Empathy for the Revel(ation)

So the Masthead Pic is the original, Old Skool MPC – Roger Linn’s Linn 9000. More info at Roger’s Museum Page.

I had one of these way back in the day, and it was a great combination of quality drum samples (with optional Sampling capability) and MIDI Sequencing in a fairly portable box that didn’t require you to lug around a computer to gigs. It also had a nasty tendency to crash at the most inopportune moments – usually right in the middle of a tracking session – and happily took all of your work with it unless you had managed to remember to save everything to floppy disk. The technology was so new at the time that the bugs killed Linn Electronics as a company. Roger was enticed by Akai to take his technology there to let their massive R&D Department work out the issues – the MPC 60 was the lovechild of this relationship.

I mostly used mine for traveling programming jobs, relying on my trusty Mac Plus running Passport’s Master Tracks Pro for everything else where the 9000 got relegated to ‘MIDI Triggered Drum Unit’. The Linn and the MPC’s that followed used Event List editing (single line text and gobbledegook for each MIDI note or function) to correct mistakes that the real-time Quantizing didn’t catch. It was slow and tedious compared to the linear sequencing that MTP gave me. If you use Logic or Cubase, or Pro Tools you are absolutely familiar with linear sequencing – it’s that common today for a majority of DAW’s. It also used the Pattern/Chain/Song technique for creating and organizing parts and fleshing them out into complete works. MPC’s still work like that to this day. I’m not a fan of this construction method having dealt with pre-MIDI (and even post-MIDI) sequencers and drum machines. Just not my speed when linear works so much better for me.

When the latest batch of MPC’s came out I took another (more on this shortly) shot at trying them out. I opted for the MPC One since it seemed to tick all the boxes (h/t AudioPilz) and then some. I also found it in great condition for a decent price on The Bay.

I don’t do reviews (that’s what The Tube of Yous is for) but compared to the MPC’s I’ve owned in the past (in numerical order: 60v2, 500, 1000, 2000, 2500) the One just looked like they had finally evolved: big color touchscreen, CV/Gate outs, USB MIDI, network capability, Virtual Effects and Instruments, and a matching (at additional cost) software version that would allow you to move and edit projects easily between machines.

There’s just one big problem – that big, bright, colorful touchscreen.

It provides a lot of information, yes. It makes using the sequencer so much easier, indeed. And it makes tracks and sample manipulation a joy compared to its older siblings. But it’s not like using an iPad or decent Android Tablet. You will make mistakes – a lot of them – because it doesn’t have the screen resolution haptics of those devices you are probably used to. Typing names always misses a character or three. Trying to edit a short note (or a single note out of a cluster of them) will drive you to a lengthy stream of cursing. Clicking on a box to change the value will have you pressing multiple times to ensure its selected. Yes, it’s a big leap above the multiple button presses and Data Knob twirling the older ones had, but it’s a real slowdown when you’re in the middle of The Creative Process. From what I’ve researched this is common across the entire One/Live/X range. You can connect a USB computer keyboard to alleviate the typing process, but it doesn’t allow for any other input device to select or choose things – plus I’m not giving up my lone USB port for this ‘convenience’ (yes, I know USB Hubs can be used but the potential for noise and interference increases with ’stacking’ USB devices).

So after a year of toying around with it I kind of gave up – until I had a revelation about a week ago: yeah, the sequencer is crap (to this day I still can’t find the damned Event List Editor on the thing), but the rest of it is actually very, very usable if you think about it as a ‘MIDI Triggered Sound Unit’ and ignore the internal Sequencing.

To accomplish this I initially thought to set it I could just drag Josephine over and just use Reaper or Logic to sequence it. But then the light bulbs started heating up as I realized that the thing I bought an iPad to do might actually be this thing… At first, the MPC as the centerpiece of my ‘analog setup’ triggering an ARP Odyssey module and a Behringer Pro-1 as sound sources while the MPC handled drums, sequencing, sampling, and audio inputs from the modules. Unfortunately, my small space here at APITE Labs meant I either had to get rid of things at the ‘Analog Station’ to make everything fit or rebuild my main ‘DAWspace’ to accommodate. The Odyssey got relegated to the back of the Junk Closet as I was not about to tackle redoing my main Workspace. Then the Pro-1 joined it as more light bulbs began arcing up. Yes, the iPad would be serviceable as a MIDI Sequencer based on the numerous Apps I had purchased over the years (certainly one of them would do the trick here) and the MPC would be the sole MIDI Sound Module. Simplicity at its finest…

Again, the MPC has built-in Virtual Instruments as well as Sampling and Multisampling (and Auto Sampling!) capabilities. It has an Odyssey, a Solina String Synth, a Mellotron, and it also has a really nice Drum Synth… So everything got relegated to the Junk Closet except the MPC, a MIDI Controller keyboard, and the iPad. The iPad is running a basic MIDI Sequencer (no AUV3’s or Audio Tracks to complicate things). A single $15 ‘1 In/1 Out’ MIDI Interface connects the MIDI Controller to the iPad to input MIDI notes into the Sequencer and sends the MIDI Data out to the MPC. In essence the MPC is a Multi-timbral MIDI Sound Module. I’ve set up Templates on both the Sequencer and MPC so all I need to do if fire them up, load the Templates into each and start creating. I also have a surprising amount of space left for future ‘expansion’ or dragging out a synth to use/sample.

Okay. Yeah, I hear you – that ‘Analog Station’ isn’t so Analog anymore, is it?

This whole experiment is part of that ‘Old School DAW’ concept I was talking about a while back. I had planned to use a few synth/drum modules with a simple Sequencer to see if there was anything to be had by going back several decades in music tech. I poked around with a few Arturia devices (both Beatstep and Keystep Pros) and the Analog modules and a Eurorack system. I didn’t take long for my little setup to become a mess of wires and teetering hardware and I was spending more time connecting things (and preventing them from falling over) than actually making anything useful. Argh.

I next decided to use the old Daniel Miller ‘one or two mono synths’ technique. That’s where the Odyssey and Pro-1 became the main focus for sound creation. The Arturia’s did the job well enough I guess (it’s that Pattern-based structure I don’t care for), but now I required a mixer to sum the audio, and getting anything usable off the Arturia’s into a DAW was cumbersome at best. The MPC was ushered back in to fill that void. It not only could sequence the modules, but record parts as audio or samples that could be saved to its SD Card and easily transferred to a computer. The first problem popped up when the MPC couldn’t be prized into mono-summing its audio inputs for monitoring (it’s just a stereo in and something plugged into the left channel will always be heard on the left – and ditto for the right channel) and after that the whole slew of inanity I ranted on above reared its ugly faces again, leading me to look to a more simplistic setup…

So this is where I’ve stopped, and for the time being I’m happy with it. When I can find time to build/modify the setup to hold more toys I will probably expand this into what I envisaged the ‘OLD Skool AnALoG DreAM SEtuP’ to be. But there are no real answers here at the moment. This is just cataloguing my continual Experiment Fail Learn Repeat method of breaking paradigms and trying new things, even if I’m robbing from the past to get there.

Everyone has a preferred way of creating and working, and this work in progress here might never come to to its true fruition. The winding road of finding simplicity has many a fork in it, although I still think it’s worth exploring as many of them as helps you find the path you need. That old Proverb of ‘It doesn’t matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop’ will be your guide. Keep searching.

Until next time!

Edit: as I was just about to post this WordPress is continually telling me that a cadre of Redditors has somehow found the last post on ‘Everything’s Been Done Already’ – crazy! A welcome to all and hope each and every one of you finds something thought-provoking and useful to your art scattered around here somewhere. Stay creative! 🙂

Everything’s Been Done Already – Time to Look for Something New…

Image Credit Lovingly put into the CC Zero/Public Domain Space and retrofitted by Yours Truly. 🙂

Sorry for the Clickbaity Title, but we need to talk. First though, a bit of housekeeping:

I posted the Featured Image over at the APITE Tumblr Spot. I pretty much have given up on the Tweet Machine® since the Current Incarnate of P.T. Barnum got involved. I do miss some of the people and info there, but after a few months I’d rather seek out their diatribes on better places with longer reads. I think all my Twaddle does these days in announce any postings from here.

Tumblr also allows me to put up ‘Random Nonsense’ quicker than one of the Screeds here, and I’ve found the community to be on the whole a lot nicer than other Social Medias. You can find us on The Tumble Machine® here.

In ‘The New Shiny-Shiny’ Land, Edsel and Josephine are still the workhorses as normal, except I am finding a few slowdowns in my DAW’s (and one of the reasons for this rant coming up) which I am hoping will be fixed with the latest MacOS coming up in the fall… The next post is a TNSS on this subject which I’m sure will be out by the time the new OS is out (I’m done giving excuses for lateness here – I’m just posting here when I feel it’s needed. Head to Tumblr for more habitual postings.)

Okay, about that Title.

For my Daily Hellscape over at EduCorp® I have to be fluent in like five Digital Audio Workstations (DAW’s):

I’ve been using Logic Pro since the late 90’s and am a Certified Pro, so I know it like the back of my hand.

I’ve poked around with Ableton Live since Version 3 so I know my way around, but would not call myself an ‘Expert’ by any means.

Slo Tools (sorry, Pro Tools) is an evil that thankfully the Company pays for, The latest version is the most stable I’ve use in a while, but it is *still* not Apple Silicon Native and has a tendency to show it. I’m not a fan of the Subscription Model they use, and I know there is much better value for your money in the market. Unfortunately way too many Very Important Companies have decided this is the standard so we have to teach it. I avoid it like the Current Heath Crisis if I can.

I’ve dabbled with Cubase over the years and admit that it’s a powerful program, but I find its interface and methodology overly complicated and tends to fill the screen with lots and lots of windows. I know a lot of Postproduction Kids use Nuendo (also by Steinberg) and rave about its capabilities. I’ll trust them with that since I can’t afford to even think about purchasing it… Also on the Steinberg Front I have used WaveLab a few times and it almost became by Grading DAW. It’s a highly regarded Mastering DAW, but I found it suffers from the same quirks that Cubase does, and is way overpriced for what it actually does in comparison to what I decided on using.

(For clarity, I also have UA’s Luna DAW, but it’s MIDI editing is worse than Slo Tools. Which is something I never thought I would say in my lifetime. I gave up on Digital Performer almost two decades ago since Logic did more and better IMO. I’ve used Reason off and on since its inception, but it’s always playing ‘catchup’ with the other Players in the space and just doesn’t fit in with my workflow).

I use Reaper as my Grading DAW. I’ve raved about it before and will here again in a future post, but I honestly think that it’s the best thing out there for a Digital Audio Workstation in today’s market. Stay tuned for more info here.

So – I have all of these on Josephine and save for one (Spoiler Alert – Reaper) I’ve noticed a few things:

1) They all copy the same features. This may take a Version or two between them to parity, but they pretty much all do the same things.

2) They fill your Hard Drive with crap you will probably never need or use – Samples, Loops, MIDI Files, etc.

3) ‘Style Over Substance’ – slick interfaces with skeuomorphic designs that harken back to an era of recording that only geezers like me remember (and really don’t want to see again) and younguns think are ‘legit’.

4) Silly expensive on their own and (for the most part) require additional Plugins to do modern audio production. 

5) They haven’t really innovated in years.

All of the above is easy to understand for people in the Music Creation Space and most current users stick with what they have been using forever because they know how to make it work for them. It takes a lot of time and effort into understanding your tools and how they work, and switching to a different system can be an uphill climb of trial and error to get them to do what you need them to do.

I’m not here to criticize your choice of technology, but I want to concentrate on #5 though – and how it might be holding you back from Moving Forward.

Essentially, all DAW’s do the same thing: record and edit (MIDI and Audio). They can cut/copy/paste bits around. They host Virtual Instruments and Audio Gizmos. They can stretch and mangle audio. They have basic video-syncing capabilities. They allow you to build music or audio structures and then render those to a deliverable format. That’s about it if you really think about it.

But what was the last truly amazing inclusion that supercharged your workflow, or sparked your creative abilities?

For me, Logic’s revamping of the venerable EXS24 into the Sampler and Simple Sampler instruments – but’s that’s not really ‘game changing’ is it? Before that was FlexTime and FlexPitch, or the ability to change tempo and pitch of an audio file to match the current Session. I don’t use they feature a lot these days, since I have Plugins that do it better. Before that (way back in 2003 as I recall) was the elimination of having to use the Environment to set everything before you could record anything. I love working with Logic, but looking back at the timeline I see a lot of change, but not a lot that shows me they are moving the ball forward in recent years. Logic is a very powerful DAW with a lot of included doodads that cover just about any type of of musical style or genre and I still use it quite a bit – but again those 3rd Party additions are what make it usable for me. Pro Tools, Cubase, and perhaps even Live do not include nearly as much relying on you to fill the void with additional expenditures on top of their already steep price tags. (I will say that Live did shift the paradigm for music creation, but it seems to be falling in line with everyone else since then – see Bitwig’s ’splintering’ off as an example here). 

With that in mind, let’s talk about those 3rd Party Plugins since they suffer from a lot of the same stagnation as the DAW’s do… I cut my teeth making music in the 80’s, so I loves me some analog goodness, but honestly how many Minimoog VST’s do we need in the space? How many Wavetable synths, FM synths, Samplers, and ‘Retro’ Drum Machines? How many 1176 Compressor clones or LA2A emulations, or Ancient Console-based Channel Strips? It’s staggering to me how many Devs are just factories for making digital copies of gear 99.9% of modern musicians have never seen, much less used. I have used quite a few of these toys in my day, and the software counterparts do sound identical, if not better that their hardware cousins. They are cheaper, recallable, portable (just bits and bytes and not massive metal contraptions), and you can probably add hundreds of them to every single session.

But I’ll tell you a secret – no one is going to give a shit about what you used on a recording. And no one can tell the difference between an EQ or a compressor that’s built-in to your DAW and the one you paid hundreds of dollars for. No one cares if the bass line was created on a real Oberheim or a software recreation. 

All they care about is do they like the song and does it bring out some emotion in them. Period. All this smoke and mirrors about this is best for that and that is best for this is a distraction from those two points. A song made with great players will need very little in the way of processing (if at all!) – but no amount of hardware or software can fix a lackluster song or a mediocre performance. 

Oh, and don’t get me started on Loops and Sample Packs of all the crusty old genres that are a part of the upcycling of today’s music because no one wants to admit that everything has been done already and it’s time to move on to something new. Yes, there are companies making great experimental sounds and effects – but they are the exception, not the norm, and they are sadly ignored by the masses in a vain attempt to ‘follow the leaders’ in whatever sound is the flavor of the day, week, or month. We have got to get away from this insanity…

(Yes, I understand that Libraries are a boon to creators who have to do a lot of ‘turnaround’ work for video and other media, but when this has become an excuse for ‘cheat coding’ songs across genres you know we’re doing something wrong here.)

Music Technology drives Musical Innovation. Hitting log drums with bones millennia ago, blowing into reed tubes, or mimicking bird and animal calls evolved with technology into the instruments and styles we have today. Next time you get a chance, take a good long look at a piano or a saxophone or even a guitar. Wonder at the technology that went into perfecting that instrument and how many countless hours and incredible failures went into making it. Think about at what point did that technology become ‘The Standard’ and was widely used and just stopped innovating any more. Why did that happen? Did it reach ‘perfection’? Or was it just a usable tool for a particular style that languished into commonality?

The ‘Electronics Boom’ of the early 20th Century developed into the microphones, amplification, multi-track recorders, and electronic instruments we all take for granted today. The ‘Computer Revolution’ of the 1970’s onward accelerated this into what we have today. Digital Synthesizers, Samplers, Virtual Instrument, Effects, and DAW’s are the fruits of that revolution and drove the musical styles of the 80’s, 90’s, and early Aughts.

And that’s where we got stuck – endlessly reiterating the ‘Classics’ instead of pushing the proverbial envelopes. Anyone remember Roland’s tagline from the 80’s and 90’s? It was ‘We Design The Future’. That has now been coded into ’The Future-Redefined’ (which in my opinion is a lame, lazy, and just outright abomination of the original). For the past several Decades they have been churning out Behringer-esque copies of their Greatest Hits of the past with minimal effort put into new techniques and new processes. You can look at Korg, Yamaha, or pretty much any other Electronic Music Manufacturer and see the same trend. It’s really quite sad, and maddening to me since they could be making trends instead of chasing them.

Want to make your mark out there? Stop buying the retreads. Stop giving into the Marketing Machinery that’s taken over the Design Labs and Record Labels and Media. Seek out the new, the weird, the different, the ones trying to push things in another direction. These were the things that made music so interesting in my day (insert Old Man voice here, but I’ll bet you think the same thing when music and pop culture started becoming relevant in your life) was the fact that it felt, looked, and sounded different from the typical guitars and drums and voicing and style that were so prevalent in Popular Music at the time. It was new, exciting, and unexpected. It was that unique mythical creature that not everyone else was hip to… It demanded that I explore and create – not rehash and recycle.

The picture at the top of this post is true – that computer you have right this very moment is the best thing you own creatively. Someone out there has made some really interesting ways (Apps, Scripts, whatever) to make it do things you both want it to do and have never imagined, and if you really want to you can create (code) whatever you want – and there are a lot of people like you out there who can help. But you will not find this from the Major Players in the market – all they care about is Line Goes Up and they will cobble together anything lying around to make that happen. Ignore them.

And this is one of the beautiful things about Pop Culture – it’s always driven by the innovators until it becomes commonplace and a commodity and is then replaced by another iteration or mutation by a new batch of innovators. Be one of those innovators, because it’s the only way to Move Forward. 

Until next time!

TNSS: It’s Your Funeral

Banner Picture from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jambalaya_1969_Jazz_Funeral_2.jpg

Yargh. Ran into this over coffee this morning…

If you’ve lighted over here from over there I welcome you to APITE. I posted the comment on Gearnews before writing this (and besides it’s about time for a new TNSS anyway, right?) so I’m expanding my diatribe from there along with a few updates.

(UPDATE – I posted my comment on Gearnews over 4 hours ago and I just checked – it’s not there. Will erase this update when (and if) it is but you can still read the post in the meantime.)

(UPDATE 2 – It’s 24 hours later and there are new posts there but my comment is still absent. Perhaps it’s my mistake, but pretty positive I hit the submit comment button. Perhaps I’ve struck a nerve?)

Let’s start with (as usual around here) it’s been a while since a TNSS post, because I really haven’t had any issues to report on since the last one. It’s that simple. I’ve had a few snags with various Plugins (and a particularly nasty one from Surreal Machines) – but those were fixed within days and are Plugin issues that we have all had regardless of Platform or Operating System or Processor Type. Bugs happen. Bugs get fixed.

Reaper is out of Beta (Universal App) and still working beautifully. Logic Pro is chugging along swimmingly. Ableton Live? Yep – no issues. Avid is always late to every party, and I don’t really care for Pro Tools (reasons below) so maybe that’s what people are harping on here. But if you are a PT user you have been dealing with this for decades now and it should be no surprise at all so you have nothing to complain about. Maybe Cubase is still a mess (I had endless problems with it on Intel machines – the iOS version is surprisingly rock-solid however).

The only Plugins I’m having issues with are the d16 Group ‘Classic Boxes Collection’ which they acknowledged over a year ago would need major updates, and I’ve found workarounds for those in the meantime if I need those types of sounds. I do believe I’ve talked about this before.

Another reason for my slowness around here is aligned to everything about the linked article at the top – I’m only going to post when I think it’s relevant or useful to the conversation. 

And that’s why I’m posting this and why I commented on that article. Go ahead – read it if you haven’t already. I’ll wait…

Notice anything unusual? Were you able to glean any references to the issues noted? I couldn’t! And this is the problem I have with the post – it’s word jambalaya with no references, links, or real usefulness. It’s typical of the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) School of Modern Reporting (not even going to refer to this as Journalism) and MUST GET EYES ON PAGE Webposting. It’s not marked as opinion, it’s not tagged as anything other than just another article.

And it stinks.

I check a lot of Music Pages over java in the morning: KVR, Sonicstate, Matrixsynth, SynthAnatomy, MacOS Audio, and even Gearnews, just to name a few. I used to like Synthtopia years back (not linking it), but I had had enough of their wretched moderation of the Commentariat (not to mention the wretched Commentariat in general) and the propensity for doing the same nonsensical posts like this one above. Bookmark delete – never checked again.

I understand some people do this for a living. You need audience engagement. You need to pay the bills. But at what cost are you making that happen? I’ve seen this kind of ‘reporting’ popping up a lot in the Music Trades as of late (or maybe I’m just now noticing it), but it makes my ‘Betteridge’s Law’ hackles go up and then it just makes me angry because I. Did. Not. Come. To. Your. Site. For. This. Assault. On. Intelligence. I came here for actual information.

If I see it once then I let it slide because maybe it was a slow news day for you. If I see it there again I am never going back to your site because you have accepted this as normal.

APITE is my baby. It’s my opinions and my experiences and I know that yours may be completely different! It’s not perfect and it’s not something I think anyone would want to read on a daily basis, but I do the best I can to present the most accurate info I find. If I mess up I will correct it. All I want to do is present what I encounter so that it might help someone else along the way. That shared knowledge is what makes us all greater in the long run, and is the true intent of ‘The Power of the Interwebz’.

And I want to keep that going. We should all strive to keep that going no matter the genre or interest. Just give us the truth and don’t be afraid to say when you’ve gotten something wrong. Drop these basic tenets and you’ve lost me as a reader. Betting I’m not alone here either…

So Gearnews, I plead with you – keep reporting on the new and cool in the Music Sphere. Show me the ‘Leaks’ that are intriguing, but I know (and you allude) are likely BS. Do in-depth reviews of tools and toys. But please stop doing these inane posts unless you are committed to doing the deep dive into why.

Because there’s just too much crap out there already.

My opinion of Apple’s M-series (Apple Silicon) hardware still stands: it’s the future of the Platform and just run rings around Intel’s processors as of this writing. They are solid computers with absolute minimal issues for all of the Musicware (and software in general) I have installed on both Edsel (Mac mini) and Josephine (MacBook Air). I also test a lot of Beta software, and have yet to see an issue from any of those I’ve tested other than bugs within those programs. My two M1’s are not ‘locked down’ either – I check for updates at least once a week, so they are running current software. As I’ve said many times before, do your research well and  always check on a machine that isn’t Mission Critical for your work.

/end Rant.

Let me leave you with a some goodness before I go. If you haven’t caught it already, both Audio Damage and ToneBoosters have set some of their ‘legacy’ Plugins free (click the links above for the downloads). AD is Mac-only, but ToneBoosters are cross-platform. For the TB Plugins, click the link above and scroll down to the bottom to the ‘Where can I find older (legacy v3) plugins?’ Text is and click that to access the downloaders. About 70% of the Audio Damage stuff will still run on Apple Silicon mostly Rosetta2) but all of the Tone Boosters Plugins work fine as of MacOS 12.2.1. Nice trend happening here.

Lastly, I’ve been thinking about building a ‘Retrotech’ music computer and might make it a companion to the TNSS series (I’ve even got a silly name for it obvs.). As much as I’d love to go back in time to the heady days of MacOS 8 or 9 and the joys of Opcode’s StudioVision Pro (man, I miss that program), I think it’s going to be more cost-effective to go with something from the last decade or so (mostly for Plugins). For now it’s just a thought, but I like the idea and am actively looking for the hardware. Let me know if it’s something you might be interested in or if I’m just getting Hipsterish in my old age. 🙂

Until next time…

TNSS: Hammer into Anvil

MacOS Monterey (aka MacOS 12.0.1 as of this writing) dropped yesterday afternoon here. I took the plunge and used Josephine as the Guinea Pig. Sizable update with about an hour total install time, but no hitches or glitches or witches (it’s Halloween Season too – so of course had to put that in here.) 🙂

I have been slowly prepping the Josephine for the update over the past few weeks. I went through the process of getting the Universal Audio software installed since they say it’s now usable with Big Sur (MacOS 11), and did a hefty round of both software and plugin updates to match what was already on Edsel. Everything was checked for usability with Big Sur before Monterey was due for release, and I found nothing other than the ‘usual’ problems I’ve had with Bug Sure® over the past year, the biggest two are talked about below. 

The Banner Pic above was my biggest problem. That’s supposed to be GForce Software’s Oddity2 ARP Odyssey emulation. It’s one of the first Plugins I purchased way back when and has always been one of my absolute favorites (just like the real hardware). No matter what I tried (reinstallation, Rosetta mode, waving chicken bones over the computer) it would produce sound as normal, but the graphics were gobbledegook – meaning no adjustments could be made to the on-screen controls. Although I have a few Presets for it as ‘starting points’ I like to tweak and create. Whatever was happening here made this impossible…

So this morning I tried opening Oddity on Josephine in ’standalone’ mode. Holy Cats It Works Again!!!! I closed the App and launched Logic, which was still in ‘Rosetta Mode’ to authorize the UA and IK Multimedia Plugins that prefer to be AU Validated that way. Sure enough, Oddity looked as it did before Bog Sore®. I quickly created a MIDI Pattern in Logic and let it run while I twiddled with knobs and sliders – it was so good to have it back again…

Out of all those updates I did before prepping Josephine for MantaRay®, Oddity2 was not one of them. I did update to the latest Logic Pro (10.7), so wondering if that fixed it I opened Logic on Edsel which is still running Blag Sour®. Nope – even with the Logic 10.7 update (and the 11.6.1 ‘Security Update’ that came out yesterday) Oddity still has the graphics issue. Not sure what Monterey Jack® did, but this is great news. However, I tried to install d16 Group’s Nepheton (another old fave) on Josephine and it unfortunately still crashed Logic when I tried to Authorize it. In their defense, the d16 Crew states they are aware of this issue and a fix will happen sometime. Insert Sad Trombone sounds here because I use these a lot too…

D16 Error

I will check the few other Plugin issues I had and put those results in a future post. For now I’m just happy that I have my beloved Oddity back in action. I got the Korg Odyssey as a part of their Collection 3 Bundle Upgrade, and although it’s a great little synth, it just doesn’t have the sound the GForce version has. I tried to match sounds I’d created in Oddity2 on the Korg, and although I could get close, the Oddity just runs rings around it as far as I’m concerned. 

The other major annoyance I had with Bag Slur® is this:

DMG Eject

This would happen on the odd Installation, and there is no way to get the damned thing to eject other than a User Log Out (which might bring up the Force Eject Dialog Box to allow you to get rid of the Disk Image once you log back in) or just doing a Restart which guaranteed its removal. Again, no amount of shenanigans and goings-on I tried would alter either of these two solutions, and it didn’t happen with every .DMG – just plain unrepeatable and weird. I have yet to encounter this on MacOS 12 as of yet, and will let you know if I do.

As for everything else I have no complaints. My Productivity Apps continue to allow me to be productive, and what few Utilities I’ve needed have performed as expected. Would I recommend you update before the ‘Recommended Point One’ version?

Not really.

If you’ve been reading this series then you know the drill: if what you have is working the way you need it to, don’t upgrade until you can take the time to work out the problems or you have another machine to test on. However, if you are having the same kind of Plugin issues that I was having with the Oddity, it might be worth the hassle. Not sure what Apple did here, but kudos to the Programming Team. 

So I did have a question asking if I was going to upgrade to one of the newer MacBook Pros with the M1x/M1Max chipsets. The simple answer is ‘Sure, I’d like to have one, but not right now.’ From everything I’ve read so far they are incredible computers, but honestly I’m still impressed by the power of the original M1’s in both Edsel and Josephine. That 14’ is the sweet spot for me, but my MacBook Air is really close to that size now.

The Dolby Atmos® and Spacial Audio updates in Logic Pro might require a future upgrade (thinking a year or so) but both of my machines handle these just fine in the simple tests I’ve done. I also have other things I need to take care of beforehand with my pittance of savings…

I’ll call it here for now. Monterey (what – no snarky Portmanteau?) works, fixes some annoyances (at least on my devices), and other than (again) resetting every one of my Mission Control Desktops to a retina-searing color scheme (easily fixed) is so far a better version of Big Sur (yep – snark over…) – very similar to the old Lion/Mountain Lion upgrades of yore.

At least for the time being. 🙂

Until next time…

Life Slips By (and I Want You)

(Image Credit)

Hi everyone – still here, still extraordinarily busy with EduCorp®, and still (mostly) doing well with the M1 Macs. Waiting on Monterey to drop before the next TNSS post so I can give you an idea of how everything is jacked up yet again. Stay tuned…

In the meantime, I wanted to drop a few things from the past week I found significant.

The passing of Richard H. Kirk from Cabaret Voltaire/Sandoz/too many other Projects to list here was the kicker for me last week. Kirk has been a long-time influence on art, music, and music technology for me since I started dabbling with it in the early 80’s. So although I’ve spent the last few days reminiscing by listening to a bunch of his tracks, about all I can say is thanks for the influence Sir and you’ll be very much missed in my little world.

High point for the week: I have no idea how I’ve missed this for so long, but I just discovered it Friday and now you should too.

For the uninitiated, Martyn was the founder of The Human League back in the late 70’s before being tossed out. He and HL bandmate Ian Craig Marsh went on to form the British Electric Foundation and eventually to notoriety with Heaven 17

I’ve been pouring through the interviews, and they are just addicting. Yes, there’s a lot of music geekery in there (tech heads rejoice!) but there’s also a lot of history about the early electronic music scene and behind-the-scenes of who did what and how and where and when. Hearing Stephen Mallinder and Chris Watson (both original CabVolt founders) wax on about early days and current affairs riveting listening, and although Martyn says he wanted to but never got to interview Richard Kirk, I have a feeling that Kirk’s penchant for solitude would have amounted to nothing ever being recorded anyway. 🙂

This is one of those ‘must listen’ audiocasts, even if you were just a fan of the music and care nothing for the business or tech behind it. He’s up to 57 episodes as of this writing, so get cracking… 

Until next time…

TNSS: Checkmate

This Episode is a short one – busy as always here in APITEland…

All is working smoothly on Edsel and Josephine for my day-to-day tasks. There are a few odd issues here and there – mostly with Plugins that haven’t been ‘Big Sur’d’ yet. Some d16 Group ones that can’t be registered along with a couple from Full Bucket Music that refuse to show any on-screen knob, slider, or button movements are the main ones that come to mind. Nothing that can’t wait for fixes as they don’t interfere with what I need to do.

So the worthiness of this post (and a quick giggle) is that EduCorp® got me a new computer after about five years.

I now have another Clara Jane.

I didn’t have the heart to tell IT that my M1’s will eat this thing’s lunch so it will look as brand new when they come to collect it in another five years or so. I’m also betting by that time I will get a second-gen Apple Silicon model from them while I’ve been doing actual work on a third- or fourth-gen machine personally purchased.

I’ve named it Grumpy after the sticker I slapped on it to prevent accidental usage. (Main pic above)

I really like our IT Team, but honestly this is just a waste of money and resources and will be near-obsolete in a few years’ time. They really need to think ahead on these things…

Until next time!

 

TNSS: Dance of the Dead

The Banner Pic for this Episode comes from Remko van Dokkum under the CC Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Clara Jane has been sent off to pasture. Okay, she’s actually been sent off to a new owner who will certainly appreciate her more than I. As the M1’s are performing so well here at APITE Headquarters, it was either move it along or let it languish in a box in the closet. I’m tempted to say good riddance to the Intel-based Macs, but I still have my old 2012 Mac mini hiding in said closet in case of dire emergency. That old adage of ‘If you have one, you have none’ I just can’t shake. 

I’ve also debated on whether to replace my Synology home server with the old Mini – both have their strengths and weaknesses, but it really boils down to usability and interface (I use about a hundredth of what the Synology can do, and the Mini can also work as a functioning computer) and that the Mac uses about 6 times the energy. For something that mostly streams videos to an Apple TV for the youngest I’m not sure if it’s worth the hassle of setting up, migrating the data, and replacing one thing in said closet for another. We shall see.

So the big news is I got my Universal Audio Apollo Twin working on Edsel. I was a bit hesitant about booting into Reduced Security mode but after keeping an eye on their forums of people who have done this already with minimal issues, I decided it was time. The process was smooth and painless – essentially what installing UA software is like anyway, which is a bit more convoluted that just running a typical Installer. If you want to try it, the directions are here. My Apollo is an older Thunderbolt 2 model, but works perfectly with Apple’s Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adaptor. I bought one of these for about $50 to use the UA hardware and software on Clara Jane.

The Audient EVO I talked about in the last installment is working well enough, but I did have to fiddle about with DAW/Mic balance during student project grading. It’s simple enough to do either on the interface itself or with their App, and it works as you’d expect it to. However, UA’s Console makes this automatic every time the Apollo is connected and a DAW is launched making it easier for my ‘set it up so you can forget it’ work style. I also like the added headphone gain that the UA’s have that others can’t do Bus-powered. So the EVO is now working as my iPad Pro audio interface and as a traveller for Josephine when needed. I’ll wait for the ‘official’ Installer from UA that does not require any fudging about in Recovery Mode before I install it on the Air.

I’ll pass along a neat trick from the UA installation directions – if Logic Pro has trouble Validating Plugins you can force Logic into using Rosetta in its Get Info window (go to the Applications Folder, select Logic Pro, and choose ‘Get Info’ from the File header in the Menu Bar. Click the box in the picture below to enable it). Then close the Get Info window and launch Logic. Once Logic is running under translation, you can launch Logic’s Plug-in Manager (in the Menu Bar go to Logic Pro > Preferences > Plug-in Manager…) and select one of the errant Plugins (look under the ‘Compatibility’ column for anything not ’Successfully Validated’) and click the ‘Reset & Rescan Selection’ button at the bottom left of the window. Repeat this procedure for any remaining Plugins.

This came in silly handy not just for the Universal Audio stragglers, but also for a few IK Multimedia refusals and even a Waldorf Edition 2 update that just wouldn’t pass AU Validation. Once you get them all up and running, quit Logic and then uncheck the ‘Open using Rosetta’ box in its Get Info window. The next time you launch any AU-capable DAW the Plugins will work as they should. Nice.

LPX Rosetta

Another bonkers thing that popped up was iLok License Manager missing something that disables it (did not get a screenshot of this, but you’ll get a Dialog Box about some Extension or whatever missing that causes it not to be recognized.) This happened after both the 11.3 and 11.3.1 updates. A quick reinstallation of the iLok License Manager software solved the issue each time, and I’m not sure if this is The Mothership’s fault or iLok’s. This also puts that nagging particle in the back of your brain of ‘what else got broken that I haven’t discovered yet?’ So far I haven’t encountered anything else weird, so fingers crossed it’s just an iLok software bug.

Don’t let this hold you back from installing the latest updates – 11.3 and 11.3.1 fix some serious Security Issues, so even if you’re running the Intel version of Big Sur just follow the System Update recommendations. There are even fixes up for Catalina and Mojave, so that should let you know how important these are.

That’s about it for this edition of TNSS. In somewhat-related news, I did get a 4-pack of Airtags even though I rarely lose my keys or other items. They are impressive technology if you have an iDevice with one of the U-series chips (iPhone 11 and above I believe) for really accurate location fixing. AppleInsider’s William Gallagher has been doing great reporting on them if you want more info. Now I’m just waiting on delivery of some cheap silicone cases that don’t cost as much (or more!) as one of the Airtags…

Until next time!

What I Did Over My ‘Summer Vacation’

(This Episode’s Banner Photo “Thinker thinks about how to take sun burst shot” by davidyuweb is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0, and can he found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/55514420@N00/4446734924)

So it’s not really Summer yet, but in The Sunburn State® it certainly feels like it. Hopefully your corner of the world is a tad cooler.

I decided to put a ‘Secret Experiment’ into effect over my April Break. 

This idea has been in the back of my head for a while – get some ideas out of my head, record them, and then post them online to a public-facing music site with no publicity, fanfare, or anyone else knowing about this. The plan is to see whether or not any of these can find some kind of audience and if they can, how long it might take – if ever.

My aim here is to fill up the ‘free’ amount of space allotted with the ’non-paying’ tier and then stop. After that I might do this again with another musical iteration if I feel it’s gaining any traction (or if I’m still full of weirdness I need to get out….) The idea is to see if they can get some kind of attention naturally – by pure discovery – so when I decide to ‘spill the beans’ on all of it is unknown as of this point. I will do on update on this in the future though just to let you know how things are progressing, if at all.

Yes, I understand that I have ‘beans all over the floor’ at this point by putting this here, but you don’t know all of the details – and I’m not divulging anything that will help you out just yet. There’s an ocean of music out there, so finding my droplets is going to be very difficult and incredibly time-consuming. I used the ‘Login with Apple’ service to keep things more anonymous, and although there are tiny giveaways planted here and there on the actual page, it should not trackback to me directly. Good luck if you feel like pursuing this, and with that said remember that I’m not asking anyone even try. This is an experiment in listenership, not in hacking. 🙂

These ideas are far, far off the beaten track. I like a good melody, so there is always going to be that element in whatever I do, but all of these tracks are pure childish playtime – tinkering with toys I haven’t played with (or played with enough) mixed with the usual oddities and sounds I have always loved. I don’t even know if anyone would consider this listenable except myself, so let’s find out. 🙂

In the meantime, some of the takeaways on the sorry state of affairs of Online Music Self-Publishing as I see it, with a actual high spot or two as the capper:

Within 30 seconds of creating my account (with nothing actually uploaded yet) I had my first follower – pr0n spam. Five minutes later I had my first offer for guaranteed followers (for a price, obvs.) Both were expedited to the Trash Bin and reported as Spam. I would like to again point out that nothing had actually been uploaded to the site at this point – just the account created. Insanity.

I checked the next day to see if magically anyone had found it. I actually got a like from someone who also wanted me to know they could guarantee followers in exchange for my cash. Several more of these popped up about every other day for the first week, so the Bots are omnipresent to fulfill their creators need of being a Middleman in return for doing absolutely nothing. Ignore them all, even if you are being serious about doing this.

Surprisingly after a few days I got an actual play by someone halfway across the globe, so there is life out there and a brave few are still actively searching for something new. This is welcoming news, but the big questions are will they come back? Will they spread the word? All delicious unknowns…

Over the next few weeks I uploaded a few more tracks (five total as of this writing) and three have received four total ‘likes’ (one of them has even gotten two!) but other than the one lone seeker, the rest are Repost Accounts and Botniks. 

So I’m in early days here (letting this run through at least the remainder of the year), but in the flooded backyard of ‘DIY Publicity’ it feels like some pushing of the brand is still a necessity for engagement, although I’m not sure what I would do that isn’t already being beaten to death out there already. I would be interested to hear Michael’s thoughts about this, although I’m sure there’s a bunch already on his Blog I’ve forgotten about. 

There is just so much available out there with everyone scrambling for the brass ring of notoriety that it almost seems futile to try anything – hence this experiment. Yeah, maybe with ‘poppier’ tracks I might have more success, but there’s a lot of that out there too waiting to be unearthed – and it’s really tough to find the rubies in the dust.

Again, I’ll do an update at some point on this. In the meantime, keep doing what you do best and just get it out there for others to find. That might be the best solution to an overcrowded market.

Until next time…

TNSS: Many Happy Returns

(This Episode’s Banner Image “Lemons” by Tim-Hoggarth can be found here and is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

Holy Cats, it’s April already.

I’m sure everyone feels like it’s been a decade or so since we’ve been enduring the COVIDocracy, but at least there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel that doesn’t look like an approaching train coming at us. In the meantime, continue to stay safe out there – mask up, keep your distance, and stay home if you can.

So over the last few weeks I’ve officially made the move to using Edsel as my permanent computing machine. Pretty much everything is up and running for my needs with the exception of just a few bits and pieces – more on this shortly and the workarounds I’ve had to put in place. 

I’ve grown to really like Big Sur (MacOS 11). The last few iterations are beautifully stable, and has tied in a lot of the janky things that iOS seemed to do better like Messages, Notes, Calendars and Reminders – those little things that are really useful when everything seems to cooperate together in the Apple Ecosystem. I’m hoping The Mothership® doesn’t break it all when they show off the OS updates likely due around June.

My love affair for the M1 Macs has also grown as I’ve been using them more and more. In fact, I have a confession to make – I bought another one to replace the MacBook Pro.

There were two main things that pushed me to send Clara Jane packing off to retirement: first, the fact that everything is speedier, snappier, and just more transparent (work-wise) on the M1 Macs. These machines are noting short of stellar and I’ll give you the main example of this later (at least with what I do at EduCorp®), but the real kicker was the damned fans on the 16” MacBook Pro . 

I’ve been using Macs since around 1985 or so, and computers in general since the very early 80’s. I’m betting that in that time I’ve owned at least fifty of them – and likely I’m undercounting by a dozen or so. I’ve bought them new, refurbished, and used, and in one way, shape, or form I’ve gotten years of use out of all of them. Sometimes they had to be replaced because of hardware or software deficiencies. Others could be upgraded with more memory or hard drive upgrades to keep them going, but I really can’t think of one that I would call a lemon – they just worked. Even with the ones that sounded like decrepit vacuum cleaners when they were put under a heavy workload earned their keep. But I’ve honestly never had any one of them annoy me as much as Clara Jane’s incessant noise. 

Of course, this could just be because I’m old and I’ve learned my lesson from years of hearing abuse. Or that I’ve been working in much more quiet environments since moving to the education realm. Or it could just be that every single simple task turns an 8-core Intel-blessed i9 wunderkind into a screaming jet engine in a matter of nanoseconds. Editing an Excel sheet? Whooooosh….. Have too many Safari tabs open? Whirrrrrrrr…. Wanna play a video? Break out the headphones…

Sure, I could have a dud – they do happen. But a bit of web research tells me I’m not alone in my feelings here. There are plenty of complaints about the heat and the fans on the 16” Macs. There are also many about the (near daily) dropouts of Bluetooth or WiFi like I get on Clara Jane. And again there are just as many gripes about the extremely slow Touch ID sensor. Yeah, It might be a clinker, but like the Butterfly keyboards a generation or so back there are lots of people affected by them even if collectively they are just a few drops in the ocean of products shipped and in use – and when you have one of them it just makes every single chore with it unbearable. By the way, if you take this paragraph in for a second you too will experience the incredible karmic irony at play here. It was in January that I decided I needed to move forward to find a replacement.

So of course I retaliated by buying another MacBook – an Air this time. Say hello to Josephine:

Josephine

(That’s Cherry Audio’s Polymode running on the Reaper ARM Beta)

Again, I’m not going to go into my naming strategy as of late – remember that you and I have access to the same Interwebz® and I discussed this back in Episode 1. The DNA between Edsel and Josephine is near-identical though. Same Processor and Cores, same RAM, same storage. One of them is just more portable.

You may be asking yourself why I chose a smaller ‘entry level’ 13” machine with two less USB-C/Thunderbolt ports after having a Pro model with more connectivity and more screen real estate?

Personal Preference.

Before I got Clara Jane I had a 2015 13” MacBook Pro, and I truly loved the size and portability. Unfortunately, the dual-core i7 was getting really slow for some of the tasks I need on a daily basis. So when I decided to upgrade I figured I would once again take a plunge for that ‘Monster’ computer that would do everything I needed now and for the foreseeable future, and would stay that way for years to come. Although I liked the screen size on the 16″, it was heavier and bulkier to move around after using a smaller model for several years prior. My experiences with the M1 Mac Mini and reading multiple reviews that the latest Air was only slightly slower than its MacBook Pro counterpart I knew I wanted to get back to having something that I could easily move about the house (or out and about when we finally can) for when I don’t feel like standing at my desk where Edsel is anchored.

I’m also aware that new M-Series Macs are due soon and a 14” Pro model might be in the cards. But I don’t want several months for that to become available. Also remember that we’re in a Supply Chain crunch as far as computer chips and other electronics go. Josephine was an affordable, powerful computer that was in stock and ready to ship. What comes in the future might be more difficult to get, more expensive to purchase, and may not even happen at all. The Air just fit the bill for what I needed now – and I’m silly happy (and happily productive) with my decision.

The Reaper ARM port is working well enough in its Beta form that I can use it for my grading purposes. Again, a sizable chunk of my Plugins are working on the M1 as Native or under Rosetta and perform as I expect them to. But there are rubies hidden in the dust too! Render speed (Bouncing audio files out) within Reaper is 30% faster on Edsel and Josephine that is was on Clara Jane. Workflow is smoother and doesn’t get in my way. Again, everything just works… These M1’s just absolutely crush while staying quiet, cool, and focused. I have also had none of the other nonsense with wireless disconnects or TouchID lag. Clara Jane can happily rock away on the porch (well, actually shutdown in a backpack) until it might come of need or get moved along to the next owner.

The two minor problems I had to deal with are Soundtoys (still no love for M1 Macs, but they are Big Sur on Intel approved) and Slo Tools, and I expect these to be fixed very soon – Pro Tools just announced Big Sur capability, but again only for Intel processors as of now.

The real issue is (still) Universal Audio. Although they have a ‘workaround’ for getting their software and hardware drivers to work on M1 Macs, it requires putting the Mac into a Reduced Security mode, which I’m not going to tinker with and would rather wait for an ‘official’ release before I can put it back to use. I swear by my Apollo Twin audio interface for its impeccable sound quality and rich feature set, but I still have stuff to do while they make sure everything works as they want it to. So I need a Plan B.

My venerable Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (I think it’s a second generation) just works with all the Macs around the homestead and it even happily connects to the iPads if required – with no drivers needed. I’ve been enamored with Focusrite’s sound and quality for years, but I’m spoiled by that big beautiful volume control knob that also shows the current level right on top of the Apollo Twin and the dinky knob on the Focusrite just was driving me batty. So I took chance on one of these:

Evo4

(Oooohhh – lens flare…)

I’ve used Audient’s interfaces before and have been impressed, but when you have an Universal Audio one they just seemed a bit similar and yet no comparison when you factor in UA’s impressive software. But Audient’s EVO series seemed to press all the right buttons for what I needed: USB C connectivity, Bus Power, available with 2 or 4 inputs, Hi-Z (guitar) input, intuitive design, and all for just over a hundred bucks for the 2-input model. And it has a big beautiful volume control knob that also shows the current level. 🙂 Every function is easily set from the top panel, the sound quality is superb, and there’s more than enough gain on the headphone volume to drive every set I have in the studio (about at dozen at this point…) The build is solid, but it is plastic (corners have to be cut for this kind of pricetag), so although it’s portable I’d be take some precautions when transporting it – don’t just toss it into a bag or backpack willy-nilly.

That big green button on the bottom left is an auto-gain feature for the inputs. I’ll set my own thanks, but it works fine for those who just want to get a good level and start recording. It also has an loopback feature that actually works pretty well. Many interface manufacturers have added this feature for the Audio- and Videocast Set, but the EVO’s have a well-designed software panel that makes this quite usable. Certainly worth a look if you’re in the market.

That’s the state of The New Shiny-Shiny for now. Plenty more to come so pop by every so often to see what the latest hubbub is.

Oh, one more thing (had enough with the Apple cliches yet?) – I put Josephine on to charge last night and have spent today (since around 5 30 am) finishing up a bunch of installs and setting audio program prefs as well as messaging and web browsing and editing pics and writing this in between. At this time (4:30 pm) I have 52% battery left. Welcome to the future – don’t be jealous. 🙂

Be seeing you – until next time…

Happy Dynamic Range Day 2021!

Been listening to the livestream, and as usual there’s some great tips, tricks, and mostly a lot of positivity. You can catch the info and check out a replay by going here:

https://dynamicrangeday.com/dynamic-range-day-2021-live/

I must say that after several years of jamming Loudness Units and True Peaks and just not slamming everything into the Bus Processing as hot as possible, they *are* getting it.

And I still agree that you can be more creative dynamically rather than just making things loud.

Anyway, all good things – go check out the site above.

Before I go disappear into the eternal void of work and self-distancing I will say that I have the next installment of The New Shiny-Shiny coming up very soon. Progress is being made!

Hope all of you are staying safe, and have a fun and informative Dynamic Range Day!