Digital turntablism is nothing new. But Ammobox, debuted at the first-ever CDM Futuristic Music Design Challenge, is unique in a number of ways. What creator Nathan Ramella has done differently:

1. He’s demystified digital vinyl timecode. With no previous DSP programming experience, Nathan created his own custom tool for reading vinyl timecode — and explains how he did it.

2. He’s changed the rules of scratching — it’s now polyphonic scratching. As Nathan puts it, "You get a polyphonic sampler that can layer multiple samples at the same time and scratch them all simultaneously." Yep: no more does digital vinyl simply replicate what records do normally. Here, it actually works as a digital instrument, manipulating layers of samples as you go. Check it out running in Ableton Live as a demo at top, though other hosts could work, as well, if you prefer.

3. He’s giving everything away. You’ll need some vinyl, and because the sonic wonders are all built in Reaktor, you’ll need a copy of NI’s modular mad science lab. But the ensemble itself is released under the GPL v2, which could make it a great way to learn more of the mysteries of Reaktor.

Official Ammobox Page

Download the library, free [ Direct Link ], or head to the rabbit hole that is NI’s User Library

Clarification: I should add that part of what makes Ammobox cool is actually that Nathan’s doing the timecode decoding the "wrong" way. Normally, a timecode system like Ms. Pinky or Traktor Scratch reads speed, direction, and absolute position. Position is the hard part, and the part that’s dependent on sophisticated error correction. What’s clever here is not that AmmoBox is likely to replace those systems (that’s not the point), but that by breaking the rules of how you’re supposed to do digital vinyl, Nathan’s created something different and expressive.

Nathan describes the system in greater detail:


I wrote a universal timecode decoder (universal to the extent that it seems to work with every type of timecode I’ve got, Final Scratch, Traktor Scratch, Torq, Serato, Ms. Pinky), so that I could get rotation speed/direction, then applied that to multi-timbrel samplers that are MIDI controlled. By triggering midi values you can inject a sample into the scratching stream, through voice control you can automatically choke it at a limits to avoid things getting mushy.

Samples can be loops or one-shots, any length (ram permitting)

This opens up a lot of interesting possibilities such as ‘simul scratching’, the ability to scratch two or more samples at the same time, ‘sequ scratching’, the ability to inject arbitrary samples quantized to the BPM of your host environment. There’s also some tricks I haven’t revealed yet that will be showing up in my next demo..

The juice of this really was getting timecode extracted in some usable form such that it could be applied to samplers / synthesizers, while this technology has existed for a while nobody that I’m aware of has applied it in the fashion I have and this is just the tip of the iceberg.  It gives live performers a lot of leverage for improv and studio knob twiddlers an unprecedented amount of control over scratching.

Nathan reports that he’s back to the labs now working on something else. (Another of his achievements: contributing to the hacked Live API.)

We’re honored to have seen him in person, at a rare live appearance (for the first time in ten years, he says), adding to the mystery of his research. Carry on, man.


Teaser: ammoBox Project Digitally Scratches … What?

PS, since it is GPL’ed, if any of you Reaktor nuts go do something with this, hope you’ll let us know about it.

  • Satchmo Mask

    Yeah, but did RZA invent it?!?

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  • ignacio

    mm ensemble not working

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  • If you can't get the ensemble to work, email me (it's right there in the ensemble), let me know what platform you're using and what error messages (if any) or behavior you're seeing. I'll do what I can to assist.

    I should also note that I'm currently running a contest to improve ammobox for the benefit of the community — you can help! By donating to the project your donation will fund a bounty to increase the accuracy of the time-code reading techniques in ammobox.

    Go to my wiki at and click the 'donate' button in the upper left hand corner to help make ammobox better.

    For details on the contest you can check out the announcement at:

  • D.Eastwood

    nathan, i have been working on somthing similar, however i am building in max/msp. the ms pinky system has given me a great platform to work with, now i have seen how much attention this program has got, im tempted to release a runtime version of my 'scratch patch'. all this innovation, daito manabe would be proud!

  • This is a fun direction to head in. We could get to a point of interactive contextual program scratching, so "WHERE (fresh.wav) sample AND (funkydrummer.wav) loop THEN delay fx". What i mean is imagine some software analysing your performances over time and noting patterns be it certain fx over certain loops or certain tempos on certain backspin and cuts, and in an active mode interacts with you. You could swap "profiles" with friends or download officially released profiles so you can be surprised by jamming with someone elses habitual battles 😛

    For now, stacked manipulation is the logical step. Its funny in an age of Wii, iPhone and the like that we are still sitting with vinyl in one hand and a fader in the other and debating purism. The ergonomics of scratching is really ingrained and really responsive so the really cool stuff is going to build on this.

    There are so many fun and valid ideas for this train of thought. Lets say we make some timecode vinyl or an interface that recognizes finger position… you could scratch one sample via placement on an outer end of the radius and another on the inner. Or even where you place your fingers affects a variable like EQ. The area of effect could be customised by the tunrtablist to match their style and effective range… matching tricks to areas of the interface or calling EFFECTS up when certain areas are touched. EG we crab with a different surface area and pressure to a flare or chirp.

    And so on.

    Nice work Nathan. So it goes on!

  • I'll race you to the finish line Dave Dri! 😀 😀 😀

  • D.Eastwood, I look forward to seeing what you've been working on! Send me an email when you have something for download!

  • Zachary Langdon

    I think this is a neat idea if I understand it. So, basically you could trigger samples with a sampler, and then scratch them? If this is right, then thats uber cool!

  • This is such a great thing– completely opening possibilities for those of us already familiar with using vinyl for tactile control

    also — unbelievable things happen when you put on a regular (non time coded) record and leave it to control hangtheDJ. I have it set up right now with a long Ukulele sample and I threw on "Moments in Love" by The Art of Noise on the turntable and its causing the program to interpret the song as a very complex forward and back movements.

    even tapping on the headshell of the needle when it is not touching a record causes slight movements, usually very very slow ones that can last for a couple minutes.

    the experimental possibilities are great– thank you much for this

  • nambaste

    HI there!!!

    I am looking for something like this!!!!!!

    is this thing for real???

    please tell that this thing really works!!!

    keep it cool….

    make it worm!

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  • if i could trigger samples in Ableton Live or if i finally could turn record movements to midi-knobs or pull any midi command from a record this would be one of the greatest things ever! Revolutionary! Im waiting for this since the invention of timecode-sytems! I would like to trigger ableton live completly from a record. Maybe pitch to notescales(0% pitch = c4, every percent up or down equaling one note step up or down) would be another great thing.

  • jabberwonky

    What version of Reaktor is Ammobox built for? It didn't work with my version 5.

    Very exciting this… cant wait to try.

  • LILO

    It's a piece of SH!T this thing don't work with version 5 and if you contact the guy he doesn't even contact you back. What a crock

  • Can't wait to get this up and running….. This makes me want to Reaktor….

  • EDIT: *learn Reaktor….

  • THe man

    Lilo is an idiot it works fine in v5 and is the greatest software EVER when integrated w logic

  • i have the original ammobox ensemble from years ago…

    gonna try get it running!

    wurd up!