Archive for the ‘Alesis’ Category


iPhone Roundup: Field Recording, DJ Tools, Odd iInstruments, Cinco de Mayo

April 29, 2009


Now we’re talking: FiRe turns your iPhone into a serious recorder. No, really, a serious recorder – with advanced features and actual mic support.

Your pocket is bulging with power.

Anyway, the mobile software revolution continues. There’s so much stuff out there that it can actually be hard to track. Here’s a round-up to help you navigate everything that’s going on this week.

And even if you can’t stand another word about the iPhone, consider this: the explosion of iPhone software, more than just a fad, illustrates what happens when you give developers tools to make multimedia capabilities easier, then provide a distribution outlet. I don’t love everything about the iTunes approach, but those are lessons that could easily be learned in desktop and mobile development alike. The iPhone platform, if nothing else, is surprisingly uncompromising in the sound and visual interaction departments, especially for a mobile platform. And even desktop platforms could benefit from this kind of distribution mechanism (see also: Steam for games).

Also, we do have some of the first signs that the iPhone won’t be alone for long – new functionality on Google’s Android could take that platform in new directions. See my next story, Android/Linux/open source fans.

Disclaimer: don’t worry. I’m not giving up on desktop apps. Relax. In fact, even now as I look across these applications, while there are lots of cool ideas, it’s still clear this is a nascent area. The experience is nowhere near as rich as you get on the desktop. But it’s nonetheless worth exploring some of the ideas before we return to our (more powerful) desktop applications for music.

Field Recording, Microphones for iPhone + iPod touch


The big news this week was FiRe, which promises to be the “first professional field recorder” for the iPhone and iPod touch. The developer behind it is one of which we’re already big fans: Audiofile Engineering. AE make Wave Editor, which has rapidly become the secret weapon of choice for Mac audio producers and sound designers, as well as the batch-processing Sample Manager and adoptive parents of the excellent Rax plug-in host. Anything these guys do would get our attention, and then they go and add specs you wouldn’t expect to see on the iPhone:

  • Accurate real-time waveform display
  • Live, touch-controlled waveform navigation
  • Audio markers
  • Broadcast WAVE metadata
  • Instant downloading in multiple formats – and easy sharing via FTP, Web server, or even a SoundCloud account
  • Tag recordings with location data
  • Overdub mode
  • VU meters for input and output
  • Configurable time units
  • Mic flexibility: use Blue Mikey, Alesis ProTrack or even the internal mic

iTunes link (which is tricky to find otherwise)

Let’s just cut straight to it: this is, bar none, the most full-featured app out there. It’s the first one that would make me seriously consider using this platform for recording.

This, of course, raises the question of which mic you might want to use.

If you’re on the iPod touch, you don’t have even a built-in mono mic. (Don’t knock it: I’ve put together entire pieces based on simple mono mic samples. Creative sampling artists will use anything.)

Even on the first-generation iPod touch, you can use some simple solutions that will let you do basic sound.

The SmartTalk mic poses for the Smule blog.

The Smule blog has a terrific round-up of recommendations for touch owners wanting to use their Ocarina app. Their technical needs are much lighter than what you might need for FiRe, but this is still worth a look if you have any interest in recording at all:

Microphones for iPod Touch Ocarina

The Griffin SmartTalk wins out for 2G owners. I have Griffin’s TuneBuds mobile, which has worked well enough for applications like RjDj. (Note that Smule have managed to get their app working with the first-gen hardware; FiRe requires the newer generation.)

At the fancier end:


Blue Microphones’ Mikey is a slim-line stereo condenser capsule that plus into the iPod accessory port. It’s hinged so you can play with placement at least a little, and there’s basic gain control (3 settings). It runs about US$80 street, which means it doesn’t have to compete with standalone recorders. Update: Audiofile Engineering say they’ve seen some issues with FiRe and Blue Mikey, and can’t officially support the combination. Readers have had some issues themselves. If you’ve already got a Mikey, this might be worth a try, but otherwise, you can await updated information as Blue and Audiofile Engineering attempt to address the problem.

Specific update: The problem sounds as though it is the combination of the production Mikey with second-generation iPod touch units running the current OS. This is expected to be fixed with the next OS release. Stay tuned for more.


Tha Alesis ProTrack is even more impressive-looking, but at US$249 list, it does start to get into the realm of “you could just go buy a dedicated recorder.” The ProTrack extends the iPhone by adding a shell with an X/Y stereo mic pair – one that looks quite a lot like the Zoom H4 mics – and even has onboard XLR jacks and phantom power. You also get LED monitoring, a limiter, additional power (four AAA’s), a mic stand mount – basically, it turns your iPhone into a real mobile recorder.

The Alesis has its own app, but the Audiofile Engineering option is looking more powerful. Naturally, that’s the advantage of software – because the iPhone is essentially a computer, you can add whatever software you like.


I still think there’s a good place for a dedicated recorder. I’ve started testing the Zoom H4n,seenat right. (Not an iPhone hiding in a shell.) I’m already blown away – it corrects most of the navigation and quality issues with its predecessor, and unlike an iPod or iPhone, has fantastic battery life and onboard XLR input jacks. (Okay, the ProTrack does have XLR’s, so this is getting a little more interesting.) In other words, I’m not sure I’m giving up on dedicated recorders in favor of one of these yet. It’s still handy to have, though – and who says you can’t use both, given how essential it can be to have a backup recording in many situations?

Paul Van Dyk’s DJ Tools

This one was a bit of a surprise: Paul Van Dyk has released a DJ app, but it’s not just a quick, attention-grabbing, “DJ on your iPhone” gimmick. It’s more like a utility belt for DJs. I’m surprised to see that as a result it’s actually gotten some criticism. To me, finding some genuinely useful stuff you might want to have on your mobile device is the whole point.

What’s in there?

  • BPM counter
  • Frequency analyzer
  • Noise level (the “NYPD Application”), with an oddly beautiful visualization
  • Seismic reader (for testing your turntable, not for telling if there’s an earthquake happening – that you’ll probably figure for yourself)

And then some silly stuff, too – glow stick, anyone?

Not yet available – coming late May 2009

Nine Inch Nails App


NIN, of course, had their app become available on 4/14. There’s been quite a lot written about it – so much, in fact, that I feel like the whole thing is a bit overhyped. The basic development here is that NIN is taking all their fan data and making it location specific. On the upside, this is a lot more than many high-profile bands have done with iPhone development. But then, these guys should be doing more – they have the budget to hire real developers. I do like the idea of fans being able to interact on their mobile device; that clearly makes a lot of sense. But few artists will inspire the kind of loyalty NIN does, which means the real question is, will someone be able to build a platform for everyone else? And if you are a more obscure artist, what should you be doing?

The app is free, so just a conduit for fans, really.

iTunes link

Gestural Beat Sharing, Celebrate Cinco De Mayo

ZoozBeat is the application I looked at in the fall: the idea is to make musical improvisation more accessible by allowing people to use fun gestures, taps, and the like to assemble beats. The software is not only for iPhone, but the powerful Nokia N95, too.

That story is worth checking out from the perspective of gestural music in general, not just iPhone or mobile apps:

Gestures, Mobile Music, and the “Low Floor” for Novices: ZooZBeat on iPhone, Nokia

The latest news: the guys have gotten funding, for one. More importantly to end users, ZOOZ Mobile is adding a sharing component, much like what we saw with Smule’s Leaf Trombone. New upgraded software adds a Latin component with Samba and Tejano rhythms and is ready-to-go for Cinco de Mayo. Sounds great to me – and the Latin market has been oddly ignored by a lot of musicians and developers. There are also new Pop, Hip-Hop, and Techno beats.

Unusual Instruments


You’ve got plenty of faux-808 apps for the iPhone now. Our friend Henry Lowengard is taking a very different tack, with drone-friendly creations and detuned pianos. He describes this as well as I could, so here’s what he writes to tell us about.

Imagine a piano in a summer home on a small lake, far in the north of the Northeastern United States. Imagine the piano sitting there for 60 or 70 years, untuned and unmaintained.
The naturally prepared timbres of the Lake Piano are now here for you, each missing felt, each individual nuance of the key action and character-filled tones. Briskly recorded one summer in lo-fi, these samples also contain sounds of children, cats, screen doors, and the summer breeze.

The first version of Lake Piano is relatively minimal, Henry says, played as a double row of scrolling piano keys and the ambient sounds stolen from a videotape he recorded. Henry promises more playability and more ambience in an upcoming upgrade, but you’ll get that automatically when it’s done, so you can always go play now.

Palm Recorders

Edirol R-09HR Including Free 4GB SD Card

The R-09HR is a professional, high-definition recorder that travels light and performs like a heavyweight. With crystal-clear 24/96 fidelity, the R-09HR is the new flagship of EDIROL’s award-winning R-series recorders. Features 24-bit/96kHz linear PCM high-resolution, low-noise recording and more! View details…

Line 6 BackTrack + Mic

Great songs begin with great ideas. Capture all your revelations, epiphanies and inspirations the moment they strike. Inspiration Insurance Inspiration is spontaneous, and BackTrack™ + Mic is your guitar’s instant replay button. Easy to use, BackTrack + Mic captures everything you play without ever hitting record. View details…

Zoom H4 4-Track Handy Digital Audio Recorder

The palm-sized Zoom H4 Handy Digital Recorder is ideal for recording live musical performances, interviews, podcasts, meetings, classes and seminars. The Zoom H4 records linear PCM at up to 24-bit/96-kHz sampling rates or compressed MP3 format at up to 320kbps bit rates. View details…

Zoom H2 Handy Recorder

The H2 will record via the integral one point stereo design microphone, and achieves the Mid/Side (MS) Stereo technique by using a 3 microphone capsule configuration and digital signal processing. Affordable and very versatile!  View details…

Yamaha Pocketrak 2G

There are so many compelling reasons to record band rehearsals or music lessons for later review that a portable recorder is an essential item. Recording conferences and meetings has become a matter of course too. Naturally, the smaller and lighter that recorder is, while delivering top-class sound quality, the better. View details…



Drumagog! Play drums on your body!

January 28, 2009


Drumagog is a plug-in which automatically replaces acoustic drum tracks with your choice of other samples.  Engineers and producers worldwide use Drumagog every day to fix and enhance their drum tracks.  It’s extremely easy to use.  Just insert Drumagog onto a drum track, and pick your favorite sample! For advanced drum replacing, Drumagog is packed with powerful features for
the ultimate in control, and includes a massive 4GB drum sample library.

This allows for all kinds of interesting uses as well as the usual approachs.

– Automatically replaces drum tracks with a variety of samples
– Compatible with WAV, AIF, and SDII samples and libraries
– MIDI Input and Output Capability
– Advanced Visual Triggering feature
– Sophisticated sample management
– Auto sample-rate conversion
– New triggering engine for the ultimate in accurate triggering
– Works with Pro Tools, Logic, Digital Performer, Cubase, Nuendo and more
– Comes with a massive 4GB drum sample collection including:
Rock Drums Drumagog Edition, Purrrfect Drums, Purrrfect Brushes,
NS Kit Free and Classic Drum Machines.
– Compatible with any VST, RTAS, or AU audio application
– Works directly with BFD (Platinum version only)

“Drumagog is one of the most brilliant programs I’ve come across. It’s saved me literally thousands of hours editing drums while working on the Korn record “Untouchables”. Drumagog made the drum replacement and reinforcement seamless.” – Rob Hill (Engineer – Korn, Queen, Jackson Browne, Pat Green, DJ Muggs / Cyprus Hill)


Korg Offers Black Color Option For Stylish, Compact Nanoseries Controllers

January 16, 2009

Korg Is Now Adding A Black Color Option For The Three Products In Its Nanoseries (Http://Www.Korgnano.Com/) of Slimline USB-Powered Controllers, Joining The Popular White Models. The Intuitive Nanokey™ Nanopad™ And Nanokontrol™ Offer Advanced Functionality Combined With Korg’s Renowned Reliability In A Choice Of Compact Control Surfaces. Specifically Designed For Musicians Who Need The Power Of A Professional Controller, The Nanoseries Easily Fits On Top Of A Workstation, In Front Of A Laptop, On A Recording Console Or Anywhere Else Users Need Control Over Their Daw, Virtual Instruments/Effects Or Dj Software.

At 12.6″ W X 3.27″ D X 0.55″ H And 0.49 Lbs., The 25-Key Velocity-Sensitive Nanokey Is A Midi Keyboard Controller That Provides A Great Feel And Maximum Expressivity In An Ultra-Compact Package. The Keys Can Be Set To Send Midi Control Data, Via The Cc Mode Button, For Control Over Any Midi Assignable Parameters Within The Software Being Used. An Octave Shift Up/Down Function Yields Immediate Access To The Entire Midi Note Range, And Pitch Up/Down And Modulation Buttons Offer Even Greater Expressivity.

The Highly Responsive Nanopad Drum Pad Controller Is Equipped With 12 Velocity-Sensitive Trigger Pads That Offer Unsurpassed Power. The Pads Can Send Both Note And Midi Cc Data, While An X/Y Pad Delivers Real-Time Control Of Roll And Flam Timing And Dynamics. A New Chord Trigger Function Lets The User Enter Chords Onto A Single Pad. The X/Y Pad Can Also Send Midi Control Change Messages, Making It Ideal For Controlling Functions Such As Pitch And Volume. At Only 12.6″ W X 3.23″ D X 0.65″ H And 0.73 Lbs., The Nanopad’s Compact Footprint Enhances Its Appeal


NAMM 2009: Alesis Announce New Releases!

January 16, 2009

As usual, Alesis marks a strong presence at NAMM with several new announcements. Let’s have a look and see what they have in store for 2009!

MultiMix 4 USB

Sometimes you just don’t need tons of inputs and a whole lot of complicated features. If you just want to mix a few different audio sources including all kinds of mics, line-level and guitar-level instruments, and even a tape deck, and then record it all in stereo, CD-quality resolution, you need to check out the new MultiMix 4 USB. This compact mixer is perfect for using in recording setups, video editing and production studios, and portable podcasting setups. Find out more about the MultiMix 4 USB.

M1Active 520 USB

M1Active 520 USB studio monitors combine high-quality loudspeaker performance with a two-way, USB audio interface. That means you can connect them to your DAW with nothing other than a USB cable to low-latency, low-noise playback and connect a mixer, sampler, or even two mono sources and record into your software! Say goodbye to complicated connections and messy cable tangles.

ProTrack Mobile Recording Kit

It’s a recording studio in the palm of your hand. ProTrack Mobile Recording Kit enables you to record stereo audio directly to your iPod from a wide variety of sources and in a wide variety of environments. It combines a ProTrack handheld recorder for iPod with a stereo pair of AM2 cardioid condenser microphones, a table stand for the ProTrack, and accessories. Go mobile. We’ll show you how.

AM2 Stereo Microphone Set

The AM2 Stereo Set is a matched-stereo, cardioid condenser microphone kit with two AM2 microphones, windscreens, clips, a padded hard case, and an XY-stereo mount. The switchable high-pass filter reduces interferences through subsonic and low frequencies remarkably and compensates for proximity effect. For high-fidelity, high-resolution, high-definition recording, the AM2 Stereo Set tears down the wall separating quality and price.


Dock up and rock out. JamDock integrates your iPod into your practice or live-music setup. You can connect and mix in nearly any instrument including electronic drums and send your mix to the stereo outputs and headphone output. JamDock enables you to mix your iPod and your instrument and practice with headphones, amp, or PA system. Check out the details now.


Record your mixer, keyboard, sampler, or drum machine in stereo to your computer. LineLink makes it easy to direct-connect nearly any mixers, keyboard, sampler, sequencer, drum machine, or other stereo, line-level audio source to USB for stereo recording.

TapeLink USB

This dual-cassette deck enables you to store your irreplaceable recordings on hard disk, flash, burn them to CD, or take them with you on your iPod. Clean up your old tape recordings of your band’s rehearsals and performances and listen in your car. Rediscover your demos, jam sessions, and song ideas, and then listen to them anywhere on your iPod! You can get the scoop here.

View Alesis page at Dolphin

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Tips & Tricks: Gain Staging

December 15, 2008

How do you get microphones, instruments, and other gear all to play nicely in your recording or PA system? We break down the basics of managing gain to help you get the most out of your system.

Setting the gain right...

Regardless of which microphone you are using, which audio sources you are recording, or what signal level you are sending into your recording software, sometimes it can be tricky to get the levels you want or enough of certain signals.

Getting the levels right.
The basic principle here is to figure out the dynamic range of your source (singer, snare drum, turntable, sampler, etc.), and then maximize that source’s gain level without distorting or clipping. From there, you can mix the levels of different sources using the faders or volume knobs on each channel. This way, you get the lowest-noise performance and the highest level of flexibility in your mixer or recording system. This is called gain staging.

Before we go any further, let’s define some of the terms we’re using:

  • Sound source refers to any device that creates sound. The sound sources a recording or sound-reinforcement engineer deals with are human voices, acoustic and electric instruments, and other electronic sound equipment.
  • Signal is the electrical equivalent of sound. Sound is generally created when a sound source vibrates air, and a sound signal is that vibration (sound wave) converted into electrical current.
  • Gain is the ability of an amplifier to increase the power or amplitude of a signal.
  • Dynamics refers to sound pressure level: how loud or quiet a sound is.
  • Preamplifier (preamp) refers to an electronic amplifier that prepares an electronic signal for further amplification or processing. Most commonly, a preamplifier is used in music for amplifying a low-level sound source (microphone, turntable, or pickup) up to line level. Many mixers and some low-level sound sources such as turntables and pickups can contain built-in preamps.
  • Line level refers to the operating level of a signal that is easily manipulated by other devices such as mixing consoles, effects, and recording systems. In professional audio, this level is referred to as +4 dBu.
  • Noise refers to unwanted system sound (usually hiss and hum) created by electrical components’ operation.
    Sound-source levels

Dynamic microphones (for example Shure SM57 and SM58, Electro Voice RE20, Sennheiser MD 421) are designed to be able to capture very loud sound sources without distorting. These mics can be placed at close proximity to a guitar amp or kick drum with the mixer set to unity gain (applying no additional gain). You can shout into these microphones without generating a signal that would clip (overload) the mic preamplifier.

Condenser microphones (for example Shure SM81, Sennheiser e614, Neumann U 87) are designed to capture extremely detailed sound, so they are more delicate than dynamic microphones.

Both dynamic and condenser microphone have low levels of output, so they require you to pre-amplify them so that you can more easily work with them. Similarly, if you are working with an instrument pickup or a turntable, you will likely need to booth their output levels for best use.

Some great tools for accomplishing this level boost are the Alesis iO series. The iO|14 and iO|26 each have lower noise than many of the legendary mixing consoles and provide up to 50db of gain. This means that these interfaces can apply more clean gain to a signal than many other devices.

Here are some tips for approaching gain in different situations.


Accurately capture the performance with a good signal level, but without clipping (reaching 0dB).
When recording/overdubbing over pre-recorded material, provide the performer with a headphone mix of the pre-recorded material that is loud enough to allow them to perform their take well.


Apply volume adjustments, effects, EQ, compression, and limiting to shape the sound of individual tracks so that they fit well with the other tracks.
Balance the tracks in relation to one another to get the best possible complete picture.


Apply adjustments to the final mix (stereo or surround sound) including EQ, compression, and limiting to maximize the recording’s overall volume and ability to play well on a variety of sound systems.

If a complete album is being mastered, each song is also balanced for volume and overall tone in relation to the other songs.

We hope this is a good introduction to gain staging and management. It can be a tricky concept to master and the best way to improve your understanding and skills is practice. So get out there and start tracking, mixing and, mastering!


How To Use an SR18 Drum Machine As a Drum-Sound Module With Your Trigger|iO or USB Pro Drum Kit

October 8, 2008

SR18 brings a fresh face, new sounds, and a host of new capabilities to the most popular drum machine line ever.  Featuring a large 32MB sound set, dynamically articulated stereo samples, built-in effects, 32-voice polyphony, and 100 preset plus 100 user drum kits, SR18 raises the bar for sound quality, ease of use, and flexibility.

While the Alesis SR18 is ideal for backing up guitar players and singers when no drummer is available, you might be surprised that some of the SR18’s biggest fans are drummers! With an electronic drum kit and a MIDI cable, SR18 can become a powerful sound module for drummers who trigger electronic sounds. The SR18’s fully customizable kits dish out ultra-realistic, highly detailed drum sounds that are perfect for the stage and the studio.

One of the best tools to connect your SR18 into an electronic drum kit is the Alesis Trigger|iO. Trigger|iO features ten TRS trigger inputs for single or dual-zone drum triggers, and is compatible with all Alesis pad triggers, as well as most of those from Roland, and Yamaha, and other major manufacturers. Trigger|iO’s 20 programmable presets can be used for storing and recalling various setups. It also features a plug-and-play USB/MIDI interface, which is great for connecting to VST instruments on your computer. VST instruments are virtual-instrument sounds that can be triggered and controlled using external controllers.

Here are some tips on how use the SR18 as a sound module for your Trigger|iO, USB Pro Drum Kit, or other electronic drumset. To get started, visit the SR18 web page and download the custom configuration file. You can load the file into your SR18 by connecting your Trigger|iO to your computer with USB, and connecting the SR18 to the Trigger|iO with a MIDI cable. If you don’t have a Trigger|iO, you can use most other trigger-to-MIDI interfaces, and you will need a MIDI interface to load the custom configuration file.

In the custom configuration file, each of the SR18’s kits has been optimized for use with Trigger|iO. The factory sounds, configuration, and settings remain in SR18 and are not be damaged or lost when you load the custom configuration file. You can delete the file and roll SR18 back to factory settings at any time.

Click above for a connection diagram


Using SR18’s MIDI IN jack, you can tap into the SR18’s meticulously sampled acoustic and electronic sounds with your favorite electronic drum and cymbal pads. If your drum kit has its own sound module, using the SR18 in conjunction will enable you to layer multiple sounds to create new effects, colors, and textures.

You can play along with the patterns on SR18 and create your own using drum pads. Many sounds feature Alesis’ exclusive Dynamic Articulation™ velocity cross-switching technology, which alters the timbre of the sound to reflect differences in dynamics, enabling access to a wider dynamic range and the utmost in realistic response. You can program custom drum kits from scratch using SR18 sounds and the built-in Alesis studio effects.

You can connect the pads and pedals on virtually any electronic drum kit to the inputs on the Trigger|iO. Then, all you have to do is connect the MIDI Output on the Trigger|iO to the MIDI input on the SR18, and you have access to a whole new world of sound. SR18 is packed with drum, percussion, and bass sounds that run the range from the slimmest piccolo snare to the most thundering kick drum.

Trigger|iO supports both single-zone and dual-zone pads and cymbals, as well as the choke feature found on some newer cymbal triggers like Alesis’ SURGE 13” Crash with Choke and SURGE 16” Ride with Choke. When connected through the Trigger|iO, the SR18 takes full advantage of the expressiveness of these new drum triggers. Dual-zone trigger inputs enable you to trigger two different sounds from dual-zone pads, such as a tom on the head and a cowbell on the rim.

All of the SR18’s recording and playback features are still available, even when used as a sound module.  At any time, simply press record to capture your performance as pattern, which can be looped, added to, stored and played back from any of the 100 user presets.  You can also patch a CD player or iPod into the SR18’s rear input and play along with your favorite songs. 

If you’re after the ultimate setup, our new USB Pro Drum Kit combines a Trigger|iO, our best 8” drum pads, and our revolutionary SURGE Cymbals into one unbeatable package.

No other electronic drum kit offers such a realistic acoustic drum feel, superb response and advanced trigger interface.

Connect an SR18 to the USB Pro Drum Kit and you can go from studio to stage and leave your computer and bulky equipment rack at home.

SR18 is becoming a favorite of drummers around the world with its fresh, real sounds, Alesis effects, and Dynamic Articulation™ technology. With just a couple of minutes and an inexpensive, common MIDI cable, you can harness all the sounds and power for your drum setup.


Alesis SR-18 Professional Drum Machine

Alesis Trigger|iO

That wraps up Tips & Tricks for this month. Stay tuned for more tips in each issue. Do you have a tip or trick you’d like to share with us? We’d love to hear about it! Send your Tips & Tricks to .