If DJing originated in the creative miuse and appropriation of hardware, perhaps the next wave will come from DIYers inventing new approaches. No need to wait, anyway – you can try building this scratch controller yourself.
DJWORX has done some great ongoing coverage of Andy Tait aka Rasteri. You can read a complete overview of Andy’s SC1000, a Raspberry Pi-based project with metal touch platter:
If you’re wondering what portablism is, that’s DJs carrying portable record players around. But maybe more to the point, if you can invent new gear that fits in a DJ booth, you can experiment with DJing in new ways. (Think how much current technique is really circumscribed by the feature set of CDJs, turntables, and fairly identical DJ software.)
Or to look at it another way, you can really treat the DJ device as a musical instrument – one you can still carry around easily.
The SC1000 in Rasteri’s capable hands is exciting just to behold:
Everything you need to build this yourself – or to discover the basis for other ideas – is up on GitHub:
This is not a beginner project. But it’s not overwhelmingly complicated, either. Basically…
System-on-module (the brains of the operation)
Jog wheel with metal capacitive touch surface and magnet
Free software powers the actual DJing. (It’s based on xwax, open source Linux digital vinyl emulation, which we’ve seen as the basis of other DIY projects.)
You need to assemble the main PCB – there’s your soldering iron action.
And you’ll flash the firmware (which requires a PIC programmer), plus transfer the OS to SD card.
Assembly of the jog wheel and enclosure requires a little drilling and gluing
Other than that it’s a matter of testing and connection.
Full open source under a GPLv2 license. (Andy sort of left out the hardware license – this really sort of illustrates that GNU need a license that blankets both hardware and software, though that’s complex legally. There’s no copyright information on the hardware; to be fully open it needs something like a Creative Commons license on those elements of the designs. But that’s not a big deal.)
It looks really fantastic. I definitely want to try building one of these in Berlin – will team up and let you know how it goes.
This clearly isn’t for everyone. But the reason I mention going to custom hardware is, this means both that you can adapt your own technique to a particular instrument and you can modify the way the digital DJ tool responds if you so choose. It may take some time before we see that bear fruit, but it definitely holds some potential.
There’s a nice gift for Red Bull Music Academy attendees: a hardware convolver effect from the man who led the team at KORG that gave us volcas and minilogues. Here’s a sneak preview.
The Granular Convolver is a collaboration between Tatsuya, now working as an independent designer and relocated to Germany from Japan (while still in an advisory position with KORG), and Berlin’s own E-RM Erfindungsbüro, maker of obsessive-quality clock devices. (Founder Maximilian Rest is the design mind there.)
I’ve got one in-hand, and will detail its operation with some sound samples shortly, but here’s a quick teaser.
First, a Jony Ives (sorry)-style video from Tats:
The important thing: this Raspberry Pi-powered device feels amazing, like a heavyweight metal luxury item, and makes wonderful sounds.
The basic operation:
1. Record a sound snippet.
2. Play back that sound snippet via a granular engine.
3. Convolve that playback with a live input, combining the two sounds – the timbre of your original sound, the envelope of what you’re playing now.
There are also some features for storing and recalling presets, which make this performance friendly.
Why this matters: it gives you an expressive way of “playing” an effect, like an instrument.
And it’s a unique boutique hardware making project, for the particular context of an event – very different than the mass-manufactured designs of something like the volca series. The units were all hand-assembled (by Tats himself) here in Berlin, and even the boards and cases were made here, as well, so it really is a Berlin manufacturing product in a way most things aren’t.
More on this soon – and you can bet if you follow any RBMA attendees, you’ll see some of their experiments with this hardware show up in social channels!
Teenage Engineerings OP1 ist ja doch ziemlich erfolgreich. Trotz recht hoher Preise gibt es erstaunlich viele Nutzer dieses possierlichen Apparats mit Recording, Synths und Taschenrechner. Deshalb gibt’s auch Otto, wer ist Otto? Malt der Ottifanten?
Nein, keine Ottifanten, die Älteren erinnern sich, die Jüngeren fragen sich vermutlich: „Was will der Gearnews-Typ eigentlich?“ Otto ist der Name einer Klaviatur mit einem Display in einer Box, etwas größer als der flache, elegante Taschenrechner-Synth – aber das Projekt ist offen und man sucht vor allem Entwickler, denn die Ressourcen findet man bei Github und es gibt schon einen Start mit einigen bereits funktionierenden Modellen.
Der Nutzer Topisani auf Github ist der Kopf und Initiator des Otto Synthesizers. Das Projekt basiert auf einem Raspberry Pi, dem bekannten Bastelrechner. Der Entwickler sollte C++ können und das auf einem sehr neuen Compiler. Aktuell werden also eher Aktive gesucht, jedoch wird das natürlich ein Produkt, das dann aber für alle bereitsteht.
Otto Synthesizer – was ist schon da?
Es gibt einige Screenshots und auch eine Optik, die bereits zu sehen ist. Alles Weitere sollte man mit den anderen besprechen und sicherlich sind auch auf Dauer Fragen sinnvoll, wo und wie man als reiner Unterstützer helfen kann, z. B. mit Geld, Logistik oder so etwas.
Man kann einige Taster für die Steuerung erkennen und eine 2-Oktaven Tastatur. Das Ganze hat einen 320-Pixel-Screen und ist genau so bunt geplant wie die OP1-Idee, nur offener und weiter und mehr. Als Basis wird Jack verwendet, eine bekannte Audioumgebung auf Linux. Aber man ist offen für alles und möchte es so modular wie möglich umsetzen, um das Projekt zukunftsfest zu halten. Wichtig ist nur, dass man dann auch sagen kann „was bist denn du fürn OTTO“?
Mehr dazu direkt auf den oben bereits verlinkten Github-Seiten, die übrigens heute von Microsoft betrieben werden.
Hier ein kleines Video, was nicht alles zeigt, sondern nur die Optik und die Idee demonstriert, noch aber nicht, was der Otto Synthesizer wirklich mal können wird.
“Making electronic music is awesome! But for most of us, it requires a lot of setup, a lot of moving a mouse around on a laptop that’s probably not quite equipped to handle realtime audio processing. Don’t you wish you had one single device, which was xbuilt to do it all for you, easily and on the fly?
‘We were thrilled to be invited to run a demonstration of the Mad Music Machine at the Brighton Modular Meet.
We thought it would be a good idea to create a patch using waveforms generated from our Astro Pi data with samples we created from the European Space Agency commentary of Tim Peakes flight from Earth to the International Space Station.
“This is a vlog about:
– Development progress on Orac 1.1, and what it contains.
– A demonstration of a project Ive been woking, to allow a Push 2 to be used with Monome Norns as a display and controller.
There are some exceptional audio interfaces out there. But Arturia stands out by cramming an unusual amount of connectivity in an ultra-mobile package.
Look, when it comes to audio interfaces, compromise is the name of the game. The interface either never has every single port you want, or … it does, but it’s big. And computer operating systems remain an obstacle – especially once you’re beyond what theoretically should work, and into the realm of now something is popping and I better turn up the buffer size. Some of this is in the hands of manufacturers; some is decidedly not. (Computer and OS makers, I’m looking at you. Yes, you. Music – it’s kind of important to human civilization. Check it out some time.)
What’s impressive about Arturia’s AudioFuse is that they seem to have taken to heart a lot of the wishes of the mobile musician – and actually delivered.
I’ve had my hands on the AudioFuse for some time now, long enough to torture test it with both my Mac and PC in a variety of live and studio conditions. And I can share what I’ve been sharing with friends about it – this is easily on my short list of easy-to-recommend audio interfaces. (More on the others at the end.)
What the AudioFuse manages to pull off, and this isn’t easy, is maximizing flexibility in a variety of situations while still fitting into an enclosure small enough that you may always keep it in your backpack.
Plug-and-play, reliable performance
First, one feature that makes the AudioFuse essential to keep around is, it’s USB 2.0 class-compliant, driver free. With this amount of I/O, USB 2.0 makes this box far more flexible and compatible. Officially, that means Mac and Windows support that’s plug-and-play. But unofficially, that means Linux, Raspberry Pi, iOS, and Android, too.
You will need Mac or Windows to run the AudioFuse Control Center for additional configuration options. But I’ve happily dual-booted to Linux on my PC and gotten great results from the box. And there’s enough onboard control that I didn’t feel stranded without the software control panel, even though it’s useful in some situations. Meanwhile, the AudioFuse remembers all of its settings after you disconnect from the control panel.
You mileage may vary, but I got extremely reliable results with a 64 sample buffer size, which means well under 10 ms latency, on Mac, Windows, and Linux with a variety of tools. Remember that with latency the point isn’t just paper specs or whether the audio interface can run with a small buffer size; it’s whether you consistently remain without pops at that small buffer size. For me, the Arturia out-performed a number of USB devices laying around my studio.
If you have a single OS environment, and you don’t mind installing drivers, you may well best the AudioFuse’s performance. And I would consider Thunderbolt/USB3 if you want to use more I/O than the AudioFuse has onboard. But I find there’s some comfort in knowing I’m traveling with an interface I can plug into a different computer without worrying about driver installation, and I like owning at least one box like the AudioFuse that can work outside just Mac and Windows.
Connect nearly everything
Wow, did someone hear or intuit what I wanted in I/O (with one caveat below):
4 inputs: 2 XLR mic ins, 2 phono/line ins
2 RIAA phono preamps (seriously)
4 analog outputs
2 analog inserts
Word clock in/out
3-port USB hub
2(!) independent headphone jacks
MIDI in/out (via minijack adapters)
Including MIDI, the USB hub, and separate headphone jacks alone makes this a huge boon to the mobile musician. And everything works as advertised – plus it all runs via bus power if you like (adjusting automatically to allow it to do so). A bit on the power modes:
USB is via micro USB. That may sound fidgety, but structurally I’ve found these to be sound. The included cable has a second USB connection, but if you lose your cable, you can swap a phone cable – also critical, because it means again the interface will still function when you’re on the road and misplaced a cable or someone lifted it from you. Uh… not that those things ever happen.
Arturia advertises their own, built-from-scratch mic pres. They certainly sounded transparent to me, and I appreciate that they get their own signal path. And you’ve got onboard 48V phantom power plus a multi-level pad and auto-impedance matching. Basically, you can more or less plug anything into this and forget about it. 24-bit 192kHz may sound like overkill, but then – quite literally, friends and I have lately got interested in recording ultrasonic birdsong and bat noises, so there’s that.
There are also unique monitoring settings, like handy summing to mono. (Having once had my trusty mastering engineer yell at me when I accidentally sent something that had phase cancellation problems, thanks for this!)
The one thing I’m missing here is more than four outputs. With some serious multichannel output situations becoming more commonplace, that means the AudioFuse isn’t quite the last interface I’d ever need to own. (Someone somewhere is saying the same about the inputs.) But let’s not consider the fact that the whole thing is a tiny square. Speaking of which:
That form factor / UX
Arturia really nailed it here. This is the one audio interface with a decent selection of I/O I can comfortably drop in a backpack or suitcase without worry, thanks to its small size, low weight, and a cute and indispensable cover. That’s not just for looks – a lot of audio interfaces have some dangerously exposed controls. (It does look nice, too, of course.)
I’m also a fan of the top panel. There’s a big knob, certainly reminiscent of interfaces from Universal Audio and others, plus dedicated meters for input and output and gain and phone knobs, plus shortcut keys and a cleverly-positioned dial for adjusting whether you monitor from the computer source or direct through the interface.
Arturia were clearly inspired by Universal Audio both in those dials and the displays. (Not to be outdone, UA also have a slick new box called the Arrow. Upside: Thunderbolt, DSP processing. Downside: far less connectivity.)
Here, I’ll link directly to Sound on Sound and say everything Sam says about monitoring is absolutely true. (Sam, I’m not cribbing your review notes – I just definitely can say I can directly count myself with the opposite use case!)
I can be even less diplomatic than Sam and say, if you want an audio interface that doubles as a (sub)mixer, or if you want particular control over what goes to the monitor mix, forget the AudioFuse and go with something else.
If you just want to quickly plug in some inputs and then reach one dial that’s either the computer or whatever input you’ve got, the AudioFuse makes sense. That is, if you literally aren’t thinking about what’s plugged in – and quite often in the heat of the moment onstage or on the road recording, you really aren’t – it’s great. Monitoring, like connectivity, are about instant plug and play. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to that; I’d say what this box does is suit this particular use case.
As a versatile all-around mobile interface, I love the AudioFuse. I’d still choose the Universal Audio Apollo Twin for audio quality, and the ability to add processing via UA’s effects without adding round-trip latency through the computer. I’d consider MOTU and RME for adding more I/O, too (especially if you don’t need or want the UAD effects), and certainly MOTU for its unique AV applications and mixer operation. Thunderbolt really does look like the future for more advanced applications.
MOTU is worth an additional mention for being universally compatible with their 828es, which has both Thunderbolt and USB. And that’s the box you want if you find the AudioFuse appealing but want more I/O and real standalone mixing operation, plus better performance.
But that also slightly misses the point. You wouldn’t throw an 828es into a backpack and take it with you everywhere. The AudioFuse, you would. And all musicians don’t always travel with road cases.
And that’s why one size doesn’t really fit all. But for under $/EUR600, in a small size that does fit everywhere, the AudioFuse is worth a look. Now, note to Arturia – if this is a big hit, a micro edition might make sense. Or an expanded box that’s a rectangle rather than a square for a little more I/O. In the meantime, I’ve got to go pack my backpack and get a move on.
Geert Bevin, Amos Gaynes – Designing and Implementing Embedded Synthesizer UIs with JUC Published on Nov 22, 2017
This one was spotted and sent in via Soviet Space Child.
A new product they can’t go into is mentioned. Further below is a video by Geert Bevin featuring JUCE GUI on Linux running on a Raspberry Pi. Although Moog is known for their analog synths, they of course have already