Shazam for Mac is Cool and Creepy at the Same Time

by Nikolozi Meladze

A few days ago, I saw in my newsfeed that Shazam released an app for Mac. The app is designed to run in the background, monitoring all sounds via the Mac’s built-in microphone. Once it detects a track you are playing it pops up a notification showing the track title and the artist name.

Out of curiosity I installed Shazam on my MacBook Pro just to see what it does exactly, while thinking that I’d remove it within a day or two. But now, I’m considering keeping it running in the background.

It’s amazing how well this works. All tracks that I played from Spotify were detected correctly. After I played Asphalt 8 on my iPad, I checked Shazam log, all background tracks of the game were listed there. Later on, when I was watching A Long Way Down, again it detected all the tracks played in the movie.

All this is cool, but it’s creepy at the same time. Shazam is monitoring all the conversations in the room where your mac is. And all the recorded audio is sent back to their servers. So, it comes down to whether you trust Shazam that they won’t breach your privacy.

One last thought, all Macs have a green LED indicator letting the user know when the built-in camera active. It would be cool to have a similar LED that could act as a reminder that an app running on your mac is using the built-in mic. It doesn’t even have to be a separate indicator. The same camera LED can simply turn blue indicating that the microphone is active (though, this could be confusing for some users thinking that their camera is active).

NAMM 2014: Things That Caught My Eye

by Nikolozi Meladze

Here are the things that caught my eye this year.

BreakTweaker by BT & iZotope.

iZotope:

Designed by BT and developed by iZotope, BreakTweaker is not just a drum machine: it's a drum sculpting and beat sequencing machine that blurs the line between rhythm and melody. Give your beats an evolving depth that gets better the longer they play. Use rhythmic slicing to drive everything from pitched melodic lines to sweeping rhythmic concoctions

I was a bit skeptical about this plug-in at first, but after trying out the trial version I was instantly hooked. The interface is quite intuitive and most important features are easily discoverable. It's very easy to start creating interesting sounds and rhythms. It's definitely a step up from Stutter Edit, which I find quite cumbersome.

Checkout the slightly more in depth feature overview captured by SonicState at the NAMM show.

iConnectAudio4+

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iConnectivity:

iConnectivity's multi-host and Audio & MIDI passThru technologies bridge iOS, Macs, and PCs in a professional environment, with many practical applications. Control a virtual instrument (or any music program) on one computer device from another one. Audio and MIDI flow back and forth without extra cables, and with no audio degradation. All the computer devices act like a single integrated machine.

This could be the audio interface I've been looking for. With iConnectAudio4+, I will be able to digitally route the audio signals between my iPad and Mac, without needing analog cables and an extra audio interface. I can't think of a more integrated iPad and Mac music production setup. The bad news is that it won't be available until mid-2104.

Checkout the video of the iConnectivity team discussing their products in detail captured by SonicState at the NAMM show.

Cakewalk Z3TA+ for iOS

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Cakewalk:

Borrowing from the Mac/Win versions of Z3TA+ 2, Z3TA+ iOS brings an unmistakable signature sound—used globally in countless successful electronic, EDM and dance productions—to the iOS world. Redesigned to fit iOS screen-real estate optimally, Z3TA+ iOS maintains its legendary impeccable sound quality and sonic depth, while new touch control capabilities open up even more innovative waveshaping sound possibilities.

This is great news. I love how Z3TA+ sounds. Hopefully, the app works well on iPad.

Bitwig Studio

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Bitwig:

Bitwig has announced that the launch of Bitwig Studio will be March 26th, 2014. Bitwig Studio is a new and innovative music creation, recording, and performance software that supports all three major computing platforms: Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Combining traditional arrangement sequencing with modern performance-oriented clip launching workflows,. Bitwig Studio offers a state-of-the-art audio engine under the hood, with full multi-processing support, a unified modulation system, 32/64-bit VST plugin bridging, and VST plugin crash protection.

This announcement was a bit surprising to me, because I thought I'd never see the day. I'm not trying to replace my main DAW (Logic Pro X), but I'm very curious to see how good Bitwig is compared to everything else I've tried. It has a few interesting and unique features.

Mac is not Going Anywhere

by Nikolozi Meladze

On music production blogs I always see people complaining how Apple is abandoning Mac and its pro software. If you are one of those people you should read the Macworld's interview with Apple execs on the Mac at 30.

Bud Tribble (Apple’s vice president of software technology):

That cross-pollination of ideas, the fact that the [Mac and iOS] teams are the same team, has propelled the Mac further than I had hoped for.

Craig Federighi:

You don’t want to say the Mac became less good at being a Mac because someone tried to turn it into iOS.

Philip Schiller:

There’s a role for the Mac as far as our eye can see. A role in conjunction with smartphones and tablets, that allows you to make the choice of what you want to use. Our view is, the Mac keeps going forever, because the differences it brings are really valuable.

So, there you have it, Mac is not going anywhere.

Logic Pro X 10.0.5

by Nikolozi Meladze

This week Apple released all new Mac Pro, followed by updates Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro X updates.

Apple added a few nice enhancements in v10.0.5 update. Channel EQ & Linear Phase EQ got a facelift and they are retina ready. The EQ looks exactly like the one in GarageBand X and it now lets you select whether you want to just process stereo, left, right, middle or side signals. Unfortunately, you can't set the processing mode for each band individually. I hope Apple changes this in the feature. And while they are at it, it would be much nicer to unify Channel EQ and Linear Phase EQ into one plug-in, with a switcher button on its GUI. I know you can replace the one EQ by inserting the other and Logic automatically copies the band settings, but I'd still prefer a unified interface. Another nice tweak that Apple added is that the inserted EQ now appears in the Smart Controls area. Would have loved to see a retina ready Compressor, but I guess will have to wait till the next update.

Logic Pro X now has 3 new Drummers and 11 new Drum Kit Designer patches. Yes please! I love the Drummer. I would like to see some UI improvements for Ultrabeat though.

The most important fix for me has to be Option & Mouse Scroll vertical and horizontal zooming. It was unbearable sluggish in the previous version. Zooming is one of the most important features in any DAW. It has to be fast, or else it can slow you down. It still is not super responsive, but at least it's usable now. Apple also resolved issues relating to automation and undo manager. Both of those areas tend to be quite buggy.

I have to admit, it's a lot of changes for a point release. We'll probably see more of these kinds of updates through out the year as Logic still needs updated UIs for most of its built-in plug-ins. It feels like Apple is adding and fixing things it wanted to have ready for Logic Pro X release but due to time constraints it had to ship it sooner. Imagine if we had to wait for Logic Pro X for another year. Logic 9 would have looked and felt even more dated on retina MacBook Pros.

For more detailed information regarding this update check out the Logic Pro X 10.0.5 release notes. You can learn a lot from reading Logic's release notes. For instance, I just learnt that Control-Shift and Pointer tool lets you adjust region fades. This means I will never have to use tools menu again. The only reason I used it was to get to the fade tool and for all the other tools I already knew the shorcuts.

Easy MIDI New Features: MIDI Program Change & Chord Set Transpose

by Nikolozi Meladze

Easy MIDI has been updated to v1.4. Here's what's new:

  • Added support for MIDI Bank Select & Program Change
  • Chord Sets & Custom Scales can be transposed up or down
  • UI Improvements
  • Bug fixes

You'll notice a lot of UI improvements. I think it improves overall experience and it looks nicer than the previous version.

Many plug-in synths support MIDI Bank Select & Program Change, using keyboard shortcuts you'll be able to quickly preview presets. For Logic Pro, make sure you send MIDI Bank Select & Program Change messages to MIDI channel 2 or higher. Channel 1 is reserved for Logic's own functionality.

Another useful new feature is that you can now transpose Chord Sets & Custom Scales up or down by semitone steps using left/right arrow keys.

Get the update from the Mac App Store.

Apogee ONE for iPad & Mac

by Nikolozi Meladze

Another cool announcement from this year's NAMM was that Apogee is refreshing its ONE audio interface. This will definetely be my next audio interface. Here's why:

  • Looks awesome
  • Big volume knob
  • Supports 96kHz sample rate (all my projects are now 96kHz)
  • Works on both iOS & Mac
  • It's mobile
  • Apogee uses high quality A/D and D/A converters
Apogee ONE

Apogee ONE

Easy Drag 1.2: Free, Removed From Mac App Store & Supports Caps Lock

by Nikolozi Meladze

Easy Drag users will be excited to find out that it finally supports Caps Lock. That’s right, you can now use Caps Lock to perform clicks and drags. It was one of the most requested features and I finally figured out how to make it work.

Now, bad news is that it’s out of the Mac App Store. The simple reason being that there is no way I can App Sandbox Easy Drag. I could have left the older version in the Mac App Store, but that’s just bad form. Or I could have added some complicated payment and cumbersome serial protection systems. That would just be a headache, not just for the users but for me also. So the second good news is that I made Easy Drag 1.2 available as a free download.

So head over to Easy Drag page and download it. If you decide to use caps lock as your mouse button make sure you disable caps lock functionality. To do this, on your Mac go to System Preferences > Keyboards and press “Modifier Keys…” button. You’ll be presented with a new dialog box. Simply set “Caps Lock Key” field to “No Action”, press “OK” and you are done.

Finally, I want to thank everyone who paid and supported Easy Drag while it was enjoying its App Store lifestyle.

Source: http://nikolozi.com/blog/2012/11/14/easy-d...