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

Archives: 2011

November 29, 2011

The Difference Between Vintage And Old...

by Chris Randall

Steinberg today announced that they updated their old Model E and VB-1 plug-ins from VST1 days to modern 32/64 VST2.4 standards, and made them free. They are available on Steinberg's site.

Model E, along with Neon (also available free here, but PC only, and don't expect it to work) is one of the very first softsynths that didn't require extra hardware--I believe Creamware made the first softsynth, but it required their cards to work--and at the time was one of the best. It is obviously based upon the MiniMoog, and is coded extremely tightly, in order to run at all on computers of the era. In today's terms, it uses essentially no CPU.

Anyhow, it's a fine softsynth, and a bargain at twice the price. It is quite bright by today's standards; Adam conjectures this is due to a lack of band-limited oscillators which would have been too heavy-duty at the time. Certainly usable for certain situations, though, and you can instance a bajillion of them on a modern computer.

It brings to light an interesting semantic issue, though. While the term "vintage" gets bandied about to the point of uselessness on eBay and Craigslist, in real life we all know what it means. The difference between "vintage" and "old" is essentially desirability. A Neve Melbourne console is vintage. A powered Conn console from the same era is "old." A Moog Source from '81 is "vintage," while a Bontempi chord organ from '81 is "old." Easy enough, right?

How does that relate to software, though? I use a lot of old software like TurboSynth, M, and UpBeat when the mood strikes me. But it would never occur to me to call UpBeat "vintage." It's just old. It runs on an old computer, and does old shit. In the computer world, though, it is so ancient as to be almost indecipherable. But by our normal metric as specified above, to me it is desirable; building a system running it that works with my modern rig is a worthy goal. That makes it "vintage," right?

Semantic issues like this are rife in the music industry. I think it's the result of music being an inherently subjective art form. Everyone working in the industry, or utilizing its resources, carries that thought process over to the gear itself. Millions of lines of code are devoted to recreating desirable (i.e. "vintage") gear in the modern DAW context, while almost none is devoted to recreating gear that is just plain old. Obviously, someone isn't going to go out of their way to try and clone something that was inherently shitty, but as we've learned, shitty is also in the eye/ear of the beholder.

This is a strange world we live in.

November 25, 2011

Meet Phaedra...

by Chris Randall

In my ludicrously ample free time, I've been working on this bad boy, Phaedra. It is an "analog" style four-channel MIDI sequencer for the iPad. Click the picture for the full-rez screenshot. In the interests of full disclosure, I borrowed heavily from the Moon Modular 568 Quad Sequential Trigger Source, which you can read all about up in here.

I still have a long way to go, but it is coming along nicely. Each step has note, velocity, gate time, and a pair of MIDI CCs of your choosing. I haven't yet coded in the chaining feature, but it'll be able to do 4 x 32, 2 x 64, and 1 x 128 modes. The steps can be 32nd note, 16th note, 8th trips, and 8th note, and each "bus" can run in arbitrary lengths. The "Live Control" knobs on the left can be used to modify one of the four destinations.

I haven't yet conquered "MIDI background mode," as used by many iPad synth apps, but I hope to include it, as well as Korg's WIST. It already does normal hardware MIDI and Network MIDI fine, though, and can clock, or be clocked from, an external source.

I have no idea when I'll have this done, as I'm only working on it in spare moments, but I hope to be done before Christmas. I'll keep you posted. Note this is not an Audio Damage product. (I know that even though I say that, and it clearly does _not_ say "Audio Damage" anywhere on the UI, all the other blogs that pick this up will say it is. You can lead a horse to water...)

EDIT: I made a simple video showing Phaedra driving my modular and a DSI TETR4, while clocking an Eventide TimeFactor.

November 23, 2011

Kombinat Dva On The Ropes...

by Chris Randall

Above is the more-or-less final UI of Kombinat Dva. Click to embiggen. All that remains to be done on the Windows side is presets, then some simple porting and we can roll this bitch out. Probably next week some time, holiday hi-jinks permitting.

The final engine compliment is 13, six of which are new. Also added is a second less-screamy filter topology and the ability to turn the filter off entirely. The feedback path has its own envelope follower, to prevent runaway shrieking.

It is unusual to have internal feedback in a plugin of this nature, and it is a somewhat experimental thing. The results vary greatly; as I do the presets, I'll put some examples up. The long and short of it is that what you're going to get in the feedback path depends greatly on the input signal, the engines selected, and their relative gains. If your goal is to utterly thrash the output to where it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the original signal, then the Feedback control will be your friend. If your goal is a nice, subtle tube-style clip, then you're gonna want to leave that off.

Anyhow, we're in the home stretch on this one. We hope to have the Windows side ready for the beta testers shortly.

November 21, 2011

Audio Damage Blue Monday Sale...

by Chris Randall

As the image says, use the code HOWDOESITFEEL at checkout in the AD store until midnight Tuesday, and take 25% off your entire order, no matter what it is. Rock it.

EDIT: Sale is over, sorry.

November 19, 2011

A Note About How Copyright Doesn't Work...

by Chris Randall

One question I get with fairly alarming regularity in the AD Info box goes something like this: "I bought $PLUG_IN from you, and I'm going to use it to make samples to sell. Is there some sort of royalty I need to pay?"

I had a fellow a month or so ago that downloaded our three free plug-ins, then wrote me a lengthy request for freedom from indemnity should he actually use them.

If I only got this question and its variants once or twice, I'd just chalk it up to "kids today." But it comes pretty frequently, enough to be a little alarming. And enough to actually warrant me saying this out loud: There is NO SCENARIO in which you need to pay royalties to an instrument or effects maker for the use of a product you purchased, or which the maker gave you, in no legal system in any country.

I will grant that copyright is a somewhat confusing subject, made all the more so by the addition of things like Creative Commons, which only serve to complicate it. (I would wager that 1 in 100 that use Creative Commons licenses actually understand what they're doing.) Audio Damage can patent a sound-generation method, and exploit that patent, but we can not copyright the resulting sounds. There is no mechanism by which this can occur.

Things get a little odd when it comes to sample collections. The onus is on the creator of the sample set to make it clear to the customer the nature of the license he purchased. In the early days of sample CDs, I bought one that was made by George Clinton, and the obligatory license was roughly the same as the hoops you'd have to go through and what you'd have to pay to use a snip of an actual P-Funk song. And many of the sample sets for GigaStudio in the early days of that program had licensing that was so ridiculous you essentially couldn't use the products without a legal team on standby, and a checkbook at hand.

But that's a different thing entirely. We're talking about plug-ins. To the best of my knowledge (which, in this case, is fairly extensive) it is impossible to copyright the output of an instrument, or a sound that has been altered by an effect, if you purchased a product expressly for that purpose, sold as such. While it'd be nice to get a couple cents every time a song was played with Dubstation on it, the simple fact of the matter is that ain't how things work.

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