Bastl’s Thyme is an advanced digital effect inspired by tape

What if you had an effect in hardware that acted like tape – with tape heads, adjustable speed, and so on? But what if that tape were … digital, instead of analog? And what if it were run by a … robot? And sequenced? Wait, huh? Well, step again into the wacky imagination of Bastl Instruments. They showed off an early prototype of this concept back in 2015, only to have the hardware go off the radar for a while. Now, it’s back in a more or less completed instrument, one that delivers on that early potential. It’s called Thyme. …


The best music tech April Fools – and some of them are real

April Fools may have become a wasteland of bad jokes and actually-misleading news items, but our ever-inventive music tech community has come up with some stuff that’s rather clever. And then some of that, in turn, is actually real. Here are our favorites from this year: Ableton Sax for Live easily wins April Fools 2017 – on the quality of its demo video alone. (Those are some well-known Ableton figures delivering these stellar performances, too.) But the best part of Sax for Live is, it is actually a real, free download. And the instrument, designed by Ableton’s ace sound designer …


Analog Strings from Output melds string orchestras, string synths

There are string synths. And then there are sample libraries of orchestras. The strings synths produce sounds that are recognizably vintage, and more or less unrelated to actual orchestras. The sample libraries can get into obsessive compulsive detail and sound like an orchestra. But either way, we’ve been there before. There are great string synths around, but they tend a certain direction. And sampled orchestra libraries, while great, give you that feeling that what you’ve really done is to skimp the musicians of the Bratislava Radio Orchestra on a gig (and your feeling of being in the room with a …


Eventide want to change how you think about processing audio

Digital signal processing is some futuristic stuff. It may not be able literally to let you traverse space and time as relative dimensions, but it can treat time and frequency separately and mash them back together. And that’s already freaky enough. Now, Eventide – the folks you know probably for their classic hardware and reverbs – are pushing that notion right into their marketing, dubbing their approach “structural audio.” Structural audio sounds a bit like a panel presentation you went to at an Audio Engineering Society conference that sounded fascinating but completely lost you and then you went looking for …


Dispersion makes it crazy easy to get that bouncing ball delay sound

You know the sound. Bah bah bahb bh bh bhbhbbbbdddd… And you’ve heard in … some track. Somewhere. Okay, you know, words really aren’t the greatest thing for describing particular audio effects. So just listen: The “bouncing ball” delay is just one of the sounds available in Dispersion, a new thirty-dollar audio effect plug-in for the Mac. You get organic sounding delays that are all synced together to match a groove. That gives you tight choruses and stereo widening, nice crunchy-grainy delays, and other shuffles and diffusion and, you know, delay sounds. It’s an especially nice combination of very useful …


There’s a new wave editor for Mac and Windows, and it looks promising

Most hardware and software for music making has generally gotten better, but not the dedicated audio editor. This once-proud genre of music software has fallen on hard times. Tools have been acquired, discontinued, received too-few updates. Some of the better tools we’re left with look like they came from another decade. And that’s too bad. Because having a tool devoted solely to day-to-day audio chores is a really good thing. Maybe you’ve got a set of samples you want to crop and clean up to load onto your drum machine or into a software sampler. Maybe you’re sorting through a …

Photo (CC-BY) Martin Hearn.

Get the sound of an abandoned US surveillance tower, free

Over fifty years ago, it was built in West Berlin atop a mountain of rubble to listen in on the Communists in the East. And now, the infamous Teufelsberg UA National Security Agency tower can lend its cavernous sound to your tracks. It’s available as a free plug-in for Mac, Windows, and even Linux, and it’s open source. Someone found this idea appealing already, as the impulse samples we wrote about previously became the creators’ most popular download. But now, you get a plug-in you can drop in your host. It’s actually a pretty nice array of stuff here: Lush …


Spaceship Delay is an insane free plug-in inspired by hardware

Spaceship Delay is a free modeling plug-in for Mac and Windows with some wild effects. And it’s made possible partly thanks to the openness of hardware from KORG (and us). The plug-in itself you shouldn’t miss, and if you’re interested in how it’s made, there’s a story there, too. First, the plug-in — it’s really cool, and really out there, not so much a tame modeling effect as a crazy bundle of extreme sonic possibilities. In fact, it’s as much a multi-effects processor as it is a delay. Here it is in action, just quickly applying some of the sounds …


The MotherF***** is the DIY delay-reverb box of your nightmares

If you want a nice, pristine, versatile delay/reverb, then … this isn’t it. It’s called the MotherF***er 2 for a reason. It’s the creation of Ewa Justka, engineer and musician born in Poland and based in London. (Ewa was also nice enough to co-host the MusicMakers Hacklab with us at CTM Festival this year, where she was a patient and inspirational guide for our artists in inventing all manner of new things.) And this pedal is all sorts of crazy in all the best ways. Keep watching, as there are actually a bunch of different possible sounds in there. And …


If you use NI stuff, get Native Access and Maschine updates

A public service announcement: if you use Native Instruments software, you should probably check out Native Access if you haven’t already. There’s a good chance it could make your life easier, and keep you up to date with software like the Maschine update that dropped last week. Here’s the deal: NI software has in the past been scattered across a set of manual support downloads and two tools, one called Service Center and one called Komplete Downloader. And odds are pretty good you’ve head a headache with one of those tools at one time or another. A new piece of …