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

Archives: 2005

December 28, 2005

Dropping vintage science...

by Chris Randall

This will probably be of interest to anyone that has a couple (or more) analog synths. If you follow this link, you'll be rewarded with a 4mb PDF, which contains the entirety of the Synthi Educational Manual, written by Peter Grogono for EMS in 1972.

It is more than just a manual for the Synthi. Rather, it is a pretty good book about subtractive synthesis in general. It is heavy on Synthi stuff, though, and the Synthi is an odd synth to begin with, so you might want to keep that in mind. But definitely recommended reading, and free as in beer.

December 27, 2005

Major collector dumping gear (you'll wanna see this...)

by Chris Randall

The only three words I can come up with to describe this guy's collection, in order, are "holy fucking shit." (That's special for MatrixSynth, where they feel I may swear a bit too much). This dude, whomever he might be, is selling a huge collection of highly desireable synths on the 'bay. Check it. I can only imagine what all that synthy goodness looked like in one room. He would have been the all-time Hard Core Gear Porn champion, I think.

December 27, 2005

A handy program for a spare laptop...

by Chris Randall

Some of you might recall that I used to write articles for one of the original music gear creation meta-sites, Darwin Grosse's That site has succumbed to entropy in recent years as a result of Darwin's increased responsibilities at Cycling '74, but he keeps quite a few of the articles from the original site on the current truncated iteration. I wrote a column about using an otherwise useless laptop as a sidebar for your main DAW, in which I come up with what I think are several good reasons as to why I never throw anything away, and keep coming home from yard sales with more stupid shit. (My wife disagrees, but that's another entry for another time.)

I have several laptops lying around the studio (as well as one iOpener) which were at one time useful, but are now not, at least for their original intended purpose. On each of these laptops, for the most part, is a different operating system. I think, right now, I have one laptop each for FreeDOS, BeOS, System 7, Win 3.1.1, and Linux. The latter is where I finally come to my point. (And the blogosphere breaths a collective sigh of relief, because it has a short attention span.)

Pictured above is a screenshot from a new kid on the block, Hydrogen, from Hydrogen Music. I haven't downloaded or installed it yet, as just booting my Linux box makes my eye tic a little bit, never mind installing a program and getting it to actually work, but this looks pretty slick, and is getting slicker. I'd certainly take issue with the adjective "classic" being applied to the TR-626, but otherwise there is a fairly comprehensive collection of samples for this program, and it seems to be reasonably sophisticated. If you, like me, have both a fond memory of "real" drum machines and a Linux laptop, drop this bad boy in and put that erstwhile doorstop to work.

December 26, 2005

And now we return to our regularly programmed schedule...

by Chris Randall

Back from Christmas With The Rednecks, and right in to it. Over the break, I got a letter from Michael Liero, who pondered the following:

Over the last
few years I have been running ableton live and reason on a very outdated
800mhz P3 gateway which I've owned for over five years. Im finally ready to purchase a new computer and was looking at an iMac, due to the fact that I am on a limited budget. I was goin to run ableton and reason on it with a presonus firebox, do you think that an iMac would be sufficient for a [computer just used as a] DAW?

Well, speaking strictly from a dollars to power ratio, I think buying a PC would be a wiser choice, if you can't afford one of the big gun Macs. For a grand, you can build/buy a pretty powerful PC, whereas the cheapest iMac is gonna set you back $1299, and is a long way from anything that could be described as a "powerhouse." Plus you'll need to get an external 7200 RPM FW drive. Your plugin and track counts in Live are gonna be on the low side, as well. The iMac isn't a computer very well-suited to production chores, in my humble opinion.

From a usability standpoint, it's strictly a matter of taste. I personally use a (quite powerful) PC for music because Nuendo is Nuendo, so who cares? I just want to use a shitload of plugins and not spend $4000 doing it. However, I vastly prefer OSX for my email, web surfing, iChat, iTunes, etc., and I am, in fact, writing this on my trusty iBook, which has been beat to hell, and still works fine. So, what does everyone else think? Let's keep this from degenerating in to a platform flame-fest. From a strictly professional viewpoint, should Michael spend $1299 on the new iMac, or put that same money in to a more powerful but less friendly PC?

December 23, 2005

Squeeze this...

by Chris Randall

You know, when it comes to guitar effects, compressor pedals are one of those things that you don't really feel you need, but once you get one, you wonder how the fuck you ever got along with out it. I spent a couple hours today making an Orange Squeezer (courtesy of a schematic off the excellent General Guitar Gadgets page.) What a fantastic compressor this is. Sustain for days, and no low-end attenuation at all that I can hear. That Dan Armstrong cat knew a thing or two about a thing or two. There are about 40 different Orange Squeezer clones available; I don't know how close any of them sound to the one I made, or how close mine is to the "real thing," never having come in contact with one before, but damn...

I haven't put it in a Hammond box yet; as soon as I do, I'll drop a photo and maybe a couple samples, wherein you can be incredibly impressed with my stellar guitar playing once again.


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