ideas, things to do

Old sound New and various recommendations


I have a performance coming up – this is my plan:

signal flow

Not sure whether I will be using the KP3 KaossPad just as an alternate sampler or as a parallel effect at this point of time.  With a few base tracks and rhythms on the SP404 and some vague chord progression templates there is enough to make an fun semi-improvised racket.


The rediscovery of my GT3 multi-fx in a cupboard is a definate boon in the setup.  And i’ve discovered there is some helpful editor software for it now.

stompbox editor

All the parts of my setup have an editor except for the mixer.  The Venom one has even been update which is surprising after it was dumped by Avid.  Seems opinion of the Venom has changed somewhat since it’s price has been slashed and it’s having a mini-renaissance.

So i’ve been rather busy teaching 2nd year music technology students about synthesis.  The virtual modular fetish I went through is mostly very useful particularly when I’m reiterating the importance of understanding signal flow.  I’m finding Karma FX as the most useful for demonstrative purpose – though I still wish the amazing Vaz Modular was native to OSX.  Running it in emulators is something of a trapeze act.  We’re using Reaktor in class and I’m seeing the limitations – well – limitations maybe isn’t the word.  It’s like 3 people who refused to speak with one another threw the modules together.  There are lots of semi-repeated features, devices with a similar name that do something slightly different, modules that don’t work with other modules and some that don’t seem to work at all.  The documentation on these is sporadically useful and the students have complained bitterly.  Still I think if they’ve managed to see the seedy underbelly of synth production, even if it is at a visual programming level, they’ve maybe learnt something they wouldn’t have learnt using Massive presets.

In the time since I last wrote I’ve uncovered two old but very awesome plugins:


N20 from PSP Audioware

I’ve been looking for a multi-effect plugin that didn’t rely on overly granular effects and N20 seems to be the one.  It operates on a simple principle – 4 modulation operators connect to 4 effects.  Various cross-modulation can be programmed and is reminiscent of FM synthesis – easy to get results but very deep.  The effects all sound solid without the thin hi-frequency shrieking of many FSU effects.


Toxic Biohazard from Image Line

Speaking of FM synthesis, I was looking for a synth that could use the Galbanum single-cycle waveforms (that i’ve mainly used in Metasynth) and I found this awesome Vector / FM hybrid.  6 Operators – each can load in custom waveforms!!!  Then you modulate them in the centre matrix.  It’s the simplest FM synth i’ve ever come across.  I have to say i’ve never had much luck with FM8 which I hear is still the pinnacle of computer based FM synthesis.  It’s refreshing to find a synth that encourages experimentation in the way it is designed.  The following soundcloud examples were made in the process of learning to use it – both very simple effects to achieve.

On his blog, Ross Healy mentioned the Composing with Process podcast series.  This is a great overview of algorithmic music techniques and practitioners.   It also makes a great companion to reading Micro Bionic – a fantastic book covering experimental electronic noise from Throbbing Gristle, via Coil to all the great computer based noise from the late 90s / early 00s.

So this post has gone long enough – I have another post on the way about building instruments / software / hardware – stay tuned.


So after playing a little more with Toxic Biohazard i’ve discovered the Audio Unit version is VERY flaky w/regard to loading presets on Mountain Lion (it  frequently locks up the entire DAW requiring a FORCE QUIT).  VST version seems to be OK.  I’ve yet to ascertain if the same problem is existent in Snow Leopard.  An alternative is the more powerful / slightly less easy to program Octopus from Linplug.  I’m finding it an absolute joy for sound design, better in almost* every way from Toxic and FM8 with loads of modulation options, yet relatively easy setup and manipulation.  The *caveat is that it is ridiculously limited with regards to MIDI / OSC controllability.  I’ve yet to see if any other parameters get published in DAEs like Usine or Max/MSP but the major failing in my opinion is the inability to manually control the volume and modulation amplitude of each operator without using a mouse.  The fact you can draw the waveform for each op makes up for this though however it will never be a live synth while these limitations stick. Toxic is much more configurable for use with an external controller and the VST version could very well be a live workhorse.


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