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ATPM 6.02
February 2000



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Beyond the Barline

by David Ozab,

Macworld Expo 2000

Music at the Expo

The biggest news of the Expo was, of course, OS X—followed by Internet strategy, desktop video, and graphics. Music, though, is still an important part of the Expo, as evidenced by the bustling Audio and Sound Pavilion. I wish I could have made the trip myself, but there was a conflict with the start of the Winter Quarter at the University of Oregon. Why couldn’t I be at a school with semesters? Oh well. Instead I spent my free time scouring the net for info. Here’s what I dug up from various sources.

Best of Show

In another sign of the Mac’s resurgence, Creative Labs have brought consumer-priced audio cards to the Mac. The SoundBlaster Live! Platinum Card gives both music hobbyists and gamers a compromise between the standard 1/8th" analog output of the G3 and G4 systems, and the high-end audio cards produced by Digidesign, MOTU, and Sonorus. For $199, any Mac with a PCI slot can have stereo digital (SP/DIF) and analog (1/4" TRS) ins and outs, MIDI in and out, a 1/4" headphone jack, built-in wavetable synthesis, and an Emu EMU10K1 effects processor with 32-bit internal processing. The card supports both 44.1 KHz and 48 KHz sample rates at a 16-bit sample resolution.

Dolby Keynote

Steve Jobs wasn’t the only CEO (sorry, iCEO) with an Internet strategy. Thomas Dolby Robertson, the CEO of Beatnik, delivered a keynote address on Friday that focused on the role of music and sound design on the Internet. He compared today’s Internet to film during the Silent Era. He stated that “not unlike the silent movies that had a live piano player accompanying a prerecorded film, audio on the Web is currently seen as a separate enhancement rather than an integrated component.” His emphasis was on technology, highlighting Beatnik’s ability to mix, crossfade, and sync short clips (about 15–20K), rather than music on the Web as a whole, but the basic concepts of mixing (and remixing) on the net promises great artistic potential. I hope that other companies follow Beatnik’s example.

AmpRadio—Internet Radio on a Mac

While interaction with the Internet holds great promise, the experience of music as passive entertainment will remain the most common musical activity. In addition to the popular MP3 format, Web Radio has risen as an important means of dissemination. Jason Bernthol, director of business development at Play Media Systems, presented AmpRadio, a $10 shareware program, on Friday. According to Bernthol, the application allows users to access almost all of the 25,000 stations presently broadcasting over the net.

For iMac DV Owners Only—the iSub

Harman Kardon, designers of the speakers on the new iMac DV, announced a February release of the $99 iSub. The iSub is a six-inch subwoofer that promises to drop the low end of the iMac’s frequency range to 44 Hz. While this is no where near the 20 to 30 Hz bottom of professional subwoofers (which are also bigger and more expensive), it is a vast improvement over the range of the original iMac, which rolls off around 250 Hz, and beats comparable computer subwoofers as well. The iSub was featured at Harman Kardon’s booth. One more qualification: you also need OS 9.

For Everyone Else—iCube

This five-speaker system (four satellites and a subwoofer) by Ice Technology connects to either the G3/G4 audio output or any Mac sound card through stereo RCA inputs. The cost ($69) and frequency range (35 Hz–20KHz) should overcome iSub envy among users without a new model iMac. This system also makes a great companion to the Sound Blaster Live! Platinum PCI audio card described above.

U & I Software—A Video “Instrument”

The company that united visual art and sound design in Metasynth introduced Videodelic, a new video synthesis application. Though primarily a computer animation program, Videodelic promises an interface that can be played like a musical instrument or controlled by either MIDI or audio input. The company also threw a U & I Macworld Party during the conference, featuring a multimedia performance demonstrating Videodelic.

K.I.S.S. Revisited

No, not the band (sorry Gene) but the principal of Keep It Simple Stupid (see Tom Iovino’s article in issue 6.01). My own articles on fundamentals clearly demonstrate my interest in education, and I was understandably happy to see two presentations along these lines: a “Beginners’ Guide to Music on the Mac” presented on January 6th by Scott Scheinbaum of Atomic Digital Studios, and “MIDI Demystified” presented the same day by Paul Jones of Home and Garden Television. For those of you who couldn’t make it to the Expo, my series entitled “ MIDI and the Mac” (issues 5.10–5.12) will get you caught up.

Miscellaneous Stuff

On Friday, Josh Gabriel demonstrated “Remixing on the Mac” using Mixman Studio, while elsewhere, a panel asked the question “Is Tape Dead?” Meanwhile, Dan Brown of Apple discussed the needs of “The Mobile Musician.” On Saturday, Beatnik teamed with Steinberg to discuss “Music on the Web,” and a presentation on “Software Synthesis for the Mac Musician” compared QuickTime Music Instruments, Koblo, Bitheadz, Native Instruments, and Virtual Sound Canvas. Elsewhere on the pavilion, Digidesign and Mark of the Unicorn reaffirmed their positions as the senior developers of audio and MIDI software on the Mac.

Conspicuously Absent

No, this isn’t an excuse to go back on my promise from last month and write yet another Opcode update. Instead, the most notable absence was Bias (Berkeley Integrated Audio Systems). Their audio editing software, Peak, has supplanted Digidesign’s defunct Sound Designer II as the stereo hard disk editor of choice on the Mac. They’re just up the road in Petaluma, yet couldn’t make an appearance. They’ve also taken their time with OS 9 compatibility, discouraging behavior from a company that develops primarily for the Mac.

Final Thoughts

The emphasis on software and the Internet in Jobs’ keynote speech was also reflected throughout the Audio and Sound Pavilion. This point isn’t made to belittle the importance of hardware, since other conferences like the NAMM show more than make up the difference. Instead, it highlights an important trend that I believe will continue well into the future. One more thing: I’d like to thank Steve Jobs for the inspiration for my new column’s official title. I see a parallel between the “Think Different” philosophy and my own artistic view. I believe it’s this common ground that brought me, and many other musicians, to the Mac in first place. As long as Apple keeps it up, I’ll remain a devoted Mac user.

Next Month: The People vs. the Recording Industry.


Copyright © 2000 David Ozab ( David Ozab is a Ph.D student at the University of Oregon, where he teaches electronic music courses and assists in the day-to-day operation of The Future Music Oregon

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