dadamachines doppler is a new platform for open music hardware

The new doppler board promises to meld the power of FPGA brains with microcontrollers and the accessibility of environments like Arduino. And the founder is so confident that could lead to new stuff, he’s making a “label” to help share your ideas.

doppler is a small, 39EUR development board packing both an ARM microcontroller and an FPGA. It could be the basis of music controllers, effects, synths – anything you can make run on those chips.

If this appeals to you, we’ve even got a CDM-exclusive giveaway for inventors with ideas. (Now, end users, this may all go over your head but … rest assured the upshot for you should be, down the road, more cool toys to play with. Tinkerers, developers, and people with a dangerous appetite for building things – read on.)

But first – why include an FPGA on a development board for music?

The pitch for FPGA

The FPGA is a powerful but rarified circuit. The idea is irresistible: imagine a circuit that could be anything you want to be, rewired as easily as software. That’s kind of what an FPGA is – it’s a big bundle of programmable logic blocks and memory blocks. You get all of that computational power at comparatively low cost, with the flexibility to adapt to a number of tasks. The upshot of this is, you get something that performs like dedicated, custom-designed hardware, but that can be configured on the fly – and with terrific real-time performance.

This works well for music and audio applications, because FPGAs do work in “close to the metal” high performance contexts. And we’ve even seen them used in some music gear. (Teenage Engineer was an early FPGA adopter, with the OP-1.) The challenge has always been configuring this hardware for use, which could easily scare off even some hardware developers.

For more on why open FPGA development is cool, here’s a (nerdy) slide deck: https://fpga.dev/oshug.pdf

Now, all of what I’ve just said a little hard to envision. Wouldn’t it be great if instead of that abstract description, you could fire up the Arduino development environment, upload some cool audio code, and have it running on an FPGA?

doppler, on a breadboard connected to other stuff so it starts to get more musically useful. Future modules could also make this easier.

doppler: easier audio FPGA

doppler takes that FPGA power, and combines it with the ease of working with environments like Arduino. It’s a chewing gum-sized board with both a familiar ARM microcontroller and an FPGA. This board is bare-bones – you just get USB – but the development tools have been set up for you, and you can slap this on a breadboard and add your own additions (MIDI, audio I/O).

The project is led by Johannes Lohbihler, dadamachines founder, along with engineer and artist Sven Braun.

dadamachines also plan some other modules to make it easier to add other stuff us music folks might like. Want audio in and out? A mic preamp? MIDI connections? A display? Controls? Those could be breakout boards, and it seems Johannes and dadamachines are open to ideas for what you most want. (In the meantime, of course, you can lay out your own stuff, but these premade modules could save time when prototyping.)

Full specs of the tiny, core starter board:

120Mhz ARM Cortex M4F MCU 512KB Flash (Microchip ATSAMD51G19A) with FPU
– FPGA 5000 LUT, 1MBit RAM, 6 DSP Cores,OSC, PLL (Lattice ICE40UP5K)
– Arduino IDE compatible
– Breadboard friendly (DIL48)
– Micro USB
– Power over USB or external via pin headers
– VCC 3.5V …. 5.5V
– All GPIO Pins have 3.3V Logic Level
– 1 LED connected to SAMD51
– 4 x 4 LED Matrix (connected to FPGA)
– 2 User Buttons (connected to FPGA)
– AREF Solder Jumper
– I2C (need external pullup), SPI, QSPI Pins
– 2 DAC pins, 10 ADC pins
– Full open source toolchain
– SWD programming pin headers
– Double press reset to enter the bootloader
– UF2 Bootloader with Firmware upload via simple USB stick mode

See also the quickstart PDF.

I’ve focused on the FPGA powers here, because those are the new ones, but the micrcontroller side brings compatibility with existing libraries that allow you to combine some very useful features.

So, for instance, there’s USB host capability, which allows connecting all sorts of input devices, USB MIDI gadgets, and gaming controllers. See:

https://github.com/gdsports/USB_Host_Library_SAMD

That frees up the FPGA to do audio only. Flip it around the other way, and you can use the microcontroller for audio, while the FPGA does … something else. The Teensy audio library will work on this chip, too – meaning a bunch of adafruit instructional content will be useful here:

https://learn.adafruit.com/synthesizer-design-tool?view=all

https://github.com/adafruit/Audio/

doppler is fully open source hardware, with open firmware and code samples, so it’s designed to be easy to integrate into a finished product – even one you might sell commercially.

The software examples for now are mainly limited to configuring and using the board, so you’ll still need to bring your own code for doing something useful. But you can add the doppler as an Arduino library and access even the FPGA from inside the Arduino environment, which expands this to a far wider range of developers.

Look, ma, Arduino!

In a few steps, you can get up and running with the development environment, on any OS. You’ll be blinking lights and even using a 4×4 matrix of lights to show characters, just as easily as you would on an Arduino board – only you’re using an FPGA.

Getting to that stage is lunch break stuff if you’ve at least worked with Arduino before:

https://github.com/dadamachines/doppler

Dig into the firmware, and you can see, for instance, some I/O and a synth working. (This is in progress, it seems, but you get the idea.)

https://github.com/dadamachines/doppler-FPGA-firmware

And lest you think this is going to be something esoteric for experienced embedded hardware developers, part of the reason it’s so accessible is that Johannes is working with Sven Braun. Sven is among other things the developer of iOS apps zmors synth and modular – so you get something that’s friendly to app developers.

doppler in production…

A label for hardware, platform for working together

Johannes tells us there’s more to this than just tossing an open source board out into the world – dadamachines is also inviting collaborations. They’ve made doppler a kind of calling card for working together, as well as a starting point for building new hardware ideas, and are suggesting Berlin-based dadamachines as a “label” – a platform to develop and release those ideas as products.

There are already some cool, familiar faces playing with these boards – think Meng Qi, Tom Whitwell of Music thing, and Ornament & Crime.

Johannes and his dadamachines have already a proven hardware track record, bringing a product from Kickstarter funding to manufacturing, with the automat. It’s an affordable device that makes it easy to connect physical, “robotic” outputs (like solenoids and motors). (New hardware, a software update and more are planned for that, too, by the way.) And of course, part of what you get in doing that kind of hardware is a lot of amassed experience.

We’ve seen fertile open platforms before – Arduino and Raspberry Pi have each created their own ecosystems of both hardware and education. But this suggests working even more closely – pooling space, time, manufacturing, distribution, and knowledge together.

This might be skipping a few steps – even relatively experienced developers may want to see what they can do with this dev board first. But it’s an interesting long-range goal that Johannes has in mind.

Want your own doppler; got ideas?

We have five doppler boards to give away to interested CDM readers.

Just tell dadamachines what you want to make, or connect, or use, and email that idea to:

cdm@dadamachines.com

dadamachines will pick five winners to get a free board sent to them. (Johannes says he wants to do this by lottery, but I’ve said if there are five really especially good ideas or submissions, he should… override the randomness.)

And stay tuned here, as I hope to bring you some more stuff with this soon.

For more:

https://forum.dadamachines.com/

https://dadamachines.com/product/doppler/

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Mournful drone sounds of a repurposed HP test device

Hainbach continues to make beautiful sounds with esoteric or forgotten gear – this time, the “saddest drone machine,” a used HP 3782A Error Detector telco device.

It’s wonderful sometimes the things esoteric gear makes. In the earlier, more analog age, a lot of telecommunications worked in the audible spectrum with tones you can hear. In this case, this HP device produces a set of patterns that sounds surprisingly musical, if melancholy:

Hainbach doesn’t include the description, but surprisingly a quick search suggests people still repair and use these devices. Oh yeah, and these actually work on digital equipment, but in audible-range patterns:

The HP 3782A Error Detector used with a HP 3781A Pattern Generator forms a flexible, high-performance error measuring system for digital transmission equipment in the CEPT digital hierarchy. They provide 2, 8, and 34 Mb/s interfaces and binary ECL operation up to 50 Mb/s. Automated or remote measurement capability with HP-IB. Measurements can be made on all types of digital transmission systems including cable, digital radio, satellite, and lightwave. The pattern generator provides a wide range of test patterns including PRBS for simulating live traffic and shorter WORD patterns for checking pattern sensitivity in transmission equipment. Binary and code error injection capability is included for stress-testing line terminating equipment. A jitter modulation input is provided to add controlled amounts of jitter to the output test pattern and perform jitter tolerance tests on equipment interfaces.

Sounds like a wholesome good time for the whole family.

More:

Keep the machines lit: https://patreon.com/hainbach
Questions and answers: http://reddit.com/r/hainbach
Chat: https://discord.gg/MUBp5AB

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SOMA’s Ether is a high-sensitivity ear for your electromagnetic world

Electronics are redefining what “sound” means – by remapping other signals into our audible spectrum. The latest is SOMA’s invention Ether, a “microphone” for electromagnetic fields. If that sounds familiar, this one’s a bit different than some EMF devices that came before.

Here’s a look at the new Ether. It’s a new creation from SOMA Laboratory, the same Russian instrument builder who have give us the gorgeous “organismic” LYRA synths. (I covered them in the Russian Synthposium write-up last year.)

First, let’s talk electromagnetic fields. Just like gravity, these fields extend throughout nature. Since we have electricity and electrically-charged stuff pulsing all around us, there’s a lot happening in the electromagnetic field. But we can’t perceive that, because our bodies lack sense organs equipped to do so – well, until now, that is. Now we’ve invented devices that translate to things we can sense. Think of it as expanded sensory perception for the transhumanist, technologically augmented age.

Various artists have built electromagnetic detectors that you can use for music – both by listening directly with headphones, and by letting you plug that signal into a recorder or use in live performance. That includes the superb ElecktroSluch by LOM Label and artist Jonáš Gruska, who both makes these instruments available and has built a body of works around them on his label (both by him and invited artists).

Latest microphones unlock an unheard world

https://lom.audio/instruments/elektrosluch/

Part of what makes Jonáš special, though, is his interest in delicate sounds and focused sounds – that’s something he applies to his acoustic microphones, as well.

So here’s where the SOMA Ether becomes interesting.

The invention of engineer Vlad Kreimer, the Ether is a portable EMF device. But it’s much more sensitive than other offerings – making it well suited to picking up larger ambiences in recording or live performances. It works on a slightly different technique, and yields different results.

Vlad himself sends along an explanation to make this clearer:

ETHER is not just an inductive sniffer like some projects you can easily find online. A simple low-frequency inductive sniffer will be silent in most places that are full of sounds in the video. Such devices need to be placed close to an emitting source and will not work on a street. All they contain is a coil and a low-frequency amplifier. In comparison, ETHER has a regenerating circuit and a demodulator, making it an actual radio wave receiver, not just an amplifier of low-frequency magnetic fields. However, ETHER can perceive the low-frequency magnetic fields as well. But, honestly, if your goal is to scan objects in close proximity (0-20 centimetres), devices like Elektrosluch will work cleaner and more focused due to its narrow band and lower sensitivity. ETHER was designed to be a part of your walks in the city and may even pick up sounds in a forest or at the seashore (I have such experience). Elektrosluch was designed for using over a table full of gear. Also, ETHER can perceive the electric component of the radiation as well, capturing radiation that is far above the audio range and is much more sensitive. Therefore, it has a significantly different design, functions and implementation than a simple inductive sniffer even if in some cases their functions can overlap.

Devoted EMF fans I can imagine carrying both the Ether and something like an ElectroSluch to capture different sounds, a bit like photographers carry multiple lenses. (Oh yes – this addiction is about to run deep. Or you can think about the difference between a double bass and an oboe.)

As you can hear in the demo, you get these sweeping, overlapping waves of EMF with some really fantastic distortion – punk electromagnetism.

120 EUR, available to order now. (VAT and shipping are additional.)

https://somasynths.com/ether/

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A DIY machine imagines 808 kicks if they were made of actual fire

Anyone can clone an 808. Not anyone can make a machine inspired by the 808 out of repurposed lighter springs, motors, and … oh yeah, flaming butane gas. Koka Nikoladze’s beat machines are going viral, and their demented, quirky sound tells you why.

So, sorry NAMM – this may be the coolest gear we’ll see in January 2019.

And not only is the concept novel, but his wacky tunes make for some toe tapping, eyebrow-raising good times, too.

Full text:

I always wanted to build something using fire. Here is my first attempt. The small prototype works.

Releasing tiny bursts of butane gas on an open fire source sounds pretty much like a kick. By adjusting the distance and the pressure, it can get very close to 808. This is just a tiny model. I’m going to build a BIG Koka’s Fire Kick unit for live shows.

The rest is quite simple, I used a brass tube as a hat and some springs extracted from empty lighters, in a wooden box — as a snare; oh yes, and a DC motor that I managed to bring back to life by rewinding coils.

I’m dancing closer to the idea of setting up my first proper dance music production. Not necessarily the type of music from Beat Machine demonstration videos, much more complex and sophisti.. .. well, never mind. We’ll see what happens. I’ve already discussed this with an army of hyper-incredible artists willing to collaborate.

Only if I manage to get hold of Snoop Dogg in addition, maybe, some day :D. Ok, joking aside, wouldn’t it be amazingly surreal? Snoop with a small tight beat machine and a symphonic orchestra behind. I’d play the bass, and dance.

We’re seeing a growing trend in not analog, not digital, but kinetic – mechanical – physical instruments. It’s still tech – it’s just back to doing things with mechanics and physics, perhaps still informed by the lessons of code and circuits. On the fire side, of course, this is also kind of a miniaturized take on pyrophones, flame-powered organs and other instruments.

And while obviously part of the battle here is to be one step ahead of everyone else on the quirk factor, topping social media, I suspect there’s also potential in a scene around this sort of music. Physical music fests? We’ll see.

Previously on these lines:

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

— which over the years has led to this:

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

Oh and – the pyrophone built by musical robotics pioneer Eric Singer was one of the first ever stories on this site:

Pyrophone: Flaming Sound Organ Powered by Propane

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Haken’s ContinuuMini is expressive, post-keyboard sound for $899

Want some evidence that the future of expressive digital instruments and MPE is bright? Look to Haken’s ContinuuMini, which emerged over last year, bringing greater portability and a US$899 price to the out-there controller.

Forget anything else, and listen to this gorgeous video (using a clever setup with an Onde acoustic resonator*:

Why does the ContinuuMini matter?

Expression really is a combination of sound and physical control. Say what you will about piano keyboards (and some electronic musicians who hate them certainly do) – the reason an acoustic piano is still expressive has to do with the sound of a piano.

So when we talk about MPE, a scheme for allowing polyphonic expression through MIDI, we’re really talking about allow greater depth in the connection of physical gestures and sound.

If this is going to catch on, it’ll require more than one vendor. I think it’s wrong to assume MPE’s future, then, is tied solely to ROLI as a vendor. From the start, MPE was an initiative of a range of people, from major software developers (Apple, Steinberg) to hardware inventors (ROLI, but also Roger Linn and Randy Jones of Madrona Labs, for instance).

And Haken Audio has been a boutique maker pushing new ways of playing for years – including with MPE on their Continuum. The Continuum may look arcane in photos, but feeling it is a unique experience. The ribbon feels luxurious – it’s actually soft fabric. And the degree of control is something special. But it’s also enormous and expensive – and that means a lot of people can’t buy it, or can’t tour with it since it won’t fit in an overhead.

I believe that what makes an instrument is really finding that handful of people to do stuff even the creators didn’t expect, so if you can lower those barriers for even a run of a few hundred units, you could have a small revolution on your hand.

That’s what Haken have done with ContinuuMini, which closed crowd sourcing late last year and has started shipping of the first hardware.

Here’s what sets it apart:

It’s a Continuum. Well, first, nothing else feels like a Continuum. That feeling may not be for everyone, but it’s still significant as a choice.

It’s continuous. Because you aren’t limited by frets or keys, there’s a continuous range of sound. This is a controller you’ll want to practice, finding intonation with muscle memory and your ear. And there are artists who will want that subtlety.

It has internal sound. Like its larger sibling the ContinuuMini has an internal sound engine. That means that it’s not just a controller. Haken have conceived control and sound in a single, unified design. You can play it without connecting other stuff. And the builders have worked on both the physical and aural experience of what they’ve made. I think that’s significant to anyone making an investment, particularly in an age in which abstract controller hardware tends to stack in our closets.

It’s 8-voice polyphonic, as well. The ContinuuMini isn’t just a controller: it’s a complete, gorgeous polysynth and a controller, for this one price.

It connects to other gear, without software. Bidirectional digital control – MIDI, with MPE, MPE+ – and bidirectional control voltage analog (with converter) are possible. That means you can play the ContinuuMini with gear and software (like recording MIDI and MPE in your DAW for playback), and likewise the ContinuuMini can control your software and gear. There are also two pedal inputs so your feet can get in on the action.

It’s only a quarter kilogram. 9 oz. You can tote the bigger ones with a case but – the ContinuuMini is incredibly portable.

It feels like an extraordinary development.

https://www.hakenaudio.com/continuumini

* Synthtopia has a great, in-depth interview on the Onde and Pyramid, acoustic resonators that make an electronic instrument feel more like an instrument and less like “something disconnected that produces sound through speakers” as with conventional monitors:

La Voix Du Luthier & The New Shape Of Electronic Sound

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Build your own scratch DJ controller

If DJing originated in the creative miuse and appropriation of hardware, perhaps the next wave will come from DIYers inventing new approaches. No need to wait, anyway – you can try building this scratch controller yourself.

DJWORX has done some great ongoing coverage of Andy Tait aka Rasteri. You can read a complete overview of Andy’s SC1000, a Raspberry Pi-based project with metal touch platter:

Step aside portablism — the tiny SC1000 is here

In turn, there’s also that project’s cousin, the 7″ Portable Scratcher aka 7PS.

If you’re wondering what portablism is, that’s DJs carrying portable record players around. But maybe more to the point, if you can invent new gear that fits in a DJ booth, you can experiment with DJing in new ways. (Think how much current technique is really circumscribed by the feature set of CDJs, turntables, and fairly identical DJ software.)

Or to look at it another way, you can really treat the DJ device as a musical instrument – one you can still carry around easily.

The SC1000 in Rasteri’s capable hands is exciting just to behold:

Everything you need to build this yourself – or to discover the basis for other ideas – is up on GitHub:

https://github.com/rasteri/SC1000/

This is not a beginner project. But it’s not overwhelmingly complicated, either. Basically…

Ingredients:
Custom PCB
System-on-module (the brains of the operation)
SD card
Enclosure
Jog wheel with metal capacitive touch surface and magnet
Mini fader

Free software powers the actual DJing. (It’s based on xwax, open source Linux digital vinyl emulation, which we’ve seen as the basis of other DIY projects.)

Process:

You need to assemble the main PCB – there’s your soldering iron action.

And you’ll flash the firmware (which requires a PIC programmer), plus transfer the OS to SD card.

Assembly of the jog wheel and enclosure requires a little drilling and gluing

Other than that it’s a matter of testing and connection.

Build tutorial:

Full open source under a GPLv2 license. (Andy sort of left out the hardware license – this really sort of illustrates that GNU need a license that blankets both hardware and software, though that’s complex legally. There’s no copyright information on the hardware; to be fully open it needs something like a Creative Commons license on those elements of the designs. But that’s not a big deal.)

It looks really fantastic. I definitely want to try building one of these in Berlin – will team up and let you know how it goes.

This clearly isn’t for everyone. But the reason I mention going to custom hardware is, this means both that you can adapt your own technique to a particular instrument and you can modify the way the digital DJ tool responds if you so choose. It may take some time before we see that bear fruit, but it definitely holds some potential.

Via:
Rasteri’s SC1000 scratch controller — build your own today [thanks to Mark Settle over at DJWORX!]

Project page:
https://github.com/rasteri/SC1000/

Thanks, Dubby Labby!

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TidalCycles, free live coding environment for music, turns 1.0

Live coding environments are free, run on the cheapest hardware as well as the latest laptops, and offer new ways of thinking about music and sound that are leading a global movement. And one of the leading tools of that movement just hit a big milestone.

This isn’t just about a nerdy way of making music. TidalCycles is free, and tribes of people form around using it. Just as important as how impressive the tool may be, the results are spectacular and varied.

There are some people who take on live coding as their primary instrument – some who haven’t had experiencing using even computers or electronic music production tools before, let alone whole coding environments. But I think they’re worth a look even if you don’t envision yourself projecting code onstage as you type live. TidalCycles in particular had its origins not in computer science, but in creator Alex McLean’s research into rhythm and cycle. It’s a way of experiencing a musical idea as much as it is a particular tool.

TidalCycles has been one of the more popular tools, because it’s really easy to learn and musical. The one downside is a slightly convoluted install process, since it’s built on SuperCollider, as opposed to tools that now run in a Web browser. On the other hand, the payoff for that added work is you’ll never outgrow TidalCycles itself – because you can move to SuperCollider’s wider arrange of tools if you choose.

New in version 1.0 is a whole bunch of architectural improvement that really makes the environment feel mature. And there’s one major addition: controller input means you can play TidalCycles like an instrument, even without coding as your perform:
New functions
Updated innards
New ways of combining patterns
Input from live controllers
The ability to set tempo with patterns

Maybe just as important as the plumbing improvements, you also get expanded documentation and an all-new website.

Check out the full list of changes:

https://tidalcycles.org/index.php/Changes_in_Tidal_1.0.0

You’ll need to update some of your code as there’s been some renaming and so on.

But the ability to input OSC and MIDI is especially cool, not least because you can now “play” all the musical, rhythmic stuff TidalCycles does with patterns.

There’s enough musicality and sonic power in TidalCycles that it’s easy to imagine some people will take advantage of the live coding feedback as they create a patch, but play more in a conventional sense with controllers. I’ll be honest; I couldn’t quite wrap my head around typing code as the performance element in front of an audience. And that makes some sense; some people who aren’t comfortable playing actually find themselves more comfortable coding – and those people aren’t always programmers. Sometimes they’re non-programmers who find this an easier way to express themselves musically. Now, you can choose, or even combine the two approaches.

Also worth saying – TidalCycles has happened partly because of community contributions, but it’s also the work primarily of Alex himself. You can keep him doing this by “sending a coffee” – TidalCycles works on the old donationware model, even as the code itself is licensed free and open source. Do that here:

http://ko-fi.com/yaxulive#

While we’ve got your attention, let’s look at what you can actually do with TidalCycles. Here’s our friend Miri Kat with her new single out this week, the sounds developed in that environment. It’s an ethereal, organic trip (the single is also on Bandcamp):

We put out Miri’s album Pursuit last year, not really having anything to do with it being made in a livecoding environment so much as I was in love with the music – and a lot of listeners responded the same way:

For an extended live set, here’s Alex himself playing in November in Tokyo:

And Alexandra Cardenas, one of the more active members of the TidalCycles scene, played what looked like a mind-blowing set in Bogota recently. On visuals is Olivia Jack, who created vibrant, eye-searing goodness in the live coding visual environment of her own invention, Hydra. (Hydra works in the browser, so you can try it right now.)

Unfortunately there are only clips – you had to be there – but here’s a taste of what we’re all missing out on:

See also the longer history of Tidal

It’ll be great to see where people go next. If you haven’t tried it yet, you can dive in now:

https://tidalcycles.org/

Image at top: Alex, performing as part of our workshop/party Encoded in Berlin in June.

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Check out these amazing DIY controllers people made with OpenDeck

You’ve got plenty of off-the-shelf controllers – but what if you want something that’s unique to you? OpenDeck is an affordable, young, Arduino-powered controller platform for DIYers, and it’s starting to produce some jaw-dropping results.

There was a time when you needed to build your own stuff to add custom controls to synths and computers, sourcing joysticks and knobs and buttons and whatnot yourself. Doepfer’s Pocket Electronic platform spawned tons of weird and wonderful stuff. But then a lot of people found they were satisfied with a growing assortment of off-the-shelf generic and software-specific controllers, including those from the likes of Ableton, Native Instruments, Novation, and Akai.

But a funny thing happened at the same time. Just as economies of scale and improved microcontroller and development platforms have aided big manufacturers in the intervening years, DIY platforms are getting smarter and easier, too.

Enter OpenDeck. It’s what you’d expect from a current generation platform for gear makers. It supports class-compliant MIDI over USB, but also runs standalone. You can configure it via Web interface. You can plug in buttons and encoders and pots and other inputs and LEDs – but also add displays. You have tons of I/O – 32-64 ins, and 48 outs. But it’s all based on the familiar, friendly Arduino platform – and runs on Arduino and Teensy boards in addition to a custom OpenDeck board.

You get an easy platform that supports all the I/O you need and isn’t hard to code – leaving you to focus on hardware. And it runs on an existing platform rather than forcing you to learn something new.

I’ll take a look at it soon. Because it’s built around MIDI, OpenDeck looks ideal for controller applications, though other solutions now address audio, too.

But platform aside, look how many cool things people are starting to build. With so many stage rigs getting standardized (yawn), it’s nice to see this sort of weird variety … and people who have serious craft. (At least the rest of us can sigh and wish we were this handy, right?)

Examples:

Bergamot is an all-custom touchscreen MIDI controller for DJing:

The very nice-looking OpenDeck custom board is US$149. But you can also load this on much cheaper Arduino boards if you want to give it a test drive or start prototyping before you spring for the full board – and you can even buy pre-configured Arduinos to save yourself some time. (Some of the other boards are also more form efficient if you’re willing to do some additional work designing a board around it.)

Sensimidia, for Croatian dub act “Homegrown Sound.”

Tannin and Ceylon, two MIDI controllers.

Morten Berthelsen built this Elektron Analog controller.

Elektron’s Octatrack gets a custom controller … and foot pedals, too. By Anthony Vogt.

OpenDeck also features open source firmware under a GPLv3 license.

GitHub project page including full feature set (lots of nice stuff)

Here’s the underlying platform itself:

OpenDeck’s own custom hardware – though if this is overkill, various Arduino/Teensy variants work, too.

Configuration via Web interface.

Project site:

https://shanteacontrols.com/

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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.

The post The guts of Tracktion are now open source for devs to make new stuff appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Datalooper lets you play Ableton Live with your feet

It’s a looper, it’s a Session View controller. It’s USB powered, and you play it with your feet. But unlike other options, Datalooper integrates directly with how you work in Ableton Live – and it doesn’t require Max for Live to operate. Here’s a first look – and an exclusive discount.

http://www.datalooperpedal.com/cdmspecial

Ableton may have called their event “Loop,” but that doesn’t mean there’s an obvious way to control the software’s looping capability via hardware out of the box. And that’s essential – Ableton Push is great, but it doesn’t fit a lot of instrumental and vocal uses. It’s too complicated, and involves too much hand-eye coordination – stuff you want to focus elsewhere. I’m not sure what Ableton would have called their own foot hardware – Ableton Tap? Ableton Toes? But instead, users have been stepping up … sorry, unintentional pun … and giving Live the kind of immediacy you’d expect of a looper pedal.

Demand seems higher than ever – there were two projects floating around Ableton Loop in LA last week. I covered State of the Loop already:

Ableton Live Looping gets its own custom controller

That project focused mainly on the Looper instrument and the use of scenes, all via Max for Live. It also seems well suited to running a lot of loopers at once.

Datalooper – the work of musician/creator Vince Cimo – is a similar project, but finds its own niche. First off, Max for Live isn’t required, meaning any edition of Live will work. (It uses a standard Live Control Script to communicate with Live.)

We got hands-on with Datalooper at Ableton Loop this year.

Datalooper will use the Looper device if you want. In that mode, it’s basically a controller for the Looper instrument – and supports up to three at once by default (which will be enough for most people anyway).

But there’s not much difference between the Looper device and other plug-ins or dedicated looping tools. “Natively” looping in Live still logically involves Session View. Before Ableton had a Looper, the company would advise customers to just record into clips in the Session View. That’s all fine and well, except that users of hardware pedals were accustomed to being able to set a tempo with the length of their initial recording, so the loop kept time with them instead of having to adjust to an arbitrary metronome.

Datalooper does both. You can use Session View, taking advantage of all those clips and arrangement tools and track routing and effects chains. But you can also use the looper to set the tempo. As the developers describe it:

If you long press on the clear button, the metronome will turn off, and the tempo will re-calculate based on the next loop you record, so you can fluidly move between pieces without having to listen to a click track. Throughout this process, the transport never stops, meaning you can linearly record your whole set and capture every loop and overdub in pristine quality.

Datalooper is also a handy foot-powered control system for working with clips in general. So even if you weren’t necessarily in the market for a looper or looper pedal, you might want Datalooper in your studio just to facilitate working quickly with clips.

(And of course, this also makes it an ideal companion to Ableton Push … or Maschine with a Live template, or an APC, or a Launchpad, or whatever.)

Session Control mode lets you hop in and record quickly to wherever you wish. I imagine this will be great for improvisation not only solo but when you invite a friend to play with you.

For users that are more familiar with the clip system, the Datalooper also features a ‘session control’ mode, built to allow users to quickly record clips. In this mode, the Datalooper script will link up with a track, then ‘auto-scan’ and latch on to the first unused clip slot. You can then use the first the buttons in a row to control the recording, deletion and playback of the clip. Best of all, when you want to record another clip, you can simply press record again and the script will find you another unused clip slot. This is a game-changer if you’re trying to quickly record ideas and want your hands free.

Videos:

You get all of this in a nice, metal box – die-cast aluminum, weighing 3 lbs (1.4 kg), micro USB bus-powered standard MIDI device. The onboard LEDs light to show you status and feedback from the metronome.

By default, it uses three loopers, but all the behaviors are customizable. In fact, when you want to dive into customization, there’s drag-and-drop customization of commands.

A graphical controller editor lets you customize how the Datalooper works. This could be the future of all custom control.

US$199 is the target price, or $179 early bird (while supplies last). It’s now on Indiegogo; creator Vince Cimo needs enough supporters to be able to pull the trigger on a $10k manufacturing run or it wont’ happen.

Vince has offered CDM readers a special discount. Head here for another $20 off the already discounted price:

http://www.datalooperpedal.com/cdmspecial

(No promotional fee paid for that – he just asked if we wanted a discount, and I said sure!)

Having gotten hands on with this thing and seen how the integration and configuration works … I want one. I didn’t even know I wanted a pedal. I think it could well make Live use far more improvisatory. And the fact that we have two projects approaching this from different angles I think is great. I hope both find enough support to get manufactured – so if you want to see them, do spread the word to other musicians who might want them.

The post Datalooper lets you play Ableton Live with your feet appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.