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 »
About as compact as you can get, without compromises: the iPad (even mini) alongside Z1 gives you a full-blown DJ rig, complete with dedicated output, headphone cue, control. Image courtesy Native Instruments.
Native Instruments – among other developers – has now given you a DJ app you can load onto an iPhone or iPad. But that mobility is only useful in a club situation if you can cue tracks through headphones and comfortably control your mix. Lug along a lot of hardware, and you might as well go back to your PC. (And, please, no one say the word “dock.”)
The Traktor Kontrol Z1, announced today, is NI’s answer to the problem. For controlling your mix, it gives you a conventional 2-channel set of faders and knobs, for hands-on access to fades, EQ, filters, and effects. For audio, you get both stereo (phono RCA) output to the club, and a dedicated headphone jack for cueuing. Solved.
Fortunately, this gadget doesn’t become useless when you connect it to your PC or Mac. There, it’s a standard MIDI controller and audio interface. It’s connected via USB, running on the same drivers as other NI gear, and supports Traktor Pro (or the included Traktor LE) – so, for instance, you can use your iPad as a backup for your MacBook or the other way round, in case one fails while you’re on the road.
Check out the video, and you can watch the iOS and desktop versions all running together in a rather nice rig (approaching live setups as well as DJ setups):
You may not love the new icons, but you’ll probably love the new features. Courtesy Apple.
It’s official: iOS 7 is adding inter-app audio functionality, for streaming sounds between different software. And whereas this appeared on a slide at last summer’s WWDC, this time, it’s really happening.
What does this mean for Audiobus and JACK? Well, Apple is promising some things those tools don’t do, just as those tools do things Apple’s described features may not. Since both JACK and Audiobus already make use of Core Audio, odds are you’ll just see all of this stuff get better and more powerful.
Unfortunately, developer documentation is Apple Confidential information and not something CDM can share. But in the meantime, rest assured that we’re researching how this will work so we can share it when it gets to the stage that it’s something you can use. (If you’re a developer, of course, you can access those documents; part of Apple’s warning is that these tools are under development and subject to change, so end users should feel reasonably comfortable waiting for final information.)
Here’s what Apple says publicly:
Now your apps can make beautiful music together. With Inter-App Audio, apps can register their audio streams to share with other apps. For example, a series of apps could publish audio streams of instrument tracks while another uses the combination of these streams to compose a song. Inter-App Audio also provides for MIDI control of audio rendering, remotely launching other registered Inter-App Audio apps and more.
While they were busy not killing the Mac and the Mac Pro, it seems Apple also had some ideas about how to not kill music. Amidst hair pulling and gnashing of teeth over how streaming will impact the future of music business models, Apple’s answer is spelled out in their press release:
“It’s the music you love most and the music you’re going to love, and you can easily buy it from the iTunes Store with just one click.”
Whether iTunes Radio specifically works or not, this seems an obvious model. Music recordings as a business work so long as the people selling them – whether a massive label or an individual artist – can work out ways of selling them and not just streaming them.
Apple even lays out what it thinks makes sense to stream in the same release:
Whether it’s an exclusive single from an up-and-coming band or a pre-release stream of an entire album, iTunes Radio has it all. iTunes Radio will also be home to special events including live streams direct from the iTunes Festival in London and other exclusive iTunes Sessions.
Those buy links were prominent in demos in the WWDC keynote.
It seems a direction people recording music are already going: stream the whole album first, give away promotional exclusives, then offer sales of the real album (often supplementing digital with physical). It’s how, most recently, readers got acquainted with Jon Hopkins.
There’s reason to assume this may be a long game. While musicians may well wind up being as impoverished as always, the companies serving up the streams might eventually want to profit. (You know, instead of actually losing money: a worthy question to ask of Spotify.)
For now, it’s far too early to judge iTunes Radio’s chances of success. And certainly, you shouldn’t expect iTunes to be an indie darling: it seems many independent artists and small labels are paying just to get on iTunes, left out of many promotional deals (like iTunes Festival, with headliners like Justin Timberlake). But if you want Apple’s take on the idea – and why they may have earned cooperation from labels frustrated with services like Spotify – it’s all there in the black ink.
Personally, I’ll bet on any of the players whose ink is black over the ones streaming red.
And you thought Apple was just going to turn everything into an iPad. Instead, they make something that looks like a home appliance designed by Master Control Program, covered in ports.
Here’s a quick way to sum up the revelations in today’s Apple event: “Oh, so that’s what was keeping them.”
It’s certainly true when it comes to OS X and the long-awaited Mac Pro.
Critics of Apple and concerned loyal users have worried that the growing success of iOS and consumer platforms would erode support for the company’s pro users. But evidence of a strategic shift has been largely absent. Sure, Apple has added cloud features, an App Store, and iOS apps to the desktop platform – significant changes. But those are all essentially no-brainer updates, and need not conflict with the needs of pro users or the creative community. The desktop is still a platform on which you can install software from any source you like – app store release or not. Desktop is still the place for high-performance I/O like Thunderbolt. Desktop OS X is still centered around mouse and keyboard. In fact, for all the worries about Apple blurring its tablet with its desktop, it’s been Microsoft and the PC ecosystem that has done that more than Apple – for better and for worse.
It almost seems like Apple is unwilling to walk away from the lucrative ecosystem that allows it to sell high-end, high-profit hardware, huh? That should surprise no one. Apple themselves point out their computer sales have grown while the PC has sagged, and they earn #1 spots for desktops and laptops and in customer satisfaction. This formula is working for them as a business. The Apple you know – what you love, what you love – is the Apple on desktop you’re going to continue to get.
If you like the Mac the way it is, Apple’s WWDC keynote today ought to calm fears. Apple updated the MacBook Air, but focused on extended battery life rather than rethinking the UI or functionality. You can’t fold a MacBook into a tablet; Apple will sell you an iPad for that. And there are major advantages to that strategy. It’s hard to imagine Apple ever selling you a laptop that will make your arms numb or leave you frantically tapping through UIs designed for a mouse, fat fingers struggling to make a menu open.
In fact, for blurring lines, look instead fo Microsoft and OEMs. It’s on Windows that you’re seeing tablets and laptops blur, for better and for worse (see: fat finger problems). (We’ll return soon to a review of what the PC world is offering after our visit to Acer and Computex last week in Taipei.)
So, yes, you can sync your Maps app with your iPhone. But otherwise, Apple touted greater performance, new technology for coaxing speed out of memory and disk access, and “high-end” usability features like better multiple display support. Apple even acknowledged that video editors and musicians demand high-end machines with a sneak preview of the Mac Pro. That upcoming cylindrical machine will focus on loads of I/O (multiple Thunderbolt ports on dedicated controllers, multiple USB3, and an enhanced Thunderbolt 2), and the latest CPU and GPU tech from Intel and AMD, respectively. This is pro stuff, creator stuff. It’s a Mac that’s even more focused on the high-end user. Correction: Schiller incorrectly said FireWire, and then so did I. It’s Thunderbolt, though backwards-compatible with FireWire. Incidentally, at least so far, that backwards compatibility hasn’t had some of the early troubles that USB3/USB2 did. And, hey, at least neither of us said “SCSI.”
There are some question marks. Apple mentioned “energy-optimized audio buffering” in a slide, but it’s not clear what that is or if it will have an impact on audio latency. And “inter-app audio” is back on an iOS slide, even more confusingly than last year. (In the past year, Apple unveiled nothing, and third parties created not one but two tools that do the job.) We’ll find out about these and other changes when we can, and all bets are off until there’s something real to test.
But the overall story is clear. The Mac in the age of the iPad is getting smarter, not more dumbed down. Continue reading »
Raster-Noton co-founders Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto) and Olaf Bender, playing together as Signal (with Frank Bretschneider). Photo (CC-BY) Basic Sounds.
What’s remarkable about German music label Raster-Noton is not simply its staying power. Rather, it’s the way the aesthetic direction of the label, across visual and sonic media, has remained on course — and how that vision is just as relevant today.
The label, founded in the far southeastern German town of Chemnitz by Carsten Nicolai und Olaf Bender, has a stable of artists united by a sense of common interests. That aesthetic is often visual as well as musical; you get the impression that the music is designed as much as produced. Carsten Nicolai, for his part, has become a staple of galleries as well as festivals and clubs; you’ll find his work in places like Frankfurt’s renowned Städel Museum. But across a set of artists whose work is diverse without blurring the focus of the imprint, you discover musical work that is deeply connected to imagery.
And while the aesthetic may be often glitchy and minimal, there isn’t a sense of a post-apocalyptic, self-referential pessimism about digital media. Instead, I think Raster Noton’s output tends to orbit the notion of digital media at their most elemental: stripped of ornament, we see computers that crackle and buzz like living organisms. This is the kind of digital chemistry you might imagine if Tron were made now – only, minus the cribbed Kubrick sets and high-tech frisbees and motorcycles. It’s the computer as an instrument, dynamic and unique, as though resonating inside its microscopic silicon pathways rather than in wood or brass.
Given that a lot of the performances and even the design of the records play into the feeling of the label, it’s worth seeing a mix of music from Raster Noton in video form. Lately, the label has been sharing some great music via its Facebook page.
That includes videos from Aoki Takamasa, who just released RV8 in April (r-n148), Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto teaming up for their beautiful duets live last year, and like a dream of noisy CRT tube snow, a collaboration between UK video artist Sam Williams (with Clayton Welham) and Emptyset.
(Starting with Ryuichi Sakamoto – and being horribly biased as a piano player from the time I could reach the keys, again what I said about electronics and piano.)
Bass makes boys and girls happy, like sugar-y cereals and adorable cute animations. So, it seems only natural to round up the kids, pour yourself a bowl of Honey Smacks, and sit on the beanbag in front of the television set to watch the goodness of the boutique Critter & Guitari Bolsa Bass in an adorable psychedelic cell animation.
We’ve got the animation, the photos, the sounds, and the specs all here.
The basic notion here: six synthesis modes switch between different sounds, while a sequencer (with MIDI in, out, and sync for integration with hardware and software) handles all the bassline creation. There’s automation recording for the knobs, as well, right on the hardware.
But it’s a little hard to keep the left side of your brain focused on what the synth is doing when the right side is feeling all warm and fuzzy about basslines and that crazy-cute animated masterpiece by Devin Flynn.
Then again, tomorrow is Saturday morning. So, cartoons it is!
(Pssst – left brain. It’s US$250. But that’s more than decent for a handmade instrument. And with MIDI in, you’re not stuck with the little buttons to play melodies.)