Getting the Tape Grain Glitch case back into working order… plus Track – Sounds From the Universe

More or less took a couple week musical break. Two things happened. First, I wanted to do some more case modifications to my make noise case… and having to take it apart, drill and Dremel… it was a several day investment of time for getting it all squared away, measure everything to get it to fit, get it back together… and just hope that I haven’t overloaded the power supply!

However, that work is done…

The case now has modded into it an ES-8/ES-5/ES-6 for input and output access when I want it… though I’m not sure how much I’ll use the ES-5 because… well it is vampire’d off of the ES-8 outputs 7/8, and I’m pretty sure miRack doesn’t have a silent way patch in it… I suppose I could always figure out the math and make my own patch… but it’s also possible that I send signals out 7/8… and use the ES-5 as a somewhat random output… I don’t know.

The other side of the case I modded in the Strymon AA.1 (in addition to the Ladik euro to line and line to euro modules up top.

A few thoughts for somebody looking to hard mod their case like this. First… it’s not easy, and it makes a huge metal shaving mess. As I mentioned in previous posts… I would have any knobs or switches exposed outside of your case, they are liable to break. For me I am only modding in modules into this case that I think are going to have a good utility usage, something I’d almost always want in the case, and doesn’t have any crazy parts sticking out so I can take it with me to a gig.

Anyways… this is a 100% Tape Grain Glitch patch… no Akai or SP or anything… it’s just a glitchy sound on Morphagene with automation on morph, then grain size, and start… that output is pushed through the AA.1 into/out of Cooper FX Arcades guitar pedal with the Generation Loss on CD skip, that is being run through Mimeophon for some tonally changing delays with automated adjustments to the Halo effect, then pushed through Beads for some additional space and other tonal additions. This recording is probably the rough second half of me being interested in the fake environmental sound and trying to see which ways I could push it to both keep it interesting as well as continue to make it feel like a somewhat real space. If space frogs suit you… you’ll probably get a kick out of this track.

Good to be back to messing around… and will definitely start patching things back up for the more chilled out beats, but also want to spend some time adventuring back in ambient land 😀

Roland SP-404 mk2 Firmware 1.13 Bugs, Issues, Concerns, Oddities, and Feature Requests

These notes are all for SP 404 mk2 firmware 1.13.

Bugs

  • In pattern mode there is a slight gap between the end of a pattern and the start back to 1.1.1.
  • In pattern mode edit, you cannot adjust the start position of the pattern, only the end position.
  • Exported samples do not contain the project they were from, just named “<bank 1-10> <pad> <sample name> Sample”.  The bank should be a-j to match naming, it should include the project, and there ought to be a way to name the sample.
  • Exporting samples will overwrite whatever you have on the SD card without warning you that there is already a sample there.

Issues

  • The pattern mode gap bug makes it difficult to sample a perfect loop with either resampling, or skip back.  The best option I have found is to double the length of the pattern and then resample or use skip back to work on the first half.
  • You cannot record samples while playing a pattern.  As soon as you hit REC it wants to record into the pattern regardless of which screen you are in.
  • I have not be able to figure out how to exit pattern record mode without stopping everything, which forces you to hard stop whatever you have playing.
  • When you are in pattern record mode you cannot enable bus FX.
  • EFX are a pain to edit, and require a bit of menu diving, there are only sixteen favorites that you need to menu dive to edit, and bypass.  I’m not sure why these aren’t part of the Bus FX to move around/through, but it is annoying.
  • Probably a setting someplace, but every time I resample the sample gets quieter and requires a normalize to bring it back up to level.
  • Once you resample your Bus FX are disabled, would be nice if there were a setting for the new sample to just not be routed through Bus FX instead of disabling the Bus FX.
  • There is no way that I have found to change quantization on a pattern once you have recorded it… you need to rerecord it which is annoying.
  • There is no Redo after undoing a pattern note entry.
  • Chromatic does not work in pattern mode, forcing you to resample or use skip back to record a single note used chromatically.
  • Chromatic mode does not support custom scales, so you’ll need to know which pads are for your scale and which ones not to use.
  • Chromatic mode cannot be customized to play the notes that you want.
  • Start/End does well, but could use a snap to 0.  For the moment I have been using Envelope with a attack of 1 and/or release of 1 to hide the pops and clicks as appropriate.
  • Personally think this is a bug, but GATE does not honor a release setting, so you cannot have a gated note have a nice subtle tail.  This implementation may be intentional, but I think it is wrong.
  • The controls on the FX are rather inconsistent, which I’m mostly okay with, but a fair number of them do not have Dry/Wet independent controls… so for example, you do not have a Reverb that can have a 100% wet, and 0% dry setting.  For Reverb, you just get level to control the amount of reverb, but no way to reduce the level of the dry signal… boo.

Concerns

  • The Value knob gets used *a lot*, not sure how long it will last.  Hopefully a long time.
  • You only get 10 mute groups per project.  I suspect that this will make things a bit more confusing if you are planning on using all of the banks, and don’t take good notes.  I’d prefer to see 16 mute groups, as having one per pad bank and a few spare would be super helpful.  Just remember to take notes on what is what folks.
  • I’d like to see under record settings for resampling a way to create a perfect loop.  You can kind of wing this with pattern mode and just recording a longer sample and then retriggering the resampled sample in the pattern, but I think there’s a great opportunity here for making this a mini looper that doesn’t quite have a workflow it would need to do it.  Or I need to think outside of the box more.
  • It would be nice if you could set the velocity for FIXED VELOCITY, instead of it always being max… I know you can use 16 VELOCITY… but then you’re bouncing between samples… so meh.
  • Probably a setting for this already I need to dive into… but I’m finding resampling is always quieter than what I was playing, so I then need to normalize the sample again to get it back to the level that I want.  This might be the setting under GAIN Noise Gate (which is -12db for now)… need to experiment.
  • Remain button doesn’t show you any information about the battery when powered… what’s the voltage left, time left, anything?
  • Chop exporting samples to pads… I haven’t figured out to only export the chops that I want yet and ignore whatever else is there that I do not want.  It may be able to do this, but it definitely seems fiddly.
  • No way to convert a sample from stereo to mono that I have found.  Would be nice to be able to do this.

Oddities

  • It is just strange that there are 3 FX that are only present on INPUT SETTINGS. Auto Pitch, Vocoder, and Guitar Amp Sim are only available as INPUT FX Settings.  I could definitely see uses for them in the rest of the MFX, and my guess is they will show up there eventually.
  • The online only manual sucks… why is there no freaking PDF?  Change my mind.

Feature Requests

  • Add in the three INPUT FX into the other MFX… please.
  • Have GATE use the ENVELOPE release setting to trail off the sample if the release is anything other than 0.
  • Would love to have an FX to cancel center channel or only keep center channel.
  • A way to name samples, even if you have to use the VALUE knob would be super handy… I’m old school and don’t mind doing the three letter GTR, PNO, BAS, shorts… and being able to add in note names into the sample would be helpful.  Heck… if it even output the assigned sample and BPM value in the name when you exported… *chef’s kiss*.

Roland SP-404 mk2 – Second(?) Attempts

Had some slight misinformation… the semitone changes with PITCH/SPEED are -12 semitones and +7 semitones for a range (effectively down 50% or up 50%). The CHROMATIC mode can do +/- 12 semitones. Obviously you can resample to stretch beyond this… but wanted to clarify that if you’ve got something specific you’re looking to do that you may want to make sure you know what mode(s) can do what.

I messed around for a couple hours today and was able to get a few samples going, dug into resampling and skip back… and you can def make some solid loops.

First loop here was nothing too special, just messing with sampling off of my iPad… drums from the Korg Electribe app, and the melody came from Chomplr and notes at -4 semitones
https://neartao.files.wordpress.com/2021/11/3-08-backing-sample.wav

From here I just did a -4 semitones on the loop… and I forget if I added more fx… but
https://neartao.files.wordpress.com/2021/11/3-07-backing-sample.wav

Then I started messing around with the FX a bit more and went with downer and layered in some clean drum sounds again.
https://neartao.files.wordpress.com/2021/11/3-10-new-sample.wav

This was the last pass… you can hear that I’ve bunged up the start/end points as it loops a bit noisily… but this is a finishing pass with some more drums added back in, but also some use of Ha-Dou for the reverb’ish kind of sound and super filter to tame some of the high end a bit.
https://neartao.files.wordpress.com/2021/11/3-08-new-sample.wav

Kind of interested in where this last loop ended up… might make a tweak or two and have some ideas for lyrics on it… so might make a track out of it.

Anyways… this gave me a good sense of exporting samples, and it works well enough to dump content to the SD card… I expect importing is pretty seamless as well, but figured I’d focus on just sampling in first and maybe mess with loops a bit later.

Have not tried to add any custom graphics yet, but the instructions look fairly straight forward. Will take a look into it, but from what I’ve seen on reddit you must make sure you hit the exact resolution… and I’m not sure if dpi causes any hiccups… will see what I can do though.

The Roland SP-404 mk2 is in… Initial Thoughts

Got mine Wednesday… been knocking on the pads quite a bit. Never had a 404 (but got the 202 and 303)… mostly a heavy MPC user… so my thoughts come at this through mostly an MPC lens, but definitely with appreciation of where the SP line has come from in previous generations.

One of the first things I did was hook up my iPad to the mk2 over USB C. I will tell you, this is an amazingly seamless connection that carries audio and midi data like a champ. Some apps you may have to worry about routing, but stuff like Koala Sampler and Korg Module Pro work wonderfully. You can throw audio and samples around so damn fast it’ll make your head spin, and is just *chef’s kiss* for bouncing effects back and forth. Even better, if you have Audio Bus 3 or AUM, you can access the stereo inputs, or two stereo outputs directly. Heck, you can even route to outputs 1/2/3/4 as mono, and get your iPad four mono track outputs as it honors those outputs correctly. All of this works without going into any special modes, or booting the 404 as a controller or anything else. Seriously a killer feature in my mind.

Overall I found sampling just as fast and natural on the mk2 as I have on previous SPs, and getting content onto pads is a bit faster than the workflow on the MPC. There’s also, as usually plenty of editing you can do for start/end points, pitch/speed options… and now we’ve also got Chop and Envelope. Chop is quite solid and I can see this being a consistent part of my workflow, but I’m not entirely sold on envelope. I was really hoping that with GATE on it would honor the envelope release, but instead you just get a hard stop. So Attack/Hold/Release really only effect the sample as the sample would play from start to end… and GATE off effectively plays the pad as a ONE SHOT, and GATE on effectively plays it as NOTE ON with no release. I’m hoping it is a bug or something that Roland will adjust (or maybe is a parameter setting to find), but so far I haven’t stumbled upon anything.

Pattern Sequencer is sufficient for knocking out beats, but there is no grid edit. Personally I am comfortable with the DEL and hold a pad method of removing events because I do it frequently on the MPC, but I can certainly see people not enjoying the “by ear” and “get good” for timing on the mk2. Honestly, this is probably where people will need the most practice if they want to get all in on the SP, but I could be wrong. I’ve also found a few bugs in the Pattern Sequencer firmware, such as when adjusting Pattern loop points, Start doesn’t seem to make any change, while End can be changed. Still, I think trimming and duplicating patterns will lead to some super fast workflows in the future, and I’m confident that Roland will suss out some of this early day issues.

Going to confirm with Ill here… the noise floor on this is just so much lower, as to be non existent, especially compared to the 202 and 303. If you’re looking for that dirtier sound, the Cassette FX seems to have you covered, but I can absolutely give a thumbs up that the mk2 is going to capture your audio without coloring it *until* you want it to with effects. As an FX box the mk2 is also covering a large amount of ground with the 37 FX. I understand that Roland will likely add some more banks, so hopefully we’ll see another 32 or so added over time, but for what is on offer I think most people will be happy with what is here, and besides subsonic not being represented (at least yet)… I think it covers a lot of ground from the 303 quite well, and reviews seem to be positive on a lot of the effects with the 404 og/sx/a, but this is not a space I have experience. So cassette, vinyl (303 and 404), and lofi all sounds quite good to me, and cleaner in a generally positive way than the 202/303.

Pitch shifting compared to the 202 is definitely different. Given how the SP-202 creates sounds, and the sample rate that it works at though, I don’t think you’re going to recreate the 202 with the mk2. Whether you love the 202 sound or just want to pitch up/down though… well the pitch goes +/- 12 semitones on the mk2 compared to the 202’s -4 semitones and +2 semitones. On the other hand, at least for me, I can see this as a nearly drop in replacement for even the 303… and heck it might even cover both well enough for me to pull them out in favor of the mk2.

Although I’d kind of like a few more options for ordering and editing the 4 bus FX. No joke, 4 is pretty damn sweet. Right now I’m thinking of them as 2 mastering FX for doing stuff that I want to be “my sound” for whatever I run through the mk2… and still having 2 bus FX for samples to do some special and specific effects. The biggest drive I have is that it’s just a hassle to get at and edit the 2 master effects, and they take up a limited number of favorites slots. Something Roland should probably re-implement, but to get it off the ground and running this at least gets the job done.

Storage… 16gb is pretty nuts. Sure a lot of us have way more samples… but just consider this an opportunity to curate and actually stick with the stuff you love or want to work with. Otherwise you’re going to end up with tons of junk, just like you’ve got on your MPC, computer… or wherever else you store your sample collection. Max sample time is 16 minutes per pad, and this ought to be more than enough sample time for folks looking to dump tracks to and then go searching for samples and chops. Don’t forget, this thing still operates fully functionally when hooked up over USB C… so you can use your computer, phone, or tablet to shuffle off samples and mess with stuff from there without committing a lot of storage on the SP. Backups work fine… though if you load your SP up with 16gb of audio, you’re only going to be able to backup twice to a 32gb SDHC card. So keep it in mind if you’re going to use the mk2 as your workhorse. Also the import/export is “fine”… but I do find it to be a bit clunky overall… but will try it out a bit more. I suspect for getting samples around, this is where the App will shine, but I tend to be a more standalone kind of person myself. Should check it out though as it might open up some things for me that I’m not considering right now.

Velocity sensitive pads are nice… though they do take quite a hit to get to full velocity. I’m going to have to mess with the settings to see where I land… so while nice, I’d put it as better than an MPC 500 for sensitivity but under the MPC Live for me at the moment. Fixed velocity and 16 velocity are a savior here when you’re just struggling… and a nice feature.

Chromatic mode is nice, but man… you cannot play them into Pattern mode. Which is a big *booooo* for me. Hopefully another thing that can be added in a future update, but for now, it looks like if you want chromatic, you’re going to need to use multiple pads with multiple samples, or record your chromatic performance into a new pad as a loop. Something that is the 303/404 way, so I cannot hate on Roland for implementing it this way, but it’s just a bummer when this is such a good effect on stuff from Akai MPCs to the Pocket Operator KO-33.

What else? Oh Skip Back is a solid feature. I’m on the fence of whether 25 seconds is too much or not enough… but even just having the mk2 at an end of chain gives you one last chance to grab some kind of “holy smokes that was awesome” content… and I suspect it will be a quicker way for recording some types of audio into the SP without having to hunt and peck for a sound over long streams of audio content.

Size wise, I’m figuring it is about 1/3 the size of an Akai MPC Live mk2… so much more back packable. Being able to be powered over a USB C connection is handy, and battery power is always refreshing, even if it would have been nice for it to have a rechargeable solution built in.

Overall, I think for the price this is a strong competitor with a lot of other devices in this price range, and it’s a pretty easy thing to recommend to others if they are looking for a Swiss army knife of a sampler/fx box/pattern sequencer…

Tear It All Down!

So, the Tape Grain Glitch case is apart… as you can see from the image for the post… and I’ve got some work to do before I get it back together.

First up, I flipped the Ladik A-520 and P-520 modules so that I can access the jumpers while working inside the case. The way they were oriented I’d have to take them out and the case apart to get at the jumpers to adjust the signal level changes. The change in orientation didn’t make too many problems either, biggest is that the power jack from the larger board sits right over the screw for the rubber foot of the case, so I just put some electrical tape over it to ensure that I don’t accidentally cause a short in the case.

Next up on the list…

  • Investigating adding/moving more of the sliding nuts in the rails so I can secure modules in the 1u row better
  • Adding the Strymon AA.1 into the case
  • Investigating into adding the Expert Sleepers ES-8 and expansion modules
  • Considering if I want to modify Links/Kinks/VCAs someplace into the case

Track – Isolation

Not sure why, but this feels like it is in the space of the ‘peak sound’ I’ve been working towards with this setup. Still a bit noisy and still a bit awkward to control sometimes, but hands on, a bit glitchy, and something that can sustain momentum.

The track started the day as something happier, but as it wore on, I just kind of went into my own space of wishing, longing, dreaming, but all at a distance with some strange energy. Not the track I had set off to put together but it might be the track I needed to put together right now. I do like this, and hope that others get something out of it too, but I guess I just had poured a lot more self reflective vibes here.

My original intent had been to create several different sequences to move between, but that just didn’t happen, instead I ended up adding more sounds to the track. Not sure if it made it better or worse, but it’s always a way to keep some movement in a song.

What I am most happy about for this track is just spending much much more time working on mastering all of the levels, I do feel like each part got more space to breath, which isn’t always something that I end up with in a track.

MPC Forums Beat Battle #321 – How You Flop

First, shout out to MPC Forums, and check out the Beat Battle #321 thread if you want to see what others are up to at https://www.mpc-forums.com/viewtopic.php?f=40&t=212572

I guess this track was about 90 minutes to put together? A lot of the time was spent chopping, and then finding different lines. I gave a stab at an initial 8 bar sequence and figured it was okay enough. I know I normally go at this as one long sequence, but I really want the sound to change over the course of the track, so although each 8 bar sequence could more or less stand on it’s own, I felt it would be fun to make a few different once and then use song mode (for once) to chain them together.

Overall I like the sound here, although I do think I could have done a bit better with the mix. I spent about 10 minutes trying to get the mix to an “okay” place, but I feel like the strings are fighting a bit with the bass line, and probably could have used some filter, ducking, or just about anything to help it hold a bit better together.

The weakest part is definitely the drums. I just made a two bar sequence, and kind of hacked my way through controlling a filter and some effects while the song played. It works well enough, but seriously the beat could have done with a bit more (okay much more) polish.

Music Studio Audio Setup – Zoom H6 Issues and How I Addressed Them

I’ve been working on trying to figure out where I am having issues with my audio setup, to try and get a hotter signal in my video recordings. So I drew up a rough sketch to see if I could get some notes on what the issue might be and go from there…

The long component with the knobs/buttons on it that is unlabelled is the Behringer RX1602 that I picked up… I just forgot to label it apparently.

At any rate, the issue I think I’ve been having has been that while listening through the MPC headphone out jack, everything is fine, there is no distortion, but the Zoom H6 when I listen to the audio piped in through there with the headphones plugged in I’m not seeing clipping, but hearing some to tons of distortion.

There’s a lot of connections in this setup, and there are several changes from Line Level to Euro Level that makes this difficult, and an interesting challenge. The tone of a lot of sounds are changing subtly just going from the Akai MPC as a digital sample, to the Eurorack, through device changes even without an FX, back out of the Eurorack to the RX1602, then through the Boss SP-202 to Boss SP-303 chain, back into the RX1602, out to the MPC Live Inputs, and finally to my Monitors/Zoom H6 output. It’s a lot of steps, and a lot of opportunity for clipping or other issues to occur. Plus, sometimes a sound goes in, and when it goes through everything it comes out like garbage. In other words, sometimes it comes out as a great sound, and others not so much.

Now… I’m not a sound engineer, I am aware of ohms and differences in ohms being a problem, and some of these things, but I also don’t want to make anything up. Is there an impedance problem? Maybe… but from a “I have a problem” experience, what I have been accidentally recording has been digital clipping. I looked at the waveforms and was able to see it. I just find it incredibly weird that no matter how loud I have the volume out while the headphones are connected to the MPC that the headphones sound great with no distortion, but as soon as I connect them to the Zoom I hear it once the headphones are over about the 50% mark on the volume set on the MPC. It literally does not matter what the gain on the Zoom H6 is either… blah.

As an experiment, I ended up hooking the MPC headphone jack out to the Zoom H6 Capsule TRS 1/8″ inputs. For whatever reason, this allowed me to set the Akai MPC volume knob up to about 75% for output before experiencing distortion on the Zoom H6 recordings. Given this change, I was also able to adjust gain on the Zoom H6 so that my signal was closer to -3db on the meter, which definitely helps make the recordings feel louder without getting distortion and clipping.

Ultimately I don’t feel I have really come to understand the issue so much as I have been able to isolate where the issue is so that I can then work backwards on how to manage the issue better. I do feel like the TRS input on the capsule may be a better solution as it seems to have a bit more headroom for whatever reason, but it may also be better for me to hook the 1/4″ outputs on the MPC directly to the Zoom H6, and then monitors from the Zoom H6. The reason I am not doing this right now is that I don’t always want to have the Zoom turned on with my iPhone hooked up to it, because it just becomes “yet another device that needs to be turned on without necessarily adding any value” to the setup. On the other hand, the argument can be made that if I am monitoring at the end of chain I wouldn’t be having these kinds of issues in the first place.

Conclusion: You’re probably best off to catch these types of issues of loudness, clipping, etc… if you just monitor at the end so that you are hearing what the recording device is hearing. Who would have thought? Lol

Track – Learning to Exhale

Honestly, this was my excuse to play with the Strymon Starlight and not make a beat… I still have time for a beat though 😀

So the patch is *relatively* simple… it’s mostly 0chd LFOs running around to just give some movement to the patch, and a DPO running into an RxMx/Optimix so I can ping it, then into a Magneto for some delay, and then into the Starlight for the final pad/wash effect that comes in and goes out. There is a Marbles that is clocked by a Tempi, and the output of the Marbles is being quantized by Harmonaig to generate the pitch on the DPO. The RxMx has the LFOs coming into it to move which oscillator and how much width is being selected. Not much beyond that going on.

I’m going to have to try recording again with this setup, because clearly somewhere between the Zoom H6 and the iPhone something is making me nutty… there were *definitely* no clicks or pops in my headphones that were coming out of the headphone output from the H6. What the hell?!