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

Tags: Superbooth

April 6, 2018

Skull Canyon...

by Chris Randall

Audio Damage will once again have a booth at Superbooth this year, and I'm leaving for Berlin on April 27. That means I have about 3 weeks to finalize everything. The product we're unveiling is in feature-freeze, and it's time to start figuring out how to demonstrate it, as well as the rest of our product line. (This isn't a last-minute thing; I've been thinking about it for some time.)

The entire process is both easier than years past, and more complicated. At the last two Superbooths we attended, we only showed Eurorack, and didn't show our software products at all. This year, it will be the other way around. We have no Eurorack; we're showing our desktop and iOS software. The iOS part is easy; a 12.9" iPad Pro with the usual dongling, job done. For the desktop software, the needs were somewhat odder. The product we'll be unveiling is MPE-capable, so we wanted to have at least one MPE controller at our booth. Since the iOS and desktop versions are identical in that regard, it seemed wise to have one MPE-capable controller for each, and of those, at least one that civilians could play. Roli very generously loaned us a Rise 25 for the booth, so that will attach to the iPad, and my Linnstrument will go as well, for the desktop stuff.

All but a couple of our products are now vector-graphics and HiDpi-capable, so I wanted a 4K monitor to show this off. My own monitor is too big, so I purchased a Dell 23" 4K for the show. Now the trouble starts. You would think it would be a fairly simple matter to sling a computer at this problem and be done with it. You'd be wrong. The software we're unveiling is nearing completion, but it is in no way finished, so it isn't as optimized as we'd like. I don't want to use my main work laptop for a trade show, for obvious reasons, so I pulled out a mid-2013 MacBook Pro, and between pushing a 4K monitor and this fairly heavy-duty plugin, it was screaming for baby Jesus. So, we decided to run Windows instead of OSX for the booth. That being the case, we needed a Windows machine capable of both fairly heavy lifting in the graphics department while shouldering the CPU burden of a DAW. Plus, we have a fairly thin budget and weight considerations. It was a surprisingly tough nut to crack.

After a whole lot of reading of computer gear blogs and fretting, I decided that I had enough time to take a small risk, and I ordered up one of the new Intel Skull Canyon NUCs. As it is a bare-bones system, containing only a CPU/GPU, I also grabbed 16GB of RAM, an NVMe drive, and a key for Windows Home 10 64-bit. All of that showed up this morning.

I'll admit that while I knew intellectually how small the Skull Canyon NUC was, I was unprepared for the reality of it. It is just about the same size as a VHS tape. The power brick is almost as big as the computer itself. Anyhoo, it comes with a pretty good selection of ports (including, improbably, a Thunderbolt 3 port, if you want to run a graphics card in a chassis, or a UAD Apollo or whatever.) It took me about 30 minutes in all to set it up, from opening the boxes to signing in to Windows, after I installed Windows off a USB drive built with Windows Media Creator on my big machine.

We'll be using Bitwig Studio 2 to demonstrate our products at Superbooth (for two reasons: a native understanding of MPE, and a good HiDpi implementation on Windows), so I popped over to the Bitwig site and slammed that on the machine, as well as a few of our plugs and some samples. I've been pressure-testing it for several hours now, and I have to say that, taking its size in to account, this computer is an amazing value. I wouldn't use it as my main workstation, but for situations like this, or for a secondary machine or media center, it is fucking amazeballs. With the caveat that I still have a lot to do before I'll call it Show Ready™, I'm of the opinion that this is a solid machine for the money. Two thumbs tentatively up.

April 9, 2017

Booth, With Occasional Super...

by Chris Randall

Hectic April continues. The Audio Damage event this week at Perfect Circuit was outstanding. Huge turnout, and Baseck did a crazy excellent set. Much love all around, and thanks to everyone that came out and put up with my stream-of-consciousness presentation style. (Roughly akin to standing there and going "BLEARRRGHGGHGGHHH!!!!" for 30 minutes. Good times. Good times.)

Next on the agenda: the very first box of Eos modules will be arriving here tomorrow; I'll have time to test them and turn them around. They're all going to Control in NYC, so until l get back from Europe, that'll be the only place on the planet you can buy them. I'm going to get the product page up today, with specs and at least one overview video.

I buried the lede in that last paragraph. "...get back from Europe." Superbooth is right around the corner, y'all! The marquee event of the Eurorack World is April 20-22 at Fex in Berlin, and AD (in the form of me) will be in attendance, showing off Ensō and Eos, and all our other products. I'm very excited for this; it is, by far, my favorite event of the ones we do yearly, and I'm really looking forward to it. Instead of flying direct to Berlin, I'm going to Prague (much cheaper) and renting a car to drive to Berlin. I'll only be in Prague a couple days, but if any AI readers live there and want to grab a beer and whatever it is that Czechs eat, I'm totally down.

So, tl;dr: LA was fun. The Czech Republic and Germany will be fun. First Eos will be out the door Tuesday. Crazy times!

April 5, 2016

Berlin Debrief...

by Chris Randall


Unless you've been living under a rock for the last few whiles, you are perfectly aware of last week's Superbooth 16 in Berlin. Schneidersburo is one of the largest Eurorack retailers (and via their Alex4 subsidiary, the European distributor for almost all North American Euro manufacturers), and every year they've had an Analogue Superbooth at MusikMesse in Frankfurt.

The MusikMesse has, in the last few years, become a hostile environment for boutique manufacturers, and Schneidersburo/Alex4 decided, to their credit, to make their Analogue Superbooth a stand-alone event, and put it in Berlin (where it's cool) instead of Frankfurt (where it's basically Dallas Plus Schnitzel). We'd been dreading the inevitable trip to Messe, so when Schneider's announced this event, we immediately jumped on board, as did virtually everyone else. All the larger North American Euro manufacturers were in attendance, with one notable exception. Essentially all of the European manufacturers were there, as well as many other companies that ran the gamut from one-dude-in-a-basement-with-an-invention on up to U-He, Ableton, Native Instruments, Roland, Korg, Yamaha, and Moog, along with several pro-audio companies.

It was, basically, all the cool shit in the music tech business under one roof.


The venue was the splendid former state radio building of the GDR, and while it was a bit run down, having sat idle for some decades now, the Schneiders folks did an amazing job cleaning it up and running the event. I'll admit that the potential for a clusterfuck of massive proportions was a distinct possibility, given the location of the venue (on the corner of the Ass End Of Nowhere and Bumblefuck) and the high cost of attendance. I am personally of the mind that these sorts of events should be free to the attendees, and I give any event that has even a moderate fee the side-eye, but in this case, the stars aligned and all went perfectly.

Schneiders organized it so the first half of the (very long) days were for trade only and the second half were for the public. Since we don't actually have a whole lot of trade to do, being distributed exclusively by Alex4, the first parts of the days were spent hanging with old friends and meeting new ones, seeing the new stuff everyone's working on, and talking about the industry. The public half of the days was outstanding; the people that attended were the best informed I've personally come across at one of these events. I didn't talk to a single "so... what does this... do... exactly?" n00B. (I despise those conversations, as I've worked in this business so long I just assume everyone I talk to has the same knowledge base I do, and when I find myself explaining how an oscillator works, my eyes glaze over immediately.)

All in all, this was the single best event of this sort that I've ever attended. We've been discussing not doing the major trade shows any more (NAMM in particular) because the signal-to-noise ratio is so bad that there's no noticeable return on our investment. This, however, was money and time well spent, and we very much look forward to next year.

Adam was unable to attend, as he had a vacation in Japan planned for the same time period, and due to personal reasons was unable to change the dates. So I took Jeremy Highhouse to work our booth for the public parts. I've been to Frankfurt many times, and spent a couple months in Hamburg and Cologne, but I've never visited Berlin. I only had about a day and a half to explore, but what an outstanding city! I loved every minute I was there, except for the first day. (And this is my fault, not Berlin's. Like some sort of diptard, I left my one and only coat in Phoenix, and arrived to a very cold and wet Berlin at 7AM, unable to get in my rented flat until 3PM, after 21 hours of travel. That was... amusing.)

It was great to see people in real life that I've known for years online and talk to daily, and to make a whole mess of new friends. Well worth the trouble of getting there. Special shout out to the Koma Elektronik boys, who are, quite frankly, the coolest people I've ever met.

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