Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.

Archives: 2005

October 31, 2005

An interesting take on things...

by Chris Randall

I was doing my morning Browse, and I took in a quick read of Craig Anderton's final AES Wrap-up, where he opines on the state of the industry. This particular paragraph caught my eye:

Software companies don't have an easy road. It's not just the software theft, which remains a persistent problem that saps the vitality of the industry, but also the need to keep up with the OS and hardware updates being thrust upon them. Add that to people complaining about the cost of upgrades. (So are software buyers some of the whiniest customers in the world, or what? I mean, do you ever get an email from Ford saying "Bring in your 2004 model, and we'll give you a new model for an extra $1,000.") Then add the trials and tribulations of copy protection - users hate it, companies hate it even more - and you have an industry that has to pedal really fast just to stay in place.

That right there is a little piece of truth. Now that I've spent some time on the side of the software business where things are made, rather than used, I have to say that it's an odd state of affairs.

For instance:

1) For some reason I can't fathom, TDM users don't complain about prices, even though a plug that runs native and one that runs in TDM are essentially the same amount of work for a company that does both. So they'll happily pay $899 for a plug that requires a $10,000 dongle, but the native version is $499 and people bitch and moan about that. That's one thing I just don't get.

2) Windows users are way more bitchy than OSX users. If you asked me when we started this, I'd have said the opposite, but now I know better. When one releases a plugin on both platforms, the OSX users will say "hey, that looks like something that is useful" or "I don't think I need that," and leave it at that. Windows users, on the other hand, will generally go on ad nauseum about why this feature or that wasn't included, why the copy protection blows, why there aren't enough presets, why it is too expensive, why it looks cheap, how they would have done it far better, how there are 96 free plugins that do the same thing, etc.

3) However, OSX users aren't getting off the hook that easy. It is _really_ difficult to keep up with Apple's moods vis-a-vis their operating system. It is so much easier to make a Windows VST than even an OSX VST, never you mind the gigantic PITA that is AU. And every time an OS update comes down the pike, we have to re-learn how to make an AU. It is really quite a struggle.

Our philosphy regarding pricing and upgrades is well known, so I won't go in to it at length here, except to say that I think, on the average, native plug-in makers charge too much. If prices were lower on the average, piracy wouldn't be so rampant. Or at least, people would feel worse about it than they do. Perceived value is a tenuous thing, especially when what you're selling is basically a stream of ones and zeros.

One final thought on this, then I'll return to our regularly scheduled programming. One of the main problems on the Windows side is the glut of freeware. One customer wrote our info line not too long ago, basically asking why he should buy DubStation when there were several similar products already available for free. I answered thus: when you purchase a plugin from a company, you're also purchasing a manual, someone to talk to if you have trouble or desires, an upgrade path which will follow the operating system's upgrades, and the relatively certain knowledge that the plug-in will follow the "rules" that are intrinsic to it being a professional plugin.

When you use freeware, or get a cracked plug-in, you rarely get any of those things. With a lot of freeware, you're basically buying in to something that will almost certainly become abandonware at some point, when the teenager that wrote the software grows up and actually starts working. That sentence will certainly earn me some ire, but I call it like I see it.

October 30, 2005

Okay, here's the deal...

by Chris Randall

In the comments section of the entry on my PCBs, Lindon ponders on the following theme:

Whats that "Groove Tubes" *thing* in the background!?....grief and you complain about Mackie gear...I'm hoping its just some crummy catalogue they sent you or its ironicly being used as additional wrapping on you PCB's....otherwise my faith will have taken a dent. :-)

Here's what happened: I went in to Guitar Center (gasp, choke) to pick up some other shit, and saw that they were blowing the Groove Tubes Ditto Box out for $89. I figured "well, I always could use another DI. How bad could it be?"

The answer is "so shitty, you can't even sell it without feeling bad about it." It would actually be all right if it weren't for the nagging buzz/hum/hiss/whatever that completely overwhelms everything you run through it. That, and the fact that it generally sounds like roasted dog shit.

The thing is that I keep my studio on the chilly side. If I need to play keys, I have to warm my hands up. And as it turns out, aside from its other failings, the Groove Tubes Ditto Box makes a hell of a heater. God's honest truth, the only use I've found for this thing is to warm my hands. I've read good things about the Vipre, and that other t00b-a-thon they just released looks not bad, but the Ditto Box is one of the most amazing pieces of crap I've ever run a signal through. A Whirlwind Imp would be a better choice for DI than this.

October 30, 2005

Glitch This...

by Chris Randall

So I grabbed myself a demo of dblue's Glitch VST last night, in searching for drum-destroying plugins. It's been a long time since I was surprised by a plugin that doesn't model/imitate analog gear, I have to say. This plug is fucking awesome. What you've got is a timeline of N steps (max 64) of N units of time (the usual suspects), and each step can either have no effect, a specific choice of one of the 8 included effects, or a random choice of same. Each effect has a multi-mode filter, as well, and there's also an overall filter and overdrive.

The 8 different effects are well-suited to killing your audio. I don't care for the flanger (because I don't like flanging in general) and some of the controls are a bit obtuse, but you can solo each effect to get the settings right, and it is pretty simple in operation once you get over the "a ha" hump.

Bad things? Plenty. It's written in Delphi, which is a poor choice for a plugin IMO. This means it is Windows-only VST, and always will be. (For a commercial product, I know from experience that you're automatically denying 80% of the market of plug-in buyers.) The knobs which should be logarithmic (level, filter freqs, etc) are not, so their useful range is down at the bottom all squeezed together. The filters are plain-jane.

Good things? It's easy to use once you figure it out, and the resulting audio is just completely out of hand. There are two separate randomize features; one for the effects and one for the timeline. The price is 30 Euros, which fits in to my worldview of plug-in pricing quite nicely. For the money, as long as you're a Windows user, this is an excellent buy if you need/want insta-glitch. I recommend you grab the demo and spend some time figuring it out.

As an aside, I think it's worth noting that, when I mention software on this site, it is important to remember that I didn't get it for free, I take no advertising money, and I don't know the guy that made it. In this day and age, when stealth marketing and "endorsements" are the norm, you can rest assured that when I say I like something, it's because I actually like it.

October 28, 2005

ph34r m4 m4d h34t3r!

by Chris Randall

Here's an image of the most awesomest heater I found that is going to be turned in to a guitar amp, as I mentioned yesterday. I ordered all the parts from Small Bear Electronics, and went with a 6" Jensen MOD from The Tube Depot for speaker purposes. I took out the guts of the heater and measured, and unless my calculations are horribly wrong, two holes of the speaker's mounting flange line up perfectly with the screws you see on the front that hold the heating element in place.

I'm gonna keep the fancy c. 1950 cloth power cord, and put a 12V wall wart inside the case. (The Ruby amp I'm building runs off 12V DC, as it happens. Or 9V. Take your pick.) I got some really nice blue knobs that more or less match the color of the blue-grey hammertone finish of the enclosure, so it'll look pretty spiffy, I think. All the parts will be here on Tuesday, so we'll build then, and see how things work out.

My other Big Project to finish before I start the GSSL is rack-mounting a Midines system. I picked up an NES today with all the accessories for $5.00. All I need otherwise are the rack enclosure, the Midines cart, a couple nice buttons, and a lot of patience. Then Peter Kirn will owe me a Nintendo DS, and that'll be cool. Although, in the long run it may be easier to just buy the DS.

October 28, 2005

Hard-Core Gear Porn Friday!!!

by Chris Randall

Cutting a fine figure in his leather pants, Martin Hollinger, the museumsbesitzer of the Synthorama Synthesizer Museum literally chortles with amusement that all you little people could ever aspire to owning something only meant for the True Moog User.

Martin has quite a collection, including what is pictured at left, the Moog Modular Vocoder. There are, AFAIK, only two of these. Here is a picture of either the other one, or the same one in a different locale. Martin also enjoys windsurfing, playing the sackbut with his schlagga band, and lording it over the Little People with his extensive collection, which includes, in no particular order, a clear Gleeman Pentaphonic, an acyrilic OSCar, a complete Roland System 100, a Wurlitzer Sideman (the first drum machine), a grey _and_ blue-faced 2600 pair, and pretty much everything else, ever.

I should note at this point that I don't speak a lick of German, other than knowing what a schlagga band is, so I may have been fibbing about the windsurfing thing. A little poetic license. But the nicest part about the pictures of Synthorama are that there isn't a single Mackie mixer in sight. This doesn't mean that there isn't one there, of course. But if I can't see it, then that's half the battle.

The link to this site was provided by Maxime, via Tom from MusicThing. So thank them for making you feel like less of a person. It's really not my fault after all.


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