For me, Apollo is what changed the value equation and appeal of Universal Audio.

Suddenly, we weren’t talking about buying hardware just to run some nice effects – which, good as those effects were, limited the audience for the UAD. With Apollo, the hardware splurge made sense. It was simply one of the better audio interfaces you could buy for production work, even before instantiating a single plug-in.

And then you could add the UAD plug-ins. For anyone who said that they weren’t interested in running effects on dedicated DSP hardware, the Apollo is an answer. Fine. Here’s a reason to run on DSP: add those effects in real time, as you play or track.

Last month, UA refreshed that whole audio interface line. And they continue the steady stream of plug-ins, many recreating historical instruments.

The new Apollo, clad in black, isn’t a revolutionary update, though one reason that’s fair to say is that the existing Apollo is pretty darned good.

The latest announcements should bust up one myth, as well. UA isn’t only catering to Mac fans with the latest machines, by way of Thunderbolt. The existing FireWire-based devices continue to run just fine, thank you, and the latest generation even gets a new FireWire update. That’s good news for anyone using Windows, or even an older, pre-Thunderbolt Mac.

First, let’s have a look at what’s new on Apollo.

Apollo-8p-Dynamic Continue reading »

Documentary MusicMakers Hacklab at CTM Festival 2015 from CDM on Vimeo.

With computers and electricity or without it, musical performance has the potential to be expressive, powerful, immediate. Making music live in front of an audience demands spontaneous commitment. What technology can allow us to is to wire up that potential to other fields in new ways.

And that was the feeling that began 2015 for us, working in the collaborative MusicMakers Hacklab at CTM Festival in Berlin. Neuroscientists met specialists in breathing met instrumentalists.

Think the lightning bolt in the laboratory: it’s alive.

hacklab1_stefaniekluisch Continue reading »


Blah, blah, the influence of the Roland drum machines, their musical/cultural significance… I’ve actually written those words before, so I’ll skip doing it this time.

In case the YouTube subtitles aren’t working, let me translate the German from the making-of video below:

“We decided to make a giant bit of pr0n for you because these old Roland boxes are so beautiful. Try to keep our finely-printed pages from sticking together.”

Actually, the still above looks like something out of Blow-Up< – Antonioni for the studio set?

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The challenge in making tools, as in making anything else, is really the making. It’s one thing for an idea to exist in your head, another to really get down to construction. And very often great engineering means testing, means building the idea and then refining it. So prototyping is everything.

That could explain the increased passion for hacking. Whereas big development efforts are a morass of meetings, or traditional prototyping could mean elaborate distractions from testing what we really works, “hacks” work to get something usable more quickly. And that means testing the usability of an idea happens faster.

libpd, an embeddable version of Pure Data, is meant to be a tool that works both in a weekend hackathon and in a shipping product. (For some shipping products CDM helped with, check out the mominstruments site – more on these this week and next, in fact!)

And this set of video tutorials by Rafael Hernandez is the best introduction I’ve seen yet to using them. I usually actually hate sitting through video tutorials. But these are clear, concise, and give accurate advice – and they walk you through the latest version of Xcode, which is sometimes otherwise confusing.

I have no doubt you could watch these over a half hour breakfast and build a cool app hack by the end of the day.

If you don’t yet know Pd, he also has a video series on that:

There are some real gems in there, worth a browse even if you’re a Pd user. Pd is a bit deeper, though, so I’m back to also liking to read and not just watch videos – see also the pd-tutorial and flossmanuals as they cover some more sophisticated techniques.

Maybe you’ll get to do some of this hacking with us in person, if you’re in Berlin: Continue reading »


From small boxes, big sound, and enormous fun…

Something has happened in the evolution of electronic music production. What was once so often a slow process has become a jam, what was carefully orchestrated on screens finds itself embodied in gear. And small and affordable “toys” can often deliver the greatest “switch-on-and-play” satisfaction.

Helsinki’s Recue and Jolea first found their way to their album by playing live, so it’s fitting we start with a live set from them. Their fusion is beat-driven, left-field pop – settling into moody, experimental grooves with effortless hooks over top. It’s melancholy surfaces with sparkling edges.

See video below; embed is now fixed!

Recue brings the soundscapes and beats, while Jolea adds her songwriting and vocal talents in really nicely-balanced collaboration. (Jolea also does production and manages the label Audiobaum.) The result is dreamy and evocative, layered song craft with endless production details.

Their aptly-named We’re Not Like the Most LP is out now, but let’s chat about the process of making this hardware jam of the cut “Tempo 17″ – especially as that’s the distinctive, grimy growl of our MeeBlip cutting through the mix. (That’s an SE, but I really appreciate that our engineer James Grahame managed to change the architecture and filter but maintain a particular personality.)

The track is “using various quirky little synths including a Yamaha ”toy” keyboard, an awesome DIY kit synth, a ”hackable digital synthesizer” and a drum machine that looks like a pocket calculator,” they announce. Here’s more:

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For all the power you might imagine of various tools, sometimes it’s combining simple devices that yields the greatest results.

Our friend Chris Stack is no stranger to deep synths and powerful modulars. But he’s been doing inspiring things with the littleBits line of snap-together modules made with KORG – particularly now that they’re paired with modules for MIDI and CV.

You might have seen some of these videos on (cough) other sites, while I was getting behind in my workload, but Chris has kept making more in the interim. He writes: “I was able to hook LittleBits into my DSI Pro 2, Moog Voyager, Ableton and Koushion in some really interesting ways, and the results were surprisingly musical, especially in the Koushion + Ableton video.

A lot of fun… I wish they had these when I was a kid.”

Let’s watch: Continue reading »


You’re going to need some bigger pockets. (Overalls?)

British-born, Kyoto-based Ally Mobbs has hacked the inexpensive Teenage Engineering PO-12 drum machine into a full-sized box. Instead of the tiny, fingertip-challenging buttons, you get nice, big arcade buttons. He’s also made a lovely-looking wooden case and a jack connector.

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