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Bring in the Noise
by Thad Brown
Well, this is one that made me check the calendar to see if it was actually April 1st. But it's June and a tour around the web finds too many humorless sources saying the same thing, so I guess it is true. One of the oldest guitar makers in America is buying one of the most prominent music software companies in America. Opcode makes the Vision line of sequencing/recording apps, some VERY hip plug-ins in the Fusion series, and some pretty decent MIDI interfaces as well. Gibson makes Les Pauls, J200 acoustics, and a ton of other guitars, including a certain black semi-hollow body Lucille look-alike ES 345 that sits all day by my Powerbase while I deal with NT. The move makes sense, Gibson is trying to protect itself from losing out on the huge new market for computer music, and Opcode gets some cash, respect, and some dealers on their side. It also gives Opcode a leg up on everyone else trying to colonize the notoriously anti-technology, luddite community known as geetar players. But then again, it also makes for some really funny potential staff meetings. Picture a meeting room with a big long table surrounded by standard issue corporate chairs. On one side of the table are the code crunching, caffeine swilling Opcode geeks, bleary eyed and bloodshot from a long night shakin their booties to (Opcode users) Dust Brothers remixes and gulping down various stimulants. On the other side are the long haired tree hugging guitar guys with Carlos Santana haircuts who think that MIDI stands for Multiple Instances of a Disquieting Interface.
But seriously, it shows (if anyone still needs showing) the continuing importance of computers in music. It's the future, like it or not, and Gibson realized this, and the two companies will be a powerful team. Many Gibson guitar owners record and practice with computers these days, at least a good chunk those that have learned how to overcome that initial terror felt by all guitarists whenever any technology from after the 1950s is in the room. Best of luck to all, and send me some stuff to review. Like maybe one of those new Les Paul Studio Vision models with the color LCD on the headstock, or a copy of the forthcoming "Wurlitzer Jukebox" edition of Vision where all the faders are big round radio knobs and the GUI is done in an aged oak theme.
Just kidding . . .
WHY MACS RULE
We have all heard it a thousand times, but try this on a PC. I was hired to do some simple video capture for a person for whom I had done some audio work. For me, video capture would have meant abducting VCRs, so I picked up an Xclaim VR card from xlr8 sponsor Bottom Line (now R.I.P.). It showed up at my job the same day my client was planning on coming over to work. I was home at 5:15 and had the card installed, configured, the software working, and the VCR hooked up by the time my guy arrived at 7:30. He thought I was, like, Mike or something.
YOU CAN'T DRAW BLOOD FROM A STONE
Or, to put it another way, you can't get a good sound card upgrade for a mac for cheap. Many of the letters I get from readers are about how to upgrade the sound inputs of their mac to something better than the mini plug stereo ins that come stock on most Power Macs. Bad news folks, there just aren't that many options out there. If somebody put out a card with 20 bit stereo analog and 20 bit S/PDIF digital in and out on PCI card with RCA jacks and decent shielding for the converters, I bet they would sell quite a few of them, but it just isn't out there. Digidesign and Korg make multiple I/O cards that are both analog and digital. Lucid Technology and Sonorus make some very nice cards, but are digital only. Some new effects processors are including digital outs, so one of those and a digital only card may be a cheap way to upgrade, but I haven't tried it.
Yamaha and Mark of the Unicorn have some pretty hot looking vaporware on their sites, one with massive DSP and one with every format and I/O option known to man. Still, all these cards have the catch of being at least $500. They may be great cards, but there ain't no way to do it cheap.
There are some exciting things on the way, folks, bear with me. I have been working on a standard review structure for both hardware and software, and getting some interest from some pretty cool folks for stuff to review. I know that the world of mac users probably wants more from this page than my smart aleck remarks, and I intend to give it just that. Hold tight and keep checking back.
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