Alesis @ NAMM with iPad tools and controllers aplenty.

The big thing for the last few years at NAMM has been the ever growing selection of iPad style portable recording tools, and this year proves no exception.

Leading the charge is Alesis with a selection of new products to keep you rocking out whereever you may find yourself.

 

For the Guitarist: The Alesis AmpDock

Alesis AmpDock
The Alesis AmpDock

What they say:

“The Alesis AmpDock harnesses the massive processing power of iPad, allowing you to unleash your ultimate guitar tone. Building upon the design and technology of the widely acclaimed Alesis iO Dock, the Alesis AmpDock is the world’s first device for guitarists that enables tonal shaping through iPad’s processor. The Alesis AmpDock fully encloses your iPad or iPad 2 in a rugged and portable device made especially for guitarists and bassists. Whether you’re in the studio or on the stage, the Alesis AmpDock helps you create “the sound in your head” with real controls and professional inputs and outputs that work with virtually any app, as well as your amp and pedal setup.

The Alesis AmpDock houses your iPad or iPad 2 in a durable enclosure that features a locking door to fully integrate your iPad and protect it on all sides. The Alesis AmpDock’s professional inputs and outputs include a 1/4″ high-impedance guitar input and an XLR-1/4″ combo input for connecting a microphone, a second guitar or another instrument. The Alesis AmpDock also includes 1/4″ outputs with Guitar/Mic and Ground Lift switches, so you can connect to your guitar amp or go straight into a PA. For use with software MIDI applications on your Mac or PC, the Alesis AmpDock also includes a USB MIDI port. A headphone output with volume control is also onboard, so you can practice and experiment with your apps at any time, day or night.

The Alesis AmpDock also comes with a rugged pedalboard controller, which enables you to control volume and other continuous controls, bypass, program changes, and other parameters. You can use the AmpDock with or without its pedalboard controller, and MIDI connections enable you to use the AmpDock with other pedal controllers and MIDI hardware.”

What we say:

An interesting entry into the portable amp sim market offering iPad based emulation with foot pedal controls. We’ve seen both pad based simulations and stomp pedal based solutions done before on the laptop but not integrated to this level so the Alesis AmpDock should certainly be an interesting prospect for the gig playing axe man.

The Alesis AmpDock Key Features:

  • The first professional guitar processor to use your iPad or iPad 2 for signal processing
  • Works with GarageBand, AmpliTube, JamUp, and virtually any audio or CoreMIDI app
  • Includes a rugged pedalboard controller with program, effect, bypass, volume and continuous controls
  • Guitar Input 1 and switchable Mic/Line/Guitar Input 2; professional outputs, and MIDI jacks
  • Kickstand allows for stable positioning on top of guitar amps
  • Hinged door completely encloses and secures your iPad
  • Mountable to a mic stand using the Alesis Module Mount (sold separately)
  • 1/4″ high-impedance guitar input and combo input for microphone, second guitar, or another instrument
  • 1/4″ outputs with Guitar/Line impedance switch
  • Stereo auxiliary outputs for connection to external effects
  • Two assignable endless knobs to control parameters in compatible apps
  • Analog Input 1, Input 2, Main, and Headphone volume controls
  • MIDI input and outputs and USB MIDI jack for use with other controllers and MIDI software or hardware

The Alesis AmpDock Hompage

For the Drummer: The Alesis DMDock

DM Dock Front
The DMDock

 

The DMDock Rear
The DMDock Rear

 

 

What they say:

The drum module you’ve always wanted.

The Alesis DMDock harnesses the power of your iPad to give you an unlimited selection of sounds, a massive touchscreen for hands-on visual control, and wireless connectivity. This first-of-its-kind drum module builds upon the widely acclaimed design of the Alesis iO Dock, harnessing the tremendous processing power of your iPad or iPad 2 to give you a fully integrated, stage-ready module with a wide array of professional trigger inputs and audio outputs.

What we say:

The Alesis DMDock offers a new perspective on an old concept which we think will appeal to a lot of drummers if the final product proves to be nice and responsive. Looking forward to getting our hands on this one!

The DMDock Key Features:

  • The only drum module for iPad and iPad 2
  • Works with virtually any app including GarageBand
  • 13 individual 1/4″ TRS trigger inputs for connecting drum and cymbal pads and other triggers
  • Works with dual-zone drum and cymbal pads, continuous hi-hats, three-zone rides, and multiple chokeable cymbals
  • Hinged door completely encloses and secures your iPad
  • Mounts to any stand or rack using the Alesis Module Mount (sold separately)
  • 1/4″ Headphone jack with volume control
  • 1/8″ Mix Input for mixing in external audio sources
  • Balanced 1/4″ stereo main outputs for connecting to an amp or PA
  • MIDI input and output for connecting to external MIDI hardware
  • USB MIDI port for use with MIDI software applications or your Mac or PC
  • Powers and charges iPad using universal wall power supply
  • Assignable footswitch input for program changes, start/stop sequences or metronome

More info from the Alesis DMDock Homepage

For the Synth Player: The Alesis Vortex Keytar

 

The Vortex Keytar
The Vortex Keytar

What they say:

It’s time to experience outrageous, unprecedented keytar performance with the Alesis Vortex Keytar. The Alesis Vortex Keytar eliminates the barrier between you and your audience by giving you the freedom to move around the stage and take the lead. With an extensive layout of touch-sensitive keys and velocity-sensitive pads on its pearlescent white body, and radical pitch and modulation controls on its neck, the Alesis Vortex Keytar empowers you to rule the stage.

The Alesis Vortex is the first keytar to include a MIDI-assignable accelerometer. Now, you can get out from behind your keyboard stand and be just as visual as guitarists and singers with an instrument that will respond to your motion. You’ll be able to create incredible volume swells, amazing pitch bends, vibratos, filter cutoffs and more by tilting the Alesis Vortex’s neck in the heat of the moment during live performances.

What we say:

That late 80’s icon is reborn with a twist. The accelerometer we reckon could be used for all sorts of midi abuse with a bit of tweaking and could end up being a lot of fun on stage.

The Alesis Vortex Keytar Key Features:

  • Dynamic, shoulder-worn performance keyboard with attention-grabbing looks
  • The first USB keytar controller—works with all of your software instruments & synths on Mac, PC, & iOS* devices
  • USB and traditional MIDI jacks for use with virtually any synth, sound module, or other MIDI hardware or software
  • Embedded, MIDI-assignable accelerometer for performance parameter control by tilting the neck
  • Thumb-controlled volume slider, sustain button and pitch-bend wheel on neck
  • Finger-controlled MIDI-assignable touchstrip, sustain, and octave-control buttons on neck
  • 37 velocity-sensitive keys with aftertouch for compact, yet complete melodic range
  • Eight velocity-sensitive drum pads/sample triggers enable you to create beats or trigger clips
  • Large transport & patch-select controls for instant access
  • Includes strap; standard guitar strap pegs are compatible with virtually any strap
  • Bus powered when USB-connected to Mac or PC; battery compartment for use with MIDI modules and iOS devices

The Alesis Vortex Keytar Homepage

 

 

Akai MPC on the Fly

Following on from yesterdays posts about the first two of three new units coming from AKAI we have the third and certainly most interesting piece… The AKAI MPC Fly.

Designed as a “on the fly” tool for your iPad, the MPC Akai Fly means you can take the classic MPC controllability with you in an easy to carry package.

 

The Akai Fly
The Akai Fly

 

MPC Akai Fly  Product Features
MPC Akai Fly Hardware

The first MPC designed specifically for iPad 2
Fitted compartment for iPad 2 provides fully integrated portable MPC solution
16 backlit genuine MPC pads with MPC Note Repeat & MPC Swing
Works seamlessly with the MPC App: sequence & sample editing, effects, EQ and more
Create beats on the go and transfer to a Mac or PC for further mastering
Double-hinged case sits upright, lies flat or closes for transport
Compatible with virtually any Core MIDI app
Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery
Charges iPad when plugged into wall power

MPC Akai Fly Technical Specifications
General

Pads: 16 velocity sensitive with aftertouch. backlit by velocity
UI Buttons: Ideal performance controls available, including:
Note Repeat
Transport Controls
Mute / Solo
Track Select
Erase
Timing Correct

Height: 1.2 inches (30.5mm)
Width: 9.7 inches (246mm)
Depth: 8.0 inches (203mm)
Weight: 2.02 pounds (0.92kg)
Power: Internal Li-ion battery, 6VDC/3A AC adaptor for charging MPC Fly and iPad2
MPC App works with iPad & iPad 2 (Hardware works with iPad 2 only)

The Akai Fly Homepage

Akai announces new MPC style midi controllers.

Ahead of NAMM this year Akai has decided to announce and show off 2 out of it 3 new MPC style midi controllers.  It should be interesting to see how a company that pretty much invented the all in one workstation sampling groove box concept can go up against the modern day solutions on offer such as Maschine.

Akai MPC Studio
The Akai MPC Studio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Akai MPC Studio Key Features:
  • Fuses iconic MPC production with the processing power of your computer
  • Compact design is less than 1” thin and fits easily into a laptop bag
  • MPC SOFTWARE for Mac & PC with 64-track sequencing capability
  • 16 backlit genuine MPC pads, legendary MPC workflow & MPC Swing
  • US B-powered with low-profile knobs and brushed aluminum body
  • Large LCD screen allows you to make tracks without having to look at your computer
  • Four touch-sensitive knobs provide enhanced MPC software control

 

Akai Renaissance
The Akai Renaissance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Akai Renaissance Key Features :

  • Fuses legendary MPC production with the processing power of your computer
  • Vintage Mode changes output sound character to MPC3000, MPC60 and more…
  • 16 backlit genuine MPC pads, 16 Q-Link controls, and adjustable backlit LCD screen
  • Classic MPC Note Repeat, MPC Swing and MPC transport controls
  • MPC SOFTWARE for Mac or PC with 64-track sequencing capability
  • Two XLR-1/4” combo inputs and dedicated turntable input
  • Four-channel US B 2.0 audio interface and two-port US B 2.0 hub built in
  • Up to eight pad banks—more than any other MPC ever
  • Two MIDI inputs and four MIDI outputs
  • Stereo 1/4” out, stereo assignable mix 1/4” out & S/PDIF I/O

 

http://www.akaipro.com/mpc

Serato announce new video features for Scratch Live and ITCH

One of the killer features for Serato has always been it’s Video-SL plug-in for vinyl emulation Software Scratch Live, which allows you to control video clips via the time coded vinal.  This March Serato Video will offer support for both Serato Scratch Live and Serato ITCH, giving DJs who own devices that support these clients like the Novation Twitch and the Numark NS6  more flexibility than ever.

The feature list for this version includes :

  • Add video clips to your Serato Scratch Live or Serato ITCH performance.
  • View loaded clips and output from your computer.
  • Manipulate playback with Serato control records, CDs or with your ITCH controller of choice.
  • Use built in transitions and effects including text and image effects.
  • Enrich your set with audio responsive effects, including bass zoom and splits, that are controlled by analyzing the music signal.
  • Preview and manage video files in both the ITCH and Scratch Live offline players.
  • Use Video Instant Doubles to play the same video and effects on a second deck.
  • Store effects within each video file for instant recall.
  • Setup different output configurations (Output Only, L/R prefader or all 3 outputs) for greater flexibility when video mixing externally.
  • Utilize 3rd party controllers with Serato Video’s MIDI control in Scratch Live.

If you already own Serato Video-SL then Serato Video will be a FREE upgrade for existing Video-SL customers.

Serato Video will be available to purchase in March 2012.

New Traktor Controller – (X2???) mini Ableton-esque

Ok, so NI are still quite tight lipped about this one, but as a hardcore Traktor user, i think i can work out whats going on.

It seems to be a multiple loop trigger control, a bit like a 4 channel version of ableton, that will probably be switchable with the sample decks currently in Traktor Pro 2.

I really like this concept, as you could load them up with stems from a track and remix it on the fly. this is especially good for producer-dj’s who can do live versions of their tracks as part of a dj set.

 

http://www.native-instruments.com/

SandyBridge Extreme and Bulldozer DAWbench testing round up.

The second half of 2011 has seen some high profile CPU releases in the form of both the AMD Bulldozer series and the new highend Intel SandyBridge Extremes. Both platforms offer us Hexcore solutions with additional benefit of inclusion of the AVX extensions which whilst enjoying modest support already (Sonar’s inclusion of the extensions has been widely reported), looks like it could be important as more and more firms adopt and optimize with their software to support this functionality.

December 2012 System Dawbench Results
December 2012 System Dawbench Results

So a brief overview of our findings.

The AMD Bulldozer Dawbench results surprised us and not in a good way. Performance for this new generation of CPU has been lackluster at best and in a surprising result performance wasn’t much improved over the previous Phenom X6 series CPU and even fell behind it in some testing. The shared cache in the AMD Bulldozer design we suspect could be involved here bottle necking the CPU but either way it does seem that this CPU’s design isn’t ideal for audio usage.

The Intel Sandybridge Extremes however continue to push forward performance wise in the DAWBench testing and we see some great performance gains in the initial testing. At stock the isn’t much in it with a overclocked 2600k and this might still be the better option for a lot of users but the X79 boards do permit you to make use of a lot of extra memory slots (the board allow upto 8 memory sticks) if you pick up the right model which allows those working with film and TV scores to have access to upto 64GB’s of memory, so ideal for people running programs like VSL or large EW sound banks.

The initial testing of an overclocked Sandybridge Extreme 3930k does show some astounding gains when over clocked with 30% – 40% across the board, this could make these CPU’s reasonable value for money. Unfortunately our initial testings has been done on the B2 release CPU’s which are running a bit hot when pushed to this level of performance. Intel has announced a refined CPU revision (the C2) late January 2012, so we expect to be offering an over clocked edition offering this performance gains around the start of February all being well. Of course we shall publish updated results from our testing as and when it is carried out.

For further information on DAWBench and how we test please see this article.

All DAWBench Testing Results

DAWBench Homepage

 

Scan Pro Audio Day – 26/11/11

On the upcoming Saturday the 26th we have another of our ever popular Scan audio open days.

This time around alongside the opportunity of catching tutorials from our team we also have Andy from Steinberg giving us the low down on all the new kit from them including the CMC controller series. We also have Tom giving us the lowdown on his recent Youtube chart topper (with 2 million listens to date) rmx of the Modestep track “To the Stars” with Break the Noize, Dj Rasp will be giving some one on one’s about scratching technique and Simon Lyon will be giving more one on one time with Ableton.

A full line up for the day:

11.00am Ableton Live
Simon Lyon aka The Ruthless Producer introduces Ableton Live. During this session, Simon will take you on a tour of Abletons features and show how easy it is to build tracks from scratch
12.00pm Mixing
DJ Rasp shows off the tricks and skills needed to be a top DJ. Rasp will demonstrate some of the basic skills you need to scratch and mix your way to DJ Nirvana
1.00pm Steinberg demo
Andy from Steinberg with all things Steinberg and he shows off the new CMC controllers. Q&A session to follow.
2.00pm Studio Secrets
Tom from “The Autobots” shares some of his studio secrets behind his and fellow Scan endorsees “Break the Noize” remix of Modestep’s “To The Stars” that has received over 2,000,000 YouTube plays.
2.30pm Guitar Rig 5 session
Does Native Instruments Guitar Rig 5 spell the end for guitar amps in the studio? Steve Fairclough takes you on a tour of this awesome amp modelling software.
3.00pm Prize Draw !

Sign ups for the day can be found on the main Scan site here.

Altered Tunings…..

Altered Tunings:

Whenever I play a clinic or concert, people are always fascinated to know how difficult it is to play in altered Tunings, and why would anyone want to do it?

So here are some answers…..

It’s not difficult if you’re prepared to concentrate. That’s it. End of.

And why would you do it? Because altered Tunings give your Imagination a kick in the pants, they stimulate your creativity, and they sound great. Big expansive ‘Piano Type’ chords, that you just can’t get any other way on a guitar.

From the Top:

Probably the easiest and best known alternative tuning is to simply de-tune your bottom E string down a tone to a D.

Known as “Drop D“, this tuning crops up everywhere from Classical to Country and even Hard rock. Just try playing a big ‘ole D chord with that bottom string ringing out!

Next up:

Next up for me would have to be DADGAD. Probably the best known alternate tuning, it has a distinctive Celtic sound all of it’s own. Tune the strings exactly as they’re written with the Bottom E string tuning down to D, the A,D & G strings staying put and finally the B string down to A and the Top E down to a D.

DADGAD brings it’s own rewards if you set out to master it. Some players like Pierre Bensusan play in no other tuning.

Try tuning to DADGAD and then playing some regular open chord shapes. Listen to the strange exotic ‘Jazz’ type altered chords it gives you….

Here’s. Few regular chords in DADGAD for you to be getting on with…..

Open D:

Probably the next best known tuning, and one that’s very simple to get to from DADGAD is open D or DADF#AD where the G string is dropped half a tone to a F#.

If DADGAD is seen as Irish or European, then this is surely synonomous with the USA.

Just try sliding a bottleneck up your open strings, and you’ll hear the basis of every desert highway scene you ever saw.

Open D Minor:

Drop the F # to an F natural, and you have the Open D minor tuning.

A weird one:

One of my own favourites, and pretty rarely used is this….. EAC#EBE.

I have nothing to say about this tuning except that when I discovered it, I wrote a tune for my wife, which is probably about the most requested tune I play. It’s called Lana’s Garden, and it’s here……

Open G:

DGDGBD is the way you get to open G.

Again, I always associate it with the USA, as many Blues and Rags were written using it.

If you drop the B to a Bflat, you get Open G minor, which is also very interesting and one that I use here……..

C Tunings:

Drop C is basically just Drop D but with each string tuned a further tone down giving you CGCFAD, Open C however is much richer and gives you a lovely open C chord

CGCGCE.

Finally, if you drop the E string to an Eflat you get Open C Minor.

I hope these tuning ideas inspire you, give them a try and see what music you make…

Electronic Drums

Nowadays electronic drums are more sophisticated than ever, and can prove to be an invaluable tool in the studio. Essentially, they are a controller, sending data about which pad has been struck and how hard, to a ‘brain’ which then triggers a sample. However, the really cool thing about them, is that the data in question can be stored as MIDI data, and recorded into your DAW, allowing you to capture the drummers performance, which can then be edited and applied to different sample sets later, at your leisure.

Drum Kit Thumbnail

But aside from all that, the main advantage is that you can whack the living daylights out of them, and disturb no-one! In your headphones it can sound like the wrath of God, but outside all that will be heard is the clickety clack of your sticks on the pad surface.

Steve's simple guide to Mixing

There are many ways to skin a cat, or so the saying goes. When it comes to mixing down your music each style and genre has a multitude of do’s and do not’s that can help to define a track, but at the heart of the process the are some standard rules you can follow to make the task quicker and easier for yourself. So we present to you a quick guide to mixing your tracks.

Some fundamentals:

1).  Clean up your audio!!!!!!

Seriously, you can save yourself a while heap of trouble and work by cleaning up your tracks before you start to mix. Get your edit tool out and remove all the noises, breaths, crackly guitar leads etc. This will also clean up your working area making it easier to see what’s ahead.

Next, find a reference CD or file that you admire or would like to emulate and listen to that on your system. Listen to the use of space/noise/effects etc.

2) Go out and put the kettle on.

Again, seriously, give yourself some time away from the project. Yours ears get ‘tired’, and tired means you’re gonna miss something.

3). When you finally feel ready to go, listen once more to each individual track or group track, nows the time to add any compression or eq to tracks. In the finished mix we want each instrument or group to hold it’s own within the particular sonic space, If you use too much of one frequency band across a number of tracks, you’ll find it dominates when everything is played back together, so pay particular attention to eq.

4). Ok. Bass and main drums into the centre please. Along with the main vocal, these should remain constant at the centre of your stereo spread. If you’ve recorded your kit correctly, or if your sample /loop is a good one, the drums should naturally assume their correct position, with the snare sitting slightly to the right, and the toms spreading R to L as they would with a real drummer. Make sure the cymbals aren’t too loud.

5). Now add the rhythm guitars, panned as they would be on stage, around 30 points left or right.

6).  Next we want synths, strings, pads, all the stuff that ‘engulfs’ the sonic space. We need to blend these instruments ‘around’ the existing ones, so that each can be heard clearly. At this point, check your reverbs. Do you have different reverb lengths for your instruments? If so, are any of them clashing i.e. Does the reverb sound consistent. Is it believable that all these instruments were in the same space at the same time?

7).  Next we want solo instruments like lead guitars or pianos or brass. See these as being layered ‘over’ the mix you have just created, and pay attention to the panning i.e. Horns usually come from the back and sides, lead guitars are usually panned 30 points L or R.

8).  Finally, vocals hard centre. Backing vox 10 points left and right.

Vocals are the most emotive instrument in any song. Make sure they’re balanced well against the backing, that harmonies “support” rather than challenge the lead vocal, and now, a very important rule.

Wherever you’ve set the reverb on the vocal track, Back it off a bit!

Seriously, again, this simple rule will stand you in good stead time and time again.

9) OK. Walk away.

Once again, rest your ears. Before the final mix, take a walk outside, let your ears re-align themselves with normal everyday sounds and sound levels. Give it at least 20 mins for your ears to reset.

10). There is no 10.

You’re on your own. Mixing is a skill and an art. Trust your ears. Burn a mix. Take it somewhere else to listen to it i.e. A boom box or car radio system. Be critical……it’s gonna be a long night……..

Computer Based Music & Audio Production