How to refurbish Amiga tracker and chip tunes

In the following article I describe a process for refurbishing old Amiga tunes. This is a follow-up to http://blog.airmann.de/uade-multichannel-audio-support.

First, what’s the motivation behind ? Why refurbish Amiga tunes at all ?

Answer: original tunes often are poorly mixed and are not optimized for playback on modern audio equipment. So the goal is to polish those gems soundwise without altering the tunes itself, and finally transfer them into proper formats for playback on nowadays audio equipment.

So why should the original mixes be not optimal ? What’s the matter ?

  • technical limitations: most ancient trackers didn‘t provide EQ‘s, filters, stereo balancing, compressors, delay, reverb, etc.. Thus, the mixing results were pretty limited
  • missing original author‘s audio mixing skills / awareness: E.g. no proper stereo balancing, frequency balancing and volume leveling. E.g. bass and drums tracks were panned hard to left/right, frequency ranges of instruments overlap, etc..
  • A lot of ancient samples and waveforms contained DC offset which negatively affects bass frequency range

Ok, so how does the refurbishing process look in detail ? Answer: for more information read the following script in PDF format:

How_To_Refurbish_Amiga_Tracker_Chiptunes

For the lazy visual guys:

Overall Refurbishing Process
Overall Refurbishing Process
Quad Mode Rendering Part
Quad Mode Rendering Part
Postprocessing Overview
Postprocessing Overview

Posted in Amiga, Production, Tech Stuff | 10 Comments

Wise Men’s Headcrash

This track was an entry for SounDevotion Competition #88 and won first place. This is the final remastered version of the original entry.

I used the free U-he Tyrell No. 6 synthesizer as single sound source. No other source material or samples were used.

Song is about bibleserver.com/text/NIRV/1%20Corinthians1 (1. Corinthians 1,18f)

Picture was taken from Wikimedia Commons, created by Wellcome Images.

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Best of Amiga 1988 demos video reaches 1000 thumbs up

Yeah, my Youtube video with nicest Amiga 1988 demos exceeded the 1000 thumbs up with only 25 thumbs down. Means: 98 percent of the people like the video. Also it reached in the meanwhile 150.000 clicks/views.

I compiled this video in 2006, but published it in 2012. Check it out. It contains some really wonderfull tunes from heros like Karsten Obarski et al. These guys laid the foundation of nowadays tracking scene.

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All Our Trials [OSC #70]

this is my first entry for the “One-Synth-Challenge #70“. It reached #12 place out of 33.

Written and mixed with Renoise 3.0 and 16 instances of “Ragnarök” by Full Bucket Music & CrimsonWarlock, a freeware VSTi, as the only source of sound.

host-internal DSP used:
– 15 x Filter device (freq cutting),
– 4 x EQ device (sound shaping)
– 2 x Convolution device (Only for Reverbs !)
– 1 x Maximizer/Limiter

External VST (fx) used:
– 4 x NastyDLAmkII (delay)
– 1 x Kiesel Free Delay (delay)
– 3 x DensitymkIII (compressor)
– 1 x TDR Feedback Compressor II
– 2 x ThrillSeeker LA (compressor)
– 1 x ThrillSeeker VBL (compressor)
– 1 x FerricTDS (tape compressor)
– 2 x ReaXComp (multiband compressor)
– 1 x ThrillSeekerXT (equalizer)
– 2 x Luftikus (equalizer)
– 1 x TDR Vos Slick EQ (equalizer)
– 2 x Transient (volume env. shaper)
– 1 x Polarity (polarity switcher, since DAW lacks it)

BPM: 125

Picture by Stefan Wernli, CC-BY-SA 2.5 Taken from Wikimedia commons

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Cruisin’ [REMASTER]

This is a remixed and remastered version of the chiptune “Cruisin'” by Pink of Abyss. This tune was part of a Amiga 40K demo intro for Mekka/Symposium in 1997. See also www.shinen.com/music/. For video of demo see: www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVbjBkDtVDw.

The tune is also the demo song of UADE 2 (Unix Amiga Deliplayer Emulator.) an audio player for Amiga tunes.

The original four channel AHX file had no proper mixing and mastering. This tune was remixed and remastered by Airmann to demonstrate the possibilities of Airmann’s UADE 2 patch for multichannel audio export: see blog.airmann.de/uade-multichannel-audio-support/.

All rights of original song reserved by Pink of Abyss. All rights of remastered release reserved by Airmann.

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Grande Utopia Analyzer for Renoise 3.0.1

Today I released a new funky, not too serious, xrnx tool for Renoise called “Grande Utopia Analyzer”. It’s an audio signal analyzer which simulates the famous Focal Grande Utopia EM Hifi speakers:

grande_analyzerThe analyzer listens to the left and right audio channels on the master track, and moves the various speaker cones incl. tweeter according to the audio stream’s frequency content. While it’s primarily a fun tool, the analyzer should display the frequency content correctly (approximatively): Sub from 20..80Hz, bass from  80..220Hz, mids from 220..2200Hz, tweeter from 2200..18.200Hz.

If one clicks on Dirk Nowitzki, a little fact sheet is shown. Check it out:

grande_analyzer_factSince Renoise API actually doesn’t support videos or animated gifs, the biggest problem was to implement the various animations. But I think I’ve found a nice solution which isn’t too hard on the CPU.

Also, it was necessary to insert various signal followers onto the master track: each speaker segment needs a dedicated signal follower – this is unfortunately quite a big dsp chain. Actually I wanted to encapsulate this chain into a doofer device, but the scripting API doesn’t support scripting of doofers – argh !

Further, the analyzer can be persistently enabled / disabled via tools menu and hotkeys:

grande_analyzer_menuDownload and installation:

http://www.renoise.com/tools/grande-utopia-analyzer

IMPORTANT HINT: works also for Renoise 3.0.0, but only in mono mode, because of a bug in the signal follower device. I discovered this bug during the development of this tool, and it was fixed in latest Renoise 3.0.1 release.

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FaderPort Emulator for Renoise 3.0

In 2010 I released a driver which integrates the Presonus FaderPort DAW controller into Renoise DAW. See http://blog.airmann.de/renoise-driver-for-presonus-faderport.

Since then, Renoise has evolved to version 3.0 and I updated the driver regularly. Nonetheless, the day will come when the FaderPort hardware won’t be produced anymore and without further development the driver will be useless.

Since I still like the driver’s design and stable codebase, I decided to make it also usable for non-FaderPort owners and created a 1:1 FaderPort software emulator with GUI:

FaderPort Emualtor GUIEmulator Features

  • fully integrated into Renoise 3.0
  • resembles 1:1 with the design of the real hardware
  • acts almost like the real hardware
  • All buttons and controls – especially the fader – can be MIDI-mapped to any 3rd party midi controller.

Renoise Integration Of Real HardwareIntegration of real hardwareThe FaderPort’s motorized fader controls the volume level of the currently selected track. Whenever another track is selected, the FaderPort changes it’s position according to the new track’s volume level.

Analogue the FaderPort’s buttons (like play etc.) control Renoise and also reflect Renoise’s state.

Renoise Integration Of Emulator:

Integration of EmulatorThe emulator’s fader controls the volume level of the currently selected track. Whenever another track is selected, the fader  changes it’s position according to the new track’s volume level.

Moreover, it is possible to midi map any midi controller to the fader, pan and buttons of the emulator GUI dialog:Dialog_Midibind_2In the example above an endless rotary knob is mapped to the emulator’s fader. Means: whenever the knob is turned, the volume level of the currently selected track is changed. The big advantage: regardless of how many tracks a song has, only one rotary knob can control them all ! There’s no need for a huge motorized mixing console etc..

Links:

http://code.google.com/p/airmann-faderport-driver/

You also can download xrnx files via the Renoise tool browser:

http://www.renoise.com/tools/airmann-s-faderport-driver

Posted in Production, Software, Tech Stuff | 1 Comment

How to Rip A Drum Pattern using Reaper DAW

Recently I wanted to rip some drum patterns from various DnB tunes. Main goal was to analyze genre-typical hihat patterns, learn something new and create midi templates for further usage. Reaper’s flexibility came in very handy and in this post I describe the used methods.

First, there exist many beat detector and auto slicing tools on the market. Most DAW’s and DJ Tools have inbuilt functions for onset or transient detection etc.. Usually these functions work well for material with strong transients like e.g. kickdrum and snare, whereas more complex layered beats are usually not sliced properly. I tried several tools but the results were not usable.

So I decided to do the slicing with Reaper DAW by hand, and use automation where possible. In the following I describe my workflow.

PREPARATION

  • Analyze BPM of the source material. I use Mixmeister BPM Analyzer (free), Mixxx DJ Tool (free) or Reaper’s internal functions.
  • Open a new Reaper project, set the BPM to the analyzed value and insert the source material into the first track (in that order)
  • Adjust the Reaper time grid to a desired resolution. 1/16 usually works fine.  Reaper action is “Grid: Set to 1/16”.
  • Move and shift the source material’s kickdrum to the first beat of the bar. For fine adjustment select wave item with left mouse button while holding left shift key. Drag wave form until kickdrum transient matches first beat.
  • Now select 1-2 bars which you want to analyze/slice. Copy those bar(s) out of the source wave form into a new item to a new track “Original”.
  • Copy this item to a further track folder named “WAV”

SLICE SOURCE MATERIAL

  • Disable auto crossfade
  • Slice the item on the “WAV” track using Reaper Action “Item: split items at timeline grid”.  Thus, the item is split into 1/16 parts (see grid resolution above).
  • Now, grab the kickdrum items and move them to a new track “Kick”. Do the same for “Snare”, “hihat”, “ride”, “crash” whatever. You get the idea. All tracks are children of “WAV” track folder.
  • If two elemets overlay each other like e.g. hihat and kick copy the items instead of moving them. If an item is longer than the grid size (e.g. kick is 1/8), then copy and glue things, or change the grid size etc..
  • If some beat elements don’t start exactly at beat position, or vary in length do the fine adjustment by hand. This may be the case for shuffled beats, natural played beats or humanized stuff etc..  IMPORTANT: if you don’t do this, the later ripped pattern may sound unnatural or “mechanical”.

CONVERT WAV ITEMS TO MIDI EVENTS

  • Create a new track folder called “MIDI”
  • Select all items in e.g. Kick track
  • Convert item positions and length to midi events. Reaper action is “item: Create chromatic midi from items” (my hotkey combination is ctrl-alt-D). Thus, a new track with midi events is created.
  • Move the newly created track to MIDI track folder and name it “Kick”. Do the same for all other tracks (Snare etc.)
  • Important: adjust the size of the generated midi items to your loop size. Usually the midi items are shorter than the loop. All midi items on all midi tracks should have the same length and start position.
  • Unfortunately the created midi events are chromatic, so we have to convert them to “non-chromatic”: double click midi item (= open item in midi editor). Select all midi events (ctrl-A), open note properties (ctrl-F2) and set note value to the desired value (e.g. C2 .. D#3 for fxpansion Geist).

EXPORT MIDI EVENTS

  • Select Kick midi item and call Reaper action “Convert active take MIDI to .mid file reference”. Thus a file “Kick MIDI 001.mid” is created inside project folder.
  • Select Kick midi item again and call Reaper action “Convert active take MIDI to in-project event”. This ensures that the midi item is stored inside the Reaper project file.
  • Do the same for alle other midi items (Snare, etc.).
  • If you want to create a combined midi item which contains all tracks (kick, snare, etc.), then select MIDI track folder, enable “record: output MIDI”. Select loop and start recording.

USAGE IN 3RD PARTY PROGRAMS

The exported midi items can of course be used in various programs like fxpansion Geist (beat sequencer):

  • import combined midi item: load pattern from midi
  • adjust BPM setting
  • Map samples to pads
  • save everything as Geist preset

SCREENSHOTS

Reaper Beat Ripping

Combined MIDI item

Geist Preset

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Scalefreq Generator v1.01

Scalefreq Generator is a tool for rendering frequencies of notes / musical scales into various output formats. It’s primarily aimed for mixing/mastering engineers and other musical interested people. The frequencies of musical scale or non-scale notes (inverse) are important in mixing and mastering situations. E.g. non-scale frequencies are often attenuated using an EQ.

Scalefreq consists of a core system, a render-plugin architecture and a graphical frontend for convenient user interaction.

Currently the following output format renderer are included:

  • HTML Renderer: generates HTML pages which contains scale frequency tables
  • Voxengo GlissEQ Filter Renderer: generates importable EQ presets for Voxengo GlissEQ VST plugin
  • Voxengo GlissEQ Areas Renderer: generates importable EQ Areas presets for Voxengo GlissEQ VST plugin

HTML RENDERER

The HTML Renderer creates frequency tables in HTML format for any specific scale. Alternatively it can render all tonic variations of a scale (chromatically). Also a huge HTML file can be generated, which contains all available Scalefreq scales.

Scalefreq GUI

Render output:

HTML output
 

GLISS EQ FILTER RENDERER

The Gliss EQ filter renderer generates CSV files which can be imported into Voxengo Gliss EQ VST plugin. Thus, it’s e.g. possible to conveniently import notch/peaking filters for non-scale notes (= inverse scale).

GlissEQ Filter Renderer

Imported render output:

GlissEQ Filters

 

GLISS EQ AREAS RENDERER

The Gliss EQ area renderer also generates CSV files which can be imported into Voxengo Gliss EQ VST plugin in order to create colorful EQ areas marker.

GlissEQ Areas Renderer

Imported render output:

GlissEQ areas

Inverse and alternate colors:

GlissEQ Areas Renderer Alternate

Imported render output:

GlissEQ Areas Alternate

 

DOWNLOAD

http://blog.airmann.de/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/scalefreq_1_01.zip

 

INSTALLATION

A Java 1.7 Runtime Environment (JRE or JDK) is required.
The following platforms are supported:

  • Windows (32/64)
  • Linux GTK (32/64)
  • MacOS (32/64)

In order to start the program, just double click the file “scalefreq_1_01.jar”. If this doesn’t work, try to start from the command line:
java -jar scalefreq_1_01.jar

E.g. on windows:
press windows key+r, "cmd" -> java -jar path to scalefreq_1_01.jar

HINT: scalefreq stores all made settings in the current user profile. In order to reset the settings press the reset button.

 

FURTHER HINTS

If you want to develop another plugin/renderer for Scalefreq (really easy !) just contact me. I’ve planed to release the source code if enough people are interested.

Also if you’re interested in different scales etc. just let me know !

 

CHANGELOG

  • 1.0 – initial release
  • 1.01 – proper multi platform support for Win,Mac,Linux (all 32/64), better font for multi platform (Arial), default frequency range for GlissEQFilter renderer is now 20 Hz..20 KHz

Posted in Production, Software, Tech Stuff | 20 Comments

DIY XLR A/B switch box

During the last weeks I finished another little DIY project: an XLR A/B switch box. This thingy has two balanced stereo XLR inputs and one balanced stereo XLR output. Together these are four mono input channels and two mono output channels. It’s a great tool if you need to switch between two input sources like e.g. two DAC’s etc. It’s also ideal for A/B comparison of various input devices. Since it’s a completely passive design it shouldn’t affect the sound. Also the stereo channels are completely physically separated.

The main work was to build the case which was made from aluminium rest of another DIY project.

internals
internals

The wiring and soldering is pretty simple. Here is the wiring scheme:

wiring scheme
wiring scheme

The input connectors are Neutrik NC3 FXX, the output connectors are Neutrik NC3 MXX. The ground wires of the first channel (A1,B1,C1) and second channel (A2,B2,C2) are soldered together, but not connected to the case. Also there’s no ground connection between channel 1 and channel 2.

Example Use Cases

  1. Stereo A/B Input Switch: A1 = A In Left, A2 = A In Right, B1 = B In Left, B2 = B In Right, C1 = Out Left, C2 = Out Right
  2. Stereo A/B Output Switch: A1 = A Out Left, A2 = A Out Right, B1 = B Out Left, B2 = B Out Right, C1 = In Left, C2 = In Right
  3. 2 x Mono A/B Input Switch: A1 = Mono 1 In, B1 = Mono 2 In, C1 = Mono 1 Out, A2 = Mono 3 In, B2 = Mono 4 In, C2 = Mono 2 Out. Both Mono Outputs are physically separated.

More pictures:

standalone
standalone
A/B Switcher rack mounted
rack mounted
A/B Switcher cables
input/output XLR cables

Posted in Production, Tech Stuff | 4 Comments