Switching from Ableton Live to Logic Pro X

I mentioned briefly in a previous post that the reason I was upgrading to Mavericks was to explore Apple’s Logic Pro X. Having lived in Ableton Live for the past 2-3 years I knew it was not going to be an easy switch, but the inherent workflow of Live with Sessions / Arrangements and so on just never felt right to me. Live is super powerful, especially for electronica and for improvising live over an arrangement, but for straightforward, linear composing it always felt like forcing a round peg in a square hole…

la-fi-tn-with-new-logic-pro-x-apple-signals-co-001It’s now been 4 days since I purchased and downloaded Logic from the Apple App Store, and I have to hand it to Apple. Even with no prior experience using the software it was incredibly easy and intuitive to get up and running. Even with a complex setup as mine with lots of outboard gear, hardware synths, control surfaces, mixers, effects and interfaces I had a complete template set up within just a couple of hours.

Logic-Remote-1I’ve already started work on a new track which is a lot more traditional electronic pop in flavor, and I can feel how Logic just lends it self to easily getting the structure of a song down in a linear fashion. Of course its not going to work for everyone, and part of my new found inspiration might just be the lure of an exciting new acquaintance pulling me in, but regardless there is nothing as energizing as feeling inspired.

Also want to point out that despite the title of this post, buying Logic is not really a ‘switch’ away from Live, it is just an addition to the toolbox for a different way of working. Sometimes when you feel stuck or blocked creatively, changing the tool or environment can really help in my experience.

Let me know if you have any questions about the transition, or if you are considering the same move!

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Mavericks and the Mackie 1640i

I’ve been holding off updating the OS of my main studio computer (Mid 2011 27″ iMac) for the last 2.5 years. It came with Lion installed and I saw nothing in Mountain Lion that would motivate the hassle of an update. Also, I’ve been burned several times by incompatible or untimely updates to firmware, hardware and OSs so I know better than to jump on the new shiny thing. The golden rule applies in any digital creative environment, ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!’

Photo-2But! I’ve been an Ableton Live person for the past few years but the release of Logic X really got me thinking about a switch. The notorious MIDI timing problems of Ableton, and the fact that it’s not optimized for the type of linear, timeline based workflow that I prefer made Logic seem like a nice alternative.

After much consideration I decided to shell out the cash and buy the software from the app store, only to find out that you need at least OS X 10.8.

No luck for an old timer like me still stuck on 10.7.5…

Still I decided to go forward and see if my gear would be compatible with an upgrade to Mavericks or not. The only two things that set off an alarm was the Mackie 1640i Mixer (see below) and the Access Virus TI2 Virus Control software.

The mixer board was my biggest fear since loss of its Firewire capabilities would negate its most appealing feature. (I could have passed it via a couple of Fireface 800 or similar but still…). To test it out I connected it via a Firewire to Thunderbolt adapter to my MacBook Pro running Mavericks, and lo and behold it worked perfectly! (Yes, the mixer board is from the 003 serial number series, see below).

Photo-1

Encouraged by this I decided to upgrade my main machine as well and it is now happily chugging along on Mavericks.

So far I see no strange or broken behavior. I have tested Maschine 1.8 with the Komplete plug-ins, Arturia’s Analog Factory and Live 9.1. The Mackie 1640i seems to be 100% functional. I noticed some severe lag and dropped notes when I started out, but that was due to the System Drive being re-indexed for the first hour or so.

This is not to say that all is well in Mavericks land, beware that there can be any number of combinations of Firewire controller cards, serial number series, firmware versions, thunderbolt adapters and so on that could break compatibility, but at least for me it was all a very smooth and seamless upgrade.

Did you upgrade to Mavericks yet? Did you run into any problems? Share your experience or let me know if you have any questions.

My setup:
Mid 2011 iMac 27″ (3.4gHz, 12gb), Mackie 1640i (003xx) connected via a FW 400 to 800 adapter to Firewire port on Mac, also tested via Apple’s Firewire to Thunderbolt adapter.

A note on the Mackie 1640i Serial numbers:
There are series of the Mackei 1640i on the market. You can tell them apart from the start of their serial numbers. The older series starts with 003 and the newer with 204. The older series relied on the CoreAudio drivers on the Mac and the newer has its own fancy driver and control panel. According to the Mackie website the 003 series is not compatible with any OS X version above 10.7 which has caused a lot of confusion amongst users considering an upgrade. In my experience the 003 series works just fine in 10.9, both via a firewire port and via Apple’s thunderbolt to firewire adapter.

Novation Launchkey Mini vs Arturia MiniLab

Disclaimer:
I have not used the Launchkey Mini yet, the below is based on specs and photos.

launchkeymini_angle-640x412So Novation has announced the Launchkey Mini (sp ~$99). With 25 mini keys, 16 pads, 8 rotary knobs and 2 performance buttons, all assignable of course, it makes for a sweet little MIDI keyboard, not at all unlike the Arturia MiniLab that also launched recently.

I got a chance to play around with the Arturia board for a couple of days and it certainly has the upper hand when it comes to design in my opinion. Of course the two are not entirely comparable given that you get a bloody awesome collection of 5000 analog synth emulation presets with the Arturia board..

My biggest gripe with the Arturia MiniLab was the touch strips. Very poor quality and performance which in the end rendered it almost unusable for me. The keys and the pads though were very nice and responsive. The Launchkey Mini has gone a step further and done away with the traditional modulation / pitch controls entirely. My suspicion is that you can use the two ‘performance buttons’ for this by assigning them your self?

MiniLab_275In terms of connectivity the only difference is that you get a foot switch input on the MiniLab. This could be important to you depending on your playing style. Both are USB powered and class compliant. I for one really wish they had a MIDI out port for connecting straight to some of my older analog gear, but that dear old round connection seems to be an endangered species these days…

Looking at the bundles software (Launchkey Mini: Bassstation, V-Station, Live Lite, Samples, Launchkey app for iPad vs. MiniLab: AnalogLab with 5000 classic synth presets) it really depends on your style of music and workflow. I love the Arturia emulations since they fit very well with the kind of music I make, but the flexibility of the Novation soft synths where you are not limited to presets is also very attractive. In the end it’s up to you.

Check out the rivals at their respective websites below:

New Song (ML2 Un-less)

This is the second track in my new Clicks and Cuts / chopped up crackle and pop direction. It is a bit more ambient than the previous one, but my intention is to keep going up and down the spectrum of very slow and atmospheric to more rhythmic almost drum and bass inspired tracks. This one will probably lead into the ML1 track at some point…

The track was made entirely in the box in Live, using no analog / OB gear at all.

Please leave a comment with any feedback. Hear anything you’d change? Something you like / do not like? Please let me know!

Meeblip and MIDI (a fix)

Last year I ordered a Meeblip (the easily assembled kit) and I’ve been in love with this little grey box ever since! It is simply one of the most affordable and fun hardware synths (that actually sounds great) that you can buy right now. I use it mostly for bass sounds, but it can just as easy do great lo-fi leads as well.

One issue I ran into some time back was that while the unit would respond great to MIDI from a keyboard controller like my Novation boards, I just couldn’t get it to respond predictably to MIDI notes when played from a clip in Ableton Live. I tried experimenting with channel settings, offsets and gate lengths but nothing helped. The box would only catch ever 20th note or so.

Yesterday I sold my Novation SL MKii 49 to finance a new reverb unit (Lexicon MX400, more on that later) and so today I was cleaning out some MIDI settings in Live. When I did, I noticed that the Meeblip was set to receive MIDI Sync (as in clock) from Live, with seemed unnecessary so I turned it off, and behold, the MIDI notes now trigger exactly as expected.

I double checked by turning the Sync out ON again, and the problem immediately returned, so I’m pretty sure this was indeed the problem. I’m not sure why the Meeblip isn’t just ignoring the Clock, but apparently it confuses the MIDI note / trigger / gate implementation in the box, so turn it off if your Meeblip is not responding as expected.