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


Upload music directly to Spotify: streaming giant goes in new direction

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 20 Sep 2018 7:29 pm

Spotify has begun opening uploading not just to labels and distributors, but individual artists. And the implications of that could be massive, if the service is expanded – or if rivals follow suit.

On reflection, it’s surprising this didn’t happen sooner.

Among major streaming players, currently only SoundCloud lets individual artists upload music directly. Everyone else requires intermediaries, whether that’s labels or distributors. The absurdity of this system is that services like TuneCore have profited off streaming growth. In theory, that might have meant that music selections were more “curated” and less junk showed up online. In reality, though, massive amounts of music get dumped on all the streaming services, funneling money from artists and labels into the coffers of third-party services. That arrangement surely makes no sense for the likes of Spotify, Apple, Google, and others as they look to maximize revenue.

Music Business Worldwide reports that Spotify is starting to change that now:
Spotify opens the floodgates: artists can now upload tracks direct to the streaming platform for FREE

The service is starting small, MBW reports:

The feature currently remains in invite-only beta mode – with a few hundred US artists being ushered in – but Spotify says that, in the future, it will “bring upload to even more artists, labels, and teams”.

The question really is how far they’ll expand. If they use all of Spotify for Artists, as this article implies, then some 200,000 or so verified artist accounts will get the feature. (I’m one of those accounts.) 200,000 artists with direct access to Spotify could change the game for everyone.

The potential losers here are clear. First, there are the distributors. So-called “digital distribution” at this point really amounts to nothing of the sort. While these third parties will get your music out to countless streaming services, for most artists and labels, only the big ones like iTunes and Spotify count to most of their customers. At the entry level, these services often carry hefty ongoing subscription fees while providing little service other than submitting your music. More personalized distributors, meanwhile, often require locking in multi-year contracts. (I, uh, speak from experience on both those counts. It’s awful.)

Even the word “distributor” barely makes sense in the current digital context. Unlike a big stack of vinyl, nothing is actually really getting distributed. More complete management and monetization platforms actually do make sense – plus tools to deal with the morass of social media. Paying a toll to a complicated website to upload music for you? That defies reason.

The second potential loser would clearly be SoundCloud. Once beloved by independent producers and labels, that service hasn’t delivered much on its promise of new features for its creators. (Most recently, they unveiled a weekly playlist that seems cloned from Spotify’s feature.) And SoundCloud’s ongoing popularity with users was dependent of having music that couldn’t be found elsewhere. If artists can upload directly to Spotify, well … uh, game over, SoundCloud. (Yeah, you still might want to upload embeddable players and previews but other services could do that better.)

But all this still remains to be seen. Spotify have tipped their hand with this beta, so others could follow. It’s strange on some level that Spotify beat Apple to the punch – given that Apple makes the hardware (MacBook Pro, iPad) and software (GarageBand, Logic Pro X) a lot of musicians are using. Apple attempted this once with the poorly designed Connect features (touted by Trent Reznor, no less). But its functionality still lags badly, in the form of beta Apple Music for Artists and Apple Music Toolbox.

Just remember how this played out the first time. Spotify reached a critical mass of streaming, and Apple followed. If Spotify really are doing uploads, it seems Apple are next.

Meanwhile, I wouldn’t write off labels or genre-specific stores just yet. If you’re making music in a genre for a more specific audience, dumping your music on Spotify where it’s lost in the long tail is probably exactly what you don’t want to do. Streaming money from the big consumer services just isn’t reaching lesser known artists the way it is the majors and big acts. So I suspect that perversely, the upload feature could lead to an even closer relationship between, say, electronic label producers and labels and services tailored to their needs, like Beatport. (We’re waiting on Beatport’s own subscription offerings soon.)

But does this make sense? It sure does for the streaming service. Giving the actual content makers the tools to upload and control tags and other data should actually reduce labor costs for streaming services, entice more of the people making music, and build catalogs.

And what about you as a music maker? Uh, well… strap in, and we find out.

The post Upload music directly to Spotify: streaming giant goes in new direction 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.

A favorite sequencer gets more dimension: new Make Noise René

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 17 Sep 2018 2:39 pm

Forget about gear fetish: the delightful surprise behind the modular movement is that a whole bunch of people are interested in exploring weird new musical ideas. And one of the sequencer modules at the heart of it is getting a big refresh.

The René module wouldn’t strike anyone as something that’d turn into a big hit. This is an esoteric little device: a grid of touchplates and a bunch of knobs, which you then spaghetti-wire into other modules to make, uh, odd patterns.

But making weird patterns you can then shift around – well, that’s a lot of fun. And René liberated modular rigs from one of their major weaknesses: too often, people were stuck with rigid step sequencers that produced overly repetitive loops that would drive you insane. Basically, the “Cartesian” bit is, instead of having a line (those marching steps), you get a grid (x + Y).

So, here comes the René refresh. This is three-dimensional chess to the original model’s checkers.

The new model is three channels instead of one, three dimensional sequencing instead of two, and boasts expanded memory so you can save up to 64 states – no more long modular performances that sound great for the first three minutes and then … sort of exactly like that for the next hour, too.

This “three-axis” business is maybe a little exaggerated, but basically what you get is z-axis touch sensitivity, so added expression. Combine that with three channels of output, though, and you can in fact route a lot more control from this one module than before. And no doubt the additional memory will be useful in performance.

Here’s the full feature set:

  • 3 CV outputs for controlling pitch or timbre
  • 3 Gate outputs for generating musical events
  • Snake and Cartesian patterns available simultaneously
  • STORE all Programming in one of 64 STATEs.
  • New Z-Axis allows for modulating through any combination of 64 STOREd STATEs
  • All programming done real-time, programming of René is a key performance element
  • Visualization of pattern activity always displayed on left half with 16 illuminated Knobs
  • Visual indication of Programming always displayed on right half with 16 illuminated touch buttons
  • Communicates w/ TEMPI via Select Bus to Select, Store, Revert, Multi-Paste and MESH STATEs
  • Maximum amount of artist controlled musical variation, derived from minimum amount of analog data input
  • All new touch sensing technology tested successfully on the most commonly used euro rack power solutions

Of course, since the René first came out, it’s gotten a lot more competition. So it could be fun to see how this stacks up against other modular (and desktop, or software, even) sequencers.

René is available to preorder for US$525.

http://makenoisemusic.com/modules/rene

Since that’s my monthly rent, it’s worth saying Eurorack is still pricey relative to some lower-cost desktop hardware, to say nothing of computers. Clever software patching is great if you’re broke, or if you’ve a little scratch, something like Five12 Numerology.

But that said, this no doubt will go high on people’s shopping lists in the modular world – and it’s an impressive piece of work. Look forward to seeing more.

Oh yeah – there’s a GIF, too.

via GIPHY

https://gph.is/2CTzLbq

The post A favorite sequencer gets more dimension: new Make Noise René appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Roland’s latest keytar is more 80s than ever: AX-Edge

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 14 Sep 2018 4:49 pm

“Shoulder synthesizer”? “Strap-on keyboard?” No, Roland is calling their latest keytar a keytar – and giving into 80s retro vibes. And it’s a vocoder. And… you might kinda want one.

Roland says the new AX-Edge is built on “decades of refinement and input from artists around the world.” Apparently, that “refinement” came when the keytarists said: “give it blades.” “All black keys.” “I want to look like I could play in Jem and the Misfits.” “Please stop calling it a strap-on. It’s a keytar. That sounds really dirty.”

Well, who are we to argue with any of that?

The AX-Edge comes in red and black or white. What’s onboard:
49 keys with velocity and channel aftertouch
Bluetooth MIDI wireless connections – which even allows wireless use of the editor
MIDI DIN in and out
USB and a USB-B slot for a memory stick
Mic input
Stereo out
Headphone out
The paddle-style modulation bar, plus a touch strip (both of those designed to be accessible under your thumb)
One assignable control knob, next to the volume knob (though that one looks tricky to reach)
More sounds: lead, bass, poly, pad, brass, keys, “other”, FX
Vocoder sounds (you knew that mic input was for something, right?)
Performance controls, which Roland says are easy to reach: portamento, hold, octave, and program change buttons, plus 7 assignable buttons
Effects: EQ (per part), 79 types of per-part multi-effects, chorus (8 types), reverb (6 types), master compressor, master EQ

The sound engine is divided into 4 parts + the vocoder part.

You can also “favorite” sounds. And there are more performance features: an arpeggiator (thank you), two displays for more visual feedback, and a song mode with backing tracks.

Roland promises four hours of mobile playing time on Ni-MH batteries, or you can tether to power with an AC adaptor.

This is a pretty similar arrangement to the previous AX-Synth, so I’ll need to talk to Roland to find out what exactly has changed. The obvious omission: the D-Beam wireless controller. But that was awkward to use on a keytar, since it was designed to be aimed up from a keyboard in front of you on a stand, and you still get control modulation.

Clever placement of buttons under your fingers on the neck, in combination with the existing paddle and ribbon controller plus a lot of additional assignable buttons and one assignable knob, open up more serious performance options. The engine promises to back that up, too.

Other than that, on specs: the AX-Edge has roughly twice the number of sound presets, presumably using a more up-to-date Roland engine, and a whole bumper crop of effects you can apply to each part. That suggests there’s way more horsepower under the hood. The AX-Edge has also gotten ever so slightly heavier – 4.2 kg instead of 3.9 kg – and has shifted its dimensions around if in roughly the same space.

But mostly what I notice is, this looks a hell of a lot better. It at least embraces the ridiculousness of a keytar with something that looks badass. And that’s what’s likely to make it move better in stores, whereas the AX-Synth looked weirdly toy-like for a product with a four-figure price tag.

For an added gimmick, you can swap out different-colored blades to customize the appearance. (The white comes with gold, the black with silver, and you can customize blades.)

Normally at this point, people start griping in comments about how most people will look horribly dorky playing a keytar, which is true, but you’ll look horribly dorky playing anything unless you clean up your appearance and practice your chops, so there’s that.

We’ll keep an eye out for price (critical), and some details on sound engine.

But if this is affordable and sounds great and looks as good in person, you might have to start an electro band.

More:

https://www.roland.com/global/products/ax-edge/

Oh dear. Yes, this is happening.

The post Roland’s latest keytar is more 80s than ever: AX-Edge appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Watch futuristic techno made by robots – then learn how it was made

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Labels,Scene | Wed 12 Sep 2018 5:48 pm

Roboticist, composer, and futurist Moritz Simon Geist has made an entire album using robotic machines. It’s stunning to behold – and he tells you all about how it developed. Let’s watch:

This is more than a gimmick: there’s a real difference in approach and process here. Moritz’s work is truly mechanical-acoustical and electro-acoustic, using mechanical, kinetic machines to produce sounds.

And Moritz has been working on this background for some time, including making an entire oversized TR-808 drum machine that replicates sounds not with analog circuitry or digital code, but by actually hitting percussion. (The claps even required a cluster of stuff to clap together.)

An extended making-of video walks through the behind-the-scenes process of how this came about and evolved.

It’s as much an exercise in kinetic sculpture as music, but then the album organizes those raw materials in an eminently listenable, musical manner. It’s quirky grooves, true to its mechanical-robotic nature – that is, even if you didn’t know what this was, you might quickly imagine dancing bots. The materiality comes through, in subtly off rhythms and precisely-placed organic sounds.

Moritz’ ongoing collaborators Mouse on Mars co-produced both an EP (“The Material Turn”, out October 12) and LP (“Robotic Electronic Music”, on November 16). And Moritz extends the musical role here, by being both inventor/builder/maker and musician – not to mention label head.

It’s great to see Moritz starting a new label devoted to this medium – Sonic Robots Records – but also getting the help not only of Mouse on Mars but legendary German label Kompakt to handle global distribution.

You can preorder the EP already, in both digital and vinyl forms:

… with the LP to follow soon.

Here’s our look at how Moritz is working with Mouse on Mars:

Here’s how Mouse on Mars are using robots to expand their band

And here’s how we first got to meet Moritz, through his robotic TR-808:

A Robotic, Physical 808 Machine Advances Weird Science of Music, Tech Alike

Want to try making your own robotic music? Dadamachines is an easy way to start, and you can explore sound and musical arrangement without having to know about the building side right away:

dadamachines is an open toolkit for making robotic musical instruments

Don’t miss Moritz’ talk, too, for our MusicMakers Hacklab this year, discussing speculative futures for machine learning:

https://moritzsimongeist.bandcamp.com/album/the-material-turn

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Minecraft music making: watch someone play music with the game

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 11 Sep 2018 5:48 pm

Minecraft, your latest somewhat bizarre drum machine? Believe it. Gamer meisterjaan sends us this mod of Minecraft into a music tool, and the results are kind of hilarious / terrifying.

Watch, as meisterjann combines an arrangement of Minecraft blocks with some classic Moog Music Moogerfooger and Electro-Harmonix Memory Man stomp effects:

Commentary:

Using note blocks, redstone, repeaters and sounds of montsers in Minecraft in combination with hardware effects to make something similar to music. The gameplay and effects are recorded in one take as a stereo recording. Not quite my new favorite DAW yet but quite fun 🙂

This isn’t the most far-fetched Minecraft – music tool mash-up we’ve seen yet, though. That’ll be the 2010 mod that went the other direction – someone created a Minecraft clone inside Ableton Live, just because.

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Hack a Launchpad Pro into a 16-channel step sequencer, free

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 11 Sep 2018 4:59 pm

Novation’s Launchpad Pro is unique among controller hardware: not only does it operate in standalone mode, but it has an easy-to-modify, open source firmware. This mod lets you exploit that to transform it into a 32-step sequencer.

French musician and engineer Quentin Lamerand writes us to share his mod for Novation’s firmware. And you don’t have to be a coder to use this – you can easily install it without any coding background, which was part of the idea of opening up the firmware in the first place.

The project looks really useful. You get 16 channels (for controlling multiple sound parts or devices), plus 32-steps for longer phrases. And since the Launchpad Pro works as standalone hardware, you could use all of this without a computer. (You can output notes on either the USB port – even in standalone mode – or the MIDI DIN out port.)

You’ll need something else to supply clock – the sequencer only works in slave mode – but once you do that (hihi, drum machine), you’re good to go.

Bonus features:

  • Note input with velocity (adjustable using aftertouch on the pads)
  • Repeat notes
  • Adjustable octave
  • Setup mode with track selection, parameters, mute, clear, and MIDI thru toggle
  • Tap steps to select track length
  • Adjust step length (to 32nd, 16th, 16th note triplet, 8th, 8th note triplet, quarter, quarter note triplet, half note)
  • Rotate steps

On one hand, this is what I think most of us believe Novation should have shipped in the first place. On the other hand, look at some of those power-user features – by opening up the firmware, we get some extras the manufacturer probably wouldn’t have added. And if you are handy with some simple code, you can modify this further to get it exactly how you want.

It’s a shame, actually, that we haven’t seen more hackable tools like this. But that’s all the more reason to go grab this – especially as Launchpads Pro can be had on the cheap. (Time to dust mine off, which was the other beauty of this project!)

Go try Quentin’s work and let us know what you think:

http://faqtor.fr/launchpadpro.html

Got some hacks of your own, or inspired by this to give it a try? Definitely give a shout.

The open firmware project you’ll find on Novation’s GitHub:

https://github.com/dvhdr/launchpad-pro

More:

Hack a Grid: Novation Makes Launchpad Pro Firmware Open Source

Launchpad Pro Grid Controller: Hands-on Comprehensive Guide

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Peter Theremin’s haunting music, on his great-grandfather’s invention

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 10 Sep 2018 5:46 pm

Most of us never got to know Leon Theremin (Lev Termen) or hear him play live. But we can take in his great grandson continuing the tradition of playing his invention – and Peter Theremin’s music is just as hauntingly human.

The Theremin has a special role in music history and the birth of electronic sound. Its sounds were among the first to suggest that electronic, not only acoustic, instruments could be expressive, that its electrical utterances could be like a human voice. It’s history is bound up with the history of US-Soviet relations, and the shaky relationship of electronics to espionage (and, in turn, the Communist sphere’s oscillating position on how acceptable electronic music would be). And is if that weren’t enough, the instrument also inspired Bob Moog to create synths, forever altering the course of the synth’s evolution.

But even with so many other choices now, there’s something uniquely pure and arresting about the Theremin’s sound and dead-simple design. And so among various international artists and in particular Russians carrying on that tradition, Peter Theremin (Петр Термен) is the one who literally carries on the inventor’s name. His music lives up to that, and then there’s the fact that he unmistakably carries some of the same DNA.

I got to here Peter play most recently last week at Moscow’s Synthposium, within walking distance of a lot of Theremin history in the Russian capital (not to mention the US Embassy where Maestro Lev once bugged the US Ambassador’s office, Trojan Horse style. (We really need to build one of these in a workshop. Anyone tried that?)

That performance is online:

“The Swan” as played by Clara Rockmore is one of my favorite Theremin performances ever, and Peter comes pretty darn close in his rendition for BBC Music:

Following his VKontakte page is the best way to dig through his music, if you don’t mind a little Russian text here and there – a login isn’t even needed. (VK is a social network mostly popular in Russia, where it’s based.)

https://vk.com/thereminmusic

His TEDx talk covers the history of the instrument (in Russian but with English subtitles):

Russian search engine Yandex posted this beautiful chamber music piece with Peter’s performance:

Oh yeah, and here’s what Peter’s all-Theremin booth at Synthposium was like … in fast forward!

Just be careful using this instrument to serenade the love of your life, you know?

Previously:

Watch Bob Moog play and talk about the Theremin

The post Peter Theremin’s haunting music, on his great-grandfather’s invention appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

7 Bob Moog images that say a lot about electronic music history

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Sat 8 Sep 2018 4:13 pm

The story of electronic music making is ultimately a human one, even as those humans work with machines. So as the Bob Moog Foundation plans a Moog museum and expanded education, we share seven images from the archives that follow a thread through that history.

The Bob Moog Foundation is a non-profit American organization dedicated to continue the legacy of its namesake. And now they’re expanding their educational project for kids, the Dr. Bob’s SoundSchool, which uses sound technology to teach engineering and science as well as culture. Plus they’re raising funds to create a physical Moogseum. And to do that, they’ve got some classic instruments to give away as fundraising items in a raffle (details below).

There are tons of amazing images and artifacts now in the foundation archives. But let’s examine a few that capture a set of moments across that history. Thanks to Bob’s daughter and Moog Foundation Executive Director, Michelle Moog-Koussa, for sending these to CDM. (Captions also courtesy Michelle.)

1974.

Roger Powell and Bob Moog with custom modular controller designed by Bob for Roger, at Radio City Music Hall.

Roger donated this controller to the Bob Moog Foundation, and it is now part of their archives and will be present at the Moogseum.

1975.

Bob Moog fixing Patrick Moraz’s Polymoog in Switzerland.

1978.

Bob Moog and Less Paul with the LAB Series Amp.

1984.

Bob Moog, Suzanne Ciani, Roger Powell, UIW.

1988.
(date unconfirmed)

Bob Moog, Herbie Hancock, Will Alexander, NAMM.

1989.

Bob Moog lecturing at University of Michigan about Alwin Nikolias’ first commercially available Moog synthesizer.

1992.

Chick Corea and Bob Moog, Asheville Civic Center.

About that raffle:

A Memorymoog, Moog Source, and Moog Rogue will be offered as first, second, and third prizes, respectively. The Moog Trifecta Raffle marks the first time in the Foundation’s history that it is offering more than one raffle prize.

The raffle begins on August 27, 2018 at 12:01am EDT, and ends on September 24, 2018 at 11:59pm EDT, or when all 5500 tickets sell out, whichever comes first. Tickets are $25 each or five for $100, and can be purchased here: http://bit.ly/MoogTrifectaRaffle
Funding raised from the raffle will be used to expand the Foundation’s hallmark educational project, Dr. Bob’s SoundSchool, and to help fund its newest project, the Moogseum, which was announced last week. The Moogseum, a planned interactive, immersive facility that will bring Bob Moog’s legacy and the science of sound and synthesis alive for people of all ages, will be located in downtown Asheville, NC. It is expected to open in April 2019, with an online Moogseum to follow later that year.

All three synthesizers were built in Moog Music’s Buffalo, NY factory in the early 1980s, have been fully restored, and are in excellent technical and cosmetic condition with minor flaws typical with vintage instruments.

The Memorymoog, serial number 1460, has an estimated value of $7,500. It combines six voice polyphony to create a unique polysynth with three voltage controlled, articulated oscillators. Each voice has its own 24dB voltage controlled filter. It is often referred to architecturally as six Minimoogs, and is renowned for its rich sound.

The Memorymoog being offered has been retrofitted with a sequencer and MIDI capabilities, normally found only in Memorymoog Plus models. It has been meticulously serviced by vintage synth specialist Wes Taggart, a lauded technician for Memorymoog restoration.

The Moog Source is a 37 key, two oscillator synthesizer with unique features such as patch memory storage, flat-panel membrane buttons, single data wheel assignment, and more. It has two voltage controlled analog oscillators and the legendary 24 dB Moog filter. The unit being offered is serial number 2221 and has an estimated value of $2,400. The Source has been used by such legends as Tangerine Dream, Jan Hammer, Depeche Mode, Devo, and Vince Clarke.

The Moog Rogue is a compact, two oscillator monophonic synthesizer often referred to as “small but mighty” for its legendary powerful bass sounds. Versatile and user-friendly enough to be used as the Taurus II Bass Pedal synth, the Rogue has been used by Will Butler of Arcade Fire, Vince Clarke, Peter Gabriel, Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, Howard Jones, and more. The unit being offered, serial number 4462, has been restored by acclaimed restoration house Tone Tweakers, and is valued at $2,000.

https://moogfoundation.org/

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UA unveils a maxed-out Thunderbolt 3 Apollo – and it’ll monitor surround sound

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 7 Sep 2018 5:14 pm

Universal Audio’s Apollo flagship audio interface and DSP platform is getting a big generational refresh and Thunderbolt 3. There’s a lot here, but maybe the most significant development is that 5.1 and 7.1 surround monitoring support is coming later this year.

It’s the Apollo X line for Mac and Windows – the x6, x8, x8p, and x16, all with Thunderbolt 3 connections to the computer and loads of I/O.

“UA’s hardware are just dongles for their plug-ins” – yeah, I hear that a lot. But the Apollo line was from the beginning the hardware that changed that. It said to users, hey, what if that add-on was also one of the best audio interfaces you can buy, even before adding in the DSP benefits. And then, over time, we’ve seen UA bake in greater functionality using that DSP horsepower.

The new Apollo really speaks to the high end of the market. These are the people who do depend on the reliability of the DSP hardware – because native processing, while enormously powerful, lacks the same predictability. (That’s a nice way of saying your CPU will suddenly peg and make a horrible glitching noise out of your sound.) That’s good to have anywhere, but especially in production environments in studios, in TV and video and games, in live tracking. A “studio” isn’t what it once was, to be sure, but then that’s also been the advantage of UA’s mobile interfaces. This is still about those situations where time is money and quality is everything, even if that use case may or may not be a studio per se.

Nicely enough, UA has managed to price out these systems for that full range, from the entry-level model at two grand (in reach of at least some serious independent producers) up to a maxed-out $3499 model.

In the process, we also see UA’s move from its more iterative, provisional approach of the past to a top-to-bottom hardware upgrade and greater software integration we get now. Having been on the UA train for a while, their stuff is just way more useful and way more reliable and easier to configure than when it started.

So here’s what you get:

All new A/D and D/A conversion which UA claims now best the industry for dynamic range and low signal-to-noise.
More DSP. 6-core processing boosts DSP by 50% over the past generation.
Mic preamp emulations. So, here’s another reason to run dedicated DSP – you can track through integrated preamp emulations of Neve, API, Manley, Fender, and more, saving money and space and adding flexibility in the studio, and then letting you take that studio rig on the road in a way that was previously impossible.
Surround formats up to 7.1, with speaker calibration and fold-down.

The surround thing is coming quarter 4, and obviously makes this way more appealing to exactly the sort of production environments likely to be attracted to UA in the first place.

There’s also various nice little touches: a built-in talkback mic and cue support, +24/+20 switchable operation, and a nice software bundle which interestingly now includes Marshall and Ampeg models. (I’m guessing that’s part of this focus on producers.)

The various models:

Apollo | x16 — US$3,499
133 dB dynamic range, THD+N -129 dB, 18 x 20 interface.

Apollo | x8p — $2,999
8 Unison-ready mic preamps, 129 dB dynamic range, switchable +24 dBu headroom settings, 18 x 22

Apollo | x8 — $2,499
Like the above but 4 Unison mic pres, 18×24.

Apollo | x6 — $1,999
The “producer one” – 2 Unison mic pres and Hi-Z ins, still surround support up to 5.1 (the others do 7.1), and 16×22 I/O.

The full range looks like a winner to me; I think we will see a lot of these show up in the studios, mix rooms, post facilities, and a lot of producer rigs, as UA promises.

There just isn’t anyone else doing this kind of platform. (The closest, Softube’s Console 1, in fact works perfectly with the UAD so it’s less a rival than a part of the same ecosystem.) It’s not going to be for everyone, but it does continue to look better for the people it’s for.

https://www.uaudio.com/apollo-x

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New Massive, cheaper cost of entry, and all today’s NI news, explained

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 6 Sep 2018 4:14 pm

Native Instruments just dumped a whole bunch of product news today – almost too much to follow. Here’s all of it in a nutshell. Spoiler: a new Massive synth is coming, TRAKTOR 3 is here, and it’ll cost less to get into their DJ, Maschine, and keyboard ranges.

There are two things coming that are really, really cool. One is the Massive synth, the power plug-in that sort of accidentally helped launched EDM, is back. And maybe to make up for EDM, now there’s a bunch of new features everyone will love. (Please, please try not to make another giant American/European dance genre with them.)

And on the DJ side, as I wrote separately, you get a new version of TRAKTOR plus a controller with moving, “haptic” wheels that’s more fun to play.

Other than that, this is mostly just about refreshing the product range and adding some more cost-effective entry points. Let’s follow along:

The products

MASSIVE X: Roughly a decade later, we get an all new flagship NI synth. Massive X has a new sound engine that takes advantage of today’s CPUs, new subtractive filters, lots of new effects, and a big modular engine for routing everything together. We should get more of the grimy, analog-modeled sound Reaktor Blocks and Monark and their ilk have given us, but despite “Monark” appearing on the filters, NI’s engineers tell me they wrote new code. Massive X is interesting, though: it seems both simpler and more understandable on first glance, but deeper and more modular under the hood.

Unfortunately, you’re going to have to wait to see more – Massive X is due in February, and the screenshots I’ve seen aren’t yet available to the public.

It’ll lead Komplete 12, though, across all editions. The existing Massive remains bundled with Maschine, and will continue to see updates – as it’s far lighter on CPU usage.

KONTAKT’s new Creator Tools promise to be a major boon to sound library developers and power users.

Same UI, but new effects in the new KONTAKT 6.

Wavetable module.

New KONTAKT. Kontakt 6 is another long-awaited update. For end users, there are new instruments: Analog Dreams (retro synths), Ethereal Earth (hybrid traditional/synthesized instruments), and Hybrid Keys (digital/keyboard combos).

But it’s really the behind-the scenes stuff that matters here. You can add three new reverbs, Replika delay, wah-wah, and a new wavetable engine to your instrument creations. There’s also a powerful Creator Tools app for people building sound libraries for their ecosystem, including instrument editing and debugging.

In other words, what you’ll really want to do with Kontakt 6 is play around with that wavetable module and make your own instruments.

KOMPLETE KONTROL A-Series – the cheaper ones. Like the NI keyboards and their easy navigation / mapping, but don’t like the higher price and don’t need (or want) those light-up colors? The A-Series is for you. The display is tiny, but the encoders are still usable and touch sensitivity means you can see which parameters are mapped to each encoder. NI have also developed their own semi-weighted keyboard action – and it feels pretty good. In return, prices are way lower – US$/EUR 149 (25-key), 199 (49-key), and 249 (61-key). Seems like it’ll be a huge hit.

KOMPLETE KONTROL S88 – the hammer one. The fully-weighted, hammer-action S88 gets an overdue MK2 refresh (it was one generation behind all the other sizes), so with the new displays and control features, plus wheels and not just touchpads. Also, while it’s a Fatar keybed, they’ve chosen a different one with a slightly faster action. I like this one better, for sure – it’s on par with some of the better liked hammer keys in recent years (feeling to me indistinguishable from the Kawaii keyboards, for instance). USD/EUR 999.

MASCHINE MIKRO The new MIKRO lets you access Maschine without hooking up a larger controller. That seems ideal for tight spaces and tight budgets. It doesn’t have exactly the same pads as the MK3, and losing those big displays is definitely a tradeoff. But I’ve got one in to test to see how the pads compare, and I personally relish the idea of keeping the MIKRO hooked up at all times in my shared studio rather than constantly swapping the larger controller with other machines.

The software bundle is where this gets really nice: Maschine Factory Selection (still a full 1.6G of sounds), Massive, Monark, and Reaktor Prism, and of course a MIDI mode for use with other software. Price for all of this is US$/EUR 249, with all that software no one else has.

TRAKTOR 3. The latest Traktor Pro 3 is a major rebuild, with a slick, flat new look, and a much easier, more powerful interface. Mixer FX are more direct one-knob effect and filter controls that are made ready for live jamming. Audio quality is improved, too, with the ability to route mixer audio entirely externally and a new time stretching algorithm. More on this soon.

TRAKTOR S4. Haptic wheels, an updated controller setup, dirt-resistant faders, and full inputs and outputs for $899 makes this the flagship controller to beat. Full preview:

TRAKTOR S2. The S2 looks and feels a lot like the S4. Sure, it lacks the S4’s fancy haptic wheels, but at least the build is similar. The S2 is still a capable entry-level controller, though it will have to go up against Pioneer offerings that work with their CDJ and Rekordbox ecosystems (aka “pack only USB sticks and go to the club” ecossytems). I’m also curious how it compares to Roland’s new controllers, which work with Serato and feature low-latency operation and some 808-inspired drum extras. But it looks like it brings a lot of what was great about the Z1, only with the ability to beat match on wheels.

Note that this promises future iOS compatibility, though. Time for an updated mobile TRAKTOR, no doubt. US$/EUR 299.

Online platforms. Sounds.com itself looks largely as we’ve seen it – so we’re still waiting on how this will integrate with NI’s products or what other features it will bring. But it is expanding internationally to more countries and adding new content. The Loop Loft soundware site and Metapop online collaboration/community hub meanwhile, each recent NI acquisitions, see their own updates. I hope to talk to Mate Gallic from NI about how this is all fitting together.

KOMPLETE 12. A lot of these products center around the new Komplete bundle. This year’s edition includes the all-new Kontakt 6 and electric sunburst Session Guitarist, Massive X (later on, when it’s done), and TRK-01, the Reaktor-powered kick/bass synth. (TRK-01 came out this summer and is stupidly cool, like dangerously so. More on that another time.)

When they’re available

NI don’t normally announce products this far ahead of shipping, so it’s worth just putting this on a timeline.

Now: Sounds.com, Loop Loft, Metapop updates (Web services)

Fall: Traktor Control S2 (vague on that date at the moment)

September 18: Maschine MIKRO

September 27: S88 keyboard

October 1: Kontakt 6, Komplete 12

October 18: Traktor Pro 3

October 23: Komplete Kontrol A-series keyboards

November 1: Traktor S4

February 2019: Massive X

And you get this video now, of course:

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NI’s moving haptic wheels could change digital DJing: the new S4

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 6 Sep 2018 2:30 pm

DJing techniques are all built around moving turntables – around record players. The biggest news from Native Instruments today is that the company is finally bringing that tactile, kinetic experience to a digital controller you might actually go and buy. Meet the TRAKTOR KONTROL S4 MK3.

In the beginning, of course, there were turntables. And even though a digital file has nothing to do with a turntable, the gestures born out of the older analog, mechanical technology are tough to beat. Look at it this way: if you needed to represent the playback of a sound, and allow physical control with human hands over speed and time, you might actually arrive at the solution of a big spinning wheel with resistance. (Think about clocks, for instance.)

Native Instruments has had a big role in popularizing digital vinyl control, and later has had some of the most sophisticated jog wheel sensing. But a turntable with control vinyl can be unreliable and impractical, and controllers, no matter how good their sensing, don’t give much in the way of haptic, kinetic feedback. You can push them, but they don’t really push back. So those jog wheels have more in common with controls for video decks than they do audio. And in turn, NI has fallen behind in recent controllers, venturing into a side track (excuse the pun) working with touchpads, which proved even less sensitive and tactile than the wheels they replaced.

The solution: make something that moves, that responds the way a real-world object would in terms of resistance and gesture, and map it intelligently to software. It’s a haptic, digital wheel. You get advantages over the mechanical-analog solution, too: greater reliability, flexibility (you can adjust how it behaves interactively), lighter weight, and lower cost. Plugging real turntables into computers is novel and interesting, but it’s still impractical, like plugging old telephone switchboards …. oh, wait. Uh… sorry, forget the metaphor, as everyone is into Eurorack which is exactly using old telephone switchboards.

Let me start over: these wheels feel great, and for digital DJs, finally allow the kind of feedback that make digital fun to play.

No matter how much you love vinyl, being able to DJ with digital files matters. Pressing vinyl carries some cost in time and money, and translates into unsold inventory for lower-demand items. Digital DJing is important because it allows independent underground labels with small budgets to put out music and let DJs play it. And it’s essential for times when you can’t carry record bags. What’s exciting about the new S4 is, it finally makes digital DJing start to feel less like a compromise.

NI aren’t alone in going this direction. DENON have their own standalone player, the Denon DJ SC5000M. Like the S4, it’s motorized and gives tangible feedback. How does it compare? I have no idea, as I haven’t tried one in person, though you should absolutely go check out the extensive story on DJWORX:

EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK: Motorised Denon DJ SC5000M Prime

If anything has a chance of unseating Pioneer’s ubiquity in booths, it’s a rival maker replacing lifeless wheels with moving ones – assuming Pioneer don’t quickly respond with a CDJ-3000NXSmove or whatever they want to call it.

But as for independent DJs, here’s the thing: that Denon deck costs US$1899 per deck. So your rig will cost around 4 grand even before you add a mixer.

The S4 MKIII by comparison will be available in November for USD/EUR 899 for the entire package. So that’s within reach of the an aspiring DJ.

NI let the press get our hands on the new S4. And in just a few minutes of playing with it, I was already hooked.

Here’s what you get with those “high-torque” motorized jog wheels:

Three modes of haptic feedback: jog, turntable-modeling operation (vinyl-style beatmatching), and “beatgrid adjust” (something new and specifically digital – you can actually feel simulated bumps where your grid is located)

Visual feedback. The RGB light rings around the wheels aren’t just for show: they provide additional visual feedback, and it looks like they’ll be adjustable/configurable (or you may even be able to switch them off if you want).

High-res displays: waveform strip, track title, loop length and activation, key, BPM, plus Stem and Remix Decks. You don’t get touchscreens this time round – though you’d be pretty greedy to ask for them with those two wheels, of course. But the displays, like those we’ve seen on Maschine, are really nice and information-rich.

STEMS and Remix Decks: Oh yeah – love them or hate them, the two signature TRAKTOR features are back, and benefit from those great screens. STEMS remains a compelling idea, and it seems while its obvious application for tracks with vocals hasn’t caught on, it has a niche following in some techno circles. Remix Decks remain a clever way of loading up samples and extras.

Built-in audio interface, multiple inputs: Oh yeah, remember how I complained yesterday that the new Pioneer XDJ-RR has only one stereo input? This has inputs on each channel. So you can add vinyl or other machines and add in records or play hybrid sets. There are multiple microphone inputs, too.

Faders that are dirt and particle-resistant. All-new “Carbon Protect” faders are inverted carbon strips that help keep foreign substances from gumming up your faders. Nice.

A new TRAKTOR. The other important story here is that TRAKTOR itself gets a major updated – the long-anticipated TRAKTOR 3. And there’s lots of good stuff there, which I’ll cover separately.

So, for around a grand now, you have two new “intermediate” options for DJs that look really promising. There’s Pioneer, with their Rekordbox-ready standalone all-in-one – upside, no computer and full compatibility with CDJs, downside, not really a mixer. Or there’s NI, with their TRAKTOR S4 MKIII solution, adding a new kinetic experience and mixing capability while actually coming in at a lower cost than previous flagships. Requires a computer, yes but … can also do a bit more. And the wheels move.

The question to me is, is the S4 MKIII good enough that you’ll want to lug it to gigs. Because then Reakordbox compatibility ceases to matter, and you show up with something different. Stay tuned for a hands-on.

Here’s proof meanwhile I did get on the prototype, complete with Chinese factory stickers:

Yesterday’s entry from Pioneer:

Pioneer’s latest DJ all-in-one wants to help you get ready for clubs

Last major TRAKTOR news was way back in fall 2016 – so TRAKTOR 3 is very welcome:

Traktor 2.11 is here, and a bunch of stuff now works together

The post NI’s moving haptic wheels could change digital DJing: the new S4 appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Pioneer’s latest DJ all-in-one wants to help you get ready for clubs

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 5 Sep 2018 5:06 pm

The modern CDJ – and resurgent vinyl – have won over the DJ market in many genres and corners of the world. But that leaves a problem: it’s expensive to duplicate this setup and home. Pioneer’s latest all-in-one promises to be more reliable, and closer to the club experience.

It’s bad news for the likes of Serato and Native Instruments, as well as for would-be rival players like Denon, but Pioneer have done a pretty impressive job of entrenching themselves in the club. And once you get to the venue, you see the reason: it’s way easier to show up with a couple of USB sticks than an entire computer and controller rig, and far easier to start playing when those decks are already plugged in. No solution, including the CDJ, is 100% reliable – I know some DJs carrying CDJ firmware on USB as well as previously-tested Rekordbox backups for good measure, which is smart advice. But CDJs have far fewer reliability problems than computer/OS combinations, clearly.

It’s really outside well-equipped clubs where there’s a gap to fill. And Pioneer have been aggressively positioning themselves for everyone in those scenarios, too. That includes their growing range of Rekordbox controllers, which have the advantage of doubling as prep tools – star tracks, make playlists, and you’ll have all that history on your USB sticks when you go to the club. And these controllers are also (finally) following the layout of the CDJ more closely.

But maybe you don’t want to play a controller at home or in the studio. Practicing delicate beat matching or more advanced looping techniques might leave you wanting a couple of CDJs. And even in the used market, these things are damned expensive. The same price point that makes sense for a club with a liquor license is enough to break the hearts of cash-strapped DJs. I’ve seen DJs advise using older CDJs but… these to me are just a waste of money, as they’re generally no fun to use; Pioneer’s later decks are the ones with wheels and functionality that you want (especially if manual beat matching and extra performance technique is the whole point of the investment).

The budget solution is obviously an all-in-one standalone deck. We’ve just been waiting for Pioneer to get it right – and the XDJ-RR might be it.

Just as the company did with its decks, Pioneer keeps iterating in the all-in-one category. So they’ve had portable units like the Aero that were a bit too far from the real decks. Or, they’ve had hardware like the XDJ-RX2 which came closer to a two-CDJ-and-mixer configuration, but were priced out of budget for a lot of people. (The RX2 hit US$1699 street

It’s not quite mobile, but it is reasonably luggable – just over 11 lbs / 5.2 kg, and even with a case available. That could be a solution for DIY events, especially given CDJ rental costs.

So that sounds like a solution to me. You can invest in this, carryit to venues that don’t have new CDJs, and practice and make mixes while still playing CDJs when you DJ out. (That’s actually even more important to those of us who play live sets, because there’s just no way we’re carrying a performance and a DJ rig around.)

Checking the specs, you also get a nice little set of bells and whistles:

Full-featured decks: 7″ screens, all that USB stick support, standalone operation, nice big wheels – curious to see if these feel the same as an NX2 – if so, I’m completely sold.

Effects: Dub echo, pitch, noise, filter “Sound Color FX” plus echo, reverb, flanger “Beat FX.”

NXS2-style performance features: Beat loop, auto beat loop, slip loop, beat sync, quantize

Mic input

Two USB ports for easy DJ changeovers with computers

Two headphone outs (plus the usual XLR and RCA masters)

There are still lots of reasons you might opt for an actual mixer, though. Unlike even some of the computer solutions from Native Instruments and others, this isn’t really a mixer – there’s just 1 aux RCA input. So you can’t add turntables, which is a pretty major downside for a lot of people (and maybe a reason to just opt for a DJ mixer, computer, and controller at home). I’ll be looking at some of those computer configurations for comparison soon, including Pioneer’s.

You also have the issue of repairs: if anything breaks here, you have to repair the whole all-in-one.

It still feels like someone ought to rethink standalone digital DJ hardware and present some other option. But on the other hand, right now, the XDJ-RR is unquestionably the most cost effective, complete standalone solution for making a two-CDJ deck setup without the actual CDJs.

Pioneer doesn’t always move quickly, but they do move effectively. You’ve got an all-in-one solution that refines functionality, is 40% lighter an even cheaper than the previous model RX2, and starts to focus more clearly on what the market wants.

And yeah, my inclination with my own cash would be to opt for this over one of the DJ controller/mixer options around the same $1k price.

I just wish they’d given us two inputs. That’s a bit… painful. I’ll try to get an RR in for review, as I think this is becoming an increasingly invaluable tool for anyone making clubs or dance music part of their musical life.

More:

https://www.pioneerdj.com/en/product/all-in-one-system/xdj-rr/black/overview/

Previously:

Pioneer’s $250 DDJ-400 will appeal to DIYers, iOS users, too

The post Pioneer’s latest DJ all-in-one wants to help you get ready for clubs appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Nerd cup: here are some top electronic music makers from Russia’s Synthposium

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 4 Sep 2018 9:01 pm

Russia is today as always a nation packed with engineers – one distinctive upside of the long shadow cast by the Soviet Union. Russian electronic inventors’ creations increasingly flourish worldwide, so now is a great time to check in with some leaders of the growing Russian maker scene.

Synthposium this week demonstrated again that Moscow can be a hub for electronic instrumental technology. A crowded expo room featured alongside talks and a full festival lineup in this land of Theremin and ANS. How engineering savvy is Russia? Literally, one builder told me in a discussion (recording coming soon) that his dad gave him spare parts from the radio equipment factory as toys. (I have an image of a toddler with a pile of diodes and resistors, which I know is … wrong yet somehow not far off.)

Now, part of the point of Synthposium was again mixing and mashing the Russian scene with builders from Europe and beyond, not to mention the consumers of all this wonderful gadgetry. (The lion’s share of the output of most of these makers goes to markets in places like Europe and the USA, more than to Russian customers, as a rule.)

But it was also a chance to give deserved recognition to the growing scene inside Russia – a scene that’s proud about its closeness and supportive atmosphere. Synthposium organized awards for top makers again. I got to give some input, as well as awkwardly handing out a couple of the trophies. (They were 3D-printed logos, and I think I mostly managed to bumble my way through passing them out and muttering “here is your … uh … letter S … enjoy it….”)

Last year already saw Polivoks and the spectacular Blade Runner-esque Yamaha CS-80-inspired Deckard’s Dream walk away with honors. Now, the class of 2018.

Поздравляем!

SAMSUNG CSC

Best synth: SOMA’s Lyra-8 / Pipe

Even in the middle of the analog renaissance, SOMA Laboratory is an outlier. SOMA’s Lyra-8 for instance is not only analog, but “organismic” – creator Vlad Kreimer taking a spiritual approach to its design and manufacture, born out in the futuristic soul that cries out from its circuits. (He describes three points to SOMA’s philosophy – “Instruments that invite you to listen to yourself, balance and interaction instead of linearity and control,” and “deep nature instead of imitation.”

Lyra began its life as a performance instrument just for Vlad, before he opened it up to interested customers. Lyra-8 is an eight-voice (hence the name) instrument with FM modulation and various new synthesis algorithms and extras applied to the original design, plus a doubled delay that gives it its unique alien sound. There’s no MIDI – this is truly an analog-centric design – but you can input external audio.

And specs don’t do it justice. Just listen:

The Lyra has gotten some attention, but just as interesting is the Pipe, a breath-controlled effects/synth instrument. If you’ve ever wondered what the love child of a didgeridoo and a talkbox born on a mining vessel on the outer rim would sound like, wonder no more:

Best Module – Keen Association

Four oscillators with controls for visually producing wave shapes. A tape player simulation. All in one module. Yeah, the visual look of the Buchla-inspired Graphic Waveform Generator Model 268e from Keen draws from classic Buchla tradition, but this Moscow-made module is a unique sound studio all its own.

Little surprise then that the Graphic Waveform Generator Model 268e got a nod in modules (though there are some other builders to talk about, too – stay tuned).

Here’s a nice tour of the module and a look at how it fits into a larger Buchla context:

There’s more Buchla goodness where that came from:

https://www.facebook.com/KeenAssociation/

Best FX/processing: Zvukofor

I’ve already shouted out Zvukofor Sound Labs from St. Petersburg as one of my favorite makers of grimy sound processing. Now this artist/engineer got attention at Synthposium for his C1 and Tahnx.

He wasn’t just showing some new kit, either – he also shared thoughts on the meaning and history of distortion.

Tanhx is all about saturation and how to control it musically:

Best DIY – Playtronica

We’ve followed Playtronica for some time now. Their TouchMe approach to musical interaction we’ve seen before, but they continue refining design and manufacture of their full series of products and the workshops around it.

And people never get tired of getting to make music by touching pineapples, as their booth proved again.

You can play with their instrument right from in your browser (with MIDI even, if you have supported hardware and browser software):

http://play.playtronica.com/

It’s really tough to describe just how much Playtronica have done in the scene in Russia – an agency, an interactive design collective, a set of artists doing interesting work on their own, and a force for education that’s spreading electronics interest again to kids. If you want a look at how engaging younger generations might reboot in this century in the post-communist period, this is one clue.

It’s worth checking their work:

http://www.playtronica.com/

Original design – VG-Line

Hey, even as a keyboardist myself, I’ll be the first to concede: it’s guitarists’ turn on modular now.

And that’s why VG-Line’s Gui2lar matters. It’s a modular system designed around the guitar. And it’s stupidly fun and practical all at once. Video here is in Russian, but is reasonably easy to follow even without the language:

Popularization – Fedor Vetkalov

If the likes of Andreas Schneider and Dieter Doepfer brought modular back and evangelized synthesis in Berlin, then look no further than Fedor Vetkalov when it comes to the east. Fedor not only is a cornerstone of the synth and modular scene in Russia from his Moscow shop, but has also worked the other way – introducing the best Russian builders to the world, whether it’s via artists touring through the Russian capital or online or at international events. There are few people who can be a better guide to the scene in Russia, and well, it’s also kind of hard to imagine the synth community without Fedor in it even outside of Russia, too.

Martin Gore from Depeche Mode at Synthman.

A post shared by Fedor Vetkalov (@fedorvetkalov) on

It’s been a pleasure to be back here in Moscow and St. Petersburg as always – more to come. And for all the other complaints we might have about current politics, I think we’re pretty fortunate today – crossing these borders, both for our humans and machines, is easier than ever. That makes our extended synth and music family feel close even as we come together across nations and languages.

For that I’m especially grateful for the cooperation of the Synthposium organization and the Goethe-Institut and other partners that allow this exchange to happen (and to live up to that “cultural exchange” business describes on my latest visa sticker).

This time last year:

New Russian music electronics you’ve never heard of, from Synthposium

(Okay, you’ve heard of them now!) Plus:

Balalaikas to synths, the Russians at Musikmesse cover the gamut

The post Nerd cup: here are some top electronic music makers from Russia’s Synthposium appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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