Category Archives for "Computer"

March 16, 2017

Google’s AI Music Experiment

Google's AI music experimentMany musicians feel threatened by the artificial intelligence programs that are now trying to create songs based on the music that they’ve learned. Yes, it’s scary when the robots take over, but perhaps we’re looking at it all wrong, as illustrated with this Google AI music experiment.

A.I. Duet, as shown in the video below, is actually part of Google’s Magenta project, which was created to see if machine learning could actually create some compelling music. Yotam Mann coded A.I. Duet and made it open source so anyone can use it to program their own neural net.

While the music that Duet comes up with isn’t that great (at least in this video), one of the things that I find interesting is the possibility of actually playing along with an ever-changing computer musician who’s also listening to you. Not only does that sound like a potentially great learning experience, but should be fun too.

Maybe we shouldn’t be so afraid of AI music after all.

You can access the code a g.co/aiexperiments.

New Music Gear Monday: Antelope Audio Orion32 HD Interface

Antelope Audio Orion 32 HDOne of the problems with audio interfaces is they just don’t have enough I/O sometimes. Most interfaces are either 8 or 16 channels, which is plenty in some cases and not enough in others. While the price for a single 16 channel interface might seem reasonable, when you put two of them together to meet your I/O needs, the costs can quickly get out of hand. Antelope Audio’s Orion32 has been a great solution, with 32 analog ins and 32 analog outs in just a single rack space. The new Orion32 HD takes that yet another step forward.

The Orion32 HD is unique in that it’s compatible with any DAW on the market, making it an option for users of both Pro Tools and Native systems via HDX or USB3 at up to 192kHz/24 bit. It also includes MADIADAT, and S/PDIF connectivity and 32-in/32-out analog connections via DB25. There are also two word clock or loopsync outs that allow the Orion to serve as the center of a recording setup (thanks to its outstanding internal clock), or make an easy connection with an external clock. Two monitor outputs that Antelope calls “mastering-grade” since they’re the same as the ones on Antelope’s Pure2 Mastering Converter complete the I/O setup.

Orion32 HD also includes a library of over 30 free plugins that include the latest collaboration between Antelope and BAE Audio, with two new EQ models based on their 1023 and 1084 equalizers, as well as a free version of PreSonus Studio One Artist DAW software. The unit retails for $3,495, which may seem high, but it’s still cheaper than paying for 2 high-quality 16 channel units. Find out more on the dedicated webpage or view the video below.

January 3, 2017

Cables – Which To Keep And Which To Toss

CablesWe all have tons of computer cables that we’ve collected over the years, many of which are obsolete, but we keep around anyway. With each new generation of peripherals comes a new cable, and that means our cable box gets bigger. CNET recently posted an article about which cables you should keep and which to toss, but it’s somewhat difficult to read across 17 pages. Here are their conclusions put a bit more succinctly.

  • Mini-USB: Keep. Some hard drives, battery chargers and cameras still use this.
  • Micro-USB: Keep. This is still used with a lot of devices so worth keeping around.
  • Apple 30 pin: Toss. Unless you have an old iPhone or iPad, you have no use for this.
  • USB3 Micro B: Keep. This is still used with the new USB C connectors that many new phones and computers are using.
  • Thunderbolt or Mini-DisplayPort: Keep. USB C is coming on strong, but Thunderbolt will be around for some time yet.
  • DisplayPort: Keep. This is still pretty popular, although HDMI is gradually taking over.
  • DVI: Toss. This format is pretty much dead. DVI suffers from no 4k resolution and lack of audio.
  • VGA: Toss. VGA’s dead as a doornail too unless you’re still using a monitor that needs it (it’s time to upgrade then).
  • USB A to B: Keep. It’s still found on printers and audio interfaces.
  • 3.5mm audio: Keep. Always good to have around, although you might not need it.
  • RCA/Composite: Toss. Get rid of those RCA cables used for composite video. That technology died 10 years ago.
  • S-Video: Toss. Another video technology that’s been replaced.
  • Coaxial Cable: Keep. You might need this for wordclock distribution or as an extension on your cable box.
  • SATA: Keep. SATA drives are still around, so make sure you keep the cables.
  • Ethernet: Keep. Although everything is going wireless, it’s worth hanging on to a least a couple of these if you have devices that can use them, especially for a solid Skype connection.
  • 3 Prong Power Cables: Keep. If you’re like me you have a big box with extras, but you never seem to have one when you need it.
  • 2 Prong Power Cables: Keep. These are usually pretty specialized to a device, so make sure you keep them until you toss the device it goes to.

It’s the beginning of the year, so now is a great time to sort through those cables.

New Music Gear Monday: Slate Control Monitor Controller

Slate ControlOne of the most important components of a home or desktop studio is the monitor controller, and while there are more and more such devices on the market these days, not all are a good fit for many studios. For instance, the needs of someone working with a laptop mixing on headphones are completely different from someone who’s actually recording people in the room or needs the highest quality monitor signal path possible. The new Slate Control fits into the latter category, with features usually found on a full-blown recording console but that are often needed in today’s in-the-box world.

First of all, the Slate Control head can be used as either an independent table top module, integrated directly into the RAVEN MTX Mk2 or RAVEN Z3 armrest, or even integrated into an older analog console, since it’s only 7 inches deep. If a retrofit is in your stars, Slate Control adds 7 stereo monitor path inputs but also connects to the solo buss signal and logic inputs of your existing console for seamless control.

Regardless of the environment it’s being used, the controller has a wide array of pro features, including 3 speaker selections, each with an LFE Enable switch, and speaker B and C have trim controls for matching levels with speaker A. Speaking of LFE, the LFE Output has multiple modes with a 12dB per octave low pass filter that can be set at 80 or 120Hz, or a Direct Output Mode, along with Polarity and Level Trim. A CAL Mode also allows you to preset a reference level for the speakers, disabling the main control room volume control. The speaker section of the controller also features cut, mono compatibility and left speaker polarity functions as well.

Slate Control also has multiple cue outputs and headphone outputs with some very useful talkback functions. The Talkback System has both a built-in mic and external mic input, which allows both reverse talkback for instant communication with the artist, and a feature called Selectable Auto Talkback that engages the talkback automatically when the music stops.

All inputs and outputs are balanced and diode protected against accidental phantom power (48V) connections, with DB25 connections for inputs and outputs, and DB9 connections for Aux and Talkback Aux remote functions. There’s also an on-board USB Hub for iLok and phone charging, as well as an 1/8th inch input for playback from an mobile phone. Best of all, the audio signal path was designed by famed audio developer Paul Wolf so the audio quality if top-notch.

The Slate Control isn’t inexpensive at $2,499, but neither are the other high-end controllers on the market that offer similar features and quality. Check out the dedicated page here for more information.

September 20, 2016

Use A bunch Of USB Flash Drives In A RAID Array

flash drive RAID array If you’re a musician or engineer, you life is entangled in some way with a computer. For some of us, the computer is an essential part of our workflow, while for others, not so much. If you’re one of the geekier readers who constantly lives inside the computer, then this post is for you. It’s all about how you can take a bunch of USB flash drives and configure then in a RAID array.

This video explains how to do as well as what is a RAID, how it works, and what the advantages are. It’s a bit dated in computer terms (a year old), but still applicable, and it just might help you out in a pinch.

Now let’s get your geek on.

New Music Gear Monday: Antelope Audio Zen Tour Audio Interface

antelope-zen-tourBuying an audio interface can often be a confusing process. There are now so many choices that it often comes down to features rather than sound. Antelope Audio’s new Zen Tour interface is one that doesn’t skimp on either, providing far more features than most interfaces while providing the renowned Antelope Audio sound.

The Zen Tour starts with lots of I/O. It has eight analog ins (four guitar/line, four mic/line), 16 analog outs (two balanced monitor output pairs, eight line-outs on D-sub, two stereo headphone outs, two mono transformer-based Reamp outs), plus two ADAT and SPDIF inputs and outputs. Couple that with a touchscreen display, talkback mic and control, and a large volume/controller knob, and you have an excellent interface/monitor controller for any home studio or mobile rig.

Zen Tour also comes with a full compliment of very useful plugins, with Pultec, Neve and API EQ emulations to a wide range of guitar emulations. These include not only a variety of modeled amps, but also speaker cabinets and even the microphones that are being used on them.

Also included are apps to remotely control the unit from a Mac, Windows computer, iOS, and Android device that adjust Zen Tour’s audio routing, built-in effects, input/output metering, and just about any other parameter you can think of. Plus, you can run the app simultaneously on multiple devices/operating systems (PC, Mac, iOS, Android) and have them all control one interface at the same time!

Antelope Audio has long been known for its exceptional internal digital clocks that keeps the jitter low, which improves the clarity, depth, width and 3-dimensionality. The Zen Tour is no exception with a great clock and mastering-quality DACs capable of 129dB dynamic range. It can be connected to your computer via Thunderbolt or USB connectors, making it very easy to use with different computers without having to worry about adapters or interface boxes.

The unit is available now with a street price of $1,495. Check out this page and the video below for more info.

Are Your Ready For A Really Fast Flash Drive?

fast flash drive OWC Envoy Pro MiniI call it a flash drive, but you might refer to it as a thumb drive or USB stick – it doesn’t matter. It’s amazing how much we use these things anymore without giving a second thought to how convenient they are. They’re getting larger and larger in capacity, which is a good thing, but the problem is that they’re not really fast enough for any serious recording work. Until now, that is. The really fast flash drive has arrived.

This flash drive is up to 16 times faster than your standard USB 3.0 drives and there are actually two companies that now sell them, but more on that later.

So why are USB 3.0 sticks so slow considering the very fast transfer rate of USB 3.0? Good question with a good answer.

Until now, none of the available thumb drives were able to take advantage of the speed of the interface format because of the speed of the components inside. The higher the speed, the more power it uses (which might mean that USB power won’t be sufficient) and the more heat it generates. So that was one limitation. Another way to get more speed is to use more components in parallel, but the small size of the stick made that a non-starter as well.

But now there’s a new generation of flash drive (and solid state drives, or SSDs, for that matter) that uses mSATA interface that makes a huge difference in speed. For one thing, an mSATA thumb drive is only slightly larger than a normal one, but the good thing is that it can be powered off the USB drive. It would defeat the purpose if you needed external powering, after all.

I know I’ve left you hanging here a bit with the explanation of what they are without introducing the suppliers, so here they are. The Other World Computing Envoy Pro Mini gives you 240G with SSD performance in your pocket (and there’s one with 480G capacity!). The other one is the MyDigitalSSD OTG, which has a variety of sizes as well.  There’s a big difference in price here, as the Envoy sells for $169 while the OTG sells for $89.

I’ve purchased a lot from Other World Computing over the years and their products and service have been top notch, but I know nothing about MyDigitalSSD so can’t make a recommendation there. Either way, the price is pretty spectacular for what you’re getting.

All I can say is that it will be nice to finally have the ability to run a session off a thumb drive, or back up what you did that day really quickly, and then be able to take it home with you at the end of the night. I’d say that the really fast flash drive is here to stay.

New Music Gear Monday: Sensel Morph Tactile Controller

Sensel MorphWe’ve been used to the keyboard, mouse and trackpad as our main computer interface for a long time now, but didn’t you ever wish for more control than these single dimensional input devices provide? Meet the Sensel Morph, a multi-touch pressure sensitive controller that rethinks the way we input data in just about any application.

The Morph is basically a pressure sensitive tablet that can detect large levels of pressure information. While that in itself makes it unique, it goes another step by providing magnetic overlays for a variety of applications, and even a template where you can specify your own control overlay from scratch for Sensel to print it for you, or they can send you the 3D printing file so you can print it at home. As it’s currently configured, the unit comes with one of three standard music control surface overlays: an MPC-style control surface and drum programming grid, a keyboard or a drum kit.

The Morph works out of the box with many applications, and it’s also hackable if you have the technical chops. You can connect it to your computer via USB, to your iPad via Bluetooth, or to an Arduino via developer cables.

The unit is able to work with such precision thanks to approximately 20,000 individual sensor elements at a spacing of less than 1/16” inserted on a custom-formulated highly-tuned polymer layer. That gives each individual sensor element the ability to detect anything from a feather-light tap to a hard push and everything in between (with over 4,000 detectable voltage levels).

The Sensel Morph was part of a Kickstarter campaign that quickly reached it’s $60,000 goal, then it’s stretched goal of $250k, and now sits at $442k, so there’s obviously some appetite for the unit. You can buy a your own Morph now directly from Sensel for $249 with one overlay, and even better, the company is currently delivering.

Check out the video below for more about the Morph, and also take a look at the music section of the Sensel website.

July 5, 2016

The Apple I/O Death Chart

old iMac portsMany of us rely on Apple computers as our workstations, which means that we have to upgrade every few years to keep up with the technology and horsepower available (same on the PC side actually). Apple has always led the way with new technology, but it’s also in the forefront of booting old tech to the curb before the rest of the industry as well. Here’s a great chart courtesy of The Verge that illustrates this perfectly. The Apple I/O Death Chart shows an impressive array of ports that have fallen by the wayside.

apple-death-chart

As you can see, the floppy disc drive, VGA port, CD/DVD drive and SCSI were just some of the ports that Apple killed off before anyone else. Now it’s been rumored that Apple will soon do away with the 1/8th inch headphone jack in favor of using the Lightning port on the upcoming iPhone 7. Of course, the USB-C port on the latest Macbook laptops have replaced the power, Display Port, Firewire and HDMI jacks on previous models.

While this is supposed to make it more convenient for most users, pro users suffer as we have lots of peripherals and interfaces using the old technology that a new computer might not support. That means it’s off to buying either a host of unexpected new gear with compatible ports or some expensive adapters.

That said, I don’t know anyone who’d trade in their Thunderbolt interface for SCSI, or HDMI for VGA, or go back to floppy or Jazz drives for storage.

Thunderbolt may be an exception. It’s fast and in theory more practical to implement, but the cables are expensive (mostly because there’s intelligence built in) and you never seem to have enough ports.

So check out the Apple I/O Death Chart with a nostalgic eye and know that we’re part of an industry where things constantly change, evolve, morph, transform and hopefully, improve. One last thing to keep in mind, Apple’s I/O standards last about 15 years, so the 1/8th inch headphone jack is way beyond it’s lifespan.