Saturday, November 8, 2014

How to fix broken mic cables from Guitar Center

If you've found your way here, you doubtless know just exactly what I'm talking about, but lest there be any confusion, these:

Sole virtue: they're cheap
Cheap. Yes indeed, that they are. Incredibly so. Irresistibly so. That is why you bought an arm load of them at Guitar Center or some such place. Because you could wire up a drum kit for like $50, instead of $250. Yes you did, you cheapskate!

Chances are you've got at least three duds in that pile. They crackle and hiss like a bucketload of fireworks whenever you plug them into just about anything, am I right?

There is a thing called a "rainbow loom", my daughter has one. You basically weave braceletts and stuff out of tiny rubber bands. They sell these rubber bands at Walmart and craft stores. Here's one of them.

'Bout to blow your mind
Then do this:

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Painted Cakes Do Not Satisfy (Instrumental)

I've been working on this one off and on for a long, long time. It used to be called 'Interruptions'. Lyrics, someday ... but not today. I'm really proud of the instrumental though, and I haven't made a music post in a really long time :-)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Audulus: the amazing (and beautiful) audio swiss army knife you've probably never heard of

I don't even own an iPad, so I've only ever used the OS X app and Audio Unit versions of Audulus. I suspect the touch-screen experience takes it to a whole new level, and it'd be easy to dismiss it as a tablet-toy at first glance, precisely because the interface is stunningly gorgeous.

I mean look at it ... must be a toy, right?
Audulus is no mere toy, it goes deep enough to do some serious things, but not as deep as Reaktor, Pure Data or Max/MSP. I think that's actually one of it's big strengths.

I can't count the number of hours I've spent trying to make something like a simple ring modulator in Reaktor ... sorting through thousands of nodes with no documentation whatsoever ... scratching my head trying to get through basic math due to strangely implemented strong typing (and again, zero comprehensible documentation). Audulus is nothing like that.

It is similar in concept to those other patching environments, but infinitely more accessible and well thought out. Sure it's not as powerful. You certainly can't build something like Razor in Audulus presently, but what you give up in terms of power you gain in terms of ease of use and flexibility.

I honestly mean this, Audulus is like exactly what I'd expect if Jobs-era Apple had decided to compete with Reaktor. Audulus is every bit of that "insanely great" philosophy.

Once you wrap your head around it, building synths and real-time effects is practically as intuitive as snapping Legos together. Once you're ready to dig a little deeper, there are 3 or 4 in-app-purchase options (all $10 or less I believe), which unlock a world of possibilities. In particular the free-form math expression node is a real swiss army knife. Not only can you create arbitrary math functions, but with a little creativity it can do boolean logic too. Not bad. Couple that with the "Custom Nodes" feature, which allows you to essentially build your own components (think: being able to make your own guitar pedals or eurorack modules), and you essentially have a full blown modular environment.

But that's not even the killer feature. This is: you have that full blown modular environment ... on your iPad, and in an Audio Unit, right inside your favorite DAW (they can even load each other's patches).

An Audio Unit, by the way ... that can host an arbitrary number of other Audio Units strung together any insane way you see fit inside your patch. All by dropping one Audulus instance in the instrument or effects slot (or heck both if you wanna get down like that).

Have I got your attention yet?

This thing is like how Logic's "Environment" should be. I feel like I'm selling a car, LOL, but when something is as great as this, and nobody is talking about it ... I feel an obligation of sorts.

As far as I can tell "Subatomic Software" is a one-man show, and that one man is mister Taylor Holliday ... who has personally responded to my bug reports (many times on the same day ... with a patch). How this dude keeps up with it all, I got no idea. But he's got a terrific product that is clearly made with some serious devotion and love, and ... well ...

All day long, I deal with multi-billion dollar software vendors who simply cannot be paid enough to give a shit ... and I mean, they get pizzzzaaaayed ... a metric butt-ton. All day long. Day in and day out. For almost 20 years of my life, I've been dealing with these donkeys. I've made a career of cleaning up their messes, and dealing with their barely-functioning crapfests.

Audulus is genuinely great. It's made by someone who cares, and it shows. That is rare, and that alone makes it worth supporting (even if it wasn't unbelievably useful).

So ... I maketh the pitch unto ye.
It's like 40 bucks. What you got to lose?

update: 3/2/2014:
I've been really digging deep into Audulus lately. It's such a rewarding time investment ... a pleasant blend of problem-solving game and instrument building. I've given it a pretty hard sell above, but for those of you who decide to take the red pill and see how deep this synthy rabbit hole goes, I have a bonus for you.

Audulus starts you out at a fairly primitive level, and that's by design. Again, it's a toolkit, not a pre-built instrument. It is primitive because it is so open ended, however that can be a little bit of a hump to get over for a newbie. In my explorations of Audulus, I've found it useful to compile a library of custom modules. Using this library of modules, it's trivial to snap together some pretty advanced synthesizers and real-time effects. So without further ado, here's a copy of what I've accumulated so far:
plurgid's audulus component library (v 1.0).
Pretty simple to use ... just open the component you want to use, copy the module and paste it into the patch you're building. Have fun! and drop a comment here if you can dig it. Maybe upload your own patches and components to the audulus forum!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I Dream of Wires (connected to my computer)

I finally finished watching this. It took me like three nights. It's really more of a mini-series than a documentary film, but whatevs ... it was pretty good.

... and now I wish I had about a u-haul trailer full of money that I didn't mind wasting because I'd really like to get into this. So ... when is Behringer going to start making modules? I suspect that'll be about the time it becomes affordable for folk of my 'ilk.

This is a pretty great movie if you're into synthy stuff, especially the first half, and I do highly recommend it.

These guys wax poetic on the "analog magic" for what seems like an eternity, but honestly I think that's complete crap. With some patience and imagination (and sometimes some fair amount of cash) computers can and most certainly do sound just as phat, and quirky, and trashy, and "warm" and awesome as analog gear (if that's what you're into).

In fact patching environments like Reaktor, and Max, PureData, and one of my current favorites, Audulus, are more than capable of the same sounds (and far beyond). But there is something about all those knobs and wires and blinky lights ... aesthetics, certainly ... but also an immediacy and physicality. You grab something and twist it, you plug this into that, whatever ... no menus, no presets, or drivers ... definitely no screen.

I get that completely. That has an appeal, but I don't want to give up the ability to invent my own new module for free in software, or make something that has a thousand oscillators and 300 filters or whatever crazy thing I can think of on the computer.

Here is what someone needs to do:

1) define some way of modeling patch cable connections over midi or OSC.
2) invent modular controllers.
3) Use #2 to generate messages in the form of #1 and pipe it into Reaktor or Audulus or Reason or Max ... yadda yadda

What do I mean?

I mean give me something that looks like this:

but dig out all the expensive guts, wire all the analog connections into a microcontroller with a USB cable into my computer and use it to control something like this:

Someone has to be doing this already and I just haven't heard of it yet. If not, I wish someone would invent it, because basically when it comes to knobs and faders in my studio, I'm kinda like in the Alton Brown school ... "I hate a unitasker" ... it's such a waste to have a perfectly good knob hanging around and have it hard-wired to do one thing and one thing only.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

How to use your Tascam US-1800 with OS X Mavericks

Tascam Support: just sayin' ...

The Tascam US-1800 does not have drivers for OS X Mavericks (10.9) nearly a month after Apple released the new OS. Here is the press release from Tascam support, should you be ... as I was ... in utter disbelief.

However, I have discovered a pretty easy work around, read on to get the deets my friends.

First, let me say that the US-1800 is really not a bad interface at all. In fact, if what you need is a boatload of pretty decent inputs and more than one stereo output, you really can't do a whole lot better for $250, which is about what thing will run you. For instance, say you wanna mic up a drum kit, and you'd like to take a DI off a bass and keys, and maybe mic up a guitar amp or two ... this will do the job pretty well.

However if you're asking yourself "why is this thing so cheap?", let me answer those questions for you:
  1. It is not class-compliant
    On OS X the thing needs an actual bonafide driver, and it is not coded very efficiently. The driver uses an insane amount of CPU for what it's doing. So, if you've got beef ... for instance on my 4-core xenon ... it's not really a problem. On my core-2 duo laptop ... you'll be bouncing software tracks down all day 'cause you're gonna hit that CPU wall quickly.

  2. there are actually only 4 outputs, not 6
    Output 1-2 is a hard-wired copy of the L-R monitor output. Output 3-4 is actually a separate output though. The manuals and marketing go to great extents to obfuscate this fact. boo.
Well anyhow, it's not bad, if you've got the beef to run it. Which I do, and I presume you do also, and so ... you want to know what the deal is, because you just installed Mavericks and now your OS either can't see your US-1800 or simply refuses to play sound through it ... here's the deal:

  1. If you already had the driver installed and upgraded your OS in place, skip this step, otherwise: Trick the driver installer into installing anyhow:

    1. download the 10.8 driver from tascam such as it is.
    2. unzip / mount the disk image (duh)
    3. the trickery, right click on the installer and select "show package contents"

    4.  install ./Contents/Resources/104/TASCAM_US1800_2.10.mpkg

  2. download SoundFlower and SoundFlowerBed
    Let's be honest ... if you don't have them installed already ... because they are pretty much the ubiquitous duct-tape of OS X audio. If SoundFlower is new to you, you're going to love it. What it does is set up two fake audio interfaces on your computer, one is a 2-in-2-out stereo interface, the second is a 16-in-16-out interface. You can use these fake interfaces to route audio internally between applications on your mac. In the case of the US-1800 we're lucky, because soundflower can see it, even though OS X Mavericks can't. Oh, and it's free.
    1. Get soundflower from Cycling 74 here
    2. Oh sweet. SoundFlowerBed is bundled with it now. Used to be a separate download. SoundFlowerBed, is status bar app that installs next to your wi-fi widget thing and the clock. It looks like a flower.

  3. set OS X's sound output to SoundFlower (2ch)

    Set OS X's output to Soundflower (2 ch)

    Pretty simple stuff. Open your system preferences -> Sound -> Output, and select "Soundflower (2ch) as shown above. OS X is now sending it's audio output to the Soundflower 2 channel pseudo-interface. Next step is to tell soundflower to route the 2 channel pseudo-interface out to your US-1800 ...

  4. use SoundFlowerBed to route audio out to US-1800 (1-2).

    As mentioned, SoundFlowerBed is a tiny app that runs in your status bar. You have to manually launch it. If like me, you find it to be very useful, you might want to set it to run on login (System Preferences -> Users & Groups -> Current User -> Login Items):

    Set SoundFlowerBed to launch on login ... if you want to
    Now just tell SoundFlowerBed to route "Soundflower (2ch)" to your US-1800 on Output 1-2:

    That ought to do it
  5. Logic sees it too, so you're back in business on Mavericks:


    Gosh Darn it, Donchaknow ...