The guts of Tracktion are now open source for devs to make new stuff

Game developers have Unreal Engine and Unity Engine. Well, now it’s audio’s turn. Tracktion Engine is an open source engine based on the guts of a major DAW, but created as a building block developers can use for all sorts of new music and audio tools.

You can new music apps not only for Windows, Mac, and Linux (including embedded platforms like Raspberry Pi), but iOS and Android, too. And while developers might go create their own DAW, they might also build other creative tools for performance and production.

The tutorials section already includes examples for simple playback, independent manipulation of pitch and time (meaning you could conceivably turn this into your own DJ deck), and a step sequencer.

We’ve had an open source DAW for years – Ardour. But this is something different – it’s clear the developers have created this with the intention of producing a reusable engine for other things, rather than just dumping the whole codebase for an entire DAW.

Okay, my Unreal and Unity examples are a little optimistic – those are friendly to hobbyists and first-time game designers. Tracktion Engine definitely needs you to be a competent C++ programmer.

But the entire engine is delivered as a JUCE module, meaning you can drop it into an existing project. JUCE has rapidly become the go-to for reasonably painless C++ development of audio tools across plug-ins and operating systems and mobile devices. It’s huge that this is available in JUCE.

Even if you’re not a developer, you should still care about this news. It could be a sign that we’ll see more rapid development that allows music loving developers to try out new ideas, both in software and in hardware with JUCE-powered software under the hood. And I think with this idea out there, if it doesn’t deliver, it may spur someone else to try the same notion.

I’ll be really interested to hear if developers find this is practical in use, but here’s what they’re promising developers will be able to use from their engine:

A wide range of supported platforms (Windows, macOS, Linux, Raspberry Pi, iOS and Android)
Tempo, key and time-signature curves
Fast audio file playback via memory mapping
Audio editing including time-stretching and pitch shifting
MIDI with quantisation, groove, MPE and pattern generation
Built-in and external plugin support for all the major formats
Parameter adjustments with automation curves or algorithmic modifiers
Modular plugin patching Racks
Recording with punch, overdub and loop modes along with comp editing
External control surface support
Fully customizable rendering of arrangements

The licensing is also stunningly generous. The code is under a GPLv3 license – meaning if you’re making a GPLv3 project (including artists doing that), you can freely use the open source license.

But even commercial licensing is wide open. Educational projects get forum support and have no revenue limit whatsoever. (I hope that’s a cue to academic institutions to open up some of their licensing, too.)

Personal projects are free, too, with revenue up to US$50k. (Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but many small developers are below that threshold.)

For $35/mo, with a minimum 12 month commitment, “indie” developers can make up to $200k. Enterprise licensing requires getting in touch, and then offers premium support and the ability to remove branding. They promise paid licenses by next month.

Check out their code and the Tracktion Engine page:

https://www.tracktion.com/develop/tracktion-engine

https://github.com/Tracktion/tracktion_engine/

I think a lot of people will be excited about this, enough so that … well, it’s been a long time. Let’s Ballmer this.

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Free Cakewalk DAW for Windows gets big updates, more stretchy audio

Welcome to an alternate universe. You knew the world where acquisitions killed products. In this one, products get better, faster – and go from costing hundreds of dollars to being totally free. Let’s catch up with what’s new in Cakewalk for Windows.

First, DAWs – music production software bundling lots of different features – do as much as they do because producing music is pretty demanding. Multitrack recording, editing, arrangement, working with patterns and sequences, working with audio, mixing, mastering, effects, instruments … a lot of tools go into this process. They’re therefore a big investment of time. Having to start out by also investing a bunch of money can stop people from moving forward at all.

So Cakewalk gives you what had been one of the leading tools on Windows, and makes it free for everyone. It’s not the friendliest to beginners by any stretch, but a lot of musicians and producers swear by it.

It’s free now following an acquisition by online music service platform developer BandLab (and a return to the name “Cakewalk” from the name “SONAR,” which never caught on):

Cakewalk SONAR DAW for Windows is back – and it’s now free

But if you thought “free” meant you’d mostly just see small updates, you’d be wrong. Many of Cakewalk’s previous developers, and tech lead Noel Borthwick, jumped to the new company. They were boasting at the pro-focused AES (Audio Engineering Society) conference in New York that they’re making rapid progress under new ownership. They say that means bug fixes, greater stability, and a more usable program – plus new features.

What’s new:

They’ve integrated the standard élastique Pro time and pitch stretching engine, so you can work with sound more fluidly. That’s become something of an industry standard of late. They’ve also continued to improve their own AudioSnap engine.

There’s now more advanced editing and event filtering of MIDI, across multiple tracks and in the piano roll editor.

The UI has been updated with new themes, and there’s better pop-up help and notifications to keep you oriented.

VST compatibility is improved and optimized.

And they remain committed to pro users with, for instance, Dante driver improvements.

The BandLab Assistant that installs with Cakewalk – and which you may choose to just ignore – does have the update option in it. Look under apps.

I don’t think Cakewalk is for everyone, but then I can’t think of any DAW I’d recommend to everyone. What you get is an excellent update to a favorite DAW for existing users and lapsed users. It’s a terrific choice if you want a pro-level tool but don’t have a pro budget. And it’s an option for complementing tools like FL Studio, Reason, Ableton Live, and other tools with more conventional DAW workflows and functionality. (Film score? Mixdown? Yeah, I often jump from something like Live into a different DAW.) It also helps establish Windows as a solid platform for music – even Apple’s GarageBand can’t match this for out-of-the-box functionality for free.

I still think more could be done to make the UI friendly and refined, but this is a terrific start.

www.bandlab.com/products/cakewalk

Full feature updates, including the release that dropped last week:

Version 2018.09

Features & Enhancements

Integrated zplane élastique Pro V3 audio stretching and pitch shifting
Default stretch methods can be specified in the Preferences dialog
Transpose, Length, and Fit to Time commands work on all clip types, including Groove clips, AudioSnap clips, Region FX clips, and slip stretched clips
Slip stretching can also be performed when the edit filter is set to show audio transients.
AudioSnap enabled clips display a clip icon in the top right corner
AudioSnap clips show Auto Stretch icon when Clip Follows Project Tempo is enabled
AudioSnap palette options now directly opens Preferences page for settings
Optimizations and enhancements to time/pitch stretching and AudioSnap workflow
Customize or remove Project Open notification affirmations
Toast notification informs you when a new Cakewalk update is available

Bug Fixes

Changing the Online Render mode for slip stretch can cause crash/glitches
Looping causes stretched clip to become partially silent
Slip Stretch cursor appears with Move tool
Crop tool appears when holding CTRL with the Move tool
Slip stretch is available without the key modifiers if cursor is placed in bottom corner of a clip
Waveform display in split clip appears to adjust crop when slip stretching
Cropping slip stretched clip shows 000% in header
AudioSnap average tempo can show negative value
AudioSnap properties do not appear when Enable Stretch is engaged in Clip Properties Inspector
Clip Follows Project Tempo menu item in AudioSnap context menu does not match actual state
Transient edits and merged markers from other tracks can be discarded when toggling AudioSnap Off/On
When slip editing, active AudioSnap changes appear in waveform even if AudioSnap is disabled
With slip edited clips, active AudioSnap changes are rendered even when AudioSnap is disabled
Clip Properties Time Format setting persists across multiple open projects
Transposing stereo audio file with Radius creates flat line
Process > Transpose can fail or render static when transposing clips at different bit depths
Potential crash on project load
Potential crash in Help Module with German/Japanese text
Potential crash when exiting if the app is not registered

Elastique Compatibility

Elastique Efficient and Elastique Pro are the new default online/offline stretch methods for audio clips.

Elastique is only available in Cakewalk release 2018.09 and higher. Because prior versions of Cakewalk (or SONAR) do not support this feature, projects utilizing Elastique as a stretch method will not render properly in prior versions. A warning message will be displayed when you open a new Cakewalk project in an older version of the software. If you need to share project files with a prior version of Cakewalk, select one of the older stretch methods before saving the project. Alternatively, you can reset the stretch method in the earlier version of Cakewalk.

Elastique stretching with AudioSnap or slip stretching enabled can require larger disk read ahead depending on marker stretches. To optimize playback and reduce the potential for dropouts or audio glitches, we recommend a Playback I/O Buffer Size value of about 512 (KB) if you are experiencing any performance problems. You can change the Playback I/O Buffer Size value in Edit > Preferences > Audio – Sync and Caching.

Version 2018.08

Features & Enhancements

Global options to enable/disable toast notifications and specify timeout duration
AudioSnap transient marker tooltip now shows sample position, updates dynamically, and shows the original and current position in both samples and Measure:Beat:Tick when dragging markers
Default/inherited AudioSnap render mode names are shown in Track/Clip Properties Inspector
Improved Aim Assist UI

Bug Fixes

Toggling AudioSnap Enable/Disable in the AudioSnap Palette does not update the Clip Properties Inspector
AudioSnap: Follow Project Tempo and Enable Stretch should be mutually exclusive
Rare crash after selecting an audio device in the Welcome onboarding dialog
Aim Assist snap line not visible while moving clip if clip boundary is offscreen
Rare crash when hovering mouse over Clips pane time ruler
Aim Assist delta is not shown for Bus pane automation nodes
Aim Assist delta is not shown when drag selecting in area below last track
Aim Assist not visible in Clips pane time ruler after creating a new project
Aim Assist text obscured when moving mouse to far left/right of Clips pane
Invalid Aim Assist text shown when drag selecting before measure 1
Project load notification shows successful load when project file is missing

https://blog.bandlab.com/cakewalk-by-bandlab-at-aes-with-new-features-and-bright-future/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The word from Apple:

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

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

MainStage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previously:

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

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Tracktion 7: powerful, free audio production tool (Mac, Windows, Linux)

So you want to start recording, mixing, arranging, and your budget is … you don’t have one. Tracktion runs on every OS, and the latest update adds still more powerful features.

Free production tools are invaluable – not only are they a refuge for the cash-strapped, but they can be a useful common denominator when you want to exchange projects, or if you need to get up and running quickly on something other than your main machine. Tracktion isn’t the only option out there. Notably GarageBand is available to macOS and iOS users. The excellent Cakewalk (formerly called Cakewalk SONAR) is an optimal choice on Windows, now available free from BandLab. For cross-platform tools, there’s the completely free and open source Ardour, though it can be a bit hacky to install and use. And while it’s not free, Reaper has an unlimited demo, meaning you can use the full version for free and send the developer some money after you sell that first TV score.

Where Tracktion stands out: it’s a modern, friendly, single-window DAW that runs on any OS (Mac, Windows, Linux). And of all of these, it may be the friendliest option – with some power features not available from other options.

T7, released this week, sweetens the pot with some unique new additions – including a couple that might even sway you from the DAW you’ve already paid for.

The UI has been refreshed, with a new scheme called “Blue Steel.” (Okay, enough Zoolander references already. Or at least they missed the opportunity to say the new color scheme will help you “Relax.”)

Browsing is also easier, with a visual browser for plug-ins (the likes of which we’ve seen in Reason, but more rarely elsewhere), plus a multi-browser for auditioning and placing multiple audio files.

The real magic, though, is in the ability to get some power over automation and routing:

Modular racks let you create custom signal processing chains.

Clip Layer Effects let you stack on effects and plug-in processing on specific clips, not just on tracks. That makes for a different workflow – no more making a new track every time you want to change audio routing. Tracktion says they’re applying for a patent here.

Clip Layer Effects: no more duplicating tracks just because one section needs a different effects routing than another bit.

Automation patterns are modulation and envelopes that you can apply to any parameter repeatedly. And there’s optional tempo sync support for them. That sounds especially handy for keeping favorite gestures at the ready, and for remixes and dance music (or to go the opposite direction, hyperactive microediting). Speaking of which, you also get….

Automation patterns can now be stored an applied anywhere – including with tempo sync.

LFO Modifiers can be applied to any parameter in the channel strip or in any third-party plug-in. We’ve seen powerful modifiers in Bitwig Studio – and in Ableton Live, though limited to somewhat simple Max for Live add-ons – but here, combined with those Clip Layers and Automation Patterns, they make Tracktion into a powerful DAW for editing.

LFO Modifiers now work with plug-ins.

Okay, so since this is free, how do the developers make any money? They hope you’ll upgrade to Waveform, their next-generation DAW. It’s got all these features, but adds more extensive instrument support, a multi-sampler, Melodyne pitch correction, a fully modular mix environment, more detailed MIDI editing and pattern generation, and other additions.

Also significant: master mix DSP, chord track, track loops, track presets, quick render, Rack ‘stack’ editor,’ plug-in faceplates, plug-in macros, and free online support. And only Waveform has ready-to-play Raspberry Pi support.

That still means Tracktion is a good way to give this approach a try.

https://www.tracktion.com/products/t7-daw

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Bitwig Studio 2.4: crazy powerful sampler, easier control

The folks at Bitwig have been picking up speed. And version 2.4, beta testing now, brings some promising sampler and controller features.

The big deal here is that Bitwig is going with a full-functioning sampler. And as Ableton Live and Native Instruments’ Maschine pursue somewhat complex and fragmented approaches, maybe Bitwig will step in and deliver a sampler that just does all the stuff you expect in one place. (I’m ready to put these different devices head to head. I like to switch workflows to keep fresh, anyway, so no complaints. Bitwig just wins by default on Linux since Ableton and NI don’t show up for the competition. Ahem.)

Meet the new Sampler: manipulate pitch, time, and the two in combination, either together in a traditional fashion or independently as a digital wavetable or granular instrument. Those modes on their own aren’t new, but this is a nice way of combining everything into a single interface.

Sampler

The re-built Sampler introduces a powerful wavetable/granular instrument. At its heart are multiple modes that combine effectively different instruments and ways of working with sound into a single interface:

“Repitch” / Speed + pitch together: The traditional sampler mode, with negative speeds, too (allowing it to behave the way a record player / record-scratch / tape transport does).

“Cycles” / Speed only: Speed changes, pitches stay the same. There’s also a Formant control, and the ability to switch on and off keyboard tracking. (In other words, you can scale from realistic-sounding speed changes to extreme metallic variations.)

“Textures” / Granular resampling / independent pitch and speed: Granular resynthesis divides up the sound into tiny bits allowing independent pitch and time manipulation (in combination), and textural effects. Independent speed, grain size, and grain motion (randomization) are all available as parameters.

Freeze: Each mode lets you directly manipulate the sample playhead live, using a controller or the Bitwig modulators. That emulates the position of a needle on a record or playhead on a tape, or the position in a granular playback device, depending on mode – and this is in every single mode.

Oh. Okay. Yeah, so those last two are to me the way Ableton Live should have worked from the beginning – and the way a lot of Max, Reaktor, Pd, and SuperCollider patches/code might work – but it’s fantastic to see them in a DAW. This opens up a lot of live performance and production options. If they’ve nailed it, it could be a reason to switch to Bitwig.

But there’s more:

Updated Multisampler Editor: Bitwig’s Sampler already had multisampler capabilities – letting you combine different samples into a single patch, as you might do for a complex instrument, for instance. Now, you can make groups, choose more easily what you see when editing (revealing samples as you play, for instance), and set modulation per zone. There’s also ping-pong looping and automatic zero-crossing edits (so you can slice up sounds without getting pops and clicks).

Multi-sample mode lets you work with zones in new ways, for more complex sampling patches.

Sequence modulation

There’s a new device that lets you step sequence modulation. Here’s how they describe that:

ParSeq-8 is a step sequencer for modulation.

ParSeq-8 is a unique parameter modulation sequencer, where each step is its own modulation source. It can use the project’s clock, advance on note input, or just run freely in either direction. As it advances, each step’s targets are modulated and then reset. It’s a great way to make projects more dynamic, whether in the studio or on the stage. (Along the way, our Steps modulator got some improvements such as ping-pong looping so check it out too.)

Also in the modulation category, there’s a Note Counter — count up each incoming note and create cycles of modulation as a result.

Note Counter.

Note FX Layer.

More powerful with controllers

Bitwig has been moving forward in making it easy to map hardware controls to software, even as rival tools (cough, Ableton) haven’t advanced since early versions. That’s useful if you have a particular custom hardware controller you want to use to manipulate the instruments, effects, and mixing onscreen.

Now there’s a new visualization to give you clear onscreen feedback of what you’re doing, making that hardware/software connection much easier to see.

Visualize controllers as you use them – so the knob you turn on your hardware makes something visible onscreen.

There’s also MIDI channel support. MIDI has had channels since the protocol was unveiled in the 80s – a way of dividing up multiple streams of information. Now you can put them to use: incoming MIDI can be mapped and filtered by channel. That’s … not exciting, okay, but there are dedicated devices for making those channels useful in chains and so on. And that is fairly exciting.

MIDI channel support – essential for working with MIDI, but implemented here in a way that’s powerful for manipulating streams of control and information.

And more stuff

Also in this release:

Bit-8 audio degrader gets new quantization and parameters for glitching or lightly distorting sound
Note FX layer creates parallel note effects
There’s more feedback in the footer of the screen when you hover over parameters/values
Resize track widths, scene widths
Color-code scenes

Looks like a great upgrade. Beta testing starts soon, to be followed by a release as a free upgrade for Upgrade Plan users this summer.

http://bitwig.com

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Arturia’s KeyLab MKII: a more metal, more connected keyboard controller

Oh, look, a new MIDI controller keyboard ranks there with “wow, a new moderately-priced mid-sized sedan.” But… Arturia may have a hit on their hands with the MKII KeyLab. Here’s why.

While everyone else guns for the elusive entry level “everyone,” Arturia has won over specific bands of enthusiasts. The BeatStep Pro is a prime example: by connecting to both MIDI and control voltage, these compact pad-sequencer units have become utterly ubiquitous in modular rigs. They’re the devices that prevent modular performances from turning into aimless noodling. (Well, or at least they give your aimless noodling a set of predictable patterns and rhythm.)

Now, is the modular market big enough to sell the majority of BeatSteps Pro? Probably not. But the agnostic design approach here makes this a multitasker tool in every kitchen, and so word of mouth spreads.

So, keyboards. Native Instruments, love them or hate them, have had a pretty big hit with the Komplete Kontrol line, partly because they do less. They’re elegant looking, they’re not overcrowded, and their encoders let you access not only NI’s software, but lots of other plug-ins via the NKS format.

But the KeyLab MKII looks like it could fit a different niche, by connecting easily to hardware and DAWs.

Backlit pads. 4×4 pads (with velocity and continuous pressure – good), which can also be assigned to chords in case finger drumming isn’t what you had in mind.

DAW control. A lot of people record/edit while playing in parts on the keyboard. So here’s your DAW control layout with some handy shortcut buttons.

Faders/mixing. You get 9 faders with 9 rotaries – so that can be 8 channels plus a master fader. There are assignable buttons underneath those.

Pitch and mod wheels. Dear Arturia: thank you for not being innovative here, as wheels are what many people prefer.

And a big navigator. This bit lets you pull up existing presets.

Okay, none of that is all that exciting – we’ve literally seen exactly this set of features before. But Arturia have pulled it together in some nice ways, like adding a dedicated switch to move into chord mode, letting you change MIDI channel with a button on the front panel (hello, hardware owners), and even thoughtfully including not only those shortcut keys for DAWs, but a magnetic overlay to access them.

Still, keyboards from Nektar and M-Audio, to name just two, cover similar ground. So where Arturia set themselves apart is connectivity.

Class-compliant USB MIDI operation. No drivers mean you can pair this with anything, including iOS and Android and Linux (including Raspberry Pi).

Control Voltage. 4 CV/Gate outputs, controlling pitch, gate, and modulation. Yes, four. Also one CV input.

MIDI in and out.

Pedals. Expression, sustain, and 3 assignable auxiliary pedal inputs.

Software integration. This is obviously a winner if you’re into Arturia’s Analog Collection library, which has gone from varied and pretty okay to really, really great as it’s matured. And since there are so many instruments, having this hardware to navigate them is a godsend. There’s also the obligatory software bundle to sweeten the pot, but I suspect the real draw here is out-of-box compatibility with the DAW of your choice – including Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, FL Studio, Bitwig, Cubase, Ableton Live, Digital Performer, and Studio One.

Made of metal. Okay, not the keys. (That’d be awesome, if… wrong.) But the chassis is aluminum, and the wheels are event metal.

There’s a pretty nice piano and a bunch of analog presets built in here, making this a good deal.

I think if your workflow isn’t tied to Native Instruments software and plug-ins, the connectivity and standalone operation here could make the Arturia the one to beat. The thing to check, obviously, is hardware and build quality, though note that Arturia say the keybed at least is what’s found on the Brute line.

There are 49- and 61- key variations, and they come in either black or white, so you can, you know, coordinate with your studio and tastes.

Video, of course:

Arturia KeyLab MKII

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AutoTrig and TATAT generate rhythms for Ableton, modular gear

Composer Alessio Santini is back with more tools for Ableton Live, both intended to help you get off the grid and generate elaborate, insane rhythms.

Developer K-Devices, Santini’s music software house, literally calls this series “Out Of Grid,” or OOG for short. They’re a set of Max for Live devices with interfaces that look like the flowcharts inside a nuclear power plant, but the idea is all about making patterns.

AutoTrig: multiple tracks of shifting structures and grooves, based on transformation and probability, primarily for beat makers. Includes Push 2, outboard modular/analog support.

TATAT: input time, note, and parameter structures, output melodic (or other) patterns. Control via MIDI keyboard, and export to clips (so you can dial up settings until you find some clips you like, then populate your session with those).

AutoTrig spits out multiple tracks of rhythms for beat mangling.

And for anyone who complains that rhythms are repetitive, dull, and dumb on computers, these tools do none of that. This is about climbing into the cockpit of an advanced alien spacecraft, mashing some buttons, and then getting warped all over hyperspace, your face melting into another dimension.

Here’s the difference: those patterns are generated by an audio engine, not a note or event engine per se. So the things you’d do to shape an audio signal – sync, phase distortion – then spit out complex and (if you like) unpredictable streams of notes or percussion, translating that fuzzy audio world into the MIDI events you use elsewhere.

TATAT is built more for melodic purposes, but the main thing here is, you can spawn patterns using time and note structures. And you can even save the results as clips.

And that’s only if you stay in the box. If you have some analog or modular gear, you can route audio to those directly, making Ableton Live a brain for spawning musical events outside via control voltage connection. (Their free MiMu6 Max for Live device handles this, making use of the new multichannel support in Max for Live added to Live 10).

Making sense of this madness are a set of features to produce some order, like snapshots and probability switches on AutoTrig, and sliders that adjust timing and probability on TATAT. TATAT also lets you use a keyboard to set pitch, so you can use this more easily live.

If you were just sent into the wilderness with these crazy machines, you might get a bit lost. But they’ve built a pack for each so you can try out sounds. AutoTrig works with a custom Push 2 template, and TATAT works well with any MIDI controller.

Pricing:
AutoTrig 29€ ($34 US)
TATAT 29€ ($34 US)
Bundle AutoTrig + TATAT 39€ ($45 US)

Bundle MOOR + Twistor + AutoTrig + TATAT 69€ ($81)

They’ve presumably already worked out that this sort of thing will appeal mainly to the sorts of folks who read CDM, as they’ve made a little discount coupon for us.

The code is “koog18”

Enter that at checkout, and your pricing is reduced to 29€ ($34 US) for both AutoTrig and TATAT.

Check out their stuff on the K-Devices site:

OOG part 2: AutoTrig and TATAT, lunatic Max For Live devices

https://k-devices.com/

See, the problem with this job is, I find a bunch of stuff that would require me to quit this job to use but … I will find a way to play with Monday’s sequencing haul! I know we all feel the same pain there.

Here we go in videos:

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FL Studio 20 for Windows and now Mac, with Hell-freezing functionality

FL Studio aka Fruity Loops has hit a version the developers are dubbing FL Studio 20. At age 20, the software still includes lifetime free updates – and a bunch of new features, including freezing of audio, and Hell freezing over.

The “Hell freezing over” bit you’ll see a lot around this release. It’s a reference to a claim developers Image-Line made that they’d add native Mac support “when Hell freezes over.” The comment at the time wasn’t so outrageous: FL Studio had been built a Windows-native development toolchain that made porting unthinkable. And while about ten years ago the company flirted with using emulation layer WINE to provide rudimentary support, that approach wasn’t terribly satisfying.

Now, Mac users can be first class FL Studio citizens if they so choose. FL Studio 20 is entirely Mac native – not running any kind of emulation. Of course, it may be hard to Image-Line to shake the Windows association, and some Mac users are coming the opposite direction, opting for the power-for-price ratio on Windows PCs. But the Mac still represents a huge portion of musicians, and this means choosing FL doesn’t require choosing a particular OS.

(I will say, though – a new Razer Blade is out. And even the old Razer Blade remains cheaper and better equipped than the Mac. Now you do have to disable some Windows 10 annoyances, like a CPU-hogging malware check and automatic updates on by default. Ahem.)

How to watch the Image-Line launch video without offending your aesthetic sensibilities

Okay, so… I have a theory.

Maybe one reason people assume FL Studio is for people making particular kinds of music is that … the video projects a particular kind of … uh, let’s say musical taste. Oh, sure, Ableton can throw a big posh party in Berlin and toss moody high-contrast artist photos beneath a stylish typeface they hired a London design consultancy to choose for them. FL Studio’s video may turn off a lot of producers simply because they hate the music.

So I’ve found a solution. First, cue up this delightful live performance of “Söngur heiftar” by classic Icelandic black metal band Misþyrming. It’s a little longer than the FL Studio 20 launch video, so don’t panic … you’ve got up to 60 seconds to then hit play on the FL Studio launch video, and hit the mute button in YouTube.

It’s the “Dark Side of the Moon” / Wizard of Oz approach to making music tech marketing videos more palatable. And it kind of fits. You’re welcome.

What’s New

Hell isn’t the only thing FL Studio can freeze. You can now bounce selected audio and pattern clips to audio, render clips to audio, consolidate clips or tracks or takes by bouncing, and more. That’s a huge difference in the FL workflow.

There are plenty of other new features in version 20, too:

Time Signature support (both in playlists and patterns, independently – so, yes, polymetric support if you like – and you thought FL Studio was just for 4/4 trance.)

Playlist Arrangements. Here’s something I find I’m often missing in linear DAWs – you can now set up multiple alternate arrangements, including audio, automation, and pattern clips, all in one project. That could be massive for tasks from trying out alternative song ideas to specific game or live performance sound designs. (I could see a theater show design using this … or fitting a score to different versions of a film trailer … and so on.)

Plugin Delay Compensation, rebuilt. FL already had delay compensation, both automatic and plugin varieties, but it’s been rebuilt from the ground up, say the developers. And it sounds very useful: “Mixer send compensation, Wet/Dry mixer FX compensation, Audio input compensation, Metronome compensation, Plugin Wrapper custom values remembered per-plugin and improved PDC controls in the Mixer.”

Graph Editor is back! This should never really have left, but a “classic” FL feature has returned, letting you edit MIDI information from the Channel Rack – a very Fruity Loops workflow.

Better recording. There’s now a live display of recorded audio and automatic grouping of tracks as you record – both overdue but welcome.

There are loads of improvements to various plugins, of course, plus lots of other fixes and improvements. Details in the manual:

New Features in FL Studio 20

It’s also pretty remarkable that FL Studio has hit 20 years without ditching its lifetime free upgrade policy. FL users have a substantially different relationship with the software than do users of most typical DAWs, both because of its unique workflow and interface and that lifetime policy. But I’m personally intrigued to give it another go – bouncing and working delay compensation make a big dfference, and FL remains a peculiar, interesting toybox full of nice stuff. I think the fact that FL has perhaps not been taken as seriously as tools like Cubase or Ableton Live might itself be a badge of honor – if you can adapt to its often nonstandard ways of working, it offers some big rewards on a small budget.

Announcing FL STUDIO 20 [FL Studio News]

You’ll need the sound back on for this one, but here’s an extended tutorial video explaining what’s new:

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Maschine adds loop recording, controls Apple Logic, more

Native Instruments quietly stuffed a bunch of little improvements into its Maschine groove production tool today – including the ability to control Apple Logic and at last, to record loops.

It’s only called 2.7.3, but it shows NI are continuing to smooth out workflow and integration in their software.

The big one: loop recording. So, Maschine already had a Sampler device, for recording workflows, and recently added the much-requested ability to play audio via the Audio plug-in. What you couldn’t do – which obviously you want to do – was record into that loop mode. Now, at last, there’s a LOOP recording mode in the Record tab.

It also works the way you need to for live use (or spontaneous use in the studio). Recording is quantized to the start of the pattern, and once you finish recording, the loop automatically starts playing back from the Audio device.

So you can record loops with this thing. It’s about time. The whole point of Maschine from the start was to incorporate the ease of working with hardware. And what do people do with hardware? They sample, and record loops.

Of course, since it’s also a plug-in host, you can grab those loops from plug-ins, Reaktor Blocks patches, whatever – in addition to mic and external inputs.

NI overcame another important limitation of the way they had first implemented their new Audio plug-in. You can now enable and disable playback of the Audio device per Pattern, and enable/disable via the STEP page on hardware. This also means you can put full tracks in your set (if you set the loop length long enough).

That’s a big deal, too: now you can take full tracks and stems and mix them in with a set, essential for hybrid use – without combining Maschine with other software.

I’d like to see more control over how the Audio plug-in works; it’s still sometimes mind-bogglingly primitive. But this is a start.

Maschine MK3 updates

As you might expect, NI are also bringing some additional enhancements to their new MK3 hardware. It now has an Ideas View (a lot like Ableton Live’s Session View, but rooted in the Maschine paradigm). And its 4-wheel encoder can now do some clever event editing – select, nudge, pitch-shift, and change length of notes. That’s another reason not to look at your computer – try hiding it under the stage.

You can also record events directly, and MK3 gets velocity curves, too.

Apple Logic Pro integration

You can access the Logic mixer via the MK3 hardware, too, with a new template, as well as adjust pan, mute, and solo. You can also trigger Logic’s Play / Stop / Record, Quantize, Undo / Redo, Automation Toggle, Tap Tempo, and Loop Toggle General.

This sort of functionality is already on NI’s keyboard line, and it’s hugely useful when you want to track ideas quickly. Plus, with Apple adding some great effects, sequencers, and the like, the one thing they’re lacking is a really good drum machine. So the Maschine – Logic combo I think could be terrific; I’ll be using it to start some new ideas. (Sorry, Ultrabeat and Drummer but … you’re just not really my thing.)

Sculpture techno? Yes.

Having used NI’s Maschine Jam template, I hope we also see enhanced Ableton Live support in the future.

More scales

NI keeps adding more scales to Komplete Kontrol; now those come to Maschine, too.

Other fixes and tweaks abound. This was a lot in just a small update, so I’m curious what’s next.

Note: as with a lot of vendors, NI will drop 32-bit plug-in and standalone support. So if you’re on an old machine, you may want to maintain the last version. 64-bit is the way to go, though: more use of memory, and fewer crashes when you run out of it. It’s time. (You can read what I wrote about Ableton’s move to 64-bit only for an explanation of why it makes sense. The same holds here.)

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

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Cakewalk SONAR DAW for Windows is back – and it’s now free

One of Windows’ most powerful, most popular, most native-optimized audio tools is not only back from the dead, it’s available for free. A version of SONAR Platinum will be available free, and finally, it’s just called “Cakewalk.”

We learned back in February that Singapore-based BandLab acquired Cakewalk’s assets from Gibson. And in a sign this was a serious deal, they also got some of Cakewalk’s team, including top engineers Noel Borthwick and Ben Staton. That differs from a lot of ill-fated acquisitions; music technology assets are often fairly meaningless without the humans who worked on them.

An online and mobile DAW called BandLab just acquired Cakewalk’s IP

Now, there’s more. This week, BandLab announced they’re re-releasing the DAW as “Cakewalk by BandLab.” And it is actually SONAR Platinum. You even get tools like the ProChannel modules for signal processing.

So, wait, what’s the catch? Well, you do need to install the BandLab client to download the DAW; this is bait for BandLab’s online services. And BandLab say that while this includes “the entire SONAR Platinum feature set” in a version with “full authentication and unlimited feature-access” for free, some of the bundled tools are evidently missing. Fortunately, at least, that appears limited to selected add-ons, not the core DAW:

Cakewalk by BandLab is a streamlined version of SONAR Platinum – and certain third party products and content bundles will no longer be included. Existing users who have already purchased bundles or individual third party products and plug-ins can still use those products with Cakewalk by BandLab.

This is still big news. Cakewalk was always a leader in support for 64-bit and Windows core technologies. SONAR supports touch, VST3, and other technologies missing from a lot of rival DAWs. And this could in fact reinvigorate the Windows platform for audio at a key moment. Heck, it might be a reason to consider a Surface Book with touch support, or to migrate to a fast laptop. SONAR requires some adjustment if you’re used to another DAW, but it’s got a long history in production.

On the Windows support site, this excerpt including a quote from Pete Brown is telling – Microsoft, lacking something like Apple’s Logic Pro, really need this:

Pete Brown, from Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group, said “We’re thrilled that Cakewalk has found a new home with a company that understands the musician community, and that cares sincerely about digital audio production. Cakewalk has been a great partner, working to make their DAW better for their customers by quickly adopting new Windows features like pen, Bluetooth MIDI, multi-touch, Dial, and more. We look forward to working closely with BandLab to continue this innovation.” Cakewalk by BandLab will support pen, touch and Surface Dial throughout the user interface.

And that comes on the heels of a pretty significant reorganization at Microsoft. (It’s a boost of confidence to Windows pro users, too, right when these frequent reorganizations in Redmond are … not confidence boosting.)

Oh yeah, and let’s be honest: even the most die-hard SONAR user tended to refer to their DAW as “Cakewalk.” (That’s true of “Ableton,” too, but it fits this product even better. SONAR’s predecessors for Windows and DOS were all called simply “Cakewalk”; the original vendor name was the geeky “Twelve Tone Systems.”)

So now Cakewalk is Cakewalk. And Cakewalk is free. That counts as some good news. (Now if I can make this run on Linux under WINE, I’ll be even happier still.)

I’ll give this a spin and see if I can offer up a decent beginners’ guide in time for the release.

You can get “early access” now via the site. (Other info is a bit vague, but you can grab the download.)

https://cakewalk.bandlab.com/

More on the DAW and its functionality: https://www.bandlab.com/products/cakewalk

Joy rising, Windows users?

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