Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.
Tags: Honey Badger
April 6, 2018
by Chris Randall
Audio Damage will once again have a booth at Superbooth this year, and I'm leaving for Berlin on April 27. That means I have about 3 weeks to finalize everything. The product we're unveiling is in feature-freeze, and it's time to start figuring out how to demonstrate it, as well as the rest of our product line. (This isn't a last-minute thing; I've been thinking about it for some time.)
The entire process is both easier than years past, and more complicated. At the last two Superbooths we attended, we only showed Eurorack, and didn't show our software products at all. This year, it will be the other way around. We have no Eurorack; we're showing our desktop and iOS software. The iOS part is easy; a 12.9" iPad Pro with the usual dongling, job done. For the desktop software, the needs were somewhat odder. The product we'll be unveiling is MPE-capable, so we wanted to have at least one MPE controller at our booth. Since the iOS and desktop versions are identical in that regard, it seemed wise to have one MPE-capable controller for each, and of those, at least one that civilians could play. Roli very generously loaned us a Rise 25 for the booth, so that will attach to the iPad, and my Linnstrument will go as well, for the desktop stuff.
All but a couple of our products are now vector-graphics and HiDpi-capable, so I wanted a 4K monitor to show this off. My own monitor is too big, so I purchased a Dell 23" 4K for the show. Now the trouble starts. You would think it would be a fairly simple matter to sling a computer at this problem and be done with it. You'd be wrong. The software we're unveiling is nearing completion, but it is in no way finished, so it isn't as optimized as we'd like. I don't want to use my main work laptop for a trade show, for obvious reasons, so I pulled out a mid-2013 MacBook Pro, and between pushing a 4K monitor and this fairly heavy-duty plugin, it was screaming for baby Jesus. So, we decided to run Windows instead of OSX for the booth. That being the case, we needed a Windows machine capable of both fairly heavy lifting in the graphics department while shouldering the CPU burden of a DAW. Plus, we have a fairly thin budget and weight considerations. It was a surprisingly tough nut to crack.
After a whole lot of reading of computer gear blogs and fretting, I decided that I had enough time to take a small risk, and I ordered up one of the new Intel Skull Canyon NUCs. As it is a bare-bones system, containing only a CPU/GPU, I also grabbed 16GB of RAM, an NVMe drive, and a key for Windows Home 10 64-bit. All of that showed up this morning.
I'll admit that while I knew intellectually how small the Skull Canyon NUC was, I was unprepared for the reality of it. It is just about the same size as a VHS tape. The power brick is almost as big as the computer itself. Anyhoo, it comes with a pretty good selection of ports (including, improbably, a Thunderbolt 3 port, if you want to run a graphics card in a chassis, or a UAD Apollo or whatever.) It took me about 30 minutes in all to set it up, from opening the boxes to signing in to Windows, after I installed Windows off a USB drive built with Windows Media Creator on my big machine.
We'll be using Bitwig Studio 2 to demonstrate our products at Superbooth (for two reasons: a native understanding of MPE, and a good HiDpi implementation on Windows), so I popped over to the Bitwig site and slammed that on the machine, as well as a few of our plugs and some samples. I've been pressure-testing it for several hours now, and I have to say that, taking its size in to account, this computer is an amazing value. I wouldn't use it as my main workstation, but for situations like this, or for a secondary machine or media center, it is fucking amazeballs. With the caveat that I still have a lot to do before I'll call it Show Ready™, I'm of the opinion that this is a solid machine for the money. Two thumbs tentatively up.
March 18, 2016
by Chris Randall
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Lax at blogging. Sue me. I'm busy.
Speaking to that, if you're in the PHX area on Saturday, March 26th, we have a synth meet at Phoenix College you should probably attend. I'll be there with the latest and greatest from AD, and Blue Lantern and Synthesis Technology will also be in attendance. It's free to one and all, and runs from 2PM to 6PM, as the picture above implies. Plenty of room, tables, etc. Bring your interesting shit. Nobody cares about your D50, so leave that at home.
Immediately after that, I'll be on the way to Berlin for Superbooth 16. I'll be there from the 29th to the following Monday, April 4th. I'll be at Superbooth with the Audio Damage Road Show all three days of that event, but otherwise, my time is my own, so if you're in that fair city and want to get together for whatever it is they do in Berlin, I'm down. Hit me up on Twitter or email or whatever. (With the following caveat: I plan on spending zero time in nightclubs listening to loud music. If that's your bag, enjoy, but it's not for me.)
In hardware news, DubJr Mk2 is released and shipping. Most of our retailers have it in stock. It is a heavily updated iteration of our first module, DubJr. (Naming conventions: we has them.) Product page is here. Basically, the original shrunk to 6HP, and we added tap tempo, a clock input, a feedback loop, and a switch to defeat the internal filters. All in all a pretty slick little module, and the most live-performance-friendly delay you're gonna find. US$289, but we're totally sold out here at the office, so you'll have to hit up Control or Analogue Haven or one of our other dealers.
In software news, we've updated Sequencer 1's firmware to 1.3.4. A couple of bug fixes, plus "Note" and "Gate" modes for the CV outputs, essentially turning it in to a four-voice sequencer (well, that's a bit of a fib. Three voices is easy. Four is hard, but possible if you're clever.) We also added Actions, which are basically per-pattern directives to control various functions of the transport on a probability basis. (Think: Follow Actions in Live clips. Like that.) This has really extended the reach of Sequencer 1. You can get the new firmware on the Sequencer 1 product page.
I've made a short video to demonstrate both the multi-mode features and the Actions, in the form of a cover of Aphex Twin's "Avril 14th."
January 22, 2016
by Chris Randall
Day One of NAMM is in the books, and we've unveiled our four new hardware products. First up is ADM14 BoomTschak (or "BT," as we call it. We're hip to brevity at AD.) This is our first 100% analog product. Not a single line of code. Our motivation was to create a quality high-end analog drum voice, and I think we hit this one out of the park. Accent and choke inputs, a stonking self-resonant multi-mode filter of our own design, three envelopes with curve controls, and a waveshaper give this thing a wide palette. It is a real bruiser, and since it will join Sequencer 1 at the top of our ecosystem, you'll be seeing a lot of it here and in my Instagram feed. We haven't got all the quotes in yet, so we're not 100% on what it's going to cost, but we feel like $450 is attainable, despite the ludicrous parts count. (It has 16 knobs on it, for the love of all that is holy.) We should be shipping these in about 6-8 weeks.
This little fella is DubJr Mk2. It's basically DubJr, at a much higher build quality, and with all the features that people have asked for since the original was released. (Was it 4 years ago? Wow.) Tap tempo, clock input, selectable "free" or "jump" times, and a feedback loop cover all your clocked delay needs, in a 6HP package. Like all of our 6HP effects, this will be $289, and will be shipping in about 3 weeks.
Aaaaand ADP01 Fluid and ADP02 Freqshift. These are stereo guitar pedals. They have true analog bypass, assignable expression pedal destination, and custom laser-cut steel chassis. Having done my time on stage, I know what a bullet-proof pedal needs to be able to take, and these are as tough as they come. ADP01 Fluid is a direct descendant of our super thick 6-delay chorus in our Fluid plugin, with the alterations present in the ADM11 Dimensions Eurorack module. (There already is a Dimensions pedal, so we just named it what it is, Fluid.)
ADP02 Freqshift is a derivation of our original Freqshift module, with alterations for the stereo guitar pedal context. I have never personally really bothered with frequency shifting as an effect in my music, so I was unprepared for what this thing can do. Adam did a hell of a job with the DSP on this one, and it is a super useful and unique effect that can go from the widest, deepest stereo phaser you've ever heard on up to insane screeching and pure industrial craziness. Every guitar player that came to our booth yesterday went "holy shit..." when I kicked that bitch on.
These will be shipping in about 5 weeks, theoretically, but as this is our first foray in to pedal manufacturing, we're approaching it with some caution. I'd rather they took a little more time and we got them absolutely right. So we'll see how that plays out. These will be $290 each.
Anyhow, as for NAMM itself, Eurorack has gone complete honey badger. It seems every company that makes anything is making a Eurorack version of that thing. I haven't really had a chance to wander about aside from our immediate area; hopefully I'll have some more time today to look around. I did have a good long play with the new DSI Obie, and it is a thing of beauty. Very excited to get one of these. Much like the Prophet 6, it is quite easy to get those classic sounds you'd expect to be able to get from an OB-Mx or that ilk, along with all the modern conveniences and some surprises. I'm calling that one a "win." I also had a fiddle with the new MakeNoise desktop synth, the 0coast. I think you should put that in your "must buy" folder. Tony really hit that one out of the park. Simple, inexpensive, and with a tonal range that isn't, to my knowledge, occupied by any other company.
And we soldier on. Day Two starts in an hour.