Posts by Peter Kirn:

Arturia AudioFuse Review: the tiny square that packs nearly everything

There are some exceptional audio interfaces out there. But Arturia stands out by cramming an unusual amount of connectivity in an ultra-mobile package.

Look, when it comes to audio interfaces, compromise is the name of the game. The interface either never has every single port you want, or … it does, but it’s big. And computer operating systems remain an obstacle – especially once you’re beyond what theoretically should work, and into the realm of now something is popping and I better turn up the buffer size. Some of this is in the hands of manufacturers; some is decidedly not. (Computer and OS makers, I’m looking at you. Yes, you. Music – it’s kind of important to human civilization. Check it out some time.)

What’s impressive about Arturia’s AudioFuse is that they seem to have taken to heart a lot of the wishes of the mobile musician – and actually delivered.

I’ve had my hands on the AudioFuse for some time now, long enough to torture test it with both my Mac and PC in a variety of live and studio conditions. And I can share what I’ve been sharing with friends about it – this is easily on my short list of easy-to-recommend audio interfaces. (More on the others at the end.)

What the AudioFuse manages to pull off, and this isn’t easy, is maximizing flexibility in a variety of situations while still fitting into an enclosure small enough that you may always keep it in your backpack.

Plug-and-play, reliable performance

First, one feature that makes the AudioFuse essential to keep around is, it’s USB 2.0 class-compliant, driver free. With this amount of I/O, USB 2.0 makes this box far more flexible and compatible. Officially, that means Mac and Windows support that’s plug-and-play. But unofficially, that means Linux, Raspberry Pi, iOS, and Android, too.

You will need Mac or Windows to run the AudioFuse Control Center for additional configuration options. But I’ve happily dual-booted to Linux on my PC and gotten great results from the box. And there’s enough onboard control that I didn’t feel stranded without the software control panel, even though it’s useful in some situations. Meanwhile, the AudioFuse remembers all of its settings after you disconnect from the control panel.

You mileage may vary, but I got extremely reliable results with a 64 sample buffer size, which means well under 10 ms latency, on Mac, Windows, and Linux with a variety of tools. Remember that with latency the point isn’t just paper specs or whether the audio interface can run with a small buffer size; it’s whether you consistently remain without pops at that small buffer size. For me, the Arturia out-performed a number of USB devices laying around my studio.

If you have a single OS environment, and you don’t mind installing drivers, you may well best the AudioFuse’s performance. And I would consider Thunderbolt/USB3 if you want to use more I/O than the AudioFuse has onboard. But I find there’s some comfort in knowing I’m traveling with an interface I can plug into a different computer without worrying about driver installation, and I like owning at least one box like the AudioFuse that can work outside just Mac and Windows.

Connect nearly everything

Wow, did someone hear or intuit what I wanted in I/O (with one caveat below):

4 inputs: 2 XLR mic ins, 2 phono/line ins
2 RIAA phono preamps (seriously)
4 analog outputs
2 analog inserts
ADAT in/out
S/PDIF in/out
Word clock in/out
3-port USB hub
2(!) independent headphone jacks
MIDI in/out (via minijack adapters)

This.

Including MIDI, the USB hub, and separate headphone jacks alone makes this a huge boon to the mobile musician. And everything works as advertised – plus it all runs via bus power if you like (adjusting automatically to allow it to do so). A bit on the power modes:

USB is via micro USB. That may sound fidgety, but structurally I’ve found these to be sound. The included cable has a second USB connection, but if you lose your cable, you can swap a phone cable – also critical, because it means again the interface will still function when you’re on the road and misplaced a cable or someone lifted it from you. Uh… not that those things ever happen.

Arturia advertises their own, built-from-scratch mic pres. They certainly sounded transparent to me, and I appreciate that they get their own signal path. And you’ve got onboard 48V phantom power plus a multi-level pad and auto-impedance matching. Basically, you can more or less plug anything into this and forget about it. 24-bit 192kHz may sound like overkill, but then – quite literally, friends and I have lately got interested in recording ultrasonic birdsong and bat noises, so there’s that.

There are also unique monitoring settings, like handy summing to mono. (Having once had my trusty mastering engineer yell at me when I accidentally sent something that had phase cancellation problems, thanks for this!)

The one thing I’m missing here is more than four outputs. With some serious multichannel output situations becoming more commonplace, that means the AudioFuse isn’t quite the last interface I’d ever need to own. (Someone somewhere is saying the same about the inputs.) But let’s not consider the fact that the whole thing is a tiny square. Speaking of which:

That form factor / UX

Arturia really nailed it here. This is the one audio interface with a decent selection of I/O I can comfortably drop in a backpack or suitcase without worry, thanks to its small size, low weight, and a cute and indispensable cover. That’s not just for looks – a lot of audio interfaces have some dangerously exposed controls. (It does look nice, too, of course.)

I’m also a fan of the top panel. There’s a big knob, certainly reminiscent of interfaces from Universal Audio and others, plus dedicated meters for input and output and gain and phone knobs, plus shortcut keys and a cleverly-positioned dial for adjusting whether you monitor from the computer source or direct through the interface.

Arturia were clearly inspired by Universal Audio both in those dials and the displays. (Not to be outdone, UA also have a slick new box called the Arrow. Upside: Thunderbolt, DSP processing. Downside: far less connectivity.)

Here, I’ll link directly to Sound on Sound and say everything Sam says about monitoring is absolutely true. (Sam, I’m not cribbing your review notes – I just definitely can say I can directly count myself with the opposite use case!)

I can be even less diplomatic than Sam and say, if you want an audio interface that doubles as a (sub)mixer, or if you want particular control over what goes to the monitor mix, forget the AudioFuse and go with something else.

But —

If you just want to quickly plug in some inputs and then reach one dial that’s either the computer or whatever input you’ve got, the AudioFuse makes sense. That is, if you literally aren’t thinking about what’s plugged in – and quite often in the heat of the moment onstage or on the road recording, you really aren’t – it’s great. Monitoring, like connectivity, are about instant plug and play. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to that; I’d say what this box does is suit this particular use case.

Conclusions

As a versatile all-around mobile interface, I love the AudioFuse. I’d still choose the Universal Audio Apollo Twin for audio quality, and the ability to add processing via UA’s effects without adding round-trip latency through the computer. I’d consider MOTU and RME for adding more I/O, too (especially if you don’t need or want the UAD effects), and certainly MOTU for its unique AV applications and mixer operation. Thunderbolt really does look like the future for more advanced applications.

MOTU is worth an additional mention for being universally compatible with their 828es, which has both Thunderbolt and USB. And that’s the box you want if you find the AudioFuse appealing but want more I/O and real standalone mixing operation, plus better performance.

But that also slightly misses the point. You wouldn’t throw an 828es into a backpack and take it with you everywhere. The AudioFuse, you would. And all musicians don’t always travel with road cases.

And that’s why one size doesn’t really fit all. But for under $/EUR600, in a small size that does fit everywhere, the AudioFuse is worth a look. Now, note to Arturia – if this is a big hit, a micro edition might make sense. Or an expanded box that’s a rectangle rather than a square for a little more I/O. In the meantime, I’ve got to go pack my backpack and get a move on.

https://www.arturia.com/audiofuse/

Got another audio interface you’re using? One you prefer? Let us know in comments.

The post Arturia AudioFuse Review: the tiny square that packs nearly everything appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Moog is making a $35,000 modular 1969 synth – so let’s ask them why

Moog Music have announced they’re painstakingly recreating a 1969 modular classic. So we asked the engineers why they’d do that – and why it costs 35 grand.

It’s clear now that Moog has two lines of products. The Moog Music products most people buy really are distinct from this. When founder Bob Moog relaunched his company (first as Big Briar, later as Moog Music), he focused on things like Theremins and the relaunched Minimoog Voyager, followed by the immense hit of new Moogerfooger pedals. And as far as the new synths and effects went, what you got were really modern takes on the originals – descended from the classic models, down to the signature ladder filter and so on, but updated with modern parts and new design features. Those pedals also ensured that Moog wasn’t just a brand for keyboardists and synth nuts, but, guitarists and instrumentalists too.

Moog have never tried to be a low-cost brand. But you can’t exactly call them elitist either. From putting products like the Minifoogers in reach to semi-modulars well under $1000 to some terrific iOS apps that sell for just a few bucks, Moog sell alongside a lot of other stuff.

But, if that’s Moog’s day job, they have this … side hobby. And that’s been recreations – not just of the original Minimoog, but of much more complex modular instruments. What appeared to be a one-off novelty (a recreation of Keith Emerson’s modular rig) turned out to be an ongoing fascination of the company’s engineering team. And they’re not easy or inexpensive to make.

This week, the North Carolina-based company announced a new edition of the IIIp – an all-in-one, benchmark edition of the original modular line. It’s the instrument Wendy Carlos (Switched on Bock), George Harrison (Abbey Road), and Isao Tomita (Snowflakes Are Dancing) all used.

It’s definitely a luxury item. Forty will be made, at a cost of US$35,000 each, shipping around May.

If this were just a pricey absurdity, though, I wouldn’t be writing about it. There’s no doubt this is a classic – what Moog prove again is that a historical instrument can go right back into production. Nor is $35k expensive when thinking of musical instruments in the acoustic domain; as Moog championed in the 60s, it seems the Moog company want you to think of synthesizers in the same category as a fine violin or piano.

But all that being said – this still surely leaves us with some questions. (“Are you nuts?” springs to mind.) So I asked the Moog Music company to explain themselves. Here are their answers from the team that worked on the recreation.

For some context, I’ve actually asked Moog this once before – the first time round. But it’s nice to update these answers for the new hardware and its specific component and build requirements.

Just Do It: Moog Engineer Explains Why They Remade Keith Emerson’s Modular [Videos, Audio]

Why the IIIp, specifically? It’s a modular system, but of course here you’re selling a pre-configured set of modules. What was special about that selection? (And why recreate that rather than the modules alone?)

The IIIp is the portable cabinet version of the IIIc, so this was a logical follow-on. The overall sonics of these systems is unmatched. The entire system is discrete, with no modern ICs anywhere to be found, so the depth and dimension that comes from them can be overwhelmingly physical. Offering modules alone is tricky for us. Moog is still a small, employee-owned company — we hand build every modular system that leaves our factory. The demands of re-creating these systems is quite large due to parts, resources and cultural limitations (these days it’s rare to have complex machines built by hand in the United States).

Were any parts difficult to source? (rare, or costly?) Did any substitutions have to be made because of availability?

Building the Synthesizer IIIp to original spec requires an immense attention to detail and seriously tests our commitment to hand-crafting our legacy modular synthesizers, which presents new challenges every day. Key components for these projects that were common place 50 years ago are now obsolete and no longer available through traditional distribution channels, so we have to source our NOS supply through a divergent network of surplus vendors. Sometimes, a part has become obsolete and no surplus is available, such as with the inductors used in the 914 Filter Bank. Modern equivalents just won’t do in terms of retaining the sonic character of the original, so we worked closely with one of our parts suppliers to re-issue the custom inductors exclusively for our legacy modular projects. Even S-trig cabling is getting harder and harder to source reliably.

How many of these things are you making?

40 worldwide.

What about the cost — how does the cost of making this today compare to the 1960s cost? (accounting for some major inflation there, naturally!)

Buying a IIIp new between 1969 and 1973 equates to more than $50,000 USD in today’s money (based on 1969 R.A. Moog Price List price of $7,985), so $35,000 represents a significant decrease in price for these systems. The cost of handcrafting these instruments in the exact same way today as we did in the past has increased at a staggering rate — and even though it may be hard to believe, we have worked diligently to keep the cost to the consumer as low as we have. Obviously we are aware that only a few can afford these systems, but the more instruments we get into the world, the more opportunities people have to experience them.

Cost of course is something people will notice. Is this the design of the thing versus what we make now, the low quantity, a combination?

Anything that is 100% handcrafted by human beings in low quantities costs a lot more to make. The process to build a single IIIp takes hundreds of hours of labor to complete. Every circuit board is hand populated and every component has to be hand soldered by someone in the Moog Factory. Each circuit board has to be mounted into a module, and then that module has to be tested and calibrated — multiply that by 37+ (depending on how you count modules) and you start to get an idea of the scope of this build. Next, each cabinet has to be hand wired and dressed (including hand crimping the connectors). And after that, all of the modules are placed into the system and the entire system is burned in and tested. Every single module gets recalibrated so that the system is calibrated to itself, which is what ultimately forms a cohesive instrument.

What’s the market for something like this?

Composers, sound designers and students of the sonic arts (Universities) are drawn to instruments like the Synthesizer IIIp. Artists who seek to pin-point human emotions and set them to resonate through the power-of-sound tell us that nothing moves through speakers and directly into your body like these systems do.

How does continue making remakes fit into the larger Moog strategy? To be honest, I suspect a lot of us figured we’d see a couple and then it’d stop, not that it would continue!

Moog is made up of a group of widely diverse individuals who all share a passion for creating inspirational tools. This isn’t just our passion alone, but a legacy of creative energies going back 7 decades. As Moog employees, we are immensely inspired by the process of bringing our early synthesizers back to life. The potential of these systems is still unfolding — there are still sounds that will emanate from them that haven’t been heard before!

Thanks as always to the folks at Moog for being open to talking about this. And — yeah, I want to hear one of these in person, especially having learned modular synthesis in school on vintage Moog and Buchla modulars and being endlessly inspired by Wendy Carlos’ compositions and orhchestrations. Though — well, I may still try to get my sounds into your body from my gear! We’ll have more on Moog soon – including that nice new DFAM that we can actually afford! -Ed.

https://www.moogmusic.com/products/modulars/synthesizer-iiip

The post Moog is making a $35,000 modular 1969 synth – so let’s ask them why appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Moog is making a $35,000 modular 1969 synth – so let’s ask them why

Moog Music have announced they’re painstakingly recreating a 1969 modular classic. So we asked the engineers why they’d do that – and why it costs 35 grand.

It’s clear now that Moog has two lines of products. The Moog Music products most people buy really are distinct from this. When founder Bob Moog relaunched his company (first as Big Briar, later as Moog Music), he focused on things like Theremins and the relaunched Minimoog Voyager, followed by the immense hit of new Moogerfooger pedals. And as far as the new synths and effects went, what you got were really modern takes on the originals – descended from the classic models, down to the signature ladder filter and so on, but updated with modern parts and new design features. Those pedals also ensured that Moog wasn’t just a brand for keyboardists and synth nuts, but, guitarists and instrumentalists too.

Moog have never tried to be a low-cost brand. But you can’t exactly call them elitist either. From putting products like the Minifoogers in reach to semi-modulars well under $1000 to some terrific iOS apps that sell for just a few bucks, Moog sell alongside a lot of other stuff.

But, if that’s Moog’s day job, they have this … side hobby. And that’s been recreations – not just of the original Minimoog, but of much more complex modular instruments. What appeared to be a one-off novelty (a recreation of Keith Emerson’s modular rig) turned out to be an ongoing fascination of the company’s engineering team. And they’re not easy or inexpensive to make.

This week, the North Carolina-based company announced a new edition of the IIIp – an all-in-one, benchmark edition of the original modular line. It’s the instrument Wendy Carlos (Switched on Bock), George Harrison (Abbey Road), and Isao Tomita (Snowflakes Are Dancing) all used.

It’s definitely a luxury item. Forty will be made, at a cost of US$35,000 each, shipping around May.

If this were just a pricey absurdity, though, I wouldn’t be writing about it. There’s no doubt this is a classic – what Moog prove again is that a historical instrument can go right back into production. Nor is $35k expensive when thinking of musical instruments in the acoustic domain; as Moog championed in the 60s, it seems the Moog company want you to think of synthesizers in the same category as a fine violin or piano.

But all that being said – this still surely leaves us with some questions. (“Are you nuts?” springs to mind.) So I asked the Moog Music company to explain themselves. Here are their answers from the team that worked on the recreation.

For some context, I’ve actually asked Moog this once before – the first time round. But it’s nice to update these answers for the new hardware and its specific component and build requirements.

Just Do It: Moog Engineer Explains Why They Remade Keith Emerson’s Modular [Videos, Audio]

Why the IIIp, specifically? It’s a modular system, but of course here you’re selling a pre-configured set of modules. What was special about that selection? (And why recreate that rather than the modules alone?)

The IIIp is the portable cabinet version of the IIIc, so this was a logical follow-on. The overall sonics of these systems is unmatched. The entire system is discrete, with no modern ICs anywhere to be found, so the depth and dimension that comes from them can be overwhelmingly physical. Offering modules alone is tricky for us. Moog is still a small, employee-owned company — we hand build every modular system that leaves our factory. The demands of re-creating these systems is quite large due to parts, resources and cultural limitations (these days it’s rare to have complex machines built by hand in the United States).

Were any parts difficult to source? (rare, or costly?) Did any substitutions have to be made because of availability?

Building the Synthesizer IIIp to original spec requires an immense attention to detail and seriously tests our commitment to hand-crafting our legacy modular synthesizers, which presents new challenges every day. Key components for these projects that were common place 50 years ago are now obsolete and no longer available through traditional distribution channels, so we have to source our NOS supply through a divergent network of surplus vendors. Sometimes, a part has become obsolete and no surplus is available, such as with the inductors used in the 914 Filter Bank. Modern equivalents just won’t do in terms of retaining the sonic character of the original, so we worked closely with one of our parts suppliers to re-issue the custom inductors exclusively for our legacy modular projects. Even S-trig cabling is getting harder and harder to source reliably.

How many of these things are you making?

40 worldwide.

What about the cost — how does the cost of making this today compare to the 1960s cost? (accounting for some major inflation there, naturally!)

Buying a IIIp new between 1969 and 1973 equates to more than $50,000 USD in today’s money (based on 1969 R.A. Moog Price List price of $7,985), so $35,000 represents a significant decrease in price for these systems. The cost of handcrafting these instruments in the exact same way today as we did in the past has increased at a staggering rate — and even though it may be hard to believe, we have worked diligently to keep the cost to the consumer as low as we have. Obviously we are aware that only a few can afford these systems, but the more instruments we get into the world, the more opportunities people have to experience them.

Cost of course is something people will notice. Is this the design of the thing versus what we make now, the low quantity, a combination?

Anything that is 100% handcrafted by human beings in low quantities costs a lot more to make. The process to build a single IIIp takes hundreds of hours of labor to complete. Every circuit board is hand populated and every component has to be hand soldered by someone in the Moog Factory. Each circuit board has to be mounted into a module, and then that module has to be tested and calibrated — multiply that by 37+ (depending on how you count modules) and you start to get an idea of the scope of this build. Next, each cabinet has to be hand wired and dressed (including hand crimping the connectors). And after that, all of the modules are placed into the system and the entire system is burned in and tested. Every single module gets recalibrated so that the system is calibrated to itself, which is what ultimately forms a cohesive instrument.

What’s the market for something like this?

Composers, sound designers and students of the sonic arts (Universities) are drawn to instruments like the Synthesizer IIIp. Artists who seek to pin-point human emotions and set them to resonate through the power-of-sound tell us that nothing moves through speakers and directly into your body like these systems do.

How does continue making remakes fit into the larger Moog strategy? To be honest, I suspect a lot of us figured we’d see a couple and then it’d stop, not that it would continue!

Moog is made up of a group of widely diverse individuals who all share a passion for creating inspirational tools. This isn’t just our passion alone, but a legacy of creative energies going back 7 decades. As Moog employees, we are immensely inspired by the process of bringing our early synthesizers back to life. The potential of these systems is still unfolding — there are still sounds that will emanate from them that haven’t been heard before!

Thanks as always to the folks at Moog for being open to talking about this. And — yeah, I want to hear one of these in person, especially having learned modular synthesis in school on vintage Moog and Buchla modulars and being endlessly inspired by Wendy Carlos’ compositions and orhchestrations. Though — well, I may still try to get my sounds into your body from my gear! We’ll have more on Moog soon – including that nice new DFAM that we can actually afford! -Ed.

https://www.moogmusic.com/products/modulars/synthesizer-iiip

The post Moog is making a $35,000 modular 1969 synth – so let’s ask them why appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Moog is making a $35,000 modular 1969 synth – so let’s ask them why

Moog Music have announced they’re painstakingly recreating a 1969 modular classic. So we asked the engineers why they’d do that – and why it costs 35 grand.

It’s clear now that Moog has two lines of products. The Moog Music products most people buy really are distinct from this. When founder Bob Moog relaunched his company (first as Big Briar, later as Moog Music), he focused on things like Theremins and the relaunched Minimoog Voyager, followed by the immense hit of new Moogerfooger pedals. And as far as the new synths and effects went, what you got were really modern takes on the originals – descended from the classic models, down to the signature ladder filter and so on, but updated with modern parts and new design features. Those pedals also ensured that Moog wasn’t just a brand for keyboardists and synth nuts, but, guitarists and instrumentalists too.

Moog have never tried to be a low-cost brand. But you can’t exactly call them elitist either. From putting products like the Minifoogers in reach to semi-modulars well under $1000 to some terrific iOS apps that sell for just a few bucks, Moog sell alongside a lot of other stuff.

But, if that’s Moog’s day job, they have this … side hobby. And that’s been recreations – not just of the original Minimoog, but of much more complex modular instruments. What appeared to be a one-off novelty (a recreation of Keith Emerson’s modular rig) turned out to be an ongoing fascination of the company’s engineering team. And they’re not easy or inexpensive to make.

This week, the North Carolina-based company announced a new edition of the IIIp – an all-in-one, benchmark edition of the original modular line. It’s the instrument Wendy Carlos (Switched on Bock), George Harrison (Abbey Road), and Isao Tomita (Snowflakes Are Dancing) all used.

It’s definitely a luxury item. Forty will be made, at a cost of US$35,000 each, shipping around May.

If this were just a pricey absurdity, though, I wouldn’t be writing about it. There’s no doubt this is a classic – what Moog prove again is that a historical instrument can go right back into production. Nor is $35k expensive when thinking of musical instruments in the acoustic domain; as Moog championed in the 60s, it seems the Moog company want you to think of synthesizers in the same category as a fine violin or piano.

But all that being said – this still surely leaves us with some questions. (“Are you nuts?” springs to mind.) So I asked the Moog Music company to explain themselves. Here are their answers from the team that worked on the recreation.

For some context, I’ve actually asked Moog this once before – the first time round. But it’s nice to update these answers for the new hardware and its specific component and build requirements.

Just Do It: Moog Engineer Explains Why They Remade Keith Emerson’s Modular [Videos, Audio]

Why the IIIp, specifically? It’s a modular system, but of course here you’re selling a pre-configured set of modules. What was special about that selection? (And why recreate that rather than the modules alone?)

The IIIp is the portable cabinet version of the IIIc, so this was a logical follow-on. The overall sonics of these systems is unmatched. The entire system is discrete, with no modern ICs anywhere to be found, so the depth and dimension that comes from them can be overwhelmingly physical. Offering modules alone is tricky for us. Moog is still a small, employee-owned company — we hand build every modular system that leaves our factory. The demands of re-creating these systems is quite large due to parts, resources and cultural limitations (these days it’s rare to have complex machines built by hand in the United States).

Were any parts difficult to source? (rare, or costly?) Did any substitutions have to be made because of availability?

Building the Synthesizer IIIp to original spec requires an immense attention to detail and seriously tests our commitment to hand-crafting our legacy modular synthesizers, which presents new challenges every day. Key components for these projects that were common place 50 years ago are now obsolete and no longer available through traditional distribution channels, so we have to source our NOS supply through a divergent network of surplus vendors. Sometimes, a part has become obsolete and no surplus is available, such as with the inductors used in the 914 Filter Bank. Modern equivalents just won’t do in terms of retaining the sonic character of the original, so we worked closely with one of our parts suppliers to re-issue the custom inductors exclusively for our legacy modular projects. Even S-trig cabling is getting harder and harder to source reliably.

How many of these things are you making?

40 worldwide.

What about the cost — how does the cost of making this today compare to the 1960s cost? (accounting for some major inflation there, naturally!)

Buying a IIIp new between 1969 and 1973 equates to more than $50,000 USD in today’s money (based on 1969 R.A. Moog Price List price of $7,985), so $35,000 represents a significant decrease in price for these systems. The cost of handcrafting these instruments in the exact same way today as we did in the past has increased at a staggering rate — and even though it may be hard to believe, we have worked diligently to keep the cost to the consumer as low as we have. Obviously we are aware that only a few can afford these systems, but the more instruments we get into the world, the more opportunities people have to experience them.

Cost of course is something people will notice. Is this the design of the thing versus what we make now, the low quantity, a combination?

Anything that is 100% handcrafted by human beings in low quantities costs a lot more to make. The process to build a single IIIp takes hundreds of hours of labor to complete. Every circuit board is hand populated and every component has to be hand soldered by someone in the Moog Factory. Each circuit board has to be mounted into a module, and then that module has to be tested and calibrated — multiply that by 37+ (depending on how you count modules) and you start to get an idea of the scope of this build. Next, each cabinet has to be hand wired and dressed (including hand crimping the connectors). And after that, all of the modules are placed into the system and the entire system is burned in and tested. Every single module gets recalibrated so that the system is calibrated to itself, which is what ultimately forms a cohesive instrument.

What’s the market for something like this?

Composers, sound designers and students of the sonic arts (Universities) are drawn to instruments like the Synthesizer IIIp. Artists who seek to pin-point human emotions and set them to resonate through the power-of-sound tell us that nothing moves through speakers and directly into your body like these systems do.

How does continue making remakes fit into the larger Moog strategy? To be honest, I suspect a lot of us figured we’d see a couple and then it’d stop, not that it would continue!

Moog is made up of a group of widely diverse individuals who all share a passion for creating inspirational tools. This isn’t just our passion alone, but a legacy of creative energies going back 7 decades. As Moog employees, we are immensely inspired by the process of bringing our early synthesizers back to life. The potential of these systems is still unfolding — there are still sounds that will emanate from them that haven’t been heard before!

Thanks as always to the folks at Moog for being open to talking about this. And — yeah, I want to hear one of these in person, especially having learned modular synthesis in school on vintage Moog and Buchla modulars and being endlessly inspired by Wendy Carlos’ compositions and orhchestrations. Though — well, I may still try to get my sounds into your body from my gear! We’ll have more on Moog soon – including that nice new DFAM that we can actually afford! -Ed.

https://www.moogmusic.com/products/modulars/synthesizer-iiip

The post Moog is making a $35,000 modular 1969 synth – so let’s ask them why appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Hear the sounds of the Falcon Heavy launch with this binaural recording

Watching space exploration is stunning. But hearing it is essential, too – and if you haven’t yet, you really want to hear the Falcon Heavy launch like this.

The Sound Traveler is a YouTube channel that offers “3D” sound experiences using binaural recording, a recording technique that more closely captures sound the way it would enter your head. (The technique is far from perfect, because head and ear shapes are different, but it at least records some of the way sound naturally reaches your inner ears.)

And, lucky them, they got to the top of Cape Canaveral’s Vehicle Assembly Building, where the Space Shuttle tiles were applied and the Apollo rockets were prepped, to hear the Falcon Heavy launch. That’s a rocket the size of which this launchpad hasn’t seen in some years – so you can bet it made a heck of a noise.

Even if you have seen the video before, they’ve posted an extended cut:

The sound is terrific – not only of the launch itself, but the ambient sounds that put you in the experience of being there. I do hope that this inspires space program PR to allow other, more sophisticated recordings – yes, I’m packed up and ready to go to Baikonur Cosmodrome whenever you call, Soyuz.

Because space programs operate with public support, this sort of communication is important. It also inspires much-needed future scientists and engineers. So it’s not just about corporate PR.

And it certainly reveals something about the nature of sound. I got the chance to tour the European Space Agency’s facility for testing vibrations produced by sound, so a sound system capable of reproducing the mighty noise you hear here (only at the equivalent distance of being strapped to the rocket). Here it’s nice to hear that at a safe distance, in real life.

There’s that clip again, just so I can reminisce about when I had a beard and … when I maybe should have practiced a bit more on Push.

Here’s to more sounds of space exploration.

Photo: SpaceX / public domain.

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A free plug-in brings extreme PaulStretch stretching to your DAW

You’ve heard Justin Bieber mangled into gorgeous ambient cascades of sound. Now, you can experience the magic of PaulStretch as a free plug-in.

It may give you that “A-ha” moment in ambient music. You know:

The developer has various warnings about using this plug-in, which for me make me want to use it even more. (Hey, no latency reporting to the DAW? Something weird in Cubase! No manual? Who cares! Let’s give it a go – first I’m going to run with scissors to grab a beer which I’ll drink at my laptop!)

Specifically:

The plugin is only suitable for radical transformation of sounds. It is not suitable at all for subtle time corrections and such. Ambient music and sound design are probably the most suitable use cases.

You had me at radical / not subtle.

Okay… yeah, this was probably meant for me:

You can use it two ways: either load an audio file, and just run PaulStretch in your DAW, or use it as a live processor on inputs. (That’s weird, given what it does – hey, there was some latency. Like… a whole lot of latency.)

It’s on Mac and Windows but code is available and Linux is “likely.”

https://xenakios.wordpress.com/paulxstretch-plugin/

If you want the original:

http://hypermammut.sourceforge.net/paulstretch/

https://github.com/paulnasca/paulstretch_cpp

That does other nifty tricks, like binaural beats.

But the plug-in I think just became the easiest way to use it. Now go forth and make long sounds and chill to them.

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Gibson is in trouble – and that means trouble for owner Juskiewicz

What’s as American as a Gibson guitar? Well, lately, perhaps iconic brands getting run into the ground by mismanagement at the top.

And that’s one way to read the situation with Gibson Brands. Gibson, the Nashville-based guitar company that also owns names like TEAC Tascam and some Philips consumer audio products, is running out of time to pay back debts.

What’s next? Bankruptcy – if the company isn’t successful in refinancing.

Various music press have in the past days jumped on reporting by the Nashville Post that is critical of current management and suggests that owner/CEO Henry Juszkiewicz doesn’t have much time left. It’s the Post writers guessing that Gibson won’t be able to do enough to calm creditors and bondholders. That is – they’re not making loan payments fast enough, or giving a clear explanation, and the people who loaned them the money are getting fed up.

Gibson, for their part, this month offered up their own strategy. The company said in a press statement that it “has met all current obligations to the bondholders, is in the process of arranging a new credit facility to replace the bonds, and fully expects the bonds to be refinanced in the ordinary course of business.”

They’re also bringing back Benson Woo as Chief Financial Officer.

But that raises both the question of whether they’ll deliver on refinancing promises, and how they got here in the first place.

It’s easy to assume that this is about the demise of the guitar, but that may be mistaken. Indeed, Gibson Brands’ revenue has been down. But guitar sales in the US and worldwide remain fairly stable, looking at larger trends. These are instruments that last you a long time, meaning it’s easy to defer purchases – so the state of the economy is a factor. But while the statistics are hard to get a hold of (these numbers tend to be sold, rather than shared freely), it’s not hard to find evidence that the guitar market remains healthy.

Here’s a good read from 2015, from a marketing blogger:

19 Fascinating Guitar Sales Statistics [brandongaille.com]

Guitars certainly face challenges: think cheaper imports and knockoffs, plus a huge used market (that’s also going to become more and more relevant to synth and modular sales). But looking at the larger numbers and music in general, musicians who want guitars remain loyal to the instrument, and they’re willing to pay for a brand.

The question isn’t what’s going on with guitars, but what’s going on at Gibson.

And there, you might look at their electronics business, where Gibson is seeing sales sagging dramatically versus plans. That’s important, because it’s also where Gibson acquired these debts in the first place – as I noted when Gibson sold Cakewalk, the consumer audio push seemed a fools’ errand. Gibson argued at the time they needed to off-load Cakewalk to support that consumer audio push – but that could in turn just dig them deeper, while sacrificing a small part of their business that was insufficient to pay back debts.

So, while the immediate narrative may be: “ah, the demise of the guitar,” maybe it should be more like, “ah, that company loaned a bunch of money to go into consumer audio and now can’t pay it back because they screwed up.” Too much appetite for consumer audio may wreck Gibson the guitar company.

And that’s in fact what the Post argues: that the story at Gibson is mismanagement. Here’s the money quote (so to speak), from Kevin Cassidy, a senior credit officer at Moody’s Investors Service:

“Some type of restructuring will be necessary,” Cassidy said. “The core business is a very stable business, and a sustainable one. But you have a balance sheet problem and an operational problem.”

It seems that has to fall to the leadership at the top – Henry Juszkiewicz, the company CEO and owner. It’s been Juszkiewicz that led this massive expansion, then failed to connect the consumer audio and technology vision to the core instrument business, then failed to keep up with debts as the strategy sagged. But irrespective of whether the buck should stop there, bankruptcy is likely to mean he’ll be unable to retain his current position.

That is, as either debtors or the bondholders get control of Gibson, it may actually be cause for some fans of the core instrument business to applaud. Normally in America, the credit holders are the villains and the plucky upstart business owner the hero – you’ve seen It’s a Wonderful Life. But lately, management losing focus in favor of growth suggests sometimes the people looking at the numbers have a point.

Whatever is about to hit the fan will likely do it soon. Gibson are set to report third quarter earnings and answer to concerns from debtors or bondholders. If the Post article is to be believed – and I suspect it is – you’ll see whatever happens next at Gibson shortly.

It’s worth reading the full story:

Gibson ‘running out of time — rapidly’ [Nashville Post]

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Bougaïeff & Narciss talk craft, and composing 60-second techno loops

Talk about minimal techno: Nicolas Bougaïeff and Narciss made a selection of 60-second locked grooves. Here’s more on that project and their practice.

If you’re hungry for electronic music that still pushes boundaries and technique, Dr. Nicolas Bougaïeff is a good place to start. (Yes, he’s a real doctor – the Ph.D. is in music composition). And lately, he’s been on a tear. Apart from a fanciful EP for our own Establishment, his recent output has focused on aggressively distorted, dystopian timbres, expertly constructed machines that pound forward like giant robots. He’s gotten deserved attention for that, as well, including the 12″ release of Cognitive Resonance, which relaunched Daniel Miller’s seminal NovaMute label.

There’s no paint-by-number techno here: each rhythm, each sound is considered. (It’s little wonder that Nick is working in offering composition lessons on the side – in a field that has been largely short of expert training.)

Now, you can get a view to that in Principles of Newspeak, his Denkfabrik LP, and take a cinematic journey through these realms.

But I thought we’d take the occasion to explore a unique set of etudes that came at the beginning of this year. It’s called Vocabulary C, and it takes the meticulous construction of techno to an extreme. The whole album is a set of locked grooves, each just one minute in length.

It’s not just a simple DJ “tools” release, though – think of it as tools that are also effective etudes. You can actually listen to each of these as a one-minute, standalone composition. There’s audio material drawn from Principles of Newspeak, but you almost don’t need to know that: these stand on their own. (Miniatures are a topic Nicolas has taken up before, not surprisingly – he’s got a release called 24 Miniatures coming out now, too.)

Nicolas teamed up with Berlin-born artist Narciss for this one – an artist who has literally grown up in the middle of Berlin techno, and has a DJ resume (and more releases upcoming on DRVMS LTD. and Seelen Records) to match.

With the fusion of composition and technology here, of course, we had plenty to talk about with these two.

There are two video documentaries as a starting point. First, there’s a short feature of Principles of Newspeak, visiting Nick in his studio:

From there, there’s a second video in which Nicolas and Narciss talk about the project and their collaboration:

CDM: Nick, from the release for Daniel Miller to your own follow-up on your label to this reusing materials … it feels like you’re making connective tissue now between releases. Is that about your own continuity? Is it about a narrative?

NB: Making a large scale musical work inspired by 1984 has been on my mind for over 20 years. Once I got started, I owed it to myself to explore every aspect of the topic. I’m happy I found an angle to the novel that hadn’t really been covered by other musicians, so I just kept on going. Vocabulary C gave me a feeling of closure.

And you’ve worked with miniatures before, too, yes?

I’ve done this sort of project before. Back in 2011, I recorded a new sketch every day for nearly the whole year, 20 minutes every day first thing in the morning no thinking allowed. That yielded hundreds of musical fragments. From those I eventually compiled an album by selecting the very best moments, no further whatsoever besides touching the mixdown and trimming the shortest edit possible. It kind of sat on my hard drive for seven years now, which is a nice contrast to how spontaneous the original process was. I feel it really aged well so I’m finally about to release the 24 Miniatures album via Denkfabrik.

All of these projects draw from the well of dystopia and dystopian imagination – what was that inspiration here? (What’s the Orwell connection?)

NB: Vocabulary C is the last release in a thematic series of three records, all of them inspired by the appendix to George Orwell’s 1984. The lead single “Cognitive Resonance” came out as a 12″ on NovaMute; the album Principles of Newspeak came out on my own label Denkfabrik, and finally, Vocabulary C as a collection of locked grooves inspired by the sounds from the album.

The 1984 appendix is focused on the particular way language is distorted in that fictional universe, a mashup of political slogans and the Whorf-Sapir linguistics theory. The idea is that if you destroy words, you destroy the ability to think of that concept. Fortunately, that’s not the way language works in reality. In the book, vocabulary C is a facet of the language that is used strictly to describe technical processes. In parallel, it seemed to me very fitting that a locked groove, historically, is a very technical musical tool.

6. Also to repeat the video a little bit, maybe you can elaborate on those vocabularies? How did you apply them to managing the material here?

NB: Best to directly quote Orwell here.

“The A vocabulary consisted of the words needed for the business of everyday life — for such things as eating, drinking, working, putting on one’s clothes, going up and down stairs, riding in vehicles, gardening, cooking, and the like”

“The B vocabulary consisted of words which had been deliberately constructed for political purposes: words, that is to say, which not only had in every case a political implication, but were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them.”

See, both of those are interesting, but way too literal to be used for instrumental music. But when you get to Vocabulary C, it’s abstract and detached in a way that seemed to really fit with techno.

“The C vocabulary was supplementary to the others and consisted entirely of scientific and technical terms.”

Can you explain what a locked groove is?

NB: A vinyl groove is normally cut in a spiral. A locked groove is a circle, so the needle loops around over and over. You literally have to pick up the needle to choose another loop, you can have lots of different loops on a record. Pioneering techno artists — Jeff Mills, for example — produced and performed with locked groove records, sometimes making it a central part of their process.

Narciss: To me, it’s kind of the most stripped down techno tool in existence. It really is just an endless loop that can, for example, be used to mix two tracks that don’t perfectly mesh together, or to add some spice to your transitions. Instrumentation is pretty interesting, because using the sounds we had, meant, we mainly patched things through different effects.

There’s something a bit cheeky about embracing minimalism in this way, right? This isn’t phases like Steve Reich; it isn’t messing with time like Morton Feldman. You’re into full-on repetition – right into the heart of what many people claim to dislike about techno. What made you go that route? Is there a personal story to this embrace of rigid structure and repetition, intellectual curiosity aside?

NB: There’s a holy grail in techno: that magical moment when the groove is so good that you bliss out and don’t touch the machines anymore. We experience this all the time as music producers working in the studio, and also on the dance floor when everything is just spot on. You get the same thing in many improvised musics – searching until you lock in. That’s what I wanted to focus on with this project; I wanted to focus on finding self-standing moments where time stands still.

Timbre is significant here, too, I feel. There’s a real brutality to this, maybe something missing in a lot of drenched-out, effect-pedal, too-much-reverb music trending now. What was the source of those sounds; how did you arrive at them?

Narciss: This can mainly be accredited to the extremely raw-sounding base material that we were working with. Both of the albums that Nicolas made have a very violent, heavy structure to them, so naturally working with sounds from them, you would get something like that out too, although even on the loops where we didn’t use any of that material, it was a pretty natural adaption to what we made before, I guess.

NB: The sound palette was more of a consequence of where I had been with my other projects rather than a conscious conceptual choice. We used a a bunch of Narciss’ favorite drum loops as well as a big chunk of my personal sound library from the past couple years, that was all industrial and electroacoustic sounds derived from electric cello, modular synth and loads of distortion pedals. Looking back, I can now better appreciate the tension between the timeless locked groove format and the sounds that grab your attention.

I want to ask about the element of setting the timer. In order to be that immediate, did you find that there was practice necessary first – on your own, as a duo?

Narciss: I didn’t really see it as practice, we pretty much sat down and recorded everything from the first loop to the last. Obviously, quality improved – generally towards the end of the process, we hit it home more times than in the beginning. But I think a little less than half of the record was made during our first day.

NB: I’ve been an improvising musician for over 15 years – working fast feels very comfortable. Also, quantity was a very important part of this project. Our goal was to make 100 locked grooves, and then we would select the best 20 or 30. Many of them were really bad, silly or just boring, but that didn’t matter, because five minutes later, we had an opportunity to begin again.

Actually, I’m kind of interested now that this has been out in the world for a while … uh, not just to rationalize turning in these questions late. What’s happened in the interim; what has the response been?

NB: I’ve been notified from Bandcamp about who downloads the records. I’ve had some interesting surprises there!

Functionally speaking, how do you expect these tracks to live? Are people DJing with them – are you? How do they work as tools – are they intended as tools? Would these encourage people perhaps even to DJ in a different way

Narciss: I’m certainly playing them out live, yes. Not all of them, of course — “Loop C-02” is a particular favorite. Some are definitely meant more as an exploration of the medium than as an actual “locked groove” in its regular function. I think it does force people who only blend two tracks at a time to play differently, though, yeah – because in that environment, a locked groove doesn’t make much sense. But if you play with three decks or more, then I think the more dancefloor-oriented grooves won’t challenge you that much.

NB: Of course they’re tools! They’re radically minimal not only in their form, but also in their sparseness. I’m always trying to figure out what is the least amount of instruments necessary to get a really banging sound. Now whether they’re played on their own or deep in the mix, that really depends on the musical context.

Does that change the meaning, if they are blended with other tracks?

NB: No, they don’t need to be played as stark naked loops on their own, unprocessed. As a central element, my challenge to DJs would be to try to figure out how long you can keep them going on with the least amount of transformation and mixing.

Narciss: It’s an interesting thought, to be sure. But since this project was more of an exploration of this “Locked Groove” concept, I think that if people play them out, it doesn’t as much change the meaning,as hammer home the functionality of it, even if you get analytical and deconstructive with it.

I know you’ve worked together before. This got you working more closely, though, yes?

Narciss: For sure, for me personally this project has furthered this “Sensei student mentality” with Nicolas just so much more, although I think he hates it when I say that, ha!

NB: Yeah, Narciss contributed a remix for my release on Establishement, and I just did a remix for his new record on DRVMS Ltd. We’ve been friends for a couple years, and with this project it was a really intense five or six sessions actually. The five minute non-stop sprints was pretty exhausting. And we’re still friends now!

Narciss, you’re obviously out there in the trenches, too, in the DJ scene. What was the connection like between this slightly experimental format and that clubland experience?

Narciss: There most definitely was a connection between the two. I mean originally, locked grooves themselves are something that only make sense in the context of a DJ-set. So it actually took me personally quite a while to get away from the “four-to-the-floor-mentality” of the medium.

Also, being born in this city, where do you look for inspiration – are you attracted to new things that are flowing into the city’s cultural life? Is the familiarity of growing up here something significant, or is it that turnover that drives you, or some combination? (I do notice different perspectives of natives and transplant.)

Narciss: I love this question – but there are so many aspects to this subject.

It definitely is a combination. Growing up here, the extremely hedonistic way in which Berlin is perceived from the outside was always very perplexing to me, because this was simply not the way that I saw it. Even when I started DJing, I didn’t actually go out that much because the way I got into it was actually just by discovering the genre in my record store, not by going to the parties. The problem with this is that Techno is, of course, a genre that is inspired by parties and clubs, from the way it sounds to just the overall existence of it. I only really understood this, though, when two British friends of mine moved here, because they had so much unbridled passion for techno, that only through them did I fully understand that these two things cannot exist without each other.

So for me, personally, I do actually like to get my inspiration from the memories that I have of Berlin before it got “un-dangerous” or the corners that people just do not explore enough (like Marzahn, for example). Ed.: Take note of Marzahn, architecture fans. Oh dear; I probably just sent someone down a linkhole. But to be honest, without the turnover of Berlin, and just absolute heaps of people moving here from all over the world, I probably would not be making the music I am making today. That being said, if someone who is thinking about renting an overpriced apartment just to go to Panorama Bar loads, is reading this : please don’t you’re making my rent go up. [laughs]

Will we see these animations live outside of the digital release? Audiovisual show?

NB: Itaru Yasuda — itaru.org — made the Vocabulary C animations, that was the beginning of a new live AV collaboration. Itaru and I just released a new video and that live AV project is moving forward fast.

And lastly, what’s next? I know you both have a bunch of upcoming projects and maybe at least one of you big bookings… will this particular project or collaboration also carry on somehow?

NB: I have a couple big bookings coming up, and I already have 3 solo EPs confirmed for release this year. Narciss and I took one of the locked grooves from Vocabulary C and fleshed it out into a full track, that should be coming out later this year as well.

Narciss: Well, there’s a track of ours on the next Seelen Records Release that was still part of the same sessions in which we made “Vocabulary C”. Other than that time will tell I think, I’d definitely be down to make more stuff together, but the magic about this project was that the process was so different to how we individually usually make our music, so I’m not sure how we would go about just making “normal techno” together.

Thanks! We’ll be listening!

https://bougaieffnarciss.bandcamp.com/album/vocabulary-c

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Don’t miss this video of Jakob lubing up his DJ battle mixer

Hey kids: don’t forget the lube. Well, actually … like seriously.

Jakob Haq is simply one of our favorite YouTube contributors, all round – normally covering mobile music tech, but sometimes a range of other topics, too. And this video proves it.

Description:

The faders on my old Stanton SA-5 Allies signature mixer needed cleaning and some lube love in order for them to glide smoothly again. I recently started using this mixer after being hooked up with a new wall-power adapter for it (Thank you Ribbon). The fun lasted for a day before my faders started getting dodgy so it was time for an overhaul.

Okay, so obvious lube jokes aside (hey, it’s a real thing), this video is great on a number of levels. Apart from presumably helping someone out there with this very specific case, I can’t count the number of times people ask me, how do I repair this music thing xx?

And frankly, we don’t ask that nearly enough. An irony is, when I talk to people from the ex-Communist world (which happens, well, frequently), there’s far more widespread knowledge of repair technique – one born by necessity. But we all need to do that. When you’re touring and your gear breaks down, you need to be able to fix it. When you’re out of cash and your gear breaks down, you need to be able to fix it. When the planet is buckling under the weight of trash, toxic materials from these products can leech into the ecosystem, and when, well, people need gear – we need to fix everything.

It’d be great to put together repair guides in some centralized place. I’m up for ideas.

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Sending music to LANDR now gets your music up on Beatport

LANDR, the platform that first appeared to do automated online mastering, is now distribution, too. And they’ve added online giant Beatport as a partner.

That news came quietly earlier this week, but it demonstrates LANDR are serious about making a turnkey solution for distribution as well as mastering. The deal is, if you aren’t a label big enough to work with Bandcamp directly, and/or if you don’t have your own distributor, you can’t just send music to online stores.

LANDR offers to entirely streamline the process. If you trust their algorithmic approach to mastering, all you have to do is upload and hit release. Your music is mastered (with some minor, simplified ability to tweak the results), and off to Beatport – plus Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, Google Music, and some others.

The pricing is certainly aggressive. Distribution is bundled in with the mastering fees at no additional cost. And in an unprecedented move, LANDR give you 100% of royalties and charge you nothing. The whole system is based on explosive growth. To master WAV files, you have to pony up for the 25EUR/month fee (for unlimited tracks, if you’re a heavy user). But it appears even the lowly 4EUR/mo track does WAV distribution.

There is a catch, of course. First, I’m not entirely convinced by LANDR’s algorithmic mastering. Mastering with a human actually isn’t all that expensive, depending on who you use – and tests I did with LANDR’s system were compelling, but only on the level of what you might get with a preset in a good mastering plug-in. I know – I’m going to get in some trouble with the LANDR folks for this. But my thought is this: some of what mastering engineers do is based on taste, not just on something that could be derived from a large sample set. I rely on a mastering engineer to catch little mistakes and ask questions. Now, maybe people don’t want to pay extra for that, but – then I’d ask if they really want to do a proper digital release, or if they might as well just stick stuff up on SoundCloud and not overthink it.

There’s a second factor to be aware of here: just dumping music on distribution often isn’t effective. Having a human to pitch music makes a difference.

That said, even given my reluctance there, this distribution offer seems terrifically competitive. If you’ve finished an EP, and you just want to make sure people find it whether they type something into Spotify or follow your artist name on Bandcamp, this looks cost-effective and easy. There are other entry-level distribution services that don’t require contracts, but they tend to either charge big fees or else they lack stores like Beatport.

LANDR have posted on the topic:
https://blog.landr.com/everything-musicians-need-know-digital-music-distribution/

It’s worth doing some homework; we can cover more on distribution soon. (While I work on that, let us know how you’re distributing, as it’d be great to get some notes!)

Anyway, my kneejerk opinion:

Mastering, worth a try, but it’s still worth finding a solid mastering engineer if you can.

Distribution: this is so insanely affordable and easy, you’d be crazy not to at least look. (I’m exclusive with my distributor, so I’m out!)

For more:
https://www.landr.com/en/digital-distribution

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