Komplete 7 in Yosemite

I’ve been a Native Instruments user for quite some time. Jumped on the train and bought Kontakt 2 and FM7 when they were hot and new. I grew very fond of Kontakt and loved the huge potential it had, so I upgraded to Kontakt 3 and started to learn KSP. Eventually I had both some really nice scripts and enough money to upgrade to Komplete 5. Version 5 was upgraded to 6 and later on to 7. That’s when I found out, the hard way, that Native Instruments’ Komplete product serie is messed up when it comes to customer value.
If you turn to Waves you can buy a bundle and a Waves Update Plan, or WUP, and when Waves releases something new for your bundle you will get that product right away. Natives Instruments does this completely the other way around. You can buy Komplete 7, but you won’t receive any other products when they’re released. You can pay for them but then you have to pay for them again, sort of, when you upgrade from Komplete 7 to Komplete 8 and all the products you’ve bought actually are included in 8. Hence paying twice for the same product in my book. I think Native Instruments should switch approach and do it in the same way Waves is doing this. So that’s why I’m still on Komplete 7 and haven’t upgraded it even though Komplete 10 has been out for over 6 months.

A couple of days ago I got a new MacBook Pro to replace my over 5 years old computer. I dug out the 36 DVD’s of music applications and software instruments and started the enormous installation process.

I had no troubles at all installing the latest version of PreSonus Studio One, the Korg Legacy Collection bundle and a bunch of other plugins. I was actually a bit surprised that Korg had gone through the trouble of updating their whole line of products to 64 bit architecture.

However, when I turned to Native Instruments and tried to install Komplete 7 things went sideways. The installation complained that Komplete 7 failed to start the installation. Native Instruments actually states that Komplete 7 isn’t supported, but stubborn as I can be I think that’s nonsense. A close friend suggested that there might just be a bug in the installation script so I started to examine it.

What the installation script does when it starts is that it checks which version of OS X that is running on the computer. Operating system versions are often two or more integer numbers joined together with a period sign, for example; 10.10. In the decimal world 10.1 and 10.10 are the same but with higher accuracy on the latter. The script is reading the version of OS X in a decimal format and simply doesn’t know that it’s a major and minor version syntax. Just a floating point, or decimal, number.

ISO content
I copied the “Komplete 7 Installed Mac.mpgk” file from the ISO to my desktop because I needed write access to the file. I then used the “Show Package Contents” after right-clicking the file to have a new Finder window popping up.
Show Package Content

Open the “distribution.dist” file in an editor (Smultron in my case) and look for the following line (number 14 if you’re counting) of code:
if(!(system.version.ProductVersion >= '10.5')) {

This is where the installation script breaks since it thinks that ‘10.10’ is less than ‘10.5’. Change this to ‘10.1’ and save the file. Close the Finder window and simply double-click the “Komplete 7 Installer Mac.mpkg” file to start the installation.

Make sure to have the rest of the DVD’s nearby and you’ll be able to install everything without any hassle at all. I started Service Center and applied my codes from my account page on the Native Instruments web site and it all activated just fine.
And finally the installation works.

I’ve tested Massive 1.4.2, Absynth 5.4.2, Kontakt 4.2.4 and Reaktor 5.9.2 in the latest version of Studio One (which is 2.6.5) and it all works just great.

So, there you have it! Happy hacking, editing and installing the applications you’ve paid for.

Now, go and make some great music! Share this post with others if they have trouble with their Komplete installations on newer Mac’s running OS X 10.10 or above.

What Modular synths have taught me

When I started to produce music, my rig quickly grew to consist of more than 10 synthesisers; either keyboards or rack mounted units. I had quite a fair amount of MIDI and audio cables running across my room – everything neatly patched into other units so I could have each and every synthesiser on different audio channels in my computer. That was the end of the 1990’s and early 2000. I remember when I sold my Yamaha 01V mixer and went for a Creamware A16 to mix everything in Cubase instead.

I then discovered that virtual instruments could give me a quicker way of working, and I started to move towards a completely software based studio for a while. Well, almost. I’ve had the Clavia Nord Modular G2 for almost 10 years, but it’s actually on the fine line of being a software synthesiser too but with a hardware controlling unit – but I still count it as hardware since I can use it as a stand-alone unit. Anyhow, the virtual way of working gave me the speed I was looking for since I didn’t actually have to record anything and a total recall of everything when I switched between projects.

Then the modular synthesisers came along. It is a thing of the 1970’s, but I’ve never had an interest for them until now.
It was a day in March, 2013, when I received my first shipment of Eurorack modules. My best friend and studio buddy had been a modular synthesiser (dare I say fanatic?) user for a couple of years. He’d sold almost everything he owned, studio-wise, to build a huge modular synthesiser. And my own rack have now grown into an almost complete 9U 84hp wide beast.

What the modular synthesiser have taught me is that I can create a sound, record it, remove the patch chords and probably never ever be able to design that specific sound again. So if I’m not recording it – it’s gone. This tickled a certain side of me which I never saw or felt when working with a hardware based studio. It could probably be compared to something close to improvising on the Piano even though you could play it again if you try to memorise what you’ve just played. I could improvise making sounds and when happy accidents occurred, I could record it and carry on the adventurous journey through the sonic territory laying before my feet – or hands.

This has made me work with music in two ways.

1) I’ve started writing melodies and chord progressions before focusing on the sound meaning that I think I put a lot more energy into composing the melody itself instead of being seduced by sounds. When I’m happy with the melody I move to the next step – to create the sound itself which will bring the melody into life.

2) I’m creating sounds and recording them, then removing the cables and never look back. If I need to redo the song in a new key, or sometimes a different tempo, I have to rely on audio processing tools to fix it and if they can’t I need to create something else. I know some producers and creators have a real issue with this, but I find it exciting and original. It actually pushed me over the edge with my Nord Wave. I haven’t saved the latest sounds I’ve tweaked as presets. I just recorded what I needed and moved on.

Modular synthesisers have made me cherish hardware synthesisers in the same way as modulars. Luckily enough I don’t have room to start hoarding hardware synthesisers again but I’m most certain that I will, someday. Because I don’t need to store every sound I tweak on the front panel. I can use it just as I use the modular counterpart in the studio. Tweak a sound until satisfaction, record it and forget it.

There is a creative advantage with being able to recall a sound or setting swiftly, but working on a modular patch night after night, slowly tweaking it until perfection before deciding to record it and then simply erase it is creative zen to me – and I hope it’ll show in my productions.

Let me know what your approach to music production is. Are you stressed to produce a full song in one evening and then move to the next? Or are you spending night after night looking for that perfect sound?

Now I’ve got some more patch cords to jack in and some knobs to turn.

Playing Goa-Trance Live

How would you go about to do a live performance?

I have been reflecting a bit after a discussions we had with a couple of fans after a live performance on Walpurgis Night. They asked us, respectfully, how much of our live set which actually were live and not pre-recorded. They first insisted that the music sounded a lot better at the show than on their home system where they listened to prepare for their night out at the club.

To be honest, a lot of our music is pre-recorded. There is no chance that everything you hear can be played live by just two musicians on stage with two laptops and two synthesisers. Our songs comprises of roughly 40 odd tracks each. Some tracks have been processed beyond recognition, cut into tiny pieces, rearranged and then been put back again. It can take hours of editing to do something like that, not counting the time to actually patch the original sound on a modular system which we so dearly love to use. How would one go about to do that in real time on stage? Some tracks have effects which introduce latency. This latency is compensated for when we are mixing and producing in the studio by our software in a way not possible to handle on stage. We can not just turn off all the effects to timely record a new track and then turning everything back on again midst a song in the live set. Timing events when there is a, say, 23 millisecond, or even worse, latency is a bit tricky.

A lot of things are however live. We have removed melodic parts and other elements from the songs which we play live. Being classically trained on the Piano and other instruments we simply can not just stand there trigger loops and hitting buttons. We have to hit some keys on our synthesisers too. They have been prepared for hours with pre-programmed sounds and tempo-synced sequences which are being altered using modulation sources controlled by knobs and wheels to breathe life into them. So when a fan says that it did not sound that we played much live but still sounded different from the YouTube videos it is both a good and a bad thing. Good because we are apparently mixing and timing it well enough but bad because it does not give the audience that extra spice as we think a live performance should do.

I have been doing this for the past 15 plus years, always bringing hardware instruments to live shows. Always playing melodic lines on top of our backing. Two live gigs with the same set list will not be the same if you pay close attention.

I do not want to be judgmental here but I have seen artists playing live using two CD players. I have seen artists playing live doing nothing but gently touching the EQ knobs of the main mixing console and I have seen artists playing live using a USB controller with sliders which to me did not appear to have any function at all. How this can be called playing live puzzles me. So, what am I missing? Is there not some minimum effort which must be achieved to actually call it a live gig? Or can anything be live even though everything is prepared, pre-recorded, mastered and nailed down to the tiniest bit and you are just waving your arms?
My question is therefore divided to the two different groups of people: the artists and the audience.
To the artists: how do you prepare a live set? What type of equipment do you bring along? How do you set it all up and how are you performing it? What type of control do you still have and what type of control are you giving up?
To the audience: what do you expect from a band, or an artist, being promoted as a live act at a concert or in a club? How do you feel if it appears that everything is just playback and the artists is simply just standing there? Does it matter at all to you?

From my experience there are several issues you have to deal with as an artist when you are about to perform a live set and these must always be attended to. I also think that this might be of interest for the audience to get a bit of a peak behind the scenes and understand what is expected from us and what we have to deal with before it is time to play.
When you take the stage you most often do so after a DJ who has been spinning songs all masterfully mixed together – live, mind you. Those songs are produced in non-linear time and mastered to have the right amount of punch and energy across the frequency spectrum. They often sound a lot thicker and finished (this is another discussion though) compared to the unmastered songs simply just bounced or mixed down from a sequence software. This can bluntly be compensated for by turning the volume up a bit more. But it will never sound the same compared to a finished product.
Next we have the issue of available physical space. Sometimes there simply is not any. At all. During my fair share of live performances I have heard everything from “What is with all the cases?” to “Will these tables be enough for you?” and “The entire stage is yours. Welcome!”. I have not had the foggiest about what the crew were thinking when they have asked us, invited us and paid us to do a live gig and looks rather surprised when we arrive with bags and cases filled with equipment. So how are we supposed to play a live set when we can not fit the equipment needed to do so? There is also rarely enough time to rig the equipment either. Some organisers do not want the music to stop – period. Unpacking, rigging, cabling, starting up and giving a final glance over all the settings takes its time too. And disconnecting every cable and packing everything up when we are done also takes its fair amour of time. So when you have been asked to play for 90 minutes, make sure you are closer to 65-70 to have a bit of additional time on your hands in case the stroboscope have been connected to the same electrical phase as the rest of the rig so your equipment is spontaneously rebooting a little now and then 30 seconds before you are scheduled to hit that opening chord.
And finally we have the issue of application stability. The more you decide to play live, the you will depend on that everything actually works. I have had few hardware instruments which have crashed but have had several software application which all have crashed at some point. Sometimes it is the application itself and sometimes it is due to a faulty third party plugin. The last thing you would want is for the whole thing to crash on stage while performing at a venue.

To round things off I think it boils down to two different options and it is ultimately the audience who have got the final vote. Are you there do dance and does not mind nor care how the music is delivered to you? Or are you there to appreciate the talent of a musician working hard on stage to give you an experience and sound different from what is on the latest album release?

Best of luck at your next concert, whether you are performing or simply just there for pure pleasure.

LP1 and LS1: Unboxing

I received a package with a couple of Soundmachine modules the other week but didn’t take the time until now to post something about it. Sorry.

It’s the LP1 Lightplane and a three-pack of the LS1 Lightstrips which was delivered extremely quick all the way from Italy to my doorstep over the weekend.

Say hello to my new friends.

Say hello to my new friends.

Neatly packed and arrived safely.

Neatly packed and arrived safely.

The modules were neatly packed in their respective box and Soundmachines even shipped washers so I don’t have to worry about rack rash when mounting them.

Power, screws and even washer was delivered. That's super nice!

Power, screws and even washer was delivered. That’s super nice!

The LP1 came with washers too, and of course a power cable and screws – but hey! – that’s standard and I didn’t expect anything less.

Power, screws and washers here too.

Power, screws and washers here too.

Soundmachines have really considered these modules to be used in a skiff. They’re really not deep at all. And the LP1 being really flat as you can see below.

LS1 Lightstrip

Showing how deep the LS1 is. Skiff friendly.

LP1 Lightplane

Showing how extremely skiff friendly the LP1 is.

And finally a nice little test to see that they work as they should. Blinkenlichts!

Showing the mounted modules and their nice LEDs.

Showing the mounted modules and their nice LEDs.

So, what’s an LP1 and an LS1? Did you say “light”?
Yes. The LP1 is called “Lightplane” and the LS1 is called “Lightstrip” and that’s what they are – sort of. They both consist of a capacitive surface and some LED’s and a couple of jacks. Depending on where you put your finger, the module will output CV either between 0-10V or 0-5V. A jumper on the back sets either mode. The LP1 has three jumpers so you can decide if the different axises should have different settings. Well thought through. There’s another jumper on the back used to tell which direction you’d like to have the module mounted. Jacks up or jacks down? You choose.

So the LS1 is really just a fancy looking modulation wheel sort of controller?
Both yes, and no. Yes, it does the same job as a modulation wheel. You can use the “mode” button to switch between two modes. One where it always till return to zero after you release your finger and one where it will stay on the last voltage when you release it.
And no it’s not really a modulation wheel either since it has a nifty record mode. This is where the fun begins. You can record your finger movements and have the module to repeat it over, and over, again. Much like an LFO but with great control over the output.

And in the same way the LP1 is much like a joystick (used in vector synthesis), but with the same recording facilities as the LS1, hence making it a multi-dimensional LFO, sort of. Just like the LS1 it can be used with, or without, the hold mode as well.

It’s got 3 CV output: x, y and z. Practically enough the Morphing Terrarium has three inputs: x, y and z. Match made in heaven.

Both the LP1 and LS1 have got a gate output, which can be an input for some serious recording timings. Read more in the PDF manual.

I’m working on a demonstration video for the modules, but you’ll have to bare with me a few more days so I can find time and give you something worth watching. I have a patch ready using all my patch cables so it won’t be long now.

Meanwhile, just search for the modules at YouTube or Vimeo to get a good look at what they can do.

LP1 – Lightplane

Wrote my first post over at Medium yesterday and it goes:

Italy based Soundmachines designs and builds controller modules for Eurorack modular systems. I’ve tried their LS1, a Lightstrip, which sends CV signals depending on where on the capacitive surface you press. The Lightplane, however, is a multi-dimensional version of the Lightstrip. It has got three axes where the z axis is pressure based. With a record function, also found on the LS1, it can playback and loop your finger movements infact making it a multi-dimensional LFO.

Since you might want to have the module mounted upside down in the bottom row of a case, or perhaps in a skiff, there’s also a jumper on the back to switch the direction of the plane. If your finger goes up, the voltage does too.

I’m eagerly waiting for TNT to deliver my package of the LP1 described above together with a three-pack of the LS1. You can, simply put, never have enough controllers in your Eurorack system.

My modules will eventually be placed in a 6U base case ultimately focused on controller modules for my main 9U rack.

If you’re into Eurorack modulars, be sure to check out the Lightstrip or Lightplane modules — or perhaps any of the other modules made by Soundmachines. Listen to this description: “Modular robot singer complete with personality disorder”. Makes you want one doesn’t it?

URL: http://www.sound-machines.it/

Creating a sampled instrument

I thought I’d share some thoughts about how sampled my Eva Solo carafe and my crystal bowl to make instruments out of them.

I used an Audio Technica AT4041 microphone phantom powered by my Motu UltraLite mk3.

This is what it looked like;

Glass Pitcher and Audio Technica AT4041

Glass Pitcher and Audio Technica AT4041

I recorded the samples at 192 kHz so I could pitch it down and still have a lot of audio data available. I could literally play the sound at a fourth of the original speed and still have it in CD sample rate (44.1 kHz). With that amount of information I could stretch, compress, speed up and slow down and still have enough details without turning to the FFT domain.

Here’s an example using the carafe, of glass pitcher if you like. I’ve added some (okay, a lot of) reverb to it and added a pad in the background to make it more interesting. I think I finally chose to sample its neck (the narrow upper part of the carafe) and not the bigger lower part as the photo might indicate. The sound was too short and didn’t really have a pitch so it became more of a percussive instrument.

Then I brought out my crystal bowl. Not sure how old it is, or who made it. I actually inherited it from my grandmother who in turn had gotten it from someone. Just thinking about hitting it with a drumstick might sound like a crazy idea. Luckily, I don’t have any photos of the madness but I do have a sound file. Again, I sampled the bowl at 192 kHz to add as much information to the sound as I could and since the bowl vibrated for a while when hitting it it actually had a pitch which I could tune. I added some (okay, a lot of this time too) reverb to it and stuck a pad behind it to make it less boring.

Here’s the crystal bowl sound;

Our most creative track until today is still our remix of the fabulous “Butterfly Effect” song by Lamb which can be enjoyed here;

Now, dig out those microphone of yours. Put them really close to something and sample it. Play around with it make be creative. And HAVE FUN!

Toggling Oscillators in action

I built a Reaktor instrument based upon my ideas regarding the Toggling Oscillator patch initially created on the Nord Modular G2 to experiment with Wave Sequencing.

I’ve added the Source of Uncertainty macro by Peter Dines (make sure to follow this guy) – which he patched upon request since I had a hard time translating it from the G2 to Reaktor – to add some fluctuations to the pitch for that warm analogue feel.

If you’re a Reaktor user, you can download it here.

And this is what an arpeggiated melody sounds like with a bit of effects;

Happy patching!

Toggling oscillators

So I gave it a go to patch my Wave Sequencing patch from the Nord Modular G2 in Native Instruments Reaktor as I’m thinking about selling the G2.

I came to think of this solution when I was trying to do wave sequencing, a feature I really liked on the Korg Wavestation.

It was a lot easier than I first guessed. The name of the modules are different and the active voice number is an output found on the “Voice Info” auxiliary module. The MUX on the G2 can be utilised by the “Selector” module. So the actual trick looks like this;

Voice number and Selector

Voice number and Selector

By connecting the output of preferably different oscillators to the Selector module there will be different oscillators sounding for every key that is pressed; which will come in brilliantly when we’ll use an arpeggiator with this instrument.

Make sure to set the number of voices equal to the number of oscillators and inputs in the Selector; otherwise there might be silence when a voice number greater than the inputs on the Selector is triggered. If the voice number is lower than the number of chosen oscillators the ones connected to port greater than the voice number will never be triggered.

If adding six different oscillators, try to play arpeggios with more or less than six, but not exactly six, notes. That will make it move around in a very non-repetitive way which can make it really interesting.

Happy patching!

Summer Sales

There are some interesting Summer sales going on at the moment.

FabFilter is selling their plugins rather cheap now.

ILIO is having a sale too. Here’s what they have to say about it themselves;

When you purchase any Vienna Instruments Collection (Standard Library) between July 1 and July 31, 2013 you will receive one Single Instruments product* of your choice for free!

There is NO LIMIT to how many free Single Instruments products you can acquire!

* A Single Instrument product may be either a Standard Library or an Extended Library. The Full Library (Standard Library + Extended Library) of a Single Instrument includes two products and offers the complete samples and articulations on par with the ones of the big Vienna Instruments Collections.

iZotope sells their Stutter Edit with a discount and are also tossing in a sound bank at the same time.

And Waves have their Summer Spectacular. Worth checking out!

More EQ’s from Universal Audio

I haven’t got the slightest idea what’s up at the Universal Audio headquarters. But if you ask me, something it seriously wrong. Or maybe right. Right because apparently EQ’s sell – hence giving us a lot of them.

For some reason all Universal Audio seems to be doing now is shipping sound cards integrated with UAD cards – you know, they’re big outboard dongle – and new EQ plugins.

For the fun of it, I’ve compiled a list of all 13 (not counting SE versions of certain plugins) EQ‘s that today can be bought at Universal Audio;

  • API® 500 Series
  • Brainworks bx_digital V2
  • Cambridge
  • Harrison 32C Channel
  • Helios™ Type 69
  • Manley® Massive Passive
  • Millennia NSEQ-2
  • Neve® 1073 Classic Console
  • Neve® 1081 Classic Console
  • Neve® 31102 Classic Console
  • Pultec Passive
  • Sonnox® Oxford
  • Trident® A-range Classic Console

I’m not denying that they’re really good sounding and very good emulations. I’m only questioning how many EQ plugins the platform really needs. Universal Audio has also opened up their platform for other companies to develop plugins. Both the Brainworks bx_digital and the Sonnox® Oxford are results of that.

Waves have got their fair share of EQ’s as well. I’m counting 16 on their website if we skip the SSL channel strips, the REDD and count both the API 550 and 560 as the “500 Series”.

Waves have produced 143 plugins until today and Universal Audio have produced 56. That gives us an EQ density of 13.9% for Waves (counting all their 20 EQ’s) and 23.2% for Universal Audio.

Waves also comes without a big hardware dongle.