Life After Slots: What the Mac Pro, External Hardware Mean for Production

“Pro” is a funny word. When people say “pros” in contrast to “amateurs,” “producers” rather than “consumers,” they mean something about relative seriousness. And in tech, they usually invoke these words when they’re looking down on tools they feel aren’t up to snuff. That’s fair. Especially in music making and digital art where money is tight, people invest in tools because they deliver, not just to show off. And they’ve usually been burned by something less-than-pro letting them down. So, when people see a machine from Apple dubbed the “Mac Pro,” they have certain expectations. The problem is, the upcoming …

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3 Approaches to Accessorizing the Studio: SPL, Softube, UA at Musikmesse

How can hardware make the computer-based studio more productive? Each trade show invariably brings new offerings that seek to answer that problem as vendors hawk their wares. At Frankfurt’s Musikmesse, steps from one another, three well-known names each each offered their own take. It comes at a time when the industry is re-imagining the role of our machines. It used to be that big, metal boxes said “pro” – and the studio was no exception. (Cue flashbacks trying to set up Digidesign expansion racks in the late 90s. Okay, now putting that out of my mind.) That’s still true in …

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Thunderbolt means serious I/O for UA's DSP-based processing on the Apollo card - even on a lowly Mac mini. Image courtesy Universal Audio.

The Thunderbolt Age Dawns: UA Ships Thunderbolt on Apollo; More to Come – Where it Makes Sense

Universal Audio is first out of the gate with an audio interface add-on that uses Intel’s Thunderbolt bus, the high-performance, low-latency connectivity option on current iMacs, MacBook Pros and Airs, and Mac minis (though, conspicuously, not the ever-more-outdated Mac Pro). The solution isn’t the most elegant – you need to add in an option card with an included tool – but once installed, Thunderbolt appears right in the box (see image below). And what can you do with all that extra bandwidth? On the Apollo, you get better performance even as you push the envelope with sample rates, and more …

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New Mac Laptops: As Apple Expands I/O Flexibility, Just About Any Model Great for Music

MacBook Air, now starting at US$999 and with USB3 and Thunderbolt onboard. Photo courtesy Apple. Apple, of course, rolled out new Mac laptops yesterday. The most desirable of these – new MacBook Pro laptops with ultra-high-resolution Retina Displays – will require a significant budget, with pricing beginning at US$2199. And it could be worth it for those who can afford them: while Apple has quietly eliminated its 17″ machines, the high-density displays should nonetheless make the 15″ real estate ideal for fitting pro app UIs on the go. But the most important thing to say about Apple’s machines from a …

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Apollo: UA Adds Low-Latency Effects in Audio Interface, Proves FireWire, Thunderbolt are Cool

Universal Audio has long had a successful business selling hardware DSP effects, many of them carefully-modeling classic analog gear. These products use dedicated DSP hardware for number-crunching, requiring that you connect an extra box to your computer. UA has certainly had their loyalists, and for fans of the products, the dedicated gear is simply a convenient way to get all of these sound-processing goodies. But it’s fair to ask the question, as many producers have who read this site, what’s the advantage? Why not simply use native processing on your computer? Apollo, UA’s new hardware, answers that question more emphatically. …

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A New Plug-in Format, Really? Avid Answers Our Questions About AAX and Pro Tools

Alongside its Pro Tools 10 and HDX unveiling, Avid turned some heads by recently announcing it was replacing its RTAS and TDM formats to a new format called AAX, “Avid Audio eXtension.” Now, your first reaction may not be unbridled enthusiasm, exactly: it seems the last thing users are likely saying is, “yes, please, I’d like a new plug-in format to worry about.” But I wanted to give the engineers at Avid a chance to tell us what they were thinking and why they made the move. Avid’s product announcements have unfortunately coincided, presumably because of the financial calendar, with …

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Good Listening: King Britt, Carl Craig’s Planet E Label, and Some Mastering Talk

Carl Craig. Photo (CC-BY-ND) James Kendall. “It must be a Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.” -Arthur Dent, in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy If you’re having any issue getting through your Thursday, it’s tough to beat some proper, good techno – the kind of techno anyone can love, even if they keep shouting about how they “hate” it. Techno pioneer Carl Craig is still going strong, the kind of artist whose work seems to flow freely. He’s got the roots, having begun with Derrick May in Detroit, but he’s remained a font of …

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Universal Audio Adds Plug-ins, Pro Tools and Lion Support; Ampex Lives

Universal Audio has a big set of updates to their DSP software out today. It seems worth sharing in part because I find the (faked) look of that Ampex reel-to-reel does give me a warm and fuzzy feeling, even if it mainly makes me want to get in a studio and hear the whir of the actual gear. Here’s what’s in the update: For Pro Tools users, there’s vastly-expanded support, including native RTAS plug-ins (instead of the VST-to-RTAS adapter), control surface support, proper automatable parameters, and correct naming and sorting, plus a quicker installation and workflow. I’m embarrassed to say, …

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Hands-on: Universal Audio’s UAD-2 Satellite, a DSP Box for Macs and MacBook Pros

With all the horsepower computers are now packing, you might be surprised at the idea of adding on dedicated hardware for sound processing. Or, you can look at it another way: with computers more powerful than ever, with digital processing sounding more convincing both as emulation of traditional gear and in imagining never-before-possible sounds, the digital studio in a backpack is even closer. Into that picture, enter the Universal Audio UAD-2 Satellite. Enclosed in a metal housing about the size of a large-ish external hard drive, the Satellite could absolutely fit into the side pocket of a computer backpack or …

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Game Meets Album: Behind the Music and Design of the iPad Indie Blockbuster Swords & Sworcery

Jim Guthrie was a rockstar long before the iPad was. Paired with pixel-intense artist Craig D. Adams (aka Superbrothers) and the co-design and coding effort of a crack team of video game “wizards” at the indie studio capy, he’s made a soundtrack that’s destined to be a gaming classic. But if you don’t want to play it, you can still listen to it. And if you’re playing it, you may find that it feels as though you’re listening to it, and gazing into its artwork. From the moment you tap to launch it, Swords & Sworcery plunges you into a …

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