For more than a decade, Ableton Live has been the DAW de rigeur for loopers, DJ’s, live electronic performance artists, and anyone wanting to take a more improvisational approach to building sequences of sound. Live stands apart from other popular software, with its loop launching layout and eccentric family of controllers.
Today, Ableton released version 9 of Live, along with its very own hardware, Push.
This 64-square control surface is slim, portable, stylish, and oh so lustworthy.
Push was created in conjunction with Akai, and bears some resemblance to the APC40‘s button matrix, mixed with the elegant minimalism of the Monome or Tenori-On. Like Native Instruments’ Maschine, Push promises the ability to make music without having to look at your screen, as all sequencing controls are onboard. Unlike Maschine, Push contains no sounds of its own.
Live 9, however, includes over 1,100 sounds (11GB) in its Standard edition, while the full Suite offers 3,000+ (54GB!).
I remember when it all first hit me… I had in my hands the first generation iPod and I could suddenly see a future of scrubbing audio with the flick of a finger on a small white wheel… I dreamt of hacking the simple software on that pocket-sized music player. I wanted to create the future.
Of course I didn’t though. Steve Jobs did. And the whole world shifted.
Now Native Instruments has taken their beloved Traktor DJ software to the mobile level, and my dreams are fully crystallized. DJ apps have been around for a while, as well as the ability to touch waveforms and effect them in all the glorious ways the mighty iDevices afford. Traktor DJ incorporates all the standard pinch/swipe gestures, bringing NI’s solid reputation, and renown for creating truly awesome sound tools, to the tablet. In other words, it’s a pro move for the aspiring iPad jockey.
Traktor DJ gives you two channels, with 3-band EQ, filters, eight effects, looping and scratching functions. You can freeze a track and slice it into playable sections, for an easy, touchable remix. Most remarkably, Traktor DJ delves into your library and suggests tracks based on key and tempo information of the current track playing. Your tastes are secondary to Traktor’s vast algorithmic know-how! Submit!
NI suggests that you can cue tracks using “a simple headphone splitter,” though this would presumably mean you are working in mono. Better to hook up an audio interface with an Apple Camera Connection Kit and use separate headphone outs for cueing, while your Main L+R handles the mix.
Traktor DJ is also fully sync-able with the desktop version of TRAKTOR PRO 2 (via Dropbox), so you can set up a mix in one then rock that party with the other.
Or just do it up iStyle, like superstar DJ Richie Hawtin:
Traktor DJ works on iPad 2 and up and costs $19.99
I’m a sucker for sparkly things, and the Arturia SparkLE is certainly no exception.
SparkLE is a sleek hardware/software hybrid drum-machine that is bound to light up your life (nyuk nyuk) in a few different ways. Spaceship-LIGHTshow aside, this little beatbox is LIGHT, weighing in at only 1 kg (2.2 lbs.). And of course, it will simply deLIGHT you. (End of horrible pun.)
You can build beats using the step sequencer buttons or pound them out in realtime on the pressure sensitive pads. Throw down a groove with the Looper and then introduce variation with the touch sensitive XY pad, which can control 8 filter modes (including the classic Oberheim SEM filter) and 7 different Slicer modes. Engage the TUNE mode and play a synth melody on SparkLE’s 16 keys, or simply add pitch to a percussion sound.
The SparkLE sound engine boasts a wide range of ever expanding sounds, with layering, Virtual Analog, and Physical Modeling for further tweaking. The software component offers a Mix view, effects, automation & editing capabilities, and can be used as a standalone program or AU/VST/VST3/RTAS plug-in (without the hardware connected). Alternately you can map the hardware to control your DAW via MIDI, or use the included templates for Ableton LIve and Reason.
All this functionality is built into a seriously compact (284mm x 171mm x 17 mm) and portable (comes with a travel case) package. SparkLE is a truly versatile tool for a musician on the go!
Arturia’s SparkLE is an obvious competitor to Native Instruments’ Maschine Mikro. In the race to get smaller and smaller, it wins; the Spark drum controller is thinner, takes up less desk space, and the price tag is lower ($299 vs. $399 for Maschine). Although Maschine might fair better with MPC drum pad enthusiasts, I must say I prefer Spark’s keyboard/’TR’ style layout. I’d love to get the two of them in a room for a real sonic shootout sometime.
Maschine now comes in either black or white, with new multicolored pads, and is customizable with Maschine Custom Kits. Stocked with its own 6GB onboard sound library, the package also includes new 1.8 software and Massive, for all you bass-heads out there.