Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.
 
January 25, 2014

Another One Down... (NAMM Report 2014)

by Chris Randall
 



Another January, another winter NAMM. Thoughts, in no particular order:

1. Once again I'll state the obvious: Anaheim hates you if you're not there to go to Disneyland. I will again propose that NAMM move to the LA Convention Center, where at least if we have to put up with bad food and no parking, we can do it somewhere we don't have to drive two hours to get to.

2. The little synth pictured above. This is the Murmux Semi-Modular, a new product from Freaqbox, who are nominally guitar pedal people. Bog standard, mediocre silk-screening, a case that is way bigger than it has to be, and tweed, of all things. Somehow, that combo works. There is also a non-modular version called The Initiate, and one with a big ol' foot-pedal keyboard, if you're in to that sort of thing. There is zero shortage of simple analog desktops, and this is one of them, but the filter is to die for, and the big-ass knobs... PEW PEW PEW!!! No idea what the MSRP is, or availability. But me likey.

3. The Waldorf 2-Pole. Mono I/O, no MIDI, no USB, no runs, no hits, no errors. Another box that is way bigger than you'd think. It sounds farking awesome. $250-ish. Outstanding.

4. Bitwig Studio. I'm now running this jank. Haven't dove in to it in detail yet (i.e. made a track with it) but it shows promise early on. It's good Ableton has some competition now. All consumers benefit.

All in all, NAMM 2014 was exactly like NAMM 2013, only more so. A good time was had by all. Anything you see in the firehose of social and normal media that caught your eye?

 
January 15, 2014

Good Times, Good Times...

by Chris Randall
 



Strange days are here. In no particular order...

1. The video above is me giving a little workout to a prototype reverb module; same DSP platform as our current products. It is, given the constraints of the platform, a mono 'verb very much in the style of the reverbs you find in the 90s IDM that comprises the majority of my listening habits. I kited the original algorithm from a Csound sketch that Sean Costello put out about 15 years ago, but it has been altered for context. I've been working on this on and off for about a year now, and I think it's to the point where it could be a commercial module. I'll keep you posted on that.

2. We have been updating our current product line at a punk rock clip, removing the DRM, updating the graphics, and generally tidying things up a bit. Dubstation, Replicant, and Eos have been done so far. Discord3 is next out the chute, probably early next week.

3. NAMM is upon us. Looks like Roland might give the people what they want, finally. I would prefer these companies with gigantic R&D departments spend time inventing new interesting tools than making permutations of old stuff, but I'm in the minority. In much the same way that 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 were "THE YEAR OF ANALOGZZZ!!!" we can expect the same in 2014. Just keep in mind that the vast, vast majority of NAMM announcements are workstation synths, MIDI accordions, and relic-finish Strat copies.

4. For reasons passing understanding, I have been hired by Phoenix College to teach their Electronic Music 3 class. Several students will get the joy of trying to keep up with my Catcher In The Rye level digressions ("SQUIRREL!!!") for the next few months. Wish them luck. That starts tomorrow.

All of these different things are occurring because Adam is building the hardware prototype for a new Euro module, and Eric is building the hardware prototype for another new module. So there's nothing for me to do but fuck with our existing IP, as is my wont when they're not wiggling strings to distract me. So, next week you'll get my usual NAMGLA posts. I'll be attending Friday and Saturday, if you'd like to meet for some reason. And then a return to our regularly scheduled zaniness.

 
December 26, 2013

Sandbolloxed...

by Chris Randall
 



As you no doubt know, especially if you are a Logic user, there are Big Changes coming down the pike, in the form of a sandboxed version of Logic, most likely before the middle of 2014. Developers have been given a preview copy of Logic X Sandboxed, so we can test our products to see if they will work when the update occurs, and make necessary changes. The current Garageband X is already sandboxed, so you can do a quick test to have a gander at how many of your current AUs will work in Logic X Sandboxed.

The short answer is "hardly any."

There are some very big problems with sandboxing something like Logic, from a developer's perspective, and almost no benefit to the end user. (In actual fact, it harms the end user, because products he was able to use previously, and may have come to rely on, will suddenly cease to work.) We could talk in circles all day long about that sort of nonsense, but at the end of the day, it is what it is.

While this stands a very real chance of having a consumer backlash something on the order of what occurred when Final Cut X was released, that's neither here nor there in the scheme of things. Our concern at Audio Damage is to maintain a seamless transition, so our customers aren't affected. And, let's be honest, there is nothing we like more than dropping everything and spending a couple months re-building our entire product line every time Apple has a fit of the Shinies.

In that light, we had a difficult decision to make. The only thing preventing our products from working in Logic X Sandboxed (and Garageband X, for that matter) is the erstwhile copy protection. For a decade now, we've had the simplest, least intrusive copy protection that we could have and still call it that. It has done very little to prevent piracy, and is the number one (and two and three and four and five and six and seven) source of support problems. It is, in short, a gigantic fucking pain in the ass that doesn't do what it's supposed to. And now it prevents our products from working in the Apple hosts.

So, we're taking it out.

We'll begin rolling out updates next week that will eventually encompass our entire product line, removing the DRM and updating the installers and UIs (and doing some bug fixing along the way), in order of popularity. The license control mechanism in the store will continue as-is, but the current reg codes will basically become serial numbers, and will not be required during the installation process. We'll also be able to deliver the bundles as one-click installs instead of 22 separate packages, which will no doubt please our bundle customers immensely.

This is obviously a pretty big risk for us, but we think it will be a good solution in the long run. We have long been of the opinion that there are people that care about supporting a company and its endeavors, and people that only care about themselves. Both Adam and I make a living on the former sort, and we hope that will continue to be the case. I can't speak for Adam, but I'm really shitty at blanching fries.

Anyhow, my Twitter feed and the Audio Damage RSS feed are the places to watch for updates as they're rolled. If you have a specific bug report that you think we might not know about, email it to [email protected] and I'll put it in the list. We'll be doing the products in order of popularity (with shiny new digitally signed installers, natch!) so expect Dubstation, Eos, Replicant, and Discord3 to be the earliest recipients of this treatment, and so on down to the perpetual tail-end Charlie, Ronin.

 
December 15, 2013

Insert Pun On The Name SEM...

by Chris Randall
 



A few months back, I was at my family reunion in Oregon, and I borrowed a barely-working original SEM from my good friend Jeremy. I trundled it back to SandLand in my carry-on, and a while later dropped it off at Five Star Engineering in Mesa for a thorough going-over and fixemup. It had a ton wrong with it, including some very old, very poorly-implemented mods. I had Five Star remove all the mods, re-cap it, and bring it back to its former glory.

And then I set it on my shelf, because I was busy remodelling a house.

Fast-forward to today, I was thinking "man, I bet Jeremy wants his SEM back one of these days." So I sat down to sample the living shit out of it, and this is the result. (90mb .zip file.)

I just sampled it directly with AutoSampler (looped back in to Live so it could control Silent Way Voice Control.) It is sampled at 48K, every 5th note, for 13 different patches. These are all Kontakt 2 .nki files, with no programming/looping/layering/anything, so they should load directly to virtually every sample playback device made.

Obviously, these would benefit from some programming and production; dry, this synth is fairly unimpressive. But there should be enough here for you to work with to make them your own. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays! If you want to spring for some bandwidth, as always, I'll never turn down a little drop in the Paypal bucket. But it is in no way necessary. I would be sorely disappointed if I found these for sale somewhere, but the worst I'll do is call you names in public to my thousands of Twitter followers and readers. Otherwise, they are unencumbered.

 
December 4, 2013

The Synth Nerd Holiday Gift Guide...

by Chris Randall
 

I present to you the guaranteed-to-please good for all budgets Synth Nerd Gift Guide. You're here because someone you know is a Synth Nerd, and they have given you a link to this article, and said "anything off this list is fine." Well, they probably mumbled it, as your average Synth Nerd isn't much of a people-person. But you're here now, so settle in. You don't have to know what any of this stuff is. Just click the link for the amount you want to spend, then click "Buy Now." Easy peasy.

1. The Cheap Bastard (less than $25) You really can't go wrong with the Stylophone Retro Pocket Synth, which will set you back $24.99. Even if the Synth Nerd in your life already has one, or has an original one, or one of the new super-duper ones, they'll still find a use for this, if only to annoy their co-workers. I guarantee it.

2. The Cheap But Not A Bastard ($25 - $50) Another fun little pocket noise-maker, only a bit more capable. I chose the Korg Monotron Duo ($49.00) here, because virtually everybody bought a Monotron a couple years ago, and while it was fun and all, the shine has probably come off that penny. And of the three Monotrons, this one sounds the most interesting, in my opinion.

3. The Risk:Reward Ratio ($50 - $100) Now we're getting in to things that are actually useful to, you know, make music. Sorta. This is useful enough to actually elicit a "wow, you actually put some thought in to this and got me something you think I might like." Of course, you didn't. I did. But that'll be our little secret. Anyhow, if you want to drop a little more bank, go get that Nerd an Axle Grease Delay. It'll only set you back $69, and there are zero scenarios where a Synth Nerd isn't happy with a new analog delay. Especially one that is kind of semi-awesome. (For the money, anyhow.)

4. The Now We're Getting Somewhere ($100 - $250) If you're looking to spend a bit more, pick up a Korg Volca Bass synthesizer. ($189.) That is, if you want the easy way out (i.e. Amazon.) If you don't mind putting in a touch more effort, and perhaps risking not getting your gift before Christmas, then the thing to buy is the MeeBlip Anode. ($129). I personally think the Anode is the better gift, and I'd go with that, even if it's late. It'll show you care.

5. The Groove Is In The Heart ($250 - $500) I had to think about this for a while. My initial inclination was to go with the Waldorf Rocket, as it sounds very cool. However, I feel that it is overpriced at $329.99. It simply doesn't have the feature set or usefulness of other synths in this price range. Which is too bad. It's a cute little guy, with a unique twist on the tiny synth. No, in this price range, the hands-down winner is the Arturia Microbrute. ($299.) As of right now, this is probably the best value on this list, when you look at capabilities, feature set, and general usefulness. Very difficult to beat, and your Synth Nerd will be ecstatic. And you'll be happy because the keyboard doesn't have enough notes to play the lead line from "The Final Countdown."

6. The Hey, Big Spender ($500+) If you're gonna make it rain on your Synth Nerd, probably best to just give him a Visa gift card, because it's everywhere he wants to be.™ Just throwing that out there. But if you want something with a more personal touch, then I recommend the Korg MS-20 Mini. ($599.) I personally don't care for this synth, and I certainly don't want it for myself. But I'm demonstrably strange, and absolutely in the minority. Your Synth Nerd will definitely be happy with it.

So, there you go. Something for all budgets. Happy holidays!
TAGS: GASGrinch
 

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