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An online and mobile DAW called BandLab just acquired Cakewalk’s IP

Cakewalk may not be all dead. A developer of online and mobile music creation tools has snapped up the former PC DAW maker’s complete intellectual property.

As I wrote earlier this week, Gibson Brands, the guitar maker-turned-wannabe consumer electronics giant, is hard up for cash. So, while they discontinued operation of their Cakewalk division, apparently they had not found a buyer for one of pro audio’s biggest names.

That changes today. Signapore-based BandLab announced they’ve acquired the “complete” intellectual property and “certain assets” in a deal with Gibson. There’s no word on what those assets are, and BandLab say they’re not making any additional announcement about the specifics – so we don’t know how much cash Gibson got or what those assets were. If the Nashville Post numbers are correct, it seems this will make little difference to Gibson’s debts, but that’s another story.

So Cakewalk’s codebase, product line, trademarks, everything go to BandLab. BandLab also has confirmed to CDM that some former Cakewalk team members will join the new company. (That itself is big news.)

And there’s some relief here: all those thirty years of accumulated expertise in making music software may not go entirely to waste.

BandLab is a familiar idea. There’s a mobile app with multiple tracks, automatic pitch correction, guitar/bass/vocal effects, and cloud sync, plus a grid-style riff interface and more traditional track layout. And there’s a free online tool you can use to collaborate with other people on the Internet and DAW features.

BandLab’s browser-based DAW.

Of the two, it’s the online DAW that looks most interesting, at least in that it’s more ambitious about incorporating desktop tools than some rivals. There’s built-in time stretching, automation, a guitar amp, and virtual instruments, for instance. I’m impressed on paper at least – I hadn’t heard of BandLab before today, to be honest, though it’s easy to lose track of various competing online solutions out there, since they tend to be somewhat similar.

And that raises the question – what’s the Cakewalk angle for BandLab?

I presumed on first blush this would be limited to assets relevant to their existing mobile products, but it seems it’s more than that. From the official press statement, it sounds as though you’ll see Cakewalk’s line of software – possibly including the flagship DAW SONAR, virtual instruments, and other tools – continue under the BandLab name. That’s been the case with other acquisitions of media creation software, if with mixed results in terms of development pace. From the press statement:

The teams at both Gibson and BandLab felt that Cakewalk’s products deserved a new home where development could continue. We are pleased to be supporting Cakewalk’s passionate community of creators to ensure they have access to the best possible features and music products under the BandLab Technologies banner.

[emphasis mine]

Then there’s the product that was just seeing the light of day right when Gibson shuttered Cakewalk operations, the one with the unintentionally ironic name:

https://momentum.cakewalk.com/

Momentum even looks quite a bit like BandLab’s mobile app. The mobile app and cloud sync solution runs on iOS and Android, with four-track recording, editing, looping and effects. And it cleverly captures ideas as recordings (via something with the dreadful name “Ideaspace”), then makes them available everywhere.

Momentum also has something that BandLab lacks – a VST/AU/AAX plug-in for Mac and Windows. Here’s the thing: it’s all fine and well to start talking about making music making easier, and reaching people with phone and browser apps. But even though big desktop DAWs don’t look terribly friendly, they’re still reasonably popular. Ableton Live alone has a user base the size of most major cities. Adding that plug-in could bridge Cakewalk’s product line and other desktop products with BandLab’s own mobile solutions.

And it’s not just the plug-in – Momentum also had an integrated cloud sync service and server-side infrastructure. (Plus don’t forget the ScratchPad iOS app. Well… maybe.)

BandLab’s mobile apps might be complemented either by Cakewalk’s mobile/cloud offerings or desktop products – or both.

So, we’ll see what BandLab are planning. Of course, the nostalgic part of me wants to see some of the soul of Cakewalk in what they do.

It seems from the way BandLab are handling the announcement that they share some of the same emotional attachment to Cakewalk that a lot of us do. For evidence, see what they’ve done to Cakewalk’s website, where there’s a headline reading:

“The news you’ve all been hoping for…”

Follow through to their own http://cakewalk.bandlab.com landing page for the acquisition, and there’s a charming ASCII art reading Cakewalk and a line reading “Cakewalk is dead. Long live Cakewalk!”

I’ve asked if any of the former Cakewalk team are joining the new effort. That would inspire more confidence than just selling these DAWs with minimal updates as-is. BandLab for their part promise a product roadmap and other details soon.

http://cakewalk.bandlab.com

So yeah, Cakewalk? Dead?

Updates from BandLab

BandLab has revealed some more details of the acquisition, and are speaking directly to the Cakewalk user community.

Most significantly, Noel Borthwick and Ben Staton, key engineering figures from Cakewalk, will join the new company. Ben was a senior engineer and driving force at the company; Noel was CTO and I’m grateful in particular for the countless occasions he devoted his own personal time to help share the technical details of how their products worked.

The forum will also continue to operate.

If you’ve got a subscription, BandLab can’t help you – since Cakewalk’s lights were off, effectively, there’s no operation for them to buy. They’re only getting the intellectual property – think code.

There’s now a full FAQ, plus a discussion with BandLab’s CEO Meng Kuok right on the Cakewalk forum. And no, they’re not open sourcing things. (Moving a music product into the open source domain is a tough thing; to my knowledge it’s actually never happened with a major music product, though we have seen an occasional example on the graphics/video side.) But you can look forward to ongoing development, which is something frankly I and many others wouldn’t have imagined.

https://blog.bandlab.com/cakewalk-announcement-faq/

Hello from BandLab [Cakewalk Forum]

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FM Player: Classic DX Synths 1.1 brings better envelopes and some promises too

The people behind AudioKit, the open source successor to The Amazing Audio Engine, brought us FM Player in November last year, and since then they’ve been busy making this app event better. In this release they’ve added ATTACK & RELEASE knobs. Plus what they consider to be a quite beautiful new MIDI velocity handling.

They say that this is because:

“You’re a musician who cares about sound quality. This free update gives you a dramatic increase in realism while playing with a MIDI keyboard. Please leave a good review, We’re still working on FM Player. We think you are all GREAT and we appreciate all your kind words! <3.”

  • The team has spent weeks coming up with beautiful velocity curves individually tailored to each sound. This was done with code. Meaning, we app has not increased in size
  • Better MIDI keyboard velocity. Each preset has a unique velocity response, inspired by the original hardware.
  • The developer says that the Attack/Release controls are the most useful envelopes for a sample-based instrument like FM Player. Turn up the Release knob all the way for beautiful and floating sounds.
  • They plan to update the GitHub source-code repo with these new Attack/Release controls. They go on to say that they might even make a tutorial video. Keep an eye out for that on their website, audiokitpro.com

What are they working on next?

Which is a good question. I thought I’d add in what they’ve got to say about what’s next:

We are working on a free AUv3 Synth app that you will love. And, we are working on making FM Player more power efficient. Plus, other improvements you have emailed. In the meantime, it might be best to completely close FM Player when you are not using it to save battery use. We appreciate your patience with us as we figure this out. <3

It’s important to note that the people who make FM Player are volunteers. What’s more AudioKit does not have any sponsors or investors, although quite frankly I’d give or invest money in it if I could, and I seriously believe that they should consider doing something like a crowdfunder or crowd equity thing.

Because of this they obviously want people to spread the word about what they’re doing, which is of course what I’m doing. If you can do the same, I know that they’d appreciate it.

FM Player on the app store (free)

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iMPC Pro 2.0.7 brings stems export and a lot more besides

Akai Professional and Retronyms brought us iMPC Pro 2 back in December 2017, and have brought consistent updates since. This is now the fourth and brings a load of fixes / minor features. But the biggest by far is the export of stems! That will make a lot people happy, and it’s a great addition to iMPC Pro 2.

But in addition they’ve also thrown these into the release:

* Right-bias fixed in resample recordings
* Solo automation gets stuck in on position
* Tempo Sync now supported in Audio Units
* Syntronik Audio Unit now works with iMPC Pro 2
* Fixed gaps in audio track mixdown on certain device/OS combinations
* Fixed bug where slice markers were off when editing sounds > 44khz
* MIDI input no longer triggers last-selected AU track when on a drum track
* Fixed Undo when recording MIDI
* Fixed bugs when multiple audio segments were highlighted
* IAA effect send now work on audio tracks
* Occasional buzzes and other audio glitches when IAA removed
* Crash when trying to open an empty user program
* BPM changes when writing out stems and mixdowns
* Audio Unit quantization fixed
* Audio Unit notes may now be erased with the Erase button in Perform
* Audio Units now always play correct sequence on restored projects
* MIDI-learned drumpads no longer triggered in AU mode
* Tracks view now shows notes as they are recorded
* Outputs to virtual MIDI devices can now be disabled in the MIDI menu

Lots of good stuff in this release. So if you haven’t taken a look at iMPC Pro 2 so far, maybe now is a good time.

iMPC Pro 2 on the app store:

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Bela Mini gives you 1ms sound anywhere, to turn into anything, for £120

Make anything you want, with free music software of your choice, and <1ms latency. Bela is back, smaller than ever – a pocket-sized £120 computer for sound.

Embedded mobile tech has in recent years brought us pocket-sized, low-power boards that can match the performance of what not so many years ago we actually called a desktop computer. And that’s led to high-profile boards like the cheap Raspberry Pi. The problem has been, many of the cheapest of these machines were limited in computational power, and more importantly, had audio performance that ranged from middling to disastrously awful, both in audio quality and reliability/responsiveness.

But you shouldn’t settle for that. The whole point of building an embedded audio system dedicated to the task of music making – like a DIY effects pedal or synth or sound installation – ought to be that audio performance is better than on your PC. You’ve got a pocket-sized board that isn’t running weird file indexing, OS updates, buggy Facebook code open in twenty tabs, and the like. It ought to just do the number crunching you need for the granular delay you want to sing along with, and do it really well.

A few audio engineers have decided to brave the challenge. It’s not an easy thing to do: these little boards are so cheap that there’s not a whole lot of money to be made on them.

But one of the better projects has been Bela, first introduced in 2016. And today, its makers are taking advantage of a new board PocketBeagle board from beagleboard.org. It’s more powerful than that much-hyped Raspberry Pi, but runs on a battery and is absurdly small – the Bela Mini measures just 55x35x21mm. (Please do not eat your Bela Mini, or Tide Pods, or anything that isn’t food.)

It’s not just a small computer, though – there’s more.

Low latency. 1ms round-trip for audio, or a minuscule 100us round-trip via analog and digital I/Os.

Run your favorite free audio software. Support for the graphical patching environment Pure Data (Pd), the crazy-powerful code world of SuperCollider, plus C and C++, and community support for FAUST, Python, etc.

An IDE in your browser. Fire up your browser and use a built-in IDE with oscilloscope and spectral analysis and documentation and more.

Sensors! High-resolution sensor inputs onboard open up interesting interfacing with the real world, whether you’ve got a wearable technology idea, an interactive installation, or a unique custom interface.

The applications should be clear here. You could ditch your laptop and run a granular looper on a pocket-sized box. You could hook up some sensors and invent your own weird instrument. You could make a custom vocoder and bring this with a mic and croon along at “robot lounge night.” You could produce a runway show of electronically singing couture. You could devise a series of installations and turn into the next Nam June Paik and someday have a solo show at the Guggen– well, possibly at least some hipster gallery somewhere. You get the idea.

For now, that unique focus on audio makes this possibly the best game in town. There is one rival – the Pisound, a board that hops atop the Raspberry Pi, and couples with a custom case. The Pisound does have the advantage of onboard MIDI – both USB MIDI and MIDI DIN – but for computational power with audio, the Beagle looks stronger. (I could imagine doing an audio/MIDI application with Pisound and coupling it with an audio/sensor creation with Bela.)

https://blokas.io/

Bela winds up pricing out pretty nicely, too. The smart buy is a £120 all-in-one kit (£110 intro price through March 9). That gets you cables, the Bela, the PocketBeagle base board, and a pr-flashed SD-card. If you prefer to source your own parts, you can get just the Bela Mini for £60 (£55 intro).

Here’s what’s in the kit.

It’s bigger, but the original Bela has basically the same specs and ships now if what I’ve done is make you impatient to own one now, rather than wait for May.

Basically, what’s new on the Bela Mini is really the tiny size. That opens up projects where small size matters. (The Pisound above is really just about music projects, more than wearable tech and the like, by contrast – but of course by virtue of being larger affords more space for full-sized ports!) The original Bela will remain available, with “capelets” for adding additional features.

Either way, if you’re quick, you can get out of the studio and have your battery-powered box to make weird experimental music for your friends at the beach all summer long. (Or, southern hemisphere readers, let’s say keeping your friends warm with your July beatbox busking.)

And all for the price of one basic Eurorack module. Who said electronic music was just for the rich kids?

Full specs:

Based on the PocketBeagle (http://www.beagleboard.org/pocket) with a custom hardware cape and low-latency operating system
1GHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor, 512MB RAM (based on Octavo Systems OSD335x system-in-package)
Stereo audio I/O with integrated headphone amplifier (16 bit, 44.1kHz)
8x 16-bit analog inputs for sensors (DC-coupled; up to 44.1kHz for 4 inputs or 22.05kHz for 8 inputs)
16x digital I/Os (3.3V level)
USB host and device ports
Dimensions 55 x 35 x 21mm (including PocketBeagle)

Software:
Latency as low as 0.5ms (analog/digital input to audio output) or 1.0ms (audio input to audio output)
Browser-based IDE including oscilloscope, spectrum analyser, interactive pin diagram and onboard documentation
Support for C, C++, Pd and SuperCollider languages. Community-contributed support for FAUST, Python and others

Bela Mini launch + FAQ

Buy it:
https://shop.bela.io

Sample projects:
http://blog.bela.io/

Resources:
http://github.com/BelaPlatform
http://github.com/BelaPlatform/bela/wiki
http://forum.bela.io

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Arturia AudioFuse Review: the tiny square that packs nearly everything

There are some exceptional audio interfaces out there. But Arturia stands out by cramming an unusual amount of connectivity in an ultra-mobile package.

Look, when it comes to audio interfaces, compromise is the name of the game. The interface either never has every single port you want, or … it does, but it’s big. And computer operating systems remain an obstacle – especially once you’re beyond what theoretically should work, and into the realm of now something is popping and I better turn up the buffer size. Some of this is in the hands of manufacturers; some is decidedly not. (Computer and OS makers, I’m looking at you. Yes, you. Music – it’s kind of important to human civilization. Check it out some time.)

What’s impressive about Arturia’s AudioFuse is that they seem to have taken to heart a lot of the wishes of the mobile musician – and actually delivered.

I’ve had my hands on the AudioFuse for some time now, long enough to torture test it with both my Mac and PC in a variety of live and studio conditions. And I can share what I’ve been sharing with friends about it – this is easily on my short list of easy-to-recommend audio interfaces. (More on the others at the end.)

What the AudioFuse manages to pull off, and this isn’t easy, is maximizing flexibility in a variety of situations while still fitting into an enclosure small enough that you may always keep it in your backpack.

Plug-and-play, reliable performance

First, one feature that makes the AudioFuse essential to keep around is, it’s USB 2.0 class-compliant, driver free. With this amount of I/O, USB 2.0 makes this box far more flexible and compatible. Officially, that means Mac and Windows support that’s plug-and-play. But unofficially, that means Linux, Raspberry Pi, iOS, and Android, too.

You will need Mac or Windows to run the AudioFuse Control Center for additional configuration options. But I’ve happily dual-booted to Linux on my PC and gotten great results from the box. And there’s enough onboard control that I didn’t feel stranded without the software control panel, even though it’s useful in some situations. Meanwhile, the AudioFuse remembers all of its settings after you disconnect from the control panel.

You mileage may vary, but I got extremely reliable results with a 64 sample buffer size, which means well under 10 ms latency, on Mac, Windows, and Linux with a variety of tools. Remember that with latency the point isn’t just paper specs or whether the audio interface can run with a small buffer size; it’s whether you consistently remain without pops at that small buffer size. For me, the Arturia out-performed a number of USB devices laying around my studio.

If you have a single OS environment, and you don’t mind installing drivers, you may well best the AudioFuse’s performance. And I would consider Thunderbolt/USB3 if you want to use more I/O than the AudioFuse has onboard. But I find there’s some comfort in knowing I’m traveling with an interface I can plug into a different computer without worrying about driver installation, and I like owning at least one box like the AudioFuse that can work outside just Mac and Windows.

Connect nearly everything

Wow, did someone hear or intuit what I wanted in I/O (with one caveat below):

4 inputs: 2 XLR mic ins, 2 phono/line ins
2 RIAA phono preamps (seriously)
4 analog outputs
2 analog inserts
ADAT in/out
S/PDIF in/out
Word clock in/out
3-port USB hub
2(!) independent headphone jacks
MIDI in/out (via minijack adapters)

This.

Including MIDI, the USB hub, and separate headphone jacks alone makes this a huge boon to the mobile musician. And everything works as advertised – plus it all runs via bus power if you like (adjusting automatically to allow it to do so). A bit on the power modes:

USB is via micro USB. That may sound fidgety, but structurally I’ve found these to be sound. The included cable has a second USB connection, but if you lose your cable, you can swap a phone cable – also critical, because it means again the interface will still function when you’re on the road and misplaced a cable or someone lifted it from you. Uh… not that those things ever happen.

Arturia advertises their own, built-from-scratch mic pres. They certainly sounded transparent to me, and I appreciate that they get their own signal path. And you’ve got onboard 48V phantom power plus a multi-level pad and auto-impedance matching. Basically, you can more or less plug anything into this and forget about it. 24-bit 192kHz may sound like overkill, but then – quite literally, friends and I have lately got interested in recording ultrasonic birdsong and bat noises, so there’s that.

There are also unique monitoring settings, like handy summing to mono. (Having once had my trusty mastering engineer yell at me when I accidentally sent something that had phase cancellation problems, thanks for this!)

The one thing I’m missing here is more than four outputs. With some serious multichannel output situations becoming more commonplace, that means the AudioFuse isn’t quite the last interface I’d ever need to own. (Someone somewhere is saying the same about the inputs.) But let’s not consider the fact that the whole thing is a tiny square. Speaking of which:

That form factor / UX

Arturia really nailed it here. This is the one audio interface with a decent selection of I/O I can comfortably drop in a backpack or suitcase without worry, thanks to its small size, low weight, and a cute and indispensable cover. That’s not just for looks – a lot of audio interfaces have some dangerously exposed controls. (It does look nice, too, of course.)

I’m also a fan of the top panel. There’s a big knob, certainly reminiscent of interfaces from Universal Audio and others, plus dedicated meters for input and output and gain and phone knobs, plus shortcut keys and a cleverly-positioned dial for adjusting whether you monitor from the computer source or direct through the interface.

Arturia were clearly inspired by Universal Audio both in those dials and the displays. (Not to be outdone, UA also have a slick new box called the Arrow. Upside: Thunderbolt, DSP processing. Downside: far less connectivity.)

Here, I’ll link directly to Sound on Sound and say everything Sam says about monitoring is absolutely true. (Sam, I’m not cribbing your review notes – I just definitely can say I can directly count myself with the opposite use case!)

I can be even less diplomatic than Sam and say, if you want an audio interface that doubles as a (sub)mixer, or if you want particular control over what goes to the monitor mix, forget the AudioFuse and go with something else.

But —

If you just want to quickly plug in some inputs and then reach one dial that’s either the computer or whatever input you’ve got, the AudioFuse makes sense. That is, if you literally aren’t thinking about what’s plugged in – and quite often in the heat of the moment onstage or on the road recording, you really aren’t – it’s great. Monitoring, like connectivity, are about instant plug and play. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to that; I’d say what this box does is suit this particular use case.

Conclusions

As a versatile all-around mobile interface, I love the AudioFuse. I’d still choose the Universal Audio Apollo Twin for audio quality, and the ability to add processing via UA’s effects without adding round-trip latency through the computer. I’d consider MOTU and RME for adding more I/O, too (especially if you don’t need or want the UAD effects), and certainly MOTU for its unique AV applications and mixer operation. Thunderbolt really does look like the future for more advanced applications.

MOTU is worth an additional mention for being universally compatible with their 828es, which has both Thunderbolt and USB. And that’s the box you want if you find the AudioFuse appealing but want more I/O and real standalone mixing operation, plus better performance.

But that also slightly misses the point. You wouldn’t throw an 828es into a backpack and take it with you everywhere. The AudioFuse, you would. And all musicians don’t always travel with road cases.

And that’s why one size doesn’t really fit all. But for under $/EUR600, in a small size that does fit everywhere, the AudioFuse is worth a look. Now, note to Arturia – if this is a big hit, a micro edition might make sense. Or an expanded box that’s a rectangle rather than a square for a little more I/O. In the meantime, I’ve got to go pack my backpack and get a move on.

https://www.arturia.com/audiofuse/

Got another audio interface you’re using? One you prefer? Let us know in comments.

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Moog is making a $35,000 modular 1969 synth – so let’s ask them why

Moog Music have announced they’re painstakingly recreating a 1969 modular classic. So we asked the engineers why they’d do that – and why it costs 35 grand.

It’s clear now that Moog has two lines of products. The Moog Music products most people buy really are distinct from this. When founder Bob Moog relaunched his company (first as Big Briar, later as Moog Music), he focused on things like Theremins and the relaunched Minimoog Voyager, followed by the immense hit of new Moogerfooger pedals. And as far as the new synths and effects went, what you got were really modern takes on the originals – descended from the classic models, down to the signature ladder filter and so on, but updated with modern parts and new design features. Those pedals also ensured that Moog wasn’t just a brand for keyboardists and synth nuts, but, guitarists and instrumentalists too.

Moog have never tried to be a low-cost brand. But you can’t exactly call them elitist either. From putting products like the Minifoogers in reach to semi-modulars well under $1000 to some terrific iOS apps that sell for just a few bucks, Moog sell alongside a lot of other stuff.

But, if that’s Moog’s day job, they have this … side hobby. And that’s been recreations – not just of the original Minimoog, but of much more complex modular instruments. What appeared to be a one-off novelty (a recreation of Keith Emerson’s modular rig) turned out to be an ongoing fascination of the company’s engineering team. And they’re not easy or inexpensive to make.

This week, the North Carolina-based company announced a new edition of the IIIp – an all-in-one, benchmark edition of the original modular line. It’s the instrument Wendy Carlos (Switched on Bach), George Harrison (Abbey Road), and Isao Tomita (Snowflakes Are Dancing) all used.

It’s definitely a luxury item. Forty will be made, at a cost of US$35,000 each, shipping around May.

If this were just a pricey absurdity, though, I wouldn’t be writing about it. There’s no doubt this is a classic – what Moog prove again is that a historical instrument can go right back into production. Nor is $35k expensive when thinking of musical instruments in the acoustic domain; as Moog championed in the 60s, it seems the Moog company want you to think of synthesizers in the same category as a fine violin or piano.

But all that being said – this still surely leaves us with some questions. (“Are you nuts?” springs to mind.) So I asked the Moog Music company to explain themselves. Here are their answers from the team that worked on the recreation.

For some context, I’ve actually asked Moog this once before – the first time round. But it’s nice to update these answers for the new hardware and its specific component and build requirements.

Just Do It: Moog Engineer Explains Why They Remade Keith Emerson’s Modular [Videos, Audio]

Why the IIIp, specifically? It’s a modular system, but of course here you’re selling a pre-configured set of modules. What was special about that selection? (And why recreate that rather than the modules alone?)

The IIIp is the portable cabinet version of the IIIc, so this was a logical follow-on. The overall sonics of these systems is unmatched. The entire system is discrete, with no modern ICs anywhere to be found, so the depth and dimension that comes from them can be overwhelmingly physical. Offering modules alone is tricky for us. Moog is still a small, employee-owned company — we hand build every modular system that leaves our factory. The demands of re-creating these systems is quite large due to parts, resources and cultural limitations (these days it’s rare to have complex machines built by hand in the United States).

Were any parts difficult to source? (rare, or costly?) Did any substitutions have to be made because of availability?

Building the Synthesizer IIIp to original spec requires an immense attention to detail and seriously tests our commitment to hand-crafting our legacy modular synthesizers, which presents new challenges every day. Key components for these projects that were common place 50 years ago are now obsolete and no longer available through traditional distribution channels, so we have to source our NOS supply through a divergent network of surplus vendors. Sometimes, a part has become obsolete and no surplus is available, such as with the inductors used in the 914 Filter Bank. Modern equivalents just won’t do in terms of retaining the sonic character of the original, so we worked closely with one of our parts suppliers to re-issue the custom inductors exclusively for our legacy modular projects. Even S-trig cabling is getting harder and harder to source reliably.

How many of these things are you making?

40 worldwide.

What about the cost — how does the cost of making this today compare to the 1960s cost? (accounting for some major inflation there, naturally!)

Buying a IIIp new between 1969 and 1973 equates to more than $50,000 USD in today’s money (based on 1969 R.A. Moog Price List price of $7,985), so $35,000 represents a significant decrease in price for these systems. The cost of handcrafting these instruments in the exact same way today as we did in the past has increased at a staggering rate — and even though it may be hard to believe, we have worked diligently to keep the cost to the consumer as low as we have. Obviously we are aware that only a few can afford these systems, but the more instruments we get into the world, the more opportunities people have to experience them.

Cost of course is something people will notice. Is this the design of the thing versus what we make now, the low quantity, a combination?

Anything that is 100% handcrafted by human beings in low quantities costs a lot more to make. The process to build a single IIIp takes hundreds of hours of labor to complete. Every circuit board is hand populated and every component has to be hand soldered by someone in the Moog Factory. Each circuit board has to be mounted into a module, and then that module has to be tested and calibrated — multiply that by 37+ (depending on how you count modules) and you start to get an idea of the scope of this build. Next, each cabinet has to be hand wired and dressed (including hand crimping the connectors). And after that, all of the modules are placed into the system and the entire system is burned in and tested. Every single module gets recalibrated so that the system is calibrated to itself, which is what ultimately forms a cohesive instrument.

What’s the market for something like this?

Composers, sound designers and students of the sonic arts (Universities) are drawn to instruments like the Synthesizer IIIp. Artists who seek to pin-point human emotions and set them to resonate through the power-of-sound tell us that nothing moves through speakers and directly into your body like these systems do.

How does continue making remakes fit into the larger Moog strategy? To be honest, I suspect a lot of us figured we’d see a couple and then it’d stop, not that it would continue!

Moog is made up of a group of widely diverse individuals who all share a passion for creating inspirational tools. This isn’t just our passion alone, but a legacy of creative energies going back 7 decades. As Moog employees, we are immensely inspired by the process of bringing our early synthesizers back to life. The potential of these systems is still unfolding — there are still sounds that will emanate from them that haven’t been heard before!

Thanks as always to the folks at Moog for being open to talking about this. And — yeah, I want to hear one of these in person, especially having learned modular synthesis in school on vintage Moog and Buchla modulars and being endlessly inspired by Wendy Carlos’ compositions and orhchestrations. Though — well, I may still try to get my sounds into your body from my gear! We’ll have more on Moog soon – including that nice new DFAM that we can actually afford! -Ed.

https://www.moogmusic.com/products/modulars/synthesizer-iiip

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Hear the sounds of the Falcon Heavy launch with this binaural recording

Watching space exploration is stunning. But hearing it is essential, too – and if you haven’t yet, you really want to hear the Falcon Heavy launch like this.

The Sound Traveler is a YouTube channel that offers “3D” sound experiences using binaural recording, a recording technique that more closely captures sound the way it would enter your head. (The technique is far from perfect, because head and ear shapes are different, but it at least records some of the way sound naturally reaches your inner ears.)

And, lucky them, they got to the top of Cape Canaveral’s Vehicle Assembly Building, where the Space Shuttle tiles were applied and the Apollo rockets were prepped, to hear the Falcon Heavy launch. That’s a rocket the size of which this launchpad hasn’t seen in some years – so you can bet it made a heck of a noise.

Even if you have seen the video before, they’ve posted an extended cut:

The sound is terrific – not only of the launch itself, but the ambient sounds that put you in the experience of being there. I do hope that this inspires space program PR to allow other, more sophisticated recordings – yes, I’m packed up and ready to go to Baikonur Cosmodrome whenever you call, Soyuz.

Because space programs operate with public support, this sort of communication is important. It also inspires much-needed future scientists and engineers. So it’s not just about corporate PR.

And it certainly reveals something about the nature of sound. I got the chance to tour the European Space Agency’s facility for testing vibrations produced by sound, so a sound system capable of reproducing the mighty noise you hear here (only at the equivalent distance of being strapped to the rocket). Here it’s nice to hear that at a safe distance, in real life.

There’s that clip again, just so I can reminisce about when I had a beard and … when I maybe should have practiced a bit more on Push.

Here’s to more sounds of space exploration.

Photo: SpaceX / public domain.

The post Hear the sounds of the Falcon Heavy launch with this binaural recording appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Ableton Link v3 brings Start/Stop Sync, and now it’s in Audiobus too

It’s only fair to say that Ableton’s Link technology has been a big deal from day one. It’s been taken up by a huge number of apps in the iOS world, on Android, macOS, and even in hardware too. I’d go as far as to say that Link is now a hygiene factor for any new app. You just have to have it.

Of course, one thing that it’s been missing is the ability to manage start and stop commands. That is, up until now. With the latest version of Link comes exactly that. Start and stop built right in, and as of today Audiobus has added support for Ableton Link Start/Stop Sync, so when Start/Stop Sync is enabled, Audiobus will forward start and stop messages from Link to apps connected to it.

So Link just makes itself even more important and indispensable.

If you don’t have Ableton Link in your app as yet then you might want to consider adding it. Developers can find documentation here. The site gives more details about v3 start/stop:

“As of Version 3, Link allows peers to share information on the user’s intent to start or stop transport with other peers that have the feature enabled. Start/stop state changes only follow user actions. This means applications will not adapt to, or automatically change the start/stop state of a Link session when they are joining. After a peer joins a session it exposes and listens to all upcoming start/stop state changes. This is different to tempo, beat, and phase that are automatically aligned as soon as an application joins a session. As every application handles start and stop commands according to its capabilities and quantization, it is not expected that applications start or stop at the same time. Rather every application should start according to its quantum and phase.”

Personally I’m really glad to see Audiobus get this update straight away. It makes Audiobus even more useful again.

The post Ableton Link v3 brings Start/Stop Sync, and now it’s in Audiobus too appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

A free plug-in brings extreme PaulStretch stretching to your DAW

You’ve heard Justin Bieber mangled into gorgeous ambient cascades of sound. Now, you can experience the magic of PaulStretch as a free plug-in.

It may give you that “A-ha” moment in ambient music. You know:

The developer has various warnings about using this plug-in, which for me make me want to use it even more. (Hey, no latency reporting to the DAW? Something weird in Cubase! No manual? Who cares! Let’s give it a go – first I’m going to run with scissors to grab a beer which I’ll drink at my laptop!)

Specifically:

The plugin is only suitable for radical transformation of sounds. It is not suitable at all for subtle time corrections and such. Ambient music and sound design are probably the most suitable use cases.

You had me at radical / not subtle.

Okay… yeah, this was probably meant for me:

You can use it two ways: either load an audio file, and just run PaulStretch in your DAW, or use it as a live processor on inputs. (That’s weird, given what it does – hey, there was some latency. Like… a whole lot of latency.)

It’s on Mac and Windows but code is available and Linux is “likely.”

https://xenakios.wordpress.com/paulxstretch-plugin/

If you want the original:

http://hypermammut.sourceforge.net/paulstretch/

https://github.com/paulnasca/paulstretch_cpp

That does other nifty tricks, like binaural beats and additional stretch modes. And it’s more reliable than this plug-in. The one catch: building for Windows and Linux is easy enough, and there are pre-built binaries available, but Mac users are mostly on their own. There was one project a few years back – but it seems it hasn’t been updated. (The blog post explains some of the complexity):

http://music.cornwarning.com/2011/12/07/new-paulstretch-os-x-build/

But the plug-in I think just became the easiest way to use it. Now go forth and make long sounds and chill to them.

The post A free plug-in brings extreme PaulStretch stretching to your DAW appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Gibson is in trouble – and that means trouble for owner Juskiewicz

What’s as American as a Gibson guitar? Well, lately, perhaps iconic brands getting run into the ground by mismanagement at the top.

And that’s one way to read the situation with Gibson Brands. Gibson, the Nashville-based guitar company that also owns names like TEAC Tascam and some Philips consumer audio products, is running out of time to pay back debts.

What’s next? Bankruptcy – if the company isn’t successful in refinancing.

Various music press have in the past days jumped on reporting by the Nashville Post that is critical of current management and suggests that owner/CEO Henry Juszkiewicz doesn’t have much time left. It’s the Post writers guessing that Gibson won’t be able to do enough to calm creditors and bondholders. That is – they’re not making loan payments fast enough, or giving a clear explanation, and the people who loaned them the money are getting fed up.

Gibson, for their part, this month offered up their own strategy. The company said in a press statement that it “has met all current obligations to the bondholders, is in the process of arranging a new credit facility to replace the bonds, and fully expects the bonds to be refinanced in the ordinary course of business.”

They’re also bringing back Benson Woo as Chief Financial Officer.

But that raises both the question of whether they’ll deliver on refinancing promises, and how they got here in the first place.

It’s easy to assume that this is about the demise of the guitar, but that may be mistaken. Indeed, Gibson Brands’ revenue has been down. But guitar sales in the US and worldwide remain fairly stable, looking at larger trends. These are instruments that last you a long time, meaning it’s easy to defer purchases – so the state of the economy is a factor. But while the statistics are hard to get a hold of (these numbers tend to be sold, rather than shared freely), it’s not hard to find evidence that the guitar market remains healthy.

Here’s a good read from 2015, from a marketing blogger:

19 Fascinating Guitar Sales Statistics [brandongaille.com]

Guitars certainly face challenges: think cheaper imports and knockoffs, plus a huge used market (that’s also going to become more and more relevant to synth and modular sales). But looking at the larger numbers and music in general, musicians who want guitars remain loyal to the instrument, and they’re willing to pay for a brand.

The question isn’t what’s going on with guitars, but what’s going on at Gibson.

And there, you might look at their electronics business, where Gibson is seeing sales sagging dramatically versus plans. That’s important, because it’s also where Gibson acquired these debts in the first place – as I noted when Gibson shuttered Cakewalk, the consumer audio push seemed a fools’ errand. Gibson argued at the time they needed to off-load Cakewalk to support that consumer audio push – but that could in turn just dig them deeper, while sacrificing a small part of their business that was insufficient to pay back debts.

So, while the immediate narrative may be: “ah, the demise of the guitar,” maybe it should be more like, “ah, that company loaned a bunch of money to go into consumer audio and now can’t pay it back because they screwed up.” Too much appetite for consumer audio may wreck Gibson the guitar company.

And that’s in fact what the Post argues: that the story at Gibson is mismanagement. Here’s the money quote (so to speak), from Kevin Cassidy, a senior credit officer at Moody’s Investors Service:

“Some type of restructuring will be necessary,” Cassidy said. “The core business is a very stable business, and a sustainable one. But you have a balance sheet problem and an operational problem.”

It seems that has to fall to the leadership at the top – Henry Juszkiewicz, the company CEO and owner. It’s been Juszkiewicz that led this massive expansion, then failed to connect the consumer audio and technology vision to the core instrument business, then failed to keep up with debts as the strategy sagged. But irrespective of whether the buck should stop there, bankruptcy is likely to mean he’ll be unable to retain his current position.

That is, as either debtors or the bondholders get control of Gibson, it may actually be cause for some fans of the core instrument business to applaud. Normally in America, the credit holders are the villains and the plucky upstart business owner the hero – you’ve seen It’s a Wonderful Life. But lately, management losing focus in favor of growth suggests sometimes the people looking at the numbers have a point.

Whatever is about to hit the fan will likely do it soon. Gibson are set to report third quarter earnings and answer to concerns from debtors or bondholders. If the Post article is to be believed – and I suspect it is – you’ll see whatever happens next at Gibson shortly.

It’s worth reading the full story:

Gibson ‘running out of time — rapidly’ [Nashville Post]

The post Gibson is in trouble – and that means trouble for owner Juskiewicz appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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