The (New ) Soul of A Machine

Everything is running smoothy on your Mac (or PC)…you’ve put off updating for fear that programs and/or plug ins for your DAW won’t be supported and/or recognized, let alone your hardware. But those dazzling new features keep tempting you..and some of your older less glamorous programs like Pages (Mac’s Version of Word) won’t open documents that were created on a newer version.

So I was posed for a triple disaster:

Going from Mac Yosemite to High Sierra (cue up images of an old Western movie), Logic 10.3 to 10.4 and ProTools 11 to PT 2018. Add in the confusion of establishing a new iLok account for a new iLok (long story..iLok IS the DEVIL) and I was ready for “a world of pain”. The ProTools registration went first and had me running in circles with 17 Tabs open. Next came High Sierra..which I tried to down load and install 5 times, having it quit at the last step. It turns out that ProTools intalls a background app that you have to disable by rewriting the code in the “Launch Agent” that is buried deep in the hard drive. Thanks to You Tube, I was on my way and Logic was next.

The Logic Update went off without a hitch except…all sorts of new sounds and effects are looking for a happy home on my local SSD drive..to the tune of almost 100 gig. So this was a time to face the dreaded “disk clean up” and High Sierra has some great “manage storage” features that make it less painful.

So what’s the good, bad and ugly?

Some plugins got left behind, both Software Instruments and Audio Plug Ins. Nothing too tragic, although strangely, the Izotope Suite works still in PT but not in Logic.

New features in ProTools include Freeze, Track and Channel Presets and Midi Record Capture..all of which have been in Logic for ages. There is also some kind of “Playlist” enhancement that looks pretty underwhelming but I’ll take it for a spin.

Logic is sporting new Drummers and String/Horn Instruments as well as new EQ  and modulation plugins that are taken from Camel Space and Camel Phat…pretty great. Logic has finally implemented “Playlists” (they call it “Alternatives) that have been in ProTools forever; this is huge for me. Add in a new Reverb, new Drum Kits and more Loop Content (not something that I use often but nice to know it’s there) and it looks like a great update. My only gripes now?? EXS Sampler needs an update as Logic needs to implement a fast and better “Drag and Drop and Warp” sampler function in order to compete with Abelton “Live”…AND you STILL can’t move channel strips in the mixer window…but this must be some kind of huge rewrite issue, as people have been requesting this for years,

And High Sierra seems solid too. All in all, a positive update for two great DAWS that I lean on heavily every day.

The Circle of Progress

I checked out the software Oberheim OBX (Obxd) and it is pretty faithful to the original. But as I went through the preset sounds, I was reminded of what it was we really wanted out of a synth back then..to be able to recreate actual instruments (strings, horns,drums,bass,etc.). The race was on and the Yamaha DX7 emerged as an early winner for certain sounds such as Fender Rhodes and Electric Bass (“Seinfeld” Slap Bass, anyone?). The drawback was that you needed a Phd to operate the beast. Roland mega synths such as the Super JX tried to enter the “imitative” fray, sadly ignoring its actual strength as a very cool DCO synth. But Roland was working on a type of synthesis (“L.A”) that grafted the attack part with a sample (i.e.. a string bow or horn blast) onto a synth wave with their D-50. Korg, who’s Poly 61 was looked at as a “toy” synth, blindsided everyone with the relatively low cost “M1”, a synth that borrowed the D-50’s architecture.
So we now had the tools to create an entire production within one synth; the M1 (like the Ensoniq ESQ-1) had a built in sequencer that allowed the user to compose an entire track. Classic synths were relegated to the pawn shops as larger and larger “workstations” were brought to market with more sounds,more voices,more tracks. Companies started to market them in 19” rack modules; my own rig at that time was contained in 3 large flight cases and housed about 12 different modules.
But at the heart of every modern synth was a sound card and a small computer. As processing and memory dropped in price, it became possible to have it all within one computer. All you needed was a keyboard to control the sounds in there and voila!..your Mac (or PC) was your “all in one” synth and sequencer. Even the pristine quality of a fully sampled orchestra was at your fingertips..simply add the ability to record audio (Logic/Cubase/Digital Performer,etc)  and you’re looking at a “studio in a box”

At the same time, all the limitations and sonic drawbacks of those early synths started to become desirable again (think vinyl). People missed the “analog” sound and hands-on control of knobs that a mouse can’t give (yes,I know all about assigning midi controls to midi controllers..I just don’t think we’re there  with that yet).
All of this has been very positive for synths, both hardware and software. If a musician wants to go deep, there are software ones like Alchemy that do everything except pick up your laundry. For the less technical user, there are about 3,000 preset sounds in that one as well. Hardware synths by pioneers such as Roger Linn and Tom Oberheim continue to push the envelope while maintaining ties to their distinctly analog roots. And new comers such as Teenage Engineering are gaining fans among those who wish to explore sound creation/design from the ground up.

The Look of A Telecaster..

..with the sound of a Les Paul?

Red FenderI can’t wait to take this for a spin tomorrow (Click on the photo to see it in all its’ glory) .

Intonation and sustain up and down the neck seem to be fantastic (acoustically) and there is a push/pull knob that lets the rear pick up be either single or double coil.

 

Running it through an amp sim in Logic first but then through my Princeton Reverb later in the week…review to follow.