Roland’s little VT-4 vocal wonder box just got new reverbs

Roland’s VT-4 is more than a vocal processor. It’s best thought of as a multi-effects box that happens to be vocal friendly. And it’s getting deeper, with new reverb models, downloadable now.

Roland tried this once before with an AIRA vocoder/vocal processor, the VT-1. But that model proved a bit shallow: limited presets and pitch control only through the vocal input meant that it works great in some situations, but doesn’t fit others.

The VT-4 is really about retaining a simple interface, but adding a lot more versatility (and better sound).

As some of you noted in comments when I wrote it up last time, it’s not a looper. (Roland or someone else will gladly sell you one of those.) But what you do get are dead simple controls, including intuitive access to pitch, formant, balance, and reverb on faders. And you can control pitch through either a dial on the front panel or MIDI input. I’ll have a full hands-on review soon, as I’m particularly interested in this as a live processor for vocalists and other live situations.

If your use case is sometimes you want a vocoder, and sometimes you want some extra effects, and sometimes you’re playing with gear or sometimes with a laptop, the VT-4 is all those things. It’s got USB audio support, so you can pack this as your only interface if you just need mic in and stereo output.

And it has a bunch of effects now: re-pitch, harmonize, feedback, chorus, vocoder, echo, tempo-synced delay, dub delay … and some oddities like robot and megaphone and radio. More on that next time.

This update brings new reverb effects. They’re thick, lush, digital-style reverbs:

DEEP REVERB
LARGE REVERB
DARK REVERB
… and the VT-1’s rather nice retro-ish reverb is back as VT-1 REVERB

Deep dark say what? So the VT-1 reverb already was deeper (more reflections) and had a longer tail than the new VT-4 default; that preset restores those possibilities. “Deep” is deeper (more reflections). “Large” has longer duration reflections or simulates a larger room. And “DARK” is like the default, but with more high frequency filtering. You’ll flash the new settings via USB.

Roland is pushing more toward adding features to their gear over time, now via the AIRA minisite, so you can grab this pack there:
https://aira.roland.com/soundlibrary/reverb-pack-1/

And this being Japan, they introduce the pack by saying “It will set you in a magnificent space.” Yes, indeed, it will. That’s lovely.

The VT-4 got a firmware update, too.

1. PITCH AND FORMANT can be active now irrespective of input signal level and length, via a new settings. (Basically, this lets you disable a tracking threshold, I think. I have to play with this a bit.)
2. ROBOT VOICE now won’t hang notes; it disables with note off events.
3. There’s a new MUTE function setting.

VT-4 page:
http://www.roland.co.in/products/vt-4/

I mean, a really easy-to-use pitch + vocoder + delay + reverb for just over $200, and sometimes you can swap it for an audio interface? Seems a no brainer to me. So if you have some questions or things you’d like me to try with this unit I just got in, let me know.

http://www.roland.co.in/products/vt-4/

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Ableton Live Looping gets its own custom controller

A crowd-funded custom controller has just arrived on the scene, designed to assist live triggering and looping in Ableton Live. And there’s already a free download for Max for Live to get you started, even without the hardware.

Hardware like Ableton’s Push lets you play Live with your fingers – but what about your feet? (Ableton Sole?) And what about looping? Pierre-Antoine Grison, Ableton Certified Trainer and producer/musician signed to Ed Banger Records, has come up with his own solution – just in time to show it this weekend at Ableton’s aptly-titled Loop “summit for music makers.” “State Of The Loop” is a custom MIDI controller for Ableton Live’s built-in Looper device.

The Looper in Ableton Live has been around for a few versions, after loads of requests from users. It delivered the kind of looping workflows you’d expect form a looping pedal. But that doesn’t mean everyone knows how to use it, or use it effectively. There are some nice resources online, including:

Ableton Looper Cheat Sheet (Free Download) [Beat Lab Academy]

Ableton Live Devices – How To Use Live Looper [Loopmasters.com articles]

and a ton of tips here:
http://looping.me.uk/category/ableton/

The stomp-style hardware controls not only the Looper device itself but also scenes. So it works for both controlling entire sets and for pedal-style looping, and you can use multiple (software) loopers so you can layer using different on-screen devices.

Features:

Display and control the state of Live’s Looper
Unlimited number of loopers !
2 Expression Pedal inputs with “dynamic mapping”
Scenes Mode to launch Scenes and display their color and name
Sturdy metal case
100% Made in France
USB or MIDI connection for longer distances (up to 15m/50ft)
USB powered
Very light on the CPU
Easy configuration
Weight : 1.7 kg / 3 lb
WxLxH : 30 x 13 x 6 cm / 12 x 5 x 2.5 inches

There’s even a free download that adds some features Ableton Live forgot – the equivalent of follow actions for scenes, plus a heads-up display so you can see what’s happening without hunching over your computer screen. (Seriously, Ableton, those belong as standard features in Live!)

You can use that download as long as you have a compatible version of Live and Max for Live; no hardware needed.

http://kblivesolutions.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Scene-Launcher.zip

Dig this custom version too:

Pricing starts at 240EUR for an “early bird” price, 260EUR after that. (There’s also a 350EUR limited edition still available as I write this).

Project info on Kickstarter:

http://kck.st/2SH5gJE

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Rekkerd Techno sample pack by Mind Flux, 475 free loops & samples!

Mind Flux Rekkerd TechnoLondon-based sound design and production studio Mind Flux aims to bring the best tools for Underground House and Techno production to consumers at affordable prices. Today, Mind Flux brings you Rekkerd Techno, an exclusive free sample pack featuring a gargantuan amount of loops and samples that are perfect for Techno. The pack comes with a […]

Free download: amps and cellos under your fingertips in the new LABS

If you don’t have a studio, four cellists, amps and recording equipment plus an engineer handy, try this — it’s free.

“Amplified Cello” is the latest instrument in the ongoing LABS series from our friends at Spitfire Audio, a boutique sample house in the UK. They promised some more “experimental” content, after the soft piano and strings and drums, and here you go.

Not only do these cellos get routed through amps for extra edge, but Spitfire founder Christian Henson and engineer Harry Wilson actually did that processing live during recording – cellos in one room, tracking through the amps in another.

But what really makes this interesting to play around with is, they’ve put a bunch of different articulations and gestures in the library. My graduate level musicology education here wants to use words like glissandi and tremolo, but actually, their words “evil,” “wobbly,” and “tension” are both more descriptive of the music and, let’s be honest, truer to our lives sometimes.

And there’s quite a selection:

Now, LABS are really easy and fun to play with, but here we do run up against a limitation: there are a bunch of different samples for various articulations here, and you can only get at them one at a time. Do try out the minimalist controls, as they have more of an impact on the result. It might also be worth setting up a multi-instrument to play with these. (Might get back to you on that!)

These minimal controls may confuse long-time sample users, but – don’t think too much; have a play.

To install, as before you head to the LABS page, login or register, and then click “GET” for each library you want. You can then choose where your plug-ins go, where to store the sample content (as on an external drive), and then download from the Spitfire app:

https://www.spitfireaudio.com/labs/

That app also has updates for Spitfire’s other LABS instruments.

Spitfire’s audio app has also improved. You can finally set a default path for VST2 (essential on Windows) and choose default install paths and plug-in paths, plus log in automatically.

I’m still surprised at readers’ resistance to these sorts of apps, but I’m guessing that means you’ve had a bad experience with some developers. (That part, I understand.) This app for me is reducing frustration, not adding to it, and I’ve tried on both Mac and Windows machines.

Enjoy! Previously:

LABS is a free series of sound tools for everyone, and you’ll want it now

Pretend you can play and produce drums with this free plug-in

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Apple’s latest GarageBand will help you learn an instrument, for free

Can GarageBand for macOS make music more accessible? The newest release brings free lessons for those wanting to learn. And on another note, it provides crucial bug fixes for blind users.

For a lot of Mac users, GarageBand will be the first taste of music making with technology. So it’s important Apple gets it right. There’s not really any direct comparison on another platform like this, either – GarageBand is available as a free install for new Macs, and yet provides an easy window into the same engine and sounds that drive Logic Pro. Those two applications are developed in parallel – indeed, as a regular Logic user, I was impressed by how much is now familiar in its entry-level sibling.

Reading the reviews in the App Store, though, it’s apparent how challenging it can be serving that audience. Move things around, and you make GarageBand’s years of existing users unhappy. Leave them as they are, and you might turn off potential new users.

GarageBand 10.3, released late last week, evens things out after the 2017 releases. Full release notes:

New in GarageBand for macOS 10.3

Most of this involves new sounds – the Guzheng, Koto, and Taiko drums found in the iOS edition, new vintage Mellotron sounds, electronic roots and jazz “Drummers.”

But two features are worth mentioning.

Software that teaches you to play

A selection of artists will teach you piano and guitar – now, for free, in this free Mac app.

First, the range of lessons Apple offers to get you started with an instrument are now free. For someone with a new Mac, it’s a nice way to get a small taste of learning an instrument.

I downloaded a few of these. There’s no question Apple is behind third-party offerings in this area. And it’s a shame they didn’t find a way to open up this feature to those developers, too, the way they have, say, the iBooks store. On the pop side, there just isn’t enough variety – the selections are embarrassingly white, and weirdly outdated. On the advanced side, well, maybe someone can follow learning a Chopin prelude by trying to watch someone explain it with some diagrams, but I have never met that student. (And I’ve actually taught beginning music students students keyboard. It’s… an… experience.)

Inside a guitar lesson.

But there’s some charm to the selection. I have no doubt it’s a casual way to get a taste for going out and getting lessons yourself. And I think Apple deserves some kudos for making this a default install.

Software that’s more accessible, regardless of sight

The other thing worth mentioning – this is a good example of how Apple is responding to user feedback for musicians with different accessibility needs.

macOS has a technology called Voice Over, which reads out what’s on the screen to users who are vision impaired. That’s important, because it means the non-seeing user is interacting with the same layout and structure as a seeing user. Apple demonstrated this onstage at a recent developer conference with one of their own blind employees, and I got a chance recently to attend a talk by two consultants who give feedback on using these features.

That feedback is important, because seeing developers may not know what works until they hear from users without sight.

In comments, you can read up on what was going wrong in GarageBand 10.2: one blind user complains because they’re lost in the very first screen of mixing. (I want to copy and paste what they wrote, but the App Store won’t let me, so I’m going to commit an accessibility faux pas and include the screenshot here – sorry.)

Also telling here – this detail about vision is actually one of the top App Store comments.

So it’s a small thing, but GarageBand 10.3 fixes that:

VoiceOver now announces the type of track that is selected in the New Track dialog.
VoiceOver now speaks the names of tracks when interacting with regions in the tracks area.

That’s a tiny change, but imagine that is a wall between you and being able to actually know what track you’re editing.

And again, because this is a free install on the Mac, it’s a big deal. Just removing that one barrier opens up music making on the computer to a whole range of Mac users. And that’s not to just congratulate Apple here – all software should work this way.

GarageBand 10.3 is a free update, available now.

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Relive Legowelt’s radio show, Astro Unicorn Radio

For a few glorious years, Legowelt had a radio show, Thursday evenings on Intergalactic FM internet radio. But while the show is gone, the sounds live on.

Why am I bringing this up now? Well … I owe that notion to Xeni Jardin of Boing Boing, back in the heyday of the blog from whence this site came. Any extended period of, say, reading legal filings surely deserves a unicorn chaser.

And Legowelt comes to our rescue.

The show ran from 2007-2011, and was as eclectic and glorious as you’d expect from Legowelt. Brazilian Moog Cruisin’? Nigerian boogie disco? Check. Or, for instance:

Another radio reportage, this time from the cold snowy Rotterdam were we investigate Mono-Poly’s & Dr.Albert Putnam’s research in Biorhythms using modular synthesizers such as the Fenix and Buchla.

It’s a perfect template of what nerdy music things should be.

There’s a full archive of the tail end of the show in MP3 form, which you can grab as long as it lasts.

http://www.moosleybay.com/astro.htm

Episodes are on Mixcloud, too, from the source – from the beginning:

You’re welcome.

And thanks, Legowelt.

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Mod Max: One free download fixes Live 10’s new kick

Ableton Live 10 has some great new drum synth devices, as part of Max for Live. But that kick could be better. Max modifications, to the rescue!

The Max for Live kick sounds great – especially if you combine it with a Drum Buss or even some distortion via the Pedal, also both new in Live 10. But it makes some peculiar decisions. The biggest problem is, it ignores the pitch of incoming MIDI.

Green Kick fixes that, by mapping MIDI note to Pitch of the Kick, so you can tap different pads or keyboard keys to pitch the kick where you want it. (You can still trigger a C0 by pressing the Kick button in the interface.)

Also: “It seemed strange to have Attack as a numbox and the Decay as a dial.”

Yes, that does seem strange. So you also get knobs for both Attack and Decay, which makes more sense.

Now, all of this is possible thanks to the fact that this is a Max for Live device, not a closed-box internal device. While it’s a pain to have to pony up for the full cost of Live Suite to get Max for Live, the upside is, everything is editable and modifiable. And it’d be great to see that kind of openness in other tools, for reasons just like this.

Likewise, if this green color bothers you, you can edit this mod and … so on.

Go grab it:

http://maxforlive.com/library/device/4680/green-kick

Thanks to Sonic Bloom for this one. They’ve got tons more tips like this, so go check them out:

https://twitter.com/sonicbloomtuts

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Route audio from anywhere to anywhere in Ableton, free

The quiet addition of arbitrary audio routing in Max for Live in Live 10 has opened the floodgates to new tools. This one free device could transform how you route signal in the software.

One of the frustrations of ongoing Ableton Live users, in fact, is that routing options are fairly restricted. You’ve got sends and returns, sure, plus some easy and convenient drop-downs in the I/O section of each channel. But if you’ve ever discovered a particular sidechaining wasn’t possible, or you just couldn’t get there from here, you know what I’m talking about.

And so, you knew something like Outist was coming. Amidst a bunch of Max for Live plug-in developers thinking up creative things to do with the new routing tools (like spatialization or visualization), this one is dead-simple. It just uses that loophole to give you a device you can easily insert to add a routing wherever you want – a bit like having a virtual patch cable you can plug into your DAW.

And it’s free.

Description:

outist is a maxforlive device that lets you route any signal to any internal or external destination.

It’s originally designed to bypass Live’s restricted return buss routing. With outist you can have pre and post send PER return channel.

You can also simply use it to send the signal to any physical output or just anywhere in your set…

Findt Outist and a bunch of other weird and interesting stuff:

https://gumroad.com/valiumdupeuple

With those floodgates open, as I said, there may well be a better tool out there. So please, readers – don’t be shy. Happy to hear other tips, or about your patch that’s better, or other ideas – shoot!

And yeah, I definitely wish Ableton just did this by default, natively – but I’ll take this hack as a solution!

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Hzandbits Sound Effects offers FREE exclusive sample pack

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A free download turns Reaktor into a powerful Buchla modular emulation

West Coast synthesis is yours for a song, by combining a free/donationware download with Reaktor. And now Cloudlab 200t just got a major V2 upgrade.

First, okay – this is not an authorized Buchla product. The Buchla legacy is alive in hardware and software forms. The Buchla Easel got a full-blown remake from Arturia. The Twisted Waveform Generator module has an official remake from Softube – though it’s silly spendy, at US$99. (That’s the price of some actual hardware module kits, or halfway to getting Reaktor!) And of course Buchla the hardware company are back in action with some of the original engineers.

But that’s besides the point: this is in Reaktor. And because it’s in Reaktor, you can pick it apart from the outside in and see how it works. And you can combine it with other Reaktor stuff, and then run the result as a plug-in. That’s something unique – ever wondered what a granular patch would sound like routed through some Buchla effects, for instance?

Does it sound any good? Yes – enough so that colleagues who have spent considerable time on Buchla hardware say they appreciate it. It certainly replicates the control layout and basic ideas of the Buchla, even if it has its own unique sound.

There’s one major downside of Reaktor: all the patching is hidden in the structure. That’s pretty weird if you’re use to patching on the front panel, as on hardware (and software emulations). But it will be familiar to Reaktor users, and it means the control layout on the Buchla is clean – even if there’s some tension behind the way the Buchla was conceived and how it works here.

In version 2, you get some significant updates – starting most importantly with clock sync:

External clock. Any gate in or clock out can be synced to external input, and the 266t Chronikler gets a clock output. Now you can sync to DAWs – or, if you like, stuff like VCV Rack.

Lemur control works both ways. The popular iPad and Android controller app now gets parameters back from Cloudlab, so it responds in realtime.

More noise. Noise sources on the 266t Noise module now include -3 Pink, Flat, and +3 White noise. If this makes you swoon as it does me, then you’re definitely a synth nerd. (Flat is labeled “Buchlesque,” a word I hope to now apply in completely inappropriate situations…)

Easier on the CPU. You’ll still want a hefty processor, but this version promises to be more stable and efficient, says the developer.

More modules. 227t Output interface & 248t Multiple Sequential Generator.

Be sure to make a donation if you like this.

It’s also wonderful to see these ideas spreading. From efforts like this to the rising stardom of people like Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, it’s now not uncommon to meet aspiring musicians on the street who know the name Buchla. That’s a sea change from a few short years ago, when people might know the name “Moog” (and pronounce in a way that rhymes with a sound a cow makes), and referred to all computer production simply by “Pro Tools.” Now, they’re very likely to start lecturing you on their thoughts on West Coast versus East Coast synthesis or tell you what oscillator module their favorite producer just started raving about.

And that’s relevant here, too. It means Reaktor can help spread the viral interest in esoteric synthesis. And that means Native Instruments customers are likely to want to do more than just dial up presets. And certainly as the Buchla brand and other lesser-known names catch up with the giants like Roland, Moog, and KORG, we’re seeing synth lovers willing to look to hardware and software from a greater variety of models.

I’d say this could be overwhelming, but – I think that ignores the possibilities of sound. Once you dive into the Buchla Way, you may just find yourself … really happy.

Let us know if you make some sounds with this.

Big thanks to the wonderful Synth Anatomy where I saw this first:

Cloudlab 200t V2 Released – A Stunning Buchla Based Modular Synthesizer For Reaktor 6

The gorgeous GUI comes from David Frappaz

Trevor Gavilan, who designed and programmed the ensemble, has also used it to make some of his own music. Here’s something entirely produced in just one instance:

More information and download at the NI Reaktor User Library:

Cloudlab 200t V2

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