David Zicarelli has announced that Cycling ‘74 is discontinuing Max/MSP Pluggo-based products, meaning the company will no longer develop Pluggo, Mode, Hipno, or UpMix. More significantly, this means an end to the use of Max/MSP as a way of developing plug-ins; David writes that there will be “no further development on … their supporting technology.” It’s the supporting technology that Max patchers have relied upon to make their own instruments and effects for VST/AU/RTAS Mac and Windows hosts, and its demise to me is the real news here for the Max community.

The article touts the upcoming availability of Max for Live as an alternative. Now, I think Max for Live is a very exciting technology – I’m finally editing some videos and discussion with Jeremy Bernstein, so we’ll have a preview next week. The flipside is:

  • Less compatibility. Ableton Live is just one host. Pluggo support RTAS, VST, and AU on Mac and Windows, so you could use your Max patches as plug-ins in tools like Logic or FL Studio, too. (Ultimately, having to figure out how to support all those things was part of Pluggo’s demise, but the desire to do so still holds.)
  • No free runtime. Cycling ‘74 has been clear in that Max for Live will be a paid product. So, whereas a developer could create a Pluggo plug-in with Max/MSP and deploy it for free use anywhere, now you have to assume that the person using your plug-in will buy both Live and (separately) Max for Live.

For an example of why the Pluggo technology has been important, see examples like Ms. Pinky’s Wrecked System (though I appreciate the irony of that screenshot being Ableton).

Max for Live is awesome, it just isn’t Pluggo exactly – for better and for worse. The good news is, some of the oddball Pluggo instruments and effects will be available for Max for Live when it comes out, and existing owners will get that at a discount. But you might want to keep an old Mac or PC around running Max 4 and some of the strange plug-ins in the Pluggo collection.

Pluggo Technology Moves to Max for Live

Thanks to Jonathan Bailey and Nick Inhofe for sending this in.

The upshot to me is that Max/MSP is no longer such a viable development environment for effects and instruments, if you want any kind of wider consumption of what you’re making. It can be, at the same time, an utterly brilliant environment for yourself and for other people working with Max and Live. But on the other hand, part of the reason this may not be earth-shaking news is that there are alternatives – see below.

That’s not to argue with the fact that the Max + Ableton Live combination will rock and be a big deal – no argument there.

So, I actually think it may be a good thing for Max to have this focus, especially because, if you do want to support other hosts, there’s no reason to limit yourself to Max.

Open Source and Commercial Flavors

What I think is happening – perhaps naturally so – is a differentiation between the proprietary and open paths. If you choose the commercial Max/MSP – Max for Live – Ableton Live route, you get a really unparalleled level of UI polish and usability, and extraordinary integration between your Max creations and the host (Live).

The open-source altnerative now increasingly offers greater compatibility and flexibility. We’ve seen Max’s open source cousin Pure Data (Pd) run as the back end to a commercial game (Spore), on Linux on PDAs and old iPods, and as the back end to commercial iPhone apps.This is enabled by the fact that Pd is open source and community-supported, just as the ability to interoperate more deeply with Ableton Live was enabled by a commercial development process. (ChucK has also shown up powering successful mobile apps, like Smule’s Ocarina.)

That’s not to say one route is better than the other. On the contrary, it’s important to look at these two choices side by side because they’re different, and differently suited to particular situations.

And focus can be a good thing. In the case of Cycling ‘74, the decision was that plug-in support was no longer practical:

…we have had to face the fact that it is simply not cost-effective to support three different plug-in specifications on two different platforms, particularly given the increasing absence of standardization of host platforms we have observed over the past several years. Supporting our Max/MSP-based plug-in technology involves trying to make the entire Max environment run inside another host application. This was never a simple matter to begin with, and it has only grown more challenging with time.

It may indeed not make sense for Cycling to continue to provide this support. But it could be possible for others to support that – and, I hope, for us to someday have a better cross-platform plug-in standard, though that’s another discussion.

Alternative Plug-in Development Tools

There are other tools that are focused on plug-in development, and depending on your needs, they could fill the void left by Pluggo.

Here are just a few:


pdvst, free + open source, Windows

You know how Cycling is talking about how they have to run Max inside the host? That’s what this does for Pd. It looks like binarines are only available for Windows, but I see no reason this couldn’t be ported to other OSes, too. (I also remember some sort of solution for making LADSPA plug-ins with Pd, but maybe I just dreamed that.) I gave it a shot, and it’s actually quite nice.

Plogue Bidule, US$75, Mac + Windows

Plogue may actually come out on top as a cross-platform, commercial tool for building VST and AU plug-ins – only Reaktor here does that, and Plogue is quite a lot cheaper. ReWire works, too. That means Bidule will work with any host you like – even Reason – instead of just Live. If you only use Live, that may not matter, but if you use anything else … well, you get the point.

See our previous story: Plogue Bidule Modular Music App: Get Started, Meet the Creators


SuperColliderAU, free + open source, Mac

For people using the elegant sound coding language SuperCollider, you can now turn your creations into Audio Units, with full OSC control retained. Again, it’s quite easy to do.

SynthMaker, US$133-255, Windows

SynthMaker is t
ightly focused on instrument and effect creation, more narrowly-so than Max but as a result very powerful for the task. Also, if the Max for Live / Ableton combination doesn’t do it for you, SynthMaker is now included with FL Studio. It’s Windows-only, but you can develop plug-ins not only for FL but any Windows host.

SynthEdit, US$50 (shareware trial available), Windows

The gold standard of DIY plug-in creation, SynthEdit is actually sometimes notorious for its popularity (as in, “crappy SynthEdit plug-in). But don’t let that dissuade you: this is a powerful environment for making your own VSTs, and some truly brilliant instruments and effects have been created in it. There’s also some extensive documentation.

Circuit design

SonicBirth, free + open source, Mac

Why SonicBirth isn’t being widely used is really beyond me – maybe the death of Pluggo will wake people up to its potential. It’s a graphical patching environment for MIDI, audio, and instrument creation, it’s quite elegant to use, and it’s utterly free. The only bad news is, the open source version or promised commercial successor seem not to have gotten much development love lately.

Reaktor, $399 street (academic discount), Mac/Windows

Reaktor has the same limitation Max for Live does in that there’s no free runtime. But a Reaktor patch can run – and be edited live – inside any Mac or Windows host.

csLADSPA, free + open source, cross-platform

Still can’t figure out what this new-fangled Max thing is about when your CSound is working just fine? csLADSPA lets you write your own instrument and effects plug-ins in CSound and run them on any LADSPA host (it even works on Windows). Geeky, yes, but as I think about it, that’s pretty cool.

This is not an attempt to be a complete round-up, so anything I’ve left out, do let us know. I’m particularly interested to know how, say, SuperCollider or Pd users could target Mac, Windows, and Linux hosts.

Not Using Plug-ins

There is one … other alternative. Plug-ins have their uses, but everything Cycling is saying about the challenge of using them is absolutely true.

Ultimately, it’s worth thinking about why you’re using a plug-in. Do you just need to route audio or control from one place to another? Do you just want your strange, DIY step sequencer to sync with a track?

ReWire is one alternative, and Max continues to support ReWire.

But you can also use technology like JACK to route audio and (on Linux) sync and MIDI from place to place. In fact, while there are tools for creating your own LADSPA plug-ins on Linux, I don’t know anyone using them for this very reason – the support for jacking audio, sync, and control from place to place is so good, you can simply start your different music tools and you may not care that they’re not plug-ins.

Your Thoughts?

Okay, that story wound up being quite a bit longer than I had expected, but that’s the point – you have lots of alternatives. I’m curious to what you DIYers and patchers out there are imagining you’ll be spending your time doing over the coming months, whether it’s all Csound or all Max for Live.

  • Kloz

    I think they could have left just VST support for both Windows and Mac. and keept pluggo alive.
    (i don't know if in Mac VST is more used than AU)

    After looking at so much people complaining about bugs in Live 8 AND performance issues in MAX 5. I've decided to hold on until they are more stable.

    I wonder what will happen when Max for Live hits the road. I really hope they get a solid rock appl based on the fixed bugs that they have to handle now.

    Also..i think it would be interesting to see VVVV inside a host… it already features VST support…

    Glitch Sequencer made in Processing looks nice too…but that is beyond Visual Programming App.

    Peace !
    just my 2 cnt


  • The explanation I had heard about why Puredata never bothered with the idea of exporting patches as plug-ins has to do with its open source nature: Because Pd is open source and anyone can download and run it for free, then they may as well just do that and get the whole environment rather than dealing with exported plug-ins that might not work anyway. It's actually not a bad argument, all things considered.

    The biggest problem voiced about Pd on Linux is that as a JACK client, it's… Well, lousy. I myself was never able to get it to run as a JACK client, so I guess I share in that complaint.

    One other Linux option, which is open source, is Ingen:

    Dave Robillard, the creator, says he's aiming for Pd/Reaktor-like functionality, but unfortunately, he's only one coder with other commitments. Progress is happening, but it's slow. Ingen uses the new Linux plug-in standard, LV2, as the basis for its operation (nodes are LV2 plug-ins in and of themselves, basically), but it can also use LADSPA plugs for nodes. It itself is a JACK client, but I think the idea of it running as an LV2 plug in a host like Ardour is in the to-do list.

    I would really like to see Ingen take off, but I don't have the coding skills to keep up. I should try to not let that stop me, though. 🙂

  • brett weldele

    Count me in as one of the runtime enthusiasts.

    I wish they'd just announce the pricing of M4L so I can decide whether I'm excited about it or not. I really have no aspirations of building things on my own. I've been down this road with Reaktor and I've never been able to build anything of any real use. It's one of my favorite pieces of software though.

    I just enjoy the access to what others come up with and am excited about what people/companies do come up with for M4L. It'll either be priced in a "can't say no" way (which is claimed in the video) or a "that's way too much for runtime" kind of way.

  • I can understand the difficultly and expense of maintaining pluggo under multiple shifting standards. It is difficult enough to support a normal plug in, let alone an entire development runtime environment living within a plugin. This decision makes even more sense in the context of Max for Live.

    But, I can still be sad, can't I?

    Good article about the alternatives, Peter. I'd like to see someone create a cross-platform version of the pdvst. (pdau?)

    As Max is moving in a more proprietary direction, and putting all its eggs in Ableton's basket, perhaps it might be better to begin to migrate to pd.

  • james

    thanks x1000000 for mentioning using rewire to link max and other audio software. total facepalm as i'd never thought of that..

    and it sounds really easy:

  • James

    Does Cycling 74 really have the largest user base as Live only users?
    Rewire doesn't quite work as nicely as a straight plugin (though there are those times when it works better too). I just feel like they may be inadvertently cutting off a large group of users.

  • sxa

    Im not so convinced about the Rewire thing; Rewiring applications is fine because there's only one instance of each. Plugins are different, you could have multiple instances of each on a track, across multiple tracks. Can Rewire cope with the routing needed to handle that? Nope.
    So now the only fully crossplatform plugin-as-plugin(*) development environment around becomes proprietry, taking all that interesting niche stuff with it. I can't help but feel that it leaves us with far less potential for new -types- of plugins, rather than Yet Another Grain Delay, and that this pretty much drives a wedge between the 'interesting-academia' world and the 'regular musician' world where Pluggo kind of gave them a common ground.

    And elsewhere, things are pretty glacial for any of the modular environments. Reaktor users have been grumbling for a while, although 6 is probably coming (they're hiring a Core developer after all) but its taking a long time. Jeff McLintock isnt working on SynthEdit full time any more so its going very slowly, and some of the 3rd-party module developers have been drifting away, as have plugin developers because of its known issues with multi-processors. And SynthMaker is going slower still; it still has speed issues and lacks sample-accurate event timing, and its users have been grumbling for a long time too.
    Then there's the open source stuff, where cool ideas come before useable and consistent documentation, and everything has to be recompiled by an archwizard standing under a full moon for it to work.

    Not the best of times if you want to make and share cool non-run-of-the-mill stuff, TBH.

    (*) as opposed to plugin-as-patch like Reaktor or Vaz Modular

  • James –

    If you had to choose one, what is the alternative? You want something cross-platform, so that immediately rules out a bunch. You're left with, what, Cubase and ProTools? Live is obviously the best option, hands down.

    The way Live works is way, way more in line with Max than ANY alternative, regardless of platform. It is a natural match. It is certainly the right choice. This decision allows Cycling 74 to spend more time creating cool things, and less time doing mundane stuff like chasing standards.

  • Well, I don't think anyone would question the choice of Live – I assume what James is asking is, what about the remaining percentage of people who aren't Live users. And I think that's worth asking.

    @sxa: I'll be less bleak. You know, Max for Live is very cool for what it is, no question there. But let's consider the open and multi-platform alternatives, because I think they have some good news of their own.

    SuperCollider is suddenly on fire, with a new book, lots of stuff happening in the community, lots of new users. OpenSoundControl is really happening, and I expect a new spec very soon with some enhancements. TUIO, the multitouch and tangible interface protocol, is also developing, and it's based on OSC. Both Pd and SuperCollider (the latter in particular) support OSC natively, as do a lot of these other environments – even as things like Ableton Live do not.

    Pd is fugly UI-wise, but otherwise I think the only thing stopping those tools from adoption outside academia is the need for better documentation, and that's getting there. (Planet CDM can help, too.)

    It really does make a difference that a user can pick up the code and compile wherever they want. That's what's gotten Pd on the iPhone and old PDAs. So yeah, not having plug-in support is bad news – but I'm pretty grateful to have a hand-me-down PDA that can turn into an entire instrument.

    I don't know what you mean about "recompiling." I'd say just the opposite. There are pre-compiled binaries for just about everything out there. It's not a big deal.

    And as for documentation, we've seen loads of free documentation, some quite good — some even better than Max's documentation. 😉

    Audio software in general tends to move slowly. I don't think 2009 is a year where I'd be particularly pessimistic, though – the loss of Pluggo is sad, but there are other things to be happy about on both the commercial and open source side.

  • Anyway — addendum. I promise to spend zero time mourning things that aren't happening and focus on helping people with the free tools, okay? 🙂

  • I'm still really stoked about MaxForLive… I did read a lot of hatin' about the move elsewhere online, mainly from people who had committed to other DAWs, and while I can totally understand that some feel let down by Cycling taking a turn they didn't predict, I also hope that these people can at least appreciate what an explosion this will cause in the live scene, for those that go the Ableton Live route.

    I think that Cycling74 stays true to the vision of Pluggo in MaxForLive, and down the line I hope more DAWs can get added to that, for sure… not that I care much personally, it's Live+Max all the way here.

  • Ha — from the pingback above (Do My Eyes Look Scary):

    "Peter Kirn took this announcement as an opportunity to discuss free/open alternatives, which is great, but personally, I’ve really come to value the increased quality of software made by people who do it commercially over the myriad sketchy and semi-sketchy free alternatives. I’d sooner stab my nuts with a rusty fork than try and do anything with Pd…"

    Well, actually, you'll see I'm *also* discussing commercial options. The thing is, because all of us are mortal, yes, development efforts have to make choices. With commercial software, you rely on someone else to make that choice. With open source, there is an opportunity for people to make some of those choices themselves — even if it's just something as simple as compiling a piece of software for a different processor (which does NOT require you to be a programmer of any sort).

    I think both are really, really important.

    However, I also have to take issue with the idea that open source software is somehow "sketchy." It's just not the case. I haven't personally stabbed my nuts with a rusty fork, so I can't speak from experience, but if you can get over the UI, Pd can be really powerful. And if you don't like Pd, it's worth checking out tools like SuperCollider or Processing. These are things that don't *have* a commercial equivalent, period. (And, interestingly, both are based on what were once proprietary / commercial projects — SuperCollider itself was, and the Java desktop stuff on which Processing was built only recently hit open source.)

    I don't think you'll see an open source project that does all the things that Max for Live does, or that has a UI like Max 5. On the other hand, when a closed platform makes a decision like this — even for a good reason — then it's not just an excuse to talk about the open alternatives, it's the perfect time.

    As Dave Hill from Ableton used to say to me when he was referring to "the competition," they're all "pieces of the puzzle."

  • And yeah, I am also stoked for Max for Live. I'd better clone myself so I have time to deal with all this stuff…

    (one BIG advantage of Pd *and* Max there is that it's pretty easy to move from one to the other. So you could build a Max patch for your Live setup, then make a little Pd creation for your PDA, for instance.)

  • gwenhwyfaer

    Hmm. Max/MSP loses plugin client support except its own proprietary solution, Record conspicuously lacks plugin hosting support except its own proprietary solution… I know we're in the middle of a worldwide recession, but I didn't expect music software to be the first place to go protectionist. 😉

  • @Kloz you can use Wormhole2 VST which is free and recently open sourced (and probably JACK for Windows as well, which I haven't tried) to send audio between vvvv and your host.

    pdvst is nice.

    I hope there won't be a rush of pluggo devs upgrading to Max 5,leaving projects like lloopp in the dust.

  • James

    Matthew Davidson

    In the sense of how live works, there really isn't an alternative. But that to me is the downfall in what they are doing. Now, I have just recently downloaded the live demo to see how it could be used in how I work, but I still see a whole community of people who don't make music that way – who would love to have the same product integration they have relied on.

    How do you see this affecting the community of monome users – especially since you will have to purchase live for max? I guess the reality is most of the applications are stand alone anyway – and use rewire to talk to other clients.

    I do like the idea of letting Cycling 74 spend more time creating good and cool tools, but now they seem to have limited their audience – and in turn may have limited what we will see in programs from users. Also, as you have mentioned in a previous post, there are free, open source alternatives, like PD. People have largely stayed with MAX for a bunch of reasons, some being; product support, documentation, cleanliness of finished projects, and seamless integration into their workstation of choice. Documentation is getting better in PD, but I feel like the last one is a really good selling point on a piece of software.

    I just can't stop but thinking that they may be turning what is already a niche market into a smaller niche.

    Or maybe that is just me talking from the standpoint of not having Live integrated into my setup…yet…

  • @gwenhwyfaer: Well, except Propellerheads has *never* supported plug-ins. That's why that wasn't news. 😉 If it were anyone other than Props, I might have been nervous, but that's just proof that the more things change…

    @James: It doesn't impact the monome community at all, unless monome development is limited to Max, which I thought was always a bad idea. The Max patches are fantastic, and I can't wait to see what they do with Max for Live. But it's important to have people working with tools like Processing and Pd, too, and via OSC, it's an easy thing to do. Anyway, on my List of Things to Do for the summer is definitely some monome patching. Stay tuned. I'll put my money where my mouth is; I'm not just being an armchari quarterback. 😉

  • James

    Peter Kim,
    What happens to the remaining percentage of non-Live users is precisely my question. MAX/MSP has a niche as it is, and its making it a smaller niche?
    And yes, I am coming from the perspective of a non live user who uses max a lot…

  • Well, you can still run Max patches standalone, and you can even still host plug-ins *inside* Max. Also, I expect the Live integration will bring new people to Max as an environment.

    I think you're right: the people who lose out on this are people who have relied on Max to develop for another host. And I suspect some of those folks may indeed be looking for an alternative.

  • Well, arguably, Max for Live seems to be drawing MaxMSP out of a niche into a larger audience. People use Live is some very innovative, low-level ways. Maybe Live is a good gateway drug to the world of Max.

    Max was a fine product before pluggo, and it will still be a fine product without pluggo. It has been clear for some time this was the direction Cycling 74 was headed. The possibilities of integration that transcends the limitations of a audio plug-in format is intoxicating.

    This move only disenfranchises a subset of a subset of users who want to use Max to build plug-ins in a DAW that isn't Live.

    …of which, I am one, and I really can't see a flaw in their logic.

  • @Peter: I wasn't disagreeing with you about FOSS, I was just expressing an opinion about why Cycling74 did what they did, and as an aside, saying that I had a preference for well-written commercial software in general.

    But not in every case. But as soon as I have to trouble-shoot something free I delete it, unless there's some compelling promise of greatness in the offing.

    My preference comes from a very specific set of circumstances. I program computers for a day job, and I make music because I love to. So for me there's a bright line between software development and making music, and the less the former becomes a part of the latter, the happier I am.

    And you have to admit it: while there are a lot of great FOSS packages in every application domain, there are also a lot of sketchy nut-stabbing pieces of half-finished BS. I hate wasting my limited music-making time on stuff like that.

  • @chaircrusher: Indeed there is a lot of half-finished crap. I think this is an unfortunate side-effect of the current "creative" Linux distros. They cram all this stuff in there assuming it helps make the argument that FOSS gives you choice. And it has the opposite effect.

    I mean, ugly as it is, you could spend all your time in Pd. Or SuperCollider. On the graphics side, you could literally never leave Blender. In browsers, a lot of us live out of Firefox. So it's really about quality over quantity to me — and I'd say exactly the same thing about commercial software (which will sometimes also cause that nut-stabbing feeling, if for different reasons).

  • EAMDude

    I moved from Live to Logic since I didnt like the constraints of working within Live. It seems primarily designed to make a kind of music I am not interested in. I am very much soundart, text/sound and so on.

    This decision gives me the impression my niche is longer part of the Cycling74 vision. Most studios use ProTools – will there be any improvement in the buggy ReWire-support in Max/MSP? Or are they directing every resource on Max4Live now? Seems like it …

    So far I have relied on Max/MSP for installation kind of work – seems like it is time to learn OpenFrameworks instead. Cycling74 is fast moving in a very worrying direction – I dont want a tool held hostage by what can be done within Ableton Live (which is what they are saying).

    Also Peter Kirn forgot to mention Plogue Bidule which is available both as VST and AU.

  • I fully support Cycling 74's decision to focus on Max For Live. Sometimes when a platform tries to be everything to everyone, the quality drops. In some ways, I think Max has been showing signs of this for awhile. However, it appears Cycling 74 has taken one step back in hopes to take two steps forward by going the Live route.

    The new UI in Max 5 I think is proof-positive that Cycling 74 is making the right choice. David Zicarelli's writes in My Perspective on Integrating Max and Live about how they've "tried to incorporate lessons from the Live interface into Max." Max 5 is so much more pleasant to work with than 4.

    My Perspective on Integrating Max

    The integration of Max and Live has the potential to be the great musical tool this generation. And I say this as someone who has used Csound, an open source platform, as their preferred tool for the past 10 years. IMHO.

  • @EAMDude: I know there's a whole music-production culture built up around Logic (or Pro Tools, for that matter), but it's not one I participate in.

    Whenever I've been forced to use Protools I've hated every minute of it. The idea of trying to use Max/MSP rewired into Protools sounds like a horror in every dimension.

    Cycling74 will still be making Max/MSP/Jitter as a standalone program, and if you are using it in the ways that you describe, that standalone environment will be your best bet.

    As to the difference between Live and Logic — I'm familiar enough with both to think you probably didn't give Live enough of a chance. It's not just techno loopage. I recently recorded an all-live-performances rock record for some friends in Live, and it worked great– very little in the way of fiddly setup.

    The session view is pretty techno-oriented but even non-techno musicians could benefit from using it to explore arrangements. And nothing beats Live for real-time stability under heavy tweaking and editing.

  • James

    Matthew Davidson
    Maybe that's where I'm not seeing it correctly. In the advertising that I've seen for max for live, it really doesn't seem to be targeted at people who already use max, and are looking for a way to get it integrated into live easier.

    Granted we are talking about a software that hasn't been released yet. They could easily bundle some sweet Max applications designed to take live in a completely new direction with their max for live program that could specifically target people who've never used max, and probably never will want to program anything for themselves…

  • Disappointing, but understandable, given their limited resources. I just wish they'd decided on this sooner; people have been waiting for a looong time.

    As for the alternatives, none of them have the combination of ease of use, power and portability that max + pluggo offered. Pd has the potential to get there, but a lot of work remains to be done.

  • EAMDude

    @chaircrusher: I appreciate your views but I have owned a Live license since version 2 and used it quite a bit so I know it and I have version 8 available here. But dealing with field recordings or whatevz is just possible – no more than so. This goes not only for the basic Live functions but how the EQ:s are designed and so on. I simply get better sound out of the more generic DAW:s.

    Logic also allows me to work more incrementally. Partially mixing – continuing from there and so on. All very elegant and with great sound quality. All this can be done in Live – but you are working against Live:s built in view of the way you should work,

    Now – I knew about Max4Live when I reccently decided to switch 100% to Logic (and of course the mandatory ProTools when in other peoples studios). And if Cycling74 fix the Rewire-instabilities and, after neglecting Max during the long Max4Live development period, continue to develop the standalone-version, it is o.k. with me. And MSP still has a tendency of sounding harsh which they need to fix.

    But with such a high level of integration into Live – just maintaining compatibility with coming versions of Live will likely be a real drain on Cycling74 resources.

  • bliss

    What are developers whose plugins depend on Pluggo and Max Runtime supposed to do, now that plugin support has been discontinued in Max? This can't be good news for developers like TriTone Digital and DaevlMakr — their user base is not restricted to Live. Many people who use Logic and Digital Performer use their products.

    Also, development of free plugins for Mac OS X has just been decimated by about 99%. [url =]Studiotoolz ?[/url] has cataloged just about every free plugin for Mac OS X, and the majority of those are entirely dependent on Pluggo and the Max Runtime environment.

    In my opinion, this decision by Cycling '74 stinks. Future development of the free and commercial Pluggo plugins that I use are now officially dead. And it seems strange that I'm the only one outraged by Cycling's decision.

  • bliss

    What happens to commercial plugin developers such as TriTone Digital and DaevlMakr? Their plugins depend on Pluggo and the Max Runtime environment. Could they be happy about Cycling '74's announcement?

    And as for the development of free plugins on Mac OS X, Cycling's announcement just decimated about 99% of that. Studiotoolz ? has cataloged much of what is available, and the majority is Pluggo/Max based plugins. For someone like me, Cycling's news is bad news, and it's strange that I seem to be the only one outraged by the fact that future development of my commercial and free Pluggo/Max based plugins is dead.

  • bliss

    Yes, I am majorly pissed off. Just wanted to make that clear. Not that it matters to Cycling '74.

  • @bliss: To me, this is a great example of what happens when you build a business that depends so completely on a third-party app that can disappear any moment. I'm reminded a bit of when Gigasampler went away, except someone appears to be picking that codebase up.

  • Adrian Anders

    I hope C74 plans on including the updated Pluggo/Mode/Hipno/UpMix plug-in libraries in M4L. Doing so would go along way to sooth irritated users. All of the C74 legacy plugs, plus the ability to look at the magic behind them (since M4L plugs are not "closed") would give a decent incentive to existing Pluggo, etc. users to upgrade to their new product. Without this, I think C74 are going to lose quite a few Plug-in-only customers to competing products like Reaktor (which already ships with a huge factory library of plugs).

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  • While they're at it, I hope C74 makes it require an Apogee interface and an iPhone/Touch for automation. Wouldn't that be teh koolist? It's fun to exclude people – makes ya feel special. //hatevs.

  • amundsen

    Big mistake from Cycling '74 IMHO.

    Also, I think SuperCollider also runs under Windows.

  • @admundsen: SuperCollider indeed runs under Windows, but the plug-in support — for now — is AU only, unless someone knows of a tool for running SuperCollider as a Windows VST? (That could be nice, in fact.)

  • @amundsen

    I don't think SuperColliderAU runs under Windows.

  • Art

    I'm glad Max is moving in a more proprietary direction making people look in the Pd side.

  • Johnny Horizon

    Clam ( has experimental support for building VSTs. Apparently it can also build LADSPA plugins. Check out the Network Editor tool:

  • Supercollider does have one issue: it can't run on 64-bit systems. Well, that's not strictly true. The engine can run on 64-bit systems, and for some, that would be enough. If you want the language parser and interpreter, though, that's 32-bit only. I was told by the devs on the mailing list and in IRC that there were some pretty down-deep issues with getting the whole project 64-bit ready, and the last two developers who attempted it ran away screaming.

    I'm afraid that might be a major stumbling block for SC adoption in the future.

    All is not completely lost, though. You can use the engine with a different language, such as Python, over OSC. I never really got that deep into it, though, so YMMV. I'm going to ask the devs about these points further.

  • Well, SuperCollider isn't the only app facing the 64-bit leap.

    And yes, you can use the engine with Java, with all the UI magic of Java, and that can absolutely be 64-bit. So no deal-breaker.

    Also, to me the really big issue is the ability to run on other architectures and particularly to run well on multiple cores. SC scales better than just about anything onto multiple cores because you can simply spawn more sound servers.

  • D'oh! I never in a million years thought of that one! Processing + SuperCollider could be a killer combination for a wide variety of just about any kind of plug-in. I'm still bugging the devs every once in a while about oversampling support in SC as well. For all I know, that might be in there now.

  • Actually, one reason *not* to do that — and to hope the SC client is one day 64-bit — is I think the SuperCollider is actually quite a lot nicer than Java, even as a huge Java fan. 😉 But Processing/Java for visuals and UI + SuperCollider for sound is a mind-blowingly awesome combination.

    And that's what this is about. It's not just Cycling '74's choice – it's your choice. If Max running in Live is what you want, you shouldn't hesitate for a second to give it a go when it comes out. If it's not, though, it'd really be a tragedy if you felt afraid to try these other alternatives. We talk a lot about freedom in software, but really, a lot of that starts with personally making the choices you want to make.

  • The easiest solution yet is probably just to stick with a 32-bit OS until you have no choice in the matter. I think when I get to installing Ubuntu Studio on this machine, I'll go with the 32-bit build.

  • Pingback: » Blog Archive » Wake me up before Pluggo Go-Goes…()

  • bliss

    Peter, you're practically the only person that I've come across who is excited by Java when it comes to music. I know a few developers and the last thing on Earth they'd want to deal with is Java for just about anything — let alone for music applications. Granted, those developers do not represent a broad cross-section of developers in general, but I've never understood why you promote the platform as much as you do, when all I tend to hear is that programming in Java sucks.

    The other issue is that if one is not a programmer, then one is simply left out in the cold. To have to invest in Live/M4L is a big commitment. In fact, it is so big that one would have to switch permanently from another DAW in order to gain some mileage from the investment. Right now, taking my plug-ins with me, I can freely bounce from Logic to DP without missing a beat — but to add Live and MFL to that would mean nothing but a huge cash outlay and a big mess of a learning curve that hardly any music would get made: Music that I would want to make.

    It makes no sense at all to invest in Live and M4L just to gain access to plug-ins that in the past would have been freely available for all to use on Mac OS X, regardless of DAW of choice. To me, it is serious BS to suggest doing so just for that reason.

    You should already know that I don't mean you any disrespect, Peter — but the way you've downplayed the seriousness of Cycling '74's decision, and the resulting collateral damage, strikes me as being fantastically odd.

  • Joshua Jarvis


    I share your outrage man. I just made the transistion from Live over to Logic a few months ago. I was really counting on pluggo to receive its update that was originally promised. Now I feel like my favorite software (Max/Msp) has betrayed me. Honestly though I'm getting on fine bouncing my work in Max over to Logic or running Max via rewire. However, I really would have enjoyed making plugins in Max for Logic.

  • EAMDude

    Before you pay that huge stack of euros for Live – take note is doesnt support basic stuff like surround-mixing. This is not a problem for the techno/looping crowd but for more experimental work it makes Live a non-starter. There are many such large holes in Live.

    The right way to view Live is not as a DAW but as kind of interactive looping instrument. Many people use Live into ProTools using ReWire.

    I'm selling my Live licenses (decided before C74's Pluggo-announcement, I just dont like Live for my work) and the money will go to buying Reaktor (the sound quality is certainly impressive). I'm also looking more seriously at Supercollider now (also very good sound quality).

  • twilight_fish

    I have it on good authority that Cycling has the majority stake in Ableton as of a few years ago. No ideas of any details but if this is the case the situation makes sense.

  • Ian

    I have been expecting this announcement for some time now, despite the fact that I spoke with a C74 representative just weeks ago who told me that they were still committed to bringing Pluggo up to date (which I am sure they were at the time).

    Though not surprised, I am disappointed. Pluggo has been the primary way I use Max/MSP since it first came out.

  • @bliss: Wait a minute, we're talking completely independent issues here.

    First off, the Java comment should not be construed as me being excited about Java for synthesis development; I'm not. (That'd be like being excited about mopeds for lunar travel, at least given the state at the moment.) This is absolutely particular to the way SuperCollider works. SuperCollider naturally abstracts the sound engine from a sort of control language, and then any graphics element from all of that. Java does happen to be a good choice for handling graphics elements and moving things from platform to platform. It doesn't make much sense until you've seen it in action, but long story short, combining Java and SuperCollider makes it easier to create visual interfaces that work across platforms.

    Back on topic, though —

    I don't mean to underplay the seriousness of this announcement. I'm just trying to balance the Cycling decision with a larger context, and I suppose I'm just not surprised. It seemed to me that making Max/MSP a commercial development environment for other things was fraught with potential danger.

    Also, part of my point here is to think through just what the alternatives are — I think as you do so, indeed, the issue is that you have lots of great development environments and even some pretty great deployment options, but what you don't get is a tool that easily deploys to plug-ins on both platforms.

    And yes, I'll admit, I wasn't taking as seriously as perhaps I should the implications for *users* of plug-ins that use this tool.

    I really do think that the ideal situation, though, would be if all these plug-in developers rely so closely on a framework, for that framework to be open source and something that has a shared and clear future. Ironically, Max 5 itself is built on an open-source framework (JUCE), because that's what was most practical and reliable on which to build. But I know that ideal situations are hard to come by and that this is little comfort to people who have invested time in third-party Pluggo-based plug-ins as users or developers.

    Anyway, I was trying to avoid editorializing too much to see what people think, what your take on is on it. And I'm actually quite struck, given the overwhelming good will that people have for Max for Live, that the reactions I've heard are indeed pretty critical. That ought to be a wakeup call to people that interoperability does matter to people.

    But SuperCollider – different topic. It's just a cool environment. Really worth giving SC and Pd a look. And it might well be worth examining whether one of these tools could better support plug-in formats.

  • SC needs more documentation and share community…

    About my point of view this article (Peter) is great and remarks the actual situation where people (like me) are start hating (a bit) Ableton and closed solution market.

    For me the situation has a real potential:

    Users leaving Ableton (some of them programmers) will start a Linux Project or "put here your enviorement like PD" programming leaving Ableton.
    These could meet the pluggo programmers and start a new bigger community.

    Anothers users getting the opposite direction learning Max for MfL. These people will appreciate "any form" of shareable community patches (maybe inside Ableton) with "any kind" of ranking for "most used" coded by users and "any kind" of benefit for "these code programers". This will be the open part of this closed solution.

    Another ones will focused into developer bigger communities for make "grow up" these tools (as me with pd and before Ms. Pinky and so on)

    Some of them will try to integrate PD into MfL or something similar… like asamblea API (maybe nathan ramella has second chance?)

    Some of them will meet SC, Plogue, Processing, PD with Python, Java, Flosc (Flash2OSC) and so on… to cover his needs.

    Some of them will share all of these resources for all of these coders. Peter and Me are good examples.

    I'm very active forum user (and potentially new forum creator) open minded free share person.

    You could see me at Create, Djtechtools, Skratchworx, Alternative turntable Music, Ms. Pinky, Hispasonic and Stribe project Forums usually and ask me anything at my mail or Skype.


    Let's choice, let's the people share ideas.


  • Angstrom


    I have it on good authority that Cycling has the majority stake in Ableton as of a few years ago

    I really really doubt that. Cycling have 22 full and part-time employees mainly in one location, they are essentially an academic niche software manufacturer.
    Ableton have somewhere around 90 employees in Berlin and New York.
    I have no idea what the Cycling offices look like, but let me tell you the Ableton Berlin offices are now absolutely huuuuge.

    If either company took a stake in the other, it would be Ableton (the large & exponentially growing commercial DAW manufacturer) purchasing a stake in Cycling, (the small academic software developers)

  • 4.33

    folks are already creating Max patches for the APC40, see:

  • ben

    I wonder what this will do to the monome community. Granted I bet a lot of them use Live and are therefore excited, but this will now mean you could ONLY use Live, right? No more max made plugins for other hosts.

  • @ben: I don't think that's a big deal. My sense is a lot of people are using Max standalone with monome.

    Also, there's no reason you're restricted to max as your development environment for the monome. Part of the whole point is that you can use all kinds of tools. The Max patches are terrific for monome, but I always thought it made sense for at least some monome development to happen in open source tools, since the patches and hardware are open source. So if this helps people to understand some of the comparative potential of that, that's a good thing.

  • Damian

    As a long-time Cycling74 customer I have to say I am very disappointed here. While CDM has always been a big advocate for open source I have to say that I myself am not comfortable with pinning my production workflows on tools that see part time development.

    Essentially, by purchasing a license for Max/MSP, I was buying support. Now, as a dedicated Logic user I am left to ponder my options. This is a big step backward for users like me– those of us who expect software capabilities to evolve rather than recede. AU/VST support is industry standard. Why this company focused on Max 5 development rather than improving compatibility (and thus growing their user base) is beyond me.

    When I purchased my license to Max/MSP I was envisaging a day when I could one day build my own creations and instantiate any number of them on one or more tracks within Logic (or any DAW). With this said, AU support never materialized and now has been definitively thrown out as an option. This will prove to be a really big miscalculation in the long run.

    With this move, Cycling74 is pushing people to Ableton Live, and thus further marginalizing an already fringe product. Thanks for an extremely short-sighted decision Cycling74. You've lost a long time customer and I am sure you have alienated a large portion of your user base. I'm happy that I haven't yet upgraded to Max 5 yet– I came very close last week.

    Oh and who is the moron planning to charge current Max 5 users to 'upgrade' and work with Max/MSP within Ableton? You essentially push people to change DAW, charge them $200 to upgrade from Max 4 to Max 5, and then you have the courage to charge in order to use these features in said DAW? That is simply ridiculous. Poor management decisions lead to wasted development time. As such, customers should not be expected to finance these types of moves.

    Is anybody driving the bike at Cycling74?

  • Well Ableton Live is a Live-act instrument and MaxMsp is a developer tool and experimental enviorement.

    They are positioning in a market place. The costumers like you must choice between maxmsp 5 or leaving it for something like CS, PD, SC, Reaktor…

    And about AU support… well this is Apple propietary solution… Why any developer must to integrate inside its develops? VST is standard nowadays… Don't blame cycling'74, look at apple without firewire… (and firewire itself)

    You have a lot of truth in your dissappointing but you have a lot of power as a consumer choise.

    Time to make communities, community for ableton+maxforlive users, community for non-ableton+maxmsp users…

    PD, SC, CS, … users!

    Creative explosion is near…

  • Ob

    somebody needs to create an open source alternative to live so we can have "pd for x"

  • james

    2 jameses on one thread..

    thought since i'd found this i should share it:

    a converter that makes your max 5 patches into max 4.6 ones so you can redo the interface (painful) and make a vst (also painful..)

    bizarrely enough it's written in supercollider.. but it worked well for me once i figured it out.

  • Reaper User

    There's a company in San Francisco (where Cycling74 located) called "Cockos" who make great DAW called "Reaper."

    REAPER plug-in Extensions are additional components which can add functionality to REAPER. These plug-ins are not plug-ins in the traditional "DAW" sense of plug-ins, in that they are not "Effect" plug-ins, but rather can do many of the following things:
    Add support for reading/writing audio file types
    Add support for external control surfaces (MIDI or otherwise)
    Add support for importing other project formats
    Add audio editor support for filetypes
    Access many services provided by REAPER, including audio file read/write, audio hardware access, samplerate conversion, pitch shifting/time stretch, etc.
    Many other things

    Cycling74 can save their development time if they co-operate with Cockos, but they chose to work with a loop-base DAW in with a company faraway in Germany.

  • Reaper User

    Cycling74 can save their development time if they co-operate with Cockos, but they chose to work with a company faraway in Germany who produce an incomplete (and overprice) loop-base DAW..

    Wasting their time on making eye-candy GUI (which force you to use newer graphic card) is not enough. Good bye Max/MSP/Jitter

  • Tim Thompson (yes, t

    I'm late coming to this post and discussion. Peter and all, thanks for this–it's all great information and discussion!

    I want to add a couple of points. First, I never got far with Pluggo, and would much rather see Max patches able to be converted to AU and VST plugins.

    Second, I am always frustrated by the fact that Max itself supports VST, but not AU.

    Third, none of that matters too much because I usually do as Peter suggested and route audio and control data between applications on a regular basis. These days, there are so many ways to do things, and most of them are very functional.

    My tool of choice for inter-app audio routing is Soundflower (mac only)–I've never had any trouble with it, and it meets my needs quite nicely. I have never felt like I need to use rewire, Jack, or wormhole, although I can imagine I would if I want to route more than 16 channels from place to place.

    Peter, I'm part of the small percentage who has not gotten around to using Live yet–but I'm sure it won't be long now. I've just had plenty of other things to keep me busy!

  • jeremy

    not only does removing pluggo support take away the ability to work with max in vst hosts (DP, PT, etc) but it takes away the ability to use pluggos within max.. which is the functionality I was waiting for.

  • i do think that this is sad to see max go for just ableton live, true. i too was loving the idea of a new pluggo when i got max 4 and got the free upgrade to max 5. i almost bought pluggo for max 4 just to keep me busy, but decided not to.

    but for years, i wanted to get into ableton, ever since version 3 i wanted to really get into this program. not because of the looping abilities, because in all honesty i dont like making "BOOM BOOM 4/4 music" (although i have tried) and dont like the fact that a lot of people used only the session view and even that people think that this program is for kids.

    But what i liked about getting into and first knowing ableton was the simplicity of it, no built in plugins taking up all the desktop space, the very nice easy way of routing signals both audio and midi.
    and plain and simple graphics, no spit polish.
    Plus, when you get under the hood of ableton it really is a bog program. Operator for one is huge, it doesn't look much, but always think 'dont judge a book by its cover'

    but dont get me wrong, i was always a logic pro user, since the very early pc (urgh!) versions. and had stayed a loyal user to logic 8, i hate pro tools, dp is ok and everything else seems not that good for what i wanted. logic seemed the path for me, because of the midi and cool synths.
    but when i finally made to plunge to buy live suite 7, 2 months or so before the release of live suite 8. (i got the free update and collision 🙂 its great)
    i do feel i have made the right move in the field of software.

    one other reason which did push me over the edge to get live was max for live. i already had max, i really wanted to get in live since the very early versions. so this gave me a great excuse to get it.
    i cant wait to get my hands on it.

    i am sad for other users, yes. because this means that most people who made a living off of building plugins with max, now have to look for another.
    and also those people who did buy max 5 in the hope of pluggo will be the ones who will probably turn there back on cycling '74.

    cycling '74, will be going under the worst though, because they had to make this very big decision. and it is a big decision to make, cutting out plugin development for other hosts. thats huge. they must of got some many complaint letters about this. and most likely lost many users because of it, which is sad.
    but i do think that in the long run, this is a good decision. maybe for some people it is not because you use logic, dp, pro tools etc.
    but when you think about it, how many hours went into just the keeping up of pluggo for max 4, to cater to every host. it is a big job. too big of a job.

    but if they point all there abilities to a certain platform, it will be more manageable for them. they can spend more time developing max 5 more, to be faster etc.
    i am not trying to make excuses for them. but do feel, even if i was not an ableton user, still feel that they made the right decision.

    now bring on max for live…

  • News about maxforlive and ms.pinky maxmsp object integration.

    Work is done. I still need a Job, thanks.

  • Pingback: Create Digital Music » Max for Live Comes with Some Strings Attached for Creators()

  • Popolvuh

    They did it again.

    Copyright (c) 2012 Cycling ’74

    Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software
    and associated documentation files (the “Software”), to deal in the Software without restriction,
    including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense,
    and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so,
    subject to the following conditions:

    The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies
    or substantial portions of the Software.


    Cycling ’74 License for Max-Generated Code for Export
    Copyright (c) 2016 Cycling ’74
    The code that Max generates automatically and that end users are capable of exporting and using, and any
    associated documentation files (the “Software”) is a work of authorship for which Cycling ’74 is the author
    and owner for copyright purposes. A license is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a
    copy of the Software (“Licensee”) to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, and distribute copies of the Software,
    and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:
    The Software is licensed to Licensee only for non-commercial use. Users who wish to make commercial use of the
    Software must contact the copyright owner to determine if a license for commercial use is available, and the
    terms and conditions for same, which may include fees or royalties. For commercial use, please send inquiries
    to licensing (at) The determination of whether a use is commercial use or non-commercial use is based
    upon the use, not the user. The Software may be used by individuals, institutions, governments, corporations, or
    other business whether for-profit or non-profit so long as the use itself is not a commercialization of the
    materials or a use that generates or is intended to generate income, revenue, sales or profit.
    The above copyright notice and this license shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.