A bare-bones UI belies a powerful engine - and a tool that could finally jump-start sound designers embracing an open format. Proprietary lock-in, no more.

Software Instruments, Freed From Sampler Formats: SFZ, Free Sounds, Free Sample Player

“Free As In Free Me From Proprietary Formats.” If you’re ready to explore sounds – as a novice sampler user or as an advanced sound developer – SFZ brings tidings of great joy. When they move from defining mere sounds or samples to describing whole instruments, sound designers need file formats. The problem has been that those formats tend to be particular to one sampler or another – just Kontakt, or just Logic’s EXS24, or just Gigastudio. Yes, there are converters, but because these samplers have different capabilities, converters cause problems. Being able to create instruments for these samplers is …

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What if your DAW were completely open-ended and modular, allowing you to send audio and control anywhere, and control from any device - including touch? Or, if that's too abstract for you, what if Usine ran on the Mac?

Sensomusic Hollyhock: An Open-Ended, Modular DAW from Usine Makers, Now Mac + Windows [Beta Preview]

Driven by musicians’ need to do a lot of the same things, and expecting certain ways of doing those things, DAWs have traditionally been mired in the same molds. Sensomusic Hollyhock, an upcoming DAW from the makers of Usine, promises to be genuinely different. Like Usine, it’s built around an entirely open-ended, modular environment – you can patch together only what you need, and can patch together just about anything. But building on Usine, Sensomusic have created an entirely rewritten app, with new audio engine, rebuilt interface, new MIDI management, and, among other things, cross-platform 64-bit support for Windows and …

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Finger-Drumming Video EP: Three Tracks, Played Live on MPD24, Zynewave Podium

We live in an age of finger drumming virtuosos, where drum pads are instruments. And so, while much of production is anything but real-time, here it makes perfect sense for three tracks to have accompanying live videos. The songs are each performances, something to be seen as well as heard. Peppered with samples from Bollywood, the EP Sacred Sounds is due out December 23 from Detroit-based producer/rapper JUST Muziq aka Lion. The artist says it’s a “controllerism-inspired” EP release, with music videos for each track showing off the connection of fingers to composition. Lion’s work is notable here, too, in …

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Dreamy Graphical Granular Greatness: Borderlands is Coming to iPad Soon

Borderlands Granular from Christopher Carlson on Vimeo. If the tablet has a strength, it’s in re-imagining software as something truly immersive – no knobs, no switches, just a futuristic wash of visuals and sound, like touching noise with your fingertip. Borderlands (soon to have a slightly different name) hints at that promise. We took a look inside the idea behind the app and the thought process that led to its design in April: Borderlands, Amazing-Looking Granular Sampler [iPad, Desktop, Free Source], and Beautiful Sound But now the video teaser above is probably enough to really whet your appetite. And there’s …

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Chain, Chain, Chain: Crazy Nodal Note Sequencing Departs from Everyday Step Sequencers [Kontakt]

Ready to step beyond normal step sequencers? Skip ahead in the tutorial videos here, and you’ll see what’s possible: elaborate grid patterns that don’t just play looped patterns ad infinitum. Now, as in milkshakes and ice cream cones, sometimes vanilla is just fine. For instance, this week, Nord released Nord Beat, a free step sequencer for iOS. And, apart from being free if you’ve got the iThing to run it, it’s a nice offering. You can chain together multiple loops of steps, and there’s a clever mode for switching to finger drumming. The system works: you get four tracks, velocity …

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Push-Button Remix? Pioneer Goes Hardware+Software with RMX-1000, remixbox DJ Tools

Pioneer, that best-known brand of DJ hardware, wants you to use hardware alongside software. And they’re uttering the word “remix” rather than “DJ.” And they have something that really doesn’t look like a CDJ, so much as a remote control for a spaceship carrying CDJs. It seems to be something of a trend. We saw earlier this week Native Instruments emphasize the word “remix” in their DJ product line, as in live-remixing music. And NI, along with offerings from almost every other DJ vendor and quite a few impressive homebrewed solutions, work with hardware/software combinations to build more elaborate live …

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Listen: LA’s Brainfeeder Label Shares Free Sampler; More Gilles Peterson Winners in London

Brainfeeder at work. Photo (CC-BY-NC-SA) Theo Jemison Photography. Writing about music may indeed be like dancing about architecture, so why not give music a listen? If you’re not already familiar with the terrific Los Angeles label Brainfeeder, founded by Flying Lotus, now’s the time to discover its artists. If you are familiar with them, you barely need read this blurb before skipping ahead to a lovely compilation. Onboard: Thundercat, Martyn, Samiyam, Tokimonsta, The Gaslamp Killer, Jeremiah Jae, Taylor McFerrin, Teebs, Austin Peralta, Matthewdavid, Mono/Poly (the artist, not the synth, but we can love both), plus (exclusive) Lapalux. BRAINFEEDER SAMPLER [Download, …

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Grid Machine Slice: Custom Kontakt Sample Library, Gone Mad

I tend to tune out when it comes to sample libraries, but here’s one that takes the scripting capabilities of Native Instruments’ Kontakt sampler to extremes. The Grid Machine line developed by Lindon Parker (Channel Robot) and distributed by LoopMasters brings to Kontakt the sort of grid-based, sliced-up sample manipulation we’ve seen in the monome community and in custom tools in environments like Ableton Live and Renoise. Using KSP, the scripting environment in Kontakt, these produce entirely-custom instruments that cut, chop, stutter, reverse, mix, trigger, sub-loop, re-trigger, and modulate. You can change speed, mute, skip, reorder, and play patterns, and …

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MachFive 3, in Pictures: Hybrid Sonic Powers, Nerdy Programming Features, and Prettiest Sampler Yet?

MOTU’s MachFive sampler, while perhaps not getting the kind of attention rivals from NI and Steinberg have, has had in its history some compelling features. Those features were in a multi-window interface, though, that not all of us loved – while I can’t find the review, I know when I covered it for Keyboard, I praised powerful editing features like the slicer but lamented the UI. MachFive’s new UI looks radically different. The tabbed layout and modules and preset browsing all recall NI’s products, but there are new twists, too, like slick, readable waveform views, gorgeous EQ visualizations borrowed from …

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NI Launches New Software Updates from Kontakt to Drums – and Puts Everything on a Hard Drive

Kontakt – is it the answer? Is it the reason that everything happens? Native Instruments today launches a new version of its flagship Kontakt sampler with new filters, effects and processing, improved sound quality, and sound design features. NI also refreshes Komplete – including, at last, a Komplete bundle that really does include kompletely everything. And we see new products covering drum samples and grooves and studio effects, too, as well as a major update to the sound design and processing capabilities of Guitar Rig. Sadly, that isn’t the Komplete Infinity package we saw lampooned last week, which promised “quite …

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