The tl;dr: for most people the 18i8 is just fine and the 18i20 doesn’t really add anything. Consider the 18i20 only if you have a couple of fussy needs.
I haven’t posted any bloggy things in a while, and I know folks start to worry if I haven’t posted in a while. So,
So what’s going on with me right now? Let’s see…
Just a random check-in entry for folks to know what’s going on with me. Because that seems to be all that my blog is good for, all in all.
Recently someone at Qrates reached out to me and was enthusiastic about the idea of me giving it another try, and since Lo-Fi Beats to Grind Coffee To has somewhat broader appeal, I decided to give it another shot.
So, if you would be so kind as to visit the Qrates crowdfunding page and maybe even consider buying a copy or two or ten, it would be greatly appreciated.
So, within a day of the Bandcamp announcement, several folks had already started building their own tools for escaping from Bandcamp. Of particular note (and brought to my attention many times) is one called blamscamp, which is a web-based GUI that builds a web player bundle for itch.io.
This tool definitely has a lot of merit, but in the near term it only handles one specific use case, namely taking a collection of already-encoded-for-the-web mp3s and turning it into an itch previewer. The player itself is nicely-written, but this isn’t the sort of tool which works well for me.
So, I adapted the player engine into my own version, which is a CLI tool. Feed it a JSON spec, audio files, and ancillary data (album art and lyrics and such), and it automatically encodes and tags the album for MP3 preview, high-quality MP3, Ogg Vorbis, and FLAC, and builds a web player (based on the original blamscamp’s although it’s diverged quite a lot now). And, if you install butler, it can also automatically upload these bundles to your itch page!
Here is the first public demo of it.
With all that said, I do still intend to keep using Bandcamp as my primary music distribution platform; it’s been very good to me over the years, and just because they’re being bought out by a questionable company doesn’t mean it’ll actually go downhill. But diversifying my offerings is always a good thing, and by posting my music in both places, I get even more of a potential audience. Plus, the satisfaction of owning (a big part of) my own delivery pipeline.
The pyBlamscamp pipeline can also be adapted to anything that takes a bundle of files; it could also be used, for example, to simplify the process of posting albums on Gumroad.
At present the main difficulties of it are that it’s a Python application and that it relies on external encoders. One of my potential change sin the future is to have it self-host the encoder libraries which would make a lot of things easier, and would also make it more feasible to provide a stand-alone application.
It’d also be really handy to have tools that make it easier to create and edit the .json file. That’s definitely a rough edge that’s not suitable for general end users.
There’s also a heck of a lot of things that still need to be done even for my own uses. But for now, this tool is at least ready to get started with.
My ongoing anxiety regarding recording studio computer stuff has continued. Yesterday while doing day 1 of Novembeat I found that my 2016 MacBook pro is still just like… way too slow to make music on (especially if I stream at the same time). And then I saw that there’s a bunch of deals on 2020 MacBooks happening right now.
I was about to buy a 2020 MacBook Air with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD, but then found out that Apple had a deal on refurbished 2020 MacBook Pro with 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD for only a little bit more, and the refurb price is less than the equivalently-equipped MacBook Air’s price. So that’s what I ended up ordering.
For now I’m just going to stick with my 2016 MacBook Pro, and I bought a 27" 4K monitor for it to alleviate the display-size issue.
It’s a little slow and a little janky but a lot of my music stuff still doesn’t work right on M1 anyway, and in particular Native Instruments is taking their sweet time to update everything to be M1-compatible. Also, I could theoretically use my PreSonus FireStudio with the hacked driver, although it looks like that’ll probably stop working in macOS 12 and I can’t use it with my ADAT preamp anyway, so the only advantage to it is I could put my Scarlett 18i8 back in my office, which is a pretty low priority now.
(I suppose I could also make an aggregate interface of the FireStudio with the 18i8+ADAT, but I already have 14 functional inputs as it is and I barely ever use more than 5 of them at a time. 22 is definitely overkill.)
If I get desperate for an upgrade I suppose I could get a current 27" iMac but that doesn’t feel particularly necessary right now (and it also feels like a waste since Apple will stop supporting it sooner rather than later; I went through the exact same thing with the PowerMac G5 that I bought literally two weeks before they announced the Intel transition).
I also need to give both Reaper and Bitwig another shot because both of them seem like they’d be able to mostly replace Logic for me at this point, and I’m sick of being wedded to macOS. (But right now is not the time for me to learn a new DAW. Or maybe it’s the perfect time. I dunno.)
Or maybe I should see what the pre-trashcan Mac Pros are going for. The 12-core model would still be a pretty decent upgrade from the 2016 MacBook pro, and also has the advantage of having upgradeable SATA storage, plus PCIe slots that could theoretically take an NVMe adapter. On the minus side, no Thunderbolt 3 (not that I’d need it) and I’d also be stuck on macOS 10.14 without some sketchy patching. But it looks like they’re going for under $400 (shipping included), all the same.
Or there’s always Hackintosh.
But nah I’ll wait, the old MacBook Pro is fine for now.
My basement studio setup is coming along slowly but surely. I ended up buying a used ADAT preamp to expand my existing audio interface (rather than buying a new interface/patchbay/etc.) and it mostly works great, although I’m going to see if I can hack an S/PDIF decoder into a word clock source for it so that the 18i8 can be master (which makes a couple of things easier to deal with).
For now I’m using my old MacBook as the recording computer. It only has a 500GB drive, though, and I couldn’t find the power adapter for my external HDD enclosure, so I decided to try just running Native Instruments off of my NAS over gigabit Ethernet. Nearly every install failed with a nonsensical “malformed XML document” error, which turns out to be a known issue with attempting to install to a NAS. Oh well. Hopefully that PSU turns up soon. I’m sure it’s in the bottom of whichever box I end up unpacking last.
(The PSU isn’t anything particularly exotic in principle, just a 12V 2A center-positive wallwart, but for some reason all the 12V center-positive wallwarts I can find can’t accommodate its extra-thick center pin.)
But anyway, today I finally got to the point where I could hook up my piano, and so I played piano for the first time since April, which felt nice. I can’t believe I let it be this long. I guess I really thought the backyard shed studio would go a lot more quickly!