macOS High Sierra upgrade requires some caution

macOS High Sierra (10.13) is out today. And that means it’s time to check in on compatibility with all your gear.

High Sierra is mostly about under-the-hood changes, and what Apple promises will be some forward-looking architectural improvements. There’s a new high-performance 64-bit Apple File System, intended for those internal flash drives. There are major changes to graphics support, dealing with the GPU and Apple’s own Metal API – though no indication that has any particular implications for music and media just yet so much as in the future. Virtual Reality support, long possible on Windows, is coming to the Mac – well, sort of, in that you’ll need an iMac Pro or a pricey external GPU. But what most users will see right now is the usual bundle of minor refinements and usability features.

No, usually what this means – especially for the complex ecosystem of tools in music – is checking to see if anything breaks. And for once, this appears to be a relatively trouble-free update if you’re on the latest version of software.

Changes to the file system, though, mean some caution is warranted.

Here are some early reports. If you’ve got more to add, either as a developer or user, get in touch (comments on this post or Twitter are probably easiest).

One piece of advice: update your drivers before updating, as the only real wrinkle appears to be driver installation related.

Driver vendors need to catch up on validating their drivers, as reported by Serato.

Serato users are advised to hold off; Serato have a blog entry explaining. The culprit is a driver installation issue.

The latest AIR Music Tech plug-ins all work; see knowledge base story

New versions of Propellerhead Software work; old versions, though, don’t. (Think file damage with that new file system – danger, Will Robinson.) Reason 9.5.2, Reason 10, Reason Essentials 9.5.2, Reason Essentials 10 are all good, so just watch older versions. Here’s their statement:

Due to Apple’s introduction of a completely new file system (APFS) in High Sierra, many older versions are not compatible. This means that Propellerhead products before Reason 9.5.2 will not work correctly after updating to the latest version of macOS. Using High Sierra may in some cases even damage your documents, rendering them unusable.

We strongly recommend you NOT to upgrade to High Sierra if you intend to use earlier versions of Propellerhead products on your computer.

Most Akai Professional products are supported; there’s a blog post covering both macOS High Sierra and iOS 11.

Traktor Pro has an update now in beta; 2.11.1 is now in release candidate so I’d wait for that to appear as an update before upgrading the OS. There’s a public beta available.

We’ll add to this story as we get more reports.

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Now a DAW does pitch and time shifts the way you wish it would

If the last generation of production software was about UI, workflow, and add-on extras, the next generation may be about science. Witness MOTU’s DP 9.5.

DP, aka Digital Performer, is that DAW everyone forgets about, but really shouldn’t. Now on both Windows and Mac, and a long-time staple of hard-core niches like the TV scoring business, DP has quietly added all the stuff that makes using a DAW better, without too much extra stuffing, often advancing without any hype past other rivals in key areas.

But even doing that, it’s hard for a DAW to stand out.

So, how about this: how about if a DAW let you manipulate time and pitch in a way that sounded less artificial? Wouldn’t that be a reason to use it?

And while various DAWs have licensed technology for improving time and pitch stretching, most of them still sound, well, pretty crap – especially if you go beyond small changes. (That hasn’t stopped me from using the artifacts creatively, but then the problem is, even those results tend to sound too much alike.)

So, the pairing of Zynaptiq with MOTU gets pretty interesting.

Zynaptiq is one of a handful of developers working on brain-bending DSP science to achieve sonic effects you haven’t heard before. (For some reason, a lot of these players seem to be in Germany … or Cambridge, Massachusetts. The latter is an MIT thing; the former, a German thing? Zynaptiq is out of Hannover.)

In the case of Zynaptiq, “artificial intelligence” and machine learning meet new advances in DSP. Whatever’s going on there (and I hope to cover that more), the results sound really extraordinary. Every time I’ve been at a trade show where the developer was exhibiting, people would grab you by the arms and say, have you heard the crazy stuff they’re doing it sounds like the future. That was aided by a unique demo style.

But there’s a big leap when you can integrate that kind of capability into a DAW and its existing workflow, without all the weird extra steps required to go back and forth to a plug-in.

And that’s what DP 9.5 does – in an update that’s free for all existing users, adding Zynaptiq’s ZTX PRO tech.

You get time stretching everywhere, so speeding up and slowing down by small increments or huge sounds natural. And they’ve done a bunch of work so you can change tempo adjustments and conductor tempo maps – which was always, always one of the best features of DP. (I was at the Aspen Music Festival in the late 90s listening to a film composer show off how easy scoring with DP markers was, fully two decades ago. Two decades later, the competition still hasn’t caught up, and DP has continued to expand on that feature.)

Plus you get pitch shifting and relative pitch editing, as you’ve seen with products like Celemony, but far more deeply integrated in the DAW and with (to my ear) better-sounding results. So yes, that does pitch shifting and pitch correction, but it also opens up some really interesting creative possibilities. This isn’t just about making bad singers sound better; it could be a boon to creative editing. (I just spent the last weekend poking around in Logic’s archaic and dated implementation for the heck of it, not knowing DP 9.5 was coming and… well, just no.)

There are “quality” presets, too, to help you find the right settings.

Have a listen in the demos. Here’s pitch shifting:

And here’s time shifting:

And from the ever-lovely Gotye (really nice chap with a terrifically nice band and some great producers, I have to say, just because I like nice people), some other examples:

Unrelated to all this, 9.5 also has a window that makes it easier to monitor processing load, so you can identify CPU hogs. (Heck, that may mean DP is now part of my standard test suite for plug-ins.) This combines with other unique performance management features in DP, like “pre-gen” capability, which eases the load on your CPU by pre-rendering audio.

Good stuff. More from MOTU:

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PPG Infinite’s touch morphing could make it soft synth of the summer

Over the weekend, PPG mastermind Wolfgang Palm let slip his latest creation: PPG Infinite. In previews for iPad, we see an innovative touch synth full of morphing and wave shaping tools.

There are two videos. The first one … uh … well, mainly involves hearing some sounds and staring into the void of space. (True fact: this is what normally happens inside my brain when I look at my to-do list on a Monday.)

But the second video actually reveals plenty – way more than just a teaser. And even from these screenshots, the “Infinite” name suggests that PPG took basically everything they’ve ever done and built a fresh synth around it.

There’s vocal synthesis (à la their Phonem app and plug-in).

There’s wavetable synthesis, with fingers gliding through representation of waveforms, as per the original PPG Wave synths and PPG’s first app, WaveMapper. (Palm is the inventor of wavetable synthesis.)

There’s also the new functions of their follow-up synth WaveGenerator, with more ways of generating and navigating and shaping waves.

And then it seems there’s more.

If you blinked, you may have missed something, so let’s get some frame-by-frame replay. Infinite sees synth wizard Palm teaming up again with designer Cornel Hecht (who also provides the spacey background music for these videos).

Here, we get a unique-looking synth architecture, one that adds loads of touch-accessible morphing modes for combining sounds, as well as something called the “noiser” – which appears to be a spectrally-shaped noise source.

And at its heart, there’s the functionality that made the first PPG app such a breakthrough on the iPad, the ability to “touch the sound” by scanning and morphing wavetables with 3D and 2D views. That visual seems now greatly expanded as a central user paradigm, and it seems to me that it could be reason to see iPads running this app alongside beloved hardware synths in the studio or onstage.

Of course, the other Palm apps have also now been available as VST/AU plug-in, so I hope we’ll see that for this, too. (No reason to choose, either – you might use your iPad to shape presets, then loads those into the plug-in when it comes time to track and arrange and finish tracks. I need to research whether multi-touch computers on Windows can support touch gestures for plug-ins – not sure on that – but even with a mouse, this looks fun.)

Let’s have a look:

Touch is central to the UI. These morphing options look especially nice and accessible, even if you aren’t ready to delve into every nitpicky detail of the architecture and sound design:

A glimpse of the architecture, including simplified oscillator controls and these morphing and noiser options:

The oscillator interface really appears to shine via touch interaction:

A closer look at those controls:

The presets are suggestive of the combination of two or three of the previous instruments from PPG – and indicate some diversity of possibilities with this one, from vocal-ish presets to percussion to pads, bass, leads, and all that business:

For those so inclined, it appears you can get really deep with mapping by key range and matrix-style modulation:

I love the LFO interface, both for its advanced parameters (for going deep) and clever touch adjustment (for quick play):

Stills don’t do it justice, but as in the other PPG apps, it’s really getting your grubby fingers on the 3D waveform view that looks like fun. Combine that with some new vocal synth options, and … sold.

It’s about time for an exciting new soft synth, especially with Alchemy having disappeared into Logic and most of the headlines covering hardware. And for all the depth and diversity on the iPad, this could be one that stands out on that platform – not least if it’s paired with desktop plug-ins so you don’t disrupt your workflow.

Ready, Wolfgang. Watching for this one.

Stay tuned to CDM for this one, with team coverage by myself and Ashley (Palm Sounds).

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Syntronik is the new monster softsynth from IK; hear from its creator

IK Multimedia’s all-new Syntronik isn’t just one vintage synth – it’s up to 38 of those, plus loads of filters and effects, in one plug-in package.

This isn’t the first time IK has offered this sort of “models of everything” approach. But this time, there’s a ground-up approach to modeling original analog circuits, combined with sampling – new engine, new presets. And since there’s a free version, you don’t have to be afraid of commitment before you test drive.

That technological explanation alone doesn’t say that much, though. Part of what makes any synth playable – whether that instrument is analog or digital, hardware or software – is the humans who worked on it.

Erik Norlander, one of the lead sound designers of Syntronik project, makes a particularly special sound programmer. Norlander was the lead on the legendary, multitimbral Alesis Andromeda. When it was released in 2000, analog had largely been abandoned by the mass market – this is two years before even the Minimoog Voyager. In fact, it wouldn’t be a huge stretch to say the Andromeda was the instrument that changed the course of the industry (well, changed it back again, that is). Unique analog sounds and hands-on controls (rather than digital sound and menu diving) were finally back in the game, paired with a more modern architecture and pitch correction.

That is, even if the Andromeda doesn’t trigger warm, fuzzy feelings, you can thank it at least in part for a lot of the character of synths today.

I’ll even forgive Erik some bias and sales jargon here, because he’s got some points about the IK offering. To find out what he has to say, we’re going to try something different. Norlander and IK talked first to Japan’s IKON Magazine. Here, we have an edited, English-language edition of that interview.

This is an experiment for us, but hopefully allows us to share more content with our friends in Japan at ICON. (The original is at bottom, if you do speak Japanese.)

Erik Norlander. (Photo: Erik Nielsen.)

Full list of synths:

Modular Moog, Minimoog Model D, Moog Voyager, Moog Taurus I, Moog Taurus II, Moog Taurus 3, Polymoog, Moog Opus 3, Moog Rogue, Realistic Concertmate MG-1, Multimoog, Micromoog, Moog Prodigy, Sequential Circuits Prophet-5, Sequential Circuits Prophet-10, ARP 2600, Oberheim SEM, Oberheim OB-X, Oberheim OB-Xa, Yamaha CS-80, Yamaha GX-1, Yamaha CS-01II, Yamaha SY99, Roland Juno-60, Roland Jupiter-8, Roland Jupiter-6, Roland Jupiter-4, Roland JX-10, Roland JX-8P, Roland JX-3P, Roland TB-303 Bassline, Alesis Andromeda, PPG Wave 2.3, ARP String Ensemble, Elka Rhapsody 490, Hohner String Performer, Roland RS-505 Paraphonic & Roland RS-09 Organ/Strings

CDM English-language article

ICON: Why did you choose to release a vintage synthesizer and string machine instrument as the first virtual instrument after MODO BASS?

Erik Norlander (EN): We want to be the total solution for virtual instruments. To reach this goal, IK has created major updates to our instrument product line, starting with SampleTank 3 in 2014. We released several SampleTank Custom Shop Instrument Collections after this, including the spectacular Cinematic Percussion and Brandenburg Piano. Then we released Miroslav Philharmonik 2, our orchestral / symphonic virtual instrument recording in Prague, along with the follow-on Orchestral Percussion Instrument Collection, recorded in Hollywood, California. MODO Bass is a brilliant product that had been in the works for many years, while developing this amazing new modeling technology.

So, we have covered most acoustic instruments with SampleTank 3, Miroslav Philharmonik and the Custom Shop Instrument Collections, and electric bass with MODO Bass. The next logical step was a synthesizer product to provide our users with the best electronic sounds available. Rather than simply update SampleMoog or Sonik Synth, we took a different approach and made a completely new and far more extensive instrument called Syntronik. Syntronik combines the best of sampling and modeling to recreate our favorite classic synthesizers and take them even farther.

ICON: IK Multimedia has been selling vintage synthesizer instruments like SampleMoog. What are the main differences between Syntronik and those vintage synthesizer instruments released in the past?

EN: First, we should establish that Syntronik is not just a vintage synthesizer instrument. Of course you can get all of the vintage sounds, but Syntronik is a modern instrument intended for creating all kinds of music, including the latest cutting-edge pop and electronica. We have sampled 38 timeless, classic instruments that form the foundation of Syntronik, and then those get processed by our amazing IK modeling technology which includes both classic filter emulations and modern digital filters. Our new DRIFT algorithm adds life to our samples in a truly animated and compelling approach.

We add to this an engineer’s dream collection of effects, including models of the famous Pultec, Urei, Teletronix, Fairchild EQs and limiters, guitar amps and modulation effects including our new Ensemble effect modeled especially for Syntronik. This one recreates the beautiful analog chorus-ensemble effects of the famous ARP String Ensemble, Roland Juno-60 and Roland string machines such as the RS-505 Paraphonic Ensemble. All of this puts Syntronik light years ahead of our past synthesizer products.

IKON: Syntronik is using sampling technology, apart from the modeling of filters and effects. Why didn’t you make it by 100% modeling like MODO BASS?

EN: IK is a leader in both sampling and modeling, and we chose to use the best of both worlds for Syntronik. We have found that the best way to truly capture and recreate the sound of classic analog hardware is to sample it using our finely-tuned recording techniques and editing workflow that has been developed over decades. Modeling can give you more flexibility in some cases, but there is nothing like hearing an audiophile sample of the actual instrument. When you hear our samples of the Oberheim OB-X, it really sounds just like an Oberheim OB-X. Because it is an OB-X. The tone is undeniable. Our DRIFT algorithm removes many of the limitations of sample playback, and the modeled filters and effects add a further dimension.

IKON: How did you choose 38 instruments? Do we have a plan to expand it with more instruments?

EN: We started with the ten most famous classic synthesizers, the Minimoog, the Prophet-5, the CS-80, the SEM, etc. and then we expanded on that base to add related instruments like the Multimoog, Micromoog, Prodigy, Rogue and similar synths that are less known but still sound amazing. In the case of our String Box synth, we started with the most famous string machine, the ARP String Ensemble. Then we expanded that synth with other great string machines, like the Roland RS-505 and RS-09, the Elka Rhapsody, Hohner String Performer, and Univox Multiman, which is a variant of the famous Crumar Orchestrator. We started out with a smaller set, but we just kept adding synths because they sounded so great, and it made sense in the context of the product.

IKON: How did you have those 38 instruments themselves? Were they owned by IK? Or are some of them rented from someone?

EN: I own most of the hardware instruments as you can see in the photo on our Syntronik product page on the IK web site. I sampled a few rarities like the Yamaha GX-1 and then the tiny CS-01 (incidentally, the biggest and smallest synths in the collection!) during other sessions over the years when I could find the opportunity.

IKON: Are all samples included in Syntronik new? Or are you using some samples from previous products like SampleMoog?

EN: 98% of the samples are new. We included some legacy sounds from SampleMoog that I recorded several years ago that we felt were good enough to include in Syntronik. And in some cases, we even went back to the original recording sessions of the SampleMoog material and made larger versions of the keymaps.

IKON: What is the bit depth / sample resolution, — bits/–kHz? Are you using Pro Tools | HDX to record those samples? Could you also tell us which A/D converter are you using?

EN: All of the samples were recorded into MOTU Digital Performer, and the original sessions were done at the highest resolution available. Some downsampling was done in some cases to create more manageable file sizes, where there was no perceivable audio quality loss. In the case of bit depth, in general, the looped, sustaining samples are at 16-bit, since they do not have more amplitude resolution than that and it would be a waste of disk space and memory to keep all 24 bits of data. Our Syntronik internal audio path is 32-bit, so our envelopes have more dynamic range than any DAC can even reproduce! So when our envelopes decay a looped sample to silence, it is with extreme dynamic resolution. Then for the samples that decay to silence, we kept them at 24-bit to preserve the full dynamic range of the sampled analog decays.

IKON: Please explain what is the Drift technology.

EN: DRIFT is a very sophisticated algorithm that the IK team developed after over a year of transcontinental discussions. We debated what it should do, what it should not do, how to do it, and how not to do it. DRIFT modulates multiple aspects of the sound to authentically recreate the behavior of free running oscillators.

On an analog synth, the oscillators are running all the time. It is the envelope that gates them on and off. So unlike a digital sample, the waveform does not always start at a zero crossing. The synth envelope will often catch the wave in the middle or somewhere else in its cycle. Simple sample start point modulation doesn’t quite work for this, because you get clicks when a sample starts far away from its zero crossing, so some kind of smoothing is necessary to recreate the rise time of an analog VCA. Then there’s the famous pitch drifting of analog oscillators that cannot be duplicated by a simple LFO. So using everything we know about sampling and modeling, we came up with an algorithm that combines multiple treatments to a sample to give it the organic life and animation of an analog oscillator. It’s proprietary technology, so I can’t go into more detail than that. But suffice it to say, it sounds amazing.

IKON: When did you start developing Syntronik? What are the biggest challenges to finish making it?

EN: It took less than a year from the time we conceived the product to the time it was released. But we’re building on 20 years of IK Multimedia technology, so we had some pretty amazing resources at our disposal. In this sense, it was not like starting from zero. And many of the samples come from a private, unreleased library that I have been crafting over many years. I was looking for the best time and platform to release the the library, and Syntronik is it.

IKON: There are many virtual instruments of vintage synthesizers in the market. What are the main advantage of Syntronik over those products?

EN: There are so many excellent virtual synthesizers. We love the Spectrasonics, Arturia and UVI products, and so many others. But comparing Syntronik to these is like comparing a Ferrari to a Porsche, or comparing a California Cabernet to an Italian Barbera. They are different approaches borne from different visions and different inspirations. We set out to capture the feel, the style, the essence of our favorite classic synthesizers with a specific sonic intention and present them in a powerful, easy-to-use virtual instrument that would put the real sound of 38 amazing instruments at your fingertips. I really think we achieved that.

IKON: Propellerhead announced to stop selling ReBirth-338 due to some intellectual property issues. We see the names of synthesizers in Syntronik pages. Aren’t you worried about the intellectual property issues?

EN: We are tremendously respectful of the original hardware manufacturers. Moog Music has of course been a partner with us in the past, and we have the highest regard for them as well as Roland, Yamaha, Dave Smith and Sequential, Tom Oberheim and his companies, Wolfgang Palm and PPG, and all the rest. I was the original product manager for the Alesis Andromeda hardware synth, so naturally I have tremendous respect for that brand and product. Our GUIs are all homages to these great hardware synths. They provide visual elements that harken back to the originals and give you the feeling of those great hardware instruments, but they are most definitely not copies of the original designs. And you will never see us using the term “Jupiter” or “Juno” in the product. We have also been very thorough with our legal disclaimers to state who owns which trademark and to clarify non-affiliation when appropriate.

IKON: What’s behind the name Syntronik?

EN: It is the logical next step from our “Philharmonik” product. Both of these instruments end in “ik” which of course is a reference to IK Multimedia. So Philharmonik is the orchestral instrument, and Syntronik is the electronic instrument. Who knows, there may be more of this theme to explore. And in the case of the “Syn” part, this very much follows Bob Moog’s excellent definition of synthesis meaning simply “many parts.” In our case, the “many parts” are the samples, the modeling, the effects and the super-user-friendly graphical experience. “Syn” here does NOT imply “synthetic” — the opposite of organic — or “artificial” in any way. Syntronik is very much a living, breathing musical instrument full of expression and animation.

IKON: Syntronik can be used as SampleTank 3 expansion instruments. Do you have a plan to publish an open SDK so that third party developers can make SampleTank 3 instruments, Native Instruments KONTAKT and UVI Engine?

EN: We are discussing this, and there is a good possibility that we will open up the platform at some point.

IKON: Can you tell us a bit of the update roadmap of Syntronik?

EN: You can of course purchase the full version, which I recommend. The 17 synths in the product were all chosen to be complementary, and we don’t expect any one synth to provide every synth sound you would want.

But you can start with Syntronik Free which includes 50 instruments and 1GB of samples. It is truly free, and it is fully functional — there are no limitations in the functionality, it is only the samples and instrument count that is reduced. And the free version is pretty spectacular, I have to say! If anyone has any doubts about the product, please try the free version, which will give you a very good feeling of the full product. With the free version, you can purchase individual synths, any of the 17, and custom-build your own library. So, if you only are interested in Roland® TB-303-style synth bass sounds or Moog Taurus® pedal-like timbres, you can buy just the T-03 or Bully synths.

IKON: Lastly, please give us a message for IK Multimedia fans in Japan.

EN: Syntronik was a lot of work to create, and it required some very heavy lifting on every side, from the recording to the editing to the modeling to GUI developing to the coding. But it was an exciting and rewarding project, truly a labor of love for all involved. We have a really inspired vision for this product, and we can’t wait for our musicians friends in Japan to play our beautiful instrument. We look forward to hearing the wonderful music you will make with our instrument, and we hope that it inspires you as much as it has inspired us.

Photos: Erik Nielsen.

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Tool to make music from Leap Motion gestures is free, VR could be next

This is about as affordable and easy as gestural interaction with music can get. The powerful Geco music controller app pairs with the $80 Leap Motion hand tracking hardware – and now the app is free.

But it could be just the beginning.

For its part, the Leap Motion is now sort of yesterday’s news. But the small rectangular box is still a quick-and-easy way to get your computer tracking hand gestures – if you’re into that sort of thing. Geert Bevin’s Geco app provides the glue between the Leap’s sensing capabilities and your music software, allowing the computer to recognize gestures and then convey them as MIDI or OSC messages (among other tricks).

And if for some reason you had a Leap and waited to pick up the app – or if you needed an excuse to give this a play – now the app is free. (Since its release, it’s also had some major updates, so it’s worth another go even if you tried it before.)

I’ve played with Geert’s app before, and it’s fairly impressive. You’re always going to be a tough critic of any sort of gestural interaction, because the link between hands and perception is so finely tuned. But the Leap opens up some possibilities – even if you don’t really want to wave your hands around for a whole performance, it could add the ability to perform quick shortcuts or control a single parameter. And it’s a huge advance in comparison to things like Roland’s IR-tracking technology, for instance.

But it’s what’s coming round the bend that may be most interesting. The reason Geert had to make Geco free at this particular moment is that Leap is killing its app store. (See their blog post on the topic. It’s not the most elegant “sunsetting,” but then it seems the whole industry had to get over this idea that everyone should create an app store as Apple had.)

Leap are moving on to take the software and hardware smarts of the Leap Motion and start to build it into two new (overlapping) arenas – mobile and VR.


Right away, in fact, you can use the Leap Motion with Windows and Android VR headsets. (The, erm, sophisticated integration technology there is a “universal adapter” that involves just mounting the Leap Motion to the headset itself – plastic and 3M adhesive.)

The thing is, the Leap Motion is kind of cool when tethered to a computer, but way more interesting when it’s set loose. And that’s the next step, with something upcoming that Leap is calling the Leap Mobile Platform.

Think virtual reality and augmented reality – battery powered, untethered from a computer, and totally mobile.

For music, this is especially compelling as it opens up the possibility of new experimentation with interfaces. VR and AR have given us the visuals of what that could look like, but that’s meaningless without the ability to interact with those worlds.

Geert tells CDM he’s working in this direction: “I’ll be getting an early version in order to be able to take what I’ve learned from my GECO and GameWAVE Leap Motion apps and apply this to Mobile Leap Motion with VR and AR,” he says. “I’m really interested in the AR part for live performance.”

AR is augmented reality – that is, a visualization that you see atop the real world, instead of replacing your vision entirely. AR beats VR onstage, unless you want to shut yourself off from your audience with enormous goggles.

In the meantime, there’s no need to wait – you can use Geco right now, provided you can get your hands on a Leap Motion. And with Apple having unveiled its augmented reality solution last month, and a bunch of parties jumping on VR and AR on Windows, Android, and beyond for gaming and other experiences, we’ll be watching to see whether musicians find a way to use these technologies in coming months.

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Cableguys are showing some amazing tips for their shaper plugins

Cablesguys are one of the more interesting purveyors of plug-ins out there, and they’ve been showing off some interesting stuff with their lineup.

These things can be a bit hard to describe, just in theory – okay, so you’ve got VolumeShaper and TimeShaper, which shape … volume .. and … time.

But in practice, you begin to see some really compelling possibilities coming out of this approach and user interface.

With VolumeShaper, one recent plug-in, you can take hi-hats out of an existing loop (meaning this is also a must-have plug-in for remixes, for example).

TimeShaper can be used for special effects, like faking vinyl scratch-style effects without using vinyl.

Their YouTube channel, fairly quiet for some time, has been popping with new plug-in tutorials. See here:

And you can try some free trials of each of these tools. I remember watching these developers way back with their first MidiShaper years ago. It’s great to see how they’ve evolved.


VolumeShaper 5


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iPad Pro vs Surface 4 für Musikanwendungen – Neu gemischt!

Apple iPad Pro Serie

Seit der Apple Keynote gibt es neue Versionen des iPad Pro. Diese zeichnet nicht nur der etwas größere Formfaktor des kleineren iPads aus, sondern auch neue Prozessoren.

Was hat sich geändert? Die neuen Ausgaben des iPad Pro haben einen helleren Screen und sind exakter mit dem Stift. Beides Dinge, die eher für Zeichner interessant sind und Leute, die den eh schon ziemlich exakten Pencil nutzen. Vielleicht macht der ein oder andere auch seine Flyer und Covers selbst. Aber gehen wir mal zur Musik über.

Mehr Leistung im Apple iPad Pro

Was ist da wichtig? Wenn man Software-Synthesizer nutzt, braucht man Rechenkraft. Die haben die neuesten Generationen des iPad Pro mit dem A10X Prozessor bekommen. Es wird einen Zuwachs um den Faktor 3 geben. Nach Vergleichen ist das vorhergehende iPad bereits auf dem Niveau eines Macbook Air gewesen und dank bereits vorhandener Benchmarks und Tests kann man klar sagen: Diese neuen iPads haben enorm viel Leistung.

Intel vs. ARM-Prozessoren

Im Surface arbeitet ein Intel i7-Prozessor, sofern man sich den besten herauspickt. Das ist also eine klassische Prozessorjagd, fast wie in alten “Mac vs. PC”-Tagen! Wann schafft es ein ARM-Prozessor Intel in Schranken zu weisen oder auch – mit dem unbedingt mobilen Charakter eines Rechners –, wie viel kann man tun, ohne dass das Gerät überhitzt?

Genau deshalb sind für Poweruser eigentlich Geräte ideal, die eine hohe Taktfrequenz haben, eine moderne Architektur und Rechenleistung, die nicht nur auf viele Kerne setzt, sondern auf einen hohen Takt achten muss. Schließlich kann Audio in Echtzeit noch nicht ganz parallelisiert werden. Hier spielen Kerne eine Rolle. Davon hat der A10X jetzt 6, die i7 Serie im Surface hat maximal 4. Die übliche Zahl für kleinere Books ist oft sogar nur 2.

Power gibt es also jetzt viel, und das macht die iPad Pros attraktiv. Ebenso ihr eigentlich einfaches Handling und die jetzt möglichen 512GB RAM sowie das Filezugangssystem mit iOS 11. Und SSDs machen sogar DAWs schneller und effizienter.

Apple iPad Pro 10_5 Zoll

Apple iPad Pro 10_5 Zoll

Wo es noch hapert

Nur ist iOS trotzdem noch ein Touch-OS. Es ist ein ausgereiftes Betriebssystem, jedoch gibt es noch keine Pro-Apps und Strukturen, die denen von Desktop-Systemen gleichkommen. Bei Audio gibt es zwar jetzt Plug-Ins und sogar auch Sequencer, die man ernst nehmen kann. Aber das ist jetzt noch relativ neu und wird noch nicht von jedem Hersteller unterstützt, der eine Audio-App baut.

Ebenso sind MIDI- und Audio-Routing von Apps intern und untereinander so flexibel wie Windows, MacOS oder ggf. sogar Linux. Daran wird man am Ende messen, wie sinnvoll das ist. Für Livemusiker, die einige Synthesizer live spielen wollen, ist das iPad absolut das Richtige. Es ist easy, man muss sich um wenig kümmern, die Leistung ist sagenhaft, und der Platzverbrauch ist minimal.

Eine Tastatur oder Controller anzuschließen ist kein Problem, und Samples einschaufeln ist mit Filesystem und viel Platz auch nicht mehr schwer. Aber man ist am Ende etwas mehr auf der Insel als mit einem Desktop-OS, mit dem das Surface glänzen kann.

Ob man nun Macs, iOS oder Windows mehr mag, spielt hier noch nicht die Rolle. Vielmehr geht es darum, dass Leute eine Art Ableton Live oder ein Cubase auf dem iPad fahren wollen. Die Möglichkeiten sind zwar da ist, es ist aber noch nicht dasselbe wie bei einem Desktop- (0der auch Laptop-)System. Allerdings gibt es hingegen unglaublich gute Synth-Apps und in Teilen auch ganz nette Sequencer. Genau so sollte man das lesen.

Mein iPad Pro

Mein privater Einsatz des iPad Pro (vorige Generation) ist primär der, einen Synthesizer weniger mitnehmen zu müssen. Eigentlich sogar mehrere: Ich kann einen FM-Synth, einen Granularsampler statt des V-Synth, den Arp Odyssei und den Vector – und Wavetable-Synth einfach auf der Bühne mit dabei haben, ohne einen “klassischen Computer” mitnehmen zu müssen – und die Dinger klingen inzwischen alle wirklich gut.

So auch das Moog Model 15, was auf dem großen iPad Pro so zu sehen ist, wie man sich das eigentlich wünscht, ebenso der VCS3. Es gibt viel Platz! Wer damit glücklich ist, der ist gut beim iPad Pro aufgehoben.

Wer mal eben ein paar Samples mitnehmen will, die für Hardware-Grooveboxen zu sperrig und spontan sind, der hat einen guten Partner. Auch mit Effekten und mehrfachen Synths oder Layers mit mehreren Synths hat man kein Problem. Wohl aber mit mehreren Audioports und Co., was iOS zwar unterstützt aber eben nicht jede App. Hier ist ein Surface vorn, denn das hat in diesem Bereich ein vollwertiges OS. Aber dessen Geschwindigkeit ist nicht das maximal Machbare.

Surface Pro 4

Surface Pro 4

Surface vs. iPad Pro

In der Surface-Familie ist das Surface Book noch am schnellsten. Erst danach kommt das etwas gemächlichere Pro 4/5. Hier nimmt sich das in der Praxis nicht mehr viel. So zumindest die Aussage einer sehr bekannten professionellen elektronischen Band, die ich dazu befragte. Beide sind ok. Aber iPads sind auch im Einsatz. Man ist offener bei der Wahl, was man laufen lässt. Ich als Apple-User würde das iPad Pro nehmen. Aber was heißt das schon? Die beiden Apple-Geräte sind übrigens gleich in der Leistung.

Die Abstände in der Leistung sind nicht all zu weit entfernt, aber mit den neuen Prozessoren könnte Apple sogar Macbooks bauen. Wieso eigentlich nicht?

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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ROLI now make a $299, ultra-compact expressive keyboard

ROLI are filling out their mobile line of controllers, Blocks, with a two-octave keyboard – and that could change a lot. In addition to the wireless Bluetooth, battery-powered light-up X/Y pad and touch shortcuts, now you get something that looks like an instrument. The Seaboard Block is an ultra-mobile, expressive keyboard for your iOS gadget or computer, and it’s available for $299, including in Apple Stores.

If you wanted a new-fangled “expressive” keyboard – a controller on which you can move your fingers into and around the keys for extra expression – ROLI already had one strong candidate. The Seaboard RISE is a beautiful, futuristic, slim device with a familiar key layout and a price of US$799. It’ll feel a bit weird playing a piano sound on it if you’re a keyboardist, since the soft, spongy keys will be new to you. But you’ll know where the notes are, and it’ll be responsive. Then, switch to any more unusual sound – synths, physical modeled instruments, and the like – and it becomes simply magical. Finally, you have a new physical interface for your new, unheard sounds.

For me, the RISE was already a sweet spot. But I’ll be honest, I can still imagine holding back because of the price. And it doesn’t fit in my backpack, or my easyJet-friendly rollaway.

Size and price matter. So the Seaboard Block, if it feels good, could really be the winner. And even if you passed up that X/Y pad and touch controller, you might take a second look at this one. (Plus, it makes those Blocks make way more sense.)



We’ll get one in to test when they ship later this month. But ROLI also promise a touch and feel similar to the RISE (if not quite as deep, since the Block is slimmer). I found the previous Blocks to be responsive, but not as expressive as the RISE – so that’s good news.

What you get is a two-octave keyboard in a small-but-playable minikey form factor, USB-C for charging and MIDI out, and connectors for snap-and-play use with other Blocks.

For those of you not familiar, the Seaboard line also include what ROLI somewhat confusingly call “5D Touch.” (“Help! I’m trapped in a tesseract and wound up in a wormhole to an evil dimension and now there’s a version of me with an agonizer telling me to pledge allegiance to the Terran Empire!”)

What this means in practical terms is, you can push your fingers into the keys and make something happen, or slide them up and down the surface of the keys and make something happen, or wiggle and bend between notes, or run your finger along a continuous touch strip below the keys and get glissandi. And that turns out to be really, really useful. Also, I can’t overstate this enough – if you have even basic keyboard skills, having a piano-style layout is enormously intuitive. (By the same token, the Linnstrument seems to make sense to people used to frets.)

Add an iPhone or iPad running iOS 9 or later, and you instantly can turn this into an instrument – no wires required. The free Noise app gives you tons of sounds to start with. That means this is probably the smallest, most satisfying jam-on-the-go instrument I can imagine – something you could fit into a purse, let alone a backpack, and use in a hotel room or on a bus without so much as a wire or power connection. (With ten hours battery life, I’m fairly certain the Seaboard Block will run out of battery later than my iPhone does).

Regular CDM readers probably will want it to do more than that for three hundred bucks. So, you do get compatibility with various other tools. Ableton Live, FXpansion Strobe2, Native Instruments Kontakt and Massive, Bitwig Studio, Apple Logic Pro (including the amazing Sculpture), Garageband, SampleModeling SWAM, and the crazy-rich Spectrasonics Omnisphere all work out of the box.


You can also develop your own tools with a rich open SDK and API. That includes some beautiful tools for Max/MSP. Not a Max owner? There’s even a free 3-month license included. (Dedicated tools for integrating the Seaboard Block are coming soon.)

The SDK actually to me makes this worth the investment – and worth the wait to see what people come up with. I’ll have a full story on the SDK soon, as I think this summer is the perfect time for it.

The Touch block, which previously seemed a bit superfluous, also now looks useful, as it gives you additional hands-on control of how the keyboard responds. That X/Y pad makes a nice combo, too. But my guess is, for most of us, you may drop those and just use the keyboard – and of course modularity allows you to do that.

ROLI aren’t without computation (somewhat amazingly, given these devices were once limited to experimental one-offs). The forthcoming JOUE, from the creator of the JazzMutant Lemur, is an inbound Kickstarter-backed product. And I have to say, it’s truly extraordinary – the touch sensitivity and precision is unmatched on the market. But there isn’t an obvious controller template or app combo to begin with, so it’s more a specialist device. The ROLI instrument works out of the box with an app, and will be in physical Apple Stores. And the ROLI has a specific, fixed playing style the JOUE doesn’t quite match. My guess is the two will be complementary, and there’s even reason for JOUE lovers to root for ROLI – because ROLI are developing the SDK, tools, instrument integration, and user base that could help other devices to succeed. (Think JOUE, Linnstrument, Madrona Labs Soundplane, not to mention the additions to the MIDI spec.)

Anyway, this is all big news – and coming on the heels of news of Ableton’s acquisition of Max/MSP, this week may prove a historical one. What was once the fringe experimentation of the academic community is making a real concerted entry into the musical mainstream. Now the only remaining question, and it’s a major one, is whether the weirdo stuff catches on. Well, you have a hand in that, too – weirdos, assemble!

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Arturia AudioFuse: all the connections, none of the hidden settings

After a long wait, Arturia’s AudioFuse interface has arrived. And on paper, at least, it’s like audio interface wish fulfillment.

What do you want in an interface? You want really reliable, low-latency audio. You want all the connections you need. (Emphasis on what you need, because that’s tricky – not everyone needs the same thing.) And you want to be able to access the settings without having to dive through menus or load an application.


That last one has often been a sticking point. Even when you do find an interface with the right connections and solid driver reliability and performance, a lot of the time the stuff you change every day is buried in some hard-to-access menus, or even more likely, on some application you have to load on your computer and futz around with.

And oh yeah — it’s €/$599. That’s aggressively competitive when you read the specs.

I requested one of these for review when I met with Arturia at Musikmesse in Frankfurt some weeks ago, so this isn’t a review – that’s coming. But here are some important specs.



Basically, you get everything you need as a solo musician/producer – 4 outs (so you can do front/rear sound live, for instance), 4 ins, plus phono pre’s for turntables, two mic pres (not just one, as some boxes annoyingly have), and MIDI.

Plus, there’s direct monitoring, separate master / monitor mix channels (which is great for click tracks, cueing for DJs or live, and anything that requires a separate monitor mix, as well as tracking), and a lot of sync and digital options.

It’s funny, this is definitely on my must-have list, but it’s hard to find a box that does this without getting an expansive (and expensive) interface that may have more I/O than one person really needs.

This is enough for pretty much all the tracking applications one or two people recording will need, plus the monitoring options you need for various live, DJ, and studio needs, and A/B monitor switching you need in the studio. It also means as a soloist, you can eliminate a lot of gear – also important when you’re on the go.

Their full specs:

2 DiscretePRO microphone preamps
2 RIAA phono preamps
4 analog inputs
2x Mic/Instrument/Line (XLR / 1/4″ TRS)
2x Phono/Line (RCA / 1/4″ TRS)
4 analog outputs (1/4″ TRS)
2 analog inserts (1/4″ TRS)
ADAT in/out
S/PDIF in/out
Word clock in/out
MIDI in/out
24-bit next-generation A-D/D-A converters at up to 192kHz sampling rate
Talkback with dedicated built-in microphone (up to 96 kHz Sample Rate)
A/B speaker switching
Direct monitoring
2 independent headphone outputs
Separate master and monitor mix channels
USB interface with PC, Mac, iOS, Android and Linux compatibility
3-port USB hub
3 models: Classic Silver, Space Grey, Deep Black
Aluminum chassis, hard leather-covered top cover

Arturia also promise high-end audio performance, to the tune of “dual state-of-the-art mic preamps with a class-leading >131dB A-weighted EIN rating.” I’ll try to test that with some people who are better engineers than I am when we get one in.

Also cute – a 3-port USB hub. So this could really cut down the amount of gear I pack.

Now, my only real gripe is, while USB improves compatibility, I’d love a Thunderbolt 3/USB-C version of this interface, especially as that becomes the norm on Mac and PC. Maybe that will come in the future; it’s not hard to imagine Arturia making two offerings if this box is a success. USB remains the lowest common denominator, and this is not a whole lot of simultaneous I/O, so USB makes some sense. (Thunderbolt should theoretically offer stable lower latency performance by allowing smaller buffer sizes.)


And dedicated controls

This is a big one. You’ll read a lot of the above on specs, but then discover that audio interfaces make you launch a clumsy app on your PC or Mac and/or dive into menus to get into settings.

That’s doubly annoying in studio use where you don’t want to break flow. How many times have you been in the middle of a session and lost time and concentration because some setting somewhere wasn’t set the way you intended, and you couldn’t see it? (“Hey, why isn’t this recording?” “Why is this level wrong?” “Why can’t I hear anything?” “Ugh, where’s the setting on this app?” … are … things you may hear if you’re near me in a studio, sometimes peppered with less-than-family-friendly bonus words.)

So Arturia have made an interface that has loads of dedicated controls. Maybe it doesn’t have a sleek, scifi minimalist aesthetic as a result, but … who cares?

Onboard dedicated controls that don’t require menu diving include: talking mic, dedicated input controls, A/B monitor switching, and a dedicated level knob for headphones.

And OS compatibility

This is the other thing – there are some great interfaces that lack support for Linux and mobile. So, for instance, if you want to rig up a custom Raspberry Pi for live use or something like that, this can double as the interface. Or you can use it with Android and iOS, which with increasingly powerful tablets starts to look viable, especially for mobile recording or stage use.

Arturia tell us performance, depending on your system, should be reliably in the territory of 4.5ms – well within what you’re likely to need, even for live (and you can still monitor direct). Some tests indicate performance as low as 3.5ms.


Plus a nice case and cover

Here’s an idea that’s obviously a long time coming. The AudioFuse not only has an adorable small form factor and aluminum chassis, but there’s a cover for it. So no more damage and scratches or even breaking off knobs when you tote this thing around – that to me is an oddly huge “why doesn’t everyone do this” moment.

The lid has a doubly useful feature – it disables the controls when it’s on, so you can avoid bumping something onstage.

69*126*126 mm.

950 g

I’m very eager to get this in my hands. Stay tuned.

For more:

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