It seems like all you have to do is change the course of modern music forever, and Google will put one of their best ‘doodles’ on their homepage for you on your birthday. Continue Reading
We’ve been on the hunt again, and for this week’s Around the Web we’ve found you a couple of free gems as well as news of a brand new expansion for Maschine from Native Instruments.
Icebreaker Audio’s Akebono
First up, an interesting an unique set of samples from Icebreaker Audio: the Akebono. The Akebono is a rare Japanese suitcase instrument that has some great sounding taiko percussion, chimes, and really wild sounding vocal ‘yo’s and ‘ow’s that we can hear sounding amazing in the new wave of house, juke, bass music and more.
It’s a free download from Icebreaker – if you have Battery 3 you can load up pre-made kits, but the wav files are provided too. In fact while you’re there you can pick up a few other free and unique sample packs!
Next we’ve got something that’s perhaps a little left-field, but interesting nonetheless. iToneMaker is a free app for iOS that will turn any text into Morse code; if you have a hankering for some covert ops in your music, this could be perfect. There’s plenty of ways to effect the tone, and you can get some pretty musical sounding bleeps out of it even without focusing on getting recognisable code. When you’re done you can export to the web, where you can save an mp3 or even an iPhone ringtone.
Maschine Platinum Bounce
Maschine’s Expansion series keeps on going, and the main thing that the format has going for it is the way that if you have Maschine, all the sounds slip into the library like a hand in a glove. Platinum Bounce is pretty much perfectly timed in terms of sounds, with trap music stretching to booty tech and encompassing everything from new deep house to juke and footwork styles.
At €49 it’s not the cheapest pack you’ll ever buy but the quality of NI Expansions combined with the convenience for Maschine users could just be worth it – take a look and listen here. Let us know what you think – will you pay for this kind of convenience?
That’s all for this week – make sure to Like our Facebook page and join up to our club to get more regular deals and free stuff!
[break]As we beaver away behind the scenes on the oh-so-nearly-here Oh Drat update and work overtime in preparation for NAMM, we’re excited, intrigued, interested, and simultaneously a little reserved about Akai’s hand showing ahead of the Anaheim extravaganza: the MPC Renaissance, MPC Studio, and MPC Fly. First off check the reveal video for the MPC Renaissance:
[highlighted_text color=]So what does this mean?![/highlighted_text] Details are light, and the only current information we have on the MPC Studio is that it’s going to be a ‘slimline’ controller whilst the MPC Fly is an iPad app.
Akai are obviously hurting from repeated blows from Native Instruments’ Maschine over the past couple of years, and with 2011′s introduction of Maschine Mikro and iMaschine, it’s understandable that Akai are really going head to head on all fronts with the Renaissance, Studio, and Fly. [infos]First off, the key information on Renaissance:[/infos]
- It’s a controller with a built in audio interface; there’s no standalone operation here
- It supports direct import of all existing MPC projects
- 16 rotary encoders with LED ring feedback
- Hinged LCD screen
- Combi inputs with phantom power, phono inputs with turntable preamp
- Stereo 1/4″ output with additional stereo 1/4″ mix out.
- Multi colour back light on pads
- MPC Software can use VST plugins and run standalone or as VST, AU or RTAS plugin
- 64 track sequencer
- [list type="type1"]
[biglines]We’ve got so many questions about the new MPC range.[/biglines]
The big shock… apart from the fact that there’s a new MPC at all, of course, is that this MPC requires a computer to run. No brains inside it at all. Are we happy with that? …no, not really. We think there’s something really special about firing up an MPC and not having the hum of a computer or the glow from its screen in sight, and I think many will have expected any new MPC to have capabilities that could be augmented by software, not require it. All that said, it’s also a new dawn, and with so many producers switching to Maschine – and importantly, having a decent enough computer to run the MPC software is now more or less as likely as having a two slice toaster – perhaps it won’t be such a problem. we’re still a little sore though.
There’s no indication as to whether it requires its power supply (there’s one plugged in in the video), although we suspect it does, especially if it’s to provide phantom power AND power the screen. Akai boast ‘genuine MPC pads’, which is something they’ve run fast and loose with in the past and there’s something of a philosophical argument to how much you can remove from an MPC pad until it stops being one. Between the MPC 2500/5000 and now, though, funnily enough people have gotten over the ‘MPC or nothing’ mentality that competitors’ controllers were blighted with for years. Maschine’s pads are extremely sensitive and have a much more consistent feel across the pad surface, and third party suppliers have had large successes both with aftermarket thicker pads and mods to improve sensitivity across a greater area of pad. Not only that, but one of the prevailing determiners of what makes an MPC pad – at least in our opinion – is the soft rubber that’s used, a markedly different feel to the backlit variety that Native Instruments, Korg, et al use. It’s a surprise to see backlit pads, then; we’re a little worried that they look just like the ones used on Akai’s LPD and MPK Mini, and they’re not great. Perhaps it’s the sensors that qualify the Renaissance’s pads as MPC – it can’t simply be that they’re on an MPC controller, therefore they must be! Either way, multicoloured backlights are going to be very useful.
[heading size=]Akai’s first ever MPC software looks… okay, actually.[/heading]
There’s no indication on exactly how much you can do with your eyes away from the screen and hands away from the keyboard and mouse of your computer on the Renaissance, but we hope you can do pretty much everything – including play with plugins – on the unit itself. NI absolutely nailed Maschine’s heads down workflow, and so a company who has spent the past 30 years making instruments that rely on tiny dot matrix displays should be easily capable of pulling it out of the bag. We assume ‘MPC workflow’ means just that; you can work as if you were using any hardware MPC. Perhaps it’s the usability of the MPC Software that we should be most interested in then, because we get precious little indication of the real capabilities it holds. We imagine that despite only advertising VST plugin compatibility that it will also be compatible with AU on Mac (and likely RTAS on ProTools setups), but don’t take our word for it. One potential issue we did notice is that there are faders on the software, but Akai has actually done away with all faders in the hardware. We think it’d make more sense to use GUI elements that either tied in with the controller or were completely abstract, but maybe we’ll change our minds.
Looks wise, we think Akai have made a superb decision.
What do you do when your competitor out-high techs you in the looks department and makes your attempts at ‘modern’ look dated? Go back to your roots. The MPC Renaissance has taken its style right from the MPC 3000; the button shapes, the jog wheel, palm rest, white on blue screen and beige box with red and blue highlights screams ‘classic’, and thankfully Akai have also reverted to their classic MPC logo (the reboot that began with the 2500 was one of my biggest disappointments after switching from a 2000xl!). Only the new backlit pads and LED rings round the encoders indicate that this is Akai 2012. Bravo.
We’re also really interested in audio quality.
Akai boast MPC sound, but MPC sound has always been such a weird thing. No two MPC models sound exactly alike, and it’s always been the converters as the digital audio gets turned back into electric that have given the MPC ‘that MPC sound’. It remains to be seen whether the MPC Software will require audio to go through the outputs of the MPC Renaissance so that sound is coloured by the hardware to really get that MPC sound, whether there’s an internal connection that can enable the Renaissance to perform these conversions, re-convert, and send back as digital audio through the USB cable (that’s probably dream-land, but still…), or whether the MPC sound is just well researched and programmed emulation within the MPC software audio engine. The same goes for the emulation modes – are they hardware or software? We’re pretty sure the answer to all these questions is going to be the most boring – ‘yes, it’s software’, but we can’t help but wonder.
More information as we have it – including on the MPC Studio and MPC Fly as well as what this means for the MPD range – but for now, let us know what you think!
Animoog works with what Moog are calling their ‘Anistropic Synthesis Engine’, which is designed to have the power to create hugely varied sounds with much less fuss and modulation than ‘traditional’ synths. Rather than giving you a bunch of spices that never come out of the rack, Moog have chosen to keep it simple when it comes to effects; there’s just a delay and what Moog call a ‘thickness’ suite, of bitcrusher, drive, and detune. Instead, Animoog’s genius is in its modulation capability.
The main screen of Animoog features a large oscilloscope, but more than that: that green grid has a secret which forms the heart of Animoog. You see, that entire area functions as an X/Y pad, but it’s not just your finger that can move the hit point; you can set up a path for it to follow and an orbit for the hit point to circulate around. Of course, both of these parameters can be played with in real time, with rates, direction of path, and shape of orbit manipulatable. The visualisation of these settings looks gorgeous – Animoog might be an app that non-musos get just to look at the pretty colours.
The visualisation of the settings looks gorgeous – Animoog might be an app that non-musos get just to look at the pretty colours
Notes are triggered with easy to hit keys that sit side by side rather than following a traditional keyboard’s raised semitones. Moog aren’t the first to do this but hopefully other manufacturers start to see how much more sense it makes on a tablet device than a traditional setup. The keyboard can be set to a huge amount of scales, from standard major and minor to blues, pentatonic, and exotic scales, and the keys have some play vertically to allow you to slide a modulation while playing. There’s a pitch and mod wheel that’s hidden by default too, and as well as the standard glide knob there’s quite a cool key correct knob that adjusts how strongly the keys and scales are forced. Turned up just a little bit it does that ‘fragile’ sound very well.
There are one or two UI issues, as the keyboard slider is a bit fiddly and the push>hold>release style of menus isn’t as easy to use as menus that are tapped to open and tapped again to select items. While we’re talking about issues, perhaps a couple more effects – notably reverb – might have been included, and there’s also a bit of a learning curve that’s not really helped by the way there aren’t any tooltips or help pages in the app.
Perhaps the biggest issue with Animoog is the fact that its design is slightly obtuse. It’s easy enough to figure out the paths and orbits by simply tapping around, and the filter, thickness, and recorder settings are all in easy reach – as are the scales and envelopes. It’s the actual sound generation that’s a puzzle when starting out, with the confusing Timbres page the only thing to go on. How it works is quite simple in the end: eight timbres can be selected, one for each row of the X/Y pad. The 16 columns select varients, or ‘evolutions’ of the timbre, so in theory there are 128 different sounds ready to be triggered and morphed between in any one patch.
We’re not sure whether Animoog really is the first professional synth app designed for iPad, as Moog state, but it’s definitely one of the best.
We may have to do a video review of Animoog when the new studio’s set up to show you how mesmerising it looks and sounds. In the meantime, Moog’s demo sounds are below; they’re all just from the Animoog app.
At Oh Drat we wish we could say we used our iPad all the time, but the truth is it gets neglected. Not because it’s not powerful, no; it’s because it’s lacking a little in integration with traditional studio gear (check out our review of the Alesis iO Dock to see one of the only pieces of hardware that tries to give it ‘pro’ specs) and because we have it in our ‘fun devices’ mindset, we don’t pay it enough attention when there’s ‘work’ to be done. Shame on us. We’re going to get more quick reviews of iPad gear onto our pages, starting with Arctic Keys by Red Dog One.
iPad and iPad 2.
|Price at Review: $4.99/£2.99There’s a lot of sound for not a lot of expenditure in Arctic Keys – if you use your iPad for music, you should definitely take a look.|
Upon first opening up Arctic Keys, a familiar picture fills the touch sensitive screen of your beloved Apple device. Arctic Keys is a virtual analogue synth, and to that end it sports two saw/square /triangle oscillators with PWM, a low/high/band pass and notch filter, and an LFO. The filter and LFO both have an ADSR envelope, although the amp unfortunately does not. There are mono and poly modes, as well as a well featured arpeggiator – with a neat feature in the shuffle dial that progressively randomises the order of the arp – and a sequencer that can be triggered by the keys and cycles through note values set by sliders. The EQ and distortion that don’t pull punches (beware your ears with the distortion overdrive!), and a filter delay and chorus section are suitably lively for big atmospheres.
amongst Arctic Keys’ features is a sequencer that can be triggered by the keys and cycles through note values set by sliders
Something I really liked was the clear and concise tooltip displays on the pages, which help you get stuck straight in. That said, there are a couple of UI issues; there’s no way to scroll through presets in the main synth window (although you can bring up keys in the browser to test presets), and you can only cycle things like the LFO destination, filter type, arp type and so on – it would have been nice to be able to select from a menu or at least scroll in either direction. They’re mitigated (although we do hope an update adds in a pop up list option)by MIDI clock sync, onboard tempo with an intuitive step sequencer, a bunch of modulation options, and really great overall sound. Okay, perhaps a couple of extra oscillator types – such as pure sine - would have been nice, but a dedicated noise generator, the pulse width mod, ring mod, and osc mix all come together to give Arctic Keys plenty of options.
All things considered, Arctic Keys is a very good app. It has its flaws, but it sounds really good and it also seems to be quite kind to battery life.
The Alesis iO Dock is designed to be the missing link between your iPad and the growing number of production focused apps for it and your studio equipment. Ins and outs galore, it’s not got a lot of competition right now, so can it step up to the plate? The usual dose of words and photography will follow shortly; here’s our video breakdown of the Alesis iO Dock…
iRig MIDI plugs directly into the iDevice’s interface socket and enables MIDI in, out, and thru, as well as a USB connection for power
We’ve got an Alesis io4 in testing at the moment – review to follow this week – and IK Multimedia have just announced their iRig MIDI, a small, convenient, and low cost device that plugs directly into the iDevice’s interface socket and enables MIDI in, out, and thru, as well as a USB connection for power. 5 pin DIN breakout cables are hooked up via 3.5mm sockets to keep the size of the unit to a minimum, and the package also promises to come with a special iOS version of IK’s Sampletank with 1GB of samples. With no firm release date yet, the iRig MIDI promises that it’s coming soon, and at a not unreasonable price of $69.99USD/€54.99… We’ll be sure to give you the low down when we get one for testing.
Imageline’s FL Studio software goes from strength to strength – and you can expect our full review of the brand new FL Studio 10 next week – but the long standing Windows only hold on the studio in a box software came to an end recently with FL Studio for iPhone and this new video of FL Studio for iPad is very promising.
It’s not a port of the Windows version, more a re-imagining of the brand
It’s not a port of the Windows version, more a re-imagining of the brand, with quite a lot of similarities with Apple’s GarageBand iPad but enough differences and unique features to make it keeping an eye out for.
Also… anyone else spot the slip up in this otherwise good mockup?! It made us laugh, at least.
Hot off the heels of their recent JAM announcement, Apogee have unleashed another new product – the adorably named Mike, the USB microphone. Finer technical details are thin on the ground for now, but Mike promises to deliver Apogee’s PureDIGITAL technology for professional quality recording quality to iPhone, iPad and Mac, all via its diminutive 4.5″ frame.
Mike promises to deliver Apogee’s PureDIGITAL technology for professional quality recording quality to iPhone, iPad and Mac
Mike looks like it could be the ideal tool for field recording, podcasting, and no nonsense multi purpose recording with its plug and play design and iOS ready connectivity. Tech specs and price are yet to be unveiled, but if JAM is an indication of the price/performance ratio that Apogee are aiming for with their ultra portable range then then Mike could be a must have for the on-the-move recordist…
When the iPad was released in April last year, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it took the world somewhat by storm. Despite not being the first to do a lot of the things it was lauded for doing (companies like Jazz Mutant were releasing multi touch screens for musicians much earlier, for instance) it was certainly the most conspicuous; perhaps the iPad’s greatest feature was the way it opened peoples’ eyes and imaginations to the realities of the progress of consumer level technology. Whilst the traditional keyboard and mouse paradigm of computing is some way from being shaken out of its position as the power user’s choice, light, touch friendly apps on the iPad are capturing peoples’ imaginations.
light, touch friendly apps on the iPad are capturing peoples’ imaginations
The way I see it, there are two main barriers to the adoption of the iPad (or of course any other multi touch tablet – right now the focus is on Apple because I genuinely think they’re the only ones doing it right at the moment): power and connectivity. There’s a possible third, too, and I’ll get onto that later.
When it comes to power, even computer nerds are starting to find it difficult to keep up with the colossal speed at which progress is being made. We’re a long way from the simpler times when a bigger number meant a faster processor, and what with multiple chips, cores, faster buses and all the other wizardry that’s being squeezed out of silicon, the number of mHz written on something isn’t really relevant anymore – especially where custom chips built for bespoke computers with matching software are concerned. No, the reality is that technology is moving forward at such a frightening rate that in less than a year, processing power of the iPad 2 is reportedly double that of its predecessor. iPad was already fast enough to run software like Korg’s iElectribe, a very convincing virtual remake of one of its most successful groove boxes, and Akai’s SynthStation, a full studio in a box tool that really proved that iPad meant business when it comes to audio.
When iPad 2 is launched, GarageBand for iPad will follow shortly.
When iPad 2 is launched, GarageBand for iPad will follow shortly. New hardware, from Apogee’s JAM to Alesis’s StudioDock and the Akai SynthStation 49 are all pieces in the puzzle that provide solutions to connectivity issues of such a standalone piece of equipment, with more, I’m sure, to follow.
Predictions? A future update of iOS will improve app to app interoperability, increasing the practicality of investing in the burgeoning iOS synth market and paving the way for Apple to release an iPad version of Logic with a plugin system. Propellerhead, one of the kings of the studio in a box world, will bring out their own studio in a box iPad app and Imageline, the other king, will up their game after testing the water with their recently released ‘in name only’ FL Studio. I’d also be surprised if Akai weren’t to bring out an MPC like sampling workstation and pad controller with audio input for sampling.
But what does that mean right here and now? The truth is, iPad 2 still doesn’t have the power to compete seriously with a desktop operating system when it comes to the kind of quality and quantity we’ve come expect from home studio software. However, it’s more portable, more tactile, and has a much shallower learning curve – if you already own both a computer and an iPad and want to simply enjoy yourself with music, then the iPad 2 is beginning to look like it might be an even better choice than traipsing through the minefield of computer software decisions. And, one day soon, we won’t even have to choose…