Android, Windows: touchAble Pro

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 5 Oct 2018 1:13 pm

Ableton Live: lug along hardware, or … be forced to use a mouse or touchpad. No more: touchAble Pro continues to unlock more and more of Live’s functionality, and now it’s available across touch platforms – iOS, Android, Windows.

That last bit in itself is already news. iPad owners have had plenty of great stuff, but … what if you’ve got an Android phone instead of an iPhone? Or a Microsoft Surface? Or what if you want controls to jam on a big touchscreen display – in the studio, for instance?

It’s possible to target all three of those platforms; the fact many developers haven’t tells you they haven’t yet figured out the business case. But with Ableton Live a massive platform, numbering millions of active users, and use cases that focus on making things happen, uh, “live,” the touchAble devs could have a winner.

And whichever platform you choose, there’s simply no way to put this much control of Ableton Live at your fingertips, with this much visual feedback. We covered this release in full earlier:

touchAble Pro for Ableton Live: touch control on iOS, Android, Windows

But here’s a recap of why it’s cool, whether you’re a returning user or new to the platform:

Piano Roll editing (top), and custom Devices (bottom).

New:

  • Audio clip view with waveforms, including side-by-side waveforms
  • Piano roll view for pattern editing
  • Draw and edit automation
  • Track I/O
  • Custom layouts with Template Editor
  • Custom Device templates (even with third-party plug-ins and Max for Live, via an In-App Purchase coming soon)

And this matters. Now you can quickly whip up a custom template that shows you just what you need to see for a live performance – without squinting (it’s all scalable). Add in side-by-side waveforms to that, and you could twist Live into a DJ tool – or certainly a more flexible live performance tool, especially if you’ve got other instruments or vocals to focus on.

Plus a lot of other good stuff:

Transport, metronome, cues, and quantization
Clips and scenes and control looping
Arm, mute, and solo tracks
Adjust monitoring
Mix, pan, crossfade, and control sends and returns
Play instruments with grid or piano-style layouts, with scales, note repeat, aftertouch, and velocity (based on finger position)
Control device parameters, using faders or assignable X/Y pad modules
X/Y Pad: assign physics, make and morph snapshots or record full gestures,
Navigate Live’s Browser, and drag and drop Devices or Samples to the set

Enlarge stuff – like this clip overview – and make the custom layout you need.

Side by side waveforms, and a bunch of clip options. Oh yeah.

Touch on Windows isn’t just about devices like Surface – it’s also big touch-equipped displays, so ideal for studio work.

Three new videos are out now to walk you through how it’s all working.

More:
http://www.touch-able.com

The post Control all of Ableton from iOS, Android, Windows: touchAble Pro appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Run your audio gear off of USB power banks: KOMA’s Strom Mobile

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 3 Oct 2018 10:39 am

You’re on the go. And those wonderful USB power banks will charge your phone – so why not audio gear, too? KOMA Elektronik’s new Strom Mobile makes it possible.

Here’s the problem: USB power banks (mobile batteries and whatnot), while plentiful, only output 5V power for phones and USB, and they’re anything but “low noise” (meaning you’ll hear garbled interference when you plug a lot of them in).

A lot of your compact audio gear is probably running on 9V or 12V power, and it’ll make you happier if it’s low noise. (Some gear is 5V, of course, but that’s another story.)

Enter Strom Mobile, a small accessory from KOMA that adapts power banks for your gear. Specs:

  • 9V/12V DC power compatibility (clean, low noise)
  • Two power channels – plug in to one or both, and set each channel to either 9V or 12V
  • Indicators to show you which power is connected, and how much current you’re using
  • Four outputs for gear – or connect more via daisy chaining (until you run out of current, anyway)
  • Cables and manual in the box: 1x USB B, 2x DC-DC, printed guide

The USB B cable is especially designed for this application.

There’s also a Strom Mobile Cable Pack you can buy as an add on, which includes another of those special USB B cables, a 1-5to-5 daisychain DC cable, 2 more DC cables, and 1 polarity changing DC cable.

And of course, this is intended for use with the Field Kit and Field Kit FX from KOMA, but the list of 9V/12V drum machines, recorders, samplers, effects pedals, mobile synths, and the like is very long.

Pricing: 175EUR suggested retail, or 35EUR for the Cable Pack.

Check the intro video:

Artists Hainbach (known for his lovely cassette tape videos and ambient creations) and Wouter (KOMA founder, here with his ODD NARRATIVE project) play and record using the gear en plein air at Berlin’s former airport-turned-park Tempelhofer Feld.

Product page:

https://koma-elektronik.com/?product=strom-mobile-portable-power-solution

The post Run your audio gear off of USB power banks: KOMA’s Strom Mobile appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

This granular convolver hardware is the latest creation from Tatsuya Takahashi

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 26 Sep 2018 5:38 pm

There’s a nice gift for Red Bull Music Academy attendees: a hardware convolver effect from the man who led the team at KORG that gave us volcas and minilogues. Here’s a sneak preview.

The Granular Convolver is a collaboration between Tatsuya, now working as an independent designer and relocated to Germany from Japan (while still in an advisory position with KORG), and Berlin’s own E-RM Erfindungsbüro, maker of obsessive-quality clock devices. (Founder Maximilian Rest is the design mind there.)

I’ve got one in-hand, and will detail its operation with some sound samples shortly, but here’s a quick teaser.

First, a Jony Ives (sorry)-style video from Tats:

The important thing: this Raspberry Pi-powered device feels amazing, like a heavyweight metal luxury item, and makes wonderful sounds.

The basic operation:

1. Record a sound snippet.
2. Play back that sound snippet via a granular engine.
3. Convolve that playback with a live input, combining the two sounds – the timbre of your original sound, the envelope of what you’re playing now.

There are also some features for storing and recalling presets, which make this performance friendly.

Why this matters: it gives you an expressive way of “playing” an effect, like an instrument.

And it’s a unique boutique hardware making project, for the particular context of an event – very different than the mass-manufactured designs of something like the volca series. The units were all hand-assembled (by Tats himself) here in Berlin, and even the boards and cases were made here, as well, so it really is a Berlin manufacturing product in a way most things aren’t.

More on this soon – and you can bet if you follow any RBMA attendees, you’ll see some of their experiments with this hardware show up in social channels!

The last time Tats worked with Red Bull:

There’s a synth symphony for 100 cars coming, based on tuning

And – while it’s important to note he was part of a team – some commentary on the Tats Era at KORG (and still very curious what that team will do next!):

Visionary Tatsuya Takahashi leaves a huge legacy as he departs KORG

The post This granular convolver hardware is the latest creation from Tatsuya Takahashi appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Mics that record in “3D” ambisonics are the next big thing

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 19 Sep 2018 5:56 pm

Call it the virtual reality microphone … or just think of it as an evolution of microphones that capture sounds more as you hear them. But mics purporting to give you 3D recording are arriving in waves – and they could change both immersive sound and how we record music.

Let’s back up from the hype a little bit here. Once we’re talking virtual reality or you’re imagining people in goggles, Lawnmower Man style, we’re skipping ahead to the application of these mic solutions, beyond the mics themselves.

The microphone technology itself may wind up being the future of recording with or without consumers embracing VR tech.

Back in the glorious days of mono audio, a single microphone that captured an entire scene was … well, any single microphone. And in fact, to this day there are plenty of one-mic recording rigs – think voice overs, for instance.

The reason this didn’t satisfy anyone is more about human perception than it is technology. Your ears and brain are able to perceive extremely accurate spatial positioning in more or less a 360-degree sphere through a wide range of frequencies. Plus, the very things that screw up that precise spatial perception – like reflections – contribute to the impact of sound and music in other ways.

And so we have stereo. And with stereo sound delivery, a bunch of two-microphone arrangements become useful ways of capturing spatial information. Eventually, microphone makers work out ways of building integrated capsules with two microphone diaphragms instead of just one, and you get the advantages of two mics in a single housing. Those in turn are especially useful in mobile devices.

So all these buzzwords you’re seeing in mics all of a sudden – “virtual reality,” “three-dimensional” sound, “surround mics,” and “ambisonic mics” are really about extending this idea. They’re single microphones that capture spatial sound, just like those stereo mics, but in a way that gives them more than just two-channel left/right (or mid/center) information. To do that, these solutions have two components:

1. A mic capsule with multiple diaphragms for capturing full-spectrum sound from all directions
2. Software processing so you can decode that directional audio, and (generally speaking) encode it into various surround delivery formats or ambisonic sound

(“Surround” here generally means the multichannel formats beyond just stereo; ambisonics are a standard way of encoding full 360-degree sound information, so not just positioning on the same plane as your ears, but above and below, too.)

The B360 ambisonics encoder from plug-in maker WAVES.

The software encoding is part of what’s interesting here. Once you have a mic that captures 360-degree sound, you can use it in a number of ways. These sorts of mic capsules are useful in modeling different microphones, since you can adjust the capture pattern in software after the fact. So these spherical mics could model different classic mics, in different arrangements, making it seem as though you recorded with multiple mics when you only used one. Just like your computer can become a virtual studio full of gear, that single mic can – in theory, anyway – act like more than one microphone. That may prove useful for production applications other than just “stuff for VR.”

There are a bunch of these microphones showing up all at once. I’m guessing that’s for two reasons – one, a marketing push around VR recording, but two, likely some system-on-a-chip developments that make this possible. (All those Chinese-made components could get hit with hefty US tariffs soon, so we’ll see how that plays out. But I digress.)

Here is a non-comprehensive selection of examples of new or notable 360-degree mics.

8ball

Maker: HEAR360, a startup focused on this area

Cost: US$2500

The pitch: Here’s a heavy-duty, serious solution – camera-mountable, “omni-binaural” mic that gives you 8 channels of sound that comes closest to how we hear, complete with head tracking-capable recordings. PS, if you’re wondering which DAW to use – they support Pro Tools and, surprise, Reaper.

Who it’s for: High-end video productions focused on capturing spatial audio with the mic.

https://hear360.io/shop/8ball

NT-SF1

Maker: RØDE, collaborating with 40-year veteran of these sorts of mics, Soundfield (acquired by RØDE’s parent in 2016)

Cost: US$999

The pitch: Make full-360, head-trackable recordings in a single mic (records in A-format, converts to B-format) for ambisonic audio you can use across formats. Works with Dolby Atmos, works with loads of DAWs (Reaper and Pro Tools, Cubase and Nuendo, and Logic Pro). 4-channel to the 8-ball’s titular eight, but much cheaper and with more versatile software.

Who it’s for: Studios and producers wanting a moderately-priced, flexible solution right now. Plus it’s a solid mic that lets you change mic patterns at will.

Software matters as does the mic in these applications; RØDE supports DAWs like Cubase/Nuendo, Pro Tools, Reaper, and Logic.

https://en.rode.com/nt-sf1

H3-VR

Maker: ZOOM

Cost: US$350

The pitch: ZOOM is making this dead simple – like the GoPro camera of VR mics. 4-capsule ambisonic mic plus 6-axis motion sensor with automatic positioning and level detection promise to make this the set-it-and-forget-it solution. And to make this more mobile, the encoding and recording is included on the device itself. Record ambisonics, stereo inaural, or just use it like a normal stereo mic, all controlled onboard with buttons or using an iOS device as a remote. Your recording is saved on SD cards, even with slate tone and metadata. And you can monitor the 3D sound, sort of, using stereo binaural output of the ambisonic signal (not perfect, but you’ll get the idea).

Who it’s for: YouTube stars wanting to go 3D, obviously, plus one-stop live streaming and music streaming and recording. The big question mark here to me is what’s sacrificed in quality for the low price, but maybe that’s a feature, not a bug, given this area is so new and people want to play around.

https://www.zoom-na.com/products/field-video-recording/field-recording/zoom-h3-vr-handy-recorder

ZYLIA

Maker: ZYLIA, a Polish startup that IndieGogo-funded its first run last year. But the electronics inside come from Infineon, the German semiconductor giant that spun off of Siemens.

Cost: US$1199 list (Pro) / $699 for the basic model

The pitch: This futuristic football contains some 19 mic capsules to the 4-8 above. But the idea isn’t necessarily VR – instead, Zylia claims they use this technology to automatically separate sound sources from this single device. In other words, put the soccer ball in your studio, and the software separates out your drums, keys, and vocalist. Or get the Pro model and capture 3rd-order ambisonics – with more spatial precision than the other offerings here, if it works as advertised.

Who it’s for: Musicians wanting a new-fangled solution for multichannel recording from just one mic (on the basic model), useful for live recording and education, or people doing 3D recordings wanting the same plug-and-play simplicity and more spatial information.

Oh yeah, also – 69dB signal-to-noise ratio is nothing to sneeze at.

Pro Tools Expert did a review late last year, though I think we soon need a more complete review for the 3D applications.

http://www.zylia.co/

What did we miss? With this area growing fast, plenty, I suspect, so sound off. This is one big area in mics to watch, for sure – and the latest example that software processing and intelligence will continue to transform music and audio hardware, even if the fundamental hardware components remain the same.

And, uh, I guess we’ll all soon wind up like this guy?

(Photo source, without explanation, is the very useful archives of the ambisonics symposium.

The post Mics that record in “3D” ambisonics are the next big thing appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Teenage Engineering to ship their OP-Z, a handheld game-like synth

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 17 Sep 2018 8:38 pm

In a sea of synths that embrace retro vibes or big form factors, futurists and minimalist design lovers have eagerly awaited the Teenage Engineering OP-Z. And that wait is nearly over.

The new thing from Sweden now at last starts preorders now, with a ship date in mid October. The first batch are already gone, but at least we know these things are making their way into the world.

It’ll even come with a cute case bundle. (Cables and grippy knobs sold separately.)

There’s even an atypical apology from the Teenagers:

– let us start by apologizing for the long delay.* to develop new products can at times be quite hard and when you work on things that have never been done before,

it’s even harder. over the last year we have re-worked and re-thought in absurdum, but now when three long years of development have finally come to an end, we feel quite confident that you will actually thank us for that extra long wait. why? you might ask…– because the result is just pretty, pretty great.

Hands-on sessions at Moscow’s Synthposium – the surprise in-event this year for synth lovers – in fact confirmed the pretty-greatness of the OP-Z.

So instead of Stockholm, we got the really proper view of the OP-Z in the Russian capital, as documented here. The “Z” stands for “depth”:

And that’s also how Cuckoo, YouTube personality, suddenly shows up on Russian Music Mag’s channel and not only his own:

The jumbo candybar form factor of this synth recalls the Teenagers’ other flagship, the OP-1. But it’s safer to say that the OP-Z brings together a lot of what the design shop have been about over the years. There’s the lineage from the machinedrum and the early Elektron days, and its emphasis on design, rectangular corners, minimal controls, and grooves embedded into hardware. There’s the reduced calculator-style layout and key controls as we saw on the Pocket Operators. You have the unmistakable design aesthetics, introduced on the OP-1 but continually improved with collaborations with the likes of IKEA. So the OP-Z looks more stylish and design-conscious than anything else on the market.

But that’s not nearly as important I think as the way Teenage Engineering have increasingly mixed gaming metaphors, particularly from the Nintendo legacy, with music.

The OP-Z looks like a portable gaming console, and one that’s simultaneously both futuristic and kind of 1980s. (It’s a future for people who spent part of their past in the 80s.)

It plugs into a bigger display, in a throwback to old consoles and PCs.

And it suggests that an electronic musical instrument is a game and a tool at the same time.

The best way to follow how it works is to catch up with some of the best hands-on videos coming out of the YouTubers who were seeded beta units. Tutorial:

Jam session:

Do you speak German? Do you speak English but prefer the way synthesizer talk sounds in German? (Really, sounds way more … intelligent, somehow.)

The visual possibilities, meanwhile, are captured more clearly in Japan, and … those features sound better in Japanese, I think.

And here’s Cuckoo playing the thing live:

Check out the preorder:

https://teenage.engineering/products/op-z/pre-order

Or in person, Teenage Engineering is showing this and their other recent stuff in King’s Cross London:

https://teenage.engineering/now

https://teenage.engineering/

* Side note: once upon a time, I projected a graph of awesomeness vs. shippingness, specifically regarding the OP-1. Seems it’s still a curve you have to fight – but it can be defeated even with awesome stuff.

The post Teenage Engineering to ship their OP-Z, a handheld game-like synth appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Cute little €99 NES, acid music toys: coming soon, totally connected

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 28 Aug 2018 9:04 pm

Twisted Electrons’ small, fun-looking boards with acid and Nintendo chip sounds are one of the sound toys we’re most eagerly anticipating this year. And now they’re adding some connectivity: clock, USB MIDI, and an editor.

Here’s the story so far: Twisted Electrons have already been making some pretty powerful desktop synths and sequencers. But then they were inspired by Teenage Engineering’s dirt-cheap, impulse-buy tiny boards, the Pocket Operators. (It’s okay to say that; they’re open about the inspiration and it sounds like those crazy kids up in Sweden are more than happy about it.) So, they took the 8-bit acid bass wavetable sounds and step sequencer out of their acid8 synth, and added a new synth inspired by the chip from the classic Nintendo Entertainment System console.

We saw these boards first at Superbooth in Berlin. They look like fun little gadgets, especially if you’re after some chip sounds.

And oh wow does the NES board sound great. Plus, I like that this takes a hands-on approach to sound and step sequencing – nothing against trackers and the program-the-sound approach, but it’s nice to have the same sound set with a different approach:

The “acid” uacid8 instrument is sexy, too – love child of a TB-303’s squelch and the grittier sounds of chip music:

If you were already waiting for them, there was a manufacturing delay as they moved manufacturing into Europe. But now we get extra features:

1. MIDI clock compatibility

2. USB MIDI support

3. VST editor for desktop

Ah-ha! So now, instead of having some fun toys you play around with for an evening that then collect dust, you can be sure you’ll be able to wire these into your existing setup, sync them up, and be productive actually adding them to projects and make some finished songs.

DAW integration looks like so:

The soundtrack for that video game you dreamed of as a kid can now be a reality. Get making and become the chip composer legend you never were.

Or, at least, get ready to do that around October when these ship. We’ll be waiting. That’s €99 for the world that isn’t in the Eurozone, plus a little more with VAT if you’re on the inside of the Fortress Europe walls.

Preorder product pages:

https://twisted-electrons.com/product/hapines-pre-order/

https://twisted-electrons.com/product/uacid8-pre-order/

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