Notables: Where Design and Music Converge

gas
design

#81

@libertinelush Changing any DAW or operating system does take a little getting used to. From a design point of view I think you’d like Ableton, its very clean and open. I like Logic a lot but the UI is firmly part of the Apple family which doesn’t help me to put put that mental distance between the day job and music making.


(My new synth is the Macbeth Elements. I’d had it for about a week so still figuring it all out. No manual or presets, just going by ear but its amazing)

Thanks for sharing your experience of Elektron, thats both very helpful and interesting! From what I’ve seen the A4 looks very friendly from a users point of view. I think you are right about understanding one of their instruments will makes others less daunting - this seems to be the case with their creations and the world they’ve built.

The Octatrack as a DAW/mixer in a box is really appealing. I work with one instrument at a time and everything I do is about capturing a moment. The idea of bypassing or reducing the loop pedals/mixer/laptop setup in favour of something which is a natural extension of a performance is really appealing. I think your reasoning that its the explanation of Elektron that is lacking rather than the devices themselves is a really good point.

#82

UI design is part of why I love hardware synthesizer. They make for great case studies oh Human-Device interactions.

I bought OP-1 purely because of how it was designed. From just two YouTube videos I figured out that it is a device made by people who “get it”. But for me quality of design is completely different from aesthetics. I mean, yes, well-designed things usually end up elegant-looking, because ugliness is usually a result of incoherent thinking, but elegance isn’t their primary goal. A lot of electronic devices look superficially futuristic, but in reality are horrible to use. (Cough, Kronos, cough.) Sometimes they are horrible to use because their looks took precedence over essence. There is a great book about this subject: Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman.

As far as I’m concerned, Analog Four is an ugly black box with grey buttons, but it’s design is great. One of the best example is naming menu. Almost all devices without a keyboard do the same thing: they require you to “scroll” through an alphabetical list of letters. Some are mildly smarter and display a qwerty keyboard on the screen, where you enter letters one by one. But it’s still a flawed design.

A4 has a rather unique hold-shift menu. The menu is not qwerty, because qwerty on a screen does not evoke muscle memory you gain through keyboarding and takes too many keystrokes to navigate with a cursor. Instead, it is an alphabetical list of symbols arranged in a square. It’s easy to find everything visually and the distance to travel between letters is minimized. But that’s not it. The screen of A4 is too small to legibly display all symbols and the stuff you typing. You can’t type blindly, so the menu has to disappear after each letter. A mediocre designer would make it modal: you press shift to show the menu. You select a letter. Then you press Yes to enter, or press Shift again to cancel. A4 does away with the second keystroke. Instead, you press and hold shift with one hand, select the letter with arrows using your other hand and then release shift to enter. Brilliant! And if you can’t do that or not familiar with A4, you can still scroll through linear list of letters like on most other devices.

Not music-related, but here is one extremely well-designed device:


It’s hard to describe why it’s good. For example, all the buttons are programmable and therefore not labeled. But they’re touch-sensitive. If you touch one and hold your finger without pressing it, there will be an on-screen overlay showing your which one is active and what they are configured to do right now.

The active area is highlighted by angle-shaped LED indicators, which are easy to see.

There is a ring that can control stuff like zoom or brush size. To make it more powerful they added a button in the middle that can switch between four different ring functions. An LED indicates which one is active.

They have four different pen nib types. Even though you always draw on the same surface, a different nib can make it feel like you’re working on an entirely different medium. Also, the pen holder doubles and nib container:

The thing is pressure and tilt sensitive. Also, you can buy a digital airbrush that works from a distance, like a real airbrush. Tracking and buttons on the pen works from a distance as well.

Oh, and the pad is wireless and fairly light (990g/2.2 lbs) for its size. This is probably the most science-fictiony device I ever used.


#83
@libertinelush Changing any DAW or operating system does take a little getting used to. From a design point of view I think you'd like Ableton, its very clean and open. I like Logic a lot but the UI is firmly part of the Apple family which doesn't help me to put put that mental distance between the day job and music making.

(My new synth is the Macbeth Elements. I'd had it for about a week so still figuring it all out. No manual or presets, just going by ear but its amazing)
I think the same about Ableton Live's design. Some functions also appear more intuitive than Logic.

Oh my god, you went for it! That's pretty exciting. How's the Elements' build quality?

#84

@libertinelush I think I use about 10% of what Ableton can do but I picked most of that up without a manual. I’ve been using it for many years so its difficult for me to evaluate it from a neutral standpoint. I like Logic as well but find I keep going back to Ableton - it feels more creative to me although I’m aware that is very subjective! Give it a whirl if you have the time to spare.


I enquired about the Elements last year and heard nothing back until last week and had to make a quick decision - I’m still in shock that I have one! Very happy to report the Elements build quality is excellent. The vernier dials and cliff knobs are a joy to use. Its a fairly big synth but very very light. The sound is incredible, perfect for the sort of music I’m trying to make.

#85
There is a great book about this subject: Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman.

That looks like a worthwhile read.


As far as I’m concerned, Analog Four is an ugly black box with grey buttons, but it’s design is great. One of the best example is naming menu.

I appreciate their character input design as well. Probably the best QWERTY-less, touch-less input system I’ve used. Another clever feature is the capacity for single-handed selection of patterns, even though the pattern bank buttons are on the far left and the patterns are resting on the 16 step buttons which extend to the far right, beyond the width of any handspan.


I assume design points like this are on the Rytm. The more I use the A4, the more I love it—and the more I think the Rytm will be the best drum machine for me.

For example, all the buttons are programmable and therefore not labeled. But they’re touch-sensitive. If you touch one and hold your finger without pressing it, there will be an on-screen overlay showing your which one is active and what they are configured to do right now.

I wish everyone implemented touch-sensitive encoders. The Maschine Studio uses them to elegantly display relevant menus, reducing menu-diving. The Modal Electronics synths uses them to show a new screen relevant to the parameter you’re tweaking. The OP-1 has the potential to be a click-encoder. You can depress the encoders now for various MIDI CC functions, but nothing more. Though the rumor-birdy in the OP-1 OS update thread claims the next update will utilize the encoders’ click functionality finally.


And then there’s the Beatstep Pro. Using alien technology, or capacitance, it doesn’t even require touch for activation.

#86

I enquired about the Elements last year and heard nothing back until last week and had to make a quick decision - I'm still in shock that I have one! Very happy to report the Elements build quality is excellent. The vernier dials and cliff knobs are a joy to use. Its a fairly big synth but very very light. The sound is incredible, perfect for the sort of music I'm trying to make.

Your shock brings a smile to my face. Really happy for you! :slight_smile:


#87
I'm still eying up Elektron stuff as well - both the Rytm and Octotrack appeal. The latter is more tempting to me than Push 2 but both make me hesitant about the learning curves involved as my time is very limited.

AR is definitely straightforward.

You can play in the first hours you receive the package without having read the manual.
OT is not THAT complicated but full of possibilities. You have to learn them one at a time, and it helps if you already know Elektron machines.
But the design is really thought for using these boxes in live performance, and in my opinion it has been very well done.

Now for the file/saving part, I guess some choices could have been made a different way.
But everything is in the manual, even if it doesn’t make sense right away.
And Elektronauts community is really responsive. The same questions are asked again and again and the “former newcommers” often reply with their own experience, and how they finally climbed the so-called mountain to see it was just a hill :slight_smile:

I LOVE these machines, both for their sound and usability. I have 3 of them now (OT / AR / MM) and can’t wait to get my hands on an A4 :smiley:
The automation/plocks are really where they shine : I saw many times a very tasteless loop suddenly take life when the turn of a knob is recorded.




#88

@LibertineLush AbletonLive is actually pretty easy to learn.

Not sure when I switched from Cubase to Ableton Live - i think it was about Live 4 or 5.
I’ve never read any manuals for it or went through their tutorials, I just figured things out for myself. And when I really needed to be able to do something well thats when YouTube is your friend.

I think that NI have something up their sleeve that we’ll see before the end of the year. An update to Maschine.

#89

@LibertineLush Thanks very much, you are most kind :slight_smile: As others have said, give Ableton a whirl - there are plenty of Youtube videos and other online references that cover a range of experience levels and I’m sure there are a few people on here (myself included!) that would be able to help out if you have any questions or something isn’t making sense.


#90

@spacetravelmadeeasy, @wolflegjon I have Ableton Live now downloaded. Next step, install.



I think that NI have something up their sleeve that we’ll see before the end of the year. An update to Maschine.

Yea, it seems likely, given their historical timeline. Which also means if I’m ditching Maschine Studio, I better do it quick, before a new Maschine Studio devalues mine on the used market.


#91

I’m liking this :slight_smile:

http://www.matrixsynth.com/2015/11/the-collidoscope-prototype-double.html?m=1


#92

Regarding the Ableton Live topic I too have just made the switch. Although I have used Logic for almost a decade now, I would like to learn Ableton. It seems interesting. I haven’t got very far with it :frowning: I’d love some advice on how I can get where I want to be with it and now is about that time
Would you help @spacetravelmadeeasy @wolflegjon?

@LibertineLush looks like we are in the same boat. Let’s do this together!


#93
I'm liking this :)

http://www.matrixsynth.com/2015/11/the-collidoscope-prototype-double.html?m=1

Oh my goodness. That is so compelling. Watching him move the knob as it scans over the sample—pretty fun.


Hopefully Elektron sees this and gets ideas about appropriate screen sizes. :stuck_out_tongue:

#94
Regarding the Ableton Live topic I too have just made the switch. Although I have used Logic for almost a decade now, I would like to learn Ableton. It seems interesting. I haven't got very far with it :( I'd love some advice on how I can get where I want to be with it and now is about that time Would you help @spacetravelmadeeasy @wolflegjon?

@LibertineLush looks like we are in the same boat. Let’s do this together!

Actually, you may be alone on the boat, but I’ll root for you from the shore. :slight_smile:


I recently decided on that previously discussed Analog Rytm or Maschine Studio or Push 2 situation. I’m selling the Maschine, replacing it with the Analog Rytm. With Black Friday/Cyber Monday coming soon, it’ll be a perfect time to get the AR.

#95
I'm liking this :)

http://www.matrixsynth.com/2015/11/the-collidoscope-prototype-double.html?m=1

Damn, that’s one of the few things that might actually compel me to buy something new. Proper hardware granular. And I don’t even need a giant screen or anything like that (admittedly cool) knob-that-is-also-slider.

Although, I wasn’t all that impressed with V-Synth, which is the closest device I’ve found. Probably because it hid all the granular stuff behind an unintuitive touchpad.

If only OP-1 had no clicks and proper decay on sampler…


#96
I'm liking this :)

http://www.matrixsynth.com/2015/11/the-collidoscope-prototype-double.html?m=1

Damn, that’s one of the few things that might actually compel me to buy something new.

+1, the knob / slider is ingenious! I don’t need a 2 man version though.


#97

@hismostdarxxxellent Welcome to Ableton! What version are you using? My knowledge of Ableton is pretty basic, I don’t do anything complicated with it at all but happy to try help if I can.


To give you an idea of what I use it for - recording live instruments, arrangements, mixing/mastering. I use it like a big tape recorder I guess! I’m not a big sample triggering guy but I do get some of the basics. What are you looking to do with Ableton?

#98

@LibertineLush Analog Rytm looks like a great bit of kit. Fingers crossed that Black Friday is kind to you! :slight_smile:


#99

The Novation Circuit - great design from an interface POV the way the sequencer and sessions work make other sequencers look a bit archaic, instantly you can change a step or switch a pattern or session or do any editing without daft button combos all the while offering at least as much depth as sequencers costing a lot more.

Yamaha Reface DX it vastly improves on the look and UI of the DX100 and it sounds better, if less gritty/noisy.


#100

In terms of design, I’ve always loved the look of the Nagra SN, a miniature reel to reel recorder;

http://www.cryptomuseum.com/covert/rec/nagra/sn/