What happens when a key relationship in music technology turns a bit sour? There’s no mistaking the music world’s preference for Apple products. But there are some specific causes for concern in the way Apple is handling its desktop operating system and its relationship with pro musicians. First, let me be clear. I’ve covered Apple and music for a long time. I’ve met some of the people handling these products; some of them I’ve known fairly well in a professional capacity. I have tremendous respect for the company, its products, and its management. I’ve been a regular contributor to Macworld …
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.
What do you get when you combine Roland and Serato? Well, a little bit of everything, it turns out. The flagship DJ-808 is a monster mixer controller sampler step sequencer audio interface drum machine vocoder. (Whew!) Some of its functionality is provided in the hardware itself; some is a control interface to Serato software on a computer. But together, you get a device that is perhaps the most ambitious all-in-one DJ gizmo yet.
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.
Make an interface simpler, and you might push your musical expression further. That’s the realization you have using fluXpad, a new drawing app. It’s not that it’s a dumbed-down rendition of other tools. It’s that doodling with sounds is a totally different experience than the point-and-click fine editing you might be used to.
Modular synthesis is everywhere – but there aren’t a lot of new ideas apart from using patch cables to connect them, a concept that dates from the early 1960s and telephone switchboards. Percussa are an outlier – an odd one, to be sure. Their blank, RGB light-up cubes (“AudioCubes”) connect wirelessly, and control associated software. To their credit, while plenty of “tangible” interfaces made the rounds as experiments and research projects, they went as far as commercializing the product. And that’s no mean feat. Anyone with some basic engineering knowledge can snap something into a Eurorack case and be part …
Years ago, when Ableton’s Operator FM synth designed by Robert Henke made its debut, it was a revelation. Its clear panel design and flexible architecture made FM synthesis more accessible to countless Ableton Live users. But now Operator, while still a great go-to instrument, certainly deserves some competition. And that makes Bengal special. The production of Max for Cats (and Christian Kleine, another key designer of Ableton instruments), Bengal also innovates in the area of clear design and architecture. And with a semi-modular design, it goes further than Operator in opening up avenues for creative sound design.
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.
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 …
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.