Molten Music Monthly – April 2016 Musikmesse Special

Molten Music Monthly

It’s April, we’ve just had Musikmesse which means it must be time for another Molten Music Monthly!

Are you loving the new ident thingy? I don’t know, we’re going to play with it for it a while, maybe even write some new music for it – maybe. I’ve also picked up some new lights so our next few videos are going to be a washed out mess but it’s all in the pursuit of providing you good people with some quality content.

So Musikmesse then, Europes small attempt at doing a bit of a NAMM in Frankfurt. Usually these are really good, full of quirky stuff and rooms full of machines going beep and flash and swwwwaaarssssh – but this year it was a little light on the old quirky cool because the week before was the first Superbooth crazy bonkers synth show thingy in Berlin and everybody was at that and so couldn’t really be bothered with Musikmesse afterwards – and that’s a shame. Nonetheless I scoured to media streams and have come up with a few computer music peaches for you: MOTU get Thunderbolt working on Windows; RME launch 4 new products; IK Multimedia release a sensible sized Miroslav 2; UAD give us a USB satellite box which doesnt do Sky it does plug-ins; Brainworx does EQ in the stereo field; cool spacy plugins from Zynaptiq; Antelope get all contemplative with their Zen Tour interface and we round things off with some banging beats from the PioneerDJ TORAIZ SP-16.

Here’s the video version, the text continues underneath:

Let’s get to it:

MOTU have been consistently good to Windows users over the years – we’re never the first thought when they get up in the morning but at least they return our calls. Anyway they have a fabulous range of Thunderbolt/USB interfaces which up until now have only been USB compatible on the PC. But now Windows 10 has become more Thunderbolt friendly MOTU have released a new Windows driver set with full thunderbolt compatibility – hooray! That effectively doubles the simultaneous I/O on some interfaces and halves the latency which is pretty darn cool. Thank you MOTU.

RME on the other hand are the masters of Windows audio hardware and to celebrate their 20 years of making super fast and super complex German audio cards and interfaces they have announced 4 new, complex and possibly exciting products. First there’s the MADIface Pro which is a not very cutely named sister of the Babyface Pro which has 64 channels of MADI – i’ve never met anyone who uses MADI but i’m sure it’s very exciting. Next is the stupendous Fireface UFX+ which has Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 to offer 188 channels if I/O. You don’t even need a computer you can track 76 channels directly onto a flash drive. They really need to drop the Fireface name as firewire is no longer a feature – but anyway. Combined with the new Fireface is the ARC USB or Advanced Remote Control which gives you tactile control over the loathsome TotalMix FX software – anything that makes TotalMix easier to use has got to be a good thing because i can never get sound out of it. And finally the ADI-2 Pro is a high end converter and headphone amp thingy.

RME stuff always works brilliantly so if you can afford it then it should always be on your shortlist. Happy birthday RME, keep doing what you do and thanks for all the complicated boxes of awesomeness.

IK Multimedia
I love Miroslav library. I used to demo it from a floppy disk on Akai samplers back in the day (or was that a dream). Anyway IK put together the Miroslav Philharmonik about a decade ago and i’ve always loved it. It has a unique feel to it, a warmth that’s not always present in the hyper realism of recent orchestral libraries. The difference, apparently is that Miroslav works with the musicians to sample not only the sound but the performance which perhaps gives the library a bit more emotion – these things are hard to measure. IK and Miro (can i call him Miro?) have gone back and resampled a new enormous library of 58GB over 2700 instruments capturing the same kind of performance but to a much greater degree. If, like me, you just want some decent strings then a drive filling 58GB and mind boggling 2700 instruments seems a bit like overkill. So IK have just released a CE version, a Classic Edition if you will of the new library cutting it down to a more manageable 10GB of 730 instruments. Personally i think that’s enough for most people and it’s only $99 until the end of May. IK GUI’s tend to get a bit small and fiddly which is my only criticism but otherwise there’s a bunch of great sounds and the power to mess them about – love it.

Universal Audio are not always big on the Windows thing so it’s always nice to see something come along for us. The UAD-2 Satelite is a very boring looking DSP box for running their suite of DSP powered effects. Couldn’t they put some flashing lights on it or something? It’s available in 4 or 8 SHARC processor models and connects over USB 3.0. Prices start at 1000 dollars so they are not messing about – don’t forget you’ve also got to buy the plug-ins.

I love terms like “game changer” – they massage my cynicism gland but Brainworx do seem to have brought something exciting to the table with their annoyingly named bx-underscore-panEQ. The idea is that it allows you to place different EQ settings in the stereo field. So you want to cut some high frequencies on the left and boost some mid on the right/middle – now you can. It’s one of those things that i didn’t know i needed to do – i tend to process stuff before it hits the pan knob, but what do i know? It’s got a lot of talking head producers very excited on the video. I can see how it could be interesting to have a filter i can sling around the stereo field. However, it’s new, it’s a thing so i’m talking about it.

These look awesome – i love the GUI, all Tron and stuff – beautiful. The ADAPTIVERB uses artificial intelligence to model reverb. Using ray tracing and adaptive similarity filtering rather than reflections. They say it’s similar to technology used in driverless cars…. Ummm…. No i’ve no idea how that helps. Anyway the key feature as far as i can tell is that it allows you to create space with pushing the audio into the distance like traditional reverbs – now that’s interesting. The other plugin is called WORMHOLE and combines an eccentric spectral warping section with a lush reverb and a precision engineered processor that integrates pitch and frequency shifting into a single process. Apparently that makes space ship and alien noises – rightyo then.

Antelope make really expensive bits of posh pro gear. Their new Zen Tour is an attempt at a more portable desktop friendly audio interface while keeping all the posh features and leaving you $1500 poorer. It has 4 mic/line inputs, 4 line/instrument inputs, 8 outputs, 2 headphones, 2 reamps (for looping in guitar effects) and a bunch of digital i/o. It’s Thunderbolt and USB and has it’s own onboard DSP running a load of vintage studio and guitar effects. It looks great – love the display and the awesome single knob – i’m a fan of the desktop form factor so if i had a grand to spend on an interface then this would probably be it. They released other posh stuff as well but i dont care about that.

And finally an unholy alliance between synth god Dave Smith and the crazy PioneerDJ nutters has produced the TORAIZ SP-16 groove box thingy. It’s a banging box of beats, samples, lights and analogue filters from the Dave Smith Prophet 6. It has a 16 track sequencer with 16 steps and 16 voices. It has a big display, bunch of knobs, 16 pads and a modulation strip. To be honest it looks like a load of fun – as groove-boxes always are. To focus it a the DJ it has Pioneer Pro DJ Link so it can sync up to your digital DJ rig and run right along with whatever tracks you are dropping/spinning/hitting/clicking – i dunno what the lingo is. At £1275 it seems to be crazy bonkers expensive – that’s 5 times the price of the Novation Circuit, 4 times the Roland Aira TR-8, 3 times the NI Maschine – i was expecting sort of £349 but hey it must be awesome.

Film of the month
Controversially I want to big up Batman verses Superman – i loved. I think the reason people had trouble with it was because they were expecting a rock concert and got an opera – but i thought it was awesome, the struggles of both characters were immense and Affleck was a stunning drunken old batman trying to find redemption and pulling himself back from the edge – can’t wait for his new solo movie. But more importantly I wanted to big up the amazing music and sound design that just blew me away. There was this sort of screaming going on before Batman crashed through the wall to beat up bad guys in an Arkham styli – it was totally terrifying. Even Hans Zimmer who apparently is retiring from superhero soundtracks (hooray!) was able to pull off something inspiring with Wonder Womans arrival. But is was Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL) work that really stood out for me. He’s also scored Mad Max, Deadpool and Divergent amongst others so he’s obviously getting pretty good at it. So yeah, it wasn’t a fun film but i can’t wait to see it again.

Surface Pro 4 Update
I’m still working on the Surface Pro 4. I don’t want to get into details yet but suffice to say that some audio software works and some gives clicks and pops that the usual tweaks and fixes don’t fix. I have a replacement arriving next week to try and Microsoft are working with me on identifying this weird anomaly. So my advice at the moment is that if you are considering buying an SP4 for music just hold off a couple more weeks and wait for news. And if you have a SP4 already then please get in touch and let me know how that’s going – the more information we have on what works and what doesn’t the better pressure I can put on Microsoft to fix it. So please get in touch SP4 users.

I’ve now completed my mega test and you can check out the results here.

Coming soon
So meanwhile i’m ramping up my review schedule and very soon we have a bit of this, and this and some of that and a bit of this. Plus we’re trying a new thing called the 5 minute plug-in review where i do exactly what it says – as many and as often as i can.