machine quotidienne


Here’s how Roland improves upon the original 303 sequencer

If you pick up the new Roland Boutique Series TB-03, you get more than just an emulation of the squelchy 303 bass synth. As with the AIRA TB-3 before it, the hardware is also a sequencer. So that means it’s capable of creating basslines for the internal instrument – or external gear, too. What’s special about the new TB-03 is that it both recreates the classic original 303 sequencer, and introduces a new, modern “reboot” of the same. Now we get to see how they differ in a pair of videos released by Roland.

First, let’s have a look at the recreation of the original.

To anyone who says that making a recreation of vintage hardware is boring, one reason to do so is precisely this. You get a unique way of thinking about melody that something like the pattern editor in Ableton Live doesn’t really give you. And it’s always there in hardware, too. If you’ve got a pair of headphones and some batteries, you can lie in bed and make up basslines, without Facebook notifications distracting you or anything like that.

And it’s the limitation of the 303 sequencer that’s interesting. It forces you to divide a melody into steps, as does any step sequencer, but also to separate the idea of melody from rhythm.

And, of course, accents and slides pair with the sound of the instrument to produce a unique sound.

Okay, so it’s classic, we’re done, move on.

Well, no — here, Roland have remixed their own vintage design. So now, have a look at Roland’s new step sequencing mode:

You still have the classic 303 panel layout, with that adorable and immediate access to different rhythmic values. (It really is a clever and economical design.) The difference is, now you can make sequences while the pattern runs, adding timing on the fly. You can hear results right away, and the whole process is more immediate. (You can still scroll through and adjust pitches if you want.)

I actually love that you get a choice of modes here. I think they’re both pretty easy to understand, and switching between them could be a way to keep from running out of ideas.

Oh, except every time I see that NORMAL MODE button, my head does this:

It’s worth saying that the original AIRA TB-3 was pretty clever itself, though, with that KORG KAOSS-like touch interface. I’m partial to the new TB-03 – I think the form factor, editing functions, sound, and overall functionality represent a better option. On the other hand, the original AIRA is still a good value, and could keep existing users happy or represent a nice buy on the used market.

But I’m really excited to get my hands on the TB-03 for an extended period of time (like, you know, maybe forever). Any day now. Just say the word, Roland.

The post Here’s how Roland improves upon the original 303 sequencer appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Apple’s relationship with pro music needs some mending

What happens when a key relationship in music technology turns a bit sour? There’s no mistaking the music world’s preference for Apple products. But there are some specific causes for concern in the way Apple is handling its desktop operating system and its relationship with pro musicians.

First, let me be clear. I’ve covered Apple and music for a long time. I’ve met some of the people handling these products; some of them I’ve known fairly well in a professional capacity. I have tremendous respect for the company, its products, and its management. I’ve been a regular contributor to Macworld (reviewing, in particula,r Logic). I’m not the sort to just to go off on a rant about this company because I had a bad day with my MacBook.

Not only that, but part of the reason I’m often quick to defend Apple in light of those sorts of rants is because I know how often they’re based on feelings, rather than facts. “Apple doesn’t care about pros” or “Apple’s products aren’t worth the extra price” or other refrains occur with some regularity, and too often are poorly informed about how products like these work or how they’re developed. I’ve gotten to know enough engineers inside and outside Apple to have some appreciation for the complexity and nuance involved in developing computer music products and catering to the music industry.

Okay. So those are the disclaimers. Now, let’s talk about why I’m worried. There are a number of decisions at Apple that I think are detrimental to the music technology ecosystem and/or the ways in which musicians use the company’s products, which includes the world’s leading digital distribution outlet. To me, they’re increasingly looking like a pattern, and not a positive one for our little niche. “Our little niche” has the right to be a bit loud about that, because we are central to Apple’s brand and the way they present themselves. (Look at it this way: that niche includes the likes of Beyoncé.)

I raise these points not as some sort of macOS versus Windows discussion – that’s a separate issue – but because these are things I think are worth criticizing. And I think they could be addressed, whether Cupertino sees fit to address them or not.

It’s not pretty seeing all these together in one spot, but here we go.

Apple is in the short term making mobile audio output worse, not better. There’s been a lot of ire raised around the headphone jack, but to me, it misses the point. Switching from analog to a default digital output I can understand. There are, however, some problems with the way Apple is going about it.

First, it appears the analog output in Apple’s headphone adapter (that is, via the Lightning port) isn’t strong enough to drive analog headphones reliably. There’s an excellent and detailed study of this by Germany’s CT magazine. (German only, sorry, but you can read the statistics they gathered easily).

Second, Apple’s efforts to improve Bluetooth pairing appear to be locked to their own headphones. That would be fine, if Apple were any good at making headphones – except, sorry, they really aren’t. (See my next point.)

Add to that the fact that Bluetooth connection reliability is partly limited by the laws of physics (because of the penetration of the signal is restricted by objects, wires still sometimes make sense). And consider that the Lightning connection isn’t anything approaching a standard, and that accessories with only a Lightning connection can’t connect to anything else (including, ironically, your Mac), and the whole thing looks like a regression to me. Comparisons of Apple eliminating the floppy drive or other obsolete tech over the years don’t hold, because you immediately had a superior alternative.

This would be a different picture if Apple were making the world’s best headphones in the same way that they make the world’s best phone and phone operating system. But about that —

Apple isn’t making good headphones. I don’t need to write much here, and there’s no way to put this that isn’t blunt. The headphones available from Apple and Beats are inferior to a variety of competing products. They give you less clarity and range than headphones from other makers, certainly at the same price and in many cases for less. That’s not just pro products, either – I’d just as quickly advise a consumer to buy headphones from the likes of Sennheiser or Sony, just to name two established brands.

Headphone manufacture appears to require a certain degree of expertise. I wouldn’t buy artisanal cheese and wine from Apple, either. (Kudos to the likes of AIAIAI for entering this market anew, but – actually, there’s I’d probably still opt for some Sennheiser HD25s over the upstart.)

None of this would matter, except that the bottom line is, we should be able to choose what products we use in order to stay happy. So the combination of pushing these products while eliminating the headphone jack, failing to provide a decent analog output, being restrictive of use of Lightning connectors, and keeping both proprietary control of both wired and wireless connections is pretty damaging.

It’s not a deal breaker, yet, but it’s adding unnecessary resistance to the otherwise industry-leading iOS platform. And it created a problem where there was none.

Apple Music isn’t reaching out to musicians, either. Then there’s the iTunes side of things. Apple I think is straining their relationship there with the push to Apple Music, which strong de-emphasizes download sales. Sure, the writing may be on the wall as the whole industry goes to streaming. But then there’s the question of the way you interact with Apple on the music service.

And there, unless you’re a big artist or label, the relationship hasn’t been great, either. I’ve yet to talk to many labels or artists happy with their experience dealing with Apple; by comparison, I’m hearing more positive feedback about Spotify. That’s qualitative and just hearsay, but I can’t find material evidence that Apple Music is a place where smaller- and medium-sized artists see much control. Spotify and Pandora are adding new artist connect features, whereas Apple, as Hypebot noted this month, is backing off of its Connect service. What we get instead is front-and-center machine algorithm streams, despite Apple saying publicly that they’ll do more human curation.

To be fair, I expect more from Apple (and the Beats team) in part because streaming needs some new thinking and new interaction. I also know anecdotally that streaming revenue via Spotify is up for a lot of music and seems to benefit most from real engagement tools (like playlists).

Of course, we’re on the Web now, and we’re humans. Yet Web and social media integration is also sorely lacking on Apple Music, in addition to the already-lackluster, now largely demoted Connect.

So Apple was beloved mostly for moving a lot of downloads. Now, with that gone, it seems to be a reflection of Spotify, but with even less artist control. That’s not great news, really, unless you luck out and wind up on their radio station.

Apple’s desktop computer strategy is murky (especially at the higher end). I don’t want to say too much about this, as some sort of announcement seems imminent. But the reality as I write this is, Apple’s desktop computer offerings seem frozen in the past.

The Mac Pro was never updated. The Mac mini, iMac, and MacBook Pro are all long in the tooth. The best we’ve seen lately out of the MacBook line is thinness, but not significantly enhanced performance (and in some cases, worsened performance per dollars invested). (As a reader correctly notes, we’ve seen some updates – but none of these cover the flagship machines or bring much that’s significantly new to the table. And to be fair, Apple has historically set the bar for our expectations high.)

And it shows. For people working in visual media, the Mac is in a real way locked out of the latest advanced in 3D and real-time visuals by GPU offerings that are, at best, overpriced and behind the times, and at worse, incapable of performing at all.

But even in music, Apple’s hardware has failed to keep up. Storage is non-upgradeable, fine – but also mind-bogglingly expensive. CPU performance is unacceptable on many of the lighter models, and lackluster on the pricier machines, which matters if you’re in love with, say, soft synths.

Mac naysayers will say this has always been the case. But the truth is, Mac models have historically been expensive, but offering enough to merit the investment. The Retina MacBook Pro and MacBook Air set standards for display and form factor when they came out, for instance. People often find their machines last longer and are easier to maintain and support. And if the OS is superior (more on that in a moment), that can be worth an investment.

We just need more information. I wonder if the delay is to do with Apple owning their own destiny. It seems the day will come that Apple’s desktop line benefits from the advanced in their system-on-a-chip tech as on mobile – especially when your iPad Pro might easily best your MacBook in CPU performance. But that’s an awful lot of unknowns for the time being. I certainly would advise would-be Mac purchasers to hold off on a purchase to see if there’s something this fall.

Apple’s desktop OS is too often unstable and incompatible, and the yearly update cycle isn’t helping. I saved what I think is the biggest issue, and the only really existential one, for last.

Again, there’s no way to put this nicely. macOS updates are fraught with problems.

People sometimes forget the pain of operating systems past. That seems true on both platforms – I was amazed at the PC users who fell in love with the same Windows XP they once despised. Ask many musicians what their all time favorite OS X release was, the “make the Mac great again” operating system, and they’ll often say 10.6.8. The number after the last decimal place should clue you in to something. Ahem. Apple in the past had a tendency to ship a number of point releases.

The problem is, we shouldn’t have to be playing this game any more. OS X – sorry, now again macOS – is a mature operating system. You’re not paying for short-term reliability because some significant low-level change was necessary. This should be the easy, golden years of the OS – a bit like after retirement when you’re reading long novels on the beach or going on fishing trips or whatever.

Instead, we’re being treated to disastrous, showstopper audio reliability problems. NI have written a good overview, and the headline says it all:

Audio Performance Issues (Drop-outs, Distorted Audio, Timecode Delays) in OS X 10.9 – OS X 10.11 [Native Instruments Support Article]

Here’s how bad this is: you show up to a gig, and out of the blue, your machine starts popping or dropping buffers or creating random distortion. That’s clear-the-floor stuff, things that could make people never want to play again. And it’s not necessary. Computers are perfectly capable of acting reliably for days at a time.

This is being reported by NI, but the cause is Apple and can impact other systems – I’ve reproduced the issues they’re describing in Serato DJ and Ableton Live, for instance, with different pieces of hardware from different vendors. People who work in support paint an ugly picture, and then anecdotal evidence is useful, because it covers a range of different situations. And it’s getting been worse through El Capitan: “OS X 10.9 (rare occurrences), OS X 10.10 (occasional occurrences) and OS X 10.11 (most occurrences, compared to the aforementioned OS versions).”

Now, it’s not uncommon to wait a few weeks when an OS comes out to make sure your complex ecosystem of software hosts, plug-ins, and hardware is compatible. But note the OS numbers – that’s years without a fix, and instead worsened regressions. That’s simply unacceptable. OS X 10.9 Mavericks is about to turn three years old (older if you count pre-release builds).

This should never have shipped in a stable OS in the first place. I can’t think of an instance of this happening on any recent build of Windows, and Microsoft doesn’t control the hardware you run on. It certainly should not have dragged on for years on a platform who has defined itself as the choice of musicians and producers.

The good news is, macOS 10.12 Sierra seems potentially to fix the problem (with AppNap functionality turned off manually, which isn’t totally ideal). More testing is needed to be sure of this.

The bad news: Apple still can’t seem to keep third parties synced up with its now annual release cadence. In a now yearly ritual, Apple has broken plug-in validation for its own Audio Unit format. Open question: why? Why is this now a regular feature of updating an operating system for a format that has basically remained unchanged for years? Why shouldn’t desktop upgrades be the kind of no-brainer mobile upgrades are.

There are some workarounds for plug-ins, but this reveals a deeper, more cultural problem at Apple. The inability to ship OS builds to developers in time for them to adapt, a tendency to change OS internals without properly documenting the results, or whatever the reason, the upshot is the same. If musicians can’t trust an upgrade, they won’t install it – and that means they will avoid critical fixes, too.

In the case of Sierra, we need Mac users to update as soon as possible if it in fact resolves this issue. And the advice I had given would-be installers — wait a few weeks to validate an OS — is proving to be wrong. In this case, you would have had to wait three years, then install that update on day one just to solve chronic showstopper problems with the whole audio system.

Now, there’s different advice: switch to Windows. And I think that’s not hyperbolic in this case, not when you talk to people doing Apple support for a living who can’t recommend either the 2015 or 2016 stable builds of the operating system. (Boot Camp at least got a bit more appealing than it had been!)


There’s a whole lot Apple under Tim Cook is doing right. iOS is an amazing platform, with unparalleled music capabilities. Apple hardware is still heavily used and widely loved. macOS still has features that can best Windows (and Windows still has problems of its own). Logic Pro is still a great DAW, and shows that Apple can make products for our market.

There’s just some stuff to fix. And I complain, because I believe Apple could do better.

To me, these issues are adding up as they raise concerns about priorities. But it’s really the operating system and desktop platform issue that I feel is critical.

Now, Apple very likely will have new machines out soon. So part of what we need to see is what those look like. It might be a longer transition, but I’d like to see Apple leverage its hardware advances from iOS. (Update – commenters agree, that part of the stagnation of the desktop Mac line parallels stagnation on Intel’s side. So maybe what we’ll see is a non-x86 hardware platform from Apple. The last big lag like this was actually just before the move from PowerPC to Intel. Bet you temporarily forgot about that – which also demonstrates how effective it was.)

And it seems Apple is working with third parties to address long-running difficulties with the OS.

All of this, though, should leave people who love computers deeply unsettled. To me, this isn’t really about Apple’s relationship to their hit iPhone. There’s still a lot of revenue coming from the Mac and from services related to the Mac (apart from it being a development machine for iOS). And some of Apple’s best-ever upgrades shipped well into the iPhone era. (If anything, the watch seems to time out with some of the missteps.)

But what it is about to me is trust. Apple may have taken the “computer” out of the name, but we trusted that they didn’t take the computer out of the product. They haven’t rewarded that trust lately.

I love hardware, but I still believe in the computer. To use the computer to its potential, to feel comfortable with it as a device for musical expression, you need to trust it. You need to know it won’t, you know, suddenly glitch out in the middle of a performance – something that in 2016 ought to be a thing of the past.

And you need to trust the company with which you invest time, both the computer itself and the OS platform it’s running. Apple is both. You need to feel a connection to both the commitment level and the vision of that company, because you’re investing your creative output and significant time and financial resources in that platform – hours upon hours of time.

On top of that, to really deepen exposure on a distribution method, you need to trust the distribution method.

I do think Apple can win back that trust. But I’d be lying if I said right now it was secure.

These things have historically gone in cycles. This feels to me like a down cycle – so it’s a question of what the up swing could be.

I’ll be keenly watching as we test Sierra more, and see how fixes arrive for third party software. And I’m eager to see what computer refreshes we get, if any, in 2016, as well as how Apple Music evolves. But I do hope that, entirely apart from whoever may read this, Apple has gotten the message from its enormous and inspired musical user base that there are things that need fixing.

And at that point, yes, we are likely to get emotional. This isn’t just about using your iPhone to buy a Frappuccino at Starbucks with Apple Pay or monitor your daily jog. This is the tool we use to express our deepest feelings, our greatest passion, and to move rooms full of people. We have to trust it.

Postlude: I left out an article that takes this perspective from the “Motion” side of the coin. But for live visuals, it’s almost no contest, as I briefly hinted here – and I think that’s relevant, as someday soon cutting-edge visuals may matter to more musicians. The top-of-range Macs don’t have GPUs that are competitive with even many inexpensive PCs. On top of that, OS X has suffered significant graphics bugs as well as audio bugs, and Windows has plenty of powerful visual exclusives used to do some seriously amazing work, like TouchDesigner and vvvv. That’s an extremely specific niche, though some areas – like virtual reality – also represent the bleeding edge. But I’ve decided to leave that alone, as I don’t think there’s the same cultural need that Apple has on the music side. I will also leave meanwhile leave the now-discontinued Aperture and controversial Final Cut Pro X out of it; suffice to say Logic Pro hasn’t suffered in the same way. Logic lovers I know still love Logic; people who prefer other DAWs still prefer other DAWs.

The post Apple’s relationship with pro music needs some mending appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Roger Daltrey of The Who to sell his automata at auction in Edinburgh

The BBC website reports that Roger Daltrey of The Who will be selling his collection of rare automata. Daltrey and his wife have acquired seven sophisticated 19th Century French automata over several years.

The collection will be sold at Lyon and Turnbull’s fine furniture and works of art auction on 28 September and may bring as much as £50,000, about $65,000 USD.

Here is the Lyon and Turnbull auction web site where you can learn more about the upcoming sale

[ Thanks Steve! ]

Roger Daltrey of The Who to sell his automata at auction in Edinburgh

The BBC website reports that Roger Daltrey of The Who will be selling his collection of rare automata. Daltrey and his wife have acquired seven sophisticated 19th Century French automata over several years.

The collection will be sold at Lyon and Turnbull’s fine furniture and works of art auction on 28 September and may bring as much as £50,000, about $65,000 USD.

Here is the Lyon and Turnbull auction web site where you can learn more about the upcoming sale

[ Thanks Steve! ]

Substance is a new software approach to every kind of bass

There are those desserts that are subtle. And then there are the ones that are layered chocolate and peanut butter and cream that you drench in still more chocolate sauce, but in a way that holds together. You know – layering. Substance, a new soft synth from Output, is all about layering. It’s about making enormous bass things out of other already pretty-large bass things. And it represents a nice latest chapter in what the boutique software developer has been doing with sound design

While these days you can find plenty of meticulous analog, detailed samples and simulations, part of why I admire Output is that they aren’t about that. Working mainly with the Kontakt sampling engine, Output have produced music production tools that focuses on cutting-edge sound design. Their stuff is big, it’s true to their California home in that the sounds are fresh and somehow American, and it’s decidedly synthetic. Whether it was their launch product REV, a wild library of sounds based entirely on reversing samples, or the dancing modulation of their Movement “rhythm processor” effect, they help you produce results that say “yes, I am using a computer, and no, I’m not afraid of it.”

All of this could go very wrong. The last thing I think you want is a box full of in-the-moment presets that scream “please help me produce this obvious popular effect as quickly as I can.”

But in practice, that’s not what you get, and Substance is a perfect example of why.


It’s better to describe Substance as a studio than a big soundware pack – just a studio that comes with some easy-to-disassemble presets.

Though if you want to EDM or multiplex film trailer out, of course – you can. Okay — Inception me, Skrillex!

It’s when you figure out how these things are made that they get interesting.

Each sound combines three underlying engines at once, taken from a variety of sources. So, you get electric and acoustic basses, sampled brass sections, synths, and sound design tools, each then heavily processed. Combine those into a sort of massive multi, a stack of stuff, and you begin to understand what Substance is about.

Now, I used to hate the sorts of presets you got on workstation synths when sound designers were showing off. You’d sort of hold down a key on a keyboard with a brick, run off and get a coffee, and then just wait to hear what the thing sounded like. Armed with lots of additional sample space and processing power, some soundware packs have made this much, much worse.

But because everything in Substance is actually built from a variety of tools, you can find a preset, disassemble some part of it, and rapidly go a different direction. In fact, I find the UI reminiscent of one of my favorite pieces of software of all time — Kai’s Power Tools. You’re given the feeling of combining different flavors of rocket propellant and seeing where you wind up.

And there is a whole studio inside. So in addition to layering three sample-based engines atop one another, you also have access to an advanced arpeggiator, a complete multi-effects lab, and a whole bunch of modulation and routing.

In fact, there’s so much power, that you actually welcome the presets even as a creative sound designer, because they give you something to hold on to — and then completely transform, if you so choose. You could start with some simple layers, then change them wildly with modulation and effects. Or you could start with some dense layers, and make them unrecognizable – or three dense layers, then change the character by swapping just one of them. You get the idea.

When I say "arpeggiator," I mean something that's quite a tool on its own. (Actually, it'd be nice to see this unbundled, but the stuff does work well as a suite.)

When I say “arpeggiator,” I mean something that’s quite a tool on its own. (Actually, it’d be nice to see this unbundled, but the stuff does work well as a suite.)

The "rhythm" modulation section - note the "randomize" button.

The “rhythm” modulation section – note the “randomize” button.

There's a complete effects suite, too.

There’s a complete effects suite, too.

There’s some benefit to having spent some time with other Output products over time, because they’ve gradually built up an arsenal of clever effects and modulation that you get everywhere.

But there’s some beautiful stuff just in the distortion, the reverb, the filters, the delay, the compressor and so on. And then each sampled layer sounds great.

This is really interesting to me, because normally the complaint about software or presets is that it pushes you in a particular direction. In the case of Output’s stuff, though, I welcome that feeling – and I really normally don’t.

So on one hand, you get the sensation that the sound designers knew what feeling you wanted before you could describe it yourself. But that’s also because of this engine, because you can quickly change a sound from a very high level, or get into the nitty-gritty lower-level details if you choose.

I will do some writing about Output in general, but the best way to put this is to say is this – finally, someone understands that on one hand we’re on a tight deadline, and on the other, we’re still obsessive-compulsive about sound design and want to make sounds our own. Usually you have to sacrifice one or the other.

The overview screen, for navigating - some overtones of both Kai's software from the 90s and the better stuff from Apple (Sculpture).

The overview screen, for navigating – some overtones of both Kai’s software from the 90s and the better stuff from Apple (Sculpture).

Deep in the filters screen.

Deep in the filters screen.

If you’re thinking this isn’t going to be easy on your hard drive and your CPU, of course, you’re right. Answer: get an external hard drive, my copy is running just fine from mine. Bounce (or don’t put too much on top of this). I partly blame the lackluster CPU offerings on the Mac and ultrabook sides, though, for that – topic for another article.

If I just want a great bass synthesizer, or some acoustic bass sounds, or some from-scratch sound design, I’ll go elsewhere – of course. But if I want a sort of Mastering the Art of French Cooking set of thick bass recipes, this is the place.

And if it sounds like I’m gushing it’s because, well, it’s really not very easy to make me like big sampled sound libraries. So when I do, I’m impressed.


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Elektron’s Analog Heat is a new distortion, filter, computer accessory

Surprise: Elektron’s latest isn’t a drum machine or sampler or sequencer. Analog Heat is instead a box you use with other stuff. And it has two missions. Mission one: add character to other sounds, via distortion, EQ, a filter, and modulation. Mission two: work with your computer, as an audio interface and as a way of adding that same analog business to software signals.

Of course, the basic idea is nothing new – walk into any number of studios and you’ll see, say, a couple of Moog Minifoogers or some guitar pedals waiting alongside a computer, ready to do some damage. We’re lucky enough to be in the business of music and not, say, video or photography – our daily life involves adding as much dirt as possible while other fields are tasked with removing it. Guess which is more fun. Woe be to the beleaguered retouch artist working on fashion shoots. Wow… wouldn’t they love if their job were more like ours? Editing the Cosmopolitan cover would be like being a makeup artist for The Walking Dead. (More scattered brains, please!)

What’s interesting about this is, well, it’s all been Elektron-ified. So you have one box that combines what would otherwise be a series of pedals. That means changing distortion modes is as simple as turning a knob, and the filter has not just a resonance knob but seven different functions. And while the “heat” is analog, the control is digital – so you can store and recall presets. And it’s computer-friendly, complete with Overbridge support (meaning you can use it as a plug-in effect on your computer), a USB port, and 2-in / 2-out computer interface operation.

There’s also a CV analog input, even apart from MIDI and MIDI sync features.

That is:

8x analog distortion circuits, switchable
Multi-mode filter with seven types
2-band analog EQ
Assignable envelope generator/follower
Assignable LFO


Once you think of it that way, the US$749 price doesn’t seem so steep. Even with fairly low-end gear, if you did want all of this stuff, you could easily wind up spending the same sum. Of course, this assumes you want this particular bundle of functionality in a hardware box. Then again, “do you want all this stuff in a box” summarizes the Elektron value proposition.

It’s funny: all these products are coming just as computer modeling of these sorts of analog circuits is getting really, really good. But on the other hand, there’s a real advantage to gear that can stand on its own.

It’s not hard to imagine the use case here. As analog gear, even Eurorack, has gotten more pristine, adding dirt back to the equation actually becomes necessary. (Well, okay, that necessity never went away, did it?)

And the Analog Heat seems well equipped for the full range of modification from coloring to synced modulation effects to heavy demolition.

So many sound examples:

Making it do double-duty as an audio interface seems a natural. It’s then an all-in-one sound output and sound grunge gadget, one saving precious kilos off the carry-on weight limit dreaded by gigging electronic artists.

This went way up my list for things to test. And I have to say, it’s really nice to see both something marketed as a sound processor and in the desktop space, as well. We’ve got loads of synths and loads of Eurorack modules, but not so many things like this.


Stay tuned for when this arrives this fall. And assume that Sweden is now prepared to make really goth stuff during that bleak, bleak winter.

I’m a little worried what would happen if we gave this to our MeeBlip triode. It might decide to forget the First Law of Robotics and come murder us in our sleep.

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Watch a breathtaking fusion of laser light and sound in the Deep Web

In the audiovisual field, it’s hard to top the virtuosic collaboration of Christopher Bauder and Robert Henke. Robert Henke, known to many as Monolake, has himself taken on lasers as visual instrument alongside his signature electronic sounds (controlled in Ableton Live, the software he co-founded). But pair him with long-time collaborator Christopher Bauder (of WHITEvoid), and you have an epic duo.

What’s striking about their work is the careful, meticulous construction of synesthesia. Each noise, each flash of light or movement is carefully choreographed so as if to seem fused. “Kinetic light show” is the term WHITEvoid uses for the result. It’s a combination of mechanical movements (in this case, orbs that can shift up and down in saves), lighting (here, lasers), and spatialized sound.


DEEP WEB – kinetic audiovisual installation and performance from WHITEvoid on Vimeo.

The approach goes back to ATOM, which set light-up balloons in a dance of sequenced rhythms, accompanied by Robert’s unmistakeable, minimal sounds. The effect is obsessive-compulsive, to be sure. Oddly, on some level, it’s not terribly showy – despite the grand scale. It’s about precision – a point hammered home in the Deep Web by the lone orb that frames the start and end of the performance.

And maybe that’s why I’ve found some people are split on their response to the Bauder/Henke work. There’s a decided avoidance of narrative. (raster-noton told me in a panel in June that their tendency toward abstraction stemmed perhaps from a rejection of propaganda in the DDR – but Robert and Christopher are from West Germany, not East.) That even disappointed some, in particular, because of the reference to the Deep Web – in this case, evidently more pun than political statement. This isn’t some data visualization of people using Tor or something like that; it’s a spatial poem in light and sound.

But give yourself over to being entranced by it, and it’s as though you’ve just stuck your head inside a modern digital Oskar Fischinger work. The physical presence of the orbs gives that sense of real immersion, of getting intimate with this otherworldly creature of color as it undulates above your head. Color palette, orb, and beam can interact as compositional elements with sound to form different spatial-sonic constellations, constructed into phrases and larger sections like a symphony.

In Berlin, there were two versions – a meditative, sparse installation rendition, and then a more extravagant live performance. Robert was also able to “jam” on the materials from Ableton Live – and following the ovation after the premiere, did just that as the audience departed, a gleeful smile on his face.

The technology is no small feat. That involved producing perfect sonic effect in the reflection-happy former power plant of Kraftwerk, and years of experience in tuning the high-speed motorized winch system (on Christopher’s side) and high-power lasers (on Robert’s). Software is custom-created in TouchDesigner, that ubiquitous choice of high-end AV work.

But even with all this technology, you aren’t given a sense that the instruments themselves are meant to dazzle: this isn’t about laser light or orbs, so much as it is about those producing an effect of pure abstraction. And the scale, too, almost seems necessary to contain the volume of the work rather than the other way round. I think it’s notable that Robert is equally effective as a performer working with just one laser.

It’s a celebration of discipline, not extravagance. But by being such, it’s also richly sensory – because you can let yourself get lost in hue and timbre.

And since I missed out on the Ballets Russes, I think I’m lucky to be alive for this artistic meeting.

More images, courtesy WHITEvoid:





Full credits:





Deep Web is a monumental immersive audiovisual installation and live performance created by light artist Christopher Bauder and composer and musician Robert Henke. Presented in enormous pitch dark indoor spaces, Deep Web plunges the audience into a ballet of iridescent kinetic light and surround sound. The work was presented as a preview at CTM 2016 Festival Berlin and will be followed by its original presentation at the Festival of Lights Lyon in December 2016.

The generative, luminous architectural structure weaves 175 motorized spheres and 12 high power laser systems into a 25 meter wide and 10 meter high super-structure, bringing to life a luminous analogy to the nodes and connections of digital networks. Moving up and down, and choreographed and synchronized to an original multi-channel musical score by Robert Henke, the spheres are illuminated by blasts of colourful laser beams resulting in three-dimensional sculptural light drawings and arrangements in cavernous darkness.

The installation brings together decades of separate research and experimentation by two artists with unique visions and passions for sound and light, and by innovative companies working in these fields. High-end laser system manufacturer LaserAnimation Sollinger provided the technical expertise and development for this very specific spatial laser setup. The high precision motor winch systems with real time feedback and the main control software are provided by Design Studio WHITEvoid in collaboration with Kinetic Lights. This novel combination of computer controlled kinetic elements and laser systems allows for setting animated end points to normally infinite laser beams. DEEP WEB uses light as a tangible material to construct threedimensional vector drawings in thin air.

The work was originally commissioned by the Festival of Lights Lyon 2015, and developed in cooperation with local producer Tetro. Due to the festival’s cancellation after the tragic events in Paris, Berliners had the unique chance to attend an exclusive preview before the project will be presented in December 2016 in Lyon for the Festival of Lights 2016.

The Artists:

An artist and designer working in the fields of light and installation art, media design and scenography, Christopher Bauder focuses on the translation of bits and bytes into objects and environments, and vice versa. Space, object, sound, light and interaction are key elements of his work. In 2004 he founded the multidisciplinary art and design studio WHITEvoid, which specializes in interactivity, media, interior architecture, and electronic engineering.

Bauder has brought his installations and performances to art events and spaces around the world, including Centre Pompidou Paris, MUTEK Montreal, Festival of Lights Lyon, Luminale Frankfurt, The Jewish Museum Berlin and The National Museum of Fine Arts in Taiwan. He is best known for his city-wide light art installation “Lichtgrenze”, created in 2014 together with his brother Marc, for the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall and his large scale kinetic live shows ATOM and GRID. Both in cooperation with Robert Henke.

Alongside his numerous releases as Monolake, Robert Henke is also well known for the music, audiovisual installations and performances he has been creating under his own name since the early 90s. Due to his background in engineering and fascination with the beauty of technical objects, the development of his own instruments and algorithms has always been an integral part of his creative process. Henke also co-developed the omnipresent Ableton Live music software, which since its invention in 1999 has become the standard tool for electronic music production and completely redefined live performance practice.

His installations and performances have been presented at Tate Modern London, the Centre Pompidou Paris, PS-1 New York, MUDAM Luxembourg, MAK Vienna, the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Australia, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, and at countless festivals.


Christopher Bauder
Robert Henke

A Production by:

Originally Commissioned by:
Fête de Lumière Lyon

Berlin Production by:
CTM Festival
Kraftwerk Berlin

Motor Winch Systems and Control Software:
Kinetic Lights

Laser Systems and DSP Software:
LaserAnimation Sollinger

Software Built With:

Ralph Larmann

And here’s a gallery on Flickr:


The post Watch a breathtaking fusion of laser light and sound in the Deep Web appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

MeeBlip triode synth gets even bigger bass

Our MeeBlip synth is back. It’s still a tiny box you can add to a synth setup. It’s still just US$139.95. But now, it packs some improved features – and bigger-than-ever bass.

The most important thing I can tell you about this is, when you flip the “sub” switch on and enable its new third oscillator, its bass sound is simply enormous.

And that makes me really glad to share it with you, the latest fruits of CDM’s collaboration with engineer James Grahame — the brains behind MeeBlip.

James has selected some sounds I made with it. A few seconds into that first sound, I power up that sub oscillator. You’ll need something other than laptop speakers to hear.

We sold out of the Triode’s award-winning predecessor, the MeeBlip anode. So it’s been impossible to get a MeeBlip for a few months unless you were buying second-hand.

But if you missed out, you’ve got a second chance with Triode. And there are some improvements – apart from just the red color.

NEW sub oscillator
NEW red color
NEW 8 additional custom wavetables, for 28 in total
Tuned envelopes for more response
Front-panel glide
MIDI control of analog filter resonance

All of this digital grunge is combined with the same Twin-T analog filter from the anode. It’s a vintage filter design intended for things like guitar pedals, which adds aggressive resonance to your synth sound.

And you can now add Triode alongside other stuff you might find useful as a mobile musician – like our new BlipCase (which is designed to fit instruments like the Korg volca series), and an excellent driver-free USB MIDI interface.

When we started developing the MeeBlip project, there really weren’t compact MIDI synths you could get for this price. But every time I switch the MeeBlip on in my studio, I’m reminded of why I believe in this project. Apart from the fact that the MeeBlip remains open source hardware – every circuit, every line of code – it’s still an instrument with a personality all its own. There’s nothing dirty in quite the same way. And when you need a box to add something grimy and heavy on top of all the other wonderful toys we’ve got, it’s there for you.

In stock.

Shipping now, worldwide, direct from us – hand-tested by the engineer at his studio in Calgary, Canada.





The post MeeBlip triode synth gets even bigger bass appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Here’s the story of how the Mac and Atari found their voice

There’s something magical about the moments in history when computers were able to speak (and sing) like a human. That’s certainly true of Bell’s famous “Daisy Bell” performance (the real-life moment echoed in 2001). But it’s also true of the Mac, which first spoke to uproarious applause.

David Viens of Plogue is recounting that history as part of a larger look at the chips that have gifted us with sound. In part one, he looks at the birth of MacinTalk, the unmistakable original voice of the Macintosh – one that, far from sounding dated, perhaps to our ears today sounds classic:

David is leading an effort to restore these sounds for his software chipspeech. That involves digging into long forgotten code with the kind of painstaking passion you’d associate with an art historian removing grime from an Old Master.

He’s even (legally) reverse engineering code from MacinTalk’s original binary, porting it to C++. (Original source code has been lost.)


There’s more. Stefan Stenzel is taking a break from his day job (being CTO of none other than Waldorf Music) to help work on the new chipspeech. He tells CDM a bit about his motivations, doing this as a labor of love:

Back in the 90s, one thing that caught my attention was the STSPEECH.TOS for the Atari ST.

How was it possible that this program generates speech from text?

It was the closest thing to magic my computer could do, so I disassembled the program and tried to figure out how it worked. Later I modified the program so it could generate wavetables that resemble speech, and when I asked the original authors for permission to release this hack, they sent me the source code. That was of course very nice, but also very interesting – now I had well documented source code of what I previously had painstakingly reverse-engineered. It was written in 68k assembly, so in order use it on a modern platform, I translated it to C.

Much later I bought chipspeech from Plogue and came into contact with David Viens. We discussed the possibility to include STSPEECH into chipspeech, and I asked Andy Beveridge again for permission, which he and Martin Day generously granted. We also agreed on a Punk as impersonation for several reasons:
Both feature a harsh sound, and STSPEECH was conceived in Britain in the 80s, where Punk was still en vogue.

With the release of Chipspeech 1.5, you get two essential 16-bit speech emulations:

First, there’s the sound of MacinTalk (the algorithms for which later saw use in Amiga’s narrator.device.)

and Atari ST’s STSPEECH.TOS, a sound associated with early techno (among other things).

It’s Chipspeech 1.5, free for existing users:

Accordingly, the legendary chip musician goto80 has composed a launch song to celebrate:

It looks like a stellar release. Plogue’s chip emulations are to me as essential as musical instruments as are recreations of classic analog – and just as versatile in finding new musical contexts. More than just nostalgia, they’re something special, a chance to understand the sound and voice of the technology around us. So I’m really excited to give this a go.

Learn more:

For more chip history, here’s David talking about game sound to the Web show Beep:

Beep Webisode: David Viens from Ehtonal on Vimeo.

The post Here’s the story of how the Mac and Atari found their voice appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Electronic music pioneer Don Buchla has died

We all have a short time on this planet, and some of us are lucky enough to get to work on tools that people use to make music. You can count on your fingers the number of people who had the kind of influence that Don Buchla had on electronic music in the last century. And this week, at age 79, he’s left us.

The reality of instrumental history (electronic or otherwise) is that instruments aren’t simply invented. They are instead best described in clusters of activity around musical practice, even with certain objects at the center.

And Buchla’s instruments have been at the center of musical practice since the 1960s, from the 1963 debut of the System 100 modular and in each decade since. They were at the heart of Morton Subotnick’s music, including his legendary Silver Apples of the Moon. They were the soul of Pauline Oliveros’ ground-breaking work at the San Francisco Tape Center, too, and you can still catch Suzanne Ciani making music with them today as she continues to use them to break ground.

Working with composers, Buchla helped dream up many of the ways people design and think about modular synths. In particular, it’s hard to imagine sequencing on synthesizers without Buchla’s contributions on his modular.


Buchla I believe deserves as much credit as Bob Moog for the invention of the notion of modular synthesis in hardware generally – alongside Max Mathews and the team at Bell for the creation of unit generators and modular synthesis in software form. That should never have to be a contest, some Olympic sprint between two inventors. It’s when you realize how the two played off each other’s ideas and the musicians they worked with that you see how powerful that moment in musical history was. Much of the talk West Coast or East Coast synthesis is misleading (further muddled by the fact that many of the supposed Californians were from New York). If anything, it seems as you study the record that it was the coexistence and interchange of Buchla and Moog, composers and musicians, that helped create the nuclear explosion of electronic music.

But it’s not just modulars. Buchla also leaves a rich legacy in performance interfaces, modular and beyond. The Buchla modular itself was from the start conceived as a performance instrument – a radical notion at a time when electronic instruments were largely devices meant to construct sounds for tape, and still a challenge to pull off today. From the touch plates on the first modulars, to his Thunder and Lightning (which have influenced gestural interfaces generally), to marimbas and piano bars, Buchla’s mind was an endless source of ideas about how to play.

But this is why I think it’d be a mistake to look too hard backwards, or to try to sum up who Buchla was in a series of pieces of hardware. It’s important that he was someone who made objects, and made those objects function. But at the risk of stating the obvious, a musical instrument is a physical artifact of ideas about music. Buchla’s real influence is a thread that winds through other hardware and software and musical output in ways that may be impossible to trace.

Over half a century on, we’re not going to invent modular synthesis all over again; that’s done. But we might wonder and marvel at how we may dream up ideas about music that can spread – because there, the viral progress of creativity can still be boundless. Buchla’s legacy, on a scale true of just a handful of pioneers, is that there is endless wondrous sound where was there was none, sounds that otherwise would never have lived.

And with that in mind, class with Don is still in session. Watch:

Synthesist and historian-journalist Mark Vail has an enormous extended interview with Don. (full links, described in German, though you can watch the videos either way)

Alessandro Cortini in duet with Buchla:

Everything Ends Here from Alessandro Cortini on Vimeo.

A video recorded at Berkeley starts out shaky, but is fine once Don starts speaking.

The Guardian has a beautiful and succinct obituary.

The post Electronic music pioneer Don Buchla has died appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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