September 21, 2013

The Next Episode...

by Chris Randall

The first production run of Audio Damage modules is officially sold out, at least as far as we're concerned. We've sold the entire production run to Analogue Haven, Alex4 (which is a European distro company started by SchneidersBuero), and EquionoxOz. We've pulled the trigger on the second production run, and will have more backplanes in early November. When this second run shows up, we're going to introduce at least one more new module. Possibly two, but not likely.

Simultaneously, we've begun development on a more powerful CPU/RAM backpack that will enable us to make much more sophisticated modules (think a pretty much full-featured Replicant or Dr. Device in hardware). This will take some months, as these things go, and we'll discuss the feature set here and get some input. We made every attempt, and were largely successful, at keeping the initial Euro release secret. But now that the cat's out of the bag, we'll be pretty open about what's upcoming, unless it's a case where spilling the beans would mean opening ourselves up to competition. However, something like Replicant is an advanced case study in DSP in a Euro context, and is difficult to pull of without starting with an existing DSP library tailored to the task, so I'm not too worried about that. If someone else could have done it, they already would have, since it's such an obvious effect for the Euro environment.

Now, this is not to say that we'll only be releasing DSP-based audio effects. We have plans for several different things, now that we have a WORKFLOW, and finally I get to my point, such as it is. Adam is on the way to Japan, and I'm in charge, and when that happens, my imagination runs wild. (Every time he gets back from Japan, I spend the first three days interrupting his tales of travel to tell him about The Next Big Thing I thought of while he was gone.) One of the things I'd like to think about is a desktop synth.

Now, there is no shortage of desktop synths. One could make the argument that market was all full up. But one could (and in fact did) make the argument that all DAWs come with a delay, so why make one? We built a pretty nice business on that concept. So...

Now, this wouldn't have to be a digital synth (like, say, the MeeBlip -> Blofeld range of devices.) We have strong analog chops up in here. My question is this: if you were presented with a new desktop, a little guy, what would you like to see that you haven't seen before?


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Sep.22.2013 @ 6:23 PM
I'm with boobs.

Sep.22.2013 @ 6:39 PM
I'd like to see a synth with limited but useful UI elements for sound designing, a la the Axon voice section, paired with a unique, flexible sequencer. I guess that's pretty much a hardware Axon. But I'm not beholden to any particular synthesis or sequencer type as long as it's easy to get something gnarly and usable.

A desktop synth that doesn't try to be everything to everyone and is limited in a good way, as per your design ethos.

Sep.22.2013 @ 7:14 PM
Chris Randall
Yeah, we don't do things that way. No danger of that.


Sep.22.2013 @ 7:48 PM
I may be the oddball but I've never once bought a synth (desktop or other) because it had a sequencer, nor has the lack of a sequencer ever prevented me from purchasing one. Since it will most certainly increase the price (dedicated buttons/knobs and such) I for one would vote against a sequencer of any sort.

Sep.22.2013 @ 7:55 PM
Chris Randall
Actually, I'm with you. Unless we're making Axon specifically, or a sequencer specifically... I _never_ use the built-in sequencers in synths. They're usually just there because they can be, and I can only think of a couple cases (the 303, Elektron stuff) where they were important to the process.

In Axon, the sequencer is important to the process. QED.


Sep.22.2013 @ 9:24 PM
Congratulations on the success of the modules. A euro system is about the only hardware that excites me these days, so it's good to see you in the business in case I finally take that plunge. I hope you're so successful that the modules can be continuously available! 2-3 years ago I almost pulled the trigger on a euro system, but discovered that most of the modules I'd researched and selected were unavailable by the time I got serious about it! Then the company I was working for slid into the toilet and I decided it wasn't time for such spendy tomfoolery ...

Regarding desktop synths, that is a narrow ledge to walk out on! I've got a Tetra, but the only thing that has seriously tempted me since is the Elektron A4, because it added sequencing and more hands-on control to the mix. Most of the desktop synths just end up too limited in one way or another. (The Tetra even falls into that category, but I've got a nagging Prophet fetish from the 80s that inspired that purchase.)

FWIW, here would be my most basic considerations in evaluating a desktop synth:

(1) If it's polyphonic, it must be multitimbral and support monophonic, legato voice assignment and portamento well so it can be used as multiple monosynths. (Particularly if there's an inbuilt sequencer, which pretty much infers multitimbral operation.) Otherwise, make it a kick-ass monosynth. That's been said, and I agree with the previous comments.

(2) Assuming it's polyphonic, 6-8 voices would be MUCH better than the 4 in the DSI or Elektron. (I started off with a SCI SixTrak, and 6 voices still seems like a minimum for multitimbral sequencing.) Of course if it's digital, you might be talking considerably more polyphony than that.

Other than those basic criteria, I would be open minded to anything interesting.

If you're really serious about a desktop synth, I also suggest that you do something that could be repurposed as a euro module. There are "starter system" euro modules that aggregate basic synth functions - I've seen a couple that are like a Micromoog in one module - but the analog ones suffer from being Micromoog limited. But what you guys could do in a digital synth in similar rack space might be mindblowing. Think of it as a digital synth adjunct to a euro system that could do things analog modules could never do for the price (particularly significant polyphony and complex sequencing), but would integrate nicely with other modules, and is powerful enough to stand alone (and therefore be a good starter module/system centerpiece). Such a product could repurpose most of the guts of a desktop synth and therefore give you 2 product form factors for your R&D effort.

Anyway, I'm sure you've already thought far past my meager (but inexplicably lengthy) advice.

Sep.22.2013 @ 9:44 PM
Regardless of what I said above about you guys doing a digital synth (which I gravitated to because that's where you have already demonstrated expertise), it would be damn interesting to see what you'd do in an all analog design.

From a business sense, though, you can probably find more unfilled niches in the market to pursue by continuing to leverage your DSP assets.

Sep.22.2013 @ 10:14 PM
... also 100% with rapfreak and CR's reply - built-in sequencers are generally useless, unless you're talking about an integrated design like the Elektron or 303 where that's the whole point of the thing. Any mention of sequencing in my previous comment should be taken solely in that context.

Sep.22.2013 @ 10:20 PM
Duke Fame
Assuming this device will have some digital synth and effect elements, I would like to see a little EMS Synthi-style pin matrix (whatever is most cost-effective, like 1/8" jacks) for intentional circuit bending-esque experimentation. Whatever parameters and connections are brought to the physical matrix can then be stored to patch once you come up with something interesting. Well-trodden ground in the analog realm but unique in the digital world far as I know, not counting modular stuff.

I've never owned or used or even heard of any desktop widget like that (digital with physical patching and patch storage), seems like it would be great fun and super dope.

Sep.23.2013 @ 12:39 AM
anything to anything modulation bus is always nice. add in some logic functions that can be used as mod sources like in the MW XT and crazy can happen.

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