An in-depth on what I use to create

October 25, 2018

Edit: To start, lots of money powers my projects and I do not mean to make others feel bad with these first thoughts written. Fancy equipment and software help me to achieve my goals much faster and efficiently. Money and flashy things do not make me a good artist, does not make me a good person. I talk a lot about costs in this post to try to guide others into good possible tools to use based on what you can afford. I do not mean to show off what I have. The final products are what matters most.

Just because I use many high dollar and un/popular tools does not make me the artist that I am. I acquired most of my software extremely fast and I am still learning everything there is to know about these applications. I am terrible at saving up money, but I can hold off and pay the bills that supply half of my hobby. I have to go with payment plans. I like it far more than spending so much and being left with something I hardly know how to use to its full potential. I am a very slow learner and a trial version makes me feel rushed to work with it.

There are things that I have bought outright though like Native Instruments Komplete Ultimate 11. This is a super discounted bundle of software plugs for music production and sound design. I did the math a while ago on the total cost of everything if bought separately and it came to around $13,000. The bundle containing all full versions cost me just $1000. That is still a lot of money for me. There was a time where I inherited a few thousand dollars and I spent some of it on a birthday present for myself. Some other things that I have bought out right are my Eurorack synthesizer modules, all besides the Dave Smith Character DSM02 module. What is great about Eurorack is that you spend a lot over time without noticing much. Each module does something unique and they can be just a few hundred bucks at most. I spent around $1,500 over time for this smallish collection. I'm not trying to show that I make mad stacks and I am more successful in some way. Money is just material that people are willing to trade much for other things. Before I inherited so much I saved what I could in every way possible. The modular set was paid for out of my own pocket months before it happened.

I always feel that I must explain myself in every standpoint for others to understand. I want to be clear and seen as being just like you. Money is a big deal to me as it is to all, but I spend most of my time broke because I like to live with limitations like not having the world and all the money in it.

Anyways, might go back to it, it is a sensitive subject for me. I want people to understand.
Over the past eight years that I have been active in sound design I have used many things that taught me little bits to keep in mind for when I get to my goal. I have reached my goal. I will get to the hardware now.

In my Eurorack system I use, starting from the left, the Synthrotek DIRT filter. This is a distortion module with come character. Then there is the Atari Punk Console or APC also by Synthrotek. It is a dual synthesizer. Just two knobs. I do not know much about how audio production works in analog and digital devices, but I believe it has something to do with self-oscillation. Self-oscillation is where you take an output of a device and feed it into the input of the same device. I did this in the past with my analog Behringer sound mixer. Fried it after a long time but it created some interesting sounds in that long time. Next are two little amps from Doepfer, Model A183-2. These are great for CV modulation which effects the sound produced or filtered by other modules. They can also be used when, like me, your output module (Intellijel uJack) is defective. You can patch your signal into the Doepfer amp that is connected to your headphones or monitors, or recording interface. It acts like an amp should with an option to offset the input signal. I usually just leave it alone though. Next in line is a comb filter from 2HP. The module is the thinnest you can go in the Eurorack format; 2hp, not even half and inch. I have always been a huge fan of comb filters and I was amazed when this arrived. It sounds just like comb filters designed for software. All the delay and shifting sounds when you turn one of the three tiny knobs. Next up is a Doepfer LFO model A-147-2VCDLFO. It has a built in delay section, but I still have yet to figure out how to use it. Gone back and forth with the manual and experiments and still can't figure it out. The last three are the TipTop Audio Fold Processor, Make Noise Maths, and the Dave Smith Character module I talked a little about above.
The fold processor and Maths are hard to describe. They work really well for what I synthesize though so that's what matters. Character is a filter/effects module with five effects, CV control for they effects, two inputs and two outputs. It really adds character to my setup!

I synthesize a lot of distortion, glitch, radio like frequencies, and long raw noise and turn it into airy, science fiction(y) ambient noise. A lot of it turns out dark. These sound very complex and difficult to remake in software. I don't know of anyone else who has made complex ambient scenes out of tracks loaded with distortion. Most of the time distortion is rejected. I made so much of it I figured why not turn it into something. I will cover how I do this in a later post. It is a long process.

Tied to my modular synthesizer are two others; the Arturia MicroBrute and a Korg Kaossilator Pro +. For additional effects I use the first generation mini Kaoss Pad. I used to use two Koass Pad Pluses but after much thought destroyed them. They were faulty and Korg never updated any support for them. I thought to myself that I don't want to hand these over with software problems to someone else. So I took them apart and turned one into art. I am not a huge fan of Korg after all of this. I really try to avoid them. I've had the little KP from the beginning and still works like new. It is the only model that I would buy again.
I know of a guy who own a Korg Kronos keyboard. I got to mess around with it and comparing it to what I using in software and out I found it to be something that is not so special. Instead of filling the sound bank with samples that sound convincing, they filled it with synthesized junk. For someone without a trained ear these synthesized sounds, they sound great, but to me I am unimpressed. I was nice enough though to not say anything and have them keep their glory moment. This is family after all and I don't want to upset them. Bash their groove.

I own two rack processors that as digital as they are they make my synths sound like they are coming out of an old tube amp. I then have an amp for passive speakers that I need to find friends for.

So that's all the hardware that make noises in my studio. I enjoy having physical things even though they take up a lot of space. The other tools are software controllers and PCM recorders.

Tascam! Tascam is awesome. I have used other recorders in the past with no satisfaction. Had a Presonus interface at one point that turned out to be garbage. Even at low input it stuffed a bunch of static into my recordings. Wasn't worth the $200. I regret every day what I got rid of/traded in hopes of traveling light. Anyways I use Tascam for all of my hardware recording. It is great to have portable phantom power for my condenser mics. I have nothing but good things to say when it comes to Tascam.

The software controllers that I use are the Maschine MK3 and Maschine Jam. I am trying to save up for the new release of NI's Komplete Kontrol S88. It would really help. To listen in on all of this I use a not so special AKG model of reference headphones and looking to upgrade sometime in the next few months. I am taking the fall on it. I screwed them up by listening to audio that they were not rated for. Now during bass moments the top right point in the hearing spectrum gets all tappy. Good thing to note though is when equalizing, I know when and where to cut back on the bass. I design for headphones mainly. Bass is good but I need to be able to hear it as it should be, but this makes me cut corners now till I get a new pair. I test some of my audio using my old pair of V-Modas which are great for listening but not production. My girlfriend uses them more than I do these days.

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Processing power:
Over the years I have learned much more about building computers for this application. Processing audio can eventually take a lot of resources. Well it also depends on what you make and what you use to make it. Many producers rarely upgrade to a new PC for audio production. Rarely deck out their desktop unless it is for gaming. I don't game much anymore and with my track record of running out of resources I decked out my machine. Well CPU wise. My graphics card is still a MSI GTX 960 4G.
Nothing special.

As a side note. I used to own two of these GPUs and when I tested the new chip in graphics rendering in Blender; the AMD Ryzen 7 1700X beat the GPUs. Twice as fast. Rendering in Cycles of one of my heaviest models. Now I just run one because I need something for video since the CPU does not have a built in GPU.

I upgraded to an 8 core processor to use in FL Studio 20. My old Intel 4 core i7 6700 just wasn't cutting it. Thinking back I don't think that it could have processed the 3D audio software with advanced reverb attached. I have jumped between AMD and Intel only going with the second once. I went with AMD again because of price, I love their business model and tactics, I admire Lisa Su, and I get so excited for them when I learn the big things that they are achieving while Intel falls behind. Great stuff. Right now I run 16GBs of slow DDR4 RAM from the i7 machine. I see a lot of enthusiasts paying mad stacks for super fast memory yet say all the time that you will see those speeds even though the memory processor in the chip does not support 3000MHz. I'm not one for the flashy colorful RGB RAM. My case window faces the wall. I wish it was on the right side of my case, but that is hard to find these days. I was very picky on my motherboard. There were a ton of bad reviews on the first gen Ryzen sockets. I guess because people expected god-like usability with a new architecture. I window shopped until the second generation released and snatched up now old parts for cheap. My motherboard is from Asrock. I was not familiar with their products until it arrived, the X370 Taichi. I was so used to MSI, but they let everyone down and there is still a decline in their boards. Tried Asus a few times and did not like my experience and the number of boards that arrived dead. What caught my eye the most was the VRMs/power delivery for overclocking and all ten SATA ports! Sadly though and even with my cooler Windows 10 will not boot if I overclock over 3.60GHz. Dumb. I really don't like Windows 10 at all. I miss 7 where it just worked and none of this crap about cloud storage as a necessity.

I have had nothing but problems with windows. Every update the system knocks out my audio drivers and midi support for my MK3 and I have to recover or restore to an earlier version before the update. I went as far as changing the registry to stop the system from automatically updating without my permission but that didn't work either. It still updates. To save my butt I store all of my data outside of the boot drive except for program files that I can not redirect installations for. I have tried so much and had to reset the desktop so often I have given up on trying to beat Microsoft. I don't use their services anymore, I have a hotmail but that's it, I don't even search the internet on it. All of this is being typed my my Ubuntu laptop in an uncommon web server. Trying to detach myself from social norms. I am even antisocial on social media and Discord. It feels really nice to log everything down on here without the pressure of others looking all around my stuff like on Facebook or Instagram.

Honestly thee only reason why I stay on social media is because of one person. My life long friend Goey. I don't want to loose contact with him. He lives on the the other side of the planet. Every 12 hours I may have the chance to talk with him. Dang look at me go. Chatting away.

I think that really just wraps it up though on hardware that I use. Now to tell you about what software I use. This might be a long one.

Software in use
Filters. I am a heavy user of filters. Many people like to call them effects and keep the name filter for just a few things for synthesizers and equalizers. To me they are all filters. Audio passes through it like through mesh and some things are left behind or added and or changed in some way. Like an air or oil filter. Tada.

To be honest a lot of my sounds at their core are super basic and it is the combination of filters that I layer that turn these basic sounds into what your hear. I have more mixer presets than I do of my own instrument presets. In FL Studio the mixer is where your apply filters. I use all sorts of your common ones to create uncommon sounds. Layer after layer after layer. Balancing eight to fourteen filters in a single sound is a common practice for me. The most that I have spent on a filter will have to be $350 for Dear Reality's DearVR plugin that is for creating a space for 3D audio to live in. Super stereo. I really enjoy putting vocoders onto kick drums. Makes them punchy and good for simulating something like a basketball hitting and bouncing off of a hard wood gym floor or just plain concrete. There are new filters that I will be picking up also from Plugin Alliance that will aid in 3D production. Like breakthrough hope to be real kind of plugins. If I knew how to program I would make my own, but these developers have beat me to it!

For audio workstation software I use Image-Line's FL Studio 20 Signature addition with a plugin called Harmor that I had to purchase separately. Harmor is a super tool. An additive synthesizer that can be used for manipulating and changing samples and image synthesis. Like take a logo I made and have Harmor make sound from the shades of color within it. I use it for re-synthesizing my vocals both organic and synthetic. I also input distorted or glitched tracks to turn them into ambient scenes and sound effects. Harmor is like one massive, dual channel filter hub. I love it.

Both NI Razor, Prism and Skanner XT are my go to sources for on the fly space base type sound effects. Skanner for what it is and how cheap it is, holy crap. If you do not know what it is it's a plugin that lets you turn your samples, any kind of sample, into completely new sounds. It is breathtaking and I never know what kinds of transitions will come of my noise.  I, in Space Base, specifically I used war drums from Heavyocity's Damage to create big airlock doors being slammed. Very metallic hits. Having all of the Native Instruments plugins and effects for Reaktor 6 is really nice. I will use Blocks to create a super comb filter which is just four comb filters feeding into each other. Makes for a weird effect. I also own all of Kontakt, at least all released by NI for Ultimate 11. I have really found to reason to acquire generators outside of NI. Really any more generators at all. I am all set. Not trying to brag if I sound like I am. I keep telling myself every year that "No. You don't need anymore software." but I keep getting more, BUT this time, 2018 will be the last that I buy anymore software and it is just on filters.

Music production is an addicting hobby even though I have not made much at all from it. It is fun.
In another post I will cover as best I can of the "filter sets" as I call them which are titles for groups of filter presets/mixer presets designated for special applications like my all time unique IC AA3.2 set.
Something that I have kept secret and unique to my work for a few years.

I hope you have a good night and I will talk again soon!

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