Split MIDI, without latency, for under $40: meet MeeBlip cubit

You want to play with your music toys together, and instead you wind up unplugging and repatching MIDI. That’s no fun. We wanted to solve this problem for ourselves, without having to trade high performance for low cost or simplicity. The result is MeeBlip cubit.

cubit is the first of a new generation of MeeBlip tools from us, as we make work to make synths more accessible and fun for everybody. cubit’s mission is simple: take one input, and turn it into four outputs, with minimum latency, minimum fuss, and at the lowest price possible.

MeeBlip cubit

Why cubit?

Rock-solid timing. Everything you throw at the input jack is copied to the four outputs with ultra-low latency. Result: you can use it for MIDI messages, you can use it for clock, and keep your timing tight. (Under the hood is a hardware MIDI passthrough circuit, with active processing for each individual output – but that just translates to you not having to worry.)

It fits anywhere. Ports are on the top, so you can use it in tight spaces. It’s small and lightweight, so you can always keep it with you.

You’ll always have power. The USB connection means you can get power from your laptop or a standard USB power adapter (optional).

Don’t hum along. Opto-isolated MIDI IN to reduce ground loops. Everything should have this, but not everything does.

Blink! LED light flashes so you know MIDI is coming in – ideal for troubleshooting.

One input, four outputs, no lag – easy.

We love little, inexpensive gear. But those makers often leave out MIDI out/thru just to save space. With cubit, you can put together a portable rig and keep everything jamming together – alone or with friends.

Right now, cubit is launching at just US$39.95 with a USB cable thrown in.

If you need extra adapters or cables, we’ve got those too, so you can start playing right when the box arrives. (Shipping in the US is free, with affordable shipping to Canada and worldwide.) And if you’re grabbing some stocking stuffers, don’t forget to add in a cubit so your gifts can play along and play with others.

Get one while our stocks last. And don’t look in stores – we sell direct to keep costs low.

Full specs from our engineer, James:

  • Passes all data from the MIDI IN to four MIDI OUT jacks
  • Ultra-low latency hardware MIDI pass-through
  • Runs on 5V Power from a computer USB port or optional USB power adapter
  • Opto-isolated MIDI IN to reduce ground loops
  • Individual active signal processing for each MIDI OUT
  • Bright green MIDI data indicator LED flashes when you’re receiving MIDI
  • Measures: 4.25″ x 3″ x 1″, weighs 92 g (3.25 oz)
  • Includes 3 ft (1 m) USB cable
  • Optional 5V USB power adapter available
  • Made in Canada

MeeBlip cubit product and order page

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The new iPad Pro has a USB-C port – so what can it do, exactly?

The iPad finally gets a dedicated port for connectivity, as you’d find on a “desktop” computer – and it’s loaded with potential uses, from power to music gear. Let’s break down exactly what it can do.

“USB-C” is a port type; it refers to the reversible, slim, oval-shaped connector on the newest gadgets. But it doesn’t actually describe what the port can do as far as capabilities. So initially, Apple’s reference to the “USB-C” port on the latest iPad Pro generation was pretty vague.

Since then, press have gotten their hands on hardware and Apple themselves have posted technical documentation. Specifically, they’ve got a story up explaining the port’s powers:

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT209186

Now, keep in mind the most confusing thing about Apple and USB-C is the two different kinds of ports. There’s a Thunderbolt-3 port, as found on the high-end MacBooks Pro and the Mac mini. It’s got a bolt of lightning indicator on it, and is compatible with audio devices like those from Universal Audio, and high-performance video gadgetry. And then there’s the plain-vanilla USB-C port, which has the standard USB icon on it.

All Thunderbolt 3 ports also double as USB-C ports, just not the other way around. The Thunderbolt 3 one is the faster port.

Also important, USB-C is backwards compatible with older USB formats if you have the right cable.

So here’s what you can do with USB-C. The basic story: do more, with fewer specialized adapters and dongles.

You can charge your iPad. Standard USB-C power devices as well as Apple’s own adapter. Nicely enough, you might even charge faster with a third-party adapter – like one you could share with a laptop that uses USB-C power.

Connect your iPad to a computer. Just as with Lightning-to-USB, you can use USB cables to connect to a USB-C port or older standard USB-A port, for charge and sync.

Connect to displays, projectors, TVs. Here you’ve got a few options, but they all max out at far higher quality than before:

  • USB-C to HDMI. (up to 4K resolution, 60 Hz, with HDMI 2.0 adapter.)
  • USB-C Digital AV Multiport. Apple’s own adapter supports up to 4K resolution, 30Hz. (The iPad display itself is 1080p / 60Hz, video up to 4K, 30Hz.)
  • USB-C displays. Up to 5K, with HR10 high dynamic range support. Some will even charge the iPad Pro in the process.

High end video makes the new iPad Pro look indispensable as a delivery device for many visual applications – including live visuals. It’s not hard to imagine people carrying these to demo high-end graphics with, or even writing custom software using the latest Apple APIs for 3D graphics and using the iPad Pro live.

Connect storage – a lot of it. Fast. USB-C is now becoming the standard for fast hard drives – USB 3.1/3.2. That theoretically allows for up to 2500 MB/s data access, and Apple says the iPad Pro will now work with 1 TB of storage. I’ve asked them for more clarification, but basically, yes, you can plug in big, fast storage and use it with your iPad, not limiting yourself to internal storage capacity. So that’s a revelation for pros, especially when using the iPad as an accessory to process video and photos and field recordings on the go.

Play audio. There’s no minijack audio output (grrr), but what you do get is audio playback to USB-C audio interfaces, docks, and specialized headphones. There’s also a USB-C to 3.m mm headphone jack adapter, but that’s pretty useless because it doesn’t include power passthrough – it’s a step backward from what you had before. Better to use a specialized USB-C adapter, which could also mean getting an analog audio output that’s higher quality than the one previous included internally on the iPad range.

And of course you can use AirPlay or Bluetooth, though it doesn’t appear Apple yet supports higher quality Bluetooth streaming, so wires seem to win for those of us who care about sound.

Oh, also interesting – Apple says they’ve added Dolby Digital Plus support over HDMI, but not Dolby Atmos. That hints a bit at consumer devices that do support Atmos – these are rare so far, but it’ll be interesting to watch, and to see whether Apple and Dolby work together or compete in this space.

Speaking of audio and music, though, here’s the other big one:

Work with USB devices. Apple specifically calls out audio and MIDI tools, presumably because musicians remain a big target Pro audience. What’s great here is, you no longer have the extra Lightning to USB “Camera” adapter required on older iPads, which was expensive and only worked with the iPad, and you should be free of some of the more restrictive electrical power capabilities of those past models.

You could also use a standard external keyboard to type on, or wired Ethernet – the latter great for wired use of applications like Liine’s Lemur.

The important thing here is there’s more bandwidth and more power. (Hardware that draws more power may still require external power – but that’s already true on a computer, too.)

The iPad Pro is at last closer to a computer, which makes it a much more serious tool for soft synths, controller tools, audio production, and more.

Charge other stuff. This is also cool – if you ever relied on a laptop as a mobile battery for phones and other accessories, now you can do that with the USB-C on the iPad Pro, too. So that means iPhones as well as other non-Apple phones. You can even plug one iPad into another iPad Pro.

Thunderbolt – no. Note that what you can’t do is connect Thunderbolt hardware. For that, you still want a laptop or desktop computer.

What about Made for iPhone? Apple’s somewhat infamous “MFI” program, which began as “Made for iPod,” is meant to certify certain hardware as compatible with their products. Presumably, that still exists – it would have to do so for the Lightning port products, but it seems likely certain iPad-specific products will still carry the certification.

That isn’t all bad – there are a lot of dodgy USB-C products out there, so some Apple seal of approval may be welcome. But MFI has hamstrung some real “pro” products. The good news as far as USB-C is, because it’s a standard port, devices made for particular “pro” music and audio and video uses no longer need to go through Apple’s certification just to plug directly into the iPad Pro. (And they don’t have to rely on something like the Camera Connection Kit to act as a bridge.)

Apple did not initially respond to CDM’s request for comment on MFI as it relates to the USB-C port.

More resources

MacStories tests the new fast charging and power adapter.

9to5Mac go into some detail on what works and what doesn’t (largely working from the same information I am, I think, but you get another take):
What can you connect to the new iPad Pro with USB-C?

And yeah, this headline gives it away, but agree totally. Note that Android is offering USB-C across a lot of devices, but that platform lacks some of the support for high-end displays and robust music hardware support that iOS does – meaning it’d be more useful coming from Apple than coming from those Android vendors.

The iPad Pro’s USB-C port is great. It should be on my iPhone, too

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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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Here’s where to find all the don’t-miss deals for Black Friday weekend

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, end of November, whatever … your inbox is likely overflowing with random sale prices. Here are a few of our favorite, in case you want to shop for yourself or others this weekend.

(Food coma, America, for instance? Winter blues, everyone in the northern bit of Earth?)

And yeah, with so much noise out there, these are the ones you might actually want to take advantage of.

The insane-est free-ish software deals deals

A reader tips us off that a whopping 46 GB of samples from Samples from Mars – 5 years of work, their entire product line – is US$39 instead of $1,367.00. In terms of percentage, that may be the steepest non-free discount I’ve seen yet. (Thanks, Davo!)

Waves have their brand-new Sibilance vocal plug-in for free with email. (Yeah, I signed up for it, actually.) Looks promising – Black Friday free plug-in.

And Waves have a bunch of other discounts and free plug-ins with purchase, meaning you can stock up for a fraction of the normal price.

Sibilance, Waves’ newest plug-in, is free this weekend.

pluginboutique has iZotope Neutron Elements for free if you sign up for their newsletter, and they’ve put all their plug-in discounts in one place. That means instead of digging through your inbox for lots of different plug-in developers, you can check everything on one page – and pricing starts at just US$1 for some of those plugs (really – check the AIR instruments and effects).

And Arturia have the entire V Collection – that’s a massive bundle of emulations of just about every instrument you can imagine – for just US$249, or even $199 if you already own something from them:

https://www.arturia.com/black-friday

Arturia want you to spring for it and own all of this … well, virtually speaking.

Yes, gear deals

US retailer Sweetwater are all over this one. Even rarely-discounted gear like Moog is on sale (Mother-32 for $100 off?) They also have some picks of their own on their blog.

But Sweetwater’s Roland deals are especially sweet. $399 for the SE-02 analog synth is a steal, and the original TR-8 drum machine is just $299, which might beat what you can get it for used.

ProAudioStar has a load of deep discounts, too. How about a KORG Monologue for US$229? (That’s cheaper than I can get from the KORG sticker price even if I twist their arm, and it means the Minilogue I just sold will just turn me a profit. Plus they have all three colors. And it’s one of my favorite recent synths – with microtuning, too.)

They’ve also got the Beatstep Pro for $159 (that’s a no-brainer – if you don’t have it, just get it), and Behringer Model D and Neutron for $225 (plus the DeepMind 6 for $369.99):

https://www.proaudiostar.com/landing/black-friday-2018/keyboard-synth.html

Going back in time a bit with KORG, Kraft have the beloved original microKORG for US$254.99.

And Sam Ash has the brand new IK Multimedia Uno synth for $150.

More favorite tools on sale

We just covered Tracktion making their engine open source; well, their full range of software is on sale. That includes Tracktion Waveform 9 Basic $60 (or $30 for an upgrade).

Visualists, all of Resolume’s VJ and visual tools are half off through Monday.

I already mentioned that Softtube has deep discounts on their software, including their modular platform and the superb Console 1. These Swedish developers have some of the best sounding stuff out there, so I have to give them a nod.

Speaking of excellent boutique emulation, Soundtoys has some serious 50-80% discounts on their plug-ins, including some starting for just US$30. I’ve been addicted to their EchoBoy Jr.; you can go ahead and leap for the non-junior edition, for instance.

And Universal Audio have been rolling out one new discount each day for 12 days which are … not the 12 Days of Christmas, but whatever. It seems those discounts stay to the end, so you’ll have all the deals by the last day of November if you set an alarm.

And we covered at the beginning of the month a big sale on Output’s bundle of instruments and effects.

Accusonus’ powerful mixing and production tools are on sale, as well.

Round-up of round-ups!

GearSlutz has a running discussion thread

Attack Magazine has a handful of picks

itsoundsfuture did a nice job of grabbing all the steepest software discounts.

SynthAnatomy has a beautiful, super comprehensive spreadsheet-style view with hundreds of deals. Exhaustive! (Nice, Tom!)

Get some music, too!

Indie darling Bandcamp is seeing loads of self-released producers and small labels doing their own sale. Assuming you signed up for mailing lists when you bought music – and you really should, as it helps artists – you can just search your inbox for loads of little deals. For instance, fans of techno producer Truncate, check out 60% off his whole discography!

Beatport, which has also been a home to a lot of sales for indie and underground labels (really, not just the big deep house hits) – type in CYBERSALE at checkout and unlock up to 50%. (Yeah, time to clear out my current cart there, too.)

Most unexpected Black Friday deal?

noiiz.com used the opportunity to post their jobs board. So if you need to get a job to, uh, pay for all the stuff above – give them a go.

The post Here’s where to find all the don’t-miss deals for Black Friday weekend 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.

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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

The post Ableton Live Looping gets its own custom controller appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The new Maschine Mikro is tiny – but now its workflows scale

Native Instruments this fall unveiled a bunch of low cost alternatives to its flagship producer products – and the one that perhaps attracted the most attention is Maschine Mikro. Can you fit more into a small package?

If you’re really into Maschine, here’s my advice: MK3. Full stop. The MK3 has the most expressive, playable pads of any of the Maschine line. It’s got the same big display as the previous Maschine Studio – meaning you can make arrangements, adjust parameters without squinting, and set mix levels really easily. (None of that is possible on the Mikro.) And it has all the latest refinements, but it’s in a perfect form factor, as beloved on the original model and MK2.

It’s also reasonably compact. Maschine is my lifesaver for gigs because whatever may be in checked luggage (and therefore lost in checked luggage), you can fit Maschine MK3 into a backpack.

By comparison, I’m not fond of Push on the road, as I think its layout is better suited to studio creation than live performance, and it’s just a little bit bigger and a lot heavier than other devices – plus no audio interface. Small details, major difference if you’re playing fit-the-rig-in-the-backpack. And I know that sentiment is shared.

But there are times when you might want smaller, and you might be on a tighter budget – particularly if you’ve already invested in another controller.

So the Maschine Mikro is back. But this time, the pads are better, and while that display is small, you really can get away with using it. It could be ideal in a corner of your desk, and it’s more portable.

FACT Magazine have a great compact (natch) breakdown of how the Mikro works.

First, you inherit the touch strip and the note repeat from the rest of the line. That includes these clever performance effects, which are really quick to access from the touch strip. Note repeat and chord modes let you get away with squeezing lots of ideas onto a small palette — and, let’s be honest, they help you fake being way better at finger drumming than you actually are.

Sorry, might be projecting there. Better than I am, for sure.

And then there’s sequencing, too, which also scales well to this small form factor:

I’m personally sticking to the MK3 for one reason alone: the encoders to me are invaluable. I can load Reaktor Blocks instances in Maschine and then really shape sound on the encoders while keeping track of changing parameters on the displays. It’s like having a huge modular rig without the gear and back ache and debt. And I think the MK3 is good enough that it’s worth swapping in even the MK2 to get one – and certainly the MK1, which lacks the various workflow improvements and especially those great pads.

But I totally get the appeal of the Mikro.

I think ironically reducing that form factor finally lets you focus on learning some core features of Maschine and focusing on them. It looks like a no-brainer next to Ableton Push or an Akai APC or whatever you use as your DAW and controller arrangement (keyboards, etc). We’ve also seen previously how much musicality you can get just by focusing on the pads, as our friend Alan Oldham (DJ T-1000) took on even the first-generation model.

Cues: Detroit innovator Alan Oldham talks to us about techno, creation

So for getting out and playing, this is great stuff – and a bargain buy with the core software, a bunch of sounds, and a controller, too. I bet some people will get these as gifts – and have a great time.

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

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Bizarre, sexist MIDIPLUS audio interface mimics a makeup case

Taiwanese manufacturer Midiplus, normally known for perfectly reasonable and utilitarian low-price MIDI gear, has gone off the rails. As part of their “fancy” series, they’ve fashioned an audio interface as an mock eyeshadow palette, literally dubbed MIRROR.

I feel obligated to write about this just to stop all the people sending it to me, so – against my better judgment, here we go.

The ad copy and the way this is marketed? Sexist. The design? Yeah, I want one. So Midiplus, make up for the “designed specially for females” error here by sending me one to review for CDM.

The absurdity of saying this product is “SPECIALLY DESIGNED FOR FEMALES” is self-evident; there’s no doubt this is horrific and offensive. But let’s not let the sheer sexism here distract us from just how weird this thing is. Under the hood, it’s a perfectly normal audio interface – it’s a 24-bit, 192kHz audio box with mic in (with preamp and phantom power), and two headphone outs (apparently independent). There’s also a guitar input and something labeled “phone” – which seems to just be a minijack in.

No. And “for females”? Just… really, really, no.

It’s the case itself that gets odd, along with the profoundly strange, broken English ad copy. As a makeup kit, the device is sadly non functional: those are just dials in the shape of eyeshadow palettes, not actual eyeshadow. (Opportunity missed.) But the mirror at least works, flipping open and lit by an LED lamp (5500K, say the maker).

But yes, be ready for more of this sort of weirdness from OEMs as manufacturing costs plummet and designers get … creative. At a recent Musikmesse there was a manufacturer hawking audio interfaces covered in fake fur, a pricey sequined backpack kit, and a sales guy dressed as a magician.

The MIRROR isn’t along in the “fancy” line Midiplus are unleashing on us; there’s also a VINTAGE model. That one at least is absent the sexist ad copy, but crosses visual cues from a cassette tape, a practice amp, and a radio, and has some sort of live waveform display.

The other “fancy” model.

Anyway, all this gets me thinking. See, I may have to respond to MIRROR by making my own CDM jetlag/tour emergency kit. Mirror and LED, yes. But I’m also imagining some cover up for the dark circles under my eyes, a bit of hair pomade, and a built-in USB hub with various Rekordbox-formatted USB sticks, plus a Raspberry Pi running a looper/effects unit so if my luggage gets lost I can still do a live PA set.

I’m only half joking. I may have to actually make this thing. I’m slightly fatigued of being confused for an extra from The Walking Dead each time I travel more than two hours. So, with actual working makeup (which MIRROR lacks), my product will help me to LOOK AT THE BEAUTY ONE IN THE MIRROR. Oh, hi there.

As for Midiplus, the only line that rings true is this one: “DISCARD THE COMMON THINKING FLOW.” Yeah, you did that.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, how did this misogynistic design trainwreck happen?

http://www.midiplus.com/html/MIRROR.html

And yes, this was apparently the way they conceived “female” design:

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Bass Station II turns 2.5: filter tracking, paraphonic mode, microtuning

Novation’s Bass Station has reached the 25 year mark – and their Bass Station II synth gets a significant set of updates as “2.5” to celebrate. Think new sound design possibilities and architectural wonders, plus microtuning. Let’s look:

Let’s face it – as much as the 90s were a great era for techno and dance music and pop, and even as they saw the gradual rise of computers for audio (which, hey, we like around here), the decade did not produce a lot of classic synths. The Bass Station is one gorgeous exception to that. Hands-on, simple, affordable, friendly, it was an outlier at the time but a sign of what would endure in synths. It had a great lineage – Chris Huggett built on his clever Wasp design. And it was an alternative to the ubiquitous Roland TB-303 for bass lines, as the name implies. You can check out that history in a new Novation blog piece:

The Bass Station Story

But you’re not here to relive the year 1993. (Oh, God … please don’t send me back to high school.) No, you’re here to get some new sounds out of the Bass Station II.

Novation has been giving users a lot of what they want in firmware updates, but this time we’re especially fortunate.

Paraphonic mode. By giving you independent control of the pitch of each of the two oscillators, you can now play two notes at once (via the same single-voice architecture with ring and filter modulation).

Filter tracking. The filter now follows the keyboard pitch if you like.

Envelope retriggering. This opens up various possibilities – rhythmic modulation, you name it. The basic idea: as an envelope reaches the end of its decay, it triggers again.

Oscillator error. Adjust random detune on each note on, for subtle analog-style inconsistencies or wilder extremes.

Edit microtuning. Mmm, microtonal!

You also get new preset packs and the ability to customize the display (“Hello, world!”) when the units boot.

Novation has a user group on Facebook for owners:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/synthowners

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Teenage Engineering OP-Z is here, and it’s full of surprises: video round-up

Teenage Engineering’s OP-Z takes everything the mysterious Swedish maker has done in the past years and packs it into a candy bar-sized hunk of awesome. The first feature reveals and videos of the final creation are inbound, showing it doing some weird and wonderful things.

First, what is the OP-Z? (O-P-Zee for Americans, O-P-Zed for the rest of the world.) It’s an ultra-compact digital synth with loads of sequencing and groove features. It feels terrific in the hand – nicely heavy, but with the width of the beloved iPhone 5 so it’s easy to hold. (I don’t have a review unit yet, but I have gotten to try it.)

The main focus of the instrument: sequencing, so you can create elaborate patterns of synthesized sounds, as part of a rig or on its own, for on-the-go and studio creation or live performance.

What it doesn’t have is a screen; you connect a smartphone or tablet for that on the go. And so the basic idea is, it combines some of the compact game-style ideas of TE products like the Pocket Operators with the powerful synth and sequence workflow of the OP-1. It does more than all those past creations combined, though, and the Teenagers are pushing some unique possibilities for visual creation.

Your iPad or iPhone is the display and multi-touch editor / expanded sequencer for the OP-Z. (No Android support yet, but there are some unique PC visual integrations, too.)

The OP-Z ships worldwide for EUR599, and at the moment it’s sold out. That situation may ease as the Teenagers ramp up production.

But the OP-Z seems to have the most attention at the moment of any digital product, in contrast to sought-after analog instruments like the Moog One.

And sure, while some of this is more predictable – sample packs of drum sounds, effects like delay and reverb, – some of it is decidedly more left-field.

The most surprising features so far

The biggest surprises of the OP-Z:

1. It’s polymetric and does automatic melodic analysis. 1-144-step patterns let you create different rhythms on different tracks, and automatic melodic analysis gives you easier transposition.

2. Wireless display. iOS devices – iPhone, iPad – give you wireless displays and multi-touch input, and they’re remarkably responsive, enough so to play live.

3. The microphone is connected to the accelerometer. Yeah, this thing knows if you hold it up to your mouth.

4. Luxe texture. At first I thought this surface was a process applied after manufacture, but TE say they’ve added glass fibers into the body during injection molding. That makes the OP-Z feel expensive and grippy – so you don’t drop it. It’s not quite like anything you’ve touched before, and they’re promising serious durability.

5. It’s a spiritual successor to the Game Boy Camera. This wouldn’t be a TE product without some nod to the weirder side of Nintendo. This time, you get rapid-fire “photomatic” sequences a bit like on the Game Boy’s camera mode, which you can sync to the music. Of course. Or maybe you should think of it as a GIF creator. Either way, back to the 90s.

6. It’s a VJ instrument and immersive audiovisual tool. This is wild enough that we’ll need a separate story on it, this being CDM. But think Unity 3D integration.

This has relevance not just for the OP-Z but anyone interested in MIDI control of 3D visuals in Unity, since they’ve released the entire toolkit on Github:

https://github.com/teenageengineering/videolab

Plus there’s even a dedicated track for controlling lighting (via the industry standard DMX protocol)? Not sure how you connect this, exactly, but it’s a cool add-on – and someone may want to rig up some DIY solution with light bulbs as in their demo.

7. Tons of expandability is planned. Teenage Engineering are promising new effects, firmware updates, expansion via hardware ports, and more.

Video hands-on

YouTube celebrity Andrew Huang has the highest production values of the first OP-Z videos, and gives you a snapshot review.

More depth comes from Cuckoo, who’s don an extensive mega tutorial (and is just getting started, it seems):

Microwavez shows how you’d combine this with an iPad:

Here’s what it looks like making a beat, via Brandon Guerra:

And NomNomChomsky has a review up, as well:

More:

https://teenageengineering.com/products/op-z

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