How focusing on one tool cured writers block, and made one sharp, chilly, ‘stoic’ EP

Tools and technology are often described as obstacles. But sometimes focusing on a tool can refine musical process and composition – as main(void) reveals.

And yes, the goal here is, as always, to cure writers’ block and finish something that you feel really happy with. Let’s first hear the finished item, as it’s got the kind of deliciously calculated, precise electronics that first drew me to Europe. It feels chilly, but still sensual – foreplay for cyborgs, you know, putting the tech in techno:

Working musicians all have to balance different gigs. An emerging role for us is working out how to take day jobs in designing tools and sound design, and use that experience to help us make our creative musical experience better.

In the case of main(void), aka Jan Ola Korte, it meant parlaying his work in 2018 designing sounds for Native Instruments’ TRK-01 into honing his music making process. He writes:

When I was working on the sound design for Native Instruments TRK-01 in 2018, I saved a few presets to use in my own music. These sounds and patterns ended up becoming the foundation of Stoicism, my first solo EP that was released Aug 21 on Spatial Cues. I had a little bit of a writer’s block situation, so I tried to resolve it by working within very restrictive parameters. All five original tracks on Stoicism use TRK-01 as the only sound source, processed through a number of effect plug-ins. Limiting myself in this way created a nicely coherent sound palette. Since I only used TRK-01’s internal sequencers, I arranged the tracks via automation in Ableton Live, which switched up my routine in an inspiring way. In the end, this workflow not only resolved the writer’s block but led to my most comprehensive release so far.

The basic idea of TRK-01 is to do just that – it puts some focused modules dedicated to dance production in a single place. There’s a kick module, bass, sequencer, and effects – but it’s not preset territory, as each module has a number of different engines. That is, the clever twist here is removing cognitive overhead (by simplifying and integrating the interface), without limiting your creative choices (since there is still a full spectrum of very different sounds you can get out of each module).

Even with that being said, you still might not be certain how to turn this into a completed track. Now, each person will find a different pathway there, but seeing how Jan works – a bit like working with a studio mate – can often give you that “ah ha, I could actually learn from this” feeling.

Jan asked if he should do a full narrated look at his working method. Answer: aber ja.

By the way, of course this also means that by keeping this focused, adapting the release to a live gig is far easier. You’ll be able to catch main(void) live at Griessmuhle, alongside some very special DJ friends like DJ Pete, Alinka, and Qzen, plus some great names, in late October in Berlin.

More music:

Site: http://www.spatialcues.com/

Oh and yeah, go grab the music on Bandcamp! This is the them problem with promo pools, I see some huge names are playing these tracks out but they got the music for free.

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Let’s talk leftfield techno, with moody synth gems from Lars Hemmerling

Known for his collaborations with Dasha Rush, Lars Hemmerling shows off on her Fullpanda label his full spectrum of synthesis and production chops. We spoke to him about how he works.

In turns as murky as a depressive overcast German day, as cosmic as a starfield, as brutal as some smelting action, Lars’ latest is all about electronic range and attention to detail. This isn’t any quick fix production – each track is obsessively focused and exquisitely unique. These synths sounds brood and groove, enveloped in wet, fuzzy reverbs, like so much electronic ooze.

You don some waders and head into a swamp of sound in Lars’ work, in a pleasant way. But that to me also comes from his approach to his machines, in finding their organic, particular character. So I wanted to speak with him a bit about how he has found that direction.

Lars is a Berlin native and has been active since the early 90s raves of Rüdersdorf, but you may know him from LADA, his live duo with Dasha Rush. Dasha helms Fullpanda as a trove of underground techno-related (or at least techno-adjacent) fantasies. But Lars has also been active on DOCK records, a good home for ambient-to-leftfield-techno offerings he co-manages. And speaking of things only the in-the-know know, his under-the-radar duo with twin brother Gunnar has also cranked out unique productions. Gunnar takes on a fascination with vintage digital to match Lars’ digital analog proclivities, as Gunnar collects old chip machines like the Commodore and its SID. (Listening at bottom.)

PK: Can you tell us about your approach to instrumentation, and how you assemble these track?

LH: Well, I used different sequencers and synths, but only hardware and no software instruments. I only used some software plug-ins from Eventide, Sonible and Waves in my DAW for the pre-master mix. Usually I record multitrack sessions with some additional overdub recordings. I also reroute synth lines out of the DAW to do a separate FX mix.

The first recorded FX tracks are mostly a blueprint of the sound character of the piece I am working on. This gives me the ability to work more subtle with EFX.

Gear, track by track

A1. “Bless”:

  • Kick: Elektron Analog Rytm
  • Synths: Yamaha TX802 (which I feed with my self-programmed sound bank from my DX7)
  • Sequencing: Elektron Octatrack
  • Pad sounds I played live

A2. “Releasing Strains”:

  • Drums: Analog Rytm
  • Synth: Behringer Model D (yes, and I am not afraid to say it)
  • Sequencing: polyrhythmic multi-sequencing (filter, pitch, amp etc..) by Wintermodular Eloquencer [Eurorack module]

The Rest is just FX modulation. There was another synth line of my Arp Odyssey, but I took it off.

B1. “Lars Wars”:

  • Drums: Analog Rytm
  • Synths (yes) Behringer Model D again and my Arp Odyssey
  • Sequencing: both Model D and Odyssey sequenced by the Eloquencer.

B2. “Artarpet”:

Here I did not use any sequencer (no MIDI or trigger gate), but instead VCA-Level on the Model D and Arp Odyssey FM, and LFO modulation, with pad sounds on the DX7 live. Surprisingly, the recording went so well that I didn’t need any EQ-ing in my DAW or any pre-master ambitions.

“Running away from myself” (Digital Bonus Track):

Analog Rytm and two Dave Smith Instruments Evolvers. [DSI is now again Sequential]

PK: I know this just because I’ve watched over my shoulder as you mixed my album, and because I know you resist going to plug-in crazy with anything else. You’re still making a lot of use of the Eventide stuff in finishing the album, yes?

LH: Yes. I truly love Eventide! I use the hardware like the Space Reverb and the Time Faktor Delay a lot, and as well the software plug-ins. Mostly I use the Blackhole, H3000 (Band Delays and Factory), and the Omnipressor on the stems of a recording. Eventide just works for me, and it will not change probably to the end of my days. They’re workflow-friendly and creative tools, from my perception. If you work with Eventide, you can feel and see that the engineers and developers are crazy, sound-dedicated freaks like you are. Or even more freaky.

[Ed.-That was not a paid placement in any way. I can vouch for this because every time I ask if Lars has seen a new processing plug-in, he reminds me that he’s perfectly satisfied with the Eventide stuff and tells me the importance of really learning to use one set of tools. -PK]

Can you talk about what inspired this release?

During the production process, I was going through a very difficult time, and I was in a very unstable situation from an emotional perspective. And some tracks were produced under very weird circumstances, as well. I am not getting into details here, because it would be too private.

Many people say that I’, a very kind soul. And at this time, it felt like that my soul was bleeding.

So, the entire EP is truly an imprint of my soul at those times. A valve of emotions. That’s why I called it “Bloody&Soul”. And of course, I liked the word game.

Thanks, Lars. I certainly hear that need to have this valve for our hurting souls – and have a listen, readers, as the results are beautiful and may heal your bleeding spirit, too.

One more wonderful cut from an upcoming VA:

Check this terrific DOCK compilation, including Lars’ work (as “out there”), or also ambient rounds Vol.0:

Lars’ first EP outing with Fullpanda is also essential, with a Space Bolero for you cosmonauts to dance to at your space station’s cantina social:

For a bit of Lars&Gunnar together, check:

More:

https://fullpandarecords.bandcamp.com/album/bloody-soul

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macOS Catalina will be incompatible with much of your music software; here’s what to know

macOS Catalina, the next Mac release, dramatically tightens security and removes 32-bit compatibility. That will cause incompatibilities with music software, requiring updates. Here’s what you need to know.

Catalina compatibility checklist

macOS Catalina (10.15) is expected to ship in October, replacing Mojave (10.14).

What’s impacted:

DAWs and other software using plug-ins: Requires updates to work.

Drivers: Installation and operation requires update to work.

32-bit software, software that accesses 32-bit libraries: Incompatible. Cannot be used past macOS Mojave.

Software using legacy video libraries: Incompatible. Cannot be used past macOS Mojave.

Plug-ins: May require update for full compatibility – but may run inside updated DAWs, and will install if the user overrides OS’ installer requirements.

Hardware: If a driver is required for operation, you’ll need an updated driver and installer. Driverless (class-compliant) audio and MIDI gear is unaffected.

Tightened Mac security

It’s worth acknowledging that security concerns are justified, even for consumer operating systems. Malware tools targeting users may be designed to exploit your computer’s resources, steal data, and impersonate you or even steal your money. At best, they can at least make your system unstable.

It’s also not just “a Windows thing”; recent attacks have singled out the Mac, too. For instance, security researchers uncovered an insidious piece of code found in downloads from a piracy website called VST Crack, embedded in pirated versions of software including Ableton Live. The software would embed itself on your system and start mining cryptocurrency. These threats do not impact the legitimate copies of the same software, so yes, this is an added risk when you pirate software.

All OS vendors regularly patch security holes; the approach in macOS Catalina (10.15) is more proactive. Apple are making some changes to the way the OS itself notifies you of activity by software and asks for your approval, a bit more like you had seen previously in iOS or Android. They’re also implementing tougher defaults for installers. And since malware works by running additional code on top of other code or memory, Apple are adding protections against running that code.

The issue here is not that these changes are unwarranted or even entirely unexpected, but that they bring a lot of change at once that will require you to update software – especially music software – in order for it to work properly, or at all.

Let’s look at those two changes separately: one is the change for installers (called “notarization”), and the second is a new set of requirements for how software is granted access to vital information (the “hardened runtime”).

The two requirements are related, because Apple won’t approve installers unless they also comply with the hardened runtime standards. So let’s take a look at the hardened runtime and entitlement permissions first.

Entitlements and the hardened runtime

Let’s recall here how malware works: it runs additional code that you didn’t intend to run, then gives that code access to something vital on your system (like your data, or microphone). So obviously, what Apple is doing is attempting to prevent those two things.

The first thing you’ll notice on macOS Catalina is that the Mac starts asking you for permission a lot more often. So now, the first time you print a score from notation software or try to open a file dialog to browse the desktop, you’ll get a pop-up asking if you really want to do that. That’s a bit annoying, but it’ll only happen once, and then will remember your permissions. And the reason it’s there is, of course, malware might otherwise perform the same task without your consent. You’re already familiar with this behavior from phone apps on Android and iOS; this is effectively the same idea, now on your desktop computer.

With a common, monolithic app, providing these permissions (called “entitlements”) is fairly easy. But music software isn’t monolithic. Your DAW is running all sorts of libraries and plug-ins and so on. Unfortunately, the exploits Apple is targeting in malware – “code injection, dynamically linked library (DLL) hijacking, and process memory space tampering” – also look a lot like the behaviors your DAW performs normally. And your DAW also needs to handle entitlements for plug-ins. In addition to the DAW needing your permission to access certain folders, for example, it also needs to ask your permission if a sample instrument like KONTAKT wants to access files, as well.

Here’s the bit you’ll really need to care about – if you’re upgrade to macOS Catalina, you will need to be prepared to upgrade your DAW, too. Providing this compatibility is complicated, so it’s likely that most developers will be able to support only their latest release – meaning you may require a paid update to that first.

The good news is, theoretically this burden falls on the DAW, not individual plug-ins. (Plug-ins may still require an update, because of the removal of 32-bit code and other portions of the OS required for compatibility, and because of new installer requirements.) But you will need to update any software working with plug-ins, or you may find software won’t run properly or will fail to run altogether.

It’s also likely that even with updates, some software will not work properly immediately after Catalina’s launch. Developers are still learning how to use this new feature of the operating system, and Apple’s frequent OS updates mean they have little time to do so. Also, an additional side effect of the new security requirements is to break the ability of plug-in developers to debug their plug-ins in DAWs, meaning testing is – for now – more difficult. That may slow compatibility and testing.

If you plan to use an older version of a DAW, you’ll want to avoid updating past macOS Mojave (10.14). If you do intend to update – or to buy a new Apple machine once Catalina is pre-installed and required by default – you should plan to use the very latest version of your DAW, and double-check that Catalina is supported. And even with listed Catalina support, expect there could still be some wrinkles immediately after the OS ships.

Once those pieces are in place, though, you will be able to use DAWs and plug-ins as you always have – just with some more pop-ups the first time you do something like access the file system or connect audio hardware.

(One illustration of how entitlements requirements might surprise you – someone on Reddit noticed the Live “computer keyboard” setting, which passes QWERTY keys to MIDI notes, suddenly broke in the Catalina beta. That makes sense; it would require the entitlements provided by the coming Live 10 update. And obviously, malware would love to be able to take your computer keyboard input and route it somewhere else without asking.)

Installer requirements and drivers

The other change in macOS Catalina is to require installers to be “notarized” by default (whereas previously it was a non-mandatory option). This means developers will submit installers to Apple for verification, and that they fulfill certain requirements for how those installers are built. (These requirements largely have to do with how they link against the Mac SDK and following new guidelines like the hardened runtime.)

Here’s what you see now, on macOS Mojave. (See Apple’s support article on these safety restrictions.) Catalina introduces new requirements for the “identified developer” section – that is, how they require developers to build their installers and verify them with Apple. But as in the current macOS, you’ll be able to control what you run in a similar fashion, even with tougher defaults.

This is not the same as the App Store approval requirements on iOS (or similar stores from Google and Microsoft). Apple aren’t looking at the software itself, only verifying the installer is built according to their standards. The process takes something like an hour currently, not days or weeks as the stores can. And most importantly, Apple will allow users to override the installer requirement. As with Gatekeeper in current versions of macOS, you’ll get a dialog telling the installer or app was blocked, but you’ll still be able to choose to run something anyway. (Right-click, choose open, and you’ll be given option.)

Notarization is the “Apple checked it for malicious software” bit. It’s available in the current macOS, but in 10.15 it’s required by default. That is, Apple developers not only register their ID, but also submit the software for a check with Apple, too.

Apple developer documentation on the notarization feature:
Notarizing Your App Before Distribution

Unverified plug-ins may also continue to work inside DAWs – depending on the DAW you’re using. This means in theory, you’ll be able to install and attempt to use plug-ins, even if they haven’t been updated for Catalina. You would need to override plug-in notarization requirements for the installation from dmg (Disk Image) files, but once a file was installed, a DAW may be able to support it, theoretically. Your mileage may vary when it comes to actual use, however; the advantage of the installer requirement may be that it gives a clue that a developer has tested on Catalina.

PreSonus has just announced for their Studio One DAW that not only will you need to update Studio One itself, but many plug-ins will also need an update. In their case, plug-ins built before June 1, 2019 will still need to be signed (the earlier method of verification for Apple developers). Plug-ins built after that date will need to fulfill Catalina’s tougher requirements – notarization and the hardened runtime.

Drivers for hardware will hit a hard wall. Unverified drivers will not function on the new OS. This means if you have older hardware that doesn’t have updated drivers and installer, you won’t be able to use it. There’s no ability to override this requirement.

Here’s what happens if you try to use a plug-in in PreSonus Studio One if the developer has not fulfilled Apple’s security verification requirements for the software. You’ll need to acquire updates for all of your plug-ins, accordingly.

End of the road for 32-bit and legacy libraries

Just as significant as the security changes, Apple is ending support for 32-bit code starting with Catalina. This is a hard barrier – you won’t be able to use “bridge” tools for 32-bit plug-in compatibility, for instance. Any 32-bit app, library, or plug-in will simply refuse to run.

It may not be immediately obvious that software makes use of 32-bit code, either. A 64-bit application may still make use of a 32-bit library. For instance, Ableton tell CDM that they found their previous versions of Live would attempt to call a 32-bit library on startup. These apps may not fail gracefully; they may simply crash. This means even if you’re using a 64-bit and 64-bit plug-ins, you will want to verify compatibility with the vendor before upgrading.

If you have 32-bit plug-ins or older software you rely on, you will likely want to stay on macOS Mojave. Once you upgrade, this software will cease to work. This may also mean you want to retain an older Mac running Mojave or earlier, for backwards compatibility.

Apple has also ended long-deprecated libraries, including the older video library (called QTKit).

Case study: Ableton Live

Ableton provided CDM with access to their compatibility process. An update to Live 10 will support Catalina’s new requirements at launch. This involved a series of changes, which may be typical for DAW developers. In Ableton’s case, it meant the following updates:

·         Rebuilding the installer with notarization support and its requirements

·         Removing all 32-bit code and libraries (including one 32-bit library that will cause previous versions of Live to crash on launch)

·         Providing full compatibility with Max

·         Transitioning video code to the latest AVFoundation (from a now-unsupported version of QuickTime)

The move to AVFoundation is good news for anyone working with video – even if you use an older macOS version like Mojave. There’s improved video export performance and new codec options.

Ableton also say you should expect that these updates mean you can use Live with existing plug-ins under Catalina. Based on what plug-in developers tell me, though, you should still anticipate there may still be some issues to resolve with individual plug-ins if you upgarde, and DAW developers like Ableton may not be aware of all of these situations on internal testing alone.

Because of the number of changes to be made, Live 9 will not support Catalina. Conversely, as Apple deprecates older OSes, Live 10 won’t support some of the older versions of macOS. Here’s what will be compatible:

Live 9: macOS 10.7 – 10.13 officially supported; 10.14 unofficially supported

Live 10: macOS 10.11 – 10.15 supported (macOS 10.15 requires the Live 10.1.2 update for Catalina, minimum)

Ableton have also published a technical note. The headline is about Live 9, but it also includes useful resources for Live 10 users:

Live 9 is not compatible with macOS 10.15 Catalina

Compatibility with other software

Many developers CDM contacted were not yet ready to make an official statement on Catalina. Off the record, a significant number of developers reported problems.

Native Instruments published a blanket statement saying simply none of their products are compatible:

macOS 10.15 (Catalina) – Compatibility with Native Instruments Products

PreSonus has published a technical note explaining that you’ll need not only an update to their Studio One DAW, but also to most (or all) of your plug-ins, as illustrated above:

Studio One 4 on Mojave and Catalina – Notarization, Hardened Runtime, and how it affects 3rd-party plug-ins

Apple has not necessarily had full support for a new OS even for its own pro software; I’ve contacted Apple to ask if Logic Pro will support Catalina at launch but have not yet gotten a response. (There is a precedent of Apple’s own pro apps sometimes lagging their OS, before you make the assumption that they two will be in sync.)

How should you upgrade, and when?

Here’s a simple piece of advice: don’t update to Catalina immediately. As with any major OS change, music installers, drivers, and DAWs will benefit from more time and testing. Since musicians have complex and diverse setups, odds are you rely on something that won’t be immediately compatible, or that interactions between tools could create unexpected results.

If you do update, you should absolutely make a full backup so you can easily roll back. Time Machine backups can also provide some ability to remove OS updates.

You can also create an external installation of the OS on any drive that is formatted to macOS extended Journaled. It’s probably worth buying an inexpensive drive to test first, especially with an update this significant.

Macworld has two helpful articles (also linked by Ableton):

How to dual-boot Mac: run two versions of macOS on a Mac

How to downgrade macOS from Mojave to an older version

If you’re a developer and want to share your compatibility information, please get in touch.

https://www.apple.com/macos/catalina/

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FL Studio 20.5 adds FLEX, a surprisingly powerful preset synth

So, I hear you like tuned 808s. And strings. And pianos. And wavetables. And FM. And filters. And… okay, let’s just put all of those in one synth but make everything a preset. Meet FL Studio 20.5.

The folks at Image Line are always full of surprises – somehow their always-free-upgrades churn out more and more diverse updates. So, as music tech makers all try to figure out ways to encourage you to get to the sounds you want more quickly, FLEX is both that and – not that.

a

Yes, it’s a “preset-based” interface. So you get lots of sounds to navigate to pre-designed sounds quickly, plus macro controls that let you tweak them to your own purposes. That preset library also includes an in-line store for buying more sounds, which will give Image-Line room to grow later – and to make some money off users in the process, since they give you your FL upgrades for free.

We’ve seen this idea before, everywhere from Arturia’s Analog Lab to Native Instruments’ Komplete Kontrol. It makes sense that not everyone wants to be a sound designer, and even those who do are sometimes up against a deadline or need some fast inspiration. So you want quick access to sounds, but you still want the ability to modify those sounds and make them your own – a little or a lot.

But this is FL Studio, so you know this won’t just work exactly like everything else does. FLEX has a crazy number of possible sound engines under the hood – subtractive, wavetable, multisample, FM, and even amplitude modulation synths. It seems it also consolidates sound presets from elsewhere, including FL’s own Sytrus and Harmless, and could be a front end to sounds in the tool in future.

And then there are the extras. You can opt for lots of visualizations, including a vectorscope, frequency histogram, and nice colored sepctrogram, in addition to the usual waveform oscilloscope view. The envelopes aren’t dumbed down, either – you get full AHDSR envelopes for both amplitude and filter.

Wow – then, also, 22 (I think I counted right) filter types. That includes two comb filters, a vowel filter, notch, and lots of different shapes of shelves, low pass, and high pass – even three different variations of phaser effects. So, uh, what started as a freebie “beginner” synth somehow accidentally morphed into a filter-packed rival to flagship soft synths of late.

You also get effects, which also have tons of variants, including reverb and delay. The Limiter gets alternative distortion models.

It’s like you went in for a plain hamburger Happy Meal on sale for a dollar, and the kitchen went mad and added siracha sauce and replaced the meat with truffles, but … you know, no complaints there.

Also new in this version:

You can use FL as a VST or AU on Mac (Windows already worked as a VST)
Browser audio previewing
Performance monitoring
Tons of plugin updates
Tons of workflow updates

See the full release notes:
https://www.image-line.com/documents/news.php

FLEX manual:
https://www.image-line.com/support/flstudio_online_manual/html/plugins/FLEX.htm

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MASSIVE X synth arrives; here’s what makes it special

The last time Native Instruments released a synth called Massive, they accidentally helped define genres (EDM, dubstep). But MASSIVE X returns to the original vision: make it easier to get deep with wavetables and modularity and go wild with sound. And now, the wait is over.

It’s been years in the making. But the original team behind Massive are back with a sequel to one of the most influential software synths ever made.

I was actually the very first press meeting for Massive, back in the day. But what that tells you is, initially they thought they were making something for nerds, not what would become EDM mainstages.

In 2019, MASSIVE X enters a world that’s not only been shaped by the first Massive, but is also far more comfortable with digital sounds and modularity, the staples of the original. Even inside NI, you’ve got REAKTOR and BLOCKS. There are plenty of other wavetable synths, plenty of semi-modular plug-ins. There are semi-modular synths – heck, Moog alone has three just in one line. There are Eurorack modulars in pricey hardware racks that require a screwdriver and modeled in software so you just need a laptop.

I mean, basically, those of us who love synths are all really spoiled. And like any spoiled child, little wonder there are bunches of those people whining and crying and rolling around on the floor like a toddler who ate too much candy. Well… if you read message forums, which I try not to.

So is there a place for MASSIVE X? You’ll hear plenty of talk from Native Instruments and reviewers alike, but let’s boil this story down.

MASSIVE X is a rarity – a kitchen sink digital synth plug-in that keeps its front panel easy to read.

Deep routing lets you path when you want to. But unlike a full-blown modular, that doesn’t stop you from creating sounds (and even modularity) straight away – and your sound design remains within a consistent interface and architecture.

Bigger on the inside than it is on the outside

Basically, the latest MASSIVE gives you this: it makes an argument for a semi-modular design by packing the oscillators with features, and then giving you ways of playing and modulating and inter-connecting all that depth easily. It walks that balance between complexity under the hood and legibility inside a coherent interface. So while other people might easily dismiss adding another semi-modular plug-in when you could just patch, there is a fundamentally different method to constructing sounds based on this architecture:

All about those oscillators. 170 wavetables, 10 oscillator modes, submodes for each of the oscillator modes – Massive focuses you on one architecture and one UI, but then gives you loads of choices once you’re there.

Get weird without even patching. It’s a true semi-modular, so you can make sounds without patching anything – and you can use its phase modulation oscillators to start that modulation just from the oscillator section. (Yeah, you’ll wind up doing some sound designs where you never get past those oscillators. And that’s fun, anyway.)

Route and patch in ways conventional modulars can’t. With a huge routing matrix and a unique approach to insert effects, you can swap all sorts of unique processors inside an individual sound – and recall all of those as presets. Any control output can be connected to any input; audio can go to and from anywhere you like. It’s enormously flexible.

There are plenty of synths out there with deep architectures, but MASSIVE X allows you to then take that depth and work with it:

Trackers give you sophisticated control over how MASSIVE X behaves as an instrument – by designing how it responds as you play.

Make uniquely playable instruments. NI have added a number of tools for tracking input from performance, as in velocity, and then scaling and mapping that where you like. This means you can make sounds like instruments, and ‘play’ a lot of that sonic depth live. (There are four Tracker modules to accomplish this.)

Add variety in performance and modulation. Tracker modules let you play live; Performer modulators let you draw in up to eight bars of modulation patterns and use those without playing. That can mean either unattended modulation in the sound, or can be triggered live with your controller.

You have 9 slots for LFOs, voice randomization, and then a bunch of potential sources and shapes for those variations.

The original MASSIVE isn’t going anywhere. And that’s important, because it’s light on the CPU in a way the new X – and other plug-ins – aren’t.

But MASSIVE X is simply a beast. As a flagship for Native Instruments, it enters some competitive waters – not the least being the fact that NI itself has, effectively, more than one flagship.

Performer envelopes give you the kind of extensive, visual modulation you expect from 2019 flagship software. The Remote Editor lets you trigger those envelopes live, making this a tool for improvisation or onstage.

Inside the Voice

Having said MASSIVE X is all about having a consistent architecture and UI – there is definitely a candy store inside. Just some rough ideas of specs, to give you an idea:

Wavetable modes: Standard, Bend, Mirror, Hardsync, Wrap, Forant Capture, ART, Gorilla, Random, Jitter

Insert Effects: Anima, BitCrusher, Correction Filter & VCA, Fold Wrap, Frequency Shifter, Distortion, Track Delay

Unit FX: Dimension Expander, Flanger, Nonlinear Labs, Phaser, Standard EQ, Stereo Delay, Stereo Expander

The Voice page. You can also find some possibilities messing about with Noise Restart, Oscillator Restart, Spread and Engine Reset – think serious sound design with phasing. Combine that with the various oscillator types and modes and poly/mono/unison modes, and a really wild option called Unisono (for unique, analog-ish drifts and detunes), and you could probably devote a whole month in the studio just on this page and be perfectly satisfied.

Filling a Massive niche?

The thing is, MASSIVE X makes even more sense in 2019 than it did when it first arrived. And if MASSIVE demonstrated that a larger slice of the population was ready for edgy, hyper-modulated experimental sounds, MASSIVE X might demonstrate that more people are ready for experimental sound design..

This isn’t a straight modular workflow. It isn’t a Eurorack. It isn’t REAKTOR. And it shouldn’t be any of those things. Instead, MASSIVE X brings back what made the first MASSIVE compelling – drag and drop routing, easy visual “saturn ring” modulation – and adds more sonic depth, the kinds of organic quality now possible on today’s CPUs, and more visual feedback. We all spend too much time staring at screens, but MASSIVE X gives us a good reason to look back – and is far easier on the eyes (and brain) in the process.

So, sure, we are spoiled for choice, which I’m sure means MASSIVE X will get some significant hostility from the sorts of people who lurk in comment threads instead of make sounds. But I’m happy to have my cake and eat it, and my other five cakes, too.

From my own vantage point, having not been entirely swayed by would-be contenders to the plug-in throne, I think MASSIVE X will be ideal as a complement to open-ended modulars. Having a single oscillator section that does this much means you don’t get lost window-shopping modulars. And that matrix and the depth of Trackers and Performers means MASSIVE X is manageable when other modulars (hardware or software) turn into messes of spaghetti-routing, at least for sounds you want to pack to the brim with subtle shifting transformations over time.

More details of this as I spend more time with the now-finished build. (Sound design, too – just give me some time on that!)

[watch this space, we should have the overview video from NI shortly…]

https://native-instruments.com/

Cost:
USD / EUR 199
USD / EUR 149 upgrade from the previous version
Included in KOMPLETE 12 (and greater editions)

The competition

There’s indeed a lot of competition. Look to:

U-he‘s ZEBRA2, Hive 2. Also deep modulation, but with a single window mode – more like Massive 1 – to MASSIVE X’s various pages and options.

ARTURIA Pigments We’ll be looking more soon at the sound possibilities of this one. It’s perhaps more conservative than MASSIVE X, but its virtual analog/wavetable hybrid is a crowd pleaser, there’s a unique and easy-to-follow interface, and it has a clear high-contrast dark look to the all-gray/beige Massive approach.

Serum of course arguably stole the bass crown from Massive as NI bided their time on an update. It is focused on wavetables (and custom wavetables) compared to MASSIVE X’s fascinating sprawl.

Who else would you want to see up for comparison? Let us know.

To me, at least my initial impression is all this mayhem of choice makes MASSIVE X stand out, but we’ll be interested to dig deeper and get feedback from other sound designers.

The post MASSIVE X synth arrives; here’s what makes it special appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

PORTAL from Output lets you navigate granular effect chaos

PORTAL is a new granular synthesis effect plug-in from Output – and it lets you get into some serious mayhem across pitch, time, and synced tempo.

Output’s stuff has generally delivered deep, cutting-edge, futuristic sounds with pretty, easy UIs, and this is no different. You can dial up presets by category (with names like “vocals,” “stretch & smear,” “drums,” and “glitchy”). Then you can use either macro knobs and faders, plus the signature graphical portal X/Y control, or dive into a more detailed editing interface.

Macro effects and X/Y give you the spaceship control panel overview.

And there’s reason to love this particular package: PORTAL is the stuff of science fiction. Whether you’re just dialing up presets or drawing your own modulation and controls, it lets you mangle space and time the way you dreamed – not just at random, but really warping the heck out of your sounds.

I have no idea how I’d make a demo of this, but – I did wind up mangling a kind of boring groove I’d worked on into this alien world. Pick four tracks, add PORTAL to each, and go. Fun times.

And their demo:

For those not in the know: granular synthesis involves chopping up sound into tiny bits – grains – and then producing new continuous sounds by clustering lots of those pieces together as it plays back. The result can be stretching, smearing, re-pitching, and glitching and distorting sounds, warping and mangling time and frequency in the process. It’s the basic basis of a lot of re-pitch and re-time effects, as well as more specialized (and weird) effects.

Start by navigating the presets – seriously, go ahead and scroll through them, as each category has a pretty broad range.

What makes PORTAL special is a deep granular engine – combining wild-sound granular reprocessing with a built-in grain delay – all wrapped into a powerful interface. At the top level, that interface lets you just modify a couple of parameters for some major sonic effects. But dig in deeper, and you get a few key features:

  • Tempo-synced delay effects (meaning you might even just use this as a grain delay)
  • Tuning that ranges between free and tuned intervals
  • Two modulation sources with editable curves and time sync

That may not seem significant right away. But the ability to run time and pitch free (for mangled special effects) or tune it into specific beat-synced effects and tuned intervals means this can be as chaotic or as tied to the project context as you wish.

The modulation interface is also really clever. Click RNDM to generate curves. Use SYNC to adjust modulation curves to tempo. And then use a HUMANIZE option to add bits of randomization. I’d love this particular modulation editor just about anywhere.

Creating new sound designs this way is intuitive, but this is a case where even the most preset-prone will want to explore some of the presets just to find out what’s possible. Granular effects being as wide-ranging as they are, there is a certain fun to just scrolling through effects presets for happy accidents with whatever source material you have.

I think Output sell short the existing granular effects out there, which they describe as “a method that has previously been out of reach and impractical for many musicians.” There are plenty of great grain effects, and from Reaktor to iPad apps, casual musicians have often found ways of getting creative with them.

The editor interface is where the fun really starts, thanks to the ability to sync to pitch interval and tempo, easily see what you’re doing, and generate/edit your own modulation curves.

But I also mean to say, I think Output are underselling how special PORTAL is even among those other grain options. Integrating the grain delay and making modulation and pitch and time controls intuitive and accessible makes this one of the easiest sound design tools for grains I’ve seen yet. It’s especially useful as a grain delay.

Just don’t be shy trying a lot of the presets – some are way more useful or musical than others. And don’t be afraid of that editor interface: mouse over the labels for descriptions or numerical feedback on settings, and give the modulation a go.

Now you’re playing with PORTALS.

Take a tour:

Learn about how those grain controls work:

Dive into modulation:

Check it out. PORTAL is 149 EUR / USD.

https://output.com/portal

The post PORTAL from Output lets you navigate granular effect chaos appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

PORTAL from Output lets you navigate granular effect chaos

PORTAL is a new granular synthesis effect plug-in from Output – and it lets you get into some serious mayhem across pitch, time, and synced tempo.

Output’s stuff has generally delivered deep, cutting-edge, futuristic sounds with pretty, easy UIs, and this is no different. You can dial up presets by category (with names like “vocals,” “stretch & smear,” “drums,” and “glitchy”). Then you can use either macro knobs and faders, plus the signature graphical portal X/Y control, or dive into a more detailed editing interface.

Macro effects and X/Y give you the spaceship control panel overview.

And there’s reason to love this particular package: PORTAL is the stuff of science fiction. Whether you’re just dialing up presets or drawing your own modulation and controls, it lets you mangle space and time the way you dreamed – not just at random, but really warping the heck out of your sounds.

I have no idea how I’d make a demo of this, but – I did wind up mangling a kind of boring groove I’d worked on into this alien world. Pick four tracks, add PORTAL to each, and go. Fun times.

And their demo:

For those not in the know: granular synthesis involves chopping up sound into tiny bits – grains – and then producing new continuous sounds by clustering lots of those pieces together as it plays back. The result can be stretching, smearing, re-pitching, and glitching and distorting sounds, warping and mangling time and frequency in the process. It’s the basic basis of a lot of re-pitch and re-time effects, as well as more specialized (and weird) effects.

Start by navigating the presets – seriously, go ahead and scroll through them, as each category has a pretty broad range.

What makes PORTAL special is a deep granular engine – combining wild-sound granular reprocessing with a built-in grain delay – all wrapped into a powerful interface. At the top level, that interface lets you just modify a couple of parameters for some major sonic effects. But dig in deeper, and you get a few key features:

  • Tempo-synced delay effects (meaning you might even just use this as a grain delay)
  • Tuning that ranges between free and tuned intervals
  • Two modulation sources with editable curves and time sync

That may not seem significant right away. But the ability to run time and pitch free (for mangled special effects) or tune it into specific beat-synced effects and tuned intervals means this can be as chaotic or as tied to the project context as you wish.

The modulation interface is also really clever. Click RNDM to generate curves. Use SYNC to adjust modulation curves to tempo. And then use a HUMANIZE option to add bits of randomization. I’d love this particular modulation editor just about anywhere.

Creating new sound designs this way is intuitive, but this is a case where even the most preset-prone will want to explore some of the presets just to find out what’s possible. Granular effects being as wide-ranging as they are, there is a certain fun to just scrolling through effects presets for happy accidents with whatever source material you have.

I think Output sell short the existing granular effects out there, which they describe as “a method that has previously been out of reach and impractical for many musicians.” There are plenty of great grain effects, and from Reaktor to iPad apps, casual musicians have often found ways of getting creative with them.

The editor interface is where the fun really starts, thanks to the ability to sync to pitch interval and tempo, easily see what you’re doing, and generate/edit your own modulation curves.

But I also mean to say, I think Output are underselling how special PORTAL is even among those other grain options. Integrating the grain delay and making modulation and pitch and time controls intuitive and accessible makes this one of the easiest sound design tools for grains I’ve seen yet. It’s especially useful as a grain delay.

Just don’t be shy trying a lot of the presets – some are way more useful or musical than others. And don’t be afraid of that editor interface: mouse over the labels for descriptions or numerical feedback on settings, and give the modulation a go.

Now you’re playing with PORTALS.

Take a tour:

Learn about how those grain controls work:

Dive into modulation:

Check it out. PORTAL is 149 EUR / USD.

https://output.com/portal

The post PORTAL from Output lets you navigate granular effect chaos appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

VCV Rack hits 1.0; why you need this free modular now

Software modular VCV Rack just hit a major milestone – it’s now officially version 1.0, with polyphony, full MIDI, module browsing, multi-core support, and more. And since it’s a free and open platform, you don’t want to sleep on this.

VCV and developer Andrew Belt have hit on a new formula. Rack is free and open source on Mac, Windows, and Linux, and it’s free for developers to make their own modules. It also has tons of functionality out of the box – both from VCV and third-party developers. But then to support ongoing development, those developers offer some superb paid modules. Once you’re hooked, spending a little extra seems a good investment – because, well, it is.

All those modules… now seen in the new 1.0 visual browser.

Crucially, it’s a good deal for developers as well as users. Independent software developers, VCV included, are able to communicate directly with users, who in turn feel good about supporting the platform and community by spending some money. And hardware makers have a new way of reaching new audiences, as well as offering up try-before-you-buy versions of some of their modules. (Open source hardware makers like Mutable Instruments and Music thing were early adopters, but I hear some other names are coming.)

Maybe you’ve heard all this. But maybe you weren’t quite ready to take the plunge. With version 1.0, the case is getting pretty strong for adding Rack to your arsenal. Rack was appealing early on to tinkerers who enjoyed messing around with software. But 1.0 is starting to look like something you’d rely on in your music.

And that starts with polyphony, as shown by the developer of the VULT modules, which include many of my own personal favorites:

Rack 1.0

1.0 is really about two things – new functionality for more flexible use in your music, and a stable API for developers underneath that makes you feel like you’re using modules and not just testing them.

Mono- to polyphonic, on demand. Modules that want to support polyphony now can add up to 16 voices. Cables support polyphony. And the built-in modules have added tools for polyphonic use of course, too.

Polyphony, now a thing – and nicely implemented, both in UI and performance under the hood.

Multi-core accelerated engine. Adding polyphony, even on newer machines, means a greater tax on your CPU. There are a number of under-the-hood improvements to enable that in Rack, including multi-core support, threading, and hardware acceleration. This is also partly built into the platform, so third-party modules supporting Rack will get a performance boost “for free,” without developers having to worry about it or reinvent the wheel.

Adjustable performance: From the menu you can now adjust CPU performance based on whether you want lower CPU usage or more modules.

Adjust priority of the CPU based on your needs (more modules with higher CPU usage, or fewer modules but lower CPU).

MIDI out. You could always get MIDI into Rack, but now you can get it out, too – so you can use sequencers and modulation and so on to control other equipment or via inter-app MIDI routing, other software. There are three new modules – CV-GATE, CV-MIDI, and CV-CC. (VCV describes those as being suitable for drum machines, synths, and Eurorack and talks about hardware, but you could find a lot of different applications for this.)

Assign MIDI control easily. Previously, controlling Rack has been a bit of a chore: start with a MIDI input, figure out how to route it into some kind of modulation, assign the modulation. Many software racks work this way, but it feels a bit draconian to users of other software. Now, via the MIDI-MAP module, you can click a parameter onscreen and just move a knob or fader or what have you on your controller – you know, like you can do in other tools.

That will be essential for actually playing your patches. I can’t wait to use this with Sensel Morph and the Buchla Thunder overlay but… yeah, that’s another story. Watch for that in the coming days.

Meet the new MIDI modules, which now support output, mapping, and even MPE.

Numeric pad input as well as revised gamepad support. Now in addition to gamepads (which offer some new improvements), you can hook up numeric keyboards:

MPE support: MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) now works with MIDI-CV. That makes Rack a fascinating new way of controlling MPE instruments.

Enter parameters manually. You can also now right-click a parameter and type in the value you want.

Browse modules visually. All the previous options for navigating your collection of virtual modules textually are still there – type module names, use tags, search by manufacturer or type. But now you also get a pretty visual browser so you can spot the module you want at a glance, and click and drag to drop modules into place. VCV isn’t the first computer modular to offer this – Softube has an awfully pretty browser, for one – but I find the Rack 1.0 browser to be really quick and easy. And it’s especially needed here as you quickly accumulate loads of modules from the Web.

Get new modules by sorting by build. This feature is actually on the VCV website, but it’s so important to how we work in Rack that it’s worth a mention here. Now you can search by build date and find the latest stuff.

Sort by build now on the plugins interface on the Web.

Move and manage modules more easily. You can now disable modules, force-drag them into place, and use a new, more flexible rack. The rack is also now infinite in all four dimensions, which is a bit confusing at first, but in keeping with the open-ended computer software ethos of software modular. (Take that, you Eurorack people who live in … like … normal physical space!)

You can also right-click modules to get quick links to plugin websites, documentation, and even source code. And you can see changelogs before you update, instead of just updating and finding out later.

Undo/redo history. At last, experiment without worry.

Parameter tooltips. No need to guess what that knob or switch is meant to do.

You can check out the new features in detail on the changelog (plus stuff added since 1.0, in case you live in the future and me in the past!):

https://github.com/VCVRack/Rack/blob/v1/CHANGELOG.md

Or for even more explanation, Nik Jewell describes what all those changes are about:

An unofficial guide to the Rack v1 Changelog

Getting started

Rack 1.0 will break compatibility with some modules, while you wait on those developers to update to the new API (hopefully). Andrew tells us we can run the old (0.6.x) and new Rack versions side by side:

To install two versions that don’t clash, simply install Rack v1 to a different folder such as “Program Files/VCV/Rack-v1” on Windows or “/Applications/Rack-v1” on Mac. They will each use their own set of plugins, settings, etc.

You can duplicate your Rack folder, and run the two versions side by side. Then you’re free to try the new features while still opening up your old work. (I found most of my previous patches, even after updating my modules, wound up missing modules. Rack will make the incompatible modules disappear, leaving the compatible ones in place.)

Right from the moment you start up VCV Rack 1.0, you’ll find some things are more approachable, with a new example patch and updated Scope. And for existing users, be prepared that the toolbar is gone, now replaced with menu options.

Here are some useful shortcuts for getting around the new release:

Now you can right-click a plug-in for an updated contextual menu with presets, and links to the developer’s site for documentation and more.

Double-click a parameter: initialize to default value

Right-click a parameter: type to enter a specific value.

Ctrl-click a connected input, and drag: clones the cable connected there to another port. (This way you can quickly route one output to multiple inputs, without having to mouse back to the output.)

Ctrl-E: Disables a module. (You can also choose the context menu.)

Ctrl- / Ctrl+ to zoom, or hold down control and use a scroll wheel.

Ctrl-drag modules. This is actually my favorite new feature, weirdly. If you control drag a module, it shoves other modules along with it into any empty space. It’s easier to see that in an animation than it is to describe it, so I’ll let Andrew show us:

Do check out the Recorder, too:

All the new internal modules to try out:
CV-MIDI
CV-CC
CV-Gate
MIDI-Map
Recorder

And developers, do go check out the migration guide.

Full information:

https://vcvrack.com/

The post VCV Rack hits 1.0; why you need this free modular now appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

VCV Rack hits 1.0; why you need this free modular now

Software modular VCV Rack just hit a major milestone – it’s now officially version 1.0, with polyphony, full MIDI, module browsing, multi-core support, and more. And since it’s a free and open platform, you don’t want to sleep on this.

VCV and developer Andrew Belt have hit on a new formula. Rack is free and open source on Mac, Windows, and Linux, and it’s free for developers to make their own modules. It also has tons of functionality out of the box – both from VCV and third-party developers. But then to support ongoing development, those developers offer some superb paid modules. Once you’re hooked, spending a little extra seems a good investment – because, well, it is.

All those modules… now seen in the new 1.0 visual browser.

Crucially, it’s a good deal for developers as well as users. Independent software developers, VCV included, are able to communicate directly with users, who in turn feel good about supporting the platform and community by spending some money. And hardware makers have a new way of reaching new audiences, as well as offering up try-before-you-buy versions of some of their modules. (Open source hardware makers like Mutable Instruments and Music thing were early adopters, but I hear some other names are coming.)

Maybe you’ve heard all this. But maybe you weren’t quite ready to take the plunge. With version 1.0, the case is getting pretty strong for adding Rack to your arsenal. Rack was appealing early on to tinkerers who enjoyed messing around with software. But 1.0 is starting to look like something you’d rely on in your music.

And that starts with polyphony, as shown by the developer of the VULT modules, which include many of my own personal favorites:

Rack 1.0

1.0 is really about two things – new functionality for more flexible use in your music, and a stable API for developers underneath that makes you feel like you’re using modules and not just testing them.

Mono- to polyphonic, on demand. Modules that want to support polyphony now can add up to 16 voices. Cables support polyphony. And the built-in modules have added tools for polyphonic use of course, too.

Polyphony, now a thing – and nicely implemented, both in UI and performance under the hood.

Multi-core accelerated engine. Adding polyphony, even on newer machines, means a greater tax on your CPU. There are a number of under-the-hood improvements to enable that in Rack, including multi-core support, threading, and hardware acceleration. This is also partly built into the platform, so third-party modules supporting Rack will get a performance boost “for free,” without developers having to worry about it or reinvent the wheel.

Adjustable performance: From the menu you can now adjust CPU performance based on whether you want lower CPU usage or more modules.

Adjust priority of the CPU based on your needs (more modules with higher CPU usage, or fewer modules but lower CPU).

MIDI out. You could always get MIDI into Rack, but now you can get it out, too – so you can use sequencers and modulation and so on to control other equipment or via inter-app MIDI routing, other software. There are three new modules – CV-GATE, CV-MIDI, and CV-CC. (VCV describes those as being suitable for drum machines, synths, and Eurorack and talks about hardware, but you could find a lot of different applications for this.)

Assign MIDI control easily. Previously, controlling Rack has been a bit of a chore: start with a MIDI input, figure out how to route it into some kind of modulation, assign the modulation. Many software racks work this way, but it feels a bit draconian to users of other software. Now, via the MIDI-MAP module, you can click a parameter onscreen and just move a knob or fader or what have you on your controller – you know, like you can do in other tools.

That will be essential for actually playing your patches. I can’t wait to use this with Sensel Morph and the Buchla Thunder overlay but… yeah, that’s another story. Watch for that in the coming days.

Meet the new MIDI modules, which now support output, mapping, and even MPE.

Numeric pad input as well as revised gamepad support. Now in addition to gamepads (which offer some new improvements), you can hook up numeric keyboards:

MPE support: MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) now works with MIDI-CV. That makes Rack a fascinating new way of controlling MPE instruments.

Enter parameters manually. You can also now right-click a parameter and type in the value you want.

Browse modules visually. All the previous options for navigating your collection of virtual modules textually are still there – type module names, use tags, search by manufacturer or type. But now you also get a pretty visual browser so you can spot the module you want at a glance, and click and drag to drop modules into place. VCV isn’t the first computer modular to offer this – Softube has an awfully pretty browser, for one – but I find the Rack 1.0 browser to be really quick and easy. And it’s especially needed here as you quickly accumulate loads of modules from the Web.

Get new modules by sorting by build. This feature is actually on the VCV website, but it’s so important to how we work in Rack that it’s worth a mention here. Now you can search by build date and find the latest stuff.

Sort by build now on the plugins interface on the Web.

Move and manage modules more easily. You can now disable modules, force-drag them into place, and use a new, more flexible rack. The rack is also now infinite in all four dimensions, which is a bit confusing at first, but in keeping with the open-ended computer software ethos of software modular. (Take that, you Eurorack people who live in … like … normal physical space!)

You can also right-click modules to get quick links to plugin websites, documentation, and even source code. And you can see changelogs before you update, instead of just updating and finding out later.

Undo/redo history. At last, experiment without worry.

Parameter tooltips. No need to guess what that knob or switch is meant to do.

You can check out the new features in detail on the changelog (plus stuff added since 1.0, in case you live in the future and me in the past!):

https://github.com/VCVRack/Rack/blob/v1/CHANGELOG.md

Or for even more explanation, Nik Jewell describes what all those changes are about:

An unofficial guide to the Rack v1 Changelog

Getting started

Rack 1.0 will break compatibility with some modules, while you wait on those developers to update to the new API (hopefully). Andrew tells us we can run the old (0.6.x) and new Rack versions side by side:

To install two versions that don’t clash, simply install Rack v1 to a different folder such as “Program Files/VCV/Rack-v1” on Windows or “/Applications/Rack-v1” on Mac. They will each use their own set of plugins, settings, etc.

You can duplicate your Rack folder, and run the two versions side by side. Then you’re free to try the new features while still opening up your old work. (I found most of my previous patches, even after updating my modules, wound up missing modules. Rack will make the incompatible modules disappear, leaving the compatible ones in place.)

Right from the moment you start up VCV Rack 1.0, you’ll find some things are more approachable, with a new example patch and updated Scope. And for existing users, be prepared that the toolbar is gone, now replaced with menu options.

Here are some useful shortcuts for getting around the new release:

Now you can right-click a plug-in for an updated contextual menu with presets, and links to the developer’s site for documentation and more.

Double-click a parameter: initialize to default value

Right-click a parameter: type to enter a specific value.

Ctrl-click a connected input, and drag: clones the cable connected there to another port. (This way you can quickly route one output to multiple inputs, without having to mouse back to the output.)

Ctrl-E: Disables a module. (You can also choose the context menu.)

Ctrl- / Ctrl+ to zoom, or hold down control and use a scroll wheel.

Ctrl-drag modules. This is actually my favorite new feature, weirdly. If you control drag a module, it shoves other modules along with it into any empty space. It’s easier to see that in an animation than it is to describe it, so I’ll let Andrew show us:

Do check out the Recorder, too:

All the new internal modules to try out:
CV-MIDI
CV-CC
CV-Gate
MIDI-Map
Recorder

And developers, do go check out the migration guide.

Full information:

https://vcvrack.com/

The post VCV Rack hits 1.0; why you need this free modular now appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Sonarworks Reference 4.3: more headphones, features for calibrating your mixes

Sonarworks Reference 4.3 has a bunch of new features – more headphones, better performance, and it won’t blind you in a dark studio. The goal: make sure your mixes sound consistent everywhere. And with both high-end and consumer cans on the supported list, they seem to want everybody to give this a go.

I think the biggest challenge Sonarworks has here is that even I would have imagined calibration was something for engineers, but not necessarily producers. But once you hear the results, anyone can hear what this does. The thing is, headphones and studio monitors really aren’t flat. And especially outside of perfectly tuned studio environments, neither are working environments. Testing and calibration improves that enough that anyone can hear.

I’ve been using Sonarworks Reference religiously since the fall. The biggest challenge has been that there are two modes. One sounds really great, but adds a ton of latency. That’s especially rough if you want to work with calibration switched on all the time. The other is low-latency, but doesn’t sound as good. Those differences are, again, noticeable to anyone.

The big improvement in Reference 4.3 is to let you have both – with a mixed filter mode that operates with minimal latency but still delivers accurate results. That for me makes Reference way more useful. In fact, given this involved a ground-up rewrite, I’m surprised Sonarworks didn’t call this Reference 5. (It’s a free update, though!)

You also get new headphone profiles, which show both some high-end Beyerdynamic models but also the sort of consumer listening cans a lot of us use on the go with our smartphones and such. Those seem to target new users as well as ones traveling.

Beyerdynamic Custom Studio
Beyerdynamic MMX 300
Direct Sound EXTW37 Pro
Direct Sound Serenity Plus
Direct Sound Studio Plus
Marshall Major III
Marshall Major III Bluetooth
Marshall Monitor Bluetooth

More important than the addition of new individual models, though, they’ve added on-demand profile delivery, so you can add support inside the tool. There are already over a couple hundred of these, and they keep adding more.

There are some other improvements, too:

Dark mode – some people hate these; I love them, since I work in a lot of dim / late night environments

A better menu/tray bar, which is critical as you modify settings as you work

Integrated room measurement inside the Systemwide and plugin tools

Better virtual sound device performance (I need to test this across my Mac and Windows machines)

The little tool that gets you up and running when you start I already liked, and wrote about previously, but they’ve enhanced that even more

Previously, I did some deep dives into this software and answered reader questions:

What it’s like calibrating headphones and monitors with Sonarworks tools

Your questions answered: Sonarworks Reference calibration tools

I need to follow up with them on how Linux support is coming, as CDM was the first to write about that and some of you I know were interested (as am I)!

Also since I last covered Reference, Sonarworks has started offering a bundle with pre-calibrated headphones. These theoretically deliver more precise calibration than what you’d get from any profile, since they’ve tested the actual harder. It’s pricey, because it includes the already-expensive HD650 headphones from Sennheiser.

But those are terrific headphones, and headphones are crucial to precise mixing and mastering. I imagine these would be a great investment for a producer or especially studio or engineer wanting to invest in a full calibration package at once. (Feel free to shout about whether Sennheiser or Beyerdynamic are better in comments, though!) In fact, I think if you’re thinking of buying the HD650s, you should spring for the bundle.

The bundle, with Sennheiser HD650.

I have talked to more producers about this tool than engineers (though my mastering engineer collaborator is a believer), so I would be interested to hear about that use case more.

And yes, this is another member of our music tech industry now located in Riga, Latvia, along with Gamechanger, Erica Synths, and others. It’s a surprising new hotbed.

The post Sonarworks Reference 4.3: more headphones, features for calibrating your mixes appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.