Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.

Tags: Synthnerd

August 21, 2016

Tech Time No. 007: Voltage-Controlled Cassette Deck...

by Chris Randall

Like the subject line says... I was curious as to how the Onde Magnétique OM-1 worked. Originally, I thought that these super cheap little decks might be powered directly from the sequencer. I went out and hit a few thrift stores and bought several and gave that a try, with success rates that varied between "not at all" and "fuckin' nope." (I believe I briefly referenced this failure in one of the other Tech Time videos.) So I just set that aside with a shrug and moved on to other things.

However, last night I was looking at the OM-1 video again, and I was like "oh. Duh. He's just throwing 0-5V at the speed pot." So I busted out the video camera and soldered a jack right to the pot, and sure as shit, works like a charm, as the video above shows.

Something I didn't mention in the video: this isn't 1V/Oct. It's more like 5V/Oct. Sequencer 1 actually shows the voltage value you're shitting out the CV outputs in linear mode, so I was able to just put a tuner on the ass end, and scroll the voltage values until it was tuned to 12TET. I got 14 semitones total out of it, which is plenty for demonstration purposes. But if you're going to attempt this, you'll need a sequencer that can output linear values in addition to 1V/Oct. Sequencer 1 is, of course, perfect for this sort of foolishness. I'm sure there are others that will work fine, but I don't feel like talking about them.

When it comes to the cassette itself, take the lowest note you want to play, and record a note a semitone below that (so you have some wiggle room) on your cassette, and you'll end up with a full octave above that note.

You can clearly hear the portamento in the note programming later in the video. This is a result of the time it takes the motor to move to the new speed. This is an electromechanical process, so it's not instantaneous. Something with inertia needs to be accelerated or decelerated, and this takes time. Hence, fixed portamento.

June 25, 2016

Addendum To The Previous...

by Chris Randall

Naturally, since I've spent most of the last week lying on a beach in Mexico, I'm totally amped to get home and get back to work. Item, like, three or something on my List Of Shit To Do is get my YouTube channel rolling. I've done a lot of reading over the last week on the various resources available to YouTube content creators; I'll admit I've never really used this platform to its fullest potential after reading all this shit.

(Sidebar: I also discovered that the most popular YouTube channels are for really bizarre shit. These people have over 4 million subscribers, and as best I can tell, they put up a 5 minute video every day where they throw Mr. Potatoheads at each other and show off their cosmetic dentistry. Shit is a Japanese Game Show level of weird, no joke.)

Anyhow, during my journey I found out that YouTube has a complete and very nice production facility in Los Angeles that is (more or less, with various caveats) open to anyone that has 10K subscribers on their channel. I would like to use this production facility to record live performances of the people in our Circle Of Trust to build our community, and give some of these excellent performances that we regularly shit out in to the wild a more permanent home in the social fabric.

With the caveat that I have never once actively pursued subscribers, I currently have about 1300 subs to my personal YouTube channel. Audio Damage has about twice that many, and thus would be a better starting place, but many of the YouTube For Creators features (including the production studios) are not available to business channels. However, I think that our needs would best be met in this context by making an Analog Industries channel, starting from a blank slate, and taking the hit.

(EDIT: Made the channel, or at least the beginnings of it. Please go hit "subscribe" so we can quickly get to the hundred subs needed for the custom URL, which is much better for further promo.)

My reasoning here: this will enable more consistent branding between this site and the channel, and the difference between 8700 subscribers needed and 10K needed is really only just a couple rungs on an already tall (but not insurmountably so) ladder. I mean, while there's a lot of crossover, I have over 10K between my Twitter and Instagram accounts, so it can't be that hard. Can it?

I guess we'll find out. It's going to take a community effort to get that many subscribers so we have access to the YouTube studios. Once that occurs, we'll have to figure out, as a community, who gets to reap the reward of having their performances recorded for posterity. I'm open to any and all suggestions in that regard; this will be somewhat technically challenging, and we'll need volunteers to assist with the technical work in LA. (And wherever else we do it; there are also YouTube Spaces in several other cities, but I'm given to understand the LA one is the best one.)

With all that in mind, I'll be shipping the new AD module (Shapes) and a long-awaited restock of Sequencer 1 all next week. In my free time, I'll be assembling the AI YouTube channel and starting to make content for it. This is where I'll do the vlog and other associated content; I'll keep the live performances and shit on my own channel, as has always been the case, and the AD channel will continue to be the hub for tutorials and what-not.

June 14, 2016

Broodcast Journalism...

by Chris Randall

So Sonic State hit me up about doing a little tutorial video about Karplus-Strong when I was at SuperBooth in Berlin, the which I happily did. I totally forgot about it, to be honest, until Nick put it up on his site yesterday. I was noting on Facebook that I was deep in the Jetlag Timeslip when I did it, and it's actually relatively amazing that it's watchable at all, let alone fairly on-point and informative, as such extemporizing goes. (At least, in my opinion.)

But it lit a fire under my ass to do something I've been meaning to do for a long time. I have all these broadcast accounts and a commercial broadband hardline right here to my house, and it's certainly well within my means to do a fairly high-quality stream out of my office. I was thinking of doing a Twitch or YouTube Live stream maybe once a week, where you can AMA in the vein of the "10 Questions" videos we did a while back, albeit with more focus. Like "watch me patch this shit or fuck with Reaktor Blocks while I talk and answer questions and whatever" kind of thing.

I don't honestly know how it would play out, and I need to rearrange some things in my office and test some shit to get the best lighting/sound scenario going, but I think it might be fun for all. In that vein, some questions:

1. What do you think the best platform for this endeavor would be? I have a Twitch account, and it's all set up and tested, and I think the audio and video quality is better than sending the same exact encoding to YouTube, personally. However, YouTube is the larger platform, and Twitch is, of course, aimed at gamers. Open to ideas in this regard. It would be a fairly simple matter to set up a media server right here on the AD box and stream it direct, for that matter.

2. What would you like to see as the purview? Watch Crandall Produce Shit? Q&A? Lightly-scripted topic (like "10 Questions" or the video above where we just talk about a single subject?) I'm open to ideas. I'll try anything out. I'm leaning towards a combination of Watch Me Work and Q&A, with the caveat that I'll probably forget to look at the chat window.

3. What sort of schedule? Should I block time weekly for a strictly live affair, or could it be more random? I'm not doing any daily bullshit, that's for sure.

Anyhow, open to any and all ideas. Your comments and input in this regard will be most appreciated.

April 5, 2016

Berlin Debrief...

by Chris Randall


Unless you've been living under a rock for the last few whiles, you are perfectly aware of last week's Superbooth 16 in Berlin. Schneidersburo is one of the largest Eurorack retailers (and via their Alex4 subsidiary, the European distributor for almost all North American Euro manufacturers), and every year they've had an Analogue Superbooth at MusikMesse in Frankfurt.

The MusikMesse has, in the last few years, become a hostile environment for boutique manufacturers, and Schneidersburo/Alex4 decided, to their credit, to make their Analogue Superbooth a stand-alone event, and put it in Berlin (where it's cool) instead of Frankfurt (where it's basically Dallas Plus Schnitzel). We'd been dreading the inevitable trip to Messe, so when Schneider's announced this event, we immediately jumped on board, as did virtually everyone else. All the larger North American Euro manufacturers were in attendance, with one notable exception. Essentially all of the European manufacturers were there, as well as many other companies that ran the gamut from one-dude-in-a-basement-with-an-invention on up to U-He, Ableton, Native Instruments, Roland, Korg, Yamaha, and Moog, along with several pro-audio companies.

It was, basically, all the cool shit in the music tech business under one roof.


The venue was the splendid former state radio building of the GDR, and while it was a bit run down, having sat idle for some decades now, the Schneiders folks did an amazing job cleaning it up and running the event. I'll admit that the potential for a clusterfuck of massive proportions was a distinct possibility, given the location of the venue (on the corner of the Ass End Of Nowhere and Bumblefuck) and the high cost of attendance. I am personally of the mind that these sorts of events should be free to the attendees, and I give any event that has even a moderate fee the side-eye, but in this case, the stars aligned and all went perfectly.

Schneiders organized it so the first half of the (very long) days were for trade only and the second half were for the public. Since we don't actually have a whole lot of trade to do, being distributed exclusively by Alex4, the first parts of the days were spent hanging with old friends and meeting new ones, seeing the new stuff everyone's working on, and talking about the industry. The public half of the days was outstanding; the people that attended were the best informed I've personally come across at one of these events. I didn't talk to a single "so... what does this... do... exactly?" n00B. (I despise those conversations, as I've worked in this business so long I just assume everyone I talk to has the same knowledge base I do, and when I find myself explaining how an oscillator works, my eyes glaze over immediately.)

All in all, this was the single best event of this sort that I've ever attended. We've been discussing not doing the major trade shows any more (NAMM in particular) because the signal-to-noise ratio is so bad that there's no noticeable return on our investment. This, however, was money and time well spent, and we very much look forward to next year.

Adam was unable to attend, as he had a vacation in Japan planned for the same time period, and due to personal reasons was unable to change the dates. So I took Jeremy Highhouse to work our booth for the public parts. I've been to Frankfurt many times, and spent a couple months in Hamburg and Cologne, but I've never visited Berlin. I only had about a day and a half to explore, but what an outstanding city! I loved every minute I was there, except for the first day. (And this is my fault, not Berlin's. Like some sort of diptard, I left my one and only coat in Phoenix, and arrived to a very cold and wet Berlin at 7AM, unable to get in my rented flat until 3PM, after 21 hours of travel. That was... amusing.)

It was great to see people in real life that I've known for years online and talk to daily, and to make a whole mess of new friends. Well worth the trouble of getting there. Special shout out to the Koma Elektronik boys, who are, quite frankly, the coolest people I've ever met.

March 18, 2016

Upcoming Events And Stuff...

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."


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