Cycling ’74 this week has announced an upcoming new version of its Max software, the DIY patching software for multimedia, from live sound and music to visuals. It looks as though more details will be available in the fall, but we at least get a glimpse of the goals for Max 6, as well as a new pricing scheme, and more information is likely at the NYC Expo ’74 conference. Max (and now Max for Live, too) is certainly at the heart of a lot of the projects we talk about here on CDM, so we’ll be watching.

Cycling ’74 founder and leader David Zicarelli describes greater “accessibility” as the goal for the new release, both in terms of “obtaining and learning” the software. That means documentation and tutorials and the Website go alongside new features in the software and new pricing. The other two goals: “quality” and “performance.”

In short, here’s how Cycling says Max 6 will evolve:

  • Improved performance, particularly via “code generation,” which sounds a bit like a just-in-time compilation optimization scheme for higher-performance patches. (This won’t be included free with Max 6, but as an add-on, however.)
  • A gen~ low-level signal-processing objects, for coding your own 64-bit DSP objects with greater performance than in patches.
  • The Mozilla JavaScript engine is integrated for greater performance (JS was always a bit of a performance bottleneck in Max, so this is potentially pretty huge), as well as the ability to use 2D HTML5 graphics code with Max.
  • Better sound quality, including a new cycle~ wavetable, resampling filters, crossfading between versions of a patch, and a new audio mix engine.
  • Workflow improvements, including enhancements to how help and documentation is displayed.
  • Project management.
  • Improved OpenGL animation and rendering tools. (I’ll write soon about what we know about Jitter changes separately on Create Digital Motion.)

Pricing schemes have changed, too.

US$399 ($199 upgrade from v5) gets you Max, MSP, and Jitter; no need to buy Jitter as a separate add-on. (Apparently those code compilation features will run you extra, though whether that’s $5 or $500, I have no idea yet.)

Subscriptions for students now run 12 months instead of 9. There are new volume discounts for academia, also based on subscriptions, too.

The place to find out more is likely to be the Expo ’74 conference.
Expo ’74

In Brooklyn October 14-16 (coming to the East Coast after its first, West Coast installment), Expo ’74 will be a series of hands-on events. The US$295 early bird pricing ends July 15 (Friday); it’s $395 thereafter.

There’s no word yet on the implications for Max for Live, but it seems safe to assume the new release will be accompanied by an updated Max for Live edition, too.

So, what does this mean for Max 5? Via Cycling ’74 comments, Joshua Kit Clayton explains backwards compatibility:

Max 6 is essentially backward compatible with Max 5. There have been some small changes which might cause issues in extreme edge cases. For example, on Macintosh, weโ€™ve changed from using Carbon Event Model to a Cocoa Event Model, so if an object uses its own internal Carbon or Cocoa Event Loop, they may need to make some changes since the application has changed the primary event model of the application. There may be some minor visual differences. However, the vast majority of third party objects which work in Max 5 will work in Max 6 without alteration. If third party MSP externals wish to make use of 64bit resolution audio signals, they will need to be updated, but they will still work at 32bit resolution if they remain unchanged.

Donโ€™t worry. While there are many great changes to the application, weโ€™re not going FCP X here

For now, you can read David’s comments from yesterday. And if you buy Max 5 starting now, Max 6 will be free.

Announcing Max 6

  • J

    It's like Logic pricing, C74 is "doing an Apple".
    Nice for new users though. Don't know if I will upgrade..

  • Martin

    I'm not sure about  the pricing here. 
    Its a $199 upgrade for people who own just Max, or for those with any and all previous versions ?

    Cos for those of us who payed full price for Max, then Max/Msp, then Jitter, then Max for Live, and also payed for regular updates to most of the above, if C74 are asking for 199 to "upgrade" all tnis to  a 399 app, I think there will be quite a lot of rather unhappy people. Hopefully this is not the case.

  • Martin

    Oh yeah, and plus you pay extra to make it run fast ? 
    Did NI buy C74 while I wasn't watching ?

  • Bynar

    So far there are no features that really have me interested. Especially for the $199 price of an upgrade. I guess Max 5 was such a huge leap that it kind of makes this update seem boring in comparison. 

  • Rogertron

    $199 is considerable and there is no word on M4L so for now I will hold my breath and wait for more details.

  • Hey Cycling74 have let us with that crappy Max 4 for about 100 years (with one undo level, btw) and now here they are: update cycles in accordance with the outside world? Better stay with the good ol' Pd: I feel too comfy with Max.

  • Brian Tuley

    Agreed.  Nice for new users.   No need for an upgrade just yet, in my case.  Love Max though.  Just bought the Max4Live cross-grade.  Very nice.

  • cdbsn

    this is where we skip the features and benefit banter and go straight to bashing over cost. should be fun…

    is there a way to turn off the comments part of CDM??? (:

  • 4lefts

    hmmm… i know everyone is moaning over price rather than bantering about features, but really, could this be because there are no new features? compared to the massive leap that was max5, what really is there in here to get excited about?

  • JCB

    This is MAJOR speculation on my part, but since they changed to Cocoa, could it mean that we'll see an iOS version of Max someday? It would be amazing to have something like Max Runtime on iOS (or any tablet/touch phone) in which you can load patches (including you own, of course!).

  • Peter Kirn

    My understanding is that they're pretty explicitly saying this is *not* the final feature list for Max 6. To me, there are some pretty significant changes here in terms of audio performance, JavaScript, OpenGL, and project management. I don't personally find the pricing to be a huge change, given that they're making a point of accessibility, but to me those product features are a big deal. Let's at least say this — there's enough here that I hope we'll continue to investigate, so you can make your final determination about whether the pricing / functionality / upgrades make sense for you.

    @JCB: Using the "Cocoa Event Model" I don't think is the same as using Cocoa; iOS also isn't entirely identical to the Mac SDK. Just FYI. Of course it's possible for them to do an iOS port if it makes sense for them and for the product, in their view.

  • Casey James Basichis

    I got very involved with max in college starting 10 years ago, but never bought it afterward as the price was always beyond the value. Its nice to see it down somewhat but we'll see if any cash gets plunked down or not.

    I use Jesusonic in reaper, which while different, serves a similar purpose in a compositional context and is wonderfully free.

    I would like Cycling to do the Final Cut X thing EXACTLY.  Cyclings pro market is both tiny and poor, a terrible combination.

    They should make an iPad version and focus it as a way for people to embark in programming in a fun and creative way.  

    As a first programming language I think it is much easier to get ones head around than something like pascal or python.  Having it on a phone would give it broad accessibility to people of all types.

  • dtr

    I'm quite excited about the MSP en Jitter additions. A real boundary in the current version is getting to the lowest level of both DSP and OpenGL programming. It requires stepping out of the patching environment and getting into C and GLSL. I am already learning GLSL and just about to get into SuperCollider for low level audio. Now I'm very curious to see how they approach it in Max's familiar patching environment.

  • 4lefts

    peter's right, there are nice things here. it just doesn't make me go "wow" like it did last time i guess. i like a bit of wow for 200 bones.

  • Excited ๐Ÿ™‚ especially for each top level patcher's audio running in its own thread, and no interruptions to DSP when patching. I do agree that a 50%-of-retail upgrade price is a little steep… but I'm sure I'll do it – especially since I decided to pass up FCPX, at least for now.

    some more detail:

  • Juno

    One big advantage of Max over PD is you get documentation. You can go free, but then you have to pay yourself to teach yourself.

    In saying that Max is getting better documentation, they are concentrating on a main feature of the software. It's like getting a new textbook added in.

  • Peter Kirn

    It's simply not true to claim that Pd doesn't have documentation.

    Second link has a couple of especially-nice free tutorials that I think are worth a browse even for Max users. Miller's writing is a must-read for all advanced MSP users, but newcomers may want to look at:

    For a time, Pd was even arguably better-documented than Max. Now, Cycling '74 has done a terrific job of adding to documentation recently, and I think there is more on the C74 side than the Pd side, especially as the latter is produced largely by volunteers. 

    But I think the main difference remains user interface and workflow. And the way that Jitter and JavaScript APIs are designed really has no direct equivalent in Pd-land, either.

  • Mcpepe

    Excuse my noob question but,
    What is easier to learn? Pure Data or Max?
    I have no experience with any programming languages, so good documentation and more visual/easiest/prettiest is top priority for me. This programming/coding thing is looking very interesting indeed.

  • I would say max is definitely easier to learn – better integrated documentation and lots of contextual help – even currently in max 5. And jitter is awesome. You just pay for these things (but not as much now ๐Ÿ™‚ )

  • Maybe I am reading too hard into what is probably JIT compilation, but doesn't the compile to code sound like something that could be like libpd? I am probably just reading what I want to read and not what is there.

    Also, the JS api is a bunch more, but luaPD seems like it has a few of the features of the javascript object.

  • er make that pdlua

  • Mister Snnnrub

    I'm most interested in the "better sound quality" part. This is the main reason I've stayed away from Max. 

  • Charles

    I'm actually most interested in the "code generation" performance boost (and I bet the add-on won't work with Max 5). I've been banging up against the Max engine's limitations for years now (though I should just finish learning C and get on with it). If I relied on MSP for sound generation then gen~ would be very appealing (but that's another rabbit hole), and Jitter and OpenGL sounds promising, but I've just never gotten interested in the realtime side of video.

    I very much do NOT want any repeat of the FCPX fiasco: a cynical, poorly thought-out and executed attempt to turn a powerful creative tool into a mass-market consumer toy. There are ways to make software more accessible and elegant without crippling it – those ways are just less obvious, less easy, and thus less taken. Max 5 is actually a good example of what FCP *should* have done.

  • Brendan

    @Peter Kirn

    I'm a longtime user of Pd and had no idea there was such comprehensive documentation!  Just quickly flipping through&nbsp ; I saw some useful FFT explanations.  Great stuff.

  • Peter Kirn

    @Mcpepe: I'm going to differ with comments above. Having taught both Pd and Max, I'd say they're equally hard/easy. You're wrapping your head around what is, fundamentally, the same tool. Pd's presently-clunky UI doesn't help much, to be sure, but that said I would still recommend the FLOSS Manual for Pd above. It'll let you take the first steps through the basic learning process and see if you like the Pd/Max patching paradigm — all for free. Then you can decide if it's the right tool for you.

    @JonBro: libpd definitely doesn't do any kind of JIT patch compilation. This is a new idea in the Max/Pd universe as far as I'm concerned, so I'm interested to see it. Really, once libpd is running, it executes patches exactly as though you're running Pd; that's part of the idea. This is something different, and definitely potentially cool.

    Speaking of cool, yes, pdlua gives you the ability to control Pd from Lua. There's a similar effort that works with Python.

  • @jcb
    You have puredata on android, don't remember if ios too

  • mckenic

    Not very excited yet – perhaps I dont know Max 5 well enough to get excited by what has been mooted so far.

    I had the student version for uni, then the upgrade to full and added M4L.

    @Martin –
    Oh yeah, and plus you pay extra to make it run fast ? Did NI buy C74 while I wasn’t watching ?

    I spat cola outta my nose LOLing at that! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • @Peter Yeah, that is actually not what I meant by my response… I am aware that libpd doesn't jit, but I want cycling 74 just to come out and say that this feature is JIT. That way they can go ahead and dash my hopes for getting c code versions of my max patches. Right now their copy can be interpreted as saying that this is libmaxmsp.

  • Peter Kirn

    Well, no matter how you read it, it doesn't read as what libpd does.

    "Essentially, we translate the patch you make into text-based source code, and compile it on the spot. With code generation, we can optimize the entire patch, something that’s impossible with existing Max-like approaches."

    libpd doesn't "optimize" anything about your patch, let alone "compile" it — not in any way. The library reads directly from the text file in exactly the same way the runtime does. So it's still important to make that differentiation. Whatever they're doing, it's something libpd/Pd doesn't do.

    PS, I know the timestamps here are wrong. ๐Ÿ˜‰ We have to fix the template …