Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.
June 27, 2018
by Chris Randall
Well, that took a minute, but we are hugely pleased to announce that Quanta, our hybrid granular / subtractive softsynth, is now available for purchase in the Audio Damage store. What seemed like a moderately complicated project back in October of last year turned in to an eight-month exercise in applying the Kübler-Ross model to plugin development. Nominally, we try to have a bit of restraint in our designs, and hope to apply the K.I.S.S. principle to most things we make, within reason. But for Quanta, we took a more subtractive approach, and stuck everything up to and including several kitchen sinks in it, then carved away until a firm foundation remained.
Obvs, you can get the highlights, bullet points, and marketing hyperbole in spades over on the AD site, so I'll use this space to add some color commentary about the process. This all started when we were shopping for a new product idea, and I pondered that many (most?) granular synths for desktop were fairly complex and un-fun -- not to disparage them at all, mind; it is a complicated process -- and it might be an "interesting exercise" and furthermore "pretty fun" to make something more like Borderlands, which doesn't really exist outside of the iOS environment. Adam concurred, and we initially thought about using the grain engine we had built years ago for Discord. It became rapidly obvious that wasn't up to the task of a big polysynth, so Adam went in to his DSP Fortress of Solitude, and came out a month or so later with a full granular oscillator that you're using pretty much as-is in Quanta.
Now that we had that, it was largely a matter of wrapping things around it to make it in to a fun instrument to use. After getting several requests for adding MPE functionality to some of our existing products, I dropped Roger Linn a line and got us a couple Linnstruments to work with (detailed in an earlier post, if you recall) and decided that, since there aren't any MPE granular synths, it may be an interesting addition. This exploded the modulation sources to proportions big enough that it required a mod matrix. And since we have a mod matrix anyhow, might as well throw an Imperial fuckton (1.3 metric fucktons) of other mod in the thing. Which is how it ended up with four 99-step arbitrary function/breakpoint generators.
So, with a mod matrix and a pretty good grain engine, and some excellent new mod sources, it became a design project, winnowing all that down to the most usable feature set and parameter ranges, and making it all look pretty. I'm not the best judge of such things, being somewhat too close to it to actually see if there's any forest all these trees are sitting in, but I do know that I love and will definitely use the result, and I can't say that about all of our products.
The one other real departure from our normal modus operandi is that we have decided to add a demo version. We have gotten on fine over the years not having demos, and frankly, any lost sales were more than made up for by the fact that demos are a pain in the ass to make and support. But since we spent so much time on this (about three times as long as a normal product) it necessarily has to cost a bit more than our normal run, and we can't, in good conscience, ask you guys to buy something that expensive on blind faith. Hence, a demo. It is fully functional, but can not save (neither presets, nor its state in a project), and stops making sound after 20 minutes.
Anyhow, head over and give it a spin, and let me know if you have any questions about the decisions we've made, or comments on its overall usefulness. This is, by far, the most complex software product we've made, and we're sweating a bit. It's a large slab of work for a 2.5 person company. Quanta is $79 introductory price, and will go up to $99 on August 1.
May 30, 2017
by Chris Randall
Our habit, for the last couple years, has been to port our existing product line to Eurorack hardware. However, there is one product we have that is unique to Eurorack, our Shapes module, that I really wanted in the DAW. So, after we got done making Eos 2, I scraped all the Sean out of the project and got to work, moving the code from Shapes, and adding to it given the somewhat more expansive CPU real-estate available in DAW-land.
The result is what you see above, Grind. It can run both "wave" and "algo" modes of Shapes simultaneously (with some additions to both the waveform complement and the algorithms), and we threw in a huge raft of filters and a tempo-synced LFO because hashtag yolo. I was going to say that this is probably the first direct code port of a digital Eurorack module to a plugin, but I haven't looked closely at that SoftTube thing, so I couldn't say for sure.
In a nutshell, the input level determines which sample of the wavetable is accessed, and we replace the input sample with the wavetable sample. Then, this hot mess passes through the algorithms, which are mostly of the soft sat / clip variety, with a couple exceptions. After that, it hits one of the 11 filter algorithms. The filter frequency and wavetable can be hit with the tempo-synced LFO. It is a fairly unique distortion plugin, and incredibly capable. You can turn the wavetables off and just use the algos and filter and access the entire range of "analog warmth" tricks that we use in the plugin business, or go screaming acid banshee on whatever the input is. Add the wavetables to that, and it's a god damn nightmare machine.
Tonight or tomorrow I'll have a video overview of this bad boy up, but it is available for purchase now. VST/VST3/AU/AAX.
Speaking of AAX, while I was waiting for Adam to finish the Grind manual, I plucked some low-hanging fruit and ported our free FuzzPlus3 plug; while I was at it, I hit a couple little bugs. So FuzzPlus3 is now VST/VST3/AU/AAX as well. Get it here. We're going to have to do a version upgrade to do the same to Rough Rider, as it is not a JUCE plugin to begin with, so we have to essentially remake it from scratch. There's not a ton to it, though, so it should be fairly easy.
EDIT: It was, in fact, fairly easy. And is now done. Rough Rider is at v2, and includes AAX, VST3, and a new UI.
In unrelated news, working on my Summer Vibes EP. Like you do, while Adam lays out the PCB for [REDACTED]. More on both those things as they become pertinent. I also finally bit the bullet and bought a smoking new Kaby Lake PC (literally the day before Intel announces Kaby Lake X. Go team) and a glorious 4K monitor to peer at its innards with. That'll be arriving tomorrow, so system migration ho!
Anyhow, that was my week. What are you up to?
May 8, 2017
by Chris Randall
Now that the hardware side of the business is chugging along, we've turned our attention back to plugins. After some soul-searching and rending of garments, it became obvious that some serious re-building was in our future to make sure our rather extensive product line stays pertinent and healthy as we start knocking on the door of our 3rd decade in business.
First one on the block was (depending on how you count) either our second- or third-most popular plugin, Eos. We're rebuilding everything in JUCE, so that we can offer and support all the formats from a single codebase that is well-supported and gives us a lot of different options. So these ports aren't really ports as such, but complete ground-up rebuilds. In the case of Eos, the biggest problem was the user interface. It still held up okay on normal-res screens, but on Hi_Res and Retina, it looked cheap and awful. Also, a continuing point of contention with me has been the lack of a common platform-agnostic preset mechanism.
Early last year, we released FuzzPlus3, which was built with JUCE and made with a completely procedural user interface. (That is to say that the UI is all code, no images at all.) It also had an XML-based preset mechanism that Randy from Madrona and Sean from ValhallaDSP came up with. Several tens of thousands of downloads later, nobody seemed to have any problem with either the OpenGL interface or the preset mechanism, so I figured they were safe to roll in to a paid product.
With all that in mind, I set to it. I decided on a darker look for Eos 2, and instead of a static background, I used a GLSL shader to give me a little animated blob that responded to knobbing, which I thought was a clever trick. We also bared some previously hidden controls (high and low crossover points, which are the corner frequencies for the high and low multipliers) and added a fourth algorithm, Plate 3, which is a derivation of Plate 2 with a somewhat different rendering loop that results in a less dense tail with a wider stereo image.
All in all the port only took about 5 days, and then we spent a week with the testers tracking down all the silly bits. The testers were surprised to hear from me, not having got a new AD plug for some time now. But they were all still game, and now Eos 2 is available for purchase in the Audio Damage store and at Splice. The full version is $59.00, and the upgrade from v1.x is the difference between the two, $10.00.
This version is built with the absolute latest JUCE 5, the current VST3 SDK, and current Xcode and Visual Studio, against the current APIs from both Apple and Windows. So it should be solid for a good long while. Aside from the usual 32/64 VST and AudioUnits, a side effect of using JUCE is that we pick up the VST3 version for free. So that's included, and will be included in all our upcoming rebuilds. This version also removes the anti-denormal math, which caused a very small amount of noise to be added to the signal path. We figure not many people are using a Pentium 4 for music any more, and the ones that are probably can't run a bleeding-edge OpenGL-based plugin anyhow, so that's that.
We haven't decided what we're going to do next; I'm about 70% finished with Basic 2, which is a polyphonic version with much more extensive modulation. We've also got a couple new plugs we've been cooking up, and would like to port some of the advances we've made on the hardware side of things back in to plugin land.
September 5, 2016
by Chris Randall
To do this video, I went through a bunch of the techniques I use in normal production to add indeterminism to tracks over the course of a couple days. I then sat down to edit it and realized I had over an hour of footage, and I didn't even cover most of the non-Live apps I use, nor hardware.
Randomization is a fucking broad topic.
Anyhow, I managed to knock it down to three techniques. Again, I'll raise this issue that has appeared a few times as I've done these: I'm not entirely sure what's worth filming. A lot of this shit is self-evident to me, so I'm not sure what people find interesting or not.
Anyhow, here you go: some thoughts on Randomization. Necessarily Live-centric.
October 20, 2015
by Chris Randall
Eventide has finally released a native version of the Anthology suite of plugins. About half of them have been native for a while, but it's nice to have the whole set. They might seem a bit quirky to people that didn't spend every waking hour in a recording studio in the 80s and 90s, as most of the plugs are directly modelled on the Eventide Clockworks hardware equivalent, but that said, in many cases there is no equivalent commonly available. If you make IDM, in particular, this is a desirable collection; many of the plugs have Richard Divine presets that are essentially "Instant Autechre." (In point of fact, several of his presets are named as such directly.)
H3000 Factory is my favorite of the set. I use it when I'm closing in on the end of the production process, and there is a hole in the arrangement. You can run pretty much any sound through this plug, and just skip through the presets until it sits.
Caveat Emptor: I did the UI update for Ultra Reverb, and partial design for Octavox and Quadravox. (Ultra Reverb is another special member of this collection. Reverb as a creative tool, rather than a room-maker.) There's a 30-day special on this package for cross/upgrading that you should definitely take advantage of. For the price, probably the single best bundle of plugs available. 'Tis here.