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:

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

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Mammut is free software that does completely insane things to sounds

From the darkest arts in auditory alchemy, you can find gems like Mammut, a free tool that will utterly mangle digital audio into forms beautiful and chaotic.

And I mean really weird. From producing eerie, smeared convolutions of files to manipulating the spectrum of a sound in ways that are actually unlistenable (as in, they cause excruciating pain), Mammut is delightfully un-commercial and totally unpredictable.

Here’s how this all started. Last week, I noticed that popular time stretching algorithm PaulStretch had found its way into a convenient plug-in form for Mac and Windows. That opened the floodgates to lots of discussion of where to find similar tools.

If you want PaulStretch, it’s worth checking out the original, or the version now baked into free sound editor Audacity:

More tools also came up with Soundhack. As creator Tom Erbe wrote me (after I mentioned I loved his software for doing convolution all the way back to the mid 90s), he mentioned:

“++spiralstretch does a pvoc stretch on realtime incoming sound with up to 8 overlapping “stretchers”. also does granular stretching for a less spectral sound. (shameless plug)”

Mammut represents a different path to strange noises. You know you’re in for something out of the ordinary from the moment you launch it, and are treated to a woodcut of a woolly mammoth and some braying animal noises and … wind … or something. Then, with that dizzying animation looping in the background, you load a sound. You’re then able to directly manipulate the spectrum of the sound, via a seemingly random assortment of tabs with different functions. These have descriptions that range from detailed and useful to glib to … tabs that have no explanation at all, or one that says “Rather useless.”

Okay, then!

There’s some beautiful stuff in there. In addition to being able to edit a spectrum directly, you can apply more beautiful time stretching and features like convolution, which combines audio waveforms by spectra.

And there’s undo/redo, too, accessed by up and down arrows in the middle of the interface, so you can back out of decisions that just screwed up the sound. (Those you’ll find pretty readily!)

As the creators describe it:

Mammut is a rather unpredictable program, and the user must get used to letting go of control over the time axis. The sounding results are often surprising and exciting. Mammut is also ideal for common operations such as filtering, spectrum shift and convolution and it provides an optimal performance.

Mammut is old software, from pre-2007, but thanks to being built in the free JUCE environment still compiles and runs nicely. It’s a project of Notam, the electronic art research center in Oslo, and developed by Øyvind Hammer, with a UI by Kjetil Matheussen.

The “mammoth” reference is because it takes the FFT of the whole sound file at once instead of using windows / chunks of the sound. While the results here are radical, similar techniques find more practical applications – like building a smooth waveform pad synth.

Anyway, I suspect you can from here go down either a link hole looking at that research and the engineering side, or get lost playing with sounds.

I wound up making sounds with it, including convolutions of other productions I was working on, and assembled a track:

In honor of Mammut, I think it’s also only appropriate to paste in this film – enjoy!

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Glitch Delay – Eine Inspiration, ein Looper für Eurorack oder Rechner

Cuttlasses Glitch Delay

Das Glitch Delay ist ein Selbstbau-Eurorack-Modul. Es ist im Wesentlichen für unperfektes Delay mit Störungen, Kratzern und interessanten Flecken gedacht, weil es so einfach interessant klingt.

Nicht nur IDM, auch Gitarrenriffs können davon profitieren und Projekte wie Plaid leben geradezu davon. Das Modul basiert auf einem Teenys, einem kleinen Chip, also einem Minirechner.

Glitch Delay – Open-Source für Loop und Delay

Delay ist technisch gesehen extrem einfach, denn das einkommende Audiosignal wird einfach gespeichert und direkt wieder ausgegeben. Der Clou ist aber die Reaktion der einzelnen Parameter und wie das klingt. Sie geben einige gewollte Artefakte von sich, die musikalisch „schön“ sind. Es gibt ja nicht nur „ungewollt-kaputt“, sondern auch angenehm angebritzelt.

Eigentlich hat das Delay noch eine Loop-Funktion und ist damit mehr als ein einfaches Delay. Früher nannte man diese Form Freezing. Man spielt etwas ein und wiederholt sehr kurze Teile des Signals. Diesen Bereich stellt man um und „dreht“ ein wenig damit herum. Das ist nicht auf jedem Gerät gleich gut und klingt dementsprechend unterschiedlich. Am besten ist, die erste Demo dazu zu hören, dann ist sofort alles klar, versprochen!

Um es allerdings klar zu sagen, „Glitch“ steht hier nicht zu sehr für Zerstörung oder scheinbar ungewollte Bruchstücke, sondern eher für ein durchaus sauber laufendes Loop-Stück. Im zweiten Video werden die Möglichkeiten recht gut demonstriert.

Basis für die Techniker ist der Kern, der Juce genannt wird. Wir berichteten schon an anderen Stellen darüber, da auch andere Juce nutzen.


  • Alles, was man braucht, um es nachzubauen, ist kostenlos und offen hier bereitgelegt. Die Site des Herstellers zeigt auch eine Variante, alles auch auf dem Computer nachzubauen. Wer gerne hackt, kann sich den gleichen Code besorgen und damit etwas tun.


Für den Höreindruck

Die Funktionen werden gezeigt, das Vorstellungsvideo

This low-latency OS could change how music gear is made

You want the flexibility of PC software, but the performance of standalone gear? A new music OS is the latest effort to promise the best of both worlds.

Sure, analog gear is enjoying a happy renaissance – and that’s great. But a lot of the experimentation with sound production occurs with software (iOS or Windows or Mac) simply because it’s easier (and cheaper) to try things out on an Intel or ARM chip. (ARM is the architecture found in your iPhone or iPad or Android phone, among others; Intel you know.) Some manufacturers are already making the move to standalone hardware based on these architectures – at AES last year, I saw Eventide’s massive coming flagship, which is totally ARM-based. But they’re typically rolling their own operating system, which provides some serious expertise.

MIND Music Labs this month unveiled what they called ELK – a Linux-based operating system they say is optimized for musical applications and high performance.

That means they’re boldly going where… a lot of players have tried to go before. But this time, it’s different – really. First, there’s more demand on the developer side, as more makers have grown intrigued by off-the-shelf CPUs. And developer tools for these options are better than they’ve been. And hardware is cheaper, lower-power, and more accessible than ever, particularly as mobile devices have driven massive scale. (The whole world, sadly, may not really feel it needs an effects processor or guitar pedal, but a whole lot of the world now has smartphones.)

ELK promises insanely low latencies, so that you can add digital effects without delaying the returning signal (which for anything other than a huge reverb is an important factor). And there are other benefits, too, that make music gadgets made with the OS more connected to the world. According to the developers, you get:

Ultra-low latency (1ms round-trip)
Linux-based, using single Intel & ARM CPUs
Support for JUCE and VsT 2.x and 3.x plugins
Natively connected (USB, WiFi, BT, 4G)

That connectivity opens up possibilities like sharing music, grabbing updates and new sounds, and connecting to wireless instruments like the ROLI line. There’s full MIDI support, too, though – and, well, lots of other things you can do with Linux.

(JUCE is a popular framework for developing cross platforms, meaning you could make one really awesome granular synth and then run it on desktop, mobile, and this platform easily.)

Now, having done this for a while, I’ve seen a lot of claims like this come and go. But at least ELK last week was demonstrated with some actual gear as partners – DVMark, MarkBass, and Overloud (TH-U).

1ms latency claims don’t just involve the OS. Here, ELK delivers a complete hardware platform, so that’s the actual performance including their (high-quality, they say) audio converters and chip. That’s what stops you from just grabbing something like a Raspberry Pi and turning it into a great guitar pedal – you’re constrained by the audio fidelity and real-time performance of the chipset, whether the USB connection or onboard audio. Here, that promises to be solved for you out of the box.

DVMark’s “Smart Multiamp” was the first real product to show off the platform. Plugin Alliance and Brainworx have signed on, too, so don’t be surprised if you’re soon looking at a dedicated box that can replace your laptop – but also run all your plug-ins.

And that’s the larger vision here – eventually ELK has its own plug-in format, and you should be able to move your favorite plug-ins around to connected devices, and access those gadgets from Android and iOS, But unlike using a computer or iPad on its own, you don’t have to sweat software upgrades or poor audio performance or try to imagine a laptop or tablet is a good music interface live.

This leaves of course lots of questions about how they’ll realize this vision and more questions if you’re an interested developer or manufacturer. I’m hopeful that they take the Eurorack market as a model – or even look at independent plug-in and app developers – and embrace a model that supports imaginative one-person developers, too. (A whole lot of the best music software and module ideas alike have come from one- and two-person shops.)

I at least like their vision – and I’m sure they won’t be alone. Best line: “Whether your idea of music is to be shut in a studio that looks like the bridge of a Klingon cruiser or you are a minimalist that wants everything to sound exactly like in 1958, we think you will be surprised at just how much smartness is going to affect us as musicians.”

I’ll throw this out here for now and let you ask away, and then we can do a follow-up soon. Loads more info at their site:

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Hart Instruments Sampler Engine (HISE) updated to v1.5.0

HISE Sampler 1.5.0Hart Instruments has released version 1.5.0 of the Hart Instruments Sampler Engine (HISE). The update to the open source framework for sample based instruments includes a new interface designer and improved iPhone support. Changes in HISE v1.5.0 New Interface Designer. Improved iPhone support. Jumped to JUCE 5. Support for Visual Studio 2017. Added Sample archiver […]

Moog plant hybrid-Synthesizer?

Moog Synthesizer NAMM 2018 JUCE Teaser

Spekulation, andererseits aber auch nicht:  Die beiden Moog-Mitarbeiter Geert Bevin und Amos Gaynes bestätigten in einem Vortrag, dass sie seit Jahren an etwas arbeiten würden. Nun gilt es, das herauszufinden.

How to Use Juce, not Juice! Juce ist eine Entwicklungsumgebung für die gängigen Plattformen, Windows, macOS und Linux. Der Vorteil an einem solchen Framework ist, dass eine Menge Dinge bereits eingebaut sind und man so schnell Zugriff auf verschiedene, relevante Funktionen hat. Der Vortrag der Moog-Mitarbeiter handelt von der Darstellung mit diesem Tool – eher etwas für Geeks.

Aber: Es geht konkret um ein Gerät, das eingebettetes Linux verwendet und ein Display hat. Sie dürften nicht darüber reden, aber schon bei etwa 1:00 spricht Geert Bevin davon. Außerdem wird auch macOS erwähnt. Es gibt dieses neue Moog-Gerät bzw. Software also schon. Zuletzt gabe es den Animoog, ein Wavetable-Synthesizer auf dem iPad. Der ist auch die Basis des Theremini, einem Theremin von Moog mit etwas anderer Klangerzeugung als die klassischen Theremins mit der „singende Säge“.

Was nahe liegt, ist die Kombination eines „echten“ und damit analogen Moog Filters und natürlich Mehrstimmigkeit. Vermutlich wird man bei Moog eher konservativ sein und 6-8 Stimmen oder mehr einplanen. Sollte das Gerät sogar komplett digital bleiben, würde das Aufwand sparen, da die Wandlung wegfällt. Allerdings ist diese heute weder teuer noch aufwendig zu realisieren. Es gibt analoge Synthesizer, die nur wegen eines Effektes oder einer kleinen Sektion Wandler verbaut haben. Bei Hybriden ist das generell notwendig.

Die NAMM steht fast schon vor der Tür und es wäre fast komisch, wenn es da keinen neuen Moog gäbe. Nach der Moog-Ikone Minimoog baut man keinen Sub 49 oder 61. Viele erwarten einen Polymoog in neuem Gewand. Denkbar. Wirklich neu wäre allerdings ein Analoger mit digitalen Elemtenten. Und hier beginnt die Spekulation, denn klare Worte gab es nicht.

Wie üblich erwarte ich etwas eher luxuriöses und hochwertiges, wofür „ein Moog“ seinen Namen trägt. Wohl kein Sampler, denn es sind LFO und Oszillator in JUCE zu sehen. Dort könnte man auch reihenweise digitale Spektren ablegen, Wavetable-Verfahren.

Ein würdiges Gegenstück zu Animoog mit seinen 8 Wavetables mit Moog Tiefpass-Filter und vielleicht High-Pass und einigen Stimmen ist aktuell das wahrscheinlichste Szenario, was denkst du?

Ableton have now made it easy for any developer to work with Push 2

You know Ableton Push 2 will work when it’s plugged into a computer and you’re running Ableton Live. You get bi-directional feedback on the lit pads and on the screen. But Ableton have also quietly made it possible for any developer to make Push 2 work – without even requiring drivers – on any software, on virtually any platform. And a new library is the final piece in making that easy.

Even if you’re not a developer, that’s big news – because it means that you’ll likely see solutions for using Push 2 with more than just Ableton Live. That not only improves Push as an investment, but ensures that it doesn’t collect dust or turn into a paperweight when you’re using other software – now or down the road.

And it could also mean you don’t always need a computer handy. Push 2 uses standards supported on every operating system, so this could mean operation with an iPad or a Raspberry Pi. That’s really what this post-PC thing is all about. The laptop still might be the best bang-for-your-buck equation in the studio, but maybe live you want something in the form of a stompbox, or something that goes on a music stand while you sing or play.

If you are a developer, there are two basic pieces.

First, there’s the Push Interface Description. This bit tells you how to take control of the hardware’s various interactions.

Now, it was already possible to write to the display, but it was a bit of work. Out this week is a simple C++ code library you can bootstrap, with example code to get you up and running. It’s built in JUCE, the tool of choice for a whole lot of developers, mobile and desktop alike. (Thanks, ROLI!)

Marc Resibois created this example, but credit to Ableton for making this public.

Here’s an example of what you can do, with Marc demonstrating on the Raspberry Pi:

This kind of openness is still very much unusual in the hardware/software industry. (Novation’s open source Launchpad Pro firmware API is another example; it takes a different angle, in that you’re actually rewriting the interactions on the device. I’ll cover that soon.)

But I think this is very much needed. Having hardware/software integration is great. Now it’s time to take the next step and make that interaction more accessible to users. Open ecosystems in music are unique in that they tend to encourage, rather than discourage sales. They increase the value of the gear we buy, and deepen the relationships makers have with users (manufacturers and independent makers alike). And these sorts of APIs also, ironically, force hardware developers to make their own iteration and revision easier.

It’s also a great step in a series of steps forward on openness and interoperability from Ableton. Whereas the company started with relatively closed hardware APIs built around proprietary manufacturer relationships, Ableton Link and the Push API and other initiatives are making it easier for Live and Push users to make these tools their own.

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Get the sound of an abandoned US surveillance tower, free

Over fifty years ago, it was built in West Berlin atop a mountain of rubble to listen in on the Communists in the East. And now, the infamous Teufelsberg UA National Security Agency tower can lend its cavernous sound to your tracks. It’s available as a free plug-in for Mac, Windows, and even Linux, and it’s open source.

Someone found this idea appealing already, as the impulse samples we wrote about previously became the creators’ most popular download.

But now, you get a plug-in you can drop in your host. It’s actually a pretty nice array of stuff here:


Lush reverbs, accurately captured at the infamous Berlin surveillance tower.
6 different IR reverb sounds.
Fast, zero-latency convolution.
A/B compare and preset saving functions
Linux, Windows & Mac downloads.
Free and open source.

Oh yeah, and if you happen to be a developer, this is a brilliant example. It shows how to build a simple effect plug-in and how to do convolution and how to work with the JUCE framework.

Here’s a look inside the facility (as linked in our previous story):


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