Mon, 20 May 2019

My First Real Digital Studio

I just sat down to recall my first studio and as I did so, I remember my first studio wasn't at all my first.

My very first was a portable tape casette recorder.

After that, the record mechanisms on toy synthesizers.

At some point, a Tascam 424 Portastudio MkII showed up, which produced some pretty fun recordings for sure. One for the difficulties for me was timing, especially triggering drum samples and patches from keys. As good as I was at it, a perfect take with perfect timing was out of the question. But I remember how hard it was to learn MIDI! That was probably because my first attempt at using a sequencer was Voyetra Sequencer Plus GOLD software that came with the original Sound Blaster. Totally unintelligble to a 13 year old kid!

So my first real studio came along once Cubase appeared for me, because that was when I figured out MIDI and I could start creating sensible, listenable music.

I didn't even know Atari existed. My first Cubase was on Windows 98, Cubase Score 3.05. It had a printer port dongle. The MIDI interface was a MOTU Pocket Express parallel port. I think I needed some kind of parallel port hub to use both at the same time. I had no idea about MIDI timing or anything, and I think with the parallel port, I hadn't yet come across the ill-fated timing issues that were to come with USB, although I know that soon after realizing I needed more MIDI ports, I dove in head first to the horror that is USB MIDI devices.

I know my first sequences were stored on floppy disks. I doubt I have them anymore. I know I did a few things in 1998, more notibly the music and sound effects for a college skit. There were tracks made in the summer of 1998 in Berkeley, with MIDI mostly recorded live (and sometimes unquantized, go figure) into Cubase and recorded into the 4 track. I don't think I had figured out multitimbral mode yet. One track, Sanskrit, is extant from that time. The tape version sounds much better than the edited, quantized version I worked out later.

After I graduated college in 1999, I remember buying a top of the line Micron computer that cost about $5,000. With this big purchase came my first "real" studio running Steinberg Cubase VST/32 running on Windows 98, with the aforementioned MOTU Pocket Express handling the MIDI and outputing to an Alesis QS8 and a Roland JV-80, eventually recording audio into a Mackie 1402 VLZ Pro with the direct outs half-patched into a MOTU 2408 Mk II PCI. I soon figured out how to plug the ADAT outputs of the QS8 into the 2408, which then started my obsession with digital audio. The difference between that and the poor, noisy analog output of the mixer was undeniable.

Yet, stability on this system was far from achievabl with Windows 98. Getting thorugh a 5 minute recording without the system crashing was a miracle sometimes.

The last version of Steinberg Cubase VST/32 appears to be Steinberg Cubase VST/32 5.2 PB1.


Note to self: there is an Initself archive housed in Z:\Documents\Cubase\Techno (Pitch 07) that contains Rhodes Bitch Golfer, which you thought was lost. Check it out!

[/Music/Studio]

Wed, 22 May 2013

Steinberg Cubase VST/32 5 eLicenser Woes

After destroying my previous printer port dongle for Cubase VST/32, replacing it with a new USB eLicenser, I decided to install the newly provided activation code provided to me by Steinberg Support.

It did not go very well. I documented the process with screenshot here:

Steinberg Cubase VST/32 5 eLicenser Woes

UPDATE: Turns out Steinberg sent me the wrong license code! With the right one, it works great!

[/Music/Studio]

Sat, 11 May 2013

Akai S1000/S1100 Compact Flash (CF) Reader

It has truly been humbling finding a CF Reader for my Akai S1100. After messing around with countless Compact Flash card models and All-In-One SCSI readers, the following equipment is guaranteed to work with an S1100.

Akai S1100 Compact Flash Parts

Parts:

The internals of the StarTech.com unit is an Addonics AD44MIDECF. StarTech.com adds a slot for the card and a metal housing.

The only CF drive that have been able to get to work is a Pretec 16 GB 233x Series Compact Flash drive. I was able to find someone selling one on eBay. Other than eBay, they seem to be sold out everywhere.

Per Muser on GearSlutz, the reason why this CF card works is the following:

233x is 233 times 150KB per second. the 150 was the designation for CD ROM Audio at 44.1 16bit .. per second KB.

The Akai will likely want to see this kind of speed, as its hard disk formatting specification mirrors that of a sample CD.

I also had to cobble together a custom Female Large 4-pin Molex to Female Small 4-pin Molex, soldering together parts from two other Molex cables I had.

Here is my HOWTO video:

Note to self: Akai Tools

[/Music/Studio]

Fri, 05 Oct 2012

Loading Sysex Files in Logic Pro 9

Coming from Cubase VST/32, I expected to be able to add sysex data to the start of a MIDI track using the event editor. After trolling around, I found that logic doesn't provide enough space for one line hexidecimal sysex dump entry. However, it turns out that there's a much more elegant way to load sysex data.

First of all, you can easily dump patches into a little utility made by snoize called Sysex Librarian. You set the utility to record mode and trigger a dump from the synth. Then, you can set the destination in the librarian to "Act as a source for other programs". This will create integration with Logic.

After dumping or loading a sysex patch and setting the proper destination, select a MIDI track in Logic and set the transport to "pause record mode" by pressing pause followed by the record button. This allows you to play in the sysex patch from the librarian. Press the 'Play' button and Logic will show an arrow in the MIDI channel, signifying that there is now sysex data in the channel. Press play in Logic and away you go!

[/Music/Studio]

Sat, 26 Jan 2008

Orbital

Live at Alexandra Palace in 1995

Orbital - Live at Alexandra Palace in 1995

What I can recognize:

Left Rack:
  - Top Row: Roland Jupiter 6
  - Middle Row: Alesis MMT8 (x3), Novation Bass Station 
  - Bottom Row: Roland R8, Roland TR-909, Roland TR-808
Front Rack:
  - Mackie Mixer?
Right Rack:
  - Top Row: Oberheim Xpander, Roland TB-303
  - Middle Row: Roland SH-101, Ensoniq DP/4, Ensoniq DP/2, Alesis Quadraverb 
  - Bottom Row: Korg Prophecy, ?, ?

Update: Gearslutz helped out here: Orbital Gear Identification

Here's the unofficial Orbital Gear List.

[/Music/Studio]

Fri, 25 Jan 2008

Soundcards

I've tried for a while now to get an appropriate soundcard for working on music at home on a laptop. The first thing I tried was an M-Audio Firewire 410. Latency issues, clicking and poping, poor mic preamp quality all led me to the conclusion that I'd never be buying from M-Audio again. A quick foray into the M-Audio Ozone 2 reminded me of why - the gear just feels cheap and uninspiring, and then when you plug it in you realize that your initial impulse was correct.

After some time, I thought I'd give Creative/E-mu a try with their new 0404 USB 2.0 Audio/MIDI interface. Although a step in the right directly, this time I was very unsatisfied with the sound quality on the output stage (which doesn't really make much sense considering the specs), as the outputs seemed to render the sound dynamically flat and loud, without depth. I recall being bothered by timing on something, the details are fuzzy. Suffice it to say, I gave up on this one as well.

Recently I dove into the tried-and-true PCMCIA territory with the Digigram VXPocket V2. I had read decent reviews and they had been very accommodating with Linux driver developers, a good sign. Turns out the Windows XP drivers still needed some work. I experience intermitant digital popping from within Cubase. When I tried to use the standalone Emulator X2, I was only able to record digitally for one pass until the driver decided to wig out and set itself back to analog recording, leaving me with a very irritated ear canal after numerous digital yelps. What a pity.

So now I realize after all the returns and all the time wasted trying to make crap work that I should have just gone with RME all along. They should be coming out with their new PCI-e PCMCIA cards for the Digiface and I will gladly buy one in order to move on with my life. RME, I can almost guarantee it, will not let me down.

[/Music/Studio]


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