Sonic Core XITE-1 DSP system
The old CreamWare Scope DSP platform has been given new life… yet again. Things had been suspiciously quiet since Sonic Core acquired CreamWare’s assets early last year, and many long-time users were worried the end was near. It turns out the team was simply hard at work. The company will unveil powerful new Scope hardware and significantly upgraded software at the 2008 Frankfurt Musikmesse (March 12-15).

The big news is the € 2698 ($4200) Scope XITE-1 DSP hardware system. It’s based on Analog Devices SHARC DSP chips, offering 10x more processing power than their previous high-end Scope Professional card. The new hardware is housed in a 19 inch 1U rack case that interfaces to your Mac or Windows box via a PCI-Express (desktop) or ExpressCard (notebook) interface.

The front of the surprisingly compact XITE-1 unit includes two mic inputs with switchable phantom power, a pair of Hi-Z instrument inputs and a 1/4-inch headphone jack. The back panel offers two channels of balanced XLR analog I/O, AES/EBU, 2 x ADAT I/O, Wordclock I/O, and MIDI In/Out/Thru.

The XITE-1 software pack contains 13 virtual instruments including emulations of the Roland Juno 106, Sequential Prophet 5 and Moog Minimoog along with over 50 effects, three samplers and a suite of mastering tools.

Sonic Core Platform 5 software
Current Scope users will be thrilled to hear that the new Sonic Core Platform 5 software finally supports Windows Vista and Mac OS X in addition to Windows XP. It will be available in May as a €198 ($310) upgrade, although most Scope 4.5 users will qualify for a free update. Details are still scarce, but screenshots show a few new devices and an appealing black and white color scheme.

So why should you consider a DSP hardware platform in 2008? The main advantage of the Scope system is that it offloads softsynth and digital effects processing onto dedicated hardware. This gives extremely low latency and glitch-free playback, even when running demanding softsynths and audio effects. Blocks of DSP horsepower are allocated to each instrument or effect, meaning that you won’t unexpectedly run out of CPU cycles on your host PC. Of course, it’s still possible to run your favorite VST plugins on the same PC in parallel and mix everything in Scope.

Another good reason to give the Scope platform a second look is the vast library of Scope modules, including a versatile modular synth and dozens of other great instruments such as John Bowen’s fantastically deep Solaris soft synth and many other world-class plugs.

The Scope XITE-1 box and Sonic Core Platform 5 software are scheduled for release in May 2008. It looks like it’s going to be a wild ride!

Sonic Core Scope: The Next Generation

  • arnold collins

    You'd literally have to be clinically insane to be excited by this prospect.

  • http://cleansmanship.blogspot.com TheNullSet

    I'm all for keeping my CPU cycles unfettered with DSP processes, but I think this new Scope incarnation needs more than just bigger SHARCS. For that kind of price, couldnt they give us what we really want: hands on INTERFACE? How about some multipurpose knobs and displays on a desktop unit crammed with those DSPs? Hardware DSP extensions need to move on, or else we'll all just settle for the MUCH cheaper native route.

  • http://ajkandy.wordpress.com aj

    Someone's reading my mind!

    I literally just posted something on Mackie's forum the other day…I was wondering if they would do a hybrid Onyx / UAD-1 box that uses PCIe / ExpressCard for faster bandwidth and lower latency. This is very close to what I imagined, although I think the magic combination is 4x instrument/XLR inputs, 8-10 outputs, dual headphone outs, and SPDIF. If Mackie pursued this avenue, I'd expect them to sell the hardware much cheaper – maybe in the $1200 range – as a loss leader to encourage DSP plugin sales.

  • http://music.damaged.us Cynic

    I still rock a Pulsar2 in my DAW XP rig with an a16 ultra. This box would be cool if it combined the a16 ultra, and they finally got the VST connection stuff working. I never could get it working properly.

    Otherwise, who cares? Happy there's new software for my old card though.

  • http://www.retrothing.com/ James Grahame

    @arnold: I own four Scope cards, and I'm no more insane than the average electronic muso with a studio full of gear. ;) I suspect that the XITE-1 will be followed by a lower cost version, and this system is incredibly deep under the hood.

  • http://www.heatseeker.it motor

    in my opinion the problem is that this is still a closed system. I'm sure it is a very good selection of very good instruments, but It will be more exciting to me to use all this power for example with Max/MSP (or your preferred sw environment).

  • http://jackit.sf.net/ Paul Davis

    every time i see one of these boxes, it so saddens me. they get almost everything wrong (just like creamware did). the thing is (a) overpriced (b) will be outpowered by laptops within 18 months (c) has no open SDK or platform (d) they just don't understand how to get technology like this established. Chameleon, anyone?

    of course, i admit to still being deeply offended at how Creamware treated me 7 years ago (a personal issue) when met with them to discuss writing Linux drivers for their hardware. on the other, it just reinforces their lack of judgement. who did they let into the room at AES just after kicking me out because "we have an important meeting"? BeOS developers. He who laughs last laughs loudest :)

    Seriously: Universal Audio are one of the few companies who have managed to make a moderate success out of selling add-on h/w for DSP, and one of the keys to their success, IMHO, is that they sold *plugins* and the price point was somewhat reasonable. US$4K+ … its a nice price if you want everything they offer but …

    The sad part is: this is just insanely great technology. With an open SDK so that anyone could implement cool stuff for it and a price point that looked like a single Waves bundle, it would really rock. Well, for a few months until Intel caught up :)

  • http://www.retrothing.com/ James Grahame

    @Paul: Creamware released a free Scope SDK quite a few years ago.

  • http://jackit.sf.net/ Paul Davis

    @James: IIRC, the "free Scope SDK" was an implementation of their SDK. They never released details that would have enabled linux support, for example. Maybe I am remembering that wrong.

  • http://www.alchemystudio.it bosone

    the scope syste is all about quality, a quality that you will never achieve with VST or native, no matter how fast is the CPU!

  • http://cleansmanship.blogspot.com TheNullSet

    @bosone: I agree, but when is that difference in quality worth investing a few extra grand? I use NI Massive ( a native plugin) regularly and it sounds fantastic and gives the programmer a ridiculous amount of intuitive control over the sound. In order to justify investent in a dedicated DSP system like scope, I need some really strong incentive. How much better does the dedicated DSP system sound, and does it provide the kind of synthesis/FX capabilities available natively, often for FREE?

  • pollux

    @Paul:

    You might still be offended by the way you've been treated 7 years ago by people not being there anymore, and you might also be stubborn enough to believe that anyone not thinking the same way as you is wrong.

    If you look at most hardware manufacturers out there, very few of them will make public the specs allowing to write drivers for Linux or any other OS. Linux drivers are mostly developped by either the manufacturer itself, or by reverse-engineering.

    If you think that you need an SDK for developing a driver other than a C compiler and the Linux Kernel libraries, then it means that you know nothing about coding and that they were probably right to treat you that way.

    Besides, what is the current share of linux within the semi-pro / pro music production market? probably 70% of them (maybe more) use apple, 25% of them use windows, and some of the 5% left run on linux.

    I've been working on linux for the past 9 years, and I'm yet aware of what it can do.. It's nice for an amateur musician willing not to spend a fortune on software, or for a geek willing to tweak an open source software under the hood. But for serious music production stuff it's far far away yet.

    As for the SCOPE SDK, it's an absolutely fabulous piece of software allowing to build extremely complex signal processing tools on top of the SCOPE platform.

    so it's :

    a) Very fairly priced (I'd dare to say cheap given the quality, flexibility and power it brings to a DAW)

    b) Believing that a DSP based platform can be compared to a laptop is like comparing apples and oranges. No laptop, no matter the power will ever give you 0 latency processing without glitches, nor allow you to run as many things as complex as the SCOPE platform does. I bought my first SCOPE card many years ago, and it's still many years ahead any of the other solutions in the market.

    c) as said, it does have an SDK. Not open source does not mean not acceptable / not usable.

    d) you confirm to know nothing about technology nor music production..

    I feel really sad for you.

  • http://www.myspace.com/mclis m-clis

    Once upon a time i had Project Scope With 4.0 OS and mix'n'mastering bundle of plug-ins. I was a really young boy, so i didn't see the full potential of that set-up. Now i know – with OSX and Logic it could be really the best DAW stuff available. Really. Those ProTools dsp's are good, no cons, but i know it's about promotion, not sound. Best stuff produced in Europe and Japan, and best promotion – in USA.

    You can't even imagine what can do this box for THAT LOW price.

    1) Internal DSP mixing using all the plug's as inserts and sends

    2) Modular synth (similar to clavia nord modular)

    3) Really PHAT compression and some beautifully programmed reverbs. Each plug-in is USEFUL! No crap, for shure.

    4) Synths are worth of selling cheap VA babies, really rough and impressive.

    5) And finally, everything is READY to RECORD. No extra I/O, no additional SYNC or MIDI, no mixers (really sounds great!).

    So, something like this can be created if digidesign will mix up 003 rack with HD DSP card

    minus some in/outs plus some extra cool plugs (sampler as akai s6000 and modular synth, and mastering and all other black/white stuff)

  • Jay Vaughan

    Yawn. I could spend 2000++ on this, or I could spend 150 on this:

    http://www.freescale.com/webapp/sps/site/prod_sum

    Far, far, far more interesting, and definitely the right price point. Add another 100 bucks on parts for a case, knobs, and screen, and we have a winner ..

    Face it folks: The audio industry is full of people who think they can get away with pimping esoteric crap on the masses and calling it 'professional'. Its the same with synths, its the same with effects racks. Either the DIY groundswell happens, and kicks these people out of their cushy positions, or it doesn't .. the choice is yours.

    Me, I'm having a great time implementing PADSynth on Soundbite right now, so ..

  • pollux

    @Jay,

    you can spend 150 bucks on spare parts, and then try to develop your own DSP algorythims using their low-level SDK.

    quote: "designed for cost-sensitive applications and college laboratories, providing a very low-cost entry point into high-end DSP solution"

    Try to develop just one of the plugins that come with the SCOPE cards (let's not talk about the whole user environment), and you'll easily see that the price you pay is not for a bundle of DSP chips, but for a fully fledged, ready to go, professional audio solution :)

    Quote: "Me, I’m having a great time implementing PADSynth on Soundbite right now, so .."

    Great. I'm happy for you that you enjoy it and that you have the time for it.

    But think that for a sound engineer invoicing 500 bucks an hour, spending just one day to write the code for one of the tools he needs (provided that he knows how), would already be a loss :)

  • http://jackit.sf.net/ Paul Davis

    @pollux: its clear that you don't know what I do for a living, so I'll just skip over the personal detritus you left here, since anybody who does is just laughing.

    Regarding drivers, your claims are simply not true. Even just limiting myself to the audio domain, RME, Echo, AudioScience, Intel, Bridge Co (1st generation firewire), TC Electronic (2nd generation firewire) and several others have all provided information so that solid Linux drivers could be written (for free, by Linux developers). Even Universal Audio were interested in getting a Linux driver for their PCI cards, but we could never work time/priorities in everyone's busy schedules and so for now it has slipped by the wayside.

    Also, if you could introduce me to the sound engineers you know who are invoicing US$500/hr, I'd really appreciate it. I'm sure that all 50 of them will form an excellent market for my next overpriced niche product.

    Finally, as for your claims about Linux and "serious audio production", you're just wrong. There are released cd's to prove it. The fact that the majority of commercially produced music released today is *not* produced on Linux doesn't say very much, given the massive technological inertia of the music tech market.

    The point is that the SCOPE system is really excellent technology. I would love to see a system like this take off as a platform for plugins and so forth. But what Sonic Core are doing with it is ensuring that it will have a fate not unlike that of the Chameleon, which was a somewhat less powerful (but also much cheaper) rack-mount, SHARC-based "DSP black box". SCOPE has a lot more going for it, but to generate marketing buzz you need developers (quite a lot of them) and a price point that will get many early adopters to jump in and generate "noise".

    And the honest truth right now is that people who are beind paid US$500/hr are generally not in the market for new DSP black boxes, having spent their US$10-50k on Digidesign's offerings. You don't compete with digidesign by offering another system with a big price tag, manufacturer lock down on the technology etc etc. Many have tried and almost all have failed. If SC can succeed, good luck to them, because the technology deserves a wider user base.

  • pollux

    @Paul,

    1st. My apologies if I got a bit upset and personnally attacked you or ofended you, it was not my intention.

    2nd as for the $500/hr engineers was simply an irony to illustrate that a professional user needs a solution out of the box, that will not take ages to set up and have operational. It can be fun to build it's own synth by writing algos using a low level DSP SDK, but when it comes to business it's usually better and more cost effective to leave that for specialized people / companies.

    quote: "Finally, as for your claims about Linux and “serious audio production”, you’re just wrong. There are released cd’s to prove it.

    The fact that the majority of commercially produced music released today is *not* produced on Linux doesn’t say very much, given the massive technological inertia of the music tech market."

    Commercially produced music is the one that pays the bills.

    I agree with you that calling "serious" certain highly commercial productions is misusing the word, but that's a different story. A

    udio on Linux is still young. It could easily become the kernel for dedicated DAWs, and it would definetly be a good choice, but mac has very deep roots, and it will unlikely change..

    SCOPE is an excellent technology, and there is an excellent developper community that's been growing for a while. The real power of SCOPE is not the SHARC DSPs themselves, but the software that comes with it. It's definetly not a DSP blackbox, but rather a virtual box full of hardware that you can plug in any way you like, and if that's not enough, you can develop your own routines using the provided SDK.

    As for SCs business decisions regarding this product, I think they already learnt their lessons from the past. The first Pulsar systems costed much more than that for a fraction of the power, and the software / plugins were quite limited compared to what is offered at the moment with the current version (4.5).. I would be amazed that upcoming V5 would offer less for this new product.

  • Jay Vaughan

    @Paul: Chameleon uses Mot 56k, not SHARC (just FYI).

    @pollux: You don't get it – 2,000 programmers with ultra-cheap DSP's-in-a-box == far more likely to produce interesting products that producers can use 'out of the box' than the SCOPE limited developer cult ..

  • http://www.retrothing.com/ James Grahame

    The market for Sonic Core's new box is definitely existing CreamWare users who would like to upgrade to PCIe hardware and more powerful DSP architecture. These guys know the Scope platform intimately and there will be no learning curve.

    The XITE-1 will probably sell only 100 or 200 units, but it will provide much-needed cash flow for the company to take the next logical step, which will be an affordable internal card. Marketing and advertising that product to the unwashed masses will be an expensive proposition, and I suspect their company is running on a shoestring budget right now because all they have to sell is outdated hardware inherited from Creamware.

  • Orubasarot

    Why would anyone advertise $4,000 of processing power as being able to emulate vintage synths? Forward is not backward, is there anything else that this thing can do? Any wacky additive or granular stuff? Anything that isn't FM or retro-modular? I mean Prophets, Moogs and Junos? It's 2008 for fuck's sake.

  • gwenhwyfaer

    Jay, thanks for the Soundbite mention! I might have to get one of those; they look fun :) Could this be the spiritual successor to the ADSP2181 starter kit, I wonder?

  • cubestar

    I think it's a sign of the times, astoundingly powerful hardware at what would be an amazing price, being boo'ed by potential users.

    We are too used to the incredible value that is software and the economy isn't too hot either.

    I think hardware's 2 remaining advantages are immediacy and hands on control, and this device has neither.

    So, it's amazing, and most of us may covet it a little bit, but it's just not our thing…

  • http://none Magic Crystals = dum

    Aural Exciter was a fairly good magic box.

    Big studios always need a new magic box.

    What else would you put in it?

    Also, I'd love to see a review of common VSTs and a rating of how lean / bloated they run.

    Anyone who claims these emulators sound like real analog synths and amps are just plain lying. At best they sound like the real deal recorded badly.

    Use guitar stompboxes are your hardware VSTs. They are infinitely better than any software. Use a real Moog.

    ;)

  • bliss

    I love CDM. It's always so lively. :)

  • Harold Nyquist

    Fun fact: The capybara is the world's largest rodent.

  • http://kief.net/ Valis

    Orubasarot: FleXor, Solaris and Brainworx's offerings are all 'something else' that this can do.

    I think this device is probably priced a bit higher than a typical CDM reader would be looking for (new at least), but I might be wrong on that as I am just gathering from the comments that I've read here over the last few years. That may not be a bad thing for SC at all though, as I think a lot of Creamware's problems over the years were from positioning their cards too low in the market, and dealing with the support issues and badmouthing that resulted from it.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Wow, I didn't really expect this to generate this much controversy.

    I will say this: despite the relative challenges of developing for DSP hardware, the simple fact of the matter is that DSP processors are coming down in price/performance just as general-purpose processors are. That means, simply, these things aren't going away. So I do appreciate James bringing them up from time to time, even if most of my time will remain on the CPU.

  • johnbowen

    Orubasarot,

    Actually there is a new granular synth plug-in being shown at Frankfurt Messe by Sonic Core, called the Gizzmo. It is the first new synth architecture for this platform in many years. SC just took over things a year ago, and now are showing the first results of their renewed commitment, including this new XITE hardware.

  • Orubasarot

    Thanks a lot for the info, I would be willing to pay for a serious grain synth if one was actually developed. Currently the best in the world, at least according to the sounds I'm looking for, is the Granulizer found in Fruity Loops, which is both fascinating and perhaps pathetic. I've tried everything else but nothing has been as precise.

  • mailhead

    Jay Vaughan,

    maybe you can buy such a dsp for 150$

    but the XITE-1 box has 18 SHARC dsps, and a single sharc is way stronger regarding audio than the dsp you mentioned.

    18×150=2700$ and then you have to bring them into one box, make them interact in one system with routing optiones, and develop very high quality synths and effects.

    Good look!

    What a stupid comparision….

  • bluemystic

    I have been working with a Scope setup of a total of 42 DSPs. I never met a platform with the same or better architecture and flexibility as Scope. Software instruments (ie VST) have never been an option (for me) due to less dynamics. But 42 DSPs was not enough. XITE-1 is the platform I was waiting for a long time: 0 latency, lot of processing power, external, expandable and flexible for a uncompromising sound at a reasonable price.

  • Birza

    @Paul & Pollux

    Paul,thank you for all you work that you have done. I am new to linux and still getting my head around JACK. it shouldn't be that hard considering i had to teach my self Scope.

    Oh yeah i did laugh:)

    I said earlier on Planet Z tonight, there is a world of amazing audio software made with lots of love that is there for me to create with,this software compares to the DAWS and plugins that you pay lots of $$$$$ for.

    But the cost is not the point! i am not being cheap by wanting to use linux. i have already paid an absolute fortune out in hardware and software.

    why cant i use what i have paid for on what ever OS i like!

    If i am going to buy a Protools rig i would want the same option, which i am going to do……because I hate Cubase. (sorry Qbase fans)

    Logic audio is not available for pc and i am stuck with 5.5 with no support, it does'nt even use my hardware properly, memory or processor.

    And the BIG one, my loveable Creamware/SonicCore Scope has no native recording software!!!!!!!

    It could have a better play in the market if it did.

    Its all about the art and making "Noise" and people having the power to create in there home studio.

    I recorded an artist in 2005 on a p3 X library server with a luna 3 DSP via Behringer ada8000 at 24/48khz.

    JJJ still plays that recording today.

    so its not the quality of the recording its the quality of the art being made!

    I am not a tweak geek, i just like the art form, no avenue should not be disregarded, left out or over looked, because the pleasure that could be found could be priceless.

    thanks for reading my rant about art and the technology that allows us to do it.

  • http://none sleeper

    Indeed. I'm done with un-tactile music HW. If I wanted to use a mouse I can WORK instead of CREATING music. Jeez. Insane people, with a blind user-base with devotion gathering cents to address the pointless lust.

  • midimaster

    For $5000 you can get a Capybara & KYMA. Lightyears ahead of SCOPE or any other DSP hardware.

  • yoman

    Xite will kick assn that's why everybody's so upset.. nothing still comes close to the 10 year old creamware cards anyway….

  • slipstink

    @midimaster

    midi is from the '80's…

    and this sounds like it's from the '60's:
    http://video.nytimes.com/video/2008/07/09/technol
    uh ? oh no! it's a $5000 kyma piña colada, or whatever it's called ;)

    If you really feel the urge to do such stuff, then go here:
    http://www.arduino.cc +-30$ i believe
    http://www.puredata.org free/libre

    and build your own esotheric interface.

    @yoman

    yo man, I have a creamware Pulsar II, want to buy it? I can't use it anymore, due to lack of linux drivers…

    and yet, to be honest, I have used my Pulsar with great pleasure in the past, although always with a feeling of being 'locked in'. I practically never used the creamware synths, they are too bulky, not user friendly, and all sounded like the same 'virtual-analog-resonant-filter' clones. boring.

    My apologies for the polemic tone, could not resist, this is too funny a thread :D

  • http://www.myspace.com/beatsmithmusic Greg "Beatsmith

    My only problem with Scope is that i hate pc's and want to use this on my mac… Even when the Os X upgrade comes out… new macs use pci-e slots and i'll have to shell out more money to get a magna rack…

  • Doktorfuture

    I found doing Audio on Linux to be a pain in the ass. I’ve used Linux since its earlier days, but it’s a chore to get everything stable and working and the audio choices are pretty poor. I don’t see why I should compromise so much to run on Linux. The OS itself doesn’t make the job easier.

    As for DSP systems, I’ve found them to generally feature: a) stability, b) fresh sounds, c) more use than VST’s. I have a Capybara, Pacarana, H8000fw, Weiss DNA-1, various synths with digital outs. Lots of analog too. Some VST’s are great, some aren’t. Almost all the DSP stuff is excellent. I interface the DSP stuff digitally, so as I add more equipment it just scales easily as linear combinations. And the latency stays very low.

    I suppose I’m lucky in that I can afford all the toys and am ordering the XITE-1 now.

    Why? Well, it’s worth it to me just for the awesome digital modular it offers. A lot of a sonic palette for 4ish grand. Great deal. Also I’ll experiment with its apparently excellent audio routing. For years I’ve used my Capybara and H8000fw for audio interfaces and they’ve been great. Surprisingly fewer glitches than my Motu’s. I switched to a Lynx AES/EBU card and now use several out-board converters (Lavry, JCF, etc…).

    As a professional tool, this is priced very well, and offers a lot of capability / bang for the buck. The more I can off-load off of computers and keep stability the happier I am.

    Even 18 months down the road, the DSP systems still perform their function well. I have an old Capybara, which by all accounts is slower than all my PC’s, but it is easier to use and put in the signal chain with low latency. I still design new synths and effect processing on it that sound great. Last week I just dragged-and-dropped a mid-side multi-band compressor in about 20 mins through iterative tweaking. Now I have it forever. I tried doing it in Plogue Bidule as a comparison, but that didn’t work out. I didn’t even try Reaktor tho.

    DSP systems that are built-to-purpose are awesome.