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Leaving ZeroTurnaround, joining Moog Music

As many of you know, I’ve always had two passions in life: software and music.

For the last few years I’ve worked with one of the greatest companies in the Java industry: ZeroTurnaround. I’m proud to have contributed to LiveRebel, RebelLabs and finally XRebel, which is an amazing product that is going to bring ZeroTurnaround to even higher levels very soon (seriously, check it out)!

On the side I’ve continued to work in music technology, and built products like GECO for Leap Motion, the Eigenharp and the amazing LinnStrument with Roger Linn.

Moog Music logo

Last week my friends from Moog Music reached out to me with an offer to help them build out their software team, this was too good an opportunity to pass on. I’ll be able to combine both my passions full time again and at Moog of all places!

I’ve always been admirative of how they keep their roots in analog synthesis while reaching forward to novel software ideas like Animoog, Filtatron, the Sub 37 and the Theremini. Being part of that journey excites me beyond belief, the road ahead is going to be wild!

I’m starting at Moog as of next week, see you from there!

Posted in Controllers, Synth.

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“How far can you be?” on LinnStrument

I was playing around with the LinnStrument and iPad synths to get ready for NAMM, and kept thinking of my dog Droopy who afterwards passed away at the hospital. Here’s a little musical painting of those moments.

Posted in Controllers, Live, Song.

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Beautiful Jazz improvisation on LinnStrument

Beautiful Sample Modeled Sax Jazz improvisation on LinnStrument by Jeremy Cubert

Posted in Controllers, Demonstration, Live.

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NightHacking: IoT and Music

At JFokus, NightHacking recorded this interview with me about embedded devices, programming, music, using Linnstrument as an example with code. Thanks to Gerrit Grunwald for the great discussion!

Posted in Controllers, Software.

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Parva Polyphonic Analog Synthesizer

I put in a pledge for the Parva Poly, now that they support the MIDI MPE spec I worked on and have USB host support to connect LinnStrument directly, this is a no-brainer!

Posted in Synth.

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MIDI specifications for Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression (MPE)

Since Winter NAMM 2015, I’ve been working on a new MIDI specification together with many other industry professionals (Apple, Bigwig, Haken Audio, KMI, Madrona Labs, Moog Music, Roger Linn Design, ROLI, …). We’ve preliminarily called it Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression, in short: MPE.

The point is very simple: to allow new controllers like the LinnStrument and Eigenharp to have full per-note expressive support in sound generators and DAWs.

We’ve taken a pragmatic approach where we kept the best of what is already in practical use today and structured in so that adding support for MPE would be the least possible effort, while providing the most possible benefit.

A beta version of the spec is available at http://bit.ly/mpe-spec

Feel free to reach out to let us know what you think of it!

Posted in Controllers, Synth.

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Finally! Real-time VST note expression!

Woohooo! I just discovered that Cubase 8 does live mapping of per-note MIDI channels to VST note expression!!! I’ve been waiting for this for years!

Just turn on the ‘Channel Rotation’ option and your LinnStrument, Eigenharp, Continuum, Seaboard, SoundPlane, … gets real time access to the per-note expression capabilities of any VST3 instrument that supports it.

Obviously you can also record and still edit and fine tune it later in the excellent per-note key editor of Cubase!

cubase8_channel_rotation

Posted in Controllers, Synth, Tip.

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Do analog audio cables matter?

I’ve recently witnessed and been part of a few debates about high-resolution audio, in particular related to the Pono Player. Many people claim that it makes no sense to use better than CD quality, while others (like me) do think it makes a meaningful difference.

During those discussions, I also brought up that cables could influence analog sound, which was disputed by even more people. I personally changed my electric guitar cable from a pre-made Klotz cable to one that I soldered myself using expensive Grindycop Beast bulk cables from Sommer Cable. Since I did that, my clean guitar sound became better than ever before and I’ve received quite a few positive comments from people asking how I achieved the sound. The cable played a significant role. It thus made sense to me that higher quality cables for listening could also positively influence the sound.

Custom headphone cables

My curiosity got the better of me, and a few months ago I jumped onto a Black Friday deal and ordered custom cables for my Westone ES5 in-ears and my Bowers & Wilkins P5 Series 2 headphones from Double Helix Cables. I received them two months later and when I tried them out, I thought there was a clear difference, not necessarily in the sound quality itself but very noticeable in the sound stage. My initial reaction was that it felt like barriers were removed and I described it in an email to Peter from Double Helix like this: “it’s a surreal experience, I feel like I’m floating in space with sound around me and inside me“.

Attempt at something scientific

This weekend, the skeptical scientist in me started wondering though. Was this difference just placebo as so many people claim? Do I really hear a difference or do I want to hear a difference? I thus decided to try to capture the difference in sound using my P5 Series 2 headphones and a ‘head’ that I assembled out of a kitchen bowl, towels and a matched pair of Avenson STO-2 omni microphones, all firmly taped together! :-)

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The bowl I used has ears on the sides, which allowed me to precisely position the headphone cups vertically and I then visually aligned them so that the tip of the microphones would be placed in the middle of the cups. I obviously took special care when placing the headphones on the microphones to make sure that the position was as much as humanly possible identical for all takes.

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I then played the same music through the Pono Player, each time with different cables, recorded through my Metric Halo ULN-8 audio interface with a 96kHz/24bit resolution inside Audacity. The P5 headphones make it very easy to change the cables, you can just remove one of the magnetically attached pads and plug in a different cable.

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The outcome

When listening back to the recordings, I found that most of what I perceived as improvements with the custom cables was lost. Probably due to the microphones, my improvised head contraption, the recording process, … However, the essence of the difference still seemed to be there. To make sure I was not imagining things, I asked my girlfriend to listen to the takes and to tell me what she thought, without me being present.

She was not there during the recording, doesn’t have any experience with the headphones nor the cables, and I just told her how to switch between tracks in Audacity for listening. After 30 seconds she stopped and asked if the top recording corresponded to the custom cable because she could better hear certain details while the overall volume and sound remained very similar. She was correct and this also corresponds to what I discern.

bw_p5s2_cable_test_audacity

So, do cables matter?

I’m glad to know that I’m not imagining things when using higher-end cables, but obviously the benefit is totally related to what’s personally important to you. The original cable stills sounds wonderful, I just think the custom cable provides an extra few percent that pulls the sound out of the artificial realm and into a more realistic realm. With certain recordings, when I close my eyes, it feels like the artists are performing just for me, in the same room. To make that’s worth $100 since it triggers emotions that are absent otherwise.

Show me the goods

If you want to listen to the recordings from this experiment for yourself, you can download an excerpt from here. This zip archive contains 96kHz/24bit WAV files, captured raw from the microphones in the setup explained above. You obviously need a suitable DAC and headphones/monitors to evaluate the differences. Note that this is copyrighted material from Moloko’s Statues album. I hope that having re-recorded it and merely providing fractions of the songs will not be causing me any problems. If it does, I’ll have to take the link down.

Posted in Configuration.

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LinnStrument iPad holder

I recently got a 3D printer and one of the first projects I undertook was to create an iPad holder prototype for the LinnStrument. After a few trials, I designed one that works great and that is printable in three parts. It works from the iPad 1 size all the way up to the iPad Air, including iPhones (the 6+ works quite nicely). Since the LinnStrument can be bus-powered from all iOS devices with a lightning connector, this is a really nice standalone expressive music-making combo imho.

Here are some pictures:

LinnStrument iPad mount 3

LinnStrument iPad mount 5

LinnStrument iPad mount 4

LinnStrument iPad mount 2

LinnStrument iPad mount 1
… and here are the STL files and the original design document from MOI in case you want to print one yourself:

http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:620912

Posted in Controllers.

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LinnStrument : the ultimate open-source hacker instrument

The video and slides of my Devoxx BOF “LinnStrument : the ultimate open-source hacker instrument” are available

Posted in Controllers.

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