Yay, we’re on our way to Christmas and so this month I’ve been searching out the most awesome gifts you can find for the music technology minded. I’ve set the limited at £100 so that’s quite an ask. Also we’ve got Surface Pro Audio’s Kickstarter campaign, my pick up the best Windows 10 music apps and a super monster prize giveaway!
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At SurfaceProAudio.com I make videos about making music on the Microsoft Surface. People seem to really like them and I want to do more but it’s labour intensive and expensive when new gear like the Surface Pro 4 comes along. I would love your support, I’ve made 31 videos on the Surface Pro 3 demonstrating all sorts of bits of music software and performance issues and just how cool a machine it is. I would love to continue doing this with a Surface Pro 4 – but I need your help. A bunch of people have already stepped up which is flipping awesome, but I need a bunch more to make this work. So please, at the very least check it out, and if you can share it and tweet it and if you’re able please tip me a couple of quid to help me make the awesome content you’ve come to expect not just on the Surface but on music technology in general. You could also get to choose the subject of the next video, or get some personal tuition from me to you – that might be awesome. (edit – we reached our first goal which is amazing but we’d still love your help and support to improve the quality of what we do.
Skull Candy Headphones
Headphones can be a tricky area, they tend to be either a bit BBC or a bit too flash and sound awful. Skull Candy seem to be have been able to make some fabulously cool headphones that, apparently sound really good. These are leisure headphones, not necessarily for studio monitoring but they do some great looking ear buds which would be an awesome upgrade on the ones that came free with your phone.
Waldorf Edition 2
The original Waldorf DPole filter was one of my favourite bits of hardware to demo in the Turnkey music shop where I worked like 15 years ago and when it became a plug-in it lost none of its zing. Add to that the PPG Wave 2.2 wavetable synth for classic hybrid analog digital sounds and the Attack analog generating percussion synth and you have an awesome bundle of sonic possibilities. Version 2 updates the interface and expands the effects sections and at €69 it would light up any electronic musicians little face on xmas morning.
We sell these a lot with Pro Tools systems but actually Editor Keys make shortcut keyboards for Ableton Live, Cubase, Studio One and Reason as well. We did this at Carillon Audio Systems with putting stickers onto chunky PC keyboards many years ago and it was always a popular idea. This is how you do it with the sleek modern keyboard. Either in aluminium or backlit they are under £100 and ideal for improving your work flow.
TC Electronic Polytune Clip
It’s a guitar tuner that you clip on the end of your guitar and it shows you the tuning of all your strings, all at once for 25 quid. I thought the Polytune was extraordinary when it first arrived and it seems crazy that such technology has now made it onto the end of your guitar. Fabulous. http://www.tcelectronic.com
Not often I talk about the iPad but there’s loads of good sound generating apps on this platform all falling over each other to use the meagre resources you have at your over priced fingertips. One recent addition is the Korg iM1 which is a faithful recreation of that awesome 80’s digital synth workstation the Korg M1. At £15 it’s expensive for an app but a bargain for the synth lover in your life. You can even share patches with the Korg Legacy collection on your PC and a real M1 if you have such a thing. And while we’re taking about Korg the fabulous little Volca boxes they released last year are now knocking around the £85 mark and are still amazing little boxes of music making fun. http://www.korg.com
Which brings me neatly onto more stripped down boxes of beeps. The need as electronic musicians to keep making crazy noises with a couple of knobs and a bit circuit board shows no signs of abating and along with the Volcas, and controllers like the Arturia Beat Step and the Novation Circuit there are some cool little noise machines out there:
Teenage Engineering pocket operator
These stole the show at NAMM for being brilliantly bonkers for making noises and bonks and beats in a pocket sized form for £49.
Offering yummy electronic nose kits they’ve got a little kitty called Cheshire which lets you build your own synthy thing for around €50 which is awesome!
I don’t really know what’s going on here but I’m loving the mad scientist vibe and you can pick yourself up a bit of digital noise insanity from about $50
I mentioned this fellow the other month well one is currently in transit to me for review which is very exciting indeed. It’s one of those devices which rides the edge between awesome and ridiculous but I can’t wait to try it. It should be available from the 1st of December for about 100 quid. I’ll try to get my full review posted before Xmas! http://wifocorp.com/
Windows 10 Apps
Finding the best Windows 10 apps for music making is either really hard or really easy depending on your point of view. It’s easy because there’s only really one and it’s hard because finding them in the store is really difficult. If you search for “Music” you get 2000 apps most of which are for playing back music. Try “Audio” and you get 188 apps for playing back audio or recording in a dictatphone kind of way. Try “MIDI” and you get a dozen apps that all look a bit crappy. There has to be a better way of tagging apps that are for music making so that they can be discovered amongst the books and desktop apps. But maybe this is the wrong place for music making. Even with Windows 10 improvements on the audio engine I’ve just loaded up something that didn’t look terrible called Sound Pad and the latency is totally unplayable. The closest to a decent synth is Vintage Synth from Geniator which looks and sounds pretty good and takes advantage of the new MIDI API sound you can actually play it from a MIDI keyboard. It’s a decent effort and is £3 with a free trial. Otherwise It does get a bit depressing just searching around and trying things out – the quality of apps makes you think this is some cheap knock off Android device not a Surface Pro 3. There’s a couple that have been around since Windows 8, Music Maker Jam which is a load of fun and FL Studio Groove which does a decent job of being a groove maker app that has the ability to let you make music. It’s still let down by the lag but it’s better than most.
The thing is – and this is really important – no one actually needs Windows 10 apps for music production. It’s sort of an illusion brought on by the iPad that makes us feel hard done by. My Surface can run Pro Tools, it can run Cubase, Reason, Bitwig, full suites of orchestral instruments and the Arturia V Collection of synths. So we don’t need a revolution in Windows 10 music making apps, we have all the Win32 apps we could possibly desire.
Except one – StaffPad. StaffPad is undoubtedly the most awesome Windows 10 app on the planet. It stuffs anything on any other platform in its elegance and suitability for the Microsoft Surface. It couldn’t run on the iPad as it doesn’t have the power and until recently didn’t have the input device. It can run on a MacBook because OSX doesn’t support touch. It’s uniquely perfect for the Microsoft Surface range of devices and shows what can be done with these sorts of tools. Love it. http://www.staffpad.net
Film of the Month
Nothing beats Star Wars The Force Awakens….. ummm nuff said.
The Super Mega Monster Prize Giveaway!
To celebrate and promote the Kickstarter campaign we’re giving away a bunch of software donated by ImageLine, Bitwig, Open Labs and StaffPad. Image Line have given us three copies of FL Studio 12, the top one being bundled with all their awesome plug-ins, Bitwig have thrown in a full licensed copy, Open Labs have given us 5 copies of their latest soon to be released 2.4 ultimate version and David Hearn-Williams has given me three StaffPad codes. See the link below for the full details but one lucky winner is going to walk away with the top version of FL Studio, Bitwig, StageLight and Staffpad – but not only that. I’ve just got news that Microsoft UK are donating a brand newish Surface Pro 3 – it’s not on the website yet and I don’t have it in my hands but if and when it arrives it’ll double the value of the first prize and give you an awesome machine to run it all on.
Follow the link to find out what you have to do, but in a nutshell – follow, like and share and please please please check out the Kickstarter because it’s all fairly pointless if we don’t make our terribly humble £1300 goal – come on people, have a dig behind the sofa, see it as buying me a pint down the pub – got to be worth it.