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questions on custom gear
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mi_dach



Joined: Dec 17, 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 5:20 am    Post subject: questions on custom gear
Subject description: a little research on what people would like to have
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Hi all,
First, a quick introduction: Im an unemployed computer programmer/electronics hobbyist, and I'm thinking about taking my interests in designing and building audio gadgets a little further. Currently I enjoy building different MIDI controllers (simple knob boxes, gesture controllers, etc), effects (distortions, delays, lo-fi sample loopers, pre-amps, weird things) and misc studio gear (breakout boxes, mini mixers, signal splitters) and so on.

I would like to do this semi-professionally now, and need to do some market research stuff. I'd really appreciate it if you could take a moment to answer some of these questions, even (especially) if you aren't interested. I know how annoying these surveys are, but please, i hate marketing even more than you do..

The questions:


What current audio hardware do you use?

What is the most important feature in your current hardware?

Notice any missing features in your hardware?

Do you own any MIDI controllers? What do you like and dislike about them?

Ever considered having custom gear designed or are you satisfied with fixed products from a known brand name?

Do you know any companies that currently produce custom audio gear, if so, which ones?

Would you like to see more/less blue and white LEDs? Smile


That's about it for todays marketing research, thank god. If you have any additional comments, or suggestions for hardware that you can't find out there, I'd be enthusiastic to discuss it!
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Kassen
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 6:29 am    Post subject: Re: questions on custom gear
Subject description: a little research on what people would like to have
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mi_dach wrote:

What current audio hardware do you use?


That's a fairly large list and not all that interesting My synths are mostly digital and programable and my effects are analogue. I hardly buy anything anymore because development is standing still (well, it's actually mostly going backwards)

Quote:

What is the most important feature in your current hardware?


My laptop's ability to be programed and portable, at the moment.

Quote:

Notice any missing features in your hardware?


Yeah, I need a hardware grain-delay.
Also; I think all synths and pitch related effect units should support different scales, particularly WerckmeisterIII. Furthermore MIDI sucks badly and everything should support OSC. Oh, and mixers suck; anything that's meant to be used as a realtime instrument is too small for studio work. The sends are configured all wrong particularly and they aren't nearly agressive enough in interface. I was only able to find one existing mixer that had both a crossfader and more then two sends (that large A&H dj one) and that one has other problems. Everything large enough to mix on lacks fully parametric equalisers that go to minus infinity db on one side and don't ask them to go over +10db either,

Oh, and generally synths suck. They are nearly all substractive but get it all wrong. If you want to do a substract synth now it should have at least as much character as a 303 or a moog. If it doesn't there is no point in making one. Synths should sound like tomorow's "new", not like yesterday's "popular". If it sounds like something I heard before I'm not interested.

Quote:

Do you own any MIDI controllers? What do you like and dislike about them?


Yeah. I use a Emu Launchpad and I also use a DX7 as a master keyboard on occasion as well as homebrew stuff, some of which needs to be finished. I've never found a decent MIDI keyboard; the keys are way, way to small and light. There should be keyboards with weighted hammer actions with keys about 1.3 times the size of a piano and at least twice as heavy. Also; polyphonic aftertouch doesn't get implemented which sucks, badly. Also; MIDI controlers should stop hardlinking one controler to one parameter; I need context sensitive morphgroups, a bit like what you could do with the G2 without the zero page limit except much smaller and with a proper keyboard and without all that audio nonsense. Basically like a Launchpad with the G2's controll processor and lead weighted hard-wooden fully weighted hammer action keys.


Quote:

Ever considered having custom gear designed or are you satisfied with fixed products from a known brand name?


Yeah, I had stuff designed, I'm also designing stuff myself now. Some people designed me stuff then gave it to me unexpectedly. Nearly everything gets modified or tuned around here.

Quote:

Do you know any companies that currently produce custom audio gear, if so, which ones?


"companies" is a large word.

Quote:

Would you like to see more/less blue and white LEDs? Smile


Absolutely not. People complain about laptop musicians only staring at their schreen. It's my theory that many of those aren't staring at the schreen so much as avoiding looking anywhere else due to all those blue leds. Nice gear can bring tears to your eyes but that is not the way. I like those glowing warm "bulb" styled red leds from the 70's, bring those back. In ten to fifteen years today's blue leds will apear like 80's haircuts do now. By that time your instruments should still be used, people should still be figuring out new ways to play them. They should not feel embaraced to do so in public.

Quote:

That's about it for todays marketing research, thank god. If you have any additional comments, or suggestions for hardware that you can't find out there, I'd be enthusiastic to discuss it!


Well, I'd like to encourage you. It can't be that hard; the commercial competition is completely uninspirered and often grossly incompetent as well. In my opinion a good rule of thumb would be taking the work of people like Scott and Buchla as a guideline instead of the current competion. New instruemnts should show there has been half a century since then; if it does it's good or at least makes par. The competion is pretending there have been three months since one year ago. That's not so good. Actually it's embaracing and I wish they'd admit this and take up farming or some such persuit.

I can't stress this enough; it's been centuries since the invention of the piano and the violin. Todays instruments should offer more then those do, if they don't they fail. Actually they should instantly make it very clear indeed that centuries have pased and that that time has been well spend.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 6:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I'm pretty happy with gear that is available now. I agree that MIDI should be replaced by OSC. MIDI is a bit long in the tooth.

I used to build almost all of my own gear, to use with my Moog Modular. Lately, I'm on a quest to get my kit down to the smallest possible set up. I am almost exclusively using the G2X. I have a Kyma system too, but hardly use it.

I do use the BCR2000 MIDI controller. I would prefer one that worked like the G2's knobs, with labels. There are a few products that do that on the market already though, and I don't lust for them enough to pay the prices.

If I were looking to getting in the business of selling gear, I'd focus on software. That's where the future is, and it is much less capital intensive.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 7:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Howard has a good point about software as being a less risky field to get into but I think the exact same issues remain in place. There is very little new in software, hardly anything aside from growning CPU's has happened in audio software since the mid 80's. What's important and where nearly everybody fails are the exact some things as what goes wrong in hardware; the interface.

Current software mostly uses hardware as a interface analogy. That makes sense on one level because hardware interfaces are known and familiar but on another level it fails because typically hardware interfaces aren't very expressive. I think that with the current generation of young musicians that's growing up with software alone the one advantage of typical software interfaces is rapidly crumbeling.

Perhaps there would be a market for a VST host that would just be a very good interface. One that provides good visual feedback and makes the link between what's going on and the parameters intuitively clear and one that would allow a musician to link what he sees as factors in his playing to the parameters of the synth in various ways.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 7:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I would love to see a midi melodica.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 7:54 am    Post subject: Re: questions on custom gear
Subject description: a little research on what people would like to have
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Kassen wrote:
...MIDI sucks...mixers suck...Oh, and generally synths suck...polyphonic aftertouch doesn't get implemented which sucks, badly.

holy suck Very Happy
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 8:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Yeah, but it's not funny. If we compare it to the car market then what we are seeing now is like tricycles being sold with large marketing slogans that they offer the exact same performance as a T-Ford and they'll tell you with a straight face that thier way of riding a trycicle should be called "flying(tm)".
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paul e.



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 9:51 am    Post subject: Re: questions on custom gear
Subject description: a little research on what people would like to have
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Kassen wrote:

I can't stress this enough; it's been centuries since the invention of the piano and the violin. Todays instruments should offer more then those do, if they don't they fail.


the sampler...does that suck too ?

you want a new synth box where you can press a key and hear 'tomorrow's new' ?

like Moog in 1963?

not going to happen....'it's all been done' in terms of synthesis

the search for never-before-heard sounds can be like a drug

personally, i think its what you do with what youv'e got that matters ..that can be new
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 10:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

"Nothing gets old as fast as a new sound."

Milton Babbit, 2005

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 10:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

egw wrote:
I would love to see a midi melodica.


I second this suggestion, please make us a midi melodica Exclamation

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

No real new forms of synthesis have been invented in recent history; that's true, but then again; we have lots of them left that have never been implemented in hardware at all.

Many of those have no established playable interfaces asociated with them yet. There iis a huge amount of work to be done there. Yes; we've all heard pulse-train and granular synthesis but how often do you see somebody on a stage playing those as a real instrument with a virtuous performance and a expressive interface? Some daring people have tried, mostly by making a program, sometimes be developing a controler but nothing decisive has been seen yet, that I know of.

The controlers that we have out our disposal simply have little means of controling both the micro and the macro elements of those forms of synthesis.

In a way I think that's exactly what you propose; doing new things with what you have. I'd like that in hardware with a good controler. This would be a huge project thtat would require both extensive trial and error and few strokes of inspiration and luck but it's intirely possible. Perhaps the sounds as such wouldn't be new but I think that with training such a instrument would get across as new which is nteresting. In the long term it'd expand the vocabulary of live performance which is even more interesting.

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mi_dach



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 10:45 am    Post subject: Re: questions on custom gear
Subject description: a little research on what people would like to have
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paul e. wrote:
Kassen wrote:

I can't stress this enough; it's been centuries since the invention of the piano and the violin. Todays instruments should offer more then those do, if they don't they fail.


the sampler...does that suck too ?

you want a new synth box where you can press a key and hear 'tomorrow's new' ?

like Moog in 1963?

not going to happen....'it's all been done' in terms of synthesis


There are plenty of new ideas out there, plenty of new synths to be discovered. But, as I am learning the painfully hard way, it doesn't matter at all how good, or how new; no manufacturer or distributor will touch it unless the money adds up. There is, weirdly enough, no value in good ideas.

Anyway, I don't think I'm technically skilled enough to produce synths, not yet anyway. Perhaps a mixture of hardware and software (like VSTi synths with special controllers). It's a lot cheaper to put the processing onto a PC, and use a hardware interface for expressive control. Designing new synths in hardware would be cool, but it's very very hard and very very expensive... even more so if you are working in your bedroom.

All the suggestions so far have been great, thanks a lot everyone for your time, please, keep those answers coming!
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Well, I wasn't expecting you to magically fix all of that by tomorow evening for 45.50$

But, yeah, that's the sort of stuff I miss. If you'd condence it to it being important that keys feel right if keys are used that'd fine with me too. Oh, and the blue leds, that's something that's easy to take into account too. I think it'd be good to do one or two demonstration models with blue leds to draw atention, then have the sales models use more gentle ones for pleasant extended operation.

I know of one fairly high profile producer that had a sequencer with blue leds made, then regretted that choice after a short while.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 11:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:
"Nothing gets old as fast as a new sound."

Milton Babbit, 2005


I saw a very young Mr Babbit say exactly the same thing on "the history of the radiophonic workshop" BBC documentary. Very Happy
I wonder if some of the very old sounds are new again?
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 12:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I don't mind the blue LEDs, but don't like the "every led is the same color" junk.

In the stuff I make, I keep colors to mean something, such as
red = power indicator
yellow = tempo/beat
green = midi

Of course there can't be a different color for each function, but standardizing the colors makes things easy to see out of the corner of your eye, or when you simply can't focus your eyes anymore Smile Having these functions NOT part of a laptop display or a little LCD display is also very helpful. They are dedicated functions that should always be seen, no matter what menu you are diving into, etc. I also like gear that has the tempo always accessible & visible, too (like the way some T.C. gear, or lexicon gear has a seperate LCD and LED segment displays).
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 1:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Yeah, excelent point there by JKS. Live I often keep my electribe synced up just to be ablle to see it's leds run and keep track of where the beat is from a objective perspective.

I think it'd be cool if meter bridges would have 16 leds and a midi input just for that.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Wan wrote:
egw wrote:
I would love to see a midi melodica.


I second this suggestion, please make us a midi melodica Exclamation


Quote:
Electric melodicas:

While much of the charm of this instrument is its portability and acoustic qualities I am often asked about the electric possibilities of the Melodica. Hohner attempted a electric melodica but problems and cost stopped its mass production. In 1982 the one octave Starwind melodica made a splash with a 5 octave range, filter, waveforms, & portamento. Suzuki had once manufactured a monophonic MIDI melodica but no longer produces it. KORG custom built one called the PEPE for keyboard wizard Joe Zawinul. See picture of it in on the photo page. The PEPE was not mass produced but it can heard on CD's by the Zawinul Syndicate- Immigrants and on Black Fire. It reminds me of a soprano sax on many of the solos.

How to make a MIDI Melodica:

There are two devices out on the market today allowing adventurous keyboard players the ability to hybrid your your favorite MIDI keyboard into a electric melodica. Aside from different sounds this also allows you an extended octave range. You will need a YAMAHA BC Mouthpiece, a small device you blow into. Yamaha is currently selling the BC3, but the earlier model BC2 & BC1 will work also. Several Yamaha & Kurzweil synthesizers have input jacks supporting this device already built into the synthesizer. For the synthesizers that do not have this built in interface the BC Mouthpiece requires a Midi solutions Breath Controller, a small MIDI interface box that converts voltage input to a MIDI output into your synthesizer. This controller is very powerful and allows one to program a variety of MIDI control messages. It can be used with most MIDI synthesizers. You can set it up as when you play keys on your synthesizer nothing happens till you blow into the mouthpiece controlling volume, like a melodica. Most synthesizers can be set up like this giving you a great Electric MIDI Melodica. I have sampled my melodica on my Yamaha EX5 and play it with the breath controller. This gives me an extended range, allows me to run thru on board effects, use controllers and defeat the purpose of having a real melodica. Another alternative is to mic your existing melodica into the wide variety of electronic effects available. Lots of uncharted territory.


arrow http://www.melodicas.com/melodica_is_a_wind_instrument_cr.htm
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 3:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

for an example of a "quasi-melodica" sound check this tune out: Lullaby
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 6:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

egw wrote:
I would love to see a midi melodica.


That would be awesome. Great idea!

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 8:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Kassen wrote:
Yes; we've all heard pulse-train and granular synthesis but how often do you see somebody on a stage playing those as a real instrument with a virtuous performance and a expressive interface? Some daring people have tried, mostly by making a program, sometimes be developing a controler but nothing decisive has been seen yet, that I know of.


In a way I think that's exactly what you propose; doing new things with what you have. I'd like that in hardware with a good controler. This would be a huge project thtat would require both extensive trial and error and few strokes of inspiration and luck but it's intirely possible. Perhaps the sounds as such wouldn't be new but I think that with training such a instrument would get across as new which is nteresting. In the long term it'd expand the vocabulary of live performance which is even more interesting.


indeed..some good points to think on....you've hit on something there for sure
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 8:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

is it possible to tie pitch shifting to MIDI clock?

i.e. for every cent of pitch shift and the consequential change in duration of the sound, you get a corrensponding change in MIDI timing, so they always remains synced ?
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2006 2:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Most "pitch shift" effects don't work like that. They use small buffers to scan through instead setting the speed at the level of the whole sound. Good thing too because otherwise you'd need a glass ball to be able to shift up, now only a bit of latency does the trick.

What you want is actually there already in the form of phrase samplers and Ableton Live and so on. If you set Live to "repitch" as it's streching algorithem it will behave basically like a turntable with a tempo/pitch fader, except that it can be controlled from a MIDI clock or can send a clock while it does all that.

So; Live will do the trick, any phrase sampler that can be a master clock will do and most sampling grooveboxes should do too. Pitching up by a octave is going to double your tempo (of cource) and MIDI has a limit to how fast it can go so it might be wise to start out with your sample referenced to a fairly modest BPM in order to have some room to play with.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2006 3:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

seraph wrote:
for an example of a "quasi-melodica" sound check this tune out: Lullaby


Wow, that's a very nice tune. Love the melodica sound on it, very right sound for it and played expressively.

I tried amplifying my melodica with a contact mic and then processing it with the G2. It kind of works, but the mechanical noise of the melodica is very loud, too loud imho. And the volume i can reach is not loud enough to use it in my band, it just doesn't survive the bands sound level or explodes in uncontrollable feedback. But in my home that's no problem. Has to experiment some more but haven't found the time....

Still searching for a way to use it live though, and there the midi part could fit in.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2006 4:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Wan wrote:
seraph wrote:
for an example of a "quasi-melodica" sound check this tune out: Lullaby


Wow, that's a very nice tune. Love the melodica sound on it, very right sound for it and played expressively.

thanks

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2006 5:53 am    Post subject: Re: questions on custom gear
Subject description: a little research on what people would like to have
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mi_dach wrote:
Hi all,
First, a quick introduction: Im an unemployed computer programmer/electronics hobbyist, and I'm thinking about taking my interests in designing and building audio gadgets a little further. Currently I enjoy building different MIDI controllers (simple knob boxes, gesture controllers, etc), effects (distortions, delays, lo-fi sample loopers, pre-amps, weird things) and misc studio gear (breakout boxes, mini mixers, signal splitters) and so on.


This is interesting. Do you have a website?

As for ideas.. a "better" and more extensive take on the Cynthia´s Anything module could be worthwhile. There are very few such modules around at the moment. Patching whatever into whatever seems to slowly become popular again. Also: CV controlled compressors that will interface well with analog modulars. Also silly and even simply mad envelope generators.. And there is still a lot of potential in wavetable modules that can be patched in new and hopefully insane ways. Why not use a wavetable thingie for controlling envelopes? ( This is of course not a new idea as such.. but when you consider what you can really do with wavetable modules... Laughing )

And is there yet a Doepfer compatible beer tap?

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