Koma today revealed a sequel to their crowd-funded smash hit Field Kit. And it’s a whole bunch of patchable effects, for €249 (€219 for funders).
Inside that box, there’s a load of different effects to play with:
Sample Rate Reducer / Bitcrusher
Analog Spring Reverb
Yeah, you read that last one right – there’s actually a physical spring in there for reverb. Behold:
Looping of course means that you could make the FX a hub of performance. And in addition to the other digital effects, that frequency shifter opens up some really interesting possibilities.
So, whereas the first Field Kit depended on you attaching contact mics and working with the mixing functions, the Field Kit FX actually has a lot more sonic possibilities included right out of the box. There’s still a companion book to go with it, and of course this is already intended as a clever
But, for a kind of “weirdo modular effects toolkit” in a case, you also get a bunch of tools for applying these effects, by mixing and sequencing them:
4 Channel VCA Mixer
4 Step Mini Sequencer
All over the place, you’ve got various patch points. That’s a chance to connect to other analog I/O – which certainly includes Eurorack modulars, but these days a lot of other gear, as well, even desktop units from Novation, Roland, Arturia, KORG, and the like.
And there’s a new 4-Channel CV Interface for bringing it all together, meaning you can come up with pretty elaborate modular connections.
4-channel CV interface for communications with other gear – now not just modular, but a lot of new desktop stuff, too.
In fact, for under three hundred bucks, the whole thing looks a bit like either a shrunken Eurorack modular or a tabletop of analog and digital effects merged together for patching.
Now, this is still definitely geared for advanced users. There’s no MIDI. And the CV routing, while powerful, might be overwhelming to newcomers – for instance, there’s not a single, simple trigger in to clock that sequencer. (That’s not necessarily a criticism – the various CV options mean loads of creative flexibility. But it does probably mean this box is more for people who want to get deep into patching.)
Eventide has announced it will be exhibiting the new H9000 audio effect processor at the upcoming AES New York 2017, October 18-20, Jacob J. Javits Convention Center, USA. The all-new network-ready, 16-DSP, multi-channel, rackmount audio effects processing flagship features eight times the processing power of the current-generation H8000. The culmination of a multi-year development cycle, […]
Reverb has announced that the Noel Gallagher Gear Collection is now live. Amps, effects, and more spanning Noel’s entire career are up for sale. The sale includes amps and other pieces direct from Noel’s personal collection used at different points of his recording and touring career. “When you’ve been playing as long as I have, […]
Positive Grid has launched a flash sale on BIAS FX Pro, the guitar amp and fx effect plugin for Windows and Mac. Find a whole new world of sonic possibilities with BIAS FX, the industry’s most authentic guitar environment. For this weekend only, celebrate Pedalboard Month and get BIAS FX Pro for only $149! Don’t […]
As machines create more-perfect vocal and instrumental performances, a funny thing is happening: humans are catching up.
The normal assumption about machine learning or “cyborg” technology is, as technology improves, we’ll augment ourselves with more technology. But that misses the fact that humans, both individually and socially, are also smart and adaptable. We start to learn from the tech.
I once met Stewart Copeland (The Police, composer), and he talked about this very phenomenon. A lot of the sound of The Police involved Stewart’s playing routed through various effects. In short, it was something he conceded he couldn’t play on his own. But as the popularity of those tracks grew, he noticed that human drummers were starting to emulate the exact resulting rhythms – possibly even without being aware of the effects routings that produced them.
Drum machines, of course, have had a similar impact. You frequently hear drummers playing with machine-like precision, employing patterns that you simply didn’t hear before. In classical music, we’ve also seen a rise in global musicianship that has produced a level of instrumental virtuosity unheard of in past centuries. Whether the link was intentional or not, even the compositional demands of works like Ligeti’s Continuum have a link to George Antheil’s piano rolls and machine music.
But maybe the best illustration is this: here’s what happens when a vocalist starts to sing like AutoTune.
This is an old story. But as discussion of AI and machines learning to emulate humans meets transhumanism, it’s worth flipping the coin to look at human transformation through organic means. It’s not just the machines we add to ourselves, but the way we evolve to adapt to those machines, that may shape that direction.
Line 6 has released an updated version of Helix Native, the audio effect plugin that delivers the same HX amp and effects modeling found in the Line 6 Helix hardware guitar and effects processors. Like the hardware members of the Helix family of guitar processors—Helix Floor, Helix Rack, and Helix LT—the Helix Native plug-in features […]
Bored with making presets for instruments, one sound designer decides to make presets for ambient reality – and you can learn from the results.
“Scapes” is a multi-year, advanced journey into the idea that the synthesizer could sound like anything you imagine. Once you’ve grabbed this set of Ableton Live projects, you can bliss out to the weirdly natural results. Or you can tear apart the innards, finding everything from tricks on how to make cricket sounds synthetically to a veritable master class in using instruments like Ableton’s built-in FM synthesizer Operator. The results are Creative Commons-licensed (and of course, you can also grab individual presets).
The project is the brainchild of sound designer Francis Preve. Apart from his prolific writing career and Symplesound soundware line, Fran has put his sound design work all over presets for apps, software (including Ableton Live), and hardware.
As a result, no one knows better than Fran how much of the work of making presets focuses on particular, limited needs. And that’s too bad. The thing is, there’s no reason to be restricted to the stuff we normally get in synth presets. (You know the type: “lush, succulent pads” … “crisp leads…” “back-stabbing basslines…” “chocolate-y, creamy nougat horn sections…” “impetuous, slightly condescending 80s police drama keyboard stacks…” or, uh, whatever. Might have made some of those up.)
No, the promise of the synthesizer was supposed to be unlimited sonic possibilities.
If we tend to recreate what we’ve heard, that’s partly because we’re synthesizing something we’ve taken some care in hearing. So, why not go back to the richness and complexity of sound as we hear it in everyday life? Why not combine the active listening of a soundwalk or field recording with the craft of producing something using synthesis, in place of a recording?
Scapes does that, and the results are – striking. There’s not a single sample anywhere in the four ambient environments, which cover a rainy day in the city, a midsummer night, a brook echoing with bird song, and a more fanciful haunted house (with a classic movie origin). Instead, these are multitrack compositions, constructed with a bunch of instances of Operator and some internal effects. Download the Ableton Live project files, and you see a set of MIDI tracks and internal Live devices.
You might not be fooled into thinking the result sounds exactly like a field recording, but you would certainly let it pass for Foley in film. (I think that fits, actually – film uses constructed Foley partly because we expect in that context for the sounds to be constructed, more the way we imagine we hear than what literally passes into our ears.)
You wouldn’t think this was internal Ableton devices – not by a longshot – but of course it is.
And that’s where Scapes is doubly useful. Whether or not you want to create these particular sounds, every layer is a master class in sound design and synthesis. If you can understand a cricket, a bottle rocket, a rainstorm, and a car alarm, then you’re closer not only to emulating reality, but to being able to reconstruct the sounds you hear in your imagination and that you remember from life. That opens up new galaxies of potential to composers and musicians.
It might be just what electronic music needs: to think of sound creatively, rather than trying to regurgitate some instrumentation you’ve heard before. This might be the opposite of how you normally think of presets: here, presets can liberate you from repetitive thought.
I’ve seen this idea before – but just once before, that I can think of. Andy Farnell’s Designing Sound, which began life as a PDF that was floating around in draft form before it matured into a book at MIT Press, took on exactly this idea. Fran’s scapes are “tracks,” collaged compositions that turn into entire environments; Farnell looks only at the component sounds one by one.
Otherwise, the two have the same philosophy: understand the way you hear sound by starting from scratch and building up something that sounds natural. Scapes does it with Ableton Live projects you can easily walk through. Designing Sound demonstrates this on paper with patches in the free and open source environment Pure Data. As Richard Boulanger describes that book, “with hundreds of fully working sound models, this ‘living document’ helps students to learn with both their eyes and their ears, and to explore what they are learning on their own computer.”
But yes – create sounds by really listening, actively. (Pauline Oliveros might have been into this.)
If your computer and a stompbox had a love child, MOD Duo would be it – a virtual effects environment that can load anything. And now, it does Max/MSP, too.
MOD Devices’ MOD Duo began its life as a Kickstarter campaign. The idea – turn computer software into a robust piece of hardware – wasn’t itself so new. Past dedicated audio computer efforts have come and gone. But it is genuinely possible in this industry to succeed where others have failed, by getting your timing right, and executing better. And the MOD Duo is starting to look like it does just that.
What the MOD Duo gives you is essentially a virtualized pedalboard where you can add effects at will. Set up the effects you want on your computer screen (in a Web browser), and even add new ones by shopping for sounds in a store. But then, get the reliability and physical form factor of hardware, by uploading them to the MOD Duo hardware. You can add additional footswitches and pedals if you want additional control.
Watch how that works:
For end users, it can stop there. But DIYers can go deeper with this as an open box. Under the hood, it’s running LV2 plug-ins, an open, Linux-centered plug-in format. If you’re a developer, you can create your own effects. If you like tinkering with hardware, you can build your own controllers, using an Arduino shield they made especially for the job.
And then, this week, the folks at Cycling ’74 take us on a special tour of integration with Max/MSP. It represents something many software patchers have dreamed of for a long time. In short, you can “export” your patches to the hardware, and run them standalone without your computer.
This says a lot about the future, beyond just the MOD Duo. The technology that allows Max/MSP to support the MOD Duo is gen~ code, a more platform-agnostic, portable core inside Max. This hints at a future when Max runs in all sorts of places – not just mobile, but other hardware, too. And that future was of interest both to Cycling ’74 and the CEO of Ableton, as revealed in our interview with the two of them.
Even broader than that, though, this could be a way of looking at what electronic music looks like after the computer. A lot of people assume that ditching laptops means going backwards. And sure enough, there has been a renewed interest in instruments and interfaces that recall tech from the 70s and 80s. That’s great, but – it doesn’t have to stop there.
The truth is, form factors and physical interactions that worked well on dedicated hardware may start to have more of the openness, flexibility, intelligence, and broad sonic canvas that computers did. It means, basically, it’s not that you’re ditching your computer for a modular, a stompbox, or a keyboard. It’s that those things start to act more like your computer.
Anyway, why wait for that to happen? Here’s one way it can happen now.
Darwin Grosse has a great walk-through of the MOD Duo and how it works, followed by how to get started with