Plugin Boutique has launched an exclusive sale on Hypermorph, a shapeshifting synthesizer for Ableton Live that layers and transforms sounds in realtime. The instrument’s design features four independent sound sources and an XY Morph Matrix that can blend, morph and mutate between each sound on the fly. Combining this tonal flexibility with its built-in Morph […]
Envelop began life by opening a space for exploring 3D sound, directed by Christopher Willits. But today, the nonprofit is also releasing a set of free spatial sound tools you can use in Ableton Live 10 – and we’ve got an exclusive first look.
First, let’s back up. Listening to sound in three dimensions is not just some high-tech gimmick. It’s how you hear naturally with two ears. The way that actually works is complex – the Wikipedia overview alone is dense – but close your eyes, tilt your head a little, and listen to what’s around you. Space is everything.
And just as in the leap from mono to stereo, space can change a musical mix – it allows clarity and composition of sonic elements in a new way, which can transform its impact. So it really feels like the time is right to add three dimensions to the experience of music and sound, personally and in performance.
Intuitively, 3D sound seems even more natural than visual counterparts. You don’t need to don weird new stuff on your head, or accept disorienting inputs, or rely on something like 19th century stereoscopic illusions. Sound is already as ephemeral as air (quite literally), and so, too, is 3D sound.
So, what’s holding us back?
Well, stereo sound required a chain of gear, from delivery to speaker. But those delivery mechanisms are fast evolving for 3D, and not just in terms of proprietary cinema setups.
But stereo audio also required something else to take off: mixers with pan pots. Stereo effects. (Okay, some musicians still don’t know how to use this and leave everything dead center, but that only proves my point.) Stereo only happened because tools made its use accessible to musicians.
Looking at something like Envelop’s new tools for Ableton Live 10, you see something like the equivalent of those first pan pots. Add some free devices to Live, and you can improvise with space, hear the results through headphones, and scale up to as many speakers as you want, or deliver to a growing, standardized set of virtual reality / 3D / game / immersive environments.
And that could open the floodgates for 3D mixing music. (Maybe even it could open your own floodgates there.)
Envelop tools for Live 10
Today, Envelop for Live (E4L) has hit GitHub. It’s not a completely free set of tools – you need the full version of Ableton Live Suite. Live 10 minimum is required (since it provides the requisite set of multi-point audio plumbing.) Provided you’re working from that as a base, though, musicians get a set of Max for Live-powered devices for working with spatial audio production and live performance, and developers get a set of tools for creating their own effects.
Start here for the download:
See also the more detailed developer site:
Read an overview of the system, and some basic explanations of how it works (including some definitions of 3D sound terminology):
And then find a getting started guide, routing, devices, and other reference materials on the wiki:
It’s beautiful, elegant software – the friendliest I’ve seen yet to take on spatial audio, and very much in the spirit of Ableton’s own software. Kudos to core developers Mark Slee, Roddy Lindsay, and Rama Gotfried.
Here’s the basic idea of how the whole package works.
Output. There’s a Master Bus device that stands in for your output buses. It decodes your spatial audio, and adapts routing to however many speakers you’ve got connected – whether that’s just your headphones or four speakers or a huge speaker array. (That’s the advantage of having a scalable system – more on that in a moment.)
Sources. Live 10’s Mixer may be built largely with the idea of mixing tracks down to stereo, but you probably already think of it sort of as a set of particular musical materials – as sources. The Source Panner device, added to each track, lets you position that particular musical/sonic entity in three-dimensional space.
Processors. Any good 3D system needs not only 3D positioning, but also separate effects and tools – because normal delays, reverbs, and the like presume left/right or mid/side stereo output. (Part of what completes the immersive effect is hearing not only the positioning of the source, but reflections around it.)
In this package, you get:
Spinner: automates motion in 3D space horizontally and with vertical oscillations
B-Format Sampler: plays back existing Ambisonics wave files (think samples with spatial information already encoded in them)
B-Format Convolution Reverb: imagine a convolution reverb that works with three-dimensional information, not just two-dimensional – in other words, exactly what you’d want from a convolution reverb
Multi-Delay: cascading, three-dimensional delays out of a mono source
HOA Transform: without explaining Ambisonics, this basically molds and shapes the spatial sound field in real-time
Meter: Spatial metering. Cool.
Envelop SF and Envelop Satellite venues also have some LED effects, so you’ll find some devices for controlling those (which might also be useful templates for stuff you’re doing).
All of this spatial information is represented via a technique called Ambisonics. Basically, any spatial system – even stereo – involves applying some maths to determine relative amplitude and timing of a signal to create particular impressions of space and depth. What sets Ambisonics apart is, it represents the spatial field – the sphere of sound positions around the listener – separately from the individual speakers. So you can imagine your sound positions existing in some perfect virtual space, then being translated back to however many speakers are available.
This scalability really matters. Just want to check things out with headphones? Set your master device to “binaural,” and you’ll get a decent approximation through your headphones. Or set up four speakers in your studio, or eight. Or plug into a big array of speakers at a planetarium or a cinema. You just have to route the outputs, and the software decoding adapts.
Envelop is by no means the first set of tools to help you do this – the technique dates back to the 70s, and various software implementations have evolved over the years, many of them free – but it is uniquely easy to use inside Ableton Live.
Open source, standards
Free software. It’s significant that Envelop’s tools are available as free and open source. Max/MSP, Max for Live, and Ableton Live are proprietary tools, but the patches and externals exist independently, and a free license means you’re free to learn from or modify the code and patches. Plus, because they’re free in cost, you can share your projects across machines and users, provided everybody’s on Live 10 Suite.
Advanced Max/MSP users will probably already be familiar with the basic tools on which the Envelop team have built. They’re the work of the Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology, at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste in Zurich, Switzerland. ICMST have produced a set of open source externals for Max/MSP:
Their site is a wealth of research and other free tools, many of them additionally applicable to fully free and open source environments like Pure Data and Csound.
But Live has always been uniquely accessible for trying out ideas. Building a set of friendly Live devices takes these tools and makes them make more sense in the Live paradigm.
Non-proprietary standards. There’s a strong push to proprietary techniques in spatial audio in the cinema – Dolby, for instance, we’re looking at you. But while proprietary technology and licensing may make sense for big cinema distributors, it’s absolute death for musicians, who likely want to tour with their work from place to place.
The underlying techniques here are all fully open and standardized. Ambisonics work with a whole lot of different 3D use cases, from personal VR to big live performances. By definition, they don’t define the sound space in a way that’s particular to any specific set of speakers, so they’re mobile by design.
The larger open ecosystem. Envelop will make these tools new to people who haven’t seen them before, but it’s also important that they share an approach, a basis in research, and technological compatibility with other tools.
That includes the German ZKM’s Zirkonium system, HoaLibrary (that repository is deprecated but links to a bunch of implementations for Pd, Csound, OpenFrameworks, and so on), and IRCAM’s SPAT. All these systems support ambisonics – some support other systems, too – and some or all components include free and open licensing.
I bring that up because I think Envelop is stronger for being part of that ecosystem. None of these systems requires a proprietary speaker delivery system – though they’ll work with those cinema setups, too, if called upon to do so. Musical techniques, and even some encoded spatial data, can transfer between systems.
That is, if you’re learning spatial sound as a kind of instrument, here you don’t have to learn each new corporate-controlled system as if it’s a new instrument, or remake your music to move from one setting to another.
Envelop, the physical version
You do need compelling venues to make spatial sound’s payoff apparent – and Envelop are building their own venues for musicians. Their Envelop SF venue is a permanent space in San Francisco, dedicated to spatial listening and research. Envelop Satellite is a mobile counterpart to that, which can tour festivals and so on.
Envelop SF: 32 speakers with speakers above. 24 speakers set in 3 rings of 8 (the speakers in the columns) + 4 subs, and 4 ceiling speakers. (28.4)
Envelop Satellite: 28 speakers. 24 in 3 rings + 4 subs (overhead speakers coming soon) (24.4)
The competition, as far as venues: 4DSOUND and Berlin’s Monom, which houses a 4DSOUND system, are similar in function, but use their own proprietary tools paired with the system. They’ve said they plan a mobile system, but no word on when it will be available. The Berlin Institute of Sound and Music’s Hexadome uses off-the-shelf ZKM and IRCAM tools and pairs projection surfaces. It’s a mobile system by design, but there’s nothing particularly unique about its sound array or toolset. In fact, you could certainly use Envelop’s tools with any of these venues, and I suspect some musicians will.
There are also many multi-speaker arrays housed in music venues, immersive audiovisual venues, planetariums, cinemas, and so on. So long as you can get access to multichannel interfacing with those systems, you could use Envelop for Live with all of these. The only obstacle, really, is whether these venues embrace immersive, 3D programming and live performance.
But if you thought you had to be Brian Eno to get to play with this stuff, that’s not likely to be the situation for long.
VR, AR, and beyond
In addition to venues, there’s also a growing ecosystem of products for production and delivery, one that spans musical venues and personal immersive media.
To put that more simply: after well over a century of recording devices and production products assuming mono or stereo, now they’re also accommodating the three dimensions your two ears and brain have always been able to perceive. And you’ll be able to enjoy the results whether you’re on your couch with a headset on, or whether you prefer to go out to a live venue.
Ambisonics-powered products now include Facebook 360, Google VR, Waves, GoPro, and others, with more on the way, for virtual and augmented reality. So you can use Live 10 and Envelop for Live as a production tool for making music and sound design for those environments.
Steinberg are adopting ambisonics, too (via Nuendo). Here’s Waves’ guide – they now make plug-ins that support the format, and this is perhaps easier to follow than the Wikipedia article (and relevant to Envelop for Live, too):
Ableton Live with Max for Live has served as an effective prototyping environment for audio plug-ins, too. So developers could pick up Envelop for Live’s components, try out an idea, and later turn that into other software or hardware.
I’m personally excited about these tools and the direction of live venues and new art experiences – well beyond what’s just in commercial VR and gaming. And I’ve worked enough on spatial audio systems to at least say, there’s real potential. I wouldn’t want to keep stereo panning to myself, so it’s great to get to share this with you, too. Let us know what you’d like to see in terms of coverage, tutorial or otherwise, and if there’s more you want to know from the Envelop team.
Thanks to Christopher Willits for his help on this.
More to follow…
Inside a new immersive AV system, as Brian Eno premieres it in Berlin [Extensive coverage of the Hexadome system and how it works]
Here’s a report from the hacklab on 4DSOUND I co-hosted during Amsterdam Dance Event in 2014 – relevant to these other contexts, having open tools and more experimentation will expand our understanding of what’s possible, what works, and what doesn’t work:
And some history and reflection on the significance of that system:
Spatial Audio, Explained: How the 4DSOUND System Could Change How You Hear [Videos]
Plus, for fun, here’s Robert Lippok [Raster] and me playing live on that system and exploring architecture in sound, as captured in a binaural recording by Frank Bretschneider [also Raster] during our performance for 2014 ADE. Binaural recording of spatial systems is really challenging, but I found it interesting in that it created its own sort of sonic entity. Frank’s work was just on the Hexadome.
One thing we couldn’t easily do was move that performance to other systems. Now, this begins to evolve.
The post Free new tools for Live 10 unlock 3D spatial audio, VR, AR appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.
Ableton Live 10 has some great new drum synth devices, as part of Max for Live. But that kick could be better. Max modifications, to the rescue!
The Max for Live kick sounds great – especially if you combine it with a Drum Buss or even some distortion via the Pedal, also both new in Live 10. But it makes some peculiar decisions. The biggest problem is, it ignores the pitch of incoming MIDI.
Green Kick fixes that, by mapping MIDI note to Pitch of the Kick, so you can tap different pads or keyboard keys to pitch the kick where you want it. (You can still trigger a C0 by pressing the Kick button in the interface.)
Also: “It seemed strange to have Attack as a numbox and the Decay as a dial.”
Yes, that does seem strange. So you also get knobs for both Attack and Decay, which makes more sense.
Now, all of this is possible thanks to the fact that this is a Max for Live device, not a closed-box internal device. While it’s a pain to have to pony up for the full cost of Live Suite to get Max for Live, the upside is, everything is editable and modifiable. And it’d be great to see that kind of openness in other tools, for reasons just like this.
Likewise, if this green color bothers you, you can edit this mod and … so on.
Go grab it:
Thanks to Sonic Bloom for this one. They’ve got tons more tips like this, so go check them out:
The post Mod Max: One free download fixes Live 10’s new kick appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.
The quiet addition of arbitrary audio routing in Max for Live in Live 10 has opened the floodgates to new tools. This one free device could transform how you route signal in the software.
One of the frustrations of ongoing Ableton Live users, in fact, is that routing options are fairly restricted. You’ve got sends and returns, sure, plus some easy and convenient drop-downs in the I/O section of each channel. But if you’ve ever discovered a particular sidechaining wasn’t possible, or you just couldn’t get there from here, you know what I’m talking about.
And so, you knew something like Outist was coming. Amidst a bunch of Max for Live plug-in developers thinking up creative things to do with the new routing tools (like spatialization or visualization), this one is dead-simple. It just uses that loophole to give you a device you can easily insert to add a routing wherever you want – a bit like having a virtual patch cable you can plug into your DAW.
And it’s free.
outist is a maxforlive device that lets you route any signal to any internal or external destination.
It’s originally designed to bypass Live’s restricted return buss routing. With outist you can have pre and post send PER return channel.
You can also simply use it to send the signal to any physical output or just anywhere in your set…
Findt Outist and a bunch of other weird and interesting stuff:
With those floodgates open, as I said, there may well be a better tool out there. So please, readers – don’t be shy. Happy to hear other tips, or about your patch that’s better, or other ideas – shoot!
And yeah, I definitely wish Ableton just did this by default, natively – but I’ll take this hack as a solution!
The post Route audio from anywhere to anywhere in Ableton, free appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.
Plugin Boutique has launched an exclusive sale on K-Devices, offering up to 40% off on Max for Live devices for a limited time only. Founded in 2010 by France-based Italian composer Alessio Santini, K-Devices is focused on light CPU usage, smart user interfaces and ease of use. K-Devices products include: REF envelope follower. TED and […]
Isotonik Studios has announced the release of CLyphX Pro, a scripting language by Stray that provides advanced control over Ableton Live. With the announcement of Live 10, ClyphX’s developer Stray, announced that he was actively working on ClyphX again, not just an update but a complete rewrite from scratch. We wanted Stray on our team […]
Plugin Boutique has launched a sale on Sonic Faction’s Polytek, a Max for Live device that fuses rhythm and melody to generate enigmatic patterns. Polytek combines step sequencing with vocoder and multiband gate processing, resulting in deep tech progressions, ambient dub soundscapes and gritty robotic polyrhythms. Polytek’s Routing Matrix can select Analog or Sampler as […]
Isotonik Studios has announced the release of a free Max for Live analysis device by Mark Towers that can display audio frequencies of up to 4 tracks in Ableton Live 10. The Multi Analyser device is particularly useful when mixing since it allows you to visually identify and compare problematic/clashing frequencies. What Live 10 adds […]
Finally! Now you don’t have to wait for your computer to start glitching out – you can make it happen yourself, with this inexpensive Max for Live device.
Okay, so technically what we’re talking about is a “stockastic sample freezing effect.” Since it’s a Max for Live Device, you can drop its audio-munching powers on any track you want, making for glitched out percussion, vocals, or whatever you like. But if you’ve ever watched a computer melt down and listened to the resulting sounds and thought, “hey, actually, I could use that” – this is for you.
The reason it matches a BSOD is, computer stability issues cause the digital audio buffer to “freeze” on particular sounds rather than continue to process buffered audio normally. (Digital audio systems give the illusion of running in real time, without losing a continuous stream of audio, by dividing digital audio into chunks and feeding those chunks in sequence to the audio card… so that if the machine falls behind a few samples, you won’t notice.)
This creation is the second Max for Live invention from Isotonik Studios today – happy Valentine’s Day, y’all – and carries the price of €9.52. For that, you get some control over the effect – especially since it isn’t actually crashing your machine. The developers describe the parameters as follows:
Freeze: control the gate frequency in time signatures
Width: make the gating wider or tighter
Dry/Wet: master dry/wet control
And all of this is MIDI-controllable.
If you want to live more dangerously, the classic Smart Electronix effect Buffer Override actually does screw around with your machine. The work of developer Sophia Poirier, this is the opposite of what would normally constitute a stable plug-in. The idea: it “overcomes your host app’s audio processing buffer size and then (unsuccessfully) overrides that new buffer size to be a smaller buffer size.”
Beware, as that will actually cause some hosts to, you know, crash. But Buffer Override is free. (Well, it’d be a bit strange to charge for that!)
For safer, more playable operation, you should stick to Isotonik Studios’ creation. Have at it:
The post BSOD simulates the sound your laptop makes when it crashes appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.
The big Max for Live news in Live 10 isn’t actually “integration.” It’s finally having multichannel audio support. Here’s a free tool to get you started.
“Wait, wait… weren’t we supposed to be excited about Max for Live integration in Live 10?” Well, yes… kinda sorta. Basically, if you’ve got Live 10 Suite, you get a single installer, less version confusion, and you don’t see that silly Max splash screen the first time you launch a Device.
That’s all well and good, but it’s not a reason to upgrade to Live 10, or even something you’ll really notice in day to day use.
Now, multichannel support, on the other hand – that’s a big deal. And it’ll be a big deal even if you never touch Max yourself, because suddenly the little Max for Live toys you grab will get a whole lot more interesting.
What Live 10 adds to Max for Live is the ability to route any audio inputs you want into a Device, and to any outputs, including to arbitrary tracks. The implications for that are varied: wild sidechaining, panners, spatial audio, multichannel effects – think basically anything that goes beyond just having stereo inserts and sends from a single track. It’s something that really ought to have been in the first release of Max for Live, but now that it’s there, it opens the floodgates to neat new patches.
That also Live up to some of the original promise of Max for Live, which is finding creative applications beyond what’s covered by the usual plug-ins.
But to get us started, here’s a more utilitarian application – and a cool one.
The fine folks at Isotonik Studios have whipped up a “Multi Analyzer” – a spectral analyzer that lets you compare tracks and view them at once. And that, of course, is actually what you’d want to do with such a tool, when finding mixing issues and the like. (Hey, Ableton – take note. This should be built in.)
You can route in up to four tracks and view their spectrum visually.
Clever stuff, and the price is free. I got it up and running in about a minute with a track I was looking at today, and it’s really handy for mixing.
Now, if you’ve been paying attention, it should go without saying that you’re going to need a copy of Max for Live (that is, Live 10 Suite edition) and Live 10 as a minimum version, since Live 9 doesn’t have this feature.
Got it? Good. Here’s the download:
I’m very interested in the applications of this for Live users. And multichannel diffusion and spatial audio remain interesting, not only in Live but across electronic music. Hopefully more on all of this soon.
The post This free Multi Analyzer shows why Live 10 multichannel Max is cool appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.