The overview screen, for navigating - some overtones of both Kai's software from the 90s and the better stuff from Apple (Sculpture).

Substance is a new software approach to every kind of bass

There are those desserts that are subtle. And then there are the ones that are layered chocolate and peanut butter and cream that you drench in still more chocolate sauce, but in a way that holds together. You know – layering. Substance, a new soft synth from Output, is all about layering. It’s about making enormous bass things out of other already pretty-large bass things. And it represents a nice latest chapter in what the boutique software developer has been doing with sound design

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maclaunch

Here’s the story of how the Mac and Atari found their voice

There’s something magical about the moments in history when computers were able to speak (and sing) like a human. That’s certainly true of Bell’s famous “Daisy Bell” performance (the real-life moment echoed in 2001). But it’s also true of the Mac, which first spoke to uproarious applause.

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maschinejam - 1

Maschine Jam is new hardware built around live performance

These days, various combinations of faders and touch sensors and grids of pads and buttons and encoders and knobs appear with cyclic regularity. We’re past the point of inventing the automobile – we’re down to tuning particular cars for particular tasks. But what do you want to use if you’re really playing live? Maschine Jam is a combination of software and hardware that focuses on that scenario. We’ve met with the team that built it at Native Instruments and have our own unit in now to test, so here are some first impressions.

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serum

Rent-to-own Serum means Kanye doesn’t have to pirate it

Somewhere – tonight, even – some unknown producer is going to make some brilliant new track using software. (Seriously, this is the world we live in.) And when they do, odds are they might well turn to a popular synth like breakout-hit Serum. The problem is this: someone getting started in producing is probably unwilling or unable to shell out US$189 for a single software instrument. So that individual is likely to pirate the software.

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iph_wave

PPG Phonem, now on iPad, synthesizes sound like the voice

One of the things that makes the synthesizer beautiful is that, in some ways, it’s an extension of the voice. From the synthesizer’s early history, entangled with the Theremin and vocoder, to crossovers with vocal synthesis and artificial song, synthesis gives us another means to sing. So PPG Phonem is a lovely addition to that history. Creator Wolfgang Palm has made this a labor of love of late, and he’s on a roll with new synths for computer and iOS. The inventer of wavetable synthesis as we know it and founder/owner of PPG, he’s got the resumé, for sure. You …

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manley_voxbox_hq

Vocalists, track on your computer as if it were outboard gear

Maybe you’re tracking in a studio full of everything you want. But otherwise, it’s tough to argue with the appeal of being able to add tools freely, connecting just the cable from your mic to your computer. And so, for anyone recording vocals, this week’s news from Universal Audio is welcome indeed. It means that you can use a simulation of a powerful channel strip full of gear in software form – but track in real-time, as if you owned the actual hardware. And you can do it for a price that’s pretty humane.

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NI_FORM_screenshot

Form is an all-new hybrid sample synthesizer

Native Instruments has been a pioneer in making tools like Reaktor that employ unique synthesis techniques. But more recently, that power has found its way to self-contained instruments. Tucked into the release announcement of Komplete 11 comes some very big news for lovers of creative sound design and synthesis. It’s a new instrument called Form. It’s powered by Reaktor, but it’s been built from the ground up, according to NI. And it lets you drag and drop sounds to manipulate them into playable instruments.

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cubasis_ruismaker

Ruismaker is an iOS drum synth that feels like hardware, works like a plug-in

Software drum machines aren’t kingmakers the way hardware is. So Bram Bos of Eindhoven is not a household name the way, say, certain hardware makers are. But back in the 90s, Bram’s HammerHead Rhythm Station was one of the first pieces of software that showed what a drum machine in software could be. Flash forward to 2016. Bram is here with an iOS app that’s all drum synth – no samples. And while that puts it in a category with some other apps, it takes a slightly different approach. First, Bram advertises it as “the most hands-on” option for iOS. …

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New live slicing functionality. Courtesy NI.

Maschine adds real-time slicing and other stuff you asked for

There are updates, and then there are updates. There are the updates that give you a bunch of new functionality – marketing tends to love these. And then there are the ones that just make a big slog through feature requests. Maschine “2.4.5” is not an exciting sounding update. But wow, does it ever add a long list of improvements users wanted.

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push2 25

Ableton hacks: Push 2 video output and more

For years, the criticism of laptops has been about their displays – blue light on your face and that sense that a performer is checking email. But what if the problem isn’t the display, but the location of the display? Because being able to output video to your hardware, while you turn knobs and hit pads, could prove pretty darned useful.

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