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Archive for January, 2010

Upgrading to Snow Leopard

I finally took the plunge and spent the weekend upgrading my Mac Pro from Mac OS X 10. 5 (Leopard) to 10.6 (Snow Leopard). It has been a slow process punctuated by fits and starts, but it’s gone more smoothly than I had feared. Almost all my software now runs well, and I’ve found very little that I needed to update. A lot of that’s probably because I’m in the habit of installing updates as soon as they become available, and it’s gotten to the point that most audio software now supports Snow Leopard; that’s what I was waiting for. Still, installation wasn’t without its share of headaches.

Snow LeopardInstalling the new OS was easy enough. I began by repairing all permissions and backing up my startup drive. After that, I just ran the installer and waited for completion. On my first restart, Mac OS X Setup Assistant informed me that Line 6 TonePort Driver was not compatible, but that was all. (As it turns out, there’s no update for that driver, so for the moment, I’m out of luck as far as Line 6 software goes.) I ran Disk Utility and repaired permissions again, and then I ran Software Update three times to bring all the Apple software up to date.

My next step was running Logic Pro and letting Audio Units Manager approve of plug-ins one at a time. Out of 737 it tested, all but a handful passed, but it was a grueling process. Several times the computer refused to recognize my TC Electronic PowerCore, and other times it said PowerCore didn’t support the sampling rate (which was set at 44.1kHz). Logic unexpectedly quit on numerous occasions, and one time when I tried to restart the computer, I got the dreaded black screen of death. I saw a few fatal errors and some error messages I’ve never seen before. After AU Manager announced it had finished, I had to manually rescan a dozen plug-ins that either “couldn’t be opened? or “crashed validation,? and then most of those passed. In the end, only four plug-ins refused to load, and they were all older software for which no updates were available.

Next I began opening other applications. Digital Performer wouldn’t run at all, but I haven’t upgraded to DP7 yet, so I expected that. Ableton Live was no problem; Peak Pro 6, check; Soundtrack Pro, sure thing; MasterWriter, fine; and Melodyne Editor opened lightning quick. When I tried to open Pro Tools 8 LE, though, it reported an “access violation? and quit. When I tried to reboot, I got the black screen of death again. Afterwards, Pro Tools successfully finished scanning 365 RTAS plug-ins, but it didn’t see my Digidesign 003. I restarted the interface and ran Pro Tools again, and then everything worked perfectly.

I continued by opening standalone instruments. Most everything worked, but MOTU Ethno kept crashing until I just gave up. Lots of software asked me to specify an audio output device, apparently not recognizing its previous preferences—easy enough. A surprising amount of software required reauthorizing; I hadn’t expected that.

I’m still trying out different non-audio applications, and so far, so good. I can tell you that most applications do appear to run faster. Now I look forward to exploring the advantages of 64-bit processing. I’ll let you know if I discover anything else significant.

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Related Topics: Emusician, Geary Yelton |

Now We Know: the Apple iPad

Apple iPadToday Apple unveiled the iPad, a mobile tablet device that more than anything else resembles an oversized iPod touch. It runs all iPhone apps, and developers are busy redesigning their apps to conform to its 9.7-inch multitouch display. Of course, you can expect plenty of new apps specifically for the iPad. At today’s presentation in San Francisco, attendees saw demonstrations of NYTimes (a newspaper with embedded video), games from Gameloft and Electronic Arts, and the painting app Brushes, as well as Apple iWork, iPhoto, iTunes, Mail, Calendar, Maps, and the Safari browser. The iPad has an onscreen keyboard like on the iPhone (only bigger), or you can use an optional hardware keyboard.

Apple also announced the new iBookstore, making the iPad competitive with Amazon’s Kindle, but with 1,024 x 768-pixel color and full-motion graphics. The onboard e-book reader’s Page Navigator feature should make it easy to maneuver through hundreds of pages. By partnering with publishers and other content creators, Apple could lead a revolution in book and magazine publishing. (It’s about time someone did.)

And the potential for music production? The biggest problem with the iPhone is that it’s too small for serious work. The iPad is many times larger, but still more portable than the smallest computer. The iPad will undoubtedly give users an entirely new platform for making music.

The iPad weighs 1.5 pounds and is only half an inch thick. It has a built-in microphone and speakers, and it syncs with the Mac and Windows via USB. Inside is a custom Apple A4 processor, the first system-on-a-chip designed by Apple. Up to 10 hours of life for the built-in battery should be enough to compose and mix songs for the duration of just about any international flight.

Apple expects the first Wi-Fi versions to ship in late March, priced from $499 with a 16GB flash drive to $699 for the 64GB model. Versions that support Wi-Fi and 3G should be available a month later, from $629 for 16GB to $829 for 64GB. AT&T will provide 3G service—$14.99 a month for up to 250MB of data and $29.99 for unlimited data—prepaid, with no monthly contract. All of the 3G models will be unlocked.

In 1984, Apple changed the way people use computers by launching Macintosh System 1.0, which introduced millions to the mouse and an icon-based user interface. Using that OS irrefutably affected my career path. In 2001, Apple changed the way we store and listen to music with the iPod. Count me as one who thinks they’ll change things again with the iPad.

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Related Topics: Emusician, Geary Yelton |

Universal Audio Has Been Busy

Massive PassiveOne of the most obvious trends at NAMM was partnering between companies that make audio hardware and software or between manufacturers and distributors. Universal Audio, a company with a long history of collaboration, announced several new partnerships to develop plug-ins for its UAD-2 DSP platform. Working with Manley Labs, UA expects to release an emulation of the Massive Passive stereo equalizer sometime in March. Collaborating with stompbox maker Dunlop, UA is also developing models of classic effects from Dunlop and MXR.

A more far-reaching arrangement was made with the Harman Group, which encompasses numerous pro-audio manufacturers. UA announced forthcoming plug-ins that model Lexicon reverbs, AKG spring reverb, dbx compression and other processing, and even Studer tape machines. Speaking of tape, pioneering manufacturer Ampex is returning to the pro recording market after a long absence to partner with UA in emulating not only tape machines, but the tape itself. Taken all together, these collaborations will result in an even greater variety of processing plug-ins for UAD-2 owners.

Serious Ivory Update

Ivory II, the latest version of Synthogy’s flagship software, is easily the most realistic sampled piano I’ve ever heard. Ever since Kurzweil released the K250, authentic-sounding sympathetic resonance has been the holy grail of digital-piano designers, and the folks at Synthogy have finally hit the mark, doubling the realism of an already fine virtual instrument in the process. In fact, I’m probably as excited about Ivory II as anything I’ve seen or heard at NAMM.

NAMM Day 3

mcdsp.pngSaturday started for me in a NAMM-like way, with the sound of a marching band outside the window of my hotel. I looked out and sure enough, the band that always walks through the convention hall to open the Saturday edition of NAMM was in the parking lot rehearsing. It was a huge band, with uniforms, tubas, and twirling flags. It was pretty wild.

As far as products go, Saturday was an interesting one for me. I saw the new McDSP 6030 Compressor plug-in. It models a variety of vintage compressors and lets you select the module you want in a graphic rendition of a “lunchbox” style processor. It looks really good. I didn’t get a chance to hear it (the noisy NAMM floor is not a great place for audio demos), but, based on everything else McDSP puts out, I would be willing to bet that it sounds awesome. Colin McDowell, McDSP’s CEO told me that all the compressor models were “tweaked” a bit to offer some variations on the sounds of the units they’re modeled after. It’s due out in May, price TBD.

On the subject of compressors, I saw an impressive hardware compressor from JDK Audio (which is part of API), called the R22 ($1195, available now). It’s a stereo bus compressor based on the one in the Paragon touring console, which was popular in touring sound rigs back in the pre-digital days. One highlight is called the Thrust switch, which preserves the high end on your transients when you are really squashing the sound. more

The KAOSS Pad for Pros

Kaossilator ProFans of KAOSS are excited to hear about Korg’s new Kaossilator Pro, a touchpad-based synthesizer with built-in electronic sounds and acoustic samples, as well as 25 preset drum patterns. The x-y touchpad can cover either a single octave or the entire range of pitch. You also get a gate arpeggiator, an internal vocoder, and loop-recorder banks that allow you to create 4-bar phrases and store them to SD cards. The Kaossilator Pro has stereo I/O on RCA jacks, MIDI In and Out jacks, and MIDI over USB. It’s expected in March for $460 retail.

Spectrasonics at NAMM

Spectrasonics 64-bitSpectrasonics‘ big NAMM announcement is the version 1.2 update for its Steam Engine-based plug-ins, Omnisphere and Trilian. Enhancements will include cross-platform 64-bit operation (yes, for Mac users, too), new “juicy” filter algorithms, and an improved browser system. A public beta for current owners will be available on January 22, with the official release on February 22.

Big Names Intro New Waves Plug-Ins

Eddie Kramer Waves plug-inAt the Waves press conference this morning, plenty of new products were unveiled. My favorites were the Signature-Series plug-ins from Chris Lord-Alge and Jack Joseph Puig. Each features dedicated plug-ins for vocals, guitars, drums and more. They’re due out in March and will cost $800 each. Puig and Lord-Alge were both present at the press conference and talked about and demoed their plug-ins.

Waves also announced two plug-ins modeled from classic processors used by Eddie Kramer: a Helios mic pre and a PIE Compressor. Kramer demoed the plugs and said, “When I plug this in I feel like I’m home again. Indeed, the plug-ins sounded very impressive. Kramer played a stereo room drum track, first without processing (which sounded pretty good), and then with the two new plugs dialed in. The track sounded awesome; deep, punchy, and nicely compressed. The Kramer plug-ins are due out in February and will come in native and TDM versions.

Latest Tweets

Waves announced Horizon, a premium collection of over 50 plug-ins. Available in Feb $5750 Native, $9500 TDM.

At NAMM, Focusrite announced the Octapre MKII Dynamic ($699), an audio interface with a Focusrite pre and compressor on each channel.

The Bridge lets you use Scratch Live from within Ableton Live. It also lets you open ALS files in Scratch Live.

Mackie is showing the new Onyx 1640i at their morning press conference, now with Digidesign-approved Pro Tools compatibility.

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Day of the Spiders

SpiderIVEditLine 6 has updated the Spider line of guitar amplifiers, announcing new models as well as a free firmware update and a computer-based editor-librarian. The update, called Spider FX Infusion, delivers 28 new effects to the Spider IV and Spider Valve MkII amplifiers, bringing the total to more than 50.

The software programs, Spider IV Edit and Spider Valve MkII Edit, let you create and edit your own presets and trade them freely at customtone.com. The catch is that using the software requires an FBV foot controller. However, I’m more excited about the two new foot controllers than anything else. For $199, the FBV Shortboard MkII has 13 assignable, high-quality footswitches and a nice footpedal, and the $99 FBV Express MkII has 4 switches and a pedal. Both have USB connectivity and tremendous possibilities as real-time controllers for any MIDI user

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The Bus, EM's editorial blog, features posts from all the EM editors on topics related to gear, recording techniques and much more. It's also home to posts from a selected group of guest bloggers.

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