Sound Radix has announced Drum Leveler, a beat detection-based downward and upward compressor/expander. By selectively applying gain to single drum beats, Drum Leveler can be used to achieve [Read More]
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Sound Radix has announced Drum Leveler, a beat detection-based downward and upward compressor/expander. By selectively applying gain to single drum beats, Drum Leveler can be used to achieve [Read More]
Refinement is essentially a mastering tool for smoothing over any harshness in mixes, by adding tube like saturation and EQ to soften any frequencies that are particularly standing out and painful to the ears! And of course, being a Brainworx plug, it has mid/side capabilities. If you’re not sure about mid/side techniques – this article is great for starters:
The GUI is the usual Brainworx sexy black affair – although this time there is a flickering image of a tube filament in the middle, which lets you know with it’s flickering whenever it’s in action.
A large knob on the left hand side of the GUI is in charge of damping those pesky frequencies. It seems that the frequencies in question are in the upper mids, and the damping knob is essentially a fixed frequency EQ, centered around the areas that tend to cause the harsh sound. How they decided where to center that comes down to the years and years of combined experience, but it sounds like the 2-4 Khz. There are two character types of filtering – soft and hard, or second order and fourth order, which I think might be like the shape of the EQ bell (kind of like the difference between a 6DB filter and 24DB filter). Either way, it affects the way the damping interacts with the source material, and gives you a couple of options. There is a handy solo button just below it, which gives you the exact audio information that you’re filtering out, when pressed.
The damping can be offset by saturation and presence. They’re not really character-type effects, but more just adding smooth highs, and analog type warmth to offset any dullness caused by the damping. They are both excellent sounding, and really bring life to the mix
The damping can also be modulated, with a dynamic range section that limits the damping to peak levels, with options to control the amount of damping, and the speed at which the dynamic reduction kicks in.
As is essential with Brainworx plugs, there is a Mid/Side button, which enables you to choose whether to affect the sound just in the Mid channel, or to use it on both. For the refinement process it seems that the majority of the time, you’re going to want to remove those harsh frequencies across the stereo space.
There’s also a mix knob, which gives you more control over how much you want Refinement to affect the entire mix.
This is the one section of the plugin that I couldn’t really understand the point of – it has a “what else can we add to this plugin” feel to it. It is possible to use it as a subtle creative effect, like a tremolo vibe. However, for use as a side-chain pumping type effect, I would want more control over how it pumps, to get it flowing better rhythmically. It seems that it’s only a sine wave shape that’s available for the oscillation, which compared to other ‘side chain’ style lfo plugins just doesn’t cut it. There needs to be more options.
I found refinement to be a useful tool. I found that it worked best on Drum Buss, Synth Buss and 2 Buss. It does what it says on the tin, gently dulling down the digital edginess of some audio, while at the same time lifting the air and life back out of the sound with the saturation and presence knobs. It’s definitely a subtle operator, and the ‘less is more’ adage works best with this effect.
here’s a great video demoing the plugin:
There is no doubt that refinement is excellent at what it’s designed for. I think it’s most useful at the mastering end of the chain, and can subtly but powerfully change the mix for the better. It strikes me as a sort of ‘Waves One Knob’-esque sort of plugin. I think it would be possible do everything that Refinement does, with a lot more in-depth control, with 5 separate plugins. Refinement shines because it’s all there in one plugin. If you have an irritating harshness to a mix or a track, it could really save a lot of time over opening an EQ, then a saturation, then an exciter, then a compressor, etc. I would heartily recommend this plugin as a massive time-saver over being anything groundbreaking and fresh.
Refinement shines because it’s all there in one plugin
- Few tweaks really can smooth the sound
- Simple and quick workflow
LOVE IT OR HATE IT
- This is quite a specific plugin. Unless you’re looking for something that can quickly smooth out harsh sounds in tracks, you’re unlikely to really need it. Having said that, there’s nothing else quite like it out there
- Not much depth to parameter control
We have covered Camel Audio Alchemy and its sound libraries a few times in the past (see pt.1 and pt.2 ). This time we are focusing on Iceland, Water and Dream Voices. Each library features 150 presets (and 1200 variations), and if you haven’t got the full version of Alchemy, each sound-pack comes with the Alchemy Player, included for free.
If you are familiar with Alchemy’s libraries, you’ll know that when trying a new one you’re in for a treat – and these three products are no exception. As usual, while they all share a great attention to details and a certain ‘soundscape attitude’, each of them boasts its own personality.
Among the ones I’ve tested this time, Iceland was probably my favorite. Created by Biomechanoid and Deru, it offers 550MB of exclusive sample content recorded around Iceland, including streams, glaciers, caves and an Icelandic girls’ choir. As often happens with Alchemy’s libraries, synths, soundscapes and pads are the main content. The demo provided on Camel Audio’s product page is quite extensive and can give you an idea of the quality and variety of the presets. What I’ve really appreciated is the organic quality of the sound-design and at the same time the fact that they seem to be working well in a mix, unlike what often happens with very rich-sounding sound libraries. There’s definitely a certain ‘nordic vibe’ in these sounds, and thanks to the 8 remix pads possibilities are, as usual with Camel Audio libraries, almost endless. Browsing Iceland presets, it’s easy to go from very beautifully soothing sounds to spooky ones and everything in between.
It’s not just about soundscapes though. Simpler sounds like percussions, bass and keys are included as well, making Iceland a complete library. Definitely recommended, and not just for sound-design purposes.
Dream Voices is probably the most creative product of this trio. Featuring nearly 1.3GB of vocal samples, it shows off the individual character and style of four solo female vocalists (Anna-Lynne Williams, Anneke Kampman, Chantal Acda and Elly May Irving). The samples have been carefully treated by a large group of sound designers (biomechanoid, Martin Walker, Nick Moritz, Ian Boddy, Patchen, Simon Stockhausen, Ole Jeppesen, Andre Ettema, Christian Kjeldsen, Corin Neff, Tasmodia, Himalaya), and while in general I tend to lean towards libraries created by a smaller number of sound designers, Dream Voices is definitely a well focused and solid product.
Needless to say, the human voice is the queen of the show here, but in many cases that’s just a starting point for the creativity of the designers; expect granular-spectral treatments brought to the extreme, making the original samples often completely unrecognisable.
I’ll be honest with you, I’m a sucker for female voices, choirs and such things. If you’re like me (and/or you’re into heavily processed samples), Dream Voices is definitely a worthwhile addition to your Alchemy library.
Water is – not surprisingly – a water-themed library that collects the work of sound designers like Nick Moritz, biomechanoid, patchen preston, Ian Boddy, Chris Sciurba, Himalaya, Martin Walker, bManic, Luftrum, Corin Neff, Bryan Lee and Ole Jeppesen. Approx. 500 Mb of samples, for a wide range of presets that (like in Iceland) cover mostly soundscapes, pads, fx and synths, but offer also percussive elements, bass and harps (including also a Waterphone clone). A pristine recording and a truly creative manipulation of the samples makes this library a must for those musicians and sound-designers looking for a water-inspired sound experience (and not willing to risk their precious microphones under or near the water!).
Personally, (and this is a very subjective thing) while I appreciate the quality behind Water, I find it slightly less appealing than the other two libraries mentioned above. It could be due to the fact that one of my first keyboards was a Korg M1, and after awhile I couldn’t stand that first preset anymore (Universe, with its water-like tail, remember?), who knows?
Again, listen to the demos or check out the helpful YouTube video. I’m sure you’ll be able to tell if this library is your cup of tea or not.
Last but not least, if you have an iPad and you are still wondering (like I was) what the best controller for Alchemy is, I would recommend getting the free Alchemy app and buying the Pro Upgrade ($ 14.99/€13.99). While the free app is a little gem of its own, the Pro Upgrade enables some must-have features like (among many) the possibility to download a mobile version of any desktop Sound Libraries you own for free, and most importantly, allows your iPad to become a remote, wireless controller for the desktop version of Alchemy (be it the plug-in or the Alchemy Player), with all the advantages of having a touch screen to control those remix pads and other parameters. Absolutely recommended!
Another wunder-trio from Camel Audio, for those looking to expand Alchemy’s palette. Couple them with the iPad app for a more dynamic performance, and you’re in sound-design heaven!
$ 59/€49/£39 each
- Creative and varied, perfect to spice up your sound-design options
- Almost endless possibilities, thanks to the sound controls
LOVE IT OR HATE IT
- Oh well, you may get lost in sound
- None, really
You can’t really hear the results of the Spatial Audio Hacklab sitting at your computer – by definition, you had to be there to take in the experience of sounds projected in space. But you’ll probably feel the enthusiasm and imagination of its participants.
And that’s why it’s a pleasure to share the video documentation, produced for 4DSOUND by a team from FIBER – the Dutch audiovisual events and art platform – at Amsterdam Dance Event last month. In unleashing a diverse group of artist-experimenters on 4DSOUND’s unique speaker installation, we got a chance to create a sonic playground, a laboratory experiment in what people could do. It’s tough to overstate just how much those participants brought to the table – or just how little time they had. Actually working on the system was measured in minutes, forcing artists to improvise quickly with reality television levels of pressure. (Only, unlike TV show challenges, everyone kept their nerves and wits.)
To get through it, these artists focused on collaboration, finding ways of connecting essential skills. In the days and weeks leading up to Amsterdam, many of them fired missives back and forth wondering how best to exploit the spatial sound system. They then worked intensively to devise something they could try quickly, forming spontaneous teams to combine resources. They did in minutes what resident artists had done in days. With input from Nicholas Bougaïeff from Liine and a whole lot of guidance and assistance from the entire 4DSOUND team, in particular founder Paul Oomen, gathered hacekers managed to get a whole lot up and running. No project went silent; with tweaks, everything worked.
This wasn’t merely a show of coding prowess or engineering. Each project found some way to involve musical practice and sound, each was a “jam” as well as “hack.” That’s something different from the typical shape of hack days; these projects weren’t just demos. They were given a voice — sometimes literally singing, rather beautifully.
It was what we hoped for, and more. The Spatial Audio Hacklab was made in cooperation between myself and CDM, FIBER, the 4DSOUND team who have built the system and its software, and Liine (makers of the Lemur app), with support from Ableton (and their talented developer relations liason, Céline Dedaj). It followed a week of intensive artist projects on the 4D from Max Cooper, Vladislav Delay, Stimming, and even myself with Robert Lippok (on a bill with raster-noton labelmates Grischa Lichtenberger, Senking, and Frank Bretschneider). But it was also a kind of contrast to those performances and their accompanying master classes, one where any “what if?” question was game.
If days of programming hadn’t already convinced you, by the rapid-fire hacklab it was clear: a spatial sound system can be more than just a clever effect. It can feel like a venue, as unlimited in possibilities as the stage of a concert hall. It’s an empty box to be filled, in the best possible way.
Hearing fully-formed improvised music was especially gratifying. But for me, perhaps the most promising result was the Processing-powered game of Pong whipped up by a coder team, because it validated the accuracy of listeners’ perception. Using sensors that had previously tracked singers, it involved players scurrying around to bang a sonic ball back and forth. (That, too, makes it a nice three-dimensional counterpart of InvisiBall, a similar sonic game by Hakan Lidbo – and, tellingly, that game has been played even by blind people. Thinking out of the box can mean inventing things that aren’t limited to the usual population and audience.)
Participant Will Copps also shared some of his thoughts after the experience, alongside lots of positive feedback we got from the hacklabbers:
The documentary does a good job of capturing the event, but is also incredibly impressive in capturing the various hack lab ideas and distilling them into a thirteen-minute piece… I’m very impressed. I know we could have spent more than thirteen minutes talking about each individual project.
As for additional thoughts, I’d stress that there was a clear benefit to just being there and hearing the system. While many of the ideas we had were specifically for the 4D system, hearing sounds through it challenges us to incorporate as many of the benefits of spatialization as we can into our current practices. The most obvious takeaway for me, at least to implement imminently, is exploring the possibilities of binaural recording. I may not be able to easily create immersion by placing firework recordings all around the listener like we did at 4D, but now it just seems foolish not to explore ways I can try.
It’s incredible when exposure to a technological development like this alters your perception of your practice in such a specific way. We’ve been fortunate to take lifetimes of those developments for granted in our art: the ability to record, to mix in stereo, to capture colors in video. I recognize that this distinct spatialization of sound is still a ways away from being as widely implemented as the developments I just mentioned. But to be one of the first to experience something like it is unreal. Comparing 4D to those developments may sound like (and may be) hyperbole… but I don’t think any of us knows for sure. And that’s perhaps what is most exciting.
Ana Laura Rincon, aka the DJ Hyperaktivist, echoed similar sentiments:
Some experiences in life must be lived so you really understand; in this case, the 4DSOUND is an experience that must be heard so you can have a real idea of the possibilities the system offers. And so we did in the Hacklab. The 4DSOUND is a very forward-thinking idea that allows you to control sound and its dimensions in the space, giving you the possibility of creating natural environments and also of making music with the space. The system gives you the possibility of listening to sound without being confined to a speaker or a stereo system; you hear sound as it is generated outside in everyday life. Having had the opportunity to participate in the HackLab, sharing ideas with amazing musicians, developers, and just great people, and being able to use the system and really understand how it works gave me a really good insight of the vast possibilities it has, and how the exploration of these is just starting. There is a new window a very big door just open for the future exploration of music, sound and how it can be experience and perceived — look out.
My feeling was, looking through the applications, that something would happen just by getting people together in the same room. Spatial audio is an nascent but evolving field, with a scattering of different systems. I’ll talk more about that soon, but the short version: they’re all rather different, from wave field synthesis to Dolby Atmos to the unique sound and physical presence of 4DSOUND. Amsterdam was a chance to reach human critical mass thinking about the problems, accelerating progress by connect people. It brought into one arena some of the most passionate researchers and artists, from those who have done doctoral dissertations on the topic to those curious to explore spatialization for the first time.
And that alone was transformative – as if everyone began dreaming in color for the first time, and then we all got to share the dream.
It’ll be terrific to see what’s next.
In the meanwhile, we can reveal the next playground: we’ll be in Berlin at CTM Festival making Tuning Machines in our third hacklab collaboration with that event in as many years, no doubt with a new group of collaborative spirits.
You can also have a listen to some audio impressions of the event, recorded in binaural sound.
Recording by Sero (one of the participants)
More on the film:
Production – Jessica Dreu
Camera / editing – Tanja Busking
Interviews – Dayna Casey
FIBER Facebook: facebook.com/pages/Fiber-Festival/169577819730388
Frank Bretschneider – Phased Out, Oscillation, Funkalogic, Monoplex, Multiplex, Panback, Blue, Prussian
Moskitoo – Wham & Whammy (Frank Bretschneider remix)
Robert Lippok & Peter Kirn – Live performance at 4DSOUND during ADE 16-10-2014
All other sound was recorded during the Hacklab itself.
Coded Matter(s) is supported by the Creative Industry Fund NL
Photos, (mostly) by Jarl Schulp from FIBER:
The post Spatial Sound, in Play: Watch What Hackers Did in One Weekend with 4DSOUND appeared first on Create Digital Music.
SoundCloud has posted a somber memorial to the Berlin Wall, for the 25th anniversary. The concept is intriguing not only for its content, but also its form. The work uses time as a measurement of space – the duration sound would take to travel the length of the whole wall. In comments on SoundCloud, the 120 people who lost their lives are counted out in their fateful location. See the full description below. I’m curious to hear what readers think; my own preference would have been for an abstract interpretation rather than such literal, figurative sounds, but this is entirely personal.
The anniversary of the fall of the wall has in Berlin brought a host of events – including many celebrating the musical renaissance that followed reunification. And it is no exaggeration to say that Berlin has become a world capital of music technology, host to Ableton, Native Instruments, and SoundCloud, but also countless researchers, artists, electronic musicians, and small builders, as a direct result of this historical event.
Perhaps against this, it is worth reflecting on the text of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, the fourth movement “Choral,” which was played yesterday on the anniversary.
O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern lasst uns angenehmere anstimmen,
Oh friends, not these sounds!
Let us instead strike up more pleasing
and more joyful ones!
The text: Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller. The original word was not joy, but the more politically-loaded freedom.
Given that last night is, somewhat incomprehensibly, both the anniversary of the fall of the wall and the horrific Kristallnacht, in a city that was home to Nazis and the fulcrum of a nuclear standoff with my own native United States that very nearly destroyed humanity and a lot of life on earth, this is the reason we have to make sounds in Berlin or far away from it- we are at a boundary line for humanity.
Marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The Berlin Wall of Sound is an acoustic reconstruction of the Berlin Wall.
Its duration of 7:32 minutes reflects the time sound needs to travel the
155 kilometres length of the Berlin Wall. Its sound wave’s shape mirrors
the wall of concrete and its watchtowers. There are no comments –
the tags depict the victims and mark where they were killed.
The Wall of Sound is not easy to bear. But 27 years locked behind
the concrete Berlin Wall were unbearable.
Back in 1989, SoundCloud’s headquarters would have been part of
the Death Zone next to the Berlin Wall. We dedicate the Wall of Sound
to the 120 women, men and children, who lost their lives in their
attempt to live in freedom. We will not forget.
Major original quotes used:
Walter Ulbricht (former leader of the GDR and responsible for the construction) saying a few days before the construction started: „Nobody has the intention to raise a wall“
Heinz Hoffmann (former GDR secretary of defense): „To those, who don’t respect our border – they will feel the bullet.“
Erich Honecker (longtime and most powerful leader of the GDR) celebrating
40 Years of the GDR in 1989: „The German Democratic Republic will exist another 40 years and beyond.“
At top: three balloons among thousands staged as public art installation in the Lichtgrenze, a work by Christopher and Marc Bauder. I had the honor of releasing balloon number 1,833 not far from this spot in Kreuzberg.
The post The Berlin Wall Reimagined as a Brutal Sonic Portrait, in Sound and Time appeared first on Create Digital Music.