MeeBlip cubit 4-port MIDI splitter copies all your MIDI messages

MeeBlip cubit

The latest member in the MeeBlip line of musical instrument hardware from CDM and blipsonic inc. engineer James Grahame is MeeBlip cubit, a brand new USB powered 4-port MIDI splitter device. The first of a new generation of MeeBlip tools, cubit takes a single input, and turns it into four outputs, with minimum latency, minimum […]

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Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 interface on sale for 199 USD/EUR

NI Komplete Audio 6

Native Instruments has launched a sale on its Komplete Audio 6 six-channel audio interface. The USB powered interface features 4 analog ins/outs, digital in/out, MIDI in/out and 24-bit/96 kHz recording. Packing six channels of pristine audio into a road-ready metal casing, KOMPLETE AUDIO 6 is the ideal home-studio hub or live-show workhorse. And with an […]

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The new iPad Pro has a USB-C port – so what can it do, exactly?

The iPad finally gets a dedicated port for connectivity, as you’d find on a “desktop” computer – and it’s loaded with potential uses, from power to music gear. Let’s break down exactly what it can do.

“USB-C” is a port type; it refers to the reversible, slim, oval-shaped connector on the newest gadgets. But it doesn’t actually describe what the port can do as far as capabilities. So initially, Apple’s reference to the “USB-C” port on the latest iPad Pro generation was pretty vague.

Since then, press have gotten their hands on hardware and Apple themselves have posted technical documentation. Specifically, they’ve got a story up explaining the port’s powers:

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT209186

Now, keep in mind the most confusing thing about Apple and USB-C is the two different kinds of ports. There’s a Thunderbolt-3 port, as found on the high-end MacBooks Pro and the Mac mini. It’s got a bolt of lightning indicator on it, and is compatible with audio devices like those from Universal Audio, and high-performance video gadgetry. And then there’s the plain-vanilla USB-C port, which has the standard USB icon on it.

All Thunderbolt 3 ports also double as USB-C ports, just not the other way around. The Thunderbolt 3 one is the faster port.

Also important, USB-C is backwards compatible with older USB formats if you have the right cable.

So here’s what you can do with USB-C. The basic story: do more, with fewer specialized adapters and dongles.

You can charge your iPad. Standard USB-C power devices as well as Apple’s own adapter. Nicely enough, you might even charge faster with a third-party adapter – like one you could share with a laptop that uses USB-C power.

Connect your iPad to a computer. Just as with Lightning-to-USB, you can use USB cables to connect to a USB-C port or older standard USB-A port, for charge and sync.

Connect to displays, projectors, TVs. Here you’ve got a few options, but they all max out at far higher quality than before:

  • USB-C to HDMI. (up to 4K resolution, 60 Hz, with HDMI 2.0 adapter.)
  • USB-C Digital AV Multiport. Apple’s own adapter supports up to 4K resolution, 30Hz. (The iPad display itself is 1080p / 60Hz, video up to 4K, 30Hz.)
  • USB-C displays. Up to 5K, with HR10 high dynamic range support. Some will even charge the iPad Pro in the process.

High end video makes the new iPad Pro look indispensable as a delivery device for many visual applications – including live visuals. It’s not hard to imagine people carrying these to demo high-end graphics with, or even writing custom software using the latest Apple APIs for 3D graphics and using the iPad Pro live.

Connect storage – a lot of it. Fast. USB-C is now becoming the standard for fast hard drives – USB 3.1/3.2. That theoretically allows for up to 2500 MB/s data access, and Apple says the iPad Pro will now work with 1 TB of storage. I’ve asked them for more clarification, but basically, yes, you can plug in big, fast storage and use it with your iPad, not limiting yourself to internal storage capacity. So that’s a revelation for pros, especially when using the iPad as an accessory to process video and photos and field recordings on the go.

Play audio. There’s no minijack audio output (grrr), but what you do get is audio playback to USB-C audio interfaces, docks, and specialized headphones. There’s also a USB-C to 3.m mm headphone jack adapter, but that’s pretty useless because it doesn’t include power passthrough – it’s a step backward from what you had before. Better to use a specialized USB-C adapter, which could also mean getting an analog audio output that’s higher quality than the one previous included internally on the iPad range.

And of course you can use AirPlay or Bluetooth, though it doesn’t appear Apple yet supports higher quality Bluetooth streaming, so wires seem to win for those of us who care about sound.

Oh, also interesting – Apple says they’ve added Dolby Digital Plus support over HDMI, but not Dolby Atmos. That hints a bit at consumer devices that do support Atmos – these are rare so far, but it’ll be interesting to watch, and to see whether Apple and Dolby work together or compete in this space.

Speaking of audio and music, though, here’s the other big one:

Work with USB devices. Apple specifically calls out audio and MIDI tools, presumably because musicians remain a big target Pro audience. What’s great here is, you no longer have the extra Lightning to USB “Camera” adapter required on older iPads, which was expensive and only worked with the iPad, and you should be free of some of the more restrictive electrical power capabilities of those past models.

You could also use a standard external keyboard to type on, or wired Ethernet – the latter great for wired use of applications like Liine’s Lemur.

The important thing here is there’s more bandwidth and more power. (Hardware that draws more power may still require external power – but that’s already true on a computer, too.)

The iPad Pro is at last closer to a computer, which makes it a much more serious tool for soft synths, controller tools, audio production, and more.

Charge other stuff. This is also cool – if you ever relied on a laptop as a mobile battery for phones and other accessories, now you can do that with the USB-C on the iPad Pro, too. So that means iPhones as well as other non-Apple phones. You can even plug one iPad into another iPad Pro.

Thunderbolt – no. Note that what you can’t do is connect Thunderbolt hardware. For that, you still want a laptop or desktop computer.

What about Made for iPhone? Apple’s somewhat infamous “MFI” program, which began as “Made for iPod,” is meant to certify certain hardware as compatible with their products. Presumably, that still exists – it would have to do so for the Lightning port products, but it seems likely certain iPad-specific products will still carry the certification.

That isn’t all bad – there are a lot of dodgy USB-C products out there, so some Apple seal of approval may be welcome. But MFI has hamstrung some real “pro” products. The good news as far as USB-C is, because it’s a standard port, devices made for particular “pro” music and audio and video uses no longer need to go through Apple’s certification just to plug directly into the iPad Pro. (And they don’t have to rely on something like the Camera Connection Kit to act as a bridge.)

Apple did not initially respond to CDM’s request for comment on MFI as it relates to the USB-C port.

More resources

MacStories tests the new fast charging and power adapter.

9to5Mac go into some detail on what works and what doesn’t (largely working from the same information I am, I think, but you get another take):
What can you connect to the new iPad Pro with USB-C?

And yeah, this headline gives it away, but agree totally. Note that Android is offering USB-C across a lot of devices, but that platform lacks some of the support for high-end displays and robust music hardware support that iOS does – meaning it’d be more useful coming from Apple than coming from those Android vendors.

The iPad Pro’s USB-C port is great. It should be on my iPhone, too

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Percussa launches Kickstarter for mSSP Eurorack module

Percussa mSSP

Percussa has launched a new kickstarter project for the Percussa micro Super Signal Processor (mSSP) Eurorack module. It’s the result of interaction with the Eurorack community since the launch of the Percussa Engine and Synthor System 8 at the Winter NAMM 2017 show in Anaheim, CA. The mSSP is the smaller, lower cost but equally […]

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RØDE introduces RØDECaster Pro Podcast Production Studio

Rodecaster Pro

RØDE Microphones has announced the RØDECaster Pro Podcast Production Studio, the world’s first fully integrated podcast production studio. The RØDECaster™ Pro will change the face of the fastest-growing segment in the media industry – podcasting. Now, everyone with a dream to create professional-quality podcasts will be able to do so seamlessly with this new and […]

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Datalooper lets you play Ableton Live with your feet

It’s a looper, it’s a Session View controller. It’s USB powered, and you play it with your feet. But unlike other options, Datalooper integrates directly with how you work in Ableton Live – and it doesn’t require Max for Live to operate. Here’s a first look – and an exclusive discount.

http://www.datalooperpedal.com/cdmspecial

Ableton may have called their event “Loop,” but that doesn’t mean there’s an obvious way to control the software’s looping capability via hardware out of the box. And that’s essential – Ableton Push is great, but it doesn’t fit a lot of instrumental and vocal uses. It’s too complicated, and involves too much hand-eye coordination – stuff you want to focus elsewhere. I’m not sure what Ableton would have called their own foot hardware – Ableton Tap? Ableton Toes? But instead, users have been stepping up … sorry, unintentional pun … and giving Live the kind of immediacy you’d expect of a looper pedal.

Demand seems higher than ever – there were two projects floating around Ableton Loop in LA last week. I covered State of the Loop already:

Ableton Live Looping gets its own custom controller

That project focused mainly on the Looper instrument and the use of scenes, all via Max for Live. It also seems well suited to running a lot of loopers at once.

Datalooper – the work of musician/creator Vince Cimo – is a similar project, but finds its own niche. First off, Max for Live isn’t required, meaning any edition of Live will work. (It uses a standard Live Control Script to communicate with Live.)

We got hands-on with Datalooper at Ableton Loop this year.

Datalooper will use the Looper device if you want. In that mode, it’s basically a controller for the Looper instrument – and supports up to three at once by default (which will be enough for most people anyway).

But there’s not much difference between the Looper device and other plug-ins or dedicated looping tools. “Natively” looping in Live still logically involves Session View. Before Ableton had a Looper, the company would advise customers to just record into clips in the Session View. That’s all fine and well, except that users of hardware pedals were accustomed to being able to set a tempo with the length of their initial recording, so the loop kept time with them instead of having to adjust to an arbitrary metronome.

Datalooper does both. You can use Session View, taking advantage of all those clips and arrangement tools and track routing and effects chains. But you can also use the looper to set the tempo. As the developers describe it:

If you long press on the clear button, the metronome will turn off, and the tempo will re-calculate based on the next loop you record, so you can fluidly move between pieces without having to listen to a click track. Throughout this process, the transport never stops, meaning you can linearly record your whole set and capture every loop and overdub in pristine quality.

Datalooper is also a handy foot-powered control system for working with clips in general. So even if you weren’t necessarily in the market for a looper or looper pedal, you might want Datalooper in your studio just to facilitate working quickly with clips.

(And of course, this also makes it an ideal companion to Ableton Push … or Maschine with a Live template, or an APC, or a Launchpad, or whatever.)

Session Control mode lets you hop in and record quickly to wherever you wish. I imagine this will be great for improvisation not only solo but when you invite a friend to play with you.

For users that are more familiar with the clip system, the Datalooper also features a ‘session control’ mode, built to allow users to quickly record clips. In this mode, the Datalooper script will link up with a track, then ‘auto-scan’ and latch on to the first unused clip slot. You can then use the first the buttons in a row to control the recording, deletion and playback of the clip. Best of all, when you want to record another clip, you can simply press record again and the script will find you another unused clip slot. This is a game-changer if you’re trying to quickly record ideas and want your hands free.

Videos:

You get all of this in a nice, metal box – die-cast aluminum, weighing 3 lbs (1.4 kg), micro USB bus-powered standard MIDI device. The onboard LEDs light to show you status and feedback from the metronome.

By default, it uses three loopers, but all the behaviors are customizable. In fact, when you want to dive into customization, there’s drag-and-drop customization of commands.

A graphical controller editor lets you customize how the Datalooper works. This could be the future of all custom control.

US$199 is the target price, or $179 early bird (while supplies last). It’s now on Indiegogo; creator Vince Cimo needs enough supporters to be able to pull the trigger on a $10k manufacturing run or it wont’ happen.

Vince has offered CDM readers a special discount. Head here for another $20 off the already discounted price:

http://www.datalooperpedal.com/cdmspecial

(No promotional fee paid for that – he just asked if we wanted a discount, and I said sure!)

Having gotten hands on with this thing and seen how the integration and configuration works … I want one. I didn’t even know I wanted a pedal. I think it could well make Live use far more improvisatory. And the fact that we have two projects approaching this from different angles I think is great. I hope both find enough support to get manufactured – so if you want to see them, do spread the word to other musicians who might want them.

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Ableton Live Looping gets its own custom controller

A crowd-funded custom controller has just arrived on the scene, designed to assist live triggering and looping in Ableton Live. And there’s already a free download for Max for Live to get you started, even without the hardware.

Hardware like Ableton’s Push lets you play Live with your fingers – but what about your feet? (Ableton Sole?) And what about looping? Pierre-Antoine Grison, Ableton Certified Trainer and producer/musician signed to Ed Banger Records, has come up with his own solution – just in time to show it this weekend at Ableton’s aptly-titled Loop “summit for music makers.” “State Of The Loop” is a custom MIDI controller for Ableton Live’s built-in Looper device.

The Looper in Ableton Live has been around for a few versions, after loads of requests from users. It delivered the kind of looping workflows you’d expect form a looping pedal. But that doesn’t mean everyone knows how to use it, or use it effectively. There are some nice resources online, including:

Ableton Looper Cheat Sheet (Free Download) [Beat Lab Academy]

Ableton Live Devices – How To Use Live Looper [Loopmasters.com articles]

and a ton of tips here:
http://looping.me.uk/category/ableton/

The stomp-style hardware controls not only the Looper device itself but also scenes. So it works for both controlling entire sets and for pedal-style looping, and you can use multiple (software) loopers so you can layer using different on-screen devices.

Features:

Display and control the state of Live’s Looper
Unlimited number of loopers !
2 Expression Pedal inputs with “dynamic mapping”
Scenes Mode to launch Scenes and display their color and name
Sturdy metal case
100% Made in France
USB or MIDI connection for longer distances (up to 15m/50ft)
USB powered
Very light on the CPU
Easy configuration
Weight : 1.7 kg / 3 lb
WxLxH : 30 x 13 x 6 cm / 12 x 5 x 2.5 inches

There’s even a free download that adds some features Ableton Live forgot – the equivalent of follow actions for scenes, plus a heads-up display so you can see what’s happening without hunching over your computer screen. (Seriously, Ableton, those belong as standard features in Live!)

You can use that download as long as you have a compatible version of Live and Max for Live; no hardware needed.

http://kblivesolutions.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Scene-Launcher.zip

Dig this custom version too:

Pricing starts at 240EUR for an “early bird” price, 260EUR after that. (There’s also a 350EUR limited edition still available as I write this).

Project info on Kickstarter:

http://kck.st/2SH5gJE

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Bizarre, sexist MIDIPLUS audio interface mimics a makeup case

Taiwanese manufacturer Midiplus, normally known for perfectly reasonable and utilitarian low-price MIDI gear, has gone off the rails. As part of their “fancy” series, they’ve fashioned an audio interface as an mock eyeshadow palette, literally dubbed MIRROR.

I feel obligated to write about this just to stop all the people sending it to me, so – against my better judgment, here we go.

The ad copy and the way this is marketed? Sexist. The design? Yeah, I want one. So Midiplus, make up for the “designed specially for females” error here by sending me one to review for CDM.

The absurdity of saying this product is “SPECIALLY DESIGNED FOR FEMALES” is self-evident; there’s no doubt this is horrific and offensive. But let’s not let the sheer sexism here distract us from just how weird this thing is. Under the hood, it’s a perfectly normal audio interface – it’s a 24-bit, 192kHz audio box with mic in (with preamp and phantom power), and two headphone outs (apparently independent). There’s also a guitar input and something labeled “phone” – which seems to just be a minijack in.

No. And “for females”? Just… really, really, no.

It’s the case itself that gets odd, along with the profoundly strange, broken English ad copy. As a makeup kit, the device is sadly non functional: those are just dials in the shape of eyeshadow palettes, not actual eyeshadow. (Opportunity missed.) But the mirror at least works, flipping open and lit by an LED lamp (5500K, say the maker).

But yes, be ready for more of this sort of weirdness from OEMs as manufacturing costs plummet and designers get … creative. At a recent Musikmesse there was a manufacturer hawking audio interfaces covered in fake fur, a pricey sequined backpack kit, and a sales guy dressed as a magician.

The MIRROR isn’t along in the “fancy” line Midiplus are unleashing on us; there’s also a VINTAGE model. That one at least is absent the sexist ad copy, but crosses visual cues from a cassette tape, a practice amp, and a radio, and has some sort of live waveform display.

The other “fancy” model.

Anyway, all this gets me thinking. See, I may have to respond to MIRROR by making my own CDM jetlag/tour emergency kit. Mirror and LED, yes. But I’m also imagining some cover up for the dark circles under my eyes, a bit of hair pomade, and a built-in USB hub with various Rekordbox-formatted USB sticks, plus a Raspberry Pi running a looper/effects unit so if my luggage gets lost I can still do a live PA set.

I’m only half joking. I may have to actually make this thing. I’m slightly fatigued of being confused for an extra from The Walking Dead each time I travel more than two hours. So, with actual working makeup (which MIRROR lacks), my product will help me to LOOK AT THE BEAUTY ONE IN THE MIRROR. Oh, hi there.

As for Midiplus, the only line that rings true is this one: “DISCARD THE COMMON THINKING FLOW.” Yeah, you did that.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, how did this misogynistic design trainwreck happen?

http://www.midiplus.com/html/MIRROR.html

And yes, this was apparently the way they conceived “female” design:

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Review: Joué playful MIDI controller, an expressive instrument

Joue feat

If you produce electronic music on a computer, there is a good chance you have at least one MIDI controller in your setup. I mainly use the Komplete Kontrol S49 and Maschine Mk2 from Native Instruments, and I also have some older controllers such as the Mikro, Akai LPD8 and a Novation ReMOTE 37SL keyboard. […]

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Roland VT-4 adds MIDI, control for performer-friendly vocal FX

Roland’s revised VT-4 – the replacement for the first AIRA VT-3 – makes it look like someone finally gets what vocalists want in effects. More effects options, actual control over harmony, and MIDI could make all the difference.

The original VT-3 is a little too simple to recommend. A big dial locks you into some stock effects, without any parameter controls beyond pitch and formant. But at the same time, it is unusually direct and accessible, and it doubles as a USB interface, meaning for singers it’s carry-on luggage friendly. So as a cheap, fun effect, it does have potential. It’s cheap on the used market, but then so are a number of pedals.

Roland have apparently been listening, though. Just as the fun but simplistic TR-8 was replaced with the sample-loading, all-around improved TR-8S, so to the VT-3 has gotten a revamp. The Slimer-green trim is gone, but more importantly, you now can control the way it sounds, via expanded effects options and controls. And it does MIDI input.

Here’s the thing: there are lots of great sounding vocal effects out there, but none of them seems designed with singers in mind. They fit into two categories: pedals that seem to have been created by guitarists, or “studio” boxes that have way too much menu diving. (If you can think of an exception, shout in comments.) The VT-3 was already significant in that it was live friendly. Now the VT-4 fills in the gaps the VT-3 left open.

From the VT-3, and still a good idea:

  • USB audio interface functionality (so you can use this with a computer)
  • XLR mic in with phantom power, plus minijack in
  • Four faders: pitch, formant, balance (for controlling wet/dry of the effect), reverb
  • Push-button preset recall
  • Dedicated bypass switch

But new on the VT-4:

  • A friendly “key” dial at the top right
  • Direct access to “vocoder” and “harmonizer” modes
  • Multiple effects at once
  • MIDI input – so play in the notes/harmonies you want for the vocoder, harmonizer, and pitch engines
  • Variations for all the effects

It’s finally what you want to sing with, whether you’re a great singer or can barely sing at all – direct access to effects, performance-friendly controls. Singers don’t necessarily want to have to do everything with their feet or in pages of menus. This hardware’s designers seems to understand that.

It’s the effects that appear to be totally overhauled. The only variations on the VT-3 are printed directly around the dial – as in, you get two alternatives for the auto pitch, and that’s it.

On the VT-4, there’s a whole slew of effects hidden behind the variation buttons. (Those buttons still double as preset storage and recall, so what you’ll likely do is explore to find the ones you like, then lock them in at the top.)

There are still some toy-like presets as on the VT-3 – though some of those are interesting for processing drums and the like. In addition, though, you also get a bunch of new, musical effects, and enough variations that you can dial in what you need.

There’s a chorus effect (categorized inexplicably as “megaphone.”) There’s a model of the classic Roland VP in the vocoder, along with talk box, advanced, and Speak & Spell (sorry, trademark – “spell toy”) variations. The Harmony option lets you choose intervals (fifth, third, forth below, and combinations, though you can also use MIDI for more). Even robot has octave options and a new feedback variation.

Also, that fixed “reverb” is now really a multi effects unit – reverb, echo, synced tempo delay, and dub echo are now available.

I’d likely buy it for those upgrades alone, but then you can also use a MIDI keyboard as input to control pitch.

I need to research more how multiple effects work and exactly how these models relate to those available on the VT-3 and other Roland AIRA and Boutique series models. But generally these days Roland are constantly improving their modeling and sounds, thanks to architectures that are more flexible than those of the past.

More at Roland’s site:

https://www.roland.com/us/products/vt-4/

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