ircam

IRCAM is Paris’ legendary research center. It’s the place where the original Max was born, and it’s still a hub for some of the brightest minds in sound in the world.

IRCAMAX 2 is a new set of effects and instruments for Max for Live. And it does some amazing stuff – though maybe the best way to demonstrate that is not to explain, but to let you listen. They’ve made not just demos but some beautiful music, via artist Najo:

What’s nice about this collection is, in a world where we often have superb effects and instruments doing more or less the same stuff, this covers some unique territory. It lets you build on experimental research in sound, getting that bleeding-edge science in your sets.

An overview of what’s included:

A polyphonic synthesizer using IRCAM’s Modalys physical modeling.

A physical modeled filter with the Modalys engine.

A vocal harmonizer.

A “freeze” effect, so you can take sounds – even live sounds – and freeze and manipulate them.

An audio-to-MIDI converter.

A spectral delay.

A grain delay effect. One of the best features here: MIDI-controlled grain transposition, so you can “play” the effect live.

An all-in-one multi effect with delay, reverb, chorus, auto pan.

A utility device for routing MIDI send/receive.

A 3-oscillator, 3-envelope polyphonic synth with a nice modulation matrix.

What’s interesting in all of this is that a lot of it competes directly with Ableton’s built-in facilities – but might do the job better. Ableton’s Grain Delay has gotten a bit long in the tooth, nice as it is; IRCAM’s pitch-to-MIDI may best Ableton’s. Even the physical modeling tech competes, arguably, with software licensed from AAS.

On the other hand, the upshot of this is the ability to completely refresh the creative instruments and effects you might use on a daily basis. And as I think you can hear in the audio examples, some of the harmonization and physical modeling capabilities here are out of this world.

And by doing this all a la carte, Ableton can open up some possibilities that might be too divergent from Live itself to get baked into the normal upgrade release cycle.

I’m looking forward to playing with it.

This is just a preview, not a review – I’ve requested a copy. Cost is €149 / $199, and there’s no demo, so I think a review is a good idea.

IRCAMAX 2: Creative tools from the forefront of music research

  • chaircrusher

    I’m sure these are really high quality things, but $199 is too expensive. I’m sure a lot of business intelligence goes into setting price points at Ableton, and every company needs ongoing revenue. But given that you have to spend more than $600 to even load these instruments and effects, $199 is a price point that excludes more purchasers than it includes.

    • PaulDavisTheFirst

      IRCAM may still bill itself as “where artistic sensibilities meet scientific and technological innovation” but at least a decade ago, they started to have to deal with intense pressure from their funding sources to do “commercial” things with the results of their work. This may help explain part of the price tag.

      • That’s right… though on the upside, at least they are also now contributing to some open projects.

    • James

      Completely agree. The pretense is that I know their reputation coming in and that I can hear the difference off a 128-bit soundcloud file. Plus I have no bearing as to the CPU intensity of their processing, whether they are stable, and if they are lean in comparison to the default devices that they are challenging. If I can by a complete modular platform for ableton with “a buck” how is this worth twice that price? I felt the same way about the first package.

      Not to mention, have they improved upon the basic interface principles of the current offerings? Am I still drag/dropping a sample file for the freeze or modeling synth? Am I mousing around to make filter shapes? Are drop down menus visible to controller scripts? So from a broader view, why would I work inside these devices if I can constrain my options with things I already have?

      • This isn’t a review, just a preview. Those are all very valid questions, and I know money is precious. I’ve requested a copy – Ableton hadn’t sent me one yet – and I’ll have a look and we’ll do a more in-depth take.

  • chaircrusher

    I’m sure these are really high quality things, but $199 is too expensive. I’m sure a lot of business intelligence goes into setting price points at Ableton, and every company needs ongoing revenue. But given that you have to spend more than $600 to even load these instruments and effects, $199 is a price point that excludes more purchasers than it includes.

    • PaulDavisTheFirst

      IRCAM may still bill itself as “where artistic sensibilities meet scientific and technological innovation” but at least a decade ago, they started to have to deal with intense pressure from their funding sources to do “commercial” things with the results of their work. This may help explain part of the price tag.

      • That’s right… though on the upside, at least they are also now contributing to some open projects.

    • James

      Completely agree. The pretense is that I know their reputation coming in, that they have research which independent developers simply don’t have access to, and that I can hear the difference off a 128-bit soundcloud file. Plus I have no bearing as to the CPU intensity of their processing, whether they are stable, and if they are lean in comparison to the default devices that they are challenging. If I can buy a complete modular platform for ableton with “a buck” how is this worth twice that price? I felt the same way about the first package.

      Not to mention, have they improved upon the basic interface principles of the current offerings? Am I still drag/dropping a sample file for the freeze or modeling synth? Am I mousing around to make filter shapes and sonorities? Are drop down menus visible to controller scripts? Is the parameter list logical to the Push layout or do any devices offer takeover? (For that price, I’d also like to know if it serves me sushi omakase?)

      So from a broader view, why would I work inside these devices if I can constrain my options with things I already have?

      • This isn’t a review, just a preview. Those are all very valid questions, and I know money is precious. I’ve requested a copy – Ableton hadn’t sent me one yet – and I’ll have a look and we’ll do a more in-depth take.

        • itchy

          just the facts

  • anders tveit

    For nearly the same price you get your hands on all their products (Premium individual), except the partner products like ircamax + samplelibs.
    Thats 18 software packages, software like Audiosculpt and their Max libs (they have alot of m4l stuff included as well also modalys m4l examples) are worth the price alone.
    So it just a lot more bang for the buck!
    But I guess for those who like everything to be in Ableton Live or does not do any patching or don´t want to use any other software, Ircamax is probably a smoother option..And probably explains the hefty price tag

  • anders tveit

    For nearly the same price you get your hands on all their products (Premium individual), except the partner products like ircamax + samplelibs.
    Thats 18 software packages, software like Audiosculpt and their Max libs (they have alot of m4l stuff included as well also modalys m4l examples) are worth the price alone.
    So it just a lot more bang for the buck!
    But I guess for those who like everything to be in Ableton Live or does not do any patching or don´t want to use any other software, Ircamax is probably a smoother option..And probably explains the hefty price tag

  • digid

    Where are you getting the $199 price? For me, it shows up with $249.

    Which is way too much.

  • digid

    Where are you getting the $199 price? For me, it shows up with $249.

    Which is way too much.

  • chap

    Don’t know about the quality of it, but the soundcloud ‘demo’ pushes me away from it…

  • Lloyd Barrett

    I bought the original Ircamax pack only to discover it wasn’t compatible with Max 7. Not sure if they’ve fixed it or not but it’s a major reason why I’m not going to bother with this one.

    • Really? I’ve been using the first pack without a hiccup since Max 7 came out…

      • Lloyd Barrett

        Just tried it and problem still exists. It’s in SuperVPsynth. The waveform is greyed out and can’t be selected. Ableton support stated “At the moment we however don’t have a specific Max 7 compatibility date to share yet for the respective Pack.” late November last year.

        • Ben Carey

          Hey Lloyd, maybe get onto the guys at IRCAM support and see what they can do. They are usually pretty responsive.

          • Lloyd Barrett

            Thanks for the comments Ben. I downloaded the latest pack and it seems to work. So sometime between May and December it has been fixed. With regard to support I had no response from IRCAM last year and came to the conclusion that perhaps they only provided support to their forum subscribers.

  • Keith Byrne

    They better do the dishes as well for that price.

    • foljs

      Is $199 considered expensive now? Because tons of e.g. Waves plugins are priced at that or higher.

      • James

        If Waves plugins were built on a virtual machine layer and required java runtime, how would you answer your question? (being able to peer under the hood and utilize-or break!-certain patches could be an added bonus or hurt the illusion of a packaged product. So that could go either way with folk’s impressions.)

        There’s also the matter of them being the most expensive item on the Packs shop to date. I think it’s really a matter of managing expectations. If IRCAMAX bundled even a couple devices together, built out preset and racks for them, released them on a seasonal basis, i.e. cut the collection in quarter bags, the grand total for all of them could have been even greater than $200 and resulted in even further downloads, due to the fact that many folks would just pick up the collections they liked.

        On the other hand, Cycling 74 not only has thorough documentation, even for Max for Live, but they dedicated 6 videos on monosequencer, just one device that came with the upgrade. Whereas here you might get a “lesson” to introduce you to this full set of IRCAMAX devices, there’s very little media to whet the palette or train folks on the parameters. So there’s also the matter of added value for the price, and the limit of how I am informed thus far about the purchase decision.

        Alternatively, if they kept the price where it is, started the collection with their first release of devices, but offered lifetime updates and add-ons, like maxforcats modular kit, then many folks would see it as a staple collection, not a luxury.

        A third monetization scheme as mentioned on here would have been if these technologies were the results of partnering with a daw, wired into the native devices, or added on as a promotional bundle. Look at the new filters in Live 9.5 for example. Where’re the endorsements and development partnerships?

  • heinrichz

    Great, but for 199 i will stick with Reaktor Blocks, where i can build my own physical modelling and granular Blocks that sound as good if not better…or i can even download some of that for free from the user library.

  • D@Q

    With this is it possible to apply the harmony effects while singing live?