TNSS: Free for All

So before we start our adventure into Logic, a nice little surprise showed up yesterday:

Reaper M1

Our friends at Cockos dropped an update to REAPER with Big Sur capability as well as a Beta for M1 (Apple Silicon) Macs. Of course I downloaded the Beta… It looks really nice (buttons and other items have been rendered to a higher resolution to my eyes), but I haven’t dug deep into it yet. That will come later.

REAPER AS Beta

TAL’s NoiseMaker running as an AU Instrument in REAPER, and again seems to be working fine. 🙂

Let’s start installing Plugins in Logic. I had already installed TAL’s NoiseMaker and Valhalla DSP’s suite of effects in the last post, so today was all about seeing what would work and how resilient Rosetta 2 is. Logic has to Validate Audio Units before they can be used by other programs (like REAPER), so we have to start there anyway.

Magnus and Frederik over at Sonic Charge have had a great reputation for not really needing updates to their plugs once a new OS comes out. I have always been happily surprised that they ‘just work’ when I do an update, and this is no exception. The downloader worked without a hitch, and their online Authorization System didn’t even blink, and Logic happily loaded them. As MicroTonic is my ‘go-to’ plugin for drum synthesis, it’s nice to have it installed. Excellent.

FabFilter updated a post saying that their plugins work fine on Big Sur. I Downloadedtheir combined Installer, and they are correct that they work fine. Its Validation crawl is the pic for this post. I use FF Plugins in pretty much every session, so doing The Happy Dance here.

IK Multimedia dropped a really nice set of effects called MixBox earlier this year. I really like it so even though they say they are still testing I had to try it. TLDR: it works. Below is MixBox treating a MicroTonic drum track.

MixBox

But not everything was a resounding success. I decided to try Dexed – a really smart Yamaha DX emulator (it will even work as a Librarian for the actual hardware…) but the old Logic Bug of refusing to show new Plugins until you Log Out or Restart your computer reared its ugly head – again. How many years has this been going on now…?

After a (very) quick Restart, it loaded and passed Validation properly. Dexed happily loaded all my presets and receives and plays MIDI data as it should. But if you try to edit any parameters on screen, it ‘glitches’ the GUI briefly before updating. This only happens on playback, but is a bit annoying…

In all I installed multiple Plugins from nine different Developers and only Dexed had any kind of issue. I’m going for broke and installing everything I own.

I’m seriously impressed here. I truly believe I could do a lot of my production on Edsel and notice little difference from my current workflow. A few more OS updates will help things along, and obviously native M1 versions of Apps and Plugins will certainly make things better, but at this point I’d say if you’re interested in Apple Silicon I’m not going to dissuade you. These are very powerful machines. Big Sur runs quite smoothly for such early days, and Rosetta 2 is a masterwork of emulation. Chef’s Kiss, Apple. 🙂

But before we go let’s take a walk into Crazytown, shall we?

One of the things the M1 Macs will do is load iOS Apps – so let’s see if we can download one and make it work.

(Cue ominous music…)

When you go to the App Store on Apple Silicon, you will see a new choice on your Purchases page:

AppStore1

Choose that and you can see all of the Apps you’ve acquired on iOS. Most will say ‘Designed for iPhone (or iPad). Not verified for macOS.’ But you can still download them. I have no idea what to do with them, but you never know until you try…

I decided to try Kai Aras’ ShockWave:

AppStore2

It downloaded with no quibbles. I also figured I should grab something else just in case… I went for the Spectrum Synthesizer Bundle, a nice little synth based on Mutable Instruments Eurorack hardware:

AppStore 3

I was pretty limited in what I could choose from, even though I have a lot of iOS Music Junk. Apparently Developers can choose to not allow their Apps to be used ‘cross-platform’ (iOS and Apple Silicon) – a lot of what I have purchased was nowhere to be found. I have a feeling this might change in the future, but I’m betting a lot of issues (both coding- and money-wise) need to be sussed out first. All good – I’m patient. 🙂

Not really sure what I needed to do next, so I just launched Logic on a hunch. AU Validation window pops up on launch…

IOS AUv3 Validation

Surprise! Logic Validates them just like any other AU Plugin…

ShockWave wouldn’t pass the checks (even after trying ‘Reset and Rescan Selection’), but two of the ‘modules’ in the Spectrum Bundle did. Let’s try to load one up:

Modal

It’s available in the AU Instruments menu. Knobs twist and controls move, but no sound, and no MIDI control whatsoever.

(Cue ‘sad trombone’ sound here)

But still – this may be the foreshadowing of some good things to come. I’ll put this on the list of things to check occasionally as we move forward with the Saga.

We’ll end here on another (quasi) high note for this round. There is more to come, but Logic is doing what Logic does, and it seems AU Plugins do too. Stunned at how seamless this has been.

I guarantee it can’t be this easy though… 🙂

TNSS: A. B. And C.

While I’m in Testing Mode I ran across a few things you might like to know. Oh, and I am currently writing this post on Edsel, so the transition to normalcy is off to a flying start – every passing day is another round of Apps with Bur Sur and/or M1 updates, and comparing Clara Jane to Edsel right now shows maybe 4 or 5 Apps (non-musical) I would really like to have. Not bad for about 5 days in!

And with that bright spot, on to the main points of this update:

A. While poking around the Interwebz® for news and updates I ran into this tidbit from Chris over at Audio Damage:

We have begun our port to Apple Silicon, and have already updated some products. We hope to have everything done by the end of November.

Having said that, it should be noted that our testing has shown that native Apple Silicon hosts don’t really seem to care whether the plugin is Intel or ARM. In our testing so far, our own products are indistinguishable in the Apple Silicon native versions of Logic and Mainstage, as are the other plugins we have tried from our friends in the industry.

On the whole, our general opinion is that as a producer you won’t really notice (or even be able to tell) whether a plugin or host is running native ARM or in Rosetta 2. The CPU load should be more or less the same; the ARM version may be slightly lower, but this is difficult to measure consistently.

This is super interesting. The reports I have read about both Apple Silicon and Rosetta 2 performance are showing that The Mothership® is not only going to radically change the whole Macintosh lineup not only moving forward, but that future really is right here, right now. I’m wagering the true ‘Pro’ versions coming in the next year or so are going to push computing to a whole new level, and we may look at Intel-based systems in less than two years like we look at Power PC Macs of Yore – doorstops.

With Chris’ post in mind I decided to do something to test it (and I need some Software Instruments other than the Logic built-in ones), so I popped over to Patrick Kunz’s House of Awesomeness and even though he says they are on the ball with Big Sur, Apple Silicon, and M1 support is coming soon, I grabbed NoiseMaker to see if it would work since I don’t think it’s been updated since the Catalina updates a year or so ago.

Installer called no fouls, and it passed Logic Pro Validation. A quick sequence didn’t break anything, so very impressed. More testing to come…

Validation Passed

Sidebar: TAL’s NoiseMaker is free, and if you like it please support Patrick and Co. by buying a plugin or six. They are worth every penny and you’ll be supporting small developers. I could say this for a lot of Music App Makers, btw… 🙂

Speaking of, the rest of the Audio Software Devs are assumedly busy at work as the news of updates has slowed to a crawl. Again, this is expected and as I live by the Venn diagram I put as the Post Header (and you should too.) I’m fine with it. Take your time and get it right, but if the Rosetta 2/TAL NoiseMaker test is any benchmark I believe the floodgates will open shortly. I’ll test some other small dev plugins as time allows before then.

B. I have had a very odd hardware issue with Edsel – the Apple Magic Mouse I’m using for it randomly loses connection and refuses to reconnect until I hit a key on the accompanying Magic Keyboard. Happens about once or twice a day. I have used the Magic Mouse with other Macs and even iPads with no problems whatsoever.

I personally hate using mice, and really wish there was a way to connect a single Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad to work on multiple Macs. There’s supposedly a trick of turning Bluetooth off on one machine and then on on the other to switch back and forth, but I couldn’t replicate that – Edsel wouldn’t even recognize either of the Bluetooth devices that had already been paired with Clara Jane. So I pulled my old HP Bluetooth mouse out of the ‘computer junk’ drawer and it seems to work as expected. Looks like I’ll have to get another Magic Trackpad, but there really should be a more elegant solution for this other than lining mApple’s pockets a little bit more.

C. The new monitor and arm have arrived and are put into place. Makes a big difference and switching between both computers is easy. Just the constant swapping of Input Devices is a pain in the you-know what, so I’ll just use Clara Jane’s built-in keyboard and trackpad for any two-device testing.

Desk updated

In the pic above Edsel is on the Big Screen, Clara Jane on her own for the Logic comparisons I’ve been doing. The Arturia BeatStep Pro and UA Apollo to the left of it are connected through the CalDigit dock for Clara Jane (you can see it peeking out below the laptop stand). I need to dig out an audio interface and MIDI controller for the Mini so I’m not listening to sounds from its internal speaker while pecking away at Logic’s Musical Typing keyboard. Time for a trip to the Closet of Discarded Wonders to see what’s in there.

That’s all for today, next time we’ll get into Logic – I promise. 🙂

TNSS: The Chimes of Big Ben

When you turn the new Macs on they make the old breathy startup chord sound of Macs of Yore. It even has a reduced sample rate quality that is oh so fashionable every year or so in the Audio Biz. I’m sure there are thousands of videos out there that demonstrate this if you care about such things. In my case I found it slightly…annoying.

Last night was the Software Update to the last Big Sur release. On Clara Jane, a comparable update (3.83 GB in this case) would take about 10 minutes to download and about 40ish minutes to complete. Edsel chewed through everything in about 15 minutes. There is some speed in here, yes.

The App Store updates were surprising – nothing needed to be updated. I did have to ‘authorize’ Pages, Numbers, and a few core apps to work on this machine with a button click, but a recheck for updates produced nothing. Nice.

Next was Logic Pro. A quick download followed by 40 minutes of ‘Additional Sounds’ (yes, I did the full 80GB lot). A box in the bottom left corner displayed downloading times and installing progress while I puttered off to have dinner. I’m not sure if I’ll put Final Cut or Motion on Edsel yet. I use them occasionally but not that often and they can be installed later if need be.

The first ‘3rd Party’ App I put on any new system is 1Password. They had released a Big Sur-compatible version (7.7) just that day so it was off to Agilebits to get the latest installer. Did have a glitch where Edsel refused to install on the first try, but I launched the Installer again and it went off without a hitch. This is foreshadowing or things to come, I’ll bet…

And so ends my first day with The New Shiny-Shiny.

The next morning I ordered a new monitor from scAmazon®. Desk Real Estate is limited and having multiple monitors is not an option. Told you to be prepared to spend more money than you expected. 🙂

Desk3

(Yeah – this ain’t gonna work…)

The rest of the early morning before EduCorp® duties commence is spent scouring the trade sites for info on what issues other users have found with Apple Silicon or Big Sur and hopefully glean a bit of info on Apps I use that have been updated for MacOS 11. 

For the Music Software side G has a running Thread over at MacOS Audio that is updated constantly. A lot of his info is from email dispatches from the Devs so you might have to do a bunch of clicking through to get the latest info. He does this for almost every System Update, btw…

This is one of the main reasons Pros will always tell you you to wait before updating your system. It’s a long game of waiting for everyone to catch up with the newness and work out the bugs and oddities. If you just check your fave websites and cat videos with your computer then you’ll probably be fine with the latest and greatest. For those who rely on Third-Party Developers to get a lot of their work or play done you have to wait until they have everything ready a few months after the tidal wave has crested. 

Strangely, the November 12th updates showed up for GarageBand, Keynote, Numbers, Pages, and iMovie at lunchtime – 6 days after they were released. Go mApple!

Found that a lot of my needed Utilities, Bartender, Hazel, CleanShot X, and Yoink! have Big Sur versions. Keyboard Maestro looks like it works too… Good news. There were some Upgrade fees involved with a few of these apps, but I expected this – about once a year they begin to creep in, and all worth the price of readmission to me.

Downloaded Office 365 before heading back into the fray and frenzy of work. Will test it later. Spoiler Alert: it works.

After dinner were a couple of things I wasn’t sure about. I downloaded the latest version of REAPER. Spoiler Alert: it seems to work – shakedown testing later.

Then to Valhalla DSP, makers of my favorite time-based effect plugins, based on a Tweet that everything was go for Big Sur.

Sean Costello is Awesome

This makes me sooooo happy, and what a perfect place to stop for the evening. Surprisingly, nothing else I installed had issues after the 1Password hiccup. There are lots of trips to System Prefs to make various Utilities work, but if you’re coming from Catalina you are more that used to this. Most of the apps walk you through the steps on first launch.

In the next thrilling episode we’ll start digging into Logic (and maybe REAPER too)  – and I’ll have a new monitor to make things a bit easier (fingers crossed).

TNSS: Arrival

About this time of the year I’m researching Stupid Music Holidaze® Gifts for an end of the year giggle (and we need as many of those as we can get this year) – but nooooooo. I decide to buy a new untested bit of computer hardware and software and walk everyone through the non-parted Rea Sea of lunacy we call ‘planned obsolescence’. Is it too late to end this and post goofy pictures of Vanilla Ice-themed oven mitts or something? Please?????

(Sip of coffee, 30 seconds of breathing exercises, and one last gulp of coffee)

So yes, it arrived as the Delivery App foretold. Head to the Tube of Yous for gazillions of drool-worthy Unboxing videos if you desire. We are proudly a slow media zone here.

Sidebyside

On the left is my 2012 Mac mini. Quad-core i7 with 16 Gig of RAM and 1.5 TB of SSD’s. It’s been a faithful steed for over 8 years, but it can’t upgrade to MacOS 11 which is why I got the MacBook Pro earlier this year. For those tallying stats it’s the 8-core i9 with 16 GB Ram, 1TB SSD model. On the right is Edsel (the Apple M1-chipped, Big Sur’d The New Shiny-Shiny). Yep, I’ve decided Cupertino can smell the glove – I’m calling it Edsel. The MacBook Pro still needs a name – like Clara Jane (you do know we have access to the same Interwebz® right? So do your research.)

For all intents and purposes they are identical (if you ignore the carbon scoring on the 2012.)

2012back

But from the back you can tell the difference. The 2012 has Ethernet, FireWire 800 (wow – memories!), HDMI, Thunderbolt (v2), four USB 3 ports, SD card slot, and separate mic and headphone jacks.

2020back

Edsel has Ethernet, two Thunderbolt (v3)/USB 4 ports (rather sneaky wording you did on this kids), HDMI (2.0), two USB 3 ports, and the headphone out jack. That’s a lot of empty back panel space compared to the 2012, and at the very least an SD slot would have been a nice addition. Hoping a MacFixit teardown will provide clues as to why so much extra space…

So the drill with any card-carrying AppleGeek® acquiring new hardware is thus: plug it in, turn it on, sign in with your Apple ID, then head straight for the Software Update pane to check for System Updates. After about an hour of waiting on these you can now go check for App Store updates. Wait about 20 minutes or so for that to finish, then open every single freakin’ App you downloaded to download the crud they need to work properly (this is mostly for ProApps like Logic and Final Cut, but you’d be amazed at what else wants additional content). By the next day you should be ready to start working, uhhh, I mean testing.

BTW: with new Mothership® Goodies this process will be incessant for the next month or so. You awaken every day to another Nagbox telling you there’s an update to one of the Tetris pieces inside that got broken since the last time you used it. Get used to it and remind yourself this is why you never buy Version 1 of anything from anyone. I am only mildly joking here, of course.

Oh, and if you’ve never set up a new Mac before you have a wonderfully rewarding few days ahead of you. I’d never spoil the fun, so we’ll just skip over this part, mmmkay…

I encountered the first major hurdle during the ‘turn it on’ phase – it doesn’t like my video cable. I had the old Mini connected via HDMI-to-DVI to my old NEC monitor and figured that since there’s also HDMI on Edsel it should ‘just work’. Nope. Edsel is starting to live up to its name.

My NEC also has a DV port, but that is connected to the MacBook Pro (Clara Jane from here onwards). I grabbed the Thunderbolt 3 cable connecting Clara Jane to my CalDigit TB3 dock and inserted it into one of the Mini’s Thunderbolt ports and Edsel garishly came to life on the screen. (Seriously – the default Big Sur color scheme is blinding…) So it works, but apparently not with my cable or DVI or whatever voodoo is baked into the M1 chipset. So now it’s off to do some Interwebz® research and probably to scAmazon® for the needed wiring. Hey – did I mention that you will spend lots of extra $$$$ in addition to what you shelled out for The New Shiny-Shiny? Yes. Yes you will.

In a flash of ‘Holy Cats – did I just outsmart myself?’ I remembered that I bought one of those portable monitors on sale from said scAmazon® just after I got Clara Jane. Dug the box out of a closet and was pleasantly surprised that not only does it have USB-C – it comes with the cables too. Plugged it into one of the Thunderbolt ports on the Mini and was rewarded with a blazing barrage of colors as Edsel’s interior workings could now be seen. 

Settingup

Told you it was garish! (And sorry for the poor quality – quickly snapped from my phone on the old NEC monitor)

In the next Episode we’ll actually do something with this thing and see if Edsel actually does live up to its name. Wish me luck.

The New Shiny-Shiny

Well hello there everyone! Yes, I know it’s been a while – what else is new…? 😀

So anyway, I bought one of the new Mac mini’s with (cue Angelic Choir) Apple Silicon. It will look just like the pic I attached to the top of this post and I will etch ‘New guts. More glory.’ into my desktop when it arrives as to have the full Mothership® experience. Delivery App tells me it will arrive very day as I write this. w00t!

So the new adventure here for a bit is to document this machine from setup to (likely painful) transition into a working member of the APITE family. Since most of what I do is the day-to-day rote of EduCorp® as well as a lot of musical work from creating to finished product, I’m hoping to give you a sense of the difficulties of major studio upgrades like this.

I’ve mentioned before that you should never upgrade a workhorse machine to the latest Shiny-Shiny and with that in mind my trusty Intel-based MacBook Pro will still be running Catalina (MacOS 10.5) and my ever-expanding array of plugins and apps alongside this testbed Apple Silicon wonder running Big Sur (MacOS 11). I’ve been here many times before with not only the PowerPC to Intel transition, but a raft of other Operating System upgrades and Software changes.

Based on my experience with those I’m very tempted to name the new Mini ‘Edsel’, but I dare not jinx the Cupertino Gurus at this time. This will likely change.

So there’s the setup – at least for the next several posts here. Since pretty much nothing (at least pro audio-wise) is working on Big Sur at the moment I’ll be running on the Apple Pro Apps with a smattering of Plugins that say they are cleared for duty on OS 11. I will keep you up to date with what is and how it’s going. Shenanigans will ensue.

Stay tuned!

If You’re Not Angry, You’re Not Paying Attention…

Well, the only person talking about love thy brother is the preacher
And it seems nobody’s interested in learning but the teacher
Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration
Aggravation, humiliation, obligation to my nation

– ‘Ball Of Confusion’ by The Temptations

Hello everyone, we’re still alive here in APITEland – hope all of you are staying safe too.

I haven’t posted in a while for a couple of reasons:

1) I wanted the interview with Evan to keep ‘top billing’ for a while.

2) Since posting the above a lot has been going on in the world that I didn’t want to detract from.

But I need to get something out, so will keep it short.

There’s a lot of justifiable anger out there right now. From Black Lives Matter, to the fiasco that is the United States’ handling of the Covid-19 crisis, to Millions of Unemployed, to the whole (quoting literal) Ball Of Confusion we’ve been living in for decades continually bubbling up to the surface from every direction as of late. 

Trying to make the best out of our collective nightmare I’ve been catching up on reading during my off-time from EduCorp®. I just finished Angrynomics by Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth, and I highly recommend that you put this on your reading shortlist.

It’s timely, short, engaging, and enlightening, putting into perspective a lot about what is going on with the ‘Average Jane and Joe’ right now. Eric and Mark delineate the differences between Tribal Anger and Public Anger (Echo Chamber vs. Moral Outrage, if you will), and how to tell which is which out there in our firehose of media inundation – and if you are being manipulated by confusing the two by the unscrupulous. Although the book deals with the (as derived from the title) Economic side of things, it really shows that decades of economic inequality is the root of evil for these problems and countless more besides. 

Unlike many other books I’ve dug into lately it doesn’t just say ‘well, that’s why people are pissed off and good luck doing anything about it.’ Lonergan and Blyth present in their final dialog three real-world solutions to our blinding financial inequity that could level the playing field for everyone. They even play by the ‘current rules’ with them – as you would expect a Hedge Fund Manager and an Economist (Lonergan and Blyth respectively) to do. Even if it just gets people talking about these ideas as a launchpad, it’s a welcome change to see them added here. 

You can buy the book from the usual Interwebz® suspects in physical or digital if you must. Buy from Bookshop.org if you want to support your local business. If your local library has it, request it and get it sdelivered if possible. If they support Libby (or other online lenders) you can find it there. But do check it out. It might make you a bit more angry once you finish, but that anger will be tempered towards the ‘Public Good’ rather than ‘Business As Usual’. Because a society is only as free as the least free person in it, and only as wealthy as the poorest soul.

Stay safe, wear a face mask if you go out, and help out however you can out there. Until next time…

The Soul Sounds of Ma Bell: An Interview with Evan Doorbell

(Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Telephone_Booth_Klamath_California.jpg. Ellin Beltz / Public domain)

Hello everyone and my apologies for being absent for a while – told you after the Holidaze® were the busiest time of the year… 🙂

I have an awesome make-up gift though! Through a chance meeting on the Tweet Machine I have been granted an interview with Evan Doorbell.

‘Evan Who?’ you might be saying right now…

Okay, let me back up a bit. Anyone who knows me also knows that I have a passion for all types of technology and especially those who use and understand it to true Mastery. I will happily babble on about Audiocasters and YouTubers who keep it personal, approachable, educational, and entertaining. I’ll watch my pal Brent work in his garage even though I have no interest in cars. Andrew Camarata’s skills will leave me daydreaming of driving skid steers and wanting to build things out of shipping containers – even though it’s miles away from my audio wheelhouse. Over the years I have found so many people creating content that delight and inspire (including many that I’ve linked to on this Blog). But Evan is pretty much where I began this particular journey.

About a decade or so ago I was looking for some telephone sounds to use in a production. While digging in the crates of the Interwebz® I found Evan’s tapes. I listened to a couple and was so floored by his content (the sounds and descriptions of the old phone system were haunting and just silly fun to explore) that I downloaded about half a dozen and listened to them when I got home. I’ve been hooked ever since, and find myself regularly floating back to his pages to grab anything new to enjoy on my limited downtime.

Fast-Forward to late last year when Evan Tweeted he was having an audio issue, and I was happy to step in to see if I could assist. In return he was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me, which I’m very excited to share with all of you. His commitment to The Phone Tapes is something that will inspire and fascinate you in this era where artists and creators jump from project to project, hotbed to hotbed to try and remain relevant. Oh, and he’s never charged a single dime for any of his content. It’s an absolute definition of a Labor of Love and something (IMO) this world needs more of.

With that in mind, enjoy some digging into Evan’s history and currency.

A Poke In The Ear: In your ‘How to Be a Phone Phreak’ series, you describe how you used a piano to match the tones for various telephone company functions. Later on, you used bells and/or whistles for the various tones (and then the ARP Odyssey, but we’ll get more into that in a bit…) I’m assuming you had formal music training in your early days, correct?

Evan Doorbell: Well yes, I took piano lessons for a few years. Also my mom taught me to identify intervals by ear. That started something which just snowballed by itself. Had I had YouTube back then I would’ve learned a hell of a lot more.

APITE: Agreed! Listening to the tapes I’m pretty sure that you have Perfect Pitch (or really good Relative Pitch) – am I correct in thinking this? If you do, it’s a rare and wonderful gift and would explain how you could figure out the TelCo sounds as well as pick out various background sounds later in compiling the various tapes…

Evan: I don’t have perfect pitch except for the sound of a modern dial tone, and that comes from my working with the tapes for the last 20 years.

Whenever I recall a song from the past, it plays in my head almost always one to one and a half whole steps flat.

APITE: When did you start recording phone sounds?

Evan: I started recording on the phone in 1970. The first tape was just a collection of recordings, mostly from tandems, recorded with a microphone held up to the earpiece.

APITE: You mentioned there was a reel-to-reel recorder in your house, and you used cassettes as well. Although I do remember them from the early 70’s, I recall them being a bit of a luxury item (quite expensive for both recorder and tapes). Did you have a job or use allowance money to ‘feed your habit’ so to say?

Evan: Money for cassettes was a problem until I became employed. I don’t recall thinking that because cassettes were expensive.

APITE: When did you get the ARP Odyssey synthesizer? Was it new or second-hand?

Evan: I got the Odyssey new in August 1972. That happened shortly before I went to the Commune, where numerous musical collaborations occurred starting in September 1972 all the way through the Spring of 1976.

APITE: Was the ARP purely for ‘Phone Phreak’ sounds or did you play with bands too?

Evan: I was never in a band but I often acted as the recording engineer and synthesizer programmer for someone’s music project at the Commune.

APITE: How long did it take to understand the ARP’s functions? Was it natural to you or did it take a lot of effort to get what you wanted?

Evan: I used the making of Group Bell jingles as a means to learn about the ARP Odyssey. It was a natural explorative process.

APITE: For the Group Bell jingles and other recordings (like the ‘Dom Tuffy’ vignettes) – how were they recorded? Did you have access to multitrack recording or were you using Sound on Sound techniques (or something else entirely)? Also, did you do any tape editing (splicing) or just fly things in in real-time?

Evan: The Dom Tuffy tapes were produced on an open-reel machine using material mostly sourced from cassettes. Pausing the tape, Sound on Sound, and splicing were all used in the production of those.

APITE: What was your studio like at the time?

Evan: My ‘studio’ for many years consisted of just the Odyssey and a Sony tape deck with its (built-in) microphones. The Sony could do Sound on Sound recording.

APITE: Some of the jingles sound like they have ‘sequenced’ elements in them. Did you have a sequencer or was that just clever use of the Odyssey’s Repeat function (or just damned tight playing)?

Evan: I never had a sequencer during the years I was making Jingles. Sometimes I recorded notes at half or quarter speed on an open-reel tape recorder and speeded them up. That might sound like a sequencer…

APITE: Where did you learn the techniques for recording? Trial and error? Magazines or books? Friends or other people?

Evan: I learned my recording techniques by hands-on experience. Analog tape was remarkably forgiving when it comes to recording. It had a way of smoothing things out that digital doesn’t do.

APITE: In the Atlanta Centrex tapes you mention that you upgraded to a Yamaha DX-7 synthesizer. Did you find the transition from analog (with the Odyssey) to digital (with the DX) confusing? I personally *hated* programming the DX series back then although I find it surprisingly fun today…

Evan: Learning to program the DX-7 was just super cool to me. I jumped in with both feet, having not yet realized that by 1986, over 70% of the sounds it was capable of made it making had pretty much all been discovered.

My best patch for the DX is one that I have sadly lost. It was unique: a bell sound based upon my harmonic analysis of the Big Ben chimes. It was quite beautiful and I’m really sorry I lost it.

APITE: Do you still have (and use) any of the old synths today? Have you bought anything new(er) recently?

Evan: Nowadays I’m not doing anything with music, there’s just no pleasure in it for me including listening these days. I hope that changes.

APITE: It’s also obvious you have a bit of Electronics knowledge (wiring amplifiers to the phone network to make your voice louder early on certainly stands out). Like the question above, how did you acquire this knowledge?

Evan: I was always interested in electronics as a young child. Once when I was four years old I went into a TV repair store where there was an obvious electrolytic capacitor hanging over the desk. The guy at the repair shop was surprised to hear a four-year-old boy say “that’s an electrolytic capacitor.“

APITE: I should also get into your computer programming skills (modding the Apple II to understand voices is absolutely brilliant) with ‘demon dialing’ and analyzing phone calls. How did you find your way into it?

Evan: My learning to program in Apple machine code began while I was waiting for the manager of a Disco to show up with whom I was going to ask for a job. I brought my 6502 (Apple’s Machine Code (or ‘Assembly Language’) protocol from the early 1980’s) book and waited him out. I got the job and was also on my way to programming in Apple II’s Machine Code.

The AutoJan program is what led to the other telephone inventions with the Apple II. George followed pretty quickly it was only a natural progression for me. (Check out his Early 80’s’ Programs1 through 3 for more info on these systems)

Eva, an invention which I haven’t made the program to explain yet, Was a device that made a super high-capacity talk line using the Bell Systems’ new transfer feature. That turned into a small business which ran from 1984 through 2004. What ended that business was changes in the industry enabling competitors to compete with us for no charge to the users. You can’t compete with free except by doing it free, which we couldn’t do because our business had a completely different model.

APITE: I may have missed this in the tapes (I’ve listened to a lot, but there is just so much I haven’t heard!) but did you ever actually work for a TelCo? Seems like you would have been an amazing technician/engineer for one of them…

Evan: Never worked for any telcos.

APITE: Is there anything about your early recording/editing that has influenced what you have done career-wise since then?

Evan: I’ve never had a career involving editing sound or producing audio. I can say that once you start working with sound, that awareness and skill just snowballs. I don’t think I would want a career producing audio, because currently I have a volunteer project (the Phone Tapes series) which pretty much uses up my entire capacity for audio production.

Voiceover work is completely unpleasant and very difficult. I’m constantly dealing with phlegm, hoarseness, mouth clicks, And a general inability to control my voice. I’m constantly having to spit into a rag and edit every two or three words together. It sucks.

Being a Club DJ was the best career I ever had. The only reason I left business is because the music started sucking. There is absolutely nothing like it. I was a natural for mixing, and about a year into my career, Steve (DJ Friend and Mentor) and I worked out a system for programming music that has never been surpassed.

I was the first DJ in Atlanta to use a computer in the DJ booth. But the computer was just a library system containing all the records, their tempos, musical keys, and transitions that had previously been identified. It doesn’t really help in the science of music programming – that’s more a matter of being very sensitive and analytical about the music and I have really high standards.

APITE: Can you estimate how many tapes you have recorded (or acquired) over the years?

Evan: There are about 53 open-reel tapes on 7 inch reels. Most are recorded at 3-3/4 IPS, 1800 feet, Four tracks per tape.

There are approximately 1415 cassettes, most of which are C-60’s, many are C-90’s. (60 and 90 minutes total run time, respectively.)

APITE: How many of the tapes have survived quality-wise over the years? We’ve always heard about tape deteriorating over time and I’m curious if you’ve had to resort to anything like creative editing, or even having to bake a tape to get it to unstick…

Evan: Only one of the tapes was noticeably damaged and that was because it was one that was stored in an un-airconditioned room in New York for many years. Other than that one, there were no noticeable degradation of the tapes.

There were some tapes that I had to bake, but those were defective from the start and baking really did help.

As we all suspected would be the case, the cassette tapes made by TDK show no deterioration of any kind whatsoever. The Maxell cassettes also fared well, however they tended to print-through loud dial tones rings and busy signals right from the get go.

The Scotch brand tapes were flawless, but only the actual tape itself. The pressure pads (which keep the tape pressed against the playback head on the cassette player) all deteriorated requiring me to break open the shells, which were not secured with screws. (some cassette shells can be opened by removing 4 or 5 screws, while some are physically glued together.) There are still little blue shards of Scotch cassette shells hidden in various corners of this room…

ED Tape Xfers

APITE: Are the tapes pretty well cataloged or do you have to listen through and take notes to find out what’s on them?

Evan: The thorough cataloging won’t be done until long after I’m gone. However since most of the tapes were a single subject, I do know what each of those are. There are probably less than 20 cassettes recorded by Ben (Decibel) that have multiple subjects and would need to be gone through for me to know exactly everything that’s on them, but I don’t expect to find any big surprises. Or I should say I don’t expect that any big surprises will be found in this tape collection.

APITE: Do you digitize tapes first before listening/cataloging or do you just take them one at time?

Evan: The digitization process started in 1999 and ended in 2017. The cassettes were all digitized using a freestanding CD burner made by Tascam. Various methods were used to make sure everything was done right. At the very least, I’ve looked at every waveform display to make sure there were no abnormalities. Most of the tapes were manually set to the correct speed when digitized. I’m talking about minor speed variations which would make dial tones, etc. off pitch. Some of the cassettes were recorded by more than one cassette machine and have speed variations within the tape. Those will have to be speed corrected later. I have a whole set of reference tones that I use to get the speed exactly right.

APITE: How long does it take to make an episode, from subject(s), research, scripting, editing, etc.?

Evan: It takes longer than you would ever imagine to produce a narrated tape. The fastest ones to produce are the short phone trip stops, each of which takes about a week of full-time work. The ones that take the longest are the ‘How I Became a Phreak’ series, the first of which took me four years to complete. Actually, it didn’t take four years of full-time work, it just took me four years to get through my cognitive difficulties involved in making it happen. That began in 1998 and it wasn’t until 2002 that I figured out how to end it.

Generally, these take about three months of full-time work. Episode 10 was the most efficient. I think I got that done in less than a month – it was a miracle.

APITE: Let’s talk about how you edit the tapes. You’ve talked about computers (and computer issues – like all of us!) so it’s clear you’re compiling and editing there. Which software are you you using? Have you switched programs over the years?

Evan: I got locked into Adobe Audition when Cool Edit Pro was bought up by Adobe unfortunately. That company (Adobe) shows a contempt for their users in the way they design things but I don’t feel like bitching about that right now. I have to stay with Audition because over the past 20 years I’ve learned to remove extraneous hum from the tapes using its algorithms. Removing hum from the phone tapes is totally an art, and anyone who tries to do it is going to screw things up royally and it would be better to not even try.

Hopefully I’ll have time to put out some how to videos before I die. I don’t expect to die anytime soon but you never know… Any processing of these tapes that produces a result that could not have been recorded in the 1970s is a no-no as far as I’m concerned. I mean if it’s full of digital artifacts, what the hell have you got when you have one of these recordings? You don’t have anything. Better to leave the hum in then fuck it up into some sort of abomination that doesn’t represent anything that ever happened anyway.

I highly recommend Evan’s ‘How I Became a Phone Phreak’ series if you want a great starting point into his Phone Tapes. He goes into exquisite detail of how he got started doing these recordings and it’s just a great tour of telephone history and and enjoyable listening experience as well.

If you liked what you read here, please click the links I’ve highlighted above and spread the word to anyone you think might find these interesting You can find much, much more over at his Soundcloud page. Consider it his ‘Audiobiography’. 🙂

Thanks again to Evan for his time and patience with my queries, and until next time…

Catalina Capers

So, I took plunge. I did a clean install of Catalina (10.15) on my MacBook Pro.

It’s been an adventure.

It was time to clean all the upgrades, shareware, betas, and just things I wanted to test off the hard drive and start anew. The ‘experts’ say this is a good idea to do every year – I do it about every three, because like most of you I have a life and actually want to get things done with my technology.

The installation went fine. Made a bootable flash drive of Catalina, went though and deauthorized everything that needed to be on the old System, and then popped the USB stick in and restarted while holding down the R key (Recovery Mode). Used Disk Utility the Recovery Partition to wipe the drive (no low-level format this time, but did check the SSD integrity) and then let 10.15’s Installer do its thing.

All in all took about 4 hours to get to this point. For some perspective, I usually plan an entire day for this whole adventure…

Apple is always improving getting you up and running after an OS install or update. I can remember when putting in all of the details after a new installation used to take like 20 minutes just to get through all the pages and selections and preferences. It’s getting close to just a few minutes now. Kudos.

After checking all of the stock Apps to make sure my mail settings, bookmarks, and other bits and bobs made their way down the iCloud pipeline, I started the process of installing the ‘must-have’ Apps – 1Password, Hazel, Keyboard Maestro, Bartender, and a few other utilities that were blessed with Catalina Compatibility. Sadly, there are a few I like to have that have not, but I installed them anyway because somebody’s gotta test this stuff out. 

One nice touch here. Catalina makes better use of the Apple Watch for not just logging into your machine, but for bypassing a lot of the BS when installing Apps – including having to type in your password five hundred umpteen times. Just double-click the Side Button on the watch and it goes from there. Might actually shave off a half-hour from total time spent doing this. 🙂

Of course, you need an Apple Watch to do this. The Mothership® will always reel your wallet in somehow…

Next comes the potentially scary stuff – music and audio apps. I know I’m going to run into problems with at least half of what I want to install, so I ignored the ungainly list of everything that I had before and just concentrated on what I ‘absolutely’ needed. It’s all going to get put back on anyway so it’s just a matter of time before my machine is as cruffed up as the old system was.

I went with two DAW’s – Logic and REAPER. Plugins were limited to what had Catalina compatibility at the time. Universal Audio had just released their 10.15 update (yes!) and FabFilter said they were compliant since Summer. Eventide had updated their installers. Arturia had as well. Cockos had dropped a 10.15 compatible version or REAPER just after my installation, but the older version worked fine after telling MacOS is was okay to open it. As of this posting, REAPER has been update to version 6 with full Catalina support and lots of extra goodies to boot. Since logic is an Apple product, you can probably be sure it’s going to work – or at least 86.3% functional. 😀

Izotope was a no-go, and as of this posting is still waiting for an update (2+ weeks after installing 10.15). Bummer

Soundtoys teased with an update, but alas was their last 32-bit version. Again, 2+ weeks later I’m still waiting. Also bummer.

I can’t work without Valhalla plugins, so they had to be installed and tested. Sean at Valhalla has been signing Catalina installers, but the old versions seem to be working fine in my tests.

I decided to push the envelope and install a few AU and VST plugins that I wasn’t sure would work (and developers had yet to comment on). Nothing like living dangerously (you can see a few in the screenshot below).

So after installation comes the really scary part – will the Audio Units actually pass Validation in Logic, because there’s nothing like  seeing this:

Plugin Manager

Yeah, I realize that PaulXStretch was a bit of a (ahem) stretch as I had no idea if it would work of not, but at least a got a pic for the Catalina Verification. 🙂

When installing new plugins, sometimes something seems to get tangled up in Apple’s Validation System. Most of the time you can pop into Logic’s Plugin Manager (pictured above) to select the Plugin and choose ‘Reset & Rescan Selection’ at the bottom left. Most times the Plugin will happily Validate and you’re back in business. Sometimes a Restart and then doing this will get the Plugin to work.

Not with Catalina, bub.

Look at that Error Box above again. It says it won’t scan because the ‘developer cannot be verified’…

So if you try the ‘Reset & Rescan Selection’ button with one of these, you get this lovely message in the AU Validation window ad infinitum

Validation Fail

Try it as many times as you like. Restart until your battery dies. 

Same result.

So apparently now all you can do is wait for an update.

Or do we?

Fortunately, it looks like someone was looking out for us there at the Mothership®

Some Installers (like Universal Audio) will kindly tell you to go to the Security & Privacy System Preferences Pane to allow them to be installed, but many do not – and this tip just might be your savior with a few that are 64-bit savvy and have yet to be ‘formally Signed’ for 10.15:

First, install your Audio Unit Plugin as you normally would by Installer or dragging to the Components Folder. Again, make sure the Plugin is 64-bit compatible!

Next, open Logic. It *should* Validate any new Plugins, but if they don’t seem to show up on the Channel Strip or in the Plugin Manager restart your machine and launch Logic again.

Sidebar Rant: this problem has been around for years now Apple! When are you going to fix this issue?

If you get the validation warning like the one shown above, head over to the Security & Privacy pane of the System Preferences window:

Security Override

See that little blurb under ‘Allow apps downloaded from:’?

That Open Anyway button will allow you to install (pretty much) anything unsigned and hopefully, get your ‘Unauthorized’ plugin(s) to work.

One interesting thing I found when testing this – sometimes the ‘Open Anyway’ button shows ‘Allow Anyway’:

Allow Anyway

I think this might be for those plugins that you have to add to the Components folder manually (no Installer Helper) – you programmers out there can happily correct me on this. 🙂

I’ve tried this with a few plugins that I didn’t think would work (like Airwindows, Voxengo (the Correlometer shown above) and Waldorf’s PPG Wave 2.v and Attack) and surprisingly they’ve worked just fine on Logic and Catalina. Once they pass Validation in Logic they will show up in REAPER (or any other DAW that can use Audio Units) as well.

These ‘tricks’ allowed me to open some needed (and wanted to test) AU’s until the properly signed versions arrive. I haven’t stress-tested those I’ve installed, but for the most part they seem to work as normal for my needs. Hopefully this helps some of you out there in the interim before your fave effect or instrument gets an update to the latest MacOS.

I will also stress (I’ve I’ve mentioned here before) – never update a critical system to untested software! Just because I did it doesn’t mean you should…

Until next time…