Mar 31, 2015 0
Glorious spring weather graced the first annual Benicia Mini Maker Faire (about 30 minutes north of Oakland, CA in the San Francisco Bay Area). The lovely thing about Mini Maker Faires is how easy it is to have conversation with these always-interesting makers. The other aspect is the local […]
Analog is back. Boutique synth makers have entered Eurorack, one by one (Dave Smith, Tom Oberheim). KORG has remade analog hits of yore, and now produces hardware like the SQ-1 sequencer that interfaces with analog gear. Arturia, once known only as a plug-in vendor, has analog Control Voltage ins and outs on its new hardware gear.
Now, Roland seems next to climb on board the analog renaissance. The question is, just how far are they going to go? The answer should be coming in April at Musikmesse, and the first hint has just leaked out.
Just a few years ago, such a possibility would have seemed ludicrous – maybe even in the pre-AIRA world. Roland’s idea of legacy had to do with vague product name references and a full embrace of digital modeling as an improvement on the original – mostly in the interest of creating traditional instrument sounds. But then, AIRA happened, and it became clear that Roland was willing to create independent, new products. That led to the SBX-1 sync box, first seen by us at last year’s Musikmesse. At the time, I thought it indicated a new direction for the country. But I didn’t necessarily expect this.
I was hearing rumors on the street even last March when the SBX-1 appeared that the company was pondering an entry into modular – maybe even the increasingly-popular Eurorack format. They were certainly interested in the modular scene; Roland executives were seen buzzing around the ALEX4 booth and playing with this gear. (ALEX4 is run by Andreas Schneider of Schneidersladen; I shared that booth with MeeBlip and, full disclosure, ALEX4 is our European distributor.)
Now, there’s this: a picture clearly showing Eurorack modulars, Japanese-manufactured Reon modules, and… something with distinctive AIRA-shaded green knobs. That would seem to be material evidence that rumors of Roland gear with CV had come true.
Sequencer.de gets the scoop, and Moogulator already places his bets on what this is:
And that I imagine has many of you saying… wait, who’s Reon? You can be forgiven for not knowing this Japanese manufacturer of analog gear like the Drift Box; they’re known more in Japan than outside the country. (See, for instance, this product page in Japanese, which is always entertaining when Google Translated.)
I’m not convinced this is just a REON repackage, though that’s possible. However, it wouldn’t be unprecedented for Roland, as a Japanese company, to collaborate with someone in Japan. (See, for instance, the KORG collaboration with Xseed on its Nintendo DS outings.) It may simply be that they pictured the REON as a friendly bit of gear they could plug some cables into.
Here’s a look at the Reon Driftbox in English, from Perfect Circuit Audio. It’s a nice box, for sure, and might be a hint at what to expect:
My guess is… actually, I really don’t know. For a company like Roland, making an enclosure is no great effort. So it seems to me that this might be desktop unit with CV connectivity than a Eurorack per se. (Eurorack is, after all, just a format for standardizing on rack mounts and connections – it’s not the only way to go analog or even to go modular.) But I do think it’s very possible that this is analog hardware, and not just a digital modeling unit with some CV ins and outs. In fact, I’m fairly certain it’s not related to the JD Xi / Xa synths, which seem to have a sound architecture outside the AIRA line. If anything, it’d be more likely to use a SYSTEM-1 digital engine and add CV ins and outs.
Also, our sources tell us this picture only scratches the surface of what we’re about to find out.
But given that the AIRA lineup cashed in on the growing interest in dance music, and given it already includes a CV-connected device, and given the success of KORG in the analog world, I think it’s absolutely possible that Roland is going analog with this – at least analog control from input to output, but possibly even a venture into analog sound circuitry.
Join CDM with our reporting from Musikmesse and we’ll find out together.
The post Roland Seems Poised to Enter Analog, Modular Worlds appeared first on Create Digital Music.
Surrealistic sculptor Ellen Jewett combines art, science, and medical illustration into an imaginative fusion of natural forms. Inspired by wildlife, Ellen transforms the familiar aspects of plants and animals into unique hybrid creatures. Realistic details flow from animal to plant. Some pieces even include industrial elements in order to highlight […]
While attending the Midwest RepRap Fest this weekend, Josh Rowley and Sanjay Mortimer of E3D took a moment to explain how hot ends work and to fill the crowd in on some of the projects they are working on. E3D’s line of hot ends have become the gold standard for […]
Make: Magazine Volume 44 is all about DRONES! Don’t have the issue? Get yours today! Flying drones may be able to do many jobs in the future, or possibly deliver everything from beer to defibrillators. For now though, it seems that most (non-millitary) drones exist for the entertainment of their owners. Here […]
The post Drone Craziness: 5 Weird And Wacky Multirotor Projects appeared first on Make:.
Native Instruments CTO and President Mate Galic introduces Stems at Miami’s Winter Music Conference. Image courtesy Motormouth Media.
The path forward is clear: there’s no reason in this age of digital producing and DJing that music needs to be stereo.
The need is there, but so far, not the solution. A file format announced in a press briefing at Miami’s Winter Music Conference and made public today wants to succeed where others failed.
It’s called Stems, and there are a few details that make it different.
It’s simple. “Stems” – the format – include four tracks. So that could be bass, drums, melody, vocal, for instance. (Or bagpipe, castrati chorus, tambourines, and banjo. But the point is, dividing things into four makes a lot of sense.) You can also choose the order, color, and add names to individual tracks.
It’s compatible and built on existing standards. A new file format? Good luck. (See xkcd #927.) But Stems uses an MP4 container format (that’s MP4 only, not MP3). Load your Stems file onto any software or hardware that supports MP4, and you’ll get stereo playback of the mix – including on the Pioneer CDJ. ID3 tags for the track work, too (for the overall mix). Load it into software that supports Stems – which we’re assuming will most likely be some sort of DJ software – and you can play back the individual parts. (And mix them, remix them, add effects, whatever.) It’s really just four MP4s.
It’s free for anyone to use. An official website coming in June will detail how to make the files. There will also be a free Stem Creator for anyone wanting to create their own files. And the file format will be not only detailed on the Stems website in full, but there are no licensing fees for creation, distribution, or use. (No, you don’t have to pay to get the specs, either – I’m looking at you, MIDI.) No word yet on how the Stems branding will work.
It’s backed by some key players. Native Instruments announced that Traktor Pro 2.7.4 or later already have Stems support. (See the public beta.) Beatport, Juno, and Traxsource all promise to sell Stems format starting in June. In Miami, DJ/producer Luciano and KCRW’s Music Director Jason Bentley joined a panel to introduce the idea. 16 labels have chimed in with support, too, including Mobilee, Monkeytown, 50Weapons, Get Physical, and InFiné. I suspect it’s really the labels and stores, combined with Traktor, that could kick-start this thing.
It’ll be easy to DJ with. Any group of four controller faders/encoders can be mapped to the different parts – the structure of NI’s own F1 and new D2 all map logically, and so will a lot of other things.
Now there’s a reason to use it – money. The Stems backers are pretty direct about their appeal: release Stems so you can charge more for your music. And while the pitch is for a “premium” price, the timing is also essential. With Beatport launching its own free streaming service, with listeners more likely to stream, and with DJ apps like djay even adding Spotify support, producers and labels need a format that they can still sell. Vinyl alone probably isn’t enough to keep them afloat.
Who’s it for? The main audience is clearly DJs: the idea is to convince producers to share stems in a standard format that makes it easier for DJs to think about playing with individual tracks and not only the mixdown. The Stems FAQ suggests even producers might want to use Stems to move their own music between their production software and a live set. That’s less of an issue if you’re DJing with Ableton Live, but certainly could be a boon if you use Traktor, Serato, and so on. I imagine this could also target consumer listeners – remix your artist’s favorite tracks. See NinjaTune’s NINJA JAMM for one take on this idea.
Can it be a standard? Now, it’s really technically a de facto standard, and a license free standard, not a standard or open standard in the technical sense – there’s no real governance that I can see on the “standard” side, and it’s “open” only in that it’s published and free to implement. But that could be enough, with the success of MIDI a prime example.
What’s the competition? Interestingly enough, even Wikipedia has an article on stem releases. The reason? There really aren’t that many such releases to begin with. Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails deserve some real credit, with remix.nin.com, Year Zero (which also included GarageBand and Ableton Live formats), and Ghosts I–IV. Open licensing means you can remix the last of these and redistribute what you make; the stems in this case will mostly be for DJs to use when playing, but would have to be licensed to sample. And looking through that list, you see a confirmation of what you might suspect – most release stems in simple stereo formats, and just give you more files. It’s even possible to do this with iTunes, easier still with Bandcamp. But this isn’t a terribly common practice, and releases for specific DAWs have tended to be sporadic and typically focus on remix artists, not DJs.
And… is this a good idea? Actually, I was pondering this after writing this, especially after I saw Engadget wrote this:
“If you head to a dance music festival this summer and notice that one or two sets are particularly creative, you’ll know why.”
Well – wait a minute. What makes a creative set is not necessarily doing mash-ups of stems from different songs or cutting out the vocal. So let’s ponder this: it really will be up to both the artist releasing tracks, and the DJ using stems, to determine whether using stems is a good idea. I suppose the hope is that this gives creative DJs additional choices – even if (as you’ll see raised in comments) it might also make bad DJs worse. Then again, lots of things can make bad DJs worse – turning down their master volume may be the way to make them better. The key to making use of Stems may be making use of them selectively, as with any other special technique. DJing has done just fine with mixing stereo tracks since the beginning, often in two-channel configurations, even if product manufacturers increasingly push live remixing as a way of convincing you to buy new hardware and software. So, making use of Stems should be a means to an end. And tasteful DJs may find a way of using this that still shows some deference to the intent of the original track.
What next? It’s not hard to see why Native Instruments would support this, since the ability to mix beyond simple 2-channel stereo is part of Traktor’s market differentiation. At the same time, it’s encouraging to see NI back a reasonably open standard, and not just double down on their own proprietary Remix Sets and the like. (It’s also nice that this is simple – making Stems would be a lot more straightforward than authoring Remix Sets.)
But that also means we’ll need to see support beyond just Traktor for the format to really take off. We’ll see if other app developers get onboard, or decide this is just an “NI thing.” And hardware support would surely lag software. At least Traktor solves some of the chicken-and-egg problems of a format of this kind: it has a built-in audience of producers and DJs.
I’m not even sure what ideal DAW support should look like, since DAWs generally have an arbitrary number of tracks. But that means the Stem Creator has to work pretty well in the interim.
But I have to say, while I met the headline for the media announcement with a heavy dose of skepticism, the more I learn about Stems, the more optimistic I am. There’s clearly desire now for DJs to set themselves apart, particularly in the age of streaming and instant access, so the demand on that side is there. And there’s desire on the part of artists and labels, not least as they increasingly sell music to specialists and DJs. What might make Stems work even given past failures to solve this problem is that it’s actually easy as well as desirable to implement. And that may lead to a “built it and they will come effect” – because it’s both easy to do and easy to justify.
And it’s certainly a lot better than some new proprietary format — or the status quo of random a cappellas here and there or removing vocals with (gah) EQ.
We’ll be watching for this in June. Let us know if you have any questions. (I’ll meanwhile investigate more details of how implementation works on the creation and Traktor DJ side.)
The announcement event. Okay… so, it’s hard to make a file format visual. But the future is so bright, Jason Bentley from KCRW is wearing shades.
The post Can Stems Finally Make Multi-channel DJ Audio a Standard? appeared first on Create Digital Music.
Check out this unbelievable watch — The magnificent Complication Poétique Midnight Planétarium — which displays a tiny model of the solar system on your wrist. The watch shows representations of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The version without the diamonds will set you back $274,613 in U.S. dollars. The one with diamond is about $366,101!
An article on the watch may be viewed here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2548017/Forget-smartwatches-wear-150-000-PLANETARIUM-wrist.html#ixzz3VsKzrlM3
To learn more about this fascinating craft, I recommend Watchmaking by George Daniels. The book follows the making of the precision timekeeper, step by step, and is illustrated at each stage with line drawings and brief explanatory captions. The text is easy to follow and to not overly technical.
Dedicated wave editor Audacity has found enduring popularity, as a free and open source tool for working with sound. It runs on Linux, Windows, and OS X – with support for older Mac operating systems, which these days is sometimes tough to find. But just being free and open isn’t reason enough to use something, particularly when a lot of DAWs do a pretty decent job of wave editing.
This latest version of Audacity, 2.1.0, comes with some additions that might make it worth revisiting.
First, there’s spectral editing. In most software, audio editing is performed by time only. Here, you can drag over particular frequency ranges to select just those portions, for audio repair or simply highlighting certain portions of sonic content. That’s been available in some commercial tools, but it’s not normally found in DAWs and now you get it for free. See the spectral selection additions to the manual.
Second, you can now preview VST and Audio Unit effects (plus the open LADSPA format) in real-time. That’s useful for making Audacity an effect host, and can combine nicely with chains and batch processing. That is, you can preview effects live to adjust them (as you can do in a DAW) and then batch-process a bunch of sound (which your DAW can’t do easily). Plug-in hosting in general is improved, including the ability to work with multiple VST and add any effects to chains.
There’s also a new Noise Reduction effect.
Audacity still isn’t the prettiest software ever (ahem) – aesthetically and functionally, it seems the UI is due for a reboot. But I know it’s an important tool, especially for musicians on a budget. And this version is worth adding to your toolset.
Need another reason to use Audacity? How about the fact that the extreme time shifting capabilities of Paulstretch are built right in?
Check out the Audacity download page:
(Manual links there are broken as I write this, so you can use my links above for that.)
Also worth considering is ocenaudio (note “ocen,” not “ocean”!):
It isn’t as full-featured as Audacity – real-time effects preview is limited to VST, for instance, and the spectral view is not editable. It’s also free-as-in-beer; the code is closed. But the UI is substantially cleaner, and it has some nice features like multi-edit support. Thanks to Tom D in comments for the tip.
The post Free Audacity Audio Editor Gets Spectral Edits, Live Plug-ins appeared first on Create Digital Music.