Say cheese! The end of Macs with storage and expansion slots is proving very unsettling to some. If it’s not unsettling to everyone, well, blame how much better at making music laptops and cheaper desktops have gotten. Photo (CC-BY) Paul Hudson.
For all this debate over the new Mac Pro, you really need to know only two things:
1. The current Mac Pro is not a good value at the moment.
2. We have no idea how much the new Mac Pro will cost.
And so, everything else (minis, iMacs, MacBooks, and yes, even PCs) rule the roost. That’s good for music, because (as a couple of commenters observed), they’re all working just fine. The Mac Pro I thought was newsworthy last week in that it demonstrated that more internal horsepower is coming to high-end desktops, and that those machines can (whether you like it or not) rely on external devices – meaning Apple can make them really small.
The response to last week’s editorial, though, revealed just how divisive this machine can be. Boy, did readers complain – shouting at me, shouting at each other. It’s also like a walk down memory lane. Mac users and Windows users are fighting again. People are complaining that a new computer from Apple will completely destroy professional workflows because of an absence of expandability, that Apple doesn’t understand the pro market. Ah, memories.
Take note: upsides include fast internal storage, dual Ethernet, loads of Thunderbolt ports, lots of I/O bandwidth, 4K displays. Likely a quiet studio machine. Loads of power. The downside: we don’t know how much it will cost or exactly when it will be available. (It’s really, really tough to overstate how important that is.)
To be fair, if you’re heavily invested in internal hardware, this is still really bad news. And Mac users may feel the situation is out of their control, because unlike Windows users, Apple is their only vendor. (That’s true of some of you, anyway; some of you are happily building Hackintosh machines.)
But what I think is missing from the online debates (on CDM and elsewhere) is one cold, harsh reality: the current Mac Pro seems a waste of money, 2010 technology at premium prices: On the US Apple Store, the base model will set you back US$2500. To get the higher-end Intel chip, you need to shell out $3800.
That’d all be find if you got performance to match. But have a look at Macworld’s Speedmark scores. The 12-core Mac Pro (the one that costs as much as a used car) isn’t only outrun by a fancy new Retina MacBook Pro. It’s also slower than an iMac, or even the top-of-the-range Mac mini. Continue reading »
On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog. But they just might know you’re an MS-20.
Hector Urtubia – aka Mr. Book – has connected his synths to the Web and set them up for the world. Submit a music pattern, and send it off to the synths to be rendered to sound. It’s like Kinko’s, if they did analog synths instead of printers.
Hector explains more:
I created a web app (http://analogalacarte.com) which allows you to create a synth pattern, submit it and it will get rendered live in hardware on one of my synths at home.
That’s an MS-20 mini, connected to the world via Web tech. And below, a Shruthi-1 in the same role. Images courtesy the artist.
Not just another Theremin or KAOSS-style control. Now you’re playing with cubes. Image courtesy the developer.
Cue the Tetris theme, and start playing music by navigating a field of cubes.
So, you’ve seen X/Y touchpads before, many times, in hardware like the KAOSS Pad (or Lemur, or your computer trackpad). But AeroMIDI 3D does something rather different: instead of just a single X/Y area, you get an array of programmable 3D cubes floating in space, all triggered with waves of your fingers using the forthcoming Leap Motion connect. Use one finger, multiple fingers, different parameters, whatever you like, and notes and control messages are sent via MIDI to your favorite software.
You get three dimensions of control for each finger, if you like, and the developer promises low-latency gesture recognition. The software is available for Mac and Windows.
With Leap Motion apparently on track for a release next month, you could have your fingers on this very soon. And this is the second dedicated music app we’ve seen in development for the Leap, even before it has been released. (Leap Motion recently did a round-up of music apps; more are on the way.) Previously: From Gestures to MIDI: Geco Promises Music Applications for Leap Motion
This array of ports has the power that PCI slots on old Mac towers did. But will it be as practical? That answer may depend on vendors. Photo courtesy Apple.
“Pro” is a funny word. When people say “pros” in contrast to “amateurs,” “producers” rather than “consumers,” they mean something about relative seriousness. And in tech, they usually invoke these words when they’re looking down on tools they feel aren’t up to snuff.
That’s fair. Especially in music making and digital art where money is tight, people invest in tools because they deliver, not just to show off. And they’ve usually been burned by something less-than-pro letting them down.
So, when people see a machine from Apple dubbed the “Mac Pro,” they have certain expectations.
The problem is, the upcoming Apple Mac Pro doesn’t meet those expectations. It looks like a Dyson vacuum cleaner someone lifted from the maintenance closet on the Death Star. The innards seem promising enough: powerful next-generation graphics architecture from AMD meet the latest-and-greatest computational iron from Intel. On closer inspection, the design is functional, too: Apple has cleverly organized the whole beast around the heat intake.
What’s conspicious, then – what really upsets people – is the absence of internal storage bays and expansion slots. Apple’s machines have never been as upgradeable, component by component, as their Windows- and Linux-running brethren, but the most common needs to add storage media, video and audio interfaces, and the like have always been well accommodated by Apple’s pro towers.
The Mac Pro is the final departure from that design. And so, it represents a formal dividing line between expansion via slots and internal bays on one hand, and external gear connected by cables on the other.
This is a day a lot of us saw coming. Nor is it a trend restricted to the Mac. The PC vendors still make towers, but they have become specialist machines for gamers, producers, and server administrators, as sales in laptops (and now tablets, too, or at least Apple’s tablets) have surged. Continue reading »
Propellerhead’s latest cheeky tutorial makes no apologies. Reason 7′s Audiomatic Retro Transformer is, they say, the equivalent of tapping a filter on a phone camera app like Instagram, bundling lots of different sound attributes together into a single push-button setting.
This seems likely to produce some controversy. In fact, I’d for some time pondered writing an editorial decrying the Instagram Music phenomenon – digital music covered in layers of crackly fuzz for no terribly good reason, uncreative cynicism and artificial nostalgia posing as authenticity.
But let me for a moment play devil’s advocate … with the voices in my own head. Maybe I never wrote that editorial partly because I found the effect fascinating myself. I started actually using Instagram and loved it as an experience that was entirely unlike the experience of using film. With similar effects in music, I had an equivalent feeling: this was a digital experience that was independent from the hardware these effects mimic. So maybe there’s something else going on here.
As this tutorial point out with Instagram, it’s natural for an end user to think about end results rather than the many individual components that might get there. It’s also easier to get the brain to try A/B comparisons of groups of settings than to try to parse even more choices one parameter at a time, especially when those parameters interact. That’s true whether you’re a newbie or a pro. In other words, presets may play to our perceptions. They group together related attributes we already find pleasing (the look cross-processed 35 mm film or the sound of a cassette tape). But just as importantly, they allow us to compare results rather than get mired in individual details.
This should still beg some questions about originality. But maybe there presets like Audiomatic Retro Transformer can have some potential. There are three ways I can see them doing that: Continue reading »
Gold Panda is back with another full-length masterpiece. Here, any gauzy soft-focus fuzz is stripped away. The music is still warm, focused on chopped-up samples, and delicious, meditative repetition. But it’s more focused than ever, with a dry directness that lets his musical craft come further to the fore.
There is some narrative and program explained on Gold Panda’s “Half of Where You Live.” Some of that is hard to miss – exotic percussion, clanging away as though you’ve ventured out onto the streets in some far-off city, references in titles and vocals to place. And there’s a sober comment on the pace of poverty in a slowed-down Japan. But while an interesting read, I don’t know that it’s essential; perhaps the album is even more more a journey into the imagined places of Gold Panda’s mind – a glimpse of the rhythms of the world and travel through his eyes, a travel log of motion.
And through all of it, there’s an ability to make repetition of samples into a hypnotic experience, a reflection on those samples.
The terrific tastemakers at ISO50 land the exclusive stream – I’m always gratified when it’s a focused blog with an impassioned audience and editorial that gets the love. (PR people, take note.)
I agree with their take: this is one that could be around for years to come. It’s worth clicking the ‘buy’ link, to get it on physical or even digital. Hey, I like my digital collection. I listen in the precious moments when I’m disconnected from the Internet, the value of cherished times that streaming services might not appreciate.
Gold Panda spoke to CDM last time round about his work. Sampling is the technique, but it’s also the feelings he attaches to those sounds that comes across. It’s as though there’s a single impulse between his finger tapping the MPC, the samples arrayed in Live being cued, and some kind of emotional cue that makes them mean something.
Apart from the text we copied yesterday, audio developers can’t say anything about the contents of audio APIs in Apple’s new iOS 7. It’s all under NDA. So, instead, since Apple is all about feelings this week, let me convey the emotion I’m hearing about audio in the iOS update, in the form of a Facebook sticker:
But just as JACK and Audiobus are beginning to work together to make inter-app functionality more powerful, the Apple technologies under the hood should pack more power into all of these tools. The Audiobus crew have made an official statement, saying they have “big plans”: Continue reading »