We’re coasting to the end of 2019, but Bitwig has managed to squeeze in Studio 2.5, with feature the company says were inspired by or directly requested by users.
The most interesting of these adds some interactive arrangement features to the linear side of the DAW. Traditional DAWs like Cubase have offered interactive features, but they generally take place on the timeline. Or you can loop individual regions in most DAWs, but that’s it.
Bitwig are adding interactive actions to the clips themselves, right in the arrangement. “Clip Blocks” apply Next Action features to individual clips.
Also in this release:
“Audio Slide” lets you slide audio inside clips without leaving the arranger. That’s possible in many other DAWs, but it’s definitely a welcome addition in Bitwig Studio – especially because an audio clip can contain multiple audio events, which isn’t necessarily possible elsewhere.
Note FX Selector lets you sweep through multiple layers of MIDI effects. We’ve seen something like this before, too, but this implementation is really nice.
There’s also a new set of 60 Sampler presets with hundreds of full-frequency waveforms – looks great for building up instruments. (This makes me ready to boot into Linux with Bitwig, too, where I don’t necessarily have my full plug-in library at my disposal.)
Browser results by relevance
Faster plug-in scanning
50 more functions accessible as user-definable key commands
To me, the thing that makes this newsworthy, and the one to test, is really this notion of an interactive arrangement view.
Ableton pioneered Follow Actions in their Session View years back in Ableton Live, but they’ve failed to apply that concept even inside Session View to scenes. (Some Max for Live hacks fill in the gap, but that only proves that people are looking for this feature.)
Making the arrangement itself interactive at the clip level – that’s really something new.
Now, that said, let’s play with Clip Blocks in Bitwig 2.5 and see if this is helpful or just confusing or superfluous in arrangements. (Presumably you can toy with different arrangement possibilities and then bounce out whatever you’ve chosen? I have to test this myself.) And there’s also the question of whether this much interactivity actually just has you messing around instead of making decisions, but that’s another story.
Go check out the release, and if you’re a Bitwig user, you can immediately try out the beta. Let us know what you think and how those Clip Blocks impact your creative process. (Or share what you make!)
Just please – no EDM tabla. (I think that moment sent a chill of terror down my spine in the demo video.)
So you want to start recording, mixing, arranging, and your budget is … you don’t have one. Tracktion runs on every OS, and the latest update adds still more powerful features.
Free production tools are invaluable – not only are they a refuge for the cash-strapped, but they can be a useful common denominator when you want to exchange projects, or if you need to get up and running quickly on something other than your main machine. Tracktion isn’t the only option out there. Notably GarageBand is available to macOS and iOS users. The excellent Cakewalk (formerly called Cakewalk SONAR) is an optimal choice on Windows, now available free from BandLab. For cross-platform tools, there’s the completely free and open source Ardour, though it can be a bit hacky to install and use. And while it’s not free, Reaper has an unlimited demo, meaning you can use the full version for free and send the developer some money after you sell that first TV score.
Where Tracktion stands out: it’s a modern, friendly, single-window DAW that runs on any OS (Mac, Windows, Linux). And of all of these, it may be the friendliest option – with some power features not available from other options.
T7, released this week, sweetens the pot with some unique new additions – including a couple that might even sway you from the DAW you’ve already paid for.
The UI has been refreshed, with a new scheme called “Blue Steel.” (Okay, enough Zoolander references already. Or at least they missed the opportunity to say the new color scheme will help you “Relax.”)
Browsing is also easier, with a visual browser for plug-ins (the likes of which we’ve seen in Reason, but more rarely elsewhere), plus a multi-browser for auditioning and placing multiple audio files.
The real magic, though, is in the ability to get some power over automation and routing:
Modular racks let you create custom signal processing chains.
Clip Layer Effects let you stack on effects and plug-in processing on specific clips, not just on tracks. That makes for a different workflow – no more making a new track every time you want to change audio routing. Tracktion says they’re applying for a patent here.
Clip Layer Effects: no more duplicating tracks just because one section needs a different effects routing than another bit.
Automation patterns are modulation and envelopes that you can apply to any parameter repeatedly. And there’s optional tempo sync support for them. That sounds especially handy for keeping favorite gestures at the ready, and for remixes and dance music (or to go the opposite direction, hyperactive microediting). Speaking of which, you also get….
Automation patterns can now be stored an applied anywhere – including with tempo sync.
LFO Modifiers can be applied to any parameter in the channel strip or in any third-party plug-in. We’ve seen powerful modifiers in Bitwig Studio – and in Ableton Live, though limited to somewhat simple Max for Live add-ons – but here, combined with those Clip Layers and Automation Patterns, they make Tracktion into a powerful DAW for editing.
LFO Modifiers now work with plug-ins.
Okay, so since this is free, how do the developers make any money? They hope you’ll upgrade to Waveform, their next-generation DAW. It’s got all these features, but adds more extensive instrument support, a multi-sampler, Melodyne pitch correction, a fully modular mix environment, more detailed MIDI editing and pattern generation, and other additions.
Also significant: master mix DSP, chord track, track loops, track presets, quick render, Rack ‘stack’ editor,’ plug-in faceplates, plug-in macros, and free online support. And only Waveform has ready-to-play Raspberry Pi support.
That still means Tracktion is a good way to give this approach a try.
Der Percussa SSP ist schon einige Male durch die News gefallen, zunächst als Kickstarter-Projekt und später mit dem fertigen Euro-Modul. Er ist eigentlich ein Wavetable-Oszillator.
Eigentlich hatte das SSP einen klaren Job, dennoch ist es, wie viele heutige Module, ein Computer und in dem Falle mit einem wirklich riesigen Display. Das kann man deshalb auch für VST-Plug-ins verwenden. Das Modul kann bisher auch schon filtern, hat einen Sequencer, Effekte und ist ein CV-Erzeuger und Sampler.
Percussa SSP Modul
Das Modul hat einen 4-Kern-ARM Prozessor (Cortex A17) und deshalb läuft auf ihm Linux. Um zu beweisen, dass das bereits funktioniert, gibt es den QVCA inzwischen mitgeliefert, der ein vierfacher VCA ist, der verschiedene Routings erlaubt und daher universelle Aufgaben erledigen kann. U-He, Tracktion und einige andere haben solche Plug-ins bereit. 60 HP Breite ist sicher eine Hausnummer, weshalb es gut ist, dass die vielen CV-Anschlüsse sinnvoll und vielfältig genutzt werden können. Theoretisch kann man auch eine kleinere Version bauen, dennoch ist die Computer-Nutzung in der Eurorack-Welt absolut üblich und mit Modulen wie diesem einfacher geworden.
Die VST-Funktion ist durch ein aktuelles Update möglich, zu dem auch ein Bitcrusher gehört. Außerdem wurden die Bedienung und Navigation verbessert.
Percussa ist sehr aktiv auf Facebook und es gibt immer mal einige Bilder oder Texte, weshalb sich ein Blick dorthin auch lohnt.
The folks at Bitwig have been picking up speed. And version 2.4, beta testing now, brings some promising sampler and controller features.
The big deal here is that Bitwig is going with a full-functioning sampler. And as Ableton Live and Native Instruments’ Maschine pursue somewhat complex and fragmented approaches, maybe Bitwig will step in and deliver a sampler that just does all the stuff you expect in one place. (I’m ready to put these different devices head to head. I like to switch workflows to keep fresh, anyway, so no complaints. Bitwig just wins by default on Linux since Ableton and NI don’t show up for the competition. Ahem.)
Meet the new Sampler: manipulate pitch, time, and the two in combination, either together in a traditional fashion or independently as a digital wavetable or granular instrument. Those modes on their own aren’t new, but this is a nice way of combining everything into a single interface.
The re-built Sampler introduces a powerful wavetable/granular instrument. At its heart are multiple modes that combine effectively different instruments and ways of working with sound into a single interface:
“Repitch” / Speed + pitch together: The traditional sampler mode, with negative speeds, too (allowing it to behave the way a record player / record-scratch / tape transport does).
“Cycles” / Speed only: Speed changes, pitches stay the same. There’s also a Formant control, and the ability to switch on and off keyboard tracking. (In other words, you can scale from realistic-sounding speed changes to extreme metallic variations.)
“Textures” / Granular resampling / independent pitch and speed: Granular resynthesis divides up the sound into tiny bits allowing independent pitch and time manipulation (in combination), and textural effects. Independent speed, grain size, and grain motion (randomization) are all available as parameters.
Freeze: Each mode lets you directly manipulate the sample playhead live, using a controller or the Bitwig modulators. That emulates the position of a needle on a record or playhead on a tape, or the position in a granular playback device, depending on mode – and this is in every single mode.
Oh. Okay. Yeah, so those last two are to me the way Ableton Live should have worked from the beginning – and the way a lot of Max, Reaktor, Pd, and SuperCollider patches/code might work – but it’s fantastic to see them in a DAW. This opens up a lot of live performance and production options. If they’ve nailed it, it could be a reason to switch to Bitwig.
But there’s more:
Updated Multisampler Editor: Bitwig’s Sampler already had multisampler capabilities – letting you combine different samples into a single patch, as you might do for a complex instrument, for instance. Now, you can make groups, choose more easily what you see when editing (revealing samples as you play, for instance), and set modulation per zone. There’s also ping-pong looping and automatic zero-crossing edits (so you can slice up sounds without getting pops and clicks).
Multi-sample mode lets you work with zones in new ways, for more complex sampling patches.
There’s a new device that lets you step sequence modulation. Here’s how they describe that:
ParSeq-8 is a step sequencer for modulation.
ParSeq-8 is a unique parameter modulation sequencer, where each step is its own modulation source. It can use the project’s clock, advance on note input, or just run freely in either direction. As it advances, each step’s targets are modulated and then reset. It’s a great way to make projects more dynamic, whether in the studio or on the stage. (Along the way, our Steps modulator got some improvements such as ping-pong looping so check it out too.)
Also in the modulation category, there’s a Note Counter — count up each incoming note and create cycles of modulation as a result.
Note FX Layer.
More powerful with controllers
Bitwig has been moving forward in making it easy to map hardware controls to software, even as rival tools (cough, Ableton) haven’t advanced since early versions. That’s useful if you have a particular custom hardware controller you want to use to manipulate the instruments, effects, and mixing onscreen.
Now there’s a new visualization to give you clear onscreen feedback of what you’re doing, making that hardware/software connection much easier to see.
Visualize controllers as you use them – so the knob you turn on your hardware makes something visible onscreen.
There’s also MIDI channel support. MIDI has had channels since the protocol was unveiled in the 80s – a way of dividing up multiple streams of information. Now you can put them to use: incoming MIDI can be mapped and filtered by channel. That’s … not exciting, okay, but there are dedicated devices for making those channels useful in chains and so on. And that is fairly exciting.
MIDI channel support – essential for working with MIDI, but implemented here in a way that’s powerful for manipulating streams of control and information.
And more stuff
Also in this release:
Bit-8 audio degrader gets new quantization and parameters for glitching or lightly distorting sound
Note FX layer creates parallel note effects
There’s more feedback in the footer of the screen when you hover over parameters/values
Resize track widths, scene widths
Looks like a great upgrade. Beta testing starts soon, to be followed by a release as a free upgrade for Upgrade Plan users this summer.
We’re flooded with cheap DJ controllers. But the new Pioneer is interesting for two reasons: one, it’s a home accessory for CDJ users, and two, its driverless functionality means you can plug into anything.
Okay, first, the obvious: the DDJ-400 is a US$249 (279 €) controller with audio interface. And the massive “Rekordbox” logo applied to the side of it means it works with Pioneer’s preferred DJ software. For beginners, the idea is, you plug this thing in and the controller and software teach you basic DJ chops – playing techniques and how the technology works – via an included on-screen tutorial.
Gradually, Pioneer have done what was obvious to most of us for them to do – they’ve made that controller work as much like their expensive club DJ players do as they can. A CDJ-2000NEXUS2 will set you back US$2199 each, so out of range of even most moderately successful DJs. This duplicates the rough layout of the wheels, the play/pause and cue buttons, Beat FX, and looping controls of the full-sized CDJ.
Now, why I need to get this in to test is, the key variable is the feel of the wheels. What a lot of DJs presumably would be practicing, at least in part, is beat-matching – the security to turn off that dreaded sync button. I don’t want to get too far into that, other than to say, whatever the musical utility of your ability to do that or whether it makes you a “real” DJ, it does have the potential to make DJing “really” less boring for the human operator.
My hope is that Pioneer has taken the improved low latency performance of the latest revision of their high-end controllers and brought it to this model, too – but we’ll see. Low latency and low jitter will make this more fun to play.
But either way, as a prep tool, this looks like a good investment. The latest Rekordbox is included free, which already amounts to half the purchase price here. (That license is 139 €). If you’re organizing your catalog in Rekordbox to drop on a USB stick, you might as well have a play and mix a bit, too.
But that’s not why I think the DDJ-400 is interesting.
Driverless and hacker/DIYer friendly
No, this is the interesting part. Pioneer says the DDJ-400 is driverless and class-compliant. That means you have an audio interface, with cuing, and a MIDI control surface, that work with any device.
So… let’s say you’re a fan of the iOS app Soda. That’s the app that I claimed in December might make you take DJing seriously again. Soda didn’t catch on, but … it also didn’t have a good controller and audio interface to go with it.
The DDJ-400 plus Soda are actually more flexible as musical tools than what you get with a $5000 DJ hardware setup… but the total purchase price here, with some recent iPad revisions, is more like $500. And it’s more portable.
Or, let’s say you’re sick of controllers and laptops in the DJ booth – as you should be. Now you can add a Linux DJ tool, throw it on a small computer (like a Raspberry Pi), and DIY fashion your own case.
That should be priceless for the reaction of people in a DJ booth alone.
“Aw, look, another n00b with a laptop and controller because he can… hey … the… where’s the computer?”
I wish Roland had done this with their recent DJ controller line, but … now Pioneer have, so we’re sorted.
I’m not endorsing it yet, as I haven’t tried the hardware yet or seen how MIDI mapping works, but suffice to say – I’m interested.
And even if the above is really the use case, this one is … fun.
By the way, if you’re wondering why makers like Native Instruments and Serato haven’t come up with their own integrated hardware, instead of making us plug in unwieldy laptops in the middle of a party like we thought we were looking for an Internet cafe instead of a booth, well…
I wonder that, too. Constantly.
In the meantime, if anyone will turn a controller into some wild all-in-one DIY solution, and even come up with novel, out-of-the-mainstream ways of DJing in the process, it’s readers here.
And for everyone else, yeah, the ubiquity of Rekordbox and CDJs means this is probably the $250 controller to beat. (Rival makers, you knew already this was the challenge.)
24-bit sound card
2-channel control surface
High/low pass filter (software)
Sampler (software), 16 slot / 4 bank
8 hot cues
Fader start / adjustable crossfader
1 mic input (1/4″ TS)
RCA master out
Dedicated headphone monitor (minijack) (note that you can also use this for cueing even as your computer speakers or other connected speakers handle output)
Context, built in Pure Data, is a free and open source modular sequencer that opens up new ways of thinking about melody, rhythm, and pattern.
Sequencers: we’ve seen, well, a lot of them. There are easy-to-use step sequencers, but they tend to be limited to pretty simple patterns. More sophisticated options go to the other extreme, making you build up patterns from scratch or program your own tools.
The challenge is, how do you employ the simplicity of a step sequencer, but make a wider range of patterns just as accessible?
Context is one clever way of doing that. Building on modular patching of patterns – the very essence of what made Max and Pd useful in the first place – Context lets you combine bits and pieces together to create sequencers around your own ideas. And a whole lot of ideas are possible here, from making very powerful sequencers quick to build, LEGO-style, to allowing open-ended variations to satisfy the whims of more advanced musicians and patchers.
Where this gets interesting in Pd specifically is, you can built little feedback networks, creating simple loopers up to fancy generative or interactive music machines.
It’s all just about sequencing, so if you’re a Pd nut, you can combine this with existing patches, and if not, you can use it to sequence other hardware or software instruments.
At first I thought this would be a simple set of Pd patches or something like that, but it’s really deep. There’s a copious manual, which even holds new users by the hand (including with some first-time issues like the Pd font being the wrong size).
You combine patches graphically, working with structures for timing and pattern. But you can control them not only via the GUI, but also via a text-based command language, or – in the latest release – using hardware. (They’ve got an example set up that works directly with the Novation Launchpad.)
So live coder, live musician, finger drummer, whatever – you’re covered.
There are tons of examples and tutorials, plus videos in addition to the PDF manual. (Even though I personally like reading, that gives you some extra performance examples to check out for musical inspiration!)
Once you build up a structure – as a network of modules with feedback – you can adapt Context to a lot of different work. It could drive the timing of a sample player. It could be a generative music tool. You could use it in live performance, shaping sound as you play. You might even take its timing database and timeline and apply it to something altogether different, like visuals.
But impressively, while you can get to the core of that power if you know Pd, all of this functionality is encapsulated in menus, modules, and commands that mean you can get going right away as a novice.
In fact… I really don’t want to write any more, because I want to go play with this.
Here’s an example of a performance all built up:
And you can go grab this software now, free (GPL v3) — ready to run on your Mac, Windows PC, Linux machine, or Raspberry Pi, etc.:
Apple’s decision to shift to its own proprietary tech for accessing modern GPUs could hurt research, education, and pro applications on their platform.
OpenGL and OpenCL are the industry-standard specifications for writing code that runs on graphics architectures, for graphics and general-purpose computation, including everything from video and 3D to machine learning.
This is relevant to an ongoing interest on this site – those technologies also enable live visuals (including for music), creative coding, immersive audiovisual performance, and “AI”-powered machine learning experiments in music and art.
OpenGL and OpenCL, while sometimes arcane technologies, enable a wide range of advanced, cross-platform software. They’re also joined by a new industry standard, Vulkan. Cross-platform code is growing, not shrinking, as artists, researchers, creative professionals, experimental coders, and other communities contribute new generations of software that work more seamlessly across operating systems.
And Apple has just quietly blown off all those groups. From the announcement to developers regarding macOS 10.14:
Deprecation of OpenGL and OpenCL
Apps built using OpenGL and OpenCL will continue to run in macOS 10.14, but these legacy technologies are deprecated in macOS 10.14. Games and graphics-intensive apps that use OpenGL should now adopt Metal. Similarly, apps that use OpenCL for computational tasks should now adopt Metal and Metal Performance Shaders.
They’re also deprecating OpenGL ES on iOS, with the same logic.
Metal is fine technology, but it’s specific to iOS and Mac OS. It’s not open, and it won’t run on other platforms.
Describing OpenGL and OpenCL as “legacy” is indeed fine. But as usual, the issue with Apple is an absence of information, and that’s what’s problematic. Questions:
Does this mean OpenGL apps will stop working? This is actually the big question. “Deprecation” in the case of QuickTime did eventually mean Apple pulled support. But we don’t know if it means that here.
(One interesting angle for this is, it could be a sign of more Apple-made graphics hardware. On the other hand, OpenGL implementations were clearly a time suck – and Apple often lagged major OpenGL releases.)
What about support for Vulkan? Apple are a partner in the Khronos Group, which develops this industry-wide standard. It isn’t in fact “legacy,” and it’s designed to solve the same problems as Metal does. Is Metal being chosen over Vulkan?
Cook’s 2018 Apple seems to be far more interested in showcasing proprietary developer APIs. Compare the early Jobs era, which emphasized cross-platform standards (OpenGL included). Apple has an opportunity to put some weight behind Vulkan – if not at WWDC, fair enough, but at some other venue?
What happens on the Web? Cross-platform here is even more essential, since your 3D or machine learning code for a browser needs to work in multiple scenarios.
Transparency and information might well solve this, but for now we’re a bit short on both.
Metal support in Unity. Frameworks like Unity may be able to smooth out platform differences for developers (including artists).
A case for Apple pushing Metal
First off, there is some sense to Apple’s move here. Metal – like DirectX on Windows or Mantle from AMD – is a lower-level language for addressing the graphics hardware. That means less overhead, higher performance, and extra features. It suggests Apple is pushing their mobile platforms in particular as an option for higher-end games. We’ve seen gaming companies Razer and Asus create Android phones that have high-end specs on paper, but without a low-level API for graphics hardware or a significant installed base, those are more proof of concept than they are useful as game platform.
And Apple does love to deprecate APIs to force developers onto the newest stuff. That’s why so often your older OS versions are so quickly unsupported, even when developers don’t want to abandon you.
On mobile, Apple never implemented OpenCL in the first place. And there’s arguably a more significant gap between OpenGL ES and something like Metal for performance.
Another business case: Apple may be trying to drive a wedge in development between iOS and Android, to ensure more iOS-only games and the like. Since they can’t make platform exclusives the way something like a PlayStation or Nintendo Switch or Xbox can, this is one way to do it.
And it seems Apple is moving away from third-party hardware vendors, meaning they control both the spec here and the chips inside their devices.
But that doesn’t automatically make any of this more useful to end users and developers, who reap benefits from cross-platform support. It significantly increases the workload on Apple to develop APIs and graphics hardware – and to encourage enough development to keep up with competing ecosystems. So there’s a reason for standards to exist.
Vulkan offers some of the low-level advantages of Metal (or DirectX) … but it works cross-platform, even including Web contexts.
Pulling out of an industry standard group
The significant factor here about OpenGL generally is, it’s not software. It’s a specification for an API. And for the moment, it remains the industry standard specification for interfacing with the GPU. Unlike their move to embrace new variations of USB and Thunderbolt over the years, or indeed the company’s own efforts in the past to advance OpenGL, Apple isn’t proposing an alternative standard. They’re just pulling out of a standard the entire industry supports, without any replacement.
And this impacts a range of cross-platform software, open source software, and the ability to share code and research across operating systems, including but not limited to:
VJing and live visual software
Machine learning and neural network tools
Cross platform portability for those use cases meets a significant set of needs. Educators wanting to teach how to write shaders now face having students with Apple hardware having to use a different language, for example. Gamers wanting access to the largest possible library – as on services like Steam – will now likely see more platform-exclusive titles instead on the Apple hardware. And pros wanting access to specific open source, high-end video tools… well, here’s yet another reason to switch to Windows or Linux.
This doesn’t so much impact developers who rely on existing libraries that target Metal specifically. So, for instance, developing in the Unity Game Engine means your creation can use Metal on Apple platforms and OpenGL elsewhere. But because of the size of the ecosystem here, that won’t be the case for a lot of other use cases.
And yeah, I’m serious about Linux as a player here. As Microsoft and Apple continue to emphasize consumers over pros, cramming huge updates over networks and trying to foist them on users, desktop Linux has quietly gotten a lot more stable. For pro video production, post production, 3D, rendering, machine learning, research, and – even a growing niche of people working in audio and music – Linux can simply out-perform its proprietary relatives and save money and time.
So what happened to Vulkan?
Apple could have joined with the rest of the industry in supporting a new low-level API for computation and graphics. That standard is now doubly important as machine learning technology drives new ideas across art, technology, and society.
And apart from the value of it being a standard, Apple would break with important hardware partners here at their own peril. Yes, Apple makes a lot of their own hardware under the hood – but not all of it. Will they also make a move to proprietary graphics chips on the Mac, and will those keep up with PC offerings? (There is currently a Vulkan SDK for Mac. It’s unclear exactly how it will evolve in the wake of this decision.)
ExtremeTech have a scathing review of the sitution. it’s a must-read, as it clearly breaks down the different pipelines and specs and how they work. But it also points out, Apple have tended to lag not just in hardware adoption but in their in-house support efforts. That suggests you get an advantage from being on Windows or Linux, generally:
That’s little comfort for larger range backwards compatibility with “legacy” OpenGL, but it does bode reasonably well for the future. And, you know … fish tornadoes.
Side note: that’s not just any fish tornado. The credit is to Robert Hodgin, the creative coding artists aka flight404 responsible for many, many generative demos over the years – including a classic iTunes visualizer.)
Fragmentation or standards
Let’s be clear – even with OpenGL and OpenCL, there’s loads of fragmentation in the fields I mention, from hardware to firmware to drivers to SDKs. Making stuff work everywhere is messy.
But users, researchers, and developers do reap real benefits from cross-platform standards and development. And Metal alone clearly doesn’t provide that.
Here’s my hope: I hope that while deprecating OpenGL/CL, Apple does invest in Vulkan and its existing membership in Khronos Group (the industry consortium that supports that API as well as OpenGL). Apple following up this announcement with some news on Vulkan and cross-platform support – and how the transition to that and Metal would work – could turn the mood around entirely.
Apple’s reputation may be proprietary, but this is also the company that pushed USB and Thunderbolt, POSIX and WebKit, that used a browser to sell its first phone, and that was a leading advocate (ironically) for OpenGL and OpenCL.
As game directors and artists and scientists and thinkers all explore the possibilities of new graphics hardware, from virtual reality to artificial intelligence, we have some real potential ahead. The platforms that will win I think will be the ones that maximize capabilities and minimize duplication of effort.
And today, at least, Apple are leaving a lot of those users in the dark about just how that future will work.
I’d love your feedback. I’m ranting here partly because I know a lot of the most interesting folks working on this are readers, so do please get in touch. You know more than I do, and I appreciate your insights.
The free and open VCV Rack software modular platform already is full of a rich selection of open source modules. Now, Rack users get first access to the newest Mutable Instruments modules – and your $20 even goes to charity.
Mutable Instruments is unique among modular makers partly in that its modules are open source – and partly in that they’re really exceptionally creative and sound amazing.
Mutable’s Olivier Gillet was an early adopter of the open source model for music hardware, (along with CDM and our 2010 MeeBlip), starting with the classic Shruthi-1 desktop module (2012). But it’s really been in modular that Mutable has taken off. Even as Eurorack has seen a glut of modules, Olivier’s creations – like Braids, the Macro Oscillator, Clouds, and others – have stood out. And the open source side of this has allowed creative mods, like the Commodore 64 speech synthesis firmware we saw recently.
But Rack, by providing an open software foundation to run modules on, has opened a new frontier for those same modules, even after they’re discontinued. Rack’s ecosystem is a mix of free and open modules and proprietary paid modules. Here, you get a combination of those two ideas.
The software. (Macro Oscillator 2, “Audible Instruments,” in VCV Rack.)
Mutable’s Plaits, a successor to the original multi-functional Braids oscillator, isn’t out yet. And its source will be delayed a bit after that. But for twenty bucks, you get both Plaits (dubbed Macro Oscillator 2 inside VCV) ahead of release, opening up a wonderful new source for pitched and percussion sounds. Most of your money even goes to charity. (Actually, I’m happy to support these developers, too, but sure!) These are two of the more versatile sound sources anywhere.
The idea is, would-be hardware purchasers get an advance test. And everyone gets a version they can run in software for convenience. Either way, all synth lovers win, pretty much. Synthtopia has a similar take:
Maybe, maybe not but — on another level, even if this is just the model for Mutable’s stuff, it’s already good news modular fans and VCV Rack users.
And let’s not forget what it all sounds like. Here’s a mesmerizing, tranquil sound creation by Leipzig-based artist Synthicat, showing off Plaits / Macro Oscillator 2:
Another bonus of VCV Rack support for studio work – you get multiple instances easily, without buying multiple modules. So I can imagine a lot of people using elaborate modular setups they could never afford in the studio, then buying a smaller Eurorack rig for live performance use, for example. Check out Synthicat’s music at his Bandcamp site:
You’ll find a bunch of sound models available, from more traditional FM and analog oscillations to granular to percussive to, indeed, some of that weird speech synthesis business we mentioned. You also get a new interface with more flexible control and CV modulation, unifying what are in fact many different models of sound production into a single, unified, musical interface.
Loads and loads of models. Pop them up by right-clicking, or check the different icons on the center of the module panel.
As for Plaits hardware, here’s some more beautiful music:
When Mutable Instruments releases a new Eurorack module, its source code is kept closed to limit the proliferation of opportunistic “DIY” clones at a time when there is a lot of demand for the module and to avoid exposing dealers to canceled pre-orders. After several months, a second production run is finished and the source code is released.
In a collaboration between VCV and Mutable Instruments, we allow you to test these new modules before their source code is publicly available with the “Audible Instruments Preview” plugin.
We don’t intend to profit from this collaboration. Instead, 80% of sales are donated to the Direct Relief (https://www.directrelief.org/) Humanitarian Medical Aid charity organization. The price exists to limit widespread distribution until each module is mature enough to be merged into Audible Instruments.
I have no doubt this will get hardware people hooked on the software, software people hooked on the hardware, and everybody synth-y and happy.