Brief Hiatus: Moved to Texas!

Off To Texas + Studio Rebuild!

It's been a while since I've given an update on Arcade Daydream, so I thought I'd make a quick post on here letting everyone know what's up!  (please stop DMing me, thnx!)

As some of you knew, I was a co-owner of a communications business in NC and after some thought I decided to sell my shares and move back to my home state of Texas!  I really missed my parents and was generally pretty miserable every time I had to get back on an airplane back to NC so it felt like the right thing to do.

I've been in Texas since December and have been looking for a good house, one with suitable studio space where I can rebuild Island Dust Studio (I think I'm on mach 3 at this point).  I finally found one this past week and signed the paperwork today.

If you've ever operated a major or even just a home project studio, you'll know that moves of any size can and will have a drastic effect on every aspect of workflow, sound, ease of use, turn around, ability to capitalize on past lessons learned, and the speed of quality.

 

'The Night Is Calling' album

I've been trying to put out an album called 'The Night Is Calling' for more than 2 years.  I had over 40 tracks in various states of completeness and quality.  I had the artwork commissioned and paid for.  I even had interest from a few labels.   However, I never really heard a cohesive sound or anything that I'd feel comfortable releasing as a whole so I kept postponing it.  Part of it was learning to use some new gear that I've acquired in the last few years and I'd say most of it was having to maintain a workload outside of the studio of a not inconsequential nature (running a company or part of a company is though work and will monopolize your life).

With some newfound financial freedom and no pressure to jump directly into a work force as before, I'm able to really put all of my attention into Arcade Daydream.  However, with a move 7 states away, and with the inevitable tone and vibe change I've made the decision to bin 'The Night Is Calling'.

 

New Single: 'Slushee Beats'

I have already started work on this releasing Slushee Beats as a new single which is available now on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Napster, Google Play/Youtube Music, Beatport, and more.  I'll probably release a few more one off singles of the work from 2017-2019, but the new album will be entirely written and recorded from Feb 2020 and on.  I have an idea for the direction I want to go in and I can't wait to share it with you.

 

 


Review: MOTU Digital Performer 10

EDIT: I have since migrated away from Apple and onto to Windows, and have switched DAWs back to Cubase.  This review of mine completely stands for Digital Performer if you're running on Mac, but due to the backwards nature of both Apple's software and hardware design trends (or lack thereof) I spent a few months migrating over to PC and I love it.  I'll be talking about my experience soon in another review/article.  While DP is supported on Windows these days, I can't say it's my favorite experience.

Overview

For a long while now I was a die hard Pro Tools user with a growing amount of outboard gear and synthesizers. I would often use Ableton Live with the completely awesome Push 2 controller (special thanks to Elevation Productionz Grand Daddy Frost for expertly demonstrating how awesome Push 2 is with Live and convincing me to buy one way back) as a sketchpad where stems would eventually be exported to Pro Tools where they would be mixed, arranged, and further edited.

Due to some questionable price increases taken by AVID in mid-2019, I decided I was going to investigate the possibility of migrating to another DAW. For the past two months I have been using Digital Performer exclusively and have loved it.

In this review I'm going to go over the areas of MOTU's Digital Performer 10 that I use as an electronic musician. Keep in mind, that I'm barely scratching the service so for a more in-depth view of MOTU's amazing flagship software I would suggest looking at all of the amazing video tutorials by Groove3 as well as MOTU's own DP User Guide. MOTU DP10 is an amazing DAW.

Prices:

The prices for MOTU DP10 are very reasonable. Want to standardize on a specific version for a few years? I know tons of studios that have such software practices for purposes of stability, and unlike AVID, MOTU does not penalize you for not staying on top of their upgrade releases usually every 2 years.

Also of note are the multiple upgrade routes. If you're looking to purchase DP10 for the first time, I'd consider looking at the Academic License if you're in school or teach at a school. If that's not the case, but you are moving away from a DAW after being floored away by the 30 day trial of DP10 like I was, check out the Competitive Upgrade in which you can send MOTU the license for one of their competitor's DAWs. Also, if you previously purchased a MOTU audio interface like the amazing 828es 28x32 Thunderbolt / USB 2.0 Audio Interface then you likely have a license for the stripped down version of DP10 called AudioDesk. You can upgrade directly from AudioDesk to DP10 with a nice discount. Lastly, if you were an awesome MF'a and purchased a license to MOTU's Performer (before it gained audio features and was renamed Digital Performer), you can upgrade from that as well! MOTU loves its customers, and it definitely shows in how they take care of them instead of taking advantage of them.

Full Version:
Upgrade Versions

 


Preflight Check List

So what do I consider requirements for a DAW replacement for Pro Tools? Let's keep in mind that lots of different people use Pro Tools for different tasks. Some are post production houses, some are tracking studios, some are mixing studios, some are home project studios. Even in the sub-realm of home project studio there can exist a lot of variance and diversity when it comes to needs of the DAW.

I record electronic music so my needs are largely as follows:

  • Solid MIDI implementation with stable timing
  • MIDI scale transpose (I ain't the best piano player in the world)
  • Outboard audio I/O setup with latency adjustment tool
  • Ability to use software plug-ins without a crash-heavy experience
  • Clear cut use of mono and stereo audio tracks
  • Mixer routing mimicking closely that of an analog mixer
  • Comprehensive hot-keys
  • Solid support for Midi Quest 12 Pro user-generated plugins
  • Ability to quickly route audio from one track to another
  • Ability to quickly implement sidechain compression and signal routing
  • Comprehensive swing/shuffle tools

 

Obviously, electronic musicians can and have used DAWs other than Pro Tools, DP and Ableton for years. Apple's Logic Pro X (previously Emagic's Logic) is wildly popular among electronic musicians working in many different genres. Logic Pro X has a lot going for it, but there are quirks that really flared up my OCD when using it. Things like not being able to seed AUX channels before assigning them from an track and setting up additional outputs from multitimbral software instruments such as Native Instruments Battery making them as AUX channels rather than audio channels.

As I plan to continue using Ableton Live 10 in both standalone mode for rough drafts and Rewire mode for immediately routable connections within my target DAW, the question then pops up: Why not just use Ableton Live as my main DAW? I've driven Ableton Live very far as a writing tool, but for me it's a very poor mixing tool. I used to exclusively drive outboard MIDI instruments directly into an analog mixer all sequenced from a DAW and then recording the outputs of busses. If you've written electronic music in the 90s and 2000s, you probably have a good idea of where I'm headed with this. Ableton Live does not have a clear cut declaration of audio tracks as mono or stereo. I imagine this is due to making the experience easier for users, but it's a nightmare for an electronic musician who also mixes their own music. For sure, you can have an effective mono audio channel by setting an input from an external source into the input of the audio channel, but as soon as you start adding plug-in effects that mono channel turns into a stereo channel. Much of this problem can be somewhat resolved with a plug-in like Waves Vitamin Sonic Enhancer Plug-In which lets you collapse and expand to and from mono based on a frequency band, but that's a lot of plug-in processing power devoted to righting Ableton Live's poor audio engine design. It also opens you up to needless phasing issues depending on instrument signals and plug-in effects being used.

After MOTU graciously offered to extend my trial period for Digital Performer 10 (I'll now refer to it as DP10 for the rest of this article), I found myself on vacation with the fully functioning trial and MOTU's expertly crafted manual and the urge to determine if this was the solution for me. It's not one of the top DAWs you commonly hear mentioned, but like Pro Tools and Cubase it historically has had a presence since the very beginning of personal computer assisted music production and has maintained somewhat of a cabal of die hard users who hail from many different genres and workflows. From contemporary composers (Wendy Carlos), film score composers (Danny Elfman), rockstars (Geddy Lee), and electronic music artists (Autechre and The Crystal Method), it's widely used by recognizable talents. And it's very much like Pro Tools in that it exists as a fully featured DAW that is able to serve a large number of industries due in large part both to its historical development precense as well as its devoted parent company MOTU (Mark of the Unicon, an American company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts).


Workflow Transition

If you break down the core workflow components of any DAW, you'll find that core features rarely seriously diverge from one another. Some DAWs might have more considerable features making workflow in these areas easier to operate, but they generally in 2019 boil down to the following areas:

  • Seperate types of tracks: MIDI, mono/stereo audio, AUX, group and sometimes VCA.
  • A MIDI piano roll interface: piano is on the left side with tools allowing you to drag and select, draw, move, quantize, and erase MIDI events
  • A method to control different attributes of MIDI other than notation: commonly shown as lanes within a MIDI track for editing velocity or any other MIDI CC numerical value as documented with your MIDI gear
  • SysEx recieve and send for maintaining and storing patch information for outboard MIDI gear
  • Mixing: a reproduction of analog mixing on the screen that allows for AUX tracks to receive a signal from audio tracks, a Master fader, groups to easily organize tracks (where as on analog mixers I used different colored markers on tape), and an area to assign, edit, and chain together insert effects
  • I/O routing tool: to send audio in and out of your audio interface

 


The GUI: Flexible And Expertly Designed

Some quick destop history: If you were a user of MOTU's DP from long ago or someone that used MacOS on biege Macs before the return of Steve Jobs to Apple, you might remember some quirks of ancient and now abandoned Macintosh design, notably the sloppy overuse of modal windows. Back in the early MacOS classic days, windows would generally be split apart into seperate windows, but all children of a parent program. AOL users had a classic toolbar at the top of their screen but otherwise saw their desktop wallpaper below that because Mac apps then did not draw a parent window around them like Microsoft's Windows did. Apple has much improved the concept and encouraged developers overtime to consolidate window groups where appropriate but leapfrogs the Windows approach by not drawing a parent window around these sub groups.

Old school DP! Respect!

The result is clear in a multitude of desktop applications in their contemporary macOS presentation versus the sloppy lame result of Microsoft Windows. Pro Tools is an obvious winner in this refinement of human user interface standards driven by Apple, in that the mixer, arrangement and piano roll windows can all exist in their seperate sub windows allowing maximum use of one's screen while Windows users commonly ask forums and Facebook groups "how do I remove the ugly blue bars at the top of windows?" and "how to I use Pro Tools on dual screens?".

The GUI: MOTU DP's Consolidated Window

In any case, MOTU has expertly crafted not only an artfully designed updated user interface to comply with contemporary Apple HUI suggestions for consolidated windows, but also maximized this concept to its fullest potential with 1) its concepts of easily visibile and collapsible sidebars on the left and right sections of the screen and 2) multiple view controls within these areas containing 2 rows in the main body area, and 4 rows on the left and right sidebars each (all of which can be customized by going to Preferences and Settings > Display > Consolidated Window.

MOTU DP's consolidated window options. Notice a distinct left, center, and right sections, as well as being able to see multiple tool views as rows within each section.

Important to note about any of the viewable tools within the rows of the left, center, and right sections of the consolidated window is that they can be torn off and viewed in its own window outside of the consolidated window. This means that if you want to keep the Mixing Board view on a completely seperate monitor, you'd just drag and drop that section's shaded tool area and it'd appear there. Awesome stuff!

However, one quirk I had early on (that I'm making less and less as I'm more ingrained with DP's workflow is when I have the Mixing Board in a seperate window on the second screen and I accidentally click on the Mixing Board from within the Consolidated Window; it would make the window on the second screen disappear. Obviously, it was a mistake on my part, but I do wish MOTU would make that easier for beginniners. Maybe they could remove the Mixing Board tab from view if it's been dragged outside of the Consolidated Window and if it was closed purposefully the tab for viewing it would reappear there. Again, it's a mistake on my part and I haven't repeated it in several weeks, but I can't help but feel that would put off new users.

The GUI: 4K/Retina support, Themes and Color Profiles

The world seems to be turned on its head every ten years with crazy developments in UI design that seem to really only fluctuate between skeuromorphic (or resembling physical interfaces) and flat (bland, plain, supposedly so as not to distract from a tool's purpose). For every person that likes the flat design of a piece of software, you'll find twenty very vocal people who will let you know they absolutely loathe it, and vice versa with skeuromorphic software user interfaces.

Me, personally I enjoy UI design as it was in the late 90s and early 2000s the most. They were brilliant and helped cold digital interfaces feel more warmly inviting and familiar at the same time. But to be fair I also recognize there are others out there who feel the need to look at flat soulless UI design, and somehow are able to look at themselves in the mirror and sleep at night despite having such a poor and horrible and stupid and idiotic opinion.

Obviously I'm being (50%) facetious here, but the point still stands that there is much consternation and resentment regarding the subject.

Luckily, MOTU feels the whole argument is moot, or rather, they have engineered their flagship software so that it's largely a non-issue as DP10 really can please everyone with its theming implementation. A popular feature (also popular with the DAW Reaper) in DP is its theming engine which lets you view DP as you want to view it. There are several themes included with DP10 that you can try out (Preferences and Settings > Display > Themes) that range from contemporary and sleek (like the default theme 'Nine') to best of skeuromorphic (my preferred theme 'Eight') and even down to gnarish and ugly albeit completely skeuromorphic (like the theme 'Savannah').

Theme and UI element color chooser (Preferences and Settings > Display > Themes)

Even better is the (I'm imagining) unofficial support to modify existing themes and make them available from the GUI's list of available themes. Maybe a color is bothering you but you generally like one theme the most. Just fire up a text editor to modify the xml files, name the folder to whatever you want your theme name to be and voila you have a custom theme, baby!

Not only UI elements, but you can just change Selection Color, Focus Color, Meter Color(s), and/or Clip Colors from the same interface you use to select your UI Theme. I really hope MOTU keeps providing support for these older themes in the future. While the new Nine theme is quite contemporary and beautiful, it strays a bit too generically grey for my tastes.

New to DP10 is official support for Hi DPI (Retina/4K/5K/etc) screens and the ability to scale the interface in increments to fit your screen and viewable space to its maximum and preferred potential by the user. I know some DAWs that struggle greatly with Hi DPI code modifications even if there is official support. Cubase while looking very pretty these days craws when redrawing its UI widgets due to presumably this support being added on later in development of the SX and beyond code base and not being completely optimized. DP feels lean, fast and mean on macOS. The Windows version does not yet have this Hi DPI support for DP10, but I imagine the fine folks at MOTU are working on it as this notification was in the release notes.

In addition to the Hi DPI support added in DP10, you can now scale the size of widgets up and down. This addresses a common complaint that for some users, widgets within the GUI were too small on modern displays. Personally, I find the contemporary emphasis that's popular on adding white space to UIs to be a farce and I much prefer to have my display as information-dense as possible. It's entirely possible with DP10 for me to run everything at native size in a single computer screen at 2048x1152 (non-Retina) on my Samsung 4K 28" displays so I can dedicate the second display entirely to a Rewire device like Ableton Live, or multiple plug-ins I'm working with. Like the flat design vs. skeuromorphic debate, widget size/white space debates are largely negated by MOTU in DP10 by letting users decide for themselves what they prefer.

DP10's new Scale feature allowing you to control the sizes of text and widgets

Lastly, the Track Colors feature is really excellent. You can have DP10 auto-increment colors to tracks as track elements are added, which I believe is default, but I prefer to have track colors be by their type. Firstly, because you can easily hide entire tracks and track folders with the Track Selector tool view so color coding different instruments to keep them organized is rendered rather null, and secondly because when I am dealing with an instrument I like to make clear which track of that instrument I'm working on (MIDI, audio, additional audio for multitimbral, outboard effects returns, etc). MOTU DP is a swiss army knife of options though, so you're sure to find something that fits your fancy even if the defaults no not. There are many track color profiles available that ship with DP10, and they can be duplicated and modified to fit your heart's content. I made a slight modification to the 'Pastels 2' profile called 'AD Pastels 3' where I changed a brown out for a green when displaying Audio Tracks.


MIDI: Bundles of Love

The most important part of any electronic musician's workflow is MIDI. MIDI sends and receives data to and from a number of devices, anything from outboard synthesizers, outboard samplers, outboard effects, software synthesizers, software effects, pedal input triggering actions in a DAW like start Recording, etc. So I started there in my testing because a DAW can be great at audio but poor at MIDI, making it largely unusable for my type of workflow.

A lot of DAWs split up the concept of audio and MIDI configuration for your studio. This can be really confusing for some users. If track views universally show both audio and MIDI tracks in a project, then why wouldn't you also configure these in the same consistent manner? MOTU's approach to this for DP is called Bundles (hotkey: SHIFT + U), a well designed interface for controlling and administering Inputs, Outputs, Busses, Instruments, and MIDI Devices within a project.

DP Bundles interface (SHIFT + U)

From the Bundles MIDI Instruments interface you can assign and reassign MIDI input and outflow signals to devices. I've managed my devices in the macOS Audio/MIDI Setup utility for a while now and this lets me quickly identify them as well as quickly temporarily reroute them from within the project. This lets me test running parts through different gear easily when I'm trying to nail down a sound from an init patch. Sometimes when I'm working on my Roland JP-8080, I get the idea that hey, maybe this part would sound better through my Behringer DeepMind 12D. In DP, this is very simple to do.

MIDI: MIDI editor

MOTU DP10 MIDI editor view complete with piano roll and note value on MIDI event

MOTU's DP has a long storied history as a MIDI sequencer. In the latest version, it's clear that MOTU continues to retain its expert implementation making the DAW as a whole much more feature rich for everyone from beginners to seasoned electronic musicians.

One common complaint I've heard about DP is the lack of MIDI clips. MIDI clips, an option in virtually every other DAW on the market, are objects that appear commonly in a track view that contain MIDI events that can be easily dragged around and rearranged. They are usually set in length by a bar or any other number of arbitrary length definition. As someone coming directly from Pro Tools I can't say I'm completely bothered by this missing ability. When composing music using MIDI outboard gear or software, I commonly have notes that are expected to say end on the upbeat of the last measure that continue on into the next measure. MIDI clips in other DAWs makes this very difficult to manage because you're expected to either consolidate multiple MIDI clips of the same riff to include that elongated note being played between MIDI clip end and begin points or change your composition to avoid the problem.

Coming from a Pro Tools history, which has a generic Piano Roll editor that supports both clipped and un-clipped MIDI arrangements, I can't say it's a particularly big concern for me. For others I could definitely see this being confusing however, especially if someone were coming from a DAW that explicitly requires a MIDI clip before MIDI notation could be inputed (such as Logic Pro X or Ableton Live). For me, the I-Beam tool offered in MOTU's DP10 (which is an event selection tool) offers me a real time, on-the-fly approach when I need to repeat a MIDI performance while composing.

MIDI clips from other DAWs are fairly limiting to me, I much prefer editing and composing MIDI directly on the tracks Piano Roll which can be viewed simultaneously in the MIDI edit view along with the Tracks overview on the top and bottom sections of the main middle consolidated window view.

MIDI (and Audio): Clips

However, MOTU seems to be making some effort to be more approachable specifically to electronic musicians with the addition of DP10's new Clips view. These are not traditional MIDI clips found in most linear DAW workflows, but instead mimic the Session View in Ableton Live which operates more like a cue-able MIDI clip player. While this is not a perfect replacement for MIDI event clips, it does show that MOTU does see some inherent value in MIDI clips as a generic idea and might provide additional resources in the future for those seeking something similar with more arrangement-focused workflows. Additionally these Clips can encompass not just MIDI, but audio Clips and effect modulation and automation.

I've never written music using this manner because it doesn't particularly appeal to me, but I recognize that it's become incredibly popular with Ableton Live users (and even users of other DAWs) who utilize Ableton Live in its original design as a live performance tool. With MOTU's interest in this market (you wouldn't believe the number of concerts that are conducted using Digital Performer, even before the new Clips view), I look forward to MOTU's plans in the future. The more adoption, especially among electronic artists, the better it will be for everyone.

DP10's new Clips view supporting clips of MIDI, audio and event effect automation.

MIDI: Drum editor

MOTU DP10 Drum editor view

The Drum editor is amazing coming from Pro Tools. The ability to comment meta data per note reminds me a lot of how Ableton Live will load the names of drum samples from its Drum Rack instrument into a specialized MIDI view that limits the available notes shown to those that have samples triggerable by them. But like in many areas of DP, it transcends the abilities of other DAWs allowing for more flexibility and better management. You can modify Velocity data below and trigger the drum samples like a step sequencer. I've used a similar tool in Cubase before, but I found that MOTU's DP10 is a much easier experience to work with. If nothing else the use of triangles to signify events in Cubase gets pretty confusing when you're alternating 16th note hihats across 4 samples. The squares in DP10 are much easier to visually identify and grab and move around.

MIDI: effects

Pretty much every DAW has jumped on and capitalized on the concept of MIDI effects and MOTU really leads the way as far as I'm concerned. It offers the following MIDI effects:

  • Arpeggiator
  • Change Duration
  • Change Velocity
  • DeFlam
  • Echo
  • Groove Quantize
  • Humanize
  • Invert Pitch
  • Quantize
  • Reassign Continuous Data
  • Remove Duplicates
  • Time Shift
  • Transpose
Available MIDI effects in DP10. Gotta love Transpose, Arpeggiator and both Quantize options!

The following are MIDI effects I use on a frequent basis:

Transpose - If you're like me, you may not be terribly good at playing piano or knowing exactly which keys are in the scale you're using. For years, DAWs and plug-ins have been available to help aid users in this area. This works by taking the C Major scale (all white keys) and transposing them to a different key/scale. The result is that when you're playing on your MIDI controller keyboard or pad interface with this MIDI plugin enabled, if you just use the white keys you'll always be in tune and won't play a note that's not in the scale you're using in your composition. While similar solutions exist within Logic Pro X and Cubase, DP10 goes a step further and allows you to define your own custom scales. That's a bit beyond what I'm capable of, but I know classically trained musicians and students of music theory love this.

The Transpose MIDI plugin in DP10

Groove Quantize - I don't know what happened between the mid-2000s and now, but electronic music overall seems to have gone through a profound de-evolution when it comes to rhythm. Previously building on the amazing swing values generated by devices such as Akai's MPC 3000, 2000XL, and 2000 machines, electronic music of the 90s and going on for about a decade had amazing grooves that made the fact the rhythms were programmed digitally an attribute rather than a detriment. Unforunately at some point this seems to have fallen out of style. Not in this studio! I record parts from my MPC Live and Ableton Live with MPC Swing profiles all the time. Not only does DP10 come with a great assortment of available grooves to quantize MIDI events to, you can also import your own.

MPC3000-MPC60 Groove Quantize percentage options for MIDI tracks, this is *required* for good music in my humble opinion which isn't wrong like those that disagree with me on this point.

To add a MIDI effect from the MIDI tab, bring up a MIDI track in your MIDI tool view by click on its tab and then double click on the MIDI effect slot you wish to place it on (you can move slots by pressing the up and down arrors). Alternatively, you can double click on an effect slot from the Mixing Board tab just like you would an audio effect. These effects are live as you record from a MIDI device.

MIDI: A note on MIDI routing

Previously in Pro Tools, I would use the real-time MIDI properties window to set groove and relied on the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol plugin to handle Transpose and Arpeggiation duties. When I first was demoing DP10 out, I noticed that there seems to be less flexability when it comes to MIDI routing between MIDI tracks and devices within DP. However, upon reading the manual and realizing much of these options were already present natively in DP through MOTU's own MIDI plug-ins, I found that I no longer required the more advanced MIDI routing I had in Pro Tools and Ableton. So, not a huge problem, but it was not a straightforward migration to DP for me with regard to live modifications to MIDI data.

MIDI: Automation

MOTU DP's intesively deep MIDI implementation continues as I found myself needed to record and tweak automations of MIDI CC values to nail down performances. Generally when I write a synthesizer part, I do so focusing first on notes and quantization getting done first and then move on to knob value automation. If you've recorded with synthesizers over MIDI and audio before, you'll know that in addition to just the notes you sequence you can also modify things such as a synthesizer's oscillator options and its filter's resonance and cutoff options. Many DAWs have adopted a lane based approach to this where on a track view you can show additional lanes of a track with specific MIDI CC (the knob values) being altered and controlled.

I won't lie, I would say Ableton Live's implementation of automation is perhaps the most approachable, but Live also suffers from a lack of SysEx support (an extension of the MIDI protocol usually found working in conjunction with vendors doing expanded feature support to MIDI). DP10's is what I would call the most prolific if Live's is the most approachable. All MIDI devices have CC values which correspond to that device's parameters, and these can be easily defined within a lane that can be toggled to show or hide by clicking the arrow key as pointed out in the photo.

Red arrow indicating where to click to show/hide lanes. Common MIDI CC values can be assigned here, or they can be defined by click on "Other Controller..." and inputting the CC value desired.

Audio Production & Mixing

Reverse mirroring the history of Pro Tools which was first a digital audio sequencer that later gained a MIDI implementation, MOTU's DP originally started life as a program named Performer which was solely dedicated to sequencing MIDI and it later gained digital audio features and was renamed Digital Performer. Both programs benefits from a long history of design and continuous revision and refinement.

Of course, MOTU's DP wipes the floor with Pro Tools with regard to its MIDI implementation, so how well does it do with audio?

I'm working on another article going into detail about my methods of electronic music production I've learned over the years, so this part of the review will be light compared to the MIDI portion. However, I can say without a doubt that for an artist composing and recording, DP10 is just as capable as Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, and Cubase.

The great part about contemporary implementations of digital audio software is that they all strive to mimc working on an analog mixing console as closely as possible, except for areas where software shortcuts in design provide a larger benefit instead of maintaining that analog mixer workflow. Even better, working with audio between DP, Pro Tools, and Cubase is largely the same core workflow: you have tracks that are either audio or MIDI (or a combination of the two like instrument tracks), you have AUX tracks that other tracks can be routed to in parallel to feed multiple signals into a single effect like reverbs or delays, and you have inserts which can be applied to individual audio channels or a bus of multiple channels or the master fader.

DP maintains this replication of workflow and does it quite well. I have used the default plug-in format of AU (the same used by Logic Pro X), and have found working with audio is a very stable experience.

Unlike, say, Ableton Live that has a murky definition of audio channels (are they mono, are they stereo, do they change when a plug-in effect is added?), being able to work with mono and stereo signals makes it 1) much easier to mix without running into possible phase issues of attempting to collapse a stereo signal to mono and 2) makes it easier to run your project out to an analog mixer console for final mixdown and processing.

Functionally I would say if you predominately work with audio and not MIDI, you'll find a very smooth transition to DP from any other DAW that takes this analog console replication approach to digital audio in their DAW offering.

Waveform - A Built-In Waveform Audio Editor

A huge benefit to working in DP that isn't nearly as well developed in those other vendor's offerings however is the inclusion of a built in audio editor, appropriately named Waveform and is accessible from the center window space's tab selection.

From the Waveform view tab in DP, you can apply any one or more of your plug-in effects (AU, VST2, VST3, and MOTU's own MAS format) by first loading the audio you want in Waveform's tab and then going to Audio > Apply Plug-In and then choose the effect you want to apply.

A critique I have of Waveform compared to alternatives from other vendors with dedicated audio editors like MAGIX's Sound Forge, is that there's no way to hear what the effect will sound like before you apply it. In this regard, it reminds me of working with my AKAI S5000 sampler.

DP10's Waveform editor and Apply Plug-In dialog

That said, it's definitely functional for things like increasing gain of an already recorded audio part, or reversing audio.

Bundles, Inputs & Outputs (Bundles Is Awesome)

All DAWs that deal with your audio interface's input and output channels largely handle the idea in the same way: you have inputs that you assign and give names or keep the ones auto-generated by either the DAW software or what the audio interface driver reports as the name. What can I say but I/O management is a dream, though that's really the case in all DAWs.

A useful feature I would put forth as far as I/O management is to have the selected I/O name and audio device assignment be color coded to show activitity on that I/O port to help identify channel numbering issues that might pop up for some users. Ableton Live has this feature on every track within its sequencer and have the time I don't even have to look at the name on my patchbay when routing audio to my outboard gear. Otherwise, it's pretty comprehensive routing and nothing you couldn't overcome by creating a template with the interfaces pre-named. An example is my Presonus Quantum interface. It gets reported with 32 outputs simply named 1-32. This is somewhat misleading as some of these outputs aren't like the other analog outputs, one pair is my S/PDIF and two other pairs are the dual headphone out jacks. This makes identifying my pair of Behringer ADAT I/O mic preamps kind of hard to identify. This is different behavior from Pro Tools in that it was auto populated with more detailed naming reported presumably by the audio interface's class compliant driver with the S/PDIF and headphone ports clearly identified.

That said, I suggest if you're using a patch bay and want to identify the ports within DP10, to open up a software synth and just create a sine wave or some persistent mono audio signal and listen for them. I didn't have to go quite as far using Presonus's UniversalControl software to monitor the inputs as they came in and testing them. Just make a template if you're managing a large number of I/O and you'll be fine.

The number of Insert and AUX Sends per channel on the mixer can be increased or reduced as needed by clicking on the down arrow on the Mixing Board view (in the upper right corner) and clicking on "Set Number of Effect Inserts" and "Set Number of Sends"

How to increase Insert and AUX Sends in MOTU DP from the Mixing Board

Things I Didn't Cover

Obviously, it would be impossible to review all DP10 has to offer even in the admittedly long review I've written. However, these are the areas where I needed to learn to transition 90% of my DAW workflow from Pro Tools in the realm of being an electronic musician.

There are loads I specifically didn't cover either because they're out of my element or use case (like the QuickScribe music notation editor view that gives AVID's Sibelius a run for its money) or because they're inherent and unique to an advanced DP workflow that doesn't cover my use case (like the whole case of Soundbites and Chunks). The latter is definitely something you'll want to wrap your head around if you decide to adopt DP as your DAW of choice, but it's not a huge learning curve.

In Closing

MOTU Digital Performer 10 is a very solid offering that has made the transition away from AVID's Pro Tools easy, cheaper, and more fun than ever. It's incredibly stable unlike other DAWs I've used in the past and its ability to sync with my Akai MPC Live and its Rewire mode letting me use Ableton Live with my Push2 controller make DP10 my no-brainer central hub of a DAW.

I can say that MOTU makes solid products. Having used their MIDI Express offerings for years, I can tell you that my next audio interface will be from them as well. They've made a customer for life!

Be sure to subscribe to MOTU's social media as they're always posting small videos showing professional tool tips that will save you time.

Final Score: 9.5 out of 10


Working With Hardware Synths From The DAW With MIDI

Why Use Hardware Synthesizers?

Synthesizers have an utterly grand history. Within the context of working with them in a modern DAW, many musicians question the need to have hardware synthesizers at all when so many software synthesizers are available and arguably easier to use. One can get a lot of mileage out of physical synthesizers though, and some might say sounds that are simply unattainable by simply using software. After all, non-software synthesizers have different components that set them apart from what are essentially computer programs on the software-only side that introduce things that can't easily or at all be reproduced digitally.

There's a joy that's hard to describe when you're working with a synthesizer that's right in front of you, away from the computer screen, and outfitted with several knobs, sliders and fun quirky architectural designs.

Mario Mathy is having too much fun with hardware synthesizers...

Personally, I utilize both fairly evenly. There are times where the sound I want is possible in a software plugin, and yet there are times when the sound I am trying to formulate was popularized on a particular synth sitting somewhere in my studio. Do you remember the progressive trance fad of the late 1990s? A popular sound in those days for instance was what Roland called in their JP-8000 synthesizer the Supersaw waveform. It features several slightly detuned waveforms that defined an entire genre. It's quite easy to come up with similar sounds on a JP-8000 or JP-8080 today and this synthesizer is still yet capable of even more. It has a particular sound too, regardless of which patch or performance I have loaded in its memory. Additionally, chaining a device like an Eventide Blackhole Reverb or a BOSS RV-500 behind it, I come up with sounds found through happy mistakes much more often than when I load up a software instrument and play around with an init patch with the same old software effects plugins I have available for every other song I work on.

So why use physical synthesizers? First, variance. And second, there are still legitimately some sounds that software instruments, even attempted clones, struggle to replicate. And lastly, third, fun! This article attempts to cover the concept of hardware synthesizers for people that have only previously used software instruments but understand the basic concept of sending notes to an instrument and getting sound out. Although, it is also useful for the person that has bought their first desktop synth or rackmount synth that doesn't have its own keyboard and relies on external MIDI data to effectively use it.

Ports On A Synth

Synthesizers have a lot of differences between vendor, make, and model. Some have built in effects, some can act as effects processors for specific inputs, some can play multiple instruments on different channels and route them to different outputs. Synthesizers though from any vendor can usually be trusted to include the following as a base standard: one MIDI in, one MIDI out, and either a mono out or a stereo out. While some synths have more features and more connectivity, let's focus on that basic set of ports.

Behringer DeepMind 12D, we want to focus on its audio outputs and MIDI in and out ports

First, what is MIDI? Can I run audio through it? Can I run MIDI through audio cables? I don't understand! Don't despair. MIDI is simply a simple messaging protocol designed to send and receive data between MIDI devices. This data can be exposed to a computer running a DAW via the use of a MIDI interface. Most DAWs, in an effort to make software instruments easier to handle, actually confuse the subject of hardware synthesizers for many users I think. In most DAWs, you load up an instrument track and you have your audio and piano roll all on one track. Keep in mind that this is a shortcut designed to help composers. And for virtual instruments, it makes sense. If you need to record the audio out from that virtual instrument, you'd just route it to another channel or bus and record there, easy peasy. In a DAW utilizing a hardware synth though, you generally need to create at least a MIDI track for notes, knob values, program changes and sysex dumps and either a mono or stereo audio track for monitoring and recording. This gets more complicated when you start factoring in MIDI editor/librarians, synths with mulitple internal instruments that can be controlled per channel, etc, so let's keep this basic at the moment.

MIDI Interfaces for MIDI Devices

For the MIDI setup of controlling a hardware synthesizer, I highly suggest using either the MOTU Midi Express 128 or the MOTU Midi Express XT. Beginners will probably want to start with the Midi Express 128 because it's USB and easier to set up and manage. The features of the Express XT will probably be lost on most people and the benefits of running MIDI over USB can't be discounted for proper housekeeping (at least in macOS). Remember not to put the Midi Express 128 on a USB hub, unless it's directly from a Thunderbolt USB hub as hub connection encapsulation will introduce jitter to your MIDI channels which you absolutely do not want. Are there other vendors out there besides MOTU? Can't you just use a USB to a single MIDI in/out adapter? You can, but I would only use them in the early stages of becoming acquainted with working with MIDI in conjunction with external MIDI devices. Both MOTU MIDI devices I mentioned support 8 MIDI in and 8 MIDI out and are relatively cheap.

MOTU Midi Express 128 front and back

So I mentioned MIDI in and MIDI out a moment ago, let's consider the importance of that with regard to an hardware syntheszier. On the ports available on a hardware synth, you'll likely find two MIDI ports marked in, out and sometimes thru. To avoid jitter and software quirks with thru mode, I'd encourage you for now at least to focus on the in and out MIDI ports. Also, on your MIDI interface, if you have a MOTU Midi Express unit, you'll also see sets of MIDI ports marked in and out. When running a MIDI cable between your instrument to your MIDI interface, you'll want to run the output MIDI port on the hardware instrument to the input MIDI port on the MIDI interface. Likewise, you'll want to run the input MIDI port on the hardware instrument to the output MIDI port on the MIDI interface. Confused? Think of it like a water fall: water flows out the hardware synth's out INTO the MIDI interface and water flows out of the MIDI interface INTO the hardware synth.

Party Like It's 1983

Couldn't this just use a single cable? This is confusing! It might seem this way to you at the time, but this actually works in your favor. Save for some quirks of very early MIDI-enabled hardware synthesizers, the format and method of communication hasn't changed much if at all since 1983! How is this crazy old technology working in your favor then? Because I can take a Roland Juno-106 released in 1984 and plug it up to my MIDI interface and talk to it from my DAW effortlessly without any problems. MIDI is quite incredible!

Roland Juno-106, one of the first synthesizers to use MIDI. Still compatible today with contemporary DAWs. Amazing!

It's DAW time Part 1: MIDI Inputs

So now that you have your synthesizer is plugged up to your MIDI interface which is connected to your computer where your DAW is running, you should be able to successfully complete two tasks: 1) sending MIDI data from the DAW, and 2) receiving MIDI data into the DAW from the instrument.

In your DAW, create a MIDI channel. The process for this is slightly different in every DAW, however it's a basic enough concept that if you go to add a track you should be able to choose to add a MIDI track. Some DAWs have what's known as an Instrument Track. This is not what you want because as I mentioned earlier those are combined MIDI/audio tracks used exclusively for virtual instruments. When you add your MIDI track in the DAW, you'll now want to configure the input and output MIDI ports for the instrument. If your MIDI interface has multiple ports, use the corresponding port to the hardware synth you are attempting to control. You'll additionally have the option to choose a MIDI channel on that port. Some DAWs output this to all, but go ahead and set it to channel 1.

To record MIDI data (like the notes you play on a keyboard or changes to knob values), arm your MIDI track for recording. This is very much like arming an audio track for recording. Starting recording on your DAW and then press some random notes on your hardware synths keyboard. Stop recording from your DAW, and you should now see those notes as the DAW captured them via MIDI.

But my hardware synth doesn't have a keyboard, how do I capture notes from it? In this case, with the exception of capturing MIDI cc values for knob/slider controls and possibly sysex data, you don't and we can move onto the next test.

It's DAW time Part 2: MIDI Outputs

So if you were able to complete the input MIDI recording, you should now have some sort of MIDI data in front of you. If you do, disarm your MIDI track in the DAW and press play. If you have both MIDI input and output working correctly you should now see your synth probably makes some lights denoting activity in receiving MIDI data. If you've completed both, you've just controlled your synth with the DAW (outputs) and recorded MIDI data from your synth into your DAW (inputs).

It's DAW time Part 3: Monitoring and Recording

Now that you've got your MIDI ports set on the track channel, you'll probably want to hear and record your hardware synth! Depending on how you have your hardware synth's audio plugged into your interface, you'll want to create either a mono or stereo audio track in your DAW. Once this is done, you want to change the audio input source to the ports used. To be clear, your audio interface will likely have two or more audio inputs. The ones corresponding to the audio output of the hardware synth is what you want to choose. Now in your DAW, you will have options depending on the software you're using. Some DAWs automatically monitor an audio track that is armed for recording while some you have to specifically set to monitor to listen and arm to record to record. After setting your audio track to monitor you should be able to hear your synth when you either press keys on the synths keyboard or when you hit play in your DAW and allow it to play the previously recorded MIDI data you recorded.

Multiple MIDI channels on a ports

Some hardware synths, romplers and samplers support up to 16 instruments that can be independently controlled. A popular hardware synth with independent instrument controls is the Access Virus. I have an Access Indigo2, which is an Access Virus C with a three octave keyboard built in. The sounds of the Indigo2 can get really amazing and complex when you layer multiple instruments together and they can be independently controlled by channels on the MIDI port. I can load patches on each channel, and even play multiple parts with a single synth such as having the Indigo2 which I keep on port MOTU Midi Express 128 (A) 2 loaded with a bass patch on port 2 channel 1, plucks on port 2 channel 2, pads on port 2 channel 3, and lead synth patch on port 2 channel 4. To take control of all of thsee channels, in my DAW I'll want to create 4 different MIDI tracks using the same port but pointed to the corresponding channel and either play and record by channel or draw out the notes by hand with a mouse or some other MIDI input device like a Novation LaunchPad. Some synths pipe all channel audio out through a single interface (like the Roland Boutique TR-09), but on my Access Indigo2 I have up to six audio outputs I can use in mono or stereo mode. If I use different audio outs on the hardware synth, then like how I set up MIDI tracks for each channel, I'll create multiple audio tracks in the DAW for each corresponding audio input on the audio interface.

The Mystery Islands Music Virus|HC editor/librarian. Notice on the left it allows you to modify each of the 16 channel instruments available on a Virus C-class. In the DAW, each patch corresponds to a specific MIDI channel on the port it's connected to.

Fun Things To Try

When working with multiple synths on different ports or a combination of that and an instrument with multiple instruments per channel on a single port, I like to periodically and rather randomly drag MIDI events from one MIDI track in the DAW to a separate one. You never know what might sound good in a different patch on a different instrument and this can lead to many happy accidents.

Also, when arming a specific MIDI track to record, try arming multiple MIDI tracks to record to start testing out laying sounds. What will happen is that as long as your MIDI tracks that are selected have the same input MIDI channel (commonly set to a master MIDI controller in most home studios), you played on that MIDI controller will send that notation, velocity, and sometimes aftertouch MIDI data (if your controller and hardware synths support it) to multiple instruments at once.


Patchbays For A Home Studio

Scope

After sharing some photographs of upgrades I've made to my home studio, I received a few private messages from people who asked how I set various devices up.  Thinking about it, I think it would be a good idea to start a blogging feature for the website to explain and share such things and get feedback.

To explain my current layout, I feel I really need to explain the layout I had before and the needs I had that led me towards a mixer-less patchbay configuration. I'll describe my previous setup and its inherent limitations, the technology breakthroughs that made me reconsider a patchbay oriented environment, and the method I used to configure and wire my patchbays.

Organized, but unorthodox

The Cheap But Manageable Old System

If you've followed my posts for the last couple of years, you'll know that I've started to utilize more and more outboard gear in my audio production while maintaining what I feel are the core benefits of ITB (inside-the-box) audio production.  The decision to go forward with the home studio patchbay project is tied directly to the concepts of outisde the box and inside the box audio production.

The advent of "prosumer" super low latency audio interfaces is really pushing the boundaries of the value one can squeeze out of a home music studio on a budget. Previously, audio interfaces not in the pro market ran on connection interfaces on the computer using formats such as USB or Firewire, opposed to the PCIe interfaces with much lower levels of latency in the pro market. While these USB and Fireware devices made it easy for one to easily record multiple streams of audio and sequence audio playback, they did so at the cost of the medium sacrificing latency. The latency derived from the amount of time it took audio to traverse the computer software and hardware bus. While you were spending a fraction of the cost of say a top of the line Avid HDX system with PCIe interface and DSP processing, you had to deal with the fact that realtime audio manipulation would incur much latency in the process if you ever planned to send audio in and out of your computer for further processing.

The majority of people using these USB and Firewire devices, if they lived entirely ITB, were for the most part unaffected by this. At most, they would need to adjust their audio buffer higher if they had many plugins running at once, but other than that it was painless.

Some people however have lots of outboard gear traditionally made for OTB (outside-the-box) environments or pro low latency environments with plentiful i/o ports. As I'm writing this, it is currently 2019 and I have a plethora of outboard audio equipment. Synthesizers, distortion units, compressors, limiters, filters, reverbs, delays, samplers, you name it and it's here.

Previously on USB and Firewire devices I could get by using a pair of in and out ports and capture the channel's wet return. On some outboard devices the aforementioned latency causes no real issues. Compressors and distortion effects notably. However, doing so with reverb and delay units always introduced a consistent albeit lofi charmingly annoying delay on the recorded return. When recording instruments such as guitar, synthesizer, samplers, drums, and vocals, one frequently needed to determine the amount of samples the recorded was offset and correct it.

At the time I believed the best way to squeeze the value out of my gear was to record with a mixer as a front end to my audio interface as well as to manage insert and aux effects. I never had any intention of mixing on my 32-channel Behringer SX3242FX, I just needed a wide variety of channels available while composing. When I needed to process something already recorded it was easily enough to run it back through the mixer, to the effects devices or via the aux channels, and rerecord the colored return. This worked out fairly well for some time, but really limited 1) by the amount of chains you go in and out and 2) by the time it took to wire everything up into the correct insert or aux ports.

There were times where I was discouraged from having to make the routes through the mixer as it was an ardous process. When I gave into that discouragement I also begin to hear where I was missing that fun outboard processing happy accident quality that one gets physically playing with knobs away from a computer screen. As time went on I squeezed the best of both worlds as best as I could knowing I wasn't getting the full benefits of my outboard gear due to the limitations of the technology that came burdened with latency in exchange for its affordable price tag.

Thunderbolt Revolution

And then the most wonderful two things in a long time happened to the music production industry: 1) Apple and Intel pioneered the Thunderbolt spec, a USB-like direct PCIe connection via cable and 2) Vendors started shipping Thunderbolt-enabled interfaces specifically tailored to take advantage of the increased bandwidth and speed that Thunderbolt provided.

At first, it wasn't great. The few vendors who shipped initial offerings simply re-used their existing USB based designs with a Thunderbolt connector, with the chipsets effectively using Thunderbolt as a USB hub wrapper. The result was no real benefit other than bandwidth of audio.

When proper Thunderbolt audio interfaces started to hit the market, however, it was like a kick of lightning. Many vendors have them in place these days, and the one I chose to go with was the Presonus Quantum. This audio interfaces is a beast and I've been able to get HDX levels of low-latency audio out of it for a fraction of the cost. Supporting 8 channels in / 8 channels out, and optional 16 channels in / 16 channels out via ADAT/lightpipe, it is a fully native Thunderbolt 2 interface with all the speed you expect from a super fast PCIe port and with all of the ease of use of a USB device.

It no longer made sense to utilize my mixer as a front end interface for all of my outboard equipment when this cheaply priced Quantum could handle those connections natively and with more routing possibilities. In most DAWs you can easily set up outboard equipment and use it either on a bus or like a plugin. I was able to test up to 10 loops back and forth in this manner with a combined latency of no more than 12ms which was incredible. For a single one, it goes down closer to 2-3ms. The roundtrip tests made me quicly realize I needed to be able to quickly patch my devices in arbitrary configurations per session to get the most out of my outboard gear.

Enter The Patchbays

Patchbays are as old as audio recording, or very nearly there. In essense, the purpose of a patchbay is to provide a front end in physical form for instruments, audio signal processors, audio inputs and audio outputs. Traditionally, patchbays are configured uniformly where outputs are on the top row and inputs are on the bottom. All your gear plugins into the back of them leaving you only having to use a smaller patch cable in the front to patch maybe a synth from one output, to a compressor, and then to a distortion pedal, and then to an in on your audio interface all without having to go behind your ever growing cabinet of gear and cable mess behind your desk. No more managing cables directly from one device to another, just wire the path together on the front of the patchbay and you're good to go!

Normal, Half-Normal, and Thru

There are usually 3 main modes that port sets on a patchbay can be configured as: normal, half-normal, and thru.

Before purchasing all the equipment I needed to set up the patchbay, I re-read up on the terms and methods used to make sure I would have everything I needed. For the most part, people usually tend to use a patchbay in half-normal mode, although in your home studio you can do really whatever you want because few people will ever use your studio the way you do.

With the different types of devices in play, I split my gear into 3 categories: 1) instruments, 2) effects units, and 3) audio interface I/O ports. From there it became more clear how I was going to configure my patchbays.

Instruments - When thinking of most instruments, the vast majority of them are going to have outputs exclusively. Because you're effectively not worried about input, THRU mode on a patchbay would work well because you can effectively use the top and bottom ports of the patchbay independently of each other. If you have a 48 port patchbay, you'll be able to fit 48 instrument outputs in THRU mode if you set each port set to THRU.

Effects Units - You really have a choice here, however I chose to go with HALF-NORMAL mode. The outputs of my effects units went on top, and the inputs went on bottom. Think of it like a waterfall, the audio comes out from the top and falls down. If you have a 48 port patchbay, you'll be able to fit 24 effect unit input and outputs in both HALF-NORMAL and NORMAL modes.

Audio Interface I/O - Unlike Instruments, we are dealing with both inputs and outputs with this category, however unlike effects units in which the audio signal is purposefully linked between the output of a device and its in during the signal flow, you definitely want audio interfaces inputs and outputs to function independently of one another. For this reason, I chose to go with THRU mode on all 24 inputs and outputs my Presonus Quantum and two Behringer ADA8200 channel strips afforded me. I keep the same layout, with all of my outputs on top and all of my inputs on the bottom. In the DAW, I can send anything from a previously recorded piece of audio to a live virtual instruments out through my patchbay, to effects units, and back to an input port, all without getting out of my chair.

The possibilities are endless

Other Possibilities

You can wire your studio up any way you please, there's no one right way, although there are definent wrong ways. Experiment and ask others. If you have a Thunderbolt interface and want to experiment with outboard gear, I suggest to start small. Back in the day I started with guitar pedals I had lying around. There's something really great about outboard gear that plugins have never captured for me, although plugins certainly have their place in my home studio along with ITB mixing capabilities.

And you aren't limited to my setup. The people I talked with about this project beforehand told me about all sorts of fun things they were doing. In addition to the things I ended up adopting, they were able to easily run audio outs from the patchbay to their mixers so they could mix OTB. This brings up a good distinction between the method I've adopted and pure OTB mixing: while I'm using outboard gear, I'm effectly using them to color audio as I record it, or as plugin/route wrappers routing hardware signals, that only works as well as it does because of the super low latency Presonus Quantum. But wiring up my patchbay as I did, I can mix OTB if I wanted to with 1-24 TRS cables, or do half and half splitting up outputs between effects routing and outputs to a mixer.

The benefit is clear though: my back won't hurt nearly as much constantly jumping behind my racks and wiring things together by hand. That's worth its weight in gold for me.


New single 'Rainbow Road' available Jan 15th, 2019

The new single 'Rainbow Road' will release internationally on January 15th, 2019 and will be available on Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, iTunes, Tidal and more!

Click here to pre-save the album on Spotify: https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/arcadedaydream/gaaK


New album 'The Night Is Calling'

The new album from Arcade Daydream, entitled 'The Night Is Calling', will be released in early 2019 by Island Dust Records.

This is the first album to be written and recorded in the newly refitted Island Dust Studio.  The album is a blend of genres and has a widely diverse sonic palette thanks in part to the wide array of hardware instruments and other equipment used in its recording. Unhappy with the robotic and stale nature of today's EDM, Arcade Daydream mastermind John Knight has worked on crafting an album that harkens back to a time where musicians and engineers weren't inundated with the plethora of powerful but-perhaps-too-instant options that plague most music today. "Everything sounds same-y today" says Knight, "everyone is using the same five virtual synths, the same five drum kits, the same five presets and everyone is too afraid to step outside of their genre to experiment.  I specifically set out to break any habits I had and focus on the ideas and little accidents and nurture just what I thought sounded cool and not what everyone wanted to hear". He adds with much enthusiasm "This album ain't safe for trap festivals, and I'm completely fine with that."  

  Island Dust Records