Teenage Engineering Release OP1 Update (12616)

March 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

Teenage Engineering uploaded a nice gift for their user base yesterday with the release of a new operating system (OS#12616) that you can download from TE’s website. Below are some features that have been added/fixed:

– Tape import from external material now possible.
– Added MIDI Start and Stop.
– Added Finger key copy.
– Sequencers now respond to external MIDI notes.
– Battery indicator improved.
– Added MIDI indicators in the signal flow screen.
– Added Hi Res rec level control in tape screen with shift.
– Drum Sampler snapshot saving did not always function correctly. Fixed.
– What you hear downmix was not done correctly. Fixed.
– Ghost jumps backwards could sometime result in a gap in playback. Fixed.
– LFO did not update all graphics correctly. Fixed.


Amazing Machines Brings MIDI to the Korg Monotribe for $88US

March 22, 2012 § 1 Comment

The Korg Monotribe was 2011’s geek toy to have, an analog monophonic synth that squeals like a 303 with classic Korg MS-20 filters. It’s a fantastic machine and for $230 it’s one of the least expensive ways to get into subtractive synthesis.A recent update for the Monotribe brings new functionality and improved sequencing  to the device and Korg have recently announced a Mono Mania contest where you can win a 24-karat gold-plated Korg Monotribe (fresh!) But.. (and it’s a big but) the one drawback to this device is that is does not have MIDI capability built-in. This seems to have been a calculated choice as Korg seem to have built this device with modification in mind.

Part of the reason for the Monotribe’s popularity is the open-source attitude that Korg seems to have taken with this product. While opening the device will void your warranty, Korg have included notes on the inside of this product that actually illustrate solder points to MOD your Monotribe for further functionality. Now most of us (myself included) don’t own a soldering iron and haven’t the slightest idea of how to start tinkering with the electronic side of this device. But that’s where Amazing Machines comes in. This Brazilian company is offering a plug-and-play solution to MIDI for the Monotribe for $88US. Check out their site for more info and for a full breakdown of the process involved, Sonic Lab (below) has a nice video that shows what you’ll need to do to install this mod. Positively brilliant. Can’t wait to get our hands on one.

Teenage Engineering OP1 + Ableton Live – MIDI LFO

March 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

In SYNTH and DRUM modes you can press SHIFT + T4 to access the LFO section. Here is a quick demonstration on how to use it. Enjoy!

Numark iDJ Live – A Fun Little Surprise with this iPad Djay Controller

March 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

Numark iDJ Live

Last week I became slightly obsessed with finding a DJ control surface for the iPad. There was a possibility of hotel party on the weekend and I didn’t want to bring a computer or DJ rig.. but I really wanted to bring some music. The iPad itself is not an ideal dj interface; the lack of tactile control ruins the fun for me. Now you’d imagine that within the prolific world of DJ applications there might be more hardware controllers on the market for iPad use. But most developers have focused on the application side of the experience rather than the hardware.. and there’s really not much out there besides this piece of hardware designed by Numark that works with Algoriddm’s popular Djay iOS application. So I gave it a shot.. what the heck, right? Sam Ash has a 30 day return policy. But you know what? After a week of playing with this thing, I don’t think it’s going back.

Now I feel the best way to approach this mini-review is in Top-Gear style (if you’ve never seen Top Gear, they have what I’d call a reverse complement-sandwich approach) where I’ll begin with where this device falls short and why you’d never want to use it for a pro gig. I really didn’t think that I would like this device for the sake of it’s DJ-Hero style design and immediately upon opening the box I realized this interface lacked many features that I take for granted in other dj setups.

The initial groans happened when I realized that the headphone / monitor functionality of this program/device happens via a simple 1/8th inch stereo to mono splitter cable. This means you must run a mono output if you want to use monitor headphones. In addition there’s no headphone volume on the iDJ Live (a splitter cable gives you the headphone output). After playing around with the output options on different stereos I concluded that I could not deal with the sound of this split/mono signal. Some modern house tracks seemed to phase into the abyss without the stereo field. The next issue I found was that the EQ works fairly well but there’s no mid-band EQ, only Hi and Low (mid exists in the Djay app but not on the interface). The third thing I realized about iDj Live was – no pitch faders. The pitch faders do exist within the Djay application but they are therefore on your iPad – not the place where I want to find them. Upon realizing this I thought – well the sync better work.

And here comes the good news. The Djay application is actually a well-designed app that has been finessed to give you the feel of working with vinyl. The BPM detection and sync functionality are actually really good. Djay misread the tempo on a few of my tracks but for the most part it could detect and match the BPM of most house tracks I ran through it along with some dub, bass, techno and electro. Now an interesting thing about the sync feature is that it doesn’t seem to work the same way that Traktor does with Beat Grids. It does detect a Beat Grid, and to some extent it reads the timing / phrase. But it’s not always accurate. Strangely, this is part of why I started to like this device.

While Djay offers a beat-matching functionality, it’s not perfect and therefore you have to pay attention to the mix and adjust things as you go. With Djay and the iDJ Live I found I had JUST ENOUGH control over the mix that I could keep it running for a good three or four minutes. There are four buttons (two for each deck) at the top of iDJ Live and I found that a quick press in either direction could nudge a track back into the mix fairly easily. The platters on the device are actually a lot of fun in Scratch Mode, but be sure to switch modes when you’re using the EQ because a small bump can skip your record. I can forgive this because the scratch function is tactile and accurate. I found that I could drop a beat into a mix by hand and quickly get things in sync with minor adjustments.

As a DJ who came up on 1200s and CDJs, I like beat matching. I believe this love has a lot to do with the meditative side of the DJ experience. It also provides the gratification of training your ears and timing. When I am IN the mix I find more spontaneity in my mixing and choice of music.  When I’ve used Traktor I find that my mixing is often very structured and when the Sync button is depressed I get incredibly bored with the DJ experience. With the iDj Live and Djay app, two things happened that made me enjoy the experience. First, I had to ride the mix a bit (even with sync being used) and the control experience of the platters reminded me of turntables. Second, I got away from my computer. I spend far too much time in front of a computer monitor and I’m eager to get away at any chance. The iPad is not exactly getting away from the computer but  it’s different enough (and small enough) to make it feel like a different experience. Add to this the tactile control for scrolling through your music library with the Numark hardware, and it just feels better than a laptop.

One benefit of using the iPad as your music source is that you must decide what to put on it. By limiting my music selection to whatever fits on the iPad there is a back-to-roots sort of thing happening. It used to be that you had to fit ALL your music into one or two bags for a performance and you’d practice with those tracks. Today there is endless possibility for selection when you have a 3TB hard drive and I find that a lot of DJs don’t take time to create a flow with their mixes. I’ve always felt that art is best created with limits, and DJing is no exception. I’ve recently found a nice workflow of dumping all my new tracks onto the iPad and then later using the iPad and iDJ to sift through the music and find mixes. For some reason the experience is much more gratifying than dropping tracks into Ableton or Traktor. Being away from the computer allows me to listen differently and I can discern which tracks need to stay in the collection and which can go.

Currently iDj Live sits on a small shelf in my living room with the iPad plugged into a small Bose portable speaker. It sounds nice when the levels are set at 50% – just loud enough to rock out but soft enough to not bother the neighbors. I don’t use the splitter cable nor do I use headphones for mixing with this unit. I find that the waveform display allows me to cue up a track visually while using the platters and the bpm sync is usually close enough to drop the track in and use the + and – buttons to get things running in sync. The EQ is not extensive but if I find tracks that work together in this sort of setup they are guaranteed to work together in a pro format. And that’s part of the point of all of this. When I play professional gigs I’ll most likely use 1200s,  CDJs, and possibly Serato/Traktor. But I don’t have room for a massive digital DJ setup in my house (and I’d rather spend that money on synths these days).  I’ve been looking for a solution to this dilema and for $80, the iDJ Live seems to be working fairly well. It’s small, light, easy to use and a lot of fun to have sitting around for spontaneous mix sessions. I look forward to future updates of Djay as well. Algoriddm seems to be doing great things with this program.

Ps, Did I mention that my 14 month old LOVES it?

Behringer CMD Studio 4A + Command Series DJ Controllers

March 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

– 4-Deck DJ MIDI Controller with 4-Channel Audio Interface
– Highly integrated 4-deck controller with built-in 4-channel USB audio interface
– Powerful 4-channel USB audio interface with 24-bit converters and ultra-low latency operation under Windows and OSX operating systems
– Large 6” touch-sensitive high-resolution control platters for precise control
– Class-compliant MIDI protocol enables DJs to use the CMD Studio 4A with any MIDI software
– Professional 100 mm pitch faders and 60 mm volume faders for ultimate feel and resolution
– Complete mixer section with crossfader and 2 channel faders, 3-band EQ, EQ kill, FX assign, cue and track load buttons
– Full-fledged deck sections including key lock, pitch control, auto looping, 8 hot cues and full control over 2 FX modules
– Backlit buttons responding to the application – no need to look at the computer screen
– MIDI-reactive controls take your eyes off the computer screen
– Slim tabletop design for ultimate portability
– Compatible with other BEHRINGER CMD controllers for full expandability
– High-quality components and exceptionally rugged construction ensure long life
– Conceived and designed by BEHRINGER Germany

Allen & Heath Xone: K2 Audio / MIDI Interface

March 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

A few months back Allen & Heath announced a new controller, The Xone K2, “an elegant, compact controller for any DJ software with no fewer than 52 hardware controls providing up to 171 MIDI commands across 3 layers – plus the ability to link multiple units. Xone: K2 has the power and flexibility to put you in touch with everything from the essential functions to the fine nuances of your chosen software.”

Allen & Heath have enjoyed incredible success amongst pro jocks with their  Xone: 1D and 2D performance controllers. They have a reputation for being able to take a beating at the club and still work the next day with great sound output. The K2 takes some of the form factor (layout, spacing) from the 1D/2D and applies it to a new lower profile design. The K2 looks very enticing, indeed. Small footprint, four faders, and assignable controls that could be used for DJ performance as well as DAW control. While the Traktor X1 does offer custom mapping (and I’m a fan of the mixer control template in particular), this new Allen & Heath device offers faders – a staple of may performers / producers’ needs. In addition the K2 boasts an audio interface and headphone output – making this this smallest dj controller with sound capabilities I’ve seen so far. If the sound quality lives up to the A&H legacy this should be a product worth checking out when it releases this spring.

More details on the Xone: K2 from Allen & Heath:

Xone: K2 has a high quality internal, four channel (2 stereo) soundcard.

Universal controller and is perfect for use with all leading DJ software, such as Traktor Pro, Ableton, Virtual DJ, PCDJ and M ixVibes. Xone:K2 can even be used to control lights or VJ software – if it can receive MIDI data it can take commands from K2.

52 physical controls – including 12 analogue and 6 endless rotary encoders with push switch, 4 linear faders, and 30 backlit performance switches – providing up to 171 MIDI control commands across 3 layers. What each control does is entirely up to you – with a little thought you can create a completely customised layout that perfectly fits the way you want to work. We also provide some sample maps and information on how to set up your own.

Latching Layers – By assigning controls to multiple layers you can give a single physical control up to 3 functions. You can configure all, some or none of K2’s controls to be linked to the latching layers system. As a quick visual reminder, when toggling through layers all switches assigned to a particular layer will illuminate in the appropriate colour.

X-Link – Two K2s can be linked via Allen & Heath’s X:LINK protocol, giving twice as much control capability. X:LINK uses a standard RJ45 connector and distributes power and data, which means two K2s can be connected to your software using only one USB port. X:LINK also allows connection to Xone:DB4 and Xone:DB2 mixers.

Case / Stand – Xone:K2 comes packed in a robust black padded case as standard. As well as keeping it safe on the road, the case doubles as a stand, bringing the K2 up to the same height as most pro DJ mixers.

(Originally published on Dubspot.com)

Custom MIDI Controllers by Dave Cross / 60 Works

March 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Sixty Works’ Dave Cross was not satisfied with the selection of hardware MIDI controllers on the market, so he built his own. In fact, he’s built a bunch of them. 60 Works currently specializes in custom hardware creation of MIDI controllers that Cross builds by hand and he’s just launched a new site, Zayik, where you can design your own dream controller that he’ll put together for you. He’s collaborated with Matt Moldover on a MIDI controller for Bassnectar and he recently visited Richie Hawtin to talk shop about interface design for performance. What began as a sideline D.I.Y. project has now become a full time gig in developing creative hardware solutions for performers and producers.

The Briefcase

“I built the Briefcase (above) in 2006 while I was working at a DJ magazine,” Cross explains. “It predates most DJ-oriented MIDI controllers on the market. I wanted to fully encapsulate a 3-track DJ Mixing paradigm in a single controller. It was an attempt to motivate myself to play out more with Ableton Live.” The Briefcase was put together with an OEM parts kit from Doepfer that was arranged inside the chassis of a 70′s-era portable Sony microphone mixer. The project caught great response online and  from performers / producers (some of whom he’s not allowed to mention because of non disclosure contracts) who pushed him to follow this path of creating boutique devices. During that time Cross had also worked for Ableton’s press department, stockpiling more knowledge of what users want out of performance controllers while simultaneously building his own knowledge of music production and performance.

The Third Deck

60 Works’ Third Deck is a beautifully constructed unit that was created to do just one thing – add one digital deck to your setup. It’s an experiment in form and function because it’s something that the controller industry would most likely never make but something that DJs would use. “The Third Deck was me imagining how a vinyl die-hard could be eased into using a laptop in the booth. It was built for a certain type of DJ. This person understands the computer DJ experience, but wants to retain a traditional workflow, only dipping a toe into the computer world. They only want one laptop deck.”

Custom MIDI Solutions

“A lot of what I’m doing is a reaction to mass produced goods,” Cross says. “This isn’t some xenophobic reaction to Chinese manufacturing. Nor is it a indictment of plastic goods. I simply feel the market can bear a wider variety of manufacturers than is currently available. Especially in the controller realm.”

60 Works’ devices are built by hand in a variety of forms using Hale Micro OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) components built to the needs of individual artists. “If a client comes to me with an idea for a product, then it’s clearly their call. I may respond with suggestions based on ergonomics and parts availability, but I wouldn’t try to force them towards a particular performance philosophy. If they ask, I’ll share my opinion, but they’re the artist.”

On Meeting with Richie Hawtin

“Hawtin wrote me out of the blue about a year ago. This was right after I got some great press on the launch of 60 Works. He seemed to enjoy an article I had written. Lots of back-and-forth, email chats dying off, then picking up again. The focus of the conversation was mostly on DJ and Live PA tech. In early 2011, he had a short stint in the US without gigs, so we decided to meet while it was relatively affordable for me. I went to Windsor to meet with him, and it was a great experience. It was a geek-out weekend, talking about the state of custom MIDI Brains, about DJing iOS apps, gourmet hamburgers in Windsor, and the early days (this was just as he was wrapping up his Arkives box set). I got to meet his family, received advice on a variety of topics, and I shared some tips on what I’ve learned. He’s a genuinely nice guy. Canadians…”

Zayik Custom Controller Design Website

Most recently Dave Cross has launched a new brand and website that allows users to design a custom MIDI device through a software interface on the Zayik website. You can then have it built to your spec and shipped to your door. The interface allows you to drag and drop knobs, faders and buttons to be arranged on the control surface as you see fit. You can also start with a few templates for different purposes and customize them to your liking. “Zayik is a middle ground, a way for someone to start a conversation about MIDI controllers without having to dream up every single possibility. It purposefully sets boundaries to establish a frame of reference for controller-building.”

Into The Future

“I have some plans to expand my portfolio with additional controller designs.  One is a production unit based around parametric EQs. People keep saying EQ & compression are the true keys to production, so I thought I’d build a some controllers around that paradigm. The second is a dual-unit DJ design. One unit is for mixing and triggering. A separate unit is for track selection. This one is personal — I feel strongly about separating the act of track selection from the art of mixing. It’s a statement I hope to make, in controller form.”

(Originally published on Dubspot.com)

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